Until recently Warren Marshall was best known for his work as a level designer - producing a string of excellent maps for both Quake and Quake II, running a map review site called MPQ, working with my old company The Coven, and eventually ending up at Legend.
Today though he is hard at work redesigning UnrealEd for Epic, so we caught up with him to find out more about how he got there, and what he's doing...
Warren's first real job in the gaming industry was with Legend, working on their Unreal engined game "Wheel of Time", which was based on the classic series of fantasy novels by Robert Jordan.
"Getting hired at Legend was an odd experience", Warren told us. "I knew Matt Sefton, who was working on an Unreal engine game called Wheel of Time. I'd been looking at UnrealEd screenshots for months, and really wanted to use the editor."
"So I asked him for the contact name, and he gave me Glen Dahlgren's email address. I contacted Glen, who looked at my Quake and Quake II maps and decided to send some work my way. After a few months of contract work, Glen offered to make it full time and that was that."
Warren worked as a full-time level designer on Wheel of Time for about a year as the game took shape at Legend, eventually seeing the game through to its completion and release last November.
But with Wheel of Time finished, Warren found himself temporarily switching jobs at Legend, from level designer to programmer...
"I've always been into programming", Warren explained. "I've been coding C++ and Win32 for several years (at my pre-Legend job, as well as at home on my own miscellaneous projects). I even wrote my own Quake level editor - ToeTag. But nobody really used it except for me, so don't feel bad if you don't remember it!"
Meanwhile Tim Sweeney, lead programmer at Epic, had been working on a new version of their level editor, UnrealEd. The idea was to recode it in C++ to improve speed and stability, while adding new features to make it more flexible and easy to use for level designers. But with a new engine to design time was running out, and soon after Wheel of Time's release Tim revealed that he had stopped work on the project.
"When Tim announced that he was not going to take the C++ editor any further, I asked Mark Poesch if I could take a shot at finishing it up. He checked with Tim, who had no problem with it, and since we were just getting started on Unreal 2 .. off I went. It took several months, but it finally started to resemble an editor."
By the end of February the editor (now dubbed UnrealEd 2.0) was apparently nearing release, although there were still some teething problems getting it to work with Unreal Tournament.
Then in March, Epic surprised everyone by announcing that they had hired Warren themselves. How did that come about?
"This is still something of a mystery to me as well", Warren admitted. "But I'll answer as best I can..."
"Once Wheel of Time was done and I had worked on the editor for a while, I decided to take a weekend and make an Unreal Tournament deathmatch level with it, both because I really loved the game, and to give the editor a good test run. DM-RideTheDragon was the result. Cliff [Bleszinski] saw that level, liked it and emailed me - just sort of a "Hi, how are you, cool level, what's up?" kind of thing."
"I replied, and he replied, etc ... he asked me what maps I did for Wheel of Time, asked me about my work on the editor, and so on. Eventually we got around to talking about the possibility of working at Epic. He called me on the phone, flew me down for a visit, and in the end made me an offer."
"This all happened within the span of about 2 weeks, so it's sort of a blur for me!"
Although he has switched companies, his main job (for now) remains the same - finishing work on UnrealEd 2.0 and preparing it for public consumption.
"One of the main things we're doing now is revamping the user interface. Once that's done I'll get back to finishing up some of the other features which were added, but don't work 100% yet. New things like brush clipping, multiple vertex editing, and drag box selection have been added. Basically, I'm trying to bring all the niceties that I grew accustomed to in the Quake editors into UnrealEd."
And that's the key to the new editor. As Warren told us, "Being a level designer means I'm going to have to use this thing once it's operational. So anything I code, I'm always thinking about it from a level designer's perspective as well as a programmer's."
"Is this going to be easy/convenient for the designer? Would I like to use this feature in this way? My being a level designer is, I think, going to be a critical factor in making this editor work as well and as efficiently as it possibly can."
Of course the question on everyone's lips is when will we get to play with the new editor ourselves!
According to Warren, "a preliminary version should be available soon, hopefully with updates to follow. I can't give an exact timeframe because, honestly, I don't know!"
And what comes after UnrealEd 2.0 for Warren? Apparently a return to level designing to work on "The Next Thing" at Epic. "And that's all I have to say about that. ;)"
We'd better let you get back to it then...
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