I am, at the time of this writing, a 31 year old male living in Southern California. I shall start by attempting to explain my interest in games, particularly World of Warcraft. I can already foresee this going poorly and deteriorating into whatever I feel like writing about, but it will a) be all about me and b) lead to World of Warcraft.
I grew up (attempting) to play Advanced Dungeons & Dragons with my brothers and anybody else they could get into a campaign such as other friends and neighbors. I was a bit young to really grasp the concept of role-playing when I started but I certainly enjoyed playing through the various AD&D modules that would get released for personal computers at the time, namely our beloved Commodore 64. Load “*”,8,1. Did I get that right? Anyway I attempted to get through Pool of Radiance and Curse of the Azure Bonds, which were rather difficult as any player starting a campaign at level 1 can probably relate, but the time Secret of the Silver Blades came out I was a little bit older, able to understand what I was doing and how to improve it, and completely obsessed with trying to make my characters more and more powerful. One of the lovely things about being able to save your characters back then was being able to start the campaign all over again with saved characters. The idea was to transfer your characters over from the previous games. Instead I took my max level characters, made sure they all got the best gear available, and destroyed everything possibly encountered in the game.
This trend ended as games became a little bit more complicated and interesting to play. Being limited to a C64 for most of that time my nostalgia games are those original TSR modules and Bard’s Tale III. When I was finally able to get a GameBoy (an actual Nintendo was forbidden in our home) I played the Final Fantasy adaptations for that system to death until IBM-compatible (does anybody even remember that term?) computers became the norm. Oh the things you could do on that brand new 386-6 with 512k ram and a 40mb hard drive. MS-Dos.
That system would get me through a whole lot of games, of particular interest being Ultima 6 and 7 although I don’t believe I ever finished the second game. When not attached to the computer when my older brothers were away from the house, I was probably reading the various TSR books that they were done with. RA Salvatore and Ed Greenwood are particular favorites even if their characters are so difficult to kill. As I got older and finished all of those books finally and started needing other things to read besides Homeland or Spellfire for the 20th plus time (no exaggeration there) I decided to try the Dragonlance books that I had always known about but never really been interested in. Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman do an absolutely wonderful job together and those companions have to be some of my favorite characters ever. Tasslehoff Burrfoot in my mind will always be my ideal Chaotic aligned character but really, all of them were so well written and fleshed out with their strengths, flaws, and quirks. In the meantime when not making new characters just for the fun of it for campaigns that would never be played or reading, MUDs (multiple user dungeons) were becoming popular online havens for RPGers. Although I cannot say that I know all that much about them, I did start on the original Envy mud, that was based around D&D to an extent, as far as was capable for grad students to code and develop into a text-based online game. I was hooked. I’m still not quite sure why I enjoyed playing so much and for so long, but I really did play a lot on MUDs for several years until MMO RPGS became popular, more thought out, and easy to play on a not so fantastic computer (I’ve never had anything remotely close to top of the line as far as computers go). Ultima Online caught me during senior year of high school, but trying to play an MMO with a 56k modem and when I’m supposed to be studying for AP exams really didn’t go well together. Add to that the frustration of being one-shotted so easily by PKers and after 6 months I vowed I would never played that game again and I actually stuck to it. I went back to my then-current MUD at the time for a couple years until that started to die out a bit (the removal of multi-playing was a very painful day) and my online friends were leaving for the various MMOs available: Everquest, Dark Age of Camelot, Final Fantasy Online and, eventually, World of Warcraft. At this point in my life though, I was in the middle of college, attending University of California Santa Barbara. I am a geek at heart and am more than comfortable being planted in front of my computer for hours on end, but I did know that I shouldn’t be taking my surroundings for granted so a proper social life was beginning to take precedent over more gaming. Plus, I was working, playing hockey, drinking, had a girlfriend… Real life had finally become more interesting than whatever I could get online at the time (with the exception of my then developing anime obsession). My online time was now being parsed out to Neverwinter Nights so that I could attempt to have some bonding time with my older brothers as we no longer got to see each other all that often so I would occasionally play with them at whatever server we had all decided to join. It was interesting but quickly became a bit too complicated with PRC being added to the game, epic levels, and the difficulty of each level beyond level 20.
World of Warcraft – And so it begins…occasionally
After finishing school, if you can call it that, and having a bit more free time on my hands, I was looking for more things I could do with that time. There’s really a limit to how much reading I was willing to do, or crossword/sudoku puzzles I could find that would keep me actually entertained, and the few games I would buy were usually finished within a week for the most part. I decided WoW was worth venturing into and I contacted one of my old MUD friends to find out what server they were on, and rolled a paladin on Twisting Nether-US, an RP-PVP realm that they had, to my understanding, founded a guild on, The Rooks. This is during Burning Crusade if I remember correctly. I logged in, rolled a paladin named Prakalasa (name stolen from a very memorable character played by one of my neighbors in one of our old campaigns, name stolen from a Steve Martin movie), and was immediately inundated with messages from some other Paladin trying to get me to join an all Paladin guild, with every whisper being said in character. It was refreshing to say the least and had me looking forward to what playing might be like. I made it to level 57 before losing interest, especially since it seemed like I wasn’t seeing my friends online too often. About a year later I tried playing again at the behest of my older brother who had gotten into it thanks to his coworkers. They had formed a small guild between themselves on the very sleepy Garithos server… I once again rolled another Paladin named Prakalasa and re-ventured into the game anew. I played a little bit, again using it mostly as bonding time with my brother, but didn’t really make it all that far before once again losing interest when I couldn’t play all that often with my brother (by this time he had several small children). This must have been sometime during Wrath. Yet another year later, needing something to do with my off time that didn’t revolve around drinking or gambling, I decided to start playing again on the Garithos server. I was slowly gaining a few levels here and there, tried making a priest that I discovered was so awfully painful to level that I was using an Enchanting crafted wand to get me to level 30…and despite one of the people around me being a hardcore player (if I remember correctly he said something about being top100 Pally’s in US but that meant nothing to me at the time; he offered to show me what I believe was a heroic Lich King kill but I still didn’t know what was going on or if it would mean anything to me so I decided to pass – Justin, should you ever see this, I’d love to chat WoW with you now) I still wasn’t all that interested. I’d gotten my paladin into the 60s but was still fairly lost and unable to play with anybody since my brother was still rarely on at similar hours and that was(is) a pretty dead server. Combine with a girlfriend who was very against my interest in WoW (her dad and brother both played and it kind of infuriated her – she took the fact that I started playing WoW while we were together as a personal offense) and I once again stopped playing…Skip forward some months, move me out of Santa Barbara after having lived there for 10 years, and once again hoping to avoid resorting to alcohol or gambling to relieve boredom, and I renew my WoW subscription with the blessing of my new (old actually) girlfriend, even though I think she was a bit confused why I’d start playing again once we’d started seeing each other again but she understood I needed something to do at home since we didn’t get to see each except on my days off usually. Sooo…
Now we arrive to where I REALLY start playing the game. I was still on Garithos, still in my brother’s guild despite the fact that nobody played anymore except the guild leader who was in the process of rounding off his last two level 80s so he could have all the classes. I was envious to watch him levelling so quickly but had no idea how to get heirlooms myself so that I could try doing the same. Little did I know that right about the time I had started playing again, they had changed the costs of the heirlooms to what would become the new standard, and I would probably have to wait for the next expansion to launch before I could ever afford them. Well, two weeks before Cataclysm would launch, I got to level 80, learned to tank (Wrath dungeons..I learned nothing about actually tanking), learned to heal, (See previous comment), and got what purple pixels I could from the Lich King dungeons, fearing any time my healer queue landed me in Halls of Reflection. Attempting to tank heroic modes lasted about 30 seconds after dying and being yelled at, so I stuck to normal modes. They seemed more than difficult enough to me at the time. I’d even progressed past where my brother had gotten and he had two level 80 characters (I guess he didn’t really run dungeons all that much. Makes sense considering he still didn’t have a whole lot of playtime). The Cataclym launch comes, and the server (relatively speaking) explodes with activity. Just before launch I decide it’s time to join an active guild, and upon doing my LF in trade immediately get an invite from somebody I don’t know, which would be everybody really, and get to level 85 with all these people I didn’t know.
Well, as many retribution paladins can probably tell you, the spec wasn’t too healthy at the start of the expansion. I wasn’t a very good player at the time, but I managed to gem/enchant my gear and still have a dps so low as to get me kicked out of any heroic LFD group I attempted joining. Well, from what I had witnessed from the few dungeons I HAD run, even on normal mode I wouldn’t have been able to tank or heal anything…However, with retribution still broken, I slowly dipped my toe into the healing waters despite the fact that I really wanted to tank (I’ll never forget doing Karsh Steelbender in BRC. We succeeded somehow even though I had barely any idea what I was doing but it sure felt good). At this point, I still hadn’t started looking at other wow blogs/pages to improve my character, understand my class abilities, or learn about encounters. I continued gearing myself as a tank, mostly because I was a blacksmith and could make two of those items, and upon the first guild raid posted on the calendar I eagerly signed up while having no idea what I was getting into. Even Argaloth was a challenge for our group. I had proper gear for being a tank, but no idea how to play it properly. At the time I recall using Seal of Insight and self-healing a lot with Word of Glory… I guess I was a bit ahead of the curve there since I didn’t know how threat worked. We slowly made progress but for myself, raiding on a CST server while having a varying work schedule that could be day or night shifts, it was difficult for me to make it consistently.
Being on the server at very late night put me into the company of some very nice Australian players. We tried raiding together a few times which was still hit or miss depending on my work schedule but they eventually decided to all transfer over to the Oceanic realm Dath’remar to hopefully find a) a bigger player base and b) some more opportunity to properly raid with more Australian players so they could raid at a normal time. I looked at the server for about 5 minutes, decided this could be a good thing for myself, and transferred my three max level characters over along with them, a Paladin with BS/Alchemy, a Priest with Tailoring/Enchanting, and a Shaman with JC/LW. Oh and stacks and stacks of Volatile Life that I was able to buy for 5g each and sell for 12g each on the new server. I was about to enter myself fully into a much bigger economy and happened to bring just the right professions for it. I also didn’t realize how much healers would generally be in demand and playing all three of my characters as healers would soon find me plenty of action. People looking for one or two pugs seemed unheard of to me coming from Garithos and I was excited to get my feet wet with some proper raiding. Well, the first opportunity came with a group looking for a dps and I gladly volunteered my enhancement shaman that I was thoroughly enjoying playing at the time as my most recently level 85. As soon as we enter Firelands I am immediately asked if I can heal (still not sure how I got stuck with this). We successfully down Shannox, they decide I’m not crap, and with a character I’ve barely played I earn my spot on a raid team that I’ve had the pleasure of playing with ever since.