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interviewed by Matthias Heuermann aka Dimpfelmoser in January 2003

Matthias: "Why did you never built a level based on the City Wad?"

Will Gell

Will: "Because I don't like it! After Temple of Sobek my intention was to do a 'City' level. However, I'd had a lot of trouble with 'Sobek' due to an upgrade to a GeForce2 video card. It just didn't like the editor at all. I could only see textures in one room at a time which really made a chore of creating a level. That's partly why there were some texture and lighting weaknesses in my last two levels. I did try starting a 'City' level after I finished 'Sobek' but as I say I just plain don't like the textures or the wad. Placing textures in such a level has to be done so very carefully. Underground you can get away with flinging on texture very quickly but to create building etc each texture needs to be carefully planned. A lot of work! I didn't like the City of the Dead etc in TRLR either! Also I think it might have been a bit out of place in my series I think. I've always looked to TR1 for inspiration. It's my favourite game of all time. I much prefer to have Lara exploring a deep, dark, long forgotten tomb rather than racing about the streets somewhere. I don't like overcomplicated non linear levels. I've always created the kind of levels that I liked to play. TR1 was brilliant. At times there was no attempt by the designers to replicate anything remotely realistic. They made full use of the games quirks and really built the game around its platform roots. Take St Francis's Folly for example. What the heck was that? But boy was it fun!! The only levels that let the game down were the Natla's Mines levels but they were still OK. In my Caves of Amun, I didn't place any enemies except right at the end as a wee surprise. I always enjoyed TR more once I'd gone round and killed off all the enemies. Then I had time to explore and solve the puzzles in peace. I wanted a whole level like that. Just jumping, puzzle solving and exploring. I know some people really enjoy street levels or levels in modern buildings but I don't care for them much. I'm very much a taditional tomb raider. Gimme a dark creepy tomb, some locked gates, some water and spooky dark tunnels and I'm a happy raider!"

Matthias: "Yes, and I sometimes wish the crawl function had never been invented. If you could have a new feature with the LE, what would it be?"

Temple of Sobek

Will: "Just the ability to use all wads from all five TR games with ease. It's too restrictive. I think it was shocking that Core didn't even release all the TRLR wads. It's been left to all the great guys out there who have developed all the 3rd party software like TRWest etc. So much is owed to them by all the builders. And something to maybe make creating outdoors easier by eliminating the horizon problem. I hate that!!... I really, really hate that!! 8^{"

Matthias: "Have you played any custom levels yourself?"

Will: "I have to confess not many no and certainly non recently. I did some beta testing for some people way back. I can't remember them now... (I have an awful memory... lol). But they were good with much more constructive work to the rooms than I ever do.. To be honest I don't play TR anymore and making levels is enough. I have to play and replay through my own so much to test them that the last thing I really want to do is to play more TR in between times. There are many other games and I have other hobbies. I just don't have the time with a full time job, wife, son etc... I wish I did..."

Cheers!

Matthias: "What is your full time job?"

Will: "I work in the Land Register. I basically decide the extent of peoples properties that get shown on the plans in their Land Certificate. It's very, very boring... And I've been doing it for eighteen years!!!"

Matthias: "Any ambitions to look for other career opportunities?"

Will: "No. It's a bit late in the day really. My job pays OK and is very secure. That's something to be thankful for these days. Also I have a good pension with it etc. I'd be mad to throw all that away to risk something else. Especially with a wee one to bring up. My job is a bit weird and doesn't really qualify me to do anything else so if I did change jobs I'd be starting right at the bottom again. I really don't want to do that! I wish there had been the IT opportunities when I was younger that there is now. I'd like to have been an IT technician. I love building and fixing computers."

Matthias: "I remember your very finitive statement about stopping level building on your website. It seemed such a deliberate decision. What brought this about?"

Will: "After I did Lost City of Menouthis, I really felt I'd had enough. As any level builder will tell you these things take a lot of work to put together if you want the level to be half decent. I felt I had run out of ideas and was finding the whole thing a bit stressful. I was clicking on little squares in my sleep!!! I started 'Temple of Sobek' but quit for about three weeks. Then I went back to it after I did a big upgrade to my computer. Then I discovered the video card problem I mentioned earlier. I was determined to finish my series and soldiered on but I didn't enjoy making 'Temple of Sobek' or Return to The Trench. I think that shows in those levels. They were both rushed. And when you stop enjoying something it's time to stop I think. It was a pity because I wanted to do a non Egyptian level but I'd made my mind up. No more... Then recently Phil Lambeth asked me to do a walkthrough for Return to The Trench, which I had never got round to finishing. I agreed but had to replay it and also to load up the editor to see what was what again. I discovered that the video card problem with the editor had gone with my new GeForce4 Ti 4200 128MB card. In fact the editor was working faster and better than ever before under XP and a powerful machine. I soon found myself fiddling with some new rooms and thinking... 'Hey this is fun again...!' Even if I had totally forgotten how to use the thing..."

Matthias: "What did you think of Mulf's Lost City of Menouthis review?"

Will: "LOL... everyone is entitled to their opinion. I really don't mind. I don't take it all that seriously. But I did think it was a little unfair and overly critical. But at least Mulf made an effort to write something. Unlike Tombaholics review of Return to The Trench. That did annoy me... All level builders deserve a certain amount of respect in my opinion. We put a lot of time and effort into these things. Reviews that just dismiss a level as nothing special seem to show a lack of appreciation of what the builder has had to go through..."

Matthias: "Most of the forum members listed 'get laid' as their main resolution for the new year. But playing computer games doesn't really increase your chance of finding nubile and interesting partners. Do you have any tips regarding this."

Will: "I've been married for nearly 14 years now so these things are all in the past... lol When I was a teenager it really was only geeks and nerds who played games... lol. So it was much worse to try and impress girls then, believe me. Gaming is seen as being cool nowadays no matter what your age so I don't see it as being a hindrance. And anyway if someone thinks that because your into games that you're not worth it then neither are they. If you know a bit about PC's it's a postive bonus these days. I remember being sneered at when I was young for playing with my Spectrum. But now those same people are asking me for help with their computers. The geeks have inherited the earth... So don't knock it. What would impress a girl more if she's having bother with her PC and you're able to come along and fix it? If that doesn't then the old flowers and chocolates never goes wrong... 8^) There are far more gamers and PC literate people these days. I don't feel like a Venusian anymore. I think it's one of the best things about TR that there are so many female players. Young and old alike. I was always amazed when I released a level at the variety of people worldwide who emailed me for help. From 11 year old kids to an 80 year old woman. Brilliant."

Matthias: "This reminds me of Douglas Coupland's book 'Mikroserfs', where he states that it's the first time in history where nerds hold very prestigious positions everywhere. But I wasn't really implying that playing computer games is uncool, it's just that it is basically a solitary activity and thus you don't get in contact with other people. Wouldn't you agree?"

hard at work

Will: "Well yes. But I think if you play games to the exclusion of all else you have a serious problem. I find it's a great topic of conversation when you do meet other gamers male or female though. I can talk for hours about games and so can other gamers from my experience. Plus you have to take the online contact into consideration. I think that counts as contact and so you come in contact with lots of people. I've made a lot of pals over the years."

Matthias: "Have you ever met any of them in real life?"

Will: "No. They are all from overseas. If any of them come to Scotland I'd love to meet them. Well... some of them... lol."

Matthias: "Are you currently working on a level?"

Will: "Yup! 80 rooms so far. I don't have a name for it yet but it's a non Egyptian custom level. I've used primarily the Gallows Tree textures from TRC which I know some people don't like. But I do. It lets me create a spooky level with a slight Celtic theme which is great. I added some textures from other sets and altered some others. I've taken the Catacombs wad and have added all sorts of stuff to it. I'm also planning to do my own in game music for this one, which is something I wanted to do right at the start when the editor came out. So this will be my most ambitious level yet. I'm in the middle of making some big caves and stuff which isn't much fun. They are difficult to texture and light properly. It's been difficult not to repeat puzzle ideas I've done before. But there will be plenty timed runs as always... 8^)."

Matthias: "Hurray! Do you think the level editor has become more versatile since you last built a level; are there new possibilities or is it basically the same?"

Will: "Much the same I'd say really. It's still a source of constant frustration... lol."

Matthias: "So, do you think you will continue level building after you finished your current project?"

Will: "Ah now that's a tricky one. It depends on what happens in the TR community after the release of Angel of Darkness. Will TR fans still want to play the old style game? I hope so. It's a very dated looking game now but it still has a certain charm. I'll never do another series. But if players still want fan levels then I might build another. I wouldn't say that I'll never do another. I've said that before and here I am building away... But I can't promise any more either. If an idea comes along and the will to do one is there then I'll do it as long as there are people out there willing to play them. I have missed building this last year and the TR community. It's good to be back. Let's hope Core release a new editor soon after AOD and then the fun can really continue."

Matthias: "All your levels did kinda ok; do you have any ambition to get into the Top 50 with your new project?"

The Trench

Will: "No. My only ambition for a level is that people play it and enjoy it. I'd hate to think I was building a level to outdo other builders or to be part of some competition. I had my moment of glory when the editor first came out. The Trench was one of the first fan levels released and held the number 1 level spot for a while believe it or not! ... lol. Just shows how far building has come..."

Matthias: "It seems as if there is no way of stopping America from starting a war in the middle east. Do you think Europe should support America once it has declared war on Iraq?"

Will: "Hmmm... I try not to care to much about these things. At the end of the day none of us know everything that is going on. I don't like Americas bully boy tactics but at the same time the terrorism in the world is gettng a bit out of hand. Personally I'd actually be more worried if European countries weren't involved. That would leave it totally up to America which isn't right. No one state should have power over the other in that way. It all has to be sanctioned and supported by the UN. War is a terrible thing but we've always had them and realistically we probably always will. It seems to be part of human nature. I don't have qualms about European troops being involved. That's their job after all. I just hope that if it does come to a war with Iraq that it's quick and decisive with the minimum of casualties for all concerned. It's all a bit sad in this day and age really."

Matthias: "I've been to Scotland only once and I loved it. In fact my second favourite place to live would probably be Glasgow (Berlin first)."

Will: "I work in Glasgow. I live about 17 miles west of it. It's a great city. I'm originally from the east of Scotland though."

Matthias: "So, what do you think of that Scottish dish called Haggis? Do people actually eat it or is it just something to scare away the tourists."

After a good meal of Haggis?

Will: "Haggis is delicious. I eat it a lot. With a plate of mashed potato and turnip. What we call... 'Haggis, Neeps and Tatties'. Smothered in brown sauce. Yum! So no. it isn't something to scare away the tourists... lol We do eat it. You can get it in batter with chips from a chip shop too. Ideal after a heavy drinking session!... 8^) Tourists are often told the the Haggis is actually an animal that lives in the Highlands and they believe it incredibly. But it's simply a mixture of finely chopped sheeps heart, liver and kidneys mixed with oatmeal and lightly spiced. Traditional Haggis is held in a sheeps stomach but most are held in a plastic wrap these days. It sounds revolting but it's not. You can get vegetarian Haggis too which is quite nice. But I prefer the dead sheep version... lol."

Matthias: "Returning briefly to the subject of politics. If you say: 'At the end of the day non of us know everything that is going on.' Doesn't that sort of imply that you aren't entitled to have an opinion on such matters? And do you think it's our duty to know as much as we can to make a Democracy work?"

Will: "I don't think so. Governments will never tell the whole truth about a lot of things. It doesn't mean you aren't entitled to an opinion but it makes it difficult to make rational statements if you are not in possession of the full facts. And I strongly suspect that there is a lot more going on in the Middle East than the media and Governments are telling us. Most of it about oil... I don't think we have any 'duty' to know as much we can. That's up to the individual."

Matthias: "I guess being German makes me a bit sensitive here as there was so much 'Hey, we didn't know anything about those Concentration Camps' talk. So don't you sometimes think that it's the Goverments who makes the most irrational statments?"

Will: "Absolutely. They mislead people all the time. That's partly what I meant. I suppose Britain is very apathetic politically. We really don't care enough. Britain is very smug and a bit stuck up. Yet I think it has fallen behind and is in danger of being a victim of it's own complacency. I think Britain would do well to follow some ideals from countries like France and Germany instead of being Americas lapdog all the time. I'm very much a pro European."

The Skull of Dunelie

Matthias: "Finally, since I'm a great admirer of the work of Irvine Welsh, who writes in a Scottish slang (took me some time to get the hang of it) and since I think that the Scottish accent is the sexiest around I would like you to come up with some typical Scottish sayings."

Will: "Ummm... ok...
Hawd yer wheesht - (Be quiet)
Ma dugs are barkin' - (My feet hurt)
Gies a swatch 'o' yer - (Let me see your...)
Gonnae stop chuckin they chuckies ya wee eejit? - (Please stop throwing stones you little idiot)."

Matthias: "How about a Scottish joke for our joke loving folks out there?"

Will: "Scots are always said to be very mean which isn't true at all. But there are loads of jokes about it. Here's my favourite...: An Englishman, an Australian and a Scotsman were drinking beer in a bar, three flies flew in and landed in there respective beers. The Englishman pushed his beer away and said 'Oh yuk' and ordered a new drink. The Aussie stuck his finger in, threw the fly on the bar and carried on drinking. The Scot pulled the fly out by its wings, held it over the glass and said 'C'man, spit it oot, ya wee thief!!'"

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