Thursday, December 23, 2010

Interviews with Runescape Clan Sites: Surreal

This is the first (and possibly the only) interview with a Runescape clan site owner and developer in this series. I had great luck reaching to fan sites (as you'll see during the next few weeks), but amazingly, clan sites were much less accessible. I simply couldn't find a good way to contact them (besides looking for clan site owners/admins inside the game, which I won't do). Unlike fan sites, clan sites don't have "contact us" emails and their forums are usually available to clan site members only. And when I tried to register on a few, I didn't get accepted. So yeah... It's just too much trouble, no wonder Jagex finds it hard to pull out a meaningful clan sites support program... It's a pity, as some clan sites are as sophisticated and complex from technical and content stand point as fan sites!

Fortunately, it wasn't hard to reach Downfall (owner and developer of a site for Surreal Runescape clan), because of his involvement into Runescape blogging community and anti-RWT filter. So here we go :)
Enjoy the interview!

How would you describe your site in a few words?
A: Fun, supportive and innovative.

Q: Can you tell us about major milestones of your site? A little bit of a history?
A: Surreal started off relatively recently (October of 2010) but since then we’ve had a lot of positive history written. We achieved 50 members on our member list before the one month mark that the clan was open, which was something I was definitely very proud of.
One other milestone that we have achieved is 90% activity within the clan itself, where only a select few members were drawn out because of inactivity – it just goes to show that people do enjoy being in Surreal and are not active by force, but because they have an interest in the game and new friends to explore Runescape with!

Q: What inspired you to start a Runescape fan/clan site?
A: The whole atmosphere, I love everything about having such responsibility attached to my daily routine. I was previously in a clan called Skillers Empire which is now unfortunately closed – however the owner of it, Jazzy was a very close friend of mine and she did such an amazing job at managing Skillers Empire; she inspired me to do something similar and strive to achieve something near what she could do (though I can never outdo her awesome administration skills, I can always try!)

Q: What were your original goals for the site?
A: My original goals and my current goals are still very much the same for Surreal. I simply wanted to create an established clan where the priority is our members. I want to make this clan as accessible, useful and enjoyable as I possibly can achieve and I believe that I’m working well on my way towards achieving that (if not already!)

Q: Had your goals changed over time? If yes, how and why?
A: As said previously, they sure haven’t :D

Q: Was it the first web site you ever created?
A: I created a blog in early 2006 basically recording most of my Runescape adventures. Though it was probably not the best website out there, it was something that I took pride in updating. (
If you’re talking an *actual* website, I first opened a website called RuneChain in 2006, which was meant to be some sort of network allowing Runescape players to share all sorts of multimedia with their fellow mates, but that didn’t turn out so well. Since then I learned a bit more PHP and web design skills, but back then they were horrendous.

Q: What technologies were used to create the site? Did you add new technologies into the mix after you created the original version?
A: The original website was designed using xHTML & CSS, but I quickly realized that it needed to be dynamic so I involved a lot of PHP. The entire clan website is pretty much dynamic and works great! I didn’t use any pre-made scripts for my homepage, but the forums are supplied by MyBB.

Q: Is there a unique feature/service your site provides to Runescape players?
A: As a Runescape clan, my number one concern is my members and how they feel about the game. It’s my job to ensure that everyone’s motivated and really enjoys the game, so instead of forcing activity and being a real grouch about the clan, I do my best to make everyone’s experience as fun as possible – after all, Runescape is a game!

Q: Which feature/service took the most time and effort to create?
A: "Pick your Poison" challenges, something I cannot go into deep detail with took me a very long time to complete – a whole inter-clan war system that works almost flawlessly. It took me a good 2 months to work the ins and outs of it.

Q: Which feature/service was the most complex from the programming stand point?
A: None of our features have any programming-intensive sides to them, but some projects in development at the moment have lots of it, though it would be telling to go into detail once again! We’ve been playing around with PHP to see if we can get some kind of objectives system working and it has been going well so far.

Q: Is there a feature/service of the site you are most proud of?
A: The forums are definitely the highlight of the clan for me, purely because when I first installed them and tried out a few skins and themes, they really looked terrible. Our current forum skin was completely custom made and it has more of a home-made feel to me – it makes our clan unique – being unique and creative is the most important thing to me.

Q: Did you start the site alone or with friends?
A: I developed and started Surreal all by myself – it was challenging but much more fulfilling.

Q: Are you the only developer of the site's code?
A: Sure am, unless you count the forums. :P

How much time do you normally spend supporting the site? A few hours a day? A few hours a month?
A: Even though I currently have a job, owning Surreal is almost like a second job to me. I wouldn’t have it any other way, though. I spend upwards of 2 hours a day working on new content, competitions and events. There’s a lot to manage, and I’ve been working on balancing the workload a little between our staff team.

Q: What is the most difficult/challenging task you have to do to maintain the site?
A: Without a doubt it would be choosing appropriate and entertaining events for our members, then making the topics, sorting out the timezone differences for three different regions and getting them up within 24 hours after our 6th event of the week. Hectic stuff; very high pressure.

Q: How many staff members do you have? How did you find/chose them?
A: I currently have a team of four staff members. I chose three of my staff members due to previous involvement with them in other clans and immense friendship and trust. They were really people I could rely on to get the job done and help me out, as well as be loyal. One of our staff members was a standout amongst other members and proved to be worthy of joining our staff team by sporting great activity and attitude, as well as behavior.

Q: Are there aspects of web site management you were able to completely delegate to others?
A: Our forums are managed by the staff members, they can accept applications, change ranks and do whatever the forum needs in terms of changes and settings, etc.
Our website has a blog which is powered by a great control panel, and staff can post using that control panel. Some staff members have FTP access to change little details of the website, but that’s only temporarily until I manage to get a control panel working for the website as a whole.

Q: Did you even had to deal with hostility and/or attacks from other fan/clan sites?
A: We have been DDOSed once or twice, other than that I have had no problems. Everyone is very nice :)

Q: Did you ever consider making money with the site or is it just a hobby?
A: Running Surreal is definitely a hobby for me, it’s an opportunity for me to gain website development and management experience as well as enjoy Runescape more. It’s like a win-win situation for me, though I do have a donation system available to those who want to help out with hosting bills for the website and Ventrilo as well as future projects, I use none of the money for my own benefit. I love running the clan!

Q: What do you think about the current Jagex's fan sites support program? Do they do too much, too little? Is there something you'd wish would go differently?
A: I truly think that Jagex should do a little bit more to recognize Runescape clans in a wider spectrum, following us on Twitter and posting a news post every odd month isn’t enough in my opinion.
Their fan site support system is wonderful, I wish they’d have something similar for clans such as Surreal, to help us gain better publicity through those who make the game – though I do understand there are complications, so if it can’t happen, I understand why.

Q: Do you still play Runescape? If yes, how often?
A: Yes I do play Runescape, not as much as I used to as I have quite a busy life and my time is taken up with Surreal a lot of the time (not complaining, though) I play around 8-12 hours a week.

Q: What's you Runescape goals, if any?
A: I’m currently aiming for 99 Fishing, but that’s the short term! I hope to max out one day, whether or not it will happen is irrelevant, it’s awesome to have a goal that’s over the top!

Q: What kind of Runescape player are you? Which Runescape aspect is most appealing to you: quests, role-playing, skilling, pking, minigames etc.?
A: Skilling of course is my way of playing, though I don’t have any problems with combat. I really love to skill, I love achieving goals and putting time as well as management into my stats, it brings home a great feeling of achievement.

Q: Are there other Runescape fan sites you personally use as a Runescape player?
A: I use quite a few, actually. Draynor, Zybez, RuneHQ, RSWiki, Runewise and Runetips to name a few. I absolutely love that everyone puts such effort into improving our experiences in Runescape.

Q: Do you follow/read Runescape blogs and news papers from other sites?
A: Runescape Blogs are the highlight of my reading on the internet. I personally read the Runescape Readers Digest and many other blogs based on Runescape. I even own my own Runescape Blog, I love sharing my thoughts with others and reading others’ thoughts!

Q: Is there something you don't mind revealing about your RL (age, country, hobbies etc.)?
A: I’m 17, going-on-18 years old, I live in Australia. Currently I work in KFC as a customer service representative, though this is only my first job. I will begin a web development course very soon and will be going for a job in it in the near future. I don’t really have many hobbies aside from travel, spending time with my awesome friends, watching TV and Runescape. I have quite a fast paced life and like to pack my schedule with many things.

Thank you very much, Downfall!


Downfall said...

Thanks for posting this interview, it was a pleasure doing it :) Since your comments I have added a simple contact us form to the main page. That's my bit in making us more reachable :P

Vaskor said...

Downfall, awesome, thank you!

Zooperman said...

Thanks for doing this Downfall great to see your views on all this stuff.


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