Saturday, February 28, 2009

Interview with Professor Greyrose!

Hello readers! Kiersten Samwell, AKA Professor Greyrose, and I have been cooking up a Q&A session over e-mail for the past month and now I am overjoyed that I get to present it all to you!

Friendly: So, I know you as the fabulous, nay, wonderful, Kiersten Samwell who is the correspondent for Wizard 101. You’re the person who feeds all the people like me all the good stuff they want to know about and share with the community. True? Feel free to expound.

Kiersten: That’s true, I am fabulous and wonderful. (just kidding). I am the Community Manager for Wizard101. It’s my responsibility to ensure that our players know what’s happening in the game, what’s coming up and what’s changing. It’s also my duty to let our development team know what’s going on in the community, your ideas, bug reports, requests and questions.

Friendly: That’s a pretty sweet gig. Right?

Kiersten: Definitely! I love this game, and to be able to play a part in its development means a great deal to me. I love listening to what the players have to say about the game, good and bad, because I really feel that they’re what make this game fun.

Friendly: How’d you get that gig?

Kiersten: Well I started off doing exactly what you’re doing Tom, I was a part of a fansite for another online game; Asheron’s Call. I started off writing interviews with other players in the game, and soon I was running the fan site, as well as my own large guild site. After I turned the fansite over to my assistant, I went to work on several different types of websites. When this opportunity came up, I practically begged for the job. I knew that I wanted to be a part of this, and that I could be an effective conduit between the players and the developers.

Friendly: What’s the best part of your job and what’s the least favorite part of your job (and why)?

Kiersten: The best part of my job is seeing how Wizard101 has inspired our players to be creative in their own way. The Fan Fiction is always fun but I think my most favorite thing is the Fan Art. I love seeing those drawings, and I proudly display them both on our website, and in our KingsIsle lunch room.

The worst part of my job is mean people. While I understand that Wizard101 is not for everyone, those who attack us directly with personal threats can be a bummer. I guess that’s why I have the Tower Shield spell.

Friendly: Now I notice in your correspondence to Wizard 101 fans you often go by the moniker Professor Greyrose (or am I mistaken?). What’s the story behind that?

Kiersten: No you’re not mistaken; I have the persona of Professor Greyrose as part of my position here at KingsIsle. She is the most tenured professor at Ravenwood, after Ambrose of course, so it was natural that she be the conduit between the faculty and the students. I see her as a bit of a guidance counselor as well. I try to guide all our students in a positive way, and be there when they need to talk. I guess that’s why I’m the most vocal on our message boards. I want students to know they can always come to me with questions and if I don’t have the answer, I’ll do my best to find out.

Friendly: Why an Ice wizard though? Are you and those in the marketing department extra good at damage mitigation and have high hit points?

Kiersten: As for Lydia Greyrose, she is actually from Candy World, a land of cookie roads, chocolate rivers and candy cane trees. She is one of three sisters (the youngest of the three, she is actually only a half sister to them, which is why she has faerie wings and they do not). The other two sisters are evil -- they live in gingerbread houses, and have cooked up a legion of gingerbread minions to continue the long, proud tradition of children-cooking evilness. It is probably her half-faery blood that made her "the good one." She learned ice magic as a way of putting out the fires underneath the cook pot, so that she could help the children get away.

As for me, the job does require a certain finesse in damage mitigation and high hit points. Usually a Community Manager has to have a pretty thick skin, but thankfully our fans love our game and rarely cast damaging spells on me.

Friendly: So do you get to play this game at work?

Kiersten: Definitely!

When the time allows, I try to hop on to Wizard101 and listen to what players are talking about. If I can, I’ll help out those who are asking for guidance, and generally make friends and enjoy the game.

There are times when there’s an ‘all hands’ call to hop in to our internal test area, and hammer on a new feature to see if it can withstand our attacks. And I will say I enjoy going toe-to-toe with Ambrose in a Player vs Player duel. ;)

Of course, when I go home, I continue to play Wizard101 on my personal account. So you never know when you’re standing beside me, dueling against me or saving my behind in an encounter. :-)

Friendly: Ok, ok, so go through a typical day of work at KingsIsle for Kiersten . . .

Kiersten: Rarely are two days alike. Some days start at 3:00am, but only if we’ve had a late night recess. I need to get up and change any messaging relating to the downtime.

Normal days start at about 8:30am, and even before I drive in to work, I check the message boards and email for issues that may have cropped up over night. I buck traffic for 45 minutes and arrive at KingsIsle Entertainment. First order of the day is a good hot cup of coffee. From there I spend some time reading blogs like your own, scanning the fansites and forums for information and trying to help out where I can, and I scour the web for posts and comments about Wizard101. This is actually something I do throughout the course of the day, as other duties allow. I love getting Twitter alerts about Wizard101, to know that people are talking about the game outside of playing it.

Another part of my position is Content Manager for the Wizard101 website. What this entails is adding features to the website, working with our other Content Managers and the Web Development team to streamline the use of the website as well as working with our Customer Service department to ensure that the registration process is as fluid as we can make it. Some of my personal additions to the website have been the Help Pages, Creative Writing, Photo Album, Newsletter, Downloads, Color-Me pages and a fair portion of the Player’s Guide. I’ve also got some new pages I’m working on that will hopefully help players decide what school is best for them, and of course, some surprises! Keeping up with the ever expanding content on the website is another chunk of my day, but again this is ongoing and not something I specifically schedule a block of time for.

I have regular interaction with our production manager, technical director, quality assurance manager, game designers and every other department. We exchange information about what is coming up in the worlds as well as feedback from our players about what they would like to see added to Wizard101. Our player’s suggestions do have weight, and you’ll be happy to know that quite a few suggestions are already in the works for the future of Wizard101.

I work closely with our Public Relations and Marketing managers to streamline messaging and announcements as well as prepare for upcoming press releases. I try to work as much with our Customer Service department (that’s Mr Lincoln) as much as I can since we are extensions of each other, in that we are a direct line to and from the players.

As many of our players know, KingsIsle is also working on a second project, so I try to get in and see where they are in their production so I know when I can start building the community for that project.

As school lets out across North America, I try to get in the game to see how populated our Realms are, and gauge how the players are doing before I pack it in for the evening, usually around 6:00. If we have an update or an announcement, or something has broken, the hours go later than that, as I need to ensure that we get all our messaging out to all the players via the website, the fansites, emails, and other media.

Friendly: So I know they say that everyone at Kingsisle has some part in creating the game, what parts of the game would you be in? What’s your hand in the game we all play?

Kiersten: Hmm I guess I kind of answered this one above. I take what the players ask for, and pass it up to the people who can assess and implement these requests. Beyond that I’m contributing ideas for tools that the community can use to improve communicate and interaction with each other, and with the faculty.

Friendly: What’s your highest hope for Wizard 101’s future?

Kiersten: For many of our players Wizard101 is going to be their first online gaming experience. I want them to always remember their first mmo and have a smile on their faces when they do so. I will always love the first mmo that I played, and it will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s one I still play and it makes me smile. I want that for the future of Wizard101, a special place in our player’s hearts.

Friendly: Is there anything you’d like to say to the Wizard 101 fan base?

Kiersten: It may seem like very simple advice, but there is one thing I want you to do in Wizard101: Have fun. I know that seems obvious, but I see so many people playing other games who simply do so because they’re obligated or feel the need to keep up. No matter what level you are there is a world of adventure, excitement, exploration and interest. Don't be lured into thinking that it's only fun if you're level X or greater. If you find yourself logging on and not being excited about where you're going to go today, or what you might encounter, then take a step back and ask yourself why. Think you have exhausted everything there is to do in the Spiral? Think again. Tired of being a Fire Wizard, start a Life Wizard and see everything differently as you explore the finesse of a different school.

All I ask is that you have fun, and if you have an idea about how to make Wizard101 more fun for yourself and others, let us know!

Friendly: Where do you see yourself in the gaming industry in 5 years from now?

Kiersten: Playing Wizard101. :D

In all seriousness, I want to continue to be a part of a gaming community that is positive, expressive, creative and ever expanding.

If I can do that best as a Community Manager, then that’s what I’ll be doing. If I can be more effective as a Designer, then that’s what I’ll be doing. I don’t do this for the paycheck, I don’t do this for the fame and recognition, I do this because I enjoy the game and the players who play it, whether it is Wizard101 or our next project, or both!

Friendly: What has been the hardest hurdle for you (and your department) to overcome and what is your greatest success in relation to Wizard 101?

Kiersten: Thankfully, each of the hurdles we’ve encountered so far in Wizard101 have been ones we’ve seen coming at us. We have a great team that is flexible and responsive to things we haven’t necessarily planned for. Getting the word out about Wizard101 after a quiet build up I think has been an ongoing challenge. We’ve got more TV ads, and we’re looking at other ways to spread the word, but in the end, it’s our players who are our best advocates. We can scream about Wizard101 from the top of Bartleby but unless you, our players, are talking about it, it doesn’t matter.

Personally, I came to this job only a month before we fully launched the game to the world, so I had to hit the ground running, so to speak. I had my starter wand and had to quickly work my way up to Grandmaster almost immediately. It was a fun ride and I’m still learning. The players of Wizard101 are my teachers. I learn from them what they need and want and how I can better do my job.

As for the greatest success? You are. You the individual player who logged in and did something that made you smile. Each and every one of my precious little snowflakes, you are my success.

Friendly: This was always my favorite interview question when it was popular to ask about 10 years ago . . . If you could be any animal what would it be and why?

Kiersten: Ten years ago, I would have had the same answer. There’s a feline in me. Sometimes it’s a domestic feline, independent, playful and ever-curious. Sometimes it’s a wild feline, a survivalist who will claw your eyes out if you come near my children.

Friendly: What other games do you play besides Wizard 101?

Kiersten: I’ve been playing mmo’s in particular since 1998. Yes, 1998. I know that’s longer than most of our players have been on the planet. It all started with Asheron’s Call during its beta. Since then I have either beta’d or outright played: Eve, Guild Wars, World of Warcraft, EQ2, Dark Age of Camelot, City of Heroes, Asheron's Call, Asheron's Call 2, Saga of Ryzom, Anarchy Online, Toontown, Uru (both times), Rubies of Eventide, Shadowbane, Neocron, Horizons, Star Wars Galaxies, There, Auto Assault, Tabula Rasa, A Tale in the Desert and um, that’s all I can think of, and apparently I play too many games. :) But as you can see, I love games, I love being a part of them. They feed a creative side to me that likes to adventure and explore.

Friendly: Are there any secret tidbits to the game that you can surrender for the readers of The Friendly Necromancer?

Kiersten: Well it’s not about the game, but I have a secret about myself. I’m Canadian! So I hope our players will forgive me if an occasional superfluous U makes its way into words such as colour and neighbour.

As for Wizard101, one of the most requested features is a shared bank between characters on the same account, and I'm authorized to tell you that feature is coming within the next few weeks. This will allow all the characters on one account login to share the same bank, which means that Life robe you found with your Storm Wizard can be passed on to your Life Wizard, and Crowns items can be handed down to your other characters as you grow out of them.

Friendly: OK, random question . . . string cheese . . . good/bad and if good, do you like to just bite it or peel it off in strings?

Kiersten: Good – split it up and put it on either side of a hotdog. Yum

Friendly: Any questions for the Friendly Necromancer?

Kiersten: What was it about Wizard101 that made you decide to be a part of the creative minority and commit your time and resources to this game, as opposed to the others that are out there? What captured your imagination?

Friendly: I think I was bonked on the head by a cyclops and I'm still trying to wake up.

When I saw that Wizard 101 was an MMO I could involve my family in instead of tear them apart with, that's when I knew this was a game worth blogging about. I, like you, have been involved in a good number of MMOs in the past. I do think your list puts mine to shame though. haha. I think maybe unlike you, I had a pretty unhealthy addiction to a couple of these and they led to some unhealthy tension and a couple moments of heartbreak and realization. This of course is a topic for another blog post.

I also see a great potential with Kingsisle to realize some good in the world because they are a different company that beats with a different pulse than most. Maybe someday that will be fully realized. Hard to know.

Thanks for considering my family in your game.
Friendly: You’re a pleasure to work with Kiersten . . . thanks so much for your time.

Kiersten: The pleasure is mine. It’s a dream to have a positive, responsive, interactive community that we have with Wizard101 and you are a big part of that community.


Thanks so much to Kiersten and the staff of Wizard 101 for helping make this interview possible!

Happy Dueling!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Video Journal Moo Shu . . . Day 9

It's out of the Ancient Burial Grounds and into the Village of Sorrow for Amber and Kyle!

Here's some footage of Amber entering the village and taking a look around while her brother teleports to her.

Happy Dueling!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Video Journal Moo Shu . . . Day 8

It's amazing what you can push through in Wizard 101 in that hour or so before work when you cut a few corners here and there with your morning routine . . . things like, oh, don't take quite as long of a shower . . . or maybe try eating your breakfast during battle sequences instead of when you usually do . . . or how about getting your bag and work stuff ready early . . . that kind of stuff.

Well that's exactly what I did this morning, and I finished the Shirataki Temple instance with my kid's characters in and hour and 10 minutes. So I suppose it was 10 minutes off my regular routine I shaved (or didn't shave *rubs face*) there.

And now, the video journal . . .

That's one Amber Deathsong and one Kyle Skystaff dancing in the Plague Oni's room, chillin' like villians.

(By the way, has anyone noticed that the Moo Shu books aren't giving lore anymore? Maybe it's just me? If it happens again on the next book I think I'll bug report it.)

Happy Dueling!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Video Journal Moo Shu . . . Day 7

Well, it's been over a month since the last video journal! That little Dragonspyre thing happened and everything got put on hold.

So Amber and Kyle finished off Kishibi Village this morning and have moved on to the Shirataki Temple. That's a great instance there that I've run a number of times now. And every single time I get jealous of Tara from West Karana because she has the lightning bat pet from wavebringer. JEALOUS!

Anyway (I digress) here's today's video journal of Amber and Kyle laying waste to Kyuto and his friend in Kishibi Village.

Happy Dueling!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sick day = pets

Well, despite being sick, I managed to get two new pets for Thomas Lionblood.

1- Mister Peanut.

You know, I was wondering why I had seen everyone and their dog with one of these cyclops lately. I *thought* I had finished the Penny Dreadful quests and was disappointed because I hadn't got a pet, AND I had remembered somewhere reading that you get a pet after doing her quests. Silly me, I hadn't checked back with Zeke. If you were like me and *thought* you had finished the penny dreadful quests and didn't get anything more than a couple gold and a lot of regrets . . . go check Zeke! At the end of the quest you can get your own Mister Peanut or Baby Abbey as the case may be.

2- Madame Ellie

She's a beauty, ain't she.

So I had never finished up my Sword Saint badge for killing Youkai at the end of the Tree of Life Instance.

This imp is a charmer. He's a Life Boss that's fond of casting death shields and has more hit points than the Jade Oni. Luckily I had brought my trusty sidekick along . . . MR. KYLE SKYSTAFF WOOT! Thank you son for having a completely cool storm wizard.

Low and behold, after sending this imp back to the abyss, he coughed up Ellie. Not bad, not bad.

. . . and now I return to my coughing and sore throat . . .

Happy non-sick dueling!

Friendly is sick ...

I tried everything I could do: voodoo, airborne, garlic around the neck, .... Nothing could protect me from this creeping crud that has infested my home. High fevers, pnuemonia like symptoms . . . in fact, my son had it so bad the doctor declared it pnuemonia and put him on some anti-biotics. I thought I could beat it. I was wrong.

I'm debating going to work.

Things seem to be ok if I just sit very still and let the fever fester. Oh this is a cruel sickness indeed. I imagine the bug that is doing this to me looks a little bit like this little dude from spore.

It just feels like it's going to evolve into a vicious carnivorous society bent on conquering the universe.

Happy Non-sick Dueling.

Friday, February 20, 2009

5493585 Damage . . . no lie

I read about it here at Wizard 101 Central.

This is just the last 2:50 of his video setting up all the damage cards. The big number jumps out during the last 30 seconds or so of the video.

According to the thread, here's the trap/blade order he did to do this amount:

Myth trap
Treasure myth trap
Booster pack Myth Trap
Amulet Myth Trap
Spirit Trap
Treasure Spirit Trap
Booster pack Feint
Booster Pack Curse
Booster Pack Hex
Storm Prism
Storm Trap
Elemental Storm Trap
Booster Pack Elemental Trap
Elemental Trap
Treasure Elemental Trap
Booster pack Elemental Trap
Balance blade
Booster pack balance blade
Crown gear Balance blade
Elemental blade
Treasure Elemental Blade
Storm Blade

The finishing hit was down with Wild Bolt with a Monstrous treasure card applied.

Oh . . . my . . . goodness.

So that was like five bucks worth of booster pack cards, but the name Alex Pearlrider is now off the charts in Wizard 101. Nice job, Alex.

14 Wands!

I had some fun digging around in Thomas Lionblood's backpack and bank the other day and got a wild hair to video all of the random wands I've collected. I also took the opportunity to extend the Techno Jam of Tipa's recorder musings and use it as the background music. Enjoy!

I know, I know . . . 14 wands, big deal. Hey, a collection has to start somewhere!

Happy Dueling!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Malistaire Reaches Beyond the Spiral!

Gah. Quick note about the previous blog post. Kingsisle got back to me today with a note that . . . well . . . they hadn't received my note. Somehow that "Charitable Organizations" e-mail I thought was snuggly sitting in an e-mail box on their end didn't make it. I rack it up to it being Friday the 13th when I sent it.

If it wasn't Malistaire, it was Jason. He clawed his way out of the campgrounds and into the Internet.

So, perhaps we will hear more about the topic in the future! This is good news!

Thanks for all you do Kingsisle and whoops!


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

This world needs more love

Breaking from my normal posting about Wizard 101 to just post this . . .

Here's a cut and paste from an e-mail I recently sent to Kingsisle:

"I'm so sorry to keep bugging you, but my heart is really with Kingsisle and the Wizard 101 game. I don't know what it is or why, but here I am . . . asking you questions.

Is Kingsisle tied to any current charitable organizations?

I would love to hear about it. I think others would like to hear about that too . . . brand loyalty will be garnered when the organization behind the game shows they care for others who are less fortunate. I was quite impressed with my daughter the other day who spoke in church and said from her heart, 'I know life is about more than just having fun, it's about growing up and learning too.' Although the player base comes to you to have their fun, it would be nice to know on a deeper inspection that the company cares about others and knows that their players are about growing up and learning too.

What if people could donate their crowns or in-game gold toward a charitable cause instead of buying an in game pet? I don't know how many would do that, but having another button off of Zeke saying, 'make a real difference in the real world' . . . I know it would pique interest in the charity you support. I was just browsing this site that I heard about: and I was blown away by the need . . . by the fact that leprosy still affects millions, and I know . . . I KNOW . . . there are so many places of need and support. There are so many charitable organizations, but I looked at this one and thought . . . my kids have hands to play video games and have astronomical egos, these people think they are worthless and are horribly deformed, many missing fingers.

Wouldn't it be great if Kingsisle led by example in this way? I think you'd gain a lot more fans than you already have.

Feel free to forward this to whoever, and either way, your company has my heart for considering my children in their MMO.


-The Friendly Necromancer"

Is it too much to ask a company? I know that in games like Second Life, people have used in-game currency to make a real difference in the real world. Is it asking too much of a company that's young like Kingsisle?

. . . or is it just hard to do? There might be a way to automate the flow of money, but you'd have to pay someone to invent that. On the other hand, think about the potential a group of people could have to do good and to show the way . . . to tempt our kids to do good, to be kind, to go out with grace when you retire and have extra crowns on your account . . .

What do you think?

I haven't heard back from them on this and don't know if I ever will. /shrug

It actually makes great PR sense to "give back." Back when I was studying PR, my teacher referred to this company altruism as building the public's trust. What I like about this though is that it's not just about the company donating money to a charity . . . it's about giving our children an opportunity to use this game as a vehicle for giving. You (as a company) can give to a charity, and you'll get a good pat on the back from the public. But if you help teach our children that it's good to be charitable, we will never forget it. never.

I really don't think I'm being too quixotic about that.

Sorry to ramble, back to your . . .

Happy Dueling!

Monday, February 16, 2009

What's next?

Well, it's time to reflect on what's been going on lately. I have a few insights and I feel like gabbing, so I hope this ends up coherent. I'm sure it will.

So Thomas Lionblood (version 1) is now wrapping up all those little lingering things that he didn't finish on the way to defeating Malistaire. There was a matter of killing 15 undead draconians--a little quest that he had left unfinished--and he still needs to find all his stone roses. These will go quickly. If I devoted some time to it today, it'd be all done for sure, leaving him with two last training points to spend. As far as secondary schools, Thomas (version 1) went all the way up the Myth tree and snagged earthquake. Then Thomas started working the balance side and ended up getting his blade and his trap and if I spend the last two points in balance, I will end up getting the sandstorm AOE, which is kind of what I wanted. I always thought it would be cool to end up with Earthquake, Humongofrog, and Sandstorm for AOEs, and that may end up happening. On the other hand, I'm tempted to buy the myth spell that trades your minion for 4 pips. To make it effective, I'd probably have to only use it when the pet was either in certain doom or when I had cast the lowest level dark sprite pet. It seems like a lot of positioning and bargaining to get that card played. /shrug

Now you may be wondering why I keep saying "version 1" after Thomas Lionblood. Yup, there's a version 2 . . . hereafter Thomas Lionblood version 2 will only be known as "The Evil Twin" or "the non-friendly necromancer." mUHAHAHAHAa! *ahem* sorry about that. Here's a great picture of the level 10 necromancer and (now introducing) Isiah Taleslinger . . . a level 7 or so myth caster who is actually sporting an Orthrus pet. AN ORTHRUS PET? What the? Yeah, I thought it would be ultra-cool to have one of these bad boys, so I actually went out of my comfort zone (it was pretty brazen of me to ask for this) and asked Kingsisle for one. haha! Guess what . . . they gave me two of them (one on my son's character and one on Isiah here) and said thanks for all the blogging, how cool is that? Thank you, Kingsisle. It's actually kind of embarrassing to have this pet out because I ALWAYS GET STOPPED and people comment on the pet. What did I expect, eh? It is a freaking cool pet. I think I will probably keep it stashed a lot until I hit the bosses of Krokotopia.

So you all may be seeing Isiah and Thomas (version 2) running around the spiral in the near future and hear me talking about them here.

Also, Amber Deathsong and Kyle Skystaff . . . what's up with them? Amber and Kyle are going to be making a comeback here soon. I've discovered that when my kids play the game they prefer to run around goofing off in Wizard City (making new characters to do the easy quests) more than they like to go do actual quests for progression. They probably are just a touch too young for this game to be honest. My kids have also been really into the game, Spore (I have to admit, it's a fun game) and it's the same there . . . they like playing with the ameoba state more than anything.

So I will most likely be taking up the reins again for Amber and Kyle and will be finishing moo shu, if not dragonspyre, with them so my kids can have unrestricted access with all the power that are level 50 characters. I still have a bunch of "video journals" that are just waiting to be filmed for these two kids. Kyle has been faithfully helping Thomas Lionblood (version 1) kill stuff in Dragonspyre. (It's so nice to have some DPS on that second account.)

So that's all the news that's fit to print on this end. I'm continuing to play Wizard 101, and there's plenty to do here. I'm still thinking about what I could do for event ideas for my more faithful readers. Stay tuned and . . .

Happy Dueling!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Part II: Nelson Everhart & Todd Coleman, The music of Wizard 101

Part II: Nelson Everhart & Todd Coleman, The music of Wizard 101 (Interview by The Friendly Necromancer)

On Thursday, January 29, 2009, Todd Coleman and Nelson Everhart joined The Friendly Necromancer on a conference call to informally chat about the music of Wizard 101. The following is Part II of the Q&A session.

Friendly: So, as I’m listening to the music, it sounds like the tempo of the menu track is a certain pace, and then you go to the next screen and it seems just a touch faster, and then finally you get into the Wizard City world and it’s again a touch faster. Is that speeding up kind of a psychological thing you did or did it just kind of happen?

Nelson: If there’s anything in the world’s music that seems especially thoughtful or creative, I had nothing to do with it.

Friendly: (laughs) Come on now!

Nelson: (laughs) The first song that was written out of those you mention was the song written for Wizard City. It wasn’t until we were about half way or three quarters of the way through writing all the music that the music for the title screen was written, and it was really guided by how much time you’d expect a player to spend on any particular screen. The screen has an aesthetic, and you need to make sure the music lasts just long enough that the aesthetic gets experienced. So the title music was just inspired by what Todd was feeding me. Didn’t you send me a copy of Army of Darkness for inspiration?

Friendly: (laughs)

Todd: I think you’re right about that reference, but I think the one that was cool though . . . was that for the Intro sequence? I think it might have been.

Nelson: Yeah, that was really the theme. You wrote about the power and the epic cinematic scope . . .

Todd: Yeah, and in that aesthetic there was that concept of building to a crescendo. We had to go back a couple times and tweak it a little bit. At the time, we’d build the intro and come back and tell Nelson, “Ok, well, we’ve changed the intro sequence now to where the camera starts by pulling out from the spiral and the wizard falls in. We thought it would take about seven seconds, and it ended up being about fifteen, so you need to crescendo at about fifteen seconds.” So we had to go through that kind of iteration a couple times. Because you’d have it in your mind how it was going to unfold and then we’d take it all to Ross, our particle guy, and he would actually build the sequence, and then we’d come back to Nelson and say, “hey, things have changed again.” That factor was very integral to how things turned out.

Todd: I do know that with the Wizard City Commons music, we went around and around a couple times as well. We’d reach a point where the music almost seemed like it was how it would be in the actual game, and then we’d have to rethink it. It was so important because it’s the core central place. It’s the place where your characters would be experiencing the feeling that, I’ve come back home—I’ve gone on a mission—I’ve gone out and I’ve beat some monsters, I’ve solved the quest—now it’s time for me to rest, shop, and collect my rewards. So it had to be light, bright, airy, and yet still have the sense that there’s adventure right around the corner. So it really all started with that song, the Wizard City Commons music. And then after that you had the Ravenwood music. So, you would take that core music and morph the song into something that sounded more like a sanctuary, like a solitary study. And from there, each of the other songs trickled out. The Wizard City commons kind of built the theme music. But the 101 theme music, that actually came out pretty late in the process.

Nelson: Yeah, yeah it did.

Todd: It was a more organic process.

Nelson: Yeah. If you have the choice, it’s nice to write the title music, the menu music, and the Main World theme and then write the other themes from the world by using them as a reference. It’s nice to have that prologue to work from.

Todd: Then everything resonates nicely from one piece to another. You then hear a common thread in every piece of music in the world.

Friendly: Yeah, that’s awesome! See, that was creative and cool!

Friendly: So, Nelson, what is your favorite piece of music for Wizard 101 and why?

Nelson: One of my favorites would be the Wizard City Commons Music. It was the third or fourth thing that I wrote for the game. I had found the instruments that I wanted to use . . . that would create the kind of vibe I was looking for, but the tune just kind of came out one day while I was walking down the street. This melody I had in my head quickened my pace, and I had to get home to write it down.

Friendly: Wow!

Nelson: And it had this feeling of an old comfortable village, and I really wanted to get that in there and let it unfold.

Friendly: Awesome. How about you, Todd? What’s your favorite piece of music in the game?

Todd: Obviously the Wizard City Commons music really speaks to me. I also really like the Ravenwood music. It has this nice, reverent, and monastic quality to it. I also, on many levels, love the Krok music! It has an Egyptian theme, but it has a very Indiana Jones Adventure quality to it that I find very exciting. And then some of the most recent stuff from Dragonspyre. It may have a little bit of a harder edge to it, but as far as the world goes, it is haunted and dark with some more molten areas in the game and the music seems to capture that.

Nelson: I really liked the Dragonspyre stuff too. I just thought I only had one choice.

Friendly: (laughs)

Todd: I could never pick just one to go with.

Nelson: (laughs)

Friendly: It’s ok, you can choose more than one.

Nelson: The music in this game is mostly geared toward a target audience and is a friendlier, gentler approach to the music where we focus more on fun and not necessarily on some of the darker cinematic elements. So I began writing for Dragonspyre in this way, and they came back and said, “No. No. No. You can write what you want on this one. The music for this world can get a little bigger, a little darker, a little more epic.” They really encouraged me to go outside that for Dragonspyre.

Friendly: Awesome, and it really does sound like what you’re describing in Dragonspyre. It was nicely done.

Todd: Because we came up with a completely desperate environment, it gave us a lot of latitude to do a very different instrumentation and tonality. I’m really proud of Nelson that it came out so coherent and in-tune with the writing.

Friendly: Right! And my personal favorite is the music of Marleybone. For some reason I’m reminded of the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland. What was the thinking in that one?

Nelson: One of the first responses upon embarking on the game was there was a sort of thematic, Harry Potter feeling; although, I didn’t really want to take it in that direction. I wanted to do something in our own direction. There was a pull to do this sort of Elizabethan, old world Danny Elfman score. That’s a setting and a sound that everybody is really familiar with. And I did, I kept writing music that sounded like “Gryffindor,” but eventually the music went to a more Victorian, Haunted Halloween sound, especially with the harpsichord that starts to be played there. It creates a setting for a mystery and overall that particular sound really solidifies that world.

Friendly: If it’s ok, if we could switch gears now and talk technical with you, Todd (snaps fingers) not Todd, I mean Nelson sorry. What kind of gear . . .

Nelson: Maybe Todd will have a good answer for you

Friendly: (laughs) What kind of gear do you use to write music Todd?

Todd: Let’s see, I have a crappy set of computer speakers . . .

Friendly: Nice. (groans at his mistake) sorry.

Friendly: No, please, NELSON, please, what do you use for composing. I guess you maybe have an in house studio or a studio with the company you’re with now . . . if you could tell me a little bit about what that’s like.

Nelson: I actually used my home studio to record the music for Wizard 101. I use a Macbook Pro. I used to use keyboards and sound modules, and now it’s all migrated to the machine itself. I’m now using virtual instruments, so all sounds are being mapped by a keyboard to the Macbook Pro. The drums are being triggered into the computer to help give the appearance that I’m being precise.

Friendly: And so what’s the name of the software you use to do that?

Nelson: The software is called MOTU's Digital Performer, and I use that for sequencing and for shaping sounds. It does have a lot of other tidbits and nice audio features. Also, when I want to do mastering or make corrections to the music, I use Digidesign's Pro Tools.

Friendly: Cool! Thank you! That’s interesting.

Friendly: So the vocal talent, or some of the sounds that are more human in the game, did those come from the Wizard 101 staff or how did those come about?

Todd: You mean originally? Are you talking about the voiceovers? I’ll have to think about that.

Friendly: Yeah, I noticed in one interview with one of your developers he said that maybe his voice was responsible for the imp sound in the game?

Todd: Yeah, the initial sounds were all original employees. We would grab people, and just say, hey, come in for a quick recording session. Then we’d just throw ideas at them like, “you’re voice is kind of funny, let’s do a leprechaun.” Most of that kind of stuff came from internal employees. More recently we decided we were interested in doing voiceovers, and you can see that now at the beginning of the game in the character creation phase. We actually started hiring actors for that, but we still are going to be using internal resources.

Friendly: So you have some hidden talent there it sounds like!

Todd: Yeah, a little bit.

Friendly: (laughs)

Todd: The nice thing there is if we need to do something over, we just walk down the hall.

Friendly: OK, um . . . ok, uh . . . So I know this should be a touchy thing to talk about, but has Nelson been contacted to help with music for future worlds in the spiral that perhaps members of the fan community don’t know about. Has that already been in the works or are there many songs that have already been written and they are just waiting for a world that would fit it?

Todd: I can’t talk specifics. If I did, the people down in marketing would probably kill me.

Friendly: (laughs)

Todd: What I will say is that we have some things in the kitchen here, we will absolutely be continuing to create worlds for the spiral. And if it was all up to me, I would definitely like to have Nelson back to do the music for that. He’s done great work, and I can’t say enough about it.

Friendly: Absolutely!

Nelson: They have The Crystal Method on tap to do the next music.

Friendly: (laughs)

Todd: (jokes) Yeah, um, sorry to let you know this Nelson, but we’ve decided to move forward with Danny Elfman, um . . .

All: (laugh)

Todd: I hate to break it to you this way, in the middle of an interview like this.

Nelson: (sighs) I’ve set him up with a great soundtrack here.

Friendly: (more laughs)

Friendly: Ok, so you now have some more time on your hands; however, I imagine when it was crunch time with the music, you were quite busy! What would a standard day be like for you as a composer when you and Todd were throwing e-mails back and forth at each other . . . was that like an all day thing, did your significant other not see you much? What was that like?

Nelson: My girlfriend definitely saw less of me during that time. There seemed to be parts of the process that were busy, but I tried to leave a little room. Typically I try not to crunch if I don’t have to. It seems like the music sounds a little bit better when I don’t have to do that. There were times when the muse was flowing and felt good about what I was doing. I’ve pulled all day or all week stretches to compose music. With this project my schedule was interesting enough that I could recharge my batteries. Everyday there was something new to do. On a good day I can crank out about two minutes of finished material by the end of the day.

Friendly: Cool.

Nelson: So that can help in planning when you know you can produce about two minutes of material a day.

Friendly: Right. And then I’m sure having to go back and change that and refine what you’ve done took more time . . . that two minutes could stretch.

Nelson: Yeah, Todd could come back and say, “There needs to be more choir in here,” So you’ll need to take more time to flesh that out a bit. It’s really important to get your ideas to the team so you can move forward with your songs.

Friendly: Nelson, do you have any recommendations or advice for someone that reads this, a kid or someone like myself that would be an aspiring sound engineer? What kind of advice would you give them to get into this business, what you do!

Nelson: I think the opportunities for people coming into the industry right now are more accessible than when I was getting into the business. Community involvement and opportunities in start-up games, getting hooked up with them and actually getting something produced and released, are very good right now. And if you do this, then you’ll have a product to show to a company. There’s all kind of software and free software out there—garage gear. There are tutorials online that you can check out as well. In my spare time I’ve been getting into graphic design, and I’ve been using tutorials to learn. It’s the same for this business, there’s a lot of information out there about how to work with any particular application or create certain effects. There certainly are a lot of opportunities to learn new stuff on your own. And then building a network of friends will help. My first job came from chatting with a friend online who told me his company was looking for a sound engineer.

Friendly: Great!

Friendly: Alright guys I think we are getting down here to our last couple of questions. Are there any thoughts or anything additional about something you’ve maybe thought about Wizard 101, the sounds, or maybe an exceptional story that sticks out in your mind when you’re going to look back to creating this game at this moment in your life?

Nelson: Wow!

Todd: Yeah, that’s a hard question.

Friendly: (laughs) It is! And if you don’t have an answer, then that’s fine too, but if there is something that you remember specifically or vividly that you remember about that, then I’m more than happy to share that with the community.

Nelson: Actually, there was a cool moment I had. When stuff started to come out about the game, I stumbled onto a You Tube video, and somebody . . . it like was a mom and her three kids, and they’re playing a game—and I haven’t even met the development team yet at this point, I had talked to Todd and a couple people that used to work at Kingsisle—and I didn’t know who these people in the You Tube video were at all. Well, these people were talking about their experiences with the game. They were all huddled around their computer, and one of the kids was talking about his life wizard. He had advanced and got a new spell, and he was really enthused about it. Well, in the background, I hear the music playing in this house of people that I had never met before.

Friendly: Awesome!

Nelson: It was this really great connection that I had with these people that were playing this fun game.

Friendly: That’s great.

Friendly: One final question, on the Wizard 101 Central forums, where a lot of the fans of Wizard 101 go just to talk about different things, there’s an “off topic” forum and the major question they’re asking there is: String cheese—does it taste better peeled or just straight bitten into? Your thoughts . . .

Nelson: Peeled.

Todd: Peeled! I think that’s kind of the whole point.

Friendly: (laughs)

Nelson: Yeah, if you were just going to bite into it, it would be cubes or slices.

Todd: Right, I think something happens there on the molecular level.

Nelson: In fact, I think I learned about that in an Organic Chemistry class.

Friendly: Oh really? Well, see, we’re learning science with a random question and didn’t even know it.

Todd: What’s amazing to me are the string cows that produce the string cheese.
Friendly: (laughs) You guys are great!

Friendly: Do you guys have any questions for me?

Todd: I don’t think so.

Nelson: How’s that remix coming along?

Todd: Remix?

Friendly: Yeah, I took the little soundbytes from the website that were meant for cell phone ring tones and put a beat behind it, and used it for one of my . . .

Todd: A dance tune?

Friendly: Yeah, I made a dance mix of it and used it in a You Tube video and people seemed to really like it.
Todd: Well I want to hear the dance mix! I didn’t know about that.

Friendly: Alright, I’ll get you the dance mix.

Todd: It better be techno though!

Friendly: Of course! Are you kidding?

Todd: I want to hear it played in a club downtown.

Friendly: Well, it’s pretty laid back.

Nelson: It’s going to be Tom down at the Alamo Drafthouse.

Friendly: (laughs)

Todd: I want to hear some loud rendition here.

Friendly: we’ll do it! I’ll come DJ a Wizard 101 party at your place. We’ll blast it. People will be having a good time.

Friendly: Thank you guys for talking to me. I appreciate it!

Todd: Thanks, Tom

Nelson: Thank you!

Friendly: You bet! Have a good one guys.


A special thank you to Kiersten Samwell and Aleta Garcia for helping me coordinate this interview. Thanks to Todd and Nelson for being so freaking cool and allowing me to do the interview. And a big thanks to the readers and the fans of Wizard 101! I have plans for more interviews of those responsible for the making of Wizard 101, so stay tuned for more good stuff.

As always, Happy Dueling!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Just a quick note to my readers (especially those of the female variety), Happy Valentine's Day!

click here for your e-card

/necrohugs for sure!

On a side note, Tara and I took down Malistaire again for kicks to see if we could get Tara or Kyle their uber Malistaire loot. It didn't happen for either of them unfortunately.

Here are the final moments before he bit the big one tonight.

You can see I got the fire robes, but no worries . . . Malistaire dropped the death robes for me on my first try. To me it just means I have an 800 gold loot drop that I can vendor.

Happy Dueling!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Friendship Festival is here!

Seriously, you need to drop by the patch notes page to check out all the changes.

Here's the official message:

We've got a big update for Wizard101 tonight, but that means we have to take down the game.

Wizard101 the game will be unavailable Friday February 13th from 3am Central US time until approximately 6am Central US time.

During this time, you will be unable to log in to the game, and players who are already logged in will have to log out.

The website will also be updated, and may be offline intermittently during the game downtime.

Please visit our Patch Notes Page for more information!

There's some neat things coming with this patch! I can't wait to log in and check it all out!

Happy Dueling!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Dragonspyre Mish Mash Part 4


And now . . . STICK 'EM IN ME!


Well, with the help of the esteemed Tara over at West Karana, I was able to close out Dragonspyre on Thomas Lionblood a couple days ago. Whew . . . now I can finally get back to transcribing the Nelson Everhart interview. Actually, I've been doing some of that already. I'm hoping to have Part 2 of the interview to your screens by this coming Saturday with any luck.

SO! Without further delay, I now present you with Dragonspyre Mish Mash Part 4. Thank goodness I can delete all those old fraps video files off of my machine now.

Happy Dueling!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Oh! The Test Server is so Friendly!

Well, since it was available, I went to go check out the new stuff on the test server. It really is like going on a trip. *waves bye from the side of a cruise ship headed to the test server*

"I'll send pictures ok?!"

"Ok, bye" says Random_loved_one_01 (awesome NPC)


"It's ok! I'll call the fire department," says Random_loved_one_01


"Have fun! And try not to contract any diseases!" says Random_loved_one_01

"What the?!"

"Just kidding, but not . . . I hear there might be a lot of bugs" says Random_loved_one_01

"It's ok! I have a button to protect me!"

(Random_loved_one_01 mumbles) "yeah, you better keep it buttoned."



*ocean waves*

*cue Thomas's internal dialog*

Wow, here I am at the test server. That was a long download. I wonder who this strange tour guide is?

Oh, she's just a confused student . . . well, someone will help her I'm sure. Let me just go hide around the corner from her. HEY! Wow! This dimension has a fantastic water thingy . . . uh . . . what do you call those things . . . splashy cement enclosure? . . . no, that's not it . . . Giant wet bowl of squirty fun? . . . no . . . a fountain! That's what those are called . . . weird.

Huh, the sign in front of this fountain just says, "coming soon." I hope I'll be able to throw a few coins in and get something good in return. That would be a great way to get some of the virtual money out of the game and out of people's backpacks.

hmmm, I remember seeing that hot Kiersten chick over by Valentia the other day.

Nope, all I have are memories . . . a picture really does last longer doesn't it? Well, I guess I better see what she has for sale . . . HOLY WOW LOOK AT THAT!

NICE ONE! They totally put different levels of wands in here. Finally, it's no fun buying a low level wand for just decoration purposes only. I'd actually break that out once in a while . . . especially if the effect rocks. Too bad I don't have this foreign "crown" currency to work with so I could actually buy one of those.

Oh! I heard something about Zeke having new stuff on the test server (huff puff huff puff)

*much running and portal surfing to get to zeke's place*


Oh dang. Too bad I don't have this foreign "crown" currency to work with so I could actually buy one of those. OH WAIT! The pets are for sale for gold (I have that currency here sure enough) down at the first vendor in Dragonspyre! Now I can go take a cute picture over by Valentina with one of those dogs.

I better put that in my backpack to send to her. OHHHhhhh . . . look at the stuff in my backpack that was upgraded over here!

Wow. Looks like that shockblade of the hoarder has some charges on it now to. Awesome!

I hope everyone back home is busy with their . . .


Friday, February 6, 2009

Exclusive from the Test Realm

Ok, so . . . check this . . . It's the esteemed Kiersten Samwell's character on the test realm standing next to Valentina, the new NPC. I mean, Valentina is cute and all, but HEY CHECK OUT THAT GIRL NEXT TO HER! *WHISTLES* She's even sporting a new kind of dog pet. I mean . . . *passes out*

She's getting a Valentine's day card from me for sure!

So . . . ahem . . . sorry . . . WAY DISTRACTED.

So, yeah, the test realm is opening its doors again . . . uh . . . TODAY! yes, Today! Here's the information:

The time has come for us to call on you, our subscribers, to adventure in the Test Realm. Starting February 6th, the Test Realm will re-open for you to explore new additions we have made to Wizard101.

Visit Valentina Heartsong in the Wizard City Shopping District, then see what new items Zeke has for sale in Wizard City and Dragonspyre! Meet a new student; Penny Dreadful, and find out how you can help her. Explore and adventure to find more additions to the worlds of the spiral.

Remember, if you find a bug in the Test Realm, just click the little bug report button in the upper left and fill out the form.

What you do in the Test Realm will not affect your live characters in any way.

For more information about who can play on the Test Realm, and how to access it, please visit our Sneak Peek Page.

So, there you go . . . go have fun in the test realm! Maybe you'll see that awesome lady with the new dog running around. *heartbeat*

Happy Dueling!

Dragonspyre Mish Mash Part III

Well, it's been a full week here. I've been having a lot of fun in Dragonspyre, and I'm getting close to finishing this content expansion out.

It happens to be Amber Deathsong's birthday today! She asked me to buy her Spore for her birthday, and so . . . I did. The problem with that is that now I have to find some room on my crowded hard drive to install it. So, it was time to clear out all those big .avi files from fraps and make the next installment of the Dragonspyre Mish Mash series.

Here you get to see Thomas Lionblood tearing up the place and finishing off both his dragonrider staff quests and the hatching of his new dragon!

Thanks for watching!

Happy Dueling!