Dead Reckoning
Interviewer CookedHaggis digs for details about the past and future of the Dead Reckoning series. Along the way he picks up some information abut the author, Christian "Quilty" Garris, and how he make his start in Star Wars FPS level editing.
If you could just start off telling us a wee bit about yourself, and how you got into Star Wars and level editing.
Well, I live in Los Angeles and am probably older than just about every other level editor I can think of. I'm 32 and an attorney. I remember seeing Star Wars for the first time in 1977 and thinking, wow, whoever made this has truly created an entire world. I've been hooked ever since. Although, Return of the Jedi and Episode I are not among my favorite movies. When Dark Forces came out, I was interested in the First Person Shooter concept combined with Star Wars. I was totally blown away by how great that game was. After playing it a couple of times, I ran into the Crow's Nest, a level add-on site for Dark Forces and played some of the levels there. I became curious as to whether I could make my own levels, but I never could figure out how to use the editor. When Jedi Knight came out, I once again decided to give it a shot. The Massassi Temple made that possible with its tutorials and helpful forums.
By now, most people should've played through (and thoroughly enjoyed) Dead Reckoning parts 1 & 2 for Jedi Knight, but do you have any other editing experience in DF, JK or another game?
My interests in games are pretty much limited to Star Wars, although I have played and enjoyed Half Life, and am part of the way through No One Lives Forever. I thought about trying to figure out the editor for Half Life, but I really cannot sustain my interest in non Star Wars games because they just don't have a believable universe, at least for me. All of the aliens in Half Life, for example, seem very silly to me and totally destroy the believability of the environment. Also, I think I am a pretty methodical, or perhaps just slow, editor, so I don't really have time to edit anything else. So, my only experience is in JK, although my first aborted, unreleased level was for MOTS.
Before we start talking about Dead Reckoning 3, could you just tell us a little bit about the first two, for those who still haven't played it (and why haven't you?)...
Well, my initial idea was for some kind of a level where your mission is to find an Imperial ship in order to lead Alliance forces to it. I thought I would conclude it with a TIE Fighter sort of battle scene (although as to how I had no idea). After sketching out the whole story, I thought I could do it in one or two levels. Instead, it's going to be three. In the first level, you are smuggled into a partially deserted starport where there is an Imperial base. You have to make your way through the city and into the base--although not through the front door. In the second level, you're in the part of the city that constitutes the Imperial base. You have to make you way to a specific building and crack a vault to download the Star Destroyer's location from a secure computer and escape to tell the Alliance.
You mentioned a "TIE Fighter sort of battle scene"; I assume this is one of the things we've got to look forward to in DR3. Is there anything else you wouldn't mind sharing, or do you want to keep things quiet until the release?
Well, you start on the freighter that you escaped on in the last installment. Your mission is to tell Alliance Intelligence what you learned about the Star Destroyer's position, so that they can come up with a plan. Of course, they'll enlist your help and some kind of space battle is planned. As for the space battle, I've come up with what I think are some interesting ways to tell the story by cutting between 3dos and architecture in cutscenes. I've only done a few tests for that, but that is the next part of the level that I am going to be working on.
The space element sounds very different to the style of the first two; both of which had a very city/Nar Shadda type feel. Was this something you were aiming for at the start, or was it something that just evolved as you created the level?
Well, I wanted this part of the story to have a different feel so that if you play all three levels in a row, it won't get monotonous. Also, I got a little bored with the textures and am using a different colormap for this level.
In Dead Reckoning 2, there seemed to be more large, open areas than in the first one- is this something you plan to expand on in DR3?
Well, it's actually going to be somewhat cramped when you're controlling the player. You're not going outdoors this time. The player will be aboard ships exclusively. The areas for cutscenes, however, are very large.
The cutscenes sound like being quite a major part of the level; along with these, what (if any) new COGs, 3DOs, MATs, AI's or other enhancements will there be?
I have only written a few COGs so far for this level. I will be creating many more for the cutscenes and for managing the new keyframes that I am going to write. I have made a few new 3dos, but I am going to use some of Al MacDonald's brilliant skins to create some new enemies. As for MATs, I've made a number of new multi-celled computer mats. I've also taken a lot of publicly-available textures for add-on levels for other games and created new 16-bit MATs with MAT16.
Earlier you mentioned the player being "cramped"- are you consciously trying to make the ships have a claustrophobic atmosphere, trying to make the ships how you think they would be if the actually existed, or are you trying to go for a design best suited simply from a gaming point of view (or even a combination of all three)?
That's a really good question and something I struggled with from the beginning. I've finished that part of the level and am happy with how it turned out. Since I established in Dead Reckoning 2 that you leave on a freighter, the freighter that you are on in Dead Reckoning 3 is exactly the same dimensions as the 3do. With that restriction in place, I thought about what the priorities of this kind of ship would be and then drew out on paper a schematic. I think the playability of the level is best when the environment is believable. Hopefully, I've done that.
How long do you reckon (pun not intended) it will take for DR3 to be released (or is it "done when it's done")?
Well, in March, I thought September. Now, I think probably mid-fall 2001. The Jedi Outcast announcement is also a factor. I feel like I have got to release this before DF3/JK2 comes out
Speaking of Jedi Knight 2, what would you say your main hopes for it are (editing or otherwise), and plans, if any, to create levels for it?
I hope it can be edited. Dark Forces, Jedi Knight, and Mysteries of the Sith have all been editable, so why not the next installment in the series? If it is editable, I will at least try to edit it. Hopefully, Mr. Novikov will do us all the favor of creating another brilliant editor. I think his role is sometimes underappreciated. Without JED, we'd all be doing something else. Yes, I am intentionally ignoring JKEdit.
I thank you a lot for taking up way too much of your time and ask if there's any final comments or thoughts you'd like to make?
I'd just like to thank everyone for taking the time to play the levels that I've worked so hard on as well as all the people who have taught me how to edit. The Massassi Temple and the Admiral's Command Chamber are what keep this game alive. Everyone at both of these sites has always gone out of their way to help whenever I think I've hit a brick wall when editing. Without such a supportive and active community, I would have gotten nowhere in trying to edit. Thanks again for the interest. You can follow Dead Reckoning 3's progress at here.