1. Could you please tell something about yourself, tell us who is the mighty Pyrate?
First of all the mighty "Pyrate" is someone who lost his former name "Akananto" in a dramatic fight with the new company wide naming rules, which forced names to be seven characters at the utmost. In addition, I'm definitely on the side of the pirates in their eternal struggle against those pesky ninjas. Luckily, the pirate outfit in Tibia looks way better than the ninja one...
After my studies of computer sciences and two years of programming in medical image processing I joined CipSoft in autumn of 2004. Back then I was responsible for the new content creation tool and later the Tibia stand-alone client, plus many many many other small, medium and large programming tasks for Tibia. In autumn of 2012 I left the Tibia team to develop new game prototypes for CipSoft. As "half programmer, half project lead" and with another programmer and a game designer we created "InfecTD", a browser-based multiplayer tower defence game, and "Armored Conflict", a MOBA for tablets. The latter had some success on the market and was turned from a prototype into a full game, "Panzer League". I was its project lead (no more programming for me *sniff*) for over three years and had a mixed team of up to ten people. After the first public announcement of "Panzer League" in the summer of 2017, I switched positions again within the company and became the head of a fairly new team inside CipSoft which is responsible for developing more concepts for future games of the company.
Beside my work at CipSoft I'm in my early forties and have a wife and kids. Playing computer games is of course a hobby of mine, but I'm not the biggest gamer in the house, that's my wife. I'm neither the weirdest gamer in the house, that's my son, because he prefers playing with a mouse and a game pad at the same time. We're all PC gamers, at least so far, because the kids have not found the consoles in the basement yet... Another important part of my life are roleplaying games, mostly of the "paper & pen" kind, but even of the "live action" kind. Finally I have to mention my soft spot for colourful shirts, most importantly Hawaiian shirts.
2. Do you still play occasionally Tibia?
No. So many other games, so little time. And let's not forget that Tibia was part of my everyday work life for eight years: Opening the Tibia client evokes very different memories for me than it does for you.
3. What do you think of Tibia nowadays? It has changed a lot, what is your opinion about it?
It's great! Based on what I hear within the company so many topics inside Tibia changed to the better. Especially the community managers tell wonderful stories about "players liking this" and "players discussing that". I remember times when absolutely every topic had been overshadowed by rants about botting and connectivity. So from what I hear it has to be much better nowadays.
4. Was it hard for you to change from programming to product developer?
No, it all came very slowly. I "grew" into many roles here at CipSoft, and at some point in time it was the next logical step for me: I wanted more responsibility, both for the project and for team members. Nevertheless I'm still a programmer deep in my hearth and at those rare occasions, when I can afford to do some programming myself again, I absolutely love doing it.
5. When you were in Tibia department, have you ever tested how much faster the game would be if the world map be saved on client side? If yes, do you remember the outcome, if not, why not?
We never tried that out. In the way Tibia works, with its everchanging world map, it does not seem to make sense to have a complete copy of world map in the game client. The visible parts would need to be constantly updated anyway - and that's exactly how it's done currently: Only the game server knows the "truth", the current state of the world map, and the game clients gets informed only about parts visible by that game client.
6. Was it you who developed the architecture of Tibia, why CipSoft decided to go in that time with one server per world infrastructure as well as why characters data were saved as simple text files and not in database?
All that was created before my time at CipSoft. Changing the one server per world infrastructure for Tibia would make no sense in my personal opinion. In addition it would cost way too much time, mostly from programmers, without resulting in an appropriate benefit. The simple text files for saving characters proved over and over again for many years that simplicity can be great. The idea to store everything in databases comes up every couple of years but so far it was never implemented, for good reasons.
7. Is it, because of the old structure of server and saving data inside a texts, not possible to develop better on-crash concept that the server does not need to be rolled back?
No, that is not a reason. When a Tibia game server crashes, it does not just randomly stop out of the blue. Usually it is in the middle of some complex data processing and while doing so something goes wrong, and then the game server crashes. Afterwards there are several important questions: What did the game server just do? Is the data it left behind in a valid state? Or is the data itself now broken, too? The answers to those questions are very complex and never without doubt.
In Tibia there is always one clean cut after a crash: When the game server restarts with the last data known to be valid, which is the data from the last server save.
8. Do the new games developed by CipSoft follow the new idea of server concept you've presented at GDC (https://www.gdcvault.com/play/1014907/Inside-Tibia-The-Technical-Infrastructure - around 34:44 minute) or has the idea of architecture already changed?
Actually Tibia is now using a very similar infrastructure like the one suggested in my presentation all those years ago. The newest game from CipSoft, Panzer League, is only slightly similar, but Panzer League is a MOBA with time-limited game sessions, not a persistent world MMORPG like Tibia.
9. You at CipSoft have a "Payment server". Do all the games uses it or is it only for Tibia? Could you tell us about this server more? What does it do?
All current and future games of CipSoft do use our payment server. It is a centralized interface between those games and the plenty payment providers CipSoft is using (credit cards, scratch-off cards, pay by premium SMS, country-specific payment methods, etc.). The technical side of making payments is actually quite a difficult thing to do and so there is a dedicated team for programming and running the payment server. Now all the games of CipSoft can use the payment server, which makes the technical side a lot easier for them. In addition new payment providers can be added or old ones removed without the games themselves having to change anything. All in all the game teams can better focus on their games and the payment team takes care of the payment server.
10. Do you have for our reads a nice story that did happen during the time you were programmer for Tibia?
Many years ago a Linux-based server in a rented datacenter started to act strangely. All important programs had already been moved to other servers and it even was decided to put that server out of service. Nevertheless it was left on running for a couple of weeks to find the reason for the strange behaviour. At some not-so-busy afternoon a founder (Durin), a system administrator (Umrath) and a programmer (me) came together at Durin's office to do some detective's work. We opened a remote access terminal to said server and tried out several Linux commands: Some worked, some not, most importantly all commands to restart or shut down the server did not. At first we noticed no pattern in the strange behaviour and it turned into something like a Bingo session, all three of us yelling Linux commands to try out. Some worked, some not. Then Umrath asked "have you seen the time?". Durin entered the command to output the time: The time was wrong, but, well, a wrong time itself did not seem suspicious. Then During entered the command again. And again. And again. And then we finally noticed it: The time went up one second. And then down again. And up. And down. And up. And down. The server was stuck in its own little time loop. One step forward, one step back, rinse and repeat. Every Linux command that "waited" for something, most notably the command to shut the server down, never completed. Any other command still worked. We had some good giggles that afternoon. A couple of days later someone drove to the datacenter and pulled the plug.
11. How did it happen you decided to leave Tibia department to develop new games?
I wanted to make something new: New games on new platforms with new tools.
12. We saw lately a lot of prototypes from CipSoft, the MOBA in Tibia reality, a strategy game, Tanks game "Panzer League". Where they all led by you? What you can tell us about this game? What was the challenge?
I was only responsible for the prototypes and games mentioned above, "InfectTD", "Armored Conflict" and "Panzer League". Several other prototypes, "Summonia", "Physica", "Chubby Floating Islands" and lately "Project Battle Arena", had been developed by other teams.
Developing a new multiplayer game includes so many huge challenges that it would be futile to start a list of challenges here. Recently I gave a presentation at a conference for game developers with the title "what I would have loved to know before developing a multiplayer game". The most important topic in that presentation was that user interface design and user interface implementation for "Panzer League" was a lot harder than we expected and did take a lot more time than we planned. After all the game runs on smartphones and despite being a complex MOBA the user interface must be clear, appealing and not overloaded.
13. Did you collected your team by yourself from Tibia employees or you had to employ your staff?
CipSoft does have a human resources team and they organize everything needed to employ new staff members. During this process the appropriate team lead evaluates the professional expertise of the new candidate. When a new team is formed inside CipSoft it usually becomes a mix of current and newly hired employees.
14. How big is your department? Do you work full time in new game development or also helps other departments with Tibia & TibiaME?
Currently my team consists of two game designers, a programmer and me as team lead. We're all working full-time on finding the right concepts for future games of CipSoft and present our work directly to the company's management. We're not helping out other teams, we are focussed on our work. In contrary, we get help from other teams, for example, the marketing team is helping us with market research.
15. If Uman could tell you just one of the Tibians secrets, which one would you choose to learn? Why?
Why is the rum always gone?
16. If you could ask Zathroth to destroy something in Tibia, what do you choose? Why? How do you to rebuild it?
Ninjas. Kill 'em all. Yarr!
17. Do you often follow any official tibia fansite? Why?/Why not?
As I don't actively play Tibia I don't follow fansites. Nevertheless, I do read some articles and especially interviews once in a while when our community management points to them in our internal news blog.
18. What is your favourite profession and why?
Sorcerer. In nearly all computer games with a fantasy world I choose to play a magic-wielding, destruction-raining, distance-keeping profession.
19. What is your favourite Tibian city and why?
Darashia. It is my favourite town due to its oriental setting. My oldest roleplaying campaign, which I actually started 17 years ago and still play nowadays, is located in a oriental setting, too, with sand and heat and djinns and magic. For my Tibia character Darashia and Darama seemed a obvious choice.