Monday, August 15, 2022

Game Portfolio -- War Goonz

Continuing a review of discontinued games where I had a hand in their development, War Goonz was a fun romp through post-apocalyptic America with a really competitive PvP element: build your base and defend against the attacks of others!

War Goonz

  • Release Date: November 2017
  • Current Availability: Cancelled during soft launch March 2019
  • Release Credit Category: Marketing Credit
  • Company: KingsIsle
  • Business Model: Free-to-Play
  • Category: Mobile Game
  • Genre: Strategy, PvP
Personal Development Notes
  • Fun Fact: Just like with Get Jiggy, the current Marketing Manager for KingsIsle, one Kayly Ginsberg, also used to write quite a bit about the War Goonz Beta on her blog The Untold Spiral. (I think it was me that actually pulled her into the Beta. Community Managers have pull like that.)

  • Job Highlights: Besides getting super fans like Kayly into the Beta, I also did some work on the War Goonz social media sites and assisted with the creation of a trailer video

  • Best Memory: I playtested the heck out of this game! One of the best compliments I received was when Chad Brown, aka Red Five of now DCUO fame, played through the town I had designed and commented on how well put together it was. I'll never forget that! 

  • Other Comments: War Goonz was another game where, unfortunately, the metrics didn't warrant a full release. The art assets for this game have been kicking around for a while, and they're so good that they continue to be reused in other prototypes. They're begging to find a home!

Sample Gameplay:

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Game Portfolio -- Get Jiggy

Continuing a review of discontinued games in my portfolio, next up is surprisingly not a Will Smith song, but a PvP Puzzle game named Get Jiggy!

Get Jiggy

  • Release Date: July 2016
  • Current Availability: Canceled during Canadian Soft Launch in 2017
  • Release Credit Category: Marketing Credit
  • Company: KingsIsle
  • Business Model: Free-to-Play
  • Category: Mobile Game
  • Genre: Puzzle
Personal Development Notes
  • Fun Fact: The current Marketing Manager for KingsIsle, one Kayly Ginsberg aka Vanessa Mythdust, was originally a super fan of KingsIsle's games until she made the jump to paid employee. Back in the day she penned a magnificent blog post about it from the outside looking in. Honestly, it's a really a great breakdown about what the game was all about. 

  • Job Highlights: My contributions to Game Development came from setting up the social sites, playtesting the game, helping review the images in the puzzle picture packs, and working with our videographer Damon to create the game's trailer.

    Speaking of the trailer, TJ O'Leary and I still laugh about the line, "If you like puzzles. prizes. and fast-paced, live, multiplayer battles . . . then it's time to Get Jiggy!" On first read through, our voice actress made the delivery of "Get Jiggy" very Jessica Rabbit-esque. We had her re-record the line because, as the joke goes, we were looking for 30% sass instead of 80% sass.

  • Best Memory: My best memories of this game come from when we'd play PvP matches with other people in the office.  Look, we used to get pretty competitive about these puzzle battles in KingsIsle's old Domain building! 

  • Other Comments: It was a very unique game idea that never took off, and the game's metrics were such that it couldn't make it out of soft launch. Perhaps the hyper-casual puzzle category of the app store wasn't quite ready to add some PvP to their jigsaw puzzles?

    BTW, the soundtrack for the game was crafted by Bobby Moen, and it is some absolutely fantastic, lounge jazzy goodness. The music is what I miss the most! Thankfully most of it is still on the web on Bobby's Soundcloud page.

Sample Gameplay:

This footage comes from the aforementioned blog post of Kayly Ginsberg! Enjoy!

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Game Portfolio -- AlphaCat

Continuing a review of games in my portfolio: It's time for AlphaCat! 

AlphaCat

  • Release Date: June 2015
  • Current Availability: Game removed from stores in 2018
  • Release Credit Category: Marketing Credit
  • Company: KingsIsle
  • Business Model: Free-to-Play
  • Category: Mobile Game
  • Genre: Puzzle, RPG
Personal Development Notes
  • Fun Fact:  Typically there is a cap to the number of ads you can watch in a day in exchange for energy in a game, but when we launched AlphaCat you could watch ads infinitely for some reason. Because of this, I played all day and all night to beat the game in a weekend. After that it was simply logging on to attempt to get an epic character and playing through the Invasions feature.

  • Job Highlights: One of my favorite social media campaigns was the use of the hashtag #KnowYourCrewMembers on Twitter. It was a chance to show off some of the fun characters in the game.

    As it turns out, it can be very difficult to get reporters to write about your latest and greatest mobile game, so many times I'd have to reach out to the roads less traveled, for instance, helping craft a top ten tips article for Heavy.com, reaching out to mobile gamers on the Touch Arcade forums, doing interviews with Scifi sites, and rubbing elbows with good ol' bloggers. 

  • Best Memory: I loved watching people play AlphaCat in person at the SXSW Gaming Convention! The game at the time was in its beta phase, and there was one particular girl who would not stop playing it at our booth. She had found "her game," which made me very happy. Sometimes in Marketing you'll pay to have customer profile sheets made up for your target audience -- This girl would have been a perfect profile for Alphacat.

  • Other Comments: This will forever be the game that I "gave an arm and a leg" to promote thanks to a viral video gone bad where I dressed up in an AlphaCat costume and accidentally fell out of a tree during filming, fracturing an arm and a leg in the process. Yup. That's a true story. It was great going to the SXSW Gaming Convention, but being there on crutches in a huge convention hall with no handicap parking nearby . . . not so much. 
     

Sample Gameplay:

Friday, August 12, 2022

Game Portfolio -- Rise and Destroy

Continuing a review of discontinued games in my personal Game Portfolio, today I talk about a fun game full of awesome, yet strategic, destruction!

Rise and Destroy


  • Release Date: June 2015
  • Current Availability: Game fully removed from app stores on February 17, 2021
  • Release Credit Category: Marketing Credit
  • Company: KingsIsle
  • Business Model: Free-to-Play
  • Category: Mobile Game
  • Genre: Action Strategy

Personal Development Notes
  • Fun Fact: Frankie Forearms can still be found in Wizard101 as a wandering animal in the Arcanum and as a pet. As a pet, it is now an extremely rare find since it was unable to be hatched with other pets. It's been argued that it was a bad decision, but it did create a rare pet that drives collectors crazy! (Maybe KingsIsle will retroactively change that now that the game has gone bye bye?) To get the pet originally, you had to complete the first three levels of Rise and Destroy as a part of a limited-time cross-promotion with Wizard101.

  • Job Highlights: The Community Team at this time went through a lot of work trying to develop fun things we could do to help promote the game. I loved how passionate our social media manager was about the game even though she didn't fit the typical gamer personality you'd find working in the game industry. We hosted a special Launch Party KI Live around Rise and Destroy and Julia destroyed us all in a simultaneous game as we played through level 4 of the game.

    Responding to players who left app store reviews, researching where our game was being talked about online, and coming up with creative marketing were all job highlights for me.

    After Rise and Destroy launched, KingsIsle also held an internal game jam for its developers. The Community Management team put together a web-based achievement hunting game idea surrounding Rise and Destroy that could have been an amazing promotion for the game, but unfortunately we lacked an available web developer to help us make our dream promotion for this game a reality. I remember Josef Hall coming up to the community team after game jam and congratulating us on using game jam to creatively do our jobs of coming up with ways to promote the game. That felt pretty great!

    As a part of that game jam pitch, I also created a really basic dance game in Construct 2 that featured Frankie Forearms rocking it out! It was your basic up, down, left, right dance game with a space bar move to enter "disco mode." Good times! 

  • Best Memory: I had a blast dressing up as a T-rex to make our "What a T-rex can't do / can do" social buzz videos. Actually convincing KI to drop money on a T-rex costume has got to be another job highlight.

  • Other Comments:  Rise and Destroy was KingsIsle's first mobile game that wasn't an IP related to Wizard101. Marketing went through a lot of work and research understanding the Mobile Game Market and translating the game into several languages -- way more languages than was really necessary. 

Sample Gameplay:

This is a walk through video I made of a particularly difficult level to help one of the fans who was struggling to beat it.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Game Portfolio -- Grub Guardian

The past three games on my Game Portfolio posts were about those that are in current operation, but I have a much larger list of discontinued games that are still a part of my work portfolio. Over the next week and half, I'll be talking a little bit more about each of those. First up is a game that is . . . kind of . . . still in operation, but mostly not, so I'm lumping it in with the discontinued games list.

Grub Guardian


  • Release Date: January 2012
  • Current Availability: Limited availability on iOS
  • Release Credit Category: Marketing Credit
  • Company: KingsIsle
  • Business Model: Free-to-Play
  • Category: Web-based and Mobile
  • Genre: Tower Defense
Personal Development notes
  • Fun Fact: Originally Grub Guardian appeared in its beta phase on the now defunct freekigames.com website. Apparently you can currently still play this game if you have an old enough iOS device (try an iPhone 4 or 5). 

  • Job Highlights: At some point in 2012-2013, I was given the job of handling social media responsibilities for Grub Guardian and also managing the prize distribution. Updating the master list for prizes was an enormous undertaking as each puzzle had a tier list associated with it, and the prizes were different for each tier. To update the prizes, we used a Web-based content management system. Eventually the knowledge I learned from working with Grub Guardian allowed me to pivot the Dueling Diego minigame on the FreeKIGames website to instead distribute Pirate101 items in place of Wizard101 prizes.

  • Best Memory: For some reason I have a very distinct memory of talking for a long time about the tiers of Grub Guardian with Sean McIntosh, KingsIsle's (and now WIMO's) Director of Art. I believe this was the first time I ever worked with Sean. We work much more closely now that I've pivoted to Design, so it's fun to look back at these times for me.

  • Other Comments:  Ultimately, I'm really happy players of Wizard101 had a fun game on Mobile that could also earn them rewards in their favorite MMO and also be an alternate method for leveling their pets.

Sample Gameplay:

Back when Grub Guardian launched on FreeKIGames, I made this video showing one of the early levels of Grub Guardian.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Game Portfolio -- RPG Dice, Heroes of Whitestone

Continuing my Game Portfolio posts for Blaugust, it's time to move to a game I haven't written much about here on my blog, but it's one I play daily. In fact, my wife and I run a guild together in the game! 

RPG Dice Heroes of Whitestone


  • Release Date: January 18, 2022
  • Current Availability: Available for download on iOS or Android
  • Release Credit Category: Design / Writing Credit
  • Company: WIMO Games
  • Business Model: Free-to-Play
  • Category: Mobile
  • Genre: RPG Board Game

Personal Development notes
  • Fun Fact: After Dice was launched into the app stores and ended up doing really well, WIMO responded with some fun swag for the employees. The coolest swag was a big set of lawn dice where the number one was replaced with the RPG DICE logo.
     

  • Job Highlights: I was originally brought on to the Dice Team to help with the tutorial and other tasks until I was assigned to work on another game. Some of the enemy team compositions in Chapters 3 and 4 of the Campaign were originally pieced together by me, and I had a hand in crafting a couple of the tutorial sequences for the game. I also assigned the tiles to one of the Relic Adventure boards, but I honestly can't remember which one it was.

    Later, when Dice was transferred to WIMO upon the sale of KingsIsle and without a full-time creative writer on staff, WIMO turned to me to help them with writing in addition to my other duties as the Senior Designer for Outsourcing. The Main Campaign Story for Chapter 7 was written by me as well as the Relic Adventure stories for Chapters 3 through 6. The Goblin Tile text and several Skill Check Tile texts were written by me as well.

  • Best Memory: I was invited to participate in the first internal playtest of the game, and you could just tell there was something different about this game that made it special. Everyone was excited about it. I remember being in a meeting about the playtest results, and my only comment was something to the effect of  . . . Congratulations, this game is really good! 

  • Other Comments: There's a great team at WIMO behind this game, and they continue to work hard by bringing new, and regular updates to players! I can't wait to see where this game is in a year from now! It just keeps getting better.

Sample Gameplay:

I sat down the other day and recorded video of the first half of the Chapter 5 Relic Adventure. At the end of the video there's some summoning, hero leveling, and a fight with the Guild Boss, which should give you a good idea of what you'll find if you play RPG Dice, Heroes of Whitestone.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Game Portfolio -- Wizard101

Continuing a review of my Game Portfolio, next up is the game that started this blog! 

Wizard101

  • Release Date: September 2, 2008
  • Current Availability: Available for download from Steam or Wizard101.com
  • Release Credit Category: Marketing Credit (2012-2018)
  • Company: KingsIsle
  • Business Model: Free-to-Play
  • Category: PC
  • Genre: MMORPG
Personal Development notes
  • Fun Fact: I'm the voice of a smack-talking bear in Wizard101! It's my one and only voice credit in a game.

  • Job Highlights: After a couple years at KingIsle, I was asked to lead all Communication, Public Relations, and Social Media for the company. While I maintained most of my Pirate101 Community Management duties, we hired Leala Ulrich and Julia Delay to help with Wizard101's Community Management and KingsIsle's social media outlets. It was this Community Management team that launched KingsIsle's forays into streaming with KI Live.

    When KingsIsle suffered a round of layoffs, Community Management for Wizard101 became my responsibility in addition to my other duties. The job of Community Manger for Wizard101 meant that I basically ate, lived, and dreamed all things Wizard101! When it was Christmas Day, I was there moderating the forums! Every day was Wizard101 day! If there was a major bug happening in the game, it was my responsibility to make sure it was elevated straight to the top so we could fix it and then communicate our plans back out to the players.

    Of course, keeping the monthly newsletter running and writing Update Notes were busy times, but I was very happy I could institute a "Zone of the Month" article and get a little discount going for individual zones as well. As the main "free code generator" for the company, I sometimes wonder how many free crowns and gifts I was able to give to our players! Helping the fan sites also help our players enjoy the game to its fullest was key.

    Ultimately, the job was really a blend of Customer Support, Public Relations, Social Media Management, Marketing, and of course, Community Management. You're there to help both sides of the fence in a fast-paced environment where creativity is key.  

  • Best Memory: My best memories, and the ones I'm most proud about, are those where I was able to work with the Make-A-Wish kids who wanted to become a part of our game. Spending a day dedicated to each of them is one of my proudest and happiest moments in the gaming industry. Outside of this, making videos like the KingsIsle Office April Fool's video was where our Community Management team shined best.

  • Other Comments:  I've written a lot about Wizard101 here on my blog! In fact, this blog came about because of Wizard101.  It's the game that changed my professional life. If you want to read more about my adventures in the game, scroll all the way back to 2008 and have a trip down memory lane

Sample Gameplay:

It feels a bit silly adding Sample Gameplay for Wizard101 when a simple search on YouTube will reveal thousands upon thousands of videos. That said, I was among the handful of players that were there at the beginning, uploading Wizard101 gameplay videos to YouTube. My very first gameplay video was uploaded on Sept 21st, 2008. I was playing through Krokotopia for my very first time with some awesome breakbeats in the background.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Game Portfolio -- Pirate101

Over the next few posts of Blaugust I'll be showcasing games that I had a hand in as a developer in some form or fashion. First I'll be posting about the three games that are still in operation and then a list of prototype products and cancelled games. First up is the game that brought me into the industry!

Pirate101



  • Release Date: October 15, 2012
  • Current Availability: Available for download from Pirate101.com
  • Release Credit Category: Marketing Credit (2012-2018)
  • Company: KingsIsle
  • Business Model: Free-to-Play
  • Category: PC
  • Genre: MMORPG
Personal Development notes
  • Fun Fact: There's a PvP vendor in Pirate101 named "Honest Thomas Purdue" -- what a surprise and honor it was to have an NPC named after me and put in the game!

  • Job Highlights: There is nothing more stressful than launching a major MMO as a new Community Manager with little to no experience on the other side of the fence of the gaming industry. To be sure, things always got extra crazy when writing update notes and newsletters! Luckily I had a great mentor in Kiersten Samwell to help teach me the ropes, and within the first couple of months of being at KingsIsle, I was already picking trusted leaders, building a community, and sharing a sea of information with fans. 

    That wasn't all though, just being a part of the Marketing department meant I was also helping to create the infamous Pirate101 "ninja pig" treasure map mailer, setting up the gamecards that were sold at stores like Walmart and Gamestop across the US, and creating new holiday campaigns based around Pirate101. 

    I also started to establish a lot of great contacts like all the original developers of Pirate101, members of the Syndicate Guild, reporters for various MMO and gaming related news sites, the MMO-loving Eric Bloom from Blue Oyster Cult, and (last but not least) the fantastic players of Pirate101. 

  • Best Memories: Obviously, meeting Ryan the Relentless was unforgettable, but the most fun moments always came from interacting with fans during company livestreaming events where we could launch a siege of turret bosses upon a sea of player pirate ships. 

  • Other Comments: I've written a lot about Pirate101 here on my blog! You can click on this Tag link to read all about my thoughts and adventures in Pirate101. This is the game that brought me into the game industry back in 2012 as I made the jump from fan-of-the-game to developer. You can read more about that here

Sample Gameplay:

There are thousands of videos on YouTube under the search tag of Pirate101, so I won't try to add my own sample gameplay video.  Instead I'd like to share a fun, old video highlight from a livestream on my personal Twitch Channel where my son took over the controls of the game for a while and we ended up having a dance party. It's a favorite memory of mine from playing Pirate101.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Swimming too close to the bears in Icarus

Icarus, mythology's symbol of pride -- he flew too close to the sun on his wings of wax and feathers and plummeted to earth. Icarus, the survival game -- Bearcat McGee landed on the Terraformed planet gone bad and swam too close to the bears. They are similar tales of caution and woe, but one came courtesy of public education and the other cost me 35 bucks.

. . . and Bearcat McGee was born!

I've been playing a lot of Icarus thanks to my old buddy, old pal of mine Lessah Ismorah. Remember when she introduced me to 7 Days to Die, Far Cry 6, and Planet Crafter?  Well, like a sucker I followed the bandwagon and purchased this new game she was fascinated with, and then promptly began to lose hours and hours of time just chopping wood, mining iron, and crafting stuff. Thanks, Lessah. It's time I'll never get back is all . . .

Ok ok, it's a fun game. ;) She did it again! Lessah just has a way of picking these great survival games for me to have fun in. Well, it's a ton more fun when I actually get time to play WITH Lessah and her good buddy, Mythery. It's kind of funny because when I first bought the game, they were like . . . yeah, we're just going to stay on this mission for a while and level and learn.  I then spent a week of my life in a lonely game mission they had long since abandoned thinking that when Lessah was back online from working at her new job, that they'd come back and see my amazing Teen Titans tower I had built us.

The Tom Titans Tower . . . beware evil wolves

Nope. So here's the deal with Icarus. Once you finish a world's objective, you launch off the planet, receive your rewards, and then start over with nothing but the levels you earned and the knowledge you won. Both Lessah and Mythery had abandoned the game I was in, finished the objective, and were looooong gone doing another mission. I was busy digging through the middle of boulders, making stacks of the rock, and trying to spell "BEARCAT" with the piles.

B . . . E . . . A . . . that's as far a I got before I ran out of room.

When I finally was able to jump into voice chat with Lessah and Mythery again, they were like . . . dude, why are you still on that mission? So, I took one last look at my beautiful Teen Titans tower and jettisoned into space to leave it all behind in favor of the next mission.

We've been through a few missions together now and our most recent one is to kill a big bad boss on the planet below. Lessah and Mythery were off to Gencon for the week, and I once again have been left to wander the planet surface on my own. All my levels and learning from the previous missions had provided me with the knowledge to craft a bolt action rifle and bullets, so that was my goal while they were away: to craft each of us a rifle and a good supply of bullets.  I'm pretty sure we're going to need them. I gotchu fam.

This particular world seems FULL of small hidden caves, so I'm thinking this was exactly what we were supposed to do.  I mined up a metric ton of iron and crafted 120+ bars of steel with it so I could then craft three rifles.  We're all set.  The next time they log on to play, they'll both have their rifles and 20 bullets.

Crafting the Bolt Action Rifle! It'll one shot a bear!

I'm so ready to see what this boss looks like . . . knowing these two though, Lessah and Mythery will probably kill the boss unexpectedly while I'm offline. Haha! Look, I know my place in the world here. I am the tertiary player in this episodic series.  This is the Lessah and Mythery show . . . and I'm that plucky Bearcat McGee that shows up every 4 episodes or so for comedy relief and to hand the heroes of the story their guns with a wink and a smile.

Apparently Gencon ends today, so they'll be back online soon! I can't wait to kill a boss or die trying! In Icarus, this is the way!

Happy Dueling

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Getting my Sea Legs in Battlewake!

About four months ago I purchased the VR Pirate Game known as Battlewake as a part of a VR Humble Bundle. In fact I picked up several quality VR games on the cheap at that time! But, you know me and pirates, I had to immediately give Battlewake a shot.  

Yarr! Blasting me enemies off the Port Bow!

The first feeling I got when I played this game all those months ago was of being incredibly seasick.  I actually said out loud to myself, who in their right mind makes a game purposefully made to make you seasick in a VR environment? I mean, vection sickness is a legit problem for a lot of people in these games. What were they thinking?!

And I put the game back down until yesterday.  See the thing is I was trying to find a VR game that works well with NVidia's GeForce Experience in hopes that I could actually take a 360 screenshot in a game. There's this thing called "Ansel" bundled with that particular overlay that will allow you to take 360 screenshots in a (as it turns out) very small selection of games. I'm all about the 360 photos, so the idea of a 360 screenshot had me excited.

Whilst looking at the GeForce Experience launcher, I saw it found Battlewake in my library and thought . . . huh . . . I remember that horrible game, and then GeForce Experience said . . . Tom, dude, you have the settings on this game cranked way too high, let us optimize that down for you! So I said ok, and GeForce Experience turned all the settings down.

Now, I'm quite proud of my souped up computer, but from first-hand experience inside the Unity Engine, I know exactly how bad even the slightest lag can be for causing vection sickness.  Honestly, it really doesn't take much. Also, four months ago I was trying to use the Oculus 2's air link to connect to my computer wirelessly to play Steam games. Yeah, that's just asking to be sick.

So, with my new lowered settings and a tethered connection from a USB cable attached to my Oculus 2, I bravely launched Battlewake once again to see how it would play for me. Would I get crazy sick again, or what?  

To my surprise, it was smooth sailing in Battlewake!

Sailing the lag free seas!

I'm actually kind of surprised at the difference. See, part of making a VR game NOT cause vection sickness is to find a way to trick people's minds into believing they are moving through a virtual space by the use of their limbs. For some games that's drawing a huge boundary and letting people actually walk around their living rooms. For some games, it's using people's arms to run and climb (hello Gorilla Tag). For some games it's blanking out the entire screen for a second while they teleport to a different location. For Battlewake, it's using your two big burley pirate arms to hold on to the wheel of a pirate ship and steer left and right . . . and you know what . . . it actually works. Go figure.

In fact, my arms were getting a little heavy from holding the wheel through 5 chapters of Diego's tale of sailing his ship in the depths of Shambala. 

On to the siege of Shambala!

During gameplay you yank the wheel of your ship left and right and fire both guns and cannons at enemy ships that rise out of the sea, and it's action packed.  You can ram each other's ship and after a good while of causing damage, you'll have access to an ultimate power.  You grab a magical coin from your wrist and unleash a whirlwind / swirling sinkhole combination that bears destructive fury upon your enemies.

Onward to Victory!

There are four ships to choose from: El Punto Negro, The Wrathful Servant, The Stonefish, and The Sea Witch's Wrath.  They all look amazing, of course, but they also have slightly different statistics for you to choose from. Personally I was all in for The Wrathful Servant. Its broadside weapons seem right about the perfect power level for me.

After completing Diego's 5 part Campaign mission, you then unlock the story of Rev. Rev is a follower of the Drowned One, which has transformed her into a pirate witch with a tentacled head. Of course, as a player all you see are your arms and hands. Whereas Diego was extremely musclebound, Rev has a dainty feel to her with rings on almost all of her fingers.

About to give the starting bell a good swipe of my hand

Rev's Ultimate power is a great deal cooler than Diego's, but her initial ship seemed weak unless you were being pursued, then her stern's weapons really shined.

The Drowned one will consume you all!

So, all in all, it was an extremely satisfying session last night sailing the high seas.  At some point I'll need to stop messing around with the campaign and go fight some other players. For now I'm perfectly happy playing through this campaign -- especially now that I've got my sea legs as it were. I still have Rev's story plus two others to play through and four ships to upgrade! Plenty to do still.

Happy Dueling!

Friday, August 5, 2022

Checking out Pirate101's New Daily Dungeon

A couple weeks back I jumped back in to Pirate101 to check it out since, you know, THERE'S A NEW UPDATE TO THE GAME! Kind of crazy that the KingsIsle team has managed to pull off a couple of new updates for this game, right? Who woulda thunk it. There was definitely a time that I didn't think it would ever happen, but . . . things change when you're under new management.  There you go Negative Nellies -- games under Gamigo's parent company CAN AND DO receive updates! Take that!

THE MOO!

So, Pirate101's newest update is a rotating daily quest given by one Reginald P. Jowlsley. He's a Marleybonian Bulldog full of spit and vinegar. 

I like the cut of his jib

Each time you finish one of Reginald's quests, he'll drop a "Royal Key" on you. This key can then be used to enter a dungeon. 

Ominous Dungeon Portal is Ominous

Solo, I found the fight I encountered to be pretty difficult, but when I was with a group of four, it was cake.  Well, it might have just been that my group mates were a bit OP.

Hilariously Cute Boss Insect

It was kind of funny. One of my groupmates had me on their friends' lists and had no idea who I was. Oh, you know, I just used to be the CM four years ago . . . now I'm just a guy who used to know things, a has been, and some chump wannabe coming back to see what's up with the new update. hehe. I actually like the anonymity. Before I would log on and get swarmed with questions (most of which I could never answer). Now I log on and I'm a complete rando.  I like it.  

Supposedly there's some cool weapons and gear that drop for the instance, but I mostly got vendor trash loot and a MEGA TON of gold.  That's one thing about Pirate101. They always overload you with gold. Gold is absolutely not a problem you need to worry about. Someone should put a big magical gambling well somewhere in the game where you can toss in 250,000 gold in exchange for a chance at something legendary.

Here's to future updates to Pirate101 and more fun in a fantastic game that's dear to my heart!

Happy Dueling!

Thursday, August 4, 2022

It's my Birthday! Time for a review of '21 to '22

The well wishes started to come in last night from my online Australian friends (I mean, it was the 4th for them after all and social media sites started tattling on me early), and a few more are trickling in this morning. That said, we're not really celebrating much on the actual day this year. I'm still working today, but I am going to play some D&D tonight, so there's that! Our family will be waiting until the weekend to really have fun together.

Overall, the span of 2021 to 2022 was much better for me than the span of 2020 to 2021. Last year I wrote about all the stress and recovery I went through, but this year, it's been more of an amazing ride. I'm still getting over the fact that I actually released a new album of music, but I thought I'd take a moment and just write down a few thoughts and highlights from the past year.

~~

1- Runes of Magic -- RoM solidly had my ear for the first half of the year last year. I saw mention of it on Massively OP as a forgotten MMO and that was my cue to go check it out. (You know I love a good off beat MMO.) I was pleasantly surprised to find an actually pretty vibrant community keeping that game going. The best thing to come out of my time in that game was all the friends I made in an old folks guild there. The second best thing to come out of Runes of Magic was a massive amount of game writing for me on the way up to end game as I took a good look at what makes the game tick. 

A small gathering of guildies in Runes of Magic

It's fun . . . but the Guild vs. Guild PvP in that game is a pay to win mess, and I think it was actually the end game gear grind that caused me to check out. I found my breaking point about six months in when I was approaching end game and saw it for what it was in the bottom half of this post: "I don't know . . . maybe I don't have the full picture on gear costs and I've never seen anybody with a tier 20 piece of gear because if you do the math, isn't that like 4.5 million dollars for one piece of gear?  That can't be right, can it? No . . . I gotta be looking at this wrong . . . THAT CAN'T BE RIGHT?! Please someone educate me in the comments if I'm not looking at this right." No one came to educate me on my post, but as it turns out, there is another way . . . it just takes a lot of time. More time than I'm willing to give to the game.


2- VR -- I fell in love with VR this past year. I mean, I had already started down that path a couple years ago thanks to PSVR games like Astrobot, Beatsaber, and Dreams, but my son introduced me to the Oculus 2, and that's all it took this year for me. As it turns out, it was good timing since my company had also decided to take a look into VR development. The big announcement for me there is that I'm now part of our first VR Skunk Works team, making a new game and learning the ropes as we go.  That also means I'm also really trying to immerse myself in VR news, games, and thoughts. I'm making daily trips to the Road to VR and Upload websites (a couple good bookmarks for you) and playing VR daily.

If you stick around and continue reading here at the Friendly Necromancer, you'll probably see more VR game reviews and thoughts as I continue to be fascinated with it.


3- Launch of RPG Dice, Heroes of Whitestone. There were two things that actually tore me away from Runes of Magic last year, and that's the launch of WIMO's RPG Dice and playing a little New World with my friends Stephen and Christina.  It was a one-two-punch for Runes of Magic, and I bounced. My wife and I run a guild in RPG Dice called Wyrd Beards, and it's been our mobile game of choice to play together the past half of the year.  

I find it hard to be subjective about reviewing a game I also worked on, so I haven't talked much about it here on my blog. I will say that I'm having a great time playing our game. Perhaps when I'm going through my Game Portfolio this month, I'll say a few more thoughts.

As for New World, I really only penned two posts about it here on my blog, but it really was a very enjoyable game.  I'd love to head back in and hit more of the dungeons with Stephen and Christina. We'd just need to get our schedules to sync up again and find some time. It was nice having some time to talk with Christina about the recent death of our beloved Chrissy the Blesser . . . long time supporter of Pirate101 and The Friendly Necromancer.


4- My amazing son. It wasn't just all about games of course, I had a lot of great things happening in my real life. The big event was when my son, "Kyle Skystaff" as he was known on this blog, graduated from High School. He's such a great person, and I'm so proud of all he's done in his life. There was a time in my life when I wasn't sure if he'd ever be communicative because of his autism, but he's in such a good spot now. It's pretty amazing.

For his senior trip we took him and the whole family over to Pensacola Florida so he could hang out with his friend.  He's still learning to drive, so we drove him and made a little family vacation out of it. Pensacola has the most amazing white and soft sand. That was a great trip for all of us!

*waves*

5- My trip back home to Utah this year was also a real-life treat. I loved that I was able to just spend a week there, and while it was a busy trip full of things to do, the real highlight was spending my mornings simply sitting with my mother in her retirement home, watching Star Trek Next Generation with her. I wish time and proximity allowed me to do that more often. Also getting to meet Adam Terry of FountainAVM and actually play in a club in SLC after 30 years of not doing so . . . wow. I'm stunned that I actually spent some time on stage performing this past year.

Yup, that's me on that stage *pinch*

6- Gaming with the legendary Lessah Ismorah has been another great highlight this year. We played a ton of Far Cry 6 together, as well as 7 days to die, and now we've started dipping our toes into Icarus. I honestly don't know why more people don't follow Lessah. As I tell her all the time, "WHY ARE YOU NOT FAMOUS YET?!" She's a hidden gem of a person, and I'm glad I discovered her funny sense of humor through listening to Dungeons and Dragons Online podcasts. 


7- I loved reconnecting with Team Spode and playing through V Rising. Even if the game puttered out on us, it was a lot of fun when we were all vamping it up and having fun in a game together again. Team Spode is looking to head back into Guild Wars 2 for a while, and that'll consume many many late Sunday nights to come. Calrain, Tipa, and Spode are the best static group friends you could ever ask for, and as for Tipa . . . what an amazing writer she is

Team Spode swinging around on a vine in Guild Wars 2


8- Fun at Mutant Reviewers. This year also saw me starting to write a few movie reviews at the Mutant Reviewers website. If you guys don't know Syp, you should get to know him. The guy puts out an amazing amount of content that is truly to be respected.  Between movie reviews, podcasts, game writing, being a pastor, and more . . . I just don't know how he does it all.  He, of course, attributes it to organization and a few good tools, but I think it's magic. Yup, it's magic.


9- Great friends, like you! I just want to say how happy I am to have friends that check in on me and are making their way in the world, being successful humans. Too many great people to mention, but you all are fantastic people. Have to call out by name my friends Mercedes and Kayly. To see the great things they're doing at KingsIsle, and to know that their paths to becoming game devs was so similar to mine just makes me happy. I'm so sorry I keep myself so busy and don't have as much time to chat as we used to.


Thanks for reading, and here's to making the upcoming year just as amazing! (Why as I type that do I fear the worst? The pandemic has had a really long shadow.)

Happy Dueling!

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Taking a good look in the Mirrorworld in Runes of Magic

I've been jumping back into Runes of Magic lately. One, to say hello to my old guildmates and friends. Two, I wanted to play a bit more of the side activities that I never did. Honestly, more reason one than two, but man . . . I kind of fell hard for the Mirrorworld Instances in Runes of Magic.  

Mirrorworld debuted back in March of 2016 in Runes of Magic. It had a different UI and instance cadence back then, but in 2017 everything kind of changed to the way it is now in 2022.

Mirrorworld UI showing its plethora of dungeons

To get started, you just talk to a dude named Hagris Rya. He'll put you on the quest chain. Hagris then kicks you down the line to Aylin.  Once you have those quests from Aylin, you're good to go.

Up in the very left corner of your main screen, you'll find a button that opens up a pop up UI that will then allow you to teleport into a whole slew of daily "level 90" solo instances, but here's the thing, these things are going to be a little tough right at level 90.  That's when I first tried them and nope'd out of them.

I think the real reason most people don't play through these instances is that they overload your backpacks with an amazing amount of "stuff," and you're instantly like . . . "What the heck do I do with all this stuff? This is ridiculous!" That coupled with getting kind of owned right at level 90 probably left a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths if they were anything like me.

"Moony" the wolf boss in Mirrorworld

Runes of Magic feels predatory ALREADY with the amount of stuff they cram into your rented inventory space, so getting a metric ton of drops from an instance feels . . . bad. You just know it was done on purpose this way, and that nagging feeling is a turn off. So, now that I've torn away the band-aid on every Runes of Magic player's boo boos, let's talk about why these instances are pretty cool.

Reason one: At level 100, these instances are kind of a cakewalk. As a returning level 100 player that needed to get his bearings for which buttons to click again, it was a perfect combat primer.

Reason two: The main yummy treat you get from doing these instances are called Mirror Shards. Look, you could delete all the other stuff these instances give you and be just fine because there's a vendor in Varanas named Forkas Garry who will trade you item shop potions for those Mirror Shards. One of the main things I used to buy in Runes of Magic was a potion called the "Big Angel's Sigh." Big Angel's Sigh is your 24 hour insurance policy against accruing XP/TP debt when you die.  Playing the game without a Big Angel's Sigh running is nerve wracking, and at high levels, that debt can be scary to work off. Forkas Garry sells these for 30 mirror shards. Done and DONE. 

For me the Big Angel's Sigh and the Golden Eggs to feed to my pet are reason alone to do these instances. Over just a few days I've already stockpiled 20 of these Big Angel Sigh. Outside of those, there's also luck potions for sale . . . if you're an item farmer, you'll want those.

Reason three: Every Mirrorworld dungeon hosts a boss at the end. Every creature in the dungeon drops a "heart" of the boss in the dungeon. If you get 50 of these hearts, you can "summon" that boss to give you stat bonuses while you play.  You don't actually summon them like a pet, which is unfortunate. It'd be kind of cool to have these dudes follow you around, but there is a whole UI built in the character screen to house your summoned Mirrorworld boss.  

You can summon two of these bosses at once. Each boss features different stats, but the real cool thing is that if you summon the correct two bosses that have synergy with each other, they give you an additional skill.

For me, I'm running Garsit and Tatuin. Garsit provides extra intelligence. Tatuin provides extra physical attack. So, while Tatuin doesn't really help me as a mage, the combination of the two gives me a new skill called Prayer of Destruction. Prayer of Destruction gives me a big boost to magical damage every 10 minutes.  Well, it will eventually give me a big boost to magical damage, but at its early levels, it's just kind of a nice little, um, barely noticeable, extra dps.

The laughable Prayer of Destruction Buff at level one

To improve your stats for your summons and your new skill you need to do two things.

Thing one: Evolve your summoned boss.  You do this by collecting hearts. By the end of this whole evolutionary nonsense, you're going to need about 6,600 hearts from each boss. considering you get anywhere from 10 to 25 hearts per run, it'll be anywhere from 600 to 300 runs to get all the hearts you need to fully evolve a boss. Since you can typically only run a boss 2 to 3 times a week, this could take a few years to complete.

Thing two: Level your summoned boss. Each evolutionary step of a boss allows you to then level your summoned boss by an additional 10 levels. To do this, you'll need a metric ton of 12 items, and THOSE ITEMS are what clog up your bags when you run Mirrorworld over and over: regular, good, and rare quality scrolls, shards, bottles of ink, and cards. 

BUT WAIT, IT GETS WORSE! There are three colors of each of those 12 items: red, green, and blue. Each boss likes one of those three, so if you plan on leveling all the bosses, well, that's 36 items. It's a lot and you'll end up having to dedicate an entire bank tab and a half to just Mirrorworld items if you really want to level these guys. 

Is it worth it?  Man, I don't know!  I'm only a week into this and my level 10 Garsit is really only giving me an additional 300 intelligence.  Unfortunately NO ONE has filled in how much intelligence you'd get for a max evolved and leveled Garsit on the wiki, so it's a bit of a mystery for me.

Really it sounds like there are a few ways to play this.

Gather 'em all up, and melt them down

Playstyle one: Collect all the things! Level all the things! Evolve all the things! Keep all the things!

Playstyle two: Collect only the things I need for the bosses I want . . . chuck the rest except for the mirrorshards.

Playstyle three: Trash it all. I ain't doing that.  Just keep the Mirrorshards.

Playstyle four: I'm not getting caught up in ANY of that. 

So there you go, that's basically the gist of Mirrorworld. Every day they give you 3-5 free tickets. If you haven't tried it, give it a shot. The Wiki has a lot more detailed information on this game feature, and if this post has whetted your appetite, go give it a read.

Happy Dueling

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

About Me 2022

I haven't really written an about me on my blog since 2010, so in the spirit of the Introduce Yourself Week for Blaugust, I thought I'd lay it all out, again. So, lemme catch you up with the past 12 years!

Hi. TLDR: I'm Tom. I live in a suburb of Austin, TX, but I'm originally from Utah. After working for a contractor for the Air Force for 14 years as a Technical Editor, I moved to Austin to be in the video game industry. I've been writing ever since I could keep a journal, and I've been writing about games for years. It just comes naturally to me.

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Now for the nitty-gritty. My parents were pro-journaling. I have journals dating back when I was writing about jumping in piles of snow in my front yard and my cousin stepping on my toys and breaking them. One Christmas as a kid I asked for a typewriter, and my parents delivered!  It was a cheap plastic thing, but it was a legit typewriter. I loved that thing. Yes, I was a weird kid, and I like to think I was also destined to love to write.

360 photo of my old neighborhood in Brigham City

Eventually in my late high school years I took up songwriting and poetry and started down a lyrical path with my music. In my college years, I sensed that wasn't going to work as a career for me, and I opted to major in Communication with a minor in Technical Writing and took up a job as a Technical Editor to start and support a family, which it did for 14 years.

360 photo of our old neighborhood where my wife and I started our family

But you see, it was so incredibly dry and boring working as a Technical Editor that I needed something to keep me sane. As it turns out, writing about video games was pretty natural to me. I was blogging as well, but it was a personal blog that was mostly about my kids and music (I've since hid that stuff from public view. It's not really worth reading anymore). Most of my writing about video games up until 2008 was done over e-mail or on guild forums. Typically I'd just write about my thoughts, wants, and goals for my Cleric and Beastlord characters on Everquest.

My Beastlord was named "Stingite" because he was an Iksar from a land where scorpions roamed in the newbie zone, and I had this little OC backstory about my mother naming my beastlord "Stingite" because she would feed him scorpion tails.  I know.  It's kind of dumb, but the handle stuck and I'm still naming myself Stingite in video games all these years later.

In 2008, I fell in love with a new game called Wizard101, and the words just started pouring out of me. I took up the mantle of blogger and started writing about the game and how I was playing it with my family. Wizard101 liked what I was writing and made me an official fan site and their featured blogger. 

This actually led to writing about Wizard101 for Beckett's Massive Online Gamer Magazine and Beckett's Fun Online Games Magazine. Kind of cool actually being paid to write for a magazine. That used to mean something, and I was incredibly proud of seeing my byline in those magazines.

During this timeframe I started to realize how cool the video game industry was while trading emails with Kiersten Samwell, Fred Howard, Nelson Everheart, and other people that worked at or with KingsIsle. It put a bug in me, and I applied for three different jobs at KingsIsle over the period of a couple years. It never worked out. Either the job didn't pay enough to support my family of five (wife and I with 3 kids) or I was always their second choice for the position. I figured three strikes and you're out, KingsIsle, and never applied for a job there again.

Then one day in 2012 I got a phone call from Fred Howard. He wanted me to play the alpha of Pirate101, which was an exclusive honor at the time.  No more than a handful of outside people even got to play in the Alpha of Pirate101, so it felt pretty great.  After a week of playing, he called me back and offered me a job as the Community Manager for Pirate101, no interview needed.  I was floored.

So after working it out with my family and working out salary with KingsIsle, I took the job . . . and the pay cut . . . to work in the video game industry. Living the dream! I spent six and a half years in Community Management / Public Relations / Social Media / Marketing / Management and then made the jump over to Game Design. 

Old designing buddies at KingsIsle

I've now been in Design for four years: at first working as a level designer, then transitioning to more formal game design and narrative design. The past year I've been working as a Senior Designer working with outsourcing groups at WIMO Games.

I have other loves of course, outside of games, and this is mostly a history of my life through the lens of video game writing, but since this is a game blog first and foremost, I'll talk mostly about games here.  If you'd like to hear about my forays into music, well, you could head on over to my music blog or my bandcamp page. For my personal life, I usually stick to Facebook or Twitter, but I'm typically a pretty private person. Suffice to say, I am a church-goer and feel like I've been led and guided to where I am today.

Thanks for reading the Friendly Necromancer!

Monday, August 1, 2022

Blaugust 2022 is upon us! I'm all in!

 . . . and as the great soothsayers have foretold, the time is finally upon us: Blaugustpocolypse! 


That's right, friends, fans, and fellow bloggers, the time has finally come to write a post a day for 31 days as a part of Belghast's annual blog-fest for NERDS like us. I've been thinking about this one a lot in advance for some reason -- I even prepped a list of possible topics! That's right, I take this blogging business seriously! I mean, at least during August.

As it turns out, my mind is still firmly on . . . work! So to those ends, I want to use Blaugust to write out a few things that could end up on a Game Designer portfolio site of sorts. I'll be refreshing my "About Me," which is woefully out of date currently, and I'll be writing a little bit about each of the games I've worked on the past 10 years.

Also, I have a solid Blaugust's worth of VR games in my steam library that I haven't played yet, so I'm hoping to play and discuss those with you all as well as talk about a few old favorites like Wizard101 and Pirate101. 

My hobbies have expanded a bit this past year, and I have a new 360 camera that I've been loving! It's something I can't wait to share with you all, so here's your first sneak peek.


Spin that picture left to right and up and down (and zoom in and out) to get a fun view of my friend's record shop from my recent trip to Utah. Or, if you're really up for the full VR experience, throw on your headset and take a look at it in full VR. Adam was in the process of setting up his new, closet-sized record shop inside a coffee joint, and I was left alone to guard it and catalog it. 360 photos of tight spaces that are chock full of interesting things to look at are fun!

So here we go! It's great to be participating in Blaugust again, and I hope you enjoy coming back daily.

Happy Dueling