Grinding to Valhalla

Interviewing the gamer with a thousand faces

SmakenDahed

Posted by Randolph Carter on June 20, 2009

MMO community connection:

Random Ogre Thoughts

Chapter 1: Introduction

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

SmakenDahed

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

I’m just a gamer who blogs about random things that I feel like writing/venting/ranting about.

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

It cannot be categorized. I talk about games, politics, hockey, odd events, games, and what ever else pops in my head. I’m not in it thinking I’m a journalist or part of the media and I’m not out to save the world, I’m just trying to stay sane and blogging is a good release.

Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

I was born in Montreal, Quebec (Canada) and spent the first 18 years of my life all over (and off) that island.

Where do you live now?

I am currently living in Ottawa, Ontario (Canada).

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

31-40

What do you do for a living?

I do software testing. My official title is Senior Software Verification Specialist, Lead. My job entails manual testing, automate testing, performance testing, load testing, security testing and probably some other types of testing I can’t think of at the moment.

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

I wouldn’t change my job, but I would gladly change the content I test to something more… fun.

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

  • I’m proficient in three different styles of martial arts
  • I have taken courses on writing
  • I have a wicked temper
  • I am surprisingly patient (which is good, given my temper)
  • And … I think my memory is already starting to fail me.

Feel free to discuss any family you have here.

I have a wife, two boys here. I’ve got a mother-in-law (who is driving me crazy), sister-in-law (…) and brother-in-law from my wife’s side. On my side I’ve got two uncles, one aunt, three cousins, my sister and her husband in the area. Rants about the mother-in-law and her antics almost have legendary status on my team at work.

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?

I played a lot of games with my older brother and his friends, but also spent an equal time alone playing with various toys. I got into RPGs at a really young age (eight) and haven’t really looked back. When I didn’t have my nose in a book I was usually out getting into trouble with friends.

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

I got into martial arts around the same time I got into RPGs, the main reason was that my mother was going back to school to become a microbiologist and some of the evening courses where in seedy downtown neighborhoods. My dad tends to be an all or nothing type of guy so he signed the whole family up. I was a first degree black belt in Shaolin Kempo Karate at about 12 or so. Other styles I picked up were Shirynjiru Kenkokan Karatedo and Jiujitsu.

I spent a lot of time outside playing, exploring and getting into places I probably shouldn’t have been.

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

I was eight years old and it was a lot of fun. It was pretty simple, monty haul/hack and slash, but good fun. I’ve played a fair number of RPGs over the years, though my favorite has to be Shadowrun. I’m currently playing a P&P session with a group of guys every Wednesday night (I think it’s almost been 10 years if not close to 11 now).

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.

I read comic books and novels. I was reading Tolkien at eight but was also reading a lot of Piers Anthony’s Xanth series. I usually read what ever my parents had around at the time. For comic books my favorites were X-Men, Spider-man, Ghost Rider and Rom the Spaceknight.

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.

Definitely. I always loved using my imagination and thought it would be great to be able to play these types of games on computers so I could play them when ever I wanted (as in, not needing to gather friends together and organize actual sessions). Eventually, I got into thinking of how great it would be to play these games online and quite some time ago I got talking with my brother-in-law about how cool it would be to have a massive, online virtual world to play in with all sorts of people from all over the world. It was funny, we started planning how it could be designed and he found Ultima Online was just released. It was a lot of what we thought would be cool (from reading the instructions) but we never bother playing it.

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

Atari, I think. My uncle had Pong, but I don’t really remember it. I can remember playing Space Invaders, Night Driver and Combat at my uncle’s place. I think I was 5 or 6 years old – I don’t really remember.

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

Definitely. There were tons of arcades where I was growing up, we had one place that was about five minutes walking around the corner from where we lived. I played all sorts of games there, half of them I can’t remember the name of. I also spent a lot of time just watching others play as well.

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

Wizardry I on the Apple 2 (actually, a clone called Golden 2). It used 5.25″ floppies and you had to swap disks for saving and stuff (my dad was a hero when he bought as second floppy drive!), but it was in 3d! Heh. I was about seven or eight and the damn ‘small humanoids’ picture scared me. Pretty silly thinking back to it.

I learned about farming there (thanks Dad!). We would farm the Murphy’s Ghost statue room for +1 magic weapons and stuff. He also showed me some minor exploits like creating a back up disk for characters, loading characters, giving all their gear to one other party member, renaming them, then transferring over the back up so you ended up with an infinite amount of gear to sell off. He also taught me about mapping and things like that.

I still remember a good number of spells. ‘di’ was the rez, ‘dios’ type words were for healing, ’tiltowait’ was the big nuke. It amazes me what I remember about older games. Oh, I still have coordinates memorized for the garrison room in the Castle in Bard’s Tale – the room with four groups of 99 Berserkers? I used to teleport up there with some hefty tanks in the first ranks, two sorcerers and fill the last slot with a character I wanted to level. I’d then just Mind Blade the four groups with the two sorcerers and by the end of the fight the 6th slot character would get a ton of levels. (From the entrance coords were 2 up, 5 north and 12 east – that’d put you at the door).

What gaming consoles have you owned in the past?

Atari, Sega Genesis, Nintendo, Playstation, PS2, Wii, and PS3.

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

I remember playing D&D with my parents, it was only one session but I remember it like it was yesterday. The module was Palace of the Silver Princess and I was playing a Halfling (basic D&D the demihuman races were classes heh). We came across a long hall where there was a storeroom and a kitchen. My father listened at the door of the kitchen and heard what sounded like goblins making a bunch of noises. He made us all go back to the storeroom and roll some kegs of ale to the kitchen door, then knocked and hid back in the storeroom. After a couple of hours we checked on the room and could hear the goblins singing drunkenly in the kitchen. We open the door and attacked, taking advantage of their drunken state. It was a lot of fun.

Chapter 3: Online

Were you ever exposed to MUDs?

I heard of them from the brother of a girl I was dating. He was pretty into them though his sister was telling me he was getting too into them at the expense of his school work. I thought it was sort of weird that people could get so into something like that when it was just text. Marriages? Politics? Weirdos…

What was your first MMO experience?

EverQuest. It was the year it came out, though several months later. I couldn’t tell you the year. I was previously playing online Quake 2 in a clan organized by someone who became a really good online gaming friend (over 11 years now). We were a little frustrated by a mishap during a tourney and felt the clan we competed against took advantage of their position as organizers to turn what should have been a win into a loss. Some other folks had been talking to my friend about EQ and we decided to give it a shot.

Man, the subscription fee was a big hurdle for me to over come. I wasn’t used to buying a game then having to continue to pay monthly to play.

We started Erudites, he insisted on playing an Erudite because it was the best caster race and he wanted to play a Wizard. I was easy going so I made an Erudite Paladin (ouch). We played for several hours and go hooked pretty quickly after figuring out how to do stuff. Toxx Forest was a load of fun especially given the darkness and lack of nightvision. We had all sorts of fun doing some quests, exploring, dying, trying to find our corpses.

I’ve been hooked ever since.

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

  • EverQuest
  • Asheron’s Call
  • Anarchy Online
  • Dark Age of Camelot
  • Planetside
  • City of Heroes (Villains)
  • Star Wars: Galaxies
  • Asheron’s Call 2
  • Guild Wars
  • EverQuest 2
  • World of Warcraft
  • Dungeons and Dragons Online
  • Vanguard
  • Tabula Rasa
  • Age of Conan
  • Warhammer
  • Lord of the Rings Online

I think I’m forgetting one or two.

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

I am currently playing World of Warcraft where I have a level 80 Ret/Prot Paladin in mostly T7 (or T7.5) gear. I’ve started an alt to play along side my five year old son (refer-a-friend).

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

Everquest. It’s hard to say how long, but probably a couple of years in total.

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

I don’t look at hitting level caps as all that big a deal because I know it’s a matter of time, however, I have hit the level cap in EverQuest, EverQuest 2, World of Warcraft and I was really close in VG before I threw in the towel.

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?

At the moment, I’d have to say World of Warcraft simply because I’m playing it with my son and I’m having a lot of fun watching what he does and has fun doing. I’ve recently bounced around trying out some of the older MMOs I left behind and they were fun for a bit, but not something my son is interested in; while WoW has him hooked (at least as hooked as we allow him to be).

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

I’m curious about Champions Online and DC Universe, but those will probably just be a distraction. One in development would be Copernicus (38 Studios). I enjoy a lot of what the people involved in its development enjoyed or created so I’m hopeful about that one. Star Wars: The Old Republic is another one I’m interested in but I don’t think I’ll be swept up by it.

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

I mentioned a long time gaming buddy, we started in Quake2 but moved into EQ. We bounced around from game to game for a bit until we heard SOE was releasing a brand new server that did not allow transfers – enter Stromm. He convinced me to give it another go – a real go at it this time because it was going to be the last time we ever played that game.

With that in mind, I created an Erudite Cleric named Fabinusar (the same name that was randomly generated for my very first character; an Erudite Paladin). I figured it’d be the first name I used in EQ and the last. He created an Ogre Shadowknight named Conflict. We duoed a lot of the content, adding the odd person into the group here and there. It was the first time I played a Cleric, usually I played the tank role, so it was a lot of fun. I was excited for every spell and every time I got a new one I had to try it out to see what I could do with it which meant rearranging my spell bar every time.

That added a little chaos to our sessions.

Before he was able to Feign Death, I used to use Lull/Pacify type spells to single out a target which he’d pull. It worked so well we’d hit dungeons with just the two of us.

We were in Upper Guk working our way into the Jail area. We were setting up to Lull and pull each one of the five or six mobs in the center of the Jail room. Now I just had access to Stun so I put it on my spell bar wondering what sort of use I could get out it.

Guess which spell I cast instead of Lull?

A lovely train ensued. The corpse recovery run was pretty fun too (I never carried a second set of gear).

Chapter 4: Preferences

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

30-40 hours then, about 15-20 now – if I’m lucky and willing to sacrifice sleep (which I am).

When during the week are your regular play times?

I tend to be a weekend warrior; I play Friday night and usually weekend mornings. I do hop on after 9pm for a couple of hours when I feel up for it. That’s usually when I do my farming or tradeskilling. The guild I am in raids from about 8pm to 11pm Tuesday, Thursday and Friday so I try to make those when I can.

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

All of the above. If I’m tired, I tend to just fall into what ever I’m doing and run about solo. When I’m more awake I’ll group up or build groups to hit what ever or I’ll pop into some PVP, BGs or otherwise. When I’m in a guild, I do try to be social, though I tend to miss a lot of chat if I’m into a dungeon or raid.

(My gaming friend would say I miss tells too, and it’s true. I’ve had to use ChatAlert type mods to put certain chat channels right in my face – the little pings in games like EQ2 doesn’t always work)

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

Hell ya. One I’ve already babbled about (Frank: Airstrike, Damogoth, Kaldonar); met in Quake2 LMCTF when I was organizing my clan’s side and he was on the other team. We were in email contact setting up a time and date. I was a little nervous contacting people outside the clan because I was expecting to get some corpse-humping asshat but the guy was completely polite, understanding and pretty easy going.

The match came about and my side was horribly overmatched (being more in to RA2 and not really being organized for CTF). The end result of a 30 minute match was a 3-0 loss to my clan. It would have been worse but I held their flag through most of the match. They capped twice when they finally got me and a third time when another clanmate was carrying the flag. I got hold of it again and kept it for the remaining time (I think I had it for about 28 minutes).

They were good sports and good winners.

In the following weeks I’d occasionally end up on a LMCTF server (I didn’t play RA2) where he was playing sometimes on the same team and sometimes not. When we were on the same team we’d dominate with me on D and him nabbing their flag. When we were on opposing teams we sort of canceled each other out.

End result was we had a lot of fun and played really well together be it defense or offense. He ended up asking me if I wanted to join his clan and after some thought I did. Eventually we formed our own then went into EQ together.

In EQ I met up with another guy I’m still playing games with today (Chris: various names starting with Cel). Frank had actually met him and we all got along eventually tried other games together.

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 usually have some sort of plan. Farm, tradeskill, explore, PVP or do some instances. I’ve often planned what we’ll do for a session ahead of time and invited people by sign up.

When you have less time to play, you want to spend more time playing and less time waiting or trying to build a group so I like to get that sort of thing out of the way before hand.

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

Yes and no. I usually don’t subscribe to more than one MMO unless I’m starting to get bored of the one I’m playing in which case I’ll sub to another and play it at off times. I’d rather get somewhere in one game than halfway in a bunch of other games – that’s just me though, I don’t force my expectations on others.

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

Again, when I’m getting bored I’ll binge on some other PC game or console game. I play D&D with a group of friends (almost) every week for about 10 years now so my MMO gaming is on top of that.

Are you something of an altoholic?

Only when I’m first starting a game and when I first started playing a MMO. I’ll experiment with all sorts of classes to see what I enjoy. At the moment, I tend to focus on a character until it hits the cap then I might create an alt to play with. I currently have about five alts in WoW but I also have a max level Paladin (Ret/Prot) who raids.

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)?

I sometimes listen to a podcast or music but no, I usually focus on the game when I’m playing (spouse and children permitting). I might have online radio streaming a hockey game to me or I might have the TV on with hockey going in the background, but I’m not watching it (it’d hurt my neck to see the screen from where the computer is).

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

Not so much anymore. I talk about it with my son, in my blog but not so much with my friends.

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

Yup, I have felt that way but I don’t feel it ever goes on long enough to impact work or my social life (generally, I play a lot when I’m on vacation). I don’t? It’s a hobby I enjoy. It gets pushed aside if I need to do work or if I need to go to family events or if I need something more important than entertainment.

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

Yes, I’ve taken a few breaks here and there. The most notable was before the EQ Stromm server was released. I didn’t touch a MMO for several months until my bud got me thinking about it. I’ve taken a few other breaks but never really for any particular reason.

Chapter 5: Blogging

When did you first start blogging?

The blog started in October of 2006 with my first post being about boredom with currently available games. Surprisingly enough, I’ve lasted another three years and survived my boredom.

Why do you blog?

It’s an outlet. I vent about various things, talk about some interests or topics of interest or share things that just seem a little screwed up. I don’t guarantee quality, I don’t guarantee researched posts, but I do promise you’ll get my thoughts on things (often my thought process). My blog is my own, I don’t do it for anyone else but I do like arguing with commenters even if I agree with them.

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

Nope. I just blog when I get a moment and have something to unload or a thought on something.

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

If it took effort then I wouldn’t be doing it.

By contrast, what do you find pleasurable about blogging?

Just getting things out of my head and out there, whether people read it or not. I do get a kick out of how people react to it.

How many people offline know you blog or podcast?

Very few actually. There are three guys that also blog from my D&D group that read my blog from time to time and another one that doesn’t. There is an online friend (Chris) that reads it from time to time (I even posted a review of his for NWN2: Storm of Zehir which actually gets a bucketload of hits). Aside from that? No, I like to keep somewhat anonymous so I can rant and vent and be a jackass.

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

Focus on the goal of the blog or podcast but don’t be shocked if you never see any comments – any idiot with a computer and internet connection can blog (I’m living proof!). Do it for you, not for others.

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

I can’t really think of anything. I guess that means I know it all?

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

Blogging is so easy (and free therapy), I can’t imagine stopping. I could picture changing the content of my blog but I couldn’t imagine stopping.

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?

Say Hello 2 Heaven, Temple of the Dog. I love that song.

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