This is not a post about critical analysis, material culture, or storytelling.
This is a post about holy paladins. This is a post for holy paladins who like playing holy paladins, and want to explore Azeroth as holy paladins.
Okay, we’ve gotten that out of the way.
While I’m always going to be Catulla at heart and still have plenty of things to do on her, after 5 years of playing as moonkin DPS I’ve put away my raiding antlers and picked up a sparkly golden hammer. (I blame the switch on the fact that Waypoint’s Herald of the Titans effort needed a healer, but then I blame Waypoint for a lot of things.) When Mists was released, I wasn’t particularly keen on leveling in Pandaria as Ret or Prot. Just personal preference — nothing against either spec. So, I looked at the new 5.0 class changes, thought “hmm, there’s awful lot of offensive capability in these abilities that’s probably here for a reason”, slapped some talents and glyphs together, and accidentally fell in love with being a shockadin.
And then I wondered, why are more people not talking about playing shockadins? This is fun as hell. I leveled to 90 as holy, I do my dailies as holy (just hit revered with Golden Lotus today), no regrets. NO MERCY.
Here’s how I do it. (If this post looks familiar to you, you’re right. I just wanted to post this somewhere a little less ephemeral.)
YOU TOO CAN DO YOUR DAILIES AS A HOLY PALADIN WITH THIS ONE WEIRD BUILD DISCOVERED BY A HEALER
- Holy Shock – buffs the damage of HS.
- Denounce – occasional reduced cast time; handy, you’ll be spamming it a lot.
- Harsh Words – turns Word of Glory into an offensive spell when used on a hostile target.
- Falling Avenger — for those “oops, I accidentally walked off a cliff” moments
- Righteous Retreat — are you seriously saying no to the Bubble Hearth glyph? What kind of paladin are you? Terrible.
- The others are largely cosmetic, take your pick. I personally like Fire from the Heavens for maximum KILL IT WITH HOLY FLAME.
- Speed of Light – good for bravely running away
- Fist of Justice – reduced cooldown on one of your interrupts. This will make your life doing Golden Lotus dailies much easier.
- Sacred Shield — mostly because Selfless Healer doesn’t have any utility for solo questing and Eternal Flame doesn’t work with the Harsh Words glyph and besides, EVERYBODY LOVES BUBBLES.
- Unbreakable Spirit — reduces cooldown on your DS/LoH/DP, but honestly, I think any of the talents in this tier would be useful. Go with your preference.
- Divine Purpose — when it procs, you can basically spam the equivalent of 3-HP Harsh Words at no cost. I like Divine Purpose because it’s passive and thus one less CD to think about while questing (as opposed to Holy Avenger). I would typically get two Harsh Words out of this, but sometimes up to 3 or 4. Sanctified Wrath has some nice aspects, but as a lot of its benefit is tied into using Avenging Wrath, it’s basically a buffed panic button. I want something that has a chance to help me constantly, not just when I get into trouble.
- Light’s Hammer — a handy little bit of simultaneous self-heal and aoe damage, particularly when you’re doing That Sprite Quest in Mistfall.
Use Holy Shock to build HP just as if you were healing; as with most paladin specs, use your HP-sensitive spell (Harsh Words) at 3. Sometimes, if I was going in for a mini-boss or named quest mob, I’d try to build up 5 charges by healing myself or killing a less powerful mob and hope for a Divine Purpose proc.
Spam Denounce when you can’t do anything else.
Hammer of Wrath when applicable.
You can obviously use Crusader Strike to build HP as well, but bear in mind it will hit like a wet noodle. Use your other cooldowns as you normally would. Sparkle and be GLORIOUS at will.
OKAY FINE WHATEVER BUT SERIOUSLY, IT TAKES YOU LIKE FIVE MINUTES TO KILL A MOB, RIGHT?
Actually, no. I even timed my 12 mogu kills for my Golden Lotus daily today, FOR SCIENCE. The longest kill was 38 seconds, and the shortest was 24, with an average of 31.9 seconds. It’s not going to top any meters, but it gets the job done in the spec I have superior gear in.
I didn’t use Avenging Wrath on any of these mobs, and all of them involved judicious (see what I did there? that’s a PALADIN PUN) use of interrupts for abilities like Shield of Souls. I have an average ilvl of 463, but I haven’t optimized my gems/enchants/reforges yet. I also had the Tangy Yogurt haste food buff and Blessing of Kings. I was not fighting any other mobs for any of these kills.
I thought about doing some target dummy practice and spouting some numbers out, but this isn’t a build that’s viable for sustained, raid-worthy DPS. This is a build to get you through your dailies in a reasonable amount of time without dying.
Aside from Light’s Hammer, the build doesn’t really have any strong aoe damage. I mostly pull one mob after another assembly-line style and save my panic buttons for when I accidentally aggro too many. I can *survive* several mobs (of course I can, I’m a paladin, I’m indestructible), but it isn’t always pleasant.
SO, WHAT ELSE IS THIS GOOD FOR?
I’ve been thinking a lot about Challenge Modes because I absolutely want a set of Righteous Gundam armor, and I think that’s where this build will really shine. There are several encounters where heavy damage can be avoided by a smart group, meaning you can essentially run the dungeon with 3.5 DPS. This build nerfs your healing, but ideally, you should be able to get by on nerfed healing at that level. I’m also really eager to try it out in some battlegrounds, but my priority for now has been getting geared for Waypoint’s raid start next week, so I’m afraid I can’t say much more than that on it. However, the PvP tier set bonuses do look like they’d be fantastic for this. 2pc gives a 10% buff to Holy Shock, and 4pc returns HP back.
I consider this build a work in progress, and I imagine I’ll continue to tweak it and discover more about being a hybrid-within-a-hybrid as the expac progresses and I find different ways to use it. My intent was just to be able to level and quest in my stronger gear, I haven’t crunched ***serious numbers*** on it or anything amd don’t plan to; it isn’t a viable spec for raid DPS. Anyway, I welcome feedback on it from anyone else who tries it out–let me know what you find, and I hope you found this post helpful! Salt to taste, see what works.
Last week I found out there’s an item named after my character in Mists of Pandaria: Perculia’s Peculiar Signet. I’m completely thrilled about this tribute. I’m not usually floored by surprises or good news, but this time, I definitely was. The thought must pass through everyone’s mind how cool it would be to have a tangible reminder of their time spent in Azeroth, a place where so many things are transient yet wrapped up in memories. And well, that happened.
What do you say when you write a post like this? I didn’t just want to gush, which would bore everyone. Responding to the attention with self-deprecation or rattling off self-praise is equally abrasive. I have loved my time spent in Azeroth as a player, and think it’s the coolest thing ever that I get to write about it for work now. It’s a fan’s dream come true.
There’s a conundrum that every character in Azeroth is both a unique hero and part of a faceless crowd. Millions of us are a handful of survivors that vanquish foes and triumph on daredevil missions. We’ve all single-handedly restored greenery to Firelands and have a personal connection with Wrathion. So from that perspective as well, it’s great to picture my character stepping out from the shadowy composite of heroes into Azeroth’s meta-fabric, to feel that she’s been made “real” by this ring.
Community-themed items are something everyone knows about, but it’s too abstract and awe-inspiring to think about practically attaining. It’s presumptuous to do. I’d idly wondered about Angelista, coming across her belt, ring, and neck as I got more serious about raiding in AQ 40. And as I kept lurking on EJ, I appreciated when several generations of rogue theorycrafters showed up in items. To me, the players with named items had taken their enjoyment of WoW and turned it into a unique hobby that transcended progression patches or dangling carrots designed to hook the player base. I always hoped to get to that level of involvement with WoW, a calm place where I’d be unaffected by trivial things and parse the content in a uniquely tailored way. The end goal wasn’t to act in a way that would garner attention from the powers that be, but to find a unique niche that was both personally satisfying and beneficial to others.
So last week I was working on archaeology and legendary weapons posts when Esoth, writing up a MoP hunter gear list, linked me the ring and asked if I knew about it. Here’s a few of the highlights of what happened next:
I went back to screencap all the replies on my phone, since it was so heartwarming: the outpouring reminded me of dinging the Realm First Rogue announcement, except less temporal. Lots of people commented how genuinely happy they felt, how it’s less common to feel so intensely happy on someone else’s behalf. I tend not to squee about things or actively reach out for support, so to see my feed crit with well-wishes surpassed my expectations. It was different and overwhelming to be in a position where all I could do was accept thanks.
Specially-named items occupy a powerful part of Warcraft’s universe. There are many things players attribute elite status to that are transient–we can all remember exasperatedly waiting for an item to drop, only to wonder why it’s in our bags tiers later. Having a named item is in a completely different league from other unique character perks–it transcends the petty elitism tied to many aspects of the game that temporarily make players feel special. It’s not tied to an imaginary hardcore vs casual debate, or loses its lustre in hindsight. It’s something inspirational players look up to, but it’s an untouchable goal. Lots of players would love a named item, but there’s no actual plan to getting one, like you would farming achievements or mounts. You just do what’s natural and share your passion for the game with others.
And I’d just been writing about being in a transitional state myself–how for years I defined myself in-game as an enthusiastic well-rounded player that had both strong raid achievements and vanity item collections. That breadth of knowledge, paired with relevant professional skills, helped shape me into an ideal candidate for my current job as Wowhead’s Content manager. But in adjusting to a new schedule and responsibilities, I was unable to interact in my familiar way with WoW. Having something change after years of familiarity, even if it’s for the best, still feels disconcerting. I’d been so used to defining myself one way around Azeroth, that when that playstyle was yanked out from underneath me, it took some adjusting.
As a side note, I have felt a bit more adjusted recently–my current guild, Something Wicked, has been a great fit. The guild is full of people who are passionate about WoW: Anafielle runs a paladin blog, Derevka writes about priests and finds excuses not to visit me, Omega maintains Deadly Boss Mods, to name a few. They’re also incredibly kind and close-knit, making me feel valued and helping me achieve things in-game I had mostly given up on doing with my schedule like heroic mounts. They keep taking me along to Dragon Soul and asking excitedly how far along I am on the legendary each week–as someone who spent over two years finishing warlgaives, I’m always calmed amused by this. Last week I made a vague comment about trying for a Real ID heroic Firelands clear, and the next day there were three pages of forum responses. This really meant a lot to me because I had to step down from raiding in Firelands and I felt very ambivalent if I deserved to be carried along to Rag or not. People keep reassuring me that I’ve earned it with the work I’ve done–Anafielle has been especially eloquent about this–and every time someone in guild says something nice, I’m feel the same validation I did when I discovered the ring. It’s exactly what I needed getting into the home stretch of MoP beta coverage.
It makes me smile to look at the list of MoP BoEs and find my item next to Vulajin’s Vicious Chestpiece, named after one of the theorycrafting rogues I followed early on. I feel like things have come full circle: I’ve got a named item listed next to one named after a rogue theorycrafter. I remember how much his Theorycrafting Think Tank entry on rogues in TBC helped me, and how it was nice to chat with him a few minutes at Blizzcon about ways Killing Spree and void zones can be problematic. It’s scary and cool to realize that I occupy a place I revered when I started playing, and that I can serve as an inspiration to other players. I also realize there aren’t very many non-theorycrafters with named items, so I’m excited thinking about how this shows players a variety of interests and contributions can be recognized. It’s hard to put my finger exactly on what stood out–beta coverage? vanity guides? transmog sets? bad 50 Shades of WoW jokes?–but I like that it’s not straightforward, showing I’ve had fun with multiple areas of the game.
I absolutely believe my pre-Wowhead experiences shape the quality and nature of my work. I draw upon my variety of experiences–progression raider, vanity collector, lazy alt player, achievement hunter–to come up with articles and features that resonate with the wide-ranging player base. For example, this week I’m working on a series of broad-stroke class preview guides for 5.0.4 which my dusty alts will appreciate, while writing a guide to specific Scholomance and Scarlet Monastery vanity items being removed for dedicated transmog collectors. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the people who have shaped my gameplay and community experiences along the way, bringing their own types of enthusiasm and expertise to the game.
- My coworker, Ashelia, saw my potential and convinced me to start writing at Wowhead. She’s come up with countless innovative decisions for the site and inspired me to grow and develop my position. We’ve been friends for a while, and collaborating for work has both strengthened the friendship and led to a mutally supportive work parternship.
- My best friend and college roommate got me into WoW. She instilled in me a love for whimsical cloth robe collections and her dedication to being a GM in her progression guild inspired me when I became an officer in mine. She’s no longer playing, but she always reads my articles and we’re back to what we did before WoW–talking about RL fashion and planning mischief IRL.
- The Flavor Text crew: an email chain with Narci, Lani, and Cat has been going on for several years at this point, through RL ups and downs. It started through a shared love of WoW lore and developed into a daily support network. The thread was nicknamed STAM as an anagram of our names that symbolized how we’ve helped each other stay afloat and survive with empathy, humor, and wit. We came up with the idea for this blog together: it was the first public blog space of any sort I wrote at.
- I’ve mentioned several Something Wicked guildmates above, but I can’t stress enough how great it is that I can casually participate in a friendly progression-minded guild and feel valued thanks to my work. And while things changed in my old guild with the recent crop of raiders, I have nothing but respect for my raiding core during my officer days. They trusted me to lead them, and with their support, I learned how to have fun being in the spotlight and enjoying the responsibility. Many of them aren’t on twitter, didn’t run blogs, or led class analysis discussions but they were long-time fans, dedicated raiders, and humble achievement hunters. Above all, they were loyal players that worked harmoniously as a team and had quiet dedication that is often unsung.
- Esoth gets a special mention as a Something Wicked raider. We started off being mock-competitive on twitter about achievements, but from that we developed a strong friendship. He’s always around to help with beta articles and offer constructive site feedback, as well as bad jokes. He recently posted his hunter spreadsheet to EJ and you should all check it out. Binkenstein is another twitter theorycrafter, over at Totem Spot, who tirelessly sends me daily site feedback and helps me with beta questions and articles, plus has fun costumes to boot. They’ve both been loyal friends that have patiently explained bugs and waited for fixes. Many others on twitter as well have chimed in with class feedback when I’ve asked for guide help, which is greatly appreciated.
- The Blizzard staff I’ve gotten to know from work, most notably members on the community and items teams. From stumbling across a bunch of justice point gear named after poetry to helping a CM solve a complicated site problem without knowing their identity at the time, wonderful connections have developed. Another one of those things you always imagine would be really cool, but hard to picture how it would actually ever happen on its own.
- Summarizing Hamlet‘s contributions and interactions is tricky. Many of you had first impressions of him on twitter as an analytical robot maintaining high-quality resto and moonkin spreadsheets for ages. And it’s true, his theorycrafting stuff is excellent and I hope one day his Druid Trainer t-shirt becomes a reality, I really do He deserves it. However, I personally never was interested in playing a druid or knew Hamlet when he played WoW. Likewise, he doesn’t actually read many of my Wowhead articles and thinks Tyrande is a druid. But, we like bothering each other, so I moved in with him last week. Moving has been both exciting and anti-climatic: it’s something we’ve definitely looked forward to, but it feels like such the right thing to do, it doesn’t seem like a big decision at all. If you want sappiness, you can check our twitter favorites lists.
So, thanks for reading my articles and enjoying the database features. And, thank you, Blizzard.
If there was a writing challenge to discuss the “Then and Now” shoofoff of the “Sixth Screenshot” prompt last year, I could have written a rosy entry on being a successful progression officer and vanity item collector, outlets that helped me relax while completing my newly-finished thesis at the time. A year later though, I’ve cleared DS normal twice and recently left the guild I was in for over four years. The missing piece of the puzzle that turns this trajectory around is that I also started work as the Content Manager for Wowhead.
I was stumped at the time of the prompt summarizing how I greatly enjoyed my current job, which I started during a period of many other changes, but ironically it prevented me from playing the game the way I was used to for six years. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s laced with some nostalgia. I gave up though, and went back to covering beta.
I thought again of writing this entry a month ago, when my guild suggested bringing officers-gone-casual, including myself, to heroic DS for chances at the mount. It would have made for a nice entry, writing about how I couldn’t raid yet the little community framework that motivated me so much in past years was still going strong as I moved into a new part of my life. My officer team, valuing loyal raiders both past and present, always brought guildmates along for achievement or vanity things for free, knowing it built community and helped reputation.
Instead, newer raiders didn’t bother showing up for my run. Someone left a passive-aggressive post about how they’d show up if there was someone more relevant, meaning, someone who would pay more gold. The Black Market Auction House came out so that was a convenient excuse with gold and buyable epics, but you won’t kill many things if you ignore an officer’s raid plans and don’t show up.
It’s funny, in spite of working on features millions of people use each day, and on a more personal scale, chatting with more community folks on twitter, finding out how much the little guild environment I built had changed stung. That selfish attitude wouldn’t have persisted if I was still an active officer, but I had to step down because I got a very fun creative job. I think we can all agree cutting back was for the right reasons, but it still feels strange, from a personal perspective.
So, onto the screenshots. My vanilla screenshots are mostly lost, but I saved the six earliest ones from my old computer:
From this, we can learn a few things. Even though I was on a terrible laptop, I cared about atmosphere, taking care to find places with dramatic lighting or snapping a picture mid-emote. My sense of exploration is present as well, as some of the pictures are taken in pre-BC Caverns of Time and pre-Naxx Eastern Plaguelands, yet I focused on nooks and interesting walls instead of sweeping vistas. And you can tell I had a large collection of cloth gear on my rogue even at this early point (one robe is even a horde starter one), a theme that would spiral into collecting imitation priest t6 and much more, culminating in creating “lookalike tier” transmog set entries for Wowhead.
The pictures don’t show everything. They don’t give much information about raid experience or how I enjoyed putting clown suits together for the best stats. (Two-piece Madness ZG and Aged Core Leather Gloves forever!) They don’t show how being one of the first people on the server to win a ZG mount motivated me to stop caring about awful full tier, start lurking on EJ, and to show I was an awesome well-rounded player that deserved that amazing RNG. But they do show a fair amount of wonder at the world.
I went back through my current screenshots, and found this as the sixth one:
It was taken when my Burning Crusade guild quit raiding in Sunwell and I was waiting to hear back from new guilds. I had always wanted to join that guild in vanilla, and had a happy few tiers with them in BC until the core team was crit by outside scheduling issues. So in the twilight of BC, I flew around Azeroth after filling out several apps, taking pictures in my favorite zones like Feralas and Darkshore. I always liked this picture for how the sun and glaive flared together, as well as how my character’s head was slightly turned as if she heard a noise, hair swinging behind her. After Wrath hit, I also liked this picture for capturing the old look of Cursed Vision with glowing eyes. I had started to become interested in the lore in BC and demon hunters were the perfect hook to get me learning more–eventually leading to a burst of creativity where I wrote some stories about night elves. I’m pretty sure when I got the helm, I temporarily lost a set bonus and dps, but I just had to equip it since I was so excited.
If you had asked me to analyze the picture when it was taken though, I would have talked about gear worries. Anxiety that I was apping to Sunwell guilds without a full set of glaives, that I was using badge pants since they were ~20 dps higher than tier ones but most Sunwell rogues probably had the imba Felmyst legs, that I should scrounge up the gold to buy a crafted Leatherworking chest before raiding again. I always remembered that anxiety and how it ultimately proved useless. I did find a raid that cleared Sunwell pre-nerf, I did not see a full set of glaives or Felmyst pants drop for the rest of the tier, and I loved the guild. That taught me a valuable lesson about applicants, gear, and attitude when I did become an officer a year later.
I can’t tell you what I wore in later tiers (probably because there was clear BiS and alternative options were limited), but I can remember everything from Sunwell with striking clarity. How Sunwell tier and Felmyst pants were easy choices, but the 4th piece of Tier 6 and off-set items were contested. Thinking back to that moment, when I hopped servers in that outfit, all I wanted out of the game was a progression guild I felt comfortable in, and some gear to reflect the content I was working on.
I did get much more than that. After a Tier 7 slump where we failed Immortal, I became an officer and helped get us back on track to Death’s Demise and a bunch of other timely server firsts. People that left us over Immortal reported our recruitment thread out of spite when we started doing better, and yet I continued to handle recruitment in spite of my complaints to Blizzard not going anywhere. I dealt with the challenges of taking perceived 10-player “A teams” and ensuring everyone got their achievements and 10-player loot on offnights, instead of some players feeling excluded. A previous BC guild changed their minds about accepting me mid-xfer due to my gender, and so I always worked to ensure the guild was a place where women would feel comfortable.
We organized server-wide achievement runs to clear out all raid achievements in the game–I remember The Traitor King bugged for a large part of the raid, so we repeated it several times on 25s. We teamed up with another guild and finally got Immortal for all achievement-hunters. We ran two 25-player raids in late ICC to ensure everyone in the guild, even if they weren’t around for Death’s Demise, got a Mimiron’s Head and ensured every interested raider got a vanity item from the Shadowmourne box. We did vanity things like running AQ for the rare enchants and Black Temple to finish three glaive sets and had a party in Dalaran when we were done. Our officer core was a really strange mashup of Robert Baratheon, Stannis, and Tyrion if they peacefully ruled together on a council in an alternate universe, and it worked.
A vanilla raider that filled in for Ulduar 10 hardmodes helped me get a discount on some awesome clothing this spring. A former raid lead who filled in for me on Yogg +1 when I spilled a drink on my keyboard saved me a seat at BlizzCon’s costume contest. I answered some questions about work for a raider’s college essay, and he sent me a bunch of Darkmoon Faire books I needed as thanks. The most meaningful in-game interaction by far was the day of Cataclysm’s launch, where I had a pipe dream of getting the server first achievement but was unsure since beta had corrupted my old computer and I had no leveling experience. A group of us all aiming for Feats of Strength got on vent and dealt with my panicked quest questions for over 12 hours straight. Somehow I managed to not get lost, smash Escape in Uldum a lot, and pulled ahead of everyone else. One of my friends in vent was also a rogue, so I waited the few extra minutes for him to catch up, and then we coordinated hitting 85 in the same minute so we’d both get the Feat of Strength. To me, it represents how we blended competition and friendship well.
I had sensed my attitude was shifting in Tier 12 though: the week I handed my graduate thesis in was the week I asked to sit for the first time. The end of undergraduate was rocky and I had many demons to expel in grad school: spending my free time working hard to raid and get achievements helped me relax. Raiding as relaxation was entwined with an academic environment, and once freed from one, the other felt a bit untethered.
Soon after I graduated, I got my current job, which was vastly different from my previous one as a humanities and museum research assistant. And I realized my schedule had to be addressed as I covered Tier 13 previews during Heroic Rag attempts: it would only get worse when beta hit. It was time to move on, and since then, I’ve been struggling to redefine my relationship to WoW as a leisure activity. On one hand, things haven’t completely changed. I love sharing new things with people, and now I get to do that every day on the news blog for work! If I think something is cool in game, I can tie it into one of our features, like Transmog sets. But with an unpredictable schedule, many of the things I looked forward to doing every week simply aren’t possible. It’s odd covering heroic items on beta and realizing that I might not have time on live to actually get them. Last expansion I was thrilled to race to 85, but this time I’ll be writing guides and making sure the database is running smoothly when the expansion hits. And with how much WoW has changed, I’m not sure if I’d enjoy it in exactly the same way if I did have the time–plus, that’s a lot of WoW on a daily basis. I’ve been meaning to finish up my archaeology series and write some things on appearance/transmog/fashion theory, but it’s a really intense time at work with beta’s unpredictable schedule. Especially since private server coverage is sadly popular and unchecked, making it more of a challenge to deliver news from actual beta servers that doesn’t sound stale in comparison.
Tier 13 was a strange time to stop hardcore raiding and attempt to still consume content in my overly-picky style. It wasn’t easy subbing in to the newly-downsized 10s, because fitting in two rogues is silly and asking someone collecting legendary fragments to sit for one with flaky attendance is also silly for progression. Most other raids were full on everyone’s new alt wanting a legendary. Some friends put together alt runs and invited me along, but I never could commit with my schedule so unstable. I didn’t have many non-raid achievements and mounts left to chase, and logging on to farm Karazhan, archaeology, and Utgarde Pinnacle without luck wasn’t exciting. Many of my friends also cut back on WoW due to increasing job commitments, so I ended up talking more to them during the day than in-game. Which is valuable–it showed the friendship went more beyond the game and pixels–but it made logging on pretty strange. Realizing that something has helped you grow, and now you’ve outgrown that framework, is bittersweet.
As part of the growing though, I’ve channeled my interests into large projects–a refreshing change after my work for a radically different audience. Transmog is a great example of that, so is the “Same Model As” tab. I got to travel for work instead of being cooped up in a library, covering Blizzcon and the Mists press event. Many of my early blog posts were about guides to various quirky things in WoW, and now we have a section for user-submitted guides. I like coming up with screenshots for holiday guides and newsposts using the large collection of disguises I collected over the years. Plus, as someone that’s been around forever, I can draw upon my breadth of experiences when editing obscure parts of the database. (And it has been a good opportunity to branch out into other things. For example: I grew up in a remote area where most things were heavily filtered away–from jeans to all TV shows to any video games–so there are always gaps I’m looking to fill and enjoy, which explains why I document every little detail in Ocarina of Time just because I can now.)
Coming up with a “Now” picture is interesting. Transmog lets people freeze their characters in a timeless moment instead of the present, how the player wants them to be remembered. An armory link, especially in my case, would lead to a misleading and more depressing conclusion without context. When I moved servers last week to relax in a healthier guild atmosphere, I put on my Sunwell set for Midsummer farming, since I felt uncomfortable in my reforging mess of LFR gear that was abandoned when beta hit. A lot of the memories of my previous transfer came back to me. This was the raiding set I always wanted to have because I thought it symbolized someone that had demonstrated skill and reliability. (I forgot about our old friend RNG, but, details.) I remembered sentimental things like loading up an alt with fireworks and firewater for good luck and logging out in the World’s End Tavern before I left.
In light of the old picture I found, I think a picture of my rogue idling in her idealized yet equally-outdated Sunwell gear for “Now” is fitting. I slowly collected the missing pieces with friends over the years, not least of which was my melee team farming Black Temple for over 6 months with me in ICC, and I don’t have any pressure to offer up a screenshot of current gear to show that things are good because I achieved something. The gear reminds me that I had a great time both raiding and collecting in WoW, hobbies that helped me get this current job, which I’ve now refined into something both enjoyable and professional. Collecting things at a slower pace now, I do miss how things were, but the past served me well. (Also, fun fact: I was so busy with work that I only realized this week I hadn’t purchased any Firelands vanity items.)
Transitional periods are always awkward, and there’s a certain irony that covering WoW for work made me redefine how I enjoy it in my personal time. I’m still in the process of sorting things out, and the recent guild situation made these feelings fresh again, but I’m glad I’m in this current place.
As Cat has mentioned in the post immediately preceding this one, some time ago the authors of Flavor Text were tagged by Rades and Cynwise to participate in the Sixth Meme making its rounds along the WoW blogosphere. Cat’s done hers, and though her post is a tough act to follow, I will gladly make my own attempt. Because I am far too lazy to organize my screenshots into subfolders, I simply picked the sixth picture currently in my screenshot folder.
The above picture was taken shortly after the launch of patch 4.2. It features myself, Catulla, and Perculia sporting the new pigtail hairstyles, tier 8 druid helms (or the lookalike, Unwavering Stare), and whatever costume we felt put forth our best Sailor Moon impression. Then we found a rooftop in Stormwind, danced, and giggled together over Ventrilo, joking about the game, our characters, our lives, and whatever else came to mind. Sadly missing from the above screenshot is our fourth Flavor Text member, Narci, woefully excluded from Stormwind shenanigans because her main is a tauren. Oh, my dear, how the false barriers of faction do come between us! Alas, our celebrations were the poorer for your absence.
I was surprised to find this picture as the sixth in my folder, and the moment I saw it, the precise memories of what I was doing at the time jumped straight to the forefront of my mind. I could tell you about how my poor connection lagged terribly that day in Stormwind with all the post-patch crowding on the realm and how I got turned around in the north alley of the Trade District trying to find the barber shop (I very, very rarely use it). I could tell you how we searched for the perfect spot to dance and take screenshots. I could even tell you that this shot is not my favorite from that day; that honor belongs to one Catulla took and features some random toon flying by in the background, an oddly floating Worg Pup in tow, because the “flying non-combat pet” bug had yet to be fixed for pets that weren’t supposed to fly. Random gliding doggie is still an in-joke that makes me grin, though I acknowledge its lack of meaning to anyone but myself.
It speaks to the power of imagery that my memory is jogged so well through this one little screenshot. In all honestly I could not have chosen a better picture for my Sixth Meme entry if I had sifted through every screenshot I’ve taken since 2007. The most important element of my experience with World of Warcraft is summed up right there: the community I’ve discovered as a result of the game. World of Warcraft, more than any single other activity or hobby I’ve ever had, has brought me some of the best and most treasured friends of my life. It’s opened my eyes to new possibilities in my career pursuits. It’s challenged me to flex my creative drive in ways I never dreamed I would. It’s made me a published author. It’s encouraged me to step out of my comfort zones. Through World of Warcraft communities I discovered modern thinking on social justice and I met many people from diverse backgrounds who have challenged my perceptions in ways I will forever appreciate. I do not wish to insinuate that I never could have developed these things without World of Warcraft, because I certainly hope that I would have, however it just so happens that in my life Warcraft was the medium through which these things came to me. Surely that is something special.
Right now I am going through one of the more difficult periods of my recent life. Family and personal issues only marginally within my control have finally reached a breaking point and the fallout from that has been exhausting, demanding, and draining. The effort required of me to confront these events and their causes has taken from me the time I might normally be spending losing myself in my hobbies, including WoW, however, the constant that remains is the people the game has brought into my life. Those folks have been here for me in the past few weeks, buoying my spirit and renewing my faith in ways I have desperately needed, even if only through a few sympathetic words or a silly kitten picture on Facebook. Life sometimes takes us through dark places, and often the light we rediscover while there is cradled in the hands of other people. One of my favorite quotes is from the book Contact, by Carl Sagan, and it sums up what I feel rather well:
“You’re an interesting species, an interesting mix. You’re capable of such beautiful dreams, and such horrible nightmares. You feel so lost, so cut off, so alone. Only you’re not. See, in all our searching, the only thing we’ve found that makes the emptiness bearable… is each other.”
Thank you, World of Warcraft, for giving me more of the each other.
Hamlet: This is a project where we record our discussion while Perculia plays through a classic game, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. It’s a game I am deeply familiar with, having avidly played it starting on the day it came out in 1998, and a number of times since. Perc has almost no experience with non-MMO videogames of any kind, and when I got a 3DS a few weeks ago, it seemed a prime opportunity to have her try one of the most well-loved games that has ever been made. She was very interested to see what it was that had so captivated so many of her friends. As we started talking about the game I was having a lot of fun–while I’ve replayed Ocarina in the past and it’s one of my favorite games, it’s now been 14 years since I saw it through a new player’s eyes. We realized others might enjoy the same thing.
The following is a series of notes about things she noticed while playing, and various responses from me. There’s no promise that all aspects of the game are discussed, merely whatever topics we wind up talking about along the way. If you find it interesting, comment or even add your own memories of Ocarina. If there seems to be interest we’ll try to keep it up as she plays through the entire game. You can find us both on twitter as @HamletEJ and @perculia.
Without further ado:
Perculia: Kokiri Forest was both an effective tutorial in introducing me to gameplay controls and the environment. You’ve spoken before both on how Ocarina was radical for the sheer scope of the world/player combat, but that every Zelda game elaborates on core tropes. So it was fun to see how Link was a commoner/nobody in his little village (knowing I’d be exploring a vast world soon), while haphazardly running around getting used to the 3D setting and jumping off rooftops.
Getting the initial shield and sword was both a lesson in gameplay and an introduction to one of the series’ standards–Link’s traditional gear. Instead of being found in a chest, the Deku Shield required me to explore the village for hidden rupees so I’d have enough for purchase at the store. In the midst of throwing rocks and bushes in the hopes of uncovering more rupees, I saw a 5 rupee coin noticably floating on top of a tower. The tower was reached by walking over a series of narrow bridges–which I did, slowly at first. It taught me to correctly use my movement controls and rewarded me for that little extra bit of explanation. When jumping over some rocks precisely, I was also rewarded by getting a rupee, reinforcing that carefully-executed behavior may give you an additional bonus. Of course, there weren’t rupees lurking behind every corner–just enough to make me want to explore every corner.
The Sword was obtained after successfully completing a tutorial section that introduced me to first to “L” targeting and associated strafing, rolls, and jump-slashes, taught me how to crawl through a tunnel, and successfully navigate a maze with a rolling rock. This started the pattern of completing puzzles (some that didn’t even require combat) and finding a reward at the end.
I’m also enjoying how a commoner from a tranquil green village can co-exist with throwing rocks over one’s head and chopping down signs
Hamlet: What’s great about the open Kokiri Forest segment is how effective of a tutorial it is. When I was 14 I didn’t even realize that’s what was going on. But as you’ll see, essentially nowhere else in this game do you have to grind up rupees to buy something to progress. It’s a mechanic introduced as literally your first task and never repeated. Why? Collecting Rupees by running around the forest area at random tutorializes the game’s basic movement functions. In 1998 it was the first or one of the first 3D action-adventures people would have played, possibly one of the first 3D games. With each new game the player had to acclimatize himself to a new grammar of basic movement.
Even the basic task of running in a straight line falls into this description. You see 5 rupees in a very visible spot, reachable only by walking across two long narrow bridges. Remember that this was not a 100% trivial task–camera logic then wasn’t what it is now and the camera wouldn’t stay lined up behind you easily. The game got you comfortable moving around naturally in a harmless environment while your mind was occupied with the task of getting 40 rupees, so that by the time you were doing things like combat and dungeons it was second nature.
One other thing I want to flag in the intro segment is how it teaches Z-targeting (or L-targeting as you know it in the 3DS version). It’s kind of crazy to look back now and think that “targeting stuff” in this way was actually an innovation at the time, especially if your gaming background is mostly WoW. Not that the concept was unheard of, but referring to its use as a means for controlling combat flow when the action-adventure game genre went 3D. By and large the 3D games we’d played before this were FPS’s (and Super Mario 64 which had no combat) and the idea of a 3D Zelda requiring you to “aim” your sword in that way seemed awkward at best. Z-targeting as the basic control concept driving the whole game seems like an incidental matter at first, but Ocarina wouldn’t have been what it is without it.
There’s so much more to talk about here but I’ll have to restrain myself for now–there’s a whole game coming up where we can discuss the artistic and world-building aspects you hinted at above.
Inside the Deku Tree
P: Starting the first instance (H: heh), I had a vague sense of expectations–that I’ll find a map and a new item which will allow me to defeat the final boss. The actual mechanics of the dungeon, the layout, and combat style are pretty foreign to me though (besides the “L” targeting function from WoW). Along the way, I tried to be mindful of subtle hints or motifs that were elaborated upon throughout the dungeon.
Fire. Fire is important in breaking webs–you first test this out on a wall and then move on to burning the floor towards the end. I also learned about the duration of lit sticks and how they’re an expendable, yet easily farmable, resource.
H: Also, when you first drop down to B1, the torch is unlit and covered in webbing. You press a button to light it and watch the web burn away, teaching you how to deal with the web across the room (not completely though, you have to add in what you know about Deku Sticks–but the game provided the requisite information about how the world works). Most readers know how a 2012 game would have popped up text saying “Fire burns webs!”, robbing you of the chance to make the mental connection, and probably interrupting game flow in some fashion in order to do it.
P: Deku Scrubs/Business Scrubs. As I’ve seen from later play sessions, these clueless merchants are more prevalent than I expected. The Forest tutorial emphasizing the importance of “L” targeting was helpful here, to instantly lock onto the Scrub and reflect the nut at the correct angle. One of the Scrubs gave me a clue halfway through the instance that I forgot about until I successfully realized that the mobs guarding the final boss were also Scrubs–and the clue applied to them. I haven’t been exposed to musical patterns and motif recognition at this point, but this puzzle trained me to focus more on visual similarities for clue solving.
Spiders. I learned to use the slingshot fairly quickly, when I was put into a position of being forced to use it on spiders blocking my only path on the wall. You have no other option but to use your new toy fairly quickly, but it feels like you’ve discovered a new type of combat instead of having no other option. When I first came across the spiders on the wall, before I had the slingshot, that was a hint that I’d be returning to that room in the future with an additional tool. (Which is similar to discovering an unlootable Skulltula early on, and assuming I’d be returning to the room and moving the nearby yet unreachable block at a later point.)
I found that jumping from the top level through the ground floor was a faulty puzzle. The floating hearts were a hint that I was meant to jump off, but I hadn’t encountered jumping before and it seemed risky (thinking of WoW fall damage), plus the floor looked opaque.
The boss fight was as expected–it drew upon color-changing eyeball trash mobs and utilized the slingshot–but I appreciated the flashy visual introduction, which you said was a hallmark of boss introductions in this game. Besides providing the player with an epic introduction, it also showed off the boss’ unique armor before combat began, which I appreciated from a visual perspective.
H: There’s something subtle here. You mentioned the vine-covered wall between levels 2 and 3 with spiders on it, and how you find the Slingshot on level 2 so you can proceed. So far all pretty obvious. What’s interesting is what happens after shooting the spiders off the wall and climbing up to 3. After getting the Compass in a side room, you come back out to the main shaft in level 3, and aren’t sure where to go next. As you point out, the solution, jumping down two floors to break through the web, is imperfectly hinted at. But there isn’t a great way down otherwise–it’s hard to shoot the spiders of the wall now that they’re below you. You can with some awkward positioning, but by being put in a situation where climbing down the way you came is difficult, you’re led to look for other options, like jumping down from the top floor.
Hyrule Castle Town
P: Besides the usual fun that comes along with exploring a new town with vendors, flavor dialogue, and funny NPCs that drop useful hints, two parts stood out in Hyrule Castle Town. One was an awesome room filled with pots that I could happily smash against the wall for rupees and hearts. Smashing pots is addictive, so when most of the pots in the room were broken, I practiced running and jumping off the boxes to perfectly land on the ledges that allowed me to climb up to the pots by the ceiling–which was fun to muse upon, seeing how I previously struggled to walk in a straight line. And in the process of idly rolling around the cleared-out room, I inadvertently smashed some boxes and discovered a Skulltula. Before I had previously thought that they were dungeon-only rewards, but now I viewed the outdoor world differently, as a place that was worth exploring too.
H: You mentioned once already how finding a hidden item made the world feel like it was something to explore. Exploration is the heart of all Zelda games–what you’re playing now grew out of the original Legend of Zelda, where this was more obvious because there was nothing else. No 3D, no fancy artwork and landscapes, no story to speak of–just Link, a huge grid-based environment, and lots of items to find. Ocarina is remembered as the game that brought this to 3D, and while many things changed between 1986 and 1998, it’s clear from your experience already (and from a generation of exaltation for this game) that it captured some of that adventuring spirit. Knowing that your own only background was an MMO, a goal-oriented multiplayer endeavor that shares little in common with something like Zelda, I couldn’t have guessed in advance whether you’d have fun doing things like smashing all the pots in the little room just inside Castle Town. But the funny part is, I know most people reading this remember exactly what room you’re talking about, because they did the same thing.
P: I also learned about how the time of day meaningfully impacts surroundings. I couldn’t get into Hyrule Castle Town in the dark, but I did come across zombies. Most of the town was deserted during the night, but a Potions store was open. When I was completing later outdoor quests, I remembered to keep the time of day in mind when completing key segments.
The stealth-like mission to meet Zelda reminded me of a fun version of “Assassinate Creed,” one of the Tier 13 legendary quests that has rogues stealthing around phased Gilneas, but not completely following traditional stealth and vanish mechanics. Here, there was more freedom to roam, no mechanics that seemed jarring with previous gameplay, alternate ways to avoid guards, and fun mini-games rewarding your dexterity like swimming in a striaght line or snatching rupees in the palace garden right next to a guard. And my initial observations on daytime accessibility were reinforced when I discovered I could only enter the palace during the day.
Learning Zelda’s Lullaby and later musical puzzles is a large topic on its own; I will address more fully in a later post.
H: We definitely will. Also, for those who don’t know Perc, she is really into music. In fact, in thinking Ocarina was a great game for her to try, a nontrivial factor in choosing it over other games is that it’s remembered for having a magnificent score. I’m sure we’ll have a lot of talk about both that and the iconic Ocarina in later segments.
P: It was easy to focus on the design issues and puzzle-solving at first because of how new everything was. But besides music in later posts, I want to talk more as well about the visual environment and the story narrative. I stopped writing here at the point when Link meets Zelda, so I think that’s a good starting place in the next blog to discuss both music and story more.
Update: Added some references to “Prufrock,” removed a few tenuous ones, and explained several elaborate metaphors.
Someone at Blizzard really likes the poetry of Keats and Eliot–and expressed this by naming over 100 blues and starter epics after their most famous works.
Keats’ poetry has a monopoly on Justice Point items, while Eliot’s “The Waste Land” shows up in most reputation-related gear. It sounds crazy, but here’s a teaser from “Ode to a Nightingale.”
|Darkling I listen; and, for many a time|
|I have been half in love with easeful Death,|
|Call’d him soft names in many a musèd rhyme,|
|To take into the air my quiet breath;|
|Now more than ever seems it rich to die,||55|
|To cease upon the midnight with no pain,|
|While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad|
|In such an ecstasy!|
|Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—|
|To thy high requiem become a sod.|
As I continued working on Wowhead’s transmog features yesterday, I remembered an early comment that I made about the Pauldrons of the High Requiem being a reference to “Ode to a Nightingale.” I thought it would be amusing to link to twitter, but while scrolling through more sets and browsing the poem, I noticed Vest of the Waking Dream (referring to the famous ending) and kept going. Originally I assumed there were just references to the one ode using ilvl 346 vendor gear, but Hamlet found a handful of references to Wordsworth and suggested I search reputation gear as well to see if there were more literary references. Turns out there was.
The end result: there’s four full poems by Keats, select parts from “The Waste Land,” and fragments by other famous poets. I’ve copied all the relevant poems I found here with links to the gear. You can mouseover the link to see the name of the gear inspired by a particular phrase, as well as click on the link to see the item in a new window. I’ve also included a list of items I haven’t found references for yet, if anyone wants to give that a try.
@gomatgo was curious about my thought process over at WoW Insider–I’ll try to explain it a bit better. As the Content Manager for Wowhead, I spent most of my day mucking around in the database, whether it’s finding outdated information, creating new matching armor sets for the transmog feature, or writing comprehensive guides for the site’s weekend content. Also a few months back, I manually sorted all the armor in the database into identical models–which taught me that Blizzard can create the strangest similarities and patterns. (It was kind of hellish, but I survived.)
Most gear is named following a theme–molten imagery for Firelands, Egyptian references in Halls of Origination, aquatic life in Throne of the Tides. To see so many strangely-worded items (even before I knew of their exact source) tied to gear vendors or bosses that had nothing to do with in-game lore was curious. I have a pretty good familiarity with items in the database so when I decided to seriously embark on this after noting references across armor types, some items popped out without me needing to consult Wowhead. I did approach it pretty methodically, making item filters for each type of gear, as well as noting what gear didn’t seem to fit into any poems. Some phrases also seemed suspicious–the Dragonmaw Clan would use a phrase like Aetherial Rumors? Err, no. Typing in distinctive phrases like that to google on a hunch brought up even more poems.