The Reviewers' Interview Series from The Quake Workshop

Installment numero eight in our Reviewers' Series of interviews is from Gary "Zedek" Marshall of LevelZone. As an added note:

"This interview is kind of an ending to my site, because I've decided to discontinue it... for various reasons. Check the page for more info. So, this is like my last thoughts, some ending tips for potential authors."

How long has your site been active?

Since December of '97... 12/29/97 to be exact. Wow, that was a while ago... ;)

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

I was looking for an idea for a web page to make, and I wanted to to be Quake2 related. I figured, "Why don't I make a review site!" So I did.

Ever dig in and try your hand at editing yourself?

Oh, I made a few Quake1 levels, but haven't finished any Quake2 levels as of yet.

How do you think that affects your review approach?

I think it makes me look at levels with a different perspective. Occasionally, I will say "Wow, how did they do THAT?" It makes me more sympathetic to little bugs as well, because I can see how people can let them slip by.

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

Well, lately I've been playing a lot of other games, mainly StarCraft. By doing this, it helps me lessen the boredom and repetiveness of reviewing Quake2 levels. Unfortunately, it has also made me not update as much as I would have liked to. And essentially, it may have been one of the downfalls of my site. But, you need a variety of things in your life, ya know? Maybe someday I'll get back into Q2, but then again, maybe not.

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

Though I cannot guaruntee this, I think I have may be the youngest level reviewer, at 15 years old. I've played all id games, as well as other games such as Warcraft II, C&C, Total Annihilation, and Starcraft. When I was reviewing levels, things often got in the way (like school), but I usually found time to review a level here or there in my spare time. Weekends were my major reviewing time, but sometimes I would get a little bored.

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

I check often, as well as other review sites. Though I try not to read their reviews until after I review them, so that I don't get influenced by other comments. People sometimes submit levels as well.

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

I used to play anywhere from 3 to 10.

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

I use a 5 point rating system, with three different categories. This is good, and bad too. Its good because I don't have to give it an exact number. Its bad because sometimes levels just barely fit into a category, and its tough deciding which to place it in.

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?

The intro movie was pretty cool, but the first major "wow" thing was the quality of detail in id's levels. It was such a huge jump from Quake1, it made me actually say "wow".

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

Well, not much now... But when I was reviewing levels, the internet playability with mods such as CTF were a fun break to reviewing.

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?

Like I mentioned, Quake2's detail in the levels is much higher. The colored lighting also adds a lot. One of the best improvements is a partial storyline. In Quake1, it was "find the exit" in every level. Some of that still exists in Q2, but at least there is a few little twists put in to add to the fun.

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

I liked the warehouses a lot, because of all the cool machines and power cubes 'n stuff. The sewers were cool too, because of the neat architecture put in.

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

Lack of definite theme and plot.

Why is a theme so important to a map?

It separates a Q2 level from a Q1 level. If I wanted to play "find the exit" levels, I could have played Quake1 levels.

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

I don't see a problem with it, as long as proper credit is given. When I rate conversions, I just give it a "conversion rating", which rates how close to the original the map was.

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

I'm not really sure, I don't remember much of the Q1 community. I was late to get Quake1, and missed a lot.

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

I think the railgun dudes are pretty cool. The hardest monsters to deal with are probably the small flyer things, they are hard to hit while they wail on you with hyperblasters.

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

Those dudes with the power shield only work good in numbers, and in closed areas. Otherwise, they are just a laugh. Also, if you want the plasma blaster guys to be any challenge, put them in large numbers or up in high platforms.

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

Large monsters and bosses need a lot of room. If they don't have room to move, they are cannon fodder. Also, the grenade dudes work better above, not below, the player.

Any patterns you have seen with monsters so far?

I think sometimes people put too many hard monsters in one area. 3 or 4 grenade guys in one room does not make a happy player. Same goes for most of the more difficult guys.

What do you think of the bosses for Q2?

They aren't bad, but I think there should have been more of them for level authors to use. Just make sure the player has enough health/ammo to fight them.

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)?

The radiosity makes the lighting more gradual, and less of an instant jump from light to dark. It does make pitch black shadows less common, but on the whole I think it looks cooler than Quake1.

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've seen plenty of levels that abused colored lighting, but now I think authors have gotten the initial "color tests" out of their systems. The best thing level designers can do is to not use colored point lights, but just use the color from wall lights. It looks a lot more realistic.

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

I remember some disco dance floor thing once. It was... weird. Groovy.

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

Too dark is worse than too light. Both are bad, but its better to be able to see than to be fumbling around in the dark while monsters peg at you.

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?

Its not common to see new textures in a map these days. Its just too hard to authors to incorporate their textures into the levels.

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?

Its ok to stretch textures a little bit, but any more than that looks pretty unprofessional.

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

I like the sewer/pumping station feel best. I dunno, I just love pipes, valves, and moving water.

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

If it looks good, thats all that counts.

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

Both. If you think of a cool piece of architecture, try to find the textures to make it look good. If you see a good texture, make a cool piece of architecture to go good with the texture.

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

Yes. It always makes me thing "Why didn't I think of that?!"

Traps, many love the challenge they present.
What is your perspective on "architecturous carnivorous?"

Traps are cool as long as there is some visual clue to the trap, and as long as it makes sense. A trap floor while you're walking through a Strogg office building wouldn't make much sense, and it would be even worse if there was no way for an average player to see it and avoid it.

This is related to an earlier question; Rotating brushes, are they being used for good dramatic effect beyond just fans?

Oh, they're used for everything. Power plants, doors, mixers, etc. You name it. Of course, fans are good too ;)

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

As long as theres no monsters and no way for me to die, I don't mind if its slow. Otherwise, its better to make it faster.

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

Try to think of where the Strogg may have stored some stash. Hidden compartments, broken walls, etc are all good ideas.

Which gun is your pride and joy for Strogg blasting?

I use the double barrel shotgun mostly, I dunno why. I think it goes back to habits, from Doom days.

Are levels that restrict weapon selection and ammo more exciting/challenging or do you like full fire power every time?

As long as I have the essentials (first 3 or 4 weapons), and enough ammo, I'll be ok.

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?

Like secrets, try to think as a Strogg would have. Where would you stash supplies? Also, special areas like medical rooms would be cool too.

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

As long as they aren't abused, they can add a little boost to a difficult level.

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

Go through the id levels, and look closely at their designs. Learn learn learn. Play lots of user levels, and see if you can improve upon them.

Anything else you want to add?

Think of a theme before you begin your level. Drawing it on paper would probably help. Decide what you're gunna want the player to be doing, such as "First, find the system computers. Then, access some data. Lastly, disable the security lasers so you can exit." Also, playtest your level a lot. Give it to your friends to test, and ask them if they have any suggestions. Lastly, mission packs are generally more popular and more fun to play than single levels.
Keeping these things in mind, make some really cool levels!!

Thanks. We all appreciate it.