Play up, play up and win the game

Gameplay.com and Web site manager Gary Cowan are feeling pretty smug having just scooped two top awards

Gameplay.com and Web site manager Gary Cowan are feeling pretty smug having just scooped two top awards

Gameplay.com scooped not just one but two awards at the Yell UK Web Awards 2000, writes Roisin Woolnough. This double whammy was achieved in the Site of the Year and Best Youth Site categories in the awards, which are in their fifth year.

According to the judges, gameplay.com came out on top in terms of content, speed and ease of use, popularity, interactivity and for having established a strong community feel among its users. So Guy Cowan, the Web site manager, is feeling pretty pleased with himself. "The best moment had to be finishing it all though," he says.

As the name of the site suggests, gameplay.com is all about the gaming industry. On top of the actual games, it features previews, reviews, columns, a Java and Shockwave Web games section and a cheat's database, amongst other things.

About 20 people work on the site, which was launched in September last year, after taking a month to build.

It sits on three Sun E450 boxes at the moment, but that is about to change. "We'll soon be using a cluster of about 10 much cheaper and faster Intel boxes to do the front-end Web serving," says Cowan.

He uses Apache server software, because of its reliability and speed. "Virtually all the big Web sites use it now," he claims.

Another tool that Cowan thinks is growing in popularity and usage is the scripting language, PHP. "It's becoming more popular than Perl, mainly because it is faster."

Cowan used a mix of Perl and PHP on the site, depending on the functionality of the section. For example, he used PHP in the forums section. "But for the fancy stuff, we used Perl," he says. The site links to an Oracle database and the developers have integrated Mediasurface software to manage it.

Now, Cowan is working on rolling out the latest piece of Gameplay's own launching software. Currently, the site uses Wireplay 2, but in a couple of weeks it is changing over to Wireplay 3. This uses Internet Explorer components and XML. "A lot of software that we make connects users up to other people who are playing games," explains Cowan. "The software launches both games at the same time and connects them. People can play over the Internet or over phone lines."

However, the next big thing, according to Cowan, is providing the technology to enable people to access games through their television screen. "Within a year, more and more people will be accessing games through their TV. We will have to do multiple versions of the site for TV screens."

Curriculum vitae

  • Name: Guy Cowan

  • Job title: Web site manager at gameplay.com

  • Age: 29

  • Qualifications: Degree in ancient history

  • IT skills: HTML, Javascript, Perl

  • Hobbies: mountaineering, games

  • Favourite pub: The Duke of York, Clerkenwell Road, London - conveniently next door to the office

  • Favourite book: Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

  • Favourite film: The Big Lebowski

  • Cowan on Cowan: Intelligent, charming, deluded
  • This was last published in August 2000

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