In part two of our series, “The Longevity of Unreal Tournament,” we interview Lead Level Designer Dave Ewing. Dave is the creator of the extremely popular DM map, “Morpheus.” His other Unreal Tournament maps include, DM-Fractal, AS-Overlord, DOM-Condemned and CTF-Orbital.
Flak: How did you first get involved working on Unreal Tournament?
Dave Ewing: I worked on the original Unreal and when I started on Unreal Tournament, it was originally just supposed to be a ‘bot pack’ expansion pack to Unreal 1. After working on it for half a year, we realized how cool it was getting (and how big it was getting!) and decided we needed to bite the bullet and make it the full product it deserved to be. For me, I was just getting into Level Design. I had done sound effects for Unreal 1, and had been sounds and texture work for whatever was coming next at the time, but was really interested in level design.
With lots of help from my great friend Pancho Eekels, (CTF-LavaGiant) I busted out a couple of DM maps and showed them to Cliff. Looking back, they were terrible maps, (I suppose most ‘first’ maps are, haha) but Cliff saw potential I guess cause he let me keep working on them. For me that was when my work on Unreal Tournament really started.
When did you realize you had a huge hit on your hands?
DE: I think for me when I realized it was going to be big was when we started to add other game-types besides just Deathmatch. Deathmatch was getting really fun and would always be a staple, but zipping around with the translocator, assaulting underwater bases, and floating around in low-grav Instagib was all just so much damn fun! I couldn’t wait till the next impromptu playtest session each day and I just couldn’t imagine how anyone who bought the game wouldn’t feel the same way.
F: What did you think of the community’s response at the time?
DE: Obviously we were super pleased! When we realized we were getting to the point of being able to challenge Quake3 with regard to community size it was pretty special and meant tons of full servers for everyone. But as a Level Designer, to me the best part of the community response was all the amazing maps that got made and added to regular rotations on servers. It’s so great to see people pick up the tools and add to your game after it’s been released like that. In fact some of my best friends here at Epic were guys that came out of that community, so you could say I’ve benefitted both personally and professionally from the community’s response to UT.
F: Does it surprise you that there are still thousands of people who play the game regularly?
DE: Yes and no. When you mentioned that to me the other day it caught me off guard and brought a smile to my face. However, once I started thinking about it more, I started remembering the passion and amazing friendships that grew out of playing that game. It that respect it doesn’t surprise me at all that there are a bunch of good friends out there who get together and still play regularly.
F: What are one of your favorite memories of working on the game?
DE: So many great memories were of playtests where we’d be yelling (screaming) across the office at each other – it’s pretty tough to pick just one. I’d have to say it was the great atmosphere we had in the office. We were in some temporary offices in Cary that hadn’t been built out yet, so the entire team was in one big open room, working on fold out desks. It was such a communal spirit in there.
You could walk over at any time and see what someone was doing or call someone over to give advice really easily. I remember one time calling Tim Sweeney over to check something out. He was appalled to see I was still working on an old Pentium 266 – the next day I had a brand new Pentium 500 all tricked out by Intel (before the 500’s were even released to the public to buy). Oh, and during playtests, that room got LOUD.