Discovery at Ironfort
With his passion for Dark Forces, Emambu takes care of questioning Kevin about his upcoming DF level, Discovery at Ironfort. Among other things, we hear about Kevin's previous editing experience and what he has in stor for the future with Ironfort.
For starters, tell us a little about yourself. Who you are, and what got you into SW and editing?
I'm the owner/operator of one of the few current, DF-only sites, called Dark Forces: 1999. I've made two levels, Beyond Glory and Beyond Glory 2, and there's a third on the way: Discovery at IronFort. I grew up a Star Wars fan, but can't remember seeing any of the original trilogy for the first time. It's always just kind of been there. My interest in it tailed off for a while until I played Dark Forces for the first time a few years back. That got me interested again, but I've never been a fanatic, SW trivia-machine type like many others. To avoid getting beat up; I have no problem with people like that.
Many people have heard (if not played) your two-part "Beyond Glory" series. However, do you have any previous editing experience before that?
Not in DF, but I spent a few years making 3D games with an old DOS program called the Pie 3D Game Creation System (P3DGCS). That gave me some invaluable experience in level design and enemy/item placement.
Now, as many people know, the "Beyond Glory" series is set in DF. Why? With more advanced engines (JK and MotS) out, why did you decide to use the oldest one of the three?
I didn't even consider using JK/MotS. In fact, the very first thing I used the Internet for was look for some sort of Dark Forces level editor. It took me a while, but I found what I was looking for. Personally, I think that of the three games, DF is the most entertaining. I might consider making a very short MotS level (or two) sometime down the road, though.
Also, you are among the heads of an attempt to rejuvenate DF as a whole. Any comments as to your goals? Is this an attempt to remember the classics or is there something far greater to it?
Some people who can be called members of the so-called "Dark Forces rebirth" have expressed a hope that DF will somehow become as popular as it was a few years back. Mattias Welander's Dark3D should renew a certain amount of excitement around the game, but I don't think that's its ever going to be as big as it once was. There's also no question that there isn't all that much interest in creating new DF levels, but I can't see how anybody can say that there isn't much interest in PLAYING new DF levels. Now, I love editing, and I want others who enjoy it to have someplace to go. I guess that in the end, my only goal (I can't speak for everyone) is to have some fun and take a few people along for the ride.
Tell us a little about the "Beyond Glory" series. Where did you come up with the idea for it?
My original plan with Beyond Glory was to make a pack of three levels that would be released at the same time. Sanity sunk in after a while and I decided to make it into a single level with a sequel or two following it. As with everything I do, the ideas behind the levels slowly developed over a period of time. I want it to be just right. The plot gradually changed from a mission to rescue a Rebel base from an insane Imperial commander, to stopping the creation of a new super-weapon called the SunKiller platform. The only thing that stayed the same throughout the process was the insane Imperial, Senj Thirtrae.
How did you go about planning the architecture? Did you sketch first or did you make it up as you went?
I sketched out most of the walls and doors on paper, but left out a lot of the detailing until I actually put it together in the editor. In Beyond Glory 2, I mapped out the garden area in great detail, but the for a good part of the second half, I just winged it. It showed, too.
I think it's safe to say that "Beyond Glory 2" received more praise then your previous one. What did you do differently with this level?
Two things worked against me when I was making BG1: Wedit's weak texture aligning capabilities, and my previous experience with the P3DGCS. I can't stand the look of misaligned textures, and Wedit can't align wall textures like WDFUSE can. For that reason, I ended up using a lot of square-shaped sectors in order to avoid any ugly texturing mistakes. Also, Wedit doesn't give you the length and height of walls, something I used extensively in WDFUSE while making BG2. Secondly, while having used the P3DGCS was good experience for editing DF, it could only place walls at 90 and 45 degree angles. That meant I had to brake out of a certain mind set about the shape of rooms. It took a conscious effort to avoid using too many squares when laying out BG2, but I did it.
What the hardest part about making "Beyond Glory" and "Beyond Glory 2"?
The hardest part was keeping myself from releasing them before I had done everything that needed to be done. It was tough. The custom briefings and objective screens for the PDA also gave me some trouble due to size limitations. I was forced to release BG1 without an in-game briefing, but that was fixed in the second release.
Did you find it easier to make "Beyond Glory 2" since you had experience on your side, and you could learn from previous mistakes?
No doubt about it. Though, I switched to WDFUSE for BG2, which meant learning a whole new system. That turned out to be easier than I had originally expected it to be.
What goals were you trying to accomplish with the "Beyond Glory" series? Do you think you met them?
I wanted to create a somewhat memorable villain in Senj Thirtrae, and that seems to have been accomplished to a certain extent. More than that, though, I wanted to make levels that would be enjoyed by those who played them. As far as I'm concerned, that should be every level author's main goal. Whether I was able to do that or not will have to be decided by anyone who give the levels a try.
Moving forward a bit, you have another level currently in progress. Can you tell us a little bit about the plot and cast of characters?
In Discovery at IronFort, an ancient alien starship is found underneath a mining colony. You have to get to the ship and destroy its propulsion system before it can be extracted by the Empire and studied. A mysterious force field surrounds the lower decks, and must somehow be deactivated. Why would whoever buried the ship be so interested in keeping anyone out of that area? A good mystery never hurts anything... "You" will probably be Katarn. I know some people think that there's enough Katarn levels out there, but its a good, ready-made character. I'm strongly considering including the rebel commandos (or perhaps just their leader) from BG2, but that's not a sure thing.
Out of all the possible ideas for a setting, why choose something like this?
I started work on the level before the plot had been nailed down. Eventually, the idea of the alien ship popped into my head, and the "aging mining colony" scenario fit perfectly into what I had already put together. For the ship, I just wanted to make something completely different.
Any comments towards the architecture of your level? Will we see the type of architecture that we know you're capable of?
Architecturally, DaI looks to be about same as BG2, if not a little better in places. Its hard to compare the two, since the settings are so different. The buried ship will be unlike anything ever done in DF. Whether that's a good thing, we'll have to wait and see...
Will we see any new enhancements? Any new BM's, FME's, WAX's, VOC's, 3DO's, VUE's, and GMD's?
All of the above. As in BG2, new BMs will be plentiful and the music will be new as well. I hate making 3DOs, but got some help on that. VUEs are also a problem, so I'll keep them simple or just take them from other levels. The alien ship will not contain any artwork from the original game, other than some equipment brought in by the Imperials.
What type of mood are going to try and establish?
There will be several distinct areas: the mining colony (or at least one part of it), the mine, and the alien ship. On the surface, I want to imply that a major operation is going on just out of view. Things will change once you locate the ship. I plan on using entirely new textures and FMEs to create something very unique. The idea is to create a mysterious atmosphere as the player descends deeper and deeper into the ship. And there's the nagging question: What's inside the force field?
Will the level be as long as "Beyond Glory 2" was?
There probably won't be as many sectors, but it will likely take longer to play through, due to some tricky puzzles.
Are you going to try and surpass what you accomplished overall with "Beyond Glory 2"?
I'm going to try. It won't be the same type of level, but it will hopefully be better overall. The main thing I'm working on is avoiding the linear feel of the Beyond Glory's.
If you were to compare this level with "Beyond Glory 2" where would you place it: above, on par with, or below?
So far its not all that much better, but its still far from finished. If I can get it right, the area at the end should be extra special and put DaI on top.
Do you have an estimated release time or will it be done when it's done?
I originally predicted a February release date for BG2, and that turned out to be months off. Therefore, I think I'll avoid answering that for a while.
Any plans for future projects after this?
All that I can say now is that a third Beyond Glory is almost inevitable. In fact, I've already got some ideas, which include a return to the ruins of BG1. It'll be a nice way to cap off the series.
Any final thoughts, comments, criticisms, reflections that you wish to express?
One thing I've noticed over the past year is the amount of level packs for DF (JK too) that end up being unfinished. Maybe its just me; but why do people still try making them? If you look back, you can see how few were ever completed. Just an observation, and its probably just me anyway...
Thank you for your time. I can't wait until Ironfort is released. Once again, thanks Kevin!