Ever wondered what it must be like to level every last character slot on your character select screen to the level cap? It's not unthinkable for players who enjoy devoting a lot of time and energy to the game, but it's not exactly a project most players have the mental stamina to grind through. Shiver in fear, then, as we bring you the story of a man who's leveled characters to 85+ not only for an entire realm or even two but in every possible slot of his WoW account. That's five realms: two with 11 characters, two with 10 characters, and one with eight, hitting the hard cap of 50 characters on a single account, all told.
And that's just the Cataclysm-era installment of this altaholic's leveling efforts. Bluemain of Darkspear (EU-Alliance) is still ticking along. That's right: This herd of 85s is still leveling. Since we began our interview process, Blue's replaced and scooted a couple of characters here and there, but they're all 85 again as of this week, and he's working on his 19th level 90 character.
Here's a neat little story that'll get you thinking about how you'll spend your free time this weekend. Haven't you ever wondered what it would be like to do some of the things your character does in daily life in the game? The man behind Solles of Alleria (US-Alliance) did. He found himself wondering what it would be like to craft the utilitarian pieces Solles created while leatherworking. Being a practical sort of a man, he marched right out to investigate leatherworking in the real world –- and lo and behold, today he is the sole proprietor of Spoiled Dog Leather, where he creates custom leather dog collars.
The pride he pours into his WoW-inspired craft is evident: "Between working with pets and promoting the art of leather work, I could not be happier to make these hand crafted collars for you," he writes on his website. "At Spoiled Dog Leather we give you the ability to completely customize your collar so it matches you and your dog's style. Our collars are made to order using the best leather and hardware available to make these last a lifetime."
We visited with Solles to find out how he nudged leatherworking out of Azeroth and into his life as a sideline business to an already busy life in the Army.
When we interviewed Playboy's Miss October 2012 Pamela Horton last month, more than a few readers were aghast that we would print her character names and realm and her BattleTag, even though she clearly stated during the interview that she's happy to hear from and play with fans. "Do you think it wise to give out this poor girl's toon name?" wondered commenter lifecrits. "It can be used to find every single one of her characters on her account, and if she thought the male community in video games was bad before, wait until people harass her in Azeroth. I foresee an expensive name, faction, or server change for her in the near future."
"I hope that the members of the WoW community respect the trust she has placed in the gamer fan base by NOT hounding her and harassing her," worried commenter Aranyszin. "She took a bit of a risk revealing her 'online' persona; I'm sure she gets approached by fans, but remember people -- be respectful. Don't hide behind your anonymity and be a jerk."
Meanwhile, the feedback from Horton behind the scenes was all good –- which got us to wondering how other well-known people who play WoW and other online games handle in-game fan interaction. We checked in with Horton, Game of Thrones' Kristian "Hodor" Nairn, Olympic gold medalist Aries Merritt, pro football punter Chris Kluwe, America's Top Model winner Adrianne Curry, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Aron "Nog" Eisenberg to find out how they protect and enjoy their video game time when fans are clamoring to connect with them in game.
How smoothly do you think your raid would run without Vent? The instant connection of voice communications makes short work of strategizing before an encounter. It allows raid leaders to direct the flow during battle, issuing new orders, calling out phases, and reminding players when to move. It allows for a certain amount of friendly banter during lighter moments, and it unites the entire team in whoops and cheers when the boss finally goes down.
The players of Durus Veritas make their way through the heroic raids of Mists without any of that. In fact, most members are partially or completely deaf and can't hear anything in the game at all. Even its hearing members hear nothing, because the guild eschews voice communications. Despite that, the guild is now 8/13 in heroic Throne of Thunder, chewing steadily through every barrier and demonstrating that fellowship, like raid progression, depends on clear communication -- no matter what form.
Dalaran remains one of the shining jewels of Azeroth. Many players make their homes in this glittering city in the sky. Horde and Alliance players alike have traditionally enjoyed the hospitality of the historically neutral Kirin Tor, who were content to cloister themselves to focus on matters of magic and learning.
But Jaina Proudmoore's politics have pulled the Kirin Tor into alignment with the Alliance. The peaceful face of Dalaran is no more. The Kirin Tor have ejected the Sunreavers from its ranks and the city itself, throwing them into the Violet Hold or killing them outright (though some managed to escaped to Silvermoon).
Roleplaying behind this volatile facade is one of WoW's most unique concept guilds, Moon Guard's Magus Senate of Dalaran. Comprised almost entirely of mages and other magic users, the guild turns magic to reflect upon arcane politics and the fireworks of world battle.
You can draw a deep breath of relief -– Playboy Gamer Next Door and Miss October 2012 Pamela Horton is the real deal. "I'm not your typical Playmate," she confessed during a phone interview with WoW Insider. "I get told that a lot: 'You're different. You're not like other Playmates.' Because I'm not materialistic or I don't dress up all fancy and I don't know any designer names or anything like that. If you give me $300, I'm going to go to GameStop."
Even so, it's not too often that Horton gets a chance to talk gaming during an interview. "This will be like my third interview anywhere related to WoW," she said. "Most of the time, people just want to talk about my being a Playmate and how I got there and what Hef's like." But all that could be about to change. Thanks to her years playing video games, the astute young Gamer Next Door is helping Playboy reach markets and engage content for which it's never before had a suitably games-savvy ambassador.
One of the hottest reads in the World of Warcraft communityright now is Shawn Holmes's Eight Years in Azeroth. Old-school players chuckle along with details that today's players wouldn't recognize as coming from WoW. Guild leaders nod in agreement at scenarios that replay over and over in guilds throughout WoW. New players gawk at raiding conventions and gameplay that feels entirely different from the game we know today.
"It was 'slaying internet dragons' mixed liberally with a crash course in leadership and team management," Holmes told WoW Insider. "I went from a player who barely understood the necessity of officer-only forums and a guild bank to dealing with the complexities of interpersonal conflict, player politics, the psychological effects of the social ladder, and keeping players both motivated and loyal in the constantly changing landscape of WoW."
As Holmes blogs his way through his eight years of blood, sweat, and tears in Azeroth, has he come to any realizations along the way?
"Staying true to a moral compass is one thing; keeping an entire guild aligned with those ideals is hard work," he observes. "It's a battle I both won and lost, repeatedly."
Knights in shining armor or divisive zealots? The roleplay opportunities for a group of paladins in Azeroth are fierce, either way you look at it. The catch is how they are perceived and manage to interact with their fellow players. Are they protectors of the faith and guardians of fellow citizens, or a fearsome hammer of intolerance to be brought down upon anything that deviates?
Amelas Langston of Caelestis Templares, a guild of paladins on Silver Hand (US-RP), walks that line regularly with a guild of roleplayers who've become known for their devotion to eradicating any opposition to the Light. Has its hardline approach made pariahs of its players? Or has its stalwart stand against the forces of evil made heroes and saviors of its characters?
WoW Insider: Most readers will probably assume that a guild of paladins is portraying a knightly, noble mission, but in fact, your roleplay focus is quite different. A recent recruiting post on the realm forums noted that many of your members roleplay "gruff, jackass characters," and the words "zealotry" and "intolerance" have been used to described the group's approach to its roleplay. Does your mission cast guild members in danger of becoming pariahs among the Silver Hand RP community?
Amelas: It's a fair thing to assume. I've found that the majority of people that role play as paladins have that sort of a character. The Caelestis Templares, however, are dedicated to a goal, that goal being the eradication of all that stands in opposition to the Light. Intolerance and zeal are actually key virtues of our guild, so to describe us as zealots would be pretty accurate.
If our characters encounter something that the Order dictates is heretical, then they are obligated to take action against it. It becomes a bit of a drag when the actions of our characters make people think that the player behind them are as hard and unfriendly as they are.
Since the typical WoW Insider reader has been around the block in Azeroth more than a few times, when we hear about a guild that's been going strong for many years, we tend to intuitively grok the associated ramifications. We understand the strength and adaptability it takes to weather entire gaming eras of personalities, patches, and expansions. It's the strength of the willow that bends in the wind yet does not break -- or, say, the steady strength and focus of the night elves as they traverse the centuries in harmony with their environment.
Gazing into the legacy of Nature's Grasp, a kaldorei-exclusive guild on Defias Brotherhood (EU-RP-PvP), we see a guild that has seen many different shapes and leaders over the years. "On our server there have been a number of night elf guilds that have been established," notes GM Arkil, "but all have been absorbed into Nature's Grasp at some point, making us the go-to guild for any night elf involvement in events, and we're frequently considered as 'the' guild that represents Darnassus."
As we've seen from our interviews with race- and class-specific guilds such as wry blood elves, adventurous rogues, and fiercely opinionated orcs, the personalities of specialized guilds can become quite narrowly focused. One has to wonder if the players behind Nature's Grasp might be as reclusive as the kaldorei they play. Apparently not. "We've been active a lot during Mists, we have a hefty constant playerbase, and we have weekly events most weeknights and retro raid runs during the weekends," Arkil says. "There's a great sense of community in the guild with a number of artists and musicians who share their work on our forums at natures-grasp.net, and we have an annual RL guild meet in some European location, which is a lot of fun."
It's been about a decade now since the crash of the Exodar, and the ageless ways of the draenei are beginning to weave themselves into the fabric Azeroth. Yet of all Azeroth's peoples and despite what must be an ancient history, the draenei remain shrouded in a certain amount of mystery. Into that breach steps the draenei guild Kharanei of Wyrmrest Accord (US), working to preserve existing draenei heritage while pushing the culture forward into Azerothian society.
"We're establishing guild canon lore and culture all the time, everything from weddings to holidays to folk tales and language," says Nelua, Kharanei's GM. "We actually invented a week-long holiday to coincide with the Indian Diwali, the Festival of Light (much like Blizzard bases its holidays on existing ones). It commemorates the flight from Argus and the triumph of good over evil while paying respects to those who died fighting the good fight. A large, open-attendance celebration was held in Telaar, and it was very successful -- a very proud moment for the guild."
Kharanei brings more than merely entertaining ideas to the table. A lore-driven council with other Alliance guilds and a storyteller-guided roleplaying framework keep its day-to-day progress feeling fresh and alive, pulling the draenei into an ever-closer relationship with the world they now inhabit.
One might expect a machinimist to be come at you with a rather snarky, biting personality, especially a creator who's known for poking fun at WoW player stereotypes. Not so Wowcrendor. Wowcrednor's a nice guy in the true sense of the word. He also happens to be funny -- funny enough, in fact, that the list of posts of his WoW machinima here at WoW Insider goes on for pages and pages.
So how does a nice guy who has fun making video game machinima end up making a living at it? We wondered, too, so we asked -– and nice guy that he is, Wowcrendor spilled all the beans.
WoW Insider: So you're living the dream, making a living making WoW videos. Congrats! How has that changed the way you play the game? Things must be quite different now.
Wowcrendor: It is really a dream come true. One day you're sitting in a college math class writing scripts about Mankrik's wife, and the next you're making a living off it. I don't think I ever saw it growing to the point it's grown to, but I'm thankful for it nonetheless.
As for how it's changed the way I play the game, I think it's actually impacted me negatively, as odd as that sounds. Before I made videos about the game, my sole focus was just having fun or getting involved in the virtual world of Azeroth. Now that I do this as a living, it really shifts your mindset. If I'm playing the game, I'm constantly thinking if something could be made into a video instead of actually focusing on enjoying the game. For example, before I started making videos, I raided in every expansion. I enjoyed raiding and even got to raid with the guy who inspired me to start making WoW videos, a surreal experience at the time.
When it finally comes time for your ship to make a final departure from the shores of Azeroth, the lands you're leaving behind will almost certainly not be what your heart aches for the most -– it's the people. Skittering about atop superficial friendships with guildmates and situational acquaintances is easier than ever in the age of LFD and LFR, but we're sure it's unnecessary to remind you that lifelong friendships and marriages are forged and strengthened in Azeroth, as well. The people we meet here are most assuredly part of our lives – and stepping away from WoW (whether for a temporary sabbatical or on a permanent basis) doesn't inevitably mean losing touch.
We never recommend sticking with the game solely to stay in touch with or please other players. It's no fun to play if your heart's not in it, and nobody has any fun if you're obviously slogging along with little real enthusiasm. If you need to take a break from World of Warcraft but you don't want to lose touch with the people here who've brightened your life, you can keep in touch so many other ways.
Leave it to a player who attacks WoW with the ferocity and passion of his orcish character to rationally and objectively dissect the pros and cons of making a guild home in a racially exclusive guild.
"Pros of a one-race clan, tribe or house: Focus, intensity, and real sense of being dedicated and set apart, as well as shared lore that becomes a motivating force in itself," enumerates Stonzgrinda, the GM of what might be the game's only orc-exclusive guild on an RP-PvP realm. "The immersion is much more credible and intense for roleplaying purposes. Cons of a one-race clan, tribe or house: Some classes are unavailable for specific purposes -- for instance, a stealthing druid healer for a team of rogues. Some achievements are not obtainable. The narrow niche makes recruiting difficult. ... Players have to know some lore and be able to present it to a standard."
So what makes it worthwhile for the Bloodfury Clan of orcs? "Our sense of camaraderie, shared culture and purpose gives our roleplayers something that no general RP guild could ever attain," Stonzgrinda answers without hesitation. "When we say 'Strength and honor,' it means something. When we mourn the passing of a player who has quit the game, we truly mourn them and remember their contributions and the unique light they brought to our warband."
Ready for some industrial, orc-strength opinions of Garrosh Hellscream, Thrall, and more? Read on.
Whew, we got the snark over with right up front in the headline -- because now it's time to get down to business. Sin'dorei-exclusive guild Selama Ashalanore spins Azerothian lore as tautly as any of the most stringent of the racial guilds we've profiled in recent weeks. "Out of character, Selama Ashalanore is a 'safe place' for lore-compliant blood elf roleplay," notes GM Tholmai Lightbreaker. "In many, many roleplay communities, blood elves are traditionally seen in a very negative light. In our guild, we are working hard to undo that image."
In character, members act out the lives of a group of like-minded blood elves devoted to the restoration of their people since their near extinction during the Third War. "Following the Third War, the blood elves have been caught up in Horde affairs in Outland, the Northrend campaign, the cataclysm, and, most recently, the events in Pandaria," Tholmai explains. "They've barely had a chance to recover. Our group acknowledges this and works round the clock for the Horde agenda, as well as to restore glory to their ancient people."
Can Selama Ashalanore members manage to maintain a sense of levity about the notorious reputation of their race while remaining focused on their compelling racial lore? Oh yes, they can -- and then some.