Sunday, April 19, 2015

You Only Lieb Twice : The Liebster Awards

So I got the White Elephant. Or is it the Black Spot? Either which way,  Wilhelm nominated me for this Liebster thing I'd been trying to ignore and he also nominated Mrrx, who then nominated me as well. At least Mrrx opted to re-use Wilhelm's questions so I don't have to do 22 of the darn things.

If anyone else nominated me earlier I apologize and thank you. I didn't read all of the previous nominations. As I said I was trying to pretend it wasn't happening and waiting for it to go away but it is and it won't so here we are. It takes even longer to do than you imagine it would but it's one of those things that, once you get started, is also more enjoyable than you imagined so it comes out about even.

It's also probably the longest post I've ever done and I wouldn't expect many readers to make it all the way to the end, so to avoid avoiders avoiding, the way I was, I've front-loaded my nominations. Needless to say, many (most?) of the people I'd have picked have done it already and heaven knows no-one is going to want to do this twice

The original instructions suggest each participant nominates eleven more bloggers, each with "less than 200 followers".  Whoever designed this thing is purely obsessed with the number 11. Let's all pretend we didn't see that part.

There's a great temptation to try and waken sleeping giants like Gordon from We Fly Spitfires (last post over two years ago) or lure back great bloggers who have moved on from the "long form" to more modern means of communication, like Tipa at West Karana. And of course if either of you see this and feel the urge to join in, well that'll be my service to the community done for this year as well as a special treat for me!

My official nominations, however, are people who are still active and blogging fairly regularly. Please do not feel in any way obliged to respond. Indeed, I hope you just get the "it's nice to be asked" feeling without any of the "now I have to do something I didn't really want to do" part.


Null Signifier


Skip to the end for eleven new questions. I don't think I can get away with reusing Wilhelm's yet again...

And now onto the  main event:

Eleven  Random Things

I wish I had a more flattering photo. I never did look my best in profile... Also from this picture anyone would think we were a mod band but that was what punks really did look like in 1977 once you got ten miles outside London

1. I used to play rhythm guitar in a band that was always changing line-up. Somehow I ended up as the singer, which was a problem because I could never remember the words. Even when I'd written them.

2. As a kid I loved to play pinball. When the table flashed "TILT!" I thought it meant I should grab the side and lift it. I wasn't strong enough so I'd try and persuade an adult to help me. Amazing how many adults don't know what "TILT!" on a pinball table means either.

3. I didn't learn to drive until I was 28. I didn't think I'd like driving but it turns out I do. A lot.

4. Come to think of it I didn't learn to ride a bike until I was 18. Guess I'm just a late starter when it comes to transport. Maybe I'll learn to hang-glide when I'm 78.

5. As far as I know I have no food allergies. I think I was born before they were invented. Or maybe it's because I didn't eat a cooked meal until I was twelve. I understand they can start any time though so there's still hope.

6. There are well over 700 movies on VHS tape downstairs from where I'm sitting as I type this. Most of them I recorded off the TV back when I thought it would be really cool to have a library of a thousand films. I still think that would be cool - only not on VHS cassettes. Why couldn't DVD recorders have arrived a decade sooner?

7. The other day I had to look up Bouncing Boy's real name on Google. I can't believe I couldn't remember it. And then I thought better of using it for what I had in mind. That's the good and the bad of getting older all in one package, right there. It's Chuck Taine in case you were wondering.

It could happen...

8. I've been a bookseller for longer than I've played MMOs but I've never trusted bookshops. I prefer libraries. That said, working in a bookshop is a great way to get free books. Another good way is to email publishers and tell them you want some. They have more proofs than they have people to give them away to most of the time.

9. The knife-crime media scare of several years ago meant I had to stop carrying my Swiss Army knife everywhere I went. When I carried it I used it several times a day and thought it was indispensable but since I stopped carrying it I rarely miss it at all.

10. I ordered new net curtains for the front room via Amazon yesterday and they came today. I put them up this morning and they look great. To quote Lloyd Cole, "very very rock and roll".

11. I found it a lot harder thinking up eleven random facts about myself than you would imagine.

Eleven answers

1. Why blog?  In this age of Facebook and Instagram and Twitch and what not, why do you work in a medium that is still mostly about words as opposed to video or connections
or other things?

I've always been a compulsive writer so the words come naturally. I've felt for a very long time that writing is a kind of compulsion, almost an addiction, not far from being some kind of illness. It just happens to be a socially acceptable kind of sickness that can open the doors to fame, fortune and the respect of your peers. Allegedly.

Pictures may not be as essential to a blog as words but they're of almost equal importance to mine. Most days they take up more of my time than the writing does. Without pictures a blog becomes something like a series of essays or diary entries. With them it becomes a lot more like a magazine. I do like writing essays and I often wish I'd kept a diary but most of all I've always loved the idea of having my own magazine.

I photocopied my first fanzine when I was still at school and I went on to publish and contribute to many more. After that wore out I spent most of the 80s and 90s deep in the APAzine scene. I worked hour after hour with scissors and SprayMount laying those things out.

I really love layout work. I learned how to do it in my first real job post-University, when I somehow ended up producing the in-house magazine for an Insurance Company for a couple of years. The blog format is really the APAzine experience rendered shiny by technology so it felt very comfortable and familiar. If we'd only had these tools back then...

I would also love to work with audio and video. I have dabbled but it takes so long... Right now I just can't seem to make the time. One day.

2. Why MMOs? (Or, why not MMOs?)  What is it about this never ending genre that pulls you in, relative to single player or even multi-player co-op games?

There are probably a million reasons by now but in the beginning it was the Three Cs: Childhood, Collecting and Company.

Right from the beginning, the whole experience of playing MMOs reminded me enormously of the happy estate of being a child; that ineffable feeling so perfectly encapsulated by Bill Waterson in Calvin and Hobbes or Richmal Crompton in Just William. The days really were just packed and there really was treasure everywhere. When I found Everquest it was like being transported back to the 1960s, exploring the woods and fields with a  gang of kids, getting in to all kinds of scrapes, with no responsibility other than try not to get yourself
killed and be back home before bedtime.

Then there's the company. An MMO is all the best parts of going to the pub or having friends round without any of the negatives. No missing the last bus, no falling asleep on the train home and waking up in the wrong town, no looking at the clock and wondering "are they ever going to leave?" It's an always-on social life with an off-switch. I admit I've gone out a lot less since started playing MMOs but I feel all the better for it and so does my wallet.

Finally, collecting. I'm a packrat and proud of it but there are downsides. Before MMOs we used to spend weekends exploring the charity shops, second-hand stores, markets and car boot sales of every town in a fifty-mile radius. The house was filling up with all kinds of finds. MMOs replaced all that with an almost identical experience (particularly in the days of vendor diving in EQ) while removing the travel costs and storage problems. Well, kind of... (points up at blog title...)

3. Science Fiction or Fantasy?  Which way do you lean when it comes to games, literature, movies, or whatever?

I grew up reading Science Fiction. I've read it all my life. I didn't really begin reading fantasy until after I left University. When I think of SF it tends to mean Dick, Ballard, M John Harrison, the New Wave, all of that. Fairly serious stuff. Fantasy struck me mainly as escapism and after three years doing Eng. Lit. escapism what about all I wanted.

Nowadays I don't see so much of a clear divide. I'm pretty much up for any of it. Genres are for publishers and producers, anyway, not for audiences.

4. What of Steam?  Do you feel like you’re missing something by not browsing the shelves looking at boxes when shopping for video games?  Digital distribution is here, on the PC at least (consoles still depend on a lot of physical boxes), do you miss the old way?  Are you old enough to even remember the old way?

I have a Steam account but I've never bought anything with it. I spent an hour going through everything in the store last year and couldn't find a single thing I wanted. As for using it as platform to play games I don't really get the point. Isn't that what my Desktop does? I'm not against it - I just haven't worked out why I need it.

Digital Distribution in general I like a lot but I still buy a box if I can get one. Just like I listen to all my music as MP3s but do it by buying the CDs and converting them. It still seems weird not having a physical copy even if I actually find the digital version hugely more convenient. I expect I'll grow out of that eventually.

5. What gaming relics to you hang on to, if any?  Chat logs? Screen shots? Physical boxes? Just memories?

All of the above and more. Packrat here, remember. I wish I could find my two years of EQ chat logs. I think they're on a HD that died...

6. Name three (or more if you like) video games that shaped the gamer you are today.

Eye of the Beholder - the first computer game I played that really made me feel I was "there". Searching for secret doors has never felt so real.

Might and Magic VI - The Mandate of Heaven - I think that was the first RPG Mrs Bhagpuss and I played together.

Everquest - The one that changed everything. If I had to describe my ideal game this would still be it. It would be great if someone would make something to knock it off its pedestal but so far there's no sign of that happening.

Baldur's Gate and Broken Sword 1&2 should never go unmentioned in a list like this, either.

7. You’re rolling up a new character in yet another fantasy title.  What race and class is always the first set you go with?

There isn't any particular combo although I do have some strong preferences and old reliables. If I suspect I'll find the game difficult to learn or adapt to then I usually pick a Warrior type because they tend to have the most straightforward mechanics at low level. Often those characters get abandoned quite early on as soon as I've got the hang of things.

If there's a short, cute race, particularly an anthropomorphic animal, I'll always be drawn towards playing that. I find it almost impossible to resist a catgirl. Who could and why would you even try? No-one who read The Ballad of Lost C'Mell at an impressionable age, like I did, that's for sure.

Catgirl. I said catgirl!
I have a bad habit of rolling rangers and then finding they're nothing like I imagined they would be. I often start out with one but few make it very far. I'm also partial to classes with a pet that can tank and any class with a lot of AEs.

The one thing I can't abide are classes that rely on positioning, which explains why I don't play many rogues.

8. What video games, if any, did you play before you discovered MMOs?  Did you leave them behind?  Or have you left MMOs behind?

Much though I like to say I'm not a Gamer, I've played video games since my (very) late teens, which is pushing four decades now. I used to favor Adventure games (text or graphic, I'm not a purist) but I've played all kinds.

Most of my gaming back in the '80s was done on the Atari 2600, the ZX Spectrum and the Amiga. I didn't get a PC until the mid 90s. That was when I really got into RPGs, something that was strongly encouraged by Mrs Bhagpuss, as we began to discover and develop a mutual interest in the hobby.

Once we went online we really never went back. I've probably played fewer offline games in the decade and a half since I started playing EQ than I played just in the first 11 months of 1999 alone. Playing offline nowadays feels like reading aloud to myself in an empty room.

9. By whatever definition you choose, what would you consider to be the Video Game Capital of the World?  LA? Austin? London? Elsewhere?  Maybe just the Video Game Capital of your world?

Strange question. I would never have considered anywhere to be "the Video Game Capital of the World". I'm going to say San Diego for obvious reasons.

10. Which MMOs have you really invested yourself in?  There are a lot of them out there, but you can realistically only really get into so many.  Which were they for you?

This is easy. I just instinctively know which ones count: 

Wizard 101
Rubies of Eventide

I can name plenty of other MMOs I played longer than some in that list and quite a few that I think are better or that I enjoyed more, but it has nothing to do with how long I played or how much fun I had. It's all about how committed I felt to what I was doing while I was there.

11. How do you spend most of your MMO time with relation to other players?  Are you solo, in a partial group, in a full group, in a raid, in a coalition-wide fleet operation, or some other formation?  What is your default mode?

Depends on the game. EQ/EQ2 is all solo play at the moment. GW2 is solo and duo and open-group play. Interestingly, zerg activity in WvW is beginning to be referred too quite commonly as "raiding" so I "raid" quite a lot, too, which is a first for me.

I would say my default mode is solo but I am usually open to offers. I do like grouping, a lot, especially old-style "Trinity" groups, where that meant CC/Tank/Heals. I'd do that again if the right game came along. I miss healing and CC a lot and tanking a little.

And no, FFXIV is not the right game.

Bring back healing on horseback.

Okay, since I don't think I can get away with using the same set of questions for a third time I guess I'd better come up with eleven new ones. Going to try to stick to MMO/Gaming related ones.

Eleven Questions

1. Are MMORPGs getting better all the time or going downhill fast?

2.Which cancelled MMO do wish you'd tried when you still had the chance?

3. And which cancelled MMO (including ones that never made launch) do you wish was still up and running?

4. Flying mounts or underwater zones?

My answer to Q5
5. What I.P. from books, movies, comics or T.V. would you most like to see turned into an MMORPG?

6.MMO cash shops: a welcome opportunity to give yourself a treat or a pathetic attempt to wheedle money out of the weak-willed? Or does that depend entirely on whether they sell anything you actually want?

7. Geez! Haven't we seen enough dragons already?

8. Has playing MMOs had any noticeable effect on your physical or mental health, positive or negative?

9. Do you PvP? Did you always? Or ever? If you changed your mind, why?

10. Would you put "playing MMORPGs" on your resumé/C.V.?

11. Do you play "in character"? Sometimes? Always? Never? 



  1. Interesting read, with some things being eerily familiar.

    Fact #6 hits close for example (besides bargain-binning, I used to tape a lot of movies at esp. X-Mass from the BBC, as well as The Simpsons and later Buffy as I dislike sub-titles and hate dubbing. I primarily keep the tapes because 'I can always tape them over if I want to record something with my VCR'; not sure that's even possible anymore with digital TV lol) though the library thing only really took off with DVD's (being a bit of a skinflint, I still haven't got DVD copies of all my VHS movies, and with several I'm not even sure they exist over here).

    I tend to start Warriors as well, and if at all possible from a 'cute' race - which makes me all the more sorry I never got to play Rubies of Eventide as it looks like an interesting amalgam of AD&D, Warhammer FRP, and computer games in its ruleset, with Gnomes. Then again, aside from a Massively article from a while back, this is the second time I even heard of it. I'm still not sure wether the Jeff Grubb involved with it was 'the' Jeff Grubb of AD&D/TSR fame or the 'other', journalist one. It wouldn't be the first time a game-designer forgot (or 'forgot') to mention a game on his CV, after all.

    1. Rubies was just a great little MMO. Apparently, like Everquest, it grew out of a MUD and it had that same feeling there was much more below the surface than was immediately apparent. I played it in beta, when it would barely run on my PC, and then for two later runs, either very long. It's one of those MMOs that I'd still be going back to visit once in a while, if the politics behind the game hadn't resulted in someone taking his ball home so no-one could play any more.

  2. Bhagpuss you just got 500% cooler after seeing you in that black and white photo. You've totally changed my image of you as a white-bearded sagacious writer of blogs into a hip punk rocker mellowing into middle age.

    Rock on!

    1. Thanks :) One thing I have never had, and I hope never will have, is a beard of any kind! I know they're hip and all right now but no. Just no.

  3. Nowait... Do punk rockers ever mellow, really, or do they just channel it differently? I was just getting an update on Markey Ramone (the way I'm inhaling these ribs reminded me of him, via Bourdain). Well... Oh, and: Iggy/Jim, John Lydon, et. al. Don't know if they have blogs, tho'. hmmm

    A speed version of "Puff The Magic Dragon"? Oh, dear, I think the old cloth cat is out of the bag now. More, please. ;)

    Okay, here: I don't normally go for cute, but, thanks to you, we both miss our Lalalfells, although not that game. Damn screen caps... Say...

    What if you posted just your favorite cute characters -- or would that take up even more room than this posting?

    -- 7rlsy
    (AB & BG)

    1. The real legacy of punk (don't get me started - I can feel Mrs Bhagpuss rolling her eyes even as I type) was the Anyone Can Do It attitude. I've quoted the Desperate Bicycles before but their credo, "It was easy! It was cheap! Go and do it!" shouted at the end of "Handlebars" on their wonderful first 7", was a huge inspiration at the time.

      Thanks to technology it's never been easier to follow their advice.

    2. Exactly.

      -- 7rlsy

  4. Just posted my answers to this, thanks for the nomination. Your post came out after I'd already queued one so my response was a bit delayed.

    1. I knew I'd ask someone who'd already done it! If this thing goes on year in, year out some people are going to get asked dozens of times.

  5. Nothing wrong with that picture and I really like it if I am able to put a face with a name.
    EotB, MMVI, ooh good memories of those games as well.
    The Ballad of Lost C'Mell impressed me just as much as 'The Wanderer' by Fritz Leiber, must have read both when I was between 12-16 years of age.

  6. Somehow this post got past me in my feed.... Just was being nosey and catching up on blogs this week and saw this. Thank you for nominating me and thank you for the awesome read, as always :) I'll work on my questions this week, better late than never! Lol.

  7. Hi Bhagpuss,

    This is over a month late, but better late than never I say - I posted my responses to your Liebster questions on my blog.

    Thank you for nominating me, I appreciate the gesture.


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