by ShadowHM 03/2005
Please give us some general information about yourself. For starters,
where were you born? Where were you raised to adulthood? Where do
you live now?
I was born in Edmonton, AB, Canada, and lived there all my life
through university. My first bachelors degree was in Genetics, but
I found pursuing a career in that field didn't seem appealing, so
I got another bachelors in Computing Science. Along the way, I met
and married my wife. Once I graduated, I found work in the R&D
section of a large telecom manufacturing company, and we moved to
Ottawa. I have continued to work at that company despite the burst
of the internet bubble and still live in Ottawa with my wife and
Who influenced you the most in making you interested in games? How?
Were there any other gaming influences?
I had a few friends growing up who liked games, both the role-playing
kind and the computer sort. Most of my gaming influences came from
associating with other people who liked to game as well.
D&D Basic first came out, I got a copy for a birthday gift when
I was around 9 or so. My brother and I and my father opened it,
and tried to figure it out, but we couldn't make heads or tails
of it! We eventually took it back and got a more traditional puzzle
game instead. A couple years later I made a friend who was very
much into that sort of game and showed my brother and I the ropes,
however, and that made all the difference. I have enjoyed a good
roleplaying game ever since and currently spend some of my gaming
time on an online play-by-post roleplaying site known as HeroCentral.
I actually met my wife by virtue of our mutual interest in roleplaying
games; we were both members of the role-playing club at university.
far as computer games go, when I was young it was again more a matter
of having a couple friends who were into computer gaming. It wasn't
until I was nearly a teenager that my father brought home an IBM
PC (at a whopping 4MHz) for work purposes, and a couple games we
could play at home. I would play the occasional arcade game as well,
and there were a couple I got good enough to beat on a single quarter,
but I never really played that many of them, and I never got into
the head-to-head type. Still, the home computer allowed us to play
the early text-based adventure games from Infocom and a variety
of other games, and from then on it was a matter of keeping up with
the PC gaming scene. We never did own a console.
a dabbler's interest in other types of games as well, such as war
gaming (both board and miniatures-based) but those have always been
sidelines that I would play when I could get together with someone
else who was interested. For a while in university I had a friend
I would regularily play WH40K Epic-scale miniatures battles against,
but he has remained in Edmonton while I moved to Ottawa, and I was
never able to find someone to take his place out here. He still
keeps me up-to-date on goings-on in the WH40K universe when I visit,
however. I also enjoy a good card game. I wouldn't say I'm an expert
card player, but I like to think I'm at least competent. My wife
and I have come to play bridge online on a fairly regular basis,
even if we always play in the social and not the competitive rooms.
What games have you played in the past? What games do you play now?
For the sake of brevity, I'll restrict my answer to computer games.
I was younger, I played too many games to easily list. These days
I tend to be far more selective with my purchasing dollar. However,
my brother still buys many games each year and I will occasionally
borrow some from him that he's finished with.
RB I have played Diablo 2, Moo, Civ 3, GalCiv, MOO 3, and Guild
Wars. Other games I have played in the last few years include Starfleet
Command, the Homeworld series, Half-Life and Half-Life 2, Dawn of
War, Starcraft, and I'm sure a few more I've forgotten. I have a
big stack of games I borrowed from my brother that I have yet to
play, so I don't feel the need to purchase many new computer games
unless they are must-haves for whatever reason. Generally I go in
cycles where I'm playing one game consistently for a long time,
then I switch to something else or another game and do that for
a while. I don't tend to jump around a lot between different games
within a short time interval.
What non-computer games did you play as a child? Who introduced
them to you and which types did you enjoy most? What non-computer
games do you still play and why?
All sorts of games. Most of the highlights I already went over in
my previous response, in the answer to the questions about gaming
influences. The ones that stand out most in my mind were roleplaying
games such as D&D (in various incarantions), Champions, Call
of Cthulhu, and many more, and strategy boardgames or wargames,
such as Axis & Allies, Warhammer, Warhammer 40K, and a variety
of others. I also played my fair share of card and dice games, especially
hearts and bridge, as well as many others. Since in Unversity I
was a member of long standing in the roleplaying game club (more
accurately, the gaming club, since various members of the club were
engaged in a variety of kinds of gaming beyond roleplaying games)
I had exposure to a wide variety of games. I enjoyed that diversity
and was often willing to try my hand at new games that seemed interesting,
regardless of the format.
play roleplaying games online at HeroCentral in a play-by-post format,
though I haven't made a serious effort at finding a local group
to roleplay with in a face-to-face environment due to transportation
issues and other difficulties. My wife and I play bridge at Yahoo
Games on a regular but unscheduled basis as a social activity for
ourselves. Unfortunately I haven't had opportunity to continue to
pursue my wargaming passtimes since University other than the occasional
How did you choose the username Zed-F?
I'll let you all guess where the name Zed comes from. It's an obscure
reference to an old but well-known science fiction television character.
-F appendix is not properly part of the name, but it's something
I often add to distinguish it from all the other Zeds floating around
out there. There is no particular reason why I chose -F other than
How did you come to the Realms Beyond?
to play Diablo in a now-defunct legit gaming organization by the
name of Honor-Might. During the interval between Diablo I and Diablo
II, the lull proved to be too much for many such organizations,
and such was the case for Honor-Might. However, I happened to know
Shadow from those days, and one day when I happened across her (I
forget where) she mentioned RB. So I stopped by, liked what I saw,
and decided to stick around.
then a couple former members of Honor-Might have become peripherally
associated with RB, such as FlashNPan. Most, however, continue to
play other games, such as UO and EQ.
Please tell us about your playstyle.
am a strong proponent of the RB variant philosophy for keeping things
interesting. In part, this comes from indecision; when I'm starting
a new character, I often am not certain exactly what I want to do
with the character, so I will save resources/points/whatever until
I have occasion to decide what I want to do. Even once I've made
my decision as to a path to take, however, it's often an additional
challenge to continue to make do without those resources. While
this slows down the pace of the game, I find I'm not a big fan of
rush-style games in the first place; a more moderate pace is helpful
for safety, situational awareness, and ultimately enjoyment, at
least in my case. I can be a pretty patient sort... though there
are of course limits.
such I've tried to participate in and promote variant games across
RB, and particularily the type of variant where the variant rules
are easy to understand but significantly limiting. I was a member
of the FoS hardcore challenge for much of the course of that series
of games, and also the proponent for the Slackers
games that are still ongoing (when everyone can get together.) I
also have an even more strenuously hampered Slacker variant character,
AssIsGrass, who is making slow progress through Hell difficulty,
and am participating in the BN challenge KoP came up with. Most
of my characters are restricted in one way or another to varying
degrees, though I do run the occasional unrestricted character.
In terms of the playstyle you favour:
this a continuation of your approach to your work? Or is it an anodyne
for the work you do? Or is it a choice because it is a counter-point
for other aspects of your work or lifestyle?
think my playstyle really has anything to do with the nature of
the work I do. I think it has more to do with setting challenges
for one's self, and then overcoming those challenges. Without new
challenges to overcome, any endeavor becomes stale.
Could you please give more details about that FoS hardcore challenge
series, for those who are not familiar with it? Who was involved?
What restrictions did you have? What were the most diffictult challenges?
What does FoS stand for anyway?
FoS is short for Friends of Sisyphus, which was an attempt in v1.08-1.09
to get a closed team (no-twink outside of what the team found) of
HC characters through the game, completing all quests, with as low
a clvl as possible. The initial participants were Occhi, Hawkmoon,
CelticHound, and someone else whose name escapes me at the moment.
The team had some trouble coordinating their play times, however,
and took a long time to complete normal difficulty. This was compounded
by the fact that every time a player died, a new instance of that
character would have to be created from scratch and levelled to
catch up with the rest of the group -- hence, Friends of Sisyphus.
the time the team reached nightmare, the fourth original player
had dropped and Doc and I came on board. Doc dropped out again partway
though nightmare, but I stuck with the team, and eventually, with
much tribulation, we managed to defeat hell Baal. The experiment
was definitely a mixed success, however, in that the Ancients quest
pushed our clvls up higher than what we had intended. I remember
taking my backup sorceress through the game and skipping the Ancients
to see how far the concept could be pushed without that artificial
level inflation interfering. I eventually managed to solo her as
far as nightmare ancients while holding her clvl down to about clvl33.
Since she was supposed to be a hydra/orb sorceress, and there were
no synergies back then, she made it the majority of that way relying
pretty much entirely on a +3 Glacial Spike/+3 Fireball leaf staff
and her Iron Wolf Ice merc. Needless to say, it was very slow and
days it might actually be possible to start again and be true to
the FoS spirit since the ancients always give only one level. However,
if I were to try again, I would do it in softcore to avoid the frustration
of starting completely from scratch every time. Ironically, though
I lost several backup characters, I never lost my main character
until after we had completed our quest.
What about Slackers?
far as slackers go, there should still be links around somewhere
to the concept there. The original version was a very straightforward
no-twink team variant that simply restricted the total skill and
stat points available to the team members to about half of what
would normally be available. Some team members chose to voluntarily
take additional restrictions on top of that. Currently the slackers
team is in A5 Hell, and consists of:
- windy druid played by Shadow
VandyGraff - Lightning sorcy played by Hawkmoon
BringOutYerDead - CelticHound's no-stats Lord of Mages necro
SmOcchiTheBare - semi-naked trapassin originally started by Occhi
but currently run by Shishak
Systah - Zed's no-stats Enchantress -- the only weapon-oriented
character in the group, still using Ravenclaw 'cause we haven't
found anything better!
since come up with a significantly more complex and more restricted
version of the slacker variant and have off-and-on been running
an assassin to those rules. AssIsGrass is currently in A1 Hell and
looks like she will ultimately be capable of completing the game,
if at quite a slow pace. Her story so far is posted on the board
and inside the RBD tales section here.
Since this interview is about 'The Making of a Gamer", what
steps, if any, have you taken to ensure that your four-year-old
will be a gamer too? i.e. what games do you play as a family and/or
what games have you purchased for your child?
None in particular. I think she will likely become interested in
gaming by osmosis, but it's not something I want to particularily
encourage or discourage. In particular, I am trying to avoid encouraging
much interest in computers at this time -- I'd rather she spend
her time learning in other ways until she's a bit older. Once she's
school-age will be soon enough.
do have a few educational board games and the like that we do occasionally
play together. Simple jigsaws, alphabet games, matching games, and
story games are about her speed.
First let me thank you and Shadow for taking the time to do this
interview, and sharing the adventures of AssISGrass
you don't mind... I'd like to pick your brain a bit. (I know a few
RBers here are into or working toward a degree in computer science
as well, so feel free to chime in.)
just got accepted for an 18 month course in Game Programming, starting
this Oct. I am trying to talk him to push this back a year, because
he is still 18 and can afford to wait another year. `25K is a lot
of money and that does not include living expenses. He would have
to move to Vancouver for this. Although we have friends and relatives
in Van I dont want to impose on them, and I dont want
Jerms to have to work. The course is only 18 months
long so he has better make the best of it with full concentration.
that if he waits another year and use that time to work and make
some money he can at least cover living expenses. Of course, that
means I dont have to dig too deep into my pockets ;p But more
importantly, he can also use this time to get a head start in programming
and game/mod making.
worries me too is that Jerms has contacted a few game companies
and almost all of them want someone with a four year degree in computer
science with good writing skills. I am not sure if he is taking
the right course, at least one that will give proper credentials.
I am hoping a year pushback will let him take a better look around.
he is somewhat limiting himself by not taking the full computer
science route Not that I wouldnt be happy enough if
he can make it in that industry.
Do you like what you do, what do you like about it?
What is a workday like in the life of Zed?
If you have to do it all over again, (concerning education/career
choice) what would you do different?
Sometimes I like what I do better than others, but by and large
I like what I do. What a workday is like depends on where we are
in the production cycle. Writing software is often a cyclical thing,
especially if you are working on something where the plan is to
have multiple releases of the software. Early in any given cycle,
the goal is to nail down as firmly as possible what it is you are
going to do and how much effort it's going to take. This is often
easier said than done, as there are always temptations to add new
content for a variety of reasons, and things usually take longer
than one would think or expect. Also it's important to document
this well so that the QA team has some idea of what they should
be testing for, and so that the various people in the design team
will design stuff that works well together. Later on in the cycle,
there is of course a lot of coding and bug hunting, and things can
get pretty hectic until most of the bugs are ironed out. After a
while, the system gets stable enough that any remaining bugs are
pushed off to deal with next release and the software is declared
ready to ship.
if you get the idea that coding skills are only a small part of
what you need to be a software engineer, you'd be right. Having
a solid set of communication skills and interpersonal skills is
at least as important, if not more so. Having a good command of
English, and the patience to deal with those whose command of English
is substandard, is crucial. Having the flexibility to adapt when
what it is you are supposed to be working on changes on a weekly
or even daily basis is a good thing as well. You can't get too attached
to your work, because you never know when your feature will get
cut. And you have to be prepared for other people to review your
work and suggest changes -- sometimes seemingly trivial changes
-- and not take it personally. Ideally, you should also be a self-starter;
if you don't have enough to keep you busy, tell someone, or find
something worthwhile that will help out the team and take it on.
definitely suggest taking a full comp sci degree or something equivalent.
It will make him more attractive as a potential employee not just
to game companies, but to other software development companies out
there, should be find it hard to break into game programming, or
decide it's not for him. Game programming has a fairly high burnout
rate, and it doesn't usually pay that well unless you have a lot
of experience in the industry. I also understand that if he wants
to be a programmer at a game company, he'd do well have other skills
that he can offer, such as modding skills or level design or web
design or something. That way he might be able to get an in at the
company in one area, show he's a capable guy, and then move into
programming. Even with a full comp sci degree, unless he's an extraordinary
student, he'll probably find that's not enough on its own.