Interview with Stephan Vogler – “God” Steve

This year, the Portal Tibia team interviewed Stephan Vogler, popularly known as “Steve”. One of the Tibia creators and Managing Directors of CipSoft! In this interview, he talks about your experience with the Tibia, projects and future! Good read.


Portal Tibia: Hauopa, Steve! Thank’s for spending your time with Portal Tibia and brazilian Tibians! The Tibian community refers to you as a God. Do you see yourself like that? Using the tibian lore, to which of the ancient gods do you identify yourself the most? Why?

Steve: <laughing> – No, I definitely do not see myself anything like a God. I’d rather decline any god-like comparisons! I am one of the two managing directors of CipSoft, that is challenging and exciting enough!

In the very beginning of Tibia, when Tibia just came into existence, we, the creators of Tibia were referred to as “Gods” by players. This was a rather fun idea back then, because we “created” things and were “all powerful” ingame. So we went along with it.

Playing Tibia, though, with these so-called God chars wasn’t any fun, so we soon separated “playing Tibia” from “working on Tibia” and these characters were transformed into mere working tools.

 

Portal Tibia: Nowadays, do you still play Tibia? What amuses you the most? What kind of world, vocation and city is your favorite?

Steve:  In the beginning of Tibia I actively played on Antica – back then the only game world around, and for this reason nameless. Nowadays, I unfortunately don’t have the time any longer to play actively. If I log in these days, it’s only to check certain aspects of the game.

I have personally been involved in creating some of the Tibian cities, so please excuse when I get a bit nostalgic, remembering these early days… My favorite city would be Thais, of course, which I have accompanied in its growth over the years, step by step.

So I have a deep bond with Thais. I chuckle each time, for example, when I pass Frodo’s Hut or Sam’s Smithy. I built their early versions myself, over 15 years ago. For many many years the news on the blackboard in Frodo’s Hut had always been the same, a sentence I had put there, with the intention to update it regularly. However, I never did. So for many years Thaians were confronted with very old news… I remember this each time when I see the blackboard. In the meantime, the sentence has finally been changed and my text was replaced… Such little things and memories amuse me up to today. I also chuckle when I think of our first version of the draw bridge in Thais. It was a part of a picture of my wooden desk that we had scanned to get an image that looked like wood.

About my favorite vocation, I would say that it is the Knight. It is the vocation that is still closest to our orignial plans. It is easy to play and straight forward.

 

thais

 

Portal Tibia: In your view, what are the biggest challenges in maintaining the continuity of a game that exists for so many years like Tibia? What motivates you to overcome them?

Steve: The biggest challenges in my eyes are the ever-changing basic conditions, the environment Tibia is existing in. The community evolves, the expectations of players evolve, too, as well as the way of playing. Also technical circumstances evolve. For these reasons, changes in Tibia are inevitable, the game always needs to be adjusted to the current circumstances.

For instance, in Tibia’s early days, players were used to reading long texts ingame. That’s not typical for current games any longer. Or, if you look at Tibia’s death penalty: in the very early Tibia it was ok for people to die and to lose everything. It was ok that they had to start over again. Nowadays, people are more used to not losing that much when they die, an ingame death doesn’t affect your character too much in newer games. Playing time also changed. We never imagined back then that anybody would ever pass level 500. I also have to address bots here. When we started out, we had never considered the possibility that players would use tools to play our game.

All these examples show the change of circumstances – a change that Tibia has to, and will have to react to in the future. For an old game like Tibia, change is not always easy, though. Such changes in game design are a balancing act, always trying to keep the main core alive while making the necessary changes, and not changing too much. A balancing act between old design and new design. Finding the golden middle way, so to say. We eagerly accept this challenge, of course. We want to see Tibia live for much longer, and we are all here working hard to make this possible.

 

Portal Tibia: During the last year, we noticed that CipSoft is being more receptive with players’ impressions. Due to that, many postures have being reviewed, like the possibility of a server located in Brazil and the creation of retro worlds. Could we expect from CipSoft more flexibility and bigger openness to discussion of proposals previously rejected?

Steve: Generally, we have never closed out community proposals. However, we have indeed put more weight on community wishes since last year. Tibia is very complex, though, and it is difficult to make changes without getting unwanted side-effects. So we always need to evaluate thoroughly which proposals are feasible, and which changes would lead to problems. As mentioned before, Tibia evolves and also technical possibilities evolve. So it is very well possible that something is not feasible at one point, however, suddenly becomes feasible after a while.

About a server located in Brasil – that has always been an internal topic and has never been rejected for good. You might remember that Tenebra was located in Brasil before. Due to the lag that players playing on Tenebra experienced, though, it had to be moved.

Lots of time has passed since then, though, and we are definitely trying server locations in Brasil again. It’s just not as easy as it may seem.

 

Portal Tibia: In a previous interview (2005), you declared that the popularization of Tibia in Brazil surprised you and that, even so, there was no plans for translating Tibia. Do you still have the same opinion? Wouldn’t it be interesting if, at least, the site offered options and a support service in Portuguese?

Steve: We are of the firm opinion that being international is one of Tibia’s characteristics that makes the game special. We are aware of the fact though that “language” often poses a problem for people interested in Tibia, as well. So it is indeed thinkable that a form of localization – at least in parts – might happen one day. However, currently nothing like this is planned.

 

Portal Tibia: Why would the retro worlds bring only changes in PVP, if what would truly give the retro aspect would be a Tibia without the ease implemented along the years? What makes impossible the creation of a server keeping the aspects of the 7.x/8.x versions?

Steve: Many previous updates in Tibia addressed game weaknesses that had been abused by players. Now, simply restoring a version 7.x or 8.x would bring all these game weaknesses back. So – technically, it would be possible, but: Old versions would contain all prior bugs and game weaknesses, and they would only work with the content from back then, too. New content that hadn’t existed back then mostly wouldn’t work. Also, further Tibia updates couldn’t happen on such pure retro versions, either. So such a real retro-world would be a rather small and stagnant world.

By changing the PvP features only, we hope to offer players something that they will enjoy. The Retro Open PvP game worlds should also be game worlds with the advantages that the current Tibia has in store, though. So it will become a game world that has a chance to evolve, too, a game world that will also receive future Tibia updates.

Let me give you some examples of unwanted situations from the earlier days that come to my mind, to clarify the point: “On screen aiming with runes”, for example. Way in the past, cheaters used modified Tibia clients that allowed aiming via the battle-list, while the official Tibia client did not allow that. So cheaters had a massive advantage over non-cheaters in PvP. Since the Tibia client is in the hands of players when they download the game, we cannot prevent that somebody with coding knowledge modifies it. So – our way out of that situation back then was to make this feature available for everybody, to decrease the advantage of cheaters.

Or consider “buying runes in shops”. Several years ago you had to buy runes from players, and the rune-market was controlled by massive druid farms who earned a fortune by using illegal means. That had to be stopped, too.

Or the offline-training: Many people cheated their way to high skills by training while they were offline, or afk. Again, a big advantage for cheaters, but: also a big incentive to start using cheat tools in the first place, just to be able to compete with cheaters.

Or – do you remember, that some time ago, you could lose your entire Tibia account by simply making too many player kills? Automatic deletions for excessive player killing would be back, too…

All changes that have happened in the past did have their reasons, and these reasons don’t allow us to simply turn back time. The problems that existed years ago would only appear again.

 

Portal Tibia: Bots are the biggest complaint of the players. Why does it take so much time to take actions against characters that all the community knows that is an irregular Tibian, with a lot of reports? Do all of the reports made be analysed? With Tibia on Steam, could we wait for improvements in this aspect?

Steve: Please understand that I will stick to our strict policy concerning this topic to comment as little as possible on questions like this. Just so much: Please do continue reporting botters, your reports really help us. We are constantly analysing reports and improving our tool.

Concerning Steam, I can already say that much: It is the plan that players who start Tibia via Steam will be playing on the same game worlds as players who come or have come to Tibia otherwise. There won’t be a separate game world for Steam, which means there won’t be any differences concerning botters, either. That is the plan at least for now. We don’t have any experiences with Steam and their services yet. So it is pretty impossible to foretell the future.

 

steve smallPortal Tibia: The possibility to buy cosmetic itens on Tibia.com could be understood as Tibia becoming a micro-transaction’s sustained game? Could we wait for the possibility of trading and selling items on the Steam Market??  Which are the risks of Tibia, originally an open-source game, to become a pay-to-play game?

Steve: We always think very carefully about in which ways we can extend or adapt our offers and services, also trying not to alienate longterm customers, who are used to previous offers. For this reason, we have decided not to sell any considerable ingame advantages at the time being. In our view, having a premium account should be sufficent to be able to persist in Tibia’s competition, without the need to buy anything extra.

Nevertheless, we would like to offer more to players who want more in all other areas then, for example cosmetics like outfits or mounts, or convenience services.

By the way, Tibia has never been an open-source game, I assumed that you meant subscription-based in this context…

 

Portal Tibia: Do you know the LUA language (http://www.lua.org/about.html) It’s a programming language developed in Brazil. As it’s more friendly than other programming languages, have you ever considered using it on Tibia, so that players themselves could customize the client?

Steve: Yes, I have personally already used LUA and like it very much! We even made use of it in our previous project Fiction Fighters. LUA has an incredibly compact interpreter which allows it to be used in so many different ways! It is very well possible that we will use LUA in one or the other future projects again. Using it for Tibia, though, to allow a customization of client skins, for example, is not planned at the moment.

 

Portal Tibia: What can we wait for Tibia on 2015? Which will be the main projects?

Steve: Our strategic planning for the coming year will take place shortly, however, I’m already pretty certain that the following topics will definitely occupy our minds in 2015: We will put more focus on vocation balancing, we will be making first experiences with Steam, a new Tibia client will be keeping us busy, as well as further changes in PvP, especially in the war system, and of course botting will remain a hot topic, unfortunately.

There is no guarantee that we will be able to finish all these topics in 2015 and will be able to offer solid conclusions, but they will all certainly play a major role in our daily work.

 

Portal Tibia: Well, it looks like the interview ended, would you have a special message for our Brazilian players?

Steve: Many thanks for your support!! We are very grateful that so many Tibia fans remain with us for so long!

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