Friday, February 26, 2016

Interview with Andy "Odonoptera" Benditt

Andy used to be "that guy you petition when /stuck doesn't work" and now he pretty much runs the show at Funcom (or at least community managment). Going from humble GM to an evil genius took some balls, and A LOT of solved petitions. I have sit with Odonoptera on the GM Island (yes it's real!) to talk about his glorious work .

What is it like to be full time GM? Lets say you get to the office, grab your coffee and what is next? What is a "typical" day in a life of GM?

The actual process of being a GM is actually rather simple; you grab your coffee, you sit down, log in to your workstation, and simply press a literal "get next ticket" button.  The next ticket in line is then assigned to you, and thus starts the shift!  This could either be one of our in-game petitions for Anarchy Online, Age of Conan, The Secret World, or LEGO Minifigures Online, or it would be an e-mail ticket that has to do with billing or account issues.  All of our in-game petitions can range from raid misloot issues to general questions, to harassment reports, and bug reports.  All of our GMs handle everything across every game.  

What was your single most surreal experience as GM? Perhaps some player weirded you out or the game did something totally unexpected? 

I'll confess that the zaniest moments in my time as a GM (that I'm able to talk about) were not from Age of Conan, but rather from Anarchy Online and The Secret World.  Since you run an AoC site, I'm not sure what I can really say that could be relevant for this questionnaire.  If it doesn't matter, there was a time in The Secret World where I nearly screwed up a new raid boss encounter by accidentally placing a minimum health cap on the boss.  That was pretty nuts; my GM in TSW is mortal and can take damage (unlike in AoC and AO), so I intended to protect myself while observing a report about the boss and simply had the boss targeted instead of myself.  My head nearly exploded while this was happening, although I did eventually manage to run a command that killed the boss and gave everybody in the raid credit for the run.  So, not the end of the world--I did report myself to my manager immediately, and we sorted things out after that.  

GM powers. Everyone loves them. What exacly can you do as GM?

A simpler question to answer would have been "what CAN'T you do as a GM?" :)  

GMs have access to special commands that can affect a number of stats, attributes, and settings.  We can spawn any creature or boss, generate any item or token, teleport to any zone, or even change the time of day. With great power comes great responsibility, though--some of the commands we have access to can cause problems, so we never perform anything on players that could be considered unsafe or against the intended design of the game.  I've broken my skills and abilities on my own GM character on more than one occasion (to the point where I can't even sprint) and while it's not difficult to fix, that could cause a lot of unhappiness if that were to affect a paying customer! 

With being GM you can pretty much do anything in Hyboria. Have that ruined the game for you in some way? I mean it must be demotivating to work towards anything in AOC when you can just summon that legendary sword with few key strokes. 

It's true that being a GM 'demystifies' the game's content--As I said above, I am able to transport myself to any raid zone without needing any requirements for anything, or grant myself the cream of the crop as far as gear goes.  On the other hand, spawning all that crazy gear on myself and then smacking target dummies makes me want to put in the work to get that stuff on a real character, if for nothing else but to show off a bit!

When it comes to GMing how deep is your knowledge about the game? Do you have a very technical knowledge or do you have a lot of AOC playtime under your belt?

I won't speak for anybody else, but my own personal knowledge about the game primarily came from GMing over the years.  I haven't played a ton of AoC recreationally, although I do have my own private incognito account that I hop on from time to time to see what's up, which is especially helpful to do in order to scope out the tone of chat without attracting attention.  Now that I'm working with the community aspect of AoC rather than strictly service, I've been playing a lot more on my own.

GM Island. The stuff that myths are made of. Is it real? Do GMs really hang out there?

There is indeed a playfield literally named "GM Island", yes.  GMs 'hang out' there in the sense that it's the default location we return to when we're done assisting a player or need to remove ourselves from a zone.

Your transition from GM to CM was rather unexpected. How exacly that happened and why?

Out of curiosity, 'unexpected' in what way?  I've been interested in doing Community work for quite some time and had brought it up on more than one occasion.  An opening showed itself, I applied, interviewed, and was fortunate and grateful to have been offered the position.  Really, it's like any other transition you'd expect in a workplace:  you work hard at your task, get to know people, show interest in something, and see what happens!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

1 year in review - 2015

Yet another Hyborian year has passed and it is time for my savage review. When you look at the list of things that were promised in 2013/2014 it will be pretty obvious that most of the stuff did not get delivered. On another hand ..... Oh snap! Did I just copy/paste intro to last year's edition

"Ya you did, also you have been slacking on posts as of late".

 Well shut up, voice in my head, I am back to my blogging routine and OBVIOUSLY I will be back on meds soon enough.

Let me start over: 

Yet another year has passed without the promised crafting revamp. Really, guys? I mean REALLY?

"Now you are just grumpily ranting"

DAMN IT! Ok, lets just dive in:


Apart from some unmentionable community managers being angry with me for the 2014 review pretty much NOTHING changed. If anything the monthly letters (in 2015 written by Sezmra) got progressively shorter and less substantial. In the end Tomium made a thread that pretty much said "Ok guys, tell us how to do our jobs as CMs" and asked for a feedback. Apparently it was pretty unsuccess attempt because the thread got deleted and both CMs quited Funcom. AOC is now under new CM management and he already has proven himself capable of turning things around. But that, my loyal readers, is for 2016 review.


The first event was the anniversary/adventure pack called Shadows of Vanaheim which was a disaster by all means. Just read the review. On the up side Matt 'Cirith Gorgor” Bennett  in the interview I did with him pretty much said "we fucked up, this won't happen again" which was very honest and very professional of him.
The team totally redeemed itself with state of the art Halloween event The Shambling Plague. That event was so good that I will actually post a late review soon enough. 


This update was nothing short of a miracle. Pretty much gave Hyboria a second life and brought the game a little closer to modern MMO standards. I now spend my time in the game going from zone to zone doing all the quests for the achievements and snatching up those treasures along with panoramas. I am doing this mainly for the story and  I have found some real GEMS when it comes to quests that I have missed leveling up back 2008. Being now well versed in the black arts (and by that I mean having good knowledge of REH's Conan) I can really appreciate the creativity that went into the creation on some of the quests. My only wish is that achievements update went on top of another, more substantial update because achieves are great side dish, but fail a little as a main course.


Biggest surprise of 2015 was The Palace of Cetris going live. No one, I mean NO ONE expected the team to actually finish the T6 raid and go live with it. Of course T6 being top tier raiding is pretty much open to few Crom guilds but that is supposed to change with new Raid Finder system

So as you can see not much has happened during 2015 but what went live was of great quality (except Shadows of Vanaheim which is just shamefull). If you are into PVE then 2015 has a lot to offer.