Thursday, February 7, 2013

11 Day Level Design - Day 1

I have not been doing a lot when it comes to level design as of late, so I decided I need another Level Design Challenge. So here we are yet again with another game to be modded and this time it is Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad. Why ROE? I have been a fan of the game ever since the first installment, and I am an even BIGGER fan of World War II era genres. Sure they have been over done and over used, but who cares? Call of Duty has used the exact same engine for over a decade, but still they sell...

Speaking of Call of Duty, this little challenge revolves around it! My favorite Call of Duty is hands down World at War. The entire game inspired me, and not to mention is has the baddest ass mother f*cker in all of gaming in it with Viktor Reznov. World at War was the reason I played Call of Duty games, and EVERYONE who worked on this game, I have to say thank you so much for bringing me COUNTLESS (around 50 days of gameplay on MP alone) hours of fun, frustration and most of all inspiration.

Now that that is out of the way, this little challenge like I said revolves around this game, as this will be split into two seperate parts: Days 1 - 3 will be design and development of the best MP map: Courtyard. Days 4 - 9 will be design and development of my favorite mission: Heart of the Reich. Days 10 - 11 will consist of building lighting, bug hunting, and then publishing it to Steam Workshop.

There are a few rules I have set that I have to abide by:

  • ONLY USE assets within the ROE SDK
  • 11 Days is all I have... PERIOD
  •  It has to be as acurate as possible

This last one will actually be quite a challenge in itself, as there are many things that can go wrong. For instance working on Courtyard has proven to be difficult just because of scale. Assets I am good on, because I can use them to make them look like I want to, but the scale of the map has me troubled. I had to keep in mind one thing when dealing with ROE multiplayer, and that is the amount of players and my main objective. Courtyard will be used strictly for a Territories gametype; I chose this because Headquarters on this map was epic. It is based on a maximum of 32 player setup, and the scale is vastly larger than what was experienced in Call of Duty. At first I wanted to keep it accurate on all bases, but after playtesting the BSP build, I was not happy.  

I decided then to not keep scale an accurate point, so I shifted some things around, made some of the corridors longer and wider, and a lot more open space. In the above image you will notice that it is vastly larger length wise, this too was intentional, as I really thought with 32 players filling this map, it would add some more depth to it. The above is just a BSP build, so I could accurately map out the level, and playtest just for scaling reasons.

So I will post more progress tomorrow morning on what it was I accomplished on Day 2 of 3 on this map. I am taking it one step at a time! Wish me luck!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

From Drug Addict to Game Designer

** I first and foremost want to say a HUGE “thank you” to my wife, kids, and family for everything they had to put up with in my lifetime **

I am about to lay everything out there now… there will be swearing, and a ton of stuff about my life that I am about to reveal, but here it goes:

Yesterday I was browsing the internet, and I came across a tweet from a Gearbox employee by the name of Mikey Neumann, with a link to a blog he had written ( ) and it really brought back some emotions that I feel. Honestly, it was sort of an awakening that I too have a problem, one of which I have no understanding of. As I sat back and kept on reading, I began taking a look at my life and how I got to the point of where I am now. In my eyes, I am nothing significant, but in my kids eyes I am top dog of something or another.

The title of this post is actually a true statement, what some do not know about me is that I used to be a major drug addict. During High School, I was trying to “find” myself, and the only people I fit in with where those types of people I heavily avoid now. During this period of whatever you want to call it, I became a rather depressed child. I had everything that any kid could want, love from family (most of), a roof over my head and just nothing to be depressed about. I eventually started taking all sorts of medication from Willbuterin, Effexor, and the like and nothing worked. The times that it did work my family described me as a “zombie”, but it came to the point where I wanted to die. I shit you not, I wanted to kill myself on a daily basis, and there was nothing anybody could about it. There was one thing that always prevented this… Halo. I would get so immersed into this game, that I forgot how depressed I truly was.  TO add insult to injury I was a frequent insomniac, sometimes not sleeping for 3-4 days straight and just gaming the entire time. This is when everything I knew changed; the one friend (so I thought) I had, became a regular marijuana “consumer” –I guess is the word-, and eventually I was brought on to it. I will not feed you any bullshit about peer pressure, as I made my own decisions. I was 13 at the time when I started picking it up on a daily basis. I was easily spending around $300-$400 a month, just on dope alone.

At this point in time my mind was fried; I had a ton of “friends”, and not a single care in the entire world. Once I turned 16 I was knee deep in shit (pot), had a car, a killer stereo in the said car, and I was being paid to install car parts on these rich kid’s cars.

*this is where it gets deep, because no one knows about half of the rest of this*

During this time when I was smoking marijuana, I came to a point in life where I literally had that barrel in my mouth. I remember looking down the barrel of the 20-gauge, and not even a single emotion running through my entire mind. I just knew I had to end my life because for some reason everyone would be better off. At this point in time it was just myself home, I had this stupid idea that it was fun to leave school during lunch time and go home for the rest of the day to get high. Well, my friends knew that when my mom was not home, I was a walk-in-or-get-punched policy. My –then- girlfriend Amanda, and –then- best friend came walking in, and bum rushed me. I was told the look on my face was one of someone knowing what they were doing. There was something else odd about this though, I did not load it. I ALWAYS kept a loaded weapon under my bed, and this one was no different. The night before I had cleaned it and reloaded it, call it a sign… one that I missed.

Anyways, shortly after my 16th birthday, it started becoming more and more of an alcohol problem, and I drank every chance I could get. Shit, I was an insomniac with a mother that was none-the-wiser. So I attended parties every weekend, and to this day I am thankful and shocked as to how the fuck it was I was NEVER caught. Like the fucking idiot I was at the time, I drove (never while/after drinking), and was pulled over multiple times. A 16 year old kid, with a system in his car that shook pictures off of houses walls was kind of a suspicious thing at this time. I thank God that I never hurt anyone while being so damned stupid.
Once the booze stopped having the desired effect (which in itself is stupid, by blood I am an alcoholic), I turned to other things. First it was acid, but I quickly stopped doing that when I almost ripped the skin off of my arm because I thought bees (yes… bees) where burrowing in it. It then turned to a one-time-was-enough use of Meth, which turned to X, which then lead to a serious problem with cocaine. It was so bad, that I did it right before and after I got to school. On top of the massive amount of money I was spending on marijuana, another habit kicked in and ran it up more.

I eventually said enough was enough of cocaine, and by my 17th birthday I was going through withdrawals. If you have never experienced one, it is literally the worse feeling, I was crying daily, and the down was just making me want to kill myself even more. However, this was one of the best moments in my life, because here I was standing up against that feeling and going through the process of becoming slightly better. I had a revelation while in this down, and that was I did not need those anti-depressants, I just needed myself. I directly stopped taking them (which I guess was a bad thing), and kicked them along with the cocaine.
I was hanging out with my friends so much at this point in time, I always thought my mother didn’t give a shit if I came home or not. I figured she had just given up as I was so out of control. Now, I know she didn’t, she just did not know what it was I was doing. She had informed me we would be leaving the shit fest town known as DeWitt, and moving to Lansing. This of course upset me, as I was in my senior year of high school, and I did not want to move. I was not prepared to give up this “lifestyle” I had created for myself. We began moving everything, and I was still staying in the empty apartment with nothing but the clothes I had on my back for warmth and to act as a pillow. Laying there one night on the floor, with my sweatshirt as my pillow, and a thin t-shirt as my “blanket” keeping my “warm” in 28-30* weather, I started crying. I mean full out, bawling my eyes out. It had finally dawned on me, that this was the direction I was leading myself to; this sleeping in nothing, in freezing weather with no one around me to lift me back up.

This is the point I took my first stand in life and said fuck no, this piece of shit known as my addictions where not going to kill me. I was 19 when it finally hit me that I did not need this lifestyle. I remember going home, to the new house. I walked in out of the rain, just drenched; I looked my mother right in the eyes and I broke down, telling her I was sorry. The next day was when my rehab began, I deleted all of those people from my phone that lived in DeWitt, and alienated myself from EVERYONE. I ditched all of my friends, for a better life.

Everything started going great for me, I met my wife (again- we dated In 5th-8th grade until she moved), on June 12th, 2007… which is coincidentally the day we started dating in 5th grade. Her and my son Wyatt became everything to me, and we married in June of 2009. They both pushed me to get my high school diploma, as DeWitt royally fucked me over on that one. I graduated from High School on May 30th 2008 from Fulton Adult Education. At this time I knew I wanted to make video games, I felt it in every inch of my being. It was what I was destined to do. I knew it the very day I met Warren Spector (of Deus Ex, Epic Mickey), who honestly changed my entire perspective. I was terrified he would tell me something like “don’t”, but as soon as I finished the question of “how do I do it”, he laid it out there for me.

I did not know at the time though, how to even begin doing it; then my life changed again. My daughter was born July 29th, 2010. She was that final piece to push me to finally get a grip on reality and buckle down. I began writing this thing called “Asylum” which is a story for a survival horror game, and this was my first step. I began looking around forums, and becoming a Quality Assurance expert for various teams that needed me. I never got paid, however I was offered. I wanted to just do it, because I loved games.
Then through a time of hell, I finally came across Full Sail University. I began taking the online courses for Game Design, and am set to graduate soon. Though this entire time in my tenure, I have worked on countless projects, collaborated with a bunch of professionals, and really became involved in what I do.

There is a downside though; finding a job. While depression is not usually appearing any more, it does show up every now and then because finding a job in this field is hard. For some reason, I always thought to myself that these employers, they look at that here I am taking an online course, but Michigan State is offering the same thing. A huge name college like MSU is more likely to be chosen first right? I have a vast amount of talent (particularly in writing and usability), and I like to believe that my passion is unmatched.

Why did I call this entry “From Drug Addict to Game Designer”? It is simple: my kids. My 6 year old son, thinks it is the coolest thing that one day I will be working on those games he plays. So I am a Game Designer because my son believes I am, and so do I.

I hope you all enjoyed this little… cough… entry. I hope it offers some insight into what I had to battle to get here within myself. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Level Design 1

It seems my creative block has been lifted while getting down and dirty in Battlefield Bad Company 2. I have no idea as to why, but the Frostbite Engine always inspired my creativity for some reason.

I have kind of have a weird mentality lately too; every game I play, it seems I find the flaws in Level Design. I love to look at other peoples' work and say "wow this is beautiful" or "hey, maybe I should attempt this". I used to play a game for the fun of it; now I seem to picking up on things such as structure, design, and everything.

Today I sat here and started playing The First Templar (for review), but I could not help but look at some of the flaws in the design and more specifically the level design.

For instance: barriers are meant to keep a player from going where they should not... not to keep them from running over a pile of rocks. I seem to have encountered these "barrier rocks" a ton in the game. Also, another thing that kind of irritates me is when a rock has Collision set to "NONE". If an arrow being shot at me can pass through a rock, wouldn't it be able to crush my tiny shield with ease? Now I understand the time-frame issue, along with workflow ect, but these types of things are what turn me off. It appeared that this is where an intersection is (2 Level Designers working on a massive world), while it is understandable, it shows me to really double check my own work. Because of this instance, I have found multiple issues in my own designs that could possibly be the death of my (hopefully) soon-to-be Level Design career.

When I spoke to some of the LD's at Treyarch about their designs, the one thing they all said to me was "for the love of God, double/triple/1,000 time check your work before sending it in a demo-reel." I noticed the one thing that happens with people designing in UDK, is that they do not thoroughly go through their entire layout to look for flaws.

In my re-build of "Assault On the Control Room", I found over 75 issues just in a small area; some of my BSP Brushes where not cleaned, or something was off center. If you play a game and look at a wall, and you see the same materials but they look distorted, this is what I had an issue with. After a ton of waiting, and figuring out how to fix it, I did eventually fix it.

The moral of that story is that it seems more and more that the LD community is not putting forth the effort to correct the issues that are presented to them.

A good example would be Bungie. You see when I played Halo 3 I was apart of this group called the HLG or Hidden League Gamers. My objective was to use the maps to my advantage. It took Bungie a long time to fix those exploits, which is why I wanted to become a Level Designer. Bungie made me realize that I want people to try to break my work so I can shatter their worlds. Now that may sound horrible, but it is the truth.

Back on track though, I would seriously work for free for any company so that I may be able to point some into a right direction. I am in no way knocking any Level Designers work, but it seems that some are forgetting a pivotal thing in their world: Player Experience. If the player does not like your world, then you are screwed. A poorly designed level or map has a chance to crush a game where it stands.

I will also say that I am in no shape to say what is right in the industry as I am not apart of it... yet. This is of course just my views.

Monday, May 16, 2011


So it has been a VERY long time since I last posted ANYTHING on Blogger, so I figured I should more than likely get on that.

Things have been going pretty meh as of late, I seem to be in this deep creative funk when it comes to what seems to be everything. Seriously I have been trying to sit here and design new levels, but damnit I cannot for the life of me think of anything. I used to be able to sit there and say to myself: this is what a player wants, this is what I (as a player) would like to see. Since I had no way of having someone demo my levels, or critique them, I left them be. I did occasionally go back and adjust them on a regular basis with new ideas.

Lately though, it seems things have been getting worse. I sat there for roughly 2 weeks trying to re-design Halo's best single-player level "Assault on the Control Room". Well I did get pretty far into it, then I hit a huge brick wall. I admit that I am not as advanced as my counterparts when it comes to this, but I just could not get the proportion that Bungie had established. Everything was off, maybe I am being way too picky when it came down to it I am not sure. My objective was to ONLY USE what was within Unreal Development Kit including: lighting, materials, textures, static meshes and the like. I know how to use 3Ds Max and Maya for meshes, but I wanted to stay true to the beauty that is the Unreal Engine. I am not saying that Bungie did not create a beautiful game, but let's face it; UDK is a beast.

On a side note, I recently have had the chance to get to know (on a personal level) some of the great personalities in the gaming industry. I got the chance to game with some of the Designers of Treyarch, and in the process met up with some guys from Volition Inc in the same game. Which was odd, since I was not expecting to see any more industry professionals while playing with other professionals. It was great though, I got to pick the brain of some really....really... um... fascinating people.

I have been trying to Network as well, but sometimes it is rather difficult to strike up a conversation with those that you do not know very well. Although, with some it is easier as they are actually interested in you lol.

I will post again in a couple days. See ya

Monday, January 24, 2011


I have to say one thing: it has been difficult.

To be rather honest this website of mine: plug has been taking up so much of my time. I really would like to make it a 9-5 thing, it is no doubt that i should. I have so much product coming in to review that it is unreal. In an average week i get in 4-5 new review material, and i am pushing out 2 reviews every other day.

I have to admit though, it does look good on the internet, and i am happy i have the opportunity to do this, but man does it take determination.

I worry that it is taking me away from my studies at school though. It is not like i cannot re-take a class if i fail, but failure is not a good option. I want to be a Game Designer but what i want more than anything is to be a Level Designer. It has been about a month since i last touched a level editing software (outside of a review) and that scares me. I have countless books and resources to follow but i still am just lost. I wish i had the focus to actually sit down and read the book, outside of a review.

I need to get back into XNA 4.0 and Unity, UDK and Hammer. I keep asking myself though: where is my drive? I had so much passion for designing a game, now it is just not there... someone have any words of encouragement?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Is it safe to say?

So i am curious, is it safe to say that i am a Halo fan? I mean who is not? If they say they are not, they are lying!


Games Played - 4,531
Kills - 62,368
Rank - 39 (yea, what i gold barred it!)
Number of Perfections - 8 (total)

Those are my online Halo 3 stats... Now i admit i did not play ODST as much as i should have, only because Bad Company 2 and Borderlands took my attention span.

Now with Reach out, Halo has once again proved that it requires my FULL attention. Since Tuesdays playlist update (SWAT!) i have been playing as much as i possibly can. Why? Its pretty safe to assume that Halo took the cake so far.

Although, when Medal of Honor comes out on the 12th i will be playing that. I think EA / DICE did a fantastic job designing the multiplayer. I don't care what beef people had with it (::cough:: Taliban ::cough::) i am still highly looking forward to another great game from EA.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


So i thought i would get this running again. I mean it has been since 2008 since i last used it.

I have been doing a lot since the last post, working with new 3d modeling programs, starting to get a better understanding of what makes a game world so great. I have looked deep into some of my favorite games that i have played throughout the years, broken them down to the core.

Everyday i talk to hundreds of different gamers online, each of them always say different things about what makes a level good. However, they all say the same things about what makes a level bad: complexity. If a level has too many building to enter and exit, or it has too many objective scattered around a great area; it gets too boring. Who wants to be running around in circles looking for your objective when you could be running around in circles firing your weapon trying to kill something?