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Interview with Chris Klie

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As just sort of a side project, me and Sigvatr asked Chris Klie to be interviewed (for those of you who don't know, Chris Klie was one of the authors of "Doom 2: The Master Levels") I felt this would be appropriate for the 15 years of Doom.

Tell us a little bit about your history with Doom. What were your initial experiences with the game and what sort of involvement have you had with it aside from playing it?

I guess my history with Doom sort of pre-dates Doom. Before Doom, I was caught up in playing Wolfenstein 3D and Spear of Destiny. Before those games, I hadn’t experienced such immersive, smooth-running 3D environments. Granted, the core game experience (blasting enemies, lots of blood squirts) was a lot of fun, but the 3D environments are really what sucked me in.

As a result, I became interested in id Software and what they might be working on next. After Doom was announced, and after I learned what Doom would be technically (non-orthogonal walls; more fully realized 3D spaces and lighting), I followed every scrap of news about Doom. And, like a lot of people, I pre-ordered Doom, and awaited its arrival with great anticipation. I still remember when the software arrived by mail in that slim black cardboard box. I treated the box and the discs like they were gold.

So… there I was attempting to run Doom on my 386/33 PC. Needless to say, my machine was underpowered. The only way I could get a decent frame rate was to shrink my viewport down to the size of a credit card. After a while, I theorized I could make a level run more efficiently on my machine if I were to reduce the number of textures it used. And that’s how I got into Doom editing, by replacing certain textures with other, very similar textures already in a level - all in an attempt to make that level run better on my machine.

After a while, I became addicted to creating my own levels, seeing to what degree I could be creative given the constraints inherent at that time. With each level, I tried to do something new and interesting – with the 3D space, with the overall flow, with the way enemies are introduced and so forth. For me personally, Doom editing became a powerful form of self-expression, and with each level I worked hard to invent something new that could be enjoyed by a fairly broad audience.

What are your favorite and least favorite maps in the original Doom games?

My favorite map is probably e1m1. In my mind, it’s inexorably tied to the revelatory experience I had playing Doom for the first time. When I first played that level, I was obviously impressed with the more detailed architecture and lighting (compared to Wolf and Spear). In terms of atmosphere, I remember actually feeling scared, maybe a little overwhelmed – looking out a window at a wholly alien landscape, hearing the zombie-like moans of enemies hunkered down and waiting in the next room; and actually being able to exit the base and explore areas outside – something I was unaccustomed to seeing in games at that time.

My least favorite map is probably e1m7, the Computer Station. It’s a big level, which I’m certain many appreciate, but in my view the level was almost too big, and no particular area in the level was especially memorable – which made it difficult to determine whether I had visited an area before. The level left me feeling like I was running around in circles unnecessarily, and it had me consulting the map way too often.

Do you have a favorite fan-made wad?

I’m not qualified to answer this question, really, because I’ve been away from the Doom community for probably 12 or 13 years. Although, I gotta say, I’ve always been an admirer of Dr. Sleep’s stuff. Sleep was meticulous in his approach, and he invested more time and effort in a single map than many authors had invested in ten. His maps pushed boundaries in terms of what the original Doom engine could handle, and in terms of mood and gameplay - offering experiences more tense and compelling than even the best original Doom maps. That Sleep’s work holds up so well today is a testimony to the man’s talent.

Are you working on anything new at the moment? (Doom or non Doom, if so, tell us about it.)

I’m Lead Designer on a console title that’s not quite like anything I’ve developed in the past. It’s a fun ride, and I’m learning a lot in the process. That’s all I can say at this point, really.

In your eyes, what makes a good Doom map? What sort of advice do you have for Doom mappers?

The obvious things a good Doom map needs are: interesting and detailed architecture and lighting; well-balanced enemy, weapon, ammo, and health-up placement; a sense of non-linearity even if the flow is entirely linear; and enough puzzle-solving mixed in to keep things interesting – but not so much that the core experience grinds to a halt.

And what’s the core experience? Visceral, brutal combat with opportunities to think and operate tactically. Good Doom levels serve the core combat experience first and foremost. I regret that I didn’t realize this when I began building my own maps. If I were to re-build my maps today, I’d add much more support for great combat experiences, and I’d de-emphasize puzzle solving.

Why do you think it is that people continue to play and modify Doom after all these years?

I read a review a while ago about Doom on XBLA. The review characterized Doom as “the original monster closets.” That’s one of the reasons, I think. When Doom arrived, it simply wasn’t like anything anyone had ever seen before. Go back and look at the original software-rendered Doom. By today’s standards it looks like a lot of pixel mash, but at that time players were being introduced to a deeply compelling, very personalized 3D survival-horror experience, and that experience felt sort of oddly “almost real.”

The experience was compelling enough to entice players around the world to add new chapters to the Doom story – to openly share their versions of survival horror in a solidly established universe. In addition to being a seriously kick-ass game, Doom became a wellspring for individual creative expression. Based on a shared experience, a massive creative community emerged, and it thrives to this day. I don’t believe any game since Doom has wielded that sort of power.

After the release of the Doom source code, numerous ports have been created to enable mappers to utilized more features. Would you still call this "Doom Modding" or something else?

Purists might be inclined to call it “something else,” but I think that would be incorrect. Modern-day Doom modding still flows from the same wellspring – the original Doom. It’s only natural that Doom modding would evolve over time, but in my mind it all stems from the same source.

What would you consider your Magnum Opus? Is there any mod you have made that you consider your best?

Subterra.wad (for the Master Levels) is probably my best. In my view, it heavily emphasizes tactical combat, it’s got a good dark mood going on, and it incorporates just enough puzzle solving to keep things interesting without getting in the way.

In terms of my freeware, I’d probably go with BF_THUD.

Given that Doom editing has been around so long, what do you see in the future for Doom editing?

I don’t mean for this to sound trite, but I honestly think anything is possible. Back in the old days, I never would have imagined Doom modding would still thrive 15 years later. But it does thrive, and that’s a testimony to the boundless creativity demonstrated by so many passionate and committed members of the Doom community. I’m eager to see what the next 5 years will bring.

I'd like to thank Chris for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions for the 15 years of Doom.

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i liked subterra a lot when i first played it. its cool that you got an interview with him.

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I agree with what he said about E1M1. I still have a very vivid recollection of playing it for the first time. The varying levels of light, the sounds, the windows and that strange creature standing on top of a platform throwing fireballs at me that seemed to be much tougher than the green haired guys. LOL. It was also the first map that I experienced Doom's hypnotic weapon sway on. For some reason, that really drew me in too.


kristus said:

Bah, E1M7 is one of my all time favorites.


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Yes, questioning the greatness of E1M7 is damn near blasphemy.

A continuing series of interviews like this would be cool. Source port authors, "famous" mappers, maybe notable people who have left the community and work on modern games...

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Remember, any criticisms of certain maps, or condoning or condemning of mapping styles, are just one person's opinion, and, as he admits, it's the opinion of someone who wasn't around here for twelve or thirteen years.

It was cool to see this interview though. I'm still glad that he showed up out of the blue in a thread a while back, when we were looking for his old wads. I wonder how he found out about that hunt for his work; perhaps some secretive lurker here still knew his email address, or perhaps he heard Doom's siren song...

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>> I wonder how he found out about that hunt for his work; perhaps some secretive lurker here still knew his email address, or perhaps he heard Doom's siren song... <<

My daughter told me. :-)

- Chris.

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Great interview! Very articulate answers and a thoroughly enjoyable read. Most sentiments mirrored. Pleasantly recalling inactive memories from Mr Klie's levels when reading it...

>>Doom editing became a powerful form of self-expression<<

Didn't it though? Like a mental valve for creative contents under pressure. New dimensions to explore whilst finally getting a place to exuberate all those spatial ideas.


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Soundblock said:

>>Doom editing became a powerful form of self-expression<<

Didn't it though? Like a mental valve for creative contents under pressure. New dimensions to explore whilst finally getting a place to exuberate all those spatial ideas.

You can always feel free to make more!

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