Grinding to Valhalla

Interviewing the gamer with a thousand faces

Posts Tagged ‘Podcaster interview’

One shot: Almazar and Weaux

Posted by Randolph Carter on September 23, 2009

MMO community connection:

Lord of the Rings Online Reporter

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

Chris (Almazar): LOTRO Reporter is a news, tips and tricks blog about Lord of the Rings Online. We cover the latest news, some tips for the game, as well as include some editorial content about the game, such as our Group Leveling column, which talks about the experience of leveling through the content as a group.

Bill (Weaux): The blog and the podcast are about LOTRO news and game information, from the perspective of relatively low level, casual players. Kind of a “write-what-you-know-and-make-up-the-rest” thing.

Stepping back a bit, you guys happen to be friends in real life. How did you meet?

Chris: Bill moved to the town that I lived in when we where both in Grade 10, and we had a few classes together. We became friends quickly and ended up playing a lot of pen and paper RPGs together, mostly the Palladium system of games. We played a LOT of Rifts. We also played Dungeons and Dragons, Shadowrun, and a couple of other games. We became quite close when we both ended up going to the same University. Marriages, kids and the such later, and here we are.

Bill: Chris and I went to high school together. I was the new kid in school in grade 10, and Chris invited me to join in him a pen-and-paper game session (we played D&D 2nd ed. and several Palladium books games). We drifted apart a bit when we met our girlfriends/future wives, but the summer after graduation I scammed a last-minute invite to his wedding. Our lives have taken very similar paths since then through school & location and we’ve stayed close ever since.

And so, where did the idea of starting a LOTRO blog and podcast come from?

Chris: I started the blog this past summer when I really got back into LOTRO. Bill and I had played WoW quite a bit, and had talked for a long time about starting a WoW podcast and blog. When we both got bored of WoW, and wanted to play together again, we re-subscribed to LOTRO (we had not been playing LOTRO for about 6 months) and started playing together again.

Through all of this, I came to really appreciate the complexities of the game, started listening to some podcast and checking out some blogs, and I found that there wasn’t anything out there that was filling the same space in the LOTRO world as two of my favorite blogs/podcasts: WoW.com (then known as WoW Insider) and The Instance. Not that I think we’re in the same league as those two, but it’s something that I keep in mind as we produce content.

I’m basically making a blog and podcast that I would enjoy!

Bill: I would like to take all the credit, but it would be a dirty lie. We often get into very heated, involved discussions about LOTRO (& MMO’s in general) and at one point we decided it would make a good podcast. Chris did about 95% of all the work getting it set up and published (both the podcast and the blog) – I’m there mainly for the good looks.

What were both of your introductions to MMOs and what was that experience like?

Chris: I started with Ultima Online. Well, do MUDs on bulletin boards count? Did those two. I actually didn’t have a computer when I bought UO, but I happened to live right above a bookstore/internet cafe where they had computers that you could rent by the hour. I had played the Ultima games a ton, and really wanted to get in on an online version of it. I didn’t get very far in UO though. I got ganked. So I tried a different area. And I got ganked. Yeah…..

Bill: My first experience was in Asheron’s Call. I was in University, and it obliterated my grades! At the time I thought it was the most rich, deep, involved gaming experience possible. It’s funny to look back on it now as seeming fairly simple.

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

Chris: My first WOW moment in an MMO was the first night that I played Dungeons and Dragons Online with my wife, with Bill, and with his wife. I had never really gotten into groups very much in the past, missing out on all the group content that MMOs have to offer. Playing with a group, all the time, made the game so much more enjoyable that it had been before and changed the way that I approached MMOs from that point on.

Bill: It’s over 10 years ago now, but I remember the pain and joy of learning new spells in Asheron’s Call (through random material research) the hard way, because I hadn’t looked up any of the cheats yet. I remember thinking, “No regular game could get away with such a mind-numbing, frustrating mechanic.” Again, it’s funny to look at it now because if a game had such a mechanic to one of its central game systems (spellbooks) I would be out of there like a shot. It just speaks to how “enthusiastic” I was about the game.

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

Chris: I think that my peak was probably about 50-60 hours on WoW when I was on sick leave from work. I was staying in a trailer, in my sister’s driveway, away from my family, and couldn’t really get up and move around. So I played a lot of WoW. Enjoyed it, as it was a way to connect with people, and to connect with my wife as well (she played WoW and currently plays LOTRO).

Now, I play about 10-15 hours per week, depending on how much real life gets in the way. Family, kids, that always comes first.

Bill: At my worst (best?) I was probably playing 40-50 hours a week for several games. I’m sure I did that when I was at my peaks in Asheron’s Call, Dark Age of Camelot, and World of Warcraft. I also squeezed a few hours a week in that time for offline games like Baldur’s Gate, Diablo II etc.

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

Chris: I’m a pretty avid gamer overall. I play Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead on the PC, as well as several games on my PS3, mostly of the Rock Band variety, although Batman: Arkam Asylum has got its hooks on me pretty good right now. We used to play tabletop/pen and paper RPGs, but life just isn’t letting Bill and I get together often enough for that.

Bill: Definitely. Our pen-and-paper play has definitely died off (we tried email campaigns, and IM campaigns, but it just didn’t work). I have a Wii that I play with my wife and kids. I definitely still play quite a bit of “offline” PC Games, though not near as much as I used to.

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

Chris: With our resent spike in number at the site recently, my wife was joking that it will soon become a second job! But in reality, this is a very enjoyable hobby. I have a family to take care of, and working helps me do that, so the time I can offer to the site and the podcast will always be limited. Then again, Scott Johnson from The Instance only recently left his job to pursue his art, podcasting and blogging career fulltime, and he’s been Podcasting for years. It’s a great standard to emulate.

Bill: At this point in my life it’s a hobby – there’s too much RL for it to be anything else. It would be a dream come true to be able to make it a living. It sounds sad, but if I could be a minimum wage blogger/podcaster/internet-pseudo-celebrity I would retire from my day job. Heaven is going to work in your underwear.

Do you try and stick to any sort of schedule?

Chris: I try to put a new post on the site every day, but it usually comes in spurts, where I will put 3 or 4 posts up one day, then nothing the next. With the podcast, we try to keep a weekly schedule, but are doing a pretty poor job so far. It’s a learning curve. Our latest episode was a week and a half late because I forgot to hit the RECORD button before we started, and we lost a whole show. Real life didn’t allow use to record again for another week. I also try to use twitter whenever I post, and also respond to other LOTRO related tweets whenever I can.

Bill:  We try to podcast weekly, though various RL and technical issues have interrupted that schedule. I think as we’ve realized there’s more people listening besides our wives, we’re putting more priority into getting podcasts out in a timely fashion. Chris is a prodigious blogger and is far more diligent than I at it. Same with podcasting though – as we’re starting to see more people visiting the blog, I am putting higher priority on contributing.

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

Chris: No, I don’t find it a grind at all. Mind you, I haven’t been doing this all that long. It may change. I don’t think it will though. I enjoy what I’m doing, I’m creating content that I like, and a community is starting to form around it. It was a little hard at the beginning, as it felt like we where in a vacuum, without much community feedback. It’s very nice to see the community interacting now, and that makes it all worthwhile.

Bill: So far, no. Every podcast we’ve done is basically a phone-call or BS session we would have had anyway. The only difference is we’re recording it (and drinking less during). Chris being the far more diligent blog poster might have a different point-of-view but anything I’ve written or contributed has just been for fun.

By contrast, what do you find pleasurable about the experience?

Chris: I just enjoy writing the posts and talking about LOTRO for the podcast. I’m really enjoying the community interaction that has started recently, as well as starting to interact with some of the other bloggers and podcasters in the LOTRO community.

Bill: The act of doing it is fun for me. I think if I had all the time in the world and real life would leave me alone (and all the game servers were down) I would write for the blog and record podcasts for fun.

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

Chris: Like I mentioned before, the beginning was tough, but lately, things have been great. We’re even looking at forming at Kinship for bloggers, podcasters and their fans, and the reaction to that has been very positive.

Bill:  Well, it’s been relatively recent that we’ve started to see some significant traffic, but definitely yes. I find it fascinating and very flattering that there’s people out there interested in what we have to say.

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

Chris: Nothing comes to mind specifically.

Bill: I would have made a bigger effort at the start of the website I think. Again – Chris deserves all the credit for this thing taking off to where it is now. I have some ideas for the future for it, though – so stay tuned!

Are there any new projects in the works for the LOTRO Reporter you’d care to discuss?

Chris: We’re just going to keep growing and expanding the site naturally. I’m spoken to a few fans about trying to get some pre-recorded segments on to the show that are fan created, and we’re working on that now. Other than that, we’re just going to keep playing LOTRO and having fun with the site and podcast.

Bill: I think we’re mainly just trying to keep writing and keep recording as long as it’s fun. Of course our 5 year plan is to have a prime-time LOTRO sitcom on a major network and to own the entire internet. That’s in pretty early planning stages though.

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

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.

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