The History Interviews

Barry Brien | Kevin Buscemi | Death_Blood_Fire | Paul Fenney
Matthew Hallaron | Intjacob (Stryker One) | Jeff Walters

Paul "Fenwar" Fenney

Q: What was the first level you ever made?

I started out (I think) with a brief 3-room effort in WEDIT, but quickly saw the errors of my ways and switched to WDFUSE. After completing the WDFUSE tutorial I built around it. It became a high-security (read: high enemy count ;-) ) Imperial base with a few puzzles (remember those triangular elevators from the tutorial? I hid a shootable switch on the one that comes down from the ceiling...) and a central lift down to an underground cavern. My plan was that (shock horror) the Imperials had devised some fiendish generator down there using imprisoned Rebels as human batteries. Then someone pointed out that that was what the Matrix was about... The high security got continually higher (DTs in various locations, of course) but eventually I realised that (a) having the same texture on every single wall just wasn't going to cut it and (b) I really couldn't be bothered going back through and retexturing the huge rooms I'd built.

Q: Was it ever released? And if so, what did it rate as?

No. To the scrapheap it went, unfinished, unreleased and unbackuped.

I began work on Maximum Security which led to my first two releases. The Maximum Security demo was released because I wasn't sure whether people would figure out the solution to the puzzle (how to escape from your cell). In the end everyone seemed to like it, of course I got plenty of "constructive criticism" too. My second release was a showcase level entitled "Bridges over a Puddle of Water". Please excuse the puns (my showcase titles are still awful). This described my efforts to create an effect for part of Maximum Security (unfortunately it didn't quite succeed).

Q: What would you say was your finest work (level wise)?

Well, I still haven't managed a full release-worthy mission (everything I have started in the past tended to run out of steam, although of course I have started keeping the GOBs for future use...)

So far in terms of my own creativity in DF, it's a close run between 3 of my showcase levels (not the first one though). I'm pleased with how they all turned out; Operation Zero X is the most fun to play with, Magical Mystery Door the most useful and easily understandable for other editors in future levels (I know there's at least one major project which is likely to contain the effect); but Morph Me Up was by far the toughest and most rewarding one to complete (I've been able to adapt the technique to a few other special effects that might just appear in future levels I may or may not be working on). I'd pick that moving shaft of light as my best bit of DF work yet, anyway.

Q: Are you working on any other projects?

Maximum Security is the project I started work on shortly after ditching my first WDFUSE effort. So far a demo has appeared, but the level's layout has changed significantly, been deleted and rebuilt quite a few times since then. It will never be cancelled, but don't expect to see it any time soon.

Meanwhile, since by brother (who goes by the name of Tommos on DF-21) has shown swift progress with WDFUSE and we are now collaborating on a couple of ideas that you may soon be hearing more about. He's doing the bulk of the architectural work as well as texture work, leaving me to spend time on some INF and special effects (whilst also improving his work).

This should prevent the project from dying due to my own lack of inspiration, at least. This has tended to happen a lot when I've tried to create full levels on my own, which was what led me to kick off the Open Project. It's been fun to contribute to that, there have been varying degrees of activity through the two years it's run so far, but now that Llyren has taken things by the scruff of the neck it may actually get somewhere.

Most recently, Nathan Wilson has revived the DF2000 project (a long lost level set). As one of the privileged few who have seen some of the work already done, the prospect of resurrecting and completing it is quite exciting. Some of the old work may no longer be usable, but it looks like an unfinished GOB of mine (that was in search of a plot) may now become one of the levels. So I'll also be working on that.

Q: How far along in your editing skills have you come since then? (Improvements, group projects, better plots, etc. etc.)

Hugely. The biggest lesson I have learned is not to make big huge amounts of architecture without texturing it as I go along - because otherwise it never gets done and I forget what it was I meant to do. I think my architecture in general is getting better when I look back at some early versions of Maximum Security.

Another skill I've gained is learning to use techniques like INF and 3DOs simply to add more realistic details to levels - the most obvious example being the Magical Mystery Door.

There is still so much to learn though. I haven't yet tackled VUE making (mainly because I've never had a level near enough to completion to add them!) I'm not a natural artist so I would struggle to create cutscenes but I really ought to learn how to script and control them. The DF community have constantly found new ways to squeeze even more out of the DF engine, and I'm sure there are plenty more to come.

Q: Favorite SW character? (Can be anyone from the movies or books)

Jedi Master Yoda my favourite character is.

Q: Favorite DF level?

My favourite level was Prelude to Harkov's Defection for quite a long time; round about until Dark Tide 2 came out, basically. DT2 contains some effects I'd imagined, but never dared try to create myself - the moving walkers, the shattering glass. But I'd never have imagined the aquarium - possibly the most beautiful single area created for Dark Forces so far. Wow.