He made noobs shit carrots, brought direct mouse input to Sauer, sparked a zombie apocalypse and fights crime at night – I speak of course about the one and only, Sauer’s personal superhuman: pisto.
A community member that, despite his absence from the gaming and mapping, shouldn’t need any further introduction. There are about 1000 questions I could think of to ask, but I promise you, I’ll keep it short and interesting. So lets get crackin!
<Star> For those who still haven’t felt your presence in the community, how would you describe yourself and your position within.
<pisto> I am the cable guy. I express my nerd side not in getting good at the game itself (even though I would love to know something about ffa), but I like inventing things and realizing them through code. Sauerbraten is not the first game that I approach in this way, I have always taught myself computer stuff with games, and I’ve learned so much.
<Star> Where did this ambition start with and what drove it to the level you have reached now?
<pisto> I don’t know, my father was kind of geeky when I was a kid (he owned an Amiga 500 for instance) and had some old style programming books (K&R) so I guess I absorbed some of that. I had no guidance, so for many years I just fooled around with things, not really going anywhere. I remember my first geek accomplishment was getting a NeoGeo emulator to work to be pro at Metal Slug. After that I started for some reason to play Worms Armageddon, and that’s where I started getting serious about it. I used CheatEngine do create my first hacks (as in unplanned features, not cheats) with reverse engineering, and I realized I needed to learn C. Then I grew bored after a couple of years, and jumped on Age of Empires II, and tried to extend the AI scripting language with Lua. But that project didn’t have enough audience (that community liked to stick to the tools they used for years), so dropped that. It was some point in the middle of the bachelor that a guy from highschool told me he found this Sauerbraten game, where you can name yourself “tuamamma” (your mother) and it would appear “you got fragged by tuamamma”, and decided to check it out. After some months of noobish instactf rounds, I decided to look at the code and see what I could hack.
<Star> Seeing the amount of projects you’ve so far worked on within Sauer, is there any time left for activities when you don’t sit behind the pc or your study books ?
<pisto> surprisingly yes. well not in this period that I’m trying hard to finish my thesis and get back to Italy, but my main hobby is sport climbing. I’ve been climbing since I was 10 or something, and I I really think it’s a wonderful sport. A long time ago I played harp and cello, and I would like to do something with music again. From a turkish friend here in Sweden I got a santur, but it’s damn hard to find books or teachers, it’s not electric guitar, you know
<Star> Alright that sounds as if you are a quite busy guy, how many hours of sleep can you enjoy these days?
<pisto> I absolutely need sleep, so I never go under 8 hours. here in Sweden if it’s not dark it’s cloudy, and I have no lectures in this period, so I have a totally backward sleeping schedule,something like sleep at 4AM, wake up at noon
<Star> Ok lets talk a bit about your active projects with Sauerbraten.
<Star> Spaghettimod has grown into a quite sophisticated server modification. There are already quite a few servemods around. What made you write your own mod?
<pisto> when I joined sauerbraten the main server mod was hopmod. I already had experience with lua due to that age of empires project, so I sporadically used it. when I got involved with swl, I worked principally on the swlacc but also on the server mod, and I found out in the hard and painful way that hopmod was broken beyond repair. I tried a couple of times to start a new lua-based server mod, but failed for lack of experience and motivation. But with sdos I managed to actually kick it off, and now there it is, spaghettimod. It is built specifically to tweak the network protocol, in order to invent new gamemodes. And finally with the zombie server I managed to create a popular mode, which provided me a priceless testing field for spaghettimod.
<Star> Where does the name ‘spaghetti’ originate from? Do you, by any chance, believe in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster?
<pisto> I like to make up senseless names, such as my email (blaffablaffa). I avoid all the internet memes such as the spaghetti flying monster because I hate the internet slang, the virtual reality and its inhabitants *grumpy face*
<Star> So the ease of customisation of spaghetti mod already brought us another very popular gamemode: Zombie apocalypse. Were you surprised with it’s success and what comes next?
<pisto> I already had a server mod online, and it wasn’t getting much attention, so yes I was surprised. It’s also notable that a mode with gamespeed 30 has traction, in such a fast game as Sauerbraten. My next long-term goal for spaghettimod is to run the map state and physics on the server, and that would open limitless possibilities: anti cheat, server side complex map editing, new kinds of moving objects with proper collisions, new weapons… all by abusing the sauerbraten protocol, so it will be hacky as hell, but at least it will get some novelty in the community
<Star> This sounds amazing and I think everyone would agree, that a proper anti-cheat system is long overdue.
Having written an anti cheat client for swl and now being an admin of a very popular server, how do you see, that cheating affects the different facets of the community (public as well as clan gaming and social behaviour)?
<pisto> I believe that the problem with internet is the lack of consequences. It is too easy too misbehave on the internet, and avoid a fair punishment. The basis of every justice system is the sureness of the causality, and lacking this every society, virtual or real, is going to crumble. Cheating wouldn’t be an issue if it was possible to make people pay the consequences, because everybody is curious so everybody is a potential cheater, but the they would soon be responsibilized. Being difficult to punish cheaters has very dangerous consequences: on the admin side, there’s a tendency to go in witch-hunting, elitism mode, which has no effect but creating a void around them; on the cheaters side, there are many who think that what is possible is legit. I’m thinking here of the countless number of trolls who think that cheating, trolling, ddosing, grieving, faking or doing anything borderline is actually a right, maybe even “freedom of speech” (I’m thinking of Birk here). In Sauerbraten, the situation is bad (but I think we compare better to, say, Minecraft or more poplar games) because of course the game is open source, but also because there’s a widespread technical ignorance (hello there demophobia admins), or outright disregard of security matters (hey eihrul). In the last two years, with the appearance of ddosers and more disruptive exploits, there is more awareness on the admins side, but work still needs to be done.
<Star> Ever since the DoS attacks destroyed the last regular scheduled tournament (the SWL), the gaming community also had to deal with attacks on the SDoS and the DKSC. Having a front row seat on all of those events, what did you take away from these events? Do you think the madness will ever end?
<pisto> well awareness, I was ignorant as well on the matter of ddosing, and I learned the hard way. I learned also that once the admin knows what he is doing, most attacks are trivial to stop, and this in line with what I said about cheaters. It’s also a moment of low activity on both tournaments and ddosers, so it’s a sort of a non issue at the moment.
<Star> The impact of these events on Sauer is clear, more and more gamers chose to leave the game behind, because there is no competition any more. The inflow of new gamers, who stick around isn’t high enough to compensate for this slow but steady decay.
In your opinion, what has to happen, so that Sauer will have a bright future again?
<pisto> I don’t like to talk big plans, because I’m the cable guy, and I am actually an horrible gamer. I also believe that creating a game or features with the design up-front is a big mistake, and most people who try to expand generally seek little feedback from peers. There are also things that prevent this feedback (just one example on top of all, no way to send new maps from the server). On the technical side, Sauerbraten is written in a way that that drive away most proficient programmers: the engine is outdated and no fun to play with, no documentation, C++ (some “cool” programmers hate it) or actually a subsets of C++ that makes it awkward even to C++ enthusiasts, outdated gaming experience (people are used to steam nowadays). I believe that there is no future in Sauerbraten as it is, and the community just needs to migrate to a new solution (Tesseract, or maybe better Octaforge?).
<Star> Alright, that’s a very sad ending, so lets lighten stuff up a bit.
<Star> What I’d like to do now, is a quick answer round. The purpose of this is to answer quick, with the fist thing that comes to your mind.
<Star> Let’s kick it off
<Star> do you remember the first contact you’ve had with Sauerbraten?
<pisto> the guy from high school, the first game I played was ffa on fanatic_quake
<Star> what kind of superhero would you be?
<Star> what’s your favourite food?
<pisto> raw horse meat, with garlic, olive oil, nutmeg, lemon
<Star> what keeps you up at night?
<Star> lol, didn’t expect that answer, but the next question is…
<Star> nerd or geek?
<pisto> handsome nerd
<Star> what makes you happy?
<Star> what annoys you the most?
<Star> if you could change one thing…
<pisto> hate people less
<Star> something you couldn’t live without
<pisto> oh gosh
<pisto> I’ll go with raw horse meat again
<Star> what is your favourite movie?
<Star> pls don’t say horse meat again :D
<pisto> amici miei
<Star> name something that people would be surprised to know about you
<pisto> I have only one kidney
<Star> if the apocalypse would strike tomorrow, and all civilized life as we know it would be destroyed. what skills could you offer to society?
<pisto> climbing, probably relentless killing
<Star> place where would like to retire, some day?
<pisto> either home town or southern Italy
<Star> normally, that would be all, but I’ve gotta ask what’s up with you and horses?
<pisto> you got to try it
<pisto> then you tell me
<Star> can’t promise that :) but thank you very much, it’s been a delight having to interview you
<pisto> thanks, that was fun
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