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Nathalie Bartyska aka Tifa Nazah back homepage search
interviewed by Andzia9 in January 2011

Andzia9: "First of all, tell us something about yourself. What's your name, how old are you, where do you live and what are you doing?"

Tifa Nazah: "Something about myself? Well, I was born 1986 on a stormy night… well not sure if it was stormy, but it sounds better. My mother wanted to call me 'Natalia' which means Christmas child – well I will say something about that in a later question. My father and my grandmother (who played the most important role for me as a child) wanted to call me 'Juliana'. In Polish catholic church it is (or was) tradition to get a second name when you are baptized, so I was called Natalia Juliana Bartyska. My family moved to Germany just before I turned 3 years old. By that time the Germans changed many Polish names, so my name was changed to a French version: 'Nathalie' – as I always hated that name, no one ever wrote it in the right way (most forgot the 'h' or the 'e'), I always started to have nicknames, so all of my friends called me with them and I identified with all of them, so I sometimes still hate it, if people want to show respect and used to call me in the internet on my real name instead of my nickname. I am studying chemistry and at the moment I have a half time job helping children with their homework - but honestly I hate to be talking about my job, as I am still not sure what I want to work in my life..."

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

Tifa Nazah: "Well, like most of my stories it started long ago, so I need to start with my story before I came to Tomb Raider. As we moved from Poland to Germany without any money, my parents worked a lot so I didn’t have much time to spend with them – but my grandmother lived in our house, so I was never feeling lonely or had the impression there wasn’t anyone who could help me. Well but still, we haven’t had a lot of money and so it came that my brother and me had never had those expensive consoles and fancy gameboys like the others around me. All we had was a Nintendo (not 64 the real old type) – even after the first computer had come to the market, I never imagined a game could have better graphics than the Nintendo graphics… Well we later moved out to a big house and had a bit more money, the Christmas before Tomb Raider 3 appeared on the market we got a computer. My brother borrowed some games from his friend, one of them was Quake and one of them was Tomb Raider 3. When I saw the graphics I was so impressed – no 16 pixels high persons… I did for at least 3 or 4 weeks not figure out how you can jump over the spikes in the beginning level in the jungles of TR 3 – until someone told me the woman can jump… I figured out what 'Alt' was for… But after I reached the ground I couldn’t do anything apart from taking a green crystal meeting a monkey and die inside the swamp. So I put the game aside and started to play Final Fantasy 7 soon after that, which I fell in love with and never came back out…"

Andzia9: "Have you got any original Tomb Raider games? If so, what is your favorite?"

Tifa Nazah: "Well, after I put TR3 aside (which wasn’t my own) I didn’t play it until I got an internet connection and found somewhere a walkthrough. I learned finally all moves Lara could do, but the last level was a big challenge again – I did always die when Willard changed to the big giant spider in the end – but a school friend of mine came and we started to play together – she was running in the circle around, I pressed in the right time the shooting button etc… When I had finished TR 3, I knew TR 4 was out already so I got it (somehow, but not as my own, too) – well to be honest, I hated it – I played it still to the end, but it was too much full of sand and Egypt, I liked TR 3 because the places were all different. Tried in between to play TR 1 and 2 which was released in one of the magazines (I think it was gamestar but not all that sure). I did never even finish one of the TR 1 or 2 levels, the graphic turned me off too much every time… So on my birthday my father brought me early in the morning before school TR 5 – including the TRLE. So this was my first original TR game not from a magazine. When AoD came, I bought it on the first day it was available and I hated it – really did and still do – even though graphics was good, it was full of bugs I got beamed more than 3 times to the next level without noticing that I had skipped something … When I first saw Legend pictures I knew I would buy that game on the day it would be released – I started to really like Tomb Raider from those games – so I own Legend, Anniversary and Underworld and for me they are the very best parts. I am looking even more forward to TR because of Square Enix (who produced my best love in life, Final Fantasy) – when someone told me that I thought it was a joke and couldn’t believe it first… so this is 100% going to be my next original…"

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

Tifa Nazah: "Since I played Final Fantasy 7 and Drakan I dreamt of being able to build my own games – I started to learn qbasics (my father helped me) because I thought if I learn a programming language I would be able to do my own games – well I ended up with a qbasics 'game' showing you text to choose from and depending on your choice you will get a different story ending (reminding you of this year’s Christmas level by me, doesn't it?). Well, when I got the present of TR 5 + TRLE from my father I was shocked that it would give me a chance to build something 3D not only text message… But I couldn’t start anything senseful after installing it – so when I bought the “walkthrough” book for TR 5, I was glad they added a short Tutorial how to start with the TRLE – with the help of this I started to build my first room – the walls where textured with pictures from Final Fantasy and a boy’s face I was in love with at that time… Because I hadn’t the revised wads my Lara seemed to not be able to climb first… I tried things out for half a year, but I was soon tired of the original wads inside, because they were all Egyptian and like I said before I hated Egypt levels – until another wonder crossed my life – the old school friend (whom helped me to finish TR 3) told me that there is a whole forum in the internet dealing with custom levels and there is even a program called 'Wadmerger' where you can change the objects between the wads – so building got a lot more interesting, especially after I found out that you can even add things from other TR games or your own stuff!"

Andzia9: "From what are you taking inspiration, ideas?"

Tifa Nazah: "Well, most of them are from my (sick) head, sometimes they just pop inside like a waterfall that was triggered… Some of them are similar from things I saw and liked in other games like 'Final Fantasy' (of course), Drakan, GTA … some of the ideas are given to me by my friends. I ask them every year if they have any good ideas for a level concept… but since nearly none of them has anything to do with TR they give answers for things that seem to be impossible to build – well seems to be that this point is what I tried since always – get an idea and bring it anyhow into the TRLE engine. I never think 'Oh, there are pushables in TR4 – what can I do with them?' I always think: 'I want to have a real bow' how can I do it – challenging myself to make impossible things in the editor possible is my best inspiration and motivation! Xmas Race was inspired by my boyfriend anyhow, he had at that time never played any kind of games on PC or a console – but he loved football and cars like all young boys at the age of fifteen. So, I made a race game only for him – but he never played it until today. (LOL) Ice Palace was inspired by a dream I had – it started where my dream had ended – I dreamed that me and some old childhood friends where attacked by tanks (not realistic, I know) – I was in the bathroom and jumped out through the window when a tank entered our living room by breaking the wall – I ran out and on the way I met some childhood friends to discover that they are hunted by tanks, too. We all ran to a near forest but couldn’t get away well from the tanks, when I suggested we should run to a palace made of ice, the tanks couldn’t follow us into it, because the bridge was made of ice and they would be too heavy – when we reached this majestic palace I woke up – but the image from the surroundings and the palace did follow me the whole day – so I decided that this is going to be my next area for my new level. Icecave was inspired mostly by Drakan – that was why I wanted to have a dragon inside – by that time I was a bit better in creating and animating my own objects – I was sure you will have found a crystal, that brings you to the down level (so you revised the things you could see trough the ice in the first part) – I don’t know how in the hell I came up with the idea to make a mermaid out of Lara who was called Nuroe, but because I got permission from Po Yu to use his (never realized) long animated hair (which I am up to today thankful for), I was sure I have to finish my mermaid idea. That’s by the way the first time my boyfriend started to be a bit interested in what I am doing every year in November/December and he was forced by me to give his voice to the dragon. FF 7 Snowboard Minigame was of course inspired by Final Fantasy 7 – I had only little time to build a level, so I decided to make only a small minigame. I thought about the real snowboard minigame in Final Fantasy 7 that I had loved so much. It took place in a snowy area, it seemed perfect and was the perfect reason (not that I needed one) to replay Final Fantasy 7 for the 11th time… A Night Before Christmas was built and even tested before Xmas Race. But it never found its way out of my pc – it was accidentally that I found it years later on my pc. But I had no wads of it anymore, so I couldn’t change the few mistakes I knew about – but on the other hand I thought it wasn’t all that bad build – I had forced a friend of mine (who since I started building tested my games) to make 2 days sound recordings for it – both of us had worked so hard by that time… I couldn’t change anything inside, because I only had the .tr4 data – but I forced myself to build an intro and outro for it, to wrap it like a gift into an xmas story (paper)… 7 Missing Gifts has just popped into my head, I was sure this year I wanted to show anyone that I can build a good and normal TR level without all the magical, unfitting engine style and fantasy stuff – I wanted to make clear that I do not build fantasy because I found it too hard to build a traditional level. Especially after the for me too negatively given points for A Night Before Christmas, I wanted to show people, that I can do much better. I don’t know, it still didn’t turn out completely 'normal', but the fantasy stuff is reduced to a minimum I could bear. Winter Choice was inspired by the idea FF X-2 brought with its 3 different endings – I remembered a book I read when I was small – it is called a game book – you are reading one page, then you have to decide something an according to that you have to read page 1 or 2 etc… So you will read the book anew but end up in another story each time… I wanted to make a game which wasn’t linear, but would have several endings, depending on your choice – the first room ideas (tree with apple or truffle for the animals has come fast into my head, like the chess game, too. But then it seemed I couldn’t continue when a friend of mine give me some new ideas (an eagle to fly away, which I changed to a griffin, the butterflies on the cabbage) so the building continued and I got the idea, why not let Lara meet some persons from the real TR games. All ways where finished, but for the last room I had only the idea to cut a fish net – the other solution didn’t want to come into my head – when my boyfriend started to be interested and looking over my shoulder what kind of level I was building – he finally gave me the idea to add a unicorn – and the level was done."

Andzia9: "About Another Home. Why did you decide to take part in this production? Did you contribute some rooms or only objects? Does everyone use his/her own ideas or did you all decide to one common approach?"

Tifa Nazah: "I love to build in team levels, I enjoyed both times, Another Home and Curse of Winter because it's interesting to see which kind of ideas people have and you can get easy and fast help with building something... Another Home concept was simple - we decided we want to build an alternative Home for Lara, this was the main topic, apart from that everyone was allowed to build anything (rooms, objects etc) he liked - I did Lara's Bedroom and some objects like the tower outside from the bacony..."

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

Tifa Nazah: "Well, just a moment? I guess there is one or several in each level. But I love the intro with the dragon in Icecave and the ending sequence from Icecave, which I find is the most emotional scene from my levels."

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

Tifa Nazah: "My idea of adding impossible not typical TR things into the TRLE engine – I had several moments when I wanted to give up building a level – but I always found a solution on another day - or got help from other advanced builders."

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

Tifa Nazah: "Every year – I always start building something, and it feels majestic – I love all the things I build when I play them the first time – but as I test nearly every new room 20 or more times (nearly anytime I add a new texture, object or trigger) at the end I can’t look at the rooms anymore – the before breathtaking things start to annoy me – I begin to hate the whole level – but when I get good reviews and also when I replay them after some years, I know it was worth building it and I start to like them again…"

Andzia9: "Why do you only build Christmas levels? Don't you ever think about making something different?"

Tifa Nazah: "Well, maybe because of my real name 'Natalia' which means 'Christmas Child', even though I was born in August? Honestly, I think I build only winter levels because a) I loved and still love the snow parts in Drakan – soon I started to love any magical snow area – as I enjoy in real life the small sparkles fresh snow makes on a sunny day when you walk by – I love the glittering snow and could look the whole day at it… and b) I hated and hate Egypt levels in TR and everywhere – I hate this non sparkling hot sands – seems to be snow is the opposite of it – sparkling and cold… I don’t know, before I planed many times to not build a level for Christmas, but as I am a very slow builder, I always need the full one year to bring up a new level, there is never time in between for a none Christmassy project… And I loved the idea not to be forced to place enemies and traps – I hate to place and play them… I got so used to realize only Christmas levels and I am a person who hates to change things which are working out somehow…"

Andzia9: "Do you read all opinions about your work? Do negative opinions discourage you or motivate?"

Tifa Nazah: "I read all reviews in English and German – also I google often and use Google translator to see what the rest of the world thinks about my levels… But sometimes there are coming out so weird translations that I have to laugh loud out… Negative opinions discourage me, when I believe they are not realistic or given fairly and there is no good reason given for it – personally reasons like 'I don’t like winter levels in general' are not helpful or useful for me, the only thing coming to my head then is 'why are you then even playing this level – I hate Egypt level, so I don’t play them…' – but a negative opinion with a reason helps me a lot to improve for next time (or at least I try to improve^^). I can learn a lot from many reviews and sometimes they can motivate me after the 'feeling hurt' is gone, like the bad points for A Night Before Christmas did…"

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

Tifa Nazah: "There are plenty – my first idol if I remember right was Tomo. He was known to make incredible 'new kind of things' inside his levels. When I had a problem building A Night Before Christmas with the quad bike, no one seemed to want to help me, when I wrote personally to Tomo he was kind enough to help me and explained me in detail how WadMerger’s animation editor and mesh tree worked – because of him I was able to fix my quadbike and I started to understand how WadMerger’s animation editor worked. I will never forget the important role his help played for me to start building objects and levels. I think the next person I admired was Codo after I played her level The Flying Temple – I have never seen something so non typical TR like and up to now I love this level and its idea… I admire Agnes and love all of her levels, same goes for Eva and her levels. And of course Miss Kroft is an adorable person, not only for her levels, but also for making and sharing many wonderful objects with us… At the moment I admire most Bojrkraider and his always super surprising levels…"

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

Tifa Nazah: "Yes, I met some on the Tomb Raider Meetings in Hamburg, surely I forget someone, but the people I remember are: Codo, Horus, Buck, Karlo002, Tinka, Ruediger , MichaelP, Titak, Gerty, … Oh, and one time I invited Buck to stay in my house, because he was searching for a hotel in Hamburg…"

Andzia9: "Do you have any favourite custom from other creators?"

Tifa Nazah: "Well, the creators I admire are named two questions before, all their customs are my favorites…"

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

Tifa Nazah: "My family did never play any of them, but none of them is playing games in general – my mom doesn’t know how to switch on a PC, my father is only interested in hardware and how to build PCs, my brother uses his PC only for drawing (he studies arts). Most of my friends don’t like Tomb Raider, so none of them ever played any of my levels seriously, apart from Kat, who is the girl named before, that is my best tester. She does normally not play much computer games either, that’s why she is a very precious tester for me – she tries out anything which seems logical to her, no matter if Lara is possible on doing such things – she always finds a way to the end of the map, because she pressed a wrong button…"

Andzia9: "Did you ever think to make a level by using DXTRe3D?"

Tifa Nazah: "No, never seriously – I check it out on time, but I think you can now make anything possible with TREP in TRLE from TR2, 3 or 5 – so there is no need of another editor in that case…"

Andzia9: "Have you ever thought about making Easter levels?"

Tifa Nazah: "Yes, I have thought about making an Easter level before, I often even wanted even to do one, but Easter is only 3 months away from Christmas, and I am always fed up with the editor for some months after building a winter level, so before I like to come back building a level Easter is always too close and as I am a slow builder, seems to be the time is never there for two levels in a year... Also I don't like Easter much personally, because it deals with God and religion and I don't believe in any of them - by the way Christmas is not primary a Christian celebration, as many people might think..."

Andzia9: "Are you going to make a custom for next Christmas?"

Tifa Nazah: "Well, who knows… I didn’t decide this yet…"

Andzia9: "Which other interests do you have except for Tomb Raider?"

Tifa Nazah: "Final Fantasy of course. My second love are ponies, horses, riding and caring for them (currently I am trying to learn how to cut hooves out on a natural bare hoof by myself). I am collecting two things: tea) and miniature figures of horses.

Andzia9: "Thank you for this interview! All our best wishes for you and your future!"

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