As this will be my final blog post for a while, I decided to make it the recounting of a rather poignant memory of mine.
I remember when I was about twelve, I played this old discontinued game called Unreal Tournament. I was enamored with the game, but I was particularly interested in the maps, and how the maps looked, how the maps could give off different emotions with different light settings and different textures. I think it was this fascination that led me to my interest with 3d editing.
Now, in the game there are things called camera references, where certain textures on walls can become “green screens” to a whole new room, the camera reference room, which is basically to create realistic looking backgrounds for windows and skylines. Although this special effect seems fairly primitive with our current technology and editing software, back then it was amazing. It was realistic.
When I first started playing the classic Unreal tournament, I think I got it around 2001. This was before I knew anything about editing software, or 3d modeling, or anything really. I was foolish, and that foolishness gave me the power to believe impossibilities unbelievable to me today.
There is a memory that sticks out to me particularly prominently. It was a tired Sunday, and I was holed up in my room, as usual, playing one of my favorite maps in UT. The map was called Asbestos. There was this window, a great skylight that stretched the entire ceiling of the map. At one point I was blasted up in the air by a rocket launcher, and somehow I managed to get up high enough to see the entire camera reference room, something that isn’t supposed to be possible. I didn’t know how camera references worked back then, so when I saw the scene stretched out before me, I didn’t see it as a texture. I saw it as a real extension of the UT world, and I thought, “This is the most depressing landscape I have ever seen.” From my perspective, it looked like outside of this single room in which me and a bunch of bots blew each other up, utter oblivion stretched out for eternity.
I can see it now: striated clouds streaked with dusty red slowly panned into a dusty gray horizon, while below the ground was an unmarked landscape of endless dirt. I saw that landscape, that unspeakably depressing out there, and I felt an emotion I have never managed to feel again. It was an emptiness. A wonderful emptiness of seeing eternity, of seeing the end. For when I saw that hopeless landscape, the landscape which I later learned was nothing more then smoke and mirrors, I knew that the scene I looked upon was the scene of apocalypse, the very essence of destruction.
I cannot describe the emotion I felt, but I can do my best to describe what caused it. Here we are, me and a bunch of mindless playerbots, in this lonely warehouse that is the single spark of light in a sea of desolation, and we are destroying each other. We are a single spark in the eternity of nothingness, and we are about to go out.
That tiny, pathetic memory changed my life. That was the day I began creating maps using Unreal Editor, the primitive map editor for Unreal Tournament. It was on that day that I decided that no matter what, I needed to find a way to create something that would express the endless hopelessness, the incredible loneliness I felt as I gazed into that sea of nothingness. I would use whatever tools I could get my hands on to make this world that shone so brightly in my mind manifest.
Such a tiny experience, with such a profound impact. I never again experienced such an intense spike of emotion, so powerful it burns within my heart to this very day.