Twenty Days Update: What’s Left?

I figured out why so many people peter our on the backend of this list.  The last ten topics aren’t nearly as interesting (or easy to write about) as the first ten.  I think this may be because when you shift the list from game specific (it was originally about WoW only as I recall) to game general, some of the topics are a little harder to pin down.


For example, the next topic in order should be:  “This upsets you.”   That’s well and good if we are talking about one game only.  Or if I’m a brand new blogger.  But I have a feeling that overall, in general, and perhaps even within certain games, its pretty clear what upsets me.  See also:  “What’s in your bags?”


So with that in mind, here is what’s left that I have not yet blogged on:


Day 05 – Favorite item(s) in game

Day 14 – This upsets you

Day 15 – Your desktop background (on your computer) and why you chose it

Day 16 – Things you miss about certain games from your past?

Day 17 – Your favorite spot (in game or outside it)?

Day 18 – Your favorite outfit?

Day 19 – In your bags/bank?

Day 20 – If this was your last day gaming, what would you do?


I tried to log into Everquest to pull my favorite items – but it turns out that they wiped my characters.  Again.  And that the Level 50 server was apparently a temporary thing (who knew?).   So I have to rethink that one, because I haven’t been able to google-fu and pics up.


Until then, we’ll keep trucking, though I may mess with the order wholesale just to pick whichever looks easiest on a given run.

Day Twelve: Whom You Admire

I could make this post twenty pages long.


I could rehash the bloggers I’ve already told you are some of my favorites, because generally speaking I like the blog because I like the voice behind it.


Then I thought maybe I could tell you about some game designers I like, but its like I would be telling you something new.   You know of my admiration for Peterson and Fantasy Flight Games,  for Luke Crane’s genius, and so on.


I thought maybe about going more general, outside the realm of games, after that fun little back and forth about Andrew Jackson.   But then skimming Twitter today, I saw something and realized this would be a good place to shine another little spotlight.   How about a producer/developer?


Basically this is what I saw in my feed:




And that, ladies and gents, is Scott Hartsman in a nutshell.  Several years ago I wrote a post raging about a poorly worded title in a Rift announcement.  Scott, who apparently on top of the zillion other things guys like him have to work on 25 hours a day, was scanning blog feeds.  He tracked down my email, apologized and promised me a spot in Alpha.


It would be easy to chalk that up to media wooing – but I’m not the guy who gets invited to behind the scenes jazz and press junkets.  I’m happy with the moderate traffic I get here, but I am not one of the big dogs.   A couple of weeks later, when the Alpha invite hadn’t materialized, I sent an email.  And by golly, and I got another apology, plus he dropped whatever it was he was working on and I had the Alpha launched downloading within five minutes.


In other words, he went out of his way to be nice for a fan.  And that tweet above shows its not just me that he goes out of his way for.   He’s honest enough to speak his mind and kind enough to offer whatever help he can.


To paraphrase a line from A Knight’s Tale, even if that’s all I knew about him, it would be enough.   But let’s be honest, Rift was and still is one of the best developed and put together MMO’s out there, and its launch was mostly free of the usual hiccups.   So we know he is talented and good at his job too.


So, if you want to know who I admire, there ya go.  I admire Scott for his skill, his openness, and his kindness.  Hopefully he can help some of those guys and gals at Trion land on their feet.

Day Eleven: A Day In The Life…

Well the truth is, in my vocation, there is no typical day.  Some days start at 6am at a local hospital and end with me greeting my kids as they get off the bus.  Some days end at 2am after a long heartfelt conversation and don’t resume until 10am or so the following day.   Its a grab bag.


Some days are more disgusting than others...
Some days are more disgusting than others…


Generally though, on the nights I’m online, I start my gaming somewhere between 8pm and 9pm and will play for 2-3 hours.  That doesn’t mean I head to bed then.  I’m a bit of a night owl.   Some of these posts are generated in that after time and set to public later, for example.   Other times I love music and movie trailers.


Other times I’m neck deep in a book.   Rarely do I watch TV.  I generally pick one show a year that looks promising.  Its been a couple of years since the show I picked actually a) didn’t get cancelled or b) held my interest more than a few episodes.   I do watch movies, but I’m not nearly up to date on that.  For example, of all the new Marvel/Avengers movies, I’ve only seen Iron Man 1.   And I just watched it last week.


Game wise, I tend to take my time unless I’m in a group.  As the usual healer in our little trifecta for group play, I let my brother (usually tanking) set the pace of gameplay and run with the crowd.  In our recent LotRO adventures though, I’m the tank, and I tend to move at a slower pace, stopping to smell roses and harvest resources more than I should.   Fortunately, LotRO’s combat system mostly consists of picking which skill on your hotbar you want to one shot the next mob with, so its not a big deal.


Incidentally, this is why I had so much fun and failed so miserably at City of Heroes.   I stopped to help every little old lady on the street and bag every two bit criminal on my way from A to B.


But that usually ended poorly for the criminals.


I like to end my sessions, if at all possible, in home base.  This was one of the irritations in SWTOR, where it was often so much more convenient to just log out in the wilderness of Hoth somewhere than it was to try to go through six loading screens to get back to my ship or the city capital.


This willy-nilly approach to the limited playing time I have has resulted in very few high level characters over the years.   And oddly enough, the lack of other options is what has kept me on pace in World of Tanks.  That along with the ease of jumping in and out.


That ease is something few MMO’s outside of Rift has ever given me, which is one of the reasons I am personally glad for the F2P transition.  I loved all the little daily quests and seasonal festivals, all right there in the capital.  Being able to pop in one night and do a few of those at my own pace is something I am looking forward to.


The return of Ellul the Cleric
The return of Ellul the Cleric


By the same token, this is the same reason my STO character is not only max level, but has maxed out nearly all the secondary assignments (I’m almost done with Engineering, after which only Science, Trade, and Recruitment will remain – and two of those are over halfway done).  In some ways, I’ve wondered over the years if I’m more in love with the idea of an MMO than the actual MMO’s themselves.  But it may just be that there are so many games I enjoy, getting to play more than one a night or week is a high priority itch for me to scratch.  Easy-in-easy-out games help with that.


But in any case, this means I’m pretty sure HEX will be right up my alley as well.  Being able to log on, play a battle, and have spent an hour a) having fun and b) accomplishing some definite progression is my holy grail of game fun.

Day Ten: Bad Habits and Flaws

I’ve no shortage of them.


In relation to the blog-0-sphere, as I mentioned in the comments section yesterday, I can be draconic at times.  And prone to hyperbole and dramatics.  One the one hand, who isn’t, its the internet right?  On the other hand, these are a result specifically of my background.


One of the reasons I gave you the IB background note a few days ago was to understand a key part of my dynamic.   I went to class with pretty much the same people all through school.   Our little program ended with 54 students standing.  Most of them I had been in with since kindergarten, if not preschool.   I tell you that to have you reflect on this:  how do people that have known one another since (practically) birth have discussions/arguments?



So…yeah, that’s the assumed environment for me when I start debating or arguing.   I fully expect you to call me names, wave you arms, and declare my insanity.   To me, its no big deal.


But for someone who doesn’t know me, and doesn’t know that…it can be difficult, and appear that I am being unreasonable.  More than likely, I got your point three posts ago, I’m just having a good time fighting and not keeping score.   I know, weird right?   Seems like everyone these days wants to keep score.


Anyway, outside of that, my biggest flaw is that I am lazy.   See this madness?   Researching and cross-referencing 110 blogs?  Hell no.  Not that I dislike that, I’m quite envious of it.   But its probably not something you will see here.    Sure sometimes I get into something and roll up my sleeves and go epic, who doesn’t on something they are passionate about?   But after all this time, I’ve found that such passion, for me, is few and far between.

Day Nine: Blog/Website Favorites

Its payback time.   And I mean that in a good way.   Years ago, when I had been blogging for a mere nine months,  I was basically still an invisible presence.  I wasn’t sure if that was normal or not.  And I had taken some time off when my youngest was born, so that didn’t help.   But I basically just posted asking for help – is this normal, should I keep trucking, anybody out there, etc.  Three people commented and encouraged me, and it blew my mind that it was the people from my three favorite blogs at the time.   And they are still right up there.




Ysh writes long winded posts.  And yet, in a bite-sized age, I always devour the wall of text without really realizing how long it is.  That is her talent and one of the reasons I enjoy her writing.   The downside is that her posts probably take a bit longer to prep, so when life is busy, as it is now, we get to see less of her.  If you haven’t encountered her before, its worth taking a peek through the archives and checking out some of her stuff. 



Wilhelm has always possessed a very conversational and everyman tone to his posts, which makes them easy to read and absorb and is also very inviting to conversation.   I think that is the key to his success over the years.  That’s not to say he can’t get feisty in the comments section.  But even then his style is such that you can have a knock down drag out and not feel any real leftover angst the next day.   Now that is a rare talent. 




Kirith knows EVE.   In fact, the two are basically synonymous in my mind.  I have to force myself not to read him, because when I do, invariably I throw $15 more at EVE, spend one frustrating month in game, and unsub again.   EVE should pay him kickbacks or something.    All kidding aside, he is the grandaddy of EVE blogging and well worth a read, even if that’s not a game you play.



Now…about a year after those three, another guy appeared on the scene.   He also has a great conversational style, and is not only an active writer, but as a social presence in the blogging community itself.  Rowan holds the (dubious?) honor of being the person who has commented most on this blog, which is evidence of that social presence.  Good bloggers don’t just create, they also consume, and Rowan always reminds me of that.




What to call him…the Combat Archeologist?  The Adventurer Historian?  The Self-Aware Colony?   The Man of Many Names and None?   AH is the one guy, that, if I had the power, I would tie him to a chair and force him to blog on a regular basis.   He started long ago on the blog known as Warp Core Breach, then branched out after STO struggled, and has recently resumed his blogging adventures. 




Not as well known, Flosch is another one that I wish I could strap to a chair and force to blog.  He has had some ridiculously good posts in his time, including the one that finally pushed me to this series.


Now, apart from that, look to your right.   Every one of those posts is there because they are in my Reader.   I love reading them all.  So go take a look. 



Day Eight: My First Blog Post

It was….uh…well, it was on August 13th, 2008.  Rick at /random was the first person to ever post a comment here.


I’m not sure what to say outside of that.   The idea was to dive right in and catch up on the dintzy stuff later.  Nobody wants to read about *you* in the first post.  They want to know about the games.  The other stuff will come in time, even if its all of nearly five years later, lol.


Looking back now its funny to see how my opinions have shifted.   I was hesitant to buy a new game right out of the gate because $40 was expensive.   And keeping up a Station Pass (back then, it was like $25-$30 a month right?) was also expensive.  Last year I bought two games brand new, right out of the gate  (GW2 and TSW), and at times in the last five years, I’ve often had two subs running at the same time.    Right now, as much as I love the Robotech Kickstarter, $90-$130 looks expensive, rather than $40.  Tech has changed too.   My laptop back then had a dual core 1.8 ghz processor and a 32 mb video card.  And, if memory servers, a 40 gb hard drive.  I didn’t have a smart phone.


Some things are the same though.  I still do most of my gaming on the laptop.  I’m still very critical of games when standing at a distance and (maybe too-) willing to forgive faults when I’m actually playing.  And I still wish I had far more time to play than I do.


Day Seven: 10 Things You Don’t Know About Me

Well this ought to be fun.


1.  I am a graduate and proud diploma holder of the International Baccalaureate program.  Which basically just means I have more things crammed into my head and ways to cross-reference them than the average person.


2.  I’ve only ever gotten 3 speeding tickets, and two of them were complete BS.  I got a ticket for doing 68 on I-20, in the slow lane, while being passed by motorists in the other two lanes.  But that’s what I get for having out of state plates I guess.  Easy pickings.  The other one I got in a 100 yard long zone by an elementary school where the speed limit dips from 45 to 40.  I got a ticket for doing 45.  Nothing screams “we need money” like a guy handing out tickets for 5 mph over in a zone almost not long enough to brake in.


3.  I still have a fully functional copy of Dark Tower.  With all the pieces.  Current Ebay prices range from $350 to $1200.




4.  I once swam with a dolphin…on accident.   I worked two summers for a volunteer water testing program growing up in Florida.  We were collecting samples by free diving right at the mouth of the bay.  I thought my partner was tapping me on the shoulder while I was gathering stuff on the bottom, turned around, and was nose to nose with a dolphin.   We played hide and seek for a few minutes (I had to surface a lot more often than him), but I will never forget that moment, looking into his/her eyes.  There was a lot of intelligence there.


5.  I played Magic: The Gathering in Europe.  We were on a school trip and I played in game shops from Madrid to Paris.   And I picked up a solid collection of cards in both those languages and Italian to boot (including a rare black-border Underworld Dreams).  For the record:  black and red combo decks were all the rage in France, and I got completely hosed by them.   I did better in Spain.


6.  This one time, in band camp…my drum major was Barry Kerch.  Before he was a big rock star.  Barry was in charge of things my freshman year and was a great leader and very talented drummer.  I’m not surprised he made it in the big time.  I am surprised that he has dreads and tats.   Dude was rocking polo’s and jeans back in the day.


7.  The first video game I ever beat was Karnov on the NES.  It was insanely difficult.  I still haven’t recovered, which is probably why I rarely max-level in MMO’s.



8.  I’ve met Terry Brooks and Timothy Zahn in person.  Both are exceedingly cool.   And Zahn said that if he ever got a chance to write the idea I pitched him, he would totally give me credit.   It was for an alternate universe Star Wars novel following the exploits of Chiss Smuggler Thrawn Solo.  I’m noting that here in case we get entangled in a comically vicious lawsuit later on down the line.


9.  I’m a lefty.  Which means, of course, that I am in my right mind.  And that I can’t use scissors properly.


10. My favorite president is Andrew Jackson.  I know, I know…Trail of Tears.  And I completely agree.  My next step is generally to ask people what other mistakes Jackson made during his presidency.  And I’m usually met with a wall of silence.   Not bad for two terms eh?  And, here is why I like him: He’s the only president in our history to accomplish paying off the national debt.  See, you like AJ and you didn’t even know it…

Day Six: Why The Name?

I think I’ve said this over on the “about” page, but its been awhile since I updated that.


Basically, since I wanted space to speak that wouldn’t be awkward in a comment box somewhere, I wanted to bring my thoughts to the table.


At the same time, I started in a period where there was a proliferation of blogs, so what made me special?  Why should I have my own?


The answer to both of those is my name.   Harbinger – herald, bringing my thoughts.   Zero – nothing special, maybe nothing at all.   I bring you my thoughts, which may not be worth anything.


Plus, it sounded cool.


Just for the record, I am not on G+  (so that’s not me) and not on YouTube (so that’s not me either), and I have an underscore on Twitter.    Because no matter how unique a name you think you have come up with, there are always a least a handful of other people out there who also had exactly the same idea.  :-p

Day Five: My Workspace

Astute readers will notice that I skipped my favorite in-game item.   I don’t have a picture of it and so I wanted to hold off on it without gumming up the whole series.  Its kinda like my kids year end school testing – if you hit one you don’t know or that is difficult, press on and come back to it at the end!


So, the congregation has outgrown its building, but doesn’t have the money to expand just yet.   So my space doubles as the dump/item collection area/storage space/library/tech lab/youth room.   I’m just telling you that because if you were expecting something professional, you won’t be completely shocked.   Here’s a picture of it on the anniversary of my first five years with the congregation.  Pranksters that they are:




That laptop is my usual gaming computer as well.  I have the new beast of a desktop, but for some reason it glitches out on WoT and beyond that my wife is often working late in the home office or editing her photos.


I generally call this space my study rather than my office.  There’s a framed picture just off the left that explains why I’m not a “professional,” so I don’t merit an office.   Some weeks I occupy that chair for a lot of time, and some weeks I barely warm it.  It all depends on what else is going on.


The congregation is aware that I enjoy gaming (I did a sermon last month around the term “noob” even).  A few of the youth play WoW (all of them do it for the PvP – anecdotal evidence, sure, but evidence none the less!)  and a couple of the adults have played WoT off and on.  The youth won’t let me play console games with them anymore though.  Apparently losing to your pastor in Halo and/or Soulcalibur is embarrassing, so I have been permabanned.


And…you didn’t hear it from me, but…every now and then, when its been a hard day and I’m done, I sneak into the sanctuary and hook my laptop up to the video projector for a match or two of World Of Tanks: Giant Edition.

Day Four: MMO Memories

This is difficult.  On the one hand I could regale you with a ton of great stories, but that would bore everyone but me.   So I’ll settle for four good ones.


The Priest and the Paladin

My main charater in WoW was a Human Paladin named Kohen – a transliteration of the Hebrew word for “priest.”   The overwhelming majority of people I ran into did not know that – or if they recognized it, probably chalked it up as coincidence.   But one day in my questing, I ran into an Elf Priest – I don’t remember the specifics  -whether I bailed him out of an add or vice versa.  But he asked about my name – “Are you really a priest?”  I replied no, I just know Hebrew, I’m actually a pastor.  Then I said, I’m guessing you are Jewish?  “Actually,” he said, “I’m a rabbi.”   We had a good laugh over that, even more so when I pointed out that we had carried our religious stereotypes into the virtual world – I was a very western crusader and he was a priest for somewhat ostracized people of ancient tradition.  I wish I had thought to write down his name.  I’m sure its on my friend list somewhere, but I don’t remember now what it was.  Just think what a podcast we could have done!


Baby Aid

When I was playing EQOA it was in the month leading up to and the years following the birth of my first child.  It was a rough time for us, financially and emotionally, with a long distance move, job loss, culture shock, and several other things going on.  I got a private message on our guild’s forums from a husband and wife duo that played with us.   They let me know that in real life, they were actually managers of a Baby’s R Us store.   And if there was anything I needed – diapers, formula, etc. – to let them know and they would be happy to send me anything I needed so long as I was willing to cover shipping for it.  Thankfully, I never had to take them up on that offer, but wow.  Just offering it was great.  It drove home that what I wanted most in a guild was a sense of community and family.


When Bloggers Unite

This is still one of my favorite MMO memories.  This is the only time I have been side by side playing online with another blogger.   I just never seem to be in the right game or the right place or the right level or the right time.   I’ve been close – I joined Rowan‘s guild in GW2, and I’ve been in chat with Ysharros in EQ2.  I’ve extended invitations to play in WoT to Kirith and to Wilhelm.   But nothing has ever come to fruition.  It was fun running around with someone I was at least acquainted with, and to see our varying takes on our respective blogs in the days to follow.



Hitting max level for the first time ever in an MMO.  An unforgettable event.

I could put a dozen others here.  Truth is I have a lot of fond memories in MMO’s.  Should I tell you about the early MMO games where dungeons were open world and quest drops happened if you needed the quest or not, and how that lead to awesome guild events where the entire guild would run a dungeon together, grabbing drops for everone?  Or watching retiring guildies throw themselves into the volcano outside Klik’Anon as a way to “say goodbye” to the game?  Or the time I got 8 kills in a WoT match and completely dominated?  Or the first time my brother and I, who grew up on PnP RPG’s got to adventure together in a virtual world?


If you get right down to it – these memories are the reason I play MMO’s, even down to the present day.  These games exist for making memories.  Everything else is just icing on the cake.