Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 36

Thread: An Interview with Mehul Patel - Creator of Utopia

  1. #1
    Postaholic
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Posts
    913

    An Interview with Mehul Patel - Creator of Utopia

    For you, fellow Utopians. Long Live Utopia!

    Do you ever tire of these interviews? What do you wish you were asked when sent these over the ages?

    Honestly, I haven't done one in a long while, so it's not a big deal. Back in the day, they were a good way to communicate ideas and larger picture vision outside of the forums or individual conversations. I didn't have any particular questions that I thought should or shouldn't be asked.

    What languages did you use to program Utopia? Did you build off of an existing structure, such as your previous games, or was Utopia programmed from scratch?

    Utopia was programmed in Borland Delphi - I'm not sure if it exists today anymore or not, but at the time was a more sophisticated version of Turbo Pascal. Utopia was built off the infrastructure of Earth: 2025, but that was built completely from scratch.

    Why Utopia (the name)? Was it what you envisioned?

    That was all a long time ago, so I don't even remember anymore. But I imagine it was related to the idea of trying to create a more perfect world, as compared to my previous games. I don't know that I had an overarching vision of the game at first, outside of two core ideas. First, it was designed to be played in real-time, unlike all the previous turn-based strategy games out there. I thought this was an important advancement in that there were so many loopholes with accumulation of turns in Earth: 2025. Second, the game was designed to make teamwork a core element. In Earth, people formed alliances and teams in different ways, but there was no initial structure for that (the Clan structure was added later). With Utopia, meeting and interacting with different types of people was the heart of what I was trying to create. While people found ways around it, I think it was mostly successful.

    Can you tell us what you thought of the political, cultural, societal, economic structures that developed as the game progressed?

    At first, I was a bit surprised by the dedication of some players and how it sort of unbalanced things or made it more difficult for less involved players. The game was designed to sort of be a skeleton for players to build upon, so while not necessarily exactly what I envisioned, it was a natural evolution of the game.

    What did you think of alliances? Were they beneficial, or harmful to the game?

    Another unexpected but natural evolution of the game. I would have liked if they were smaller and more limited - I think that would have been friendlier to newer and less engaged players, but it is what it is. I was creating a structure for social interaction, so beyond that, it was hard for me to then try to control the nature of the interactions.

    You knew people traded accounts to get into kingdoms, yet you often turned a blind eye. Is this because you made a decision there was nothing you could do about it, and the priority were multiple accounts, as opposed to one-account, trade-in players?

    We didn't ever turn a blind eye. The whole trading account thing or creating multiple accounts to pick a kingdom went against everything we were trying to build. But people were also very emotionally invested in their accounts, and we tried to avoid deleting just based on suspicions. We needed to be convinced we were right so we didn't wrongly delete people who had invested time and energy into the game. Since we didn't require payment of any sort, we had limited tools to work with to determine cheaters, so a lot of people got away with it as a result.

    Do you ever miss playing? We know you are busy and have other interests, but are there moments you think back on fondly? If so, what is it you miss most? And what is it you are truly happy not to revisit?

    Not really - because I was so focused on design and development, I never really played any of my games very competitively. I would create accounts and observe, but since I had access to all sorts of behind-the-scenes data, it wouldn't have been fair to play as a very active participant.
    In terms of looking back, I'm proud of what we were able to create. It would be nice to have unlimited time and be able to have developed it further as the internet developed more (higher speeds, social networks, etc). But my programming was never my passion and my skills weren't keeping up with the times, so it would have been like swimming upstream.
    I enjoyed knowing that I was creating something that, in some way, affected tens of thousands of people's daily lives. I really loved the individual stories of how Utopia or Earth: 2025 were able to bring people closer together or positively shape the arc of some people's lives, whether it be meeting significant others or helping parents bond with adopted children and things like that. But with anything that involves competition, you have the cheating/deception/etc. I won't miss any of that at all - it was always a drain to have to spend so much time and resources combating that instead of building the game.

    Time has long passed since you owned the game. There are things Utopia would love to know.

    Will you ever come back to Utopia to play?


    When I was into gaming as a player, I was more the casual type, and I focused my development on that audience. But today, I feel it's more a game for the hard-core type gamer more so than the casual one. I also don't really do any computer gaming these days at all.

    Are you straight or gay?

    Straight.

    Why do you hate us?

    Why not?

    Was there another reason Utopia existed?

    Earth:2025 was originally my way to learn to program for the internet. Utopia was my way to learn how to develop a real-time and more interactive game - basically, the evolution of the more-basic Earth game. They were also a way for me to not have to get a full-time traditional job when coming out of school.

    Your opinion about the game now?

    Honestly, I don't know much about it. I've heard from disgruntled players, but newer and happier players would have no real reason to contact me, so it's not an unbiased sample. I disagreed with many of the changes over the years that changed the dynamics of the game (allowing kingdom selection / trading, paid babysitting, etc), but I'm also not involved in the development or with the player base, so I'm not sure how relevant my opinions would be.

    What do you see for the future of the game, if it could be developed further?

    I think there's a great deal of potential there - the core ideas are still sound and can stand the test of time because the game is really just about creating unique and fun ways for people to interact. With the explosion of the internet, there are more options out there, but there also so many more people that can be reached. Things would need to be updated for the modern internet user, but I think there's plenty of potential.


    Mehul, you were an extremely talented web pioneer and could have continued on this path. Why did you decide to go in a different direction with your business aspirations?


    For me, the challenge is always in creating something new and different. Once I've been doing something for a while, I tend to lose interest / focus, and it makes more sense for someone else to take over and lead it further. Programming/web design was never my passion and was sort of accidentally where I ended up. In general, I like each of my business ventures to take a completely different route and focus on different ideas and concepts because it keeps things are more interesting and challenging.

    Do you ever regret walking away from the dot com world?

    I don't think so. There's a side of me that wonders what we could have created, but at the same time, I was no longer really enjoying it that much, and I think it's really important to do things that you love. So it simply wasn't a good fit anymore.

    Tell us where you played. We all want to know. What about the people (you donít have to name names) you played with.

    I really have no idea. I generally didn't play with any particular kingdom for more than a few weeks/months and mostly just in an observational or less active role. My job was primarily to gauge how kingdoms were interacting, what I create to better facilitate that, etc.

    What did you find interesting or surprising in the actual playing of the game, both as a dev and as a player? Was there any challenge for you?

    As a dev and game master, I knew too much to really play competitively - it would have been unfair to the other players. What I found most fascinating and surprising - maybe simply as a result of my own ignorance - was how quickly the game spread across the globe, and how so many players with limited or no English skills were able to participate and interact so effectively. I loved it, but it was definitely not something I envisioned or expected.

    If you could do things differently, what would you have done?

    I'm not sure I'd actually do this, but I wish I had explored the viability of micro-payments - either by credit card or through some other payment systems. Our goal was always accessibility - anyone could play from anywhere - but the tradeoff was the cheating and other problems created. Having even a $0.50 payment associated with a credit card could have eliminated so many problems and really legitimized the game structure much more. Unfortunately, back at that time, credit cards weren't as universally used and modern payment systems like Paypal/Venmo/etc simply didn't exist. But I would have loved to have seen what we could have created with a mostly secure anti-cheating mechanism in place.

    Do/did you have other game ideas?

    I dabbled with designing games with more sophisticated economic and political elements (building a detailed city/state/etc), but they never went beyond early stage concepts. Utopia and Earth needed more attention rather than less, so it never made sense to try to start a 3rd game.

    What about your other business ventures? What are you doing now, besides going to the Olympics and seeing the world when you are not working crazy hours?

    My philosophy with life is to always strive to do something interesting, unique, and fun, so each of my business ventures tends to be completely different from previous ones. My latest is an escape room started with several friends, sort of a full circle to creating live gaming away from computers and screens and back to interacting directly with people in creative new ways. That's only been going for about a year, so I have no idea what I might do next!
    -----------------------

    Fini!

  2. #2
    Forum Fanatic octobrev's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    us
    Posts
    2,269
    I knew it. He DOES hate us. Fair enough though; we deserve it.

    Remove trading and reshuffle imo. It would be interesting with the newer anti-cheating measures.

  3. #3
    Moderator for:
    Utopia Forums

    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Posts
    21,620
    My question wasn't asked

  4. #4
    Postaholic
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Posts
    913
    Your question was lame. In fact, very disappointing.

    ETA Palem's Very Disappointing Question: "Q: Where do frogs go in the winter?"
    Last edited by Panthira; 05-11-2016 at 00:15.

  5. #5
    Forum Fanatic octobrev's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    us
    Posts
    2,269
    WHERE DO frogs go in the winter? We passed up a serious learning opportunity.

  6. #6
    Post Fiend
    Join Date
    Aug 2016
    Posts
    123
    I didn't always agree with Mehul, but I always respected his way of doing things. But reading his comments here, I think I'm more impressed than ever. I was a teenager when I started playing, but fast forward 18 years, through a lot of post-secondary education and professional work, and I now appreciate just how rare that kind of professionalism is.

    I'm 100% in agreement with him about Kingdom selection, and I think that's a huge part of why the demographic (and size) of the game has changed so much.

  7. #7
    Post Fiend joeblogs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Posts
    262
    It would be interesting to see Mehul get back into the game development sphere. He has vision and talent, which I think should shine again.
    "Because of the implication"

  8. #8
    Forum Fanatic octobrev's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    us
    Posts
    2,269
    Oh wow you asked him if he was gay. Don't you think that's a little inappropriate Panthira?

  9. #9
    Postaholic
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Posts
    913
    Quote Originally Posted by octobrev View Post
    Oh wow you asked him if he was gay. Don't you think that's a little inappropriate Panthira?
    You just want me to tell everyone that was your question to him.

    He didn't mind, and now you all have the answer you have been dying to know. Hehe!

  10. #10
    Postaholic
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Posts
    913
    Heh. Palem. Sorry... I will ask him your question and come back with the answer.

  11. #11
    Veteran texn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Sweden
    Posts
    612
    Quote Originally Posted by Palem View Post
    My question wasn't asked
    Frogs are amazing animals. Despite their fragile appearance and inoffensive ways, they have countless strategies to deal with the most severe climates this planet has to offer. They can be found at the Arctic Circle, in deserts, in tropical rain forests and practically everywhere in between. Some of their survival strategies are nothing short of ingenious. Various frog species use two strategies to deal with environmental extremes: hibernation and estivation.
    Hibernation is a common response to the cold winter of temperate climates. After an animal finds or makes a living space (hibernaculum) that protects it from winter weather and predators, the animal's metabolism slows dramatically, so it can "sleep away" the winter by utilizing its body's energy stores. When spring weather arrives, the animal "wakes up" and leaves its hibernaculum to get on with the business of feeding and breeding.
    Played in Freeakstyle from 2009 to age 72 (2017) <3 - 7honor 1war crown | On a break

  12. #12
    Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Denmark
    Posts
    14
    nice nice nice

  13. #13
    Veteran Nim's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Belgium
    Posts
    540
    Cool interview.

    What does Mehul do nowadays exactly?
    PEW PEW PEW!

  14. #14
    Forum Addict Scavenger's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    1,003
    Hero
    #adrenaline

  15. #15
    Forum Fanatic khronosschoty's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Posts
    2,200
    Quote Originally Posted by octobrev View Post

    Remove trading and reshuffle imo.

    Could be interesting if they tried that out for a few ages.

    Might also be interesting if rotating ages were tried out... random on shuffle then pick your own etc.
    #magi

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •