gaming since 1997

Tha man himself … Speed exposed !

1. Speed, tell us a bit about the time you got involved in Fragland. What was happening on the Internet at that time ? In general, but more specifically in (online) gaming.

It was a funny time 🙂
At that time broadband was non-existing and most people were gaming online with 56K modems. Can you imagine these days people being happy that their ping is “only” 200 ? 😉

I helped out in a cybercafe in Antwerp (Belgium) and we had ISDN there which gave us quite an advantage over most gamers as our connection was pretty good most of the time (still not to be compared with pings of these days though, when we had 150 it was great).

Online gaming was just getting started with Fragland having the first 2 Quake 2 servers in Belgium and only a few clans “doing it” online. A couple of months after I started up my first clan, Cicatrix (Belgium’s most famous clan) started up and overall things were pretty cool. There was no cheating yet, everyone was having fun and lamers were a very small minority.

Of course, that sounds like the old man who says things used to be better, but that’s not my intention. Everyone has the days he likes most and will remember as being “great”. I’m sure the young gamers of today will say the same in 10 years about this period 🙂

2. For the past 5 years, what were the most important evolutions in the gaming industry, according to you ?

I think everyone would agree that gaming has become big business. While the gaming industry was still very small 5 years ago it’s become a giant these days with loads of money going through it.
Like in most industries, the “garage developers” have almost all disappeared and big names rule the scene with small companies getting their chance only once in a while.
That’s normal of course as developing games has become so different from the “old days” that it costs fortunes to keep things going and small companies don’t have that kind of money most of the time. The time when one guy could develop a massive-selling game has gone.

3. In what ways could you compare the games being brought on the market now, and games that were sold 5 years ago ? And in what ways don’t they compare ?

A lot more development goes into games. These days you’ve got big development studio’s with highly educated programmers, mappers backed up by huge publishers that have tons of money while in the early days, people would get an idea, work on it for a while and then try to sell it or put it up on the net for free.

If you compare what people want these days to what amazed us a couple of years ago, there’s a huge difference as well. I remember having the time of my life playing “Death Track” (from Dynamix) which was just a racing game where you could shoot your opponents. The graphics were horrible compared to now but it was fun. Death Track was the predecessor of games like Wipeout and MegaRace but if you would still be able to play it on your average PC, I doubt a game like that with those same graphics would even get downloaded if someone would put it online for free.

Also, there’s an enormous variety in game styles now. 5 years ago you had simulators, strategy, adventure, shooters and arcade games with the occasional fighting game a la Double Dragon. These days one can hardly count the amount of different game styles. Of course, most of those “categories” are invented by PR people, but still… who would have thought we would be playing with 5000 people at the same time in a virtual world 5 years ago ?

Still, the one thing that hasn’t changed is that people want good gameplay. You can have the best graphics, the nicest Dolby digital sound, but if a game is boring as hell, people won’t play it.

4. What is your personal stance towards young people copying games ?

A very tough question. I should be completely against copying but I can understand young people doing it. They don’t have the money to keep buying AND the latest games AND the latest hardware to be able to play those games. Hell, even I don’t always have the money to always buy that next-generation graphics card that I need to test games with all details on.

On the other hand, if games are being copied, that means that less money will go back into development. I think publishers should spend their money wiser and focus on delivering great games that are finished. I can get extremely upset when I receive a game that’s buggy as hell. Publishers trying to sell such games are plain criminal in my opinion and are stealing our money.

I believe if publishers would concentrate on delivering quality instead of quantity, they would sell a lot more games while actually publishing less and therefore diminishing costs.

It’s clear as water. 50% that’s on publishers release lists is pure shit. 30% is mediocre while 15% can be qualified as good and only 5% as great. Get rid of that first 50% and people will not buy games they don’t like meaning that they can spend money on quality while publishers will not have the costs for games that don’t sell.

5. What is the most difficult, and most tedious part on working on Fragland ? What are the hardships ?

At the moment that I’m writing this I would say putting everything in the database for the new layout which you see now. It’s tremendously boring work and you get no joy out of it what so ever. Still, the result – I hope – will be appreciated by our visitors.

Overall, I would say the amount of work that I have to do for Fragland is the hardest. People see that I post news and reviews but not often do they think about the fact that I have to search the web for that news and have to play dozens of games I totally am not interested in to post those reviews.
Next to that I also do a lot of “behind-the-scenes” for Fragland. I make sure we get enough reviewcopies for our reviewers to check out, I manage the PR towards both publishers/developers and external companies and in general I do the day to day management of the site.

6. What are the up-sides on working on Fragland ?

Easy : The positive response we get from our visitors and that 5% of great games which I get to play for free 🙂

7. Please tell us your view on how the evolutions in the gaming industry affected Fragland ?

Actually, I don’t think we’ve been affected that much. We’ve always done our thing and will keep doing that.

The only thing is that these days there seems to be some sort of crisis at some game companies which prevents us from reviewing certain games which we would love give an opinion on for our visitors (like Unreal Tournament 2003 and Rollercoaster Tycoon 2)

8. How would you like Fragland to convey itself to the gaming industry ?

We’re all volunteers but we’ve always tried to be as professional as possible and I believe we succeed every day in proving that to the gaming industry in general.
I would be offended if someone would think of us as some geocities-like site ran by some fanboys who are into it for the free games or money. Everything we do is because of our love towards the gaming community and we’ve never positioned ourselves as doing it for the money or being unprofessional.

9. What are your expectations for the next 5 years, both on Fragland and the gaming industry ?

Gaming Industry : I think the economy will be improving again in about 2 or 3 years but by then another bunch of developers and publishers will have disappeared. Whether that’s good or not is something only the future will be able to tell.

Fragland : Getting bigger and bigger. Already quite a lot of sites have disappeared and that trend will continue if you ask me. In our current situation, we’re ready to face whatever is laying ahead of us and seeing that we’ve got the crew, the infrastructure and the attitude to keep going, I’m sure we’ll still be here in 5 years, bigger than ever 🙂

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