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.
A fantasy game like World of Warcraft doesn't have to stick too closely (or even at all) to the laws of science -- but oh, when the two worlds collide, players who love both can discover a true thing of beauty. That's how it came to pass that a zookeeper from Florida has created a taxinomical website outlining the biology of the wildlife of Azeroth. WoW Biology 101 offers curious players a scientifically grounded look at the creatures of WoW, both fantastical and based on reality.
"I think when we see these connections, it brings these worlds a little closer together and, for me at least, increases my enjoyment of both," notes Banya, a beast master hunter (because you knew that's what she'd play, right?) on Drenden (US). "My site is truly just flavor and a potentially different way to look at the game. When you're running around and see one of the awesome animals in game, my site would let you know how closely it is based off of a real-life animal. "
Of all the cities in Azeroth, the one that seems to me most like a living, breathing city is coincidentally the one that's undead. The Undercity huddles beneath the ruins of Lordaeron, drenched in atmospheric detail: its hidden underground tunnel, an oft-confusing pinwheel layout and dangerous elevators that confound new visitors, the eerie ruins above with their invisible ghosts, the throne room with all its power struggles and heart-wrenching beauty -- and the Royal Apothecary Society. Who hasn't spent time cautiously exploring the Apothecarium, with its cages of groaning test subjects and burbling vats of green plague?
Many players haven't given much thought to the cadre of Forsaken apothecaries in an expansion or more, but you'd be a fool if you assumed they hadn't been busy. Their story has captured the imaginations of a group of players on Moon Guard (US), the all-Forsaken guild The Legion of Vengeance (formerly Hand of Vengeance). Named for the Forsaken forces sent to Northrend by Sylvanas Windrunner to wreak plague and vengeance upon the Lich King, this roleplaying group functions within the context of the Royal Apothecary Society itself, continuing its evil work in a fascinating adventure that's captivated its all-undead player roster.
Deep in the heart of steamy Stranglethorn Vale, within the golden city of Zul'Gurub, gathers a savage band of Zandalari trolls. Loyal to neither the Horde nor the Alliance, these players embrace a fierce roleplaying ethic that can be both fascinating and intimidating to newcomers. Yet Atal Zanza Aka is esteemed by other guilds on Argent Dawn (RP-EU) and has become a vital (if quantitatively small) ingredient in the roleplaying community.
We visited with guild leader Zazajin to explore this niche of WoW roleplaying and find out how this guild manages to thrive in as antagonistic role that sweeps it away from the well-traveled paths and populated city centers of Azeroth.
WoW Insider: It would appear that making a troll character for Atal Zanza Aka is full-throttle roleplaying not for the faint of heart, would you agree?
Zazajin: Our guild is indeed first and foremost a roleplaying guild. We formed as a breakaway from the Loa Atal Ai (a Darkspear-based trollish guild which serves the Horde but includes different troll tribes) during the occupation of the Echo Isles, and abandoned the Horde to serve the Zandalari and preserve trollish culture, which our characters felt was threatened under the Horde's regime and thus moved to Zul'Gurub to try to preserve that culture. We're made up of various troll tribes, much like the Zandalari themselves. We've members from the Amani (forest trolls), Drakkari (frost trolls), farraki (sand trolls), Gurubashi (jungle trolls), and Zandalari (those trolls that stand up straight, haha).
It was a massive multiplayer success for this massively multiplayer game: On March 20, the Thundering Hammer Clan of Feathermoon (US-Horde) successfully brought together more than 120 players from multiple roleplay realms in what might have been WoW's first large-scale, player-run cross-realm event. In bringing together three full raid groups from half a dozen realms, the Kosh'harg roleplay gathering of Horde clans helped demonstrate how to pull off a major cross-realm event and explore the possibilities and limitations of CRZ (cross-realm zone) mechanics.
What can other players learn from the Kosh'harg about organizing a CRZ event? We went behind the scenes with Kosh'harg organizer Thorgrun (GM of the Thundering Hammer Clan).
WoW Insider: It sounds like the event was a smash success. Congratulations!
Thorgrun: The Kosh'harg was an amazing success. At the peak of the event we had three full raid groups and a number of ungrouped local attendees, bringing us up over 120 players from a dozen different realms who joined us in Nagrand for the festivities.
How much did you and other organizers know beforehand about realm and zone loads with regard to cross-realm mechanics?
We only knew what has been published and widely publicized, namely that the CRZ mechanic is designed to populate low-pop zones with players from associated realms and when population grows to a certain point to split those players off into separate zones. We also knew that players from any North American realm could be brought into any zone on a host realm just by being grouped with a majority of members from that realm – i.e., two Feathermoon players can host a third player from say, Farstriders, in their version of the zone, or alternatively a 5-man group of Feathermoon players could host an entire raid of CRZ players, provided no more than four of them were from the same realm in that particular raid. This is the mechanic that we used to "anchor" our event firmly on one server's seed of the Nagrand zone.
It's a fairly safe assumption that a guild composed exclusively of members of one Azerothian race will be a roleplaying guild. If you made that assumption about The Venture Co.'s Thunderhoof Clan -- and yes, the guild is exclusively tauren -- you'd be missing most of what this guild is all about. Of course they roleplay; one glance at the guild Tumblr or website makes their love of the shu'halo life abundantly clear. But as a self-described casual guild, TC also enjoys light raiding and organized and world PvP as well as light RP. It's a fairly unique approach among race-specific groups, which usually core into racial lore and rarely engage in organized raiding or PvP.
We interviewed GM Ravkha to find out how such a specialized guild swings easily with such a wide-ranging approach to the game. For the herd!
Hey baby, what are you doing this Friday night? Let's party at Club Trix in Gadgetzan (Wyrmrest Accord-RP-US). They've got a real DJ, a goblin named Trixxiz, and his crew spinning goblin-engineered techno on Radio Trix. There's a featured drink menu (Hordeside, at least), regular special events, and a chill crowd enjoying the goblin groove. Originally from Bilgewater in Azshara, Club Trix has moved through Dalaran and now runs out of Gadgetzan, where the underground vibe is hot and there's plenty of room outside for enterprising goblins to get their profit on.
WoW Insider interviewed DJ Trixxiz to find out more about the hottest new club on Azeroth's scene.
WoW Insider: Trixxiz, you're a DJ out in the real world, aren't you?
DJ Trixxiz: I am and have been a DJ since around 2004, I think. I had a few gigs over the years but not many, because within the already limited audience of electronic dance music, I was playing one of the lesser-popular genres of trance in an area dominated by house and techno. (I live halfway between Chicago and Detroit, the birthplaces of each, respectively.) However, the past couple years, trance has been exploding in popularity and I'm looking to break back into the scene this summer. Otherwise, I've mostly been an online presence throughout the years with shows on online radio stations, generally pulling in around 300 listeners, and several labels send me tracks to promote before they're released to the public.
Even though I've got these other radio shows that pull in way more listeners, Club Trix is by far my favorite. With most internet radio shows -- even local radio antenna FM shows which I've also done in the past -- the amount of community feedback and interaction is very minimal. It airs, you hope that someone enjoyed it, and that's that.
With Club Trix, there's this whole level of interaction with the listeners happening in real time through the IRC chat and the game, and they make it all come alive -- which makes it probably the most rewarding radio show on the internet save for a few run by the giants in the industry who can make that happen without the aid of roleplay environment.
Those mad geniuses from Fifth Element are back with Dinosaucers: Horridon. Not only do I thoroughly love all of the animation in this video, but it brought me some real validation. I'd started to worry that I was the only person who remembered my beloved Dinosaucers. Clearly, that isn't the case.
I don't know how the creator kicks these out so quickly. However he manages it, we're lucky to have him injecting some new creative blood into the scene. Now that I've said that, he'll probably wander off to pasture... but I plan on enjoying every moment until that happens. Interested in the wide world of machinima? We have new movies every weekday here on WoW Moviewatch! Have suggestions for machinima we ought to feature? Toss us an email at email@example.com.
Among the ruins of Gilneas, we found the worgen. Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that for some time now, I've been searching WoW's nooks and crannies for players in class- and race-specific guilds. Frustratingly, what seems like one of the most natural race-specific groups, the worgen, has eluded me. But now, from the shadows of Emerald Dream (US-Alliance), I present The Päck, a guild composed entirely of Gilnean worgen. Primarily a roleplaying guild, The Päck takes an active part in the realm's RP and world PvP events and raids solo and with the friendly assistance of the realm's all-dwarf guild.
We talked with GM Nymaway to sniff out what keeps a pack of feral shapechangers thriving in an active roleplaying community.
WoW Insider: I think even non-roleplaying WoW players can recognize the immediate roleplaying potential of a worgen character, especially if they've run a new worgen through the atmospheric Gilneas starting experience. What drew you to the worgen concept?
Nymaway: The thought of roleplaying a character that once lived a normal human life, to have it all taken away by a single bite, intrigued me. There is so much you can do with your character in regards to emotions. One moment your character seems perfectly fine. She is in her human form, but something has set her off. She loses her temper, and the next thing you know she has turned into a werewolf-type creature throwing a table across a room of a tavern.
Also, what could be more intimidating than seeing some one coming at you as a human, then shifting into a giant beast on the battlefield?
It was World of Warcraft's feel-good people story of last year: Ben Shaw, the energetic young British serviceman who, astonishingly, continues to perform at peak efficiency in endgame raiding with the help of a "guide dog" guildmate. Our interview with Davidian, Ben's in-game guide, went viral and was seen on gaming websites and general news publications across the globe. Blizzard took notice, commemorating the duo's partnership with a set of in-game helms.
But after attacking Mists with a new pandaren rogue, Ben said he found himself craving more WoW than ever. By the end of the year, he was ready to reach out for a new guild home, where he's now Shadowstepping into heroics with the best of them.
How does a blind WoW player maintain competitive DPS and utility in endgame content? In an era when making a jump to a new raiding guild can be a challenging proposition for any player, how does a guy who can't see bump to the front of the line? (Hint: It's not PR power.) Ben and I pulled up a virtual chair in a phone conversation across the ocean to talk about the challenges of playing a video game when you're completely blind.
Visually impaired gamers: Check the end of this interview to learn how to connect with Ben's new initiative to share his experience and resources with other blind players.
Taking your challenge modes from gold medal range to world record status represents a whole different mindset and approach. We continue our two-part interview with two young players from Montreal, Canada, the US region realm champs Nerthfu and Bouleau, to explore their speed-demon strategies for challenge mode tanking and healing.
WoW Insider: Bouleau, what class and what qualities do you feel make the best healer for CMs?
Bouleau: Looking at the current worldwide leaderboards, I suppose most would be inclined to name the priest class, which I think is an accurate guess. Priests -- more specifically, discipline priests -- excel more than any other class at dealing damage reliably while healing, and this matters a great deal when pushing for times, both for gold ratings and beyond. And yet game balance always fluctuates over time, and I recently learned that Blizzard has Atonement under the radar. With 5.2 not out yet and class changes still being announced regularly, it's not impossible that we see a shift in favor of another class in a not-so-distant future.
For those that may be wondering why discipline is superior to holy (which doesn't mean holy isn't viable for gold times), here's my view. As a healer, you ideally want to achieve two things: Keep your group alive, and deal damage. It seems simple enough on paper, at least until you start improving your times beyond the gold milestones.
If ever you were to use the above phrase to refer to a fellow WoW player, these are the guys that should inspire it. Nerthfu and Bouleau of Haven (Lethon-US) have manhandled WoW's challenge modes into submission, setting scalding instance completion times across the board. As of this writing, the duo from Canada holds all but one American region record, with the rest mere seconds behind the EU's world records.
As you can well imagine, a conversation with such high-performance monsters plunges into the realm of the specific almost immediately. That's why we're dividing their perspectives into a two-part interview over the next two weeks. We'll look at both tanking and healing at warp speed and find out what kind of play it takes to defend the top spot on the charts week after week.
WoW Insider: How does one become addicted to speed on this level, guys? Are speed runs something you guys have always enjoyed doing in WoW, or did the addition of challenge modes mark a new way to play for you?
Nerthfu: As far as I can remember, I always loved running dungeons as fast as humanly possible in WoW, but it wasn't really organized or a goal but rather just my way of doing things. It started in vanilla WoW, where I would constantly get aggro on my rogue and had to use Feint and Vanish almost on cooldown to wipe my threat.
Then came Burning Crusade, and I switched to a fury warrior. That's where things started changing a lot. I started playing much more often with Bouleau and had even more issues than before with my threat -- so much in fact that I would end up always getting aggro off the tank and die in most heroic dungeons and raids. ... That was how most of our heroic dungeon went until we were so overgeared that Bouleau could heal just heal me while I was tanking entire packs of trash in heroic dungeons, and that's where we really started running dungeons as fast as we could, which most of the time meant four DPS and one healer.
You know you've dialed the right number when you call Adrianne Curry because you get geek music on hold -- Star Wars, Inception, it's all there. Make no mistake: This lady is no poseur. The original America's Next Top Model wields established fandom credentials in Star Wars, cosplay, A Song of Ice and Fire, and of course World of Warcraft. Her pedigree in sexier pursuits is no less enthralling: two Playboy covers plus the Playboy Top 25 list in 2008, the Maxim Hot 100 list in 2005, national and international magazine and runway modeling, various stints on reality TV -- and of course, more important events such as hosting BlizzCon's live coverage on DirecTV in 2011.
The words Adrianne uses to describe her upcoming talk show on Sirius Radio make a pretty solid description of her life in general: "from fashion to sex to Warcraft." That's Adrianne Curry, in a nutshell.
We caught Adrianne in the midst of leveling up with new boyfriend Todd Roy, producer of The Jace Hall Show. (Read our previous interview with Todd.) Think you'd be a good match for a guild with the two of them? Explicit is recruiting now. See if you have what it takes to game alongside this World of Warcraft vixen, plus hear Adrianne's unfiltered take on leveling up a significant other and balancing WoW with life in the spotlight.
Editor's Note: This interview contains explicit language, which may not be safe for work (or children). Read at your own risk!
While the world of academia has not infrequently pried back the edges of World of Warcraft to peer through its lens into fields including psychology, sociology and anthropology, and economics, we don't often hear reports from the intersection of WoW and literature. With a lore and canon of their own making, WoW and the Warcraft world don't fit alongside such developments as Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative, a course from Vanderbilt University available via free online educational provider Coursera that leans heavily on the riches of narrative theory, intermediality, and game theory in Lord of the Rings Online.
But there's no denying the omnipresence of WoW's influence -- and yes, that includes within the ivory-tooled tower of literature, as well. "I'm a literature professor," states Dr. Jay Clayton, one of the Coursera class's instructors. "I'm fascinated by what games can teach us about the operations of storytelling." Dr. Clayton says he's hoping to attract WoW players and their own WoW-tinged perspectives to his class this summer in order to help build a more complete picture of what WoW is itself as media, not only as a lens through which we can view other disciplines.
We love our readers -- and come to think of it, they're probably a big part of the reason you love us, too. At a time when the comment sections of many sites are overwhelmed by trolling and pettiness, WoW Insider maintains an even-natured profile with a crop of commenters known for their level-headed touch.
Making his mark among those commenters is long-time reader Revynn, noted again and again by WI writers themselves for the insightful profile of comments he's built across the site.
"I think I'm going on four years now," Revynn says of his longevity as a WoW Insider reader. "I stumbled across WoW Insider during Wrath when I was trying to get to the official World of Warcraft site and just typed in 'wow.com.' When I finally decided to stop lurking and start actually saying things, it was under a different username that I abandoned when I changed mains at the end of ICC."
"It's easy to look back and be surprised at how much time I've dedicated to a website that I don't own or receive any compensation from, but it's a lot like WoW in that respect," he continues. "I can think 'I've really wasted a lot of time here,' or I can reflect fondly on the good people and good conversations that have come and gone over the years. People like Krotzer, Cutaia, Draknfyre, Pyro, Grovin, Ravyncat, Killik, Jeff and many, many others are what make WI such a fantastic place to come to for information or just to hang out."