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Joystiq interview: Soenke C. "Warby" Seidel

Ross Miller

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Earlier this week, we stumbled upon de_wanda, a wonderful Counter-Strike map depicting a giant Shadow of the Colossus foe battling a large tentacled beast we later learned (and cursed ourselves for missing) inspired by underrated gem Beyond Good & Evil.

We sent along a few questions to the map's creator, Soenke C. Seidel, who currently resides in Germany. Seidel, alias Warby, has also worked on the Half-Life sidescroller Codenamed: Gordon and Alliance: The Silent War and has shown through concept art great reverence for Fumito Ueda's PlayStation 2 hit.

How long did it take you to do the map?

When people ask me this question, I usually just respond 4 months. The truth is, I don't remember anymore. I started it this summer and I released it [in the] beginning of December, but I already sketched out the colossus and the layout long before that, at the time when the game Shadow of the Colossus got released in the U.S.

What was your inspiration?

Well obviously Shadow of the Colossus for the bomb target statue, but the rest of the city is inspired by a not well know Ubisoft game called Beyond Good and Evil that I found in a bargain bin for 1 Euro a month or so prior to start building the map (best buck i have ever spend). Pretty much all textures you can see in the map are made from a photo collection provided by another great German artist "Thomas Hess" ... they inspired me quite a bit, too. He shot them in Southern France and even though Beyond Good and Evil is set on an alien planet, you can clearly feel [Ubisoft's] French architectural influences. So that was a lucky coincidence that matched up so nicely.

Could you tell me about your history in the mod community and your professional life in the gaming industry.

The only two mods I have worked on are called project Timeless (based on Half-Life One engine) and Red Orchestra (based on Unreal). I started working in the commercial game industry practically the day I was allowed [by] German law. I had my first gig at a studio called Nuclear Vision. They were working on a first-person shooter called Psychotoxic based on an engine called Vulpine Vision (now Trinigy). The game got neither critical nor commercial success, but considering that it was made with less than a shoestring budget I guess we can still be proud of it because it's proof of standing power and finishing ability!

At around the same time me and another Nuclear Vision employee made the flash game Codename Gordon as a fun side project, which later got its official release by Valve over Steam and is bundled for free with every Steam Account. Codename Gordon is what I am most proud of! At the same time i was doing a lot of Unreal custom mapping as well (those were busy days), which resulted in a lot of contacts to U.S. studios. One of them eventually hired me so I moved to the Boston area to work for Windward Mark Interactive as a lead level designer, where I worked for about two years on a really ambitious first-person shooter project called Alliance: the Silent War.

Unfortunately, the U.S. government would not grant me a permanent work permit so I am back in Germany again, and I am only doing occasional freelance work for the project at this point.

Where does Warby (or War Beast, whichever your preference) come from?

It's from a cheesy Sci-Fi B-movie called Death Machine its sort of an Alien / Terminator spoof by Director Stephen "Blade" Norrington. So the film monster in this one is called the Warbeast [and] I always loved the design and the simple but effective animatronics in that thing.

But with more and more international contacts suddenly the words war and beast actually have meaning ... a meaning that doesn't fit my persona or attitude at all so I slimmed it down to Warby, which doesn't mean anything but I hope sounds happier and more peaceful.

Tell us about your background in 3D animation / education.

Not much to say there. I have the regular German High School degree, and we sure as hell did nothing 3D art or game design-related in school, so all I know about art and game technology is self taught.

What software did you use when rendering?

I don't offline / pre-render anything ... everything I do is for real-time purposes! Of course, the light maps in de_wanda, with all the global illumination and ambient occlusion, are rendered offline by the standard Half-Life compile tool vrad provided by Valve Software, but I am pretty sure that's not what you were asking, but what 3D tool i like to use? Right ! [Ed.'s note: right!]

I prefer Maya over Max XSI and Blender, but I am curious to try out Modo. But seeing how Maya 8 makes its first steps to becoming a full-fledged shitty Max clone, I might just declare "rock 'n roll as dead" and switch to Max permanently soon.

Anything else you would like to add?

If you like Shadow of the Colossus and I assume you do check out my website. There was a "CG Talk Shadow of the Colossus level design contest" recently ... you can view my "winning entry" on the front page. There is also a fake in-game screenshot of the colossus seen in de_wanda *smiles.*

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