Secondly, we hired a new co-interviewer, notas.
Chronologically we’re talking about his history in Sauer, the time in w00p and QS, the parting with the Ogros Trusted group, obviously about SDoS and other projects, too, and conclude with a little book club / literature talk.
Introduction and History in Sauer
Acuerta: ‘mefisto’ is a name that is known not only among Goethe readers but also the people of Sauer.Who is this mefisto though? Spare no details.
mefisto: Here’s the quick overview – I started my Sauer life in Summer edition, so that’s somewhere in late 2007. At the time I was in this kind of miserable phase in life. I was still reeling from the decision to quit singing, was stuck in this shithole part of Ohio, had been working a series of crappy jobs that I was bad at, and wasn’t sure what to do with my life. Sauerbraten came in at a time when I just needed something fun to do. I had been playing FPS since Doom came out, and especially played Quakeworld and the original Team Fortress for many many years, so Sauerbraten was pretty easy to get into. Over the years I’ve been involved in all sorts of groups and weird little projects throughout Sauer, and these days obviously my biggest project is Day of Sobriety. Outside of Sauer, I’m one of the legion of failed opera singers, I work for a startup as a software engineer, and have a young daughter.
notas: summer edition hi five o/
I still remember dueling you on douze when you were in w00p and i was about to join sp4nk. That was on christmas. Or around christmas.
Acuerta: notas doesn’t want to look like the kind of nerd who plays sauerbraten on christmas, I see. :D
notas: actually i thought ‘hm mefisto isn’t the kind of nerd who plays sauerbraten on christmas, so it can’t have been then’ ;D Also it was the middle of the night :P
mefisto: The one thing I remember about Summer edition was that there was only one server that ever seemed to have anyone on it, and it only played insta on urban_c over and over again. I had a super old computer then, and got like 25 fps, and I would get like 12 frags per game.
notas: Nonsense. Summer Edition was when capture pubs were still alive and well. That’s how i got into the game
mefisto: I guess I never saw them. Or you know what, now that you mention that I might have made a mistake… I think I might have been running Spring edition druring the Summer edition time, and that was the only server left for us idiots who didn’t know what the current release was.
notas: yea i believe that version mefisto :D
mefisto: I think it was on Christmas, actually. That must have been the Christmas I got my mx518, and I wanted to play. Plus I was single then, so what else am I gonna do.
Acuerta: Anyway, mefisto, how did you get into w00p and what was it like being in a team with legendary names such as tenshi, majikal, drakas, jay-em etc etc?
mefisto: A lot happened before that, actually. Around the time Assassin came out, I finally got a new computer and just having a decent framerate made me play three times better. When I went over to Assassin, I started playing just massive regen all the time. I still think it’s the most interesting mode in Sauer, strategically. Eventually, I found my way onto IRC and #tc which was one of the big gathering places at the time since they ran the biggest pub servers.
I think what brought me there actually was the fact that there were problems on the servers constantly. This was before /auth, and at the time someone could get master on the TC servers by doing like a /getmaster command or something – I forget what it was – and it would send a message to everyone else on the server saying that this person wanted master, and just one other person had to do some command that “voted” for this person and they’d have master. On the flip side, if you wanted to vote to remove someone as master, more than half the people on the server would have to enter some esoteric command to do that. The server didn’t send any prompts for what that command was, so if people would say “type #kickmaster” or whatever the command was to get people to vote. Of course the person with master would usually just kick that person, and it’s pretty obvious that this kind of system caused problems constantly.
So I went on IRC, basically, to go and complain whenever this happened. :D
notas: oh man, i remember that system. Had totally forgotten though
Those were (even more) lawless times
mefisto: There were a small group of us normal players who took an interest in this, including the famous SATAN!!!. Eventually, the TC guys created a system that let certain people get master whenever and take care of problems on the server. Thus the “trusted users” were born. SATAN!!! became trusted user #1 (and of course he later went on to create Reissen) and I was trusted user #2.
Acuerta: hah I’ve been around for 5 years but never knew it all started like this
mefisto: I gotta say, although later it became really ugly with the big fights with the Cube2 blog, the public criticism, and the bad feelings that sprung up around it all, in the early days the “trusteds” were a pretty awesome group. We had a lot of fun, and everyone was really dedicated to keeping things running well, very concerned about doing a good job and conducting ourselves properly, and I think it really helped the growth of Sauer to the extent that the big TC pubs were a better experience for new players because of it.
Acuerta: How did that lead you to w00p?
mefisto: Well, back then I really knew nothing of the clan scene in Sauer, and barely knew about PSL which was already hugely successful. I was really content to just play regen and have fun with the other regen guys. But I remember watching a PSL event, just coming across it because it was this server with a hundred people on it. I can’t remember exactly what I saw, but I remember clearly watching tenshi, teppo and jay-em playing ictf against someone or another. It really struck me. I just thought, “wow, this is cool.” These were guys that I never saw playing on pubs, and I realized that there was a lot going on in Sauer that I had no idea about at all.
I was a pretty good regen player at the time – probably about as good as one could get by playing tons of regen on pubs only – but I could tell that game was on a whole other level.
I was also kind of happy about not being in a clan, like I kind of liked the “independent” status. I’d been in clans before in other games, and never really enjoyed that. I’m not a big team player, I guess.
But obviously I eventually joined w00p. If I had to blame one person for starting me down that path, it would be Princess.
She was this kind of mysterious figure at the time. She’d hop on to IRC randomly, and pretty rarely, and everyone would trip over one another to get her attention. It was fascinating to watch. This was happening one evening, and the silliness of it made me think of a Seinfeld quote that I dropped into the conversation. We got to talking after that. She was in QS then, and we started doing insta duels.
Through her I met blahville, and started playing with him too. Especially effic with blahville, which I found kind of an easy mode to get into with my regen player mindset. I was playing a lot back then and starting getting better.
I guess blahville talked to tenshi about me, because tenshi randomly hit me up for some effic games out of the blue. We played a few, and he was like “do you want to join a clan?” Being invited, I have to admit, really appealed to my vanity, and besides it’s really hard to say no to tenshi, so that was that.
notas: do you wanna just publish this as an autobiography? :D
mefisto: Well, you lead with a really big question there :D
The Time in w00p and QS
notas: well, you still haven’t gotten to your actual experience in w00p, but you could probably work that into the next question – How did you get from there to quicksilver, and from there to where you are today?
mefisto: Looking back on it, joining w00p was probably the biggest mistake I ever made in Sauer.
I’m actually a fairly insecure person, and as soon as the elation of being asked to join what I believed was the best clan in Sauer wore off, sheer panic hit.
Very quickly I almost completely stopped playing duels… the pressure was too much. Before it was fun, I was just playing around and seeing if I could get better, there were no expectations. After joining, it was full-on-imposter syndrome.
I sincerely believed that I was not good enough to join this clan, and so I started doing everything I could to avoid situations where this might become clear to everyone else.
In retrospect I regret that a lot, because I really did like the other guys in the clan. If I had my head together, it could have been a great experience.
Joining QuickSilver came about in a strange way. I had several periods where I dropped out of Sauer for months at a time, and was basically a pretty terrible w00p clan member anyway. So this idea came up to get a bunch of the English-speaking community together under QS to build up that side of things. I can’t remember exactly how that started. Thor was involved. We got to talking with the QS guys, and they were excited about it, so a bunch of us joined QS at that time. Thor, wookish, me, others that I’m probably forgetting.
The idea was to create like an ogros for the North American/Oceania parts of the community.
People were excited about it for a while, but the biggest problem was that all of us are old.
These energetic clans that get things done, they’re all full of teenagers who have the time to do that shit. I had a kid. We all kind of lapsed into inactivity.
notas: I was gonna ask for a perspective on being an older, less competitive but extremely active veteran of the community. Younger players are usually motivated by competition as well as fun, older players like didda exist but tend not to get their hands dirty with everyday stuff. mefisto occupies a pretty unique niche, and i wonder what exactly keeps him doing what he does.
mefisto: I gotta say it’s kind of hard to keep playing when I can feel how much worse I am than I was at my “peak” – even though that wasn’t that great either. And there’s no chance of even getting back to that, because I’m never going to have that kind of time or energy again. But the other side of that is, with a few kind of glaring exceptions I’ve mostly avoided getting into fights with people. Being around for all this time and not having a lot of bad blood, I think I’m in a position now where I can do some good. I want to see what can be done to make things better for Sauerbraten. It’s really the people in Sauerbraten that keep me around. I’ve met so many people that I consider friends in Sauer. This game has a great international community and I really value the opportunity to meet such a diverse, interesting group.
Especially as an American, it’s not like we get to meet Europeans all the time. I love that about Sauer.
Parting with the Ogros Trusted Group
Acuerta: Ok since you’ve already mentioned it: you used to be one of the first “trusted members” of the ogros, but not anymore. What happened?
mefisto: Do you want the high drama version or the professional version? :D
notas: professionally high drama!
Acuerta: drama pls!
mefisto: I could say some generic bullshit about how it was time for me to move on, pursue new opportunities, we had different ideas of where we wanted to go, etc ec
The truth is that it’s all Saiga’s fault.
To set the stage a bit, this was what like a year and a half ago? By this time, the “trusteds” had change a lot. I mentioned earlier how it started out a great group, we all got along, it was fantastic fun. But by this point, everyone in that group was gone. All except me.
The situation was partly my fault since I had some big periods of inactivity, but by then there were a number of trusteds and admins I didn’t know very well at all.
mefisto: I’m gonna try and cover my ass a little by not naming names on this one :D
But there were a few people that I had already been fighting with because I was unhappy with the way they were acting. There was also the big community split going on at the time, and I was very frustrated because it seemed like every week there was something on the Cube2 blog that was calling out ogros trusteds/admins for acting abusively, and I was in the position of agreeing with a lot of that criticism.
This is the picture that Saiga entered. Although on the psl pubs he used that pony bullshit alias “Fluttershy”.
There were a group of oo admins/trusteds (I’m just gonna start saying admins, but that’s what it means) that would ban him, seemingly at random, for “cheating”. I could say a lot about how things came to that point, and how in the good old days it wasn’t such an unheard of thing that a top player would join psl, and further that the admins had at least some vague idea of what a top player looked like and knew what a cheater looked like.
This situation started to really aggravate me, and besides being just wrong period because it was an invalid ban, it was also especially aggravating as part of a situation where more and more people were saying that the ogros admins were abusive, worthless, noobish, you name it.
I took the whole thing a bit too personally, because I felt like the original admins have built up a great reputation and track record that I was proud of, and now some – and I should mention that it was just a small group, I have a very high opinion of most of the current admins – some new people were coming in and fucking it up.
I started an internal discussion about coming to a final determination on Saiga. Either he gets banned, or not. My position was that I’ve seen no compelling evidence of cheating, and that in fact there was some good evidence against cheating. I also demanded to know what specific cheat was suspected. The group in favor of the at-will banning just came back with some vague accusations and didn’t really answer any of that, except to suggest that I had no business telling them what to do. Still hanging on to a bit of patience, I carefully explained what kind of cheats might be possible, that the one that could possibly match in this situation was some kind of autoshoot. Still hoping they might listen, given that I had years of experience over them and was actually giving them useful information, I explained all the reasons why it’s impossible to see whether someone is using an autoshoot in spectator (unless they’re doing it egregiously).
It went back and forth, my patience was quickly gone, I got angry and frustrated, and the whole thing left me feeling exhausted, worn out, and hopeless.
I think the feeling was a bit mutual – I’d been around too long, and gotten into too many of these kinds of fruitless arguments. Not too long after that, I got into a fight with wahnfred in the internal channel over something trivial, and I quit.
Acuerta: That story could fill an entire interview alone I guess.
SDoS and Other Projects
notas: Can you tell the community a bit about your ongoing projects in sauer? To the outsider, it looks like we held one mode of sdos and are now sitting around having lost interest. Being involved myself, I can see that there is so much activity constantly going on and it saddens me how little it’s apparent how much you (with the help of people like chasm, pisto, etc) do behind the scenes.
mefisto: A number of people have asked me privately about that, so I know that people are anxious about SDoS getting underway. We’re chasing some very ambitious ideas with Day of Sobriety. We want to create a tournament that is completely free of any anxiety over cheating. If you look at the history of sauer tournaments, cheating scandals have been a constant problem, and they result extremely divisive and destructive fights.
Another of our most important goals is to allow for more participation. Most of the previous tournaments have used a knockout system, where all the competitors play in a huge map and only the top 4 move on from that. It’s been necessary to use that format, because otherwise the number of games you have to run becomes huge. But we want everyone to be able to play, so we need a system that will let us run a lot of games while keeping the workload on admins manageable.
We are also committed to running the tournament in an open fashion. Radically open, really. Already, much of the software that we’ve built to run the tournament is available, as open-source, on github. https://github.com/sauerworld The goal is that everything we use for the tournament should be open source and available in this way, except for the parts that specifically deal with the anti-cheat system and must remain confidential.
The reason that I think this is so important, is because having written a lot of the SDoS-specific code, and having previously written most of the code for the signup system that SWL used, I know how much of a pain in the ass it is and how much it impedes the creation of new tournaments that it always has to be done from scratch. I want to change that.
Finally, the goal of SDoS is not to just run a tournament, but to build a system that others can use to run tournaments. Right now starting a tournament in Sauer requires someone who knows how to make an anti-cheat client, someone who can build websites, someone who can do a server mod, someone who can organize, someone who can generate a lot of publicity and deal with getting people signed up and communicating with all the players…
Imagine instead a day when all it takes is someone with the interest and energy to do it, to get some people together and play a tourney. All of the infrastructure is there for them to do it, all it takes is some players and someone to run it. That would be huge. That’s where we want to end up.
Acuerta: What about your other projects?
mefisto: There are a few other projects in the works. The biggest one is one that I’ve been talking about for years, but finally I’m able to actually work on it. It’s called “Sauerworld,” and it’s a website and set of services for the Sauerbraten community. The first thing it’s going to provide is a login system, built on top of the auth protocol, that can be used community-wide. Players would sign up for a sauerworld account, and any server that supports it – which is quite a simple thing to do for many of the major server mods – can enable that and use the sauerworld system to authenticate players.
It will be a huge benefit to players, if they can just sign up for one account that can be used to login to all the major servers, and it will help the server operators too since they won’t have to build their own authentication and account management systems. The second thing it will provide is community-wide statistics, where player statistics from every participating server will be combined and accessible all in one place. These are the two basic services that Sauerworld will provide, and the code that’s already been written for Day of Sobriety has a lot of what’s needed to make those happen. After rolling those out, convincing servers to join and participate – which I think they will do, because it’s really an extra service that they will be providing for their players for free if they do participate – and we get that proven out, we can start building more features on top of that.
Depending on how things go and what people express an interest in, I’d like to see some kind of skill point and matchmaking system next, where players gain and lose skill points based on the results of ranked games, and the system can match them up for games with comparably-ranked players.
There’s sort of a nebulous “we” in some of this. Sauerworld is mostly a solo effort at the moment, but the SDoS people really deserve credit.
Also in the works is a project to create a “community edition” of the Sauerbraten client. It will be hosted on github and kept in sync with the main SVN, but will welcome patches from the community at large to improve or modify the client. There may also be branches for things that break compatibility with regular Sauer gameplay and so use different protocol numbers – one possible example is the Promod project that a number of the SDoS admins are working on, most notably Acuerta and notas. Its goal is to modify Sauer’s gameplay to make it more exciting and amenable specifically for competition play.
Acuerta: about SDoS: what’s been done so far, what is being done right now and what’s still left to be done?
mefisto: Here’s the status for the next SDoS: the anti-cheat client is ready. For the server mod, we are making a long-term investment in building a new server mod – the spyd project that Chasm is heading up – but for the short term we are building on an existing server mod. This is a decision we made recently as we took a look at the current state of spyd and also the threats to our infrastructure that we are realistically going to face.
In the short time since we made this move, we’re done about half of what we need to get the server mod ready.
Finally, the system that will help to automate the tournament is still a work in progress, but the server mod is really the major obstacle. Once that’s ready, and we’re looking at a matter of just weeks at this point, we will make an announcement about the next event.
A Little Book Club / Literature Talk
Acuerta: Intentionally I wanted to start off with asking you about your name. Where did you get the inspiration for ‘mefisto’? And my follow-up is if you’re a ‘Goethe’/’Faust’ fan and whether you share any character traits with ‘mephisofeles’, the devil who wants to lead astray ‘Faust’, God’s favourite.
mefisto: So as some people know, my background, what I studied, is opera singing. I’ve been singing since I was very young, and it was when I was in high school that I started to get interested in opera. The first opera I ever saw that really got me excited, was a video (on VHS tape no less) of a San Francisco production of Boito’s opera Mefistofele, which is one of the numerous operatic adaptations of the Faust legend. There’s this fantastic scene at the very beginning, in the prologue, where Mephistopheles, played by Sam Ramey, makes his entrance by climbing up onto the stage from the orchestra pit. Ramey’s got his hair dyed red, he’s wearing this awesome red topcoat with no shirt on, carrying this red violin and red violin case. He climbs up this ladder onto the stage – emerging from hell! – he opens the case, pulls out these red shoes, puts them on, strolls around and then greets God with a sarcastic “ave Signor.” I was hooked! (the video: http://youtu.be/lTP_gsP7e2c)
So I started using “mefisto” as a nick online, as an abbreviation of the Italian title of that opera. “Mephisto” is likely a more correct choice, but I never liked that ‘ph’ for some reason.
Also my mind, on purpose or not, tends to always go for things that have some kind of weird or sexual innuendo in them.
To be honest, I’ve never read Goethe’s Faust. I’m mostly familiar with the story through the operatic versions of it. I do know some Goethe poems in German because quite a few of them were set to music by Schubert, Schumann, Wolf, some others, and I’ve sung a number of them over the years.
Acuerta: You’re missing out on one of the greatest books ever! If not the greatest.
mefisto: Which one? Faust?
Acuerta: yea Goethe’s Faust, first part of the tragedy
mefisto: What’s interesting is that Faust is not God’s favorite in any of the operatic versions. In Gounod’s Faust, he’s an old man and he makes a deal with Mephisto to make him young so he can fuck the soprano.
In Boito’s Mefistofele, he’s this weirdo kind of mad scientist guy who’s searching for ultimate beauty.
Acuerta: Well, I think that’s part of its beauty. The fact that you can take the faust myth and apply it to different contexts.
mefisto: I think I do have a little bit in common with the Mephisto character, though. I mentioned before that I’m often terrifically insecure, so in order to get things done I sometimes have to sort of take myself and any kind of emotional connection out of the picture and make the goal the only reality. Mephisto has no emotional connection anyway, and flagrantly ignores normal human values in pursuit of his goals.
Acuerta: Anyway, thank you for the interview!