Our next interviewee continues to provide A+ top notch content to this day, and he has been around SImtropolis from the beginning. As a founding member of mipro (formally the BSP), he has represented the American mid-west well with BATs from hard working towns like Detroit and Milwaukee. Kid Rock, Eminem and RoboCop all list him as their favorite BATer… please welcome 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!