Benjamin George White aka B.Howaito back homepage search
interviewed by Ian Smith aka Marksdad in August 2009
Howaito and Snoopy

Marksdad: "Tell us a little about yourself. Name; age; occupation."

B.Howaito: "My name is Benjamin White. I am 19 years old and I should be a student come September. I've played every console Tomb Raider game and loved them all, including Angel of Darkness. My favourite would have to be Tomb Raider II though; I was 8 years old and sciving from school to play it."

Marksdad: "Aha! I presume from what you've just told me that a) you're having a gap year and b) you're going to be studying Art...? What will happen to your level building when you go to College?"

B.Howaito: "Yes, I'm taking a gap year; I need a break from education for a while! I'm not studying Art though, that is just a hobby of mine... I'm actually studying English and Spanish. Not as exciting as Art... I suppose when I'm at University my level building will continue, but at a much slower rate; I'm a builder who works at night, and that won't be possible if I'm studying!"

Marksdad: "The usual question - when and how did you get interested in building custom levels?"

B.Howaito: "I first became interested in level editing after purchasing Tomb Raider Chronicles for the PC. I had always enjoyed the series and the thought of making your own levels seemed fantastic! It was really hard to start out with though. I was only around... 12 or 13, and I ignored the tutorial... I still haven't created that tutorial level."

Marksdad: "Test level and The Fatal Deathtrap. OK, we'll tactfully ignore the first (unless you have anything you need to say about it!); the second was another 'no way out' level; similar in style to Robert LaChapelle's 'Travelling'. It's very quirky. However, it can't have taken more than a few minutes to build. I presume you were still experimenting with the LE and not actually being serious?"

B.Howaito: "Well, after playing Lara In A Box, it seemed most people were frustrated that she couldn't do anything, obviously. To be honest, I really wanted to created a variant on this overused formula, so I thought 'trap in a box', placing Lara in a helpless situation where if the boulders don't get her the flames at the top do! It didn't go down so well though... So, yes! I was serious! Experimenting, indeed..."

Marksdad: "Cartoon World. I reviewed this as 'typically daffy'. Is this a fair and apt description?"

Cartoon World

B.Howaito: "Ah, well, at the time I think there was a new Silent Hill game out or about to come out (I was a big fan), and I wanted to emulate the notion of other worlds through Tomb Raider Level Editing. Thus, Lara would walk innocently through a train station, find everything sealed off and find herself in a different place,... but it's badly textured. I didn't intend for it to look like a cartoon at all. In fact, I believe that when I sent the level to Michael I forgot to put a title with it, so Mr. Prager must have called it 'Cartoon World'. The sequel is named thus to prevent confusion! The suicide drop at the end was actually a psychological step for Lara to pass into the real world... It had nothing to do with the fact that I only learnt how to use level end triggers a few levels ago..."

Marksdad: "Return to the Cartoon World. More of the same but great fun, if you're in the mood. I reviewed it as 'the product of a deranged mind'. Does it accurately reflect you as a person?"

B.Howaito: "I don't think I'm particularly of a deranged mind, but what I consider funny may be very odd to someone else. I don't see what is wrong with this level though! It all seems perfectly normal. Apart from the female assassins with men's voices I suppose... I think this was the first time I used a custom costume for Lara. I used someone else's mesh, and simply textured on the colours."

Marksdad: "Yes, exactly what is it with that recurring motif of evil power-dressed women with masculine voices?"

B.Howaito: "The women with men's voices was another error on my part. I didn't add any female soldier sounds. When I read the reviews, it seemed people found it funny, so I used it again. Besides, perhaps they were men? A gentleman never portrays the death of a lady on-screen!"

New Level

Marksdad: "The 2 Dr Who adventures (Abnormally Odd Apartment and Venizian Venice). I take it you're a fan? These are the sorts of levels that look as though they were built with no clear-cut design plan; simply the desire to do something amusing with the TARDIS concept...?"

B.Howaito: "I did like the Doctor Who episodes from the sixties and seventies, but I'm not a fan of today's series. When I was building the level I think a new series of it was starting, and as I liked the music I thought: 'that'll sound nice as an opening theme to a level'. And it spiralled from there... besides, it allowed crazy enemies and weird settings without the 'dream' excuse."

Marksdad: "In the second level, you appeared to have tampered with Lara's 'run' animation. Did you intend it to look as funny as it did?"

B.Howaito: "I discovered the feature to edit animations in WADmerger, but couldn't find anything suitable to modify. So I thought 'sod it' and had Doctor Lara walk strangely, adding a chastity belt to explain why."

Marksdad: "Mortualia de Rigor: definite signs of development! What stuck in my mind about this one was the Dragon finale. I never managed to get Lara to the top of the ladder without her burning up. Was there a trick to this?"

B.Howaito: "Mortualia de Rigor was my first attempt at a serious level; with a typical dungeon progression, such as the (very) linear route and the boss at the end. To be honest I did not know the dragon was invincible when I placed him in the level... I thought Lara would be able to kill him! That shows how much I beta tested it..."

Marksdad: "Ahh,that old bug-bear of beta-testing! So, you do it all yourself? This is not good, you know; as you tend to only go to places where you know you're supposed to!"

B.Howaito: "No, I must admit beta-testing is not something I take much care of. The closest thing I have done to it is play through the level as I feel the player would. Which may explain the crashes in my earlier levels."

Marksdad: "The Larson adventures #1. The first was fine but stopped rather short of being sufficiently surreal; in fact,the readme was probably the most ambitious element! Is this a fair statement?

B.Howaito: "Hmm, I think that Alice's Adventures Underground was on my mind at the time (hence the white queen, and eating a mushroom in the story), so that idea of entering another world was my intention, but I just wanted to make the level pretty. I needed to work on it a little more though, I really rushed it! I think it's fair to say I focused more on the story than the gameplay. Which probably no one ever reads anyway!"

Marksdad: "The Larson adventures #2. The second adventure (Forest Tick-Tock) achieved its goal of going visually over the top. I loved the Dali-esque imagery of Grandfather clocks on tree branches! Did that image come before you started building?"

B.Howaito: "I can't really remember why I put loads of clocks everywhere... I just remember I had started building a foresty type level, and I wanted something to make it differ from an ordinary forest, so I shoved in a clock or two. I really don't usually make a level plan... I just randomly make rooms and hope it all works out!"

Marksdad: "Pictures in the Dark. I thoroughly enjoyed this and felt it was by far your most polished adventure. Am I right in thinking it was intended as a BtoB?"

B.Howaito: "Yes, Pictures in the Dark was intended for the Back To Basics 2009 competition, but I just couldn't find the time to complete it within the deadline. I was hoping to though, so I put as much effort in it as I could! I'm glad you enjoyed it!"

Marksdad: "I notice that you've used Mike Oldfield's music extensively in a few of your levels (indeed, your most recent shares the name of one of his compositions). Are you a fan (as I am!)..?"

B.Howaito: "Yes! I am a massive fan of Mike Oldfield; I am always listening to his music when making new levels. I hope one day to build a level taking place on Hergest Ridge. It's good to know there are other fans out there!"

Hergest Ridge Cover

Marksdad: "Hergest Ridge? Maybe she could explore some caves beneath it, and then come out and fight the Irish Wolfhound (Bootleg) and make an escape in the Glider?"

B.Howaito: "That's a good story! I've always wanted to incorporate the paraglider object in a level. It would be good practice with making objects too, for the enemy; although I couldn't possibly do a story like that now! It would be stealing your ideas! Maybe I'll just have Lara act as Mike Oldfield's hitman and attempt to bump off the head of Virgin! I'll need to see if that's legal first..."

Marksdad: "For what it's worth, I think Ommadawn is the greatest Album EVER made; but I tend to listen to Tubular Bells (1) at least once a month."

B.Howaito: "Yes, I quite agree with you that Ommadawn is one of Mike Oldfield's finest works, myself particularly liking the end bit of part one, but there is nothing I can garner from it to make a level. Even the title only means 'fool' apparently."

Marksdad: "Anyway, getting back to the subject in hand: Of all your levels, which is your favourite and would this be the one you're most proud of?"

B.Howaito: "Well, I would have to say the Doctor Who in the Venizian Venice. If only because I enjoyed the feeling of creating the introduction..."

Marksdad: "You are one of those builders who has a very individual and quirky 'voice'. Does this reflect your character in real life?"

B.Howaito: "To be honest, I couldn't really say! I find humour where others find none (enemy dogs speaking after you kill them); I enjoy Tomb Raider levels where there is absolutely no difficulty nor confusion; and I enjoy making levels purely to make people smile, not to challenge them nor for them to remember it after they've finished. You can draw your own conclusions from that!"

Marksdad: "That's an interesting philosophy on TombRaider level-building; especially as it completely ignores the importance of level rating (a sticky subject, which has defeated several 'serious' builders)"

B.Howaito: "Are you saying that they responded badly to horrific reviews? I suppose it can be difficult to read that everyone hates something you've made after you've worked on it for so long, but you can take solace in the fact that you've inflicted your level on 'em in the first place!"

Marksdad: "So,what's next in the level-building pipeline?"

B.Howaito: "I'm currently working on a shooter level; I need to break out of the formula of lever, door, key, door. So I'm building a big city where Lara hunts down everything in a big, bad, temper."

Marksdad: "There have been many on that theme but I'm certain that you, of all people, will be able to put your own highly individual twist on that concept. Thank you very much indeed for finding the time to have this chat!"

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