Joining us from the yawning maw of Chris, our Calm Canopic Clam comes Jamie. Sewn together from a billion buttons with kapok twine, Jamie brings a strong array of skills to the Splash Damage tent, and an even wider array of carpet samples, and gosh you just won't believe how many iced buns. We're knee-deep in bunnage here now. And ice. It's awesome.
Jamie's previous jobs have included plongeur at a moth bistro, flume swab, kapok sorter and Duke of Kent. He casts no shadow, but then it’s dark in here, none of us do. He usually dresses in rich russet taffeta sacking, and sports a jaunty cauldron upon his head which conceals a splendid glittering diamond-encrusted inner beret. It is this inner beret that the Wallaby has sworn to destroy, by any means. Long story. His hobbies include leaping, sowing, hoeing, rowing and carving rusks. He'll be along in just a few minutes, he's sorting out the OatMen. Won't take long. Seriously, take a seat, would you like a - ah, here he is...
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 Jamie does, how he ended up at Splash Damage, and more.
What do you do at Splash Damage?
I am a level designer, I think. I’m not sure what I do. I just wandered past Splash Damage one day and some nice people came out, took me in, put me in a chair, handed me a mouse (which I promptly petted) and let me do my thing. Since that fateful morn’ I’ve been happily organizing cubes, rectagons and octoshapes into pleasant arrangements, which they tell me are called ‘levels’.
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?
Even though I’ve always wanted to be in the games industry, I’ve never really considered about joining in. To me, level designers are probably the most obscure of all the job positions, where each developer has different methods of designing and creating their levels, from in house tools, to industry standard modelling programs. I guess that put me off from applying to anywhere, as I was just as happy using what I wanted to use as far as I wanted to learn it.
But it seems that I was in fact, wrong, as it took an invitation from the almighty Steve Gaffney to finally drill it into my head that maybe, just maybe it wasn’t all about what tools you used; but how you do it. So here I am, ready and willing to fight for the cause of Splash Damage. Tally ho!
As for those still wanting to break in, from a level designer point of view, I will have to reiterate like many others that if you enjoy doing it, then that’s the best route. Make a portfolio of your work, if not, join a big gaming community that can play your maps. The closer the community is to a developer, the better. The simple idea behind the portfolio or community is to get your work out to the masses!
Why did you join Splash Damage?
I joined Splash Damage in a heartbeat because they granted me the opportunity to work in the games industry. Also, once I met most of the people in my interview, I knew this was going to be a great company to work with.
What are the best and worst parts of your job?
Simply being able to do something I love, which in turn, supports my living is what I really love about this job. Before this, I had to work in another job in order to sustain my interest in level design. Here, I can do it unrestrained and without worry!
The worst thing is that I still have to stop to eat though.
You created cp_steel for Team Fortress 2, a rather unique map that ended up being released in one of the official game updates. What's the basic concept behind steel and long did it take you to put it together?
The magnificent maze that is cp_steel!
The idea for cp_steel grew around the Christmas season. My brother came over for the festivities and one night while I was messing around with the Hammer Editor. He watched and started asking me all sorts of questions about making levels, how far can you go with objectives and if it was possible to do it in Team Fortress 2. After a few hours of advanced banter, we came up with some really stupid ideas, but a couple really hung on to me.
So after a little refinement, I had the basic plan for a map which was like cp_Gravelpit, but with a little more incentive for capturing the points. Plus, I thought that having an always achievable main goal (point E) might be a the clincher to an interesting map. The obvious drawback was that the map would be too hard to defend. So a huge pit was lavishly presented around this point creating a fantastic set-piece that also acted as a solution to my initial problem.
After about 6 months of Constructing and nearly constant testing, cp_steel was ready for the public release. After another 2 months of public input, the map was finally plucked by Valve and everything slotted into place from then on!
Soon after, I made another simpler map – cp_freight – in about a month. This goes to show how making a map with a new game-play style can take so much longer than making a simpler map with a tried and tested game-play variant. However, the feeling of achievement increases in orders of magnitude!
What was your first gaming experience?
I remember having an Atari 7800 when I was a young ‘un. I think my parents bought it for my older brother and themselves as purchasing an Atari was all the rage back then. Games like Frostbite, H.E.R.O and Dark Chambers still rattle vibrantly in my head, I also distinctly remember that Asteroids booted up if there was no cartridge in there! WOW!
I think my love for games, and indeed design, stemmed from when I first played SimCity. Once a fan, always a fan!
What types of games do you like, and what's your favorite game of all time?
Most well put together design and strategy based games are my favourite. Games with built in design tools were quickly snapped up. Theme Park and Hospital, Sim City, Civilization, Evil Genius, RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 and a plethora of other games of the like. I also have all the Sims 2 expansions as well, which I am somewhat ashamed to say. I just like to build houses I guess, playing the game allows me to study the flow of the houses I build. Well… that’s my excuse.
What do you enjoy doing when you're not at work?
Catching up on the many fantastical series that come from the American States that are United. House and Dexter; can’t get enough of them! Either that or playing games - Win Win!
What's the meaning behind your nickname?
A bus… FOR FISH!?
If you have any questions you'd like to ask Jamie, feel free to post them in the comments below. Our forum-trained tapirs will try to answer as many of them as possible.