Interview with Paul Jaquays
We spoke with Paul during the early days of the making of Quake2 and found out how he's settled in at id
Could you tell everyone a little something about yourself.
Male, 40, non-smoker. Married (16 years!!) to Ruta.
Two kids, one a teenager. Graduated with a degree in art from Spring Arbor College, a
small Christian college affiliated with the Free Methodist Church. I'm politically,
economically, and religiously conservative. I was a church deacon before moving to Texas.
When did you first get into level designing and how did you find it.
You could say that I got into level designing when
I discovered Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) back in 1975. There's a great deal of
conceptual similarity between designing pencil & paper role playing game (RPG)
adventures and interactive computer games. Though the implementation paths are different,
the mental processes to produce the end result are much the same.
Did you every do any editing on doom/quake levels before you joined id software?
I played with the Wolfenstein editor on the Mac some time back. But other than the week I spent at id interviewing and learning the editor, the answer is no.
What is the work you are contributing to Quake2?
I currently have the primary responsibility for the
levels in the last unit in the game, the alien's city (three levels). I'm also working on
a secret level. I've done some very minor texture work (mostly adapting an existing
texture into a new use, like turning a couple wall textures into one door texture).
How did you get your start into level designing?
Sandy Petersen, who was id's game designer at that
time, recruited me from a small game convention being held in Chicago over Super bowl
weekend this past January. The convention was devoted to the RPG Runequest, and Sandy and
I were both guests of honor at the convention (since we both had a past affiliation with
Runequest's original publisher, Chaosium, Inc.)
Do you set yourself goals before designing a level or do you just go with the flow :)?
Definitely set goals and limits. Decide what you
want to achieve in a map and don't go off on tangents until that goal has been
accomplished and works properly. Elaborate and expand after that. Each level in Quake 2
has a purpose and "a thing that must be done," even if that purpose is only to
create continuity between two other levels.
Is there any particular theme/style you like working with (base/metal/medieval etc..)
Quake 2 doesn't fall into the same mold as Quake 1.
We are telling a cohesive story, not one of fractured, unrelated segments. Each unit in
the game has a semi-unique texture set, but still fits into the overall look and theme of
"cyborged alien culture." The various texture .wad files lean toward creating a
particular facet of that culture (factories, computers, waste treatment facilities,
palaces, etc.), but the level designers have borrowed so heavily from each other's .wad
files that we have actually created a substantial degree of continuity between units.
How long does a level usually take you to build and how big are your usual level efforts?
Right now, I have been finding that it takes as much as two weeks to get a single, complicated level up to a "first pass geometry level." I then spend a week tweaking, readjusting and correcting and adding more complex entity-based features (I currently am working four different levels in parallel). Then it's a matter of a few days to add, test and tweak monsters and items. My levels sprawl. Currently I'm trying to keep them around 1500-2200 brushes.
Do you have any advice for a "newbie" starting out in level designing.
If you are considering a future "career"
in game design, focus on making great single-player levels for the game of your choice. It
a pretty good bet that 90% of the buying public never gets on-line to play a death-match.
If you want to design for your friends, make Death Match levels. If you've an eye toward a
staff position, I'd aim towards good, solid, fun single player designs. Get to know the
game "entity" features and how they can work with each other ... triggers,
targets, func_this'n thats and so on. Build tiny test levels to see if your ideas work.
Think in terms of creating "real" architecture instead of "building
block" spaces. Study books on architecture for ideas.
And any advice for the experienced designers.
All of the above, plus the following: Push your
editor software to the limits. Stay away from consistently "safe" architecture
configurations (where everything meets at 90 degree angles). Strike a balance between
texture and geometry carrying your architecture. In fact, learn to build without relying
on texture (try thinking in terms of mass and shape).
Whats been your proudest moment in level designing (for some it's there first room:)
It would have to be when I was able to ride my tram car on its first successful circuit through its tunnels and shafts.
Where do you get your ideas for the levels you're designing?
Ideas come from images in books and magazines, from thinking about things to do with a particular feature in the game, from standing in the hot shower too long.
Do you have any tricks for keeping r_speeds down in larger areas?
Lots of right angle turns in spaces leading up to large areas. Minimize the number of directions that you can see out of or into a big room. The bigger the room, the simpler the geometry. Now if I can only follow my own advice ...
I believe you're writing the story for Quake2, hows that turning out and will it make the game any cooler than its going to be :-))
I think the story (in its full version) explains why you the player are where you are when the game starts. It sets up some of the "logic" about why things are the way they are in the game. Will it make the game cooler? I don't know. Does reading TV guide make a television program better (hmmmm ... bad example ... not much help for television these days ... one of reasons I don't watch it anymore).
Can you give us any information on how the new levels will differ from the original levels.
The most significant change will be that the new
levels will have a real sense of place to them. The player will feel that he is somewhere,
in a real world, and not in some arbitrary dungeon designed to test his combat skills.
More complex geometry, lighting and design planning make this possible. Second, the player
will have missions to accomplish in each game unit -- more than just kill all the monsters
on the level, find the key and get out (OK, FIRST you find the key, then kill all the
monsters, and THEN get out ... but seriously).
Which is your favorite quake1 level, and do you have any favorite "homemade" levels?
I honestly haven't played through most of the game
(oops, did I say something bad?). When last I played, I was getting my rear end routinely
toasted on normal difficulty in the Necropolis.
Have you had chance to check out any of the homemade level editors and do you have any opinions on them.
No, none at all. We use a descendant of Quake edit here and I haven't found a need to stray away from home. Our new guy, Brandon James, came in as a big Worldcraft proponent (which he considers to be the best of the non-id editors), but after several days of using QE4, he has become a total convert.
Can you give us any information on how easy or hard it will be to start designing levels for quake2.
I don't know what kind of editor support we will be
providing upon the release of Q2. But I do know that while the current method of game
construction is similar to Q1, the complexity of "things one can do" has
increased. Furthermore, because the low-end target machine is more powerful than the Q1
target machine, we are taking advantage of that to make our levels more complicated ...
and thus, harder to edit if you don't have mega-processors available to you.
Last but not least, do you have anything to say to your millions of fans around the world :-))
When on the internet, act your IQ, not your age (a probably hopeless plug for more mature behavior on-line).
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