An Interview with Tronyn


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

I'm 25, from the Canadian West (Saskatchewan originally, recently moved to Manitoba). I'm a graduate student in English, with an interest in Icelandic, currently finishing an MA Thesis about Lovecraft, although my long-term focus is Old English and Old Norse. You can safely assume from this description that I'm generally horrible at modern reality and reality generally.

How did you get involved in the community?

I bought Worldcraft in 1997, and started trying to make Quake maps. It was quite a challenge - I'd tinkered with Doom, and made maps for Duke Nukem 3d, but Quake mapping was totally different - at that time, revolutionary. After a while I put together two maps - one is lost, it was a runic dungeon that progressed to a couple of outdoor areas made to look like a forest. The second was "The Goblin City." I couldn't get this reviewed (high r_speeds for the time), so I gave up and went to making Heretic 2 maps. In 1999 I came back and made a Quake episode, "Phantasmal Garrison" which got me a fair amount of publicity, leading to a backlash by Shambler, who refused to review it (although to be fair, it wasn't very good). This time though I was determined to get something reviewed, so I revised the episode, and released the new version at the same time as "Coven of Ebony," and Shambler reviewed both.

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

I think out of everything I've made, "Rapture" (with [KONA]) got the best reviews. Soul of Evil is probably my most popular project, I consider it my signature work anyway, where the whole thing was really a single vision that I was mostly responsible for creating, an idea for a fantasy-episode that I had wanted to make since 1997, and I finally released it in 2002. My best single map is The Masque of the Red Death, at least, until this year - I think I've topped it with "The Lost Land" in the new sequel to "Soul of Evil."

What was your initial motivation to work for Quake?

I loved the atmosphere of it. It really worked on my imagination. All the sorts of things I found cool 12 years ago (and largely still find cool) - medieval architecture, horror literature, science fiction, violence - were pretty much all there in one package, combined with a morbid atmosphere of brooding mystery which made it irresistable for me. Quake was dark in a way that games since it haven't really been - everything either isn't dark, or tries way too hard. Quake is like a classic horror movie.

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

What are your best memories about this community?

I think the most enjoyable thing is when a large, communal release comes out, and there's a lot of evaluation and discussion. Coagula contests, all the stuff that Kell has organized (Lost Chapters' multi-mapper style was great), things like that. It's also nice when something massive and impressive like Travail or Warp Spasm comes out. I also really enjoyed working on OUM with Fat Controller and Tyrann, it was a very collaborative project in terms of story, maps, ideas, and so forth.

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

I pretty much play anything new that gets released for Q1SP. For engines, as much as I like FitzQuake, I find myself using aguirRe Quake most of the time, because of the increased limits. Darkplaces also allows for expanded limits but it doesn't run as well on my older PC. If only there were a hybrid of all three - the simplicity and faithfulness of Fitz, the speed and power of aguirRe, and the pretty (but not overboard) features of DP.

Have there been other games you have been playing a lot?

I've really lost touch with new games. I like to think that this isn't because I'm getting old, but because the games industry has become horribly commercial. I consider myself lucky to have been around at the time when the games industry involved a lot of risk and creativity. When I heard the budget of Half Life 2 was 50 million, I basically realized the games industry had little, if anything, left to offer me. Everything now is consoles, casual games, mmorpgs, etc. I have no interest in any of that. That said, the last FPS I really liked was "Dark Messiah of Might and Magic." It and "Far Cry" are really the only action games I've liked since Return to Castle Wolfenstein (Doom 3 was a huge disappointment for me).

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

Let's shoot the elephant in the room and say Marcher Fortress. I actually never even played Kinn's first map for some reason, but Marcher blew me away. It seems like he somehow combined everything that was awesome in modern Q1SP design, all the advances that had been made, into one astounding, beautiful map - and he didn't skimp on the gameplay either, those hordes at the end were great. It seems like he managed to combine the Q3-imitation theme that was introduced in czg07c and carried on by Necros and others, with enough details like bookshelves and functional-style architecture, to make it a believable yet strange and sinister, a very "Quakey" environment. Not to mention it is an astounding technical achievement. Other than that I have to say basically everything that Kell has done. He's invented the most influential new style in Q1SP, even more influential than the Q3-imitation theme. His texture set, and ample demonstrations of how to use it, have brought a whole new spooky environment to Quake, which seems to combine the decaying spookiness of the "wizard" (e2m5) or "gloom keep" (e1m5) theme with explicitly Lovecraftian motifs of libraries, flesh, and otherworldly cityscapes. I think "And He Falls like Lucifer" is my favourite map by Kell in this theme, but I should also say that I think "Breakfast at Twilight" is the best single map in this theme, as it also uses the outdoor, high-visibility setpiece style that I heavily favour. I also really like Hrimfaxi's other stuff - he does vertical-outdoor medieval like no one else. It is a continual pleasure to play his maps, and they have continually increased in quality and breathtaking-ness.

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?

, I don't think anyone will be mapping for Quake 10 years from now. Depending on what is on the market in terms of free engines, something like Darkplaces may have a future, where plenty of new features are supported and new games (like Nexiuz, and Zymotic) can be based on it. I doubt there will be new Q1SP maps being shared and people discussing them online in ten years. There are some new mappers, but most of us who are here seem to have started in the late 90s, and sort of stagnated in the early 00's. I mean, I can't believe that it's almost 2010, and the games industry (not to mention the music industry) has totally passed by me. Nothing is dark, intelligent, unique anymore. I expect the Quake community to be around for about another five years - I'm not sure if most of us are in their twenties (and started as teenagers) but I think eventually most people will move on, and live a more "adult" life where there isn't time for such draining (but rewarding) hobbies. For some people that will mean getting married or having kids; I hope to enter a PhD program, which in combination with a teaching job would leave me no time for this sort of thing.

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

It's really hard to say. One of the really great things about Quake's basic mix of gameplay elements is that it's incredibly versatile. I can't say "make something that I like" because my taste is different from the next guy's. I guess the number one thing I would say is, consistantly maintain the player's visual interest. This, at a minimum, means having most areas of the map look cool, and have some originality, be interesting to look around. A newbie mapper should aim for this. Once they have captured this basic, I would say, try to make the layout logical, interconnected, and progressive. Ideally, the player should be able to see much of the map, and not know the exact specifics of the route, but always have a sense of how much progress they have made and an idea of their place in the layout as a whole. A great example of this is "Breakfast at Twilight." Scragbait's stuff is also really, really good for this design principle. I loved his maps in Travail. I think I have illustrated this principle (even though it is personal preference, by no means a rule in stone) in my newer maps - "Masque of the Red Death," and a couple of my maps in the new Soul of Evil. Basically, I prefer outdoor, non-linear, horde-based, setpiece-based maps. To me this recreates the classic, fast-paced rush feel of Doom or Heretic, coupled with the sense of awe and the vertical element of Unreal's best maps. Whoever does this type of maps I will applaud. It's been 12 years since the game was released, and with highly limited tech and r_speeds, id themselves often tried to make setpieces as best they could (Episode Two is my favourite), so rooms 'n hallways no longer cuts it.

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?

Something about themes. I'm pissed. I'd like to note the fact that many mappers have a signature theme or style. With Necros, it's hell. Everything Necros makes is some gigantic, evil, netherworldly stack of demons. It's awesome. Kell has his sort of "arcane evil." Scragbait does outdoor, historical stuff, often very functional. Hrimfaxi's always building outdoor stuff. [Kona] tried many themes, but it seems like he was always building "a two-leveled fortress - in a canyon." Fat Controller tended to do functional stuff too, sort of like Scragbait but not on the same scale. Much of what I've done, with maybe a couple of exceptions, could be described as "variations on medieval." So I just want to take a moment to champion the medieval theme, because it seems like there isn't much coming out these days that's straight medieval. By that I don't mean id-medieval, I mean a medieval feel. There's hellish stuff, there's historical stuff, and there's plenty of arcane stuff. But it seems like there isn't as much "fantasy medieval" stuff. These days, it seems as if only more amateur or new mappers do this theme, as if the vein has been tapped out or something (JPL's "Castle of the Dark Ages" was a GREAT exception). I hope to prove quite the contrary with my new release(s). Steve Rescoe's stuff remains economic, effective, spooky and beautiful. More medieval!