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    Level Designer Interviews: James Parkman

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

    My current title is Senior Level Designer at Legend Entertainment. I’m currently working exclusively on Unreal 2, and I’ve become the developer of the alien environments in that game… I sort of fell into this role inadvertently, but I’m finding it quite satisfying.
    Previously, I worked on many levels in Wheel of Time. Before that I was just another amateur clawing my way out of a boring fate as a CS major in college :)

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

    I wouldn’t say anything is lacking in Level Design in particular… there are good levels of all types out there, depending on the style of game… as tools and engines progress in power and flexibility, Level Design will follow.

    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?

    Well, it’s neither good nor bad, just … more time consuming. It’s also more exciting to design levels as your abilities grow and the technology grows with them. Of course, from a scheduling point of view, it’s going to require better tools, more designers, and more total development time to produce cutting edge environments, so I suppose a manager would consider this phenomenon ‘bad’ J

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

    Ok, I’ll give some praise to my colleagues here first:
    The White Tower in Wheel of Time has always impressed me with it’s architecture… that’s primarily the work of Scott Dalton.
    I love Gloom Keep in Quake 1, it really caught me up in its ambience years ago, and has stuck with me even today.
    A lot of games don’t blow me away with any single scene or level, but impress me with the overall design and environment… Thief and Thief 2 are imprinted in my mind for their amazing sound design, and incredible sense of immersion.

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

    That varies. Lately I’ve been drawing a lot of inspiration from sound. I like to crank up my speakers, close my eyes, and just listen to the level I’m working on for a while.

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

    In the next couple of years, I don’t see any monstrous leaps… there will definitely be progression, but it takes time to really see huge steps… More immersive environments, more realistic settings, larger expanses which tie in well to each other… interactivity is a given, as is more ‘story’ based design. I think the next ‘tier’ of first person games will see a lot of Half-Life quality titles, and a few that really push ahead. Of course, there’s always that little-known title which may appear and redefine our idea of the benchmark for level design… ya never know!

    What game are you most looking forward to?

    I'm looking forward to Neverwinter Nights, … I've been on an RPG kick lately. As for FPS games, I'm looking forward to playing Red Faction and Halo, as much to analyze as to have fun (maybe more ;-).
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    Zalman: ZM-DS4F Headphones

    An affordable, ultra-portable headphone set.

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