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Debbie Overstreet interviewed by Ian Smith aka Marksdad in November 2002

Ian: "To begin with, can you give us a little information about yourself? I have to admit that the only thing I know about you is your name! Can I ask where you live, what you do for a living and (if it's not too indiscrete!) your age?"

Debbie: "LOL...well I won't give you my age.;o) I am a mom. I have two children, age 9 and 12. I live in California. I am an artist and a parent/teacher. I am also now an obsessed fan of Tombraider."

Ian: "When you say 'Artist', do you mean a painter? What sort of artistic work do you do?"

Debbie: "I am a digital artist for the most part but I still dabble in traditional media (pencils, pen and ink, watercolors) occasionally but for now I prefer the digital canvas."

Ian: "Do you find LE'ing to be more of an artistic pastime, or a technical one?"

Debbie: "Now this question is not an easy one. I find I almost feel quilty when I level edit rather than create a new digital image. I enjoy both. The Level Editor is a form of artistic expression since you are creating worlds and incorporating effects, light, texture, mood etc."

Ian: "How and when did you start to play Tomb Raider?"

Debbie: "It was last December and I was out looking for stocking stuffers when I found a Tombraider 2 demo cd for only 4 bucks. When the kids opened it they didn't seem too interested so I tried it out and was instantly hooked. I thought I'd never defeat those, tigers! LOL I had to go out and find other Tombraider games. That was when I bought Chronicles and Last Revelation."

The Haunted

Ian: "Your first level The Haunted (released May 3, 2002) appeared on Michael Prager's Level Index in May of this year, which is quite late in comparison with many other level builders. Had you spent the previous year or so perfecting your level building techniques, or had you only recently become involved?"

Debbie: "Just recently because I was only interested in playing the game so the Level Editor cd sat in the jewel case for a long time before I even tried it. I wasn't sure it would be something I would be interested in. I installed it only when I couldn't find any other Tombraider cd's on the store shelves and was pleasantly surprised. The Haunted was my first serious attempt at level building beyond the tutorial level and a couple of practice levels."

Ian: "This may come as a surprise to many members of Michael's site (where your levels have developed quite a following), but until I contacted you for this interview, you had been quite unaware of its existence. Are you surprised, pleased and/or shocked at the reactions your levels have generated?"

Debbie: "Oh I think I felt some of all of those emotions. Even though some of the comments were negative I think they will be very helpful when I design my next level. I had heard from someone that my level had been reviewed awhile back. They sent me a copy of the review but no link so I had no idea where the review actually was. I didn't follow up on it at the time but wish I had."

Ian: "How long did it take you to master the Level Editor itself? Did you find the Manual easy to understand? Does the whole business of building take over a great deal of your life? (As it does mine!)"Enchanted/The Quest

Debbie: "I don't think I've mastered the Level Editor yet. For example I just learned how to apply the fog effect with Enchanted/The Quest (released Oct 26, 2002). It was very helpful for me to follow the manual although I felt it lacking in information at times. I still refer back to it when I am designing a new level."

Ian: "The Haunted was a level that I found rather impressive for a debut. Was this, in fact, your first level or had you spent some time perfecting your craft?"

Debbie: "I worked on a couple of practice levels before The Haunted. I loved creating The Haunted. I'm a big fan of ghost stories and mysteries. It was a fun level to create and one that my kids could play." (editor's note: There was even a follow-on level to it: The Haunted Sequel, released Jun 25, 2002).

The Haunted Sequel

Ian: "Was it me, or was there a really unsettling woman's laugh in The Haunted, when Lara climbs up to the top of a small waterfall?"

Debbie: "LOL? I was trying to convey the spirit in the haunted home. The kids got a big kick out of that. It was fun."

Ian: "Isn't designing levels rather a time-consuming way of creating activities for your children? I just tell mine silly stories, it's much easier. (I wouldn't dare let them play some of my levels; particularly Hand of Sirius. Far too violent!) Do they enjoy playing them?"

Debbie: "My kids had been G-rated up until I purchased the TR demo last December. They like to play my levels sometimes and they are fun for them. The level they like to play the most is one I didn't even create... Angkor Wat. That one has only a couple of scenes with the boars that are violent. BTW Hand of Sirius is a great level!"

Ian: "I appreciate that :) Wasn't Stolen Artefacts (released Jun 5, 2002) a bit violent for them; all those motor-bikes and machine guns?"

Debbie: "Probably, but this level is not one they like to play that much, until you get to the hills and can ride the bike everywhere."

Ian: "Having presumably read the reviews, I'm sure you will have noticed that many people have recognised your levels as having a certain idiosyncratic style. I.e. they are very expansive and larger than life. Does this reflect your own personality?"

Debbie: "LOL...Well some might think so. I love open spaces. I really hadn't thought about the larger than life aspect until I read some of the reviews. I designed my first levels for my kids. I wanted them to be able to complete a level. Now I am trying to create levels that are more complex."

Ian: "Where do you come up with the ideas for your levels? Do you plan them out beforehand, or make them up as you go along?"

Debbie: "I usually look through the quick guide in the manual and choose a wad. Then I either make a new texture set or alter one by adding some of my own textures. The hardest part for me is coming up with a storyline.

Ian: "5 levels published in 6 months. Do you still have a social life??"

Debbie: "I mainly work on my levels when everyone else is asleep very early in the morning or late at night. That is my time to play."Treasure

Ian: "I personally found Treasure (released Sep 14, 2002) to be my favourite (although I've not yet played your latest). Do you have a preference among your levels?"

Debbie: "I'm glad you enjoyed Treasure. I tried to make it feel like a castle as much as possible. I think I would have to say Treasure is also my favorite. I really like the 'tower' where the tinman on the horse comes after Lara. I ended up with a lighting effect there that was totally accidental but effective."

Ian: "There are really very few female custom level designers. Do you think TR is a 'male thing'? Do you think you bring something to the design of a TR level that a man wouldn't?"

Debbie: "I think the Tombraider game appeals to both men and women. I love the game. My least favorite of the series though is Lost Artifact. I haven't finished that one. Level Editing isn't going to appeal to everyone. It's not something I thought I would ever do. I just wanted to play the game in the beginning. When I followed the tutorial and was able to play in a room or two that I designed I wanted to make more. As far as adding something a man wouldn't? I guess areas of my design may appear more feminine. I do try to make some rooms look 'pretty'."

Back to Basics - Dwellers of the Abyss

Ian: "Have you played any other Custom Levels? If so, what did you think of them?"

Debbie: "So far I have played The The Hand of Sirius and enjoyed it very much. I've downloaded Blue Sphere and Maleficent Mask to play next."

Ian: "What's the weather like with you? Absolutely pouring down here! :("

Debbie: "It's a bit on the cold side this morning but the sun is shining. I love the fall. This is my favorite time of the year."

Ian: "I've got bored with LE'ing (as can be seen from the rather perceptive reviews to my latest level!) Do you feel there's much life left in the LE'ing craze? Do you see an end to your own enthusiasm for creating virtual worlds for Lara to explore?"

Debbie: "You may not think so but I usually take a break after I create a level even if it's a short one.:o) I think that perhaps with the release of Angel of Darkness the craze for level editing may go down a bit. I most likely will be creating another level. I found a wad online that has the jeep! *G*."

Ian: "I look forward to that one :)."

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