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volume 1, issue 13

Today in loonygames:

New!! The Archives have been cleaned up, fead links fixed, and printable versions restored! Also, don't miss the new comments on the front page!

Livin' With The Sims: theAntiELVIS explores the wild and wacky world that is Will Wright's The Sims, asking the inevitable quesiton, "is The Sims the first step toward a virtual life where everyone is Swedish?"

Pixel Obscura: Josh Vasquez on Omikron: The Nomad Soul.

Real Life: Check out our newest comic strip, Real Life! Updated daily!

User Friendly: Updated daily!

Related Links:

Blue's News: Blue's regular hangout.

Ritual Entertainment: Levelord's company.


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Random Feature :

Blue & Levelord Get Drunk: Truly the definitive interview with Levelord, Stephen "Blue" Heaslip and the Ritual level designer get drunk and talk about the gaming industry.

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Blue and Levelord Get Drunk!

Levelord: I walked six blocks, and I was drenched in sweat. Dallas is nice, the people are nice, the economy's great. But there's nothing to do, there's no mountains, there's no ocean, there's nothing to do.

Blue: It's a very flat place. So you're from Connecticut. Where they don't allow children, that's the old Mel Brooks joke. A 2000 year old man...he comes from Connecticut, Connecticut. They don't allow children.

Levelord: [laughs] Carl Reiner.

Blue: Yeah. So they made you move out as a child...I have a tough time picturing you as a child...maybe it's the pirate get-up.

Levelord: I feel as though Iíve reverted back to my childhood.

Blue: Maybe that's it...you're certainly not a stodgy individual.

Levelord: stodgy.

Blue: stodgy. But you maintain a youthful thing...is that what happened, is it all the 21 year olds?

Levelord: I don't have a wife, I don't have kids, I don't have a mortgage.

Blue: Are any of those things in your future?

Levelord: I don't know. Again, the 45 year old thing. What would be great is if you have so much money it doesn't matter what you look like, or how old you are, you just rent a girl for five years. Prenuptial agreement that she'll leave -

Blue: One of those things where you're walking down the beach with her, and everyone turns their heads and goes, 'he's got money.' Or is it from that movie The Edge, 'that man has a plane.'

Levelord: So, I have no idea...I don't think they'll be kids in it for me. I mean you're old enough, isn't that hard to imagine?

Blue: I can't picture myself telling them what to do. Because I know what I would have said...frightening.

Levelord: I think you have to be young and stupid to do that. Again though, if you had enough money, she stays at home, raises the kids with a nanny or two.

Blue: Or she goes away with the kids and you stay at home with a nanny or two.

Levelord: Okay!

Blue: Just a thought. Just an alternative approach. So what does a 40 year old transplanted New Englander do in a flat space for fun?

Levelord: One who lived in LA for ten years, and New York for one.

Blue: Is there anything for you to do for fun? Is there nothing here for you?

Levelord: I've been drinking...smoking again.

Blue: You had quit -

Levelord: In January, yeah.

Blue: Is quitting before crunch time a mistake? Is this advice for future level designers?

Levelord: This crunch time in particular...I think it was because of a non ending four or five years, from Duke Nukem to the add-on to Sin, with maybe a two to three week gap between the three projects, but otherwise no weekends. Not a single Sunday, a single Labor Day, I don't know what a three day weekend is. And that's not to complain, it's because this is what I want to do, and I have to be able to get paid for it. So I do it when I work, and I do it when I don't work. But Iím starting to realize that you've got to, and this is why in every major religion, God says to take one day off a week, you can't work one day a week.

Blue: It's the burn out.

Levelord: It's the burn out. Yeah, you have to do something else.

Blue: God knew about burn out back then. And we thought it was one of those trendy 80's words.

Levelord: I lived with a psyche-tech for seven years...and I started getting like cabin fever. So while she was going to school I was picking up on all the clinical signs of depression, manic depression, schizophrenia.

Blue: So you know what to look out for?

Levelord: [laughs] So I know what to look out for.

Blue: Self medicate when necessary?

Levelord: Yeah, with the smoking, I had gotten to the point [where] I was making meatloaf at home so I could take it to work for lunch, and was stirring it in a bowl, and it was obviously too small, with oatmeal, and hamburger and onions and stuff. And this one particular chunk fell out like for the third time, and I took the whole bowl, like two pounds of hamburger, and threw it across the room. Smashed it against the wall. Age of Empires...I've broken two CDs of that already. Fucking game wouldn't let me win, so I hit the CD thing, took it, and threw it across the room.

Blue: I can't picture you flinging a CD across the room.

Levelord: I get real childish. Temper tantrum, is what it is.

Blue: That is interesting.

Levelord: And then one Saturday night about three weeks ago, was just drinking beers at home, just got up, put on my pants, went out to the store, [and] bought a pack of cigarettes. Without even thinking. This is it, Iím smoking.

Blue: You plan on quitting again?

Levelord: I hope so. I almost thought today I'd do it -

Blue: - and here we are.

Levelord: I need a couple of days.

Blue: So how long did crunch time last for Sin?

Levelord: Too long, and this is always the way it happens in games, is that you're constantly putting new stuff in. The last third of the game is definitely crunch time, when you think you're in the finish.

Blue: The last third of the game? You've been at it for what, like 20 months?

Levelord: Well think about it, we were supposed to release what, in the early part of this year. So, at that point, or right before that point, we were thinking, 'okay, hit the guns, we gotta go, hit the back burner.' And then something happened, like the Quake 2 code was late. Something happened.

Blue: I was going to say, there must have been a huge set back in there somewhere.

Levelord: A real big set back. I think that's probably what killed us most. Because there was a lull for about three months. In fact, I had just quit smoking back in January. So there was this lull for about three months, where the programmers didn't want to work on it, because they knew they were waiting for Quake 2 code. And Iím sitting here with levels that Iíve got to try and get done for E3, or whatever minor deadlines there are, and I just flipped out. All the programmers were over looking at the new office space, I went over there, and was just maniacally screaming, 'what are you guys doing in here we got programming to do, you're sitting in here looking at new office space' and they were like, 'suuure Levelord'.

Blue: [laughs] I meant to ask you about that when we were talking about the name. Because you are one of a few people, and I kind of tend to do this, which is just go by 'Blue,' and certain people like yourself and Zoid, have actually gone to the point of like, 'just don't even call me by my given name.' Is that to avoid stalkers and stuff?

Levelord: Yeah, well I doubt that it'll ever get that big, although it could, who knows. No, for me it's professional. Like when Iím with you and we're talking, Richard is my name, but when Iím like online, or doing anything, I want to be known professionally [as Levelord]. Remember when you were a kid, and I was a kid on the east coast, we all had nick names. I'm not sure why, but it gave you a different kind of...like the Indians have an animal name. I can talk about The Levelord, and not sound quite so egotistical.

Blue: Unless you do it that way in the third person.

Levelord: [Laughs]

Blue: So you haven't had any stalking incidents?

Levelord: No...has anybody? Have you had any?

Blue: I think by now you should have...but I guess not.

Levelord: The one I'm truly worried about, is not right now, but five years from now, some bible belt parent, saying, 'my kid is mentally disturbed because of your game.'

Blue: You think that's a factor? People get mentally disturbed by these games?

Levelord: The best analogy I use is the stairway giving you the heart attack. No, no...it's the lifetime of eating pizzas and smoking and drinking -

Blue: So that kid up on the roof with a sniper rifle isn't due to -

Levelord: He would have found something else to further his dementia. I know for me personally, it's definitely a release. When I go in a deathmatch...I feel better afterwards.

Blue: You do deathmatch.

Levelord: Okay, I work. Playtesting. I am lousy so I don't -

Blue: You said that, but I'm thinking it's one of those things where you're setting everybody up.

Levelord: I'm really...Iím so bad Iím proud.

Blue: How can you be so bad when you've been doing this for -

Levelord: Oh, Iíve got a funky keyboard configuration I refuse [to change]. I still don't know how to touch type.

Blue: Neither do I.

Levelord: I was a software engineer. Since 1977 Iíve been with computers, and I still don't know how to type.

Blue: You worked with computers in '77?

Levelord: Yeah, it was hard.

Blue: You were in the Military, right?

Levelord: Yeah.

Blue: Doing like radar, and sonar?

Levelord: Sonar. Like remember the guy on Red October that was the guy with the bald cap that was watching the screen in the submarine...it's not sending out a ping, it's listening to sounds like your ear does. But I was on the land. On an island.

Blue: Listening for submarine pickups?

Levelord: Yeah.

Blue: You ever find any?

Levelord: Oh yeah.

Blue: Those cold war days? You ever go on like red alert and almost press the button and stuff?

Levelord: Defcon 3, I forget if they go up or down, but if we were like two notches up, they'd launch a nuclear type submarine, and we had no idea what it was. We'd get this unidentifiable signal, and we wouldn't know if it was Soviet, and we'd have admirals coming in...yeah, it was real cool.

Blue: Now that'll get you smoking.

Levelord: Oh, I loved that.

Blue: [laughs] Man, makes this all seem kind of dull in comparison, doesn't it?

Levelord: Yeah, doesn't it?


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.