I usually don't play games all day, or sit on the computer all day that much anymore since we got a pair of dogs that get into everything. Today, I probably spent more time on my computer cumulatively than I have over the past 2 weeks.
I picked up Call of Duty 4 last night, because I have heard a great many good things about it, all of them warranted because it's incredible. Both the single player and multiplayer modes are fantastic. My last couple FPS purchases have been a little disappointing, so I'm really happy that I like this game.
Every once and a while I get the bug to work on FPS levels on my own time, but often just don't bother because the setup time is so long, the learning curve is steep, and I used to do level design as a job.
While i've found that I'm not entirely fond of Unreal Tournament 3 as far as a game goes, its game building tool in UnrealEd is great. As more and more game companies use the Unreal Engine to make their games, it only makes sense that I refamiliarize myself with it's tools. I have to admit, I haven't played with UnrealEd since it's first versions many many moons ago, and it has come a long way in terms of functionality and ease of use.
Just over the course of a few hours this afternoon, I had a couple rooms built with lights, stairs, weapons spawning and textured walls. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.
Some aspects of the tools in UnrealEd are not all that different than what we use to develop EverQuest 2. With EQ2, we have a slew of different tools for various tasks including population, zone art modification, scripting, and spell creation. They all integrate with each other in a different fashion, and it's a pretty steep learning curve to learn the nuances of each program as well. I think we have a great set of tools here at SOE though, thank god we have some talented programmers to make this stuff work. One of my favorite things that happened last year was the creation of our new population tool, which allows us to add creatures to the zones in real time and see them moving around. A task that used to take 10 to 20 minutes to add just a few creatures is reduced down to a minute or two tops. It's dope.
I guess sometimes, you don't realise how complicated your job is, until you try and learn a new skill or toolset. I was so daunted by the complexity of our tools when I first started on EQ2, but I am really well versed in them now, and think nothing of the pages and pages of tabs and functions available at my fingertips. It's all about exposure and practice. For you aspiring designers out there, use what is available to you and keep at it. The learning process is often painful, but pays off in the end as you get more and more comfortable with the tools out there. There are alot of similarities between an all in one package like UnrealEd and internal proprietary tools that a company uses. Alot of the terminology, and concepts are universal and translate into one another you will find.