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Ute Wahlmann aka Clara back homepage search
interviewed by Andzia9 in July 2010

Andzia9: "Can you tell us something about you? How old are you? Where are you from? What do you do?"

Clara: "I'm 49 years old and live in Kassel in Germany. I work as a teacher at a comprehensive school."

Andzia9: "Do you have any of the original TR games? Which one is your favourite?"

Clara: "I have all of the original TR games and my favourite ones are TR 3 and TR 5 (Chronicles), which seems to be surprising since lots of TR players don't like the Chronicles very much."

Andzia9: "How was your first time with TR like?"

Clara: "I started with TR III and immediately loved the atmosphere within the game."

Andzia9: "What is your favourite moment in TR games?"

Clara: "There are lots of moments I like – so I can't say which one is the best. But generally I can say that I always enjoy the moments when Lara enters a new large outdoor area introduced by a flyby sequence and emotional music."

Andzia9: "Why did you decide to create custom levels?"

Clara: "When I first saw screenshots from the level editor (which was when I played TR 5 and had a look at pictures from the storyboard) I was very curious and impressed how the levels had been built. But I never thought that it would be possible to build them without any knowledge of writing programs. Of course there was this additional cd which was included in TR 5, but I thought it wouldn't make any sense for me to have a look at it. Then, one day, I was browsing the Internet for a programme to improve the graphics of TR 1 for the PC. Thus, I got to know Laraslevelbase.org and trle.net and read about custom levels for the first time. Since then I have been playing custom levels only, but it took 6 more months before I tried myself to rebuild the tutorial level using the manual to understand the basics of level building."

Andzia9: "Where do you get your inspiration from?"

Clara: "For my first level Ice Age, I was inspired by the objects that can be downloaded on TRSearch.org. I browsed through the list there and got the idea for the story choosing enemies and other objects. But now I'm usually inspired by real places (e.g. Clara's Home, Lost in Sand and the current level series The Jerusalem Project) or movies (I know what you did, Lara Croft: I am Legend) or fairy tales (all the levels for the advent calendar). And I should mention that I like scary levels in general. That's why I built Lara's Nightmare and I know what you did, for example."

Andzia9: "Have you got any favourite moments from your customs?"

Clara: "Mhhh.... basically, I still like the final cutscenes of Ice Age 2, I know what you did, Lara's Nightmare and especially of I am Legend. :o)"

Andzia9: "I see that you are building 'The Jerusalem Project' with Masha. Can you tell me something about this game?"

Clara: "The Jerusalem Project is a team project by Masha, Spongebob and me. It was Masha's idea to make a game about the history of the Jews, so she started to build a level of the second Jewish Temple which was built by Herod after Solomon's Temple had been destroyed by the Babylonians. She asked me to join her project, but since I'm not so much interested in ancient architecture (as far as level building is concerned), I invented a storyline for the game that would take place in the present as well. Spongebob, who had already done a very good job creating objects for our levels, also took part in the level building, when we realized that our project was extending. The story starts in the present setting of the Negev Desert (built by Spongebob) where Lara and Zip are supposed to find a time machine that will take them to the past to Herod's Temple (built by Masha) where Lara wants to search for the famous Arch of the Covenant. But in order to make the time machine run she has to find three crystals which are hidden at different places in the Old City of the present Jerusalem (built by me). During the game Lara will visit the holy places of three important religions: Herod's Temple in the past (Jewish), The Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Christian) and the Dome of the Rock (Muslim) in the present."

Andzia9: "Can you say when this new project will be finished?"

Clara: "We hope that the game will be ready in April 2011 – but no guarantee. :o)"

Andzia9: "How far have you got with your new project?"

Clara: "I'm not sure about Spongebob's level, but my four levels of the present Jerusalem have already been finished, and at the moment I'm busy working on the last level of the game which plays in catacombs underneath the Dome of the Rock. And of course there will be a final cutscene that I haven't started yet. Masha's levels (Herod's Temple and the ancient city of Jerusalem) have almost been finished concerning the architecture. But there is still lots of work to do referring to gameplay, cutscenes and so on."

Andzia9: "Will there be new enemies, new objects?"

Clara: "Yes, of course. Spongebob did a great job there again :o) But there will also be some 'good, old friends' - very often edited by us for our special needs."

Andzia9: "Are you planning to build new custom levels later – alone or with someone else?"

Clara: "Mhhh... I don't know yet. Usually I only deal with the level I'm currently building."

Andzia9: "Do you have an idea what it could be about?"

Clara: "Sometimes I think of making a level set inspired by the TV series '24'. I think it would be fun to rebuild the CTU and replace Jack Bauer with Lara. :o)"

Andzia9: "Have you ever thought to make levels by using DXTRe3D?"

Clara: "Before I made my first custom level I thought about which editor would be the best for me and I decided to use the original one. Today the work with the original editor has been improved a lot – by Pyuaumch inventing TREP and Paolone who developed a completely new engine (TRNG) - and I'm glad about my former decision. So I can use lots of new features for my levels."

Andzia9: "One of your custom levels has got a new character – Clara. Have you ever thought to make customs with other playable characters like Kurtis, Amanda, Doppelganger?"

Clara: "Clara is not really a new character – actually, this is just another Lara, who I found on TRSearch.org, and I chose her because she had a short, blond pony tail, like I sometimes have as well. :o) I don't want to use any other main character except Lara, but I often use different characters who accompany her – like Sam, the dog, in I am legend or Zip in The Jerusalem Project."

Andzia9: "About Clara's home: Does that home really exist? I mean rooms, gardens, or is all of this fiction?"

Clara: "When I built Clara's Home I really tried to copy my flat, the house, where it's in, and the gardens around. But I didn't build all of my neighbours' houses, so the environment looks a bit empty. Maybe I should have used a horizon made of an authentic photo like in “Lost in Sand”. Besides I must say that my real flat looks much smaller, for example the bathroom. Within the game it seems to be huge, because the room must be devided into squares in the level editor. And if you want Lara to be able to pass between the wash-basin and the bathtub, you must leave a square between both objects. Thus the room will be larger in game than in real life."

Andzia9: "Are you going to take part in BtB this year or some day?"

Clara: "I don't know – probably not, since I personally don't like the idea to work with a fixed wad, tga and audiofiles. When I build levels I very often add textures and objects later. Moreover I think audiofiles should fit to the atmosphere, and not the other way round."

Andzia9: "Are you going to build Christmas levels again?"

Clara: "Yes, of course. I hope I will be able to build one this year."

Andzia9: "Have your family and your friends ever played your customs?"

Clara: "My father once tried to play Lost in Sand, but he gave it up after a few minutes because he couldn't cope with the control of Lara. But my godchildren are used to play them. For the Christmas levels they are my betatesters."

Andzia9: "Do you have any favourite customs from other creators?"

Clara: "The very first custom level I ever played was Bibi Poque's The Ring. This one still belongs to my favourites. But I also like lots of the recent levels, like Dark Death's Silent Vill-Demo or teme9's The Mystery and of course Trix' A Time Odyssey or Titak's Himalayan Mysteries."

Andzia9: "Did you get in touch with different custom builders? Have you met anyone in real life?"

Clara: "Once a year I meet lots of members of trle.net and Laraslevelbase.org at the international TR meeting. And moreover I visit Masha and her family twice a year and I sometimes meet Zickenalarm and Christoph (illyaine) and I visited Tinka some years ago."

Andzia9: "Do you read all opinions about your work or do you ignore them?"

Clara: "I think every level builder wants to have feedback. Of course I read all the reviews to my levels and I often read the reviews to other levels, too."

Andzia9: "What caused the biggest problems in level building for you?"

Clara: "When I started level building it was really hard for me to imagine how to build special architecture – for example a room that can be seen from outside and entered by Lara as well. I did not know that there must be 'empty' rooms around this room to make it visible from outside. The manual is not always helpful here. But today it's the other way round: I can hardly imagine that I once had problems with this. :o)"

Andzia9: "How do you find the time to create your projects?"

Clara: "Time is always a problem. Even if I have the time to work on my levels, I'm sometimes not in the mood to do so. I usually build at the weekends, but the ideas for my levels often come at night before I fall asleep or early in the morning before I get up."

Andzia9: "Is there any custom creator that you admire?"

Clara: "Yes, of course. For example Piega, Titak, Psiko, Trix, and and and...."

Andzia9: "Which one of your customs took the most time building?"

Clara: "Up to now Lara Croft: I am legend took the most time, but The Jerusalem Project will take more."

Andzia9: "What other interests do you have except TR?"

Clara: "I like reading very much. And I'm much interested in political, cultural and social matters."

Andzia9: "Thank you very much for this interview!"

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