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SimCoug

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  1. catty-cb liked an article by SimCoug, 100 Million STEX DL: An Interview with Paeng   

    ST: When did you first get SC4, and what do you remember about your first experiences with the game?
    Paeng: I got it right off the shelf on release. Then I got annoyed with it and put it back on the shelf. Until RH came out, now that was quite the day...


    ST: Was SC4 your first involvement with SimCity, or did you already have a history with the sim games?
    Paeng: Nah, I played on and off since the very first version... but it was always more of a seasonal thing - none of the early versions could put me in a trance like SC4 does... not even the fabled SC3000 ;-)


    ST: What aspect of SC4 do you enjoy most – what keeps you coming back?
    Paeng: In the beginning it was clearly the region play, then with RH the network stuff... Then, later again, MMPs and all the green stuff...


    ST: Before we jump into the all the custom content questions, I’m curious… what is your favorite Maxis lot/BAT?
    Paeng: Maxis defaults are quite underrated - actually I like most of it... well, after some cleaning up, I'll admit ;-) The main reason why I don't use much of it any more is the inconsistent scale. I guess I like their grungy industrials best, and still use them a lot, too.


    ST: Do you recall the first plugin you installed?
    Paeng: Nope. Actually I was off the grid for quite a long time in the early 2000s, until about 2005 or 6... lots of RL, two sons in puberty... you know ;-) So basically I slept through the early custom content era... and when I woke up to it, I started downloading with a vengeance.


    ST: What led you to Simtropolis at first? Can you remember your initial impressions of the site?
    Paeng: Well, by the time I was getting interested in city builders again, I quickly realized that there had been a lot of batting, modding and lotting going on - behind my back, so to speak LOL... so I started some in-depth research that quickly led me to places like ST, SC4D, SimPeg and many other fan sites and repositories in all corners of the world... I pretty much stayed in lurk mode then - there was so much to catch up with, so many different 'philosophies', opinions, emotions... So for the next year or two I dug in quietly, reading tons of material in all the forums, while polishing up on my playing skills and building up a first collection of custom content - really without any plan to ever start producing stuff on my own.


    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?
    Paeng: No, it was more a lack of particular lots and Bats - when I started building cities using more and more custom content, I kept hitting snags and dead ends, where I just could not build things the way I envisioned them. I spent endless hours on the exchanges looking for that one piece that would fit. On top of that I was already drifting away from large city vistas, tinkering with more rural settings.


    ST: Speaking of first steps, what was the very first thing that you lotted using the LE?
    Paeng: Tehehe... I had this sleepy rural town, and there was supposed to be a bus stop with a pedestrian overpass - fit for small town... but all the textues, props and lots I found were too urban for my liking... that's when the bubble burst, I hit the forum wailing: "How the hell can I get this the way I want it?!" You guessed it - all answers were like "Get the Lot Editor", "Use The Reader", "Learn how to Bat"... So I started with the easiest obstacle to overcome - the Lot Editor.


    ST: Your first STEX upload was a in June of 2009. You started your now famous ‘Mountainview/Paengia’ City Journal about a month earlier. What prompted you to begin sharing your creations with the SC4 community?
    Paeng: Well, the moment I started lotting, I knew this is just my thing... so I started to look around for stuff that I can turn into lots... the security fences were basically a lotting exercise, and the fence props were there, hardly used - because they were "just" props. Then someone said, hey - this is a useful little set, you should put it up at the Stex... So I did, and to my surprise folks started downloading and indeed found it useful.


    ST: You have created and shared a wide range of lots over the past 6 years, but they all share some common characteristics. For one, you have a keen eye for the right details and a knack for eye pleasing designs. You also tend to focus on sets that have modular capabilities. How did this ‘Paeng’ style come about?
    Paeng: I strongly dislike the grid. I hated the fact that everything is forever bound to squares and rectangles. Now I can't change that basic SC4 principle... but I can do a lot to at least break that appearance. I can combine a couple of 1x1s with a 4x4 - it is still made up of squares, but it appears to be an irregular shape. That is the simple approach I took, and it continues throughout almost all the lots I created. Not everybody uses them that way, but if you look closely, most of my pieces can be combined any which way with other pieces, even if they come in seemingly unrelated sets... That's why I also use as few "dependencies" as possible - basically I use the same set of "essentials" in all my releases... Of course there are exceptions to that, certain specialty items would just suffer if I don't add special ingredients as well... but I rarely 'splurge'.
    As for my keen eye - thanks :-) Indeed I'm a stickler for details and not satisfied before I get that tickle in my gut...


    ST: A large number of your lots are influenced by the prolific BATer Pegasus. How did you come about to work so closely with one of the top SC4 custom content creators?
    Paeng: As mentioned I was drawn early on to rural settings... so the style of Pegasus held high appeal for me, aside the fact that he is a fantastic Batter (and taught me the ropes with the Reader). Add to that the fact that the Simpeg community is smaller and generally more quiet and relaxed than others - something I need for my mental make-up, I'm over 60 by now and the brash vigor of the very young does not always sit well with me ;-)... you can see why Simpeg.com became my home base. My early work is based on the 'Mountain Theme' - I probably turned every Bat and prop of that set inside out at least once...

    At some point Peg and I worked close together on a re-launch of the Simpeg site --being a (former) web-developer, my skill-set happened to match the needs-- and during that time we decided to finally tackle the Agricultural Mod - something that had been a long-time topic with some members of the Simpeg community, like Rebecca and Craig, plus a host of others volunteering for work and input and beta testing. The result was the - Pegasus doing the Bats and most of the modding, Becca and Craig most of the lotting, myself doing some lotting and modding as well as the documentation and packaging. Many addons followed, like Becca's Irrigation Canals, my Access Roads, Craig's Agri Industrials and many more...

    Regretfully, Pegasus has since retired from producing Custom Content - but he left us the simpeg keys... So Craig and I are sort of commissary webmasters, fortunately supported by a whole bunch of great people to help. Visit Simpeg and you'll know who they are :-)


    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 Loting process? Your favorite?
    Paeng: I start with my favorite... The greatest fun is to work with other people having a similar mindset for custom content. I seldom lack ideas - but it's all so much richer and rewarding when you can do it with a bunch of people who enjoy it as much as you do.
    Brainstorming, throwing ideas around, solving problems together, continuously learning from each other, or just generally shooting the s*hit - that's what makes it worth all the time we sink into this... passion. Hobby does not really fit :-)

    Then of course the actual lotting process - slowly seeing your idea taking shape, pulling together all the right ingredients until there is harmony - very zen.

    My least favorite? Probably the time between packaging and release. That time when you're all alone and need to check every lot one by one to tweak little things, finalize LTexts and Descriptions, remove the ballast, make icons, write the readme - the nitty-gritty stuff... that's time-consuming and concentration-eating WORK.


    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 lots pop up in CJs?
    Paeng: The motivation - that this game is still alive after all these years, still attracts new players, and is still not depleted as far as new discoveries and new techniques are concerned... and that it still attracts people to pick up Custom Content Creation and come up with amazingly unique stuff...

    Comments - I had to learn not to let them get to me... I have spoken to producers who were about to leave it all behind (and some who actually did), just because some jerk made a snide remark, or because some troll pulled the ranking down... On the other hand it's uplifting when a comment is really "speaking" to you, taking the time to form at least a full sentence. But I can fully understand that not everybody has the time or is in the mood to do this all the time.

    So naturally - seeing one of our items pop up in a CJ is always thrilling - it's the best applause we can get.


    ST: You have been loting amazing creations for almost 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?
    Paeng: Since you ask for one personal favorite, then it has to be my & - if only for versatility and size, it has something for everybody... and there are countless hours in that one, both for me and any player ;-)

    Though most credit must go to those who provide us with a sheer endless stream of models - they are the true heroes. Personally, I can't Bat if my life depends on it.

    Funny stories you don't know about? Not really - It's All In The Lots... LOL


    ST: Has your experience with loting had any influence on your personal or professional life? Are there any skills that you have developed over your SC4 career that have helped you beyond the world of this game?
    Paeng: No.


    ST: What advice would you give to a new member of this community who was planning on creating their first Lot/BAT?
    Paeng: Go into Lurk Modus. Get a feel for the community. Read up on the tools - everything you need to know is out there. Search for answers yourself. If you have questions left, ask them in a precise manner. Download lots of files and analyze them inside LE. Don't upload your first lot to the Stex. Have Fun!


    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.).
    Paeng: To be honest - I basically rely on BTT + 10... without that fantastic resource I'd probably miss out on a lot of CJs... so if you look at BTT plus its yearly top 100, then you know what I'm looking at - as much as time permits.

    Well, it's no secret that I much prefer rural settings. Once in a blue moon I get the urge and build up some "Towering Inferno", though even that will usally be a seaside resort, or a rich enclave in the middle of nowhere LOL... But mostly I like to zoom in on bucolic settings.


    ST: On the ‘builders’ side, do you have any favorite BATers that you enjoy following? What was your most recent download from the STEX?
    Paeng: Same as on the player's side... I'm an avid collector, and with the roughly 15Gb I have collected so far, I daresay I have seen most of it - so I know who the good Batters are, if they put up something on the Stex, it's an automatic download... If I tried to list them all, I'd surely forget half of them.

    Of course I have a soft spot for all these guys who concentrate on the smaller buildings - mid- and lowrise COM and RES, so guys like MattB or Madhatter come to mind, or the guys who make great series of props, like NBVC or Murimk or Shokthrpy... but again - I can't really single out anybody, there are just so many who make fantastic content available to us...

    My latest Downloads are -

    The latest


    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?
    Paeng: No, I'm not surprised - we have to remember that this game's history goes back much farther than SC4... all in all we're talking about what? Almost a quarter of a century? There is a reason for this long-time appeal - something no ego shooter can ever get near... probably because it is constructive, not destructive?

    12 years from now? Hard to say - there may still be small groups of afficionados everywhere, but the community as a whole will be totally different. Just imagining what technology can do in 2027 is kinda... mind-boggling.
  2. Seraf liked an article by SimCoug, 100 Million STEX DL: An Interview with Tarkus   

    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?
    Tarkus: I first picked up SC4 in the spring of 2004, sometime after SC4 Deluxe was released. I had intermittently had some experiences with the SimCity franchise before that, first with the SNES version in 1991 (my dad pulled an all-nighter with it!), and sometime in the late-90s, with Streets of SimCity, which happened to include SCURK (a stripped down, sandbox SC2000). I wound up spending more time with SCURK that with Streets (which was notoriously buggy, sadly) and meticulously plotted out a multi-tile region over several years, using TXT files to map out the coordinates for neighbor connections.
    When I ran across SC4 by chance at the store, and saw they had actually implemented multi-tile regions, it was instantly a must-purchase. After that, it was a game where I went through spurts of intense play. I didn't know there were mods out there until I ran across Simtropolis by accident in December 2005, and the rest is history.
     
    ST: What aspect of SC4 do you enjoy most – what keeps you coming back?
    Tarkus: I think the two biggest things are the open-ended and (for all intents and purposes) infinite nature of the gameplay, plus the massive amounts of custom content out there, and the ability to add even more yet. SC4 isn't one of those games you “beat”, and I've never really considered any of my cities “completed”. While the advisers may try to push you in one way, I've always found it's ultimately up to the player to decide the goals, and that's something I find appealing. Believe it or not, I've never built a city over 350,000 population, because I've never really had the desire to build a skyscraper jungle.
     
     
    ST: Before we jump into the all the custom content questions, I’m curious… what is your favorite Maxis lot/BAT?
    Tarkus: That's a good question. I'd have to say it's probably tied between a few of the high-tech buildings, like the Accelerator and Cryo Testing. They're probably the shiniest buildings in the Maxis defaults, and I was always happy to see them pop up back when I played vanilla.
     
     
    ST: Do you recall the first plugin you installed?
    Tarkus: It was NAM Version 19, which I picked up about two months after its release in late 2005, shortly followed by the first RHW alpha. Absolutely blew my mind to have all that transportation functionality added.
     
     
    ST: What led you to Simtropolis at first?  Can you remember your initial impressions of the site?
    Tarkus: I recall getting bored one day in December 2005 and browsing the fansite listing at the official EA Maxis SimCity 4 site. I had run across SimCityCentral and a couple other sites quite some time prior, but there wasn't much there on the custom content front, and I had kind of forgotten about my search for mods and such until I decided to look again that day. Eventually, I found and clicked the link to Simtropolis, and it was like SC4 Disneyland, with a bunch of custom content I had only dreamed of—like the NAM—plus a forum that seemed way more level-headed than some of the ones I'd followed for other games. Eventually, I bit the bullet and officially joined the site in February 2006.
     
     
    ST: Describe your progression into the world of SC4 custom content.  Was it a particular mod, lot or BAT that inspired you to take the first step?
    Tarkus: It all started with the NAM. From there, I downloaded quite a bit of custom content, mostly BSC Team stuff in the suburban vein. I was really fond of building suburbs, but found Maxis' building selections on that front lacking. It was probably the potential of the then-brand-new RHW mod (the “R” still stood for “Rural” then), and the burgeoning roadsign development stuff, like artforce1's Generic Highway Sign Development Project (GHSDP) and Ryan B.'s stuff that got me thinking of getting into the content business myself.
     
     
    ST: Speaking of first steps, what was the very first thing that you attempted to mod?  How did it turn out?
    Tarkus: My very first upload was a pack of roadsign lots, with Oregon-style “speed” signs—without the word “limit” as has been the practice in my home state for many years (though ODOT now seems to have a Commie plot afoot to convert us to the standard “Speed Limit” verbiage). They came as standalone grass lots, plus “space saving” transit-enabled lots. They ultimately got a couple thousand downloads, as I recall. I eventually deleted them as “youthful indiscretions”, as they weren't modded all that well, and there had been some controversy about the effect of TE lots on traffic simulation in the late-00s.
     
     
    ST: The NAM team was founded way back in 2004, and you joined shortly after in 2007.  What was it like being a new member of the team?  As a freshman on the High School swim team, we had to run through the school in nothing but shoes and our speedos.  Was there any NAM initiation of the new members?
    Tarkus: Being brought onto the NAM Team was just like the sense of “SC4 Disneyland” I felt when I first discovered ST. I had actually been working on RHW content for about 4 or 5 months before I got added to the team. One day in February 2007, I looked in the old private topics area that used to be on the site, where I had an ongoing thread with jplumbley, Ryan B, and beskhu3epnm about this crazy thing called an NWM, and I noticed the sudden appearance of a “NAM Private Discussion” in there. I was basically added to the team without a peep, which made it a very pleasant surprise. That silent addition is still a tactic we'll sometimes use when adding new members to the team—most recently with Durfsurn.
     
     
    ST: What was your first contribution to the NAM?  What motivated you to spend the hours digging through the inner workings of SC4, attempting to make it a better game?
    Tarkus: The RHW project had really caught my attention when I first arrived in the community. At that point, it was still in what we know today as Version 1.2—a rough alpha with a very limited feature set, but I could tell it had potential. At that point, it wasn't even technically part of the NAM, but a loosely affiliated side-project. There was pretty much just one thing I really wanted to add to it—an Avenue-over-RHW-4 piece—and maybe a couple more along the same lines. Eventually, I ended up releasing those pieces as part of RHW Version 1.3 in April 2007. I found that once I had invested the time into learning the ropes, I got quite a bit of satisfaction out of it, so that one puzzle piece turned into 8 years of NAM development for me.
     
     
    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 moding process?  What about your favorite?
    Tarkus: As far as a least favorite part, I don't think anyone enjoys bugfixing, but from a personal standpoint, I've gotten to the point where I don't really enjoy making standard puzzle pieces anymore. That process has become rather tedious. Fortunately, because we're on the cusp of getting the FLEX stuff dialed in, and I haven't had to make one in some time. As far as favorite parts, it's always things like getting the first prototype of a new override network or FLEX piece into functional shape—enough that I can use it in an actual city. It's been quite fulfilling getting the new elevated ramp interfaces in place for our upcoming NAM 33 release.
     
     
    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 creative uses of the NAM pop up in CJs?
    Tarkus: What's kept me motivated is my vision for projects like the RHW and NWM that I had right as I was first starting to mod. There's still stuff I'd like to add to the game, and there probably will continue to be for some time. Most of the comments in the download section we get now for the NAM are tech support-related, but looking back over my infamous April Fools' upload, the , I really get a kick out of those comments. I still get a thrill out of seeing people playing around with stuff I designed in “Show Us” threads, CJs and MDs, and I still remember how ecstatic I was once the RHW's Modular Interchange System first starting showing up there. Especially once McDuell got a hold of it.
     
     
    ST: You have been moding for the NAM team for over 7 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?
    Tarkus: It's 8 years this month, which I still find hard to believe. I'm probably the most proud of the modular interchange concept for the RHW. Before that time, just about every other post in the old NAM Requests thread was asking for new highway interchanges, but the problem was that the process of making the big pre-fab interchanges for the default highways was ridiculously labor intensive. With the clean slate of the RHW, it made sense to build up a new approach, which did everything differently from the Maxis Highways. Rather than spending 6 to 12 months developing a single interchange to add to the NAM, the modular approach broke things up into smaller chunks that could be easily produced, and then assembled by the users into thousands of different combinations. This allowed all the would-be highway engineers to take matters into their own hands, creatively, rather than sitting around in the request thread. While some folks out there may not be fond of the RHW's complexity, once the RHW 3.0 release in 2009 added elevated components (thanks to the modeling efforts of my good friend Swamper77), and true RHW-to-RHW interchanges became possible, without having to fudge things with tunnels or one-way roads, the whole request backlog fell away. We only see maybe one Maxis Highway interchange request every couple years now, and the lessons we've learned from RHW development have paid dividends with implementing the NWM and other components, so I feel that it's been an enormously successful transit modding initiative. And we could probably keep adding to it for many years to come.
    Probably the funniest fact I can think of relating to NAM development was the nickname we had for the RHW neighbor connector pieces. Before we added those, the only way to get commuter traffic to continue onto the next city tile with a multi-tile RHW system was to build a loop connector, a visible perpendicular stretch of road that went between the two halves of the RHW and broke the override, in order to get around a limitation in the game's simulation engine. It did the trick, but it was rather unsightly. Internally, on the team, as the present-day NC pieces you know today were being developed, we called them NREEs: Nicole Richie Effect Eliminators, as Ms. Richie was well-known at that point for driving the wrong way on a California freeway, much as the sims using loop connectors did.
     
     
    ST: Has your experience moding had any influence on your personal or professional life?  Are there any skills that you have developed over your moding career that have helped you beyond the world of SC4?
    Tarkus: As far as my personal life, not really—pretty much no one in my RL know about my SC4 activities, and I actually keep that on the downlow for the most part. Professionally, my experiences with modding actually inspired me to take about two years of computer science coursework while working on my doctorate, and I've been putting some of those skills to use of late, developing Java-based music theory utilities.
     
     
    ST: I understand that you delved into the world of local politics recently.  Do you think your interest in city simulations has played a part in that?
    Tarkus: Yes, I ran for a city council seat in my home town, and while I didn't get in, I was pleased with getting 10% of the vote as a virtual unknown. And I'd say it's the other way around for me—I think my interest in local politics, and particularly, in transportation and land use policy, was what got me into SC4. I spend quite a bit of time researching those issues in my spare time, looking over a lot of technical documents—transportation system plans and the like—and that's heavily influenced my approach to the game, as evidenced by Tarkusian Cities. I'd also say that the policy research I did during my campaign will influence my approach to the game going forward—for starters, discovering the dismal safety records for Oregon's multi-lane roundabouts will cause me to steer clear of those in the future.
     
     
     
    ST: What advice would you give to a new member of this community who was interested in joining the NAM team?
    Tarkus: The way that most of us have gotten onto the team is by virtue of starting on transit modding passion projects on our own, and then invited to the team once we've shown enough skill. My advice is to find something you're interested in seeing in-game, reading up on the various modding tutorials and the like (which are far more abundant than when I started), and learning how things work. We're usually happy to provide some technical assistance and answer questions for new transit modders giving it an honest go. That's how I ultimately started out—Swamper77 and qurlix were two members who helped me out as I was first getting going. Also, if you find a buddy in the community who is also giving it a go—as happened with me and jplumbley—that can also make the experience more enjoyable.
     
     
    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.).
    Tarkus: Admittedly, I haven't been able to follow CJs as much of late—heck, my own has gone MIA—but I've typically enjoyed the ones that kind of get heavy on planning and roadgeekery. and are two authors on ST today that I think do a good job with that. Going back in time, things like dedgren's Three Rivers Region, haljackey's , , and pickled_pig's Travels Down I-85 appealed to me. I'm normally drawn to the more suburban settings, but really, anything that's done well and focuses on thinking about the game stands a good chance of piquing my interest.
     
     
    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?
    Tarkus: I'd say that probably the most distinctive BATer for me nowadays is Bipin. He's got some interesting ideas, and executes them well. I've also been pleased to see Bobbo662's lost work coming to light, through nos.17's efforts. As far as all-time favorites, I like a lot of the old BSC stuff—SimGoober and mattb325, especially. Most recent STEX download for me, technically, was this month's challenge region. I've been considering a strictly exhibition entry for it, with the idea of siccing some new toys on it.
     
     
    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?
    Tarkus: I'm maybe a little bit surprised, mostly at the fact that it's been 12 years, but I've always pegged this community as being in it for the long haul. It's crazy to think that most of the pioneers of the SC4 modding scene, from the 2004-2005 era, thought we'd have “jumped ship” to the mythical SC5 by 2007—and we're 8 years past that date. I think there's been a few things that have led to the longevity. First, there's just so much custom content out there, and it's still coming. The rate of production isn't nearly what it was in the mid/late-00s, but it's still coming. The game's still readily available and is selling well on Steam and other digital retailers, and that's bringing a steady stream of new players in, which is astonishing for a game of this age. Also, the other attempts at making city-simulators haven't quite captured the balance of SC4. People find the new SimCity, and that actually becomes somewhat of a gateway to SC4.
    As far as 12 years from now goes, that'll be 2027. I'll be turning 42 that year (yikes!). Retro gaming is a huge phenomenon—one I'm into, personally—and as this generation gets older, provided Steam and the like are still around, SC4's going to become a big nostalgia trip for people. Consider that SC4 will be the same age then that Super Mario World and the original Sonic the Hedgehog are in 2015. I could see at least some diehards continuing to make content then.
     
     
    ST:  Cities:Skylines... have you played it yet?  If not, what are you first impressions based on the mountain of feedback available here on Simtropolis or around the web?
    Tarkus: I have not played it yet--RL has been absolutely insane recently--though I am certainly curious about it.  A lot of people in this community, whose opinion I trust, some of whom are as hardcore about SC4 as they come, have had very positive things to say.  And I've been impressed with what I've seen.
     
     
    ST:  12 years later, many are calling this game the 'successor' to SC4 and the city building genera.  What are your thoughts?
    Tarkus: Colossal Order and Paradox have been very smart about how they've handled things, and while I haven't personally been able to play it yet, the approach they've taken and the widespread support they've gotten seem to suggest that Cities: Skylines may in fact be "the mythical SC5".  As soon as I heard they were entering the market, I had a feeling about this game.  Being a smaller operation with a proven track record, who seem to learned from SC4, I think really allowed them to avoid the pitfalls that plagued the other post-SC4 city simulators.  They didn't try to make it an MMO or an online game, or build it around some other sort of gimmick.  It actually fits with the current direction in hardware and OS development by properly supporting multi-core processors and 64-bit architecture, which is really critical if you're going to produce a city simulation platform that can handle the sort of complexity and depth that many of us enjoy.  And it's very fairly priced--the standard edition is only $10 more than SC4's MSRP, which is pretty astonishing.
     
    I don't think SC4 is going to die off--there's still people playing SC3000 and earlier out there, and the NAM Team still has the gears turning for NAM 33--but this game is getting an unheard of adoption rate among the real core of the SC4 community.  I have no doubt it is going to change the face of the community across the board, here at Simtropolis, on Reddit, and over at SC4 Devotion.  In fact, it already has, in just a week after release.
     
     
    ST:  It will take plenty time before C:S can rival the amount of custom content available for SC4, but the developers have really encouraged modding, and there are already many new buildings and 'assets' that can be found on Simtropolis and the steam workshop.  Are you encouraged by the leap into C:S custom content?
    Tarkus:  I think that the content side of things, and how it's already exploded in just a week's time, shows that Colossal Order really gets what made SC4 tick, and they were smart in getting Steam Workshop set up for the game.  And consider that it took the SC4 community sometime to really crack that game open.  NAM Version 1 didn't see the light until over a year after the game's release, and the content development scene didn't really resemble what most of us recognize today until the second year after release, when you had the BSC, the NAM Team, NDEX, and Pegasus firing on all cylinders.  Given that the developers seem to be indicating they'll be opening up more stuff in the near future, I think the C:S community may very well have an accelerated trajectory, compared to how things unfolded with SC4.
     
    As for whether or not you'll see me enter the modding scene with C:S, it's too early to say at this point, especially as I don't yet have the game.  I'm also not normally one who buys games with a predetermined intention of modding them--it was 2 years between when I purchased SC4 and when I started developing content.  But the way things are integrated, as far as I can tell, the way they've done it, the modding is kind of a seamless part of the game with C:S.  I'm certainly interested to see how it all works in practice, firsthand.
     
     
    ST: What question have I not asked that I should have?
    Tarkus: Just kidding on that one—I could certainly go another 12 years without hearing it, as could about half the site.   Thank you for the interesting questions, and to ST and its staff for continuing to foster the SC4 community—congratulations on this significant milestone!
  3. nos.17 liked an article by SimCoug, Making lots water compatible   
    1)  Using ILives Reader, select the lot exemplar file ... you should see a screen similar to this what you see below.
    In the empty space below, right click with your mouse and select 'add property'

     

    2)  In the pop up box, select 'LotConfigPropertyWaterCompatibility' under the 'name' field.

     

    3)  In the 'values as text' field near the bottom, type '1', then push the first 'apply' button, then the next 'apply' button.

     

    4)  You should see a new property under your lot exemplar.



    5)  Finally, under the 'sub files' tab, select the 'ReIndex' option, then again under the 'sub files' tab, select 'Rebuild Directory File'. 



    6)  Last but not least, save your file (or save as).   
    Fini!!
  4. catty-cb liked an article by SimCoug, 100 Million STEX DL: An Interview with Paeng   

    ST: When did you first get SC4, and what do you remember about your first experiences with the game?
    Paeng: I got it right off the shelf on release. Then I got annoyed with it and put it back on the shelf. Until RH came out, now that was quite the day...


    ST: Was SC4 your first involvement with SimCity, or did you already have a history with the sim games?
    Paeng: Nah, I played on and off since the very first version... but it was always more of a seasonal thing - none of the early versions could put me in a trance like SC4 does... not even the fabled SC3000 ;-)


    ST: What aspect of SC4 do you enjoy most – what keeps you coming back?
    Paeng: In the beginning it was clearly the region play, then with RH the network stuff... Then, later again, MMPs and all the green stuff...


    ST: Before we jump into the all the custom content questions, I’m curious… what is your favorite Maxis lot/BAT?
    Paeng: Maxis defaults are quite underrated - actually I like most of it... well, after some cleaning up, I'll admit ;-) The main reason why I don't use much of it any more is the inconsistent scale. I guess I like their grungy industrials best, and still use them a lot, too.


    ST: Do you recall the first plugin you installed?
    Paeng: Nope. Actually I was off the grid for quite a long time in the early 2000s, until about 2005 or 6... lots of RL, two sons in puberty... you know ;-) So basically I slept through the early custom content era... and when I woke up to it, I started downloading with a vengeance.


    ST: What led you to Simtropolis at first? Can you remember your initial impressions of the site?
    Paeng: Well, by the time I was getting interested in city builders again, I quickly realized that there had been a lot of batting, modding and lotting going on - behind my back, so to speak LOL... so I started some in-depth research that quickly led me to places like ST, SC4D, SimPeg and many other fan sites and repositories in all corners of the world... I pretty much stayed in lurk mode then - there was so much to catch up with, so many different 'philosophies', opinions, emotions... So for the next year or two I dug in quietly, reading tons of material in all the forums, while polishing up on my playing skills and building up a first collection of custom content - really without any plan to ever start producing stuff on my own.


    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?
    Paeng: No, it was more a lack of particular lots and Bats - when I started building cities using more and more custom content, I kept hitting snags and dead ends, where I just could not build things the way I envisioned them. I spent endless hours on the exchanges looking for that one piece that would fit. On top of that I was already drifting away from large city vistas, tinkering with more rural settings.


    ST: Speaking of first steps, what was the very first thing that you lotted using the LE?
    Paeng: Tehehe... I had this sleepy rural town, and there was supposed to be a bus stop with a pedestrian overpass - fit for small town... but all the textues, props and lots I found were too urban for my liking... that's when the bubble burst, I hit the forum wailing: "How the hell can I get this the way I want it?!" You guessed it - all answers were like "Get the Lot Editor", "Use The Reader", "Learn how to Bat"... So I started with the easiest obstacle to overcome - the Lot Editor.


    ST: Your first STEX upload was a in June of 2009. You started your now famous ‘Mountainview/Paengia’ City Journal about a month earlier. What prompted you to begin sharing your creations with the SC4 community?
    Paeng: Well, the moment I started lotting, I knew this is just my thing... so I started to look around for stuff that I can turn into lots... the security fences were basically a lotting exercise, and the fence props were there, hardly used - because they were "just" props. Then someone said, hey - this is a useful little set, you should put it up at the Stex... So I did, and to my surprise folks started downloading and indeed found it useful.


    ST: You have created and shared a wide range of lots over the past 6 years, but they all share some common characteristics. For one, you have a keen eye for the right details and a knack for eye pleasing designs. You also tend to focus on sets that have modular capabilities. How did this ‘Paeng’ style come about?
    Paeng: I strongly dislike the grid. I hated the fact that everything is forever bound to squares and rectangles. Now I can't change that basic SC4 principle... but I can do a lot to at least break that appearance. I can combine a couple of 1x1s with a 4x4 - it is still made up of squares, but it appears to be an irregular shape. That is the simple approach I took, and it continues throughout almost all the lots I created. Not everybody uses them that way, but if you look closely, most of my pieces can be combined any which way with other pieces, even if they come in seemingly unrelated sets... That's why I also use as few "dependencies" as possible - basically I use the same set of "essentials" in all my releases... Of course there are exceptions to that, certain specialty items would just suffer if I don't add special ingredients as well... but I rarely 'splurge'.
    As for my keen eye - thanks :-) Indeed I'm a stickler for details and not satisfied before I get that tickle in my gut...


    ST: A large number of your lots are influenced by the prolific BATer Pegasus. How did you come about to work so closely with one of the top SC4 custom content creators?
    Paeng: As mentioned I was drawn early on to rural settings... so the style of Pegasus held high appeal for me, aside the fact that he is a fantastic Batter (and taught me the ropes with the Reader). Add to that the fact that the Simpeg community is smaller and generally more quiet and relaxed than others - something I need for my mental make-up, I'm over 60 by now and the brash vigor of the very young does not always sit well with me ;-)... you can see why Simpeg.com became my home base. My early work is based on the 'Mountain Theme' - I probably turned every Bat and prop of that set inside out at least once...

    At some point Peg and I worked close together on a re-launch of the Simpeg site --being a (former) web-developer, my skill-set happened to match the needs-- and during that time we decided to finally tackle the Agricultural Mod - something that had been a long-time topic with some members of the Simpeg community, like Rebecca and Craig, plus a host of others volunteering for work and input and beta testing. The result was the - Pegasus doing the Bats and most of the modding, Becca and Craig most of the lotting, myself doing some lotting and modding as well as the documentation and packaging. Many addons followed, like Becca's Irrigation Canals, my Access Roads, Craig's Agri Industrials and many more...

    Regretfully, Pegasus has since retired from producing Custom Content - but he left us the simpeg keys... So Craig and I are sort of commissary webmasters, fortunately supported by a whole bunch of great people to help. Visit Simpeg and you'll know who they are :-)


    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 Loting process? Your favorite?
    Paeng: I start with my favorite... The greatest fun is to work with other people having a similar mindset for custom content. I seldom lack ideas - but it's all so much richer and rewarding when you can do it with a bunch of people who enjoy it as much as you do.
    Brainstorming, throwing ideas around, solving problems together, continuously learning from each other, or just generally shooting the s*hit - that's what makes it worth all the time we sink into this... passion. Hobby does not really fit :-)

    Then of course the actual lotting process - slowly seeing your idea taking shape, pulling together all the right ingredients until there is harmony - very zen.

    My least favorite? Probably the time between packaging and release. That time when you're all alone and need to check every lot one by one to tweak little things, finalize LTexts and Descriptions, remove the ballast, make icons, write the readme - the nitty-gritty stuff... that's time-consuming and concentration-eating WORK.


    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 lots pop up in CJs?
    Paeng: The motivation - that this game is still alive after all these years, still attracts new players, and is still not depleted as far as new discoveries and new techniques are concerned... and that it still attracts people to pick up Custom Content Creation and come up with amazingly unique stuff...

    Comments - I had to learn not to let them get to me... I have spoken to producers who were about to leave it all behind (and some who actually did), just because some jerk made a snide remark, or because some troll pulled the ranking down... On the other hand it's uplifting when a comment is really "speaking" to you, taking the time to form at least a full sentence. But I can fully understand that not everybody has the time or is in the mood to do this all the time.

    So naturally - seeing one of our items pop up in a CJ is always thrilling - it's the best applause we can get.


    ST: You have been loting amazing creations for almost 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?
    Paeng: Since you ask for one personal favorite, then it has to be my & - if only for versatility and size, it has something for everybody... and there are countless hours in that one, both for me and any player ;-)

    Though most credit must go to those who provide us with a sheer endless stream of models - they are the true heroes. Personally, I can't Bat if my life depends on it.

    Funny stories you don't know about? Not really - It's All In The Lots... LOL


    ST: Has your experience with loting had any influence on your personal or professional life? Are there any skills that you have developed over your SC4 career that have helped you beyond the world of this game?
    Paeng: No.


    ST: What advice would you give to a new member of this community who was planning on creating their first Lot/BAT?
    Paeng: Go into Lurk Modus. Get a feel for the community. Read up on the tools - everything you need to know is out there. Search for answers yourself. If you have questions left, ask them in a precise manner. Download lots of files and analyze them inside LE. Don't upload your first lot to the Stex. Have Fun!


    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.).
    Paeng: To be honest - I basically rely on BTT + 10... without that fantastic resource I'd probably miss out on a lot of CJs... so if you look at BTT plus its yearly top 100, then you know what I'm looking at - as much as time permits.

    Well, it's no secret that I much prefer rural settings. Once in a blue moon I get the urge and build up some "Towering Inferno", though even that will usally be a seaside resort, or a rich enclave in the middle of nowhere LOL... But mostly I like to zoom in on bucolic settings.


    ST: On the ‘builders’ side, do you have any favorite BATers that you enjoy following? What was your most recent download from the STEX?
    Paeng: Same as on the player's side... I'm an avid collector, and with the roughly 15Gb I have collected so far, I daresay I have seen most of it - so I know who the good Batters are, if they put up something on the Stex, it's an automatic download... If I tried to list them all, I'd surely forget half of them.

    Of course I have a soft spot for all these guys who concentrate on the smaller buildings - mid- and lowrise COM and RES, so guys like MattB or Madhatter come to mind, or the guys who make great series of props, like NBVC or Murimk or Shokthrpy... but again - I can't really single out anybody, there are just so many who make fantastic content available to us...

    My latest Downloads are -

    The latest


    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?
    Paeng: No, I'm not surprised - we have to remember that this game's history goes back much farther than SC4... all in all we're talking about what? Almost a quarter of a century? There is a reason for this long-time appeal - something no ego shooter can ever get near... probably because it is constructive, not destructive?

    12 years from now? Hard to say - there may still be small groups of afficionados everywhere, but the community as a whole will be totally different. Just imagining what technology can do in 2027 is kinda... mind-boggling.
  5. nos.17 liked an article by SimCoug, Making lots water compatible   
    1)  Using ILives Reader, select the lot exemplar file ... you should see a screen similar to this what you see below.
    In the empty space below, right click with your mouse and select 'add property'

     

    2)  In the pop up box, select 'LotConfigPropertyWaterCompatibility' under the 'name' field.

     

    3)  In the 'values as text' field near the bottom, type '1', then push the first 'apply' button, then the next 'apply' button.

     

    4)  You should see a new property under your lot exemplar.



    5)  Finally, under the 'sub files' tab, select the 'ReIndex' option, then again under the 'sub files' tab, select 'Rebuild Directory File'. 



    6)  Last but not least, save your file (or save as).   
    Fini!!
  6. nos.17 liked an article by SimCoug, Making lots water compatible   
    1)  Using ILives Reader, select the lot exemplar file ... you should see a screen similar to this what you see below.
    In the empty space below, right click with your mouse and select 'add property'

     

    2)  In the pop up box, select 'LotConfigPropertyWaterCompatibility' under the 'name' field.

     

    3)  In the 'values as text' field near the bottom, type '1', then push the first 'apply' button, then the next 'apply' button.

     

    4)  You should see a new property under your lot exemplar.



    5)  Finally, under the 'sub files' tab, select the 'ReIndex' option, then again under the 'sub files' tab, select 'Rebuild Directory File'. 



    6)  Last but not least, save your file (or save as).   
    Fini!!
  7. nos.17 liked an article by SimCoug, Making lots water compatible   
    1)  Using ILives Reader, select the lot exemplar file ... you should see a screen similar to this what you see below.
    In the empty space below, right click with your mouse and select 'add property'

     

    2)  In the pop up box, select 'LotConfigPropertyWaterCompatibility' under the 'name' field.

     

    3)  In the 'values as text' field near the bottom, type '1', then push the first 'apply' button, then the next 'apply' button.

     

    4)  You should see a new property under your lot exemplar.



    5)  Finally, under the 'sub files' tab, select the 'ReIndex' option, then again under the 'sub files' tab, select 'Rebuild Directory File'. 



    6)  Last but not least, save your file (or save as).   
    Fini!!
  8. maximusmaximillion liked an article by SimCoug, 100 Million STEX DL: An Interview with madhatter106   

    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?
    madhatter106: I remember getting the original SimCity for the Commodore 128 back in the spring of 1990. I've played that and SC2 and SC3 a bunch, in college and afterwards. I like sandbox style games, so SC4 was a definite buy; I think I picked that one up in 2005 or so when I was on a hiatus from work.


    ST: What aspect of SC4 do you enjoy most – what keeps you coming back?
    madhatter106: I think seeing a great new BAT pop up in the game, especially if it's very cleverly done or perfectly modeled or textured. Those are the moments I enjoy. I must say that I BAT much more than I play the game - I would guess that 90% of my time is spent outside of SC4, making content for it. I think I'm more of a content provider than a player, because I like making the kind of stuff I like to see in-game – that is, in those rare moments I am actually playing.


    ST: Do you recall the first plugin you installed?
    madhatter106: It must have been off the original SC4 Exchange on the Maxis site. I remember looking for carwashes, so it was probably something along those lines. I still haven’t found a carwash plugin that I really like; maybe I’ll make one someday. I'm guessing that I might even still have those early downloads somewhere on a backup hard drive, now that the desktop I originally used is long gone.


    ST: What led you to Simtropolis at first? Can you remember your initial impressions of the site?
    madhatter106: I don't remember how I found Simtropolis. I do seem to remember finding it soon after using the original Maxis exchange. I don't recall my initial impressions, but I'm sure I spent more time surfing the STEX than I did in the forums. I was searching for good plugins, rather than reading about the game and its intricacies.


    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?
    madhatter106: I remember getting and installing gmax/BAT when I first started with the game. And then I didn't use it at all. It sat on my computer for a couple of years, and I kept thinking, "oh I'm never going to use that, I'm not playing SC4 at the moment, I should just get rid of it and save some hard drive space," but I never took it off. And then I picked up SC4 again after a long, long hiatus, and on a lark started reading the phillipbo tutorial and then thought, "why not give it a try?" There were a couple of BATters whose style I admired (and probably inadvertently emulated at first), so I guess that was also a push.


    ST: Speaking of first steps, what was the very first thing that you modeled using the BAT? Do you still have a screen shot?
    madhatter106: I messed around a little bit in gmax to learn the interface. Making piles of standard primitives with very basic manipulation, you know that sort of thing. I do remember sorting through the phillipbo tutorial as I was making my first BAT; I didn't want to create that specific tutorial BAT, but did want to apply what I was learning to what I was creating. That finished BAT did end up getting uploaded to the STEX, and it was my first upload.


    ST: Skyscrapers tend to get all the glory in SC4, and many BATers gravitate to them as well, yet your first upload on Simtropolis was a tiny CS$ shop called You followed it with a number of small commercial packs, including a massively diverse set of low wealth commercial shops. What led you to take this ‘road less traveled’ BAT trajectory?
    madhatter106: It's partly because those are the kinds of BATs I like seeing when I am playing the game, and it's partly because of how I play. I start lots of small cities all the time (I’m a total Aries that way), and I usually don't end up with a population that is too high, so I rarely see the tallest buildings growing on their own; I think the highest population city tile I may have ever made is in the 80K range and it amazingly only had a single incarnation of Wren Insurance. So when you play like that and build like that (lots of smaller areas and towns), the Maxis content gets very, very repetitive. The Sim IQ rating is really low when you start a new city tile, so you don't see a lot of offices or high tech industry or high wealth residential growing at first, and so there's a lot of industry and low wealth commercial that is needed. That means that you could have a plugins folder full of skyscrapers, but you won't see them for a good long while - so you need to have little guys, the low wealth commercials and smaller buildings to get you going. Also, there's a lot of stuff that hasn't been really explored by other BATters - some types of businesses are sorely under-represented on the STEX, and those are the ones that really interest me. I mean, I was amazed that not many liquor stores existed on the STEX before . Likewise, no one had done surf shops, so . Ultimately I make the types of buildings that I like to see grow in my cities; skyscrapers don't interest me that much, as so many other (and better) BATters have those covered and those BATters are working in better software than i am (ie. 3dsMax).


    ST: One aspect of all your creations that I really like is the unique names and descriptions that you include for each of your models. Your models and lots are already colorful in their own sense, so what possesses you to go the extra mile?
    madhatter106: I don't know; it's just part of my nature and style. I rather appreciate anything that's clever, so when I create stuff like this, I like to include little "in-jokes" or sideline things or Easter eggs to give them a little extra layer or meaning. A lot of the time it will whiz past people's heads, and that's fine. The goofy stat response curve that is included with all my uploads is straight-up Maxis style, whose humor I find similar to mine; and since I like keeping in the vein of some of the Maxis stuff, including those in my uploads seemed like a given. Anything a custom content creator can do to give you a laugh or breathe life into the game is good by me; there are lots of boring buildings out there, and you want to make your stuff memorable. The office packs have each had an underlying theme given to the names - mysteries and cryptozology were one of my interests since I was a little kid, so a whole pack of references to those seemed fitting. The old Leonard Nimoy-narrated program In Search Of was probably (for me) the greatest thing on television when I was eight years old, as well as the history of old silent era Hollywood, true crime, etc. At one point, I was tempted to do a more modern true crime pack, but I think I shelved it because I thought it might be in bad taste; I think naming BATs in a building pack after serial killers or mass murderers or truly despicable people would be glorifying their deeds in some way, so I scrapped that idea. I had also done a paper on the Lindbergh kidnapping in high school, so famous kidnappings and disappearances seemed like a fitting theme for a pack. I might do a pack with naming conventions around the idea of exposed and discredited hoaxes - the Hitler diaries, the Piltdown Man, etc.


    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?
    madhatter106: My favorite part is the first few hours of a BAT. When you get the modeling and the proportions right, and when it starts to really come together, that's a good part. The texturing is hit or miss - sometimes I can sail through it and sometimes it's a long slog to get all the balances right; is this too dark, or is this too light? What happens when I change the contrast on this texture, does it mess up the other two? Is this too blue or is this too red? Too saturated? Not saturated enough? Thankfully I am pretty quick with Photoshop and I have a good library of standard textures from which to build, but sometimes I can't get the right effect without a lot of swings and misses. Nightlighting is the least fun, and this is partly because I'm working in gmax; it's a lot of trial and error, and a lot of preview renders, particularly if it's a multi-story building. The little buildings were easier to nightlight, but the taller ones (the offices in particular) were usually a bit of a hassle. I must also say that by the time I am at the testing stage, I'm kind of over it; luckily with the small commercials, they're easier for me to test. Sometimes these are affected by the way the BAT is modeled - there are different ways of doing things were the modeling is messy but the texturing goes quickly, or there are situations where the modeling can be very clean and precise, but will require lots of work when it comes to textures. (Minimizing the number of objects and polygons will make for a great precise BAT but will mean that I will spend forever making the textures and unwrapping the UVW maps.) I think the last great joy once all that is done is dropping in all the details and little tidbits that give a BAT life and personality – vending machines, window signage, payphones, HVAC equipment, and all that. These kinds of details can really make a difference, and I wish newer BATers would pay attention to that; but since I come from a theatrical design background, where those details mean character and story and that fancy word “verisimilitude,” that stuff is second nature to me.


    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?
    madhatter106: Truth be told, I rather appreciate the commentary in the BAT thread for my stuff more than the comments sections on my uploads. The comments section is fun, and I appreciate everyone's enthusiasm. It's difficult to read something silly or dopey that's written as a comment, but I try to ignore those sorts of things. I'm a small business owner, and it's really difficult to read critiques of your business online, so it's a similar situation. I do like seeing my stuff in CJs, though I rarely spend time in the CJ section (partly because there are so many and partly because I don't have lots of free time.) People usually relot them and they look even better (because I’m not much interested in lotting), so that's a good feeling.


    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?
    madhatter106: , as is the teriyaki joint in the same pack. I love , but I should mod it so that it grows more often; it doesn't show up nearly as much as I'd like in my cities. The surf shops are all fun, too, because of their details. I love the front details of - they take a boring building and really give it life and vibrancy. I made a property rental shop that I haven't uploaded yet, and that's another case where the details make the building sing. I usually have a favorite or two in every pack; some of the offices turned out really well. A lot of my inspiration comes from just going about on my normal day-to-day business. Buildings like , , and the were inspired by buildings that I would encounter while driving around Los Angeles (where I live). I also associate certain BATs with certain movies or pieces of music that I was listening to while I was making them. The movie theaters, diners, and coffee shops I will always associated with certain work projects, because I would do a ten or twelve hour day at work, then go home and decompress and BAT them for a couple hours.


    ST: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
    madhatter106: Apart from driving around Los Angeles as I had already mentioned, I have a huge "swipe file" of stuff that I find online that I think might be good to include in BATs. Everything from HVAC units to windows and whatnot, as well as folders of building types - the office packs had a lot of buildings that were based in part on stuff from my swipe file. I usually don't recreate things exactly as shown in the pictures; I'll use a shape or size or window configuration, but change the ground floor design, or I will shorten the height of the mezzanine, or something along those lines. Rarely do I ever completely recreate something I've seen.


    ST: Why is your stuff made in gmax? Why not make the jump to 3dsMax like so many others?
    madhatter106: It’s partly the time to learn something new (though there’s a lot of carryover from gmax to Max) and partly the expense. And partly the fact that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks – I’m dug into working with gmax; it’s a deeply ingrained habit. And since SC4 is over a decade old, if archaic gmax was good enough for it back in 2005 or 2006, it’s still good enough for it now. I suppose I could learn it if I picked it up and applied myself, but that’s more determination or discipline than I can muster. Of course, when I see all the cool tricks you can do with Max that you can’t get with little old gmax, that’s frustrating. But I make out all right with gmax, I guess.


    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?
    madhatter106: I don't think so; if there are any aspects along those lines, it's something of which I'm unaware. I do look at buildings differently, and am always figuring out, "how would I BAT that?" when I see something interesting. Or I will think, "oh that's a different window detail, I should remember that on the next BAT," or some such.


    ST: What advice would you give to a new member of this community who was planning on creating their first BAT?
    madhatter106: Start small - you're going to want to follow the tutorials out there, but try making something small, like one or two stories max. You're going to be working incredibly slowly, since you're learning the ins and outs of the program, so getting bogged down in a super tall building means it's going to take forever. A short little one story commercial shop or office is the best aim, and see it through to the very end - modeling, textures, nightlights, modding, etc. Then once you get the hang of things, you get faster - I bet I could knock out a small commercial shop in a few hours now, as I know what I'm doing and I know my way around the program, versus taking all day to do one when I first started out. Also, I'm saying it constantly (and even made it part of my Simtropolis signature) that "good textures are made, not found." You rarely can take an image from an online source and have it 100% perfect and ready to be added to a BAT without some form of change. Textures can make or break a BAT, and for many things I’ve seen on the STEX I’ve liked the modeling, but have not pressed the download button because the texturing is substandard or too extreme.


    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.)
    madhatter106: I don't really read the CJs, partly because of what I mentioned before. I wish I could, as there's lots of lovely stuff in there; I just don't find myself there very often.


    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?
    madhatter106: As far as I'm concerned, jmyers2043 (of the BSC) is the best BATter there is; hands down, without any question, jmyers2043 is the king. I love his style, I love what he chooses to BAT, I love his textures and details; I don't have a lot of BSC stuff in my plugins folder, but his stuff is essential. His stuff is so thoroughly modeled and tested and lotted and perfectly crafted; if there were a BATter whose career I would replace my own with, it would be his. dk1 is another BATter whose stuff I like, though I wish he had a touch more detail in his stuff. Sadly he seems to have moved on, there hasn't been a new upload from him in a long while; I’m always nominating him for the “We Miss You, Come Back!” Trixie award and I’m always floating over to the STEX in the hopes that he’s uploaded something new. I do like the stuff that spa has made, and greatly appreciate how he took his hometown and made it a part of the game; the BATs are great, but I only have a few of them, as his textures are so distinct, they don’t jive with a lot of what else I have in my plugins folder; though, come to think of it, an entire CJ of spa’s stuff would look stunning. I like the smaller BATS that SimGoober has made, particularly his NIMBY ones, which I think are beautifully textured and detailed; when he focuses in on the little BATs, that’s where he really shines (in my humble opinion). BATers like jasoncw and nofunk and TWrecks also do stuff that I really like. I don't remember the last BAT I downloaded, as I haven't played much of late; it had to have been something from two years back. My plugins folder is not that large and with my aforementioned style of playing the game, it doesn’t really need to be.


    ST: Is there a BAT you’ve seen that makes you say, “I wish I made that?”
    madhatter106: Apart from the people whose work I’ve already mentioned, I wish I could texture BATs as good as jasoncw – there’s a subtlety to his work and “deftness to his hand” that I wish I had. I particularly like the , , , and uploads that he did. I can’t sing the praises of jmyers2043 enough – just about every BAT he’s created has made me say, “I wish I made that.” He’s another custom content creator who does top notch textures; he also has his stuff modded very well, but that’s not surprising as he is a charter member of the BSC. Some of JBSimio’s stuff makes me swoon also; there are a couple of his BATs that have really been inspirations for my later stuff. The great thing about this feeling and what I come away with in my own work is the inspiration to try my hand in a similar vein; maybe partly out of emulation but also partly out of trying my own “spin” or take on it.


    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?
    madhatter106: I think it's a testament to how good the genre is in general, and this iteration of the game is in particular. It's like a model train set, but in digital form; we can create these great scenes - small towns to sprawling metropolises. And with all the custom content and mods that people have created over the past 12 years, it really doesn’t surprise me that this game has had such a good shelf life. It doesn’t even seem to have abated – there are newcomers proving their worth every year; the STEX hasn’t dried up and the NAM hasn’t stagnated. I can certainly see new content being created years from now ; we have such a dedicated community for the game in general and on Simtropolis in particular, it wouldn’t surprise me if we see other BATers and modders coming along in the mold of SimGoober or Pegasus or SimFox, so it’s exciting to see what they could come up with. And I do hope that groups like the BSC and NYBT and the NAM team are going to continue to provide us with all manner of goodies to make the game look, feel, and play better.


    ST: What are you working on now? And what else might be in the pipeline?
    madhatter106: I have some more offices to do or finish; I wanted to get some 2x3 office buildings, as there aren't a lot of those available on the STEX to compete with the Maxis ones. The ones that come with the game are fine, they're just repetitive unless you have a bunch of plugins to help dilute them, so that's part of my next goal. Like commercial services, I don't think I could ever tire of doing offices, and you can never have enough of either type in your plugins folder. I have some industry that I was working on a long time ago which I haven't picked up in ages; there's the from several years back, which is still waiting for its nightlights. (I think that's probably partly the reason I put it down and haven't picked it up since. Nightlighting for me is the least pleasant in gmax.)


    ST: Is there anything you haven't BATed yet that you would like to?
    madhatter106: I would love to do some packs of medium wealth commercial shops - along the same lines as the earlier packs of low wealth, but offering services like plumbing or electrical, bookstores and little mom-and-pop shops, that sort of thing. I have tried my hand at pawn shops, but every time I get one worked up it just doesn't coalesce - there's something that just doesn't make it happen, as much as I might like to do some. There’s a whole host of other packs I would love to try my hand at, should I ever find the time; I would love to do some Mexican restaurants (ranging from taco stands to more flashy places), and I’ve been thinking of doing a pack of car repair places – auto body shops, places to get your transmission repaired or your windows tinted or oil changed, etc. I've always wanted to do what I call the Burbs Pack, which would be a set of American style Craftsman homes and small suburban houses, to add variety to the Maxis ones; jmyers2043 did it far better than I ever could have with a pack along the same lines released a while back on the LEX. One day I might try to do some larger apartment buildings, but the folks over at the NYBT do them so well already; I look at theirs and think my stuff can’t even compete. And I'd love to do a pack of tiny industrials, to add variety - sheds and storage units and weird machines and tanks and whatnot, but I would have to do a lot of research and dig up a lot of pictures to make them seem authentic.


    ST: Are there any of your BATs that you might like to redo or remake or improve upon?
    madhatter106: If I were doing them now, some of the low wealth commercial shops would be much better. I would definitely load in more details on some of them, though they kind of work in a generic, non-specific sense. I don’t think I’ve ever released a BAT on the STEX that I didn’t like; if I didn’t like it, I doubt I would have ended up sharing it with others. When I was doing the first office packs, I was making them look similar from all angles (that is, the elevation was practically the same on all four sides) but that’s not how a lot of buildings are designed, so there’s room for improvement there. Though with a lack of free time in general, I doubt I would ever remake any of them; but I am diligent about hanging on to the original gmax models in a folder labeled “Done,” so they are always available to me should I ever get the urge to do so.
  9. 212 liked an article by SimCoug, 100 Million STEX DL: An Interview with Heblem   
    ST: When did you first get SC4, and what do you remember about your first experiences with the game? WasSC4 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.
  10. Seraf liked an article by SimCoug, 100 Million STEX DL: An Interview with Tarkus   

    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?
    Tarkus: I first picked up SC4 in the spring of 2004, sometime after SC4 Deluxe was released. I had intermittently had some experiences with the SimCity franchise before that, first with the SNES version in 1991 (my dad pulled an all-nighter with it!), and sometime in the late-90s, with Streets of SimCity, which happened to include SCURK (a stripped down, sandbox SC2000). I wound up spending more time with SCURK that with Streets (which was notoriously buggy, sadly) and meticulously plotted out a multi-tile region over several years, using TXT files to map out the coordinates for neighbor connections.
    When I ran across SC4 by chance at the store, and saw they had actually implemented multi-tile regions, it was instantly a must-purchase. After that, it was a game where I went through spurts of intense play. I didn't know there were mods out there until I ran across Simtropolis by accident in December 2005, and the rest is history.
     
    ST: What aspect of SC4 do you enjoy most – what keeps you coming back?
    Tarkus: I think the two biggest things are the open-ended and (for all intents and purposes) infinite nature of the gameplay, plus the massive amounts of custom content out there, and the ability to add even more yet. SC4 isn't one of those games you “beat”, and I've never really considered any of my cities “completed”. While the advisers may try to push you in one way, I've always found it's ultimately up to the player to decide the goals, and that's something I find appealing. Believe it or not, I've never built a city over 350,000 population, because I've never really had the desire to build a skyscraper jungle.
     
     
    ST: Before we jump into the all the custom content questions, I’m curious… what is your favorite Maxis lot/BAT?
    Tarkus: That's a good question. I'd have to say it's probably tied between a few of the high-tech buildings, like the Accelerator and Cryo Testing. They're probably the shiniest buildings in the Maxis defaults, and I was always happy to see them pop up back when I played vanilla.
     
     
    ST: Do you recall the first plugin you installed?
    Tarkus: It was NAM Version 19, which I picked up about two months after its release in late 2005, shortly followed by the first RHW alpha. Absolutely blew my mind to have all that transportation functionality added.
     
     
    ST: What led you to Simtropolis at first?  Can you remember your initial impressions of the site?
    Tarkus: I recall getting bored one day in December 2005 and browsing the fansite listing at the official EA Maxis SimCity 4 site. I had run across SimCityCentral and a couple other sites quite some time prior, but there wasn't much there on the custom content front, and I had kind of forgotten about my search for mods and such until I decided to look again that day. Eventually, I found and clicked the link to Simtropolis, and it was like SC4 Disneyland, with a bunch of custom content I had only dreamed of—like the NAM—plus a forum that seemed way more level-headed than some of the ones I'd followed for other games. Eventually, I bit the bullet and officially joined the site in February 2006.
     
     
    ST: Describe your progression into the world of SC4 custom content.  Was it a particular mod, lot or BAT that inspired you to take the first step?
    Tarkus: It all started with the NAM. From there, I downloaded quite a bit of custom content, mostly BSC Team stuff in the suburban vein. I was really fond of building suburbs, but found Maxis' building selections on that front lacking. It was probably the potential of the then-brand-new RHW mod (the “R” still stood for “Rural” then), and the burgeoning roadsign development stuff, like artforce1's Generic Highway Sign Development Project (GHSDP) and Ryan B.'s stuff that got me thinking of getting into the content business myself.
     
     
    ST: Speaking of first steps, what was the very first thing that you attempted to mod?  How did it turn out?
    Tarkus: My very first upload was a pack of roadsign lots, with Oregon-style “speed” signs—without the word “limit” as has been the practice in my home state for many years (though ODOT now seems to have a Commie plot afoot to convert us to the standard “Speed Limit” verbiage). They came as standalone grass lots, plus “space saving” transit-enabled lots. They ultimately got a couple thousand downloads, as I recall. I eventually deleted them as “youthful indiscretions”, as they weren't modded all that well, and there had been some controversy about the effect of TE lots on traffic simulation in the late-00s.
     
     
    ST: The NAM team was founded way back in 2004, and you joined shortly after in 2007.  What was it like being a new member of the team?  As a freshman on the High School swim team, we had to run through the school in nothing but shoes and our speedos.  Was there any NAM initiation of the new members?
    Tarkus: Being brought onto the NAM Team was just like the sense of “SC4 Disneyland” I felt when I first discovered ST. I had actually been working on RHW content for about 4 or 5 months before I got added to the team. One day in February 2007, I looked in the old private topics area that used to be on the site, where I had an ongoing thread with jplumbley, Ryan B, and beskhu3epnm about this crazy thing called an NWM, and I noticed the sudden appearance of a “NAM Private Discussion” in there. I was basically added to the team without a peep, which made it a very pleasant surprise. That silent addition is still a tactic we'll sometimes use when adding new members to the team—most recently with Durfsurn.
     
     
    ST: What was your first contribution to the NAM?  What motivated you to spend the hours digging through the inner workings of SC4, attempting to make it a better game?
    Tarkus: The RHW project had really caught my attention when I first arrived in the community. At that point, it was still in what we know today as Version 1.2—a rough alpha with a very limited feature set, but I could tell it had potential. At that point, it wasn't even technically part of the NAM, but a loosely affiliated side-project. There was pretty much just one thing I really wanted to add to it—an Avenue-over-RHW-4 piece—and maybe a couple more along the same lines. Eventually, I ended up releasing those pieces as part of RHW Version 1.3 in April 2007. I found that once I had invested the time into learning the ropes, I got quite a bit of satisfaction out of it, so that one puzzle piece turned into 8 years of NAM development for me.
     
     
    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 moding process?  What about your favorite?
    Tarkus: As far as a least favorite part, I don't think anyone enjoys bugfixing, but from a personal standpoint, I've gotten to the point where I don't really enjoy making standard puzzle pieces anymore. That process has become rather tedious. Fortunately, because we're on the cusp of getting the FLEX stuff dialed in, and I haven't had to make one in some time. As far as favorite parts, it's always things like getting the first prototype of a new override network or FLEX piece into functional shape—enough that I can use it in an actual city. It's been quite fulfilling getting the new elevated ramp interfaces in place for our upcoming NAM 33 release.
     
     
    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 creative uses of the NAM pop up in CJs?
    Tarkus: What's kept me motivated is my vision for projects like the RHW and NWM that I had right as I was first starting to mod. There's still stuff I'd like to add to the game, and there probably will continue to be for some time. Most of the comments in the download section we get now for the NAM are tech support-related, but looking back over my infamous April Fools' upload, the , I really get a kick out of those comments. I still get a thrill out of seeing people playing around with stuff I designed in “Show Us” threads, CJs and MDs, and I still remember how ecstatic I was once the RHW's Modular Interchange System first starting showing up there. Especially once McDuell got a hold of it.
     
     
    ST: You have been moding for the NAM team for over 7 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?
    Tarkus: It's 8 years this month, which I still find hard to believe. I'm probably the most proud of the modular interchange concept for the RHW. Before that time, just about every other post in the old NAM Requests thread was asking for new highway interchanges, but the problem was that the process of making the big pre-fab interchanges for the default highways was ridiculously labor intensive. With the clean slate of the RHW, it made sense to build up a new approach, which did everything differently from the Maxis Highways. Rather than spending 6 to 12 months developing a single interchange to add to the NAM, the modular approach broke things up into smaller chunks that could be easily produced, and then assembled by the users into thousands of different combinations. This allowed all the would-be highway engineers to take matters into their own hands, creatively, rather than sitting around in the request thread. While some folks out there may not be fond of the RHW's complexity, once the RHW 3.0 release in 2009 added elevated components (thanks to the modeling efforts of my good friend Swamper77), and true RHW-to-RHW interchanges became possible, without having to fudge things with tunnels or one-way roads, the whole request backlog fell away. We only see maybe one Maxis Highway interchange request every couple years now, and the lessons we've learned from RHW development have paid dividends with implementing the NWM and other components, so I feel that it's been an enormously successful transit modding initiative. And we could probably keep adding to it for many years to come.
    Probably the funniest fact I can think of relating to NAM development was the nickname we had for the RHW neighbor connector pieces. Before we added those, the only way to get commuter traffic to continue onto the next city tile with a multi-tile RHW system was to build a loop connector, a visible perpendicular stretch of road that went between the two halves of the RHW and broke the override, in order to get around a limitation in the game's simulation engine. It did the trick, but it was rather unsightly. Internally, on the team, as the present-day NC pieces you know today were being developed, we called them NREEs: Nicole Richie Effect Eliminators, as Ms. Richie was well-known at that point for driving the wrong way on a California freeway, much as the sims using loop connectors did.
     
     
    ST: Has your experience moding had any influence on your personal or professional life?  Are there any skills that you have developed over your moding career that have helped you beyond the world of SC4?
    Tarkus: As far as my personal life, not really—pretty much no one in my RL know about my SC4 activities, and I actually keep that on the downlow for the most part. Professionally, my experiences with modding actually inspired me to take about two years of computer science coursework while working on my doctorate, and I've been putting some of those skills to use of late, developing Java-based music theory utilities.
     
     
    ST: I understand that you delved into the world of local politics recently.  Do you think your interest in city simulations has played a part in that?
    Tarkus: Yes, I ran for a city council seat in my home town, and while I didn't get in, I was pleased with getting 10% of the vote as a virtual unknown. And I'd say it's the other way around for me—I think my interest in local politics, and particularly, in transportation and land use policy, was what got me into SC4. I spend quite a bit of time researching those issues in my spare time, looking over a lot of technical documents—transportation system plans and the like—and that's heavily influenced my approach to the game, as evidenced by Tarkusian Cities. I'd also say that the policy research I did during my campaign will influence my approach to the game going forward—for starters, discovering the dismal safety records for Oregon's multi-lane roundabouts will cause me to steer clear of those in the future.
     
     
     
    ST: What advice would you give to a new member of this community who was interested in joining the NAM team?
    Tarkus: The way that most of us have gotten onto the team is by virtue of starting on transit modding passion projects on our own, and then invited to the team once we've shown enough skill. My advice is to find something you're interested in seeing in-game, reading up on the various modding tutorials and the like (which are far more abundant than when I started), and learning how things work. We're usually happy to provide some technical assistance and answer questions for new transit modders giving it an honest go. That's how I ultimately started out—Swamper77 and qurlix were two members who helped me out as I was first getting going. Also, if you find a buddy in the community who is also giving it a go—as happened with me and jplumbley—that can also make the experience more enjoyable.
     
     
    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.).
    Tarkus: Admittedly, I haven't been able to follow CJs as much of late—heck, my own has gone MIA—but I've typically enjoyed the ones that kind of get heavy on planning and roadgeekery. and are two authors on ST today that I think do a good job with that. Going back in time, things like dedgren's Three Rivers Region, haljackey's , , and pickled_pig's Travels Down I-85 appealed to me. I'm normally drawn to the more suburban settings, but really, anything that's done well and focuses on thinking about the game stands a good chance of piquing my interest.
     
     
    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?
    Tarkus: I'd say that probably the most distinctive BATer for me nowadays is Bipin. He's got some interesting ideas, and executes them well. I've also been pleased to see Bobbo662's lost work coming to light, through nos.17's efforts. As far as all-time favorites, I like a lot of the old BSC stuff—SimGoober and mattb325, especially. Most recent STEX download for me, technically, was this month's challenge region. I've been considering a strictly exhibition entry for it, with the idea of siccing some new toys on it.
     
     
    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?
    Tarkus: I'm maybe a little bit surprised, mostly at the fact that it's been 12 years, but I've always pegged this community as being in it for the long haul. It's crazy to think that most of the pioneers of the SC4 modding scene, from the 2004-2005 era, thought we'd have “jumped ship” to the mythical SC5 by 2007—and we're 8 years past that date. I think there's been a few things that have led to the longevity. First, there's just so much custom content out there, and it's still coming. The rate of production isn't nearly what it was in the mid/late-00s, but it's still coming. The game's still readily available and is selling well on Steam and other digital retailers, and that's bringing a steady stream of new players in, which is astonishing for a game of this age. Also, the other attempts at making city-simulators haven't quite captured the balance of SC4. People find the new SimCity, and that actually becomes somewhat of a gateway to SC4.
    As far as 12 years from now goes, that'll be 2027. I'll be turning 42 that year (yikes!). Retro gaming is a huge phenomenon—one I'm into, personally—and as this generation gets older, provided Steam and the like are still around, SC4's going to become a big nostalgia trip for people. Consider that SC4 will be the same age then that Super Mario World and the original Sonic the Hedgehog are in 2015. I could see at least some diehards continuing to make content then.
     
     
    ST:  Cities:Skylines... have you played it yet?  If not, what are you first impressions based on the mountain of feedback available here on Simtropolis or around the web?
    Tarkus: I have not played it yet--RL has been absolutely insane recently--though I am certainly curious about it.  A lot of people in this community, whose opinion I trust, some of whom are as hardcore about SC4 as they come, have had very positive things to say.  And I've been impressed with what I've seen.
     
     
    ST:  12 years later, many are calling this game the 'successor' to SC4 and the city building genera.  What are your thoughts?
    Tarkus: Colossal Order and Paradox have been very smart about how they've handled things, and while I haven't personally been able to play it yet, the approach they've taken and the widespread support they've gotten seem to suggest that Cities: Skylines may in fact be "the mythical SC5".  As soon as I heard they were entering the market, I had a feeling about this game.  Being a smaller operation with a proven track record, who seem to learned from SC4, I think really allowed them to avoid the pitfalls that plagued the other post-SC4 city simulators.  They didn't try to make it an MMO or an online game, or build it around some other sort of gimmick.  It actually fits with the current direction in hardware and OS development by properly supporting multi-core processors and 64-bit architecture, which is really critical if you're going to produce a city simulation platform that can handle the sort of complexity and depth that many of us enjoy.  And it's very fairly priced--the standard edition is only $10 more than SC4's MSRP, which is pretty astonishing.
     
    I don't think SC4 is going to die off--there's still people playing SC3000 and earlier out there, and the NAM Team still has the gears turning for NAM 33--but this game is getting an unheard of adoption rate among the real core of the SC4 community.  I have no doubt it is going to change the face of the community across the board, here at Simtropolis, on Reddit, and over at SC4 Devotion.  In fact, it already has, in just a week after release.
     
     
    ST:  It will take plenty time before C:S can rival the amount of custom content available for SC4, but the developers have really encouraged modding, and there are already many new buildings and 'assets' that can be found on Simtropolis and the steam workshop.  Are you encouraged by the leap into C:S custom content?
    Tarkus:  I think that the content side of things, and how it's already exploded in just a week's time, shows that Colossal Order really gets what made SC4 tick, and they were smart in getting Steam Workshop set up for the game.  And consider that it took the SC4 community sometime to really crack that game open.  NAM Version 1 didn't see the light until over a year after the game's release, and the content development scene didn't really resemble what most of us recognize today until the second year after release, when you had the BSC, the NAM Team, NDEX, and Pegasus firing on all cylinders.  Given that the developers seem to be indicating they'll be opening up more stuff in the near future, I think the C:S community may very well have an accelerated trajectory, compared to how things unfolded with SC4.
     
    As for whether or not you'll see me enter the modding scene with C:S, it's too early to say at this point, especially as I don't yet have the game.  I'm also not normally one who buys games with a predetermined intention of modding them--it was 2 years between when I purchased SC4 and when I started developing content.  But the way things are integrated, as far as I can tell, the way they've done it, the modding is kind of a seamless part of the game with C:S.  I'm certainly interested to see how it all works in practice, firsthand.
     
     
    ST: What question have I not asked that I should have?
    Tarkus: Just kidding on that one—I could certainly go another 12 years without hearing it, as could about half the site.   Thank you for the interesting questions, and to ST and its staff for continuing to foster the SC4 community—congratulations on this significant milestone!
  11. mrsmartman liked an article by SimCoug, 100 Million STEX DL: An Interview with nofunk   
     
    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?
    nofunk:  I must have bought the game soon after it was released, because I've been on Simtropolis since August of 2003. I remember finding the game much more challenging and realistic than SimCity 3000. In fact, I seem to remember being a little turned off by it, because I struggled initially to grow a successful city.
     
    I've played every version of SimCity except for Societies. I even have SimCity BuildIt on my iPhone. I've been playing SimCity since it's original incarnations on the PC and Super Nintendo -- I'm a veteran SimCity player! I've also played other Sims games, but none of them has kept my interest like SimCity has.
     
     
    ST:  What aspect of SC4 do you enjoy most – what keeps you coming back?
    nofunk:  Hands down, the custom content is what keeps me coming back. I love the fact that you can take all this amazing content developed by some really creative individuals -- and even create your own buildings and lots -- and make your city truly unique. There are so many great maps, BATs, lots -- the NAM!! -- that together make the game so much more dynamic and exciting.
     
     
    ST:  Before we jump into the all the custom content questions, I’m curious… what is your favorite Maxis lot/BAT?
    nofunk:  Some of my favorites are Cameron Cameras, Brown & Sons, Buechner Apartments, and the Long Building. Of course, they're all Pre-War buildings similar to what I BAT.
     
     
    ST:  Do you recall the first plugin you installed?
    nofunk:  I don't, but it was probably something by Pegasus. There wasn't much in the way of custom content when I first joined Simtropolis.
     
     
    ST:  What led you to Simtropolis at first?  Can you remember your initial impressions of the site?
    nofunk:  Haha -- that was so long ago! I remember feeling sort of unsure of what to do on the site; at that time I didn't really know forum etiquette, so I laid pretty low. It was also a much quieter site back then.
    I'm also not sure what led me to the site initially: I'm sure it wasn't for custom content, because I didn't even know what that was when I first started playing and first joined Simtropolis.
     
     
    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?
    nofunk:  I remember thinking about creating buildings long before I actually started doing so. And I experienced quite a few false starts before ever making something that bore any semblence of the thing I was trying to create. I'm not sure there was any particular BAT or lot that inspired me to start creating; I think it was more just a general desire to have in the game some of the buildings I really loved in real life. I eventually ended up joining one of JasconCW's BAT Schools and making it most of the way through. That gave me enough technical know-how to start learning and creating on my own. The rest is history!
     
     
    ST:  Speaking of first steps, what was the very first thing that you modeled using the BAT?  Do you still have a screen shot?
    nofunk:  The very first thing I modeled using the BAT was a really terrible attempt at the Burton Memorial Tower on the University of Michigan's campus. And I do have a screen shot!

    I guess it wasn't so bad for a first attempt, but I've come a long way!
     
     
    ST:  Tell me a bit about the Barry Sanders Project (BSP).  I know that you and Jasoncw have been the caretakers of this group (and it has since been renamed mipro) for some time now, but I believe it got started all the way back in 2004.  When did you become part of this BAT group and what are some early memories of the BSP?
    nofunk:  The Barry Sanders Project was probably one of the first BAT groups organized around a city, but it took a long time for the group to actually produce anything. I think it was started with a lot of ambition, but when I first began posting in the thread (sometime in 2006) it had pretty much become a social forum. There was a lot of talk about making BATs, but very little action.
    When I really starting participating in the BSP, I think Jasoncw had just released his Detroit Free Press building, and JBSimio was working on some things as well. Wolverine was working on Ford Field or something similar. And I started small on a few buildings in and around Ann Arbor, Michigan, where I spent most of my time. Since then the BSP has died out, been resurrected by me and Jasoncw (and later SimHoTToDDy), and then reincarnated as mipro. Since then there have been 56 uploads by the BSP/mipro!
     
     
    ST:  Most of your BATs focus on buildings found in the Upper Midwest (US).  What is it about the area that draws you to recreate some of the great buildings found there?
    nofunk:  Well, I've lived in metro Detroit most of my life, and now live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Both are old, post-industrial, rust-belt cities, with a deep sense of history and culture. I guess I just really love the feel of old rust-belt cities -- the pre-war architecture, the grit and grime of the old factories and rail lines and infrastructure, and the determination and eternal optimism of the folks who still live here. I've thought about moving out of the Midwest a few times -- to Seattle or Boston or Washington, DC -- but my heart will always be in the Midwest, and I'll probably always find myself back here!
     
     
    ST:  Even though you focus on one region, you have BATed a wide range of buildings, from towering skyscrapers to small apartments, and from W2W shops to industrial behemoths.  How do you end up choosing projects?  Are you inspired by walking around a town and seeing the architecture up close, or is as simple as seeing a picture on the web?
    nofunk:   Occasionally I'll get talked into BATing something I wouldn't normally pick on my own, or I'll BAT something that fills a need in my game, but most of the time I just BAT what I like. I find inspiration everywhere, but particuarly from visiting cities and walking around and discovering buildings that really stand out to me. It's certainly easier to recreate a building that I've seen in person, been able to study, and take reference photos to capture all the little details.
     
     
    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?
    nofunk:  Least favorite is definitely lotting -- it's just such a tedious process searching through all the poorly labeled Maxis props to find what you need for a lot. On the other hand, my favorite parts would be the excitement of first picking out a building to BAT, and then that moment near the end when the modeling is done and the textures are coming together and I run a preview render and it actually looks like the building I was trying to create!
     
     
    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?
    nofunk:  The Simtropolis community is absolutely what keeps me going. I enjoy spending time developing a building from scratch and seeing it come together, but what I enjoy even more is the amazing feedback and responses I get on Simtropolis when I'm working on something! I've been pretty quiet on Simtropolis the past few years, but we really do have a great community here and it means a lot to me to be a part of that and share in the excitement of such a great game.
     
    And I sure do get a thrill when I see my BATs in people's CJs!
     
     
    ST:  You have been BATing wonderful models for almost 9 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?
    nofunk:  There are three BATs that I'm particularly proud of, all three because they required me to persevere. Cadillac Tower I started not once, not twice, but three times before finally getting it right. I also think it has some of the best texturing I've ever done.
     
    I'm proud of Carew Tower because it was such a huge undertaking -- by far the biggest BAT I've ever made -- and it required so much attention to detail in terms of both the modeling and the texturing.
     
    Finally, I'm proud of One Detroit Center, which was another big project that also forced me to step outside of my comfort zone of usual pre-war BATs and work on a building with a completely different architectural style and need for new textures and materials than I was used to.
     
     
    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?
    nofunk:  I work in the urban planning field, and BATing has definitely helped me become more familiar with architectural ideas, terminology and the design process, which comes up more frequently than I had expected when working in a big city. So much of city planning is focused on site development, which means constructing buildings, and requires you to review plans and renderings and in those cases, having some understanding of how they come together helps.
     
     
    ST:  What advice would you give to a new member of this community who was planning on creating their first BAT?
    nofunk:  Stick with it!
     
    It takes time to develop the skills required to create really good BATs, and at times the process can be incredibly tedious and frustrating (I can't tell you how many times I've had to just walk away from a project for a few hours... days... weeks... before revisiting it). And keep learning and trying to improve! My BATing process and the quality of my work is dramatically different from when I first started. And I'm still learning new things! There's always room for improvement.
     
     
    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?
    nofunk:  Of course I really love the BATs that Jasoncw makes, although he has a modernist streak that doesn't always appeal to me. I also really like Aaron Graham's work -- his work has improved so much since he started BATing! I've also always loved Odainsaker's work -- he hasn't put out much, but what he has released has been just impeccable. And Spa has been making great content for smaller city and neighborhood commercial districts for as long as I can remember!
     
    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?
    nofunk:  There have been a few times when I thought that maybe Simtropolis was running out of stream, but ultimately I'm not surprised how long it's lasted: when you have a group of people who are this passionate about something, that something doesn't die easily. As long as people stil care about the game, the community, and creating for it, I don't see any reason why Simtropolis can't be around for 12 more years!
     
     
    ST:  Cities:Skylines... have you played it yet?  If not, what are you first impressions based on the mountain of feedback available here on Simtropolis or around the web?
    nofunk:  I have not played Cities:Skylines yet, but I’ve seen plenty of screen shots from it and it looks amazing! I’m excited to install it and start building my dream city.
     
     
    ST:  12 years later, many are calling this game the 'successor' to SC4 and the city building genera.  What are your thoughts?
    nofunk:  It certainly seems like the game could be SC4's successor: it’s really the first city simulation game we have seen since SC4 that actually intends to be a city simulator and not some strange Sims offshoot or awkward foray into social engineering! The graphics and gameplay seem realistic, and the opportunity for modding is exciting! And I’ve heard you can even plan out bus routes! It seems to me Cities:Skylines has many of the elements we all love about SC4 with even more realism and detail.
     
     
    ST:  It will take plenty time before C:S can rival the amount of custom content available for SC4, but the developers have really encouraged modding, and there are already many new buildings and 'assets' that can be found on Simtropolis and the steam workshop.  Are you encouraged to leap into C:S custom content?
    I've already talked to some folks who are actively working to develop custom content for C:S so I think the potential is huge for the game! I can't say whether or not I'll end up making custom content for C:S, but I also never imagined I'd make so much content for SC4, so who knows!
  12. mrsmartman liked an article by SimCoug, 100 Million STEX DL: An Interview with nofunk   
     
    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?
    nofunk:  I must have bought the game soon after it was released, because I've been on Simtropolis since August of 2003. I remember finding the game much more challenging and realistic than SimCity 3000. In fact, I seem to remember being a little turned off by it, because I struggled initially to grow a successful city.
     
    I've played every version of SimCity except for Societies. I even have SimCity BuildIt on my iPhone. I've been playing SimCity since it's original incarnations on the PC and Super Nintendo -- I'm a veteran SimCity player! I've also played other Sims games, but none of them has kept my interest like SimCity has.
     
     
    ST:  What aspect of SC4 do you enjoy most – what keeps you coming back?
    nofunk:  Hands down, the custom content is what keeps me coming back. I love the fact that you can take all this amazing content developed by some really creative individuals -- and even create your own buildings and lots -- and make your city truly unique. There are so many great maps, BATs, lots -- the NAM!! -- that together make the game so much more dynamic and exciting.
     
     
    ST:  Before we jump into the all the custom content questions, I’m curious… what is your favorite Maxis lot/BAT?
    nofunk:  Some of my favorites are Cameron Cameras, Brown & Sons, Buechner Apartments, and the Long Building. Of course, they're all Pre-War buildings similar to what I BAT.
     
     
    ST:  Do you recall the first plugin you installed?
    nofunk:  I don't, but it was probably something by Pegasus. There wasn't much in the way of custom content when I first joined Simtropolis.
     
     
    ST:  What led you to Simtropolis at first?  Can you remember your initial impressions of the site?
    nofunk:  Haha -- that was so long ago! I remember feeling sort of unsure of what to do on the site; at that time I didn't really know forum etiquette, so I laid pretty low. It was also a much quieter site back then.
    I'm also not sure what led me to the site initially: I'm sure it wasn't for custom content, because I didn't even know what that was when I first started playing and first joined Simtropolis.
     
     
    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?
    nofunk:  I remember thinking about creating buildings long before I actually started doing so. And I experienced quite a few false starts before ever making something that bore any semblence of the thing I was trying to create. I'm not sure there was any particular BAT or lot that inspired me to start creating; I think it was more just a general desire to have in the game some of the buildings I really loved in real life. I eventually ended up joining one of JasconCW's BAT Schools and making it most of the way through. That gave me enough technical know-how to start learning and creating on my own. The rest is history!
     
     
    ST:  Speaking of first steps, what was the very first thing that you modeled using the BAT?  Do you still have a screen shot?
    nofunk:  The very first thing I modeled using the BAT was a really terrible attempt at the Burton Memorial Tower on the University of Michigan's campus. And I do have a screen shot!

    I guess it wasn't so bad for a first attempt, but I've come a long way!
     
     
    ST:  Tell me a bit about the Barry Sanders Project (BSP).  I know that you and Jasoncw have been the caretakers of this group (and it has since been renamed mipro) for some time now, but I believe it got started all the way back in 2004.  When did you become part of this BAT group and what are some early memories of the BSP?
    nofunk:  The Barry Sanders Project was probably one of the first BAT groups organized around a city, but it took a long time for the group to actually produce anything. I think it was started with a lot of ambition, but when I first began posting in the thread (sometime in 2006) it had pretty much become a social forum. There was a lot of talk about making BATs, but very little action.
    When I really starting participating in the BSP, I think Jasoncw had just released his Detroit Free Press building, and JBSimio was working on some things as well. Wolverine was working on Ford Field or something similar. And I started small on a few buildings in and around Ann Arbor, Michigan, where I spent most of my time. Since then the BSP has died out, been resurrected by me and Jasoncw (and later SimHoTToDDy), and then reincarnated as mipro. Since then there have been 56 uploads by the BSP/mipro!
     
     
    ST:  Most of your BATs focus on buildings found in the Upper Midwest (US).  What is it about the area that draws you to recreate some of the great buildings found there?
    nofunk:  Well, I've lived in metro Detroit most of my life, and now live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Both are old, post-industrial, rust-belt cities, with a deep sense of history and culture. I guess I just really love the feel of old rust-belt cities -- the pre-war architecture, the grit and grime of the old factories and rail lines and infrastructure, and the determination and eternal optimism of the folks who still live here. I've thought about moving out of the Midwest a few times -- to Seattle or Boston or Washington, DC -- but my heart will always be in the Midwest, and I'll probably always find myself back here!
     
     
    ST:  Even though you focus on one region, you have BATed a wide range of buildings, from towering skyscrapers to small apartments, and from W2W shops to industrial behemoths.  How do you end up choosing projects?  Are you inspired by walking around a town and seeing the architecture up close, or is as simple as seeing a picture on the web?
    nofunk:   Occasionally I'll get talked into BATing something I wouldn't normally pick on my own, or I'll BAT something that fills a need in my game, but most of the time I just BAT what I like. I find inspiration everywhere, but particuarly from visiting cities and walking around and discovering buildings that really stand out to me. It's certainly easier to recreate a building that I've seen in person, been able to study, and take reference photos to capture all the little details.
     
     
    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?
    nofunk:  Least favorite is definitely lotting -- it's just such a tedious process searching through all the poorly labeled Maxis props to find what you need for a lot. On the other hand, my favorite parts would be the excitement of first picking out a building to BAT, and then that moment near the end when the modeling is done and the textures are coming together and I run a preview render and it actually looks like the building I was trying to create!
     
     
    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?
    nofunk:  The Simtropolis community is absolutely what keeps me going. I enjoy spending time developing a building from scratch and seeing it come together, but what I enjoy even more is the amazing feedback and responses I get on Simtropolis when I'm working on something! I've been pretty quiet on Simtropolis the past few years, but we really do have a great community here and it means a lot to me to be a part of that and share in the excitement of such a great game.
     
    And I sure do get a thrill when I see my BATs in people's CJs!
     
     
    ST:  You have been BATing wonderful models for almost 9 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?
    nofunk:  There are three BATs that I'm particularly proud of, all three because they required me to persevere. Cadillac Tower I started not once, not twice, but three times before finally getting it right. I also think it has some of the best texturing I've ever done.
     
    I'm proud of Carew Tower because it was such a huge undertaking -- by far the biggest BAT I've ever made -- and it required so much attention to detail in terms of both the modeling and the texturing.
     
    Finally, I'm proud of One Detroit Center, which was another big project that also forced me to step outside of my comfort zone of usual pre-war BATs and work on a building with a completely different architectural style and need for new textures and materials than I was used to.
     
     
    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?
    nofunk:  I work in the urban planning field, and BATing has definitely helped me become more familiar with architectural ideas, terminology and the design process, which comes up more frequently than I had expected when working in a big city. So much of city planning is focused on site development, which means constructing buildings, and requires you to review plans and renderings and in those cases, having some understanding of how they come together helps.
     
     
    ST:  What advice would you give to a new member of this community who was planning on creating their first BAT?
    nofunk:  Stick with it!
     
    It takes time to develop the skills required to create really good BATs, and at times the process can be incredibly tedious and frustrating (I can't tell you how many times I've had to just walk away from a project for a few hours... days... weeks... before revisiting it). And keep learning and trying to improve! My BATing process and the quality of my work is dramatically different from when I first started. And I'm still learning new things! There's always room for improvement.
     
     
    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?
    nofunk:  Of course I really love the BATs that Jasoncw makes, although he has a modernist streak that doesn't always appeal to me. I also really like Aaron Graham's work -- his work has improved so much since he started BATing! I've also always loved Odainsaker's work -- he hasn't put out much, but what he has released has been just impeccable. And Spa has been making great content for smaller city and neighborhood commercial districts for as long as I can remember!
     
    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?
    nofunk:  There have been a few times when I thought that maybe Simtropolis was running out of stream, but ultimately I'm not surprised how long it's lasted: when you have a group of people who are this passionate about something, that something doesn't die easily. As long as people stil care about the game, the community, and creating for it, I don't see any reason why Simtropolis can't be around for 12 more years!
     
     
    ST:  Cities:Skylines... have you played it yet?  If not, what are you first impressions based on the mountain of feedback available here on Simtropolis or around the web?
    nofunk:  I have not played Cities:Skylines yet, but I’ve seen plenty of screen shots from it and it looks amazing! I’m excited to install it and start building my dream city.
     
     
    ST:  12 years later, many are calling this game the 'successor' to SC4 and the city building genera.  What are your thoughts?
    nofunk:  It certainly seems like the game could be SC4's successor: it’s really the first city simulation game we have seen since SC4 that actually intends to be a city simulator and not some strange Sims offshoot or awkward foray into social engineering! The graphics and gameplay seem realistic, and the opportunity for modding is exciting! And I’ve heard you can even plan out bus routes! It seems to me Cities:Skylines has many of the elements we all love about SC4 with even more realism and detail.
     
     
    ST:  It will take plenty time before C:S can rival the amount of custom content available for SC4, but the developers have really encouraged modding, and there are already many new buildings and 'assets' that can be found on Simtropolis and the steam workshop.  Are you encouraged to leap into C:S custom content?
    I've already talked to some folks who are actively working to develop custom content for C:S so I think the potential is huge for the game! I can't say whether or not I'll end up making custom content for C:S, but I also never imagined I'd make so much content for SC4, so who knows!
  13. mrsmartman liked an article by SimCoug, 100 Million STEX DL: An Interview with nofunk   
     
    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?
    nofunk:  I must have bought the game soon after it was released, because I've been on Simtropolis since August of 2003. I remember finding the game much more challenging and realistic than SimCity 3000. In fact, I seem to remember being a little turned off by it, because I struggled initially to grow a successful city.
     
    I've played every version of SimCity except for Societies. I even have SimCity BuildIt on my iPhone. I've been playing SimCity since it's original incarnations on the PC and Super Nintendo -- I'm a veteran SimCity player! I've also played other Sims games, but none of them has kept my interest like SimCity has.
     
     
    ST:  What aspect of SC4 do you enjoy most – what keeps you coming back?
    nofunk:  Hands down, the custom content is what keeps me coming back. I love the fact that you can take all this amazing content developed by some really creative individuals -- and even create your own buildings and lots -- and make your city truly unique. There are so many great maps, BATs, lots -- the NAM!! -- that together make the game so much more dynamic and exciting.
     
     
    ST:  Before we jump into the all the custom content questions, I’m curious… what is your favorite Maxis lot/BAT?
    nofunk:  Some of my favorites are Cameron Cameras, Brown & Sons, Buechner Apartments, and the Long Building. Of course, they're all Pre-War buildings similar to what I BAT.
     
     
    ST:  Do you recall the first plugin you installed?
    nofunk:  I don't, but it was probably something by Pegasus. There wasn't much in the way of custom content when I first joined Simtropolis.
     
     
    ST:  What led you to Simtropolis at first?  Can you remember your initial impressions of the site?
    nofunk:  Haha -- that was so long ago! I remember feeling sort of unsure of what to do on the site; at that time I didn't really know forum etiquette, so I laid pretty low. It was also a much quieter site back then.
    I'm also not sure what led me to the site initially: I'm sure it wasn't for custom content, because I didn't even know what that was when I first started playing and first joined Simtropolis.
     
     
    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?
    nofunk:  I remember thinking about creating buildings long before I actually started doing so. And I experienced quite a few false starts before ever making something that bore any semblence of the thing I was trying to create. I'm not sure there was any particular BAT or lot that inspired me to start creating; I think it was more just a general desire to have in the game some of the buildings I really loved in real life. I eventually ended up joining one of JasconCW's BAT Schools and making it most of the way through. That gave me enough technical know-how to start learning and creating on my own. The rest is history!
     
     
    ST:  Speaking of first steps, what was the very first thing that you modeled using the BAT?  Do you still have a screen shot?
    nofunk:  The very first thing I modeled using the BAT was a really terrible attempt at the Burton Memorial Tower on the University of Michigan's campus. And I do have a screen shot!

    I guess it wasn't so bad for a first attempt, but I've come a long way!
     
     
    ST:  Tell me a bit about the Barry Sanders Project (BSP).  I know that you and Jasoncw have been the caretakers of this group (and it has since been renamed mipro) for some time now, but I believe it got started all the way back in 2004.  When did you become part of this BAT group and what are some early memories of the BSP?
    nofunk:  The Barry Sanders Project was probably one of the first BAT groups organized around a city, but it took a long time for the group to actually produce anything. I think it was started with a lot of ambition, but when I first began posting in the thread (sometime in 2006) it had pretty much become a social forum. There was a lot of talk about making BATs, but very little action.
    When I really starting participating in the BSP, I think Jasoncw had just released his Detroit Free Press building, and JBSimio was working on some things as well. Wolverine was working on Ford Field or something similar. And I started small on a few buildings in and around Ann Arbor, Michigan, where I spent most of my time. Since then the BSP has died out, been resurrected by me and Jasoncw (and later SimHoTToDDy), and then reincarnated as mipro. Since then there have been 56 uploads by the BSP/mipro!
     
     
    ST:  Most of your BATs focus on buildings found in the Upper Midwest (US).  What is it about the area that draws you to recreate some of the great buildings found there?
    nofunk:  Well, I've lived in metro Detroit most of my life, and now live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Both are old, post-industrial, rust-belt cities, with a deep sense of history and culture. I guess I just really love the feel of old rust-belt cities -- the pre-war architecture, the grit and grime of the old factories and rail lines and infrastructure, and the determination and eternal optimism of the folks who still live here. I've thought about moving out of the Midwest a few times -- to Seattle or Boston or Washington, DC -- but my heart will always be in the Midwest, and I'll probably always find myself back here!
     
     
    ST:  Even though you focus on one region, you have BATed a wide range of buildings, from towering skyscrapers to small apartments, and from W2W shops to industrial behemoths.  How do you end up choosing projects?  Are you inspired by walking around a town and seeing the architecture up close, or is as simple as seeing a picture on the web?
    nofunk:   Occasionally I'll get talked into BATing something I wouldn't normally pick on my own, or I'll BAT something that fills a need in my game, but most of the time I just BAT what I like. I find inspiration everywhere, but particuarly from visiting cities and walking around and discovering buildings that really stand out to me. It's certainly easier to recreate a building that I've seen in person, been able to study, and take reference photos to capture all the little details.
     
     
    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?
    nofunk:  Least favorite is definitely lotting -- it's just such a tedious process searching through all the poorly labeled Maxis props to find what you need for a lot. On the other hand, my favorite parts would be the excitement of first picking out a building to BAT, and then that moment near the end when the modeling is done and the textures are coming together and I run a preview render and it actually looks like the building I was trying to create!
     
     
    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?
    nofunk:  The Simtropolis community is absolutely what keeps me going. I enjoy spending time developing a building from scratch and seeing it come together, but what I enjoy even more is the amazing feedback and responses I get on Simtropolis when I'm working on something! I've been pretty quiet on Simtropolis the past few years, but we really do have a great community here and it means a lot to me to be a part of that and share in the excitement of such a great game.
     
    And I sure do get a thrill when I see my BATs in people's CJs!
     
     
    ST:  You have been BATing wonderful models for almost 9 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?
    nofunk:  There are three BATs that I'm particularly proud of, all three because they required me to persevere. Cadillac Tower I started not once, not twice, but three times before finally getting it right. I also think it has some of the best texturing I've ever done.
     
    I'm proud of Carew Tower because it was such a huge undertaking -- by far the biggest BAT I've ever made -- and it required so much attention to detail in terms of both the modeling and the texturing.
     
    Finally, I'm proud of One Detroit Center, which was another big project that also forced me to step outside of my comfort zone of usual pre-war BATs and work on a building with a completely different architectural style and need for new textures and materials than I was used to.
     
     
    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?
    nofunk:  I work in the urban planning field, and BATing has definitely helped me become more familiar with architectural ideas, terminology and the design process, which comes up more frequently than I had expected when working in a big city. So much of city planning is focused on site development, which means constructing buildings, and requires you to review plans and renderings and in those cases, having some understanding of how they come together helps.
     
     
    ST:  What advice would you give to a new member of this community who was planning on creating their first BAT?
    nofunk:  Stick with it!
     
    It takes time to develop the skills required to create really good BATs, and at times the process can be incredibly tedious and frustrating (I can't tell you how many times I've had to just walk away from a project for a few hours... days... weeks... before revisiting it). And keep learning and trying to improve! My BATing process and the quality of my work is dramatically different from when I first started. And I'm still learning new things! There's always room for improvement.
     
     
    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?
    nofunk:  Of course I really love the BATs that Jasoncw makes, although he has a modernist streak that doesn't always appeal to me. I also really like Aaron Graham's work -- his work has improved so much since he started BATing! I've also always loved Odainsaker's work -- he hasn't put out much, but what he has released has been just impeccable. And Spa has been making great content for smaller city and neighborhood commercial districts for as long as I can remember!
     
    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?
    nofunk:  There have been a few times when I thought that maybe Simtropolis was running out of stream, but ultimately I'm not surprised how long it's lasted: when you have a group of people who are this passionate about something, that something doesn't die easily. As long as people stil care about the game, the community, and creating for it, I don't see any reason why Simtropolis can't be around for 12 more years!
     
     
    ST:  Cities:Skylines... have you played it yet?  If not, what are you first impressions based on the mountain of feedback available here on Simtropolis or around the web?
    nofunk:  I have not played Cities:Skylines yet, but I’ve seen plenty of screen shots from it and it looks amazing! I’m excited to install it and start building my dream city.
     
     
    ST:  12 years later, many are calling this game the 'successor' to SC4 and the city building genera.  What are your thoughts?
    nofunk:  It certainly seems like the game could be SC4's successor: it’s really the first city simulation game we have seen since SC4 that actually intends to be a city simulator and not some strange Sims offshoot or awkward foray into social engineering! The graphics and gameplay seem realistic, and the opportunity for modding is exciting! And I’ve heard you can even plan out bus routes! It seems to me Cities:Skylines has many of the elements we all love about SC4 with even more realism and detail.
     
     
    ST:  It will take plenty time before C:S can rival the amount of custom content available for SC4, but the developers have really encouraged modding, and there are already many new buildings and 'assets' that can be found on Simtropolis and the steam workshop.  Are you encouraged to leap into C:S custom content?
    I've already talked to some folks who are actively working to develop custom content for C:S so I think the potential is huge for the game! I can't say whether or not I'll end up making custom content for C:S, but I also never imagined I'd make so much content for SC4, so who knows!
  14. mrsmartman liked an article by SimCoug, 100 Million STEX DL: An Interview with nofunk   
     
    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?
    nofunk:  I must have bought the game soon after it was released, because I've been on Simtropolis since August of 2003. I remember finding the game much more challenging and realistic than SimCity 3000. In fact, I seem to remember being a little turned off by it, because I struggled initially to grow a successful city.
     
    I've played every version of SimCity except for Societies. I even have SimCity BuildIt on my iPhone. I've been playing SimCity since it's original incarnations on the PC and Super Nintendo -- I'm a veteran SimCity player! I've also played other Sims games, but none of them has kept my interest like SimCity has.
     
     
    ST:  What aspect of SC4 do you enjoy most – what keeps you coming back?
    nofunk:  Hands down, the custom content is what keeps me coming back. I love the fact that you can take all this amazing content developed by some really creative individuals -- and even create your own buildings and lots -- and make your city truly unique. There are so many great maps, BATs, lots -- the NAM!! -- that together make the game so much more dynamic and exciting.
     
     
    ST:  Before we jump into the all the custom content questions, I’m curious… what is your favorite Maxis lot/BAT?
    nofunk:  Some of my favorites are Cameron Cameras, Brown & Sons, Buechner Apartments, and the Long Building. Of course, they're all Pre-War buildings similar to what I BAT.
     
     
    ST:  Do you recall the first plugin you installed?
    nofunk:  I don't, but it was probably something by Pegasus. There wasn't much in the way of custom content when I first joined Simtropolis.
     
     
    ST:  What led you to Simtropolis at first?  Can you remember your initial impressions of the site?
    nofunk:  Haha -- that was so long ago! I remember feeling sort of unsure of what to do on the site; at that time I didn't really know forum etiquette, so I laid pretty low. It was also a much quieter site back then.
    I'm also not sure what led me to the site initially: I'm sure it wasn't for custom content, because I didn't even know what that was when I first started playing and first joined Simtropolis.
     
     
    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?
    nofunk:  I remember thinking about creating buildings long before I actually started doing so. And I experienced quite a few false starts before ever making something that bore any semblence of the thing I was trying to create. I'm not sure there was any particular BAT or lot that inspired me to start creating; I think it was more just a general desire to have in the game some of the buildings I really loved in real life. I eventually ended up joining one of JasconCW's BAT Schools and making it most of the way through. That gave me enough technical know-how to start learning and creating on my own. The rest is history!
     
     
    ST:  Speaking of first steps, what was the very first thing that you modeled using the BAT?  Do you still have a screen shot?
    nofunk:  The very first thing I modeled using the BAT was a really terrible attempt at the Burton Memorial Tower on the University of Michigan's campus. And I do have a screen shot!

    I guess it wasn't so bad for a first attempt, but I've come a long way!
     
     
    ST:  Tell me a bit about the Barry Sanders Project (BSP).  I know that you and Jasoncw have been the caretakers of this group (and it has since been renamed mipro) for some time now, but I believe it got started all the way back in 2004.  When did you become part of this BAT group and what are some early memories of the BSP?
    nofunk:  The Barry Sanders Project was probably one of the first BAT groups organized around a city, but it took a long time for the group to actually produce anything. I think it was started with a lot of ambition, but when I first began posting in the thread (sometime in 2006) it had pretty much become a social forum. There was a lot of talk about making BATs, but very little action.
    When I really starting participating in the BSP, I think Jasoncw had just released his Detroit Free Press building, and JBSimio was working on some things as well. Wolverine was working on Ford Field or something similar. And I started small on a few buildings in and around Ann Arbor, Michigan, where I spent most of my time. Since then the BSP has died out, been resurrected by me and Jasoncw (and later SimHoTToDDy), and then reincarnated as mipro. Since then there have been 56 uploads by the BSP/mipro!
     
     
    ST:  Most of your BATs focus on buildings found in the Upper Midwest (US).  What is it about the area that draws you to recreate some of the great buildings found there?
    nofunk:  Well, I've lived in metro Detroit most of my life, and now live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Both are old, post-industrial, rust-belt cities, with a deep sense of history and culture. I guess I just really love the feel of old rust-belt cities -- the pre-war architecture, the grit and grime of the old factories and rail lines and infrastructure, and the determination and eternal optimism of the folks who still live here. I've thought about moving out of the Midwest a few times -- to Seattle or Boston or Washington, DC -- but my heart will always be in the Midwest, and I'll probably always find myself back here!
     
     
    ST:  Even though you focus on one region, you have BATed a wide range of buildings, from towering skyscrapers to small apartments, and from W2W shops to industrial behemoths.  How do you end up choosing projects?  Are you inspired by walking around a town and seeing the architecture up close, or is as simple as seeing a picture on the web?
    nofunk:   Occasionally I'll get talked into BATing something I wouldn't normally pick on my own, or I'll BAT something that fills a need in my game, but most of the time I just BAT what I like. I find inspiration everywhere, but particuarly from visiting cities and walking around and discovering buildings that really stand out to me. It's certainly easier to recreate a building that I've seen in person, been able to study, and take reference photos to capture all the little details.
     
     
    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?
    nofunk:  Least favorite is definitely lotting -- it's just such a tedious process searching through all the poorly labeled Maxis props to find what you need for a lot. On the other hand, my favorite parts would be the excitement of first picking out a building to BAT, and then that moment near the end when the modeling is done and the textures are coming together and I run a preview render and it actually looks like the building I was trying to create!
     
     
    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?
    nofunk:  The Simtropolis community is absolutely what keeps me going. I enjoy spending time developing a building from scratch and seeing it come together, but what I enjoy even more is the amazing feedback and responses I get on Simtropolis when I'm working on something! I've been pretty quiet on Simtropolis the past few years, but we really do have a great community here and it means a lot to me to be a part of that and share in the excitement of such a great game.
     
    And I sure do get a thrill when I see my BATs in people's CJs!
     
     
    ST:  You have been BATing wonderful models for almost 9 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?
    nofunk:  There are three BATs that I'm particularly proud of, all three because they required me to persevere. Cadillac Tower I started not once, not twice, but three times before finally getting it right. I also think it has some of the best texturing I've ever done.
     
    I'm proud of Carew Tower because it was such a huge undertaking -- by far the biggest BAT I've ever made -- and it required so much attention to detail in terms of both the modeling and the texturing.
     
    Finally, I'm proud of One Detroit Center, which was another big project that also forced me to step outside of my comfort zone of usual pre-war BATs and work on a building with a completely different architectural style and need for new textures and materials than I was used to.
     
     
    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?
    nofunk:  I work in the urban planning field, and BATing has definitely helped me become more familiar with architectural ideas, terminology and the design process, which comes up more frequently than I had expected when working in a big city. So much of city planning is focused on site development, which means constructing buildings, and requires you to review plans and renderings and in those cases, having some understanding of how they come together helps.
     
     
    ST:  What advice would you give to a new member of this community who was planning on creating their first BAT?
    nofunk:  Stick with it!
     
    It takes time to develop the skills required to create really good BATs, and at times the process can be incredibly tedious and frustrating (I can't tell you how many times I've had to just walk away from a project for a few hours... days... weeks... before revisiting it). And keep learning and trying to improve! My BATing process and the quality of my work is dramatically different from when I first started. And I'm still learning new things! There's always room for improvement.
     
     
    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?
    nofunk:  Of course I really love the BATs that Jasoncw makes, although he has a modernist streak that doesn't always appeal to me. I also really like Aaron Graham's work -- his work has improved so much since he started BATing! I've also always loved Odainsaker's work -- he hasn't put out much, but what he has released has been just impeccable. And Spa has been making great content for smaller city and neighborhood commercial districts for as long as I can remember!
     
    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?
    nofunk:  There have been a few times when I thought that maybe Simtropolis was running out of stream, but ultimately I'm not surprised how long it's lasted: when you have a group of people who are this passionate about something, that something doesn't die easily. As long as people stil care about the game, the community, and creating for it, I don't see any reason why Simtropolis can't be around for 12 more years!
     
     
    ST:  Cities:Skylines... have you played it yet?  If not, what are you first impressions based on the mountain of feedback available here on Simtropolis or around the web?
    nofunk:  I have not played Cities:Skylines yet, but I’ve seen plenty of screen shots from it and it looks amazing! I’m excited to install it and start building my dream city.
     
     
    ST:  12 years later, many are calling this game the 'successor' to SC4 and the city building genera.  What are your thoughts?
    nofunk:  It certainly seems like the game could be SC4's successor: it’s really the first city simulation game we have seen since SC4 that actually intends to be a city simulator and not some strange Sims offshoot or awkward foray into social engineering! The graphics and gameplay seem realistic, and the opportunity for modding is exciting! And I’ve heard you can even plan out bus routes! It seems to me Cities:Skylines has many of the elements we all love about SC4 with even more realism and detail.
     
     
    ST:  It will take plenty time before C:S can rival the amount of custom content available for SC4, but the developers have really encouraged modding, and there are already many new buildings and 'assets' that can be found on Simtropolis and the steam workshop.  Are you encouraged to leap into C:S custom content?
    I've already talked to some folks who are actively working to develop custom content for C:S so I think the potential is huge for the game! I can't say whether or not I'll end up making custom content for C:S, but I also never imagined I'd make so much content for SC4, so who knows!
  15. mrsmartman liked an article by SimCoug, 100 Million STEX DL: An Interview with nofunk   
     
    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?
    nofunk:  I must have bought the game soon after it was released, because I've been on Simtropolis since August of 2003. I remember finding the game much more challenging and realistic than SimCity 3000. In fact, I seem to remember being a little turned off by it, because I struggled initially to grow a successful city.
     
    I've played every version of SimCity except for Societies. I even have SimCity BuildIt on my iPhone. I've been playing SimCity since it's original incarnations on the PC and Super Nintendo -- I'm a veteran SimCity player! I've also played other Sims games, but none of them has kept my interest like SimCity has.
     
     
    ST:  What aspect of SC4 do you enjoy most – what keeps you coming back?
    nofunk:  Hands down, the custom content is what keeps me coming back. I love the fact that you can take all this amazing content developed by some really creative individuals -- and even create your own buildings and lots -- and make your city truly unique. There are so many great maps, BATs, lots -- the NAM!! -- that together make the game so much more dynamic and exciting.
     
     
    ST:  Before we jump into the all the custom content questions, I’m curious… what is your favorite Maxis lot/BAT?
    nofunk:  Some of my favorites are Cameron Cameras, Brown & Sons, Buechner Apartments, and the Long Building. Of course, they're all Pre-War buildings similar to what I BAT.
     
     
    ST:  Do you recall the first plugin you installed?
    nofunk:  I don't, but it was probably something by Pegasus. There wasn't much in the way of custom content when I first joined Simtropolis.
     
     
    ST:  What led you to Simtropolis at first?  Can you remember your initial impressions of the site?
    nofunk:  Haha -- that was so long ago! I remember feeling sort of unsure of what to do on the site; at that time I didn't really know forum etiquette, so I laid pretty low. It was also a much quieter site back then.
    I'm also not sure what led me to the site initially: I'm sure it wasn't for custom content, because I didn't even know what that was when I first started playing and first joined Simtropolis.
     
     
    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?
    nofunk:  I remember thinking about creating buildings long before I actually started doing so. And I experienced quite a few false starts before ever making something that bore any semblence of the thing I was trying to create. I'm not sure there was any particular BAT or lot that inspired me to start creating; I think it was more just a general desire to have in the game some of the buildings I really loved in real life. I eventually ended up joining one of JasconCW's BAT Schools and making it most of the way through. That gave me enough technical know-how to start learning and creating on my own. The rest is history!
     
     
    ST:  Speaking of first steps, what was the very first thing that you modeled using the BAT?  Do you still have a screen shot?
    nofunk:  The very first thing I modeled using the BAT was a really terrible attempt at the Burton Memorial Tower on the University of Michigan's campus. And I do have a screen shot!

    I guess it wasn't so bad for a first attempt, but I've come a long way!
     
     
    ST:  Tell me a bit about the Barry Sanders Project (BSP).  I know that you and Jasoncw have been the caretakers of this group (and it has since been renamed mipro) for some time now, but I believe it got started all the way back in 2004.  When did you become part of this BAT group and what are some early memories of the BSP?
    nofunk:  The Barry Sanders Project was probably one of the first BAT groups organized around a city, but it took a long time for the group to actually produce anything. I think it was started with a lot of ambition, but when I first began posting in the thread (sometime in 2006) it had pretty much become a social forum. There was a lot of talk about making BATs, but very little action.
    When I really starting participating in the BSP, I think Jasoncw had just released his Detroit Free Press building, and JBSimio was working on some things as well. Wolverine was working on Ford Field or something similar. And I started small on a few buildings in and around Ann Arbor, Michigan, where I spent most of my time. Since then the BSP has died out, been resurrected by me and Jasoncw (and later SimHoTToDDy), and then reincarnated as mipro. Since then there have been 56 uploads by the BSP/mipro!
     
     
    ST:  Most of your BATs focus on buildings found in the Upper Midwest (US).  What is it about the area that draws you to recreate some of the great buildings found there?
    nofunk:  Well, I've lived in metro Detroit most of my life, and now live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Both are old, post-industrial, rust-belt cities, with a deep sense of history and culture. I guess I just really love the feel of old rust-belt cities -- the pre-war architecture, the grit and grime of the old factories and rail lines and infrastructure, and the determination and eternal optimism of the folks who still live here. I've thought about moving out of the Midwest a few times -- to Seattle or Boston or Washington, DC -- but my heart will always be in the Midwest, and I'll probably always find myself back here!
     
     
    ST:  Even though you focus on one region, you have BATed a wide range of buildings, from towering skyscrapers to small apartments, and from W2W shops to industrial behemoths.  How do you end up choosing projects?  Are you inspired by walking around a town and seeing the architecture up close, or is as simple as seeing a picture on the web?
    nofunk:   Occasionally I'll get talked into BATing something I wouldn't normally pick on my own, or I'll BAT something that fills a need in my game, but most of the time I just BAT what I like. I find inspiration everywhere, but particuarly from visiting cities and walking around and discovering buildings that really stand out to me. It's certainly easier to recreate a building that I've seen in person, been able to study, and take reference photos to capture all the little details.
     
     
    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?
    nofunk:  Least favorite is definitely lotting -- it's just such a tedious process searching through all the poorly labeled Maxis props to find what you need for a lot. On the other hand, my favorite parts would be the excitement of first picking out a building to BAT, and then that moment near the end when the modeling is done and the textures are coming together and I run a preview render and it actually looks like the building I was trying to create!
     
     
    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?
    nofunk:  The Simtropolis community is absolutely what keeps me going. I enjoy spending time developing a building from scratch and seeing it come together, but what I enjoy even more is the amazing feedback and responses I get on Simtropolis when I'm working on something! I've been pretty quiet on Simtropolis the past few years, but we really do have a great community here and it means a lot to me to be a part of that and share in the excitement of such a great game.
     
    And I sure do get a thrill when I see my BATs in people's CJs!
     
     
    ST:  You have been BATing wonderful models for almost 9 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?
    nofunk:  There are three BATs that I'm particularly proud of, all three because they required me to persevere. Cadillac Tower I started not once, not twice, but three times before finally getting it right. I also think it has some of the best texturing I've ever done.
     
    I'm proud of Carew Tower because it was such a huge undertaking -- by far the biggest BAT I've ever made -- and it required so much attention to detail in terms of both the modeling and the texturing.
     
    Finally, I'm proud of One Detroit Center, which was another big project that also forced me to step outside of my comfort zone of usual pre-war BATs and work on a building with a completely different architectural style and need for new textures and materials than I was used to.
     
     
    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?
    nofunk:  I work in the urban planning field, and BATing has definitely helped me become more familiar with architectural ideas, terminology and the design process, which comes up more frequently than I had expected when working in a big city. So much of city planning is focused on site development, which means constructing buildings, and requires you to review plans and renderings and in those cases, having some understanding of how they come together helps.
     
     
    ST:  What advice would you give to a new member of this community who was planning on creating their first BAT?
    nofunk:  Stick with it!
     
    It takes time to develop the skills required to create really good BATs, and at times the process can be incredibly tedious and frustrating (I can't tell you how many times I've had to just walk away from a project for a few hours... days... weeks... before revisiting it). And keep learning and trying to improve! My BATing process and the quality of my work is dramatically different from when I first started. And I'm still learning new things! There's always room for improvement.
     
     
    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?
    nofunk:  Of course I really love the BATs that Jasoncw makes, although he has a modernist streak that doesn't always appeal to me. I also really like Aaron Graham's work -- his work has improved so much since he started BATing! I've also always loved Odainsaker's work -- he hasn't put out much, but what he has released has been just impeccable. And Spa has been making great content for smaller city and neighborhood commercial districts for as long as I can remember!
     
    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?
    nofunk:  There have been a few times when I thought that maybe Simtropolis was running out of stream, but ultimately I'm not surprised how long it's lasted: when you have a group of people who are this passionate about something, that something doesn't die easily. As long as people stil care about the game, the community, and creating for it, I don't see any reason why Simtropolis can't be around for 12 more years!
     
     
    ST:  Cities:Skylines... have you played it yet?  If not, what are you first impressions based on the mountain of feedback available here on Simtropolis or around the web?
    nofunk:  I have not played Cities:Skylines yet, but I’ve seen plenty of screen shots from it and it looks amazing! I’m excited to install it and start building my dream city.
     
     
    ST:  12 years later, many are calling this game the 'successor' to SC4 and the city building genera.  What are your thoughts?
    nofunk:  It certainly seems like the game could be SC4's successor: it’s really the first city simulation game we have seen since SC4 that actually intends to be a city simulator and not some strange Sims offshoot or awkward foray into social engineering! The graphics and gameplay seem realistic, and the opportunity for modding is exciting! And I’ve heard you can even plan out bus routes! It seems to me Cities:Skylines has many of the elements we all love about SC4 with even more realism and detail.
     
     
    ST:  It will take plenty time before C:S can rival the amount of custom content available for SC4, but the developers have really encouraged modding, and there are already many new buildings and 'assets' that can be found on Simtropolis and the steam workshop.  Are you encouraged to leap into C:S custom content?
    I've already talked to some folks who are actively working to develop custom content for C:S so I think the potential is huge for the game! I can't say whether or not I'll end up making custom content for C:S, but I also never imagined I'd make so much content for SC4, so who knows!
  16. mrsmartman liked an article by SimCoug, 100 Million STEX DL: An Interview with nofunk   
     
    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?
    nofunk:  I must have bought the game soon after it was released, because I've been on Simtropolis since August of 2003. I remember finding the game much more challenging and realistic than SimCity 3000. In fact, I seem to remember being a little turned off by it, because I struggled initially to grow a successful city.
     
    I've played every version of SimCity except for Societies. I even have SimCity BuildIt on my iPhone. I've been playing SimCity since it's original incarnations on the PC and Super Nintendo -- I'm a veteran SimCity player! I've also played other Sims games, but none of them has kept my interest like SimCity has.
     
     
    ST:  What aspect of SC4 do you enjoy most – what keeps you coming back?
    nofunk:  Hands down, the custom content is what keeps me coming back. I love the fact that you can take all this amazing content developed by some really creative individuals -- and even create your own buildings and lots -- and make your city truly unique. There are so many great maps, BATs, lots -- the NAM!! -- that together make the game so much more dynamic and exciting.
     
     
    ST:  Before we jump into the all the custom content questions, I’m curious… what is your favorite Maxis lot/BAT?
    nofunk:  Some of my favorites are Cameron Cameras, Brown & Sons, Buechner Apartments, and the Long Building. Of course, they're all Pre-War buildings similar to what I BAT.
     
     
    ST:  Do you recall the first plugin you installed?
    nofunk:  I don't, but it was probably something by Pegasus. There wasn't much in the way of custom content when I first joined Simtropolis.
     
     
    ST:  What led you to Simtropolis at first?  Can you remember your initial impressions of the site?
    nofunk:  Haha -- that was so long ago! I remember feeling sort of unsure of what to do on the site; at that time I didn't really know forum etiquette, so I laid pretty low. It was also a much quieter site back then.
    I'm also not sure what led me to the site initially: I'm sure it wasn't for custom content, because I didn't even know what that was when I first started playing and first joined Simtropolis.
     
     
    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?
    nofunk:  I remember thinking about creating buildings long before I actually started doing so. And I experienced quite a few false starts before ever making something that bore any semblence of the thing I was trying to create. I'm not sure there was any particular BAT or lot that inspired me to start creating; I think it was more just a general desire to have in the game some of the buildings I really loved in real life. I eventually ended up joining one of JasconCW's BAT Schools and making it most of the way through. That gave me enough technical know-how to start learning and creating on my own. The rest is history!
     
     
    ST:  Speaking of first steps, what was the very first thing that you modeled using the BAT?  Do you still have a screen shot?
    nofunk:  The very first thing I modeled using the BAT was a really terrible attempt at the Burton Memorial Tower on the University of Michigan's campus. And I do have a screen shot!

    I guess it wasn't so bad for a first attempt, but I've come a long way!
     
     
    ST:  Tell me a bit about the Barry Sanders Project (BSP).  I know that you and Jasoncw have been the caretakers of this group (and it has since been renamed mipro) for some time now, but I believe it got started all the way back in 2004.  When did you become part of this BAT group and what are some early memories of the BSP?
    nofunk:  The Barry Sanders Project was probably one of the first BAT groups organized around a city, but it took a long time for the group to actually produce anything. I think it was started with a lot of ambition, but when I first began posting in the thread (sometime in 2006) it had pretty much become a social forum. There was a lot of talk about making BATs, but very little action.
    When I really starting participating in the BSP, I think Jasoncw had just released his Detroit Free Press building, and JBSimio was working on some things as well. Wolverine was working on Ford Field or something similar. And I started small on a few buildings in and around Ann Arbor, Michigan, where I spent most of my time. Since then the BSP has died out, been resurrected by me and Jasoncw (and later SimHoTToDDy), and then reincarnated as mipro. Since then there have been 56 uploads by the BSP/mipro!
     
     
    ST:  Most of your BATs focus on buildings found in the Upper Midwest (US).  What is it about the area that draws you to recreate some of the great buildings found there?
    nofunk:  Well, I've lived in metro Detroit most of my life, and now live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Both are old, post-industrial, rust-belt cities, with a deep sense of history and culture. I guess I just really love the feel of old rust-belt cities -- the pre-war architecture, the grit and grime of the old factories and rail lines and infrastructure, and the determination and eternal optimism of the folks who still live here. I've thought about moving out of the Midwest a few times -- to Seattle or Boston or Washington, DC -- but my heart will always be in the Midwest, and I'll probably always find myself back here!
     
     
    ST:  Even though you focus on one region, you have BATed a wide range of buildings, from towering skyscrapers to small apartments, and from W2W shops to industrial behemoths.  How do you end up choosing projects?  Are you inspired by walking around a town and seeing the architecture up close, or is as simple as seeing a picture on the web?
    nofunk:   Occasionally I'll get talked into BATing something I wouldn't normally pick on my own, or I'll BAT something that fills a need in my game, but most of the time I just BAT what I like. I find inspiration everywhere, but particuarly from visiting cities and walking around and discovering buildings that really stand out to me. It's certainly easier to recreate a building that I've seen in person, been able to study, and take reference photos to capture all the little details.
     
     
    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?
    nofunk:  Least favorite is definitely lotting -- it's just such a tedious process searching through all the poorly labeled Maxis props to find what you need for a lot. On the other hand, my favorite parts would be the excitement of first picking out a building to BAT, and then that moment near the end when the modeling is done and the textures are coming together and I run a preview render and it actually looks like the building I was trying to create!
     
     
    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?
    nofunk:  The Simtropolis community is absolutely what keeps me going. I enjoy spending time developing a building from scratch and seeing it come together, but what I enjoy even more is the amazing feedback and responses I get on Simtropolis when I'm working on something! I've been pretty quiet on Simtropolis the past few years, but we really do have a great community here and it means a lot to me to be a part of that and share in the excitement of such a great game.
     
    And I sure do get a thrill when I see my BATs in people's CJs!
     
     
    ST:  You have been BATing wonderful models for almost 9 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?
    nofunk:  There are three BATs that I'm particularly proud of, all three because they required me to persevere. Cadillac Tower I started not once, not twice, but three times before finally getting it right. I also think it has some of the best texturing I've ever done.
     
    I'm proud of Carew Tower because it was such a huge undertaking -- by far the biggest BAT I've ever made -- and it required so much attention to detail in terms of both the modeling and the texturing.
     
    Finally, I'm proud of One Detroit Center, which was another big project that also forced me to step outside of my comfort zone of usual pre-war BATs and work on a building with a completely different architectural style and need for new textures and materials than I was used to.
     
     
    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?
    nofunk:  I work in the urban planning field, and BATing has definitely helped me become more familiar with architectural ideas, terminology and the design process, which comes up more frequently than I had expected when working in a big city. So much of city planning is focused on site development, which means constructing buildings, and requires you to review plans and renderings and in those cases, having some understanding of how they come together helps.
     
     
    ST:  What advice would you give to a new member of this community who was planning on creating their first BAT?
    nofunk:  Stick with it!
     
    It takes time to develop the skills required to create really good BATs, and at times the process can be incredibly tedious and frustrating (I can't tell you how many times I've had to just walk away from a project for a few hours... days... weeks... before revisiting it). And keep learning and trying to improve! My BATing process and the quality of my work is dramatically different from when I first started. And I'm still learning new things! There's always room for improvement.
     
     
    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?
    nofunk:  Of course I really love the BATs that Jasoncw makes, although he has a modernist streak that doesn't always appeal to me. I also really like Aaron Graham's work -- his work has improved so much since he started BATing! I've also always loved Odainsaker's work -- he hasn't put out much, but what he has released has been just impeccable. And Spa has been making great content for smaller city and neighborhood commercial districts for as long as I can remember!
     
    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?
    nofunk:  There have been a few times when I thought that maybe Simtropolis was running out of stream, but ultimately I'm not surprised how long it's lasted: when you have a group of people who are this passionate about something, that something doesn't die easily. As long as people stil care about the game, the community, and creating for it, I don't see any reason why Simtropolis can't be around for 12 more years!
     
     
    ST:  Cities:Skylines... have you played it yet?  If not, what are you first impressions based on the mountain of feedback available here on Simtropolis or around the web?
    nofunk:  I have not played Cities:Skylines yet, but I’ve seen plenty of screen shots from it and it looks amazing! I’m excited to install it and start building my dream city.
     
     
    ST:  12 years later, many are calling this game the 'successor' to SC4 and the city building genera.  What are your thoughts?
    nofunk:  It certainly seems like the game could be SC4's successor: it’s really the first city simulation game we have seen since SC4 that actually intends to be a city simulator and not some strange Sims offshoot or awkward foray into social engineering! The graphics and gameplay seem realistic, and the opportunity for modding is exciting! And I’ve heard you can even plan out bus routes! It seems to me Cities:Skylines has many of the elements we all love about SC4 with even more realism and detail.
     
     
    ST:  It will take plenty time before C:S can rival the amount of custom content available for SC4, but the developers have really encouraged modding, and there are already many new buildings and 'assets' that can be found on Simtropolis and the steam workshop.  Are you encouraged to leap into C:S custom content?
    I've already talked to some folks who are actively working to develop custom content for C:S so I think the potential is huge for the game! I can't say whether or not I'll end up making custom content for C:S, but I also never imagined I'd make so much content for SC4, so who knows!
  17. mrsmartman liked an article by SimCoug, 100 Million STEX DL: An Interview with nofunk   
     
    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?
    nofunk:  I must have bought the game soon after it was released, because I've been on Simtropolis since August of 2003. I remember finding the game much more challenging and realistic than SimCity 3000. In fact, I seem to remember being a little turned off by it, because I struggled initially to grow a successful city.
     
    I've played every version of SimCity except for Societies. I even have SimCity BuildIt on my iPhone. I've been playing SimCity since it's original incarnations on the PC and Super Nintendo -- I'm a veteran SimCity player! I've also played other Sims games, but none of them has kept my interest like SimCity has.
     
     
    ST:  What aspect of SC4 do you enjoy most – what keeps you coming back?
    nofunk:  Hands down, the custom content is what keeps me coming back. I love the fact that you can take all this amazing content developed by some really creative individuals -- and even create your own buildings and lots -- and make your city truly unique. There are so many great maps, BATs, lots -- the NAM!! -- that together make the game so much more dynamic and exciting.
     
     
    ST:  Before we jump into the all the custom content questions, I’m curious… what is your favorite Maxis lot/BAT?
    nofunk:  Some of my favorites are Cameron Cameras, Brown & Sons, Buechner Apartments, and the Long Building. Of course, they're all Pre-War buildings similar to what I BAT.
     
     
    ST:  Do you recall the first plugin you installed?
    nofunk:  I don't, but it was probably something by Pegasus. There wasn't much in the way of custom content when I first joined Simtropolis.
     
     
    ST:  What led you to Simtropolis at first?  Can you remember your initial impressions of the site?
    nofunk:  Haha -- that was so long ago! I remember feeling sort of unsure of what to do on the site; at that time I didn't really know forum etiquette, so I laid pretty low. It was also a much quieter site back then.
    I'm also not sure what led me to the site initially: I'm sure it wasn't for custom content, because I didn't even know what that was when I first started playing and first joined Simtropolis.
     
     
    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?
    nofunk:  I remember thinking about creating buildings long before I actually started doing so. And I experienced quite a few false starts before ever making something that bore any semblence of the thing I was trying to create. I'm not sure there was any particular BAT or lot that inspired me to start creating; I think it was more just a general desire to have in the game some of the buildings I really loved in real life. I eventually ended up joining one of JasconCW's BAT Schools and making it most of the way through. That gave me enough technical know-how to start learning and creating on my own. The rest is history!
     
     
    ST:  Speaking of first steps, what was the very first thing that you modeled using the BAT?  Do you still have a screen shot?
    nofunk:  The very first thing I modeled using the BAT was a really terrible attempt at the Burton Memorial Tower on the University of Michigan's campus. And I do have a screen shot!

    I guess it wasn't so bad for a first attempt, but I've come a long way!
     
     
    ST:  Tell me a bit about the Barry Sanders Project (BSP).  I know that you and Jasoncw have been the caretakers of this group (and it has since been renamed mipro) for some time now, but I believe it got started all the way back in 2004.  When did you become part of this BAT group and what are some early memories of the BSP?
    nofunk:  The Barry Sanders Project was probably one of the first BAT groups organized around a city, but it took a long time for the group to actually produce anything. I think it was started with a lot of ambition, but when I first began posting in the thread (sometime in 2006) it had pretty much become a social forum. There was a lot of talk about making BATs, but very little action.
    When I really starting participating in the BSP, I think Jasoncw had just released his Detroit Free Press building, and JBSimio was working on some things as well. Wolverine was working on Ford Field or something similar. And I started small on a few buildings in and around Ann Arbor, Michigan, where I spent most of my time. Since then the BSP has died out, been resurrected by me and Jasoncw (and later SimHoTToDDy), and then reincarnated as mipro. Since then there have been 56 uploads by the BSP/mipro!
     
     
    ST:  Most of your BATs focus on buildings found in the Upper Midwest (US).  What is it about the area that draws you to recreate some of the great buildings found there?
    nofunk:  Well, I've lived in metro Detroit most of my life, and now live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Both are old, post-industrial, rust-belt cities, with a deep sense of history and culture. I guess I just really love the feel of old rust-belt cities -- the pre-war architecture, the grit and grime of the old factories and rail lines and infrastructure, and the determination and eternal optimism of the folks who still live here. I've thought about moving out of the Midwest a few times -- to Seattle or Boston or Washington, DC -- but my heart will always be in the Midwest, and I'll probably always find myself back here!
     
     
    ST:  Even though you focus on one region, you have BATed a wide range of buildings, from towering skyscrapers to small apartments, and from W2W shops to industrial behemoths.  How do you end up choosing projects?  Are you inspired by walking around a town and seeing the architecture up close, or is as simple as seeing a picture on the web?
    nofunk:   Occasionally I'll get talked into BATing something I wouldn't normally pick on my own, or I'll BAT something that fills a need in my game, but most of the time I just BAT what I like. I find inspiration everywhere, but particuarly from visiting cities and walking around and discovering buildings that really stand out to me. It's certainly easier to recreate a building that I've seen in person, been able to study, and take reference photos to capture all the little details.
     
     
    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?
    nofunk:  Least favorite is definitely lotting -- it's just such a tedious process searching through all the poorly labeled Maxis props to find what you need for a lot. On the other hand, my favorite parts would be the excitement of first picking out a building to BAT, and then that moment near the end when the modeling is done and the textures are coming together and I run a preview render and it actually looks like the building I was trying to create!
     
     
    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?
    nofunk:  The Simtropolis community is absolutely what keeps me going. I enjoy spending time developing a building from scratch and seeing it come together, but what I enjoy even more is the amazing feedback and responses I get on Simtropolis when I'm working on something! I've been pretty quiet on Simtropolis the past few years, but we really do have a great community here and it means a lot to me to be a part of that and share in the excitement of such a great game.
     
    And I sure do get a thrill when I see my BATs in people's CJs!
     
     
    ST:  You have been BATing wonderful models for almost 9 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?
    nofunk:  There are three BATs that I'm particularly proud of, all three because they required me to persevere. Cadillac Tower I started not once, not twice, but three times before finally getting it right. I also think it has some of the best texturing I've ever done.
     
    I'm proud of Carew Tower because it was such a huge undertaking -- by far the biggest BAT I've ever made -- and it required so much attention to detail in terms of both the modeling and the texturing.
     
    Finally, I'm proud of One Detroit Center, which was another big project that also forced me to step outside of my comfort zone of usual pre-war BATs and work on a building with a completely different architectural style and need for new textures and materials than I was used to.
     
     
    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?
    nofunk:  I work in the urban planning field, and BATing has definitely helped me become more familiar with architectural ideas, terminology and the design process, which comes up more frequently than I had expected when working in a big city. So much of city planning is focused on site development, which means constructing buildings, and requires you to review plans and renderings and in those cases, having some understanding of how they come together helps.
     
     
    ST:  What advice would you give to a new member of this community who was planning on creating their first BAT?
    nofunk:  Stick with it!
     
    It takes time to develop the skills required to create really good BATs, and at times the process can be incredibly tedious and frustrating (I can't tell you how many times I've had to just walk away from a project for a few hours... days... weeks... before revisiting it). And keep learning and trying to improve! My BATing process and the quality of my work is dramatically different from when I first started. And I'm still learning new things! There's always room for improvement.
     
     
    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?
    nofunk:  Of course I really love the BATs that Jasoncw makes, although he has a modernist streak that doesn't always appeal to me. I also really like Aaron Graham's work -- his work has improved so much since he started BATing! I've also always loved Odainsaker's work -- he hasn't put out much, but what he has released has been just impeccable. And Spa has been making great content for smaller city and neighborhood commercial districts for as long as I can remember!
     
    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?
    nofunk:  There have been a few times when I thought that maybe Simtropolis was running out of stream, but ultimately I'm not surprised how long it's lasted: when you have a group of people who are this passionate about something, that something doesn't die easily. As long as people stil care about the game, the community, and creating for it, I don't see any reason why Simtropolis can't be around for 12 more years!
     
     
    ST:  Cities:Skylines... have you played it yet?  If not, what are you first impressions based on the mountain of feedback available here on Simtropolis or around the web?
    nofunk:  I have not played Cities:Skylines yet, but I’ve seen plenty of screen shots from it and it looks amazing! I’m excited to install it and start building my dream city.
     
     
    ST:  12 years later, many are calling this game the 'successor' to SC4 and the city building genera.  What are your thoughts?
    nofunk:  It certainly seems like the game could be SC4's successor: it’s really the first city simulation game we have seen since SC4 that actually intends to be a city simulator and not some strange Sims offshoot or awkward foray into social engineering! The graphics and gameplay seem realistic, and the opportunity for modding is exciting! And I’ve heard you can even plan out bus routes! It seems to me Cities:Skylines has many of the elements we all love about SC4 with even more realism and detail.
     
     
    ST:  It will take plenty time before C:S can rival the amount of custom content available for SC4, but the developers have really encouraged modding, and there are already many new buildings and 'assets' that can be found on Simtropolis and the steam workshop.  Are you encouraged to leap into C:S custom content?
    I've already talked to some folks who are actively working to develop custom content for C:S so I think the potential is huge for the game! I can't say whether or not I'll end up making custom content for C:S, but I also never imagined I'd make so much content for SC4, so who knows!
  18. Aaron Graham liked an article by SimCoug, 100 Million STEX DL: An Interview with T Wrecks   
    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?
     
    T Wrecks:  I think I first borrowed SC4 (pre-RH) from a friend a short time after its release, liked the graphics, but had a hard time really getting something going. It was before even the first patch, and I guess the radical change in terms of cost management made things difficult for me initially. In SC3K, if you could afford zoning/plopping something, you could afford its upkeep easily. In SC4, all of a sudden plop/zoning cost was nothing, but maintenance cost... jeez, a few basketball courts too many could break your neck. Then I lost SC4 from my radar somehow. When the RH addon came out, I wanted to get both finally, but while the basic game could be bought anywhere for a few bucks, RH was incredibly hard to come by. I finally managed to buy both in 2004, though, and immediately started to get really involved in the game. I know SimCity right from the start - played the original SimCity first with a friend on his PC/XT with amber monitor, later on my own Amiga 500 - and even later on my first PC. Naturally, SC2K followed. I also liked a "multiplayer" edition of SC2K where you could buy land on which to build your city. The SCURK (SimCity Urban Renewal Kit), which enabled you to replace in-game buildings with your own (or other peoples') hand-drawn stuff is also the first time I discovered custom content for SimCity. I dipped my toe in it a little, but it didn't amount to much. SC3000 was the logical next step, and SC3K.  I also got the BAP (and later the BAP+) to make custom buildings. SC3000 marks the first time I went hunting for custom content on the 'net in addition to fiddling around with it on my own PC. I didn't contribute anything, though.  
     
    ST:  What aspect of SC4 do you enjoy most – what keeps you coming back?
     
    T Wrecks:  What I like most about the game is that the city behaves almost like something alive. You control many parameters, and yet a city can always surprise you. Turn your back on a totally uninteresting spot to take care of something, only to find something totally surprising has developed in the meantime. That, and the fact that it is totally not based on levels, scenarios, a story, fixed goals or anything - you have zillions of possibilities, and the resulting cities and regions are as individual as your handwriting. I also like how relaxing it can be. Sometimes I like to sit back and just look at those tiny cars driving around in my city. Last but not least, the vast modding possibilities keep me coming back more than the actual game these days. There is always so much more you could add...  
     
    ST:  Before we jump into the all the custom content questions, I’m curious… what is your favorite Maxis lot/BAT?
     
    T Wrecks:  Phew, that's a difficult one. I don't think I have THE favourite building. I like several that are very well done IMO, even if they are not too spectacular. Many of the small family homes are really decent IMO. Other buildings I (almost) always like when they pop up include White's Clothier, Brown & Sons (a very rarely growing building), Mace Co., Schnittjer Printing, Strang Deeds Office Tower, Kanarowski & Co., Futa Consulting, Goldman Building / Hourvitz Accounting (really pretty much the same building), West & Co., The Pratt, Hi-Rise Apts (Chicago tileset), Simon Manor, Jolly Manor, Wallace Manor, The Long Building, Butts Condos, Russo Condos... The lots are mostly pretty poor, but Maxis had to make ends meet with a severly limited amount of props and textures - not to mention that RCI lots needed to accommodate several buildings of a family. When you mass produce, you can't work wonders... I know that myself because some of my projects (such as the IRM) also involved a high degree of mass production. 
     
    ST:  Do you recall the first plugin you installed?
     
    T Wrecks:  No, I'm afraid not. No idea, really.  
     
    ST:  What led you to Simtropolis at first?  Can you remember your initial impressions of the site?
     
    T Wrecks:  I was looking for custom content, of course! I must have visited Simtropolis long before I registered, because when I finally signed up, I know I had vague memories of the site, even though it looked much different back then. I don't remember any particular first impressions (it was more than 10 years ago, give me a break!), but I do remember that I found not only a place to download stuff, but also a promising community. When I commented on a CJ posted by an Austrian player, michi5, he invited me over to the German-speaking community - an involvement that would lead me to becoming a member of the SFBT. However, I'm no longer active in said German community, but I never felt like leaving ST.  
     
    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?
     
    T Wrecks:  I don't think so. It was probably more the sheer possibility. As I mentioned above, I also tried my hands at the SCURK for SC2000, the BAP / BA+ for SC3000 / SC3000 Unlimited, and I also tried other custom stuff before. After playing through Duke Nukem 3D, for example, I was more interested in the level editor. I have also made waypoints for a Counter-Strike (1.5/1.6) bot before, and the Half-Life level editor is not unknown to me, either. Guess I just have a tendency to get fascinated by editors and their potential. It's not so much about any particular item.  
     
    ST:  Speaking of first steps, what was the very first thing that you lotted using the LE?  Do you still have a screen shot?
     
    T Wrecks:  I don't have the slightest idea, let alone a screenshot, sorry. :/  
     
    ST:  You’ve been creating unique and beautiful lots for quite some time, but if members were to search your library of STEX files they would only come up with about 2 pages worth.  Yet, you are constantly creating the lots for many of the great BATers on this site.  So best guess, how many of your lots are on the STEX?
     
    T Wrecks:  Argh, another difficult one. Counted in STEX uploads (and not in actual .sc4lot files), I guess there may be up to 100 in addition to what I have released under my own name. Add to this a further 50 or more over at kurier.simcityplaza.de, where I used to be involved in the modding, lotting, translation, and packaging of uploads. All the NDEX files you can find there, for example, have been tweaked and often re-lotted by me. In the end, I don't care about numbers that much. I'm rather glad that I could help several great BATters to get their stuff on the STEX!  
     
    ST:  As a lotter myself, I find lotting can put me in a peaceful Zen state.  What do you enjoy about lotting and what keeps you firing up the LE after so many years?  
     
    T Wrecks:  Peaceful Zen state? Hmm... I don't really know if I share this feeling. I guess it can be close to that if you're not doing a boring routine task, and if things are going together all right. Other times, it can be tedious and a bit boring. The actual act of lotting is pretty ok, I guess, but what motivates me most is when I see how I can make the lot complement a building as seamlessly as possible, and - in the case of a re-lot - when I check out the lot in game and see how it's much better than the original lot, at least according to my taste. Ultimately, it's not the process of lotting itself, but the satisfaction of getting a result that conforms to my taste and liking that motivates me.  
     
    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 lotting process?
     
    T Wrecks:  Sometimes it's the very beginning: Sitting in front of an empty lot and not knowing what to do with it, trying out many designs that don't work... sometimes it's repetition: one down, five more versions to go... However, the parts I like least in general are all the activities that don't have to do with the actual lotting: determining stats, recording them in my ever growing database, fixing file properties, and worst of all: documentation, packaging and uploading. I really hate that part. Did I mention making menu icons? No? Well, then: making menu icons.  
     
    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 lots pop up in CJs?
     
    T Wrecks:  Hm, I figure since I have taken so much and since I mod the heck out of my plugins anyway, it would be only logical and fair to give something back and share some of the stuff that I have on my HD anyway. It's nice when you post a question because you're trying to do something, and people not only help you, but also take interest in that project of yours - that's how it started for me. That's what convinced me that my stuff may be interesting for others initially. These days, what I enjoy most - more than STEX comments, although I do appreciate these! - is players actually using something I made. It shows me that I haven't uploaded those files for nothing, and as a bonus it's often interesting for me to see how players will use my creations. Sometimes I see applications that I would never have thought of myself.  
     
    ST:  You have been lotting for almost 10 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?
     
    T Wrecks:  Hm, I kinda like the relots of . IDS Offices may also be one of my better lots. But that's only the optical side of affairs...On a larger scale, I'm most proud of the fact that I contributed a little bit towards taking more care of the stats of BATs and lots, and I also think the is not too shabby because it has expanded into an entire lot family - and a big family at that! Now that I think about it, those low-wealth mega lot sets I made based on 645978's buildings were pretty popular in their time, and my first modular set of lots. I still have fond memories of them - and even a screenshot from the day the first one became a STEX feature! I hope you can excuse the crappy quality and low resolution:
     

     
    Fun facts or stories? I'm afraid there are none that I remember, and if I don't remember them, they probably haven't been all that interesting in the first place. It's really boring work, haha.  
     
    ST:  Has your experience with SC4 custom content had any influence on your personal or professional life?  Are there any skills that you have developed over your lotting career that have helped you beyond the world of SC4?
     
    T Wrecks:  Yes, there has been some degree of influence. The German SC4 community has brought me into personal contact with several people, and I mean not only contact over the 'net. What began as a pleasant, but absolutely unintended side product evolved into a chain of acquantainces and friendships up to and including a girlfriend - these days, we're no longer together, but still good friends even after many years, although she's the only one who remains from that time. So much for personal life... As far as my professional life is concerned, I'd say that there have been indirect influences. Obviously my incredibly spectacular skills at pushing props around in the Lot Editor and clicking on boxes (*gasp*) have not led to my running a blue chip company now, and neither has my ability to convert from decimal into hexadecimal on a very low level (2A = 42) without using a calculator resulted in a position as CIO. Lotting IS a pretty trivial task, after all, and there's not much "RL carryover", as you might call it. However, hanging around in an English-speaking community for 10 years is certainly not detrimental to your language proficiency, and as a professional translator, I can always use that. In this respect, my hobby lotting/modding has certainly been more helpful than jazzdance or collecting stamps. Private life and job life aside, such an international community also gets you into contact with a very broad variety of people and widens your horizon. This may not result in any direct benefits, but I still think it can be an important lesson for life in general.  
     
    ST:  What advice would you give to a new member of this community who was planning on creating their first lot?
     
    T Wrecks:  Three words: Start a thread. Next to that, be prepared to read a lot.There's vast knowledge floating around, but it's not very well catalogued. Old hands may be able to direct you towards useful resources, or they may point out stuff that's hard to find in writing out there. Starting a thread is very useful to gather feedback, and if you're doing it right, you will learn more than by merely asking. How so? Well, if you ask something, you'll get a solution - hopefully. If you present your progress in a thread additionally, people may suggest things and mention stuff you haven't been aware of before. They may cause you to consider solutions that you wouldn't have considered by yourself or that you didn't even know about. Ultimately, however, you should take care to do what you like best, or you may end up being torn between different options favoured by your thread followers and not knowing which way to go.By the way, the Lot Editor comes with a manual. It's in your root SimCity 4 directory, and Maxis doesn't really rub its existence in your face, but it is there. This should be enough to teach you the basics. The rest is patience, ideas, and some hints found here and there and/or provided by other community members. You should also be prepared to use , and possibly as well.Finally my catch phrase: Always start with an empty plugins folder! Get to know your props and textures, and use them sparingly.  
     
    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.).
     
    T Wrecks:  I don't really follow anything in particular. If it's on the frontpage and catches my interest, I'll take a look. Otherwise, not so much. It's not that I don't respect the CJers' work (many of them are amazing!), but I'm simply not into that "following a CJ" thing. I do find myself taking a look into Ln X' "" pretty often recently because we now have CJ features, this particular CJ is often featured these days, and Ln X often uses stuff I made. It's a good way for me to check out some of my stuff "out in the wild". If it wasn't for the features, however, I might not even know that this CJ exists.  
     
    ST:  On the ‘builders’ side, do you have any favorite BATers that you enjoy following?   What was your most recent download from the STEX?
     
    T Wrecks:  All of the above! Seriously, if there's a BAT thread, then I'm following it. Usually when I turn off my notebook and go to bed, not a single BAT thread here on Simtrop has unread replies.I don't exactly remember the most recent download because I don't download that regularly these days - no need to because I haven't actually played the game in years. I do download whatever is relevant to my interests every now and then, but the intervals tend to be long. One person I'd like to highlight is C.P. aka Cycledogg. Especially from a lotter's point of view, his work is awesome. In addition to great BATs, the use of custom foundations for slope-friendly buildings and the "invention" of shaded props (which I like to use a lot), he has organised his props into hundreds of prop families, making it so much easier to add variation to a lot. There are cars that appear and disappear at certain times of the day or have a certain probability of appearing in general, there are prop foundations, there are seasonal props, there are angled versions... and he even took it upon himself to go through most of his flora props again, re-render and re-organise them, updating the packages, and even making cohort files for the prop families so that a proper name shows up in the list instead of a hexadecimal ID. That's an insane amount of work, and I can only begin to imagine how much dedication, diligence, and persistence must have gone into that. He's by far not the only one who has made valuable contributions for the community, but I think he deserves particular praise from the perspective of a lotter. 
     
     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?
     
    T Wrecks:  Not that surprised, actually. Open up a game to additional custom content, make that game one that ages well (i.e., a game that doesn't depend on visual effects that much), fail to release a successor deemed worthy by the fans, and you have a pretty decent chance of a fan community taking things into their own hands. I'm also thinking of Chris Sawyer's Transport Tycoon right now, a much older game than SimCity 4. It has been "re-released" as fully open source software, OpenTTD, and the community keeps making great mods, just like the SimCity crowd. These can't be the only examples, either. Another aspect that certainly helps is the attitude that all content is offered free of charge, made by fans, made for fans. This eliminates barriers, helps to attract newcomers, and ensures good circulation of the files. Otherwise we may have a situation where downloads rot away behind paywalls on several private websites that become inactive as soon as their owners disappear from the community, and eventually vanish as well. I've witnessed some pretty nasty quarrels over paid downloads for the Sims games. That was quite a shock for me because I thought all custom content communities were like the SimCity crowd more or less.12 years from now? EA will surely have released a great successor in the vein of SC4 by then! Ok, silly jokes aside: 12 years are a lot, so there really is no telling. I see more than enough strength in the community to last for another 5-6 years, that's for sure. We'll see about the rest. With C:S being out now, I sometimes get that sad feeling that the SC4 community might fall apart sooner than we think. While I'm happy for all those players who eagerly anticipated a true "3D SimCity" experience and wish them tons of fun with this new game, I have always had other priorities for a SimCity successor (deeper regional concept, non-rectangular lots, procedural lots, shopping and tourism traffic, surface water, mixed-use buildings, defined W2W areas and other zone-specific regulations, non-rectangular maps / definable city limits, to mention just a few ideas). This is why C:S is not simply a great relief for me: "Finally 3D!" "Finally no longer SC4!" - just like many players may think. For me, however, it also marks the possible departure from something that I have always liked, and that ended up playing an important role in my free time. It marks what may be the autumn in SC4's life cycle, and this thought makes me a little sad and nostalgic. I know I will miss the discussions in BAT threads when it's finally over. But here's to hoping that we'll be able to keep SC4 alive as a long-time niche game!  
     
    ST:  Speaking of Cities:Skylines... have you played it yet?  If not, what are you first impressions based on the mountain of feedback available here on Simtropolis or around the web?
     
    T Wrecks:  I don't even have a PC capable of handling it, and won't have for several months. Even if I had one, my primary goal is getting back to actually playing SC4 again after a long hiatus. So no, no first-hand experience with C:S yet. From what I see, it looks rather different. So far, the overall aesthetics don't really appeal to me since I tend to prefer highly detailed 2D over low-poly 3D. This may change as further mods are being made, but for now it's not causing me to hyperventilate. It is, of course, one of the games on my "watch list"!  
     
    ST:  12 years later, many are calling this game the 'successor' to SC4 and the city building genera.  What are your thoughts?
     
    T Wrecks:  Apparently the creators did a much better job than even EA themselves and managed to accommodate many of the primary wishes of the SimCity fan community. So yes, I guess it could be called a "successor" in spirit - just like the Age of Wonders franchise can be called a "successor" of Microprose's Master of Magic, or Freelancer a "successor" of Wing Commander: Privateer. We'll know more once the dust settles, and I won't comment very much without having played the game myself.  
     
    ST:  It will take plenty time before C:S can rival the amount of custom content available for SC4, but the developers have really encouraged modding, and there are already many new buildings and 'assets' that can be found on Simtropolis and the steam workshop.  Are you encouraged to leap into C:S custom content?
     
    T Wrecks: Not in the foreseeable future. I got a few months' worth of SC4 content on my 'to do' list, and then I want to PLAY some SC4. Afterwards, and when I have a better PC (if I even buy one instead of rediscovering yet another retro game that captures my limited free time!), we shall see. The retro gaming aspect really holds some importance. You see, the last time I bought a game was in early 2014 - and it was a retro game! The last halfways up-to-date game I bought? I don't even remember that. More than 5 years ago for sure. This is just to explain what some may perceive as an odd lack of enthusiasm. I just have a tendency to enjoy old games with a high replay value, and since I don't have much time on my hands, me buying a new game is something of a snowball in hell event. I must say, though, that the possibility to build intersections and turn the entire structure into a pre-fab element strikes me as an admirably smart move by the developers. Looks like they also thought about the aspect of getting these assets into the game, with some user-friendly features such as using the editor itself to take a screenshot of the finished asset and introducing it into the game as the menu icon for this new asset - quite a progress compared to the tedious process of making in-game icons for SC4 content! I can guarantee, however, that you won't see my name attached to a C:S upload any time in 2015. Maybe later.  
     
    ST:  Are there any games you play besides SC4? What other hobbies do you have away from lotting/modding and SimCity?
     
    T Wrecks:  Although I did play first-person shooters when I was younger, I always had a liking for round-based RPGs and strategy games, 4X games, occasionally some RTS. Notable examples of other games than SimCity that I really liked are Master of Orion 1 and 2 (round-based 4X in a sci-fi universe), Master of Magic (think of Civilization 1 with heroes, spells and magical creatures) and its inofficial successors, the Age of Wonders franchise. Transport Tycoon (these days, OpenTTD) certainly deserves a mention, as does the Earth 2150 franchise (innovative 3D sci-fi RTS with modular units, research, experience system, ammo, etc.). I'm so retro! In my defense, however, I can say that they just don't make them like this any more, and that's not a lie. What I'd give for a subtly improved Transport Tycoon with up-to-date graphics! And don't even get me started about SimCity... Away from my SimCity-related hobbies, I occasionally build scale model ships - non-military stuff like ocean liners or tug boats because they're more colourful and involve fewer repetitive tasks. I have enough of that in the Lot Editor! As a counterpart to that indoor stuff, I really like to ride my bike out of the city and go swimming. I prefer lakes over pools because I like to be out in nature, and preferably not surrounded by people. Too many people around me make me aggressive in the long term, so it's a great way to recharge my batteries. I also like to go hiking. Doing sports in a way that's focused on performance (faster, longer, higher) is not my way at all, but I need to be on the move occasionally.I also like music, so I go to live concerts and festivals a lot.  
     
    ST:  What question have I not asked that I should have?
     
    T Wrecks:  Hm, maybe about my future plans or my goals in terms of SimCity. Tucked away deep inside my mind is that little hope that one day I might actually play the game again. But the way I know me, after a few days I'll find that something is sorely lacking, and go back to the drawing board...
  19. Aaron Graham liked an article by SimCoug, 100 Million STEX DL: An Interview with T Wrecks   
    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?
     
    T Wrecks:  I think I first borrowed SC4 (pre-RH) from a friend a short time after its release, liked the graphics, but had a hard time really getting something going. It was before even the first patch, and I guess the radical change in terms of cost management made things difficult for me initially. In SC3K, if you could afford zoning/plopping something, you could afford its upkeep easily. In SC4, all of a sudden plop/zoning cost was nothing, but maintenance cost... jeez, a few basketball courts too many could break your neck. Then I lost SC4 from my radar somehow. When the RH addon came out, I wanted to get both finally, but while the basic game could be bought anywhere for a few bucks, RH was incredibly hard to come by. I finally managed to buy both in 2004, though, and immediately started to get really involved in the game. I know SimCity right from the start - played the original SimCity first with a friend on his PC/XT with amber monitor, later on my own Amiga 500 - and even later on my first PC. Naturally, SC2K followed. I also liked a "multiplayer" edition of SC2K where you could buy land on which to build your city. The SCURK (SimCity Urban Renewal Kit), which enabled you to replace in-game buildings with your own (or other peoples') hand-drawn stuff is also the first time I discovered custom content for SimCity. I dipped my toe in it a little, but it didn't amount to much. SC3000 was the logical next step, and SC3K.  I also got the BAP (and later the BAP+) to make custom buildings. SC3000 marks the first time I went hunting for custom content on the 'net in addition to fiddling around with it on my own PC. I didn't contribute anything, though.  
     
    ST:  What aspect of SC4 do you enjoy most – what keeps you coming back?
     
    T Wrecks:  What I like most about the game is that the city behaves almost like something alive. You control many parameters, and yet a city can always surprise you. Turn your back on a totally uninteresting spot to take care of something, only to find something totally surprising has developed in the meantime. That, and the fact that it is totally not based on levels, scenarios, a story, fixed goals or anything - you have zillions of possibilities, and the resulting cities and regions are as individual as your handwriting. I also like how relaxing it can be. Sometimes I like to sit back and just look at those tiny cars driving around in my city. Last but not least, the vast modding possibilities keep me coming back more than the actual game these days. There is always so much more you could add...  
     
    ST:  Before we jump into the all the custom content questions, I’m curious… what is your favorite Maxis lot/BAT?
     
    T Wrecks:  Phew, that's a difficult one. I don't think I have THE favourite building. I like several that are very well done IMO, even if they are not too spectacular. Many of the small family homes are really decent IMO. Other buildings I (almost) always like when they pop up include White's Clothier, Brown & Sons (a very rarely growing building), Mace Co., Schnittjer Printing, Strang Deeds Office Tower, Kanarowski & Co., Futa Consulting, Goldman Building / Hourvitz Accounting (really pretty much the same building), West & Co., The Pratt, Hi-Rise Apts (Chicago tileset), Simon Manor, Jolly Manor, Wallace Manor, The Long Building, Butts Condos, Russo Condos... The lots are mostly pretty poor, but Maxis had to make ends meet with a severly limited amount of props and textures - not to mention that RCI lots needed to accommodate several buildings of a family. When you mass produce, you can't work wonders... I know that myself because some of my projects (such as the IRM) also involved a high degree of mass production. 
     
    ST:  Do you recall the first plugin you installed?
     
    T Wrecks:  No, I'm afraid not. No idea, really.  
     
    ST:  What led you to Simtropolis at first?  Can you remember your initial impressions of the site?
     
    T Wrecks:  I was looking for custom content, of course! I must have visited Simtropolis long before I registered, because when I finally signed up, I know I had vague memories of the site, even though it looked much different back then. I don't remember any particular first impressions (it was more than 10 years ago, give me a break!), but I do remember that I found not only a place to download stuff, but also a promising community. When I commented on a CJ posted by an Austrian player, michi5, he invited me over to the German-speaking community - an involvement that would lead me to becoming a member of the SFBT. However, I'm no longer active in said German community, but I never felt like leaving ST.  
     
    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?
     
    T Wrecks:  I don't think so. It was probably more the sheer possibility. As I mentioned above, I also tried my hands at the SCURK for SC2000, the BAP / BA+ for SC3000 / SC3000 Unlimited, and I also tried other custom stuff before. After playing through Duke Nukem 3D, for example, I was more interested in the level editor. I have also made waypoints for a Counter-Strike (1.5/1.6) bot before, and the Half-Life level editor is not unknown to me, either. Guess I just have a tendency to get fascinated by editors and their potential. It's not so much about any particular item.  
     
    ST:  Speaking of first steps, what was the very first thing that you lotted using the LE?  Do you still have a screen shot?
     
    T Wrecks:  I don't have the slightest idea, let alone a screenshot, sorry. :/  
     
    ST:  You’ve been creating unique and beautiful lots for quite some time, but if members were to search your library of STEX files they would only come up with about 2 pages worth.  Yet, you are constantly creating the lots for many of the great BATers on this site.  So best guess, how many of your lots are on the STEX?
     
    T Wrecks:  Argh, another difficult one. Counted in STEX uploads (and not in actual .sc4lot files), I guess there may be up to 100 in addition to what I have released under my own name. Add to this a further 50 or more over at kurier.simcityplaza.de, where I used to be involved in the modding, lotting, translation, and packaging of uploads. All the NDEX files you can find there, for example, have been tweaked and often re-lotted by me. In the end, I don't care about numbers that much. I'm rather glad that I could help several great BATters to get their stuff on the STEX!  
     
    ST:  As a lotter myself, I find lotting can put me in a peaceful Zen state.  What do you enjoy about lotting and what keeps you firing up the LE after so many years?  
     
    T Wrecks:  Peaceful Zen state? Hmm... I don't really know if I share this feeling. I guess it can be close to that if you're not doing a boring routine task, and if things are going together all right. Other times, it can be tedious and a bit boring. The actual act of lotting is pretty ok, I guess, but what motivates me most is when I see how I can make the lot complement a building as seamlessly as possible, and - in the case of a re-lot - when I check out the lot in game and see how it's much better than the original lot, at least according to my taste. Ultimately, it's not the process of lotting itself, but the satisfaction of getting a result that conforms to my taste and liking that motivates me.  
     
    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 lotting process?
     
    T Wrecks:  Sometimes it's the very beginning: Sitting in front of an empty lot and not knowing what to do with it, trying out many designs that don't work... sometimes it's repetition: one down, five more versions to go... However, the parts I like least in general are all the activities that don't have to do with the actual lotting: determining stats, recording them in my ever growing database, fixing file properties, and worst of all: documentation, packaging and uploading. I really hate that part. Did I mention making menu icons? No? Well, then: making menu icons.  
     
    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 lots pop up in CJs?
     
    T Wrecks:  Hm, I figure since I have taken so much and since I mod the heck out of my plugins anyway, it would be only logical and fair to give something back and share some of the stuff that I have on my HD anyway. It's nice when you post a question because you're trying to do something, and people not only help you, but also take interest in that project of yours - that's how it started for me. That's what convinced me that my stuff may be interesting for others initially. These days, what I enjoy most - more than STEX comments, although I do appreciate these! - is players actually using something I made. It shows me that I haven't uploaded those files for nothing, and as a bonus it's often interesting for me to see how players will use my creations. Sometimes I see applications that I would never have thought of myself.  
     
    ST:  You have been lotting for almost 10 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?
     
    T Wrecks:  Hm, I kinda like the relots of . IDS Offices may also be one of my better lots. But that's only the optical side of affairs...On a larger scale, I'm most proud of the fact that I contributed a little bit towards taking more care of the stats of BATs and lots, and I also think the is not too shabby because it has expanded into an entire lot family - and a big family at that! Now that I think about it, those low-wealth mega lot sets I made based on 645978's buildings were pretty popular in their time, and my first modular set of lots. I still have fond memories of them - and even a screenshot from the day the first one became a STEX feature! I hope you can excuse the crappy quality and low resolution:
     

     
    Fun facts or stories? I'm afraid there are none that I remember, and if I don't remember them, they probably haven't been all that interesting in the first place. It's really boring work, haha.  
     
    ST:  Has your experience with SC4 custom content had any influence on your personal or professional life?  Are there any skills that you have developed over your lotting career that have helped you beyond the world of SC4?
     
    T Wrecks:  Yes, there has been some degree of influence. The German SC4 community has brought me into personal contact with several people, and I mean not only contact over the 'net. What began as a pleasant, but absolutely unintended side product evolved into a chain of acquantainces and friendships up to and including a girlfriend - these days, we're no longer together, but still good friends even after many years, although she's the only one who remains from that time. So much for personal life... As far as my professional life is concerned, I'd say that there have been indirect influences. Obviously my incredibly spectacular skills at pushing props around in the Lot Editor and clicking on boxes (*gasp*) have not led to my running a blue chip company now, and neither has my ability to convert from decimal into hexadecimal on a very low level (2A = 42) without using a calculator resulted in a position as CIO. Lotting IS a pretty trivial task, after all, and there's not much "RL carryover", as you might call it. However, hanging around in an English-speaking community for 10 years is certainly not detrimental to your language proficiency, and as a professional translator, I can always use that. In this respect, my hobby lotting/modding has certainly been more helpful than jazzdance or collecting stamps. Private life and job life aside, such an international community also gets you into contact with a very broad variety of people and widens your horizon. This may not result in any direct benefits, but I still think it can be an important lesson for life in general.  
     
    ST:  What advice would you give to a new member of this community who was planning on creating their first lot?
     
    T Wrecks:  Three words: Start a thread. Next to that, be prepared to read a lot.There's vast knowledge floating around, but it's not very well catalogued. Old hands may be able to direct you towards useful resources, or they may point out stuff that's hard to find in writing out there. Starting a thread is very useful to gather feedback, and if you're doing it right, you will learn more than by merely asking. How so? Well, if you ask something, you'll get a solution - hopefully. If you present your progress in a thread additionally, people may suggest things and mention stuff you haven't been aware of before. They may cause you to consider solutions that you wouldn't have considered by yourself or that you didn't even know about. Ultimately, however, you should take care to do what you like best, or you may end up being torn between different options favoured by your thread followers and not knowing which way to go.By the way, the Lot Editor comes with a manual. It's in your root SimCity 4 directory, and Maxis doesn't really rub its existence in your face, but it is there. This should be enough to teach you the basics. The rest is patience, ideas, and some hints found here and there and/or provided by other community members. You should also be prepared to use , and possibly as well.Finally my catch phrase: Always start with an empty plugins folder! Get to know your props and textures, and use them sparingly.  
     
    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.).
     
    T Wrecks:  I don't really follow anything in particular. If it's on the frontpage and catches my interest, I'll take a look. Otherwise, not so much. It's not that I don't respect the CJers' work (many of them are amazing!), but I'm simply not into that "following a CJ" thing. I do find myself taking a look into Ln X' "" pretty often recently because we now have CJ features, this particular CJ is often featured these days, and Ln X often uses stuff I made. It's a good way for me to check out some of my stuff "out in the wild". If it wasn't for the features, however, I might not even know that this CJ exists.  
     
    ST:  On the ‘builders’ side, do you have any favorite BATers that you enjoy following?   What was your most recent download from the STEX?
     
    T Wrecks:  All of the above! Seriously, if there's a BAT thread, then I'm following it. Usually when I turn off my notebook and go to bed, not a single BAT thread here on Simtrop has unread replies.I don't exactly remember the most recent download because I don't download that regularly these days - no need to because I haven't actually played the game in years. I do download whatever is relevant to my interests every now and then, but the intervals tend to be long. One person I'd like to highlight is C.P. aka Cycledogg. Especially from a lotter's point of view, his work is awesome. In addition to great BATs, the use of custom foundations for slope-friendly buildings and the "invention" of shaded props (which I like to use a lot), he has organised his props into hundreds of prop families, making it so much easier to add variation to a lot. There are cars that appear and disappear at certain times of the day or have a certain probability of appearing in general, there are prop foundations, there are seasonal props, there are angled versions... and he even took it upon himself to go through most of his flora props again, re-render and re-organise them, updating the packages, and even making cohort files for the prop families so that a proper name shows up in the list instead of a hexadecimal ID. That's an insane amount of work, and I can only begin to imagine how much dedication, diligence, and persistence must have gone into that. He's by far not the only one who has made valuable contributions for the community, but I think he deserves particular praise from the perspective of a lotter. 
     
     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?
     
    T Wrecks:  Not that surprised, actually. Open up a game to additional custom content, make that game one that ages well (i.e., a game that doesn't depend on visual effects that much), fail to release a successor deemed worthy by the fans, and you have a pretty decent chance of a fan community taking things into their own hands. I'm also thinking of Chris Sawyer's Transport Tycoon right now, a much older game than SimCity 4. It has been "re-released" as fully open source software, OpenTTD, and the community keeps making great mods, just like the SimCity crowd. These can't be the only examples, either. Another aspect that certainly helps is the attitude that all content is offered free of charge, made by fans, made for fans. This eliminates barriers, helps to attract newcomers, and ensures good circulation of the files. Otherwise we may have a situation where downloads rot away behind paywalls on several private websites that become inactive as soon as their owners disappear from the community, and eventually vanish as well. I've witnessed some pretty nasty quarrels over paid downloads for the Sims games. That was quite a shock for me because I thought all custom content communities were like the SimCity crowd more or less.12 years from now? EA will surely have released a great successor in the vein of SC4 by then! Ok, silly jokes aside: 12 years are a lot, so there really is no telling. I see more than enough strength in the community to last for another 5-6 years, that's for sure. We'll see about the rest. With C:S being out now, I sometimes get that sad feeling that the SC4 community might fall apart sooner than we think. While I'm happy for all those players who eagerly anticipated a true "3D SimCity" experience and wish them tons of fun with this new game, I have always had other priorities for a SimCity successor (deeper regional concept, non-rectangular lots, procedural lots, shopping and tourism traffic, surface water, mixed-use buildings, defined W2W areas and other zone-specific regulations, non-rectangular maps / definable city limits, to mention just a few ideas). This is why C:S is not simply a great relief for me: "Finally 3D!" "Finally no longer SC4!" - just like many players may think. For me, however, it also marks the possible departure from something that I have always liked, and that ended up playing an important role in my free time. It marks what may be the autumn in SC4's life cycle, and this thought makes me a little sad and nostalgic. I know I will miss the discussions in BAT threads when it's finally over. But here's to hoping that we'll be able to keep SC4 alive as a long-time niche game!  
     
    ST:  Speaking of Cities:Skylines... have you played it yet?  If not, what are you first impressions based on the mountain of feedback available here on Simtropolis or around the web?
     
    T Wrecks:  I don't even have a PC capable of handling it, and won't have for several months. Even if I had one, my primary goal is getting back to actually playing SC4 again after a long hiatus. So no, no first-hand experience with C:S yet. From what I see, it looks rather different. So far, the overall aesthetics don't really appeal to me since I tend to prefer highly detailed 2D over low-poly 3D. This may change as further mods are being made, but for now it's not causing me to hyperventilate. It is, of course, one of the games on my "watch list"!  
     
    ST:  12 years later, many are calling this game the 'successor' to SC4 and the city building genera.  What are your thoughts?
     
    T Wrecks:  Apparently the creators did a much better job than even EA themselves and managed to accommodate many of the primary wishes of the SimCity fan community. So yes, I guess it could be called a "successor" in spirit - just like the Age of Wonders franchise can be called a "successor" of Microprose's Master of Magic, or Freelancer a "successor" of Wing Commander: Privateer. We'll know more once the dust settles, and I won't comment very much without having played the game myself.  
     
    ST:  It will take plenty time before C:S can rival the amount of custom content available for SC4, but the developers have really encouraged modding, and there are already many new buildings and 'assets' that can be found on Simtropolis and the steam workshop.  Are you encouraged to leap into C:S custom content?
     
    T Wrecks: Not in the foreseeable future. I got a few months' worth of SC4 content on my 'to do' list, and then I want to PLAY some SC4. Afterwards, and when I have a better PC (if I even buy one instead of rediscovering yet another retro game that captures my limited free time!), we shall see. The retro gaming aspect really holds some importance. You see, the last time I bought a game was in early 2014 - and it was a retro game! The last halfways up-to-date game I bought? I don't even remember that. More than 5 years ago for sure. This is just to explain what some may perceive as an odd lack of enthusiasm. I just have a tendency to enjoy old games with a high replay value, and since I don't have much time on my hands, me buying a new game is something of a snowball in hell event. I must say, though, that the possibility to build intersections and turn the entire structure into a pre-fab element strikes me as an admirably smart move by the developers. Looks like they also thought about the aspect of getting these assets into the game, with some user-friendly features such as using the editor itself to take a screenshot of the finished asset and introducing it into the game as the menu icon for this new asset - quite a progress compared to the tedious process of making in-game icons for SC4 content! I can guarantee, however, that you won't see my name attached to a C:S upload any time in 2015. Maybe later.  
     
    ST:  Are there any games you play besides SC4? What other hobbies do you have away from lotting/modding and SimCity?
     
    T Wrecks:  Although I did play first-person shooters when I was younger, I always had a liking for round-based RPGs and strategy games, 4X games, occasionally some RTS. Notable examples of other games than SimCity that I really liked are Master of Orion 1 and 2 (round-based 4X in a sci-fi universe), Master of Magic (think of Civilization 1 with heroes, spells and magical creatures) and its inofficial successors, the Age of Wonders franchise. Transport Tycoon (these days, OpenTTD) certainly deserves a mention, as does the Earth 2150 franchise (innovative 3D sci-fi RTS with modular units, research, experience system, ammo, etc.). I'm so retro! In my defense, however, I can say that they just don't make them like this any more, and that's not a lie. What I'd give for a subtly improved Transport Tycoon with up-to-date graphics! And don't even get me started about SimCity... Away from my SimCity-related hobbies, I occasionally build scale model ships - non-military stuff like ocean liners or tug boats because they're more colourful and involve fewer repetitive tasks. I have enough of that in the Lot Editor! As a counterpart to that indoor stuff, I really like to ride my bike out of the city and go swimming. I prefer lakes over pools because I like to be out in nature, and preferably not surrounded by people. Too many people around me make me aggressive in the long term, so it's a great way to recharge my batteries. I also like to go hiking. Doing sports in a way that's focused on performance (faster, longer, higher) is not my way at all, but I need to be on the move occasionally.I also like music, so I go to live concerts and festivals a lot.  
     
    ST:  What question have I not asked that I should have?
     
    T Wrecks:  Hm, maybe about my future plans or my goals in terms of SimCity. Tucked away deep inside my mind is that little hope that one day I might actually play the game again. But the way I know me, after a few days I'll find that something is sorely lacking, and go back to the drawing board...
  20. Aaron Graham liked an article by SimCoug, 100 Million STEX DL: An Interview with T Wrecks   
    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?
     
    T Wrecks:  I think I first borrowed SC4 (pre-RH) from a friend a short time after its release, liked the graphics, but had a hard time really getting something going. It was before even the first patch, and I guess the radical change in terms of cost management made things difficult for me initially. In SC3K, if you could afford zoning/plopping something, you could afford its upkeep easily. In SC4, all of a sudden plop/zoning cost was nothing, but maintenance cost... jeez, a few basketball courts too many could break your neck. Then I lost SC4 from my radar somehow. When the RH addon came out, I wanted to get both finally, but while the basic game could be bought anywhere for a few bucks, RH was incredibly hard to come by. I finally managed to buy both in 2004, though, and immediately started to get really involved in the game. I know SimCity right from the start - played the original SimCity first with a friend on his PC/XT with amber monitor, later on my own Amiga 500 - and even later on my first PC. Naturally, SC2K followed. I also liked a "multiplayer" edition of SC2K where you could buy land on which to build your city. The SCURK (SimCity Urban Renewal Kit), which enabled you to replace in-game buildings with your own (or other peoples') hand-drawn stuff is also the first time I discovered custom content for SimCity. I dipped my toe in it a little, but it didn't amount to much. SC3000 was the logical next step, and SC3K.  I also got the BAP (and later the BAP+) to make custom buildings. SC3000 marks the first time I went hunting for custom content on the 'net in addition to fiddling around with it on my own PC. I didn't contribute anything, though.  
     
    ST:  What aspect of SC4 do you enjoy most – what keeps you coming back?
     
    T Wrecks:  What I like most about the game is that the city behaves almost like something alive. You control many parameters, and yet a city can always surprise you. Turn your back on a totally uninteresting spot to take care of something, only to find something totally surprising has developed in the meantime. That, and the fact that it is totally not based on levels, scenarios, a story, fixed goals or anything - you have zillions of possibilities, and the resulting cities and regions are as individual as your handwriting. I also like how relaxing it can be. Sometimes I like to sit back and just look at those tiny cars driving around in my city. Last but not least, the vast modding possibilities keep me coming back more than the actual game these days. There is always so much more you could add...  
     
    ST:  Before we jump into the all the custom content questions, I’m curious… what is your favorite Maxis lot/BAT?
     
    T Wrecks:  Phew, that's a difficult one. I don't think I have THE favourite building. I like several that are very well done IMO, even if they are not too spectacular. Many of the small family homes are really decent IMO. Other buildings I (almost) always like when they pop up include White's Clothier, Brown & Sons (a very rarely growing building), Mace Co., Schnittjer Printing, Strang Deeds Office Tower, Kanarowski & Co., Futa Consulting, Goldman Building / Hourvitz Accounting (really pretty much the same building), West & Co., The Pratt, Hi-Rise Apts (Chicago tileset), Simon Manor, Jolly Manor, Wallace Manor, The Long Building, Butts Condos, Russo Condos... The lots are mostly pretty poor, but Maxis had to make ends meet with a severly limited amount of props and textures - not to mention that RCI lots needed to accommodate several buildings of a family. When you mass produce, you can't work wonders... I know that myself because some of my projects (such as the IRM) also involved a high degree of mass production. 
     
    ST:  Do you recall the first plugin you installed?
     
    T Wrecks:  No, I'm afraid not. No idea, really.  
     
    ST:  What led you to Simtropolis at first?  Can you remember your initial impressions of the site?
     
    T Wrecks:  I was looking for custom content, of course! I must have visited Simtropolis long before I registered, because when I finally signed up, I know I had vague memories of the site, even though it looked much different back then. I don't remember any particular first impressions (it was more than 10 years ago, give me a break!), but I do remember that I found not only a place to download stuff, but also a promising community. When I commented on a CJ posted by an Austrian player, michi5, he invited me over to the German-speaking community - an involvement that would lead me to becoming a member of the SFBT. However, I'm no longer active in said German community, but I never felt like leaving ST.  
     
    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?
     
    T Wrecks:  I don't think so. It was probably more the sheer possibility. As I mentioned above, I also tried my hands at the SCURK for SC2000, the BAP / BA+ for SC3000 / SC3000 Unlimited, and I also tried other custom stuff before. After playing through Duke Nukem 3D, for example, I was more interested in the level editor. I have also made waypoints for a Counter-Strike (1.5/1.6) bot before, and the Half-Life level editor is not unknown to me, either. Guess I just have a tendency to get fascinated by editors and their potential. It's not so much about any particular item.  
     
    ST:  Speaking of first steps, what was the very first thing that you lotted using the LE?  Do you still have a screen shot?
     
    T Wrecks:  I don't have the slightest idea, let alone a screenshot, sorry. :/  
     
    ST:  You’ve been creating unique and beautiful lots for quite some time, but if members were to search your library of STEX files they would only come up with about 2 pages worth.  Yet, you are constantly creating the lots for many of the great BATers on this site.  So best guess, how many of your lots are on the STEX?
     
    T Wrecks:  Argh, another difficult one. Counted in STEX uploads (and not in actual .sc4lot files), I guess there may be up to 100 in addition to what I have released under my own name. Add to this a further 50 or more over at kurier.simcityplaza.de, where I used to be involved in the modding, lotting, translation, and packaging of uploads. All the NDEX files you can find there, for example, have been tweaked and often re-lotted by me. In the end, I don't care about numbers that much. I'm rather glad that I could help several great BATters to get their stuff on the STEX!  
     
    ST:  As a lotter myself, I find lotting can put me in a peaceful Zen state.  What do you enjoy about lotting and what keeps you firing up the LE after so many years?  
     
    T Wrecks:  Peaceful Zen state? Hmm... I don't really know if I share this feeling. I guess it can be close to that if you're not doing a boring routine task, and if things are going together all right. Other times, it can be tedious and a bit boring. The actual act of lotting is pretty ok, I guess, but what motivates me most is when I see how I can make the lot complement a building as seamlessly as possible, and - in the case of a re-lot - when I check out the lot in game and see how it's much better than the original lot, at least according to my taste. Ultimately, it's not the process of lotting itself, but the satisfaction of getting a result that conforms to my taste and liking that motivates me.  
     
    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 lotting process?
     
    T Wrecks:  Sometimes it's the very beginning: Sitting in front of an empty lot and not knowing what to do with it, trying out many designs that don't work... sometimes it's repetition: one down, five more versions to go... However, the parts I like least in general are all the activities that don't have to do with the actual lotting: determining stats, recording them in my ever growing database, fixing file properties, and worst of all: documentation, packaging and uploading. I really hate that part. Did I mention making menu icons? No? Well, then: making menu icons.  
     
    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 lots pop up in CJs?
     
    T Wrecks:  Hm, I figure since I have taken so much and since I mod the heck out of my plugins anyway, it would be only logical and fair to give something back and share some of the stuff that I have on my HD anyway. It's nice when you post a question because you're trying to do something, and people not only help you, but also take interest in that project of yours - that's how it started for me. That's what convinced me that my stuff may be interesting for others initially. These days, what I enjoy most - more than STEX comments, although I do appreciate these! - is players actually using something I made. It shows me that I haven't uploaded those files for nothing, and as a bonus it's often interesting for me to see how players will use my creations. Sometimes I see applications that I would never have thought of myself.  
     
    ST:  You have been lotting for almost 10 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?
     
    T Wrecks:  Hm, I kinda like the relots of . IDS Offices may also be one of my better lots. But that's only the optical side of affairs...On a larger scale, I'm most proud of the fact that I contributed a little bit towards taking more care of the stats of BATs and lots, and I also think the is not too shabby because it has expanded into an entire lot family - and a big family at that! Now that I think about it, those low-wealth mega lot sets I made based on 645978's buildings were pretty popular in their time, and my first modular set of lots. I still have fond memories of them - and even a screenshot from the day the first one became a STEX feature! I hope you can excuse the crappy quality and low resolution:
     

     
    Fun facts or stories? I'm afraid there are none that I remember, and if I don't remember them, they probably haven't been all that interesting in the first place. It's really boring work, haha.  
     
    ST:  Has your experience with SC4 custom content had any influence on your personal or professional life?  Are there any skills that you have developed over your lotting career that have helped you beyond the world of SC4?
     
    T Wrecks:  Yes, there has been some degree of influence. The German SC4 community has brought me into personal contact with several people, and I mean not only contact over the 'net. What began as a pleasant, but absolutely unintended side product evolved into a chain of acquantainces and friendships up to and including a girlfriend - these days, we're no longer together, but still good friends even after many years, although she's the only one who remains from that time. So much for personal life... As far as my professional life is concerned, I'd say that there have been indirect influences. Obviously my incredibly spectacular skills at pushing props around in the Lot Editor and clicking on boxes (*gasp*) have not led to my running a blue chip company now, and neither has my ability to convert from decimal into hexadecimal on a very low level (2A = 42) without using a calculator resulted in a position as CIO. Lotting IS a pretty trivial task, after all, and there's not much "RL carryover", as you might call it. However, hanging around in an English-speaking community for 10 years is certainly not detrimental to your language proficiency, and as a professional translator, I can always use that. In this respect, my hobby lotting/modding has certainly been more helpful than jazzdance or collecting stamps. Private life and job life aside, such an international community also gets you into contact with a very broad variety of people and widens your horizon. This may not result in any direct benefits, but I still think it can be an important lesson for life in general.  
     
    ST:  What advice would you give to a new member of this community who was planning on creating their first lot?
     
    T Wrecks:  Three words: Start a thread. Next to that, be prepared to read a lot.There's vast knowledge floating around, but it's not very well catalogued. Old hands may be able to direct you towards useful resources, or they may point out stuff that's hard to find in writing out there. Starting a thread is very useful to gather feedback, and if you're doing it right, you will learn more than by merely asking. How so? Well, if you ask something, you'll get a solution - hopefully. If you present your progress in a thread additionally, people may suggest things and mention stuff you haven't been aware of before. They may cause you to consider solutions that you wouldn't have considered by yourself or that you didn't even know about. Ultimately, however, you should take care to do what you like best, or you may end up being torn between different options favoured by your thread followers and not knowing which way to go.By the way, the Lot Editor comes with a manual. It's in your root SimCity 4 directory, and Maxis doesn't really rub its existence in your face, but it is there. This should be enough to teach you the basics. The rest is patience, ideas, and some hints found here and there and/or provided by other community members. You should also be prepared to use , and possibly as well.Finally my catch phrase: Always start with an empty plugins folder! Get to know your props and textures, and use them sparingly.  
     
    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.).
     
    T Wrecks:  I don't really follow anything in particular. If it's on the frontpage and catches my interest, I'll take a look. Otherwise, not so much. It's not that I don't respect the CJers' work (many of them are amazing!), but I'm simply not into that "following a CJ" thing. I do find myself taking a look into Ln X' "" pretty often recently because we now have CJ features, this particular CJ is often featured these days, and Ln X often uses stuff I made. It's a good way for me to check out some of my stuff "out in the wild". If it wasn't for the features, however, I might not even know that this CJ exists.  
     
    ST:  On the ‘builders’ side, do you have any favorite BATers that you enjoy following?   What was your most recent download from the STEX?
     
    T Wrecks:  All of the above! Seriously, if there's a BAT thread, then I'm following it. Usually when I turn off my notebook and go to bed, not a single BAT thread here on Simtrop has unread replies.I don't exactly remember the most recent download because I don't download that regularly these days - no need to because I haven't actually played the game in years. I do download whatever is relevant to my interests every now and then, but the intervals tend to be long. One person I'd like to highlight is C.P. aka Cycledogg. Especially from a lotter's point of view, his work is awesome. In addition to great BATs, the use of custom foundations for slope-friendly buildings and the "invention" of shaded props (which I like to use a lot), he has organised his props into hundreds of prop families, making it so much easier to add variation to a lot. There are cars that appear and disappear at certain times of the day or have a certain probability of appearing in general, there are prop foundations, there are seasonal props, there are angled versions... and he even took it upon himself to go through most of his flora props again, re-render and re-organise them, updating the packages, and even making cohort files for the prop families so that a proper name shows up in the list instead of a hexadecimal ID. That's an insane amount of work, and I can only begin to imagine how much dedication, diligence, and persistence must have gone into that. He's by far not the only one who has made valuable contributions for the community, but I think he deserves particular praise from the perspective of a lotter. 
     
     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?
     
    T Wrecks:  Not that surprised, actually. Open up a game to additional custom content, make that game one that ages well (i.e., a game that doesn't depend on visual effects that much), fail to release a successor deemed worthy by the fans, and you have a pretty decent chance of a fan community taking things into their own hands. I'm also thinking of Chris Sawyer's Transport Tycoon right now, a much older game than SimCity 4. It has been "re-released" as fully open source software, OpenTTD, and the community keeps making great mods, just like the SimCity crowd. These can't be the only examples, either. Another aspect that certainly helps is the attitude that all content is offered free of charge, made by fans, made for fans. This eliminates barriers, helps to attract newcomers, and ensures good circulation of the files. Otherwise we may have a situation where downloads rot away behind paywalls on several private websites that become inactive as soon as their owners disappear from the community, and eventually vanish as well. I've witnessed some pretty nasty quarrels over paid downloads for the Sims games. That was quite a shock for me because I thought all custom content communities were like the SimCity crowd more or less.12 years from now? EA will surely have released a great successor in the vein of SC4 by then! Ok, silly jokes aside: 12 years are a lot, so there really is no telling. I see more than enough strength in the community to last for another 5-6 years, that's for sure. We'll see about the rest. With C:S being out now, I sometimes get that sad feeling that the SC4 community might fall apart sooner than we think. While I'm happy for all those players who eagerly anticipated a true "3D SimCity" experience and wish them tons of fun with this new game, I have always had other priorities for a SimCity successor (deeper regional concept, non-rectangular lots, procedural lots, shopping and tourism traffic, surface water, mixed-use buildings, defined W2W areas and other zone-specific regulations, non-rectangular maps / definable city limits, to mention just a few ideas). This is why C:S is not simply a great relief for me: "Finally 3D!" "Finally no longer SC4!" - just like many players may think. For me, however, it also marks the possible departure from something that I have always liked, and that ended up playing an important role in my free time. It marks what may be the autumn in SC4's life cycle, and this thought makes me a little sad and nostalgic. I know I will miss the discussions in BAT threads when it's finally over. But here's to hoping that we'll be able to keep SC4 alive as a long-time niche game!  
     
    ST:  Speaking of Cities:Skylines... have you played it yet?  If not, what are you first impressions based on the mountain of feedback available here on Simtropolis or around the web?
     
    T Wrecks:  I don't even have a PC capable of handling it, and won't have for several months. Even if I had one, my primary goal is getting back to actually playing SC4 again after a long hiatus. So no, no first-hand experience with C:S yet. From what I see, it looks rather different. So far, the overall aesthetics don't really appeal to me since I tend to prefer highly detailed 2D over low-poly 3D. This may change as further mods are being made, but for now it's not causing me to hyperventilate. It is, of course, one of the games on my "watch list"!  
     
    ST:  12 years later, many are calling this game the 'successor' to SC4 and the city building genera.  What are your thoughts?
     
    T Wrecks:  Apparently the creators did a much better job than even EA themselves and managed to accommodate many of the primary wishes of the SimCity fan community. So yes, I guess it could be called a "successor" in spirit - just like the Age of Wonders franchise can be called a "successor" of Microprose's Master of Magic, or Freelancer a "successor" of Wing Commander: Privateer. We'll know more once the dust settles, and I won't comment very much without having played the game myself.  
     
    ST:  It will take plenty time before C:S can rival the amount of custom content available for SC4, but the developers have really encouraged modding, and there are already many new buildings and 'assets' that can be found on Simtropolis and the steam workshop.  Are you encouraged to leap into C:S custom content?
     
    T Wrecks: Not in the foreseeable future. I got a few months' worth of SC4 content on my 'to do' list, and then I want to PLAY some SC4. Afterwards, and when I have a better PC (if I even buy one instead of rediscovering yet another retro game that captures my limited free time!), we shall see. The retro gaming aspect really holds some importance. You see, the last time I bought a game was in early 2014 - and it was a retro game! The last halfways up-to-date game I bought? I don't even remember that. More than 5 years ago for sure. This is just to explain what some may perceive as an odd lack of enthusiasm. I just have a tendency to enjoy old games with a high replay value, and since I don't have much time on my hands, me buying a new game is something of a snowball in hell event. I must say, though, that the possibility to build intersections and turn the entire structure into a pre-fab element strikes me as an admirably smart move by the developers. Looks like they also thought about the aspect of getting these assets into the game, with some user-friendly features such as using the editor itself to take a screenshot of the finished asset and introducing it into the game as the menu icon for this new asset - quite a progress compared to the tedious process of making in-game icons for SC4 content! I can guarantee, however, that you won't see my name attached to a C:S upload any time in 2015. Maybe later.  
     
    ST:  Are there any games you play besides SC4? What other hobbies do you have away from lotting/modding and SimCity?
     
    T Wrecks:  Although I did play first-person shooters when I was younger, I always had a liking for round-based RPGs and strategy games, 4X games, occasionally some RTS. Notable examples of other games than SimCity that I really liked are Master of Orion 1 and 2 (round-based 4X in a sci-fi universe), Master of Magic (think of Civilization 1 with heroes, spells and magical creatures) and its inofficial successors, the Age of Wonders franchise. Transport Tycoon (these days, OpenTTD) certainly deserves a mention, as does the Earth 2150 franchise (innovative 3D sci-fi RTS with modular units, research, experience system, ammo, etc.). I'm so retro! In my defense, however, I can say that they just don't make them like this any more, and that's not a lie. What I'd give for a subtly improved Transport Tycoon with up-to-date graphics! And don't even get me started about SimCity... Away from my SimCity-related hobbies, I occasionally build scale model ships - non-military stuff like ocean liners or tug boats because they're more colourful and involve fewer repetitive tasks. I have enough of that in the Lot Editor! As a counterpart to that indoor stuff, I really like to ride my bike out of the city and go swimming. I prefer lakes over pools because I like to be out in nature, and preferably not surrounded by people. Too many people around me make me aggressive in the long term, so it's a great way to recharge my batteries. I also like to go hiking. Doing sports in a way that's focused on performance (faster, longer, higher) is not my way at all, but I need to be on the move occasionally.I also like music, so I go to live concerts and festivals a lot.  
     
    ST:  What question have I not asked that I should have?
     
    T Wrecks:  Hm, maybe about my future plans or my goals in terms of SimCity. Tucked away deep inside my mind is that little hope that one day I might actually play the game again. But the way I know me, after a few days I'll find that something is sorely lacking, and go back to the drawing board...
  21. Seraf liked an article by SimCoug, 100 Million STEX DL: An Interview with Tarkus   

    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?
    Tarkus: I first picked up SC4 in the spring of 2004, sometime after SC4 Deluxe was released. I had intermittently had some experiences with the SimCity franchise before that, first with the SNES version in 1991 (my dad pulled an all-nighter with it!), and sometime in the late-90s, with Streets of SimCity, which happened to include SCURK (a stripped down, sandbox SC2000). I wound up spending more time with SCURK that with Streets (which was notoriously buggy, sadly) and meticulously plotted out a multi-tile region over several years, using TXT files to map out the coordinates for neighbor connections.
    When I ran across SC4 by chance at the store, and saw they had actually implemented multi-tile regions, it was instantly a must-purchase. After that, it was a game where I went through spurts of intense play. I didn't know there were mods out there until I ran across Simtropolis by accident in December 2005, and the rest is history.
     
    ST: What aspect of SC4 do you enjoy most – what keeps you coming back?
    Tarkus: I think the two biggest things are the open-ended and (for all intents and purposes) infinite nature of the gameplay, plus the massive amounts of custom content out there, and the ability to add even more yet. SC4 isn't one of those games you “beat”, and I've never really considered any of my cities “completed”. While the advisers may try to push you in one way, I've always found it's ultimately up to the player to decide the goals, and that's something I find appealing. Believe it or not, I've never built a city over 350,000 population, because I've never really had the desire to build a skyscraper jungle.
     
     
    ST: Before we jump into the all the custom content questions, I’m curious… what is your favorite Maxis lot/BAT?
    Tarkus: That's a good question. I'd have to say it's probably tied between a few of the high-tech buildings, like the Accelerator and Cryo Testing. They're probably the shiniest buildings in the Maxis defaults, and I was always happy to see them pop up back when I played vanilla.
     
     
    ST: Do you recall the first plugin you installed?
    Tarkus: It was NAM Version 19, which I picked up about two months after its release in late 2005, shortly followed by the first RHW alpha. Absolutely blew my mind to have all that transportation functionality added.
     
     
    ST: What led you to Simtropolis at first?  Can you remember your initial impressions of the site?
    Tarkus: I recall getting bored one day in December 2005 and browsing the fansite listing at the official EA Maxis SimCity 4 site. I had run across SimCityCentral and a couple other sites quite some time prior, but there wasn't much there on the custom content front, and I had kind of forgotten about my search for mods and such until I decided to look again that day. Eventually, I found and clicked the link to Simtropolis, and it was like SC4 Disneyland, with a bunch of custom content I had only dreamed of—like the NAM—plus a forum that seemed way more level-headed than some of the ones I'd followed for other games. Eventually, I bit the bullet and officially joined the site in February 2006.
     
     
    ST: Describe your progression into the world of SC4 custom content.  Was it a particular mod, lot or BAT that inspired you to take the first step?
    Tarkus: It all started with the NAM. From there, I downloaded quite a bit of custom content, mostly BSC Team stuff in the suburban vein. I was really fond of building suburbs, but found Maxis' building selections on that front lacking. It was probably the potential of the then-brand-new RHW mod (the “R” still stood for “Rural” then), and the burgeoning roadsign development stuff, like artforce1's Generic Highway Sign Development Project (GHSDP) and Ryan B.'s stuff that got me thinking of getting into the content business myself.
     
     
    ST: Speaking of first steps, what was the very first thing that you attempted to mod?  How did it turn out?
    Tarkus: My very first upload was a pack of roadsign lots, with Oregon-style “speed” signs—without the word “limit” as has been the practice in my home state for many years (though ODOT now seems to have a Commie plot afoot to convert us to the standard “Speed Limit” verbiage). They came as standalone grass lots, plus “space saving” transit-enabled lots. They ultimately got a couple thousand downloads, as I recall. I eventually deleted them as “youthful indiscretions”, as they weren't modded all that well, and there had been some controversy about the effect of TE lots on traffic simulation in the late-00s.
     
     
    ST: The NAM team was founded way back in 2004, and you joined shortly after in 2007.  What was it like being a new member of the team?  As a freshman on the High School swim team, we had to run through the school in nothing but shoes and our speedos.  Was there any NAM initiation of the new members?
    Tarkus: Being brought onto the NAM Team was just like the sense of “SC4 Disneyland” I felt when I first discovered ST. I had actually been working on RHW content for about 4 or 5 months before I got added to the team. One day in February 2007, I looked in the old private topics area that used to be on the site, where I had an ongoing thread with jplumbley, Ryan B, and beskhu3epnm about this crazy thing called an NWM, and I noticed the sudden appearance of a “NAM Private Discussion” in there. I was basically added to the team without a peep, which made it a very pleasant surprise. That silent addition is still a tactic we'll sometimes use when adding new members to the team—most recently with Durfsurn.
     
     
    ST: What was your first contribution to the NAM?  What motivated you to spend the hours digging through the inner workings of SC4, attempting to make it a better game?
    Tarkus: The RHW project had really caught my attention when I first arrived in the community. At that point, it was still in what we know today as Version 1.2—a rough alpha with a very limited feature set, but I could tell it had potential. At that point, it wasn't even technically part of the NAM, but a loosely affiliated side-project. There was pretty much just one thing I really wanted to add to it—an Avenue-over-RHW-4 piece—and maybe a couple more along the same lines. Eventually, I ended up releasing those pieces as part of RHW Version 1.3 in April 2007. I found that once I had invested the time into learning the ropes, I got quite a bit of satisfaction out of it, so that one puzzle piece turned into 8 years of NAM development for me.
     
     
    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 moding process?  What about your favorite?
    Tarkus: As far as a least favorite part, I don't think anyone enjoys bugfixing, but from a personal standpoint, I've gotten to the point where I don't really enjoy making standard puzzle pieces anymore. That process has become rather tedious. Fortunately, because we're on the cusp of getting the FLEX stuff dialed in, and I haven't had to make one in some time. As far as favorite parts, it's always things like getting the first prototype of a new override network or FLEX piece into functional shape—enough that I can use it in an actual city. It's been quite fulfilling getting the new elevated ramp interfaces in place for our upcoming NAM 33 release.
     
     
    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 creative uses of the NAM pop up in CJs?
    Tarkus: What's kept me motivated is my vision for projects like the RHW and NWM that I had right as I was first starting to mod. There's still stuff I'd like to add to the game, and there probably will continue to be for some time. Most of the comments in the download section we get now for the NAM are tech support-related, but looking back over my infamous April Fools' upload, the , I really get a kick out of those comments. I still get a thrill out of seeing people playing around with stuff I designed in “Show Us” threads, CJs and MDs, and I still remember how ecstatic I was once the RHW's Modular Interchange System first starting showing up there. Especially once McDuell got a hold of it.
     
     
    ST: You have been moding for the NAM team for over 7 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?
    Tarkus: It's 8 years this month, which I still find hard to believe. I'm probably the most proud of the modular interchange concept for the RHW. Before that time, just about every other post in the old NAM Requests thread was asking for new highway interchanges, but the problem was that the process of making the big pre-fab interchanges for the default highways was ridiculously labor intensive. With the clean slate of the RHW, it made sense to build up a new approach, which did everything differently from the Maxis Highways. Rather than spending 6 to 12 months developing a single interchange to add to the NAM, the modular approach broke things up into smaller chunks that could be easily produced, and then assembled by the users into thousands of different combinations. This allowed all the would-be highway engineers to take matters into their own hands, creatively, rather than sitting around in the request thread. While some folks out there may not be fond of the RHW's complexity, once the RHW 3.0 release in 2009 added elevated components (thanks to the modeling efforts of my good friend Swamper77), and true RHW-to-RHW interchanges became possible, without having to fudge things with tunnels or one-way roads, the whole request backlog fell away. We only see maybe one Maxis Highway interchange request every couple years now, and the lessons we've learned from RHW development have paid dividends with implementing the NWM and other components, so I feel that it's been an enormously successful transit modding initiative. And we could probably keep adding to it for many years to come.
    Probably the funniest fact I can think of relating to NAM development was the nickname we had for the RHW neighbor connector pieces. Before we added those, the only way to get commuter traffic to continue onto the next city tile with a multi-tile RHW system was to build a loop connector, a visible perpendicular stretch of road that went between the two halves of the RHW and broke the override, in order to get around a limitation in the game's simulation engine. It did the trick, but it was rather unsightly. Internally, on the team, as the present-day NC pieces you know today were being developed, we called them NREEs: Nicole Richie Effect Eliminators, as Ms. Richie was well-known at that point for driving the wrong way on a California freeway, much as the sims using loop connectors did.
     
     
    ST: Has your experience moding had any influence on your personal or professional life?  Are there any skills that you have developed over your moding career that have helped you beyond the world of SC4?
    Tarkus: As far as my personal life, not really—pretty much no one in my RL know about my SC4 activities, and I actually keep that on the downlow for the most part. Professionally, my experiences with modding actually inspired me to take about two years of computer science coursework while working on my doctorate, and I've been putting some of those skills to use of late, developing Java-based music theory utilities.
     
     
    ST: I understand that you delved into the world of local politics recently.  Do you think your interest in city simulations has played a part in that?
    Tarkus: Yes, I ran for a city council seat in my home town, and while I didn't get in, I was pleased with getting 10% of the vote as a virtual unknown. And I'd say it's the other way around for me—I think my interest in local politics, and particularly, in transportation and land use policy, was what got me into SC4. I spend quite a bit of time researching those issues in my spare time, looking over a lot of technical documents—transportation system plans and the like—and that's heavily influenced my approach to the game, as evidenced by Tarkusian Cities. I'd also say that the policy research I did during my campaign will influence my approach to the game going forward—for starters, discovering the dismal safety records for Oregon's multi-lane roundabouts will cause me to steer clear of those in the future.
     
     
     
    ST: What advice would you give to a new member of this community who was interested in joining the NAM team?
    Tarkus: The way that most of us have gotten onto the team is by virtue of starting on transit modding passion projects on our own, and then invited to the team once we've shown enough skill. My advice is to find something you're interested in seeing in-game, reading up on the various modding tutorials and the like (which are far more abundant than when I started), and learning how things work. We're usually happy to provide some technical assistance and answer questions for new transit modders giving it an honest go. That's how I ultimately started out—Swamper77 and qurlix were two members who helped me out as I was first getting going. Also, if you find a buddy in the community who is also giving it a go—as happened with me and jplumbley—that can also make the experience more enjoyable.
     
     
    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.).
    Tarkus: Admittedly, I haven't been able to follow CJs as much of late—heck, my own has gone MIA—but I've typically enjoyed the ones that kind of get heavy on planning and roadgeekery. and are two authors on ST today that I think do a good job with that. Going back in time, things like dedgren's Three Rivers Region, haljackey's , , and pickled_pig's Travels Down I-85 appealed to me. I'm normally drawn to the more suburban settings, but really, anything that's done well and focuses on thinking about the game stands a good chance of piquing my interest.
     
     
    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?
    Tarkus: I'd say that probably the most distinctive BATer for me nowadays is Bipin. He's got some interesting ideas, and executes them well. I've also been pleased to see Bobbo662's lost work coming to light, through nos.17's efforts. As far as all-time favorites, I like a lot of the old BSC stuff—SimGoober and mattb325, especially. Most recent STEX download for me, technically, was this month's challenge region. I've been considering a strictly exhibition entry for it, with the idea of siccing some new toys on it.
     
     
    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?
    Tarkus: I'm maybe a little bit surprised, mostly at the fact that it's been 12 years, but I've always pegged this community as being in it for the long haul. It's crazy to think that most of the pioneers of the SC4 modding scene, from the 2004-2005 era, thought we'd have “jumped ship” to the mythical SC5 by 2007—and we're 8 years past that date. I think there's been a few things that have led to the longevity. First, there's just so much custom content out there, and it's still coming. The rate of production isn't nearly what it was in the mid/late-00s, but it's still coming. The game's still readily available and is selling well on Steam and other digital retailers, and that's bringing a steady stream of new players in, which is astonishing for a game of this age. Also, the other attempts at making city-simulators haven't quite captured the balance of SC4. People find the new SimCity, and that actually becomes somewhat of a gateway to SC4.
    As far as 12 years from now goes, that'll be 2027. I'll be turning 42 that year (yikes!). Retro gaming is a huge phenomenon—one I'm into, personally—and as this generation gets older, provided Steam and the like are still around, SC4's going to become a big nostalgia trip for people. Consider that SC4 will be the same age then that Super Mario World and the original Sonic the Hedgehog are in 2015. I could see at least some diehards continuing to make content then.
     
     
    ST:  Cities:Skylines... have you played it yet?  If not, what are you first impressions based on the mountain of feedback available here on Simtropolis or around the web?
    Tarkus: I have not played it yet--RL has been absolutely insane recently--though I am certainly curious about it.  A lot of people in this community, whose opinion I trust, some of whom are as hardcore about SC4 as they come, have had very positive things to say.  And I've been impressed with what I've seen.
     
     
    ST:  12 years later, many are calling this game the 'successor' to SC4 and the city building genera.  What are your thoughts?
    Tarkus: Colossal Order and Paradox have been very smart about how they've handled things, and while I haven't personally been able to play it yet, the approach they've taken and the widespread support they've gotten seem to suggest that Cities: Skylines may in fact be "the mythical SC5".  As soon as I heard they were entering the market, I had a feeling about this game.  Being a smaller operation with a proven track record, who seem to learned from SC4, I think really allowed them to avoid the pitfalls that plagued the other post-SC4 city simulators.  They didn't try to make it an MMO or an online game, or build it around some other sort of gimmick.  It actually fits with the current direction in hardware and OS development by properly supporting multi-core processors and 64-bit architecture, which is really critical if you're going to produce a city simulation platform that can handle the sort of complexity and depth that many of us enjoy.  And it's very fairly priced--the standard edition is only $10 more than SC4's MSRP, which is pretty astonishing.
     
    I don't think SC4 is going to die off--there's still people playing SC3000 and earlier out there, and the NAM Team still has the gears turning for NAM 33--but this game is getting an unheard of adoption rate among the real core of the SC4 community.  I have no doubt it is going to change the face of the community across the board, here at Simtropolis, on Reddit, and over at SC4 Devotion.  In fact, it already has, in just a week after release.
     
     
    ST:  It will take plenty time before C:S can rival the amount of custom content available for SC4, but the developers have really encouraged modding, and there are already many new buildings and 'assets' that can be found on Simtropolis and the steam workshop.  Are you encouraged by the leap into C:S custom content?
    Tarkus:  I think that the content side of things, and how it's already exploded in just a week's time, shows that Colossal Order really gets what made SC4 tick, and they were smart in getting Steam Workshop set up for the game.  And consider that it took the SC4 community sometime to really crack that game open.  NAM Version 1 didn't see the light until over a year after the game's release, and the content development scene didn't really resemble what most of us recognize today until the second year after release, when you had the BSC, the NAM Team, NDEX, and Pegasus firing on all cylinders.  Given that the developers seem to be indicating they'll be opening up more stuff in the near future, I think the C:S community may very well have an accelerated trajectory, compared to how things unfolded with SC4.
     
    As for whether or not you'll see me enter the modding scene with C:S, it's too early to say at this point, especially as I don't yet have the game.  I'm also not normally one who buys games with a predetermined intention of modding them--it was 2 years between when I purchased SC4 and when I started developing content.  But the way things are integrated, as far as I can tell, the way they've done it, the modding is kind of a seamless part of the game with C:S.  I'm certainly interested to see how it all works in practice, firsthand.
     
     
    ST: What question have I not asked that I should have?
    Tarkus: Just kidding on that one—I could certainly go another 12 years without hearing it, as could about half the site.   Thank you for the interesting questions, and to ST and its staff for continuing to foster the SC4 community—congratulations on this significant milestone!
  22. Aaron Graham liked an article by SimCoug, 100 Million STEX DL: An Interview with T Wrecks   
    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?
     
    T Wrecks:  I think I first borrowed SC4 (pre-RH) from a friend a short time after its release, liked the graphics, but had a hard time really getting something going. It was before even the first patch, and I guess the radical change in terms of cost management made things difficult for me initially. In SC3K, if you could afford zoning/plopping something, you could afford its upkeep easily. In SC4, all of a sudden plop/zoning cost was nothing, but maintenance cost... jeez, a few basketball courts too many could break your neck. Then I lost SC4 from my radar somehow. When the RH addon came out, I wanted to get both finally, but while the basic game could be bought anywhere for a few bucks, RH was incredibly hard to come by. I finally managed to buy both in 2004, though, and immediately started to get really involved in the game. I know SimCity right from the start - played the original SimCity first with a friend on his PC/XT with amber monitor, later on my own Amiga 500 - and even later on my first PC. Naturally, SC2K followed. I also liked a "multiplayer" edition of SC2K where you could buy land on which to build your city. The SCURK (SimCity Urban Renewal Kit), which enabled you to replace in-game buildings with your own (or other peoples') hand-drawn stuff is also the first time I discovered custom content for SimCity. I dipped my toe in it a little, but it didn't amount to much. SC3000 was the logical next step, and SC3K.  I also got the BAP (and later the BAP+) to make custom buildings. SC3000 marks the first time I went hunting for custom content on the 'net in addition to fiddling around with it on my own PC. I didn't contribute anything, though.  
     
    ST:  What aspect of SC4 do you enjoy most – what keeps you coming back?
     
    T Wrecks:  What I like most about the game is that the city behaves almost like something alive. You control many parameters, and yet a city can always surprise you. Turn your back on a totally uninteresting spot to take care of something, only to find something totally surprising has developed in the meantime. That, and the fact that it is totally not based on levels, scenarios, a story, fixed goals or anything - you have zillions of possibilities, and the resulting cities and regions are as individual as your handwriting. I also like how relaxing it can be. Sometimes I like to sit back and just look at those tiny cars driving around in my city. Last but not least, the vast modding possibilities keep me coming back more than the actual game these days. There is always so much more you could add...  
     
    ST:  Before we jump into the all the custom content questions, I’m curious… what is your favorite Maxis lot/BAT?
     
    T Wrecks:  Phew, that's a difficult one. I don't think I have THE favourite building. I like several that are very well done IMO, even if they are not too spectacular. Many of the small family homes are really decent IMO. Other buildings I (almost) always like when they pop up include White's Clothier, Brown & Sons (a very rarely growing building), Mace Co., Schnittjer Printing, Strang Deeds Office Tower, Kanarowski & Co., Futa Consulting, Goldman Building / Hourvitz Accounting (really pretty much the same building), West & Co., The Pratt, Hi-Rise Apts (Chicago tileset), Simon Manor, Jolly Manor, Wallace Manor, The Long Building, Butts Condos, Russo Condos... The lots are mostly pretty poor, but Maxis had to make ends meet with a severly limited amount of props and textures - not to mention that RCI lots needed to accommodate several buildings of a family. When you mass produce, you can't work wonders... I know that myself because some of my projects (such as the IRM) also involved a high degree of mass production. 
     
    ST:  Do you recall the first plugin you installed?
     
    T Wrecks:  No, I'm afraid not. No idea, really.  
     
    ST:  What led you to Simtropolis at first?  Can you remember your initial impressions of the site?
     
    T Wrecks:  I was looking for custom content, of course! I must have visited Simtropolis long before I registered, because when I finally signed up, I know I had vague memories of the site, even though it looked much different back then. I don't remember any particular first impressions (it was more than 10 years ago, give me a break!), but I do remember that I found not only a place to download stuff, but also a promising community. When I commented on a CJ posted by an Austrian player, michi5, he invited me over to the German-speaking community - an involvement that would lead me to becoming a member of the SFBT. However, I'm no longer active in said German community, but I never felt like leaving ST.  
     
    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?
     
    T Wrecks:  I don't think so. It was probably more the sheer possibility. As I mentioned above, I also tried my hands at the SCURK for SC2000, the BAP / BA+ for SC3000 / SC3000 Unlimited, and I also tried other custom stuff before. After playing through Duke Nukem 3D, for example, I was more interested in the level editor. I have also made waypoints for a Counter-Strike (1.5/1.6) bot before, and the Half-Life level editor is not unknown to me, either. Guess I just have a tendency to get fascinated by editors and their potential. It's not so much about any particular item.  
     
    ST:  Speaking of first steps, what was the very first thing that you lotted using the LE?  Do you still have a screen shot?
     
    T Wrecks:  I don't have the slightest idea, let alone a screenshot, sorry. :/  
     
    ST:  You’ve been creating unique and beautiful lots for quite some time, but if members were to search your library of STEX files they would only come up with about 2 pages worth.  Yet, you are constantly creating the lots for many of the great BATers on this site.  So best guess, how many of your lots are on the STEX?
     
    T Wrecks:  Argh, another difficult one. Counted in STEX uploads (and not in actual .sc4lot files), I guess there may be up to 100 in addition to what I have released under my own name. Add to this a further 50 or more over at kurier.simcityplaza.de, where I used to be involved in the modding, lotting, translation, and packaging of uploads. All the NDEX files you can find there, for example, have been tweaked and often re-lotted by me. In the end, I don't care about numbers that much. I'm rather glad that I could help several great BATters to get their stuff on the STEX!  
     
    ST:  As a lotter myself, I find lotting can put me in a peaceful Zen state.  What do you enjoy about lotting and what keeps you firing up the LE after so many years?  
     
    T Wrecks:  Peaceful Zen state? Hmm... I don't really know if I share this feeling. I guess it can be close to that if you're not doing a boring routine task, and if things are going together all right. Other times, it can be tedious and a bit boring. The actual act of lotting is pretty ok, I guess, but what motivates me most is when I see how I can make the lot complement a building as seamlessly as possible, and - in the case of a re-lot - when I check out the lot in game and see how it's much better than the original lot, at least according to my taste. Ultimately, it's not the process of lotting itself, but the satisfaction of getting a result that conforms to my taste and liking that motivates me.  
     
    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 lotting process?
     
    T Wrecks:  Sometimes it's the very beginning: Sitting in front of an empty lot and not knowing what to do with it, trying out many designs that don't work... sometimes it's repetition: one down, five more versions to go... However, the parts I like least in general are all the activities that don't have to do with the actual lotting: determining stats, recording them in my ever growing database, fixing file properties, and worst of all: documentation, packaging and uploading. I really hate that part. Did I mention making menu icons? No? Well, then: making menu icons.  
     
    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 lots pop up in CJs?
     
    T Wrecks:  Hm, I figure since I have taken so much and since I mod the heck out of my plugins anyway, it would be only logical and fair to give something back and share some of the stuff that I have on my HD anyway. It's nice when you post a question because you're trying to do something, and people not only help you, but also take interest in that project of yours - that's how it started for me. That's what convinced me that my stuff may be interesting for others initially. These days, what I enjoy most - more than STEX comments, although I do appreciate these! - is players actually using something I made. It shows me that I haven't uploaded those files for nothing, and as a bonus it's often interesting for me to see how players will use my creations. Sometimes I see applications that I would never have thought of myself.  
     
    ST:  You have been lotting for almost 10 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?
     
    T Wrecks:  Hm, I kinda like the relots of . IDS Offices may also be one of my better lots. But that's only the optical side of affairs...On a larger scale, I'm most proud of the fact that I contributed a little bit towards taking more care of the stats of BATs and lots, and I also think the is not too shabby because it has expanded into an entire lot family - and a big family at that! Now that I think about it, those low-wealth mega lot sets I made based on 645978's buildings were pretty popular in their time, and my first modular set of lots. I still have fond memories of them - and even a screenshot from the day the first one became a STEX feature! I hope you can excuse the crappy quality and low resolution:
     

     
    Fun facts or stories? I'm afraid there are none that I remember, and if I don't remember them, they probably haven't been all that interesting in the first place. It's really boring work, haha.  
     
    ST:  Has your experience with SC4 custom content had any influence on your personal or professional life?  Are there any skills that you have developed over your lotting career that have helped you beyond the world of SC4?
     
    T Wrecks:  Yes, there has been some degree of influence. The German SC4 community has brought me into personal contact with several people, and I mean not only contact over the 'net. What began as a pleasant, but absolutely unintended side product evolved into a chain of acquantainces and friendships up to and including a girlfriend - these days, we're no longer together, but still good friends even after many years, although she's the only one who remains from that time. So much for personal life... As far as my professional life is concerned, I'd say that there have been indirect influences. Obviously my incredibly spectacular skills at pushing props around in the Lot Editor and clicking on boxes (*gasp*) have not led to my running a blue chip company now, and neither has my ability to convert from decimal into hexadecimal on a very low level (2A = 42) without using a calculator resulted in a position as CIO. Lotting IS a pretty trivial task, after all, and there's not much "RL carryover", as you might call it. However, hanging around in an English-speaking community for 10 years is certainly not detrimental to your language proficiency, and as a professional translator, I can always use that. In this respect, my hobby lotting/modding has certainly been more helpful than jazzdance or collecting stamps. Private life and job life aside, such an international community also gets you into contact with a very broad variety of people and widens your horizon. This may not result in any direct benefits, but I still think it can be an important lesson for life in general.  
     
    ST:  What advice would you give to a new member of this community who was planning on creating their first lot?
     
    T Wrecks:  Three words: Start a thread. Next to that, be prepared to read a lot.There's vast knowledge floating around, but it's not very well catalogued. Old hands may be able to direct you towards useful resources, or they may point out stuff that's hard to find in writing out there. Starting a thread is very useful to gather feedback, and if you're doing it right, you will learn more than by merely asking. How so? Well, if you ask something, you'll get a solution - hopefully. If you present your progress in a thread additionally, people may suggest things and mention stuff you haven't been aware of before. They may cause you to consider solutions that you wouldn't have considered by yourself or that you didn't even know about. Ultimately, however, you should take care to do what you like best, or you may end up being torn between different options favoured by your thread followers and not knowing which way to go.By the way, the Lot Editor comes with a manual. It's in your root SimCity 4 directory, and Maxis doesn't really rub its existence in your face, but it is there. This should be enough to teach you the basics. The rest is patience, ideas, and some hints found here and there and/or provided by other community members. You should also be prepared to use , and possibly as well.Finally my catch phrase: Always start with an empty plugins folder! Get to know your props and textures, and use them sparingly.  
     
    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.).
     
    T Wrecks:  I don't really follow anything in particular. If it's on the frontpage and catches my interest, I'll take a look. Otherwise, not so much. It's not that I don't respect the CJers' work (many of them are amazing!), but I'm simply not into that "following a CJ" thing. I do find myself taking a look into Ln X' "" pretty often recently because we now have CJ features, this particular CJ is often featured these days, and Ln X often uses stuff I made. It's a good way for me to check out some of my stuff "out in the wild". If it wasn't for the features, however, I might not even know that this CJ exists.  
     
    ST:  On the ‘builders’ side, do you have any favorite BATers that you enjoy following?   What was your most recent download from the STEX?
     
    T Wrecks:  All of the above! Seriously, if there's a BAT thread, then I'm following it. Usually when I turn off my notebook and go to bed, not a single BAT thread here on Simtrop has unread replies.I don't exactly remember the most recent download because I don't download that regularly these days - no need to because I haven't actually played the game in years. I do download whatever is relevant to my interests every now and then, but the intervals tend to be long. One person I'd like to highlight is C.P. aka Cycledogg. Especially from a lotter's point of view, his work is awesome. In addition to great BATs, the use of custom foundations for slope-friendly buildings and the "invention" of shaded props (which I like to use a lot), he has organised his props into hundreds of prop families, making it so much easier to add variation to a lot. There are cars that appear and disappear at certain times of the day or have a certain probability of appearing in general, there are prop foundations, there are seasonal props, there are angled versions... and he even took it upon himself to go through most of his flora props again, re-render and re-organise them, updating the packages, and even making cohort files for the prop families so that a proper name shows up in the list instead of a hexadecimal ID. That's an insane amount of work, and I can only begin to imagine how much dedication, diligence, and persistence must have gone into that. He's by far not the only one who has made valuable contributions for the community, but I think he deserves particular praise from the perspective of a lotter. 
     
     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?
     
    T Wrecks:  Not that surprised, actually. Open up a game to additional custom content, make that game one that ages well (i.e., a game that doesn't depend on visual effects that much), fail to release a successor deemed worthy by the fans, and you have a pretty decent chance of a fan community taking things into their own hands. I'm also thinking of Chris Sawyer's Transport Tycoon right now, a much older game than SimCity 4. It has been "re-released" as fully open source software, OpenTTD, and the community keeps making great mods, just like the SimCity crowd. These can't be the only examples, either. Another aspect that certainly helps is the attitude that all content is offered free of charge, made by fans, made for fans. This eliminates barriers, helps to attract newcomers, and ensures good circulation of the files. Otherwise we may have a situation where downloads rot away behind paywalls on several private websites that become inactive as soon as their owners disappear from the community, and eventually vanish as well. I've witnessed some pretty nasty quarrels over paid downloads for the Sims games. That was quite a shock for me because I thought all custom content communities were like the SimCity crowd more or less.12 years from now? EA will surely have released a great successor in the vein of SC4 by then! Ok, silly jokes aside: 12 years are a lot, so there really is no telling. I see more than enough strength in the community to last for another 5-6 years, that's for sure. We'll see about the rest. With C:S being out now, I sometimes get that sad feeling that the SC4 community might fall apart sooner than we think. While I'm happy for all those players who eagerly anticipated a true "3D SimCity" experience and wish them tons of fun with this new game, I have always had other priorities for a SimCity successor (deeper regional concept, non-rectangular lots, procedural lots, shopping and tourism traffic, surface water, mixed-use buildings, defined W2W areas and other zone-specific regulations, non-rectangular maps / definable city limits, to mention just a few ideas). This is why C:S is not simply a great relief for me: "Finally 3D!" "Finally no longer SC4!" - just like many players may think. For me, however, it also marks the possible departure from something that I have always liked, and that ended up playing an important role in my free time. It marks what may be the autumn in SC4's life cycle, and this thought makes me a little sad and nostalgic. I know I will miss the discussions in BAT threads when it's finally over. But here's to hoping that we'll be able to keep SC4 alive as a long-time niche game!  
     
    ST:  Speaking of Cities:Skylines... have you played it yet?  If not, what are you first impressions based on the mountain of feedback available here on Simtropolis or around the web?
     
    T Wrecks:  I don't even have a PC capable of handling it, and won't have for several months. Even if I had one, my primary goal is getting back to actually playing SC4 again after a long hiatus. So no, no first-hand experience with C:S yet. From what I see, it looks rather different. So far, the overall aesthetics don't really appeal to me since I tend to prefer highly detailed 2D over low-poly 3D. This may change as further mods are being made, but for now it's not causing me to hyperventilate. It is, of course, one of the games on my "watch list"!  
     
    ST:  12 years later, many are calling this game the 'successor' to SC4 and the city building genera.  What are your thoughts?
     
    T Wrecks:  Apparently the creators did a much better job than even EA themselves and managed to accommodate many of the primary wishes of the SimCity fan community. So yes, I guess it could be called a "successor" in spirit - just like the Age of Wonders franchise can be called a "successor" of Microprose's Master of Magic, or Freelancer a "successor" of Wing Commander: Privateer. We'll know more once the dust settles, and I won't comment very much without having played the game myself.  
     
    ST:  It will take plenty time before C:S can rival the amount of custom content available for SC4, but the developers have really encouraged modding, and there are already many new buildings and 'assets' that can be found on Simtropolis and the steam workshop.  Are you encouraged to leap into C:S custom content?
     
    T Wrecks: Not in the foreseeable future. I got a few months' worth of SC4 content on my 'to do' list, and then I want to PLAY some SC4. Afterwards, and when I have a better PC (if I even buy one instead of rediscovering yet another retro game that captures my limited free time!), we shall see. The retro gaming aspect really holds some importance. You see, the last time I bought a game was in early 2014 - and it was a retro game! The last halfways up-to-date game I bought? I don't even remember that. More than 5 years ago for sure. This is just to explain what some may perceive as an odd lack of enthusiasm. I just have a tendency to enjoy old games with a high replay value, and since I don't have much time on my hands, me buying a new game is something of a snowball in hell event. I must say, though, that the possibility to build intersections and turn the entire structure into a pre-fab element strikes me as an admirably smart move by the developers. Looks like they also thought about the aspect of getting these assets into the game, with some user-friendly features such as using the editor itself to take a screenshot of the finished asset and introducing it into the game as the menu icon for this new asset - quite a progress compared to the tedious process of making in-game icons for SC4 content! I can guarantee, however, that you won't see my name attached to a C:S upload any time in 2015. Maybe later.  
     
    ST:  Are there any games you play besides SC4? What other hobbies do you have away from lotting/modding and SimCity?
     
    T Wrecks:  Although I did play first-person shooters when I was younger, I always had a liking for round-based RPGs and strategy games, 4X games, occasionally some RTS. Notable examples of other games than SimCity that I really liked are Master of Orion 1 and 2 (round-based 4X in a sci-fi universe), Master of Magic (think of Civilization 1 with heroes, spells and magical creatures) and its inofficial successors, the Age of Wonders franchise. Transport Tycoon (these days, OpenTTD) certainly deserves a mention, as does the Earth 2150 franchise (innovative 3D sci-fi RTS with modular units, research, experience system, ammo, etc.). I'm so retro! In my defense, however, I can say that they just don't make them like this any more, and that's not a lie. What I'd give for a subtly improved Transport Tycoon with up-to-date graphics! And don't even get me started about SimCity... Away from my SimCity-related hobbies, I occasionally build scale model ships - non-military stuff like ocean liners or tug boats because they're more colourful and involve fewer repetitive tasks. I have enough of that in the Lot Editor! As a counterpart to that indoor stuff, I really like to ride my bike out of the city and go swimming. I prefer lakes over pools because I like to be out in nature, and preferably not surrounded by people. Too many people around me make me aggressive in the long term, so it's a great way to recharge my batteries. I also like to go hiking. Doing sports in a way that's focused on performance (faster, longer, higher) is not my way at all, but I need to be on the move occasionally.I also like music, so I go to live concerts and festivals a lot.  
     
    ST:  What question have I not asked that I should have?
     
    T Wrecks:  Hm, maybe about my future plans or my goals in terms of SimCity. Tucked away deep inside my mind is that little hope that one day I might actually play the game again. But the way I know me, after a few days I'll find that something is sorely lacking, and go back to the drawing board...
  23. Aaron Graham liked an article by SimCoug, 100 Million STEX DL: An Interview with T Wrecks   
    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?
     
    T Wrecks:  I think I first borrowed SC4 (pre-RH) from a friend a short time after its release, liked the graphics, but had a hard time really getting something going. It was before even the first patch, and I guess the radical change in terms of cost management made things difficult for me initially. In SC3K, if you could afford zoning/plopping something, you could afford its upkeep easily. In SC4, all of a sudden plop/zoning cost was nothing, but maintenance cost... jeez, a few basketball courts too many could break your neck. Then I lost SC4 from my radar somehow. When the RH addon came out, I wanted to get both finally, but while the basic game could be bought anywhere for a few bucks, RH was incredibly hard to come by. I finally managed to buy both in 2004, though, and immediately started to get really involved in the game. I know SimCity right from the start - played the original SimCity first with a friend on his PC/XT with amber monitor, later on my own Amiga 500 - and even later on my first PC. Naturally, SC2K followed. I also liked a "multiplayer" edition of SC2K where you could buy land on which to build your city. The SCURK (SimCity Urban Renewal Kit), which enabled you to replace in-game buildings with your own (or other peoples') hand-drawn stuff is also the first time I discovered custom content for SimCity. I dipped my toe in it a little, but it didn't amount to much. SC3000 was the logical next step, and SC3K.  I also got the BAP (and later the BAP+) to make custom buildings. SC3000 marks the first time I went hunting for custom content on the 'net in addition to fiddling around with it on my own PC. I didn't contribute anything, though.  
     
    ST:  What aspect of SC4 do you enjoy most – what keeps you coming back?
     
    T Wrecks:  What I like most about the game is that the city behaves almost like something alive. You control many parameters, and yet a city can always surprise you. Turn your back on a totally uninteresting spot to take care of something, only to find something totally surprising has developed in the meantime. That, and the fact that it is totally not based on levels, scenarios, a story, fixed goals or anything - you have zillions of possibilities, and the resulting cities and regions are as individual as your handwriting. I also like how relaxing it can be. Sometimes I like to sit back and just look at those tiny cars driving around in my city. Last but not least, the vast modding possibilities keep me coming back more than the actual game these days. There is always so much more you could add...  
     
    ST:  Before we jump into the all the custom content questions, I’m curious… what is your favorite Maxis lot/BAT?
     
    T Wrecks:  Phew, that's a difficult one. I don't think I have THE favourite building. I like several that are very well done IMO, even if they are not too spectacular. Many of the small family homes are really decent IMO. Other buildings I (almost) always like when they pop up include White's Clothier, Brown & Sons (a very rarely growing building), Mace Co., Schnittjer Printing, Strang Deeds Office Tower, Kanarowski & Co., Futa Consulting, Goldman Building / Hourvitz Accounting (really pretty much the same building), West & Co., The Pratt, Hi-Rise Apts (Chicago tileset), Simon Manor, Jolly Manor, Wallace Manor, The Long Building, Butts Condos, Russo Condos... The lots are mostly pretty poor, but Maxis had to make ends meet with a severly limited amount of props and textures - not to mention that RCI lots needed to accommodate several buildings of a family. When you mass produce, you can't work wonders... I know that myself because some of my projects (such as the IRM) also involved a high degree of mass production. 
     
    ST:  Do you recall the first plugin you installed?
     
    T Wrecks:  No, I'm afraid not. No idea, really.  
     
    ST:  What led you to Simtropolis at first?  Can you remember your initial impressions of the site?
     
    T Wrecks:  I was looking for custom content, of course! I must have visited Simtropolis long before I registered, because when I finally signed up, I know I had vague memories of the site, even though it looked much different back then. I don't remember any particular first impressions (it was more than 10 years ago, give me a break!), but I do remember that I found not only a place to download stuff, but also a promising community. When I commented on a CJ posted by an Austrian player, michi5, he invited me over to the German-speaking community - an involvement that would lead me to becoming a member of the SFBT. However, I'm no longer active in said German community, but I never felt like leaving ST.  
     
    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?
     
    T Wrecks:  I don't think so. It was probably more the sheer possibility. As I mentioned above, I also tried my hands at the SCURK for SC2000, the BAP / BA+ for SC3000 / SC3000 Unlimited, and I also tried other custom stuff before. After playing through Duke Nukem 3D, for example, I was more interested in the level editor. I have also made waypoints for a Counter-Strike (1.5/1.6) bot before, and the Half-Life level editor is not unknown to me, either. Guess I just have a tendency to get fascinated by editors and their potential. It's not so much about any particular item.  
     
    ST:  Speaking of first steps, what was the very first thing that you lotted using the LE?  Do you still have a screen shot?
     
    T Wrecks:  I don't have the slightest idea, let alone a screenshot, sorry. :/  
     
    ST:  You’ve been creating unique and beautiful lots for quite some time, but if members were to search your library of STEX files they would only come up with about 2 pages worth.  Yet, you are constantly creating the lots for many of the great BATers on this site.  So best guess, how many of your lots are on the STEX?
     
    T Wrecks:  Argh, another difficult one. Counted in STEX uploads (and not in actual .sc4lot files), I guess there may be up to 100 in addition to what I have released under my own name. Add to this a further 50 or more over at kurier.simcityplaza.de, where I used to be involved in the modding, lotting, translation, and packaging of uploads. All the NDEX files you can find there, for example, have been tweaked and often re-lotted by me. In the end, I don't care about numbers that much. I'm rather glad that I could help several great BATters to get their stuff on the STEX!  
     
    ST:  As a lotter myself, I find lotting can put me in a peaceful Zen state.  What do you enjoy about lotting and what keeps you firing up the LE after so many years?  
     
    T Wrecks:  Peaceful Zen state? Hmm... I don't really know if I share this feeling. I guess it can be close to that if you're not doing a boring routine task, and if things are going together all right. Other times, it can be tedious and a bit boring. The actual act of lotting is pretty ok, I guess, but what motivates me most is when I see how I can make the lot complement a building as seamlessly as possible, and - in the case of a re-lot - when I check out the lot in game and see how it's much better than the original lot, at least according to my taste. Ultimately, it's not the process of lotting itself, but the satisfaction of getting a result that conforms to my taste and liking that motivates me.  
     
    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 lotting process?
     
    T Wrecks:  Sometimes it's the very beginning: Sitting in front of an empty lot and not knowing what to do with it, trying out many designs that don't work... sometimes it's repetition: one down, five more versions to go... However, the parts I like least in general are all the activities that don't have to do with the actual lotting: determining stats, recording them in my ever growing database, fixing file properties, and worst of all: documentation, packaging and uploading. I really hate that part. Did I mention making menu icons? No? Well, then: making menu icons.  
     
    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 lots pop up in CJs?
     
    T Wrecks:  Hm, I figure since I have taken so much and since I mod the heck out of my plugins anyway, it would be only logical and fair to give something back and share some of the stuff that I have on my HD anyway. It's nice when you post a question because you're trying to do something, and people not only help you, but also take interest in that project of yours - that's how it started for me. That's what convinced me that my stuff may be interesting for others initially. These days, what I enjoy most - more than STEX comments, although I do appreciate these! - is players actually using something I made. It shows me that I haven't uploaded those files for nothing, and as a bonus it's often interesting for me to see how players will use my creations. Sometimes I see applications that I would never have thought of myself.  
     
    ST:  You have been lotting for almost 10 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?
     
    T Wrecks:  Hm, I kinda like the relots of . IDS Offices may also be one of my better lots. But that's only the optical side of affairs...On a larger scale, I'm most proud of the fact that I contributed a little bit towards taking more care of the stats of BATs and lots, and I also think the is not too shabby because it has expanded into an entire lot family - and a big family at that! Now that I think about it, those low-wealth mega lot sets I made based on 645978's buildings were pretty popular in their time, and my first modular set of lots. I still have fond memories of them - and even a screenshot from the day the first one became a STEX feature! I hope you can excuse the crappy quality and low resolution:
     

     
    Fun facts or stories? I'm afraid there are none that I remember, and if I don't remember them, they probably haven't been all that interesting in the first place. It's really boring work, haha.  
     
    ST:  Has your experience with SC4 custom content had any influence on your personal or professional life?  Are there any skills that you have developed over your lotting career that have helped you beyond the world of SC4?
     
    T Wrecks:  Yes, there has been some degree of influence. The German SC4 community has brought me into personal contact with several people, and I mean not only contact over the 'net. What began as a pleasant, but absolutely unintended side product evolved into a chain of acquantainces and friendships up to and including a girlfriend - these days, we're no longer together, but still good friends even after many years, although she's the only one who remains from that time. So much for personal life... As far as my professional life is concerned, I'd say that there have been indirect influences. Obviously my incredibly spectacular skills at pushing props around in the Lot Editor and clicking on boxes (*gasp*) have not led to my running a blue chip company now, and neither has my ability to convert from decimal into hexadecimal on a very low level (2A = 42) without using a calculator resulted in a position as CIO. Lotting IS a pretty trivial task, after all, and there's not much "RL carryover", as you might call it. However, hanging around in an English-speaking community for 10 years is certainly not detrimental to your language proficiency, and as a professional translator, I can always use that. In this respect, my hobby lotting/modding has certainly been more helpful than jazzdance or collecting stamps. Private life and job life aside, such an international community also gets you into contact with a very broad variety of people and widens your horizon. This may not result in any direct benefits, but I still think it can be an important lesson for life in general.  
     
    ST:  What advice would you give to a new member of this community who was planning on creating their first lot?
     
    T Wrecks:  Three words: Start a thread. Next to that, be prepared to read a lot.There's vast knowledge floating around, but it's not very well catalogued. Old hands may be able to direct you towards useful resources, or they may point out stuff that's hard to find in writing out there. Starting a thread is very useful to gather feedback, and if you're doing it right, you will learn more than by merely asking. How so? Well, if you ask something, you'll get a solution - hopefully. If you present your progress in a thread additionally, people may suggest things and mention stuff you haven't been aware of before. They may cause you to consider solutions that you wouldn't have considered by yourself or that you didn't even know about. Ultimately, however, you should take care to do what you like best, or you may end up being torn between different options favoured by your thread followers and not knowing which way to go.By the way, the Lot Editor comes with a manual. It's in your root SimCity 4 directory, and Maxis doesn't really rub its existence in your face, but it is there. This should be enough to teach you the basics. The rest is patience, ideas, and some hints found here and there and/or provided by other community members. You should also be prepared to use , and possibly as well.Finally my catch phrase: Always start with an empty plugins folder! Get to know your props and textures, and use them sparingly.  
     
    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.).
     
    T Wrecks:  I don't really follow anything in particular. If it's on the frontpage and catches my interest, I'll take a look. Otherwise, not so much. It's not that I don't respect the CJers' work (many of them are amazing!), but I'm simply not into that "following a CJ" thing. I do find myself taking a look into Ln X' "" pretty often recently because we now have CJ features, this particular CJ is often featured these days, and Ln X often uses stuff I made. It's a good way for me to check out some of my stuff "out in the wild". If it wasn't for the features, however, I might not even know that this CJ exists.  
     
    ST:  On the ‘builders’ side, do you have any favorite BATers that you enjoy following?   What was your most recent download from the STEX?
     
    T Wrecks:  All of the above! Seriously, if there's a BAT thread, then I'm following it. Usually when I turn off my notebook and go to bed, not a single BAT thread here on Simtrop has unread replies.I don't exactly remember the most recent download because I don't download that regularly these days - no need to because I haven't actually played the game in years. I do download whatever is relevant to my interests every now and then, but the intervals tend to be long. One person I'd like to highlight is C.P. aka Cycledogg. Especially from a lotter's point of view, his work is awesome. In addition to great BATs, the use of custom foundations for slope-friendly buildings and the "invention" of shaded props (which I like to use a lot), he has organised his props into hundreds of prop families, making it so much easier to add variation to a lot. There are cars that appear and disappear at certain times of the day or have a certain probability of appearing in general, there are prop foundations, there are seasonal props, there are angled versions... and he even took it upon himself to go through most of his flora props again, re-render and re-organise them, updating the packages, and even making cohort files for the prop families so that a proper name shows up in the list instead of a hexadecimal ID. That's an insane amount of work, and I can only begin to imagine how much dedication, diligence, and persistence must have gone into that. He's by far not the only one who has made valuable contributions for the community, but I think he deserves particular praise from the perspective of a lotter. 
     
     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?
     
    T Wrecks:  Not that surprised, actually. Open up a game to additional custom content, make that game one that ages well (i.e., a game that doesn't depend on visual effects that much), fail to release a successor deemed worthy by the fans, and you have a pretty decent chance of a fan community taking things into their own hands. I'm also thinking of Chris Sawyer's Transport Tycoon right now, a much older game than SimCity 4. It has been "re-released" as fully open source software, OpenTTD, and the community keeps making great mods, just like the SimCity crowd. These can't be the only examples, either. Another aspect that certainly helps is the attitude that all content is offered free of charge, made by fans, made for fans. This eliminates barriers, helps to attract newcomers, and ensures good circulation of the files. Otherwise we may have a situation where downloads rot away behind paywalls on several private websites that become inactive as soon as their owners disappear from the community, and eventually vanish as well. I've witnessed some pretty nasty quarrels over paid downloads for the Sims games. That was quite a shock for me because I thought all custom content communities were like the SimCity crowd more or less.12 years from now? EA will surely have released a great successor in the vein of SC4 by then! Ok, silly jokes aside: 12 years are a lot, so there really is no telling. I see more than enough strength in the community to last for another 5-6 years, that's for sure. We'll see about the rest. With C:S being out now, I sometimes get that sad feeling that the SC4 community might fall apart sooner than we think. While I'm happy for all those players who eagerly anticipated a true "3D SimCity" experience and wish them tons of fun with this new game, I have always had other priorities for a SimCity successor (deeper regional concept, non-rectangular lots, procedural lots, shopping and tourism traffic, surface water, mixed-use buildings, defined W2W areas and other zone-specific regulations, non-rectangular maps / definable city limits, to mention just a few ideas). This is why C:S is not simply a great relief for me: "Finally 3D!" "Finally no longer SC4!" - just like many players may think. For me, however, it also marks the possible departure from something that I have always liked, and that ended up playing an important role in my free time. It marks what may be the autumn in SC4's life cycle, and this thought makes me a little sad and nostalgic. I know I will miss the discussions in BAT threads when it's finally over. But here's to hoping that we'll be able to keep SC4 alive as a long-time niche game!  
     
    ST:  Speaking of Cities:Skylines... have you played it yet?  If not, what are you first impressions based on the mountain of feedback available here on Simtropolis or around the web?
     
    T Wrecks:  I don't even have a PC capable of handling it, and won't have for several months. Even if I had one, my primary goal is getting back to actually playing SC4 again after a long hiatus. So no, no first-hand experience with C:S yet. From what I see, it looks rather different. So far, the overall aesthetics don't really appeal to me since I tend to prefer highly detailed 2D over low-poly 3D. This may change as further mods are being made, but for now it's not causing me to hyperventilate. It is, of course, one of the games on my "watch list"!  
     
    ST:  12 years later, many are calling this game the 'successor' to SC4 and the city building genera.  What are your thoughts?
     
    T Wrecks:  Apparently the creators did a much better job than even EA themselves and managed to accommodate many of the primary wishes of the SimCity fan community. So yes, I guess it could be called a "successor" in spirit - just like the Age of Wonders franchise can be called a "successor" of Microprose's Master of Magic, or Freelancer a "successor" of Wing Commander: Privateer. We'll know more once the dust settles, and I won't comment very much without having played the game myself.  
     
    ST:  It will take plenty time before C:S can rival the amount of custom content available for SC4, but the developers have really encouraged modding, and there are already many new buildings and 'assets' that can be found on Simtropolis and the steam workshop.  Are you encouraged to leap into C:S custom content?
     
    T Wrecks: Not in the foreseeable future. I got a few months' worth of SC4 content on my 'to do' list, and then I want to PLAY some SC4. Afterwards, and when I have a better PC (if I even buy one instead of rediscovering yet another retro game that captures my limited free time!), we shall see. The retro gaming aspect really holds some importance. You see, the last time I bought a game was in early 2014 - and it was a retro game! The last halfways up-to-date game I bought? I don't even remember that. More than 5 years ago for sure. This is just to explain what some may perceive as an odd lack of enthusiasm. I just have a tendency to enjoy old games with a high replay value, and since I don't have much time on my hands, me buying a new game is something of a snowball in hell event. I must say, though, that the possibility to build intersections and turn the entire structure into a pre-fab element strikes me as an admirably smart move by the developers. Looks like they also thought about the aspect of getting these assets into the game, with some user-friendly features such as using the editor itself to take a screenshot of the finished asset and introducing it into the game as the menu icon for this new asset - quite a progress compared to the tedious process of making in-game icons for SC4 content! I can guarantee, however, that you won't see my name attached to a C:S upload any time in 2015. Maybe later.  
     
    ST:  Are there any games you play besides SC4? What other hobbies do you have away from lotting/modding and SimCity?
     
    T Wrecks:  Although I did play first-person shooters when I was younger, I always had a liking for round-based RPGs and strategy games, 4X games, occasionally some RTS. Notable examples of other games than SimCity that I really liked are Master of Orion 1 and 2 (round-based 4X in a sci-fi universe), Master of Magic (think of Civilization 1 with heroes, spells and magical creatures) and its inofficial successors, the Age of Wonders franchise. Transport Tycoon (these days, OpenTTD) certainly deserves a mention, as does the Earth 2150 franchise (innovative 3D sci-fi RTS with modular units, research, experience system, ammo, etc.). I'm so retro! In my defense, however, I can say that they just don't make them like this any more, and that's not a lie. What I'd give for a subtly improved Transport Tycoon with up-to-date graphics! And don't even get me started about SimCity... Away from my SimCity-related hobbies, I occasionally build scale model ships - non-military stuff like ocean liners or tug boats because they're more colourful and involve fewer repetitive tasks. I have enough of that in the Lot Editor! As a counterpart to that indoor stuff, I really like to ride my bike out of the city and go swimming. I prefer lakes over pools because I like to be out in nature, and preferably not surrounded by people. Too many people around me make me aggressive in the long term, so it's a great way to recharge my batteries. I also like to go hiking. Doing sports in a way that's focused on performance (faster, longer, higher) is not my way at all, but I need to be on the move occasionally.I also like music, so I go to live concerts and festivals a lot.  
     
    ST:  What question have I not asked that I should have?
     
    T Wrecks:  Hm, maybe about my future plans or my goals in terms of SimCity. Tucked away deep inside my mind is that little hope that one day I might actually play the game again. But the way I know me, after a few days I'll find that something is sorely lacking, and go back to the drawing board...
  24. Aaron Graham liked an article by SimCoug, 100 Million STEX DL: An Interview with T Wrecks   
    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?
     
    T Wrecks:  I think I first borrowed SC4 (pre-RH) from a friend a short time after its release, liked the graphics, but had a hard time really getting something going. It was before even the first patch, and I guess the radical change in terms of cost management made things difficult for me initially. In SC3K, if you could afford zoning/plopping something, you could afford its upkeep easily. In SC4, all of a sudden plop/zoning cost was nothing, but maintenance cost... jeez, a few basketball courts too many could break your neck. Then I lost SC4 from my radar somehow. When the RH addon came out, I wanted to get both finally, but while the basic game could be bought anywhere for a few bucks, RH was incredibly hard to come by. I finally managed to buy both in 2004, though, and immediately started to get really involved in the game. I know SimCity right from the start - played the original SimCity first with a friend on his PC/XT with amber monitor, later on my own Amiga 500 - and even later on my first PC. Naturally, SC2K followed. I also liked a "multiplayer" edition of SC2K where you could buy land on which to build your city. The SCURK (SimCity Urban Renewal Kit), which enabled you to replace in-game buildings with your own (or other peoples') hand-drawn stuff is also the first time I discovered custom content for SimCity. I dipped my toe in it a little, but it didn't amount to much. SC3000 was the logical next step, and SC3K.  I also got the BAP (and later the BAP+) to make custom buildings. SC3000 marks the first time I went hunting for custom content on the 'net in addition to fiddling around with it on my own PC. I didn't contribute anything, though.  
     
    ST:  What aspect of SC4 do you enjoy most – what keeps you coming back?
     
    T Wrecks:  What I like most about the game is that the city behaves almost like something alive. You control many parameters, and yet a city can always surprise you. Turn your back on a totally uninteresting spot to take care of something, only to find something totally surprising has developed in the meantime. That, and the fact that it is totally not based on levels, scenarios, a story, fixed goals or anything - you have zillions of possibilities, and the resulting cities and regions are as individual as your handwriting. I also like how relaxing it can be. Sometimes I like to sit back and just look at those tiny cars driving around in my city. Last but not least, the vast modding possibilities keep me coming back more than the actual game these days. There is always so much more you could add...  
     
    ST:  Before we jump into the all the custom content questions, I’m curious… what is your favorite Maxis lot/BAT?
     
    T Wrecks:  Phew, that's a difficult one. I don't think I have THE favourite building. I like several that are very well done IMO, even if they are not too spectacular. Many of the small family homes are really decent IMO. Other buildings I (almost) always like when they pop up include White's Clothier, Brown & Sons (a very rarely growing building), Mace Co., Schnittjer Printing, Strang Deeds Office Tower, Kanarowski & Co., Futa Consulting, Goldman Building / Hourvitz Accounting (really pretty much the same building), West & Co., The Pratt, Hi-Rise Apts (Chicago tileset), Simon Manor, Jolly Manor, Wallace Manor, The Long Building, Butts Condos, Russo Condos... The lots are mostly pretty poor, but Maxis had to make ends meet with a severly limited amount of props and textures - not to mention that RCI lots needed to accommodate several buildings of a family. When you mass produce, you can't work wonders... I know that myself because some of my projects (such as the IRM) also involved a high degree of mass production. 
     
    ST:  Do you recall the first plugin you installed?
     
    T Wrecks:  No, I'm afraid not. No idea, really.  
     
    ST:  What led you to Simtropolis at first?  Can you remember your initial impressions of the site?
     
    T Wrecks:  I was looking for custom content, of course! I must have visited Simtropolis long before I registered, because when I finally signed up, I know I had vague memories of the site, even though it looked much different back then. I don't remember any particular first impressions (it was more than 10 years ago, give me a break!), but I do remember that I found not only a place to download stuff, but also a promising community. When I commented on a CJ posted by an Austrian player, michi5, he invited me over to the German-speaking community - an involvement that would lead me to becoming a member of the SFBT. However, I'm no longer active in said German community, but I never felt like leaving ST.  
     
    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?
     
    T Wrecks:  I don't think so. It was probably more the sheer possibility. As I mentioned above, I also tried my hands at the SCURK for SC2000, the BAP / BA+ for SC3000 / SC3000 Unlimited, and I also tried other custom stuff before. After playing through Duke Nukem 3D, for example, I was more interested in the level editor. I have also made waypoints for a Counter-Strike (1.5/1.6) bot before, and the Half-Life level editor is not unknown to me, either. Guess I just have a tendency to get fascinated by editors and their potential. It's not so much about any particular item.  
     
    ST:  Speaking of first steps, what was the very first thing that you lotted using the LE?  Do you still have a screen shot?
     
    T Wrecks:  I don't have the slightest idea, let alone a screenshot, sorry. :/  
     
    ST:  You’ve been creating unique and beautiful lots for quite some time, but if members were to search your library of STEX files they would only come up with about 2 pages worth.  Yet, you are constantly creating the lots for many of the great BATers on this site.  So best guess, how many of your lots are on the STEX?
     
    T Wrecks:  Argh, another difficult one. Counted in STEX uploads (and not in actual .sc4lot files), I guess there may be up to 100 in addition to what I have released under my own name. Add to this a further 50 or more over at kurier.simcityplaza.de, where I used to be involved in the modding, lotting, translation, and packaging of uploads. All the NDEX files you can find there, for example, have been tweaked and often re-lotted by me. In the end, I don't care about numbers that much. I'm rather glad that I could help several great BATters to get their stuff on the STEX!  
     
    ST:  As a lotter myself, I find lotting can put me in a peaceful Zen state.  What do you enjoy about lotting and what keeps you firing up the LE after so many years?  
     
    T Wrecks:  Peaceful Zen state? Hmm... I don't really know if I share this feeling. I guess it can be close to that if you're not doing a boring routine task, and if things are going together all right. Other times, it can be tedious and a bit boring. The actual act of lotting is pretty ok, I guess, but what motivates me most is when I see how I can make the lot complement a building as seamlessly as possible, and - in the case of a re-lot - when I check out the lot in game and see how it's much better than the original lot, at least according to my taste. Ultimately, it's not the process of lotting itself, but the satisfaction of getting a result that conforms to my taste and liking that motivates me.  
     
    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 lotting process?
     
    T Wrecks:  Sometimes it's the very beginning: Sitting in front of an empty lot and not knowing what to do with it, trying out many designs that don't work... sometimes it's repetition: one down, five more versions to go... However, the parts I like least in general are all the activities that don't have to do with the actual lotting: determining stats, recording them in my ever growing database, fixing file properties, and worst of all: documentation, packaging and uploading. I really hate that part. Did I mention making menu icons? No? Well, then: making menu icons.  
     
    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 lots pop up in CJs?
     
    T Wrecks:  Hm, I figure since I have taken so much and since I mod the heck out of my plugins anyway, it would be only logical and fair to give something back and share some of the stuff that I have on my HD anyway. It's nice when you post a question because you're trying to do something, and people not only help you, but also take interest in that project of yours - that's how it started for me. That's what convinced me that my stuff may be interesting for others initially. These days, what I enjoy most - more than STEX comments, although I do appreciate these! - is players actually using something I made. It shows me that I haven't uploaded those files for nothing, and as a bonus it's often interesting for me to see how players will use my creations. Sometimes I see applications that I would never have thought of myself.  
     
    ST:  You have been lotting for almost 10 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?
     
    T Wrecks:  Hm, I kinda like the relots of . IDS Offices may also be one of my better lots. But that's only the optical side of affairs...On a larger scale, I'm most proud of the fact that I contributed a little bit towards taking more care of the stats of BATs and lots, and I also think the is not too shabby because it has expanded into an entire lot family - and a big family at that! Now that I think about it, those low-wealth mega lot sets I made based on 645978's buildings were pretty popular in their time, and my first modular set of lots. I still have fond memories of them - and even a screenshot from the day the first one became a STEX feature! I hope you can excuse the crappy quality and low resolution:
     

     
    Fun facts or stories? I'm afraid there are none that I remember, and if I don't remember them, they probably haven't been all that interesting in the first place. It's really boring work, haha.  
     
    ST:  Has your experience with SC4 custom content had any influence on your personal or professional life?  Are there any skills that you have developed over your lotting career that have helped you beyond the world of SC4?
     
    T Wrecks:  Yes, there has been some degree of influence. The German SC4 community has brought me into personal contact with several people, and I mean not only contact over the 'net. What began as a pleasant, but absolutely unintended side product evolved into a chain of acquantainces and friendships up to and including a girlfriend - these days, we're no longer together, but still good friends even after many years, although she's the only one who remains from that time. So much for personal life... As far as my professional life is concerned, I'd say that there have been indirect influences. Obviously my incredibly spectacular skills at pushing props around in the Lot Editor and clicking on boxes (*gasp*) have not led to my running a blue chip company now, and neither has my ability to convert from decimal into hexadecimal on a very low level (2A = 42) without using a calculator resulted in a position as CIO. Lotting IS a pretty trivial task, after all, and there's not much "RL carryover", as you might call it. However, hanging around in an English-speaking community for 10 years is certainly not detrimental to your language proficiency, and as a professional translator, I can always use that. In this respect, my hobby lotting/modding has certainly been more helpful than jazzdance or collecting stamps. Private life and job life aside, such an international community also gets you into contact with a very broad variety of people and widens your horizon. This may not result in any direct benefits, but I still think it can be an important lesson for life in general.  
     
    ST:  What advice would you give to a new member of this community who was planning on creating their first lot?
     
    T Wrecks:  Three words: Start a thread. Next to that, be prepared to read a lot.There's vast knowledge floating around, but it's not very well catalogued. Old hands may be able to direct you towards useful resources, or they may point out stuff that's hard to find in writing out there. Starting a thread is very useful to gather feedback, and if you're doing it right, you will learn more than by merely asking. How so? Well, if you ask something, you'll get a solution - hopefully. If you present your progress in a thread additionally, people may suggest things and mention stuff you haven't been aware of before. They may cause you to consider solutions that you wouldn't have considered by yourself or that you didn't even know about. Ultimately, however, you should take care to do what you like best, or you may end up being torn between different options favoured by your thread followers and not knowing which way to go.By the way, the Lot Editor comes with a manual. It's in your root SimCity 4 directory, and Maxis doesn't really rub its existence in your face, but it is there. This should be enough to teach you the basics. The rest is patience, ideas, and some hints found here and there and/or provided by other community members. You should also be prepared to use , and possibly as well.Finally my catch phrase: Always start with an empty plugins folder! Get to know your props and textures, and use them sparingly.  
     
    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.).
     
    T Wrecks:  I don't really follow anything in particular. If it's on the frontpage and catches my interest, I'll take a look. Otherwise, not so much. It's not that I don't respect the CJers' work (many of them are amazing!), but I'm simply not into that "following a CJ" thing. I do find myself taking a look into Ln X' "" pretty often recently because we now have CJ features, this particular CJ is often featured these days, and Ln X often uses stuff I made. It's a good way for me to check out some of my stuff "out in the wild". If it wasn't for the features, however, I might not even know that this CJ exists.  
     
    ST:  On the ‘builders’ side, do you have any favorite BATers that you enjoy following?   What was your most recent download from the STEX?
     
    T Wrecks:  All of the above! Seriously, if there's a BAT thread, then I'm following it. Usually when I turn off my notebook and go to bed, not a single BAT thread here on Simtrop has unread replies.I don't exactly remember the most recent download because I don't download that regularly these days - no need to because I haven't actually played the game in years. I do download whatever is relevant to my interests every now and then, but the intervals tend to be long. One person I'd like to highlight is C.P. aka Cycledogg. Especially from a lotter's point of view, his work is awesome. In addition to great BATs, the use of custom foundations for slope-friendly buildings and the "invention" of shaded props (which I like to use a lot), he has organised his props into hundreds of prop families, making it so much easier to add variation to a lot. There are cars that appear and disappear at certain times of the day or have a certain probability of appearing in general, there are prop foundations, there are seasonal props, there are angled versions... and he even took it upon himself to go through most of his flora props again, re-render and re-organise them, updating the packages, and even making cohort files for the prop families so that a proper name shows up in the list instead of a hexadecimal ID. That's an insane amount of work, and I can only begin to imagine how much dedication, diligence, and persistence must have gone into that. He's by far not the only one who has made valuable contributions for the community, but I think he deserves particular praise from the perspective of a lotter. 
     
     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?
     
    T Wrecks:  Not that surprised, actually. Open up a game to additional custom content, make that game one that ages well (i.e., a game that doesn't depend on visual effects that much), fail to release a successor deemed worthy by the fans, and you have a pretty decent chance of a fan community taking things into their own hands. I'm also thinking of Chris Sawyer's Transport Tycoon right now, a much older game than SimCity 4. It has been "re-released" as fully open source software, OpenTTD, and the community keeps making great mods, just like the SimCity crowd. These can't be the only examples, either. Another aspect that certainly helps is the attitude that all content is offered free of charge, made by fans, made for fans. This eliminates barriers, helps to attract newcomers, and ensures good circulation of the files. Otherwise we may have a situation where downloads rot away behind paywalls on several private websites that become inactive as soon as their owners disappear from the community, and eventually vanish as well. I've witnessed some pretty nasty quarrels over paid downloads for the Sims games. That was quite a shock for me because I thought all custom content communities were like the SimCity crowd more or less.12 years from now? EA will surely have released a great successor in the vein of SC4 by then! Ok, silly jokes aside: 12 years are a lot, so there really is no telling. I see more than enough strength in the community to last for another 5-6 years, that's for sure. We'll see about the rest. With C:S being out now, I sometimes get that sad feeling that the SC4 community might fall apart sooner than we think. While I'm happy for all those players who eagerly anticipated a true "3D SimCity" experience and wish them tons of fun with this new game, I have always had other priorities for a SimCity successor (deeper regional concept, non-rectangular lots, procedural lots, shopping and tourism traffic, surface water, mixed-use buildings, defined W2W areas and other zone-specific regulations, non-rectangular maps / definable city limits, to mention just a few ideas). This is why C:S is not simply a great relief for me: "Finally 3D!" "Finally no longer SC4!" - just like many players may think. For me, however, it also marks the possible departure from something that I have always liked, and that ended up playing an important role in my free time. It marks what may be the autumn in SC4's life cycle, and this thought makes me a little sad and nostalgic. I know I will miss the discussions in BAT threads when it's finally over. But here's to hoping that we'll be able to keep SC4 alive as a long-time niche game!  
     
    ST:  Speaking of Cities:Skylines... have you played it yet?  If not, what are you first impressions based on the mountain of feedback available here on Simtropolis or around the web?
     
    T Wrecks:  I don't even have a PC capable of handling it, and won't have for several months. Even if I had one, my primary goal is getting back to actually playing SC4 again after a long hiatus. So no, no first-hand experience with C:S yet. From what I see, it looks rather different. So far, the overall aesthetics don't really appeal to me since I tend to prefer highly detailed 2D over low-poly 3D. This may change as further mods are being made, but for now it's not causing me to hyperventilate. It is, of course, one of the games on my "watch list"!  
     
    ST:  12 years later, many are calling this game the 'successor' to SC4 and the city building genera.  What are your thoughts?
     
    T Wrecks:  Apparently the creators did a much better job than even EA themselves and managed to accommodate many of the primary wishes of the SimCity fan community. So yes, I guess it could be called a "successor" in spirit - just like the Age of Wonders franchise can be called a "successor" of Microprose's Master of Magic, or Freelancer a "successor" of Wing Commander: Privateer. We'll know more once the dust settles, and I won't comment very much without having played the game myself.  
     
    ST:  It will take plenty time before C:S can rival the amount of custom content available for SC4, but the developers have really encouraged modding, and there are already many new buildings and 'assets' that can be found on Simtropolis and the steam workshop.  Are you encouraged to leap into C:S custom content?
     
    T Wrecks: Not in the foreseeable future. I got a few months' worth of SC4 content on my 'to do' list, and then I want to PLAY some SC4. Afterwards, and when I have a better PC (if I even buy one instead of rediscovering yet another retro game that captures my limited free time!), we shall see. The retro gaming aspect really holds some importance. You see, the last time I bought a game was in early 2014 - and it was a retro game! The last halfways up-to-date game I bought? I don't even remember that. More than 5 years ago for sure. This is just to explain what some may perceive as an odd lack of enthusiasm. I just have a tendency to enjoy old games with a high replay value, and since I don't have much time on my hands, me buying a new game is something of a snowball in hell event. I must say, though, that the possibility to build intersections and turn the entire structure into a pre-fab element strikes me as an admirably smart move by the developers. Looks like they also thought about the aspect of getting these assets into the game, with some user-friendly features such as using the editor itself to take a screenshot of the finished asset and introducing it into the game as the menu icon for this new asset - quite a progress compared to the tedious process of making in-game icons for SC4 content! I can guarantee, however, that you won't see my name attached to a C:S upload any time in 2015. Maybe later.  
     
    ST:  Are there any games you play besides SC4? What other hobbies do you have away from lotting/modding and SimCity?
     
    T Wrecks:  Although I did play first-person shooters when I was younger, I always had a liking for round-based RPGs and strategy games, 4X games, occasionally some RTS. Notable examples of other games than SimCity that I really liked are Master of Orion 1 and 2 (round-based 4X in a sci-fi universe), Master of Magic (think of Civilization 1 with heroes, spells and magical creatures) and its inofficial successors, the Age of Wonders franchise. Transport Tycoon (these days, OpenTTD) certainly deserves a mention, as does the Earth 2150 franchise (innovative 3D sci-fi RTS with modular units, research, experience system, ammo, etc.). I'm so retro! In my defense, however, I can say that they just don't make them like this any more, and that's not a lie. What I'd give for a subtly improved Transport Tycoon with up-to-date graphics! And don't even get me started about SimCity... Away from my SimCity-related hobbies, I occasionally build scale model ships - non-military stuff like ocean liners or tug boats because they're more colourful and involve fewer repetitive tasks. I have enough of that in the Lot Editor! As a counterpart to that indoor stuff, I really like to ride my bike out of the city and go swimming. I prefer lakes over pools because I like to be out in nature, and preferably not surrounded by people. Too many people around me make me aggressive in the long term, so it's a great way to recharge my batteries. I also like to go hiking. Doing sports in a way that's focused on performance (faster, longer, higher) is not my way at all, but I need to be on the move occasionally.I also like music, so I go to live concerts and festivals a lot.  
     
    ST:  What question have I not asked that I should have?
     
    T Wrecks:  Hm, maybe about my future plans or my goals in terms of SimCity. Tucked away deep inside my mind is that little hope that one day I might actually play the game again. But the way I know me, after a few days I'll find that something is sorely lacking, and go back to the drawing board...
  25. Aaron Graham liked an article by SimCoug, 100 Million STEX DL: An Interview with T Wrecks   
    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?
     
    T Wrecks:  I think I first borrowed SC4 (pre-RH) from a friend a short time after its release, liked the graphics, but had a hard time really getting something going. It was before even the first patch, and I guess the radical change in terms of cost management made things difficult for me initially. In SC3K, if you could afford zoning/plopping something, you could afford its upkeep easily. In SC4, all of a sudden plop/zoning cost was nothing, but maintenance cost... jeez, a few basketball courts too many could break your neck. Then I lost SC4 from my radar somehow. When the RH addon came out, I wanted to get both finally, but while the basic game could be bought anywhere for a few bucks, RH was incredibly hard to come by. I finally managed to buy both in 2004, though, and immediately started to get really involved in the game. I know SimCity right from the start - played the original SimCity first with a friend on his PC/XT with amber monitor, later on my own Amiga 500 - and even later on my first PC. Naturally, SC2K followed. I also liked a "multiplayer" edition of SC2K where you could buy land on which to build your city. The SCURK (SimCity Urban Renewal Kit), which enabled you to replace in-game buildings with your own (or other peoples') hand-drawn stuff is also the first time I discovered custom content for SimCity. I dipped my toe in it a little, but it didn't amount to much. SC3000 was the logical next step, and SC3K.  I also got the BAP (and later the BAP+) to make custom buildings. SC3000 marks the first time I went hunting for custom content on the 'net in addition to fiddling around with it on my own PC. I didn't contribute anything, though.  
     
    ST:  What aspect of SC4 do you enjoy most – what keeps you coming back?
     
    T Wrecks:  What I like most about the game is that the city behaves almost like something alive. You control many parameters, and yet a city can always surprise you. Turn your back on a totally uninteresting spot to take care of something, only to find something totally surprising has developed in the meantime. That, and the fact that it is totally not based on levels, scenarios, a story, fixed goals or anything - you have zillions of possibilities, and the resulting cities and regions are as individual as your handwriting. I also like how relaxing it can be. Sometimes I like to sit back and just look at those tiny cars driving around in my city. Last but not least, the vast modding possibilities keep me coming back more than the actual game these days. There is always so much more you could add...  
     
    ST:  Before we jump into the all the custom content questions, I’m curious… what is your favorite Maxis lot/BAT?
     
    T Wrecks:  Phew, that's a difficult one. I don't think I have THE favourite building. I like several that are very well done IMO, even if they are not too spectacular. Many of the small family homes are really decent IMO. Other buildings I (almost) always like when they pop up include White's Clothier, Brown & Sons (a very rarely growing building), Mace Co., Schnittjer Printing, Strang Deeds Office Tower, Kanarowski & Co., Futa Consulting, Goldman Building / Hourvitz Accounting (really pretty much the same building), West & Co., The Pratt, Hi-Rise Apts (Chicago tileset), Simon Manor, Jolly Manor, Wallace Manor, The Long Building, Butts Condos, Russo Condos... The lots are mostly pretty poor, but Maxis had to make ends meet with a severly limited amount of props and textures - not to mention that RCI lots needed to accommodate several buildings of a family. When you mass produce, you can't work wonders... I know that myself because some of my projects (such as the IRM) also involved a high degree of mass production. 
     
    ST:  Do you recall the first plugin you installed?
     
    T Wrecks:  No, I'm afraid not. No idea, really.  
     
    ST:  What led you to Simtropolis at first?  Can you remember your initial impressions of the site?
     
    T Wrecks:  I was looking for custom content, of course! I must have visited Simtropolis long before I registered, because when I finally signed up, I know I had vague memories of the site, even though it looked much different back then. I don't remember any particular first impressions (it was more than 10 years ago, give me a break!), but I do remember that I found not only a place to download stuff, but also a promising community. When I commented on a CJ posted by an Austrian player, michi5, he invited me over to the German-speaking community - an involvement that would lead me to becoming a member of the SFBT. However, I'm no longer active in said German community, but I never felt like leaving ST.  
     
    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?
     
    T Wrecks:  I don't think so. It was probably more the sheer possibility. As I mentioned above, I also tried my hands at the SCURK for SC2000, the BAP / BA+ for SC3000 / SC3000 Unlimited, and I also tried other custom stuff before. After playing through Duke Nukem 3D, for example, I was more interested in the level editor. I have also made waypoints for a Counter-Strike (1.5/1.6) bot before, and the Half-Life level editor is not unknown to me, either. Guess I just have a tendency to get fascinated by editors and their potential. It's not so much about any particular item.  
     
    ST:  Speaking of first steps, what was the very first thing that you lotted using the LE?  Do you still have a screen shot?
     
    T Wrecks:  I don't have the slightest idea, let alone a screenshot, sorry. :/  
     
    ST:  You’ve been creating unique and beautiful lots for quite some time, but if members were to search your library of STEX files they would only come up with about 2 pages worth.  Yet, you are constantly creating the lots for many of the great BATers on this site.  So best guess, how many of your lots are on the STEX?
     
    T Wrecks:  Argh, another difficult one. Counted in STEX uploads (and not in actual .sc4lot files), I guess there may be up to 100 in addition to what I have released under my own name. Add to this a further 50 or more over at kurier.simcityplaza.de, where I used to be involved in the modding, lotting, translation, and packaging of uploads. All the NDEX files you can find there, for example, have been tweaked and often re-lotted by me. In the end, I don't care about numbers that much. I'm rather glad that I could help several great BATters to get their stuff on the STEX!  
     
    ST:  As a lotter myself, I find lotting can put me in a peaceful Zen state.  What do you enjoy about lotting and what keeps you firing up the LE after so many years?  
     
    T Wrecks:  Peaceful Zen state? Hmm... I don't really know if I share this feeling. I guess it can be close to that if you're not doing a boring routine task, and if things are going together all right. Other times, it can be tedious and a bit boring. The actual act of lotting is pretty ok, I guess, but what motivates me most is when I see how I can make the lot complement a building as seamlessly as possible, and - in the case of a re-lot - when I check out the lot in game and see how it's much better than the original lot, at least according to my taste. Ultimately, it's not the process of lotting itself, but the satisfaction of getting a result that conforms to my taste and liking that motivates me.  
     
    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 lotting process?
     
    T Wrecks:  Sometimes it's the very beginning: Sitting in front of an empty lot and not knowing what to do with it, trying out many designs that don't work... sometimes it's repetition: one down, five more versions to go... However, the parts I like least in general are all the activities that don't have to do with the actual lotting: determining stats, recording them in my ever growing database, fixing file properties, and worst of all: documentation, packaging and uploading. I really hate that part. Did I mention making menu icons? No? Well, then: making menu icons.  
     
    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 lots pop up in CJs?
     
    T Wrecks:  Hm, I figure since I have taken so much and since I mod the heck out of my plugins anyway, it would be only logical and fair to give something back and share some of the stuff that I have on my HD anyway. It's nice when you post a question because you're trying to do something, and people not only help you, but also take interest in that project of yours - that's how it started for me. That's what convinced me that my stuff may be interesting for others initially. These days, what I enjoy most - more than STEX comments, although I do appreciate these! - is players actually using something I made. It shows me that I haven't uploaded those files for nothing, and as a bonus it's often interesting for me to see how players will use my creations. Sometimes I see applications that I would never have thought of myself.  
     
    ST:  You have been lotting for almost 10 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?
     
    T Wrecks:  Hm, I kinda like the relots of . IDS Offices may also be one of my better lots. But that's only the optical side of affairs...On a larger scale, I'm most proud of the fact that I contributed a little bit towards taking more care of the stats of BATs and lots, and I also think the is not too shabby because it has expanded into an entire lot family - and a big family at that! Now that I think about it, those low-wealth mega lot sets I made based on 645978's buildings were pretty popular in their time, and my first modular set of lots. I still have fond memories of them - and even a screenshot from the day the first one became a STEX feature! I hope you can excuse the crappy quality and low resolution:
     

     
    Fun facts or stories? I'm afraid there are none that I remember, and if I don't remember them, they probably haven't been all that interesting in the first place. It's really boring work, haha.  
     
    ST:  Has your experience with SC4 custom content had any influence on your personal or professional life?  Are there any skills that you have developed over your lotting career that have helped you beyond the world of SC4?
     
    T Wrecks:  Yes, there has been some degree of influence. The German SC4 community has brought me into personal contact with several people, and I mean not only contact over the 'net. What began as a pleasant, but absolutely unintended side product evolved into a chain of acquantainces and friendships up to and including a girlfriend - these days, we're no longer together, but still good friends even after many years, although she's the only one who remains from that time. So much for personal life... As far as my professional life is concerned, I'd say that there have been indirect influences. Obviously my incredibly spectacular skills at pushing props around in the Lot Editor and clicking on boxes (*gasp*) have not led to my running a blue chip company now, and neither has my ability to convert from decimal into hexadecimal on a very low level (2A = 42) without using a calculator resulted in a position as CIO. Lotting IS a pretty trivial task, after all, and there's not much "RL carryover", as you might call it. However, hanging around in an English-speaking community for 10 years is certainly not detrimental to your language proficiency, and as a professional translator, I can always use that. In this respect, my hobby lotting/modding has certainly been more helpful than jazzdance or collecting stamps. Private life and job life aside, such an international community also gets you into contact with a very broad variety of people and widens your horizon. This may not result in any direct benefits, but I still think it can be an important lesson for life in general.  
     
    ST:  What advice would you give to a new member of this community who was planning on creating their first lot?
     
    T Wrecks:  Three words: Start a thread. Next to that, be prepared to read a lot.There's vast knowledge floating around, but it's not very well catalogued. Old hands may be able to direct you towards useful resources, or they may point out stuff that's hard to find in writing out there. Starting a thread is very useful to gather feedback, and if you're doing it right, you will learn more than by merely asking. How so? Well, if you ask something, you'll get a solution - hopefully. If you present your progress in a thread additionally, people may suggest things and mention stuff you haven't been aware of before. They may cause you to consider solutions that you wouldn't have considered by yourself or that you didn't even know about. Ultimately, however, you should take care to do what you like best, or you may end up being torn between different options favoured by your thread followers and not knowing which way to go.By the way, the Lot Editor comes with a manual. It's in your root SimCity 4 directory, and Maxis doesn't really rub its existence in your face, but it is there. This should be enough to teach you the basics. The rest is patience, ideas, and some hints found here and there and/or provided by other community members. You should also be prepared to use , and possibly as well.Finally my catch phrase: Always start with an empty plugins folder! Get to know your props and textures, and use them sparingly.  
     
    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.).
     
    T Wrecks:  I don't really follow anything in particular. If it's on the frontpage and catches my interest, I'll take a look. Otherwise, not so much. It's not that I don't respect the CJers' work (many of them are amazing!), but I'm simply not into that "following a CJ" thing. I do find myself taking a look into Ln X' "" pretty often recently because we now have CJ features, this particular CJ is often featured these days, and Ln X often uses stuff I made. It's a good way for me to check out some of my stuff "out in the wild". If it wasn't for the features, however, I might not even know that this CJ exists.  
     
    ST:  On the ‘builders’ side, do you have any favorite BATers that you enjoy following?   What was your most recent download from the STEX?
     
    T Wrecks:  All of the above! Seriously, if there's a BAT thread, then I'm following it. Usually when I turn off my notebook and go to bed, not a single BAT thread here on Simtrop has unread replies.I don't exactly remember the most recent download because I don't download that regularly these days - no need to because I haven't actually played the game in years. I do download whatever is relevant to my interests every now and then, but the intervals tend to be long. One person I'd like to highlight is C.P. aka Cycledogg. Especially from a lotter's point of view, his work is awesome. In addition to great BATs, the use of custom foundations for slope-friendly buildings and the "invention" of shaded props (which I like to use a lot), he has organised his props into hundreds of prop families, making it so much easier to add variation to a lot. There are cars that appear and disappear at certain times of the day or have a certain probability of appearing in general, there are prop foundations, there are seasonal props, there are angled versions... and he even took it upon himself to go through most of his flora props again, re-render and re-organise them, updating the packages, and even making cohort files for the prop families so that a proper name shows up in the list instead of a hexadecimal ID. That's an insane amount of work, and I can only begin to imagine how much dedication, diligence, and persistence must have gone into that. He's by far not the only one who has made valuable contributions for the community, but I think he deserves particular praise from the perspective of a lotter. 
     
     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?
     
    T Wrecks:  Not that surprised, actually. Open up a game to additional custom content, make that game one that ages well (i.e., a game that doesn't depend on visual effects that much), fail to release a successor deemed worthy by the fans, and you have a pretty decent chance of a fan community taking things into their own hands. I'm also thinking of Chris Sawyer's Transport Tycoon right now, a much older game than SimCity 4. It has been "re-released" as fully open source software, OpenTTD, and the community keeps making great mods, just like the SimCity crowd. These can't be the only examples, either. Another aspect that certainly helps is the attitude that all content is offered free of charge, made by fans, made for fans. This eliminates barriers, helps to attract newcomers, and ensures good circulation of the files. Otherwise we may have a situation where downloads rot away behind paywalls on several private websites that become inactive as soon as their owners disappear from the community, and eventually vanish as well. I've witnessed some pretty nasty quarrels over paid downloads for the Sims games. That was quite a shock for me because I thought all custom content communities were like the SimCity crowd more or less.12 years from now? EA will surely have released a great successor in the vein of SC4 by then! Ok, silly jokes aside: 12 years are a lot, so there really is no telling. I see more than enough strength in the community to last for another 5-6 years, that's for sure. We'll see about the rest. With C:S being out now, I sometimes get that sad feeling that the SC4 community might fall apart sooner than we think. While I'm happy for all those players who eagerly anticipated a true "3D SimCity" experience and wish them tons of fun with this new game, I have always had other priorities for a SimCity successor (deeper regional concept, non-rectangular lots, procedural lots, shopping and tourism traffic, surface water, mixed-use buildings, defined W2W areas and other zone-specific regulations, non-rectangular maps / definable city limits, to mention just a few ideas). This is why C:S is not simply a great relief for me: "Finally 3D!" "Finally no longer SC4!" - just like many players may think. For me, however, it also marks the possible departure from something that I have always liked, and that ended up playing an important role in my free time. It marks what may be the autumn in SC4's life cycle, and this thought makes me a little sad and nostalgic. I know I will miss the discussions in BAT threads when it's finally over. But here's to hoping that we'll be able to keep SC4 alive as a long-time niche game!  
     
    ST:  Speaking of Cities:Skylines... have you played it yet?  If not, what are you first impressions based on the mountain of feedback available here on Simtropolis or around the web?
     
    T Wrecks:  I don't even have a PC capable of handling it, and won't have for several months. Even if I had one, my primary goal is getting back to actually playing SC4 again after a long hiatus. So no, no first-hand experience with C:S yet. From what I see, it looks rather different. So far, the overall aesthetics don't really appeal to me since I tend to prefer highly detailed 2D over low-poly 3D. This may change as further mods are being made, but for now it's not causing me to hyperventilate. It is, of course, one of the games on my "watch list"!  
     
    ST:  12 years later, many are calling this game the 'successor' to SC4 and the city building genera.  What are your thoughts?
     
    T Wrecks:  Apparently the creators did a much better job than even EA themselves and managed to accommodate many of the primary wishes of the SimCity fan community. So yes, I guess it could be called a "successor" in spirit - just like the Age of Wonders franchise can be called a "successor" of Microprose's Master of Magic, or Freelancer a "successor" of Wing Commander: Privateer. We'll know more once the dust settles, and I won't comment very much without having played the game myself.  
     
    ST:  It will take plenty time before C:S can rival the amount of custom content available for SC4, but the developers have really encouraged modding, and there are already many new buildings and 'assets' that can be found on Simtropolis and the steam workshop.  Are you encouraged to leap into C:S custom content?
     
    T Wrecks: Not in the foreseeable future. I got a few months' worth of SC4 content on my 'to do' list, and then I want to PLAY some SC4. Afterwards, and when I have a better PC (if I even buy one instead of rediscovering yet another retro game that captures my limited free time!), we shall see. The retro gaming aspect really holds some importance. You see, the last time I bought a game was in early 2014 - and it was a retro game! The last halfways up-to-date game I bought? I don't even remember that. More than 5 years ago for sure. This is just to explain what some may perceive as an odd lack of enthusiasm. I just have a tendency to enjoy old games with a high replay value, and since I don't have much time on my hands, me buying a new game is something of a snowball in hell event. I must say, though, that the possibility to build intersections and turn the entire structure into a pre-fab element strikes me as an admirably smart move by the developers. Looks like they also thought about the aspect of getting these assets into the game, with some user-friendly features such as using the editor itself to take a screenshot of the finished asset and introducing it into the game as the menu icon for this new asset - quite a progress compared to the tedious process of making in-game icons for SC4 content! I can guarantee, however, that you won't see my name attached to a C:S upload any time in 2015. Maybe later.  
     
    ST:  Are there any games you play besides SC4? What other hobbies do you have away from lotting/modding and SimCity?
     
    T Wrecks:  Although I did play first-person shooters when I was younger, I always had a liking for round-based RPGs and strategy games, 4X games, occasionally some RTS. Notable examples of other games than SimCity that I really liked are Master of Orion 1 and 2 (round-based 4X in a sci-fi universe), Master of Magic (think of Civilization 1 with heroes, spells and magical creatures) and its inofficial successors, the Age of Wonders franchise. Transport Tycoon (these days, OpenTTD) certainly deserves a mention, as does the Earth 2150 franchise (innovative 3D sci-fi RTS with modular units, research, experience system, ammo, etc.). I'm so retro! In my defense, however, I can say that they just don't make them like this any more, and that's not a lie. What I'd give for a subtly improved Transport Tycoon with up-to-date graphics! And don't even get me started about SimCity... Away from my SimCity-related hobbies, I occasionally build scale model ships - non-military stuff like ocean liners or tug boats because they're more colourful and involve fewer repetitive tasks. I have enough of that in the Lot Editor! As a counterpart to that indoor stuff, I really like to ride my bike out of the city and go swimming. I prefer lakes over pools because I like to be out in nature, and preferably not surrounded by people. Too many people around me make me aggressive in the long term, so it's a great way to recharge my batteries. I also like to go hiking. Doing sports in a way that's focused on performance (faster, longer, higher) is not my way at all, but I need to be on the move occasionally.I also like music, so I go to live concerts and festivals a lot.  
     
    ST:  What question have I not asked that I should have?
     
    T Wrecks:  Hm, maybe about my future plans or my goals in terms of SimCity. Tucked away deep inside my mind is that little hope that one day I might actually play the game again. But the way I know me, after a few days I'll find that something is sorely lacking, and go back to the drawing board...