by Jason Whong
Ambrosia Times: Psst... what's the password?
Nathan Lamont:Uhh... ummm... peaches en regalia?
AT: Ah, you must be Nathan Lamont, the one that wrote Ares. I hope you're having a good day so far! Tell me, how did you decide to bring Ares to Ambrosia?
NL: When I originally began work on Ares a long time ago, I approached Ambrosia with a primitive development version of Ares. Andrew presented some very compelling reasons for me to go the shareware route, but I decided to try "traditional" commercial distribution. That turned out to be a bad decision.
When the commercial publisher failed me, Andrew and I happened to begin chatting about a Usenet posting about Ares' fate. We got to talking, and we agreed that Ambrosia was the best way to "save" Ares. Now here we are.
AT: I'm told you've written some other things besides Ares. Now's your chance to plug 'em.
NL: I wrote a small internet gizmo called PPPremier Timer (http://www.biggerplanet.com/pppremier). It's a cute little utility that gives you a button to get connected to the internet and an LED timer to tell you how long you've been on. It's been doing pretty well. It's especially popular in countries where they have to pay for phone usage by the minute, but it's also useful as a fun and convenient way to connect and disconnect.
AT: What was your inspiration when you devised Ares? Did your upbringing, ancestry, or studies have any effect on the Ares universe?
NL: Naturally, my science fiction imagination has been shaped by Hollywood's giants of space, Star Trek and Star Wars. When I was a kid, that was about all there was. I also do a little sci-fi reading, but I'm pretty particular. There's not much I find worth reading in that realm. Ian M. Banks comes to mind as an exception.
I borrowed heavily from nature when trying to come up with intelligent species. I used just about every animal with the physical attributes that I imagined might be needed to evolve intelligence. Squids, elephants, crabs, beavers, even insects.
As far as gameplay goes, I like to think about ways to make gameplay different. It's interesting to see how many computer games there are, and yet how little variation in gameplay there is. There are many reasons that that's the way it is -- maybe if I were spending millions of dollars developing a game, I would want gameplay that's proven to be popular. That gives small developers like me great opportunities. Computers are incredibly flexible tools.
AT: How long does it take to make a game? Also, do you think you'll be making more?
NL: Ares took a long time. I didn't work on it constantly, but I'd guess all told it took 2 1/2 years or more. I became a better programmer and a better artist through working on Ares, and I think if I were working on it from scratch with the skills I now have, it might take me 10 to 14 months.
I will definitely be making more games. It's what I love to do.
AT: How do you like Massachusetts? Is it kind to you?
NL: I love the East Coast. I love Boston. My only complaint is that we lost the Macworld Expo. Now I have to go to NYC to get my fix.
AT: What do you do when you're not programming?
NL: Think about programming. It's true!
I enjoy reading and letting my brain go numb in front of the boob tube -- I'm horribly addicted to the old Perry Mason show these days. I emerge from my cave every so often and hang around with a bunch of boys at local bars. I like to travel, but don't get much chance to do it. Besides, it's hard to lug my giant monitor around.
AT: What's your favorite game of all time?
NL: That's a difficult question. You mean besides the upcoming Pop-Pop? I'd say Bolo.
AT: Do you swing dance?
NL: No. But do you want to see me bust a move?
AT: Ok, show me.
AT: Umm, that's enough, thanks. What's the number one thing you want Apple to start doing?
NL: I certainly don't know anything more about the business than Apple does, so I'll go the lust route. I'd like an eMate running the PalmOS. And I'd like it to cost $250. I love gizmos.
AT: Is there anyone that you havent' seen in a while who might be reading this, whom you'd like to say "hello" to?
NL: You mean people might read this?
AT: If you had all the time in the world, what kind of game would you design?
NL: I'd love to make a massively multiplayer game. It'd be a game with a non-static environment so the players could change it (i.e. build a house, or a bridge). It'd have space ships and robots in it. It'd be fun.
AT: What would you do with your life, if you didn't have to worry about putting a roof over your head?
NL: Since we're talking fantasy, I'd clone myself into eight people. Three of us would continue making games. One of us would make interactive installation pieces (art). One of us would make robots. One of us would write fiction. One of us would try to get into acting -- I used to do a lot of theater in college and it's one of the things I miss most. The last one would work on transferring our brains onto a computer so we could live to see what the future would be like.
AT: Is there anything that I should have asked you, which I didn't ask? And, of course, what would your answers to such questions be?
NL: I'm not sure what the questions are, but the answers are 1985, Victoria, the "Mars Needs Women" scenario, and YES!
AT: Thanky Thanky! I hope that you had as much fun at this interview as I did! And, if I'm ever in Boston, I'll drop you a line.