The People

Dave E

Level Designer

Joining us by leg from Plymouth, Devon, England comes Dave. He insists that Devon is a peaceful green land of cows, sheep and pastry products, little suspecting that we know for a fact that it's a desolate urban wasteland infested with sharks and moose and moose-sharks.

Dave has terrified us all with his enormous eyebrows (with a wingspan comparable only to the Albatross), which encompass much of downtown Plymouth and had to be offered a separate contract. His hobbies include such frankly unsuitable activities as exercise and being outdoors, defenceless underneath Scary Mr. Sky. He used to play golf at county level, but before being grabbed by the PC games octopus. Dave is children-coloured, and can eat up to twelve mousemats an hour without requiring a Ctl+Alt+Del reboot.

Things You Were Too Afraid To Ask...

Every once in a while, we interrogate one of our own and put their answers up for all the world to see. Read on to find out more about what Dave does, how he ended up at Splash Damage, and more.

What do you do at Splash Damage?

As a member of the level design team, I work on constructing game levels for our current game. Before that begins, we work with the artists and other designers to roughly pin down, among other things, the map's theme, missions for the player(s) and game flow. Once that's done, we produce a playable map, mostly in grey block-out form. After this comes a lot of play-testing, toying with as many new ideas as possible and refining the map into something ready to be 'prettied up' by the environment art team.

Why did you want to work in the games industry and how did you get started? Do you have any tips for people wanting to break in?

I first got into FPS games when a friend lent me a copy of Half-Life back in the day, but didn't really get into the level design side of things until Soldier of Fortune 2 and Return to Castle Wolfenstein came out. After some custom levels and work on some mods (and not a lot of work on my degree), I decided to try and pursue level design full time.

One tip in particular for people trying to break into the industry is to try and have a focused (not necessarily big) portfolio of complete work, rather than a whole bunch of unfinished projects. If you're applying for a level design position, it really is better to see just one really fun, polished map as opposed to a dozen mediocre ones across several games that also prove you can make textures and models. Nowadays there is little need for level designers to produce art assets, so don't worry about being a jack-of-all-trades kind of person. Just focus on making something fun. Back in the Quake 3 engine days, it was a quite important for level designers to make textures and 3D assets, but not so much any more. However, gameplay is still king!

Why did you join Splash Damage?

Being an FPS fan more than anything else and liking Splash Damage's work on Return to Castle Wolfenstein (and then Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory), it made sense to apply here. :)

Of all the work you did for Enemy Territory: QUAKE Wars, what are you most proud of?

Once all the mechanics of ETQW were pretty much finalized, all the tools and items were in, and stuff was getting polished, being able to put together some infantry-centric maps for the game towards the end was pretty fun. I think they went down well. It was good to have some maps for the RTCW and ET players. Every game needs some kind of beach assault map! :) The submarine map from RTCW was always a fun and frantic for me, especially on defense. Trying to incorporate that kind of game play into Salvage was very fun.

What are the best and worst parts of your job?

Prototyping and play testing can be very rewarding. You're never making anything pretty here and much of the stuff is throwaway, but you learn a whole lot during that process. The worst part can be throwing away something that you didn't expect to. But in the end it's always good to do that if something isn't fun or isn't salvageable. We threw away an awful lot of levels during ETQW's development as the game changed so much. Almost all of the levels that shipped were put together during the last 18 months or so.

What's the meaning behind your nickname?

Currently in-game it's Davros, but only because some of the other guys started calling me it. It isn't because of Dr Who. :)

What was your first gaming experience?

My first gaming experience was my Spectrum 48k. I can't remember the game in particular, but it was set in grave yards with a knight who threw his lance at the undead (probably Ghouls'n'Ghosts -Rich). That was great. Doom on the Nintendo was also one of the first.

What types of games do you like, and what's your favourite game of all time?

I tend to play FPS games but also have enjoyed playing co-op on the recent Lego games, and some Wii here and there. The DS passes a lot of time on the Tube and I'm still trying to beat an A- on Brain Academy. I'm going to be original here and call the Half-Life series my favourite games!

What do you enjoy doing when you're not at work?

When not forced to watch Friends or Sex and the City, I like to play guitar, though apparently its 'just noise'. I also enjoy the odd game of golf when I'm back home the in the west country and in a gentlemanly kind of mood. Also do some cycling here and there.