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MMOOH – MMOs On Hold

Staggering Stories PodcastWhere does all the time go? Certainly not into MMOs, not for the past few weeks anyway. In fact it has been 3 weeks today since I sat down and played World of Warcraft on my own. I just don’t have time for messing about with computer games right now. That being the case, I’ve let my City of Heroes account expire. I still have a few weeks left on my 60 day WoW time card and it remains to be seen if I will have located any missing time by that point to resub with a new time card. I suspect it will wait a further few weeks after that, though.

So, where has that time gone? Taking this week as an example, then. Last night, Monday, had me shifting kit and furniture to prepare for a podcast recording. Yes, that recording should be tonight – the first proper Staggering Stories podcast. So that’s tonight, Tuesday. Assuming that happens okay then tomorrow, Wednesday, will see our first attempt to edit together the three audio tracks (each recorded on a different machine, one per podcast host). By rights I should be somewhere around East Grinstead on Thursday but I’ve not heard confirmation of that. That leaves Friday, which is normally the day the gang come over for fun and games! So, not a single evening this week free for MMOs. Okay, there’s the weekend but most of Sunday is normally out seeing the family (I might have an hour Sunday morning and about two hours Sunday evening, time to catch up on a couple of TV programmes from the week). Saturday is the only real time to do anything around the house, for Staggering Stories (not including the podcast, of course!) or any little projects I have (such as the currently languishing Asterisk project) and, of course, the good chunk of the evening that is taken by Doctor Who, Confidential and Totally Doctor Who (from the previous day – I avoid watching it until after the new Who, so I can watch the trailer at the end!) That’s just this week. The previous few weeks have been similarly hectic. Never a dull moment for me!

Back to the podcast preparations. I’ve installed Audacity on three machines (my Mac Mini, running OS X (no, not necessarily ‘of course’, I did have Ubuntu Linux running on there at one point), my laptop running Fedora Core 6 Linux and the secondary desktop from my computer room running the dread Windows XP (it was dual booting Ubuntu at one point – Ubuntu has never quite convinced me and I keep meaning to set this machine up with a dual boot Fedora)). Several gigabytes needed to be freed up on the Mac Mini and the laptop, running out of space would end the podcast pretty quickly! I had to buy an iMic USB soundcard for the Mac Mini as it hasn’t got audio in. Last night I tried to record with my laptop and found the input record levels very low. I don’t know what can be done about that, if anything. I may have to buy another iMic for the laptop but I certainly don’t have time before tonight’s recording (nowhere in town stocks them, not even the local PC World…) I’ve also got some new headsets, ones with only one ear speaker bit, so at least one of our ears is uncovered to hear what the others are saying clearly (that’s forethought!). I picked up a couple of extra clipboards too, just in case the others want to make notes as we go. All in all I think we are pretty much ready on a technical level (laptop concerns aside).

That all just leaves the mental preparation for the podcast! Getting in a decent state of mind and thinking of things to talk about. Those are the tricky bits. I find myself strangely (and pointlessly) nervous about it the closer it gets. We will have about 3 listeners, maybe 6 at a push! At times like this, having listened to so many hundred podcasts in my time, the pressure is on! Fortunately I listened to the first 20 or so minutes of the first LUGRadio episode the other day and that was ropier than scout badge hell! It will take us a while to get in the swing of things too. Plan for the best show we can do, expect the worst show ever!

Back to the beginning, then. No time to play MMOs, no point paying for them at the moment. If I ever do find some free time I also have several non-MMO PC games to play, most notably Tomb Raider: Anniversary. It’s not all over for MMOs, there will always be the free to play ones: Guild Wars, Dungeon Runners and Space Cowboy!

3 Responses to "MMOOH – MMOs On Hold"

  1. Well, recording is now complete. It was certainly a learning experience!

    We haven’t begun to do any kind of edit yet, in fact we haven’t even listened back to the recorded files. Hopefully we won’t have any nasty surprises on that front… We should be okay, this morning I copied the three folders to a central location and they totalled about 3.1GB of audio data – so we’ve certainly got something there! All in all the technical aspects went very smoothly, my Monday evening wasn’t wasted, getting it all set up and ready to record saved us vital time on the night. In the blog entry I mentioned a concern about recording levels on the laptop. Fortunately last night, before the Tony and Andy arrived, I managed to sort out that issue – it turns out I needed to add the ‘Mic boost’ control to the audio levels mixer applet and give it a click to add that 20db boost.

    So, the technical aspects were okay. The non-technical bits were a little less smooth! We did okay, I think. We didn’t get anything like as many segments done as I expected. Effectively we did two – a discussion on the latest season of Doctor Who and Andy telling us about doing the Staggering Stories artwork (especially the front covers). We must have talked for the best part of an hour on that Doctor Who subject! I think we have a fair bit of editing to do on that one… We’ll have to see how it cuts together but without listening to any of it my initial thoughts for improvement are: we need to lighten up the tone a little, we need to focus on the key points a bit more and we need to even up the amount each of us say! A few comments on those:

    Lightening the tone is difficult. We weren’t deadly serious but we certainly weren’t anything like our normal selves either, that much was obvious as we took a break before recording the outro – the difference in behaviour whilst not wearing the headsets was very noticeable! Mic shyness is part of the issue, so is a natural inclination to be a bit ‘professional’ whilst recording, I think. Normally you might think ‘professional’ is what you want but it just makes you come across more Radio 3 than will work if we actually want people to enjoy listening to us. We weren’t too bad but it can be improved, we just need to get used to it. Another problem is us having to fight our natural urge to butt-in and/or talk over one another. In normal conversation we do this all the time. It’s not really a good idea to talk over someone in a podcast (even if you intend to go to stereo tracks in the final mp3), it just makes it that bit more difficult for people to follow. Not talking over does making it sound a little more stilted, though. That’s going to be a harder nut to crack.

    Focus on key points. During our somewhat rambling Doctor Who conversation I think we could have done with having a few one line notes of things we wanted to say on each episode we were discussing it. Nothing major, just a few ideas to refer to so we don’t end up floundering. “What did you think of the episode 42?” “It was okay…” We didn’t really do a proper pre-recording session, that may have been the time for each of us to put a few thoughts down (not necessarily telling each other, we don’t want to completely destroy the spontaneity). Another option would have been for us to pause or stop the recording between episodes and then think about what we are about to say. Live and learn on this one. We didn’t do too bad, though – just nothing particularly insightful came to us when we were on the spot.

    Evening up how much talking each of us does. A more difficult problem. Andy and I are naturally less talkative than Tony (though Andy less than me – he had an entire segment pretty much to himself!) Give us a microphone and we don’t get any better (possibly slightly worse) but Tony goes the other way – he gets more talkative when a mic is pointed his way! The previous paragraph, better preparation, probably holds the key to solving this problem – each of us prepare our ideas and have them at hand. I don’t think any formal round robin type thing will work, it will just kill the natural flow. Another idea would be for each podcast to have a different person do the intro and outro segments, that might make it seem a little less one person centred.

    That probably all sounds overly critical. It probably is. I await the final edit before passing judgement! Despite the obvious (and inevitable) teething problems I think it actually went really well. Better than I expected, probably not as good as I dreamed but a decent medium between the two. Not a disaster, not a ‘never again’, in fact I feel quite encouraged about continuing. It was fun to do, zero frustration quotient (though I write this pre-edit!) and shows real promise. You’ll all be able to judge for yourselves on the next Staggering Stories update, on the 25th of June 2007.

  2. and me talking too much is bad…why? 😛

    It WAS fun to do….and as we pointed out, we don’t do this for anyone else then ourselves…and as long as we enjoy it that’s all that matters, lol…Yes, its nice if others do too, but we’ve never been under any illusions about Staggering Stories’ content – ‘Saddest site on the net and proud!’. LOL.

  3. Interesting first edit session – once we’d worked out how Audacity worked, that is, LOL….It seems that we have three machines each recording at slightly different speeds – something I thought went out of the window with tape recorders, LOL. So it’s making life slightly tricky with the edit – I have to keep adjusting two of the tracks. I’m using my track, which is centered, as the pacemakers, so to speak. The main reason is that my mic, for some reason, is a bit noisier then the other two and the input was set higher…soemthing we really shouyld have double, or triple checked before we started, tbh…My bad. So I come through slightly distorted. Ah well, we live and learn. Pace is an issue and I’m being very…hmm…severe with the edit to make sure it doesn;t wander off into it’s own little dream world of ums and ers and sentances that go no where. Each one of the three of us is going to loose some of the stuff we’ve said – not in any nasty way, but simply to make the thing move along at a fair ol’ lick. I’m also trying to repair any verbal slips – a bit tricky, but doable. We’ve lost a whole ramble by me on the subject of the Dalek two parter and how the dalek stories of the new series almost match up with the first serials of the original series…an example of a subject getting away from us – or from me, rather.

    So, approx two hours spent working and what do we have to show for it?

    4 minutes of actual feed.

    With about just over an hour’s worth of stoof still to edit. All that plus the musical breaks between subjects etc.

    Im bloody knackered, LOL

    And I’ve now got to go work on the radio show for tonight (20:00uk time – http://www.uberguildsradio.com)

    Still..I think our pilot podcast is actually gonna turn out ok…certainly not the best out there, but by no means the worst. I think we’ll end up quietly proud of it, tbh…..

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