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Hourences and Mister Prophet talk about Xidia Gold

UnrealSP.Org proudly presents this exclusive interview with Hourences and Mister Prophet of Team Phalanx. In it, resident webmaster Hellscrag interviews the two mappers extrordinaires about their new Unreal Tournament single player project Xidia Gold, slated for release shortly after the imminent Unreal Tournament 2003 demo. For more information about Xidia Gold, please visit the Team Phalanx site.

HELLSCRAG: First of all, I'd like to welcome both Mister Prophet and Hourences to this interview. I'm sure that you're both hard at work testing the new Xidia project for release, and I appreciate your taking the time out to answer my questions.

HELLSCRAG: First question to Mister Prophet: For the uninitiated among us, do you think you could give us a brief run-down of what your upcoming release Xidia Gold actually is?

MISTER PROPHET: Xidia Gold is a combination of the original game touched up with new coding and features, such as weapons, menus and HUDs, as well as various other advanced stuff. The new version of the original, dubbed "The Xidia Incident" also is in the Xidia Gold pack along with Xidia The Escape, the official mission pack to the original game with the same amount of levels. The pack can be played as one large game with both The Xidia Incident and Xidia The Escape as one adventure, or you can choose to play them seperately. The whole pack, if chosen to play as one game, is around 16 maps.

HELLSCRAG: Hourences: You have both made changes to the original Xidia component of Xidia Gold for this release, but when you originally released it, and before you received the community's feedback, were you satisfied with it? Is there anything you would still have liked to change at the time?

HOURENCES: Hmm, I was satisfied with it yes when I released the original, anything I would have like to change I changed now for Xidia Gold. Altho I still don't really like all of my light in my derelict maps yet :).

HELLSCRAG: Aah, I thought the lighting was pretty sweet.

MISTER PROPHET: There were alot of ideas I had for the game, since it was my first sp release I had alot of bottled up concepts. Most of them ended up being added to Escape anyway. I felt good about the original version, though I was nervous about it's release since I had never finished a sp up till then.

HELLSCRAG: Mister Prophet: When Xidia was originally released, was it well received? Did it get the publicity you would have liked, being a single player mod? And was there any particular issue that the community's feedback repeatedly raised?

MISTER PROPHET: When it was released, you have to understand that I personally never got much attention for any of my maps when they were released, most people didn't know about them. With Xidia, it was recieved much better than I could have hoped for. The community seemed to approve of it, a few aspects were criticized tho. For starters, the difficulty of Xidia was a little more than most sp players have seen, the maps were pretty challenging and it was actually rare to get a drop on your enemy, most of the time you were being surprised in one way or another. There was also alot of reading involved for certain puzzles, which threw some people off. Then there was gameplay, the pack I admit had uneven gameplay. The 3rd map seemed to soak up the majority of the overall difficulty, and the pack seemed to die down for a long time before the tempo got pushed up again for the 7th map, or thats how certain people felt about it.

HELLSCRAG: Hourences: How has this feedback affected the changes that you have made to the original Xidia component of the pack? And what inspired the two of you to make an expansion pack?

HOURENCES: I tried to make the gameplay a bit more fair since some people found it to unfair, Other then that its hard to change things as geometry if the maps are bsp unstabble or when they just can't be improved that simple. I know for instance that in my derelict maps the architecture should connect more to eachother to generate more unity and flow. But its very hard to still change things as that now.
After we've done Xidia we saw what singleplay mapping is, and then its hard to go back to DM or CTF, those are rather simple then, not as challenging. So Mr_Prophet convinced me to do a mission pack for Xidia so we could map singleplay again.

MISTER PROPHET: The expansion pack was originally meant to be much smaller than it turned out, I wanted to do a small pack of about 4 maps to furthure addon to the orginal, but once I convinced Hourie to do it with me, we both discovered the only proper way to continue the Xidia story was to make a new pack which would rival the original, and also finally fix all the old problems, hence we have two packs in one.

HELLSCRAG: Mister Prophet: When making the original Xidia, did you feel that you were in competition with the other big name SP mod, Operation Na Pali? Briefly, how did you feel about Operation Na Pali on its release, and can it be compared to your own project?

MISTER PROPHET: ONP was always in the air. We didn't really focus too much on it during the making of Xidia, we figured their (Team Vortex) pack would be cool, and we weren't making a nearly as big project, we just wanted to do our own thing. When our pack was released, ONP was still in development, and DavidM had asked Hourie if his Xidia map (Derelict Surface & Underground) could be included in ONP. I still think that was a smart move on Hourie's part. When ONP was released, it was a big thing. While I liked the pack, and Hourences's map was just as good in ONP as it was in Xidia, only maybe the challenge wasn't as tough (I found the pack slighty too easy).
Compared to Xidia? Thats unlikely, the two packs differ in size too much. Perhaps that judgement can be made by our players when the improved and longer Xidia Gold is released.

HOURENCES: Style is different too.

MISTER PROPHET: ONP was too comical and not too serious as it could have been, IMHO.

HOURENCES: Yes quite arcade like.

HOURENCES: I personnally did feel alot of pressure from ONP when making Xidia.

MISTER PROPHET: Hourie was making two different map versions at the time.

HELLSCRAG: Hourences: Now, the main competition for Xidia Gold seems to be the UT2k3 demo, which is slated for release this week, pushing your release date for the largely completed Xidia Gold pack. This tells us for certain that UT2k3 really is on the way. Many will switch their allegiances to the new game on its release. Do you think there will still be a market for old school Unreal single player when the new game arrives?

HOURENCES: I think there will offcourse, but always less then now. The people that would download it after the demo would be the hardcore singleplay players, people from the community, and people who's pc can't run UT2k3, But offcourse the vast majority of normal players will most likely ignore those remaining UT mods..Really bad luck for us. 5 months delay on the demo, and then Epic picks this weekend.

HELLSCRAG: What about Unreal 2?

HOURENCES: Well Unreal 2 is still months and months away, maybe even a small year. Who knows, so we can't receive concurrention or anything else from that :).

MISTER PROPHET: The Demo is still a demo tho, and without a sp alternative for the new engine, sp players will have no choice but to either still play their sp games on the old engine, or simply wait till U2.

HELLSCRAG: Do you think U2 will be the death of Unreal?

MISTER PROPHET: No. Unreal is a classic.

HELLSCRAG: Mister Prophet: Your speciality seems to be using the tools available to create highly detailed and diverse, realistic high-tech locales. Do you have any sources from which you draw inspiration, or does it all flow naturally from your head?

MISTER PROPHET: Heh, good question.

MISTER PROPHET: I take inspiration from alot of sources and merge it all into something I can create in my own way. alot of the interior tech rooms in the Xidia maps I made are similair to tech maps in games like Red faction or AVP2 ( you have to look for them). I also am a movie junkie, sci-fi being a favorite genre, so I look to movies as well. In Xidia, 99% of what I made has an element of 'tech' in it, even the alien stuff i did for Escape. I find tech easier to map over say, terrain or ancient. I would love to map an ancient or large outdoor area and the one thing I felt Xidia needed more than anything (as far as maps) were terrain areas, there are NOT many in Xidia, this is because of my own Limitation with terrain mapping on the old engine, something I plan.

HELLSCRAG: Hourences: I have heard that you dislike adding gameplay elements to your maps, and that what you really enjoy doing is building great architecture and creating an atmosphere. Is this true? Certainly your maps tend to be pretty fantastical in design. Do you feel that the tools available are holding you back? Will you consider mapping for UT2k3 or Unreal 2 when they come out, to get your hands on the more powerful engine?

HOURENCES: I dont hate gameplay by far, but setting up enemies in singleplay isn't exactly my favourite thing to do. And also, I can't add alot of things most of the time since my maps are allready 600 poly or something like that and if you then add enmies it will be completely unplayable for some people. So I just try to create atmosphere. wich is a rather underestemated thing in map design, certainly in multiplay maps. I alweays try to create a woow effect, to make sure the spectator's mouth falls open and stays open for the next 5 hours, a certain bombastic feeling.
Tools really hold me back, I'm now working quite alot with programs such as 3dsmax, and if I see how fast and what a cool things i can do there, then UED really isn't much anymore. And then everything you make there still is rather simple no mather how many polygones you made it. I offcourse will try to go on with mapping for the 2 new Unreal games, but I really dont know what im gonna do in the next year in real life so I have no idea how much I got left for it, but really will try.

HELLSCRAG: What about you, Mister Prophet? Do you see yourself as a mapper for the new engine? If so, will it affect your mapping style dramatically?

MISTER PROPHET: I've thought about this alot. More than likely I will continue to map, although realife is really starting to get serious for me with this new year. But if I do map for the new engine, I certainly am gonna do my best to make something people haven't seen before.

HELLSCRAG: Following from that, is Xidia Gold the last old school SP release we can hope to see from the killer Prophet / Hourences pairing?

MISTER PROPHET: For UT engine yes, but not for the new engine. We make a good team, why stop now.

HELLSCRAG: Agreed :).

HOURENCES: Yes, But like said, I got no idea how much time I will have left in the future, and the new engine is much more complicated, harder to do alot of work with 2 then.

MISTER PROPHET: Yeah, we'll need a bigger team.

HELLSCRAG: Hourences and Prophet: Of course, what must not be forgotten are the efforts of UsAaR33, whose hard work in coding has made many mods such as Xidia, Operation Na Pali, Legacy and other minor projects possible. Is there anybody else who has been implemental in perfecting your packs that you would like to thank?

MISTER PROPHET: Yes. Gmotha for one, his art stuff is killer, his HUD and darklord skins rock my nuts. UsAaR33 again, for all his help. Mr.Cope for voices. Various textures from Chico and Rich Eastwood. Unframed for the use of UMS. Teque and Funeral Pyre for the music...

HOURENCES: And lot of other people who did small things such as snowdog for a few mesh plants.

HELLSCRAG: Lastly, would either of you consider "going commercial" with your work? Or if you were offered a job with one of the leading Unreal engine game developers, would you take it?


HOURENCES: No doubt :). Immediately.

MISTER PROPHET: Hell, of course we would.

HOURENCES: Even if that would take me to move to the other side of the world.

MISTER PROPHET: If it's the Unreal engine, most definitly...

HOURENCES: Anything else too :).

MISTER PROPHET: ...But if it's a sequel to pong or sumthing... i dunno.

HOURENCES: Once you know things as 3dsmax its all quite the same.

HELLSCRAG: Many thanks again to Hourences and Mister Prophet for taking the time to answer these questions.

HOURENCES: You're welcome :).