A Week in Our Worlds – Eric Biessman

I guess I’ll kick off the interviews with the man that helped me get it going, Eric Biessman. Eric works for Raven Software durring the day and at night… well lets just say it involves street corners. But thats a completely different story. Anyways many thanks to Eric for all the help he gave me getting this thing finalized. Here’s the interview!

1) How long have you worked for Raven? Have you worked with any other game companies besides Raven?

I have worked at Raven for little over 6 and one half years. Raven is the only professional game company that I have ever worked for and I got my job the day that I graduated from college. I don’t believe in fate, but I don’t know how else to describe it. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

2) How did you get into designing levels? Many of today’s top designers started way back with Duke 3D and the build engine, is this also true in your case?

Actually, I started designing levels before there was a Build engine. When I was hired at Raven, DOOM had just come out and Raven was beginning production of Heretic. I got to build levels for the commercial version of the game and the rest, as they say, is history. Since then, I have worked on Hexen, Hexen 2, Heretic 2, Soldier of Fortune, and Star Trek – Voyager: Elite Force. Not to mention all of their mission packs and add-ons.

3)So tell us a little bit about yourself, where your from, what you did before game design, any weird habits you have?

I am a born and bred Wisconsinite who grew up under the spell of Star Wars, Dungeons and Dragons, and the Atari 2600. My first computer was a Timex Sinclair that I used to write *really* basic programs. A thorough metal and punk head in high school, I picked up the bass guitar my freshman year and have played it ever since (around 16 years, in case you care.) My musical tastes have broadened somewhat, but I still love the heavy stuff the most. I was in such wonderful bands as Petrified Toast and Confused Youth and I have even been known to jam with fellow Ravenites on occasion. I am married (going on two years), have no kids, and still live in Wisconsin. Weird habits? Well, I work at Raven. That’s weird enough.

4)Are you currently seeking psychiatric therapy to help destroy your addictions to any games? I recently enrolled in the EverCrack Anonymous support group. I’m making quite a bit of progress, but it seems that my Diablo 2 addiction is growing stronger every day.

Quite possibly the most addictive game that I have ever played has to be Tribes. I have played nearly every day since it came out and my friends and family have tried multiple intervention sessions. I can’t get enough of the game… and now almost have Tribes 2 out. What are they trying to do, kill me?

5)Have I mentioned that I think that SoF’s GHOUL system just kicks major ass?

No, but I appreciate it. SoF was definitely a fun project to work on and we had a great team of people. Wait until you play Star Trek – Voyager: Elite Force!

6) Just from correspondence back and forth with you, it seems as if the Raven designers have a real tight-knit kind of thing going on. How would you describe the relationship you have with the other designers at Raven?

I think that what makes Raven a great place to live… errr… work is that I feel like everyone here is a friend. I enjoy the company of the rest of the team, and it never seems like a job. We game together, hang out together, jam together, and lounge together. It is definitely a very cool situation. I know that I can count on each one of these guys when the chips are down and it shows in all of our products.

7)I’m sure you guys do a lot of “playtesting” (that’s the term professionals use when they kickback and play games all day) at the Raven office, so tell me who dishes out the daily cans of whoop ass?

That totally depends on the game. Me being ‘Old School,’ I control the boards when it comes to DOOM, DOOM ][, or any of the “1 floor, 1 ceiling” games of the old days. Once you add that extra dimension and get to Quake you have to face Greg ‘Unnamed’ Barr. It’s quite depressing to play Greg, as he will hand you your head in a small matter of time. I won’t even mention real time strategy games. There are just too many names to mention there and I am not one of them. Now Tribes on the other hand…

8)What websites do you visit on a daily basis?

I don’t have too many that I read on a daily basis, but I do check out ShugaShack, Evil Avatar, and CNN quite often. Other than that, I spend most of my on-line time playing Tribes. Have I mentioned I liked Tribes?

9)In your opinion, what is the best level you’ve ever played? (please include screenshot if possible)

To be honest, the most fun that I have ever had playing a game was an old DOOM ][ map from a wad called the mega sphere. I don’t have any screenshots, but it was just a large X with a square surrounding it. We would play for hours on that level and the score screen would roll on for minutes upon minutes as it tabulated at the end of a match. That was one incredibly simple yet fun-as-hell level.

10)What level are you most proud of designing?

I am proud of every level that I have ever built, but the ones that were the most fun came from Hexen and Hexen 2. I especially loved the Graveyard from Hexen. Those were the days! That was when you were building levels that didn’t have to overly look like anything and it all came straight from your imagination.

11)Any final words you wish to leave us with?