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Interview with Dan - Posted Tuesday, 9th August 2006 by Liam

An interview with one of the older members of the Creatures Community, media and web genius Dan!

Interview by Liam.

Hey Dan! It's been a while... How've you been?

Hey Liam I've been ok thanks. Had a little health scare recently, but all is fine now so it's time to get things moving!!

I'm glad you're well - I know scares can be, well, scary! You've been in the community since... well, it seems like forever. Do you think the community has changed since you joined?

Lol, well I joined in 1998, so yes, it has been forever I guess!! That's a bit of a big question - the community has changed without any doubt. Once upon a time we were busy analysing preview screenshots of C3, these days we're more concerned with whether we'll still be here in a year's time. The opening and closing of institutions has effected the CC - alt.games.creatures, HomeCreatures....

and of course the ever changing CreatureLabs/Gameware/Cyberlife!

But I think the whole Internet has changed too, and what we expect from it and can do with it. There's alot more scope now, and people are so much more savvy about online communities and interaction.

I know what you mean. How did you feel about the changeover to Gameware?

Well, to be honest I think it was inevitable, and by the time Creature Labs closed it has lost alot of what made it the CL we knew and loved. At the end our only representative at CL was Frimlin and when he packed up I think Creature Labs had lost all connection to the community.

Gameware have done a nice job of archiving all the stuff CL did in their time, but I think that's about it. Obviously Lisa D has always been an asset to Creatures, and it's great to see her still working away, but I doubt that Gameware will ever provide anything new for Creatures, and they will never be able to generate the same excitement as Creature Labs could.

I hear you have something of a surprise for us this year... but firstly, you have run several hugely successful Community websites, and watched many other sites slowly fall into disuse and close, including your own. Do you think the community is due for another large website, or do you think the way it is at the moment works well?

I think the idea behind the large community site is kind of outdated - I think the Internet itself has moved on past that. If you look at all the big sites of the 'glory days' - HomeCreatures, Creatureslife.net, hell maybe even Millennium Creatures - our unique selling point was the technology.

In 1999/2000, domain names were expensive, and technology like Perl was hard to use whilst PHP was new and kind of untamed. Getting to grips with news scripts, with forums, and with letting people login to your website was quite a task. If you could do it, people flocked to your website because you gave them an opportunity to be a part of it.

There was a certain novelty to a site like HomeCreatures, because it had never really been seen before. Nowadays of course everyone can create a site of that type, and fill it with the masses of Creatures content floating around the web. But there are too many, and it's not what users want anymore, I don't think.

There's room for new and popular sites - but I believe they have to think a bit differently and reinvent. Creatures Caves and Albia 2000 are quite happily filling the niche that is the large and monolithic hub sites.

Where do you think the community will be going next? And more to the point, what do you think it is that makes a site unique and new these days, beyond the obvious idea of novelty?

I think the community will be staying where it is without some massive innovations, to be honest. I think there's room for a new site to move in and be the 'number one' by exploiting web based technologies which would lend themselves very nicely to Creatures. Creatures was never going to be a multimedia community - there's very little room for video or podcasting or anything like that... but there are technologies like RSS and XML which, if used correctly, could change the way the CC works entirely. I think the Creatures Wiki is an example of a new technology being utilised in the CC and revolutionising the way things are done. There's still a lot of that which could be achieved.

And that's just talking about the type of popular and interactive site I have always been involved with - on the other end of the scale, it's never been easier to build a blog. Imagine the possibilities for developers who have no time or interest in building large websites - they instantly have their distribution method. We've never had that before.

If a company was to pick up the series and manage to create a new game, one who actually had the resources and time to do it, what would be your main concerns or suggestions?

Do you mean buys the brand or do you mean develops a new game independently of Gameware?

Say, if an established games company got the rights from Gameware.

Right, well, my advice would be not too, lol. It's a very complicated subject. I was never really incredibly vocal on Creatures 2 and 3 - I like all the games for different qualities.

I would definitely say - don't listen to the community, they will never be happy. Stick as close to the original format as possible. And allow as much scope for the community to get involved as is possible once the game is completed. Development made our community, we can't forget that

Now... onto your own contribution to the CCSF! Would you mind giving us a glimpse of what exactly we're awaiting, and what it is about?

Well, I haven't really done anything in the CC for quite a few years. I've been tempted back a few times, but I have a host of unreleased stuff which I never really felt hit the nail on the head. But as Creatures is ten this year, and as I've said I really don't feel there is any room for large hub sites in the community anymore, I decided it was time to put a lid on my past in the CC.

So I have gathered together everything I have ever worked on - my developments, the three sites I worked on - HomeCreatures, Millennium Creatures and Egg Central - and a host of other bits and pieces including some stuff I have the rights to that have long been lost from the web

And the result is a new website. An archive of the past for the future CC, because ya can't go backwards without looking back. It will be a nice big old resource for the CC, with everything in one place. A lot of the content is not suited to the wiki, and I have said the site kind of stands as my CC autobiography - it's everything I've done up until now.

Wow- thats a lot of history there. How do you feel about closing the lid on things, so to speak? Any regrets, or is it good to have some kind of closure?

I think closure is definitely a good thing, and I am very happy about it. It's something I have been looking for. There can be no regrets - I am working with stuff I produced years ago. And I am not putting closure on my time in the CC for good...

I am putting a lid on the past 8 years, so that if I want to move on and produce something new and exciting, I won't have to worry about incorporating bits of my past.

I know what you mean about having a somewhat floating past. You hinted there that you won't be leaving the CC - do you have plans for anything new in the future?

Hmm, that's hard to answer. I guess we'll see how this new site, Albiaville, goes. I have ideas that I could put into practice - there's a new version of The Creatures Forum floating about which is very different to it's first incarnation and is kind of a new way of approaching things, but as to whether or not it will ever see the light of day is down to where the CC goes I guess.

Awesome- it'd be incredibly cool to see the TCF again, and Albiaville sounds like it will be a big blast from the past! Any hope of a revival of Creatures Passport, or is that one project which won't be relooked at?

Oh god no, Creatures Passport is as dead as the dodo! In theory I think the idea worked, in practice it was nothing but a pain in my rear end. I have other ideas about 'uniting the community', but they do not include Creatures Passport

Care to elaborate, or is that something we'll have to wait and see?

Hmmmm! I think I've given significant hints throughout the interview. Let's just say it's about looking at the way the community 'works' in a new way.

You certainly have me interested! I imagine we'll be seeing more from you as the festival continues, but I'll bid you adieu for now!

Thanks Liam!

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