Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Bacon and Egg Pie

This is kind of similar to quiche, but unlike quiche it is not open top, and uses puff pastry instead of the more common short pastry.

I cheated and used Pepperidge Farms frozen puff pastry, thawed just enough to no longer be frozen but not so much as to get soft and sticky.


2 sheets of flaky pastry (not sweetened)
6 eggs
2-3 slices of bacon
small onion
sage, rosemary, and thyme (or "herbes de provence" spice mix)
2 tablespoons milk
pinch of salt and pepper
medium tomato
medium mushroom


Lay a sheet of flaky pastry into a pie dish and trim. My pie dish is slightly too large for the sheet so it doesn't quite reach the edges in this picture, which I would avoid if I were making this for some fancy occasion.

Lay the slices of bacon in the dish (cut in half if they're too long to fit). Slice the onion, tomato, and mushroom and lay them on top of the bacon.

In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, milk, herbs, salt, and pepper. Just a quick mix with a fork is fine, it doesn't need to be beaten. A leaf or two of each herb should be fine.

Preheat your oven to 400 F. Pour the egg mixture gently into the pie dish.

Cover the pie with the second sheet of puff pastry and press it down around the edges. If, like me, you were lazy and used frozen sheets of pastry, you will probably have lines from the folds. If you want to be fancy, smooth these out first (BEFORE you put it on the pie). Trim the edges of the pie (again, ideally the pastry should go right to the edge of the pie, not fall short as mine does here). Using a sharp knife, cut a couple of thin slits in the pastry so that steam can escape during cooking.

All those extra bits of pastry left over from trimming the edges? Hold on to them. Use a sharp knife to cut them into rough leaf shapes; press the knife edge into the pastry (not all the way through!) to make a simple vein pattern on the pastry leaf. A thin spiral of pastry makes a simple rose for the middle of the pie.

Lay these on top of the pastry, they should stick on their own, although you can dab a bit of the egg and milk mixture underneath if you are worried.

All done! Put the pie in the oven to bake for about half an hour at 400 F.

The pie can be eaten warm, but I prefer it cold. This is a great dish to take on a picnic, and take the left overs to work for lunch.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Old news

I first saw this news when Cuppycake pointed it out on Ars Technica yesterday, which makes it old news by game industry standards, but I think it's important enough to call out in multiple places so I will repeat it here anyway.

EA puts sexual bounty on the heads of its own booth babes

To sum up: EA is advertising a contest that actively encourages contestants to "perform acts of lust" with their, or in fact any, booth babes at ComicCon. The prize: a night out with two of the booth babes where, presumably, you can harass them further still.

I really can't put it any better than Jeremy Preacher:
I understand that absymally stupid ideas get floated in meetings all the time, but at a billion-dollar company like EA, you'd think SOMEONE would have the basic common sense to put a stop to a FUCKING CONTEST TO SEE WHO CAN HARASS YOUR EMPLOYEES THE MOST.
The EA booth babes may be contractually obligated to put up with this and unable to protest, but I certainly hope that every other company whose booth babes are harassed due to this contest sues the pants off EA.

While this particular contest is in fact fairly new news, this kind of attitude within the game industry is unfortunately pretty old news. It's disappointing to find it still in 2009, but alas, there's no shortage of it, as io9 highlighted recently. There are a number of organizations within the game industry (such as WIGI) who do try to raise awareness of women in gaming, but it sometimes seems like an uphill battle when a company like EA comes out with a contest like this one.

Another such organization is "Gamers In Real Life" which is organized by my employer, Sony Online Entertainment, and aims to raise awareness about women and the portrayal of women in games and the gaming industry. G.I.R.L. also maintain a blog which was previously written by the inestimable Tracy "Owlchick" Seamster, and which I will be taking over starting in August now that Tracy has moved on to pursue other career opportunities. As this weekend's EA news demonstrates, there is still a long way to go before it will be unthinkable to promote a contest like this one, but slowly and in increasing numbers we will get there. I'll keep updating this blog also, but you'll soon be seeing me on the G.I.R.L blog too. =)


Opinion and perspective from a booth babe

Comment from one of the winners (who declined the prize)

And a statement from EA = pretty much a non-response and apparent total fail at comprehending the issue. Does "sorry you don't understand" count as an apology? Not really, no.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

But it's just not FAIR ...

I'm currently readon an interesting book by James Surowiecki called The Wisdom of Crowds. Basically, it's an examination of how groups of people make decisions, both good and bad. And many of the points that he highlights are quite different from what you might expect.

I'm only about half way through the book, but I came across the description of some interesting sociological experiments in chapter 6 (section II). Here's the part that particularly intrigued me:

The explanation for people's behaviour might have something to do with an experiment called the "ultimatum game," which is perhaps the most-well-known experiment in behavioural economics. The rules of the game are simple. The experimenter pairs two people. (They can communicate with each other, but otherwise they're anonymous to each other.) they're given $10 to divide between them, according to this rule: One person (the proposer) decides, on his own, what the split should be (50/50, 70/30, or whatever). He then makes a take-it-or-leave-it offer to the other person (the responder). The responder can either accept the offer, in which case both players pocket their respective shares of the cash, or reject it, in which case both players walk away empty-handed.

If both players are rational [in an economic sense], the proposer will keep $9 for himself and offer the responder $1, and the responder should accept it, since if he accepts he gets some money and if he rejects, he gets none. A rational proposer will realize this and therefore make a lowball offer.

In practice, though, this rarely happens. Instead, lowball offers -- anything below $2 -- are routinely rejected. Think for a moment about what this means. People would rather have nothing than let their "partners" walk away with too much of the loot. They will give up free money to punish what they perceive as greedy or selfish behaviour. And the interesting thing is that the proposers anticipate this -- presumably because they know they would act the same way if they were in the responder's shoes. As a result, the proposers don't make many low offers in the first place. The most common offer in the ultimatum game, in fact, is $5.

Now, this is a long way from the "rational man" picture of human behaviour. The players in the ultimatum game are not choosing what's materially best for them, and their choices are clearly completely dependent on what the other person does. People play the ultimatum game this way all across the developed world: cross-national studies of players in Japan, Russia, the United States, and France all document the same phenomenon. And increasingly the size of the stakes doesn't seem to matter much either. Obviously, if the proposer were given the chance to divide $1 million, the responder wouldn't turn down $100,000 just to prove a point. But the game has been played in countries, like Indonesia, where the possible payoff was equal to three days' work, and responders still rejected lowball offers.

It isn't just humans who act this way either.... primatologists Sara F. Bronsan and Frans B.M. de Waal showed that female capuchin monkeys are also offended by unfair treatment...

Capuchins and humans alike, then, seem to care whether rewards are, in some sense, "fair." That may seem like an obvious thing to worry about, but it's not... The responders in the ultimatum game are being offered money for what amounts to a few minutes of "work," which mostly consists of answering "yes" or "no." Turning down free money is not something that, in most circumstances, makes sense. But people are willing to do it in order to make sure that the distribution of resources is fair.

Does this mean people think that, in an ideal world, everyone would have the same amount of money? No. It means people think that, in an ideal world, everyone would end up with the amount of money they deserved. In the original version of the ultimatum game, only luck determines who gets to be the proposer and who gets to be the responder. So the split, people feel, should be fairly equal. But people's behaviour in the game changes quite dramatically when the rules are changed. In the most interesting version of the ultimatum game, for instance, in stead of assigning the proposer role randomly, the researchers made it seem as if the proposers had earned their positions by doing better on a test. In those experiments, proposers offered significantly less money, yet not a single offer was rejected. People apparently thought that a proposer who merited his position deserved to keep more of the wealth.

Put simply, people (and capuchins) want there to be a reasonable relationship between accomplishment and reward.

Anyone who has worked in game design is probably already familiar with this phenomenon as applies to players in competitive computer games such as MMOs. A frequent lament on MMO discussion forums is how the designers, or the game mechanics in general, are favoring one group over another. Group A complains when Group B gets too much attention, loot, or whatever. As a game designer and also as a player, I have frequently read such discussions with more than a bit of impatience and wondered why Group A is getting so upset about Group B getting something, when it really doesn't affect them personally at all. To pick just one example, if Fred got his Uber Sword of Wumpus-Slaying on day 1, and then we change the quest so that it's easier for George to get the same sword when he does the quest on day 365, why is Fred so upset? Fred still had the sword for a whole year before George got his, and had all the utility, fun, and boasting rights that came with that, and the fact that George now has his own Uber Sword of Wumpus-Slaying doesn't change Fred's game-play experience in the slightest. Yet this is one of the most common complaints on any MMO forum and comes up again and again.

I can't say that reading this study has provided me with any answers to the problem. But it does help me to see that this kind of behaviour is part of a bigger picture of human behaviour, not an exclusive characteristic of MMO players. And it definitely highlights that when developing an MMO, we need to keep in mind that player perception of fairness is perhaps even more important than it is to truly distribute those rewards fairly. "Fair" distribution of rewards according to some cryptic scheme that only the designers can see will not be perceived as fair, and will not be well received. Clear ways of measuring player accomplishments, and equitable rewards balanced in line with those, will go a very long way toward reducing general unhappiness and complaints of unfairness.

This may seem like an obvious statement, but in a complex game like an MMO where there may be many different types of accomplishment, it's far from simple even to equitably measure the different accomplishments, let alone to determine the "conversion rate" between one type and another. Is a "killing the dragon" accomplishment worth more than an "interior decoration" accomplishment if they both took the same player the same amount of time? Is a "raiding" accomplishment deserving of better rewards than a "solo questing" accomplishment? Simple measurement of play time invested is not sufficient to compare the two; and when games are looking more and more to entice casual players who want to be able to have fun and make progress in limited play time chunks, time is not a good measure of accomplishment. It seems almost like a standard that designers of new MMOs should sit down and define before they produce any gameplay content: which type of accomplishment is worth most, what defines worth, what defines the value of the reward that is earned.

Most MMOs I have played seem to have a very rough set of standards along these lines, though rarely comprehensive and often inconsistent. Where they are even more lacking is in making these standards accessible in some form to the players. Result: endless player debates over the comparative merit of one accomplishment over another, and thus, an equally endless debate over whether the MMO's rewards are "fair". Perhaps it's an overly simplistic wish on my part, but I'd love to find a game that defines these accomplishment measurement standards clearly and consistently, and without being so narrow in definition that large elements of the player gameplay experience are missed out entirely. One day! =)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Absolute pants

Ahhh ... the next expansion approaches in EverQuest II, and with it a level cap raise, which means 10 more levels of recipes for me to create for every tradeskill class in the game.

And although I have spreadsheets and scripts and things to generate large numbers of items in bulk, there is still hands on tweaking required, and inevitably, bugs. Particularly when large numbers of items are generated, there are potentially large numbers of bugs -- because even if you have a bug rate of less than 1%, when you create thousands of files, that still adds up.

For some reason I found this bug very funny. I'm not quite sure why. But it made me laugh.

Exp06: Tradeskill: Items: The item Marr Cherry Crepe has the icon of pants. (C)

The item Marr Cherry Crepe icon is pants

1. /spawn 084_03_marr_cherry_crepe

Notice that icon of the marr cherry crepe is pants.

(This may be slightly funnier to me since I'm accustomed to the UK slang use of "pants".)

Time to get fixing ...

Monday, July 13, 2009

What do players want?

More selective samples of in-game /feedback


Text: There should be a Mana Stone upgrade quest, and the stone still could be used, but would travel behind the player has a glowing pet rock!


Text: I would just like to say : Whoever decided to make one of the Necromancer fighter pets a zombie wearing nothing but white boxers is a very, very mean person.


Text: shard of love is lame

[Domino note: the Shard of Love is not live, isn't on Test, hasn't been previewed anywhere yet, and isn't expected in game till around September, so this comment is somewhat confusing]


Text: We need a duck plushie so my bathrub can have a *rubber* ducky


Text: I petitioned earlier about missing shards.....embarrasing story please disregard and accept my apologies and warmest thankyou for the obviously hard work from design to programming to live playing


Text: There is much hate in the forges.

[Domino note: this was the entire text of the feedback. The only other information I could gather was that the player was in Neriak at the time.]


Text: lol

[Domino note: again, this was the entire text of the feedback, and all I know was that the player was in a tier 1 guildhall at the time. I wish I knew what was so funny!]


Text: Customer Support has been so great! I am always messing something up and I have asked for some pretty weird things and they always come through.

I am sure you get many copmplaints so I thought it would be important for you to hear the good as well!




Text: I hear alot of people talking, and for that matter, like Brownies. You should have Brownies as a new playable race for Qeynos! Make a cold weather eskimo version to fit in well with New Halas and the Barbarians!


Text: I don't know how much you all care about this FEEDBACK feature but here goes my request. I have seen quite a few female toons who were "pregnant" but looked as thin and normal as always. Now my toon is pregnant and I struggle to RPer her as such. No one knows she is pregnant because she doesn't LOOK pregnant.

Can the designers PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE come up with a SMOCK or Loose fitting TUNIC that can be used for such roleplaying? The smock would look good on RPer artists.. painters.. crafters... but also usable for maternity wear!! We have ALL KINDS of armor and robes!!


Text: Cherub statues for Errollsi Day!!! pretty pweese? or maybe imp ones?


Text: Should have rares for T9... it makes harvesters have something to do.. but have another use for them


Text: Monks really need to be made more useful Arg


Text: The multi update quests need to go. Seriously it sucks you think to yourself "whatever that's not a big deal, I can do that' and oh look, there's another step.. and another... and oh hell why not one more.

It's like your friend asking you to help move his computer desk for him and you get there and you find out you need to disassemble it also and then reassemble it, and fix a leak under his sink.. and make him dinner.. and hook up his cable... I mean do you see, do you see how frustrating that is?


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Summer pastries

It's a hot summer day today, and instead of crafting in a computer game on a hot computer, I have been crafting the real way, in the kitchen, trying out a few easy recipes using frozen pastry.

Cherry pastries


- frozen flaky pastry (I have been using Pepperidge Farms brand)
- fresh cherries (any kind is fine - if using sour cherries, use extra sugar)
- white sugar
- confectioner's sugar


1. Unwrap the pastry and allow it to thaw enough to unroll.

2. Cut medium size squares of the pastry, however big you want your cherry pastries to be, and lay them on parchment paper on a baking sheet.

3. Cut the cherries in half and remove the stems and stones; place on the pastry.

4. Sprinkle the cherries liberally with sugar. For the pastry shown here, I used at least 3-4 tsp. Exactly how much you will want depends on whether your pastry is sweetened, how sweet the cherries are, and your own personal taste.

5. Bake the pastries at about 400 F for about 20 minutes, or until the edges of the pastry are beginning to turn golden brown.

6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

7. Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar.

8. Serve and enjoy!

Vegetable pastries


- frozen flaky pastry
- sweet cherry tomatoes
- thyme, rosemary, oregano, garlic, black pepper
- zucchini or similar vegetables
- marinated artichoke hearts
- pitted black olives
- olive oil
- parmesan cheese
- crumbled goat cheese
- dijon mustard


1. cut the tomatoes in half and place on a wire tray over a baking sheet in a 400 F oven for about 30 minutes. Sit on the counter to cool down once cooked.

2. thaw a sheet of pastry enough to spread flat on parchment paper on a baking tray.

3. spread the mustard thinly on the pastry.

4. sprinkle the pastry with parmesan cheese

5. microwave slices of zucchini for 1-2 minutes, until tender but not mushy.

6. place the zucchini on the pastry, then arrange the tomatoes in a layer on top

7. in a small bowl, mix 1/4 cup of olive oil with 0.5-1 tsp of thyme, rosemary, fresh crushed garlic, and oregano (vary proportions depending on your preference)

8. drizzle the olive oil mixture over the tomatoes.

9. scatter the olives, artichoke hearts, and goat cheese over the top

11. bake for about 30 minutes at 400 F or until the pastry edges are beginning to turn golden brown.

12. eat warm or cold. Enjoy!

I tried these two ways - on the left side, with no zucchini but extra tomatoes; on the right, with the zucchini on top. Both are delicious!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Fan faire 2009 pictures

Having unearthed the cable for my camera in the unpacking process, I've finally been able to download the photos I took at Fan Faire this year! Here are a few...

Domino and Kaisha:

Domino and Lera, the (not a) Frostfell Elf

One of our wonderful volunteer Guides, all the way from Germany!

Breakfast with Tosta and Spindel of the Vagabond Knights

Fyreflyte having fun with items

Domino and Dellmon of the EQ2's day podcast

Rijacki in her hand-crafted Bixie Queen (from FreeRealms) costume

A siren, whose name I unfortunately didn't note down, competing in the costume contest
Brenlo greets a ranger...

Two halflings: Domino and Niami of EQ2Traders. This was the last photo of Fan Faire, after the final closing banquet, so we're both looking a bit tired ... more than a bit tired!

Friday, July 03, 2009

Tata Domino at Fan Faire

Last weekend was the annual SOE Fan Faire, a big convention type event where players of SOE games congregate to meet each other and the developers, attend panels to hear what's coming up in the SOE family of games, and generally have a good time. For SOE staff it's a lot of work, although rewarding and fun.

Typically my day starts around 7-8 when I will find a good, filling breakfast -- my breakfast preferences when travelling are normally: hot black tea with honey, and eggs benedict, and/or toasted bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon, and as much fresh fruit as there may be available. This usually gets me started well and lasts me through a long day in which I most likely won't have time to get a proper lunch. Often I'll bump into other people from the fan faire over breakfast and spend the meal chatting with them.

Once breakfast is over, it's off to quickly check email and then to the general area in which developers are supposed to be available when not otherwise engaged (e.g. at panels). So from about 10 till 6 I will either be hanging around the EQII display machines chatting with whoever comes by, or speaking on one of the EQII panels we have scheduled. This year I was on 4 1-hour panels, although some of them I didn't actually do much more than answer a few questions. I also sat in on a couple of other panels that were peripherally related to what I do.

In the evenings, there are events to attend, depending on which day of the Fan Faire it is. An opening ceremony, John Smedley's community address, an open-bar party, the closing banquet. For all of these, we're expected to attend, chat with folks, and generally be available for questions. Most of these events carry on well into the night, and may well segue into subsequent festivities if folks decide to head out to another venue afterwards. I usually avoid this when possible and try not to stay much past midnight. Although it's always a fun time and I enjoy meeting the folks who play our games, I need my sleep and can't afford a hangover when I know I have to be up and back at work early the next day! This year I was taking particular care to get enough sleep, because I knew that as soon as I arrived back in San Diego on Sunday I would be hard at work moving house. Fan faires are very rewarding, but after 3 days of 8am - midnight work, we're always exhausted and looking forward to sleeping in our own beds.

This year Susan "Soffrina" Rumani asked if I had time to sit down for a brief interview with a French reporter who had come all the way from France for the fan faire. We found somewhere quiet and had a pleasant discussion, and at the end, she asked me if I knew that they love me in France and call me "Tata Domino". "Tata" is apparently a short, familiar form of "tante" (aunt) similar to how the English shorten "grandmother" to "Nana" or "Granny". So, among our France players I am "Auntie Domino". Rather sweet. I learned to speak French in Canada, however, and hadn't heard that slang term used before. After I got home to San Diego I looked it up and apparently it's used exclusively in France. In Quebec French, it turns out "tata" is a slang term meaning "idiot" or "fool". Since both Quebec and France players play on our French language server, I wonder which meaning of "tata" is more prevalent? Perhaps which meaning is interpreted depends on how happy (or not) they are with me at any particular time!

I have several photos from Fan Faire this year, but as I haven't even nearly finished unpacking from moving house this week, I haven't found my camera cable to download them, so they will have to wait on my camera for now. So instead, here are a couple photos stolen from other people:

Me with Linda "Brasse" Carlson of and soon to be working for SOE in our Community department. She makes these costumes by hand, a new one almost every year, and has won our costume competition at Fan Faire so many times that she stopped competing a few years back. This year she is also holding a version of the Mystic epic weapon.

Paul "Frizznik" Carrico, me, and Paul "Cronyn" Molina, sitting on a Q&A panel. I'm tradeskilling, of course - knitting a scarf. Said scarf was later finished and photographed on a variety of people but I think it ended up coming home with me; not sure what to do with it.

Paul Molina is our main "lore guy" at the moment, and doing a great job of it. Quite a few of our EQII players who love to follow the lore of the game were thrilled to meet him this year.

Paul Carrico actually did my job, tradeskills, for a short time many years ago before he moved on to work on some other games. He's still fondly remembered by older tradeskillers that play our game and we're all happy he's back on the EQII team as of this month, although since I'm now doing tradeskills, he's going to be doing other things. I first met him at a fan faire in 2005 when I was an avid EQII player and he was the tradeskill developer. I remember being awed and starstruck to meet him back then, and I told him that this weekend (in fact, probably not long after the above photo was taken). He gave me a look and said "are you kidding me? You gave me a 10 minute lecture on everything that was wrong with tradeskills!"

I guess I wasn't quite as awestruck as I remember it in my mind. But then, I also got plenty of tradeskill feedback from EQII players myself this year, so what goes around, comes around, as they say!

More Fan Faire photos can be found here.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

What do players want?

More (very selected) player feedback from last week:


Text: please send me betainvite to sentinels fate.


Text: I am SO HAPPY that its Odus THANK YOU


Text: In case nobody has said this in a while, I -like- that the next expansion is going to be Odus.




Text: Voice chat engine isn't really up to handling karaoke.


Text: /chirp

plays crickets in the background..... maybe the emote could be "... tells a joke that is so bad, you just hear crickets"


Text: Okay in all the time i have played this game I have NEVER bought a rhino for any of my 2 accts worth of toons. I finally broke down and bought one of the monstrosities for my bruiser. OMG I haven't laughted that hard at something in this game in a long time!!! ROFL! My poor dark elf is being slung from side to side on the beast. Its hilarious and probably very realistic looking!!!! Truly priceless. At least something is funny here once in awhile.


Text: there are too many bugs and not enough advertisements


Text: i am staring in awe at the dragon ghost that appears over the dragon skeleton in the field of bone in the fens of nathsar. oh. my. god. amazingly well done, and entrancing to watch.


Text: Please staple every person's hands to their keyboard who does any /feedbacks asking for the beastlord class to be reinstated.


Text: How bout randomizing the illusion of Order of Rime Sleetsaber Illusion so its not always a ratonga?

Im a kerran swashbuckler. I have to have a little dignity at least.


Text: a big one please! if you were able, finally, sometimes stairs in play insert, so that carpenter can build, finally, sometimes stairs to develop optimally with it different apartments and guildhall. big thanks


Text: There should be a raptor mount plz make this happen\


Text: please make the pink unicorn used by everyone and add in armor and wepon dye's think you