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.
My career in "interactive entertainment" began while I was in college, when I discovered Dungeons & Dragons. I got into it because it was a place to publish my artwork.
Over the past 20 years, I've worked as a game adventure designer, illustrator, computer and video game designer, book editor, art director, book packager, and department manager for a variety of companies in both staff and freelance capacities.
Past employers have included Judges Guild, Coleco Industries, Penguin Products and TSR, Inc. Past freelance clients have included TSR, Inc., Game Designers Workshop, Chaosium, West End Games, Iron Crown Enterprises, Flying Buffalo, Inc., Task Force Games, Coleco, Interplay, Epyx, Electronic Arts, TOR Books, and Guideposts for Kids magazine.

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.
In both cases, one works to create a living, breathing, changing play environment and attempts to get the players to suspend their disbelief and think that they are actually in the place that has been created.

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).
One thing that I have been doing is suggesting new entities for the game (targets and triggers) that increase the versatility of already existing entity features. John Cash has turned these suggestions around quickly and American has been going crazy with one of them in his factory unit.
I've also taken the overall working concept of the game (killing aliens on their home planet before they finish us off on ours) and developed a back-story that takes the player up to the point where he or she enters the game world.
Much of the base information in the story comes from work that Paul Steed did as a prelude to developing his cinematic game intro.

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.)
Id was looking for a level designer, preferably one with an art background, and Sandy thought that I might fit the bill. He sold me on sending my paperwork to Kevin Cloud at id and they arranged for me to come down and interview for week (to learn the tools and the game and see if I could work with the team). id offered me a job and I accepted. I then spent the next couple months "apprenticing" in house while I learned the trade. Pieces of those early level attempts may even make it into the game.

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.
Sometimes those goals change as I get into a level and think of ways to make its game play better. Also consider "sketching out" ideas both outside the computer and within a small test level to see if they work before including them in your level.

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.
There's a great deal to be said for agreeing to limit the color palette up front. I can go to a texture that Kevin, Adrian or Paul Steed did at the beginning of the game development and have it still work remarkably well with the textures that Kevin and Adrian are now creating for my City levels. All that being said, I think I would enjoy the opportunity to work on some more "ancient" style architecture in some future project (don't read this a a prediction of id's future project).

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.
Try to surprise the player (this doesn't mean having monsters jump out of hidden spaces at every turn). Go back to your old pencil and paper RPG adventures with an eye toward cool ideas that might inspire traps and so on.
I'll put in a plug here for Flying Buffalo, Inc.'s GRIMTOOTH's TRAPS book series, which is filled with both workable and wildly crazy traps of all kinds. Study lighting effects in the world around you. Make sure that all light in a space has an identifiable source.

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).
Ask yourself questions like "Who built this space. Why did they build it? What purpose did it originally serve? Who has modified it since?" and "Who now uses the space?"

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).
There is interaction with elements of the environment (machines that turn on and off, moving bridges and so on), choosing paths of play that may give an advantage in an encounter, and collecting items needed to solve puzzles.

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.
My play skills are getting marginally better, but I'm not certain that I would even be a match for John Cash's six-year-old son, let alone anyone who plays seriously. As far as homemade levels, I haven't done much serious looking.

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.
As I understand it, we didn't originally think fans with stand alone PC units could make Quake 1 levels. We just underestimated their patience in waiting for levels to .bsp. It's probably safe to say that regardless of the challenge involved in making Q2 levels, someone will make an editor that allows really dedicated hobbyists to make levels.
I think anyone with a reasonably fast PC and the patience of Job will be able to use whatever world editors convert themselves to Q2 production and make some interesting game experiences.

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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