Ian: "So Lucas, just tell me a few essential things about yourself. You know the sort of info. It may already have been written elsewhere in an earlier interview, but life must surely have moved on for you over the past five years?"
Lucas: "Well, not really so much to tell the truth. I've finished the high school and currently I'm not interested in college/university at all. I'm seeing both psychiatrist and psychologist as I've been troubled long enough with SAD (Social Anxiety Disorder), or sociophobia if you prefer. Though I don't think that's essential, lol. But oh well, what's more basic? I'm turning 22 next month, still living with parents, no big plans for the future. I live in the southern region of Brazil, the bottom state (Rio Grande do Sul, which would translate as something similar to "Big South River"). It's a thirld world country, so it can't be compared to any lifestyle similar to those of Europe or the USA. I don't know really what's its image like for those who are outside, but it's rather normal. I'd love to move in to the UK, for some reason it's always fascinated me. Unfortunately I've never been abroad."
Ian: "I assume you came to TR like all the rest of us? Read about it/played a demo/saw it in the shops..? Was it life-changing?"
Lucas: "I was introduced to Tomb Raider back when TR2 was a new release. I often saw Lara in magazines but never understood why they would always hank TR higher than Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat games (favorites at the time), then just out of curiosity I borrowed it. Spent at least two days trying to do the very first jump in the Great Wall, and very frustrated I was. Then I asked for a tip and he told me the secret "three steps back and then run and jump" technique, and from there it flowed pretty much naturally. I had to return it before I could get past the fourth level, but that was enough - a month or so after that I got myself TR1 Gold and got hooked on it, playing and replaying time after time, until my sister gave me TR2 Gold. Life changing? I guess that could be said, after all, it relates to my social problems and Lara's been with me ever since. I don't spent money on that what I don't like, and turns out I keep a relatively large collection of Tomb Raider items these days, not as large as I wish it was, though."
Ian: "Let's get down to business by discussing each of your levels in turn.
Young Driver: This was very much a 'getting the hang of things' level. Although your choice of an action-oriented theme (as opposed to Tomb) was probably a good early signpost as to what sort of style you were heading for. Your own opinions?"
Lucas: "Actually this was a failed experiment, I guess. It was meant to be interesting, but after I finished it once I couldn't be bothered to play through again myself, and I've thrown it online. It's something I regret, yes, but to be perfectly honest, I definitely hadn't read the manual when I built this."
Ian: "You mean you were just winging it? In that case, was it difficult to get to grips with all the LE essentials?"
Lucas: "I don't think it was difficult to understand the basics which I put in that... 'thing'... but the result clearly shows it was a careless exploit on the idea of having Young Lara driving a jeep. Something Sam did better on his Angkor Wat modification, which came out a few days earlier than mine, IIRC."
Ian: "Checkers Board: I thought this was quirky and very much showed a 'personality'. No bland Tomb stuff here. Incredibly short,though. Are you embarrassed by these early works, or do you see them as essential places to visit on the road to level-building success?"
Lucas: "Same as Young Driver, I'm afraid, if I could turn back time (wish I sure hope we can never do) I wouldn't have released it either. It sounded like an interesting concept to me back then, and building it was fun, didn't take long."
Ian: "Why did you decide to release these 'trial runs'?"
Lucas: "I guess I just really wanted to have my name down somewhere on Michael's lists, so I went out and did quick tests and pushed them into other people's computers. The only good thing about Checkers Board is that it's incredibly short, a larger version of Lara's in a Box, if you will, and a great opportunity to increase anyone's review count."
Ian: "Tomb of Nefertari: At last, an adventure with a 'beginning, middle and end' (go into the Tomb, grab the prize, get out). But it was all rather short, I thought. After such quirky 'demos', why take the safe, easy route?"
Lucas: "Actually this was indeed my first real attempt at a level. Inspired by Leandro's Abu Simbel (back then we used to change emails daily), I thought I also could use his font of inspiration. From the same series of magazines, I got this map from Nefertari's tomb and simply transported it into the Level Editor. As expected, the rooms ended up being just huge and plain empty, the outside was a rushed job (tried to recreate Leandro's effect, but simply failed) and the rooms filled with goodies which many people might wonder were actually meant to be like that. The magazine did say all of offering to Nefertari were stored in those two lateral rooms. A shame really. If I had the skills not only I could have made it a tad longer going wild with something underneath the temple that real archaeology hadn't uncovered, but I could have made it worthwhile and interesting."
Ian: "Mention of Leandro's Abu Simbel reminds me that the two of you worked closely together, didn't you? Did you ever collaborate on a level? Do you still keep in touch with him?"
Lucas: "When he started on his TombRaider is not Enough project, I was meant to collaborate with a level for the second part, and I even got all the basics from him, just had to finish it off. I never did, and shortly after I told him I was having trouble making the level worthwhile he said he'd lost inspiration as well. He kinda fell off the world, though, so we haven't had any sort of contact ever since shortly after AOD was released. A pity, really, as he was a nice guy and also offered something fun in his levels."
Ian: "Perhaps Leandro might read this and be prompted to get back in touch with you again? Anyway, moving on: Isis Challenge
This is your first indisputibly proper adventure. It's smart and fun and features one of the very first appearences of the 'not Lara' style of Gameplay. Do you recall how you originally came up with that concept?"
Lucas: "Actually I do. Sophia for some reason always had a spark on me, and even though when I played TR3 I had no idea what they were talking about (simply because I didn't speak English back then), I liked her as a baddie. When Leandro told me she was now a playable character in the level editor I thought about remaking the level where you originally fight her in TR3 but offer you the opportunity to explore it as Sophia instead. Obviously it was a too ambitious project and I was trying to take a step larger than my legs. I came up with the 'dual adventure' concept, have Sophia run away and Lara after her, but both do the same things with the exception Lara gets to break into Sophia's building(in a rushed outside design, I should add) and I think in this level both of them could retrieve the artifact, which was completely senseless. Later on I reissued the level as Lara's only, but that went unnoticed as it clearly had nothing special about it. I think the version available these days offer both sides of the adventure - probably a sore attempt at making gameplay longer. I even started to remake this before starting on Vendetta, and after adding a few buttons and a lot of lighting/reflection on Sophia's office, I gave up and dumped the whole thing. Felt like it was a waste to put so much work into a revised version which few people would care about."
Ian: "Intrusion: If you don't mind me saying, I have always felt this to be one of those 'mis-understood gems'. (I'm sure every level builder feels they've built one!) IMO it's a terrific and original level, and I can't think of another which has the same scenario.
First, though, can you clear up the 'two versions of the level' story? I played the second version, I believe. What was different about the first?"
Lucas: "It was the first time I played with the idea of making Lara's house, and it turned out to be a tad smaller and more boring than her original versions, but never mind that. The 'dual adventure' comes in again, first you play as Sophia, unhappy for having lost her artifact for Lara, and break into her house while Lara's in a shower. Sophia brings her army, which fights against Lara's personnel while her actions take place. Sophia steals not only the artifact she'd lost, but also the other three pieces of the meteorite. Later on you get to play as Lara, who just got dressed up and when she decides to check her new artifact, she notices they're all gone. For some reason she knows it's just happened (probably her personnel still fighting the intruders) and rides a car after the thief. And this 'dual adventure', likewise was reissued later as a single level, featuring only Sophia's part of the story. It probably went unnoticed as well, but just like the other level, both pieces are short. Sophia having the four artifacts also set the first thoughts for the last part of the trilogy."
Ian: "Bunker: Another solid offering, but more of a straightforward 'shoot-em up'. A step back after the originality of your previous two levels,... or not?"
Lucas: "Again under Leandro's influence, I wanted to rebuild one of my favorite levels of another game (GoldenEye 007, for Nintendo 64). Leandro's level, Aztec Complex, however was much better than mine (and he offered the 'dual adventure' style in his, and if you get all secrets you get to play through the same mission as a third character). I think it served its purpose well, though obviously I feel it could have been so much more. I wanted to stay true to the original, though, so you can say it's a remake of sorts and you know how remakes go... "
Ian: "Funny you should mention that because next up for you was: Tomb of Qualopec.
A Remake! What drew you to this type of concept? Surely it can't be satisfying to follow so exactly in the path of someone else?"
Lucas: "KingSpyder did. I always loved TR1 and wanted to help him out by remaking a few levels. Tomb of Qualopec is probably my favorite level of the first game, so it was obvious which one I wanted to do first. It was a nice feeling to be able to compare them side by side and see that the remake was damn good, texturewise (I even kept the stretched/compressed ones). I failed miserably with the lighting and the gameplay also suffered a bit due to my own limitations back then. I kept saying I'd revise it and make it worthwhile, fixing the wrongs, but never got back to do so, and then, today you have Daoine's remake, which is much better than I could ever do."
Ian: "And now, Vendetta: Ah yes, a bona-fide classic. If I were to say (purely hypothetically, you understand!) that all your previous releases were basically just steps along the path to this particular adventure, would you think I was being unduly harsh?"
Lucas: "I would say you are right. Vendetta is probably the one piece I put most effort into it, and I was terribly afraid it wouldn't be well received, that it would just fall short like the previous releases did (hence the long explanations in the readme). It really doesn't offer a lot, in comparison to other levels, but I think what makes it worthwhile is the setting and the objects, which were all modified to some extent to give the level a fresh look. Even Lara's outfit..."
Ian: "Looking back from a distance of nearly three years since Vendetta was released, how do you regard your levels? With nostalgia? With fondness or embarassment?"
Lucas: "I wouldn't know how to answer that. Out of all I've done levelediting-wise, I'm only fond of Vendetta and the two Eidos Community levels, the rest is part of history that could easily be disregarded, but the truth is, Vendetta is the third part of a trilogy, so you have to have the other two. And then there's Bunker II, which brings me back memories of when I was at least ten years younger and playing the original game nonstop with brothers and casual friends."
Ian: "You reminded me of the Eidos levels which I had completely forgotten and which you were instrumental in organising! How did that all come about? Were there difficulties in co-ordinating it?"
Lucas: "The original concept was brought up by Data when she was a moderator at Eidos Forums a good while back, in 2001 I'd guess. It was going very slow as she didn't set any deadline and most of the members simply failed to comply with her rules back then. I thought the few screenies looked very promising and asked her if I could see what the project was looking like and from then I took over. Most of the members who'd signed up to take part on it were simply out of touch and so I ended up with a very different list of builders to the ones signed up originally. The first level was a little harder to deal with as it was meant to go through every person at least three times. We cut it down to two - one to build the rooms (no objects, textures or lighting) and the second to finish the rooms. However, when the second round came about, most of the builders were out of reach, so we ended up taking some liberties and finished their rooms. Whether we stayed true to their original concept or not is something we'll never know. The second also came to a halt for lots of problems on my end. It was not until someone here at trle.net asked whatever happened to it that I got back on it, a good whole year after anything had been done on it. I got Elvis' help to finish it, simply because I'd gone completely rusty on the editor, and it's out there and available now. I'm very proud of both of these levels."
Ian: "Which parts did you physically build?"
Lucas: "I built the final rooms in Uno, where you use the eye to finish the level, and the middle rooms in Deux, where you pick up the Carionas artifact."
Ian: "Would you do another if asked?"
Lucas: "If there was any sort of interest, I think it could turn out to be fun again, but hopefully all should be done and resolved within a year at most."
Ian: "Do you look upon your levels as being part of you? A sort of legacy?"
Lucas: "I think they can be defined as part of me indeed. A burden I'll carry for the rest of my life, which as far as I can foresee, will always be accompanied by Tomb Raider."
Ian: "Now, there's absolutely nothing to be ashamed of in your level building output! You have the same philosophy as me, I feel; provide the player with unpretentious fun. Your levels are entertainments! As long as the level listing exists, your levels will also exist. Look upon them as small legacies,if you like. "Treeble was here!"
One final question.The all important Gameplay factor. What takes priority in a custom level... appearance or playability?"
Lucas: "I suppose both are equally as important, and if done properly they can render fantastic levels, but I think I'd go for playability instead, I'm not one player to stand still for long in a same spot, I like to "fly through the environments", without caring much about what the areas look like, though I do pay some attention to them. I suppose what I'm trying to say is that gameplay should be obvious enough so it doesn't become a frustrating experience or a chore to play through."
Ian: "Would it be conceivable that we may see another 'Treeble Adventure' before too long?"
Lucas: "Quite possibly. "
Ian: "If that is the case,I very much look forward to playing it."
Editor's note: See also an earlier interview.