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Archive for October 6th, 2009

It snowed last week.

The first snow of the season always makes me happy.  I love Fall and Winter.  It’s my time of year, and always makes for some great photography.

It does make moving about a bit harder, though.  We’re looking to move to a new home, and my wife really wants to get in before it gets cold and really snowy outside, which would make things more troublesome.  Still, I’m really loving the colder temperatures.

At the same time, EA/Bioware is giving me the cold shoulder, much as the Gatheryn people did.  See, they opened up the floodgates for applications to beta test Star Wars:  The Old Republic.  I like the sound of the game, and would happily beta test it a bit, but according to the Beta Application terms, I’m disqualified because I work in the game industry.

I’m not out to steal their ideas.  If anything, I’d give them a few.  No, what I’d want out of tinkering with their beta is a chance to take a look, to offer some opinions, and to find some bugs.  I’ve done my share of testing games at my job, and I know what to look for and how to fix it.  I like fixing things, and offering ways to make a product better.  (Which gets me into trouble sometimes, actually.  Not everyone wants things fixed.)

I’m one of those weird souls who plays on a test server and actually tests things, though.  I know, the trend is to use betas as promotional tools (and the response to the SWTOR one, which crashed the application server, is a good indicator of the interest in the game).  I’ll admit, a beta is a good place for me to check out a game.  (I got into the DDO Unlimited beta and loved it, even as I found things to submit bug reports on… they only cared that I wasn’t working on another MMO.)  Still, I consider it my fair bit of the bargain to actually do some testing and help find problems with the game.  Strange, I know.

So, alas, I won’t be beta testing SWTOR.  I wish the game well, though.  I’m not bitter, just a bit… chilly.

In the meantime, though, I’ll be playing Puzzle Pirates a lot more.  One of the Ocean Masters over there (PP’s Game Master position, since servers are called Oceans) bestowed a very kind gift on my unworthy piratey soul.  (Quick plug:  there’s a link up there in the upper right to show you my pirate, and if you join the game via that link, there *should* be some in-game currency in the offering by way of the referral system.)

Demeter, the Greek goddess hailed by Homer as “bringer of seasons“, has kindly granted my PP account a year’s subscription.  She sent me an email explaining this, and that she knows that I like to play on the PP test ocean (effectively their Public Test Realm), the Ice Ocean.  It’s a wild frontier sort of place, where bug hunts are more important than hunting gold, and new species of game design are wont to rear their puzzling heads.

More than once, I’ve noted on the PP forums that I’d make Ice my home and play there almost exclusively.  (The trouble being that only subscribers or those who have purchased doubloons recently can go there.  The gift of a subscription unlocks the realm for me.)  Yes, it’s potentially subject to a complete wipe, but I don’t mind.  Playing on Ice is all about experimentation, exploration and taming the sometimes wild bugs that inevitably come up in game development.  That, to me, is far more interesting than playing on a “normal” server scrabbling around in the water for pieces of eight.  Ice, as a test server, is more about *playing* the game than accumulating more piratey *stuff*.  I can’t help but appreciate that.

(Which means yes, I’d likely do the same thing in WoW, if that were my game of choice.  Test realms are about the last “frontier” of MMO gaming, and that I get to help the devs that I like is icing on the cake.)

Plus, well, Three Rings does excellent work.  I’ve often held them up as an example in the game dev field, and I welcome the chance to spend a bit more time with their work.  I’m still busy and not really an online gaming fanatic, but if I’m going to play online, I’m going to play somewhere that I’m happy to do so.  The Ice Ocean is one of those places that just feels like going home.

So, even as my little family is finding a new home in this crazy “real life” thing, I feel like I’m going home to one of my sanctuaries in the online gaming world.  It’s a gift that I can’t thank Demeter enough for.  These Three Rings people are some of the best devs that I’ve had the chance to converse with.  (Special mention of Apollo, another OM, and the great fun that he’s offered as a forum admin and event runner.)

To be sure, it’s a relatively small thing in the grand scheme of Life and All That’s In It, but to me, it’s a very kind welcome mat and a magnanimous gesture that makes my heart warm, even as I go play in the snow.  Thank you, Demeter!

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