A Week in Our Worlds – Stevie Case

We continue our week long set of interviews today with Stevie Case, level designer for ION Storm. Stevie also sent along a pic of one of the maps she’s working on for the upcomming Daikatana Multi-Player Map Pak (try saying that 10 times real fast).

1)Many of us are aware of how you skyrocketed into the gaming industry, but for those that don’t know, can you give us a breif recap of how you got where you are today, what your doing at ION Storm, and as many gooey details about the John Romero beatdown thing as you can remember!?

Well, I started playing Quake as a student at the University of Kansas. I got really involved with my clan, Impulse 9, and we even won the first clanring tournament! I developed a reputation as one of the very few female players online, and a good one at that! I got to know some folks around the industry, and decided to take a trip to Dallas to meet online friends and tour the Dallas game companies. We stopped by the newly formed Ion Storm on that trip, and my good friend Onethumb layed down a big challenege for me, claiming that I thought I could beat John Romero himself! To prove myself I beat down one of his boys — Noel “Shadow” Stevens! So the date was set and when the time came he narrowly defeated me (though I would say that the rules were unclear at the time, but thats another story!) So… I went home to find a big webpage John and the Ion guys made claiming he gave me a manbeating!! I was *so* pissed, because I didn’t know them well and didn’t realize it was all in fun! Regardless, I put out a big public smackdown/challenge to John, and we met two weeks later for the rematch. This time I smacked him, and I have proof on tape and demos. =)

Anyway, to make a long story short(er) somewhere along the way I figured out that making games was a darn cool job. I started teaching myself to use a Quake editor (BSP when Yahn was still on it), and learning from my level designing friends. I moved do Dallas, did tech support, got a few endorsements as a Cyberathlete, wrote some strategy guides, formed a small company and produced a Quake II add-on that never hit the shelves (yet another story :), and finally landed in QA at Ion. Four months later I was promoted to my dream job: level designer, on the Daikatana team.

2)So what does a typical day in the life of Stevie Case involve?

Right now a day in my life is pretty lax! Since we are finally out of crunch time I get to indulge in my prefered night schedule. We come in any time between 10 am – 1 pm. I check my email, deal with organizing things, etc. Up until Friday I would spend the rest of the day working on my maps for the map pack, but those are done now! Now my focus is exclusively on the next game, the details of which I unfortunately cannot dicuss. I can say, however, that it feels great to be working on something from scratch. 🙂 We catch dinner around 7 pm – 8 pm, go home, get back on the computer. I work on maps, learning things for the new game, design stuff, and my website — http://www.stevana.com. We usually stop working on the computers around 3 am – 5 am.

3)How do you feel about your modeling, do you think it has helped or hurt your career?

I loved modeling, and I am sure it has done both help and hurt in plenty of ways. I plan on continuing with it. It is exceptionally fun, and I won’t be young forever! In my honest opinion, the only reason I *wouldn’t* continue is out of fear that people would react poorly. However, I have never been one to live in fear of public reaction. Modeling is a fun, rewarding thing for me right now, and I am willing to accept whatever consequences come with it. I must say though, its rather funny to me that people make such a big thing out of it, both good and bad. So people have taken pictures of me.. in the grand sceme of things it really doesn’t mean anything at all. I can tell you this: modeling is the easiest thing I have ever done. Just because a girl is capable of standing in front of a camera and looking decent doesn’t make her special, in fact most of the time its all about genetics! 🙂 I would rather people get worked up about something that matters and has a direct impact on their quality of life, or that of the people they care about.

4)Hot Chocolate syrup, or Whip Cream with sprinkles (this is not a sex related question!!! it’s simply a choice of ice cream toppings!)?

I’ll take chocolate any day!

5)When designing levels where do you draw your inspiration from?

Everywhere! When I am particularly obsessed I do sometimes dream about new areas and architecture. I pay special attention to the details of real-world architecture and borrow from and bastardize it. I try to capture the feel from movies, pictures.. I also spend a lot of time thinking about all the games I have played, and what I enjoyed about them. Often I will take the concept behind a successful game sequence I have experienced and turn it into something different yet similar.

6)Diakatana is out the door, so whats next for Stevie Case? Ever thought of picking back up your Pro Gaming career. I mean you were practically the first female pro gamer?

The thought has crossed my mind, although I don’t know that I have the requisite patience necessary to be a pro gamer! Who knows though, I might pick it up again for a future competition just for fun. 🙂 For now I am focusing on the next game as I will be staying here at Ion. It feels great to be starting on something new! In my spare time I plan on building my website, and hopefully turning it into a really professional endeavor. That is a big focus for me right now. I am planning on writing a few articles for magazines and attempting to get them published, and possibly even starting on a book. Only time will tell, and there just don’t seem to be enough hours in the day!

7)Where do you see the gaming in 5 years?

Honestly its hard to even imaging how much gaming will change over the next few years. One of the big aspects of gaming that drew me in originally was the social aspect. Back in my early days IRC and the clan scene were small, friendly places for people to get to know each other and play some games! The entire social aspect of gaming has exploded over the past few years, and I think as the industry grows, developers will struggle to find a way to build a community from the masses. I would guess that some of the most successful games will have a big multiplayer focus, just like we see now with Diablo II in addition to the obvious shooters. Oh yeah, and games will probably be a lot prettier too. 🙂

8)What, in your opinion, is the best level ever made, single or multiplayer, self-pimpage is fine as well.

That is very tough, so I will have to pick two. Sorry! For one on one play I must say my favorite level of all time is Quake 1 dm2. However, the level that has really endured and proven itself as the best teamplay map of alltime is Quake 1 dm3. Nothing created since holdes a candle to the simple perfection of those two levels.

9)What level are you most proud of designing, or helping design?

My favorite single-player map so far I suppose is the Acropolis for Daikatana. Of course, being the typical level designer, I still look back at it and kick myself for not making it better. I have learned *so* much over the past 2 years about making maps that each one seems to get much better as I progress. My favorite dm map that I’ve done so far is the Wrath of Ares map for the map pack (see screenshot). I just finished it so I haven’t started picking it apart yet. 🙂

10)Any thoughts of wisdom, tips or tricks, you would like to leave the design community or female gamers?

As for both groups, I would simply encourage them to remember that fun should be a major part of the equasion in their lives. So many people get wrapped up in politics these days or personal fueds that the *fun* of making games gets put on the back burner. Loosen up a little bit and get to know they people you work/play with. Take it all with a grain of salt. Put what you do into perspective and remember that you only get to live once. You better make the best of it!

A big thanks goes out to Stevie for taking the time out of her busy schedule to talk with us monkies!