Further defining geekiness

I ride the train to work every day. It’s about 30 minutes each way. When I first moved here, I didn’t think I was going to enjoy commuting. I used to have a 3 mile drive (about 12 minutes through the city), so my time was doubling.

Turns out, that hour of relative peace and quiet has turned into about my favorite time of day. I’ve got a Samsung i760 phone with podcasts, music, and Bubble Breaker (it’s an addiction. Stupid game). I’ve read more books in the past couple years than I had during the time I was driving to work. And now, thanks to a post over on Raph Koster’s site, I have a ton of free books that I can read on my phone.

Raph posted about a giveaway over at Tor Books. To promote their new site and mailing list, they were giving away e-books. Now, I could hit a used bookstore and pick up plenty of Tor books for cheap, but that’s not nearly geeky enough. No, I noticed Tor had books in Mobi format. I didn’t know what Mobi format was, so I looked it up. Naturally, once I realized what Mobi is, and how cool the free Mobipocket ebook Reader is, I had to have it. And then I had to download all the free books from the Tor download page.

I know I’m a dork, but I had a really good time reading a book on my phone on the way home today. It was, like, WAY COOLER than just reading a paperback. And I have like 15 books in the phone, and it weighs less than one book. Sweet. I kinda like reading in the small format. It makes me focus on the writing a little bit more than having a big page in front of me. I inhale books, especially fantasy and sci-fi stuff, and I’m guilty of skimming parts of paperbacks. With the small reading window (which is really easy to read, just smaller than a book), I feel like I’m paying more attention to the story. That might fade, but I don’t care, because right now, it’s COOL.

Plus, if you scroll down below the free books, they have a ton of free desktop wallpapers from Tor book covers.

And the last moment of serendipity was the front page news story at Tor. It happened to be an interview with Jim Butcher, who writes the Dresden Files series, which I’ve been told I should be reading. They aren’t free dowloadable books, but maybe it’ll spur me to grab one of them from the university library and check it out. Anyone read Dresden files books? Any good?

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Thieves!!

While I’ve been reading blogs and writing posts of my own today, I’ve been mining in Eve. I just have to turn every couple minutes to empty the hold of my ship into a jet can, and then go back to reading and writing.

When I turned around a moment ago, the window for my jet can had closed. I went to the Overview to open it again, and it was yellow instead of white. And there was a flashing further down on my Overview. Someone in a Hulk had flipped my can.

It was almost full, and it was time for me to get my hauler anyway, so I scooted out of the system back to the station where my Hoarder was parked. Jumping back into the asteroid belt where my flipped can was located, I saw the Hulk mining away about 35k away from me.

One of two things had happened. Either the Hulk opened the wrong can, or he was setting me up. I pulled up next to my jet can, aligned to a station, and started clicking furiously. I had the last of my ore pulled out of the can when the Hulk’s partner warped into the asteroid field, flashing red. I didn’t even take the time to see what he was flying, but I’ll bet money it wasn’t another industrial ship. The Hoarder is a damn slow ship to get into warp, but since I was already aligned, I made it out of there before the Hulk’s partner locked me down.

The whole time, I didn’t say a word. Not in a message to the Hulk pilot, not in Local. Not even after I escaped. I think the ore thieves like the smack talk, whining, and complaining from victims more than they like the loot from the cans, so I just kept my mouth shut.

That’s the first time I’ve had a can flipped, and flipped one back. I honestly don’t know how long they’ve got the right to fire on me. I think it’s 15 minutes? I’m going to undock after 20 minutes and head back to my home station, and mine another system…I hope their rights to fire on me are gone 🙂 If not, I’ve made enough mining over the past couple weeks to fit out a fleet of Hoarders. It’ll be an expensive lesson if I’m wrong, but fun, in a “Wow, that was a neat explosion, even though it was my own ship” kind of way.

When roleplay is used for good, instead of evil

Spinks, over at Book of Grudges, posted today about roleplay servers.

I played Dark Age of Camelot on a roleplay server, Percival. I’ve often wondered how much that contributed to my enjoyment of the game. It’s the only roleplay server I’ve ever really played on, and I chose it because a lot of my Everquest friends from the Druid’s Grove (an old druid class board) were rolling characters there.

I’m not one to roleplay. It’s not because I’m against it, or I think it’s stupid, or anything negative. I’m just generally doing a lot of things at once, and I rarely take the time to slow down and try to craft a good roleplay experience. Tabletop pacing lends itself much more to good roleplay, for my tastes.

My initial experiences on Percival involving roleplay were kind of annoying, to be honest. We had a charter member of the Proper Name Police in my guild, and that individual kind of drove people crazy with her outbursts concerning inappropriate roleplay names. We’d hear about it in guild chat, we’d hear the arguments in the general chat channel, we’d hear the threats about petitioning names…it was annoying.

That only lasted until we leveled out of the starting areas, though. It seemed the Ministry of Silly Names only encouraged their members to enter the newbie areas and harass the thin-skinned RP Police.

Once clear of the newbie zone silliness, roleplay on Percival, at least in the Hibernian realm, evolved into quite a civil society. I never met anyone who required you to roleplay around them. Those that chose to follow the roleplay path did so with gusto, and seemed to appreciate attempts to respond in kind. Those of us who either couldn’t simultaneously roleplay and keep ourselves alive at least attempted to stay in character in public channels, respecting the spirit of the server rules.

For me, the biggest apparent benefit of playing on a roleplay server was that most people would consider what they said out loud before they actually said it. When egregious out of character posts appeared, beyond the newbie zones, most players were content to simply ignore the transgressor. Shunning worked well; some previously annoying people stopped being tools and actually began to participate a little more maturely in the server community, and those who didn’t grow up usually ended up leaving quietly.

I don’t know if it was the roleplay rules, Mythic’s willingness to support the ruleset somewhat, or just the mix of players on playing Hibs on Percival, but it was the best game community that I’ve been a part of. If I get the opportunity to try an RP server again for WAR, I think I’ll take it. It all depends, of course, on the failures and successes at Friend Herding onto the same server, but I’d like to see if an RP server could become a successful community in WAR.

You don’t have to be a great roleplayer to play on an RP server. You just have to be the type of person that’s respectful of other players around you. Really, what more could you ask from a realm mate?

Don’t Panic

Phil left this comment on my post yesterday, responding to boatorious, who said “I still expect WAR to be more fun, since unlike WoW they will make the right game to begin with.” Phil responded with this:

Funny statement. Right game if you like PvP. Right game if you like RvR. But, to Tobold’s point, what if you don’t like either? So many people are jumping on the blanket statement of “Its going to be so much better than WoW” when in reality its going to be better in some ways but not all. And no I’m not on a “its gonna be a WoW clone” kick.

Two points in there that I’d like to explore a little more. First, indeed, what if you don’t like PvP or RvR?

Well, I spent a lot of time yesterday talking about why PvP in Dark Age of Camelot felt far different to me than PvP in any other MMO ( or MUD) I’ve played. If you didn’t get a chance to play a lot of DAoC at end game, or, if you didn’t happen to be on a server with good RvR opportunities (some of my friends on The Well seemed to have really lame RvR imbalance issues, which I rarely experienced on Percival), you might still labor under the impression that Mythic’s RvR ideas are similar to Everquest on the Zeks, or Eve Online’s low-sec and 0.0 space, or Age of Conan’s gank-a-rific kill-me-while-I-talk-to-this-quest-NPC mechanics. I dislike that kind of PvP. Generally, I avoid PvP.

However, I love Mythic’s RvR, and I think they’ve made improvements from the DAoC model into the WAR model. If you didn’t like DAoC RvR, you might be pleasantly surprised by the changes they’ve made to make WAR more accessible, balanced, social, and just plain fun. If you don’t like PvP, but you haven’t played DAoC, don’t be put off by Warhammer. It’s absolutely PvP for people who think they don’t like PvP. I can’t tell you how many PvE-ony guildmates I had in DAoC that gushed about the fun they had running the frontiers with us, once we finally convinced them to come out to a keep siege, or to defend a milewall. I think it’s going to be even easier to cross the border, from not liking PvP in other MMO’s, to getting Mythic’s concept and discovering it’s a lot of fun.

Phil’s second point: “So many people are jumping on the blanket statement of ‘Its going to be so much better than WoW’ when in reality its going to be better in some ways but not all.”

I can’t tell you how much I agree with this statement. I want to start a new campaign of MMO tolerance. I’m advancing the radical new thesis that it is indeed possible to greatly enjoy two different massively multiplayer online roleplaying games. Wait! Before you tell me I’m a crackpot, and the earth is actually flat and only 6,000 years old, and humans lived at the same time as dinosaurs, let me summarize my theory.

% of extremists who can only love WAR, and think WoW sucks in every way: 5%
% of extremists who can only love WoW, and think WAR will suck in every way: 5%
% of non-extremists who like WAR, but prefer WoW(*1) for certain reasons: 25%
% of non-extremists who like WoW , but prefer WAR(*2) for certain reasons: 25%
% of non-extremists who (gasp!) appreciate and enjoy both games: 40%

And, the kicker:

Percentage of posting by extremists on forums and blogs about WoW and WAR: 90%
Percentage of posting by non-extremists on forums and blogs about WoW and WAR: 10%

(*1): For sheer PvE content, endgame raiding opportunities, a marvelously meticulous gameworld, etc.
(*2): For better PvP opportunities, burned out on WoW, more accessible endgame, etc.

See where I’m going? I’m so sick of flamebait arguments about WoW and WAR. Phil’s exactly right to be tired of people proclaiming WAR will be better than WoW, or vice versa. Why the hell do we think our opinions need to be universal truths? Saying “I think…” doesn’t have to be synonymous with “I’m right, because…”

Just because you don’t like WoW, or you’re burned out on WoW, doesn’t mean WoW suddenly sucks. It means you don’t like it. Or, just because you love WoW and you have a blast playing every night doesn’t mean you have to feel threatened by WAR and need to run it down every chance you get.

It’s an interesting phenomenon. There’s a possibility that we’ll be looking at a choice between two quality triple-A MMO’s at the beginning of ’09, but instead of being happy about it, some people have to insist on rooting for and defending one game over another. This is why I got sick of professional sports. I can’t take one more argument about how “my team” is better than “your team”. Dude, you’re not on the team. No one on the team knows who you are, or cares that you root for them. PS – You look stupid in that team jersey. No one over the age of 25 should be wearing team jerseys.

I’m going to spend my time talking about what’s good about both games. I have a lot of respect for what both teams have accomplished, and I’d rather acknowledge their efforts than just sit back and bitch. I’ve got no time to be a hater.

Tobold, WAR, and PvP

Tobold interviewed Paul Barnett from Mythic Entertainment, and something jumped out at me that I’ve been wanting to write about. Tobold asks a question that, quite frankly, I could have written back in 2001, shortly before Dark Age of Camelot was released, and I was happily enjoying PvE Everquest, burned out on PvP. Tobold asked:

Now there are people, including me, who either don’t enjoy PvP much, or who feel they can’t compete with pimply 12-year olds ganking other players all day. How are you going to sell WAR to us?

The selling of WAR, and of RvR in WAR, won’t happen through words in an interview, or blog posts, or podcasts, or articles on the Warhammer Herald. I don’t think I know any anti-PvP players who would be swayed to try PvP in WAR by an argument made outside the game. If people are going to suddenly find value in going out to PvP, it’s going to have to happen inside the game. The developers are going to have to create a compelling reason for someone to take up arms. They’re going to have to provide you with teammates, so at least if you die, you don’t die alone against terrible odds (or against the pimply 12 year-old who really should be doing his Social Studies homework). And, there has to be a reward for putting your character and your ego in harm’s way.

Hmm. I think I need bullets, or I’ll get distracted.

  1. Create a compelling reason to take up arms
  2. Provide you with teammates, so PvP is a social experience
  3. Provide a reward for participating in PvP

I’ll get back to those in a minute. I’m limited by the NDA, but I think I can talk about WAR in general terms that have already been mentioned by Mythic in other places on the web. First, though, I want to talk about how Mythic implemented those three elements in Dark Age of Camelot, and how they turned a PvE player into a PvP player, at least for DAoC.

Before I started playing Everquest in 1999, I was a pretty hardcore MUD player. I played on a PvP MUD, and it was cutthroat. I always had to watch my back, I got jumped frequently, I lost items, experience, and money. And I took some items, money, and experience as well 🙂 Generally, though, I lost more than I won, and I eventually tired of always watching my back. When Everquest was released, I was relieved that there was a PvP switch. In fact, that’s mostly why I skipped  UO…back when I was considering playing it, there was open PvP, and I didn’t want to constantly watch my back. In hindsight, I wish I played UO anyway, but alas, I missed it.

Back to DAoC. I was burned out on EQ in the fall of 2001, and I was looking for a new experience. I was very interested in Dark Age, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to PvP. Since there were separate PvE and PvP areas in Camelot, I figured I would spend my time making characters and leveling, not participating in PvP.

Man, was I wrong.

My first character (and main character) was a Hibernian Ranger, and they had stealth ability. I was a pretty young Lurikeen when I first stealthed up to explore the frontiers (the PvP-enabled areas of each of the three realms in DAoC). I mostly wanted to see the world, but I ended up finding good places to level, and good places to find enemy players leveling. That was my first taste of PvP, doing drive-by killing outside the gates of Midgard and Albion. I had a good time, but it didn’t provide any of the three requirements on the bullet points above.

It wasn’t until I joined a guild and followed my guildmates out to fight as a group in the frontiers that Realm versus Realm combat really caught my interest. I don’t know if I asked specifically why we were going out to fight, or what we were going to do out there, but it involved someone taking one of our keeps, and we were going to take it back, and then we were going to take their keeps, and then we could all go to Darkness Falls, the RvR shared dungeon that was controlled by the realm with the most keeps. Darkness Falls had good loot drops and seals that could be turned in to buy armor and weapons (not that kind of seal). Suddenly, there was a reason to go fight, instead of just ganking people trying to level in their realm frontier.

Back in those days, we died a lot. Hibernia (our realm) on Percival (our DAoC server) took a beating for while, mostly from Midgard. And that’s where the second item on the bullet list comes in. I found that dying with a group of friends was much, much, more enjoyable than dying alone. Dare I say, it was fun dying with friends. It was more fun winning with a group of friends, but there wwas plenty of fun and plenty of stories that came out of dying as well.

The sense of adventure was palpable. Each night, we’d level for a little while, and then we’d saddle up and head for the frontier for RvR. There was value in capturing keeps, or defending your keeps, and we’d gather at bottlenecks in the frontier to prevent the enemy from entering our lands, or rush out to defend a keep under attack. Soon, I wasn’t just having fun with my guild group. I got to know other rangers stealthed on the wall in Emain, facing the Albion portal keep, waiting for the inevitable tide of enemies trying to enter our lands. I listened to rangers and nightshades, stealthed throughout the frontier, offering intelligence reports on enemy movements. I learned who to trust, who gave timely information and accurate assessments of enemy abilities. I learned which players could be followed in battle to defend our realm or attack another.

In Everquest, each group alongside you in a dungeon was a potential competitor. There was little sense of shared purpose, and little motivation to cooperate with each other. In DAoC, Mythic gave you reasons and rewards for trusting your realmmates and cooperating with them in RvR. And that brings us to bullet point number three, rewards for participating in RvR.

I’ve already mentioned Darkness Falls, which was a nice prize to end your evening of fighting in the frontier. Additionally, Mythic offered realm points for participating in RvR, which could be used to purchase abilities for your character. Also, each realm had two relics, prized items which resided in the largest keeps in each frontier (two keeps per realm). Those relic keeps were difficult to capture, but if you did capture and return enemy relics to your own relic keeps, you got additional bonuses for your realm. Also, if your guild claimed a keep in your frontier or the enemy frontier, your guild got bonuses for fighting around that keep, both realm point bonuses for RvR and experience and money bonuses for PvE.

Fast forward 7 years. Take all those lessons learned in Dark Age of Camelot, and picture how Mythic might be trying to take the best elements of realm versus realm combat and distill them into a new game, a post-WoW game. The MMORPG landscape has changed tremendously since 2001, and WAR is a different game than DAoC.

Without breaking the NDA, here’s what I think I can safely say about the WAR experience. First, RvR in DAoC was reserved for the higher level players in the game, especially in the early days. Levels meant a lot. WAR is giving you opportunities to fight your opponents starting at the very earliest levels, and there’s a cap for each area. You won’t find yourself fighting a level 40 opponent when you’re level 12. There’s a level range you’re fighting against, and it seems pretty fair. I wouldn’t venture into the World PvP areas on my own as a level 2 character, but you could make a contribution out there as a member of a group. Scenarios, on the other hand, are definitely something you can participate in at very early levels. I want to say more about how Mythic is attempting to balance encounters, but a) that’s probably beyond the NDA, and b) I don’t want to talk about something now, only to see it changed or cut before the game launches. Let’s just say that I felt comfortable jumping into Scenario RvR at level 3.

Following the bullet points, here’s where I’m at with WAR.

1. Create a compelling reason to take up arms – The game is all about war. It’s all around you. The PvE quests deal with it, your zones abut enemy zones, and you’re encouraged to participate in scenarios (think WoW or DAoC battlegrounds) and open world PvP through quests. So, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved with PvP, but you’re not going to do it alone.

2. Provide you with teammates, so PvP is a social experience – WAR’s PvP would fail out of the gate if you were sent off alone to fight the enemy. Every time you queue for a scenario, you have the opportunity to join as a group. Or, if you queue solo, you can join a group as soon as you enter the scenario through a very simple interface. Mythic is also experimenting with a variety of tools to help you find groups…and I’d like to talk more about them, but ya know, they might get changed, they might get cut, I promised not to tell, bla bla bla. Let’s just say that this is the easiest MMO yet for finding groups to adventure with, and I can’t wait to be on a live server where I’ll actually see the same names around me from level 1 to 40.

3. Provide a reward for participating in PvP – Mythic is freakin’ nailing this. You’re collecting money, PvE experience, and PvP experience (Renown) every time you enter a scenario or world PvP. Renown offers the chance to purchase good armor and weapons as you increase in rank (as does your faction in PvE, which is increased through Public Questing). PvE and PvP are both viable ways to advance your gear opportunities. And that’s just a selfish perspective. If your faction controls the zone you’re currently adventuring in, there are additional bonuses to your faction.

In DAoC, there were indeed rewards for participating in RvR, but they were mainly for players at or near endgame, and I know a lot of my MMO game-playing friends missed out on what I loved about DAoC because they didn’t make the grind to the level cap. Plus, I think i was lucky to play on Percival, which had tons of quality players from all three realms. I think my server community was the glue that kept me playing.

In WAR, Mythic is looking to hook the player on good gameplay experiences almost from the moment you create your character. You won’t have to hit the level cap to enjoy what I loved about DAoC. It’ll be available to you, completely integrated into your leveling, from the moment you enter the world. You’ll be meeting people, fighting alongside them in scenarios, public quests, and world PvP, winning and losing, living and dying, telling stories about your adventures, from level 1 to 40. Making friends and having fun isn’t the only reward, though. Mythic’s also giving you great rewards for pushing back the enemy hordes.

As always, I’m conscious of sounding like a fanboy. Maybe I am, but I think that my tone speaks to Mythic making MMO’s that have a gameplay element that I really enjoy, and I don’t find in other MMO’s. That’s a blessing and curse. WAR is a very focused MMO. It’s not all things to all people. You won’t find SWG-level crafting, housing, and economics here. I’m sure there are things that WoW fans might miss. It’s funny, WAR’s getting killed by some people for being a WoW clone, but I bet there will be people bitching that it’s not enough like WoW when it’s released.

Take WAR for what it is. Mythic wants you to join up with a group of friends for adventure, level, and profit. They want a PvP environment that’s rewarding for everyone. They don’t want people feeling ganked, alone, and hopeless. Run with a group of friends, and even if you die, there is fun to be had and stories to tell…and plenty of rewards for your efforts.

As always, if anyone from Mythic is reading this and needs me to STFU about anything, just let me know. I’m pretty sure everything I’ve talked about is already public, but if not, holler at me 🙂

Addendum – Holy &%$*, this was a long post. It’s posts like this, which was originally going to be a reply to Tobold’s post in the comments on his blog, that made me start my own blog. No one needs a post this long in their comments. Hell, I’m not sure anyone needs an individual blog post this big, but hey, I had extra coffee today, and you don’t have to read it all if you don’t want to 🙂

Eve Online skills – branching out

I’ve been back in Eve for about three weeks now, after CCP sucked me back in with their offer of two free weeks for players who had unsubscribed. It was a fortuitous offer for me, because I was planning to come back anyway while I wait for Warhammer to be released. So, two free weeks, and I’ve been enjoying my time in space.

I’ll get this out of the way first: I haven’t tried Faction Warfare yet, and I’m not sure I will. I might join and fly some Tech 1 frigates for fun, but so far, my return to Eve finds me more interested in mining and exploring the universe. Signing up for a militia is going to impact both of those things.

I’m sitting just above 13 million skills points. Up to this point in my career, I’ve been pretty single-minded about skill training. It’s easy to get distracted by a variety of career choices in Eve (combat pilot, miner, industrialist, etc.), and I decided early on to focus on combat, so I was good at one career before I started another. I was in a corp back then, and felt like my likely path would take me into combat.

That may still be true one day, and the skills definitely benefit my mission running, but I think I’m going to branch off strict combat skill training for a little while. A survey of my skills found me close to a few other options that I think I’m going to explore.

First, I’m not too far from being able to fly a mining barge. I trained up my mining skills so I could mine in a cruiser with Eve University last year, and it’ll only be a couple weeks to get me into a Retriver. I’m not sure that I’ll go hardcore miner beyond that, but at the moment, I find myself enjoying the laid-back lifestyle of Empire mining. Real life is busy, and the peacefulness of a little mining op appeals to me.

The other thing mining affords me is a chance to read up on skills and figure out what I want to be learning next. I didn’t realize how close I was to being able to fly a Covert Ops ship, for example. I’ve got all the pre-reqs out of the way, and all I’d have to do is buy the Covert Ops skills book. I’ll also need the Cloaking skill, but that won’t take long to train up to IV.

Since I’ll be training cloaking, I’m considering some suicide runs out of Empire space. I’ve spent virtually my whole Eve career in high sec, and I think I might jump clone out of my implants and tour the universe for a while. It might be a brutally short trip, but that’s OK. My med clone is up to date, I can afford to lose tons of Tech I frigates, and I feel like exploring.

I’m considering a move to 0.0 after my mining and hauling skills are updated (mining as I pointed out earlier, and I want to be able to fly a Mammoth, which is only a level or two of Minmatar Industrial training ahead of me), so I thought getting a taste of low sec and no sec might benefit me in the future.

I’ve been checking out the corp recruiting thread on the Eve Online forums, and it’s possible that I’ll try to find a corp that could use miners who also have some combat skills trained up. I’m not ready to move yet, but I can see it happening at some point in the next month or two. I’m generally a lone wolf in MMO’s, but the idea of sharing and defending 0.0 space with a corp is appealing to me. I really enjoyed territorial battles in DAoC, and I’m definitely curious about life beyond high sec. I’d like to be useful to a corp before I head out there, well-rounded, so I’m planning out skills for the next month or so, and then I’ll think about making a move.

I’ve got more to write about Eve’s skills and how much I’ve enjoyed just sitting and reading what’s available and contemplating career paths, but work is calling me, and I really should wrap this up. More later!

I could get behind therapy like this

From my RSS feed folder titled “Self-Serving News Items”, Casual Gaming.biz has an article claiming that casual games can help people with ADHD.

It seems that children with AD/HD often lack that sense of control that comes much more easily to their non-AD/HD peers. Playing casual games such as Peggle and Bejeweled, among others, is one area in their lives in which these children can experience some sense of control with the added benefit of achieving success in something. Both of these aspects, taken together, can serve to enhance the child’s self-concept and self-esteem.

I’ve been diagnosed with adult ADHD, so I also had it as a kid growing up in the 70’s and 80’s (Yeah, you kids who want to comment how you weren’t even born yet can go jump in the lake 🙂 ). I definitely gravitated toward games and gaming, and I’d agree that it was a place where a kid with ADD could shine. The hyperfocus on memorizing levels or concentrating for long stretches on things that a “normal” person couldn’t focus on was definitely a part of my enjoyment. I definitely also felt in control of something, when my life outside gaming was much more difficult to control. I wasn’t a hyperactive kid, just distracted on an epic level.

Clearly, you can’t just play Bejeweled and be “cured” of ADHD. There’s got to be a plan and interaction with a trained therapist to get any sort of benefit as a therapy, but I think the idea holds some merit. If I could have taken my successes playing games and translated that into how I approached my non-gaming life, I think I would have had more successes at an earlier age. It definitely would have helped my understand how my brain works, and helped identify ways of working that would allow me to find success.