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    Interview with Blahdy, Creator of the Big-Dig Tunnels

    Interview with Blahdy, Winner of the January 2007 Member of the Month Award!

    When did you join Simtropolis?

    I've joined on 4/4/2005.

    Why did you join Simtropolis?

    Found it on Maxis.com's site while searching for more custom content and stuff other than what EA/Maxis provided.

    Did you ever expect to win the MOTM?

    Not really no ;-) I figured I may after completing and releasing most of unfinished tunnels, but winning MOTM even while BATing did come as a surprise.

    How does it feel winning BAT of the year for your Big Dig Tunnels?

    There are many excellent and awe-inspiring BATs out there in STEX that make your eyes just pop, and out of them all, for the Big Dig to receive "2006 BAT of the year" award was quite astonishing and I certainly did not expect that one. I'm humbled and appreciated by the nominations for Trixie, and certainly it is very encouraging!

    What inspired you to build the Big Dig Tunnels?

    A number of reasons have inspired me to BAT the Big Dig tunnels. First, since I was a kid I was always very interested in engineering and technical infrastructures, specifically on how they work and how designers and engineers built them. Secondly, I grew up in Boston metro area and Big Dig, being the largest public works project in history definitely did not go unnoticed by my eyes J.

    In early 2003 when they opened I-90 extension to I-93 tunnel's northbound lanes, I drove through the new tunnels soon after their opening, and they were simply amazing. Wide lanes, bright and well lighted tunnels, and extensive network of interactive electronic signage, then topped off by the Zakim Bunker Hill bridge as you exit the tunnels kind of gave me a feeling of being in a different place than Boston I knew of in the past. It was also the most modern stretch of any highway system I've been to.

    That's when I wanted to see complex transportation options such as the Big Dig in game. But at the time it didn't seem very possible to do so. Three years later, I'm glad to see that dream is now realized in our gaming experience.

    How long did it take for you to build them?

    At first, with my limited modeling skills it seemed impossible or took very long time. The first product of the project, Big Dig version 1.0 released in July 2006 happened to be ugly looking than I anticipated. But as the modeling skills got better as I learned about splines, advanced texturing, etc, things started to move a lot faster.

    For modeling real world version of the Big Dig, such as the Atlantic Avenue onramp (ramp A-CN) and I-93 southbound exit (ramp CS-SA), the techniques got a lot better. Eventually, I used publicly available design blueprints and satellite photos to build precision models for best gaming experience and realism. This cut down a significant amount of modeling time than ever before - what took about a week to model a tunnel structure was now cut down to just 1 day. From there, significant time would then be spent in installing lot of details, such as individual signs, lights, etc.

    Today it takes on average of about 1-2 week to fully model each tunnel piece complete with details, but it really depends on the complexity of each lot. But even when it is completed, there is very tight transit modding resource available right now to push them into game environment. I do thank Swamper77 and ardecila for helping me out in the past as well as now on modding aspect of the project.

    Have you any advice for aspiring BATers?

    Sure, absolutely. One of the ways you can get a lot of realistic details down is to better understand the structure itself. Researching and studying about how they were built, how engineers conceived them and thinking about why they built the structure in a way they did really helps you in recreating it for gaming environment. Place yourself in engineer's shoes and try it out yourself -- it definitely helps!

    Also, many people assume that at zoom level and viewing angles, you won't be able to see the details you put, but in my view that certainly has not been the case. While it is true that you can't exactly see the details you make in viewing positions, you can still see and "feel" them as if you are looking at the real-world counterpart from a helicopter, as opposed to a simulation model that lacks many details. Many talented building BATers like Jasoncw, Dusktrooper, etc have put tremendous amount of details in their BATs too and it really shows as well.

    Will winning the MOTM inspire you to do more for the community?

    Sure certainly. I do want to continue to work with people with modding talents to release the completed models to game environment so that people can enjoy more of the project quicker. And I certainly look forward to revisit the Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge BAT project in the very near future - so stay tuned for updates on that.

    What do you do outside of Sim City 4 and Simtropolis in your free time?

    Hanging out with friends, drinking, driving, etc... nothing different than others in this department.

    What are your favorite Simtropolis moments?

    Seeing the work by talented custom content creators, especially in "Modding - Transit Networks" forum is always the best part in visiting Simtropolis.com.

    Do you have a job?

    Yes, I run a small Internet Service Provider business with a couple partners, and also consult for a few firms in Information Technology industry.

    If you were stuck on a deserted island with one Simtropolis member, who would it be?

    That's a tough question. And simple answer would be anyone who can actually get something done to get us out of the said deserted island.

    What has been your main contributions to the site?

    My contributions have been relatively small, they are just 3 BATs, 2 of them are which the first two Big Dig releases so far - which is one of the reasons why I was a bit surprised to be nominated for MOTM. I do look forward to releasing more exciting contributions in the near future though.

    Do you have anything else that you would like to share with us?

    Well, take care, enjoy life and the game And many thanks to everyone who supported the Big Dig BAT project since its beginning.

    Thanks, and congratulations again!

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