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Here is the report from Cabal's visit to Westwood Studios at the end of October 2001.

Click here for the report of Cabal's visit to Westwood Pacific, and tour with Athena Massey

It was easy enough to find Westwood Studios in Las Vegas, with the help of a map, but it was fun getting in! The map we had directed us to the entrance on Tenaya Way, but when we got there that entrance had a barrier across it. "ENTRANCE CLOSED". After cursing the map we had to turn around in the busy street and get to the other entrance. This should have been simple enough but the road was busy and we didn't know where to turn around. We managed though.

Even though Las Vegas is in the middle of a desert or, as Udo Kier said "Las Vegas is built on sand and tits! I like that!", Westwood still have a nice little garden. I was impressed with that. Also, I like the building they are in. It's much better that the Circus Circus hotel which I stayed in, lol.

Here I am outside the Westwood entrance

The visit started by saying hi to the person at the front desk, and having to sign a non disclosure form. This was to say that we won't tell anybody any secrets, not that I heard any anyway. We were told to sit down and wait for Chris. Although, even the best computer games company in the world still have small problems - when she was talking to Chris the phone kept going dead! While we were waiting there was somebody that was sitting down and filling out a job application form. I don't know who it was but good luck anyway :P I also took time to look in the trophy cabinet that is in reception - Brett and his team have managed to get quite a lot. I didn't take a photo of it because it was covered in Halloween decorations, as was most of the reception area.

After a few minutes Chris arrived in the front office, introduced himself and started showing us around. The first stop was the Lunch room to meet Joe Kucan's best friend, the free soda tap, since Chris was thirsty. There were some computers set up there, and Chris explained this was for a future fansite event. I guess this will be Renegade After this we continued on our tour.

We walked through the brightly colored corridors to the area that Chris and Cliff Hicks have their offices and he explained a little bit about what they do at WW Las Vegas. We said hi to Cliff and saw that he was trying to install the latest build of Renegade on his computer. He said that if we came back later then we would be able to see him play it. Before I went on vacation Cliff said that his booth was the messiest ever, but in fact it wasn't too bad. I mentioned this to Chris and he said that it was surprisingly tidy today. Hehehe. Chris also showed me the online display for Yuri's Revenge, since my computer crashed the day after he sent me my copy, so I've only been able to play 1 skirmish mission :( It looked great.

Chris Rubyor (left) and Cliff Hicks (right)

After this we were shown around that section of the building and met some of the Renegade production crew. I don't know who any of them were though, since we haven't heard much about them. They seemed to be busy. There were also a lot of empty sections, which Chris explained was because the Earth and Beyond team have all been relocated to a new building nearby in Las Vegas. This is also the reason why the office that used to have Rade Stojsavljevic in was empty :( Oh well, never mind. Chris pointed out a board that had a schedule for bug removal. At the time I visited the game had A LOT of bugs in, but this is understandable since the game has been in development for 4 years. The schedule also predicted that the game will ship with numerous C class bugs.

After this we started going along a bigger corridor past Chris Longpre (producer of Emperor) to meet Ted Morris (VirtualTed) and his fish :) He was busy talking to somebody so we didn't stay long - just enough to say hi. Then I knew what was next, since in an interview in 1999 between Rade Stojsavljevic and DailyDimentia he said that Kane (Joe Kucan) was next to the Online guy (Ted). So, we stopped and said hi. Just like Athena Massey said he is a gentle, funny person who wouldn't hurt a fly. I talked to him for a while before having a once in a lifetime photo opportunity with him. "Wait" he said... "I'll get my hat"... He then proceeded to get his funny hat from the office and put it on.. "nope.. will look better on you" So, he took it off, put it on my head and said we could take the photo... lol.... thanks Joe. He said that there was no filming that day, but that we could look around the blue screen room anyway. So, off we went.

Cabal and Joe "Kane" Kucan

The blue screen room was just like I thought it was - blue :) You can see it in the photo below and also in various movies from WW, like a TS promo video and the RA2 ones on the DVD. Chris said that the equipment that was set up was for some motion capture tests. Pirates of Skull cove used motion capture, as VL found out when he visited them a while ago. I took a couple of pictures before being shown upstairs to the prop department which, unfortunately, was locked. Chris said that if it was open then he would have taken us in there to have a look at the stuff. The first thing I recognised was the Harkonen suits from Emperor : Battle for Dune, but as I looked further I started to recognise stuff from Red Alert 2 and other games. I didn't realise that Westwood used so many clothes. If they had all props up there we wouldn't have been able to get in the room :) Then we went to see somebody who was editing Renegade movies. We were also shown one, which looked great. It included a lot of footage from REN02.mpg trailer, but also some new stuff. It looks amazing on a large screen. I won't tell you too much, because I don't want to reveal it,  but it started with the commander telling Havoc that they have to rescue some scientists, which Havoc lost... hehehe... now I don't trust havoc :) (just kidding). It looked great - can't wait to play it. For all you people from Britain, Havoc and the commander sound British. I was surprised at this. It doesn't sound like they used Frank Klepacki for the Commando this time, even though he was the voice of the commando in C&C1.

Chris then decided to show me the QA (Quality Assurance) department, since they were playing Renegade and he wanted to make sure I saw as much of it as I could. There were a few people in two rooms all playing it. What I would have done to get some hands on experience :) The game looked great and I can't wait to play it when it was released. I told Chris that I can't wait for the release date, and he told me that it has been delayed and that the final date is locked in stone as February 12th, 2002. He also mentioned that there will be an beta test for some people, which sounded great. (WW recently announced it for those of you who haven't been paying attention to the news). He then went on to explain that a lot of the PCs are bought directly from manufacturers, but some of them are made or modified by Westwood so that they can test the games using different configurations.

While walking back to the main building through the area where Ray Wise (President Dugan) was interviewed for the RA2 DVD we mentioned that Athena Massey showed us around LA. Did he looked jealous! Apparently he only met her for a few seconds. He then took us to Joe to tell him - he looked even more jealous. I will never forget the look on his face. I told him something that Athena told me about a picture of them together. Everybody laughed. You'll have to ask Joe about that yourself - I don't know if he wants everybody to know. At about this point Chris told us about the pumpkin carving contest that they have every year at Halloween. The main prizes this year were won by the artists, although Frank Klepacki won the prize for the funniest design.

After this we walked into a bigger part of the Westwood complex to the render farm, which is where all of the great FMVs for the games are created. The room wasn't full of computers like it used to be, because they have recently upgraded the computer to Gigahertz processors, and so don't need to use as much room to get the same power. There were some offices upstairs, although we didn't go up there.

The big bit with the windows is the area that I was talking about

Our next stop was Frank Klepacki, who has an office full of Star Wars stuff. Somebody from my school likes Star Wars - but sorry Dan, Frank has overtaken you in my list of Star Wars fans :). Perhaps I should him an inflatable JarJar Binks that I saw in Canterbury recently. He let us listen to some music from pirates of Skull cove, which was brilliant. It sounds more orchestral than anything we have heard so far. Thanks Frank. Then came another photo opportunity. Unfortunately I won't be able to buy Pirates of Skull Cove when it is released because I don't have a console that is newer than the Mega Drive.

Our final stop was Cliff again to see him playing Renegade. It looked even better than when we saw it in the QA department, although this was because I could concentrate on what was happening in the game more. He told me that the multiplayer screen will be similar to Quake3, which was cool. I didn't see it for myself, but know what he means. Chris said that he hasn't been able to play Renegade yet, even though he would love to get his hands on it, because "Yuri won't let me!".

Cliff demonstrated the engineer, bio soldier and laser  trooper, the last two being the best way to destroy tanks in the current build of the game. He said it changes every time, so in the final version they may not be the most powerful. Cliff had trouble staying alive because at the point he was, a couple of tanks were trying to destroy his Tiberium Harvester. A piece of advice while we are on the subject - Cliff said that Harvesters are VERY important in the game because that allow you to get new stuff. SO PROTECT THEM. This was his problem in the part of the game he showed me. He kept being flattened by a tank because he had to protect his harvester and a tank has more firepower than a person :) hehehe bad luck Devinoch. I read as many of the previews of Renegade as I could before leaving the UK, and a few of them mentioned that it was fun to run people over. I mentioned this to Cliff and he showed me a demo. It's better if you run them over in a tank, as he demonstrated to me. They make a horrible screaming and crunching noise similar to TD. Let's just hope they don't scratch the paint :)

That was the end of the tour. We didn't meet Brett, Louis or anybody else like that, but that doesn't matter - at least I got to see Chris, Cliff, Ted, Joe, Frank etc. I had fun and wish that I am able to return and say hi again in the future, although finding the money will be a problem - this vacation did cost us a lot although it was the best one I have ever had. This was all due to Athena Massey with her tour of Los Angeles and Chris Rubyor's tour of Westwood Las Vegas.




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