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Interview

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Frank Van Laere of Pitwall
Formula 1
By: Charles Rector | Game Data | 6:20pm, August 28, 2007
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Following is an interview that was conducted via E-Mail with the creator/developer of Pitwall , Frank Van Laere:

OMGN:  Let's start with a self-introduction of yourself.

My name is Frank Van Laere, I'm the creator and only developer of Pitwall. I live in Belgium and at this moment I'm 20 years old. I'm a Computer Science student in school, and my hobbies are football, going out with my friends, playing cards, ...

OMGN:  When you were younger, what kind of interest did you have in F1 racing?

I've watched Formula 1 actively since 1996-1997. I was sold immediately, I took a subscription on 2 F1 magazines, watched every qualification, race, etc. I think the racing was much more interesting those days compared to the last few seasons, but I believe that it will get better at some point again.

OMGN:  How much involvement have you had in any area of racing or other automotive sports such as demolition derby or soap box car racing?

I don't have a lot of experience in racing. I do race online in the league HOWC.net but that's as far as my racing experience goes.

OMGN:  What was your experience as a gamer before Pitwall?

I've been playing computer games since I was a little boy, I believe my dad had a 80286 (could've been a 386 too) and I've played all the Keen games for example. And the classics such as Doom, etc.

I've played Grand Prix Manager 2 a lot too, I still play it from times to times, simply as it's a very fun game. I like Grand Prix World a lot too, but unfortunately there's a scratch on my cd.

OMGN:  Where were you when Pitwall was created and how much have you contributed to the game's creation and development?

I started creating the game back in 2004. I have received a lot of help from Andre, Jani, Bjornar and Tomas who are all players of the game, and they've helped out a lot with the support side of the game. All the programming I did myself.

OMGN:  Is Pitwall based/inspired on any BBS games? If so, which game(s)?

It is not, every feature comes from user submitted features or from my ideas.

OMGN:  Why was Pitwall created as a browser-based game instead of say, a downloadable program game?

Interesting question, I've considered making it a downloadable game, but that would require much more bandwidth and it would ruin the 24 hour effect that the website has. Not to mention the great community that we wouldn't have. Also the game wouldn't be capable of challenging other F1 games (such as GPRM which I'm looking forward to a lot).

OMGN:  In what ways has being involved with running a game enhanced your gaming enjoyment?

Everytime I play a game, I try to figure out how they programmed something. It also made me realize how complex some games are.

OMGN:  Running a game is often a labor of love as opposed to being a money maker. How active is the Pitwall community in helping to promote the game, creating fansites for the game, making good suggestions for new features and ways to operate the game or other help with the game?

Actually I've never ever paid for advertisement, so the 700 active members that we have now all come from mouth to mouth advertisement. Once I've got some new interesting features set up, I might do an advertisement campaign.

As I said above as well, a lot of features which are implemented are features that members proposed at some point.

OMGN:  How much influence has Pitwall had on other games?

I honestly don't think it has had a lot of influence on other games. Maybe it has, but who knows. You should ask other F1 management game developers.

OMGN:  What has the response to Pitwall been like?

There will always be people who complain, but overall I've had great feedback. It's always fun to read that people are enjoying the game you've created. When a new feature is introduced, and people like it and give positive feedback, it's such a great feeling.

OMGN:  Some say that Pitwall is just another browser-based game. How do you respond?

Well, there are other f1 games out there too, but I've heard comments that each game has different aspects on which it concentrates. I like to keep Pitwall as realistic as possible.

OMGN:  There are some who believe that innovation has disappeared from online gaming. In what ways does Pitwall break the mold?

Just wait and see! In the upcoming months Pitwall will reveal some new features, I can't say much about them yet of course. But talking generally, look at the progress that is being made in online gaming. Every developer has to include online aspects in their games. Online gaming is far from reaching the ceiling, it's in its children shoes even.

OMGN:  How many play Pitwall?

We have roughly 700 active members playing the game. I choose to remove inactive players after 4 weeks, otherwise active members might be racing in half filled divisions.

OMGN:  What is the limit to the number of players that Pitwall can currently accomodate?

There is no limit, if the divisions would be filled up, and the waitlist would get too large, I could just add a 5th division, then a 6th, etc. Also the server should be strong enough to handle at least 2000 members so no problems in that aspect either. Everyone is welcome to try the game, it's free!

OMGN:  What do you think that the future holds for browser-based games?

I believe there will always be browser-based games. Browser-based games is a form of entertainment, and as long as there are people, entertainment will be there too.

OMGN:  If you and your associates could go back in time and start all over, what would you do differently?

I am quite happy about the structural aspect of the game really. Of course, there's always room for improvement, but I've learnt so much from creating the game.

OMGN:  Where do you see Pitwall  a year from now?

Still on www.pitwall.org he he. Seriously, I've been working on some new features which should make the game more interesting. Some of the features change a bit of the "backbone" of the game, such as the new racescript. I hope that the members will like them, but I'm pretty confident that they'll like them.

OMGN:  How much interest has Pitwall attracted from real life racing circles?

None I think, the game is way too small to do that.

OMGN:  Finally, would you like to add anything?

Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to do this interview, and to the readers: thank you very much for reading the interview. I hope I'll see you on the game! In the end it's free, you can always try the game! :). Thank you!
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