MI6 talks to the creators of the NightFire missions in a two part game design special...

Interview: Designing NightFire (Part 2)
8th August 2003

In the second part of a level design special, MI6 catches up with David Johnston, the creator of three NightFire multiplayer levels...


"Unlike the Bond movies, EA didn't leave dead drops, or drive a tank through my room to ask me if I might possibly be interested in working for Nightfire - they just sent me an e-mail. Shame, really... Obviously, Bond is a big franchise, and I am a great fan of the movies. It wasn't difficult to reply back (again using e-mail - my tank was in for servicing, and doesn't go over the Atlantic well anyhow) - my answer was immediate. How could anyone refuse to work on a James Bond game, let alone the first (recent) one for the PC?"

David Johnston is most renowned for his work on 'Counter-Strike', a multiplayer modification for the classic 'Half Life' game. Counter Strike gamers will recognise his creation of the famous 'de_dust' map - one of the most played levels in the game.

For Your Eyes Only

"Secrets... Bond has to have secrets, it's part of the game! One of the main things to think about when designing the maps was how to incorporate 'Bond-ness' into them, and secrets were one of them. Personally I didn't add too many at all, and some that I did disappeared in later revisions to improve game flow. There is one in dm_casino which I'm sure has already been found, but ctf_romania and dm_power are quite tame - they just have the occasional concealed item."

"Casino was definitely a map that had to relate to the film (specifically, TWINE, I believe). Personally I don't think I quite achieved it, but making that map was a lot of fun and taught me a lot of new things. The guys at EA did a good job helping me improve it."

David told MI6 how the ctf_romania map was redesigned 4 or 5 times before the final version was finished. NightFire fans may have noticed that in the multiplayer menu, the icon for the Romania map looks completely different to the finished version in the game - a small insight into what an earlier version looked like.

"Romania took the longest of all the maps I made for NightFire - I restarted it 4 or 5 times before going all-out making new textures from scratch to get it finished... No two versions really looked the same either! Actually, in the NF server menu, the icon for Romania is taken from an earlier version of Romania which bears no resemblance to the final version."

Crafting the World

MI6 asked David about the tools used to create the NightFire maps...

"It was Gearbox's version of the Worldcraft editor (Gearcraft), tweaked to take advantage of the new engine they wrote specifically for the game. Having extensive experience with Worldcraft already, I found it extremely easy to use. Compared to the standard Half-Life engine, the Nightfire one provided lots of improvements, not only ones that had been put in specifically, but ones that just hadn't been taken advantage of in Half-Life."


'de_dust' - A famous Counter Strike map by David

"The specific support for models to decorate the world was extremely useful - what also helped was how these models could be viewed in the editor as well. There was also a sense that I could push the engine further, because of this. Combined, the engine and the editor made everything easier as a designer, and provided tools that I think everyone wanted years ago!"

"The whole experience taught me a lot of things that I had never encountered before, simply because the project was more retail than the previous games I have worked on, including the time/budget balancing issues, and how maps are improved along the way through artists who help capture the right atmosphere. It was great fun."

Many thanks to David Johnston for his time.

Related Articles:
Interview: Designing NightFire (Part 1)