Julian aka Soul back homepage search
interviewed by Andzia9 in March 2012

Andzia9: "First of all, can you tell us something about you? How old are you, where do you live, and what do you do for a living?"

Soul: "My name in Julian, I'm 21 and I live in the 'green heart' of Austria called 'Styria', mostly known for being the birthplace of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Terminator ;) Since 2 years I'm studying maths and physics in order to become a teacher and so I basically do nothing for a living (yet!), except for some occasional jobs like being a private tutor, delivering pizza etc."

Andzia9: "Why did you make special levels, not ordinary ones?"

Soul: "In 2008 I started experimenting with the LE and decided to create my first decent level with the BtB2008-package (I wanted to call it 'Peruvian Mountain Caverns') and release it as part of the TRForge Advent Calender. I completely forgot about it though, as I mainly focused on finishing 'Kill Jill', my contribution for BtB09-Venice and so it wasn't until Novemeber the 10th that the calender-team reminded me of it. I knew that I could never finish my Peruvian level in time so I tried to think about something different that can be easily done in about 2 weeks and came up with the 'Special Tutorial Level', to give both players and builders an insight into a not so well-known part of Tomb Raider. I started building the level December the 1st and was finished (without letting it be tested) December the 15th, just about 40 minutes before its release ^^ So you can see that there is no real reason, why I created an unusual level for Christmas and the same applies to 'Nonogram'. At first it was not meant to be a level but just a part of one of the riddle-pages in the calender. Beholder then had the idea that it would be even better if it was playable in the editor and I guess he was right, thinking about how well-received it was :D"

Andzia9: "How did your history start with Tomb Raider?"

Soul: "Believe it or not, it all started in 1996, when the first part was released. Of course, I was still too young but I remember that the whole family was watching my brother manoeuvering Lady Croft through ancient tombs every evening. We didn't have any access to the internet, so we had to solve each puzzle on our own which resulted in us being stuck for more than a week in Midas' Palace. I think it was my father who finally found out how to turn the platin bars into gold bars, hehe. When Tomb Raider 2 came out it was an instant buy, but somehow it didn't feel the same, as there were hardly any tombs and so we lost interest in the franchise...until I bought a video-game compilation called: "Play the Games: Volume 3" many years later. Tomb Raider 3 was a part of it and even if the rest of the family couldn't care less, I fell in love again with Ms. Croft instantly and so TR3 was the first game I played myself and thus the beginning of my TR era :-)"

Andzia9: "Why did you decide to create Tomb Raider customs?"

Soul: "Since I never called myself a 'creative' person I would have never thought that I could build a level myself and decided to 'leave it to the experts'. I got more and more interested in C-levels though and when I played PH's level for the first 'One Room Challenge' I changed my mind and wanted to build at least a single room. So I downloaded the BtB2008-package and started working on my Peruvian cave which I tried to make as realistic looking as possible and so this single room soon turned into an area consiting of 6 rooms until I was fully satisfied with it. I then shared a screenshot with fellow raiders in different forums and received some great constructive criticism that made me enhance this 'room' even more and also build other areas that fitted the environment until I finally decided that 'Peruvian Mountain Caverns' will indeed be my first level on (As you know it never saw the light of day, but it worked as a great 'playground' to get comfortable with the Level Editor and get some technical knowledge)"

Andzia9: "Which part in 'Curse of Winter' was made by you?"

Soul: "My part starts right at the beginning of the second level and ends, when you open the door with the purple ankh. I'm quite satisfied with it, seeing that I had no idea what to build and just started with a manmade structure that I thought looked kind of cool. All the other rooms were built around it :)"

Andzia9: "From what are you taking inspiration?"

Soul: "I can't deny that most of my inspiration comes from the numerous other C-Levels I played before, but most of the time I just start with any structure, build the rest of the area around it and so on. I tried looking at pictures from other games and draw a basic plan on paper, but in the end it always turned out completely different ^^"

Andzia9: "Are you going to build a new custom? If yes, do you have idea what will be about? (Will it be BtB or Xmas?)"

Soul: "I wanted to leave the scene after 'Ghostbuster Volume 1: Let There Be Water', as I thought that I could never create anything better than that and still received some horrible ratings. Now don't misunderstand me; I agree with most of the reviews but to be honest I would have never expected to get any 5s or 6s. (Gosh, I really sound conceited :( ). To cut a long story short: During work for the TRForge advent calender 2011 I changed my mind and decided that the LE is way to addicting and that I can't just stop working with it. So....yes, something new from me is indeed planned, but don't expect it this year, which means, that I won't take part in the new BtB and that there also won't be a custom level by Soul in the next advent calender, unless some 'special' idea pops into my mind again. To give you a (maybe not so) tiny hint, I decided to provide this picture:

Andzia9: "Have you got any original Tomb Raider games? What is your favourite?"

Soul: "Yep, I played and completed every original game, except TR: The Lost Artifact (TR3 extension), as I never got my hands on a copy of this game. It's rather hard for me to decide which one is my favourite, as I think that every single game, no matter if it's from Core Design or Crystal Dynamics, offers some great raiding. If I had to pick one though, I would most likely go with Tomb Raider 1 as it has so many of these 'iconic' moments, including the huge tower in St. Francis Folly, the T-Rex, the whole Atlantis-section (I used to hate it, but now I think it's among the best this game has to offer) and so on."

Andzia9: "Do you have another hobbies except Tomb Raider?"

Soul: "I don't really have any other hobbies to be honest, but I do love reading books (being a commuter I have loads of time to do so, when going to university), play other videogames or just spend my time with friends. If I had more money, my #1-hobby would most likely be travelling around the world and discovering places I haven't been to before."

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

Soul: "Without trying to sound conceited (again) I really love the huge explosion that introduces the player to the lair of the fire-ghost in 'Ghostbuster Volume 1'. Most of the time, when I have something 'special' in mind it doesn't work that well in the editor but in this case the whole sequence is just the way I wanted it to be :D"

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

Soul: "My friends haven't; I guess they don't even know about "Soul" and I like it that way ^^ My family at least knows about 'Kill Jill', as I was super-proud of my first Custom-level and had to share it with some people outside of the community. Their reaction wasn't the best though (talking about being addicted to the internet ^^) and so I decided to keep any other releases 'secret' and told them, that I stopped building levels..."

Andzia9: "Did you ever think to make levels of the type TR1, TR2, TR3 or TR5?"

Soul: "Before experimenting with the official LE, I helped gabiza7 translating the manual of Dextr3D and thus had to try out some of its features myself. I didn't really like it though and so I don't think I'll ever build anything with it. Nowadays one can create almost everything with TRNG either way ;)"

Andzia9: "Do you have contact with different customs level creators? Did you meet successfully with someone personally?"

Soul: "During the advent-calender-preparations I got to know the whole TRForge-team a little bit better. Sadly I haven't met anyone of them yet in real life, but I really want to change that as soon as possible. :D"

Andzia9: "What caused you the biggest problem in building so far?"

Soul: "When thinking about LE-problems, two things instantly come to my mind and both happened during building 'Ghostbuster Volume 1'. The first problem was the whole creation of the treadmill-secret: For those who haven't played it, it's a secret that only gets availabe if the player manages to stay on the treadmill for a special amount of time. And while this might be quite easy with TRNG, it needs a very complicated setup including a flipped rollingball-room scattered with all kinds of triggers and antitriggers in the good old Level Editor. If Ward Dragon, the creator of 'Vanilla Sky', didn't help out a lot in the BtB-subforum this idea would have never made it into the game but now it's not only in the game but also works like a charm. Thanks a lot, Jennifer! The second problem is connected to the ice-ghost: Normally it dies just the moment it gets in contact with any water. I thought that this behaviour is hardcoded (according to the manual it is!) and so I expected it to work in my game as well...Far from it! It just flew through the floating basin and so the whole plan for the city-part was about to collapse. After many days of desperately trying to make it work, I 'solved' the problem by making it even worse: The moment the player enters the basin, every single room in the city gets turned into a waterroom so that the ghost dies, no matter where it is. This however also enables the player to enter these surrounding waterooms and 'swim' through the city, but so far only one player (EssGee) found this...'bonus'. Have fun trying it out yourself."

Andzia9: "Is there any custom creator, which you admire? (I mean about her/his work)"

Soul: "There are so many that I'm sure I'll forget to name some, but let me try: teme9, l.m., Titak and Horus create levels, where everything seems 'right'; the all-around-carefree-package for any raider out there. Raymond, uranos1 and eTux are in my opinion the creators with the biggest technical knowledge and thus their levels are always full of never-seen elements and great puzzles. Codo creates 'the most interesting' levels. Play 'The Flying Temple' and you know what I mean ^^ Richard Lawther has created an amazingly funny series (Underworld Unfinished Business) within a series (Tomb Raider). Beat that! Taras' amazing debut 'Legio VI Victrix' is still in my Top5-list of Custom levels. Harly Wuson's 'The Lost Acropolis' has the best camera-work I ever saw in a Custom-Level. It's a must play for everyone! And last but not least, the builder who does wonders to the good old winroomedit (he refuses to use any new editor): Dark Death."

Andzia9: "Have you ever not been happy with some results in your games?"

Soul: "Do you mean the rating (I'm rather happy with the overall score of my 5 games), or the way something turned out in my games? If it's the latter I can't really think of anything to be honest...Of course, I know that none of my levels is perfect, that the camerawork in 'Kill Jill' is horrible and that 'Curse of Winter' can be frustratingly difficult, but I'm still 100% satisfied with each one, otherwise I would have never released them."

Andzia9: "Do you have a favourite TR environment?"

Soul: "Yes, I love levels that mostly show the untouched nature and thus keep manmade structures limited."

Andzia9: "How many hours a week do you spend building?"

Soul: "It ranges from 0 to about 30, depending on my motivation."

Andzia9: "What do you think about restarting Tomb Raider? Young Lara, new biography. Do you think this is a good idea?"

Soul: "I love the reboot and the new direction Crystal Dynamics is taking. When Lara was invented there was no need for believeable, complex storylines in videogames, but the whole scene changed and so I can totally understand Crystal's decision to reboot the franchise and and finally turn our "pixel-beauty" Lara into a person. At first I wasn't sure about another new biography, but the more I found out about it, the more I think that it's actually quite similar to the old biography from Core design. OK...the plane crash turned into a shipwreck, but Laras parents are still alive, there's a mentor again and I'm sure that the island won't turn Lara into the whiney beauty from TRL-TRU, which I'm really happy about."

Andzia9: "What do you think about reviews? Do you agree with them? Or do you sometimes feel upset with negative ones?"

Soul: "Hehe, I think my answer regarding my new custom-level already includes the answer to this question to some extent but I'm still happy that I can talk a little more about it: I basically read all the reviews and also try to have them in mind, whenever I'm building something new, as it's extremely helpful to get an honest opinion by an experienced player. Of course, this honest opinion can hurt sometimes and indeed I felt or still feel upset about some negative ones, but in the end these harsh reviews could be the most helpful ones. Let's take magnus' review for 'Kill Jill' for example: It was my first custom and so I was extremely thin-skinned regarding negative opinions and was shocked, when I saw it the first time and tried to push it back of my mind as fast as possible. Then I started building 'Ghostbuster Volume 1' (about 1 year later), had a look at all the old reviews, including the 'harsh' one from magnus and now I have to admit, that my Steampunk level was deeply influenced by his opinion on 'Kill Jill'. And I guess it's the same with some negative reviews for my latest level but that I'm still too proud of it to accept any 5s or 6s...yet :D"

Andzia9: "What do you hate most in the original TR games?"

Soul: "No matter how good a level is gameplaywise I just can't enjoy it thoroughly if it's set in a City or an industrial environment (the Offshore Rig in TR2, London in TR3, VCI in Tomb Raider Chronicles,...), as such setting just doesn't fit my definition of Tomb Raider. I can't say I hate such levels, but I at least try to pass them as quick as possible..."

Andzia9: "Now, a little hard question. If there wasn't the TR Level Editor, what would you do?"

Soul: "I doubt that I would still be interested in the series if there weren't Custom-Levels to be honest, as they are the main reason, why I still like Lara. From an objective point of view the official games are mostly rather mediocre and there are loads of other series that are far more interesting. So instead of playing TR-games I would most likely play these other games, who (in contrast to Custom-Levels) would cost a pretty penny each for hardly any playtime...Hehe - I don't like really like this idea and I'm REALLY happy that there's such a huge database of all kinds of free levels!"

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