Interview: Gurrazor from Monolith Servers

Recently we had a chat with Gurrazor who is the owner of Monolith Servers, manager of ServerGuard (an admin modification for Garry’s Mod) and owner of Thriving Ventures (the company coordinating these projects). Monolith recently released their new game mode “Monolith RP” which is currently in open beta. Although we mostly talked about the Monolith project which launched around April 2017, he also talks about Serverguard and what it’s like to run several projects under his own company.

Greetings Gurrazor, thanks for doing this interview with us. First of all, how are you doing?

Good! It’s been a busy time since Monolith launched, and it’ll keep being so going forward, but it’s a lot of fun!

What can you tell us about yourself and Monolith Servers?

I’m a Swedish final year university student, studying Business & Management in the UK. My passion is and has really always been, to run and manage projects of different sorts. Thanks to its open and creative nature, Garry’s Mod became a well-suited platform to express my passion. Before Monolith, I ran a few other communities – most notably LemonPunch, and I’m also highly committed to ServerGuard, which is an administrative mod for Garry’s Mod. Monolith is a high-stake project that has involved extensive development by many developers, to build a completely custom City RP game mode. Our vision is that it will bring the genre to a whole new level by offering a uniquely coherent, purposeful and dynamic experience.

Great job on the launch trailer! Who took part in making this video?

Hawke made it with some help from the rest of the staff team. I’ve known him for a quite long time and he’s always had a great eye for design and creative work.

Monolith RP launched this month (April) and already you have over 500 members on the forums. Did you and your team have some kind of advertising plan/campaign?

We made sure to reach out to many people early on and kept a continual stream of development updates public. Our two trailers were rather successful in building excitement.

Looking at the staff ranks and license in the footer of the website you take a business-like approach with your community. Aren’t you afraid you will alienate people?

What many people may not realize is that a community selling any virtual goods or services is legally speaking a business. A limited company is an excellent entity for running any ambitious community heavily involved with the intellectual property. The fact that we conduct sales allows us to pay our bills and raise funds that we may invest in the community and its software. In that respect, I believe the transparent business-like approach is effective and hopefully not alienating many people if the common benefits of it are clearly communicated.

“We made sure to reach out to many people early on and kept a continual stream of development updates public”

A thing what I like about your community is that it has an active board dedicated for (user created) guides.How important is member/user created content for a community you think?

It’s truly vital – collaboration is key to any community. There is so much potential in all the, oftentimes, passionate members of a community. It’s important for us in the management to align, empower and encourage both collaboration and individual contribution in different ways – the guides board is a good example since it is appreciated by many.

Let’s talk about Monolith’s selling point being the game mode. What can you tell us about it, and how is it different from other game modes out there?

The game mode has always been the core vision of our project. City RP gives great joy to many people in Garry’s Mod, and I felt that the strive for improvement around it had been neglected for quite a long time. Among the previous milestones were AppleJack, PERP, Orange Cosmos RP, Pulsar Effect RP, Santos RP, and of course DarkRP. Each good in their own way, but rarely updated, oftentimes leaked, generic and simply filled with room for improvement. I felt confident that with the right team, I could create something far more coherent, dynamic and purposeful of top quality.

While I was working on ServerGuard with its impressive team of developers, I came by the opportunity of purchasing the rights of an unfinished game mode named Monolith RP that I had kept an eye on for a long time. After consulting the ServerGuard team, I made the significant investment and we started the long road of completing the game mode. It truly was a long and strugglesome path to completion, but here we are!

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On the forums, you said that you need to use the DarkRP game mode list to have a chance of being found by players. Is this choice permanent?

I’m not sure. The server list of Garry’s Mod is, however, a hard reality that we need to face. I know for certain that had we just been using our own game mode list, we would be at the very bottom, and I’m quite confident that no new players would have found us in that context. We need to use some other game mode list for now, and DarkRP seemed appropriate.

Do you feel the DarkRP community influences the “roleplay image” in Garry’s Mod?

Absolutely, to a large extent it even defines it. The high amount of players and servers using DarkRP combined with the way the server list works nowadays has created a form of monopoly around DarkRP for roleplay in general. I wouldn’t be surprised if many new casual players don’t even know that other unique roleplay game modes exist in Garry’s Mod.

During my time in the server, I was amazed by all the work that went into crafting the game mode. I came across known features from other game modes as well as new (unique) ones. How did you guys went into this project, and what the development process look like?

It was a long, hard and expensive struggle to be honest with you. Creating an extensive game mode of this scale is all about determination and persistence. After a few weeks of development, our Trello board was absolutely stocked with work to be done – it was almost overwhelming. What made it all the more difficult was how all of us had other primary commitments in life to attend to. I’m sure we all felt unmotivated and exhausted at times, but we gave each other critical encouragement and support that enabled us to overcome even the toughest hurdles. None of it would have been possible without our vision. There was a genuine passion for it, and that gave us the drive to see the project through despite all difficulties.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if many new casual players don’t even know that other unique roleplay game modes exist in Garry’s Mod.”

Looking in the staff directory I see 15 developers. That’s quite a group you’ve got there. What can you tell us about the team?

It’s a smaller group if you only count those being active at the moment, but we certainly have a diligent team – which is a strict condition for our success in all projects. Most of the members are involved in ServerGuard as well, and I think the whole team has a unique professional approach in the context of development inside Garry’s Mod. Everyone signs contracts, support one another with effective communication and are empowered to reach their full potential. Each member has important areas where they are exceptionally talented, and therefore we’re able to collaborate in a complementing manner. Our professional approach makes everyone take their work seriously and feel proud of their achievements.

Since we’re on the topic of development, you are the manager of ServerGuard, a popular admin mod/management tool within the Garry’s Mod scene. What are the tasks as a manager of such a product?

I would say that they could be divided into three parts. The first one is strategy & vision, which is about where we want to take the project, how we can achieve new heights and so forth.

The second is coordination and overseeing the development – working in a large team of developers, coordination of development is vital. We use many important tools like Trello, Slack and Git, but someone must oversee everything to make sure the work is aligned, coherent and thought through for the long run. I encourage scrutiny and intellectually honest discussions to make sure that we vet everyone’s work and decisions along the way. When overseeing the development is making sure that we always have the capacity to produce high-quality work – therefore I have to hire new skilled team members when necessary, which is quite the task, but has worked out remarkably well.

The final part is legal and finance, which is not to be underestimated. We never compromise on these fronts – if we’re going to be able to run these projects that we love for the long run, we need to make sure they are financially sound and worthwhile, and fully compliant with all laws. Since we constantly deal with intellectual property, legal is truly a cornerstone in my management. There are so many horror stories of communities in Garry’s Mod that don’t care about contracts or legal considerations, and they oftentimes have to pay a steep price for that when all their work is leaked or infringed.

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Anything (special) planned regarding ServerGuard?

You bet, I’m quite confident that ServerGuard 2 will revolutionize administration of Garry’s Mod servers by offering an unprecedented level of quality and features – at least after some time of development. We hope to combine that with an extensive web panel as well. All of this takes time, effort and money, but there’s nothing more motivating to our team than ServerGuard 2.

Both Monolith and ServerGuard are coordinated by your company Thriving Ventures. When and why did you decide to start your company?

I registered it at the very end of 2013. I was set to be living in the UK for a while, and both LemonPunch and ServerGuard showed much promise. A condition for me spending so much of my time on the projects was that they were taken seriously. Running a limited company would give me a great deal of experience, and it was also a structured and clear company form that seemed appropriate. The UK is an amazing country for small businesses, and while all the formal requirements certainly have been challenging to keep up with at times, it has been fully manageable. Worth mentioning is that a limited company is a separate legal entity from yourself, which can be beneficial when dealing with intellectual property and attract potential investors. We have managed without external investment so far, but it may be a possibility in the future.

“City RP really has no limits in possible features.”

Back to Monolith, looking back, what are some of your fondest memories of events happening within your community?

We really have been running it for a short period of time so far, but the best memory must be from last weekend. We had 50-60 people on our server, it was all running in a stable manner, and everyone seemed to enjoy what we had created immensely. I couldn’t help but think back at just how much we had overcome and fought through to get there, how many times I had struggled to regain faith and motivation in the project during the toughest moments. I felt such a deep appreciation for our incredible team and our collective achievement, and I think that moment will always be a dear memory. The lesson is, never ever give up – true determination may be the most powerful attribute that we can possess in life.

Although you guys just launched your game mode, any plans for the (near) future?

For Monolith, we have oceans to accomplish still. In fact, we’re nowhere near where we want to be. The vision is of a coherent and connected universe of servers running the game mode, while all maintaining high popularity and serving a great many players. There is also so much that can be added to the Monolith game experience. City RP really has no limits in possible features.

Aside from Monolith, we’re eager to get on with ServerGuard 2 relatively soon – we have much progress and plans in place for that, and Monolith will be the first to test it all out. In the more distant future, things are more uncertain. Game engines like Unreal and Unity are exciting, and we keep a careful eye open for what opportunities may present themselves.

Are there any specific steps new players should take before joining your server?

Yes! Make sure to download the content pack! You’ll find it here: https://monolithservers.com/forums/topic/2-server-information/

We end each interview with the same question being, do you have any tips for other (starting) communities?

There are so many things to keep in mind, but here are some tips:

  • Don’t underestimate the challenge! Prepare and find a network of people who are also motivated by your vision before you start your community.
  • Be sure you’re in it for the right reasons – that you have the passion and desire to achieve.
  • Be modest and learn from your mistakes along the way – there’s no way you’ll avoid all of them.
  • Like I mentioned earlier – don’t give up. If your first or second community isn’t successful, maybe your third will be if you reflect on your experiences carefully.
  • Watch out for the foundation of your community. If your community becomes successful and you have the wrong people holding far too much influence in it, it may limit your potential going forward severely, and it may even lead to a sad end of your community one day. Simply, be very careful of who you elevate in your community and who you make yourself dependent upon.
  • Don’t neglect the legal and financial requirements, and do extensive research on this topic. No community is worth potentially hurting your life forever. Make sure you can comply with the legal requirements in advance of starting your community, or don’t start it at all, period. Make sure to sign proper contracts with developers if you’re dealing with unique intellectual property, or you’ll have to deal with copyright infringement without much to stand on eventually. Plan your finances, and make sure the community can at least break even relatively quickly – don’t invest immense money in your community with hopes of regaining it eventually, unless you have extensive experience in running successful communities. Money means capacity, and capacity is everything in improving and expanding your community – therefore, ensure that your community profitable and that you save or reinvest most of your earnings.
  • If you’re still in school or university – don’t ever neglect these! They should always be priority one by any measure, and they mean more than anything for your future opportunities in life!
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About Syff

Co-founder of the Angry-Mob project, a community which transformed from a gaming community hosting several servers to it's current form. A hub with information for other community/server owners/staff members. Previously, Syff was involved with several other communities dispersed over different games and positions.