Each week Orbis Weekly will produce a number of interviews that we send out to people all over the world. The idea behind the ORB Interview is to shed a little light on people, especially ones we think the world of Orbis should know more about.The questions will range from basic, random, and relevant.
Alex, previously known as Sheepy, is the Politics & War game admin/owner. I have personally known Alex for quite some time now and although the relationship has been controversial here and there & there have been ups and downs in the relationship he has with the game community – he’s still here, alive and kicking & if you get to know him he’s a pretty cool guy.
“I’m not playing the game currently, so I’m not in any alliances.” – Alex
ORB Weekly: Can you start by telling ORB a little bit about yourself?
Alex: Ah, where to begin? I grew up in a small town of about 500 in rural Montana and have had a passion for making games since I was little. Throughout Junior High and High School I was always trying to make a P&W type game. By my senior year, I finally had something decent (P&W). I’ve been working on the game ever since, adding new content and moderating the community. I’ve also been at college these past 3 and a half years at the University of Minnesota, studying Economics (with a minor in Political Science.)
ORB Weekly: Is PW the first simulation game you’ve played?
Alex: Far from it. I’ve always liked simulation games. When I was very little, I got a copy of SimCity 2000 which I played a lot of and I also played lots of other computer simulation games like Rollercoaster Tycoon, Zoo Tycoon, etc growing up. (Even now, I just bought Parkitect, a just-released amusement park simulation game.) I also put countless hours into Civilization 3 as a young kid. As I got older I developed more of a passion for government and politics and started googling things like “create my own country” or “country simulation game” and came across a number of early options like Nation States, Cyber Nations, and a couple others that I don’t believe are around any longer. Playing games like these (in particular, Cyber Nations) really kindled my interest in trying to make a game like it.
ORB Weekly: What made you create PW?
Alex: Playing Cyber Nations I eventually found myself banned due to some really over-the-top moderation – I was just a kid (maybe 11, 12?) and there was some trolling happening in the Cyber Nations IRC channel, I think these players were saying something about ‘the grinch’ who was hacking the game and anyone who knew about it, but didn’t report it to the mods would get banned. So, I sent a message to a mod on the forum about it and they thought I was trolling them and straight up banned me – both on the forum and in-game (this is why if you get banned on the forum in P&W you are not automatically banned in-game.) They totally skipped their 5-warning due process procedure and issued me all of the warns at once. After that, I was young and naive and thought, “I’ll just may my own Cyber Nations!” and thus began the cycle, starting out with a lot of crap ‘games’ as I learned how to make websites, program things on the server side to do basic stuff like register/login, flesh out modified design for the game, etc. My first ‘success’ was Pixel Nations, which started in 2011. It was programmed really terribly and in the end I sold it because it was a big pain for me to manage at the time. A few years later I came back with Politics & War, and the rest is history.
ORB Weekly: Of the environments that you built, why did you stick solely with PW?
Alex: That’s a good question. I guess P&W has just been the most successful and important to maintain. I’d like to create more games, but it takes a really big initial investment of time and effort and being busy with work/school it’s just made more sense to keep going with P&W than to get serious about any new projects. Plus, there’s always more work to be done with P&W.
ORB Weekly: A few months back, there was some pretty heavy presence with StateKraft – what prompted you to put all that on the back burner?
Alex: There are a lot of things that I wish I had designed differently from the start with P&W, from the design to some mechanics. Some of it I’ve learned from how P&W has progressed that things should have been set up different. StateKraft was a shot at starting from scratch and redesigning a better (and also different) game. I threw it all on the back burner because there’s still a lot to be done with P&W and I just didn’t have enough time to dedicate to both projects seriously right now.
ORB Weekly: As we all know, you play a bit as a nation – what is the story behind jumping into your own game? Is it strictly for research or do you wish to be a part of the community in secret?
Alex: I think it’s useful to play just to keep current with my understanding of how the game is played and get the player’s perspective. I was able to add a lot of convenience things in-game once I started playing again (advanced nation search features, for example) as a result of me being annoyed or having a hard time doing the things I wanted to do while playing.
ORB Weekly: How do you balance game development time & RL Time? Especially around the holidays.
Alex: For the most part if I’m not actively developing anything, the game doesn’t take too much time to manage. Sometimes moderation issues flare up that need a big response, but for the most part, I can get by with spending 10 minutes or so per day checking in on the game and going through all of the messages I regularly get. Around the holidays, I’ll usually put things off for a few days at a time and just come back to a big slew of messages. I’m not playing the game currently, so I’m not in any alliances.
ORB Weekly: Do you celebrate Christmas? What is one of your favorite traditions?
Alex: I do! While our family has probably a pretty regular Christmas (opening presents and whatnot) for me it’s mostly getting together with the family. I have a lot of brothers and a sister that I don’t get to see very often, so for me that time of year is really about just getting the whole family together and doing family things like eating, playing games together, etc.
ORB Weekly: Any plans for New Year’s Eve?
Alex: Sort of – I’m actually going to India for about 2 weeks. Leaving on December 30th. We’re landing in Delhi at like 1am on New Years Day, so I’ll be about 7 hours into a flight during New Year’s this year.
ORB Weekly: Can we expect any changes before the end of 2018?
Alex: Probably nothing major. I’d like to get those Achievements rolled out soon and then start adding some new projects for testing on the Test Server, but I don’t know if I’ll get those out before the end of the year or not. I’d look for some bigger updates starting in late January
ORB Weekly: As the admin/developer of this game, do you pay attention to wars in terms of mechanics or do you solely wait for community members to bring up war mechanic issues and then get to work on possible changes?
Alex: Not really – before Discord, when most of the important game communications happened on the Forum, it was a lot easier to keep track of what people thought and what was going on. Nowadays, most things happen in Discord servers and I don’t have the time and energy to read back on all of the logs. I generally wait until a suggestion gets enough positive feedback from the community that it warrants me seriously considering, as I’ve learned that I can put a lot of time and effort into a new mechanic/change only to find out everyone hates it and I wasted my time.
ORB Weekly: What’s on the docket for 2019?
Alex: Oh definitely. I don’t have anything concrete yet, but I’ll graduate in May and following a move/transition period my plan is to essentially work on P&W and other projects full time. I’d guess the second half of 2019 will be very eventful for P&W.
ORB Weekly: What is something you love doing in RL?
Alex: I’m a pretty outdoorsy person – I like hiking, kayaking, and snowboarding. My biggest hobby is probably being a nerd and doing P&W stuff.
ORB Weekly: Got a pet? Share a pic with us.
Alex: Sort of- all of my childhood pets are gone, but my parents do have two new cats that I see when I’m visiting home. Here’s a picture I took over Thanksgiving of one of them, named Hemi.
Thanks for Reading!
Wanted to give Alex a thanks! I sent him questions for this interview probably three times because they kept messing up. I can’t wait for the new year and the changes that could come to PW!