It all started with gaming, of course.
In the early 2000's, I involved myself in 3D editing for computer games. Back then, tools and assets were basic and limited. Level designers were required to create and implement custom textures and 3D assets by themselves.
The process was fun and challenging! Though, being a time consuming and lugubrious task to do it alone, communities sprang forward to help each other out. This became a boon to us neophyte editors. Especially when you couldn’t google yourself out of a tricky spot. The best alternative was to go to a forum and put yourself out there.
Over time, libraries of resources were built upon by mappers and modders. As a team, we learned, created, shared and improved together.
And then I found my place as a level designer when I became engaged with the Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast community.
Being a moderator on LucasForums, I had the additional the responsibility of overseeing the editing forums. I also made friends there.
I think that was what kept it all alive. Doing cool stuff together.
My sole, singular journey went along like this: I began to play games with a keen interest in level design and lighting. Effectively enriching the player’s gameplay experience. I sometimes made my own textures and often wrote shader scripts to create depth through lighting, animation, layers and transparency effects. But that wasn’t all, there were other aspects to tackle.
Adding objects that moved and shifted on their own, like floating blocks or stairs, provided movement and a sense of life to my maps.
Lots of questions had to be answered before diving in. Starting each map from scratch presented a new set of challenges every time.
I often drew rough sketches and 2D layouts. Also preparing in advance with a concept helped. What would the map look like? What is the theme? Then one has to consider player movement, flow and experience. Where does most of the action take place? Do the hallways that lead to open rooms with armour and ammo logically connect to other rooms? Grating structures hold the player suspended above lava pits. But is there sound? Do you hear the melting surface below you? What about the fire crackling from the torches above you? The list grew quickly. It was fun but I could not imagine pursuing this completely alone.
After a while, I started our own offshoot group of level designers to create a map pack for Jedi Outcast. The aim of our pack was to give the player settings for lightsaber duels that existed outside of the Star Wars universe.
We worked closely together with competitive and casual players from test to finish. The maps varied in style, from a medieval arena to a base on an exploding planet. As project lead, I made sure we were on target with our release date and did my best to spread the news. Our persistence paid off. After producing a teaser and a couple trailers we picked up momentum and public interest along the way.
Thankfully lots of people came to help and we succeeded!
Dozens of levels — each crafted by highly-skilled individuals — shone brightly in their uniqueness.
We released our Duel Map Pack in 2003. It was an acclaimed release among community members and played on many public servers.
One of my maps (Terminal Velocity) was later used in a Jedi Outcast competition.
My first Quake 3 map (Blood, Sweat, and Frags) received a positive review from LvL online, highlighting the scripting involved for its ‘brilliant bot play.’
If you still play the game, might I suggest taking the map for a spin and throwing down a few rounds of frags and fun?
I guess it began and ended with fun. Looking for greater kicks and a deeper connection to the games around me pushed me into the realm of editing. Without a community to grow into the impetus would have become nulled and voided. The more involved I became, the richer was my satisfaction.