Tuesday, February 13, 2007

1997-2003

Between the years of 1997 and 2003 I predominantly spent my free time working with a little editor called Worldcraft. Early on I spent most of my time trying to get my head wrapped around unfamiliar concepts like line of sight visibility calculations, light maps, and the general bsp process and how a node based gaming engine works. This was also my first foray into any realm of 3d manipulation, and since I never actually took a geometry course, the whole XYZ axis was new to me.

At some point in time I neglected these delightful little nuggets, and never really gave them a proper archive so that I could keep a record of all the work. It occurred to me one day while at EA Chicago discussing the old days with some co-workers that there were countless hours of devotion and effort poured into those maps, and the only record I gave them was a tiny little web page with little to no information and some crappy little thumbnails.

This entry is meant to give those maps, and this foundational time in my life as a digital artist an appropriate place, even if it is just for my own archival interests.

In general I spent much of my time back then very confused, but I really just loved the idea of building my own Quake maps and having others play them! If you head over to my old PlanetQuake site here you will find links to download all of my old Quake maps, but on this page you will only find more detailed information about the maps, as well as some larger images.

I will attempt to list the maps in the order I released them, but I am prone to errors, my memory of those times is fuzzy, and I may make of mess of things.

The Darkness Within:

I am still not certain where I came up with the ridiculous name for this map, but it is what it is and things cannot be changed now. This was the first map I released outside of my apartment, it was an okay attempt...but nothing to write home to Ma about for sure.

Perhaps the title comes from the general darkness of these particular images, the lighting in general is representative of the lighting in my earlier work...lots of dark hard outlined shadows with lots of areas filled with black, I found it to be moody at the time.

Castle Golgotha

Following what I then considered a lackluster acceptance of The Darkness Within by the then fairly active Quake custom map scene, I decided to take it upon myself to craft a series of maps so difficult that the most seasoned Quake players would cry to their mother's about how unfair these maps are.

This all seems rather ridiculous to me now, but I can still recall the severe disappointment I had when my previous map, The Darkness Within, did not blow the collective Quake community out of their socks. This time I was not going to disappoint, and I spent several weeks toiling over a start map accompanied by two brutal maps.

The game play was considered brutal, but I still lacked a really tight build quality on the second release and the lighting was still lacking.

The Occursed

For this map pack I set out to re-define my personal definition of what Quake map could be based on the original id map designs, and I think in some small way I was able to by mixing some genuine outdoor environments into the small quest like scenario I devised.

However you can see from these images that I spent so much time building and developing techniques for myself to construct the outdoor stone and interior spaces that I managed to completely slide on the lighting. I still recall one person commenting that the levels were fantastic, but he felt as if he were wading through some cosmic gloom because the lighting was so blegh...

Having gone through these levels again recently, I had to ask myself..."How did I NOT see this!?"

Coagula

At some point in either 1998 or 1999 I decided to get involved with a little Quake mod called Nehahra. During production of the mod I took small breaks from time to time just to flex my fingers and pop the old knuckles.

Coagula is one of those maps that was spawned by such a moment. I had intentions of creating my first ever multiplayer only map, but it quickly wound into a single player map, and I had so much fun creating it because of the compact scale and quick build time that I decided to create...

Coagula II: Flesh

Again I am fuzzy on the time lines here, so this one might have come out during Nehahra production, or soon there after...I am confused now so let's just say it was during or soon after!

At some point I got this crazy idea that Coagula would have a total of three maps, because odd numbers are good composition of course, and I decided I needed a theme for the names. I came up with the name Coagula by cutting the word coagulate short, so I figured that name had to do with blood or something scary like that so Coagula II got the name Flesh...and Coagula III would be called...

Coagula III: Bone

Get it! Flesh and Bone! Scary stuff right, I mean c'mon Quake was a scary game, so I had to come up with some really creative scary names here. Again Coagula III took place floating out in the void, but this time I went hog wild with the texture colors and scaled the whole thing up to a grand size so the series would go out with a bang.

I was always amazed at how much the speed running community loved the original Coagula map so I devised some trickery to make it tough for the speed runners by hiding the exit teleporter under the start area, forcing them to run from the start, all the way to the top of the map and back down...unfortunately I mis-calculated their skill level, and several runners managed a manuever I never imagined possible and jumped off the side and right into the exit...*sigh*

At some point along the line, I stopped worrying though about what folks thought of the maps, I mean I still tried to listen to constructive criticism, but I also realized that it was impossible to please all of the voices commenting on the work and I just started to have a good old time.

Which leads to...

Nehahra

Having just finished work on my first game title Def Jam: Icon I can honestly say that the development of Nehahra was the closest thing to an actual store shelf shipped title development cycle I had experienced prior to my time at EA. I spent many a late night on IRC with the rest of the dev team discussing art issues, map layouts and generally fleshing out what would happen and how things would get tied together.

In the end I did an insane number of maps for the mod, and I think each and every map suffered because I over-loaded myself by taking on too much and promising too many things to too many people, not to mention I was going to school at The Cleveland Institute of Art full-time by this point.

Even with the difficulty in the amount of content I promised, and the constant tug of C.I.A. Nehahra was still one of the best experiences, and I think this particular experience convinced me that I needed to keep pushing hard to get into the games industry.

Following the release of Nehahra to the public, I got this crazy itch to out-do the work I had done in Nehahra. I was just so dissatisfied with some of the work that I felt I really needed to make up for it with a map pack that I could be proud of. So I began work on...

Nehahra Episode III: The Tides of War

Tides of War was a resounding personal success, and I was extremely happy with the all around quality of all the maps, especially Soulstice, a map which until then I had thought impossible with the Quake engine. Luckily by this time the Quake engine was open source so I was able to use Nehahra's newer engine to get a sky box working which opened doors previously closed to me. I was also starting to get the feeling that Quake was no longer going to be a game that could support the visions for the grandiose expanses of space I wanted to create, and I began to consider moving to a newer game engine.

It was at this time I began to experiment more with large expansive outdoor environments, which just happened to time up with a small Quake mapping competition specifically geared towards outdoor maps so soon after I released.

Precipice Continuum

I really wish I had some kind of explanation for that name. I think it is possibly the best and worst name I ever came up with, all at the same time.

I think Precon was the first map I really felt like I was just completely stifled by the tools and the technical limitations of Quake. I still loved the gritty taste the game left in my mouth, but It just took too much to get things running at a decent framerate, and I was constantly sacrificing quality for speed. Quake was just too old to be doing the kinds of things I wanted to do.

Regardless a friend from the Quake mapping and coding scene Aardappel asked me to do him the honor of a custom map for his project DMSP. I liked the concept of the mod and had played a little bit of it, and thought it would not hurt to create a map catering to DMSP's frantic gameplay model.

Centripice

This map consists of several circular rooms all connected together via winding stairs and curving hallways to create a cyclical flow that has you roaming from one area only to wind up back where you spawned. There really is no linear progression as DMSP is not linear in nature, so I tried my damndest to just create an arena that flowed casually from one room to another.

Following the release of DMSP I decided that I only had one more set of Quake maps in me. I really wanted to take all of the scarier creatures from Quake's library and give them some new skins so they would have a tech look that would work with the other grunts and enforcers in the game.

By this time however I was knee deep in learning Maya and getting more frustrated with Quake's limitations by the day.

Technophobia

This was going to be my crowning acheivement, the last Quake maps I would ever create and they would be the greatest maps I would ever create for Quake. I was going to move on to Unreal 2 technology and the vast landscapes of UnrealEd would open up limitless possibilities for me...

Unfortunately I just never finished the maps.

I think the final nail in the coffin had to be the frustrating work it took to get a single planar projected skin to look semi-decent on the characters in the game, when I was doing projections on models of higher resolution at school and enjoying the process much more.

Unfortunately the two scraps of maps that remain are all that there is of this projects massive amount of potential. Looking back on it now, it really is a shame I never finished the maps, but I think some of my best brush work is in them, so I choose to show these pics.

So there it is, there might be one or two small maps missing, I know there is probably a speed mapping session .bsp or two, and a custom speedrun map I created floating around on the internet in some ancient archive somewhere, but I will let those bones lie where they are for now.