Do you know the level series of Piega, “The Sanctuary of Water, fire and Ice”? Of course you do, if you are a Tomb Raider player and a fan of the Customlevels. And we all know, Piega is working at a new Sanctuary project since a longer time. There is a Demo version yet, and we also could see a lot of great screenshots already. But how is the status of the project? What details could we further know about? Well, I had the chance to make an interview with Piega. So here are the information, some new screenshots and also two video clips. The project is alive, and we can look forward to something really big and unique again. And this is what Piega told me:
Lara for ever: So many people are waiting for your new Sanctuary project yet, and we can only try to imagine how much work must be behind a level series like that. How long are you working at the project yet, when did it start?
Piega: Well, when I completed the first Sanctuaries series I thought my editing days were over. I thought I should stop at my best and was happy with what I did. However The Angel Of Darkness was released and I found it a terrible game. Soon after a texture ripper was there so I looked at it and found some textures wonderful. Soon I realised much of the textures would fit a sequel to Sanctuaries so the idea was born. I just love cathedrals and its architecture and it would be a waste not to use these textures. So I started building the first rooms around July 2004.
Lara for ever: Well, the first Sanctuary level, “The Sanctuary of Water, Ice and Fire”. It was released in 2002 and your most successful level so far. So, the new Sanctuary project will be the official sequel to it, or won’t those levels depend on each other?
Piega: For the story, it is an official sequel. There will be an intro to what happened in the first so you don’t need to know the older game to start on this game. You can play them separately.
Lara for ever: Can you yet tell us anything about the story?
Piega: Sure, most players will know how the first episode ended. Back home at Lara's mansion the obtained quill will end up in one of Lara's artefact display's in her trophy room. Then a mysterious mirror appears in the mansion. Whispering is coming from behind the mirror, and it is clear that this mirror is a portal to another dimension. So Lara packs her equipment to dive into an adventure not from this world. Once through the mirror you will find out how the story will continue!
Lara for ever: Every Tomb Raider player will look forward to your new and most ambitious project ever, for we already could see incredible things never met before in TR Customlevels. But perhaps not every player will be able to make it through on his own. Can you tell us something about the difficulty of the new Sanctuary?
Piega: Ah, difficulty. This is hard as difficulty is different for every player. When I finished the demo I send it to someone to play at the meeting in Lage. Many were frustrated about the four trapdoor jump. In that demo I did not left the drawing to examine on how to jump. I'm glad I did afterwards, because I understood it was hard to figure out on your own in what order you had to jump. I can honestly tell that this is the hardest sequence in the game. Other difficulty's are new traps I created, and the puzzle degree in difficulty is about the same as in the previous series. As for the map it is pretty big, but like the previous game they are themed, so you wont get lost in all the levels with halls that look the same. Personally I'm not the type to put a switch and door at each end of a level. You will meet a new kind of maze which is not finished yet. I hope I have created a fine balance so that a wide audience can enjoy and finish the game.
Lara for ever: Difficulty of levels is often an important factor in level discussions of today. Players often complain about levels of today becoming more and more difficult, perhaps to compensate other limits in building Customlevels. What would you think about, and can Customlevels with a more easy gameplay be made interesting though?
Piega: Sure, once in a while I load up a custom game. When the difficulty is too high I'm an easy quitter. I'm more of a person who likes to enjoy graphics. On second place gameplay is important, but gameplay can be designed in so many ways. In the way it influences the fun factor in getting from point A to B it can win from graphics. Of course it is difficult to create an unwalked path for designers and players, but there are still fresh ideas to be found today. Therefore difficulty should not become the main factor that can kill the fun to play games. A main problem is that experienced players control Lara with their eyes closed and thus certain gameplay methods are done in the blink of an eye. If I would load my own game without knowing what to do (strange I know ) then I don’t know if I would finish it.
Lara for ever: The level editor is very limited, of course. But today level builders have great new abilities with new tools as the NGLE or TREP, for example. Do you use those tools for your project, and what are the advantages from your point of view?
Piega: Yes, TREP is the rescuer for the TRLE world. The main advantage of TREP is the way you can create new gameplay elements. You cannot play my game without it. While I have a separate MAC version in mind I don’t know if I can get it done because there seem to be more limits even if my game is without TREP. Luckily I have a tester to find that out in time. TREP can also change colour values of certain things, but that does not interest me. The fix for the holsters and the draw distance are key elements for me to improve the quality. Believe me or not but Tomb Raider II has a greater draw distance then TR4. Only the draw distance before it turns to black is shorter. As for the NGLE I think it is stunning. No more 64x64 pixel tiles. While my game will stay 64x64 tiles NGLE will certainly be used in future projects.
Lara for ever: How many levels will finally be included in the new Sanctuary project, and will there be cut scenes or FMV’s?
Piega: The game will have about 8 or 9 decent levels. I have also decided to add 2 cut scenes to the game. I wont say too much about this as I'm excited myself how they will end up. Besides Black Palace I never made a exciting finale but be sure to meet one in here! No FMV's, I don’t have experience in this field and if I would try, then my game would be released somewhere around 2015. I have my limits.
Lara for ever: Can you tell us something about difficulties in building the new Sanctuary levels? Can you realize your imaginations as they are, or are there still limits, things you have to cancel because of not being possible to put into practice?
Piega: Till now I have put in almost everything in I wanted. Some things I had to cut smaller as I'm out of object slots or animation slots. Sometimes I delete enemy's to make the puzzles as grand as possible as I'm a puzzle guy myself. I try to keep it challenging with the enemies as much as possible, and the final part will do that justice. I have also a new secret system which you will figure out in the game. In one level I went over the top, where half of the level is a secret area, woven into the normal gameplay part. You will love to figure out on how to reach it and feel smart to beat the designer! If you don’t like secrets then that's a pity. Secrets were always a great add on in Tomb Raider. I just like to add more to it. My main realisation is to create a world that feels dreamy and colourful with a dark mood, and I think I have certainly accomplished that.
Lara for ever: I know, this question is difficult, but is there perhaps at least an approximately release date for the project?
Piega: You know, I can ask this question to myself . I wish I could. I know this is the longest time I ever worked on a game but the truth is that I spent less time on my PC. The days that I spent my hours on the editor at night are over. Also the workload has doubled as I now make all my objects and animations myself. They say the best games are not made on the attic anymore. New games are made with a team of eighty people or more with years of development. I'm just a poor soul working alone. A sanctuary of soul.
Lara for ever: As we could see some very interesting pictures yet it seems you already have ideas beyond your Sanctuary project. Can you yet tell us anything about your future plans?
Piega: As soon NGLE came out I had to taste the new texture size. So I started working on my next big game to test. It is even bigger then sanctuaries. However, it will not include Lara. But before I get into that I don’t know if I ever will start on it after this release. This purely depends on time, my mood and popularity of the editor. Besides that I think I will focus on smaller levels like in the old days. This way you get to play more from me and enjoy smaller levels. Everybody wants to pop out mega games these days but small levels are also fun. On the shelve I have the Bartoli's Hideout remake. A Science Fiction level with a space train and some ideas in my head. Sometimes I wish I had more time and less ideas .
Lara for ever: Thank you for this interview and the material!
Here are the links for two Video Clips from the project. The Quality is a little bit limited, of course: