One shot: Almazar and Weaux
Posted by Randolph Carter on September 23, 2009
MMO community connection:
Please take a minute and describe what your blog and podcast are about.
Chris (Almazar): LOTRO Reporter is a news, tips and tricks blog about Lord of the Rings Online. We cover the latest news, some tips for the game, as well as include some editorial content about the game, such as our Group Leveling column, which talks about the experience of leveling through the content as a group.
Bill (Weaux): The blog and the podcast are about LOTRO news and game information, from the perspective of relatively low level, casual players. Kind of a “write-what-you-know-and-make-up-the-rest” thing.
Stepping back a bit, you guys happen to be friends in real life. How did you meet?
Chris: Bill moved to the town that I lived in when we where both in Grade 10, and we had a few classes together. We became friends quickly and ended up playing a lot of pen and paper RPGs together, mostly the Palladium system of games. We played a LOT of Rifts. We also played Dungeons and Dragons, Shadowrun, and a couple of other games. We became quite close when we both ended up going to the same University. Marriages, kids and the such later, and here we are.
Bill: Chris and I went to high school together. I was the new kid in school in grade 10, and Chris invited me to join in him a pen-and-paper game session (we played D&D 2nd ed. and several Palladium books games). We drifted apart a bit when we met our girlfriends/future wives, but the summer after graduation I scammed a last-minute invite to his wedding. Our lives have taken very similar paths since then through school & location and we’ve stayed close ever since.
And so, where did the idea of starting a LOTRO blog and podcast come from?
Chris: I started the blog this past summer when I really got back into LOTRO. Bill and I had played WoW quite a bit, and had talked for a long time about starting a WoW podcast and blog. When we both got bored of WoW, and wanted to play together again, we re-subscribed to LOTRO (we had not been playing LOTRO for about 6 months) and started playing together again.
Through all of this, I came to really appreciate the complexities of the game, started listening to some podcast and checking out some blogs, and I found that there wasn’t anything out there that was filling the same space in the LOTRO world as two of my favorite blogs/podcasts: WoW.com (then known as WoW Insider) and The Instance. Not that I think we’re in the same league as those two, but it’s something that I keep in mind as we produce content.
I’m basically making a blog and podcast that I would enjoy!
Bill: I would like to take all the credit, but it would be a dirty lie. We often get into very heated, involved discussions about LOTRO (& MMO’s in general) and at one point we decided it would make a good podcast. Chris did about 95% of all the work getting it set up and published (both the podcast and the blog) – I’m there mainly for the good looks.
What were both of your introductions to MMOs and what was that experience like?
Chris: I started with Ultima Online. Well, do MUDs on bulletin boards count? Did those two. I actually didn’t have a computer when I bought UO, but I happened to live right above a bookstore/internet cafe where they had computers that you could rent by the hour. I had played the Ultima games a ton, and really wanted to get in on an online version of it. I didn’t get very far in UO though. I got ganked. So I tried a different area. And I got ganked. Yeah…..
Bill: My first experience was in Asheron’s Call. I was in University, and it obliterated my grades! At the time I thought it was the most rich, deep, involved gaming experience possible. It’s funny to look back on it now as seeming fairly simple.
Can you recall that first MMO “wow!” moment?
Chris: My first WOW moment in an MMO was the first night that I played Dungeons and Dragons Online with my wife, with Bill, and with his wife. I had never really gotten into groups very much in the past, missing out on all the group content that MMOs have to offer. Playing with a group, all the time, made the game so much more enjoyable that it had been before and changed the way that I approached MMOs from that point on.
Bill: It’s over 10 years ago now, but I remember the pain and joy of learning new spells in Asheron’s Call (through random material research) the hard way, because I hadn’t looked up any of the cheats yet. I remember thinking, “No regular game could get away with such a mind-numbing, frustrating mechanic.” Again, it’s funny to look at it now because if a game had such a mechanic to one of its central game systems (spellbooks) I would be out of there like a shot. It just speaks to how “enthusiastic” I was about the game.
At your peak, how much time per week would you say you spent playing? How about now?
Chris: I think that my peak was probably about 50-60 hours on WoW when I was on sick leave from work. I was staying in a trailer, in my sister’s driveway, away from my family, and couldn’t really get up and move around. So I played a lot of WoW. Enjoyed it, as it was a way to connect with people, and to connect with my wife as well (she played WoW and currently plays LOTRO).
Now, I play about 10-15 hours per week, depending on how much real life gets in the way. Family, kids, that always comes first.
Bill: At my worst (best?) I was probably playing 40-50 hours a week for several games. I’m sure I did that when I was at my peaks in Asheron’s Call, Dark Age of Camelot, and World of Warcraft. I also squeezed a few hours a week in that time for offline games like Baldur’s Gate, Diablo II etc.
Do you tend to supplement your MMO gaming with other PC, console, or tabletop games?
Chris: I’m a pretty avid gamer overall. I play Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead on the PC, as well as several games on my PS3, mostly of the Rock Band variety, although Batman: Arkam Asylum has got its hooks on me pretty good right now. We used to play tabletop/pen and paper RPGs, but life just isn’t letting Bill and I get together often enough for that.
Bill: Definitely. Our pen-and-paper play has definitely died off (we tried email campaigns, and IM campaigns, but it just didn’t work). I have a Wii that I play with my wife and kids. I definitely still play quite a bit of “offline” PC Games, though not near as much as I used to.
Do you see blogging and podcasting as just a hobby or perhaps something more?
Chris: With our resent spike in number at the site recently, my wife was joking that it will soon become a second job! But in reality, this is a very enjoyable hobby. I have a family to take care of, and working helps me do that, so the time I can offer to the site and the podcast will always be limited. Then again, Scott Johnson from The Instance only recently left his job to pursue his art, podcasting and blogging career fulltime, and he’s been Podcasting for years. It’s a great standard to emulate.
Bill: At this point in my life it’s a hobby – there’s too much RL for it to be anything else. It would be a dream come true to be able to make it a living. It sounds sad, but if I could be a minimum wage blogger/podcaster/internet-pseudo-celebrity I would retire from my day job. Heaven is going to work in your underwear.
Do you try and stick to any sort of schedule?
Chris: I try to put a new post on the site every day, but it usually comes in spurts, where I will put 3 or 4 posts up one day, then nothing the next. With the podcast, we try to keep a weekly schedule, but are doing a pretty poor job so far. It’s a learning curve. Our latest episode was a week and a half late because I forgot to hit the RECORD button before we started, and we lost a whole show. Real life didn’t allow use to record again for another week. I also try to use twitter whenever I post, and also respond to other LOTRO related tweets whenever I can.
Bill: We try to podcast weekly, though various RL and technical issues have interrupted that schedule. I think as we’ve realized there’s more people listening besides our wives, we’re putting more priority into getting podcasts out in a timely fashion. Chris is a prodigious blogger and is far more diligent than I at it. Same with podcasting though – as we’re starting to see more people visiting the blog, I am putting higher priority on contributing.
Would you say there is some grind involved in blogging and/or podcasting? If so, what is it and how do you tend to cope with it?
Chris: No, I don’t find it a grind at all. Mind you, I haven’t been doing this all that long. It may change. I don’t think it will though. I enjoy what I’m doing, I’m creating content that I like, and a community is starting to form around it. It was a little hard at the beginning, as it felt like we where in a vacuum, without much community feedback. It’s very nice to see the community interacting now, and that makes it all worthwhile.
Bill: So far, no. Every podcast we’ve done is basically a phone-call or BS session we would have had anyway. The only difference is we’re recording it (and drinking less during). Chris being the far more diligent blog poster might have a different point-of-view but anything I’ve written or contributed has just been for fun.
By contrast, what do you find pleasurable about the experience?
Chris: I just enjoy writing the posts and talking about LOTRO for the podcast. I’m really enjoying the community interaction that has started recently, as well as starting to interact with some of the other bloggers and podcasters in the LOTRO community.
Bill: The act of doing it is fun for me. I think if I had all the time in the world and real life would leave me alone (and all the game servers were down) I would write for the blog and record podcasts for fun.
Are you pleased with how your blog and podcast have been received in the blogosphere?
Chris: Like I mentioned before, the beginning was tough, but lately, things have been great. We’re even looking at forming at Kinship for bloggers, podcasters and their fans, and the reaction to that has been very positive.
Bill: Well, it’s been relatively recent that we’ve started to see some significant traffic, but definitely yes. I find it fascinating and very flattering that there’s people out there interested in what we have to say.
If you had a chance to do it all over again, would you do anything different?
Chris: Nothing comes to mind specifically.
Bill: I would have made a bigger effort at the start of the website I think. Again – Chris deserves all the credit for this thing taking off to where it is now. I have some ideas for the future for it, though – so stay tuned!
Are there any new projects in the works for the LOTRO Reporter you’d care to discuss?
Chris: We’re just going to keep growing and expanding the site naturally. I’m spoken to a few fans about trying to get some pre-recorded segments on to the show that are fan created, and we’re working on that now. Other than that, we’re just going to keep playing LOTRO and having fun with the site and podcast.
Bill: I think we’re mainly just trying to keep writing and keep recording as long as it’s fun. Of course our 5 year plan is to have a prime-time LOTRO sitcom on a major network and to own the entire internet. That’s in pretty early planning stages though.