gaming since 1997

The Level Designers – Part 5

And our on-going feature where we talk with several level designers just keeps going, with today in the main seats Dan Koppel, Lead Level Designer over at Gray Matter Studio’s who are currently working on Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Allan Willard, level designer over at Epic Games.

What did you do for studies ?

Dan :You really want to know this? I studied Biophysics in college and was working on getting my Ph.D. before I came to Gray Matter (We were Xatrix back then).

Allan : Didn’t do much of anything for studies, I’m self-taught

What brought you to the gaming industry ?

Dan : A job offer to do exactly what I always wanted to do. My first project was Quake2: The Reckoning.

Alan : Luck, perseverance, and a good deal of hard work

How did you start making levels ?

Dan : I started modifying levels with decent and doom editors. When I got quake and thred (an old quake editor that died) I decided to make a number of quake maps. I quickly moved over to worldcraft when it came out.

Alan : By finding DCK by Ben Morris on a local BBS and doing Doom 1 maps

Which program(s) do you use to make levels ?

Dan : Since I’ve been here at Gray Matter/Xatrix we have been making quake engine games therefore we have been using Radiant with a number of modifications of course. I also spend plenty of time writing scripts for maps now days so I use a text editor too … (any will do).

Alan : UnrealEd đŸ™‚

For which game did you like most to make levels ?

Dan : Hmm … It would have to be the game I’m working on now. =)

Alan : Unreal (and Tournament, of course đŸ™‚

Which levels for what games do you like so much that you regret you didn’t make them ?

Dan : Making some Counter Strike levels or Unreal Tournament assault maps would be a blast … Maybe some other life.

Alan : Actually, there are a few that some people have made for UT that were DAMN good. Rich Eastwood’s maps in particular are very VERY good

Where do you get your inspiration for making levels ?

Dan : Anywhere I can find inspiration, I’ll take it. Most often movies and books.
The design of the game I’m working on also plays a big role.

Alan : Anything at all. One map was inspired by the rear bumper on a Mitsubishi SUV I was stuck behind on my way to work

Where do you make the difference in making levels for single player or multiplayer ?

Dan : For me every map is different from the last, not just SP vs. DM maps. The initial goals are very different for each map so that’s were the difference starts. The building process is dependent on the goals of the map … the pace, the type of play involved, and how close to reality we are trying to make the map, all these are huge factors that are different for every map not just SP and DM maps.

Alan : There are a HUGE number of differences! For one thing, Multiplayer maps are more intimate, closed in affairs, with lots of items, tricks, and traps all over the place, but nothing too terribly involved. A single player map might have as many items, but there’s much more work to be done to get them, and the whole level may revolve around one particular item or puzzle

Who do you find to be the best level creator and why ?

Dan : I’m always amazed at the great levels I see in each new game. Level design is always improving from one generation of games to the next. Most recently the levels in Vampire and Elite Force have impressed me the most. Plus I feel that what makes a map great is also based on how it fulfills its role in the game. Not every map should be bright and fast paced or scary and
gloomy. Making a great level that fits into a great game and makes the player go “Wow that was awesome!” is what it’s all about.

Alan : I honestly don’t know who’s the best. A good map is a good map, regardless of who made it, and that’s what I like to see. As I mentioned, Rich Eastwoods maps are quite impressive

What is the most fun about your job ?

Dan : Working with a great group of people to make a great game

Alan : The freedom to create, to be myself, and to work at my pace on things that I love. That, and the massive amounts of groupies that are clustered around my car every morning when I leave work!


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