News Design Artwork Photos Articles
  World of Zendar 18.Dec.2013
For many years the trail through the Grendal Gorge was a dangerous place, the path was plagued by thieves trying to help travellers part with their gold. At the request of the Merchants Guild the King built several small keeps along the trail and one of them was called Zendar.

As traders used the stone keep for refuge from the packs of thieves roaming the paths below, the tiny keep of Zendar grew into a hodge podge of housing bursting at the seams of a once simple stone keep. The cramped living conditions were unbearable and the citizens of the city were at each others throats.

The map started out with such grand plans! A large hub with a giant royal palace perched on the top, two large city areas on either side for the gold and silver keys, a large vertical Gothic style church and a huge city facade overlooking a deep canyon with an iron bridge!?!

Eventually after much heartache and crazy compiler issues the City of Zendar was built. The release of this map marks the end to my year of Quake SP mapping. I hope everyone in the Quake community enjoyed my SP maps as much as I have enjoyed creating them.
For the Horde!

  The Ivory Tower 28.Sep.2013
Deep within the Grendal Gorge is a small monastery and chapel built by the Silver Knights of Tresden. The central tower of the chapel was constructed from the legendary white rocks of Vineford and soon gained the nickname of The Ivory Tower.

The monastery was surrounded by many dark caves and eventually the knights discovered that the foundations of the Ivory Tower were riddled with large amounts of gold. The knights soon abandoned their pray and meditation for the axe and cart as they ventured deep underground in pursuit of their new god, gold.

This map is made from several brushwork experiments mashed together to form a story of events. The construction is designed to show the player location history by revealing layers of details stacked on top of each other.

Many of the locations are designed to be revisited from different heights and angles and there are several key points where the view is setup to show where the player is going to be next. The map flow is not linear and there are several routes which can bypass large parts of the map. This means that the map can be replayed several times and new routes can be discovered.
Old Tower

  Monolithic Brick 6.Jul.2013
One of my favourite Quake map is the "Wind Tunnels", a dark metallic pipe infested underground area flooded with water. The map is famous for its unique game play mechanic, the use of wind to transport the player around the map.

Unfortunately the original map does not have much in the way of architecture and is mostly flat metal walls and pipes. So I decided to take the idea of wind and push it in a new direction. Gone are the cold wet metal walls and pits of water, instead there are towering monolithic brick structures soaked in hot yellow lighting!

I wanted Backsteingotik to feel tall, to have walls of brick stretching upwards into darkness and to feel like they could support the world. This is monolithic Gothic, there are no curved archways, no round windows, just simple timeless shapes and mountains of bricks!

Often maps use teleporters to solve logistical design problems because they are quick and easy to implement. This map is designed to use wind as the primary form of travel between areas, there are no teleporters, just a consistent theme and continuous experience.
Brick Junkie

  Elderworld Dreams 10.May.2013
When I cannot sleep I often spend the small hours of the night creating brushwork concepts. These are not about game play, layout or design but about mashing, twisting and warping shapes together and seeing what cool things happen.

Brushwork concepts are like sketching or doodling on paper but instead of creating something from one view point it is a 3D object that can look and feel different from many sides. It is about trying to find harmony in shapes and creating new style directions.

Midnight Stalker was originally just a concept but the initial layout was a lot of fun with plenty of "up and over" routes that it developed into a proper map. The layout is about the monsters being in positions of strength and the player having to adapt to each new situation.

Each skill level has different monsters types, in different positions and can be played progressively for a different experience of the map. All weapons, ammo and health are the same on all skill levels. It is assumed the player will be more frugal with ammo/health consumption on higher difficulty settings.
At the stroke of midnight

  Challenging Numbers 31.Jan.2013
Behind every game is a mountain of numbers which are used to measure, compare and show how well a player is progressing. This can be something as simple as a high score table highlighting how successful the player has been with the game, to dynamic numbers showing current health and ammo totals as the player battles to survive.

Some games are more transparent with their numbers than others and will gladly show off pages of RPG style character statistics that the player can track and tweak as they progress. Some games thrive on the openness of their numbers showing them as huge graphics bursting forth from the screen as the player ploughs through hordes of enemies.

Each genre of game has an unspoken language of how to represent numbers to the player with some taking the approach of minimalism while others bursting at the seams with information on every detail.

Most stealth games hide their statistics of how the player is progressing because it can break the immersion of the game world. Usually the player is left to concentrate on the encounters and the thrill of not being discovered while the game is silently tracking what the player is doing.

An examples of stealth statistics could be how many treasure items have been found, total amount of special areas explored or if the enemies have been cleverly avoided.

Stealth levels rarely offer the player just one solution and with multiple routes and the possibility to explore new areas, the mission statistics can become a challenging way to replay levels.

This can be something as simple as how many items has been collected, the minimum amount of resources used or the least amount of enemies killed while performing a ghost run.

The mod In the Shadows tracks many details of what the player is doing, like what bolts have been found or used, has the player been discovered and how much damage they have done. Some fun statistics are like how much infighting has been caused by the player and odd stuff like how many zombies have been knocked down with poison bolts!

All of the stealth statistics are available to the player at any time and can be displayed on the console using the command 'stats' or once a level has been completed.
Pirate Accountant

  Do you really want feedback? 15.Jan.2013
When a developer creates something that they feel proud of, it usually involves a large amount of time, energy and emotional investment. It is not uncommon for people to pour their heart and soul into something creative and then feel overly sensitive afterwards when confronted with a stranger's opinion. Understanding what type of feedback is being offered can help you get past defensive feelings and realize that feedback is about helping to improve something, not hinder it.

"Yeah your game is awesome!"

Receiving compliments about something that you have worked on for a long period of time is great. Apart from the feel good factor, Candy feedback can also lead to other people being curious enough to want to try the game as well.

The best type of Candy feedback is when it is specific about something in the game and that is usually a good indication that the game is going in the right direction.

"Why does it work that way?"

Questions are always good feedback because it is someone trying to understand why it works. This is the perfect opportunity for you to learn how to express your ideas in a way that others can easily understand. When someone initially asks a question they usually have further feedback, but they don't know how to express it yet and need more information.

Always remember there is no stupid question and answer politely because it will often lead to feedback that has been thought about over a long period of time.

"Your game sucks!"

Nobody wants to hear negative comments and it can be really easy to take this the wrong way. Feedback posted in anger is about frustration and lack of understanding. You need to put on your detective cap and find out why, be polite and ask simple questions. Why? What? How?

Remember to keep your replies free of emotions and to the point, if this is someone who genuinely does not understand it will often lead to good feedback because their problem was so frustrating that it drove them to comment!

"Your game is good but ..."

Usually starts with a good compliment to break the ice, quickly moves onto the feedback and then sometimes a solution to fix it! The perfect feedback is when someone has logically thought through a problem, able to explain themselves and give a possible solution.

Thinker feedback is often referred to as constructive criticism and is the easiest type of feedback to understand because the thinker is direct and to the point, they want to improve the game.

There is nothing more frustrating than ‘no comment’; I would take a 100 angry people shouting feedback at me any day of the week than wondering why no one has made a comment.

Besides access problems (lack of login id, restrictive websites and foreign language) the lack of comments often stems from social convention that if you got nothing positive to say, then say nothing. At least a negative comment can lead to change, ‘no comment’ leads to nothing.

If you are defensive and angry towards feedback eventually no one will comment and this is not where anyone wants to be. Try to engage people with questions, get people involved in the process of creation and most importantly accept all kinds of feedback without prejudice.

"This feature is so stupid!"

Fanatically feedback is ultimately positive because it can highlight really obvious problems that should be fixed. Passionate fans of games get a bad deal when compared to sports fans because they are so vocal.

Having someone engaged and wanting to be heard is the perfect starting point for a conversation and once all the feedback has been broken down into facts it can often highlight the most obvious problems that are overlooked because most developers don't think like new players.

Feedback is something that should be embraced because it can take a game in new directions and add features that were obvious to new players. Looking past the emotion of Internet feedback will stop you from getting upset when someone is not being subtle with their thoughts. Posting stuff on the internet is about asking for feedback and expecting only good comments all of the time is naive. The best kind of feedback is pointing out things that are wrong because then your game will improve rather than just be ‘no comment’.
A good listener

  Feedback Loops 10.Jan.2013
In The Shadows Last month I released a demo of In the Shadows to find out if the design was going in the right direction. I wanted to know what features people liked and hopefully get a better chance of finding some more bugs.

I think the best way to improve something is through iteration or feedback loops. This is where you collect as much feedback as possible and then refine it down to a small set of points. Feedback can often be wild and crazy, but nevertheless it is an extremely valuable development tool.

The largest amount of feedback received was about the stealth tutorial. Most players felt it was too short and did not show enough information. This also led many players to think that the stealth mechanics were simple because very little was shown in the tutorial.

Unfortunately I assumed most players would just want the basic explanation of how the mechanics worked and then discover the rest for themselves. I often read on forums about how players want less hand holding, but in reality players don't want less information but more, at their own pace.
In The Shadows

Most new players want more information and not have to hunt around for it, while hardcore players want less and no hand holding. Trying to find the middle ground between the two is a difficult task and the best solution I can think of is to make the tutorial information context sensitive. This means the player will get information based on what they are doing, making it relevant and less likely to cause frustration.

Here is a short video showing the new tutorial section of the MOD and how it changes based on what the player is doing. I have also added extra explanation over the top of the video for the viewer so that it is easier to understand why certain things are happened the way they are in game.

In The Shadows Beyond the basic instructions of how to use the stealth weapons are advanced game play mechanics which allow the player to manipulate the enemy. This information would easily double the size of the current tutorial and probably end up frustrating most players.

The advanced information needs to be given to the player as a choice and not forced upon them. The current solution is to put the information in shadow books scattered through out the world so that the player has a choice, find the books or experiment with the game play yourself.

Most player demos that I have seen, for some reason do not use many advanced stealth mechanics. I am not sure if players are struggling to understand them or simply see them as a waste of time.

I don't want to add more help messages because if the player is ignoring the current one's then adding more will not solve the problem. Maybe the advanced mechanics are not seen as worthwhile which is odd because they actually make the stealth easier!
In The Shadows

Here is a short video showing some of the advanced stealth mechanics on the map 'Shadow Gate'. The skill level was set to hard and the inventory is nothing more than what can be found from the beginning of the map. I thought it would be interesting if the pace was fast because this MOD is about the combination of stealth and FPS and you are suppose to run around like crazy!

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