Elvis: "So let's start with some basics. Who is this loch guy? Does he have a name? Where does he come from and how long has he been roaming around this world? What does he do for a living? For that matter - is loch a guy, or is this the part where you tell me what 'assuming' makes out of me?"
Loch: "Yes, you assumed correctly! I'm a 22 year old Aussie male, my name's Lochie and right now I am studying sound engineering. I am not a Scottish lake.
Elvis: "How did you start out with Tomb Raider?"
Loch: "Way back when, I remember going into an electrical/computer store when I was a kid and seeing this strange looking box shaped like a pyramid. I had to have it, even if the game wasn't any good I'd still have the funky looking box! It turned out the game was great - luckily because I lost the box."
Elvis: "And what got you into level building?"
Loch: "I guess it was out of curiosity that sucked me into the builder's realm. To be honest, at the start I was more interested in figuring out how the official Tomb Raider levels came to be rather than wanting to build levels for my own fun. It's such a strange thing to play an old original level and have the understanding of how that lever on the wall works or how that watery cave was created or knowing that your standing on a trigger square when that bear rolls around the corner. Eventually I started getting ideas for my own levels so I decided I'd have a crack at it."
Elvis: "So now that you know how things work - is the magic gone or do you find you can still enjoy playing the games?"
Loch: "More or less the same as it was - maybe you lose a little magic but you definitely gain more admiration for what's around you in the game. I'd guess it's easier to make progress too when you get stuck because of the understanding you have with the limits your playing with. Because you have an idea of what's possible and what isn't you can be a lot more realistic about how a puzzle might be solved rather than doing laps for a solution. I can really admire things I wouldn't have given much thought to before as well, such as a seemingly simple looking puzzle - now you can imagine that there's a lot of background stuff going on to make it work, like a boulder room outside the map that's used to trigger multiple events at once, or a complicated flip-map used to empty a multi-story pool. So it does have its perks."
Elvis: "Do family and friends support you spending time building Lara's virtual worlds, or are they kept in the dark?"
Loch: "I don't see them that often so it's not something that I get the chance to talk about a whole lot - I don't think they would be that interested if I did anyway :P. My sister has run through all my levels before they've been released, which helps me out a lot, giving me the chance to look at the level from a different angle and make changes based on how she plays it. Other than that it's a pretty lonely world."
Elvis: "In the 'readme (or else)' file for your first level - Busting you said that you struggled with the level, so kind of made a joke out of it. Does that mean that it was supposed to be something else, before it all became a run to the loo?"
Loch: "I wish, but "Busting" was 99% complete before I started thinking about a ahh... storyline! The left over 1% was placing the toilet at the end. I chose one of the standard wads that I liked the best and just started building rooms from there, starting with the cave at the beginning. I then thought - where would I want to go next - ahh yes! The sea! That would be good way to test out how the water features of the editor worked. It's always been a 'where would I want to go next' approach that gets me through the building phase of a level. Unfortunately this trapped me from weaving a solid storyline into "Busting" so I guess by then humour had become my last resort. Even if the level wasn't that well conceived at least some people could still get a laugh out of it."
Elvis: "So, does running through the 2 levels of which "Busting" consists of - including the countless opportunities to relieve herself, like the coastline, undisturbed bushes, deserted town, even the sewers, where... erm... all of it would end up anyway, show signs of a strong character, a strong bladder, or being just a little too uptight for her own good from Lara's part?"
Loch: "Bah! She never once let on...Let's just say all to the above. Although If I wanted to be smart about it I could say that it was done in a way to prepare Lara for my next level."
Elvis: "One of your online profiles very informatively states that your interests consist of Music, mUsic, muSic, musIc, musiC. What kind of music do you fancy? Do you write any music yourself by any chance?"
Loch: "Ahh forgive me for being a bit of a blank page there, I get a bit lost for words with those things. I appreciate all styles of music at different times but I'm a real sucker for good pub rock. I do write, I try to as often as I can using a program called Fruity Loops. Just Instrumentals so far, I've yet to finish anything with words. Fingers crossed…"
Elvis: "Dreaming for a Revelation, at least for me, sets what your style is all about very well - inventive, unique and humorous. Is it a goal to make something out of the ordinary when you build, or does it come naturally to you?"
Loch: "It's a goal I do have now but it wasn't initially. I remember reading in the reviews that "Busting" was a bit strange (in a positive way), so I decided to really push that idea for whatever I was going to do next; And I thought a dream would be the easiest way to go for it. Being able to have completely different ideas for puzzles and locations was really fun; I never needed worry if things didn't make sense anymore - I encourage every one to do it! That way you can get rid of those puzzles and scenarios that have been stuck in your head for so long, without having to build multiple levels to fit around them. As for Humour, I like to use it when I can. I know how frustrating playing can get sometimes when you're stuck (I'm reaaaaally sorry about the first puzzles in The Killing Fields :P ) so a bit of comical relief can only help I guess."
Elvis: "Where do you find inspiration for the ideas in your custom levels?"
Loch: "Movies, other games, luck! I've spent a lot of time staring at a blank piece of paper too. I love thinking of puzzles and how I can play with the player's mind. A mistake I've made a few times is building big areas before thinking up much of the game play that would fill them. Worst case of this was with "The Killing Fields" - I had built the big rooms at the start with not much thought for the puzzles. I remember spending ages thinking what the hell am I going to do now with this huge space! I almost put a switch on the wall inside the red temple that opened the waterfall gate to be done with it. But it was too little game play for an area that size, so I left it alone until I could think of something better. Part of the reason I put sniper spots into the Killing Fields was to fill in the few barren areas left with some form of game play."
Elvis: "What do you find to be the more challenging aspects of level building?"
Loch: "If you asked me to create a door that requires a key to open it with I wouldn't know what to do, I've never done it before. But I wouldn't say it was the building or puzzles of a level, they should come eventually. For me it's been the bugs and the tedious crashing errors you ALWAYS get at some point, always! They can really throw you off track and stop you from placing one more brick. And even when you finish and release a level they can still haunt you. Two of my levels still crash for some people, that is hard to hear after you've had to compromise by removing rooms or objects to get it stable in the first place, it's the reason why I've had so few baddy's in my levels."
Elvis: "Is there something we would never see in a level of yours?"
Loch: "I decided a while ago I wouldn't base a level around an ancient artefact or something Lara has to do to save the world. Maybe it's because there's not much there that hasn't already been done. So stories along those lines don't really hold much interest to me anymore. I'm doing my best not to ever use a lock and key as well - don't ask me why! It's just a dumb habit I've gotten myself into."
Elvis: "The patched exe files - worth the freedom they give for level builders or to be avoided, because they alienate Mac players?"
Loch: "Yeah, ain't it great what you can do with the old girl now! It looks like there are some huge advantages for sure but I'm a little worried that it will start to feel less like Tomb Raider (whatever that means). Just as I love the effort that goes into creating new Lara animations, to me there's something eerie about them. Still I think we are going to see some really cool levels soon. Sucks for Mac players, I guess the best case scenario is to release two version of a level - one with the patch and one without if it's possible."
Elvis: "While keeping that thought in mind - knowing how much effort can be invested into the customization of levels starting from a different outfit to custom objects, animations and executable files, do you think it just takes too darn long to come up with a good level these days?"
Loch: "I'd be lying if I said no here as much as I want too. In a small way I wish it would slow down so I could keep up, I've barely touched the animation editor let alone had a good look at the Nextgen Level Editor. It's (almost) possible to imagine FMV's becoming a standard thing to have! From the other side though, building a level for the BTB06 competition was awesome because of that 'basics' approach and the fact that everything you have available to build with is chosen by somebody else; so you can't go into a frenzy over which of those 100 doors you like the best, you get what your given and off you go! Even still I believe that there's a lot yet to be seen using just the original level editor files."
Elvis: "Do you play the levels of other builders as well? If so - do you have any favourites?"
Loch: "I do, I've played a lot. When the old level listing system was in place at trle.net it was fun to scroll the page and pick up a random level to play. I'm drawn towards the weird and twisted ones so I'm a big fan of Staticon's "Lara's Dream" series also "Lara in a Box" to me is gold - you know there's no way out but you still have to try; and of course the infamous "Tomb Raider Crazy"."
Elvis: "Your entry in the Back to Basics 2006 competition "The Killing Fields" was very well received. In fact if I remember well - it was the runner up of the competition! On that note - are you satisfied with how your levels have been received so far? How important is feedback to you?"
Loch: "Yes. Playing them over again recently I feel very lucky. I was a bit defensive at first over "Busting" when the reviews started coming in. It can be a bit of a shock to get 'criticized' when you land your first level after all the time and learning that goes into a first release. But now I have to look back and laugh because I couldn't be more grateful for the advice and direction it had provided me with. I think the feedback is invaluable."
Elvis: "It apparently wasn't that long ago when no one thought feature films could be a form of art. Do you think video games in general have the potential, or are they doomed to be for entertainment purposes only?"
Loch: "I don't think I'd spend much time trying to describe what art is but it doesn't have many boundaries that I know of. It's a collective type of art isn't it? - Moving images are still made up of single images. If you can get something out of it then to me that's good enough. I don't think it really matters either way, it's just a tag."
Elvis: "It seems to me that the TRLE scene is predominantly European. Could you tell us what your associations with Australia are, since I think it's needless to add about the stereotypes we have over here (boomerangs and kangaroos and all that)! Also, do you keep in touch with other Aussie builders or players?"
Loch: "Well it's a pretty informal country to live in, and a big one at that - it can take hours in the car just to get to the next town. There's also a great mix of cultures here so there's plenty of variety in the food. I wish I could say more but I haven't had the chance to travel around and see much of it yet. For the other question - I'm not much of a forum poster (Argh! nearly 100 posts!!) - So I haven't had much contact with any builders or players let alone Aussie ones!"
Elvis: "And finally - are you working on something at the moment, what you could give others a sneak preview of?"
Loch: "I have done a story and a level draft which I started after BTB06 and a couple of rooms, but have had to put it aside until I can get the patience for the late nights with the editor again. It's the first time for me the story came before the building so I don't know how that's going to play out. The name was going to be something like 'Child of the Scion' If that gives you any ideas…"
Elvis: "It sure does! Thank you for taking your time for this interview!"