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Carrie Blog

Everybody's Doing It

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I thought I would wait, before telling people, to see if I would actually keep updating it... and so far I've found I have a lot to say.

Like all my dear former GameSpot friends, I have started posting on a blog elsewhere. It's not for lack of love for this site, it's just because I'm interested in beginning new memories.

I will always be reading, and I will pop in from time to time (as I have here), but I hope to frequently update my blog there, if you are so inclined to read it:

Doubt The Stars

So far it's been about things related to video games, of course, it's about some things that are personal, and it's about working in game development, above all.

I'm awfully glad I'm a Beta...

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On Tuesday of this week, the Warhammer Beta went live again, something that we've been preparing for longer than I care to admit. Truth be told, it has been consuming me for a few months now.

I've been watching our internal forums with simultaneous hopeful anticipation and dread, in part because I think some of the things we've done for the Beta are really cool and I can't wait to be reaffirmed, and in part because there are still a lot of bugs and features I want to get in, and the Beta testers are not going to shy away from reminding me of that fact.

It's given me quite a new perspective on Betas, and development on a live game in general. Which is, this is a thousand times harder than anyone can possibly imagine.

Games, all by themselves, in my limited experience so far, seem extremely difficult to make. It requires everyone in the company to be on top of their game, from conceiving and selling an idea, to branding and raising public awareness, to planning and execution, to polish and commitment. If we were just making a game that we were shipping next year, dusting off our hands and jumping onto another project, that alone would be hard enough. But with an MMO, you have to now support this game, react and respond to feedback and tests of scales beyond which you could possibly feel prepared for. You have to accept that getting Betas up early on are an important part of the process, soliciting feedback and really really listening to it (you can stick you pride in your pocket for that one, letmetellyou).

But, lest I sound like I'm complaining here, the challenge is part of what makes it so rewarding. I've known quite a few people to make the offhanded comment that they'd like to get into the game industry, and despite the work and the competition for jobs, if you're aggressive and passionate and committed, it's so completely worth it.

Last week I got a promotion, my job effectively remains the same, but the expectations have gotten a lot higher. I have a feeling, with the reopening of Beta, the Beta testers are going to make sure that I've earned it. Like I said, the challenge is part of the enjoyment, but I'm still awfully glad this is just a Beta.

Help a Mother out...

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Last time we left her (as far as the GS audience is concerned), my mother was madly in love with Nintendogs. It's been a couple of years and I used my desire to get a DS Lite as an excuse to give her my old DS as a hand-me-down, along with Nintendogs and a couple other games, including Animal Crossing.

This morning, I get a frantic message from my mother, and we're in the middle of beta crunch time right now, so I'm half-reading it. She's going on and on about not being able to find the store and bells and fruit in her pockets and once I realized she was talking about Animal Crossing, I just sent her the link to GameFAQS and went back to work.

A few hours later, she returns with a letter she has written some poor game guide author. It was so funny, I just had to share. Can anyone help a mother out?

I read with interest your information about Animal Crossing. I am new to the game and am an older player. I haven´t much of a clue. My house is ridden with cockroaches or rats or something. I have no bells. I do not know how to find Tom Nook´s store. I have a pocketful of fruit. I don't know how to write a letter to my housemate, who is sleeping (of course). I figured I could sell fruit if I could find the store. I wander around town but don´t get much help from anyone. Entered someone´s house who was about to put dinner on the table but was told she didn´t have enough for me and I should have brought something.

I may be absolutely too green for you to take any note of this, but I thank you, in advance.

Virginia

So long and thanks for all the points...

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Of everything relating to the game industry, GameSpot is one of the things that I have always held nearest and dearest to my heart. It has touched me so deeply because of what I knew GameSpot to be, because of the people there, because of my dearest friends in the whole world, some of whom are still there... and some of whom aren't.

When I left GameSpot, it was terrible, but it seemed okay, because there were people there still keeping the dream that was GameSpot alive, and there was always that little buzz inside me that thought one day I could return, jump back into the swing of things, and be doing points features with Jeff again.

But right now, the only thing that comes to mind is that my heart is broken. Not for Jeff, he'll be fine. Not for the people he leaves behind, they are amazingly talented people and they'll be fine. For GameSpot, for the dream that it was, for the times that I had there, and for what I fear it will never be again.

Boys Don't Play Medics

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Paul Barnett and Jeff Hickman, the Creative Director and Senior Producer behind Warhammer spend a lot of time talking about "Glory" internally, so it's something I constantly have on my brain.

It's difficult to explain glory without giving examples, but it's essentially the moments inside a game that make you feel joyous. It's why Brad can't help but use the word majesty when he talks about seeing a Colossus for the first time in Shadow of the Colossus. It's the awe. It's the secrets. It's the things you notice that you think you might be the only one to have noticed, a detail that's written on the wall, an inside joke, or a hidden passageway. It's the entire script of Psychonauts.

As an FPS, Team Fortress 2 is standard in many ways. They haven't reinvented the character archetypes, and they certainly haven't changed the way a twitch FPS is played. But as an example of what makes a game glorious and joyful, Team Fortress 2 is the acme.

Boys Don't Play Medics - (Or how I learned to stop fighting and heal a Heavy) - The support characters in Team Fortress 2 (such as the Engineer and the Medic) are done beautifully. I have always had a personal affinity for making support characters, but TF2 is one of the few games that I feel inherently rewards them. Watching my friends play Halo 3, I've noticed that it naturally pits everyone against each other, even within a team, as everyone angles to be the top spot on the leaderboard and increase their own rank. Team Fortress is a game about working together, where you go for "points" instead of "kills", which allows people like medics to get rewarded explicitly for getting out on the frontlines and healing the people in combat.

To add to the ambiance, each of the extremely personable characters in TF2 AUTOMATICALLY thanks the support characters. As I pop out of a teleport, I hear my character shout "THANK YOU HERR ENGINEER". It's the kind of thing that promotes positive online experiences, even if it is automatically triggered by the game.

Instructional Videos - I'm going to take a stab in the dark and guess that one of GameSpot's end of the year awards is going to be "Best Use of Film Projectors in a Game", because both Bioshock and TF2 have done them beautifully. I'd personally give the award to TF2, for not only being stylized, but also using them extremely functionally, by showing videos of how to play each map objective before you load the game. Dear FPS creators, they've set a bar and you can't go back now.

This Is Your Torso - Each time you die, there's this quick zoom in to your opponent, which shows you his remaining health, where he was standing, and sometimes the pieces of your blown apart body that lie around him. It's not often that I actually want to take a screenshot at this opportunity, but I have to admit to laughing out loud the first time I saw a little placard showing me one of my own body parts.

I'M ON FIYAH! - It was clear from the first time that Team Fortres 2 was showcased, that the look and feel of the game was going to be one of its greatest assets. Little did we know then how pervasive it was going to be. Since each of the characters embodies a particular archetype, they've also been given particular stereotypes: the Aussie Sniper, the french Spy, the American Soldier. The nuances of these, such as my medic shouting in his thick German accent "I'M ONNN FIYAAAAH!" after a run-in with a pyro, or said pyro's muffled call for "Medic!" are so enjoyable, that I often find myself recounting new discoveries over the watercooler at work the next day.

Winnar! - One of the simple enjoyable aspects of TF2 is the way in which you are rewarded for being successful. At the end of each round, when the summary screen pops up, the losing team's weapons are removed from them, and you have a few seconds to hunt down anyone that may have been left alive to finish them off. This brief game of cat and mouse is almost like a game within a game, as a loser I make it my every mission to stay alive by running and hiding from the winners.

According to Steam, I've played 64 hours of Team Fortress 2 in the last week and a half, and the funny thing is... I don't feel the slightest bit tired of it yet. I don't know all the things that make a game great, but just being this damn fun has certainly got to be one of them.

Oh Viggo

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Eastern Promises is the best movie I've seen in quite some time.

For those of you who've seen it, it's not just because of that scene, though sitting through that scene was the most uncomfortable I've been since Pan's Labyrinth.

The rest of the movie is more like Goodfellas than Pan's, though more emotionally evocative than any of the American gangster movies I've seen. I left the movie feeling conflicted. Half inspired to get some Vory v Zakone tattoos, poking myself in the neck at everybody I saw, and half distressed at the state of the world and the people within it.

Go see it.

Getting an age check.

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I need some advice from younger people out there, or "you young'uns" as I like to call you. I know you exist, I've even heard that there are people who walk and talk and think and make decisions who were born in the 90's. The 90's! You would still all be infants (and I would still be wearing flannel) if I had my way.

Now, I have some appreciation for music that invents its own slang. Even that "Buy you a drank" song is okay, though a bit unsettling. But apparently Timbaland's new song is called "The Way I Are" and it involves a call and response section where the girl says "I like you just the way you are" and he says back "Can you handle me the way I are". And I swear it sounds like he's saying "I'm are" which is even more unbearable.

Am I an old fuddy duddy or is this just seriously lame?

On PAX

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A few weeks ago Ricardo suggested that I attend PAX to do a live GameSpot interview about WAR. You know what happens when Ricardo wills something?

It happens.

Before the interview, I decided, I vowed that I was going to talk slowly. So I sat down with a friend, and he pretended to interview me.

"So Carrie, tell me about the Tome..."

I took a deep breath.

"The Tome...well... okay... ...It's this book, see..."

Words left me. Apparently, if I'm not going a mile-a-minute hopped up on nervous energy, then I just forget everything I have to say. So I just want you to know that I tried to slow it down. But it's not me.

Anyway, that experience, and that interview especially, was thrilling. PAX is an incredibly awesome show. One of my coworkers likened it to the gamer's Woodstock. It felt really accepting and exciting, and I believed that everybody there was just interested in having a good time.

If you've ever been interested in attending E3, I highly recommend checking out PAX next year. People are saying that it's filling the void that E3 left, but honestly, I think that's selling it short. In terms of the player experience, inclusiveness, and general attitude at the show... it's way better.

The Other Side

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I never got used to watching videos of myself on GameSpot. I forced myself to, and I forced myself to read threads about the things that I did (despite them being rampant with comments about how ugly/fat/stupid I am). So it was nice, working as a designer on the Tome of Knowledge, because it was a feature we were intentionally keeping under the radar.

No longer.

I admit it's exciting to talk about the things I've been working on, but I still can't handle watching the videos. Perhaps you can watch them for me instead. It's a very odd position to be on the other side of game media. Talking to the press, I suddenly regretted every *tough question* I ever asked a developer. It's not an easy position to be in, and there are a couple questions in that video that I definitely flubbed. Hopefully I'll get better with practice.

A month ago, I got promoted again. Producer Lance Robertson (in his infinite wisdom!) asked me to head up the Tome of Knowledge team, as well as the team in charge of the entire in-game UI. With this promotion, I have ceased to be a person, and am now just a vessel for creating Warhammer. It's an exciting time, let me tell you. Exciting indeed.

A Confession

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I bought a Sisters of Battle army.

Bad ass!

After months of teasing my coworkers (many of whom are avid Warhammer tabletop players), I finally broke down and bought my own set. I blame Baltimore Games Day. Walking around there, and looking at everyone's fully painted sets, I was deluded into thinking that I, too, could have a whole bunch of awesome looking figurines within a moment's notice.

I officially spent one night (many many hours) painting, and have two half-painted models. That painting is hard work! And as a former smoker, I still have me some shaky hands.

Still, it was a strong enough pull that I almost canceled a planned trip to NYC this weekend in order to go out to Comic Con and nerd out some more. But I resisted, and can happily say that I will be attending the hip-hop festival Rock the Bells in my beloved Manhattan (that I haven't visited in quite a few years) and eating very many Magnolia cupcakes.

And at the risk of derailing into another musical-based post (I can't help myself, I've been going to shows nearly every weekend), I wanted to mention The Decemberists concert that I attended two weeks ago. They played with The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and it was one of the best shows I've ever seen. I stand by my previous post that they're a band to see live, but I double that recommendation if you can catch them play with a full orchestra backing them up.

Here are a few videos that don't do the performance justice.