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?
MandelSoft: SimCity was not my first introduction to the simulator genre. I once got two sim games for my birthday: Rollercoaster Tycoon 1 and Transport Tycoon Deluxe (yes, the original DOS game). Back then, RCT was already hard to install 135MB on a 4GB hard disk on a Windows 95 PC (boy, those were the times). I had many hours of fun with Transport Tycoon (including the chiptune music in all its glory) and I still play OpenTTD today. More people on this website are familiar with OpenTTD, but I don’t think many have played the original game.
My first introduction to the SimCity series was SimCity 2000. Since I never really got track of that game (I was really young then, probably 6 or 7 years old), I ditched it aside pretty quickly. SimCity 3000 felt a lot better and I enjoyed that game, though I made some quite beginner mistakes.
Then SimCity 4 came along in 2003. I had the vanilla game, but I didn’t got the hang out of it at the first try and I ditched it aside. Yes, a fan like me ditched aside SimCity 4 once for quite a while. But I was just 11 years old back then, and I was probably not old enough to really “get” the game…
Then 2006 came along. I picked up the game again and I finally got how the game works. And I have loved the game ever since! In 2007 I bought Rush Hour (second hand, best purchase ever!) and in October 2007, I discovered Simtropolis. Since then, SimCity 4 has never been the same for me...
ST: What aspect of SC4 do you enjoy most – what keeps you coming back?
MandelSoft: SimCity 4 offers you a toolkit not just to make any city, it offers you the tools to make YOUR city. There are so many ways you can construct a city, how to design the layout, what services you offer, what style of infrastructure and architecture you're going to use and more. With the amount of custom content we have today, the possibilities are endless! I can see that most familiar SimCity 4 players have a distinct style.
ST: Do you recall the first plugin you installed?
MandelSoft: I think it was either the Streetlight Colour Mod or the Network Addon Mod, I can’t recall…
ST: What led you to Simtropolis at first? Can you remember your initial impressions of the site?
MandelSoft: The custom content, of course! I was searching for more possibilities, and especially to make my cities look more Dutch. At first, I only was here to download, but after a while I started browsing the forums. I never could have imagined that I would ever become such an integral part of the community. Everybody has to start somewhere.
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?
MandelSoft: Pffft, I don’t know anymore. I think it was the possibility alone that adding custom models to the game was enough inspiration for me to do my own work. I had some troubles getting gMax to start BATting, though.
ST: Speaking of first steps, what was the very first thing that you modeled using the BAT? Do you still have a screen shot?
MandelSoft: My first BAT was my own house. But it looked horrible, and for a few years I tried to clear them from my cities. My first serious BAT was a Dutch signage pack (and this was released, and deleted again). This one was overscaled quite a lot and poorly modelled. I don’t have pictures of it anymore, but it took me another three versions to get the proportions right.
ST: Your list of uploads is populated by a large number of road mods. Are there any particular reasons for choosing to direct your efforts in this direction, beyond just general roadgeekery?
MandelSoft: Most of these things are easy to model. Most signs only use basic geometry, especially boxes and cylinders. By combining them in a clever way, you can still get a large variety of shapes. One thing you do have to take care of is texturing, which is important with signage. Streetlights are a bit harder to model, but these things are small props, so one model is not really that complex.
However, I didn’t do just easy stuff. Road texture sets are a lot of work. Not because it’s hard, but because there are so many textures to modify. It took me three and a half months to prepare the RHW Euro Texture Set for the RHW 3.0 ready. The Ontario Texture set took me a month (because I had the basic set ready in vector format).
ST: What do you find fascinating about roads and their signage, lighting, etc?
MandelSoft: It’s hard to explain. I just have that odd twitch in my head
ST: What is the thought process behind choosing what to create next?
MandelSoft: There is not much thinking about it. I just choose whatever I like to do next, whatever I can motivate myself for. In some cases, it’s about what I feel missing in the game and what I am able to make.
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?
MandelSoft: Some would say rendering is the least favourite part of the BATting process, but my least favourite part of the process is the finishing of the lots. This means getting the lot descriptions right and adding icons to the lots. Keep in mind that I usually make signage packs of dozens of signs, which means a lot of icons. This becomes a huge pain to make everything look right.
My favourite part is the modelling itself. Just like in SimCity 4, I like to create stuff, to see things come from the mind into reality, regardless if this reality is virtual or not.
ST: Since this is a sort of hobby (in the sense that custom content creators are not paid for their work), what keeps you motivated to continue releasing new creations for the SC4 community to enjoy? How much do comments in the download section mean to you? Is it exciting to see your models used in the CJs of others?
MandelSoft: I really like to see my stuff coming back in other people’s CJs. Then you see that other people really appreciate your work, and that gives me satisfaction. This is also what motivates me to make new stuff, other than the fact that there are some things I really like to see myself in-game.
I usually don’t read many comments, but I do want to take action if somebody comments on a bug.
ST: You released your first file in 2008. Is there any one of your creations that you are particularly proud of? Are there any fun stories or facts relating to some of your works that we don’t know about?
MandelSoft: The thing of quite a few of my creations is that no one really took the effort to do something similar. The Light Replacement Mod (not just replace the light cones, but the lamp posts themselves too) , the Stoplight Replacement Mod, the ploppable streetlights, the Highway Re-Styling Mod. No one has ever really tried and released such a feat. Also, there were a few signage sets in the past, but I really expanded the choice with a lot of European signage styles. I’m also very fond of my NAM creations, but that’s pure teamwork and I never got that far without help of my wonderful team mates.
I’m also particularly proud of the Pactagon building. It is a funny looking building, but not too unrealistic. It is a quite original building design to fit on a roundabout center. A worthy headquarters for the NAM Team!
One fact people may not have known before is that one of my mods was inspired by a mod that turned out to be a hoax. There was a project called the M25 Project. Basically this was a quite beautiful looking reskin of the Maxis Highway. At one point, development just stopped. I decided to start over again and make my own set, the Highway Re-Styling Mod. Later, it turned out that my inspiration was a Photoshop hoax. The member who pulled that off has made such a bad name that it may never be mentioned ever again. The same member also worked on a streetlight mod which inspired my Light Replacement Mod. So two hoaxes were eventually realised “properly” by me.
Some other fun facts about some of my other downloads:
Everything in the Frickinhuge Signage Set is either a pun or a reference.
My latest release, the Carthamia Imperial Tower, was made for a friend.
There is a brony advert on the Pactagon Building, as well as a PacMan advert.
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?
MandelSoft: SimCity 4 had one big influence on my life: I became a Civil Engineer because of SimCity 4. I completed a Bachelor degree in Civil Engineering in 2013 and I’m getting my Master’s degree in the specialisation Transport & Planning this year. Thus far I’m the only NAM member with a degree in the field
ST: What advice would you give to a new member of this community who was planning on creating their first BAT?
MandelSoft: I would give three important points to remember:
Start small. Before you can make full-scale buildings, it’s best to start with small stuff like props. This will let you get to know the tools better. If your first project doesn’t succeed, you are more likely to quit. Larger projects often have a larger chance of failure than smaller ones. Therefore, start small.
Never cease experimenting. Change some settings and see what it does, try something new, or just do things without knowing what you are really doing. Experimenting is an important way through which I learned all the skills I have. By experimenting, you get to understand the tools better.
Failure is an option. Yes, you will fail quite a lot along the way when experimenting, but that’s all right; failure is an option. Each failure brings you one step closer to success, since you know what works and what doesn’t work. You have truly failed if you didn’t learn from your failures. So try a lot, fail a lot, but eventually learn a lot.
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.).
MandelSoft: My favourite SimCity landscapes are old cities and night scenes. I have a weak spot for both. In SimCity 4, it’s quite hard to make a city look centuries old. People who pull off that trick earn my deepest respect. These old cities have a very strong own unique character, I like that. I also like night shots, since this shows how the city is alive at night with all the pretty light effects.
I don’t really follow CJs; I usually look around at the “show us your …” sections. I have some people that have inspiring creations. McDuell is completely mad when it comes to building interchanges; he builds one mind-blowing interchange after the other. Haljackey’s “Building a City from Scratch” is a huge undertaking that helped with popularising SimCity 4 again. Both of them should get a lot of respect, but let’s not forget all the other CJers out there that make great and unique content!
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?
MandelSoft: I still have huge respects for the NYBT. The team still produces some high quality BATs for everyone to admire. I also respect Reddonquixotte’s work a lot. Each release of his is a masterpiece!
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?
MandelSoft: I think the secret of the longevity of its community is its general attitude. From what I’ve seen, the SimCity community is highly tolerant, intelligent and respectful. Everyone respects each other, mods are rarely stolen, people have intelligent discussions, not a lot of people ask obvious questions answered hundreds of times and aside from members who have really misbehaved, no one is really hated here and there is always someone there to help you if you have a problem. This is what keeps our community strong. The custom content for this game stretched out the life span of the game too, and the creators are backed up by such a great community!
I still would like to come back to SimCity 4 one day…
ST: Are there any games you play besides SC4? What other hobbies do you have away from BATing and SimCity?
MandelSoft: I haven’t played SimCity 4 lately, due to my work at ProMods for Euro Truck Simulator 2. I’m still building cities and roads, I’m still modelling streetlights and signs, but just for another game. The good thing is that this game offers you a completely different perspective, namely of a driver. This is a quite relaxing game, and I’d recommend to play this game with the ProMods map mod.
I’m also a music producer in the trance genre. I have quite a passion for music making. My work can be found on YouTube and Soundcloud under the name MandelSoft. I have quite some tracks I’m proud of. I can most definitely recommend “Aurora Borealis”, “Moonrise”, “Day of Pi” , “Waves” and “Drifting in Dreams”.
I’m also working on Geofiction projects. Geofiction is the art of creating and maintaining fictional countries. I’m part of a Dutch geofiction-community who share a geofiction-world together. I can use my InkScape skills for various aspects, like drawing maps, flags, infographics, etc. It’s an unusual but interesting hobby. I have met these people in real life and we are a fun group.
ST: What question have I not asked that I should have?
MandelSoft: Maybe what “player” project I participated with I’m the most proud of? That would be the NORO Co-operative. This is a huge multi-player region on SC4Devotion.com with the crème de la crème of the SimCity 4 building community. It’s a high-quality region with a lot of challenges. I’d recommend everyone to take a look over there. You’ll find some great inspiration how to make your cities look a lot better!
Best regards from your head-banging NAM-Pony,
Interview questions by SimCoug and NMUSpidey (but mostly SimCoug), MandelSoft interview conducted by NMUSpidey