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Interview: Westlake's Brad Oliver
November 7, 2002 | Jean-Luc Dinsdale
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IMG: The Jedi Knight 2 demo is a lot of fun. What was your involvement on JK2? What about Clone Campaigns?

BO: I did the Mac conversion of JK2 for Westlake and Aspyr. I didn't do much of anything with the Clone Campaigns expansion - that was Duane Johnson. I did do the conversion for Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds, which largely built on the work I did with Mark Krenek for Age of Empires 2 since they use the same engine.

IMG: Did you get tired of the whole Star Wars thing after taking part in two Star Wars ports?

BO: Surprisingly no. Usually when I get close to completion on a port, I'm pretty tired of the game, whatever it is. Age2 is a game I still like to play, as are Centipede, SWGB and JK2. Maybe I've become better at not burning myself out, I don't know.

IMG: Westlake currently has seven (count 'em, seven) ports in the works according to their news page. Which codename project are you working on?

BO: The mysteriously named "Civ 3 Editor" ;-)

IMG: Seven projects seems to be the most Westlake has ever publicly announced. Has the Westlake staff increased in size, or is everybody just super-busy?

BO: There are 8 programmers currently on staff. Since I arrived, we have added a net total of 2 programmers.

IMG: Does Westlake ever sub-contract work out, or is it all done internally?

BO: I don't think a situation has come up where we've ever needed to subcontract anything. So far, we've just done it all ourselves.

IMG: I've read that usually Westlake likes to keep one or two people on one game who port the entire project. Why is this method preferred over a production line model, where people with different skills work on only select parts of the coding? (i.e. The networking pro writes all the networking code for all the games, the graphics programmer only writes the graphics routines, and so on.)

BO: Some games don't require too much manpower. The Quake3-based games, for example, are pretty straightforward ports. Age2 was a "big" port in terms of the number of lines of code and game complexity, as are The Sims (the original game) and Dungeon Siege. Most of us have a pretty broad skill set, so it's hard to point to one person and say "he's the networking expert" and leave it at that. More often, if someone runs into trouble, they ask the others and usually a solution pops up and we all learn from it.

IMG: One last Westlake question. When committing to a port, do you guys promise hard deadlines, or are the milestones set loosely like in game developing? Ever had the misfortune of having a project take way longer to port?

BO: I don't know if we've ever promised a hard deadline and been penalized for missing it. Most of the time, the contracts specify a delivery date for a milestone, which we try our hardest to reach. If we miss it, it's usually not so big a deal as often we can make up ground somewhere else down the road. I don't think I've been on a port that's gone way over in time, but Undying was one we had that slipped because we lost an employee and didn't have resources for it.



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