Espi Award - For lifetime achievement
Frans P. "@Xymph" De Vries
Our community, since its inception, has been blessed with the kind of stability that eludes many others on the Internet. A big reason for this has indisputably been the long term commitment some members have shown towards a scene that, for most of us, amounts to no more than a hobby in the end. However few have managed to achieve such an indelible yet almost mystical presence as Frans P. de Vries, better known by his alias Xymph. Despite being a pillar of our community, he has maintained a lower profile than some other supergiants, and it is possible that some of our readers may not be immediately familiar with his work, notwithstanding the fact he has been involved in our scene since the very start, all the way back to 1993. To chronicle his exploits does, in reality, require two different tales entirely, because there has been a considerable gap between his leave of absence at the end of the previous century and his return in style in 2015. Yet what makes Xymph's accomplishments so extraordinary is that one would be sincerely hard pressed to determine which of his two main periods of activity have proven more invaluable. But let's go back to the beginning...
Xymph was a part of the Doom community before there really was a Doom community as we know it. Long before the times of the forum boards, and even before the /idgames archive came to be, Xymph was already a regular on the Usenet newsgroups formed during the game's pre-release hype. After becoming a moderator and contributing to several important FAQs of the time, Xymph eventually became the principal maintainer of the /idgames archive itself, starting in December 1995, until handing over the reins to Ty Halderman in early 1997. During this time, one of his key achievements was obtaining direct permission from id Software to upload the venerable alpha versions to the archive, with all the implications for modding and the history of Doom itself that those ended up having. Oh, and did you know he was a great ASCII artist back then already?
Xymph created the very first big Doom ASCII logo, later used in Hank Leukart's Official Doom FAQ!
But then, there was silence... for a while. The community continued to prosper, as it became clear that no matter how many hot FPS games would be released on the market, Doom would just Not Die, and in 2015 Xymph decided that, after all, he was not done with this game just yet. In 2016 he joined the independent DoomWiki, the main hub of history and information for all things Doom related. To say that his return heralded a torrent of new content and features would be an understatement: he hadn't merely started adding crucial information about Doom's earliest days and providing seemingly endless and comprehensive fixes to pages, but the biggest amount of work has without a doubt went into a multitude of scripts. First of all, a great deal of new tools were created which allowed for things ranging from extracting statistics from Doom maps and outputting them in a wiki-friendly format, to obtaining and interfacing speedrunning information from DSDA and automatically filling it into the wiki tables. But the star of the show has definitely been the programming and implementation of the aptly named XymphBot, which can be fed instructions for specific tasks, resulting in mass batches of edits generating level pages for individual maps and megawads (I don't need to tell you how many this community produces!), map preview additions, categorization, and anything else you can think of. This system works so impeccably that, on answering a newcomer's question regarding article creation, fellow DoomWiki busy bee Quasar ended up quipping that the efficiency is such it apparently leads people to think the articles are generated spontaneously.
Xymph reached 30,000 edits on the wiki this year, an insurmountable feat for most... and this is without counting the XymphBot edits!
Even though his two main periods of activity are strikingly different in what they brought to the table, one can easily see how his approach has always been characterized by two things: rigorous, comprehensive work, and a focus on community needs and wants. Need a big and beautiful ASCII logo for your definitive Doom FAQ in 1994? No problem! Want (near) monthly recaps of all the happenings on the one true Wiki, with specifics on what gets added to each category? Done and done! You've come to realize a better interface for uploading WADs to /idgames is now highly needed due to the FTP protocol being phased out? You got it! Time and time again, Xymph has proven himself to be an excellent architect, regardless of the specific platform he chose to make his adobe on, and as the community's tenants, it can be easy to perceive all this as nearly invisible, and to take it for granted. Xymph's excellence, then, shines through for those who look just a bit closer, because virtually every single change he's made, every tool he's programmed and every decision he's taken, all looked to the future. "Leave no stone unturned" is the name of the game, and articles were combed repeatedly to spot even the tiniest of mistakes, and changes applied to several pages instead of just one because, if such seemingly minor issues are not taken care of now, they would only lead to problems for others who attempt to use the tools and the wiki later. Such level of professionalism in the community is simply virtually unparalleled.
The idgames uploader panel, a much needed tool to make archival onto the site more convenient for everyone. Thanks, Xymph!
And yet, one thing remains definitive. Xymph writes, in the opening paragraph for his DoomWiki user page, that Doom has changed his life. What's every bit as true is that Xymph himself has changed all of our lives, immeasurably for the better, and we cannot possibly thank him enough.