Command Chamber
As webmaster and founder of the Command Chamber, Ryan discusses some of the experiences he's had building the ultimate source for single player gaming on the web. Accomplished level editor Sir Gerry takes care of the questioning in this case.
How long ago did you start TACC?
The Command Chamber was officially born on August 29, 1998. At that point the site was only a small sliver of what it is today, with about 10 HTML pages and a review or two on AOL's server. About two weeks after opening, I applied for hosting at Jedi Nights, and within a few days Spart had me set up with my first real website.
What moved you to do so?
I've always liked playing and creating new single player missions more than multiplayer, so I decided to start a site that would concentrate on all aspects of single player gaming. We started out with review and previews, then expanded to provide features for upcoming levels, and interviews with SP authors or project groups. In addition, we later expanded to a few other areas like editing articles, the level archive, discussion forums, and so on.
Have you designed any levels of your own?
Yes. I started my editing career with Dark Forces, although I only released one level called "Coruscant: The Imperial Capital." Once Jedi Knight came along, I started my current project entitled "Imperial Siege on Derra IV." I'm currently in the process of finishing the level, which has been in production for about a year and a half up to this point. After that level is released, I'll probably make a few smaller levels, but nothing on as large a scale as "Imperial Siege Derra IV."
What brings the most satisfaction out of your work in TACC?
One of the most satisfying things about running the Command Chamber has been watching it evolve over the last year. I had never run any sort of website before the Command Chamber, so the whole thing was a great learning experience for me. I started out with a very minimal knowlege of HTML (or anything else having to do with the Internet, for that matter) and since then the site has grown dramatically. If anyone remembers the first site design, you'll know that it wasn't much to look at. As my skills improved, so did the site. With the suport of the staff and the site visitors, we built and implemented everything you see here today. Since the Command Chamber was my first website (and still is the only site I run directly), it's always held a special place in my heart. There's nothing like seeing your idea transformed into into reality, and in this case the site has been more successful than I ever imagined. The excellent reviewers deserve a good deal of credit too, as I could never manage without such a fine staff. Also, all the kind messages and e-mails form people who thank us for the great work on the site really make the effort worthwhile.
How many hours a day do you devote to TACC?
It depends. Some days I might only spend 30 minutes posting a level and adding a news post or two, but when a bunch of reviews and features are added, the workload can somtimes be a few hours.
You accept great levels like Warzone and levels as crappy as Deathstar, what's your policy on this topic?
As long as the level is submitted properly and has no illegal components, it will be added to our level archive. It's not really fair to exclude one level or another based on the quality, as everyone should be able to play the level and decide if they like it themselves. I don't want to make that judgement for the hundreds of site visitors who may not have the same perception of the level that I do.
What has been the hardest problem you had to overcome in order to get TACC running?
One of the greatest problems was building interest for the site after it opened. Starting from scratch in the shadow of well-established review sites like Hyperview and the JK Academy was very tough indeed. It took weeks (maybe even months) before the Command Chamber started to be recognized as major player. However, with a lot of hard work and dedication, we have obviously withstood the test of time. In fact, just a week ago was the 1 year anniversary of the establishment of the site at Jedi Nights - quite a milestone in my opinion. During that time, there have never been any shutdowns or long 'dead' periods, which is something very few review sites can say.
You've become pretty much the best resource on the net for JK and Mots add-on levels, how do you feel about this?
I'm very happy with that development. I remember back when I first discovered custom levels for Dark Forces and found sites like the Crow's Nest with tons of add-on levels available for download in a centralized location. That was a great resource for me as a visitor, and I'm glad I can provide the same service to a whole new generation of JK and MotS fans. It has been hard work to maintain a site as large as the Command Chamber (there are nearly 100 reviews and levels to download), but the great degree of success that we've had generates a good feeling about what we do.
What do you think will happen with JK with the release of Obi Wan game next year?
I'm not exactly sure. If the rumors that the game will not be editable are true, I forsee a quick death of Obi-Wan. Maybe the hype from Obi-Wan's release will create a temporary lack of interest in Jedi Knight, but without the capability to create new levels for the game it certainly won't last for long. As soon as people get over the initial excitement for Obi-Wan and realize that there won't be any new levels, I predict that they'll come right back to JK and MotS. Just look at the original Dark Forces - there are still new levels being designed a good five years after it was released! That kind of long-term interest won't be found in a game that can't be edited.
What does the future hold for TACC?
I think we've pretty much found our niche in the Jedi Knight community. When I started the site, I wasn't totally sure of the direction that we were going to take, so the first site design was always changing to meet the needs of expansion. In fact, it was my first-ever website too, so I didn't really know what to expect with regard to running a major review site. With the experience we gained in the first few months of operation, things became more standardized. Now we're at the point where the site is well developed and no major changes are in store for the future. For example, I'm not planning to add any new sections to the site or revamp the rating system. The current site design looks great and is functional and efficient, so it probably won't be changed again either. Bascically, the time up to this point has been a learning experience for everything we do - now we are settling in and continuing the successful site that we have going.
Thanks again, I bet some guys out there (me included) will find the interview very interesting.
My pleasure. And thanks for your offer to interview me.