An Interview with ProdigyXL


Could you briefly introduce yourself (age, location…) and tell us when you were most active in the Q1 community?

My name is Graeme Timmins, I'm 26 and live in Plano Texas. I go by ProdigyXL online. I'm currently the Lead Level Designer on Borderlands at Gearbox Software. I was most active in the Q1 community during high school, so between 1998-2001. I released a map or two during college, but was pretty out of the scene by that time.

How did you get involved in the community?

Man, that was sometime ago now. I was always interested in creating my own levels for games starting with Doom. That lead to Quake 1 of course and I just researched stuff online. Quake 1 was a big deal then and there were all kinds of mapping sites out there like the Ramshackle. I always aspired to be featured on that site.

What Q1 contributions are you best-known for? Which of your works is your personal favorite?

As far as Quake 1, my most popular work would probably be XL1DM2 - XL Dust. It was with that map that everything really clicked for me. As far as personal favorite I'd have to put that one up there too. Though I've always really enjoyed XL1DM7 - Sole Survivor.

What was your initial motivation to work for Quake?

Just the creativity involved. I've always enjoyed creating environments and things, whether it was with Legos or in the video games I played. The game was just so fast and frenetic, I instantly fell in love with it. That game put everyone at an even playing field, and it was up to the players to out think one another. Still the best DM game to this day, hands down.

Do you still have a website/links where we could check out/rediscover your stuff?

Ehh, I really need to get around to that. I had all my stuff at with my portfolio, but I started redoing it and never finished it. Just Google stuff or goto Multiplayer Quake.

What are your best memories about this community?

Would have to be the time during QBoard and Peej'n'Frib's. The community was just full of excitement then. Everyone was discussing theory on the board, then would check for the daily news at. It was all about sharing knowledge and helping everyone create something better. There really hasn't been a mapping community since then, that I've been involved with, that ever made me feel so apart of it.

Are you still playing Quake? Are you still trying out mods, maps and engines?

I fire it up once and awhile in the office for some 1-on-1s. I personally have been completely out of sync with the Q1 scene for awhile. I periodically check out Func_MSGBoard here and there. I also jump into #terrafusion on occasion to check up on people.

Have there been other games you have been playing a lot since you left the community (if you did)?

Yeah I've been playing all kinds of games since then. Back then Q1 pretty much dominated all of my time, but I've started to branch out and try different genres. As far as multiplayer online stuff I've played an insane amount of Team Fortress 2. I think I've logged nearly 300 hours so far. I participated in a game dev studio tournement in the spring. In season 1 Gearbox went all the way through the tourny undefeated, beating the only other undefeated team, Valve. That was a pretty awesome moment. TF2 is a great example of how simplicity, like Quake 1 before it, allows people to really focus on the combat.

How would you describe the Q1 community right now? Is there any contribution that really impressed you in the last couple of years?

Like I said, I'm pretty hands off with the community at this point. It's amazing to see 10 years after I got into it, people are still interested in Quake 1 and creating new things for it.

How do you picture the future of the community? Do you (objectively) think that people will still be modding/mapping for it in, say, 10 years from now?

If you would have asked me that question 10 years ago, I would have said no. Now, I'm not so sure. Current engines are getting more and more complex and harder for amateurs to get into. I definitely see Quake 1's simplicity as an asset to how long it's stuck around. On the other hand, I think people are eventually going to move on to other things and Quake 1 will go the way of Doom before it. Which is fine, there aren't many games in this world that can say they had such an impact for so long.

Your #1 secret special ingredient to a good map (imagine a newbie asking for your advice)?

A great layout can go a long way. People will play an ugly map if plays awesomely. People won't play a pretty map if the layout is horrible.

What is the question you would have like to be asked (but weren't), how would you have answered it and how pissed are you for me not thinking about it?

Now that you're part of the industry, what advice would you give someone trying to get in?

First off, if you have strong self taught skills, you don't have to pay for an expensive education. That's still a great option, but lots of people in the industry are self taught professionals. Find a current generation title with an editor and just start learning. A good place to start now is with an Unreal Engine 3 based game like Gears of War or Unreal Tournament 3. UE3 is used everywhere and if you can learn the toolset, create some great playing maps, you'll be on the right path. Quake 1 can teach you the fundamentals of strong design, like layout, but it can't prepare you for current generation tools. Always challenge yourself to do better. There are great online tutorials available so read them. Be constantly learning. Study you're favorite maps, learn what makes them great and take that with you. Have a portfolio that shows your work well and has your stuff available to download. If you go along those lines, apply yourself, you'll find yourself in the industry too.

And yes, I still spell like English is my third language.