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Ben's Interview
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Old Shoe

Oct-6-2005 13:39

Please Do NOT post in this thread. Discussion should be done in the other thread. This thread is for the actual interview.


Old Shoe

Oct-6-2005 13:40

NOTE: Things between astericks (*) are notes by me, jojo227. These will include comments, smilies, explanations, etc.
Without further adeu, Part 1:
*Titled: The Origins of Sleuth*
Ben:Sorry about putting this off for so long. I donít have a good excuse, so Iíll just say it was Sunnyís fault.

Jojo: Question 1: How did you come up with the idea of Sleuth?
Ben:Sunny is a bit of a mystery novel addict. She loves reading them, but her constant complaint has always been that she knows how they are going end by the time she gets halfway through them.
After hearing this complaint for the tenth or twelfth time *no eleventh?*, I finally got the message:
Mystery novels are formulaic!
At least, many of them are. More to the point, mysteries tend to follow a few common formulas, and they still manage to be entertaining. Why? Because, itís a good formula.

Jojo:Question 2: Who made Sleuth? Just you or did others help?
Ben:Many people have helped out over the last couple of years.
I did all of the programming, system administration and original game design.
Sunny helped flush out the idea, in particular she came up with a lot of the mid-mystery twists and collaborated on some of those early featured mysteries.
The real early testers included Sunny, Nate (Folktrash) and Sunnyís brother Josh.
My friend Nate redesigned the site when it changed over to the black background, he also did some Sleuth banner ads.
Michael Bagen (John Hale) is an excellent author, who wrote many of the featured mysteries available to subscribers. Actually, he has written another three that I have yet to releaseÖ
You (Jojo227) *Blush* and Wayne Williams Junior both submitted very good featured mysteries as well.
Chance Wees (Spike Spiegal) has also submitted a cool featured mystery that I have not yet had time to implement. *New FM!*
I lucked out and got a good group of beta testers who had lots of good ideas about the direction that the game should go.

Old Shoe

Oct-6-2005 13:40

Iím sure that everybody would agree that the mods have performed a valuable service, and managed to keep most of the stuff on the boards civil and relevant.
Recently: jstkdn, Blueberry Hill and ^^TNT^^ have been helping me out with avatar processing.
Iím sure Iím missing other people whoíve pitched in. As you can see, itís a very long list. *Indeed it is*

Jojo:Question 3: How long did it take to make Sleuth?
Ben:I had the original idea a little less than 3 years ago. I guess I was working on it off and on for about a year before the beta launch.

Jojo:Question 4: Any surprises as to what Sleuth has become?
Ben:Yes. I first thought of developing Sleuth as a 3-D semi-action type game. I hadnít done anything related to non-static graphics since I was in college, so it seemed like a good opportunity to broaden my skill base. I started fooling around with some of the game engines out there, and realized that I wouldnít be able to do the idea justice by myself.
Iím a web programmer in my professional life, so it was much easier for me to develop it as a web based project, and Iím glad I did. The community of players we have wouldnít have been possible with an offline game.
A very pleasant surprise has been how well the Agency / Treasure Hunts / Teamwork aspect of Sleuth has worked out. Although I was able to play around with the individual sleuth game engine for a long time, and tweak things to make sure they worked as expected, I really had no idea how well agencies would work out. The fact that the team game has been competitive and people are so committed to helping their agencies out has been fantastic.

Jojo:Question 5: What were your original expectations for Sleuth?
Ben:Iím not sure I had a specific set of expectations.
*End of Part 1: The Origins of Sleuth*

Old Shoe

Oct-6-2005 13:47

*Part 2: Ben and Sleuth*

Jojo: Question 6: What are your hopes for the future of Sleuth?

Ben: Iím planning on continuing to support and expand Sleuth for as long as there is
an appreciative audience out there and as long as I can do it without going

Folktrash and I are in the preliminary stages of planning the next major
expansion now. *Yippee! A new expansion!*

Jojo: Question 7: How much of your time do you spend working on/being on Sleuth?

Ben: In a usual week, itís somewhere from 10-20 hours a week. Luckily I can often
manage some of that work during my day job.

Jojo: Question 9: What one thing would you change about Sleuth if you could?

Ben: Iím nitpicky, so there are lots of things I would like to change if I had the
time. Sunny likes to point out all of the spelling and grammatical mistakes
throughout the game, so I suppose that Iíd like to give it a good thorough
editorial pass at some point.

Jojo: Question 10: Describe Sleuth in one word.

Ben: Cranberry *Explanation: Ben is crazy - But craziness is a characteristic of genius*

Jojo: Question 11: Do you talk about Sleuth in home life? (e.g. Do you talk about Sleuth at

Ben: Yes, Sunny and I often talk about Sleuth related stuff. *I knew it!* In particular, weíve
been known to sit around wondering what type of people some of the players are
in their non-Sleuthing lives.

Jojo: Question 12: What do you say to those who have committed their time, money, and ideas
to Sleuth?

Ben: Thank you.

You all probably deserve a little more help, attention and gratitude for letting
us do this. I do regret not being able to find a way to make this a full time
job, because Iíd love to give it more of my time and effort, but Iím doing the
best I can, considering.

Jojo: Question 13: Do you consider Sleuth finished or is it always a work in progress?

Ben: I consider it a puzzle, wrapped inside a limerick, with a very chewy center. *So what is the chewy center?*
*End of Part 2: Ben and Sleuth*

Old Shoe

Oct-7-2005 17:42

*Part 3: Ben*

Jojo: Question 14: Any one thing that makes Sleuth the amazing game it is?

Ben: Iím afraid thatís a trade secret.

Jojo: Question 15: Any games after Sleuth? Any games before Sleuth?

Ben: Yes, and yes.

I used to work for Headbone, a childrens software company that ran a website
with chat, games, and a bunch of other random fun things. The company is long
gone, but the website is still up ( I was involved in
most of the games on that site, and a bunch of others that were produced for
their clients.

And yes, Iím considering launching another web based game in the future, but Iím
not far along to go into detail about that.

Jojo: Question 16: In your opinion, is Sleuth an individual player game or a team game?

Ben: Obviously it starts out as an individual game. The extent of most new playersí
exposure to the wider Sleuth community is usually limited to asking questions on
the Newbie board, and getting their bearings with the help of more experienced

Once youíve joined an agency, it really does become primarily a team game.
Even when youíre just putting in time, trying to fill out your contacts or get
in good with one of the factions, you usually do it based on what contacts,
skills and equipment your agency needs to fill out.

Jojo: Question 17: How did you and your wife (Sunny) meet?

Ben: She found me in a Cabbage Patch, under a leaf.

Jojo: Question 18: Do you or Sunny know anyone in Sleuth personally?

Ben: Yes. I consider several of the current players to be good friends now. Weíve
gotten postcards and letters from around the world, and plan on visiting a few
people in distant parts of the Sleuthing world, when we get the chance.

The only player I have met in person (who I did not previously know before they
played the game) is John Hale. We managed to meet up when I was in New York
earlier this year on a business trip. New York has yet to recover.

Jojo: Question 19: What do you do for a living?

Old Shoe

Oct-7-2005 17:43

Ben: Iím currently working as a Software Developer (programmer) at a company called
Pop, in Seattle. You can visit their website at

Sunny has spent most of her professional life working with non-profit
organizations. Since we just moved to Seattle, she is not currently working,
although she is considering spending some time working at a restaurant or bar.

Jojo: Question 20: How is being back in Seattle feel?

Ben: Seattle is great. Weíre living on Capitol Hill now, which is a very funky and
fun part of the city.

Jojo: Question 21: Do you look forward to coming on Sleuth and working on it?

Ben: Usually I do, but as with anything worth doing, itís a lot of work. Some days,
Iíd rather not think about it, but I usually find a little time for it every

Jojo: Question 22: Lastly, simply answering with yes or no, do you believe Sleuth has
benefited your life?

Absolutely. Creating and running Sleuth has given me a lot of confidence to
strike out and work on my own projects. Iíve definitely been bitten by the
entrepreneurial bug.

*End of Part 3: Ben*

*End of Interview*


Oct-8-2005 20:11

*bump*sorry jojo227

Old Shoe

Oct-8-2005 20:35


Old Shoe

Oct-8-2005 20:36

Bumps are now welcome.

Pat E. Kake
Pat E. Kake

Oct-9-2005 22:57


P. Rockwell
P. Rockwell

Oct-13-2005 23:21

*bump-almost missed this! Tragic!*

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