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Interview with Greg Wolking

In this interview, Red Phoenix interviews Greg Wolking, a moderator at RCT Station, as well as the creator of the RCT Track Decoder.

Red Phoenix: Where did your first hear about Hasbro's Rollercoaster Tycoon? And what did you think of it once you played it?

Greg Wolking: I didn't even know the game existed (I'm not much of a "PC gamer" myself) until my mom gave me RCT and the Corkscrew Follies add-on for Christmas. My brother and I both love coasters, and my mom thought I'd dig the game. She was right -- way to go, mom! I thought the game would be cool when I saw Chris Sawyer's name on the box because I'd picked up his Transport Tycoon Deluxe in the bargain bin at Office Depot and had a lot of fun with it. Once I got RCT installed and started fooling around with it, I was blown away. It is by far the best computer game I've ever played.

Red Phoenix: What do you think of all the "anti-cheat" code Chris Sawyer placed in the RCT games?

Greg Wolking: It's both annoying and poorly implemented. I think it's really stupid when so-called "anti-cheat" code can prevent you from loading saved games in which you haven't "cheated" at all. As a software author and tech support person myself (I have written many utilities for PC Magazine and have been moderating their tech support forums for many years), I can understand the reasoning behind it but I still don't like it. I think the RCT community is mature and well-informed enough to know not to call tech support when the game blows up due to hacking, so I don't see any reason to continue this practice.

Red Phoenix: What's your opinion of RollerCoaster Tycoon 2?

Greg Wolking: Some parts are really good, some parts (like the way they screwed up path style selection) are really bad. It is clear that they paid at least some attention to the customer base when they added some features (such as stacking scenery). I like the way mechanics work now; it makes more sense and makes them easier to manage (although there are still some bugs to be addressed). Split stations and block brakes are great additions as well, but they should have been documented more thoroughly in the manual.

Red Phoenix: Will you be redoing any of your parks with RCT 2?

Greg Wolking: Probably not. I'm not really a "park maker" like some folks are. I just like building kick-ass coasters. Themeing is not (and probably never will be) my best skill. I'm still blown away by the stuff that guys like Mike Robbins do. RCT Station has a couple of my parks in the downloads section and while I think they have some great coasters, the parks as a whole look kinda sad compared to most other "fantasy" parks.

Red Phoenix: It looks like an RCT 2 expansion pack will be released in May 2003. What would you like to see specifically in the game?

Greg Wolking: First and foremost, fix all the bugs! Put path style selection back the way it was before. The staff, attraction, and banner sign limits are still too low. The scenario editor is nice, but needs a lot of work. I'd love to see some sort of "refurbish" command which, for a price (say, some fraction of the ride's original construction cost), would make the ride "brand new" again. Fix the path and track construction modes so that when you rebuild paths or ride track, associated scenery (such as doorways) doesn't get obliterated as long as it would fit the objects you're replacing.

Red Phoenix: Any chance you will be making any new utilities?

Greg Wolking: Probably not. I have updated my Track Decoder utility to support RCT2 (for the most part), but guys like Josef Drexler and Henry Winkelstein are light years ahead of me when it comes to "hacking" the game. This kind of work takes a tremendous amount of time and meticulous attention to detail and I just don't have the time to spend on it.

For the record, my RCT Track Decoder utility wouldn't even exist if it weren't for the work that Dr. J (and others) had already done in deciphering the game's compression scheme, ride codes, and so on. I took the information that they had compiled and ran with it. I wouldn't have been able to do all of that on my own.

Red Phoenix: What sort of RCT/RCT 2 utility would you like to see developed that isn't already available?

Greg Wolking: I don't know. I like to work within the game as it is. About the only "trainering" I ever do is to make rides new, empty the park, and reset the date. Don't get me wrong, I don't have anything against hacking, I just don't have much inclination to do it myself. I just like to fire the game up and build coasters.

Red Phoenix: What RCT sites do you visit on a regular basis?

Greg Wolking: RCT Station. I'm not much of a "web surfer" at all. I make part of my living working on the web (I moderate the tech support message boards at www.pcmag.com) so that's where most of my "web time" is spent.

Red Phoenix: If you could be someone (alive or dead) for one day, who would it be, and why?

Greg Wolking: John Wardley. I'd love to know, even if it's just for a day, how his mind works when he's creating a new coaster. It would also be cool to be worshipped as a god by coaster lovers world-wide. ;-)

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