Stormkeeper: Tell us 'bout yourself.
Maeglamor: I'm 29, I currently reside on the landmass commonly known as Ireland (Northern Ireland, specifically). I'm a biomedical engineer: BSc, or bronze swimming certificate as I like to call it. I'm a big fan of scaling rock using as much safety equipment as it is feasible to carry (I have vertigo, it seemed like a good way to get over it). I rather like space-sims though I have far too little time to play them and I'm slightly addicted to making things.
Stormkeeper: Making things?
Maeglamor: Well I used to make models (badly) for Xwing vs. Tie Fighter and I've made a couple for Freespace 2 but I find the tactile qualities of their real world counterparts to be more satisfying (plus you have a cool model with which to run around the house making whoosing noises). Not specifically models though, I was a minor celebrity for a while due to posting a sort of 'how-to' on guitar building. I guess you'd call my interests diverse.
Stormkeeper: So when did you first play FS2, or did you start at FS1?
Maeglamor: I must admit to be a latecomer to Freespace 2, I was so addicted to X vs. T that I ignored a lot of games for quite a while. I jumped on the FS2 wagon quite by accident, there was a sale in a local Game store and, due to FS2's unfortunate underexposure I picked up the big-box version of the game quite cheaply. Soon after I was endangering the cleanliness of my underwear by dodging beams. The hairs still stand up on the back of my neck when I hear the charging sound. I guess I found FS2 about 6 or 7 months before HLP was set-up.
Stormkeeper: And what led you to HLP?
Maeglamor: An invitation from a rather fantastic guy called Setekh who was pretty much HLP's one-man advertising campaign. He'd seen a bit of my model-making stuff (for Homeworld if I remember correctly) and advised me to take a look at this new site called Hard Light Productions.
Stormkeeper: That brought you to hlp?
Maeglamor: Volition's board had a rather 'acidic' temperament to new people. Whilst a lot of the denizens there were very helpful and friendly, a number were quite the opposite. HLP seemed like a FS2 community without the negative aspect. HLP was also originally set up with a more wide-ranging goal; bringing modders together i.e. it wasn't specifically FS2. As I was a bit project ADhD back then I though this might suit me better.
Stormkeeper: So what was the first thing you created for FS2?
Maeglamor: Hmmm, now there's a question. I guess I probably converted one of my Homeworld fighters or perhaps a X vs. T model. I was working with Rhinoceros 3D back then which, as a NURBS modeller was pretty much completely non-ideal for making low-poly models, I often had to build models face by face using outlines as a guide. I think there's only one of my models that I made for a project started by Greywolf that I built start to finish and was happy with. It was called the Morrigan and was my first venture into the whole model-building process i.e. UVmapping/texture creation. Before that i was just making meshes that other people were completing.
Stormkeeper: What about FREDing?
Maeglamor: I found FREDing to be a daunting prospect initially. I had been working in the X vs. T mission designer for so long that FRED was very confusing and I had to go through the guide quite a few times before I understood how to think in sexp's. I have to admit to never being comfortable enough with it to want to make anything particularly complex. Certainly nothing I shared with the rest of the community. There was so much great stuff at the time that I felt like I wouldn't be adding anything new anyhow, how many variations of a furball can you create?
Stormkeeper: That's true. You were away from HLP for a period of time, right?
Maeglamor: Yeah, university got the better of me. Until I found out about biomedical engineering I had very little direction and not a lot of motivation, afterwards I knew I'd found something that would allow me to use the skills I had to do something really worthwhile so I pretty much put everything else on hold (even my time as administrator on HLP). I felt like a bit of a third arm as an admin, I don't feel that I'm much of a moderator as I feel uncomfortable rocking the boat most of the time.
Stormkeeper: So what did you do during your time away? Uni stuff?
Maeglamor: I worked for a year in a gait analysis laboratory, I knew a bit of code going into the job from doing two years of computer science, they were looking someone who could code-up tools in matlab which was new to me but I felt like I could learn it. I really surprised myself that year and it was really rewarding, easily the best year in my life thus far. After that it was final year, pedal to the floor studying. That was just really intense and took a lot of will-power to get through. I got stressed out more than once but made it through without going too strange.
Stormkeeper: Whats a gait analysis lab?
Maeglamor: Basically we analysed the walking ability of patients, usually very young children, with gait impairments. It uses a very cool set of motion capture cameras to track markers on the patient as they move through a pre-defined space.
Stormkeeper: Whats it used for?
Maeglamor: Well it allows us to build a picture of the nature and extent of a walking problem, a surgeon then uses the data which is in graphical format to assess what kind of therapy is required (if any) to alleviate the problem.
Stormkeeper: So its basically used to plan surgery?
Maeglamor: No, not always. Surgery is pretty much the last resort in fact. Patients could be given custom designed insoles for their footwear which can correct minor issues, physiotherapy when they don't have the expected ability to extend their limbs, botox when their muscles exhibit spasticity (involuntary contractions)... There's a lot of options.
Stormkeeper: You certaintly have chosen an intersting profession.
Possibly too interesting I often think. Gait analysis is only a facet of biomedical engineering, it's a big field of study that practically demands specialisation.
Stormkeeper: Probably true. You'd probably know better than me. Back to FS2 though; how far has the SCP come since the days you left?
Maeglamor: Hmmm, I have to admit that the SCP is one of the few aspects of FS2 that I did keep an eye on from time-to-time. It's an immensely exciting project that never fails to impress me. It turned a community that seemed to be stagnating into a vibrant, excited group. So much is added that I often feel a bit overwhelmed trying to keep track of it all. Graphical additions are the most evident but so many fixes, tweaks and features have been added. If you're talking code-only then it's hard to measure in anything other than change-logs, I think that the FSUpgrade really visually indicates how far SCP has come.
Stormkeeper: Is the current FSO vastly different from the one you used to know?
Maeglamor: Hmmm, hard to answer that. In terms of how easy it is to install I think it's come a long way I believe I will take this opportunity to inject a very non-clandestine statement of thanks for the effort that's gone into that aspect of FSO: You guys are awesome. If anything I think it took a lot of the 'install this and this and this and this' pain out of introducing the game to new players (something I've been doing if I was here or not). The graphical end of the game has gone from strength to strength and holds its own against anything I've seen which is a testament to the artists and the SCP guys giving them the potential to realise such fantastic visuals. I think feature-wise the game is much richer now too.
Stormkeeper: Did you ever imagine, when you first joined HLP, that it would grow to what it is now?
Maeglamor: No way. Every time HLP's started to look a bit like it had reached some kind of lull something new came along to renew interest be it the source code, a certain coke-machine attacker, magazine coverage and all of the new stuff still being released for it. I think that Beyond the Red Line and Diaspora could be the next 'big-thing' and might get new people to branch out into other aspects of FS2/whatever when they see the potential that the game can offer.
Stormkeeper: Do you think that the FSO will eventually reach its limit, i.e nothing left for them to improve without re-writing the engine?
Maeglamor: I would say that I'm not really qualified to make a comment on that. I am of course aware of the attempt by Kazan and others to create Ferrium which infers that they at least thought that FSO had a limit and that it might possibly be reached in the near-future.
Maeglamor: Ferrium was a potential replacement for the FS engine that would have been somewhat compatible with existing campaigns and models (IIRC), it was a massive undertaking and I think didn't get the support it needed to get it into a working state. Kazan's skills are unquestioned but without a lot of backing it seemed to slow down and stagnate.
Stormkeeper: Oh. First time I've heard of it, to be honest.
Maeglamor: Many projects on HLP started out with a lot of optimism and popularity but it's very hard to manage a bunch of people who are working in different time-zones and have vastly different lives and commitments. The FSU project was once a very different beast before Sandwich changed its goals.
Stormkeeper: What was it like?
Maeglamor: We came up with the concept that people entered story-lines that would allow us to continue the game in some semi-official capacity after Capella. We had been aware of the problems with project creep so we aimed for what we thought was a moderate goal. I think the story had to cover 10 missions, be open-ended and showcase the latest work in the SCP so there would have been new models/textures etc. etc. The idea was that anyone could add to it and a 'board' of respected members would take the best stuff and integrate it into the game. It faltered though.
Stormkeeper: So the FSU was, originally, a campaign?
Maeglamor: Of sorts, yes. A mini-campaign. There were a number of stories written and we all voted for the one we thought was the best. I wrote a rather... interesting story that might have been a bit contentious. It was chosen.I think there were 10 ideas in all.
Stormkeeper: After it faltered, Sandwich switched the goal of the FSU to making FSO shiny?
Maeglamor: In essence he focused the previously sporadic efforts of people who were already reworking existing ships. It was a brilliant idea as it allowed people to get a better idea of what had been done and what needed to be done. I should add that this covered effects, textures... if you can see it in-game it was the aim of FSU to make it better. Of course one person's idea of better might not be the same as another so you see a lot of variation.
Stormkeeper: Are there any other things you wish the FSO would do?
Maeglamor: Hmmm. I don't think the modular weapon/equipment system was ever implemented and I thought there was a lot of interesting possibilities there. On a strictly personal level I would be forever indebted to the person who implemented a Starlancer, Phoenix-style beam cannon. I found it to be an utterly satisfying element of that game that I've not seen since. I really would love to see multi-player ships. To have two friends manning the turrets on a ship (the Millenium Falcon for instance) whilst you pilot it just makes me a tad giddy.
Stormkeeper: Piloting capital ships is something most of the community, myself included, dreams of daily.
Maeglamor: I think the flight-space surrounding a well manned cap-ship would be no-man's land really. There would be balance issues that would require a shake up of the existing game mechanic. Still, It would be fantastic.
Stormkeeper: Damn straight. Any last words of advice for the readers?
Maeglamor: Hmmm, let me think... Keep on playing and 'It will be finished when it's finished'.