The Reviewers' Interview Series from The Quake Workshop

Installment Six in our Reviewers' Series of interviews is from Paul Taylor of AWOQ2.

How long has your site been active?

I started reviewing levels with my first site, A World of Quake, when I opened it on 2-5-97 and eventually shut that site down and opened A World of Quake2 on 10-14-97. So, (if I can remember how to add?) I have been reviewing levels for 1 year and 3 months.

What decided you to try to play and rate all those levels anyway?

Since Doom came out I found myself hopelessly involved in the game, playing every add-on level I could get my hands on. Quake was released and once again I was hooked on playing and played every level I could get my hands on for it and then the same thing happened to me with Quake 2. Just can't seem to play enough levels...

There was a point where I asked myself "How can I repay all these level authors for the time they spend so people like me can get more out of playing the game?" I then decided the best way was to open a web site and do review levels thus helping spread the word about great levels giving the authors more publicity for their efforts and at the same time giving players a place to go to grab the best levels out there.

At first I only wanted to say a couple of words about it and list the level but, a few words somehow didn't seem to be enough to me so I started to do more in depth reviews as time went on.

Ever dig in and try your hand at editing yourself?
How do you think that affects your review approach?

I have been attempting to make levels since Quake came out. I really do not have the artistic abilities to make good architecture so nothing has been really completed. I am currently working on a Quake2 level which also may never get done. I have both registered versions of WorldCraft and Qoole to tinker with and have learned quite a bit about basic editing concepts and also what it really can be like to spend mega hours of time trying to put a level together.

Trying to make levels really does have a lot of effects on my review approach by now knowing what can be done with the levels themselves. When I see a level now I see a lot more than just what's presented on the screen. In my mind, while playing the levels, I sometimes ask myself "why didn't the author do this here instead?" By attempting to make levels I have become a lot more picky to missed details which I now know could have been fixed fairly easily if the author pays attention during the course of making the level. I also know what a nightmare it can be to go back and find the problem, let alone fix it.

You just finished your 10,000 level. What do you play/do other than Q2 to keep from burning out on it?

Between my real job and real life stuff, I generally don't get burned out as the authors keep coming up with new ideas for the game and keep on amazing me. When I do get burned out (which does happen from time to time) I play demos of other games just to remind me why I like Quake 2 better!

Got any other details you want to share about who you are and what makes you tick?

I am single, own my own computer repair service, and am simply just your average Quake 2 player who can't get enough of the game.

How do you collect your levels for review? Search, submissions,...?

I search's incoming area, get submissions from other players and authors and check the many other review sites for any levels I may have missed. I pretty much do this on a daily basis.

About how many levels do you think you play per week?

That's hard to say because the amount of levels I play is greatly dependant on the levels which are released that week. If I were to take a wild guess at that it would probably average to around 2 every day or 14 levels a week plus any levels I may be play testing for some of the authors. As time goes on it will be more as I am seeing the momentum of releases build up quite a bit. When I was doing Quake reviews I was looking at around 30-40 levels a week.

Scored ratings or basic descriptions after clearing a specific quality hurdle: there are lots of methods. Wanna "pro and con" your chosen approach?

I chose my approach of just reviewing the levels I enjoyed and not giving them ratings because the basic player out there just wants to find good levels to play them and if they are like me, they really don't care if it gets 3 stars or 5... the question in my mind when searching for levels is, "Is it really worth downloading and trying out?" Also, I don't have to deal with a jillion e-mails a day trying to explain why it got a 4 when it could have been a 5 or 3. Answering much e-mail can take away a lot of my gaming time, which would be a bad thing to me. This approach gives all the authors' equal standing on my site. They are all great authors if their levels are reviewed here.

One downside to this is the author doesn't really have any idea from me what components of the level could have been done any better. If they were to ask me, I would be glad to give some ideas on areas of improvements.

Quake2, you opened the box, popped in the cd and fired it up. What was the first thing that really got you excited and kicked in the "wow" factor?

A new world to play in with much improved monster AI, better textures, cooler looking monsters, better weapons, and it was obvious the people at Id had matured quite a bit since their last release. Most of the things I didn't like about Quake were gone. I was overwhelmed in the very beginning with all the greater details and complexities of the levels. The colored lighting really gave it a much better atmosphere for a first person shooter. And the possibilities for new levels are just about endless. I knew from the first time I played Base1 I would really like this game! Wow is an understatement...

And now, what keeps you coming back for more and more and more...?

The level authors keep me coming back for more and more. They continue to surprise me with new concepts, new architecture and different ways to present the game. New things to see and do keep showing up all the time. Also, a lot of the authors have quite a bit of editing experience from making doom and or quake levels so you will see great improvements in style and game flow.

You got Quake and now Quake 2. What really separates the two from each other from the single play standpoint for you? Do you still fire up Q1 from time to time?

The separation of the two to me is pretty much evolutionary from a technical standpoint. Quake was great for its time when people ran slower machines with less capabilities. The game was pretty plain due to restrictions we all had to deal with both in the game engine and the equipment we had to run it on. Also, Quake was a mix of different themes with no real purpose to them. Quake 2 on the other hand has a great theme and the game follows it to the letter.

With Quake 2 we now have much faster machines to work with and better video components. The setting of the two games evolved also making a past verses future environment. The added enhancements of the Quake 2 engine make it a lot easier for the player to become even more immersed in the game than before.

I must admit I have pretty much buried Quake and said my last rights for it. It is no longer on my hard drive and I haven't played it since last December and haven't looked back since. Someday I might dust off my old Quake cd and check it out again... who knows?

Got a fav level, or hub set from the standard Q2? And what about it sets it apart from the other levels?

My favorite level The Research Lab is also the most technical looking and one of the goriest levels Id has to offer. It comes complete with operating tables equipped with laser cutters to cut the poor victim to pieces and the player actually gets to activate them! There are also some equally violent contraptions to see in it. In the very beginning there are poor lost insane soldiers roaming around the complex begging for release. Also you get to get the dreaded commanders head and bring it to the next part of the hub... a gruesome sounding task to say the least but I really loved the concept!

Without naming any map specifically, what is the biggest problem you see in levels?

Attention to details is the biggest problem I see in levels. If the author thinks we might not notice something, he may be in for a big surprise.

Every detail of the level can add or subtract from the ambiance of the level and add to or take away the single players ability to really get immersed in it. A level I played the other day was full of little things that all added up to me not wanting to review it. Although it was fun to play and had a good theme, it still had a lot of little flaws that ultimately told me it wasn't really done yet and would need some work to make it a killer map.

Most details which get overlooked have to do with texture alignment and placement. Sometimes there are textures that don't belong there at all.

Another detail missed is the appropriate setting for your monsters. Some editors don't really know how to do this yet and may have monsters walking into hallways instead of jumping on you when set for site or ambush.

Why is a theme so important to a map?

The theme is the setting for the whole level. It gives the player an idea of what will be ahead and is a major factor for the player to become totaly involved in the level. It adds the realism of it all. Without a good theme the player doesnt get the full enjoyment out of the level he deserves.

Is it ethical/cool to redo maps from previous games (Quake1, Doom2, Duke, etc)?

I find it kind of cheesy to redo maps from previous games and even cheesier to relocate someone else's map. In the beginning when there weren't any add-on levels to play this was quite acceptable do the lack of anything else to use the game engine with. But now I am only interested in new designs and concepts not painted over re-runs of previously released levels.

Has the Q2 editing community matured more rapidly than for Q1? Any theories as to why or why not?

I believe the community has matured a lot and noticed it within weeks of Quake 2's release with better quality levels. Many editors have a lot more knowledge from building levels from previous games. Also, there seems to be a lot more information from great editing sites like yours, (which I use all the time) with more in depth tutorials, and a lot more editing in general questions, answers, and FAQ's.

In the Doom and Quake days there were very few resources to choose from when an editor had any problems. Now there are at least 4 times more to choose and learn from thanks in a big part to Quake and Quake 2 being very similar in construction. These all combine to make even the beginning editor have a lot better concept of what should and shouldn't be done in constructing a good level.

Which monster is your favorite, and which seems to be the toughest to deal with?

Never met a monster I didn't want to kill! hehe I don't really have a favorite. They all have their strong and weak points. Maybe my favorite one is the gunner because I can blow his head off!

The end boss seems to be the toughest if you don't have enough ammo to get him with. Three or more parasites in an open area can be mighty hard to deal with if you are low on ammo.

Give us 2 monsters and what you think are their strengths: the best placements to get the most challenge out of fighting them.

Two? ok. The first one I will mention is the Gladiator. He is best placed as far from the player as possible on open ground. once the player is able to close to it the monster is not that big of a challenge but if the gladiator sees you first from a distance he can really rack up the damage points on you.

The second... The Gunner. He is best placed above the player across a room with a clear field of site to the player. He can both machine gun you and lob grenades at you from there. A pair of them can be devastating if they are located on opposing sides of the room. Once again if he is close you can simply fire off two double barreled shotgun rounds in him to quickly dispatch him.

Give us 2 monsters and what you think are their weakness and the placements that hamper the monster's performance.

The Technician is one of the most underused and worse placed monsters in the game. He has the ability of resurrecting the dead (if they aren't too dead). Most of the time you will see him placed with other monsters or (shudder) alone taking away his true power. He cant be truly effective unless he has bodies to bring back to life. As a combatant he is quite easy to dispatch and poses no real threat to the player by himself. If spawned just after the player leaves the room he can have all kinds of surprises waiting for the player when he comes back which even the author can't control because it will be dependant on how well the player killed his enemy.

The Barracuda shark is another which can be placed in the wrong areas. Most of the time you will see them placed in plain view which is ok for one or two of them but not all. They are too easy to just kill while standing out of the water with just your blaster. The majority should be placed under a ledge out of site, waiting for the unsuspecting player to enter the water after he thought he easily killed all the sharks.

Any patterns you have seen with monsters so far?

I haven't really seen any patterns with monsters so far. A lot of beginners place them in the wrong places or situations but for the most part they are pretty good. Each author seems to be developing his own style of monster placement and refining it as he makes more levels.

What do you think of the bosses for Q2?

As a player, I don't like to think about them. One good thing from my point of view is that even though they have awesome and devastating fire power, they are slow to move and react. As long as the player has enough ammo to get the job done, they aren't that hard to kill.

I have heard it said that the radiosity lighting in Q2 has really cramped the lighting, in that stark shadow contrasts aren't as common in comparison to Q1. What is your take on this? Is lighting markedly different between the two games (ignoring color for a moment)?

Yes, the lighting is a lot different but it all seems suitable for the new environment of Quake 2. I do miss the spotlighting.

I hope that Tim Wright's Arghrad will change some of this for us. I haven't had a chance to do a lot with it but by reading the text file it seems promising and I even have seen a directional sun in a sky environment which worked quite well!

Colored lighting. What a great toy... uh, tool,... for us editors. What can you say about it? Have the level editors out there used it cleanly?
Is it abused or overused?

I really like the colored lighting, when used properly it can give a whole new atmosphere to a level. It doesn't seem to take long for an editor to figure out if colored lighting works properly as it really shows! What really amazes me is some editors don't have any kind of gl card and cant see the lighting but have managed to use it in levels with great success! (I think you might even know one of them Noel...)

Very few people abuse the lighting and I really don't think it can be overused. It can be abused by lighting a whole room bright green for instance which tends to take away the coloring of the other textures there.

What is the strangest use of colored lighting (odd color for instance) you have seen - whether it worked or not?

I haven't really seen any strange uses of colored lighting or maybe I just didn't notice from a players viewpoint. Most color schemes will work pretty well as long as there isn't an over-dominance of primary colors.

Is it worse to have an area that is too dark or too light?

Too dark!!! I hate bumbling around in the dark and stubbing my toes. Its ok to have some dark areas concealing your foes but don't make a whole room dark. It just confuses the player and breaks up the game flow.

The texture set for Q2 is pretty extensive, and well supported by theme sets, but are you seeing fewer original textures due to the change in the format of the texture files?

Well, maybe the format could be one of the reasons but it may not the biggest reason. Not only is the texture set for Q2 more extensive but they are actually very well done too. With Quake the textures provided were very limited had a lot to be desired as far as the quality and were quickly replaced by a lot of editors who weren't comfortable with the quality and or looks of the old textures.

Do you like to see people experiment, stretch the existing textures into combinations that weren't tried in the id levels? Or are the strengths of the matched textures that much more superior?

Yes! I love seeing editors experiment with different textures. Actually, a lot of the sets of textures work quite well with each other and in some instances will produce a better look. I don't feel the matched textures are really more superior and can be mixed quite nicely.

Hell, what is your favorite texture/level feel (base, warehouse, city,...)?

Space levels, Id only offered two of them with the space station (which, in my opinion, was just a big floating square) and the end level. I liked them the best because they weren't base levels. I like base levels but am growing tired of them fast as they all seem to look alike. The space station levels opened the door to a lot of possibilities which I hope the editors will exploit some day soon.

What visual clues do you consider for whether textures go well together as a player?

Well, it looks good or it doesn't. If there aren't enough details in the wall textures the level can end up looking quite bland. Too many and you would be over doing it and possibly sacrificing your speeds through the areas.

Visually, should the textures drive the architecture or vice versa?

If you use the wrong textures on your architecture it will look like crap. The textures should compliment the surrounding architecture. I guess... What should "drive" what? I believe they should compliment each other.

Are you still surprised by the new ideas that people use the new tools (translucents, light emitting brushes, etc) for?

Yes, I am sometimes surprised by how many different ideas can be incorporated to make things look good. After playing so many levels I have grown to expect a lot of new uses for the new tools but I can still be surprised by an editors ingenuity.

Rotating brushes: are they being used for good dramatic effect beyond just fans?

Very seldom do I see rotating brushes used for much more than fans or sometimes doors and hatches. Its a pity really as they can be used for a lot more things. I think they are not used that much because they are hard to implement (at least they are hard for me).

How much are you willing to sacrifice performance (r_speeds etc) for something that absolutely looks cool?

Performance is the key to good combat situations. If a player can't get around quickly enough it can be frustrating and break the game flow. I really hate to jerk around in levels. With a few new tools included in this game engine such as being able to turn any brush into a door entity, there is really no excuse for any slow downs in the game. Nothing is absolutely cool if the game play slows down to a crawl.

Secrets: what is the best way to implement them into the flow of a level?

Use them! A lot of authors don't have any secrets which is a bummer to me. The secrets should in areas where the player may need a little extra help such as a more ammo, 100% health, a quad, extra armor, or a weapon he might need to get the job done.

Which gun is your pride and joy for Strogg blasting?

I really prefer using a double barreled shotgun for most of my fighting. It can usually take out the majority of monsters if you can get close enough to them. I always run out of shells first than resort to other weapons.

Obviously, just leaving health and ammo laying around is pretty cliché. What are some of the better tricks to integrating items into a level's theme and flow?

Lame is a better term for leaving ammo and health just lying around. You wouldn't see that in real combat so why would anyone think the enemy would here?

Better tricks to use would be to make a monster give up the item when he dies. You will need to make sure the item fits the monster though. Or to have a armory where the weapons and ammo is stored. A first aid station would be good for health but I haven't seen any yet.

What is your take on the special powerups, quad for example? Do they fit with a strong single player environment?

All items can be used in a level as long as the editor warrants its use. You would never want to use a Quad if there were enough ammo and health around to get through the whole level but it could come in handy if player finds himself short on ammo later on.

What is your biggest tip for for someone just thinking about starting editing?

Find a good editing program for which you can be confortable with. Ask other authors what program they use and why.

Take your time and try to figure out a good theme for your level before getting it started. Without a good theme you will be going in circles and get very frustrated with your work.

Go to the many great editing sites like this one for the many good resources they have to offer. Just about everything you might want to know about editing is covered on the net somewhere.

Have fun!

Anything else you want to add?

I just want to take this time to thank all of the editors for all the time and energy they have spent on making this the best game out there! Without you, the game would soon die. Instead, your efferts have made the game live on. If there is ever anything I can help you with, feel free to drop me a line. I will do my best to lend a hand. THANKS =)

Thanks. We all appreciate it.

Thank you for having me on your site. May all of your editing days be happy ones.