Andzia9: "Can you tell us something about yourself?"
Taras: "I was born and live in Taranto, southern Italian city overlooking the Ionian Sea, founded by Greek-Spartan Falanto in 706 BC. As all the ancient city also has a mythological foundation, which dates back to Taras, hence my nickname, son of Neptune, who arrived on the coast of the Ionian Sea in the back of a dolphin. I am 52 years old and I teach Latin and Italian at a high school.
Andzia9: "How did your history start with Tomb Raider?"
Taras: "My approach with Tomb Raider dates back to 1998, when I bought my first computer. A student of mine gave me a copy of Tomb Raider 2 and after installing it I was stunned. A character that moved in 3D, with which you could interact with, it was a surprise for me. It took me three months to finish it as it was difficult for me.
Andzia9: "Why did you decide to create Tomb Raider custom levels?"
Taras: "In 2000 I bought Tomb Raider 5 and installed the graphics engine attached to the game that turned out to me incomprehensible. I did not understand how a cubic grid could develop a game. In 2007, Seiferzero asked me to participate in the project KAP, since the time I became an experienced player. In truth I was very reluctant because I did not felt able to build a game, but Seiferzero armed himself with patience and made me for the wonderful video tutorials and slowly I began to understand the secrets of the cubic grid.
Andzia9: "Why do you build the most difficult custom levels? Is it difficult for you to design them?"
Taras: "As for the difficulty of my levels I must say that I didn't think my first adventure, Legio VI Victrix, was extremely hard but I thought it medium difficulty. It was a surprise to see that the players met many difficulties. Of course, my intention was to make a difficult game but it went beyond my expectations. I was however satisfied with this because after 10 years of Tomb Raider and custom levels it were seen little new on the scene. However, despite the difficulty of my levels, I never had any intention of building adventures only for an elite. No LD builds 2000 or 3000 rooms, many new objects, puzzles etc. ... in order that few players to see them. Then the time has proved me right since my latest adventure, Tomb Raider She, is one of the most downloaded adventures ever. The design doesn't create difficulties for me, because I have a good imagination supported by historical and mythological knowledge.
Andzia9: "From what are you taking inspiration?"
Taras: "I draw inspiration from history, literature and art about the plot and everyday life, including video, advertising, etc. ... for the construction of rooms, puzzles, ecc.. but mostly I take inspiration from the music. It may sound strange, but I'm beginning to build as soon as I hear a piece of music that I like. I turn on the light bulb in my head and build everything around that track. Many parts of my adventures are built on the kind of the modern "Musical". I prefer this method to the cutscenes that often slow down the game. In my adventures the characters communicate through the texts of the songs and now that with the trng I can paste the text overlay, everything is more understandable.
Andzia9: "Are you going to build new custom levels? If yes, do you have any idea what they will be about? Will there be new enemies, new objects?"
Taras: "I started to build a new adventure whose story is inspired by the "Galactic Trilogy" by Asimov that I hope to release in 2014. So far I've built the title, a new outfit, new weapons, etc. ..., a level and a pair of fmv. It's hard to realize new enemies because the IQ in them is determined by the graphics engine. What you can do is to change their appearance and in this case, yes, I am planning new enemies and new items.
Andzia9: "Have you got any favourite moments from your custom levels?"
Taras: "Yes, but they aren't moments of the game, but three flybys. The movie that introduces Sea Girt in Legio VI Victrix, the movie where Lara arrives in Hellheimr, the one with the flying ships in Vikings and at last, the arrival of Lara in Egypt on board the balloon in Tomb Raider She.
Andzia9: "Did you ever think to make a level by using DXTRe3D?"
Taras: "No, because I don't know how to use DXTRe3D.
Andzia9: "Is there any chance that in your works, we may be able to play as Kurtis, Amanda or Doppelganger?"
Taras: "Not as main characters, that is, instead of Lara. In truth I don't like to use characters already seen. I have the ability to change them and prefer to propose new things. For the same reason I don't like remakes, the houses of Lara or the same puzzles of the original game. It makes no sense to play what you have already played in the original game. There is no satisfaction in repeating a puzzle that you've already solved.
Andzia9: "How many hours a week do you spend building?"
Taras: "When I start to edit I dedicate to the development of the game at least three hours a day. The continuity and the train of thought is important for me. I am not able to work only in my spare time. Building a game for me is a constant effort and often I work at night or in the hours of the morning prior to my work as a teacher.
Andzia9: "Has it happened that you were not happy with the results and only in the game came to the conclusion that you could have done better?"
Taras: "No, because I am stubborn and if I propose to me one thing I have to succeed. But I happen to see my levels after months and I think I would have been able to accomplish better many things. But I think this is normal for all of us. The subsequent experiences modify our hearing and seeing what surrounds us.
Andzia9: "Do you have any favourite custom levels from other creators?"
Taras: "I liked many levels during these years: all levels of Psiko, Omegapolis by Eric, Dark Skies by Justin, all levels of Jedimaster, Fliyng Temple and Alien Resurrection by Codo, Neon God by Horus, Perý by Loren Golden, those who I remember, but the list would be very long.
Andzia9: "Have your family and your friends ever played your custom levels?"
Taras: "The members of my family likes what I create, I hope they do not say it to please me .... lol .... and sometimes we play together my custom and those of other authors.
Andzia9: "Do you have contact with different custom level creators? Did you to meet successfully with someone personally?"
Taras: "I am in contact with many authors, but mainly with Psiko and Seiferzero and with whom I communicate often through Skype.
Andzia9: "Is there any custom level creator who you admire? (I mean about her/his work)"
Taras: "There are many authors who I love, Psiko among all. It is from him that I learned the logic behind why you have to propose new things. Now it seems easy but the day after the release of the editor, Psiko, with few resources available, upset the editor creating new outfits, new weapons, environments, etc. .. Maybe he subconsciously thought that having a graphics engine for hands correspond to the creation of a new game and not a remake of the original games. Many other authors have made me spend happy moments: Josep Borrut, Schookbaer, Jedi Master, Trix, Codo (The Flying Temple was wonderful), Bojrkraider, eRIC, Richard Lawther, Loren Golden, Cowboy... and others whose names I don't remember now. All extraordinary authors.
Andzia9: "Have you got any original Tomb Raider games? What is your favourite?"
Taras: "I own all the original games. Tomb Raider 2 is what I like the most, was the first one I played and I am bound to its many beautiful moments.
Andzia9: "Do you have a favourite TR environment?"
Taras: "I like all environments provided they are original.
Andzia9: "Which other interests do you have except for Tomb Raider?"
Taras: "I like to read, I am passionate about the science that deals with the study of the universe, travel a lot and often play tennis, but I have many other interests that would be too long to list them.
Andzia9: "Do you prefer Classic TR (TR1 - Angel of Darkness), or from Crystal Dynamics?"
Taras: "I prefer the Tomb Raider built by Core Design, except Angel of Darkness, but I loved Tomb Raider 9 built by Crystal.
Andzia9: "Thank you for the interview!"
More screens from Taras' custom levels: