Well then, how are you feeling, coming to this interview?
Excited! I don't know what to expect, it'll be good fun.
No doubt, it's fun to talk about yourself every once in a while, after all. Let's start with the general stuff: A/S/L?
I'm 26, a bloke from Scotland.
A strapping young adult, then. Tell us about yourself outside of the internet, what sort of person are you? What do you study or work on, what hobbies do you have?
Hmm, well, outside of the internet I basically look for reasons to go back on the internet. I've been into computing and gaming for as long as I can remember. I've always loved games that let me create things, so Age of Empires was always a big part of my childhood. I also got into the idea that one day I'd be a game designer and work with Ensemble on some mythical Age of Empires 5 or whatever it would be by then. I was always good with computers, and I like to dabble in programming here and there. I did a computing degree in college, and now I'm studying game design and production in university, though it is quite a bit different than what I was expecting/hoping for. I guess I'm stuck in the past there.
Did you start with computer games, or were you more consolically oriented at first?
Well, my dad had a PC, so I've always had that exposure to it and I'd often play GTA 1 or Age of Empires with him. I had a couple of consoles before I got my own PC though, so I kinda have a bit of both sides in me.
GTA 1?! Now there's a retro game. Did you enjoy car games and other more action-packed stuff before strategy games took a hold of you, or was it love at first sight?
Well, I didn't have many options, but I played everything we had. I also played SimCity, Age of Wonders, and Doom. I enjoy them all still. I'd say I had quite a broad spectrum of game genres for the time. By the time I got my own PC, I was getting really into Halo whilst still playing Age of Empires like it was a religion.
Haha, that’s the way. So, generally speaking, you played what your father did?
Yeah, I would play AoE with my dad and my brother. My brother had his own PC. We'd play over LAN and my dad didn't like it because we'd always win. I'd say my dad was a big influence on me doing scenario designing and getting into design and programming in general. He did web development and had a big ol' book about programming games in an arcane language called DarkBASIC. I still have that book, in all its tea-stained glory.
Oh wow. You mentioned that you've dabbled in programming and other more involved parts of computers and computing even outside of your studies. What's that like, what sorts of languages have you utilized? Lua or something?
I use Lua on a regular basis. I do "work" in C# and I've done a bunch of Java and HTML stuff in college.
Ground up stuff, or more of the editing and fixing type of stuff? Well, probably both, I'm guessing.
For Lua, it's all mostly from working in mod projects. Java and C# are from the ground up. I've done Android app development in college and that was all "from the ground up". Oh! In college I made a turn-based RPG with a hand-written GUI in Python.
Coolio! Sounds like you've got a pretty good repertoire of coding skills, then.
Eh, I'm okay at best. There're programmers that I've worked alongside in Uni that are leaps and bounds ahead of me.
Those are probably the type who live and breathe coding that I keep hearing about. Well, let's come closer to "home" next: when did you first dip a toe within the circles of HG? What brought you to AoKH? Why not tell us about your username, too, while you’re at it.
The Blacksmith brought me to AoKH. I was using it to get all the most popular multiplayer scenarios. I would pick them apart and make small edits to them, or make my own maps based on what I'd learned. I didn't actually join the forums for years, and I wasn't going by any particular name. On the MSN Gaming Zone I called myself Tanks_FST. Tanks because I like Tanks, and FST because I wanted to pretend I was in a big clan of map designers or something. I can't remember how it came about, but it stood for "free style terrorists". Years later, I joined Black Forest Studios and BF has been in my name ever since.
That's a funny "clan" name you come up with. Have you enjoyed your decade plus long stay? What sorts of things do you remember from the years, if any? Also, obligatory “Counter-terrorists win!”.
I'd say so, but I haven't been consistent with my stay. I've come and went and come back again a couple times. I'd say some of my most vivid memories are from working on (and winning awards for!) Silent Evil and Seas of Egressa with Popeychops, who also quickly became my real-life mate. Other memories include arguing with Aro when he was the dictator (I used to think he was awesome until I actually spoke to him in person) and the hours I sunk into playing classics like Ravenous RPG and Simpsons RPG online with Popey and friends. Oh, and can't forget all the work I did with UserPatch and the modding side of things. Also, that morgoth guy, if that was his name, he's a c***. I remember arguing with him the few times I'd dare go into the Town’s Crier. That place is like a whole separate community… Weirdos.
You've been a familiar face 'round these parts for a while. It's good to see you've accumulated various memories. Also, hey, I’m from the TC as well, we’re not THAT strange!
Honestly, I wish I stuck around more, but at the same time I think my periods of being distant have been good for me. It's helped me to keep perspective on things.
No doubt, many have admittedly burnt out during the years.
I used to think HG was the be-all-end-all AoK community, and that if people knew me there, I was basically famous.
*theatrical shock* You’re saying we aren't?!
Well, there certainly was a time when HG was the s***, but I think anyone who's been here as long as I have will agree that these days it's like a dusty relic.
Well, can’t argue with that. Now, it's basically a nice thing to have and look, but it's no longer all that useful. Like a wired phone or something. We're still trying hard, though!
Yeah, something like that. It'll be sad when the day comes that the servers get taken offline, but y'know, we have archives of the stuff. The community has a place on Discord and we've all made connections outside of the forums. Take my friendship with Popeychops for instance, he's a good friend and I've been to his place a few times. Good mate to have and I wouldn't have met him if it weren't for AoKH.
Yeah, we're still doing things to try and keep AoKH afloat and not have all our eggs in one gum-patched basket. Plenty of interaction over Steam as well. And yeah, gaining new friends over the internet has gotten more and more commonplace over the years. Internet spilling into the real life is always something special. Gaining something concrete on top of the usual internet perks.
That's most of my friendships. *laughs*I met my girlfriend whilst I was trolling in an MMO, I met one of my best mates playing the early alpha of Rust of all things, and today I've got an entire family of Canadian friends from a mod team for another game. Eventually we're gonna fly over there and have a big meet.
Ooh, a fellow Garry gamer, I see. Never played Rust myself, but I was an avid Garry's Mod gamer and a long time Facepunch lurker. Wooden Wars was the s***, and racing around self-made tracks.
Gmod is easily my most played Steam game. Got a good thousand plus hours of my life wasted making Source physics glitchy vehicles and stuff. I loved Flood and Dark RP.
Was Flood that “build a base and fight off hordes of zombies” mode?
Nah, that's Onslaught. Flood was where you built boats out of parts you bought from a store, and after a time limit the walls came down and the map floods and you fight the other boat teams, the water would kill you. Gmod was my first encounter with Lua too, I made various addons for that.
Oh right, Onslaught's what I was thinking about. I liked that one as well. Never played Flood, I think. And yeah, same, Gmod’s the only game where I did Lua editing to adjust some mods to my liking.
I had my own server and everything. Although, *lowers voice, forcing MH to lean in* I conned a guy, making him pay for it for me for a couple months, and then locked him out of access and stopped talking to him.
*utterly shocked, eyes widen*
I even convinced another server admin that I'd donated for admin, and I made up a fake receipt from PayPal to convince him. He gave me admin rights and all I used it for was spawning in guns in the DarkRP server.
*flustered reaction intensifies*
*looks around restlessly, spots the venue guards, gestures*
Hey guys, GUYS! We got a self-admitted scammer over here! I can’t let this slide as a moderator! GET HIM!!!
*a fierce dust-laden scuffle ensues while the audience begins clamouring for explanation*
*as the spotlight is temporarily moved away from the fight, a money envelope secretly switches owners within the mess*
*straightens coat and tie, looks at the restless audience*
I apologize, I must’ve misheard Mr. Tanks. Nothing questionable to see here! Back to the normal scheduling…
*clears throat while turning back to Tanks as the audience begins to quiet down again with scattered discontent muttering*
*coughs* I guess I ought to snoop a little about something to satisfy audience curiosity: what sort of things do you and Pops have gotten up to in real life?
*slicks dishevelled hair back to some semblance of order* Well, I have gone down to London to visit him a couple times. I introduced him to another friend of mine and now they actually hang out more than we do! I’m hoping to get him to come up to us at some point, though that’ll probably have to wait until after the pandemic. And by us, I mean me and my girlfriend. We're one unit. *sudden mechanical voice* We are Borg.
*sudden mechanical voice* You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile! *snaps back to normal voice* Do you live in the highlands or more in the city areas like, uhh, Belfast? I must admit my Scottish geography is non-existent…
BELFAST?! That's in bloody Ireland!
Oops. *a brief Google Maps session on the phone later* I may have been thinking about Glasgow, but I have no excuses. *nervous chuckle*
*gives side-eye, then shakes head disappointedly* Well, I live in Dundee now, which is exciting for me because it was the home of Rockstar. We used to live right down the road from DMA Design when I was a few years old. That's how my dad got GTA in the first place, he was an early tester. Before I moved here for university, I lived in the middle of absolute nowhere though. My mum had a thing about never staying in one place for more than a few years, so we'd been up and down the country.
Would that not have made getting friends difficult?
Sure, I've never had a big friend group IRL. Most of my friends are online anyway. My best mate I met in college, in Morayshire. We've kept in touch ever since, as well as one other friend from my childhood.
It's pretty impressive to still keep in touch with a childhood friend. Shows something about one's character. Let's go back to internet for a bit: Tell us about your own works and the BF studios.
Hm, well, I've done quite a lot on my own, but only published/finished about 5% of it. I really liked RPG scenarios, and I also liked Blood maps for the sheer mindlessness of it. I would explore ideas of making more in-depth RPG mechanics, or Blood maps with some sort of a twist, like only having monks and needing to convert neutral AI units in the middle of the map to form your army. In BF, I joined as a nobody, but ended up essentially taking over the place.
Rags to virtual riches, huh?
Well, nah. The old leadership just drifted away, and I was there to take the flag.
Ah, rather than riches, you're holding down the fort.
Under BF, we released Silent Evil, which is probably still my most finished work. *self-mocking smile* Even with that, though, I had help. I once made an RPG based on the Highlands area I lived in at the time that had some pretty cool eye-candy mechanics, but I never finished it. It would've been pretty revolutionary for the time. It was completely open world. Nowadays, BF is nothing but a tag, though. We haven't really done anything together in years. I put together a site and a Discord for us, and a few of us were actively publishing maps under the BF name, but nothing else really came of it. We like to have our pretend rivalry with StormWind Studios, but even then, I dunno if that's still a thing. Honestly, I'm pretty disconnected from it all.
The high tides have passed, I guess. What are you yourself up to then, future-wise? Let’s start with AoK-related stuff, and then zoom back out to real life.
I've been playing AoK: DE, and I rant about how shitty they treated the map editor and UserPatch in the AoK Discord, but that’s about all I do currently. Well, I want to make a "Definitive Edition" of Silent Evil, and I've been ever so slowly laying down the plans for that, but I haven't really spent much time in-editor. Might be something I'd wanna communicate with Popey about, but he's a busy bee these days. Silent Evil sequels are something I've toyed with for a long time, but never finished. Probably for the better, sequels are never as good. I made a spin-off DTS map once, though. That was good fun.
What about IRL? Got any big plans?
I'd like to pass my course, get some job, and work towards releasing my own games. I have some kind of a plan for forming a company, which I've already started down the path towards, but it's slow going right now. Uni is
Are you a one-man institution, or do you already have fellow aspirants?
I have me and my girlfriend, my good friend Connor (who I mentioned as the guy who I introduced Popey to), and my German friend Marko. But the last two are kinda unofficial still. I want to make strategy games and FPS/RPG hybrids, off the top of my head. Ever played E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy? That game is woefully underrated, and it is exactly the kind of hybrid game I want to create. For strategy games, I look to Supreme Commander and Earth 2150 for inspiration. And AoK, of course.
Can't say I've ever heard of E.Y.E.
it’s like if Deus Ex, Doom, and Half-Life had a baby, and it was French.
*tries to imagine*
Fast-paced dystopian action with lots of upgrades, with a main baddie who goes "hon hon hon" when he laughs? *chuckles*
Yes, that’s almost exactly it. But you can also hack into things, doors, people, have cybernetic abilities, and super legs that can send you flying 50 stories into the air if they're upgraded enough. And magical psionic abilities. It's wild. It's a very mixed bag. It's based on a tabletop game that the developers invented, so the source material is a real hodgepodge of things. It's heavily Warhammer inspired, and the devs even went on to make a Spacehulk game, Spacehulk Deathwing. There're three main characters and all of them are the protagonist.
So, you're sort of following in their footsteps with the concrete card game and then PC stuff?
Well, kind of. I never really thought of it that way. I don't think their tabletop game was anything much outside of their own personal group, whereas I want everybody and their nan to play my card game.
Ooh, dreaming big, then. I don't have much experience with card-based games, but are we talking something like Dominion, or something along those lines?
I don't know what I can relate it to. You have a deck of resources and characters, and you fill a field of three cards by drawing from the deck. Each player takes turns to choose which card they want to take and they have to exchange other resources for it, or play characters that have abilities to manipulate the deck, field or other players. The idea is that you're all heroes given a quest, and you collect three resources matching the quest to win it. The first player to win 3 quests wins the game. It's still a work in progress. When we started, it was a solo game where you had to pick cards blindly and deal with whatever thing you picked. If you didn't make an exchange, you'd lose. But we wanted to make it multiplayer. We won the Game Jam with it and got a trophy. In fact, we're the last winners as the jam doesn't run anymore, so we're always gonna be the reigning champions. *laughs* We won it off our simple yet fun gameplay. We had all age groups able to pick up, play, and enjoy the game. It was a big hit, hence why we want to take it further.
Sounds like an excellent start for the game, I'm definitely rooting for your continued success!
We'll see. We're confident, but we have a lot ahead of us.
Sounds like you're quite hopeful for the future, which is wonderful to hear!
*takes a peek at the wristwatch*
Now, after all the heavy-hitting questions, it’s a good idea to end with a lighter note. Rapid-fire question time! WARM UP THOSE VOCAL CORDS!
Bring it on! *fist pump*
Favourite and least-favourite colours?
Dark blue/purple and green.
Salty or sweet?
Sweet. Or both, if it's popcorn.
City or nature?
Uhh, that’s tough… I love both.
Both certainly have their good sides. *nods understandingly*
Hot or cold?
How hot, though?
Not too hot, I'm Scottish after all.
That’s what I thought!
Heavy lifting or aerobic exercise?
Sedentary life for the win, huh?
Truth or dare?
And to cap off this interview: give us a piece of your wisdom or recommend us something. The word is free!
Play more indie-games! Stop buying from triple A publishers, and boycott everything Bethesda does. The hatred I have towards them is immense. It’s bad enough that Palpatine might show up any second now and tell me to let it flow through me.
*struggles against the momentary instinct to start rampaging from all the hate*
Instead, play Noita! It's the game of the decade, a technical masterpiece!
*steam billows out of nostrils*
*very nervously leaning as far away as possible from Tanks*
Um, yes, yes, I can agree with that. Play Noita! It's, it’s Finnish, after all! Finnish! Finnished, finished…
You, you... Finnish Barstool! - Enraged Popeychops
Major Helper: Helping AoE3H Housewives since 2008 - As_Saffah
I spent 3 months trying to convince a door that I was an intelligent life form and gave up. - TLM
Winner of "Nicest" (2012-2016), "Most Helpful" (2014) and "Best Moderator" (2015-2016) Forummer Awards
[This message has been edited by Major Helper (edited 11-09-2020 @ 08:20 AM).]