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  • Tactical Gamer Interviews: Apophis

    Tactical Gamer Interviews: Apophis



    Welcome to the first in an ongoing series of interviews with the people behind, and sometimes in front of, the scenes here at Tactical Gamer.

    Around the end of last year it occurred to me that Iíve spent 2+ years here at TG and have met a lot of good people. More than that, there were a lot of good folks that I had only either heard of or spoken to briefly. As I start this I hope that I can bring to the rest of you some insight and knowledge of the people I know and hope to meet. These are the people you and I owe our thanks to for making Tactical Gamer what it is todayÖthe premier online gaming community for mature tactically oriented game play.

    That being said thereís no better way to start than at the top. In January I sent a private message to our founder and leader Apophis asking for his approval of my project and if he would sit with me for an interview. Whatís follows is the result of our enjoyably candid conversation of February 18th Ö



    Warlab:
    You know maybe really rather than interview material first is I guess I just wanted to make sure youíre kind of cool with this whole idea, you know, it seems like a good thing to do.

    Apophis:
    Iím totally cool with it. I actually think itís a pretty good idea I think itíll be interesting to learn more about some of the faces at Tactical Gamer behind just what you see in game and I think this is a great way to do it.

    Warlab:
    Thatís kind of what I thought you know. If you have spent any time on the forums you certainly see a lot of names and as you get to learn things about people I think it just makes you want to ask more questions about some of the names that you see. Definitely thatís what led me to ask you first. After all, any question that is Tactical Gamer related is even in existence because of you. I probably also should also take this opportunity to thank you for everybody here, youíve changed a lot of lives with this besides probably your own.

    Apophis:
    You know it was never what I intended when I created this community of so many years ago. I never could have anticipated that it would turn into what it did.

    Warlab:
    Thereís no doubt in my mind that that was one of the questions; ďwhy did you start Tactical Gamer?Ē, ďHow did it start?Ē Can you run with that a little bit?

    Apophis:
    Absolutely. Tactical Gamer wasnít always Tactical Gamer. It was started under the name Network 42 Professional Counter Strike. Way back in the late 90ís I was involved in this start up of an internet development company. I was the Chief Technology Officer there where I had to start learning a lot of new technology and I had a hard time just picking up a book and reading about something to learn it. Iíve always learned better when Iíve found a way to apply whatever it is that I wanted to learn so I created this little website as a ďplaygroundĒ for me to just try developing things . I focused around gaming because I was playing games at the time and it seemed like something I was interested in and so it was a good avenue to starting experimentation. From there I started playing a lot of Counter Strike and I was gradually becoming really frustrated because my gaming interests are not inÖ well, I donít want to play a game, as odd as this sounds, I donít want to play a game that I can win. I want to play a game that is incredibly challenging and really takes a lot in order to win. You know, I want it to be difficult. My problem playing Counter Strike is that I was involved with a couple people that we worked really well together as a team but the bulk of the players out there were all individual Lone Wolves and not really working together at all. So I posted a rather long rant in a newsgroup called Half Life Counter Strike Newsgroup basically saying, ďLook Iím sick of the way things are. Why canít people actually start working together in cohesive teams? Why canít we approach this game in a more challenging manner where weíre trying to enhance our skills, work together as a team to accomplish these goals and go up against other people with the same mindset because thatís whatís going to make us better; thatís whatís going to keep the game challenging, itís whatís going to keep it interesting.

    Warlab:
    Yeah, and take it to the next level too.

    Apophis:
    I got quite a big response from that back then and at the time I took the Network 42 Counter Strike site that I had and wrote a little questionnaire and I actually had people fill out applications in order to get access to the server and as a little side note one of the very first people that was ever involved was Cingular Duality. Heís been here since the onset.

    Warlab:
    I knew he had been around for a while, I didnít know he was that far back.

    Apophis:
    Oh yeah. Heís one of the very first here. So that progressed, we started becoming more and more popular. We started branching out into new games, Ghost Recon was probably one of the big games that came out once we really started getting geared up. So with Ghost Recon we went and I reconfigured our Ghost Recon servers to basically be as difficult as possible. There was no response, you had one life you had to make count and we started getting into mission development, creating missions that were phenomenally hard. We had one mission called ďWhite TigerĒ that was so difficult; it was around months, months before any team was actually able to complete the mission. We had entire weekends where teams would just go into the server and in a rotation trying to take on this mission and beat it. It was so challenging and the people loved it.

    Warlab:
    Wow, that sounds really cool. And that was with Ghost Recon.

    Apophis:
    That was with Ghost Recon, yeah. We eventually released a mod, our own mod for Ghost Recon that really changed a lot; lots of the game completely removed the markers and the mini map. You couldnít tell where enemies were. We turned it into a very challenging game.

    Warlab:
    What was that mod called?

    Apophis:
    It was the Tactical Gamer Ghost Recon Mod and itís actually still up on File Planet, I believe.

    Warlab:
    Wow, no kidding. I never knew that, thatís really interesting. Iím sure a lot of people are going to be interested to hear that. So at that point in time, you were doing Counter Strike and Ghost Recon and you had the website at your Network 42 job where you work, right? It was hosted there?

    Apophis:
    Well Network 42 wasnít the name of my company that was just the name of my site. It was an amalgamation of the TV network from the Max Headroom TV series, Network 23, and the number 42 being the answer to life in the universe and everything.

    Warlab:
    OK, gotcha. Thatís interesting. You said you had a questionnaire that people filled out before they were allowed to have access to what at that time were the Counter Strike and Ghost Recon game servers?

    Apophis:
    Correct.

    Warlab:
    So was there a forum which is so much of what Tactical Gamer has become?

    Apophis:
    Initially no, but by the time we did deploy forums very, right around the time when we launched Counter Strike. We did have forums way back when.

    Warlab:
    OK, then the way you phrased that makes me want to ask if you launched forums when you launched Counter Strike and there was a Network 42. What did Network 42 do before Counter Strike, was there anything or did you just play as an organized group of players on other peoples servers? Like a clan at that point of time.

    Apophis:
    Well, we always played on our own servers. You know one of the advantages of my job was that I had complete access to our entire network operations center. The guys that I worked with, that were involved, they were the gamers that I was playing with during lunch we used to have what we called, Half Lunch where we would play Half Life during lunch on our own server. That attracted a lot of public people that were just hopping on because it was publically accessible to play with us. It was those experiences with the four of us in the same room or at least within shouting distance of each other playing this game getting pubbies coming in and playing with us that really started getting me focused on ďhow can we take this to the next level?Ē

    Warlab:
    Your shop sounded a lot cooler than my shop does. I could neverÖ. nobody plays games on their lunch where I work. Iím in Information Technology too so I sure would if they would want too, but nobody does. So Counter Strike, Ghost Recon, Network 42. What kinda happened next? Whereíd you go from there?

    Apophis:
    Once we started expanding beyond Counter Strike, we changed the name from Network 42 to Professional Counter Strike to Network 42 Tactical Gamer. We stayed with that name up until probably about late 2002 early 2003 and at that point we had a guy that was into advertising, marketing and coming up with branding and identities for companies. He approached me saying ďhey, have you thought about re-branding who you are into something a little more focused?Ē He was the one that came up with the Tactical Gamer name and the Tactical Gamer logo that we still use to this day.

    Warlab:
    Is he a member of the community? Would we know him?

    Apophis:
    No. He went by the name Kunin, but heís not an active member now. I still keep in touch with him every now and then, but he ended up getting out of the whole advertising thing and going to law school. Life kind of pulled him away from gaming.

    Warlab:
    So his idea kind of changed your life even more there?

    Apophis:
    Yeah, you know it definitely gave us a much better identity moving forward and made it a lot clearer who we were and got rid of the whole Network 42 ambiguity that no one really understood that wasnít helping us in anyway.

    Warlab:
    When did you start the Supporting Membership and all the privileges that it provided?

    Apophis:
    Well, right around the re-branding, that was when the whole dot.com bubble burst. The company that I was working for we did a lot a very, very high end web development for Fortune 100 companies along with numerous start ups. In that 2002Ė2003 era, all the VC money was drying up, the investors werenít willing to go to some startup company and hand them $40 million just to build a website because theyíre on the internet. Of course, theyíre going to make money. So the company I worked for started undergoing massive downsizing and at that point the Tactical Gamer community was getting pretty large and when they decided they were going to close all of network operation and outsource it that was pretty clear to me that it was time to move on because I wasnít going to be able to do what I enjoyed there anymore. I wanted to keep Tactical Gamer alive, I wanted to keep the community together and going to a Supporting Member Structure was the best way I could think of to guarantee its survival.

    Warlab:
    Cause you were going to lose the resources that you had?

    Apophis:
    Correct.

    Warlab:
    And you really had to find a way to replace them.

    Apophis:
    And we had so many resources available. We had more bandwidth than you could possibly ever touch. We had racks of servers, at one point we were running 5 or 6 Ghost Recon servers, 4 Counter Strike servers, we still had Half Life servers up. We were still running Quake, LMCTF games on a Sun Ultra that I had. We had a huge number of servers out there.

    Warlab:
    And all kinda ďon the houseĒ, so to speak.

    Apophis:
    Right.

    Warlab:
    Wow, the golden days, huh?

    Apophis:
    Yeah, yeah, but luckily a big bulk of the community stood behind us because we had really started to form something at that point and the community wanted to keep it alive just as much as I did so it worked out in that aspect.

    Warlab:
    So there was a feeling even back then that the level of play that you guys had was just higher than really anywhere else. Thatís what made it special, would you say?

    Apophis:
    Yeah, I mean the people that came to play with us, at that point in time we were seeing a lot of active military and law enforcement. Predominantly that was who was playing Tactical Gamer so when they found this environment and started playing comments from a lot of them were basically in agreement that once they played in the Network 42 Tactical Gamer going anywhere else on public servers just wasnít fun anymore.

    Warlab:
    So thatís where it all started. I think thatís the way it is for everybody thatís here now. I know thatís the way it worked for me. When I came from vanilla Battlefield2 to the Project Reality server at TG, I never looked back. The mod itself was great and the way that everybody played here was just like going to a whole other dimension of game play. If you like to play the games a lot, it really becomes life changing. Honestly, your level of enjoyment goes up so much. It continues to this day. You can still hear people echo exactly what you just said. All the people in your community feel the same way.

    Apophis:
    The game playing environment certainly isnít for everyone and Iím not going to be delusional and think that everyone should play this way because when it comes down to playing a game you should play it the way that brings you enjoyment and if you donít, whatís the point. So thereís plenty of room out there for the people that want a faster paced environment, a more run and gun environment that their focus is just winning the game as opposed to how they win the game and all of these ideas and concepts of how to play the game are just as valid as each other. But I just want to make that home for the people that want to play the way we do.

    Warlab:
    It sure seems as though you succeeded. I know the whole community definitely applauds you for that. There is no place that I think anybody would think is any better to play any kind of first person shooter than here. This is it. So we definitely applaud you there. One of the first questions I was thinking about asking at the beginning, but havenít yet as weíve been on a roll here, is that the community might be interested to know that Apophisí real name is? That is if you donít mind me asking.

    Apophis:
    My real name is Paul. I donít have any problems with that. Usually some people will send me PMís and I respond with my real name any way.

    Warlab:
    Mine is Tim, by the way, Paul. Nice to meet you.

    Apophis:
    Nice to meet you, Tim.

    Warlab:
    Then the obvious second question is; where did Apophis come from? I think everybodyís interested to know where people get their names, their nicks, their screen names.

    Apophis:
    The most common thing that I hear is that it came from Stargate SG1, Iíve heard that a lot. For me, in reality, it just comes from Egyptian mythology. When I had all my servers at my former company, I would name them each after various Egyptian gods out of mythology and I just kind of liked the Apophis one and after hearing the Stargate reference so many times I actually had to go watch the program to see what the series was.

    Warlab:
    But it was just part of your Egyptian naming scheme, really. You liked it; thatís the bottom line, right?

    Apophis:
    Yep.

    Warlab:
    I always say that in our department when we get a new server thatís about the most fun we can have in Information Technology is to make up a name for the server. Weíve got all kinds of crazy ones, itís pretty fun. Best theme that I ever heard of was, in my opinion, was Infectious Diseases. Some guy had named his all like, Black Plague, and whatever, Swine Flu, and I just thought that one must have said a lot about the place he worked.

    Apophis:
    We just rolled out a new lab at work and we actually ended up going with the Family Guy theme. We named the domain Quahog and all the servers are: Meg, Stewie, Quagmire.

    Warlab:
    Our last one was Little Rascals. You know I got a lot of old people in my department. So they went with: Spanky, Alfalfa, Buckwheat and all that stuff. You gotta have fun though. How about this one; how old are you? I thought I saw on your profile youíre like 37 or something like that or 32.

    Apophis:
    37

    Warlab:
    OK. Well I guess youíve lived the whole life full of video games, but where did your gaming hobby start? Did you game outside of video or computer games, were you a board gamer or anything like that? Dungeons and Dragons, even any of that stuff?

    Apophis:
    No, I never really got into the Dungeons and Dragons thing. I remember when I was really young we got an Atari 2600 the very first Christmas it came out. When it comes to actual gaming, thatís probably you could say where I started.

    Warlab:
    So you would be entirely of the electronic or video age, thereís no old school board gaming.

    Apophis:
    Well, I played a lot of Stratego.

    Warlab:
    Did you? That was a good one.

    Apophis:
    We had cupboards full of board games growing up so I did spend a lot of time playing various board games. I even had some of those hexagonal, I donít even remember what they were, those hexagonal base strategy games.

    Warlab:
    OK. So you did mess with some of that?

    Apophis:
    It was so far ago like I said; I canít even remember the name but yeah.

    Warlab:
    OK. I was just kind of wondering where it all started. For myself, probably the first thing I ever did was go to like a war gaming club at a YMCA where they were playing Dungeons and Dragons. Then a couple weeks later I went and they were playing a war game instead of a fantasy role playing game and then it just snowballed from there. Computers eventually became the thing and it switched over from playing with people playing on paper to probably AI and computer and the internet comes along and that brings people into it again. Thatís kind of my progression there. So, youíre completely game-less at the moment? Is it true what I said at the beginning, Apophis is just running the website? Do you get to have any fun? What do you do for fun if youíre not gaming?

    Apophis:
    Well, I did just recently get divorced and I have a whole lot more time now to get back into gaming, but that was also timed with an electrical storm and my house getting hit and blowing up most everything that I had that was plugged into the wall. The only functioning computer I have right now is just my laptop.

    Warlab:
    It was a storm? It wasnít her? She didnít blow up everything?

    Apophis:
    It was an actual storm and I actually got my desktop, my gaming rig all set up again and it powered on and it worked but it was acting weird. It lasted for probably about a week and then it just stopped powering on. I do still game, although what time I have is predominantly on my Playstation 3.

    Warlab:
    Playstation 3? Itís console gaming and Playstation 3 if you have the time.

    Apophis:
    Until I get my PC fixed, which I am already trying to get together my parts list to build a new box because I really want to get back into PC gaming.

    Warlab:
    What are you interested in? Did you used to play Project Reality ever? Did you ever go that far up the FPS ladder ?

    Apophis:
    Oh, yeah. I played a lot of Battlefield 2, Project Reality, got into a little 2142 but that kind of got old quick. As far as the games that I actually enjoy the most, and if I was to jump back in right now, I think the very first game I would install would be Armed Assault 2.

    Warlab:
    Check that out. Thatís a statement people are going to want to hear right there. That will probably make the ArmA guys feel good.

    Apophis:
    One of the things I like, one of the reasons I want to get back into Armed Assault is that I was a really big fan of the Operation Flash Point and there was a capture the flag, capture the island mod it was called MFCTI for Operation Flashpoint and it was kind of a combination of a team versus team, and a team versus AI mod for OFP where you would take the entire island of Operation Flashpoint and you had two factions, well, there were actually three. You had the east and the west and there were also these rebel factions. The goal was to basically take over every city and encompass the island. At first, when you started at opposite sides of this massive island you would be all fighting the rebel factions; fighting them to take over these rebel towns and cities. As you took over the towns and cities and built up defenses, eventually you would eliminate all of the rebels from the game and you would be facing the opposing team. Not only did it have the first person shooter elements, it was also a real time strategy element because you had a commander that stayed back at your HQ. The commanderís job was to take the resources and income that were made from taking over the towns and build heavy armor factories and airplane hangars and everything else so it was really a wild combination of multiple types of gaming all in one.

    Warlab:
    Thereís a mod, I donít know if it was around for ArmA 1 but it was, I know itís here for ArmA 2 that this guy is working on itís like in its Beta format, itís called Devastation and itís kind of like mixes, some of the best of Project Reality with some of the best of ArmA but it has that ďthe more you can take, the more you can buildĒ kind of thing in that you can build tank factories and guide your production of assets that way or build whatever, artillery stuff and guide your production that way. You go along capturing points and stuff like that. Thatís a big one that Iíve been hoping that theyíll run again.

    Apophis:
    Iím looking at that right now and the mod actually looks very similar to what the MFCTI mod was for Operation Flash Point.

    Warlab:
    What? The Devastation one?

    Apophis:
    Yeah. Something like this would really be the type of mod that would force me to go to Best Buy and pay retail prices and start building a PC. This looks very good.

    Warlab:
    Well, talk to Jeepo sir. Iíve talked about this so much with him that I feel like Iíve just bugged him too much you know? It just looks so cool !

    Apophis:
    Yes, this is something I will definitely push.

    Warlab:
    I donít know what the hell Arma 2 holds in store for you, but I would love to see that loaded up on your PC. Alright, so what other brilliant questions did I want to ask you? I know one that I have that as a person whoís only been around for 2 years, I guess, maybe a little more than 2 years... Iím not sure that I understand, letís call it the ďchain of commandĒ at Tactical Gamer. Everybody knows that you are the main man, for lack of a better term, but I donít know if I ever understood who some of the other older people were. Is there a number two? I know you mentioned Cingular earlier. I know that a lot of times you will have dealings with Asch and honestly I thought he was your #2. Would you want to comment on the chain of command or if you even see it as one? Are there other officers beside yourself?

    Apophis:
    There definitely is, and it is apparent just by the question that maybe we should do more to clarify that. Let me start by saying that one of the things that I did with Tactical Gamer was, as far as its management structure, was I didnít treat it like a lot of other communities out there where youíve got councils and voting and everything else. I built it, and structured it more like a company than anything else. I saw too many communities and clans failing because there wasnít any real clear leader and if there was they tried to give everyone equal votes and as soon as you got one segment of their group voting one way, and another segment voting the other way, eventually it would end up creating divisions and end up tearing them apart. As far as the chain of command in Tactical Gamer goes, if you were going from the top down, itís pretty much goes from me, and then Asch is my right hand. He deals with a lot of the day-to-day forum related, getting peopleís access groups set up. Heís been pretty good with dealing with a lot of the problems that arise with players and individuals in the community. As Iíve gotten older, Iíve gotten a little more cranky, and I donít always deal with people as best as I should.

    Warlab:
    Iím older and crankier than you bro, I can understand.

    Apophis:
    I just donít want to put up with it anymore.

    Warlab:
    I imagine youíve had to deal with it for a long time. So,as I mentioned Iíve always kind of sensed that it might be Asch but again, I never; I donít ever think I knew where there was an organization chart or if it was even thought of that way. Something that you really couldnít say because weíre a ďcommunityĒ and not a ďclanĒÖ you know, that whole thing that we always have to educate people on and if it ties in with that or not.

    Apophis:
    Big C has really stepped up as well. Heís kind of like our pit bull. If you have to deal with something thatís going to aggravate people, heís the one that I go to because heís got no problem stepping in and saying, ďthis is the way it is, you donít like it, hereís the door. See ya.Ē Where Ash is more the one I go to if weíve got a problem in an area that really, from what I see, can be corrected, that we can work with the people. Heís really good at that.

    Warlab:
    Would you, I guess to be specific; theyíre equals in your eyes? Twin executive officers? Iíve got to think military here. Or is Asch number two and Big Cís number three?

    Apophis:
    Weíll just say Asch is number two, but Big C is number two in the Black Ops arena.

    Warlab:
    So after Ash and C, would it branch out into game officers then? Or is there another level?

    Apophis:
    That is a gray area right now because there are other people who are really stepping up where Iím trying to give greater leadership roles in the community, like Whiskey 6. Heís in that realm as well, along with Big C. The people that I go to when I really need some honest answers and ideas; itís kind of the cool group I go to for brainstorming.

    I do want to formalize that a lot of my time lately has been spent getting us migrated to new servers, taking care a lot of lingering administration issues that Iíve neglected over the past four years. Once I get the site redesigned, new templates in place and all that behind me, I am really going to focus on the overall structure. But once you get past this core group of guys, then youíre at the game officer levels where itís a lot easier for me to manage or Asch to manage. A small group of game officers and then each game officer gets to manage their admins.

    Warlab:
    So that kind of clarifies that for now. So youíre possibly just going to work on formalizing that as you get done other stuff youíre doing basically is what youíre saying?

    Apophis:
    Yeah. Weíre also exploring the Executive Officer (XO) role for some of the games that have really grown. Take Battlefield for example, we have a Game Officer for the Battlefield series, but with Battlefield 2, 21-42, Project Reality, Point of Existence, Forgotten Hope, and who knows what other mods are coming down, thatís an awful lot for him to do. I have some concerns with this structure which weíre trying to flush out now. Itís actually a conflict between the Game Officer or (XO) role and the in-house squads. You know weíve had some instances in the past where weíve got a single in house squad thatís extremely active in a single game, then you end up with an individual squad having the entire admin team. That starts to cause problems because then the game evolves in shapes according to the desires of an in house squad as opposed to what we really want as a whole for Tactical Gamer. Thereís been instances where thatís really blown up and weíve had entire squads depart from TG as a result.

    Warlab:
    Are you serious? Entire squads have left? Wow! What game communities are we talking about specifically there?

    Apophis:
    That was most prevalent in Battlefield 21-42.

    Warlab:
    No kidding. I guess I had my head buried in the sand, not looking at that. Is that a pretty recent, well that game is newer than Battlefield 2 soÖ.wow, shoot, I didnít know that?

    Apophis:
    Yeah. It was fairly recent. It was really kicked off because new players coming in; not every new player who comes into TG knows what TG is and one of the things I think weíve really lost sight of is being welcoming to new players and training them. Granted there is a lot of great people in TG that do a wonderful job with this and help get new players in. But if somebodyís been playing on public servers for months or years and they might have an internal desire to want to play the way we do but theyíve just not found that experience. Theyíve been ďpubbifiedĒ - theyíre been used to just hopping on the server, running and gunning and doing what they need to do because itís the environment theyíve always played in. So when these people come into TG if theyíre not given some level of coaching before the stern, strict warnings and (hands) come down, we end up alienating players that really want to be here they just donít know it yet. One of the great analogies for this is the Roadhouse scene where Patrick Swayze was talking about being nice,ď if somebody comes in and spits on you, be nice.Ē Thatís what Iím looking for. Thereís a time and a place not to be nice and itís painfully obvious when somebody comes in and they donít belong here and you try to work with them and they respond with hostility. Those are the people I have no tolerance for but I think everyone really deserves a chance and I think thatís something weíve strayed from a little bit.

    Warlab:
    I heard you. I guess I just wasnít aware there was so much tension that an entire group kind of pulled out of Tactical Gamer.

    Apophis:
    Thatís both the strength and the weakness of the in house squads we created. In house squads were created not to be exclusive, not to be inherently competitive with one another, but they were created to allow for training in small units. Games like Battlefield 2, 2142, and Armed Assault are really perfect for this system because youíll have squads inside the game and if you can train with the group of people and really get familiar with how each other plays and you have multiple squads like that then that allows for a far more competitive intense environment in game. The squads were never supposed to be exclusive of one another or were better than you are, it was supposed to be a more cooperative feel because ultimately everybody here is TG and weíre tactical gamers. A community and the squads were just ways for people to specialize in areas of the game that they liked and excelled at those so they can work with the other squads and the other squads can leverage them and say, ďwell, the 42nd are great covert op guys, if we need people to sneak in, thatís who we want to get to goĒ. Still, weíre all on the same side.

    Warlab:
    Has there been hostility issues between in house squads? I havenít sensed that myself, maybe Iím just the naÔve, old, nice guy, but I donít know.

    Apophis:
    There has. Weíve taken care of a lot of it. There was a period of time where things were a little too competitive and hostile between the squads. A lot of that stemmed from the same problems from Battlefield 2142, it was no longer a team environment, a tactical team environment, it was an "every squad out for themselves" kind of thing.

    Warlab:
    So whatís up with the 2142 guys? Are they a rowdy bunch there?

    Apophis:
    Well at one time, yes.

    Warlab:
    You keep mentioning them.

    Apophis:
    That was one of the more recent ones I recall. This problemís gone back forever, all the way back to Counter Strike. We had within the Counter Strike days a group of guys called, ďRIPĒ. It was another clan that played with us a lot and a lot of the guys were really good but then there were some people in there that really, really liked causing problems. One in particular, this guy Devilman, who liked going after me specifically and giving me incredibly hard times. I canít tell you how many times I banned him and perma-banned him and heíd flip out and threaten me and all. All I would say is apologize and tell me your going to play by the rules and weíll work it out. As time went on and the years went on, him and I actually ended up with a great relationship and heís done a lot of stuff for TG.

    Warlab:
    Heís a current member of the community?

    Apophis:
    Heís not, he kind of faded out from gaming, but I still talk to him on occasion.


    Warlab:
    So, letís seeÖ.Obviously youíve got the big upgrade going with the site, you had mentioned, I believe, servers. You want talk about that? Whatís the cool new things you like about the web site? What new, other, servers have you got going? Ö Also, maybe what prompted you to do the upgrades, would be interesting too.

    Apophis:
    Well, weíve been growing really rapidly. A lot of new people, a lot of new content. I try as hard as I can to preserve all the content thatís on TG and not purge old posts because especially when you go back pretty far to the Ghost Recon days thereís some amazing strategy discussions that are applicable to just about every game, and stuff I just want to keep around. I like our history. A lot of the upgrades Iíve been doing are completely behind the scenes. Tactical Gamer would be very difficult to run and manage the performance expectations I have being in the IT industry. If we went out to places like GoDaddy, and got a website from GoDaddy we donít do that. I lease servers, co-locate servers, tier 1 data centers and completely manage them so we maintain our own main servers, mail servers, web servers, database servers, Iíve got storage area network in the background that interconnects this stuff that I use for back-ups, replication and stuff like that. So a lot of the upgrades were to the primary web server and the data base server they were things I wanted to do on the site but when I started implementing them, drove the server loads up so high that the performance wasnít there that I wanted.

    Warlab:
    So you needed new hardware too.

    Apophis:
    Yeah, new hardware. You know I started hitting on game servers as well, doing hardware refreshes because some of the hardware we have is pretty old. So Iíve been bringing in quad core servers with tons of RAM just better stuff to support the games that we have.

    Warlab:
    Yeah, I had heard about some of it happening, thatís awesome. We see the performance of the servers from when were in the game obviously, but when you go back to the website as we see it now, are there new features that youíre kind of interested in having us take advantage of, things that youíd like to see us know about more?

    Apophis:
    One of the interesting things I see is the usage of the blogs. Weíve always had a blogging system in TG and I was really surprised when so many people commented on when I said we were upgrading and all of the content in the blogged system was going to be lost, people commented, ďlike, oh wait, we have blogs?Ē

    Warlab:
    I have to admit I was like that too.

    Apophis:
    I thing the blogs were interesting in the community area, thereís a community group, which the group system anybody can create their own custom discussion groups. I donít know if youíve played around with that at all?

    Warlab:
    I have not created any. I guess I just might have joined the Ribbons Awareness Group to promote the writing of ribbons, but the answer is, no.

    Apophis:
    As far as the direction of TG goes part of this upgrade to the whole new platform of the software that weíre running was to get in to more public content development. Once the new site design comes in to play it will be going full bore on that but the front page entry in to Tactical Gamer for those people who are just hitting the site is going to have a very strong gaming focus across all platforms; consoles, PCís, games that we currently play here, games that we donít play here. A lot of our members now, new people coming in, are going to all places over the net to find out about new games coming out and to read reviews. We want to start building out that content here at TG and make that information available with exclusive content not links to all the other gaming sites that do network.

    Warlab:
    But youíre going to do both at the beginning, youíre going to fill in kind of like the gaps with the links to the other stuff and as members of the community provide original content, youíll use that, right?

    Apophis:
    Yep, weíre going to be launching a new program for game reviews where TG will buy the games for you. We buy you the game, ship you the game, we just want to review it. If thatís not what people are interested in, weíre looking as far as paying people to write content. Doing it for a variety of reasons.; number one, itís a great way to attract new people to TG so that start to get an idea of who we are and what weíre about and itís just another way to provide more information to the community members that are here and give them something in return for it.

    Warlab:
    Iím sure hoping to help with exactly what youíre talking about, with this little, interviewing the people at TG series. I kind of want to give back something and build content, keeping it as simple as that.

    Apophis:
    Weíre going to have a position open for an editor because we definitely need somebody to go through the content that comes in and clean it up.

    Warlab:
    Oh, editor ?!?!?! Man I can do that one! Thatís when other people write and do the hard part. They just write it and you get to proof read and correct. Oh, candidate number one, and if you can get me somebody to write this up, then I can edit itÖlol. Yeah, I have to admit, Iím not a freaking writer, but Iím just motivated to do this, I just think it will be a really fun thing to do. Youíre going to have to bear with me, between all the real world stuff, and my poor writing ability itís going take awhile to get this churned out.

    Apophis:
    I feel ya on the real world stuff. Ya know, this has always been just a hobby.

    Warlab:
    How...I thought of another question way back at the beginning when I asked you what your name was. I should have asked you where, and I dont want you to be real specific, but where do you live? Where does Apophis game out of? Where is he running the show out of?

    Apophis:
    I live in Rhode Island.

    Warlab:
    Ok. Iím sure that somebody would be interested in that.

    Apophis:
    Yes it is a State. No we're not part of New York.

    Warlab:
    No, No, No. Ok let's see. What did I want to ask ?
    Ah...one of the features I know I always loved, that I guess was disabled a couple of years ago, was the Ribbons Display Feature.

    Apophis:
    Ya. When I was talking about features that I tried to implement that just drove the server load thru the roof...that is the highest on the list.

    Warlab:
    So...is it going to be attempted again at some point.

    Apophis:
    I am going to attempt it again as soon as the site design is done and in my hands.

    Warlab:
    I assumed that was the 1st priority and Im definitely pumped to see that.
    I like the banner that's up there on top that is nice.

    Apophis:
    Yea, I really like what he did with the logo. I gave him the logo and said this logo is our identity, it needs to stay, however your treatment of the logo can deal with coloring, textures, 3D effects...whatever you want but, this is our identity, it needs to stay.

    Warlab:
    I love the TacticalGamer dog tag logo. That thing is awesome.

    Apophis:
    That's all thanks to Kunin.

    Warlab:
    Are you still in I.T., just for point of reference ?

    Apophis:
    Oh yea. I've been in I.T. most all of my life. I'm an Information Security Specialist.

    Warlab:
    Oh wow.

    Apophis:
    I started back in the beginning of TG, when I was involved in a startup, I did everything myself. From all of our Cisco gear, our networking, our firewalls, the systems...everything...Windows, Unix, storage systems. I had to learn a lot.

    Warlab:
    That is what you said back at the beginning. You did a lot of the specifically to learn that stuff and its sounds like it paid, huh ?

    Apophis:
    Oh yea. My interest in IT and security come from my youth being on the wrong side of the fence so to speak when it comes to computers and systems.

    Warlab:
    Are you serious ?

    Apophis:
    I was really active during the early hacking and phreaking era. That's where I got a lot of my interest in these systems.

    Warlab:
    Very cool. What was your very 1st I.T. job ? Do you remember that one ?

    Apophis:
    Ahh.... very first I.T. job.....ahhh....that would have to be RE/MAX. I worked for a local RE/MAX office as their technical guy.

    Warlab:
    So how did you get that job ? Did you take a certification course before that or some kind of college ?

    Apophis:
    No , I was sleeping with one of the real estate agents daughters.

    Warlab:
    LOL ! I remember when I was trying to do the career switch I would spend time reading on the early internet about how to break into I.T. and all that. It was always volunteer at a church, and stuff like that. Nobody ever said sleep with one of the real estate agent's daughters . That's pretty good.

    Apophis:
    It's been tough for me on the whole. My method of learning and the way I absorb information is not traditional. I donít have a college degree. I didn't go to college for any of this stuff.

    Warlab:
    Do you have certifications?

    Apophis:
    Only recently did I start getting certifications. I started whipping them out one a week just to get 'em done and that was because of government compliance regulations where they're mandating where you have this level of access on these systems you need to have these certifications.

    Warlab:
    What certification are you most proud of...what's your biggest cert ?

    Apophis:
    None. Because I hate every certification I have and I don't believe in them.

    Warlab:
    You don't believe in them?

    Apophis:
    Not at all.

    Warlab:
    I've always found that it depends on who you talk to as to whether they like education versus certification, but that none of them pay enough attention to actual work experience in my opinion. I'd rather have a non degreed , non certified person that really knew what they were doing...

    Apophis:
    I agree. You know I've been doing this I.T., internet, networking, high availability, development, security stuff since before certification were there. I see companies like Microsoft coming out now with all this huge wealth of cert and its, from my perspective, itís just a way to make money. You know, having gotten a number of certs, it's all just about memorizing the answers they want without any actual understanding of what's behind them.

    Warlab:
    You could have written the certification tests yourself with your level of experience so it seems stupid to take them....

    Apophis:
    I haven't studied for 5 minutes on any certs I've got. I've just gone and taken them.

    Warlab:
    Oh man, that's impressive. That's an accumulation of a life's knowledge that allows you to knock these things off like this. That's something to be proud of.

    So let's talk about something different. You know when we see an ad on TG's website, does it actually help pay for Tactical Gamer if we click on the ad? If we clicked on more ads would it make you more money that you could use to make life better for us?

    Apophis:
    No, Not at all. TG gets an enormous, an ENORMOUS, amount of page views on a daily basis. Obscene amounts. We qualify for CPM-based advertising so we get paid merely to show an ad whether or not someone clicks on it. There's no effect if we click on an ad.

    Warlab:
    So if we have our browsers all slicked up to block ads are we hurting ourselves. Should we block ads ?

    Apophis:
    Well it's personal preference. It doesn't hurt. With the number of people we have at TG it wouldn't have a large enough impact to change much.

    Warlab:
    So how many page hits a day or month do you get? What a cool statistic you could brag about ?

    Apophis:
    Hang on a second...let me look it up.
    In January we had 208,000 unique non -repeat vistors. That's 208,000 different sets of eyeballs. That equated to just under 2 million pages views.

    Warlab:
    How is that tracked actually? By IP address ? Or MAC address and IP ?

    Apophis:
    This is coming out of Google Analytics. So this is a combination of IP and cookie based.

    Warlab:
    Oh IP and cookie, duh. Wow 208 in one month!

    Apophis:
    Yup. We have visitors from pretty much all over the world. I could probably count the countries on my fingers and not even have to take off my socks to count the countries that we don't have visitors from.

    Warlab:
    Wow that's pretty cool.
    Where are TG's servers hosted? I mean some of them are in Virginia right?

    Apophis:
    We have them in Virginia, yes but the bulk of our servers are actually in Texas.

    Warlab:
    Texas?

    Apophis:
    Yup.

    Warlab:
    I think people would want to know where the game servers are?

    Apophis:

    The bulk are in Texas. The Battlefield servers are predominately in Virginia.

    Warlab:
    Well, let's see. I think I might have covered everything on my list. Im not sure there's anything else I can think of. Is there anything else you want to say right now?

    Apophis:
    Well yes. Little side notes....
    Ever hear about the Tactical Gamer Summer Bash?

    Warlab:
    No, I don't know that I have.

    Apophis:

    It was say, probably about the 2nd, or 1st year after we re-branded, I actually invited everybody in the community up to my house in Rhode Island. This was actually in the summer of 2000. Or was it 2001?

    Warlab:
    Ya gettin' ready for another one ? LoL!

    Apophis:
    Lol, we've grown a bit since then. You know we probably had about 40 people show up from all over the world. We had people drive up from Texas and picking up other Tactical Gamer members along the way. I had people fly down from Canada. I had one guy fly over from England. The Summer Bash was a weeklong event. I brought home a large 96 port Cisco Catalyst 1gig switch. I had tables set up in the bedrooms downstairs and upstairs. Everyone brought their computers and it was this weeklong gaming event...you know, drinking, swimming in the pool, BBQ's. I've got a lot of land ...I had a tent city set up outside my house.

    Warlab:
    Lol ! Oh my gosh !

    Apophis:
    It was a trip.... it was a lot of fun !

    Warlab:
    So why are you mentioning this to me now ?
    Are you thinking about it again ? A variation on theme ? A more industrialized version.... you know, hotels ....

    Apophis:
    It's definitely something I'd would like to repeat. I don't think I'd do it at my house....

    Warlab:
    LoL ! No.... but you might be able to work out something with a hotel for slightly cheaper rates for people.

    Apophis:
    I was kind of thinking Vegas.

    Warlab:
    Who doesn't want to go to Vegas ? Oh my god that would be fun.
    So say, when did you say you rebranded ? 2000 ?

    Apophis:
    We really rebranded in the end of 2002 or 2003. The LAN party, that was in 2001 so that might have been a Network 43 party not a Tactical Gamer one.

    Warlab:
    Well what if you shot for two years from now 2012 ? I know you have a lot of stuff going on. It would be the 10th anniversary of the rebranding.

    Apophis:
    That would be in two years...

    Warlab:
    You could make the commitment, the rest of us wouldn't know about it until a few months ahead of time. Where are you gonna be in two years ? I don't know hopefully in with enough money in the bank to throw us a party in Vegas, lol. God that would be awesome.

    Apophis:
    You'll have to keep your fingers crossed for that one.

    Warlab:
    I don't know ....it would be awesome for you to do something like that, but your right the community has grown so large you could never have a simple gathering at your house with tents and all.

    Apophis:
    You know one of the things that scares me about it and to be perfectly honest kind of scared me about the interview thing , is that I've been out of touch with TG for so long that there's too much mystery about who I am and I'm not just another gamer anymore that happens to run the site. In a way that kinda makes me uncomfortable because I'm just a 37 year old guy that like games and put up a website that a whole bunch of people went to.

    Warlab:
    Well, like all great leaders your modest, sir....sorry about your luck man, you've changed alot of peoples lives. What you've gotta do for your own health is just get back in there and game with us man. I think that would make you feel better. You'd get a feeling of what was going on more. You know everybody would **** bricks to see you come into their squad.

    Apophis:
    Well that's the other thing ...I don't always play game under my own name. I've got a variety of aliases I've used thru the years.

    Warlab:
    Lol !

    Apophis:
    Even over the past 4 years when I was still popping in and gaming, A lot of times I'd play under another name.

    Warlab:
    Well, you probably gotta do that or well, too much adulation you probably can't even play and relax. But you oughta reward the masses by showing your face on the balcony once in a while. It would be fun. I didn't know you did the anonymous gaming thing. You know, yeah, come in and game. That would be the best thing I could think of. You could tell what people are talking about if you're in there doing it. But like we said earlier with the real world work and women I can imagine it's hard for you to get the time to do it.

    Apophis:
    Yea it just never seems to end although thing have been going well at work. To the point I'm not having to put in crazy hours...settling down. During the week I've been in Teamspeak every night you know talking to people while working on the site. That's kinda been good too.

    Warlab:
    I've see you down here in the Admin channel, and maybe I should have read a manual, but I didn't know what the little yellow symbols were by the administration channel. Could we just come in here or is this just invite only?

    Apophis:
    Yellow means it's a password protected channel. I've been hiding out here for the last few days because I'm largely working on a lot of bug fixes for the site. It's generally kept a lot of the chatter down allowing me to concentrate and then if somebody wants to say hey they'll ping me in the channel and I'll go out and talk to them in a channel or drag them in here.

    Warlab:
    Got ya. I noticed the Help Channel is new on Teamspeak.

    Apophis:
    Yup.

    Warlab:
    So if we need help don't come down here right ?

    Apophis:
    Yes. I don't know the password. It like 40 character long and I was just mashing keys when I made it up and if you try to join, Teamspeak will kick you out of Teamspeak with a temporary 5 minute ban. It seems to keep re-prompting the client for a password and it does it so fast, after like 10 attempts which happen in like 20 milliseconds, it just kicks you with a temporary 5 minute ban.

    Warlab:
    I guess you could say that's an issue and I know you have been communicating with the people in the forums about the upgrade, but is there anything you want the people to know in regard to all the question they have been asking ?

    Apophis:
    Well, you know I have that thread in the General Forum when I was forced to rebuild the site. You know that was not something I wanted to do. The way it happened was not the way I wanted it to happen. There were multiple drive issues and drive controller issues on the old server. I just consider myself lucky I was able to get all the databases and everything off of it before it completely died.

    Warlab:
    Wow. But when forced you just of took it to the next level.

    Apophis:
    Well, if I was going to have to rebuild from the ground up and this new version of this vBulletin was out, I did not want to have to rebuild this site from the ground up only to have to face doing it again in a month with the new version.

    Warlab:
    Got ya.

    Apophis:
    So I just kind of bit the bullet and called this a public experiment and people can see how things change as they change.

    Warlab:
    Yeah, I feel like a lot of people think the thing is going to be white forever but people are still trying to spread the word that it's a work in progress. But you got such a large set of forums here it so darn hard to cover everything it's easy to see why people would stuff despite all the forum tools we have. There's a wealth of information in here.

    Apophis:
    Yeah. I do think they will like the new site. I do like it. Its easy to read. Its kind of a little change from what we've had. You know we've always kind of changed the site every 2 or 3 years.

    Warlab:
    So the last design was a couple of years ago? It was probably right before I joined up I would imagine.

    Apophis:
    The last design, before this upgrade was done on Nov. 10, 2005. I only remember that because I had just started....just started the redesign when my life went into labor.

    Warlab:
    So you have a son.

    Apophis:
    Yes.


    Öand there you have it. At the mention of Apophisí real world child our time together discussing his virtual child drew to a close.

    Iíd like to thank Apophis for his time and Iím not sure that I canít think of a better way than to restate the three guiding principles of the Tactical Gamer Primer:


    1) Create an environment conducive for mature gamers to enjoy the games they play without the everyday interference from the less-than-mature gamers.

    2) Create an environment where there was mutual respect for your fellow gamers and where all members would be working together to advance the enjoyment of their hobby.

    3) Support game play in a near-simulation environment. Where the focus of play would not be solely on doing what it takes to win, but doing so utilizing real-world combat strategy and tactics rather than leveraging exploits provided to players by the design of the game engine, regardless of the level of advantage, if any, it gives over the opposing team.


    |TG-189th|warlab
     

     
    Comments 46 Comments
    1. Bastard's Avatar
      Bastard -
      Very nice article!
    1. Sirusblk's Avatar
      Sirusblk -
      Awesome. Really opened my eyes as to what I knew and didn't know about TG. Love the interview. Maybe a live podcast would be cool? Something we could all tune into and chat in the background while you asked questions?

      Also might I recommend interviewing the random no names of TG? Some of us have huge elaborate stories about TG and our experiences that I think a lot of people might otherwise miss.
    1. ThirdSin's Avatar
      ThirdSin -
      Being a newcomer to TG, I found this incredibly informative. Great job Warlab, and big thanks to Apophis for sticking to his guns and keeping his dream alive. I think it is safe to say, we all thank you for it!
    1. jmaker's Avatar
      jmaker -
      Great interview Warlab and Apophis. There was some information there that even some of us who have been around a few years didn't even know. Asch, you're up next.
    1. Trooper's Avatar
      Trooper -
      nice lil interview. cant wait to see him interview Cing, we will need popcorn for that.
    1. Jeepo's Avatar
      Jeepo -
      Brilliant interview, well done to both you guys. I too would be interested in a podcast.
    1. AFsoccer's Avatar
      AFsoccer -
      Great interview and great idea!
    1. Sir-Nerd's Avatar
      Sir-Nerd -
      I love listening to people who've been around for awhile talk. Can't wait for more.
    1. gijoe's Avatar
      gijoe -
      Awesome awesome read! It took me half an hour but it was well worth it. Its great to learn about TGs roots. Big thanks to apophis for everything!
    1. DeRanger's Avatar
      DeRanger -
      I'll never forget N42 and the hundreds of hours pissed-away being a part of what was truly something special, thanks for the memories Paul. Thanks also to those still around here who made it what it was. Love, DeRanger
    1. E-Male's Avatar
      E-Male -
      Aways wanted to know more about the TG Founder. Great article, Warlap.
      And fine work, Paul, creating and maintaining a unique contribution to online gaming.

      It would be nice to see some current and historical data on membership.

      Dr. Strangelove (aka E-Male)
      University of Ottawa
    1. BigGaayAl's Avatar
      BigGaayAl -
      Great initiative, where is that +rep button?!
    1. 1er's Avatar
      1er -
      Great read, bloody good insight, too
    1. Mirfee's Avatar
      Mirfee -
      *sniff* Brings a tear to my eye. I was aware of bits and pieces, but not the full extent. I joined sometime after the rebranding. I loved this place the few years I was very actively involved, especially during the waning days of Ghost Recon, and into Joint Ops and then ultimately BF2 (42nd Recon, salute!). I still love this place, though my gaming interests have taken me far afield from from what originally led me here. Glad to see Paul is still very much the man of TG. Surprised and pleased that he went the alias route to get in occasional gaming himself. Also pleased to see he has invested enormous trust in his XO's to help keep the ship moving forward. Terrific interview Warlab. Thank you, and thank you Paul, and Tactical Gamer for just being awesome.
    1. McGann's Avatar
      McGann -
      Professional, Informaitive, and Excellent work. Thanks to you both for taking the time to share. Now that Barbra Walters has retired, I think we found a replacement. Just a great read.
    1. retrokill's Avatar
      retrokill -
      A great insight into the history and running of TG. Thanks Apophis and all the others behind the scenes, your efforts are appreciated.

      I would definitely be interested in a podcast too.
    1. Kwalc's Avatar
      Kwalc -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ferris Bueller View Post
      Excellent interview warlab! Looking forward to seeing your other interviews coming down the pipe!

      Also, I absolutely agree with the fact that a TG convention in vegas would be AMAZING. Can you imagine 10,000 gamers all from the same community getting together, gaming, gambling and oogling showgirls? I'd pay through the nose to go to that event!
      likewise! but sadly enough because of the stupid 21+ law in the states i cant go partying where i dont know people(vegas)
    1. Toddshooter's Avatar
      Toddshooter -
      Thanks for doing that interview guys!! Nice to know the history and the real names behind the screen names.

      Todd
    1. jazy2's Avatar
      jazy2 -
      Thanks for the time and effort involved guys! Awesome read!!!
    1. experiment626's Avatar
      experiment626 -
      It's kind of like finding out your Brig. General is a REAL person, with a family, and wants you to come over Sunday for a beer. *shiver* Cool, but just sort of weird...!
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