HIH: In a big-picture sort of way, what effect has XBL and the focus on MP had on the fanbase - good, bad, and/or ugly?
I don't think I could put value judgements on the changes - the fanbase is different, but not in a good or bad way. It's just different. In a lot of ways, it's more casual; there are lots and lots and LOTS of people you'll meet playing Halo 3 on Xbox LIVE that hardly even know Bungie's name; they just play the game, and they like it. You could probably say it's more superficial - there's less focus on the backstory, more on the gameplay. But that doesn't mean the dedicated fanbase is gone - it's just not growing as fast as the casual one. The quantity of people creating cool stuff has certainly not decreased, which suggests that the pool they're coming from (the 'dedicated' pool) isn't getting any smaller.
XBL in specific, and the Xbox as a console in general, broadened the appeal of Bungie's games - or perhaps demanded that Halo, as a game, have a wider appeal. Marathon sort of had a reputation as a thinking man's Doom, and I think to some extent the broad audience of Halo has eroded that bit of elitism in Bungie fandom - or, rather, made it a less prominent feature of the landscape.
XBL gets blamed for, or at least associated with, a lot of bad things: foul-mouthed players, cheaters, modders, boosters, griefers, and general unpleasantness. Of course, all these things existed in the much smaller Myth community before. Not to the same extent and not in exactly the same way, but I think most of the ills of the online Halo community are the ills of any large group where competetive activities play a large part. So I don't see it as a bad thing. If Halo's multiplayer appeals to the point-and-shoot player who doesn't care about story or nuance, that's fine - who knows, maybe someday his Internet connection will go out, he'll be stuck playing campaign and he'll suddenly see something there he didn't before, something he'd never noticed and wouldn't have if Halo had been a game without multiplayer.
HIH: The last questions are going to be more related to you personally - what you do, how, and why.
Anecdotal evidence points me to the fact that fansites which endure over many years are ran by people that have...uh...a little age on them. :) How do you see this? Does your age/maturity play a part in keeping the doors open at your site?
This is true, I think, for a few reasons. Maturity certainly plays a role - younger folks tend to jump into things with enthusiasm, but are just as likely to jump back out when something NEW comes along, while older people might not even START a fansite unless they see a niche they want to fill. But also, when you're young, your life changes more rapidly. You go from high school to college to a job all in a 4 or 5-year stretch - and each shift is a huge drain on resources you might be able to spend on outside activities. As priorities change, you might find that that site you loved is something you simply don't have time for any more.
Older people are often more settled; their life has a routine to it, and they often know where they'll be in a year, or 5 years. It's easier to stick with a long-term project because the outside influences pulling you away from it aren't as strong. I have kids - and a job I like. We have no plans to move for several years; I can budget my time to allow for HBO-updating, in a way that's easier for me than it would be for someone who's college-aged (or even younger).
To some extent it's just math. After all, next summer will mark the 10th anniversary of the announcement of Halo at MacWorld. So anybody who started working on a Halo site back then will be ten years older. Unless they became a Halo fan in high school or earlier, you'll be looking at someone with a few years on them. Then again, Claude makes us all feel young.
As for whether there's a relationship between age and site longevity, I suppose it could be true. After all, how many people are really interested in the same things at age 30 or 40 that they are at age 16? So I think there's been a constant influx of Halo fans over the years, but a lot of them eventually become interested in other things and aren't so active. There's a core that soldiers on, though, and they grow old together. And then there's people who come to the community at a later age, and I think for them if they become active at that age it's perhaps more likely that they'll stay active long-term, because there's possibly a bit less of a chance that there will be wholesale upheaval in their lives that alters their priorities. Doesn't mean it can't happen, though.
HIH: If you had to list a couple of reasons why your fansite is still chugging along today, X years after it was started, what would be on that list?
The easy one is 'fans'. I'm continually amazed by what people come up with, content-wise - the ways they choose to express their love for the game or the game's universe. Sticking around gives me a chance to see this stuff as it comes out - and so far, that hasn't gotten boring.
I guess inertia plays a role, as well; walking away from the site would create a pretty major void in my life at this point. I've been doing this for so long, and it's taken up such a significant chunk of my time, that freeing that time would leave me... empty.
Firstly because I enjoy doing it. It provides me a soapbox to climb up onto once in awhile and rant at length about things I like or don't like about Halo in particular or video games in general, and I find that fun, and for the time being enough other people find it fun to read those things that it seems worth doing.
Another thing is that to some extent I feel that it's a neat thing that Rampancy has kept going this long and I want to see how long it can go on. Part of the reason for using a name like "rampancy" instead of something very Halo-specific was that so it could cover a wide range of topics: Marathon, Myth, Stubbs the Zombie, whatever Bungie does next. I'm very keen to see what Bungie does next that isn't related to Halo.
HIH: Something that I have a hard time quantifying is how Bungie/Halo has connected me with great people. Both online and in person, the people of our little online world never cease to make me proud. We definitely have our share of numbskulls, but the 'true fans' of the games that I've managed to meet seem to be a cut above. Truly, class-A people.
Give me some brief thoughts on how Bungie/Halo has connected you with people 'around the block and across the world', and how it's had an impact on your life.
A huge chunk of the people I currently interact with on the internet are, in some way or another, Bungie-related. In real life, I do web design - many of my customers are people I met through Bungie-related sites, or people they've recommended me to. When I travel, if there's free time planned, I look up Bungie community friends in the destination city. (In 1997 and 1998, we traveled around the world, and I threw rocks at Chris Butcher's window in Dunedin, New Zealand.) It would be hard to overestimate the impact of Bungie's games, directly or indirectly, on my life - for the past 9 years, I've spent several hours a day, almost every day, working on material that's tied to them. I keep missing Step 3, though (profit). Gotta work on that.
There are some great people that Halo has connected me with-- it'd be far too unfair to try and list them here, there are too many. Some have been people at Bungie, either now or in the past, others are people in the community, involved in one site or another, and others are people I've met playing who are just nice people who were fun to play with.
A special shout-out has to go to the denizens of the realtime chat Halo community, a strange and amorphous group that has changed a lot over the years. These were people who were so into their Bungie fandom that playing online and reading and writing on forums was not enough, they had to be in constant contact with each other for hours at a time. It started with a series of Hotline servers and eventually moved to Internet Relay Chat, and now it lives at irc.bungie.org. They're truly a unique bunch.
And true to the observation that the eventual topic of discussion for any community becomes the community itself, rather than the thing that brought it together, some of the people in that community don't own Xboxes and don't play Halo anymore, but they're part of the community anyway, and that's the way it should be.
[DUKE: Right on.]
HIH: Allow me to wind it up with a warm fuzzy. :)
Quite simply, recount one of your favorite, or most memorable, Halo/Bungie moments.
There are too many to count these days - but most of them center around fan events. (Fits right in there with the 'Community is the most important part' argument, doesn't it?) A recent one was the bus ride from Bungie's studio to Best Buy on the night of Halo 3's launch... simply for its surrealism.
The party broke up in time to get Bungie employees to a few different retail outlets around the Seattle suburbs - buses were waiting to take people to a couple of different malls. I was sitting next to Marty, and we were drinking tiny bottles of scotch as they were handed back by other riders (there were a couple of coolers worth in the front of the bus). And we were talking about stuff I hope someday to be able to share. It was a fantastic night, full of energy and enthusiasm and just plain excitement... and I was there.
Wow... there really are too many to choose from, but I guess I'll have to go with the FanFest at Neutral Ground in New York back in 2000. It was the first time I'd met other Bungie fans in person. Hamish Sinclair of the Marathon Story Page was there selling 77 MSP t-shirts and I got one; it remains one of my favorites today. There were games of Marathon and Myth, and guys from Bungie came and showed the E3 2000 video, which was a blast. I still miss the dinosaurs.
This interview really turned out to be more than I expected, and I'm very grateful for the time these guys took in responding. Much of this I've never read before, and it's great to hear from people who play a huge part in keeping our crazy community rolling along.
Good stuff. Much thanks to Louis and Narc.