VGA Planets Super Site

Neil Grigg
NAVGAP's Human Host

The Road to becoming a VGAP Host!

I started playing VGAP back when, in Australia (especially rural Australia) there was no public Internet Access (if you went to University you might have had access), and BBS's were the "in thing" (this was about 1994). VGAP was a natural progression from playing Trade Wars, but finding other people who were on the same BBS and wanted to play VGAP was limited.

Along came affordable Internet Access and I started playing at Ted's Universe. Not too long after that I got involved with a Team Game (3 x 3) hosted by Lon Bliss? With the assistance of my team mates (who I never had played with - one from Canada and the other from USA) I really learnt the art of playing VGAP and being in an alliance - the number of emails talking about strategy, plans, tactics, etc was enormous. We won that game.

I played games on other hosts and on 27 Oct 1996, I joined a host service called North Atlantic VGA Planets (NAVGAP). I concentrated on playing my favourite race 'The Lost Colonies of Man'. I recall one game where my enemy was race 5, the Privateers, and it was one of the most exciting games I ever had... Yes, I would use nearly every spare second to think about my next move whilst waiting for the next RST file to arrive. The next game I played as the Privs so I could learn much more about that race... oh what sneaky things I learned to do. :-)

During April 1997 I become interested in the formation of the "VGA Planets Player Ranking System (VGAPRS)" that was being developed by Ryo Nakamura and I submitted ideas for the RCC Ladder (RCCL).

On 25 Apr 1998 I was given the job of being the Help Desk person for NAVGAP. The role slowly expanded from its initial task of just answering questions from NAVGAP and RCCL users to taking on activities that involved sending automated commands to NAVGAP to obtain data from its databases so I could investigate and deal with more complex questions. NAVGAP was also programmed by Steve Simms to automatically send me the daily logs of activity. The Help Desk dealt with about 50 emails a day, but this also included dealing with faulty emails that NAVGAP could not understand. I also ceased playing in any more games on NAVGAP as I would be able to see who was using the 'ally' command and I thought that was not acceptable.

On 28 Aug 1999, operation of NAVGAP was paused as the host decided he did not now have time to devote to running something as large as NAVGAP/RCCL. Over then next 2 months NAVGAP/RCCL software was moved to two other hosts, but they found it was not easy to learn how to operate and maintain NAVGAP/RCCL and Steve Simms did not have enough time to help them.

On 14 Sep 1999, the RCC Ladder was handed to me, as I managed to get the NAVGAP/RCCL program code altered to run on my PC. When it became obvious that NAVGAP was not going to be run by any host, I began discussions with Steve Simms on getting the NAVGAP part of the code running, using my working knowledge accumulated when I was the Help Desk, and he agreed to transfer NAVGAP to me so all running NAVGAP games could be run until they ended.

On 28 October 1999, NAVGAP was restarted as NAVGAPlite, running as a semi automated host (the system only connected to the Internet twice a day as I could not get an affordable full time connection). A massive amount of time was spent contacting players and sorting out who wanted to play, who wanted to leave and what games could be return to playing, what ones were to be ended, etc. I guess I'm lucky that my full time employment, as a Shift Worker working 12 hours shifts in a coal fired power station, allows me plenty of spare time to devote to 'the hobby'. Also helping me is the fact my wife understands she cannot compete with 'the hobby'. My son, who is 16 years old, refuses to get interested in playing VGAP. :-(

On 30 Jan 2000, NAVGAPlite had restored 90% of the original games to running condition and it also announced that new games were now being offered. Steve Simms thought he would be able to re-program NAVGAP so it could once again be run by him, but not require large amounts of his time. Around March 2000 I found an ISP that offered an affordable rate to unlimited download and time Internet Access (limit was 6 hours per session, but that was all). I then had to learn how to set up and run a home Network (3 ISA network cards using T-based coaxial cable) and moved NAVGAPlite to my son's old Compaq PC (Pentium 133 with 30Mb memory running W95a software) so it would become the NAVGAPlite Server. I initially thought using Windows 95 would not be stable enough to run 24 hours a day, but it is better than my W98 software PC for stability.

On 5 Jun 2000, NAVGAP was formally handed to me and NAVGAPlite was formally placed as a fully automated host service connected to the Internet 24 hours a day.

From that day on, I accepted the fact that I was now real a VGAP host. I never ever thought I could or would be a host when I first learned about VGAP. I now also understand I most likely will not find time to play in VGAP games to the same amount I used to play.

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