By Jason "loonyboi Bergman
Me and Fragmaster go back a long ways...back when he was running the New Vore Times, he published one of my first games-related articles, and when he became content director at PlanetQuake, he was my editor. Things happen in strange ways...while I left to start this here site, Kevin left about six months earlier to run ClassicGaming.com. I hunted the dude down to harass him a bit about ClassicGaming, his nickname, and his current gig at PlanetHalf-Life.
Name/Rank/Serial Number? Kevin "Fragmaster" Bowen. Game freak, wannabe webmaster, crappy-ass mapper, 34925862923-3.
For those who don't know, what the heck do you do, anyway? Right now I'm the site director of ClassicGaming.com and Planet Half-Life (formerly contaminated). Besides that, I mess around with computers, play way too many games, and eat a lot of Frito-Lay stuff.
You originally left PlanetQuake to do ClassicGaming...were you soured on FPS games? If so, why'd you come back to do Planet Half-LIfe? No way. To be honest, I didn't really like Quake II that much. It was way too slow and all I really played was QPong. And at the time we had started hiring full-time people, and it just seemed like a good time to leave. And there was real-life stuff too, you know how it is. So I was happy with ClassicGaming until Half-Life came along and blew me away. At first I just volunteered to convert the Contaminated design to the PHL design, but I somehow ended up running the site. That always seems to happen to me, for some reason :) But it's a lot of fun, so I guess it all worked out.
Yeah, you took over first Sujoy's Quake Pages, and then PQ, right? Yeah. Sujoy left, so he left his "legacy" to me with the New Vore Times. Then Blue recruited me to help with PQ, he left, and I ended up taking his place pretty much. ClassicGaming was different though, it was my idea and I founded the site a year ago last November.
Is ClassicGaming pretty much your baby? Pretty much. There's not much staff to speak of besides a few cool guys who help out with the files. It's a very odd site, actually, since it isn't 100% legal. I'm kind of stupid to be running a site like CG, but for some reason I get a big kick out of playing 10-15 year old games.
What is the legality of CG's "Vault" section. Is it totally illegal, or do you have some clever loophole action going? Right now, the Vault is probably 50% legal. I'm not really sure exactly, because of all the complicated issues, but there's not anything "hot" left like NES and Genesis ROMs. CG only deals with discontinued systems, so much of it really isn't a problem.
When the site launched, though, you were chock full of NES and Genesis stuff. I take it there was some opposition to this? Not at first. Then a few months later Nintendo mailed us and told us to get rid of the NES roms. Then the IDSA came in and shut down the Genesis section. Capcom recently made us remove all the arcade games of theirs we had on the site. Besides that, there really hasn't been too many other legal issues. They're not fun to deal with. :)
I take it they weren't exactly cordial? Was it like the Gestapo? No, not really. The IDSA tried to overstep their boundaries a bit, Nintendo just sent a standard "cease and desist" letter, and Capcom was actually very cordial and even sent a list detailing exactly which roms they wanted off the site when I requested it. They even sent a thank you note. :) I mean, you really can't get pissed off when things like that happen, they made the games, I didn't.
What is it about classic games that makes you so...obsessed with them? What percentage of these do you even remember from your childhood, if any? Oh, I remember tons of them... even though I was more of an NES \ Genesis child myself. I don't remember a lot of the old arcade games, I mean, I was 2 when Pac-Man came out. But I just like going back and playing these games for the first time, and there's so much out there. MAME emulates like 1000 games now. Someday I'll get around to playing them all :) I like the "games of yore" because the gameplay is different than games of today. Plus, I like twitch games. They don't really make twitch shoot 'em ups anymore. Everything is slow, slow, slow.
Do you play any of the more...obscure stuff, like the Vectrex games? Yeah, I play some of the lesser known systems a bit, especially consoles like the Vectrex (I actually have the real thing) or the Odyssey^2 and stuff like that. Some of the games are pathetic, but they're fun for a few minutes. I also like digging up weird games that time has forgotten (for whatever reason). Kato & Ken, a game that actually features ummm... well, interesting uses of a natural part of human digestion as an attack comes to mind.
K&K is on my list of the weirdest games ever made that's running next week. :) Heh, good choice. That and Custer's Revenge.
Yep, that's on there too. Custer's Revenge is...well...it's incredible that it actually was ever made. Yeah, it's a real gem... I guess.
Do you mind if I ask about EmuNews? Ah, what the hell. Go ahead.
What happened there? To be honest, I didn't really see it coming. I came home sunday night and saw it, and didn't really know what to do. It was an odd situation and something I didn't have much control over and I'm really disappointed in how both parties (CriticalMass and James Pragit) handled the matter. In the end, it's probably all for the best since EmuNews wasn't really much of a part of CG anyway. I haven't really done much in the way of "damage control" because it's pointless to bash a site that tries to do basically the same thing you do. So I'm just moving on and trying not to let it effect me. *shrug*
The issue arose over a domain dispute, right? Yes, it was over a domain dispute... mostly.
There were other factors involved? Had this been a long standing argument? There were other factors, and yes, James pointed this out to CM quite awhile ago... but it didn't really seem like a big issue. Then it suddenly became a big issue and then he left.
Back in my days at PQ/CM, you were really heavily involved in most aspects of the network, but you seemed to be giving that up for CG.com. Have you started to get more involved again, or are you really just interested in PHL and CG? Yeah, I was heavily involved... but Joost stepped in and took over PQ hosting and then moved into the Network Manager role. He does a great job with it and doesn't really need much help. I sometimes step in and do some things for the network, usually just in the form of suggestions or something like that, or pitch in with projects that need to be done fast. Nothing major, I try to concentrate on CG\PHL.
You've been working on level design, huh? Have you released any levels? Heh, yeah, it's something I used to be into a lot during the Doom days. But I'm easily frustrated and couldn't do anything with Quake. Then I discovered back in December that one of the designers for the Gunman TC lives about fifteen feet from me here at RIT. He (Reid Kimball, for those companies wanting to hire an awesome level designer... heh) was really nice and taught me the basics of WorldCraft, etc. Unlike most LD's, the first thing I ever did in WorldCraft turned into a completed map (After Hours, a HL DM map), then I did Gore Chasm as a PHL Christmas map, and then I churned out an Action Half-Life map in three days. And this was all in that December :) I haven't released anything in awhile, because I've been working heavily with single player and scripting type stuff, but I should have another DM map or two done for next month. I'm not really good and am still learning the basics, but god, is it fun.
Is this something you might consider doing for a living, or is it purely a hobby? Bah. Nobody would hire me, I suck and there's a ton of more experienced designers out there that are available. I haven't really thought about it much because it's not something I ever expect to do at a professional level. I guess if a good company called me up and asked me to work for them as a designer, I'd consider it, but I don't really expect to work in the development side of the gaming biz anytime soon.
Hey, it occurred to me...you graduated from High School, didn't you? *sniff* Heh, yeah. Currently at RIT as an Information Tech major, won't be here next year.
Where are you planning on going then? Nothing has been finalized. See, I kinda like College... except for that academic stuff :) I'll decide what I'll do this summer, but it looks like I'll going full-time doing stuff similar for what I do now for GameSpy Industries.
*Sigh* Kids today...
You ran another site for a while that shut down not too long ago..."It's Golgotha, Dammit!" which, despite having one of the oddest names for a fan site i've ever seen (even odder than, "Datumplane") was a pretty cool site. What was your reaction when Crack.com shut down? Heh, this is all coming from a dude who ran a Trespasser site called "Keep Out!" Jeez.
Touché. Anyway, I kind of saw it coming a long ways off. Crack didn't exactly get all the right breaks, but I thought if they ever managed to get Golgotha out the door it would be successful just because it was different (at the time, I had never even heard of the Battlezone remake). I thought the decision to release the incomplete game for free was a great idea, and I'm really sorry to see a cool guy like Dave Taylor move out of the games industry. But all and all, I learned a lot from running the site. What the hell was I thinking with that weird right justify thing? Doh.
Have you been following any developments with the source code? Heh, well, I'm not going to name names... but I joined the original Golgotha project mailing list... and was kicked off by the place that hosted the original site immediately. Before I had even sent one message, just because of my affilation with PQ, I suppose. So I joined the list under an assumed name and followed things for awhile, but there was so much in-fighting at the time and not much was really happening. I wanted to get involved with the script\sound\voice work side of things (and maybe design), but now I'm kind of glad I didn't. I do wish the current guys running the project the best of luck though, and hope someday we'll all be able to play it.
Remember back in the days of PQ when you did those "complete the sentence" interviews? Those are fairly commonplace today...any thoughts? :) Well, yeah, at first when I saw people doing them on other sites I was upset...but I'm sure it's not an original idea and somebody has thought of it before. It doesn't stop me from doing complete the sentence in future interviews (I haven't done any in awhile anyway), so it's not really a big deal.
A question from Blue...What's with the dorky nickname? Were all the cool names like "satan" and "demonspawn" taken? :) Heh. I'm stuck with it, I guess. I picked it on a BBS, moved to another BBS (these were Doom\Game Connection BBS's BTW), became chat manager of that BBS, and then sysop\part owner of another BBS. So I just continued using the nick when I moved to the Internet... just because, I guess, and then after I started writing for Sujoy's I realized it was too late to change it. Yeah, it is a lame nick and I hate seeing other Fragmasters running around since I know they aren't my offspring and they usually spell it with a capital M, but if I had to change my nick I'd probably pick something stupid like Mr. Piestomper. So I try not to think about it.
Have you used the Frag-Master joystick? :) Gawd. I tried to get Warped from PlanetHardware to score me a review... uhh... stick so I could review myself, but it never happened. I didn't like the press release for it, because it was something like "Fragmaster to expose himself at QuakeCon" something like that. So anyway, no, I've never gotten my hands on a Frag-Master (ewww) and I don't really want to.
Did you ever get yourself an e-mail account at Fragmaster.com from IGNMail? No. Those bastards.
What games are you currently playing? Half-Life, Scorched Earth (it's a great game to play against other people, because it's an excuse to say bad things and stomp on each others feet), Commando (I got to level three! Woo-hoo!), Doom (ZDoom), Choplifter, Sim City 3000, and Euchre (the real thing, hey, it's a game...).
What are your favorite websites? Hmmm...QuakeFinger, Scary's (a fellow JLH stalker), Radium, Blue's, Lovehewitt.com (heh), CNN, PQ, ummm... oh, and there's this site called Lwedogames... whatever. Oh wait, that's your site. Well, I read it sometimes anyway.
Thanks! Be sure to check out Kevin's stuff at PlanetHalfLife.com and ClassicGaming.com!
- Jason "loonyboi" Bergman is editor-in-chief here at loonygames. He's really very normal once you get to know him. Really.
Credits: Community Profile logo illustrated by and is © 1999 Dan Zalkus. Community Profile is © 1999 Jason Bergman. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is just a bad idea. We have lawyers.