Just to begin: who is Shintao? Could you tell us your real name? Your age? Where are you from? Tell us a little bit about the person behind this nickname. Introduce yourself to the community!
Hello Everyone! It's a pleasure for me: My real name is Tom and I'm 34 years old. I was born in the beautiful "Altmühltal" about 25 kilometers away from Ratisbona.
Which one have you known first: Tibia or CipSoft?
How did you end up working on CipSoft?
Grab yourself a cup of coffee and get some cookies if you can. To be honest: I really love to tell you this 'lil story because somehow it has some great soap opera'ish elements in it and always casts a smile on my face. For me this is a perfect example of how things can come together in life.
Lets get started: For the first time I stumbled across Tibia around 15 years ago as a Tibian. The charges for internet connections were getting cheaper in Germany and multiplayer games were just starting to grow. Soon I got tied by the idea of discovering virtual worlds with my friends through my old, grey, noisy, chunky, heat sensitive dail-up modem. At that time we spent a lot of our leisure time playing online games, also Tibia.
The funny fact: At that time I didn't realize that this game was developed by a company that was just a stone's throw away of my hometown. Life went on.
Some years later during my studies of computer science at the university in Regensburg I had the opportunity to get in touch with the people behind Tibia. Tibia as a game wasn't unknown to me: After all I had spent a lot of time recollecting my belongings from my corpse.
At that time I was working as a freelancer for a German printmagazine that was focused around digital entertainment and our editor-in-chief was looking for a fresh article related to new innovative games and German video game companies.
A good friend of mine - who today is also working at CipSoft - pointed me at this aspiring company in Regensburg that is developing multiplayer online games that might be worth a visit. Two phone calls and one day later I found myself sitting at a small room with Steve and Guido talking about Tibia. One week later our magazine published the article about the company and its game.
This experience has influenced my life a lot and it assured me in following my personal goal: A professional future in the games industry.
Time passed by again and one day all came together: CipSoft published a vacancy for a programmer. Without any further thought I took the opportunity and applied for the job. Some weeks later the best journey of my life started.
How long you have been there?
I arrived at May, 2007.
Was this one your first job? If not, have you ever worked with games before?
Right after school, before I started studying computer science, I completed a three-year vocational training as an application developer at a small company focused on architectural design software. Right after the training I worked there for about another year as a software developer focused on 3D graphics visualization.
In addition I started to spend more and more time on various hobby projects and collected first experiences in game development. As I already explained, my first professional contacts to the industry accumulated during my work as a freelancer.
The question that still stands up: do you play Tibia and kill dragons? How often?
One dragon a night brings joy and delight.
Yes - I still play Tibia with one of my best friends back from my schooldays. We both got older and life changed since then so unfortunately it is more difficult to synchronise our leisure time for gaming and there are also some other games we like to give a shot. Nevertheless, Tibia is one of the games to which we always come back again and the evenings we hunt together are still as intense as they were back in the beginning.
What is your highest level character?
During the most playsessions I had in the past weeks I played my druid. I think he should reach level 130 very soon. Right now I tend to spend some more time on my young knight, though. He is still wet behind his ears but the thing is, he really has to settle a score with some of those stinky cyclops near Mistrock.
What is your favorite world type?
This is really a difficult one. There are a lot of creatures I really like. But in the end of the day I think my answer should be rotworms. I love their graceful movement. I love how they pounce on defenseless victims. I love the motivation they show when they get the chance of redeeming inexperienced souls from their agony of being trapped in a cave without a rope or knowledge about the magic rope spell.
Any cave with at least one rotworm in it will get the job done.
Any city with at least one rotw... Venore.
The Annihilation Bear
How is it working at CipSoft? Can you tell us how is your daily routine?
Pounding the alarm clock.
Trotting to the bathroom.
Taking a shower.
Brushing my teeth.
Putting on some clothes.
Drinking a cup of espresso.
Calling the cat.
Petting the cat.
Feeding the cat.
Driving to work.
Booting up the workstation.
Checking the gameservers.
Having a lot of discussions and meetings.
Checking implementation details.
Doing some project work.
Grabbing some gummy bear from my co-workers stash.
More project work.
Some more meetings.
Solving problems that occured of any kind.
Grabbing another cup of coffee.
More project work.
In which way does your work differs from the work made by your antecessor, Skagar?
We share the same responsibilities but the details in implementation are different.
Are there foreigners working on CipSoft's team?
Yes, we have some co-workers with an immigration background. Nationality isn't really something we pay attention to when recruiting new staff members, though. More important are education and skills. Our official company work-language is German and as long as the people that are applying for a job are able to communicate without any issues in German, their mother-tongue doesn't matter.
What do you most enjoy in your job?
There are a lot of things that I love in my job: To name the most important ones there are my crazy co-workers. Also, we have flexible working-hours at CipSoft and a good overall work-life balance. Last but not least there is no "everyday life". Each day brings new challenges and differs from another. It never gets boring.
What do you most hate in your job?
Definitely when I notice that the secret gummy bear hideout already was pillaged. Ok - and sometimes a ringing phone on a Sunday morning because something needs my attention urgently.
The community has been realizing that Tibia's development is more focused on new content than on UX (User Experience - playability, usability, etc.). What's your perception on it?
We discuss a lot about user experience details like playability and usability and we try hard to get a good mixture between UX improvements and new features. Nevertheless the weighting between both is also a very subjective thing and Tibia has a lot of individual core concepts we want to preserve. It is a major challenge for us to try to please all expectations.
Tibia is a retro game, and no one doubt that. But is it really necessary other systems (website/forum boards) being retro as well? An update on those platforms wouldn't be able to help CipSoft to be a little closer to it's community?
There are a lot of things we would like to get our hands on but our development capacity and resources are limited. We always have to focus on the most important topics and right now there are many other things next up on the list.
Let us say, after Dawnport, Rookgaard has been left for death. Hypothetically saying: if the decisions concerning the future of the iconic island was up to you, what would you do?
Rookgaard is one of the places where almost every Tibia player has some kind of nostalgic feelings for. I'd like to see the island be much more integrated in gameplay. There are a lot of different voices and ideas buzzing around in my head what could be done. Evil doesn't sleep and I could imagine very well, that some day brave heroes must rid the island from sinister.
However, the fate of Rookgaard is not in my hands alone, so the future of this wonderful island really has not been determined, yet.
About (the lack of) sound: did that become a design decision? Is it final? How do you see this point? If the game had sound, wouldn't it be more friendly to new players?
Nowadays almost every video game offers sound. I'm totally with you when saying the game might be more attractive to new players if it would offer sound effects and some matching background music. Nevertheless, integrating sound into Tibia would be a huge project and right now we have no tangible plans to do so.
Does locale still has low priority in CipSoft's eyes? Wouldn't be a good decision translate the game to the native language of it's larger community?
Let's be honest: Every game company wants its game to be localized in as many languages as possible. The hurdles you will encounter, however, must not be underestimated. The scope of such a project changes even further towards "enormous" when you
talk about translating a game that grew over 18 years. So right now we have no concrete plans.
Considering the popularity and necessity some players come to use proxy tunneling services, has CipSoft ever considered creating an official tunneling service or implementing this kind of connection natively on the game? If yes, why was it not done yet?
We have no plans to integrate an own tunneling service in Tibia.
It has been years since we have been hearing about Brazil servers. Has CipSoft's vision about it changed? In case of no, why hasn't it become to reality yet?
Our vision hasn't changed and we are working on this one. Right now we are evaluating a lot of different issues relating to Brazil servers and there are still some open questions that need to be answered. So unfortunately I cannot give you any reliable ETA.
Back to 2007, CipSoft recurred to juridical means in order to sue the owner of "Morientes" character due to DDoS attacks and bumped on Brazil's lack of laws related to cybercrimes. Is it of company's knowledge that there are already legal measures on Brazil for this kind of crimes?
Considering the former question, does CipSoft take any legal measures when the attackers are identified? Or the measures you take are only technology-related?
Unfortunately, this is not in my area of responsibility and I cannot provide any information related to legal matters.
Tech questions regarding development (nerd talk)
During Tibia's development, do your team uses any agile method (e.g. Scrum, Kanban). If yes, which one? Could you please describe a sprint or iteration?
We switched from the classic jesus-driven waterfall software development to a more agile method some time ago. Its neither Scrum or Kanban by the book but we decided to do some cherry picking of individual development aspects. The biggest challenge was to find a suitable development method that allows plain feature development and meets the requirements related to the solution of operational tasks at the same time.
Nowadays, there are 61 servers, and all of them are updated simultaneously during the updates releases. How is your deploy process? Do you use any automation tool, like Jenkins or Hudson?
We have a certain degree of partial automation for this process. At the moment we don't use jenkins or hudson to deploy updates or content changes, though.
Talking about programming languages, we already know you use C++ (on Standalone client) and Flash/Action Script (on TFC). Beyond the former ones, which other languages do you use on server-side development?
In the scope of the gameserver the one and only used programming language is C/C++. In addition to our C++ spellbook we have a wide variety of backend tools that are written in Python and help us to perform certain tasks.
Nowadays, there are lots of applications being architected to high availability and fault tolerance, taking advantage of cloud computing and horizontal scaling. Does Tibia architecture allows it? If no, are there plans for it?
Cloud computing and the integration of a service like Tibia in such an architecture is a very complex topic. The main advantage of the horizontal scale out, the overall system performance boost through new nodes, varies a lot depending on the detail implementation of the software you want to get scaled.
Actually, with an appropriate implementation, any software can get a lot of use out of this concept in terms of performance. Furthermore, it is a great challenge for any software company that operates with long-term software to adept new fundamental technical concepts that open up the opportunity to make usage of design concepts.
Anyway, there are no concrete plans for a focused project to bring Tibia into the cloud. However, our developers always try to optimize and refactor our codebase to give us the opportunity to follow and make use of modern concepts.
Considering the large amount of content variables Tibia aggregated during it's 18 years, which is the greatest difficulty when implementing a new feature?
You already gave yourself the answer in this question: It's definitely the "eighteen" in 18 years. The pure amount of variables and dependencies that grew over time are in my opinion the most critical topics when talking about new features and ongoing development tasks.
It is not that uncommon that we start out with a very simple idea in our head how a feature might work and could be used by players. During the first steps of a project we dig deeper and deeper to the core and more and more dependencies come to the fore that need to be resolved before we can start with the actual feature implementation. Almost always due to dependencies.
As a player you rarely get in touch with those internal tasks that resolve these difficultes. But exactly those tasks deliver the basis for any further development and allow us to sustainably fill the game with new content.
Business and strategy-related questions
Brazilian players commonly have a bad online reputation due their toxic behavior, being often labeled as "hu3hu3 brbr". Since Brazilians are Tibia's largest community, does CipSoft has any difficult dealing with Brazilians' behavior?
It doesn't really matter to us where a Tibian comes from. We treat all of our customers equally. And as you might have also experienced, there are nice and -let's say- difficult people everywhere around the globe, completely independent of their nationality.
Wouldn't be wise to keep a support team made by portuguese speakers, considering a good part of your community speaks this language natively?
Our internal company language is German. This is necessary to help us avoid any misunderstandings relating our daily internal communication. The product language is English. So these two languages are a "must" when you work for CipSoft. There are already some people with further language knowledge in our customer support team, including Portuguese, though.
What's your position about Tibia's black market? What is the negative impact caused by this parallel market?
It would be presumptuous to say that there are any online games in the scale of Tibia out there that don't have to deal with that issue. I think this is a very complex problem that is difficult to answer in short terms.
As an operator of online games you try everything in mind to give your customers the best opportunities to protect their accounts from hacking, for example, on the other hand, we all know, though, that as long as there are people out there who are willing
to pay loads of money for an account, there will also be people that will try to illegally get access to other accounts and make a deal out of it.
The black market has many facettes and it is difficult to pretty much impossible to control for online games. The actions mostly take place on all sorts of platforms that are out of your territory. You cannot control everything, that is impossible.
Which strategies are being used to attract new players?
There is the new Tibia client we are currently working on and the obtained Greenlight for Steam, for example. Also, we try to introduce new community features (such as the recently published Tell-A-Friend system) to attract new players to Tibia. It's things like these that we hope to attract new players with.
We know that a new client is being developed. Can you tell us a bit more about it? What motivated its development? What's its progress to date? What can we expect from it?
One of the main motivations behind starting our work on a new client was that we really want a client code base that can be called future-proof.
Because the new client is still in development and details are changing during this phase on a weekly basis, it is not possible for me to provide you any reliable information. I'm very sorry about that. I know you are very excited and curious about any details and it is frustrating and annoying to not receive any fresh information or answers out of people you get to ask, but I hope you understand that we really want to avoid creating any rumors or even false hopes, so we prefer to keep quiet about it for the time being.
Nevertheless, I can assure you that we made some good progress in the past months. There is quite some work left to do, however. I cannot provide any ETA. But you can be sure that our community managers will inform you as soon as possible if there are any updates and news we want to share relating the new client.
In your opinion, which are the 5 greatest challenges Tibia (as a product) will have to deal with on next years?
In my opinion, one of the most important challenges besides fighting botters and optimizing our DDoS protection, will be to ensure that our code base preserves us the opportunity for future development. In addition the streamlining of legacy dependencies will consume some work in the backend and finally we have to get more competitive as a development team.
Client related questions
In your opinion, what are the Standalone Client's major flaws and virtues? What about Flash Client?
The biggest challenge is without a doubt the clients codebase that grew over the years. As I already mentioned earlier this was also one of the main reasons we decided to work on a new client.
Currently, due to its used technologies, we have to put a lot of effort in any standalone client extension. Adding new features or any improvement to contemporary features is expensive, very time consuming and complicated.
Flash itself as a technology is something we see very critical right now. Especially in relation to the recurring vulnerabilities and its related technical problems.
Since 2008 (even before TFC's release) some companies have been trying to reduce the internet's dependency regarding Flash platform. This movement has accelerated proportionally to the HTML5's development. Isn't CipSoft concerned about TFC?
As part of the work on the new client we are evaluating the future of the Flash client, too.
According to past interviews, HTML5 wasn't feasible in terms of multi platform games programming. How do you see this language today?
In my opinion, today HTML5 might be an option for multi platfrom application development. Especially because of the trend that more and more developers increasingly abandon browsers and build hybrid apps.
Nevertheless don't forget:
If it comes to high performance applications, and games are those, there is some other wildlife out there, too, that also offers quite a lot of potential to the developer (i.e. Qt with its high performance C++ core). The most interesting target platforms for new projects these days are Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Windows 8 and BlackBerry 1Qt supports all of these and many more. So there are alternatives to HTML5 out there.
What about Steam's integration? Whats its status at moment?
The work here is progressing but we have still much to do.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I regularly go swimming, enjoy playing board and video games with my friends and I do a lot of music. Every now and then I do not begrudge me a decent bag of sweet popcorn in the cinema.
The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger
Trevor Jones - Promentory
A TV series?
A game (other than Tibia)?
What was your reaction to the 7x1?
On the one hand as a fan of the German team - of course - I was very happy after the game that we made it to the final. On the other hand I really felt sorry for the Seleção, which really played an exceptional tournament and showed us some outstanding soccer, that they could not accrue in full strength - missing Neymar.
Have you ever been in Brazil before? Ever thought of visiting it?
Unfortunately till today I have never managed to travel there myself. Nevertheless, some of my friends have already been there and they where totally impressed. I'm pretty sure, I will visit the country soon during a vacation.
Last but not least, what message would you like to leave to our community?
I'd like to thank you for your interest in me, our team and our work around Tibia. Everybody around here knows about the great expectations and we will devote our heart and soul for further development of Tibia.