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interviewed by Diana Ciobanu in April 2008

Diana: "Who is QRS?"

QRS: "Well, my name is Anders Svensson and I'm a 36 year old game addict from Sweden. Since I was like 8-9 years old I have played video games and I often did hang out in the arcades, being almost broke due to all the money I put into the slots of all the fantastic games at that time: Beside my passion for all kinds of games, I play a lot of music. I used to play in an Irish trad band called 'The banshee'. I was the lead singer and I also played flute and 5-string banjo. We were amateurs but we had a lot of fun! Now I play and sing just for the fun of it. Right now, most of my time goes to my studies at the university, spending time with my girlfriend and of course building TR levels!"

Diana: "How long after playing TR have you decided to switch sides and build your own creation?"

QRS: "After discovering custom levels, it did not take so long. I have no idea how I could miss the existence of the editor for so long. I actually discovered it in late 2004/early 2005. Even though I have been a TR addict since 1996 when I started TR1 on PSX. I guess the main reason for missing this was that I only played the add on games on the pc, so I missed the whole community and I had no idea that the editor came with the TR5 game for the PC. After playing tons of custom levels I started looking at the editor...but it took a few months before I started to understand it!"

Diana: "Have you used the manual of the editor or did you just go along building?"

QRS: "I have used the tutorial a lot but not in the usual way. More in the reverse way of which it was intended. I have never liked it and I did not understand much of what I was doing, even when I was halfway through the manual... After getting the hang of the editor, I used it as a reference and for the tons of important info it contains. I actually learned from my own mistakes, reading other tutorials on the net and asking (far too) many questions to the pro builders on different forums! The only problem with this is that sometimes when I check the manual there are still things I had no idea about. I guess it's all about how we learn things. The manual was not my way, that's for sure!"

Diana: "There are a lot of games out there where you have to do the same exploration that Lara does. How come that you love Tomb Raider the most?"

QRS: "Granted, there are a lot of games out there. I do like many of them but there is something special about the TR games. The smooth controls/cameras and that you actually see your hero(ine) is the main thing for me. I have never liked the first person games so much. I guess the only game that can match Tomb Raider in my opinion is the original Prince of Persia. On the other hand Tomb Raider is based on that idea..."

Diana: "Have you played all the TR series? Which one is your favourite and why?"

QRS: "Of course! I have played 1-5 on both PC and PSX more than once. I think TR1 is the one I have played the most. I know I have finished it at least 15-20 times! The last 3 games I have only finished once though. No real replay value I think. TR1 is my all time favourite and I don't think anything will ever beat the feeling I got when I played it the first time! The music, the caves and the controls. I was in heaven and I played it straight for over 10 hours when I rented the game. There is something special about that game and I can still start it up and play a level or two when I have the time."

Diana: "You are an admin on trle-community.net. Does it take a lot of your time?"

QRS: "From time to time. When there are problems with members or spam etc. it can be very time consuming. Most of the time, it is ok though. There are three of us, so it is always nice to have backup when one of us needs to take a break or go on holiday etc. Being the sole admin would be a nightmare, that's for sure!

Diana: "I loved the musical themes in your game. They are perfectly fitting. What type of music do you like to listen to?"

QRS: "Thanks! I work really hard to do make them fit. I always spend a long time when I chose the music, especially when it comes to flybys and timed runs etc. It is also very important for me that the music stops when a flyby ends, so it can be very time consuming to make that happen. I really love music and I listen to all kinds of genres. I have never been into a certain kind of music. If I like the tune/song I embrace it. Punk or classic, it doesn't matter. I have a tendency to like sad/modal songs/tunes though."

Diana: "In your opinion, which would be the sequence of the components of a game: game play, storyline, puzzles, atmosphere, characters, length, objects and textures?"

QRS: "Hmm, I think I would rate them like this: Gameplay, atmosphere, puzzles, textures, objects, length. Story and characters are not so important for me, so they will end up last. Gameplay is by far the most important thing for me. I can still play Pacman and we all know the 'quality' of the graphics in that game ;)"

Diana: "I did my university graduation paper on Egypt and I must say that during the documentation process I found a bunch of interesting things about this civilisation. What attracted you the most about using this theme in your debut Egypt and Beyond?"

QRS: "Well, my knowledge of Egypt is not so great actually. The main reason for me was that I wanted to start with the 'basics' so to speak. And that is more or less Egypt when it comes to textures and objects etc. My original plan was to make an Egypt level and maybe a final cutscene. In the end it became 5 levels and a new story. So I had to come up with something! The '..beyond' part explains the 4 other levels I guess..."

Diana: "I reviewed your level after playing a few other levels and even now I am impressed by the complexity of it. How long did it take you to build it?"

QRS: "Thanks. It took more than 6 months. I did not do much else on my spare time than build back then, so it was a massive task for me. I really enjoyed it though. I learned a lot during that time and I still look at this project as my real tutorial level. Even if it turned out to be 5 of them. What I really did was to learn as many of the puzzles and stuff I could and find a way to implement them into my levels. I often put a puzzle into a room and built the rest of the level from that room. I also tried to make them 'new' so to speak. I do the same now in the sequel btw. Still so much to learn..."

Diana: "Looking back...are you 100% satisfied how E&B turned out?

QRS: "100% satisfied? Nahh.. I was not 100% satisfied when it was released and even less now. I'm still proud of some parts of the adventure but some things I regret. I still like to play my 4th level (level 3 in the saga) 'Ye obelisk sequence' from time to time. I still think I succeeded in doing something great (by my own standard) with that level. The rest of the levels...I have played them so many times during the testing, so I can't stand looking at them anymore. Overall I'm proud and 100% satisfied of one thing; that I managed to make 5 playable levels that some people enjoyed. I never thought that I would manage that when I started."

Diana: "What was the feedback from the players?"

QRS: "Amazing! I had no idea that people would rate it so high and that it would get so good reviews. I remember that I was so happy when my dear beta tester at that time, Virginia (Sutekh) sent in the first review and gave me an average of almost 9 (I think!) I was hoping for an average of maybe 7-8 after some reviews, so I was really surprised to see more and even higher scores drop in later on. I was also glad that people tried to finish it, as it is a really frustrating and hard adventure from time to time. I like to build difficult levels, so I'm glad that people enjoyed the concept."

Diana: "What motivates you to continue your work?"

QRS: "Hmm, a lot of things motivate me. I like tombs and temples and all kinds of catacombs hehe. Most of all I think it is that I still love the building process and to see how the level turns out when it is finished. As I seldom have any plans for how it will look, I always get a surprise when its done. And yes, that can be both a negative and positive surprise ;) The hardest part is to stay focused on one level at the time...So I often have 2-3 levels that I build on at the same time, often with different settings. That keeps my mind fresh so to speak. Right now I work on a snowy train level and an Egypt level. It's always nice to see different settings so to speak."

Diana: "Before Tomb Raider the games featured only male heroes. How come so many men identify with a female character while playing TR?"

QRS: "I'm not the right person to answer that question actually. I love the fact that there are more women in the games these days and hopefully we will have it 50/50 later on! On the other hand, I have never spent much time on any game focusing on the character. By that I mean that I don't mind if Lara would be a toddler, an old woman or a young boy! (Sorry to break the heart of all you Lara fans out there hehe) For me it is all about the gameplay and the environment. As long as the character can do the things Lara can, I don't mind how she/he/it looks! To answer your question for people in general, my guess would be that the male gender likes that Lara is strong, smart, sexy and beautiful."

Diana: "The opinions on the forum about the new releases Legend and Anniversary are split. What's yours?

QRS: "Well, to start with the good points in those games, you got to admire the graphics, objects, settings etc. Crystal Dynamics have done a great job there. When it comes to gameplay and the controls of Lara, it is not so great though. I have said this before but I will say it again. Nothing beats the controls of the old tombraider games (1-5) My ultimate dream would be that they would let the controls be as in the old games and just alter the graphics and visual stuff. A perfect example of that are the Resident evil games. Still the same kind of control system as when it was released back in 1996. I did enjoy both Legend and Anniversary but the replay value is not as good as in the older games. Anniversary was way better than Legend though."

Diana: "Even though your game is so complex, your gameplay got the lowest marks in the reviews posted on trle.net. Is it because the puzzles and timed runs were so hard? (they were, trust me)."

QRS: "I think you are right about that. Some players don't like hard games and I might have overdone the difficulty and timed runs etc. For me it is a challenge to play games like that and even more to build them. Luis Martins is my all time favourite builder, so I can't help to get inspiration from him. And we all know that his levels are not easy..."

Diana: "Your level was released last year and it still ranks place 27 out of more that 1700 levels. Did you expect that?"

QRS: "I had no idea that it would be ranked so high and for such a long time. I was hoping for 7-8 as the highest points and I did expect much worse. All I can say is that I'm happy to be proven wrong! I was really happy with all the good reviews and good critique. Being in the top 50, regardless of the place, is an honour for me."

Diana: "The settings and even Lara's outfit is typical for TR. Do you prefer classic instead of modern?"

QRS: "As a player, I like all kinds of settings in TR games. As a builder though, I prefer tombs, caves and temples. And yes, with some kind of classic outfit. It doesn't hurt with those new fantastic outfits by the pros out there though! As long as they suit the environment that is. I would love to build other stuff like base and house levels but I find it very hard. I hope I can be better in building other kinds of levels in the future."

Diana: "Let's talk about your future project. You said that you will release a follow-up of E&B. Will you use the same name and the settings will be the same?"

QRS: "Yes, I'm working on a sequel. I once said that it would be released in the fall of 2006 but obviously that deadline failed! I will do my best to release it during 2008. I have still a few more levels I want to add, so there are many things left to do. I also want to end the E&B saga with this release and implement the older levels in a revised form. The player will not be forced to play the first 5 levels again but there will be new textures, more rooms and different kinds of bonuses if you do it! Also it will unlock two of three bonus levels, so it might be worth a try :) When it comes to the new levels, it will be more than 5 levels this time. My guess would be 7-10 including the bonus levels. The settings will range from mystic to snowy and of course a bit of classic Egypt! So far the mystic levels and most of the snowy parts are done. I'm working on the Egypt part now and of course the bonus levels. Then I will try to fresh up the old levels so they look up to date so to speak. After that I guess I will change things until I'm satisfied and that might take some time too hehe. Still a lot of work to do but I will done…eventually! :)"

Diana: "When we spoke before about your perspectives you said that you are a slow builder. Is this because of the lack of time or because you are a perfectionist and you want to do things right?"

QRS: "Both actually. The last year I have had a lot to do in real life ™ and it has affected my inspiration to come up with new ideas for my levels. I'm a perfectionist when it comes to building but it is for my own goals. (In other words, I'm no Piega or Trix!) My level building goes slow mostly due to me never being satisfied and the constant changes of textures and lighting in the levels. Also add that NGLE came along last year, so I decided that HQ textures would be great for my levels hehe. Another factor is that I focus more on how things look than I did when I started building. As this is my weakest part when I build, it takes a lot of time to get it right."

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