Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Anssi Hyytiäinen interview

1. You, being a pc game designer, how did you managed to learn and get
inspired ?

I started by creating levels for Doom. I guess it was the first game
that had an advanced enough engine to support some creativity just via
using a level editor. I think the first one I used was called "Waded". I
remember creating some simple levels that we played in deathmatch mode
with my friends. Hmm, I don't think any of my old Doom levels have
survived to this day. That's probably a good thing.
Anyway, I just followed some online tutorials, and tried to figure out
the missing bits myself. Later I transferred to Duke Nukem 3D editing,
and then to Quake when its level editors started appearing to the internet.
Maybe there is some curiosity value to this little Quake deathmatch map
I released back then. It's called "Minisota", and when I say little, I
really mean little; I thought it would be funny to make an extremely
small deathmatch map, to create extremely hectic action. But it became
so exhausting to play it that I created expanded version of it,
embellished with some tunnels you could fly through and elevators and
hatches... ...which pretty much just made it even more confusing to play
it :D Well, it was "different" at least.
Anyway, by the time Quake 2 came along, there were quite many little
groups starting to form on various level editing forums, of people
creating various mods and total conversions for Quake, and calling for
help. Alex and Jason were calling for help to build Dawn of Darkness,
and I ended up joining them. Don't really remember how that went down,
but with all likelyhood I must have showed that Minisota map to them...
ps, you might be interested to know that after Dawn of Darkness, I also
released another little deathmatch level for Quake 2, which was
originally supposed to be a deathmatch map for Dawn of Darkness. Now
it's a weird blend of medieval textures and Q2's modern items.
I think in terms of deathmatching the level doesn't really play that
well at all. It's just bad design. It's fairly interconnected, but there
are no large areas in there at all. Mostly I remember that just placing
the visibility planes into the level was a puzzle in itself. Kind of
amusing considering that moder games render perhaps several thousand
times more geometry in single screen than that entire level had. It was
different times...

2. What is your favorite game, games and genre of games ? I guess you
like Doom beside others ? I myself like Doom, Thief the dark project and
System Shock.


Being a professional game developer, I find it a bit hard to enjoy games
the way they are meant to be played. I usually end up playing as
research, analyzing everything from a developer's perspective. And also,
when you spend your day developing a game, somehow you don't necessarily
want to spend the evening playing another game... I just rather play
guitar instead :D

But occasionally when a game is good enough, I find myself actually
enjoying it as a gamer. Actually one of the more recent experiences like
that was Wolfenstein: The New Order, which was directed by another Dawn
of Darkess veteran, Jerk Gustafsson
Bethesda Underground: Know Your Devs - MachineGames' Jerk Gustafsson. I was extremely impressed
by that game and ended up playing it through, which doesn't happen too
often. Actually it is only because I played it through to the end
credits that I realized Jerk worked on that game. I'm that lousy at
following the industry... Anyway, the little rap beats in the cut-scenes
are just genious, I love it when people dare to do something unexpected.
Another case of recent "I actually enjoy this" has been Witcher 3.
Apart from that my "favourite genre" by far is sim-racing. I used to do
some league racing with GTR 2 for instance. Those races must be my
favourite moments of all time in gaming. And lately I've spent some time
just driving around in Assetto Corsa.

3. Any plans for the future ?

Yes of course, but I can't talk about them...


4. I myself consider that gameplay is above the a game graphics. What do
you think ?


Well it depends on the case. There are many areas in game design where
you need to make a choice between function and aesthetics. Do you want
pretty character animations, or responsive controls? Do you want nice
clean screen, or informative UI? Sometimes there are no clear choices,
and what works in one game doesn't work in another. Sometimes plainly
pretty graphics can be an important part of the intented experience.
But, as a gamer, I think more often I tend to lean towards function.

5. Do you prefer to get in touch with the gamers/developers in a
comunity or rather work by yourself and/or with your team ?


I don't usually really seek out contact with the community, because I
always feel like I'm busy enough as is is... But occasionally when it
just happens spontaneously, I don't mind.

6. Any chance for improvement on your behalf if it is needed ?

My attitude towards improvement tends to be that I just learn what I
need to learn when I need to learn it. I've never felt it to be very
difficult to learn new things. It's important to have the attitude of
actually understanding what you are doing with some software and why,
instead of just memorizing what you need to do. When you actually
understand the reasons behind things, you will eventually find out a lot
of underlying commonalities behind the superficial idiosyncrasies of
different systems. And eventually learning new systems becomes fairly
trivial.

7. I imagine that you didn't have troubles with the Dawn of Darkness
team, but going to work on Max Payne was a hard choice ?


No of course not. Dawn of Darkness was supposed to be possibly a
launching pad for a company, but as it was with all the mod groups, only
few would make it. The publishing side of things never really took off.
The only offered deals were not realistic at all. I'm somewhat of a
pessimist, so I can't say I was too disappointed. More realistically
Dawn of Darkness would operate at least as a resume for the individuals
who worked on it, and that's pretty much what happened.
Sometime after the Dawn of Darkness demo was released, Jerk Gustafsson
asked me if I was interested of joining Starbreeze in Sweden. I said
sure, but I'll first ask if Remedy is interested of hiring me. I knew
they were building Max Payne, and then I wouldn't have to move outside
of Finland. And indeed they were looking to hire level designers, so
Dawn of Darkness simply operated as my resume.
And since then I've worked on Max Payne 2, the Alan Wake games and more
recently on Quantum Break Quantum Break - Time is Power Trailer
not just on level design but pretty much all over the technical designs
of things.

8. What is your favorite compiler you use ?

If you mean to ask what are my favourite tools I like to use, it's not
really a question of what's my favourite at this point anymore. I just
use whatever tool gets the job done the best. We use a lot of in-house
and a lot of third party tools, and all of them have their own strong
points and their peculiarities.
Back in Quake days I used an editor called "BSP" which I thought was
wonderful. Back then a large component in level editors was their
modeling capabilities, but that part has become pretty much obsolete
nowadays. Everybody are just using standardized formats and third party
modeling tools. As of actual code or script compilers, we have our own
proprietary script language and compile out the level scripts from our
own world editor. That might also become obsolete in the future, and
perhaps we will create level logic directly with C++ interfaces.

9. Any advice for a newbie game programer, beside learning by himself ?

Well one idea to develop one's skills overall, whether you are a
programmer or game designer or artist, is perhaps to play around with
Unity. Mostly because it allows you to quickly get a feel of various
areas of game development fairly independently, without getting too
bogged down with tiny techical details right at the start. On the other
hand if you just use something like Quake or Unreal level editor, your
creativity tends to be somewhat more constrained than it is with
something like Unity.

As of advice specific to programmers, I would say it is very important
to develop your skills also in understanding the realities of game
design, and of all the other departments of game development. As a
programmer it is easy end up too focused onto the details, and kind of
miss the big picture. Especially in complex projects.

10. Do you prefer lan or online gaming or none ? I myself prefer
multiplayer over single player. A single player game must be real good
to be played. I switched to this some time ago.


Well since I mentioned sim-racing, definitely multiplayer there. But
then if I play something with the consoles, I tend to not bother with
the multiplayer side of things. A well made single-player campaign is
easier to just play bit by bit at my own pace. I can't say I would
prefer one over the other.

11. What you rather try not do to, in developing something ?

There are plenty of things I would avoid, but I'm not really sure what
this question means... Sorry!

12. Can you give any advices to the Quark editor team, who developed
theyr editor for a multitude of games, beside Quake 2 ? They are a good
team who are always improving and learning from others.


I've never used Quark and I don't really know much about it... Sorry again!

13. And one final question, can you tell me something about your
involvement in Quake 2 Dawn of Darkness developement ? What editor did
you used than and what is a .bru file ? A .mrg file (which by default i
don't know who can opened it) can be renamed as a map file and used by
Quark.


These are files used by BSP editor. I can't really remember the details
but I guess mrg stands for merge, and could be used to save out and load
in portions of a level. I think .bru files may have been the same idea.
BSP used the concept of prefabricated components, meaning you could
build a little collection of entities and save it out into a "prefab"
library, to be reused multiple times in different levels. I suppose
pretty much all the editors nowadays use the same concept in one way or
another.
My involvement with Dawn of Darkness was to implement a lot of the level
logic, basically script in the triggers, the monsters, the conversations
and the logic with which the game proceeded. I think I ended up
implementing pretty much all of the logic you find in the final demo,
because when we finished it pretty much all the other level designers
had already moved on to other things, as it was pretty clear the thing
would probably never get published in any commercial form. I also built
a fair bit of the level geometry, especially towards the end as there
was no other people left. The best looking bits in there are still
probably built by other people though, as I was definitely not the most
skilled when it came to building the environments.
One thing in particular I remember designing and implementing carefully
was all the conversations that occur during your quest to get into the
Cheitan Keep near the village. It was originally written down in a
rather traditional manner, where during a particular point of your
quest, only particular characters would actually tell you something that
would help you out. This is somewhat common still because of the linear
way game story scripts are usually thought out, even in non-linear
worlds. Screenplay writers are not very good at thinking in terms of
possibility spaces, they just rather focus onto maximizing the drama.
This often creates a situation where the player is somewhat uneasy about
what to do, and he is just trying to speak to everyone randmoly until
the correct piece of dialogue finally pops out and the story proceeds.
In DoD, when Roarke is doing all the tasks he needs to do to get into
the Keep, I decided that at any point of the quests, the player could
ask about any relevant quest item from any of the characters in the
world. And most of them would be able to at least point you to someone
who should know the answer. So if the player had been told he needs a
shovel, he could trust that he was able to actually ask about a shovel
from any friendly face he ran into. Even if the NPC didn't know the
answer to your question, at least Roarke tried to ask. It's a very
simple thing to do, but very very often overlooked in story design.
For those interested of creating DoD levels, if you look at the various
text files for 2_2, you will find that for the NPCs, there's pretty much
the same set of questions for everyone, just onlocked by the flags that
represent the player progress in the story, meaning every single
character had these questions unlocking the moment the player became
interested of that particular item, and the player could go to anyone at
any point to ask about any interest point.

Me, my brother, all Quake 2 and DoD players out there, EricBoyceU from moddb (ericboyce1), the whole gamers out there and in behalf of Quark editor team, i thank you for your answers, help and files provided and i hope many people learn from your experience about pc games and programing.

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