Ted: "So, Kerstin, who is your alter-ego, 'Codo Stellaris'?"
Codo: "'Codo Stellaris' is the name of a girl in a science-fiction story I started when I was twelve. She lives in the time of war between the planet Lomasia and the starship colony Anya. In the beginning she is a cadett at the Starfleet. She doesn't know who she is, because she looks a little bit different and unfortunatly she has no memory of her childhood. The only thing she knows about herself, is that her name means 'Child of the Stars' in an old alien language. Because of her mysterious origin, her great abillities in flying spacejets and in science, she has no friends. I started to write that story, because I wanted to write down my feelings when I was at school. Reading my old stories about Codo is like reading in my own diary. It's interesting to read about her development while I became older and more self-confident. Codo is me, but she lives in a universe far, far away. In the meantime Codo has found her place in her universe, and so did I. :-) Everything I create fits in 'Codo's cosmos' like a little piece of a puzzle. My stories, music, art and even the levels! My Level 'The Flying Temple' takes place on a moon of Lomasia. But don't ask me how Lara got there with her helicopter. ;-)"
Ted: "So, how did Lara cover all those light years in a simple helicpoter? Just kidding! The setting for 'Flying Temple' is very different from 'Canterville'. What was the inspiration for 'Canterville'? It's a very dark and eerie level."
Codo: "After The Eye of Horus, which was very colourful, short and easy to play, I tried to create something different. 'The Canterville Ghost' written by Oscar Wilde was one of my favourite books I had to read at school. In fact I started buiding on Canterville first, but I had to interrupt the work on it because of a level building competition. I knew I would never have finished Canterville for it the way I wanted, and that is why I built a completely new level: The Eye of Horus. I only had one month left, but although it is such a short level, I won the competition. The prize was a life-size statue of Lara. :-) After that I went on with my work on Canterville and most of the work was done in winter. Unfortunately, the level was released in May, so nearly everyone complained about the darkness. Because of the darkness the reviewers downrated the level and finally I released a brighter version. My next level Lucifer's Realm will be a kind of castle, too, but it will not be a second Canterville. Canterville had those warm red colours and some outside areas, the new level will take place completely in the underground, has got a giant architecture and colder colours. The texturing will be very different, too. And again I have got the same problem: It is very hard to make eery levels without making them too dark. ;-)"
Michael: "Speaking of The Eye of Horus and the competition. How did you get to know about the competition and did you see/play any of the other levels that had entered it?"
Codo: "I read about the competition in the German Croft Times. It was really a little bit late and I had no idea of the level when I started building. I knew, if I won the competition, many beginners would play it. And so I made it easy. Besides I did not have the feeling of a good balanced level and placed more weapons than enemies :o) It took some time until the results of the competition were published and I nearly forgot it. But after all my wisdom teeth had been pulled, I was lying in my bed, my cheeks painfully swollen. Suddenly my father came into my room pushing a huge box. Inside was Lara! I was feeling much better at once. The level was released a little bit later together with the levels which made the second and the third place. Of course I played them. They were as easy and as short as mine, but the athmosphere and the texturing were not so good. I donīt understand why so many German level builders did not take part in the competition. The first prize was really worth it. :-)"
Michael: "As you were already building Canterville, it was not the competition that triggered your level building activities, so what was it then?"
Codo: "It has been a dream of me to build my own tomb raider levels as long as the games existed. I did not like TR5 that much, but I bought it mainly because of the Level Editor. There are so many ideas in my head that I am always looking for new possibilities to make them real. When you build levels, you are an artist, architect, programmer, story-teller and a director. It is an exciting experience to let the people dive into your own worlds and to receive their reactions."
Michael: "I am sure you have read Chicken's rather harsh review about The Eye of Horus - what did you think when you read it first and what do you think now? Actually, are you reading the reviews about your levels in general and what do you think about those?"
Codo: "I was rather shocked when I first read Chicken's review. Everyone has to deal with getting critisized, but I did not understand why he seemed so angry. I made a mistake and took it too personal. After I contacted Chicken, it was clear to me, that he did not want to hurt me as I thought first. Perhaps he has had a bad day or a personal problem with the competition, who knows. :o) At last his review helped me to get a better feeling for the level of difficulty, and I learned to react composed on beeing critisized, even if it is meant to hurt me. I read every review and try to react with my next level on the points, which the players did not like on the last one. I am grateful if a reviewer gives me helpful critics and I try to do it myself when I write reviews. Perhaps I am a strict reviewer, but I try to be fair and helpful. I never gave a maximum rating until today. 10 Points are absolutly perfect, but this is very seldom and it is more seldom that every point is absolutly perfect. I think those many maximum ratings are strange which are often given at the Levelbase. You could never build a level which everyone likes in every way. Many reviews are not objective enough. On the one hand there are some levels which are overrated, and on the other hand there are so many really good levels outside the Top 50. But this might only be my personal taste. Although I take the reviews serious I build the levels mainly for myself. But if no-one played them it would be very boring. I think it is great that my levels are played all over the world and I get response by interesting people."
Michael: "Speaking of underrated levels, I would personally classify Canterville to be in that category, even though it has received solid scores and good comments. How about yourself, do you have a personal favourite among your own levels? Each of the three is distinctly different. Do you think you improve your building skills with each one or is the fact that it is built into an entirely different setting more important to you?"
Codo: "I do not really have a favourite among my released levels because you cannot compare them directly. I try to built levels others did not build before although they are supposed to be 'Tomb Raider' adventures. The climax of this development was 'The Flying Temple'. I think I improved a lot. You can see it in the reviews. The later the level was released the higher it is ranked."
Michael: "The Flying Temple was released as part of a Bravo Screenfun event, compiling a few levels for a magazine CD. How did you get into that project."
Codo: "The Screenfun project started at the levelbase. An editor of the Screenfun asked if there was interest among us level builders. I was lucky that the 'Flying Temple' was expected to be ready right in time and was able to join the project. In fact, time ran out and in the end it was as hectical as the competition. The level was released exclusivly, which meant money for me. The Screenfun some of my screenshots in the magazine and a walkthrough with many screenshots was printed, too. The whole thing made me very proud, and I think some people found interest in the level editor, which was released together with the custom levels on the CD, too."
Michael: "There was also a bit of a discussion back then whether builders should be doing that and release their levels exclusively for a magazine and only months later on the net. What is your point of view on this topic (and was it worth doing it and would you do it again this way?)"
Codo: "I did not like that discussion about the project. Levelbuilders are the owners of their work and it is only their decision what they do with it. I sell my paintings, too, and I see no moral conflict in it. If someone wanted to force me to do or not to do something with my levels, I would not release levels any longer. Besides the level was free for download about one month later. I really liked this project and would join it again. But I doubt there is still interest after 'Angel of Darkness'."
Michael: "Why do say there would not be interest after Angel of Darkness? Do you see the Custom Level community decline now because of AoD? Did you actually play it yourself and what did you think of it?"
Codo: "I think Angel of Darkness and the following Tomb Raider games will not replace the custom levels. Angel of Darkness is different from the old Tomb Raider adventures and many players still prefer the old engine. In my opinion the gameplay is more important than fancy graphics. I also prefer playing custom levels, and I did not like Angel of Darkness. I missed a lot of things I loved on the old Tomb Raider, it was too short and there were too many bugs. But I doubt the game magazines know that the Level Editor is still that popular and are not brave enough to start a custom level project again. I think they are more interested in new games with graphics which are up-to-date."
Michael: "You mentioned many other interests of yours above: stories, music, art. Tell us a bit more about those and where do you find all the time to be such a creative person?"
Codo: "I write stories mainly because I fear to forget something. But unfortunately the new ideas grow faster than I could ever write. I am working on three stories and two are already finished. In one story a young woman with the strange name 'Mourose' meets Lucifer. As I wrote it and collected backround infos, the idea for my level was born. You will meet Mourose in the level. As I told before, everything I create fits together. I did not release my storys on the internet until today, because some of them are really strange and could be misunderstood by people who only think in categories like 'good' and 'bad'. But most of them are not meant that serious. I do not want to change the world with my stories, I just have fun in writing. If I cannot write something, I paint it. Faces or fashion are hard to describe. I always paint without models or photos. I do not paint much, but I always have a little notebook for my drawings with me. My paintings are very colourful and simple. I prefer painting people, animals or plants. And I really hate abstract art. What a monkey or a little child can paint, too, is not worth thousands of dollars. I started with music as I was six and started with recorder, which I have been playing for seven years. I have been singing in a church choir for ten years and have been dancing ballett for nine years. As I was twelve I started playing piano and I still take lessons. Last year I started organ, which is really a complicated instrument, but it is simply great to play with the power of a whole orchestra. I started producing my own music more professional than before and I am working an my first CD. There will be some music of me in my next level, too. My music style is something like trance, the quieter pieces sound a bit like Enya. Some of my songs are pop and I write lyrics for them, but unfortunately I am missing the technical possibilities to record singing. I have been composing since I started with music. I am good in the formal analysis of music, because its inner and outer structures are logical and mathematical. My favourite lessons at school have been music and physics. Although I could be good enough to study music, I decided to do it as a hobby and started studying physics. Beeing creative is not a hobby of me, it just happens. The days are always too short to do everything I want. It has a nice side-effect. I am never bored. :-) By the way I have other hobbies, too. On the weekends I go soaring and I have got a private pilote licence. When I will have enough flight hours, I will do Aerobatics. I need the feeling of beeing free. When you fly together with the hawks in the thermic, all problems seem to stay on the ground. Twice a week I do aerobics. I travel to Greece every year and swim and dive very much. I do cooking and baking as often as I can. I read a lot. I like especially the books of Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams and Michael Crichton. I did skydiving this spring and did two jumps. It was very exciting to find out how mechanic your reactions are when you are on adrenalin and it was a great experience. But I have got no time (and no money) to do it as a hobby. There are so many things to try out or to learn. And my boyfriend needs a lot of my attention, too. :-) By the way, I watch TV very seldom. It simply bores me and I am often shocked how stupid the program is, especially the soap operas. Perhaps this is the reason because I have got the time to do so many hobbies."
Michael: "As I am sure you know there have been yearly TR-Meetings in Germany for four years now, but as far as I know you have not been attending one of those. Any reason? Or were you simply busy with other things at the respective weekends?"
Codo: "I first read about the meetings two years ago at the Levelbase. Last year I did not come to the meeting because I did not feel as a part of the community. This year I simply did not have time. I had to learn a lot. I have very personal reasons to be not that interested in events like the meetings. I have been very shy until I started studying and I am still not that talented in doing small-talk with more or less unknown people. But next year I am going to join the meeting. All I need is time and I have got only little time. :-)"
Michael: "Well, I will definitely be there, so looking forward to meeting you in person in June 2004 and rest assured there will always be something to talk about... Thanks for the interview!"
(editor's note: Kerstin's latest level is Lara at the Movies - Alien Resurrection, see screenshot on the right.)