Josep Borrut back homepage search
interviewed by Matthias Heuermann aka Dimpfelmoser in August 2002
(additional questions by René Brooymans aka Piega and Jon Heywood aka Inchdix)

Matthias: "What do you think makes grown up men and women play rather childish computer games like Tomb Raider?"

Josep Borrut

Josep: "There is not a single answer to that question; probably there are as many as there are players. What I can try to answer is why I play. I like games in general, cards, sports, … Usually you need someone to play that game with and very often it is not easy find one. The computer is at home and the games are there, you don't need anything else. You can use the computer at any time for as long as you decide. I personally prefer playing with friends but the PC is a good alternative. Since several years I have played TR almost exclusively. TR is a special mix of mystery, investigation, ability, interesting scenarios, also fighting. Personally what I most enjoy is to investigate the whole scenario trying to find all that is hidden there; I am not able to finish the level without all the secrets. What I enjoy less is the fighting, sometimes it makes the search very complicated and often I found this violence unnecessary, but I also understand that TR tries to meet the preference of a broad audience and needs satisfy its predilections. TR has also a particularity: Its protagonist. I would have been quite surprised if , some years ago someone told me about the very big success of a game with a female protagonist. Another surprising thing for me is the broad band of age amongst the players. I know about players under 10 and also about a 65 year woman that plays it."

Matthias: "Well I know a few who are even older. But don't you think in a society where individualsm is so important and more people than ever are singles, computergames are rather unhealthy as you become a rather solitary and lonely figure if you spend too much time playing on your own?"

Josep: "I complete agree. But we can also try to see the positive aspects. The new technologies can help you occasionally to find other people with the same interests as you, and share a kind of friendly relation ship with them. TR and its `Internet community´ is a good example. For instance, personally I only know one TR player, but I have been in touch with many and I have also been able to share the experience of many others using the web. Nowadays this relation has not the same `quality´ as the traditional one, but probably very soon, the emerging technologies will decrease this difference of quality (Voice Over IP, video streaming,…)."

Matthias: "Have you ever met anyone in real life whom you have communicated with on the internet?"

Josep & friends

Josep: "No. At least I do not know. Maybe sometimes I have faced someone but we do not usually have the nick name or mail address written on the clothes, it could be an interesting idea. Most of my communications was with people of other countries and it makes any contact difficult."

Matthias: "Well, I will stop to say hello when I'm in the area. Are you in conntact with other Level Builders?"

Josep: "Sporadically I have sent some mails to someone asking for specific things, like an object or a Tool, or small comments about one of my levels. I have also asked or answered something in several forums. But I had real contact with a Level Builder only once. I have offered him the possibility to build a level or two together. The offer was well received but he was too busy finishing his saga so it was not possible to complete the project. Another time I was also in touch with a young developer that asked me about suggestions. After some mails I offered him the opportunity to `mentor´ him; supervising one of his projects, he had to mail me with the updates of the project and I would mail him with some changes or suggestions. The offer was never answered."

Tarragona Bara Arch

Matthias: "How rude! Why are you so keen on a joint venture with another level builder?"

Josep: "There are several reasons. When one plays a TR level he or she only sees the final product. They can't perceive aspects that only a Level Builder can appreciate: how the project was growing from scratch, which problems the builder has faced, how the builder fixed the problems, what solutions the builder has tested,… To completely share this experience you need some one to work with. There is also the learning experience. You can share your expertise and techniques and learn from what your partner knows. You can also provide and receive suggestions. When you are blocked the partner can unfreeze the situation. Everyone can contribute with his strengths to get a better result. Today to build a new level with new textures, new objects, new puzzles, and new everything is really very hard and time consuming. And personally I have not enough time. That is the reason why the original TR levels were built by one or even several teams, some working with the objects, some other with textures, sound, ...Unfortunately the TRLE is not an overly co-operative application. It is not possible to split the project in smaller pieces to work on and import those pieces back when ready. Truly I believe that this could be a nice experience."

Matthias: "Do you have a favourite TR environment?"

Josep: "No. I have a 'less' favourite one: the Egyptian. The only reason is that I had enough Egypt with TR1, UB, TR4, The Times and specially with the limited Egyptian WAD's delivered with the TRLE. Looking backward, my favourite TR levels are the Venice ones, and TR2 is my favourite game."

Matthias: "I think very few authors link their levels to the place they live. What is your relation to that place?"

Tarragona The Medol

Josep: "I was born in Tarragona 38 years ago. And I have lived here about the 80% of my life. It is my city. Tarragona was an important Roman city. The entire city has plenty of Roman ruins; also called 'monuments' (I wonder why we call the debris of stadiums, theatres, the city walls, statues without heads and arms 'monuments' when they are 2000 years old). In fact when there is any new building work old debris appears in the soil of the city. The actual city was built over the Medieval city that was built over the Arabian city that was build over the Roman one that was build…. Quite a number of TR levels take place in ancient ruins and I have these ruins to get inspiration. Additionally in the year 2000 UNESCO named Tarragona 'World Heritage'. In those days I started with the TRLE and I decided to make the levels as my small homage to the city."

Matthias: "Do you plan to stay in Tarragona or could you think of another place where you would like to live?"

Josep: "I have been living in other cities in the past: in Barcelona while I was at the University, Pontevedra (Northeast of Spain) during my military service, 4 year working in Madrid and 15 month working in Antibes (South France). In Tarragona I have now all I really want. On one hand the family and the old friends that I can not find in any other place. On the other hand the quality of live that people use to pay to have it. I am referring to a relatively small city where you have a lot of services and you do not really need the car for everything, good weather, the beach (I do not like it too much), a relatively good job. At the weekend and during vacation time I can see all those people coming to this area to escape from those big cities to get a piece of what I can enjoy all the year. For these reasons I have no plans to change. I would not move to earn some more money because I would lose other important things in the process. But I can say that Antibes is a good place to live and may be I would make an exception."

Matthias: "Although all your Levels come under the Tarragona heading, they are quite different as far as setting and gameplay is concerned. Is there an ongoing theme?"

Tarragona Escipions Tower

Josep: "Originally I had in mind to create a level inspired in each one of sites in Tarragona elected by UNESCO as 'World Heritage'. Tarragona 4 - Devil's LairI had started with the Escipion's Tower (Tarragona 1+2 - Escipions Tower/Escipions Caves) (only the Tower is real all other is product of my imagination). My next choice was the Devil's Bridge (Tarragona 3 - Devil's Bridge), but then I found the dammed TRLE limits (I finished 3 more levels before I was able to find a satisfactory solution for the aqueduct). (Tarragona 4 - Devil's Lair, Tarragona 6 - Algernon's Lab and Tarragona 5 - The Underground Empire). At this point I realised that it would not be possible to complete the 'City Walls', the 'Circus' and the others in a satisfactory way for me. Then I decided to change the course and let the imagination fly. I started the next levels knowing from where Lara comes and finding were Lara goes: from Tarragona to the Space."

Matthias: "Your last level was an odd mix of ancient and high tech textures. Is your next level going to take it a step further into the future?"

Josep: Tarragona 7 - Civilisations Crossroads"Yes. Tarragona 7 - Civilisations Crossroads' final flyby shows a starship taking off, Lara was inside. The next level, will take a step further into the future but also in the past of the earth. As it happened with TR1&2, due to the TR limits, I had to split the level in two. This time it happened when I had more than 200 rooms, in a working game, and I reached the 245 objects limit. This will be a two level game that will close the TWH saga. The final flyby will give a suppressive end to the story. I hope that there are going to be some new things as well, I am not able to assure this because I have not played too many of the custom levels. One of the most interesting aspects is the intensive use of the "special" attachment of rooms that I have been using occasionally in the past. I am not sure if other Level Designers are aware of it because I discovered this technique by mistake and there is only an ambiguous reference in the manual. Another interesting thing is the technical requirements to have more flipped rooms than the limit of 8. Unfortunately very often the most interesting things of a level can not be appreciated by the players, some times only an expert developer can appreciate this details and others only the creator knows about it."

Matthias: "Now that you covered so many different things with the level editor. What interests you most right now?"

Tarragona City Walls

Josep: "What I have always enjoyed most is to think of a scenario, build its geometry, and place the right textures and lighting. For me it is a kind of mix between painting and creating a puzzle."

René: "To build a good level it takes at least 6 to 8 weeks. How many hours have you spent and do you think it is worth the trouble to spend all your free time to create a level that is played in an hour by people you'll never meet?"

Josep: "I do not know how many hours I have spent, such an awfull lot. At the beginning (from TRLE release till March 2001) it was easier, you only had the editor, some tga files, a few wads to play, Tarragona Circusand your creativity to consult; and there were excellent levels produced at this time; a few just as good as the original TR levels quality. As additional tool during that period I would only mention StrPix. In March 2001, TRWest v1.0 was released giving more flexibility, in April 2001 TRWest v2.0 made all TR4 wads available to be used. In May 2001 TR2Wad opened the door to previous TR objects. But essentially nothing changed. I believe that the real change started in the 4Q of 2001. Some of the players started to ask for new objects, new outfits, and any kind of innovation. And it seems that since the beginning of the year 2002, a good game must include all those things and additionally they must be genuine. It was then when it all started to become unmanageable, at least for me. Now to accomplish all those goals you must multiply by 3 or 4, or even more, the original time frame. It is possible, there are people that do it, but personally I simply don't have the time. I need sleep some hours, I must work 5 days a week, spend some time eating and I have a family and friends. Long time ago I decided not to play custom levels, to be sure that it was my genuine level and I was not copying other peoples stuff, excluding, obviously, the original TR games. But the main reason was that I had not enough time. Some months ago I decided to slow down my speed. I am still spending a lot of time producing the TWH final episode. For example: from Monday to Thursday I have been working with a couple of objects, 2 doors and 1 switch. Testing its possibilities, redesigning, texturing and and making it work; using in the process: TRWest, StrPix, CAD, Paint Application and TRLE stuff, took me more than 20 hours (during summer I have more free time). Probably I will need 5 more hours to complete the whole work and finding a better sound for the switch and one of the doors. May be I will also check with WadMerger v1.8 if I can use a better animation for the switch. As you can imagine you must multiply this time with the number of different objects in the level. This means too much time, and here you have anther good reason why I believe that TR level creation is for team work. For those reasons and because very soon AOD will arrive, I'm almost sure that I will stop my contribution to the TRLE community after my next release. Coming back to the original question, for me the worst is finding the time. If the player needs 20' or 1h is not important to me. The thnings that are really important to me: first, to be proud of my work and second that people enjoyed it. A very satisfactory gratification is when someone mails you after he has played one of your levels, saying that he enjoyed it."

Josep's desk

Jon: "I would like to know just how supportive your parnter is as regards the amount of time you spend builing levels?"

Josep: "In a range from 0 to 10 I would say 3. Sadly enough for me she is not a Tomb Raider fan and she does not understand how I can spent so many hours with something that does not earn me any money. I get quite more support from my daughter, she is 6 year old and is my number one fan."

Matthias: "At what age should children be introduced to computergames that incorprate a fair amount of killing?"

Josep: "Unfortunately the children are already introduced to the killing before they play their first computer game. They watch the TV where they can find violence in films and also the real violence in the news. Obviously there are kinds of games and different levels of violence. What is important is to know what games they are playing. Most important is to provide them with the right Range of Values and to be sure that they understand what is real and what's unreal. Very often I see kids where the parents do not let them watch some TV programs or play some games because that might corrupt them, but they never correct them when they do not behave properly."

Matthias: "Who do you think was the most influential person of the 20th Century?"

Ines & Eva

Josep: "What a question! I would say Lenin. He had a key role in the rise of the Communism that grows up till cover half of the globe (URSS, China,…). This rise also shaped the other half: several wars, including one that involved Lara (the Cold War), the nuclear race, the military alliances, the space race,..."

Matthias: "So who do you think is the most influential woman of the 20th century?"

Josep: "As the world revolves around me and it will all end when I will die, and because she can read it, I must say my wife. But I am not able to find a woman to place as the second. Probably the reason is because, in general, they are not able to initiate something so stupid to affect the whole world. The History shows us that the negative influences have more impact than the positive ones. Seriously, I do not find any woman in my quick top ten list and all the men in that list would not receive good rates in the 'good influences' category from me. Unfortunately for us, the most influential people have a negative impact on us. Additionally I must say that only recently men started to let women put their role at the same level and only in a small part of the world. Their possibilities to influence the History positively or negatively were less."

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