I am very glad about the chance to get in contact with Psiko, an important name in the world of Tomb Raider Customlevel Editing, and for making this new interview with him. Psiko has created some very unusual and interesting levels so far, and he has shown his great talents to us, no doubt. At the moment he is working again after a longer break, in a big team project as well as at a own level project, which will be a big one again.
Of course a lot of players are waiting for this new project, and so I took the chance to ask Psiko some questions. Of course about his new project, but not only. And here you can read what he answered me, and of course you can see some new screenshots of his current project…
Lara for ever: You are part of the TR Customlevel building community since the early days of the editor and released your debut level, Techno Egyptians Portal in 2001. The style of your levels were whole different to "normal" levels from the beginning. Can you tell us about the reason for choosing an unusual way like this?
Psiko: There are a lot of reasons. I like colors... I like rainbow and I think that preferring all the colors means to be very democratic. I like modern and contemporary architecture, like I've been always repeating in Tomb Raider Forums. New Architecture expresses itself not only choosing different volume shapes, but even different colors in contrast one each other. For example you can see a red bricks wall next to a blue painted surface and wooden floor. I think it is funny to find different combinations of colors in order they fit always a beautiful picture in every frame or screenshot you can take. Particularly I like to put together those colors: RED/purple with BLUE/deep blue and YELLOW/greenish yellow. You can always find some of those colors put together in the same building, room, object, outfit I make. I think I prefer to express myself artistically rather than to represent a copy of reality: I like a "vision" of futuristic styles of new architectures never seen before, and every thing I put in my levels is studied from books so that I can even take real examples of my inspirations. Luckily there are a lot of architects who project this way and build giving to FANTASY and IDEAS the most important role in their process of creation. This is innovation, maybe could be not liked by everyone, but it is like to build roads that someone in future will explore again when it won't be new anymore, and it will be accepted completely.
Regarding the new project I am working now, for this reason I was a bit concerned in being accepted much more than my previous projects and started building "classically" a high tech level. But soon I decided to follow my way without limitations: I needed to be sincere to myself, which is not an easy thing for anyone... so I did build exactly to be satisfied by myself as the first one: I am sure that this way will be appreciated much more in the TRLE world.
Lara for ever: Reactions for your projects have been very different, not all players could get along with your very colorful levels. Also the gameplay is partially very hard - to be honest, I could not succeed myself in your levels so far (except The Treasure Island, of course.). Why did you also choose this hard kind of gameplay? Was the idea behind to especially give professional players a challenge?
Psiko : I know my level are colorful and maybe in the past some of them were too much colored. Actually I even did build levels that were colored in a good way, the way I like, but for a strange reason most of the people remember the levels with a less successful design. I am not perfect, LOL, and this way is being explored by myself too: what I think is that I like to give the same sensation in walking through a game for children. They are colorful, filled with details and a pleasure for the eyes. My levels aim to that kind of pleasure, but I want to build a so colored game for young and "no-more young" people LOL Smile From this point of view, this is the reason why my levels are so hard, I mean not for children. But in the past this difficulty in my levels was negative for many people to succeed in the complete game. This made Tomb Raider A a game that many could not understand, even if it has a lot of meanings poetically, narratively and religiously talking. It was the story about a so futuristic civilization that not having one, was so powerful to create its own new god genetically.
Anyhow, now I learned the lesson and I won't built so hard levels anymore, and the colors will be managed in a better way: not giving up to some of them, but creating less contrasts.
Lara for ever: However, for those players who could finish your levels, they have mainly been a success in the world of Customlevels, as I am speaking of Techno
Egyptians Portal, Center of the World, Tomb Raider A - The Techno Egyptians and The Hidden Empire at the Centre of the World then. Have you been satisfied with the result of those three levels yourself?
Psiko : I am satisfied by the feedback I received: I had about more than 100 MB of emails with compliments and this makes me a lot proud. It's not so nice to specify what the compliments were exactly, but they were a lot funny and full of imagination: many people wrote me long pages of private reviews, and what I was happy for is that they felt precisely what I planned with the gameplay, which is something I felt myself too the first time I played my Tomb Raider A game Smile I always repeat people to build something that emotions themselves as the first or they won't emotion the players. A surprise for yourself will be a surprise for the players later
Lara for ever: Can you tell us about the difficulties to create those unusual levels? At
this time there was only the old editor with its big limits, how was it possible to get your visions true then?
Psiko: Difficulties are many: just to be short, there is nothing to refer to, apart few ideas I have in mind and few inspirations taken reading books or watching everything that comes to my hands. Many things actually were not possible to be created for those times: today I would build many things in a different way, but at the opposite, to be sincere I often ask myself how I was able to build certain things so hard to be done, like, one for all, the design of the entire complete TR-A game, as in it everything ends where it has begun and everything finds its place with a lot of surprises.
Lara for ever: In 2004 you were part of the team, which created the big Lara at the Movies project. You made one level there too, The Treasure Island. This one was very different to your former level projects, as it was created in a more usual design and also had a much more easy gameplay. What is your thinking today about this level, why did you change your style there, and are you satisfied with the result?
Psiko: Actually I was not in time to be part of the team. I was finishing my Tomb Raider A game, but I wanted to join the project. I had about one month to built that level, and I released it but being a lot tired of editing levels. I was exhausted by the design of my game and building a new level after so short time, was a lot of effort. It was different from my other projects because I didn't want to distinguish so much, but the result, for I was that tired, was not good. That level is a black spot in my mind and in my TRLE career, LOL, and I regret I published it. I suggest everyone to not keep it in mind if they want to have an idea of how I build levels. Actually the way I build is always new, for I try to change the more possible.
Lara for ever: There was a break then in level building since 2004, and people even thought you would have given up level editing. But meanwhile we know you are working again at a own level project, also as joining the KAP - King Arthur's Project team. What caused the decision to start building again?
Psiko: After TR-A (not counting Treasure Island) I was very exhausted. It was a very big project that occupied me for years, and when I released it there was a huge hole in my life, I was tired and I came back working with 3dsmax which is a professional 3d program. I started writing some novels and time has passed. I was far away from the forums too, and I changed a lot since those years. As I said, I want to be the more sincere I can to myself, and this was a reason I came back in editing: I wanted to let people know how I could built today, and wanted to measure myself with the possibilities new tools allow now: then, I didn't like that Treasure Island was the last memory I left in the community.
So I joined the King Arthur's Project team. I had to design the new outfit, but soon I started building a new level, the one I will publish into my new demo.
Lara for ever: Today you have great new abilities for level building with new tools as TREP and the NGLE. As I think you will use those tools of course, can you tell us if working at levels therefore is more easy these days, for the old limits do not exist any longer? Or are there still limits you can not get beyond?
Psiko: Building with new tools is easier: I remember when I had to work 40 days to build a Lara's outfit, for all the errors and crashes those early tools were creating. Now it is possible to create a new good outfit in few hours. The NGLE allows to use big textures and this makes the editing funnier, cause we can build with a lot of details and we can project maps a bit updated like the games we can play now.
The limits are still there but they are much higher now, so it is hard to encounter them. The main problem is a slow running effect: levels with huge maps now have a low framerate, but this will be fixed hopefully with the new NG-tomb4.exe Paolone is writing (he is an Italian Programmer, the one who wrote the NGLE).
Lara for ever: So, your current project is on its way, called Tomb Raider: Fables. And of course we are curious to learn more about. With seeing the first screenshots of this new level my thought was "back to the roots again". So, Psiko will keep his very own and unusual style of level building after the Treasure Island “intermission”?
Psiko: Yes, Fables is a return back to the roots. Not only for my style, but even for the gameplay we knew with Tomb Raider 3. I always repeat that "Psiko's gameplay starts where Tomb Raider 3 gameplay ends". If you look at the screenshots, you can see that my style is there, colors are there, but maybe you could find them more pleasant and charming than before.
Lara for ever: Can you tell us something about the story of the new level?
Psiko: Tomb Raider: Fables is the title of my next upcoming Tomb Raider game. Ancient and very known enemies from Lara Croft's past, rescue their energetic powerful technology to create an engine they call "Cornucopia". The "Cornucopia" is able to replicate (as many times as they wish) every item they insert in it. So, if they put a tree, they can get a forest made by replicated trees same as the original.
Lara's enemies decided to put inside the cornucopia a "TIME PARADOX", in order the paradoxes will be infinite: this will destroy the Reality and the "time-space continuum" as we know it... giving birth to the Fables.
Lara for ever: And can you also tell us about the degree of difficulty yet? Will the gameplay stay as demanding as we are used to it by your so far levels, or will it perhaps be more easy this time?
Psiko: Difficulties will be different and they will depend on the player himself... For example, many players like the large maps but many others do not. I like huge maps and few levels will have a "wondering around without knowing what to do" problem or, vice versa, the "exploring mood". It depends on how you call it, LOL. Other levels will be hard but VERY, VERY linear (no wondering around), so it will depend only on going forward to the next puzzle. What I am doing this time is to give difficulties in order to make the game interesting so that the player won't give it up. But my main interest is to publish this time without being in rush and being satisfied most of all... by the colors Smile.
Fables will have a great soundtrack too.
Lara for ever: As I know you will release a demo version first, containing 4 levels of this project. Is there any release date yet, and how many levels will the full version contain in the end?
Psiko: I am preparing the entire game, but many things are very difficult to be done. One level is 99% completed, two levels are at 50% and the fourth level for the demo is still to be started. So I think that I need a lot of months to be ready even for the demo: let's say February/March 2008 for the demo, which won't be actually a demo, but 4 levels finished that will be included in the complete game. Fables will be done of 12 levels, but in the past I did preview 15 levels for my TR-A game and it finally contained about 30 tr4 files..
Lara for ever: Are you also creating cut scenes or FMV's for your new project, and if so, how many may we expect? Also, will there perhaps be new animations/movements for Lara?
Psiko: Yes to everything. I still have to plan how I am going to tell the story: if by cut scenes or FMVs, but I can tell I will use both of them. New unprecedented moves will be done as the next thing after I close the level I am working on now. There is already a new way to swim for Lara
Lara for ever: Can you realize all your visions for this new project, or do you still have to face limits where you have to compromise?
Psiko: No, I think there is no limit this time. The only limit I can think of is the time itself in realizing the project. I know how to build new moves, but if they take a long time in being done and I lose months, I do not know how much it is convenient. In fact, to prepare the only level I am working on, it took me until now 18 months... and this is not possible, entire games are build in this period. So I have to decide "what it is convenient to do" or not... Anyhow, I finally found a way to the new graphic for this game, a new "language", different from the Tomb Raider A one, so new levels will take a shorter time than 18 months.
Lara for ever: What do you thing about the future of level editing? Is there still space to get beyond the limits of today, or have we seen all yet what would be possible in the TR Customlevel building world?
Psiko: There are still few things that can be said, especially when the upcoming new engine Paolone is writing will be released: I helped him with new ideas, together with an Italian forum of few members and we will be able to test it very soon. He is a great programmer and loves Lara as we do, and this is the best thing we could have. So, there will be a future for the level editing, but maybe it will be different from the past and it will be different from the classic TR games we know: but it will be various. For what I know, the new levels will have so many new features that it will be hard to put everything all together in the same level.
Lara for ever: So, as it seems your new project will keep you working for an indefinite period. Is there any appraisement about the possible release of the full version yet, or would we still have to wait for further years?
Psiko: I plan to release the 4-levels-demo in the beginning of the next year, then I will have to relax for a short time: next working year will be very busy for me and all I can say is that I have to edit quietly, I mean not in rush... so I can't tell how many years, surely it will deserve the waiting for those who appreciated my last levels and I hope the new ones who will try this new upcoming one.
Lara for ever: Thank you for this interview, Psiko!
Here you can visit the new homepage of Psiko for his project, also containing three trailers: