Posted by Randolph Carter on March 17, 2009
MMO community connection:
Chapter 1: Introduction
What is your name (your online persona/alter-ego, what have you)?
What is your connection to the gaming/blogging/podcasting community (your chance to plug yourself here)?
I am one of the contributers for the “blogomerate” Kill Ten Rats, which is a blog nominally about MMOs.
Please take a minute and describe what your blog/podcast is about.
Most of the time we write about MMOs that we are playing. The blog is very free form, and there are posts about notable real life events, extreme tangents, interviews, human nature, etc. For better or worse we write about what we are playing or will play. Therefore some MMOs just do not cross our radar as much.
Where were you born? Where did you grow up?
I was an Air Force brat, but after my dad retired, I had my teen years in St. Louis.
Where do you live now?
Northern Virginia (NoVa) which is basically D.C. land.
Your level (age) is somewhere in the range of (pick one): 10-20, 21-30, 31-40, 41-50, 51-60, 61-70, 71-80, 81-90
What do you do for a living?
If you could reroll your career, what would you be?
Either a social anthropologist or a game designer. I still want to be a game designer, but I have no will to start that path giving up my current career and starting from the bottom. That’s why I play Powerball.
List five random things most people don’t know about you.
- I’ve been designing game systems (mostly in my head) ever since I learned about Dungeons and Dragons when I was 8.
- During character creation, the hardest part for me is choosing a character name. They always mean something. The only exemption is Ravious, which I created when I was 14 years old or so shooting people in Quake on dialup. I had been reading a ton of Image comics at the time. It has stuck.
- One of the things I am most critical of, in a person, is how well they drive.
- Except for things that need my signature, 99% of the time I am using a red pen.
- I miss Alaska with all my heart.
Feel free to discuss any family you have here.
I have a beautiful wife and as of May ’09 will have 2 daughters. One daughter’s name came out of a Christopher Walken line in Wedding Crashers + Chopin and the other one came from a Norse valkyrie + Neil Gaiman novel. They will be gamers.
Chapter 2: Origins
What kind of games (if any) did you play as a child before you got into video gaming? Did you play with family, friends or was it more of a solo activity?
Everything I could get my hands on. I distinctly remember Candy Land as my earliest game played. My dad taught me chess before I was ten years old, but I didn’t beat him until he made a mistake with his queen a few years later. I played tabletop roleplaying games as a kid, and my friends and I were constantly making variations of tag and hide’n’seek. Very rarely was my gameplaying a solo activity… until computer games came, but by then we were no longer playing those games together anymore.
What other hobbies and/or activities did you have as a child (sports, music, etc)?
I loved to draw. As a military brat, I had to constantly make new friends, and some of the easier friends to make are the loners or fringe kids. One friend taught me how to draw. He also drew many fantasy creatures, which just amazed me. He stayed in his room all the time though so it was hard to go get drawing lessons when it was sunny outside. I also played piano, cooked, and played all those sports that kids play.
Were you ever exposed to pen and paper role playing games? What was that experience like?
Definitely. My first exposure was a vanilla dungeon and dragons game. I played a druid, and being a little kid with some crazy ideas (not to mention imagination), I decided to switch sides in the temple of evil and pledge allegiance to the unholy spirit lord. It (the GM) killed me instead. After that I played DnD for awhile, created a simple roleplaying game based off of the Mossflower books when I was twelve, and it just grew from there. My favorite one, currently, is Werewolf the Forsaken or maybe Nobilis.
I think that, more than any other childhood hobby, pen and paper roleplaying games had the biggest impact. It was applied imagination. There were no boundaries, and I didn’t even have to play to “use” it. Thinking up stories, people, and creations definitely got me through many boring classes.
Unfortunately, now I have very little time or people to tabletop roleplay anymore. I am hoping one day to get back in to it, but my life needs to settle down a bit first.
(As an aside, I have found the Mythic GM Emulator to be a fantastic system for solo TTRPG play. I even created a supplement for it called the Universal NPC Emulator.)
Did you read much as a child? If so, what did you like to read (books, comic books, etc?) Please list some favorite authors, titles, etc.
All the time. I lost more sleep as a child refusing to put down books. I read a ton of fantasy such as Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Brian Jacque’s Mossflower books, Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain (Black Cauldron), Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea, and C.S. Lewis’ Narnia. Weirdly enough I did not read the Lord of the Rings until my teenage years. I also really liked Roald Dahl’s stories.
Reading (as a skill) is super important to me, and we read to our daughter every night and use it was a play time activity all the time (even though she is only 2.5 years old).
Would you say that any of these games or books had an effect on your later appreciation of computer gaming and ultimately MMOs? Please explain.
I think so. For one, I am one of the rare MMO gamers that read every ounce of quest text. The world that the developers create (and story therein) can be a brilliant work of art. Too many gamers bypass the text to figure out which blob to run to next. I think that is the biggest thing the games and books had an effect on for my computer gaming. Conversely to my tabletop roleplaying experience, I do not seriously roleplay in any MMOs. Sometimes I throw out a “My captain senses a great squamous battle ahead”-line for a chuckle, and I have been known to become the Guardian of the Mailbox when grouping is slow… but that’s about it.
How were you first introduced to video games? How old were you? What was the platform?
My dad bought an Atari 2600. I was pretty young… but I don’t remember the date. I remember being upset because he didn’t buy the NES with the cool robot. We played Battletanks together awhile, but he drifted away from the system altogether and I drifted towards my friends’ houses with NES systems. I was one of the kids with the worst game ever produced: E.T.
Did you ever play coin-op games at the arcade? What was that experience like?
I played coin-ops throughout much of my childhood and teenage years. The first one I really played was Super Mario at the after school Boys and Girls Club. There was a line and a crowd to play. When I was eleven or twelve, my friends and I would ride our bikes five miles or more away from home to go play Mortal Kombat and Killer Instinct at the local 7-11. The mall also used to be packed with all the fighting games and players lining up their quarters. It was great fun, and a dry tear forms everytime I pass by a lonely mall arcade now. At least I can have a blast (and a beer) at Dave and Busters.
What was the first video game you can remember playing that really made an impression on you? Please explain.
That’s a tough call. I want to say Super Mario 3 or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the NES. I had played plenty of other video games before that, but those two really swung home how great video games could be. From there it became a hobby and not a mere activity.
What gaming consoles have you owned in the past?
2600, NES, Gameboy, SNES, N64, PS, Dreamcast, GC, PS2, DS, and Wii. My console gaming time has dropped severely after my first kid was born. Sometime I play Wii Music with my two year old, but she only is amused for a few songs. I figure as her motor (and mind) skills increase my playtime will pick up. The Wii as a toy, more than a gaming console is a great gateway drug for consoles.
Feel free to share a story related to your gaming experience as a child.
In a small town in Missouri (Westphalia, if I recall correctly) some guy made a pizza store and arcade on mainstreet. I think the owner envisioned it was an after school hangout one sees in classic 50′s and 60′s movies. My cousins, sister, and I went there one summer afternoon, and we were given $10 each to basically waste the day away there eating pizza and playing arcade games. This was during the time that Mortal Kombat 2 or 3 and Killer Instinct 1 or 2 seemed to reign (mid 90′s_. The pizza shop had none of that. It was all “vintage” arcade games like Robotron, Joust, cocktail Galaga, and Golden Axe. We ate St. Louis style pizza all day, and we were the only kids in there that day. It was like our own little video game paradise in a town not big enough to own a Walmart. I hope it is a day I will never forget.
Chapter 3: Online
Were you ever exposed to MUDs?
A very little. I tried them back in the day when some company bought one of my favorite internet communities RPGnet (or maybe they owned them from the start, I am not sure). Anyway, RPGnet had to basically pay for bandwidth/hosting so they started advertising for the company that bought them. I tried Grendel’s Revenge, and a few others, and they were neat… but by then I had played 3D MMOs and couldn’t figure out where the extra fun was (or tradeoff fun) in MUDs.
What was your first MMO experience?
It was somewhere in 2000. I heard from my friends at other colleges about people dropping out of college because of Everquest. Well I had to try it. What kind of game was so hardcore that people were ruining their lives over it. I had fun, but was not impressed. I was an elf-something, and I ran around killing faeries and what not. It was alright. Then I finally was high enough level to go and try and kill orcs. So, I would group up with people and we sat on a hill. Then orcs spawned, and we would kill them and loot them as fast as we could. Then sat on the hill. Rinse and repeat. I quickly uninstalled the game thereafter.
If possible, list all the MMOs you’ve played extensively.
- Everquest (Elf something)
- A Tale in the Desert (Betas, Telling 1, some of Telling 2)
- Guild Wars (Necromancer)
- World of Warcraft (47 Human Priest)
- City of Heroes (???)
- Tabula Rasa (31 Ranger?)
- Lord of the Rings Online (60 Captain)
- Warhammer Online (27 Zealot)
What is your current MMO of choice, or perhaps, what are your current MMOs of choice?
Guild Wars and Lord of the Rings Online. It goes between the two. Guild Wars is by far and away my favorite, but where it is lacking is in the feeling of solo play. When I say “solo” I mean no henchmen, heroes, bots, etc. It’s a different feeling to go off exploring and conquering on your own. The 8-headed hydra feeling of late game Guild Wars (especially with consumables) just got to me. Now, I use it mainly for PvP. Lord of the Rings Online is my PvE choice.
Which MMO have you spent the most time playing? How long would you say that has been?
Have you reached level cap in any MMO? If so, which ones?
Amazingly enough only Guild Wars (not an achievement) and Lord of the Rings Online. I have been dabbling with MMOs for nearly a decade, and only reached the level cap after the Lord of the Rings Online expansion, Mines of Moria. It was a personal victory, but I think also telling of the gamer population. Before Guild Wars I mostly played FPS and Diablo-like games; I just didn’t have the patience to get to a max level. Games where it “begins” at max-level, in my opinion, are missing the point (and a lot of market share).
Loki taps you on the shoulder one day to inform you that you have fallen victim to one of his elaborate pranks. The world you’ve been inhabiting of countless MMOs to choose from and play has merely been a dream. In reality only one MMO exists. After laughing at you for a bit he decides to take pity on you and allows you to choose which MMO will remain. Which one would you choose and why?
Can I choose Guild Wars 2? Honestly, that’s a tough decision. I guess if nothing else changed (release schedule, expansions, content, etc.), I would choose Lord of the Rings Online just because Guild Wars does not have the same depth and sticky content. Guild Wars would be much better for short term quick plays, but I don’t think would go the distance that Lord of the Rings Online would.
Are there any MMOs currently in development that you are particularly interested in? Please explain.
Guild Wars 2, The Secret World, and The Agency are my top three looking forward to games. I am very excited about The Agency because it is not a clone-type dikumud MMO. It’s going to be very action based and very accessible. Plus it’s cool having a modern MMO-type game.
Even though it is created by Fun(Fail)com, I am also excited about The Secret World because of the creator (loved The Longest Journey series) and the genre/setting of the game. Plus it kind of defaults to that since we have heard nothing of the World of Darkness MMO in years.
Finally Guild Wars 2 is my pony. No subscription fees, persistent world, RvR-ish gameplay, and Public Quest-style events going zonewide in the style of Guild Wars. Sounds like a dream come true. I just wish ArenaNet would open their mouths about the game. They’ve been running so silent and deep for too long.
Chapter 4: Preferences
At your peak, how much time per week would you say you spent gaming? How about now?
In undergrad, I was doing probably upwards of 50-60 hours per week. It was getting pretty insane. I remember setting my alarm clock for 3 AM to compete in A Tale in the Desert’s Hour of Towers, and then crash back into bed at 4 AM. Now I would say about 10 hours per week.
When during the week are your regular play times?
My wife is currently not a PC gamer (she did like WoW, but our computer/kid situation is not friendly to spouse-gaming) so we worked on a schedule so she knows when I am going to game, and when I am going to amuse her. That schedule is now usually Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday nights after my daughter has gone to bed. Occasionally on another weekend night I will stay up later than my wife to play some more if I can’t get to sleep.
Generally speaking, are you more of a social creature in MMOs (grouping to quest, joining guilds, etc.) or something of a lone wolf?
Depends. I used to be very lone wolf, but now I have started relying on guild events to play MMOs. I have stopped signing on a lot to just putz around and hope for a group.
Have you made any lasting friendships through your MMO experience? Please explain.
Yes. The best has been A Tale in the Desert, but that makes sense because the whole game is built around social experiences. My main guild meant so much to me, and chat became very personal almost every time I was on. Sadly I have lost touch with all but one of those guildmates, and the one I am in touch with is another contributer to Kill Ten Rats (Zubon). I have not made such great friendships through MMOs since because most MMOs I played after ATITD were EQ-style, where gaming trumps socializing.
Before logging into a game, do you already have a course of action planned out in your head, or do you just sort of do whatever you feel like once in game?
I used to just hang out, but usually now I have a plan because my time is so limited. Whenever I log on and nothing happens, or I don’t accomplish anything, I tend to get annoyed at the game (and sometimes guild). I’d rather logoff with a happy feeling.
When playing MMOs do you tend to just play one at a time or do you take more of the smorgasbord approach?
I usually play one at a time because they are such time-devouring creatures. I feel I don’t get all the juice out of the orange if I play a lot of games at once.
Do you tend to supplement your MMO gaming with other PC, console or tabletop games?
A little, but not much. My wife and I play Carcassonne and I have been teaching her Magic: the Gathering. I do some online roleplaying, and I do own consoles.
Are you something of an altoholic?
Not at all. Same with having fingers in so many games, I feel the same way with alts. I feel like whatever additional “game” I am getting on an alt is much less than the “game” I would be getting on my main. Especially if I am re-grinding content.
Do you find yourself multitasking while gaming (perhaps watching TV, talking on the phone, out of game instant messaging, playing another game, or even listening to a podcast)?
Definitely. I used to watch TV while I played MMOs all the time until it got to the point where I could not watch TV unless I was “muiltitasking” because I felt it was a waste of time. I sometimes also listen to new music or a podcast while I do “simpler” MMO activities like farming. Normally I don’t multitask on my computer while playing MMOs.
Do you find yourself having much MMO discussion off-line, perhaps with friends or family?
With friends, yes. Over the years, the friends that I have kept closest (even over distance) play online games, especially MMOs, but not necessarily the same ones I am playing. We have tons of discussions on game reviews, strats, new updates, etc. It is definitely a hobby for us, and one that is nearly unphased by geographic distance.
Have you ever felt that you game too much? If so, how did you cope with that?
I did at one time when it was my default activity, and I do mean default… say over eating, cleaning, and significant others. This was probably my one and only dark age. The way I dealt with it was to create “gaming nights” where I knew that the night would be for gaming. Otherwise, I would not default to gaming, and I usually play board games or watch movies with my wife or go out. It is the healthiest way I have found to balance life with my “hardcore” gaming. If things are slow, or if my wife would rather knit or sleep, then I do play on non-gaming nights, but like I said… it’s not default anymore.
Since you started playing MMOs, have you ever taken a break from the genre? If so, please explain.
Definitely. My biggest break was about the time that Guild Wars was starting to get boring. I just couldn’t let myself pay for a subscription to a game that I didn’t feel was worthwhile; so, I really had no fun MMOs to choose from. I spent more time with FPS, like TF2, and tried a smattering of other genres. Now, Guild Wars has become amazingly fun in updates, and I also have a lifetime subscription to LOTRO, so I don’t foresee another genre overtaking my MMO play for awhile.
Chapter 5: Blogging
When did you first start blogging?
Awhile ago. I started with a simple commentary blog on whatever I was thinking about. I felt it was lame. Then my friend and I created a blog devoted to vignettes, which we termed as stories less than 1000 words focusing on one scene. It was great, but fell flat due to lack of any other feedback. Before joining Kill Ten Rats, I finally moved from Blogger to WordPress, and I created Game Scribe, which had some success. I would have kept that up, but I joined Kill Ten Rats and my blog time went to the better blog.
Why do you blog?
Mostly because I like refining my ideas. Good blogging is not easy. You can’t just slap your opinion or rant down and expect an audience that sticks around to see what you say next. I think about MMO gaming a lot, and I come up with tons of ideas for blog posts. I would say less than half even get a mention in any post. They are just too hard to refine or they are not timely.
It also lets me be creative. My blog post up on May 26, 2009, for instance, compares the fast-food industry to MMO design. I like creating analogies like that. To try and push the thoughts of the blog-o-sphere. It can get addictive.
Do you have a schedule or some sort of routine you try and follow when blogging?
Kill Ten Rats is very much a post when you write style blog. There are no requirements for the contributors. That being said I try and push out two quality posts per week. Sometimes I get more, and sometimes I get less. The great thing about having multiple contributors on Kill Ten Rats is that if I slack off, the others seem to somehow know to fill the content holes. It’s weird that we seem to work usually very tightly without ever having background discussions.
Is there some grind involved in blogging? If so, what is it and how do you cope with it?
Usually idea formatting is the worst. Like I said above, you can’t just slap down your train of thoughts and expect it to be a good post. So many times I have to break the posts back and rearrange the parts in order to get it to flow. I also hate going back and linking a lot of times.
How many people offline know you blog?
Just a few close friends and my wife. I try to keep my online identity and real life identity separate. It’s not that I am ashamed or anything. Just I want to be accountable for my opinions in the arena I throw my opinions…. not outside of that.
What advice would you give someone who wanted to try their hand at blogging?
Don’t rush posts. Re-read what you write, and try and be your own devil’s advocate. My worst posts are by far the ones that I got excited about and wrote as a knee jerk reaction to some dev post or something. Your readers take the time to think things through, and you just can’t spoonfeed them your thoughts. If you have smart readers, you might have to stand behind your ideas.
What is something you know now that you wish you had known when you first started?
Don’t assume things about your audience. They won’t always agree with you, and if you write like they should you will get nailed to a plank. If you are positing something use phrases like “I think” and “in my opinion.” I know that it is always just “in my opinion,” but when a blog post makes a black and white statement that is fact… well this is the internet, where facts burn.
Can you picture a future where you will hang up your keyboard and no longer blog?
Sure. Blogs die. Contributors take breaks. I might slow down a bit from 1-2 posts/week to 1 post/2 weeks, but I doubt I will turn in my spurs until I no longer think about MMOs…. and that will be a banal, stark day indeed.
At your funeral, what song(s) would you have played as your corpse is set alight and cast out to sea on a funeral barge?
Actually I have legally planned to be burnt on a funeral pyre… it’s going to take some more work and bending of “dead body” laws…. but, The Doors “Land Ho!”