Medievia Mudslinger

April 21st, 2002

An Interview with Ikuska - By Nykaul

Due to heavy time constraints, this interview was conducted via email, and as you read more and more it will become quite apparent just how long it took to complete. Ikuska is a level 148 Goddess with lots and lots of titles, so type WIZLIST IKUSKA on the game when you get a chance to see them all. She has accomplished a lot and is in charge of a lot, but most players will know her as the one who hires and fires Gods.

I decided (as well as the many people who requested it) to interview Ikuska about Medievia, her jobs, and a bit about the person behind the screen, and this is what she had to say.

Nykaul: When did you start playing Medievia?

Ikuska: I think it was May of 1996. I know it was 1996 but I'm wishy-washy on the month.

Nykaul: What got you started playing Medievia?

Ikuska: The short version is some friends introduced me to it.

Nykaul: Had you played on a MUD before you started playing Medievia, if so how did it compare?

Ikuska: I'd never even seen the internet before.

Nykaul: What was your initial reaction to Medievia?

Ikuska: I really enjoyed how universal it was, and of course the escapism.

Nykaul: What was it for you, personally, that made Medievia so fun and something you wanted to continue playing?

Ikuska: Initially it was the novelty of everything, and later it was the people I met and became close to.

Nykaul: How has Medievia changed since you started playing?

Ikuska: When is Medievia not changing? On a personal level I think it has changed in that I used to be a player, and now I am very much a staff member. My time when I am here is fairly monopolized by those tasks. Sometimes I have to sneak around to get any playing time in. ;)

Nykaul: What do you consider your biggest accomplishment on Medievia?

Ikuska: Not killing Kithario... uhh no. I really liked the introduction of gossip flags which was added to complete a proc I needed in E'urdin. But I think the biggest accomplishment is the organization of the staff, and how things are getting done. We've slowly been streamlining the building process among others, and I think in the next year especially it will be evident how efficiently things are run now.

Nykaul: What would you say was your most memorable moment on Medievia?

Ikuska: Meeting Daedalus. Well maybe not MEETING him, since initially I thought he was a pain in the ass (he freaked out because Esthela brought me into Fate's clanhall to chat, and he thought I was a spy planning to read their clan board... haha). But my relationship with him and later my close friendship has been, and still is, an excellent experience.

Nykaul: What has been your favorite aspect/feature/change in the game?

Ikuska: The medbuild tracking system, since it does what my memory cannot. But as for playing features I have a hard time choosing a favorite. I love well-written new zones being released, of course. I'm excited about influence but it isn't finished. Dragonlairs and bloodlines are pretty damned cool.

Nykaul: What has been your least favorite aspect/feature/change in the game?

Ikuska: This questionnaire is trying to get me fired! I'll go with a safe answer and point fingers at my own department... I don't like how unbalanced equipment stats are, and how difficult it is to get them roped back in. We're having a terrible time choosing stats for new zones, since it isn't practical to continue to release zones with "max" items, as WOMs have repeatedly done in the past. The inflation caused by this is a real problem. The "easy" solution is coming up with a balanced standard and wimping items in the game, but in doing this we will make so many players unhappy that it hardly seems worth it. It is also still a conundrum to make a balanced standard across all classes, levels, and alignments. So we've been steadily trying to come up with some sort of compromise, and are implementing it slowly to try not to disrupt things further than they are already. We are also hoping tools like influence, and the ability to add more than 2 stats to an object will alleviate some of the problem. Adding a third negative stat can bring a high-tweaking object down to earth, and the addition of influence gives builders some new EQ to work with in their zones.

Another item I might mention, though I wouldn't call it a feature, was the attempt to use Medievia as a voice for current affairs a couple months ago. I'd say the GE foods news was disastrous at best, and I'm fairly disappointed in myself for it. I guess I assumed more people were like me, and once they had heard about a potential issue they would research it on their own. I also feel that as a privately owned game we didn't have the responsibility to heavily represent the side we weren't taking on the issue. However, as I told Vryce, I wish I had taken debate or editorial classes in school due to the reaction we got. Perhaps I could have written the news in a way that would have gained better reception if I had. Certainly there are players who have taken debate, judging by some of the emails we received. I also suspect a certain number of people were just pleased to have material to argue about. I fear player reaction proves that any cause we decide to present will be viewed in a negative light. It is for this reason that we have decided not to try news of this nature again.

As for the GE foods subject, here is the Google list of websites both for and against GE foods for you to peruse and help you make up your own mind (which incidentally, the news encouraged you to do even though it didn't hand feed you all the info to do it with).

Nykaul: What changes do you think Medievia should make?

Ikuska: I think all clantown writers should devote themselves to building enormous shrines to Caeraela. But no sacrificing ferrets on the (highly ornate and expensive) altar please, the goddess would not be happy.

Nykaul: When did you become a God on Medievia, and what made you decide to become one?

Ikuska: I started designing my zone in September of '98 and was hired a couple months after that by Mixheal. Like most builders, I wanted the opportunity to be creative and invent a zone. (And for those of you who are wondering, yes, E'itaso is still in the works and will be released once I can convince a coder to do the 14 page proc list.) After about 8 months of being a level 128 I was promoted to a level 136, and then a week later to a 144 as a WOM with Iskandar. But I really just use my god powers to torture Kithario and Columnus (just ask them!). And occasionally I send lightning bolts at Dinsbane, who obviously deserves it.

Nykaul: As a God, could you describe what you do on an average day?

Ikuska: Before, after, or during answering email? Well, I talk to builders about their zones and answer questions, answer a lot of email, talk to Ozy and Vryce about new features, answer a lot of email, talk to Ozy and Nykaul about discipline issues, answer a lot of email, talk to Elorei, Masou, Mircean, and others about new features/procs/zones, answer a lot of email, tell Syltheana "no I'm not going to rename you to 'Applepiewithcinnamonandsugarandabigglassofmilk' right now", answer a lot of email, talk to Kostia about zone writing, answer a lot of email, hire and train new staff members, answer a lot of email, adjust elements of the game, answer a lot of email, catch up with staff members about their departments, and yes... answer a lot of email.

I'd say a good chunk of the day is spent answering email.

Which isn't to say you should wait until you see me online instead of sending me email. As you can see from the above "are you busy right now?" is a silly question...

Nykaul: One of your God positions is WOM. What exactly is a WOM and what are some of the duties you perform?

Ikuska: Actually, about 6 months ago I changed my title (this questionnaire was sent to me before this happened, and Nykaul rightfully should beat me for taking so long to respond to it). My new title better represents what I do around here, although I have to look it up on wizlist really quick to remember what the hell it is. Oh! It's: Director of World Development (DWD). In case rewording this helps it to make more sense, I direct how the Medievia world gets developed. After this they are probably just going to change my title to "Smartass". Unless Ozy fights me for that title, which he also has some rights to.

My job is pretty time consuming, and my wizlist outlines it pretty well. A simplified description is that I get new projects started and keep existing ones rolling. I can't imagine a list of all that goes into this would be entertaining unless I stuck "and answer a lot of email" in between each item.

It is important to distinguish Mircean as the Head WOM though, as he makes all the final decisions during zonetesting on how the eq there should be tweaked, and he makes many of the decisions for adjusting existing eq and balance throughout the game. Jaolen and Selthios also perform equipment balancing tasks, especially during zonetesting. Zonetesting and other game balance is actually more complicated than just doing eq, but this is the most visible change a WOM makes (to the player). It is also one of the more stressful jobs, since anything a WOM does is guaranteed to make at least 1 player unhappy enough to complain about it. I think our WOM team right now is excellent!

Nykaul: You are also the 'Director of Human Resources' for Medievia, which means you hire and fire the God staff. If someone wanted to apply to be a God do they just email you, or should they follow a procedure?

Ikuska: I just posted a news on this (news 440), but anyone who wishes to apply for a builder needs to send the application from "help building". Anyone who wishes to apply for another type of god needs to send an application for "help application". The most important thing is to follow directions. I get a lot of applicants, and the ones who observably spent time perfecting their application stand out as people who truly care about getting hired.

Nykaul: I guess one question that everyone wants to ask, 'are you currently hiring any new Gods?'

Ikuska: We're usually not for regular gods, and most of the time if I need to fill a position I look at the existing gods we have and promote the ones who can do the job before hiring brand new ones. When I have major positions to fill that I need applications for, I place a news. However, we are nearly always hiring builders and AQ writers, so these are the two jobs I most recommend considering if you want to get your foot in the door of the Medievia staff. Please do not apply to be in Gamina or Masou's harem, because I can't deal with their endless begging to hire people for this purpose (they are so competitive!).

Nykaul: What sort of things are you looking for in a god or builder application? Do you have things you especially like to see, or even not like to see, on applications?

Ikuska: The best builder applications are creative, original, well-planned, detailed, well-written (grammar and style), and NOT necessarily long-winded. You really will not impress me with a 30 page application when you could have said the same thing in 2 or 3 pages. I do like "real" stories - as in a story that has a beginning, middle, and end, and tells an interesting tale, but it does not have to be a book-length version.

The best god applications answer the questionnaire in such a way that I get an idea of who the person writing the application is. In order to get hired as a god level 33+, you have to gain my trust even though I do not know you. If you answer all the questions with "Yes, I do." or "No, I don't.", then all I learn about you is that you have a player on the game and might like to be a god. Adding personal details such as "I also led my debate club in high school, and am now pursuing a degree in marine biology because my lifelong dream has been to work with loggerhead sea turtles" is more likely to make you stay in my head when I'm comparing you with other applicants. It is also important to include anything relevant to the job you are applying for. If you want to be a quest god, information about the scripts you have made for yourself on your client is a good thing to include.

I don't like to see applications where the person didn't follow directions. If you don't care enough to take the time, don't send an application!

Nykaul: I'm sure the truly exemplary applications become Gods, but I'm sure you must have had a fair share of bad ones too. Are there any that really stand out in your mind, and if so, could you share with us some of the details? No names of course!

Ikuska: Well, I've had everything from level 14 single class players applying to be a WOM, to level 124s who apparently didn't know how to type (or got their neighbor's dog drunk and let it walk on the keyboard). One thing that happens fairly frequently is I get applications that say things like "Well, I'm really not good at anything and I don't have any skills, but I'd like to be a god anyway". I've also received one application from a person who had never logged in to play Medievia before. That was kind of weird.

Nykaul: You are also one of the builders of E'urdin Zilartzen. Since its opening in 1999 it has been hailed as one of the harder zones in Medievia. It was also your first zone on the game. How have you handled the player's reactions to the zone?

Ikuska: When I was designing it, I wanted it to be something that hadn't been done before, and for the news story not to give many hints to solving the zone. We've had news where the entire purpose of going to the zone was spelled out to the player, so I used a bit of a decoy to throw people off. I like that you really have to immerse yourself in the zone to find out what the story behind it is, although I'm not sure how many people have actually done this. I also feel like I came up with some interesting new procs for it.

One thing I apologize for is the length of the room descriptions. I think room descriptions are important, and wanted them all to be highly detailed. I didn't want it to be a zone full of plain rooms where you just run through and notice that this one room has a sign or a lever, and therefore there must be something to do in it. However, I don't think you need two pages worth of description in order to accomplish this, and the length happened to be a misunderstanding on my part when I was talking to the current WOM back then. I thought it was expected of me, woops!

After E'urdin, I will probably never write another zone with grass in it, it's no fun to describe it from a bug's eye view in so many long room descriptions! Iskandar and I were tempted to just make up new vocabulary after a while (4-letter ones especially!).

Now that most people have figured out the fungus, the most common question I get is about when E'itaso is coming out (not to mention you belt freaks).

Nykaul: Could you share with us some of the projects you are currently working on?

Ikuska: Well, in relationship to the above question I am actively working on E'itaso again. This may not mean anything since inevitably I get interrupted (sometimes for as much as a year) and then it takes me a while to get back into the swing of things to finish it up. I mostly just need to refine the proc list and beg a coder to devote the time to it, now. Incidentally, E'itaso is not really a day 2, it is a completely separate zone that shares themes with E'urdin.

Other big projects are the ongoing effort to get eq stats under control, and also a plan to make sure the more challenging zones give the most rewarding xp and eq.

The building program is in full-swing, and everyone seems to be creating zones faster than ever.

Nykaul: What is it like to have Vryce as a boss?

Ikuska: Again with the trying to get me fired! Just kidding. He's actually enjoyable to work with, and is very respectful of the choices I make for the game. On the rare occasions we disagree about how to implement something, we listen to each other's arguments on it and make a decision from there. The only problem the 148s tend to have is that Vryce, Ozy, and myself are all stubborn as bermuda grass and sometimes we nearly kill each other, but it always works out. Soleil and Masou are the sweet ones of the bunch. Hehe!

Nykaul: No doubt you get asked the same question by countless people, how do you handle repetitive type of work?

Ikuska: Delegation!

Actually, I can't delegate my email, which is the most repetitive thing I do. Gamina took over updating wizlist and mailing lists, which is a huge relief for me and I can't thank her enough for it. Creating the WRE (proofreading) department was one of the best choices I ever made, because I used to proofread new zones myself before we zonetested them, and that got to be insane. Kostia and the other WREs do an excellent job, and somehow manage not to burn out. They're probably the ones we should look to for advice on handling repetition!

The nice thing about zone proposals is that they are nearly all unique, which makes the job more interesting.

Nykaul: Many players claim that all Gods are biased and unfair. How would you respond to that?

Ikuska: First of all, I will say that both in the past (especially), and now, we do occasionally have problems with god bias. But when I say occasionally, I mean few and far between. In recent years it is very rare, and 99% of the god bias I hear about are one-sided stories and people who are not good at accepting blame for their own behavior. However, I do listen to all reports of this and encourage any player who thinks they have been treated in such a manner to tell me about it. If there is evidence a god has acted inappropriately, I will take action on it and have even fired people for it.

That said, I think the majority of cases of god bias has more to do with partial information, skewed facts, and people who love to be a victim than actual god bias. There's a lot of "he said, she said" going on. "My friend's clannie's newbie brother said so-and-so wouldn't approve their name simply because they didn't like him". Then I find out the name was "Dingleberry" or "Snothoarder". I think everyone needs to take the god abuse stories they hear with a large helping of salt.

We train gods very strictly not to be biased, and they are corrected or removed when I find instances of this occurring. I feel like our staff is as fair and consistent as any large group of humans could possibly be. They will have slightly different interpretations of things, but for the most part are excellent representatives of Medievia. They work very hard, and deserve the player's respect.

Nykaul: How old are you?

Ikuska: I will turn 25 this month (April).

Nykaul: What would you say was your biggest life accomplishment?

Ikuska: That's a bit premature at 25! But so far I would say it is myself, and my daughter. I think both of us are exceptional people.

Nykaul: If you were forced to quit Medievia this very second, what would you want people to remember about you?

Ikuska: I would want Athrian to remember his very important lesson on poisonous plant species.

Umm... I would hope that I contributed something that made the game more fun, since that is what playing Medievia is about. I'm not as concerned with whether or not my name is attached to that, as long as it exists.

Nykaul: What do you think people WILL remember about you?

Ikuska: Haha... uhh I opt not to answer, since it's not something I'd have chosen, nor did I choose it.

I think for the most part people seem to have a positive opinion of me. Among the gods I might be remembered for putting one of Soleil and Vryce's flower centerpieces on my head while dancing at their wedding reception. And for my ability to make up catchy songs on the medbuild mailing list.

Nykaul: If you could ask anyone on Medievia a question, who would you ask and what would the question be?

Ikuska: I don't think the person would know the answer. So let's see! I'll ask Melquiades if he thinks he can fit wine corks in his nostrils. Plus, he needs to take a picture and prove it.

Nykaul: If you could interview anyone, alive or dead, who would be and why?

Ikuska: This is the longest questionnaire I've ever seen. I'd be pretty interested in having a private discussion with Hitler, I think I understand him the least of anyone I can think of.

Nykaul: If you could have any Medievia spell or skill in real life, what would you want and why?

Ikuska: If levitate actually involved soaring around, I'd want that. But I think my second choice is invisibility. Is this the cliche answer? It would be damned useful, though.

Oasis would never know where I was!!!

Nykaul: Some people have certain rituals for playing Medievia, like some drink only diet pepsi, others listen to a certain type of music, and some even mud naked. Do you have any particular ritual or activity you like to do while playing?

Ikuska: Well, I mud naked of course. Um. I don't know that I have any rituals, but I really like olives, so mark me down as a ritual olive eater.

Nykaul: How did you come up with the name 'Ikuska' and what does it mean, if anything?

Ikuska: It's actually a verb. It means "to see" in Basque. I lived in the Basque country for a summer with my friend Aitor when I was 18, though I don't actually speak the language. My mortal "Izar" means "star" and is common first name in the Basque country.

Nykaul: If 'Ikuska' was the Jeopardy answer, what would be the question?

Ikuska: I think I just answered that above? But "Who is the most amazing goddess that all builders want to please so much that they immediately name their zones something other than "Temp#?" would be a good one.

Nykaul: What two items are guaranteed to be found in your fridge?

Ikuska: Olives and olives. Well, olives and beer.

Nykaul: If you had to describe yourself in only three words, what would they be?

Ikuska: Do you realize I've been answering these questions for the last 3 hours? Good thing I waited over a year to respond to this thing, I should have been doing it in increments, though.

Passionate, Intense, Latipennate

Hi, Elorei!

Nykaul: If you could be a fictional character, who would you be and why?

Ikuska: The Hemulen from Finn Family Moomintroll. He's a gardener!!! Plus they get to fly around on eggshells that turned into clouds. Maybe I should be Snufkin instead, actually.

Nykaul: What was the best advice you were given as a child?

Ikuska: I'm sure it was something my mother said, isn't this kind of thing imbedded in our subconscious somewhere and unable to be tapped for an interview?

Nykaul: If you were given three wishes, and one didn't involve asking for more wishes, what would you wish for and why?

Ikuska: Wings, a job I adore that keeps me well-supplied in money (mainly because it solves the problem of condensing "a large farm and cool heavy machinery, an endless supply of rare plants, and an extensive collection of olive varieties" into one wish, but I'd also enjoy having the ability to be generous with it whenever I liked), and a better memory to remember the things I've learned.

I'd wish for things like world peace, but then I start getting too philosophical about it and wondering what the repercussions of everyone being placid and happy would be, etc.

And when you are being truly hypothetical it's more fun to be selfish.

Nykaul: List five things that MOST people don't know about you!

Ikuska: Whenever I get asked this question I run out of more answers to use next time!

1. I'm a visual artist and particularly enjoy painting and sculpting mediums. I went to Ringling School of Art and Design in order to become an animator until I was in a car accident.

2. I'm an excellent gourmet and southern cook.

3. I'm a state certified Master Gardener. This isn't the same as having a master's degree in horticulture, but it does mean I'm a serious garden nerd.

4. I love punk music and bluegrass, ya'll!

5. If I ever meet Hobbes from the Bill Watterson comics, I intend to marry him.

Nykaul: Do you have any further comments, statements, opinions or advice?

Ikuska: Don't get in my way when it comes to Hobbes or I'll steam-roller you! Besides, what would I do with all the cans of tuna fish I've stowed away for my dowry?



I would like to thank Ikuska for taking the time out of her busy schedule to answer these questions. I hope everyone has also enjoyed reading them. It is always fun finding out a little more about the Gods that help create Medievia.

If you believe you are a 'special' person that should be interviewed then email me at nykaul@medievia.com with the reasons why. Also, if you have a question you have always wanted to ask someone, feel free to email that question and if I ever interview that person I may include your question.

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