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    Level Designer Interviews: Harvey Smith

    Interviewer: The_culture

    What is your current role, and what games have you worked on?

    Currently, I am Project Director at Ion Storm on Deus Ex 2. In the past, I was Lead Designer on Deus Ex and FireTeam. Prior to that, I was Project Director on Technosaur, a cancelled RTS. Before that, I worked as an Associate Producer on CyberMage. I started in QA, working as Lead Tester on System Shock.

    What's lacking in level design today?  What can be done to fix that problem?

    I could talk about architectural complexity, poly count or artistic style, but I won't; those are not my forte. I think interactivity-based gameplay is sadly lacking in most 3D games. Game environments would be cooler if they had more universal/simulated interactivity (like ice that melts when heat is applied, or buildings that collapse if the support pillars are destroyed).

    With 3D engines becoming increasingly more sophisticated, level design becomes more complex, which in turn becomes a time-consuming effort.  Is this a good or bad thing?

    It's great in that it could equate to more interesting environments. Tools of automation are a necessary part of keeping the increase in complexity from translating into a prohibitive rise in development cost.

    Is there a particular level from any game that stands out as an excellent example of craftsmanship?  Why?

    The hydroponics level from System Shock 2 because it scared the snot out of me in very real, visceral ways. Lord Bafford's manor from Thief 1 because it was so over-connected and allowed me so much freedom. Hong Kong from Deus Ex because it felt like such a 'deep' space.

    Where do you draw inspiration from during your level creation process?

    Mostly from moving paintings or photos. Places I would like to visit--architectural marvels created by visionary people. Also, thick atmospherics inspire me.

    What new features in level editors would you implement if you were designing a new editor from the ground up?

    Anything that would save time. Anything that would make editor use as intuitive as possible. A feature that would let the designer run the world/game processes at real time in a little window.

    Where do you see level design taking us in the next couple of years?

    More sophistication, more interactivity, better graphics. The usual curve.

    What game are you most looking forward to?

    Thief 3. Any follow-up to Pokemon Snap.
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