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Developer Profile - Oleg Shvartsman

This interview was conducted with Oleg Shvartsman, author of the Nemesis, Gryphon and Jupiter host addon's for VGAP, on Feb. 27th, 2005.

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

I have a degree in CS and am working on a master's in business.  I work in my field - as a lead developer for a large company.  I enjoy the challenge and responsibility.

What are your favorite computer/board games and how have they affected the development of your mods?

Probably one of my favorite games was star control 2 - it even inspired me to create a (free) VGAP add-on that turns VGAP into a sort of multiplayer SC2 game.  From board games, I've enjoyed Axis & Allies - this one taught me that there is more than one way to win!  I think that's the spirit of all of my add-ons.

What's your favorite Planets memory?

Playing as Romulans, thoroughly penetrating the war preparations of a Rebel+colony+robot team, and then defeating them as a part of Fed-Borg-Romulan alliance.  The battle had more than 100 ships on each side - most of them heavies.  Our alliance force was tunneled by the borg from all corners of the galaxy and attacked an unexpectedly divided enemy force, towed apart at the last second by Darkwings.

What specifically inspired you? What were the biggest influences?

Star Trek and Star Wars, of course, and those movies on which this game's races are based.  The movies, plus Master of Orion, have provided me with inspiration for a lot of race special abilities.

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

More diplomacy options for Feds.  More intelligence features for Romulans - perhaps reading mail?  Doing something for the robots - playing an enormous spider and weaving minefields never appealed to me.

What are your most important accomplishments to VGAP and why?

I think - making the romulans a respectable military power in the hands of a good player.  The sneak attack - if employed properly - allows them to defeat a carrier with much smaller losses.

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

Knowing there is an *intelligent* human at the other end of the line.  With the rise of MMOs, most of the poor players and spoilsports have migrated to easier pastures, and I feel those that remain are the stronger for it.  The general level of play has increased over the years.

How has the internet affected the expansion of your addon's internationally?

It's started on the internet - so I don't have the experience of pre-net days. A very high number of those who registered are from Germany - a very pleasant surprise.

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

I have most missed the absence of a good beta game.  Both beta games I have conducted had too many players quit mid-game - I know it is a common problem, but I felt it didn't allow me to completely play-balance the addon's.  However, the host - Armin - was an absolute gem.

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

I try to use imagination :)  What would be really cool to create, address a deficiency of the race or hone its strong point, and still be possible and controllable via a 3-character FCode?  I had a lot of free time then, so I did a lot of thinking and bouncing my ideas from Armin.

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

It would be a Babylon 5 - theme 4X strategy game.  I think that universe has a good deal of depth in it, is very rich in history and has a great and devoted fan base.

What's the status you addon development and do you intend to continue to develop them for Planets v4.0 in the future?

I do not intend to further develop them, unfortunately.  Interest in my add-ons has declined significantly in the last couple of years, and the delay of a release version of VGAP4 has hurt this community greatly, in my opinion.

Therefore, I don't think there is enough of a fan interest in my add-ons to justify spending the kind of time it would take to rework them for VGAP4. However, that could change - an e-mail campaign can work wonders :)

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

No idea - too many things can change.  If the world is still in one place after 10 years, that is...

Any last words to the Planets fan base?

Value the game - not just your own race's fortune.  Don't quit mid-game, and don't start a game you don't think you would have time to play till the end. Don't break alliances or betray trust - I never have, and it made me feel better about my place in the game world.


Thanks for taking the time to talk with us Oleg!


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