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Interview with Robert Bennett - Star Wars 3-D Scrensaver Author

TheForce.net's Joshua Griffin got a chance to speak to the man behind the amazing unofficial Star Wars 3-D Screensaver. Read on for his thoughts on the new release, who he is and what is next:

Tell us about yourself.

Well, I'm an unemployed, 24 year old, self taught programmer from Melbourne, Australia. I run a website called www.UselessCreations.com. It started as just a place for me to stick up the stuff I created while learning to program, but its grown alot since then. It now has a heap of movie/TV show inspired screen savers, and afew other useless bits and pieces. And since I'm abit of a movie buff who sees anything and everything I started added my own movie reviews to it. I'm not sure how many people actually read them, but I got complaints when I stopped doing reviews while I was overseas. So I guess someone does. I have no qualifications other than 5 years experience at an Internet Service Provider where I started out doing phone support and ended up doing everything from web design to network management. And I guess teaching myself to do all this stuff counts for something? I quit my job at the ISP last year when they were taken over by a large (badly run) company. And since I had never taken a holiday I went to Europe. While I was there I discovered that the company had gone out of business, which was good for a laugh. I'm now back home in Melbourne and trying to work out what to do next. I do have some involvement with a great web design company called RedWeb (www.redweb.com.au), but I am pretty much still unemployed. So if you have a job for me or you want a custom screen saver, let me know! Oh.. and according to people who read my website I have an unhealthy goat obsession. But surely there's no such thing as an *UNHEALHTY* goat obsession! Is there??

What was the first screensaver you ever made?

In 1996 or 97 I wrote the Cubik Screen Saver, and its still available on my website. It was written in Pascal using Delphi v1 under Windows 3.1. It was really just a test to see how hard it'd be to do 3D stuff. So it wasn't long after I did it, and it worked, that I started on my first C++ screen saver. The Doctor Who Screen Saver. And Doctor Who having the huge world wide cult following that it does, it was very popular. It's over 3 years old and I still get emails almost daily from fans young and old saying how much they love it. Which is always nice to hear.

What does Useless Creations stand for?

World domination through useless-ness! Actually, being a huge Star Wars fan, I used to call my website "VaderSoft", back in 96 when I started it. And my email address was always vader@..., but when I finally went to register my own domain in 99, it just didn't seem to be original enough. So I registered UselessCreations.com instead, because that's all I was making anyway. And from the response I got everyone thought the name was pretty appropriate (and memorable). After being up for over 4 years its grown from having the one Cubik screen saver and a link that didn't go anywhere, to a PHP driven site with 10+ 3D screen savers based on things like Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, and Lord of the Rings, to name just afew, aswell as NETPong (a version of Pong that you can play over the net), UselessTelnet (the 3D telnet client that displays its output in the form of a Star Wars crawl), weekly movie reviews, and a heap of other stuff that no one can find a use for. But I guess the screen savers are the main feature. I've always been annoyed by how many boring slideshow or flash based screen savers there are, when there's so much more than can be done. And a good screen saver is always appreciated since it helps so many people avoid doing any work. My screen savers have apparently been used as a back drop on a German TV station, in a commercial in the UK and mentioned in magazines all round the world. They've also been noticed by people at companies such as EA. So I guess I must be doing something right.

How many times has your Episode I screensaver been downloaded?

I stopped counting after a few months. But when I first released it and it was downloaded over 1000 times on the first day I was blown away. It was only the 3rd screen saver I'd released and the other 2 had never been so popular so quickly. It choked the outgoing bandwidth at the ISP I worked for, and stayed that way for weeks. After afew months it'd been downloaded so many tens of thousands of times that I lost track.

What is your favorite scene from the SW movies?

The bit with the space goat. Err... no wait. I know its an obvious choice but the cantina scene in ANH wins it hands down. It sets up the Star Wars universe so perfectly. A joint full of alien low lifes where you go to bargain with a spice smuggler for passage on an intergalactic rust bucket. Classic. It also looks like it'd be a nice place to hang out. I've been to many a pub with worse looking clientele. And its even got a rockin' band!

Do you follow spoilers, why/why not?

No way. I'm a huge movie buff and I try and see as many as possible without knowing much about them. With a Star Wars movie I want the whole thing to be a surprise. It's part of the experience. You can only see it the first time once. If that makes sense, and you don't wanna "spoil" that but knowing exactly whats going to happen. I was a little annoyed when I was doing the Episode 1 screen saver that as I was collecting all the pictures for it I saw things I didn't want to see. So parts of it were ruined. But I still made sure I knew basically nothing about the story.

Can we expect a Episode II screensaver?

Possibly. In the 3 years since I did the Episode 1 screen saver I've learnt alot. So I'm thinking of doing a re-make of it for Episode 2. With a better version of R2 rolling around projecting images from the movie. But the movie could be out before I finish it. I hope not though.

What has fan reaction been to your latest release?

Well I've never had so many emails asking why I don't work for LucasArts before. I've also had far too many saying "this is awesome, I love you!". Which is nice, yet its also kinda creepy... But I guess that means they like it? Part of the reason I did it was because the LucasArts' Screen Entertainment from afew years ago got repetitive so quickly. Since then I always wanted to do something more like what I expected/wanted it to be. And from the response I've had I guess alot of other people have been waiting for something like this aswell.

Will there be patches and/or upgrades and what ca we expect?

There'll probably be new versions released. The version of Star Wars 3D that I've released doesn't really feel finished to me. It's just that I got alittle worried that I'd never stop adding stuff, and I was getting so many emails asking when it'd be released that I ended up just polishing it up abit and releasing it. So there's heaps of things I want to add to it. It's just a matter of time. Some examples are: * Playability. - I originally started writing it as a game. I did a Planet of the Apes screen saver that was a game based on Donkey Kong. So I was going to do a Star Wars one based on Space Invaders. But it's changed alittle since then. I think I'll still add some playability tho, even if its just letting you sit in the Falcon's turret and blast TIE's out of the sky.

* Different "scenes" - At the mo all the ships just fly around in space shooting at each other. I want to eventually have a different "scene" from each movie. So there'd maybe be the trench run from ANH, the Falcon in the asteroids from ESB, maybe the Falcon flying into the DS2 from ROTJ, and probably the final battle from TPM.

* More ships. - I'll definately add some different types of TIE's and probably a Star Destroyer. I'd also like to do the Naboo starfighter and the Queen's ship. But the way I model the ships is kind of crude so those ships could take me awhile to do.

The possibilities for improvement are endless. It's all just a matter of time. But being unemployed means at the moment I have it. Unfortunately, the lack of paying work also means struggling to afford food. So you have to get your priorities right... (I'll do the screen saver and starve!)

Can users post in a forum or send you email for ideas on how to make them even better?

My email box is always open. Rob@UselessCreations.com

Do you frequent Star Wars websites?

Sure do. I check the official site a fair bit, altho even they give away a bit too much at times. A friend of mine got me onto theforce.net afew months before EP1 was released, and I've checked it almost everyday since.

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