We’ve come to learn that Epic likes to give community members opportunities to prove themselves amongst the bigwigs of the industry. Recently, as some of you may be aware, BU Forumer Nathan Overman was approached by Epic and given an opportunity of a lifetime, a JOB! That’s right, he’s gone from someone we all like to make fun of around here (and who doesn’t? ;)), to someone we can look up to.

I recently had the opportunity to corner Nathan Overman and pin him down for an interview, his first too I believe.

BU: For those who may not have any idea who you are, who are you, and should we be scared?

Nathan: No reason to be scared. :) My name is Nathan Overman but online I’m usually known as “TomWithTheWeather”. If you’ve been a regular on the BeyondUnreal forums (best forums ever), you’ve probably seen me around.

BU: We recently discovered you were shipped up to Epic HQ with the awesome news that you’d landed yourself a new job, working on Unreal Tournament 2004. What were your first reactions after receiving the good news?

Nathan: Well, I spazzed out. After I was offered the job, I had a week to get my stuff together before I moved and during that time I was highly nervous and excited all at the same time. My parents freaked out and basically told me that I was a moron if I didn’t take this chance, which I knew already. I still wake up every morning, realize where I’m at, and freak out for a few minutes.

BU: Did you at any point in your life imagine you’d be working for Epic, or any game developer for that matter?

Nathan: I had always thought that it would be a great job but I never thought I’d actually be sitting here, so I didn’t really pursue it. My jaw hit the ground when I was offered a chance to work on UT2004. I cancelled my current classes at college. They were only extra classes that weren’t required for me to graduate, so I still graduated with an Associates Degree in Networking and Support. With school behind me I can now concentrate on wedging my way into the game industry. :)

BU: Was this something you had your mind set on, or simply a hobby to pass the time?

Nathan: Mapping was just a hobby. I’d do it for fun every now and then but I never thought that one day I’d get a paycheck for it. :)

BU: How was the transition from “Home Mapper” to “Epic Groupie”? Did you struggle at first, or did you simply buckle up and enjoy the ride?

Nathan: At first I was nervous because I thought I’d get there and not know enough about the editor or not have the skills to do the job, but there are so many helpful people that when I have a question, someone will know the answer. With Assault mapping, everyone has questions and we often have to put our heads together and come up with a solution. I’ve learned more in the few months I’ve been here than I ever did in the years spent mapping at home in my spare time. :)

BU: What’s it like turning up to Epic each day, and more to the point what does your regular day entail?

Nathan: I can’t wait to get to work each day. :) A normal day has me up around 8:00, arriving at work around 9:30 and working through the rest of the day. I and a few others usually have a lunch and/or dinner break at some point in the day. We have a big LAN playtest every day where we get to frag each other. Between headshots and hit-in-runs, we also look for any bugs or gameplay imbalances. When the afternoon playtest is over, we go back to work fixing the bugs and such that we found earlier. I usually don’t leave work until around 10:00 pm and sometimes I’m here even later. Repeat. :)

BU: What do you and the Epic folks like to do in your spare time? Surely it can’t be all fun and games.

Nathan: It’s all fun and games. ;) Actually doing work is a blast, but we do decide to take breaks every so often. Sometimes we’ll go see a movie or buy a DVD to watch in the break room. Other times we just goof off at the office. Most of the guys I’m working directly with are all around my age and we have a lot of common interests so usually we have no problem staying occupied. We also like taking field trips to the nearest video game store in the mall to buy the newest games to play. There are also plenty of things in the surrounding city to do. My home is only an hour away so sometimes I get to go back home and spend a Sunday afternoon with my family.

BU: What’s the environment like at Epic?

Nathan: It is very laidback and easy going. There are several other companies located in other floors of the building and it’s funny to watch the people walk into work in business suits and dress clothes while we look like slackers in our jeans and t-shirts. :) Epic is one of those companies that believe that workers do a better job when they are comfortable, relaxed, and the work is fun. It is so true. The whole office is like one big lounge room. The mood is easy going and fun and because of this we do get a lot of work done.

BU: How’s Unreal Tournament 2004 going? I’m sure you can slip in something juicy here; we all know you’re good for it ;). No seriously, how’s the game coming along?

Nathan: The game is coming along nicely. Everyday means new and/or improved features. It’s been great to see how a game evolves so quickly. I can’t say much about specific things, but I will say that this game is going to be a blast to play. I think all of the people out there who are making up their minds to not like it, will definitely be proven wrong.

BU: Do you have any tips for budding mappers that are looking to get their foot in the door?

Nathan: Make yourself very well known. Join a mod team. Keep practicing your skills as a mapper or coder. Make a website portfolio that puts your stuff on display and pimp it. If you’re having trouble getting good artistically, emulate other well known mappers. Once you can do what they do and understand their styles you can more easily create a style of your own. And most importantly, learn how to finish something you’ve started! Learning how to say, “Ok, I’m done with this map, it’s time to release it” is very important. Learn how to map with gameplay in mind, not just visuals. Practice makes perfect. :)

BU: I know you’re going to kill me, but I just can’t restrain myself. DEMO, when?

Nathan: Octember 47th. ;) (Ed - w00t, must be very close then, oh, wait a sec!)

BU: Any last comments before I let you go?

Nathan: I promise you’re going to love this game. It’s the best Unreal series game to date. :)

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish Nathan Overman all the best for the future, and a rather large thanks for allowing me to conduct this interview.