Audio Interview with Andrew Vasiliev

Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3

In this audio interview podcast I chat with Andrew Vasiliev AKA Lexxor about his mods Diversion and Depot.

We cover a few different topics, ranging from his start into modding and his future plans.

It’s about thirty minutes and please remember that English is not Andrew’s native language, so please forgive his pauses.

Listen to the interview

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13 Comments

  1. I had a really hard time understanding part of that (subtitles please, or mabye we should learn Russian! :)), but the gentlemen seems very creative and motivated to build HL2 mods. He also has some good talent.

    Although I scored Depot a “mabye”, it was mostly because of lack of polish/invisible walls. However, the general layout of the maps were for the most part very nice and with a little more polish that mod could of easily got a “Play it Now”. I for one would like to see more from Andrew Vasiliev in the future.

    The main thing is that Andrew understands that critisism of the mod is purley constructive, and meant to point out issues, and not to let that stop him from doing more. In fact, to use the critisism to his advantage to achieve more in the future!

    🙂

  2. I’m sorry guys, I have a stammering so sometimes I just even can’t say anything.

  3. It’s ok. We all got something about us that’s not perfect. But you got your point accross, which is a good attitude toward modding and some real talent.

  4. WizardExt

    I enjoyed Diversion and Depot. Both are visually well made. Depot has a nice atmosphere. Some interesting gameplay in both maps, but I had trouble, in some areas, to understand what I was suppose to do or where I was going as I didn’t find the path. Interesting interview, looking forward to your upcoming maps/mods. Make sure to have your projects playtested, so you can adjust some of the major flaws. People seem to have the same issues. Keep up the good work, you are creating very interesting maps. 🙂

  5. Ade

    It’s impressive that all the new stuff was done by 1 guy 🙂
    Tbh mod could’ve had more bugs considering it had only 1 tester, the author, so again, +1. But still needs testers, just like any other release.

  6. Ade

    [Sorry bout double posting, I tried to stop page so it wouldn’t reload the player, but it posted anyway.]

    Interesting bout the planning and the place holders for puzzles, it certainly didn’t feel like that, like for instance you couldn’t have used the antlion puzzles just anywhere, and anytime, like before getting the bugbait. It’s a shame he took out 10 puzzles!

    Can we have a list of mp maps for the depot thing?

    Can’t wait for the patch and testing the 2nd part.

    1. A shame he took out the ten puzzles? Speak for yourself! 🙂 Some of us dont like puzzles.

    2. It’s a shame he took out 10 puzzles!

      All time that I making the mod, design of the levels changes many times. In 2008 (approximately) first map was absolutely linear, and doesn’t had a skybox – instead of it was just a fog like in retail HL2 coast levels.
      Instead of wasteland, we just going in caves and swim in a underground river. Submarine doesn’t had interiors, and it was half-fall into caves, so there was a puzzle with it.

      Also, was a version with “seafloor” design style – with some water part on a surface.

      MP maps are here:
      City 17 Depot by Robert Briscoe (author of Dear Esther) – http://www.littlelostpoly.co.uk/dm_depot/

      and HL2DM_COAST – raw alpha-version, but closer to concept-art http://www.lanmaniax.com/maps/html/hl2dm_coast.htm

      p.s. thanks to all for kind words!

  7. Simon AKA Sparks has very kindly transcribed the interview into text. I have pasted it below. There are some missing words but it could make this interview much easier to follow.

    Phillip: Hello and welcome to another planetphillip.com audio interview, and with me today I have Andrew, a.k.a. Lexxor. Hello Andrew!
    Andrew: Hello Phillip!
    Phillip: How are you; OK?
    Andrew: Fine, and you?
    Phillip: I’m fine thank you. You’re in Siberia, is that right?
    Andrew: I’m sorry?
    Phillip: You’re in Siberia?
    Andrew: Yes, I’m in Siberia.
    Phillip: Is it cold?
    Andrew: Yes, quite cold!
    Phillip: I’m sorry.. OK so we’re going to be talking about you and your modding; let’s start with you – tell the listeners a little bit about you.
    Andrew: I’m 23 years old guy from Russia, from Siberia and I started my mapping and my game dev. in 2005, or 2006 I think, so that’s what I can say about me..
    Phillip: OK so about 2005 and 2006, what got you into modding, what started you to be interested in modding?
    Andrew: In the last time I read a lot of magazines about gaming; about [???] and I read one article about how to do mapping and modding and it catched me, I don’t know why, and I read a lot of articles about starting modding, about Quake 3 modding – but Half Life 2 catched me. Maybe it’s because Half Life 2 is my favourite game (one of) so it starts in those years.
    Phillip: OK, and did you make any maps or mods for other games?
    Andrew: No – I tried to make a map for Quake 3 Arena, but it was just a co-op and that’s all I experience with Quake3.
    Phillip: All right; so when did you start mapping for the Source Engine?
    Andrew: I think it was in 2007 .
    Phillip: OK, all right – and the first map I’ve published on my website is called Diversion, was that your first, released single player map?
    Andrew: No, before it I made a Lost Coast modification but it was not a modification at all, it was a demo. I released it in 2008, or 2007, and it was small and doesn’t catch any attention from the public.
    Phillip: OK..
    Andrew: So in time I began to make Depot, and it’s – I don’t know how to explain – so I spent very much time to make it. I learn much things in those areas, I mean [???], texturing so that’s because I spent too much time on this project.
    Phillip: All right. So are you saying you started Depot before you started making Diversion?
    Andrew: Yes, yes..
    Phillip: Ah, OK – because for the readers who don’t know, Diversion was released approximately one year ago in January 2012 on my site, and may be a little bit earlier on GameBanana. And how long did you spend making Diversion?
    Andrew: I think it takes about 3 or 4 weeks..
    Phillip: Really?
    Andrew: Yes, because it was a mod for a contest, so I doesn’t have much time to make it for years!
    Phillip: Ok, all right. So you started depot before, and then you’d taken a break and started making Diversion, and then you went back to Depot; do you think that you learned something from making Diversion, that you put into Depot?
    Andrew: No, no – I don’t think so, it’s because of the Russian was a simple SP map for 5 minutes, and that’s nothing interesting in it, I think.
    Phillip: Ok, I mean I remember playing it and I don’t think it was that much shorter than Depot, really; I’m not saying it was better or worse at this point, I’m just saying the length of time I took to play it was maybe similar to depot, so..
    Andrew: Hmm..
    Phillip: OK. All right, so let’s start talking specifically about Depot.
    Andrew: OK
    Phillip: All right, so I’m going to start with some of the things that were raised by people in the review and some of the things I felt – let’s start with the submarine; a lot of people felt that it was too dark, and that it was not complicated, but it wasn’t clear where we should go or what we should do. How would you respond to those points?
    Andrew: Yes, I want to excuse before (apologise to) players for.. things.. you know, it’s just because of lack of testing here, and that lack of testing is because I had a lot of work; I mean I made all content for Depot by myself, all custom models, all textures and I was just overwhelmed with this amount of work so I just forgot about it and I dreamed just to release it, so that’s my [???].
    Phillip: All right – well, that’s fair enough. Now, you talk about testing – did you get the mod tested by other people besides yourself?
    Andrew: No..
    Phillip: Hmmm..
    Andrew: ..there’s only me! (laughs)
    Phillip: Naughty boy.. OK you and I are going to talk later; I have a team of testers who can help you for your next part of Depot, so we’ll talk about that privately after the recording. Now, other people said – and I agreed with them – that once you’ve gone outside of the submarine, there was a lack of direction. I remember going down the pipe that was ruined and seeing if that was the way I was supposed to go, and I actually got stuck; I actually managed to get out of the pipe, and then I was attacked by the antlions but I couldn’t get back in the pipe and that really frustrated me, and I almost stopped playing the mod then. So, again, how do you respond to the people who say there wasn’t enough direction in where the player was supposed to go?
    Andrew: You know, it was planned to… during development practice I dreamt to make a Depot – how to explain – it’s different game play, different game[???] rather than in other mods. I wanted to make it different; I don’t know how (well) people understand this, but I’m glad to see results. I mean, those mixed opinions, mixed reviews..
    Phillip: Sorry to interrupt you, I know not everybody is going to like every mod, and I respect your decision that you wanted to make something a little bit more open, and that’s OK, but just a few more hints about “this is the right way to go” – but there’s still some more exploring for you. Because, of course we don’t want a line where we just have to follow, we want to explore, but it’s just when you get lost and you think “Where do I go?” – I like to know where to go, but then I like to explore after that, and I think that’s what the people where really complaining about; they were exploring, but they were just getting lost, perhaps..
    Andrew: Yes; maybe it’s my fail, but I don’t think it’s fail, to be honest!
    Phillip: OK, all right – some people loved the mod, so that’s no problem. More important than the lack of direction was some of the invisible walls, which is frustrating, because if you make a design decision, OK then I respect that, but if it’s a little bit difficult for me – fine. But when there’s an invisible wall, that’s a failure.
    Andrew: Yes, it is.
    Phillip: So, I mean was that just due to lack of testing? Or did you put them in because you didn’t have time to create something more plausible?
    Andrew: Yes.. it’s just because of lack of testing, I think. Wasteland part of the mod is (a) pretty big map, so it was hard to find our problems on the map, so that’s my fail – sorry!
    Phillip: OK; no, it’s OK – I mean, these things happen, and you’re right – if there’s only one person making it, it’s hard to see all of the possible errors and those things. Now, let’s talk about the puzzles, because the puzzles were quite interesting, and it took me a little while to get into the submarine and I know a lot of people really complained about that. I liked that puzzle; it could have been just a little bit brighter or more obvious, but I thought that was good, and the puzzle with the antlions bringing the cage down, that was really frustrating, but it was quite clever, so that was good. So, when you were designing the level, did you put much thought into the puzzles at the beginning, or after you started building it?
    Andrew: Hmm, you know, I made a lot of puzzles, a lot of scripts, but I cut it; it was because I wanted to add some non-linearity to my mod, and that was on a first place. So what I do not cut, I put in the mod, some of puzzles I made in the very beginning, some of them I made a bit later.
    Phillip: OK. So how many puzzles do you think you removed?
    Andrew: Something about 10..
    Phillip: Wow, OK – 10?
    Andrew: Yes.
    Phillip: That’s a lot! OK, now let’s talk about the design; did you design this on paper, or at least have a very good idea what you were planning before you started building? Or are you one of these mappers who likes to build and just develop, and see what happens?
    Andrew: You know, sometimes ideas comes very late and some places was just empty space; you know that in this place you should put puzzle or something like this, but you know what exactly you should do, and you wait, and before it comes, in this time you are making some other things, and so it’s so [???] hard practice.
    Phillip: OK; so my favourite part of the mod was the container coming down the ramp, that was really fun, how did you think about that?
    Andrew: Oh, it was a simple idea, I just wanted to bring back some players who once were pass.. [???] just run through it, you know “Hey, hey – stop!” (laughs)
    Phillip: I was lucky I didn’t get killed by it, but I know that some people reviewed it as “death by container” – that was quite funny! All right, so how much further have you got with the second part, have you started on wht happens afterwards?
    Andrew: I’m sorry, I don’t..
    Phillip: Sure – let me ask again, I mean, this is advertised as part 1 of Depot and of course it says “To be continued” at the end; have you started work on the continuation?
    Andrew: Yes, yes – I have already wrote (a) version of gunship base and same row/rebel [???] level in their part of Depot.
    Phillip: OK, good – so we do get to go to the depot at the end, yes?
    Andrew: Yes, of course!
    Phillip: Good, that was some of the questions people were wondering – “we want to get to the depot”, and I know that you can’t really say how long it’ll be, but do you think it’s going to be another year? Or do you think it’s going to be a few months, I mean can you estimate that approximately?
    Andrew: I mean, it will be ready before Summer.
    Phillip: Oh OK, good. All right, now – you’ve probably heard of a mod called Mission Improbable, have you?
    Andrew: Yes, yes..
    Phillip: OK, now as you probably know as well, that he released his mod in parts, but for the final part he went back and made lots of changes; do you have plans to do that with the initial release?
    Andrew: To be honest, I don’t know, I don’t have plans about this. At this time I just want to make a gunship base and in their part of Depot and if I had a lot of time so I think I made (will make) something with previous maps.
    Phillip: OK, I don’t think I was asking you for that, I mean I’m quite happy if you just work on the new one and then you release the new one; so I’m not really one of the people who wants you to go back and improve things, I unless there was like, a really big problem – maybe like the invisible walls and some things like that.
    Andrew: I want to made (make) the patch for this end, a bit – remade (remake) the first level, so just for (to) remove those invisible walls and add some lighting into the submarine.
    Phillip: Good idea. What do you think is the best thing about the mod for you, from a mapper’s point of view, what are you most proud of, about the mod?
    Andrew: Most proud of? (That) I released this mod! (laughs}
    Phillip: (laughs) OK! Well, you’re right, releasing is something good, but what about within the mod, is there anything you think, like the puzzle, or an area, or – I don’t know, something?
    Andrew: You know, when I first time saw the [???] of start of Depot, it amazed me – it was so atmospheric, mysterious – it was awesome and I always dreamed to play this map, this level, this location, but I found only a couple of multi-player maps on this theme, and that’s all, and you know it’s become as a dream, and I want to realise that, so I realise my dreams and I (am) happy!
    Phillip: You’re right! Making something and releasing it is a good thing to be proud of. What do you think you have learned from making and releasing Depot?
    Andrew: I should perform more better testing, I think! (laughs)
    Phillip: That’s always a good thing to do! Anything else, like the way of making maps, or – obviously there’s lots of technical things you’ve learned – but just the general of giving people, giving players instruction, or anything like that?
    Andrew: Hmm, I’m sorry – can you..?
    Phillip: I’m just wondering – if you had to give some advice to a new mapper – something maybe that you’ve learned from making Depot – what kind of advice would that be? Imagine that I’m starting to learn to map, and I said “Andrew, help me! What should I do when making a map?” what would you say?
    Andrew: I do not know what to say, so one thing – make you (you’re) best, so try as (hard as) you can, that’s all, I think.
    Phillip: OK, that’s good advice. I think too many people release things that are not as good as they can, so it’s good advice to tell them to make a really good product. What about your playing, do you play lots of single player maps?
    Andrew: Yes, I play maps, mods like Mission Improbable, Minerva Metastasis – it’s great mod; it’s awesome!
    Phillip: It is; the level of detail, the planning, the execution – it’s incredible, you’re right, and Mission improbable as you mentioned. Do you play any other games that you get inspiration from?
    Andrew: Yes, for example, it’s Stalker, [???] of Chernobyl, and you know in 2011 I think, I tried to create a Stalker map on Source engine, I mean (a) Stalker map not from Stalker game, it’s just was inspired by Stalker. First mission in it, both sniping support for guys from you (your) team, and finally it turns into Diversion map.
    Phillip: Oh, OK – so we started as a Stalker idea, but eventually turned into a Diversion. So do you enter other competitions, I mean for example, have you heard about about my mapping competitions?
    Andrew: Yes, I heard about it – but at this time I don’t want (to) participate in any competitions because I have a lot of work, for example it’s gunship base and rebel[???] and I want to finish some (of) my old maps; at this time time I am remading (remaking) Diversion, and my old Counter Strike map called Day Keystone [???]
    Phillip: OK, so will you be releasing other sp maps before the release of the final part of Depot, is that what I understood when you said “older maps”?
    Andrew: Maybe – who knows?
    p;So you have some unfinished Source work that could get released?
    Andrew: I’m finished – no, it’s not – I’m finished; I have one more sp map, it called “mine..” something, “mine extraction” [???] or something like that, I made it for a contest but it’s a bit unfinished. I want to make a final version of it and release it.
    Phillip: Excellent, that’s what we like to hear – I try to encourage all my interviewees to get them to release as many of their unfinished, or hidden, maps as possible! So that’s good. When you told me the name of the map, I thought it was going to begin with “D” because I thought you had, perhaps, a habit now of naming all of your maps with “D”! Perhaps you could rename it, or something?
    Andrew: I don’t know – it’s just.. (laughs) I don’t know what..
    Phillip: I was joking, don’t worry, it’s no problem. So you’re working on the second part of Depot, and then do you have any longer term plans? Have you got some thoughts about what you want to do after you finish that, or just take a break and forget it for a little bit?
    Andrew: You know, I have one more dream, I want to work in a (the) game industry as a level designer, but I think my skill set this time (is) pretty low, and I just don’t know, I don’t know..
    Phillip: OK, I don’t have any advice I can give you, because I don’t work in the industry or anything, but what I do know is that the advice you mentioned earlier on about making the thing as good as possible is so important, and that if you want to work in the industry you must just keep working hard and learning new things, and making the best maps that you can make.
    Andrew: Yes, I know – but, you know, I think when you (are) just a modder like me, you can break some rules, I mean game design rules as some obvious things – you know?
    Phillip: I agree with you, you’re right – as a modder, you don’t have to follow all of the rules that game companies do, and that’s one of the great things about modding, is that we, the players, get to play things that game companies can’t or won’t create. So, I agree with you!
    Andrew: Thanks!
    Phillip: OK. Well I would like to thank you for taking the time to speak with me today, I would also like to thank you for making both of those mods, Diversion and Depot, and want to tell you to keep up the hard work so that I get to play part 2 before the Summer!
    Andrew: OK, and I want to say Thank You for your website, PlanetPhillip.com, it’s very valuable for mappers and mod makers like me, when you just can make map or mod and find a place where people leave reviews and opinions about it; it’s very valuable, thank you very much!
    Phillip: You’re most welcome; I make it for everybody who enjoys the game, so it’s like my fun, hobby – my dream, as you were talking about it, this is my dream! Excellent, well thank you very much again and keep working hard, and we’ll talk again in the future.
    Andrew: OK!
    Phillip: Good Bye.
    Andrew: Good Bye.

  8. Blue Lightning

    I guess I was one of the few that didnt have a problem with the dark in the submarine, in fact I thought it was nice and creepy. I liked the sound effects in there too.

    I’d like to offer some observations on mapping below and hopefully it might be helpful, in case you do decide to patch part 1. 🙂 Keep in mind, I’m just a player, not a modder. As Oddball says in Kelly’s Heroes about tanks…”Oh man, I just ride em’, I don’t know what makes em” go.”

    I had a problem with the part where you can jump down to the ground or accross to another part. If you choose jumping down to the ground (which your not supposed to do, although it is a tiny jump), you die…for nothing. That is akin to invisible walls. Remember, for a good player experience, things have to make sense…seem realistic. 🙂 Mabye put some eels in the water down there? Or let us go down there and mabye it leads back to where we are supposed to be? Mabye it can lead to a secret cave? A ton of possibles.

    The map itself is quite good looking. But I would of loved to see a few “dead end routes” or secret places. Finding goodies is always fun.

    Of course invisible walls need to be replaced with other more natural barriers to keep us out of where we shouldnt be. But crafting the map so there isnt many places we “shouldnt be” is even better (aka allowing for exploitation, and exploration ;)). A great example of this kind of mapping is the first part of the mod “Station 51”. You can take a few short cuts if you use your head in that one.

    Keeping it generally linear is important, but offering an “off path” that leads to the same place ahead, stuff like that every once in a while, is fun. I did notice that you had a little bit of off paths when you meet the first antlion guard. That was a nice touch.
    The way it is mapped in general right now, is fine. I was just offering my 3 cents for whatever it’s worth. But for goodness sake dump them invisible walls! 😉

  9. I had a problem with the part where you can jump down to the ground or accross to another part. If you choose jumping down to the ground (which your not supposed to do, although it is a tiny jump), you die!for nothing.

    Where exactly it was?

    I have interesting notice about player’s behavior in my mod: peoples tells me, that they jump from rocks (but those edge-of-playable-area rocks have same height as a 5 or 7-floor house!), and about running speed – that seems a bit slower rather than in HL2 for them (but I didn’t change anything with it!).

    Maybe it happens because of scale of first levels, or absence of objects, that can help players recognize real size\speed\height etc? For example, when you in City 17, you can easily recognize world parameters because you surrounded of well-known objects like cars, house windows, trash dumpsters, etc.

    But in wasteland you can’t fast and clearly recognize it, so happens strange things, like “suicide jump” and same 😀

    What you thinks about this, guys?

    1. Blue Lightning

      Well, the part I’m talking about is when you leave the sub. You climb down, then you have to jump to a rock, and then jump again into a cave. However, if you dont jump into the cave but instead step down to the sea floor which is like 4 feet below you, you auto-die. I see why you did that…it’s because the sea floor doesnt lead anywhere so you want it off limits. Mabye instead you could allow us to live and go down there, but find a tunnel in a rock that leads us back to the area where we first jumped? Mabye put a stash of goodies down there?

      Another place this happens, is when you are running around where the antilions are coming out of the ground. If you go way to the right, you come up to a cliff and about 20 feet down you can see the long rusty pipe that your supposed to be in later in the map. However, I like short cuts if I can figure out how ;), so I found a place where the cliff is sloped, and I walked down it to get to the pipe way early…but as soon as I touched the sea floor where the long rusty pipe is, I died. 🙁 I guess it is off limits.

      My advice? Make a bunch of antlions before you get to that cliff, so most players wont even go there. However, if a player does make it there, allow us to shortcut down to the long rusty pipe. This is a “route exploit”…a way to take a short cut. Nothing wrong with those, they are fun for a player. Sometimes they are accedental, and sometimes put there on purpose. But if you dont want to allow the shortcut, make the cliff stright drop so there is no way to get down to the seafloor.
      The mod “Sile” has the biggest route exploit I have ever found. [spoiler]If you stack barrels at the beggining and get up to a prison walkway, you by passed the entire first chapter! About a half hour of gameplay![/spoiler] I’m not saying allow a huge exploit like that, I was just giving an example of one.

      Also the first map where the antlions are, give us some rocks to jump on so we dont disturb the antlions….and make it hard 🙂 That’s funner than any puzzle.

      ***The second map***

      In the second map there is an off-paths situation…in essence the map is a circle that gives the player a choice of two directions they can go to get to the same place. This type of circle mapping is an old classic way to map, first made popular by most maps in Duke Nukem 3D (1996). It allows the player alternative ways to do battle too, and is a great way to map. Good work there 🙂

      I also noticed some nice route exploits in map 2. I can walk on top of the fence! 🙂 The second map has fewer issues (if any) than the first. Although Im not a huge fan of forced battles (AKA you have to kill X and Y before you can proceed), but it is acceptable now and then and expected, espicially if it is fun like map 2 is. Great battles in map 2! If I judged the game only by map 2, it would get a “play it now”. But map 1 has great potential…it just needs a little cleaning up.

      So that is my two cents. The layout of the maps is great, and I think only map 1 needs some attention. Personally I would of liked to see some sunlight instead of the grey, but that is the authors choice of course.

  10. Ade

    No, it’s just a killing floor down there.. one of the places I remember was one right in the opposite direction of the Depot, straight ahead. To the left there’s high rocks, to the right there’s the rest that’s explorable. But if you go further and further away from the Depot, you end up dead.

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