— Paul Howard Steed FAQ, by Paul Steed, August 14, 1997


Okay. Thinking about it I guess the following is a sort of Psteed FAQ. Feel free to include any of this in a Q2 FAQ. The questions and answers have been culled from my inbox and I’ve left out any names to protect the innocent. But if I do in some way offend someone it was completely intentional. Forgive any redundancy whether it’s in this post itself or in a previous post by our illustrious info wranglers such as Redwood or Blue. Oh and BTW, DOESN’T OUR LITTLE GAME WE’RE WORKING ON KICK SOME MAJOR AND TOTAL ASS?!?!? Oh yeah. Thought you’d say that.

Q: What does a id business card look like and what is your title?

A: It’s pretty plain. Black and white with a rust colored id logo and simple text. My title reads “Artist”. Curious question.

Q: I am currently a student in high school, and I’m very interested in getting into the PC gaming industry later on. The design/modeling and artistic side fascinate appeal to me the most. Is it still necessary for me to take every single computer science course available and learn the main programming languages? What path should I take?

A: To be honest, if you’re interested in computer graphics don’t waste your time in school. Use the school money for a computer that will handle 3dsmax or lightwave and teach yourself. All my peers and I have no formal computer training and are completely self-taught through tutorials and manuals. This may surprise you, but the only time formal schooling helps is if you’re taking traditional art courses. Explain this to your parents and tell them there is no school that will teach what you need to know that you can’t learn yourself. All it takes is dedication and perseverance. Regardless, good luck!

Q: I am at the point in my college career (CompSci. Engineering major) where I will need to make some choices, and was wondering what sorts of experiences (academic and otherwise) and traits are important for success, for both the computer industry in general and the computer entertainment industry in particular.

A: Everything I know about computers and computer art was self taught. I got my foot in the door at a company back in 1992 and voraciously sought out every book and manual I could find about computer art and hammered away on any computer I could find. Eventually I got my own machine and just never looked back.

The thing to remember in the gaming industry is that most of these guys in charge are really young (21 – 28) and have little or no skill when it comes to dealing with people. Therefore if you are a free thinker and self-starter and have the least amount of DISCIPLINE you can go far. The problem is of course getting your foot in the door. Unfortunately internships are hard to come by and when they are available they pay anything from nothing to very little. My best advice to anyone wanting to get started in this field is to buy a computer IMMEDIATELY. Do whatever it takes to get at least a P90 (or even an older 486/66) with 16MB RAM and a video card that will support 3DS4 (Millenium Matrox is a good one). If you can afford it, naturally get a higher powered system that will run 3DSMAX, but if money is an issue, the first setup will at least allow you to produce models and animations that will get an art directors attention.

If you want to become a programmer, all I can say is again get a computer and learn C++. C and C++ are the back bone of computer gaming with Assembly being the more advanced and specialized area. But I’m an artist who couldn’t code an inventory program so what do I know.

Attitude is the key no matter which way you go. You show any savvy manager a will and ability to learn, an innate ability to do art or code or design, and the desire to be a team-player willing to put in 12-hour days tirelessly and you’ll make an impression. If your intelligent, learn quickly, are creative, love sci-fi & fantasy, can stay focused and work hard, then you’ve got what it takes to do well in this industry. Go for it.

Q: Taking notice of the current competitive interactions between game companies, I feel a tad confused. Being greatly impressed by today’s ‘1st person games’ advanced technology, I can hardly await to see ever more ‘newcomers’ enter the scenery. Of course, the resourceful company to set standards here is id! But somehow I am left with the notion of being an outsider regarding my imagination of what the industry around computer games should look like today.

A: I completely understand your confusion and admire your enthusiasm when it comes to our little slice of the computer game market. I (and id) harbor no animosity towards anyone in our industry and wish only the best for our competitors. My .plans are purely for the purpose of light-hearted entertainment. I vent. I joke. And I talk smack. There is no bloody, vicious war going on in our branch of gaming. We all vie for the same market share. The only difference is that nearly all of our ‘competitors’ use OUR technology to try and beat us. Pretty strange if you think about it.

Q: When you made that 10,000 poly model of that female how did you model it? Because I get all messed up when I want to make detailed organic models because of the seams, do you use Metaballs or something? And if you do use Metaballs how do you animate it?

A: I modeled her just by hand (vertex by vertex) without metaballs. I heard that mb is great, though.

Q: I was wondering if you can suggest any good books on modeling or character animation.

A: ‘Inside 3D Studio’ and ‘3D Studio Special Effects’ are both great places to start if that is the program you use.

Q: I’m a high school student who is going into grade 12 this year and I want to get into the computer game industry. What is the best education I could get. Should I go to a university and get a Computer Science degree or should I take something more specialized. I have already applied to a small college that offers a 2 year Computer Game Design and Programming course. Would this be a good course to take?

A: As far as education goes. I’m completely self-taught and everything I’ve learned has come from tutorials, manuals or video tapes. My best advice to you is to get a computer that will run a graphics program or modify your system so it will run 3ds4, 3dsMax, or Lightwave. If you want to be a computer artist, you will always be better off teaching yourself because any classes out there will more than likely be out of date. Don’t neglect your traditional art training either. Drawing is the most important skill you’ll need when doing computer art for a gaming company whether its story boards, concept art or showing an idea to a producer.

Q: How did you get hired by Id? Did they go to you or did you go to them? What do you figure the chances of getting hired by them are?

A: First off id approached me through a “head hunter” or “recruiter”. These people are kind of like talent scouts who are constantly looking to place professionals within the industry since they get paid up to 20% of a person’s salary by the hiring company. I left another company at the time I was hired by id and have been making computer games since Jan, 1992. Id likes to stay small so we’re pretty much filled to max capacity at the moment.

Q: What are the monster’s frame rates in Q2?

A: 10 fps, but interpolation fills in for anything faster.

Q: Though you didn’t work at id at the time, did they make models for the Doom / Doom 2 monsters, and then record BMPs?

A: Maquettes (small, detailed statues) were made for the characters and all the sprites were generated from those models by hand in Dpaint by the insanely talented Kevin Cloud and Adrian ‘Viper Man’ Carmack.

Q: My partner and I decided to begin our total conversion. With so little known about quake 2, we assumed that the only format which would remain the same was the current *.mdl files. Looking at the new models and hearing about how the movements will now be interpolated regarding your frame rate etc, I was wondering a few things. Will the maximum face count still be around 500 faces for smooth play? Can animations be started on, considering the interpolation, etc?

A: Quake2 will feature quite a few differences in performance. However, be aware that we are requiring a minimum p100 w/16MB RAM to run the game. Our models run from 400 to 700 with the bosses around 2000 faces. Of course the golden rule of “less is best” still applies and if you can make the models look good at 300 faces, then by all means do it. I treat 600 faces as my benchmark for models and if it goes over that, then the monster won’t be too prolific. Start your tc with Q2 in mind. Here’s some basic little constraints I currently work with:

  • models <600 faces
  • view model weapons <400 faces
  • world model weapons <200 faces
  • animation rate 10 fps (you can go to 15 or 20 fps but the next rule of thumb tends to get blown. We rely heavily on the linear interpolation to compensate for higher frames per second animation, and it doesn’t look bad at all.)
  • total animation frames <256

Q: I was just wondering…the opening cinematic in Quake II….did you guys use the Quake II engine to make it or was it another animation program.

A: I’m using 3ds4, 3dsMax, Photoshop and animatorPro for the cinematics in Q2. We will probably have some scripted animations using the quake engine ala the Rangers stuff.

Q: After the enemy you just killed is down on the floor, wouldn’t it be nice to see it convulsing for a short period of time before he really dies?

A: Not only do some of them convulse, but some actually struggle to get back up before they croak. Pretty cool.

Q: I would like to know if id will be releasing the tools they used for Quake2 with the game i.e. level editor, model editor, etc?

A: I’m sure some version of our level editor will be put out there eventually. As far as art goes we can’t really make Alias, 3DS4, 3dsMAX, Dpaint, Photoshop and AnimatorPro available because those programs were made by and are owned by others.

Q: What kind of a role does that big image/insignia with the rotating skull play that we have seen on several walls in the screen shots released by id? Is it the symbol of the alien race or the aliens leader etc.? Just curious since it has been used a few times in different levels…

A: That design is indeed the general symbol of the alien race that Adrian came up with. The outer design is consistent throughout the games with the inner part changing to represent different aspects or areas of discipline. For example in the power station, the center is a lightning bolt to represent power or electricity. I just created a real quick 3d version so Xian could spruce up our site.

Q: While wandering down the halls of Quake and observing the (admittedly) blocky monsters, a thought came to mind; I fancy myself an artist, and I like large renderings with lots of detail. While looking over the Quake monsters, I realized that a lot of the artistic work you do must be scaled down the meet the limits of the Quake engine. As an artist, you must have a little voice inside of you screaming at you to make huge, mind-bendingly complex images (I may be wrong on that one…). I would be very interested to see any work you (or any other id artist) have done outside artwork produced specifically for games. (such as the work that got you hired at id in the first place ;) Perhaps a collection of images…?

A: That sounds really cool. Unfortunately something like this will have to wait until the project’s over since I’d want to do it right. What I’ll do is collect stuff from Adrian, Kevin and I and post it onto an “id Gallery” type of format.

Q: Can you tell me what this weapon is/does? There’s a screenshot that shows a picture of it. It looks like a cross between the M41a Pulse Rifle from Aliens and a Thompson Submachine Gun. Whatever it is, it looks damn cool.

A: Its the assault shotgun. The color problem exists in GL only due to the texture map interpolation. Not much we can do about it. Software is much nicer to our textures but doesn’t give us colored lighting.

Q: Why not replace the F11 zoom of Quake by a pair of infrared goggles. This could be a very powerful feature. When you press F11 (or whatever), you get a green display which flickers every now and then from which you can control the zoom. It would be VERY useful for wide open area. Because the sky model of Quake 2 should enable much larger outdoor level, infrared goggles could work quite effectively.

A: We currently have plans for IR goggles and a scope which zooms in on a target.

Q: Basically, I’m a beginner that doesn’t know a thing about modeling and stuff like that. I’m just looking for a shareware program or something that I can download and make models or do some computer animation. Something where I could teach myself.

A: Try Truespace from Caligari, 3DS4 or 3dsmax from Autodesk, or Lightwave from Newtek? I’m not sure about who makes the last one.

Q: At what age would you consider hiring an artist/level designer?

A: Unfortunately there’s no plans to hire additional artists right now. As far as age goes, it really depends on your experience and ability. How young you are isn’t really a factor.

Q: I’m looking to go into a career in 3D computer modeling and want to know if there are any colleges or books that you’d recommend. I’m not trying to jump into this career with no experience, mind you: art has been one of my strongest points all my life. I’m particularly interested in a college. I know that mostly everyone at id didn’t complete or even start college.

A: If you’re serious about getting into our industry then college would be an expensive waste of your time. Use the money to buy a kick ass computer, a copy of 3DS4, 3DSMAX or Lightwave and teach yourself through the tutorials and/or manuals. 3DS4 currently has the largest number of ‘how to’ books. But the other two I mentioned are quickly getting stuff printed up about them. Btw I have 60 sh towards a BA in management so I’m just telling you how I feel higher education will really help you in a career making computer games.

Q: This might seem a little crazy, but I was wondering if you have some kind of photo of some (all?) of you id guys?

A: Kevin and Adrian believe that if you haven’t been to a place then it doesn’t exist, elevators take gravity away from the planet and more importantly photographs steal small pieces of your soul. I’ll be posting a pic soon of myself in some evening wear that might be of interest, however.

Q: Hi, I’ve been looking at the screen shots, particularly those with weapons shown, and I’ve noticed that the weapons are slightly off to the right. I like this idea, but have you considered left-handed players? Perhaps in user setup, you could make it an option for a left handed preference- have the weapon on the left side instead of the right. I haven’t seen any other games use this, or anyone even talking about it. I think it would add more of that great customizable feel to the game that players like me love, and though I’m not a programmer, I can’t imagine that it would be very difficult to implement.

A: Unfortunately I’ve optimized the shit out of all the view models so they wouldn’t hold up if seen from the other side. Originally we had planned on making the option to be left handed in the game, but as of now we’re pretty strapped on player character data space so you’ll always be right handed. Sorry if this is a turn-off.

Q: Does your middle name happen to start with a “M”?

A: My middle name is Howard.

Q: I read in some article that in Q2, “players/enemies” will have separate models for their appendages. Is this true (stupid question huh?), and if so, what is the practicality of this? I’ve heard that they are separate, but it seems as though it is a single whole model (like a single bounding box or some shit). BTW… the extension for Q2 will still be .mdl right?

A: Keep in mind that just because they are in separate pieces, it doesn’t change the fact they’re just considered a collection of vertices. The bounding box doesn’t recognize individual limbs or objects yet within any particular character.

As far as the.mdl extension goes, I’m not too sure.

Q: Why have I sat here and read all this stuff?

A: Because you have no life and you just happen to dig news about the coolest company on the planet. Quake on my brothers and sisters.

Thinking Outside the Box: I Think, Therefore I .plan, by Paul “Villam” Steed

Welcome to the first installment of Thinking Outside the Box. I picked that particular title since it aptly describes the gist of the verbiage that will be read in this column (coincidentally in more ways than one). I plan to alternate between opinionated pieces like the one I’m writing today and tutorial/instructional articles covering aspects of what I do for a living: make computer games. Art, specifically – the low-poly animated kind to be exact (with a dash of cinematics).

“Thinking Outside the Box” is actually a phrase I’ve freely stolen from a friend who used it at the Computer Game Developer’s Conference last year in Long Beach. The story goes somewhat like this: after sitting through an agonizing award ceremony emceed by the completely UN-jocular editor of a big gaming magazine on board the Titanic-like, permanently dry-docked Queen Mary, certain VIPs were invited to an (ahem) exclusive reception area to imbibe and be convivial with the socially challenged. Well, previously I had accepted three awards on behalf of id for Quake 2 at the award ceremony so I was happily walking around gloating and showing off my bouquet of trophies as I made my way towards the said special reception.

Well, in order to get into this one area of the boat where the “special” reception was being held, I needed to show this sticker that allowed me to pass the checkpoint at the door. Trophies in hand and friends at my arm I went to the door where this soiree was being held. I had given a bunch of the pass stickers to my friends since I didn’t really ponder the awesome significance of not having a sticker on my person with my nifty ribbon badge and three trophies.

Silly me.

Despite the ribbon hanging off my badge, despite the trophies, despite my shameless gloating and overall grandiose posturing earlier, this dude at the door was not going to let me pass because I didn’t have that damn sticker. Feeling like I was trapped in an un-aired episode of Seinfeld I futilely tried to reason with this door-boy. Smug in his responsibility and adherence to his simple set of instructiond burned forever into his young little mind, he repeated his mantra: “No sticker, No admittance.” Finally coming to the conclusion that the spotlight awards in my hand might survive a few blows to this moron’s head, my beautiful and effervescent companion finally said, “Look, Man. Would you please just think outside the box for a minute?”

Needless to say that phrase stuck. And it worked. We got in, mingled happily and later on I was handed all sorts of apologies by sycophantic, self-important types who weren’t exactly sure how I rated, but seemed to feel a little butt-smoochio action was in order.

Thus the title.

It also fits nicely with the instructional theme dealing with vertices, faces, polygons and UV’s which I’ll be covering as well.

Okay now you know why the name…so let’s talk. How are you? Cool. Glad to hear it. Read any .plan files today? Yeah? Which ones? Hmm. Me too. Pretty interesting, Huh? Funny even. Yeah I wished I’d still be out there in the world of .plans but alas I had to give in to the PC Police and delete it from cyber-reality. “Why,” you ask? Good question.

.plan files started I guess as a work log from techno-savvy geniuses and workers in the world of operating systems, programming and the internet in general. You essentially write up this text file which through the magic of limited access can be “fingered” by almost anyone with the right means. Eventually an internet news hound (don’t know who first organized the .plan files to be accessible by everyone) decided that giving people easier access to .plan files would be a great way to spread the word and get some hits.

Now when a .plan file is written it’s not disseminated by the person writing it. That’s taken care of by others like PlanetQuake, or Stomped. Granted, everyone who posts a .plan update knows it’s going to be picked up by the news sites, dissected, analyzed, criticized and generally held under public scrutiny. Thus .plans are a venue by which to share opinions, feelings and otherwise conversational bits of effluvia that range from dull as shit to successful attempts at entertainment. I was heavy into the .plan thing last year and gained a bunch of notoriety from .plan “wars” with people from other companies. They’d talk shit, I’d talk shit back and we’d pretty much devolve into a pissing contest to see who could get the last word in.

That was fun as hell. And for the most part plenty of other people agreed.

Unfortunately for every one hundred people who love to watch the .plan operas unfold one or two whiners write in to complain about the evil bantering of the .plan writers. Losers. Granted, an anonymous forum like the .plan file can be akin to the results of drinking too many beers (tends to not be too inhibitive), but .plan files are often mistaken for a public relations announcement on behalf of the company where the employee works.

That’s bullshit.

Talk to anyone who writes a .plan file and the biggest reason they write it is (gasp!) ego. Yep…plan files are written because they can be written and the person writing them has the confidence that someone out there would actually dig reading something from them. Whether it’s to impart knowledge, gossip or a glimpse into the mind of the author, a .plan file is a product of someone who essentially talks to themselves with full knowledge that there’s a whole bunch of people craning their necks (or clicking their mouse) to overhear their ramblings. Didn’t know you had voyeuristic tendencies didja?

When I wrote my .plan file I pictured a smoky pool hall, lots of sexy, friendly serving-wenches, a pitcher of beer, a couple of frosty mugs and you – the reader taking your turn at trying to sink the eight whilst I ruminate over whatever it is I decided to rume over.

The response was great to say the least. People generally could relate to what I was saying and even when they disagreed they agreed it was food for thought (or fuel for argument). I’ve made lots of acquaintances and a few friends out of updating and enjoyed massively stimulating conversation and discussion from those .plan file updates. I feel good about what I wrote and would still be posting the updates today if it wasn’t for that little embodiment of fulsome myopia that creeps itself into every situation and every perceived “good” thing: “them”.

You know. The “they” that basically screws everything up in the end and make it their life’s mission to piss in every still crispy bowl of corn flakes in sight. I’d kick “their” ass in a heartbeat if I ever found “them”. I’d poke a tiny hole in their belly and start pulling all twenty plus feet of their small intestine through that hole as they scream in very intense pain. But unfortunately it’s sadly a truism that “they” are the secret sand-baggers of nearly anything fun, or otherwise questionably opinionated, forthright or untainted-by-politically-correct-flavoring-and-fortification. “They” basically wore down the powers-that-be and convinced them that my .plan updates reflected badly on the company I passionately work for and believe in.

That sucks, but now I have this forum which is much, much, much cooler. Thanks, loonyboi. (Editor’s note: my pleasure.)

So hopefully, “they” will get a clue one day and realize that a little less salt in their diet, some simple personal hygiene practices, a self-help book or ten, a personal trainer and a dose of common sense will cure their problems with anal retention (oh, and Depends will aid their urges for random urination).


Paul Steed is an incredibly opinionated 3D artist at id Software

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