A Week in Our Worlds – Christian Antkow

I was lucky enough to corner ID Software’s very own Christian Antkow, for a few questions. Xian tells us about his cats, his life and his messy ass desk!

1)Tell us a little bit about yourself, where you’re from, how you got into the gaming industry, companies you’ve worked for, and any other interesting little details about yourself that you think the world might find interesting to know.

I’m originally from a little burb west of Toronto, Ontario, Canada called Mississauga. Lived there all my life before being hired on at id. Before id, I worked a few odd jobs in computer retail, did database programming and network administration at a software reseller in Toronto, and then wrestled with the immigration system to get into the US when id offered me a position.

I have four cats. Recently quit smoking. Enjoy drinking Guinness immensely. Recovering EverQuest addict. When I first meet a woman, I judge her by the shoes she is wearing.

2)All of the games id has put out have been top quality products that have kept gamers strapped in front of their monitors for hours on end. How do you live with yourself knowing that you are helping to destroy what little bit of a social life some gamers still have left!! (chuckle chuckle yall, that was supposed to be funny)

Hey. As long as our fans are having fun, I can sleep soundly at night. Believe me, I know about destroying a social life… My advice is try to find balance.

3)When was the last time the id gang went down to the tracks and had a little racing fun? Have you been able to put a hurtin on John and his Ferrari(s) yet?

We hit Texas Motorsport Ranch a few months ago, and John is planning another couple outings soon. It’s loads of fun, but I’m come to the realization that I’m never going to grow enough balls or posess the driving skills to do 70% of what my car is capable of. I’m way too much of a cautious driver. There is no way my car is going to put the hurt on John’s Ferrari’s. His cars are one of his passions in life. His TR is a 1000+ HP monster, and his twin turbo F50 is a sight to behold. I drive a measly little 250bhp Porsche Boxster S. Totally different class of car.

4)So if I were to walk into the new id building right now and storm my way back to your office what kind of clutter/crap might I find on your desk?

Hmm. A lot of books on demons and hell, books about industrial and commercial architecture, a cup of hour-old coffee, a bunch of CD’s, my two notebooks, sunglasses, keychain, cel phone, Scientific American magazines, Cisco router configuration manuals, an invoice for my couch, a Wendy’s paper napkin, a 10 oz bottle of Coke, and a DOOM II manual.

5)What games might I find you quickly exiting out of?

None right now. I’m playing Diablo II at home. Retired my level 51 wizard from EverQuest (Verant == Monkeys). Played a bit of Dark Reign II, but I don’t like the camera perspective, but to answer your question, you’d probably find me quitting out of the mission pack that we’re getting ready to wrap up.

6)Ok inquiring minds want to know… who are all the EverCrack addicts at id?

Robert Duffy at the moment. He still plays.

7)Take us through your typical level design process from start to finish, and include any kind of tips and tricks that you feel might help out the design community.

Ugh, this so hard to describe. I’ll talk about single player level design, because that’s what we’ll be working on with DOOM. First it starts off with a mission idea; “What do we want to accomplish in this mission ? What is the setting going to be ? What obsticles do we want to put the player through ? What might prevent the player from completing this mission ?” Those are just some things you have to consider when working on a single player level.

But before you ever lay a brush, it’s a good idea to paint a mental picture of how you want the flow of the map to be laid out. What sorts of unique architecture are we going to try to build… things like that. Then I’d sketch out some ideas in my sketchbooks, work on a rough top-down flow, and once I have a pretty good idea of how I want things to flow, I start building in the editor.

A great source of inspiration is watching films or flipping through books. Whenever I am in a rut, I’ll just bail and watch a movie, and that usually gets my creative gears turning.

For Quake II and Quake III, once I had the shell of the level built, I’d bounce things off Tim and the other people around the office and we’d playtest and tweak. This could take a while, but once we’re happy with how things flow and how the levels are balanced, we’ll bounce the map off the artists for embellishment and artistic advice.

8)Whats your all-time favorite level, single or multiplayer, any genre or platform?

Probably Quake 1 dm2.

9)In your opinion, what’s the best level you’ve ever designed?

Argh. That’s a tough question. I’m hyper critical of my own work. I guess I’m pretty happy with the way Strike in Quake II worked out, only because of how “different” the map was compared to anything else I’d done for Q2, and how q3dm6 in Quake III worked out for it’s flow and general popularity with the Q3A crowd.

10)Anybody you want to give a shout-out to, or Xian-wisdom you’d like to share?

Hi to Mom and Dad, the crew at gamersangst.com, and, uhh, ya.