November 5, 2021

Profile: Retro Interview: Tom Mustaine

Tom Mustaine, ritual level designer, just bounces off Fragmaster’s strangeness. Mustaine also tells an intriguing story about his life as a gamer and designer and talks a bit about his work and Scourge of Armagon.

Andrew “Kolinahr” Wu

By Fragmaster / PlanetQuake

An Interview with Tom “BSP P1mp, ParadoX” Mustaine

Hi there. My name’s Tom Mustaine. You may know me from such great Quake levels like Black Cathedral. I’m standing next to this ladder to teach you a little lesson about safety: Don’t fall off ladders. It might hurt. I’m standing on a guy who just fell off this ladder and I bet it stings quite a bit. Oh… forgot to mention this photo is in black and white because I couldn’t afford one of those fancy $7 portable color camera things. Besides, if everybody thinks I’m grey colored, they might think I’m cool. Look at Levelord… he has friggin’ Gray in his NAME!

Oh yeah… I just got out prison. That’s where I got this shirt.

FM:  (Fragmaster… Am I going to fast here?) Hey Paradox. How’s it going, dammit?

TM: (Tom Mustaine, BSP P1mper): Damn Good.

FM: Why don’t you tell anybody that’s never heard of you due to their lameness who you are and what you do.

TM: I am God here, of levels. Er wait, that’s levelord..heh

FM: So where the hell did you come from? :) I never heard of you until the Hipnotic Pack stuff started leaking out. Where did you work? How where you hired?

TM: Well, I have been playing games all my life, from the old Intelivision, to the PC. I started trying to create my own stuff way back on the C-64 doing ML demos and little games. Moving later on to the Commodore Amiga, I started learning a little C, but development on a system based in 720k 3 1/2 floppy’s is kind of impossible. I was always a die hard Amiga fan, until the day I saw that the PC can actually do cool stuff with Wolf3d. I spent weeks playing Wolf, and kept hearing rumors of this other “better” game floating around the office where you can chainsaw demons and shotgun zombies. Doom arrived. I fired it up, walked up the first set of stairs in E1M1 and said to my friends “I need to get a level editor for this thing!” Got my hands on a editor, and went nuts from there.A level called “Paradox” for Doom2’s Master Levels was my first big publishing. Shortly after that, I started a thread in the DooM-editing circles about getting a large group of people together and creating a 32 level DooM addon we would self title “DooM 3.” Despite the otherwise cool name, some of the boys at id weren’t too happy about the possibility of a horrid addon floating around the net with the title of “DooM 3,” and stated that “There will Never be another DooM, ever.” About six months later, 32+ Internet based game designers from all over the world had produced to completion what everybody now refers to as “Final Doom.” Neat eh?After that I worked on two 32 level TC’s for Doom2 called “Hell 2 Pay” and “Perdition’s Gate,” both STILL lost in the publishing nightmare. Also created a level called “Mountain King” which was inspired by a set of DooM wad’s called dethtag. About 80+ Doom levels later, 3 heretic levels, 2 duke levels, and a Hexen level, I started editing Quake maps with good ol’Dos edit.The whole story how I worked my way from Gamer to Developer is very interesting. I would LOVE to do a article on that thread (hint hint magazine people! hehe)

FM: I’ll get to the question everybody wants to know: Now, if you where on Jeopardy and one of the categories where “A Cheap Whore” would you feel comfortable saying: “I’ll take a Cheap Whore for $100, Alex”?

TM: I would definitely say that. I would take it for $200 and the daily double.

FM: You did A LOT of levels for the Hipnotic Pack. Where you supposed to do that originally?

TM: We had a very clear vision of what we wanted for the Pack, I just was gooberish enough to start that many levels, gotta finish what you start ya know.

FM: Where did ya learn to make levels?

TM: I first did levels for Wolf3d, but didn’t REALLY start learning until DEU for Doom. I have always been amazed by architecture, and when these games emerged, my roll was called. heh..

FM: The Black Cathedral is probably tied with the Lost Mine as my favorite level in the pack. That one is hard, goddammit!

TM: Interesting Story behind that level. That level was started as nothing more than a single room, and stayed that way for a few months. It was the second to the last level completed in the pack, and turned out to be my personal favorite.

FM: Did you steal the ending sequence from Indiana Jones?

TM: Nope. It was taken from Star Trek Episode #215432

(Star Trek… Yuk. -Frags)

FM: How long was the build time on that?

TM: Not long at all, less than four hours.

FM: Where do you get your level ideas?

TM: I get a lot of inspiration from driving. Don’t ask me how or why, but usually I’ll be driving along and get a Really cool idea. This is why I need a very fast car (yeah, thats it.)

FM: Was Command HQ hard to design? A start level must be harder to design than a regular level, I would imagine.

TM: Nah, The start level was a lot of fun to do. A rather simple design, needing only 4 key elements (the skill selections.) Other than that I focused on making it a very non-linear and fast paced Deathmatch level. The original start map I had consisted of 4 LONG wind tunnels, filled with lots of eye-candy, unfortunately it wasn’t all that fun so it was axed.

FM: What was your favorite level in the pack? What was the favorite level you made?

TM: I love HIP1M5. That was a level done by Avatar (Mackey McCandlish) and tweaked up by myself. Its a very fun level to play, and very visually interesting.As for my favorite self made level, I think The Black Cathedral wins hands down. That level was a lot of fun to make, and turned out a lot cooler than I had envisioned.

FM: Who do you think is the best upcoming level designer?

TM: Keep your eyes on Jimmy Sieben (Evlgenius), Mike Wardwell (Giggler), and umm…Oh yeah, Levelord is getting good too :)

FM: How long does it take you to make a level from start to finish?

TM: The usual cycle is about 3 weeks from start to finish. Keep in mind, that means geometry completion, monster placement, bug fixes, monster tweaks, re-adding new stuff, bug fixes part II, and then final testing.

FM: How do you make levels: Do you plan ’em out first or do you just jump right the hell in?

TM: I really like to have my levels planned out somehow. Be it a paper layout, or just a concept sketch. Some levels start with one cool room and progress from there, Limbo (Hip3m3) is a level I did like that, whereas the Start map was planned out on paper from day one.

FM: How do you think the Pack came out?

TM: I am very pleased with the pack. I sat down and played it, and had fun. That is the #1 most important thing to me.

FM: What do you do when yer not working?

TM: Chill with my incredible Girlfriend, Stevie (KillCreek), Play Guitar, hang out with my friends, go beat on ion’s Deathmatch squad

FM: What’s your favorite sports team?

TM: Sports?

(Now I remember why I never used this question :) -Frags)

FM: What is your relationship with the love-ewe?

TM: No Comment.

FM: Are your parents proud of your nickname, “The BSP P1mp?”

TM: I don’t think they know. Might be better that way..heh

FM: Are you the best Quaker at Hipnotic?

TM: Nah, I never play the game – I think giggler or sCary are the ones to look out for. No, really – I suck at Quake. Muahaha

FM: What’s Hipnotic’s next game going to be like?

TM: SiN will be Incredible, definitely the next step in 3D gaming.

FM: I heard your making a map for Quake Rally. What’s it going to be like?

TM: Its going to be a Deathmatch specific level – based in the city. Looks very cool so far. Trying to juggle that with the SiN project, I hope I can get it done for em.

FM: Are you going to be involved with any other things like Quake Rally? Such as the New Vore Times Quake Rally Car Wash Addon?

TM: The car wash level is stuck in one of those forever vis loops that doesn’t ever seem to stop.

FM: Why Hipnotic?

TM: Hipnotic is a incredible place to work, the people here with the amount of pure talent is awesome.

FM: If a tree fell on your computer in the woods and no one was around, what would your computers last words be?

TM: “Windoze has detected a error in the application named : TREE”

FM: What’s the worst thing that happened to you involving hot dogs?

TM: Hmm..Hot dog… Chew.. Chew.. Chew.. Swallow.. Bite.. CRUNCH.. H0rk!

FM: KillCreek mentioned in her interview she’s seeing you uhhh well I don’t know what to ask but I know I’ll be bombarded by email if I don’t mention that :) (You know who you are! I’m not giving out her address, goddammit!)

TM: KC and I have been seeing each other for about 4 months now. We met in a restaurant one night on some unrelated outing and hit it off in the best ways. She is the most incredible person in my life, her talents and character are beyond belief. We are living together now, spending as much time together as humanly possible (while still trying to get some work done!) She has been a large part of my inspiration for maps, so when you guys see the coolness of the maps in SiN, you can thank her for that! She and I have big plans, but we have to kick pinky and the brain off the list for world domination..sorry about that.

FM: Can you tell us any secret things or news type stuff that nobody knows about yet?

TM: There are no catwalks at Apogee.

FM: Who would win at Starvin’, Starvin’, Shamblers if you played Jim Dose?

TM: This depends a lot on the alignment of Jupiter with our moon.

FM: Any comments on the Jelly Sandwich incident?

TM: 3DRealms needs to get over it. Throwing BS is one thing, but escalating to Jelly Sandwiches is way outta line.

FM: Anything else to add before we git to complete the sentence?

TM: Umm..no

FM: “Hipnotic is…

TM: …a Game Company

FM: “On our next game, I’m gonna..

TM: …Do more work than I did on the pack. Lots more!

FM: “sCary is…

TM: …a little wierd.

FM: “Levelord is…

TM: …a level designer.

FM: “I hate…

TM: …Chairs that dont lean back.

FM: “In my dreams, I open my front door and there stands…

TM: … a jelly sandwich from 3DRealms

FM: “The worst movie I’ve seen was…

TM: …Something on “USA up all night.”

FM: “Cream cheese is to Bagel as Hipnotic is to.. (Damn, been at the SAT’s too long :)

TM: …Cutting edge games! (wow, that was cheezy)

FM: “I clip my toenails because..

TM: …If I dont, it would be bad.

FM: “If I was an animal, I’d be a…

TM: …Wolf.

FM: “If I could select anybody in the world and throw him into a meat grinder, I would pick…

TM: …Janitor Bob and his buddy Ronnie.

FM: “SiN will be…

TM: …A game beyond any other.

FM: “This interview..

TM: …was really fun, despite the fact that it took 3 months to do!

Microphone cover photo by Alex Cole on Unsplash

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