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Terry Barrett aka dhama back homepage search
interviewed by Kevin Learwood aka Staticon in September 2002

Kev: "How, and when, did you discover Tomb Raider?"

Terry Barrett

Terry: "That's an original question. (laughs) There was a demo of the game on the PC Format magazine cover disk. It wasn't so much the game that drew my attention as the picture of Lara Croft. I thought that this would be something different. When I actually played the demo, I was so frustrated by the constantly changing camera angles that I gave up on it. But then a new GL patch became available and I decided to try again. This time, I could not leave it alone."

Kev: "Why did you start creating levels?"

Terry: "Interesting question. Basically, I felt that 'Chronicles' was too short I completed it in twelve hours. That left me with time on my hands before starting my new music album so I thought I'd take a look at the editor to see if it was easy to use. It wasn't. At least, it didn't seem to be in reality. Truthfully, in the early days of editing, you helped considerably."

Kev: "I'm sure that the learning process was more a joint effort in those days. Still, enough about me. Do you mind when I nick your ideas and use them in my own levels?"

Terry: "I don't think that you could be accused of nicking the ideas. There is only so much that can be done with the editor, wads, objects and so forth that frequent overlaps are bound to occur."

Kev: "Anyway, we digress. What drives you to continue creating levels?"

Terry: "My PC (laughs). Seriously, I find level creation totally absorbing. Even though I have released no levels since Tower Bridge 2, I have experimented with a couple of levels that did not go anywhere for me and I am currently in the middle of a new level called 'Temple Of Thieves'. I hope to have it finished as soon as possible but I've been having 'Data' problems."

Tower Bridge 2 - The Last Renovation

Kev: "Data problems?"

Terry: "No comment." (laughs)

Kev: "Having done two 'Egyptian' levels, may we infer that you are a fan of this type of level?"

Terry: "

Cleopatra's Other Palace wasn't exactly an Egyptian level, but, being stuck with Egyptian wads, enemies, objects and the like, lent an Egyptian feel to a European type villa. I did write in the readme file for this level that it was set in an abandoned castle once occupied by a collector of Egyptian artefacts. Little Tomb of Egypt is the only truly Egyptian level, which was made purely because I'd not made one before. Generally, I prefer to create levels that are unique or in unusual places."

Kev: "Like Tower Bridge, for instance. What gave you the idea for that one?"

Terry: "Although there was already a rich diversity of custom levels by the time Tower Bridge Incident was done, they mostly followed the standard treasure hunt or shoot-em-up scenarios. I wanted to do something totally different. After thinking about it for a while, Tower Bridge popped into my mind. Once I'd started working on it and started to overcome some of the technical difficulties, I remember thinking 'What have I let myself in for here?' But I persevered and the rest, as they say, is history."

Kev: "And why revisit the theme in Tower Bridge 2 - The Last Renovation?"

Terry: "Basically, I was harried into it, public demand for a follow up. The first was mainly constructed as an exercise to see if it could be done. Many people liked the idea but said that it lacked gameplay, so I re-did it and tried to make it even more realistic at the same time. Most of the textures were custom created from photographs of the real Tower Bridge instead of the drawings used in the first level."

Village of the Damned

Kev: "Another unique level was Village of The Damned. What was the reasoning behind this one?"

Terry: "I like creating architecture and thought, 'How about a sleepy mining village to explore?' So I started building these two-storey cottages. I also attempted to make this level less linear to give the player greater freedom to explore, including an opportunity for some rooftop exploration."

Kev: "It was hardly a 'sleepy' village. More menacing."

Terry: "Well, the village was supposed to be set at night. Once built, there didn't seem to be enough for exploration alone, I had no ideas for any puzzles as such I just thought it would make a change to take part in an adventure rather than solve puzzles, but it had to have some enemies though. The S.A.S. soldiers were first choice here so I used the city wad. I wasn't going to use the motorbike at first but did so eventually just to add another element to the gameplay."

Kev: "Well, it seems to have worked well. It certainly had that 'ghost town' feel to it."

Terry: "Well, ever since I started level building I have striven for realism."

Kev: "I see that you and I are both credited with assisting Tina on Castle Doomsday. I know I provided the voice of Doomsday, what did you do?"

Terry: "I helped in creating the atmosphere of the environment. Whenever Tina did any work on the level, she would show it to me and ask 'Does this look good?' Nine times out of ten I would say no and she would then tweak and modify it until it was right. I think that, overall, she did a better job of it than I could have."

Would you buy a used custom level from this man?

Kev: "Do you play other builders custom levels?"

Terry: "I have played a number of them."

Kev: "Opinions?"

Terry: "Most of the levels I've played seem to have a certain unrealistic feel to them. It's hard to pin down textures, puzzles and the like are just a little over the top when compared to the original game levels. Don't get me wrong though, there have been some levels I have played and enjoyed. The first one that I played that had the WOW-factor would have to be GeckoKid's 'Beneath The Forbidden City'. There was one level, though, that I felt was particularly overrated. It was ... (that got you Matthias) (laughs)"

Kev: "And what about reviewing?"

Terry: "I have given up reviewing now. When I first started, it gave me a feeling of power, it felt good but then I realised that criticising other level builders work was like criticising myself. I felt that I had no right to criticise other people's levels when my own levels were not perfect. In my humble opinion I now think that some reviewers are over-critical of some levels if they don't like them and under-critical of the ones they do like. This does not mean that other reviewers are wrong, but I felt that this was something I could not carry on with. Having said all that, the whole level index and review idea was totally inspired. Michael has done a brilliant job with it over the last couple of years."

Kev: "OK! Mandatory TR questions coming up. Which is your favourite official TR level?"

Terry: "It would have to be the cistern level from TR1. A cleverly put together puzzle. Just great overall."

Kev: "What about a favourite from your own levels?"

Castle Doomsday 4 - Chronicles

Terry: "Tower Bridge 2. It was great fun to create and I still have fun playing it."

Kev: "And now the big one. What is your favourite custom level?"

Terry: "I think it would have to be Catacomb Towers. It is a nicely balanced level which never once frustrated me. Not too difficult and not too easy. Just right."

Kev: "Have you seen the TR movie and, if so, what did you think of it?"

Terry: "Yes. I have only one thing to say about the movie 'Bugger'. We just don't use that word in the UK as often as the film portrays. It was the only thing that spoilt the film for me. One thing I did like, though. I must be psychic because Tower Bridge appeared in the film a few months after my level. Simon West must have got the idea from me. (laughs) Smug? Me? Nah! (laughs)"

Kev: "What do you get up to when not creating Tomb Raider levels?"

Terry: "I dabble in music composition. Here's the scenario. Starting in November. Buy the latest TR game Play TR game Finish TR game. By this time it's usually the end of January as I like to take my time on the levels. To savour them if you will. Then I am raring to go with my next musical compositions. These generally take four to six months, at which point I take a break from music and replay the previous Tomb Raider game. Usually, I finish playing again in time for November when the next new TR game is released. The whole cycle then repeats once again."

Kev: "That was fine for the first five games but there has been a bit of a gap since the last one came out. How did you fill the time?"

Retro AoD - The Dig (Demo)

Terry: "Easy. Level editing. I've not written much music during the last eighteen months except for one or two tunes and some music for a couple of level builders including Doomsday's last two outings. Also, I have recently finished creating a web site containing all my music so that all may hear it who wish to. It's at http://www.dhama.co.uk"

Kev: "Do you get up to anything else besides music?"

Terry: "Lots of things. Too many to mention. Basically, whatever takes my interest at the time."

Kev: "OK. I know you said no comment earlier but, what we all really want is some dirt on Tina."

Terry: "Hmmm, OK. She is not a good cook. She is, perhaps, the only person I know who can burn water. And since her interview is already done, she can't say anything bad about me. Nah, nah, nah, naaaaah, naaah..."

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