Blue and Levelord Get Drunk!
What can I say about these guys that hasn't already been said? Stephen "Blue" Heaslip is the webmaster over at Blue's News, and publisher of this here web 'zine. Levelord is the mad genius level designer who has worked on such games as Duke Nukem 3D, Sin, and the Quake 1 mission pack, The Scourge of Armagon. Of all the screwball people I know in this industry, Levelord and Blue are really the two most deserving of the term "characters". They're both lots of fun, and as you'll discover from this interview, they're a lot of fun when put in a room together. I hope everyone out there enjoys this interview as much as everyone involved did in putting it together. A big thanks goes out to Levelord and Blue for this one. Enjoy! (For those curious, this interview was conducted at the hotel bar during the recent Frag 2 CPL event)
- Jason "loonyboi" Bergman, editor-in-chief.
Blue: A couple of beers...game going gold...
Levelord: Oh yeah...
Blue: So it doesn't take much to make a man happy...just a beer and his game going gold.
Levelord: A little alcohol, and a game going gold. Actually, going gold...you know when you wake up and you're in that semi-sleep state?
Blue: ...and you're not sure that it really happened?
Levelord: Yeah, Iím like "oh shit, in that level I should have done this..." and it's too late now.
Blue: Do you have that? Once it's gone out the door, do you have these second thoughts?
Levelord: Yeah, there's always something broken, or not the way you wanted it...but then, like with the add-on pack, and Duke, I'm just like, what do I care now?
Blue: Is that what happened? Does it go away after awhile?
Levelord: If it's not critical, yeah.
Blue: So do you fire up your old stuff and get really critical?
Levelord: Nah...never look at it.
Blue: You're an interesting character in terms of stuff like that, because people love to ask level designers who their influences are -
Levelord: - never look at anything.
Blue: You never do?
Blue: Is that necessarily a good thing?
Levelord: For me it is...it's just sort of my whole -
Blue: - individual taste? On one level, you look at that and say it kinda insulates you from what's going on. I mean it certainly prevents you from plagiarizing.
Levelord: Yeah, that's the whole thing. What you're saying...on the first hand Iím limiting myself to the coolness that I would see in somebody else's level, but I don't want to see that. I don't want to do what they're doing. I suppose I think that I can keep up with the coolness.
Blue: Guess that puts a lot of pressure upon yourself to just...generate your own coolness.
Levelord: It's the other way around. A lot of the time Tom [Mustaine, a fellow level designer at Ritual] will be playing something and I'll be looking over his shoulder and I'll think, "oh, that's so cool" and it might be that I would actually have done that. I mean a lot of these ideas aren't exactly like groundbreaking...like here's a good example: Half-Life has that door...your typical door with a bar...you can only open it from one direction. Now in level designing terms, that's brilliant because a lot of the time I want the player, once they've gotten to an area, to not be able to go back...
Blue: The one way door.
Levelord: The one way door, but I had never thought of that. So I will never do one of those doors.
Levelord: Because I saw it first.
Blue: You put that pressure on yourself.
Levelord: I just...I won't do it. I hate thieving.
Blue: 'A rip-off? It's an homage!' So you don't go for the homage rationale, huh?
Levelord: What's it called in the art world...appropriation.
Blue: I just find it remarkable, because there's so much of that, 'there's nothing new under the sun' attitude in most people's minds.
Levelord: I suppose it does cut both ways. So for me, I just can't stand looking at other people's stuff. Also for me, if it is something cool, like that door in Half-Life, it breaks my heart, because I didn't think of that.
Blue: But then, don't you ever get something where you've come up with something like the door in Half-Life, and somebody's already done it but you didn't know it?
Levelord: That's fine.
Blue: Does anybody ever call you on that? Ever get, "hey, you ripped this off from so-and-so?"
Levelord: I haven't yet. That to me is okay, because then I say that I did think of it, and a lot of those things do happen.
Blue: So where do you get your inspiration?
Levelord: Actually, no...not drugs. But like I said, that semi-sleep state where you're kinda like drifting, and your mind is free.
Blue: Kind of a subconscious thing?
Levelord: And then a lot, and this is an important thing to say, is that a lot of the things in my levels are not mine. Robert Atkins, Michael Hadwin, Mark Dochterman, Jim Dose they'll look at it, and say, 'do this,' and I'll put it in, and then who do you think gets the credit?
Blue: But then you go back to them and give them suggestions for how the program should run...it's called collaboration. It's a team effort.
Levelord: In particular Robert...he's really keen on, 'make it do this here.'
Blue: Good input giver? Frustrated level designer?
Levelord: Actually, yeah...both he and Hadwin, and Beau Anderson too, have expressed interest in level design. So Iím like, 'yeah, well if you teach me how to do those cool models, maybe we'll trade.'
Blue: I was going to just say...is that something you aspire to?
Levelord: Yeah, the characters and the animations and stuff...that looks very cool. And when you look at what they're doing on the screen, their editor, or whatever they use, it's very similar. It's polygons, and making them move...
Blue: You might be able to make that transition someday.
Levelord: I don't know if I want to. The transition I want to make is...retirement.
|Credits: Illustration © 1998 Mike Sanzone. This interview is © 1998 Stephen Heaslip and Richard Gray. All other content is © 1998 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is totally for squares, daddy-o.|