TA Spring Interview (en)

Recently we had the chance to chat a bit with the makers of TA Spring – sure we’ll wont hide the results from our readers. Since i’m not a fan of long opening textpassages and fillwords, lets start:

Hello – thank you for giving us the opportunity to do an interview! Please introduce yourself to our readers.
SJ: I’m Stefan Johansson, 28 years, from Sweden, I wrote most of the original TASpring release together with Fnordia and Yeha – although I havent been that active lately.

Jcnossen: Jelmer Cnossen, 21, from the Netherlands. I’ve been active in the project since last summer. I wrote the first AI opponent, a spring unit model tool, and have done a lot of bugfixing and small improvements. Betalord and me do most of the windows releases these days.

Betalord: I am Tomaz Kunaver, 22 years old, currently a student of computer science here in Ljubljana (Slovenia). My part in Spring is to develop a multiplayer lobby system. I’ve been with the project for almost a year now.

What PC does an average gamer need to play TA Spring?
Jcnossen: A 2 GHz CPU and Radeon 9600 runs spring quite well. If you want shadows you need something better (GF 6800..). That’s just my own experience, people are running it with lower AFAIK.

To play legally, players will need a copy of the original Total Annihilation. What exactly does that mean?
SJ: The default mod, that TA Spring comes with at the moment, contains copyrighted material from Total Annihilation (although the amount of TA material is falling as people add more and more original content) so to be legal they already have to own that game. Some people are working on creating new mods from scratch that will be totally free from TA materials, but I dont think they are quite ready yet.

Sure it was a long way from the TA Demo Recorder to the actual game. Please tell us something about the development process.
SJ: Before we started on TA Spring, there we already had the 3D-demo recorder and what is usually referred to as oldspring, which is a RTS in a 19th century type enviroment that I had programmed. With combining these, we had a running version in about 2 months although we then spent another 8 months improving stuff before the initial release.

Spring looks a bit like Supreme Commander – have you been inspired by the game in any way?
SJ: As Supreme Commander isn’t released yet, it has not influenced us so much, although a few graphical features have been inspired partially by screenshots from it (scars, tracks, new water renderer).

The lobby client: is it important for the success of Spring or why else are more and more people playing?
Betalord: Of course the lobby client is important since it is the first touch that player has with Spring, also most of the time players will probably spend in lobby organizing their battles and chatting with others. But the main reason Spring got many new players in the last months is probably due to people spreading the word on various forums. Also, Spring has become much more mature over the last months, and that is what keeps new players attached.

Something that is missing is compatibility between Windows and Linux builts, how long will it take to solve this problem?
Jcnossen: We already came a long way from code with dependencies on windows types and functions everywhere, to the multiplatform code we are developing today. What remains is making sure that all different builds do the exact same calculations in the game simulation. This is tricky to get right and it will take a while, but someone is working on it.

Austria is strongly influenced by Germany, hows the gaming industry in Slovenia?
Betalord: Slovenia practically doesn’t have any gaming industry regarding game development, I believe there is only one serious company here that does game development. I am aware of some of the problems German players have for example with censorship (some games actually had to be adopted for German market), but there are no such laws here in Slovenia, also the fact that piracy rate here is almost twice as high as in Austria or Germany speaks for itself :)

As for the gaming scene, it is as strong as in pretty much any other country, although not even nearly as strong as in Germany or Sweden, which are countries with some of the largest gaming communities. For illustration, the largest LAN party held in Slovenia comprised of about 250 gamers, the largest one in Sweden had over 6000. Nevertheless, we are quite active in various international ladders such as ESL or Clanbase.

What are your future plans for TA Spring?
Jcnossen: Most of the contributors and users like to see a more general rts engine, one that can run a wide variety of rts types. This could be solved with better scripting support and different unit animation systems. But everyone has ideas, it all comes down to enough people willing to spend their time on developing spring.

That is another reason why linux support is very important. It brings a lot of programmers to the project.

Betalord: Regarding the multiplayer lobby, the plans for Windows lobby are to add skinning capabilities and puting up a ladder/tournament system and integrating it into the lobby (once Spring is ready for it). The most important goal right now though is to make a portable lobby client which could be used on non-windows systems as well. There are at least 2 such lobbies in development right now by Spring community.

Thanks for your time and don’t stop developing such a great game!

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