E-Views with Boomer

Within the walls of this virtual library lay all of Boomer's written RCT related articles. A Room with a View features all of Boomers popular E-View series, his previews, reviews, mini-Views and E-Views.

The Sambo construction company built this special place as a tribute to Boomer. In that spirit, creating a place to also archive articles and interviews from other authors to keep the virtual library current and ever-changing, just like the "view".

Enter when you can, enter at your leisure. There's plenty of time and plenty of chairs to browse and read through these fascinating interviews and reviews with RCT legends and celebrities.

E-views with Boomer Boomer's E-View with rcthelp

When I write most of these RCT celebrity E-Views I go into them cold, not really knowing everyone I interview. That, of course, is a no-brainer, how else would I know all these cool RCT legends. Most of the time I am just getting to know these guys just right before you do! Some of them I have heard of, or heard from, over the 3+ years of RollerCoaster Tycoon's brief but intense, life span. But it's in these E-Views that I feel that I get to know them just a little better and they get to know me a little better. That's really the bottom line to this whole series. Plus it lets YOU get to know these creative RCT talents a little better also AND helps us whittle and while away the days until RCT2 finally arrives.

That being said; it is with extreme pleasure that I bring to you an E-View with someone who I DO know, RCTHELP. Not only do I know him and consider him a friend, I work with him and am on staff at www.rct2.com a RCT site devoted to this kickin game. But in some ways it was even harder to do this View then some of the others. I had to make sure that my questions were right, because I already knew some of the answers he would answer WHILE I was writing the questions! But I tried to do the best I could to get you to know Rcthelp a little better and to share his thoughts and opinions about RCT stuff with you and I hope you all enjoy it; I certainly enjoy working with him!

I asked Rcthelp for a little background Bio about himself that I could share with you all. His prompt reply was this, "In terms of Bio, the similarities between me and Henry Winkelstein are almost frightening". It wasn't until I had checked back with the hwinkels E-View that I saw just what he was talking about. The Bio is basically the same!

"Dave (rcthelp) holds a degree in Mathematics and Computer Science and has been working in IT 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. However, he only wrote code professionally for the first 3.5 years of his IT career, moving into team leadership and project management. He would enjoy spare time, but he doesn't have any".

This knowledge and experience spills over into the RCT universe in the form of tangible, useable (and free), kickin RCT programs. And that's not all; his seemingly un-ceasing help to stumped RCT players, new and old, at various sites, including his own, throughout this community, has more then earned him his screen name. Rcthelp... A true asset and HUGE help to this wacky world of RCT.

So let's fire up the Ferris wheel and take a few spins around on this E-view ride and see what kind of "Views" we can come up with.

Boomer It is good to get to set down and talk with you Rcthelp! I want to thank you for your time. I know that with a "real" life and a wife and family to consider, not to mention your (more than) full-time job demanding your time, somehow you manage to keep your webmaster hat on and run and maintain a fresh new, RCT website at www.rct2.com. On top of this you have came up with several RCT programs of your own. The one that I like the most is called RCT - acCeSS All Parks. For those who don't know about it, what does it do and how long did it take you to develop it?
rcthelp "RCT acCeSS All Parks is a scenario progress 'cracker'. It permanently opens up every RCT scenario so that you can play them when you choose. People often say 'so what, I can do that with trainer xyz'. But there are 3 important differences between acCeSS and trainers. First, this crack is permanent; every time you go back to the game the scenarios will be open. Trainers are temporary crackers; you must have them running to open the scenarios. Second, it also cracks the original RCT Mega Park, by decrypting it from the CD and installing it on the hard disk for you. Show me a trainer that can do that! Third, you don't need trainers at all! That was my main objective when I wrote it. I wanted EVERYBODY to be able to play ANY scenario, including people who have only original RCT and cannot use trainers. And I thought that it would be good if people did not need the Drexler patch or trainers to have a workbench, which is why I figured out how to crack the Mega Park. I wrote it all in just a couple of elapsed weeks. It really is a very simple program; all the difficult stuff was done by the likes of Doctor J. and Henry Winkelstein who worked out how RCT encrypts files, and their internal structures, and then published them on the net to share them with everybody else".
Boomer Yes indeed! Their generosity in sharing that difficult technical stuff has benefited almost everyone who plays RCT. Another program you came up with is called RCT PiNGer. Although I've heard this is a favorite utility by many park makers, I personally don't know much about this one, can you tell me what this does and how long did you work on this project to bring it to completion?
rcthelp "It was a thrill for me the first time I designed my own coaster that I thought was good enough to be a saved track design. I wanted to share it with people on the net by showing pictures, and in a download I wanted to include a 'snapshot' like the ones that come with the game. That presented 2 problems, the 'snapshot' won't display on web browsers, and all the common graphics programs (PaintShop, Photoshop, et al) won't save in RCT 'snapshot' format. So you needed 2 programs, 1 to make the snapshot, and 1 to make a browser version. My first idea was to extend the existing snapshot utility (MakeTP4) by Patrick Campbell. Patrick said he would let me have the code, but he had lost it! So I started from scratch. It took me several months. That's because it's the first program I ever wrote that had to have a Windows user interface, and that took me ages to do, especially the stuff that lets you change and move the 'snapshot' rectangle on the image. Then just when it was ready, I had to change the whole program to save in PNG format instead of GIF. I discovered that if I supported GIF, I would have to pay Unisys $10,000 as they own a patent on the GIF compression routines I had used. Needless to say I stripped all the GIF support out and replaced it with PNG! The PNG compression routines were too complicated for me to implement myself, so I had to use other people's DLLs. That was all very new to me and complicated and took me a long time to get right".
Boomer Man, that all spells out hard W.O.R.K! And to be honest, half of what you just said now is new and complicated to me and I may never get it right, but as long as YOU and others know what you are doing, others and I will benefit from it. I know this may sound stupid, but do you think these programs will work on RCT2 when it is released?
rcthelp "PiNGer might, it depends whether the TP4 snapshot format is changed. acCeSS almost certainly will not work. The scenario progress file that acCeSS manipulates also holds the scenario names. In total, there's enough room for 128 different scenarios. But with RCT2 bringing out a scenario editor/creator, and the RCT2 announcements talking about being able to share your creations via the official site, I think that most people are going to have more than 128 scenarios on their PCs. RCT+AA/CF+LL+ the original Competitions have already grabbed most of the available slots".
Boomer We've only had screenshots and limited information on Chris Sawyer's new sequel to RCT, as we all know, it is mostly still shrouded in secrecy, that being said, what are you most looking forward to in the soon to be released RollerCoaster Tycoon 2, from what we do know?
rcthelp "I think that RCT2 is really getting the coaster freaks and fantasy park makers excited. I'm not one of those sort of people and I don't see any 'Wow' or 'Must Have' features that are going to keep me up at night like the original did. I don't build fantasy/recreations so the new scenery and double paths doesn't set me on fire, (what is this stackable scenery that people are getting so excited about?). There are already more coaster types than I know what to do with! Sure I'll buy it, but I don't know how much I'll ever play. If I could have anything, it would be the option to have different financial difficulty settings. RCT is definitely 'Rollercoaster', but 'Tycoon' it certainly ain't".
Boomer Do you think we will need a patch for RCT2?
rcthelp "I don't know. The anti-cheat code went in around the time of AA/CF. I think it was to stop people adding their own value to the product by writing utilities, making their own scenarios and parks, etc. In that sense it was quite spiteful, but also made good commercial sense to protect the extra money that AA/CF and Loopy Landscapes could make for Chris Sawyer and the publishers. But with a scenario editor in RCT2, the main original reason for this anti-cheat stuff has gone. I'm assuming that RCT2 will allow you to load RCT1 saved games. So the big question for me is whether it will allow you to load 'trainered' RCT1 files. If it doesn't then we'll need a patch. If I were Chris Sawyer, I would let trainered saved games be loaded but display a warning that they may be incompatible. That would be the fairest thing to do. I'm absolutely positive that the trainers and utilities have prolonged the success of the original game, and this would be a way of recognizing that, a little 'thank you' from Chris Sawyer".
Boomer Oh I totally agree, trainers and utilities have not only prolonged the success of the game, it has increased the "fun" level tremendously! Even though now we have RCR and some other interesting 3-D programs, are you disappointed that there aren't any 3-D features in RCT2?
rcthelp "Not at all. My wife tells me that all my PC games seem to involve me looking down on 'little men' running around and telling them what to do. She's right, and I don't want to be one of those 'little men'".
Boomer (Laughing) She IS right, our job is to be the big giant human Creators and master controllers of universal pixels destinies, played out with passion and flare on our PC screens. Taking off your programmer's hat for a moment and putting on your site masters cap, how do you think RCT2 will affect the RCT online community upon release?
rcthelp "It can only give it a boost. It certainly inspired me to go away from a 'static' site and get involved with a proper database and scripting site. Doubtless there will be the usual flush of enthusiasm, with sites springing up all over the place only to die after a few weeks. I don't have a problem with that, it's good for (usually young) people to try building a web site and why not use RCT2 as their subject? It's exactly how I started, after realizing that there was only a very small number of people who either wanted or were able to see photos of my family! But what I would say to people who are thinking about it is to visit all the other sites, see what they are doing, and come up with an original idea of your own. There are some 'big hitters' out there with megabytes of content and gigabytes of bandwidth. Nobody is going to come by your site unless you've got something different to say (for my original site before it was merged into RCT Station, it was a searchable FAQ database), or perhaps you've built up a reputation by working on other sites. So think about serving an apprenticeship on another site before trying your own".
Boomer Very good advice! Your name says it all; RCT help. And helping peeps that are having trouble-playing RCT is what you do, and do well and have done for a long time, is. You have helped me and a lot of others out of jams we never thought we could get out of; your expertise in RCT is both refreshing and reassuring. Do you get much E-mail, feedback or thank yous for all the help you have given and for the RCT programs you have also given us?
rcthelp "Hardly any. I have been in IT all my working life, with many of those years in Service Delivery. You grow a thick skin because 99.9% of the time you get feedback is when somebody wants to complain about something that doesn't work. It goes with the territory; it's just something that you have to accept. But when on the rare occasions somebody does say thank you, it's the perfect excuse for a party. But I also have to say that much of my expertise is gained from other people. The only unique help I've ever given is about restoring scenario progress if you needed to rebuild your PC, and don't have or want to download loads of massive saved games. I do try all the things out that people say work before I post them as fact. If I'm not able to test things myself, I'm always careful to say that 'I have heard' or some such. On the other hand I have a real beef with all these people who post in forums that RCT crashes will be fixed by the Drexler patch. It's just plain wrong, and by applying it, you've immediately got yourself into a situation where the official support people at Infogrames will refuse to help you"!
Boomer Now here is a question that I have some vested interest in. Are there going to be any major changes in store for your site rct2.com?
rcthelp "It is slowly moving in the direction that I want it to go in. The move to new technology does mean that I can keep the site up to date even when I am away on business. When it comes to change, I believe in evolution, not revolution. Remember I said that I think that every site needs something that the others do not, so I don't want to say too much about what I have planned in case somebody takes my idea and does it before me! But the longer-term objective is to make RCT2.com the FIRST site that people come to, and not necessarily because it has the best or most content. The first step on that route is the new Affiliates Scheme. Anybody who links back to RCT2.com can be an Affiliate. This gives them the right to post news about THEIR site on OUR site. So already, by coming to RCT2.com you can quickly find out about what other sites have been doing lately. Best of all, I don't have to do anything to keep that news up to date"!
Boomer When you're not working on your site, what other games besides RCT do you play?
rcthelp "None, I don't even play RCT anymore! Nearly all the time I spend on the PC is on developing the site. The game I have probably played most in the last year is 'Bob The Builder' with my 4 year-old son and 3 year-old daughter. However, that doesn't seem to stop me buying them! Looking at my shelf I see AoE, Alpha Centauri, various flavors of Civilization, Desperados, GTA2, Pharoah, Red Alert2, Stronghold, Shogun, SimCity 3K, Sudden Strike, Tropico. Alphabetical order, how sad is that? But that's just the top shelf, and there must be hundreds of thousands of little men in those boxes! Confined lower down my shelves is my favorite game of all time, Elite. I had the original version, but this is a PC port by a certain Chris Sawyer! It includes wire frame 3-D, so I know he can do it".
Boomer Wire frame 3-D glasses, now that is interesting, I never knew that! What other hobbies do you have that take up you're free time?
rcthelp "My wife would probably say that I don't have any free time because I'm always either thinking, reading or designing for RCT2.com. I really ought to spend more time with her and my 4 children that's for sure. But the greatest passion above all else is Middlesbrough Football Club. That's real football, not the American suits of armor nonsense. I have season tickets at the stadium, and if I didn't run RCT2.com, I'd definitely create and run an MFC site instead".
Boomer (Laughing) And a good site that would be! At least for the Middlesbrough Football Club fans. I know you have to go and even though we work together on rct2.com and communicate all the time, this E-View with you has been a real pleasure and I want to thank you for your time. Not only your time on this E-View but also all the time you have so freely given us with our RCT problems.
rcthelp "It's been a pleasure for me too. And as they say, a problem shared is a problem halved. That applies as much to RCT as anything else in life".

And on that philosophical note. Rcthelp has left da house! It seems like I had so much more I wanted to ask him, but I realize that his time is limited and besides, I am old, I am tired and I'm going to bed. Sweet RCT dreams to you all and if you need help; you know who to see, help served up RCT style, Rcthelp!

In his dreams, that at first seem to border on a nightmare, Boomer stood alone, small and forlorn in a HUGE empty hall. Shades of gray that ate the color out of everything, faded in the vast distance to black shadows dancing in the dark. Stretching around him in seemingly endless succession was an un-ending circle of doors, all closed, all locked. Boomer looked around in terror and confusion, as the doors all seemed to close in on him, menacing, cold and un-yielding.

And then from somewhere above a soft golden light shined down on a desk in the middle of the shrinking room. A man was setting on a stool in front of a computer banging his head on it. Suddenly Boomer's panic subsided as the doors retreated and the nightmare faded quickly back to sweet RCT dreams. Boomer's sleeping smile belayed the fact that in his dreams, all was well, because Rcthelp was there to help, advice and point out the right RCT way.