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22 Apr 2008

An Update

Games, Writing

I’ve been promising Candace an update for… god, it must be a year, or close to it.

The truth is exactly what I set this blog up to document (and in part, I guess, to prevent) – I got sucked back into playing World of Warcraft.

Since that happened, all thoughts of keeping up with anime, with writing, and even with maintaining this blog, have gone out of the window. I played, pretty much obessively, until a few months ago.

In a way, nothing changed. I had really hit a brick wall with The Book. Even now I’m not sure that I want to continue with it. And I think, partly, avoiding thinking about The Book fueled my gaming obsession. Playing WoW made it easy not to stop and think.

I’ve really enjoyed playing again. Well, there was some ugly guild drama that upset me for a while, but mostly I did. I’ve gotten three characters to 70, and a fourth almost there… but then the game fizzled, as it always seems to. So for the last couple of months, I’ve been back in EQ2 and gradually reducing the commitment even to that…

I’m not sure how much it will help, when it comes to The Book. I definitely plan to revisit the short story that I’ve been submitting. I think that one truly has potential. But I just feel like the plot complications have overwhelmed the excitement I felt while writing. And I feel that I’m too obsessive to be able to back away and rework the plot.

Well, I have a couple of other ideas, too. I’ll let them percolate as I try to unstick myself from games.

One idea I had was for a contemporary fantasy. I started working on ideas for it well before WoW intruded. Mostly as a humorous concept, then. About that time, The Dresden Files started showing, and some of its background seemed very like what I wanted to do. The series wasn’t that great, but after reading a lot of comments on IMDB about how much better the books were, and wanting to know just how large the overlap was between the real Dresden Files and my thinking, I started to read the series.

It is excellent. It’s really, really good. Very readable, very credible, first-class noir-style detective thrillers with believable, scary magic and constant intense action. The cover blurb of the latest book on Jim Butcher’s site covers it quite well:

No one’s tried to kill Harry Dresden for almost an entire year, and his life finally seems to be calming down. For once, the future looks fairly bright. But the past casts one hell of a long shadow.

Reading a Harry Dresden book can be exhausting, because they are so relentless. And that’s brought up more thoughts about trying to continue writing.

I don’t have a problem with the ideas in the Dresden Files. There is some overlap between them and the original concepts I’d worked on, but not enough that I’d have to work to avoid Jim Butcher’s mythology. But what I realize is I just don’t have the imagination to create the constant pressure that he does. And it works so well, that I think I’d be very disappointed that I can’t.

I’ve been reading other contemporary fantasy, and a fair bit does seem to be of the noir / high action type. It’s either that or horror, and I don’t have any interest in writing horror. Dark, yes, and my intention now, if I do act on it, is to create something much darker than I’d originally planed, but not horror. And if I can’t match a thriller’s pace, then maybe I have nothing to offer.

And of course, at that point, I give up thinking and log back in to EQ2…

16 Jan 2007

Active Obsessions

Games, General, Writing

One obvious problem with documenting obsessions – and one I did recognize up-front – is that when they hit, you don’t take the time away to document them.

So I haven’t written much since EverQuest II regained its grip. I’ve been away levelling up my characters, doing quests, obsessively wasting time. Some old friends have returned, one due to my persuasion (he was killing time in World of Warcraft, so I don’t feel guilty about dragging him back), and I’ve been playing with them some, doing the Christmas quests, making items and money in-game, and generally having a blast.

I had hoped that the discipline of maintaining this blog would help me manage my time when I got sucked back into EQ2 (or whichever game it would be), but that hasn’t happened. If maintaining the blog had required any real commitment, I would likely not have started it anyway.

My writing’s suffering. of course. I still am at a part of The Book for our critique group that isn’t going to change, so I can refurbish it a little and present it – but soon I’ve got to start making serious changes. I’m convinced now that the narrative is too linear, and I don’t know what to do about it. I introduced plot elements that stretched credibility in order to keep the plot from being simplistic; what I need instead is more story twists, and simplify the involvement of the antagonist(s).

I just finished a Robert Ludlum book, “The Ambler Warning“. He needs better editing, as do most authors as popular as he is, but he still writes a hell of a good thriller. A Ludlum thriller involves huge and unexpected plot twists, inexplicable background that you know will be explained, but can’t see how, and action-packed scenes all the way through. The Ambler Warning didn’t disappoint. It just makes me realize how far away I am from creating a powerful thriller.

I have had an idea for a Science-Fiction short story that I intend to write, if I ever free up the time to do so. I pretty much have it all mapped out in my mind now, it’s time to put pen to paper…

Current obsessions: (games) EverQuest II
(writing) SF short

27 Nov 2006



Yep, EQ2’s back to obession status. The new player race is wonderful. I’m having a great time playing a Fae. They’re just so much fun. The new zone is exactly right – an update of the old Greater Faydark, with lore to account for the differences. The music is an updated version of the old Kelethin music – Kelethin, with some of the melodic content of the old Plane of Growth Tower, and the same high quality as the rest of EQ2.

Kelethin was the home of the wood elves in EQ1. It was in the center of Greater Faydark – it still is – but when I started EQ1 as a high elf I had no idea how close it was. I found it by accident, and thought that I had run for miles, when in fact it was just a short path between Felwithe, the High Elf city, and Kelethin. Short, but lethal to a level 1 or 2 newcomer. Even more so if you ventured off the path, which I did all the time. Gawd, but that was a scary time.

It’s all very nostalgic and very current at the same time.

Crushbone Keep – I remember from EQ1 how lethal that place was as a relative newbie. The new version is a much higher level, but advancement is easier, so it’s relatively about the same as Crushbone in EQ1, which is just right. Of course, I haven’t ventured beyond the entryway yet. It’s scary.

Dancer is a shaman. A mystic, as a good race shaman are called. This is the first time I’ve tried a shaman, and it’s working well – though how well she’ll perform in a group, I don’t know. Shamans used to be crucial in EQ1, but now other classes can slow, and shaman healing is weak. So I’ve yet to see how capable she is.

The in-game economy is all screwed up, with high-level players paying huge amounts to equip their new Fae characters (“twinking”), and paying astronomical sums for harvested material for the new tradeskills. I’m supplying both markets while they’re like this, and getting rich in in-game terms, but I hope that things will return to normal soon.

Now that I’ve explored as my Fae, I think I’ll be able to let the game idle for a while. It’s time to put some effort into chapter 2.

Also, simoun-fans is moving again. I’m falling behind, and avoiding spoilers again. Since it has been so long, I can’t just catch up; I’ve forgotten too much. So I’ll go back and watch from the beginning.

Current obsessions: (games) EverQuest 2

14 Nov 2006

EQ2 – new expansion!


It seems that EverQuest II is back on the menu. I’ve been playing again for a couple of days. Mainly just tradeskilling, though I’ve been having a lot of fun working on my lowbie warlock.

I haven’t really been watching the status of the new expansion, but it turns out that I’ve returned just in time for it. I’d been planning to get it anyway, but this is convenient. Everything I’ve heard about it has been good. I already have a name “reserved” for my Fae – there’s a level 1 barbarian named Dancer who will never be played. As soon as the servers are up and I get chance to log in, I’ll delete her and create a Fae with that name. A shaman, I think. I’ve never played an EQ shaman.

I wasn’t thinking about the expansion when I wrote about the early days in Greater Faydark. It’s certainly not going to have the same feel for me as that time, but I do like that they’re bringing the city and forest back. It has the potential to be a lovely place.

Servers down today because of the expansion – and probably rocky for a few days yet, though Sony has done a far better job than Blizzard on pushing out updates efficiently. With luck, Dancer the Fae will be floating around sometime late this evening.

Update: Agh. It won’t be this evening. Still 9 hours of patches to download. Maybe I need to do something useful, like work on Chapter 2…

11 Nov 2006

Final Fantasy X

Games, Writing

Final Fantasy X was the first console roleplaying game I played, and one of the few I’ve played all the way through. It’s going to be hard to top.

I’m not going to bother with spoiler tags, since I want to talk mainly about the story, so I’ll hide the rest of this behind a more tag. Beware – spoilers beyond the link. Heavy spoilers.

09 Nov 2006

The early days of EverQuest


I started playing EverQuest in 2001. February / March timeframe, I believe. Both of my alternating bosses where I worked played.

I guess I went in with my eyes open, because I’d already heard horror stories of EQ addiction, and I pretty much knew that I’d get sucked in, but it looked like fun. (Ironically, I avoided Dungeons and Dragons at university because I knew that I’d have trouble managing my time with it – then N years later I started playing EQ.)

Those early days were amazing. Having never played a MMO (massively multiplayer online) game before, and barely even touching console games – I didn’t play a console roleplaying game until Final Fantasy X in about 2003 – I had no idea what to expect. In the dark woods of Greater Faydark, with the hoots of owls and the calls of insects; with lethal orcs and wolves wandering around – it was a unique feeling. I was lost constantly. I had no clue what I was doing. But I loved the nervousness I felt, and the thrill of exploring a new world.

Over the years I played EQ (and subsequently World of Warcraft, Guild Wars and EverQuest 2) I’ve had many great times, but nothing has ever or will ever compare to the joy of discovery of that first immersive game.

I think it’s one of the reasons that EQ held me so completely for so long. Even in later days, when the gameplay became predictable, and the new areas trivialized so much of the content, there would still be occasional glimpses of something that brought nostalgic reflection.

When I quit playing in mid 2004, I said goodbye to many friends I’d made online, most of whom I had no real expectation of ever encountering again. That made leaving a sad time. But even more, I think, leaving meant admitting that I could never recapture the magic of the early days of EQ. I knew that they were gone forever, but knowing it and accepting it were different things. Leaving the game meant that I’d admitted that they would never return.

I returned. Briefly, during 2005, when I was burned out on World of Warcraft, and had no interest in going back to EQ2 (more in a later entry, I’m sure), I went back for a few raids. But it was purely to play the game, not to try to recapture memories. There can only ever be one first MMO.

I’m not entirely sure why I’m not playing an MMO now. I’d expected to be playing at least part of the time when I created this blog, hence the “anime, games and being hooked” tag. I’ll probably be back with EQ2 soon enough. I’ll need to avoid getting tempted to play obsessively, though, if I have any hope of working on The Book.

Incidentally, there’s nothing on the obsessions list right now. Though I’m still waiting eagerly for the rest of Simoun, and I’m even helping simoun-fans with distribution, I’ve waited long enough since seeing episode 16 that I don’t much care if I wait longer. So I’m going to re-watch the series as the fansub group finish up the translations of the last few episodes.