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Interview with Eric Platel

by Jens Kreutzer

Eric, you have been a Netrunner player for a very long time, and have been especially active in its support recently. Before I get to that, could you please tell our readers something about you personally?

I was born in early 1967. I'm presently a computer science project leader for an insurance company. I had lived in Paris for 34 years before moving to a nearly suburb two years ago, where I could afford to buy a house.

I like playing baseball (rare for an European but I just love this game). I read mostly fantasy books, and sometimes science-fiction (Norman Spinrad and Neal Stephenson). As far as my gaming life is concerned, I am first and foremost a roleplaying gamer. I started playing Dungeons & Dragons in 1981. I played many other games like Call of Cthulhu, Rolemaster etc. and discovered Cyberpunk in 1989. This is an important detail.

Going back to your Netrunner roots - do you remember how it happened that you started playing?

In 1996, I started to get bored playing Magic: The Gathering. There weren't that many CCGs around at that time. Being a Cyberpunk fan, I logically bought some Netrunner starters when the game first hit the shelves. My childhood friend Manuel (we know each other since more than 33 years ago now), who was in my Cyberpunk gaming group, did the same. We used to play in my Parisian flat with cards right from the boxes, 60 cards a deck. Having no Internet connection to join the Netrunner list, and not knowing any skilled players, I must admit that for the better part of two years we played a different Netrunner. We thought that playing Project Consultants cost 16 bits (12+4), that a subsidiary data fort could contain one agenda plus one node, that an upgrade like Turbeau Delacroix could be advanced, and so on ... . You have enough material now to start a TRQ Bloopers section.

I joined the Netrunner list in early 1999. It allowed me to talk a lot about Netrunner with Gilles Delcourt in my own language. Once connected to the Internet, the very first Netrunner site I discovered was the awesome "Netrunner Weekly" by Matthias Nagy. The very first deck I built was Holger Janssen's commons-only Runner stack.

Gilles eventually invited me over to his place in Belgium during mid-summer 1999. There was the Benelux Gencon in Anvers. I did terribly in the Sealed portion, but finished second out of 14 in Constructed in my very first tournament. That probably was beginers' luck, since I've never ever done better since then. I was playing a slightly modified version of Holger's stack and a Corp deck that used traps and fast-advancement.

In Anvers, I met other French players (Yannick Mescam and Frederic Garnier) for the first time in my little Netrunner life. They invited me to join them in the "Crazy Mouse" game shop, where they used to meet once a week. This is where and when I really started playing the game.

You are an active member of Netrunner France, and I'd like to take the opportunity and ask you to tell us something about the French Netrunner scene. What's its history, and how was Netrunner France created?

Heh heh, that has been chaotic. Before going to Anvers and talking with Gilles, I learned that the TRC France as it had once existed was currently banned by the TRC. As far as I understood, the main problem between the two institutions was a disagreement on formats. TRC France, whenever organizing tourneys, 'imposed' the 1/15 format as the regular format. Some people couldn't cope with WotC donating prizes for a format that didn't make sense commercially in the long run (as players didn't have to buy as many cards).

This led to a clash between Stephen Holodinsky and the former TRC France manager, and TRC France was banned. I myself had a certain sense of aversion towards another 'cultural exception' that seemed characteristic of the French people, and so I asked David Nolan (who managed the TRC Cells list) to unban TRC France. That was quite funny, because TRC France had disappeared and now only consisted of me alone.

I don't know much about what happened before 1999. After Anvers, it appeared that Yannick and Frederic were really interested in the Unlimited/Revised format. We then refounded the TRC France in September 1999, and our main objective was to organize tournaments in the Revised format.

Strangely, at the same time another famous French Runner, Emmanuel Estournet, was hanging around game centers in Paris to set up another players' organization. Jennifer Clarke Wilkes gave us the hint to contact him. So we all met at the Ostelen game center in early January 2000 and merged our two associations. Emmanuel was a hardcore 1/15 player, so we made compromises, like phasing out 1/15 very slowly.

That's how Netrunner France was created. I ended up as webmaster, Emmanuel as chairman and Yannick as everything else. We organized an Omni league straight away and got 44 players. With a lot of sarcasm, we were dubbed the "378th French Netrunner player association" in the Lotus Noir gaming magazine. But that just gave us the inspiration to work harder.

In all tournaments we organized, there were at least one Sealed event (we bought tons of boxes on eBay) and one Revised event. We slowly phased out 1/15. We used the famous DCI Reporter program a lot, as well as another ranking program I wrote in VB with an Access database. I'm not really accurate with my player stats, but we can boast to have enrolled more than 100 different players in our tournaments within three years. Revised is now our official format, along with Sealed.

Who are the top French players?

Frederic Garnier is certainly one of the best French Runners in Constructed. He not only plays very well but always comes up with new deck concepts that are very competitive. Yannick Mescam is the best in Sealed. He just makes a point of finishing first place in every Sealed tournament. I'm eager to see the next World Domination Championships since Yannick is qualified.

What's the French Netrunner scene like right now, and what are your plans for the future?

The situation these days really isn't very bright: Back in January 2000, four game shops were alive and kicking, most importantly Ostelen. As it was known as the biggest gaming center in Europe, we suffered a hard blow when it closed its gates forever almost a year ago. The other game shops don't exist anymore, either. We held our 2002 Nationals in a place I don't really like: small, dusty and dark. As a matter of fact, we haven't organized the Paris Open this year. We're still looking for a decent venue for our next Nationals.

But we're still working on our VIP cards. Yannick, who plays a tremendous number of CCGs, came up with the very first idea. In his mind, VIPs were special operations and preps that you could fetch from your deck before the start of the game and put into play immediately. After some brainstorming sessions, they ended up as a specific card type, called VIP. Yannick designed all of the game mechanics, while I did the card design and used my knowledge about the Cyberpunk universe to give them names. I contacted R. Talsorian and received a favorable answer from Lisa Pondsmith on the question of using Cyberpunk art for our cards. We used the VIP cards during 2002 Nationals, and they received a very good response from the players, who are now actually coming up with new ideas.

The French scene is special in a way because French is the only language you can buy Netrunner cards in other than English. Are there still enough French cards left for buying?

It's pretty hard to find cards in any language, now that Ostelen has closed down. Netrunner France has a good stock of English cards, but we're lacking Proteus now. So if anybody could help us out ... .

Is there anything remarkable about the French edition that the English edition doesn't have?

As far as I can tell, French cards are darker, so I find them a little bit more visually attractive.

Do you prefer French or English cards?

I don't have any French cards. I traded them for English ones in order to have a coherent set. I played Cyberpunk with English rules, so I wanted to use the already-familiar Cyberpunk vocabulary.

What do you think about the French translation?

The translation in general is o.k., but Pacifica Regional AI and Evil Twin are buggy.

Have you ever seen a French Investment Firm ("Cabinet d'investissement")?

No, never, and I'm pretty sure it doesn't exist.

Would you like to see one printed as a promotional card?

Printing it as a promotional card is a good idea. But to tell the truth, I've already designed it for the Gatling Engine.

Ah, yes, the Gatling Engine. There have been huge developments over at the CCG Workshop ( You have taken the lead for the Netrunner project and are working hard to make it better still. Could you please tell us the whole story?

Well, every 'old' Netrunner list subscriber may remember the very first mail BugLaden (Ed Middlestedt) sent. I went to his site back then, but upon seeing that I needed to download that many things, I just gave up.

But you, Jens, informed us when a new version was available, and this time I downloaded everything. I gave it a try with Kult CCG, and I was impressed. I joined the forums, where some people were clamoring for Netrunner a lot. It seemed that nobody had a full set of cards, or time enough to scan them all. So I just said, 'Hello, would you mind if I took the job?'

I have to say that even though I own a full set of cards and a scanner, I received a lot of help from many players (Daniel Schneider and Dave Faguy mostly). I clipped 273 cards that Ali Hamra gave me on a CD (I needed to get rid of the borders), and maybe scanned no more than 50 cards myself. BugLaden did the first two versions of Netrunner. Two months after the public release, he gave me total control over further evolutions. So for the Beta.3 version, I corrected some bugs and added new features. Being a professional programmer, and thanks to GEngine smoothness, that was a fairly easy job. I worked together with other players a lot, taking into account their many suggestions. For the Beta.4, I'll add the official errata on pop-up texts, add other features that are missing, and think about how Record Reconstructor can be implemented at last.

One day or other, I'll also include new cards. I first thought about adding the second half of Silent Impact, but unfortunately, WotC forbid Zvi Moshowitz to give it to someone else. So I'll be looking forward to featuring fan expansions. I have to say that my motivation for working with the GEngine was boosted by the fact that during the previous three years, I just hadn't played that much. In the GEngine, I saw a very cool possibility for playing, say, two hours a day whenever I wanted, without interfering in any manner with my private life.

How was the recent online tournament organized, and how did it go?

Not exactly as I had expected. It took longer to be completed than I had planned, something like a week for each round (i.e. seven or eight games). But we have to remember that it was a worldwide tournament.

Who won?

Frederic Garnier won the tournament, scoring 22 GMP out of 24. This gives credit to what I said about him earlier.

Do you think that the next World Domination should happen on the Gatling Engine? Though the Finals Constructed round has now started, it is taking us several years to get this tournament done. The main problem in my eyes is the morale of the players. If you enforce harsh disqualification rules, you'll lose all players in the course of more than a dozen matches. If you are lenient enough to accomodate as many players as possible, things take (literally) years. Is there any chance to do things differently in your opinion?

Well, I do hope that the next World Domination will take place on the GEngine. As Netrunner project leader, that would definitely be a certain achievement for me, and probably for BugLaden, too. I remember that one of the very first questions I asked the GEngine users was, 'Is there any way for people to observe a game?' So I did consider GEngine as an alternative for World Domination.

Playing with the 'real' cards will boost players' eagerness to play. IRC is boring in the long run, even for observers. From my own experience, a week for playing a round seems to be enough, no matter how many players are involved.

In my opinion, you can only assume that players who take so long to get their matches done (or even drop out) haven't been 'warned' enough about the side effects: Getting up at 4 am because your opponent is on the other side of the planet is not cool. So what I'd suggest for next year is to group players according to time zones (two European and two American come to mind). In case of four time zone groups, you'd have four semi-finalists who'd struggle for a place in the Finals.

Anyway, being an online tournament organizer is a hard job. At some point you have to take rough decisions in order to not penalize those who are never late. I'm impressed by what you did during two years, Jens (and Lukas before you); you really involved yourself in the process when nobody wanted the job, so there's no point to criticize.

Well, thanks for the kind words. May I ask what your favorite tournament format is? Are you a better Sealed or Constructed player?

I don't really mind the format so much as long as I have fun designing decks and playing games. If I have to say I'm better in something or other, it's more about the side. I consider myself a good Corp player, but I'm a lousy Runner (even though I'm still improving). I also have more ideas for new Corp decks than for Runner stacks.

Any favorite Corp strategy/deck you like to play?

All kinds of decks, apart from Tag 'n' Bag. I just don't like it and find it cheesy.

Any favorite Runner stack?

My 'Clowns from Chiba' stack. It relies on installing five Clowns as soon as possible, along with the following breaker suite: Forward's Legacy, Wizard's Book and Japanese Water Torture. I pay with Loans from Chiba. I really like the stack, because every time I install Japanese Water Torture, the opponent is dazzled. At these times, I just explain that, Chiba being a famous Japanese city, I couldn't play any other wall breaker than this one. But I cannot really live up to the tournament environment. I'm dead as soon as I'm tagged. The next thing for me to learn is to design 'ultimate decks', I think.

What was the farthest place you went to in order to take part in a Netrunner tournament?

Hmmm... something like 500 km. The farthest Netrunner tourney I went to was in S'Hertogenbosch (Bois-le-Duc) in the Netherlands for the European Championship that Holger organized in 2000. I went abroad three times to play Netrunner if I remember correctly, and was kindly accomodated by Gilles Delcourt each time.

Any final message to our readers?

Well, I hope many of you will join us playing online. Even though it won't ever replace a meatspace tournament, the GEngine provides a nice alternative for people who just want to play. My nickname is "toon_fr".

Thank you very much for this interview!

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TRQ #24
- 2005 -
TRQ #23
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TRQ #22
TRQ #21
- 2003 -
TRQ #20
TRQ #19
- 2002 -
TRQ #18
TRQ #17
TRQ #16
- 2001 -
TRQ #15
TRQ #14
TRQ #13
TRQ #12
- 2000 -
TRQ #11
TRQ #10
TRQ #09
- 1999 -
TRQ #08
TRQ #07
TRQ #06
TRQ #05
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TRQ #04
TRQ #03
TRQ #02
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TRQ #01