A Decade of Personal Halfquake
I woke up one day during the middle of the night and had an idea to make a browser game, in which players could build and manage farms. Cows, pigs, sheep, hens, windmills, fields of corn - the whole shebang.
It was a time shortly after the release of Halfquake Amen
. I'd just begun learning Perl, the new version of The Farm was out, Halfquake Amen Comics
So, I thought to myself: That's boring. I'd rather let everyone kill victims instead to get experience points. Everyone would have his or her very own personal victim murdering space and be able to hire contracts to collect more of them every day. Personal Halfquake was born.
Back then I didn't have a webspace that supported Perl and MySQL databases, so I was given some space on a friend's server. Note that this server was also host to some other sites for LAN parties and Counter-Strike clans.
When PHQ went online on March 1st 2003, I noticed that players (or rather sadists
) liked to destroy each other's institutes by sending thousands of dragons to battle, taking apart traps and victims. So much in fact, that the server got slowed down. I remember sitting next to my girlfriend's brother, watching the attack script slowly display the results of him sending a lot
of dragons to another player. I had to implement a limit of dragons, and a way to defend yourself (by building lots of Super Victims).
Players could also open a Box of Sadism and either get rewards or nothing. There was no limit to that action, so one could test one's luck forever.
One day, I visited Jazzymike and he showed me a HTML page with a dozen frames, each of them loading the script that opened the box. And he kept reloading those frames. I didn't know whether to be amazed or terrified. I laughed with him back then, but when I got home, my friend who's server PHQ was hosted on wrote me a message via ICQ: "What's phq_surprise.cgi?"
Apparently, Jazzymike had caused the script to run a few hundred times in succession, breaking the game by receiving millions of SD (Sadism Dollars), and killing the server's performance.
Instead of putting a limit on it, I simply moved the script into a subfolder called "banned".
Another exploit involved selling victims on the black market (instantly) for a higher price than they could be caught via contracts. It allowed someone to climb up the ranking list in basically no time.
There were a lot of lessons to be learned. There had to be limits to everything. I started throwing values of traps and contracts into excel sheets and calculated sane numbers, that would not break the game and allow for a steady and safe rise in levels.
A reset had to happen, and I learned that people did not like resets. I even went so far as to fake a reset for April 1st 2003 (those things never go well).
I introduced rounds, based on an idea posted in the forums. Players rightfully weren't happy with losing their progress, so I saved the ranking list of previous rounds and displayed them on the start page
Fights broke out in the forum because of PvP. On the one side you had players that sought the thrill of destroying someone's base, on the other you had the ones who'd rather just build up and manage their economy. Three months after the release, I put PHQ offline for almost two months, and when it went back up online
, PvP was gone.
Some people have pointed out to me that this was the point when PHQ lost its edge. I've tried to replace PvP with Bomb Victims II, Heal The Dragon, Chosen Victims fighting other Chosen Victims, Draversi, and three different direct attack systems, one involving all creatures, one where you could send someone a bomb to dismantle, and the current one that allows you to Inflict Insanity upon somebody else.
Things never really stuck and PHQ reached a point where nearly everyone agreed that there were too many things to do and, well, people simply got tired of it. Trying to remedy that, I produced vast updates
every now and then for seven years, pushing PHQ to its final version V
in 2010. After the release of Halfquake Sunrise, I gave up. Having announced the end of development multiple times since 2003, this was the point of no return for me.
Although, it turns out that the actual game was only the initial reason why people joined PHQ, they actually stayed for something else: the community.
I've met the nicest persons and made dozens of new best friends on PHQ, most of them I will remember until I die. I've started working with a handful of individuals, creating games, music and stories. I tried to turn PHQ into a full fledged community network, giving everyone the opportunity to create Personal Pages
, write blog entries and articles
, just so their minds could shine.
I have so many fond memories; staying up late talking in HQ Chat, hosting the Draversi Tournament and LordAsriel winning it
, all the PHQ contest entries, the time when we sent Ally her "get-better-soon" poster, seeing you guys actually play the things I created, talking to EskimboBob and Legion while testing the first version of I'm a Dragon, the endless forum posts
, that awesome Cause of Absence
picture we made together...
To this day I believe that was the whole purpose of PHQ: to meet amazing friends. And even though most of you have moved on with your lives, let me just say: Thank you. For everything.