Mages, ten-man raiding, and other things that are awesome.

Thank you, Warcraft

asdfs

It all started with a mage named Milya…

Anyone who knows me knows that I am the worst at secrets. If I have a secret present for someone, I’ll probably give it to them early. This, by the way, applies only to my own secrets. If someone else tells me something in confidence, that’s their thing and I cannot spill the beans. So over the summer I have been simply buzzing with keeping this secret to myself. Thanks to the time I spent writing at WoW Insider, I was asked to contribute to the official Warlords of Draenor strategy guide! The mage section is my work, and many of the class section writers are people you may know from Twitter or having written in other places.

But of course, since doing this involved access to secret information (or at least a general knowledge of the game’s release date before it was announced) we also had to sign an NDA as part of the process. So I kept it to myself even though I was really excited. It’s the first time I’ve ever written something for publication. I still can’t show you any images of the book itself or its contents (shh, secrets) but you can pick up a copy for yourself on November 13th if you’d like one. To tell you exactly how I feel about this whole process, first I have to tell you a story. Really, it’s the story of me and World of Warcraft.

I’ve told this story a few times, so bear with me if you’ve heard it before, but back in 2008 when Voss and I started playing WoW…it had been a really long time since either of us had played any kind of MMO. We’d met playing Ultima Online back in the ’90s but we both stopped playing that and had never picked up anything like it again. Neither of us had played the RTS Warcraft games so we didn’t have much of a tie to those, either. We were both peripherally aware of WoW, of course (who wasn’t?) but had never consider playing it because we knew how much you could get lost in a game like that. But a confluence of factors led us to change our minds. Voss’ dad had just been diagnosed with cancer. Things in my work life weren’t really going well. Actually, they weren’t going anywhere. I’d quit my clerk job working at a registry to focus on my art and try to have a career with that. But I didn’t really know where to start and honestly, I was floundering.

I don’t remember who suggested it. But we decided to try playing World of Warcraft. I think we were both looking for an escape. Because I believe in studying for anything important, we went to the store and bought the World of Warcraft guide. It had overviews of class information, dungeon maps and guides to quests. We pretty much read it cover to cover. It didn’t stop us from being complete noobs about some things, but I remember poring over that book (especially the maps) in preparation for our first dungeon run. We knew group content was serious business and we didn’t want to be terrible. I rolled a priest because of that guide. It said that if you enjoyed being helpful to your group, a priest was a good choice! Of course, as you know, I didn’t stay a priest. But I was one at first.

I look back on the version of myself from 2008 who bought that guide and I have to smile. If you’d told me then, that six years later I’d be writing a mage section of the most current guide, I wouldn’t have believed you. Those intervening years contain thousands of words written in blog posts (some of which I was paid for), hundreds of hours spent drawing and painting commissions for people I met through the World of Warcraft community and later working on From Draenor With Love with my friend Rades. I’ve made some of my closest friends thanks to WoW, re-imagined what my career could look like, and saw it develop in unexpected ways. I honestly owe so much to WoW. Now, another thing to add to that list is that a few weeks ago I got a cheque in the mail that marks the first time I’ve been paid for published writing. It hit me unexpectedly, but I held it and tears sprang to my eyes.

I haven’t yet received my copies of the actual physical thing. And I don’t mean to make too much of a big deal out of this, I mean, I didn’t write and publish a novel. But I wrote and it was published and they paid me, and it’s meaningful to me. If you asked me when I was a kid what did I want to be “when I grew up,” I would’ve told you I wanted to write and illustrate books. I meant children’s books (the only books I knew, at the time). I wouldn’t have expected this. But I’m learning that some of the best things are the ones you didn’t anticipate at all.

I’m just really grateful to have had the opportunity, and I’m grateful for everything this community has brought to me. That’s really what I want to say. Just a big thank you to everyone in this community who ever encouraged me or struck up a friendship with me, or helped me with their own work. Thank you to Anne Stickney who asked me to write for the guide. Thank you to Perculia, whose data wrangling helped me actually write it. I guarantee you that my section of this guide couldn’t have been written without Perculia and the other great folks at Wowhead. Now that I’ve met her in real life, I can’t check something on Wowhead without thinking of how hard Perculia works and appreciating that. It’s the passion of all the people involved in the WoW community that keeps me playing, writing, drawing, and putting so much of myself into this game even six years later.

I’m sad that I won’t have the chance to meet or visit with anyone at Blizzcon this year, but still really glad I was able to go at all. This Saturday we’ll have some local friends and guildies over – friends we never would’ve met if it hadn’t been for this blog. I can’t say anything more than that, really. Things happen in mysterious ways and I can’t be anything but ridiculously thankful for my good fortune. If you get your hands on a copy of this guide, flip through and appreciate all the work that went into it from many talented writers! I’m glad to count myself among them and I really appreciated the experience.

Gaming Questionnaire

Jasyla over at Cannot Be Tamed came up with this great gaming questionnaire. Since writing anything has been like pulling teeth for me lately, I thought I’d respond to her questions and try to breathe some life into this languishing space at the same time. Seems like a win-win to me! If you want to answer the questions yourself, you can do so in the comments over at her blog or on your own blog (but be sure to let her know so she can include a link to your answers!)

SONY DSC

  1. When did you start playing video games?
    Oh, geeze. The first video games I played were when we got an Intellivision. Our neighbours down the street were having a garage sale and my brother and I managed to talk our Mom into buying the Intellivision and all the games. It was $20 for all of it. For those of you who are too young to even remember this thing, see the little keypad? Each game had a thin plastic sleeve you’d slide over those keypads so you’d know what the specific controls did for the individual game. We played hours and hours of those games.
  2. What is the first game you remember playing?
    It’s hard to remember which game I played first. Probably Burger Time or Frogger. There was also of course the classic Q*Bert and other games like that. We had a whole bunch and some were more fun than others. I definitely logged many hours playing Burger Time and Frogger though!
  3. PC or Console?
    I’ve pretty much always played both! When I was still quite young my dad got a PC for us that was strictly for schoolwork. Of course, whenever he wasn’t around we played games on it as much as we could. I played Alley Cat and we played the King’s Quest and Hero’s Quest games, all those Sierra ones including a Camelot one (I can’t remember what the actual name was). We also went on to get an NES (my brother’s) and then a Super NES (mine) and later a Playstation. I’ve always played games on both consoles and PC, up to and including now. Don’t make me choose!
  4. XBox, PlayStation, or Wii?
    I hitched my wagon to Playstation’s star back with the PS1, which I got exclusively so I could play FFVII. Of course I played more than that on it. I’ve never owned an X-Box and we had a Wii but recently sold it. I was never into the motion control thing (I don’t like Sixaxis either, really) and the games seemed to get old pretty quickly. With the X-Box it’s simpler – I don’t like the controls that much and they always have felt monstrous and too big for my hands! Most games you can get on both Playstation and X-Box anyway so it hasn’t really mattered.Bastion_Boxart
  5. What’s the best game you’ve ever played?
    Oh man. This is a tough question. I mean, things that blew my mind previously might not retain that title. I suppose I should give it to FFVII, which was my favourite game for years. I loved it. I haven’t been able to replay it because my memories of it are so tied up into a particular time and place and I don’t want it to seem lesser by comparison. In recent years, I really loved Bastion. It hit all of my sweet spots, the gameplay was fun, the hand painted graphics were beautiful and the story was tore my heart in two.
  6. What’s the worst game you’ve ever played?
    You know, it’s funny, because I still liked this game, but I have to go with Battletoads for the SNES. A friend of mine had it and we’d play it for hours, rarely ever getting anywhere because it was so hard and unforgiving. It was just unreasonably hard for a game but at the time we just thought we had to get better. (Probably we did).
  7. Name a game that was popular/critically adored that you just didn’t like.
    I tried to play the Mass Effect games. I really did. I wanted to get into them and I just couldn’t. There are some games I wish I could just watch the story without having to play them, and Mass Effect was one of those.heavenlysword
  8. Name a game that was poorly received that you really like.
    I don’t always pay that close attention to game reviews so I’m not entirely sure with this question which games might have been poorly received but I liked them anyway. I think I remember reading some bad reviews of Heavenly Sword for the PS3. I guess the game isn’t perfect but I really enjoyed it for what it was. More or less a God of War game but you get to be a badass lady character cutting people in half and I appreciate that.
  9. What are your favourite game genres?
    Most RPGs, platformers, some action/adventure stuff. I always think I will like puzzle games and then don’t. I sometimes enjoy just a really immersive game (e.g. Journey) that doesn’t demand very much. I have played some simulation type games and enjoyed them. I also used to be really into fighting games. I’ll play a game outside my usual genres if it’s just a really fun game! I like FPS games but only with friends, not by myself.Elwink
  10. Who is your favourite game protagonist?
    You know, it’s probably Elly from Xenogears. When I was younger this was the game that inspired me to learn how to make animated gifs JUST so I could make Xenogears gifs. I still have them! I found them on my terrible old Geocities website which was amazingly still on the internet. I made some other gifs but I made two of her and only one of all the other characters.
  11. Describe your perfect video game.
    Jasyla asks the tough questions. I don’t know if I could have just ONE perfect video game, only games that individually satisfy each of the things I enjoy about gaming?! If I had to pick specific things: 1) female protagonist or a lady character given equal billing and plot attention as a dude (Broken Age fits this, and has been a great game SO FAR) 2) An immersive environment that is preferably gorgeous to look at, I don’t care if it’s space or a forest or some other world altogether, art is key in making me like a game and 2) must have a story with good writing. It has to make me care to want to keep playing it.
  12. What video game character do have you have a crush on?
    I interpret “crush” here as “Find attractive,” how’s that? Aforementioned Elly from Xenogears, Princess Garnet from Final Fantasy IX, also who didn’t have a crush on Sephiroth…? And/or Cloud and/or Tifa and Aerith/Aeris/whatever, haha. Hey, he couldn’t choose either.
  13. What game has the best music?
    Probably have to go with Bastion here. It’s the only video game soundtrack I listen to on a regular basis. (Probably Transistor is a strong contender but I haven’t finished it yet and didn’t listen to the soundtrack because of spoilers).AerithDeath2
  14. Most memorable moment in a game:
    Aeris’ death. I just did not see that coming at all. I guess a part of was so completely shocked that it could happen at all, too – that they would LET this happen. Ask me another time about my feelings regarding the sacrificial lady character in games, though.
  15. Scariest moment in a game:
    I have to admit that I was playing Gone Home and I am such a giant wussface that I freaked out when I had to go down into all those hidden hallways by myself. I don’t do well with scary games in general, but atmospheric “You’re alone in the house” games don’t work for me. I had to watch videos to see the ending, and I had nightmares that night. It was a really good game, though.
  16. Most heart-wrenching moment in a game:
    The almost-end of Bastion just punched me right in the gut. Or the end of Journey, which never fails to make me cry.
  17. What are your favourite websites/blogs about games?
    I like Go Make Me A Sandwich! Honestly, most of the gaming blogs I read are WoW blogs. I’d be open to branching out if I see some good suggestions, though.Journey.Game_.full_.1293648-630x415
  18. What’s the last game you finished?
    I replayed Journey the other night, that’s why it’s fresh in my mind. It’s just such a beautiful game. Also, the part of it where you are going through the snow and have to hide from the giant monsters overhead is a strong contender for “scariest moment in a game for me.” My heart pounds like crazy and I am so tense. It’s not hard to freak me out, obviously.
  19. What future releases are you most excited about?
    I’m really excited to see the second half of Broken Age. I appreciate why they had to split it up to finish the rest of it and get funding, and I think it’s a great game, but I’d sure like to know what happens next. Cliffhangers!? Ugh. I’m looking forward to the next Borderlands installment. I’m thinking we should be finished the story of Borderlands 2 before that one comes out. It’s been a slog but I am determined to actually finish that game.
  20. Do you identify as a gamer?
    Yeah, I definitely do and always have. Some of my first friends became my friends because we had games in common and many of my current friends I have met through gaming. For me, being a gamer has always been about the social experience and I refuse to let dudebro asshats tarnish my own interpretation of something that’s been so much a part of my experience. My Mom and brother and I used to sit down and play Bubble Bobble together. I watched my brother play through Final Fantasy I and the original Zelda games and it was one of the main things we had in common. We used to play Super Mario Bros together. Later, I’d go over to my friends’ houses or they’d come to mine and we’d play each others’ games. Sonic, Ecco the Dolphin, Street Fighter, whatever. My family later had epic and really loud Rock Band parties. I met my husband playing Ultima Online, and chances are I met all of you because of World of Warcraft. Definitely a gamer. I also think anyone who plays any game, if they wish, can consider themselves a gamer. Whether it’s Farmville or Angry Birds or Call of Duty, whatever – if you play games you are a gamer if you wish to be.
  21. Why do you play video games?
    For so many reasons – for the fun, for something beautiful to look at, for the challenge, but probably most importantly for the social experience. Whether it’s Journey where you play alongside other people you can only communicate to without words, to MMOs, gaming is a social experience for me and it’s one that I love. I deliberately avoid games known to have toxic environments or where I know I’d be subject to abuse (e.g. FPS matchmaking or other games with similar random elements). I feel video games are an important, interactive art and I owe much to them. I want to be an old lady in a nursing home with a console hooked up to her TV, haha. (Also no arthritis so I can actually still play the games).

Tuesday Art Day: Gracie

Gracie_small

The other day I had some spare time and felt like painting, so I did a quick painting of one of my Wildstar characters and then started another of my friend Grace’s character. Hers ended up being a bit more involved and I just finished it today. It’s 7.9″ x 7.9″, watercolour with an undersketch done with watercolour pencils. This was something it had never occurred to me to use them for, and I like it pretty well so far compared to regular pencil. The major downside is that there are sometimes places where you can see the colour of the original pencil (such as her left cheek highlight) and for that it’s less than ideal. But if I’d used regular pencil you’d see the sketch all over, so I don’t know. I think I’ll keep experimenting with it.

IMPORTANT EDIT: Please note that commissions for 2014 badges are now closed. I may or may not reopen them over the next month but it’s unlikely. Thank you to everyone who commissioned me!

Millya

Millya

Hooray! We know when Blizzcon is coming this year! I have an announcement of my own: I’ll be doing another round of badges! So if you missed out last year, now is your chance. My badges are all hand-painted with love on Arches watercolour paper with artist quality paints. Long after you’ve gone home from Blizzcon, you will have an original and unique work of art. The badges have identifying info, but it’s printed separately and removable after all is said and done. Here is what they look like in action:

Also shown: From Draenor With Love stickers.

Also shown: From Draenor With Love stickers.

A few more badge action shots.

A few more badge action shots.

The background will correspond with your class colour unless otherwise indicated. The name badge, as you can see, will be specific to your faction in one of four formats:

jakdf

Alliance – Type 1

sda

Alliance – Type 2

Horde01

Horde – Type 1

asdfs

Horde – Type 2

Ordering Information

Price: $55 USD – includes:

-2 7/8″ x 3 7/8″ watercolour painting of your character to fit in a 3″ x 4″ holder, (shoulders up) with separate name badge printed on heavy cardstock, and a badge holder to keep it all together. (Lanyard is not included).

-quality digital scan of your painting for use as an avatar or just to show your friends

-Regular mail shipping to any location in North America. For shipping outside of that area please add an additional $5 USD.

-This price is for a basic painting of a single character. If you want something more elaborate (including weapons or a pet or etc.) the price will increase by $5 per weapon/etc.

-Bonus: I still have From Draenor With Love stickers from last year and I’ll include a few with every badge painting I ship out.

If you’re interested, follow these steps.

1) Fill out the form below and submit it!
2) I will e-mail to let you know I received your request (please allow 1-2 business days).
3) You will see your name added to this list.
4) Take some reference shots for your image. I can work from the armory but I prefer shots taken in-game. Take them in either the Vale of Eternal Blossoms or Valley of the Four Winds, they have the best lighting. Zoom in on your character’s torso/shoulders/face. These aren’t full body paintings and the more detail I can see the better your painting will be!
5) Send your references in and clearly label the e-mail with your name/character name etc. so I know who they belong to.
6) When I’m ready to start your commission, I’ll send you a Paypal request. Once payment is received I’ll get started! I’ll send you one sketch image to make sure you’re happy with it, and then I’ll finish the painting itself.

Because of the way I do these commissions (I paint several per page of watercolour paper and then cut them out) you won’t receive your painting until I have finished a few more commissions past yours, approximately a few weeks. I promise you will receive them well in advance of Blizzcon, though.

Examples

Here are some examples of what folks did with their paintings after the convention was over!

The Godmother created this frame specifically for her painting!

The Godmother created this frame specifically for her painting!

This is Beruthiel's framed painting.

This is Beruthiel’s framed painting.

Below, you can see a gallery of all the badges from 2013.

 

Testimonials

“The part I enjoyed the most about having a custom badge is the effort you put into understanding the character you were painting.  I really feel like it captured the personality of my character, not to mention others I saw.”
-Ari

“I could not be happier with the Blizzcon Badge I ordered from Stacey for Blizzcon 2013. In a digital world where artists have the ability to create a template and simply change faces and colors, Stacey took the time to offer each of her customers a unique, hand-painted, original piece of art in watercolor. Additionally, she went above and beyond by contacting me to specifically talk with me about what type of facial expression I would like to see on my character. Then, during the process of my badge artwork being created, Stacey was very proactive in making sure I could see the progress being made and inviting me to provide feedback throughout.

This was a fantastic experience overall and Stacey’s personal attention to detail shows just how great of an artist she is and how each piece of art she creates means something to her. While wearing my badge at Blizzcon several people recognized it as Stacey’s work and I was proud to be displaying a badge that was attracting attention from others.
I would absolutely order artwork from Stacey again & I highly recommend her to anyone who is interested in having a custom Blizzcon Badge created.”
-Kristy

“I contacted Vid (Stacey) for a BlizzCon badge the last time she offered them. It was my second BlizzCon and I was so jealous of the badges people had custom made so I knew I had to have one. The appeal for me was that I could take my badge home and frame it because it’s actually a little piece of art! The ordering process was easy, and my commission status was always accessible. I had a little hitch in getting my badge to me, but Stacey was very communicable and let me know right away and it got sorted out.

I love my badge because Stacey managed to capture “who” my character is while injecting a little bit of me as well. I had so many compliments on my badge and it was a joy to tell people where I got it. It was really wonderful seeing other people with the same style because then we had a connection and something to chat about while waiting in line.”
-Kal

Contact

I’m really looking forward to doing more of these paintings this year. They were really rewarding to do last year and I loved them all. If anything here isn’t clear or you have questions for me, you can reach me via twitter or e-mail puggingpally AT gmail dot com. Thanks for your interest and support in my work!

Okay, it’s not Tuesday any more. But have some paintings anyway. I’ve been painting more than anything lately, on top of doing From Draenor With Love. To be perfectly honest, life has been pretty overwhelming in the past while and I have been taking a breather from most things, only doing art for myself or as gifts. I thought that leaping back into doing a lot of commission work would help me bounce back from layoffs at WI, but it turns out that wasn’t the case. I may take a few months off from official “work” to just focus on my health and personal stuff. I appreciate the patience of folks who have inquired about art or etc.

Meantime, here are some draenei. I posted them on Tumblr already, but here they are for anyone who missed them there. I wanted to just do some draenei that were a little outside the usual. I was free painting (no sketch beforehand).

draenei01

Not Millya. Similar-ish I guess, though.

draenei04

Random dude draenei. I’ve been trying to get better at male draenei in general.

draenei02

Old lady draenei. We know draenei DO age at least in appearance, sometimes, after a really long time. At least, Velen doesn’t look like a spring chicken. This draenei has seen more than she really wanted to.

draenei03Probably my favourite of this bunch. She’s so happy.

Finally (but certainly not least) I did a painting for my friend Sara’s birthday. Unlike the previous ones, this one had a sketch first. It ends up looking like a fairly different style. Although obviously I also spent a bit more time on it than the quick, freepaint ones.Probably about two hours total, which is still not bad.

serrinnewatermark

I’m going to be in Seattle this time next week, meeting some new folks, some friends-from-before folks, and hopefully having some therapeutic art time. I’m also planning a collaboration with Loreli (LoreliAoD on Twitter). She’s going to do some pencils and I am going to paint them! And I will either bring or do a sketch for her while I’m there and she’s going to colour it digitally. It’s going to be fun, I am excited.

A birthday surprise

Rades and I use a system with Google Docs to coordinate the script for From Draenor With Love. I had already known for probably months that he wanted to have a page wherein Rades gives Vid a pink sky golem as a birthday present. Based on the trajectory of the story he decided to do it early in March, specifically because “It fits since it is around your birthday, too!”

I was a little suspicious. But I mean, I didn’t want to assume anything. And he admitted that he actually hadn’t been planning anything up until a few weeks beforehand. That’s when he realized that he had a lot of materials lying around that he’d been faithfully making on Rades each day, and also that he could give a mount to my Horde character and have it useable on any of my characters.

So when I saw in the FDWL script that he’d written “LOG IN ON VID ON DRENDEN AND CHECK YOUR MAIL” under the “refs” section for that page, haha, well…

This was waiting for me:

skygolem01

Of course, it can’t be actually pink (alas!) But it was still such a great surprise. It’s been an interesting trip, working on FDWL, to go from being friends with someone to self-directed colleagues and really almost coworkers. Rades and I have met in person twice but we talk pretty much every day via chat (and once a week with voice chat to plan the week’s strip). Of the two of us, I am probably the hardest to work with because I get frustrated more easily. Rades could best be described as “extremely mild with the conviction of a rock.” I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him angry, though I’ve definitely seen “firm.”

We both pour a lot of ourselves into FDWL. While the visible writing is his and the visible art is mine, he has a great deal of input into the art and I often weigh in on the script as well. The best and worst part about working with Rades is his exacting perfectionism, which is also the only conflict we ever have. Often times to me something looks “good enough” and he always pushes me to make it better. It’s a rare person who will do that, and I’m grateful to him for it (even if I don’t always sound grateful, haha). I’m really fortunate to have a friend who I can create something like this with, and also who has stuck by me through some pretty difficult times on a personal level. Basically when you find a friend like that you should stick to that person like a blood elf’s hair gel and make sure not to let go!

Thanks for the surprise birthday gift, Rades, and for everything else too.

vidandvoss

Click for larger version.

Often on Tuesdays (for maintenance time) I’ll post some art I’ve been working on. This is something I did for myself last week (ie not a commission). I think it is actually the first time I’ve ever drawn Vid and her father, Vosskah, together. I figure that since the two of them are both really physical by nature that the way they relate to each other is sometimes roughhousing. So he’s giving her a noogie. Their roughhousing sounds like a blacksmith’s shop rolling downhill.

Millya, of course, doesn’t understand this at all and just leaves them to it.

As far as the drawing itself, I was trying out my new Copic markers. I was hoping I could possibly use them for From Draenor. I don’t think they’ll work really well for it, though, and I’ll probably stick to my ink and brush for now. I might use them to add finer details, but the problem is that when I erased my pencils underneath the Copics, the marker itself faded significantly. It’s a bit disappointing. I might do something more with this image like add colour digitally, etc. If I do I’ll post it again.

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