Interview: The crew from Perpheads

Here we are again, time for another interview! This time we will be revisiting the world of Garry’s Mod once more and have a chat with all 3 co-owners of the roleplay community Perpheads. The crew (which is something I refer them to) consisting of Fredy, Xquality and StephenPuffs have been running Perpheads since 2013 and are still going strong to this day. I was eager to their their story and how they have been going at it for these last 5 years

Thanks for doing this interview with us. First off, how are you guys doing?

Except for the hayfever that is slowly starting to affect Fredy (damn you spring!) we’re all great, thanks for asking.

Can you tell me how you guys got started all those years ago?

We were all playing Garry’s Mod for quite some time before launching Perpheads. We all met on a Garry’s Mod server called VS3, which was a decently populated and fun PERP server back in the days (I believe around 2011 or 2012). We all joined the same organization called Jarheads and slowly started becoming friends.

Unfortunately not too long after Fredy joined the server, it was shut down, but thankfully a few months later a successor server called SimplyPERP was opened and we started playing on there. SimplyPERP was only open for a very brief period of time – if I recall correctly, around 1-2 months – and since there was no sign of anyone else trying to setup yet another perp server, we took it upon ourselves to create a worthy successor

We started toying with the Perp gamemode and made some cool modifications to it. Only around 3 months after SimplyPERP closed we managed to get our server up and running.

Did any of you had any experience running a community prior to Perpheads?

While Xquality and StephenPuffs had no experience running a community before Perpheads, Fredy owned a Counter-Strike: Source jailbreak, as well as multiple other smalle servers for other games before and had some experience coding for them as well.

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What type of roleplay are you guys going for? (light/semi-serious/serious)

Our server is considered serious roleplay within the Garry’s Mod community. I’m saying within the Garry’s Mod community because unfortunately there are quite a few servers that label themselves semi-serious or even serious roleplay while they are clearly not (looking at you DarkRP).

Personally I would put our server right between semi-serious and serious because we think that it’s still very important that you can have a lot of fun playing it, while also being able to do a lot of serious roleplay.

On a completely dead serious roleplaying server – something like HL2-Roleplay for those of you who know it – the characters you play are almost always going to be very realistic. That means you try and give your character flaws such as being extremely scared and trying to avoid death at all cost.

On Perpheads this is a bit more permissive, where you are free to be a character who is going to risk his life, as long as it make sense to do so. It is a gamemode about crime after all.

What makes PERP different from other RP gamemodes out there? (DarkRP, CityRP etc.)

The Perpheads gamemode is different from a lot of other gamemodes because it is almost entirely customized. With a few exceptions, the entirety of our code (especially any new code), is actually our code written by one of us.

Many of the models we use are customized for our gamemode in some way, be it completely new models, improved animations or improved texture quality. In fact even the map we are using was made completely from scratch by Xquality.

Because everything is customized or made by us, we can actually gear all the new content directly to fit within the server; so every element we release will be adjusted to work with the rest of the gamemode.

I think this is one of the biggest differences compared to other gamemodes, where mostly you will have multiple addons from different people that don’t interact with each other very well or that are there just for a gimmick.

An very basic example of this is our inventory system, that was specifically designed to work within our gamemode. Every new update we release that has something to do with items, will use this inventory system. In DarkRP, there is no unified inventory system, which means that any addons that use items will either have to roll their own inventory, or support one of the existing third party inventory systems (which the server might or might not have).

This very simple example can then be scaled up to bigger interactions within the gamemode. When you join police on our server you cannot carry any guns on you, and furthermore any illegal items you might have in your inventory – such as drugs – will go into a seperate locker inventory. This only works because the two systems we have, the inventory and police system, are made to interact with each other. In DarkRP this same scenario will usually lead to police officers carrying around illegal items, or even weapons.

Furthermore we try to add things into our gamemode that haven’t really been seen in Garry’s Mod. Because developing for the server is our hobby, it is usually the challenging things that we try to develop, because they are the most fun.

You guys have been Around since 2013, has the game and its community changed over the years?

Garry’s Mod has been around for a very long time, it’s now almost 15 years old. This obviously means that we’ve not really seen the full picture of the Garry’s Mod community.

While we’ve been running the community there’s been a few changes here and there. Communities have risen to the top, others have fallen or closed down, but overall I don’t think too much has changed.

Since 2013 there’s only been very few big updates to the game, and most of them have just been maintenance updates, or updates that don’t really concern us too much. To some extent this is actually a good thing though, since past Garry’s Mod updates used to break entire gamemodes.

Maintaining a roleplay server is a tough job. How is your staff team setup and are players able to apply for a position?

One of the biggest pain running a Garry’s Mod server is that there’s just way too many people who join server’s just to troll and disrupt gameplay. This has always been a thing and anyone opening a community needs to expect this.

To deal with this type of behaviour we have a very active staff team consisting of currently 20 staff members.

The ranks are as follows:

Owners
Consists of Xquality, StephenPuffs and Fredy. The founders of perpheads mostly in charge of development.

Head Admin
The top of the staff team, in charge of managing everyone below

Senior Admins
Assisting the Head Admin in  management of the staff team

Admins
Long standing staff members who will be consulted with staff team changes

Moderators
Mostly there for enforcing the rules, providing support

Enforcers
A trail mod rank where a community member proves that they can be trusted

Players are able to apply to be enforcer on our forums, but even becoming an enforcer requires the player in question to be well respected within the community and trustworthy. Usually there’s multiple application attempts required to finally become an enforcer, but in many cases this is just so we can tell the player in question how they can improve while filtering out people who only want to get power quickly.

Let’s talk development real quick, how is the gamemode holding up after all these years (both features and maintenance) ?

Maintenance is relatively easy as the server usually keeps running on its own without much intervention, or at least since Garry stopped breaking things ;).

We try to keep our server “fresh” by regularly updating it with new features, performance improvements and bug fixes.

Do you guys have a schedule you follow when it comes to pushing out updates ?

All of us owners do Perpheads as a hobby. That means we decide on some cool new feature that we think would improve the server and then start working on it. Of course we  do have some internal deadlines, but we don’t really have a set schedule. However, we maintain a list of upcoming features that we want to develop, sorted by priority.

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I noticed you are running a custom map (rp_Paralake_City), what made you decide to move away from populair maps like EvoCity and Downtown?

Originally we started out with a customized version of EvoCity that had some features we wanted for our gamemode. Many community owners can confirm that they’d really like some changes in a map to fit their server, which is why there are so many versions of EvoCity and other maps. So to solve this problem completely we decided to move to our own map, that was designed with our server in mind.

The biggest change that paralake introduced is the fact that it’s a completely open map. On evocity or downtown you have certain sections of the map that are connected through tunnels, but you can’t see very far and don’t have nice scenery.

Furthermore a big problem that evocity had is that almost all of the server was always within the main city, on paralake this is quite different. We have several different districts in the map and usually it is nicely spread throughout. Evocity also didn’t have enough stores where people could setup shops, which is another thing we addressed with paralake.

Right this might be a edgy subject but… *takes a deep breath*. When you search for “PERP” on Facepunch you get.. interesting results (don’t worry, you guys are in the clear!). Can you briefly give your take on what happened around the Perp gamemode for the ones who are unaware?

There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding the PERP gamemode. PERP was initially a gamemode developed by a community called Pulsar Effect (hence PERP), but after some time the community was shut down and the gamemode got distributed to several other communities. Long after that, one guy supposedly bought the perp gamemode (even though it was already widely distributed) and started DMCAing other communities, so a lot of drama ensued. Because PERP is not open source you will often find people trying to sell some very old version of it, but usually it’s either completely dysfunctional or an outright scam.

However, while we are still running the PERP gamemode, we would like to point out that these days our gamemode has very little in common with the original PERP. Around 90-95% of the gamemode’s code has been rewritten – either partially or fully – by us and most, if not all, of the cool features our server has to offer were custom coded by us and are not part of the basic PERP gamemode.

You guys have a pretty active forum, something I personally enjoy. Compared to your early years, have you seen an overall decline in forum activity due to competition like Discord and social media?

I don’t think we’ve seen any decline because of Discord or similar applications and let me explain why.

When we started we had actually a very bad website, which meant that not many users wanted to sign up and use it. This was improved slightly when we switched to a new forum software, but I think the main driver of forum activity was probably something else.

Most of our players are very invested in our server and enjoy playing it, which usually drives them on the forums some way or another. For example: If they want to become a staff member they need to show activity on the forums and interact with the community.

If someone was banned and wants to make an apology, they need to do so on the forums. There are also organization threads on the forums that accept applications mostly from there, so anyone interested has to sign up to the forums.

But of course the idea is not just to force people to use the forums; this is actually something many communities do, but on perpheads using the forums is still completely optional; we rather compel people to join because the forum is a fun and helpful place to be.

Additionally it is really important to keep the users interested in the forums and give them an opportunity to keep in touch with their fellow friends from the server.

A very useful example of this is the members only shoutbox that is a part of the forums (for members only of course). You can always find someone from the community to talk to and participate in fun group conversations. There is usually someone there even in the middle of the night.

Once we successfully established a reasonably sized community on the forums many people kept coming back to the forums even after they stopped playing on the server. In fact some of our most active members on the forums are people who used to play but got bored of our gamemode.

I think all of this highlights that discord couldn’t really compete with our forums, when it comes to connecting members of the community. The community lives on the forums and it would be really hard to establish a discord server where you’d get even a small percentage of the community to join.

What are some of your fondest memories that occured over the years of running Perpheads?

Of course one of the greatest things that came from our time at Perpheads is all the friends we made. Many of the people we talk to on a regular basis, we met on perp. And they grew to be more than just perp friends, but real friends who you can talk to and play other games with.

One of the things that made us very proud is when the previous owner of SimplyPerp joined our server and became an admin on it (he is still around even now). This really meant something to us since it showed us that he truly respects what we did and in fact he even helps us make it even better.

Lastly, do you have any tips for other (starting) communities out there?

You should never mindlessly buy addons of one of the addons marketplaces and just hope that it all works well together. Think before you act and make decisions that will benefit the server and don’t just sound like good ideas. Not everyone needs to have a full time coder on their team, but it helps immensely if you want to add a lot of custom content. Hiring different coders for every task is usually not a good idea and will mostly end up in disaster.

An extremely common thing you see with new communities is that they struggle getting players to join their server and resort to attract them by giving out admin ranks to new players. Usually this sort of thing will ruin the server as you will have too many abusive staff members. Remember that starting up a new community will always be slow and don’t ever think it’s going to be a quick thing.

Don’t underestimate your community. Once the community has grown to be rather big, there’s usually many very capable people in it who want to contribute to your communities’ success. Accept their help when they are offering it and help them help you. We can give a few examples of this happening on Perpheads.

One big part of the Perpheads gamemode is police roleplay, which is why there is an entire organization on our server dedicated to the police, called Paralake Police Department.

Our police is whitelisted, which means you need to apply online, do tests, etc. and all of this is managed by the community. They even went as far as making their own website, dedicated to managing the PD (https://plpd.online/).

A year or so ago our server kept crashing for no reason and within a few hours a community member who administrates servers as part of his job contacted me and offered to help, and we were able to diagnose the problem together.

We have an admin who is a data analyst in real life and he helps us detect players trying to evade bans. It uses a quite complex graph algorithm to determine if the banned player has ever shared an IP with any other player, and calculates then calculates a likelihood of it being an actual alt account or just a false positive.

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About Syff

Founder of Angry-Mob.com, keeping your game community up-to-date with articles, guides, interviews & more! Besides Angry-Mob I currently am employed as a Sharepoint developer and multimedia advisor. You can find all my projects on my portfolio: https://Rokbock.nl