1. What got you into SMW hacking?
Oh boy, let's see how far back I can retrace the steps.
I know for sure that before 2005 or so I had no idea what the Mario universe was, and had never even come close to playing any Mario game. For some reason that changed around a year later, when I was on some kind of Mario trip and playing a lot of Mario fangames (mediocre ones, in hindsight). I remember one of them having a built-in level editor, which aroused my interest for making my own levels.
Around the same time I was also more or less into that one flash game called "Line Rider" (where you draw lines and then a guy on a sled rides down them). While looking for Line Rider videos on Youtube, I stumbled upon a video of a custom SMW level by TheNewerGuy that was then called "Mountain Line Riders"
. That was the video that first introcuded me to SMW hacking, and to the idea of making levels for real Mario games (the level editor I had tried earlier was a pretty poor Mario clone that felt nothing like a real game).
After watching more SMW level videos by TheNewerGuy and some others (waffleman921 I think it was), in mid-2007 I was finally able to understand the concept of emulation, find myself a ROM, and play SMW for the very first time (the first video game I ever played, at that). Not too much later I discovered SMWC, through a comment on one of those Youtube videos that said "and by the way join smwcentral(dot)net". I finally registered here in November 2007 to release my first hack (shitty, as I had no game design experience prior to that), and started to get less shy and more active in the forums in early 2008.
I remember discovering Line Rider on a German flash games blog I used to be a big fan of back then. (I also remember seeing a Mario flash game there, and wondering what the hell "Toads" and "Koopas" were.) Now, if only I could remember how I found out about that blog... :p
In hindsight, I guess I was lucky to have that "Mountain Line Riders" level be the first one I saw. Not only was it well-made and gave me a good idea of what to do right from the start, it was also purely vanilla and didn't leave me thinking "oh my god these graphics are awesome and the music omg how do i do that????"
Hey, that ended up being pretty comprehensive. Now I can redirect all future "hey how did u discover smwc???" askers to this thread.
2. Tell me a little about the hacks you've made including what inspired you to make them, your experience while you were making them and your general thoughts about them now.
The first hack I made was called "Super Mario in Eric Land", the title being inspired by "Super Mario in Learning Land" (and my wanting to include my name in the title for some strange reason). I had made some custom SMW levels before it, but it was only weeks later that the thought of making an entire game occurred to me. I wasn't really "motivated" by anything while making it, other than the secret wish of having it featured some day (needless to say, it didn't work out).
The "Pokey's Adventure" era (it really lasted a while) started at the very end of 2007, and the main reason why I chose Pokey to be the main character was the fact that I had just figured out how to use YY-CHR and was eager to change the player's graphics. (Also, Pokey was the easiest to make - all I needed to do was copy and paste the same two tiles to GFX32 and draw a handful of simple facial expressions.) Given its origins, I never had a lot planned out for it and just kind of hacked along mindlessly, and eventually it became so different from what I wanted to make that I decided to cancel it. At the rate I was going, it would never heve seen the light of day anyway. Despite all that, Pokey's Adventure is the hack that accompanied me throughout my hacking life and reflected my slowly-improving skills, and working on it certainly wasn't a complete waste. It's nice to have a goal to strive for - I have fond memories of sketching out entire levels in school (it always worked best during Physics class), and devising the intro cutscene in P.E. :p
My mini hacks (The Coin Hunt and A Strange Mission) were probably the hacks I had most fun making (likely because they were short enough so I could actually finish them). They got a surprising amount of attention, too - especially A Strange Mission, which seems to have become an instant classic for German Youtube LPers for whatever reason. During the making of A Strange Mission I was just starting to get the hang of ASM, so the gimmicks I programmed weren't too great, but neither was the level design since I focused on the gimmicks. Still, it was an experience worth making.
3. Now that you have dropped Pokey's adventure, are you planning to start a new project?
I am working on one, actually, and people who frequent the S/V thread might already have seen a screenshot or two of the overworld. Now that I have a better idea of what game I want to create, I'm trying to make this hack come as close to my ideas as possible.
I'm also trying to keep it a little more secret for now (though my occasional hunger for attention will certainly get in the way sooner or later). For now, all I want to say is that it's somewhat heavily inspired by both DKCR and the scenery around our house (I live in the countryside), and that I'm attempting to make as many resources as possible myself.
4. What area of SMW hacking would you consider as your strongest point?
That's hard to say, actually. I like to think I'm pretty good at a lot of aspects (drawing, programming, designing levels, making stuff look and feel nice, perhaps even making music), and I'm lucky to be this versatile, but I don't think I excel at anything in particular. I'm not nearly as good of an artist, programmer, designer or musician as some other people on here, I just have my skills more... evenly spread?
My weakest point would probably be an easier pick - making music. I can come up with decent melodies, but they're somewhat repetitive and not too catchy, and writing them down is another thing entirely.
5. After being an active member for several years, what are your thoughts about the community as a whole?
SMW Central was one of the first communities I joined (the first being the comments section of the aforementioned flash games blog, and perhaps Youtube, but I don't think those really count). It was the community I felt most at home at (and still do), and I have no idea whatsoever where I would be right now without it. The thought that so many people from all over the world come together here still amazes me.
In the four and a half years I've been here now, the community has changed quite a bit. There's more users I'm not as familiar with, and a lot of people I was sad to see go - but hey, nearly everyone considers their starting time to be the best, and a bit of nostalgia is inevitable. Either way, I can't see myself leaving this place anytime soon (just a little less frequently in the future, when I have less free time).
tl;dr: You guys are great.