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Interview

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IW:Fleet Battles creator Lee Tudor
By: Blair Morris | Game Data | 7:36am, November 25, 2005
AREA-51 m7700
Recently in the Interstellar War: Fleet Battle message boards, a member starts a thread entitled "Pat on Back" which begins a series of posts by others applauding the game admins for their accomplishments so far with the hard work put into the game. Lee Tudor, creator and lead developer of Fleet Battles, modestly replies under his handle, Mr Tea, "Thanks for the support, it's much appreciated." In that reply, you can take it as a direct response to a compliment, but support and appreciation of the game's members takes on a more expanded meaning for Tudor.

In 2000, coding started on a project that was set to become Interstellar War: Conquest; however, due to heavy workloads, outside of the game development, the project was put on hold. Five years later, Tudor resumed work on Interstellar War, but this time, on Conquest's sister game, Fleet Battles. A game that has seen a great deal of growth due to, among other things, it's members. From getting their friends to sign-up, to making suggestions for what should be the next developed feature, along with sharing ideas for new features, support and appreciation for his members goes so much further for Tudor than just receiving compliments.

Taking time from a hectic schedule, Tudor sits down with OMGN.com to talk about an array of topics. From the early days as a gamer himself, what the future holds for Interstellar War: Fleet Battles, to the much appreciated Fleet Battles' members.


OMGN.com: For those that may not know you, let's start off with an introduction of yourself.

Lee Tudor: Born in Manchester, England in 1975. My background is in software engineering, and I currently work full-time for a software engineering company that develops web-based business management systems for the travel industry. I also have a Masters Degree (four year) in software engineering from UMIST in Manchester.


OMGN.com: What has been your experience in the MMOG community as a developer and gamer?

Lee Tudor: I had a dabble in the MUDDING community back in the university years and wrote a little T-SQL based MUD engine running on the AD&D 3rd Edition rule-set although this was never taken past the alpha testing stage.
My MMOG experience is mainly in playing the mainstream MMORPG titles: Ultima Online, Everquest, Everquest 2 and World of Warcraft on which I have spent many hours playing before deciding to close my accounts and start work on a MMOG of my own.


OMGN.com: Was there any kind of inspiration that got you in game developing, along with creating your own game?

Lee Tudor: As long as I can remember I've played and tinkered with computer games. My first computers were a rubber keyed spectrum 16K and a commodore VIC-20, those got me into the idea of writing programs and eventually games.
I've written a few small games in my time, back in the Amiga days I was a big AMOS fan and wrote several games in that language, then I moved into the PC world and wrote a MS-DOS based XPILOT clone. Until recently the only multiplayer aspect was having two players on the same PC, but with the growth of the internet, multiplayer gaming was the next step forward.


OMGN.com: When was it that you first started writing code for Interstellar War, and what preparations went into starting on the game?

Lee Tudor: I first started writing the code for the sister game Conquest in 2000, but had to shelve it due to other workloads. We got back into it again in March this year but decided to create a spin-off game that was based on tactical combat instead of the turn based strategy of the original design.
There was no special research other than past experience of playing some similar games, and with my working experience of ASP3.0 and Microsoft T-SQL, that was the obvious choice for a language to write the game. This gives me the ability to alter the game dynamically which people are playing without disrupting their play. I had considered using an XML web service for the I/O interface and using XSL for a web based front end. This would of allowed players with programming knowledge to plug in other client interfaces although this may sacrifice the raw speed of the game and so wasn't implemented.


OMGN.com: Beginning a game can be one of the more hectic phases for some, what was the first month(s) like for you when starting the development of the game?

Lee Tudor: I did development on the game in my spare time, getting the UI structure and game engine up and running. We then spent a bit of time thinking about the scope of the game, what players would be able to do, how the skill/experience system should work and so on.


OMGN.com: How much help from others did you receive in the development of Fleet Battles before the beta launch?

Lee Tudor: Robert (Illing) was my main help during the pre-beta stages of the game. He was the main sounding post for my game ideas and he created most of the graphics that currently make up the game as my artistic skills leave a lot to be desired. We just put Gordon (Pearce) on the credits so he wouldn't feel left out.


OMGN.com: What kind of game is Fleet Battles? Also, give of some of the things people will experience when playing it.

Lee Tudor: Fleet Battles is a multiplayer tactical game of space conflict set in a persistent universe where players can choose a role for themselves within their faction and advance in that role. The aim of the beta process is to support the following types of role: bounty hunters/mercenaries, faction fighter pilots, capital ship bridge crew, fleet admirals, resource collectors, traders, planetary construction, ship design and building.
We aim to let people do what they like to do without forcing them to do the roles which they don't want to be involved with.


OMGN.com: What is the background story within the game, and how did you guys come up with the story?

Lee Tudor: Robert came up with the background story for the IW universe, a summary of which is available on the game website. The inspiration for the world came undoubtedly from Gene Roddenberry's 'Star Trek' Universe and had other aspects pulled in from tabletop based tactical combat games. We have always been big fans of spaces based science fiction, but have used elements from the fantasy MMORPG style to enrich the gaming experience.


OMGN.com: What has been the most difficult challenge(s) in developing Fleet Battles?

Lee Tudor: The most difficult challenge is undoubtedly finding the spare time to work on the game, and attempting to recruit and create a player community to populate the universe. Much thanks has to go out to the players themselves without whom the game would just be an empty shell.


OMGN.com: With so many different features, and things the player can do within Fleet Battles, which would be your personal favorite?

Lee Tudor: The ship construction/design system will allow players to create unique ships based on the technology that their faction and skill supports would be my favorite, although this function is part of the ongoing pre-gold work and has not been implemented currently.


OMGN.com: What do you think Fleet Battles delivers to the player that makes it different from any other MMO games out there?

Lee Tudor: I think the game interface is quite unique for a game of this sort and the ability for multiple players to co-operate in commanding a single ship that they wouldn't be able to otherwise is an idea that I haven't seen in other MMO games.


OMGN.com: What has been some of the overall feedback you've been receiving from people about Fleet Battles?

Lee Tudor: Many people have stated that the game looks nice visually and fun to play. My plan to make sure that its also free to play always meets with a good response.


OMGN.com: What has been the best experience thus far with developing Fleet Battles?

Lee Tudor: Getting a thank you post on the board signed by players of the game was very nice to receive, but in general just to see other people playing and really getting into the game atmosphere is very rewarding.


OMGN.com: I remember, not that it was too long ago, when I came across the Fleet Battles' website, it was just eight member sign-ups at the time, including myself. A few weeks later, once you officially launched, the sign-ups exploded reaching over 300 within a week. What was going through your mind at that time?

Lee Tudor: It was mind-blowing seeing the constant stream of newcomers given that I'd only posted links to the game on one or two sites. I was slightly concerned that people would try out the game being very incomplete at the time and disregard it as such.


OMGN.com: Do you feel that with the continuously growing fan-base, more pressure is on you to deliver a product that not only satisfies one type of gamer, but several types?

Lee Tudor: I felt that way a bit at first, yes, but I'm looking do develop a friendly, nice-to-play game rather than a commercialized offering. So far I've just had positive support from the gamers who seem to sit back and play the game rather than push the 'next big thing'. I am looking to diversify in the types of game that Fleet Battles supports: RTS, tactical combat, resource management, empire construction, and so on. I look to the players for feedback about which areas should be considered for implementation.


OMGN.com: What are some game updates people can expect to see in the near future?

Lee Tudor: Next on the agenda is the extension into other areas, besides just tactical combat. Diplomacy, construction, and starship design are the large areas of development in the pipeline.


OMGN.com: With how fast you seem to update the game, and the quick growth you're experiencing, what do you see for Fleet Battles in let's say four months?

Lee Tudor: I think if we can achieve the three main areas of development, mention above, in the next four months, we will then be looking at the end of beta and a universe restart around that point.


OMGN.com: Though the success of Fleet Battles seems to be more than abundant, has there been any disappointments, or setbacks you've experienced during any process of the game?

Lee Tudor: The main setback would be my recent lack of spare time to dedicate to the game, work and family life have been eating into my development time although this was to be expected from time-to-time. We have had the odd troublesome player but with my experience of other online games, we've done very well on that front.


OMGN.com: At what point would you be willing to lean back in your chair, stretch your arms above your head, and whisper to yourself, "It's finished"?

Lee Tudor: Once we have released the game as 'finished' I'd like to hand over responsibility for control and development of the game to somebody else (maybe Robert) and begin work on a sister project. I have been thinking about the production of an open source gaming platform for web-based multiplayer games. As for the game itself, I'd like to see it be continually developed and guided based on the feedback and requests of the player community.


OMGN.com: Would there be anything you'd like to say to our readers at OMGN.com?

Lee Tudor: I'd like to say come along and try out Interstellar War: Fleet Battles, we are a friendly bunch and the game is fun, and permanently free to play. What more can you ask?



***OMGN.com would like to thank Lee Tudor for taking the time to talk us. You can visit the Interstellar War: Fleet Battles website here.***
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