Whether you have questions about me, this website and its content, or just general inqiries, this is the place to find the answers! I try to keep this page (as I do with most pages on this site) updated regularly with answers to questions I am frequently asked. I don't know what else I would be updating it with... but perhaps you can tell me.

What do you want to know?

Nikolai Mohilchock

Is my website themed around my wardrobe, or it is the other way around? Things look good either way!
Is my website themed around my wardrobe, or it is the other way around? Things look good either way!

I've split the Frequently Asked Questions page into four specific categories. Select any of the categories below to jump directly to the Q&A. You might discover something you weren't expecting. :)

     Professional Work           Miscellaneous Experience           Website Development           Personal Inquiries     

Professional Work

  • Q: Can you talk about what are you currently working on?

    A: Normally, I can't talk about the projects I'm currently working on, usually because I have signed an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) which prohibits me from divulging any confidential information. The times that I can talk about projects are when they have already been announced to the public, or given permission by the company who I've had an agreement with. If such permission is given, you'll likely see details about what I'm working on in the Recent Updates section on the home page after the anouncement has been made by the studio.
  • Q: What were your favorite places to work at / projects to work on?

    A: I'd have to say F.E.A.R. 2 and Monolith Productions probably rank highest on my list. When you get right down to it, who you work with is by far way more important than what you work on. The people at Monolith are incredible to work with both personally and professionally, and I'll miss them a lot. More to the point; the studio culture, execution of company events, internal administration, and production end of every aspect of studio life and process was second to none. The employee orientation and training alone was among the best I've ever seen. Second place would have to be my first job at Gray Matter. It was rare that a high-calibur studio hired raw talent and molding them into career developers. I had some great mentors and teachers who I stay in touch with even today. I learned so much during those years that changed the way I work on games, top among those being how to trust and work as a team.
  • Q: What are the best and worst parts about working in the video game industry?

    A: The best parts for me is the sense of "playing god". I love building my own little worlds where I can create encounters and see what happens. Working with talented and creative people is awesome too, as they inpire and teach me to look outside the box all the time. I also love problem-solving - there are tons of technical issues that must be sorted out on a daily basis that require you to be mentally on your toes.

    As for the worst parts... if you've heard the term "crunch" and wonder what that might be, it refers to extra work hours that team members need to put in to get a portion of the game done to reach a milestone on time. It used to be a major problem in the industry, especially at larger companies like Activision or Electronic Arts, and is often the result of bad management and putting priority on product before people. It's not as bad a problem as it was a few years ago, but it's still a pretty big headache.

    The other big issue is career stability, since I've had the misfortune of working at several studios who have kept people on board for projects and laid off those people as production ramps down to cut costs (usually just before the holidays too). Studios and publishers need to be more flexible and have secondary / R&D teams working in parallel, to shift people when they're needed most and not lose valuable talent.
  • Q: What has been your favorite tool / tech to work with, and what about your least favorite?

    A: I'd have to say my least favorite was Project Offset's engine (simply called the "Offset Engine"). As a content editor it was fairly easy to use and generate variants of content on the fly, but as a content creator and game tool it fell very flat and lacked a number of critical features necessary for game development.

    My favorites would have to be a tie between Unreal Engine 3 (Epic Games) and WorldEdit (Lith Tech). Both of these offer a combination of CSG editing with prefab library support. It was extremely easy to block-out, detail, populate, and publish a level in a short amount of time. A close second would beGtkRadiant for the Quake franchise. As a tool designed for a specific purpose and type of game, it does the job fairly well.
  • Q: How did you get your start in the video games industry?

    A: I was working as both a graphic artist, I.T. support staff, and webmaster for The Grove of Anaheim - a local concert and events venue next to Anaheim Stadium. Early in 2003, I was laid off when management of the venue changed hands and had their out-sourced I.T. departments take over. So there I was at home, unemployed looking through some of my favorite gaming news sites when I saw an opening for a level designer position at Gray Matter Studios. I had been creating a solid number of Quake III Arena levels in my free time, as well as beefing up my skills making textures and shaders, and decided I would build a portfolio from those and see what happened. Sure enough, I got an interview and several weeks later I joined the rank and file of the late Gray Matter Studios (which merged with Treyarch and went onto create several Call of Duty games).
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Miscellaneous Experience

  • Q: Where did you go to school, and what did you study?

    A: I graduated with a GED and soon after went to Fullerton College to pursue an AA in Computer Science and minor in Art. Unfortunately I couldn't keep up with the cost of classes or maintain my work schedule. I did take several classes on design (Fundamental Design, Art History) and a few programming courses (HTML, Visual Basic, Java, and C++).

    I have not had any formal training to enter the video game industry, but that doesn't mean you can't learn how to make games without getting a degree at places like The Guildhall. I learned how to design and build levels using tutorials that I found online. I also played games just to study them and ask questions about what I experienced - what did I like, what did I not like, etc. This kind of self-development isn't for everyone, but it's how I managed to get noticed and get into the industry. I've been steadily growing over the past few years and discovered that it's a never ending process.
  • Q: Did you do anything game-related prior to your Quake III Arena maps and mods?

    A: As a matter of fact, yes. Aside from my internship work on Mars Maniacs, I was creating levels several years prior to Quake III Arena. Here are a few screens from some old Quake II designs I experimented with shortly after the game came out. I never released them publicly because they weren't very fun to play, but they are the start of what pushed me towards wanting to become a professional designer.

  • Q: What sort of work did you do before getting into video games?

    A: Prior to my career in video games, I was very interested in computers and technology. I studied web design and computer programming, worked toward getting my A+ certification, and was the "computer guy on call" for all my friends and their technology woes. My very first job was in the summer when I was 16, for a man who refurbished old arcade machines. I learned plenty about the inner workings of arcade cabinets; mainboards, CRTs, and everything in between. After that summer job I started building my own computers, and eventually got a part-time gig working for the school repairing old Apple machines. After getting my GED I worked part-time for a small computer company called Techmedia, as a repair technitian while I went to college.

    My last job before entering games was as an I.T. manager, graphic artist, and webmaster all-in-one at a small concert venue called The Grove of Anaheim. As an I.T. manager, I handled day-to-day maintenance of the office and POS (point of sales) equipment, and was the administrator for the venue's Novell network security and Groupwise e-mail server. Half of each week was also spent creating various flyers for the venue to advertise events and up coming concerts. This also included creating weekly ads for the LA Times, Orange County Register, LA & OC Weekly, Slate, and other publications. As the webmaster, I managed the Grove's e-mail marketing system and mailing list, while also regularly updating the website's information and calander with new shows and events. It was a very satisfying job, and I could easily go back to it if I for some reason fell out of love with being a game developer.
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Website Development

  • Q: How did you create this website?

    A: It helps if you can find an HTML editor like Coffee Cup or KompoZer, but honestly all you need is a simple text editor like Notepad. There are tons of resources out there to get you started such as W3Schools.com, with practical examples and tutorials that are easy for beginners to understand.

    The only images used to create the "look" of this website (excluding the screenshots and photos in the galleries) is a smal 1x4 pixel tile that repeats in the background - everything else you see is pure CSS3 and HTML 4.1 (for compatability) - including curved edges, shadows, and other effects. No Adobe Flash, no complicated PHP or XML, just simple stylesheets and mark-up. I use Coffee Cup FREE edition, along with Notepad to build and maintain the site's content.
  • Q: Why do you recommend using Internet Explorer over Firefox or Chrome?

    A: While most people still believe Internet Explorer isn't as advanced as more popular browsers like Firefox, or has more vulnerabilities, the latest installments (IE 10 & 11) have begun to support a number of features that other browsers do not and is in fact quite secure and stable. This history of enhanced feature support can be seen going back to IE6 which allowed developers to assign custom colors for the scrollbars on their webpages, to IE10's ability to smoothly transition shadows and gradients on both text and objects - without the need to use JQuery or Javascript to accomplish the same effects (although I do use these technologies for functional tasks like the picture galleries). Granted, Microsoft is still slow to support some features like OGG format web audio and input devices like control pads or gesture input devices (Kinect, PS3 Move, etc.) but it's stable, and compliant with most everything that other browsers utilize. The website still functions fine in later versions of Chrome and Firefox, but you won't see any of the smooth animated transitions and shadows like you will with Internet Explorer. Plus, my computing philosophy is that of a minimalist: the fewer 3rd-party programs (browsers, non-microsoft system software) you rely on to get things done, the faster and smoother your computer will run.
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Personal Inquiries

  • Q: What do you like to do when you're not working on games?

    A: If I'm not working on games then I am playing games. All kinds of games - I'll play anything except for maybe a few sports games. I also really enjoy cooking pastas and sauces, playing guitar (acoustic or electric), table-top activities (aside from video games, I like board games and miniatures like WH40K and other table-top fun - check out Ironhands to see some of the amazing miniatures I've had the pleasure of playing with), watching movies, snuggling with my two big cats, and driving around to look at random stuff. I'm big into anime, collecting swords, or collecting swords based on anime. I'm also a big martial arts geek, so Asian cinema and culture is of particular interest to me.
  • Q: What inspires you, and who or what are your influences?

    A: Mostly I am influenced by music. I'm slightly autistic and have a bit of synesthesia (meaning one sense is affecting/triggering another, or in my case I often see variations of colors when I hear sounds). Mostly I listen to ambient tracks of electronic music (DJ Sasha, Junkie XL, Daft Punk, BT, Deadmau5, etc.), or hard rock and metal (Foo Fighters, Deftones, Blind Guardian, Alice In Chains, In Flames, etc.). My favorite type of music believe it or not is video game soundtracks (and in particular, anything I can find on OC Remix). I am also a huge fan of science fiction movies - especially the Terminator, Star Trek, Firefly, and Ghost In The Shell franchises. There are a few cheesy one-off's that I enjoy like Strange Days, Battle Beyond the Stars, and SeaQuest: DSV.

    Among artists and designers I am a huge fan of the US Steel concepts and futurist designs created by Syd Mead. His art and designs are well thought out and embody the positive aspects of what the future could be. Another artist I both enjoy and admire is H.R. Geiger, because his works of art tend to take me out of my comfort zone and challenge me to look at things differently. His sculpture works in particular are facinating. Also, the geek in me enjoys the work of Michael Okuda and the designs he gave life to for the Star Trek franchise. The "LCARS" computer/control interface that he created for Star Trek: TNG is one of my favorite subjects, and it would be awesome to see it function with real world practicality someday... NOT like Windows 8.
  • Q: What kind of project would you like to work on the most?

    A: I'm a huge fan of shooting games - first-person shooters(Quake, Unreal, Deus Ex), third-person action games (Gears of War, Uncharted, inFamous, Tomb Raider, The Last of Us), top-down/side scrolling acrade shooters (Ikaruga, Raiden I/II, Galaga), etc. So, preferably if I can work on something similar to my favorite first-person shooter: Quake II ...or favorite top-down arcade shoot-em up: Raiden, I'd be happy.   I'm also a big fan of Japanese RPGs (Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy VII, Eternal Sonata, Ni No Kuni, etc.), so if I ever get the opportunity to work on such a game I'd jump at the chance.

    Another genre I am a big fan of is combat racing - I LOVE the Wipeout racing franchise, and have been hooked on the stylish flair of the Designer Republic's take on the universe since its launch on the original Playstation. I'd be thrilled to work on a new combat racer in this universe or something akin to it.