He reappeared out of the mist of the either regions of cyber space, as if a weary well traveled sailing frigate of old bursting out from the gray fog of endless sea onto the shining beaches of dancing sunbeams and the safety and comfort of home. Henry Winkelstein, the creator of the TRG trainer and other kickin RCT utilities, had vanished off of the RCT radar screen over a year and a half ago and was considered by some as "missing in action".
Many knew him, many knew of him but after the demise of the old Sim5, Denny G., RCTOA site (the old
one), no one, in this RCT community knew where he was or what had happened to this mastermind
behind the acclaimed TRG Swiss Army Knife. Along with him went a world of information and advice
that has been missed ever since, leaving a black hole of sorts, in the vast voids of the RCT universe.
Chris Sawyer may not have missed him.... but I and many others, did.
You can imagine my surprise and un-expected pleasure when from out of the black void of endless
nothingness pops hwinkels his self, signing up on the forum at my site. That led to a hastily slapped
together E-mail from me to him in my usual excited psycho-babble reserved for the really important RCT
celebrities. It was with great pleasure that I received back his reply; I have been gone, I have returned, I
will do the E-View with you, is basically what he said, albeit not in those words.
As a self-appointed trainer maker for RCT he was more then qualified. Henry holds a degree in
Systems Engineering and has been designing systems and software for over 20 years. He has
experience with a wide range of processors and operating systems, from micros to mainframes and
everything in between. He can program in a variety of languages including Assembler, C/C++, Perl, and
several others. In the past he has worked at system programming and administration on boxes running
*nix, Windows and VM/CMS (sometimes all at the same time). He also says that he knows FORTRAN,
but is proud of the fact that he has never written a COBOL program. In his spare time he enjoys
traveling, reading, amusement parks and... midget bowling! But for the life of me, with all that going
midget bowling going on, when does he ever have any SPARE time?
Anyway, he said he had enough time for me so we did the E-view and here it is! It is now my honor to
welcome back HENRY WINKELSTEIN to our RCT world in his first online interview for over a year and
a half! So without further ado, let's push this log into the water flume and see if we can't get wet!
||Welcome Henry, thank you for your time. A lot of people are going to be reading this E-view
with interest as you are so well known in the RCT community AND have been absent from the online
part of RCT for so long. You have been missed! My first question is traditionally my most direct one so
let me just ask you right off the top, where have you been and what have you been up to for the last year
and a half?
||"Believe it or not, that's a tough one for me to answer. Rather than going into a big spiel let
me just say that I've been working hard on several projects. Not much to show for it, yet, but working
||It seems you always did work hard, at whatever you choose to do. Where you surprised to hear
about the upcoming release of RCT2 by Chris Sawyer?
||"Very much so. On several levels. On one level the news came in completely under my radar
and caught me totally off guard. I can't believe RCT2 was announced 3 months ago and I never heard
about it until last week. Goes to show you how much I've been paying attention".
||Yeah, I think a lot of people were giving up on ever seeing anything new from Chris and
starting to lose interest in the game.
||"On another level, Chris Sawyer seems to have done a complete turnabout on his position vis-a-
vis a sequel (not that I'm complaining). RCTUK did an interview 2 years ago this week with him
where, speaking about a sequel to
RCT, he said, 'I'm waiting for technology to catch up enough to enable me to do what I really want to
with the game'. Then two weeks ago HomeLand
asked about his goals with RCT2 and he replied,
'I had two main goals. First, to add more depth and
detail to the game (e.g. bigger map size, more detailed roller coasters, scenario editor, vertical scenery
construction), and second, to make it easier to build complex rides and parks'. To me that was
stunning, really. Maybe someone made him an offer he couldn't refuse, I don't really know, but I find
that very surprising. I was most surprised to see that Chris has been living on another planet for 2 and-
a-half years. In a recent interview at GameSpy
Chris said, 'I think the most common
complaint from players of the original game is that it's too difficult to individually remove trees while
building a ride!' Ah, well, so much for the theory that Mr. Sawyer frequents the message boards. This
comment floored me. On the other hand, this link,
explains a lot. Okay, enough hammering on
Chris for today. I suppose we should let him finish the game first! He'll have plenty of turns in the
||I know you, like most of us, don't really know a whole lot about it other then the news releases
and the screenshots, but what are you hoping to find different in RCT2 then in the original RCT
released back in the late nineties?
||"The original RCT has only been out a little over 3 years! You make it sound like ancient
||(Laughing) I did that on purpose to make you feel old like me, but when you stop to think about
it 3 years ago IS ancient history in this fast paced PC gamers world. What do you think of the RCT
screenshots released so far?
||"Frankly, the screenshots I've seen look very similar to the original game, and that's a little
disappointing. I'm glad there's finally a scenario editor and larger map sizes will be a big improvement.
I think, as a whole, the game needs to be kicked up a few notches. I'd like to see more variety in the
sound effects and musical score. The original ones got real old real fast. An improved way of managing
park employees would be nice. It would also be nice to have more interesting goals in terms of
"winning" scenarios. I'd like to have a way to punish unruly vandals. Of course, a vandal locked up in
the pokey room isn't spending any money, but the other guests would appreciate it! Maybe make them
work as handymen - without pay - as a kind of retribution. From a technical point of view as it relates to
trainer making, I'm hoping Chris dispenses with the notion that the game needs to be "protected" from
hackers. I mean, sheesh, does anyone think that the trainers and other utilities developed for the
original RCT hurt the game in any way? Did we - the utility maker community - enable or support
piracy of the game? Sure, I had a no-CD patch, which I made, but I never gave it to anyone. I never made
any illegal copies of the game for anyone. No one I'm aware of in the RCT fan community ever
encouraged anyone to do anything except to go out and buy the game, and then buy both of the add-on
packs! And all we ever got in return was a heavy-handed attitude and the anti-cheating code tricks. All
it did was make us work harder. My biggest wish for RCT2 is to find out that it was the original RCT
publisher all along - and not Chris Sawyer - who was behind most of those dirty tricks. Oh yeah - I'm
also hoping that on October 27th I don't lose all my scenario progress".
||(rubbing his whiskered chin) Hmmm, vandals who get put in the poky... I LIKE that idea! I just
hate those pesky little vandals and I would get more then a little, personal satisfaction watching them get
handcuffed and led away by security. Possibly a trainer feature of the future. Speaking of trainers, IF
you feel the need or demand for a new trainer or utility for RCT2, will you be able and want to take the
time to possibly develop something new?
||"That's hard to say at this point. There are more "real life" demands on my time now than
there were 3 years ago, so I guess I'm going to play it by ear. There's no way I'm going to devote
thousands of hours to such an undertaking again. On the other hand, it should be possible to leverage a
lot of what I learned on the first go-around with RCT. If it turns out I can do some interesting things
with a reduced time commitment, then I'll consider it. Another factor will be the game itself. It all boils
motivation. If RCT2 manages to hold my interest then there's a good chance I'll want to do something.
To tell you the truth, I never even completed all the scenarios from the Loopy Landscapes expansion
pack. I just lost interest. The scenarios took too long to complete. From what I've read, seen and heard
about RCT2 it looks like more of a glorified expansion pack than a full-fledged sequel. If that's the case
it will be hard to get really excited about it. But then again - regardless of actual gameplay - if the
game's evolution continues the trend of the original RCT series and attempts to thwart third-party
utilities - by obfuscating as much as possible about the game's internals - then that would tend to
motivate me. I would be very interested in rising to that challenge".
||Obfuscating? Internals? Sounds more like medical practice to me then the practice of hiding
code and programming from the eyes of potential code crackers and RCT utility makers, such as
yourself, who have risen to that challenge before... and successfully, I might add, to make the game even
better then it was. Now that you are back are you planning on sticking around and letting us RCT
addicts hear from you from time to time, on the forums?
||"If I can participate and have fun doing it then I'll certainly be around! We had some pretty
good times on the old RCTOA forums. A shame what happened there. All those posts disappeared
overnight! My appetite for message boards was dealt a severe blow when that happened. It left a really
bad taste in my mouth. I'm hoping RCT2 will be able to generate a lot of interesting discussion, and I'd
definitely like to be a part of that. I've met some of the nicest people in the world - and I mean the entire
world - through RCT".
||I have too! In fact, your patience and willingness to explain and help us more computer
challenged individuals on those very same old RCTOA boards, put you, in the eyes of many, in that very
same "nicest people in the world" category... In the RCT world, for sure! When interviewing Josef
Drexler I made mention to the fact that if he had a dollar for every download made of the Drexler patch,
he would be a millionaire! The same thing would apply to you. There have been tons of your TRG
trainer and your other RCT utilities downloaded to computers all across this zany RCT planet. Do you
regret your freely given talents, time and advice on this game or are you proud (albeit none the richer) of
||"Ah, a philosophy question! I read that interview with JD (nice job, by the way) and thought the
exact same thing. I never regretted anything. Yes, I gave freely of my time and energy. You know, we all
act out of self-interest in one fashion or another. For some people and companies that self-interest is
motivated by profit or sometimes greed. For others it might be a need to have their egos stroked or to
show the world how great they are. For me, at least, it was more along the lines of "Hey, I'm going to
make something I want to use myself and if someone else wants to use it too, that's great!" Perhaps I'll
do it again but it's really too soon to say. I will say that having hundreds of thousands of users
downloading your program is a heady experience. Looking back, not making one red cent from any of it
kind of sucked, but I accept that without remorse or regret because that wasn't my goal. I learned an
awful lot. I got my name recognized in some circles and built up a certain amount of goodwill that
might come in handy some day. There was one email I got early on after I released the scenario editor
that said "You have made my son a happy child". Something like that is priceless".
||(Smiling) See what I mean, you're a nice person, and you're right, something like that is
indeed priceless! Now, I had to wait to get some of these more burning questions out of the way to ask
my own personal question to you. It looks like there will NOT be a nighttime mode in RCT2. The night
time concept with lights and effects works well in a game called MoonTycoon, could that effect possibly
be achieved in a trainer or utility of some sort designed for RCT2?
||"I never played MoonTycoon myself, but I know a nighttime mode has been on top of a lot of
RCT wishlists for quite some time. Strings of colored sequenced lights flashing along the rails would
be awesome. My gut feeling is it would be very hard to do. The sheer amount of graphic objects in the
game would tend to make a nighttime mode very involved and time-consuming. I'm sure assembling the
graphics for the game took much more time than coding the game itself. A palette-switching hack
might work, but all the little things that would make it feel natural in RCT would be missing. Things
like illuminating the rides, adding flashlight stalls, searchlights and spotlights, etc. Simply darkening
the screen and adding a few lamps wouldn't cut it. To do it right you'd have to duplicate almost every
graphic image in the game at least once and maybe more than twice. RCT has tens of thousands and
RCT2 supposedly adds thousands more. I helped figure out the way graphic sprites were stored in the
CSGx.DAT files, and at first I had high hopes for changing some of them on-the-fly. I gave up when I
realized most of the graphic access routines in the game had hard-coded references to the sprites. It
would have been far easier to alter the existing ones than to add new ones. I think the best hope for a
nighttime mode rests with Mr. Sawyer. He'll need something for the first add-on pack, right".
||Right, and he just might be saving nighttime for that. Tim Miller has come up with a 3-D
viewer for RCT saved games and will be releasing it at his site shortly. Are you disappointed that Chris
Sawyer didn't include that in RCT2?
||"The first thing I ever did with RCT (besides playing it) was try to figure out how the TD4
track files were stored on disk (this ultimately led to understanding the RLE file compression). My idea
then was to come up with some sort of Coaster-CAD utility. The 3D possibilities always intrigued me.
Others have come up with some very nice utilities for viewing RCT coasters, and I'm sure Tim will do a
respectable job. As for what Chris did or did not put into the game, it's very hard to say. There are
simply too many variables that we have no clue about. Anything we might care to speculate about is just
that - speculation. One thing that I learned from another game, Civilization III, is that you can't rely on
what Infogrames says about a game before it gets released. Civ3 was touted as containing a "full-
featured scenario editor" months before it was released. When it finally came out, guess what it didn't
have? Long-time aficionados of the Civ series were royally ticked off, and after a few weeks many hard-
core Civplayers abandoned Civ3 in droves and went back to playing Civ2! Civ3today is regarded as the
red-headed stepchild of the Civilization series. I suppose it's possible to put in MORE than what's
advertised, but we'll just have to wait and see. Each case is unique when it comes to computer games".
||Of course RCT sites (including mine) are springing up like weeds after a warm summer rain.
Some like this site, some like that site, but for all your fans out there, what RCT site or sites, if any, do
you plan on visiting?
||"The change in the RCT website landscape is quite noticeable after a year's absence. In the
past I usually stuck to one or two boards where I actively participated. I'll drop in on some of the others
every week or so just to see what people are talking about. I like Chocobogo's new site, RCT Station and
rct2.com. Doctor J's Technical Info Depot is a great resource. It will take me a while to find some new
favorites. I actively avoid any site with pop-up ads (although Mozilla 1.0 has recently eliminated that
problem for me). I wish the new RCTOA all the best. I know it's under new management but I think it
will be a good site. One thing I look for at a site is a good mix of friendly discussion and malicious
backstabbing. Just kidding".
||(laughing) Well I think BOTH of those ingredients are easily found lurking around in the
online, RCT community. As you can well imagine Henry, we all are about ready to bust our buttons
waiting for RCT2 to get out so we can get our hot little hands on it! Will you buy it and play it
immediately or wait awhile and see what the reviews are like?
||"I will buy it and play it immediately, there's no doubt about that. Of course, I hope to be able to
play it BEFORE it officially comes out, but I will buy a copy the day it's released nevertheless. Even if it
turns out to be nothing more than a souped-up expansion pack it's a "must have" as far as I'm
||Well put, it's a "must have" for me too! Besides RCT, what other games do you like and play?
||"In the last 3 years I've bought RCT, Added Attractions/Corkscrew Follies, Loopy Landscapes
and Civilization III. Civ3 was a bust as far as I'm concerned. There's a couple I'd like to be playing, like
Quake III, but right now I'm still poking away on my old 400 MHz PII with a 4 MB graphics card. I'm
definitely PC-challenged right now. Pretty sad, isn't it? Too much work and too much TV I guess".
||Well you're just resting it up for RCT2 I suppose. Have you ever talked to or corresponded
with Chris Sawyer?
||"No, I've never had the pleasure. As much as I bash him from time to time, how can you not
admire and appreciate what he's given us through his games? I would consider it an honor to meet him.
Some day I'd like to shake his hand, buy him a pint and thank him for all the great fun I've had playing
his marvelous creations over the years. It takes a lot of guts and talent to pull off what he's been able to
do almost single-handedly. I respect that a lot".
||As do I! (Boomer glances nervously at clock) I know I have taken a lot of your time today, Just
tell us where your site and TRG trainer and utilities can be found and I guess I will grudgingly let you
||"Right now the only thing available is the "TRG Swiss Army Knife" (v6.03) trainer at
my site. I dubbed it "Swiss Army Knife" because I wanted it to do
everything, to be more than just a trainer. I had planned to integrate an improved scenario editor into it
once-upon-a-time, but never really got that working the way I wanted. Now that it looks like we'll finally
have the real deal with the editor, I'll probably change the name if I do an RCT2 trainer. I'm going to
look into some other hosting alternatives real soon now. I really need a few email addresses where I can
set up a spam filter (SPEWS rocks), a reliable downloading setup and the ability to run a few scripts in
order to keep everything under control. The old RCTOA site was very helpful allowing me to host a
TRG Support forum there, but if I write any more utilities I'd want better control of the support forums.
I should have actually done all this a long time ago. I remember after I released the very first version of
the RCT scenario editor my very first website exceeded its monthly bandwidth quota in 2 hours! That's
when I knew I had created a monster".
||And what a wonderful monster it was! Thank you Henry for your time! I, among many others,
am very glad you showed up again in this crazy RCT community. We all have benefited so much by your
past RCT endeavors and look forward to looking over RCT2 with you when it comes out. You certainly
have earned your way to "legend" status and it has been a privilege for me to have this interview with
||"In "Last Mango in Paris", Jimmy Buffet wrote, "Our lives change like the weather, but a
legend never dies". Chris Sawyer's name, like good ol' Captain Tony's, will be remembered way, way,
way longer than anyone will ever remember my name. So I don't know about being a "legend", but I
you for your kind words. The pleasure's been all mine".
Henry has left the house! It is getting late, it is getting dark and this "come-back" interview with
RCT's long lost Henry has taken it's toll on this tired old man, so I will turn out the light now and say
good night and sweet RCT dreams to you all from both Boomer AND Henry Winkelstein.
Only a draft of cold air stirred the dark shadows of the room, created as the solid door closed with a soft
sigh. For a moment all was quiet and still in the empty, darkened room. Then, in an eyeless room, un-
seen by anyone, anyone in this dimension that is, the room EXPLODED in a symphony of sound and
LIGHTS! There were electric rainbows of light visually shouting out neon names of new RCT rides
which wirled and twirled to the sounds of music and laughter. Suspended for a moment in time, night-
time, Flashing lit-up coasters and blinking towers of cascading light illuminated the stunned smiles
plastered on faces of wide eyed peeps. In the background the popping and booming of fireworks lent
drama to the star studded dazzle of sparks and colors, blossoming like cerebral shimmering umbrellas
overhead. Then... the lights, the sights and sounds of nighttime RCT style, hesitatingly, almost
grudgingly, faded slowly into the blackness of the now silent room. Even the organ echoes from the lit
up carousal had slowly limped away. For a moment a RCT banner appeared briefly on Boomer's
computer screen, cast in an eerie green. The curious words, "hwinkel was here" crawled slowly across
the banner and then even it to faded to a tiny dot and was gone. Only the soft snores of Boomer were left
behind to tease and annoy the soft summer night.