Michael Allan aka Cowboy back homepage search
interviewed by Andzia9 in February 2010

Andzia9: "Can you tell us something about yourself?"

Cowboy: "My name is Michael Allan (26 years old) and I come from Scotland. I am studying web design & sculpture."

Andzia9: "How did your history start with Tomb Raider?"

Cowboy: "It started when my brother and I got a computer shortly before TR3 was released, with it we got some free software. Amongst the programs we chose to get the game, Tomb Raider 2. We instantly fell in love with the game and its design."

Andzia9: "Why did you decide to create Tomb Raider customs?"

Cowboy: "Long before the editor I wanted to design the games. When an editor was released I finally had a chance to create my own stories. That is what I love about level editing the most, the chance of telling a story and players being able to enjoy and interact with it!"

Andzia9: "From what are you taking inspiration?"

Cowboy: "Inspiration for me is very important, as I want all my levels to be unique. Other than the official games, my inspiration comes from many sources like the Thief game series, Indiana Jones, mythology, history and stop motion / adventure movies like the Sinbad trilogy & the Original 'Clash of the Titans'. I am convinced the models/creatures of Ray Harryhausen inspired the creation of many classic TR enemies. In addition I find the comic books of 'Tintin' by Georges Remi very inspirational."

Andzia9: "Have you got any original Tomb Raider games? What is your favourite?"

Cowboy: "I have all the games including the Golds for the PC, except Underworld, which would not run on my Computer (for now). There are so many that are great but I would have to say TR1 and TR2 Gold 'The Golden Mask'. I find their environments so isolated and magical."

Andzia9: "Are you going to build new custom? If yes, do you have an idea what they will be about?"

Cowboy: "I am currently building Coyote Creek Two with the team again, which is still very much in the early stages of development. I will not say much about CC2 for now apart from, Lara in CC1 discovered the legend but in CC2 she will become part of it. After that I have many more ideas, like an adventure based in Africa and King Solomon's Mines, plus a ten years special of my Pompeii adventure."

Andzia9: "Will there be new enemies, new objects?"

Cowboy: "There always are. In fact sometimes the objects inspire the project as the legionary skeletons in The Lost City of Pompeii did. I plan in time to run a website that will host all my custom objects."

Andzia9: "Which other interests do you have except for Tomb Raider?"

Cowboy: "I have an interest in miniature wargaming, both historical and Fantasy/Sci-Fi. The hobby involves the collecting, painting & gaming of these miniatures. I have also started sculpting my own miniatures, which feels like creating an object in Meta but with putty. Other hobbies include listening to music, watching movies and playing other games such as Resident evil, Thief, Commandos, Dawn of war, The empires games, Indiana Jones, just to name a few."

Andzia9: "Have you got any favourite moment from your customs?"

Cowboy: "It is hard to pick just one moment, but I would have to say the various parts in The Ghosts of Croft Manor, when Lara interacts with Winston. For instance when Lara gets locked in the freezer (for a change) and Winston rescues her. Other highlights for me include following the ghostly Voodoo queen through Louisiana, the flyby in Coyote town & Lara in the Circus dream where she is the star."

Andzia9: "Have your family and your friends ever played your customs?"

Cowboy: "Yes my brother (userpaul) is always a beta tester for my levels and gives me some ideas for the occasional trap. Also my family have done a lot of the voices in my later levels."

Andzia9: "Do you have any favourite custom from other creators?"

Cowboy: "There are lots of amazing levels out there, but sadly I have not played many, however I hope to do so. I would have to say at the moment Cape Fear by the Vagrant, Deep in the Jungle by Hokolo and The Quick & the Dead by Hendrik Kunze."

Andzia9: "Did you ever think to make a level by using DXTRe3D?"

Cowboy: "I think I am so used to the official editor that I would stick with that plus the vast new features available with TRNG greatly enhances the old editor and what can be done with it. However I wish to thank all the programmers whom without them, level editing would have died out long ago."

Andzia9: "Do you have contact with different creators of custom levels? Did you manage to meet with someone personally?"

Cowboy: "I have sadly never had the chance to meet any other level builder in person. Maybe sometime I may get a chance to go to an annual TRLE meeting."

Andzia9: "Is there any chance, that in your works, we may be able to play as Kurtis, Amanda or Doppelganger?"

Cowboy: "I do have another character that I have invented but she will not feature in the lead role any time soon. Versions of her have appeared in my levels, like Phoebe Jay O'Donnell from Coyote Creek."

Andzia9: "Is there any custom creator who you admire? (I mean about her/his work)"

Cowboy: "Yes, the works of Piega, Titak, EssGee, George Maciver & Raider X to just name a few. A special mention however must be made for Phil Campbell the official designer of the TR Gold series whose levels I found truly different from the main TR games."

Andzia9: "Why did you decide to take part in the Coyote Creek project?"

Cowboy: "The raw idea of Coyote Creek started off as a solo adventure by me called 'Lara in the Old West', however I never finished it and shelved the project. Some years later I joined a group project with GMac, Raider X, EssGee, dhama, Titak & Bojrkraider. I submitted the idea of a western as a theme and everyone contributed to this basic idea and Coyote Creek grew as a team project. To date this is one of the greatest level building experiences I have had, being able to learn and share a project with other builders."

Andzia9: "Where did the idea to build Tomb Raider 4 Gold come from?"

Cowboy: "Being a fan of the Gold levels and TR in general, I became very interested when I heard about a never completed TR4 gold. I thought it would be a shame if this idea were never released so I pieced together the little information I had on it, combined with movies like 'Live & let die' and 'Pirates: Dead Man's Chest'. Of course it was only after I completed the project that I saw Phil Campbell's website & detailed information on the original project, this does however leave the door open to a sequel. The bonus circus level was an idea I had for some time, which I think fitted with the haunting feel of the rest of the project."

Andzia9: "Have you thought about building new Easter custom, or BTB, X-mas?"

Cowboy: "Not really. I did try to release my last two projects in time for Halloween, but they have nothing to do with Halloween and I never released them on time."

Andzia9: "Do you read all opinions about your works or do you ignore them?"

Cowboy: "Yes I try. I find them invaluable in learning about my strengths and weaknesses."

Andzia9: "What in building caused you the biggest problem?"

Cowboy: "Probably when I was first getting to grips with the editor but the Chess puzzle in TGCM was very hard to get working. In general TGCM was challenging because I could not use many traps or enemies due to the nature of the levels but this made me think of unique gameplay ideas and I was very happy with the end results. Also before TRNG, occasional stretched mesh errors on objects were very hard to get rid of."

Andzia9: "How do you find the time to create your projects?"

Cowboy: "Like many builders I fit the time in here and there when I can."

Andzia9: "Pirates of the Caribbean - Where was the idea from for that custom? Was it well thought-out or occurrence?"

Cowboy: "I actually had the idea for this level long before the movie. It surprised me that there were no levels with Pirates, custom or otherwise. The game was actually inspired by a 'Thief 2: The Metal Age' level, pre Colombian cultures, Deep in the Jungle by Hokolo and Indiana Jones."

Andzia9: "How long did it take you building TR4 Gold-Fading Light (BTW, Congratulations for entering in Hall of Fame) and The Ghosts of Croft Manor?"

Cowboy: "Thank you. It took me about two years to complete TR4 Gold and about six months for TGCM."

Andzia9: "The Ghosts of Croft Manor - Did you get the names of the Ghost's from somewhere, for example: book or movie, or was it your ideas?"

Cowboy: "I looked for old English names on the internet, ones that had fallen out of usage. I did vast research for this game from objects to the characters names because the second level could not have anything beyond the Elizabethan era (pickups excepted)."

Andzia9: "The language which characters speak in The Ghost in Croft Manor is Scottish?"

Cowboy: "Both ghosts speak Early Modern English, which I had to learn for this project. It was most commonly used from roughly mid 15th to 17th century. I was worried that players may not understand the speech or our accents but a transcript is provided."

Andzia9: "And again, where was the idea for TGCM from?"

Cowboy: "When going through Lara's original manor, I became increasingly interested with a door that never opened in any of the versions. Intrigued by this I started to imagine a story behind the manor that developed into a game in time. The first level is based on a Sherlock Holmes story 'The Musgrave Ritual' (by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). I felt it was needed not only as an introduction of the story but a balance to the second level, I don't think one would have worked without the other."

Andzia9: "Thank you for this interview!"

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