While most sites concentrate on the game of Runescape itself, Rob and Ren, co-founders of The Unofficial Gower Archive, steer clear of this well-trodden path by focusing on the most prominent figurehead of Jagex Ltdâ€”Andrew Gower. Though a relatively new site, Gower Archive is packed with fascinating information about the mysterious Mr. Gower, including pictures, his curriculum vitae, and even old renders of Runescape Classic. I had the pleasure of interviewing the two to learn about the hard work that goes into making such a unique site.
1. How did you two come to meet each other? Was it a mutual interest in Andrew Gower?
Rob: We met on Wikipedia, after I recreated an article there on Andrew Gower with all the knowledge I had on him, using an archive of his personal website. He posted in the discussion page claiming he had a few pictures of Gower. I contacted him via Wikipedia and then talked to him through AIM and MSN. That’s when research on Andrew Gower commenced.
Ren: Pretty much. Through our Wikipedia contributions, Rob found out that I had material relating to Andrew Gower which wasn’t generally available. He got in touch with me it in April, and I was glad to find someone else who found it interesting. We’ve never met in person though, as we live in different countries.
2. Which tools do you primarily use to find information on Gower? What limitations do they have?
Rob: Basically the most prominent tools we’ve used are Google and the Wayback Machine on archive.org. The only thing that limits us is that some pages aren’t archived that we’d like to view. However, we’ve gained A LOT of information using those two tools alone. We also asked a Mac programmer named Nicholas Shanks about Gower. Apparently, Mr. Shanks went to school with Andrew. He was wondering if the article on Wikipedia was about the same Andrew he knew, and it turned out that it was.
3. In your opinion, what was “the tip of the iceberg” when you started your search into the life of Andrew Gower? What bit of knowledge caused you to delved deeper?
Rob: I guess it was when I found his website on the archives. I became immensely interested about what the guy has done with his life. Then I met Ren, and it sparked my interest further. My main interest is DeviousMUD, but there’s not much left about it sadly.
Ren: Good question. Originally my interest was fairly passive â€“ back in 2001 Andrew was pretty accessible, as in we were both on the IRC channel at the same time, his old website was still up (and not too unknown in the community), and he had his webcam running most of the time. I archived this stuff at the time and didn’t really go out of my way to find more. When I met Rob and found out that he was interested in what I’d found I thought that there might be others out there who felt the same. Andrew Gower is an amazing individual who has achieved a lot and I like a challenge, so I thought it’d be worthwhile to try and find out more about who he was.
4. What process do you go through to determine whether or not a piece of information is legitimate? I’ve looked through your site and noticed that some material is unable to be linked to since it happened in a chatroom or on a site which no longer exists. Essentially, is it up to the visitor to trust you on this type of content?
Rob: Most of the information we have is backed up by trusted sources. Ren finds most of the stuff we have, anyway. He runs it by me and I agree with what he’s got and he uploads it on the site. It’s up to the users to trust our data, but we’re 99.9% sure that our information is completely legitimate.
Ren: There are several main sources for information: the media, websites, personal archives, the Internet Archive, Google Groups and first-hand accounts. I found many of these sources with the help of Google. It is true that much of our content is now impossible or difficult to find elsewhere. However, I’m a bit of a hoarder, so over the years I’ve kept copies of interesting material. Where possible I’ve provided links to working sources on the website, but for the rest you’ll have to trust in us and believe in our confidence regarding the material’s veracity.
The only inconsistency we could find on our website is from the IRC log dated 02 January 2002 and has MrAndrew saying it will be Runescape’s birthday in 7 days time (when other sources say Runescape’s birthday is on the 4th of January). The source is from tip.it and states the information is from the trustworthy Lightning, so we think that it is not fabricated.
However, someone could have got the date wrong somewhere. We have noted this consistency on our website, and if anyone finds something which doesn’t add up then we will definitely investigate it fully.
The material from “Andrew Gower’s Amazing Homepage” was taken directly from the Internet Archive copies of http://www.fitz.cam.ac.uk/~acg29/ and http://www.fitz.cam.ac.uk/users/acg29/ (originally hosted by Fitzwilliam College).
I was around in 2001 when MrAndrew was on IRC and ran the JagexCam and the majority of the logs and images were saved by me all those years ago. I provide dates and timestamps, so if you can track down anyone else who was there at the time then they can confirm it. At the time there was no doubt that it was him, as it had a Cambridge hostname and he possessed knowledge that nobody else could have known (e.g. providing information on upcoming updates). It was also through the IRC channel that I learned of www.runescape.com/runescript.htm which provided information on Runescape Classic’s scripting system.
I’m certain that the pictures of Andrew from JagexCam and his personal website are genuine, as they are from primary sources. The photographs given to me by HawaiiGopher all seem to be of this same person, so I am confident they are all of Andrew Gower.
The homepage contains a quote from Nick Shanks and we’ll have to trust him that he really went to school with Andrew Gower. However, I checked out an old archive of his CV and it all matched up. This was before our site went live, so he couldn’t have gotten the information on which school Andrew went to from us and it would have been pretty hard to find elsewhere.
5. I’ve been dying to ask this one. What is the BIGGEST mystery that you’ve solved about Mr. Gower and what mysteries are you currently trying to solve?
Rob: Well, there’s the penguins. 😛 I don’t know why he’s obsessed with penguins but I guess we’ll never really find that out. I’m always interested in finding out how long it took him to learn the Java knowledge he has and what sparked him to make DeviousMUD/RuneScape.
Ren: Rob vaguely remembered that Andrew’s middle name was Christopher, and as Andrew’s e-mail was email@example.com it seemed plausible. However, we couldn’t just trust our own memory. After much searching to no avail I found definitive proof that his middle initial was C through one of his old Atari games. It was only when I thought of searching for “Gower, Andrew Christopher” yesterday and found a page on the University of Cambridge website which listed that name alongside several known friends of Andrew Gower that our minds could be put to rest and we could make that assertion on our site.
The mystery of the moment is Andrew’s GBA3D engine. If you check the communications section, he talks on IRC about his work on a Game Boy Advance 3D engine that he was intending to show at the 2001 European Computer Trade Show in London. He seemed pretty optimistic about it, going so far as to say it could have some patentable elements. But the story seems to end there, and I’ve heard nothing of it since.
6. Lastly, what do you see for the future of your site? Are you going to expand searches into the other Gower brothers?
Rob: We plan on finding more and more information on the guy as possible. We may add bits of things about other Gowers (considering there’s about like four or five Gowers associated with making games with Andrew) but there’s most likely not as much information on those people as there are on Andrew.
Ren: Much of what we don’t have are not on any website, no matter how much we use search engines. We’ll just have to hope that a visitor has an old IRC log or other material archived and feels like contributing it to us. Many of the photographs were provided by HawaiiGopher after I tracked him down through much Googling because Rob found an old forum post which contained some Andrew Gower pictures. I believe that the more visitors we get, the more likely it is that someone who has something worthwhile to contribute will come along and decide to help out. So spread the word!
As you can see, Rob and Ren have quite the detective skills and they could use your help as well! Their site provides a solid collection of content that leads back to the golden days where Gower brushed shoulders with his own players. These days, though far away, will always live on in the pages of The Unofficial Gower Archives.
The Unofficial Gower Archive â€“ http://gowerarchive.googlepages.com