Contest Closed – Details to Come

Just as an FYI, thanks to everyone that’s sent in their submissions! Wyn and I will be sorting through them. The underbloggers that have impressed us will get an email early in the weekend with some instructions for round 2.

Oh come on, you don’t honestly think I can judge a potential writer by one blog post, eh? :D

After all, I need to somehow weed out the ones that’re submitting just for fun and the ones that’re deadly serious and committed.

All I can say is that there’s a lot of you that are neck and neck just from me reading them. This is a lot tougher than I thought.

I have to admit, it makes me wonder why some of you don’t already have your own blogs with some of these stunning pieces. I know Wyn’s been blown away by several of these as well.

Not accepting any more submissions for the time being, sorry!

There’s a Storm in my Brain

As a blogger, there are going to be days when you hit a rut. No matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to get any ideas going and you sit there staring at a blank screen (or notepad in my case).

Luckily for you wonderful readers, I don’t succumb to such a dry spell very often. In fact, I suffer from having too many ideas. I’ve been looking around for a virtual whiteboard for a long time. Thanks to Jon, the master of the Bronze Kettle, I’ve found one!

I’m always open to ideas and thinking outside the box. The only way to thrive in the world of blogging is to continue to innovate and be creative. I don’t believe in a lack of good ideas. I believe in a lack of motivation.

But if you’re curious as to what I have planned, take a gander at my whiteboard. I usually start with a title first and expand from there. I often don’t write diary posts because I think it’s boring and I would not want to subject anyone to that. My goal is to write something where after you read every post there is something you can take away from it. Maybe it’s a lesson, or a tip, or an idea, I don’t know. If I’m giving something away for free, it may as well be of use to someone.

To all the people that have said nice things about me and my blog, remember that I’m not a saint. I’m just an ordinary priest with more ideas then time.

But you can thank me with repeat visits and spreading my blog ;).

My WoW Insider Column Debuts Today

And here it is. I got home three hours after it went live, and there’s a plethora of comments in my email. I’m too scared to read them. 13 Do’s and Don’ts of Raiding Holy Priests, GO! I already have an idea of what to write next week, but I’ve been slotted in for their Sundays from what I see here.

I’m almost too scared to read said comments. But that’s okay! Because feedback is good!

Secret’s Out – Matticus a Part of WoW Insider

Secret’s Out – Matticus a Part of WoW Insider


Image courtesy of musya

I’ve joined ranks with one of the top WoW blogs in the community: WoW Insider. Their Spiritual Guidance section had been inactive for a while. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t the least bit nervous. I think the team also needs more Canadian representation! But you long time readers know me well enough to know that I never give anything less than 110 %. As I write this, I have a lot of ideas written down on my whiteboard. But that doesn’t mean I’m not open to anything else.

I will try to focus my columns around three central concepts:

  • Specific Priest roles in raid encounters
  • Priestly tips and techniques
  • Being the best Priest possible

Who am I?

To all the newcomers who have never heard of me or what I stand for, understand that I am first and foremost a raiding healing Priest. It’s who I am and it’s what I want to do. Therefore, a majority of the columns I intend to write will end up in that subject area. If you look around my blog, you can see I write about a variety of topics such as guild management and raid leading in addition to being a Holy Priest. My current guild is up to Gurtogg Bloodboil in Black Temple and Hyjal is on farm.

Now that you know a little about me, I have to ask you one question. What do you want to read about?

A Response to Tobold: Another Guild Recruitment Perspective

A Response to Tobold: Another Guild Recruitment Perspective

late
Image courtesy of Avolore

I read a great piece by renowned WoW blogger Tobold about guild recruitment and how they don’t look to hire players, they hire avatars. He writes that high end guilds don’t care much about the character of the person who is behind the avatar and that jumping guilds is almost expected in order to progress.

First, I’d like you to read what he has to say before you come back and read my responses and explanations behind how my Guild operates.

Done?

Excellent!

The Professional Style

Another follow up post courtesy of Two and a Half Orcs nailed it perfectly when it was written that we take two extremely different approaches to Guild progression and to raiding.

Now, a Guild is an organized group of people. I think we can all agree on that definition. What separates Guilds from other Guilds is the reason why the Guild is formed in the first place. Loyalty is an integral part of any kind of organization be it sports teams, businesses, or what not.

Refer back to Tobold’s blog for a moment and you’ll see an example of a typical Guild ad. In fact, if you browse the Guild recruitment forums right now, you’ll find any number of ads that have the same elements like:

  1. Scheduled raiding days and times
  2. Progression information
  3. Contact information
  4. Class openings

Tobold writes that these ads "do not mention people" and that these upper tier Guilds, such as the one I’m in, "don’t hire players, they hire avatars".

And he’s absolutely right.

Because those are the spots that we have available for raiding.

As a recruiting officer, I have no reason to mention that Carnage is looking for "friendly, intelligent, respectable players". Attributes like that are a given. As a student, when I browse job boards for part time openings, I never see companies advertise looking for "friendly, nice candidate with people skills" because it’s expected.

job-1

In this case, being available from Wednesday to Friday nights 8 PM – 12 PM server time is more important.

Why?

Because you can be the nicest and generous guy in the world. But if you can’t raid on our raiding days, then there’s is absolutely no point at all for us to bring you to our raids.

Am I being an ass with this kind of thinking? No, I’m being realistic. I’m saving time for both my Guild and for you, the player.

The Recruiting Process

In any case, the truth is, the recruiting process is much more refined and filtered than that. I obviously can’t speak for other Guild officers but I personally check out applicant’s as much as possible especially if they’re from another server. Cross server applicants are scrutinized as much as possible. Just like the actual job hunting process, if we find a player that we’re interested in that can handle the basic criteria of availability, class, and gear, then we have a brief interview with that player. I’ve been a carnie for about 3 years, so let’s just assume that I can tell what kind of a personality a player has 9 times out of 10. I like to conduct interviews over vent because their voice can tell me a lot of information that in game chat just can’t do.

Assuming they pass that stage, it’s not quite over yet.

They undergo a trial by fire where we assess their abilities in game. We’re not talking a couple of heroics or some PvP. In my Guild, our business is raiding. So if we want to evaluate a raider, we check them out in raids. What the hell’s the point of putting a recruit through a 5 man if we want to see how he is in a 25 man, right?

 
Image courtesy of BluStu

Accountability goes up

The release of Burning Crusade didn’t fix a lot of issues that plagued guilds during the vanilla era. Back then, there was a progression problem where it seemed only a select few of players could advance. For example, each boss in Molten Core dropped 2-3 items. Raids consisted of 40 players. Assuming you were able to pull off a full clear and that each player wanted to overhaul their gear with epics, this meant each player needed 8 pieces of loot. 40 players multiplied by 8 items is 320 items. As you can see, that’s a lot of gear that needs to be passed around and this is assuming that each boss drops the gear that players need. While it’s true that Burning Crusade did not fix problems of officers and leaders ricing themselves up and leaving, BC made it much easier to spread the loot around and progress Guild members at a steadier and more consistent rate.

By reducing the players required to raid, it increased the overall accountability of each player raiding. Each player has more responsibility and can be scrutinized even more. It allowed Guilds to be a lot more picky and for players to be more competitive. There’s a lot of hockey teams in the NHL but there’s only so many roster slots available. Raid size reduction made it easier for Guild Leaders to find players who fit the mentality of the Guild.

When I raid, I want players who work hard, are situationally aware, don’t waste time, and willing to spend gold to make themselves the best they can absolutely be. Going from 40 – 25 players means I don’t have to find 15 additional players who fit that criteria.

"Guilds do not recruit nice people and then train them how to raid."
- Tobold

I don’t think that’s true. I would rewrite that statement so that it says "Guilds do not recruit nice people and then train them how to play their class".

Raiding requires certain strategies to pull off because these bosses have their own gimmicks and abilities. It takes an insane amount of effort and coordination to kill these bosses. There is an expectation that you have gotten to 70 on your own and that you have done 5 mans on your own and that you virtually know the ins and outs of your class. New raiders that join Carnage are given an overview of the boss and what their role is.

It’s simple logic. If a player doesn’t know what he’s doing, he’s going to wipe the raid. Wiping the raid is not in the best interests of the raid therefore we make every effort to explain the encounter in detail and what their role is whether its to sheep a certain target, or heal a certain player, or move in a certain direction every 30 seconds because the main tank has to move him around.

It’s a gigantic waste of time to pick up a freshman hunter whose still learning the basics of the game like how to trap and misdirect. It holds up 24 other players who want to progress and you’re going to find an impatient player or 5 in any raiding Guild. We pull players out of other raiding Guilds that have disbanded and such because they’ve been proven that they know what to do. While we don’t know that for sure exactly, a quick inspection of loot can tell many things. If a Priest has a Band of Eternity, then we know he was a part of an organization that took down Kael and Vashj which require 25 players to actively take part in. So he knows what the heck he’s doing.

Rejection

Assuming a player isn’t nice, polite and helpful, then he’s out of the Guild. The fact is, Guilds spend anywhere from 9 – 20 hours a week working on bosses. If a player isn’t any 3 of those, why would we want to subject ourselves to 15 hours of playing with that individual? Again, at a job, if an employee is rude, unhelpful, and callous with employees, he’s going to be given the pink slip.

The onus is on the player to prove their asset to the Guild. And what does the raiding Guild do in return? We offer them a chance to raid and tackle the hardest encounters and challenges that this game has to offer.

In closing

winnars

Hopefully the insight I’ve offered will be of value to other players who wonder how and why these Guilds operate. I want to stress that my Guild is not hardcore in the sense of time. We don’t throw ourselves at bosses for 5 hours every week night. We set our standards and expectations abysmally high to weed out the freeloaders.

Building up Guild camaraderie and morale is not a problem here. When you’ve been working on a boss for 3 weeks straight with the same 25 – 28 group of people and he goes down, there’s an immense feeling of pride. Because guess what? You were part of a kickass team of 25 players that were able to coordinate their efforts in beating the hardest boss in the game.

And nothing can beat the euphoria that follows.

Unless you win the Superbowl.

Cosmo Challenge: Your Responses

Two weeks ago, I issued the Cosmo Challenge where bloggers were asked to rephrase titles from magazines and apply it to their WoW blogs. They’ve responded admirably!

16 New and Sexy Additions in 2.4 – Altitis
The "Friendly" Arena Advice You Should Never Take – Out of Mana
12 Ways to Get Ahead in Your Guild – Perpetuusmos Guild
Little Mouse Moves to Make Encounters Hotter – Frost Mage
Be an RP-Sex Genius! – Too Many Annas
How to Get Some Tail – Pure Shock Value
Be a Shamanistic Genius (while you level!) – Too Many Annas

Thanks for participating, guys! I have no idea what magazine to try next. Any suggestions?

20 Questions with Siha

Every week, Matt gets a chance to sit down with a WoW Blogger chosen by Matt’s right wing. Find out a little more about your favourite bloggers as he tries to get to know them a little more!

This week, Siha of the Banana Shoulders was awesome enough to stop healing for a few minutes to answer a few questions.

Tell us a bit more about yourself and how you got into gaming and World of Warcraft.

In the real world, I’m a very geeky girl living in Brisbane, Australia. I’ve always been into geeky pursuits, and I’ve been a roleplaying gamer (i.e. pen-and-paper/tabletop gaming, particularly Shadowrun, Exalted and Dungeons & Dragons) for fifteen or sixteen years. I first got into MMOs with Ultima Online – a bunch of my workmates were playing, it sounded awesome, I picked it up… and loved it, until they all fled UO for EQ and somehow I missed the MMO memo. I came back to MMOs with SWG (Star Wars Galaxies) and that led me to EQ2… and then WoW.

How did you come to power in your Guild?

Well, my guild – Southern Wardens – was formed in 2003, as an Aussie guild in Star Wars Galaxies. In mid-04 people started getting excited about the upcoming EQ2 and WoW releases. Most of the guild went to EQ2, and I was guild leader for the EQ2 section of the guild, but over time people started trickling across to WoW as it was frankly much more fun. Eventually I went with the flow, picked up WoW in early ’05 to check it out… and I don’t think I ever logged into EQ2 again. I became an officer in SW fairly quickly; I’d been an officer in SWG and guild leader in EQ2, and the guys knew I’m an organiseaholic (and therefore good for delegating stuff to!) We had three previous guild leaders in WoW, but all had to stop playing or drop back to very casual hours for RL reasons; I tended to work very closely with the previous incumbent, so when he had to stop playing, I was the obvious choice. The short version, of course, is "because no other lazy sod would do the damn job when I tried to give it away". :)

I asked Kestrel if he had any advice for up and coming GM’s. I’m going to ask you something similar. What is one mistake that you’ve learned the most from throughout your time as GM?

Not communicating things quickly enough. Good lines of communication are essential with your guild; if your guild trusts that the officer crew are managing things equitably and transparently, they’re more willing to accept that the decisions you make are for the good of the guild, and more willing to speak up calmly about problems instead of causing storms of drama. And, of course, you stand a better chance of actually keeping your guildies satisfied.

What are your initial impressions of 2.4?

I really like it. I think some of the high-level raid decisions by Blizzard are fairly insane – like taking stamina off a lot of the T6 pieces in Sunwell Plateau, or adding T6-equivalent badge loot – but I think the world event is going to be much more fun (and less server- destroying) than the AQ40 and Naxx world events. The Shattered Sun quests are a great expansion to the dailies, and overall I’m just happy with it. Plus there are some great specific additions – the ability to link spells and quests in chat channels like you can now with items, for instance, or the badges of justice that will be dropping from many 25-man raid bosses. Thumbs up.

What made you pick a Paladin over the other 3 healing classes?

I like healers, and always have. My SWG main was a Master Doctor/Teras Kasi Master (TK being the unarmed martial arts in SWG); my EQ2 main was a Templar (a plate-wearing cleric)… the ‘healer who can take a melee beating’ is just a fun archetype. To be honest, though, I didn’t really realize I was picking a main I’d still be playing and raiding with three years later!

Why are protection Paladins so freakin’ hard to kill and what is their one weakness?

Hard to kill: like any other tank, they have great armor, stamina and survivability. They’re hard to kill in PvE content, too – just ask the raid bosses who die at their feet every week. ;) Plus from a PvP perspective it’s particularly tough for melee classes to take them on; the mechanics of tankadins means that they specialise in reflected damage (from Holy Shield, Retribution Aura, Blessing of Sanctuary and some gear choices) so any meleer who’s trying to beat on a prot pally is more likely to kill themselves than the pally. Weakness: can’t kill a damn thing? Does that count? More seriously: everything a paladin will use in PvP (unless they’re a Ret pally) is a Holy spell. Lock down their holy school with interrupts, counterspells, slams and the like and they can’t do _anything_ – no Holy Shield, no bubble, no heals, no nuffin’.

Have you ever been treated differently as a female gamer by other > players?

Never, actually. I wish all female gamers were as fortunate.

So with all that healing gear you have on, how is levelling in the expansion going to be?

Just fiiiiiiiine, thanks to the change in 2.3 where healing gear adds spell damage. For a healer/offtank-specced character, I can put out some decent DPS – I’m not going to be winning any contests, but it’s fine for most questing. I’ll likely respec to 40/0/21 shockadin spec for some heftier DPS (sacrificing my ability to offtank, which doesn’t matter for levelling) and I’m not anticipating any problems at all.

You have your own domain and webhosting for your blog so I can see > you’re fairly committed to the blogging enterprise. Your 2.4 notes have been terrific and insightful. What can readers expect to see from Banana Shoulders in the next year?

I’m hoping to have time to get deeper into analysis and some light theorycrafting about paladins and general game mechanics. I also enjoy writing guides, like my guides to the daily quests or to holy paladin tanking, so there will be more of those if I see a subject that needs writing about. And finally, I’m really hoping to get into the WotLK beta (as I did for the TBC beta) so you can expect a lot of WotLK blogging if that happens. In particular, I wrote a popular jewelcrafting levelling guide during the TBC beta ("Siya’s Jewelcrafting Guide" for those of you that used it), and I’d like to provide a similar service for Inscription (and, of course, Jewelcrafting 376+).

What would the 51 point holy talent be?

I’m not actually sure, to be honest. My initial response would be "please god, some kind of multi-target heal" but I’m not entirely sure that’s appropriate. That one needs some thought. So for now I’ll just say "a multi-target heal, please!". :) >

Speed questions

Being a successful raid healer requires:

Situational awareness and focus.

Best way to wipe:

The very first time a hunter discovers that pets path funny when he jumps down from a high ledge. Hellooooo, half of BRD, we’re very pleased to see you!

Most common excuse for your tank dying:

On Teamspeak: "Uh, guys, WoW crashed. Have you pulled yet?"

Buff:

Mages.

Favourite non-combat pet:

The Robotic Homing Chicken, from a loot card in the WoW Trading Card Game.

Favourite non-WoW related stress releasing activity:

Watching escapist TV – current favourites for that category are NCIS, Family Guy, Scrubs or Burn Notice.

I can’t heal without my:

background music.

Name of your 2H DPS mace (all Paladins have one, don’t lie):

That Thing In Bank Bag #6 That I Don’t Have Room For In My Bags. (Actually, it’s a Hammer of the Naaru off Maulgar.)

Best way to say no to a guild member:

Make my 2IC do it. (We’re good cop, bad cop.) …I kid. Mostly. The best way is to be firm but fair, and try and suggest an alternative that might meet their needs.

3 things you want to see more of on other blogs:

  • Well-written guides that make information accessible (eg Dwarf Priest’s guide to priests in PvP, Big Bear Butt’s guide to feral tanking, etc.)
  • Universally-useful information – for example, not just "we killed Gruul today!" (though that’s great), but "we killed Gruul today, and here’s a new strat we developed that works really well for that fight if you don’t have enough healers!"
  • Links to me! ;-)

Special thanks to:

My 2IC Alinden for all the hard work he puts into helping run the guild and coordinate our raids. My guild as a whole for being so damn awesome (four first kills in four weeks, hooray!). And the folks in the Blog Azeroth chatroom – especially Valenna, Nightravyn, TJ, Bear, Bellwether, Phae, Megan and your good self – who have all provided lots of good company (albeit at weird hours, you strange Northern Hemisphere people, you!) and an inspiration to be a better blogger.

Banana Shoulders is an excellent resource for Holy Paladins and authored by a terrific person! While you’re visiting, don’t forget to subscribe to Siha’s blog!

20 Questions With Big Bear Butt

20 Questions by Matticus

Every week, Matt gets a chance to sit down with a WoW Blogger chosen by his Worg Pup. Find out a little more about your favourite bloggers as he tries to get to know them a little more!

This week, Big Bear Butt of his self titled Big Bear Butt Blogger was cool enough to kick back and set aside some time in his beary busy schedule to answer a few questions.

This has got to be the most important question I’ll ever ask and I just wanted to get it out of the way. Why Big Bear Butt?

Well, I wanted to choose a name that told people that came what they were getting themselves in for.

I play a feral druid, I spend a lot of time tanking in bear form, and when you’re in a narrow instance or up against a wall, your view is pretty much all bear butt. At least, until you swivel your viewpoint around.

Add to it is the fact that I’m a pretty big guy. I was in the US Marines for 8 years, and I was one of the guys that would have to hump the 80 pound mortar plate on the march… okay, you probably have no idea what that means. Ummm…. I ain’t short or narrow, and my bench press is fairly hefty. But I’ve been out of the service now for, oh, wow. 13 years now. It’s been a while. :) So anyway, visits to the gym or not, sitting at a desk playing wow has taken it’s toll on the size of my butt. So I’m a big bear of a man in real life, with a big bearish butt.

And I like to think I have a wacky Monty Python lovin’, Wierd Al and Dr. Demento enjoying sense of humor. So I thought Big Bear Butt Blogger pretty much said it all.

A couple of weeks ago, the first Blog Azeroth community topic was “What did you like most about the class you played”. I’m going to go out on a limb and ask you what you hate most about the class that is your main (in this case, your Druid).

The one thing I hate the most about the Druid, and yes, I do hate it, is the utter lack of individuality amongst Druids in forms. Every Night Elf Druid in cat form looks exactly like every other. Doesn’t matter the level, or the gear.

Deepest and darkest secret about BBB?

I’ve been writing for WOW Insider’s Shifting Perspectives druid column, and they put my real name up there… but it’s not the name I was born with. When I got married, I actually took my wifes’ last name.

There were a lot of reasons for it. Mainly, though, is the fact that I am from another state than Minnesota, and the product of a home that’s not just broken, but pretty shattered. My wife, on the other hand, is Minnesota born and bred, and her entire family, with dozens of close relatives, brothers and sisters and all their extended families, are all right here. Now. Local. And for every special occasion, everyone gets together as one big squabbling but basically happy family.

So I thought nothing whatsoever of casting aside my old name, breaking the chains, and launching myself into a happy life with my new extended family.

And okay, you know me well enough to figure out, I LOVE to see the looks on people’s faces when I tell them what my name is… and my wifes’ name… and my mother-in-laws’ name. Hee hee hee.

When you started your blog, what was your goal? Do you think you have achieved it?

Well, my goal was mainly to have a forum to get up on my soapbox and sound off on whatever in the game I was all worked up about.

My secondary goals were to write posts with helpful tips and suggestions that I’d wish I’d known when I started playing my druid back in the day. And also, I wanted to develop my writing skills through lots and lots and lots of writing. I’ve heard it said by authors I admire that the way to develop your own writing style is to write your ass off. So I am. These days, my main goals are to write frequently, to entertain, and to inform. If I accomplish just one of those, I figure I’m good.
That would be why I post so often. :)

Where were you when 9/11 occurred?

Well, I was long out of the military by then. I was actually at work as an engineer in a PCB manufacturing plant at the time. Not the same one as now. Coincidentally enough, I’d been re-reading Red Cell by Richard Marcinko right around that time, a book by a former Seal Team 6 commander fictionalizing his teams’ exploits as they accomplished theri assigned mission; simulate terrorist atacks agaisnt military and civilian airports around the world to test their security.
From the results of 9/11, you don’t need to guess what his analysis was, years before the actual real event proved him right. I will say, don’t believe anyone that tells you that no one knew the vulnerabilities of our airport security systems that ‘came as a complete shock’.

You’d have to understand that, when it happened, TVs were wheeled into break rooms, and we all gathered around. There was hysteria on the TV, and people both in the plant and on TV were sobbing and saying they couldn’t believe it was possible.

And the only surprise I felt was that it hadn’t been a backpack nuke or bio/chemical attack.

I know that sounds callous as all heck, but it’s true. But I come by it honestly.

I entered the Marines in 1986, and I was raised on films such as the Missing in Action series with Chuck Norris, the original Rambo series, Full Metal Jacket, Platoon, Hamburger Hill, the list goes on and on. Most people think those movies glorify warfare as a living action film full of fun, but to me as a teen growing up watching them, the message I got was that war was a horrible, violent chaotic mess, filled with human frailty, but that it was a necessary thing for an armed force to exist with strong, willing, capable volunteers, to help those who cannot help themselves and to actively work to preserve peace and liberate the oppressed. And that the previous generations of men and women in my country had done their part to step forward, to serve, and to suffer for their principals and stand firm. I felt it was my duty to do the same. With no illusions as to how ‘glamorous’ or ‘exciting’ it would be. Glamorous. HAH!

In the years since, with all the traveling I’ve done in cultures around the world, I think I’ve developed an awareness of how precious and precarious stability can be. And how blessed we have been to have the stability of Canada and Mexico to our North and South, and the massive barriers of the ocean to our East and West to make bringing war directly to our shores a difficult process requiring massive investment of resources.

But when others hate you, for whatever reason, and weapons exist in the world that require little in the way of resources to deploy, well….

When 9/11 happened, my state of mind was; “Praise God that, so far, nuclear, biological and checmical weapons weren’t involved. Thank god.” Followed closely by, “I wonder if those attacks will soon follow. Are they done? And if they do, where?”

I hope that I answered the spirit of your question.

Your blog states that you served in the US Marines. You willing to share any good/humorous stories during your time there?

I assume that the statute of limitations still covers… yeah, okay, so those are out. Hold on, let me think. What can I say that wouldn’t incur legal fines or liability?

Right, okay.

I’ll be nice and limit myself to a Marine story, and not include the subcategories of drinking, practical jokes, drinking, crazy physical stunts… oh, wait, that reminds me. Okay, I’ve got one. And I don’t think I can be arrested for anything in it.

So, I’m in the barracks with some friends, in the desert of Twenty-Nine Palms, California. And there are a bunch of us, and we’re bored, and it’s Saturday morning.

One of the guys has a car, which when you’re all PFCs or Lance Corporals, is a BIG thing. So someone suggests we get a shitload of alcohol, bundle some camping crap into the car, and head for Yucca Valley National Monument for some serious drinking and barbequeing, maybe stay over for the night.

Now, at the time I was the ringleader of our little clan, the resident Game Master of our gaming group. (Hell yes, Marines play role playing games. Best groups I’ve ever had in my entire life were with Jarheads. Intelligent men and women, tactically proficient and possessed of wondrous imaginations and low and evil cunning. God, I miss gaming in the service. Oh heck, where the hell was I? Oh, right.)

Right, I was the ringleader. And I usually organized games on the weekend, followed by everyone drinking, listening to Dr. Demento, and then having a steak and lobster tail barbeque in the beer garden outside. Beer garden? Don’t ask.

So I get us all organized, sort out who is going to bring what, then we hit the package store (where you buy your alcohol on base) and off we go out into the High Desert.

And we drive for miles, and miles, and miles. When we finally approach a likely looking campsite near some particularly fine rock formations, we are waaaaay out there.

As the car rolls up to where we’re gonna park, the engine makes some knocking noises… and then with a loud bang! we watch the hood of the car lift up with the force of a massive blow. The car stops. And I mean, right then and there.

So, we look at each other in the back seat, and then we look at the owner of the car. With a deadpan emotionless tone of voice, I say, “Engine threw a rod, Mark.”

He says, equally emotionlessly, “Yep. Looks that way.”

I say, “It’s a hell of a long walk back to the main road, man.”

He says, “Yep.”

I tell him, “Better carry a case with you when you go. And carry a bag. No littering in Yucca.”

He says, “Yep. Damn it.”

So off he went, with a case of wine coolers, to go flag down a ranger. Which he did, eventually.

In the meantime, heck, we had food, alcohol, and lots of free time. This was years before cell phones, so nobody had any way of getting the word out but by walking. Fortunately, it was Saturday, so we had two days to figure out how to get back to base before we’d be missing a movement, namely Monday morning formation. No worries.

Well, at the time I fancied myself a fair free rock climber. I went out fairly often, and enjoyed taking a camera with me to take shots from “How the hell did you get there” angles. I didn’t have any gear with me, but some of the rocks out there were pretty easy grades for a novice. I left the other guys to their drinking, and headed into the rocks.

So I went on in a little valley twixt the steep walls of rock, picked an approach, and started climbing. And the rock out there is nice, there are frequent and easy to reach handholds, indentations, fissures, you name it. I was just climbing to have fun, stretch out a bit. I was wearing jeans, combat boots, and no shirt, because I thought I was quite studdly, and I wanted to get some Sun for a tan.

I am sliding around a steep grade, feet inching sideways on a narrow crack as I work my way over to where I can see the way up is going to be easier. I’m a long way up, but it’s cool. I am pressed flat against the rock, arms spread wide and hands out, kissing the rock good and close, just kinda inching my way sideways.

As I go across this flat steep face, the rock is pretty gritty, and it’s suddenly smooth. It’s like sandstone, with a very fine grade of loose grit on the surface. And I start to slide down.
I force my body closer against the rock, I’m desperate for the rock to love me long time. I mean, I am seriously bear hugging this rock in a way that should require a marriage license and a hotel room.

And as I slowly slide down, I can feel a tugging on my pants as my belt is scraping along the rock. And then, suddenly, hella pain. Somehow, I make myself stop dead, possibly through heretofore unknown psychic powers, I don’t know.

What happened is, the belt buckle post grabbed on the rock, and my belt worked itself free, and the buckle, looped through the belt, came out of the sheath, but was still caught in the belt, all tangled up.

Oh, did I forget to mention that I was an amateur real-life leatherworker, and I’d hand-stitched my woven belt? And I’d used a belt-buckle palm dagger (what is known as a push knife) as the buckle with a sewn in sheath? Sorry, that must have slipped my mind.

Yeah, so the belt buckle came undone, grabbed on the rock, twisted on the leather looped through it, and pointed itself up… into my stomach. Braced agasint the rock.

And I was slowly sliding DOWN the rock face.

Yep, paints a pretty picture, doesn’t it?

So, let’s recap, shall we? I’m way up a rock face, I’ve got a dagger sticking into my stomach, I’m wearing no shirt, and I’m starting to slide down. And as I slide, the dagger is digging deeper.

Now, I calmly access the situation. I am not panicking, but I am 100% aware that I am the stupidest person on the face of the planet, and I’m about to die, die by being stuck with the dagger I myself spent hours crafting into a belt, and the worst part is I have 6 Fosters Oil Cans at the camp that I’ll never get to drink.

Such are the thoughts of a single Marine. Just so you know.

Obviously, I didn’t die. Sorry to break the suspense, but I thought I should mention that, just in case you were getting worried.

Instead, I kept on hugging the rock face fiercely. I slowed my rate of descent, kind of hoisted myself by the skin of my forearms straight UP and then inched the rest of the way onwards to my destination, since I had traveled a hard way up, and then eased my way back down to the bottom of the gulley.

When my feet touched down on soft desert sand at the foot of the rock, I gently pulled the dagger from my stomach, I unthreaded my belt from my pants, and then I threw the entire damn thing with all of my might as deep into the rocks as I could possibly get it.

I assessed my injuries. I had a nicely bleeding, seeping really, hole in my stomach, and the skin on my inner arms, from my wrists to my elbows, was gone. Sinmply gone. my inner forearms were raw exposed meat from being abraded against the rock to stop my slide.

So.

I walked calmly back to camp, and I’ll be perfectly honest here… I derived a certain sense of satisfaction, knowing that my reputation as a bad ass was going to be ramped up a few notches by walking out of the desert covered in blood. Kind of a consolation prize for being a galactically stupid moron.

I proceeded to borrow a buddies’ shirt to wrap up my arms and stomach, after pouring beer all over my arms to try and wash away sand. I’m intentionally trying not to think about how bad that hurt.
I kicked back, had a steak grilled over an open fire, and drank Fosters for the next 8 hours or so, until Mark came back in a park ranger truck, and we carried our happy butts back out of the desert, and I made my way to the base sick bay.

And as I walked into sick bay on that Saturday night, contemplating how to possibly spin what happened so I wouldn’t look like such an incredible dumbass on the inevitable after action report… some corpsmen rushed a guy past me into sick bay on a gurney. And the guy’s mouth was covered in dried blood.

It looked like the guy took a punch in the mouth, but the corpsmen seemed VERY anxious to work on him, so naturally I asked at the counter what was up with him.

Turns out he’d been drinking with his buddies in the desert (surprise), saw a rattlesnake, and decided to show what a badass he was by biting the head of the snake off.

Except the snake chomped his tongue GOOD. And even though he succeeded in biting the snakes’ head off, the fangs wouldn’t release.

I stopped worrying about the reception my story was going to get. Apparently, on a base full of Marines in the desert on a Saturday night, my story wasn’t even gonna make the top three.

What is the one addition or change you would like Blizzard to see done to Druids in general?

I touched on this earlier. I’d love to see Blizzard introduce the ability to expand the appearance of our forms. There are so many different ways it could be done, like simply having different basic skins available from your trainer to choose from when you can train the basic shapeshift skill, and make you have to respec to change your appearance. Or allow us to choose to display some kind of morphed armor, an admittedly difficult thing to do that I would hold out no hope for. In a perfect world, we would be able to choose our tribal Druid tattoo in forms, and customize our appearance in terms of mane/hair style, bulkiness of body frame, and then choose from colors, patterns and eyes.

Whose teddy bear is that in your blogger profile?

Why, that would be mine, thank you. That is mine. My wife asked me for a list of things I wanted for Christmas a long time ago, and one of the things I found was that bear on a cafepress store, and I told her I wanted it. I don’t know if you can see, but the shirt says “I’m in Bear form”. It sits on my headboard. When I made my Blogger profile, I needed a photo, and I immediately grabbed my bear. Cassie took the picture.

What’s in store for readers of BBB in the upcoming year?

I purchased a domain, www.thebigbearbutt.com, and I’m planning at some point to go to a self-hosted site using WordPress as the framework. I’m moving ahead slowly on getting some t-shirt designs worked on, and I’m going to continue to write in the exact same way as I always have. At this stage in my life, I regret that I may be unable to change. If my readers are hoping for maturity and growth in the next year… I’m sorry. Ain’t happening.

Considering the weird crap you throw up on your blog, why do you think people still bother to come back? (Thanks to BBB for suggesting this question when I was stuck on number 20)

Well, I think it’s because I post regularly, I say what I think, I try and have a sense of humor, I do try and post informative info scattered amongst the jokes and ramblings, and I’m honest about what’s going on with me and Cassie and the game.

Also, I actually do see the people who come to my site as friends, and I think that comes through. I’m not running a business, although I certainly wouldn’t mind making enough money to support the blog, as long as I can do it on my terms. No gold sellers! Grrr! I do this for fun. That being the case, I assume people who are coming to read what I’m writing are, themselves, in some sick way, having fun.

Or, and this might be just as true… I am insane, and you are all natural-born enablers. Shame on you.

Either way, I’m damn happy with the people that read, and especially the people that comment. I have some of the smartest, coolest commenters on the planet. My Addon article alone, I had TONS of helpful suggestions of addons that improved my game experience immensely. So much for me teaching anyone else something.

Speed Questions

Imperial or US Pint?
If it’s a Guinness, any pint will do.

Biggest criticism you always hear as a player:
You tank so well I’m getting bored.

Bears should be able to sport visual armor: Agree or disagree?
Agree, damn straight.

As a Druid, the next animal form you want is to be able to shift into:
A Mount for other players to ride. Seriously! Unicorn FTW!

Most annoying nickname:
Wow, I got some great ones. BBB, Tri-B, B^3. Love em all.

In your opinion, AWOL stands for:
A Waste of Life. “Doomilias is AWOL again”. “No, Doomilias is AWOL, still.”

Guns don’t kill people, but ______________ do:

“Guns don’t kill people, but I do”.

But Matt, that is just filling in your blanks, that’s not letting me tell you the real version.

“US Marines. You can run, but you’ll just die tired.” There. That’s better.

One thing you wish you knew about blogging before you started blogging:

How many people were going to expect me to come up with pretty pictures for every damn post. And screw the damn word count, that’s the truth.

David Letterman, Jay Leno, or John Stewart?
Jay is an awesome car guy, but Stewart is evil.

Rejected tag line for Big Bear Butt Blogger:

“This is not the gay porn site you were looking for.”

Shout outs to:

My readers, who leave comments that are frequently better than my posts. Thank you! You guys rock.

Again, go check out the Big Bear Butt’s feral druid blog for tanking goodness and all things feral!

Part 5: Ways to Promote Your Blog

WoW Blogging 101

Due to Chinese New Year festivities, I’ve had to run on a reduced schedule today. Therefore, the only piece I could get up was non WoW related! Those of you that have just started blogging and are wondering how to promote your blog won’t have to look any further!

20 Questions with Kestrel

20 Questions with Matticus

Every week, Matt gets a chance to sit down with a WoW Blogger chosen by his Worg Pup. Find out a little more about your favourite bloggers as he tries to get to know them a little more!

To kick off this weekly feature, Kestrel of Kestrel’s Aerie was awesome enough to set aside some time in his schedule to answer a few questions.

I noticed you have an affinity for birds. Where did it come from?

The answer to this question dovetails (like that?) with the answer to the second. So let me explain…

Several years ago, I read a fantastic Mercedes Lackey series, “Bardic Voices.” Among the titles are The Lark and the Wren and The Robin and the Kestrel. Searching for a new character name when Asheron’s Call II was released (I’d gone by Earendil, from The Silmarillion, for many, many years), “Kestrel” fit perfectly: Back in my role-playing days (Shadows of Yserbius, on the ImagiNation Network, né The Sierra Network), I fancied myself a bardic type–never mind that I can’t play the lute or mandolin, nor can I carry a tune. See the next answer for the rest!

What’s the background behind your character’s names? (Kestrel, Osprey, Talonis)

When it came time to name alts (and yes, I’m an altoholic–explains 4, almost 5, level 70s on one server!), I stuck with the birds of prey theme. Currently, my characters include Kestrel, Osprey, Talonis (from Talon, which is always taken as a character name, but is the name of Talonis’ hunter pet), Sparverius (from the Latin for hawk), Owlhawk, Falken (German origin), Falconer, Raptor. Oh…and Earendil is my little-used Dranei Paladin.

What’s a typical day in the life of Kestrel like?

Pretty dull! Weekdays, I get up just before 6:30, get ready for work, eat a bowl of cereal while Auctioneer Advanced is performing my daily scan of the AH. Usually, I have time to do a daily quest, and I also review the Aerie for new comments, as well as check the feed reader and Blog Azeroth very quickly. I’m a human resources manager in a call center, so I generally have time during the day to catch up on blogs (sometimes, even my own if there aren’t too many interruptions).

I go home for lunch each day, so I’ll log into the game, check on auctions, maybe hit another daily. After work, my wife and I generally have dinner fairly soon after I get home (and after I spend a little bit on my bike exerciser; in nicer weather, we go for a walk or bike ride 3 or 4 times a week). We usually watch a travel show or cooking program from the DVR while eating.

Then, it’s up to the computer room and an evening of WoW. I may delay my login if I have an article I want to finish for the blog, and I generally have Google Reader open on my second monitor to peruse on longer gryphon flights.

Most people around your age tend to not care about video games and consider them a waste of time. How did you get into gaming and WoW?

For the uninformed, I’m in my mid-50s. That already may be TMI for some people. *grin*

When I was a young captain in the Air Force in the mid-70s, I was an instructor for Minuteman missile crews. The computer that operated our simulators was a DEC PDP-11 minicomputer. In the observation cab, we had small 11″ monitors, and a couple of the more enterprising technicians had installed a game called “Dungeon” (I think). It was a very simple maze-like layout with typographic characters–letters and symbols–representing characters, monsters (this was before the term “mob” entered the lexicon) and treasure. I was hooked.

This was also about the time I started playing D&D 2ed with co-workers. Then one day, a coworker brought an Atari brochure into the office. Within a year, I was the very proud (and much poorer) owner of an Atari 800–still the most comfortable keyboard I have ever used, including the classic IBM Selectric.

From there, it was an easy evolution to cassette- and 5.25″-floppy disc-based games. A few years later (1986, to be precise) I upgraded to my first IBM-compatible PC (and I splurged on a huge 30MB hard drive!). “Bard’s Tale” and the D&D Gold Box collection, King’s Quest, Ultima IV, and my favorite, the Wizardry series. Time passed, I discovered The Sierra Network and Shadows of Yserbius. Eventually I got involved in Asheron’s Call, a teeny bit of EverQuest, and so on, culminating with World of Warcraft.

Your long lost cousin happens to find your blog and manages to get in touch with you. To your amazement, you find out he works at Blizzard as a lead designer. As a birthday present, he allows you to include another playable race in the game. What would you choose and why?

Oh my… what a great question! There are so many reasonable possibilities. Unfortunately, I’m not a lore master by any stretch–I never played the Warcraft series, or even Diablo. So whatever I say may make zero sense from a lore standpoint. But let me throw out a few ideas, then I’ll settle on my #1 choice. What about Arrakoa? And if you put them on the Alliance side, maybe Ogres on the Horde side? Of course, one could argue for Murlocs on the Horde side, to balance out Gnomes? Or how about an elemental race? Scratch that…no one wants to see eleventy-seven variations on Thing as a character name. But the romantic in me would probably go for High Elves (I completely lost it the first time the High Elf female in Allerian Outpost haughtily informs you she’s NOT a Blood Elf). And how about this: High Elves on both sides of the conflict, Horde and Alliance? If nothing else, the lorefiends would have a field day!

You have your own Guild. Tell us about them and the direction you are steering them.

Originally, the guild was just four of us who left Icecrown and our (large raiding) guild there because we had a lot of problems logging in to the realm. We picked up a few other friends who entered the game, but we have always been rather small and close-knit. Unfortunately, we lost several members a couple months ago who wanted to progress faster than the guild was currently moving. That’s how I inherited the GM mantle. Right now, we’re trying to get everyone (almost everyone in the guild has at least one 70) through the Outland 5-man instances. Several of us just finished off the Gronns this week, so we can start doing Ogri’La dailies, and we want to get everyone else who’d like to, through that. We have a couple druids (my two remaining co-founders) who want to get their epic flight form, so Heroic Sethekk is definitely coming up in the near term. And, I’d like to help everyone get attuned for Karazhan. We may have to pug it or join with another guild to get into Kara itself, but by ourselves, we can at least finish the attunements. And at some point, I expect we’ll have to address the question of whether to expand our membership.

What’s the most important piece of advice you can give to a new and aspiring GM?

Just so you understand, this isn’t my first stint at being a GM. I was a realm GM for a couple years in Shadows of Yserbius (at that time, if not the largest, one of the largest online guilds in the world), and in Asheron’s Call II and Horizons, I was the #2 person in one of the largest guilds in both games (we moved from AC2 to Horizons). So I’m not exactly a rookie. :)

Thus, the one thing I would tell any GM is, “You can’t do it all.” Don’t even try. Have trusted lieutenants, delegate responsibility AND authority. But don’t forget that YOU are the Guild LEADER. When a tough call has to be made, discipline, or /gkick, then the GM has to be the one to make the call. But being a GM isn’t a power trip: /gquit is even easier to do than /gkick.

Seeing as you are clearly a bird enthusiast, do you have any ethical objections to the use of Gryphons by the Alliance for their day to day purposes?

Another great question. Having done the Hinterlands quests and having become acquainted with some of the Gryphon elders, I think they appreciate the service they do for the Alliance. After all, I’ve never seen a tether on one of them; they can leave any time, or simply drop us in the Twisting Nether if they liked. However, I think we, as riders, should have the opportunity to maybe slip them a tasty treat occasionally. Then, they might be persuaded to take a more direct route once in awhile. After all, have you SEEN the route they fly from Shattrath to, say Area 52??

Tell us more about your blog like the background and history and your future plans and goals for it:

Like so many of us, I caught the blogging bug after reading BigRedKitty in WoW Insider, then checking out his blog. I went from there to several others–Vonya’s Egotistical Priest, since Osprey was in his mid- to late-60s and about to really get into the healing business, as well as Kirk’s Priestly Endeavors.

And as I read their blogrolls, my horizons expanded quickly. The one thing I didn’t see too much of at the time (early August) were blogs by non-raiding types, yet I know that raiders make up a relatively small part of the WoW population. So I thought I could help to fill that void. I’m not sure I’ve met that precise aim, but my readership is growing, so something is working! My biggest problem is finding the time to do all I want to do with the blog: I’d rather play! (But that’s about the only thing I prefer to writing, so I hope I can find more balance between the two going forward).

While I’ve been playing since beta, I really am a pretty casual player, in terms of what content I’ve experienced. But I am getting more experience, and I feel pretty confident in my expertise in some areas. So I expect to post some “how-to” articles in the future. I also want to get back to reviewing UI add-ons. But I’ll still keep the stories, the rants, and the shout-outs to exceptional bloggers in the mix.

Where do you see yourself in 10 months in WoW?

Oh, maybe 1/3 of the way to level 71? But on about 6 characters. *laugh* I hope by the end of this year, I’ll have downed all the bosses in Kara. I’d also like to complete all the Heroic Outland instances. But one thing I’m sure of: I’ll be logging into Wrath of the Lich King on Day 1!

Speed Questions

Most cliche’d excuse in the game:

“Sorry…I hit the wrong button.”

Nerf:

Fear. I hate Hate HATE being Feared!

First thing you do in the morning:

Take a shower. THEN I log into WoW.

Blogging is like:

Eating chocolate – all the flavors are good!

I like to play WoW in my:

Sweatpants and quilted flannel shirt.

Most hated zone:

Oh… tough one; I like ‘em all. Swamp of Sorrows.

Colorado Avalanche, Colorado Rockies, Denver Broncos, or Denver Nuggets?

Avalanche! Take that, Matt! ;) (Dodgers, Rams, Lakers in case anyone’s curious)

5 things that annoy you in WoW:

1. Trade channel spam (i.e., non-trade chat; it’s the new General channel!)
2. Duels in Iron Forge
3. Roundabout Gryphon rides (fly in a STRAIGHT line, dammit!)
4. W-A-S-D
5. The UI–SO hard to simply move or resize elements.

Matt needs to:

Send more people to Kestrel’s Aerie!

Thanks for taking the time to sit down and answer my questions. Shout outs to?

BRK for opening my eyes to blogging, and to the BM spec. Vonya and Kirk for the blogging inspiration and the encouragement to keep growing my Priest. Galadria, Pelides and Mania for the blogging encouragement. Phaelia and Matticus for their friendship through this blogventure. Phaelia and Valenna for kick-starting Blog Azeroth.