Assassin – the making of an Action Quake 2 map, by WizardExt
This is an article about the making of Assassin. It isn’t only aimed at the building part and it isn’t 100% accurate. Much of it is from my memory and some of the images are reconstruction. I can’t remember the whole process, but there are moments which I clearly remember.
So it begins
It’s early morning. I’ve just got up and I breathe in the addicting smell of coffee while browsing the Internet. I go through the regular forums and read all the posts that I missed with my 6 hours sleep. It’s very much like coffee – an addiction.
I take some sips from my cup. It’s not often I post or reply to something. I am passive. I enjoy it and I am alright with the situation of just spectating things from a distance.
AQ2World is up since some months now. I like the idea of the site. Gather everything and everyone to one site and get the community much closer. But there are some flaws. I am one of them. I shouldn’t have assigned to such a huge project when I know I don’t have the time. But I really wanted to help in some way. And I was really impressed by Hawk’s amount of dedication to the site. I keep telling myself to better myself, but nothing happens… I want, but I can’t.
Another measure of coffee goes down, while having confusing thoughts and a continuing Internet traffic in the background. I suddenly notice a topic made about a competition. I read…
I find myself having a secondary inner monologue with myself, for myself, next to the confusing everyday one. I know I don’t have the time. I know I shouldn’t sign up, but I know I will because I can’t resist. I have wished for an Action Quake 2 map making competition ever since AQMD had one.
Yet another amount of black liquid goes down. The inner monologue is now much stronger and has developed into a war. Just as you see in the cartoons, with one side being the devil and the other one being a white angel.
– “Don’t do it. You don’t have the time and you will only cause negative pressure”
– “Participate, SIGN UP NOW!”
The cup of coffee is now empty.
Where Am I?
The weeks just went by. It was like falling through the sky, not having a parachute breaking the speed. I didn’t feel very busy. I just felt I didn’t have things under control. What was first just a really good girlfriend became the love of my life. It was great. Like a wave of emotions washing over me. But also trouble at work, with what could have been seen as threats, made me quit. This period was really confusing for me, but amazing. Up and down. The rollercoaster ride never seemed to end and my mind wasn’t at all aimed at Action Quake 2. After some time I realised what I had to do. As much as I wanted to sign up for this competition from the start I felt bad leaving it. With almost no work done it all became crystal clear, so I dropped out.
Sometimes I wonder what I am doing. The last thing I want to do is to disappoint anyone. I know I wouldn’t have the time. Why? Why David? But I guess it was to tempting to resist, together with my blurry vision of always making it even though it’s just isn’t possible.
Self hatred, disappointing thoughts and overall feeling blue, my grey days kept passing by.
With no work, most time was spent with my girlfriend. When she was in school I sat home watching a movie or followed her to school where I invented activities for myself. Ironically it struck me after some time. I could have spent the time on my competition map, instead of literally do nothing. As disturbed I was with myself, I after a while contacted n99 again giving him my status and explained the situation. And I was back in the competition.
My editor was loaded up and I started browsing some old projects. I thought I might find something useful, but I didn’t or maybe realised it might be unfair to continue on a project which was already started before the competition was announced. With that poor excuse in my head I closed the editor and went for paper and pencil.
If my mapping career took off watching my good friend Jacob “Exter” Banach placing brushes, my interest for design came from my father, watching him late at nights working with his light boards. It was amazing. He was really good, using only his pencils and paper. It was his job, to do overviews which later on turned into reality. Even though we live in a modern time, he didn’t even once use the computer to help him in his work. I don’t think he was against it. I just think he felt so comfortable just using the simple tools he had. But as modern tool forced its’ way in the market, he was forced to make the decision, and he asked if I could help him. Of course I could and I wanted to, but then it was too late. I remember him often and a lot. I miss him. He was a great father.
A simple overview was made and some basic ideas written down. I couldn’t afford any mistakes being made, so an overview was necessary. Never before have had I used one, only to rely on my imagination. But the overview (image below) is as you can see very simple – leaving room for imagination. I like that and I will probably never have a fully detailed overview leaving nothing to the creativity and curiosity of the brain.
With the sketch in front of me I started placing brushes. The basic idea from the beginning is the same as in the final product – to have a theme about an assassin. I wanted an aggressive sky, telling the player something is about to happen or that something is wrong. I made a couple of samples early on using Bryce, but the one you see now is the one I stayed with during the whole process.
What I had on the overview was a city map. The large office complex made up the centre of the map. What I didn’t think about was how strange the office connected with other surrounding buildings, like normal apartments and facilities. I didn’t think so much about that then. The brush work went very smooth in the beginning, at least for the whole outside area which is seen on the overview sketch. I made two bridge constructions, one small connecting to apartments and one bigger connecting to a storage facility.
After some days work I got stuck – totally. Like a writer has the writers block I sure had mine. I had no idea at all how to proceed. I didn’t like how the office was connected to other buildings. It felt wrong and not logical. I removed the bridges together with the balconies. Now I felt like being back to zero – square one. Just having a mess created on the grid, but I kept building even though it was hard. When having so much removed, the map was very open on the ground and on upper levels and I know game play would suffer, but also enormous polygon values. That was not the idea I had for this map. I tried out several ideas, but they all felt wrong. Finally I added a supply/shipping storage for the office complex and also a fence on the outside. The fence together with the supply storage blocked a lot of sight and made things more interesting. It felt right now. I was back on track.
The apartment building received indoor areas and a part of the building was removed. Why? I had a new idea coming – extending the map. I made a tunnel under the apartment building and made the road continue a bit and then a 90 degrees turn. The road continued and two more tunnels were ready as the road was, together with some new design for the apartment building. This idea made the map pretty much bigger, but I liked it. Where the road ended now, a new set of apartments was born.
I liked how this new area felt a bit aside from the rest of the map. The project continued very fast from here and I didn’t really think much while building. It all came of pure joy.
A sewer system was something I thought about when first making the overview, but didn’t think I would actually build it. But I found myself down there, making the path for the city water. It was really interesting. I remember building a sewer for my first unreleased map, sol city, but it was removed and the map was never to be finished. This sewer wasn’t going to be a keeper either and after some time I abandoned it and all entrances was blocked with doors and grates. The size of the sewer was maybe 1/4 or even 1/3 of what the final map became.
Old building and the sewer
A storage facility formed its shape. I used a grate/fence texture for the windows. It made it look interesting and also the function of being able to shoot through the window was cool. Also the popular chimney building replaced an old building.
The area behind the office got more and more closed and it created a nice secure feeling. I had fences added to all openings and now the area was fully closed and had a function similar to a backyard – for smoke breaks or just being outside.
The map came closer and closer to an end, but so did the competition. I felt a bit of pressure and angst. I was very nervous all the time. Dropping out and then entering the competition again did really create this whole feeling. A good amount of pressure is often a positive thing, but this was a bit too much. But my girlfriend was positive towards this project and motivated me when I needed. So I kept building.
The inside of the office was built. It took me many hours just to dig myself a believable space in there. At first there were mainly corridors. I realised I had to change this and make something more interesting. The main entrance was finished, and I was happy with it. It looked very realistic and interesting with its surveillance office and the metal detectors. The idea of avoiding being caught by the detection sounds by going through the supply storage gave me goose bumps. I moved up, one level at the time. I added a small ventilation opening in the first corridor leading to the storage. On the next floor I extended the corridor into a room. A relaxing room, with details such as plants, aquarium and TV screens. Moving up to next floor, I built an office with computers and palm trees. What a combination, but it did look pretty cool and the palm trees created a comfortable and calm feeling – a nice environment to work in. On this floor I put the commercial sign for NMMC. Similar for all floors is the elevator, and the elevator in this map was going to be a seen in all the Assassin maps – a theme keeper.
I kept adding and building on the indoor areas and during this whole process I built on a texture set for my map, which I step by step applied. I had used textures mainly from T.T.I and Makro. But with such a large map in my hand and the amount of hours put into it I had to make my own texture set. I just had to. And making all the textures gives you a lot of freedom and new things to play with. Also having made all the graphics myself, I felt the map was fully made by me – a great feeling.
The texture set and some notes
The deadline was maybe one week away and it was too soon. I hadn’t even tried the map out with the NMMC crew. I soon realised I wouldn’t make it in time, but desperately continued working. I really felt bad about this and this also blocked my creativity and effectiveness. The map was in state where no real compilation had been made – only Bsp process, with no Vis or Rad process. It was over. Even though I got an extra week it wasn’t enough. I had failed to deliver the map to a decent and fair deadline.
The coming weeks were a pain. My self esteem was zero. I didn’t like how I had failed to deliver this project. Maybe I sized it up too much during its process that the amount of time left wasn’t enough. A bad sketch leaving out too much? Bad planning?
A month went by and nothing new was done on the map. I was still very disappointed during this whole time. But then I got the motivation. I started building again and after another month the map stood finished and was released.
Now afterwards, I am glad I didn’t force an early release of an unfinished map. There are so many things that changed after the deadline had passed. New interesting architecture, new buildings, new graphics and sounds, some small detail work, death match support, lot’s small errors were solved or corrected and many other things. Without this decision, there wouldn’t have been Jennie’s corner, the monkey bar or the old lady.
NMMC was a big success if you ask me. I know there are many aspects that were negative about it, but the main goal was fulfilled – to end up with some quality maps. And even though I didn’t make it to the deadline I kept building afterwards and had my map released just a few months after. So without NMMC, this map wouldn’t exist – thumbs up for N99.
Most things don’t work out as you wish or think they will. For me this has been one long rollercoaster ride, going up and down and shifting speed all the time. What did occupy me most, were my own thoughts. I had no work, but so much to worry about and analyse. But we all have those moments in life, often. This article is no excuse by any means. I don’t even know if it’s a good explanation or an explanation at all. It’s just some thoughts put into sentences. Maybe a good read for some, a bad and heavy read for others.
To sum it all up, I think this was an interesting period in my life. Never before have I taken on such a huge project and finished it. Yes, there was enormous amount of pressure at times and also some bad luck with data loss and a couple of errors. But you have to see the big picture and if there was another NMMC I would definitely participate. Only thing different would be me making it to the deadline.
WizardExt has an amazing website featuring his Quake 2 creations, check it out: http://wizardext.se/ Thank you for making so many amazing Quake 2 maps! (My personal favorite being hidden3 for Railwarz instagib CTF.)
Here is the lone page that archived the preceding interview: https://web.archive.org/web/20050428021716/http://wizardext.wh00s.net:80/article_leveldesign.php?id=5