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The Lost Fortress

Interviewer: Matthew
Subject: Chris Hill

[Matthew] Ok, we'll start off simple. Who are you, and how did you get into editing Jedi Knight/Mots? Have you had any previous experience?

[Chris] Well I'm Chris Hill, age 24 from the UK. I finished University last year and am now buried deep in the world of work. I've always liked editing and creating levels for computer games, starting years and years ago with Repton 3 on the BBC Micro, which came with a graphics and level Editor. I went straight from the BBC to a 486, and about a month later Doom was released. I built around half a dozen levels for that, and then switched to Tie Fighter as soon as I found out a level editor existed. I also did a bit of tinkering with Command and Conquer, Red Alert, and Duke Nukem 3D before switching to JK/MotS.

[Matthew] Please give us a brief overview of your current project, The Lost Fortress.

[Chris] Ok the Lost fortress is essentially a continuation of several story lines left hanging from various Star Wars Novels. The basic plot revolves around a race to find the homeworld of a now extinct race of aliens who had the technology to move entire planets across the galaxy, Or Used another way, cause stars to go supernova. It's set between 14 and 15 years after Return of the Jedi, The war between the Republic and Empire is effectively over but a splinter group of the empire has pledged to continue until the Republic is destroyed once and for all. These are needless to say, the villains of the peace. The level's been under construction for just over a year now. The length of construction is due mainly to the fact I only have time to work on it at the weekend.

[Matthew] What gave you the idea for The Lost Fortress?

[Chris] Well two things really. There have been a lot of custom JK/ MotS levels out now, and most of them feature made up characters. They also rarely give much/any indication of when the events are actually taking place. Without any context and lacking identifiable characters they invariably lack that Star Wars feel. They can be fun to play, but you might as well be playing any First person shooter. I decided therefore if I was going to create a story it was going to be about the cast of the films. Secondly I've read just over 30 star wars books now, most of which are set after the original trilogy and I wanted something that would tie into the books, and at the same time try to tie up a few loose ends. That way the story ties in nicely with the 'official' star wars timeline.

[Matthew] Why did you choose the MotS engine over the JK one?

[Chris] Well aside from the advances in the game engine, MotS has a much wider range of enemies. Also, I'm really trying to create the feel that this is a classic star wars story that was never written/filmed. That means large space battles and JK simply doesn't have the 3DOs. You can't create as massive battle in outer space with a shuttle, TIE bomber and Moldy Crow 3DO. MotS has virtually every ship you could ever want.

[Matthew] Do you plan to have any sub-plots or twists or any other goodies?

[Chris] The identity of the true villains will hopefully be a surprise (although only the book worms will get some of it). I've got several new enemies planned, and the final level will be one of those classic star wars showdowns with large space and ground battles going on simultaneously as the republic and empire battle it out for control of a planet.

[Matthew] You said there is a possibility of you using real voices in your level. Why are you choosing to do so?

[Chris] It's a catch-22 situation really. The levels and more especially the cutscenes contain a LOT of dialog, and there's nothing worse then spending all your time reading the text at the top of the screen and completely missing what's happening on the rest of the screen, and I'm aiming to make sure that there's always something going on to watch, rather then just two characters standing around like statues in a featureless 'cube' room as in many cutscenes. The downside is of course the file size goes skywards very quickly.

[Matthew] Custom voices haven't had a good reputation, with most of them being pretty crummy in quality. How are you trying to avoid this?

[Chris] Well in truth with difficulty. Most members of the JK community don't really have the resources of Lucasarts to hire and direct professional actors so I think it's unreasonable to expect anything that's up to their standards. However of one my friends from university has lots of experience playing around with sound files and thinks we might be able to adjust the actors voices to sound a little more like the characters they represent. I'm making no promises here but we're going to do some experiments and see how feasible/effective that can be. All we need now are lots of talented actors...

[Matthew] Reading the story of The Lost Fortress, I noticed that the story for the level seems to be based off the Corellian trilogy of books. Will people have to have read these books to understand the story of The Lost Fortress?

[Chris] I hope not. Most of what they need to know is covered in the introductory cutscene and text crawl (remember Star wars: A New Hope? We got the idea pretty quickly didn't we?) It's should be a case of, If you're read the books, you'll know who the characters/events referred to, are. If not then it'll still make sense, you just won't be aware of their exact origins. I'm going to include an timeline in the zip file showing the events post-return of the Jedi (the various books and comics) up until the Fortress takes over for those who are curious.

[Matthew] What do you plan to do after you finish The Lost Fortress?

[Chris] Well there's parts 2 and 3 to do. (It was going to be a 4 part but part 3 was dropped as unnecessary, and would take to long to do. Plus I'd need to work out how to do tornadoes using the JK engine. Not an easy thing.) Episode 2 takes us to Calius Saj Leelo. A location visited in the Book 'The Last Command'. It is a coastal city on the planet Berchest, carved entirely out of one gigantic crystal. As a result it's going to be a blaze of colored lighting. Also should I ever get this story finished I have an idea for another series, in which History is altered so that Alderaan is never destroyed by the Death star. Unfortunately without Alderaans destruction when the rebels blew up the death star at Yavin it was written off as another terrorist attack. The rebels never gained mass support and are now fighting an increasingly hopeless battle against the Empire more powerful then ever.

[Matthew] How long do you think it will be until release?

[Chris] Well this is a tricky one given how I'm currently about 7 months past my original estimate!, the level is about twice it's original planned size now. With a concentrated effort it'd only be a few weeks. It's just finding the time to make a concentrated effort that's the problem.

[Matthew] Thanks for your time.

[Chris] You're welcome. I hope you'll all enjoy 'Fortress' and I'll try not to keep you waiting much longer.

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