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Hypnos' Blog

Quick Hijinks

In between launching Whirled and coming up with new fiendishly clever things to add, Peghead found a new way to transport himself to meetings in the back room.

No work and no internet make Hypnos go sleepy

In which Hypnos links up photographs he had neglected during the times he had internet

Read the full article...

Walk For Your Lives

Double post because I missed last week and well, because we can:

A few weeks ago, neighboring San Francisco company Instructables felt their honor was challenged as "coolest place to work in San Francisco" and, donning the guise of pirates, raided our office.

Such was the cleverness of their disguise that the folks in the front room barely glanced up as they went YARRing by. 'Pirates? We have pirates coming through here all of the time! They must be for Hypnos.' No alarm was sounded.

They fought us with tinfoil swords! They took prisoners! They left us a plank.

Clearly, reciprocation was in order.

That is why, this Monday, we applied make-up and Victorian clothes, plentiful liquor, and practiced for a grueling 30 seconds before setting off for Instructables requital:

To their credit, Instructables was better prepared for the attack. Spying us via security camera, they pelted us with marshmallows and wads of paper before retreating to their inner office to be wholesale slaughtered.

Reeling in shock and horror, surviving Instructables members posted pictures aplenty in their blog, mourning the loss of their robot mascot and young, innocent intern.

Back at Three Rings HQ, the undead congratulated themselves with some drinks, some intern brains, and taught the robot mascot how to play Rock Band.

Some more zombie attack pictures can be found on undead Annie's Flickr page.

Custodial Cleanup and Visits

Ahoy, pirates! New posting space!

First I'd like to thank web manager Terri and web programmer Sarah for setting up an in-house blog system and for setting up both the individual blogs for all oceanmasters who wanted them, and the feeds that allow all of them to be displayed in one long page of blogged textness.

Things churn along in the office with various bug fixes and changes to make Puzzle Pirates Adventures lighter and faster-loading. We had to bid farewell to beloved Nick Barkas (boo hoo! :() as he went back to the wilds of Sweden and graduate school, but not before partying it up in the Tonga Room. The Tonga Room is amazing. It has an impressive selection of fruity scupper-yer-barnacle-up drinks, seats set up on the deck of a ship, and an indoor pool with rain at 30 minute intervals. Also, a live band comes out on a boat(!) Much revelry and the sticking of paper umbrellas in Hypnos's hair was had.

We have also been shamelessly enjoying the fruits of the twisted mind of Jes Weigand including bacon ice cream (no, really. bacon ice cream!) and lime Cephalopod cake.

Notably, we were paid a visit by the Girl Game Company, a nonprofit outreach program for middle school girls in Watsonville, CA. They are an after school and summertime project that teaches young women to design and develop computer games, and they had done tours at Google and EA. The young ladies were all very web savvy, reminding me that mine was the last generation to grow up without internet access. Pictures of the group can be found on our Flickr page.

On the subject of visits, I also paid a weekend visit to Las Vegas last month and viewed the demolition site that was once the New Frontier, where the Las Vegas meet-up was held last year. It was sad. There's a very sharp line in that area of town between the old kitschy themed hotels and the giant resort luxury hotels, with their reflective glass windows and sharp angles. A lot of the old hotels and casinos are being torn down.

Lastly, Bunnywonder (and an accompanying cabinlad whose pirate name I did not catch) visited Three Rings! She promised pictures to the forum community, so watch that space.

Office Update

This week, I'd like to highlight pirate Toppyhopp of Sage's contribution to the Yohoho Tools application that our island designers and artists often use to create Puzzle Pirates scenes.  Stepping up to fill the lack of a Mac client, this mate created, updated, and hosted a Mac client of the toolkit himself that is listed in the Y!PPedia Yohoho tools article.  Hats off to you, Toppyhopp.

As Malachite starts receiving its first greenies and Puzzle Pirates deploys some new items in a release preceding some new bits and bobs coming to Ice shortly, I would like to take some time to update you on how the Three Rings office is coming along.

We had some spring birthday festivities for our office mates, and we've been doing a touch of redecorating! Office manager Natalie has gotten us a new sign for our door, a new rug, and fancied up our front room/reception area with new furniture and some more custom furniture from Because We Can.

Personally, I have long since run out of room on the letter wall and have now started plastering the hallways between office spaces with cool pictures and other missives that you've sent us.  Keep them coming! With time, I'd like to wallpaper all available space on this floor.  It'll help slow down unannounced intruders.  (You know who you are.)

Lastly but not less importantly, we have welcomed a new addition to the Puzzle Pirates (Cephalo)Pod.  Please give a warm welcome to Puzzle Pirates intern Micah Weaver, who is joining us for a stint from Rose-Hulman University.  He completes the triumvirate of of Mich-type names from Rose-Hulman, along with Arcturus (Michael Thomas) and Jack (Michael Bayne.)  I, for one, welcome our new identically named overlords.

Spinning Yarns

Our Captain Cleaver, Daniel James made Beckett Magazine's list of the 20 Most Influential People in MMOs.  Hooray!

The list is stocked with big names from the games industry, including Sanya Weathers of Dark Age of Camelot fame and mistress of GuildCafe, Rob Pardo from Blizzard, and Richard Garriott of NCSoft, to name a few.

When asked for comment, Cap'n Cleaver said,

"I am honoured to be recognised as one of the few influential MMO folks. It's of note that many of my fellows work inside major corporations creating very large and expensive MMORPGs. I'm pleased that Beckett's recognised a few of us who are working outside of the mainstream and moving the ball forward with our independent and quirky ways."

Also, he would like to know why he is not #1.

Not to be outdone, the entrants in A Sailor's Yarn contest made themselves Most Influential Pirates in Bowling Over Judges and Bystanders Alike with their textile entries.  If you have not seen the entries for this contest already, I give a screaming recommendation.  They are amazing.  I also noticed quite a few Viking vessels on the waves for this contest.  Something about the longship seems to inspire scenes of dramatic ocean struggles in all of us!  I'm inspired to put a Puzzle Pirates longship atop Hokusai's 'Great Wave', myself.

Inter-archipelago Route

Greetings, fair readers!

I return from my voyages to the island nations of Taiwan and Japan replete with stories and treasure.

As you've all no doubt heard by now, Three Rings has a partnership with GungHo Online Entertainment Inc. to distribute our beloved pirate game in the land of the rising sun.

Things won't be changing from routine, though. We'll still be developing all of the features of Y!PP in-house here at Three Rings, and translating them to our new Eastern audience.  If any of you fancy practicing your writing and reading skills of the Japanese language, this could be your chance!

Speaking of Japan, while I was over there, I noticed a lot of people's jobs seemed to consist of standing around.  Staff often outnumbered customers in grocery stores, and walked around welcoming everybody. Once, I saw a fellow whose entire duty seemed to be standing outside a dirt lot greeting people and telling them not to enter the large construction site behind him.

Japan's is a service economy, and my me, the Japanese are really good at it. I stopped by the store once and bought a custard. It cost around $2 U.S., and the young lady asked me about how long it would be before I got home. Based on my answer, she selected an appropriately sized ice pack to package the custard with, put it in a cardboard box that had a separate area for the cold pack (heaven forbid that the two touch while my custard was being kept cold), added a wrapped spoon, taped it shut with a pink flowered bit of tape, placed it in a bag, tied the bag handles in a bow, and handed it to me, bowing, and with the most cheerful, chirpy thank you I'd ever experienced.

All of this was very interesting to me, and not just because the custard was delicious. Online games, especially MMOs that are updated regularly with new content and features, are also a service industry.

Different companies have very different approaches, of course. Some will listen to suggestions and complaints more than others. I am curious to see how much good service affects a game's success, and if Japan gets into the online games business, I really want to see how they'll blow the whole service thing out of the water and raise the bar.

Spring Sprang Sprong

Sharp readers spotted the news that Three Rings acquired new investors last month, but they didn't seem to notice the awesome Three Rings profile picture on the True Venture website. (You'll have to scroll down a bit, as companies are listed alphabetically.)

We're looking to expand the Three Rings team now, with a slew of job postings up on our website. Please pass them along to anybody interested!

The big news last week was naturally that Whirled went into open beta testing. Please join us in testing out some games, making things, and giving us feedback.  I've particularly found the bouncy toys that play beats and sounds so that you can compose and play with people in the same room fascinating.  Music is something  I would love to see integrated more with online games.

You folks who sign up for Whirled may be interested in the pirates whirled, a room designed like an island's dock scene where people can gather and chat.

The population rise due to some increased advertising continues, with all English speaking oceans, subscription and doubloon seeing a bump in the number of pirates online.  I look forward to having more exciting Puzzle Pirates news to report in the next few months.

Hills and Deserts

Happy Wednesday, good pirates.

Many of you may have noticed that we experienced a traffic bump this month. This has resulted in a bit of a population rise, with every English ocean seeing a rise in average online population.  If you can, get out there and run a pillage or two to welcome the newcomers!

We're not precisely sure where all of this traffic is coming from.  It may be some stepped-up advertising, or a lot of young people all over the world starting spring break.  Regardless, it's a welcome burst of noise.

This week, the question I'll be tackling this fun question from Cassis of Sage:

If (insert respondee HERE) were stuck on a deserted island and could pick one...but only one...of your co-workers to be stuck with you, who would you pick and why?

That's difficult.  For example, I've always found Cleaver one of the more interesting people I've ever met, and it would be fun to get a chance to pick his brains, but if it came down to it and I had to resort to er, picking his brains for nourishment, the Cap'n is a svelte fellow, and has more fighting experience than I do, so it would hardly be worth the energy.

Then there's Cephalopod. Nice fellow, aquatically inclined, and has long tentacles that we could use to bind together pieces of a raft to sail off on.  If it came down to cannibalism, I've always been fond of ika sushi.

I suppose if I chose Poseidon, if we ever wanted to get off the island, he could just tell the ocean to drop us off at the nearest landmass, but I think that's cheating.  Also, if I ate him, would I become god of the sea?  This bears investigation.

In the end, I would have to go with Hermes.  Not only does he have the winged slippers that would come in mighty handy, but he's so nice that he's obligingly brain himself with a tree branch if it came to lean times.  He's pretty strong so he'd definitely be able to hold up his end of the labor if we had to build shelter, and he's not too annoying.  Sometimes.

Perhaps a question that now arises is why I size up my co-workers in terms of their nutritional value first, rather than their personal merits.  I'm pretty sure that's why I wouldn't end up on anybody else's desert island list!

Spring into gear

Spring comes to San Francisco!

Recently the days have become warm and sunny, though the nights still bring in the signature fog and damp cold winds of the city.

The theme of springtime and growing things is not lost on us here at OOO.  As a response to an inquiry in the Cask of Blog forums, Domokun of Sage's "As Clio and Dio sail into the sunset, a new chapter of Puzzle Pirates begins. With the addition of two puzzles to production, a new round of Ocean Master hiring in progress and with a sprinkling of Forum posting from the Captain, is 2008 a turning point for Pirates, or merely part of a continuous and ongoing change?", here are a few updates:

Artist Sean Keeton joins the Three Rings staff!  You can see his work in Puzzle Pirates on some of the new portrait items, Atlantean furniture & trinkets, and the new fancy sink item in the latest release.

Speaking of releases, we just had one of those.  Most of the release's visible elements are in the form of artwork, but a lot of tinkering under the hood to adjust things like how bots work, how portraits are generated, and in general smoothing the process took place.  When a game has been worked on and had bits added to it and changed for 7 years, by multiple people, it needs a check-up and cleaning now and again.  Organic growth is interesting and has given us many strengths in Puzzle Pirates, but it is messy.  It was a good bit of spring cleaning.

The Puzzle Pirates client was not the only thing being cleaned out- our office manager Natalie took it upon herself to spiffy up the front room, which, while not steampunk'd out, now sports matching swanky furniture.  Our OM dolls and other lovely gifts are displayed right up near the front, so that all of our guests can turn green with envy and rage right before we meet them.

On the topic of players, you guys continue to rock the house by sharing stories like this, taking in stray kittens, sending in petitions about headless pirates that read

"People are starting to make fun of this poor pirate and charge money to see him. He is just trying to pillage.

Could you repair his wounds, please." and more.

Looking forward to hearing more from you as we chug into 2008.

Yours always,
Hypnos

GDC Expo Post More-tem: SerCas Wednesday

It was a crazy week.

I couldn't capture the feeling in a photo, but if you'll look at this picture of the morning meeting with about 350 volunteers in a room, you might get an idea of how large the conference associate program is.  Every year a veritable army of bright-shirted folks flow through the Moscone Center, checking badges, staffing talks and sessions, giving directions, and generally doing work that you might call "behind the scenes" except the shirts are so bright that we're not capable of blending behind anything.

The Puzzle Pirates flickr page is updated with pictures of the conference, including the show floor, conference associates lounge, and some pictures of Three Rings' own Captain Cleaver talking at various summits.  Videos will be uploaded onto the YouTube page and should be available later today.

I had the fortune to run into Steve Jackson of Steve Jackson Games again this year.  He remains a great conversationalist, well-mannered gentleman, and all-around nice guy.  Hermes introduced several fellow volunteers to Tribes, so we had fun chatting to him about that.

For this entry only, I'll be forgoing questions and focus on writing about the exposition floor I saw at the GDC this year, which had a lot of displays and ideas that interested me.  Hope you folks don't mind!

The expo theme fit very well with the keynote speaker this year, Ray Kurtzweil, who is well-known for speaking about our increasing ability to consciously change and "evolve" ourselves through technology.  With a number of Three Rings' staff having a fascination with the martial arts, which is all about consciously changing oneself through discipline and training, I found it fitting in more ways than one.

The thing that impressed me most this year when I wandered the various exposition booths was the popularity of what are referred to as "serious games".  The category names are rather misleading in my opinion, but "casual games" are what Puzzle Pirates and many of the mainstream computer and console games that we know would fall under- that is, games that are designed and played purely for entertainment.  "Serious games" are games that are meant to help with a "real life" purpose, such as using motion sensors to aid with exercise.

Using video games to aid things such as response time and training is certainly nothing new, but it seems to be coming more and more into the mainstream eye and into private consumer use.  For example, one of the more popular booths this year was NeuroSky, a headset that reads your brainwave frequencies and your pupil dilation and uses these responses to power the game.  Basically, the more you focus on an object, the more your game character can pick it up and move it about.  Think "the Force" from Star Wars.

This is basically a private version of a type of therapy called biofeedback, in which sensors read your brainwave patterns and help train you to control types of behaviors such as chronic pain or attention deficits.  By monitoring your brainwaves, the programs give you immediate feedback when your mind is "focused" or when your brainwaves are following the desired patterns, and over time you train your mind to operate in the desired fashion.  The problem with these therapies is that they are often not covered by insurance plans and are expensive.  I'm incredibly excited to see things like headsets being developed for private use with personal consoles or computers.

We have had a few very touching stories here at Three Rings about our game Puzzle Pirates helping distract ill players from chronic pain or discomfort.  While this was not our original aim in designing Puzzle Pirates, it's amazing to hear about the incidental benefit that this game brought to some folks, and it made me think about the potential of "casual" or "entertaining" games to positively affect people's lives outside of gameplay.

One morning, I spoke to a fellow female volunteer about games and our contrasting attitudes about exercise.  She has a hard time working out regularly because while she logically understands its benefits and necessity, she doesn't feel any progress or benefit immediately when exercising.  If anything, exercising makes her feel worse at first because she gets sore and tired.  It takes weeks before the benefits such as an improvement in her appearance and stamina make themselves known.

In contrast, I practice martial arts and exercise several times a week because if I don't, the drop in energy and spirits affect me immediately.  I feel less motivated at work, more frustrated by things, and fundamentally more dissatisfied with myself.  Sore muscles make me laugh.  In essence, I have immediate feedback built into my body, and she does not.

There's a gap here that games could fill, by making fitness and conditioning a game with immediate feedback built in to reward and motivate those people that do not naturally have the crazy endorphin release that exercise fanatics do.

(Tangentially, those of us living in urban areas have less physical space to move in than our rural counterparts, and I think games can work very well with adapted physical movements and exercise in a more restricted space.  Countries such as Japan and China have longer experience with population density than we do, and you can see it in the Japanese calisthenics and exercise programs that air on public television and in tai chi routines developed specifically to be performed in the 9 square foot space of standard Chinese apartments.  Is it any wonder that Japan produced the other hugely popular display of GDC this year, WiiFit?)

I really want to see more crossover and less of a distinction between "casual" and "serious" games.  We already know that game companies in the "casual" sector are great at making extremely fun games (even if their websites need more automatic volume control).  "Serious" games have great ideas but aren't nearly as experienced in making fun games that people enjoy playing.  The combination of the fun people experience when playing popular games combined with physical benefits like improved fitness, better alignment, regular physical therapy, better concentration, or controlling chronic pain?  It makes me want to jump out of my seat and run around, I get so excited thinking about it.

The GD Sea

Been getting ready for the Game Developers Conference this year again.  As is the standard, our Captain Cleaver will be doing a large number of speaking appointments and some of our oceanmasters will be working the conference as Conference Associates in disturbingly bright t-shirts.  I'm not looking forward to waking up at dawn each day for a week, but everything else about volunteering is terribly exciting.

This year, the conference will be even bigger than years previous, and we have expanded into the Moscone South hall, meaning that the conference now takes up all three of the Moscone conference buildings in downtown San Francisco.

While looking through the schedule of sessions and roundtables, one title that jumped out at me was a talk entitled Treat Me like a Lover, which is a lighthearted encouragement to game designers to think of prospective players as people they have to woo.  According to the little blurb summarizing the talk's material, "pretending the player is a prospective lover will improve your design."  (Apparently spam companies are really into this talk too, judging from the amount of John Thomas enlargement e-mail that I get at my puzzlepirates.com e-mail address.)

I mean this in the nicest possible way, but I really, really don't think of Puzzle Pirates players as prospective lovers.  I'm sure that they're more comfortable with me that way, too.

Allegorically of course, this talk makes sense in that you want the game you design to be responsive, approachable, and pleasantly surprising.  Still, the image of romance makes me think of monogamy, and one thing I do not think any game has any right to expect from most of its players is for them to never play any other games.

Raph Koster wrote an interesting blog post about this a few months ago, wondering why games aren't designed more like the "third place"- that is, a community gathering place outside of work and home.  Instead, most games seem to be designed to draw in customers and keep them there as long as possible with complicated hooks and quests.  Indeed, one might think of some games as shopping malls with entry fees, selling power ups and other game items at every turn for profit in addition to trying to keep the customer inside as long as possible.

Do U.S. game designers lack experience with a third space from which to draw inspiration?  Is Puzzle Pirates any different than the casino or mall experience, with its convoluted passages and array of colors and lights?  Can the third place be something we establish online with new social and "player created content" type games?

I'm confused, but I'm starting to wonder if I should go to this talk to see what it's about.

Cake Roll

Ahoy there, mates!  Today we celebrate artist Blackhat making another successful trip 'round the sun with some delicious cake.  Cake! o/  We have also posted not one, but two winners of Round Two of the Grand Crafting Puzzle Project, a player run co-operative project to design and create prototypes of Puzzle Pirates crafting puzzles.  Congratulations to the winners, Platy and Haddock!  The post about the winners can be found here and the games can be played for free, along with many others, on Game Gardens.

Last week we had another of our Three Rings game nights, which was marked with traditional board games, delicious gyros, and the new-fangled delight of Rock Band!

I like Rock Band.  I don't often get hooked on console or computer games, the most notable exceptions in (fairly) recent history being Viva Pi?┬▒ata and, well, Puzzle Pirates.

Rock Band draws me in because it's a game for a group of up to four people, and in the apartment I live in, there are four residents.  One person wants to be the guitarist, one wants to be bassist, and well, two of us want to be the drummer, but we take turns so it works out all right.

The co-operative elements are woven in quite well. For example, if you don't do well and you fail on your instrument, one of your bandmates can activate his stored bonus energy and bring you back into the game.  The exception to this otherwise tight-knit gameplay seems to be the vocalist.  I'm not sure what causes this, but on the occasions that some of us have taken turns on the microphone, we've felt very isolated from the rest of the instruments.  As I have never been in a real band, I do not know if this is representative of the real band experience, or something that is made up for with crowd interaction.

The game has also brought me face-to-face with the selling power and possibilities of free downloads and movies.  Each week, new songs are released to download and play on the Rock Band platform.  So far as the music of this game is concerned, I am a bit of a cultural black hole.  I have heard of some of the groups featured, but I have never heard any of the songs.  Every week when the downloaded songs are listed, the roommates and I troop over to YouTube to listen to the songs a number of times and decide whether they sound like fun and should be purchased or not.

Does anybody else fall into this category?  For example, I can never decide if I like a music album on the first listen.  I either stream or download/borrow the album from a friend first, and listen to entire thing several times over a period of weeks and if it sinks in and I really dig the band, I buy it.  Future purchases may be made in faith if I have consistently like the band/group's work, but I would never get into new musicians if it weren't for digital media/friends.  Well, mostly digital media.

I know that when we switched to the unlimited trial time in Puzzle Pirates (this was before the doubloon model caught fire), I was enthused because I figured it would give people who are take their time making up their minds about something (like I do!) a chance to really try the game out.

Numbers have been going around comparing the success of Rock Band to Guitar Hero 3, which is an ActiVision rather than Harmonix creation.  (From what little I've seen of it, my personal opinion is that it is the weakest of the series.)  I think that the games fundamentally will appeal to different groups.  If I were a teenager living at home, I would far more likely get Guitar Hero than Rock Band.  The higher price tag of Rock Band and the multiple peripherals I might not all be playing would make it mighty unattractive as a holiday gift were I asking parents/guardians to purchase it.  Rock Band seems more likely be purchased by adults with full time jobs, more disposable incomes, and residences of their own where they can have friends over.

A word to the noise-conscious, though: while they are nowhere near the level of sound that an actual drum kit can produce, the drum peripherals can make a fair amount of noise on their own.  This is very relevant in areas like the densely populated San Francisco, where you are far more likely to be living in an apartment than in a ground-floor house of your own.  Speaking for myself, the drum peripheral setup we have at home is atop some thickly padded quilts to muffle the foot pedal for our downstairs neighbors, and I've grown accustomed to going to sleep to the sound of drum tapping carrying clearly through the apartment to the back room.

Bluebeard and I had taken to enthusiastically playing the drums during lunch here at Three Rings, until we found out that the tapping carried clearly to the front room, where it was distracting other folks trying to work.  One of the funnier moments last week was when I ran into a fellow who works for Slide, who occupy the office one floor below us.  I apologized if they'd heard any tapping on the ceiling during lunch or after hours as we'd just gotten the Rock Band peripherals set up, only to have him confess that their office had just gotten the same game, and were going to ask us if they were creating too much noise.

At any rate, it's a lot of fun, though if I lived on my own, I would likely buy the game separately and the drum peripheral when it comes out, and Drum Hero my way to smashy oblivion.  Having popped into Guitar Center to try out our tapping skills on actual drum kits, Hermes and I feel confident in saying that they translate rather well!  I can easily tap a 4/4 beat and I can drumroll.

And that brings us, via a very windy, roundabout route, to this week's question from Domokun of Sage:

"Do any of the Ringers have other secret talents?"

Watermelon Sucker

Another week, another blog post!

The last week went by unusually fast. I don't know if it was the addition of the Technical Issues forum to my daily forum checks, the latest Ice (testing) release (which I didn't really have anything to do with, as the developers here did all of the work), or the arrival of the awesomest lollipop ever. The lollipop is from the ever-generous Rom of Cobalt, creator of the watermelon egg furniture item. I'm not sure whether I can eat it or not. It's too pretty, as well as being amazingly in theme.

In office decoration news, we've outgrown the original letter wall, and the limited wallspace around the corner, so we're now invading the hallway that leads to the office doors. (The snowman ornament, sent in by Camelama of Midnight, is incredibly soft. You can see more pictures of the pirate snowmen in her flickr set.) If we get enough letters up to line the halls, we'll have to add it to the Nautilus tour when folks come by.

On to this week's set of Odin's Burning Questions!

Today's blog questions brought to you by Piplicus, of Midnight:

"What's been the most interesting piece of correspondence from a player you've read?

Have you ever played any office jokes on Cleaver (or any other staff, for that matter), like barricading the secret door shut?"

Answer: I have a very hard time choosing from among the letters, e-mails, and petitions I've received. Working in customer service means that you work with extremes of the spectrum and lots of folks in between, meaning I have dealt with some folks that make me tear at my hair, some that move me so much that I sniffle whenever I think about them, and some that make me laugh every time I think of them. I'll do my best to cite some that I don't feel give out too much personal information.

My favorite banplea e-mail, hands down, encountered to this day is still the one that read in its entirety: "pleas off my bun. my username is *******. very pleas off my bun."

My favorite personal e-mails are ones from players whose lives have somehow been touched by Puzzle Pirates. I have gotten e-mails from married couples who first met and became friends in the game, then fell in love, and in some cases, moved halfway across the world to be with one another. I've gotten a few e-mails from people with medical conditions who find that our game helps them cheer up and to sometimes forget about the pain that they're in.

I also get e-mails from teenagers and young folks who have found that the community here and the Internet in general have expanded their horizons and allowed them to meet many people from different places and befriend them. That always makes me smile, because one of the most amazing things about the Internet to me is its ability to connect us and make the world smaller, and to confront us with our differences (and to ideally teach us to tolerate, or at least not be afraid of them.) I like mixing education in with my entertainment.

It's certainly harder to grind your teeth at the 8th person who spams you with tells begging for a free familiar and 10 million pieces of eight (he won't tell anyone. don't worry. please. please. please. please. please please please. please. please. please. please. plesasepealse. ... SCUPPER OF. i hat u. om.) because he thinks he's the only person to have ever had the brilliant idea to ask an oceanmaster for a secret fortune when you have an enthusiastic letter that came with a money order for some doubloons sitting on your desk.

I've been petitioned everything from gameplay questions to frantic petitions asking me to help find invisible tomato pets. I get lots of invites to come and check out homes that pirates are proud of, and to to come on pillages and Atlantis runs. Now and again, we get winners that we share with one another, usually to figure out what the petitioner is asking and how best to respond, but sometimes because the petitions are just little poems by themselves:

Hi I remeamber that my dad got a call frome the mom of.I think creators of puzzle pirates and she said that her kids where in the basment runing puzzle pirates and umm I was like wundering if like I cud some how work for puzzle pirates

As for practical jokes, I get shot by Cephalopod a lot. That's about it.

Keep 'em coming, folks!

2008! Awaken and Sleipnir no more!

A new year!  Three Rings bursts into full steam today, as our office reopened.  We were down a few folks today who are still wending their way homeward after a good holiday of friends and family, but overall, it was a good kick-start for January.

The first thing that needed to be addressed?  The mail pileup over the last several days.

The next was ending the Reindeer Games winter competition, or as it was called in various petitions that I received over the last few weeks, "compitition", "compotition", "compation", "compinteoin", and "Compataoin".  This end of the competition meant I got to add another nice loser trophy/trinket to my player character's collection.  Does anybody else out there always seem to end up on the dead last team?  Random, my immortal toe.

Third, as it is showing up on the news but isn't always there (it's in random rotation), I'm reminding everybody that the white tigers and winter furniture are going away on the 9th of January, so tell all of your friends, in case they're confused/wondering.

In flickr, we've added another small set of OOO holiday dinner pictures, which was held at the tucked-away and delicious Two restaurant, only a few blocks away from Three Rings.  They are mostly dark as the restaurant was not really the place to be setting off weird bright flashes.  It was delicious and many drinks were consumed.  The Cap'n (who updated his blog) made a small speech.

While we were sitting at dinner chatting away, I also heard a cool story from Peghead about how he got his name.  Years ago, when they were designing Puzzle Pirates and they were trying to determine what would distinguish the NPPs from human player characters, he came up with giving all of the bots big, wooden peg heads!  It would be distinctive and cute!  It didn't make the final cut, and now NPPs all display the two word white names that we see every day, but he still liked the idea, and named his character Peghead in honor of it.  Now you know.

Lastly, to start off the new year, Odin's Burning Fury (and Questions!) posted on the day we have named for him!

This week, the questions I am answering come from Shannal, on Midnight:

Question: How often do all of you actually play the game and puzzle?

Answer: I personally log in around once a day.  While I'm not super active, I work at shoppes (I have grown quite fond of the Ironmongery puzzle) and try to take the time to test out new features, as well as participate in things like competitions.  I'll jump on a pillage or a trade run at least once a week.

For about two to three weeks after Atlantis came out, I was addicted to Puzzle Pirates all over again.  It was great- I was racing home after 8 hours of working on things related to Puzzle Pirates at the office to boot up the laptop and get in an hour or two of turtle bashing, Bellator stabbing fun.  I don't think I'd been that hooked on the game since I discovered tailor racks in 2003.

Question: What's your favourite puzzle?

Answer: Carpentry was the only duty puzzle that I understood for a long time.  I was something like Legendary in it and Distinguished in everything else.  Nowadays I mostly stick to Ironmongery, which is relaxing, and Bilge, because it's very quick to build up to Incredible and I can play it for a few leagues at a time during lunch while I'm checking articles or other things online.

Question: Which puzzle do you despise and which developer do you have a grudge against for creating it? 

Answer: Oh god, the puzzle that gives me the most trouble by far is Alchemistry.  I really, honestly try my best to get a good head of experience in all puzzles and games, because I think that's the only way you'll understand a lot of the petitions that come in from folks asking about the minutae or rules of them, but Alchemistry just evades my comprehension and stands there pointing and laughing at me.  I can fill maybe one bottle at a time.  Those exclamations and terms that people talk about when they talk about doing that puzzle?  Never seen 'em.  I don't think I have once gotten anything above Fine, and it's usually more like Poor.

I don't have a grudge against any developer for the puzzle (I think this puzzle was Red's work, actually, and he was gone before I started to work here.)  I think this is just another example of the developers making really strategic, logical-type puzzle stuff that I am just no good at analyzing and breaking down at all.

Question: Do you wear shoes when at work or do you go around in your sock feet?

Answer
: I have been known to pad about in my socks in the office, though it makes me notice how very tall (over 6 feet) a lot of the folks that work here are.

(To submit questions for consideration, please post in this thread in the blog forum!)

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