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Interview with Fencer (30. November 2003)

Where does the nickname 'Fencer' come from?
It started more than 10 years ago when I had been introduced to a game of Dungeons and Dragons and I'd wanted to find a name for my warrior with good fencing skills. So I had grabbed my dictionary [since the Czech word "sermir" didn't sound good as a name] and - voila! - it's "fencer"! Actually, I don't fence and I've never had a sword in my hand :-)

Do you have any hobbies outside of computers and music?
Well, currently I don't have much time for hobbies because my little daughter [2 and half years old] successfully keeps me occupied each day :-) Anyway, outside of computers and music, I used to play baseball very often, I like to read books in English, I like to visit theatres and cinemas, I like to play board games [strange, huh? :-)] etc.

What is your height and weight?
181 cm and 66 kg. And many people say that I look younger than I am.

Are you a drinking man? Do you go to the pub for a drink? If not, how do you relax?
I would lie if I say that I've never visited a pub but I do it very rarely, I have no time for it. Actually, I prefer to open a bottle or good old whisky with my friends at home. Occasionally and only when I don't want to work :-)

Do you have any other aspirations above and beyond the things you're already doing?
I want to bring back my music activities, buy new instruments [because I've already sold all of them except an acoustic guitar] and record some new CDs. I would also like to finish my unfinished projects from the past [games for mobile phones, for example]. But I don't think that I'll be able to do it "soon" [within a year or two].

Do you consider yourself a steak and potatoes kind of guy?
I don't think so. My favourite food is a nice prepared fish [especially salmon or sole] with shrimps or crabs, and I hate Czech cuisine, it's too stodgy and rich.

What do you like to eat for breakfast?
Almost nothing, I usually have only a cup of tea because I am not hungry in mornings. I prefer to eat slowly during the whole day, starting before a lunch time :-)

What are your favourite foods?
Fish, fish, fish! Salmon, eel, catfish, carp, pike, sand-eel, codfish, halibut, almost all of them. I also don't refuse excellent home-made tarts and cakes from my wife. And I like to visit McDonald's and KFC, from time to time.

Have you ever been to the U.S.?
Never. I've been to England, Scotland, Germany, Austria, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Russia, Georgia, Ukraine, Crete, Turkey and France, but I've never been to United States. Shame, isn't it? I should do something with that.

Where would be your dream holiday destination?
Well, I am a summer type, so it would be probably somewhere on a sunny beach at an exotic country where I've never been before. Probably something like my vacation at Turkey [5 years ago] which was fantastic. But first of all I want to visit England again. At least I can understand their language and my wife could improve her English ;-)

Do you speak any other languages besides Czech and English? Do you ever find it hard to keep the different languages seperate?
We learned Russian at a basic school but I cannot say that I speak Russian, it's too long ago when I used it for the last time. I always wanted to learn French but it also ended at the very basic lessons because of lack of time. And I think it is not easy to keep them separate, especially a combination of Slavonic [Czech] and non-Slavonic [English] ones. But it's not impossible :-)

What was your most embarrasing moment?
When I was asked to sing for a group of about 30 people and half of them I never met before. Moreover, they wanted me to sing my own songs and play a piano [and a guitar]. Fortunatally it was in a chapel of one former monastery and all wobble of my voice was completely hidden at the reverbatory sound of the place :-)

What type of music do you play and what interested you in your music?
I play something on the edge between electronic and classical music. If you make a mix of Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, Enigma and Vangelis, you'll get my current direction. I always wanted to make a music which does not contain only a melody, a bass line and drums, I like to play with many sound layers that interfere one another and modulate the overall music impression in infinite number of emotional directions.

What instruments do you play and are you in a band?
I play piano, guitar and many kinds of synthesizers. I used to play in a band but now I prefer to do everything myself because I always wanted to follow my stream and not to argue with other band members. Kind of inadaptable, I would guess :-)

What are some of your favorite songs?
Requiem by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Wedding March by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, piano concerts by Peter Iljytch Tchajkovsky, many ballads by Martin Lee Gore [Depeche Mode], Opera Sauvage by Vangelis and also lots of movie or game soundtracks [Blade Runner, Braveheart, Star Trek, Once upon a time in the west, Chicken Run, Gabriel Knight, etc.].

What is your favourite sport, which do you dislike and which do you excel at?
I used to be good at table tennis and I love to play baseball [or softball]. I don't think that there is any sport that I really dislike.

Do you have any siblings? Brothers or Sisters, and Older or Younger?
I have one brother, two years younger than me. He teaches mathematics and computer graphics at one Czech university, he is not interested in board games and never visited BrainKing ;-)

Do you have any plans for more children?
NO WAY! Two kids are enough for my nerves and my wife shares this opinion with me. I didn't sleep well for more than two years and we would like to get some time for ourselves too.

How long have you been married?
Since 4th September 1999.

How did you meet the lovely Lenka?
Although we both come from the same city [Olomouc], we met on one web chat server ;-) I was already living and working in Prague and we liked to chat about everything, so we decided to meet in reality. And if I skip several more or less interesting or amusing events, we love to live together :-)

Does your wife complain about the time you have to spend devoted to Brainking?
Mostly no because she knows that nobody else will do my work and the work simply must be done. But I also try to reduce the time devoted to BrainKing as much as possible, games and development are not everything :-)

How did the idea of Brainking come about?
I've always been a big fan of board games, especially chess and its variants, and several years ago a friend of mine had recommended one game site where he wanted to play chess with me. I've checked it out and it wasn't bad, I really liked the idea of this kind of game sites, it was absolutely new for me. However, after trying out other similar sites as well, there was always something missing, I didn't find a "perfect site" that would contain everything I want. So, why not to create my own game site when I have experiences with developing web applications? :-)

What were you and Liquid doing at the time BK was dreamed up?
We were doing the same as we are currently doing. I work as a Java developer/architect, Liquid is a system administrator. We are not in the same company but we communicate almost continuously using all advantages that the modern internet and telecommunications bring.

How would you describe your original vision of Brainking?
I wanted to create a game site that can be easily found in the web jungle due to its original features. Although we already have many of them [as I was told by lots of users], it is only a beginning, my TODO list currently contains more than 200 entries :-) Everything depends on two main factors - time and money.

How do you envision Brainking 10 years from now?
I can see as a big international company and its headquarters are located in a futuristic building shaped as a huge brain made of bomb-proof glass :-) And if I want to be more serious, I would like to have a site that has the same prestige for game players as Ferrari means for F1 fans.

Will you and Liquid quit your present jobs, or will you be able to go back if BrainKing collapses?
First of all, BrainKing cannot collapse. As long as I have a regular income [and my experiences in Java will always be a good reason for big companies to employ me], there is no need to cancel it. If we quit our present jobs or not, it depends on income related to BrainKing only. I cannot say more details because the situation changes very often but I will announce all related events when they happen.

What do you like best about brainking and what things do you wish had maybe turned out a little differently?
The best thing is how many users think that BrainKing is the best game site around the world, of course :-) What I really find useful is to have all significant information displayed at one page [which also a subject to improve]. And what I would like to make differently is, for example, the discussion board system. I already plan to make it more customizable and I would like to add lots of new functions for board moderators to help them with keeping the board content "clean".

In hindsight, would you do it again if you had it to do over again? Start a game site.
Sure! It's the best challenge for a programmer because game sites [where almost all pages contain lots of dynamic up-to-date information] belong to the most difficult kinds of server applications. And where else should I play my favourite games? :-)

When you created BrainKing, did you have any idea it would grow so popular and so big?
I had NO idea about its popularity growth. Of course, I'd been spying on other games sites to find out what their users don't like and what I should make differently than elsewhere, but the real success/failure is always shown many months after the first launch. Moreover, it's my first really big project made by myself.

What is your favourite game on this site to play? If different, what is your favourite game out of anything?
Loop Chess, Tank Battle and Parachute Checkers. And my favourite game out of anything is bridge. It also means that I plan to add card games in the future :-)

Who do you have on your friends and enemies lists?
My Friends list contains 30 users, many of them are my regular game opponents and also people involved in BrainKing in some way. I plan to add an optional feature to display Friends list at the particular user's profile if he wants to release it to public. My Enemies list is empty.

Who would be the top ten BK members to be on your Christmas card list?
I have too many friends on BK to choose a Top Ten without insulting someone.

Exactly how many items are currently on your "TODO" list? :-)
Exactly 231 [as of 30th October 2003] :-)

What is your favorite PC game and game genre?
Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the sacred, blood of the damned. When I have time [which is not often], I like to play adventures and real-time strategies. I also used to participate in several game projects [as a musician or a level designer] but, unfortunatelly, they were never finished and released.

I've seen that you are very involved in other programming disciplines (like NetBeans) and I was just wondering if you have a formal education in programming or did you, like me, come to programming slowly by experience? If you had a formal education, what university? what was your major?
I did, like you, come to programming slowly by experience. I think that no university can make you a good programmer instantly, it can only teach you several basic programming techniques but when you are thrown into a real work, you realize that you know nothing. By the way, I studied numerical mathematics.

What is your favourite language to program in, and why?
Java, of course. The whole BrainKing is written in Java, including several additional tools :-) Why? It's the most flexible and powerful language I know and I have more than 5 years of programming experiences in Java. I also worked for 3 years in Sun Microsystems, the Java creators.

What can we, as members (including pawns who are unpaid members), do to help you out and make a positive difference?
The best help I can currently think of is a patience. I know that frequent downtimes of BrainKing can be really frustrating but I can hardly finish the new BK version faster until it's my full-time job. And, of course, it's always very helpful if you post all suggestions or requests at Feature Requests board. I read the board every day and nothing can give me a better picture than a direct user feedback. Everything is written down and will be used in a proper time.

What question(s) did you hope would be asked, and what would your answer(s) have been?
Well, actually, I didn't think of anything in particular. I am glad that I've got more questions than I expected because it shows that people are really interesting in BrainKing and its future.

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