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Dragon Oath Official Developer Blog

Developers of ChangYou's Dragon Oath, the F2P True Martial Arts MMORPG, write about Dragon Oath and the gaming industry. We'll also bring you insights about MMORPGs made in China and published in the West. Share your thoughts with us!

Author: changyou

Bigger is Better: Expansion Fever!

Posted by changyou Friday May 28 2010 at 9:22PM
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Looking around the ChangYou office, I have to wonder whether I'm dreaming. Everywhere you look there are ninjas, Kung Fu masters, girls in pretty cheongsam dresses. What makes this day even more surreal is that all of these characters are going about their day as usual - faxing things, typing memos, testing bugs. I myself am in a silky blue kimono robe with my hair in ox-horn buns. Occasionally a guy with a video camera will walk by, and I hide behind my fan until he goes away.

This is our  first  work day in costume. But it's definitely been crazy around here lately, and that isn't likely to change any time soon. The video we're shooting is for E3, which would keep us busy enough - there's less than a month left to prepare. But we're also gearing up for our new PVE Server, Nirvana, as well as our Path to Nirvana expansion. Not to mention the Double Experience weekend that is expected to double our CCU.

The amount of work involved with developing and implementing an expansion is incredible. But the rule of MMORPGs is "expand or die" and we owe it to our players to keep up. We also are confident that this new expansion is tailored to what our fans want from us, not just the same "new race, new class, new area" formula used by so many games.

Of these three things, we do have a new area, Salt Mine, for higher-level players. The first batch of dedicated players have reached our Level Cap of 90, so we're bumping it up to 100, as well as adding new equipment for these levels. We're adding new items to the Token Shop - three new outfits and a lot of plans, which players have specifically been asking for. They wanted a cool-looking mount that added significantly to movement speed, so we have a new mount, the Black Beast, that adds 80% to your speed. It is also definitely cool-looking.

Black Beast

Every week, I hold a feedback session on Ventrilo to answer questions, take suggestions, and try to determine what players really want. One of the new expansion additions to the Token Shop, the Gem Removal Spell, was suggested in Ventrilo, developed by our tech guys, and has now become a reality. This saves a lot of trouble, because rather than Marketing trying to guess what our players want, we can just ask them.

So the video game expansion philosophy of "bigger, better, more" is not necessarily a problem. You just need to be sure that the content you're delivering is not only new, but desired. We hope that the Path to Nirvana delivers everything our players have asked for, and if it does, that will be the true measure of its success.

How I Got A Job In Video Games

Posted by changyou Friday May 21 2010 at 7:00PM
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A year ago, I was downhearted about my employment prospects. Just out of college, without any real professional experience, I despaired of finding a job that would pay enough for me to live on. I had tried all of the usual ways to find employment - contacts through my college, employment websites, even temp agencies - but no one was hiring.
This was in the heart of the new American depression, and the only way I could make ends meet was to be self-employed doing whatever short term work I could find. I edited books freelance, tutored students of all ages, taught ESL classes, and even posed for some pin-up photos! Besides the stress of never knowing when I would have regular work, I was exhausted from constantly finding new clients and getting to all of my various gigs. This was in addition to sending out resumes and trying to get interviews, which I never stopped doing.
Video games, which I had always loved, gained a new importance. They let me escape from the stress, and gave me a sense of accomplishment that I was lacking in my professional life. I started fantasizing about making my own video game. Writing is a passion of mine, and I noticed that the quality of the writing (dialogue, scenarios, world-building) really impacted how much I enjoyed a game. So I came up with the story for a game - a branching decision tree "romance" game, where you could end up with various female characters depending on your actions. Every day, I'd try to do some work on it, whether it was writing some dialogue, drawing one of the still images I was using to illustrate the story, or talking someone into doing some voice acting.
My pet project didn't get very far, but for the best of reasons: it got me noticed for an entry level job in video games, which I have thrown myself into with all the enthusiasm I once reserved for my own game. At a certain point, I realized that my little hobby video game might make a really great portfolio piece. The coding was nothing to brag about, but I didn't want to be a coder anyway; I wanted to prove that I could write for video games.
I was talking about my independent game at a party, when someone happened to overhear and say, "Wow, you really must love video games - I have a friend whose company is looking for a Community Manager." That led to the interview where I was able to show off my writing samples, my forum moderation from my online collaborative writing days, and my partially finished game. When I heard that the Community Manager job would involve a lot of writing, I was sold. I now work full-time at a job I love, and paying my bills is blissfully easy.
Here's what I learned about landing your dream job. If you want to work in video games, never miss a chance to show your enthusiasm for the industry, because you never know who might be listening. If you're unemployed, make the most of the opportunity to add to your portfolio or flesh out your resume. Think about what you want to do in connection to the industry, and find a way to showcase your talents in that area. And finally, never give up. Even if you despair, even if you fail again and again, you never know how much your life might change overnight.
- Lucy Song,
(Grateful to be) Community Manager for Dragon Oath

The God of Video Games

Posted by changyou Monday May 17 2010 at 7:35PM
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"G.M. bring me luck, luck!"

This is the cry that comes across the Shout channels at any hour, a supplicant sending their prayer into the darkness. They repeat their petitions upwards of ten times a day, day after day, waiting for a response from the heavens that they have utter faith will come. They have never met a G.M., or spoken to one. But they are certain that we have power over absolutely everything, and that if they simply keep shouting, eventually we will answer.

Sometimes I try to disillusion them: "I am a G.M. and I cannot give you luck, luck! There is no way to alter your luck in-game!"

Other times, I try a joking approach: "I the great and powerful Lucy grant unto thee luck, prosperity, and all manner of fortune! Plus being popular with women! ...Just kidding, I can't do any of that!"

The general response is dubious. They will politely thank me for responding to them, even though it was to confirm that I could not help them - and then they will go right back to shouting for luck. Perhaps they think that I don't have the power to grant their request, but if they keep asking a more powerful G.M. may emerge from the shadows.

I also get asked a lot about items and gold. "G.M. give me a Rare Turtle please!" "G.M. I just need 30 gold I'll pay it back I swear!" They are utterly confounded, and a little suspicious, when I explain that I have no rare pets and no gold. I can't spawn pets at will, nor gold; my own character has one of the weakest, most common pets available (a Parrot) and is flat broke.

I was talking to a particularly persistent player the other day. It started the usual way: a request for luck, which I explained was impossible. The player, thinking I was misunderstanding his request, explained in return that all he needed was a super-rare drop, and then his luck could go back to normal. Finally he demanded, "If you can't give me luck, who can??"

After a moment's thought, I answered, "...Do you believe in a God?"

He was not satisfied with that response, and went away from the conversation troubled that I had refused him. But I have been thinking about it since then, wondering whether there may in fact be a God who cares about video games, that cares not just about the fall of a single sparrow, but the rarity of a single drop. This comes back to the philosophical idea that Gods can perhaps be created - that if someone prays long enough, and fervently enough, an entity may rise to answer this need.

I would like to think that this is the case. It gives me a warm feeling to think that there is a deity out there that rewards us for completing 100% of the optional quests in a game, or that rains punishment down upon cheaters and botters. If there is such a deity, our sacrifices unto them are surely in the form of time: God of Video Games, take these eight hours of my life that I could have spent otherwise, and look upon this rare weapon I acquired as an offering in Your name.

The God of Video Games needs no temple. The code of the God of Video Games rustles through the virtual leaves of the CG forests, whispers its way through equations of drop rates, listens to the lonely cries of players on the Shout channels. This essay is hypothetical - I don't know if I "really" believe in such a deity. But with all of the love and faith gamers pour into their favorite worlds, it wouldn't be all that strange to imagine that devotion having somewhere to go.

And what would it hurt, in any case, to pray to a God that didn't exist? You've wasted nothing but your own time, which is a sacrifice anyway to such a God. In the space of this single essay, I have convinced myself to convert to this crazy, beautiful idea of a being that oversees players, that cares for the virtual worlds that humans have created. God of Video Games, this is all I ask - please, give us luck, luck.

- Lucy Song,

Community Manager

Tarot Feature: The Future Of Gaming

Posted by changyou Wednesday May 12 2010 at 10:28PM
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Are you on the edge of your seat trying to guess what new innovations and game titles will be introduced at E3 this year? Well, you might not have to wait until June to find out. Few people know that as well as being a Community Manager, I am an accomplished tarot reader. I will now draw back the veil of mystery and illuminate for you The Future Of Gaming.*
(*Predictions on the Future of Gaming are for entertainment purposes only.)
1. What is the biggest gaming innovation that will be unveiled this year at E3?
Happiness; Prince Of Cups; Fortune
Cups are the suit relating to emotion, so "Prince of Cups" can be translated as "(Royalty) of Hearts" which obviously refers to the long-awaited Kingdom Hearts 3. The announcement of this game will bring great joy to fans of the series, and great wealth for the publishers. The fact that this title is categorized as an "innovation" suggests that it relies on new technology or peripherals, so my guess is that Kingdom Hearts 3 will involve sophisticated motion controls. PlayStation has reportedly been working on a new motion-based controller, so is it possible that Kingdom Hearts 3 is coming out for the PS3 after all? Time will tell.
2. Will ChangYou attend E3 this year?
Science; Ace of Disks; Art
Science is a card describing the coming together of logical inevitabilities. It is logical that ChangYou should want to attend E3, as an up-and-coming gaming company with a new American presence. The factors simply have to align to make this possible. Disks are the suit relating to wealth, so the question of whether ChangYou is going to E3 is a question of finances. The Art card suggests that a creative person with a strong personality is pulling the strings to free up the money. So I predict that ChangYou is going to E3, and will have a very creative booth that resembles an art installation - so if I'm right, expect to be wowed!
3. What will Dragon Oath be like a year from now?
Satiety; Princess of Wands; Queen of Cups
Satiety is the card of having enough to be satisfied, suggesting that changes to Dragon Oath will be modest and introduced gradually, but will keep offering new content to its users on a steady basis. The Princess of Wands and Queen of Cups represent the major changes. The Queen of Cups is a card of nurturing and comfort, so the Customer Service department and the systems for helping new players will show significant improvement. The Princess of Wands has to do with flashy changes that are skin-deep, so it most likely refers to new outfits in the Token Shop and other cosmetic additions. Dare we hope this extends as far as more options for character creation/customization?
4. Will free-to-play gaming increase in popularity in the near future?
Princess of Disks; Happiness; Strife
Yes, free-to-play games will increase in popularity. The Princess of Disks represents a person who is hopeful despite their lack of material resources, an apt card to symbolize free-to-play MMOs. Despite these limited resources, F2P games make people happy. So we can expect a greater acceptance for F2P games as legitimate games in the future - but going by the Strife card, the argument of pay-to-play vs. F2P won't end any time soon.
5. How is ChangYou's newest game (known as "Project Z") going to be received by the public?
Prudence; Peace; The Hierophant
The Hierophant is the holder of keys, the one who can grant access to secret places. This says that the game's success will be apparent as early as Closed Beta, when keys will be distributed to testers. The secret of its popularity is Peace - the game is relaxing and tranquil. Prudence represents practicality and sensible expectations, showing that Project Z will be well-managed and enjoy a reasonable rate of growth.
6. What will be the most interesting visual attraction at E3 this year?
Wealth; Interference; The Lovers
Interference and The Lovers suggest a star-crossed union - a pair that can never be together. Wealth implies that this will be some sort of flashy, big-budget production. Perhaps some sort of skit, or a dramatic trailer? Final Fantasy is famous for its melancholy plotlines of doomed romance, so my prediction is that we will see the first trailer for Final Fantasy XV this year, and it will be both stunningly beautiful and terribly sad.
7. Will Community Managers ever be entirely replaced by automated systems?
Futiility; Indolence; Worry
Futility represents frustration, and Worry represents panic (two major aspects of being a Community Manager.) This says quite clearly that human Community Managers will continue to be standard in the MMO industry. This does not necessarily mean that computers COULDN'T eventually be programmed to do this job. But the practice of using human CMs will endure for a long time, largely because of Indolence - this is the way things have always been done and no one feels like changing it.
8. How will future technology change our interest in Fantasy vs. Sci Fi MMOs?
Dominion; Prince of Swords; The Fool
Swords are the suit of intellect, so the Prince of Swords represents a limited imagination. The Fool represents the first step towards a new identity, or the most basic statement of that identity. This says  that the original concepts of "Fantasy" and "Sci-Fi" will remain the essential variations of video games, even after tomorrow's Sci Fi has become yesterday's science. Dominion represents a struggle for dominance - the current relationship between Fantasy and Sci Fi titles, a sort of fighting friendship, will continue.
9. Will we ever develop Artificial Intelligence that equals human-level reasoning?
Change; Failure; The Knight of Disks
The Knight of Disks represents the significant financial resources that have been sunk into this line of research. Judging by Change, new innovations to Artificial Intelligence are indeed on the way. But from Failure, we can see that these efforts are doomed to fall short of human-level intelligence.
10. Will handheld gaming platforms such as the IPhone ever replace consoles entirely?
Luxury; Success; Fortune
As handheld gaming platforms become more luxurious in terms of high-level graphics, comfortable controls, and three-dimensional displays, they will increase in popularity and enjoy a great amount of success. However, the Wheel of Fortune always comes back to where it began, just as gamers will keep returning to consoles as new and better ones come out.
Hmmm... if I was right about all of this stuff, do you think James Randi might be interested? Million dollars, here I come!
Lucy Song
Community Manager

Class And Culture: Bringing RPG Classes To Life

Posted by changyou Monday May 10 2010 at 4:41PM
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The dawn of a new Wiki is an opportunity, not just to collect information about your game, but to add to the lore of the world. When we launched our Official Wiki a few days ago, it was with updated information about  the nine classes in Dragon Oath, which we hope will form the basis of a shared cultural identity. When relating this archetypal identity to the classes, I tried to make every association both logical (tied to the stats/abilities of the class) and satisfying (easily related to Western imagery.) This is the kind of cultural translation that goes above and beyond localization, and seeks to provide a sense of meaning not directly embodied by the Chinese martial forms.

Taoists = Cowboys
Wandering across the countryside, the Taoist martial artist is a drifter with no ties to any town. If they see a person in peril, they can shoot down the attackers from a distance with deadly accuracy. Their weapon is their will, honed through meditation and isolation. After saving the day they move on, not even waiting to be thanked. That is the Taoist way. To aid their nomadic lifestyle, they pass down the secrets of taming the giant and solitary Cranes to new members.
The Taoists are the most effective long-range class, and often help people overwhelmed by mobs of monsters in the way described. So I took the savior aspect and the "sharpshooting" and turned it into something reminiscent of the nomadic hero of cowboy stories.
Shaolin = Bodyguards
Damage that would kill a normal person is nothing to the Shaolin. These stoic warriors can shrug off fists, fangs, even blades, and keep fighting unfazed. Given their talents, they are highly sought after as bodyguards. Many do not choose this role, but frightened young heroes will hide behind them nonetheless, as if sheltering behind a wall. The fearlessness of the Shaolin makes them get along well with the giant tigers of their native land, which they tame and eventually learn to ride.
The Shaolin are the "tanks" of Dragon Oath, and often help their team by absorbing damage and protecting the others. Also, if people begin paying the Shaolin to act as bodyguards (which they are well qualified to do) it will stimulate the game economy and encourage interpersonal commerce.
Lotus Order = Helpers
“To heal, to help, to teach and to guide” is the Lotus Order motto. These are martial artists who gained so much compassion for their opponents that they were driven to become healers, and repair the damage they had done over their lifetimes. Out of respect for this transformation, the Phoenix, who is reborn each year as a new creature, will consent to carry only members of the Lotus Order.
The Lotus Order are the healers of Dragon Oath. I tried to expand this role into something that would appeal to the kind of helpful, compassionate player attracted to this class.
Royalty = Nobility
The Royalty were born into their Class, their station, and their traditional way of life. Good horsemanship is prized, so all children of the Royalty learn to ride at a young age. They practice their own form of martial arts to prove that luxurious living has not made them soft. Indeed, they are some of the toughest combatants in the martial arts world, vying constantly as they are with each other for status within their Class. They are able to strike their foes from a distance, so they can deliver a slap to their inferiors without dirtying their noble hands.
The Royalty were one of the classes that needed the least revision to be understandable to a Western audience. We understand the concept of someone that is born into power, is socially superior to others, and lives within a somewhat restrictive set of cultural mores. "Nobility" is a powerful enough concept that it can easily define a class of people.
Minstrels = Entertainers/Tricksters
Entertainers, tricksters, clowns – those are the minstrels, the bards on their jolly reindeer. But one takes them lightly at their own peril. Their tricks can be downright deadly, and they will laugh merrily as you stumble into their traps or are confounded by their strange powers.  It is traditional to give gifts of gold to a minstrel who has entertained you – whether to reward their performance or to stay on their good side, is unclear.
Minstrels primarily fight with traps, a sort of devious and indirect attack that lends itself well to a mischievous trickster figure. By suggesting that Minstrels should be paid for entertainment, this stimulates the game economy in a similar way to promoting the Shaolin as bodyguards, and gives people interested in roleplaying opportunities something to do with their creativity.
Voodoo = Black Magic Users
Practitioners of the Voodoo class are warriors who discovered that they could gain greater power through communion with the spirit world. To outsiders, their goals and eldritch preoccupations are mystifying.  Others do not understand them, but they are right to fear them. The Voodoo practitioner’s intense connection to the spirit world allows them to inflict damage through their ghostly minions, and cast powerful curses on their enemies which drain health over time.  Blood is required to speak with their Voodoo gods, so they ride an Ox which can be sacrificed if there are no enemies handy.
The Western world understands Voodoo well enough to see a practitioner as someone to be feared. My main challenge here was to make the skills and characteristics of the class fit this image. This is difficult, because the original class from the Chinese game only SOUNDS like "Wu Du" or "Voodoo". So I rephrased their poison abilities (which lowers HP over time) as a curse, and their baffling ox mount as a potential sacrifice. Now they make at least a little bit of sense. You're welcome.
Assassins = Silent Killers
The Assassin is wedded to death, bound to the shadows. Silent, deadly, faceless, they are the last thing many an evildoer sees. They hide their face with a mask, to show that even when you can see them, you cannot know them. Their true nature is hidden, as are any human expressions or emotions that may cross their faces beneath the featureless masks. They have tamed the giant eagles as mounts, so they can strike from the sky without warning.
This was the easiest class to work with. The concept of Assassins is familiar to Western audiences, and the mask that covers their face also translates well. As would be expected, they strike from hiding through various invisibility skills, which can be interpreted as "from the shadows."
Beggars Alliance = Loners
Most people care about wealth and status - not so the Beggars Alliance. Priding themselves on knowing what is truly important, they live a simple and austere life, focused on perfecting their combat abilities. While sharing a strong companionship with others of their class, they are self-reliant and do not need others to survive. As outcasts to society, they share a special bond with the lone wolves of the plains, whom they can tame and ride. They are not above using poison to get an edge over better-equipped foes.
The concept behind this class, martial artists who are purified through austerity, hard living, and lack of luxury, is foreign to the Western mindset where beggars can only be weak and pathetic figures. I played up this exotic contradiction - the Beggar who is a great warrior - and related it to the rebellious antihero of Western lore. The Beggars Alliance are outcast from society not because they have failed, but because it has failed them. They have left the comfort of materialism to live on the edge and ride wolves. Now that's cool.
Pyromancers = Hotheaded Brawlers
The smoldering coal that becomes the uncontrollable rage of a wildfire – that is the temper of a Pyromancer. They are capable of channeling their anger into tangible form, which becomes a magical attack. Their aggression being their greatest weapon, they stoke the coals with resentments and rivalries, tending their anger like a flame.  They make excellent brawlers, and can put aside their anger as quickly as it came, becoming calm and cheerful with mystifying swiftness.  Two Pyromancers in love will either remain in love despite all of their arguments, or will end up killing each other. The great lions respect the fierceness of the Pyromancer and will carry them as mounts.
The Pyromancer has very little to do with fire. So instead, I emphasized the anger of the Pyromancer, similar to the Berserkers of Norse lore. The idea that rage can be destructive, and can be channeled to be useful in battle, is nothing new to the Western mind.
The ideal goal in these situations is to give your players enough to hold onto, so they can add to the cultural identity of their class and feel more of a connection to it. This is how you make an RPG character into a person that lives and breathes, who exists in a world of meaning. This is how you make a class into a place to call home.
- Lucy Song,
Community Manager

A Day in the Life of a Community Manager

Posted by changyou Friday May 7 2010 at 6:49PM
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Have you ever wondered what a Community Manager does all day? Now you need wonder no longer. I've put together this diary of a typical workday for your enlightenment and entertainment.

9:45 a.m. – I wake to my alarm clock ringing… after it’s been going off for twenty minutes. I drag myself out of bed, regretting my late night of forum moderation and doing laundry. I will definitely not make my carpool on time.
10:30 a.m. – I begin to drive to work. From my home in the East Bay, it will take me about an hour to get to the ChangYou office in Santa Clara. I blare music and write two different Dev Blogs in my head.
11:30 a.m. – I’m already late enough, so I stop for coffee. This counts as lunch, and means that I can work eight hours today without interruption.
12:00 p.m. – I get to work and begin writing this log, as a simple way to work in another Dev Blog post this week. I also check my e-mail, my forum messages, and my daily assigned tasks.
12:05 p.m. – My office mates are debating politics very passionately. I can’t decide whether to be annoyed that they’re distracting me, or proud that they have opinions. Instead I put on my headphones and listen to music on YouTube while answering a particularly complicated e-mail from a co-worker.
12:30 p.m. – I finish answering all of my correspondence, and turn to my second major task of the day: following up on the things I'd previously asked for from China. Communication with China is limited, so it’s definitely a challenge; getting things done often requires half a dozen people on two sides of the world to coordinate in mystical harmony. I begin sending out IMs and praying for synchronicity.
12:30-1:30 p.m. - Post YouTube videos.  Retroactively assign myself tasks for the things I've already done today. Listen to Sexy Bitch for the fourth time (it's my "get pumped" song of the day.) I check on the prizes that China has sent me to give out. I have gotten everything I asked for, but only one of each. Damn it. Locate a Flash Drive so I can get the GM Tools, which I was supposed to take care of last week. Let the players who will actually receive prizes today know that they are ready. Take some screenshots of the Bladewind mount, our prize for the last major contest, and post them. Message the leader of our Guild of the Month about an interview. Check with Customer Service to make sure that yesterday's rule-breakers have been successfully banned.
1:30 p.m.  - I sign into Dragon Oath to announce the event I’m throwing at 4:00, which is to answer player questions. I then spend the next half hour answering player questions. None of them think it can wait until 4:00. I finally escape between the last “no problem!” and the next “Hi Lucy!”
2:00 p.m. – Post screenshots from our last few events. Tweet screenshots. Moderate forums. Answer a poll about coffee. Get second cup of coffee. Figure out how to use GM tools to ban gold spammers. Update Facebook.
3:00 p.m. – Meeting with the Dragon Oath team.
4:00 p.m. – Fireworks show in-game at Fire Mountain. I have gotten the fireworks I asked for, but only one of each, so the fireworks show is kind of lame. They seemed to like it anyway.
5:00 p.m. – I start to write my other Dev Blog post for the week, wishing as always that I’d written it earlier when my brain was still working. I’ve been working for five hours straight and am starting to draw a blank when trying to think of the simplest words. I can only remember seven of the nine classes in our game, and that’s not a good sign of my mental acuity right now. Instead I copy and paste some stuff to the Official Wiki, hoping that this will kickstart my brain.
6:00 p.m.  – I’m on my fourth cup of coffee and have listened to Sexy Bitch twelve times. I still don’t feel like writing my Dev Blog. Maybe I’ll go home, take a break and write it later tonight. In the meantime there’s plenty more to do on the Wiki.
7:45 p.m. – Still working on the Wiki. Just the copying and pasting is taking forever. I tell myself that this will save me work tomorrow, when I actually feel like doing something creative, and continue the same series of three steps that I can now do with my eyes closed (go to blank Wiki page; paste template; paste correct information.) I actually do a few with my eyes closed just to make things more interesting.
8:45 p.m. – There’s always more to do, but I’ve been working for almost nine hours straight. Sane humans know their limits and don’t work themselves to death. This is what I tell myself as I sign out of Messenger and gather my belongings. I bring my work PC home, not because I’m planning to do any more work, but “just in case.”
9:45 p.m. – I get home, feed my cats, and start folding laundry. I am out of clean socks and almost out of clothes completely. My roommate is already asleep. Oh well, I'll talk to her this weekend.
10:30 p.m. – I can’t resist checking in on the forums. There are some threads that need moderating, some Private Messages that need answering, and I’ve just noticed that I have 8 new e-mail messages since I left work at 8:00. Oh, right, and there’s that other Dev Blog post to write. Looks like it’ll be another late night.
- Diary of Lucy Song,
Community Manager