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Roland Danko aka Roli back homepage search
interviewed by Tamas Takacs aka Obig in January 2012 (translated by Akci)


OBig: "Well I don't even know how to begin. Say, what's your opinion about world-peace? LOL Alrighty, I start with a simpler one: Tell us something about yourself. Start at the beginning: I know you had a hard childhood, you've grown up on the streets, an alley was your nursery. You've got your education on the market, your degree on excavations. In the cemetery. All right - all right, I pull myself together, and will bother you with really interesting questions. First off, really tell us something about yourself. Age? Where do you live and why? Family, your studies? What you want to be, what would you like to do when you grow up? LOL"

Roli: "Thank you for the kind welcome... But unfortunately I can't answer any question without my lawyer present. LOL I was born in 1990, in Sátoraljaújhely (let foreigners try to pronounce that! :D). It's a small town in north-east Hungary. Many things tie my here but I don't want to live here for too long. Now I'm a 21 years old 'adult' (? LOL) college guy who studies financial administration, although I would never have liked to do that for a living. I live with my family (my mother and brother), it can be said we get along well - I have a good nervous system. LOL! Once I'll finish school I'd like to find a job, thus get in the big life. That's all for now, I'm sure later I will have a more complex notion of what I'd like to do. :)"

OBig: "When did you start with TR, and what caused that stubbornness, madness in you that you even create levels?"

Roli: "Well, it was in about 1998, they talked about PSX games in a TV program. Back then we didn't have a computer, only a PSX so I was interested in what games they were showing. Among them was a certain game called 'Tomb Raider' (back then I couldn't even pronounce it properly), it was presented as very difficult, and only recommended for adults. There were a few shots of Nell McAndrew as well, the official model at the time. It was love at first sight. Promptly I told my dad to rent this 'Tomb Raider' the next day, then let us sit down and play because I was very curious about what can be so difficult about it. So it happened, the next day he came home with TR3. As I played and watched my dad struggle with Lara, I promptly thought they were right, this really is a difficult game LOL. But that was the good thing about it, especially after 'Crash Bandicoot'. We didn't give up, in a week we were through 2 levels LOL! So, nice and slowly, we managed to finish TR3 in about two months, later I finished it alone too with a little help. Then came the first, second parts, then in '99 the fourth, and the rest. Even then I was amazed how could they create such a brilliant game for PSX, it was easily better than any other PSX game we had, both in gameplay, graphics, music. I didn't know that there is a PC version, I didn't have a clue about computers back then. So it was love at first sight, unfortunately (LOL) I'm still addicted to it. In 2002 we had our first computer, of course the Tomb Raiders were a must get for it. When I got TR5 I didn't know what the heck can be on its second CD?! Opened it, looked at it, but put it away when I saw that it's beyond my capabilities, I didn't understand a word of it... I didn't know what it could be... Then later, in about 2003, when I went to interneting I stumbled upon the TREditor.hu site, which used to be the sub-site of tombraider.hu then, so I clicked on it from there. I saw these weren't the TRs I played, so they could be some kind of custom levels... It started to interest me more and more, I downloaded a few. Then gradually I went nuts, and took out the Level Editor CD, installed it again... I found out then what it was actually good for. :) Then gradually, but this is how my 'career' with TRLE started."

OBig: "How were you such a fool that you have even created a website, because of this senile foolishness?"

Roli: "When we had gotten internet access at home, I wanted to have my own website by all means, another tribute to TR. There were several sites already, but always tombraider.hu caught my eye, but I still wanted my own site nonetheless. I'm such a thickhead... Then in a couple of weeks I managed to create an html site, then later a site based on a portal system. I was very happy, and even happier that I had visitors too. LOL (That was the www.tombraider.extra.hu, it was discontinued due to a webspace provider switch.) Later mrique (who is a friend of mine till this day, and in some aspects he has significantly changed my life) helped to create a serious site, so good number of visitors came. I was over the moon, was very happy. :) By then we knew and respected each other with OBig (for those who didn't pay attention, the interviewer here LOL). It was his idiocy (LOL), very well, idea, that I should take over the www.tombraiders.hu site from him, to create the biggest TR site in Hungary that way. (Now we are an official site.) (The tombraider.hu is almost discontinued by now, it has been abandoned.) Here practically everything about TR is available. And of course the TREditor.hu is its sub-site, where every so far released official TRLE and unofficial levels are available. And the bugs site too, which is the largest bug-store of the world. I can't thank enough for the opportunity!"

OBig: "How much time do you spend with the site weekly, oversee it, modify it as necessary? Is there anyone who helps? Do you need anyone to help?"

Roli: "A lot, especially if there's an error, you brooding over it, and googling like mad LOL. Several hours weekly for sure, I spend lot of time on the forum too. But sometimes the time spent depends on how the latest news coming in. It happened that I've spent days with just one or two articles. :) Fortunately yes, I have help, the work progresses better this way. With Robbie we brainstorming, and figure out what more is needed, or what isn't needed on the site. More often than not we manage to reconcile. LOL :)"

OBig: "Do you have a favorite TR location? Egypt, jungle or cities?"

Roli: "Honestly I don't, anything goes. :) I think the designers did everything right, so I couldn't really name a location that stands out. All have their goods and drawbacks too. All have different places in my heart."

OBig: "How did it even occur to you to build levels, to get on the players' nerves? Did you learn from the TRLE manual? Who helped?"

Roli: "Honestly?! I didn't want to be left out from a good thing LOL. Seriously. In about 2003 I saw that there are hundreds of levels, and I was motivated by knowing that they were created by 'everyday people', so why shouldn't I be able to put together a small level?! And once I want to do something, I sure will do it... :) So, I downloaded the Hungarian TRLE tutorial from TREditor.hu. I read it, tried things out simultaneously with the manual. Although many things didn't work out, that made me a little sad. But thank God there were other Hungarian level builders before me. I contacted Emőke (Garfield), who has already built several nice, clever and skillful levels. She was very nice, and explained everything that I didn't understand. I bow my head before her, for she had the patience with me LOL. I want to take this opportunity to thank her again! Then I tried to 'edit' several levels to get into it. I was happy when I could connect two rooms, and 'build' water. And so I built adventures with a couple of rooms, practiced, learned the editor. Then I saw Wadmerger on foreign sites, which enabled to bring new items, new outfit into the adventure. Then gradually my first level was born, which I released."

OBig: "What do you even love on this big breasted woman with a cheeky smile, this Lara Croft? And what don't you, if there is such a thing. Apart from, say, she has brought you together with people like the one making this interview. LOL"

Roli: "Hmm... I like her style, the way she lives her life, the looks. So I like her as she is. I can thank her lots of things in life, like, I got to know you guys. :) The Tomb Raider meetings were among the nicest, but at the same time craziest days of my life! The point is that I got to know very cool people, thanks to her. (That's kinda strange, isn't it?! :)"

OBig: "But seriously: Why do you think grownups play with it, in quite a childish manner?"

Roli: "I think there's something very mystical about Lara as a character, and of course about the game itself too. It can be engaging to both the younger generations and the older, doesn't depend on age. As it was said in an interview: the game is some kind of an escapism. You can become someone you can't be in real life! And I think that's perfectly true."

OBig: "Do you have a favorite level, levelbuilder?"

Roli: "I have many favorite levels, levelbuilders too. :) A few that stand out of the many: Jungle Ruins 1-3, The Experiment 3 (Part2) - Budapest, TR Search HQ - Emergency!, Coyote Creek, Underworld UB4, Himalayan Mysteries, Time Odyssey, Reign of Chaos, The Jerusalem Project - The Cherubim are Calling, Mists of Avalon - First Clues, etc."

OBig: "What don't you like in these adventures? Fight, lot of backtracking, searching for secrets, harder tasks? Or that sometimes one must think? LOL"

Roli: "Tough question, but I can't mention anything particularly disturbing. It all depends on the gameplay of the level. I you feel that the gameplay and the gaming time are weak, and then you're presented with a 10 minutes worth of crate pushing, then I'm down at the mouth. Or if there's no camera showing what the lever activated. Or if a level is very dark, and the builder didn't provide enough flares, or if it's too difficult and there are no medis. Furthermore I don't like if there are timed runs that are exact to the sec and mm, difficult acrobatic sequence."

OBig: "What is your opinion about that some levelbuilders, like Horus or illyaine, have forbid the download of their levels on many sites?"

Roli: "I must point out that I respect their decision. But to be honest I find it totally senseless. If you had toiled months, years to build levels, and it took a lot of time of your life, then I don't understand why it should be removed all of a sudden?! It is already part of history in some form, shouldn't be made disappear just like that. I also don't understand why they had to be removed due to copyrights. A large portion of custom levels contain music under 'copyright', and still weren't removed by their authors. If I were them I'd replace the musics, etc. in question at the most, then release it again. If they are afraid that others snitch their object etc. from their levels, then with today's technology it's possible to lock the .tr4 file with just 1-2 clicks, then no one could poke into it. But it is their decision. Fortunately there are people like you for example, who didn't remove their levels, so they are still available to anyone, and remain part of the TRLE legacy. :)"

OBig: "You released your first level, The Crystal of Life in 2005. It reminded me a bit of TR3 and Gold. Considering it was your first creation, and didn't get too high ratings, I still liked it. Did the weak ratings bother you? What's your opinion about reviews in general? Are they useful or not?"

Roli: "I was 14 years old at the time, and very-very newbie. Somehow I thought that it won't get more than 5 points. Lots of things should have been fixed before I released it, but either I couldn't or bugs came up which I didn't know how to fix back then. Anyway, I won't sugarcoat it, it turned out as it turned out. :) Today I'd redo it completely or wouldn't even release it as it is LOL. Never the less, I'm happy that you liked it! :) Like I wrote I didn't expect good points, so the weak ratings didn't bother me. One learns from the critique. Next time attention must be paid to the errors, weak points, mustn't it?! Now for instance, there's a level to which they say 'great, I liked everything in it'. On one hand I find this hard to believe, on the other that won't make the builder improve. Maybe a negative review is better, more can be learned from it. I read every review, every feedback several times. Even when, for example, I send a screenshot from a new level. It is important to know what people think. I don't build the game for myself but for them... :) Then I try to fulfill these, even if sometimes doesn't turn out the way I wanted. LOL"

OBig: "In the same year, half a year later, you released Tomb Raider Revelations - The Scion. It was better and served as a basis for your next levels. Texturing still wasn't your strongpoint though. But this was a two level adventure and the second one was really good."

Roli: "I released it but maybe I shouldn't have. At least not as it is. There were several trigger errors, Natla didn't work that way she was supposed to. Yes, not to mention bugs and textures. But for my defense, I couldn't fix them... I encountered many technical problems back then. The TRLE didn't like me LOL. But I still don't understand how I could come out with a level in half a year, today I couldn't even if I wanted to LOL..."

OBig: "Almost a year later, in 2006 the second part was released, Tomb Raider Revelations 2 - The Golden Mask. It had 5 levels, got almost 9 rating points, and there were harder parts in it indeed. What's your opinion about the level of difficulty? As it isn't indifferent to whom you create levels. To pros only eg. RunLaraRun, or everyone even beginners. So what should a level be like? Hard but playable?"

Roli: "Yes, it already shows improvement, I brooded more over everything. The textures are still kinda flashy here and there, today I'd redo it both historically and storywise. Just replayed it the other day, and I was just wondering, why did I do this, why did I do that?! How did this get here, how did that get there?! Chaos LOL. I tried to make the levels in order of increasing difficulty, as in the official games. In hindsight maybe a couple of traps were quite difficult, considering that I always intend my levels to everybody, there's no particular 'target audience'. And as for what should a level be like?! Playable! Mustn't be too hard in any aspect, because some players might get to hate you forever for it LOL. But here I only talk about the difficulty of traps and timed runs, difficult jumps. If a puzzle is hard that's good. As a player I prefer to figure out harder puzzles myself, sometimes it feels so good. :)"

OBig: "Two years of work, and there was the Back to Basics 2008 - Pachacutec Inca's Valley. You joined the BtB team with it. What was it like working with given textures, building a level in the confines of certain rules? Where did you learn about the contest?"

Roli: "It was promoted on practically every TRLE site that the BtB2008 is coming, and its theme will be Peru. I was very happy as I've always wanted to build a TRA Peru level. And by all means I wanted to try a BtB contest as well. It's good, as everything you have to work with is given, your only job is to build. (That's good because knowing myself, I change everything in the last minute but unfortunately that just delays the release date.) And it's interesting to see what others come up with. Maybe I will participate in another one, I don't know..."

OBig: "Your 5th work became available in 2008, Tomb Raider Revelations III - The Hand of Rathmore. Well, this is the best, nicest so far. Two remake levels and the BtB appear in it. But even this could be completed without using medipacks. It had made its way into the Hall of Fame of 2010. A distinguished place indeed. Were you satisfied with how well it was received?"

Roli: "I worked on it for relatively long because Revelations III wasn't started out to what the players got in the end. I built jungle, Egypt levels, I wanted to do something with those. But as I took part in the BtB (see above), my take on it changed and I rather wanted to continue that. Then came the TRU fever, so I wanted to model the last level after it, based on the screenshots at the time. It went relatively fast, faster than I thought it would. But then I built 4-5 hours a day. Then it got finished. :) Although I feel the reviews aren't realistic. Either I'm that strict to myself, or the players loved the levels, I don't know. But I was appalled that it got above 9 ratings. If I was a player I'd rate it 9 at the maximum, but even that is a good case already. In hindsight I figured that the last level maybe too difficult - I didn't intend it that difficult, believe me! LOL That it got into the Hall of Fame 'shocked' me, in the good sense of course. I don't feel it to be HoF material."

OBig: "However, fie on you. It's been 4 years, and you haven't released a level. What are you working on now, if at all? Or you go to pubs instead? LOL"

Roli: "That's right, I'm working like hell LOL. Since the end of 2008 I've been working on Tomb Raider Revelations IV: The Curse of the Sword, and finally a game I am satisfied with. As you could have seen it a long time ago, I experimented with lots of things for this level, there was an underwater location, a Budapest horror level, etc... At the TR meeting you even played with it. Later I deleted most of it from the game. And why? Because I didn't feel that they were 'mature' enough for a serious game. Of course I still have them, collecting dust on a CD. :) Maybe I bring them out one day... Long story short, 2 years ago I started the game again from scratch: it will be a sort of mix of the unreleased Core Design TR: Anniversary Edition and a rudimentary (alpha) TR: Legend - of course not in 1:1 form. I added gameplay elements of my own, I wanted to model the style only, and a good few rooms that were seen on screenshots and videos of the unreleased games. My main goal with it is that people could play with them, as many of us are 'heartbroken' because of them. Perhaps this will be a bit of a consolation. :)"

OBig: "Now you're using NGLE and TRNG for the project. What are their benefits for you? How many levels will there be? Level of difficulty? Will there be cut-scenes, animations? How hard is it to make these cut-scenes anyway?"

Roli: "It's amazing how many things can be realized thanks to NGLE and TRNG, compared to the old tomb4.exe and winroomedit. Nicer textures, nicer objects, better gameplay. Practically anything is possible, it's just the matter imagination, but of course you have to go through the basics of TRNG to find out what's what. Unfortunately here and there it is still beyond me, so I ask for help in various forums, and there's always someone who can help, I thank for them! :) But back to Revelations IV: Originally I wanted 4-5 levels, but during building it turned out that won't be enough, I wanted more. So today I plan for 8 levels: Egypt, Greece, snowy, city, jungle environments. 5 of it are more or less finished. I haven't started the city (Tokyo) level yet, although I'm looking forward to it (and are afraid of it) the most, as I've never built a city level before. But it would be a shame to miss, so I'm giving it everything I can, according to my abilities. :) So far my Rev4 folder is over 4 gigas, my PC is running out of free space LOL. Plus when everything will be finished I plan to go through the levels with Meta2tr to reduce the squarely geometry. But unfortunately I don't have much free time, or sometimes I'm not in the mood if I have to look at the editor. Seeing the same level 100s of times becomes boring after a while, during testing... There are lots of new animations, I can't say much about cut-scenes yet, those are usually left for last. :) Level of difficulty: I certainly won't put in traps that are very hard to accomplish unless you're a hardcore gamer. No! I want that everyone would be able to finish it, maybe with the walkthrough... I want the template for the difficulty to be the official games, not certain custom levels. I improve my gameplay, it will be better than in my previous levels. I can't tell you a definite release date at this point, maybe late 2013, early 2014. Or perhaps due to some miracle, it might happen to mid 2013... And a good advice at the end: NEVER DO A REMAKE! LOL Believe me, it's more taxing work than making something totally new from your own fantasy. I look endlessly at screenshots, adjust everything to those is heavy. You are better off coming up with something new, that's what I will do in the future."

OBig: "Don't you want to create an Advent or children level? Do you even like these peaceful, relaxing levels?"

Roli: "Yes, by all means in the far future I want to make a level specifically for children. (Mostly because if I'll have a child, I could show her/him what did daddy make LOL). I think that will be good both for me and the players. For me because I don't have to see tombs for a while, for the children because, I hope, they'll like it. There is an idea for it already. :)"

OBig: "And of course you can think about your own second childhood, so you will have something to play with then. But: What advice would you give to someone who wants to start out with the Level Editor?"

Roli: "Don't be lazy and read the manual! The basics are written in it, I suggest try to do things as you read them. And certainly look into the tutorial (tut1) level because the basics can't be explained and understood better and more broadly than from there. If you're a beginner don't start outright with NGLE and TRNG! Take it slow, but you'll got the hang of the winroomedit, then learning NGLE from there will be a different story."

OBig: "Other games? I know you too like both parts of Drakan? And Indy Jones? Or something else? Mario? LOL"

Roli: "I love to play other games. You mentioned Drakan. Well, maybe my other favorite 'series' apart from TR. There's something TResque in it, but it's unlike TR. Maybe the pair of boobs and the jumping?! LOL No, but they were really engaging, too bad there's no news of a third part. I like the Resident Evil games too, although specifically only parts 4 and 5. I was very much a scaredy-cat in the older parts LOL. I can't leave out BloodRayne, I like to slash LOL :). Of Indiana Jones I only played Emperor's Tomb, but several times because I liked it very much. And many others eg. Max Payne, Hitman or Sims..."

OBig: "Have you met anyone in real life who you communicated with on the internet?"

Roli: "Of course! Among them with you, don't you remember?! LOL! There were the TR meetings, great opportunities that I could see in person the people I got to know on the chat/forum. An extra buzz was that on my first meeting they played with Rev2, then on my second Rev4. It was good to watch you struggling (LOL!!!) plus good to see as others play with something that you created. And I also met with mrique, Robbie and I would like to meet many more!!!"

OBig: "Yes, in 2006 you were there for the first time on a Hungarian TR meeting. Unfortunately the last one was in 2009 at Nyiregyháza. Do you think these have validity still, do they hold people together? What were the meetings like that you attended?"

Roli: "First of all I'm sorry that there weren't any meetings since then, it would be good to have one, but only in my vicinity! LOL! Good experience to meet people who like the same thing as you. You don't talk to deaf ears LOL. And it's true that the meetings better bring the community together, you can discuss things better, exchange ideas, etc. And I know the events caused serious catharsis, you're seeing a therapist ever since. LOL"

OBig: "Do you think there will be another meeting?"

Roli: "Will be, must be. :) I would like to meet the 'old guys' again, but there are new people since then, it would be good to get to know them in person!"

OBig: "How do you see the future? Are you starting to get tired of this all? Are you preparing someone to take it over eventually? How long do you intend to continue the active tombraiders.hu and the forum?"

Roli: "Honestly?! Yes, gradually I'm starting to get tired of it, but I would like to continue for a while, as long as I can. (I'm talking level building here.) I thought a lot about 'retiring', I don't want to make another Revelations episode after IV, not even a multilevel game. Single levels at the most... :) Maintaining the website is different, that I want to continue as long as I can. That is important, very important. :)"

OBig: "How big a job was the full localization of TR2. How did you manage it? Where did you get so many great voices? What will the future bring? Will there be a follow up to it?"

Roli: "A Spanish friend of mine, SuiKaze Raider told me that he wrote a program with which one can translate the various classic TR games. That gave me the idea to get to do TR2 Gold - there are no cut-scenes in there, nor FMVs, just texts. So that was done first. Then I wanted a bigger one: TR2! But here there are cut-scenes too, so I needed voice actors. I wrote an ad, eventually the right voices came. Real voice actors with TV, radio experience! I couldn't believe it at first, I thought I was dreaming. :) Then came namivanmar and with him we put the game together. That's how the Hungarian TR2 was born. :) As for will there be a follow up? I can't say right now. I hope so, because the voice actors would be in. Now the hang-up is that there are no FMV decoders, and the long letters also don't work in other games - yet. I hope these will be solved, after that there can't be an obstacle."

OBig: "You've put lots of smileys in the interview. Are you such a cheerful, optimistic person, or it's just some cramp in your hands? LOL"

Roli: "I consider myself optimist, yes. :) You have to believe that you will succeed in what you set out to do, and shouldn't fall into depression. Life is such a game, no one will survive it anyway, so don't take it hard."

OBig: "Thank you for answering these questions, keep up the good work, and I wish you good nerves for it. :) I rather have another question, since you have already answered so many. What's the PIN number of your credit card??? LOLLOL"

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