Today I am joined with my first of many guests, R.T Frisk, creator of the popular Left-4-Dead 2 campaign Suicide Blitz 2. You can download his campaign at l4dmaps.com and find more information on his website.
Brian Riggsbee: How did you originally get involved in game development?
R.T. Frisk: Well, it all started with Doom 3 actually. I fired up those tools not knowing what to expect, and ended up making my first room out of some gooey, flesh looking walls. Not as gratifying as I had hoped. Pretty crappy actually but it did open the door of mapping to me. After that, I did some mapping in Battlefield 2, F.E.A.R. and Crysis. I did these mostly to write tutorials for others.
BR: What are some of your all-time favorite games?
RTF: Let's see: Half-Life series, Starsiege Tribes, Asheron's Call, Portal series, Battlefield 1942, and Psychonauts just to name a few!
BR: What about L4D/L4D2 drew you into playing them, initially?
RTF: Zombies and co-op! When I first heard that this was going to be a reality, I was immediately hooked. Not to mention the great atmosphere they created with No Mercy when I first played the demo. It didn't take much, I was hooked very quickly.
BR: Tell us a little bit about your inspiration for Suicide Blitz 2. Is it based on any real locations?
RTF: In between all the games I mapped for previously (and Left 4 Dead), I tinkered around with Source quite a bit. Made some CS and Half-Life maps mostly for fun. So when I heard that there was a zombie co-op game coming out, I KNEW I needed to map for it. When I started on Suicide Blitz for L4D, I just wanted to make an urban style map with some locations that had some familiarity. So Suicide Blitz started out pretty basic. Basic city, and some underground parts not too different from the original L4D series. This always bugged me, so when I heard about L4D2 coming out, I knew I could go back and really spruce up my campaign how I originally wanted to. So with that in mind, I went through every single map and revamped it. There are definitely some real-world references in the campaign. Map 2: The Riverwalk, is based on the Riverwalk in San Antonio, Texas. Granted it is loosely based off of it, but it is a massive influence in the design and look. The bowling alley is based off this old bowling alley in Houston I used to bowl in when I was younger. The police station/jail is based off some pictures and artist renditions I found on the web. The Stadium is a bit of a mish-mash of different stadiums I had been to growing up. The ramps that lead up to the upper levels is based on the Astrodome outer ramps and the concourse area is based off the Astrodome as well. Even one area on map 4 is based off a scene from 'The Walking Dead'. Basically, I like to use real-world locations as either inspiration or accuracy, albeit they are not always perfectly copied.
BR: What is your favorite feature in SB2?
RTF: Probably the train ride! I always loved the idea of having a cinematic escape scene that was live action. This map was originally intended to be entirely fought in such a manner, but proved too difficult with the nav. So I settled for this little scene instead.
BR: What aspects of development did you find to be challenging when creating SB2?
RTF: Optimization for sure. People tend to list NAV I have noticed when being asked that, but I really found the optimization to be the most challenging given the amount of custom content I wanted to include. I learned a lot in doing this, so no regrets.
BR: When creating a campaign for L4D2, what is your general process like?
RTF: First, I just thought over the campaign for a couple of weeks. After some ideas started to come to me, I started taking notes and doing some rough outlines of how I wanted the levels to turn out. I always wanted to try and do a switch off of different fighting areas. Basically, close quarter and a more open area fighting. Once I had a good grasp on how I wanted the levels to go, I would then start the mapping process. I didn't always map SB(2) in a straight line. I would often jump around from map to map to keep my brain on its toes as well as break up the monotony of mapping on the same level extensively. Plus when I went back and looked at a map I had previously been working on, it seemed more "fresh" to me. Always good to take a break, if only from ONE of the maps. After a map's building stage was done, I would go through and detail it. I used to try and make navigation on the go as I was making these maps, but proved annoying to edit the nav whenever I added player level details. Detailing would be an ongoing thing even after I thought I was done. Oh and then more detailing, and then MORE... well you get my drift. I could probably talk about this for a week so I will compress it the best I can.
1. Brainstorming layout and overall theme of the campaign
2. Level Design - Co-op, VS and other game modes
5. PLAYTESTING A LOT - By myself and others
6. Taking the feedback from playtesting and implementing
7. Getting a working alpha/beta and first release for testing
8. More playtesting
Summarizing years of work into 8 points seems so easy!
BR: If you could request any features for L4D3, what would they be?
RTF: This one is tough. I like the recipe for gameplay that Valve achieved with the L4D series, but would love to see a bit more immersion in a L4D3 version. More NPCs, more assets by default, more characters to choose from, Workshop being available from the get go with A LOT of cloud space and for the game to be designed so custom content can be easily implemented from the start. I could probably think of more things but these are important to me.
BR: What are some things you learned about the Hammer editor that you wish you knew earlier?
RTF: Utilizing the crap out of hotkeys and if one doesn't exist, creating my own via script in Autohotkey.
BR: Are you working on any new projects right now?
RTF: I am currently working on a Portal 2 "campaign" if you will, that I want to release through the workshop. It is going well, and I will be releasing it this year.
BR: If the zombie apocalypse were to happen, what would be your plan for survival?
RTF: Ah ha! So you want my super-secret Zombie survival plan eh? Well, I would try to meet up with my family in a sort of out in the middle of nowhere place we have discussed before. That's right, we already have a zombie outbreak plan in the works! Unfortunately, the plan only calls for meeting somewhere if it were to happen. So I would assume after that, we would eventually all be eaten by zombies... So with that in mind, my survival plan is to be turned, and become king of the zombies.
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Brian Riggsbee lives in San Francisco CA. He enjoys gaming, writing, creating art, practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, chasing adorable dogs, and spending time with his wife and boy.