Grinding to Valhalla

Interviewing the gamer with a thousand faces

Archive for April, 2009

Reading the text: Tom Lloyd

Posted by Randolph Carter on April 24, 2009

grave-thief-coverAuthor website:

http://www.tomlloyd.co.uk/

Blog:

http://tomlloyd.livejournal.com/

Could you take a minute and explain what The Grave Thief is about?

Sure, Grave Thief is the middle book of my quintet, The Twilight Reign. There’s a lot that’s already happened, but suffice to say that the main character, Isak, has been thrown into a world of politics, magic and power that he knows nothing about. Others have been planning for hundreds of years and now their plans are in motion with Isak caught in the middle. Grave Thief kicks off with Isak having to deal with the consequences of his actions – actions that have had ramifications across the entire world. With gods and daemons getting in on the fun it’s now time for Isak to go on the offensive before all hope is gone.

What was the process like in getting your first book published?

Long, slow and depressing! When I started writing I had no idea of what it took to produce a book others would enjoy reading, I really did start from scratch and it took years before it was good enough to get an agent, let alone a publisher.

Where do you happen to find inspiration for your work?

All sorts of places. When it comes to actual story ideas it’s usually reading other books or watching TV. Frequently the link is tenuous to say the least but sometimes it’s just automatically how I would have written a certain book differently and what aspects I’d do differently. When it comes to fleshing out those ideas the best work I do is on the tube; somewhere really dull that my brain just filters out and all there is to do is concentrate completely on the matter at hand.

Are you or have you ever been a gamer? What has your gaming experience been like (board games, pen & paper RPGs, console & computer games, etc.)?

I’ve only recently bought an Xbox and am still not much of a gamer, it’s too consuming to allow myself to play it much, but when I was a teenager I was a big Games Workshop fan and most of my free time spent fighting battles in my parents’ attic. While I don’t have time for that now it’s had a huge influence on my books!stormcaller-cover

Have you ever ventured into online worlds? If so, please explain what that experience has been like.

Not really actually, I spend the best part of the day with fantasy stuff running round my head and just don’t have space for online worlds on top of everything else that’s going on. Whenever mates have tried to get me to join they’ve also done a bad sales job…

Would you say that your gaming experience has had any effect on you as a writer? Please explain.

Certainly the Warhammer stuff had a huge effect, don’t tell my fiancée but I’d happily keen playing that if I had the time! If you read the books you’ll see that the vastly powerful characters have a lot in common with Warhammer ones and there’s a similar level of variety in terms of types and classes – plus as much demon action as I can get away with!

Grind is a term used frequently in gaming vernacular referring to something that is rather repetitive or unpleasant that one engages in in order to progress in the game. Would you say there is grinding in the writing process? Please explain.

Hell yes, more than anyone realizes! On a good day I’ll write 2000 words in an afternoon, which is only the first draft but might still be a total of 4000 actually typed. That means it’ll take 100 afternoons to finish the first draft of my current book, and that’s a higher rate than I probably manage on average. Then you have to polish and rewrite for another month or two of three afternoons a week. Once it’s handed in you’ve got to deal with edits which will take another month/ 6 weeks maybe, then check the proofs before the book is printed (something that shouldn’t be too hard but by that point you’ve read the book 20 times in the last six months and REALLY don’t want to read it again). You have eye strain from looking at a fixed point, back pain from sitting too long, headaches… Writing is fun, there’s no reason to deny that, but it’s also an effort both physically and mentally.

Would you have any words of advice for the would-be-writers out there?

Firstly – show, don’t’ tell. Among other things I’ve worked for literary agencies and now freelance for an editorial services company, writing reports on submissions. The biggest single issue is writers telling the reader what’s going on rather than showing them.

Secondly, plan ahead. Know where your book is going, know who your characters are and what they’re about before you start writing. Everything will change of course but have a framework to guide you, you’ll be glad you did in the end.

You wake up to a world where The Stormcaller has been made into an MMO. What class would you play and why?

twilight-herald-cover1Hmm, I guess that’s pretty obvious to people reading the books. The ruling class are unnaturally powerful and troublesome warriors so that might tell you something… aside from being a white-eye, I’d choose the Brotherhood – elite soldiers but ones with brains. In a world where Demi-Gods and worse are running around, being a good fighter isn’t enough to survive so they’re clever and adaptable too.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with this gamer/reader audience?

Only that they should have a read of the Twilight Reign series and tell me what they think!

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Psychochild

Posted by Randolph Carter on April 23, 2009

MMO community connection:
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Chapter 1: Introduction

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

I go by “Psychochild” online, although my given name is Brian Green. I use a pseudonym because my given name is rather common.

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

I’m an MMO developer as well as a blogger. I’ve spent most of my career on the “indie” side of things, including buying and relaunching the classic online game Meridian 59. I also co-edited the book Business & Legal Primer for Game Development.

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

My blog at Psychochild.org covers MMO development topics, primarily, since I’m a developer. I cover game design, programming, and business. I also cover writing, although I consider writing more of a hobby than a professional focus for now.

Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa. I moved six times, but always lived near Des Moines or the surrounding communities until I went to college at Iowa State University.

Where do you live now?

I live in California. I lived in Silicon Valley for a while, but now I live a bit south where the rents are cheaper. I moved out here to get my first job in the game industry.

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

Pretty solidly in the 31-40 category.

What do you do for a living?

I tell people I’m an MMO developer. I’ve worked on a few projects that never really saw the light of day, so I don’t have a long and impressive resume. I have done programming, design, and business on various projects.

Currently, I do a fair amount of consulting and contract work on MMO projects to make ends meet. I’d like to do a true indie MMO project, but have yet to find people willing to dedicate the time required.

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

Assuming I didn’t want to be an MMO developer (the class always seems to get nerfs), I’d probably want to be a writer. In high school I said I wanted to write but didn’t want to deal with the unpredictable income. Now I’m a game developer who prefers to run his own business.
Ha!

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

  • I can speak Pig Latin incredibly fast. I will almost certainly be the fastest Pig Latin speaker most people will know.
  • I need 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and usually get cranky if I don’t get it. This boggles most other game developers who can survive on less sleep during crunch periods.
  • I grew up very poor. My father was a union assembly line worker and always seemed to be on strike during my birthday and Christmas. After my parents divorced, my mother went to community college to get a degree in Accounting and delivered pizzas to keep us fed and clothed. My only exposure to computers as a kid was at school or at friends’ houses because we couldn’t afford one.
  • My absolute favorite type of game is “Metroidvania”. I love exploration in games, and these types of games are the pinnacle. After that is PC type RPGs, of which Might & Magic 7 is the best.
  • I’m on a crusade to have people italicize game names, just like is proper for books and movies. I think games should get at least as much respect as other works. (Now, let’s see if the site admin adds the italics tags to the games mentioned in this post!)

Feel free to discuss any family you have here.

I don’t get along too well with my family. I am only really in contact with my mother, who despite her age loves IM chat.

I’m one of the lucky ones who has met my soulmate; her name is Kat. She loves me and accepts me as a game developer, and has given endless support in our 15+ years together. Without her I don’t think I could have withstood the tribulations of being a game developer and a small business person. We’re not married, though, by her choice. We have no plans to have kids, but we have three adorable cats.

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?

My family had a few of the “classic” board games: Monopoly, Sorry, and the like. We would occasionally play as a family. I don’t remember playing many games with other kids, other than your typical “cops and robbers” type games outside.

I did create a few board games of my own, though. My mother had some poster board for one of her classes when she was getting her degree at the local community college, and I used some of it to make a Transformers themed board game. I scavenged pieces from other games, such as houses from the Monopoly set to create “energon cubes” for the game.

One year for Christmas I got a “100-in-1” gaming set. It had a bunch of generic pieces and some printed game boards with different rules for games. That really spurred my interest in games and my desire to create new ones. I drew some additional game layouts on the back of the boards and created new rules for existing ones.

When I got into the more advanced games, few people were interested in playing with me. I remember getting a war game based on Napoleonic wars and begging my father to play with me. He got frustrated with the game very quickly.

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

I did a bit of music when I was in school. In elementary school we learned how to play the recorder (a woodwind instrument). When I was a bit older I tried to play the clarinet, but band practice happened during other classes and I was always too engrossed in class to remember to go to band. Added to the fact that my practices irritated my parents, it was a brief hobby.

I also got into programming as a kid. In 5th grade, we had a class on typing. I took to the class well, so the teacher gave me a game written in BASIC to type into the Apple II computers in the back of the classroom. I was enthusiastic, because I had been an avid console gamer to that point. After I had typed it all in, I got my first taste of debugging. Learning to debug the problems and then tinkering with the program got me into learning BASIC. Of course, I could only work on stuff at school since I didn’t have a computer at home. I used to write out programs on notebook paper at home in anticipation of being able to type them up at school. One time we were able to check out a Commodore 64 from the local library, and I missed the school bus quite a few times when I was typing in programs instead of watching the clock.

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

I was, in a very round-about way. I grew up going to a very conservative church that truly believed that Dungeons & Dragons was a gateway to Satanism; all paper RPGs were similarly evil by association. So, it was something of a forbidden fruit for me, and therefore very alluring.

One of my earliest “real” paper RPG experiences was buying a module for TSR’s Star Frontiers on clearance at the local Target store. I saved up the money to buy it. Unfortunately, it was just a module and I didn’t have the base set, so most of the stuff was practically indecipherable to me. It was neat to look through, though.

When I got into BASIC programming, a friend of mine, who was also very religious, got involved at the same time. We started making games and found some RPGs, but he didn’t want to play them because they had “Satanic magic” in them. So, we started creating our own little games with each other. We had basically re-created paper RPGs without knowing much about them. Because we couldn’t use magic, and I knew that some herbs can heal (like Aloe Vera), I did some research on the magical properties of plants. I found some books on Wicca from that research. That’s right, *not* playing D&D lead me to read up on witchcraft!

My first real introduction to D&D came from a friend I met at church. (Funny how church and D&D intertwine so much in my life, now that I think about it.) He loved paper RPGs, and we played a bit of D&D.  Eventually we started designing our own paper game system when I was in high school; it was a horror-themed game based on the Friday the 13th TV series where the players had to gather cursed artifacts.

I got into D&D heavily in college. That’s where I met a bunch of my friends who I am still in touch with and where I met my long-term girlfriend. People always get jealous when we tell them we met playing D&D.

Did you read much as a child? If so, what did you like to read (books, comic books, etc?) Please list some favorite authors, titles, etc.

I read obsessively as a child. I was the quiet kid in the back with his nose in the book most of the time. The first books I really remember reading where the Hardy Boys books. The small school library had them and I read them in order. Don’t remember how many I ended up reading, but probably a few dozen. I also read the Encyclopedia Brown stories; I was often the smartest kid in the class, so someone recommended I read those.

I also read a lot of science fiction after I got bored with those titles. I read through most of the kid’s science fiction at the public library, then started going after different books in the adult’s section. To be honest, most of the books were garbage, though. I didn’t have anyone else that liked S.F. giving me any direction, so I just picked whatever caught my attention, and it was usually bad. For example, one of the Star Trek novels I read had Kirk captured by the Romulans. He seduces one of them (of course) and makes an escape with her helping. Along the way, he kicks Romulans in the groin (ow!) and comments how the women were equally susceptible to a groin shot as the men were.

In the past decade, I’ve spent time reading some of the classics I missed the first time around.

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.

Paper gaming had an obvious impact. Learning computer programming and playing computer games got me into paper games. I think that since I didn’t get immersed into D&D immediately, it didn’t limit my design imagination as much. I was used to coming up with interesting new rules for mini-games for my friend. When I got into MUDs, I preferred the LP-MUDs because it was easier to program them without owning the game. I was able to earn a wizard (coder) position on one game and do game development.

As for books? I’d say gaming impacted my reading more than the other way around. As I said, most of the books I read were cheezy science fiction, intellectual cotton candy. I didn’t read many of the classics until later. For example, I didn’t read The Lord of the Rings until after I started playing D&D. I read one of my all-time favorite fantasy series, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, because I played a MUD where someone had created an area and a player class based on the series.

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

I was about 5 when I saw a display for the Atari 2600 in a department store. I was fascinated by the idea of playing games on the TV. Every time my parents went to the store, they knew exactly where to find me when they were ready to go.

Later I got an Atari 2600 from my parents. I scrimped and saved to buy the cartridges. The big “video game crash” in the early 80s was awesome for me, because the local stores were trying to unload cartridges cheap. Yeah, some really sucked, but when you paid $1 for it the quality threshold was lower. I eventually had the largest collection of games of the kids in my neighborhood.

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

When I was at a department store, my parents would find me at the video game display area. When we were at the mall? The arcade (or, sometimes, the Radio Shack playing the computer games there).

I loved arcade games as a kid. When you’re poor, a $2000 computer is out of reach, but you can play a few 25 cent games easily enough. I would also beg for quarters/tokens from people, or find free credits people didn’t play. I’d also take over games from people who had to leave. Of course, when I was young I really sucked at the games because I didn’t have a whole lot of quarters to practice. I never got past the first levels of most games.

My favorite arcade games were Capcom’s Forgotten Worlds, Atari’s Gauntlet, Data East’s RoboCop and Midway’s Total Carnage.

A little known fact: the Windows GUI front-end for MAME was developed with help from Chris Kirmse, one of the original programmers for Meridian 59.

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

Probably Space Invaders, because I played the game on both the Atari 2600 and the arcade game. It kind of blew my mind that you could have the same game on different platforms. It was also one of the first games I really remember playing a lot (even though I sucked at it in the arcades). The Atari 2600 version also introduced me to my first cheat/easter egg: if you held down the reset switch while turning the game on, you could get 2 missiles at a time instead of one. That made the game a lot easier!

What gaming consoles have you owned in the past?

In roughly chronological order:

  • Atari 2600
  • Nintendo Entertainment System
  • TurboGrafix-16 (with the CD drive)
  • Atari Lynx
  • Super Nintendo
  • Sega Genesis
  • PlayStation
  • Gameboy Advance
  • Nintendo 64
  • Sega Dreamcast
  • PlayStation 2
  • GameCube
  • Nintendo DS
  • Wii

I’m scared to think about how many games I’ve owned. Easily a few thousand total. I tell people owning that many games is an occupational hazard for game developers.

I still haven’t bought one of the “current generation” consoles, though. I spend most of my time playing and developing MMOs on the PC.

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

One of the first arcade games I saw was the cocktail version of Donkey Kong at the local pizza place. I talked my father into playing it with me. Since the controls were at the opposite ends of the table, I thought one person controlled Jumpman (aka Mario) while the other controlled Donkey Kong. Turns out, each person played one at a time and the screen just flipped around to face the player. Looking back, it’s interesting that I thought the game should be simultaneous multiplayer instead of playing one at a time. Probably one of the reasons I like MMO development.

Chapter 3: Online

Were you ever exposed to MUDs?

Yes! Those were my wild days in college. Starting in freshman year, spending late nights in the computer lab, compiling my CS homework and playing MUDs during the downtime (and sometimes when I should have been doing the homework!) I’m pretty sure the only reason I passed my introductory C++ class was because I learned LPC (the language the MUD gameplay was coded in) at the same time, and both languages have similar syntax. I certainly wasn’t going to the 8 AM classes four days per week!

The best part was making maximum level and getting access to the programming infrastructure on the games I played. The last push to “make Wiz” was over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend with my friend at the time. We played for 24 hours straight, caught a bit of sleep in the study area, then went back at it and got the maximum level together.

The MUDs I played extensively: Genocide (where I first used the name “Psychochild”), Highlands, Farside, Kerovnia, and Astaria.

What was your first MMO experience?

I played MUDs until I graduated from college. I didn’t own my own computer in college, so I didn’t get into graphical MMOs until later. I had heard about Ultima Online, but I didn’t have the opportunity to play it.

So, my first real experience with MMOs was with Meridian 59. I was applying for my first game industry job at 3DO in 1998, and the producer for M59 saw my resume and my MUD development experience. I had heard of the game before, but I thought it was for the 3DO console. Meridian 59 always had terrible advertising, so it never got the wide recognition it needed. But, they set me up with a free account to give the game a try, and I really enjoyed it. I didn’t always get to play the game as much as I wanted after I started working for 3DO, but I still enjoyed it.

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

  • Meridian 59 – Pure mage with: Kraanan, Shalille, Faren, Jala
  • Dark Age of Camelot – 35 Dwarf Thane
  • EverQuest 2 – 67 Kerra Necromancer
  • World of Warcraft – 80 Night Elf Druid
  • Lord of the Rings Online 40 Elf Champion

I’ve also dabbled in most other major North American games, but I don’t have the time to play many of them extensively.

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

Lord of the Rings Online has my primary attention these days. My better half started playing it, and gaming with someone you love is the best. 🙂

I’ve also been playing a bit of Atlantica, but my characters on there have languished a bit while I’ve been busy with conferences. Any gaming time I get right now, I prefer play LotRO.

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

Easily Meridian 59. In the 11 years since I started working on it, I I’ve put in hundreds of 24-hour days, and many more times that if you count the time I’ve spent developing and testing the game.

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

Unfortunately, Meridian 59 doesn’t have levels, exactly. I’ve built powerful characters, but my preferred type has a lot of skills and I never maxed out a character for various reasons (one explained later). One of my design goals was to allow players to participate in the game, including PvP, without having to have a maxed out character.

Currently, I’ve only ever reached max level in WoW; three times: original, “The Burning Crusade”, and “Wrath of the Lich King” with my main. I guess I did reach max level with my Warlock alt in TBC as well, but I didn’t do much with that character.

I will probably reach max level in LotRO. I’ve gotten bit by alt-itis in that game (I have all 7 slots filled with characters on one server), but I signed up for a year’s subscription. Unless something goes horribly wrong, I’ll probably get one character up to max level in that time.

Loki taps you on the shoulder one day to inform you that you have fallen victim to one of his elaborate pranks. The world you’ve been inhabiting of countless MMOs to choose from and play has merely been a dream. In reality only one MMO exists. After laughing at you for a bit he decides to take pity on you and allows you to choose which MMO will remain. Which one would you choose and why?

I’d tell Loki to knock it off, and threaten to nerf him more than he already is if he doesn’t settle down. I’m the administrator here! Loki is also the name of one of my cats that passed away a few years ago, so it would be strange to have his ghost visit me.

However, if gaming Ragnarök did happen, I would choose MUD1 as the game to stay around. It’s the progenitor of almost all the games we currently have, so if we start there then we could re-create all the current MMOs (and perhaps make them even better!)

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

Yes, but I don’t know what they are yet. Independent MMO developers suck at marketing, so I rarely find out about them until they’ve launched (and usually limped along with few players). I think indie MMOs are the more interesting ones to watch these days.

I’m also (slowly) working on a small project as well, so I’m interested in seeing that completed. 🙂

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

There are too many! Here are just a few:

When I was playing MUDs with a friend, he got his friend to start playing. I was helping him with my female character (but we didn’t tell him it was me), then he hit on and kissed my character. He turned to my friend, in the same computer lab, and said, “I just kissed her!” My friend and I almost died laughing. Not surprisingly, the guy got embarassed and never played MUDs ever again.

That wasn’t the last time that character got hit on. I quickly grew tired of being the target of unwanted advances. I really sympathize with what women have to put up with in games.

Because I bought Meridian 59, some people think I’m able to buy and save any game. I’ve gotten emails asking me to buy and relaunch other games, like Earth & Beyond, Multiplayer Battletech, etc.

It’s hard to play your own game as a developer. I want to be social, but if people find out you’re a developer they start treating you very different. I had a mortal character in one guild and people were starting to suspect the character was me. The issue came to a head when a few people were coming to the local area and knew “both of us” lived in the area, so they invited both the character and me (the admin) to a get-together. I had to stop playing the character once he was exposed. Most of my characters have short lives or lonely ones because of this.

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Wilhelm2451 (Chapter 2)

Posted by Randolph Carter on April 23, 2009

MMO community connection:

The Ancient Gaming Noob

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?

We played games quite a bit at my grandparents place. They had a farm out in the California Central Valley where TV reception was spotty and there was a general “early to bed/early to rise” rhythm of life. In the late afternoon before dinner, there was a point where pre-dinner drinks were served up (I got to have a soda) and we would sit around and play a game. Dominoes was the popular choice for a long time. Gin or other card games were played at times. At home too, we played games. Monopoly was always popular. When I was older and Trivial Pursuit came along that became a favorite. I suspect it was because, as a family, we have a remarkable knack for trivia. My mother and I were an unbeatable team, with me covering science and history and her on entertainment and sports. With friends I ended up playing war games, usual the Avalon Hill bookshelf variety. While we played all varieties, I grew to like the game Tobruk the most. It was a much more tactical game than some others, like PanzerBlitz or Third Reich. The more strategic, and thus the more abstract, a game got, the less I seemed to enjoy it. At least to a certain level. A game like Risk, warfare abstracted to the extreme, I did enjoy quite a bit.

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

I played some sports. I was in little league baseball and ran track through junior high. For hobbies I built models, usually tanks or airplanes to go along with my toy soldiers. I had quite a collection of Airfix 1/72 scale figures.

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

Not until high school. My family moved before my freshman year and I ended up at a different high school from all of the friends I grew up with. Then, alone and susceptible to the influences of strangers, I fell in with a crowd of role playing gamers. They started by introducing me to the light stuff like Tunnels and Trolls, but I quickly moved on to the hard stuff and had a copy of the AD&D Players Handbook before my parents could intervene. Soon I was reading Tolkien and affecting a bad British accent. Still, I was able to keep my head to a certain extent and never, for example became a Ren Faire regular or an SCA member.

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.

Honestly, I read very little of my own volition until about 8th grade. I used to mostly flip through books and look at the pictures. MAD Magazine’s “Spy vs. Spy” comic was my level of reading commitment. Then at some point in junior high school I decided I wanted to know more about the pictures than the rather scanty captions in a book I was looking at, so I started reading the thing. This is, of course, all heresy, since my grandmother was a librarian and I spent hours and hours at the library. I was just browsing the pictures most of the time. In high school I read a lot of Science Fiction. Larry Niven and Harry Harrison figured prominently. Oddly, I tended to steer clear of the “classics” from authors like Asimov and Heinlein. “Bil the Galactic Hero” was much more amusing when I re-read it years later after having soaked up more of a foundation in the genre. (I only recommend the original book, not any of the follow-ons.)

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.

Certainly. Larry Niven was all about space. There is a direct line somewhere from me reading “Ringworld” to me playing EVE Online. And certainly RPGs and Tolkien mixed in unhealthy doses pre-disposed me towards fantasy. The one thing I disliked about table top games like D&D was all the accounting that needed to be done. While computer games and then MMOs restricted much player initiative, they hid ALL of the accounting that I so loathed. That made me a natural for the genre. I just want to attack, not calculate my THAC0.

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

I played Pong at The Old Spaghetti Factory in downtown San Jose when I was just a kid. It was amazing.

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

Of course, from the point I found Pong to the day I got a personal computer, I spent a lot of time in arcades. It could be a lot of fun, but it was also expensive. For 25 cents back in those days you could get a comic book. This probably explains why I did not do much comic book collecting.

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

I played Star Trek on an HP system. A friend’s dad brought us into the office one weekend and let us play it while he got some work done. My friend and I loved it and went about creating our own board game version of it since we did not have ready access to any sort of computer.

What gaming consoles have you owned in the past?

I have owned three, an Atari 2600 that I got for Christmas in 1977, a Sega Genesis that I got as a bonus of sorts for a project at work in 1992, and we got a Wii in 2007. That is one console every 15 years like clockwork. I’m not due again until 2022.

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

A story about gaming? That’s what I have a blog for! Okay. At one point a friend and I were very excited about computer/console games. This was in 1978 or so, and I had an Atari 2600 and he had a Fairchild Channel F. We were both enamored with the technology but somewhat let down by the lack of depth there was to most games. Because of this, we tended to build metagames where you might have to play any given shallow two-minute-thirty-second “shoot the blocky thing with smallers blocks” as part of a single turn of the bigger game. There was a lot of role playing and pretend around it. We were nerds once, and young.

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Rivs (Chapter 2)

Posted by Randolph Carter on April 22, 2009

MMO community connection:

Way of the Chosen

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 remember playing Atari 2600, games like Combat with my brother and Pitfall. Then I moved to the Commodore 64 some of the biggest games I played were the Bards Tale and Gold Box Series.

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

Football, Wrestling, Track. I loved GIJOE and Transformers.

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

Yes I played several D&D, Star Frontiers and Marvel Role Playing to name a few.

Did you read much as a child? If so, what did you like to read (books, comic books, etc?) Please list some favorite authors, titles, etc.

Yes I read religiously, too many titles to list.  JRR Tolkien was the king. RA Salvatore is one of my favs as well.

Would you say that any of these games or books had an effect on your later appreciation of computer gaming and ultimately MMOs? Please explain.

I think a lot of the RA Salvatore books and a lot of games. Also the Bards Tale and Gold Box series, or D&D computer games really influenced me to go into MMOs.

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

I remember I think I was 7 or 8 when I first saw Pong on the Atari 2600, and I was like Whoa.  The rest is history.

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

Dear god yes, I remember just living in the arcade. But some of my fondest memories comes from Street Fighter 2, me and my friends would just go at it all day, and I loved it.

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

So many for so many reasons. Bards Tale because it was like entering another world where I controlled these people and solved puzzles. Then Street Fighter, because I got to go toe to toe with people, and I am a bit of a competitor.

What gaming consoles have you owned in the past?

Atari 2600, Intellivision, Playstation, Xbox, Dreamcast. Sega Genesis.

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

I remember ditching school, and playing Combat on my 2600 with my brother for hours.

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Genda (Chapter 2)

Posted by Randolph Carter on April 22, 2009

MMO community connection:

The Grouchy Gamer

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?

My gaming was mostly relegated to board gaming and puzzle gaming before the electronic bug struck. I was a FIEND for Mouse Trap, not because the game was good (it wasn’t) but because of the Rube Goldberg device that was part of the mechanism. A couple decades later I found myself just as enthralled with The Incredible Machine on the PC. I tended to play games with mostly family when I was a kid.

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

I played a lot of sports (mostly baseball and basketball. Played some football later. All team sports), did model rockets, and loved table tennis. I was very competitive so no one would play with me but my dad, and he tired when I started beating him consistently.

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

I never was. 😦 I know. I was deprived.

Did you read much as a child? If so, what did you like to read (books, comic books, etc?) Please list some favorite authors, titles, etc.

I read voraciously as a child, but mostly non-fiction. By the time I was in 4th grade I had read the World Book Encyclopedia cover-to-cover (all 20-some volumes.) To this day, my head is full of useless information. I later got into some select fantasy. Like many, it started with Tolkein.

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.

No, I think my MMO involvement came mostly from my playing games in general, and some RPG’s in particular.

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

I first played video games on an old console, and I honestly don’t remember which one it was. This is a sure sign that I’m getting really old.

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

Oh, yeah. Many a quarter dropped from my fingers into obscurity in the name of standing at the box and gaming. I played a lot of these games the same way I played everything else. By the time I got a little older, I had learned to tone down the outward signs of my competitiveness so I could find some people to play with me. Played a LOT of pinball and quite a bit of Asteroids, Missile Command, and Mortal Kombat.

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

When I got my first computer in the mid-80’s it was a Mac. I got a game, Wizardry, I think it was, that totally captured my imagination. I made maps on graph paper, played WAY too late at night, and really learned to love the genre. Before that, there were tons of console games I loved, but never anything like that.

What gaming consoles have you owned in the past?

Coleco Vision, Atari 2600, TurboGrafx 16, NES, N64, Genesis, SuperNintendo, Intellivision, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Game Cube, Wii, XBox, Xbox360, and some others I’m sure I forgot.

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

I remember doing some of what I would consider gaming with a friend at school.  He had a playroom that was huge at his house and we set up a slot car track. We spent hours tweaking our cars trying to make them go faster or stick to the track better, then would race each other for hours on end. I loved the competition and the little cars flying around the track. Still think about those days to this day.

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River

Posted by Randolph Carter on April 21, 2009

MMO community connection:

A High Latency Life

Chapter1: Introduction

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

My Birthname is Christopher Cavelle.  My real life longest standing nickname is River, and most of my toons in the various games follow some sort of naming scheme that has River, or Rivs in it. My current toons are Rivs in WAR, and Rivzok in WoW. Most people just call me Rivs though and that’s just fine.

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

I run a website Way of the Chosen.  I also have a personal blog, Chaotic Ramblings.  I use to have a WoW blog but I shut that down.  I just felt like everyone else was doing a better job at saying what I had to say.

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

On my gaming blog it concentrates on the Warhammer Online game, with special focus on Chosen, and that class.

Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

Born and bred in Illinois. I grew up in Tinley Park, Illinois a south burb of Chicago.

Where do you live now? In the Town right next door to Tinley Park, called Orland Park, IL

Your level (age) is somewhere in the range of (pick one): 10-20, 21-30, 31-40, 41-50, 51-60, 61-70, 71-80, 81-90

I’m 36

What do you do for a living?

I’m a Network Administrator

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

Poet-Warrior

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

  • I really would like to make my own brand of whiskey.
  • Some people just know me as River, they don’t know my real name.
  • I use to bounce at bars for a living, I’m like Patrick Swayze just uglier.
  • I’m the Ice Cream Eating Champion of Tinley Park. I won an eating contest.  I go to defend my title in July.
  • There was a time in my life when I didn’t want anything to do with computers.

Feel free to discuss any family you have here.

I have a small family: mom, dad, one brother, several nieces, and nephews though.  My brother is a busy guy.

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 remember playing Atari 2600, games like Combat with my brother and Pitfall. Then I moved to the Commodore 64 some of the biggest games I played were the Bards Tale and Gold Box Series.

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

Football, Wrestling, Track. I loved GIJOE and Transformers.

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

Yes I played several D&D, Star Frontiers and Marvel Role Playing to name a few.

Did you read much as a child? If so, what did you like to read (books, comic books, etc?) Please list some favorite authors, titles, etc.

Yes I read religiously, too many titles to list.  JRR Tolkien was the king. RA Salvatore is one of my favs as well.

Would you say that any of these games or books had an effect on your later appreciation of computer gaming and ultimately MMOs? Please explain.

I think a lot of the RA Salvatore books and a lot of games. Also the Bards Tale and Gold Box series, or D&D computer games really influenced me to go into MMOs.

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

I remember I think I was 7 or 8 when I first saw Pong on the Atari 2600, and I was like Whoa.  The rest is history.

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

Dear god yes, I remember just living in the arcade. But some of my fondest memories comes from Street Fighter 2, me and my friends would just go at it all day, and I loved it.

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

So many for so many reasons. Bards Tale because it was like entering another world where I controlled these people and solved puzzles. Then Street Fighter, because I got to go toe to toe with people, and I am a bit of a competitor.

What gaming consoles have you owned in the past?

Atari 2600, Intellivision, Playstation, Xbox, Dreamcast. Sega Genesis.

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

I remember ditching school, and playing Combat on my 2600 with my brother for hours.

Chapter 3: Online

Were you ever exposed to MUDs?

Nope

What was your first MMO experience?

2002 was the year. I was playing Aliens vs Predator 2 like crazy. I was part of a Clan called Hell’s Elite Legions. They were starting a new chapter for a game called Dark Ages of Camelot. Since I just recently got laid off, I had A LOT of time on my hands, so they needed healers and I decided to start a cleric.

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

  • Dark Ages of Camelot – Cleric 50
  • World of Warcraft – Mage 80
  • Warhammer Online – Chosen 40.

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

World of Warcraft and Warhammer Online

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

World of Warcraft since beta in 2004.

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

Yes DAOC, WoW, and WAR

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?

Hmmm. Tough question. I would like WAR to stay because I love the Lore, and the RvR aspect of it.

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

Star Trek Online – I want to be a Klingon, and Captain a Bird of Prey – KAPLAH!

And Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. – Evil Sith Lord…hello!

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

So many, One of my personal favorites was after a raid in World of Warcraft where I was playing my Alliance Mage. Usually Mages open a portal to main city, usually Ironforge. Well players just assume Mages would teleport them where they want to go. So I worked things out with my Mage brethren. We opened our portals all to Darnassus. They all clicked on them. All the mages heard on vent was, “Damn Mages!” It was great…So the lesson here is always look before you click. Heck some of my guildies still look before they click one of my portals.

Chapter 4: Preferences

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

During Peak I would say 40-50 hours a week, usually these days around 20 hours.

When during the week are your regular play times?

Sunday through Wednesday, weekends are hit and miss depending on my social calendar.

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

More of a lone wolf, but I have made friends in the MMO community.

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

Yes some of my old guildies who have been gaming with me since 2002 are good friends of mine now.

Before logging into a game, do you already have a course of action planned out in your head, or do you just sort of do whatever you feel like once in game?

I would say it’s more of a guideline. Ok I need to run this dungeon, or I need to get some of these type of points, or farm these crafting mats. If something pops up where I’m needed, or sounds like fun. I go.

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

Usually one at a time, but now a days it seems like I’m playing two. So I don’t know how long I can keep that up.

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

Not really, I’m a dabbler in that regards, I may play something else for a little bit to check it out…but it’s always back to MMO’s

Are you something of an altoholic? No not really.

Use to be, unabashedly. Then I had all these mediocre toons running around, when others would have awesome toons. So I decided just to work one toon at a time.

Do you find yourself multitasking while gaming (perhaps watching TV, talking on the phone, out of game instant messaging, playing another game, or even listening to a podcast)?

No I wish I had that kind of brain power. LOL! But I do listen to my mp3 player when grinding.

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

All the time, I do write a blog ya know. But it’s great when people come up to me and go…”Oh you play that, or this.” Finding out people who are active in MMO’s that you never knew before. It’s exciting.

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

Yes I feel I do game too much sometimes, then again I’m a single guy, no kids, a lot of free time. It’s better then being addicted to something else say crack…but crack is probably cheaper. I may have to reconsider….just kidding.

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

No, I love the genre.

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Darren (Chapter 3)

Posted by Randolph Carter on April 21, 2009

MMO community connection:

Chapter 3: Online

Were you ever exposed to MUDs?

I fiddled with Meridian 59, but not very much as school was a complete, and total bitch about time 😉

What was your first MMO experience?

I remember it like it was yesterday. The first MMO experience for me was AC2 and then the flood gates opened. I was mostly a flight sim and strategy gamer before that…so that game changed it all.

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

In order?? Hahaha!!!! Very funny. This won’t be anywhere near in order, but here is the list anyway

  • AC2
  • EQ
  • EQ2
  • WoW
  • LOTRO
  • CoH
  • Eve
  • Tabula Rasa
  • Warhammer Online
  • DDO
  • Guild Wars

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

  • LOTRO
  • Eve Online
  • CoH (…but this might be a very short stay…)

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

World of Warcraft…without a doubt. I would have to say I spent about 2 years playing that one.

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

Just world of Warcraft. Very close on LOTRO and EQ2 though…does that count?

Loki taps you on the shoulder one day to inform you that you have fallen victim to one of his elaborate pranks. The world youve 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?

After I beat the living snot out of Loki, I then choose World of Warcraft. It is the best game out there, pound for pound.

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

Oh yes.

Start Trek Online looks really good and I’m interested in it for obvious reasons…but Star Wars trumps that by an order of mangnitude. Why? Because it’s Bioware.

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

One time, Zonk made his Dwarf dance…and I’ve never been the same since.

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Joshua

Posted by Randolph Carter on April 20, 2009

MMO community connection:
`

Chapter 1: Introduction

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

My name is Joshua Treece, and I’ve gone by a few online alter egos. In WoW, I went as Zesius / Westsiide and I conducted myself as some form of MMO hipster. In FFXI, I played a Samurai named, simply “Josh” and played as a bleeding heart. In Warhammer Online, my current game of choice, I play as Chlor / Attorney and generally play 70% PvP 30% PvE; I’m generally silent in-game, but quite vocal on my blog.

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

I’m the owner / administrator / sole content author of The Casual WAR. I’ve been doing that since late February 2009. I joined up during the Age of Blogging campaign.

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

My blog is called the Casual WAR due to the fact that my blog portrays my experiences in WAR as a casual gamer. I also use the blog to post gripes with the game, and also other relevant, not necessarily game-related content.

Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

I was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and I grew up in Saxton, Pennsylvania. So, really, I hail from farmtown, USA.

Where do you live now?

Mechanicsburg, PA.

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’m currently a student preparing for law school.

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

I would probably go back to managing specialty retail stores.

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

  • I love cats.
  • I love to write.
  • I don’t like reading.
  • I’m narcissistic.
  • I’m an anime addict (though I hide it).

Feel free to discuss any family you have here.

I’m getting married this summer and I currently have two cats, Mila and Otis.

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Jaxom (Chapter 3)

Posted by Randolph Carter on April 20, 2009

MMO community connection:

The Middle-Earth Adventurer

Chapter 3: Online

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

My MUD experience is only by association. That is, I knew people who played MUDs, and in one case were creating a MUD, and I learned about what they were by this, but I never participated in the playing of MUDs, barring some play testing for the aforementioned creators. It’s too bad they never finished the project actually as it was pretty fun.

What was your first MMO experience? When and what was the experience like?

My first MMO experience was getting invited to the beta for Lord of the Rings Online. At that time the testing was still in the alpha stages and the playtesting period I was invited to was one week long. And boy was that an awesome week. Being the first time I delved into an MMO, I was hooked immediately. I played as much as I could for that week and despite the bugs and little content that was in the game at that point, they had themselves a customer already. I think my attachment came two-fold. First, it’s one of the few RPGs I’ve played and the new and shiny aspect of that appealed to me. Secondly, it was Tolkien. I’m a huge Tolkien fan, especially coming out of the movies (I’m a book first person though). Two and two make infinity in this case.

I remember being enamored by a couple of specific things though. First was the opening instance which put you right in front of a Black Rider within a couple minutes of the opening gameplay. That was really cool. It put the story in front of the player from the start – and being an avid reader and aspiring writer, story is very important to me. Add in the fact that I was experience Middle-Earth in a new and interactive way, this first instance really left a strong impression. Second was the visuals. At that time my computer couln’t put out enough horsepower to have the graphics cranked up, but the beta didn’t have full graphic settings available anyway. However, what I did see was wonderful. In Tolkien’s world, the land is as much a character as the people running about it and having a game that can produce breathtaking visuals helps a great deal to sell the world. And I’m kinda an eyecandy nut too so…

List all the MMO’s you’ve played extensively:

I’ve only played LOTRO. So, first and only MMO.

Which MMOs have you spent the most time playing? How long is that?

LOTRO is of course the answer here, however I can elaborate on how long. I’ve been playing since my invitation to beta on August 28th 2006. So, that’s about two and a half years. In terms of hours, I’d say I’m somewhere close to 1000. That means I’m a fairly casual gamer when it comes to LOTRO. Primarily that’s because I’m also a lifetime member. There was a deal offered to the beta testers to become “Founders”. They had the option of bying a lifetime subscription for a one-time fee of $199. Of course, I have to buy the boxes for the retail releases of the game but there’s no monthly fee for me. That puts less pressure on me to feel like I need to play and get my money’s worth. Instead, I feel no pressure to play except for keeping up with my in-game friends as well as getting new content for my blog.

Have you reached level cap in your MMO?

Yes I have. Currently that’s level 60, after the Mines of Moria expansion. I only have one character at the cap since I’m not someone who plays with alts very often, if at all. I do happen to have characters sitting around from my little dabbling with other classes but they’re all less than level 15. No, my Captain receives most if not all of my attention.

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

There are a couple that I’d like to mention. Since I’m playing LOTRO, any future MMO I play in addition to LOTRO will not be anything like LOTRO if I can help it. That means I will probably never venture into Everquest (1 or 2), Age of Conan, Warhammer Online, World of WarCraft, etc. What does strike my fancy at the moment is Jumpgate Evolution and StarTrek online, for somewhat different reasions. The former peaks my interest because I was a big fan of the Freelancer game. I came late to the space sim/flight genre – unfortunately bypassing WingCommander, so I can’t say I’m an avid fan of this type of game but it is different from many other games I play and I like a little variety. I also never played the original Jumpgate so I’m coming at this new with very little expectations and knowledge about the game. I’ll trial this game first and see how I like it since I’m not in the beta (if the beta is even going at the moment) and it will require a montly sub. StarTrek interests me because I’m a big StarTrek fan. This one I’m more weary about because they have to get it absolutely right. Moreso than LOTRO in my opinion. I’ve let a lot of things slide in LOTRO that don’t feel exactly true to the spirit of the IP, but with StarTrek, it’s something very specific in tone, quality, activity, story, etc. In other words, there’s not a lot of margin for error in my book – meaning it will absolutely be a trial first and they could do a lot more things to screw it up than get it right. Still, I’m watching both these games.

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

The one that comes to mind is a bit amusing, but very dear to my heart. It’s how I came to be in my current kinship (guild) in LOTRO. It was a mistake, actually. During beta I decided to play a dwarf Champion for one of the phases and while questing I got asked if I wanted to group for some of the content I was working on. Sure, why not. It’s an MMO after all, I should be sociable. So I did group. And both members were great people to play with and they seemed to think the same of me. One of them asked if I’d like to join their kinship. This was new territory for me. Being my first MMO I’d never involved myself in a kinship before (although I do have online friends from other ventures previous). Why not, they seem nice enough. If I don’t like it, I can always leave.

Well, the kinleader invited me, then proceeded to promote me to hier (which is basically second in command of the kinship). Okay… that was wierd, but whatever, there are strange people out there. Perhaps these guys are just a bit quirky. Turns out because my character name started with a G, our kinleader automatically assumed I was the hier, who happens to always name his characters with a G. He hadn’t yet logged into that session of the beta and wasn’t in the kin yet. After some odd questions the misunderstanding finally sorted itself out. I was no longer heir, but I now had an immediate connection to everybody who was online at that time. And I’ve never left. They’re a great group of people to play with and I’m blessed to have been mistaken for someone I wasn’t.

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Genda

Posted by Randolph Carter on April 19, 2009

MMO community connection:
`

Chapter 1: Introduction

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

Everyone knows me by Genda, although my first name is Paul. I picked it up when i started playing EQ. I hit the random name generator, it suggested Gendan. It was taken, so I dropped the “n” and Genda was born. It was my first RPG and I really had no idea how to come up with a name.

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

I started out online when Sigil was choosing fansites for Vanguard. They were going to do an official “Affiliate” program, and I decided that it was something I could do. I thought I’d pick up some help along the way, which I did, but it was mostly me running the site. That site is VanguardCrafters.com. I was going to do a lot more with the site, but as it was coming out of my pocket and the game wasn’t developing into what most of us hoped for, I decided to keep it as it is, which is pretty much in its pre-release form. During that time, I started blogging because I wanted a place where I could post opinion pieces outside of the “official” fan site. That blog has been going since late 2005 as thegrouchygamer.com. Because, well, I am. Still have both of those sites up and running. I also operate casualtiesguild.com because no one else in the guild is stupid enough to volunteer to do it.

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

When the blog first started, it was mostly about Vanguard stuff and general MMO commentary. It became a LOT about Vanguard when the fit hit the shan over at Sigil in May of the following year. I was afraid the blog was going to become a “Bash-Sigil and McQuaid” site, so I consciously moved it into a different direction. My time doing the official site had given me access to more and more people in the industry, so I tried to incorporate their perspective with mine, sometimes agreeing but mostly not.

Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

I was born and grew up in Southern California. I don’t really miss it. Well I do miss going to Angels and Lakers games.

Where do you live now?

Austin, Texas. It’s a long story. 😀

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

51-60 Working on leveling this character though.

What do you do for a living?

I sell computer bits, large and small.

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

Actually, still in the computer business, but on the IT manager/director/CIO path.

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

  • I’m not a bad dart player. Pretty good at Foosball too.
  • I met my wife playing an MMO.
  • I’m a big Baseball fan.
  • I’ve traveled extensively in a previous position. All over North America, to Hawaii, and to a few places in Europe.
  • I’m taller than you.

Feel free to discuss any family you have here.

Gotta keep something private. I have 3 kids, all still in school. I think that’s all I want to say.

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?

My gaming was mostly relegated to board gaming and puzzle gaming before the electronic bug struck. I was a FIEND for Mouse Trap, not because the game was good (it wasn’t) but because of the Rube Goldberg device that was part of the mechanism. A couple decades later I found myself just as enthralled with The Incredible Machine on the PC. I tended to play games with mostly family when I was a kid.

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

I played a lot of sports (mostly baseball and basketball. Played some football later. All team sports), did model rockets, and loved table tennis. I was very competitive so no one would play with me but my dad, and he tired when I started beating him consistently.

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

I never was. 😦 I know. I was deprived.

Did you read much as a child? If so, what did you like to read (books, comic books, etc?) Please list some favorite authors, titles, etc.

I read voraciously as a child, but mostly non-fiction. By the time I was in 4th grade I had read the World Book Encyclopedia cover-to-cover (all 20-some volumes.) To this day, my head is full of useless information. I later got into some select fantasy. Like many, it started with Tolkein.

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.

No, I think my MMO involvement came mostly from my playing games in general, and some RPG’s in particular.

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

I first played video games on an old console, and I honestly don’t remember which one it was. This is a sure sign that I’m getting really old.

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

Oh, yeah. Many a quarter dropped from my fingers into obscurity in the name of standing at the box and gaming. I played a lot of these games the same way I played everything else. By the time I got a little older, I had learned to tone down the outward signs of my competitiveness so I could find some people to play with me. Played a LOT of pinball and quite a bit of Asteroids, Missile Command, and Mortal Kombat.

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

When I got my first computer in the mid-80’s it was a Mac. I got a game, Wizardry, I think it was, that totally captured my imagination. I made maps on graph paper, played WAY too late at night, and really learned to love the genre. Before that, there were tons of console games I loved, but never anything like that.

What gaming consoles have you owned in the past?

Coleco Vision, Atari 2600, TurboGrafx 16, NES, N64, Genesis, SuperNintendo, Intellivision, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Game Cube, Wii, XBox, Xbox360, and some others I’m sure I forgot.

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

I remember doing some of what I would consider gaming with a friend at school.  He had a playroom that was huge at his house and we set up a slot car track. We spent hours tweaking our cars trying to make them go faster or stick to the track better, then would race each other for hours on end. I loved the competition and the little cars flying around the track. Still think about those days to this day.

Chapter 3: Online

Were you ever exposed to MUDs?

I wasn’t. Like Pen and Paper, I somehow missed that era.

What was your first MMO experience?

Like a lot of you, Everquest was my first. I started in early 2000, introduced by some friends that I played foosball with. Once I started, I was hooked. I couldn’t believe how rich the content was and how many things there were to do. I also really liked how what you did had consequences. If you died, you had to go find your body or you lost your stuff. That was cool back then.

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

EQ 61 Druid, Lineage II 33 Archer, SWG Master Architect, World of Warcraft 66 Shaman, City of Heroes 30 Controller, City of Villains, Everquest II 36 can’t remember what the SK is called, Vanguard (don’t get me started, trust me,) LotRO, Tabula Rasa, EVE, Age of Conan, WarHammer 30 Squig Herder, and World of Warcraft again. Also leveled a Lock, Mage, and Priest in WoW.

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

Playing World of Warcraft – Horde on a PVP server.

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

It’s close between EQ and WoW. I may have more total time in WoW because I have Altitis so bad. I’ve leveled a LOT of different characters there. On my main in EQ, he was retired pretty much right after the level cap was raised for PoP with around 100 days played. My current WoW main is right at 56 days played. About 35 of those days were played when he was capped at 60.

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

See above. EQ and WoW when the level caps were 60 on each.

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?

That’s hard. I could play the “what could have been” game and say SWG for it’s potential, but the game just didn’t support that. EQ was so important for it’s time, but that has passed. I’d have to say WoW, because then I’d be sure to have plenty of people to play with.

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

The Copernicus project at 38 Studios is really the only one holding my attention at all at the moment. I am a little disillusioned with the state of game development at the present time, and I am really hoping these guys can do something different.I like what I hear from Shwayder and Moorgard, but I’ve fallen for smooth talking and cheap wine before. I’m also a little piqued by what Blizzard might be working on.

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

Where is Burned Woods this week? This isn’t my work, but trust me, and if you are an MMO fan, this is a MUST read. Some EQ acronyms are worth finding out about to understand the story. I wish I could take credit for this one.

Chapter 4: Preferences

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

About 40 hours. That was during my EQ raiding days, and that was around a full-time job as well. Still today, I do about 30 hours a week. That’s probably peak for me these days.

When during the week are your regular play times?

Every night after work for a few hours, and most of the day on the weekends around events we have. Right now, we are fully engaged in gaming so it’s pretty regular. It’s not always like that.

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

I tend to be more social, but I definitely have my lone wolf side as well. Most of the time, it’s me and Tarkheena duoing. We love playing (especially dungeon crawling) with others though. Right now, we just started back on our WoW Horde characters (who have been retired since BC came out) so we are leveling, trying to get to 80 so we can run with the rest of our guild. We’re not being crazy about it but that’s where most of our effort goes.

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

Absolutely. Besides meeting my wife playing EQ, there are all kinds of people that we still keep in touch with and have for years.

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?

Usually we have something planned. There’s always a big goal hanging out there in front of us (right now, that is running 25-man Naxx.) To get there we have to level, so we know right now when we log in that we’ll be questing. There are times when we log in and ask “What do you want to do? But that is less often any more.

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

I usually have more than one game going, which drives Tark nuts. Mostly I concentrate on one, unless there is a big new release out that I want to try out. Rarely any more do I do more than two though. Most of them are so demanding that there is no way to play that many effectively and have a job. Now if I could get a sponsor…

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

If I’m really into the game I’m playing, no. I tend to have laser focus on the game or task at hand. If it’s losing my interest, I’ll go to other computer games, then to the XBox or the PS3.

Are you something of an altoholic?

Yes. I have a main and usually a couple of alts that get a decent amount of attention. Currently I have a Shaman main (73), and a Mage (54) and Lock (46). Hmmm, guess I lean toward casters. My Mage doesn’t get much play time now that my wife has her mage to 75. Let her lose interest though and I’ll trot him right back out. 😀

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)?

Always. There is a flat panel mounted on the wall where we play above the desk that is usually on, and I have another computer (I used to 2-monitor my box, but didn’t like the small performance hit, so I unretired a box for browsing and 2-boxing.) that is right next to my main gaming machine.

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

Any time I get the chance. Most of the people where I work now are not gamers (that I know of) so that doesn’t happen at work. Most of my guild lives locally, so there is an opportunity to get together every once in a while and we do.

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

I’m sure I game too much. I don’t smoke or drink or chase women though, so I feel like of the possible vices in my life I’ve chosen one that is relatively less objectionable. Plus, it’s something my wife and I do together which continues to be a bonding experience for us.

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

Yes, from time to time I’ve stepped away. Most of the time it’s in the wake of a disappointing new game and me having the feeling that I wasn’t ready to go back to whatever I was playing right away. During those times, I tend to immerse myself in the meta-game. In most cases, the meta game is at least as interesting as the actual games themselves. That’s how anyone ever came to know who I was, otherwise I’m just another player like everyone else.

Chapter 5: Blogging

When did you first start blogging?

I started in the gaming community with a fansite. Talk about jumping in with both feet. That was vanguardcrafters.com, obviously a site for crafters in Vanguard. I opened that in March of 2005. As that progressed I wanted more of an outlet for my personal opinions that a fansite wasn’t appropriate for. So in November of that year I started my blog. I didn’t post much at first. Seems like that is repeating itself now. I’m currently working on a new site for an upcoming game. Evidently I AM a glutton for punishment. I’m also going to get my blog going again. No, really. For sure this time.

Why do you blog?

I never really thought about it. I started to get some things out of my system. That resonated with a certain audience, so I was encouraged to continue. It kind of made it’s own momentum from there. I still like thinking and talking about gaming. So that’s gotta be the main reason.

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

I used to. Sometimes that just isn’t possible to keep up though. When I’m going well I’m trying to write four or five times a week.

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

Absolutely there is. Once something is scheduled it becomes a commitment. Commitments carry responsibility and responsibility can be a grind. I also am prone to writer’s block. Once that sets in, it can be a self-fulfilling prophesy. I can’t write well when I’m under deadline and uninspired. So I try harder, which leads to a block. Then I feel bad about missing a post… you get the picture.

By contrast, what do you find pleasurable about blogging?

I like all the interaction with people who have like interests. I even like the debates with people who think my ideas are total crap and fabrications. I’ve had a few of those, especially during the emotionally-charged Sigil-splat era. I really enjoy all of it except trying to do it when I can’t.

How many people offline know you blog?

A handful. Some of the guys I used to work with, a couple of my wife’s co-workers. The people in my current guild don’t know, and I kind of like that.

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

If you are going to commit to your audience, make sure you have something to say and a real charter to fulfill. I have a particular way of looking at things, and that is what sets my blog apart from some others. Don’t be controversial for the sake of controversy, but don’t shrink from it either. Let your angst show. Try to be transparent and never lie. Be yourself, amplified.

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

I wish I would have known about some of the cool software tools. I’m still learing about that and trying to update my blog. I also would have tried to set more realistic goals for myself.

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

Yes. I’ll probably always have a web presence though. If I’m not blogging I’ll have a fansite or something. I’m not planning on stepping away but I think I could if I were ready to do so.

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?

Immigrant Song (Led Zeppelin) – do the math, if you are a fan of obscure internet culture.

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