The following interview is with Alain TÚsio, responsible for one of the most important add-ons to the PBEM Diplomacy world, that of the automatic mapper floc.net. For those not in the know, this allows games played either on the njudge or DPJudge (the latter also hosted on the same machine) to be graphically displayed. Gone are the days when players had to use colour pencils on paper maps to track their games, now they have an on-line system automatically updated. Indeed, such is its importance that any new variant must have floc.net support if it is to have a chance to succeed.
Q: Firstly, tell us something about Alain TÚsio, the person.
I'm French, 31 years old, live in Paris, and am single. For work I'm designing and programming software for asset management.
Q: What first got you interested in Diplomacy?
I played before I had internet with friends at school, along with many role-playing and strategy games. I started playing on internet in 1996. I'm not really good, just average.
Q: Why did you decide to create a mapping service?
It started with some scripts I've been using locally when I played a lot, up to 30 NoPress games at a time. I liked the way mapit works with postscript templates. This was a good opportunity to learn how to build a website too.
Q: How long did it take to do, and what were the difficulties involved?
A couple of hours a week for two years, difficulties were essentially it being my first online project, handling judge outputs which aren't meant to be read by programs.
Q: How easy is it to maintain now, and what are the typical problems at the moment?
I had some hardware problems some months ago, it's a pain to recover from a hard disk crash and manage not to lose the data stored during the downtime. The mapping engine is stable now, most of the requests I get these days are updates for new variants and fixes to changes in judge outputs. I have a cvs repository for all the stuff, I think it can be considered as the reference for mapit now. (For the curious you can browse through changes for the code which parses judge incoming mails or mapit). A lot of people help and send fixes for maps, which is great. If you want to change something on a map, please follow these steps:
Q: What other Dip-related things are you hosting on your server?
My machine also hosts the DPJudge by Manus Hand. The DPJudge is a rewritten judge with similar mail format, a web interface and some other interesting things like the infamous Payola variant. Also there is an njudge adjudicator USOS that I host too, run by a mysterious guy named Nightshade.
Q: How much does it cost to run, and do you accept donations?
About $150/month for the machine and the connection (if you're ever looking for web hosting for dedicated servers, atjeu.com is great). I don't need money, I use it for other personal purposes and to host my company's site which pays for part of the cost.
Q: Do you play Diplomacy at all?
Only one internet RT game and 2 board games during the last year because of real life constraints (it scares me just to think how it will be when I'll be married with children!).
Q: What does the future of PBEM Diplomacy hold for you?
I believe in unregulated markets, planning is evil. Maybe I'll work on a semi-automatic ratings system if I find some time. Maybe some people will start a new judge implementation from scratch, with a database backend, web services and a fat client interface.
Thank you Alain for your time and providing us this glimpse of your thoughts and involvement in this great hobby!
If you wish to e-mail feedback on this article to the author, and clicking on
the mail address above does not work for you, feel free to use the "Dear DP..." mail interface.