Monday, December 06, 2010

Wolfer Q & A: Thomas

Name: Thomas Weiling
Long ago, far away...
Nickname: Thomas

Q. You originally released mods under the nickname of 'Possum Trot', why did you change to your real name?
A. 'Possum Trot' didn't have a good "flow". Nicknames such as 'BrotherTank' and 'Acid Gear' were the kind of stuff I was aiming for but this just didn't work. Not to mention, it sounded sort of silly and completely out of sync with what I was doing, or at least aiming for. My name is Thomas so I thought it was only natural. There wasn't anybody else with that name in the community at that point, so it just came naturally.

Q. Where did the Possum Trot nickname come from and why did you choose it?
A. Around the time I finally got an internet connection in my own room, late Summer 2004, I had an interest in unusual place names, Geography and Topography in general. Various places in the rural Southern U.S. carry 'Possum Trot' as their name and I just fell for it. I didn't know what a possum was until I almost dropped the name, since my English skills weren't so good at this point. I'd no idea I'd named myself after a silly hairy rodent on the run!

Q. When did you first play Wolfenstein 3d?
A. The Fall of 1999. I know it was the Fall, Christmas time, almost. I was 8 or 9 years old and thought, I had a computer background (sort of), but I'd never played any games before in that vain. It was always constructing towns without knowing the plot (SimTown etc.) or messing around folders, writing silly stories in documents etc., never playing violent games though. We had a CD-Rom lying around titled "95 Games for Windows 95". On it was 'Wolfenstein 3d' along with 'DooM' and loads of other games. I always played the softer ones, 'Simpson's Trivia', Card games and Educational games. I just stumbled across DooM, which scared me due to the sounds and heavy ammo sounds, so after 2 minutes of playing I quite the game and picked the next one, it was the Shareware version of Wolfenstein 3d. The sounds, music and slightly cosier environment got me hooked.

Q. How did you come to be part of the Wolfenstein 3d Community?
A. To make a short story long, it just happened out of the blue over the course of a year or so. I discovered the Wolf 3d Dome through an old site in July 2003 after doing a search on Google's image service for 'Wolfenstein 3d' which contained a screenshot of a Wolf mod called 'WolfenKen'. I soon downloaded the essentials; 'Project Totengraeber', 'Chemical Warfare' and 'The Golden Episodes'. I remember I had loads of trouble digging 'Spear Resurrection' but everyone was raving about it but it's rather bleak now, tough to recall. I joined way too long after my young, sparky interest, and after I'd gotten hold of mapping tools and graphics tools like 'MapEdit 4' and 'WolfEdit'. Never having joined a message board before, and not knowing much about modding, I just said what came to mind, which probably wasn't the best but I feel I became part of the community for real during the latter half of 2005 with better English skills, more interest in modding and also through playing mods. I hadn't played many mods when I joined (late 2004) since I had stumbled across the Wolf 3d Dome and all that. It was a very strange time of my life.

Q. What is the best part about being involved in the Wolfenstein 3d Community?
A. I guess the best part is that no matter what you release or do, you know that someone, somewhere, will play the damn thing. I'm always told my early efforts are "alright" and "not bad" and especially when old school Wolfers pop in every now and then and tell me they like my work, for me that's the best.

Q. You released your first mod at the age of 14, what are the main things you have learned about mod making since then?
A. In the latter stage of making my mod 'Secrets of Offenbach', I felt satisfied with my efforts and my mapping skills blossomed. I think I must have made 20 to 25 maps that were just great and simply fun to make but I never backed anything up. Quite frankly, because I didn't know how to do it, that's the one thing I've learned.
Another thing I've learned, but never stood by until around now, is that you need to put heart and soul into your work. Each mod I've released misses something from me, personally. With the first 5 mods done and various knock-offs from that period released later, you catch my drift. 'Nazi Operation', 'Castle Assault', 'Quest for the General' (I regret that one got released), 'The Bitter End' and 'Endlosung' just miss something. I can't put my finger on it, it's the desire to make the damn thing I guess.
Looking back on all those games it's taught me a lesson, you need to want to make it. Not just be keen on the idea for a night or three and then just knock off the rest. Ever since the release of 'NovoWolf', which has a huge flaw in the read-me, I've begun to be extremely strict and active in my work. If I hate a map, I delete it and never see the sight of it again. If I came to think of something, I just bury it down when my current project is running. Things like that are very important to me.

Q. How did your collaboration with Chris Chokan, on 'All this and Wolf 3d' come about and where did the idea for the very usual Level 69 come from?
A. I was always a big fan of 'Chokage' and I'd read about and heard of Chris Chokan on the forums and browsing through the old news. I sent him an email asking for a EXE out of the blue and one day he just responded. This was July 2005, before Nazi Operation, just before I was coming out my 'bad' period. And that EXE was quite simple by today's standards but back then it was the tops; 1000 objects, 250 guards and the ability to change both tune and ceiling colours with a TAB code, marvellous. I shelved the EXE for later and got on with 'Nazi Operation'. When I picked up the EXE again, Chris added me on MSN and there we exchanged ideas of the game but we didn't talk about Wolfenstein 3d all the time, it was actually only rarely about that.
But as for Level 69, early on in the process I told Chris he should have a map spot which he said he'd gladly do. I think he'd almost forgotten it. I think it was when I made the final map, I recall I made Levels 70 and 0 before I made Level 68 because that needed the fog effect which was not implemented there. He said he'd "Get around to it" and some days after Christmas he E-mailed me the next EXE with all 70 maps in a seamless flow, and there it was - Level 69. It took me so long to beat on the fourth skill but it was the funniest thing I've ever played. I'm proud it's part of a mod I made, that's how it came along. I'd found and edited the Commander Keen sprite from a Doom mod in early 2006 but I couldn't use it for anything, until now. That was the only thing I had to do with Level 69.
Me and Chris talked about doing a 1000 level mod I think in the fall last year but it was very haphazard, not to mention pretty demanding. One thousand maps!

Q. Your next mod, Wolf Overkill, is reported to have over 100 levels. What is the attraction to making a mod of such a large size?
A. The original idea was to have a game which shouldn't feel rushed or particularly demanding, something I could stretch over various years, if that's what I wanted, that was the main idea. Of course, it erupted at a bad time. I felt a bit disillusioned during the Fall of 2009 and the idea turned into this soup of uncreative creativity with 97 maps done over the course of 3 or 4 months, not what I had in mind. So the original idea died. During January and February, just as Havoc was about to start coding, we both came to an agreement that this was too silly, I should make a big, nice mod with lots of coding, graphical changes and so forth. I'd done the other thing one time too many and I'd just about had it too. So that's what I did, I retired the whole plot, deleted all the maps and got cracking on something else. originally I'd wanted to clean up the maps and fix the many flaws but the maps were so similar and long-draught, I just deleted them all one by one. Not many are kept in their original design, I think maybe 1 or 2. No full maps exist from that time and that is a good thing.

Q. What has been the most rewarding thing for you that's come from Wolfenstein 3d and your mods?
A. The most rewarding thing for me is to see people such as AReyeP and Wolf Skevos-Jones like my work!

Q. What is your favorite Wolf 3d mod that you've worked on?
A. 'All this and Wolf 3d', no doubt. I had so much fun making that game, much more fun than I had making everything before that except 'Abandon'. In a way I guess 'Abandon' was the most fun thing I'd ever done because everything was the first time that I'd done it. The fact that the output was rubbish is another thing!

Q. What is your favorite Wolf 3d mods that you've played other than one of your own?
A. Project Totengraeber, Schabbs 2000 and Chemical Warfare have always ranked at the very top of my list.

Q. Why do you feel that Wolfenstein 3d is still so popular around the World after all this time?
A. I guess because it's easy to modify but still fun and it's part of so many young people's childhoods, it's always something you can come back too. The modding wheel is still in spin, you can always make a mod.

Q. What do you see as your plans for Wolfenstein and mod making after the completion of 'Wolf Overkill'?
A. My initial plan was to make something with 120 maps and no graphical changes at all but that would be really "violins and wrinkles" through and through. What I had in mind was to make a full blooded Wolfenstein 3d mapset that really takes after the original, releasing only the map files. It's come to my attention that all my releases have had VSWAP changes, new EXE's and all that. Well, let's try something different! I also want to make a mapset for Spear of Destiny, even though I don't know that game well at all.

Q. Any words of wisdom you would like to leave us with?
A. Can't come to think of anything now!

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