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Developer Profile - Wolfgang Merkel

This interview with Wolfgang Merkel was conducted on 4/7/05. Wolfgang is the author of the VGAP add-on's ABHost, Unity, Explore & WBlank.

All of these great add-on's can be downloaded from here or online at Wolfgang's Homepage.

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

I am 30 years old and live in Germany. I am married, the first child is "on it´s way" and I am very happy about it. I work as a police officer, so nothing programming related.

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

I used to play chess and I still love to play an online "blitz" game. My other hobby is fantasy role playing, playing the systems "Warhammer" and "Earthdawn".

My favorite computer game is Diablo II.

My add-on's try to both stabilize the natural strengths Tim gave each race and make the player feel even more with the race they are playing (eg.: cold as the Borg, friendly as the federation, mean like the privateers etc.) - like my favorite computer/board games you can slip even deeper into the feeling of the game.

What's your favorite Planets memory?

Every game has its own charm. I love team games, and I played several games involving a 3 vs. 8 player setup, where the three players are located in the middle of the map. This setup is my favourite and I am looking forward towards the next game.

What specifically inspired you? What were the biggest influences?

The add-on known as "Nemesis", which is now implemented in "Gryhphon" (by Oleg Shvartsman). I liked that there were new, race-specific advantages but also universal advantages.

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

Abhost is just a remake of a formerly shareware program (nowadays free for use), so nothing to add here. Unity became bigger and bigger while programming it, for every interesting ability for race x I tried to implement an interesting ability for race y. So with every new ability I almost needed one or two days to imagine whether it will unbalance Unity or pass in. So no, there was absolutely nothing to add without the risk of unbalancing Unity.

What are your most important accomplishments to VGAP and why?

Making my add-on's freeware, so players can rain even more destruction on their opponents, and staying in contact with people who need advice using my add-on's

By the way I did not only write Unity and Abhost, but also Wblank (only working blank score program for Thost as far as I know) and Explore, a highly configurable Explore Map clone. They are available to switch.to/Unity and of course they are freeware.

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

The fact you play with or against 10 living players, humans, which makes a game more interesting than anything else (e.g. outrageous graphics or sounds).

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

Multiplayer option and the possibility to develop over time. You start as a small and weak player and can develop to a real mean, nasty, all-seeing entity.

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

I actually don´t know if many sites use my add-on's. I get emails regarding my add-on's about once a month. That´s not much, but I think the less emails, the less problems my add-on's make.

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

I got a few hints and tips what to do, what to change, and what they like. Without feedback I would have lost interest and maybe stopped programming add-on's. So thank you all, for asking long questions or just emailing your compliments :)

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

First, there is an idea of what I have to do; a feeling what´s missing or what has to be done. If that can be expressed by ~100 lines of codes, it´s a good idea - otherwise I modify my idea.

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

Surely something 3-D related, creating my own world.

What's the status of your add-on development and do you intend to continue to develop them for version 3.0 or Planets v4.0 in the future?

If my add-on's need bugfixes - which they did not need the last two years - I will fix them, but otherwise they are considered "done".

I am still working on a host-side CPlayer for Version 3.0. It is doing basic work on planets and ships, but before release I have to improve it so it is a reasonable enemy for other Cplayers.

I do not like V4 yet. If this changes and Tim gives an interface (as promised), I will surely learn V4, and someday develop.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Three or more children, a small house, and still playing Planets Version 3.X or 4.X, and being regularly beaten up by my C-Player.

Any last words to the Plants fan base?

It´s just a game! But if you decide to participate, don´t miss-behave and don´t stretch the rules of the host.


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