Vie's Inn of Wonders' Awards

Interview CSOTY 2003-winner

Content Site of the Year 2003: The Santharian Dream (link opens in a new window)Content Site of the Year 2003-award

We 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 in building a website?

Artimidor Federkiel: 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.

I see...And why a Fantasy Site?

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 eyesightwith 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.

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 acrobacy 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.

*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.

What is in your opinion the key word 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.

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 contributors 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.

Hmmm.... Now how important is receiving awards to 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.

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

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