Grinding to Valhalla

Interviewing the gamer with a thousand faces

Sente

Posted by Randolph Carter on March 25, 2009

MMO community connection:
a

Chapter 1: Introduction

What is your name (your online persona/alter-ego, what have you)?

For gaming/blog it is Sente, in most other cases it is Erik.

What is your connection to the gaming/blogging/podcasting community (your chance to plug yourself here)?

I play MMO games and I write a blog at A Ding World. I am also a member of The Older Gamers.

Please take a minute and describe what your blog/podcast is about.

In my blog I write about various things related to MMO games that I get an urge to write about. That may be experiences in games I play, thoughts on game news, game design etc. It has become an essential part of my gaming time – I simply have to make a post from time to time. And if people like to read it as well, that is even better! Expression through writing rather than talking has generally been my preference.

Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

I was born in the city of Södertälje in Sweden and grew up in a few places in Stockholm in Sweden. Since Södertälje is fairly close to Stockholm I was not a long move.

Where do you live now?

In Stockholm.

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

I am a 41-50.

What do you do for a living?

I work as an IT architect for an American software company in a consultant role. Which means that I help customers create good IT solutions using the tools that my employer sells. And help them troubleshooting and sorting out issues when things go wrong, or just do some development work for them from time to time (using those tools). My normal work area is the 5 Nordic countries, but from time to time I have to go to different countries and places as well.

If you could reroll your career, what would you be?

I am pretty happy with my archetype and talent build and the xp gained, so I do not think I would reroll. I would not mind rolling some alts though to try different talent builds and some different archetypes also though, still keeping my main character. I am an altoholic.

Many options involving software design and engineering would be just fine and going outside the IT sphere it would probably be some behind-the-scenes role in entertainment business (writer, director etc).

List five random things most people don’t know about you.

  • got a M.Sc. in Computer Science&Engineering from Royal Institute of Technology
  • am an amateur magician
  • studied Russian in high school
  • I cannot stand Coca-cola and almost never drink soft drinks
  • Sente is a Japanese term used in the board game Go, meaning a move which keeps the initiative by forcing the opponent to answer.

Feel free to discuss any family you have here.

I am single now.

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?

Both board games, card games and other were on the menu. Monopoly, Mastermind, Othello, Chess, Bondespelet (The Farmer game), Cluedo, Risk were a few of the board games. Card games included Canasta, Tölp, Bluffstopp, Svälta Räv (do not know the English names, sorry) for example. It was always with family and friends, never alone.

What other hobbies and/or activities did you have as a child (sports, music, etc)?

I did dabble a bit in a few sports, including karate, sabre fencing, table tennis – but did not really stick with any for any longer times. Same thing with music; tried a few instruments like trumpet,, trombone, horn and balalaika, but never stuck with any for long. In the winter time we usually did some cross-country skiing, since we generally had some good tracks through the woods not far from where we lived.

Around when I was 12 years old I started to perform magic tricks, entertaining (or annoying) family and friends :) That was something that got me hook, line and sinker – at least until those devious computers started to creep in too much ;)

Were you ever exposed to pen and paper role playing games? What was that experience like?

I did play a few of those from time to time during a period of maybe 7-8 years. I was introduced to the concept though a D&D session by an older friend, but never really continued to play D&D or AD&D. Instead a number of other games like RuneQuest, Traveller, Bushido, Call of Cthulhu and Paranoia were the ones a group of friends and I played to various degrees.

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.

Yes, I read quite a bit – both books and comic books. For the comic books I read Bamse and Rasmus Nalle in the very early years, but also Tintin and Asterix – both of which I had a few books of before I could even read. My comic book experiences in the childhood years and into teens included mainly a number of Franco-Belgian comics; Tintin, Asterix, Lucky Luke, Spirou, Johan & Peewit, Steven Strong, The Smurfs, Blueberry and Valérian & Laureline. In particular Valérian & Laureline was my absolute favourite comic for a long time and I still have everything that was published in Sweden.

Outside that sphere I did read The Phantom and Modesty Blaise also.

In terms of books I read many detective/mystery books aimed at youths not long after I learned to read. A few years later I started to read some of the books my father had, who is interested in SciFi and Fantasy. That introduced me to JRR Tolkien and Isaac Asimov and and I got hooked on those genres. The local libraries had somewhat small sections of SciFi and Fantasy books and I read most of what I could find there. In fantasy I think besides Tolkien that Ursula le Guin, Bertil Mårtensson and C S Lewis might be the ones I remember most. For SciFi there were many authors, but early on I think Isaac Asimov, Brian Aldiss, Robert Silverberg, Robert Heinlein and Harry Harrison were among those most read.

In the late teens I started to read novels from British and American authors in English instead of the Swedish translation and has continued ever since – if possible I prefer to read it in the author’s native language.

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 do not think it affected appreciation of computer games in general, but perhaps to some extent the choices of games I would play – I knew which genres I liked.

How were you fist introduced to video games? How old were you? What was the platform?

The very first experience was probably some arcade game like Asteroids or Space Invaders, or possibly Pong (an uncle had bought some game console I think). I do not remember which was first or when that was. I never caught the gaming bug at that point.

Did you ever play coin-op games at the arcade? What was that experience like?

That did happen and I think it was probably fairly fun. But it was never something that I spent a lot of time (or money) on.

What was the first video game you can remember playing that really made an impression on you? Please explain.

I got my first home computer when I was 16, a VIC-20. This was 6-7 months after I had started to learn programming (Basic). Initially I learned Basic just reading books, but did not have any computer to actually type in the programs I created. After I got access to a computer at school I started to actually write programs for real. The VIC-20 I bought because it was affordable and had a real keyboard and my main intent was to have something of my own to write programs on. Games were not on my mind initially.

I did pick up some games for it after a while though; Attack of the Mutant Camels was the very first one. The one though that caused me to want to start write games though were Scott Adams’ Adventureland. That game had me hooked on adventure games and I started to write some adventure games of my own (not particularly good though).

What gaming consoles have you owned in the past?

Playstation, PS2, XBox, PSP, PS3. Still own the last two.

Feel free to share a story related to your gaming experience as a child.

Perhaps not so much a child experiences, since this started when I was 17: There was one game that was one of the first ones I got for the Commodore64 that stuck with me and a numberof my friends for many years – M.U.L.E. I think we probably played that at least semi-regularly for 12-13 years. It is such a brilliant game and works very well for a few friends getting together, since you can play 4 persons.

Chapter 3: Online

Were you ever exposed to MUDs?

I had some brief exposure during my university time, but I never got caught up in it. I was using various bulletin-board systems that was my main “multi player” venue at that time, although that was just discussions – no gaming.

What was your first MMO experience?

My first MMO was Anarcy Online, in 2001. I had read an article in a local newspaper about MMOs which caught my interest. Looking at a store what MMOs were available I found Anarchy Online and Everquest. I choose Anarchy Online because it was newer and had just been released, plus that it had a SciFi theme. SciFi was more interesting to me than Fantasy, so it was an easy choice.

I found the whole experience quite fascinating. Anarchy Online had its issue when it was released, but I think I missed the worst part since I did not play directly from release, but a few weeks after. Since I had no previous notion of what an MMO might contain and I did not know what Funcom had promised, I was just eagerly absorbing everything I encountered. I created many different characters, trying out probably most combinations of profession and race possible.

If possible, list all the MMOs you’ve played extensively.

Not sure what extensively would be, but this list should cover MMOs I played at least 3 months.

  • Anarchy Online – Bureaucrat, level 53-54 I think
  • Earth & Beyond – Jenquai Explorer, level 150 (max level)
  • EVE Online – Minmatar character, I think
  • Star Wars Galaxies – human Master Ranger/Master Creature Handler
  • Final Fantasy XI – BeastMaster, level 45-46 I think
  • Everquest 2 – Ratonga Brigand, level 44-45 I think
  • World of Warcraft – Undead mage, level 60 (max at that time)
  • City of Heroes/Villains – Dominator, level 50 (max level). Actually 5 dominators at 50 and 1 at 49 at the time of writing.
  • Lord of the Rings Online – Rune Keeper, level 28-29 I think
  • Tabula Rasa – Engineer, level 47
  • Guild Wars – Necromancer, level 20
  • Age of Conan – Dark Templar, level 31

What is your current MMO of choice, or perhaps, what are your current MMOs of choice?

City of Heroes/Villains, Guild Wars and Age of Conan.

Which MMO have you spent the most time playing? How long would you say that has been?

City of Heroes/Villains, without a doubt. It will be 3 years calendar time in about 1 month.

Have you reached level cap in any MMO? If so, which ones?

Earth & Beyond, Star Wars Galaxies (no levels, but maxed out skills), World of Warcraft, City of Heroes/Villains and Guild Wars.

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?

I would not make any choice until I hear the developers of various MMOs answer that question – what would they do if their MMO would be the only one left?

Then I would also discuss that with friends about their choices. The current state of a game is not that interesting, since MMOs are constantly evolving anyway. What becomes interesting is how the developers would deal with such a situation.

Are there any MMOs currently in development that you are particularly interested in? Please explain.

Champions Online is definitely one. It is made by Cryptic who made City of Heroes/Villains and it seems to be their next attempt learning the lessons from the earlier game and probably keeping and expanding on what was good in the old game.

Guild Wars 2 is another one. I am very impressed by what ArenaNet did with Guild Wars, so I will happily try out any new game they are making.

Any SciFi, Apocalypse or Steampunk-themed MMO released will be something I will likely try out also.

Feel free to share an interesting or amusing anecdote related to your MMO gaming experience.

Well, I tend to write such things on my blog from time to time, so feel free to read there :)

Chapter 4: Preferences

At your peak, how much time per week would you say you spent gaming? How about now?

I have had the occasional peak where I have played perhaps 30 hours per week for a brief period (1-2 weeks). Normally it can vary quite a bit, probably something between 8 and 25 hours per week. Most play sessions tend to be no longer than 2 hours.

When during the week are your regular play times?

On weekdays it would be in the evening, exact times varies a bit.

Generally speaking, are you more of a social creature in MMOs (grouping to quest, joining guilds, etc.) or something of a lone wolf?

That depends really. If I already know some people that are playing or going to play I will probably join a guild more or less right away. If I do not know any people I will usually not join a guild directly, but may join later.

I like teaming with others because teaming with others can be fun. The actual tasks do not matter so much. Thus whether I play in a team or solo depends on the convenience for it provided by the game and team invites (if I am not inviting myself).

Games that may require a lot of time to set up a team for various reasons (long travel to a certain point, certain combination of archetypes/classes/whatever, certain number of players etc) I will probably team less in. Exception will be with people I know and if it is some planned activity.

Team invites also affect whether I will team or not. I generally turn down blind invites. Depending on the game I may also consider how they phrase the invite; if they can form words or even sentences. Games with long set-up, running and get-out times for teams will have more such considerations.

Have you made any lasting friendships through your MMO experience? Please explain.

Yes, this mainly started when I joined The Older Gamers. The major reason I joined there was to be able to have som continuity across games and not just in games; before that I typically lost contact with most people I played with in a game when either I or them moved on. Also many people I had contact with in the early days were in entirely different time zones, which made in-game contact more difficult. Today with more communication options that a lot of people use, it is easier.

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?

Yes :)

It really varies; some games lend themselves to be more task oriented than others. But often I just jump in and figure out something to do depending on who is online at that time or start thinking what I may be in the mood for once I have logged in.

When playing MMOs do you tend to just play one at a time or do you take more of the smorgasbord approach?

I pretty much always play multiple MMOs nowadays and I do like smörgåsbord. There may be one MMO that gets more play time than the others at any given time, but I enjoy the variation that multiple MMOs may provide.

Do you tend to supplement your MMO gaming with other PC, console or tabletop games?

The number of PC games I have played this millenia probably can be counted on my fingers, so that would be a no answer.

Console games I play a bit more often, but not often on my own. This may become the choice if there are a few people in the same location who wants to play something. The latter would also fit for tabletop games, depending on the people.

Are you something of an altoholic?

Yes, absolutely. Although when I play more MMOs at the same time I do not create so many alts in each game.

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)?

No, I might be listening to a podcast sometimes on my internet radio at the same time, but in most cases I do not do anything else. If there are long times where I do not need to focus on the game play while playing, I probably just switch to do something else entirely instead.

Do you find yourself having much MMO discussion off-line, perhaps with friends or family?

No, not really.

Have you ever felt that you game too much? If so, how did you cope with that?

Yes, that has happened. I have set up some entirely different task and goal and focused on that. Important real life activities always comes first also.

Since you started playing MMOs, have you ever taken a break from the genre? If so, please explain.

My first break was after almost a year (playing in the weekends) with Anarchy Online. I did not play anything for close to 3 months. After that I have had some other breaks also, but nowadays I do not really get to the point where would need to take any longer break. It tends to get adjusted before that with less play time and perhaps rotate between a few MMOs. It rarely gets to the point where I am sick and tired of the genre as a whole.

Chapter 5: Blogging

When did you first start blogging?

Roughly 15 years ago when travelling abroad on vacation I started to write emails to friends and family back home, sort of a travel diary. A few years ago those emails turned into a blog instead, basically being updated a few times each vacation. I have stopped writing this blog nowadays, but will perhaps reactivate it at some point. My MMO blog, A Ding World, started almost 2 years ago.

Why do you blog?

Because I like writing about various topics, it is quite handy to have it archived in one place also. And if people read it and have comments, it is just great.

Do you have a schedule or some sort of routine you try and follow when blogging?

Not a strict schedule, but it will happen during the same time where I would otherwise play games. So typically it is fairly late in the evenings and instead of playing MMOs.

Sometimes I will start writing directly after a play session, which typically happens when I write a bit about events during that play session.

Is there some grind involved in blogging? If so, what is it and how do you cope with it?

No grind, if I do not have anything to write I simply do not write. I write when I have an urge to write, however the result may not always be the best. Sometimes I may be sensible enough to delete it before it gets posted, sometimes I post it anyway.

By contrast, what do you find pleasurable about blogging?

Getting good/fun/interesting/thoughtful comments from readers.

The act of writing when the topic gets twisted and turned as part of the writing process and end up something quite different from my original thought.

How many people offline know you blog?

Pretty much everyone I know is online in some sense, so I would say no-one offline knows about it. Very few among family, friends and collegues play online games and hence also very few of them know about my MMO blog.

What advice would you give someone who wanted to try their hand at blogging or podcasting?

Read and comment on other blogs that you are interested in. Do not try to force writing posts if you do not feel you have anything to write. It should be fun, so write when you feel you have something to post and pick something that it fun for you to write about.

What is something you know now that you wish you had known when you first started?

I have learned a number of things, but I do not really wish that I knew them when I started, even though some mistakes could have been avoided. The learning process itself is also a good thing.

Can you picture a future where you will hang up your keyboard and no longer blog?

Of course. But if I stop blogging it just will mean that I will channel my desire to write about stuff to something else.

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?

Oh boy, difficult one. A few that I might consider would be:

  • Oxygène, part 4 – Jean-Michelle Jarre
  • Om – Niklas Strömstedt
  • Look on the bright side of life – Monty Python
  • Wish I had an angel – Nightwish
  • Also Sprach Zarathustra, opus 30 – Strauss
  • Final Countdown – Europe
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