Keywords: miscellaneous
A BYONDscape Classic! There are some who believe that Dan has become a vast Internet-based intelligence, thanks to BYOND, the Trojan horse by which he maintains his distributed consciousness. There are others, though, who believe he is in a bag in someone's basement. I suppose the theories aren't necessarily mutually contradictory. Of course Nadrew had no idea of either of these theories when he originally wrote this article, and would never in any event keep Dan in a bag in his basement, so I probably shouldn't even bring it up.

Please note: This interview was done in mid to late 2003, as you'll notice, much as changed since then.

This is an interview with BYOND's creators, and all-around good guys, Dan Bradley and Tom Hehre. This will ask the questions we're all wanting to know. Tom answered them all and Dan just said "Wow! Tom filled it all in for me." So all the answers are in Tom's view, but it accounts for Dan's side too. Dan also added something neat near the end. Enjoy!

What drove you to make a online game creation tool?

Seeing as a degree in theoretical physics isn't worth the paper it's printed on, we realized we had to find another way to make money, and, with graduation looming in us at the time, we had to do it quickly (we were a bit off on that part)! This seemed as good a method as any.

Truthfully, the project started out much less ambitious-- we just wanted to make a graphical network game. Actually, the original plan was just a network game, but that was when Dantom was "sans Tom". Dan invited me to his dorm room one afternoon and showed me some code he'd been messing around with. In just a few weeks he had put together a roguelike text-system that worked over a TCP/IP network! I believe it compiled in a few map levels and had some predefined commands (like "say" and "get"). I was extremely impressed. We decided to add graphics (I had messed around with X-windows) and make a game of it. Those first months were kind of exciting, as we surfed the web (still in its infancy) looking for competitors-- surprisingly there was very little in terms of graphical networked roguelikes/rpgs out there. I don't remember how long we actually spent on the game-- I think it may have gone out the window once we started arguing about how the combat would work. At some point we decided to just let people build the games themselves by adding a basic language centered around rpg-commands. Now, six years later, it's evolved a bit :)

How did you two meet each other?

We went to the same college. Dan was the guy who sat in the front of the CS class, nice and attentive. I sat in the back so I could, um, rest my brain. I remember actively seeking out Dan early sophomore year because I heard he was a computer guru and I had a question for him regarding a compiler flag (he didn't know the answer either ... overrated guru status, if you ask me). Then later I approached him because I wanted to write a program that would hide the echo from the screen so I could steal passwords from people logging into my computer; he knew how to do that one but I was to lazy (and ethical :) to pursue it. I finally got to know him when we were paired up as physics lab partners on one experiment, which we totally bumbled! At the end of junior year we wasted some time trying to disprove quantum mechanics with a nice graphical demonstration called "wavetank". I don't remember what happened to that-- I think the physics staff had to make sure word didn't get out. And then DUNG/BYOND was born, and we've been in daily contact ever since.

What are some of the biggest problems you've had in the many years you've been working on this system?

Probably the biggest Dantom crisis was when Dan was stuck in India without food, water, or shelter, surviving only by the grace of his trusty laptop. Well, I jest a bit, but still, those days were tough. Every week or so I'd get emails like, "I've caught typhoid!" or "a revolt is coming and they've cut off our power!"

Clearly the biggest problem over the years has been the feature creep. Don't get me wrong-- I love adding features-- but let's just say that we don't have the most rigorous testing suite for said features. That means that things get broken every so often, and people complain. Fortunately they still love us.

How do you feel about your achivements since the project was started?

I was really impressed when I saw the first demonstration of pseudo-3D in BYOND, I'll tell you that much.

What are your thoughts on how the community has grown?

We're really pleased with the community, especially since we've really never advertised the system during this time. I think that around 1999-2000 we had an influx of a number of very intelligent people who really cared about the system. They provided the first real games on BYOND and gave us valuable feedback on what we could do to improve it. So the community had a certain quality. Then someone advertised a DBZ game and we suddenly had quantity too!

What are your plans for the future of BYOND?

The next step is to make this a profitable operation. That was our goal about five years ago, but hey, better late than never. We're starting to pursue a few different markets, including the educational one, which, in my opinion, has a noble quality about it. Once we get some funding, we'll be able to really expand the user base. I'd like BYOND to become a standard part of the Internet experience, just as much as a webbrowser or telnet program is currently.

My hope is that in time, you'll be able to hook up to the hub and find hundreds of games and thousands of online users at any one time. And since the whole system is based around people creating their own games, there is no limit to the expansion. Of course, that may become a problem in itself, but having too many users is definitely better than not having enough!

I won't go into specific planned features for the future, but I will leave you with this: for better or worse, we probably haven't gone more than a few days without touching the mess of code that is BYOND; like any six-year-old, it is still just a child, often mischievious, always growing. The BYOND of tommorow will be bigger and stronger than the one of today, and although it will probably be buggier, the BYOND of the day-after-that should be nice and stable. You get the idea.

Dan adds:

I still remember the day we hit on the name 'Dantom'. It was a warm sunny day ... oh, this was southern CA, so I guess I don't need to describe the ambient conditions. Anyway, we were sitting in the dining hall arguing about quantum mechanics or fruit or something and suddenly I remembered this name that had come into my head, so I told him.

Whoa! You should have seen the fight. We were still there hours later when the sweepers finally booted us out. I finally won by virtue of the cadence of Dantom, which, as anyone can tell, sounds distinctly Japanese and high-tech, whereas Tomdan, as anyone can tell, sounds distinctly like Tom-Dan--a dead giveaway that it's not a global Japanese corporation.

Compare this fight to the one we didn't have over the name for BYOND, which actually wasn't BYOND, but Dantom's Universal Network Game, aka DUNG. This would seem to indicate that hubris is no substitute for marketing genius. But before you jump to such a conclusion, consider some of the marketing angles that were anticipated at the time: Dream Seeker was the DUNG Seeker; Dream Daemon was the DUNG Server; BYONDimes were DUNG pieces; and user keys enabled for transacting in dimes were DUNG Traders.

All of this confirms my opinion that it doesn't take an MBA to succeed in the business world. All you need is basic common sense and a working knowledge of Reimannian Geometry.

I found that really interesting to read. In all my time on BYOND I often wondered how it all came about. However, I knew asking random BYOND oldbies would most likely have resulted in a ton of fictional stories of what they perceived to have happened.

Thanks, Nadrew!

And a thanks to you to, Gughunter. It was a really interesting article. :)
I remember this interview, but I don't recall Dan's piece at the end.

I still have 78 pieces of DUNG in my wallet, and some more coming for my Evaluate library. (I think) I'd say the library is worth a lot of dung.

*Heads to the mint, AKA john*
And some DUNG.
Hahahah I love it. DUNG Pieces and DUNG Traders. Golden stuff.
Wow, it's been so long since I did this I almost forgot it existed. Thanks for reposting this gem of BYOND history Guy!
"They provided the first real games on BYOND and gave us valuable feedback on what we could do to improve it. So the community had a certain quality. Then someone advertised a DBZ game and we suddenly had quantity too! "

That's probably the best part of the interview. Since we're really seeing what anime is doing to the quantity now.
Bringing it in something shocking? We can't deny Anime is bringing in the users. The only problem is this AOL Chat BS that can't be killed.

"y du u fink dat dis iz k?" - I think I just say: "Why do you think that this is okay?" - But don't hold me to that.
Anime games may have brought the numbers, but those numbers, aren't too intelligent. Most of them are early teenage years and pre-teens to the twenty five year old who grew up watching transformers, and still type like they lack a proper high school English 101 class. Although it's amusing to see that Byond originated because of someone wanting a text on screen echo.
Tom said:
My hope is that in time, you'll be able to hook up to the hub and find hundreds of games and thousands of online users at any one time.

Wish granted!
Flick wrote:
Tom said:
My hope is that in time, you'll be able to hook up to the hub and find hundreds of games and thousands of online users at any one time.

Wish granted!

Theme of this story: Becareful what you wish for.
My current theory on Dan is that he evolved into a tangle of uncommented spaghetti logic. I've done research on this and I'm pretty sure I'm right.
I'm almost certain that at some point, Dan managed to find a way to upload himself into the internet, and just hasn't quite figured out how to get himself out again.