Saturday, June 19, 2010


Some days I'm just in an odd mood.  As poor Vanesta found out.  A few months ago when we were planning out the in-game loot items for the upcoming Legends of Norrath set (the online trading card game that ties in with EQ and EQII) I had another of those moments.  I'd been working on Tinkerfest quests at the time (a gnomish festival of all things clockwork that comes around once a year) and so I suggested something along those lines.

I think my exact suggestion may have been something close to: "how about a box with a big red button on it that you can put in your house.  And if you push the button, it kills you." {followed by evil snickering}  And I asked some random people on the team, "would you find this funny?" and the general consensus was yes, so we decided to make it.

And so, one of our wonderful EQII artists, Jeff Jonas, made a very pretty little clockwork box with a big red button on top.  Little cogs spin and turn, and you see the button depress when you click it.  It looks great.  We called it an "Overclocked Tinkered Control Button", and put a big warning label on mouse-over that pops up text saying "WARNING: DO NOT PUSH BUTTON", and added a huge and lethal fireball effect if you do press it.

And I tested it, and laughed my head off.  And we sent it to QA, who tested it and laughed their heads off.  But sometimes, things that designers (and QA) think are funny don't always seem as funny when they make it into the live game, so I was curious whether people would like it or not.  This past week it went live, and the first people playing LoN started to get the loot cards and get their own tinkered control buttons.  While I was logged into Test server checking out the Tinkerfest event there, the item was mentioned in the test server chat channel.  As follows from my logs:

Everfrost.Aeryal tells test (3), "oK [Overclocked Tinkered Control Button] who thought this up?????????????"
You tell test (3), "erm, that may be my fault, Aeryal."
Everfrost.Aeryal tells test (3), "it blew me up and killed me it said i would revive outside"
Daithe tells test (3), "Aye, it is fun!"
Dwargo tells test (3), "Good God, Daithe!  Are you out of your Half Elf mind?"
Everfrost.Aeryal:Everfrost.Aeryal tells test (3), "seriously  you made a house items that acctually kills people?  "
You tell test (3), "yes"
Everfrost.Aeryal tells test (3), "does it kill you everytime?"
You tell test (3), "and yes"
The_Bazaar.Faeurelis tells test (3), "*giggle*"
Elana:Elana tells test (3), "ohdear"
Tock:Tock tells test (3), "that's fantastic!"
The_Bazaar.Seecret tells test (3), "which item kills????"
Everfrost.Aeryal tells test (3), "[Overclocked Tinkered Control Button]"
You tell test (3), "yes, that one.  It says very clearly DO NOT PUSH BUTTON!"
Tock:Tock tells test (3), "lol"
Elana:Elana tells test (3), "{falls over laughing}"
Splitpaw.Chlorr tells test (3), "does it only do that if you press the button or is it random?"
Dwargo tells test (3), "oh, i LOVE the Babbage Engine wheels"
Everfrost.Aeryal tells test (3), "well be a good item for a party drunki can get easily sobered"
You tell test (3), "it only kills you if you press the button marked DO NOT PRESS BUTTON."
Daithe tells test (3), "*snickerfits*"
Splitpaw.Chlorr tells test (3), "oh good, thank you"
Butcherblock.Lohkee tells test (3), "The effects of prolonged exposure to the 1500 megawatt Aperture Science Heavy Duty Super-colliding [Overclocked Tinkered Control Button] are not part of this test."
The_Bazaar.Seecret tells test (3), "wait, the button is from LoN, not tinkerfest?"
You tell test (3), "yes, the button is from the LoN set that went live today."
Slybones tells test (3), "WTS  recipe for BBQ gnome buffet"
The_Bazaar.Seecret tells test (3), "*gets to work thinking of trades to make for it*"

It's good to know I'm not the only one who thinks sudden, explosive death can be funny.  =)  It's also a good example of how an in-game loot item with absolutely no gameplay functionality or stats whatsoever can still be desirable!

Now I just gotta get one for myself...  boom!

(If you play EQII and want to check out the button for yourself, or any of the other in-game loot from the current LoN set, it should be on display in the LoN Showroom in game, which can be accessed via a portal in the Lion's Mane Inn in South Qeynos, or the Blood Haze Inn in West Freeport.  The showroom should be displaying the current LoN set "Doom of the Ancient Ones" from next week until the following set is released - date not yet finalized, but that won't be for several more months.)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Visiting home

Today I logged in to the original EverQuest to take some screenshots of things for ideas for work. I loved the game and played it devotedly from 2000 to 2005, but before this week, I haven't really been back to EverQuest since EverQuest II launched. I had fully intended to continue logging into EQ and play both games, but EQII completely captured my interest, and then became my work also, and the years went by while my old EQ characters sat idle.

So I logged in my old gnome, Cata, today and it was a wonderful surprise to have someone I remembered from waaayyy back when I was playing spot me in the general chat channel, then send me friendly welcoming messages.

(That's my gnomette in the screenshot too, originally a wizard but rerolled to an enchanter not too long before switching to EQII.)

It's a strange, nostalgic feeling returning to EQ after so long away. Kind of like returning to your first grade school and finding everything is familiar, but mysteriously shrunk. I can't imagine I will ever return to play there full time as my primary MMO. But yes, it'll always feel like home ... especially so long as there are still the same wonderful people and such a warm welcome for me when I do stick my nose in. =)

Totally made my day!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Om nom nom ... Guinness pudding!

This isn't my recipe at all, I found it (via a friend) on the Sprinklebakes blog, and she herself got it from Epicurious.

However, I've made it a few times now and everyone loves it, so reposting here with my notes and modifications to share the joy (and also so I can easily find it again).


4 egg yolks
0.5 cups sugar, plus 3 tablespoons
1.5 cups of Guinness stout beer
2.25 cups of heavy whipping cream
4 ounces of dark chocolate (I used 72%).  Chop or break it up into smaller pieces so it melts faster.


Pour 1 cup of Guinness into a small saucepan and set it on the stove to simmer over medium heat.

In a separate bowl, mix egg yolks and 0.5 cups of sugar.

Pour the remaining 0.5 cups of Guinness into another saucepan (pour slowly down side to minimize foaming) and add 1.25 cups of the heavy cream.  Mix, and set on stove over medium heat.  Stir occasionally until bubbles start to form at edges.  At this point, remove saucepan from heat.  And add the 4 oz. chocolate, and stir until chocolate is all melted and mixture is smooth.  (NOTE: this step is important. If the cream gets too hot, the chocolate will go grainy and the pudding not have a smooth texture. If you do overheat the saucepan to boiling point, let it cool down for a bit before adding the chocolate.)

Add the sugar and egg yolk mixture to the chocolate mixture in the saucepan, stirring constantly while adding. Return the saucepan to the heat.  Stir constantly for about 5-10 minutes - the original recipe says "till it thickens" but it's very hard to tell the difference.  When thickened the mixture should coat the back of a spoon dipped into it, and not be runny.

At this point, remove from heat again and divide among small glasses.  Leave at least an inch of space in each to add the topping.  This is a VERY rich pudding, so keep the glasses quite small - this amount should make about 6 glasses.  Refrigerate for at least an hour, until set (cover with plastic wrap if leaving overnight).

Meanwhile ... the first saucepan should have simmered down to just a tablespoon or two of liquid.  (If not, keep simmering till it does.)  This is making a Guinness flavoured reduction, so you really only want a small amount of concentrated liquid left.  Pour the reduction into a bowl and put in the fridge to cool.

(Wait at least an hour to do the next step, or overnight, so that the Guinness reduction and the pudding have time to cool.)

In a clean bowl, beat the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream with the remaining 3 tbs of sugar.  Beat until soft peaks form, then add the cooled Guinness reduction and beat again until all combined.  Carefully spoon the whipped cream topping onto the top of the pudding glasses and return to fridge to cool until ready to serve.

(Ideally, I guess you'd find some teeny glasses that look like miniature beer steins ... but this was what I had at the time.)

Mmmm, tasty.  I'm not at all a pudding fan, and not a huge Guinness fan either, but this is definitely delicious!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Advanced Journeyman Tasks

Since joining the EQII design team I've been steadily adding more and more tradeskill quest content into the game (prior to my hiring there were next to no tradeskill quests at all).  After revamping the tradeskill tutorial series I started adding a one-every-ten-levels series given out by a Grandmaster crafter in each home city.

The quests were a learning process for me as much as anything; quest writing was not the primary focus of my time, and so I had to pick things up here and there as opportunity permitted.  Accordingly, both the quests and the writing solidified as the quest line progressed and I learned more.  By the time I created the fourth quest in the grandmaster quest series I had worked on various other quests also and was getting more confident in the process.  I was also in a slightly odd mood.  And accordingly, "Advanced Journeyman Tasks" was created with a rather peculiar sense of humour.

The general outline of the quest:

  • The grandmaster in your home city asks if you could check up on one of their trading liaisons.  The liaison was sent to the Sinking Sands and was supposed to have checked in by now, but has not been heard from, and the crafting society is worried.  
  • Off you go to locate her and, if needed, offer your help. You travel to the Sinking Sands and soon find Vanesta, the trade liaison, a little way up the beach, looking very ill.  She is retching into a bush, in fact.  You ask if you can help at all.  She complains of the terrible heat.
  • You borrow a recipe from Vanesta and assemble a functional tent to keep her out of the sun.  She's grateful, though still very ill, so you ask if you can do anything else to help.  
  • The trade liaison is too ill to suggest much, however, so off you go to look around the local merchants and see if any of them have anything that might help poor Vanesta recover.  What luck!  A shady merchant down near the crocodile hunter camp does seem to have a recipe book called "Bert's Big Book of Health".
  • You're not sure what's wrong with Vanesta but she did mention she'd recently been exposed to a mushroom infestation in Darklight Woods, so you figure you'll try making the "fungus potion" in the recipe book you just bought.
  • The trade liaison gratefully tries the potion, but unfortunately feels worse than before... in fact, she passes flat out in front of you.  Hastily, you craft up the energy drink listed in the same recipe book, and pour it into the liaison's mouth.
  • Well!  She certainly wakes up - it looks as if lightning strikes her.  Furthermore, she seems to inexplicably now be surrounded by teeny little mushrooms.  As poor Vanesta crackles with electricity and asks if you're trying to kill her, you rush off to try the next recipe in the book instead: a plague remedy.
  • Despite Vanesta's misgivings, you manage to persuade her to try the potion.  Unfortunately, it seems to GIVE her the plague, rather than cure it.  Now she is not only surrounded by fungi and crackling with electricity, but she's also covered with rather unattractive green plague pustules.
  • In desperation you try the only recipe left in the book, described as an "acupuncture kit", which you bring back to Vanesta and put down on the ground beside her, only to discover it looks like an iron maiden.
  • "Are you trying to kill me?" she demands, and snatches the book from your grasp.  Reading the book more closely than you had, she points out that the "Bert" of the title is most likely "Bertoxxulous," god of disease and decay.  One stern lecture about the importance of understanding what it is you're crafting, and she sends you packing with the desire to never see your face ever again.
  • Returning to the Grandmaster who sent you out, you omit a few of the details when you report that the trade liaison is indeed still alive and you had tried your best to help her.
I had quite a bit of fun both playing with the various alarming effects that get applied to poor Vanesta, and also writing her dialog which goes from sick and cranky to insulting to downright rude.  Of all the crafting quests I've done so far (and there have been quite a lot now), with the possible exception of the tradeskill epic quest this quest is the one that gets mentioned the most as everybody's favorite.  Either a little humour goes a long way, or our tradeskilling players are harboring a bigger streak of sadism than we had hitherto expected ... or possibly both.

The happiest moment for me though was when I happened to look up the quest on wikia, one of our fan-run information sites which is a wiki-style format that can be updated by anybody.  And I discovered the very first line of the "Steps" section says:  "This is actually a very funny quest so read everything that she says to you."

That's got to be about the best thing that a quest designer could ever read in a fan write-up.  =)