Interview with Charlie Wiederhold

Please tell Gaminator a little about yourself and how you got the job at Ritual.

Well, I'm Charlie Wiederhold... 21 years old... and have lived in the great state of Texas pretty much my entire life. I started to really get into games my senior year in high school and freshman year in college. I really got into Duke Nukem 3D and decided to take a shot at making some maps for fun.Everything leading up to my position here at Ritual just followed pretty fast. I did a map for a Duke Nukem tournament, then worked on a couple of projects for Sunstorm Interactive as a contract programmer/level designer and finally made the move to full time this past summer with Sunstorm. While I was there I worked on two more projects and then was given the opportunity to come work for Ritual as a level designer. Since I missed Texas terribly (Sunstorm is in Indiana) I just had to take the opportunity. I'm just extremely happy to be back in Texas and working with the best crop of level designers in the industry.

Regarding Ritual's up coming "SIN" game, what do you think will make this one unique over the other 3d shooing ones coming out this year?

Well, that's always a hard thing to answer because you never know exactly what the other games have up their sleeves, just like they don't know what we have up our sleeves. We have added a compelling story that moves the player along through the game and helps to drive them through to the end. We also have 16 bit color, colored lighting, transparency, masking, skeletal animations for our enemies, and a great scripting language for the level designers to create things that "work" in the worlds. Probably the most exciting thing we have added are ABO's (action based outcomes). These are situation during the game where you might do something that will affect the entire course of the rest of the game. What levels you will see, difficulty, etc. Such as: You might blow a hole in a vat of chemicals that will easily kill the enemies coming to kill you. However, in a later level those same chemicals may be flooding that area thus making traversing that area much harder. Going right along side with the ABO's is the interactivity of the game. If something looks like it should work or break, then it will. This gives the player so much freedom to explore and and see what they can do with the environment. And if you don't want to... then you can keep on moving and blast all the brilliant baddies. :)

What is dynamic coloring and will SiN be using this feature?

Hmmm... I assume you mean dynamic colored lighting? If so then what that means is you can have a light that moves around the level and lights up where it goes... such as headlights on a car or a flashlight. We are experimenting with this sort of stuff to see if it is something that we want to use, but it is uncertain if it will remain.

Will SiN use MMX technology?

At this time it doesn't, but I can't be certain it won't in the final release.

What are the HW requirements to play the game?

I took this right from http://www.ritualistic.com:
Pentium 150, 32 megs of RAM, Windows 95 or NT, OpenGL card recommended (3DFX, PowerVR)

Do you like Sushi? :)

Honestly I have never had it. I almost went to eat some the other night with the infamous Levelord (Richard Gray) but wound up not making it.I'll definitely have to try and make the trip next time. Of course, maybe I'll just wait until I visit Japan to get the real thing. :)

Is there be a shareware version planned?

Yes, there is currently a shareware planned. Probably pretty close to when we are ready to release it to the stores.

What can you tell us about the AI features in the game?

Now I can't go telling you everything can I? :) The AI in the game is gonna give you chills. There are times you will probably wonder if there really isn't someone on the other side controlling them. (Hows that for talking but not really saying anything... haha)

What type of design can people expect to see?

SiN takes place in a real world situation. You will be exploring and fighting in locations that could very well exist in your city. The art that has come from our artists, as well as the levels that Mike Wardwell, Tom Mustaine, Patrick Hook, and Richard Gray have sculpted simply are umatched in anything I have seen in any other action game.

Have you ever been to Japan? :)

No, unfortunately the farthest I have gone out of the United States is Niagra Falls in Canada. Which means maybe 4 or 5 miles. :) I would definitely like to visit sometime... but duty calls for now to stick to working. I'm only 21 so I still have plenty of time.

What type of network support will SiN have?

SiN will definitely support anything that Quake 2 supports. Which for most people means playing over the internet and on a LAN. If we do support anything else it is undetermined at this time.

Now, I would like to talk to you about the editor for SiN. Will there be one included with the game?

Yes, we will be including at least one editor with SiN. Right now, Richard, Tom, and I use a modified version of QE3/QE4 that we sometimes refer to SinEd (gee... wonder where we got that name from! haha). It is basically the same editor id used to make Quake/Quake 2 but with modifications that make editing much easier and faster.

What advice would you give to people who want to do level design?

The same advice I would give to anyone who wants to get into level design. First of all... don't start doing it just to get a job in the gaming industry. I don't know of a single person who has been hired who started level design so they could be a professional level designer. Everyone I know started because it was a cool hobby and it soon became on obsession. I remember many sleepless nights working on levels when I should have been asleep... or skipping class at college to work on maps. Once you do start... just keep making maps and releasing them on the internet. Get your name out there and if you see someone hiring and you feel you really want to do this then apply. Even if you don't think you are good enough. I wasn't going to apply to Ritual because I didn't think I was good enough... but look what happened! If you are persistent then I think pretty much anyone can make it in. It takes a lot of practice and devotion but I don't mind it at all since I enjoy it so much.

Btw, do you listen to the radio or watch TV while you edit or require complete silence?

I definitely don't watch TV. I would get way too distracted. I am however, an avid radio/CD listener. I'd say that 90% of the time I listen to soundtracks to popular movies such as Fifth Element, Men In Black, Labrynth, etc. I also really like 80's pop music. I'm a freak about that sort of stuff. Yeah I know we all dressed weird during the "punk" 80's but it was fun and the music was always so much fun.

And how about taking breaks....do you take them often while designing or can you go for several hours?

I take a break when I feel like I'm not able to think of anything productive. If I'm in a "groove" though I can just go for hours on end. When I was making my maps to apply here at Ritual I would get home from work at Sunstorm around 9-10 pm and then work until I had to go back to work the next day at around 9am. It was a crazy time but a total blast. Being in an office though you kinda get distracted and it's hard to stay focused. But that's the nature of working with other people... and I wouldn't trade it since I enjoy being around people so much.

Do you like "Japanese Karaoke"? :)

Well, I have Karaoked (spelling?) once on my Dad's birthday but that is the extent to my career in that area. :) It was a lot of fun though... kinda fun to get up on stage and make a total goof of myself.

What games inspire you?

All games. I mostly play action games but I like to take break and play some adventure games too. Monkey Island 3, The Neverhood, etc. But honestly I think any "artist" will try to get inspiration from anywhere they can. Usually the coolest stuff though is when you aren't looking for inspiration. I do play games a lot and try to see what made certain aspects of them "work" or "click" with the players and what parts simply failed to convey what the designer intended. Since games are moving much closer to movies in design I think that sort of attention to effectiveness needs to be focused on. If you can't potray what you want to say... then you have failed. Even if all you are trying to say is "Kill everyone in this game and save the world!"

Are you excited to try your hands on with Voodoo2? Will SiN take advantage of this?

Well, it will be cool to get a Voodoo 2 for myself, but I'm not a huge speed freak. If it looks good and plays fast enough I'm happy. :) SiN won't be written to take specific advantage of the Voodoo 2, no... but it will certainly get a speed increase from it.

What other projects are planned for you? Sin II? or is it still top secret?

I have worked with some of the other guys here on a tentative possible design for SiN 2... but that is of course very possible (and likely) to change to some extent. As for what I or anyone else specifically will be working on... I guess you could call it "top secret". :)

How do you see the future of 3d shooting Gaming?

That's tough. There are all kinds of possible ways it could go... and then there is the way *I* want it to go. :) Probably the best way to describe where I see it is going is to look at action movies. Action games are slowly moving towards the same focal point as action movies and I think that is good. As the technology gets better developers will be able to tell a story much better as well as allow for much more action (I no longer consider killing enemies adequate action). Action games are all about immersion and trying to convince the player they are there. This is something that movies try to do but simply will never be able to do by themselves. It looks like a lot of fun... I just can't wait to play what we at Ritual and the other companies make. Especially from the ones here in the 3D gaming capitol of the world: Dallas, Texas.

Thank you very much for this interview. Any last words you would like to tell Gaminator?

Thank you for giving me the chance to talk. :) Keep up the good work on the site. Maybe I'll get the chance to come visit Japan sometime and we can all go out to sing Karaoke and eat sushi! Then I'll have to bring you guys back to Texas and feed you some good 'ole Barbeque. Again, thanks for the chance to talk about SiN... it's gonna be a blast!

This interview was originally conducted for Gaminator.com, where it appeared in Japanese, but this English version is used with permission. Thanks John R. Leonard