If you think about "Knee-Deep in ZDoom", Vader is one of the first things that come to your mind. He has won the "Mapper of the Year 2008" title in the last "Annual Cacowards" and that was definitely for a reason. Vader is the proof of concept, that Doom is capable to produce maps that can easily compete with architectural detail found in newer generations of games and that it is actually possible to create totally new Doom monsters that fit seemingless into the world of Doom, someone might think they were drawn by id software's very own but just forgotten to be implemented in Doom 2. Currently he is one of my comerades in the ongoing development phase of "The Shores of ZDoom" and "Stronghold" but I also consider him as a good friend of mine.... yes, we german's always stick together, sometimes against the rest of the world. I took the opportunity today and got myself some answers that I thought might be interesting for you as well. If you agree, just read on and get your cookies.
Most of the active people in the Doom community only know you from your more recent Doom projects like Thunderpeak, Knee-Deep in ZDoom and the currently in development Shores of ZDoom. But there have been already other ambitious projects before these, like Castle Nevermore and The Rebirth, both released in 2004, long before Knee-Deep in ZDoom. So, can you tell us something about how your first experience with Doom was and what made you do your first maps?Vader
My first contact with Doom was back when it was released, but I've been too young to play it myself (according to my Dad), so I had to watch my older brothers playing it. I was fascinated from the start, but it took years before I even got to know that making maps for this game is possible. I had a lot of experience with mapping for other games when I finally picked up DCK and started work on The Rebirth. A dream came true at that time!
So what other games did you work on before? I guess when you started with The Rebirth, there have been already plenty of games with a better graphic and more possibilites from a mapper's perspective, so why Doom actually?Vader
The first FPS that I was mapping for was DukeNukem3D and I can tell you, the results where more than horrible. Eventually I got better and more familliar with the whole editing process (after a while) and moved on to ShadowWarrior, Blood and later Quake2 and Unreal. However, although those games are all graphically more enhanced than Doom, they didn't gave me that special feel I had when playing. In the end, all my maps I made (almost never completed one though) for those games always tried to emulate the "Doom-feeling" and that didn't turn out too well. By accident I found DCK on the internet and was finally able to map for the game I always wanted to in the first place.
So there is at least one reason more for many Doomers out there, that DCK was actually created :-) Now comparing your work from 2004 with your most recent maps, the difference is outstanding. The Rebirth is already a very solid Doom megawad but your work with Thunderpeak or Blackrock is pushing the Doom mapping standards to the limits. What do you think made you improving in such a strong way in the past few years?Vader
I think the main reason is my constant interest in the whole map-design aspect. It's a thing that keeps me interested since I'm a little kid, when I was creating my own "jump and run games" by drawing the maps, monsters and everything else on paper (I know I'm weird). Another reason is propably that I'm quite a perfectionist and very self-critical. Sometimes that can also get into the way, for example when you're trying to come up with a nice design for a room, but you just aren't pleased with the result, no matter how many times you try. Usually it works for me though I guess :-)
That's certainly interesting... that's what I did as well when I was younger - drawing my own platformers on a paper being inspired by games like Keen or Secret Agent. Now I'd be curious what AgentSpork or Esselfortium did when they where younger ... :-) ... nevermind, for something more concrete in terms of mapping: The Mappers Block. Everyone knows it and it's one of the most evil things related to mapping next to a hd crash. What I - and most propably many other people would like to know - what do you do in such a situation? Any tips, tricks or suggestions?Vader
That's really a hard question, as everyone propably needs to find his/her own method of getting over a mappers block! I think a good idea is to focus on something different for some time. For me, playing a bit Diablo2, making some music or simply taking a walk can already help. Another good thing is to get yourself some feedback on what you've done so far, as either positive feedback can help to get you motivated again and negative (as in: constructive critism) even more so, because you want to get rid of those flaws, wich automatically throws you back into the loop of mapping... at least this is how it works for me :-)
Speaking of "Vader-Music", one of your other well-known talents next to textures, mapping and propably also music is your sprite skill. Actors like the Hell Warrior and the Shadow are only two of a long list. How did you get started as a sprite artist and what makes your monsters so damn convincing?Vader
Heh, first of all I don't consider myself to be a musician (I'm playing guitar though). Sure, there have been some (crappy) tracks in Rebirth, but it was more of an experiment. I'll maybe get back into making music one day and try to improve my skills. As with mapping, creating my own monsters also have been a long-time dream of mine, so I also invest a lot of time into it... I guess it's all just practice :-P The fact that my monster look "Doomish" as some may say (and wich I also like to believe), is propably just because I always loved the artwork in Doom and Doom2, wich obviously has influenced me a lot. Another great source of inspiration in that regard has been Diablo (not 2), as I think the monster-design and atmosphere of that game are very similar to Doom. Before I had the chance to actually make sprites that could come alive through DECORATE, I was trying to draw my own monsters directly into screenshots taken in Diablo... I guess that also helped a bit to adapt the whole style.
Another person that instantly comes to my mind when speaking of custom Doom actors and sprites is Eric "Eriance" Ou (Demon Eclipse). Is there anything you could learn from him or anything that could be improved in his creations in terms of sprite design?Vader
I really don't like to compare myself to Eriance, as we both have quite different styles, but I guess I'll have to nonetheless :-). His art is more Manga-inspired if I may say so and although I'm not really into that, some of his drawings and concepts are something that makes me drop my jaw... he's really good at that and I think I definitely learn from him in that area! His concepts for Demon Eclipse are also more than awesome! However, to be completely honest; when it comes to actual sprite work, I have to say that his style often doesn't work all that well with the existing Doom art. What he does is still top-quality, but sometimes tend to look 'cartoony' in my eyes. So yes in all modesty, I'd say I'm a step ahead of him in that regard :-) Weapon sprites are a completely different story though.
That was at least a fair answer for a mean question :-) From the little details we will talk about some larger scaled issues now. You have been working on several big projects now, KDiZD and ZPack to mention the most recent and successful ones but you are also part of the TSoZD team and the Vaporware team. Regarding your experience with these, what do you think is important to have a successful project in such an ambitious scale like these?Vader
Hmm, that's really hard to tell. The most important thing is propably having a defined goal, a plan of what you want to do and how you're going to achieve it. Things can really go into the wrong direction if you don't know what you're going for and where to set the limits. Just look at how KDiZD stagnated because there were so much cool ideas, but nobody motivated to begin work on this large pile of concepts. Fortunately it worked out nonetheless :-) The second most important thing is a motivated team and the communication between the members IMO. Things are not likely to turn out well if everyone holds back their opinions or refuse to share what progress they're making. I think this is what keeps people motivated and focused on what they want to do! Of course a Doom-project team isn't a game-company with a set time-table and budget, so it's propably also a good idea to not take this too seriously. It's our hobby after all!
That's indeed true! Now concerning your own mapper's career again, have there been any mods or persons in the community that particularly influenced your mapping style? And on top of that, what are you really looking forward to that isn't even in development yet - some kind of "Björn's most wanted project"?Vader
I have to say that your TCotD and TNT maps had a huge influence on me. After all, these have been the projects that got me interested in Zdoom mapping! After playing through them, I just had to get to know how the custom monsters and other special effets where done. Next to that, I don't think there have been many Doom maps that particulary inspired me, although things like Agent Spork's Simplicity, Eriance's DE and Espi's SiD definitely had an influence on me too. I think I draw more inspiration from other games as Unreal or Quake/Quake2 tough. As for projects I'm looking forward to, I have to admit that I'm not much of a player anymore. Except for playtesting, I rarely get to go through a map on a whole. There is some stuff I'm really interested in seeing though. For one there is of course Demon Eclipse episode3, wich is propably one of my all-time favorites. KdiKDiZD is also one impressive project and I can't wait to see where it is going, as well as I'm curious about Dutch Devil's in progress Megawad. Finally there is also Stronghold, wich I also contributed to as you know.
Makes me proud to hear that from the Mapper of the Year 2008 :-) Speaking of the deserved title you got in the last year's Annual Cacowards, what did that mean for you? Did you expect something like this happen or was it a huge surprise?Vader
It was a total surprise for me! I knew ScubaSteve really liked my maps, especially Thunderpeak, so I was hoping to get an award for that or at least a honorable mention to be honest, but when I finally got to read the Cacowards, I was completely shocked :-D It doesn't happen very often, but I felt quite proud that day! The only downside of this is that I now have to keep up with that title... I have a reputation to loose ;-)
Heh, yeah, but no need to be nervous. With what I saw so far from Vaporware and TSoZD, there is no need to worry. Now for the final questions, what is the mysterious eye all about? And why Vader? And not Bobjet anymore?Vader
Good question :-) I think I just have an obsession with eyeballs (yes, I already had before seeing the Zerg Overmind) and eyes in general. I think it is just a beautiful and amazing body-part... very useful as well :-P Bobjet has been a very old nickname I made up when I was in school and got into first contact with the english language. I thought it had a nice sound to it back then, but later realized that it's somewhat ridiculous. The nick Vader, came to me when I was playing Blood in Deathmatch mode with a couple of friends and I couldn't think of a good name. Eventually I just picked my favorite movie-character and removed the Darth in front, I know, somewhat unoriginal, but whatever. Somehow I got used to it very quickly and it just felt right, so I kept it from then on.
At least we finally know where you got that from :-) Now to please Captain Ventris: Do you prefer boxers or briefs? ;-)Vader
Okay Björn, thanks a lot for sharing your time with us, the interview was very detailed and very interesting and I am sure there are a lot of people who will agree while reading this.Vader
My pleasure, thanks for your interest ;-)
It was a pleasure to watch into the mind of a genious who is one of the most well-reputated people in the community. We are looking forward to his future work, especially towards The Shores of ZDoom, keep it coming my friend!