INTERVIEWS WITH THE WEBMASTER



On September 6th 2003 Santharia was selected as a Top 10 site for the month of September by the United Web Site Award Givers (UWSAG), an organisation to ensure quality criteria for people who give awards to other sites on the web. Later Santharia was chosen as Content Site of the Year by Vie's Inn of Wonders. As it is tradition at these sites that webmasters of award winning webpages are interviewed to present their projects to others and give advice and hints on how to create their own websites, here are the results of the interviews UWSAG and Tony from Vie's Inn of Wonder led with Artimidor.

 

INTERVIEW WITH TONY FROM VIE'S INN OF WONDERS
AFTER BEING AWARDED AS
SITE OF THE YEAR 2003

e are very pleased to have with us Artimidor Federkiel, owner and Webmaster of The Santharian Dream, that won our Content Site of the Year-award 2003... - Artimidor, what made you start building a fantasy website?

Vie's Inn of Wonders

View's Inn of Wonders Content Site of the Year Award 2003

Artimidor: Well, why not? Fantasy has always been something which interested me personally. I especially like role playing games taking place in medieval settings, which try to simulate a whole world and not only put some evil guys in dungeons Series like "Ultima" for example proved that there is much more to it than just monster-bashing in a role playing game. At "Ultima" people created a world which was based on philosophical values of morality, there existed whole cultures with historical traditions, with libraries full of interesting books to read and so on. "Ultima" seemed alive.

When I played "Ultima VI" for the first time (I skipped I to V), I was impressed with the interactive world, representing a whole book to play, where the story itself wasn't really the most important thing anymore - and you could play for months, not only for a few hours. I really enjoyed the dense atmosphere of these games, and when I read Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" for the first time at the age of 22 a while later, I was even more convinced that the building of a realistic fantasy world with the help of some computer tools would be an interesting challenge for me.

I started with writing first dialogues for NPC characters and later on to program tools in order to develop such dialogues and play through them (you can download one of these tools at Santharia by the way). Much later I started to draw maps and to write a novel taking place in this world while at the same time adding content to the history of the lands etc. And then there came the day when I thought it would be a good idea to put everything in a more organized form at a webpage so that I could administer all the stuff more efficiently. And soon after that I came up with the even better idea to make the world designing process a public one, allowing others to participate in adding details  and variety to the world. - And the rest is Santharian history.

Tony
: If I look at your site it reminds me a lot of the greatest fantasy authors of our time, are you in any way influenced by any of them?

Artimidor: Thanks for the flowers. Well, the Santharian Dream is defined as a fantasy world creation project in the style of J.R.R. Tolkien, so it's obvious that you'll find a lot of direct or indirect influences of Tolkien in Santharia, paying tribute to the master. You can see this in the way we describe halflings, orcs, elves etc., who have a lot of things in common with Tolkien concepts. Tolkien is also known to have worked diligently on details of his world, and I think this acribicy also reflects in the Santharian world design.

Of course many people contributing in Santharian world building are well versed in fantasy in general, by reading books of famous fantasy authors (Raymond E. Feist, Robert Jordan, Terry Brooks, David Eddings, Anne McCaffrey, Tad Williams or Terry Pratchett to name just a few) and thus may be influenced by them as well to a certain degree. Other influences may come from existing role playing games or RPG systems like AD&D. However, originality is of major importance in Santharia, and though influences here and there are obvious and prove fruitful in some cases, Santharia develops only unique concepts even though they may be inspired by the works of others.

Tony
: (smiles) My pleasure... Now, where do you get your inspiration in making these lands, creatures, spells...?

Artimidor: The world is full of inspiration, isn't it? Just keep your eyes open, listen to music, read, go to the cinema, daydream, or just make experiences with life in general - good or bad - and see what you can learn from all these things in order to apply them in a fantasy setting. You should aim towards the goal that the result will turn out as comprehensible for others and as realistic as possible and fit into the world. Of course you need a vision, some imagination and creativity for that and the will to do historical researches at topics where you aren't that firm. And then: Just do it! Along with the help of others, who will comment on posted ideas at the Santharian Development Board, I'm sure nice entries will develop, adding more pieces to the huge monumental site, which the Santharian Dream represents.

Tony: What is in your opinion the key element in making an excellent content site?

Artimidor: Hmm... content perhaps? (grins) No, it's the team of course, which provides this content. Without a team sticking together for a longer period of time to work on something they all enjoy, you won't get a large quantity of content. Without a team you might come up with a bunch of high quality entries perhaps, but this won't make an excellent content site, I assume. On the other hand quantity doesn't mean quality as we all know, so the difficult part of course is to take initiative (in your function as webmaster) whenever it is due, to acquire key members who are willing to share responsibility, to guide creativity in necessary directions and finally to help each other wherever you can to make things better together. Multiply that with 5 years and you'll approximately get what you can now see realized as the Santharian Dream.

Tony: Yes, I can see that can't be easy... What are the things you have to pay attention to?

Artimidor: Too many to list here. Really. A completely non-commercial project like the Santharian Dream, where people from all over the world participate, who have never seen each other (or at least mostly) and who all have their own ways, intentions and ideas, is very difficult to maintain. It's difficult to keep things running smoothly and even more difficult to make everything better and more enjoyable, which on the other hand is all necessary to motivate contributers and make substantial progress with the project. As a webmaster of such a gigantic project you need dedication to your vision, a tough hide, lots of time and to make the right decisions at the appropriate time - or at least mostly. As this all is pretty contradictory, I guess I can sum it up with: you need to be something, you definitely won't be able handle. But I also think that it's only human to try it.

Tony: Hmm... Finally a last question: How important is winning awards for you?

Artimidor: It's positive to get some sort of recognition for the hard work everybody does here at the Santharian Dream, as all these contributions aren't to be taken for granted. People participating in the project are sacrificing a lot of spare time to make something enormous happen, so I'm thankful for everyone who thinks it is worth to give an award to Santharia, whether these are award giving sites or people who give personal awards.

Much more important though than the awards themselves are - at least in my opinion as webmaster - to get comments and criticism of what people see as well done and what they think they would like to have improved at the site. Only if things which could be made better are pointed out we can try to find new ways to realize them - a good website never reaches a standstill, but always tries to iron out smaller and bigger problems and inconsistencies, and at the same time remain innovative.

Tony
: Thank you, Artimidor, and I wish you and your wonderful site all the best in the future...

Artimidor: Thanks as well for the award, you're welcome.

 

INTERVIEW WITH UWSAG AFTER BEING SELECTED
AS TOP 10 SITE OF THE MONTH OF SEPTEMBER 2003

Artimidor

Picture of Artimidor,
Founder and Webmaster of the Santharian Dream.

hat got you started in website design?

Artimidor: The idea of bringing people from all over the world together to start working on a fantasy project of the larger scale, which has never been realized before in so much detail. You would never be able to accomplish all these feats you can now experience on the Santharian Dream if you’d work alone or only with the help of some friends you know personally and who share your interests. The internet medium fascinated me in this respect, and so I started off back in 1998/99 with some lousy HTML skills to see how far I could get, and if there’d be some guys who’d like to join me in such an unusual endeavor.

UWSAG: What do you hope to accomplish with your website?

Artimidor: See above. It was the idea right from the start to establish a platform for writers, artists and world developers, regardless of their nationality, skin color, belief, etc., who work together on something they have always dreamed about to realize themselves. Initially it was planned that people would help building more background for the novel I started to write back then, but the orientation of the site has changed dramatically in the course of time, and I’m happy that a dedicated team has formed. I can’t say what it is what will stand on the end of the development process, as developing and making things even more perfect is the heart of Santharia.

UWSAG: What advice would you give to new webmasters?

Artimidor: Depends on the project. But always try to stay unique in whatever you. Make sure that your work is viewable on different browsers and different screen resolutions. Make things easy to navigate, while still having as much content as you can handle to satisfy your visitors. Graphic intense or not – take advantage of graphic programs like Photoshop for professional site design, and if Flash is appropriate, use it efficiently. Don’t overdo things, though. There are some script treasuries out there like Dynamic Drive – check those out, I’m sure you’ll find something useful for your taste as well:)

UWSAG: What was the biggest problem you faced with your website?

Artimidor: To maintain such a gigantic project, keep developers motivated, remove inconsistencies and define clear goals, which are feasible to be realized. And while facing all these problems still have enough time for innovations and collecting ideas on what could still be done better.

UWSAG: If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

Artimidor: Well, a project develops, that’s the fun part of it. So one always learns in the course of time, and this is something you can’t plan right from the start. It is essential to go through this process, as most often you can only make things better if you’ve done them not so well before. So there are only a few things I regret concerning webdesign issues. If I’d start over again I would use for example stylesheets right from the start and no dark page backgrounds, as this hinders you from using shadow effects, which often add a lot to make a website professional.

UWSAG: What plans do you have for the future?

Artimidor: Make a nice start perfect, or at least try to. Well, that’s it basically. At a project like the Santharian Dream with 2000+ pages there are always things to do, believe me. On the one hand work needs to be done concerning the improvement of existing material (content and design) and on the other hand we plan of course to go where no man has ever gone before... (*familiar music fading in here*) uhm... in webdesign and fantasy project terms that is;) This means for example more occasional flash stuff where it is appropriate (interactive map displaying tribes, resources, historical developments etc.), completion of the singleplayer RPG we’re currently developing, add more extras like original Santharian screensavers and audio recorded music for downloading, work on more interaction with the visitors and so on. And keep it all completely free of course. - But these are only a few ideas I personally would like to see realized. Most important at the Santharian Dream are the participants of the project. The direction we decide to go together will determine further plans for the future. And as far as I know Santharia, we’ll continue to try to realize the impossible, as usual...

UWSAG: What else do you like to do?

Artimidor: Watching DVDs and football matches, playing single player role playing games on the PC, enjoying Monty Python nonsense, daydreaming, writing poetry and getting philosophical for no apparent reason.

UWSAG: Thanks for taking the time for the interview!

Artimidor: No problem. It has been my pleasure.


Questions by UWSAG, answers by Artimidor Federkiel View Profile