Part 5, the final segment of our interview with space politician Robert Woodhead.
MW: What do you get out of your role as a “spaceship politician” for EVE Online? You’ve held an elected position for a number of terms now, what is involved in that role? Are you an unpaid consultant, a voluntary administrator or a very enthusiastic EVE fan? Are you still involved in game design and development in any other respect and if not, do you miss it?
RW: One of the things that Wizardry did for me that I appreciate most of all was that it put me in a situation where, within reason, I can do anything that interests me, and being on the CSM is one of those things. It’s a combination of being on a focus group and being a lobbyist for the players. I got bored with WoW in months, what has kept me playing EVE was the social aspects, and CSM is the secret ingredient in the secret sauce. When you are on CSM, you have a privileged viewpoint; you get to watch people playing the game of making EVE.
As for working in game design again, if an interesting opportunity presented itself, I might be tempted by it. I still write code all the time, but most of it is for my own personal use, and the rest I just give away.
MW: You said in an earlier email that you would be attending Fanfest in Iceland in April because “its one of the perks of being an Important Internet Spaceship Politician”. Does this mean EVE players can expect to see you continue your CSM role for another term of office?
RW: As of this moment, I haven’t made a final decision whether to run or not. And then if I do run, I still have to whore up enough votes to get elected.
MW: I was very excited to read on your Wikipedia page that you were credited in the 1985 Val Kilmer geek comedy Real Genius as a “hacking consultant”. Were you involved in the production in any way or was this just a nod to your work from fans on the production crew? Do you think they based any of the characters on you? Lazlo Holyfeld maybe?
RW: I actually did work on the film, and they flew me out to California for a few days. I did the original design work for the stuff you see on screen when they’re trying to figure out the data format to re-target the laser (though someone else programmed it). Wizardry was actually supposed to appear in the film — Holyfeld was a Wizardry player, and had programmed his computer to play for him — but it got cut.
I do have one of the early drafts of the screenplay somewhere; it has some really, really gross jokes that didn’t make the final film.
Standing on the Codebase of Giants: A Reflection
It was an absolute revelation to discover that someone who so fundamentally influenced the first faltering steps of computer-based RPGs and MMOs was happily going about his business in an online gaming community. It’s a testament to the impact of the internet and the evolution of online gaming that underlines how much smaller the world has become.
It was a real pleasure having the opportunity to interact with one of the forefathers of the RPG gaming environments that we all take for granted today and it was great to see how he takes it in his stride. It also provides an interesting yardstick by which to measure development progress, the ideas that have been carried through and how decisions made decades ago can leave a lasting imprint on the gaming universe.
I hope to have further opportunity to talk with Robert at EVE Online Fanfest in Iceland later this year and I will be digging into the Wizardry games for review very soon.
- An Interview with Robert Woodhead, Creator of the Genre-Defining RPG, Wizardry
- Wizardry: The Birth of Role-Playing Video Games
- Turning Japanese and MMORPG That Nearly Was
- The Mad Overlord and the Online Generation
- The Wider World of Woodhead