Grinding to Valhalla

Interviewing the gamer with a thousand faces

Posts Tagged ‘One shot interview’

One shot: Kelly

Posted by Randolph Carter on September 11, 2009

MMO community connection:

Geekoric: Geek Girl See, Geek Girl Do

(un)Enlightened English

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Blogger | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

One shot: Syp

Posted by Randolph Carter on September 9, 2009

MMO community connection:

Bio Break

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

Some might say that Bio Break is just another general mmorpg blog (JAGMMORPGB, which is pronounced as if you were choking on a tuna salad sandwich), but those closer to the source know the truth. They know that this is essential work that must be completed if we are to fend off and eventually defeat the alien invaders known as “YAR” in 2034, and restore humanity to its rightful place among the couch potatoes of the universe.

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

Anarchy Online. At launch. Gee, what do you THINK the experience was like? That I’m still playing games belonging to that genre is a miracle that should be closely investigated by the Catholic church.

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

The second time I logged in to see my character still there. Small, stupid thing, but it hit me — this character had persistence and permanence (of a sort) in this game universe. Cool!

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

Before I met my wife, I was clocking in at least 6-8 hours a night, plus all day on my days off — not too healthy, which is why I’m glad I met her! Nowadays, I get a couple hours a day, if the planets align, the baby goes to sleep, I’m caught up on work, grad school work, and blogging.

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

I do indeed — I love single-player RPGs (Fallout 3, KOTOR, The Witcher and Mass Effect all being titles I’ve explored in the past year), casual flash games (usually of the tower defense variety), my iPhone games for when I’m out and about, and whatever really grabs me by the throat and growls “PLAY MEEE!!” until I run out onto the streets, stark naked, looking for the nearest Fry’s to obtain that title.

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

When I was playing WoW, I followed quite a few blogs relating to the game, and always a bit envious of the way they got to share their passion for MMOs in the public spotlight. When I began to get interested in Warhammer in early 2008, I looked around, saw that the field was pretty light for WAR-related blogs, and decided to get onto the ground floor with WAAAGH!, my first gaming blog. I ran WAAAGH! for a little over a year, covering the pre- and post-launch ups and downs of WAR, met a ton of awesome bloggers and readers, got to know a few of Mythic’s devs, and basically got addicted to writing. I love it!

As a bit of irony in appearing in this blog interview series you’re doing, one of the first things I did with WAAAGH! was to start interviewing the WAR blog community in a series of Q&As, figuring that it would not only be a great way to meet people, but they’d HAVE to link back to me then! And, to my slight embarrassment, it worked like a charm.

By early 2009, I knew that my interest in WAR was waning, so I chose to end WAAAGH! without it petering out slowly, and followed that up by starting a new general MMO blog called Bio Break (my first choice, “Exploding Sheep”, was taken). In a lot of ways, Bio Break was a huge “do over”, as I had to build up a readership and solid content, but I was delighted to discover that the blogging community outside of WAR was just as strong as I had previously known, and that spurred me on to writing a blog that was topical, honest and (hopefully) a mixture of informative and entertaining.

I have podcasted a bit, lately with Snafzg of Snaffy’s Space, but due to our hectic schedules, it can only be a once-in-a-while deal. Plus, Snafzg is a Canadian vampire, so he has to go around “watching” emotionally void females while they sleep.

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

Games can be art. They can also be trash, just like any other form of entertainment. People who never stop lobbying that video games are pure art need to get real — sometimes a headshot is just a headshot; people who degrade gamers as silly and stupid while spending entire weekends watching husky men on TV run up and down a field with a misshapen ball need a reality check.

I view my gaming as a hobby, for sure, and I can never award it anything higher than that in my life, or I would be in danger of putting it on the same level as my job, my family or my faith. There’s nothing wrong with a great hobby that puts you in touch with loads of other people, to socialize and work together for a common purpose — at least, as long as you’re not part of some underground militia group, I suppose.

Likewise, blogging is a hobby about a hobby (whoa… that’s DEEP, Syp). I’ve been a lifelong writer, and I have a serious problem in stopping the endless flow of words that just keep tumbling out. Most bloggers I know write because they’re passionate and personal with the subject, and want to connect with others by sharing their thoughts and opinions.

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

I try to post at least one new article a day. As several of my friends would attest, the problem is in me limiting myself to only one of anything. Usually I try to get a “general issue” post up first thing in the morning, which could be about whatever topic I’m thinking about, and then I follow it up with quicker posts about the daily news, or responding to topics being bounced around the blogosphere.

What works for me is to have an ongoing list of possible article topics — I have screen after screen of half-finished posts that might never see the light, but they’re there if I feel like picking them back up some day, dusting them off and taking them out for a spin. It’s nice to have a few articles pre-written and just sitting there for days that I’m at a loss for words, or too busy to devote any time to blogging.

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

Nah, not really. If you feel like you have to grind out blog posts… well, maybe you’re going about doing it for the wrong reasons, or in the wrong way.

By contrast, what do you find pleasurable about working with blogging?

Meeting other bloggers and reading comments left by folks who often have more brilliant and insightful things to say than I ever could. I never mind when someone disagrees with me, or takes my posts in a new direction, because it’s fun to “listen” as long as I don’t take it personally.

There’s always a danger of getting a little too full of yourself when you blog, to make it a narcissistic, cult of personality thing. I really hope I don’t cross that line, but I’m sure I do on occasion — and so I do try to get as much self-depreciation in there as possible.

Remember, kids, Syp eats puppies. He’s a horrible human being. And he’s coming for YOU.

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

This is kind of a small anecdote, but it’s stuck with me. So I was in a very tight-knit, casual guild in WoW called Time Well Wasted (they’re still rockin’ hard on the Rexxar server, look them up and give Val hell for me!). Anyway, one day we had a death in the family of one of our guildies, a young girl who took it pretty hard. We all reached out in our own ways, but I knew that she liked cats and in-game pets, so I ran around Stormwind for a good four hours until that vendor popped up who sells one copy of the little white kitten. I sent it to her, told her it needed a good home, and she wrote back that it made her day. This isn’t to say how great I am, but that it hit me then how very much we were an online family, and I felt like a real part of it that day.

Are you pleased with how your blog and podcast have been received in the blogosphere?

Sure! I’m always a bit apprehensive about getting too big or too well-known, because I know a lot of what I write is very off-the-cuff stuff, daydreams and opinions and “what if’s?”, which are easy to turn and use against me if someone has an axe to grind. But everyone has been overwhelmingly generous with their support and readership, and I hope I give back to the community and to fellow bloggers just as much.

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

Not a thing. Except that I’d make a whole lot of predictions about MMO events that would eerily come true, and everyone would be in awe of my precognition.

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

Sure, I can. I have to always be willing to walk away from any hobby that gets to be too much of a priority over other things in my life that should be more important, so I always run mental hypotheticals envisioning a day where I would just stop blogging, and I think I could do it. But I have a passion for it, my wife supports it, and a lot of good has come out of it, so I’ll continue to write until/unless my conscience tells me otherwise. Or if I just become a jaded, grumpy gamer who looks at new MMOs, spits my dentures out, and starts lecturing young ‘uns on the glory of permadeath. “Oh, I *wish* I could die for real… back in the day, you wouldn’t just pop back to life as though you were blown gently through the air to a hippie revival festival — no sir, we rotted six feet under, and we LOVED IT.”

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.

Syp Online. There would be just one server, with only one player, who would get to virtually be me, sitting in front of a computer and doing nothing but typing. It would herald the end of all MMORPGs, and the arrival of the four horsemen of the apocalypse (Nerf, Troll, Carebear and Ganker).

Thanks for inviting me onto your crazy blog-type-thing, Randolph!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

One shot: Gordon

Posted by Randolph Carter on September 2, 2009

MMO community connection:

We Fly Spitfires

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

My blog is about MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games) in general. I don’t focus on any one game in particular but rather I try to blog about the genre as a whole and all the different aspects of it. Of course, the articles I write can be inspired by the MMOs I’m playing at that time, have played in the past or are looking forward to play in the future. My articles also vary from quick bits of fun to more in-depth thoughts about MMORPG design.

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

The first MMO I played was Everquest back in Spring of 1999 and I’ve been hooked on them ever since them. Even before I played EQ, I can remember being thrilled by articles I’d read about Ultima Online. Something about the idea of playing a game, particularly a RPG, in an online persistent world filled with thousands of people really captivated me.

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

I’d certainly had many “wow” moments in MMOs but my first was undoubtedly the first time I ever logged into Everquest. I remember it quite vividly actually. I created an Eurdite Necromancer and I spent the first 30 minutes of playing just wandering around Erudin, soaking it all up. I bumped into my first other real player, typed “hello” and he said “hi” back with a wave. I was blown away! I had just met another real living person online!

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

At my peak I probably played about 8-10 hours day. Now I play about 8-10 hours a week.

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

Yep. I occasionally play other single player PC games although I tend to keep my PC just for MMOs and I’ve also got a PS3 which I play quite regularly. I’ve got a PSP and a Nintendo DS too but they barely see the light of day now – they just don’t seem to have any decent games.

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

I started blogging on Christmas Day 2008 (much to the chagrin of my wife) and have been regularly writing ever since then. What can I say – I love it and I’m hooked. I couldn’t really say that I’ve had any “projects” with it, well maybe apart from revamping my blog design. When I first started my blog it was just using a very basic black and white WordPress theme and since then a friend of mine has been helping me out by designing a new theme for the site. It’s an ongoing process and we’re continually trying to improve the site to make it more attractive and useable.

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

Much like many other bloggers I’d love to be able to make a living out of writing – whether that’s through my blog, writing for other sites or magazines or as a novelist. Still, I’m very realistic about the chances of that sort of thing happening. Very few bloggers are able to generate income from their blog and MMORPGs are such a niche topic, I’m not even sure it’s even possible. So ultimately I just see it as a hobby.

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

I try to blog once a day although I don’t hold myself at gunpoint to it. Sometimes I’m just too busy or I’m not at home so it’s not possible. Usually though I write and publish at article in the evening around 9pm or 10pm GMT on weekdays and in the late mornings on weekends. I love weekends because they give me a real chance to spend a long time thinking over my articles whilst during the week I can be a little rushed.

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

There is nothing about blogging I see as a grind. I think if any blogger does see it as a grind, then they probably shouldn’t be doing it.

By contrast, what do you find pleasurable about blogging?

Everything. I love writing, plain and simple. It’s a chance for me to be creative and unleash all of the thoughts I have bouncing around in my head. Since I’ve started blogging, I’ve learnt so much about myself and my mind and it’s been a brilliant experience. Of course, I also love getting feedback to my articles. It’s incredibly rewarding when people comment on my posts and chip in with their thoughts or use my post as a basis for one of their own articles. That sharing of ideas is what blogging’s all about.

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

Probably the first time someone commented on my blog. I was so delighted that someone actually liked my stuff enough to take the time to write a comment and respond. It was a great feeling.

Have you ever considered branching into podcasting?

I’ve thought about it and I’m sure I’ll give it a go at some point but right now my passion lies in the written word.

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

Very. It’s incredible to think that 9 months ago my blog didn’t exist and now it’s gaining popularity and being read by hundreds of people every day. I’ve also found a great pleasure in engaging with my fellow bloggers and I’ve had a huge amount of fun and intellectual stimulation by commenting on their blogs and reflecting on their posts. Also almost everyone is very friendly and willing to recognize your blog so long as you can prove you’re serious about it and have something interesting to contribute.

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

Nope 🙂

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

If you love writing and have ideas popping out of your head every day, then go for it and don’t let anything hold you back. You don’t need design skills or web servers, just open an account with WordPress and start blogging! Of course, on the other hand, if you don’t have a true love for your subject material then I’d say don’t bother. You need to honestly love blogging about your chosen topic, otherwise it’s just a waste of time.

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

I don’t think I can now. It’s odd because I’m relatively new to blogging yet it’s consumed me so much. I think about what I’m going to blog about when I go to bed at night and it’s the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning. I think about it at lunch time and when walking home from work. It’s such a huge part of my life now and gives me so much pleasure, I don’t think I could ever stop.

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

Oh that’s easy! ZOMBIES!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

One shot: Gnomeaggedon

Posted by Randolph Carter on August 31, 2009

MMO community connection:

Armaggedon’s Coming

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

Armageddon’s Coming is a World of Warcraft Blog focusing on Fire Mages, Gnomes, Gnome Fire Mages, Mages in general and little bits and pieces that capture my imagination both in game and out. Often leaning towards the Q in QQ, but always with a healthy dose of appreciation for the excellent game that Blizzard have developed. Generally the out of game entries revolve around my toddler (Ironically, considering this is appearing on Grinding to Valhalla, my toddler’s name is Odin) or my experiences as a WoW playing parent.

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

World of Warcraft was my introduction to MMOs… Neverwinter Nights doesn’t count and that was the closest I ever got to one before.

It turned out that by the time I purchased the 3 sets of NWN to join my mates… they all left to play another game.. something called WoW…

As I had begged to be allowed to play NWN with my Mates, and my wife finally submitted and gave me the leave pass, I wasn’t prepared to try and convince her to let me play WoW right up…

However at Easter after the release of Vanilla WoW, while at a LAN with those same mates, one of them encouraged me to roll a warrior on his account.. just for a taste test… When I was dragged away from the screen some 3 hours later, it was only because my own copy of the game (purchased by my mates) was being waved in front of my face.

To be honest, the first experiences were average… the Warrior sucked… it was boring, and I am not a melee kind of player.

My 2nd experience in the MMO wasn’t much better… see I was mate number 6… and about 30 levels behind my mates, so it was just me and my pet (I rerolled a Hunter) for the 1st 30 levels.

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

It was around level 30, I was running down a road and someone running in the opposite direction /waved and buffed me.

OK, this sounds a bit strange, that I am playing an MMO and it was only about level 30 I experienced anything along the lines of the MMO nature… but being an Aussie, playing on a US server, often meant that I was playing alone. I remember doing a /who in the Arathi Highlands one night… I was the only player there.

As for real, OMG it’s so big moment… either running into Org one night to the crowded bank… or when we rerolled and started a guild on Khaz’Goroth server… we were the 2nd guild on the server, and one of the largest for some time, around 500 members… that became a full time job.

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

At my peak probably about 11-12 hours per week during TBC. Comprising 1 x 6 hour slot on a Friday night with my mates and 5-6x 1 hour slots in the morning while doing housework.. just playing the Auction House. It was the only way I could “grind” my Spellfire and Spellstrike sets.

These days it is pretty much purely the 6 hours per week, with the occasional leave pass to pay while my wife watches Desperate Housewives.

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

The basic answer is no. I don’t have any consoles and have no time for other PC games.

Once in a blue moon a mate will organize a game of Space Crusade (or similar) as a “night out”.

Even when I am at my mates LAN parties I tend to spend most of my time in WoW, catching up on all those things I couldn’t otherwise do.

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

I started blogging just over 12 months ago, June 23rd 2008 with my post You’ll always find me in the Kara at parties. I actually prepared a few posts ahead of time, so in the 1st 3 days I published 6 posts… something I didn’t intend to do, but I think in the end I was publishing about 1.5 posts on average a day… even though generally I only published on week days, and I was away for 2 months of my 1st year of blogging.

There is really only one blogging project… Armaggedon’s Coming!

To be honest it takes up more time than I can really afford… but it’s a passion. A passion that extends to all Mage blogs, which I love to publicize as I discover them. For some reason most Mage bloggers start because they can’t find any mage blogs… strange as I have about 60 of them in my blogroll!

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

It’s purely a hobby… something to relieve my addiction to WoW. I may not be able to play 24/7, but I can still write about it on the train!

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

Not really. I do attempt to write one post per day, but I usually have several in the works (about 20 online drafts and another dozen on the iPhone). My main schedule, or routine is to note any ideas I have in my iPhone immediately, then draft the post up on the way to work. It isn’t unusual for me to knock up 3 posts on my 40 minute train ride.

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

Definitely, but I think it’s an expectation driven problem. The problem is really of perspective, as a blogger you just feel you MUST write something every day, you MUST post something every day, you MUST get those viewer stats up.

My coping mechanism is to churn out the posts when they are bursting, schedule them, then relax. Usually if I am feeling really pressured (it is only internal pressure though), I will schedule a weeks worth of posts. Then once I feel the pressure subsides I will write at a calm, relaxed pace, and just shuffle the posts about.

By contrast, what do you find pleasurable about blogging?

There is no particular order for this, but numbered anyway…

1) The readers: Firstly it’s the page hits that really drive me, as much as I like to deny it. Luckily I have some guides there that just generate hits even though they are 12 months old now. So now I really enjoy the discussion with my regular and loyal readers, particularly the non-blogging readers (but definitely not excluding my fellow bloggers). People like Prelimar, Larisa and Jong, to name only a few of my very much loved readers, keep me coming back with more.

Recently my mother died, and it has been fantastic the support the community has given… best yet, they were all there waiting when I started writing again.

2) Brain dumping: I love to talk… I love to sprout rubbish, most of all I like to know people are listening to the rubbish I spout. The blog gives me the opportunity to QQ, dream, brag, cry etc in a relatively meaningful fashion… especially since my mates are tired of hearing my voice…

3) Reading other blogs and leaving comments. OK, not strictly blogging, but I challenge any blogger to say they don’t read and feed off other blogs. The community of WoW bloggers is amazingly close for such a disparate bunch of people and they really encourage you to push yourself to write again and again. So much of the stuff that is written is mind blowing… maybe not the best grammar, maybe sometimes a bit off center, but it is all worth a read.

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

4 things come immediately to mind.

1) My 1st comment came from Larisa from the Pink Pigtail Inn (actually it was the first 3 comments). She was the primary reason I was inspired to start blogging, so this was a great start, and the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

2) My 1st linkage from WoWInsider (now WoW.com), which was for a silly little post about the similarities between parenthood and WoW: WoW is like bringing up kids.  I thought the WordPress stats were broken when I first checked, then it dawned on me.

3) The loss of some of my favorite bloggers. They come and go of course, but they were inspirations to me (both to blog and for post concepts), so it was sad to see them go (and reappear… Jong & Megan!)

4) For my 1st blog anniversary, I decided I would let my readers write the posts… for a couple of days. I thought this would be a nice way for me to have an easy blogging week. It turned out I received a pile of quality responses and screenshots and it took about 2 weeks to get all my “Blogday Presents” posted. It really struck me that I had some quality readers out there, that were prepared to go to serious lengths to reward/thank me for my efforts over the previous 12 month… I love you guys!

Have you ever considered branching into podcasting?

No.. I have contemplated guesting on a podcast or two, but the reality is I don’t have any time to even do that. The Aussie timezone difference makes it hard to contribute to US podcasts as their recording time is usually midday Aussie time when I am either at work, or with Family… and I am a family 1st WoW player.

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

Pleased… Yes..

Amazed… Yes..

Stunned – you wanted to include me here, on Grinding to Valhalla!?!

I keep getting told how positive Armageddon’s Coming is, which strikes me as strange as I wouldn’t say that I am the most positive person in real life. That said, I do enjoy the game and I am constantly seeing the fun aspects of WoW.

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

Not much that I can think of.

If I had more time I might go self hosted, but I don’t, and I think WordPress.com (or any of the 3rd party hosted blogs) is the best way to start, just to see if you are up to the constant grind.

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

1) Write. Write what you love (or hate) about your subject matter.

2) It is certainly easier if you pick a niche, even it’s as broad as “everything about WoW”, but it is better if you are even more refined (yet don’t limit yourself too narrowly and run out of subject matter by the end of the 1st week)

3) Read other blogs, leave comments, make friends.

4) Bounce off other blogs, respond to them via your own posts, expose them to your readers etc.

5) Write as much as you can while you are enjoying it, slow down when you aren’t

6) Stats don’t make a blog, they may encourage you to write more, but they aren’t important in the whole scheme of things. If you need that sort of external acknowledgment, write a guide, preferably a timeless guide, so the hits come in even if you are AFK (As I was for a month recently)

7) People that comment are your friends, acknowledge them… the new ones, the old ones, the lurkers. Yes the lurkers will come forward every now and then, they deserve to be recognized for coming forward.

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

Yes, that time nearly came a few months back… but the real reason for that wasn’t that I was tired of blogging, rather that I thought I was giving up WoW. When I give up WoW there will be no good reason to continue with Armaggedon’s Coming and it is unlikely I will write a personal blog, so unless some other game inspires me to the extent WoW does, the keyboard will be binned.

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.

Mmmmm, well there would be two factions containing multiple races that can perform as different classes. They would be able to solo grind, run group quests and instances and closer to the end game form into larger groups, or raids, to take on the toughest content…ohhh… errrrmmm… sound familiar?

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

One shot: Scott Nicholson

Posted by Randolph Carter on August 27, 2009

Website:

http://www.scottnicholson.com/

What do you do for a living?

I am a library scientist as an Associate Professor at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies. I also run the Library Game Lab of Syracuse where we study the intersection of gaming and libraries. In the past, I have been a network administrator, a reference librarian, and a statistical modeler for Citigroup.

Would it be possible for you to give us a brief overview of your gaming background?

I’ve been gaming for over 30 years. Board games have always been my primary interest. That said, I’ve spent considerable amount of time with RPGs (lots of Call of Cthulhu, Warhammer Fantasy, Earthdawn) and livescale roleplaying with the foam-sword wielding International Fantasy Gaming Society. I’ve always had consoles from the Atari 2600 on up. I’ve done computer gaming through my Commodore 128, Amiga, and PCs, handheld gaming, and even worked for Wizards as a Netrep for The Imagination Network answering Magic: The Gathering questions. My first professional design was as a co-author on Call of Cthulhu Live, 1st edition.

As someone who collects board games, would you know how many you actually own?

Around 1000. I tend to sell games frequently; I probably sell a hundred board games a year through auctions and markets at conventions. If I try a game and don’t see a time where that would be the game I would pull out, I sell it. I’m not a collector for the sake of a collection.

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

Everquest, where I focused on a Bard and juggling spells World of Warcraft, on and off from the beginning. I find that I need to have people I enjoy talking with – the game itself isn’t enough to keep me playing.  I’ve played around with many of the others, but those are the only two that I would consider that I played extensively.

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

I think it would be logging onto Everquest, running around, and realizing that all of these other people running around were controlled by other players. Back then, this was a big deal.

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

This is a difficult question, as I’m doing quite a bit of work related to gaming. So, for me, I am typically spending much more time working on things related to gaming than I am actually gaming.  I do the Board Games with Scott video cast, and those episodes can take 30-40 hours to do. I also host the Games in Libraries Podcast, and am a voice on the On Board Games podcast.

For my work, I’m doing presentations and workshops on gaming, as well as writing books on the topic. I taught a class via YouTube this summer where I prepared one video every day on the topic, and that created several weeks where I was working on gaming topics for 80-100 hours a week.

So, my life is so entwined with game-related experiences that it’s hard to pull it all apart.

Would you care to share an amusing and/or interesting anecdote from your gaming days?

I think the funniest things are happening now, as many folks know about Board Games with Scott. About half of the time that I travel somewhere and visit a game shop, someone knows me. This summer, I was in Utrecht at a game shop. While I was shopping, someone recognized me. We chatted for a while, and then when he left, the shop owner asked how he knew me. I explained about my show, and the shop owner looked at me like I was crazy. The next person who came in the door looked at me, and exclaimed, “It’s celebrity day! It’s Scott Nicholson!”

Because there aren’t a lot of known faces in the board game world.  Having one means I get recognized a lot.

You’re a major proponent of gaming in libraries. Could you take a minute and explain what the movement is and how you got involved in it?

Just a minute? I do a full-day workshop on it. Libraries have been supporting gaming since the 1850s. The games have taken different forms over the decades, but it’s been there. Now as more people are engaged with gaming, the engagement with the libraries and gaming is growing. Many libraries host gaming events where people can play board, card, computer, or console games with each other. Games are a form of entertainment media, and as they replace books and movies as a primary form of entertainment, the libraries are fulfilling that need.

Many public libraries are community hubs and the games allow members of the community who may never interact to enjoy spending time with each other.

I got engaged with it about 3 years ago. I saw that the growing focus was on video games in libraries as “gaming in libraries” and I knew that there was a much wider variety of game types that libraries have been and could use to meet their goals. I got involved to study it as a professor, gather evidence on the phenomenon, and explore when gaming is appropriate and how it can be most effectively used as a library service.

Do you see a way that MMOs could be incorporated into this?

They already are. Some libraries are running World of Warcraft or Runescape events where they get a group of people together in a computer lab, log on at the same time, and teach a group how to play an MMO. When you have a group of players all sharing the same physical space and in-game space, social interactions go on between those players.

Another area of research exploration is understanding the information structures that support World of Warcraft. To play the game, it requires significant use of information resources and development of strong searching and other information literacy skills. By drawing connections between these skills and general information seeking skills, librarians can help players become better searchers by tapping the skills they have developed to play the game.

There also is a Libraries and Librarians Guild on Aerie Peak in World of Warcraft. This is akin to an always-running library conference, where players in the guild chat about real-world events in librarianship while grinding away.

While Second Life is not an MMORPG in the same sense as WoW, there is a significant library presence there. At the Info Island, there is most likely at least one reference librarian always on. Anyone needing help can visit the Second Life Alliance Library space and get assistance with information.

Are you at all concerned that board gaming may become a thing of the past due to the popularity of video games especially with our younger gamers?

Concerned? Not really. Board Games are a form of entertainment media. They provide face-to-face interaction, and that is the element that is missing in video games. Many folks who stare at a screen all day like to play an analog game to get back to these in-person social connections.

I see analog and digital games merging through surface computing.  These tables would allow people to enjoy the face-to-face experience with the convenience of a digital game. But I like fiddling with my bits (during games), so I’ll miss that!

You’ve recently created your own board game entitled Tulipmania 1637. Would you mind explaining what the game is about?

Tulipmania was the first well-known bubble market. It happened in the Netherlands in the 1600’s and almost completely ruined the Dutch economy. I learned about it at the Tulip museum in Amsterdam, and thought.. “Hey, that should be a game!”. I like economic games, and so set to designing a game. When I hit a design quandary, I did research on what really happens in a bubble stock market as to provide a realistic view on this phenomenon.

How difficult of a process was it for you in creating the game and then finding a publisher?

Oh, it was very easy to create a bad game. Making it into a good game was the tough process. What really helped was a convention I attended with many strong boardgamers who were willing to be honest about my game. Too many people playtest only with family, friends, or their local group and don’t get the quantity of feedback from objective experienced gamers needed to improve the game. Every night, I printed a new board and new cards. During this event, a publisher saw the game and decided to take a copy with him.

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

I would create a game that combines the gameplay of an MMO with the resources available through digital library services in a steampunk modern world. During the play of the game, players would be required to learn various tools to do research in real resources. As they play, they would become much stronger at searching, recognizing untrustworthy information resources, and generally improve their information literacy skills. Perhaps I’d call it “Beyond Google” as a key lesson to teach is that Google is not the place where people should finish their searching.

At least, that’s the library science professor in me, as part of that funding could then fund my Library Game Lab for a very long time.

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

Reach out to your local library and volunteer to help with their gaming programs (or start one)! Many libraries are interested, but don’t have the gaming expertise needed to do it well. As you know, you can make a lot of mistakes in selecting games, and you can help libraries avoid those mistakes.

To learn more, check out my free Gaming in Libraries course.

Other plugs:

You can learn about many modern board games through my 62 videos at Board Games with Scott and can keep up with me at the Games in Libraries podcast and at the On Board Games podcast.

Are you a researcher? I’ve got all of my game-related publications at the Library Game Lab of Syracuse.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

One shot: James Egan

Posted by Randolph Carter on August 21, 2009

MMO community connection:

Massively.com

Could you explain what your involvement with Massively.com is and how you came to be working there?

I’m a Contributing Editor at Massively. Originally I joined the team to write about EVE Online, but since that time I’ve begun to cover most any title out there as well as any breaking stories in the industry. I’m definitely more likely to cover sci-fi games than fantasy titles in a given day, but I’ll write about anything happening in the industry if it catches my interest.

I joined Massively in April of 2008, and found out about the opening on the EVE Online site. It was just a brief message they posted stating that Massively’s looking for someone who can write well about EVE so I went for it, wrote a few articles and submitted them, hoping for the best.

The timing wasn’t ideal as I was working on a Nickelodeon spec script for Avatar: The Last Airbender at the time for the writing fellowship they run each year, so I had to choose which job I was going to try for. I went with Massively and fortunately I got the job. Sadly, Avatar is no more, but it ended beautifully.

Horror stories about working for Shawn “Hitler Jr.” Schuster abound. Is working for this megalomaniac as horrible as it sounds?

It’s worse than it sounds. All those “mandatory” 80’s cartoon theme sing-a-longs in Skype… there’s only so many times you can do Thundercats or Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors before you’re ready to snap. The 4am phone calls/rants about “beta keys” and “jade gloves”, various bits of Guild Wars arcana. Hobbits. I don’t even know what the hell he’s talking about half the time but if you don’t agree with him enthusiastically, you’re finished.

I’m kidding, of course. Shawn is great to work for. Controlling the Massively writers is like herding kittens but he does it well. I guess the main thing is that he lets us write about what we’re interested in, what we’re passionate about, as did Michael Zenke before him.

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

It was EVE. Obviously I’d heard about other MMOs for years but never got into them. The fantasy genre just never hooked me, I could never get immersed in it. Still can’t. But I was already interested in virtual worlds and sci-fi themed games (not MMOs at the time though) when I started listening to MMO podcasts.

I listened to Brent on the VirginWorlds podcast, and Massively Online Gamer/MOG Army, the now-defunct podcast from Gary Gannon and Ryan Verniere. I’d hear their stories on MOG about MMOs, and the mishaps and fun stuff that went down when they played EVE. I guess this really got my interest up.

Of course I’d already heard about some of the batshit crazy stuff that happens in that game, but it didn’t quite make me want to jump in. I just liked reading and hearing about the game. Eventually I took the plunge and I haven’t looked back since. So Gary, Ryan, and Brent, thanks so much for pushing me off the cliff!!

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

It was actually before I’d even played one. It was about this sci-fi game where players could form corporations (guilds, basically) and plot against their rivals. I was living overseas at the time and didn’t have access to English language gaming magazines, but a friend pointed out scans of this article that blew me away. It was about this mercenary group called the Guiding Hand Social Club in a game I’d never heard of called EVE Online. They spent close to a year infiltrating another corp, and when the time was right, assassinated that corporation’s CEO while operatives placed at all levels of the infiltrated corp simultaneously pulled off the biggest heist ever in the game (at the time, anyway).

I couldn’t freaking believe it. A game lets people do something like that?! Beyond whether or not the game’s creators allow it, this is even possible?! People spent *months* planning and waiting for that one shining moment — is it even a game at this point?

For someone who’d really only played single player games on PS2 or whatever console I had at the time, I was in awe. This was the first time it had dawned on me what’s possible in a video game. So I started reading more about it, which led me to the podcasts, to playing the game, and ultimately to Massively.

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

The weird thing is that when I started writing for Massively, I thought I’d be playing more games than ever. “You’re paid to play games!” isn’t quite the reality of the situation, although my friends still seem to think so. The thing is the more you write about games, the less time you’re actually playing. It’s not a complaint in the least, just a misconception I think a lot of people have. One that I had in the beginning as well.

But at my peak… good question. EVE in the beginning, easily 20 hours in a week, pre-Massively. Some weeks more, like during holidays — and if I was single — I’d maybe rack up 30 hours. Now, it’s much less, maybe 10 hours in a week. Part of this is that I’m also playing other games, either on Steam or just single player games on my laptop, plus a few betas.

There’s also the simple fact that when your regular job is focused on MMOs you sometimes just want to unplug at the end of the day, and that’s not always by playing what you’ve written about since the morning. I should note the upside there though — as long as we’re on top of news coverage, I can stop and take an MMO break anytime I want. It’s not like they can fire me, right? It’s “research”!

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

Absolutely. I think that’s important. I’ve become a big fan of games like Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead. Also console gaming is something I do with friends. We all meet up at someone’s house and have these Halo 3 gatherings pretty regularly rather than just matching up online. It’s really a social thing for us, as much about the games as hanging out. The consumption of Jim Beam and Coke typically ensues. Also the occasional cigar.

I used to be really into pen-and-paper RPGs, especially the World of Darkness games, before they did the whole reboot. (I’m not all that familiar with the new setting but I’ll give it another look soon.) My favorite was Mage: The Ascension, with Vampire a close second.

I lived abroad for a huge stretch of my life and didn’t get to play games like this much for a while, but since I’ve been back in the States for a while now we’ve got a regular Aberrant game running which has been a lot of fun. I now play with the same group of friends I played games with growing up.

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

Massively is my first go at writing for the web. People usually seem surprised when I say this, but I’ve never been a blogger as such. I come from a print background so this has been something new for me. Compared to some of the people I work with and other game journos I’ve spoken with, I’m still pretty much a noob with only a bit over a year of experience doing this. So I feel really lucky that Massively gave me my first shot at games journalism. They’ve expressed a desire to clone me, so it seems they’re happy with what I’ve done for them so far.

Prior to this I was an editor at a biz magazine and did a lot of freelance writing and editing when I was living in Shanghai. All print. Some of it was interesting, and being a biz journalist in China was challenging, but honestly it could get really boring. I still shudder when I think back to some of it. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to write about something fun.

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

Oh, it’s definitely my job. It can be a fun job, and is much of the time, but ultimately it’s still something I take more seriously than a hobby. Writing is my livelihood. If I had more time I’d run my own gaming blog on the side, something with a very different style from what I do at Massively.

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

I don’t have a rigid schedule per se, not like I did when working any 9-5 job. I’ll often start work around 9am, sometimes even 10am if I was out late or (more often) working late the night before. I work well into the evening on most work days though. I find it easier to write in the evening.

My schedule, as of only a few days ago, will be a bit lighter though. I probably won’t be putting in quite as many hours at Massively as I have been, and I’m going to look into some other options. Whether that’s freelance writing about games, tech, anime… a salaried position somewhere… I’m not sure yet.

I’m not leaving Massively of course, I love the job, but sometimes it’s good to mix it up a bit. They’ve been supportive of my choice to do this, so another thanks to Shawn and my editor-in-chief, Elizabeth.

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

Yes, there are definitely points where you hit a wall and it’s a little tough to get past. It’s not so much writer’s block as just the fact that you’ve been at it for a long while on most any given day.

More than anything, I think it’s the pace. Massively is a really small team of writers but we turn out a new post, interview, or feature story every hour Monday to Friday, and through the weekend too, albeit at a slower pace.

How do I cope with it? Sometimes I take a step away, do something else for a while. When that’s not an option and they need me there covering what’s happening in MMOs, you’ve just got to push through it. Even on those days, the fact remains that you’re writing about games, and that’s not bad at all. Keeping that in mind always helps.

By contrast, what do you find pleasurable about blogging?

The simple fact that I’m writing about something I care about. I spent years writing content for other people either by contract or smaller freelance projects. So writing about what I want, when I want… you can’t beat that.

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

Pretty much any usual “day at the office” has all manner of bizarre things discussed among the writers. Chocolate breast explosions (oldie but goodie), “Michael Zenke’s insulting article… of clothing” (we turned a borderline insane, over-the-top rant from a reader into a T-shirt). In Zenke’s defense, he had nothing to do with the T-shirt thing, someone else did it. Then there are the elaborate but so far fruitless schemes to abduct key figures in the MMO industry and force them to reveal the future. That was mine.

Sometimes I’m amazed we get anything done, but we really do.

When I think about a memorable moment though, no single thing jumps out at me. I guess more than anything, there are lots of little moments that make the long hours and my void of a bank account worth it. Being Slashdotted for the first time, the recognition I get now and again, and in general just connecting with my readers. I get a lot of email from people who’ve read my work, and that’s something I didn’t have much of before writing for the web. All in all, it’s been a good year at Massively. I’m looking forward to plenty more.

Have you ever considered branching into podcasting?

Oh, no way. I’m much more comfortable with just being a writer.

Are you pleased with how your contribution to Massively.com has been received in the blogosphere?

Absolutely. I actually get a fair amount of email from my readers, which is really cool. I had no idea how this would turn out when I started writing about games but this has all gone really well so far.

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

Yes, actually. In fact that’s something I’ve been thinking about lately. I’ve been really focused on writing about MMOs but there’s a whole lot more out there that interests me. Ideally I’d like to balance out MMOs with writing about other topics, in other styles.

When I was in uni I enjoyed writing short fiction, plays, and was really hoping to get a foot in the door with writing for animation. I think I’ll be happier with some more variety in what I write about each day and that’s the general direction I’m heading in now, although I have to admit I’m still not sure where this will lead me.

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

Just write about what interests you. Have fun with it and try to connect with other people who share your interests, see where it goes from there.

If you happen to be one of those bloggers who really loves this and wants to try and earn a living writing about games, the enthusiasm you’ve shown on your own blog will do a lot for you. I know we’ve hired people because of that passion they have about their games of choice.

The other thing is what people never seem to want to talk about, but it can be hard to earn a good living doing this. Some people do pretty well though, no doubt, but when you’re starting out — much like I am to be honest — it can be rough. Still, if you love what you do, that means a lot more than raking in cash writing about topics you don’t connect with, simply for the money.

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

Actually I can’t picture *not* writing about games. But I’ve also never pictured writing about about games and games alone.

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.

Unlimited you say? It’s a game called “Resonance”, but more of a virtual world or a simulated reality. While some other users/players make up this society, the cities are fully populated by all manner of AI, creating a bustling metropolis. You can do most anything possible in the real world, which might sound boring, but the concept of Resonance is that you can step away from yourself — removed from the mimicked reality of Resonance — and follow the threads of causality connected with things you do, or what you *don’t* do.

For example, you see a little girl walking her puppy on the sidewalk. The leash slips out of her hands and the puppy darts into the street. She chases after the dog without thinking. A van speeds towards her, the driver is distracted. You act and save the girl (and why not, her dog too). Your action intertwines yourself in her life and you can step away and watch her life unfold. Snapshots of her birthday party at age 9, video from her backpacking with friends in Thailand during Spring Break, audio of her tearful apology to a friend she let down while in grad school, diary entries, so many ways it can be conveyed — but you can see how she lives her life, in highlights. Her shining moments and darkest days.

Whether it’s her troubles at school, her sadness when her dog passes away from old age, her med school graduation, her wedding day, explaining to a tearful family in the waiting room that their loved one (her patient) didn’t make it, buying a puppy for her own daughter… these are all moments in that life that your single action gave to this little girl. You can follow her life until its eventual end, and if you choose to, follow the threads into the next generations, her children and grandchildren.

On the other hand, if you didn’t save her in the street that day, there are threads you could follow with the loved ones she’s survived by as well.

That would be Resonance. More an experience than a game. It seems like no one would ever want to try this, but once they experienced its depth and the realities generated on the fly by the system, people would be pulled into it.

Nah, screw it. I’m clearly deranged. It would never work. I’ll just make the Ghost in the Shell MMO!

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

One shot: Frank Sanchez

Posted by Randolph Carter on August 20, 2009

MMO community connection:

Overly Positive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By contrast, what do you find pleasurable about blogging?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One shot: Scott Jennings

Posted by Randolph Carter on August 12, 2009

MMO community connection:

Broken Toys

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

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

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

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

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

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

In rough chronological order:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What kind of research went into writing it?

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

Are you pleased with the way it turned out?

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

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

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

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

One shot: Mike Schramm

Posted by Randolph Carter on August 10, 2009

MMO community connection:

mikeschramm.com | WoW.com | WoW Insider Show

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh man. This I have to think about.

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

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

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

Posted in Blogger, Podcaster | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

One shot: Melmoth

Posted by Randolph Carter on August 7, 2009

MMO community connection:

Killed in a smiling accident

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s the worst that could happen?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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