Representing Eastern Europe, let's welcome Seraf and his wonderful BATing skills to our next interview! Seraf's list of files includes a very unique selection of BATs, from gardens and greenhouses to some very classy NYC-style buildings circa 1900. If there were a BAT Olympics, his creations would always get high marks from the always very strict and severe East German judge. If there were a BAT Bowl Series (like American college football) his BATs would always play in the Rose Bowl because you can find roses in gardens like the ones he makes. If there were a BAT art gallery- wait, that's kind of what the STEX is, to a certain extent. Anyway, Seraf!
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?
Seraf: I vaguely remember that I stumbled upon SC4 (I think it was SC4) when I was still in primary school. It was installed on one of the computers in the computer class; I tried to play this strange version of "the Sims" as I called it back then but didn't succeed in anything more than spending money. The next time was when I was a little older - fifteen, maybe sixteen. I think I borrowed it from someone. This time the gameplay was more productive.
But my first sim game was "The Sims", I absolutely loved building and decorating houses, in fact I still do but rarely have time for this.
ST: What aspect of SC4 do you enjoy most – what keeps you coming back?
Seraf: I don't really know, in fact for the last few years I only turn on the game when I need to test my BATs. But I always enjoyed building beautiful cities, full of great plazas and vistas.
ST: Do you recall the first plugin you installed?
Seraf: Oh, not really, I remember that one of the first was the Library Tower form LA. I knew this building from the Independence Day movie and liked it so it landed in my plugin folder.
ST: What led you to Simtropolis at first? Can you remember your initial impressions of the site?
Seraf: I think what led me to ST was STEX. I couldn't enjoy other aspects of the site since I didn't really know English. And I think my first impression was probably something like: "dammit, everything's in English. How am I supposed to find anything in here?"
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?
Seraf: Not really. I remember that I wanted to recreate New York City, so I downloaded everything that I could find onSTEX. But it soon became clear that I need more of the characteristic buildings to make my city even remotely similar to real New York. And that's how I discovered BAT. And you know what they say: "need is the mother of invention" but also: "if you want something to be done right do it yourself" (and the second sentence pretty much describes my approach to BATing most of the time).
ST: Speaking of first steps, what was the very first thing that you modeled using the BAT? Do you still have a screen shot?
Seraf: Apart from some random walls with holes that were supposed to be windows - my very first BAT was Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower. Which is still (unfortunately) available on STEX. I have a few screenshots; I seldom delete any previews so I suppose that back then I just didn't make that many. You can see a mosaic of the renders below (I must say I'm still quite proud how the clock turned out, it still looks good).
ST: Many of your BATs are released under the NYBT banner. For those of us (including myself) who may not know much about the NY BAT Team, can you elaborate on what you guys are about/how you are organized and what your role with them is?
Seraf: Oh my... better sit comfortably because this one will be long
So, just looking on our group's name you can tell that we focus on the buildings from New York City area, although I think at some point we expanded it to the whole New York State. As far as the organization goes...I don't think there's much of "organization" per se. We try to keep up with what others are doing so we don't end up having two people working on the same thing - but that's about it.
My role... well, I don't think I have one. Or if I do it's probably "this columns-and-cornices guy" I enjoy making classical or eclectic buildings and since it seems that there's not that many who want to model this kind of buildings - I make most of them. Manhattan has many great buildings in traditional styles so I think I'll never run out of potential BATs.
ST: Your list of uploads includes a number of plazas, gardens, and greenhouses. Are there any particular reasons for choosing to direct your efforts in this direction?
Seraf: Yes. You see, when I finished MetLife Tower and Macy's, my eyes turned to Central Park. If I remember correctly I was just recreating it in game, I looked at some photos of Bethesda Fountain and thought that it isn't that difficult and I could make it, just to make my Central Park a bit more real. Then I made the seats around it, then started making the terrace. And somewhere along the way I got hooked. At the same time I started making Temperate House from Kew. I intended to use it as an entrance to Olympic Ice Rink in my CJ. The Rink never made it to the game but I finished Temperate House and meanwhile I grew to love the subtle elegance of iron-and-glass Victorian greenhouses.
I think the plazas, fountains, gardens - all of them are an important part of the space around us. We can't live in cities consisting only of streets lined with buildings, it would be unbearable. They are like paintings or figurines we place in our homes, they beautify our cities. And I have a soft spot for beautiful things.
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? Your favorite?
Seraf: I can never decide which one I like the least - texturing or modding. But recently I learned that if you plan the texturing when you model then it can be a little less unpleasant. As for the favourite... I think the end of work. When you upload your work for others to use and you know that you did a good job and it looks great.
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? Is it exciting to see your models used in the CJs of others?
Seraf: I have no idea. I suppose I just like to do it. But I must say that because I usually model the buildings I like, by modelling I can really get to know them, or at least their exterior. So I guess that's important too - I learn something about things I like.
I appreciate the comments, it's nice to know that people download (so probably like) your work but it's even nicer to read the comments (and here I'm a terrible hypocrite because I can't remember when I commented someone's finished work...).
It's definitely exciting to see my BATs in CJs, it really tells you that people like your work and use it to make their cities which is even more rewarding than comments. I remember seeing one of my old BATs (the Waterlily House from Kew) in one of the CJ. I was grinning like an idiot.
ST: You released your first BAT in 2008. 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?
Seraf: I think that I'm proud of all my BATs in some way. My most recent work - the NY University Club, I think it's a great BAT in many aspects. I learned much while doing it. Another BAT that I'm exceptionally proud of is the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial - for me it marks a new stage in quality of my BATs.
Fun stories... I must say I can't really think about any, unless you count me getting pissed when some of the details I was sweating over aren't even visible on render
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?
Seraf: It had huge influence on my interests. As I said, while making Bethesda Terrace I got to know this structure pretty good. All the intricate ornaments and reliefs, the planning and scale of it made great impression on me. That's what started my interest in historic and traditional architecture. I started to study it on my own. Over time I noticed that some of the buildings look graceful and proud while others do not. I started to study principles of classical architecture so I could know why. From there the road to designing things of my own wasn't very long. As for now I designed a few monuments, started developing a scheme for grand opera house and some other things. And while it is all in terms of my hobby - I don't think of it any less than if it would be part of my job.
As for the skills - I think BATing taught me how to look at classical architecture, at least in part. Most people looking at the building see just columns, random lines or parts of figures that make up a cornice. They rarely see the scheme that architect had in mind when he designed the building. Also - staring long hours at the photos of a cornice trying to determine its profile is a good exercise in classical design
ST: What advice would you give to a new member of this community who was planning on creating their first BAT?
Seraf: Don't rush it. Take all the time you need. Also - don't choose something that would be difficult to make even for seasoned BATers, it will only discourage you if you fail. And above all: choose something that you like - your favourite building or place.
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.).
Seraf: Oh yes. I enjoy SimCoug's CJ and Schulmania is also great. I remember seeing many good CJs but my problem is that I see some good CJ and then can't remember its name. And of course I won't think about bookmarking it either because I'm just me. I like historical scenes but also representative spaces in the city. With government buildings and plazas (what a surprise, isn't it? )
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?
Seraf: Hmm, there is JasonCW and darn42. Aaron, Vlasky and Paul from NYBT. I always enjoyed the Nofunk's and Amthaak's threads but sadly neither of them is active now.
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?
Seraf: Maybe a little? But I think it's still a great game which doesn't have many worthy opponents in category of city-building (among new games that is). And that would be one of the reasons why it's still popular. Another one would be that there's so much custom content. And the quality of CC is still being improved. But will it be still being created in 12 years? I have no idea, maybe it will be, maybe not. Maybe there will be a miracle and EA will decide that it's better to come back to SC4 and improve it rather than make new games that mostly fail to meet the expectations of the gamers
ST: Are there any games you play besides SC4? What other hobbies do you have away from BATing and SimCity?
Seraf: Yes, my favourite genre is adventure games. I like spending time solving various riddles and puzzles. But I don't shy away from shooters either, although the ones set in WWI or II repel me very much. The last game I played was Watch Dogs, I got it for free so I thought - why not? It was ok.
I have many hobbies. I draw and paint (although the latter only digitally). Ironically - mostly humans rather than architecture. I like designing buildings (or parts of them) so I guess I do draw architecture a little after all. I'm an aspiring writer so I spend much time improving my writing skills. I've been learning to sing for a few years now and recently I started training figure skating. So I have my schedule full.
ST: What question have I not asked that I should have?
Seraf: I have no idea Although I think I'm glad that you didn't ask about unfinished BATs or plans for future ones. The former could upset a number of people ( ) the latter is an ever-changing matter.