I was recently lucky enough to get a response from a Jedi Knight developer. He created cogging and worked on the CTF cogs. Anyways, here is the interview.
1. When did you first get interested in programming and making games?
Yves Borckmans – I think I programmed my first thing around 12. This was another age, it was on a TI-58 or an HP-41C… but it was a game (very simple math/word game, but a game nonetheless). I was always a gamer, just after that came the whole series of historical predecessors to today’s gaming platforms: zx-80, zx-81, zx-spectrum, c64, bbc micro, Amiga, etc. I coded stuff, I cracked stuff (for fun, I never distributed it, but cracking the protection systems was an awesome mind game in itself), I talked to some devs, etc. Being in Belgium though, I could only get jobs in Databases and so on (I was an ORACLE DBA), no games simply because no game companies there! DFUSE got me that chance.
2. Why did you decide to join Lucasarts and what year did you join? Did the fact that you worked on WDFUSE for Dark Forces 1 help you get the job?
Yves Borckmans – I joined in 96. I started talking to people there when DFUSE came out (the DOS version before WDFUSE), interviewed in 96 and worked remote while LEC got me a visa to get in the US, etc. Incidentally, a few years back I wrote a page about this:
3. Justin Chin was the leader of the Jedi Knight project. What was his leadership like, or his attitude towards the game? Did you ever talk much between each other?
Yves Borckmans – Justin is a great guy, funny and enthusiastic and with a great vision. We did talk a bit, but not really about game design or things like that. He was mostly leading artists and taking care of cinematics, story and so on.
4. Why did you create cogging? What is the story behind all that? Why is it called cog other than cogs represent a working machine of sorts, does it have any meaning or is it an acronym?
Yves Borckmans – Well, we needed a scripting system. Rob (Huebner) actually had the idea for how to make a scripting system work with the engine, so he actually “created” it. I ended up actually fleshing it it up and expanding it, adding more and more functionality until you could actually program something complicated like CTF with it. The name was indeed b/c each script was a little cog in a big machine. No acronyms.
5. In an article about Jedi Knight. Someone talked about a cut game mode. It was similiar to something seen later in Halo called territories. Why was it cut?
Yves Borckmans – I’m afraid I don’t know of a cut mode. Might have been from much earlier in the game design and I never heard about it…
6. Was Capture the Flag ever planned for Mysteries of the Sith?
Yves Borckmans – No. It was always planned to do a brand new game mode. I actually loved the idea of using ysalamiris force bubbles — as well as Mara Jade (if you haven’t read Thrawn’s trilogy by Timothy Zahn, drop everything and go get it, probably the best Star Wars story ever written by anyone :).
7. Why were there multiple walkplayers/respawn points in each level? Some of us think there may have been a checkpoint system. Can you shed any light on this?
Yves Borckmans – I think during development we could use some cheat to jump from one to another, which lets you keep testing even if a door script was broken, etc. But this is fading lol, sorry. 20 years soon!
8. In Mysteries of the Sith the gobs were changed to goo. Gobs were used in both Dark Forces and Jedi Knight. Why the change?
Yves Borckmans – I didn’t participate in packaging for MoTS — during development everything is just files in folders. I wasn’t even aware of the difference. Were they compatible?
9. Another thing about Sith. Why were the sounds only low res. What was Lucasarts reasoning behind that? (By the way, we love Sith just as much as Jedi Knight)
Yves Borckmans – Ditto. Sorry, no idea why they packaged low res sounds.
10. Did you ever look into fan made mods/cogs? If you did, what did you generally think?
Yves Borckmans – Not only did I look, I made some, I released one as CogKing 🙂 As with any mod, there are some diamonds and a lot of coal. People who worked hard made awesome addons. I played some, I helped some, I pushed some. And I invited Alex at LucasArts for a couple days to give him pointers to get started on Jed…
11. Looking back, is anything you would do differently? Anything you would have put into the game that didn’t make it?
Yves Borckmans – This sadly doesn’t work like that. It’s all about milestones and planning and deadlines and resources, etc. You always end up cutting stuff — there was another CTF level I started that never shipped — as well as I think a full single player level. Thankfully those were killed early enough to not waste too much polish time on them. I’m sure we cut support for some of the more esoteric not quite 3d graphic cards, etc. etc. I’m 100% sure the artists wanted more and higher res textures, the level designers more enemies in a level, but we were out of memory, etc. etc. So yes, there could always be more and better looking and more optimized things — and there is never EVER enough time 🙂
12. Lastly, what was your favorite experience while working at Lucasarts, and what made you decide to leave Lucasarts and move on?
Yves Borckmans – Honest? My best moment was the day Jedi Knight came out and all the programmers went to have lunch at the mall and looking at the game on the shelves at Electronique Boutique — that is a feeling that’s impossible to describe 🙂 We had a lot of other good times, team bbqs and outings, and previews of all movies ILM did special effects for, etc. — it was a fun place to work at. Least favorite: Episode I filming and the associated paranoia. People like me working on Ep1 games couldn’t talk to random others at LEC anymore, they put opaque papers on all our office windows, wives couldn’t pick you up inside for lunch anymore, etc. it was a really bad atmosphere — and to top it all, the movie scripts were all showing how horrendously BAD it was going to be. I didn’t hesitate long when we talked about creating Nihilistic and be our own bosses for all intents and purposes: creative, artistic and technical directions, money and royalties attributions, legal, use of IP, etc.
Any last words to those who still cog, make mods and love these games? And of course thank you so much for your work, and answering our questions. We all appreciate it.
Yves Borckmans – All I can tell you guys is keep it up and have fun. I’m 100% sure the SW:TFA games will be coming soon, and I’m sure they’ll be mod-able 🙂
Credits/Thanks to those who helped: