Grinding to Valhalla

Interviewing the gamer with a thousand faces

One shot: Keen

Posted by Randolph Carter on August 17, 2009

MMO community connection:

Keen and Graev’s Gaming Blog

Would you mind explaining where the name Keen comes from?

Keen is best known as the shorthand for Lurikeen, which is a playable race (and my all time favorite MMORPG race ever) from DAOC’s Hibernia Realm. I first started using the name, or at least a version of it, when I made a character on the Mordred server named “Mean Keen”. From there the name stuck with me onto several forums where I adapted it, oddly, into “MeanKeenLurikeen”. Eventually I just shortened it to “Keen” as a nickname and a blogging name.

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

Keen and Graev’s Gaming blog is about just that: Gaming. The goal for our blog has always been to create a place where Graev and I can talk about gaming, in any form, with other people. It’s a place for us to share our ideas, strike up discussions or debates with others, and really analyze gaming as a whole. We strive to communicate our interests to our readers in the form of reviews, impressions, adventure logs, theorycrafting, and more with hopes that we can make some sort of impact on them.

What was your introduction to MMOs and what was that experience like?

I’ve always considered my first MMORPG to be The Realm. It was one of (if not the first, because it was in beta before Meridian 59) Grapical MUDS. It was really surreal to be playing in a virtual world, even a sidescrolling one with turn based combat and instanced battles, with hundreds of other people at once. It was the first time I had a physical representation of a character that lived and progressed within a persistent world. I owned property, collected treasures, went to parties (Held a few of my own), PvP’d, and ultimately realized that this was now my favorite type of game.

Can you recall that first MMO “wow!” moment?

This would have to be the first time I logged on to EverQuest and saw a 3d virtual world. This “wow!” moment lasted for weeks as I realized what a step up it was from a game like The Realm. I have often written about my most memorable experience in EverQuest as the time I traveled from Halas to Freeport. Having to travel during the day and hide in barns at night, meet travelers along to way, and see how a real game world (we’ve lost this over time) can truly immerse the player has made a huge impact on how I perceive MMORPGs today.

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

I get asked this question a lot. I can safely say that I have at least tried every AAA MMORPG released (Or tried to be released) in the Western market and nearly ever other MMO that I can possibly get my hands on. I consider “extensively” to be six or more months, including beta, or one where I’ve completed all content in the game. In order (if my memory serves me correctly), these are the MMOs I’ve played “extensively”:

  • The Realm
  • EverQuest
  • Dark Age of Camelot
  • Star Wars Galaxies
  • World of warcraft
  • EverQuest 2
  • Vanguard
  • Lord of the Rings Online
  • Pirates of the Burning Sea
  • Darkfall

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

At my peak I spent over 60 hours a week playing MMORPGs. It’s been many years since I’ve been able to pull anywhere near that. Right now I spend none, since I am currently between games, but I plan to spend about 20 hours a week in the Fall.

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

Absolutely. These days I play RTS games more than MMORPGs. First person shooters, adventure, action, racing… heck, I’ll play anything if it is fun – and I do! Right now I am playing a lot of Heroes of Newerth beta. I’m really looking forward to Modern Warfare 2 and Dragon Age: Origins.

When did you first start blogging? Would you mind taking us up to present with all of your projects?

I made my very first blog entry March 15, 2007 on our original blog hosted with blogspot. It didn’t take us long to realize we wanted to have our own blog to allow us more control over the project as well as more options for future endeavors. We started www.KeenandGraev.com on April 7, 2007 and it’s been consistent ever since. We began podcasting shortly after with Keen and Graev’s Podcast, which was a short lived project that I’ll explain in later in the interview. Comics have also been another way that we communicate with our readers.

Our most recent project, and by far the most successful project to branch off from our blog, is the Keen and Graev Forum Community started in August of 2008. This started off as a place where a few of our friends could communicate with us but it quickly turned into a full fledged community. We have forums going for all major MMORPGs on the horizon, a General Gaming board that remains active on a daily basis with information, and forums for specific guilds/clans we have formed within games. Our community has survived two rough launches (WAR and Darkfall) and remained determined to play games like Aion and SWTOR together. Our forums are a place to talk about games, introduce topics of your own, share beta invites, win contests, and get to know other gamers with similar interests. Thus far I’ve made dozens of new friends that I know I will be gaming with for years.

We have two new projects in the works for you guys that we hope to present very soon.

Do you see blogging as just a hobby or perhaps something more?

I have always seen it as a passion rather than a hobby because of the subject matter. I’m truly passionate about games and I believe it shows through my writing. I enjoy the outlet for my creative ideas. I enjoy the connection the blog has created between myself and gaming communities across the world. I never once set out to make money with the blog (and still refuse to put ads on it today), nor did I ever consider it a platform to launch myself into the gaming industry. Will I make money or find myself a job because of it? Perhaps one day it will happen, but I would never expect it nor would I stop blogging as a result.

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

One post a day was my goal when I first started blogging. That goal has since proven to be unrealistic. I’m a full time College student maintaining a 4.0 GPA as well as trying to actually play these games I write about. My schedule is really this, and it works well: When I have something to say, write about it. That’s it. That’s my schedule.

Would you say there is some grind involved in blogging? If so, what is it and how do you tend to cope with it?

Yeah, the grind comes with gaming droughts and between games. Right now I’m between games AND suffering through the summer slump which just hit me last week. It kills a little part of me inside to browse forums, news sites, other blogs, and see nothing going on. I can’t blog about playing Call of Duty 4 or Heroes of Newerth every day; It just doesn’t work for me. I cope with it by trying not to let it get the best of me. I’ll take a few days off blogging or work on other projects.

By contrast, what do you find pleasurable about blogging?

I enjoy the ability to communicate an idea and see what others think. There is nothing more exciting about a blog than to see that people are reading what you have to say and reacting to it. Presenting an idea and sparking a discussion that goes on for 70+ comments, spills into additional blog entries and gets picked up by other blogs and sites to continue the discussion is a great pleasure to watch. The best part, and where I derive most pleasure, is that I don’t TRY to make it happen. I write what I want to write, and my readers take it from there. I’ve gone on record before saying that the best part of our blog can often be found in the comments.

Would you care to share a particularly memorable moment from your blogging past?

I’d have to say it would be when actual Game devs started posting on the blog and linking to us on their official sites. I never expected more than a handful of people to read our blog, and now we’re actually apart of the MMORPG industry in our own little way. The memorable moments continue as we are asked to review games by publishers, get sent things in the mail to post on our blog for in-game events, and even attract devs into our forum community where they play the games with us.

What has been your experience with podcasting?

We have done two separate podcasts in the past. Keen and Graev’s podcast lasted for several months but in the end we were not pleased with it. Our listeners might have been enjoying it, but we did not enjoy putting it together or listening to it ourselves. We’re currently working on K&G’s Quickcast, which will feature Graev and I recording 5-8 minutes of gaming discussion about very specific topics.

Are you pleased with how your blog has been received in the blogosphere?

I really am. I feel like we’ve made a name for ourselves in the blogosphere and that people respect our opinions even if they don’t agree with them. It’s an honor to have as many readers as we do and we hope that they will continue to enjoy our blog.

If you had a chance to do it all over again, would you do anything different?

Absolutely not. I would not change a thing.

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

This is something I am asked frequently, and I give everyone the same advice. The first thing you need to do before you blog is recognize why you are blogging. Are you doing it for money? Are you doing it for fame? Are you doing it because you have something to say and you hope other people will be interested in reading it? Then you need to create a blog. I always recommend blogspot because it is user friendly. Once you have a clear direction and a blog up and running, just start writing. Write something EVERY day. It’s key for you to establish yourself as a consistent source of quality content. Do not fall into the trap of posting news – there are other websites out there for that and they’re way better than you. It’s my opinion that a blog is a place of personality and if you can’t let yours show through in your writing then you’re doing something wrong.

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

Unless I grow tired of gaming, there will never be a day that I stop blogging.

You wake up to a world where you are the head of a company developing an MMO. You have unlimited funds and resources available to you. Please describe the kind of game you would make.

Brutal question to ask! In a sense, this one question encompasses a huge part of what my bloggings have been about for the past year and a half. By working through what games are doing right, and what they are doing wrong, I’m coming closer and closer to realizing what I personally want out of a MMORPG. I can’t see a logistical way of answering that question here without spending days on it, so I’ll link you to a blog post where I discuss my ideal setting and world and give you a snippit.

From my “What is your Ideal MMORPG Setting?” entry:

“Without getting too much into mechanics, I want to emphasize that my world and the characters within it would be heavily influenced by the lore and legend. Players would appreciate the importance of where they are and what they are doing regardless if they read the texts or not. I would want every place within the game to feel like it was designed for a reason. It would take some doing, but I know that a finely crafted world is capable of immersing the player in this type of experience.”

For more on this you can read the entire post here.

In this wonderful world, would you employ Graev to work for you? What would his job be?

Graev would be great to work with on a MMORPG. Although he has grown further away from them these days and turned to consoles, he has a very clear vision of what he likes and does not like. He’s one of those people that won’t, for a second, put up with any crap in a game. He can play until he is one level from the cap, realize the “end-game” is a certain way, and stop right there. He represents a very, very large player base within the gaming industry that have yet to embrace MMORPGs. He and I are on the same page regarding MMORPGs today losing key components from their glory days. Graev would make a great Producer or Senior Designer working side by side with me to create a MMORPG that once again captures what made them great.

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