Interrogation Room C

Subject: Alexei Novikov

Interview by Jeff Walters

For those new to Dark Forces and Jedi Knight, Alexei is a member of the Code Allaince and resposnible for some of the best DF/JK utilities out today. He is also the main man behind the upcoming JK Level Editor - JED.

Question - How is JED progressing and do you have an esitmated release time?

Well, although Jed is progressing pretty well, there's still many things to do before I have a version acceptable for the release. I hope to have it within a month, but you never know...

Question -What features will the initial verson feature? What limitations will there be?

The first version will (should) have enough to create a fully functional JK level, but many things will have to be done by hand. Limitations? The only possible limitation will be your patience :-). Well, and of course the amount of memory you have. JK levels are huge. For example Fuel Station level (level 9) takes 12 megabytes in memory when loaded to the editor. The speed of your computer will also matter. But actually a computer capable of running JK will do. I have Pentium 133 and it moves atacceptable speed. Ah, BTW, you'll need OpenGL for Windows 95 from Microsoft or SGI to run Jed (at least for the first version). You can download it at DarkJedi.

In later versions you will be able to use Direct3D for level view, but I prefer not to go into it right now - I'll have to change quite a few things in my code. Besides, from my tests Direct3D was 1.5-2 times slower than OpenGL in wireframe redndering in software.This could be due to the way I use it, though.

Question - What future plans do you have for the editor? What special features are you aiming to add in the long term?

It will be features to make editing easier. Mainly - things that had to be done by hand in the initial release will be automated. Also I plan all kinds of optimizations - to make things go faster, take less memory/disk space - that's pretty critical considering the size of regular JK levels. I have many ideas, but I prefer not to talk about them until I have them implemented.

Question -Is there a new version of ConMan in the works? If so, what will the new changes/features be?

Right now I'm totally busy with Jed (well, not counting other things in life :-) ). ConMan is pretty much all I wanted it to be. If I ever get to improving it I'll just add a couple of things - ability to create JK GOBs and operations on directories (so that you could extract/add entire directory) and possibly renaming files. That could be a bit of a hassle(renaming), because in case of LAB files it will not be that easy. Well, I can just disable it in case of LABs.

Question - After all the work you've been doing cracking the code behind JK for the editor, can you tell us your feelings on it's setup? Do you think it will be very complicated to create a decent level?

Well, it's hard to tell. On one hand, it will be easier than it ever was because it gives you more freedom. On the other hand, more freedom means more things to account for, more complicated way of doing things. On a side note, I wish some things were done differently in JK, but hey, you can't have everything! As for how easy it will be to use the editor, well, that only users can tell. It's like Mattias Wealnder said in his FAQ for ForceBuilder - "Of course, I'm not writing the program to be hard to use!". I'm trying to make it easy for me to use - and I have little to no experience in 3D modelling. Have you seen TrueSpace? That's something I'm aiming at. Of course you'll have to grasp some concepts and learn some basic operations before you can use the editor.

Question - Has the workload on JED delayed or even stopped work on the new version of WDFUSE?

Actually I haven't been involved with WDFUSE for over a year now. David (Lovejoy) and Jereth (Kok) are handling it. As a matter of fact, my only role in WDFUSE was DF->Duke Nukem 3D converter in version 2.1. What JED did was delaying new LawMaker version. Although I already developed LawMaker to the point where I was going to stop. I think it's pretty good as it is now. I made a level with it and was pleased. I still plan the final release of LawMaker - but it will only have bug fixes.

Question - Have you discovered any limitations with the engine via your work? For example, limitations on the number of possible sectors, objects, cog files used in a level?

Not so far. If there is a limit, it's pretty high. Just look at JK levels - they are huge! Bigger than in any game I played. I think you run out of memory earlier than you hit JK limits.

Question - How much work has it been to create this editor? Were you able to use some of the previous code for WDFUSE in making JED?

It is awful lot of work. It feels like I've been working ages on it and done tons of work and it's still somewhere halfway to being done. Part of it is due to how things are done in JK though :-). As for code from WDFUSE - probably none. I did use quite a bit of general purpose code from LawMaker in JED and some pieces of code from WDFUSE were used in LawMaker. Yet none of WDFUSE code made it to JED so far, I think :-).

BTW, in case someone didn't know the homepage of JED is at: Great thanks to David Lovejoy for creating and supporting it. The page has a message board, so if anyone has any JK or JED related questions, that's the place to ask. We monitor this board daily. Please use it instead of e-mailing us.

Question - One feature many people are hanging out for is a converter that will convert Dark Forces levels to Jedi Knight. Do you think a converter is realistically possible?

It's not only possible, I've been moving in this direction. If I have time I'll finish it up. Probably not in the first version of Jed though. Of course I'm not talking about complete automatic conversion here. Just basic geometry, texturing and object placement conversion. You will have to redo INF stuff, etc. manually.

Question - . Lucas Arts will be releasing a Level pack in early 1997 and alot of people suspect that the pack might include the long awaited Lucas Arts level editor - Leia. Do you beleive this level pack might include Leia in order to sell more copies? And how would Leia's release affect the future of JED?

I doubt that Leia will be released with JK add-on. LucasArts is very conservative. Anyway, by the time JK add-on is out I hope Jed will be pretty mature and won't need much more improvement. I hope it will be a viable alternative. I firmly believe that programs should not be developed past some point. They will only get bloated :-). I'd rather take time to refine and optimize what I already have rather than add new stuff.

As a matter of fact, I don't plan to develop Jed indefinitely. I would just like to take time to use it to create levels. I've been meaning to do some level editing for a long time, but could only catch short breaks to whip up small-sized levels (Kyle's Nightmare for DF and Return of the Medicine Man for Outlaws). I hope to do more for JK.