Last month, as I was shifting my portfolio to a new host, I made a fairly significant change in the site template. Down at the very bottom, the copyright information now reads:
© 2001-2011 Andrew Weldon unless noted
Indeed, the oldest levels on my site were released in late 2001, now going on ten years ago. I had just graduated from high school that spring and, with the assistance of a two week post-graduation LAN party celebration in my parents’ basement, shifted into a mostly nocturnal level-building frenzy.
I built and released five levels that summer – Zeta Sector, Phreneticism, Sector A, and Repair Bay 4 for Half-Life deathmatch, and Wormhole for Opposing Force CTF. I also began to involve myself in community sites like the original Snark Pit and the late Valve ERC. I met fellow aspiring designers who would become friends and future colleagues, many of whom I keep in touch with to this day. My CTF level, Wormhole, found its way into the rotation on Gearbox Software‘s official server and I found myself receiving feedback from developers at a studio where I would end up working 6 years later.
Of all the levels I released in 2001, the most important was my first – “Planet Half-Life HQ,” released in January. Planet Half-Life, then one of the central sites of the community, started a map contest in late 2000. The top ten entries would be combined into a PHL map pack for release after the contest’s completion. I got the wacky idea to try my hand at a submission of my own.
The contest was great motivation to try and actually see a level to completion. For years I’d been dabbling in Quake, Quake II, and Half-Life levels, but it was time wasted as I’d never come remotely close to finishing anything. Unfortunately, as busy as I was the first half of my senior year – the BHS Drumline/Marching Band, drumming for the stage band and show choir, varsity tennis, preparing for my final speech team season, plus that whole “school” thing – I missed the deadline.
I could have easily said, “Oh well,” and cast it aside like the dozens of other unfinished Worldcraft/Hammer .rmfs littering my hard drive. This time, though, I’d gotten close enough that the end was in sight. I hunkered down for a couple weeks after the contest had ended and released it anyway.
It’s not a good level. Thematically, it fits no known definition of “headquarters.” The layout is very flat and lacks the interconnected loops that help define good deathmatch flow. It’s a visual train wreck, showing only the occasional hint of any understanding of texturing, lighting, or composition. But all of those things can be fixed and learned. What matters is I finished it.
It’s easy to sit around and say “Yeah, I’m gonna make games!” It can be hard to figure out how to do it. The best piece of advice I’ve seen over the years is still the simplest: Make something. Dive into UDK or Unity. Mod your favorite game. Teach yourself C++ or LUA. Start building models. Get involved in the amateur development community. Finish something. Release it. Learn. Repeat.
In 2001, I made something. To any aspiring developers reading this, I say: What are you going to make in 2011?