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Interview with Developer Lackattack

1246 views | June 14, 2011 8:01 am PDT by

Q. Hello Lackattack! Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed!

The pleasure is mine!

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Conquer Club as a website? And the name?

Before the web was invented I used to play a BBS game called Global War. Every day I'd wake up early anxious to take my turn before going to school! About 7 years ago I wondered... could there be a version of Global War on the web? I searched and found a few web games - but I wasn't satisfied with the way they were designed and I thought it would be a fun project to build my own.

It was tough to think of a good name that wasn't taken. I was trying to narrow down my choices between Casual Warfare, Konquestica, Total Takeover, Border Blitz, Rolling Armies and Conquerama. But the moment “Conquer Club” came to me and I knew that was it!

Q: What was it like working full-time at a job, and then working on Conquer Club as a hobby?

It was so much fun, I felt like I had a double life - a programmer at McGill University's IT department by day and Webmaster of Conquer Club at night! I would do my website updates during evenings and weekends - often I'd tell my friends I'm on “lockdown” and they wouldn't hear from me for a week. That was the only way I could churn out new features like Terminator and Speed games. My co-workers probably found me annoying as I always talked about Conquer Club. I was obsessed.

Q: What was it like to finally transition from Conquer Club as a hobby to Conquer Club as your personal business?

When you quit your job to do your own thing you feel a combination of excitement for the future and nervousness because you have no guaranteed pay-cheque to pay for rent and groceries. In my case it was also a relief because at that point I felt like I was juggling 2 full-time jobs. I loved what I was doing and the fact that I could work whenever I want, from wherever I want.

Q: During the first year, did you ever have worries that Conquer Club would not take off---and that it'd just be you, your close friends, and a small group of interweb folk sitting around on a near empty website?

Of course! After I sent an initial invitation email to about 80 people in my address book, I started to worry that not enough people would play to have a “critical mass”. I raised the limit to 10 simultaneous games and kept on creating games myself so there would be always be a waiting game for new players to join!

Q: How much of the coding did you do yourself? I imagine there was a lot to be done.

I programmed all of it, except for pre-fabricated parts like the phpBB forum software. A graphic designer I knew did the first 3 maps - Classic, Asia and USA. I suck at webdesign so I used an open source layout. It took about 6 months to have everything ready for launch.

Q: Have you ever changed your avatar away from the Ninja Turtle?

Only for a couple brief moments - once to support a community event and once because I lost a bet-your-avatar game. Once you get attached to an avatar it feels strange to wear another, doesn't it?

Q: Why Leonardo as an avatar?

You know, I originally thought it was Donatello because even though the mask is blue, his weapon looks like a b? staff! Donatello was my favourite because he's into technology and the b? staff had the longest range in the Nintendo game. But Leonardo is good too. He's the leader and it fits for a webmaster. Anyone but Michelangelo, that party dude is too cool for me.

Q: What is your favorite part of running Conquer Club?

When I'm designing new features or playing with a technology for the first time. I also love going live with something I had been working on for days or weeks.

Q: What does your daily routine look like? How has it changed over the years?

I now have a regular schedule. I wake up, shower, get dressed, eat breakfast with my wife, and head to the office upstairs. First I check my Conquer Club email account, my inbox, the error log and a few key forums for anything that needs my attention. After the daily catch-up I spend the rest of the day on whatever my “active” project happens to be which could be programming a feature, tuning the server, web marketing or community-related.

It wasn't always like this at all. I remember never using an alarm, crawling straight from bed to the computer, working at random hours. I remember doing all the multi-hunting myself (in the early days I almost accidentally busted two friends of mine who lived close to each other - turns out one was stealing the other's internet connection so they had the same IP address!). I also used to spend much less time with “administration” stuff and more of my time “under the hood”.

Q: Why have you been dedicated to keeping flashing ads and banners off the website? Why not try to increase revenue this way?

Because they are yucky. It's out of respect for this website and respect for its members. To be honest I'd consider ads for free members if it would make a big difference financially but it doesn't seem to be worth the annoyance.

Q: Is it true that from your full-time employment, you sometimes would work on Conquer Club? Did you ever get worried about being caught---or were you ever caught?

How did you hear about that?! Well, all I can say is... my boss was very happy with my work and I never got in trouble for anything O:)

Q: How have you grown over these last 5 years as a person---and has Conquer Club contributed to that growth in any way?

I've grown a lot as a person - from being a chronic bachelor to a husband to - god willing by the time this is published - a father. I think Conquer Club taught me how to be a hard worker and how to be a leader. I've also learned a ton about public relations and this helps me deal with people in my personal life.

Q: Were your family, friends, and associates skeptical about Conquer Club as an endeavor in the beginning? What do they think of Conquer Club now?

I think my friends that played on similar websites were surprised to see Conquer Club take off, but they switched over and some still play. My father didn't consider Conquer Club to be a serious career move, but I eventually won him over too.

Q: Why do you think Conquer Club has been as successful as it has been---and what do you see in the future that can make it even more so?

I think the keys to our success are the simple user interface, the variety of maps, the level of competition and the vibrant community spirit that permeates this website. I think we need additional dimensions of competition, innovation in gameplay, and better social interaction to continue growing.

Q: Was the community - the forums, the mapmakers etc - part of the plan or has that surprised you?

Both! We started off with forums for mapmaking and organizing tournament hoping that they would be used. But I never expected the community to be anything close to what it is today. The Training Academy, the Newsletter, Clans, forum games, even the process of quenching maps is all stuff that came from the community. The community has it's own vibe, lingo, and intrigue. It is the biggest surprise for me.

Q: When you were a young man, what did you think your career was going to be? Did you have any dream jobs in mind?

When I was young I wanted to be a scientist, and part of me still wants to be.

Q: CC has come a long way from where it started. How did you feel about its progress?

Proud and grateful but not satisfied.

Q: What is your vision for Conquer Club for 2011? Or another way of putting it, what New Year's resolutions do you have for Conquer Club for 2011?

An official automated mega-tournament, clans integrated into the website, a game sitter feature, more game options. I also resolve to get another programmer working on the website.

Q: How do you picture CC 5 years from now?

I picture the website looking a bit different and having new bells and whistles, but still being the same old CC underneath. There will be different versions of the website in various languages and Conquer Club apps on platforms like the iPhone and Facebook.

Q: If you had more time to spend playing the game, how would you spend it? Clans? Tournaments? Mafia Games?

Definitely all of the above!

Q: Do you think Conquer Club will be a part of your life for the rest of your life?

I sure hope so.