Interview with Scott Alden

First of all tell us a bit on who you are and what you do.

I'm one of five programmers here at Ritual Entertainment, and I am currently working with Mark Dochterman and Jim Dose' on the Sin programming team.

What is a normal work day at Ritual like?

There are no normal days here at Ritual :-) But seriously, I usually come in around 10:30 - 11am (I'm a late riser and I have 1/2 hour commute). During my drive to work, I usually think about what I want to accomplish that day, and I try to solve any problems that I'm having at that time. I usually solve about half my problems on my drive into work!

Once I get in, I read mail and take care of administrative stuff first. The rest of the day is spent coding and fixing problems that the level designers or artists are having with the game. Lunch sneaks in there sometime around 12:30 and we usually go out as a group. Since we work in the West End of Dallas, there are tons of places within walking distance of the office. So we head out and end up talking about old video and computer games. Sometimes we talk about movies, and most of the time I argue with Giggler (Mike Wardwell) about which movies suck and which don't.

Back from lunch and the programming heats up and goes pretty much nonstop until I get tired and head home. On the days we have meetings, we talk about various gameplay ideas and how to keep on schedule. We get together in a group and talk about what the biggest needs currently are, then we split up the tasks and get back to work.

How did you get your job at Ritual?

Kind of a strange turn of events. I was working at a telecom company called Nortel here in Dallas in '97 when a former college classmate (Charlie Brown) gave me a call. I hadn't heard from him in a long time, so we spent some time catching up on what each of us was doing with our lives. He mentioned that he was working for a company called 3Dfx (heard of em?). Anyway, one thing led to another and I was out in California at 3Dfx for an interview. I got a job there as Macintosh Developer Support. Since 3Dfx was trying to get into the Apple market with their Voodoo Graphics chipset, they needed someone full-time to work on the Macintosh stuff. I spent months on porting over Glide and Arcade Toolbox (ATB) to the Mac. I also got to work with Lion Entertainment on the port of GLQuake for the Mac. I went to Chicago and worked on Myth with Bungie, and I was also given the task of porting the Build Engine to 3Dfx (the hardest project I ever had).

Since I was working on all these "other" games, and never allowed to work on anything of my own creation it was kind of an empty unrewarding feeling. Sure, there were stock options at 3Dfx, but the job was so hectic and I felt I could work on much larger projects. I started looking around Dallas for a full-time game developer position and found Ritual was in need of someone to work on Sin. I quickly ended my position at 3Dfx and headed back to Dallas for Ritual Entertainment!

What are some special features that have been added to the Quake 2 code for Sin?

I don't want to spoil all of the surprises that we have, but I can tell you a little about what I've been recently working on. I have added the ability to create an in game functional computer terminal. We call them "in game consoles" It allows the level designer to create a menu system that the player can walk up to and use in the game. Combined with scripting, it allows you to create very interactive environments.

Here's an example that I was working with Charlie Wiederhold on:

Charlie created a robot named Danny and he has a bunch of script code that allows Danny to walk around, raise his arms, move his head, etc... Combined with a console, the user can interact with this robot and control it. We created a menu system on a "in game console" that had all of the robot controls. This allowed the player to control Danny's movement. He can even tell Danny to pick up objects and move them around. This is just scratching the surface of what scripting and consoles can do together. I just added sliders, and list item boxes to the console for even more control. The level designer can even allow arbitrary input of commands and you enter them in the game just as you are typing on a regular computer.

How will Sin Fests be like? Can you use the skins of other monsters as well as Elixis?

We have already started up the SinFests here and they are a blast. We plan on allowing the player to play deathmatch as any character or monster. You can be Elexis, JC, or Blade.

What weapons are in Sin? (no one really told us ALL of them)

Here's another one of those questions I don't want to spoil, but I can say that there are combination of standard weapons and what you would call "experimental" weapons.

How do the mappers and programmers work together? Or do they? :-)

Mappers and programmers work together a lot closer than anyone else. They are the ones that first try out the new tech, and give us feedback on problems or changes that need to be made. I usually have about 3-4 visits a day with each level designer except for Levelord because he gets in so damn early ;-)

Will Sin ever have a linux port? Such as what id's got with QuakeWorld and Quake2. So ISPs can run game servers?

I'm not sure about this one. I think that if someone volunteered to do the port, then the Sin team sure would appreciate it.

Will any goodies come on the Sin CD?

Yes. There will be a Windows 95 version of SinEd on the CD. You will also have access to all the scripts that each level uses. These will be great teaching devices for all those mod makers and TC writers out there.

What are the plans for Sin 2 and ÜberEngine?

That's pretty hush-hush right now. Charlie and Gary will probably be releasing more news about Über in the near future. There will probably be some behind closed door stuff at E3 as well.

We at Ritualistic would like to thank Scott Alden for taking the time to answer our questions. We all really appreciate it. And Scott, this has been my longest and most informative interview! Thanks a lot!! :-)