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Developer Profile - Merlyn

This interview was conducted with Alan Warchuck, author of the VPMagic, SendTrnPro and VPRegChk utilities on May 2nd, 2005.

Tell us a little about yourself, and what you have accomplished in life?

Well, I am 51 years old with 4 children. My oldest daughter (26) is married and my oldest son (24) is a marine currently serving in Iraq . Next in line is my 10 year old son and then a five year old son. I have been in computers for over 25 years starting as a programmer and most recently I have closed my own Internet company that has flourished for 5 years. I am now back to looking for an IT job.

What are your favorite computer / board games and how have they affected the development of your add-on's?

I like RPG's, it all started with Zork for the commodore 64 and I have been hooked ever since. When you play RPG's you have to keep old information, notes, helper programs and data from many sources so I just like some kind of management system where it is all easily accessible and makes playing easier.

What's your favorite Planets memory?

Wow, that's a tough one! I don't really think I have a favorite one as they are all good. There are spin-offs but none ever matched VGA Planets. I don't believe Tim knew the impact this game would have when he wrote it. This game is more than most PBEM's. This one brings in the human factor, making alliances, politics, strategy and most of all endurance. I have been in games that lasted well over a year, most people do not have the patience for a game like this.

Although game play itself stays the same there are never any 2 games the same. I have made many friends from all around the world over the years and it is from playing VGA Planets. I believe V3 has more or less reached cult status. Another thing that makes this game so good is Tim Weissman the author, has never deserted his players. He has supported the game and the players all along.

I guess to answer this question, every game I play and every game I host has its own special memory!

What specifically inspired you? What were the biggest influences?

For SendTrn Pro it was having to take the time to email my trn after making all my moves. There were programs that were made to send them but it was a matter of clicking on another program to do this. All I wanted was to click “Make Trn” in WinPlan or whatever client I was using at the time and be done with it. I am all for automation.

For VPMagic it was also the automation thing but in a different sense. When you play a game that can last a year you tend to start using many different utilities, help files, notes and try to keep them associated with the different games you play.

There were other earlier programs I wrote that have since been retired. There might be some who are still using VPTools originally created by Gus Mondalek which I updated about 8 or 9 years ago but the others are ancient history.

Were there things that you wished you had added to …etc…?

I wish I would have integrated SendTrn Pro and VPMagic together to use the same data files which would alleviate entering much of the same data to set them up. I still might revisit them and do this. I would have also like to integrate other Host commands into SendTrn Pro besides all the AutoTroll commands.

What do you think are your most important accomplishments to VGAP and why?

I just hope I have made it easier for the players that use these utilities.

In this time of graphically intense PC games, what do you think it is about VGAP that has people still playing a game that is over 13 years old?

VGAP brings in human interaction. It's not just a “shoot em up”. You have a lot of politics which forces you to create/break alliances make treaties and pacts which forces you to open a dialog with others. This game has a human factor that most of the other games leave out.

In your opinion, what are the key ingredients that a game of this type should have?

Ease of play and keeping it simple. With VGAP Planets you would be surprised how “simple” can get so complex.

How has the internet affected the expansion of your add-on's internationally?

I haven't really kept track of my user base as I created the utilities for myself and offered them to the other players once they worked for me.

How has the fan base hindered or helped your projects as you've worked on them?

If there is a problem with your software there were many willing to lend their services or advice. It was extremely usefull.

When planning your add-on's, how do you go through the process of integrating themes and story with the constraints of the software?

Luckily I haven't had to worry about this as my software is supporting the other add-ons and such.

If you could make any computer game that you wanted, which would it be and why?

I have though about this many times in the past but alas, Tim beat me to it!

What's the status of your add-on development and do you intend to continue to develop them for Planets v4.0 in the future?

I will possibly keep working on the programs if the need is there. I am a V3 devotee so there will be no V4 utilities.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

HAH! After 51 years I believe less that with age comes wisdom. I just hope in 10 more years I will still be able to help my family instead of the other way around. I never think of the future it comes fast enough! If I wake up in the morning I am a very happy person.

Any last words to the Plants fan base?

See you in the Echo Cluster!

 

 
 
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