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Community Interview: Morten Fjeldstad, creator of AOIA

This week we've managed to interview Morten Fjeldstad. He's the Project leader of AO Item Assistant (http://frellu.net/ia/). AOIA is one of the post popular third party software for Anarchy Online. The program keeps track of all your backpacks and their contents, including your inventory and bank. The result is stored in a local database that is searchable even when not playing AO.

Hello Mr. Fjeldstad, could you give us some background info about your AO life?

Call me Morten, please.

I started playing AO back in 2002, January or February I believe. I had just started my new job, and got recruited by a new colleague which had been playing since beta. We played together most of the time for the next years, and were pretty active up until a few years ago. Real life has a tendency to catch up, and demand attention.

My play style I would consider "casual PvM". Although I have frequented the battlestations from time to time, it is mostly because I "have to", not because I "want to". For PvP I prefer good old Unreal Tournament. Nowadays, I am not online that much, but looking forward to the new engine and re-balancing, whenever that will be released.

As a norwegian, have you ever had the opportunity to visit the Funcom offices in Oslo?

Actually, I never got around to that, even with frequent visits to the city.

You've been around a few years, when did you start using your programming skills to create AOIA?

I played a lot in the beginning, and it didn't take long before I became a "pack rat" with all the headache of trying to keep track of my items. The actual work on AOIA didn't start until late 2003/early 2004 I believe, but the idea had been brewing for a while by then. I had also investigated a bit up front by looking over the source code for ClickSaver, which was my main technical inspiration. I had never done anything like DLL injection and hooking before, so it was a bit of a learning curve.

Has there been any other AO players involved with the Items Assistant project?

Several in fact. Besides the influence by the creators and contributors to ClickSaver, some of my friends also contributed either by testing (Gremlin/Mega, Hotsy and others in OPEC) or coding (Shannonlee) right from the start. Later on I also got a lot of cool stuff from RoboJunk which landed support for transactions and commands (trades, shops, rewards, etc) and multi-threading in the hook to minimize lag. Darkbane has also been a resource, both providing code for integration with his tools, and in helping resolve nasty bugs.

We've noticed at the AOIA website that there is plans to expand even further on the project with new features. Are these long term goals?

I have had a lot of ideas for what is possible to achieve with the kind of integration AOIA is doing with the AO client. Most of these are long term goals, not because they are very complex or difficult to implement, but rather the limited time I have available to spend on what is essentially a hobby.

I am hopeful that I will be able to release a new version "Soon (tm)" that will bring some more features that have been requested repeatedly. Well, I hope it wont take another 18 months at least.

You've been generous not only for coding one of the best tools for the AO community, but also because you've made it open source to allow others to continue your work if you ever decided to step away from it. When did you decide that the project should be open source and why?

That it would be open source, was decided before I wrote a single line of code. It is just part of my philosophy when it comes to software.

The main reason the source wasn't released together with the first binary distributions was something that I later learned is quite common in the OSS (Open Source Software) community: The fear of other people seeing your code, when it still could be "perfected" by just a few more changes. ...which of course is bs, as code will never be perfect. Lets just say that I don't care about other peoples opinion about my code any more, unless I can see their code too.

Did you expect your project to become so popular among the AO community?

Never. I actually got quite the shock looking back at the download statistics at sourceforge.net and noticed that the previous stable version (v0.9.7) had been downloaded more than 6000 times over the last 18 months.

What do you like best about developing AOIA?

I think it can be summarized with the words "freedom" and "purpose". Freedom to do as I please (as opposed to what my boss tells me to do), explore technologies and learn new skills at my own pace. Purpose, because its a tool I write to scratch my own itch, which I found out later was missed by others in the community as well.

Thank you for your time Morten, is there anything else you wish to add in closing?

I wish to send a big "Thank You!" to all the people who have reported bugs, tested, helped debug, and generally provided constructive feedback during all the years. All your feedback has been appreciated. My only regret is that I haven't been able to implement all those great ideas yet.

Also, I'll use the opportunity to encourage Funcom to include the possibility for 3rd party additions to AO. It would be really cool if I could make AOIA appear as an in-game tool as well. Cheers.

Last updated on 12.07.2011 by Khuri
Article written by Windguaerd
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