Thrall – What Happened, Man?

***As a note, this entry discusses model updates in Warlords of Draenor. If you are trying to avoid spoilers about those kinds of updates, you may want to take a pass on this one. Fair warning.***

It’s hard to preface this post because Thrall – as a character – is such an integral part of the World of Warcraft. Some love him, some hate him. Like Jaina, he’s very polarizing amongst the playerbase. Whether that makes him a good character is debatable. Some (MEEEEE!!) would argue that negative attention is still attention and any character that gets lore discussions going means the writers of the game are doing their jobs. Others would argue that flat writing (Garrosh, for example) doesn’t do the story any favors even if it gets people talking…or venting as the case may be. I can see both sides of the situation.

Thrall is…haha. Oh boy. I would argue that if “main characters” existed in the Warcraft Universe, Thrall would be central among them. In a world where there are countless NPCs and storylines that stretch into the fathomless Ether, Thrall and several other characters sit like the anchoring trunk of a tree. If there were Warcraft themed cereals, Thrall O’s would be right there on the shelf next to the Tyrande Wheaties. HE’S AN IMPORTANT GUY IS WHAT I AM TRYING TO SAY.

With the start of the Cataclysm expansion, Thrall started to take a much more central role in the storyline. He essentially became a “free agent” which in the warcraft universe means that he was more useable in the plot. If you fly solo and have less responsibilities, you can do more in a story. The reason we see Tyrande or Jaina in less “solo” roles is because they CAN’T do that. They have people to lead, places to guard, Malfurions to ignore. Jaina can pop in now and then in a siege or two, but she doesn’t have time to go on a life altering journey of discovery because Dalaran would be sans glorious and beautiful leader.

Why they chose Thrall of all characters to be the more leading faceman of Warcraft, I don’t know. People speculate, they mock, they infer. I have my thoughts on that too. But for all the, “God WHY does Thrall keep popping up?” discussions that happen in story circles – there you go. He’s a solo agent of progressing the story. If you look back through the Warcraft franchise – he always kinda was like that. (Along with other leading characters.) Nothing has changed for him except he gave up the mantle of Warchief – which was preventing him from continuing the same role he had as a character in the RTS games.

Imagine if Sylvanas didn’t have to stay in the Undercity to keep the Forsaken under her thumb? Yeah, there you go. Responsibilities are like, such a drag, man.

On this, the year of our Lord Warlords of Draenor 2014′s eve, the alpha client has launched and the fruitful delving and plundering of the expansion’s assets has begun. With that has come the preliminary character models – Velen and Thrall included.

I try to keep an open mind, and I also want to add the caveat that: ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALL THINGS SUBJECT TO CHANGE!!!

But my preliminary look at Thrall’s model made me say, out loud: “Man, what happened to you, guy?”

The model is of a vaguely orc-like looking guy in a trenchcoat…robe…thing. The outfit is interesting, but now Thrall stands completely erect. Shoulders back, neck held high. The main thing that marks Thrall as an orc at this point is his green skin. He actually looks more like a human than an orc. If you don’t believe me, here’s a side-by-side image comparison of the new male orc model, Thrall’s new model, and Gilbert the improverished (He just needs a little more time to find himself, okay?) human warrior:

like malcolm in the middle but less funny

like malcolm in the middle but less funny

(With credit to mmo champion for the image of Thrall’s new model.)

Look at that and tell me which one Thrall more closely resembles. It’s like, right there. *grabs your head and smushes your face against your computer monitor* See? SEE?!

This model update is the latest in a long line of updating the art to make Thrall appear more humanlike in appearance when compared to other orcs. If you trace the artwork of Thrall back to the RTS games, you see him gradually lose his hunching posture, his body fills out more naturally, and his face gains a more human appearance as well. WHY?!

There are a couple of possible explanations, and I don’t like either of them. The first is that he was an orc raised by humans; Blackmoore specifically. Trained to be a gladiator but taught by human hand, it might explain why Thrall has begun to subconsciously emulate the humans he spent so much time around. But…there were orcs in those camps too. Also, like, the horde has orcs and he spent a pretty long time around them? Soo.

The other explanation could be that Thrall has spent so much time on his own lately finding himself, that he’s just naturally adopted the new, less orclike posture because…I don’t know? Shaman magic and the journey of self discovery and enlightenment? Lol. *throws notecards in the air*

The obvious answer here is that they want a way to make Thrall distinctive from all the other orcs, especially now that we’re going to alternate Draenor where orcs flow from mighty waterfalls and rain from the skies on cloudy days. But I have got to say – that sucks. Both for all the other orcs, and for Thrall himself.

The guy was already going to stick out because he had green skin. Making him so human in his appearance doesn’t really serve a helpful purpose – except to make him more identifiable by the players. The age old idea of people subconsciously feeling more of a bond with him because he looks more “human” than his fellow orcs. This is the same logic applied to the dimorphism of a LOT of the female models in game. To be “attractive” is to have that more ideal human physique. But this is a world where little rat men scurry through tunnels holding candles, and bird men can be attorneys at law. What I’m saying is – was doing this to Thrall even necessary?

Here’s my main issue with these subtle changes to Thrall over the years. Thrall, the orc, was very proud and fierce. The dude fought alongside Rexxar and Grom Hellscream with orcish pride. He slung the doomhammer and Lok’tar’d to the Heavens. He was an orc then. He looked like an orc, he acted like an orc, and he was an ORC HERO.

Now he’s a humanized hero, in more ways than one. Since he’s been pushed more to the forefront, he has sacrificed a LOT of his orcish features and essentially become human. He was an orc when they needed him to be an orc, but now that they need him to step up and be a more neutral hero – he looks the part of a bland human everyman so people can “identify” I guess.

PLUS he stands among the other orcs in the horde, all hunched over. Garrosh is hunched over. The orcs in the siege of Orgrimmar are hunched over. It almost makes you equate that hunchy thicker orcs = bad and stupider and Thrall with his superior posture and physique = paragon of light and intelligence. It’s a leap, but can’t you kind of see that? And now he’s going to meet his father Durotan and his mother Draka (sort of) looking…almost like he came from a completely different race.

Honestly, I get it. Thrall has ALWAYS been a different orc. He has fought to maintain his identity as an individual and an orc in a hostile world that would see him hang because of it. But I think that is the part of his character that resonated with people so much. To see such a key part of him changing and going away just makes me feel…sad. I don’t think this new model is badass. I think it flies in the face of how a once proud orc and warrior of the horde has dropped intriguing and harrowing parts of his personality and by proxy physique as the story has gone on. And it’s a shame. If a more humanlike Thrall is what the writers want, so be it. But I’ll just sit here and miss the Thrall that once was.

What it takes to be a Lady Lore char in WoW

You’re a fresh recruit, right out of the Stormwind army’s training camps. Bright eyed, you want to make a difference in this mixed up Azeroth! You think you can do it – after all, plenty of women have worked their way up the ranks to become leading lore figures!

But as a leading lore character, what are your options? Well, take a look at this handy chart and decide which path you’d like to follow:

lady lore chars

(And to note: This isn’t even touching on how crappy it is to use insanity or mental illness as a plot device for villainy in this game. I take real issue with that, but it’s a complaint for another time.)

Look at that! A whole 4 options for you to choose from. What’s even nicer is that every choice you make, you’ll have a fanbase at your heels constantly calling you a “psycho bitch” or “whore” regardless. And you’ll have a development team that doesn’t particularly care how the fanbase reacts, because they openly admit to certain parts of WoW being a “boys’ club.” Or they encourage it by writing in quests where a leader openly calls a lady leader a bitch as well.

Okay, hyperboles aside, the above stuff was meant to prove a point. Do I think the writing team purposely portrays women this way? No. I just think they aren’t sure what to do with their women characters, and they have an increasingly hostile fanbase that twists their words to a point where any time Jaina Proudmoore is brought up, the first word uttered is “Alliance bitch.”

It’s hard for some people to understand, so let me put it this way. When Varian is brought up, he is not called a whore because he had feelings for Tiffin. (Unlike Jaina and Arthas.) When Garrosh is brought up, he is not called a psycho bitch for his genocide against Theramore. (Unlike Sylvanas and her motives. While his behavior isn’t excused, it’s usually justified by his lust for power, not his “bitchiness” or “unstable emotions.”) Thrall isn’t called a wuss for seeking neutrality.

So why the disconnect? It’s a symptom of the disrespect people have for these characters. It is the exact definition of a double standard. And the only real difference is the genders of the characters and the way they are perceived.

Let’s take a quick look at the major lady lore figures in the warcraft universe:

- Azshara: Queen of the ancient and beautiful highborne. She was renowned for her beauty, vanity, and lust for power. In fact, she embodied vanity and greed. And thus led to the downfall of her entire race.

-Magna Aegwynn: A guardian of Tirisfal. Incredibly strong, hard headed, and powerful. Blunt to a fault, she single-handedly fought off the fallen Titan Sargeras. She largely disappeared from the public eye until she sacrificed herself for her grandson, Med’an. A woman who DEFEATED A TITAN sacrificed herself so her grandson could kill Cho’gall, a beginner tier raid boss.

-Sylvanas: Leader of the forsaken and a force the be reckoned with. Deadly with a bow, and more than a match in wits for the lich king himself. Now considered to be on a power trip, players discuss how they can’t wait until she’s a raid boss and can be killed, and even in game Garrosh calls her a bitch with no repercussions.

-Jaina Proudmoore: One of the most powerful mages alive. Continuously does what she thinks is best for her people and faction, regardless of the toll it takes on her. Though she could have destroyed Orgrimmar in a tidal wave as payback for Theramore’s destruction, she resisted. She even refrained herself from smacking Thrall upside the head when he told her to get a husband to even her emotions out.

-Tyrande Whisperwind: Leader of the night elven people and a powerful priestess/warrior in her own rite. Waits dutifully for her husband Malfurion, and follows his commands to the letter despite the traditional NE idea that priestesses are to be led by the head priestess and only druids are to be led by the archdruids. Can best be summed up by the quote: “Hush, Tyrande.” and now seeks to wage war wherever she can.

-Maiev Shadowsong: Staunch in her duty, she led the powerful NE wardens for centuries including keeping the jailed Illidan in line. Appears at the end of black temple to help strike the killing blow. Later re-appears and takes issue with the fact that Malfurion let the highborne (see Azshara) back into NE society. It’s not so subtly implied that she is off her rocker, and thus she falls into the annals of “insane villainess” history.

-Aggra: Appeared in a book to teach Thrall. Had a single questline. Served her purpose by having Thrall’s son. Never seen again.

-Moira Thaurissan: Held under the thumb of a father that was angry she was not born a son. Told throughout her childhood that she would not amount to a good leader because of it. Ran away and found true love with a Dark Iron king who treated her as an equal. Said king was then assassinated at the command of her father. When she returned to claim her rightful spot on the throne with her legitimate heir son, she was almost assassinated by Varian Wrynn. Probably one of the characters most frequently referred to as a “bitch” by the general playerbase because no attempt to explain her motives exists in the game.

There are some exceptions to these characterizations in the game. Namely Alleria, the dragon aspects, and Shandris Feathermoon. (Please, Gods of WoW lore, do not take Shandris from us!) but overall I think you can see the running theme here.

It’s bad that these characters are pigeonholed into these roles. It’s even WORSE that the community will continually resort to gendered insults whenever any of these characters makes a move. I think Sylvanas could sit down and have a tea party and someone, somewhere, would call her a bitch because of it. And that’s really not right. And it’s not fair.

Thankfully, Pandaria was full of awesome characters, both men and women. It was certainly a step in the right direction! Except the mantid society. What was up with that? Helmed by a powerful queen that existed merely as a figurehead, kept constantly in check by the Klaxxi. It’s like they took the idea of insect biology, specifically bees, and warped it into some bizarre amalgam that only half worked. It was still a good storyline, but the idea of it annoyed me on some level.

Do I have hope for change in Warlords of Draenor? Not really. I am absolutely thrilled we’ll be getting a new leading lady in the form of a draenei priestess. But I don’t have much hope for her not following the footsteps of her predecessors. Or even worse, she will be subject to a fanbase that presumes to call her a bitch or a whore regardless of any choices she makes. I find that really, really sad.

On their face, the issues with the characters don’t bother me as much as the reaction of the community to them. Nothing is worse than having a good discussion about Jaina on twitter and someone randomly butting in to call her a bitch. Thanks for your input, random person, and thanks for reducing an entire character down to a stereotype about her gender. I would hope, deep in my heart, that kind of thing would be obnoxious to the writers of the game as well. They spend time trying to build up characters, only to have them and their motives explained away by PMS. But you’d think that id it did bother the writers, they would be trying to affect some change in the way they, themselves, treat and regard their own creations.

All I can say is that it does bother me. It should bother everyone.

Customer Service in WoW, What People Don’t Know

Aaah, you expected a blizzcon wrap-up post, didn’t you? Well, I’ll do one eventually but a lot of what I found was already covered by and WoWinsider. I am working up a post about Warlords of Draenor, but I wanted to post something else in the meantime. This is a topic not many people have broached, but it’s one I think is worth exploring.

I was a fool and lost my blizzcon loot card during the general Q and A. I was standing in line and must have dropped it at some point. Sucks for me, rocks for the person who found it and probably immediately listed it on e-bay. I figured it was a lost cause, but I submitted a ticket on the site anyway. Lo and behold, with some identity verification, they were able to help me out! Huzzah!

And that’s when I got to thinking – as players we deal with Blizzard’s customer support on a daily basis, but how many of you have actually sat down and thought about their quality of service and what they do on a daily basis to make the company run on a face to face level?

Everyone is more than willing to give oodles of credit to the big name devs like Chris Metzen, Mike Morhaime, Cory Stockton, etc. but the fact of the matter is, you’re more likely to deal with the tier 1 Blizzard customer support agents than any of them. You get the faces of Blizzard’s community team in people like Zarhym, Bashiok, etc. but the tier 1 customer service people are the unsung heroes of Blizzard. They are the ones that are actually helping you get what you want.

I have worked in customer service for an embarrassing amount of my professional career. Does anyone really dream, as a child, of growing up to answer questions from pissy customers all day? Probably not. I wanted to be a dinosaur veterinarian. Customer service is thankless, demanding, and physically and emotionally draining. Some of you reading this probably work in the field too and are nodding your heads. Mhm, I get it, trust me.

The general idea of customer service is that if a customer needs to reach out to you, it’s because they have an issue. They’re not calling or emailing to ask how your day is. So you go in every day with the knowledge that every person you speak to is at varying levels of distress over a problem that may or mat not be caused by their own mistakes. And that’s fine. That’s what customer service is, after all. But take a second to appreciate what that means, mentally, and what it would take to cope with dealing with it for 8-10 hours a day.

The golden rule of customer service is that you are not supposed to take anything personally. An upset customer is not upset at you as a person, they’re upset at the issue they’re having or the company you work for. Fair enough. But I think we’ve all seen the twitter, reddit, general forum, etc. posts where a smug customer brags about how they completely shit all over some unsuspecting CS rep for not bowing to their immediate whims. When that happens it’s hard not to take it personally, and we as a consumer culture need to stop rewarding people for doing it.

That’s not so say people who have genuine issues that aren’t addressed shouldn’t go to social media avenues to find solutions. I know I’ve personally gone head to head with an ISP company on twitter over a mistaken $300 charge. It just becomes a matter of distinguishing whether you are trying to get your issue solved, or if you’re trying to embarrass/shame a customer service rep. That’s personal. That’s wrong.

The meat of this post is thus – if you have ever skipped out on filling out one of those surveys you get after a GM/CS rep helps you, please don’t do that. If you haven’t worked in the industry, I’ll let you in on a little trade secret – it’s called: NPS or Net Promoter Score.

Net Promoter Score is what companies use to gauge their customer service levels against other companies. It comes directly from you, the consumer, and the surveys you fill out. Every time you answer a phone survey after you speak to your power company, or you do a survey on taco bell’s website, they have a team of analysts going over it within minutes.

In customer service, people who have an average or positive experience are about 80% less likely to tell a friend about it. Compared to someone who has a negative experience and will tell at least 30 people and all their twitter/facebook followers. This is why you take things like Net Promoter Score into account. You want to know how many people have had AMAZING experiences so that they’ll recommend your company to friends and family. It’s free advertising!

(Funny story, the industry term for people who have negative experiences is: “Brand Assassin.” So when you write a bad review of your local pizza hut on yelp, make sure you shout about using stealth and not having enough energy, etc.)

Here’s another industry secret – a lot of companies game their NPS by making it so that anything that IS NOT A PERFECT SCORE on a survey counts as a NEGATIVE score. So if you are not marking all “5″s or “Excellents” your results are basically counting against the person you are rating, or they’re not counting at all. Companies want to be able to say, “Wow, look at that, our NPS is over 60%!” and if that means that have to throw out the average ratings to get to the point that their score looks better to shareholders, they’ll do it.

Do I know 100% if Blizzard does this with their customer service surveys? No. But it’s the industry standard so I would assume that they do. What does this mean? This means that the GM you got that worked for an hour to restore the random lucky coin you got last year and happened to accidentally delete ended up having their survey thrown out or counted against them because you marked all “average” as a response.

Now, I’m not telling you guys that you should all give 100% excellents as feedback every time you get average/mediocre service. And if you DO have a bad experience, you should by all means say so. I’m just trying to point out how oft overlooked customer service feedback is, and what it means. CS reps often get blamed for things that are out of their hands – like wait times, etc. Yeah, it sucks to have to wait a day to get a ticket response, but that’s not the rep’s fault, so it’s not really something you should grade them on when filling out your survey response. That’s feedback that should be submitted to Blizzard as a company. It’s like blaming the guy behind the McDonald’s counter because the McRib isn’t on the menu anymore, y’see?

So going forward, I want everyone to be more conscious of how much customer service they receive in an average day. Do you thank your cashier at the store for telling you to have a nice day? You should. Do you thank the phone rep that fixes the huge billing mistake you made to your own account? You probably should. Yeah, it’s their job, but they deserve to be treated like human beings.

So when you do receive good customer service from a GM or Blizzard employee, make sure you fill out your survey. If you received EXCELLENT service, send feedback about that specific employee. (As a note, I know about the removal of the GM feedback email. I think it’s cruddy and it should be brought back.) “Good” customer service is relative, but I would argue that as long as you get a response to your issue that isn’t rude and gives you a solid answer whether positive or negative, you’ve been served well.

Much like the old saying about shit rolling down hill, a positive experience can turn a person’s entire day around. A CSR is nice to you? You’re nice back. You’re nice to the next person too, and then they’re nice to the next person! It’s a daisy-chain of niceness!

So yeah. A blizzcon post is incoming eventually, but I wanted to make this post to help bring some awareness to the community. Just remember it the next time you submit a ticket. :)

Complete Disengagement – But Why?

Here’s the thing – you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been completely silent for a while. I’ve been silent on the forums, this blog, and I honestly haven’t signed into WoW for about 3 months outside of here or there for a few minutes.

Why? Because I’m almost completely disengaged from the game. I always have a period of downtime between expansions, but with Mists it’s been pretty severe. An entirely new content patch was released and I still haven’t really signed on to take part in it.

In the meantime I’ve been playing other games. Animal Crossing, free to play MMOs, and I’ve especially delved into Final Fantasy XIV.

Throughout it all I’ve thought back to WoW and all I can wonder is why? Why did I lose interest so quickly? Mists of Pandaria was, arguably, one of the best expansions in terms of mechanics improvements. It had great, regularly updated content. Pet battles, farming, LFR improvements and now flex raiding…but why don’t I care anymore?

The argument can be made that I’ve grown out of the game, which is entirely possible. But I’ve been playing pokemon games with the exact same mechanics since I was a kid. I love Blizzard games. It’s why I’m going to blizzcon. So I can understand growing out of it to a point where I still log in to chat with guildmates, etc. but I’ve gone from semi-interest to “I’d rather go wash some dishes instead.” I still love talking about WoW on twitter…but why don’t I like playing it?

I’ve wracked my brain lately trying to figure out what about Mists was making me so disinterested. Now that I’ve thought on it, I have all these colorful swirls of half-created ideas and reasons floating around in my brain, and I’m going to try to put them to paper to explain my feelings.

Even though I was bored with Cata mechanics-wise, I was still very engaged in the storyline up until Thrall took over at the end. The world was literally about to end in a flash of fiery old God magic. Yeah, I was sick of my 85 sitting there with nothing to do, but I was hooked up until the very end of the expansion on just the storyline itself.

Fandral betrayed me, so I stuck around to see him die in Firelands. Deathwing was an omnipresent threat, and the heroic dungeons that accompanied dragon soul really pushed that home. There was such rich storyline everywhere I looked. Is that what kept me playing? I’m starting to think so.

Mists of Pandaria did not have a bad storyline. It had amazing writing and art associated with it. Here’s where things start to get murky in my explanation, because these thoughts are still all jumbled and muddied together.

We, as players, knew from the outset of the expansion that we were essentially going into Pandaria – a completely unspoiled land – to cause complete and utter chaos. From the very start I was uncomfortable with that key plotline. I want to be heroic, I don’t want to help unleash a Sha that destroys a decade’s worth of work for Yu’lon’s reincarnation. I don’t want to be a driving force behind Pandaren from the Wandering Isle turning their backs on their own people. That feels…gross. I can attest that throughout the questing in Pandaria, save for a few areas like the Dread Wastes, that I kept completing quests and kind of side-eying my computer at the resolutions I was given.

“Oh um…defeated this enemy, I guess…but the entire village was destroyed in the process and lots of people died…”


(True story I made this exact face at least 50 times throughout my time playing MoP.)

We’ve gone to Draenor to defeat the remnants of the legion. We went into Northrend to battle the undead scourge and plague. We defended Azeroth from an aspect drunk on corrupted power. And now we went into an absolutely beautiful uncharted land to…despoil it.

And we did. We despoiled the heck out of Pandaria.

The other major draw to the Mists expansion was the Pandaren themselves. A race of gentle, balanced folk who treasure ideals of family, unity, and peace. They were pretty awesome but…and I feel bad saying this…a little boring.

I read the book about Vol’jin. It tried to hammer home the point of Taran Zhu and the Pandaren being a serene, balanced race so hard that I struggled to get through certain parts of the book. We get it. They’re awesome, ascended people who can fight with the grace of a lotus flower. Taran Zhu can kick a Zandalari troll’s head off without a single piece of fur being out of place. Chen is super lovable and haughty and knows how to throw some punches! Haha woo! He also makes good beer! Did I mention beer? BEER BEER BEER BEER BEER. There’s a whole lotta beer cause Pandaren loooove beer!

That’s not a bad thing, but it gets very repetitive and monotonous when it’s all you get for a 2 year expansion period.

When you look at the key characters that came from the Pandaren race you get people like -

Taran Zhu: It seemed like the overwhelming consensus among my friends was that we all strongly disliked Taran Zhu. The guy was a smug, self-superior xenophobe that was ABSOLUTELY EVERYWHERE. The really crappy thing is that he was completely xenophobic from the outset and WE PROVED HIM RIGHT. He never had his, “I was so wrong.” epiphany moment because we went in with every single faction stereotype blazing and lived up to all his negative expectations. Cool beans. No character growth there, no satisfaction, just a bland annoying character.

Chen Stormstout: It’s hard to find negatives about this guy because it seems like he was purposely written not to have any. That should say it all.

Emperor Shao Hao: We got to see his transformation into the full embodiment of Pandaren ideals. He banished all of his negative emotions except pride, and hoped that his legacy would live on in the Pandaren people. It did. If there’s one thing Mists of Pandaria hammered home to me, it was a complete lack of emotion on the side of the Pandaren.

Maybe lack of emotion isn’t the right way to describe it. One of the short stories – “The Blank Scroll” features a lorekeeper that perfectly embodies all the Pandaren ideals. She’s stoic, almost all-knowing, and exists solely to guide the other characters in the story to an inevitable conclusion and lesson.

And THAT is what Pandaria itself, and all the Pandaren are. They were a storyline that exists to lead the alliance and horde, and your own character, to a certain storyline conclusion. And that is one of the problems. That’s about as “on rails” in terms of a game/story that you can get.

The mogu and the klaxxi are absolutely fascinating in concept. In execution it was fairly lacking. The mogu got the, “We are the generic bad guys in this expansion. We exist to fill out your daily quests and an eventual raid.” and the buck kind of stopped there. Lots of little tastes of Titan and Old God lore throughout both the Mogu and Klaxxi stories, but not enough to really let us sink out teeth into it. Why were the Zandalari even there? It’s sort of explained in the book, but not to a satisfying end. They’re there for a daily hub and to fill the first wing of Throne of Thunder, I guess.

I was more interested in the story behind the Twin Consorts or the implications of it than I was in the burdens of Shao Hao.

Wrathion was a shining star in this expansion, so it wasn’t all negative. The guy is an incredibly interesting character, and I can’t wait to see how he handles future challenges.

Another huge problem is that we went into this expansion from the start knowing that Garrosh was probably going to be the big bad. That’s like being handed a book by someone who goes, “Oh by the way, the main character dies at the end.”

At that point, how you get there starts mattering less. We didn’t lose a single major lore character to death this expansion. That could be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. There wasn’t as much investment from me because I knew Garrosh was going to be set up as the evil big bad, I knew the alliance and horde weren’t going anywhere, and I knew that any major sense of loss would be handled by sacrificing Pandaria itself instead of losing Anduin or something like that. I knew this as I started leveling my first character to 90. And that was when the Sha of boredom first crept into and took root in my brain.

In a lot of ways, I think the overwhelming amount of spoilers and datamining has destroyed a lot of the magic behind WoW. There are sites and resources dedicated to spilling out as much info as quickly as possible before patches even make it to the PTR. Can these spoilers be avoided? I am honestly going to say that at this point, no, they can’t be. I had a friend on twitter who was desperately trying to avoid being spoiled on the warchief reveal when Garrosh was killed, and she was accidentally spoiled within 2 hours. It only got worse after a few days as more and more people discussed every semblance of the plot from all possible angles.

As players, we’ve caused this problem. We’re our own worst enemy. We strive to be so well prepared and are just so curious about the game, that we remove a lot of the magic behind it by discussing changes/lore plotlines ad infinitum before they’re even in the game. I honestly think this is why Blizzard has started leaning so heavily on the book franchise. It’s a lot harder for book spoilers to be leaked to MMO champion since you cannot datamine a kindle.

Part of why I enjoyed FFXIV was because I picked it up at early release without having played the beta or looking any of it up. It was all new, it was all magical. I can’t expect that from WoW anymore, obviously, but it might be nice if maybe, as players, we can have enough respect for one another that we don’t immediately dish out every new plotline the instant it’s posted to MMO champion.

This also goes for Blizzard. You can set up an expansion without giving away the ending. I absolutely want the lore and quest devs to be involved and answer lore related questions, but going into MoP the way they did was a mistake. We knew at the last Blizzcon about Garrosh. The element of surprise was completely gone, and with it – so was some of the magic of the game.

I don’t know. Like I’ve been saying, it’s really hard to put these thoughts to words. I think I’ve rambled on enough for now. I hope some of what I said made sense. And I truly hope that at some point in the future, the game will captivate me again the way it has for the last 9 years.

Mists of Pandaria Wishlist

As we reach the midpoint of the expansion, there are some interesting changes on the horizon. 5.3 is already in the works and has a lot of quality of life changes. After that should be the Orgrimmar raid patch. On top of all of this, the game changing feature that Ghostcrawler had mentioned a while ago still hasn’t been announced. I’m wondering if the latest changes to allow certain scenarios cross faction are a hint at what is to come.

Speculation aside, there are a few loose ends that I’m hoping they tie up before the expansion ends. These are generally minor plot related things, so I’m hoping they don’t get swept by the wayside as bigger content, like the overthrowing of Garrosh, take center stage. Anywho, here’s my wishlist!

1) Resolution to Chen Stormstout’s family reunion

If you quest through dread wastes you get to see Chen finding out what happened to his family, or what is left of them. The ending of Stormstout Brewery also leaves what happens with Uncle Gao fairly ambiguous….peppers! What a lot of people may not know is that if you get your rep with the tiller Ella up, she sends you on a quest to have Chen try one of her brews. He ends up enjoying it so much he invites her to come live in the brewery and join the Stormstouts. This is especially touching because both of Ella’s parents had passed away.

So! I want to see what happens! I want some REAL resolution for Chen and his family! I have no doubt he’ll be appearing in future patches to help with the siege but considering the situation with the brewery and the ambiguous ending for some of his family (the guy in Amber is clearly still alive!) it would be great to have a final questline to see his full dreams realized and his family reunited.

2) Let’s have a wedding!

Throughout the tillers questlines and raising the friendship rep, it’s clear that a couple of the tillers ladies start to develop small crushes on ol’Yoonie. It would be great if there were a questline to culminate the friendship storyline and help one of the pandaren women and Yoon find true love.

The entire Tillers questline was eerily reminiscent of the Harvest Moon games. One of the biggest parts of that series was finding a wife/husband to woo. So it’d be nice if you could speak with one of the tillers ladies at max friendship and find out that she has a big’ol crush on farmer Yoon. Then, following some more questlines to help them talk to each other more, start planning and gathering items for a wedding in Halfhill!

3) Continue the farming traditions.

We’re not going to be staying in Pandaria forever. As the next expansion launches, I wonder just how many people will still venture to another continent to use their farms. It would be great if there were an expansion ending quest from the tillers where they invite you to continue their farming traditions in other lands as an official representative.

This opens up the possibility of giving players a run down, empty area of land on whatever new planet *coughArgus* we end up at and working hard to build it into a new farm. So say you find this patch of relatively safe land. You start clearing the rocks, gathering materials, and building a small farmhouse. It still follows the original farming theme but allows more customization. As for seeds? Surely there could be a questline to broker with the area’s population to gain access to new planting materials.

I LOVED the addition of farming in MoP. I would like to see it become a feature of the game itself rather than just an expansion.

4) A pet battle daily hub.

I discussed this in an earlier post but as people move out of Pandaria it would be super to have an area in Azeroth that featured a pet battle daily hub. Putting it in Azeroth would also allow for lower level alts to complete the dailies as well.

5) A Klaxxi pet.

Okay, maybe not a Klaxxi since they’re sentient humanoids. (Even  though we get the hopling, sporeling sprout, etc.) but maybe our big Kunchong buddy from the daily quests could leave us a baby kunchong pet as a thank you gift for essentially saving the Mantid race from extinction.

6) Make Taran Zhu shut up.

This one is pretty self explanatory. Seriously, make the guy shut up. I’m tired of his smarmy lectures all the time. One of the biggest positives to MoP ending will be not having to see this guy anymore.

7) No Med’an ever.

Please, please, PLEASE do not ever put this kid in the game. PLEASE.

8) If they’re going to bring Illidan back to life, bring Aegwynn back too.

Seriously. If the limits of death do not matter in the Warcraft universe then pleasing the playerbase by bringing Aegwynn back should be a trifle. Aegwynn died so that Med’an could live on as a terrible character and that’s a damned shame.

9) Bring the Lorewalkers to the main continents.

Given Cho’s thirst for knowledge and love of spreading history, I fail to see why he wouldn’t open up a branch of the lorewalkers on the other continents and even invite other races to be founding members. Think about all the great lore areas in EK, Kalimdor, and Northrend there are. This would be especially cool if they added small lore items that played the cinematic movies from the original warcraft games.

A lot of newer players are not sure where to start when it comes to the history of the game. Solution to this? Put the game’s history IN THE GAME for them to find. A tossed aside crown item inside the throne room of Lordaeron that, when clicked on, plays the cinematic of when Arthas returned would just be amazing.



Whew! So that’s my wishlist! What would you all like to see?

The Issue with Alliance Lore

Okay, before I get into this I want to preface – I do NOT believe there are any intrinsic biases against the alliance in this game. I do NOT believe in horde favoritism. However, I do believe there is a difference in the types of lore both sides get that contributes to an overall lacking feeling of depth of the allianceside questing. This is strongly opinion based, and people are sure to feel differently than I do but please do not take this as me attacking either side.

ANYWHOZZLE. I’ve been taking a vacation from my alliance main and have spent some time in Pandaria on my troll druid. I’ve leveled several characters allianceside through Pandaland and I used to consider myself a player of both sides, but I hadn’t quested enough to back this up in the recent expansion. There is so much that goes on between both sides during the questing experience and you never get the full story unless you do everything. This was especially true of the new cataclysm lowbie leveling quests.

Certain areas of Pandaria are largely the same regardless of the faction you play. But other zones, specifically Jade Forest and Krasarang, are strikingly different both in tone and content. The quests are mostly the same (“I want you to kill 10 mogu”) but the overall tone is vastly different.

I’ve had an issue with alliance lore that I couldn’t quite put my finger on for the longest time. It was as I was questing through Jade Forest on my horde alt that my grievances began to take shape. What was previously intangible to me started fading into view until finally I had it – a fleshed out gripe about my alliance lore issues. I was consulting with a friend of mine at the time and worked out these issues as I was talking to her. (Yes, Bells, it was you!)

When I think of the horde I think of passion, strength, fervor, and character depth. This is the faction that brings such great characters as Sylvanas, Baine, and Vol’jin. When I think of the alliance I think of honor, compassion, pride, and unity. One this side we have people like Jaina, Tyrande, and Magni Bronzebeard.

Now here’s the thing – both sides have done terrible things in their past. There’s absolutely no doubt about it. For all the sanctimonious preaching of the alliance – there is a dark history lurking there. But here’s the difference between the two factions – the horde acknowledges their moral grey area and runs with it. The alliance does not. The alliance does absolutely everything it can to appear as the justified, morally righteous cause in an otherwise war-torn world. Honor above all!

And there, my friends, is the issue. Honor is fascinating for a while but um, being the good guy all the time? It’s boring. It’s really, really, REALLY boring. People tend to wonder why the horde faction leaders get more in depth storylines?

For example, Vol’jin – the guy has always had a morally grey compass. He does what he feels is best for his people and isn’t afraid to tell someone to expect a dagger in their back. Sometimes he doesn’t even warn them. Another example is Baine – who is the most noble of the horde leaders but rightly encourages the slaughter of the Grimtotem.

Now let’s compare this to an alliance faction leader like, oh, say, Velen? Remember that guy? He’s the draenei prophet that sits on his butt in the Exodar all day. They have built Velen in such a way (even to the point of retconning previous lore) that he is a pinnacle of all that is good and pure in the world. He’s so good and in with the light that he and his people are the most ambiguous when it comes to open hostilities with the horde. They fight, to be sure, but it’s been made clear that it’s not their battle and rather one of the alliance they made when the night elves saved them.

So they have built Velen to be this champion of righteousness and good. And because of that – they can’t do ANYTHING with him except trot him out every now and then to give nebulous “prophecies” during the gatherings of the alliance leaders. His horde counterpart would likely be Lor’themar Theron – leader of the blood elves. A leader who has had to fight off the legacy Kael’thas left for his embattled people and is now taking center stage in the alliance/horde conflicts in Pandaria.

Velen just sits in the Exodar forever. Because he’s a force for good. He CAN’T be used in a way that would tarnish that reputation. Who else has had this treatment? Starts with an “M” ends with an owlbearcat outfit. Yep, Malfurion. Now he’s a force for neutral good, so he’s off the map as well.

This is the essence of the alliance. They are the faction force for good. Because of this, there is rarely a moral grey area for them to engage in during their storylines. The quests in Jade Forest force feed you the narrative that the alliance is in Pandaria for the greater good. We’re there to stop the horde. The horde is evil and enslaving Pandaren children! THEY’RE JUST SO DAMNED EVIL, AND YOU’RE JUST SO DAMNED GOOD YOU GOOD DO-GOODER GUY! You should feel great for being such a good person!

Meanwhile during the horde quests you are actively engaged in the faction war. It makes no qualms implying that the horde will wipe out the alliance and is willing to use any means, Pandarian locals included, necessary. A couple of the horde scouting party actively express their dislike of the Hozen but claim they are tools for the horde war machine. That right there? That’s messed up. But it makes for a hella good story and character development.

Meanwhile the alliance encounter the Jinyu and something something saving a race from being wiped out by the hozen. Yes, that’s the storyline for your character. Your character has appeared with the alliance in the nick of time to save these fish people who are otherwise going to be purged by the hozen. Conveniently, the hozen are also allied with the horde so it serves both purposes. You get to save a people AND staunch the horde war effort in Pandaria! You get to fight a bloody battle and still feel sanctimonious about it, yippee!

There was a big hullaballoo when the alliance Jade Forest starting area was revamped because at one point a swarm of fleeing, drowning orcs is shot to death by the Lady alliance general. People on both factions flipped. their. shit over it. “The alliance doesn’t do things like this!” Even General Rell comments that, “It isn’t right. This isn’t the alliance’s way.” Well, for pete’s sakes, it’s WAR! And you are BORING!

And maybe if they did things like that more often, the storyline would be more engaging. The jade forest alliance questline is a snooze up to and including the part where Lorewalker Cho makes you do his daily chores so that you can find Prince Anduin. (By the by, hordeside you get to do a quest where you actually CAPTURE Anduin. But no such allianceside rescue mission to get him back. Cool.) In my humble opinion, Cho seems to connect more deeply with horde players. Exploring the linage of their races and making many comments along the lines of, “We have a lot in common.” Meanwhile the alliance feeds his birds and gets a karate kid meditation lesson.

Hordeside there is an alliance fortification and several bases that must be secured and destroyed. There is a camp with overworked Pandarian laborers but the alliance is so evil that they’re keeping the laborers there by uh…umm. Nothing. They aren’t keeping the laborers there. And when you free them, all they do is complain about being tired or hungry. Well gosh gee willickers, how frightfully rude!

Meanwhile allianceside the horde fortification is a nest of orc and undead warlocks. Said warlocks have enslaved Pandaren Children using demonic magic. Not even adults and children, just the children. .So children are enslaved helping fortify an area teeming with demons and sha corruption. That’s uh, that’s pretty darned mean right there. Are you starting to see the difference yet?

If you’re horde in that scenario you’re going in to kill alliance with the afterthought of helping the Pandaren. If you’re alliance you’re going in because DAMN the horde is evil and you’re just so GOOD to be saving those children!! GOOD FOR YOU, PAL! Pats on the back all around!

This air of sanctimonious crap infiltrates almost every aspect of alliance questing, right down to daily quests in operation shieldwall. Oh yeah, we’re there to stop the goblins and orcs from polluting the area and killing off the wildlife. It also, ONCE AGAIN, conveniently helps the war cause. The war is a convenient afterthought instead of the main focus because I guess they don’t want us to feel like we’re being too mean or maybe for once not doing something for the greater good.

Instead of a scenario like Dagger in the Dark we end up with a Little Patience which is basically a 20 minute exercise to show alliance players that, relax, our High King is pretty smart and even tempered. So there’s no air of worry here because we’re in good, patient, strong hands. Oh and some orcs die too, I guess. The best character in that scenario is Tyrande, and that is a stretch.

The horde can see a little taste of this by being exposed to Anduin throughout their questing, as well. The kid is just so naive and dumb. He should have been killed at least 8 times during his stay in Pandaria, up to and including the point where he was captured initially by the horde. Anduin, in a way, is representative of the entire alliance. His chance at being an interesting, engaging character was robbed from him for the sake of the greater good. He NEEDS to be practically neutral to both sides because he’s the prince of stormwind and has a higher calling. Meanwhile: Zzzzzzzz.

It’s funny, because Wrathion is another neutral character and yet he is heads and tails more interesting than Anduin. Tortured backstory, doesn’t make qualms about who he is. Compare the two characters and consider which one would make for a more interesting character in a novel. Which one, if you were in Azeroth, would you want to spend more time with?

Now, Krasarang is the other major area that has vastly differing storylines between the alliance and horde. Hordeside you get the awesomeness of Sunwalker Dezco and his plight as his wife and best friend pass away in a strange land.

Allianceside you get some doddering old Night elf looking for the fountain of youth and his patient, but fierce, daughter who leads a team of sentinels. His daughter, the more interesting of the two, spends half the time in a coma and awakens in time to die at the same time as Kor. At this point the old night elf decides to sacrifice himself for his daughter. Abloobloobloo. Except – there’s no real feeling of attachment to the characters.

The old fart was a selfish git who wanted to renew his immortality and lost his daughter in the process. And instead of DEALING WITH THESE ISSUES he sacrifices himself so she can come back to life. Everything gets wrapped up with a neat little bow because the smarter of the two, his daughter, gets to come back to life. No real consequences except the loss of some old guy you probably didn’t care much about anyway, seeing as he was more concerned about sending you to find the waters of youth while his daughter languished in a coma. Again, don’t worry about heartbreak or tough issues, alliance, because you came out for the greater good once again!

Meanwhile Dezco loses his wife and best friend in the same damned day. Yet he presses on, and so does your horde character. You muse about the unfairness of it all but marvel at his strength as he totes his two newborns further through the mysterious new land of Pandaria. He also names one after you and that is pretty rad. There is no super happy morally good resolution. And that’s the way it should be.

So I have to ask – alliance, why are you afraid of powerful, but uncomfortable, lore developments? Why does EVERYTHING have to be for the greater good? Why do we have to feel great about everything we do? WHY? It’s BORING!

They tried something new with Jaina and completely flipped her on her alliance-do-gooder head. Once again, people lost their shit. Even the bombing of her home wasn’t enough to justify her actions in Dalaran, apparently? Are you kidding? Come on people. If you want good lore allianceside, you need to start accepting these difficult moral situations.

I am absolutely tired of do-gooder sanctimonious and paper thin alliance lore. Tired of it. The few instances where the alliance does something morally ambiguous and grey are situations where they use a dummy character like John Keeshan so that you get the feel of a cool battle without all the negativity of a non-joke alliance character getting involved. You won’t catch Varian Wrynn wiping out a settlement like Sylvanas did to Southshore or Garrosh did to Theramore. Nope, nope. He’s too good of a person. He’d never resort to that. And because of that, he leaves no lasting effect on the plot.

I love the alliance and a lot of what it stands for. I love a lot of the alliance characters as well but I cannot ignore how I feel about this anymore. Now that I’ve pinpointed my major issue it’s hard for me to look at the alliance the same way I used to. My main will always stay alliance, but I won’t lie and say I’m not enjoying my horde characters a metric ton more. It just feels better because there is more weight to the lore, more conflict behind the decisions, and no quest designers patting me on the head and reassuring me that I’m doing the right thing all the time. That might be what some folks like, but not me.

Put Down That Pedestal Please!

Have you, perchance, heard the term “fake gamer girl” recently? I imagine you have, since it’s all over the interbutts at large. It’s especially prevalent in WoW where the stereotype of bloodsucking lady widow spiders joining guilds for the sole purpose of loots and breaking the officers apart is a favorite topic on the forums.

At this point I am going to explain something and it may make some folks mad, it may change some people’s opinion of me, and it may make others uncomfortable. But I have to do this for myself as both a woman and a gamer. I cannot expect things to get better unless I actually do stand up and point this out.

There is a concept in feminism and psychology called the Madonna-whore complex. To sum it up in non-Freudian terms, it basically means that women are seen one of two ways: Wholesome Madonnas who are to be worshiped and valued; Or whores that are to be used and looked down upon. As a society we have made great strides to move away from this complex. In gaming circles, however, we are woefully behind the times as it’s still ALL over the place.

The gaming community is one that prides itself on supposed inclusiveness. How many of us were bullied in school and claim that has made us stronger? More inclusive? Less apt to judge? Ask yourself – is that really true? IS the gaming community more inclusive?

Gaming culture tends to fall into a trapping cycle when it comes to dealing with lady gamers. Men get tingly in their pants when they see an attractive woman that happens to enjoy killing demons on the PC. Why wouldn’t they? The very nature of sexual attraction is attractiveness + personality = I want to bump uglies with you.

Meanwhile, the women who are not attractive or who may not flaunt their appearance get filed away in the “seldom thought about” folder. They’re just a gamer like everybody else. Gosh, doesn’t this sound just like high school? But I thought we’d moved away from that!

Here it is – the much storied “pedestal” I refer to in my title. Though I have mainly been addressing the situation with lady gamers in this article, the pedestal applies to both genders. So men, I am not attacking you. This issue goes both ways it’s just more prone to happening with ladies.

So these people that may not do much besides look nice and sometimes pick up a video game controller get turned into the Madonnas and set very high atop this nerd pedestal where they can no longer be reached by the regular mortal! People clamor for attention from these Gods/Goddesses! And when they don’t get it – that love and admiration turns sour. To bitterness and resentment.

Suddenly these pedestal deities are assholes! They know nothing about their fanbase! Also, they actually hardly play video games or contribute to the gaming community at all! Those..those..FAKE GAMERS! How dare they!

But whose fault is that? They haven’t changed anything about themselves. I’ll tell you who is at fault – the people that put them on that pedestal. If you create unrealistic expectations for someone and they fail to meet them, why are you surprised?

If you are worshiping someone purely for their looks and the fact that maybe one time they streamed a world of warcraft arena match, why are you surprised when there is no other substance deeper below the surface? You, as a player, may visit numerous WoW related blogs and sites daily. WoWhead, WoWinsider, MMO Champion, etc. And you check those sites for information and strategies without considering who may be behind the screen putting them up.

You check someone else’s livestream for pure eyecandy. And you’re surprised if they’re not getting into the finer points of rogue PVP theorycrafting? Why are you surprised? Why are you ANGRY?

Now let’s bring this vicious cycle back around to how it effects lady gamers. You have two ladies in your guild at the moment, okay? For the purposes of this anecdote. One is a girl who has maybe talked a few times on mumble but otherwise keeps to herself. The other is a boisterous woman who loves showing pictures of herself and flirting. Both of these women play on about the same level.

WAIT. You think you know where I’m going with this? Do you assume I’m going to say, “Yeah the one who flaunts pics is a bitch/whore who is probably going to trade nudes to the officers for loot amirite?”

That right there? That’s sexism. That’s the trap. Did you fall for it? Which one of those women would you assume was being treated like the Madonna while the other was treated like the whore? In this case the Madonna aspect can be roughly translated to being “one of the guys.” as some folks like to put it.

Neither one of these women are doing anything wrong because they do not exist in the guild for the pleasure of the male guildmates. They exist solely as people with their own personalities and whether or not their personalities effect anything has to do with the OTHER people around them. One is quiet, one is more social. Who gives a rat’s ass if the important thing is whether or not they play well and you enjoy their company.

Shitty, manipulative people exist. This is a fact. But it has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with that person. The reason stories about thieving ladies ripping off guild banks are popular is because they’re scandalous. They allow people to have something to commiserate over.

Now here comes the pedestal again. Do you see it? We’re coming full circle. Women who get caught in these scandals get so much focus because of the magical pedestal. “Wow that girl was so attractive and sneaky I’m not surprised this happened!” Why are you not surprised? Because she was a shitty person or because she was a WoW player with ladyparts you wanted to touch and as such you placed her in high regard for no other reason besides that and when that backfired and the pedestal came crumbling down you were UPSET?! *inhales deep breath after run on sentence*

This is a constant cycle in the gaming world. It’s absolutely everywhere. It’s the reason the fake gamer girl meme exists, it’s the reason so many HAWHAW GET IN THE KITCHEN memes exist. This is the root of the issue. Let’s all start trying to identify it and stop putting people on pedestals and maybe, JUST MAYBE things will start to get better for everyone.

At the very least as WoW players can we please start trying to move away from this? There is no reason to go gaga over someone because they are generally attractive and play a video game. These are superficial reasons, at best, and if you start looking deeper at people you will start to build deeper connections. This means that your connections will be better placed and you’ll be less likely to feel that sting of disappointment when someone doesn’t turn out to be what you expected them to be.

Whew. Okay. That felt good to get out. Sorry it’s so off topic from what I usually post but hey.

Farming: From Citypaw to Tillers Expert!

Hey guys! So, one of my favorite new features in Mists is the addition of farming. Contrary to popular belief – the farming in game has nothing in common with farmville and is more based on the old school Harvest Moon games. That’s part of the reason I love it so much!

Farming is a great way to get food to level cooking or make feasts or even to get mats for your crafting professions. Barring any of that, you can always sell the stuff you farm up as well. The excellent thing is that for a minimum amount of time every day you can easily get enough crafting or food materials to get any transmutes or whatever that you need done.

Below is an illustrated guide to farming. I’m going to go through the basics of running your farm and then move on to tips to really help you make the most of your farming experience. If you need to get to a certain section, feel free to search for the section title/number.


Step 1: The basics!

Step 2: Harvesting for fun and profit!

Step 3: Bonus crops!

Step 4: And you get a gift, and you get a gift, and you get a gift!

Step 5: Expanding!

Step 6: Making the most out of your farm!

Step 1: The basics!

To unlock your farm you first need to go to Halfhill in the valley of the four winds and start the questline at Farmer Yoon. You’ll watch some cutscenes and run some errands and then be able to start working your 4 soil plot. If you are under level 90 the most you will be able to do is these starting quests and plant/harvest veggies from your plots. You CANNOT gain rep to expand your farm OR find dark soil to give gifts until you are level 90. But in the meantime at least you can farm yourself some cooking mats.

First you need to familiarize yourself with your farming tools.

When you grab one of the items it’ll automatically go into your bags. After you’re through using it you can delete it from your bags and it will be placed back into the spot from the above picture. So don’t worry about cluttered bagspace – just use the items to do your daily farming and then delete them.

The bug sprayer is to clear off your infested crops, the watering can is to water your parched crops, the shovel is to dig up any unwanted crops, and the plow allows you to til several plots at a time. You will receive the plow upon reaching exalted with the tillers and purchasing it from Gina Mudclaw.

Now that you’ve got your tools, it’s time to get to work! You cannot plant seeds in your plots until you til the soil. Hold your mouse cursor over the soil and click and your character will automatically til the soil for you.

Occasionally you will see dust flying out of your untilled soil

This means that before you can til that plot you will need to click on it to clear out a nasty vermin that’s squatting under your plots! Click it, kill the pest, and then click again to til your soil.

Sometimes after harvesting a weed will also grow in the plot. You’ll need to click on the weed and use the pull command that comes up on a new actionbar several times to get it out before you can til it again!

Now that your soil is ready for planting, you’ll need to go buy some seeds! Initially you will only be able to purchase basic food seeds to plant, which is fine because you’ll most likely need the ingredients to level your cooking. Additionally, every day farmer Yoon will give you a daily to plant a specific veggie. This is probably the EASIEST daily currently in the game, so don’t pass up your practically free charms.

Head on out to the seed vendor just a short distance away in Halfhill to stock up.

Once you hit higher rep levels with the tillers some special seeds will unlock!

This is when farming starts to really pay off. You can plant seeds that will generate a random herb, drop leather or ore, enchanting mats, and even motes of harmony!

The sapling seeds that you see here will yield a usable tree item that can be planted one time. It’s a neat vanity item if you’re into that kind of thing, but TBH your farm plots are better saved for mats that you can use or sell.

So now you’ve got your seeds. Time to plant them! Head back to your farm and open your bags. Click on one of your plots of tilled soil and then right click on the seed in your bag to plant it.

Rinse and repeat throughout your available land plots.

As you plant you’ll notice that your crops just…don’t look right! You still have some work to do with them before they’ll be growing properly!

Each plant will have a different problem that you’ll need to resolve before it can grow.

Parched plants will look dusty and dried out. This is simple! Grab your watering can and give’em a drink! They’ll be back to normal in no time.

Alluring plants will have a sunbeam shining down on them. This means that they’re extra appealing to flying pests. Click on your plant and fight off the nasty plainshawk that swoops down and tries to steal it.

Infested plants will turn green and have gross bugs flying all around them. Grab your bug sprayer and get rid of the bugs and your plant will be good as new!

The poor runty plants are stuck and can’t grow properly! Click on it and wait for the command to jump to appear. Once it does, jump and you’ll pop it right out of the ground so it can grow fully!

Tangled plants are just absolutely covered in weeds. You’ll need to click on them and then run forward -

to pull all the weeds off!

Wiggling plants squirm and move around. Why, you ask? Virmen, of course. Click on the plant and then kill off the pest when it pops out. No remorse for veggie stealers!

Sometimes when you plant two types of weeds will also spring up. The regular type is the same kind that tends to appear after you harvest your crops. Grab it and hit the pull button repeatedly to pull it out.

The other type is a nasty weed that looks a bit like a tentacle. You’ll need to grab onto the weed and when the new actionbar pops up – spam the 1 button to flex at it…I guess to show superiority…because weeds are intimidated by that somehow. Every few seconds the weed will cast a ground slam on you. Use the 2 button to use your bite attack to interrupt it, then go back to spamming one. You need to get up to 50 stacks of the flexing buff to get the weed to go away.

After all that hard work your plants will be happy and start growing! They’ll be ready to harvest the next day!

Step 2: Harvesting for fun and profit!

Upon returning to your farm after a day you’ll surely be thrilled to see a field of fresh crops just waiting to be picked!

This is the fun and really easy part. Just go up to your crops and click on them to harvest! For each crop you harvest at level 90 you will receive 55 tillers rep.

You’ll notice as you go that once you pick the crops the soil will return to its untilled state. Yep! That means you get to repeat the whole tilling and planting cycle again. But hey, it beats the heck out of fishing.

Step 3: Bonus crops!

Sometimes when you plant you will get lucky and immediately receive a bursting crop after planting. A bursting crop can be harvested immediately and will net you 3 extra crops. The added bonus to this is that you can immediately re-till the soil and replant a new crop without waiting a day.

Additionally, in the picture I showed above you can see that I have a plump green cabbage. Plump crops also yield extra crops for you. They’re slightly more common than bursting crops, and as you can see they’re a lot larger than your regular crops so you’ll be able to tell when you have one. Plump crops DO require the full day to grow, unlike the bursting crops that grow immediately.

Another way to get more yield from your crops is to find out what that day’s special crop is. To find out you’ll need to go into Halfhill and speak to Jogu the drunk, who lives in the pond.

He will predict which crops will have a larger yield the next day. Please note that this ONLY applies to the veggie crops and not any of the special crops. If you plant the crop he tells you to, you’ll usually get an extra 2-3 veggies from that crop the next day.

Some days Jogu is “foggy” (aka hungover) and won’t be able to give you a prediction.

Step 4: And you get a gift, and you get a gift, and you get a gift!

The fun thing about the tillers is that besides the regular tillers rep that you get from doing your dailies and harvesting plants, several characters around the valley have buddy reputations you can raise. You can raise them from stranger, to acquaintance, to buddy, to friend, to good friend and then finally – best friend.

When you reach best friends with a person they will send you a gift for your farm. Once you’re exalted with the tillers they’ll also be willing to come hang out on your farm as well. They won’t actually do anything, but it’s nice to give farmer Yoon some company.

When you are harvesting crops you may sometimes receive a blue item like this marsh lily:

These are the items that you can gift to the tillers folks to raise their friendship level. The item will tell you which of the 2 tillers favors it. If you give a favored gift to someone it will net you 900 (990 w/guild perk) rep. A non-favored gift will still get you 540 (550 w/guild perk) rep.

The tillers members will also accept their favorite food once per day. WoWpedia has a great list of which foods/mats are needed for this. Click here to view it!

Some days certain tillers members will also visit Halfhill market and offer a daily quest. Andi, the cub that hangs out by your farm, will also offer a daily quest to give a gift to someone. These quests will get you both tillers rep AND friend rep with that specific person.

The nice thing about buddy rep is that unlike honored/revered with regular rep, the amount of rep you need to reach the next level does NOT go up as their friendship level increases. It stays at a flat rate. This means you only need to do a set amount of turnins rather than worrying about the required rep amount doubling or tripling as you get their friendship up!

The friendship bar will show next to their portrait when you talk to them. You can also view your current rep in your rep character tab as well.

If you’re trying to raise your friend rep as quickly as possible the best way to do it is to look for dark soil patches throughout Pandaria.

When you are level 90 you can loot these soil patches to receive one of the blue gift items. These patches spawn all over Pandaria but the area they pop in the most is around the Heartland. If you’re trying to grind rep you’ll want to keep in mind that sometimes the soil patches can be a little hard to see as they tend to blend into the ground a bit.

If you cycle around the heartland a couple of times a day you can usually find 7-10 soil patches easily – depending on how many other people are out there looking.

The BEST way to do it is to pick one set of tillers from each blue item and raise your rep with them first. So for example, if I find a ruby shard I decide that for now I want to raise my rep with Tina Mudclaw instead of bothering with Haohan. I take all my ruby shards to her. Then, once she is at best friend status, I start taking them to Haohan instead.

Once you start getting all the characters to best friend, you can start tossing the gifts at any old person. Non-favored gifts still give 500+ rep.

Your new best friends will usually send you a seed pack and some cool vanity items for your farm. Jogu will also stop charging you for his crop predictions as well.

Now if you are trying to find Sho please use the following marker:

As the marker Gina gives you is completely off.

Step 5: Expanding!

So you want more than 4 farm plots eh? Well you gotta work for it!

As you gain rep with the tillers from harvesting and doing daily quests, Farmer Yoon will give you quests to speak to various tillers to increase the size of the farm.

Your first expansion should come at honored, which is fairly easy to get. You’ll need to gather some weed killer and then have the weeds cleared off your farm.

The next expansion comes at revered and you’ll get that pesky wagon removed and unlock 4 more soil patches. The final expansion comes at exalted AFTER you have finished the tillers questline. I won’t spoil that story for you, but you will want to make sure you are doing ALL the quests to gain the specific tillers’ votes. if you do NOT have all the tillers’ votes you will NOT get the last expansion.

As your farm expands you can talk to Gina Mudclaw to buy some tool upgrades. The first of which are the Jinyu princess irrigation spouts. You can click on them and they will automatically water all your parched plants!

The second is a pest killer. Clicking on it will automatically kill off any bugs/clear out your infested plants. Note that it does NOT clear out weeds, virmen, or plainshawks!

The last upgrade is the swanky plot I had pictured way above. If you use the plow in a straight line across your untilled plots, it will automatically til them for you! Out of all the upgrades, this one will definitely save you the most time. To get it you need to be exalted and have all 16 of your farm plots unlocked.

After much farming and reputation gaining you’ll soon have a beautiful farm to call your own!

With a yak! Woo!

Step 6: Making the most out of your farm!

Okay so now you’re practically a farming pro, right? Got your yak, got your 16 soil plots? Good!

The best part about your farm is the fact that it is a guaranteed daily source of crafting mats AND motes of harmony depending on what you plant. With 16 planting spots available there are many, many combinations you can use to try and get a good yield.

It’s important to note that your current professions have no bearing on what you can and can’t plant. This means that as a tailor and an enchanter I can still plant the seeds that grant a random herb or the seeds that grant random ore. For raiders this means that you can help get mats for flasks, feasts, enchants, etc. For non-raiders it means you can sell said items to the raiders for their flasks, feasts, enchants, etc. Haha!

Personally I usually reserve the back 8 land plots for songbell seeds/motes of harmony. This means that I get 8 motes baseline daily, and I usually get the other 2 as I do my other daily quests. Bam, guaranteed spirit of harmony every single day. This also allows you to use your other 8 plots for other things.

One of your plots is usually going to be used up by Farmer Yoon’s random daily veggie quest. Personally, I let that veggie grow and stick it in the guild bank for other folks leveling cooking. I usually plant either windshear cactus (cloth) or magebulb(enchanting mats) around the veggie since I’m a tailor/enchanter.I don’t usually need that much cloth but I usually plant it every other day so I can keep doing my cloth transmute daily.

I also usually use four plots for enigma seeds. Enigma seeds are the ones that grow into a random Pandaria herb. The bonus to harvesting these seeds is that not only do you get the herb, but you also have a shot at getting spirits.

Spirits are items that herbalists usually get when they loot plants in the wild. Now you, as a farmer, can get them too! There’s one that restores HP and one that restores mana. These items DO share a cooldown with potions BUT if you don’t have a good source of potions and don’t want to buy them off the AH, here’s a good alternative for you!

Depending on what sells for more on your server you can base your daily seed selection on whatever is priciest at the same. Or you can just keep yourself covered in mats that you may need!


And so that’s it! I hope this guide was helpful to all the novice farmers out there! Farming has truly been a GREAT addition to this game, and anyone that doesn’t take advantage of it is ridiculous. Let’s all cross our fingers that Blizzard adds more fun and useful content like this in the future!

The Evolution of a Raider

With another expansion knocking on our door I wanted to pause for a moment and reflect on my last -8 years- of playing World of Warcraft. Some would boggle at the fact that I’ve been playing this game for so long, but remember that playing an MMO isn’t like constantly replaying a console game. MMOs need to stay new and introduce content in order to stay afloat. There are older MMOs than WoW, and people who have no doubt played them consistently since their launch.

My feelings towards WoW have changed over the years. I’ve built a persona for myself that is mainly goofy, light-hearted, and sassy when the time comes for it. A lot of people may not take me seriously but let me just say that I’ve been there. I’ve seen things. I’ve played this game for longer than some of the developers have. I would never presume that I know all there is to know about WoW, but I know what I’ve seen and experienced.

I knew when I started playing  vanilla and saw the people in their t1 and t2 sets (other raids weren’t released at the time) that I wanted to be like them. I also wanted to be a badass at PVP like the high warlord videos I was seeing on youtube all over the place. I played a shaman, and I was terrible at it. But the fact of the matter was that in vanilla if you could spec resto, drop totems regularly, and use your healing wave button, you could make it in a raid.

I’ve always been predisposed to healing classes – ever since I started playing RPGs and would always – ALWAYS build at least one or two white mages to buffer my parties. The same was true when I started playing MUDs – always a cleric. Healing comes easily and naturally to me, both active and reactive. Maybe that predisposition is what carried me through being a 40-man healer and onward, despite being so terrible that I actually kept my auto attack button bound on my bars.

By sheer happenstance I was invited into an MC raid with my first guild. In the 40man days it didn’t really matter what the player was like as long as they were a warm body. Because of this, I started getting invited to more raids until finally I was invited to the guild and put on the roster. Vanilla raiding was a flurry of 5 hour raid nights and DKP.. It would, quite literally, take weeks for someone to get an upgrade. Between the RNG loot system (which originally didn’t differentiate between alliance and horde so horde would get paladin loot and vice versa.) and the fact that you had 40 people, up to 5 other people of your class playing in the same raid, it took absolutely ages to get a full set of gear. And when you did, the next raid tier was usually out anyway.

Vanilla was probably the most meaningful raid experience for me because it was my first. You ALWAYS remember your first, whether you want to or not. I make no qualms about the difficulty of the encounters or the hardships of organizing a 40man raiding guild.

In vanilla we cleared MC, BWL, the world dragons, ZG, AQ20, some of AQ40, and some of Naxx. I’m probably forgetting some encounters. I can look back upon these days with rose-tinted glasses but the truth of the matter is that it took a lot of time. A lot of time and dedication to do what we did. At that point in my life I was a college student so I had pretty much all the time in the world. No job, freshman in college so I wasn’t doing the harder classes yet – yeah I was pretty much open to sitting there for hours or farming dukes in Silithus in my off time.

Then The Burning Crusade was released and everything changed when the fire nation attacked. At this point the first real TBC dungeon was Kara, and 40man raiding guilds utterly panicked.The whole system was changed – like the rug was pulled out from under us. The start of TBC was a rocky time for most guilds with drama and splintering all over the place on every server. My guild was one such casualty of this, and so I took a long break after raiding through Kara and Gruul’s lair.

I came back and leveled a mage allianceside and picked up where I left off. I raided through SSC, TK, BT, and Hyjal – quitting just before Sunwell was released.

Mechanics started to change – as if the developers were coming into their own and breaking free of the Everquest style raid traditions of time spent + damage done + damage taken = loot. Instead of standing in one place decursing, now people had to run around a platform or throw an item to each other. To those of us from vanilla, this was huge. It was a huge change. “But my tears were broken!”

At this time I was still in college messing around. Still had time on my hands, still could sit around and farm rep until I had a Netherdrake when they were current. I had Blue Suede Shoes and I loved them.

Then came the Wrath. The Wrath of the Lich King. To its credit, WoTLK continued the idea of revolutionizing game mechanics at their core. Suddenly vehicle quests were a reality. Gone were the days of collecting 28 bear asses for Grogg Orctooth in the barrens. Now we rode on harpoons and horses escaping from worgen and vrykul.

I continued raiding in WoTLK on my mage. I got through the original Naxx, Malygos, and Sarth before taking a break. I came back around the tail end of Ulduar and the introduction to Trial of the Grand Crusader.

Now mechanics were getting weirder. Shoot down frost patches, run around catching light and dark orbs, pilot tanks through a warzone. All of this was a strange new world, but it was fun!

It was around this time that I was on my own looking for a job. Suddenly I had less time than I used to and way less of a drive to keep playing at the level I was before. In the grand scheme of things, WoW and raiding got bumped a tier lower on my hierarchy of needs. I played through most of ICC, but their arbitrary gating of content dragged the dungeon out far longer than it needed to be. Once the frostwing halls opened I had already been raiding ICC for a good while and I was sick of it, even without seeing the last few bosses. It was at that point that I quit playing until the release of Cataclysm.

With the news of Cataclysm, I was totally pumped for what it would bring. I think at the first glimpses of the expansion we all had ideas in our heads of what would change and how much we would enjoy the new content. I wouldn’t say that Cataclysm was a failed expansion – but I would say that the resources for it were placed in areas that most players didn’t fully experience. I enjoyed the new questing and revamped zones, but I will openly admit there was very little for my level 85 character to do after getting to 85. It was at this point that I decided to go back to my roots and start playing a healer again – and Gloriia the worgen priest was created.

I picked up my raiding pants and tried to be serious again with the T11 content. Anyone who played T11 content when people were still working for world firsts can tell you that it was brutal. In a misguided attempt to harken back to vanilla raiding/dungeon difficulty (which was an arbitrary difficulty made from gear checks and resistance fights) they had destroyed many of the things that made playing fun. Suddenly being a healer was a weird sort of punishment. I logged in daily and hated playing my own class. It just…wasn’t fun!

One day when we were attempting the Nef/Ony fight I realized that I was no longer having fun wiping over and over again to progression fights. Gone were the days of being in MC when I would happily sit there and run back after wiping to lava packs. That sense of pride I had at being the best had all but deteriorated as well. So here I was  – not having fun and to me not having a reason to continue punishing myself by playing something I wasn’t enjoying.

When I was younger I probably would have just slogged through the feelings and kept going. But now that I was older – on my own, working, having played WoW for about 6-7 years, I knew that there was no point in making myself miserable on my own dime when there were plenty of other things I could be doing. If there is such a thing as a transition to being a casual player – this is when I went through it.

Unfortunately without raiding at that point in Cataclysm, there was very little to do. And I quit for a good while before ultimately coming back at the tail end of Firelands to play with the guild I am in now. At some point after dragon soul came out a group of us decided to try our hand at raiding again, and thankfully Blizzard added in Looking for Raid and the buff to DS. This made it possible for us to go in a very limited schedule and still be able to briefly experience the hayday glory of killing raid bosses again.

The large majority of the raid I run now is made up of former hardcore raiders that at this point have hit the raiding retirement home. We want to go in and see content but not deal with whippersnappers and hoozawhatsits.

I think that on the whole there are a lot of players exactly like me and Blizzard acknowledges that – that is why they put in some of the changes like the buffs/nerfs as content gets older. The raiding scene is a cycle. People constantly enter it with fresh faces gunning for world firsts because they’re like me when I first started. They have the time, the drive, and the pride. Eventually time drags on and people get to the point I’m at now, but by then there’s even more newer raiders lining up to take their places in the server first guilds.

So here is the challenge that comes with raid balancing. On the one hand you have the raider me from 7 years ago looking for content to constantly devour while wanting to be the absolute best. On the other hand you have the raider me from now that just wants to go in, kill a boss, then go to IHOP for the early bird special.

Striking a balance between the two is difficult, but I think most players understand the benefit of changes like Looking For Raid and slow, gradual nerfs to content that people have already downed. Do I think the DS debuff went in too quickly? Yes. But overall I think it was a good addition.

The only thing I can say with 100% certainty that I hate involving raiding is arbitrary content blocks. I touched on this in my WoWInsider interview but the blocking of ICC by wing was what caused me to quit for MONTHS in WoTLK. If I want to go in and down the content – let me do so. If an encounter is difficult it will prevent me from progressing in the natural way. Content blocks serve no purpose outside of frustrating the raiders that genuinely want to go in and down content while it is interesting to them. If you push them away by blocking it off, the chances are VERY LIKELY that they will get bored before even getting through it. At least if they blow through it quickly and start to get bored they can set up things like achievement runs or alt runs to keep themselves occupied.

That said…

At this point in my raiding career I do not presume to know how upper tier guilds run because I don’t want to. Because of that I rarely argue on the forums involving bleeding edge content. All I can do is argue from my perspective as a lower end raider for the things that would be enjoyable for me while not detracting from what OTHERS enjoy. It would be nice if everyone shared this philosophy, but such is the way of the forums.

In my 8 years playing I’ve seen and done a lot. Rarely do I look back on my time spent playing with such clarity but I feel like people deserve to know who I am as a WoW player and where I come from when I discuss certain things. It frustrates me to no end to not be listened to either by the developers, community managers, or my peers because of my goofy exterior persona. Maybe, just maybe, I know what I’m talking about when I say the things I do.

Looking at WoW from Another Angle

First and foremost this is not an image heavy post, so sorry in advance for the lack of lols. :( Also as a second warning, this post is heavy in the metaphors. Run while you can.

So anyway. Knowledge is like legos. If you stick to only one thing in life, your legos form this gigantic tower that goes straight up. If you broaden your interests and learn more about other things, your legos form a pyramid. Both structures work, but one is far more solid than the other. Maybe a little harder to build though.

Ever since Greg Street/Ghostcrawler was hired as a lead designer people wondered how and why a dude with a PhD in marine science could become a lead developer on one of the largest MMORPGs in history. They, of course, conveniently ignore the fact that he was a developer for other major game titles – but let’s look at the other thing here. Why WOULDN’T they hire someone with interests and experience outside of the gaming field?

If I looked at WoW as just a WoW player, I would be severely limiting my experience with it. I am such a broad compilation of opinions and experiences that to consider myself only a “WoW player” would be doing a disservice. If you look at yourself as only a WoW player while you play the game, I challenge your perception of that.

When I experience and parse this game I do so as:

A working woman, an artist, a writer, a skeptic, a fantasy buff, a fan of corgis, a fan of pop culture, a bear enthusiast, etc.

All of these things and all of these experiences play into how and why I play the game the way I do. This allows me to understand and enjoy changes like LFR, for example. It also allows me to see certain things that happen and say, “I am not okay with this.”

If you’ve only played one class for 7 years, you probably know a lot about it. You may think you know what does and does not work, and how it could be better. But you’re coming from an extremely limited perspective. I wouldn’t tell people how to heal on their priests if I didn’t have a lot of experience with it, but at the same time I chose to broaden my horizons and level one of every type of healer so I could use that knowledge to make myself better overall.

I realized I needed to do this when I first got the Maw of the Dragonlord from Deathwing. I was used to standing super far away from the group and just chaining my heals as priests typically do. I noticed that my mace proc (the extra healing to people nearby) wasn’t hitting as many people as I wanted it to. I mentioned this in guild and someone said, “Oh yeah, you have to learn to heal like a paladin and be in closer range.”

At first I was perplexed, but then it resonated with me. I DIDN’T know how to heal like a paladin. Or a druid. Or a shaman. And because of that I had never thought of that as a solution and learning how to be more like another class would have never occurred to me unless the obvious was pointed out. That was when I knew that I was clearly missing out on something that would ultimately make me a better player and a more knowledgeable person.

If you’ve only played one faction, you probably know a lot about that faction. But the game isn’t about one faction and you’re missing out by not seeing the other side of the hill.

People fear not being good at something they are genuinely trying at. Somewhere along the way being a jack of all trades but master of none became some kind of negative thing. I disagree. You don’t have to be a master of something or know everything about it to bring some genuinely good ideas to the table for it. It’s not even so much about thinking out of the box as it is bringing an unexpected perspective that could end up being a game changer.

The more experiences and perspectives you have as a person and a player, the better. One of the lead designers has a PhD in marine science instead of computer programming and spent years in that field before turning to video games. I’d be willing to bet those different perspectives were exactly what Blizzard was looking for when they brought him aboard. Obviously you want someone who still has the knowledge of the field to get the job done, but more of the same never gets anything done.

So I guess what I’m trying to say here is that you need to stop looking at yourself as JUST a WoW player or a gamer. That is a single part of a larger whole, and the more perspectives and experience you can bring to the table – the better. You are a whole person, and the reasons you like and play this game are because of that. Embrace it.

This also doesn’t just apply to WoW, either. It applies to every facet of your life.