Psyonic: Thanks JV for taking the time to meet with me!
Johnny_Vegas: My pleasure.
Psyonic: Alright Johnny. So. I know you're an older fellow and these sort of questions are hard to answer but... What were some of your first online experiences? With which games?
Johnny_Vegas: Hold on sonny... let me get my spectacles.
Johnny_Vegas: Ahh yess.. First online games were some random MUDs on some old Macintosh SE/30's at my college dorm when I was a freshmen, way back in 1994
Johnny_Vegas: Multi-User-Dungeons. Like, text based, MMORPGs.
Psyonic: Ohh. Never played one.
Psyonic: Oh. All I need to know right there.
Johnny_Vegas: Then around 1996 I think it was.... I heard about a program called KALI that let you simulate a IPX/SPX network over the internet. People were using it to play Warcraft 2 and games like Descent, and Duke Nukem 3d.
Psyonic: So was it one giant networking system?
Johnny_Vegas: Yes. It was for DOS originally, so I had this computer I had bought when I finished high school in 1994 for $2133. It was a 486/33mhz with 8mb of ram, that was included with a crappy ink jet. A real power house.
Psyonic: Haha. Cheap too!
Johnny_Vegas: But yeah, I wanted to speed up War 2 so I got this DX4/100 overdrive chip, for $100. (BEST UPGRADE EVER)
Psyonic: Sounds like a good deal.
Johnny_Vegas: So anyway, back to the story. I was visiting Shlonglor's War 2 page, Shlong was a guy who eventually got a job working for Blizzard, because they liked his website so much.
Psyonic: Oh? I knew of Shlonglor's website but I never knew he got hired at Blizzard.
Johnny_Vegas: Yes, He had the best War 2 strategy page, and that's where I learned of Kali. That page was awesome and he and his friends were crazy good.
Johnny_Vegas: For some reason.., a current player you might know that was his friend, is Dudey, but I am not sure, hrm.
Psyonic: So you played with him and his friends often?
Johnny_Vegas: Only like twice I did. He was a superstar and I was a nobody, little johnny that I was. He would annhilated me but at least I was destroyed by the king and, not that he was the best war 2 player, but he was good.
Psyonic: That's like saying. "Man, I just got owned by Mark4. That's awesome."
Johnny_Vegas: Yeah. Mark4 coulda beat him, if Mark4 had played war2 on kali at the time.
Psyonic: So when Starcraft came out... Were you excited for it? Or did you think it was another Warcraft 2 clone?
Johnny_Vegas: Starcraft? Slow down son!!
Johnny_Vegas: We are still in 1995!
Johnny_Vegas: j/k, haha
Psyonic: Well AIM is so crud sometimes. Hard to space out the questions. Anyways. Please continue.
Johnny_Vegas: So anyway, I played war2 on Kali for a while, first time you could play online against others.. great competition. SC came out right as I graduated college and I of course really liked it. I played for about a year until I moved to Los Angeles with my wonderful wife. I remember living with my boss for a month and playing Starcraft with my monitor propped on a cardboard box.
Psyonic: So wait... You were married by the time Starcraft came out?
Johnny_Vegas: me and WarriorPrincess (her SC name from way back) got married at the end of college. We had an internship together, she was in marketing, me in web development, at the same internet design firm.
Psyonic: Perfect combination.
Johnny_Vegas: So anyway, I played for a year when, until around early 1999 I met Mark4. He used to be called Falarn.
Psyonic: Interesting name.
Johnny_Vegas: I had some enjoyable team games with him and he mentioned he posted some of our games on b.net forums.
Psyonic: Did you go by Johnny_Vegas back then?
Johnny_Vegas: Yes. Occassionally I used others, Goliath_Bob for example.
Psyonic: Well, we all use "others".
Johnny_Vegas: Hrmm. Johnny_Vegas has an old history though. I was first called that in high school. Probably when I was 18.
Psyonic: Why the Vegas?
Johnny_Vegas: my friend Mark and I used to go to the indian casino here.... http://www.soaringeaglecasino.com/
We made up nicknames for each other, he was Mark Blackjack, me Johnny Vegas. Heh, my real name is John, so, you know, natural name.
Psyonic: You know you're like a walking advertisement. =)
Johnny_Vegas: Yeah, maybe these places will give me kick backs. Anyways, that casino is in the great land of Michigan, where I'm from.
Psyonic: But I assume you're still in LA?
Johnny_Vegas: No, I lived there 3 years during the DOTCOM boom.
Psyonic: Oh yes. Exciting time that was.
Johnny_Vegas: Then we had a son, so we decided LA was not the place for raising a young'in, so off to Indianapolis we went, which just so happened to be the first Midwest city where I got a job. Also, my sister lives here, been here since 2002.
Psyonic: Wow. Seems luck played out in your favor.
Johnny_Vegas: Well, I searched for michigan jobs and indianapolis ones but I'm glad I moved here though cause the Michigan economy = the suck
Psyonic: I'll make sure to take note of that. You heard it here folks. Michigan has a worse economy then Canada.
Johnny_Vegas: Damn straight. Worst employment rate in the nation.
Psyonic: Dagomar will be livid to hear it.
Johnny_Vegas: Maybe Canada should just annex Michigan.
Psyonic: Ok well, back to Mark4 for a minute. Sorry to jump around.
Psyonic: How did you feel when you read those reports Mark4 did in the B.net forums?
Johnny_Vegas: Well, as he kinda said in his interview... I didn't want to see them dissappear. At the time I had just learned some programming skills at a web hosting company I worked at in LA, web/database stuff. So I thought, why not create a website so they dont get swallowed up on S&T?
Psyonic: Was the idea to mainly store his reports at first?
Johnny_Vegas: Nah, we both thought to allow everyone the chance to post. I had done similar stuff at work with databases, so I knew I could just make it so anyone could submit the reports. One key though was Shockwave's Forum which, used to be hosted on a "free forum" site that progressively got worse and worse in terms of speed, annoying banner ads, and popups. I believe Mark4 was a regular at this forum.
Psyonic: Icky pop ups.
Johnny_Vegas: Before br.com was started up, he invited me to come check out the forum so I went there, and the players were cool and then I learned of nohunters.
Psyonic: Any names we at BR.com might know?
Johnny_Vegas: well, CattleBruiser was one of the original ones there, who was a very creative and genius guy may I say.
Psyonic: I agree with you. His reports still get quite a lot of attention.
Johnny_Vegas: His website also, Uri Zone, chock full of content. That guy writes a lot.
Psyonic: He's very good at it
Psyonic: So who else was there? To name a few more?
Johnny_Vegas: Hrm. To be honest I can't recall who was there at the beginning. I get them confused with peopel who joined within the next 1-3 yrs.
Psyonic: That's alright. Let's move on to nohunters then, What was that?
Johnny_Vegas: it was just a channel on b.net, not really a clan.
Psyonic: I always thought it was just a channel name but I've learned from Fox and Mark4 that it was much more.
Johnny_Vegas: Basically, the point was that those gamers were tired of playing hunters, which was overplayed. I guess you could say it was a clan but a lot of the people had this impression that "clans were gay" so they didn't call it a clan but anyone could show up and just play.
Psyonic: So a community just formed around the idea of playing something else besides hunters?
Johnny_Vegas: Well... Now you are going into ancient history where others are more knowledgeable for sure but there was this clan called NWTR, Nowhere to Run, which also was a map in War 2.... Man, this could make for some interesting history if you traced all this back, wow.
Psyonic: Please. We have as much time as you have to spare.
Johnny_Vegas: You'd end up back at Pong I bet.
Johnny_Vegas: Its funny cause if you think you're "old school" you can always be out "old schooled"
Psyonic: Oh. I wouldn't doubt it.
Johnny_Vegas: There was something before br.com, before nohunters, before shockwave's forum, before nwtr...
Johnny_Vegas: What was before nwtr, I am not clear.. It reminds me of ancient tribes in mesopotamia, or something, that joined up and eventually formed a civilization like Egypt, etc..
Johnny_Vegas: Meaning, all these different groups of gamers evolved over 10+ yrs
Psyonic: Well, when many communites share the same ideas. They all tend to gather in one place.
Johnny_Vegas: I get messages from people I used to play with from 8 yrs ago, freaky.
Psyonic: Oh yeah. I'll stop messaging you when this is over. Sorry about stalking you for awhile. =p
Johnny_Vegas: That was the deal. I do the interview, you stop msging me. j/k
Psyonic: =) <3 but not boobies
Johnny_Vegas: Sure looks like boobs, interesting Rorschar test.
Psyonic: So you started modeling out the idea of BR.com after all that. Was it hard work?
Johnny_Vegas: It was hard work, but I didn't care because it was fun. First thing I had ever really "created" and, may I say, that I just did the programming. Mark4 was the guy that actually knew how to play SC, and write reports. I ran all my ideas by Mark4. Also, he was the one that really thought tournaments were a good idea, so he got me to build that part of the site later. (2 yrs after initial br.com launch maybe, hrm)
Psyonic: So. Did it take long for people to gather? Or did you have to work for it?
Johnny_Vegas: No, thanks to nohunters guys mainly. However, many people also arrived from just the internet in general. They saw links etc.. Showed up.
Psyonic: Now. I have here, with me, A link to your first version of BR.com. Neon Green writing... Very interesting.
Johnny_Vegas: The archive.org link? Yeah... SmokedPork was the guy who did the graphics. Well, I did some but none of the good ones, just photoshop of SC images, etc.
Johnny_Vegas: Later, YRM replaced that, with his design.
Psyonic: So whose idea was it to add the quotes at the top? I see here, "Help feed Mark4's children by clicking on the advertisements."
Johnny_Vegas: Wow. Good question. Hrm, let me think about that one... I think that mighta been Mark4 but it might have just been someone's forum post and one of us said "That's a good idea!". When I saw the idea, I knew it was an easy thing to program. Basically you get a text file, one quote per line and PHP has this command that reads in a text file. Then you call this randomize function to pick a line to display, its like 10 lines or something.
Psyonic: Sounds complex. Was it?
Johnny_Vegas: Let me just take this moment to talk about PHP.
Psyonic: Go on.
Psyonic: Well, they are jerks! BR.com will be PHP for life! Maybe. Anyways, you added quotes to the top and I must say that was a very clever idea. When I first joined the community it was great reading a new quote as I'm sure others felt as well.
Johnny_Vegas: Yeah, I like them too. There are so many, you sometimes go a year without seeing the same one. Plus, the PHP random number generator probably doesn't fairly distribute the randomization, but I digress. =)
Psyonic: =) So when the site started getting bigger. Were you surprised?
Johnny_Vegas: That's what she said... No seriously.
Psyonic: Hahahaha! Sorry. Oh man. You must be a big "The Office" fan as well.
Johnny_Vegas: Yeah, great show. I have missed a lot of episodes though. But it was pretty cool when the site started getting busy. At one point in time Mark4 had talked to i2e2, a now defunct gaming league, and he got them to actually pay reporters for writing a report on a tournament.
Psyonic: Oh really? I didn't know he managed that!
Johnny_Vegas: Yeah, that might have been the peak of br.com's popularity. Like $50 a report, or something, and free video card?
Johnny_Vegas: Yeah. So things were looking up.
Psyonic: So how did you deal with the influx of people that visited the site because of those reports? I'm sure the site wasn't free.
Johnny_Vegas: BR.com not free? It was free! As it always will be... You can't charge for a site like BR.com anyway, wouldn't make sense.
Psyonic: I mean, you don't charge the site visitors but you have to pay for the space? The server?
Johnny_Vegas: Well, no. Brad the Server guy, bless his beneveloent soul, he hosts BR.com for free. But only just a few years ago, I started paying him just because I felt he deserved it.
Psyonic: Same Brad that breaks the forum every now and then?
Psyonic: Good ol' Brad.
Johnny_Vegas: He breaks stuff when he applies security fixes and such. I worked with Brad in LA.
Psyonic: Keep going about Brad. I like Brad.
Johnny_Vegas: Originally BR.com was hosted for free at the hosting company I worked for. But their server sucked and Brad had a souped up server of his own.
Psyonic: Oh ho?
Johnny_Vegas: So he offered to host br.com on his machine which is known simply as "THE LAIR".
Psyonic: Sounds exotic
Johnny_Vegas: Which is laser fast. Brad keeps it smokin fast, cause he likes hardware.
Psyonic: That's what she said.
Johnny_Vegas: Heh. Anyway, Mark4 and I would give him money for hardware upgrades since the beginning from our meager banner money. (Which really is meager btw, I'm not kidding)
Psyonic: So... We really should click the ads more. That's what you're saying?
Johnny_Vegas: I hate to ask, I sound so pitiful.
Psyonic: Nah... We could do a fundraiser... Anyways, Rook, cute fellow.. How did he come to be?
Johnny_Vegas: YourRoleModel invented him. YRM was getting into 3D graphics and I guess he just created Rook one day. Before Rook, the unofficial br.com mascot was the bengalass, which was much less cool.
Psyonic: So when you made Rook the new mascot, did the RookMarks follow soon after?
Johnny_Vegas: I made that up, but its now kinda unused now.
Psyonic: Was it to help reward those who wrote often and good quality work?
Johnny_Vegas: Yes, anything to get people reporting! Eventually people got into a competition writing reports, which had a good/bad effect.
Psyonic: How so?
Johnny_Vegas: Well the good part was that people were writing really cool reports. Bad part was people were afraid to write reports unless they were "great". So instead of just writing a report for fun on how you beat down some noob, people thought they had to write masterpieces. So there was a drought for a while, I think partially for that reason. Average time to write a report went from 1-2 hrs to 10-20 hrs, that's my guess. That's why if you look at the earliest reports, they are quite short, and not so good except for the super reporters like Mark4 and CattleBruiser who always wrote to a high level. Mark4 wrote more though, as he wasn't so concerned with beauty. CB's reports were "events" you could say. "OMFG!! NEW CB REPORT#@#@!!"
Johnny_Vegas: So I'd say he and Mark4 were the first guys to "raise the bar" and yes, I do like to put quotes around "arbitrary phrases".
Psyonic: Hey. You're "the boss". =) So were Raters created to help counter-balance that? Or was it also a good//bad thing? People have such diffrent tastes in reports.
Johnny_Vegas: Ratings were an early idea. Can't remember who thought of that one either. People just wanted a way to find the good reports but it became a competitive thing. I think some reporters were proud of their numerous high ratings, which was good, cause they keep writing reports! Such iron men as Dagomar.
Psyonic: Holy cow! Yes! Dag wrote a lot of reports. Besting even ~CB~ I believe?
Johnny_Vegas: http://www.battlereports.com/brstats.php?statsmode=2 Man looking at the RookMark is a trip down memory lane.
Psyonic: Yes. I remember many of those names as well.
Johnny_Vegas: Look at that list though: Drefsab, definately an ironman..... Praetor, Zergling...
Psyonic: Ling-erie, Testosterone, Fractal_Wave, YourRoleModel, Breeze...
Johnny_Vegas: Breeze, amazing reporter... most famous. He got all the press from SCLegacy I believe.
Psyonic: That he did
Johnny_Vegas: *nods* An impressive line up.
Psyonic: Breeze even had some 3D modeling of his own posted there as well.
Johnny_Vegas: Mark4 is actually the #1 Rookmark
Psyonic: Yes, He had two reporting personas.
Johnny_Vegas: You have to add in AQD3. Yep. Wow! I'm still on the list, #49. Heh.
Psyonic: Definetly a great writer. Says he'll write again about your island games when you start playing Starcraft 2.
Johnny_Vegas: Yeah, I bet we'll play again on SC 2. It was fun playing WoW with him for a brief time although I've never met him in person. If I did though, I'd feel like I knew him quite well I think.
Psyonic: Like brothers in arms
Johnny_Vegas: Well he's the real "brother in arms". I have no arms, kinda makes it hard to type.
Johnny_Vegas: Armaments that is.
Psyonic: Ha, So what do you use? ;)
Johnny_Vegas: Anyways, we both got busy. He's quite busy in the military. SC had declined. Eventually we played less and less regularly but we email now and then. I'm quite busy with my job, and projects and stuff. I could see us both getting a game and playing something again though.
Psyonic: He really thinks greatly of you.
Johnny_Vegas: And I of him!
Psyonic: As to playing a game again... Back to Starcraft 2 for a minute. What do you think of it?
Johnny_Vegas: Looks pretty freaking sweet. Blizzard won't screw that up.
Psyonic: Why do you think that?
Johnny_Vegas: Might not be the dynamo that SC1 was but it'll be up there in popularity.
Psyonic: I mean besides the point that everybody buys blizzard products.
Johnny_Vegas: Well, their reputation is at stake. It would be a nightmare for everyone at Blizz if SC2 sucked. I mean, they simply won't screw it up. They'll just refuse to release it, if they see that its crap.
Psyonic: First rule about Starcraft: Ghost. Don't talk about Starcraft: Ghost.
Johnny_Vegas: By the way, I have a picture of me with a Blizz co-founder, Alan Adham.
Psyonic: I remember you mentioning that you had a meeting with him a few months ago.
Johnny_Vegas: Taken this summer, but I gotta downlaod it from my camera, we are terrible at doing that, heh.
Johnny_Vegas: Yeah, then my wife accidentally washed the Blizz t-shirt with his autograph.
Johnny_Vegas: Man, I just realized that this interview could be collossal.
Psyonic: Yeah I know
Johnny_Vegas: I'm either being very thorough or very boring, hah.
Psyonic: =) People want to know this stuff, we actually don't know much about you so this is very insightful for me as for others too when they read this.
Johnny_Vegas: if you say so. =p
Psyonic: I mean by the time I came onto the scene, BR.com was declining somewhat, so I never really knew most of you older guys personally except for when you ocassionally logged on or posted in the forum. So this stuff will be gold for the newer guys at BR.com
Johnny_Vegas: I think one of the drivers to BR.com originally was Starcraft was just a great game to talk strategy with people.
Psyonic: Yes! We still do!
Johnny_Vegas: The "best" strategy for a situation was never written in stone because there were no replays... people would sometimes demonstrate a strategy or a great win (or loss) as a battle report.
Psyonic: Which begs to ask the question.. Do you think SC2 will be just as competitive as it's predecessor?
Johnny_Vegas: Well, I haven't been keeping up with every scrap of SC2 news lately. My gut feeling is that it'll be more than War 3, but less than SC.
Psyonic: I already warned Fox. Don't go to the B.net forums. =p
Johnny_Vegas: SC was just a freak of game design. Game designers have this concept they call "emerging gameplay" or something.. That's wrong but close enough.
Johnny_Vegas: And with SC it just "clicked" somehow. So its hard to replicate. Thats why most of us that played back then never thought SC would get old.
Psyonic: It's true. Westwood couldn't keep up. Neither could any other RTS of the day. Even ones released currently!
Johnny_Vegas: Nope! I played SC2 at GenCon. It was very similar to SC I thought, in its feel. Which was good.
Psyonic: I felt the same. Felt good to be back in the game didn't it?
Johnny_Vegas: Yeah. I mean SC just needed some updating really. No need to change the core game too much.
Psyonic: People are talking about that. Some want a totally brand new game. Others, the same game with new paint.
Johnny_Vegas: I'll just take new paint, and a few surprises.
Psyonic: Dustin Browder is doing an excellent job. I met him at Blizzcon. Awesome person.
Johnny_Vegas: Is that the designer?
Psyonic: Lead Designer.
Psyonic: Well, I don't want to take up too much more of your time but I have just one or two more questions.
Johnny_Vegas: Well, we left out a huge chunk but we could get into the whole Strifeshadow/YRM era another time I guess. =)
Psyonic: No we didn't. =p This must have been a great trip down memory lane for you. =) We could even do a part 2 of this interview! =p
Johnny_Vegas: Maybe in a month, this was tiring for both of us I think. heh... Oh! I didn't give props to Lucky for working on the site lately.
Psyonic: Oh ho! I didn't say you could do shoutouts yet! =)
Johnny_Vegas: Zerg~Ling is working on a br.com design too. I think those guys essentially are like "We don't know if vegas is going to do anything, so lets just do stuff on our own". Which is a fine attitude. I'm glad some people are interested in improving the site.
Psyonic: It's great that you have such faith and trust in them. What future do you envision BR.com taking alongside the release of Starcraft 2?
Johnny_Vegas: Well, I have grand visions.
Psyonic: I mean, it is YOUR site. =p
Johnny_Vegas: Beyond what most talk about doing even but, I have so many projects. Who knows if I'll get to it. I had started rewriting some core parts of the site though to allow for some additional functionality. We need user accounts for instance and a major code cleanup. The code is so old and was written back before I knew what I was doing for the most part.
Psyonic: Hah. =p Well, we all have to start small and take tiny steps.
Johnny_Vegas: Lucky has done a great job though. I gave him access, and he actually has done stuff! Which is great.
Psyonic: Do you have plans for BR.com to report on the competitive scene at all? Trying to help us to report some of the new ladder games that will start up with SC2?
Johnny_Vegas: I would be open to all of that. It was hard to get that stuff organized in the past but anyone could choose to lead that. I'm primarily a guy that creates some tools and sees what people do with them. I try to focus on my strengths, which would be in this case, programming new features. There are better reporters, and better players, and people who could take the wheel with an effort like that.
Psyonic: So you kind of feel like an all powerful being then? =p Watch us run around. Have some fun.
Johnny_Vegas: hehe. No. My gut is that within the next year I'll crank some new code out and BR.com will look a lot different in terms of functionality.
Psyonic: That's great!
Johnny_Vegas: I'm always open to suggestions too.
Psyonic: Well, I'll make sure to add a big FAT link to your suggestion box when I post the interview. =p
Johnny_Vegas: heh. Ok. =)
Psyonic: Well, thanks JV for taking the time to talk.
Johnny_Vegas: No problem, was fun
Psyonic: Any shoutouts?
Johnny_Vegas: No one. Especially not Artius, the maker of Strifeshadow. I would prefer to not mention him at all.
Psyonic: Yeah. What a jerk for linking you to this. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/obit_robert_goulet How do you feel about that?
Johnny_Vegas: Yeah, that bastard. I am sad. Goulet rocked. Red Ships of Spain, best SNL skit ever.
Psyonic: That's what I called him.
Johnny_Vegas: I dont think I even mentioned Fox. I didnt even mention a lot of people... like the infamous Fox.
Johnny_Vegas: But you interviewed him.
Psyonic: I assume your mentioning him quite alot because he forgot you guys? =p I'm sure he has much <3 to you all.
Johnny_Vegas: Yeah, Fox forgot us, that bitch. =)
Johnny_Vegas: One interesting thing. BR.com led to me meeting YRM.. Which led to me meeting Artius, maker of Strifeshadow, which led to my current job working from home for his software company, kinda funny eh'?
Psyonic: Still working on the Strifeshadow patch? =p
Johnny_Vegas: Funny story
Johnny_Vegas: Artius gave my son a copy of Strifeshadow and my son talked his ear off for over an hour, I think, asking him all about StrifeShadow and my son, who is quite smart for his age (just turned 7 yesterday, Oct. 29th) was reading a printout of the Strifeshadow manual on the airplane home.
Psyonic: Oh wow! Congrats!
Johnny_Vegas: Then we played a few games on the LAN.
Psyonic: That's a great story. =) Johnny Jr. will be ready to take on the world when SC2 comes out. Better get ready BR.com
Johnny_Vegas: Yeah. Interesting stuff.
Psyonic: Anyone else you'd like to mention? Besides Fox? =p
Johnny_Vegas: hrm.. Bob The Newt? Nah, I dont' know, heh. I'm sure I forgot someone, oh well, life goes on.
Psyonic: Ok well. Thanks again for all this JV. We'll have to do it again sometime in the future. Maybe try to get a group together so you can all talk, YRM, Mark4, you, Etc.
Johnny_Vegas: That would be madness.
Psyonic: Madness? This is BATTLEREPORTS.COM!
Johnny_Vegas: I wonder how many people would show up for a BR.com con? 20? 50?
Psyonic: I would go! We're spread out but I bet quite a lot would do it.
Johnny_Vegas: I know, lets have one in Indianapolis, since I already live here.
Psyonic: Sounds like a plan.
Psyonic: You start working on that. I'll start contacting people. =p Party at JV's. Bring your own Starcraft. Beer is optional. Ok I'll shut up now. =) Thanks again!
Johnny_Vegas: No problem! Cya!