A few(!) words with Aymeric Nocus (ck3D) by Puritan on June 20-2012

Age : 24 (2012)
Location : France
Occupation : -

CGS : When did you first get in touch with Build/Mapster?
Aymeric : First off, the first time I ever got in touch with Duke 3D was at my cousin's house, probably just after the release of the game back in 1996 or so. We had an uncle who had sold us our first second-hand computers when we were even younger (the days of 386's and 486's with Windows 3.11 and floppy drives...), and they always had the same video games installed on them, including the original Duke Nukem platform games, Duke Nukum and Duke Nukem II (along with the classic Commander Keen games, the original Prince of Persia and such...). So the both of us had already been growing up on Duke Nukem games for some time, thus when Duke 3D came out it was revolutionary, my cousin got a copy, installed it and we were both blown away by the atmosphere.

I remember us (well, mostly him seeing as he would barely let me play... the little brat !) randomly wandering through the episode 1 levels, exploring the ruins of the destroyed building in E1L2, blowing up manholes wimbs, using the jetpack to fly around what felt like a believable urban environment at the time.

Being the kids that we were, the game became a fascination, I soon got custom levels and episodes such as Duke It Out In DC, then we did try to fire up Build to make our own custom levels straight away but we couldn't understand shit to how it all worked and lost interest for a little while. I kept playing the game though, I didn't have internet access back then (too expensive and limited) so my only source of user maps was that Come Get Some cd a friend of mine got his hands own, that had 1000+ levels on it as well as a few light mods (probably used without the authors' permission), 990 of which were probably copies of one another and generally plain sucked, but it was good enough for me.
The cd also happened to include Brett Gmoser and Stephen Itterheim's mapping guides and Build FAQ's within one of its random folders, and one day in the early 2000's I was bored enough to actually try and take the time to learn the basics of it.

The map I consider my first decent map was finished in 2002 (it was available on the Duke Nukem Repository for a little while, under the name 'Clerey 2.0'), but before that I had already made an incredible amount of shitty maps, including two episodes (one of which was called 'Time Traveller' I think, and included maps with different eras of modern history as their respective themes).

So I think it's safe to say that I really started to play around with Build in 2000, 2001.

CGS : What was your first map, released or unreleased?
Aymeric : First map ever (unreleased) was a map of my school of way back when, I do not have it anymore but it was pretty much just a succession of poorly-textured, square rooms full of increasingly strong monsters - no doors - that one could probably defeat in less than a minute.

I also made a map based on the house of another cousin of mine (who was a fan of the game as well) that I remember thinking was very hard, probably because it was just a really cramped house crammed with pigcops and enforcers and I was like 12.

I eventually restarted both maps from scratch a couple of times as my skills were (slowly) developing, my goal was to please my cousins by allowing them to explore their house in Duke, and the friends that went to school with me by giving them the opportunity to have some bloody fun killing aliens in an user map reproducing the settings of our school.

The third version of the map based on my cousin's house eventually grew and turned into a village-themed level that I consider my first real map (even though it really sucks, I was stoked on it because it had working swinging doors !), and was eventually released (for a little while) on DN-R under the name 'Clerey 2.0' ; the second version of my school level, on its end, resembled the first version too much (it was basically the same succession of square rooms minus the inclusion of doom-type doors) so I eventually made a third, definitive one that ended up being my second real map (that also happens to suck), released on DN-R under the name 'Notre-Dame des Aydes 2.0'. Both came out in 2002 and were made in respectively one month, and two weeks, I think.

I was proud and seriously thought they were some of the best maps ever back then, seeing as my only point of comparison back then was my cd with the 1000+ maps and shitty mods on it, and I was a kid, mind you...

Then I got internet access in 2004 I think, stumbled upon the DN-R website for the first time, and the first maps I downloaded off that site were... Red 4 and Welcome Home, then Roch 8 soon after that. Needless to say I was put back into my place, playing maps that ambitious and conceptually grand for the first time ever was quite a shock - but it only motivated me to progress as a mapper, and pump out map after map after that.

CGS : What is your favourite among your own maps?
Aymeric : That's a tough one because throughout the past decade, in addition to my personal levels, I have also collaborated with a lot of other mappers and I am usually more satisfied with those joined projects than I am with my own stuff.

As far as my own levels go, I would be tempted to say that the Happy Hangover / Anorak City / Bottles to the Ground trilogy are the best design-wise, and besides a few sections here and there in all three of them I am generally happy with how they turned out, and would not rebuild them differently if I had to touch them again now.

I also really like some of the maps I have made for the Metropolitan Mayhem 15-map episode that was released just a few months back in early 2012, notably Meatball Sub Making and Derailing.

Now if you start counting the joined projects I have instigated or at least taken part in, I would say that I am very proud of how both Surburban Hives maps (Surburban Hive I and Crimson Moon) turned out. In my opinion they are right up there with some of the best custom maps ever designed for that game, obviously not thanks to my own contributions because I am not necessarily happy with what I did in them but because everyone working on them at the time was really passionate about what they were creating, which led the entire group in just one coherent direction throughout the entire mapping process and in the end everyone's effort complemented each other, it just worked and the results were great, in my opinion.

Roch Island was a fun one to work on too because it was ambitious and it still looks impressive to this day, but I think everyone who worked on it hates it now, me included, it was a bit too much of a fancy map to my liking with all the bright colors and the contrived, tricky architecture with no thought nor science behind it, no defined texture set, no particular color scheme, the shading / lighting is off for the most part, I don't know, I just find that it looks really ugly now, I'm only mentioning it because it took four years to make and I love large maps, but I don't really like it.

CGS : How many maps have you done?
Aymeric : If you count everything I have ever done, including all my first maps that never saw the light of the day online and are now lost, probably over a hundred, now I have only released, say, maybe a dozen of maps just to my name, and a bunch of collaborations, joined projects, and / or maps that ended up in an episode of some sort.

I stopped keeping track a long time ago.

My mapping style has evolved a lot, too. Prior to when I first got internet access, my maps were really basic, mostly square-ish with classic effects directly inspired from the original levels, such as collapsing buildings, earthquakes and such.

Then I started discovering all those new, fresh, modern-styled maps such as the Red series, the Roch series, the BobSp maps, Kevin Cools' levels, Taivo Maaripuu's, Alejandro Glavic's, you know, all the technical stuff. It amazed me for a while and I learned how to build more ambitious maps with a lot of attention paid to detailing even to the smallest nuances (95% of which noone will ever even just notice).

I eventually found my own style with the Happy Hangover / Anorak City / Bottles to the Ground trilogy, but by then I was sick of spending entire years working on just one same map, it was driving me crazy and because of how obsessive I was getting, mapping started to become offputting.

I actually liked the idea to have just one level as the dead center of my mapping attention, because it would give me a map to truely focus on, and express myself freely on, but such projects become too ambitious for both my patience and my amount of spare time.

At some point Maarten van Oostrum and I worked together on a map (eventually released under the name 'AMC Pleaser') inspired by the original levels of the game made by 3DRealms in terms of style - basic texture set, no fancy colors, no monstreous sprite constructions that take up hours to make, no overdoing things - just a creative layout of open rooms, sublimed by simple sector-based effects, constructions and lighting. It felt so good to make a map that actually felt coherent as a level rather than like an imitation of a real-world place that all the maps I have been working on ever since have been following the same simplistic logic.

The bare minimum done right makes for a better foundation than all the colored, absurd randomness I used to dabble in. I learned a lot of lessons working on that map with Maarten, which I still reuse to this day, even in my more ambitious projects whenever I feel like starting one that I will never finish.

CGS : Where do you get inspiration from?
Aymeric : Real life locations and inspirations, music and meditation, even though it has happened to me a couple of times when I was younger I now try to avoid replicating stuff I see in other user maps, I think it is more fulfilling when your creative spree comes from within, and the results end up more interesting that way more often than not anyway.

CGS : Do you listen to music whilst mapping? If so, what did you listen to?
Aymeric : More often than not, yes. Lately I have been listening to a lot of jazz, mostly free jazz (Eric Dolphy, Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane in his late years) not just while mapping but while creating in general, I tend to find that the spontaneous stimuli you get from listening to improvised music goes hand in hand with any activity that has to do with expressing oneself, as if its sensory perception tackled a common ground with one's own ability to feel and produce a new, brutally honest imagery at the same time, I really do not know how to word it in a way that does not sound corny but you get the idea, at least it works for me.

CGS : Do you see mapping as competitive?
Aymeric : Not at all.

CGS : Do you still touch Build/Mapster?
Aymeric : I can barely find the time to play a new map release when it comes out, I am fairly out of the loop as far as the Duke community goes so it would be tempting to say no, it is pretty hard for me, I am an adult with responsabilities and just better things to do in general.
Although sometimes I do run out of said better things, and that is when I am going to check MSDN, download all the new maps posted on the site at once, and take the time to play them individually and give feedback of some sort to their respective authors, through the prism of online forums such as the Duke4.net forums.

I used to be a frequent poster on the AMC and DN-R forums when I was younger, unfortunately AMC is pretty much dead as a Duke-related site as of now and the DN-R forums have been taken over by spam bots, then blocked by the admin a while back, and are now about to get taken down I think.

Occasionally, if I really hit the bottom of the bucket I will fire up Mapster again and see what I can do, but I usually can not find the time to build more than the start of a map, a few sectors here and there and various junk that never really goes anywhere.

CGS : Are you playing any DN3D maps these days?
Aymeric : As I just stated, I try to make some time for it as soon as I run out of things to do and get really bored, but I actually very rarely get to.

CGS : What's your favourite map of all time?
Aymeric : I like a lot of maps. The map that made the biggest impression on me at once in my entire life was probably Red 4, as I was still discovering what was possible to do with the Build engine.

I was a little fifteen year-old brat, thinking my square-looking, poorly-detailed, pseudo-immersive levels were the shit, next thing I know I was in a moving boat going down a river, making my way from story to story, getting messages from a fellow Duke sprite and getting knocked out in the engine room when the whole thing eventually found it appropriate to drop down a waterfall. That map was so immersive I actually could believe what was happening in front of me on my screen, I was sucked into the game, into the adventure. It has lost some of its magic with time, unfortunately, and now I know that level by heart, but it is still right up there on my top 5 in 2012 for sure.

I also have a weakness for a lot of more obscure levels that are not as popular as the Red series for instance - usually levels that resemble the levels of the original game a lot, or that bring something simple but new and fresh to the table, as long as it looks good and it has style, which always makes for an immersive atmosphere.
I love maps such as Hasit, Back Alley, Extermination, Anarxitical City, Dukai, Dukemeal Restaurant, Scum City 2, Letiste, Dukemall, Lessing5, Azneer Building, OGBB, Anslem, New York Plaza, Traffic Jam, FbSp003.

Back when I was a kid, I was fascinated by Island1 by Georg Buol and its sequel The Base (both made in 1996, the second one even already had scripted missions), The Prisoner, and that obscure deathmatch map called The Binn, just because it looked so realistic to me back then, like an almost beliveable surburban environment.

As far as modern releases go, I really liked Last Pissed Time, Icestation Colossus, Clear The Coast, Tribute to Action II, WGCity, Blown Fuses / It Lives.

Amongst the Roch series, I am going to pick the poor little kid noone ever wants on their soccer team and say that my personal favorite is Roch 3 - I know it usually is most people's least favorite, but I have always found that it was Pascal's most inspired level for some reason.
I am also becoming more and more of a fan of the more abstract concepts behind most maps by Billy Boy and Zaxtor Znort, and for the longest time I was a fan of most of Taivo Maripuu's work, I kind of grew out of his purely technical, somewhat sketchy approach to mapping, but there still is some kind of atmosphere to be felt in his maps that you don't get to feel anywhere else.

Finally, amongst the most popular, newer generation of mappers, Zykov Eddy seems very inspired.

CGS : What are your opinion about the HRP and Polymer projects?
Aymeric : People are free to create whatever they want to create. Polymer can look good, I am not a fan of the HRP at all, personally. But I am not going to bitch and moan and go preach to other people about how I think a sixteen-year-old video game should be played.

CGS : What other games do you fancy?
Aymeric : I don't play video games, besides Duke 3D sometimes when I am bored. I don't like them.

CGS : Finally, is it something you'd like to say to the DN3D community?
Aymeric : Keep on keeping on.

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