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  HLCU Interview with Valve's™ David Speyrer

Just before you get your teeth into this interview… can I express thanks to David and Valve for their time. I trust this will answer some of the communities FAQ's. Enjoy. Killa-Kyle

Kyle: Can you give me a little background on yourself for the record? Age, location etc…

David: My name is David Speyrer and I'm 30 years old. A little over one year ago I came to Valve from Boulder, Colorado where I was a software developer and project manager at a communications software company. I now live and work in Kirkland, Washington.

Kyle: What is your involvement with WorldCraft 3.3?

David: I was the primary developer on WorldCraft 3.3. There are a few others helping out with WorldCraft coding these days, but most of their work relates to forthcoming engine features. I'll probably continue to handle development of the public releases of WorldCraft.

Kyle: Can you briefly list some of the *new* features in WorldCraft 3.3?

David: The 3D renderer has been completely rewritten using OpenGL. The new renderer is much faster, more stable, and allows us to add rendering code directly from the engine. This speeds up the addition of 3D previews for things like sprites to the 3D view.

Probably the most useful new feature is the texture locking. When texture locking is enabled, textures stick to your geometry even when it is rotated at arbitrary angles. Also, the texture continuity features should make lining up textures across multiple brushes much easier.

Other cool features are sprite preview, the ability to go to brushes that were reported by the compile tools, iconic entities, and 3D preview of the tools.

Kyle: Can you briefly list some of the *major* bug fixes in WorldCraft 3.3?

David: The stability of the new renderer should be appreciated by everyone accustomed to the frequent crashing of the old D3D renderer. There have been many other bug fixes, which I'll leave for the readme file.

Kyle: WorldCraft 2.1 never got out of Beta! Why? Will WorldCraft 3.3 be a beta on release?

David: WorldCraft 2.1 was kept as beta simply because we never changed the designation. We didn't receive many bug reports for 2.1, so it wasn't updated. WorldCraft 3.3 will not be designated as beta on release.

Kyle: Once WorldCraft 3.3 is released, are you planning to develop it further?

David: WorldCraft is Valve's internal world building tool. We have found that tools are a very worthwhile thing to invest in because of the multiplicative effect. If one engineer makes six people more productive by improving WorldCraft, that effort quickly pays for itself. We have to be careful about where to spend our time in tools development, however. There are an infinite number of features to add and we don't want to pick the wrong ones.

Kyle: You have informed me that you are in the final stages of development with WorldCraft 3.3! What are you currently working?

David: I'm in the final cleanup phase now and not doing any major programming work. Currently we're doing things like going through the help file and making sure it's correct, updating copyright notices, and whatnot.

Kyle: I understand that you have greatly improved the 3D View in WorldCraft 3.3! What sort of benefits will mappers be getting?

David: It's much faster than the old renderer, for one. More significantly, it's stable, the importance of which should be obvious to those accustomed to the old renderer's frequent crashes. The sprite preview, iconic entities, tools preview, and 3D grid were all facilitated by the new renderering architecture. You can also now have multiple 3D views of the same map.

Kyle: What are Valves recommended minimum requirements for mapping in WorldCraft 3.3?

David: We haven't set any hard minimums, although I'd say a 300MHz P2 with a TNT card would be great. Anything that can run Half-Life accelerated in a window should work fine for WorldCraft. We use NVidia Quadros here at Valve.

Kyle: Have you had any problems getting WorldCraft 3.3 to work with Open GL and Glide based GFX Cards like 3DFX's?

David: We ran into a fair number of driver compatibility issues that I had to work through one by one. The biggest problem was that the issues varied widely just from one driver version to the next. We strongly recommend that you get the latest, most stable versions of your card's OpenGL drivers for best results in WorldCraft. Full screen cards like the Voodoo and Voodoo2 don't do accelerated 3D in a Window, so they weren't really an issue.

Kyle: In WorldCraft 2.1, it was fairly easy for a newbie to get started. What sort of *new* features does WorldCraft 3.3 have to help new mappers get started?

David: We have a completely new help system, courtesy of autolycus, which should help out a great deal. It's really spiffy; I think people will like it a lot.

Compiling maps with WorldCraft 2.x was difficult because Normal Compile was broken. We added CSG to the normal compile mode and fixed it so that VIS and RAD are run in the proper order. That should help new users get their maps compiled without full knowledge of the intricacies of the compile tools.

Entity keys such as sprite, sound, and model file names can be browsed from the entity properties dialog, taking the "did I get the file name right?" guesswork out of that part of the mapmaking process.

Kyle: Will there be a new .FGD with the release of and WorldCraft 3.3?

David: Yes. We've added a few new keywords to the FGD for things like sprites and decals. You can turn any entity's 3D representation into a sprite by building an alphatest sprite and adding a line to the FGD. That should help with the Purple Box Syndrome.

Kyle: I understand the texturing will be better in WorldCraft 3.3! What can you tell me about this?

David: Textures can now be aligned to each face, so that there is no warping or stretching of the texture on angled faces. You can still use the old world alignment as well.

I've already talked about automatic texture continuity, which you get by lifting a texture from one face and holding down the ALT key while applying to another face. There are new alignment tools like fit to face, justify top, left, right, and bottom, and centre, which are nice shortcuts for lining up textures relative to geometry.

You can also project textures onto brushes from the camera's viewpoint. This is like placing a slide projector where the camera is and projecting the texture onto the brush. It's useful for texturing irregular things like terrain, cliffs, and rocks.

Kyle: Do you do any level design yourself?

David: Not yet. I keep wanting to do a TF map, but never seem to find the time...

Kyle: What sort of support can the community expect from Valve with WorldCraft 3.3?

David: We accept bug reports and feature requests from the community, and take those into consideration in our ongoing development. As WorldCraft is our internal mapping tool, it makes sense for us to fix bugs as they come up. Remember, we use WorldCraft for *all* our mapping needs, which means we'll keep it in good shape for everyone else as well.

Kyle: When does Valve expect to release WorldCraft 3.3?

David: Any day now. We'll release WorldCraft along with the 2.0 SDK.

Kyle: What is the best feature in WorldCraft 3.3 that make it the best mapping tool?

David: I don't think it's any one feature; it's the sum of the stability, efficiency, and power of the application as a whole that make it Valve's editor of choice.

© 1999-2000 Design & Graphics to Kyle Milnes.