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Pascal Ducey aka MagPlus back homepage search
interviewed by Matthias Heuermann aka Dimpfelmoser in July 2002; with additional questions by Tina Barrett aka Data

Matthias: Pascal Ducey"What part of France do you live in and what's it like?"

Pascal: "I live in the eastern part of France, near Switzerland and Germany, in a small village called Chenebier. I was born in Belfort which is 10 kms from where I live. This town is known for a great sculpture which represents a lion. This scuplture has been realized by Mr Bartholdi who's also known for the famous Statue of Liberty in New York. This lion is also the symbol of a well known French car's logo ;-)."

Matthias: "The first ten parts of your Rescue series went down a storm (Rescue 1-4, Rescue 5, Rescue 6, Rescue 7, Rescue 8-10). Then you decided to switch from a rather traditional environment to something more spacey. Were you bored with the old stuff and were you anxious about whether people would like the new style?"

Pascal: "Well, I was not bored with traditionnal Egyptian-like environments. I just wanted to experiment with something else. It is just because of comments from some players who were a little bit bored with my previous levels that I decided to build something new. I did not want to create something new only for me, but also new for the players. As it becomes more and more difficult to have good ideas for new kind of puzzles (especially after more than 600 levels), I decided to concentrate my task on building new objects, new enemies and also, the most difficult for me, to find new textures or a simple good mix that gives a new sensation. Of course, puzzles are the link and make a gameplay attractive or not. This 11th level (The Hidden Experiment) The Rescue 11 - The Hidden Experimentwas a real challenge to myself, and I must admit I did not take as much pleasure to build it as I could take to create the 1st ones of the serie. Therefore, I was a little bit anxious, but also for many other reasons than whether people would like it or not. And I am not the only one to feel a little bit nervous before reading some comments ;-)."

Matthias: "After 700+ levels, is there still room for innovation?"

Pascal's dog

Pascal: "Fortunately, I keep thinking there's still room for innovation. Now, the problem is that it becomes harder and harder to find something new with our old-good level editor. But, inspiration and creation can easily compensate the 3D limits of the program. A new puzzle can be a mix of others. That's what I made with waterskins and vases for example. Other level builders found also some good ways of using the torch. Palopique created clever puzzles using simple raising blocks or push/pull blocs. Personnaly, I have a new project in mind to be experienced with the level editor. I can only say it won't be Egyptian-like. But before, I have to finish The Rescue series with level #12 plus the bonus one. And I think it will take a long time to release that."

Data (chips in): "If an 'Angel of Darkness' level editor should surface, would you still use the original level editor?"

Pascal: "I don't think so. 3D game engine of TRIV and Level Editor is out-of-date now. I am a little bit bored with all these square rooms, broken angles, etc... Something smoother with rounded angles (apart from Lara of course ;-)) would be nicer and closer to reality. A new level editor would be a chance to keep the motivation to create new kind of levels."

Matthias: "You once said that you were a bit touchy when it came to ratings. What advice can you give to the ignorant (i.e. non level builder) player to make their reviews more just."

Pascal: "I think I am a bit touchy because I am too much of perfectionist. And, when I - I should say other players - discover some bugs in one of my levels once it is released, I can't forgive myself for not finding them before! Though, I should be aware of that. As I am an analyst programmer, I know what it is to test programs and sometimes discover bugs one year later!! Well, I don't know if there is a rule for writing a review about a level. But I noticed in some cases that reviews are mainly based on the player's preferences. According to me, it is a mistake. As we say in France, and may be in other countries : 'It is not because you don't like that you have to disgust the others' ;-) So, I think each player should be able to distinguish what is good and what is not in a level independently from his/her own taste. I know it is very difficult, escpecially to find a good compromise between taste, game pleasure, correctness and final notes."

Matthias: "Yes, but with almost 9 reviews per level average, wouldn't it be boring if everyone concentrated on the objective qualities, thus making all reviews alike. For instance, the qualities of your levels are rather obvious, so aren't you interested in what some people don't like about them (even if it's very personal)?"

Pascal's home

Pascal: "You're perfectly right. I am interested by what people don't like in my levels. That's what I watched carefully to create level #11. You know, hidden switches, not enough cameras, etc... These comments are very usefull to improve the work, and it does not bother me at all if the given note is decreased because of that. That's normal. However, I think it is not fair to decrease a cathegory like 'Textures' or 'Gameplay' only for one subjective reason which is for example : 'I don't like this kind of landscape'. This has no sense and is absolutely whimsical."

Matthias: "If you look back to your first level and what you are doing now. What would you say has changed as far as your approach to creating levels is concerned. Is there anything you don't like anymore in the Rescue part one?"

Pascal: "Well, sometimes, I open my old levels in the editor, and I often ask myself: 'how did I make that?' :-) You see, I think it was more cheerful to create levels in the past. The reason is simple : I was like a child in front of a new toy ;-) However, to tell you what I don't like anymore (things I already done, yet), I would say: I don't really like puzzles in which you pull a lever that opens a door too far from it, just in order to increase the time of gameplay, especially in multiple interconnected levels. The player can be completly lost, and the pleasure decreases terribly, even if the scenery is nice. I also hate mazes in which you are not able to figure out where you came from and where you have to go. Simple different wall textures, or some objects, or a map can be very helpful. In general, I don't really like too complicate puzzles anymore, and I know I made some ;-) However, a difficult puzzle (or enigma) is good if it is concentrated in one place, in order to make the player take the right decisions; and then have the sensation to beat the builder. The opposite should not be!"

Lara Croft and the Knights of Terafosia

Matthias: "I think we all agree on that. Throughout your levels you can find secret stars that might eventually take you to a bonus level. Do you believe that without Ted's walkthroughs someone would be able to find all of them?"

Pascal: "Many players found them without the walkthroughs ;-) Ted made it, Lumi (one of my beta-testers for TRO) made it, and I am sure many others, and all withouth hints ;-) That depends on the accuracy of the player. One thing is sure, levels made with the editor are not for the beginners. May be it is a mistake!"

Matthias: "What advice would you give to someone who wants to start with the Level Editor?"

Pascal: "To someone who starts with the level editor, I would like to say: 'Read, read and read again the manual. I know it is a tedious task, but it pays. Don't hesitate to refer to it when it is necessary. Start with a simple level based on an existing wad, in order to avoid facing some difficult bugs, like memory limits, game crashing. Try to put the most different things in the level. It is a good way to test the editor and learn a maximum: water rooms, outside rooms, horizontal connections, flipped rooms, etc... That's what I made when I built my 1st level, which is, in fact the number 4 of The Rescue series. I decided 6 months later to incorporate it in the serie. Then, I had to change many things, increase its gameplay and give it some sense in the story. To render your level, use lights, spots and shadows, and most of all, the sun which gives better effects. I say this simple thing because I saw many little levels which could have been much better only if the builder had taken the time to organize the lighting. This is a beginner mistake I also made myself, to concentrate too much on the puzzles, and not enough on the architecture and its rendering effects. Finally, enjoy creating. Then, it will be easily perceptible in the game."

Matthias: "Were you inspired by a particular level?"

Pascal: "First, I never wanted to play other levels in order to be not influenced. It was very important for me to create what I have in mind without copying anything. After level 10, I took a long break and decided to play other levels that Hans Willi Brüggen (Palopique) kindly sent to me. Well, I think many are very good, but the best level would be a mix of many of them. I loved the architecture and lighting from René Brooymans (Piega)'s levels, logical puzzles and nice effects from Palopique's Search for Imhotep, and also atmosphere and fluent gameplay from John Heywood (Inchdix)'s Celtic folly. Something funny, I wouldn't want to play my own levels ;-) They would be too hard for me :-)."

Matthias: "Bearing in mind how much effort Level Builders put into their levels, do you think they should get more recognition?"

Pascal's car

Pascal: "This is a crucial question. I think the ultimate recognition should come from Core-Design, or at least from Eidos. A public or a personnal message would be very appreciated. I've never heard any thoughts or comments coming from Core or Eidos about amateur's levels. Did they have a look to some levels? A real dream would be to go and visit Core's studios and see what is a team work in game design."

Tina: "If your computer were confiscated, would you change your life style, or simply fall into depression?"

Pascal: "Indeed, it would be very very hard some times, as computer is part of my life, but not enough to fall into depression. Depression has nothing to deal with material cares. Today, computer is more than a simple tool. It allows you to talk to many people from around the world. And having the opportunity to meet the persons with who you exchanged many mails, is the ultimate materialization of the virtual side of internet. Computer makes the world smaller and smaller :-)."

Matthias: "“What would you do if the Level Editor had never been released?"

Pascal: "Being able to create my own levels was really a great opportunity. Many thanx to Core and Eidos for that. I bought TRV on December 2000 as soon as the CD was available in France, and started immediatly building a level, even before trying the game. That represents now 20 months of work, and The Rescue is still not over, and is though more than 25 hours of gameplay! So, I am still wondering what I would have done if the level editor had neverbeen released! Maybe, I would keep playing other games, eagerly waiting for the next Tomb Raider ;-)."

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