By Stephanie "Bobbi" Bergman
illiam "Phoebus" Mull is probably one of the most underrated people in our community. A lot of people are probably saying "Phoebus who??" He's that guy you see on Blue's News and other pages being thanked for sending in information, screenshots, what have you. He works for Activision, and does all sorts of online work as part of that job. But he also has been around for a long time before that. Hexenworld is his baby, the only substantial Hexen 2 site there is. In a community where people love to toot their own horn, Bill is one of the few who keeps his mouth shut. And because of that...most people overlook him. He's also an incredibly fascinating person, having done things most people only dream of...most kids dream of being a rock star, don't they? He did that! And now he's in his second career. Well...here!! I'm proud to present the first ever interview with Phoebus.
Name/rank/serial number? William E. 'Phoebus' Mull
You work for Activision...what exactly do you do there? Known as Bill, Will, William, Phoebus, Phoeb, and other derivatives at work. Online Production Coordinator is my title. What that means, is that I produce web sites and news updates for Activision's games. Mainly first person shooters (SiN, etc.) and other action games, like Heretic II, Heavy Gear II, Interstate '82, and other twos.
How did you end up at Activision? Good question! How far back should I go?
As far back as you think is relevant. Okay . . .My very first web page was called, get this(!) "Crazed & Quakin'" Ya gotta admit it had a certain ring to it!
Um..sure. That was the day after the Quake demo was released. That was while I was getting my Master's degree at the University of Georgia. When I went over my space limit at school, I moved the page over to my personal ISP and changed the name to Cult of Phoebus. I started sending news to Blue and he actually posted it and gave me credit. My site built up a modest popularity, because I was one of the first to post news about other first person games than Quake. It was kind of crazy, I had all these subsites, for Unreal, Prey, Blood, Shadow Warrior, etc. Anyway, Monolith Productions liked my site and offered to host me on their server for free. They didn't even ask for a banner, just to "keep doing what you do". Pretty kewl. So, all that time I worked on my Photoshop and HTML skills, as if it were a paying job. I didn't have any clear idea of where this leading, in the least, I just really loved what I was doing. It was a great outlet. The first big gaming event I went to was M3 in NYC, where I met a bunch of people with whom I'd become acquainted via the Internet along the way. I can't tell you how much fun I had. The vibe was so positive, and the whole scene was really new and exciting. I met Jason 'loonyboi' Bergman, who was nice enough to let me stay at his dorm, which got me off of sleeping on some chairs I lined up the night before - ouch!
And we've been pals ever since. And I remember Blue giving me a hug and being very welcoming. I really felt like I was accepted officially into "The Community". Then came E3. But before that, I must mention that the day Hexen II was announced, that vague path took a very certain (in retrospect) turn.
Having been a great fan of Hexen and Heretic, I jumped all over that game and naturally covered every bit of information I could gather. And I became acquainted with the guys at Raven. Then they asked me to redesign their site for them. And they liked it so much they asked me to become the webmaster for their entire site. So, then E3 came around, I should have known something was brewing, but I really went there to meet up with online gaming friends, take the whole giant spectacle in, and have fun. Which I did.
But I also met the online group at Activision, as well as some of the Raven guys. I spent so much time at the Hexen II booth, they let me demo their game as long as I wanted to play it And the Activision guys took me back to their "wheeling and dealing" area and sat me down and pretty much laid out their online plans. They were still vague at this point, but they were wanting to become closer to the community who played their games. They wanted to break the barrier they faced in being seen as marketing types and outsiders to the gaming scene. They saw the work I had done in evangelizing Hexen II, and although they didn't come out and say it at that point, had me in mind for an actual job, working for them, doing what I do best, and making money at it
But it didn't happen right away. It was a slow process. I sent them my resume. I graduated with my Master's in Instructional Technology / Computer-Based Education (w/ honors!), and was up in the air for about 4 months, weighing my options. In the meantime, I started HexenWorld, which I completely immersed myself in. To me, that really was a job, and a great learning experience. I was (and still am) totally dedicated. That was my baby
Also, I took a trip out to Seattle to visit my friends at Monolith. It was the most relaxed job interview I've ever been to. I played Quake with Craig Hubbard the entire time I think they wanted to hire me just due to the fact that I showed a degree of creativity and dedication in all the websites I'd done to that point. But they were considering me as a level designer, which I'd only really done up to that point as a hobby, and certainly not to the professional standards at which most level designers are hired. But by the time they had arranged my trip and sent me out there, they had a slew of much more experienced designers sending in their stuff. So, although I showed a great deal of promise to Craig and Jay, etc., they were in a different position than they were when they called me up and said, "How do you feel about moving out to Seattle?" when I first sent them my levels.
Things do turn out for the best, though. I was a little discouraged coming back home to Macon, GA, and didn't know what the future held. I resent my resume to HR at Activision, as well as GT Interactive. Rick Raymo (Producer at GT) was sending out emails of recommendation for me, being the super nice guy he is, and was determined to get me on board, but they really only had a game tester position opening (a fun, but ultimately grueling and pitently (I think I just created a word) low-rung position, yet still a prospective foot in the door). Then I heard from Eric Johnson at Activision.
Phone interviews ensued. I had a great feeling right from the start, and they seemed extremely interested. A new trip out west, this time to Los Angeles, where I'd never been before, and never even considered living, in any of my alternate plans. The visit was great, I felt like royalty. They introduced me around the whole place as Phoebus. This is THE Phoebus! Like I'm a celebrity.
My interview went great, everyone was very welcoming. I had no idea Los Angeles was so beautiful, although I only got a brief glimpse in that visit. I had only heard about all the bad stuff, like smog, earthquakes, gangs, murder, death, humm, that's starting to sound pretty kewl!
And after another month or so of "it's gonna happen, just be patient", it really did happen. A year ago this November 10th, I moved to this strange, new place and started my new life. Truly a dream come true for me.
It's probably a stupid question, but, any regrets about moving to LA? I regret missing out on my niece's growing up. She's seven years old now. I miss seeing my mom and grandma. I miss the rain! I don't remember the last time it rained here, but it didn't last long enough for me to see it, I just went outside and the ground was a little wet. I miss a good violent storm. I don't miss the humidity back east, though! When I went back to Georgia for this year's E3, the humidity hit me in the face as soon as I got off the plane, and I can't believe I survived it so long! I've become completely acclimated to California weather (not a difficult thing to do!). It's incredible. I've even taken up blading down by Santa Monica beach, which I do regularly! I'm really just beginning to enjoy all the things LA has to offer. I've been working (and playing) quite a bit since I got here
But now I'm starting to, little by little, finally learn my way around. I still get lost all the time, though. I know my little area of immediate existence really well. I live about 5 miles from work. I love my place, it's a pretty big one bedroom apartment, with a Jacuzzi and swimming pool right outside my door
Jacuzzi?? Nice. Yup. Much bigger than I was initially looking for. I stayed in Corporate Housing for the first month I was here, until I found my own place, courtesy Activision. And they flew me and my cat out here, and had already shipped my truck here, so it was waiting for me And all my stuff, which wasn't much more than my computer, tv, stereo, bed, and clothes... the essentials.
You still run HexenWorld, in addition to the official fan sites on Activision's servers. How do you decide what goes on HexenWorld and what goes on the official sites? Good question! Well, you didn't ask WHY I still run HexenWorld.
Why do you still run HexenWorld? I do because (hehe) my bosses allow me to. They are very cool about that, and understand that it's beneficial to maintain a community that I helped build up through a great deal of "blood, sweat, and tears". I don't want to get off-track with the negative aspects of running such a high-profile site, but there was an instance where someone, who found out through the grapevine that I'd just gotten hired by Activision, sent out this very defamatory SPAM saying all kinds of things about me, sending it to anyone and everyone at Activision, Raven, id(!), etc. etc. etc. I read the thing, and it was surreal, that they were referring to ME. It had absolutely no basis in reality. But it was still a very tense time, when it really shouldn't have been. I didn't know what would happen. But no one took it seriously. I remember asking my friend Mike "CHAOS" Werckle, who was at Raven at that time about it, and he said, "As soon as I realized what it was, I hit delete." That was a great moment!
I think anyone who knows me pretty much feels the same way.
And the way I decide which site to update, sometimes they overlap, which isn't bad. HexenWorld, well there's not any other site, not even Activision's, which has built up the community interest in Hexen II. It's pretty well established as the place to go for that scene, I'm proud to say. Now I can help other people start their own sites and give them support.
What I have to offer the sites I do for Activision, is much more than making updates. I can get the information, images, etc. to other news sites out there as well, through all the contacts I've made over time.
And it's coming from a gamer, with a recognizable name, face, and voice, and we relate on a common level. Luckily, I'm able to use the skills I gained over the last two years or so, in a job and environment I really love. It gives me a great peace of mind, and I actually love my job, which has been an ideal I didn't know was achievable
Speaking of being a gamer....I understand you're a big fan of Duke Nukem. Yeap! I was telling Jason the other day, I still love DukeMatch! I play after work with a few peers who love it as much as I do.
Why Duke and not Quake? (or Quake2 or Unreal) I still play Quake 2, of course. Unreal, well single player is cool, I don't know about deathmatch at this point BotMatch is pretty cool.
For Quake 2, there's nothing like lining two or three(!) people up for a multiple railgun frag. Happens w/ the Eraser bots more than real people, but anyway. Like Doom 2, there's nothing like a double-barreled shotgun blast to the face, point-blank: Ahhh!
But DukeMatch stands the test of time and dated engines. The gameplay is so fast, the weapons are great fun, and I still laugh out loud at the scenarios that come about in an instant. The only weapon I think was a mistake is the Glock, because it's so accurate at long ranges, and it whittles you down before you can take cover or even find out where it's coming from in a lot of instances.
What's your favorite weapon from Duke? I guess the most satisfying weapon in Duke is the freezegun, because it's not easy to use, and you get a health reward. The shrinker is either hilarious or frustrating, depending on your point of view (unless you have some adrenaline handy).
I think I find myself using the shotgun the most. Single barreled, but still packs a wallop The chaingun is satisfying as well, especially if you're adept at circle-strafing. By all means - mouse / keyboard config. is essential
Okay, how I came about my controller config: The game that got me so heavily involved in games - yes, I'm a first person shooter addict! Was the first time I played Wolfenstein 3D. I think that's pretty much standard. Amazing how many similar stories FPSers share. Then shareware Doom came out, and it had the most profound effect on me. That game had atmosphere! I remember the first time I got modem-modem Doom 2 working with my buddy Evan Lesser, and the first time I saw the other Doom guy in there in the game with me. It was pretty much co-op at first, which was actually a blast! Then we tried out deathmatch, and I was hooked, big time. My buddy moved away, but I had to keep playing. I was living in Athens, GA and didn't know anyone else who played, so I got this relatively cheap, set long distance line from Athens to Atlanta, and got into playing on the Doom 2 BBSs. Well, I thought I must be pretty good, but I soon realized these people were much better than me! I got good up to a certain point, but found that those who played with the mouse could always beat me. Grudgingly at first, I finally made up my mind I was going to learn to use the mouse, and there was no going back. It took a good week of purely sucking, but I was determined. And then it really clicked. When my buddy Evan came over for a visit, I set up a crappy 2 computer LAN, and it wasn't fun for him to play with me anymore
What a difference! But I had already used the mouse to an extent, with Magic Carpet, and Descent, so when it came time to make the jump to mouse looking with Quake, I was already there. I use the flight-sim style, of pushing the mouse forward to look down, and back to look up. Makes sense to me.
Really? You invert the mouse? Yeah, that's it. I get dizzy if I try to use it the other way.
I get dizzy when it's inverted. It feels weird, doing it the opposite way, doesn't it?
Always confuses me completely, takes me a bit to realize what's wrong. Remember when Marathon 2 finally came out for the PC, and they had the demo? Well, there was no way to invert the mouse, so I was unable to play it, I got the DIMMs really bad after trying. Also, I use the home keys for going forward, back, strafing left and right, etc. What do you use?
WASD, q bound to rl, e to gl, f to grapple. That's close. It just seemed more logical to use the same keys and finger placement that I use to type. Because then you don't have to transpose in order to type something and back again. It's amazing, how everyone has a unique config. There must be as many configurations as there are people who play games.
Before Phoebus the gamer, there was Phoebus the rock star. Care to tell the story? Yes, I was in a band called Seven Simons, which was a fairly popular band in Athens, GA. We did an album/CD called Clockwork, which I don't think you can find anywhere, but I do have MP3s on Cult of Phoebus. We toured all up and down the east coast, with A Flock of Seagulls. Great times. Then out as far west as New Mexico with The Fixx.
I played bass guitar. When we broke up, I joined the 'legendary Athens band' Kilkenny Cats (they were in that Athens Inside/Out movie, which featured REM, The B-52's, Pylon, etc.) I was very much in the Athens music scene, and enjoyed that time of my life for all it was worth. It was a lot of work. Incredible creative outlet. Great hedonistic / narcissistic fun, although we were softcore, never got into heavy drugs.
Sex, drugs and rock & roll? Yeah, something like that
The best club I've ever played was the legendary 9:30 Club in Washington DC. We opened up for Pylon there. Great atmosphere. Kilkenny Cats was already on their way out, although they perked up a bit with the new blood I brought in for a brief time. Then I started up my own band called Lotus Eaters, in which I was the lead songwriter.
But around my 30th birthday, I came to the realization that I didn't want to do it anymore. I had given it ten years of my life, and those are times and memories I'll always cherish, but I can't see myself jumping around on stage anymore
I'll always have music, and songs in my head, but I realized I didn't want to be a rock star anymore Luckily, the timing was such that I found something that I liked to do more, at this stage of my life. Life can be strange and wonderful like that, if you let it.
Thanks for the interview, Bill!
- Stephanie "Bobbi" Bergman is an associate editor for loonygames.
Credits: Community Profile logo illustrated by and is © 1998 Dan Zalkus. Community Profile is © 1998 Stephanie Bergman. All other content is © 1998 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is just a bad idea. We have lawyers.