Taking Aim at Paul Steed!
On first glance, many thoughts enter your mind. This guyís a construction worker, you think. Chippendales dancer? Maybe military. Enlisted though, definitely not an officer. Or a Rambo-wanna-be movie star. He probably spends his days in the gym, or in the tanning salon. Totally full of himself, you can just see the arrogance in his demeanor. Whatever he does, it surely doesnít involve thinking.
You couldnít be further from the truth. Of all the things that youíll think of upon first meeting Paul Steed, "computer geek" isnít one of them. When I first met him, I knew partially, what to expect. Iíd seen the few scattered pictures across the Ďnet, Iíd read his .plan files (who hadnít!), and was prepared to meet an arrogant, obnoxious, rather good looking guy who was probably going to get me very angry in no time at all. So as the time came close to Paulís seminar at the CPL, I was scanning the room, waiting to see this guy show up. As it turned out, I had looked straight at him (well, right past him, I should say), and was still looking. When a friend finally pointed out "thatís Paul Steed," I was shocked. Somehow, you always expect some semblance of a "computer geek" to show, some outside appearance that suggests long hours in front of a monitor (pasty skin, bloodshot eyes, maybe?) no matter what you know beforehand.
But thatís the outside, and itís irrelevant, in the long run. The second Paul Steed opens his mouth, the outside disappears, and the person he really is comes out. Articulate (as youíre about to see), very set in his opinions, definitely arrogant, but, without a doubt, a very good lesson to me....first impressions are dead wrong sometimes and .plan files are not a reliable way to judge someoneís character. So, without further adieu, loonygames is proud to present the real Paul Steed.
- Stephanie "Bobbi" Bergman, associate editor.
Paul Steed. 324006969. O positive. Protestant. I was in the military, I remember that.
You were in the Air Force, right?
Itís a strange transition, going from the Air Force to animator/modeler. Do you ever look back and wonder how you ended up here?
Naah, really, all my interests and experiences prepared me for a career in gaming and I didnít even know it at the time. It never occurred to me that people made games for a living. I didnít think it was a valid career path. Actually, the military helped me a lot. It helped me get the discipline to stay up for the long hours knocking out a deadline or learning a new tool. Some might think itís a funny circuit, but it seems like a natural progression to me. Trust me. If I hadn't found girls I would have been making game a lot sooner. Seriously, though this career is about knowledge, itís about learning. I dig that. You just learn so much, thereís no school you can go to where you can learn as much as you learn every day at work in this industry.
What do you think about the military using Quake for training?
I think itís great. I think itís great because itís pretty low risk as far as people getting hurt, but it still teaches a valuable lesson. You use tried and true tactics for ops like clearing a room and no one gets hurt. It doesn't replace live exercises, but it does enhance the academic aspect of the training. It makes learning fun! (In the military that rarely happens. Believe me.) When you go out on exercises using blank rounds of ammo or laser sensors you still run the risk of somebody cracking you with a rifle or you just falling and breaking something. Again, sitting at a computer and playing a game is no substitute for the real thing but it helps impart knowledge when live exercises are more appropriate. Combat simulation is used for pilots, why not grunts?
What have you been up to since Quake 2?
Just learning my butt off. Iíve learned all new tools for Quake 3:Arena (Q3:A), and Iíve been concentrating on getting better at them. I might try to incorporate some motion capture in this project because it really does help the workflow by adding even more realism to the animations. Of course motion capture is still only 50 percent of the equation at best since it requires a shitload of tweaking. Also I like to give personality to my animations and exaggerated, comic book style of dynamics. Since this game features no monsters, just other players and simulated players, my primary focus on the characters is to make the motions as fluid and cool as possible. I want the players to seem real.
Will Quake Arena have a different feel than Quake 1 and 2?
Adrian and Kevin are in charge of the production design so I'm not really the person to ask about look and feel. But I seriously doubt that Q3:A will look anything less than amazing. All I can currently tell is that gothic and dirty, industrial/techno will be prevalent in the design.
So closer to Unreal than to Quake?
I'm not sure what that means, actually. Unreal is heavy on the eye candy because their design goals and technological areas of importance were different than ours were for Quake and Quake 2. Quake and Quake 2 would have looked outstanding with 16-bit color, environmental effects and higher-rez textures. In the land of id, lots of things are sacrificed to the almighty God of Speed. John doesn't want anyone suffering from lag if he can be helped. Eye candy is pretty much the bain of Speed. But, with Q3:A we'll look better than anything seen to date and play fast.
Were you a fan of id before you actually started to work there?
One of the biggest. I mean, I pored over every article about them and then re-read every article I could find about them. It seemed like a very intense and exceptional bunch of guys and I thought it sounded like such a cool place to work. Being the fourth gaming company Iíve worked for over the past seven years, I have a lot of perspective when it comes to being around the industry and I've been around a lot of development teams. The thing about id really is the people. Weíre all this insane breed. John, Kevin and Adrian don't go the usual route for developers who own their company and become cosmically successful (although it could be argued that in terms of measured success, id is in a league all its own). Whatís great about id is that even if weíre all somewhat acknowledged as being better than most at what we do, we still strive to improve. We also click pretty good as a team and there aren't really too many major personality problems. Sure, it gets pretty stressful at times, but overall we tolerate and respect each other quite a bit.
Who is the top dog at id?
At id, in the industry...what do you think? John Carmack. Hands down. He is The Man. Grade-A legend material. Working with him is very rewarding because he makes things happen and busts his ass to do it. I admire the man quite a bit.
Daikatana, Duke Forever, Half-Life, and Prey may all be out at the same time as Quake Arena. What do you think of the competition?
With the true color textures, cool eye candy effects, new animation technology and faster netplay, Q3:A is just going to look and feel so much better than everything out there. I feel sorry for our competition. Remember, though. We're going to try and convert people to deathmatch who have never played a deathmatch. They'll play the 'bots and provided they have a net connection, they will easily and quickly become addicted to playing online.
So itís not just the 3D shooter market on the Internet...youíre going to try and pull people who donít play on the internet onto it with this?
Right. We want to give people a taste of that. Thatís why John wants the single player part of the game to simulate multiplayer. Remember the first time you played deathmatch?
You thought...itís cool. You become addicted to it. Thatís what we want to do with Quake 3: Arena. We want to give people that feeling when theyíre playing the AI bots, these simulations of personalities. We want them to go, "wow, I wouldnít mind meeting these guys on the Internet, kicking their ass." Thatís the kinda thing we want to shoot for in the game. You see these bots, and you want to look for them. You want to get even if they kicked your ass last time, you want to kick theirs this time. We want to simulate that addictive rush that competing with real people gives and then compel them to hit the internet.
The bots wonít just be one generic bot, theyíll all have their own personalities?
Yup. I'm not the programmer, but we all agree on the team that making the 'bots act like people will be the key to the success of single player. Each AI opponent should force you to use explicit tactics against it. There will be varying degrees of intelligence, too. Itís like levels of chess, of computerized chess. You play at level one through ten. Play level ten, youíd better be good. Same thing there. Conversely, wouldn't it be cool to run across a bot who plays just like a newbie who's never been on a server before?
You did the opening animation in Quake 2 on your own, for fun, in your free time. Thereís been a lot of publicity about how you had to fight id to get it into the game.
Well I didn't really fight id...but it wasn't easy to convince the owners that id needed cinematics as part of their game design.
What was that like?
Well, originally, when I got hired, the first stupid thing I said was "you know, your games are great, but you gotta have some cinematics." and it wasn't in a fit of arrogance that I said this. I have a pretty intense cinematic background coming from nearly four years at Origin. So, to me it was just odd not having cinematics in a game. They said, "No. No cinematics in the game. Period. Donít bring it up again, just do your job." Well, I just wouldnít take no for an answer. So I said "fine," and went home, on my 486/66, and just cranked out the first part of the intro over several months. Finally I worked up the nerve to show them what I had been working on in my questionable 'spare' time. They didn't fire me thankfully, but they also didn't want the project to take away from my main responsibility of modeling and animating the characters. So in essence, they endorsed the side project as long as it didn't impact models or character animations, saying, "Cool. You can keep working on it. At home." I was pretty happy with myself and eventually it just gained momentum. They hooked me up with a much better home system to mirror my work setup and Kevin even contributed quite a bit to the effort with input and suggestions. Telling the back story through a series of news casts during the slow revealing of the Quake 2 logo in the title animation was his idea. John dug the effectiveness of using the same geometry seen in the intro flyby as the environment maps for the game. All the in between end-of-mission briefings were done on a lark and 30-hour stretch of work day because any more time spent on them would have taken away from animating the monsters. In the end after SounDelux Media Labs put the awesome soundtrack to it, the owners dug the way things worked out. I'm proud of how it turned out as well.
|Credits: Illustration © 1998 Dan Zalkus. This interview is © 1998 Stephanie Bergman & Paul Steed. All other content is © 1998 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited and totally not cool.|