Meandering Toward 90

It is hard to believe that so much time has passed since the release of Mists of Pandaria!

How goes the journey, you ask?  When last we left Goldslipper, she was fending off cockroaches in Sethekk Halls, hoping for a special mount to drop before MoP launched.

Arago, our Death Knight (main for the Young DK, my son) was slowly being leveled (mostly by me, mom), with a promise that he would be the NEXT level 85 character on our account (behind big sis’s character Saldra), and the FIRST level 90 character.  Here he sits, late in 2011, outside the city of Gilneas, unguilded and just waiting for his opportunity to shine.  Why outside of Gilneas, you ask?  Well, that is where orcs who are played by young 8 year old WoW lovers like to hang out, of course.

Arago sitting pensively outside of Gilneas City Screen shot 2011-12-20 at 1.13.50 PM

He has, subsequently, moved his home a few times.  First to Dreadmaul Post, and now, he resides in Bloodgulch, where he can rub elbows with Garona Halforcen, when he is not too intimidated by her menacing presence, that is.  He has been leveling, steadily, and is now, amazingly, nearly halfway through level 89.  This is the fastest we will have ever had a max level character in our four years of playing the game, and it is REALLY exciting.  We will have so much time left to do ALL THE MAX-LEVEL THINGS this time, before a new expansion comes along, right?

Goldslipper is happily awaiting her turn, keeping herself occupied with all sorts of silly escapades….something to do with monkeys, I think…

As usual, for us, we have been meandering at a snail’s pace through the game, with daily twists, turns and sightseeing stops along the way.  As Arago nears 90, and the light at the end of the tunnel becomes a bit clearer, I look forward to having the opportunity to share some of these little moments, which I’ll capture in subsequent “Meandering Toward 90″ posts.

Thanks for reading and I hope you are enjoying your time in Azeroth as much as we are!

Moon Guard Achiever: Decimal of Warforged

Welcome to the first in a series of posts featuring players who contribute to the Moon Guard community in unique ways. I hope to feature not only achievers, but role players, regular players, pvp’ers, collectors, guild leaders, trade personalities and, perhaps, even a few legends…

Recently I had the distinct pleasure of chatting with Decimal of Warforged, and discussing what it’s like to become one of the top goblins in the US, one of the top achievers on the realm, and a member of one of the top raiding guilds realm-wide.

Background

In early August, I was browsing some WoW blogs, and someone mentioned wow-achievements.com.  How cool, a website devoted to tracking achievement rankings! (Please note that while the website was the inspiration for this blog entry, wow-achievements.com appears to be a little behind on their website updates, so you may want to use caution.  They are still sporting Cataclysm background art, and I ran into some data inconsistencies.)    I wondered, naturally, if anyone from Moon Guard appeared on world or national rankings. On that day, Saturous appeared on the US rankings, at around 159.  Some people might try to suggest that rp realm players are a lore-spouting, rp-gear-obsessed group (that tend to be behind in the perceived “hardcore” achievements), but 159 US-wide, that’s some serious achieving!

On the armory that day (and I’ve subsequently learned that achievement points shift like the sands of Uldum, so it is important to be specific about timeframes when referring to rankings), I saw that despite being higher on wow-achievements.com, Saturous was slightly behind a guildie, Decimal.

Suddenly I had this excellent (crazy?) idea….why not interview both of them to find out what it was like being at the top of the achievement pile, and possibly even COMPETING with each other for ACHIEVEMENT SUPREMACY on the realm?!? (my thoughts were, in fact, accompanied by a herald of trumpets when “achievement supremacy” crossed my mind…)

It might even turn out to be something like a cartoon scene where two characters are trying to outdo each other, like Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner, perhaps, or Spy vs. Spy …except with goblin technology and druid shapeshifting!  Hehe, sometimes my imagination is a little TOO vivid.

Why would I want to undertake something like this?  Well, Moon Guard has always seemed like a vibrant community to me, and it is, more than any other realm we have characters on, my WoW home.  Not unlike other realms, our trade chat is something like a Roman forum, where people bring their views, to be challenged or supported by the others who populate the “town square” at the moment.  I don’t spend lots of time in the cities, but when I do, I am invariably distracted and entertained, whether it’s by a discussion on stats, strategies, the politics of the day, or a social smackdown being handed out by one of the kings/queens of trade.  Sometimes the conversation is completely random, with someone posing a silly question, such as “Who likes milk?”, and a discussion of the merits/downdisdes of dairy products ensuing.  The topic may change from day to day, but it’s always lively.

The roleplay community brings another huge element of personality to the realm.  Dropping into Silvermoon for quests or holidays, there is always something to observe, whether it be military rp going on in Farstriders’ Square, folks wandering the streets, conversing, in their best rp gear, or the 24-7 activity in the Inn.  I’ve mentioned before that I am not a participant in the rp community, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy it, and cherish its existence, for the texture it brings to the realm.

I have wished that there was a scribe or wise old historian that I could go to, and he/she could sit me down and tell me the history of the realm, with all the major events and personalities….the epic storylines that have played out, the dramas (both ICly and non-ICly), the love stories…all over an endless pot of honeymint tea.  Because of that, and because my way of processing experiences seems to be writing about them, I feel the need to capture at least a small page of the history of the realm, while it happens.  The people who log in every day, interacting and making it a living, breathing place, deserve to be remembered in some way for their contributions. 

This was the kind of mood I was in when I had the realization that there might be an interesting story behind the top achievers on the realm, so without much thought or hesitation, I jumped in and sent both Saturous and Decimal a request for an interview via in-game mail.  I did briefly acknowledge the possibility they’d think I was some sort of random lunatic, so I included a link to the blog, took a deep breath, hit send and hoped for the best.

I was thrilled to receive a very prompt response from Decimal, who said she/he would be happy to do an interview.  I didn’t know her player’s gender at the time, I just knew that Decimal was a female goblin, in nicely coordinated hunter attire…deep greens and browns, perfect for the approaching fall season.   After an introduction, we worked out that it would be best to talk in vent, and got a conversation scheduled.  This was really going to happen!

I came to the interview with a list of basic questions, mostly pertaining to pre-MoP achievements, and I was planning to write a short, witty little post about this uber-goblin. Who wouldn’t want to read that, right?

What I didn’t fully take into consideration, in advance, is that behind every character is a unique human being, with a very personal story.   Within moments of beginning our conversation, I realized there was far more to the story of Decimal and her player than I had originally anticipated.  As Decimal’s player shared his experiences with me (yes, this perky goblin diva is, in fact, played by a male), I was able to learn a little bit about how WoW has become a part of his life.  He plays WoW in a way that truly reflects his personality, and in return he has also been personally influenced by the game.  This way that we affect/are affected by the game has always fascinated me, so it was really wonderful to hear his story.  I was awed and amazed, touched and inspired by some of the things Decimal shared.

I realized then, that this blog post would be far different than my typical little meanderings.  I’m not sure that my writing skills are up to it yet, but I hope to do Decimal’s story justice.  So, I will take another deep breath and hit the send button…and with that…..here is my conversation with Decimal of Warforged, Moon Guard Achiever.

Early Gaming

Decimal was a reasonably experienced gamer before WoW. As a youngster he was a Pokemon “master”, and, as a teen, he’d played Star Wars Galaxies, which is sadly, now defunct.

In Star Wars Galaxies, he had opportunities to participate in large-scale rp-pvp events, so he was familiar with the rp element in MMO’s (although he currently does not rp in WoW).  His character, Glendir Tylnei, was a member of a large guild, successful enough to form their own city.  They were so active and well known that at Christmas one year, the equivalent of a WoW GM crashed their holiday event in the form of Boba Fett, claiming a bounty on their guild leader, and hauling him away.  Another time, game event coordinators helped to create an rp scenario where an Imperial Fleet ship landed in their guild’s city.  This, according to Decimal, was unheard of at the time.  These early experiences may have set the course for him to expect a high level of experience from his games.

An Introduction to WoW

Later, he was studying acting at NYU, when his college roommate (who played WoW already) gave him a free trial.  He started his account up, and was thinking it was a pretty decent game, until a pivotal moment that many of us might be familiar with.  According to Decimal:

“I was leveling (a night elf druid) on Teldrassil, went to Moonglade to finish my bear form quest chain, and took the flight path from Moonglade back to Teldrassil. In Star Wars Galaxies, flight paths were simply loading screens and nothing more. So I clicked on the flight path in WoW and stood up to go get a drink or something since I thought it would be a loading screen. I was amazed when my character just started flying over the mountains across Darkshore and then across the huge freaking ocean, seeing this massive tree Teldrassil getting larger and larger in front of me.

That’s when I knew I was hooked.”

He and his friend were planning to quest together on Blackwater Raiders, but Decimal was faster than his friend, so he moved on, and began to explore the game at his own pace. His new main, a blood elf paladin named Vyndrian, became the focus of his efforts.

According to Decimal, he is a “huge completionist”, and even though leveling Vyndrian as a protection paladin was slow-going, he amassed a sizable amount of achievement points, reaching 10,000 at the time of his first Lich King kill. He also established an early obsession with raising reputations, and wanted to get all reps to exalted on Vyndrian as quickly as possible.

During this time, he also chose to move Vyndrian from Blackwater Raiders to Moon Guard.  According to Decimal, in 2009, a large migration from Blackwater Raiders to Moon Guard occurred, including two key guilds and a variety of notable players.  Additionally, raiding, which is a large slice of the achievement pie, hadn’t been going so smoothly yet.  According to Decimal:

“I had gotten a bad rap on BWR thanks to a few people who loved to make my life miserable and a raiding guild that sat me on the bench for 6 months and didn’t tell me why, then when I asked to raid they told me they thought I was terrible.  So I left for other guilds and they spread nasty rumors about me being a gear ninja, a guild-hopping bad tank, etc.

My friend Persephon finally convinced me to go to MG and I did so in February 2009, about 2 years after starting playing. My raiding background was very small. I had led a 10-man team through Karazhan numerous, numerous times but only got to do Black Temple twice, and SSC and TK a small handful of times. I got my Hand of A’dal title but I only had 1 Vash’j kill and 1 Kael’thas kill before Wrath. I was a paladin tank and nobody really wanted to give me a shot for the longest time. That was back when paladins were new to the Horde and everyone thought they were just healers. I left for MG a few months after Wrath came out, the tail end of Naxx/Sarth/Maly.”

Transitions and Opportunities

When Decimal (playing as Vyndrian, and recently spec changed to retribution) arrived on Moon Guard, he joined Conviction, at the time a successful raiding guild, and the tide turned in a more favorable direction, raid-wise.

He raided under the leadership of Ralgore for a year and a half, before Ralgore left Conviction to form Warforged with his girlfriend Evangelina.  Upon Ralgore’s departure, Decimal stepped in to become raid leader for Conviction, and they subsequently got their Lich King kill and planned to go into Cataclysm as a 25-man guild.  However, a few months in, differences of opinion on policies and difficulty filling the entire roster of 25 contributed to a breakdown of the guild.  Decimal left for Warforged, which had gotten 10-man hardmode Lich King before Cataclysm came out.  He joined in the first tier of Cata, was asked to become assistant raid leader several weeks later, the guild was able to recruit up for 25-man content by the time Firelands was released, and the rest is history.

Planning for Cataclysm

When Decimal saw the MMO Champion article announcing Cataclysm, he knew instantly that he wanted to play a goblin. He has “always loved them, the way they look, the way they talk, their money focus”….so that was settled, now it was a matter of which class to play.

Decimal classifies himself as a “one-character kind of guy”, so he knew he had to make the right choice, since this would be the character he would be investing the majority of his time in. Goblins couldn’t be paladins, so a race change was out of the question. In every type of game he’s played, he’s always played ranged dps, so focusing on a melee protection paladin had been a little atypical, anyway.  He wanted a class that could heal itself, for efficiency, which eliminated hunters, locks and mages.  At the time he felt like priests were too squishy (although he has changed his tune, and is now of the opinion that “SPRIESTS ROCK”), so that would leave shamans.

In October ’09 after the Cata announcement, he began to create new characters on the PTR, starting a bunch of level 1’s to play around with. Hunters had just switched from mana to focus, so he decided to check them out. By level 3, he was having more fun than he’d ever had had in the game, and once more, he was completely hooked; there was no doubt he’d be playing a goblin hunter come expansion date.

Originally, he wanted to play a male goblin named Dent.  However, “the male goblins look like someone you’d find sleeping in a bus station,” so that wasn’t going to happen.  His goblin would be a female.

As for a name, he still wanted to use Dent, but it was taken, so he proceeded to attempt other words that began with D and meant a small thing.  At some point, he had to resort to working his way through the dictionary, and Decimal was the first thing that he came to that wasn’t taken.

Decimal Flipbuck would be his main beginning the day of Cataclysm launch.  Cute and greedy, just how we like our goblins to be, right?

Preparing for Decimal

Here is where the story became really extraordinary to me. So far, it might sound like a typical guy who’s pretty obsessed with WoW and achievements. And, in fact, what I’m about to describe *may* be more typical than even I imagine, but I kinda doubt it….you can tell me if I’m wrong…

Immediately after he made his choice on class, Decimal realized that he had roughly from August until April or May of the following year (based on rumours of launch date at the time) to prepare for this new character. Many WoW players probably went through the same process. My son (6 at the time) knew he would be starting manymanymany worgen characters the minute he saw the first artwork from Blizzcon, and we spent LOTS of time between announcement and launch trying to find more images to satisfy his curiosity.  He couldn’t wait, asking nearly every day, for months, “how long until Cataclysm comes out?”

But back to Decimal….what he did, I believe, truly falls into the category of “Feats of Strength.”

He proceeded to accumulate, over the months before Cata dropped, every single non-BoP item possible to max as many reputations and achievements as possible. I repeat, EVERY. SINGLE. ITEM.

Now I know lots of players are alt-a-holics and many also tend to be hoarders, and have extra mats ready for their alts to help them level; some of them probably do a pretty good job of making sure that they have all the major bases covered. But I have never, in my (admittedly small) experience in the game, run into anyone who has so systematically planned every single detail as Decimal. I’m not doubting that they exist, just that they are among a very small minority of players.

In fact, if you stumble upon this blog post and ARE one of these players, please share in the comments down below!  You all deserve to be recognized for your meticulous approach to the game.  This kind of logistics skill is unique…if I had a large, complex business project, or perhaps needed a disaster preparation program for a large organization, this would be the kind of person I’d want handling it.  Come to think of it, organizing raids is kind of a large, complex logistical project that DOES involve disaster preparation, but that’s another topic…

Here is a sample of the things he had prepared, which required a total of 9 bank alts:

1400 Shadow Dust to reach exalted with Sha’tari Skyguard

1400 Junk Boxes to reach exalted with Ravenholdt

120 Darkmoon Decks to reach exalted with Darkmoon Faire (this translates into 960 individual cards)

800 Encrypted Twilight Texts to reach exalted with Cenarion Circle

250 Etherium Keys to reach exalted with Consortium

200 Sanguine Hibiscus to reach exalted with Sporregar

All necessary Relics of Ulduar to reach exalted with Sons of Hodir

All necessary Marks of Kil’Jaeden and Sunfury Signets to reach exalted with Aldor/Scryers (including switch back and releveling of one)

All cores and residues required to reach exalted with Thorium Brotherhood

Every non-BoP cooking recipe and all mats to cook

All foods to eat/drink

All fish needed for recipes

1000 Frostweave Cloth to obtain the achievement Stocking Up

All materials required to level Tailoring and Engineering to max for mounts, and then switch to Herbalism/Alchemy; all items required to fully level those two final professions, including every non-BoP pattern

All heirlooms

Any specialized gear items/sets needed

All glyphs

All enchants

All non-BoP pets and vendor mounts

There were even items Decimal collected that ultimately became useless, due to changes in the reputations upon release of Cataclysm.  Hundreds of bijous for Zandalar rep, and 90 librams, shards and Pristine Black Diamonds for Shen’Dralar rep became unnecessary on the day of launch.

He has pages and pages of screenshots that look just like this.  According to Decimal, it took about $150,000 gold to get all of the items his girl would need.  Even gold sink mounts were waiting for her when she first checked her goblin mail.

Amazed yet?  I was…

This was just the preparation. Why, you might wonder, did he go through ALL of this? I sure did. According to Decimal, he “wanted to have everything on Decimal” that he had had on Vyndrian. He tends to be a person who “sets a goal and does a lot of research on how to achieve it.”  Also, it was a fun challenge for someone who had maxxed out nearly everything he could do on his main, and might be bored spending the next year running Icecrown Citadel.  The vast majority of players might be content with leveling up a variety of alts and just dabbling around with things.  Decimal took that window of opportunity to a completely different level.

This kind of focus and perseverence are unique, I believe, and they are the kind of attributes that can help a person be successful in many areas of life. It wasn’t too surprising to me to learn that when Decimal was in high school, he had a 4.0 GPA, as well as spending 4-5 hours a day in dance classes.  He had hopes of going to Broadway (hence the acting program at NYU), and dance was one of the trio of skills (singing, dancing, acting) that he needed to hone in order to reach that goal.  His dance career included dancing for one of the top student dance studios in the country at the time, and competing both regionally and nationally.  

It is clear to me, from the information that Decimal shared, as well as just speaking with him live, that he brings a huge amount of perseverance, focus and intensity to his pursuits, be they dance, academics, or WoW.  This, of course, contributed to his success in gaining rapid massive achievement points for Decimal the goblin hunter.

Decimal’s Achievements

As you can probably tell, Decimal (the goblin) was so well prepared before creation, that she sailed through her leveling, going from 1-85 in a lightning 4 days 22 hours.  In order to accomplish that, Decimal (the player) did purchase a Recruit-a-Friend account for a few months, and was able to grant levels to Decimal up to 60, so she was 60 within 2 hours of being created and then continued the grind through 85 in the traditional way.  Although he does not have a feat of strength to go with it, Decimal would like to claim world-first pure (not race changed) goblin from 1 to 85, unless someone else wants to challenge him on it.  In my opinion, with all the leveling options, the game system may not have recognized an achievement, but there might be room for different types of world, or realm-first achievement categories (race changed, RaF leveled, purely leveled).

Out of the gate, Decimal’s achievement point tally went something like this…

5000 points by 1 month
7000 points by 2 months
9000 points by 3 months
9500 points by 4 months

I encourage you to review Decimal’s achievements on the armory. I went through them in a fair amount of detail, and it is, literally, astonishing to see them rolling in day by day, area by area.  Also, if you can imagine that while all of this leveling/achieving was going on, there was a lot of new guild development AND responsibilities as an officer/assistant raid leader going on in the background, it’s all pretty jaw-dropping.

I was curious about his method, wondering if he had some sort of scientific approach to things.  According to Decimal:

“I focus on a particular section of achievements (quests, exploration, etc.) and try to zerg through them all.  It keeps me focused.  If I’m trying to do 12 things at once, I lose track and go crazy.  I need to hone in on a particular thing and just get it 100% done.  Research is pretty simple, I contact people who have done tricky things and ask them or I check WoWhead.  I think one of my greatest strengths is that I’m not afraid to copy people or ask people for help.  I’m not trying to be the first or the best.  I’m just trying to complete goals I’ve set for myself.  I follow walkthroughs, guides, tutorials.  I learn.  I’m not afraid to learn.”

Because of the timing of Cata raids coming out, and Decimal being so new, some of the order of things is a little unusual.  For example, he needed to go back after Cata and get the Lich King raid achievements, since there simply wasn’t time to do them simultaneously.  Being part of a successful guild makes a huge difference in a player’s ability to get the raid-based achievements, and this applies to older content achieves as well.  There were lots and lots of runs of older content, and members like Shaith, Evangelina, Ralgore, Mowgli, Satrina and Cyrath really stuck by Decimal and ran things endlessly with him, for which he is incredibly grateful.

I asked Decimal if there were favorites/least favorites, or any really memorable achieves.  He said that definitely the most challenging to date and one of the last he was able to get (for Ulduar content) was Nerf Scrapbots, both 10 and 25.

Some of the most gratifying achievements have been rep based.  Decimal is a true rep-grinder, and actually achieved Insane on both Vyndrian and Decimal individually, before achievement sharing. The achieve was changed in Cata, and most say it is easier.  Decimal found it slightly more challenging, because he did the grind all the way to exalted for Bloodsail Buccaneers, which he did not need to do on Vyndrian.  Honored was all that was required for the title, but in true form, he decided to go all the way.  Other favorites include the Netherwing, Sporregar, Thorium Brotherhood and Tranquillien.

Not so fun?

25 weeks of running Molten Core for the Hydraxion Waterlords.

Certain achievements just take time and patience, and Decimal builds in time to cycle through them after other main things like rep, dungeon and zone questing are done.  Rare spawns are just a matter of being there at the right time, so he he plans for a lot of time devoted to those once he is done with other things.

One time, he was waiting for a Time-Lost Proto Drake, and someone snagged the kill right in front of him.  It happens.  Just a few days ago, however, his patience paid off.  He had just camped in one of the spawn points and waited.  The drake spawned and he got his kill, and the coveted mount, instantly.  Decimal’s thoughts on that one?

“WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”.

There are also the times when you try to plan and strategize things, and it turns out differently.  Take Arathi Basin Perfection, for example.  Earlier in the game, it was actually possible to get this achievement by simply outnumbering your enemy.  So, a group of 15 Horde could queue up against, say, 3 alliance, and easily get the achieve.  After Blizzard changed the battleground rules, requiring a full group on both sides before bg’s would activate, it became more difficult.  Decimal and his guildmates spent some time organizing full groups, using an add-on to ensure that they were all in the same game.  They played this battleground numerous times, with no luck.  The next day, Decimal got it in a random pug battleground.  That’s just how WoW goes sometimes.

Speaking of battlegrounds, when I reviewed Decimal’s achievements just before MoP, there were only a few missing, and these were the Twin Peaks series.  I had to wonder if there was something unusual about Twin Peaks.  Turns out that Decimal is truly more of a raider, and pvp is not his favorite game activity (although I certainly would not consider him a slouch), and so in order to get the achievements done, he would start with one bg and just do it repeatedly until he could get all the achievements done.  He cycled through all of them, building reps and getting the achievements, but by the time he got to Twin Peaks:

“I was burnt out from doing Isle of Conquest, Battle for Gilneas, Alterac Valley,  Strand of the Ancients, Eye of the Storm, and then not only the achievements for Arathi Basin and Warsong Gulch but also those reputations.  When I was finally done with WSG, I was so sick of BGs.  Very.  Very.  Sick.  Plus I hate Twin Peaks and capture the flag games in general.”

Mists of Pandaria Launch

For the week of launch, Decimal had vacation planned from work, with a start immediately after the game was playable.  By the time I logged in and said hello, somewhat later in the morning (maybe 5 or 6 am central) he was already several dungeons in, working his way through levels rapidly.  He was anticipating reaching 90 sometime mid-afternoon.  When I came back later in the day, he was completely leveled, and cycling back around, to begin his rep grinds.  When I asked the big question, he said that another goblin had actually gotten realm first about 20 minutes before him.  The day was still a victory, though, because Decimal had been questing with his guildie Evangelina when she got realm-first priest.  Again, guildies were really critical to the process, and Decimal thanks Cyrath, Evangelina, Ralgore and Zetsoumei for hours of dungeon grinding to get from 85 to 87, providing a massive headstart on other people.

Looking forward in MoP

Decimal and I spoke live one more time to try and wrap up our interview, and it was about a week into MoP.  Mogu’Shan Vaults, the very first raid content for MoP, was being released one day later, and Decimal shared with me where he was in his progress.  Thus far, he’d gotten through all normal and heroic mode dungeons, and was simply hoping to pick up a little more heroic gear for his first run in Mogu’Shan.  He wasn’t completely gemmed/enchanted, but felt confident going into the first run.  Several of the guildies had run the beta content, and had gleaned enough knowledge to feel confident going into live runs.

Warforged had also gotten down both of the world bosses, Salyis’s Warband and the Sha of Anger, in a combined effort with Aussie guild Origin.

In terms of priority, the guild has been focused on getting the raid content down on normal, then heroic mode, then achievement runs.  Scenarios had to wait a while, but he was able to get them after raids were under control, with the help of Nastasya (another female goblin character…you know, a goblin girl’s gotta have her bff’s!) and Zoltri.

When I wished Decimal good luck on the first night of raiding, things had been a little rocky, with 2.5 hours of time spent and no bosses down.  Things have picked up since then, with the guild completing all Mogu’Shan Vaults (25) on Normal (Stone Guard in Heroic), all Heart of Fear (25) on Normal, and recently getting the kill for Protectors of the Endless (25), with a world rank of 342 on the kill, and a US rank of 131.  Additionally, their 10-man group has completed all bosses in Terrace of Endless Spring.  

Warforged is currently the top Moon Guard guild for both 25 and 10 man encounters, according to their wowprogress.com ranking.  They are one of only four guilds on the realm that are even rated for 25 man content.  They also happen to have some of the best challenge scores on the realm.

Very impressive.

Decimal (the goblin) has traded in her hunter greens for the new fashions from Pandaria.  She is looking exceptionally coy and adorable in her Dreadeye Gaze (transmogged to the Replica Shado-Pan Helmet), don’t you think?

Don’t be fooled, though.  This goblin means serious business.

Videos of Warforged boss kills are available here, if you want to see them in action.  There is no flashy background music for these videos, just the team’s chat, and I personally thought it was helpful in concentrating on the fights, vs. the entertainment.   Oftentimes, when I’m looking for a video of some content, the music, which is great for creating a big epic mood, takes away from watching the details of boss mechanics and what the group is doing.  Not the case with Warforged videos.

There is also the Pet Battle content, and Decimal is enjoying that, although he got a little slower start than some, due to the heavy raid schedule.

Which brings up a good point.  How much time does Decimal actually spend on the game to maintain this level of gameplay, and how does he have the freedom to be so committed?  That is another part of the story which was particularly moving to me.  It turns out that during college, Decimal had a serious illness.  So serious that he couldn’t get to classes for a significant period of time, and ultimately needed to drop out.  After evaluating his symptoms carefully, his doctors confirmed that he has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which is a poorly understood, but debilitating chronic condition.

Since that time, he has had to regroup, returning home to live with his parents, obtaining work which would be less physically taxing than the aggressive dance and study schedule that dominated his life in high school and college.  Currently, Decimal works from home in the medical industry, which allows him the flexibility to be in-game often, frequently logged in for much of the day.  He spends roughly 4-5 “active” hours per day on the game, and more on weekends.  This is where WoW has had a real impact.  According to Decimal:

“WoW has helped me deal with my depression and sadness over my CFS. College sucked. The first year’s GPA was 2.9. I finished college with like a (GPA of) 1.1 or something just incredibly low. I used WoW as an escape from the crappiness of my real life. In WoW, I’m able to achieve whatever I want through research, dedication and perseverence. In real life I can barely walk up and down my stairs without my joints aching and without becoming exhausted, so WoW has truly helped me to feel like I am still capable of doing what I want to do with my life.”

Personally, I found it impressive that, despite a medical condition, and a pretty serious change in his lifestyle, Decimal has been able to redirect his energies, and satisfy his drive for achievements within the WoW framework.

I wondered if his parents share the same viewpoint.  According to Decimal:

“My mother has CFS as well, so coming home has been wonderful. She has helped me learn how to handle the bad days and she has supported me so very much. She doesn’t see me playing video games and think, “Where did I go wrong raising my child?” She understands and she supports me and I couldn’t do it without her.”

It made me so happy to hear that from Decimal.  Historically, I think it’s been easy for some people to categorize video game time as wasteful and non-productive.  If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a joke in trade chat about some 40-year-old guy living in his mom’s basement playing video games, I would be able to pay for my WoW subscription for at least a few months.  However, as the industry has grown, and gaming has become far more mainstream, thankfully, this view is becoming less predominant.  

Also, I think what is created out of the gaming experience depends on the person.  Yes, while there are probably a decent share of those stereotypical “basement guys”, around me I also see a vibrant community of players who are expressing their creativity and challenging their skills, playing a game that is enormously complex in geography, itemization, lore, music, art and gameplay mechanics.  The WoW community is virtually exploding with creativity and productivity both in and out of the game.

In Decimal’s case, I would argue that he has translated a tough situation into an opportunity for success and achievement, something that any parent should be proud of.  Also, while his education in acting was temporarily set aside, he still hopes to make his way out to California sometime in the near future, to continue pursuing his goals.  With his drive and focus, I will not be surprised if he experiences success in whatever he sets his mind to. 

Website and Other Contributions to the WoW Community

As I mentioned above, one of the ways that a player can go beyond the typical experience, is to leverage their knowledge or creativity in some way.  For many, this comes in the form of fan art, blogging, machinima, strategy/guide websites, or youtube videos.  Decimal has had some experience with this sort of contribution, and is hoping to expand on it in the near future.

From around September ’09 through March ’10, he authored the Get That Achievement column on Wow-achievements.com, providing encouragement to aspiring achievers to work on a particular goal for a week.  There were corresponding threads in the WoW forums for this topic.  During that time, he also introduced a 30-day “get that achievement” idea, to help with the achievements that took a little more time/strategizing/grinding.

More recently, Decimal is working to roll out a website which might become a unique resource to raiders everywhere.  It is a raid guide, but the plans are for it to have a slightly different twist to the content it provides.

the9thbuff.com is a class by class, and hopefully soon, spec-specific, guide to bosses.  Decimal is hoping to build this site into a valuable resource for both new and more experienced raiders, with information that is specific to the class and spec they are currently focused on.  For example, if you are a holy paladin (yes, I am including a strong hint for this to be the first pally content developed…I know, shameless) in need of guidance on XYZ fight in MoP, you could go to the9thbuff to see some specific information about how to use your particular abilities during the fight to be more successful.

This kind of guide could be incredibly valuable, because it would take the information that is presented in videos and current guides and break it down to the specific class that a person is playing, which is a HUGE part of the equation.   How many times have you watched a video, but the one with the best strategy was from a different class’s perspective, and you found yourself wishing you could see it from your own?  I only research 5-mans, currently, but when I watch dungeon walkthroughs, I NEED to see those healing abilities on the UI, what kind of rotations the healer is using, and when they’re using cooldowns, etc.  And, if it’s not a holy pally, I’m kind of lost, because I don’t know every class yet, so I can’t automatically know that ABC priest/shaman/druid ability does this much healing per cast.  

Written guides tend to give information in a more general format, addressing which abilities to use in “types” of situations, but not getting to the specifics of fights, and suggesting that if you do A at this time, you might not survive to do B.  Or, that if you do C at this time, you will likely rock the rest of the fight.  

Right now, Decimal has overall guides to the MoP fights his guild has completed up on the site, and he is working on class-specific content.  It is an enormous effort, but I could see a lot of favorable response from the community, if it’s done right.  He is taking input from players via the forums, and through the website, so if you have something to contribute, please feel free to contact him one of those two ways.

In conclusion, I want to offer a huge thank-you to Decimal for sparing so much of his precious time to conduct this interview, and I wish him and his guildies luck in all their future endeavors.  Thanks for reading, and please feel free to comment with questions or thoughts below.  I’m also happy to discuss ideas about other players that you would like to see profiled.

Thanks for reading!

How do you see the game?

I have wanted to post this screenshot for a while, because it has been really illuminating for me in a few ways.

I logged in one morning to work on Arago, my 8 year old son’s DK, and this is what I found. Arago was mounted, next to this NPC in Icecrown, so that my son could see the two of them, mounted on the same mount, with their identical weapons next to each other.

Do you typically notice this kind of detail in the game?

I don’t. I tend to see the game as a broad brushstroke landscape, perhaps with my level of detail perception being slightly more focused than an impressionistic painting. I see, and appreciate a fair amount of details, but nothing like my son.

He has played the game since he was 4. First he sat on my lap and constantly toggled over to the map wherever Goldslipper (my character) went. Later, with his own characters, he began to explore, first walking through safe areas, then riding, and then eventually flying (as soon as I could earn him the gold for his training and mounts). We have probably about 20 DK’s with their basic OL mounts, so you can get an idea where I’ve spent a lot of time :)

He knows more about the landscape, NPC’s, loot tables and other details of the game than I ever will. If I have a question about how to get somewhere, or where something is, I can often ask him.

I tend to focus on the typical objectives of the game, such as experiencing content in a somewhat linear fashion, improving my ability to play my class (and there is SO much improving to be done, heehee), chatting with friends (endlessly and annoyingly so, to my son /smile).

He, on the other hand, plays in a completely non-linear fashion, stopping constantly to investigate things, interacting with landscape items in playful ways, changing his plan of what to do many times during a play session, and exploring exploring exploring randomly at all times.

This orientation to minute visual details is consistent across all the things that he does. Whether its needing to figure out how to use a particular texture pack in Minecraft, so he can have his sword look EXACTLY right, or getting a particular Lego set, because it has a particular piece (and often, it is a tiny accessory piece, rather than the main part of the set), there is always this focus on the tiny little details and appearances of things. He even has strong reactions to things he doesn’t like the visual appearance of.

Certainly some of this is due to age, of course. Children are far more visually tuned than adults, and toy packaging and advertising help with this too. I also realize that as an adult, I am more mature and practical, so that is why I tend to focus more on the linear, achievement-based sort of game activities.

Some of it may also be due to special circumstances that are unique to our family. We homeschool our children in a style called Unschooling, which doesn’t prescribe learning certain things on a set schedule. The learning is child-led, and driven by their interests. Often, children that learn in this way will take up reading at a much later age than schooled kids. We’ve seen it with other families, and also with our older children. There is very little focus on structured, lengthy reading until around 10/11, and then it blossoms rapidly, with the kids reading chapter books shortly thereafter and easily matching their peers capabilities.

This learning approach offers them something unique, which is the ability to choose how they take in information. Once we (humans) begin reading, it is impossible to ignore written media, and so it tends (I think) to become our primary source of information gathering. However, if we are not so tuned into the text at all times, our minds can choose their own pathway for getting what they need. We noticed that all three of our children were very visual. It may have to do with their dad being a former designer, but it also may have something to do with the learning approach as well, offering them more time to strengthen visual information gathering vs. text-based information gathering.

In the end, though, it may just come down to him being a fairly visual learner, outside of the other factors. Learning experts recognize that some folks are auditory learners, some visual, some kinesthetic (needing to have manual/physical interaction with things to learn optimally).

Before this image, I knew that *something* caused him to be laser focused on certain things, but this really helps me to “get it” at a level I haven’t before.

I feel like understanding ourselves…our unique abilities and strength areas, what we do well (and what we do poorly), what kind of environments drain our energy and which we thrive in, can be very powerful in helping to find our way in life. This kind of information can help identify career paths, lifestyle, and all other kinds of choices. He’s only 8, of course, so I’m not expecting him to have any sort of career or other life path mapped out yet, but if we can help by being aware along the way while he is maturing and beginning to make choices, it might be helpful.

For today, I have another resource to add to my parental toolbox. I can learn more about the visual learning style, and make sure we are providing our son with as many opportunities as we can for visual exploration.

Also, I can learn to stop and enjoy the visual details more myself, which may enhance my game time, and life in general.

All this from a little screenshot… pretty crazy, huh?

How do you perceive the game? Is it in a visual way? How does it affect your play (what you do, how you do it, etc.)? Are you aware of your learning style or how you process information, and how has it influenced your life?

Please feel free to comment below, and thanks for reading!

A Theramore RP-PvP Encounter with Horde Emissary, Ravenwing, Theramore Regiment and Kul Tiras

The Friday before the launch of Mists of Pandaria, I had the privilege of attending a special RP-PvP event, created by the members of Horde Emissary (H), Ravenwing (H), Theramore Regiment (A) and Kul Tiras (A) on our Moon Guard server.

As the finale to a month-long campaign started by Horde Emissary and Theramore Regiment, the members decided to roleplay a battle in which the Horde, freshly successful in bombing Theramore, are occupying Northwatch Hold, and face Alliance troops intent on reclaiming the area.

I think this was a GREAT way to take advantage of the new lore, create roleplay connections between factions and enjoy some pvp out in the fresh air of the real world (of Azeroth). I look forward to sharing my experience observing and participating (a tiny bit) in this event…

Continue reading

Under Construction!

In connection with some new articles I will be publishing, and with all the excitement about newness with MoP, I thought the blog should have a little fresher, nicer appearance, and I’ve changed the theme.

Everything seems to have carried over, except the header image.  I will be finding a new image, and making some other minor changes soon.  Please let me know if you have any comments about the new format!

Thanks for reading,

Gold

 

What happens at night in Sethekk Halls….

So, sometimes, Goldslipper has these random experiences that make me giggle, and this morning I had one of them.

As background, last night, I began one more run of Sethekk Halls.  It was getting close to bedtime for the youngest of the kids, so I needed to hurry.  I got to the first boss, had him down, and then got the call “Mommmm!  I need you!”

Okay, I thought.  I’ll go up and tuck him in, and then head back downstairs to the computer and finish.  I told the friend I was chatting with about his new baby that I would be back soon, hopefully.  I really wanted to get back for both reasons, to finish the run AND to oooh and ahhhh over the new-parent experiences of my friend…..a new little baby girl, so sweet :)

Can you guess what happened?  I got upstairs, watched a video with my son, became sleepy, and never made it back to the computer.

So, what do YOU think happens at night when you park yourself near the fresh carcass of Darkweaver Syth?   Continue reading