Category Archives: MMO

I backed Crowfall… but have you?

Crowfall_CallTheBannersConcept

TL;DR – In case you do not want to read my excessively long ramble, go check out the Crowfall Kickstarter.

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If you’re reading this shortly after I published it, there is less than 24 hours left in the Kickstarter Campaign for the upcoming MMO entitled Crowfall by ArtCraft Entertainment. They have, by far, exceeded the initial goal of $800,000 and may potentially double that by the time it ends so there are no concerns about them not having the funding. But I’m probably getting ahead of myself…. you may be wondering what Crowfall even is.

There is of course a description on the official site that you can read but my quick take on Crowfall is that it is an MMO that is blending MOBA and RTS experiences with the persistence of a traditional MMO. You have your character who lives in the “Eternal Kingdoms” which don’t go away (MMO) but you have these other worlds that are like a mix of a RTS and a MOBA which are not permanent but like an extended campaign or raid. If you play League of Legends, for example, your “Summoner” is your main character while the match you’re playing is more like the campaign. Sorta. The RTS side of things comes in more with the world building and sieging. You know what, instead of me failing at describing the game, I’d recommend checking out their overview video for the Kickstarter:

Now that I have that out of the way, back to my point. So I backed Crowfall. I did it early on (within the first few days) at the Bronze Patron level but after a few weeks, increased that to the Amber Patron level. If you look on my Kickstarter account, you’ll see I don’t back much and, when I do, I generally back it around the price of what I’d pay for the game at retail. Basically I keep my investment where I show support of the game but wouldn’t really lose more than I would if I bought a game at the store, played it, and realized I didn’t like it.

Anyone who knows me, knows I can be a little jaded and grumpy. I’ve sat on both sides of the fence as a gamer and a game developer and it’d be fair to say I have become a casual MMO’er. I haven’t really found one that has caught my attention long-term in the same way the Ultima Online, or Everquest, or Shadowbane did. Not to say I haven’t played a ton of them, but usually it is a few months here and there and then I drop out for a while or permanently. But there is something about Crowfall that is making the fanboi in me get a little sunshine which is why I increased my backing.

I will point out I’m biased. I’ve worked with some of the developers at ArtCraft on other projects. Gordon I just worked with while at BioWare for Star Wars: The Old Republic (and yes, I still italicize that… hard habit to break!) and Todd actually is the one who gave me my break into the game industry at Wolfpack Studios on Shadowbane almost 15 years ago (where does the time go?!).

For me, Crowfall goes a bit deeper than just wanting to support my friends and colleagues, though. You can see more than a little bit of influence of Shadowbane in Crowfall and I spent 8 years of my life on that game. Actually more if you count the time I built a guild (The Fallen) for it and worked on a fan site (anyone remember SBVault) before getting the job offer. I loved the concept of Shadowbane and wanted to see it become a reality so I have a lot of blood, sweat, and tears wrapped up in that.

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But Crowfall isn’t Shadowbane nor is it Shadowbane 2. It is Crowfall. And as a game by itself, I think it has a lot to offer both MMO players and the industry. I’ve become bored with a lot of MMOs because most of them are very themepark oriented and, the truth of the matter is, I’d rather play an RPG with multiplayer and some friends than a themepark MMO. When it comes to an MMO, I want something where I can leave my mark on the world. Where my actions have influenced it and when I come onto someone’s radar, it is generally a “whew, thank goodness” or “crap, it’s that damn Ashen Temper”. Y’know, like Cheers. But with swords and sorcery. And fighting. For me, it is all about the social dynamics and I want an MMO that supports that.

I would love for the industry to learn that making a cookie cutter of the “king of MMOs” isn’t necessary and that competitive player-vs-player combat (for a reason) in an open world can be successful when done right. Currently, the only MMO that truly shows that is Eve Online although there are various graves of MMOs that tried and didn’t have the longevity for one reason or another. And I know at least back when I was assisting with game design pitches, investors and publishers were wary of PvP games… they wanted a WoW-killer. In my opinion, you don’t have to be a WoW-killer to be successful.

So why am I writing this long post (and thank you for anyone who actually made it this far… we all know I can ramble)? Crowfall has made its initial goal and many stretch goals. The stretch goal I really wanted they have already met (the Caravan system) although I will admit, it would be nice to get another rule-set (the Infected) and the Tournament system. But I’m here hoping to bring some last minute visibility to those of you who may not have been keeping up with the game or you haven’t even heard of it and it is something up your alley that you’d like to see succeed. And, let’s be frank, making an MMO is not cheap. So while they have met their goals, it’s not like the support won’t help in multiple ways.

Do I have concerns? Of course I do. I already said I’m jaded and grumpy. I listen to a few podcasts about the game and when they get a little overly fanboi, I do cringe a bit (shout-out to Crowns And Crows and Gold And Glory). But I also know Todd and Gordon and other members of the team and I give them more than the benefit of the doubt. And I’m biased. Someday when my daughter is off to college and I can be more frivolous with my money, I want to get back into game design. And my dream has always been to create an MMO where player actions matter. So having more than one MMO out there that proves they can be successful is great because it gives me something to play and shows it can be done when done right.

So my long ramble made short is this — go check out Crowfall and if it looks like something you’d buy, go ahead and back it. The $36 or $40 backings are actually great because they are cheaper than the base game ($50). And since they have already met the 13K Backer stretch goal, you’ll get a free month of VIP Membership which, going by industry standards now is about $15. So for $36, you are getting a $65 value. And that doesn’t count the extra land parcels for those of you who like city building (the 14.5 Backer stretch goal). And if you’re someone who likes to help out in testing, the $100 backing gets you into Alpha 3 where your efforts and voice may hold more weight. Anyways, check it out!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/crowfall/crowfall-throne-war-pc-mmo

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Shadowbane Lore

So, I’ve been terrible with keeping this site up to date or even getting it into working order initially. Due to some of the fun I’ve been having participating in the Crowfall community, though, it’s forced me to start adding some of the old Shadowbane stuff I have. Which is why you will see a Shadowbane Vault in my main navigation. Right now it just has some of the music and lore but there is still a ton to add.

So if you’re a fan of some great lore, I’d definitely recommend checking it out: Shadowbane Vault.

Initial Impressions of Dungeons & Dragons Neverwinter

As you can see to the side, I’ve played a few hours of Cryptic’s new Dungeons & Dragons Neverwinter which is published by Perfect World. Early access started on April 25th for “Heroes of the North” which looks to have cost about $199, April 27th for “Guardians of Neverwinter“, and on April 30th for non-Founders. I am part of the latter category and didn’t start until April 3rd.

For a little context, I did not really keep up much with the development of this game and, as of writing this, I’ve only put in about 4 hours so this is really just first impressions for me. I was surprised to see only a few classes. Right now there is the Rogue, Guardian, Wizard, Cleric, and Fighter. There looks to be at least another one “coming soon” but there seem to be a few missing so unsure what it is. Bard, Druid, Ranger, Sorcerer, etc. I’ve only just hit Level 13 so maybe there is some form of multiclassing that goes on to create your own archetypes and the first 6 are just base classes.

I decided to go with a Half-Elf “Trickster Rogue” named Tarrant the Pale on the Mindflayer server. You customize your character a bit and then choose what city you come from (unsure if the latter is just flavor or will lead to something more).

If you want to go straight to my opinions, just click here.

The Walkthrough

The beginning starts simple enough and is there just to teach you the general mechanics – moving, looting, equipping. I did find it odd that the first scene on the beach the elf didn’t move his mouth… but they do later. Not a big thing, but just weird.

You get normal quests, they will tell it to you but you can also read it. The voice acting isn’t bad. No Jennifer Hale but I’ve heard worse (a lot worse). The walkthrough is going from the beach where you wash-up to fight your way to the city via the bridge. It’s pretty linear and easy to do but I imagine this part of the game is just to get you familiar with the mechanics and flavor of the game.

The City

Once you make it across the bridge, you make it into the first major hub of the game (or maybe its the only one, unsure at this time). It is that time it become apparent that it’s an MMO. Or, at least that you’re playing with a lot of people. More on my thoughts of the “MMO” part further down.

You get a few delivery quests but the first real quest line I got was the “Theft of the Crown” where you first try to save the crown (and fail) and then are being led through other zones in pursuit of the crown.

I was expecting to get stealth early on but didn’t get it till I think Level 10. Your initial abilities are pretty much combat oriented. You have a general slash, throwing knives (of sorts), a blink into the air and then hit people for above (sometimes dazing them), a blink behind them, and then this big dagger-like spell that pierces the entire side of the targets body. You also get a special and the first one you have access to is essentially blinking around the battlefield stabbing people for a short duration. You can find my second play session on Twitch.

I participated in a few skirmishes which look to be an instanced “protect the hill” kind of adventure. Essentially you and a few people must hold a location against a few waves of creatures. It’s a quick-fun kind of thing if you want to play with some people.

Player vs Player

I also tried out PvP. Wasn’t great at it but I did’t completely fail…

I popped in at I believe Level 12 and had it increased to Level 19. My guess is they are done in brackets and everyone is pushed up to the top level of that bracket to make it a little more level/fair. The map I played in felt very much like the domination maps in Unreal Tournament, but with less hold points. You essentially had yours, a middle one, and theirs. And why it reminds me more of UT than WoW is for the simple fact that it would say “Your team dominates” so often.

Your team spawns in at once side, the other team on the other side, and you butt heads in the middle for the most of it. I didn’t know anyone on my team and wasn’t using VoIP so I didn’t coordinate very well. For the most part, I would try to jump in on the target my team was trying to kill and then would find myself being the focus of a fight (which isn’t a good thing when you’re a rogue). You get points for holding an area and the first to I believe 1,000 points wins. At the end, a score board would come up and show how well (or bad) everyone did. The fight ran about 15 minutes and it was simple fun.

My General Opinions

So far, I haven’t paid a cent. Had a paid $60 (or $200), I might not like the game as much. But considering I didn’t have any cost of entry and haven’t felt like I’ve had to pay to compete, it’s been a fun game. The art is not amazing but it does give me the old Neverwinter Nights look ‘n’ feel-ing. The sounds aren’t bad at all (I turn down my music so I can’t speak much to that). I like the Races they offer to start with (yeah, you can’t be a Drow right now unless you fork over the $200 but you do get it in a few months) although I did find the class selection to be limited.

If they were “base classes”, I could understand it but I haven’t really seen a system for real diversity in the long-term. Sure, you can train up your abilities with each level but even then, you seem to be gated on those. You can train them up to Level 2 and cannot get up to Level 3 until you’ve spent X enough of points… but at Level 14, I see to have all of my skills trained up to Level 2 so far. You also start to access feats at around Level 10 and you get three lines for that but they seem to be bonuses, not changes in play style. Maybe it gets more limiting or diversity at higher levels but right now, not seeing it.

Maybe that is when the Paragon Trees come into play. I see I can be a Saboteur, Scoundrel, or Executioner but haven’t been able to spend anything in them yet. It looks like I need to spend 20 or more points in my feats till I can so maybe it shows up around Level 30 or so.

The combat is fun. For the most part, I start a getting the group [of baddies] all in front of me and “Dazing Strike” the lot of them then basic attack (“Sly Flourish”) them. If one is a caster or someone with a special attack, right before the do it, I “Deft Strike” and blink behind them so it misses me. When the target warrants it, I do pull out the “Lashing Blade” which essentially is a big direct damage. And when there is a big fight, I use “Lurker Assault” which does extra damage and lets me use stealth more or I swap in “Bloodbath” where I flash around slashing targets. It’s fast-paced, you get to use some tactics and strategies for certain targets.

The one thing I don’t really understand is why is this an MMO? I mean, I do see people running around and I know I’m not the only one playing. I’m just unsure why this was made into an MMO instead of more of a lobby-type game. I like the skirmishes and PvP so far, but again, easily done in a lobby mode. And I’d like to group up with some friends, but again, could of been done in a lobby. I’ve yet to see why this is instead a persistent world. Then again, I guess I could say the same about a lot of MMOs as of late. They feel more like massively single-player games (yes, I do realize the irony in me saying that).

Overall, I think this is just a fun little action RPG. I could see me playing this with my daughter or a few friends. Not something I’d go all hardcore MMO into, but I can see myself playing it when I have a little downtime. I will probable end up spending a little cash just to see if it makes a difference but, so far in that aspect, it feels a lot like GW2 were I never felt like I had to spend real money (which is an issue with some F2P where you pretty much need to).

I’ll probably post a few more videos and maybe another update when I’m deeper into the game. But if you have the free time and looking to dabble into something new, I recommend checking it out (but I’d play before buying any of the packs):

http://nw.perfectworld.com/download

The Camelot Unchained Kickstarter


About a month ago, the Camelot Unchained Kickstarter launched. You can read the Kickstarter page or the official website if you’re unfamiliar with it but here’s the not-so-quick blurb:

City State Entertainment, led by online game pioneer and Mythic Entertainment founder Mark Jacobs and code guru and CSE co-founder Andrew Meggs, needs your support to make the next great Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) for the PC and select tablets (stretch goal dependent). As one of the very early online gaming developers (circa mid-1980s) and the creative driver behind Dark Age of Camelot®, Mark has seen online games grow from an unloved, mostly ignored part of the industry to a major driving force. He believes the time is right once again for a small, barely known studio to craft a title that can compete in today’s market, just as in 1999 when Mythic Entertainment began work on Dark Age of Camelot.

Camelot Unchained takes one part classic legends, adds a twisty little apocalyptic passage, and mixes in a whole batch of creativity to birth not just another “me and my WoW-clone”, but a unique RvR-focused MMORPG. It is against the backdrop of an almost unrecognizable world that our game unfolds, and as a player of Camelot Unchained, you can expect the following:

  • Camelot Unchained is a subscription-based, RvR-focused MMORPG. RvR is an acronym for Realm vs. Realm® (this term is a registered trademark of Electronic Arts), which we call TriRealm™ for the interaction of the three main realms.
  • The game will feature RvR-based leveling tracks for all classes. No PROGRESSION VIA PvE (player vs. environment), loot drops or other such systems are currently planned. All leveling will come from engaging in the game’s RvR-based systems, whether by fighting other players, capturing objectives, and/or crafting objects to help in RvR. There will be NPCs but you cannot use them to level your character.
  • You will have the choice of playing any realm on each of the game’s servers except that you may play only characters from the same realm on any single server. In other words, one server = one realm.

Considering my background in MMO gaming and the fact that I enjoyed Dark Ages of Camelot (DAoC) and would of played more of it if I wasn’t so invested in Shadowbane, this one became a no-brainer for me. I started to follow the updates and figured I’d help fund it before the last day came along.

The other day, I got a Google Alert for a mention of Shadowbane on VG24/7 which was for the article “Camelot Unchained: surviving the freemium apocalypse” where a nice nod was given to Shadowbane (hey, for all its faults, it was hella fun!):

“It’s really a question of looking at Camelot, looking at other RvR games – whether it’s Guild Wars 2 or Shadowbane – and other games that have come out across the last 20 years of MMOs and go, ‘OK, what things are in these games that frankly, we don’t want to see in our game? What things can we improve on and what do we want to expand on, given a pure RvR setting?’

It was more so a nice article to remind me that I hadn’t backed it yet. So I went over to it and, I have to admit, I was quite surprised when I saw they didn’t make their goal yet. By T-1 I figured they would be well into stretch goals, especially considering the fact that they had so many backers within the first 24 hours. In fact, within the first 8 hours, they passed the $500,000 mark!

I’m obviously interested in the gameplay and a fan of the genre (being MMO) but it wasn’t just that which made me think they’d be past the set goal by now. First, Dark Ages of Camelot was very successful and much loved so figured they’d get a lot from that. Mark Jacobs isn’t necessarily an unknown in the industry (much the opposite). They did a great job of getting that groundswell well before the Kickstarter even launched. Piquing people’s interests with teaser videos, letting out little snippets here and there, basically just getting a good amount of buzz before it even started. And the goal itself wasn’t lofty. Two million to make an MMO isn’t really that much when you think of how much goes into it and when they originally launched, I wondered why they set it so low (considering all of the above).

But here we are, 21 hours before the Kickstarter concludes and it is only at $1,883,318. Is it still doable? Definitely. A good surge of backers can easily get them over the next $117,000 or so they need to fund it.

My question to everyone, though, is why isn’t it as successful (at least as I thought it would be)? And my interest isn’t just in this but also in games getting crowd-sources (especially MMOs). If you didn’t back (and happen to be one who would back a Kickstarter), why not? Didn’t know about the Kickstarter in the first place? Not a fan of the concept? Tired of MMOs? Too many dragons?

Update: And look at that; 19 hours to go and they already passed their goal with $2,023,462 pledged!

[imgcenter]http://www.seandahlberg.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=89&d=1367431874[/imgcenter]

And the next chapter begins

Last week it was announced that I no longer work for Stray Bullet Games. At that point, I wasn’t sure if I could announce where I’d be working next and figured it would be better to err on the side of caution.

Well, today was my first day and it was confirmed that I could spill the beans. My current position is as the Community Manager at BioWare Austin. Yes, the very same BioWare Austin that was announced to be working on an MMO some time back.

What exactly is the MMO? Obviously, until an official announcement is released, I can’t say. So don’t ask. And yes, even those of you who have already asked via private messages, emails, and IMs… no, I won’t tell you on there either. Sooner or later, the official announcement will be made but in the meanwhile, I’m not even going to attempt to drop any hints. I will say that I am very excited about this and it is one of the very few opportunities that would even have me consider (much less follow through on) leaving Stray Bullet Games.

That’s all folks.

The Death of Ashen Temper

For those of you just tuning it, today it was announced that I have left Stray Bullet Games, LLC. Also, if you’re into Shadowbane lore or even just a good story, Sam aka Meridian published the first part of the Death of Ashen Temper.

Today has been very surreal so far. Many of the people at Stray Bullet Games I’ve known for years and years and they are so much more than co-workers but all also my friends. Shadowbane itself has been in my life for over eight years and its funny to think back of when I was playing Ultima Online (Pacific Shard) and Everquest (Rallos Zek) and heard of this crazy game called Carnage.net that morphed into Shadowbane. I was so intrigued by the game that I helped moderate the unofficial Shadowbane Forums on Stratics and then later ran the Shadowbane Vault on the IGN Network. Since then, I’ve been the Community Manager, Event Team Lead, and even headed up design on this immense labor of love. I have shed a lot of sweat, tears, and blood over this game. Granted, I’ll still be playing the game, much more openly even, but it won’t be the same.

Monday will start a new chapter in my life. But before moving ahead, I want to take a moment to thank the people who have helped me get here. First and foremost would actually have to be Todd “Warden” Coleman who, for some crazy reason, took in a U.S. Marine and let him (aka me) run the community for the Shadowbane. Also Frank “Kellion” Lucero, Mike “Ramsie” Madden, and Damion “Ubiq” Schubert for seeing the potential within me and taking a chance at directing the future of Shadowbane. There are a a plethora of people I’d love to thank that I’ve met over the years. Chris “Vosx” Mancil, Danielle “Sachant” Vanderlip, Brian “Xanther” Lucas, Jeff “Ashton Kai” Tony, and soooo many others. And of course, if I don’t mention Morigor, she might actually “PK me IRL”. I could easily turn this post into a CD cover (y’know, the music ones that people use to buy back in the day where the artists would thank EVERYONE). But I won’t. I will say that there isn’t a single person I have had the pleasure of working with that I haven’t taken something away from.

Where am I going? I’m not really at liberty to say quite yet. I will say that I am remaining in the Austin area, though. I love this city and not much will tear me away from it in the near future.

Why? Let me clear up any rumors before they start; I am a firm supporter and believer of not only Stray Bullet Games but also the product they are creating. It is a fantastic company and I would highly recommend it to anyone. I hold no ill will whatsoever and, truth be told, everyone there I consider a good friend. No, this is about me and my growth in the profession I have chosen.

I was presented with a fantastic opportunity that would take my career to the next level. The easy road would be for me to stay at Stray Bullet Games but I’m not the kind of person who takes the easy road; I’m the kind that will take a challenge if it will help me grow.

I truly wish the best to everyone at Stray Bullet Games; not that they need it. They are not only a company with a wealth of knowledge, talent, and skill but also are also thinking of games as they should be done… They want to make games that are fun to play, first and foremost. Some would say that is obvious but I would disagree.

Well, its time for this to go live; the announcements are about to go up. And maybe its because I’m biased, but if you haven’t read Meridian’s post on the “Death of Ashen Temper“, you really should.

Africa: E3 2006 Preview

While at E3 2006, I had the opportunity to sit down with Tracy Spaight of Rapid Reality thanks to MMORPG.com. After being fashionably late with my write-up, Dana posted it as quickly as possible. Here’s a short excerpt:

Having a strong Shadowbane background, I brought up the question of what will happen if a large guild comes in and exerts a large area of influence against other players, basically becoming the dominant force of that world? Tracy explained that one way to combat this behavior is that their Non-Player Characters (NPCs) will actually be smart! When I asked what exactly he meant by that, he explained they would be using a dynamic artificial intelligence and that NPC kingdoms can (and will) use real-time strategies against player guilds! When I tried to dig a little deeper into the technical jargon, though, Tracy told me I would have to talk to Adam Ghetti, the Senior Creative Director and Co-Founder of Rapid Reality. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to corner him for details.

You can read the entire article on MMORPG.com or on my site. And yes, I did notice that my article was Feature #666… and you thought all of those evil things Sachant says about me were lies! Of course, I also noticed what Dana said in his introduction to the article: Guest Writer Sean Dahlberg, the Community Manager of Shadowbane (watch carefully for his plug)… what can I say, being a virtual pimp for the games I work on is in the job description!

To Rule An Empire

Instead of featuring my crazy ideas on here, MMORPG.com put up an editorial by me entitled To Rule An Empire. Here’s a snippet:

In today’s online gaming market, player affiliations have become immensely popular. This is particularly true in the massively multiplayer online (MMO) gaming portion. I can remember back to the days when one of the first MMOs launched called Ultima Online was initially released. Players could purchase a “Guild Stone” and plant it in player-owned housing to form a guild, which is the most common term for a collection of players. With this Guild Stone, players could invite other players to join their guild, assign titles to each one, and declare war against other player-run guilds. That was almost ten years ago.
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Today, MMOs are vastly more complex than their first generation forefathers. The graphics alone are light years ahead of what we had with the original Ultima Online and Meridian 59. Server architecture has advanced as well, allowing virtual worlds to allow more players to connect simultaneously. Even chat and communication systems have become more elaborate; allowing players to send private messages to each other, communicate globally with but a few keystrokes, and create their own custom channels.

You can check out the full article.

Shadowbane Virtual Fan Gathering

Some time ago, the Shadowbane Community Team was working on the prospect of having a fan gathering around the same time as the Austin Game Conference. Due to the fact that Wolfpack Studios will be closing on May 15th, 2006, this will no longer occur. With less than a month until that date becomes a reality, it would be near impossible to coordinate and publicize such an event, much less work on a zero budget for it.

Of course, we would like to have kind of final farewell to all of our players. We are contemplating doing something in-game but Sachant came up with the crazy, yet fantastic idea of doing a little get together in another virtual world with a game called Second Life. Second Life is a privately owned, subscription based (although you can have a free account with limitations; I’ve been playing on the free account for a month and having some fun) massively-multiplayer online real-life game. Second Life gives its users tools to add to and edit its world and participate in its economy. The majority of the content in the Second Life world is resident-created. It is basically an interactive chat room crossed with Sims and can be highly addictive.

Why in Second Life? Well, we want to do something more like a fanfest or gathering and not have everyone crammed into Sea Dog’s Rest. In Second Life, we can play music, hang around and talk with people, and just be somewhat our normal selves (at least normal for some of us, heh). And, I must point out, it’s for free (unless you upgrade to a premium account). We have already made some Play 2 Crush and Shadowbane T-Shirts (also the mysterious Meridian Throne of Oblivion shirt). It will basically be a social gathering and our target date is May 13th since some of us will be out on Friday night and Sunday we hope to do things in Shadowbane.

If you are interested, check out and download Second Life here [link removed]. If you sign up, feel (more than) free to refer either myself (ashen at ashentemper.com – fixed to repel nasty spiders!) or Sachant (Sachant at gmail.com – fixed to repel nasty spiders!). If you’re into making your own art and animations, Second Life might be right up your alley.

If you are interested or want to know more, feel free to post a reply to this thread. Also, make sure to check out my crazy question of the week here [link removed] (sorry, only registered users can access this).