Tonedef made this comment to my post from last week:

It is stuff like this that made me stop mapping….I could never do that good :P.

…which whilst flattering, reminded me of my experiences when I too was a mapper struggling to get along.

I think I actually gave up mapping twice. Once whilst I was mapping for Doom (just as Quake came out), and I also ‘gave up’ on it whilst working on Quake 2 maps, shortly before Half-Life came out. I couldn’t see where I was going - there were mappers everywhere pumping out DM map after DM map, with their work constantly praised and played. Their maps were incredible (they still are), and I couldn’t see any reason in trying to match their achievements.

For much of my time playing Quake 2 deathmatch on Q2DM1 (The Edge) with Eraser bots, I hoped someday I would end up at id Software, making maps for a living. Fat chance of that happening! Hell, even making a map as popular as The Edge would be an impossibility. I spent lots of time thinking about this, and in the end determined that it wasn’t going to happen, I should stop trying. So I did. My level design career was over.

Of course, the world changes. Quake 2 was about frantic deathmatch action, vertical atriums, lifts, powerups and long missions through abandoned bases filled with Strogg. The time I did spend mapping for Quake 2 I spent trying to emulate the styles and themes which id had created, manipulating them into my own maps. The result was always the same: a fairly pathetic map with no real purpose nor presence. That’s why I gave up. I couldn’t meet the demands of Quake 2 players, of which I was one.

All would have been lost had Half-Life not appeared in 1998. I hadn’t even completed Half-Life before I discovered it came with Worldcraft, the editor I had been using for years for Quake 2, so I loaded it up and tried a few things out. Nothing much, but it was fun and revived my interest in mapping. I put it to one side however, finished the game, and then tried creating a few odds and ends. It was a fresh universe, a fresh toolset, a fresh way of thinking. It was purely for fun- I may have given up mapping, but I couldn’t give up enjoying it. I was unknown, so there was no pressure at all. It’s a luxury worth enjoying while you have it.

I did make a bizarre leap back to Quake 2 for a couple of weeks to make a Q2 DM map, but it wasn’t soon after that I had started making what turned out to be ETC. The root of ETC was born in about 20 minutes, it’s the glass panelled area you walk through when the G-Man mumbles his stuff to you in the first cutscene. It wasn’t much, but the fact that I could try things with the textures and creatures that had never been done before was exciting, and fresh. Instead of trying to meet achievements of others, I could just go at my own pace. I had given up on trying to conquer the world a long time ago, so all the energy went into exploring my interests.

…and that has continued ever since. I’ve mapped for fun, rather than reward. When reward has been in the picture, I have to enjoy the experience to make it worthwhile.

All big successes have a history of failure and lost hope. Dust wouldn’t have been so popular if it weren’t for everyone else: I didn’t make it popular, players did. It wasn’t my decision to make the best map I could, I just made a map as best I could, one that felt right to me. Designing for pleasure is always more rewarding that designing for fame.