Grinding to Valhalla

Interviewing the gamer with a thousand faces

One shot: Syncaine

Posted by Randolph Carter on July 6, 2009

MMO community connection:

Hardcore Casual

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

I try to keep the blog a mix of ‘what I’m playing and my reactions to it’ and general commentary on the MMO space, usually based on new developments or news/rumors. Depending on the week, sometimes it’s more of one or the other, but I try to keep a decent balance.

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

Technically it was NWN on AOL at a friends house, but that was mostly watching him play and just being amazed that the icon in another square is being controlled by another player. I do remember a decent amount of PvP happening. I also had a GEM III account, but never got all that far into it since we had pay by minute dial up.

Ultima Online was the first MMO I played with my own account and at great length. Going into that game as a huge RPG and Ultima fan, it was amazing just seeing other players in towns and dungeons I had previously experienced on my own with the Comador 64 and Ultima V. Considering the MMO genre is all about living in a virtual world and seeing the possibilities, UO hooked me day one and I’ve been playing MMOs ever since.

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

It’s a tie between my first PK death in UO and running into a ‘famous’ PKs house by accident.

The first death was a ‘wow’ moment because I was wearing my best armor and a magic mace that another player had given to me, and that weapon made killing ratmen much easier. It was only after I got killed that I realized it was gone, and that I really had to be smart about where I went and what I wore. It just made the whole ‘virtual world’ concept seem very real, as I was no longer only concerned about beating some NPC or exploring the world as I wanted. Other players were around and impacting my gaming for good (the magic mace) and not-so-good (getting PKed and looted). More than being handed that mace, the guy who PKed me probably had the biggest impact in terms of getting me hooked, which explains my history and current views on full looting and impact PvP.

The PK house incident was my first moment of true fear in an MMO. I was happily exploring the area between Yew and Britain as a good little newbie when I saw a small house with a vendor NPC. I checked to see what the vendor was selling and saw that he was loaded with severed heads. Checking one, they were all ‘created’ by ofDeath (so with his title, his full name was Dread Lord ofDeath), who at the time was a well known PK. Instantly I ran away, thinking he was either inside the house watching me or at any moment was going to recall and kill me. I must have run 3-4 screen lengths before I stopped and actually inhaled again. I never did run into that guy, but I’ll never forget that almost-encounter.

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

At my peak I was playing between 40-70 hours a week raiding in vanilla WoW during college. I also played Asheron’s Call:Darktide for a while at around 30-40 hours a week. Previous to that, when I was playing and ranked #1 overall (self-pat on the back) in Myth 2 (an RTS made by Bungie) I was putting in close to 50 hours a week. Currently I play between 15-30 hours, depending on how much time I have on the weekend. Weeknights I usually play 2-3 hours.

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

I own a Wii, though it gets very little use despite being a great system with some really fun games. I also game on the iPhone now, but that’s in short 5-10 minute intervals. The app store is amazing though, just from how easy it is to how much content it contains. That format is definitely a major wave of the future, and it’s going to have a huge impact going forward.

I played Warhammer Fantasy Battle back in the day, with all those painted miniatures still residing on their 4’x4′ battlefield in the basement. On the PC, I’m a huge turn-based strategy fan and love playing Civilization, and currently Blood Bowl. Single player RPGs like The Witcher or NWN2 I’ll also pick up, and I’m looking forward to Dragon Age.

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

I started in June of 2007 after reading and commenting on various blogs. I’ve been on a few podcasts, but overall most of my interaction happens on my blog and the 5-6 blogs I visit daily.

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

Totally as a hobby. I like to debate in general, so a blog is the perfect venue for that, and the MMO genre presents endless topics to go back and forth on. Short of my blog getting CNN-sized traffic (and man would that take a LOT of anti-WoW posts to accomplish), my day job pays more than enough to keep the blog as just a hobby.

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

I try to post, on average, once every work day. I write most of my posts during ‘breaks’ at work, and now with the iPhone, I instantly get an email anytime someone comments, which makes following up on questions really easy. When work gets a little too busy, I might write a post or two on a weekend, although I almost never ‘save’ posts to put up at a later date.

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 we are using ‘grind’ in the positive “it’s what you do in an MMO” fashion, then I think it is. The more you put into your blog, the more people will comment and provide future ideas or discussion topics. People who follow the blog will also pick up on your style and gaming history, so the questions or comments they make will be better focused, which is great.

I’ve never felt I ‘need’ to make a post just to fill space, or to put something up because it’s been X days since I’ve said anything. That said, when my MMO gaming is slow or just constant, it can be a little harder to make interesting ‘what I’m playing’ posts. I can only write about the latest PvP fight in DarkFall or a zone capture in WAR so many times before I think they all sound the same and bring little to the table. In that regard, what John (The Ancient Gaming Noob) does with his weekly WoW instance group post is amazing, because he makes an interesting post out of something everyone has already experienced. Since I’ll be the first to admit I can’t do that, I won’t bore people (and myself) trying.

By contrast, what do you find pleasurable about blogging?

Learning about other MMOs from different bloggers is a huge plus, or just reading others reaction to certain content. Also hearing peoples feedback on my ideas is always interesting, as I’ve learned you can never predict how people will react to a suggestion. The safest, most obvious things can at times spark the most heated debates.

Friday Blog Wars are also entertaining, and of course drive traffic to make me rich off all the blog revenue I make.

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

Being front-page linked by the BBC Tech page was fun/interesting. Just seeing that much traffic driven by one source in one day was great to watch, even if it was driven to a post I overall feel was nothing special. Perhaps in an interesting reflection of the MMO genre, most of those BBC ‘tourists’ only stayed for the one post and never came back. Should have had a gold seller ad up that day, I would be rich!

Have you ever considered branching into podcasting?

No interest in hosting/producing one myself, but I’m always up for being a guest and interacting with other bloggers.

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

Considering I went into it without any expectations, getting X number of views and especially comments per post is very rewarding. I think now, after two years, the more consistent bloggers have a good feel for my posting style and overall personality, so people know what to expect from my site. I’m sarcastic and cynical by nature, and obviously my writing reflects that. I also like to poke fun at things, and since for some blogging is ‘serious business’, that generally leads to some entertainment as well, and at the end of the day, that’s why we read blogs; to be entertained.

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

Aside from the gold seller ad on that BBC Tech day?

Joking aside, not really. I’ve never posted anything and later thought ‘damn, wish I never said that’, and I’ve never held anything back because it might create too much negative feedback or attract too many trolls. Nothing that can be written is going to really upset me, since the topic revolves around sillly MMO games and the blog is part of the Internet, so you might as well have fun with it.

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

Be consistent and don’t limit yourself. Just because you love your current MMO, don’t focus your blog only around that. Not only will you limit your audience, but when (not if) you leave that MMO, you don’t want to lose the blog as well. Other than that, make sure you have a thick skin and don’t let the trolls/randoms get to you to the point of determining what you post. Finally do some research whenever you make a more general “it would be cool if” post, as more often than not someone has already said it, and it’s always better to add something to the conversation rather then repeat it.

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

Since I don’t see myself leaving the MMO genre anytime soon, I don’t see why I would stop blogging. Unless I accept a job without Internet access, but odds are slim of that happening.

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.

EVE with elves using the WoW engine and promoted by Paul from Mythic, PR by Tasos from Aventurine.

That or a game based on Necromunda, where you control a gang rather than a single character, and you battle other gangs for control of territory that provides resources. Basically what Blood Bowl has done in regards to the rules being adapted from the tabletop to the PC, but the Necromunda IP especially is just perfect for an MMO. Turn based with destructible terrain :drool:

2 Responses to “One shot: Syncaine”

  1. […] you wanted to know, and more. Randolph Carter at “Grinding to Valhalla” recently interviewed me. He asked a great set of questions, and hopefully everyone finds the answers interesting. Feel free […]

  2. […] Syncaine […]

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