Pat: "Things we know about you: You are 17 years old, living in England, and studying maths, physics, and French. Your hobbies include TRLE (of course), sports (mainly football), and computing. You have an active membership (3/08) with tombraiderforums.com. It took you 3.5 years to produce The Sacred Emerald, your debut LE game. So - 3.5 years building the colossal Sacred Emerald, your first endeavor (we take it) in building a custom TR game – with none of the earmarks of a beginner. How did you get so proficient? For example, your credits file mentions some traps being ripped and re-animated by you, so you obviously have some advanced experience in the area of level-editing."
Richard: "Yes, I have some good experience with animating traps for example. (Like the TR3 Aldwych drill trap which took quite a while to re-animate.) But at first, obviously I didn't know much at all about the LE. My first levels for the game weren't great, and I found myself having to remake several of them. (The first two Egypt levels and three of the Tibetan levels had to be remade). I also found myself improving pretty much every level, after I'd finished, because I wasn't happy with the standard of them, especially the earlier levels. And of course, after about 3 years of experience with the LE, I became much better, and so knew how to improve these levels. About the animating traps, (pretty much all from TR3). I wanted to create a TR3-esque game, and I knew that by doing so, I needed to re-use some of the nostalgic traps of TR3. In the Peruvian levels for example, I tried to re-create the rotating plate trap from the South Pacific levels of TR3 by using
a TR4 cog object."
Pat: "What guiding force helped you arrive at the decision to release a 20+ level game?"
Richard: "Well originally the game was only meant to be about 10 levels long. And I didn't really have a story to the game outlined. After creating about 10 levels, I realized that I wanted to make a long, TR3-style adventure, using all the different outfits from TR3, in different sections of the game. I don't think there was a particular driving force that helped me to create such a long game, but an enthusiasm for level editing certainly helped. There were times when I thought I'd give up making such a big game, and I took lots of breaks between making some levels, but I always knew that I'd be able to finish the game."
Pat: "Your game is, in my opinion, feast or famine. It is a feast of gameplay and venue, serving up every conceivable sort of playing experience the majority of us has enjoyed (or not, as the case may be.). And, it is famine (again, in my opinion) in terms of game support: ammo, medipaks, and proper lighting (red flares being the choice for offering minimal light). So, you had a “target market” in mind from the onset, fair to say? What led you to that decision?"
Richard: "The game is certainly there, I'd say, for the more experienced players. But that's not to say that less experienced players can't complete the game. The amount of medipacks to include was quite difficult for me. I myself was quite happy with the amount that I included, as were my beta testers. But I knew afterwards that I should have added more, especially since too many is better than too little. I will though make sure in my future games that I put enough medipacks to enable a much less frustrating experience."
Pat: "Having chosen the “target market” approach for your game were you concerned about the potential negative feedback in the reviews of your game?"
Richard: "No, not really. I know that some players like a challenging game, others don't. Some players like certain gameplay elements, others do not. But like I said, the aim was to create a TR3-style adventure, one that is both challenging and enjoyable, and nostalgic to players, especially those who enjoyed TR3 a lot."
Pat: "Having built this game with so much variety do you feel empty of future ideas? It seems like you packed a lifetime of building in this one game. Was that intentional? What can your loyal followers expect from you in the future?"
Richard: "I'm currently creating a TR2 Gold-style game, and again, I'm focusing on creating elements in gameplay and atmosphere from TR2. But no, I wouldn't say I'm now empty of ideas, after such a long previous game. I feel that I can add different gameplay ideas. I find it much easier to create old-style games than focus on newer style games with much higher quality graphics, textures especially. Of course, I doubt that I will ever make a game near the length of The Sacred Emerald, but I hope that I can create a more enjoyable, and probably a much easier adventure."
Pat: "Was the experience worth the 3.5 years you packed into it? Would you do it again the same way?"
Richard: "I think it was definitely worth it, and if I had amazing ideas to create another 20+ level adventure, then maybe I would."
Pat: "Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this interview. It has been fun getting to know you and the man behind The Sacred Emerald. I know that I join many others in wishing you well and hoping that we won’t have to wait another 3 years for your next adventure! I better start flexing my fingers now and practicing my response time."