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Developer Profile - Tim Wisseman

This is an interview conducted with the author of VGA Planets, Tim Wissman on Oct 10th, 2004.

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

I grew up in a mountain town in California. In the past I’ve been a logger, and now work part time as a science teacher. I have gotten married, and bought a house.

What are your favorite computer/board games and how have they affected VGAP?

My favorite board games are RISK and DIPLOMACY. I guess there are flavors of those games in VGA Planets.

What's your favorite Planets memory?

That would be the day in 1995 when winplan version 3.5 was released. I ended up driving a pickup truck full of mail bags with over 14,000 letters to the post office. I spent a whole week working all day and most of the night getting that mailing ready.

What specifically inspired Planets for you? What were the biggest influences?

VGA Planets was an outgrowth of the game I designed and Chuck L Peterson programmed back in 1985 for VAX computer systems. A game called M-Trek. The game was a 30 player real time game. When I moved back to the Mountains from UCSC I wanted to program a game that many people could play at the same time, but the only systems available to me where the 1 phone line BBS systems. So I designed a game system that many people could play in by simple file exchange.

Were there things that you wished you had added to Planets v3.0?

I wish it were cheat proof, and that there was a 32 bit version of V3.

What were your most important accomplishments in Planets and why?

Making version 4 cheat proof. Ending up with a user base large enough to support the game. I like the fact that so many people see VGA Planets as important enough that they spend much of their own time supporting the game by hosting games and running web sites.

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?

Maybe there are a few people out there that are like me and get motion sickness when they play the graphically intense first person shooter games out there. Or maybe there are many of us that do not have the lightening reflexes required to do well at most games.

I do play games like Age of Mythology and Evil Genius, but there are only so much of those games I can take before I go back to a slow game of VGA Planets with all the interesting personalities that are attracted to the game.

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

An element of humor, and lots of fun.

How has the Internet affected the expansion of the game internationally?

It just has. It turned VGA Planets from a USA game played on BBS systems and FIDO Net to being a world wide game. VGA Planets just happened to be at the right time and place when the Internet took off it took the game with it.

How has the fan base hindered or helped the project as you've worked on it?

Both, some fans have pressured me to release things before they were ready. But then they have been a be help in finding the flaws in the game system that needed to be changed as well as thinking up new things to add to the game.

When planning a scenario how do you go through the process of integrating themes and story with the constraints of the software?

Very carefully.

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

A game like Evil Genius. . . but it has already been done.

What’s the status of Planets v4.0 and where do you see the Planets game going after v4.0?

Work on 4 will continue, new races and updates will continue for years to come.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I have no idea, 3 years ago I had no idea that I was about to get married and buy my own house, join a renaissance group, become a singer, science teacher and put on magic shows. So who knows what will happen over the next 10 years.

Any last words to the Planets fan base?

Without loyal fans there would be no VGA Planets and I plan on working on VGA Planets for as long as there is a fan base out there.


I'd like to thank Tim for taking some time to answer these questions!


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