Joining me today I have Shawn Snelling, designer and mapper of the popular Counter-Strike: Global Offensive map cs_museum. You can download cs_museum in the Steam Workshop and view Shawn's portfolio on his website.
Brian Riggsbee: cs_museum, your latest project for CS:GO, is quite the beautiful map. What are your favorite aspects of it? Are there any parts you struggled with?
Shawn Snelling: Thank you! My favorite aspect is how naturalistic and real everything turned out, which I have to attribute to good fortune and some planning. I didn't struggle with much during this project, but optimization was of course difficult considering the open environments outside of the Museum by the street and the vast number of exits and windows involved. If I struggled with anything, it was the technical limitations of the current incarnation of the Source engine.
BR: The lighting in cs_museum is definitely a strong point. What advice can you provide for other mappers out there that may be struggling with achieving good lighting?
SS: Good lighting is tough. It's even tougher on Source because you have to compile and wait ten minutes to see anything. I think the best strategy is to know what you want and not settle for something that seems "good enough." You have that vision in your mind, so keep making those tweaks even though it can be mind-numbing and requires a lot of patience. Until you get to where you want to be, you've got more work to do. But it's not an exact science. I remember many times thinking it would be impossible to get the lighting I wanted in the grand hall (T-Spawn), for instance, but I just kept plugging away at it, loading the map up countless times trying to get it right. In the end, I think I finally did.
BR: I noticed there are a few community members listed in the credits for cs_museum. How did they contribute to the project?
SS: 3DNJ did models (T-rex, golden lights, and also converted some of my brushwork into more optimized models) and penE did textures for the map. They are both immensely talented and helped elevate the map and realize the ambition of the map to place players into an environment that feels real.
BR: Tell us a little about some of your past projects.
SS: I worked on Natural Selection 2, on the map Veil primarily. The first map I released was called Anemia, for Day of Defeat: Source, which I'm still very proud of all these years later. That was a paradigm shift for me, to go from loving other people's levels, to then release one of my own. I think if you want to look at my work that's a great place to start. As for Veil, I think that's a real interesting one as well, it was sort of my college for level design. I learned most of what I know on Veil, which was originally an NS1 map, in my opinion the most classic and crucial one to the first game. I knew that to bring it to an entirely new engine and generation of gamers would be a big challenge, but I was worried nobody else would do it right. That experience taught me to respect the classics, if you ever want to make a classic.
BR: Are you working on any new projects now? Are there any games or projects out there you would love to be a part of?
SS: I'm working on a competitive bombsite map for Counter-Strike:GO which is set in India. I want to enter it into a big contest, the one CEVO is holding. If I do, the map will have been made in one month. Which I'm excited and frightened about trying to do.
I want to be involved with whatever Valve is working on. Simple answer. Other than that, I really like the Deus Ex franchise. Bioshock is up there as well. Those kind of games motivate me to continue making levels. But at the moment, to be honest, I'm involved in the projects I want to be involved in: I'm making cool levels and working with talented people, I just need it to be a more sustainable lifestyle financially, haha.
BR: What is your all-time cherished retro video game?
SS: I think I'd have to break that into multiple parts to do it justice.
Music: Mega-Man 2
Story: Zelda Ocarina of Time/Final Fantasy 7
Multiplayer: Day of Defeat 1/Super Smash Bros. 1
Greatest of all time: Super Mario 64
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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.