The Making of Operation Archangel
I was a great fan of DOOM. When I found out there was an editor allowing to create add-on levels, I started to think of a project. However I realized it would take a lot of time to complete therefore I gave up. When DARK FORCES was released it was different. I wasn't just a videogame fan, I was a "Star Wars" fan and it was easy for me to develop an interesting plot for add-on levels, and find tenacity to work hard for it. I had many scenes in mind and just tried to put them together and create a level. But I discovered there was room for several levels with all those ideas and then came the concept of a trilogy.
When I thought of it for the very first time, I had imagined scenes near an island, with blue ocean, yellow sand and cliff textures, and Kell dragons in caves near a beach. Kyle was dropped by a ship in the ocean, had to swim to the beach, enter a dark cave, beat Kell dragons and blow up a rock wall with a detonator to enter an Imperial base. Then there would be shuttles like the one you're using to get to the Detention Center in the DF episode, passing in front of each other, and the player would jump on the other ones, shooting at troopers. But no idea for a mission objective ! Then I had a second idea, taking place on a Bespin-like city. This place is one of my favourite in the movie. But I had no full plot for that project either. I just knew I wanted to stage a space battle with 3DOs of TIE Fighters and B-Wings, and in the final scene Kyle would have to run to a landing platform and wait until a Rebel corvette comes and takes him away. But I didn't have many more ideas for the level so I gave up and decided to start my first level in the famous Mos Eisley spaceport.
I came with an idea where an Imperial weapon designer would defect the Empire and hide in the subterranean areas of the desert city. My friend Vincent Hubin gave him a name: "Trem Goltend". To create the face of Trem Goltend, I found inspiration in a book about the making of an old Cinerama film called "The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm". There I found a picture of the late George Pal, world-famous sci-fi movie producer. I thought he had the right face for an Imperial engineer and I scanned the picture then retouched it. So I started to create my first level. Immediately I felt like there was a need for new, customized wall textures. No existing DF texture could simulate the sand floor or the plaster walls well enough. So I created new ones and included those nice arches you can see althrough the level. I was careful to create darker sectors, exactly like there would be in a real desert city because of shadows. Some people said it didn't faithfully look like Mos Eisley. They're right. But I preferred to concentrate on a more specific part of the city, close to the docking bays. Anyway, the architecture was praised by many players, and I got nice e-mails from around the world.
I also designed custom WAXs for the level: an exploding fusion generator, plus ennemies. A Jawa WAX had already been made and I just corrected a bug in it. The Jawa taking a shower was a joke. Generally I don't like that kind of jokes in levels, I prefer authors to remain "serious" but the idea just crossed my mind, I had a good laugh with it then I just couldn't resist inserting it. It was funny to see the Jawa, only dressed with hawaian boxer shorts, looking annoyed by the intruder ! The cantina was an interesting place to recreate. I made new arches and tried to reproduce the architecture as faithfully as possible, however I didn't have the plans of the original cantina and I did my best. Greedo was interesting to put in the level. There was already a WAX made for DF96 but I didn't like it much so I made my own and had him play the role of Goltend's headquarters keeper.
The first mail I received after the release of the level was from Allen Newman, one of the "hot shots" of the previous DARK FORCES era. He congratulated me for the level and proposed to collaborate for the next one. He showed extremelely competent at creating bitmaps, both for briefings and textures, and also served as an audiovisual assistant. He improved customized VOCs I had prepared for the second part of the Operation Archangel trilogy. So here we were... It was time to start the building of Part #2. Kyle had found Goltend's secret quarters and recovered the datatape but the engineer managed to escape. What are we going to do now ? Without his tapes, Goltend can't do anything. So I thought it could be interesting that Goltend changed his mind and accepted to collaborate with the Rebel Alliance. Anyway the Rebels have his tapes and found that the Empire built a new assault weapon for the troopers: the Black Whirlwind, which a prototype is being secretly kept by the Empire's allies before manufacturing. Vincent created a brand new weapon with fully customized BMs, FMEs and VOCs. He wrote a complete story about it and published it as two 800x600 bitmaps that accompanied the release of the Black Whirlwind patch.
Setting the plot of Part #2 as a "hunt for the new weapon" was interesting but "déjà vu". So we added the rescue of Goltend's daughter. In the story of the BW it is said that Goltend was forced to build the new weapon and that his daughter was held a prisoner until Goltend finishes his work. Vincent called her Riia and I decided to use pictures of the lovely Alicia Silverstone. Allen proposed to record the voice of a friend of his named Muriel Ost to perform Riia's VOCs. I really wanted Riia to be more than just a low-resolution FME and those VOCs helped a lot. When defining her with Vincent and Allen, we enjoyed a few memorable moments. I saw her as this kind of capricious teenage pest who drives Imperial Officers up the wall and whose stubbornness short-circuits Interrogation Droids. In fact, if it had been a movie, I could easily see Kyle slapping her and say "Now shut up and do what I say or I'll take you back to your dungeon".
The dungeon was very important. I wanted the player to experience a different world in each level. After the dry sands of Tatooine I thought a wet and dark dungeon-like environment was surprising enough. It had never been seen before in Star Wars, except in Jabba's palace, but I wanted something different. It had to look medieval. I hadn't used the Gamorreans in the first episode therefore I could make them more important by using them here. I designed the fortress sothat it was believable to imagine the Gamorrean nation having built it. I asked Allen Newman to create a new texture showing Gamorrean arms and shields and all this really allowed to set-up a typical style. These rather primitive creatures, the new props and the architectural style make it for an interesting place to fight in when put together. I loved the interaction of primitive Gamorrean building and Imperial high-tech influence in some areas. It's a feeling I had when watching an episode of the ancient TV series "Battlestar Galactica". I forgot the episode title but I remember the same "dark old castle surroundings" and the Cylon using it as a tactical base.
In the beginning I thought Kyle would have to enter the fortress walking through caves. I imagined a new WAX monster but didn't have time to build it so I preferred to drop him into a watchtower with a parachute. But I kept the idea of a roaring monster, hidden somewhere... so I just set up this special scenery when Kyle walks above a grid and triggers the roar. It's really frightening when you're not expecting it ! You can't say what's going to happen. Fortunately, you don't have to fight any monster then yet the fear effect has been achieved. There are also the underwater scene and the Palpatine puzzle, very similar to the Iehova puzzle in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" but there are not my favourite parts of the level. Of course there were somehow unique in the DF universe but what I prefer is the storm, the dungeon itself and also the portcullis in the castle forecourt. Last but not least, a nice effect at the end of the level is when the Crow lands on the roof of the castle. If you stop moving and stare at the ceiling of the room you're in, you'll see it trembling. This kind of small and easy-to-achieve effect adds to realism. Because of lack of time, I also gave up a few ideas like a huge spider web in the fortress' subterranean area. It should have been occupied by Rick Horack's WAX spider and be used as a keeper for the cave. Instead of that I just put two gun turrets. Near the puzzle room I wanted a little private joke, actually a reference to the opening scenes of "Raiders of the Lost Ark". Kyle should have walked through a sunny sector and a FME would come out of the wall, showing an impaled skeleton with the dialog VOC "Forestall !". Allen had already recorded the VOC from the videotape but you can't imagine how much time it takes to stage such a scenery. So I gave up to concentrate on what really mattered for the story.
After that came Episode #3. The most complicated of all, for several reasons. By the time crowds on the web enjoyed Dungeons of Gamorra, I was no longer a student and had lots to do in terms of job. Also, I wanted to go even farther on the technical aspect and started thinking of crazy things, like hi-jacking a corvette flying in Anterak streets or driving a metro train out of its track. It took months to build, just to prove not feasible. I started over and over. There were full sectors I built then deleted, or re-shaped and after one year I was back to the beginning of the level. I had too many ideas for this level and couldn't assemble them. I gave up the nocturnal life part of the city, and won't probably install as many special effects as I had wanted. I think that, no, The Storming of Anterak City won't surpass Mt Kurek. But there will be nice surprises however. So I won't say one more word here and I'll let you play the demo version of the level... I have to thank Allen Newman for creating the general outside looking of the city you can see below. But you will only see the city that way in the LFD briefing...