Richard "Levelord" Gray (English Version)

APPROFONDIMENTO di La Redazione    —   03/05/2001

We made ten "general" questions to some famous guys of the gaming scene.

Today's guy is Richard Gray, alias Levelord, one of the most known level designer out there.

Uoz: It seems that some of the last shipped games are shorter than we are used to. The developers say that the new engines capabilities are hard to work with and really time-consuming. Maybe I'm wrong, but can we say "more polys, less levels?
Richard Gray: ...I think the "shorter" games are the result of technology and game extras that need to be added lately.  Technology has made games very complicated and time-consuming.  The engines are better, but this means we have to add alot more detail.  Geometry and models are far more complicated.  Character AI means that I have to become like a movie director telling and controlling alot of what each character does.  In the Duke Nukem days, I merely made very square areas, no lighting or moving things, no curves, few details, etc.  I alos merely placed bad guys down and they take it from there.  I would say that games are shorter lately because they are more condensed. This is not good, though, because regardless of them having more in them, they are still shorter.  The entertainment value is less.

Uoz: Do you think that with the actual tecnology level is still possible for new, unknown software houses coming out and blow out the market? I mean: actual games requires a LOT of resources, a lot of time, a lot of money and so. Talent is still enough to start this adventure? CroTeam looks a good candidate, but I think it's better to wait the completed game to say that.
Richard Gray: ...I think the CroTeam is an excellent example.  I even believe you can take an old, out-dated engine and make a groundbrwaking game.  It is the Fun Factor, that is all that matters.  I like to say "A small artist does not a small palettel make!".  That is, an artists can make something entertaining out of anything.  A good example is Alfred Hitchcock.  His movies are very low budget, compared to our time, but they still have great impact.
Black-and-white, no special effects, but they still scare the hell out of me.

Uoz: Singleplayer and Multiplayer: is still possible to have a good game in both fields? Looks like they are definitively separated.
Richard Gray: ...I think they need to be seperated because they are indeed so different and time-consuming.  I think the best world is the one in which a company makes a good single-player game and let's the internet community make the multi-player add-on and conversions.

Uoz: For the upcoming games the password is "nothing new, something more". Is it correct?
Richard Gray: ...I would like to think that there will be something new.  I don't know what, but the thought of stagnate been-there/done-that is not good.

Uoz: Xmas is nearby. Which is the game you'll buy for your worst enemy and which one for your best friend?
Richard Gray: ...I will buy Heavy Metal for both, ...both will be good for sales ;) 

Uoz: Probably the success of future titles will be the interactivity with the world. This will require new tecnology to allow the player to do something more complex than "push the button/pull the lever" or is still in the hand of level designing?
Richard Gray: ...definitely both!  This is an area I would like to return to.  That is the truly fun part for me, ...running around and just doing stuff, hopefully violent-yet-humorous stuff.  That was the funnest part about doing Duke. The techonolgy wasn't such a hurdle and we could focus on the Fun Factor.

Uoz: One of the most common reason for the success of a game (and for the FPS genre in general) is undoubtedly the support for the amateur developers: mappers, mods teams etc. Look at CS and HL. The complexity of the next generation engines will be a brake for this guys? The scripting systems, for example, seem to become harder to manage. What do you think about it?
Richard Gray: ...welcome aboard, modsters!  ... ;)  Seriously, this is the issue for all of us.  Simplicity is lost in this chase for better and better technology. I hate it!

Uoz: Do you think there is REALLY rooms for new game genres?
Richard Gray: ...yes, indeed!  Some will be a mixing of currently seperated genres, but I eagerly await the groundbreaking games that dare to go where no game has gone before.  They will be few-and-far-between, but they are out there.

Uoz: Everyone knows that FPS players are keyboard-mouse addicted. Do you think PC will be the platform of choice for the development of the next titles despite the consoles? Is it still economically convenient?
Richard Gray: ...there is no doubt in my mind that consoles will be the predominant future for games.  PCs will still exist, but dedicated hardware systems are obviously the way to go.  Actually, I anticipate online systems with which the common household will be upgraded off-site by a host.  That is, the player will log-in to a subscription-like system.

Uoz: Ok, we all know that you love your job because you can practice your creativity and blah blah, but sit down and speak freely: what is the worst aspect of your job? Low profile competition? Misanderstanding? Interviews:)?
Richard Gray: ...most definitely the time it takes to make a game.  We loose our lives doing this day and night all year.  For me, I also hate this techonolgy chase.  Again, I believe a lot is being lost for the sake of flash and piss!

Last time we interviewed Scott Dalton, senior level designer of Legend Entertainment. Next time we'll interview Bobby Pavlock level designer of American McGee's Alice.