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Daniel Neukirchen aka Surekill107 back homepage search
Daniel Neukirchen interviewed by Ian Smith aka Marksdad in October 2002.

Ian: "Tell us a little about yourself, to begin with. How old are you, where do you live, and what do you do for a living?"

Daniel: "I'm a 19 year old German boy, who still goes to school. I'm living near Duesseldorf in a small town called 'You won't know it'. When I've finished school, I want to study journalism! So when I'm not building Tomb Raider Custom Levels, I'm on the road, wrtiting articles for a local newspaper. I also write songs and perform them with my little garage-wannabe-punk-band, where I play the bass and do something that optimistic people may call singing."

Ian: "Everyone is asked this question, so you can't escape it! How and why did you start playing TombRaider?"

Roaming

Daniel: "Okay... that is the story how Lara and I met. Some rainy day, I thougt about spending more time playing at the pc, because the rest of my life was kind of boring! ;-). So I decided to buy a lot of great games. There was the 'Gold-Games-Collection', which included good games like 'Earth 2140', 'Have a nice day', 'Links LS 98' and 'Tombraider I'. But the only game I really enjoyed was Tombraider. I must add, this were not my feelings from the beginning! First I thougt: nice game, nice puzzles, but sometimes it gets a bit boring. But for some strange reason I did not stop playing. The end of part one was very suprising to me! I've expected to switch some levers and climb some ladders, but then in the end of the game I fought with aliens. All in all this was a good game to me! But when I later played part two and three, I totally fell in love with Lara, especially, because the scenarios were so different."

Ian: "Lets begin with Roaming; a level that still makes me feel a little uneasy. Have you read my review? Anyway,it was presumably your first?"

Daniel: "Yes, "Roaming" was my first serious try to build a Tomb Raider level.Gloomy Waste First of all, I was very amused how many reviewers (and I read MANY reviews about this one) thought you could not finish the level without cheating, because there was a spike ball in their way. You just had to follow the level and later you can slide down to this place again and then you are behind the spike. What really was a slap in the face, was one comment: 'this level was bad tested'. Bad tested? Because this was my first level, I had to test 'till dawn sometimes! And as a young designer I was so stupid to NOT change the starting place of Lara to the part of the level I wanted to test, while the sessions. So I played the level EVERY time from the start, when I tested it! Including the jump from the beginning and the endless ladders! So don't tell me they are too long, I think I spent one day of my life on these ladders! ;-) For myself I liked the ninja fights, because I like 'the art of war' in Tomb Raider. I saw some players, who noticed an enemy and the only thing they did, was standing and shooting. I wanted to force the player to use tricks, like jumping over an enemy, making a roll in the air and then shooting in his back, to not loose to much energy! But all in all this was not a great one! No ideas were really new and the rooms were very boxy! Typical first try! Maybe fun for people who hate to get stuck... but why should they play Tomb Raider then??? ;-)"

Ian: "So the rolling boulder that I found impossible to pass was not a bug. Was it intended that Lara has to make a difficult jump to get around it?"

Daniel: "No, the boulder was no bug! I played with the fact, that Lara stumbles when she slides down somewhere and then hits the ground. So at the end of the slide, you just have to jump once, so Lara does not stumble and then you have to rather jump twice or run to escape from the boulder. When you do it this way, the camera angle makes sense and it looks very cool and by a hair's breadth. (this explanation gave my dictionary :-D)"

Ian: "Gloomy Waste. I enjoyed this level, although others found it dark and difficult. You seem to love having Lara attacked by huge amounts of baddies.Do you not like her?"

Daniel: "Rubbish! I love Lara and she loves to kill those heavy armed guys, so I tried to give her more as she can take! Like I said before, I wanted the players to really fight for their lives. Most battles are in huge arenas, so jumping and twisting may not be the problem. I understand why some people find this level ugly, but I had the idea of a really dark and gloomy 'city' with huge walls. One thing is for sure, the level has it's own look, wheather you like it or not! I loved the moment the rock music comes in. Thanks to 'Republica' who had PERSONALLY given me the copyright for this! ;-). Because the level was often rated very low, with the reason that the fights were too hard, I decided to focus on puzzles for my next levels."

Ian: "The Rock music moment was really effective and exciting. I also enjoyed the long plummet Lara takes after pulling the lever on the wall. Perhaps you should give Andreas Lindstrom's 'Little City' a go.That ought to be right up your street!"

Daniel: "The long plummet had taken many test rounds, where Lara had to end up with a broken neck. It was one of the situation where you build everything right, but the editor for some strange reason, does not accept your triggers. But I did not want to give up, because I liked that quest and so somehow it worked out fine in the end. I think when I play a custom level next time, I will try 'Little City'. Thanks for the tip."

Sunburn

Ian: "Sunburn. You had the same idea that I had for my level 'The Final Quest'.And you got there before me! How did you come up with the idea for the ending? And isn't that timed challenge rather hard?"

Daniel: "My first thought for Sunburn was, try something new... really new, even if it's strange! So I began with walking through walls and ended up with killing Lara! This thought came suddenly into my mind and I found it very funny! I think EVERYONE expected that the door would open or something. I wonder why some people were 'disappointed' about that! Would it be better if Lara walks through the door and everything is fine? I was very keen on the first reactions about that! Sorry that I've stolen your idea without knowing! How did your level end now?"

Ian: "My level ended with Lara being squashed by a spiked ball,while standing atop a pillar.If she jumped off the pillar,she landed on a burning floor. Either way,there was theoretically no way for her to live. However,a fan sent me a detailed description of how she got Lara not only to survive,but to aquire the Hand of Orion (which I'd simply used as bait, to get Lara onto the pillar). Which reminds me, have you had much feedback from people about your levels?"

Daniel: "That's cool! I never got a mail because of a level. But I was asked in a forum several times how this and that works. I always just gave clues, because giving a complete walk through my levels would be boring, I think! But I read more reviews then I ever thought I would and at least the feedback you gave me now with your questions made all my work worth doing! Thanks for that! ;-)"

Ian: "You're welcome. But, getting back to Sunburn; isn't that timed challenge rather hard?"

Daniel: "Do you mean the trap with the 8 boulders? It is very hard, of course! You need to die several times and then ask yourself why! When you've studied the situation a bit, you can jump away from the first stone and then there is a small way throgh the rolling stones, where you can escape! I guess there is only one 'choreography' to survive this! But when you do, it's like in an action movie! But in this level there had to be a very challenging quest, making the end very ironic."

Ian: "No, the challenge I was referring to in Sunburn was the one where Lara has to get down from the top of a large chamber to a door that's been triggered open. It took me quite a while to figure out that something had been triggered,in fact. BTW, very good secret area in that chamber!"

Daniel: "Before I release a level, the first one playing it, is my good online friend Freeman Porter. He was the first one who told me that he got very badly stuck there and that I should have added something like a 'click', when you step on the triggered field. Perhaps this is right! But in the end, I think everybody got it, because there was only the big room and you could not go back, so there MUST be something in there! Otherwise I would find it unfair, too! I also thought it was clear, that the triggered field must have some sense, because it looks different and otherwise there would be a dead-end and no reason why you can climb there."

Ian: "I'm not too sure about walkthrough walls, myself. You use them a couple of times in this level. Isn't that concept a little unfair on the player? Or did you give a clue somewhere, which I may have missed?"

Daniel: "I used these walkthrough walls two times in Sunburn!Deadlock And both times you were stuck inside a very small room with nearly nothing in it. I liked the idea of Lara beginning just in a room and it semms like that's everything! There was a clue in the first room. The wall where you can walk through had some unreal lighting, as if the light would shine from behind it. I think the second time I used the effect, I did not give this hint. But when Lara is caught in a so very small room, you cannot get stuck there longer then one minute till you find the trick to get out. I think I had the idea because I wanted to put in some 'magical' elements."

Ian: "OK, it's Deadlock time.You really don't like her, do you?! That ending was brilliant! Do you really enjoy making Lara suffer? And where did you get that scream from?"

Daniel: "Okay... you got me! When you've played all 5 parts of Tomb Raider, there is the point where you yell: *****!!! She is running too far, falling into holes and suffocating under water! And guess what! She does this on purpose to drive us mad! That's the real reason, why she has to die in that small room! I'm glad, you liked the idea to kill her 'offscreen'. Some players again did not... I guess in my next level there will be a happy end, where she gets married with a mummy... ;-) I took the screams from my Blink 182-CD 'Dude Ranch'. There is a joke between too tracks, where some guy shows some girl eh... something and then she screams! And now you know what REALLY happened behind that door! :-D"

Ian: "Which of these levels is your favourite? Do you have a particular achievement that your most proud of?"

Daniel: "Because I like to fight with packs of baddies, I think Gloomy Waste is my favorite level! I like the atmosphere too! The dead people on the ground, the rats and the green sky! I know there are many better levels containing this, but nervertheless I like it. I'm pround of the 8 rolling stones in Sunburn, the foggy room with the mummys and rats from Deadlock and the end of this level of course! But I think killing Lara can be done even better... Got some strange fantasies! ;-)"

Ian: "How long does it take you to construct a level?"

Daniel: "It depends on how long I work on them every day! I created Roaming in the holidays in winter! I think I spend 4-6 hours every day with the editor and finished the level in about 3 weeks! I think for the other levels I needed each about one and a half month with building 1-2 hours every day."

Ian: "Have you been able to achieve everything you planned to do?"

Daniel: "After Deadlock I started to create Stage Fright. It is not finished yet, because I always quit the project, just to start it again 3 months later, and so on! This level shall be longer and very cool! But I don't know if it will ever be released! Perhaps I will just release the end... :-D In my levels there are always a couple of ideas which I could not use, because the level editor don't want me to! For example: In Deadlock there should have been a quest, where you have to shoot a skeleton with a shootgun into a hole, in which it should destroy a vase with his sword! But the problem was, that the skeleton disappeared, after he had fallen down... :-("

Ian: "Why keep Stage Fright to yourself? Especially after having put so much work into it!"

Daniel: "I cannot keep it myself I think! But there is much work left! But someday I will release it. Would be dumb not to, you're right! I started to continue my work today and maybe I'm finished in a month, if I do not take a break again. Facts about it: theatre scenario (TR II), dark atmosphere like in Gloomy Waste, some tricky quests containing the 'Roaming effect'... including a very long ladder... ha ha. And I think I won't give up my LSD-lighting! ;-)"

Ian: "What about other Custom Levels.Have you played any? If so,which ones most impressed you?"

Daniel: "I played a lot of custom levels. But I'm sorry, I've forgotten the names! But there where some levels, where I thougt: 'Wow, this guy is insane!' Some levels must have taken a life time to build. Respect! I remember that Lara's Return by Hokolo was great. And another good one was Behind the Warpgate by UFO, I think! I don't know any of the newer levels, I'm afraid. Thanks again for your questions and feedback! This interview was fun and motivation for the Stage Fright-project!"

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