Our very own Toxin has done it again! This time he has interviewed Alan "Talisman" Willard, a level designer of Epic.
Gamesurge: When did you first start working at Epic?
Alan "Talisman" Willard: I started at Epic last year, around September, though I'd been a contractor for a month or two before that.
Gamesurge: When did you first start creating maps?
Alan "Talisman" Willard: I downloaded DCK by Ben Morris for Doom 1. That was about 4-5 years ago now.
Gamesurge: And that started your career?
Alan "Talisman" Willard: Well, that started me down the long, long road of getting good at designing levels :) I made alot of very bad DM levels for Doom 1, 2, and Hexen. I also made some maps for Descent, Duke, Blood, and anything else I could get my hands on. It was a way of feeling like I could change the game.
Gamesurge: Before you started working for Epic did any of your maps make magazine cd-roms/get on the net/get destributed to the public in any way?
Alan "Talisman" Willard: A few of my friends and I made a Hexen map pack that I did all the scripting for, and a few levels for... Its still on Cdrom.com in the hexen directory somewhere... Shadowsx1.zip or something. Anyway, we sent it to a publishing company that was looking for maps, and they took it. They made a book, I think it was called Masters of Level Design or something. All I know is I never got a copy :)
Gamesurge: That must suck. Is your name on the copy right for your level?
Alan "Talisman" Willard: Yeah, somewhere in the back of book there's a page of credits and my name is in there.
Gamesurge: How did Epic find you? based on your Hexen level or something else?
Alan "Talisman" Willard: No, actually I knew Shane Caudle from a previous job (CompUSA) where he would come in to shop... I got to know him, and then ran into him at E3 the next year, and he told me he'd been hired by Epic to work on an addon pack for Unreal. He ended up working on the full Unreal, and about a year later, right before they finished the game, I ran into him at the Birmingham airport, just by accident, and he offered to show my work to Cliff. After I got back from my trip, I started emailing him every Q1 and Q2 map I could find on my harddrive, then started making more. I hooked up with Del Dhanoa at UCM (Ultimate Chain Maps) on PlanetQuake, and started busting my ass working on everything I could get my hands on, making new portions for the chain maps, working on intergrating other peoples chain maps together, etc... After awhile, I got a call from Cliff and got a copy of Unreal to work with from Shane. Shortly after that, I was a contractor, and then went fulltime.
Gamesurge: Wow. Long history
Alan "Talisman" Willard: *pant pant*
Gamesurge: How many maps have you created for UT?
Alan "Talisman" Willard: Oh, lets see...Right around 10 I think... Liandri, Rook, Coret, Niven, Zeto, and a bunch more...
Gamesurge: Who else designs maps except for you?
Alan "Talisman" Willard: Cliff, Shane, Inoxx, Myscha (until he left), Pancho, Dave, and me.
Gamesurge: What are the steps in designing a level at the corporate levels?
Alan "Talisman" Willard: Pretty much the same as it is at the amateur level, I just spend alot more time polishing up. The biggest difference is that I get more constructive criticism from my peers. Mainly Cliff.
Alan "Talisman" Willard: I start with a very basic room, and start adding detail. Eventually it expands into a theme, and I work the level around that theme. Sometimes, say for assault, I actually figure out everything in advance, at least somewhat, since there's alot more interaction with what the player is doing at any one time.
Gamesurge: How long (on average) does a map take to create, from start to finish?
Alan "Talisman" Willard: Well, probably between 2 weeks and a month. Some are very quick (one I made in 4 hours, Stalwart) and some take forEVER. Rook took almost a year.
Gamesurge: Which map is Rook? It's not part of the demo right? Can you explain a little bit about it?
Alan "Talisman" Willard: Rook is my Assault map. Its a very large castle set in a canyon. The objective of the map is to escape the castle, but to do so, you must release the front gates by gaining access to the gatehouse, which is held closed by a large winch in one of the towers.
Gamesurge: So this would be a great team map, kind of like Ranbow 6/Rogue spear?
Alan "Talisman" Willard: Yeah, but at UT speeds :) There are two teams, one attacking, one defending. The defending team starts off in the barracks, and must prevent the assaulting team from escaping the castle.
Gamesurge: What, in your opinion, is your best level/map?
Alan "Talisman" Willard: I think its a tossup between Liandri and StalwartXL.
Alan "Talisman" Willard: .. They both feel very right to me.
Gamesurge: Now that UT is finally released, what do you plan on doing?
Alan "Talisman" Willard: Having a nice holiday season :)
Gamesurge: Can you tell us anything about Unreal 2, if it's planned?
Alan "Talisman" Willard: It is being planned, but Epic won't be doing it. We've contracted it out to Legend Entertainment, who just finished the truly AMAZING Wheel of Time game.
Alan "Talisman" Willard: I have no idea what their plans are for the game.
Gamesurge: So, if you won't be working on Unreal 2 what would you be designing levels for?
Alan "Talisman" Willard: More for fun, maybe if I finish a few we could release one on the net, I dunno...
Gamesurge: Well that wraps things up, thank you for your time and I wish you great success with UT and upcoming projects.
Alan "Talisman" Willard: Sure no problem!