VGA Planets Super Site

Dan Gale
Thanks to his brother

dan1.jpg (4207 bytes)Where do I start? I guess it was back in early 1991-1992 that I was exposed to VGA Planets for the first time. My brother showed it to me and we started up an e-mail game. I liked it enough that I got a few of my friends involved and it for the most part we proceeded along happily playing the game.

Campaign Editor for VGA Planets
Then one day on a phone call my friend Mark said, "I wish we could set up the game before it starts and then everyone could have an empire to start with." Well that put the wheels in motion and the first Campaign Editor appeared in 1994. The first version was pretty primitive, key based menus and not very "visual". Version 2 came out not too long after that and provided a visual interface although it was still a DOS based program.

VGAP 3.5 Add-Ons
After the Campaign Editor was out for a while I got a phone call from Dave Killingsworth. He was exploring a project for Tim that was to be a CD release with VGAP and a bunch of the 3rd party products on it. I didn't think about it much and was pleasantly surprised to be asked to part of the CD. The CD project never saw the light of day but a while after that I got another phone call from Dave. He was looking for a programmer to work with him on some addons for the new version of VGAP that was coming out, Version 3.5. Again, I was happy to be considered and agreed to work with Dave on them. I never figured they would amount to much and I offered to do the work for free but Dave would not hear of it (lucky for me).

At this time Tim was in the process of switching to Visual Basic 3.0 and I made the move too. I did the add-ons in Visual Basic for DOS while Version 3 of the Campaign Editor moved to Visual Basic 3.0 for Windows. It made my work a lot easier as the first two versions were done in C and easily 65% of the code was low level stuff for the interface. JumpGate was the first addon we did. It took a few months of work to get the concept working and that became the foundation for the rest of the addons. We must have had between 10 and 15 different ideas on the drawing board and many reached the complete design point. One of the more ambitious ones was Market Forces; it was going to add a huge new economy engine to the game. In the end only four more became part of the Dan & Dave Addons collection. Between working the full time job, family life, and answering the ton of email that started showing up I was running out of time to explore those other ideas. Dave got ahold of Cliff an they breathed life into a couple more addons.

dan2.jpg (3816 bytes)The Freebies
During this time we put out a few freebies. Tim asked us to put together a player "helper" utility so that is where TacCom (Tactical Command) came from. It never got out of beta but folks where downloading it anyway. After that was HostCon (Host Control) which was an attempt at putting together an package for aspiring game hosts. It was designed to help make the task of hosting games easier and have automated hosting. It looks fairly primitive compared to what is available today :-) I also did a quickie addon called Neutral Zone at the request of a couple of the "regulars" from the IRC planets channel. It was released with full source code too. You can still find these freebies at

Campaign Editor for VGA Planets 3.5
When Visual Basic 5.0 came out I decided to upgrade the campaign editor to 32 bit programming and put in as many bells and whistles that made sense.

Ground Forces
As Tim started working on VGAP 4.0 he was encouraging Dave and I to do a complete game. Seemed like a good idea at the time so we jumped right into it. Somewhere along the way I got involved in a game called Half-Life. I was introduced to the "death-match" game and I thought it was "the goods". Periodically we played Blitz Games on the IRC (anyone not familiar with this - it is where a bunch of you get together and play as many turns as fast as you can for a few hours). I started thinking that it would be fun if we could do something like a death-match game in VGAP.

And so, the biggest addon, RAW! (Rapid Action Warfare), was born. We stopped working on Ground Forces and started the design work. Tim even joined in and we had a blast putting it together. Dave came out for a visit and we cranked out most of the core engine while he was here. Ralph Hart did most of the artwork without which, we could never have finished the project. Tim liked it enough that he put in some hot-link buttons in VGAP 3.5! It was a real kick and all our testing was done online in IRC games with turns never taking more than 10 minutes and averaging 3-5 minutes. When we got done, we had something that we thought was a lot of fun but it turned out that most of the VGAP community did not care for it - we ended up making a game for about 50 people.

Ground Forces Again
We returned to Ground Forces and got to the point where we had 3/4 of the game done and we started second guessing ourselves. It went through three major design overhauls and each time we kept coming back to the key question: would it be fun to play? As I write this I realize that the negative response to RAW! really put a shadow over Ground Forces. Perhaps unfairly so but - that's the way the cookie crumbles.dan3.jpg (3289 bytes)

Life Continues
As I look back, all in all, those days of the "flying circus" were some of the best. Today I do programming work for Worldcom. I haven't played VGAP in some time now and much of my spare time finds me out on one of the many lakes near my home doing a little fishing. Dave is the sole proprietor of the addons now. The Campaign Editor is no longer for sale and I've given it to Tim to do with as he sees fit (*). I still like to talk up new ideas and VGAP is always somewhere near the conversation.

One of the coolest things about the VGAP work was seeing orders come in from Spain, Argentina, Japan, an aircraft carrier somewhere in the pacific, and many other places around the globe. So if you have an idea, my advise is go for it - how'd you like to be the one opening the letter from Spain or Argentina or Japan or ..........................?

(*) Tim is now distributing the Campaign Editor for free with each registered version of Winplan

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