Liberating Cloud City
As Emambu unloads the questions, meet editor Bommbshellrapture in one of our longest interviews ever. Find about his past projects for Dark Forces, his current project "Liberating Cloud City", and future work for the Star Wars trilogy TC.
To start off, tell us a little bit about yourself and what got you interested in Star Wars and level editing?
Well, my "real" name is Donny Versiga. As of now I'm sixteen years old and in the 11th grade. I live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the United States. I've been a fan of science fiction all my life. I got into Star Wars in 4th grade. The trilogy was greatly superior to any science fiction series I'd ever seen. Soon I became a fanatic about Star Wars: buying toys, books, cards, etc. I bought Dark Forces in 1998 and knew it was the game I was waiting for all my life. I've always loved to draw spaceship plans and things, so I thought to actually bring these plans to life would be exciting and fun. Later, I used a friend's Internet service to download WEDIT, a Dark Forces editor.
Many people should now be aware of your three-part DF series "Dark Retaliation;" however, do you have any previous editing experience in DF, JK, MotS, or any other game?
No, I do not have any previous level editing experience in any other game. Back in the day, I wanted to edit DOOM levels but had no connection to the Internet to download the proper utilities.
"Dark Retaliation" is set in the DF universe. Even though I'm a big supporter of new DF levels I always want to know why someone would choose the oldest of the three engines.
Actually, I would have started with the newer engine, but my computer at the time couldn't support Jedi Knight or any game released after 1997 for that matter. I had a 486/75 MHz computer with a maximum hard drive capacity of 405 megabytes. Therefore, I had no choice but to build levels with the DF engine.
Since there may be people reading this who have not heard of "Dark Retaliation" or read my review (tsk, tsk) of it, can you tell us a little bit about the plot and cast of characters?
Well, the series was never meant to be released, but just for my personal satisfaction and enjoyment. Therefore, I didn't go into great detail with the plot. The series was supposed to be a full six levels, all taking place between the time between the Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. They all were supposed to lead up to discovering the Second Death Star. I know it is pretty unoriginal but it was for my personal use only. There weren't any characters really, just Kyle.
What was your inspiration behind this series? With countless possibilities, how did you end up settling on this premise?
Well, actually, the fact that I had the ability to make areas from the movie started it. I wanted to do a Death Star level at first, but Don Siekle had already done one and I knew it was far more superior then anything I could make. Therefore, I would do a Death Star II level, taking place at the end of a six level series, giving me five levels to practice with and enough editing ability to make a good Death Star level. But, I got disinterested with the series and stopped after I built the first area of the unreleased level four.
In my opinion, the third level seemed to be the best in the series. How did you go about creating this one in particular? Did you do anything that differed from when you were creating the first two, and if so, were the results satisfying to you?
Yes, I agree. The third level was the best of the series. If I remember correctly, this was the first level I drew out on paper before hand. The other two levels were built as I went along, planning it in my mind. I have a strong ability to putting my ideas on paper through drawings, and then converting them into levels. This is why I think the third level stood out among the other two. I fused a few ideas from LEC levels into the third level (such as the NAVA card decoder and computer core). I know that's unoriginal, but hey! It worked.
What would you say is the easiest aspect of DF editing? What's the hardest?
The easiest is its INF definitions. WEDIT had a good INF editor. I'm not sure if DFUSE did or not because I never worked with it. The hardest was the fact that you couldn't build any sloped walls, floors, etc. It was very hard to plan on building a ramp or ring corridors and then realizing you had to work your way around it.
After your more current projects are completed, do you see yourself returning to finish this series?
No, I do not. Not unless I find a lot of spare time on my hands. I was thinking about making a Special Edition of level three made with the MotS engine, but I don't know if I'll have the time.
Let's move on into your more current works. As of now, you're working on a MotS level called "Liberating Cloud City" (hereby referred to as LCC from now on). Can you tell us a little bit about the level as far as its plot, setting, and cast of characters are concerned?
Well, it takes place about five years after Return of the Jedi. Moff Treece (A character based off of the few details of a Captain Treece that led the Imperial Garrison on Cloud City after its seizure by the Empire) needs money to maintain his Ugnaught slave camps, so he decides to sell Tibanna gas to smugglers. So, he's allowing smugglers to land at the city. The New Republic realizes that the time to liberate the city has come. They send operative Len Hakor (the main character), disguised as a smuggler, to enter the city, assassinate Treece, and disable the city's main sensor array so the New Republic ships can land at the city and repel the Imperial forces. Len is a character I made up in a story I wrote two years ago. He's got an interesting back-story but I don't know if I'll be using it. There will be some minor characters, but they are still "in development."
Why did you choose Bespin as a place to return to? Also, why re-visit some of the more familiar places in addition to adding tons of new areas?
I decided to do a level on Cloud City because I wanted to recreate something from the movies. At first, before I knew there was a SWTTC, the plot was going to be the same as the ESB scenes of Cloud City. So I started working on it and planning it out, but then I was informed of the TC. I changed the plot to be more original and interesting, and the areas from the movies stayed there. I may be taking some of them out and using them in the SWTTC level because they are not involved in the plot of LCC at all.
Tell us a little bit about the designing process in LCC. How are you going about creating the whole level? Did you sketch it out first, or create as you go? What about the areas that player will already be familiar with?
I started by watching the move and sketching what I saw. I traced Lando's path through the city and drew a general layout of the parts in the film. Then I added the "new" areas on paper. Every part of the level has been drawn somewhere, ranging from school notebooks, note cards, or my song-writing notebook at home. For the areas that are familiar (dining room, guestroom, and those circular cloud city corridors), I used tons of reference materials. Books, concept art, movies, SWCCG cards, Internet pics, etc. I want to create the Cloud City atmosphere and intertwine a plot and great gameplaying experience.
Tell us a little bit about the enhancements. Will there be new MAT's, PUP's, KEY's, COG's, BM's, 3DO's, etc?
A lot of new 3dos, mats, cogs. There are no pups or keys so far. Because I'm still in the learning process, it's hard to say what will be in the finished product. Right now I'm working on a detailed script for some great cutscenes. I've always loved to make amateur movies and this is the perfect time to make a Star Wars movie. There will be probably about 10 minutes worth of cutscene material.
What kind of mood are you trying to establish and how will you manipulate the atmosphere of the level to reflect that mood?
I want the level to have a very serious mood, kind of like Ryan's Imperial Siege on Derra IV. I once considered putting some "Easter eggs" in the level, but was scared that would totally ruin the mood I'm going for. To enhance the realistic part of the atmosphere, citizens will walk around, stormtroopers will patrol, and cloud cars will fly by windows.
What the current status of LCC? Do you think you have a good estimate on when it will be released or will it be "done when it's done?"
Well, progress on LCC is slow right now because of my promotion at work and the upcoming holidays. The architecture on level one is about halfway complete (not including cutscene sets), but cogs, enemy placement, and gameplay enhancements shouldn't take as long as architecture does. Because I pay so much attention to architecture, it's taking the longest time. The estimated date for release of level one is February 2001.
Will this be one giant level or are you splitting it up into smaller levels?
It was originally going to be one huge level, but I've broken it down into two smaller levels. They will be released separately. The second shouldn't take as long as the first. Plot details for level two are going to remain secret for now, but I can tell you that it takes place in the lower decks of the city where the Tibanna gas is mined. I am considering a third level, but I'm not divulging any information about it yet.
What do you think has been the hardest part in creating LCC? What about the easiest?
The hardest part is probably texturing. There aren't that many great textures to use for a Cloud City atmosphere, and I usually end up using mainly textures that use the default color map. I've made a few mats myself, but they aren't anything great. Because of the lack of good textures, it's the hardest part. The easiest has probably been architecture. It comes naturally for me, probably because I have a unique ability to take what I've drawn on paper to the editing board. Although architecture takes the most time, it's the easiest for me.
Moving away from LCC, you recently became a member of SWTTC as well. Can you tell us what it's like and what projects you will be working on?
It's kind of hectic. LCC is at the top of my list of projects to work on, and I really want to get that done before I work on anything else. I'm going to hurry up because I know people are getting impatient with the SWTTC as it is. I don't want to be the one to even further the delay. I'm going to be working on Earl's unfinished Bespin: City in the Clouds level and maybe the interior of the Millennium Falcon.
So, will LCC become the Bespin Level for SWTTC or are they going to remain two separate projects?
Separate, although I am considering taking out the "movie" section of LCC and putting it into the SWTTC Cloud City level. It will make more sense for LCC and let players see something they haven't seen in the SWTTC level. Still haven't decided upon that yet.
How will your SWTTC level differ from LCC, if at all, since they both take place on Bespin?
Not sure yet, as I haven't planned any of the SWTTC level out. I guess the main difference is that paths the character will take. In the SWTTC, I'm going to have Luke have an adventure through the more resort-type areas of the city. In LCC, I'll have Len Hakor have and adventure through the staff living section and main administrative building. The atmosphere will probably be the same.
Will the SWTTC level end up taking precedent over LCC, thereby delaying its (LCC's) release?
No. LCC is at the top of my list of all projects.
What can we expect from your SWTTC level? Will the design be similar to LCC? What about the enhancements and the atmosphere? (note: you can consult with Ajay on this question if you're unsure as to how much you're allowed to give away).
Well, since I haven't planned it out much, I really don't have anything to say.
Now that you've had a taste of DF and MotS, which engine do you prefer working with and why?
MotS. It's a whole lot easier and has a lot less limitations. I remember when I gave up on DF editing. I went to bed one night saying, "I want my regular life back. This is going toward nothing." Now that I have MotS and can edit it, I don't see myself saying that anytime soon. The engine allows a lot more than DF does, and the graphics are better also.
Is "The Empire Strikes Back" your favorite movie in the trilogy?
Now that I think about it, yes. Its special effects totally outdo the other two movies, and the settings are more serious. More time went into the visual aspects of TESB, and because of that, it's my favorite. The story is more plot-driven also.
Out of curiosity, how did you come up with the nickname "Bombshellrapture?"
It's the name of my Christian Punk band called Bombshell Rapture. I play rhythm guitar and sing lead vocals for it. We recently got a drummer and plan to start practicing more. Next summer we're putting on a benefit show where all money will go to a children's home down here.
Do you have any plans for future projects once your current ones are completed?
Well, by the time I finish everything on my list now, I'll probably old and married, so I'm not sure. I do want to do a few more, but only time will tell.
How does it feel to (currently) be the subject of TACC's longest review and interview?
Great. I feel as if I've stepped into the JK/MotS editing world with a good path already paved. Sometimes I even feel like a celebrity amongst everyone here at the ACC. I've only been editing MotS since July, and I've already been interviewed and had the longest review! Wow. With this interview, I feel more motivated to complete LCC and the SWTTC level with excellence.
Any final thoughts, comments, criticisms, or reflections that you wish to express?
I hope that LCC will remain for a few good years as a classic, great MotS level. I want to pick up the pace on my editing speed so I can go ahead and get this released. But, the longer I take, the better it will come out in the end. I hope to release it by my birthday on February 13. And with my final closing statement, I thank everyone at The Admiral's Command Chamber, for all the time and effort you've put in toward helping me reach the goal of releasing a good, excellent level. Without TACC, I don't know where I'd be in the editing world.
Well, I thank you for giving up a fair portion of your time. You've been more then a good sport about this. Your projects sound interesting and exciting and I eagerly await their release. Just a note to those of you reading this, you can check out LCC's progress right here at TACC and on the Massassi Showcase Forums. You can also see the progress of SWTTC. Once again, thanks Bombshellrapture!