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Hazard Team HQ interview with Jeff Dischler
© 2000 Benjamin Boerner.

Zur deutschen Version des Interviews

Jeff Dischler is programmer for weapons effects and environmental effects at Raven Software. He joined the team last year in September. Only a few days after this website went online in January 2000, he already gave us the okay to send him a couple of questions for an interview. Thanks a lot Jeff! Here we go:

<Benjamin Boerner> Please say something about yourself - who you are, how you came to Raven and what you are doing at Raven Software.
<Jeff Dischler> I'm the new guy at Raven, having been hired as a programmer for Star Trek: Elite Force just last September. I previously worked at Sonic Foundry (which is also in Madison, Wisconsin) where they make some absolutely amazing media editing tools, etc, for the PC. I also did a lot of game programming in my spare time, an interest that I acquired in 5th grade when I had a programming class. We each were supposed to write a little space game using lo-res graphics on the Apple ][, something in the vein of Vanguard for the Atari 2600. While the game turned out cheesy, it left me with a desire to write games.

I would really love to know
what that weapon is...
(Click to enlarge)

<Benjamin Boerner> What is the most exciting thing you like about your job?
<Jeff Dischler> Using the Quake 3 engine has been a pretty cool experience, being able to look under the hood and get a first-hand look at the code that makes it all work. But the coolest part would have to be the fact that I'm actually working on a real game and not having to do all of my own artwork and make my own sounds! That and I get to focus on doing effects, which is essentially what I wanted to do anyway.

<Benjamin Boerner> How is it like, working on a Star Trek game? Is it fun to recreate a part of that universe or are there too many rules?
<Jeff Dischler> I've always liked Star Trek, or at least the Next Generation and Voyager series. I can't say that I ever really got much into DS9 though.... and the old, original Star Trek was, well, just too old and cheesy for my taste. As far as building the universe, that's really being handled by the level designers so you can bet that most of the universe feel is going to be expressed through architecture that they create. Even though I am working on some ambient effects for the universe, the designers are also handling the placement of those things.

<Benjamin Boerner> How are effects added into the Quake 3 engine?
<Jeff Dischler> Fortunately, by the time I had started at Raven, Josh [Weier] had already been quite busy and implemented a fully functional effects system for the game. It allows an easy way to add in textured cylinders, bezier curves, lines, sprites, etc. and have them do cool and useful things. Things like, fade the effect in or out. ....scale up or down....rotate a given amount... move in a certain direction... His system was so useful I've essentially been able to use it "as is" with only minimal modifications or additions, so I guess that's a testament to how cool and easy it has been to use.

<Benjamin Boerner> You are working on the environment effects. What eye-catcher can we await in the game, if you're allowed to name some?
<Jeff Dischler> One effect I created is supposed to be used as a cargo/personnel transporter. My idea was to have bursts of particles traveling between the two endpoints, which by itself is not particularly interesting...so... I made them begin in a stopped position, rapidly accelerating them until they reach the mid-point of the transporter beam, then decelerating them to a stop at the other end of the effect. The end result is that the beam feels like it's stretching and ripping away on one end and compressing on the other, with a fast blurring in the middle. The motion is kind of unusual which is why I like it, though, I'm not sure if the effect will actually make it into the game.

<Benjamin Boerner> Can you say anything about the environment on alien ships? For example, will we see exploding walls, collapsing corridors or gas coming out of a wall (Like the beginning of Half-Life)?
<Jeff Dischler> These kinds of things can be done and certainly are being done. For example, in a demo we did recently for Activision, there was a metal platform on a Borg level that was demolished by some explosions, leaving twisted, smoking metal behind. Josh [Weier] also put together a cool concept level with catwalks that you could shoot down. You could then jump on top of them to reach an area that you wouldn't have been able to reach otherwise.

Klingons at home.
Always good for a fight!
(Click to enlarge)
<Benjamin Boerner> We know for sure that there will be the Phaser, Compression Rifle (Phaser Rifle), the I-Mod and the Stasis Weapon. Can you say anything about their fire modes, including alt-fire?
<Jeff Dischler> Josh [Weier] actually did the effect for the I-Mod main fire before I had started at Raven and I think it looks really beefy and tough, especially the way the ribbons of energy curl off into space after each shot. The alt-fire effect currently has a similar look and feel, though it will shoot about twice as fast and do less damage per shot. The stasis weapon effect is currently being worked on, so I'll probably not comment on that right now. As you'd expect, the phaser is pretty much a stock Trek weapon, so it'll operate in a predictable fashion.

<Benjamin Boerner> Can you reveal any information about the Scavenger Gun or is it still a secret?
<Jeff Dischler> The only thing I'll say for now is that its main fire mode shoots rapid-fire bursts that streak across the screen, and the alt-fire mode throws a huge energy pulse that explodes on impact, doing damage to anyone who is unfortunate enough to be in that vicinity. At the most recent weapons meeting we had, Brian Pelletier and some of the other Trek guys commented that it was one of their favourite weapons so far. All in all, I think that weapon effect is looking pretty solid, plus, it should be pretty fairly devastating when used properly.

<Benjamin Boerner> Did you have any problems programming some effects? If so, can you name one or two?
<Jeff Dischler> Well, the lighting/electricity effects have been modified quite a few times. Josh and I went back and forth for a while, changing each others code for generating the bolts in an attempt to make it look even better...and in the end it looked worse than when we had started! When I think about it though, the electricity effects didn't necessarily look absolutely amazing in Half-Life, though they were appropriate for that style of game, I think. One thing I have to remind myself of is that certain kinds of effects just won't work for our game, such as fantasy or crazy, over-the-top anime effects.

<Benjamin Boerner> What would you say would make Elite Force better than other 3D Shooters?
<Jeff Dischler> I've never really been a huge fan of most other first-person shooters unless, of course, it was deathmatching against real people. I prefer interesting plots and immersive environments balanced with fast paced action when necessary. From that standpoint, I think our single player game mode will meet that criteria and I think it will appeal to a wide range of tastes with its balance of action and plot. Additionally, we'll have a great holomatch [deathmatch] experience so there is definitely going to be something there for everybody.

A concept drawing
of the probe ship
(Click to enlarge)
<Benjamin Boerner> What are your favourite games?
<Jeff Dischler> Some of my favorite games are definitely older console games. More specifically, I've always loved the Metroid series, partly because there were loads of secrets, huge areas to explore, player control was very predictable, and game play was basically quite simple. I also liked the fact that you always had a sense of what you were trying to accomplish in the game--there are few things that annoy me more than running around without a clue as to what you should be doing at a given point in a game. Also, complicated plot threads....extensive dialog and character development....can be cool, but those elements can also be a drag when not used properly. I've also been a huge fan of the Zelda series, especially Zelda64, but it would take far too long to get into everything that I liked about that games.

<Benjamin Boerner> What graphics card do you like most?
<Jeff Dischler> Well, I love the TNT2 based card that I have at home. At work, I have a Diamond V550 in my PIII 500, which is actually more than just fine for now. I did get a Voodoo3 for dirt cheap from a friend and I soon wished I hadn't spent my money on it...in this day and age, my opinion is that cards should have 32 bit colour. I guess the only thing one could say in its defence is that it has amazingly high frame rates.

<Benjamin Boerner> Anything you would like to add or say?
<Jeff Dischler> It's good to see that people are really interested in this game and how it's progressing. I'm hoping everyone will have as much fun playing it as I'm having in being part of the development team!

Hazard Team HQ would like to thank:
  • Jeff Dischler, for answering all the questions (Even in his spare time).
    Thank you Jeff!
  • Kenn Hoekstra, for sending us those three pictures.
    Thank you Kenn!
  • Brian Pelletier and Activision, for giving their okay to post this interview.
    Thank you guys!
This interview was made in January 2000.
© 2000 Benjamin Boerner


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