Aggro Me: Aggro Interview: Scott Adams
Aggro Interview: Scott Adams
As I’ve said before, the first game I ever played on a computer was one of Scott Adams’ text adventures. His games opened my eyes to the power games could have and sparked the interest in gaming which eventually inspired me to start this site.
For those not aware of Scott’s history, he is considered by many to be the father of the whole personal computer gaming industry. His game, Adventureland, was the first interactive fiction ever on a personal computer. Scott’s company, Adventure International, published numerous games from 1978 until the mid-80’s. For more information, check out Scott’s website or this Adventure International Tribute site.I would also argue that some of the suggestions Scott made about game design in 1981 are extremely relevant in the MMO context. Things like logical consistency, multiple solutions to problems and items and locations fitting the plot should be kept in mind by all game designers.
Scott is also an avid EQII player and a leader of one of the largest guilds in the game. I am honored that he has taken the time to answer some of my questions.
What was it like to be designing games at such an early stage in computer gaming history? What was your main motivation for doing so?
Mostly because I have always been a game player. To give you some idea...
I learned to program on mainframe computers back in the 1960s. Later I worked at a radar station downrange for Space Defense Command and at night I had access to the mainframe machine and the radar consoles. I programmed in a game of Star trek that used the radar displays as the output. You have to realize back in those days most input mainframes were done in batch mode or over teletype machines. Having a real time game running on one was a bit far out. This was long before Pong too, to give you some idea of the time frame.
Later my first personal computer was a bit slice processor that my brother built while we were in college. It had a keyboard and a text crt using a TV. I hand coded a real-time game in machine language for that would let us shoot down flying letters as they went over head.
Next my own first personal computer was a Sphere. They same out at about the same time as the MITS ALTAIR but had a CRT and keyboard instead of just bit switched on the front. I assembled it from a kit. I was their very first order too.
Then later had a contest to see what folks used their Sphere computer for. I sent in my entry (a movie film) and won first prize. I had designed and a built a monochrome graphics adapter for the computer since the original only used a text based display. I had built 2 device to simulate tank controls and then programmed a full tank war video game. It was a ton of fun to play.
Later when I got my first appliance computer. I.e. not one built from scratch or a kit. I bought a TRS-80 model 1 and it came with Microsoft Basic. I wanted to learn Basic and I was intrigued with the thought of strings as this was not something that assembler or Fortran supported. I kept trying to come up with a game for it that would be fun that really need strings.
At work someone put a copy of Crothers's and Woods Colossal Caves on the mainframe. I played it everyday before and after work for a week. When I got done I knew what I wanted to put on my little TRS-80. When I told friends what I was doing they said there was NO way I could ever get an adventure type game in a 16k computer. Of course they were wrong and the rest was history. Later I managed to cram an adventure onto a Commodore Pet with only 5k of memory and a cartridge. My greatest achievement of that era was getting a full graphical adventure on a TI-99/4a cartridge, a real first.
How long have you been interested in Massively Multiplayer games and how long have you been playing Everquest II?
My first MOG was Everquest Live and I was introduced to it by a friend in 2001. I remember I had just gotten Black and White and was excited to try it out, mentioned it to him and he said had I played Everquest? I had seen the ads for the game and had seen it at the stores and I never thought to try it out. I actually thought it looked silly and was just a bunch of people running around in costumes in a virtual chat world. I did not realize how wrong I was until he explained it to me.
I have played all the major MOGS and many minor ones. My last MOG was City of Heroes which I played for one month before release (beta) and then until Sept of 2004. At that time I was able to finagle my way into the EQ2 beta. I am ALWAYS amazed at the amount of friendly folks out there in the industry who have very fond memories of my old games.
Anyway once I got into Beta I knew this was the game for me. I have played it without pause since then. This is the longest I have been in any MOG since I started playing them. I also have lost all interest in single player games. I think I got about half way through Half Life 2 and that is the last single player I have tried.
I also bought WOW and tried it for a few hours. It is not even close to the fun factor of EQ2 so it is on the shelf.
Can you explain what a hydra is and talk a little bit about the one you run now?
A hydra is a mythical beast with one body and many heads. In MOG terms a hydra (sometimes called bots) is a player running multiple characters at once.
In EverQuest Live you were at the mercy of getting a group and also long meditation times to rebuild manna. I can remember many times wanting to play and unable to get a group to do what I wanted, or simply having to sit doing nothing since we had no enchanter. I then hit on the idea of adding a chanter to my druid so I would not have the long med times and it worked. Later I added a tank then a cleric then a ... you get the idea. At one point my hydra in EQ1 was 6 players.
I was doing this on 3 computers and using Eqwindows to switch back and forth between them. I had 3 separate keyboards and mice. I found though that lag was killing me and that it was hard to see what was what this way. I then pared the hydra down to 5 characters on 5 separate computers. There is a video of me playing this hydra on my website if anyone is interested.
One of the things that made the hydra possible was Eqwatcher, this is a 3rd party tool that would read the logs aloud. I wrote scripts that allowed me to know if something was happening on a character that I was not paying attention to. For example: You are being attacked and not fighting back! or Clarity has Dropped. You get the idea. Today I use Fury which is a direct descendant of Eqwatcher. Fury is currently in beta and is free on the lavishsoft.com website. Highly recommended.
Today I play a simple hydra of four characters in EQ2, One from each of the main class groups. A guardian, cleric, swashbuckler and conjurer. I tried having a dirge as my fourth char but it required too much work. The conjurer's pet is more fire and forget and I can slap some quick AOE and AE spells as needed.
I now use 4 computers but only one keyboard/mouse. I use the program Multiplicity which lets me control all 4 computers by simply flying the mouse off one screen's edge and onto the edge of the adjacent monitor. Works great in EQ2. It can be found at the stardock.com website. Again highly recommended.
I often get asked why I play a hydra. First and foremost is the simple challenge of being able to do it, next I enjoy being able to have as many utility powers as I can.
My one lament is I do not have a druid but have a cleric instead. When I started the hydra SoW was a group only spell. If I had known it was going to be allowed to be cast on anyone I would have had a druid so I can could indeed give others SoW as needed. I really enjoy helping other players as much as I can. I greatly enjoyed that about my hydra in EQ1.
I also like the ability to go in and take out a named and then be able to get all the loot without worrying about who gets what. It a long fight can really leave me drained but I get a great feeling of satisfaction when it works out. When I fail I usually review my tactics and then go in and try and try again.
I frequently group with my hydra adding other guildmates as needed and have never had anyone complain about it. In raids I will normally just play one character so as not to endanger anyone.
You are the leader of the Vindicators, one of the largest guilds on the Antonia Bayle role-playing server. Are the Vindicators considered a role-playing guild? What is the general philosophy of the guild?
We are currently the second largest guild on the most populous server. We were the largest guild for awhile, then two smaller guilds merged and passed us in total size. Plus we have a rule of deleting any players not logged in 100+ days to keep the count somewhat honest. We have around 100 real players and usually have anywhere from 8 to 35 people on at anytime. We are considered a light role play guild, i.e. we mix role play and real world chat in guild talk.
Our philosophy is that we are a guild of friends who have real life commitments. The requirements of real life always come first. We never pressure our members to do anything but we are all willing to help each other out as needed. We are always open to making new friends too. Allot of our members join through word of mouth from their friends, we have also had folks transfer from other servers just to be with us. We are currently accepting new members. We have a short in game interview process and then a month trial before becoming a full member. See our webpage for more information www.vindicators.org or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
What are some of the challenges of running a guild of that size and how is the leadership structure organized?
We are a monarchy here. I have been in totally democratic guilds before and have seen cliques ruin them. I do not want that to happen here. We are small enough that I feel a leader with vision will keep things on track.I listen to all and have an open door policy. But of course I pay greatest heed to the ministers and senior officers, next the regular officers have my ear and so on down the ranks.We have slowly evolved this guild into its present form, partly from my original vision and then the rest from great ideas of others. I expect the guild to continue to evolve to better all of our enjoyment of the game.In many cases I will run referendums to get the guild's feel on issues. They are not binding but I will certainly pay close attention to them as I see what the guild's wishes are.In rare cases I do set policy as I think is best. No Gambling is one such policy that I set without any input, and moving us to our current website was another(www.vindicators.org).I am ALWAYS open to discussion though. No subject is ever completely closed if you someone feels strongly about it. I will always continue to listen, debate, and discuss as needed.
We have a number of ministers who help run the guild. Under each minister is a vice minister and then a staff or team. We have some fantastic folks in these positions and they really make being in Vindicators a delight. The events team is always coming up with novel and fun things to do, the raiding team keeps interesting raids in front of the guild for all levels and time frames, the banking minister keeps the guild bank in order and so on.
What type of behavior is encouraged for guild members?
We only want folks who are willing to be helpful to others. Self centered, me-first type people are not wanted. Our guild charter makes this very clear. We have had to remove members that did not fit this guideline.
We do not require any level of playtime from the regular members other than logging in at least once in 100 days. The officers are required to be more sacrificial then the regular members and must log on at least once every month to keep their officer rank. In general though most of our players are fairly active. We have many folks that can be seen playing daily. Besides the scheduled raids we also try and promote in guild grouping.
What would you say was the most difficult or hotly debated issue within the Guild?
We had a long debate and vote on setting up our current Ministerial government. At one point, many moons ago, a number of guild members left over the unstructured nature of the guild at that time. We evolved into our current government and things have greatly improved.
The folks who hold the ministerial ranks are tremendous and they are a large part of the success of our guild, all due to their efforts. Any membership rank is allowed to be part of a Ministerial staff or team with only the Minister and Vice Minister required to be senior officers. The running of each Ministry is up to the individual styles and choices of the Ministers.
You have been running the Vindicators before and after the removal of the patron system. Do you prefer the old or new system?
Much prefer the new system. We had one of our members tracking everything on a spreadsheet under the old system and it was always a great deal of work determining who would be patrons and for how long. The new way EVERYONE gets to have the fun of helping the guild level and that in the long run is a much better way to do things.
Does the guild do any server wide activities?
We have only so far done guild events with guild members. We have discussed doing server wide events but none have occurred to date. I suspect after the events team reads this interview they will start getting some good ideas though. They have been extremely clever with their events and folks have had a great time.
Is all your time in EQII spent as your guild leader character or do you have alts?
I currently have 6 active characters on my main server and one guide character active on another server. The 6 active characters are my hydra Bandel, Bandol, Bandul, Bandyl and then my vendors Vendo and Vende.
I can not name my guide character or what server I serve as a guide on. I do recommend the guide program to folks who are interested. It can be very rewarding and more information can be found at: http://eqlive.station.sony.com/library/faqs/faq_guide.jsp
Is there anything you would like to see changed or added to EQII at this time?
I would love to see some sort of bind/gate spell to be added to the game along with a druid type group travel. Right now though I have my hydra all in good standings of the gnolls of Splitpaw, I gate into there and then exit to TS and then Escape to the docks where I can select my destination.
I wish they would also fix the /targetgroup member command so that it properly breaks the current target and targets the member as requested. This is minor though. My main need was so I could simply hit one key and have each member follow the hydra leader. I got around the problem by having a Saitek keyboard that has a macro programmable keypad. I added the macro there to target and follow to one of the buttons. Other than that all my in game macros are using the built in eq2 macro system.
Another hydra friendly command I would like to see is the ability to have a pet target a group member and then attack whatever that member is attacking. Yes I know this is really just for hydra players and I don't expect to see done.
Something else I have wanted for a long time is scheduled in LU#16 and that is guard rails on the griffon stations. That will make it easier to get my little train up the stairs :)
I wish they had designed the game with the levitate spell in mind, I do miss that from EQlive. Also I wish more buffs were not group only. Also having some meaning again to tradeskill society levels would be wonderful. And having a tradeskill wholesaler in the fancier sections of town would be good. That way you could have your tradeskill device in your house and not have a long way to go and get more supplies.
Having a some sort of two way market board in your house would be a nice addition too.
Some way to have the game automatically select the display settings dynamically as your FPS (Frames per second) goes up and down.
Having a network ping device in game would be useful.
Are you interested in any upcoming MMO’s?
I am certainly curious about Vanguard and D&D online. Due to my commitment and love for the Vindicators I doubt I will be get involved in any other MOG any time in the foreseeable future. I am a Microsoft Core Group game beta tester and have gotten to beta test most of MS games over the last few years. I am looking forward to helping out on Rise of Nations Beta coming soon.
Thanks again - it really is an honor.
My pleasure, I have always enjoyed reading your site and I feel honored to be interviewed here.