- Education: Art Foundation & Art at Cardiff University
- Joined Millennium/Sony: 1993
- Favourite Drink: Ribena
- Previous Jobs: Mapper for Vectordean
- Favourite Task: Texturing
What is a Level Mapper?
It's quite a vague title but it means that I position all the enemies, energy pickups, money pickups etc. I also set up quite a lot of the spy cameras, chase cameras. . . various different types of cameras. I also place collision perimeters which govern where the player is allowed to walk and also keeps enemies out of places they're not supposed to go. . .
So it kind of moulds the level together?
Yes, the artist's actually responsible for building the level models and I place the things that go in it, under guidance from Jason who actually designed the individual levels. I get input from everyone in the team about where characters and items in the game should actually go.
How do you physically place them?
We have a big graphical interface. I use a Silicon Graphics machine to do mapping and use an in-house mapping tool that's called 'Mappy'. I load in the model and then I've got little markers to position them. I've got a little zombie model for example and I change any extra settings that need calibrating like doors to cells which might have certain requirements to open. . . that kind of thing.
So it's a re-usable software tool?
Yeah. It was used on Frogger as well and on Beast Wars. It's the basic interface, but it's got different kinds of plug-ins for different projects. It exploits things differently for different projects and I think it's being used by some of SCEE London's in-house teams as well.
Did you find it was hard to be the only mapper in between teams of artists and teams of programmers?
I'm actually part of both teams. I have to do a lot of work with the artists because I do some model texturing. I also have to work closely with the programmers when I position the entities they have programmed. So I've kind of been the bridge between the two.
ARTIST OR PROGRAMMER?
So what is your background? Artist? Programmer? Marketing?
Well, actually I have an artistic background. It started off at school where art was my strongest, then I went on to do an art foundation course and I started off doing an art degree at Cardiff but left halfway through. And then I just kind of fell into the games industry.
I was friends with Chris [Sorrell, Producer of MediEvil] and one evening I was just sitting around waiting for Chris to finish, I'd played all of the games in the office, so he suggested I had a go at level mapping and off I went. This was at Vectordean. I started on a 3-month contract working on James Pond 3 doing the level mapping.
What did you work on first?
Well, first of all I started working from home doing scripting for a few projects and then I moved in-house and I worked on Deadline, Silverload and Scroll.
For Scroll I was event scripting. This was an RPG and very screen based. I did a very basic kind of programming: 'the player goes here and this happens'. My job title at this time was 'development assistant' which meant I got to do quite a lot of different things. On Deadline I was setting up, on Silverload I was helping one of the programmers, Gary Richards, with a lot of the basic setting up of things. This was using C, but I didn't know it very well. . . it was just cutting and pasting, setting up animations and rooms in the game.
DOWN ON THE FARM
What do you do when you aren't level mapping?
Play games. At the moment I'm playing Alundra. I can't wait for the next one. Another favourite is Castlevania.
What's the first one you really got into?
I first started getting into games when my brother got an Amiga. I think the game was Rodland or something like that. I really liked it. It was just funny little fairies going round.
Did you fight each other to get on the machine?
We used to have a lot of 2-player games so it wasn't too bad. My brothers were younger then me so it wasn't too bad! I didn't get into games as early as a lot of other people seem to have done though.
So, if you stopped level mapping what would you do for a job?
Maybe something on the Internet, web page stuff, I like that. I like things that have got a slightly artistic bent but have also got quite a lot of technical knowledge as well, so you can combine the two. This is why games are perfect for me. Anything else has got to be something that is quite changeable so I'm not doing the same thing over and over again. When I was little I used to want to be a farmer.
Did you look at someone on a tractor and think 'that could be me'?
No, I think it was that I used to like cows. . .
Are you a country girl?
I was brought up in Chesterfield in England which is an industrial town but we used to go on holiday to farms - where my parents would rent out a cottage.
So it's pretty good then?
I've done so many little bits and pieces so on the whole I'm really quite proud of the game. One of my favourite parts of the game is actually the last level coz I think we've got some really cool looking enemies and it's really fun to play and funny too. . . it's really, really funny.
Which bit was the worst - the one that you had to keep re-doing to get right?
Probably setting up the cameras. You can never make everybody happy so you do one version and that's cool until someone turns round and says 'oh I don't like that'. So I guess I go round in a circle a lot of the time trying to keep everyone happy and not keeping everyone happy.
They don't give you too much stick then?
Oh, I get lots of stick. People are always coming up to me going 'Oh Katie can you do this, can you do that'. My monitor's normally covered in Post-it notes.
Do you give some back?
Only when it's late at night and I'm dead tired and want to go home.
How long does it take to map a level in MediEvil?
Initially it takes about a week just to set up the camera, build the collision and initial placement of enemies but it gets re-made so many times, it's difficult to say. So you're still working on it?
Oh yeah, fixing various things, we are changing things all the time.
Do you work on different levels every day, simultaneously?
Yeah. So it's quite hectic. For the artists it's more clear-cut when a task is complete, but for the programmers and me, it's less specific.
It's got to be worth it though.
The feedback has been good. We just hope the reviewers like it. You never can tell, they either love things or hate them.
Somebody was telling us about Matt doing weird stuff?
You mean the cross dressing? He only does it for a laugh - he doesn't do it every time he goes out somewhere.
What is it, a stockings thing?
Well he's got striped stockings, he's got various skirts and dresses. He recently bought a long silver dress. You can imagine how he looks with his hair as he's not a petite boy is he?
What's your favourite genre?
I like a lot of different types of games - probably some kind of action game, but I like platform-type things and puzzle games. My favourite game of late has been Resident Evil 2. Really cool. I am a big horror fan.
So you like horror films as well?
Oh yeah. I love horror films. Hellraiser is my all-time favourite film.
I've never seen that.
It's about a magic puzzle box. It's gory. It's had quite a lot of sequels but the first one is the best; Cenovites and Pinhead. I'd love to play a puzzle game head to head against Pinhead.
- Katie is married to Chris Sorrell.