Let's Talk - The New Community Interview

By Cindy Minguez , 2 years ago
That's right, fellow achievement hounds! Today, we'll be talking to the big man himself - the big cheese, the cat's meow, the big kahuna - the man responsible for the best achievement-tracking site on the web, and the man to whom we all owe a huge thank you for TA - TrueAchievement !

The boss man (aka Rich Stone) has graciously taken the time from his very busy schedule to tell us a little more about himself and how TA got started.

So, here he is - the man of the hour and our first interviewee for the return of the TA Community Interview - TrueAchievement.


Blue: Rich! Hi! Thank you so much for talking to me today. As the owner and creator of TrueAchievements, you're someone everyone here knows and appreciates. Did any one event influence you to start the site?

TA: It was a gradual realization, made by listening to many gaming podcasts and talking to my friends, that a lot of people weren’t happy with the existing GamerScore system, particularly when trying to compare their scores with other peoples’ scores.

Blue: What did it take to go from the idea stage of wishing achievements were more fairly scored to actually creating the site?

TA: There were a few stages. I first needed to see if I could collect the data required to work out the rarity of an achievement. Once I’d cracked that, I just had to come up with a workable formula for the TA ratio. That was pretty easy – I have a maths degree, so it seemed reasonably obvious to me what numbers I needed to plug in to make it work. Then I needed to knock up a website that allowed people to sign up. TA looked pretty terrible back then:

old TA


Blue: I wouldn't call it terrible... But the site has certainly grown. Has the success of TA surprised you?

TA: It never fails to amaze me. We now have a million people per month coming to TA. That’s quite a staggering number of people, considering we’ve never done any advertising or marketing. Everyone comes here through word of mouth, by seeing someone’s motto on Xbox Live, or by searching for one of the thousands of awesome achievement solutions that our community has added to the site. I may have made the functionality, but the majority of people come to TA for the user-generated content; that’s a credit to the fantastic community we have here, and 90% of the site’s functionality has also come from the community’s ideas.

Blue: Tell us a little of what's involved in such a major undertaking.

TA: An awful lot of hard work! For the first three years of the site’s existence, I would work on new features during most of my spare time, which meant limited time for gaming. But when I felt so passionate about making TA the best experience it could be, I didn’t mind putting the hours in to make it happen. In fact, I loved working on new features and then launching them to see the reaction when they went live. After that, my real-world job took over my life to a certain extent, and I wasn’t able to dedicate the time I wanted to the site or to gaming. I took a gamble at the start of last year and quit my job and went full-time with TA. That has meant I’ve been able to work on a lot of new features since then, such as the redesign and gamer blog improvements, and, of course, more recently, TrueTrophies.

If you are interested in reading about the back-end systems involved, my hosting providers Rapidswitch did a case study on TrueAchievements in July.

Blue: What a daunting job. Did you have help, or did you do it all on your own?

TA: The coding, database design, and server networking are all my own effort. But I had help with the new site design, and, of course, the various teams on TA are constantly helping, whether setting up game genres, writing news stories, removing cheaters from the leaderboards, or keeping the forums free from spammers and trolls. The site would be unusable without their efforts, and I hope they know how important they are.

Blue: How is your launch of the sister site TrueTrophies going? Are you pleased with the reception so far?

TA: TrueTrophies is going well. It’s pretty close to being fully launched; there’s a little more testing and set-up that needs to be done first.

The reception in the closed beta has been fantastic, but those users are all existing TA users, so they know what to expect. I can’t wait for us to launch it fully so that the Playstation world can finally have some of the great features we already have on TA. There’s nothing out there that offers everything we do for Playstation, so it’s an exciting time for everyone involved.

Blue: That's so exciting! As someone who's now on her third PS2 (yes, I wore the first two out), I'm a huge PS fan, so I'm very much looking forward to seeing the TT community develop. Some of my favorite games of all time were on that system. Speaking of older titles, I noticed three Pacman games in your Trophy Case. Is it a special favorite?

TA: It holds a special place in my heart – it was the first game I ever owned on a console – the Atari 2600. That was over 30 years ago! And the championship editions have breathed new life into the original game in ways I couldn’t possibly have imagined back then.

Blue: I also see lots of WP games on your tag lately; did you get a new phone? smile

TA: I sure did! I picked up a Lumia 920 last October. It’s an amazing phone, and the ability to play Xbox games and earn achievements on the move is a real bonus! Now I’ve got a Vita as well, I realise how cool an Xbox handheld would be. They’ve got a decent library of phone games that would port straight over and the infrastructure to support it, and I’m pretty sure they could release XBLA titles on there, too.

Blue: How long have you been gaming?

TA: A very long time indeed! I had an Atari 2600 in 1980 then got a ZX Spectrum 48k with the rubber keys, on which I learnt to program as well as play games. I then moved onto an Amiga 500, then 600, before getting a PS1 at launch, then a PS2, Xbox, Xbox 360, PS3, and a Wii. And I’ve now pre-ordered the Xbox One and the PS4. This year is going to be a very special year to be a gamer.

Blue: What do your parents/significant other/friends have to say about your gaming?

TA: My wife’s not a gamer, but she’s pretty cool with it. She knows it’s important for me to stay on top of the gaming scene for work, and that means I have to play some games every now and then. It’s harder to find time now we have Daisy of course.

Blue: Daisy? I'd love to hear about her. Tell us about your home life – parents, spouse, children, animal companions?

TA: I live with my wife of seven years, and we had our first baby in March this year – a very cute little girl called Daisy.

Here’s a picture of the two of us….

daisy


Blue: She's adorable! Congratulations to both you and your wife! Actually, Daisy's a hard act to follow, but I suppose we must try to carry on as best we can... smile

So, what’s your favorite game of all time on any console? What makes it special?


TA: GTA Vice City. The first time I got on that motorbike at sunset and burned off down the road and Billie Jean came on the radio…just an epic moment. I had so much fun in that world; the missions alone would have made a fantastic game, but the sandbox playground gave me hours and hours of unscripted entertainment as well.

Blue: What upcoming game are you most looking forward to?

TA: After playing Titanfall at Gamescom, that’s my most anticipated. I’m also desperate to play GTA V in a couple of weeks.

Blue: Do you prefer single-player or multi-player?

TA: I’ve always had a healthy love of both. At university, we used to play a lot of eight-player Micro Machines on the PS2, and those were some of best times I’ve had gaming. I played the entirety of Saints Row 2 in co-op with hankford, and that was an awesome experience. But, then again, I loved the single-player campaigns of the Mass Effect series, Far Cry 3, Halo 3, etc. So I am happy with either; just give me a game to play!

Blue: You've mentioned owning several different consoles. What are your favorites on other platforms?

TA: I own a PS3, Wii, and a Vita of the most recent generations. I most enjoyed Uncharted 2 on the PS3 and have a decent amount of love for Journey. I don’t have too many Vita games yet, but Need For Speed Wanted is amazing. And I have Wii Sports on the Wii...because that’s the only game anyone has on the Wii, right?

Blue: lol. That sounds about right. Tell us about your gaming set-up.

TA: I have a dedicated area of the TA office for gaming. I have two X-Rocker DreamRocker gaming chairs and my Xbox 360 Slim, PS3, and Wii connected to a 50-inch TV.

game setup

Blue: Oh, man, that's sweet!
game setup2


TA: All my games are on the right:

game collection


TA: Here’s the other side of the office, where all the magic happens:

office


Blue: And it's been a great deal of magic indeed!

********************
*Lightning Round*
********************

Favorite 360 game?

Grand Theft Auto IV

Favorite non-360 game?

Uncharted 2

Least favorite game?

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Sorry, everyone!)

Favorite game developer?

Rockstar

Favorite game weapon?

The Penetrator in Saints Row 3

Most hated game enemy?

The Joker in Batman Arkham Asylum - rubbish boss battle in an otherwise staggeringly good game.

Favorite game character?

Shepherd

Favorite game ending?

Mass Effect 2

Most hated game ending?

Can’t think of one, but it’s not Mass Effect 3!

Favorite game music?

GTA Vice City

Blue: That ends our lightning round. Considering what you've done for gamers around the world, I suppose I must forgive you for your comments about Oblivion...ahem. Yes, moving on. Thank you again for taking the time to talk to us. Here's wishing you the best of good fortune in all of your endeavors!


And that's it, ladies and gents. Join me for one more giant THANK YOU to TrueAchievement for taking the time to share his time and part of his life with us. Join me back here in a couple of weeks for our next guest, Mo the Surfer. Come and see me, and...let's talk. wave

Think you're a good candidate for the Community Interview or know someone who is? Send me a PM and let me know why you believe that. Convince me. Please keep in mind that I've been inundated with requests. I tell you this not to discourage you from writing me but to explain why you might not hear back from me for a while. See you later! B1ueSeptember.
Cindy Minguez
Written by Cindy Minguez
Cindy has been writing for TA/TT for three years now and is the Assistant Manager of the Newshounds at TrueTrophies. She's an English instructor at a small college and considered a remarkably cool teacher for knowing all about Mass Effect, Skyrim, and Diablo III.