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Hatrack River - eGenesis to Develop Alvin's World as a Multi-player Online Game

eGenesis to Develop Alvin's World as a Multi-player Online Game
Letter to Hatrackers from Orson Scott Card
January 5, 2005

An Interview about the Alvin Maker Game

After all these years of taking part together in this online Hatrack River community, I'm happy to announce that today (5 January 2005), I entered into an agreement with eGenesis, the game company that created "A Tale in the Desert."

Andy Tepper, the lead designer of ATITD, saw in the Tales of Alvin Maker a world where another non-combat-centered community-building game could offer new possibilities.

Four different magic systems, plus the technology track, offer players many ways to develop their characters; the presence of Calvin, Arthur Stuart, Peggy Larner, and Alvin Maker himself will provide plenty of complications and opportunities.

Above all, this alternate version of America will have ongoing events that players can affect, changing history each time a full game is played.

The game will be by paid subscription and will be played online. It will take some time to develop it, of course, but progress reports will be made here, including graphics as they become available.

For Hatrackers who have characters in our little town, we will set up a registry for you and try to reserve those names for you, if you wish, when the game is actually up and running. I'll be holding on to "Horace Guester" for myself.

And Andy Tepper says that he will come into the Hatrack forums from time to time during game development to learn from what we've already done.

Meanwhile, I will be involved in game development -- but I know enough about game design that I intend to let a very good design and programming team do their work without interference from me.

I will help mostly by coming up with ideas and possibilities for "off-track" events -- things that are happening in Alvin's world, but which will never show up in the books. I will also protect the books by making sure that the game doesn't contradict them in any serious way.

The goal, however, is to let the players freely develop characters and take part in a wonderful, magical world. We intend the game to be closely connected to the main storyline of the books (i.e., the building of the Crystal City; the effort to avert civil war) and to use the multiple magic systems and the community-building that are at the heart of the Tales of Alvin Maker.

But for me, the highest priority is making it a great game, whether a player has read the books or not.

To learn more about eGenesis, here are several links.

The game "A Tale in the Desert II"

PC Gameworld's information page about ATITD:

Who Is eGenesis?

Andy Tepper, the lead designer and principal owner of eGenesis, grew up in Vermont with his parents and sister. He always had the entrepreneur bug -- his first business was at age ten, selling candy and ice cream to other kids in the neighborhood.

He wrote his first game in sixth grade -- a shoot-em-up called "Astro Invader." By twelve he had saved enough money to buy his first computer, an Apple II. He had his first program published at age fourteen, a security program called "My Secret."

"That must have impressed the admissions people at Deerfield Academy enough to let me in," Tepper says. He graduated from Deerfield in 1985, and then went to Carnegie-Mellon, graduating in 1989.

He worked on the never-released dBase IV compiler for about 18 months, then tried his hand at real-estate development. "That was boring," Tepper says. All along he was writing games for fun ("Wave 15," "Laissez-Faire," "Liar's Poker Online," plus some unreleased stuff.)

He did consulting work for a company called IronSoft, writing Degree Audit software that helps college students and their advisors see how they are progressing toward their degree. (Colleges usually have nightmarishly complex requirements like "For your Math requirement, take any 6 of these courses, but no more than 3 can come from any one concentration, and you must maintain a 3.0 average among the courses.")

The owner of the company decided to pursue other interests, so Tepper bought the company. They ultimately became the number-three provider in the tiny "Third-Party Degree-Audit Software" niche.

In 1998, Tepper started eGenesis, the company that created and runs the successful online game "A Tale in the Desert."

In 1999, Tepper married Ping Guo. They have two boys, Dustin (age five) and Spencer (five months). They live in Pittsburgh.

When Tepper isn't writing games, he enjoys glassblowing, soaring, food and wine, and playing games - especially Dance Dance Revolution.

The Rest of the eGenesis Team:

Josh Yelon started eGenesis with Andy Tepper. He graduated from Rice College, and then got his PhD in Distributed Systems from the University of Illinois. In addition to his work at eGenesis, he also teaches Game Programming at Carnegie-Mellon. Tepper says, "He is the most talented programmer I have every known."

David Cohen serves eGenesis as "lawyer, business advisor, investor, and friend."

James Kenney, a graduate of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, has been

with eGenesis since 1999.

Ed Brennan, also a graduate of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, has been with eGenesis since 2001.


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