Grinding to Valhalla

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One shot: an interview with Rubi Bayer

Posted by Randolph Carter on September 2, 2010

Rubi Bayer is a staff writer for Massively.com as well as the co-host for the podcasts Massively Speaking and GuildCast. Here Rubi discusses her job at Massively, her podcasting endeavors, being a parent of online gamers and what in particular she’s most looking forward to with Guild Wars 2.

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Could you explain what you do at Massively.com and how you came to be working there?

I am the lead writer and columnist for Guild Wars/Guild Wars 2 and Dungeons and Dragons Online. I write about a huge range of games every day — whatever comes up that’s newsworthy, but my main focus is there. I also join Shawn on the Massively Speaking podcast most weeks.

Ooh, how I came to work there. That’s a story that is probably only exciting to me! In short, I waited until there was an open call for new writers on the site, and I applied, along with the rest of the free world. It felt like an endless process — due in large part to my impatience — but eventually I made it to the short list and had an interview with Shawn and Elizabeth Harper (who at the time was Editor-in-Chief of Massively). We covered a wide range of topics and questions, including “Here is a press release. Write up a news post about it including links. You have 20 minutes, we’ll wait. Go.”

Then they both thanked me nicely and said they’d be in touch. I held my breath for a few weeks, and on September 17, 2009, Shawn made the job offer. It was easily one of the most exciting things to happen to me in recent years. (Thanks, Liz and Shawn, for giving me the chance!)

Are you pleased with how your contributions there have been received?

I really am. There is the standard daily ration of internet anger, and some days some of it rebounds onto me, but in the end, I’m writing about something that I love and that is communicated to Massively’s readers.

Horror stories abound about working for Shawn “Satan” Schuster. Is working for this slave driver as horrible as it sounds?

I imagine he’ll read this, so I have to tread carefully. He hasn’t fed the attack dogs for three days now. No, seriously, he’s pretty good to work for. The guy has no patience with all of that standard office BS of blowing smoke and dancing around issues, so you never have any doubt about where you stand. If there’s an issue he pretty much will let you know immediately and work with you to fix it. So while it’s not always sunshine and rainbows, it’s honest and it’s made me a better writer. This of course, is on the rare occasion when there IS a problem. Most of the time he’s in there messing around and laughing with all of us, and it makes for a pretty good work environment, virtually speaking.

Plus, he’s very passionate about this job, and really encourages us to go for well-written, interesting pieces rather than “What will boost our numbers the most?” So you won’t find us posting pictures of a young woman in Pikachu underpants and pretending it’s news about cosplay, but you’ll find actual MMO news. Crazy, huh? He’s got a great vision for the site.

In anticipation of Guild Wars 2, the venerable GuildCast has been resurrected, and you’re now the co-host. How did this all come about?

It was an interesting process. I’d known for a while that Shawn was planning to resurrect GuildCast, but he originally had a different co-host in mind. With his schedule, finding time to edit and publish yet another podcast wasn’t in the cards, and I have exactly zero editing capabilities. He’s got a friend who does have those capabilities, and had planned to co-host it with that guy, with me as a guest on the show sometimes. That fell through due to the other guy’s lack of time, and I stepped in. I still can’t edit, so Shawn wound up doing it. :-( I think it’s not so bad, though. Hopefully.

How do you like podcasting?

Oh, it’s fun. It’s just an hour or two a week of sitting around chatting with a friend about something we’re both interested in, so it comes easily.

I take it this is not exactly new to you?

Well not any more, no. ;-) About a year and a half ago, Shawn asked me to be a guest on Massively Speaking. I was completely terrified, but it was all about Guild Wars/Guild Wars 2, so how could I refuse? That was my first podcasting experience (We do not count the wretched voice work I did once back on the old GuildCast.) I also do a very very infrequent podcast with my darling husband Kev — we keep trying to find the time to sit down together and do it more often — so I settled into podcasting in baby steps over the past two years.

What was your first MMO and what was that experience like?

Does Legend of the Red Dragon count? Because that was FUN. I played my one-hour limit every single day, and eventually went to a meetup of local players. If it does not count, then it was Guild Wars. I was a Sims player for years, and Kev heard about GW on GuildCast, so he bought Prophecies for something to play while I was playing Sims. (Hey, don’t knock Sims, those are awesome games.) I actually still remember lying on the couch reading a book, and glancing over at Kev to see this beautiful scene on his screen. That was Pre-Searing. I asked him if I could give it a try and I never looked back.

Would you mind sharing a particularly enjoyable gaming experience?

Yes, I would. Oh, wait, no. Honestly, I’m pretty social, so the height of gaming fun for me isn’t one specific thing. Rather, it’s when I’ve got a full group of guild mates, and we’re tearing through content, laughing and having fun on Vent. If you want a specific example, last night I was playing Guild Wars with five guild mates, including a married couple I’ve known since my early GW days. We were working through the three primary War in Kryta bounties, but six of us wanted to participate, and none of us were healers. Six people in this area of the game is a full party. No more room.

We were doing this in hard mode. With no healers. We did not even care. One of the elementalists went monk secondary and filled her bar with heals, and off we went. About halfway through I remembered (the hard way) that the character I was using did not have infused armor. We were almost crying with laughter on Vent, dying right and left, but we got the job done. It’s all about the journey, and the company you take with you.

You’ve mentioned before that your family happen to be gamers. From a parent’s standpoint, how do you monitor your children’s game play?

The computers in our home are pretty much designed for a complete lack of privacy. Except for my work computer, they’re all in the main room of our house and Kev and I can see what they’re up to at a glance. My 13-year-old got a laptop of her own for Christmas last year, so we’re a little more vigilant. I’m less worried about the parenting psychobabble of giving her some space and allowing her to find herself and blah blah blah than I am about her getting into a bad situation, so I snoop. I keep a close eye on who she’s talking to, who she’s playing with, what they’re doing, and so on.

I guess that’s not a gameplay-specific thing. Guild Wars and Free Realms are their games of choice. In Guild Wars, the rule is they play in offline mode and they only group with family members. The 13 year old has been playing for several years now, and she’s older, so we’ve changed that rule for her in the past year or so to allow her to group with people we know, if one of us is also in the group. In Free Realms, the three of them have formed a guild together, and while they interact with the other players to a limited extent, they mostly keep to themselves.

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

Grow a thick skin. Seriously. If you take to heart all the stuff that readers say to and about you, you’re doomed. It’s easier said than done, because some of what shows up in my inbox still stings, but you’ve got to keep the source in mind. Much of the time, a little bit of digging will reveal that the worse the comment or email is, the more consistently bitter and trollish the person is. It’s usually a reflection of his or her own general anger or disappointment, and the sooner you realize that and learn to throw it off, the better off you’ll be.

Now. On the other hand, if you screw up and get called on it by these people, that does not apply. Take it graciously, acknowledge your mistake, thank them for setting you right, fix it, and learn from it going forward. (And you’re gonna screw up at some point. It just happens. You’re only human. Don’t beat yourself up.)

How about podcasting?

Find a subject you truly care about and are knowledgeable about. If I podcasted about… uh, I don’t know, the paper-making industry, it would suck. I don’t care about the paper-making industry and I know nothing about it, except that I’ve heard that paper mills smell bad. You’re only going to be good if you are passionate about your subject and you know what you’re talking about.

If you’re podcasting with a co-host or two, ideally you want to find someone you click with and are comfortable with. I hope I’m not giving away some sort of uber hush-hush trade secret when I say that Shawn and I have no script when we do Massively Speaking and GuildCast, nothing. We go over our subjects literally the same morning. We get a list of things we want to talk about (in the case of Massively Speaking Shawn pulls together the top news stories from the previous weeks), read through them, and go. It works because we’re not awkward with one another, and because we’re not thinking too hard about “Okay, now at 14:37 you need to mention TERA’s business model, and at 14:52 I will ask you a question about it…” Just have fun with it while being informative.

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

I’d take my own advice more often. I learned fast because I was pretty much greeted at Massively from day one by angry readers, and to this day, my worst bouts of job burnout happen when I allow the negativity in my inbox to get to me. I have the all-too-human tendency to focus on the negativity. A hundred people could rant and rave in one day about how much they love my work, and one person could write a diatribe about how much they loathe me. I have to force myself not to focus on that one.

Ruby Bear...oh wait...

Otherwise, I don’t know. I’m extremely happy with the past year, and feel like I’ve done well. I’d maybe pull back a little bit. For a while there I was working 7 days a week, from 5AM until 11PM, racing back and forth between the computer and the family/household, and… man I was tired. It was too much. I still work a LOT, but it’s a better balance these days.

And last but certainly not least, what has got you most excited about Guild Wars 2?

The world of Tyria. More than classes, more than combat, more than anything, I want to explore every nook and cranny and see how this virtual world that I love so much has changed. Back in March I wrote an edition of Flameseeker Chronicles (my GW/GW2 column on Massively) speculating all about the world we’d see in Ghosts of Ascalon, and I had so much fun with that.

The developers recently mentioned “legacy” areas, and I was incredibly excited about that. The ruins of the Temple of the Ages and places like that will absolutely be my favorites.

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One shot: Kelly

Posted by Randolph Carter on September 11, 2009

MMO community connection:

Geekoric: Geek Girl See, Geek Girl Do

(un)Enlightened English

Would you mind explaining what your site (un)Enlightened English is about and why you came to create it?

I actually work as a tutor at a college in NYC and have been for about three years now. As such, I work with an extremely diverse group of students–most of which are English as Second Language students. I love my job and I love the excitement that someone has when they finally understand something, so I made a random post to a social networking group that my colleagues and I use. While discussing what I had written with my husband, I said “This would be an awesome blog post.” Next thing I knew, we were coming up with blog names (Enlightened English was too pretentious, which is why the parenthetical prefix was inserted!) and he bought the domain name.

So, you’re questing down in the bowels of a dungeon deep inside a goblin keep and come upon the bodies of several freshly hung humans, several of which are still writhing and apparently alive. What would Ariwyn do? What would Kelly the grammar enthusiast do?

Well Kelly would be writhing that you chose hung instead of hanged! But Ariwyn—my gaming self—is always a Lawful Good person, so she would definitely save them all, heal them and then go find the evil-doer who put them there in the first place!

As someone who takes a particular interest in the English language do you find yourself ever analyzing and proof reading quest text?

Oh God, yes. I’ve noticed grammatical errors in quest text before. One time, while playing Warhammer Online, I noticed that the text in the box didn’t match with the text in the NPC’s talk bubble–the box used an exclamation point while the talk bubble used a question mark! For shame! I even took the time to report it. However, being an English junkie is more than just looking at grammar all the time. I’ve enjoyed several of the novels that go along with given MMOs and sometimes they have managed to change my perception of a game. There’s some pretty awesome gaming-based literature out there.

As a gamer and someone who is also pursuing a career in education, do you see potential for video games to be used in an educational environment?

Oh definitely. Some schools are already using games like Civilization as an educational tool for history, but I think we can also use gaming to improve language usage everywhere. If we can create a game where players type and communicate to NPCs, students will still be in an environment they enjoy while having the benefit of practicing appropriate language usage. The more you write in a particular way, the more apt you are to integrate that into your life. While in MMOs we socialize with one another by using terms like “ftw,” “g2g” and the like, interaction with an NPC could help reduce those terms from a student’s academic vocabulary. The options become more and more limitless with each gaming advancement.

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

Well, I played Tibia once or twice, but wasn’t too amazed by it or anything. My first “real” in-depth experience was when Guild Wars was released. My husband (then boyfriend) had me play it and I loved it. I had always enjoyed console games before then, but somewhere throughout my life my inner gamer-geek was hidden through my interests in dance, cheerleading, and all those other girly things. I played an Elementalist/Monk and it was pretty much over from there–I was hooked on gaming. There were other added benefits of MMOs that other games couldn’t provide as well. My husband has to travel for business sometimes and with an MMO, we can do something together while we’re apart. It seemed like a logical thing to start doing!

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

Hmm. It’s hard to say. I definitely remember my first “Wow…” moment of disbelief though! I was playing FFXI and died and saw “Level Down” flash across my screen. I turned to my husband and said “What is that a debuff or something?” Ha! Little did I know that you can ACTUALLY level down in FFXI! Not quite a “wow!” but definitely a “wow…” moment!

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

WAY too much time! I would get home from class and play with my husband for about 5-6 hours a night on weeknights and on weekends–forget it. 12 hours or more? My husband and I co-GMed a couple of guilds, so we needed to be available to our guildmates and officers. Now I only play an hour or two a night. Graduate school can cut back on your gaming when you’re trying to graduate with a 4.0!

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

I play non-MMO games, primarily RTS games and my SNES emulator. I think the SNES had some really great games, and I love the nostalgia I experience while playing it. I tend to not play RTS games very well though and prefer being able to build up a city than immediately going to war.

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

I actually haven’t been blogging for too long. I started towards the end of March and then “released” my site with a public announcement on April 1st. Blogging isn’t the only thing I’ve done though. I used to be the Content Lead for Warhammer Alliance, where I established how content is organized, presented and structured on the site. I am a bit of a “noob” on the scene though, because those are really the only web-based projects that I have set up.

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

“Something more,” without a doubt. Given my blog’s content, I can make it into a business with advertising revenue or even into a book when I have enough posts to compile. Not only is there the business possibilities, but I also get to HELP people. That’s a great feeling. I love seeing that I’m getting 250+ visitors a day from all over the world and knowing that I helped them in some way. I’ll never meet them or know them, but in a way, they’ll know me.

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

I think everyone gets into those little arguments with a random commenter, but one time someone noticed a guest author made a typographical error that slipped my proofreading. I approved the comment and made the change, but my blog was being remodeled and—I don’t know, I must have screwed something up—it needed to be re-done from an older copy. So the person’s comment was deleted (along with my correction of the error). The person got pretty mad, making snarky remarks about integrity and all. So my husband actually emailed her explaining the situation and she responded in such a positive light. She was concerned because many sites do not have that kind of honesty and whatever else and she was about to pass my site off as one of those. It’s very important to me that people feel they can trust me and my work. I always fess up to mistakes, approve comments, and whatever else.

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.

My main study in English is fantastical literature (think fantasy) and the Arthurian Tradition. I would like to make a game somewhat based in the Medieval British Isles in the Arthurian Tradition. The things that would make this different from Dark Age of Camelot is that I would remain rooted in history and literature—making the game of educational use as well. I’m not sure if you’ve ever played The Guild or The Guild 2, but I imagine that some players could focus on “professions” instead of necessarily going out and killing stuff. All the players would be human, and depending on the time the game takes place, warriors could be fighting off the Saxon invasion etc. So definitely a lot of possibilities—those who want to fight, can. Those who want to trade and be merchants, can. Plus that time period is amazingly interesting.

Posted in Blogger | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

One shot: Frank Sanchez

Posted by Randolph Carter on August 20, 2009

MMO community connection:

Overly Positive

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

If I was writing in the “voice” of Overly Positive, I’d say that people are just SO jaded and cynical these days. Genuine excitement and praise has long since been ridiculed as being as blind as a kid playing pin the tail on the jackass. At Overly Positive, we bring back the idea that being happy isn’t just a good thing, it’s a great and less stressful thing, too. Let the rest of the Internet have their “rants” and their “nerd rage” – at this blog, even the equivalent of nuclear fallout is actually a good thing from a certain perspective (hey look – real estate opportunities!).

In reality, I’m generally an optimist – or, that failing, I don’t really sweat the small stuff. Murphy has ruled with his Law for quite some time, and bad things will happen. Geeky society has moved from being socially outcast to being wry and quick-witted. When it comes to the geek media – things like sci-fi, gaming, comic books, and TV shows – geeks tend to be passionate, and in some cases, as angry and sarcastic as the worst mainstream sports fan or “normal” person. I’m basically filling a niche that basically says, “it’s not a big deal, and in fact there’s something good to be gotten out of anything.”.

Allow me to quote from your about page: “Ever wonder if bloggers sometimes have their cereal pissed in every day to have the hate they do.” I guess that would explain my hatred, but how do you manage to remain so “positive?”

Well, people have accused me of everything from having brain surgery to extract the hate to certain recreational drugs. The real key is just in attitude and seeing “the big picture”. Whether you’re talking about a game you play or the TV shows you watch or the tech things that you build, if you’re a geek you’re doing these things because they’re fun – because they provide you with some kind of entertainment and joy. Simply put, if you’re angry enough that you’re not having fun, or you’re not enjoying yourself, why waste effort and blood vessels being pissed about it? It’s just not practical, and the rather cathartic feeling you get from screaming, yelling, or typing a post on the Internet to someone insulting them and their progeny is simply short term.

I just don’t let a lot bother me. Years of being a moderator on various forums, where insults are as regular as a bathroom break, might have helped this, though.

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

I first technically got into MMOs before they were really “massive”, back when I played MUDs. Gemstone III and various free to play text-based adventures were my introduction to online role-playing games. Then when Ultima Online came out, I jumped on board that, and the rest is history.

You know, back in those days, the unforgiving nature of these kinds of games was simply a fact that you lived with. There was permanent loss of your loot, there was player-killing, and there was having to retrieve your naked corpse from the worst places, where possibly being eaten by a monster inspired by a grue was the least of your worries. These were the kinds of things that were expected when you played MMOs, so there wasn’t a huge culture shock or surprise at engaging in MMOs. Frankly, I experienced more of a shock when I realized that I could actually keep my hard-earned armor or that death was as meaningful as a walk in the park.

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

I think when the first MMOs that really started utilizing the ability of a graphics card came out, like Everquest, was when there were “wow” moments – small ones, like seeing a zone load the first time, or watching a ton of players killing mobs in a zone. But nothing beats your very first raid, where you come upon a boss monster so huge and epic it seems to dwarf your party. These are always “wow” moments for two reasons – one, because the encounter is likely to not be one that you’ve experienced before and two, because you almost certainly die in a matter of moments.

If possible, list all the MMOs you’ve played extensively. Please start from the beginning and work your way up to the present.

Well now you’re just asking for it. In order of appearance:

  • Gemstone III
  • Ultima Online
  • Everquest
  • Earth and Beyond
  • EVE
  • Final Fantasy XI
  • Dark Age of Camelot
  • City of Heroes/Villains
  • World of Warcraft
  • Warhammer Online

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

When I was a senior officer and co-raid leader for the guild Templar Knights on Archimonde/Mug’thol in WoW, that was probably the peak time of my play. There, I was spending at least 35 hours a week raiding, planning, dealing with logistics or drama, or farming.

These days, with a lot of different (and more important) things in my life, including being married, having a job, paying my mortgage, and generally being suckered into internet community projects, it’s more like 8-10 hours a week. Yep – I’ve become a casual player, and perhaps that might actually help me not be so mad at certain things.

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

Sure – mostly with console games, though. I was a console gamer long before I was a PC or MMO player, with the Atari 2600 to the 360/PS3/Wii generation progression under my belt. I favor RPGs because they tend to last longer for me at my current playtime per week.

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

Overly Positive has really only been around a little over a year, but I’ve been actually writing and putting my thoughts to the internet for maybe 7 years now. Like most people, I started out with more personal blogging on Live Journal, then moved to other, brief projects in writing that honestly aren’t worth mentioning until the advent of Overly Positive, where I felt I really found a voice that, despite being an exaggerated parody of myself, was one I was comfortable with.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t been tasked to write for other projects. For a few years I ran a 14,000 page site called AnimeInfo.org, which provided reviews, articles, and guides to the anime and manga industry. I also got into the wonderful and crazy world of convention planning, where I managed to provide significant roles (some of which involved me having to sound coherent on paper) through running departments and even chairing the events as a whole. Currently, I’ve put my community management experience to work as a contractor for Curse.com, where I serve as Assistant Site Manager for Warhammer Online fansite Warhammer Alliance. Among other things, I occasionally write OP-ED pieces about WAR under the name PhoenixRed for that site.

If you hadn’t noticed already, these kinds of things explain why I only play 8-10 hours a week now.

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

I enjoy writing positive articles and introducing a little bit of sun (even when it’s a bit purposefully overbearing and bombastic) into my corner of the Internet. I’ve honestly always enjoyed writing and blogging in general – this probably comes as no surprise considering my undergraduate degree is in English.

To be honest, if it became something more – and certain doors have been opened to that effect already – then I’d be quite happy. I see writing/blogging as more of a side project with side income, rather than a full-on job, per se, but finding a niche and a place that would be happy to have someone like me would definitely be exciting. Places like The Escapist and Destructoid feature passionate, prolific, and entertaining writers all the time, and someday, I wouldn’t mind joining their ranks.

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

The only hard and fast rule is at least one post a day. This is mostly to exercise my writing muscle, keep my pen sharp, and keep my content on Overly Positive fresh, of course. Typically on a day when I post, I’ll scour Google Reader for the blogs and sites that I keep up with. If I see something that strikes my fancy and could use a bit of sunny optimism, I write about it. The most times I post in a day usually doesn’t exceed three – once in the morning, once at lunch, and once in the evening. In the midst of that, I also take the time out to visit the various blogs I follow and leave comments for them. You’d be surprised at how having someone care enough to leave a comment can energize them to write more – and how they can reciprocate in kind by reading and leaving one for yours.

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

There’s only a grind when you feel constricted, or have writer’s block about blogging. There’ve been times during Overly Positive when I just couldn’t inspire myself to write about something positive for the day. Sometimes it’s a mental thing, other times it’s other priorities, but blogging can become a real chore when that happens.

To be honest, if you are struggling with blogging, it’s usually best to take a break – clear your head, try to find that creative muse, and come back to it when you feel you can do it without really thinking about it. There are times I look at posts I make and don’t realize that I’ve posted 3 times in a day. When you can crank out articles, it’s a good sign for your future writing inspiration.

By contrast, what do you find pleasurable about blogging?

Blogging is a permanent marker of your thoughts and ideas, committed to virtual ink and placed on the Internet for all to see. I think that a lot of times, we verbalize or think about something really profound, or really exciting, or really funny, and the really crappy thing is, it’s gone within hours, or sometimes minutes. When you blog, you’re creating an archive of your ideas and things that strike you, for reference or for simply getting it off of your chest. The experience is cathartic for a lot of people, which is why rant blogs are so popular and well-read – they’re an explosion of thought and ideas that many people can identify with when reading.

While massive readership is not needed to feel good about blogging, the fact that you have an audience of sorts is nice, because it validates that people find what you write meaningful. I have extremely limited readership for Overly Positive right now – but even for the 25 or so readers that hit up my feed, I find pleasure in making their day a bit more interesting with my quirky and thoughtful posting style.

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

Whenever someone actually attempts to insult me on Overly Positive, I always respond with a kind of unnerving, perhaps even annoying kindness that fits with the voice of my writing. There was an article I wrote about what happened in Final Fantasy XI with a certain boss that one guild attempted for 18 hours. No, that’s not a typo – they were really raiding for 18 hours, to the point that some of them were physically getting ill from the effort. Now, I wrote on this particular issue in my own way, which is to say that I heaped unnatural praise for neglecting basic health needs and being generally insane. Well, apparently my bright attitude didn’t go over well with the FFXI community, who proceeded to roast me over the coals for being so sarcastically taunting. Thing is, every hate-filled comment I got was responded to with a blinding ray of sunshine and a huge virtual grin, and in some cases, it was disarming. I even got a comment from an FFXI GM. It was great.

Ever since then, I’ve had an Overly Positive Thoughts feature on Thursdays, where I provide the same kind of all-caps “THIS IS AWESOME” optimism to some of the worst pieces of news on the Net. Most people get the joke. Most.

Have you had any experience with podcasting? If so, what has that been like?

Over at Warhammer Alliance, we have a regular biweekly podcast. We’ve just passed 16 episodes and don’t seem to be in any danger of stopping anytime soon. I love podcasting, to be honest, and so do my co-hosts, who’ve also never done podcasting prior to this endeavor. Podcasting has been a challenge to overcome technical issues, features that didn’t work out, and commentary that has been a backlash to certain topics, but it has also been fulfilling and fun. Podcasting is sort of like blogging on steroids – the most interesting podcasts are a stream of shared consciousness from individuals with unique and interesting personalities. Even with a talented editor or producer, when you’re podcasting you’re kind of “blogging” without a safety net, because writing at least gives you the opportunity to better edit your own content. By contrast, your brain may cause your mouth to say something that might get you in trouble later (I didn’t mean to imply Halflings were only good for stew, honest).

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

There’s a Japanese saying that says “There’s always someone better”. Seems pessimistic, sure, but the real message is that you should never be satisfied with the status quo. I like my humble little readership, but I’d love to reach out to more people, collaborate with them, and promote their projects too, which is why I’m more than happy to do this interview for this particular blog. Honestly, I’m not quite 100% with how I’ve been writing, but the constant comments and well wishes really are an encouragement to keep tuning under the hood.

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

Probably not. Maybe I would have picked a wittier name, but boy, searching for the right domains has gotten so troublesome these days.

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

Sure – when I’m in my grave and dead. My own geeky tendencies, combined with my current online project responsibilities and my chosen profession in Information Technology, mean that I’m always going to be near a keyboard, which means I might as well do something worthwhile with it. No one can really predict the future, but for now, me and my optimism aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Posted in Blogger, Podcaster, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Iain Compton

Posted by Randolph Carter on August 13, 2009

MMO community connection:

Antipwn

Chapter 1: Introduction

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

Iain Compton a.k.a. IainC, Requiel

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

I have an MMO industry blog at antipwn.com/blog that has been going for a few years now. I am a games designer for an MMOFPS being released later this year and I worked as a community manager for DAoC and WAR in Europe before that.

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

I discuss the inside of the industry, trends and game design topics

Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

I was born in Scotland and I grew up in a lot of different places.

Where do you live now?

The Black Forest in Germany

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’m a games designer

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

A musician

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

  • I’m autistic.
  • I am a huge fan of comics.
  • I am a wargamer.
  • I have lived in a warzone.
  • I hate getting out of bed in the morning.

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 tabletop roleplay games which are, of course, a social activity. I also played a lot of miniatures wargames, CCGs and board games. I never really needed to play games as a solo endeavour.

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

Mostly I played games. Chess and D&D were the main ones.

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

I played a whole lot of pen and paper games, mostly 2nd EdAD&D but also Shadowrun, Cyberpunk, MERP, WHFRP, Torg, DC Heroes, Rifts, Rolemaster, Palladium, GURPS, Twilight 2000, Traveller… You get the picture. Those were great times.

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.

My mum was a huge fantasy and SF fan so I grew up reading Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Tolkien, Ray Bradbury, Anne McAffrey, Brian W. Aldiss and so forth. I read a lot as a kid and books were my retreat of choice when there was no-one to play a game with.

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.

Of course they did. Games without narrative are lifeless to me. A game needs to have a commentary to be interesting enough to play. Even if that commentary is applied externally.

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

I played a lot of games on my Commodore 64 when I was a kid – probably 8 years old or so. My dad was a computer hobbyist well before most people even knew what they were, back in the days when games had to be typed out and saved on tape.

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

Not really, they didn’t exist in most of the places where I lived.

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

Eye of the Beholder, the original Gold Box SSi game. Stories in a computer game!

What gaming consoles have you owned in the past?

PS1/2/3, Xbox 360, Atari 2600, Sega Megadrive, 3DO, Nintendo DS. To be truthful I was never really into consoles, I preferred computers.

Chapter 3: Online

Were you ever exposed to MUDs? If so, when was this and what was the experience like?

A friend got me playing a hybrid fantasy/crime/SFgame which I played the hel out of for a couple of years. I found it fascinating and was turned on by the fact that the lack of graphics didn’t detract from the gameplay at all.

What was your first MMO experience? Again, when was this (a year please) and what was this like?

The first MMO I played was Dark Age of Camelot in 2003 when it was released in Europe. I had tried to play UO before that but I couldn’t get past the arcane interface.

If possible, list all the MMOs you’ve played extensively. Please start from the beginning and work your way up to the present.

DAoC, WAR, Eve Online, LotRO, Everquest II,

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

Eve Online

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

DAoC without a doubt. I played it for five years pretty solidly and must have ranked up 250+ /played days.

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

DAoC

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?

Eve Online, it has the most depth of any MMO around.

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

I’ll play Aion when it releases. I like the premise and I’d like to see how the PvP is handled.

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

I ran an event for DAoC in Europe where I ended up accidentally scamming the players who’d turned up. Eventually I gave all the money I’d stolen to the first newbie I encountered and ran a follow-up event where the players could capture me and put me on trial for my crimes.

Chapter 4: Preferences

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

I used to play about 30 hours a week, nowadays it’s probably around 15.

When during the week are your regular play times?

Evenings, weekends.

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

Definitely social. I hate soloing as it becomes a challenge to stave off tedium rather than a challenge to defeat the game.

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

I’ve found plenty of strong friends through MMO gaming, I’ve even brought some of them over to this side of the industry table.

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?

Sometimes, most often I’ll just log in and see what my options are.

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

I tend to play one as my main game which absorbs most of my time and I may have another one or two that I play as a change of pace.

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

Yes. Currently I’m playing Bloodbowl and a few other strategy games in between Eve sessions.

Are you something of an altoholic?

Depends on the game. I was in DAoC but not so much in WAR or Eve.

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)?

Eve lends itself to that quite well. In other games I tend to concentrate more on the game and try not to get distracted.

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

My wife plays MMOs too and all my colleagues work on an MMO so yes.

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

I went and took a holiday without internet access.

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

Not really.

Chapter 5: Blogging

When did you first start blogging?

I have two blogs, one is an MMO industry blog which has been running for about 2 and a half years, the other is a wargames and miniature painting blog that I started earlier this year. I recently migrated them both to my own domain www.antipwn.com/blog/  from wordpress.com.

Why do you blog?

I like to think out loud and a few people seem to like discussing my thoughts with me.

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

No. I try and set myself a one update per month minimum but I don’t always meet that. Sometimes I update several times in a day though.

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

Not really, because I don’t make myself write unless there’s something I want to write about. There’s no pressure for me.

By contrast, what do you find pleasurable about blogging?

I like to read the comments and discuss with the readers of my blog.

How many people offline know you blog?

Most of my friends and family.

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

Figure out what you want to write about and why people should want to ready your opinions. Then go for it.

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

If you get no comments on a post, that doesn’t mean no-one read it.

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

Possibly, not for the foreseeable future anyway.

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?

Sumerland (What Dreams May Come) by the Fields of the Nephilim.

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One shot: Scott Jennings

Posted by Randolph Carter on August 12, 2009

MMO community connection:

Broken Toys

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

The subtitle of the blog is currently “Random comments about games and tractors”. I think I do pretty well at meeting that mission statement, though I have been woefully remiss in blog entries about tractors. I’ve been making random comments about online games in various blog-style forms since 1999. I should get good at it fairly soon.

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

I first played UO in 1997, a few weeks after it was released, and was just struck dumb by how alive everything was around me. There were people making deals by the bank, people riding by in a hurry on horseback, snippets of conversation I would pick up on in passing as I walked by – that world-ly nature was just so different from what I expected (I expected basically a multiplayer version of Ultima 7, I think) and really showed a lot of potential. It was an immensely satisfying, promising moment where you felt as though you could grasp the future of gaming.

Then I left Britain and was killed for my 13 gold by a group of PKs.

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

In rough chronological order:

Ultima Online: 1997 to 2000. I was fairly rabid about it; I got involved in an active RP/PvP guild – this is where the “Lum the Mad” character was born, a bald guy who wore a dyed robe and a deadly-poisoned dagger, both of which thanks to how the game system worked would survive my very frequent deaths. I eventually got tired of it, but 4 years is a good run for any game.

Everquest: 2000 to 2001. I never really got into high end raiding; my highest level character was in the high 40s which even then wasn’t terribly advanced.

Dark Age of Camelot: 2001 to 2005. Despite this game being the start of my career in making MMOs as opposed to playing them, I still played DAoC frequently and enjoyed it – the epic PvP with hundreds of characters slamming into each other in furious melees reminiscent of “Saving Private Ryan” hasn’t yet been matched in any game I’ve played to date. My main character was a Midgard Bonedancer which I’m sure vastly amuses everyone who assumed no one at Mythic ever knew where Midgard was. As with UO, I did eventually grow tired of it, but after 4 years of steady frequent playing. Hm, maybe this is a pattern?

Star Wars Galaxies: 2003 to 2004. I really wanted to like this game, and I came pretty close to liking it when the star-fighter expansion came out. Lack of spare time (and still playing DAoC actively) didn’t help.

World of Warcraft: 2005 to present, though you will note that it’s rapidly approaching my apparent 4 year expiration date. Despite that, I still play it fairly actively, and have both a warlock and death knight that have Naxxramas-level raiding gear.

City of Heroes: 2005 to present, on and off. It’s different, I like the combat and the story lines for a lot of the mission arcs. It’s a game I’ll set aside for a few months, then come back to.

Other than those, I’ve tried just about every MMO that’s been released, but none of them really held my attention for longer than a month or two, either because I never found a community to become a part of (which is a key part of any MMO) or because I just didn’t have the time – a factor that’s reared its head more and more, and why World of Warcraft’s less demanding schedule still appeals to me.

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

I’ve always been what Brad McQuaid once called a “time-starved powergamer”. Even at my most obsessive I’ve rarely put more than 15 or so hours a week into an MMO; if nothing else my ADD will kick in and I’ll bound off looking for something shiny after that. Currently I’d say I spend about 10 hours a week on WoW – sometimes less, though I try to at least log in and do a few dailies every night. It helps that I’m in a guild that appreciates bad jokes more than reliable raid attendance.

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

I’m a frequent strategy gamer – I’ve played every version of Civilization that’s come out somewhat obsessively (my favorite one? the Fall from Heaven mod! :) ) and am currently staring down Hearts of Iron 3 wondering how many years of my life it will take away. On consoles I tend to play JRPGs, especially the older ones, which I’ll still break out and play sometimes – my wife calls them my “pixel people games”. Back in the 1980s I used to be a fairly hardcore tabletop wargamer, but now limit myself to the light party game (Apples to Apples is surprisingly fun when you realize that “Berlin 1945″ is the trump card for literally every possible question).

Would you mind sharing an interesting and/or amusing story from your gaming or blogging past?

My first game of Dungeons and Dragons was when I was 10. This was in 1976, and the original 3 book set had just come out, so no one had any idea how to play it. We all rolled up 1st level characters. I rolled up a mage, and memorized my one and only spell – Charm Person.

The first encounter was with a beholder. (You did catch the part where we were 1st level, right?) So, thinking on my feet and showing a keen caring for my fellow man even at such a young age, I immediately cast Charm Person on the thief, told him to charge the beholder, and the rest of us ran screaming into the next room.

The next room had a troll. We all promptly died.

I’ve been complaining about class balance issues ever since.

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

My first blog was “The Rantings of Lum the Mad”, which I started in 1999 to complain about Ultima Online. It was a fairly new concept – until then the only ‘bloggers’ (the term had yet to be invented, most of the time we were called ‘ranters’ that ran ‘rant sites’, a term I embraced gleefully) were exploiters who posted which interesting new way to break the game was popular that week. I came more from the standpoint of a regular guy who just wanted to play the game as intended and thought cheating scumbags were cheating scumbags. Surprisingly, it was a popular viewpoint!

The blog kept getting popular. I added guest writers because I felt guilty about not being able to have an encyclopedic knowledge of every MMO or the ability to make blog posts 20 times a day. We started developing delusions of being actual reporters (which, amusingly, still predated bloggers and their delusions of being actual reporters). The blog became popular with MMO developers as well, mainly because one of the requirement of being an MMO developer is that you are an MMO player, so we’d get interviews and the odd invitation to fly out to visit game companies. I paid for the trips on my own dime, out of a weird sense of ethics (I’m told this isn’t a standard many keep any more. Probably more my silliness then their ethical failure, though) yet still got accused often of being a craven sellout.

Then I lost my cushy dot-com database job, and in short order DID become a craven sellout – namely Matt Firor, who’s currently at Zenimax but at the time was one of Mythic’s founders, saw my “AAARGH I AM UNEMPLOYED” post on my blog and remembered that he needed a database guy. I immediately screamed “WOO HOO!” (I actually accepted the job without even being told what the salary would be – not only was I that happy to be in the game industry after years of writing about it, I was also really pretty desperate for A PAYING JOB) and moved to Virginia to work on hit dice and customer service database forms.

I tried to keep the blog running in a hands-off way with the people who were left behind, but a lot of drama ensued and the site eventually closed in anger, flaming, recrimination, and apparently someone having a vacation in England off of the site’s operations fund. (I’ve never been to England, by the way. Would kind of like to visit some day!) A few months passed, and I missed making cranky smartass comments about gaming, so I started another blog. By this time (2002) the world had caught up and the word “blog” had been invented. I’ve been updating that blog, “Broken Toys”, ever since – sometimes more frequently, sometimes less, but with significantly less drama and a more casual outlook. I’m as likely to post a crazy Youtube as a long meandering design theory think piece. Probably more likely.

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

For me, it’s both, really. It’d be silly to call it a career since it doesn’t actually pay anything, but it is something of a vocation. It’s humbling realizing that thousands of people actually will read random words you slap into a web form and comment about it. And the conversations from that do feed back into my day job.

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

Nope. That would imply organization! Thanks to the miracle of RSS readers (which based on my stats about half of my readers use regularly in lieu of the website) I don’t feel that guilty about letting the website go a week without updates. I’m not trying to build my reputation up in the blogging community (if anything I’m trying to lower it so I can post more silly Youtube videos) so I don’t really care if I build up a loyal readership any more. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate it – I just don’t stress about it any more.

Would you have an advice for someone interested in trying their hand at blogging?

Just do it. Go to a free site like blogger.com or wordpress.com, get a site account, and start writing. The hardest part is having something to write about – everything else is just decoration.

massively multiplayer games for dummiesOnce upon a time you wrote a book entitled Massively Multiplayer Games for Dummies. Could you take a minute and talk a little about the book and what the process was like in getting it published?

Sure. I was approached in 2005 by Wiley (the publishes of the “..for Dummies” series) because the original author they had planned to write the book, Richard Bartle, didn’t have time to do it. Ordinarily I would have taken umbrage at being number two, but given who they originally went with I don’t feel that badly about it. I was paired with a couple of editors (one from Wiley and Nova Barlow from Themis Group, who was the designated actually-knows-something-about-MMOs fact checker) and for 6 months spent every weekend cranking out chapters.

What kind of research went into writing it?

As far as research, well, there really wasn’t so much “research” as “put down a description of what we do every weekend in writing”. I drafted several members of my DAoC guild for screenshots of things like tanking, healing, and dying, which caused some people to note that there was an awful lot of DAoC screenshots in the book. My wife especially was a huge help with a lot of the book, and the section on crafting is from her experiences as a master tradeswoman in several MMORPGs.

Are you pleased with the way it turned out?

I’m pleased with how it turned out. Originally it was to include a trial DVD for World of Warcraft, which I think would have helped sales just from having that, but Blizzard didn’t have it ready in time for the book to go to press. In any event it didn’t sell that well (it is kind of far afield from what the “for Dummies” series usually covers, and I doubt there’s any plans for doing a revised edition. I wouldn’t have time to work on it even if there were, so there’s that. But still, it was an invaluable experience for me personally, plus I can tell people I’m a published author now and them smile smugly. That’s pretty important.

And one final question, if you had a chance to do all of this over again, would you do anything different?

With hindsight, I would do many, many things differently. But overall I absolutely can’t complain about where everything ended up – I have made dozens if not hundreds of friends from my Internet scribblings, and currently work in MMO game design which is about as much of a dream job as you can conceive. So, no, I wouldn’t change anything because as science fiction teaches us, one random change and all of a sudden we all die and the world is ruled by intelligent dinosaurs. Personally, I don’t want that guilt on my hands, thanks.

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One shot: Mike Schramm

Posted by Randolph Carter on August 10, 2009

MMO community connection:

mikeschramm.com | WoW.com | WoW Insider Show

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

That’s a long list. I first started writing online with a review site that I put together with a few of my friends, where we’d review anything and everything, from games to movies to food. After a while, my friends stopped doing it, but I was still interested in it, so I switched over to my own site, mikeschramm.com. But I used clips from there to get a job at a newspaper here in Chicago, and then used that reputation to work at a PR firm, and then expanded that into my current freelance status. Right now, I blog and write for whoever will take me, but the majority of my work comes from a few blogs with AOL, including WoW.com, Joystiq, and TUAW. And I still blog for myself about just random things at mikeschramm.com, as well as working on a podcast over there called The Modern World, about technology, modern society, and whatever else I find interesting.

It appears you’re no stranger to podcasting either. Would you care to discuss all the the projects you’ve been involved in here as well?

Right. Well The Modern World is a pretty new invention, just something to keep me busy with all of the interesting stuff I hear about from elsewhere on the Internet. A friend of mine named Luke Lindberg and I used to do a podcast called Happy Time, which more or less just ended up being something for our friends to listen to — we did 25 episodes of it, and then found we didn’t really have the time in common to do it regularly any more. More recently I’ve been involved in podcasting on most of the blogs I’ve worked for, so I developed and co-host the WoW.com podcast (called The WoW Insider Show), and I will often show up and sometimes host on the TUAW podcast (called the TUAW Talkcast, as they run the podcast through talkshoe.com). Other than that, I enjoy showing up as a guest on other shows, and have recently worked with a radio station here in Chicago to provide them with some videogame-related interviews.

And so, where do you find the time to do all of this and I assume live a life along with it?

Good question. I don’t know where I find the time — for better or worse, I’m the kind of person that isn’t ever satisfied with just sitting there. If I find myself with regular free time, I usually plan something else or try to take on another project that I’ve been meaning to do. In the long run, it’s probably a bad idea — I often find myself committed to what’s probably more than I can handle, and there are many days when I work late nights and have to get up the next morning to do something else. But on the other hand, I’m most happy when I’m busy. And I do really try to balance things out, scheduling in some actual game playing (rather than just writing or podcasting about games), or getting out of the house to exercise or go out with friends.

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

My first MMO was actually Dark Age of Camelot. It was a strange experience — I was instantly hooked, both overwhelmed with how big the game world was (and how many different things you could do with one character), and astounded by the fact that just walking around in the game could lead you to see and interact with other people playing right alongside you. It was a little awkward, both because the game had major issues (this was back when, after each fight, you had to sit and wait for your health and mana to regen, remember), and because the people I played with were almost just as confused about what they were doing as I was. But I got the idea of it, the idea of interacting in a game world with all these other people, and I was sold on that right away.

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

The first real “wow!” moment was probably in one of Dark Age’s battlegrounds (at least I think that’s what they were called, I can’t remember all that terminology any more). There was a center keep that you had to claim, and I was in there with a random group of people and suddenly just took charge of the group — I started assigning people to targets and telling people when to push forward and when to stick together and heal up. And people actually listened to me, and within a matter of minutes, we had actually conquered the battleground, all because we’d worked together as a team and stuck to a strategy. That was pretty amazing to me — after the battle was done, I had to stand up and go out into my apartment’s kitchen just to tell my roommate what happened. He didn’t exactly understand (“There’s this castle, see? And we worked together to take it over!”), but it was pretty thrilling for me, having worked together and accomplished something as a team.

Of course, nowadays, almost every game has some form of online co-op, and you can play with people all over the world, doing almost anything you want. But before DAoC, it had basically been Counterstrike and Quake for me — team deathmatch was the most complicated that team gameplay had gotten. Joining up with a bunch of people and using all of these spells and skills to conquer a castle was a big deal.

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

I get distracted pretty easily, so I tend to visit MMOs in cycles. If I’m not really into them for whatever reason, I probably only play about four or five hours a week, usually just a few daily quests, an auction house check, or an instance run grabbed on the weekend. But every couple of months, I hit on something that really interests me (either a new content patch, or a big milestone for one of my characters), and then I really get back into it and play obsessively. At that point, I’m maybe playing about twenty hours a week, maybe a few hours a night and then lots of hours on the weekends. But it’s very cyclical — even when I’m really into it, and grinding out the levels or getting all of the pieces together for something that I really want to craft, there’s no guarantee that a week or two later, I won’t have found something else to play and obsess about, and at that point the MMO goes on the back burner in terms of playtime.

Have you ever experienced burnout in WoW? If so, how have you dealt with that?

I don’t know that I’ve experienced “burnout” — I’ve never played so much that I don’t want to play any more. Usually, it’s a factor of time (work picks up and I don’t have any time to play) or getting distracted into something else (a new console game or a new project that I’m really into). I think WoW in particular (and the MMO genre in general) is so big, though, that it’s really tough to get burned out on it. Even if you’re burned out on raiding, then PvP can be a nice change from that, and if you’re burned out playing one class, there are many more to try out and level up, and if you’re burned out on fighting, then cooking or fishing or any of the professions might interest you. And by the time you’ve done all of that and conquered everything in the game, then odds are that a new patch has come out and added in more content, or changed a bunch of the things you thought you knew. It’s tough to burn out on a game that’s so complex — behind every corner, there’s another mechanic to get invested in and max out.

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

Yes, all of the above. I’m always interested in new games — I have an Xbox and a Wii, and I’m usually playing one or two of the latest games on each. Lately, it’s mostly MMOs on the PC for me, though I’ve really enjoyed Demigod lately, and Civ always has a place on my harddrive. And yes, I like tabletop gaming as well — my D&D group has fallen off lately, but I have a few boardgaming friends who are always aiming to try out new things they’ve found on Boardgamegeek, or just play a good old Settlers game.

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

At this point, blogging is really my job, though I’ve always maintained that I’m a writer rather than a blogger. I’m not into the whole blogger/journalist comparison at all — I believe that each site, each outlet has its own voice and audience, and that when you sit down to write words for a specific audience, you’re talking to them, not succumbing to some role that’s been traditionally laid out for you. People argue whether bloggers are formal or informal, or whether there’s some objectivity they don’t have to follow that journalists do. But I don’t think that’s a valid or worthwhile comparison — when you’re talking to an audience, they expect certain things of you (formality, objectivity, the ability to be clear and concise, and so on), and it’s your job to meet those expectations.

Not to mention that “blogging” comes from the original term “weblog,” which was actually just a list of links to interesting sites on the Internet, with little or no commentary at all. So yes, I’d say blogging is more than a hobby, but really it’s all just writing. Other than the medium, I don’t think there’s any major difference between what writers are doing right now or at any other time in human history — you consider your audience, and you try to say things that are interesting and applicable and true and important to them. If you can pull that off, you’re doing it right.

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

I get up, I find things to write about, I eat breakfast, and then I write about most of them. I take a break for lunch (and go work out if I have the time), and then I come back for more writing. On good, easy days, I am done by dinner, and can find some other useful way to enjoy my evening (usually doing my own personal writing and/or extra podcasting), and on busy days, I spend even more time writing after dinner. That’s really general — it seems more varied and interesting than that as I’m doing it.

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

Well there’s really a grind to everything we do: I always say that even the guy whose job it is to test rollercoasters gets up in the morning and says, “Aww man, I can’t believe I have to ride the Batman ride again.” No matter how enjoyable your job is, it’s still work. But my job is really enjoyable, and that makes all of the little job things that everyone deals with that much easier to handle.

Plus, if things just aren’t working for the day, that’s when it’s time to go for a walk or get some exercise. Getting away and coming back to things later usually helps.

By contrast, what do you find pleasurable about blogging and podcasting?

Well obviously that I get to tell people what I think. There’s never any guarantee they’ll listen or care, but as you can probably tell from how long this interview has become already, I get a lot of pleasure out of just speaking my mind. That, and more often than not, people send along good feedback. Not necessarily positive feedback, but even the well-constructed criticism is kind of fun to get — it means people are at least consuming and digesting what you’re putting out there.

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

We’ve had quite a few meetups with the various sites now, and every one of them has been a real pleasure. I probably freak out readers who come, because I’m almost more interested than they are in what they have to say — I always actively ask them how they use the sites, what they think of what we’re doing, and if there are things we could do better. I’m always amazed, too, by the different types of people who read our work. And the quality of who they are — you might not be able to tell from our comments section all of the time, but in my experience, our readers are the cream of the crop in terms of how extraordinarily nice and intelligent they are. They come from all different jobs and backgrounds, but everyone I’ve met, to a person, always seems to know very well what they’re doing and who they are.

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

This will be a “yes, but” answer: Yes. But then again, we’re not really writing for the blogosphere, we’re writing for the people who are reading the blogosphere. Some might say that’s the same crowd, but I don’t think it necessarily is. A well-known blogger who’s very vocal about one part of our sites will not necessarily agree with the majority of our audience, and in fact that’s usually what makes them a well-known blogger, in that they have their own long-held opinions and are good at putting them into words. In general, especially with WoW.com and the WoW community, I’m very pleased with how we’ve worked with those bloggers and how we, as one of the largest sites out there, have been able to go above and beyond even what Blizzard has done in terms of connecting — in that community, we’re almost taking the place of an official blog in terms of spotlighting content and reporting on what’s happening around the blogosphere. So yes, I am pleased with how the blogosphere has received my work, but then again, I wrote it for the audience, not necessarily for them. And obviously, they’re a part of it, but they’re definitely not the whole thing or even the majority.

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

I can’t think of anything I’d do differently. That’s not to say that I haven’t made mistakes, I’ve made plenty, but all of the mistakes I’ve made have been pretty helpful. Making a big mistake is like having a big alarm go off in your head, and it alerts you to something you really shouldn’t have done. Sure, if I’d done things differently, I might be able to silence that alarm, but then who knows if whatever it was warning me about would have gone unchecked?

Actually, thinking about it, I never did go to my high school prom. I probably should have done that — I think it would have been embarrassing (the same reason I didn’t bother to go in the first place), but I probably should have done it anyway.

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

Don’t worry about getting an audience — the first thing I learned when I got on the radio was that no matter how much I bugged them and emailed them and reminded them, my friends and family really didn’t tune in to listen to me. Some of them did, but I learned right away that you can’t count on an audience, no matter how close they are to you. You just have to do good work, and do it for a long time, and then an audience will eventually come. Worrying about your hits or about whether an audience is watching or not will only drive you nuts. It takes a long time on even the best projects to build up a significant audience, so you just have to trust in the work you’re doing, keep it consistent and strong, and eventually all of the other things will take care of themselves.

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

One of my goals is to start writing books, so if by some weird stroke of the infinite, I’m blessed enough to become a published author and get a publishing deal where I no longer have to work on daily content, then I might back off of the daily posting and go back to three or four days a week. But no, I’m a writer, and writers write, and that’s what I expect to do for a long time. I love to podcast, too, so I’m as likely to quit that (even if I ever quit getting paid for it) as I am eating.

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.

Oh man. This I have to think about.

*After about a day of thinking.* Try this on for size: the biggest draw, to my mind, of an MMO is just the sheer amount of things to do in it. So I’d try to put together an MMO like Spore (but, you know, good, of course), in that each stage of the game has its own fully-formed game system. When you start out, you’re just a soldier — you can tour the countryside fighting monsters or other enemies, and claiming ground for your “nation.” Or you can be a farmer, taking ownership of some of that claimed ground, and producing crops and resources from it, in a sort of a Harvest Moon-style system. Once you’ve made enough money farming, you can become a merchant, buying and trading and traveling, moving virtual goods around the kingdom (very EVE Online, lots of spreadsheets, etc.). And merchants can use that money to sponsor bureaucrats, who get a big picture view in a kind of Civ-style game of what lands soldiers have recently conquered, what kinds of farms and mines and buildings should go where in the kingdom, and where more forces are needed to fight other player kingdoms. Bureaucrats build farms on land recently claimed by soldiers, which farmers can then move into and cultivate, making money for merchants who can then sponsor more powers for bureaucrats and keep the nation growing.

Of course, some automation will be needed (you can, for example, install an NPC farmer in an unused farm), but there will always be a cost associated with that, because the ideal will always be to have a player (or a player character) running and managing a resource. And of course, everything has to be interesting and polished — maybe the whole world can be wrapped in a kind of a magical fantasy/industrial age setting (I believe there are some online games that do this kind of thing already, but we’d be talking full graphical treatment here, not a browser-based stats game). It’d be extremely tough to balance and keep every part of the game interesting, but you said unlimited funds and resources.

Anyway, you asked. I probably won’t ever get to play that game (until Sid Meier releases an MMO), but maybe I can dream.

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One shot: Melmoth

Posted by Randolph Carter on August 7, 2009

MMO community connection:

Killed in a smiling accident

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

Killed in a Smiling Accident is a blog that myself and m’colleague Zoso decided to create because our own personal blogs were very MMO-centric and we weren’t sure we were going to be invested in MMOs for very much longer, but we were fairly sure we wanted to continue blogging. I’m also a terrible blogger with regards to frequency of updates and I feel the pressure of not providing content for the readers, so it’s very reassuring to have a reliable writer there to keep people coming back. I’d say my blogging style was akin to PvP: a huge burst of front-loaded effort, then nothing for ages because I’m all out of energy. The accusation that my posts are often deliberately verbose and lengthy in order to stun-lock the audience into not going anywhere are unfounded, however.

As you may gather from the title of the blog, we set out with a philosophy that we would try to inject humour into whatever we write, where possible, because there are plenty of serious pundits out there already. We favour the slightly surreal and peculiarly British styles of Fry and Laurie, Eddie Izzard and Monty Python, however, which is not to everyone’s taste but suits us just fine.

Kiasacast is the pair of us generally being very silly and also discussing various topics mainly to do with gaming, a large part of which is dedicated to MMOs.

What was your first MMO and what was that experience like?

My first MMO was Dark Age of Camelot. I’d been eyeing-up Everquest for some time but wasn’t sure I wanted to make a financial commitment to these relatively new-fangled MMO things. When I saw the blurb for Dark Age of Camelot and saw the variety of races and classes on offer, I caved-in and subscribed. As to the experience? Looking back I probably didn’t get half of what I should have from the game. I certainly discovered my alt-a-holism pretty much straight away as I bounced around from class to class, race to race and faction to faction; I think my problem was that I wanted to experience everything at once, I suppose I was akin to the proverbial child in a sweetshop. I still have very fond feelings for that game, it treated me well, gave me some wonderful adventures and definitely fuelled my enthusiasm for MMOs.

For me the experience of my first MMO is very much like the experience of my first girlfriend; except that it wasn’t called Lisa, and it never confused the hell out of me by trying to touch tongues together while kissing when we were only seven years old.

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

Yes, that was in City of Heroes. If I can cheat a little, there were actually two ‘wow!’ moments in pretty quick succession. The first was the character creator, I was frankly astonished by the flexibility and scope for creating your hero. The second was a slightly strange thing: being able to jump above average height from the ground. I’m not talking about the Super Jump travel power here (that was more ‘giggle like a school kid in a whoopee cushion factory’ than ‘wow!’), I’m talking about the basic jump any character can perform as soon as you enter the game. I was so used to MMOs where jumping was either not allowed or was very restricted, yet here I was able to leap huge fences in a single bound, land in the middle of a bunch of street thugs and start pummelling them. It felt so comic-booky. I think that with City of Heroes Cryptic perfectly realised the idea of what it is to be heroic; I think I’ve spent more time grinning from ear-to-ear in that game than any other MMO.

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

Let’s see, at my very peak possibly five hours a night each week night, and then ten hours over the weekend. I think in mathematical terms that is generally referred to as ‘a fair bit’. These days it’s slightly more modest, probably a couple of hours each week night and maybe five hours over the weekend, if I’m really into a game.

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

I used to play pen and paper RPGs a great deal but have lost contact with my regular groups of yore. I play console games when I can, especially most Tuesdays when I get together with some fellow bloggers and online ne’er-do-wells to have fun in various co-operative games. I tend to buy PC and console games with every intention of playing them, and then go back to an MMO shortly afterwards. I blame the Internet, credit cards, and the fact that I didn’t take the Impulse Purchase Immunity feat at third level.

When did you first start blogging? How about podcasting? Please take us up to present with all of your projects.

My first blog post was in January 2007, on my old blog Melmoth’s Inferno. My first post on Kiasa was in March 2008. So if you link the two I’ve been blogging pretty consistently for about two and a half years. The first podcast was January 2009. So far those are my only projects, I’m always looking to expand my horizons but in all honesty I have enough trouble keeping up with just those two.

Did you find it difficult to go from blogging into podcasting?

Only in the fact that I’m quite a nervous person in real life, and it’s much easier to hide such traits behind text than audio. I’ve certainly enjoyed learning about how to put a podcast together, however, and we’re getting more adventurous with what we do with each successive show.

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

I understand that conventional wisdom states that a regular posting schedule is the only way to blog, otherwise you’re a terrible person akin to someone who waves a bag of sweets in front of small children and then eats them all yourself, but I’ve never been particularly fond of conventional wisdom, sitting there in the corner of the room, puffing on a pipe and looking all smug in its velvet smoking jacket. I couldn’t stick to a schedule even if I wanted to, however, because life is always getting under foot, tripping me up and making me spill my plans all over the kitchen floor such that they’re ruined, and the only thing to do is mop them up and throw them in the bin.

I do very much believe that I have a muse; when I write some of my posts I have no idea where they came from and so I attribute them to her, but she is very temperamental. In fact, I’m pretty sure that when they were giving out careers advice they got her mixed up with someone else, and in fact she should have been one of those gremlins that stops your TV remote control from working for no apparent reason, until you get off the sofa and walk up to the TV, at which point it starts working again even back where you were originally trying to use it, without you having touched a thing.

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

I used to find it a bit of a grind when I was trying to post on a regular basis, because if inspiration hadn’t struck by the time I was due to post I felt I had to churn something out, and that made the whole thing unpleasant. Believe it or not, but I’m not one to talk for the sake of talking. If I don’t have something to say that I feel passionately about, or that I think is funny, then I really don’t enjoy the writing process. On the other hand, when I find something that inspires me I’m like Isaac Mendez from the TV show Heroes. Dead. No, hang on, before the dead bit – I just zone out for an hour or two, and when I come back to reality there’s a post ready and waiting for me that just needs checking for spelling, grammar and untoward predictions of the future.

By contrast, what do you find pleasurable about blogging and/or podcasting?

Hmm, that’s a tricky one. I’m not sure whether it’s the money or the incredibly attractive members of both sexes throwing their underwear at me. Ah wait, you see what I’ve done there is to confuse blogging with being a member of Take That. There are lots of pleasures to be had from blogging, it’s always a delight when someone leaves a comment saying that they enjoyed a post, and yet there’s also pleasure when someone rails against what you wrote, because then you know that you’ve touched a nerve, and written something that made people think, and that perhaps you stirred a little passion in them. Not the underwear throwing passion though, more’s the pity. Also I’ve met some genuinely fantastic people through blogging, and there are many others who I would like to meet one day.

At the end of the day, blogging is like being part of a huge family: new members arrive, others leave, there’s a strong bond between members and also the occasional bust-up, but generally it’s a good family. Of course there’re always a few strange cousins who live out in the countryside and are perhaps slightly too friendly with each other and their livestock but we try to ignore them as best we can.

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

No one particular thing comes to mind, just lots of little moments. Those comments and posts where people have had kind things to say about my efforts are always a high point, of course.

Are you pleased with where your blog is in the blogosphere?

I’m slightly disappointed if I’m honest, because according to the schedule that we set out when we started the blog we should be ‘kings of the world’ by now, but perhaps that was slightly ambitious. Next year, maybe.

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

I’d start blogging earlier in my life. Certainly with respect to MMOs I feel that I missed the golden age of blogging. Other than that, I’m pretty happy with the way things are. Apart from not being king of the world, of course.

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

What’s the worst that could happen?

Well ok, you could be so intensely in to your blogging that you forget you left a pan of chip oil on the stove, which subsequently catches fire and burns down your apartment building, killing fifty seven people including five children. At your trial you find out that because the fire department was busy putting out your blazing building and its neighbours, they couldn’t spare the resources to put out the fire at the local puppy, kitten and baby dolphin sanctuary. Due to the death of these cute creatures, animal rights protestors call for the death penalty to be applied to your sentence. The government cracks down heavily on the civil unrest, but the general populace, fraught and angry from the current pressures of the global economic climate, rise up and eventually attempt a coup. With the country weakened due to the government utilising all available military personnel to instate martial law, the enemies of the state take the opportunity to exploit the situation and launch thermonuclear strikes against the nation’s major cities. Scared that the fall of the country would inevitably lead to an attack on they themselves, various allied nations retaliate with nuclear strikes of their own, beginning the Third Great War and the shepherding in the apocalypse of mankind.

But really, that’s probably the worst that could happen, so I shouldn’t worry too much, just give it a try.

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

Possibly the one where I cause the end of mankind due to letting a chip pan catch fire whilst I was busy blogging.

I’m certain there will come a time where I won’t be blogging any more, for any number of reasons. The one I’m most excited about is where I won’t need to blog anymore because technology will have advanced to such a state that there will be much more interesting ways to communicate with the global hive mind. Dream blogging perhaps, or Drogging as we’ll know it, which I’m now off to patent and trademark.

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.

I imagine I would make a really cheap 2.5D grindfest with graphics ripped-off from various other games, all the meanwhile siphoning off the majority of the company’s cash reserves into offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands.

Well, it serves them right for putting someone like me in charge of a company with unlimited funds.

Posted in Blogger | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

One shot: Zoso

Posted by Randolph Carter on August 6, 2009

MMO community connection:

Killed in a smiling accident

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

At the risk of going a bit Bernard Shaw, to quote myself: “… at KiaSA we cover the whole gamut of human experience. MMORPGs, MMOFPSs, other MMOGs, online (but not massively multiplayer) games, offline games, generally offline games with an online component, generally online games but with an offline mode, you name it, every facet of life on the planet. Books (game novelisations, or books about gaming), television programmes (that ideally feature games), films (so long as someone plays a game at some point), music (in games), comedy (why did the chicken cross the road? Because it was a tier 3 player in a tier 1 zone and wanted to get to the other side, *badum tish*), I could go on. Though don’t ask me to.”

Basically whatever we fancy posting about, which usually seems to involve games somewhere along the line.

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

It was City of Heroes fairly soon after launch in 2004; I’d been vaguely aware of MMOGs before that, but hadn’t had a broadband connection. I’m not really sure why it was City of Heroes, it hadn’t even been properly released in the UK. I remember it was mentioned in a Slashdot comment, I Googled around a bit, found that you could purchase an account online and download the client, and that was it.

It was quite a disorienting experience; the introductory tutorial covered movement, combat and the like, which was simple enough, but on being turned out into the brave new world of the game proper it was apparent there was plenty it hadn’t included, like multiple chat channels and the difference between Local/Broadcast/Tells, strange concepts such as “aggro” and “tanking”, and a new vocabulary (I’d never seen “grats” before, and conversations didn’t make much sense until I figured out it was a contraction of “congratulations” rather than some variant of “gratitude”).

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

Probably coming out of that tutorial and pitching up in Atlas Park, the starter zone, when it twigged that all these other characters running around were controlled by actual humans.

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

Yup, definitely. I periodically burn out on game genres, MMOGs being no exception. I’m on something of an MMO break at the moment, keeping busy with Empire: Total War, Grand Theft Auto IV and various incarnations of Guitar Hero.

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

I suppose technically I started blogging on LiveJournal around 2002; I kept in touch with someone on there who went to “friends only” mode after some slightly creepy cyberstalking, and sorted out a sign-up to keep up with their posts. Seeing as I had the account I figured I might as well write a diary/journal/blog but ran out of steam pretty quickly, it never really occurred to me to post about games.

It was late 2006 that I started MMOG blogging, I was searching for information on jewel crafting in the then-in-beta Burning Crusade and Google threw up a post on Tobold’s blog; like I said, it had never occurred to me that you could blog all about games, so that was a bit of a road-to-Damascus moment. I followed Tobold and some other MMO bloggers for a while, made the odd comment here and there, and one day I was on paragraph seven of a particularly lengthy reply to another comment when I figured there was enough in there for a blog post of its own, so I signed up at Blogspot and started “MMOG Musings”, where I mused, about MMOGs.

That lasted until 2008 when I was going through one of my MMOG burnout phases and realised that “MMOG Musings” was a bit of a restrictive title; I was thinking of retitling the blog, or setting up a non-gaming blog in parallel, and talking things over with Melmoth who’d also been on a bit of a break from his Inferno blog. He suggested a joint, non-subject-specific blog, a bit of brainstorming came up with “Killed in a Smiling Accident” as a title from a Fry & Laurie sketch and we’ve never looked back since, which has made reversing into traffic somewhat hazardous.

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

Realistically, just a hobby. In odd moments of daydream I like to imagine the BBC on the phone wanting to turn the KiaSACast into a Radio 4 comedy series while a Hollywood mogul proffers a massive briefcase stuffed with cash for the film rights, but I’m usually to busy to talk to them what with playing drums at the next Led Zeppelin live show (thanks to those vital skills learned in Guitar Hero World Tour) and entertaining Angelina Jolie and Olivia Wilde who’d just turned up with 30 litres of custard, a feather duster and… *ahem*, sorry, got slightly distracted there.

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

Not really, just to blog when inspiration strikes, and real life allows.

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

If you’re blogging as a hobby and it feels like a grind then I believe the expression in the vernacular to be “ur doing it wrong”. There’s no sense in chuntering out posts just for the sake of it; being a multi-author blog is particularly helpful for when inspiration seems to naff off on holiday to Bognor Regis as the other guy usually steps in (unless our collective inspiration hired a mini-bus for the holiday).

By contrast, what do you find pleasurable about blogging?

A lot of it is just writing, I enjoyed writing from back at school, but you don’t need to do so much of when working in software (user instructions don’t count), so blogging fills a gap there. Course, if it was just the writing there’d be no need to publish any of it on the web, so I guess there’s an element of wanting validation or approval, I reckon most (all?) bloggers get a nice warm feeling when someone leaves a nice comment or links to your posts (so long as the link isn’t “Look what this moron vomited onto a blog!”)

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

There isn’t really anything that sticks out from the blogging itself, there’s quite a few posts I’m fairly pleased with, but not a single, defining moment. Broadening it slightly to “stuff tangentially connected with blogging”, probably meeting up with Van Hemlock and Jon from the Van Hemlock Podcast, and realising they actually lived close enough to make regular pub visits practical.

Did you find it difficult to go from blogging into podcasting?

Not in the slightest, easiest thing in the world, I just fired up Skype and burbled away for a while. This might have something to do with Melmoth putting in all the hard work of reading the guides, setting up the recording software, recording the burblings, spending much time editing them into something listenable, setting up a libsyn account to distribute it, designing the logo and getting it onto iTunes.

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

Absolutely, the lovely people who take the time to link or drop by and comment, both bloggers and non-bloggers, generally seem to enjoy it, though of course we DELETE DISSENTING OPINION AND BAN THEIR IP ADDRESS which helps. (Course not, just kidding; we actually block-ban the whole IP range. Whole countries sometime. Nobody from Albania is allowed to comment any more after someone pointed out a split infinitive in an early post.)

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

I really can’t think of anything I’d change, which I suspect is either a sign of stupendous genius in making exactly the right decisions at every step, or rather more likely that the whole business is pretty inconsequential and it wouldn’t really matter.

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

Go for it! What’s the worst that can happen? (Bearing in mind any laws relating to defamation or libel, natch.) It’s all of five minutes to set up a site in Blogger or WordPress or similar; if it works out, great, if not, never mind.

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

Certainly; there’s the future where I’m scavenging for food in the wasteland while avoiding hunter-killer robots, for example, I don’t think I’d have much time for blogging in that one.

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.

Hrm. Solutions aren’t really my forte, I’m more of a problems guy (“don’t give me solutions, give me problems!”), so I’ll steal Melmoth’s idea of a Battletech MMO: the cockpit controls from the old Mechwarrior games with big chunks of EVE (the skill system, wide range of ship/vehicles with different roles and being able to tinker with their configuration, a “safe” area that’s generally PvE-centric, PvP-centric “contested” areas with territory that can be claimed by player organisations), and the customisation of APB for your pilot and vehicle. With unlimited funds, though, I might get slightly distracted as the first round of developer hiring would bring in Angelina Jolie, Olivia Wilde, 30 litres of custard and a feather duster…

Posted in Blogger, Podcaster | 4 Comments »

One shot: Julian

Posted by Randolph Carter on August 4, 2009

MMO community connection:

Kill Ten Rats

Please take a minute and describe what Kill Ten Rats is about and how you came to be involved with the project.

KTR is a gaming blog where seven guys and one lovely lady basically pool together to comment on what’s going on with their gaming lives. But it’s very loose; sometimes it’s not even about gaming. Sometimes it could be tangentially related, or not related at all. But those posts are few – we got together because of gaming, and that’s what it’s largely about. One day it could be comments on some patch notes, the next day musings on design, the next day a post about gold farming and so on. It’s a pretty eclectic mix of very eclectic people. We’re spread all over the place, we have different interests, different tastes in games (heck, in most cases we don’t even play the games together) but we do share a love for gaming in general and MMO gaming in particular.

I came aboard because Ethic invited me over. I had my own personal gaming blog at the time, where I mused a lot, but I wasn’t really feeling it much. I was a KTR reader, I enjoyed reading it, so I jumped at the chance to collaborate and it’s been great so far.

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

I started vicariously. I had a small close group of gaming friends and we got together for LAN parties and such. I was very close with two of them, and they were the ones who started playing them. I didn’t have much interest in the genre at the time (I was more of a FPS/Strategy guy back then, this is late 90’s, early 00’s).

I remember the first MMO I experienced vicariously sitting next to one of my friends like this was Everquest. The first thing I thought was why couldn’t the graphics be better. I know, not a very glamorous first experience, but it’s an honest answer. I liked the genre, and I learned a lot about it, but my first hands-on experience came years later. It just wasn’t something that grabbed me at the time.

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

Not only I remember it, I can give you the exact date even. December 21st., 2004. I was a games reviewer for Ars Technica and I was given World of Warcraft to review. I got very much hooked on it while I was reviewing it. But my first “wow!” moment came there.

I had rolled a Night Elf and had spent a few hours in the starter area of Teldrassil, doing all the quests, seeing the sights, taking notes for the review. Business as usual. Then it got to the point where you’re sent out of Teldrassil to Darkshore, via hyppogryph, and I remember pulling the map up just to see where this Darkshore was and I realize all that I had done so far, all the time spent in Teldrassil, all the nooks and crannies explored, all the quests completed… were just a very small fraction of the whole game world. Not only was I being sent to a new area which was bigger than Teldrassil, but also the realization that this area was in turn just a small part of the huge continent of Kalimdor. And Kalimdor itself was just a continent, the Eastern Kindgoms awaited on the other side of the ocean.

That realization right there, of all that there is yet to do, yet to see and yet to experience, hit me like a ton of bricks and sold me on the game right there. Not as a reviewer, but as a player – I remained playing it after I was done with the review. Since then I’m a sucker for expansive worlds with lots of content and -variety- in that content.

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

At my peak? An insane amount. I was quite the hardcore gamer during my teens and before I got married. I’d say during that time it’d have been between 60-70 hours a week. Sometimes more and sometimes less, but not much.

Now it’s less. I’d say now I’m ranging 40-50 a week, which is still quite a bunch of time, but I have other obligations and other things to attend to.

This is actual factual playtime figures. Time spent doing things -related- to gaming, well that’s most of my free time. Blogging, reading blogs, going over design documents, writing material, consulting websites, etc.

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

On the console side, yes, we have a 360 at home for the family. The only game I usually play is Rock Band 2, but I played a lot of Fable 2 and Street Fighter IV.

On the PC side, yep. I built a nice collection of good games over the years which I try to revisit every now and then if the gods of Vista and DirectX smile on those old titles.

Tabletop, no. Not anymore. I used to have a lot of tabletop and board games when I was a kid though.

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

I don’t really remember but it must have been around 2005-2006 with my original gaming blog (which should still be up there) and my personal blog (which I never update and has now been replaced by Facebook).

The “other” main project I have going right now is working on creating and establishing a video game developing studio here in town. It’s tough and uphill, but there’s nothing else I’d truly like to do.

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

I don’t think I devote blogging nearly enough time for it to be a hobby. I enjoy it, but I wouldn’t call it a hobby. I’m not that passionate about blogging in itself. I do enjoy the interaction with readers, commenters and other fellow bloggers. I think it’s a great vehicle for that. But that’s about it for me – a means of two-way communication, not a hobby and certainly not the holy grail of anything to be honest.

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

Not at all. I have the gift/curse of being able to put down on “paper” whatever is on my mind in a readable, passable form, so it’s pretty much get an idea of something that would be nice to post, go ahead and put it up. No revisions. I know some (most?) of my fellow rat killers are much more organized in terms of routine and such, but I’m pretty much the “spur of the moment” guy when it comes to blogging.

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

I don’t think so, personally, and if there is I’ve never experienced it. I know there is a lot of grind involved in -writing-, but like I said I’m not nearly organized enough, nor do I have a strong routine about blogging for any “blogging grind” to affect me.

Sure there are times where you just don’t know what to post, so you don’t post. But that’s a problem of writer’s block, not so much with the process of blogging.

By contrast, what do you find pleasurable about blogging?

I like the direct connection to people, and the ease with which you can get a discussion going with many participants. I also like that it’s a very streamlined process. As in, log in, write what you want, click “Publish”, done. No hoops to jump through. I dislike complicated and convoluted procedures, so this streamlining is a godsend to people like me who would much rater focus on the writing than how to put what you wrote actually up.

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

I don’t know if I’d call it memorable, but it’s always very nice to me when we can get a good discussion going at KTR or elsewhere in another blog. Seeing “0 comments”, in my posts or someone else’s, makes me sad. I’m a discussion forum veteran, so I’m very used to posts and discussions going for tens of pages.

Don’t think I could point to a memorable moment in particular. I’d say all meaningful discussions, those discussions from which people could extract something of value, are memorable.

Have you ever considered branching into podcasting?

No, because one, I don’t have a mic to record anything. Two, I have a kinda thick accent when I speak English (not my first language). And three, with the kids in the house running around, people would hear them more than they’d hear me.

I would consider it more seriously if we got a bunch of good guys/girls with nice things to say and they’d offer me to join up to collaborate. But me? Alone? Talking about games and stuff? No. My wife gets enough of that. No need to subject the Internet to it.

Are you pleased with how your contribution to Kill Ten Rats has been received in the blogosphere?

To be perfectly honest I have NFC how my contribution to KTR has been received in the blogosphere. :) To me, any comments that are not “What you wrote is a crock of **** ” mean that my contribution was well received.

So I guess it’s been more or less well received, overall. Every a broken clock gives the right time twice a day.

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

You better believe it. Lots of things.

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

Nothing but to just go ahead and do it, because it’s fun, enjoyable and there’s not a thing to lose. If there’s something the Internet has proven is that anyone can have an audience, not matter how simple or inane you think what you have to say is, or how niche the interests you want to talk about might be. There’s always an audience.

The second advice would be not to expect that said audience will be big, or that you’ll somehow, remotely be in contact with any sort of money because of blogging. Don’t count on it.

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

Yes, definitely.

No, wait…

Hell yes, definitely.

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.

If I told you it would totally spoil the surprise when we actually go ahead and do it. So, pass on this one. No spoilers.

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Suzina

Posted by Randolph Carter on August 2, 2009

MMO community connection:

Kill Ten Rats

Chapter 1: Introduction

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

Suzina is the name I carry for most of my games. It’s really just a “star-wars” version of Susan, but I ended up taking it into fantasy-based MMOs too.

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

Right now, I’m blogging for KillTenRats.com

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

KillTenRats was started in 2004 as a blog where Ethic vented about MMOs. It’s now a place where multiple bloggers share their feelings about MMOs.

Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

I’m from Orange County, California.

Where do you live now?

I’m in Orange County to this day.

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

21-30

What do you do for a living?

I am currently unemployed. (student)

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

Uhh, maybe computer programmer?

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

  • I have lived for a brief time in Thailand and Colorado.
  • I have a Bachelors degree in Psychology.
  • I’m married
  • My longest lasting job was as a phone operator.
  • I once had ran a show on campus focused on psychology.

Feel free to discuss any family you have here.

Two older brothers, one little sister, and a husband.

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 RPGs, pen-and-paper with my older brother. I also really enjoyed fighting-games once Street Fighter 2 came out and Mortal Kombat. In High School, I played a wide variety of console games and read EGM.

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

I hated sports and music as a kid…

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

Yes, I very much enjoyed pen-and-paper RPGs. I loved the stories that were made, and I loved my characters. I used to cry when my older brother’s friend would purposely kill my character and take my stuff. Jerk!

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.

The Hobbit was an early favorite for me. Other than the Lord of the Rings books, and RPG books, I didn’t read much. I did really enjoy the Age of Apocalypse and the Death of Superman series. I collected every issue in those story lines.

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.

Honestly, none of these affected my appreciation of MMOs, except for MUDs. I began mudding’ when I was in High School. I became a world-builder for a mud early on and I have a lot of fond memories about the experience. Muds were my first MMO if you will. I think perhaps, X-band may have influenced the way I think about MMOs as well. I used to play online with my Super Nintendo using a device which let me play over the phone line. Because you could form clans and send-email, a lot of the same drama happened between players.

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

My first memories of video game playing are on my NES. I competed in a chocolate-bar selling contest to win one of the consoles. That was awesome.

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

My favorite coin-ops were fighting games. I still love the rush of a good fight at the arcade, although those happen so rarely these days.

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

My memories are foggy… I think it depends on how you define “an impression”. But the first game to make me cry… really really cry… was Lunar the Silver Star Story for the Playstation. FFVII didn’t move me, and I still haven’t finished that game.

What gaming consoles have you owned in the past?

NES, Super NES, Genesis, N64, PS1, PS2, Xbox, Xbox 360, Dreamcast, Wii, … damn… is hat all of them? I guess I’m a PC gamer and Hand-held gamer on top of that, if those count.

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

When the Nintendo 64 came out, I didn’t have one yet. I stood in Toys R Us and played the demo of the game all day. The demo-system didn’t automatically reset back then. I actually got enough stars to beat the game just from my time standing there and getting stars.

Chapter 3: Online

Were you ever exposed to MUDs?

I first started playing a mud called Vampire Wars around 1996. It was a full-PVP game with no level cap. Later on, I played another PVP focused mud called Cythera. The people I met in Cythera are still ones I’d consider my friends today, were we to ever meet. I went on to write code for that mud, and it was a very enjoyable experience. Mud Coding was probably my most early exposure to anything that resembled computer programming. There was a lot of high emotion in those communities… and I actually quit the Mud primarily because there was too much drama.

What was your first MMO experience?

My first MMO was Ultima Online. I first heard about it from my Model United Nations teacher who was hyping the game up before it released. I was accepted into the beta. Most of the time, my brother and I referred to the game as “Ultima Offline” because it was down so much. During the beta, I remember standing in line with other people to kill a rat so that I could level up my skills. Sometimes while waiting in line, someone would come by and kill the person battling the rat and run off. I remember thinking, “This game sucks!” There were some interesting memories from that time, like when Lord British died due to a bug/exploit. But overall, I really didn’t like the genre of MMOs back then. I had no interest in playing the game when it went live.

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

  • Ultima Online – just beta
  • Everquest 1 – for just a couple weeks, I played a druid and got to about level 6
  • Star Wars Galaxies – I played SWG both during beta and when it went live. When it went live, I made master Architect, and quit the next day. It was a huge let-down.
  • FFXI – I got my Monk/Red-mage to level 20 or so…. but groups were not fond of my class choice, so I got frustrated waiting for groups, and quit. I knew it was a good game… but I hated being unwanted by groups.
  • Everquest 2 – level 35 Defiler – From this game onward, I pretty much always played a healer. No more being left out of group for me!
  • Star Wars Galaxies again – This time I went back to Star Wars Galaxies to enjoy the space update. Lots of fun… but it was over quickly.

…. I took a couple years off from MMOs at this point.

  • Star Wars Galaxies again – medic/90 My husband’s brother started playing, and that dragged me and my hubby in again. This time, we got to the end-game and really really enjoyed mastering the end-game content. It was a blast! I also had some other level 90 characters like a 90 officer. We ended up purchasing multiple accounts for this one.
  • LOTRO – One of my guild-mates from SWG played Lotro, when we had done everything there is to do in SWG, many of us made the switch to LOTRO. Currently I have two lvl 60’s who have enough radiance for the watcher.

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

Lotro – It’s by far the best designed mmo I’ve played so far.

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

I’ve probably spent the most time in SWG. Maybe a year or two if you add up all the time together.

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

SWG and Lotro. Both games where I reached the cap are also games where I had multiple capped characters.

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?

SWTOR!!! Ok ok… I havn’t even played that one yet. I guess Lotro. There’s more to do, more to see, more to enjoy, and the pvp is more fun. It’s a world I could see lasting longer than other worlds, provided you’ve got the right guild.

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

SWTOR!!!! I’m really excited about Star Wars, The Old Republic. My guild mates keep talking about it as well. We’ve even started writing up our roleplay for the new guild in SWTOR and I’ve been learning flash just so I can make a web-site for our guild when it comes out.

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

… There’s so many stories, it’s hard to think what to say. I suppose one I haven’t shared with anyone yet, is the story of my hype for SWG. I like to get myself hyped up for an MMO before I play it. Even if it’s already been out, I like to read up on the backstory of the world it takes place in, so I can feel really immersed when I first play. When SWG was supposed to come out, I hyped myself up too much. Because I was too hyped to do anything that wasn’t somehow related to SWG, I actually learned out to make games in RPG maker and created a game about waiting for SWG to come out. Yes, a game about waiting for a game to come out. The gameplay consisted of “attacking” customers at a coffee shop with pastries and mocha’s for a few rounds, then walking home on the world-map while dodging cars and dogs to get home and check if the game was out yet. Every time the player got back to their house, they found out the game was delayed for yet another day, which meant one more day of working at a coffee shop. Needless to say, the game was modeled after my real life at the time.

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