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For the past few months, jdodson has been bringing you interviews with members of the community. Recently, I turned the tables on him!

Why did you decide to start Cheerful Ghost?

jdodson: I wanted to share all games I owned with my friends and I knew of no good way to do that. Secondly I wanted to read people’s thoughts on games they loved. I used to scroll through the Amazon reviews for games because I liked how people honestly gave them a fair shake. I tried reading other game sites, but felt the reviewers were overly cynical and jaded and I didn’t enjoy the community that fostered. So I decided I need to fix that and launched Cheerful Ghost 4 months later.

On a personal note I also wanted to prove I could build something people could love. I have had experience working as a Software Engineer working on projects that go well and some that don’t. At the time I was kind of wondering if I could release something really cool that people loved. I think I was able to do that and am really happy that I could prove it to myself and the awesome people that use the site.

What are some of your most memorable experiences on Cheerful Ghost?

jdodson: Having your interview with Ryan Gordon hit the front page of Slashdot and be picked up all over the web. It was epic.

On par with that is just making friends and talking with the community. The people are beyond awesome and its cool to talk about awesome stuff. Reading what people are into is really interesting to me. Its cool to come back to the site and have a ton of updates waiting for me, when I come back and see the chatter it gets pretty surreal.

For people curious about the tech, what’s running the site?

jdodson: The site is powered by the Ruby on Rails web framework. To get the site to work the same on Phones, Tablets and Desktops I designed the site to be simple and to make that happen I use the amazing Bootstrap HTML/CSS framework. To get the nice JavaScript fadey swirly components I use jQuery. I use a few other open source plugins to do various things on the site like select2 & more. My thought is to use as much Open Source code as possible to “stand on the shoulders of giants” to make the site epic. Its cool because with Open Source code you can “bootstrap” things to take you farther than you could writing everything from scratch on your own. Whereas, yeah I can re-invent the wheel and that may be uber leet in someway that doesn’t matter to me, no actual user cares about that as they just want an awesome thing to use.

You use Windows, Mac, and Linux on a regular basis. What do you think are the strengths of each?

jdodson: So I grew up on DOS so thats how I started thinking about computing, at a console. Later on as things progressed Windows 95 and 98SE were my jam. I delved heavily into Linux around University and the start of my career because I liked the culture and I could do things that would cost thousands with licensed software. To be able to setup a server or build a web app for nothing is a really interesting prospect to a poor University student or something starting a web app. Back then Open Source didn’t rule the roost for new businesses like it does now. But yeah now, the thought a startup would pay for software or server licenses to do its thing NOW seems kind of silly to me.

That said, plenty of game developers use toolkits that cost an arm and a leg and I understand why they do. If I were to make a game, and someday I may very well, I would roll with open tools and the ability to port your game to multiple platforms. I find the notion of having the thing you do, like a game or web software beholden to commercial licensing to be totally un-rad. It might not be hot to wrap your sweet game in GCC Objective C but no single commercial entity controls the destiny of that project or what you can do it with it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t harsh people for making the right choices by them or their project, but for me and my stuff? The open the system the better. But who knows, I might change my mind over time. Its just how I think about that stuff now.

Oh right I didn’t answer your question :D

Strengths of each:

Windows: Games.

Mac: It wraps Unix in a really bitchin’ UI. Like really, its an extremely elegant system over Unix.

Linux: This stuff powers the Internet and the rising majority of phones and devices. This may very well be one of the single pieces of tech that is the most exciting going forward, but not in a way that any actual user needs to care about. Like Gabe Newell says, Linux is the “get out of jail free card” for the industry. I use it for CG development and its where all my files live and consider it my primary desktop.

Gamestop is shutting down hundreds of stores; some say this console generation is stagnating; others are predicting a new video game crash. What do you think will rise from the ashes? Or, what do you think will save gaming and prevent this from happening?

jdodson: Gamestop needs to do what’s right for their customers, if closing a hundred or so stores is the right thing then fine by me. Things are going more digital, which is awesome but I wish it didn’t come with some stuff flying out the window. Like the used game market. I mean, I love Steam but I can’t resell a game on Steam or loan one out. And yeah, I totally do that with my console games and movies for that matter. I think thats a problem “they” should solve.

I don’t think there will be a video game crash and if there is indie studios will still survive. We do what we do because we love it, not because millions of dollars await us. I am not saying indies shouldn’t chase making a living, please do, I know I will but I really happy just existing in the video game space. If EA closes down because people don’t want to buy their stuff, well, so be it. But honestly, the game industry will survive. I mean, how can you stop people from building something people find value in? I don’t think you can. Being that I work as a Software Engineer i’ve seen my industry displace many, so a market changing over time doesn’t bother me too much. If there is a market, the game will get made and money will change hands.

I am more interested in new voices in gaming being heard and making a living that continuing the same old rinse+repeat triple A cycle. Its just, for me, I am more excited about the indie stuff coming out than the triple A games. Not trying to be all hipster here, its just genuinely more interesting to me. But I do get excited with triple A stuff, its just that with the start of the new year, most of my excitement is aimed at indies making cool games.

You’ve been skeptical of JJ Abrams taking over Star Wars, but they are also announcing multiple spin-off movies, telling the story of Boba Fett, Yoda, and others. This could go so badly.

jdodson: First of JJ is going to nail the new Star Wars movie because he is an amazing film maker. Now I have some reservations about him being tied to both Trek and Wars, but don’t get me wrong, he is a bad-ass film maker that will allow Han to “shoot first” as it were. But I want more perspectives on awesome stuff like Trek and Wars and wish another person could do Star Wars because I prefer variety. JJ, being fantastic, is only one take on how movies can be awesome. How bout Paul Thomas Anderson for Star Wars VII? That said, Disney is making the right choice from a business perspective, JJ is the man and he will produce something fantastic I have no doubt I will love. But I am happy JJ gets to do it because I know how much he loves Star Wars and as someone that loves Star Wars too, i’d love to be part of it in some way as well.

As far as the Yoda or Fett films I am open to the, and actually would like to see other angles on the Star Wars universe. I wouldn’t do much with any of the main characters like Yoda or Boba Fett personally but perhaps do something with... Porkins maybe :D

We recently started up a second Cheerful Ghost Terraria server. How awesome is that game, seriously?

jdodson: Its a superb game that is in a funky state with IP and development. I am optimistic that they will do well going forward, but even if the game we have now on PC is all we will get there its really quite incredible.

If you could add one feature to Cheerful Ghost, what would it be? (Get it, because you CAN!)

jdodson: Hah, yeah I guess I can. I am working pretty hard to bring people Cheerful Ghost site Memberships. I have some fun stuff to offer people and plan on adding more a bit after launch to sweeten things up. I plan on continually tossing in stuff to make Memberships much more awesome over time kind of like how Mojang keeps adding features to Minecraft. The reason why this is important is so the site can grow to get better over time.

After that I want to add a few other rad features that will really ratchet up the sites sweet-ability factor but i'll talk about that in the upcoming weeks.

Joss Whedon has completed writing the pilot for the S.H.I.E.L.D. tv show. Are you looking forward to more Marvel goodness, or do you think they’re overdoing it?

jdodson: I think they are serving a certain kind of Marvel audience with the show. That said, I don’t watch a lot of TV these days. From time to time I have been going through Star Trek: Deep Space 9 one show at a time. Finished up The Next Generation last year, which was really fun.

I want a modern Dinosaur’s TV show though. Seriously, live action people in Dinosaur costumes? More of that please. Absolutely no sarcasm injected here, I really do want that.

Diablo 3 has gotten a lot of deserved and undeserved criticism, but it seems Blizzard has done a lot to improve it. For you, is this too little too late, or will you dive back in?

jdodson: I will keep up on it from time to time but I don’t know if a game like that could hold me for as many hours as something like Terraria could. Killin’ stuff is awesome, and I sort of crushed on Diablo III for a few weeks but after that I wasn’t sure how to keep having fun. I’m glad I picked it up and the Collectors Edition is something I have on my self I really appreciate. Having fantastic art books I can look at is very cool to me.

Listened to the score start to finish again today for what its worth.

What’s the best music to write/code to?

jdodson: I can’t say as any is, I listen to music based on my mood. If its the morning I listen to Classical and drink tea. If I am pretty amped up, I listen to some heavy shit and have been known to do some epic drum fills like a lunatic between writing code and Software tests. If I want to listen to video game music i’ll do that too as it brings me a happy kind of spot other music often doesn’t. If I don’t know what I want to listen to, I click “dat shuffle button.”


What is your greatest gaming achievement?

jdodson: Cheerful Ghost from concept to launch in 4 months by myself while having a regular job ONLY working in the evenings and on weekends. Very proud of that fact.

As am I, it’s been nothing but spectacular. Do you have an achievement in a game that sticks out?

jdodson: :D Building my first house in Terraria? It was pretty fun and really reflected what I wanted to see. It was fun jumping off the side and repelling to the bottom with the ol’ Grappling Hook. Though something that comes back to me over time was an old play-though I had of Secret of Mana. My cousin and I had a competition of sorts to see who could grind their characters to the highest level. It was fun entering the Mana Fortress and seeing my characters get a little bit better over time. In the end he beat me, I never really had much follow through with that kind of thing.

What are your top five games of all time?

jdodson: Not really in any particular order. Links Awakening, Doom 3, Final Fantasy IV, Fallout 3 and Tetris. If those were the only games I could play for the rest of my life I could be content with that.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 02/18/2013 at 04:59pm

Nice interview! Good insight into the man behind the curtain. I actually just started playing Terreria, and would love to get in on some server action, before I put too much more into my "temple".

I think there might be a typo in the JJ Abrams section. Certain you meant to say he would allow Han to shoot first, rather than Greedo. At least, I'm hoping that's what you meant ;)

jdodson   Admin wrote on 02/18/2013 at 05:14pm

Ah yeah, sorry. After reading the interview again I realized there were quite a few mis-types on my part. Sorry everyone, I am entirely too busy :D

Travis   Admin   Post Author wrote on 02/18/2013 at 07:12pm

I updated that to say "Han" :)

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 02/18/2013 at 08:04pm

*whew!

Crisis averted.

jdodson   Admin wrote on 02/18/2013 at 08:04pm

:D

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