"When I took over the game, everything was in Swedish"

"When I took over the game, everything was in Swedish"

Many people learn second languages. In school, at university or even for a new job, but when Doug, the current developer took over Tycoon Online, it was all Swedish and he had to learn parts of the language to better understand the code. It was well worth doing this as his baby appears to be one of the stars of the persistent browser-based business simulation games.

Galaxy-News: Hi, would you mind introducing yourself to our readers?

Doug Granzow: I'm Doug Granzow, although I go by Gunzour Yellowknife in the game. I've been the lead developer of Tycoon Online for about the past two years.

Galaxy-News: Please give a brief description of TycoonOnline.

Doug Granzow: Tycoon Online is a browser-based business simulation game. It takes elements from popular tycoon-style and sim games such as Transport Tycoon, Roller Coaster Tycoon and SimCity, and puts them in an online, massively-multiplayer environment. Like other PBBGs (persistent browser-based games), it runs directly from a web-browser, with no download required.

Galaxy-News: When and Why did you started working on it?

Doug Granzow: I've always had a fondness for the Tycoon-style games, and in fact back when I played Everquest, I often told my buddies that I wished their was a massively-multiplayer game like Everquest that was business-themed. Little did I know Tycoon Online was already in development, and when I eventually discovered it in 2005, I was instantly hooked. Anders Johansson, the original developer, pretty much captured exactly what I had been wishing for. I got involved in the game and started helping him out, and eventually he handed the reins over to me.

Galaxy-News: What's your position within the team and how many other people are working for Capitalist Enterprises?

Doug Granzow: I guess you could say I am the CEO. :)
Although I did form a corporation to operate the game, it is mostly a volunteer effort -- even I don't get paid. There are a number of players who volunteer their time to help with moderating, working out new features and testing them, and answering questions from the newer players.  It's a great community and many of the active players today have been playing longer than I have.

Galaxy-News: What makes TycoonOnline different from other persistent web games? Why would you recommend it to our readers?

Doug Granzow: I think it is pretty uniquely positioned.  There are a lot of fantasy- and mafia- themed games out there, but very few Tycoon games. For those that like Tycoon games, TO is really the best.

The game is fun for both casual and hardcore players.

Galaxy-News: What features does your Premium Account offer? And in how far is it limited to protect non-paying players?

Doug Granzow: We offer Gold Memberships that have a lot of nice little perks such as the ability to upload a company banner ad, the ability to maintain a company blog, unlimited login time, not having to wait when the server is processing game updates, etc.  A lot of the statistics that are available in the game are displayed as graphs for Gold Members, where normal players just see a table of numbers.  The biggest benefit, of course, is knowing that you are helping to cover the costs of running the game and keeping it online.

It is very important for game balance to make sure that you can't buy your way to victory, and I think Tycoon Online does a great job with that. Although there are a lot of benefits to Gold Membership, none of them give you a direct gain in the game. Also, we have had non-paying players win the game on several occasions.

Galaxy-News: The latest round started on June 22, how is it going?

Doug Granzow: We're off to a good start. We have a couple of changes with the transport system this round that have made that part of the game much more active and engaging, so I think that has worked out really well.

Each round lasts 70 days, and we typically have a one-week break in between. It's still early in the round, so right now is a great time for new players to join in and learn the ropes!

Galaxy-News: Now let's concentrate on the development side of your PBBG. What technology do you use and why?

Doug Granzow: The game is entirely PHP and MySQL based. I've done PHP development for years so it is a natural fit for me. I'm a big fan of open source and I like the balance of performance and ease of deployment that I get from PHP.

One of the struggles I've had is that when I took over the game, everything was in Swedish, since that is the native language of the original developer. You might think that shouldn't matter since it is still PHP, but with all of the variable names, function names, and even documentation in Swedish, it has taken quite a while for me to get to know the code really well.

Galaxy-News: What are you future development plans and in how far is the community able to influence them?

Doug Granzow: We have a couple of major efforts underway now to translate the game into some new languages. I hope to launch those in the next few months, so I'm quite excited by that. :)

As for actual game improvements, the community does have a huge influence on that.  Every round there are some new features introduced, and there is no shortage of suggestions in the game forums for additional new features.  The best suggestions get fleshed out in a test environment that many of the players participate in, and assuming everything goes smoothly, those new features make it to the game.

Galaxy-News: I heard you brought along a little gift for our readers?

Doug Granzow: Indeed, I have five 70-day Gold Memberships for you to raffle off to your readers!

Galaxy-News: Thanks for the interview and all the best for the future!

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