- Jeremy: In the “VB Game Programmers Unite”† thread on the Visual Basic Explorer forum, which helped kick start TGP, you seemed rather leery of the whole idea. Yet since then, you set up the sites, made plans, became the team leader, etc. Why the sudden turnabout?
Clint: I guess I just got TGP fever. :)
It’s a rather odd story. I'd just started frequenting the
VBE forums about a month before the posting of the VB
Game Programmers Unite thread, and I started looking through the really old topics listed in the
Projects forum. All I saw were dozens and dozens of subjects about this guy or that guy asking
people to join a VB gaming team. Yet, few of them had any replies, and none of them seemed to have
On top of this, I'd seen many “community game projects”—developed not only in VB—that had
just sort of faded away before they were finished, and not one that had succeeded. It’s just
common sense. It’s really hard to get people coordinated on something as huge as a game (unless
one person could do it, but then there’s no need for a team) unless you’re in the same room.
Not only that, everyone wants to do everything in a different way. I imagined this in my head, and
thought “no wonder these things never work”.
Then one day, I went into the Projects forum, and spotted a post entitled “VB Game Programmers
Unite.” I had a look at the thread, and dismissed it. DemonSpectre, the guy who posted it, made
a sort of cattle-call urging VB programmers to come together to form one huge game team to work on
I didn’t need to see all the failed team game projects to know that having a huge team would be
completely uncoordinated, disorganized, and the quality of the material would likely be lowered
overall. I gathered that anybody who wanted to join could, and I could just see 95% of the members
being young kids who’d been programming two weeks and didn’t know the first thing about
designing—let alone programming—a game of a large scale. On top of that, everyone would have
their own ideas about what would make a good RPG, so it was sure to be a recipe for pure chaos.
I relayed this to the thread, and went on my way. Some people echoed my sentiments, while a few
others—who actually had something to show as far as game development—seemed a bit more keen on
So, after some discussion on the pitfalls of such a scheme, a little debate on the C / VB wars,
and the origins of BASIC, a few people started getting serious about the idea, and
started laying out plans right there. I'd seen plenty of game projects start, but this was the
first time that I'd seen people actually plan things out beforehand. I think this was the point
where I started to see some potential.
Well, before I knew it, there were six people who were ready to get started. By this time, I
thought, "hey, why not?" and jumped on the bandwagon. I was 21, was still a nervous wreck from a
previous job, couldn’t find another, and the business I was running was failing. I saw this as a
chance to have something fun to do while trying to rebuild the skills I had neglected due to a
lack of time and nerves from my last job. So, I decided to fire-up my favorite HTML editor
(Notepad) and get to work on a quick web-site.
I'm not the best at making up names, so I just named the site “The Gathering Project,” since
it was a place where these people could gather together to work on the game. After about two days,
we had a site with general information, news, a member roster, a message board, and a chat room,
hosted on ad-free ’Web space from the site of my business. The others approved, and we got to
work. So, that’s the story in a nutshell.
- Jeremy: It’s fairly common to have a general “cattle call” for programmers form on the Internet, but to make it last longer than three months is a miracle. I had success once, but only because I limited the team to three members-though even that had whittled down to two by the end. Yet TGP has multiple members and longevity. To what do you attribute such a feat?
Clint: I suppose it’s because TGP has become more than a game project to most of us. To
me, it’s a way of life. The project did in fact collapse after the first month or so, when some
members just became silent, and the forums were left alone. I for one wasn’t ready to give up,
so I got in contact with the members to see who was still serious about trying to pick the pieces
up and keep moving. After that, we still had four members including myself.
Things were tough for a while, but we didn’t give up, and soon my inbox became flooded with
resumes from hopeful recruits. It seems that some good recruiting decisions were made, as the
members we have now are all hard workers and are dedicated to the project.
The keys to keeping a project together are a strong leadership, a strong team, a sense of purpose,
and a lot of luck. I've devoted all my time to ensure that the best quality goes into the project
and giving the team ideas on making the game better, and the team seems to really appreciate that.
To us, TGP is more than just a game, it’s a serious endeavor to do the best we can. And TGP is
very lucky to have as many talented workers as it does and be able to keep them motivated.
- Jeremy: What is it like to work with a team on something of this magnitude? Either from your perspective, or from your team as a whole. Any hard feelings? Rebellion? Or nothing but smooth sailing?
Clint: Well, I don’t know if I can really speak for everyone else, as I'm sure every
member has had their own experience. I'm sure some feel as though they aren’t respected as much
as others. I'm sure others feel as though everyone’s against them at times. And I'm sure others
get sick of seeing other team members fighting amongst themselves. As you can see, it’s been
anything but smooth sailing. :)
There is often tension within the team, but we all work through it. Problems don’t get solved by
getting angry with someone and never speaking to them again. Although I feel things get done
faster in a professional environment, I also know that it is very important to remember that
we’re a team, none of us are perfect, and that we all have to be friends to be able to work
together in this scenario. No promises of payment or success comes with being a member of the
team, so it’s much easier to just up and quit something like TGP.
The thing that I think keeps TGP together is that we are like a family. I really do care about
each member, although I may not show it as often as I would like. Sometimes it seems the only time
I manage to say what I really think is when I'm angry, but I really… really don’t think
clearly when I'm angry. I'm well-known for my temper (rather a lack thereof), and I'm not afraid
to admit it, although I'm not exactly proud of it. But deep down, these guys and gal are my
family, and I want to thank each and every member of the team, my family, for putting up with me
for so long. :)
- Jeremy: Have you had a lot of member turnover?
Clint: Surprisingly, not really. I suppose my resume selection scheme can be attributed
to this. I like to run things as a business. If someone appears professional to me, that tells me
that they’re typically serious about what they do. Whenever I get a resume, I pay close
attention to everything from spelling and grammar, to the sense of excitement written into the
resume, and I also require recruits to send actual samples of their work. Anyone who writes a
resume using "hay can i join ur teem u guyz r kewl!!1!!11″ is usually ignored.
It’s just smart business. If someone can’t take the time to use proper spelling, grammar, and
punctuation, how can I expect them to take the time to do whatever work they are assigned? If
someone can’t write a quality resume, how can I expect them to produce quality materials? As
anal as this may sound, everyone I've hired using this tactic has only served helpful. We’ve had
only one member leave since I took over recruiting, out of a total of six “hired” members
Then of course is the sense of spirit in the project. We’re not easily discouraged, and we are
able to get over any problems we have with others in the team.
- Jeremy: Assuming you complete the game, any ideas how you’ll advertise it? The idea of a “VB RPG” conjures up certain images… none of which are very positive. Any idea how you’ll get people past that stigma to at least give it a shot? Movies or trailers? Word of mouth? Sky writing?
Clint: Up until now, we’ve let longevity be our ad agency. We never post announcements
to VB forums (except one time in the Visual Basic Explorer forums where the post that spawned TGP
was made, and that was just to update the site URL when it changed), and only occasionally does it
come into a message board conversation. Even with that, we’ve managed to get quite a few
resumes, forum postings, and fan e-mails from people who know little to nothing about the project
itself, just because of what we’re doing. I don’t think it’s a good idea to advertise until
you have a substantial amount of work completed. People tend to lose interest in something over
the months it takes to develop a game of this scale.
As for the future, we’ll simply use “target marketing.” If we post a message in a VB forum
regarding the game, we’ll note that it is made in VB to attract that audience. If we post
something in a general gaming forum, VB won’t be mentioned, because it should be a moot point
there. People should play our game because it’s good, not because of the language it was made
in. Likewise, if our game sucks, that should be the reason people don’t play it. VB doesn’t
have any sense of fun, it just does what you tell it to (within reason). It’s not the fault of
VB if a game is not fun, and anyone who thinks otherwise is blaming it on the tools and not
whoever is using them.
We’ll probably let word of mouth do the advertising for us to some point. We may try sending
demos to some PC gaming magazines that highlight certain independent games that stand out from the
crowd. We’ll also take advantage of the two new VB gaming news sites to get the word out, and
beyond that, there’s no telling. I suppose it mostly depends on whether or not TGP is
- Jeremy: Any idea what type of ESRB rating your game will be given in the end? Will there be excessive blood and violence? Nudity? Swearing? Bill Gates in a speedo?
Clint: Hey, how did you know we were going to have Bill Gates in a speedo?!
We’re trying for a T rating. Don’t expect mutilation or hot sex scenes, but don’t expect the
content to be tame, either. There will be some cursing, although it will not be frequent. Of
course, violence is something that’s hard to get around, but the only time you may see any blood
will be during a cutscene. Don’t worry about fountains of blood spurting from one edge of the
screen to another each time a character is hit in battle.
- Jeremy: I recently came across a marketed, commercial game on the Internet made from QBasic, of all things, which can be found at imerion.net. I'd like to think if someone can go commercial with QB, surely someone can do it in VB. Regardless if that ever happens, do you feel any pressure, externally or internally, to actually see TGP project to completion?
Clint: .........QBASIC!? I really need to check that out!
It’s definitely inspiring. I'm not sure a game the scope of TGP would work under QB without a
lot of retooling, but to hear that a game not coded in the almighty C / C++ is actually being
marketed is a wonderful thing. These are the kinds of people who know how to make magic.
We haven’t had much pressure from outsiders other than those who say all large Internet VB RPG
projects fail, but the members within the team believe in the project, and some dedicate all free
time they have to the project. Most of the internal pressure comes from me though. I feel like
this is the ultimate test that determines how I live my life from now on. I can walk away a loser,
a nobody, and spend the rest of my life in BFE, or I can walk away a winner. Someone who knows
that they have accomplished something where many have failed. It also determines whether I let
down the members of the team by not helping them see it through to the very end, and I really
don’t want to let them down.
- Jeremy: I, as a VB programmer, am pulling for TGP and hope to see it one day reach completion. I am therefore thankful for the opportunity to conduct an interview in the hopes it will answer some questions I and others have had, and possibly spark more interest in the VB community. That said, do you have any closing thoughts? About TGP or what you would like to see from the VB community in relation to TGP?
Clint: I am thankful to you as well. A year ago, I never imagined I would be the head of
one of the largest online VB gaming projects alive today and be interviewed by another successful
member of the VB gaming community. It’s been a fairly wild ride for me. :)
I hope that TGP is something that the VB gaming community quietly observes, yet is rooting for
behind the scenes. Something that isn’t noticed because of what it promises, but what it will
be. We can go about posting in every VB message board about how great and ambitious TGP is, but
that’s just noise, like a child showing off a new toy. Rather, I hope it is noticed because of
the silent confidence we have in ourselves, and the example we set by speaking with our actions
more than our words. Speak softly and carry a big stick. We’ll do just enough to remind people
we exist, and let them know we’re still working, but that’s about it for now.
As for the impact TGP actually has on the community, only time will tell. I hope that the game
gives developers new ideas, and sends sparks through the community that will inspire members of
the society to work on the art form of game design. Games with new ideas, innovations, and
mechanics. I hope it makes developers look at games in new ways, and rather than say, “I'm
working on a game similar to Game X,” they will work on games that are unique. After all, game
design is an art, and looking at 500 forged versions of the Mona Lisa gets pretty boring after a
I want to close by saying that I hope that TGP will be something that proves that just because
someone says something is impossible, it doesn’t make it so. My goal in life is not only to make
people happy, but to help them become better people. To inspire them that when they think
they’ve reached their limits, to push themselves beyond those limits, rather than just walk away
feeling as though they’ve failed. If it weren’t for this drive to keep pressing forward when
it seemed that we’d done all we could, we never would have realized the potential we have
discovered in ourselves the past year. Never be satisfied with mediocrity. Never give up, do
whatever you can to push your limits farther, because only then will you ever discover what you
are truly capable of.
- Jeremy: Thanks for your input, Clint, and for the opportunity to conduct this interview on a project that’s making the VB community stand up and take notice. And not just from a programming standpoint, but from a managerial view since few, if any, VB RPG groups have had such longevity with a positive vision for seeing it to the end. Hopefully, this will not only result in a great finished product, but in a changed VB community mindset that this type of thing can be done and done well—if certain steps and precautions are taken early on. So good luck as others and I continue to watch and wonder at TGP from the wings. :)