Guest post by Michael-Scott Earle!
Joust was probably the first video game I really played. Sure, I’d been to the arcade, but the old Atari game (with the single stick and single button controller) was the first game I really sat down and played for hours on end. It was my friend’s system, and I think it was the only game he had for it. So we would play it for endless days while we talked about finding other friends to run a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness role playing game (Go Palladium!)
The next year Nintendo came out, and I’d saved all my allowance money from doing chores to be able to afford to pay for 80% of the system. My parents were cool and they gave me the other 20%- then they bought me Zelda a few months after.
I played the shit out of my NES. My favorite games was probably Zelda 2 (a Link to the past), Mega Man 2, and Metroid, and Strider (I guess I really liked side scrollers).
My mom worked for a company that went out of business, and they got rid of all their computes. She snagged one for use to use at home, It was a 286 IBM clone, but that was probably worth something like $2,000 in 1988ish. It had a 2 color CGA monitor, dot matrix printer, 5.25″ floppy drive, and a 9600 modem. WOAH. It came with a giant book on DOS and had 21 megs of hard drive space. I read through that book to learn how to use the thing, and started getting copies of all the classic Sierra games like Space Quest, Kings Quest, Heroes Quest, and all those great Ultima games.
Ultima 6 was really my jam, and even though the game looked like shit with my magenta/cyan monitor. I still played that game for countless hours. IMO, that game was one of the best RPG games ever made. What I found interesting about it was that there was an over arching quest, but every NPC had little side quests. (NO QUEST LOG). You’d talk to a dude in one city that said “I’d love some honey from X city on the other side of the world” and I’d have to take notes on that shit. I had a binder filled with the names of NPCs and their quests. That game was half game, and half research project.
I got an SNES, and was working through high school, so I had enough money to buy my own games, but Streetfighter 2 was also out. I found that I happened to be super competitive, and spent a ton of time battling my buds in the arcade. I really loved all the Squaresoft stuff. Especially Chrono Trigger, and Secret of Mana. I used to do this thing with all the Square games where I would get everyone in my game to max level. I’m sure a bunch of you have done that also.
I started playing these MUD games on our high school BBS, and had my first taste of MMO style PvP with a game called Trade Wars. That game was awesome, and this interesting school war began between the 30 or so people that played it. I was on the “pirate” side, and got a real kick out of being “the bad guy” in the game.
Through high school I also upgraded my computer to a 386. I fell in love with this game you all may have played named Ultima: Underworld. It took a series I already loved (Ultima) and combined it with a First Person perspective that really drew me into the game world. Underworld was created by Looking Glass Studios, and their pedigree has influenced most of the bestselling videogames to this day. The Thief games were some of my favorites that I had ever played. System Shock was also amazing. But Deus Ex, BioShock, Arx Fatalis, Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, Dishonored… just a TON of great games all came from studios that have people that worked in Looking Glass during the Ultima Underworld phase.
DOOM had just come out around the same time as well, and I found myself hanging out during lunch in the computer room at school doing DOOM2, Descent (anyone remember that cool FPS spaceship game?), and Duke Nukem deathmatches. On the weekends, I’d hang out with that same group of guys playing AD&D 2nd edition and/or Heroes Unlimited. It seemed like every second I wasn’t sleeping I was either playing a video game, playing a pen and paper RPG, or reading an awesome fantasy book from some of the greats like Alan Dean Foster or David Gemmell. I was a really terrible student, and struggled to maintain a C average in high school. School just wasn’t fun, and the only reason I got into college was because I also happened to be a musician (oboe) and I happened to get a scholarship.
I started working in a video game shop after I graduated high school (Babbages for those of you who remember that store), and it was like the golden age of video games. Both the Playstation and Saturn were out, and they each had a ton of games. I found a new group of gamer buddies that were really into Shadowrun. When I wasn’t in school, or working at Babbages, I was playing Final Fantasy 7 on the playstation- or one of the many awesome RPGs that were being released/ported by Konami, Capcom, and Working Designs (any of you remember Working Designs?). On the weekends I was GMing Shadowun games, or AD&D 3.5, or TMNT, or Dead Lands, or Legend of the Five Rings. I also upgraded my computer again to a Pendium model, and even though I had a dial up modem still, I played a shitload of Diablo 2. I also got really into the new surge of D&D IP that came out on the computer. Games like Planescape Torment and Baulder’s Gate.
The Saturn wasn’t doing that well in the USA, and I managed to use Babbage’s ordering system to get access to a ton of games through their Japanese suppliers. I was one of the rare people that got their hands on a copy of Panzer Dragoon Saga (in English!), and it was probably one of the best JRPGs I’ve ever had the joy of experiencing. It really was a wonderful game, and it is a real shame that SEGA didn’t go a good job promoting the system.
My last year in college I’d quit working at Babbages, and I had gotten really into PC gaming. I already mentioned Thief, but I played both 1 and 2 a bunch, and then I spent probably way more time than what was healthy playing Morrowind. It became one of my favorite RPG games, and I think I did like every damn quest you could have possibly done. I had two roommates at the time, and one of them had been really into Everquest. I had never really played Everquest, but we had DSL at our apartment, and they both bought me a copy of Asheron’s Call 2… so I figured I would give MMOs a try.
The game wasn’t that great, but I liked playing it. My roommates got bored of it within a few months, so I was kind of left to play with whoever I could find to game with. The community was dying though, and I decided to give the PvP FFA server “Darktide” a try. I figured that I would probably get ganked a bunch, but I was about to quit the game anyway, so I figured that it would be fun to try for a few hours.
I logged into the game, and ran into another level 1 player in the staring zone. The dude started to attack me, and I defended myself. Neither of us really did any damage, but my Streetfighter competitive juices started pumping, and the epic newb battle must have lasted a good 10 minutes. Then I won, and I felt like a god. I decided to keep playing, and made a ton of friends on the server. I ended up joining one of the most notorious PvP guilds, and I ended up spending a good chunk of my life on Teamspeak with people all over the world talking about beating the shit out of other players in a virtual video game.
AC2 eventually died, and I did a brief stint in Lineage 2 before I got accepted into the WoW alpha. That game was great, and I played a priest. We did a bunch of faction PvP, but it didn’t have the same zest that FFA PvP did, and it led to end game content getting stale (I was gonna die if I had to spam greater heal through MC one more time). I was about to get married, and I figured that it was time to retire from these MMOs. They were taking a bunch of time, and… well… you all know the story.
As I was saying my goodbyes to people that I’d developed deep friendships with for the last 3 years of FFA PvP and MMOing, one of them asked if I’d be willing to give Guild Wars a try. The game had been out for 5ish months, and while it wasn’t getting the best reviews, it had a PvP focus. I decided to try it and immediately fell in love with the way the classes, skills, and game play worked. We got REALLY into GW, and within a few months we were completing in the top ten spots of Guild versus Guild battles. I really liked the way that GW did PvP. I liked the way that they only let you have a few skill slots, and I liked the way that skills/builds could counter other skills/builds. Guild Wars had the basic PvE game (that I really enjoyed), they had the PvP game (that I loved), and they had this deep meta game where you had to craft your PvP builds to counter act what the other top teams were doing. I had thought that I was going to retire from MMO gaming, but I ended up spending a ton more time playing than I ever had before.
WoW came out with their first expansion pack, and we’d been kicking ass in GW for a while, so my friends and I decided to jump back into WoW to do arenas and battle grounds. I had top 5 ranked 2v2, 3v3, and 5v5 teams (I was playing warrior now-so it was a bit of a faceroll) for seasons 1-4. When Wrath came out I decided to jump back into Guild Wars again. The meta had changed a lot, and there had been a few new expansions, so there was a lot to catch up on. I did a bunch of PvP this time around, but kept it more in the 4v4 Team arenas, and I focused a lot more on the PvE. Guild Wars 2 was going to be coming out, and ArenaNet was offering way to bring some of the GW1 achievements into GW2.
I really liked GW2, and I played the game for 2 years. I’ve always been a power gamer, and really competitive, but I had a kid now, and a wife, and a job with a lot of traveling. I was also in the process of writing some novels (My Destroyer series- if you haven’t read them), and I had a dream of becoming a full time author. It was tough balancing the “I need to be the best at this videogame” with “I have bills to pay, and kind of need to think about being the best at this whole life game”. I was hacking the shit out of GW2, and playing with a bunch of Korean powergamers (I don’t speak Korean either so that was all sorts of weird) and eventually Anet caught me doing something naughty. I got banned, but realized it was probably the best thing to happen to me. I decided that it was a good time to retire from MMOs, and I focused on my novels. I published the Destroyer stuff last year, and I was able to transition to writing full time.
When I first found out about LitRPG, it was because I noticed a bunch of people buying the books who also bought my “Hell High” horror/comedy series. I started looking at the genre and thought to myself “Readers want novels about people playing video games? I can write a kick ass story about that!” I reached out to Aleron, Blaise, Travis, Luke, and Stephan for advice about what readers were looking for. These guy were all really great, open, and gave me tons of advice. I’ve told a few people that I love writing LitRPG because it feels like home to me. I’ve spent most of my life either playing a video game, or playing a pen-paper role playing game, and as a GM I’m used to creating great worlds for the players to have fun with.
I got a bunch of great feedback on Lion’s Quest 1, and LQ2 is vastly improved. You’ll find a great story inside these books, with drama, romance, suspense, humor, and loveable characters. There are elements of Wow, GW, Baulder’s Gate, D&D, and a bunch of great games in the novel.
The complaint I see about my books is that they are too expensive, and that they aren’t in KU. I can understand that everyone is in a budget. but I can guarantee that you will feel my novels are worth every penny you spent to purchase them. The books are each very long, well crafted, and IF YOU AREN’T HAPPY WITH THEM- send me a PM and I’ll do what I can to refund your money, or give you some of my other books for free. I am CONFIDENT you’ll love Lion’s Quest 1 and Lion’s Quest 2.