Paul Jaquays Part II

During last summer we had the opportunity to speak with Paul about the development of Quake2, now that the storm has settled we had the chance to speak again and reflect on the design of quake2 and what could and should have been in the game

Thanks for agreeing to do the interview with us, when we last met you
were deep in the realm of having 4 maps on the go at once, have you had
a chance to sit back in take in what has been achieved with Quake2.


What were the final days like for the level designers, lots of long
nights tweaking things and getting everything perfect.

It was a tiring sprint to the finish, but very satisfying. There
was a real feeling of teamwork. We were living on caffeine and two hour
naps. Since the art crew usually had dibs on the couch in their area, I
brought in a cot and sleeping bag and camped out in my office several times
... usually when I was too tired to drive home safely in rush hour traffic.
On the other hand, there are several frozen meal varieties in our freezer
that I really don't ever want to see (or eat) again. I wish I could say we
got everything perfect, but every one of us can look at our maps and say
"D'oh!! how'd I let that get through?!!" We made changes as we found
problems, but every time we opened up a map, we knew we risked introducing
more problems. And since we were really tired in the last days, the risk
of making stupid mistakes was even higher. And yes, it is possible to
"over tweak" a map until it loses some of the freshness that made it fun

Were you pleased with the way the levels turned out and in particular
your own levels.

On the whole, yes. I think I would have liked to have been able
to go back into Lost Station (secret level) and rebuild a few areas from
the ground up (not that I hadn't done that several times already). That
was my first full level, my "masterpiece" in the classical art sense, and I
had a lot of "learning experiences" on it. Some of my original play
concepts got lost when I had to reduce several in-view polygon counts. But
at that point, our schedule just didn't have room in it for the luxury of
going back in and doing major revisions like that.

Have you played quake2 now it's out in the stores and said to yourself
"I wish I'd have done this or that to my level" :)

More traps, greater density of play (more things going on in a
smaller space). And perhaps some more areas that challenge the player's
ability to run and jump with skill, more "scary" stuff.

From the look of things you seem to have the most detailed texture set
to work with for the city levels, did you find it difficult to get the
right look to the levels without straying away from the general look of
the game.

First, the city was supposed to be substantially different than
the rest of the game ... less of a functional military look and more like a
brooding palace. I built several versions of the large halls, each more
modest than the one preceding it. However, each revision contributed to
the eventual look and style of the final palace.
I think it's interestingthat you consider the city set to be more detailed.
If anything, I think I tried to use as FEW textures in the city levels as possible. Perhaps its
because the special textures were intended to really stand out here (as
opposed to other levels where the specials are there but are so
well-integrated into the structure of the architecture that they don't
force themselves upon you). Kevin and Adrian did some incredible things
with the special pieces that they made for the city. Adrian's doors and
alien "stained glass" were something else and Kevin's organo-technic wall
and support textures really made the whole look happen. Even so, much of
what is in there was borrowed from other .wad files. The Quake 2 symbols
that Adrian did were the crowning glory of the whole set. I rebuilt
several areas of the map in the last days in order to better accommodate
those textures.

We all got a chance to see your mega map the other day and I must say
you've pulled it off great, did you have a lot of fun ripping your city
levels apart and gluing them back as one huge "mega-map"

Keeping myself from building more was one of the biggest
challenges. My original purpose for "Courts at War" was to make it into a
capture the flag map. The palace interior area where one can grab a quad
or invulnerability was to be the flag site. Much of the area of the
courtyard opposite the "temple" facade was built to accommodate CTF play.
When it turned into the mega city, I knew that I wanted to redevelop it as
a massive "donut," cross-linked through the center (by the underwater
tunnel) and tied together with teleports. One of the challenges was to
find bits and pieces of my city maps that were interesting enough by
themselves to become pieces in the new map. The various city maps each had
some areas I really liked, but I wasn't always happy with the way that play
flowed through them. So some of the more intriguing areas of those maps
didn't present themselves as fast enough for DM play. Then came the
problem of "cutting into" the existing architecture to make hallways, rooms
and other connections. Given the size and complexity of the rest of the
map, I did most of these connections as simply as possible.

Okay can you tell us all what type of PC you design your levels on

My development machine is an Intergraph product, the TDZ-410.
Something on the order of 128 meg of RAM and two fast Pentium processors.
I use a Pentium Pro 200 at home. We do our compiles on a Silicon Graphics
"Origin 2000" with 16 parallel processors in it (I've owned smaller
full-size refrigerators).

How long did it take you to compile your mega map.

With the Q-Rad extra, around 45 minutes. I love that Origin 2000.

I saw some textures in the pak the other day with the words "skip" and
"mon" on them, what do these do and have you any tips on using them

These are a part of the set of "no-draw" textures that you never
see: clip brushes, triggers and origin points. "Skip" is designed to be
used with in conjunction with the "hint" texture. One uses the hint
texture on a brush to suggest a place for the BSP to start a new leaf. If
you apply "hint" to the entire brush, every surface of the brush that is
exposed to the interior space of a level will create a potential leaf
break. If you make the brush "Skip" texture first, then mark only one side
of the brush with "Hint," only one plane will be created. The program
ignores the other sides of the brush. We've found that when using "Hint,"
it is often best to move the hint surface so that it is not flush with
adjacent surfaces. That is to say, move it in 8 pixels from the opening of
a hallway rather than sealing off the end of the hall.

The "Mon" texture is essentially a subset of the clip brush
texture, call it the "Monster Clip". A "standard" clip brush will block
the movement of both player and monster entities. The monster clip texture
only has the property of blocking the movement of monsters. We used it in
places where we wanted monsters kept out (the "airlocks" between levels) or
to create surfaces that the monsters would be willing to walk on (their AI
tries to keep them from falling off ledges or walking out over open spaces).

Have you learnt any tricks that will help keep a level running smoothly,
using the hint texture seems to be a good one, anything you want to
share with us

Be frugal with textures, use as few as possible when designing
your levels. When your basic architecture is done, go back and add texture
accents and other special textures. If it's not a part of the outer shell
of your level, or something that is intended to block views, mark
everything that juts out into your rooms as Detail (pillars, lights,
railings, computers, furniture, etc.). Isolate areas of your map with area
portals in doors (remembering that a portalled area has to be completely
isolated from other areas ... it can't be portalled at one door and touch
the rest of the level unportalled at another). If you have lights or
pilasters, or whatever sticking out of your walls, "plaster over" them with
clip brushes to make a smooth wall. This will keep players from getting
stuck when they try to slide along the walls. If making single player
maps, don't put every monster in the map (they take up space in memory).
If you have large areas (like the Big Valley in City 1), limit the number
of different kinds of entities that you place in that area of the map.
When making spot lights, use the info_null as the target (it becomes a fire
and forget target ... not remembered by the game). Keep moving brush
models to a minimum and make them relatively simple. They add three times
their face count in polygons to your views.

Have you had a chance to check out any of the quake2 levels that have
been released so far?

I've seen a few. Some had nice features to them. I particularly
like some of the Classic Quake DM map conversions (those using the original
Quake textures) that came out recently. If I had to make a general comment
to the makers of single player maps, it would be the following:
Concentrate more on making interesting combat situations rather than
overwhelming the player with hordes of monsters. Give the player an
adequate weapon to the task at hand and enough ammo to make a few mistakes.
Don't feel obligated to include every monster in a single map. And
finally, use something other than a showdown with a tank or tank commander
as the end/climax of your mission.

What's an average editing day like for you at id

Come in, check industry news and read and answer any important
overnight mail. Play through my changes from the day before. Add some new
material to my maps. Change and modify things that I've done to polish
them up more. Play deathmatch on the id servers or on a server that I find
through GameSpy (usually something where I have less than 100 ping and
usually while a compile is running). Review my new changes. If I like
them, I add more material. If not, I change it. Go home. Sleep. Dream of
running through game levels.

Any last comments before we finish

I really appreciate the number of positive comments that we've
had on the mega maps, both by way of e-mail, and just as important, by the
inter-player chatter during the game (I play on the id mega map server a
lot). Of course, I've also fielded a few comments from players who like
the scale of the mega-maps, but dislike one or more of them.