by Urizenus Sklar on 02/01/11 at 7:28 pm
In this interview we meet, Ghost, a former resident of Blazing Falls on TSO. He is currently involved in a project called TSO Restoration, which is a team of developers that are working to build a version of TSO on private servers. He claims it will have all the features of the TSO we loved to hate, and more! But if they build it, will people come?
Urizenus: Ghost, tell me about your project.
Ghost: Before TSO Restoration was founded, it was initially just a solo effort started by Mats (Afr0) a talented programmer from Norway who desired to create a TSO Private Server. He began work on this project in 2007 before EA-Land and managed to get together a small team of developers on a game developer forum. It was done more as hobby, working in their spare time to emulate the game. The small team eventually separated and went on to do their own things but Afr0 continued to work on it once in a while. It was in late 2007, when TSO was still around, that I contacted Afr0 about helping out with the project. After several years of keeping the project hidden, we decided to release the project to the public – in hopes of finding talented programmers to assist us with this task. The TSO Restoration Project was officially public on October 22, 2010. Since that time, we have gained several more developers who are assisting in various efforts of the project and we are confident that we will eventually achieve our goal.
Urizenus: How does one do something like this, especially now that the original TSO is no more? Do you reverse engineer EA’s platform?
Ghost: Unfortunately, because the TSO servers are no longer online – we’re unable to gather any more packets. This means we’re no longer an “emulation” project. Everything except perhaps the art and graphics is being recreated by our team.
Urizenus: So you are building it from scratch. Will it be aesthetically identical to the tSO we remember?
Ghost: Yes, our goal of the project is to make it look and interact exactly as the original TSO.
Urizenus: So the same motives then. What about all the usual interactions? tickling, dancing etc?
Ghost: You will be able to do all of the interactions. In fact, there is no reason we can not have more than just the original interactions. Our team plans on not only providing the same TSO experience for free, but also adding improvements to the game. What is to stop us from supporting unicode with special characters? Why not raise the tile limit and have size nine or ten lots? These are just a few of the ideas our team has in making the game more enjoyable.
Urizenus: What about the possibility of having users provide custom content and custom animations?
Ghost: As we saw in EA-Land, the TSOClient definitely has the potential to support such endeavors. We will pursue such capabilities in the future. I can’t promise you that custom content will be in our first release though.
Urizenus: What is the business plan for this going to be. How are you going to pay for this? And is the plan for it to actually make money for you some day?
Ghost: Our team is not motivated by financial reasons. We’re planning on providing the game free of charge on our own servers supported by donations. It is also our goal to eventually make it Open Source. This will allow developers to make their own versions of TSO and also allow people with little to no programming experience start their own servers with their friends.
when can we join?
Urizenus: How long before this is ready for open alpha/beta and how will people find out when it is ready?
Ghost: We’ve been getting that question a lot. It’s hard to give a definite timeframe on a project like this. I want to emphasize: The question is not “Will TSO Return”.. The question is “When will TSO Return?”. Our developers are motivated and dedicated to this project. A few more talented C++ programmers can make the difference between years and months in development time before we begin private testing. This is why it is critical that we continue to find more talent to work with our team. We will release information regarding testing on our community website http://www.tsorestoration.com – Anyone who contributes their time or money on our website should expect to be called upon when we’re ready for testing.
why TSO again? now?
Urizenus: As you may know, I left TSO in 2004, the same time as many other people moved to Second Life. On my visits back to TSO it seemed rather primitive and quaint, although I did have some big nostalgia attacks. So the question has to be asked: Why are you rebuilding what is really an ancient platform? What are you still attracted to it? Why are other people attracted to it?
Ghost: First and foremost, we’re rebuilding TSO because it is something that we are very passionate about. We miss the game and enjoy the challenge in a project of this scale. I also left TSO in 2004 when they took away the old friendship link system, which by the way – will be brought back. I personally believe that TSO filled a subconscious void in peoples lives. Besides being a part of The Sims Franchise, people loved the simplicity of the game. That is ultimately what it comes down to. MMORPG’s like World of Warcraft do well because they are easy. It is not because they have superior graphics or complex, thought-provoking gameplay. That is not to say that TSO was easy, it certainty wasn’t.. but doing things like playing pizza doesn’t take anywhere near the effort it takes to become a successful content creator in SL. It forced people to interact, to make friendships that last to this day. I think even years later, people will still be attracted to it.
will people actually play this?
Urizenus: How many people do you think will come and play your version of TSO?
Ghost: You look at TSO in 2008, you had thousands of subscribers spending $10 a month for each account. While that may not be a lot compared to other online games, I believe there will still be thousands of people eager to play. Especially now that it is free. I’m optimistic that we will have at least one full city of people. We’re hoping to make it as easy as possible to get into the game, unlike other private servers which requires a whole lot of tinkering with game files. Even if no one is attracted to our version, we will still release the technology which will allow people to run their own versions. This will allow a small group of friends (assuming they have the hardware) to have a small “Sims Online” community between just them. Since we’re not motivated by money, we really have nothing to lose if what we’re doing isn’t as popular as we thought. Of course, it is always good for morale to see people interested in playing again.
Urizenus: a few thousand subscribers?
Ghost: When EA-Land was in it’s peak (all of the cities merged), They had around 900 users online at a time. I also want to point out, they wouldn’t be subscribers, since they are not paying any fees to access our server. A few thousand users should be more than enough to have a "full city" feeling 24/7.
Urizenus: Do you have plans for dealing with disputes between residents and griefers? And mafias?
Ghost: Just like the original TSO, we will have a Customer Service section dedicated to solving disputes between players. People may feel that they have less to lose since they are paying nothing to log in the servers, but I would like to point out that we can do a lot of things that EA wouldn’t do. For example, EA was never strict on IP Banning, you could go purchase a new account and log back in after getting banned. We eliminate such capabilities for griefers. We have no issues with mafias or other role-play groups that decide to settle in our server.
Urizenus: will you bring back red links?
Ghost: Yes, the old friendship link system (tagging) will be brought back.
Urizenus: Let’s talk about the legal aspects of this. Do you have permission from EA to do this? It is hard for me to imagine that they would willingly turn over their Sims franchise to a handful of independent programmers.
Ghost: Sure. Parts of our project are in the legal grey area. That won’t stop us from doing what we have set out to do. Unlike Blizzard, EA is not notorious for spending large amounts of money on lawsuits. We’re hoping that they won’t spend the time and money required to shut down a small group of indie developers. I’d also like to point out that what we’re doing is in no way unusual. You can find thousands of private servers for all different types of MMORPGS that have yet to be shut down by the original game developers. What we’re doing, since we’re rebuilding all the code from scratch, actually makes us more legal than the other projects I tell you about. SWGEmu, InWorldz SL, WoWServers, and Lineage Private servers are all examples of similar projects that have been going on for years without running into legal trouble. We’re here for the long term and we are confident that we can avoid any such issues coming from EA.
Urizenus: Are you going to allow the open sale of simoleans and rares?
Ghost: I think it is inevitable. People are going to want an advantage in any game. In this case, people are going to want to go back to the standard of living that they were used to when they quit. We’re fortunate to have a very talented development team, which includes the creator of the infamous TSOAuto Maze Bot. We know how to shut down any unfair advantages, so any sales of simoleans and rares will be allowed and not regulated.
red balloon redemption
Urizenus: Last question: am I still kicked out or can I come back when you start up?
Ghost: You have been pardoned by the TSOResoration Development Team. We look forward to seeing you in our server and hope that you will post entertaining TSO news like you did back in the day!