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Interview with Dentin, Creator of Alter Aeon (Pt. 1)

Note from the interviewer, the Alter Aeon player Lexie:

The first pass of this interview was done on Aug 16, 2013. The initial questions, 17 of them in total, were submitted to Dentin all at once. He answered them, but due to length we decided to break them into separate articles with some follow up questions in case things are unclear.

The questions grew out of personal conversation, and out of the interviews run by the player Ouch in 2008 and 2009 for the Ralnoth Times E-Zine. Those interviews can be found in the main article index, or at these links:

091227 Interview with Dentin

081017 Interview with Dentin

The Ralnoth Times E-Zine. (archive link)

There are four sections to the interview. To skip to the other sections, use the links below:

Skip to Part 2
Skip to Part 3
Skip to Part 4

Q1. In your initial interview with Ouch you were skeptical of putting the interviews up on the web site, but you subsequently changed your mind. Could you outline the change in reasoning?

My general view on PR has changed quite a bit. I was more afraid of bad press in the olden days - now I just care less. Alter Aeon, and I, are what we are, for better or for worse.

In the end, my goal is to make AA awesome, and keep it something that I want to play and enjoy playing. If people don't like my idea of awesome or want the game to be something else, then it's probably best they keep looking. We'll survive and grow by being a great game, not by convincing people we're something that we're not.

Q2. You noted in earlier interviews that one difficulty with the game was incentive to stay positive and continue working on the game. Is that better or worse now than in 2008? The game has come a long way since then, and is frankly, a lot more fun to play.

It's different. I'm older and have different constraints. I feel the cold hand of death at my throat and many of my priorities have changed - but somehow, it never really occurred to me that shutting down the game would be worth doing. In the worst case, I can simply hand over control and walk away for a few years, doing only minimal maintenance, but honestly I'd rather work on it and pay attention to it. It's rewarding to see it grow, and that seems to be enough motivation.

I also really like playing mortals, which was not at all the case five years ago. I just wish I had more time to do it - there's so much work to be done!

Q3. Ouch asked you about your hardest moment with A.A. and your best moment. What was the funniest moment you can remember with the game? I know these sorts of questions are evaluative and silly, so feel free to give more than one or refuse to answer. Also, please exclude the auctioning yourself one since we've heard about that in previous interviews.

Some of my hardest moments have been dealing with hate machines. These little clusters of assholery, typically small groups of three hardcore, dedicated people, can make the game unpleasant for huge numbers of people, and it took me a long time to figure out how to deal with them. It's depressingly horrible.

Some of my best moments are the other side of things, usually watching people grow and become something else, something better. Seeing relationships form, seeing people change their life in a positive direction because of something I said, something I did, something they discovered on the game. There are countless examples over the years - old Druid, Phtom, and Watery getting their college degrees, players getting married and having happier lives, and youngsters growing up.

As a recent example of this, one of our more problematic players has grown up tremendously in the last couple of years. Where once his goal seemed to be acquiring other player's passwords, he now runs his own Mush, and he's actually trying to do it -correctly-, not just cheesing it or screwing around. When I talk to him now, it's no longer as a parent threatening to spank a child. Rather, it's peer to peer, one admin to another, and it's really awesome to see him actually learn and understand important things.

Q4. You mentioned in an earlier interview that you feel that one reason why the game has continued so long, and why you are the only one of the original admin team around, was because you had a vision of where the game was heading, and what it would take to remain viable. Is the game still on the right track? Where do you see the game in the future?

Correction: when we started, I estimated that this needed to be a minimum five year project, with effort put in across that whole time. I didn't really expect to be actively working on it once I finished my degree and got out into the 'real world'. In my naivety, I just assumed that we'd be able to stay together for that whole time period, and that the others would have the same vision I did (or that we could agree on a good common vision.)

Unfortunately, we didn't all have a common vision, and the conflicts that arose were sometimes unfixable. I didn't realize at the time that someone had to be in charge, and that someone had to provide overall guidance, overall structure. What I did realize was that the game needed to have fair rules, and that those rules needed to be fair to everyone and that even the creators and builders needed to respect them. Not everyone believed that, and vestiges of that 'entitlement complex' remain with us today.

Many years later, I definitely feel the game is on the right track. We're making it more friendly, more fun, and frankly a better game, without necessarily compromising its long term value.

In the future, I see the game breaching a monthly userload of a hundred (for reference, we're currently around 65), with six classes and a lot more areas and improvements. I see a 20th anniversary event being awesome. I don't see a massive rip-up and change the world, and I don't see a need to materially change the architecture of things: the game works now, and it works well, and it's fun. We should encourage that and go with what we know.

That said, I want to create other games too, and if possible put them into the same universe in the same way that Eve Online has. There's no reason that the worlds of AA can't be part of Stellar Aeon, somewhere in the distant reaches of the universe, though I see that as a very distant hope.

Q5. You mentioned in an earlier interview that you liked the old Email god and probably wouldn't get rid of the email bot, but of corse, it has fallen by the wayside. Was this to prevent confusion on the part of new players? Many of us miss it.

We still have the code and the database for the email bot, but something is currently wrong with it and I haven't taken the time to fix it. It's also an ignore bypass and confusion hazard, so for now I'm not putting forth any effort to bring him back. Very low priority.

Thanks again to Dentin for answering these questions. I hope they've worked to clarify and update his earlier comments in the previous interviews. As always, we the players appreciate the time invested in improving the game and making it one of the most enjoyable mud experiences around.

Part 1
Go to Part 2
Go to Part 3
Go to Part 4

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