May 30th, 4:05am America/New_York

Interview: FMPONE talks redesign of de_cache

Brett "Few" ESEA on Thu, 07/25/2013 3:47PM
After screenshots were posted on the ESEA forum a few months ago, many have been wondering what is doing to happen with the new redesign of de_cache. Speculation can now come to a close, as the new redesign, worked on by FMPONE and Sal "Volcano" Garozzo has been released. Also embedded in the article is the commentary done by the duo, explaining changes in the map and how both of them influenced it.

For those in the community who might not know who you are, can you explain a little about yourself?

Hi! My name is Shawn, and I’m a level designer.

Previously, I’ve worked on AAA titles like Natural Selection 2, and have recently released three Counter-Strike: GO maps. The first of those maps, CS_MUSEUM, is the top rated map of all time on the CS:GO workshop and was just included in Valve’s Operation Payback.

How long have you been playing Counter-Strike, or any other PC games?

I’ve been playing Counter-Strike and PC games since I was a youngster. The first multiplayer shooter I got really involved with was probably the very first WW2 Call of Duty, and since then I’ve had a lot of fun with Valve games like Day of Defeat, Counter-Strike, and Ricochet (kidding).

What made you want to get started with mapping? How long have you been doing it?

I really appreciate the art of mapping, not just creating pretty scenery, but the art of making a perfectly designed experience: game balance, fun factor, smooth performance (no annoying movement problems, high FPS, perfect readability). All of these things represent to me a big challenge, the task of making the ideal gameplay arena for players.
It fascinates me. It’s like: can you make a great map or not? I know players can tell right off the bat if something is great or not -- I think that’s the reason I’ve had any success.

Do you normally re-work previously created maps, or has most of your work come from scratch?

Both are important. Game developers are always updating games like from Natural Selection 1 to Natural Selection 2, or Counter-Strike 1.6 to Counter-Strike: Source and then to Counter-Strike: GO. But players don’t want to lose classic experiences just because a game has better graphics or new gameplay features.

You might be surprised to learn that some of the remake projects I’ve done in the past (such as on the map Veil for Natural Selection 2, which I chose to work because it was sort of the flagship, “de_dust2” of that franchise, in my opinion) are a lot harder to do properly than creating original stuff, believe it or not. The reasons for that are pre-conceived notions: because when you are updating something, everyone immediately FREAKS OUT, from fear that you’re going to screw up a fantastic map.

So, I’ve always respected the classics. I try to honor them, renew them, and upgrade them, but at the same time I always go for the challenge of trying to create classics myself once the game I’m working on has those required maps players cannot live without.

Is there a map that a lot of people play now that you have created?

I’ve had some successful projects, like I say, Veil is sort of the Dust2 of the Natural Selection world, along with a map called Summit which I worked on, which is every bit as popular and maybe a better map design-wise, since it fits into that game more. Museum was relatively popular I guess, but I think Cache will probably be my most popular map that I’ve done recently.

Why did you choose to re-do de_cache?

Before I was involved at all with Cache, I wanted to work with Sal (Volcano), who of course created it. Before I had anything to do with Cache, I felt it had the potential to be a truly classic map.

I’ve always recognized that Sal is a genius with map design, especially considering his professional experience with Counter-Strike. What he can accomplish, and what he has accomplished, by getting Cache to level of respect within the Counter-Strike community that it currently enjoys, is nothing short of a miracle. You have to keep in mind that Counter-Strike is an old community, and simply put the toughest community I’ve ever seen, in terms of their reaction to crap. If you don’t do your job correctly in the Counter-Strike world, forget it, you’re done – and the community will be sure to let you know what they think of you. It’s a very tough crowd.

So, Sal had my respect from day one, and I reached out to him to work on an all-new, original project… but Matt Wood of Valve suggested that I actually work with Sal on Cache first. In hindsight it’s been a brilliant suggestion, so thanks to Matt, and to Magnar, Vitaly, and everybody else at Valve for staying so involved in this game. It has meant a lot, and they’re a big inspiration for me.

What has it been like working with Volcano, one of the most accomplished players in the game?

Grueling! Don’t get me wrong, Sal is a joy to work with, but he has a very exacting an uncompromising vision for what is good and what is bad in map design. Normally that would make him sort of a challenge to deal with, but because I respect his mind and his accomplishments, and because he has good reasons for his suggestions, I know that he has the best interests of the project in mind, and is actually just reflecting concerns that we would later hear from the community if he were not involved. Frankly, working with Sal can be tough, but it’s been the most educational thing I’ve done in map design in years. He knows his stuff, and anybody who doesn’t believe me, submit your map for his critique. That is -- if you have the stomach for it!

Have you ever focused on a competitive map before, or has it just been a hobby?

Making competitive maps has always been a passion of mine. For CS:GO, I tried first with DE_GWALIOR, but I think I ultimately ended up with a very fun pub map, something more casual. Considering how difficult it is to design original Counter-Strike maps, that’s actually a result I’m thankful for. In the end, though, as much fun as a 32 player map can be, nothing comes close to the thrill of designing a classic 5 on 5 map, a map where every design decision has major ramifications for gameplay. That’s what separates the men from the boys in mapping, and it’s the holy grail if you can do it properly.

You really have a creative eye from the screenshots and video’s I’ve seen, is this something you’ve adapted with over time, or does a lot of trial and error go into editing maps?

The creative eye, or the talent angle, just the artistic mindset, I’m not sure you can teach that or not teach that. I’ve always been interested in art and beauty, inside and outside of games. But the only advice I can give anyone out there is, if you don’t care, you can’t make great looking stuff. Caring deeply about great design is the number one ingredient.

Valve said themselves that any map changes would have to come from the community. Have you thought about editing other maps with Volcano’s help and support, or even creating brand new maps?

For me, I’m not interested in fixing Valve maps, but I’m happy to act as a conduit to get professional competitive-player feedback to Valve, and if I was working for Valve, I’d probably be listening to those same folks very, very closely. People like Sal, n0thing, Hiko, if you’re not taking advice from those folks, I’m not sure who you would be listening to, and you’re probably not doing yourself a favor as a mapper.

Volcano constantly gets requests about Train. Personally, I think he should just get it over with, so players can focus on our next project without any distractions.

Speaking of which: Sal and I have a brand new map already in development. A totally original map, something we know has to raise the bar not just from Cache, but from Counter-Strike competitive maps in general. Watch out!

Thanks to ESEA, Sal, and everybody keeping Counter-Strike competitive.

Download the new de_cache NOW
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