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TM Interview Project - MrA
TM Interview Project - MrA 22 Jan, 2014
 wormi (17 comments, 3799 views)  

Today we have a person who is the reason why you can read this text here. Let me introduce you the almighty adminstrator of TM-Exchange sites – MrA! You can find more infomation about the project here. Enjoy his answers!


1. Could you tell us something about yourself?
In the world of Trackmania / Shootmania / ManiaPlanet, I seem to go by the name 'MrA' - contrary to what some might believe, I didn't pick the name because I think I am brilliant... Actually the first time I loaded Trackmania Original it asked me to create a profile, I didn't have any particular interest in what the profile would be called, but as my favourite movie at that time, the 'The Matrix', was fresh in my mind, I entered "Mr. Anderson" as my profile. Little did I know that soon I would be playing online and becoming involved in TMX. At some point, I joined a team (it was RZA) and "Mr. Anderson" was too long to look good with the [RZA] tag, so I shortened it to [RZA]MrA. I later just adopted the shorter name as my main title.

2. How and when did you find Trackmania?
I have a younger sister, and back in 2004 (or even late 2003) she saw it in a magazine and asked if I could try and get it for her. By 'get it' she meant download it. Well, I wasn't too worried about piracy back then, so I just went online, found it somehow, and downloaded and installed it for her. I had to check it loaded, so I started playing the nadeo maps and actually found it to be quite fun. There was a problem though with the version, it crashed when it got to the Rally maps, and as I rather liked Alpine (later renamed to Snow) and Speed (later renamed to Desert), I wanted to see Rally. I could either go online and find another pirate version, or just buy it, so I went onto amazon (or some other online retailer) and ordered it. I still have it on the shelf, in its red box.

3. How was TMX born?
Lets imagine we are in March 2004 (or about that time). By now, I was playing online, still as "Mr Anderson", I had started making maps, and I wanted people to play them, so I would host my own server using the in game server launcher. There weren't massive dedicated servers back then, so 8 to 10 players was considered a busy server. I was getting good feedback for my maps, people liked to play them, and at some point someone was telling me I must upload them to TMX. Eventually I got around to checking it out and I found a site that looked a bit like :

Well as you can see from that, it looks very old - and the news item is signed off by "MrD" & "JayPee" (You can also see three of the newest tracks are by Mr.Anderson", so by the time of that snapshot, I had found TMX, but I may not have been part of the crew.)

MrD created TMX (coded) while JayPee did all the web design, art & styling. I have talked to MrD about this previously, he and JayPee 'met' online and were talking about how they needed access to more tracks, so between them they decided to make a site for it. The first version was really quite simple, it let you upload tracks and it listed the newest ones, but they had no idea when it opened if anyone would upload a track. Well, we know now they did ;)

At various times, MrD would be posting news items about how progress was going, and he would ask for ideas or feedback, so I emailed him some of my ideas, and he replied, and gradually I became involved. Rax (who was a moderator on the site) asked me if I would join the team, and I declined, I was concerned I wouldn't have the time, and I really just didn't want the responsibilities... I got asked again and at some point I agreed to join the crew. I ended up talking to MrD a lot on MSN (almost every day) about the design and what updates we were doing.

(So that's how I got involved, I just stumbled into Trackmania, and then stumbled into TMX).

4. Mania-Exchange was built for long. Can you tell us about it?
I'm not sure when, but MrD was getting tired of the game, Sunrise and Nations brought him back for short periods, but somehow, I ended up being left in command, as it were. With MrD doing less and less, we had to find new coders, we found Flo, who did some nice things (showcase). We found Rix who coded the world records system on TMX along with the full StarTrack presentation. We found Fleppie, who helped us with some coding and more importantly out of a very tight situation where we were having hosting problems. And then there was fastforza (forzyy) who joined us and he coded Mania Exchange from scratch as the site for TM2.
Today, forzyy has pretty much lost interest and we have TGYoshi, so somehow, we managed to keep having someone there to develop the site. My part is really just to sort of, facilitate, all of that to happen. Its my small part.

5. You're a semi-active Shootmania player as well. What do you think about the game?
Well I am not much of an active SM player, I like to build maps and I like to see how players play the map, or find ways to play on the map which suits their tactics. As a player I am pretty useless, I can't aim and I'm not fast or skilled at moving, and I usually embarrass myself, but sometimes I like to play if it is with a certain group.. l feel its much more fun to play Shootmania with a group of friends than with random players.

6. All FPS games work like that to me. But now Trackmania is 10 years old. What do you think about the game's current situation?
At the moment its feels like we have too many titles, there is TM2 Canyon, TM2 Stadium & TM2 Valley and then a host of spin off titles which are as separate as the base titles, I can easily have 20 TM2 titles in ManiaPlanet if I want to, yet I can only look at whats happening in one of them at a time.

I think it can be fixed though. I would like to see an interface that lets you search/list servers and see who is online that is 'title independant'. If you click on something you dont have the title for, it would prompt you to get the title, otherwise which ever title is needed is loaded. There could be a button to filter out stuff that relates to titles you dont have.

The 'title independent' interface would bring all of ManiaPlanet together, but still let titlepacks exist and be used as they are now, to present new modes & custom content. I would also like to see multi-environment servers, where if you have only the demo, its lets you join & spectate. So if you bought Stadium, but only have the Valley & Canyon demos, then on a multi-environment server you can spec Canyon & Valley. I think this would be a great way to attract people into buying environments they don't already own.

If we did all that, then I would also love to see the old TMO/TMS environments brought into ManiaPlanet (I don't think it will happen, but I would like it)...

7. What has been your motivation to be in this game for so long?
At the moment I'm really interested to see what comes with ManiaPlanet 3.0 (It should be with us anytime now, and by the time someone reads this we may have it)

But over the years, there is some things kept me here
a) TMX, like it or not, I am quite stuck with it. The host server is signed in my name, I get the bill. Donations come to my paypal account(s). Advertising money goes to my bank account (actually its to a separate account). So even if I go through phases of lacking interest, its easier for me to just let that stuff tick over in the background than to find someone who can take it all on... and really, who in their right mind would choose to take that on? For me it was an evolution, it gradually happened this way. For someone else, they would know what they were getting into from the start, and I think they may choose to avoid doing so ;)
b) I like the project, and by the project I mean the whole Trackmania / Shootmania / ManiaPlanet project. I am as interested in where the project goes, what happens next, as I am in playing. I always really enjoy the alpha/beta stage of new things, the evolution of shootmania from the first private alpha tests until now is to me, much more interesting than playing shootmania. 
c) I am creative, so I like in every iteration of the TM games, playing in the editor, building maps. I have been doing less of it over recent years, but still more than lots of people. And as there is always new reasons to build maps, that keeps me motivated.
d) I didn't ask for it, but I kind of like being MrA :p

8. TMX is for sure one of the most important community projects ever, but if no it included, which is your top 3 community works?
Well StarTrack has a special place in my heart. It was about the coolest thing TMX ever did, and it was in partnership with Nadeo, who it was a pleasure to work with. What everyone else sees with StarTrack is that there was a nice little track building contest which resulted in the Star Campaign being put into the game. That's cool enough really, but to me, its much more than that, its about all the hard work, coding, planning, discussions that went into making it happen. You get more out of something when you put more into it, and I can tell you we (Rix, me, Nadeo) put a lot into it, so StarTrack is the Number 1 community work on a personal level. But was it important? Well the community would have carried on just fine if it had never happened.

Recently, there is the RPG titlepack, which is clearly amazing, although, so many objects, and just about all geometric, its overwhelming in some ways, but looks like it will be perfect for RPG (or if converted for ShootMania modes), but for TM I am waiting for custom objects which look like really new blocks, new track combinations or layouts, so RPG titlepack is not so much for me.

If we talk about important ones, then I think of
DediMania Records
All Server Controllers

I think if you have TMX + those 3 things, then you have what you need, all the other things (such as leagues & cups) which thankfully do exist, contribute to making a richer experience for the more dedicated players, but the other 99% or so of players, just need the game, servers & maps & modes.

9. Which is your favourite track in this game series ever? Why?
Well, I do have some favourite maps, but they are generally very old. I have one which has never even uploaded to TMX and its a really old and odd TMO map which most people would not rate, Its called 'Joob Perfect' ... I had it on a TMU Server recently and half the players left.
Here it is, its a desert map.

10. What in general a track needs to be good?
Well this just depends on the purpose for the track. My personal style of building is quite 'old school' .. I don't need loads of amazing transitions, I prefer a route that is usually easy to find (no need for GPS), and don't want jumps that I cant make, and I want check points to respawn. But, quite often when the PPO server used to be more popular, tracks would appear which break all those rules, and some of them were super fun to play, so in the end, its just about fun. If you like it while you build it, the odds are someone else will like it too.

11. Describe yourself with four words.
creative, impulsive, lazy, nerdgeek

12. Your top websites, games, songs & movies.
Lets leave out MX/TMX and TrackMania/Shootmania
Football Manager Series (I'm starting to get tried of this)
Words With Friends
Talisman Digital Edition (its in early access on Steam)
Civilization Series (Have been through periods of playing it a lot)
Diablo Series (Kind of cant help liking Diablo in short doses)
I have lots of favourite songs (So I must pick 10)
Stooshe Feat. Travie Mccoy - Love Me
Jelena Tomasevic - Oro
Gerry & The Pacemakers - You'll Never Walk Alone
Goldfrapp - Number One
The Beatles - Get Back
Angelique Kidjo - Agolo
Aled Jones - Walking In The Air
Mamas & The Papas - California Dreamin
Eiffel 65 – Blue
Alisha's Attic - Can't Say Sorry
I'm not that into movies, usually I prefer to watch a movie I've seen than risk the unknown (odd I know)
The Matrix
My Cousin Vinny
School Of Rock
Die Hard
Lake Placid

I guess 'counting' to was never my strong point.

13. I see, and I'm to weak to ask you to reduce them to 3 in fear of ban. But as next question; you're one of those who Nadeo invites to play their games before publishing. What do you alpha testers do?
We just have a lot of fun playing the game early ofc.
Okay, usually, the people who are in these groups are there for a particular reason apart from helping with the early bugs, testing and feedbacks. People are there who will test the game launcher and dedicated server, people are there who will specialise in media tracker or video, there are people who will test the team or competition modes because they usually host events, there are people who test lobby systems, people who test the scripting or custom objects/models .. etc, these people are all there because they are experts in certain parts of the game and its useful to let them test it as early as possible. So for someone like me, I am looking at how MX will read the files, that we can extract the information we need to, that the files are not huge in size.

So it probably appears like some people are just invited to a private party.... and the side effect is that the first few nights of alpha or private beta are the coolest ever because everyone involved is online at once, nadeo are online too, and its all new.... the downside is that the actual release day is usually less dramatic for us, because we've pretty much seen it all by then... I guess you can't have it both ways.

14. Over the years many have wondered how does the leaderboard system of TMX work. Can you lighten it to us?
Here is some explanation of how the TMX leaderboard competitions work.
For Mania Exchange, the system is different again, hopefully simpler.
There is basically 4 LB types on MX:
Cumulative (all your replays count)
Top25 (just your 25 highest scoring replays)
Classic (all your replays on classic maps)
Nadeo (nadeo maps only)
We are still pulling together the final parts, and actually this should be one of the next updates which will be accompanied by some news and a full explanation of these systems.

15. Have you ever driven cups or tournaments in Trackmania?
A very long time ago I did 1 race for RZA, I was nervous as anything, which was silly because I was just the stand in 3rd driver and actually we had already won the first 2 races (snow & desert), so it was either going to be 3-0 to us, or 2-1, if I realised the scores I might have enjoyed it more :p Other than that I just race the MX/TMX Knockouts at the weekends...

The great thing about the Knockouts is that actually any player can join and have some fun, sure enough its gets more serious towards the end of the Knockout, but the earlier rounds lets anyone experience a bit of TM competition in a fun way without team pressures or training. I really think the original TMU Knockout is the best one, it seems to be one event where many players who are perhaps not necessarily that active as TMU players anymore, can load up TMU and play for fun for an hour or so.
I am not a skilled driver, so I generally avoid any form of more serious competitions ;)

16. Which are your favourite environments?
Well I like the old ones. Snow & Desert from TMO are my favourite two, Nadeo has just not made anything quite like these since, I guess they are a bit like driving a toy vehicles around giant toy racing tracks, the controls have no grounding in reality. Rally I like less than those two, but it is still alright, and over the years I got to like it more.
Mostly the Sunrise environments never attracted me so much. Coast & Bay I prefer, I don't know much why, I guess I just like the handling, although when I first played coast it was a bit like driving through thick treacle.... Island I don't much care for, the car feels about as subtle as a brick to me, I like it least of all environments.
Stadium is a great environment and might be my 3rd favourite, I've made lots of Stadium maps over the years and its still fun to build them sometimes...
Canyon, I quite liked at first, then I went completely off it for a year or so, but lately have found it to be quite fun to return to. And Valley, I also like but I have not played that much, I think it might be an environment that grows on people over time.
So My Top 3, Desert, Snow, Stadium, followed by Valley & Canyon, then Rally, Coast & Bay, then Island.

17. If you have something else to say, please write it here.
Just thanks for doing the interviews, I think they are a nice project and usually interesting to read, I hope this one is too, now I think you should go and listen to my music:D

Thanks to you for answering "Mr. Anderson", and thanks for these awesome sites where I can spam! :)

See you next time! (brb)
17 comment(s).
 ohei2 writes ... 08, Mar, 2014  
Interesting interview, especially where the present and future of the game is touched. Otherwise not that much news to me, except perhaps for the list of music. 8-|

Hope all is well.
 broadsword writes ... 23, Feb, 2014  
As always, a really great interview! :d Brilliant fun (and a fair amount of nostalgia) to read about the origins and originators of our beloved site.

Hopefully we'll hear from the 4 previous MrA's in future interviews... ;)
  HaagseSmurf writes ... 12, Feb, 2014  
Really nice and interesting interview!!
  MrA writes ... 06, Feb, 2014  
Hi Marius, well Alinoa commented below, so I guess that means Nadeo read question 6... But I think they have their own idea's about this kind of topic which we may see some of in MP3.0


I did also mention it here: http://forum.maniaplanet.com/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=25082
But its not much of a well known thread. :$
 qqlele writes ... 04, Feb, 2014  
Great read (y) .
 Marius 89 writes ... 01, Feb, 2014  
really interesting to read how that all started

and a big +1 what you say at question 6! :)
Did you ask Nadeo for these things already?
 gado writes ... 30, Jan, 2014  
really nice interview! Loved to read it, funny story about mra and tmx 8-|
pls no ban (y)
 Alinoa writes ... 24, Jan, 2014  
Hey it was so fun to read your interview, MrA ;)
StarTrack was also a very special event for me and I really enjoyed working with you ^_^
Nice song playlist btw :cool:
  eyebo.wp writes ... 24, Jan, 2014  
Thoroughly enjoyed reading. (l)
 FT»Osaka writes ... 24, Jan, 2014  
MrA says:

Eiffel 65 - Blue

That's BEEN my shit for 15 years, which considering I'm 20 is quite a stretch. Respect.
 GR. writes ... 23, Jan, 2014  
I really enjoyed reading this. Cool to know how it all started on tmx. Many thanks MrA, for all the work and dedication! (y)
 MasterGary writes ... 23, Jan, 2014  
Brilliant interview (l)
Cool to hear from such an integral part of TM :)
Thanks for all your efforts, Mr.A(nderson) (y)
 Cxom writes ... 23, Jan, 2014  
... says:
Our third track of the week is . . .
  MrA writes ... 22, Jan, 2014  

Well, I hope people like it, I will give the links that were cut from the main text :p

Stooshe Feat. Travie Mccoy - Love Me

Jelena Tomasevic - Oro

Gerry & The Pacemakers - You'll Never Walk Alone

Goldfrapp - Number One

The Beatles - Get Back

Angelique Kidjo - Agolo

Aled Jones - Walking In The Air

Mamas & The Papas - California Dreamin

Eiffel 65 - Blue

Alisha's Attic - Can't Say Sorry


Thx wormi for continuation of what I have always thought is a really good project.

 Mr.DVD writes ... 22, Jan, 2014  
Nice Interview (l) (y)
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