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Mattrim of Amber

For those that don't know who Matt Dixon, he is one of the contributors to the GothicDM and GothicDM2 projects. Matt is a well known and well repected member of the Doom community and can often be found hanging out in the chatrooms or on ICQ. Matt is one of the guys that you really should take your time to talk to, especially after you've read this interview.

Doomworld: So, what got you into computers in the first place?

Matt: A friend of mine who now lives in Australia first introduced me to computers, as well as another (local) friend of mine. I got hooked on ancient games like Populous, Stunts, Rampage, Adventure Construction Set (I guess you could call this my first ever experience in level design of any sort) and especially Wolfenstein 3D. In short, friendship and games were the first things that lured me into the techological realm of computers.

Doomworld: Adelusion, the man behind GothicDM, has called you Mr. Fix-it. Where did this all come about?

Matt: Haha, well, it is a combination of things. I have, on several occasions, smoothed things over between the different designers on the crew (be they MIDI artists or level designers). But, more importantly, I am a bug hunter/killer...I waded through each and every level of GothicDM looking for bugs (often for several hours at time). Unfortunately, my search was not very intense in the original GothicDM and several bugs did manage to creep in, but I managed to correct that in Gothic2. This time around, the product, being Gothic2, is nearly perfect. Now, I would like to take this moment to thank my now-defunct and dead 486DX2/66, for aiding me in my endless search for visplane overflow and hall-of-mirrors. It was responsible for finding so many of the errors in GothicDM, simply by dragging down to a near complete halt just as DOOM2 was about to crash. The thing that made bug-hunting much more difficult with Gothic2 was that I am now operating on a loaded P200, so looking for that familiar slowdown is no longer an option.

Doomworld: With being Mr. Fix-it, there have got to be some problems in levels that really got on your nerves. What were some of the worst ones you ran into?

Matt: Well, I think the bug I reported most often was related to texture alignment, and I must say that that did get rather annoying after a time (especially since it is so easy to remedy). But, the nastier stuff was also really irritating, too, whether is was in the form of visplane overflow or hall-of-mirrors. But, it was really rewarding, in a sense, in finding bugs and allowing the authors to fix a problem that they did not know existed. However, bug-hunting and killing was not entirely done by me...the entire crew contributed greatly to that task and picked up on the ones I missed. But, being "Mr. Fix-it" did not just involve finding various level bugs. I also used my experience as an avid deathmatch enthusiast by aiding the authors in achieving a greater sense of balance and playability in the levels. Again, though, this was not something only I was responsible for...everyone on the crew put so much effort into everything it is really hard for me to say "this is what I did and this is what they did." GothicDM (and Gothic2, for that matter) was all about teamwork, cooperation, and understanding, and I think it really shows in the final product.

Doomworld: How did you get involved in the GothicDM project? Do you feel it to be an honor to be working with some of the most talented map makers in the Doom community?

Matt: I never had access to the world-wide web until early 1997, so once I finally did, I took full advantage of it and uploaded a set of levels that I had completed over a year earlier (AmberX1). Shortly after doing so, I received a piece of e-mail from Anthony Czerwonka (aka Adelusion) inviting me to contribute to a project he was starting, at that time called FetalDM8: Gothic. So, I took up his offer and the rest is history. I found it amazing to be working alongside so many skilled people, so yes, it certainly was (and still is) an honor to be working with so many wonderful and talented individuals.

Doomworld: Where do most of the influences for your maps come from?

Matt: For the most part, from other levels, be they of professional quality (anything from Ultimate DOOM, DOOM2, Final DOOM, etc), or something that caught my attention in an external add-on map. Influence also comes, largely, from those around me and the wonderful work they have all done.

Doomworld: What editors do you use for your levels?

Matt: Way back when, I used to use DEU(II), but quickly made the switch to DCK. For a while, I was torn between the use of DETH and DCK, but in the end, the DOOM Construction Kit won out due to it's ultra-user-friendly interface. For texture extraction and WAD manipulation, I use TiC's wonderful little utility, NWT (New WAD Tool).

Doomworld: What is in store for you with the completion of Gothic2 Quake-ish level design?

Matt: More likely than not, yes, I plan on moving into the realm of Quake2. But, several very interesting (and flattering, I must say) offers concerning DOOM2 have reached me just recently, so GothicDM2 may not be the end of my DOOM editing career...only time will tell. Whatever happens, though, I plan on going out with a bang.

Doomworld: Since your are Mr. Fix-it, what would you say are some of the most important things to do when making a good detailed map, but not overloading the DOOM engine, with visplanes or 2sided linedefs or some other silly error?

Matt: Be cautious in design...do not go overboard (like I have been known to do). When starting in the design process, you must realize that what you have pictured in your head (or on paper) may not portable to the DOOM engine, due to the engine's several flaws (visplane overflow and hall-of-mirrors). When designing, you have to be able to made sacrifices and be open to change.

Doomworld: What are some of your favorite add-ons for DOOM?

Matt: Well, as far as single-player is concerned, I simply adore most of the mega-WADs that have been released...Requiem, MM I and II, Eternal DOOM, and last (but certainly not least): Final DOOM's Plutonia Experiment. As far as total conversions go, well, HacX, Alien DOOM (hey, it is a classic!), STRAIN, and undoubtably Mordeth. For deathmatch, Dweller2, the Danzig series, FetalDM6 and 7, Brit11, and many, many more...of course, one cannot forget GothicDM or Gothic2.

Doomworld: I have noticed that their have been alot of new level designers, who somehow have just discovered DOOM, have been creeping up into the community. What would you say are some of the biggest problems with the novice level creators maps?

Matt: Simplicity. New designers fail to see the things that DOOM is capable of. Despite all of it's flaws, DOOM(2) is an excellent engine, which can be bent and stretched into so many different shapes. But, that comes with experience, and I'm sure that many of these new designers will soon come to the point where they all really willing to go the distance (so to speak).

Doomworld: What, in your opinion, makes a good wad? Whether it is a full-blown total conversion, a sound wad, a single level, or a Mega-WAD...would you say there are things that run throughout, being important in all forms of add-ons, and with level deisgn in particular, what makes a good level?

Matt: Quality is the end all and be all of level design. Not only does it have to look good, it has be play good, smell good, taste good, etc. A player needs to walk away from his computer after playing a level(s), and be able to say "Wow...that was some funky shit!" A level simply must be attractive to the player's eye, and balance is extremely important, too. Balance is something that is hard to achieve given the choices that DOOM(2) offers, however, but it is the all-important feature in a level, be it a deathmathch or single-player map. And, above all that, a level must be fun to play.

Doomworld: What about the man behind the level designer? What do you do with your spare time? Hobbies (besides computers), interests?

Matt: Spare time?! What is that? But seriously, as a university student, I often find my days are too long and my nights are too short. But when I can, I like to sit down to a good book or CD (nothing but industrial, thanks), or hang out with my buddies at the local pool hall, pizza joint, or night club. I hate television (or more specifically, the media) and avoid it like the plague. Above all that, I like to make time for myself and my closest friends and actually think about the world I live in...often, I vent my feelings into words and write them to paper.

Doomworld: Now that Gothic2 has been released, are you pleased with the final product? Please, give us some examples of why or why not.

Matt: Overall, I am pleased. Gothic2 came off of the assembly line as a solid product, packed with excellence and flare. However, everything has its flaws. If I were given a second chance, there are several things I would change. Unfortunately, I really do not want to go into specifics here for fear of offending anyone. Afterall, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link and I think that the chain that is Gothic2 could be strengthened in a few places. Still, I love Gothic2 for everything it is and I am proud to have worked on such a high-quality add-on.

Doomworld: How was the process between making GothicDM and Gothic2 different? What were you looking for in terms of style, playability and such between the two of them?

Matt: With GothicDM, the crew did not really have much of a goal. All the maps were "just made", so to speak. Gothic2 was done in a similiar fashion, as no one was going to tell the designers what they could do and what they could not (censorship and dictatorship are bad things). Overall, though, Gothic2 was geared more towards a two-player audience whereas GothicDM was made with any number of players in mind. This is most apparent in the "new look" of the Gothic2 maps...gone (for the most part) are the constricted and tight passages of GothicDM, traded in for a more open (yet smaller) feel to each map. GothicDM was made more to demonstrate what the DOOM2 engine was capable of, and as Adelusion has said, "it (GothicDM) was made for the art of it."

Doomworld: Do you think the release of Quake2 had any major impact on the design of the levels?

Matt: On the design of the levels, no. Most of the Gothic2 crew did not even own Quake2 by the time Gothic2 was released. Texturally, however, the impact is definitely visible, as the majority of Gothic2's maps take on a more metallic and futuristic appearance. Despite all that, Quake had more of an impact on Gothic2 than Quake2, in terms of both level design and textures... not only were several of id's excellent Quake textures used in Gothic2, but also used was id's newly found fascination with damaging areas and lava (as best illustrated in Quake on maps DM2 and DM4). Special thanks should go out to American McGee, the man behind Quake's DM2 and DM4, for providing so much inspiration.

Doomworld: So in what 3D shooter coming this later this year or recently released are you most interested? Would it be Romero's Daikatana, SiN, Half-Life, or maybe Unreal or Quake2? What attracts you to this particular game?

Matt: Quake2. It is balanced, gorgeous, and fun to play. Unreal was a bit of a disappointment, to me. On a non-3d-accelerated machine, it runs slower than anything I have ever seen before. However, that is not to say that Unreal is a bad game...on a 3d-accelerated machine, Unreal is simply an amazing game of unmatched atmosphere and appearance. What attracts me to this particular games? Well, I choose Quake2 due to it's already enormous following and the fact that it runs quite well on my computer, providing me the window to accurately playtest my own creations. Afterall, if a level does not please it's creator, who WILL it please?

Doomworld: Do you ever have plans on trying to get into the game industry as many other guys that started with DOOM level editing have done or are you just going to be keeping this as a hobby?

Matt: I imagine that yes, if one the opportunity presents itself, I will accept a position in the gaming industry. However, until that day arrives (if it ever does), I will continue to view my editing as nothing more than a hobby and volunteer work.

Doomworld: Ok, so do you plan on leaving the DOOM community (as an active member) anytime soon? Where do you plan on going from there? And will you still keep up with the major events in the DOOM community?

Matt: Yes. Gothic2 was, more or less, my last foray into editing DOOM(2) levels. From here, I plan on focusing more on RealLife(TM) and hopefully moving into the editing realm of Quake2. I am really looking forward to exploring the 3d possibilities that Quake2 offers...I always appreciate a challenge. Despite that, I still plan on keeping up-to-date on the developments within the DOOM community.

Doomworld: With the DOOM source and the current development of a working Internet DOOM Client, do you see the popularity of DOOM returning somewhat?

Matt: The possibility certainly does exist, yes. Many people were brought up on DOOM (so to speak), and I am positive that once a quality Internet DOOM Client is developed many of those people will return to the DOOM.

Doomworld: What do you think are some of the biggest factors that lead to DOOM being so popular and outlasting games like Duke Nukem, Dark Forces, and going strong even after Quake was released?

Matt: Simplicity. Not only was DOOM easy to modify and re-create, it was also capable of running on the lower-end computers (386s). On top of that, DOOM was the first of its nature, really, bringing with it quality multiplayer play and an apocalyptic world overrun by demons for the player(s) to explore at their leisure. In combination with the ability to create their own personal hells, players were quickly able to take the game that they loved so dearly to new heights. So, really, I think that DOOM's easily customizable interface is what made it (and keeps it) popular. While Duke Nukem was childish and cartoonish, DOOM was dark and sinister. While Dark Forces brings you the story of a hero "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away", DOOM presents the player with a dark story in the near future of humanities last stand against the monstrosities of Hell. Quake's ultimate failing was in it's system requirements, I think. While a large portion of the worlds DOOM community was capable of using and abusing id's new engine, the other half was left behind and forced to operate within the limits of the now-obsolete DOOM engine. This gave rise to a new brand of DOOM, really, as best in seen in the several professional quality add-ons released in Quake's wake: Darkening, Eternal DOOM III, GothicDM, Gothic2, Insertion, Mordeth, Requiem, STRAIN, etc. The list could go on and on, really.

Doomworld: You have called Dan Twomey and yourself partners in crime. How did this relationship form? What have you to accomplished together and where do you see it going?

Matt: Dan and I are, in RealLife(TM), best of friends who are seperated only by about forty minutes of driving. Our relationship first formed shortly after I had gotten world-wide web access in April of 1997 when, in my online wanderings, I stumbled upon his homepage. After seeing that he lived in the same area as me I took a chance and emailed him, inquiring about the possibility of a deathmatch. From there, we quickly found that we had a lot in common, being that we were (and still are) great deathmatch players who are interested in DOOM(2) level design. Since that first chance meeting, Dan and I have managed to accomplish several feats, including the co-authoring of several maps for both GothicDM and Gothic2 (GothicDM: Map14, Gothic2: Map05/19/24) as well as extreme playtesting for the two projects. In the future, I can definitely see Dan and I continuing to collaborate on level design as our efforts so far have been very rewarding, both to ourselves and our players. As far as I am concerned, the best is still to come for him and I.

You can talk to Matt Dixon via e-mail at curtdixon@shaw.wave.ca or on ICQ at 4346292.

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