Q&A with LDJ
Like RichDiesal, LivingDeadJedi is among the community's earliest mappers. He's known for having made a plethora of maps for both JKO and JKA. I got a chance to interview him.
Caelum: Hey LDJ, thanks for agreeing to do this interview.
LivingDeadJedi: *Crosses legs, straightens tie and tries to look all important*... no problem
Caelum: You've become well-known around the Jedi Knight community because of your many maps for JK2 as well as JK3. When did you first get into mapping? What motivated you to make these maps?
LivingDeadJedi: I first got into mapping a long long time… sorry bad pun. I first started mapping for the old Duke Nukem 3d game, on a Macintosh 7200 back in the early 1990s, while studying Graphic Design. Eventually I moved onto the same game but on the PC, and this got me hooked, but unfortunately it was very limited as to what I could achieve. So when Star Trek Elite Force was released, I jumped at the chance to make some better looking maps. Looking back now they are we’re very basic graphics wise with no meshes and everything was square, but people loved the layouts and I started to make a name for myself. I was lucky enough when JK2 was released to be the first to release a map for that ‘Carbon Freeze version 1’ with the help of a developer who worked for Raven Software, and the rest was history.
My Motivation was to push the mapping software to breaking point, as to how big I could make a map. Which JK3 enabled me to do, when the devs made the editor able to handle even larger maps. I guess I strive to make things better, as are evident in all my Cloud City and Episode 1 maps. I was also very impressed with my friend Sith J Culls Jabba’s Palace map, which is what I had always strived for. The other important thing was I didn’t make these maps for profit, what drove me was the enjoyment people get from fighting on a recreation of a movie set.
Caelum: You were among the first people mapping for Jedi Knight games: do you remember what the modding scene was like when you first began? Were there lots of people experimenting with mapping, or did it only take off at a later point? Do you feel the community changed a lot during your time in it?
LivingDeadJedi: To tell you the truth it has all blurred into history, there were a few mappers making incredibly detailed maps, which at the time I was in awe of. I remember thinking, “wow I wish I was that good” which kind of pushed me to get better, but I always thought my maps lacked certain details that others could achieve, this was probably because I couldn’t afford 3ds max or Maya at the time so I had to map just using GTK radiant which luckily had built in mesh creation. I seem to recall though a few people emailing me saying how I inspired them to start mapping, and I have always wondered what became of them, if they now make the games I play. I can’t recall how many of the now famous JK mappers there were at the time, I know I met Sith J Cull and Several Sided Sid and a guy who could make amazing textures ( I think he now works for a games company.) It really took off though once JK3 was released, with some really great maps being made, making use of very detailed shaders and stuff and allowed me to take my first tentative steps into making my own scripted events, such as the rotating laser doors in the Episode 1 map.
I think the community has grown a lot since I started, thanks to the very talented group of mappers, modders, character designers, texture artists etc, and the great people such as yourselves helping us by displaying our creations, but I noticed that our level designs are more widely known in the USA and Europe rather than the UK. I had mentioned my maps in games shops at the time, and they looked at me blankly.
I did notice though, before JK there were not a lot of levels that tried to recreate a Star Wars location as accurately as they could. At least not as far as I know, by professional games companies. Sure we had games based on the movies, but the Theed Hanger was no where near the same as the film. My aim was to try to make the levels that games companies were not, areas from the films which you could fight in, not just some random multiplayer setting. I like to think that us mappers influenced the games companies who saw our levels, it might have done seen as there was a Theed Power Generator map in JK3.
Caelum: A question from Turquoise Dragon: do you remember which of your maps was the most fun to make? What about which map was the hardest to make?
LivingDeadJedi: The most fun map I made was one that was never released on a major website, but it is available on yours. The single player map NEMESIS OF KATARN for JK2, which uses an updated version of my Carbon Freeze 2 freezing chamber and the pit where luke gets his hand chopped off. It was my first venture into making a Single Player level with better graphics and a few cutscenes.
Although it was a challenge to make, it was nowhere near what I had to do to make Episode 1 2004. It all seems very simple to do now for anyone reading this, but at the time getting those laser doors to rotate open in sequence took hours of trying and rendering again and again. In the previous map they had just opened sideways. You could say after Cloud City that was one of the maps I was obsessed with, having made countless versions for Elite Force and the JK games. Hopefully though it gave people inspiration to try to make it for themselves better than I did.
Another tricky part was getting the power generator catwalks designed without the use of a separate 3d program and just using BSP brushes and simple meshes in GTK Radiant, and to such a scale. The one thing I regret is that in the previous version the level had a lower area as seen briefly in the movie as it pans up to Maul fighting the Jedi. This area could be accessed by players, and it took them into the lower hanger. I did try and place this into the new version but the editor just died when trying to render it at the time, and the frame-rate suffered greatly.
Caelum: A question from Eezstreet: how did you get the name 'LivingDeadJedi' anyway?
LivingDeadJedi: When playing Elite Force, I was with a guild called XG, and one of my friends was called XGLivingdeadgurl, she had taken the name from a song of the same name. I started calling myself XGLivingdeadJedi as we were good friends it was something that was only meant to be for that game, but it stuck, people used to start called me Jed. The name before was so boring, it was just Jedi LOL (yeah great imagination at the time), but as the new name stuck with my maps, I didn’t really want to change it. Lord knows what I might have called myself O_o
Caelum: Have you ever had any favorite authors, maps, or other mods that you can still remember?
LivingDeadJedi: There was one guy, who kindly lent me the textures for my Ilum map, his name should be in the readme. I also paid tribute to him by matching his mapping style for areas of that level. Another is definitely Sith J Cull, I am still trying to be as good as him, and my other friend Several Sided Sid. Another one who I can’t recall was a guy who made a version of the DeathStar hanger and Throne room as I did, but I preferred his versions to mine *laughs*
Caelum: What have you been up to since you stopped mapping for Jedi Knight games? Have you ever had any urges to come back?
LivingDeadJedi: I have been loitering… err no lol. I have been sick with severe Crohns/Colitus for 3 years and had to leave work, but recently went back to Uni to study in BSc Hons in Computer Games Design part-time. I have finished the first year, and will be starting back soon to study 3ds max (at last) and animation. Most of the study in the first year was using the Unreal Tournament 3 engine, to make first a CTF level and then a Single player level, using the models in game but making your own particles, etc. As you can guess it was heavily influenced by Star Wars and deep deep pits, but I got to practice making near industry quality maps with realistic outdoor areas, and cutscenes. The other lecture was Games Design, where I had to write a concept for a lego game, using a lego figure provided by the lecturers. Overall I was very proud of myself, as I got a Grade 1 for both the Games Engines and Physics and Games Design. Just hope I can keep it up and not be lazy. Again though I found people would come up to me, even though none of us had used the Unreal software before, and ask me to help them solve a mapping problem they were having, this kind of made me think, that maybe I might be able to teach the subject eventually. As my main aim has always been to inspire people.
If you want to see my current work, it’s not available online as I can’t find a place to host it at the moment. You can goto my online portfolio/blog at:- http://philslevels.blogspot.co.uk/
Caelum: Now, perhaps the most important question of all, from MUG: ketchup, brown sauce, or BBQ sauce?
LivingDeadJedi: Oh dear… Well Ketchup is my fave, or maybe I can have all three mixed together *laughs* actually I think I did that once…
Caelum: Okay, that's everything. Thanks again!