Are you ready for a little heat? Our next STEX legend brings some flavors from Central Mexico to Simtropolis and his Latin American themed BATs ushered in an entirely new city building experience for players. Heblem (AKA Hableurg) was one of the founding members of the LBT (Latin American BAT Team) which has produced countless models and mods aimed at giving SC4 cities a Central American twist. But his BATing talents go far beyond Latin American themed buildings. Terrain mods, lush flora, suburban retail giants and even downtown NY skyscrapers can be attributed to his creative prowess, and with over 400,000 downloads, he has distinguished himself as a STEX superstar. Please give a warm welcome to Heblem!
ST: When did you first get SC4, and what do you remember about your first experiences with the game? Was SC4 your first involvement with SimCity, or did you already have a history with the sim games?
Heblem: My first contact with SC4, was in the coming months after it released in 2003. My father bought me a copy in a Sam’s Club store because I got good grades in school (I was 13 back then). My experience playing the game was mixed, I wasn’t really satisfied with the original SimCity 4 compared to SimCity 3000 due to its limited flexibility in modding. Later in 2005, bought the expansion pack Rush Hour and my experience with SC4 changed due the ability to make more transportation options and custom content.
My first overall contact with SimCity was in 1994 when SC2000 came out for SNES, I received it as Christmas present. Ever since I was a child I loved to make cities with cereal boxes, toy cars, Legos, Hotwheels and such. But honestly the only SimCity I have enjoyed most was SimCity 3000.
ST: What aspect of SC4 do you enjoy most – what keeps you coming back?
Heblem: Actually what I enjoy most is the ability to make huge cities in regions in a relatively short time, something impossible in recent games or other program/engines, as well as the endless possibilities using custom content. What gets me back, honestly, is all the hard work done in last 12 years of custom content.
ST: Before we jump into the all the custom content questions, I’m curious… what is your favorite Maxis lot/BAT?
Heblem: My favorite Maxis BAT is Chrysler building, due how it was detailed, and its correct size in game. Even today, over 12 years later, no one has made a better Chrysler building to replace the original one. That BAT helped me once in making The New York Times building, to compare both buildings in game, since in RL both buildings are similar in height, only about 2-5 meters of difference.
ST: Do you recall the first plugin you installed?
Heblem: Honestly can’t remember, however my first experience with custom content was looking for how to install custom maps.
ST: What led you to Simtropolis at first? Can you remember your initial impressions of the site?
Heblem: My first contact with Simtropolis was in 2005, after I found out I could install such buildings into the game. The first sites that I visited looking for custom content were the original Simcity exchange, the Spanish SimCity forums (CSC), and of course, Simtropolis. I only used those sites to download (but not for forums or collaborate). My initial impressions of Simtropolis were great, since its exchange was much better than the EA exchange. Later in 2006, I finally register to forums, to show my city creations (city journals) and my first BAT.
This is the only image I found of me using Simtropolis in 2006 as Hableurg account.
ST: Describe your progression into the world of SC4 custom content. Was it a particular lot or BAT that inspired you to take the first step?
Heblem: The creations that inspired me to BAT were the lots and BATs made by SimGoober. I loved how realistic and detailed those are, and they made my city look more alive and suburban themed. However it wasn’t until one year later that I made my first BAT.
At first, I looked at how to install custom maps, and then realized I could easily make my own custom maps by just editing the PNG grayscale file as my desire. Later, I saw in the forums how people make great buildings using the BAT tool. Initially I thought it shouldn’t be too difficult, because in SimCity 3000 the BAT tool was easy to use and from there you could easily put your own custom buildings into your city, which was something I often did in SimCity 3000. I decided to give the same effort to creating SimCity 4 buildings, however I was disappointed at first because the SC4 gmax BAT tool was too different than the SC3000 BAT.
My second try in gmax BAT was in 2006, after looking at tutorials in different sites on how to do BAT modeling, lighting and export, and finally came up with my first creation, but never uploaded it.
ST: Do you remember what the very first thing that you modeled using the BAT? Do you still have a screen shot?
Heblem: The first thing I modeled was what I been instructed in the BAT tutorial, which basically is this (only image I found of it)
But as for my own, could be this office building, never released it due it poor aspect.
Later my first BATs released at STEX were the and a (under Hableurg account, which lost password long ago)
ST: You were one of the founding members of the LBT (Latin American BAT Team) which produced a wide range of very popular BATs for the SC4 community. How did that collaboration come about, and do you still keep in contact with anybody from the team?
Heblem: The initial goal and idea was to create custom content from Latin America, which were non-existent at that time. The team was set by Berethor07, Tcxalapa and VictorGonzales at CSC forums in doing BATs themed from Latin America. Later, Debussyman, and a few others joined. The original idea and founder was Berethor07, who made some interesting landmarks from Mexico City, myself and Berethor. Initially we teamed up for MBT (Mexican BAT team), later VictorGonzales joined and suggested we change the team name to LBT, due to the fact that he was Venezuelan. The main project idea was to change every SimCity maxis growable to look like Latin American slummy homes, but as of today, we actually never achieved our goal. The proposed project is still getting dust in my computer. However, buildings models such as homes, department stores, offices, and commercials packs are available on STEX without lots since 2009.
Unfortunately as today I haven’t hear anything from Victor Gonzales nor Berethor07 since 2009, currently sometimes I still in contact with tcxalapa.
Since 2009 I rather do creations by my own under HBS tag, which it’s a shorten name of Heblem’s, Heblem, my real name Eblem, H for Henry, Henry Eblem.
ST: You created a number of very popular BATs, including the Treasure Island Casino, the Super Walmart, and many other famous retail outlets, but your has proven to be one of your most popular creations. Did you ever expect flora props to become such a big hit with the SC4 community? That pack also contains plopable sand/dirt – I don’t think that had been done before, so what gave you the idea to create such a versatile MMP?
Heblem: I didn’t expect so many people would use my ploppable sand/dirts. When I made those for a tropical region, I was looking for something that could decorate missing details over the repetitive texture pattern of the terrain mod. My first thought was to use alpha textures as BAT/props, which was a great idea to implement. After testing it myself, I then had the opportunity to share it (I still have some other ploppables for my own personal use). Thankfully, with those MMP’s I could make realistic SC4 landscapes like this one:
Many of these props are by my own, including the creation of new terrain mods, water mods, rock mods. Many extensive tests were conducted in mid-2009, but as of now I haven’t gone back to that topic. However, my future MMP (not released) project will be a different set of MMPs that can recreate different earth biomes. I am still considering making more in the future.
But overall my most popular and detailed BAT that I have ever made was the New York Times building, which took 2 months to create and as of now has over 30k downloads.
ST: Your BAT library is very extensive, but you also managed to create a number of terrain and rock mods, maps and even a stoplight replacement. Many BATers like to stick to what they know, so what motivated you to step out and try your hand at other types of SC4 mods?
Heblem: Well, most of my motivation in doing different things comes from what I see that’s missing in game. For example, one day I wanted to recreate a So-Cal city (Southern California), but the only stoplights I could find out were some Dutch-European and the original maxis one. I wanted some So-Cal curvy stoplights, which were nowhere to be found, so I decided to BAT one for myself. I found out how to replace the old one, which was as simple as changing an instance number using the iLives reader program. Later I decided to share it, including some simple props like a stop sign.
Another example is the PWG lots I made some time ago. Those lots were very personal for doing a city fast, but I thought it could be useful to others by sharing it. Eventually I decided to remove it (including many of my creations, such office buildings and gas stations), due a compatibility bug reported. As of today, I haven’t taken the time to re-export and upload again.
ST: I think most custom content creators would consider their work a hobby, but like anything in life, some parts are more fun than others. What do you consider your least favorite part of the BATing process? What about your favorite?
Heblem: My least favorite part of BATing it’s of course waiting for exporting and the darn export code error 6, hah! lost many hours and projects due the exporting procedure, mainly because of my old computer specs were insufficient, especially in memory. Initially I used a 2005 toshiba laptop, and many projects took over 20-30 hours to export. Many times the computer would overheat, turn offs, or the process failed due to an export error. I’ve lost many projects, such as the Bellagio casino, nighlight of Treasure Island, Old design of Burj Dubai Tower, office skyscrapers and many BATs due that reason. I now own a better and more powerful machine which I hope to use to complete projects and never again see the export code error, but unfortunately as I get older, other priorities are first.
As a hobby, my favorite part of creating BAT’s it’s the ability to project something you see, and you like in RL to the game. To give it its correct textures/materials, lighting and modeling, properly match as it is in RL and share and see what others think about your creation is exciting.
ST: Since this is a sort of hobby (in the sense that custom content creators are not paid for their work), what keeps you motivated to continue releasing new creations for the SC4 community to enjoy? How much do comments in the download section mean to you? Do you get a thrill seeing your models pop up in CJs?
Heblem: Of course it motivates me seeing peoples comments, and watching my creations get used in their CJs. It means a lot to me. Almost every two or three months I do an extensive search at Simtropolis or other sites about how people uses my creations. I do a search of HBS, Heblem or simply looking at CJs, for example, Basted69008 - he has an amazing CJ diary called San Theodoros which mostly uses my old creations from LBT and some exclusive BATs and props I sent to him.
ST: You have been BATing wonderful models for over 6 years now. Is there any one of your creations that you are particularly proud of? Are there any fun stories or facts relating to some of your works that we don’t know about?
Heblem: Well, I have been active in the community since 2006, and since then, I have created hundreds of models, mods, maps, textures for over 9 years, including my old account of Hableurg (2006-2009) and currently Heblem in Simtropolis. In those years I have made a few CJ’s such as (small mini cities of the world), Canatlán (a Mexican city using LBT props) and much better and personalized city and of course my https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azYEvtKjbvw, a totally eyecandy American town. I’m proud of making many of these creations, including top quality BATs and lots like the recently uploaded commercial stores, restaurants and such.
Over these years, there has been many funny moments and collaboration with different people who share their knowledge. For example, making detailed 3D maps, general modeling help,
rendering, seamless textures and many aspects to be better and create better custom content.
ST: Has your experience BATing had any influence on your personal or professional life? Are there any skills that you have developed over your BATing career that have helped you beyond the world of SC4?
Heblem: It has definitely influenced me over my professional life. Many BATers around might be going for architecture or civil engineer careers for their professional life. In my case, video game development influenced me, and I just graduated in August 2014 with a degree in Game Design thanks to family and friends. The BATing career gave me the opportunity to be a better 3D designer, and it made it possible to learn many new things that I can apply to SC4, other games or even new games.
ST: What advice would you give to a new member of this community who was planning on creating their firstBAT or mod?
Heblem: My best advice to them, just never give it up. Give yourself a second chance, or maybe a third, the third always scores. Ten years ago I was in the same boat as you. I just gave myself a second chance and finally made it. Once you know how to do it, you’ll want to learn and do more.
ST: Simtropolis is organized into ‘player’ and ‘builder’ categories. Regarding the ‘player’ section, do you have any favorite CJers that you enjoy following? What are your favorite SC4 ‘scenes’ (i.e., towering metropolises, urban sprawl, rural landscapes, etc.).
Heblem: Honestly I only look at few CJs once a month because lack of time. I do especially look for those who use my custom content, such as, Bastet69008’s San Theodoros, whom I mentioned before. And for those who are asking for me to take a look into their CJ, I will gladly look at and comment. But as for myself, I don’t really use the forums often or comment much (if you see my profile I have less than 400 post in 6 years). Mostly I just visit Simtropolis to look at new comments in my mailbox, do searches, post something in my BAT thread and upload something (rarely). There was a time in which I used to be more active here at Simtropolis, back in 2006-2009, using the Hableurg profile.
My favorite SC4 scenes are landscaping, using MPPs, mountains, river streams, trees, etc. Basically because it reminds me of nature (I love nature). But I also enjoy looking at urban sprawl, but not really a fan of towering metropolises.
ST: On the ‘builders’ side, do you have any favorite BATers that you enjoy following? If you still play SC4, what was your most recent download from the STEX?
Heblem: Recently, the lots by nos.17 have attracted my attention because of the quality he puts into so many detailed lots. I even sent him an old commercial file stored in my computer for him to lot and upload, and honestly he did a great job! That’s my most recent STEX download.
Lately I haven’t played SimCity 4 due lack of time. Last time I opened the game was for doing some lot testing at Mall del Sur (my latest creation), but overall in last 6 years, I haven’t played as much as I should. Most of my SC4 spent time is spent on custom creations such mods and bats. Additionally, I have been attracted to other games instead.
ST: SimCity 4 has been out for over 12 years now. Are you surprised that this community is still going strong all these years later? What do you think is the secret to its longevity? Do you think there will still be new content being created 12 years from now?
Heblem: Yes, I’m surprised it keeps going on after 12 years. It’s longevity is mainly due to its strong community in the creation of daily new custom content, and currently it’s the only game capable of making a huge “realistic” city than any other city building game.
I think there will be new content even after 12 years, but it depends on those who still play, and if those kids who play today will learn to BAT and contribute more into the game. Even if a new better “Sim City” like game comes out in a future and convinces us to change over to it, I don’t think it is going to kill SC4 after more than 12 years of custom content. It will be a hard to kill for years to come.
ST: Other than SC4, what types of games are you involved in?
Heblem: Before I got involved into the SC4 modding and bating community, I used to make campaign scenarios for Age of Empires II (from 2000 to 2006). I made famous TD games, like Warriors Defense, Empire Defense, fixed and improved many active maps, like AN’s world map, castle bloods, and cooperative. Strategy games have influenced me into pursuing video game development as a career.
Some other games I play include Far Cry 4, Banished, Minecraft, The Crew, AC Unity, Sanctum 2 and many other games from Steam.
And recently I’m collaborating in doing Huntington City in Minecraft, (not all work is mine) Take a look to Huntington Surface map, I think you’ll love it. It’s like SimCity but in Minecraft!
Also I do projects with Cry Engine and Unity 3D, I have city creation projects in 3D within Unity 3D.
ST: What are some of your favorite hobbies or activities away from a computer screen?
Heblem: As a hobby, currently I like doing 360° panoramas of the environment and nature of some public spaces.
ST: Will we see any new SC4 content from you in the future?
Heblem: If I get enough time, I hope to create some more content for SC4, but eventually I plan to stop doing so.