VGA Planets Super Site

My VGAP Life
Changing diapers and jobs in the Echo Cluster

by Alan L. Warchuck (Merlyn)

In the beginning
I had been a software developer for 16 years Cobol, Pascal, FORTRAN, Assembler and getting extremely tired of it when I started tinkering on the web. This was back in 1995 before Microsoft threw it in everyone's front room. Mostly news groups and irc but the web was evolving. It was definitely not like the BBS I ran back in the 80's. I quit my job developing in Cobol at that time and decided to get a job writing applications for the Web. I started as senior web consultant for a large Microsoft partner when I met this guy who says there is this great game called VGA Planets and you play by email, it's called VGA Planets. He said, "We have a bunch of guys here in the office and we are getting ready to start a new game, wanna join?"

Welcome to the Echo Cluster
My first game, was I ever lost? After a few turn's everything started to fall into place. We were all using Dosplan back then and I decided to try out WinPlan, I was hooked! I wanted more and I was surprised to see how many add-ons and client utilities that were available already. I wanted them all, now! I needed more info and faster host runs. I wanted to know how everything worked. I had to play every race to see which would suite my style of playing. It wasn't long before I was totally addicted. Then the dreaded tidal wave came! The turns started to take longer and longer and longer. OH NO!!! The worst part wasn't the staying up till the wee hours of the morning trying to make my moves but at the time my wife decided we needed to start another family. My current children were in high school and I thought we were done with that kind of thing.

The Last Wave
It' was toward the end of 1995 and "the last wave" of games I joined were slowly ending and my initiation to VGA Planets was turning into a well respected appreciation for a great strategy game. I found out anyone can play but to be a great player you must spend the time to calculate all your moves. How many natives, colonists, ship building, mine laying, mine sweeping, battles and so much more. The first thing that really hit was the politics of the game. The compromises, trades, alliances and propaganda. Believe me, I have seen real life enemies created over this game. Anyhow, I had a little more free time and the wife was pregnant and happy. I worked in the Internet industry so I decided to create a vga planets web site of my own. Many of the old timers remember it, The Last Wave. Now how can get my site noticed by other VGA Planets gamers.

The Webring
It was right in front of me all the time. I had used it to find other sites, why not mine? The VGA Planets Webring. I applied to the ring and I wasn't accepted immediately because my banner wasn't on the page I registered! (Pretty ironic now that I think of it!) I started talking to Drew Hess and one thing led to another and soon I was assisting with ring maintenance. Not to long after I started "The VGA Planets Webring Site of the Month Award" It was a big hit then and lately it seems to be gathering some life again. (At least once a year, ask Donovan.) Then after a few months Drew slowly faded out and I took control of the webring. It has been almost 7 years now and the webring is still thriving. I believe our webring is one of the best-maintained rings on the web. You can go from site to site without having to search for a banner to click on in your never-ending search for VGA Planets information. Some webmasters get angry with me but I really only have two rules. The first being you must have the banner on the page you registered and second, it must be VGA Planets related. Not a heavy set of rules to abide by. During the time I am writing this The VGA Planets Webring Site of the Month Award is being changed to The VGA Planets Site of the Month Award. You do not have to belong to the ring to join; it is open to the entire VGA Planets community.

tldlogo.gif (8509 bytes)A new beginning.
In 97 I started hosting a few games and I wanted some more web automation for my host. I wrote VGA2HTML. It could be called from the Host batch file and would create custom html pages and then upload them to your provider. I wanted a better site to place the software on instead of some subdirectory off my provider so I needed to come up with a name. WOW, I couldn't believe all the domain names that were taken. I really wanted a domain name that was like my site name at the time, The Last Wave but alas, it was taken. I tried for days searching for a domain but all the names I liked were taken. Then it hit me, if they were all taken that is what I would call my site, TheLastDomain. So no matter how many domains were out there I would always have The Last Domain. TheLastDomain was up and running and my freeware program was taking off. It wasn't long before more than 50 small hosts were using VGA2HTML and to this day it can still be downloaded. I still come across a few old websites that have a page from an old game up. I decided to write a complete hosting application that was web ready but it seemed as if others had the same Idea. I finished writing it and was using it to host my games but it really never made it to market. I had been hosting for a while when my wife decided we should try the family thing again and my hosting came to an abrupt halt after the games finished. Actually another host took over my current games. With 2 kids in college and a toddler it was time to start working on another future VGA Planets player.

The best laid plans of mice and men
Murphy's Law applies to everything, Family, work and of course, VGA Planets. Another new baby, about my third Internet job and I just couldn't give up VGA Planets. I had changed jobs about three times in that many years. The Internet moved as fast as my family developed! I didn't look for new positions actually I was recruited from these companies. (I think that's good?) Well it so happens that the current company that recruited me was the first Internet Company I started with that introduced me to VGA Planets. My first day in the office my boss asked me to write a program that would send his trn file when clicked Make TRN in Winplan. I knew I was going to like this job!

So began SendTRN. At first it was just our small group using it and then a few more. I posted it on the site and it really never gained too much notoriety. OH well just as good, it worked for me. At the time I was on a dedicated ISDN line at home and was thinking about hosting again when the great Internet Company I returned to, decided to lay off 5,000 employees, one third of their work force. What was I going to do now? My web addiction was costing me about $250.00 a month, two babies, two kids in college and no job. We took the plunge and opened our own Internet Company. Well, needless to say the VGA Planets hosting took a back seat again!

The Trilogy Continues
Our company is almost stable now. I am hosting again only now I have a dedicated server on a high-speed line at my company to host with. My son is only six but he watches me make all of my trn's and wants to play already. The youngest sits up on my desk and points to the VCR's and laughs. I know he will be playing in the years to come, probably laughing as he watches a VCR of him kicking his daddy's butt. I have re-developed SENDTRN and it is available on my site as freeware, try it out! I still maintain the webring. The last Domain still runs The Site of the Month and I hope we get more sites to join and vie for the coveted VGA Planets Site of the Month Award. (Remember you don't have to belong to the webring!) The Last Domain is also the new "AutoTroll Support Site" and we also run the AutoTroll Support Mailing List. Sign up if you host with AutoTroll. We are the mirror site for ADP, Automated development of planets and I believe we have the largest archive of VGA Planets programs and Add-Ons along with links to hosts and informational sites. We have many plans for more VGA Planets additions in the near future.

The Never-ending Story
As you can see, my life over the last seven years has had VGA Planets as a part of it. I must thank the VGA Planets community for all their support over the past years but the biggest thanks goes out to the person that was not really mentioned above. My wife Cindy. Even though she doesn't play, she supports it more than most. Asking how my games are going, giving me suggestions, helping debug software, making tough host decisions and constantly listening to me ramble on and on over the game. I don't think Tim Wisseman realized how many lives this game of strategy would affect. My final thanks goes to you Tim!

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