Many thanks to Gnug315 for giving up his time to do this interview for us. Also thanks to Thor who interviewed gnug
For those of you that don't know him, Gnug315 has played many different games, he has a passion for gaming, be it RTS games, or Poker. Regardless, you will enjoy this interview. Photo and Interview below.
Hi Gnug, thanks for taking your time to do this interview.
Tell us a little about yourself - age/location/occupation?
I'm 29, live in Copenhagen, Denmark and have been a pro backgammon & poker player for 5 years now. I’m born English/Swedish, and most of family lives in Berkeley, CA, which I’ve visited about 70 times. I'm currently rehearsing for a musical, an amateur production, which is a lot of fun. I’ve got a very understanding gnugette and a couple very feline cats.
I’m agnostic, not into politics, and don’t follow the news. I care not for cars, but do enjoy clever bumper stickers, like “Don’t make me pray in school, and I’ll promise not to think in your church”. I enjoy intelligent conversation, probably come off as quite cynical, but am really a very empathetic person. I’m an experienced procrastinator. I read a lot before I discovered the evil internet in ’93, which seduced me with it’s interactivity and instant gratification. I hope to have a nice cottage in the mountains one day, and read a lot more, up in a nice spire with a view and a fireplace. I enjoy good food and watch a lot of movies. I’ll lay you 100 to 1 odds on there being life all over the universe, but couldn’t guesstimate the odds of there being intelligent life also. My fave movie is, unsurprisingly, Contact (link to http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118884/).
You can go to www.gnug.org for some background on us Gnugs, though it’s still in the middle of a way, way overdue update.
Tell us about your background as a gamer, what got you hooked at first and what old titles did you play?
I guess my background is that I've been an avid gamer since as far back as I can remember. Board games, card games, role-playing games, arcade games and a PC gamer of all genres since I played Pong on a Mac in '84. I'm a real competitive kinda gnug, and enjoy the challenge of mastering new games.
Therefore, those that know me probably weren’t surprised when I ended up dropping out of the last year of high school (twice) largely due to the distraction of games - quite immature, and a very silly waste of time, but hey, there you have it. Perhaps I was rebelling against my academically hardcore family. Or maybe I just refused to grow up. In any case, it was probably inevitable that I would end up making a living playing games – something I naturally appreciate very much
After school I spent 4 years working in a PC shop and it’s subsidiary internet cafés, which gave me easy access to a lot of competitive online gaming. I dug Duke Nukem 3D, Quake, and grew to be a pretty hardcore HL death-match player. An online ranking site put me at most frags per hour out of 4˝ million nicks one week, which was pretty wild. I’ve played a plethora of RTS in my time, but my fave ones would have to be (in chronological order) C&C, TA, Empire Earth and Dawn of War, with a shout-out to Homeworld. Working in the net-café, I eventually found myself making more money playing backgammon online than I was paid to do my job, quit soon after and never looked back. That was five years ago.
When not grinding it online, my BG career took me to a lot of places, like Paris, Cannes and Monte Carlo, even as remote as Tangier and Bali, where I took home a number of decent prizes. About two and a half years ago I played a tourney in Vegas, and saw how much (more) money there was in poker. At that time I hadn’t improved at BG for a good while – hovering around top 50 in the world, without a chance in hell of ever breaking top 10 – and wasn’t finding it terribly interesting to play anymore. So, when I got back home I pretty much switched to poker overnight. I had to learn a new game from scratch, and while I did okay from the get-go, it took me almost a year to really start earning. Nevertheless, poker is a wild beast to tame, a tough mother to master. It could keep me busy for a lifetime, if I choose to stick with it. It’s very, very deep.
I know you were quite a name in TA, what made that game so special? Did you play TA:Spring? Will you play SupCom?
Imho - and the opinion of most anyone who has played multiplayer TA - TA is still unsurpassed in quality as a RTS game. It's not so much the innovations it came with, such as 3D units and a real physics engine (back in '97, ed.), but the sheer scope, and esp. the scalability of the game. It's the only game I know of that plays equally well on tiny rush maps as it does on huge maps, where games often end up as epic, hour-long marathon slugfests. Most modern games are tailored to very specific settings, and don't lend themselves well to larger maps, or even maps of other varieties. TA played great as land-maps, metal maps (high income maps, ed.), sea-only maps, island maps and air-only maps, as well as any mixture of the above, and all sizes.
The key genius of TA, though, is the resource system, for several reasons: In TA, one builds one's own resource/income structures. This basically means that the player can decide if he wants more income or another unit, for the entire duration of the game. Finding the balance of growth between additional income, defensive structures, production facilities and the combat units of all types they produce is thus the critical issue. Every single thing you build is a strategic choice, and lots of different build orders and strategies are viable. What's more, there's no limit to how far one can take it - one can keep expanding one's war engine forever. There's no artificially imposed limit. Thanks to the way the units interact and the way the TA world works, huge armies of units function well. One doesn’t need to baby-sit them, changing attack stances or using special abilities. They largely take care of them selves. Instead, one controls veritable streams of units, directing them along corridors in the landscape, or putting them on patrol along the perimeter. You have games where literally dozens of units are crashing into each other every second, in a never-ending onslaught: hundreds of units and structures shelling each other nonstop. Inevitably, eventually one side is overcome by the sheer mass of tanks, robots, airplanes, artillery ships, bombers, long-ranged cannons and nukes hammering down on all sides, and crumbles under the pressure.
The other key issue is one can always start construction on whatever one needs - it'll just build slower if one can't afford to build at full speed. This makes controlling one's production a hundred times easier, as one can do everything in the order one wants – for example, one might concentrate on a certain outpost first, issuing orders necessary to control the area, build defensive structures etc, and then go to the other side of the map and reclaim the necessary resources. It makes macro a ton easier; everything just flows, man.
The TA world also just plain makes sense. There’s no complicated rock/paper/scissor/hammer/fire/fruit unit relationship to memorize, unlike most RTS games. Instead, everything does what one might expect. It’s tank/bigger_tank/biggest_tank, plain and simple.
A cute extra thing TA has is the way destroyed units and structures can leave a corpse consisting of up to 80% of its cost in reclaimable resources. This means it's an advantage to control the area of the battle, as one gets to recycle not only one's own units, but the opponent's as well. It's a key strategic feature of the game. I once had a terrific game where I ended up fueling my forward-going war machine solely on the spoils of war, and kept the momentum going as I swept thru both my opponent's bases.
I never did get into TA:Spring, or any of the TA mods. I played TA for 4˝ years, and retired at the top of my game - though I was still improving every week. I'm certain I've been substantially surpassed by now, though, as TA seems to be a game with a never-ending learning curve. One can simply always do something better than last time. This is due to the sheer scope of the game, and what makes is so satisfying to play.
Very little is known about SupCom, but so far all I've heard is great. It sounds like TA taken many levels higher. I just hope they don't dumb down the resource system. It's funny, we've never really been sure in the TA community about how much of TA's brilliance was due to genius, and how much due to sheer luck. It's easy to imagine how for example the corpse-resource issue, a key element in game-play, came as an afterthought. I'll definitely play it. I have never looked forward to a game so much before - though HL2 was much awaited also
I know a lot of the members from this site know you from C&C:Generals. What about C&C:Generals appealed to you? And what didn’t you like - what made you quit?
Generals was a cute little tactical game. It just played well, and was great for short, fun challenges. Needless to say, it's a completely different creature from TA, but I enjoy those too . I just get done with such games a lot sooner. I think Gens lasted 2 or 3 months for me. Two things make me quit - the balance issues, and the lack of replayability (compared to TA, and other epic games like Empire Earth). Or maybe I just found another game at the time.
A lot of us remember the replays with you vs. Pillars, and I know you played with him in other games as well - what makes that guy so good?
Pillars is one-of-a-kind. In the various fields of gaming I compete in, I very occasionally stumble upon someone one might label as a genius of that field. Pillars is such a person. He's one of the few westerners who made it in Korea as a pro StarCraft player, though he chose to only spend three months there.
I remember the first game I had with him in Gens. I had a number of games under my belt already so I had a decent strategy going on, while he was new to the game. He was using the most unorthodox units and strategies. It was extremely odd to play against, and not terribly effective, but I could tell his micro was godlike. I managed to pull of a victory that time, but remember feeling I had witnessed something special.
It's no surprise it didn't take him long to be #1. He’s just an all-round incredibly talented player that excels so much in all the relevant areas, it’s almost impossible to keep up. I really couldn't compete, but I did enjoy the challenge a lot. He later did the same in Empires: Dawn of the Modern World (which unfortunately suffered too much from balance issues and was abandoned by the skilled players within a rather short time span).
Incidentally, I got him started on Poker. (other RTS pros, like Tillerman and Elky, are also pursuing poker "careers" – quite successfully, one might add). He's frighteningly bright, and could probably succeed at anything he wants to. He’s also a really nice and funny guy, so I enjoyed every interaction I had with him, even if he was sk00ling me most of the time.
Pillars has been MIA for a while now, but I really hope to bump into him again, either on some god-forsaken battlefield, or possibly *gasp* in real life.
What are your gaming strengths and weaknesses?
As for RTS’s, my strength is definitely my aptitude at prioritizing. I have a good sense for what is most important to focus on. Sometimes it's micro of various sorts, while other times it's abandoning a battle and getting something more important done. I’m good at multitasking, and being aware of the whole situation, the big picture. One might call it "playing the map" (as opposed to fretting too much over a local situation). I also have a good sense of the flow of a game, where my opponent is at, and what strategy to use - rush, expand, tech or whatever. All this helps me a ton more in TA than it does in most modern RTS’s, which are invariably quite micro-focused.
I'm reasonably fast, but my weakness is probably my micro. I could never be bothered to micro at insane APMs (actions per minute, ed). That's why I like TA so much, compared to StarCraft and Age of Fne (fne is a gnug fill-in word, ed.) games. Dawn of War is also quite forgiving in the micro-department, since units don't die instantly and because they regenerate. Homeworld comes to mind also. I strongly prefer those games where one doesn’t lose due to two or three second’s inattention. Having one’s army go poof because they were on move instead of attack-move, and they all died within three seconds due to this, is just silly and frustrating.
I play a lot of different types of games, but I think my sense of flow, understanding of a game’s dynamics, and ability to look at the big picture are my strongest assets, as well as come up with unorthodox uses and strategies (which I try to share with the community, ie. http://www.gnug.org/info/g-stuff.html back in the day). I have a good sense of logic, which helps me a lot in poker. I’m don’t care much for chess, but I do enjoy Kung Fu Chess. (link to www.kungfuchess.com)
Oddly, I’m a relatively slow learner. Granted, my experience alone sets me ahead of most others when approaching a new game, but I sometimes take a long time thinking of the most obvious stuff. It took me 4 weeks to think of making more than one harvester in the original C&C back in ’95, lol. But, I continue improving for a long time, always looking for better ways of doing things. I like to seek out the best players in a game and play against them until I can beat them. It took me about a year to finally beat SJ (co-creator of TA Demo & TA Spring, ed.) on Painted Desert in TA, a tough, large land map, but when I finally did, I dominated on it until I retired. I guess I’m a perfectionist when it comes to games.
Which leads me to another point: motivation, dedication – simply, the love of the game - is obviously a key issue to mastering one, just like it is for everything else in life. It’s the reason we don’t see many female gamers in most competitive games, and very rarely any strong ones. It’s just not their nature. They simply care about other things in life a whole lot more, and end up excelling in those areas instead. The best gamers are always the most dedicated ones, just like everything else in life: the best musicians, best chefs, best fathers, you name it. Einstein probably couldn’t stop a peon rush to save his life, but it would hardly be for lack of brain power. I happen to enjoy annihilating opponents on virtual battlefields quite a lot, so while I’m utterly unskilled in most useful areas, I’m a darn good gnug to send if you need a cyber world conquered
How important is balance to you? You played USA in CCG and play Orks in DoW, obviously not the strongest races, do you have a "thing" for the underdog?
Balance is a huge factor in how long a game is playable. If a game isn't balanced perfectly, it's only a question of time before it breaks. Once players reach a good enough skill-level to basically secure a win every time against a certain, or several, weaker races, the game becomes pointless to play at a competitive level. Unfortunately, perfect balance in an RTS is an ever-fleeting thing. Fix one "imba", and you create another. This is why there' has been no RTS games to date with perfect balance, and why they're still patching StarCraft to this day. You can't really blame the developers, though sometimes they do come off as shockingly, uhm, boneheaded. Sometimes the balance issues are glaringly obvious, while other times it does take countless gaming hours of testing at the hands of gosu players to discover the game-ruining imba of a game. Still, some games, like chess and TA, provide endless replayabilty despite obvious imbas, which just goes to showing how good they are at the core.
I'm baffled as to why developers aren't prioritizing balance as a KEY element. No, it's not good enough to have the designers to the testing. They're educated and often highly skilled programmers and artists, but they're not necessarily hardcore gamers. The amount of money in games today surely allows for a cellar full of Koreans working on play-testing! It's absurd that companies spend millions on brilliant games like DoW, and don't throw in a couple hundred grand on ensuring optimal balance. I guess it's just testimony to the fact that regular online gamers constitute less then 10% of the customers, and probably less than 1% of those have enough wit to recognize a balance issue. The reality of that fact, along with the pressure of shipping dates, just weighs too heavily still, and it's a damn shame. Or maybe the designers need to not only realize, but also admit to themselves that they need support from hardcore, professional, cream-of-the-crop gamers in order to balance an RTS at an adequate level... which if you ask me, is the highest level. It's no good letting the reward of getting good enough at a game be that the game suddenly breaks and becomes unplayable!
I definitely have a thing for the underdogs. It's very satisfying to beat others with an inferior race, plus you have a great excuse when you lose! It's a win-win situation . I did it in arcade games like the Virtua Fighter series ’93-‘97(a very deep fighting game), and was a diehard GDI player in C&C '95. I've also just plain played games so much in my life that I want to play the race with the least normal style, just for the freshness of it. For some reason, that side/race/character usually turns out to be the weakest.
What's the best game you've ever played?
Assuming you mean "of any kind", I'd have to say Go. It's an ancient Asian board game focused on strategy and tactics both. It's a beautiful, flawlessly balanced, endlessly deep and a hugely rewarding game to play. It even has a great handicap system allowing for two unequal players to get perfectly even and meaningful games against each other - though, since a handicap is given, they're really only playing against their own prior performances, and not so much the obviously inferior or superior opponent. It allows for a large variety in style, and the players' personality, mentality and even mood really shows. There’s a distinct difference between how Chinese, Korean and Japanese masters play Go – much like in their martial arts. It's also the only game so mathematically pure that it's likely to be played elsewhere in the universe. There's a reason any chess aficionado that tries it never goes back, while the opposite is unheard of. I implore everyone to give it a serious go (no pun intended) at some point in their lives.
Incidentally, I introduced SJ to it, and we had many a good game during the nightshifts I ran at the net-café I worked at for a couple years.
What will you be playing in the future, besides SupCom?
Well, I really should concentrate on teh pokeh, given that it pays my rent... but, knowing me, I can't help myself from trying out new games. I just got Civ 4 and my BFME2 beta key, and am looking forward to Rise of Legends, Paraworld and Company of Heroes - even though I have nothing to go by aside from a few screenshots and the developer names. I’m on break from DoW:WA until they fix the balance issues; if they don’t, I’ll wait till their next expansion hits the shelves, adding two additional races. I'll also give the new FPS games a spin, like the Far Cry expansion, Unreal 2007, Prey, STALKER and Duke Nukem Forever if it ever shows. Spore sounds very intriguing, I’ll definitely check that out.
Mostly, though, I'm waiting on SupCom. I’m looking so much forward to facing off against my hero Gnug825 (aka TAG_ROCK) again; he was my steady TA opponent throughout the TA era, plus in EE and Generals. I may be getting too slow and daft to dominate games in my old age, but if there’s ever a game made for me to rule in, that’ll be it. We've had a day-counter going for it in #gnug on irc.gnug.org for half a year now . I'll probably spend the summer months in Vegas for the 2006 WSOP, so that'll take up a nice chunk of my time, but it's all just filler for the wait on my real mission in life: to become the Supreme Commander of the Universe!
Once again, many thanks to Gnug315 and Thor for bringing this interview to us
Cool, thanks for posting.
However, please change the color to something else, it's very hard to read with the BFME-skin.
Orange should be better.
Great interview, makes the others we have seem distinctly amateur.
Red color hurts my eyes
GJ anyway and nice interview
Changed text-color from red to orange, it's no readable both with C&C- and BFME-skin.
And respect for this interview! Very, very well done! Very interesting read!
I guess I'll finally check out TA:Spring now.
Yeah, nice interview, good to hear something about him again: )
If anyone is interested in his 1.5 replays, I got some somewhere
Cool interview ! GJ !
Another dane, lol.
Maybe he has played a lot with gus hansen in BackGammon and now trying to be just as succesfull as he is in poker.
Would like to see an pillars interview and maxpovver.
really great interview and i like his explenations
CHESS > POKER.
Really interesting...ill try to apply what he says in my games
Was a very nice read, although i dont know the guy . Maybe ill meet him in a future RTS
Ah, Gnug315 was my hero back in the day. It was his USA replays (specifically his nook drops) that really made me see how fun competitive RTSs games could be. After I watched some of his games, I tried a more offensive style of play (I was previously mostly a turtler) and I started winning a lot more. Very nice interview also.
Good ole gnug guys.
Can´t wait to see his Supreme Commander Replays.
I mean he soo cant wait for it.....
hope you all realize how good that game will be....
For all who didnt check for it yet, get all info http://www.gamereplays.org/community/index.php?showtopic=64728
I enjoyed the interview a lot, he was such a great ccg player during the early days. I'm glad i had the opportunity to play against him, learn't so much.
fantastic rts player!
Wow I really didnt expect to se an interview with a Gnug guy here since I didnt even know that he played CCG.
He was sort of my hero back in the TA days and I still look at his TA demos with great respect as im not even 1% of his skill
He actually seems to have the exact same look on gaming in general as me. Oh and btw, I was also a HLDM hardcore.. although i mosly competed on LANs since i really enjoyed HL on a nice ping. You can actually get into really advanced gameplay after a few hundred hours spent on crossfire
Great to see you people enjoyed it
Yea Great interview!
I agree with most thing u`ve said. Like the thing about the motivation.
In the first few months of most games I`m always motivated. After a few months when the game gets less interesting, and becomes unbalanced u`ll lose the motivation.
I remember we played a few games now and then on Generals. We both won games and I ended your clans win streak, which was like 48 wins in a row Lol!
Even the greatest players can`t have a big lead in skill to the other players. For example an average ZH player now plays better than the best players of ZH 2 years ago. Players learn from eachother and develop new strategies and tactics.
Cool, i love these interviews, please keep them coming.
Great interview ThOR, a very interesting read.
Great interview @gamereplays.
We want more oldskool...
Great Interview Gnug315 and Thor
I will always stay attracted to the thought of quitting all education and just go all out gaming since that is my true passion, sick as it may be thats what i feel like :/
Kudos to you Gnug315 for making it as a Pro
Wish i played generals from the start
I was still whoring RA2 then
I vaguely remember gnug, but I really don't know anything about him. Now I know Very nice interview though, it's a lot better than all the others. Thanks for posting.
No idea who the guy is, or who he was in previous games, but I sure did enjoy the long and detailed interview.
I'be bumped into 315 in my TA days, seen him hang around in Empire Earth a few times, and read up on his killer Ork rush challenge in Dawn of War (I quit DoW before I could witness what became of it, but in the onset, it looked good). I admire his analytical approach that really makes a point of prioritizing before acting.
I played him in the SupCom Beta once and I've been an unsportsmanlike compromising butthead for not giving him his rematch yet.
Just didn't get around to it the past two nights, and whenever I was free, 315 was marked as away. Sorry.
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