Interview with American McGee

Could you tell the people who've been off the planet for the last few years a bit about yourself.
Well... I've been working at id Software for about four years now. I started here as tech support and quickly moved up to my current position of "designer". My job description would be something like level design, sound design, game design, misc programming, and odd-job person.

When did you first get into editing? back in the doom days or before, and how easy was it to learn. 

Right after we released "DOOM" I started playing with the editor and by the time work had started on "DOOM II" I was creating levels that were good enough to get me moved up to the position of designer. My very first level was something that I am not too proud of. It contained tons of textures, sharp angles, and other map editing no-nos. But it taught me how to build maps and I actually ended up turning that map into something that made it into "DOOM II". The map's called "The Crusher". If you look at that map you can see some of the first brushes I ever laid. I guess that it was pretty easy to learn, but I probably would have stopped trying to make maps if it hadn't been for the support of the guys here.

When you start a level do you make any plans for it before hand, or do you just jump in feet first with it. 

I used to just jump into it. That worked really well for DOOM maps, but when we started working on Quake I realized that it wasn't going to work very well. Now I try to get an idea of where I am going to go with the map before I start on it. Tim Willits (another map guy here) will actually draw out ideas for his map before starting on it. He's drawn out a couple of things for me and it works out really well.

What do you think makes a good level, lighting/architec... 

It's a really complex combination of all the elements. Lighting, architecture, traps, textures... everything. I've always thought that in order to be a good map builder you must be four things: artist, architect, game designer, and engineer. You have to understand what textures look good together, what shapes work and look realistic, what's fun to play, and how things should move and function. All of these elements must be tied together seamlesly and then you have a good level.

And what are the most problems you see in "user" created levels. 

Well, you see a lack of focus on one of the above elements, or too much focus put of one of them. Sometimes you see *really* bad levels where none of the above elements have been taken into consideration, or you see a level where everything is done perfectly, except the guy is color blind and the textures look like something out of Willy Wonka.

Whats your favourite style of level (base/metal etc..). 

During Quake it was the metal theme. During "DOOM" it was anything brown :) Right now, in working with Quake 2 textures I have found that there are a lot of themes I like working with. I think this is because our artists have done such a great job of making all the textures look like they came from the same world.

Whats your most memorable editing moment (for some it's their first door :). 

There have been a lot. Probably seeing my first Quake level (the first Quake level ever actually) was most memorable. It was just a box room with some shapes in it, but I knew then that Quake was going to be the most awesome thing the world had seen.

If someone said to you they wanted to start designing quake levels, what advice would you give them? 

I would just warn them that creating a really good level takes TONS of time and energy. It's not something you can just sit down and finish in one evening. If they were serious about it, I would suggest that they study real world architecture and design, and use what they learn as much as possible.

Where do you get your inspiration, do you have masses of pictures of buildings etc.. 

From books, building, movies, everything around me. I don't have masses of pictures, but I do have a ton of books on architecture.

Which editor do you use at the mo. and which have you tried. 

Well, I use our editor (QE3) exclusively. I've tried almost all the editors out there, but have found that when creating levels for commercial purposes that ours is the best.

Will there be much change in the way the levels will look in quake2 than they do now. 

Well, the feel of the levels is much more consistent in Quake 2. During the Quake project we were never quite sure where the game was going to take place... and because of this at the end of the project we had all these different styles that had nothing to do with each other. In Quake 2 you are on ONE alien planet. You run from one area of buildings to another, fighting monsters, and solving puzzles related to that area. You start the game in an abandoned base and then fight through warehouses, mines, factories, and tons of other cool places. Each area has it's own set of textures but they are all related in some fashion, giving the feel that you are still on the same planet.

When quake2 comes out will we still be able to design levels in the editors we use now or will the editors have to be re-written. 

There have been some changes made to the basic .map format, so the way the editors write out the .map files will have to be worked on, but aside from that the interfaces should remain the same.

Do you have any tips that can make editing allot easier than it is:). 

Not really :) Having a plan before you start working on a level *really* helps... aside from that, just patience and persistence.

which, out of the "users" created levels is your favourite 

The "Manson" levels are some of my favorites... but there are tons of other great ones out there.

Now as traditional QuakeWorkshop standards:) do you have any last words to say to the American wannabes out there 

May the force be with you. :)

Questions & Comments
Quake Workshop 2