Why I Love Derek Smart

I imagine that every year after E3, teams of men in hard hats must demolish the enormous LA convention center and distribute the raw materials among millions of zealous corporate devotees the world over, to be used as fuel in the ensuing flame wars. If you spend much time on gaming sites other than GWJ, you know how it goes: Microsoft asserts proposition P; Sony asserts not-P; Nintendo asserts that P is irrelevant... and just like that -- poof! -- instant conflagrations erupt in computer chairs everywhere. If you listen closely, you'll hear the tears sizzling on my cheeks.

The worst thing about modern flame wars, other than the simple fact of their existence, is their unswerving orientation around the success or failure of corporate brand names, products, and properties. Flame wars have always been silly and irrational affairs, but these days, they are also soulless and (paradoxically) cold at heart. The gaming community used to be such that one could readily find flame wars about actual people, along with their associated deeds, words, and thoughts. Nowadays, games-related flame wars have become unhinged from gaming personae in a manner that I would not have thought possible just five years ago.

Thank the heavens, then, for Derek Smart.

If you read Blue's News, then you probably noticed the recent thread concerning Derek's decision to release Battlecruiser Millennium as a free download. Anyone who has ever waded into a Derek Smart discussion in the past won't need to be told that the thread was knocked permanently off-topic within the first ten posts. After a few people made tentative insults, some poor soul named Strategos saw fit to rise to Derek's defense. Very soon thereafter, other forumgoers accused Strategos of being Derek Smart, masquerading under a pseudonym in defense of his own reputation. It should come as no surprise that Derek himself quickly popped in and sprayed gasoline everywhere in his customary style (see post #22). A choice quote will prove illustrative:

The fact of the matter is, most of you are just jealous. Pure and simple. In the past when I would sink down to your levels, engage you in the pits, return insult for insult etc, some of you got this [false] impression that we were of the same calibre; let alone the same caste. I make no excuses for who I am or what I am. What I DO know - and that which is proven and consistent - is that I have progressed over the years, improved on that which I created etc. While, well, all of you are just the same crochety, stagnant, inconsequential people you always were. For always reduced to obscurity; with the only voice you have being that which you use to libel and assassinate someone like me. Someone who is, well, above it all. So, all you and your friends are doing is wasting your time.

I would prefer not to discuss the veracity or import of Derek's claims, his seemingly self-damaging offensiveness, his haughty aloofness, or his contentious history as a developer and Internet personality. These matters have all been explored in the past. What really impresses me about Derek's post to Blue's News, and virtually every post he's ever made anywhere, is that:

1. He interacts directly with the gaming community on a regular -- even predictable -- basis.
2. He does not shy away from controversy; indeed, he usually either invites it or spawns it.

Numbers 1 and 2 above are both remarkably rare traits in present-day game developers. It seems that nearly all the bold developer personalities of the past have dried up or gone into hiding, and that gaming as a whole is impoverished as a result. In years past, I could regularly check the .plan updates of top developers, and I could look forward to encountering and conversing with them on gaming message boards. Every aspect of online gamer culture was influenced by heavy developer presence.

Remember when Old Man Murray routinely engaged in online brawls with Paul Steed? How about when they conducted those raucous interviews with Roman Ribaric, or launched vindictive polemics against Jane Jensen and American McGee? Remember when George Broussard would make fun of other developers' games? When Billy Wilson and Cliffy B would cut the rug and "sample" drinks? When Something Awful was ostensibly a gaming website? When Evil Avatar despised Jason Hall? When PC Accelerator was still alive? When the folks over at PlanetCrap had something to talk about? When Ion Storm Dallas exploded -- multiple times over, and much to the delight of spectators everywhere? When you actually cared about what people like Larry Holland, Chris Roberts, Andy Hollis, and Steve Meretzky were up to? I fear that nearly all of that passion is gone for good, replaced now by joyless and sterile press releases, preview trailers, and corporate fawning. Some of those old personalities are still important to the gaming scene, but now they exert their influence predominantly through their publishers, and through the droves of idiotic gaming press just dying to write a killer preview of their latest game. (At least Ron Gilbert has a good blog going.)

If none of those bits ring true, then here's a fun activity that gestures toward the same point. Go to the "for sale" list of Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe and look at how many development houses used to exist in the adventure game genre alone. Doesn't it fill you with wonder to look upon all those unknown titles, to consider all the novel gameplay possibilities that await? Do you remember when you could walk into your local software store and get that same feeling? (One need not refer all the way back to the reign of text adventures to recall such days.) Contrast this with the number of development houses and publishers in business today; with the mostly stagnant state of the big game genres; with the marketing, the advertising, the franchises, the ever-worse Hollywood crossovers, the pay-to-play schemes, the buyouts and closures, the corporate slogans, and the shiny, meaningless, prepackaged drivel that the few extant gaming news mega-sites regurgitate for us on a daily basis -- especially around E3 time. The relative diversity of the marketplace and general interest in the affairs of individual game developers are linked; it is not by mere chance that both of them have seen such a rapid, simultaneous decline.

The point is, being a gamer is not what it used to be. Gamers used to have access to communities and markets that simply do not exist any longer. The topicality of the prevalent flame wars at any given time may be taken as a barometer for the creative health of the industry. The fact that flame wars now serve only as arenas for the display of brand loyalty reflects the abovementioned unfortunate change in the gaming climate. Of course, corporate-aligned flame wars also existed in the golden age to which I am hearkening back -- remember the nVidia vs. 3dfx flame wars on Voodoo Extreme? -- but they were tempered by more interesting disputes over whether John Carmack could take Tim Sweeney in a drunken fight.

It's not that I miss the developer-oriented flame wars per se. I just miss the developers themselves, around whom so much day-to-day interest and controversy used to swirl. I guess somewhere along the way, most companies decided that their employees should only interact with the gaming public through established and proven PR methods.

This is why I love Derek Smart. He is like a relic from that dead age, one that refuses to die along with his peers. I like to think that my fondness for Derek and my lament for the dead, developer-heavy gaming community of years past has little to do with the shallow worship of celebrities that is so common among our species. The best of the old-guard game developers had about them the air of artists, creators, intellectuals, and not least of all, gamers. I was never interested in Sid Meier for his fame, fortune, or sex appeal (though he is one sexy, sexy man); I was (and remain) interested in Sid Meier for his accomplishments, talents, and routine insights into the things that make good games tick. Interest in any given game developer has more in common with devotion to a beloved author than with anything related to the celebrity gossip industry.

If I'm supremely lucky, Derek will show up in the comments below, flame me horribly for some remark I made or failed to make, and then Certis will ban him from the site. In the ensuing chaos, I shall breathe deeply of the fiery and personal link to gaming's past, while it lasts.

--Lobo

Comments

Actually Sleipnir, what you're seeing here is pretty much a unique Derek Smart phenomenon. As you note, most flame wars (past and present) are more like ten year-olds calling each other names. Derek types a lot more, uses better grammar, and generally makes people far more angry and bitter than your typical ten year-old l33t-speaker.

To connect Derek's above posts with my article: You're also seeing a pretty well known developer devote considerable time and energy to interacting with a segment of the gaming community (for better or for worse). This sort of thing used to happen all the time, mostly constructively, but sometimes destructively. However, it basically no longer happens at all, save for Derek and the few other developers like him... "like him" insofar as they frequently interact with the gaming community, that is. I think that nobody is "like" Derek in any more meaningful way than that.

Lobo wrote:

Actually Sleipnir, what you're seeing here is pretty much a unique Derek Smart phenomenon. As you note, most flame wars (past and present) are more like ten year-olds calling each other names. Derek types a lot more, uses better grammar, and generally makes people far more angry and bitter than your typical ten year-old l33t-speaker.

Ah, understood. I suppose any interaction between developer and community is better then none, but I have to wonder to the extent Derek's flames contribute in any meaningful way to the hobby itself. When I think of gamer/dev interaction, I image some blissful world in which everyone sits around, drinking beer, and discussing how to make games better. It seems that such lines of comminication would be ideal for improving the industry as a whole, in whatever small steps you can muster. I could, for example, insult any random person on the street. If he just happened to be a game dev, it wouldn't really matter. But any random person on the street probably wouldn't do much with a constructive critique of my favorite/least favorite game.

But, I do understand the significance of what you say. I just can't feel any remose for the loss of the forgotten days you describe, as I myself never experienced them.

This thread feels like visiting the zoo, Lobo is our tour guide saying "And there's an angry bear, how about somebody pokes him and we'll see what was more common five years ago when bears wandered the internet wilds" and here we are. I think you're smart enough to have orchestrated this entire thing, you tricky bastard.

Well Mr. Smart, I am glad to see that you still have not yet lost your well known talent for the art of flaming. It is also fascinating to see that time seems to have inflated your ego exponentially to levels that will soon have to have its cubic volume measured in light years. I find it quite sad really that you were unable to respond to shihonage’s posts in a civil and respectful manner (a property of these boards which you claim you admire), instead you question his skills with the English language. Also, if you claim not to care if someone is Russian, South American or from “the back waters of the Amazonâ€?, why even bring it up?

You are an ambitious man Mr. Smart and I wish you success in all your future undertakings. I hope someday the Battlecruiser series will eventually become the product you envisioned it to be, and when it does, maybe then you can come back to these boards riding on your high horse. Then you can look down your nose on this entire ilk that “can’t touch youâ€? and cast even more “I’m right, you’re wrong you little flamerâ€? judgment on the very people you hope will buy your products.

No one follows a self made martyr Mr. Smart, regardless of how holy and righteous you try and make yourself to be.

Wow. What a dick.

Not sure what your point was in dragging this roadkill into the house, Lobo, but I have to respect your eye for oddities.

Hey, how about we try to summon John Romero next?

Unlike Derek Smart I know who John Romero is. That would be interesting. I want to see Shiho argue with more developers :D.

Is this dialogue between dsmart and shihonage typical of what one might have found a few years back?

Absolutely. It typified the "new" Usenet, as opposed to the more sedate (academic? eccectric-centric?) Usenet that was prevalent until the early 90's.

But it's classic Derek, and indeed, picture far less educated and competent flames on any conceivable topic. By 1995, that was Usenet.

Vector wrote:

Unlike Derek Smart I know who John Romero is.

Wrong. I do know who John Romero is; met him person etc etc. I know a lot of developers. You are probably misreading what I said earlier about gamers not caring who devs are. I wasn't talking about me in particular. And I only used the Far Cry devs as an example of a game - which I liked - but didn't like it or buy it because I knew who the devs were or wanted to know who they were. I know - and have met - a lot of devs. Old, new, washups, washouts, morons, wankers, idiots, over-inflated-bozos, suits etc etc. There are all kinds.

The fact is gaming is like any media phenom. Some people (gamers in this case) care enough about a game to buy it. While others just buy it because of reviews, a fancy box, developer etc. Mostly not knowing who developed it or even what they're buying it in particular. Again using Far Cry as an example, before we even saw the first shots, demo and the final product, nobody knew who the heck the devs were. And I bet you that still today, nobody knows who they are. But utter the name Warren Spector, Sid Meir, Andy Hollis....Derek Smart (oh well) and the average gamer will know who they are immediately.

Even movie goers have the same mindset. Some go to a movie with no-name actors and come away either with new stars whose careers they want to track. Or they come away thinking utter sh*t. Even the name actors get their reaming when they do a bad movie. e.g. Who saw The Hulk and didn't wonder wtf Eric Bana (from the otherwise excellent Black Hawk Down) was thinking?

Then there's George Lucas and the travesty that were Star Wars EI and E11.

DrunkenSleipnir wrote:

Ah, understood. I suppose any interaction between developer and community is better then none, but I have to wonder to the extent Derek's flames contribute in any meaningful way to the hobby itself.

I think you clearly missed the point he was making in his article. You might want to go back and read it. Then, maybe ask for some clarification? His article was not about contribution to a hobby. It was about a developer's interaction with gamers. Big difference.

To take contribution and flaming into context, you have to understand that the two - as far as the [gaming] hobby is concerned - are mutually exclusive. A flamewar is not the only circumstance - and venue - in which a developer should/would interact with a gamer. You don't need a flamewar for that. It just so happens that since I am more outspoken than other [devs], be it flamewar or a civil discussion (e.g. on Avault forums which I frequent), I'm still around doing what I've been doing since day one: mingingly with gamers every so often. Most of all, I'm not hiding in plain sight nor behind the cloak of anonymity. There was a time when devs didn't have to hide behind an alias or disappear from their frequented haunts. Who caused the trend? The same anti-social sonofabitches with nothing better to do but cause disruption. The same wankers who glue worms to the sidewalk and watch the birds get hernias.

Fletcher1138 wrote:

Wow. What a dick.

Not sure what your point was in dragging this roadkill into the house, Lobo, but I have to respect your eye for oddities.

Oh look, lets break out the name calling. Fine, you play that game on your own. It is the classic mark of someone with social and confidence issues.

And since when was this your house? This is another thing. People tend to take a place they frequent and liken it to their frigging living room. Puhleeze. This is a public forum. And the last time I looked, you were just another alias.

You know, its not the number of posts you make nor the number of times you frequent, that makes you a regular on any forum. Its the quality of your posts and your contribution therein, that earns you that monicker. Other than that, well, you're just another opinionated poster with NOTHING to contribute.

Dr._J wrote:

Well Mr. Smart, I am glad to see that you still have not yet lost your well known talent for the art of flaming. It is also fascinating to see that time seems to have inflated your ego exponentially to levels that will soon have to have its cubic volume measured in light years. I find it quite sad really that you were unable to respond to shihonage’s posts in a civil and respectful manner (a property of these boards which you claim you admire), instead you question his skills with the English language. Also, if you claim not to care if someone is Russian, South American or from “the back waters of the Amazonâ€?, why even bring it up?

You are an ambitious man Mr. Smart and I wish you success in all your future undertakings. I hope someday the Battlecruiser series will eventually become the product you envisioned it to be, and when it does, maybe then you can come back to these boards riding on your high horse. Then you can look down your nose on this entire ilk that “can’t touch youâ€? and cast even more “I’m right, you’re wrong you little flamerâ€? judgment on the very people you hope will buy your products.

No one follows a self made martyr Mr. Smart, regardless of how holy and righteous you try and make yourself to be.

Don't blame me for your inferiority complex. Thats something you have to work on all by yourself.

And if you gleaned from my missive that I was wanting to be a martyr - or even implying same - man, you sure missed that boat by a river margin.

This is just another example of how all it takes to show how shallow, stupid, opinionated and inferiority-complex-prone some posters are. Just throw in someone - like me - into the mix and all of a sudden, that set of balls the regulars (who think this is their goddamn living room) thought was all that, was just, well, a pair of marbles.

Wrong. I do know who John Romero is; met him person etc etc. I know a lot of developers.

I hope you are joking, and that you really understood that he meant He knows who John Romero is, but he(Vector) doesn't know who you are.

Also if this were any other thread Certis would have told them to take it to PM's. While entertaining for a sec, I still believe this is bait for other random people to come and start posting crap. In other words stop posting this crap(not just dsmart) or the thread should be locked.

Wrong. I do know who John Romero is; met him person etc etc. I know a lot of developers. You are probably misreading what I said earlier about gamers not caring who devs are. I wasn't talking about me in particular.

Sorry, that was a grammatical mistake on my part. It should have been more like "I know who John Romero is but until yesterday I didn't know who Derek Smart was".

Derek, I think he meant that he knows who John Romero is, unlike Derek Smart, whom he wouldn't know from Adam.

Fletcher and Zedian are both completely correct.

Vector wrote:
Wrong. I do know who John Romero is; met him person etc etc. I know a lot of developers. You are probably misreading what I said earlier about gamers not caring who devs are. I wasn't talking about me in particular.

Sorry, that was a grammatical mistake on my part. It should have been more like "I know who John Romero is but until yesterday I didn't know who Derek Smart was".

Understood. No problem.

dsmart wrote:

Oh look, lets break out the name calling. Fine, you play that game on your own. It is the classic mark of someone with social and confidence issues....

You've applied a great many assumptions (which I will not address individually) to my words (which were relatively straightforward). I don't feel the need to craft a five-hundred word rebuttal, however.

I'm sure that you may be a swell person under certain circumstances, but in here, right now, you're not coming off as a very nice person. My friends keep telling me that name-calling is bad, so I won't do it again. I apologize. Still, if I were asked to encapsulate my opinion of you, based on this exchange alone, and using just one single word, I wouldn't feel the need to find a new one.

BTW, I thought you were leaving.

I think we can officially call Lobo's Derek Smart summoning experiment a success. I'm with Zed; let's let it die now. This thread is no longer in character with a Gamers With Jobs thread and that reflects badly on us.

Sanjuro's right.

Sorry again, Derek, for the name-calling. Sorry everyone else for dragging this down further. Sorry prospective readers for giving you the wrong impression of GWJ.

I must have social and confidence issues or something.

I wanted to say Derek is a big mean meany, but that would be name calling - plus my inferiority complex prevents me from posting such a bold statement.

Ok, now that I have posted, we can let this thread die, clearly, my invaluable insights had to be presented (that's me masking my inferiority complex in a falsely generated and highly exaggerated aura of self importance)

Sanjuro wrote:

I think we can officially call Lobo's Derek Smart summoning experiment a success. I'm with Zed; let's let it die now. This thread is no longer in character with a Gamers With Jobs thread and that reflects badly on us.

[edit]Ok, ok. Content removed in the spirit of GWJ :)[/edit]

Chum

I must have social and confidence issues or something.

You think?

Fletcher1138 wrote:

My friends keep telling me that name-calling is bad, so I won't do it again. I apologize.

Accepted

Fletcher1138 wrote:

Still, if I were asked to encapsulate my opinion of you, based on this exchange alone, and using just one single word, I wouldn't feel the need to find a new one.

Then its a good thing that you were'nt asked.

Fletcher1138 wrote:

BTW, I thought you were leaving. ;)

I was? I must've missed that memo.

Chum wrote:

Sorry, but once your message board is infected with "The Derek" it's a lot like having Ghonorrea; it becomes all about supression.

Chum

LMAO!!! Oh man, that was classic.

dsmart wrote:

That is all. I'm gone.

Sounded like a dsmart has left the building to me. Sorry if I misunderstood.

I hope everyone has enjoyed this little experiment. I left the thread open this long to serve as a reminder (perhaps even for myself) that it only takes one person to bring out the worst in everyone. No matter how intelligent, interesting or entertaining someone may be it's never worth the grief on a day to day basis. This is what we encountered back in the day often and as you can see it's not really as great as nostalgia makes it out to be.

The most important distinction we can make is that claiming to be a nice guy in person and acting like a loud-mouthed prick who's just "keeping it real" online doesn't make you a good guy. It's all you whether you're typing a message or shaking someone's hand, I think that's something most of us here recognize and that's what makes it easier to stick around.

Have a nice day