An Interview with Acorn Chieftain Al Riddoch

As with most WF developers during my interview with Alriddoch (as he's known on irc) is a unique indivdual. Alriddoch lives in Southhampton which is on the south coast of the UK. While most of his free time is consumed coding for WF his other interests include Sailing, and more recently playing in an Industrial Band at local gigs. His description of exactly what industrial music is all about is most interesting...

"With old school industrial, it is not so much a question of playing instruments, as torturing technology."

Torturing technology?? Sounds pretty similar to what we do here at WF. ;-) Alriddoch first discovered WF on Slashdot during a period where he was playing Ultima 9. He explains that he considered getting into Ultima Online but couldn't play it at work because it was Windows only and playing at home would result in huge phone bills. Below is Alriddoch's story on how he went from WF newb to the Acorn project leader and one of the most active community members. I would encourage people lurking on the sidelines who have been considering getting involved to pay special attention on how to transition from newb to an active WF member:

"When I initially joined WorldForge, I did not think that I would be able to contribute much to the code, as I was not a fan of C++. Once I had downloaded the skeleton demo, and failed to get it to run, I started trying to build stuff out of CVS. I found that most stuff wouldn't build, and sent patches to various people, paricularly Karsten, to fix problems with the build. Once I got stuff built, I was not able to get it working, so I started to hassle people about it, and they explained to me that what I was seeing was supposed to be like that. Nothing actually worked at that point. Around about this time I worked out that my knowledge of audio, and my studio gear meant that I could contribute in the area of sounds effect recording. I began working on recording some sounds and commited some into CVS. A short while later I discovered that it was actually possible to get cyphesis to do something, and I began to look at how it worked. I soon worked out that I didn't need to know much python to understand the top-level operation of cyphesis, and began to tweak it. As I made stuff better I contacted aloril and asked him whether it was okay to commit my changes. Most of the stuff I worked on was totally unrelated to Acorn, and was to do with implementing chopping down trees. After a while working on this, it became clear that Karsten was far too busy coding uclient to coordinate Acorn as well, so I sort of fell into the position of Acorn coordinator. I made no effort to get the role, it just came out that I was asking Karsten to complete features in uclient so cyphesis stuff would work, and I think he was more than happy to hand over to me, as it gave him more time to work on uclient."

As you can see it's a very gradual process of acclimation but certainly no insurmountable hills! Start out doing small things like trying to build stuff in cvs, submit bug reports to developers, sample various projects until you find one that suits you and be prepared to learn a lot! Short term Alriddoch intends to keep pushing Acorn forward towards greater stability and adding features to satisfy the game's specifications. Alriddoch has some very aggresive long range plans after Acorn reaches the 1.0 milestone. These aggressive goals include an ever-growing list of Mason like features (to ease the Acorn-Mason transition), construction of simple items and basic buildings, complex trade and making Acorn a persistent game where actions often have long term effects.

Alriddoch closed out by saying that his ultimate goal in making games is to help create a virutal world that's fun to be in. I think that sums up the general sentiment here at WorldForge. Head on over to the Acorn section of the web site and check out some of the cool stuff that the Acorn Team is up to.

Interview by Pato