Hello to all guests and inhabitants of our site! My friends, my today's guest indeed a legend of the game industry, many modern representatives of a genre of "action" are obliged to him by part of the success. Legendary levels in emptiness of Quake which now use everywhere where only it is possible … Yes, fans remember such names as Doom, Serious Sam, Half Life: Blue Shift, SiN, Duke Nukem. I ask to love and favor, the legendary designer of levels and simply good person, Richard Gray. Known as under Levelord nickname …)
Hello friends! Richard, it's been a long time, and I am grateful that you could find time to talk with me.
Richard Gray: You know I always have time, Irina! Many things have happened since we last chatted! Now I have fulfilled two of my life’s dreams. My first dream, of course, was to become a game developer. My second dream, was to find a beautiful woman, get married, and move to my beloved Russia!
How did you and Olya meet? I can imagine that it was on some game projects like E3.
Richard Gray: No, it was much more simple and ordinary - we met on Skype through mutual friends who actually had nothing to do with games. It almost seems like our meeting each other was destiny!
Richard, your attitude towards Russia is warm, without these abnormal views that many of your fellow citizens share. Was this important to your wife, or has it been a rather nice surprise?
Richard Gray: Well, none of this would have happened if I didn’t love Russia. We never would have even met. I think it only matters for me to love Russia because she wants me to be happy here. Also, I think most Russians would be very surprised by how much most Americans look to Russia with warm eyes, as I do. Both sides need to stop watching the news on television and stop believing what we see in movies.
I am interested in the following: One Russian girl had a funny and at the same time sad experience in her life: the wedding present from the groom's father turned out to be a place at the elite cemetery. How would you react to such a wild in my opinion gift?
Richard Gray: At first, this sounds like joke As the new wife, my initial reaction would have been “I wanted a new house or car, you bastard!” Then I remember how expensive prearranging a cemetery plot is, especially an elite one. I also thought “Well, it means the father wanted her to REALLY join the family, for eternity!”, and that is a nice gift! …not fun, like a new house or car, though
How did your families react to your decision to marry a foreigner? I can not imagine my reaction in this case, to be honest.
Richard Gray: My family is very small now. There are only my mother, an uncle, and two cousins. Everyone is very happy about this because everyone can see how happy I am. It has been no secret about my wishes to come to Russia, and to even make a family here. This made them happy, too, that I could reach one of my dreams.
My friends there are very happy, too!
One of the most memorable games for me personally was Serious Sam. The day after I showed our first interview to my colleagues and mentioned that I talked to you, four of them brought to work boxes with this game and asked for your autograph for their children. You see, it's been so many years, but many, many players still remember it and believe (as I do) that without you it would be boring and uninteresting.
Richard Gray: The CroTeam is incredible! I loved that game, too! I didn’t work on the game, though, I only played it, loved it, and gave them a few good comments for the game’s box and magazine advertisements.
Does your wife play any of your projects? There is a stereotype that women mostly play simulations like the Sims, nothing more. Of course, there are ladies which sharply refute this statement. To which type would you feel closer?
Richard Gray: She only plays casual games, and even those, not very often. It is strange that I also don’t play games much anymore. I’m not sure why. Maybe there were too many years of making games. I love pizza, but if I had worked in a pizza restaurant for 17 years, I probably wouldn’t eat much pizza, either, now
And yet the games - the main thing for you, Richard. Tell me, I learned that shortly after Serious Sam you started teaching computer game development at Southern Methodical Dallas University. Did you enjoy your work?
Richard Gray: You always ask the best questions and at the perfect moment! I just lectured a class at SMU (we used an internet video conference) yesterday about the principles of good deathmatch levels! However, I have only taught a few special classes as a guest speaker when I still lived in Dallas. My involvement was mostly with starting the program and supporting it after it started. I also helped with the program at the University of Texas. I enjoyed both very much! My company also benefitted, as did so many other game companies, by hiring graduates who we knew were well-educated and experienced!
Work, work ... Let's get back to games !) Tell me, Richard, what do you personally think is the main thing in a computer game? Someone thinks it is multiplayer, another person would vote for a level design, other - for the plot. But it is always one thing, not all of them together. And what about you& What do you think?
Richard Gray: That is always a very easy question to answer – FUN! That answer takes many, many forms, but it is always the ONLY answer! The two best example of late? …Minecraft and Angry Birds! You couldn’t find two more simpler games: a level editor for children and a simple physics game. Yet both are so incredibly successful, …because they are fun. It was the same with Serious Sam, now that I think about it. When it first came out, it competed with huge AAA shooters. I thought it was much better, though, because it was more fun!
Richard, you are studying Russian intensively. I am sure that your wife’s help here is invaluable! And yet, last time we talked you said that the Russian language is very complex. What causes the most difficulties? Perhaps we are talking about that one word in Russian can mean not one thing or concept?)
Richard Gray: The most difficult part for me is the declinations of words ;( I will learn a new word, but then I have to also learn how it is changed if it is male, female, neuter, or plural. Then, it also changes when it is the subject or object, …or indirect object, …or it is possessive, …or prepositional? So one word has so many variations. I was recently trying to memorize vocabulary and I had a list of 20 new words. In this list of only 20 words, there were 6 different ways to make a plural version of the word.
Even worse for me, the rules that decide how to make these changes have many exceptions, too. Often, it seems, there are more exceptions to the rules than there are original rules My tutor says “Just memorize, Richard, do not try to understand!” He is a wise man! It is similar in English – the only good rule is that all the rules are often broken.
Richard, approach to business in Russia is quite strange and differs from the Western approach. For example, many browser games emphasize on draining money from the players by providing them with different gains and perks for real cash. How do you feel about such projects?
Richard Gray: Again, I haven’t played many games for many years. I remember, though, that the Westerners do this, too, and call it micro-purchases and micro-merchandise. It is a way to make customers not think too much about spending money. I myself am more like to spend 30RU on 20 small purchases than to spend 600RU on one large purchase. Americans call it “Nickle and diming.” because they take small coins (nickels and dimes = 5 cents and 10 cents) instead of dollars.
Richard during our meeting that you said that you departed from the gaming business. I hope that this situation will not last long. What are your plans now? All the players on our country hope that you will soon come back.
Richard Gray: Ha! I bet most gamers today don’t even remember things like DOOM and Duke Nukem I was retired and had hoped to remain so for the rest of my life in Dallas. Now, though, I have a great desire to make some games again. I want to remain a one-man team, but maybe I will help on other projects, too. Right now, I am learning the Unity SDK. The two casual games I made before were done with BlitzMax.
No matter what happens with games, though, …I’m just happy to be here in Moscow!
Tell me, Richard, what was the best developer or publisher your worked for? It would be very interesting to compare your answer with the opinions of Russian players.
Richard Gray: My best experience was working with Richard Hilleman at EA. He was a great producer and game designer. That was the key, I think, was that he was indeed a game designer himself and he knew what had to be done and how best to get it done.
During our first conversation, I came across a funny fact. Valve released Half-Life, and Ritual at the same time releases Sin. They are competitors, aren't they? However, after some you work for Valve as a consultant in the development of a project . Furthermore, Valve, together with Ritual releases Counter-Strike: Condition Zero. Frankly, the whole picture looks pretty funny ... )
Richard Gray: It is not so unusual. Companies in the gaming industry often join forces and even help each other. Sure, it is a competition, but not one in which there can be only one winner. If there are 20 game companies making games, all 20 can make a great game and make great money and all 20 can be happy. I always thought that was nice about our industry. It wasn’t like a professional football game but more like group of friends getting together on a Saturday afternoon for a game. Each team wants to win, but it is not life-or-death
Tell me, what is your attitude to old games ? Personally, I'm still playing DOOM, Quake, Vampire: The Masquerade - Redemption, and many others. There is in them something that does not allow to call them obsolete relics.
Richard Gray: I agree! I am collecting all of my old stuff from previous years. Last night, I came across my Quake 3 directory and started up the game. It was so cool! I’m too busy right now, but soon I am going to save an evening for me, Quake 3, a small bottle of vodka and some zakuska!
Richard , remember your answer to the question during our previous conversation ? I said that many, is not most of the players were upset whet the famous Levelord left the scene. In response to what you called yourself an "old horse, chewing their hay ." However , in Russia there is a saying : "An old horse makes a straight furrow". Very correct, saying, in my opinion. Experience can't be preserved as canned vegetables - it comes with age . Hopefully, there are some young developers who are now learn from you and your knowledge and may be one day we'll see a man whose name would mean at least half of what now "Levelord" means for players.
Richard Gray: “An old horse makes a straight furrow!” …I love this expression! We have so many great expressions in Russia (please notice I use the pronoun “we” here!) As I said, I really want to do some things with games again. There are so many opportunities now, too. Social media, casual games, handheld devices, touch pads, …so much has changed for the better!
Dear friend, our meeting comes to an end, it's time to say "Goodbye ". Would you like to say or wish something to visitors and residents of our site?
Richard Gray: “Goodbye” …no! “До свидания” is better, yes? It is pleasantly strange – at this point, I usually say something that reveals I am far away in America and that I hope the best for everyone in Russia. Now, it is not true! I am here with everyone in Russia!
Goodbye, Richard. I wish you to be happy, because your couple sharply refutes vicious allegations of enemies of both our countries ...
Richard Gray: Ha! Most everyone in America has no ill feelings for Russia. They, and we, only suffer from ignorant politicians and slanted media. Everyone I know in America, and I know MANY people, would LOVE to visit Russia.
My special thanks Siegrun and Yumi for help in working on an interview.