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John Guthrie

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John Guthrie
Guthrie
Biographical information
Born

October 15[1]

Occupation(s)

Level designer

Nickname(s)

Choryoth[2]

John Guthrie is a Level designer for Valve.

BiographyEdit

In September 1996, he gift a logo to Bluesnews[3]

On Valve's official website, his function was described as follows: "Along with Steve Bond, John started the influential and popular Internet gaming site, "Quake Command." John was also the co-creator of Quake Airplane and Quake Kart and constructed many of the chambers and corridors in the Black Mesa Research Center."[4] He occupies Valve's darkest office, where he is hard at work constructing the chambers and corridors of Half-Life's treacherous missile base and underground train system. [5]

Guthrie also built the test chamber disaster sequence featured at the beginning of Half-Life with Kelly Bailey in a weekend, during which they worked for 48 hours straight. After going home at the end of the weekend and coming back in the offices on Monday, "still in a zombielike state", Bailey and Guthrie were glad to see that the rest of the team loved the sequence after playing through it.[6]

Half-LifeEdit

"It's finally sinking in that two years of work is being taken away," sighs John Guthrie, a young and affable game designer at Kirkland, Washington-based Valve. This week, his colleagues have started calling him "neck beard, referring to the fact that he hasn't shaved in days. Today, his priorities lie elsewhere. "I keep watching the clock as I play Half-Life again and again, knowing that at some point, someone is going to say it's time to stop."

Guthrie's been working on the game for two years, and as of late, that's meant 18-hour days with no weekends. He hasn't had time to sleep, much less shave. The brown doormat outside his office says it all in big black letters: GO AWAY. Although other employees don't spell it out so clearly, just about everyone at Valve feels the same way.

The minute hand on Guthrie's desk clock sweeps up to the top of the hour on this Monday afternoon. He glances at the clock, mentally noting that another hour has come and gone. But now, it's four o'clock, and everyone at Valve knows what that means: the ingenuously termed "four o'clock meeting." But the meeting is more important than the name suggests... especially today.[7]

As the meeting draws to a close, all the developers look up to an object hanging two feet below the ceiling. This sort of dangling carrot is a piñata of a Headcrab, a vicious flesh-colored monster in the game. Made out of paper-mache by Guthrie's girlfriend Jamie, it hangs motionless, silently awaiting its fate.

No one knows what's inside. "It's a surprise," says Jamie, with a look that says she'll really be happy to have her boyfriend back when this is all finally done.[8]

Bring in the Troops Beside the Quake source code, the most important thing that Newell and Harrington obtained from id was a shopping list of sorts - a list of names of some of the most innovative and exciting developers working with Quake technology. Two of those developers were Steve Bond and John Guthrie, Floridians who had started a popular online fan site called Quake Command. Guthrie was going to college and delivering pizza when he and Bond received an e-mail that would change their lives.

"We got this e-mail from a guy named Gabe Newell," recalls Guthrie. "He told us he wanted to talk to us and left his phone number." Both Guthrie and Bond thought the e-mail message as a joke, and they ignored it until curiosity finally got the better of them. "Steve eventually called him," says Guthrie. "That day, Gabe bought Steve a plane ticket, a rental car, and a hotel room." It all seemed too good to be true. "Steve was standing at the airport," says Guthrie, "waiting for the electronic ticket to come through, and he kept saying, 'This has got to be a joke.'"

But it wasn't.

Once in Seattle, Bond was given a few days to stay in the city and make a decision that would change the rest of his life. Once Bond decided to join Valve, Guthrie wasn't far behind. "A week later, I followed Steve up to Seattle and decided to drop out of school." (In case his parents are reading, he's quick to add, "Though I'd like to return to [school] one day.")[9]

Guthrie calls "genius" to Ken Birdwell. He is still dumbfounded by the achievement of make the mouths of the characters move in the game, Birdwell and Bailey created bones in the faces of characters, which in turn are used to manipulate the movement of their jaws. Guthrie says "If you ever wonder who goes to college when he's 13, it's someone like Ken Birdwell. He solves really hard programming problems."[10]

He send pictures of Half-Life to Bluesnews[11][12]

Half-Life 2Edit

Today's meeting is all about reviewing the members of "Club Zero," a list that appears on a whiteboard. Programmers join the club as soon as all their bugs are fixed. Many of them are already in the club, but a few have yet to join. (You can also be dismissed from the club if someone finds a bug in your level). "We cheer when people join Club Zero and boo when you get moved out of it," explains John Guthrie, the lanky young designer who joined Valve eight years ago, when he was 23. Given the rate that employees are joining Club Zero, Newell thinks the game may be done today or tomorrow. All the bugs are almost gone. More than five years in a pressure-cooker environment might finally be coming to a close.[13]

Still, designers like Guthrie thought that allowing players to manipulate objects would help the designers invent new gameplay paradigms. "I imagined throwing saw blades to cut enemies in half, tossing a paint can against a wall and seeing it splatter," he says. "It was going to add another whole layer to the gameplay. It was going to give us what we needed to differentiate this game from Half-Life.".

"Get your free TVs!" There was even a hand-to-hand fighting system so the Metrocops and citizens could get into fistfights. No one actually thought the level would make it into the final game. "It was really just an early attempt at getting something--anything--in the game that used non-player characters and physics," Guthrie remembers.[14]

Once the initial disappointment subsided, some of the team realized that they may have overreacted to the failed proof of concept. "In retrospect we crammed a lot of technology into that demo," Guthrie says.[15]

The immense scope of City 17 meant that no one designer could oversee the entire game. So, as was the case with Half-Life, Valve employed its "cabal" design process, in which small design hives tackled different parts of the city. For Half-Life 2, there were three main cabals of up to six designers. Each cabal worked in a large office that looked a bit like the bridge of a submarine. John Guthrie's cabal—which worked on the game's canal section and Ravenholm, a zombie-infested part of town—consisted of his longtime friend Steve Bond (they first started working together at age 16), Dario Casali, and Tom Leonard. "I actually see these guys more than I do my girlfriend," Guthrie jokes.

The cabals designed levels much like they designed levels for Half-Life, with one notable exception: Level design was separated from art for Half-Life 2. In other words, the designers first fleshed out the gameplay before the artists began to gussy up the levels with beautiful textures. This new production pipeline let the cabals rapidly create new content. (The first pass at a map was called an "orange map" because all the level textures would be the same shade of orange). The cabals even designed the scripted elements of the game using simple text bubbles that would pop up on screen. So in the first pass at a level, the cabal might put in a text bubble that said, "One day you'll be able to drive a jeep and jump this ramp." This allowed the team to perfect the gameplay and work out story issues like pacing long before an artist touched the level. The orange maps even helped the cabals when it came to designing the physics of the gameplay." Before you could hoist up cars and drop them on enemies, you were hoisting up orange cubes," Guthrie says.

"The good news was that we actually had a ship date--a date to look forward to." -- John Guthrie’s initial thoughts on the September 30, 2003 ship date

Newell next announced the ambitious date to the team. Many of them were surprised by Newell's aggressive target. "The good news was that we actually had a ship date--a date to look forward to," Guthrie says. But then the harsh reality set in: There would be no room for error. In fact, there would hardly be any room for sleep. "I figured there were enough hours left between where we were in February and where we needed to be in September to finish the game," Guthrie says. "But I wasn't exactly looking forward to using all those hours to hit that date." [16]

It's a late-July morning at Valve, and designer John Guthrie walks into the lobby to start another long day at work. The team is still deep in crunch mode, but there are signs the pressure is abating. As Guthrie picks up his mail, he starts talking to another employee about how it will soon be time to cancel the laundry service provided by Valve. (Time spent washing clothing is apparently time that could be spent working on the game.) "It looks like we should be slowing down here pretty soon," Guthrie tells the other Valve employee.

By now all the game content has been locked down. Minor changes are being made, but the majority of the work involves bug testing and play testing the game again and again. Guthrie currently spends at least eight hours a day playing through the game.[17]

September 30, 2004, comes and goes, and Half-Life 2 isn't quite done. It's now October 13, and there are only a few dozen bugs left to fix. What's taking so long? The problem is that more bugs keep cropping up every day because of the unpredictable physics gameplay. "We started telling people, 'OK, if we just stop testing we won't find anymore bugs and we can finally ship this thing,'" Guthrie jokes as he sits at his desk and tests one of his maps for what must be the 10,000th time.[18]

MappingEdit

For Half-Life 2 he do some ai_testmaps, and maps for the areas:

WeaponsEdit

Complete gameographyEdit

TriviaEdit

His name appears in Half-Life as an Easter egg on a Sector C locker and can be heard in announcements.

ReferencesEdit

External linksEdit

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