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 Post subject: Interview with Buck Rogers, for Colours Elite *
 Post Posted: Mon Nov 17, 2008 12:30 pm 
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Hello Buck Rogers, what other names have you been known by in the Freelancer Community?

I have used Buck Rogers since my first time online in Multiplayer, I used to play on a vanilla server called Animus, but I was a noobie and pretty naive then.
But I did use "White" for a good while when i used to player on the Pitch Black server. Pitch Black was almost Vanilla but had a few tweaks.

There were a number of us in a clan that all used colours as our names, so as you can probably guess, this is where Colours Elite dervived it's name.
Those were fun days, we pretty much dominated the server and never spoke, we just killed everyone that we came accross, eventually we got to know other clans, the server police and it's owner so we did have conversations.
Pitch Black was where i got interested in modding and got the idea of hosting my own server.

What part of the world do you live in?

I'm currently in Cambodia and have been here for about a year now. I came here to have a go at a business and retire, but that's another story.
My primary residence is a small town called Pontefract, near Leeds, in the County of West Yorkshire, England

How old are you?

I just turned 47 on the 29th October, I was pleasantly suprised when I checked as I thought I was 48. You tend to forget how old you are once you're in your 40s, going on 50 Smile

How many years have you played Freelancer?

I've played since it was released back in early 2003

Have you released or helped to build a mod? Please describe it.

Yes, indeed I have, I am the owner, and sole developer of the Colours Elite mod. I started in 2004 after my stint on Pitch Black.
While i was playing on Pitch Black I started looking into changing things to help me aquire ammunintion for free (Ssssh, don't tell anyone i was a modder) and i used to spawn ammo from one the asteroid fields in Omicron Gamma, which is where we resided most of the time.

After this I started looking on Lancers Reactor at what else could be done and I realised that changing ships, systems and pretty much anything was possible.
I started by hosting a vanilla server called Colours Elite from my home and just sat there and waited for people to log on. Soon people started to do so and the server took off.

Then i started tweaking; small things at first and serverside only, NPCs, battleships and opening up the single player systems.
Then i started to get more adventurous and add new ships, new systems etc.

One thing led to another and eventually I was building my own ships, not very well, but they worked, and doing the more complex things like adding new factions, well, to me it was complex as it was a pig to a novice to get factions to offer missions.
The timing was good as freelancer was at it's peak and before long I had up to 40 players on at the weekends.

I was a hands on admin and always on the server, answering questions, helping out and partaking in a lot of PVP, I used to love it and the other players seemed to like my continued presence.

We had many clans, large and small but there were the usual disagreements and accusations of modding which led me to my pet project, which I'm sure you are going to ask me about later, so i won't go into that now.
So Colours Elite was born, established and doing well, I was so proud of my accomplishments.

I was constantly adding to the mod and releasing new versions which served well in keeping the players coming back.
I made lots of mistakes of course and it sometimes cost us players but I developed a decent sized community of loyal and trustworthy people, who are mostly still around today.

But things don't last and the constant bickering started to get on top of me and I decided I needed a break.
So I stepped down and handed the server over to some friends who wanted to keep it going and keep the community alive.
Which they did, but without new mod releases and the fierce competition from other mod developers, player numbers dropped quite dramatically.

Although i was not active in terms of the server i did monitor our forum and eventually decided something needed to be done to get Colours back on its feet.

So I took over the reigns again about 3 months ago and now I'm trying to build the server back up to what it was.
It's proving to be a more difficult task than i thought, most people have moved on, not just to other servers but to other games, OGame is a killer, as well as games like World of Warcraft, the Battlefield series, etc. etc.

There are still plenty of people out there playing Freelancer but the challenge is offering them something on Colours that would tear them away from their current server.

Have you written a tutorial? Please tell us about it.

I did write a couple of simple tutorials for Lancers a couple of years back, when i was at my peak. One was on factions, one was on info tags and a third on jump hole effects.

I kept the links to the articles but I just tried them and they must have been moved, or deleted. I know lancers isn't what it used to be and they have had some problems.

Unfortunately i only have the links and not the original content so I can't remeber what was in them.

Have you created any tools for the community to use? What does it do?

I've recently released a small tool pack containing some tools that I wrote for personal use.
They were originally to help me find things and fix simple errors in ini files but I sent them to a friend and colleague and he said that there were no tools of this nature available and that i should release them to the community.

So I did, one at a time at first but then i compiled them into a single program and re-released it.
It's far from perfect and there are a couple of bugs in some of them, but they do the job.
Things like converting hex to strings and integers, searching ini files for a particular reference string and then showing the file and the items location.

Comparing ini files to highlight changes made between mod releases, a simple ini editor that doesn't remove those zeros after the decimal point, an ini cleaner to remove white space and carriage returns.
I've recently added a player file cleaner for removing references from prior mods.

For example, if a jumphole, jumpgate, system or base is removed from a mod, refrences to these items remain in the player file and in the past (in my case anyway) warranted a player wipe. Not a
good thing for keeping players on your server. So this tool builds a database of all objects in a mod and then scans all player files and removes any objects that no longer exist. It works too.

My biggest project is Freelancer Server Mod Manager (FLSM). I've been working on this for almost 2 years now and it has been in use on Colours since version 1.
It was when we were having all the arguments and accusations of modding on Colours that I realised that there was no effective tool that could stop it entirely.

There was IONCROSS which we used as a server manager, there was FLCD from the guys at the Hamburg City server and there was FLAC which worked well to a certain extent, and still does but none of them worked 100% or had issues, or had to pay for, sorry Eagle.
I'd just like to say hi to Eagle at this point and thank him for inspiring me.

So I'd just finished a degree in Computer Programming (Java mainly but some visual basic) and decided to put my new skills to the test, but I didn't feel happy with Java due to the complexity of building the interface and then I remebered how easy Visual basic was in comparison, but then I found out about Visual C#.

I was over the moon, as easy to use as VB but the syntax was so like java I couldn't believe it, typical of Microsoft.
I thought about it for a while and decided it would need a combination of all the tools I had used, a good manager for changing ships and adding/removing cargo, kicking, banning and above all, a way to stop ini file changes client side.

I decided the only successful way to do this was the use of a small apllication client side and use a CRC check on crucial ini files that could then be compared with the partner files server side.
With help from others initailly I got a prototype working but the early version had many bugs and problems, although i did release it to the community it failed miserably due to improper reading of ini files for the server manager side and bad connection code for the client to server.

I am still a novice programmer, university only teaches you the basics..
But I continued to develop it and I am about to release V5 which is pretty much where I wanted it to be from the start.
I can honestly say that it's 99.9% guaranteed to stop modders all together due to the recent integration of FLHook.
Thanks to w0dk4 and the guys on the FLHook team.

There is still one loop hole that remains in my system and so far haven't found an easy way to close it, but I'm not giving up.
Sorry but you did say i could waffle on and go into as much detail as i want, this is cut down, believe me Wink

Have you ever been an Admin of a mod community or website?

Only on Colours, I have spent my entire freelancer time on Colours since its birth 4 years ago

Okay, let's get to the meat and potatoes! How and when did you first get involved in the wonderful game of Freelancer?

It was when i was at University in Cheltenham, my ex-wife is from there, and i worked at PC World (computer store) to help with finances.

I had access to all the latest news and developments and kept a keen eye on the new games section in the store.
I loved space sim games and when i saw Freelancer I bought it immediately, espcially when i saw that it was made by Microsoft.

Don't get me wrong, i depise microsoft as much as the next guy but they do make good software.
When I played it for the first time it blew me away.

What aspects of Freelancer are you most interested in?

The way that it's so personal in the how you control what is happening.
The physics of the way the ship flies, the freedom to explore where you want, after completing single player of course.
I just couldn't get enough of it so I decided to try it out online, first time online by the way, and that was it, I was hooked.
When I started doing PVP with other players it was amazing, the way you had full control of the ship and the fact that it was down to your personal skill level to determine the outcome of the fight.

I mean, compared to other games, OGame for example, is more about who can earn money the fastest and build the biggest and strongest fleet.
Then you send out your fleet and wait for the outcome of the battle to come back, where's the fun in that, you don't even get to see the battle, unless it's changed since i tried it?
Don't take this the wrong way, OGame is a brilliant concept and enormously popular, but there's no personal skill involved like the way freelancer does it.

My biggest disappontment is that Microsoft turned their backs on, in my opinion, one of the best games ever made.
And it could be so much more, if they would only release the source code and allow the more experienced programmers amongst us to develop it further.

What groups / clans have you been affiliated with?

I started on the Animus server and was a Freelancer for most of the time but after getting better at the game i built up my own clan, to combat the biggest and best clan on the server, The SF (Supernus Facultas)
They were the bees knees at the time, on Animus anyway, and they were out and out bullies, someone had to stand up to them, why not me.

We were the APF (Animus Police Force), wow, I'm smiling now, the name just came back to me Smile
We did out fair share of fighting and stood up to them well but they were long established and had very big chips on their shoulders. They were the main reason i left the Animus server.

They played on Colours for a while but we ended up falling out and went our seperate ways.
After that it was the Colours clan on Pitch Black, a friend and i built it up and it was great fun.
Then I moved on to my own server. I've messed with clans on Colours but it's not the same when your the boss, so as to speak.

Building up is most of the fun and when you have access to what you want, when you want, it kind of takes the fun away so I just used to sit in one system and PVP all the time.

List your accomplishments and projects you have participated in.

Back in the time, owning and running one of the top servers in the freelancer community, it made me very proud.
After that, FLSM has to be my current pride and joy. Now that it's more stable and reliable, it's being used by quite a few servers. BSG use it, Tekagis is playing around with it.

There's a server in China that asked me to make the client multilingual so they could use it on their server. So I did, the client is now available in English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional and Japanese.

Plus the text is fully editable due to translation mistakes, i used Google to do the initial translations

List any awards, offices or positions you have held.

Now that's a good question and it depends in what context you are refering. I think you need to elbaorate on this question. If your refering to freelancer I can't think of anything of relevance here.

How has the Freelancer scene changed since you started playing?

Freelancer hasn't changed a bit, it's still the same as it's always been, it's the community around it that has changed. People come and go but the dedicated ones are still here, working hard to keep this game alive.
The problem is that Freelancer is getting old now and compatibility issues are starting to creep in, Vista comes to mind and Direct X10.

Microsoft seem to be killing their own developments to make sure that people keep buying new products.
I'm pretty sure that they do it intentionally, they know that Vista is a total flop so they're killing XP to make people go out and buy Vista, I may be a bit of a skeptic but that's what i believe.

Are you currently active on any servers?

Just my own, I don't get much time to visit other servers let alone play on them. I have my mind on FLSM and Colours' revival

What mod really stands out in your mind?

That's a tough one, apart from my own mod, I don't really get around much but I've heard good things about the BSG mod and the direction it's taking.

The guys over there, "Venom" (the owner) and "Acid" (mod developer) to name but 2 seem to be pretty switched on in terms of what players want, and let's face it, at the end of the day it's the player who dictate which mods are good.

What do you find most interesting about Freelancer...the single player aspect, clan wars, being a pirate, a cop, vanilla servers, hugely modded, Star wars, what?

I loved playing single player, it's pre-defined path, mostly but then when it was completed you were free to do as you pleased. Most games just have a scenario and once you complete it that's it, game over.

But it has to be Multiplayer, interacting with others, bonding friendships, building a small community within a much bigger community and knowing that there are people out there, more advanced than yourself, willing to help.

The freedom to choose; you can do just that, be a pirate, be a trader, be a cop and if you get bored with one roll you can just switch over and try another.

What will be your role in Freelancer in the coming years?

Same as it is now i guess. I'll continue to develop FLSM and continue to maintain the little community we have built and hopefully increase the size of that community to what it used to be.

Describe in detail any memorable Freelancer experiences.

Wow, the first time I went online. I was nervous as hell, sweaty palms, pounding chest. I'd never played online games before, it was nerve racking. Then I had to choose a server, there were hundreds of them then.

I chose Animus, simply because it was high up on the list and had quite a few players on but not too many so as to put me off.
Once i got on I just started to do my own thing and build up but it wasn't long before people started talking to me and my confidence started to grow.

I never looked back, still here today, almost 5 years later.

Why do you spend countless hours building mods, making tools, answering questions or writing tutorials?

Mainly because i enjoy it, still. I love writing code and i love making changes to FL and seeing them happen when i launch and thinking, yeh, i did that.

But the biggest thing has to be the satisfaction in knowing that I'm giving others a means of escaping from reality, somewhere to go and something to do, amongst new friends who share the same passions.

A way to get away from the missus, or the screaming kids, or a bad day at work, and just relax into a world that you are in control of, but can switch off when ever you like and go back to reality, safe in the knowledge that it's still going to be there tomorrow.

What other games do you regularly play?

Not many, I like the older games, games tend to be getting too complex for me, guess I'm getting old Smile
I like to play games that i have thoroughly enjoyed over and over again. I like games where you have to build things and create things.
I play Age of Mythology, Age of Empires when i need to get away and relax. I play Anno 1701, I play Call of Duty sometimes but just the scenarios, I don't go online with them.

Do you have any hobbies other than games?

Not really, I spend my life on my computer so I suppose that's my hobby

Is there anything new coming up in the future for you?

I am playing with an idea for a new mod, from scratch. I'm going down the role play road as I beleive that Freelancer needs something to keep people interested and just PVP isn't enough any more.
Colours was primarily a PVP server but I need to give our community more.

How do you view the future of Freelancer?

Unless Microsoft get their acts together and either, release the source code, or develop a Freelancer 2, I don't see mush change in it's future apart from what we die hards can come up with.

Can you recommend any others in the community for an interview?

There's so many, Star Trader and Beyjamac spring to mind, their both doing lots over on StarPort and EOA. You guys, DwnUndr and SoupMan. Anyone who is contributing to keep freelancer alive.

Are there any last things you would like to add?

Yes, I'd like to thank my partners in crime, it's not just me over on Colours now, we're a team of 6, sharing the costs of hosting and the burden of command, Sir Eddie, Mannock, Scarab, Shane and Nomad_Inv, without them the Colours communtiy would not be here today

Thank you for the interview! It is the contribution of folks like you that help to keep the game and the community alive!

_________________
The Colours Elite UK server is back up. 217.10.144.234

You will need ColourSoft FLSM Client to get on.

Visit http://forum.colourselite.co.uk for more info


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