Interview with Michael Marsden of

Profile Identity:
Hello there! My name is Michael Marsden, known online as 'Man1c M0g'. My online nickname is really just an extension of a childhood nickname of mine (i.e. mog). When I first got into online gaming I found that it was just far too short and didn't show up well on scoreboards, so I adopted the 'manic' prefix, and a legend was born! Later, when making a 'fun name' for QuakeWorld, I discovered that replacing a few letters of my nick with numbers allowed me to use gold colours, which made it look even cooler! These changes found their way onto my IRC profile, and the rest, as they say, is history. I am originally from Lancaster, near the Lake District in the United Kingdom, but in the last few years my academic commitments have carried me to a number of different places. At the moment I live in Bristol, where I work as a Pharmacist in the local NHS hospitals. Full-time work and an active lifestyle leave me little time for my PC compared to my student days, but oddly enough this only seems to focus my efforts, and I have improved my artwork immeasurably in the last year. In terms of vital statistics, I stand over 6'1" tall and have a heavy build - I am not the typical stereotype of a computer geek really. I have bright blue eyes, blonde hair, and tend to dress in jeans and t-shirts when not at work. In internet terms I am quite an oldie, aged over 24yrs - this isn't much in the real world, I know, but on some IRC networks it can make you feel like the godfather!

Once when I was at a LAN party someone even asked me if I'd come with my kids - the cheeky git! Thanks to years of being forced to do sports at school (mostly rugby due to my sheer physical size), I am also gifted with quite a muscled frame and numerous sports injuries. My most distinguishing mark is a 2" white scar running diagonally along my forehead just beneath my hairline. Trust me, if you can't identify me in a crowd, you need glasses...

Life Style:
As a newly qualified hospital pharmacist, my job is highly varied, and changes every 3 months to keep me from getting bored. I've so far worked with a children's hospital, A&E, an Eye-specialist centre, and a chemotherapy production unit. Its quite a large NHS trust... . I also have a 90 minute portion of my day dedicated to a ward round, where I go and make sure the doctors aren't doing anything silly with people's medication. This can be a very varied experience, and I've seen some things which I'd rather forget. Still, its ultimately quite rewarding in the end I guess . I also visit a local gym 2-3 times a week, and have done for the last two years. This doesn't mean i'm a total muscle-head of course - I'm just cursed with really bad genes and have to exercise like mad to remain clinically overweight. Before I worked out I weighed 18.5st (115kg) and looked a bit like a beached whale. My heart will no doubt thank me for my efforts in 50 years time.

Well, aside from the stuff I've mentioned already, I'm a semi-professional gamer and have earned a moderate amount of money from gaming tournaments in the last few years. It all started with Quakeworld, but over time progressed to Half-Life, and now UT2003. I'm in semi-hibernation at the moment, considering that I don't have personal transport in Bristol and can't lug my PC about, but give me a while and I'll be back irritating people with my supercampy skills once more. This all goes hand-in-hand, of course, with my general PC obsession which seems to dominate my spare time. I run a rather huge water-cooled Athlon XP which is mostly custom-built (i.e. everything but the water blocks). I am, however, saving up for a nice Athlon 64, which I intend to plug into a rather spiffy vapochill premium unit. Yum!

Well, it all started when I became a news hound for the now defunct Llamanet gaming network around 5 years ago. The news scripts were rather dependant on HTML tags, so I spent a little while learning them. In time this progressed onto little banners for the network which, of course, required Photoshop and its been on my system ever since! When the people from Llamanet reformed to create GibWorld I helped them make a few of their web interfaces with my fledgling design skills. Admittedly my work was very basic back then, but I suppose it worked for kind of site we were running. Looking back, I'm very happy with where I am now, but it kinda makes me feel guilty I didn't spent even more time over the years designing instead of playing games.

Tools Used:
All my work is created with current versions of Photoshop, ImageReady, and (eek) FrontPage 2002! I know I should really try and learn how to use Dreamweaver MX, but i've been using FP ever since it was first released and i've come to understand all its little foibles. Better the devil you know, and all that jazz... In future i'd really like to learn how to use Flash MX, because i've seen it do some really excellent stuff, and think it has enough of a market-penetration now for me not to isolate half my viewers. I'd also like to create something useful in 3DSMAX - i've taught myself how to use it already, but the results are pretty horrid. Just give me a little time and i'll get it right, promise... My current PC is an Athlon XP 1900+ with a Radeon 9700 Pro GFX card, Audigy 2 sound card, 1024mb ram, 140gb hard drive, MS Natural Pro keyboard, Intellimouse explorer v3, Everglide Giganta mouse pad, and 22" iiyama Diamondtron monitor. My connection to the internet is through a 1mbit ADSL line.

Current Status:
I'm currently working on a few dozen tutorials. They seem to look good, fill up my webby nicely, and haul the visitors in - everything a website needs to grow up big and strong. . I can't see this phase lasting more than a couple of months though, after which I intend to go back to designing a few more freely-downloadable website templates. My financial status is pretty good at the moment. Working for the NHS doesn't exactly make you rich, but i'm slowly paying off all my debt and should be totally debt-free within the next two years. Any money I earn through webdesign is, of course, a bonus, but its been deathly quiet on that front recently. Admittedly I don't actively seek out work, but I still managed to find a rather juicy contract from HP 2 years ago. £35 per hour for basic short-notice HTML work. Yum!

I'd say that my design process starts out very ordered, slips into utter chaos, and finally drags itself back to normality again. As a first stage, I tend to research my subject, looking at similar designs, professional & amateur interpretations of the subject, etc. I then blend these ideas with my own and isolate the things I think are the most important. For the second stage I mock up several ideas (this is undoubtedly the most frustrating and chaotic part), and from these concepts choose one to develop into the end design. Of course, not all my ideas actually reach the end - I'm rather fussy and if something just doesn't look right I can just start again even after many hours of work. Still, I work alone so this doesn't really irritate anyone but myself. I value the input of others, but only at the final stages, when I need alternate perspectives, etc.

My ideas usually come from a combination of existing themes, my own innate weirdness, and semi-lethal doses of coffee. The latter is probably the secret of my success - without coffee my brain would surely die... Artists that truly inspire me are those who break the mould and design other worldly non-abstract artworks. Examples of these include, but are no means limited to, Rorshach, Dbiah Eng, Dali, Escher & Geiger. Geiger is, of course, a little overrated, but some of his best works are pretty stunning and provide a unique insight into the mind of a fellow coffee drinker (although I think he probably goes for the harder stuff... like expresso!).

There are times I feel that Photoshop is a crutch supporting my lack of talent in traditional media. It is a dream of mine to learn how to draw on paper, so I can bring decent comicbook-style characters to my webdesigns. I've just got to find the time and determination to drive myself to local college art-classes. Who knows, maybe i'll manage it and in a decade or two be as good as my artistic hero Rorshach? Well, a cat can always dream.

I just wish there wasn't so much hate and destruction in the world - its darned inconsiderate to people like me who have to help clean up after it.

Well, if anyone reading this article has ever wanted to try their hand at Photoshop design work, all I can advise them to do is GIVE IT A GO! Don't worry if you fail at first - nothing worthwhile is easy, but your efforts will pay off in the end. Its a bit like going to the gym - at first you are knackered (tired) and wonder how on earth you'll survive the week. After a fortnight, though, you'll start to look better, find it all a bit easier, and notice that you've lost a few pounds. From that point on you are, of course, hooked.