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Month: January 2008

Kids…

Very, very occasionally I click the little link up there that says “manage friends” just to see who lists this rambling collection of words as something they look at on occasion.

Well, this morning I find a new one “Adualtionslave” and wonder just who is this person… My first thought is that it is some friend of Lyon's as someone with 'slave' in the name must run in his circles, and as soon as this thought runs through my head I figure clicking on the name and looking at the journal might not be something I want to do.

Yes, I still shock easily. But, I'm also a student of the Human animal and once I get past my wide-eyed “Oh… My… God…” response, I manage to re-achieve my clinical detachment, find my center, and endeavor to figure out the “why” of these things.

So, steeling myself for a verbal and visual onslaught of something I could have probably spent the rest of my life not knowing, I clicked…

Now is the time that I should point out that something seen, cannot be un-seen… And as I know some folks who are practically tour-guides to the scenic underbelly of Humanity I've a great number of things in my head that I cannot un-see…

Anyways, it turns out that this journal belongs to Wolf's elder-daughter and I've discovered a great many things that I didn't know – namely that she's back in Colorado, the baby is fine, and she's re-married.

I guess I should endeavor to re-connect with her and do my part to make sure everything is ok. 🙂

Falling off the wagon…

Hi, my name is Rihahn and I've been WoW free for six months…

I've played a lot of MMOs… A *lot* of MMOs. I'd say they are my favorite form of entertainment even.

MMOs are interactive, challenging, social, and even fun, and they cost conciderably less than a lot of other forms of entertainment… A typical MMO costs $15 a month to play – a typical two hour movie costs that much, and more if you pick up some popcorn and a soda and factor in the $3 a gallon gas you burned to make the trip… And that's just one night's worth of entertainment.

Justification aside, I've started playing 'World of Warcraft' again.

What drove me away from the game was the time requirements for the end-game raiding I was doing. It was becomming a second job to be at the right instance at the right time and then spend the next 5-6 hours (on a weeknight) with the 'team' turning that instance upside down… It was fun, but I just don't have that kind of time with work and all.

So I quit – cold turkey… I even sold off my seriously epic level 70 priest just to not have any temptation to play again.

Since I quit WoW I've played 'Lord of the Rings Online', 'Tabula Rasa', 'Eve Online', the beta for 'Mythos', 'Horizons', 'City of Villans', 'Everquest 2', “Dungeons and Dragons Online', 'Pirates of the Burning Sea', and 'Vanguard: Saga of Heroes'… Some with folks from work, some with folks I've played the particular MMO with in the past…

But all of these various MMOs just aren't as fun as Warcraft – in some cases they are simply not as good as WoW and other cases even border on broken (I'm looking at you Vanguard…).

There is a real reason 9 million people play Warcraft… Everything else is a various level of 'not as good'.

So, yeah, I'm playing Warcraft again. This time though I'm thinking I'm going to try a different tack to things.

My past experiences in Warcraft (and the MMOs I've played in general) have all been high-end raiding guilds which, as I've mentioned before, require almost second-job levels of dedication to succeed. This time I'm going to set things up purely for Battleground and Arena competitions.

In Warcraft there are certain structured player-versus-player elements that one can participate in – almost mini-games even – that require somewhere in the 30 minutes to an hour timeframe to complete and, due to the player-driven aspects of them, are even more fun than boss fights. These 'Battlegrounds' range from a simple team-based capture-the-flag game to a full-on war zone where the object is to kill the other side's leaders.

The other player-versus-player game in Warcraft is something called the Arena. The arenas are structured areas where teams of 2, 3, or 5 players duke it out, last man standing style. There are strict matching rules based on points, and there are no external elements allowed so what you bring with you is all that you have. A typical Arena match lasts about 5 minutes wih a long one lasting for about 20 minutes.

With both of these types of game play there are certain awards for winning in the form of weapons, armor, and other items, and these awards are on par with the stuff a high-end raiding guild can recover from the depths of an 8-hour instance.

So, my goal now is to form a guild of like-minded players specifically for these PvP aspects of Warcraft.

I figure I should be able to pull this off easy enough… I have achieved a “Duelist” title in season 1, meaning I was in the top 3% of all PvP players in my battlegroup (a collection of around 10 servers), I have achieved a 'Warlord' title back when you could earn ranks in Battleground combat, and have worked with a raid guild all the way thorugh Illidan (the last 'Boss' in the game currently). So I think I have the chops to put together something epic, I just need some good players.

So, in this regard I will be forming a guild on the Alliance side, on the “Tanaris” server. I have a couple of people from work who might be joining in as well. If you're interested, roll up an Ally character on Tanaris and drop “Valinye” an message in game.

Where I work…

People often ask me, “What's it like working in the games industry?”

Well, it's kinda crazy some times, kinda silly some times, and kinda frustrating sometimes…

Hmm… Let's start at the top of my day.

I work on the top floor of a big black-glass cube right next to Cherry Creek Reservoir, so our board room has this “you should charge money for this” view of the Rockies.

But my office has no windows, for reasons.

I park in a lot that looks like it should belong at Disney Land, way in the back to be out of the door-dinging mosh-pit. One elevator ride past the 'low-rent' floors, the 'doctor' floors, the 'Verizon' floor, and the 'CBeyond' ISP floor we get to the top floor.

You stroll down this long hall to the receptionist's desk where you get your first indication this isn't a normal office. There are two cameras pointed at you and the main door has this big sign which informs you in no uncertain terms that just about anything on you that runs on a battery will be confiscated before you can pass. At this door I use my ProxCard ID to buzz though and wave at the cameras.

Welcome to the least secure part of the company. Straight ahead to the west is our board room with it's big glass wall and the afore mentioned view and a long hallway the runs north-south. On the ceilings are various sized black camera domes – and they are *everywhere* – I helped install them and can tell you, honestly, that there are exactly two places you can stand where you can't be seen, but to get to those places you'll be recorded 8 times…

To the south is administration, sales and marketing, and business projects. This consists of several offices, a large 'cube-ville' area, several conference rooms, and a half dozen cypher-locked labs for secure business projects.

To the North is where I live, on the other side of a large imposing door that states that behind it is a high secure area and that none shall pass. To the right of the door are an alarm panel, another ProxCard scanner, and a biometric hand scanner.

As I open the place up in the morning I have to run the code to disarm the alarms and keep the Aurora police from tasering me, scan another ProxCard to enable the hand scanner, and put my hand in the device so that the security system can cross-check my hand print with the ProxCard and buzz open the door.

Ok, welcome to 'Interactive Entertainment'. This is where all the magic happens… There are posters from all the games we've worked on hanging on all the walls, a dozen cypher locked labs, four 'bunkers' in the middle area for lower security work, and two offices. One office down the way is for the I.E. managers, and the cypher locked door to the right is my office.

So, punch in the code, listen for the beeps, and open the door… Maxwell Smart had it easy getting to work every day…

Welcome to the I.T. server room and Load and Performance testing office.

It's loud in here, and 66 (+/- 2) degrees. As you walk in to your right are several racks of servers, two wiring racks full of punch downs, switches, routers, and several miles of CAT6. On the far right wall is the PBX system with all of its miles of wire, punch downs, and hardware. Directly ahead is Bryan's desk, then behind that is Scott's desk, and at the very back is a wall of computers on shelves.

My desks sit in the back right corner of the room behind a wall of cabinets and shelves… Here's where I do my daily 'thing' which consists of managing I.T., designing test systems for the various projects scattered around the building, running Load and Performance tests, solving all of the problems, and providing an ear for the other managers to vent to about stuff.

This office is pretty much the hub of the company as everything we do here is of a computer-based nature. I.T. controls the dissemination of testing computers to the business and game testers, handles the networking requirements for all of the labs, handles the flow of data in and out of the company, and manages all of the security.

Unfortunately the things I can't talk about are the things we actually do or how we do them… Everything is NDA, classified, trade secret, or proprietary. Imagine how hard it is to convince a new client that you know what you're doing when you can't tell them about any of your past clients or anything that you've done before.

What I can say is that game testing sounds like a lot of fun, and in some ways it is. But it takes a certain kind of person to be a good game tester – those rare people that don't 'play' a game, they dissect a game. We look for people who instinctively try to find ways out of game levels, exploit game mechanics, min/max combat systems, and are very, very patient… Oh, and who have a good grasp of technical writing.

See, imagine playing the same level of a game you don't like, over and over again, for 8 hours a day, for a week… That's game testing. For example, the first game I worked on when I hired on here was a racing game that I can't mention made by a company I can't mention for a platform I can't mention… You get the idea. Anyways, the matrix I was handed had me go through and test every single possible car modification (thousands) and make sure that the listed price on the mod worked out mathematically on the purchase screen. After a week of that I got to boundary test a level by ensuring I finished that specific race in every possible position (1st through last), then making sure that it was impossible to get the car out of the play area by running into every inch of the collision barrier around then entire track – forwards and backwards.

But, I also got to play the game the entire way through before it ever hit the shelves and the team had a lot of fun racing against the developers… So it's not all drudgery – there's a lot of fun too. But it's not *all* fun, I guess is what I'm trying to get at.

Anyways, I have to do the work thing now so I'm going to have to escort you out of the building. Thanks for stopping by!

WarWagon – The Emissions Saga, the final chapter…

I got over to the DMV at precisely 7am this morning, went inside, got ticket number 101, and commenced waiting for a few minutes while they got things together.

Eventually I got to talk to one of the nice people there, showed her the emissions report, the registration, my driver's license and my insurance card and told her that I needed plates for ye olde WarWagon.

After some discussion she allowed me to get collector plates for the Jeep, which cost five times the going rate for plates but don't expire until 2013 and I'll never have to go through the emissions hassle ever again… That air pump will be comming off ASAP! 🙂

But, the story doesnt end there… See, there are very few places left in this world that will actually take a check, and a few places wont take cash any more either, so I never carry my checkbook and rarely carry cash.

Unfortunately, everything dealing with the State is cash or check only, so I had to have Zeze bring my checkbook over to the DMV so that I could pay the $206.31 for my plates.

But, once that was done, I put the stickers on the plates and the plates on the WarWagon…

This is your notice. I can now drive the WarWagon anywhere I want and at any time!

What a battle… I think I'm going to take a few days off before starting on the next phase of WarWagon upgrades.