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    Level Designer Interviews: Alan Willard

    Interviewer: The_culture

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

    Level designer at Epic Games for Unreal Tournament, Unreal Tournament GOTY, and Unreal Tournament PS2.  Previous to these, I was strictly amateur!

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

    Fine grain detail... While being able to pick up an individual fork is, I think, too much, I do want to see more attention to smaller detail (even in my own maps).  Coming in to a room and seeing not only the basic shapes of the machinery in the room but also the power cables leading from each machine, the fan blades moving within the machines, small puddles of condensation in depressions on the floor, all add up to an increased suspension of disbelief.  And that's what playing games is all about, suspending your disbelief for a little while, getting into the role defined for you by the game and going all out enjoying yourself in the game.  If games don't increase their ability to do this, the genre won't mature.

    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?

    Heh, level design has ALWAYS been a time consuming effort!  If you want a level to look good, play well, and be fun, you have to spend LOTS of time.  The next generation of game engines are going to require more effort on the designer's part to take full advantage of new features. Fortunately, as the engines come to handle more complex designs, the tools to create these worlds become more powerful as well, and that help ameliorate the amount of time it takes to work on a map.

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

    Though they are using an older engine, Anachronox has some extremely cool levels.  I haven't played it yet, of course, but what I've seen at E3 the last couple of years has really blown me away.

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

    Everything!  I constantly look at shapes and how things are put together, no matter what they are.  I've lost count of the number of times I've pulled inspiration from something I've seen in my car on the way to work.

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

      Many features from 3d modelling and animation packages, such as extruding faces, merging vertices, and such.  The next generation of engines are going to have to give us these kinds of tools for us to really make interesting worlds.

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

     Much more realistic environments, with levels of interactivity that will astound people!  The detail in the levels will increase dramatically as the hardware we have to play the games on get more powerful, so I see the worlds we create becoming more and more convincing.

    What game are you most looking forward to?

    No question, Warcraft 3!
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    Zalman: ZM-DS4F Headphones

    An affordable, ultra-portable headphone set.

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