All About Bob
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 Bob Portrait


Part Two: Introduction to the online community

Around this time I started to settle down.  I got married to a wonderful woman, and had a job in the broadband industry.  I had worked my way from a job as tech support monkey to that of "Operations Developer".  No, I don't know what that term meant either.  We were working on an automated support that would be the first of many canceled or failed projects in my life.

I was playing Ultima Online heavily since beta.  Like many players I dreamed of a world where I could make a real difference.  I wanted to raise an army, return Sossaria to the virtues and bring the Ultima back to Ultima Online.  Well, it turns out you couldn't really do anything like that, but a player can dream.

Then my life fell apart.  My wife gave birth to a daughter, Claire Elizabeth Roland.  She was a special, wonderful child who was born with a terrible disease, Spinal Muscular Atrophy.  When you're the parent of a dying child, you find your mind desperate for relief.  I found a measure of relief in writing online comics.  They weren't very good, but they filled the lonely hours at three in the morning as you're watching an oxygen monitor on a dying child.

Through my comics I met a number of interesting people, and engaged in their virtual communities.  It was an exciting time.  The idea of online journalism was changing the way that players and game developers interacted.  Lum the Mad was riding high with his web site, forcing game companies to engage the player base in a real dialog.  Lum, for reasons known only to him, eventually decided he needed more writers for his site.  He asked me, and I jumped at it.

For the next few months I would be writing for his site, and raging against the gaming machine.  It was a heady time, really.  I would get worked up over a new patch, or a series of bannings.  These were really, really, really important.  So important that people would expend thousands of words on the subject.  As I said, it was a different time.

My daughter eventually passed away, and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.  I was shocked by the outpouring of support from the community.  Origin systems placed a banner on the Ultima web site to help raise money for research into SMA.  I received e-mails from all over, and a shoulder to cry on when I needed it.  I felt a sense of debt to the community and to Origin systems.  I didn't know that I would have to eventually pay up.

Part 3: The game years


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