As one of the most prolific, experienced BATers out there, my next interviewee worked hard to bring the Midwest to life in SimCity 4 with the Barry Sanders Project, which has since become mipro. Calling the great (and underrated) American state of Michigan home, Jasoncw has been BATing for longer than I have even been active. His buildings are realistic, detailed, and look just awesome in my cities, and probably yours, too! So, without wasting any more of your time, Jasoncw!
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?
Jasoncw: My first involvement with SimCity was the original. I had to have my brother start the game using the command line in DOS. I’d start a new city (usually Jasonville or something similar), plop the airport, and then fill an area with roads, because a cluster of 4-way stops looked like a parking lot. And then I’d have no money and that would be the end of it. For SC2K I was old enough to actually play the game.
Before SC3K came out I was so blown away by the graphics that I told my friend the resolution was so high that you could even see inside the windows. That wasn't completely true, but compared to SC2K's graphics it might as well have been. I had a demo of the game where you could build a city, but only for about 20 minutes before it would kick you out, making you start over next time. I played it for hours on end before finally getting the full game.
ST: What aspect of SC4 do you enjoy most – what keeps you coming back?
Jasoncw: Considering how rarely I actually play the game, the answer would be BATing, but the truth is that if it weren't for the community I wouldn't be BATing, so it’s the community that keeps me coming back.
ST: Do you recall the first plugin you installed?
Jasoncw: I don’t, but I do have fond memories of certain early plugins. The Liberty Building, Buffalo City Hall, and Niagara Mohawk Building, by Sabrethooth78, the Chicago Tribune Building by Prepo, and Western Investments by ONeil_1. Pegasus’s Garbage Chute was both very useful and very funny.
ST: What led you to Simtropolis at first? Can you remember your initial impressions of the site?
Jasoncw: Despite being an active SC4 player and a lifelong SimCity fan, my reason for coming to Simtropolis had nothing to do with SimCity! I wanted to learn 3d modeling and found gmax, and needed the BAT gamepack in order to render things. I came to Simtropolis for gmax tutorials.
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?
Jasoncw: SimMars was close to my original intention of modeling science fiction stuff, so I started making things for SimMars, but it didn't take very long for me to start making normal buildings.
ST: Speaking of first steps, what was the very first thing that you modeled using the BAT? Do you still have a screen shot?
Jasoncw: I’m pretty well organized and I keep everything, but somewhere along the line I lost a lot of my early stuff. Below are the earliest things I was able to find, I believe from fall and winter of 2004. My first upload was in spring of 2005. The BATs to the left were intended for SimMars.
ST: Many of your BATs are released under the mipro (originally BSP) banner. For those who may not know much about mipro, can you elaborate on what you guys are about/how you are organized and what your role in it is?
Jasoncw: mipro is dedicated to recreating buildings from the US State of Michigan, including Detroit.
During the time that I was getting into BATing I was also getting into Detroit’s architectural history and development news, the BSP thread was very active, and a lot of the early BSP members were the same people I was interacting with on other urbanism/Detroit forums. So a lot of different things converged, and it was inevitable that I got involved. Unfortunately by the time I was producing BATs the original group was pretty much gone, but nofunk came along soon after, and JBSimio did our early custom queries.
ST: Your list of uploads is populated by a large number of buildings from the Midwest. Are there any particular reasons for choosing to direct your efforts in this direction?
Jasoncw: To be honest I didn't realize that until you pointed it out! Obviously my mipro BATs are from the Midwest, but the rest I think are just a coincidence. A lot of my fictional BATs are loosely based on buildings from outside of the Midwest.
ST: What is the thought process behind choosing what to create next?
Jasoncw: It’s a combination of how much I like the building (or a style, if I'm going to make a fictional building), how well it fits into the game’s 16x16 meter grid, and how easy it would be 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?
Jasoncw: I hate lotting, and I avoid projects where I have to do it.
When I make a BAT I start off with the facade, which is the fastest, funnest, and most immediately rewarding part of the process. After that there’s a point where the entire building is modeled and the BAT is no longer a cluster of floating facades, and it’s nice to see the building come together as something close to its final form. I also love seeing the transformation from an untextured BAT to a textured BAT. And of course I like plopping the building in the game for the first time.
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?
Jasoncw: You’re going to throw me into an existential crisis! Why do I BAT??
I absolutely appreciate the positive support I get. BAT releases are like a party, and comments, ratings, and downloads on the STEX are like confetti. In my thread, comments and upvotes can be encouraging when I’m struggling to be productive. And then there are times, especially during the Trixies, when people go beyond typical commenting and write very kind things. Most people go through their entire adult lives rarely experiencing the good will and appreciation that I experience regularly. People have been very generous to me.
ST: You released your first BAT in 2005. 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?
Jasoncw: My early BATs. For those, each one I worked very hard on, learned a lot, and I was improving a lot from BAT to BAT. My first uploaded BAT was Poirer's Pictures, and I probably spent 6 hours in Photoshop just trying to make a peach color that was similar to ones used in the game. Fisk Insurance was similar, I spent absurd amounts of time literally matching my BAT’s facade with Maxis’s Fisk Insurance. I’m also proud of Fisk Insurance (and some WIPs that never made it) where I first developed my glass texturing technique.
After my early BATs, I’m most proud of the Penobscot Building. I started it in 2006, restarted it several times, and finally pushed through the difficult task of finishing it in 2014. Even counting my early BATs it’s the most hours I've put into a BAT.
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?
Jasoncw: There were things like LEGO and drawing, but SimCity most specifically lead me down the path to pursuing a career in architecture.
But unfortunately I’m very unemployed. If you work in architecture, are located somewhere in the world where I can get by with English at first, and would like to consider hiring me, please contact me (I’m not joking!). I bring the same dedication to quality and personal engagement to architecture as I do to BATing.
On a personal level I've become friends in real life with Nofunk and a few others, and I've enjoyed online friendships as well. If you get along well with someone here and live in the same area I recommend meeting up.
ST: What advice would you give to a new member of this community who was planning on creating their first BAT?
Jasoncw: The most important thing is that you have to feel it in your heart that you are capable of making great BATs.
Then you have to understand that at first you’ll be bad, but you need to be patient and keep working and learning until you’re good. You can’t accept ‘bad’ as your final result.
And then, more practically, start a BAT thread, follow other people’s BAT threads, and learn how to find existing information (be a resourceful self-learner). And don’t be afraid to ask questions. As long as you've done your due diligence, BATers won’t mind helping you out, and it’s a nice way to build relationships.
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.).
Jasoncw: Over the years there have been certain CJers whose work I've enjoyed, but I don’t follow city journals closely enough to be able to list names without the risk of leaving out great CJers that I’m simply oblivious to. I like CJs that contain realistic urban areas, and that do a good job of using my BATs. I've never been able to get into story-based CJs though.
You've probably noticed that most BATers don't follow city journals, and that most CJers don't BAT. I respect the few that are able to do both well.
I enjoy seeing my BATs used, so if you’re happy with the way you've used one of my buildings, you’re welcome to post it in my BAT thread.
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?
Jasoncw: When I see Odainsaker's BATs I think I get a glimpse of what it’s like for other people to see my BATs... especially those years-long “almost done” WIPs! Nofunk is an obvious answer to this question. Aaron Graham is very important to my cities. Vlasky does a great job. Don Miguel was very influential early on.
My plugins folder is in a perpetual state of disrepair, but I don’t think anyone would be surprised about the types of things I have in there.
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?
Jasoncw: If you’d have told me all those years ago, I would be surprised. But moving forward from year to year there’s never been any indication that the community was about to die. At this point SimCity 4 has gotten so big that even when the day comes that it’s not very active, I think it will still linger on for a very long time.
ST: Are there any games you play besides SC4? What other hobbies do you have away from BATing and SimCity?
Jasoncw: I mostly play older games, a lot of RPGs on the SNES. The Earthbound/Mother series is one of my favorites. I play StarCraft 2 casually. I play the guitar. I like architecture of course. I used to draw and it’s something I’d like to get back into.
Thank you very much for your time and for your great answers!