The Reviewers' Interview Series from The Quake Workshop

The ninth installment in our Reviewers' Series of interviews is from Francis Fearon of Levelers Lair.

How long has your site been active?

Since the eigth of February, 1998.

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

I enjoy Quake and Quake2, I enjoy collecting and playing user levels, and I enjoy writing. Reviewing levels is basically really good fun.

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

Yes, I released several pretty terrible levels for Quake a while ago. I haven't released anything since. I guess it made me realise that it takes a lot of time and effort to make a good level. I guess I don't have enough patience to make a good mapper:)

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

When not playing Quake2, I spend time trying to learn C, as well as working on various internet-related projects. I don't think that I'll ever "burn out" on Quake2 because it has so much to offer- new patches and levels are coming out all the time, providing infinite variations on the game. I still play the original Quake a lot as well.

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

Erm... I live in England, I'm 14 years old and I'm a computer addict.

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

I get my levels from various sources. I accept submissions, I check out other review sites and I occasionally browse through and choose some levels from there. However, I tend to give higher priority to reviewing levels that have been submitted by their authors.

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

Four, five, sometimes more, but I don't review every level I play.

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

I tend to quite in-depth level reviews. I try to give reasonably detailed descriptions of acrhitecture, monter and weapon placement, texture choice and allignment, and linearity, eg. can you just walk through the level or do you have to make choices between different paths and routes. I suppose ther is always room for improvement in my reviews, and I am constantly trying to improve my reviewing style.

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 graphics. Quake2 in GL mode is just amazing. ID have really excelled with all aspects of the graphics, with excellent textures and superbly detailed models. The levels are also fantastic.

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

I rarely play the "original" Quake2 now, I am always running user levels or modifications and it is these that keep me coming back. there's lots of really talented people out there, and we should think ourselves lucky to get mods and levels of this quality for free.

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?

I very much still play Q1, it's still a fantastic game and has a unique atmosphere. However, I believe that Quake2 is a much better single play experience, with lots of new environmental effects, stunning levels and proper missions to carry out.

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

I suppose that's a pretty hard question. Lets just say I love them all:)

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

I play a lot of levels that are fine, but seem to have something 'missing'. I think other Q2 reviewers have picked up on this. Some levels are competandly made but don't seem to have any 'soul'.

Why is a theme so important to a map?

I think a constant them is very important in a map. A level which suddenly changes from one theme to another looks very messy, and doesn't feel right at all.

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

There's no reason why people shouldn't... I think it's pretty cool actually. DM6 was my alltime favourite dm map and I was delighted to see that on Quake2. I think Steed was wrong to blast guys who reconstruct their favourite old maps.

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

Yes, I think it has and the reasons are pretty obvious- basically you have a load of people who have been editing Quake, and when the next generation game appears, it is logical that they would move on to that. Also, the file formats for Quake2 are very similar to Quake's, so the editors can be updated to work with Quake2 pretty easily.

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

That's a a hard one. I like the Enforcer, they die in cool ways and I love the way flies gather over their dead bodies. IMO, the hardest to deal with are the railgun toting Gladiators. They are quite accurate and very deadly.

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

I think the gunners are a challenge to fight if placed above you as they bombard you with grenades, similar to the ogres of Quake.

The gladiators are deadly if they appear behind the player, because once they get in a couple of blasts form their railgun, you're history.

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

Placing hand to hand only monsters such as the mutants below the player means they don't have a chance to get at the player and are useless. The mutants are strong but can be quite easily taken out if the player keeps his distance.

The same goes with the bezerker, whose speed and strength count for nothing if the player is out of their arms distance.

Any patterns you have seen with monsters so far?

With all due respect to ID, I think their supposedley excellent monster AI was not much better than that of the original Quake. I have noticed lots of patterns emerging in the monsters behaviour.

What do you think of the bosses for Q2?

They're definitley better than the bosses in Quake1- I mean the alien Shub Niggurath or what ever it was from Quake looked a melted snowman.

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)?

I actually like the Quake2 lighting better. I think there is a difference it lighting between the two games. The original Quake tends to be very dark, too dark in places.

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?

No, I think in the early days of Quake2 editing it was abused as editors fiddled with their new toy. However, mappers have now become very skilled with coloured lighting and it is a really great graphical effect.

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

Hmm... I was once playing a level where a room flooded with red light to indicate a "red alert." I think this is a cool effect.

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

Too dark. Textures look horrible when it is too bright.

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?

Yes, I think the new format has meant less new textures. However, I think that the great Quake2 textures make up for this.

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?

I always like people to be brave enough to experiment, and new texture themes look great when a level author pulls them off. The matched textures are great though.

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

Either base or city. I really loved the military base style on Quake1 as well.

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

It just basically has to look good and 'feel right.'

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

I think it should be a little each way.

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

I see new ideas and techniques all the time and it's great to see. Like I have already said, there's some really talented people out there they can do amazing things with these new tools.

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

It depends on the kind of trap. If there is fair warning and you are dumb enough to still fall for the trap, fair enough. However, I hate 'sudden death' traps.

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

They are being used to good effect, yes. However, I have seen rotating brushes slightly overused in some cases. I hate it when a level is completely slowed down because the author has decided to shove in loads of unnecessary rotating bits.

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

If it looks REALLY cool, then I guess I don't mind sacrificing a little on the r_speeds. What I object to is real r_speed abuse, where you experience internet-style lag.

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

The only thing I can say is DO NOT put important items in secret areas. I also think that the level author shouldn't hide away the best weapon in a secret area as it could mean the difference between the level being challenging and the level being easy to complete.

Which gun is your pride and joy for Strogg blasting?

The railgun, I think. This is a really cool gun and the graphics on it are great as well. It's also excellent for sniping.

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

I think that a mapper should be careful when placing the BFG on a level, because of it's sheer power. I think that the player should always be looking for ammo, as it makes a level more exciting.

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?

Strogg that drop weapons or ammo when killed are good. Not only is it an incentive to kill them, but also a good way of integrating items in to the theme. Another good way is making 'armoury rooms' where the Strogg stash all their fire power.

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

I like the quad a lot, and now that you can activate it at the time of your choice, you can use it tactically. I don't think it should be available on 'hard' though.

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

Read a lot of tutorials, try different editors, enjoy yourself!

Anything else you want to add?

Just like to thank everyone who visits my site.Thanks:)

Thanks. We all appreciate it.

No problem.