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Doom 64 Interview Conducted by Firebrandx in January 2003







The following is an email interview I conducted with level designers Timothy Heydelaar and Randy Estrella:

- - -

Firebrandx:

First, I'd like to thank you guys very much for getting together and taking the time for this interview. Doom 64 was one of those (N64) games that many people consider to be in their top 10 best games list. I myself was blown away by the game, having just come off of hundreds of hours of PSX Dooming (another legendary conversion). What struck me right out of the gate was the stunning visual usage of colors and effects, which I'd like to talk about later. Let's start off with some preliminary questions:



Question #1:

How did each of you get involved in level designing for the console Doom conversions?

Tim:

Well, myself and for Randy and Dan too, it started mostly due to the fact that we loved playing Doom - especially DM (shock). That drove us to create our own levels once we found the tools online. We mostly built levels to outdo each other (and to DM them of course) - I think that's why we learned so quick. Bragging rights only lasted that day usually. :) Eventually the company got the rights to Doom and given what we knew about the game by then, they chose us to begin editing for PSX Doom.

Randy:

"Editing" for PSX Doom started out as straight conversion of the levels, and turned into the company letting us put a couple levels in. BTW, PSX Doom: If you zoom out, you'll see "re" (my initials). As for the other secret... ah.. what's in a name...


Question #2:

Were you big fans of the PC Doom games?

Tim:

Oh yeah. Who wasn't? I bought my first computer strictly to play and edit Doom levels! Ah, my jammin' DX2-66 with 8mb RAM.

Randy:

I had a SX-25 with a Overboost chip (or something like that) that made it a whopping dx-50 and 4mb RAM. Needless to say, still loved the game and had fun playing it constantly. SIDE STORY: When Doom first came out, we were all hardcore Doomers who played with just the KEYBOARD... let's just say after a visit to ID we soon learned the wonders of the mouse.


Question #3:

What were your favorite levels from the PC Doom games?

Tim:

Can't remember the names really but we loved to DM Downtown (level 13). MANY late nights, and modem battles in that level. The 'infinite' player heightquirk provided many entertaining kills in that level. :)

Randy:

Oh yes, level 13 couldn't be beat. Level 7? (the one even simpler was based on) was fun for frag fests. Idbest01 was also quite enjoyable for a while. Level 13 was the level me and Tim would play till the sun came up.


Question #4:

What was the hardest aspect of making Doom 64?

Tim:

Trying to make Doom feel fresh again. It was 1997 after all and Quake was around.

Randy:

... feel fresh again... without the same monsters too. Also, for me, it was making levels look cool. I loved putting in gameplay, but when it came to texturing it and putting in cool geometry, that was the hard part.


Question #5:

Many people missed the Chaingunners, Revenants, Spider Masterminds, and Arch Viles that were left out of Doom64, Were these cut for memory concerns?

Tim:

Yep. The Arch Vile was especially HUGE.

Randy:

...Revenants... I love revenants.


Question #6:

Speaking of monsters, the redesigned look of many of the monsters had mixed reviews from players. I personally loved them, but what are your views on how they came out and what other ideas (if any) did you guys have for the monster sprites?

Tim:

We weren't in charge of monster design. Some decisions were based on cart space, and others, well, I'll leave it at that...

Randy:

I'm not saying either.


Question #7:

Of the Doom64 levels, what are each of your personal favorites?

Tim:

I like Unholy Temple simply because it had some hectic script work. But I mostly enjoyed the carnage and pacing of levels like Even Simpler. I can't say what my favorites would be because I can't remember the merits of most these days.

Randy:

Ditto. Boy... I'm really tempted to open up my free copy and start playing it again just to find out... I searched for some screenshots to refresh my memory, but couldn't find any.


Question #8:

Which levels were the hardest to finish the design of?

Tim:

None that I can remember. Thanks to each of us playing each others levels daily, not to mention our test department, etc always commenting, things went smooth and progressed fast.

Randy:

I remember being really enthusiastic about designing. Aaron was very good at putting stuff in that we wanted. The fakie 3-D stuff was cool and fun to put in where-ever. I remember Dan and his stairs...


Question #9:

Question from Elbryan: I remember when the preview shots were shown in magazines, there were some Egyptian-type levels that were scrapped. What happened with the old levels and textures? Did any get carried over to the final product?

Tim:

All that was during prototyping and based on the original concept. VERY early stuff. I've still got my Nintendo Power and E3 handout showing those pics :)


Question #10:

One of the other aspects of what made the Doom console games so great was the brilliant music tracks made by Aubrey Hodges. Has he ever considered releasing the tracks on CD or would Midway own the rights to that?

Tim:

Midway owns it - but that's not to say some of us don't have CDs Aubrey made of the music :) PSX Doom was great in that regard - we all loved the ambience it provided.

Update 2016:

Aubrey Hodges would go on to start his own web page and offers digital downloads of his soundtracks, including those from Doom, Final Doom, and Doom 64. His web site is http://www.aubreyhodges.com/


Question #11:

Did you guys have input or approval of the music tracks made for your levels?

Tim:

Aubrey did it all himself - there was no need for input. He knew what he wanted and went straight for it. As for assigning tracks to levels, I can't remember really. Maybe some were shifted around dependant on input, but I believe most were assigned by him?

Randy:

yeah.. I don't remember ever assigning them... I almost want to say we just laid the levels out by difficulty/theme and the music just fell into place.


Question #12:

Was there anything you wanted to add to the game that never made it to the final product?

Tim:

Multiplayer. More levels as well, but cart space was an issue already.

Randy:

Multiplayer. That way I could own Tim in Doom, Doom2, PSX Doom, Final Doom and Doom64 :) IPPON!


Question #13:

Concerning the weapon animations, several frames were missing (such as the super shotgun loading frames) were these removed to save on memory as well?

Tim:

I believe so. I can't remember for sure, but just as in the monsters, we had no input in that department either...


Question #14:

Could each of you list the levels you personally worked on for Doom64?

Tim:

Sure - for time reasons, I'll answer in comma'd format (R,D,T style) starting at Level 1.
I'm about 90% sure on these.
R,R,D,R,T,D,T,R,R,D,D,T,T,D,R,R,D,R,T,R,T,R,T,R.
R(cat-n-mouse),D(hardcore),T(playground),R(last level).
D,D,T (the 3 secret levels).
Hectic was done by all of us. We each made a room. Dan made the Hell Knight room, Randy was the falling pit/spawning monster room and I did the elevator room.

Randy:

I'll go with what Tim says above, he's got the strat guide.


Question #15:

Did effects like the darts take up sprite memory reserved for monsters (thus why some monsters were missing)?

Tim:

No. They were very small. Believe me, we didn't want to lose any monsters, but cart space dictated alot.


Question #16:

Was software specifically made for designing the Doom64 levels, or did you guys use more widely known doom2 wad editors?

Tim:

All custom. Needed to be given how much we added to the engine and editing side. For a nice plug though, DCK was AWESOME (but liked to crash a lot) and DEU was fantastic as well. So simple, and so solid.

Randy:

Aaron did the editor (DEX). He did it pretty quickly if I remember correctly.


Question #17:

How were the colored sectors implemented? Was each sector given a specific color value?

Tim:

I believe sectors had seperate floor and ceiling values, hence the gradations you saw in Doom64. However, I swear we also had control on a per line basis as well (meaning just wall, no floor/ceiling). PSXdoom just had a single value per sector.

Randy:

NO RED AND GREEN! IT LOOKS LIKE XMAS! heheh :)


Question #18:

One of the textures we discovered in the game code had the message "I suck at making maps", what's the story behind this?

Tim:

hahahahm. Yeah... no comment. Would love to, but, won't.

Randy:

Fine. I'll comment. Artist creates textures. We create levels. Level no have texture, level tells us so. Basically, one of us missed texturing that spot. Who was it? Probably me.


Question #19:

Some areas like Main Engineering had multiple actions that can't be done under one trigger in Doom2. Did Doom 64 use the Hexen scripting method?

Tim:

Nope. Custom again. It was a scripting setup much like basic. Aaron wrote each linedef action we asked him for - that gave us the power to script some cool events by stringing those actions together. Aaron and us LD guys all designed the system and how it would work, but Aaron was responsible for writing it and making it work so damn well. For the engine, it was awesome.

Randy:

Scripting was the best thing to happen to Doom64. Gave us alot more creative freedom since they took away our monsters.


Question #20:

Were there any levels cut from the final version of Doom64?

Tim:

Good question. I can't remember at all.

Randy:

I'm sure there were. We had a buncha levels. They may not have been finished/polished, but I do remember having some that were deemed not good enough. Most were just little fun ones to pass time.


Question #21:

Have you guys ever made PC Doom wad maps before?

Tim:

Ya. That's how we started. I've still got some of mine I believe.

Randy:

I made a few. I still have one based on the last level with the CyberDemon. I put some mankies, archies and revenants in it for fun though. I play it every now and then to see if "I still got it".


Question #22:

Has any thought been given to a Doom64 sequel or perhaps an updated version for a current console? (I assume Midway would be the stopper on that).

Tim:

There was one in the works, but it was short lived. Doom had seen it's prime by then.

Randy:

Brings tears to my eyes. Those were the real good 'ol days. Dark room. K-BEST95. Just pumping out levels.


Question #23:

Did the laser rifle turn out the way you wanted, or were there other ideas originally planned for that?

Tim:

I can't remember really. What I do remember is we definitely wanted you to earn "full power" mode. Each artifact would grant you more power making finding the secret levels more important.

Randy:

I remember it being almost an afterthought. We wanted a new weapon, but seriously.. what can beat the BFG?


Question #24:

How about the Mother Demon? Were there other ideas tossed around for her?

Tim:

Same answer as 13. We had no input in monster design. We did get some say in how she acted however.


Question #25:

I spoke with Aaron Seeler about the original Doom64 title of "The Absolution". He mentioned it was originally a much more ambitious project that ended up being a struggle to finish. Can you guys elaborate on what the plans were and how things changed as you went along?

Tim:

It's a long story. Good and bad times like most development. Aaron is correct though - it started out almost completely different, but alot of that was during the prototype phase. Things changed, and Doom64 evolved.

Randy:

I'm happy to see the interest in the game. We loved making it and probably wish we could have kept going for years. We were a good team.

Firebrandx:

Gentlemen, I can't thank you enough for taking time out to answer these questions! I know you have expressed interest in playing the Doom64 PC conversion as I have, so we we all be waiting with anticipation when the project is finished. The original Doom64 will always hold a special place in my favorite gaming memories!

Update 2016:

"Kaiser" would later develop a PC-based conversion called Doom 64 EX. His web site is https://doom64ex.wordpress.com/




Bonus Material:

There's a secret in Doom 64 that no one has found yet! I have yet to unlock it, but maybe you can. Here's what Tim has said about it, word for word:

Tim:

The secret we can't remember how to do in Doom64 was in the level "Breakdown". All I remember is that therewere 3 (I think) 'switches' you had to hit in order, then go to the room with the Red Key. That's where it played I believe. The last switch may even be in that room... I think another invisible switch was in the small (hidden?) room with the BFG. Again, the switch is invisible, it was on a wall that looked normal, but functioned like a switch. Perhaps when you've found a 'switch' wall, the character does not go "mmph!" ?? Would be a good indicator that you found it if it's true. The other was indeed most likely in the red key room. Probably on one of the pillars facing the 'secret' message. I can't remember where the other was - but I think I'm at least 80% sure the other 2 I mentioned are correct.





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