This time the interview is something special, since noruen, cityy and I sat down together and had a conversation over Skype (we still were typing, though :D). Topics this time are flaws in present video games as well as difficulties in creating custom content for them, cityy's ctf-map drop and his new ideas for a tourney map and noruen's dreams.
Nevertheless, first things first: The screenshots of week5. This time by g0th, Bliccer, phantazm11 and neuro:
So here it is, the convo with cityy and noruen (maybe there are questions you want to have answered in the next interview?):
Interview with cityy and noruen:
Bliccer (B): Hi noruen, hi cityy, as always here are the starter questions: please present yourself first. Where are you from? How old are you? What do you do professionally? Is there any website of yours?
cityy (C): Hey, my name is Ferdinand List, I am 18 years old and I live in Germany. Presently, I am sending applications to several universities as I just graduated from high school. You can find some of my past work on Cityy.explicits.de
noruen (N): I'm a 24 years old guy from Czech Republic, I'm studying Immunology and Cell Biology and I have no website.
B: Cell Biology, I heard there is some reference between this topic and your nickname, noruen? cityy where is your nick coming from?
C: That's a good question, I don't actually remember.. the only thing I can tell you is that I use two y because "city" was already taken when I first registered on some chat room at the age of 11.
N: Well, my nickname is neural cell "neuron" read backwards as "noruen". Very creative, isn't it? :)
B: When did you start mapping? Did you also create some other maps, no matter what engine, before you came to Q3A? Is there some nice story behind, like martinheterjag told us last time, that he came to creating custom content because of his dad?
C: What inspired me to make maps was the Quake Live open beta in early 2009. I started messing around with GTKradiant a few months after I had started playing because I was incredibly impressed by those new Quake Live exclusive levels created by Method and wanted to to create my own arenas to enjoy with other people. By that time I was 14 years old, if I remember correctly. It actually took me a few weeks to motivate myself to properly learn how to use the software before I seriously spent time on it so I would say I really started mapping when I registered on the Quake3World.com forums back in August 2009. On a side note, what actually pointed me towards the Quake titles was my cousin who used to play Quake III Arena and let me play FFA on his PC when we visited him and his family.
N: I started many, many years ago. I was probably 14. But my first maps were all unplayable, because I didn't know basic principles. But I started because it was real fun for me and I had a lot of ideas. I had also a long break because of my obsession with UT2004 :) But I realized and same opinion I have even today - there is no better editor than Radiant - I really like that you can build whole map based on primitive brushes and no trolling with models like in UT. Also I think Q3A engine is even great today.
B: Do you still have pictures of your first map?
N: Well.. my frst map was pre-pre-pre-alpha version of Derwyll's castle, but it was about 20 times smaller. Unfortunetely I have no screenshots.
C: My first map, well, I made that general map everyone made, trying out how jumppads and doors work, etc. That would have been ct3dm1. I'm not sure if I still have screens of ct3dm2 or dm3. Ct3dm4 was my first official release, it is on lvlworld.com
I remember dm3 was a technical disaster so I stopped working on it. Wow, I even still have that map on my webspace.
B: So, noruen played UT at least, were there any games next to Q3A, after you've got in contact with it, cityy? And before the fps genre reached you, noruen, what have you played or still play?
C: Before I played Quake, I played a lot of Age Of Empires 2 with friends on LAN as well as Starwars Battlefront 2 :)
N: I always played FPS. Actually I do not play any other genres instead of Warcraft III. But when I was really young I loved platformers (Superfrog) on my Amiga. Well.. I play platformers sometimes even these days, but not as much as like in the past.
B: In which ways do your first mapping methods differ from now?
C: I had no clue what I was doing basically. Simply put
N: Same in my case. caulk was weird pink something for me :)
B: Have you done paintings before you started to make maps? Or some other art/music? Which music are you listening to while making maps?
C: I do some graphic design now and then but nothing really serious. I actually wanted to get into concept art but I lack the software to do so at this time.
Music wise, I listen to a lot of stuff really but mostly DnB, Minimal House, Progressive and Dubstep. My favorite artists are Netsky, Camo & krooked and possibly Paul Kalkbrenner for the sake of supporting german music
N: Best music for me is trance (ATB, Above & Beyond, ...)
B: Do you both get inspired by some styles of other games/movies you want to imitate in Q3A? If yes, why do you want to do that? Is there a certain challenge achieving the same style in Quake? Or are you only going by natural references?
N: I can never know what will inspire me, but I always want to be original. Anyway, my style of mapping doesn't allow me to be original and I hope I am. For example last year map Penumbra was inspired 1) with my dream I had on easters 2) by pictures and photography of Babylonian architecture. But Derwyll's Castle was completely my idea (dream again).
C: I personally think that your own style depends a lot on from what game you come from or what game has had the biggest impact on you. I've heard a lot that my maps are somewhat simular to those in Quake Live but yet somehow different and I can't deny that, I spent a lot of time playing Quake Live and it has influenced me a lot. I know a lot of people would probably say the same about quake world/2/3 or ut99 for example.
Besides from that natural influence of other games, I get inspired browsing other people's work and concept art or websites like opacity.us and dubtown.de. I rarely take much inspiration from those photo galleries though, I never felt like realism is really applicable to quake III levels just because of its game mechanics.
For my competition level I also got inspired by portal 2 to some extend; it goes well with the bright and straight forwarded design I want to achieve. Another addition: I think anything can inspire you, really. The human brain is just like that. :)
B: So summarizing both answers, quake3 level design is not necessarily about imitating other styles but reaching for creativity and dreams?
N: I agree :)
C: Design is always about being original. Though I don't think you can compare Q3 to games of other genres in the way you design levels, so you are certainly right. Genres might be the wrong term, maybe other FPS. Say Call of Duty or Shootmania or Crysis, whatever
N: Also Q3A mapbuilding is much more easier for ONE person than for present games.
B: But what makes Q3A so different from other games regarding the variety of map themes? I mean you can actually create a space level in crysis, too. As well as you can create pretty realistic environments in Quake. I mean, why is it possible to do so?
N: I like Q3 dynamics - it is fast game, not some step-by-step boooring game. And for some reason this engine seem to me to be somehow... beautiful. It would be great to have some modern elements in this game (glow, good particle system, bumpmaps, ...), but it is good-looking even without these elements.
C: I'd say the variety is much smaller in Quake 3, just because of the way the gameplay mechanics as well as the old engine limit your freedom as a designer.
Quake 3's movement depends a lot of the geometry of your level, as well as weapon choices being dependant from scale, height and architecture. There is a whole lot to think about when making a map for Quake 3 because every small thing you change can have a huge impact on the gameplay.
Besides that, as I said, the game runs on old technology, the maps are using the bsp format and the engine can not really handle a lot of models or triangles well nor can it take advantage of newer GPU architecture. And yes, as Noruen mentions above, the engine also doesn't offer a whole lot of eye candy features.
N: Yes, but these eye candy features are often out of place. For example UT3 - great graphics, but I hate glow everywhere. Every stupid pixel is glowing. It is not realism, it is... coolism and I think it is wrong trend in current games.
C: I certainly agree, yet I would love to see a propper reimplementation of particles (or fog and flares) as well as a better implementation of dynamic lightmaps in Q3.
B: My problem about newer games is, that they have too much details actually. I mean it's certianly cool for single player missions, but for multiplayer, I think, it's much more complicated to aim enemies. And that's what makes Q3A/QL so cool. It's fast because of its simplicity, yet (also watching Qlive videos with full textures on) it still looks beautiful, achieved by good usage of textures.
N: Exactly. A lot of details and players are almostly unrecognizeable.
C: Newer games have a lot of problems. :)
N: I also miss old games with "alien" style, or some interesting ideas. I would really like to see Quake I remake
B: Noruen, you said creating maps for Q3A can be easily done by a one-man-army. But that's still only possible if you know a lot of thiongs about texture creation, also modeling and detailing etc.
N: True, but the amount of things I need to know to create Q3 level is far less than amount of things I need to know when creating (good) level for UT3 What do I need for Q3A level? Bitmap editor, Radiant, that's all.
C: I tend to agree you can make a perfectly playable and good looking quake 3 level without knowing anything about asset creation or modeling. One of the advantages of the BSP technology is that it is fairly easy to quickly create something good looking
N: But even UT2004 was based mostly on models and brushes were used only for very basic structures.
B: They might not look as natural, though... although sst13 proved something different with this
N: Natural, natural... it is true, but natural shapes are evil for gameplay. And clipping them.. oh.. :)
C: This is a great looking example but as said, I don't think it would be the greatest multiplayer level. This kind of brings us back to the discussion we had earlier
B: cityy, what did you just say in irc channel about your level?
C: I thought about starting again from scratch, though I'm not entirely sure about it yet.
B: Time problems? You sounded so confident about reaching your goal, when you started it. Where did the problems/impedments start?
C: Yes, certainly. I knew beforehand that I would be busy this year and probably not be able to spend as much time on working on my level as I did last year. I'm just getting a bit busy with getting my future live organized as well as with other irl stuff. Currently, I'm not really able to spend more than one day a week on working on my level and next week I'm going to go on a vacation trip that has been planned for quite a while now. That's how things come together, leaving me sceptical about the quality of my entry for this year. For this reason I thought about scrapping my ctf level and submitting a smaller 1on1 level instead.
B: Themewise, are you going to use the same theme as you used for your ctfmap?
noruen, what are your intentions for your current bee-like theme?
C: Most likely, yes. I might as well just finish off the ctf level as good as I can, I guess.
N: Bee-like? :D I just want to use the theme I started to develop about two years before and I think it is interesting geometry.
B: Well it certainly does look like honeycombs, mixed with the alien style you mentioned earlier, no? :D
N: I don't want to repeat myself and thus I have always come with something else, but there will be no honey :) And I'm of course inspired by chemistry, not bees :D
B: cityy, you know you still have some days to work on your map after the judging mappack deadline.
C: I know I do, I'd like to enter with a map that is able to compete though, hehe.
B: You both started out with scribbled layouts?
N: No. I never do some scribbles. I simply see what I want to get in my head and I'm often improvising :)
C: Oh, yeah, I always work on paper before I start getting my level blocked out in radiant. Saves time and often turns out better in the end, in my case at least.
N: Weird :D
B: You have scribbles of details?
C: I don't do that. Just layout plans.
B: What were your next steps?
C: Well, I divide my building process in alpha and beta stages. Alpha is for pure layout and gameplay testing, beta is where detailing and lighting comes in. Usually, I just use very simple textures for my alpha versions and ask people to fully focus on the gameplay when giving feedback.
N: I have different building process. I always start with detailing and expanding my map during building, so I never know how final map will look like.
B: How do you come up with the textures, then?
N: I'm creating them everytime I get some new idea. And of course I'm testing layout in different mapfiles.
C: How I create textures really depends on how clear the picture is that I have in mind. For this level, I just tried to keep it simple so I developed some simple shapes and worked around that. I keep on making new textures as I need them. My asset creation does not follow a real plan, unfortunately.
B: So, you do them from scratch, or, as a lot of others via the help of cgtextures.com references?
N: I use my own photos and textures. I never visited cgtextures.com
C: Oh, well, I paint the shapes I want to have with my pen pad and use references from cgtextures to give my textures a profile. Then I do some additional shadow and highlights painting to give them more depth. I have a small example actually
C: this is like a base texture put together from cgtextures.com. And this is the same base with additional shapes painted into the texture:
B: Noruen: you also have got something?
N: I have not any examples.. only final results as I erase very intermediates.
B: What's your favourite theme/idea so far by the other contestants?
N: dONKEY's theme looks very interesting. Also Despair's. And others are not clear in this phase of development.
C: Good question, I think Despair is doing a really solid job, also Noruens theme is very interesting. It's hard to tell at this time what maps will turn out to be the best as we are still early into the competition.
B: The famous last words: Is there anything you want to say to Maverick or the other competitors?
N: Thanks to Maverick and good luck to all competitors - and don't give up guys! :) Oh yeah, our dear sponsors - thank you too! :)
C: I'd like to thank Maverick for organizing these mapping competitions as well as the sponsors and judges. Furthermore I'd like to say thanks to all past competitiors for an amazing time and lots of help, as for all current competitors: good luck and keep going! ;) Also thanks to you Bliccer for having this interview with us.
N: Yes, very interesting project.
Alright, thanks noruen, thanks cityy for both having you "on air" and having this nice conversation with me =)
C: You are welcome :P