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

Recently, my mouse died. I’d had it since sometime in 2010. I can’t remember precisely, I just remember that when I got it I was a boomkin/resto druid and we were doing ICC. I had a hard time getting it set up and I had a hard time learning to use it. Yet when it died about two years later, I went right out and bought another one just like it.

The mouse is the Razer Naga. No, not that kind of Naga.

Why would I buy the same mouse, you  might ask? (And no, this isn’t exactly a product endorsement, I’m definitely not getting paid by Razer). Well, for a few reasons. The first one is that it fits my hand perfectly, which isn’t easy to come by. I find most gaming mice to be too large or unwieldy or simply the wrong shape for my hand. I would go so far as to say that the Naga might be a bit small for the average male hand, but it is exactly the right size for mine. So ergonomics is one strong reason; when you use a mouse really often it matters whether it’s comfortable or not.

The second reason I went out and bought another Naga after the first lasted for two years is because this mouse changed the way I play games, more than any peripheral or addon. Here is what my new one looks like:

You see those buttons on the side? 12 side-buttons, the main two buttons, a wheel and two extra buttons ensures that there are a ridiculous number of buttons to press at any time. The Naga is specifically designed for MMOs and maximum button access. The way that the Naga is able to achieve so many extra buttons on a mouse is by making them correspond with buttons on a keyboard. There’s a slider on the bottom of the mouse that lets you determine whether you want buttons 1-12 to match the number keys at the top of your keyboard, or the number pad on the side. I choose to use the numpad, because I don’t use it for anything else otherwise, and I still need access to my nuke keys at the top. I’m going to let you have a rare look at my UI so I can explain more readily how that works out in-game. Don’t judge my really messy bars – there are duplicates, there are random things, but all the important things are within reach.

So here are my bars, as a mage. I’ve highlighted a block of buttons on the side; those correspond to the 1-12 keys on the Naga. I laid them out to match the configuration of the physical keys because I find that less confusing, but that isn’t strictly necessary, it just works for me. My most important buttons are 1-5 (in the first row):

1. Mirror Image
2. Fireball
3. Pyroblast
4. Fire Blast/Impact
5. Combustion

And on the Naga’s buttons:

1. Flamestrike
2. Living Bomb
3. Scorch
4. Dragon’s Breath
5. Counterspell
6. Assist
7. Blast Wave
8. Mage Armor
9. Flame Orb
10. Use Extra Action Button (primarily for Dragon Soul; I switch this in and out depending on whether a fight requires it like Ultrax)
11. Iceblock
12. Invisibility

There is a reason for the placement of most of these abilities. All of the abilities I’d want to be spamming are kept on the keyboard. Primarily Fireball in position two and Pyroblast right alongside. What I find the Naga really excels at are abilities that are either instant, or that require placement. So for example using the Naga for Flamestrike or Blast Wave is really fast and intuitive, because I can be hitting the key and already moving my cursor into position to place the reticule. This would also apply for Blizzard, when I happen to be playing Frost. I keep my Counterspell in a really easy to hit position for ease of use. My assist macro doesn’t really NEED to be on the Naga but I find it convenient for it to be. Scorch also occupies a position in the first row of buttons so I can cast all the scorches while moving.

I also use the same set-up for my healing characters. Here’s a glimpse at how that plays out.

As a healer, I tend to favour all of my healing abilities being on my mouse in one way or another. Here you can see I’ve set up mouseover macros for all of my castable abilities: Holy Shock, Flash of Light, Word of Glory. Light of Dawn is over at button three because it’s a moving/situational ability anyway so it’s easier to hit three after I’ve maneuvered to cast it. Next on the Naga comes Rebuke, a few of the Hand spells, bubble, Aura Mastery, healing cooldowns, and a warlock cookie. (I’m ashamed to admit that I can’t remember what paladin cooldown is called, but hey I’m not a paladin blogger! I’m pretty sure it’s something either divine, holy, or Handsy).

The rest of my healing abilities depend on simple key clicks via Vuhdo (e.g. left click is “bread and butter moderate cast/mana heal,” the right one is “longer cast time heavier mana/oomph heal.”) My dispel abilities are likewise “hidden” in this UI because they are variations of CTRL + clicks or SHIFT + clicks. Although my method tends to be a bit haphazard, it works for me!

It’s pretty evident why I’d be reluctant to give up the mouse now that I’ve been accustomed to it for two years. I’ve always struggled to use the far right portion of the keyboard, although I do use some other buttons in other places. (Note that “Blink” is bound to F, so it’s never far from any of my standard WASD keys). I also use Button 4 and Button 5 (on a standard mouse, these are usually the side buttons while Button 3 is the click wheel). B4 is my mount button and B5 is Spellsteal. This has been one major drawback of the new Naga – these buttons have switched positions.

This is really messing with my head at the moment. Although I understand why the buttons were moved – on the first generation mouse they were hard to reach and it took me a long time to get used to them at all – now they are right underneath where I’m used to letting my hand rest and I really have to think about how to reach them. I don’t tend to use the “click” feature on the mouse wheel for the same reason, but currently I have it set up through Vuhdo to cast Slowfall on myself or others.

The newest Naga has another feature that wasn’t present on my old one: adjustable side-plates.

You can see them fairly well here. From what I can tell, a magnet holds the plate onto the mouse itself, so you can just pull one off and pop a new one on. I am using the one that’s most like the old Naga (why fix it if it ain’t broke) but it comes with two other sizes, one of which seems fairly wide and might help to alleviate size issues for folks who find the mouse doesn’t fit their hand properly. I was concerned initially that the side plate might be prone to just pop off, but so far that hasn’t happened. I’m generally happy with the new Naga. Most importantly, after I installed the drivers it worked perfectly with my existing WoW set-up. Here are some Naga pros and cons for you.

Naga Cons

1) Mandatory registration via the Razer website: The idea is that this “Synapse” system of theirs will save your mouse settings and sync them if you’re on a different computer, like at a LAN party or a gaming tournament. That’s not really the kind of thing I do so the registration was a bit annoying. I saw a reviewer comment that it was a deal breaker for him and he wanted to return his mouse, which seems a bit over the top to me. It takes five minutes and is just one in a long list of things I’ve had to sign up for but didn’t really want to.

2) Longevity/Durability: I mentioned that my previous Naga only lasted two years or perhaps a bit less. With this in mind, I bought the in-store warranty for this one and I hope if it is has issues they will happen within that window. I fully believe that Diablo III pushed my aging Naga over the edge; the problem it was having was an issue with double clicking. I’d click just once and it would think I clicked twice (which is more aggravating than it sounds). Youtube had various people offering fixes for this, all of which required opening up and lubricating the mouse – and they also admitted it may only extend its life for an extra few months. This wasn’t worth it for me, and I’d rather go out and get a new one. The moral of the story is: don’t play Diablo III. (clickclickclickclickclick)

3) Adjustment period: For a new person getting the Naga, there IS a period of time during which none of those buttons will mean squat to you. You can’t just take it out of the box and begin to play with it, it has a learning curve, and for some people that may be a major drawback. The mouse does come with tiny little “training” stickers that you can place on the buttons to help your thumb get its bearings. I never used these, and after a certain number of hours of gameplay they weren’t necessary. They are there if you need them, but if the idea of learning HOW to use a peripheral doesn’t appeal to you, you may not like the Naga. I would urge you to persevere with it if you want to try it though! It’s definitely been worth it for me.

4) Cost: At $79.99 (Canadian) it’s not exactly cheap. The fancier version, the Razer Naga Epic carries a whopping $129.99 price tag for its wireless capability and colour changing backlighting. Not worth it for my needs but it’s pretty snazzy.

Naga Pros

1) Ergonomics: I find the shape of the mouse to be exactly ideal for me. The new adjustable sides make it so you can potentially change between three configurations and find one that suits you best. For hours of gaming, you want a mouse that will support your hand and not cause any strain.

2) Buttons: The Naga’s side buttons are fantastic and I love them. I honestly think I would be really frustrated if I had to play with a “normal” mouse that lacked them, now. They are a Must Have, so I guess Razer has snagged me for as long as I require a gaming mouse.

3) Style: The Razer products all look pretty cool, if that matters to you. I am a bit sad because my previous one had blue backlighting (matched my keyboard and tower) and this one is green so it’s odd-man out, but nobody notices that stuff besides me anyway.

There are fewer “pros” written here than cons, but for me the pros are pretty big ones. I hope this Naga will last me more than two years this time, but even if it doesn’t and I am still playing MMOs, I will probably be likely to buy another.

Tuesday Art Day: Matty

These were done for Matty over at Sugar & Blood – she wanted two portraits! Here’s the first one, an avatar.

Matty! If you are a reader of her blog you may spot something I added after we’d discussed the image.

The second one was a watercolour, and I was trying something a little different with it – I tweeted progress pics at fairly regular intervals.

Just getting started! (I’d laid the first wash the night before and then let it dry). You can also see my lightbox, tracing paper, etc.

Starting on the background and the lighter areas. You can be a little bit sloppy with washes if they fall where shadows are going to be, but when it comes to colours like yellow you have to be pretty careful not to muddy them up.

You can see that I realized the handle of the right axe had been wrong – well, technically it’s the pommel that was wrong. I had to try to cover it up, you can still see it a bit here but I think in the final painting it was covered pretty well. I’ve also added a wash to her gloves, most of which will be covered after. With watercolour you really need to think in sequential layers – so I’m always asking myself “What will this need to look like after, and what needs to get done first?”

And that’s it! This was an actual scan of the painting, rather than a photo taken on my phone like the others.

So those are two of the commissions I’ve recently finished! Matty also has them on her blog both here and here. I think she was happy with them, and that’s the most important thing for me! My commission dance card is pretty full at the moment, but please remember if you want to be added to the list, do e-mail me; it’s puggingpally AT gmail DOT com! It’s the easiest way for me to make sure you don’t get lost in the comments.  You can see my commission entry for more info.

This was a quick gift for my good tree friend, Rezznul. I added the eyebrow line at the end and I like how it gives him a look of happy consternation. He’s not quite sure how he feels! I haven’t done much besides art posts here lately, primarily because a family emergency brought us out of town suddenly. Without going into it too much, unfortunately my father-in-law passed away after fighting cancer for some time. I appreciate everyone’s patience as I have settled back into life and work here. If you’ve asked about art, I am trying to get caught up on my e-mails. Also, if you have art questions please do e-mail me rather than commenting on the blog. (I may have said otherwise before, in which case I was just plain wrong-o). It’s much easier for me to keep track of inquiries via e-mail, whereas blog comments have a tendency to get away from me. (Out of sight/out of mind, etc.)

Anyway, I’ve been taking advantage of this quiet period in WoW to straighten out and handle RL things, but I’m still here and we’re doing fine! I’d also recommend you check out From Draenor With Love today (especially if you came to Firelands with me at any point) because I finally finished my special Firelands strip! It’s a doozy, and it took ages, but I’m really happy with the result. It’s my big “thank you” to everyone who helped!

First off, thanks to everyone who contacted or linked to me regarding the previous commissions post. If you have contacted me and not heard back (and there are a few people I haven’t gotten to yet because I got a bit inundated and this week is shaping up to be a doozy) thank you for your patience. I’ve added a commission status page; so if your name is on the list I have received your inquiry/info and you will hear back from me soon! I’ll update the list as I progress.

That stuff aside, this IS a Tuesday Art day post and so here is some art.

This is the first avatar I did (in this batch, of course, I have done them before). It was commissioned by Itanya for her other guild leader (I’m not jealous, I swear), an orc resto shaman named Ghaar.

And here is a second avatar I managed to do last week before the weekend, for LeGameJunkie. This one was fun because it wasn’t a WoW character, rather she wanted herself (from photos) reinterpreted as an elf.

It really wasn’t too hard to do, she had a face well-suited to being an elf (and the bright red hair that she had in the picture didn’t hurt, either!)

So there are some avatars for you, now if you’ll excuse me I have From Draenor With Love to finish and then many e-mails and more art to do (huzzah!)

Hoard of the Rings

A month ago, in the culmination of an epic year of decluttering and cleaning, I hired a maid to come to our house for one day. A bunch of folks were coming for a pot luck before the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo, Rades was going to be staying with us, and the peace of mind that someone else would come and do all the hard work was worth it for me. So I planned to be out of the house for the day (with the dog in tow) and went over to my parents’. Before we left, I said to Voss, “What should I do about my wedding rings? They are the only thing I own that’s really irreplaceable. I think I’ll take them with me just in case.”

The next part is a bit fuzzy. I think he said, “There’s no need to do that, just hide them somewhere,” I might have said, “Okay, you’re right,” or I might have said, “Nah, I will just bring them with me.” You see, the thing is, I can’t actually wear my rings right now. In the eight years since my engagement ring was made, I have gained a bit of weight (which I think is pretty common). So I kept the rings in a jewelery box, occasionally taking them out to see if they fit any better (recently I could get them past my knuckle, so they really did almost fit again). Little did I know, that by trying to keep them safe I’d somehow manage to lose them. The problem is that I can’t remember exactly the events of that day. Did I take them in my purse? (They aren’t there, or in any other purses I own). Did I hide them cleverly someplace? I’ve torn the house apart looking. I emptied my sock drawer. I unfolded each and every sock just in case I’d tucked them into a sock. I’ve looked in teapots, bowls, taken all my clothes out of all my drawers, dumped the contents of my night table drawer onto the bed and sorted through it. I looked in Voss’ backpack and cleaned out the hall closet in case it was with my mittens, hats, shoes or jackets. You can see where this is going.

Voss was never for a moment upset at me, because as soon as I realized I couldn’t find the rings I started panicking, and looking, and panicking, and looking some more. It’s been three days now and I am not any closer to finding them than I was. These rings were indescribably precious to me. When Voss proposed he didn’t buy a ring because he knew that my tastes were unpredictable and probably not like his own. We went jewelry shopping together. I tried on so many rings my finger was sore afterwards, and not a one of them felt right to me. So we went to a goldsmith and she and I designed this ring. It is white gold with a vibrant blue star sapphire and a fluid design. Initially I hadn’t intended to get a wedding band, but I later changed my mind and the goldsmith designed one of those for me, too. I chose the stone for all of the things it symbolizes – truth, fidelity and clarity of mind. My ring was like a little piece of something intangible that was just mine with Voss and I. I can’t believe that I lost something so important to me. I’ve been pretty much inconsolable since, passing from the loudly upset/angry phase into a dull funk that made me withdraw from everyone. I just want it back, but I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that this might not happen.

Unfortunately, it’s a pretty large unplanned expense. But I figured I have two options: keep whining and feeling sorry for myself about it, or shut up and start working harder to save up and replace it. The goldsmith who made the original is still in business, and I have pretty detailed photographs of it. I think she should be able to reproduce it. If there’s a lesson for me to take away from this, it’s pretty simple: I held onto my ring without wearing it for YEARS without having it sized to fit. People had told me I shouldn’t have it sized because I’d lose weight and it would be too big, or it would fundamentally change the ring itself and it wouldn’t look the same. That scared me, so I just kept it in a box. If I had my rings in my hand, I wouldn’t wait. I would go to the jeweler TODAY and have it sized to fit me the way I am now. I wouldn’t wait for that magical day when they would fit again. As a friend pointed out, the difference between a ring fitting and not fitting is miniscule. It’s millimeters. I let myself feel miserable because the rings didn’t fit (which made me feel awful about myself), but more than that, I didn’t get to enjoy something I truly love, something that is meaningful to me. So I’m not going to wait around and hope I can get my rings back (although I’m going to keep looking). I am going to do what I can to have a replacement made, one that fits me. I truly believe if I’d been wearing my rings, I wouldn’t have lost them. They were made vulnerable because of their tentative status as ‘non-rings,’ waiting for the day when I would put them on again, and because of that they slipped through my fingers.

This is the part where you come in. I don’t usually solicit or even advertise my art services on the blog, but this is a pretty strong impetus to start. Now, I’m not asking for charity from anyone. I’ve always done custom avatars and other commissioned artwork at this price. I’m just increasing my reach, and if I can make more art than I have been doing, I hope that I can reach my (possibly lofty) goal of 100 custom avatars (or other art) in the next few months. Again, as I said, this isn’t charity. And who knows, maybe my rings are not lost forever, and if I find them you will still have my gratitude, and some art that you like. So it’s really win/win for both of us. Here is what I have to offer you.

Custom Avatars

$30 CAD

-One avatar (600 x 600 pixels) in full-colour of a character of your choice from any franchise; World of Warcraft, SWTOR, LOTRO, Diablo, etc. Original characters are also welcome! Heck, nobody has ever wanted it but there’s no reason you couldn’t have a cartoon version of you, the really original character. (Your true ‘main.’)

Watercolour Postcards

$40 CAD + shipping

-One character of your choice rendered on a 4 x 6″ watercolour postcard, as shown in the postcards below (more characters would cost more, please contact me for more detailed quotes). A miniature piece of art to frame and put on your wall!

Note that these don’t have to be character specific. I’m also completely open to an image of an actual person, pet, or child. I might make them draenei blue, though. (I’m kidding).

Black and White Sketches or Avatars

$15 CAD

-One avatar (600 x 600) or sketch of a single character (more characters would cost more, please contact me for more detailed quotes). A great option if you want some art or an avatar of your character on a budget. These can be lineart with very minimal (black and white) shading, or simply lineart, or something more stylized.

Full-Body Character Commissions (With or without backgrounds, digital or watercolour)

I prefer to quote these individually as they vary depending on complexity, background and number of characters. I am available for these types of commissions but they take longer and are naturally costlier than any of the options above. If you are interested in a larger commission, do fill out the form below and contact me to discuss details. Examples of these are not shown here, but you can see many of them by viewing the “Art” category of the blog.

How it works: If you’re interested in commissioning me for any of the above, please fill out and e-mail the following to puggingpally@gmail.com. Note, I have a section for more RP type info which may not be relevant to all people, feel free to leave it blank if it doesn’t apply to you, but I often find that even non-RPers have some idea about what their character is like!

Once I’ve received your information, I’ll add your name to a “first come, first served” style of list to be published on another page here on the blog. When I’m ready to start on your commission, I’ll send a Paypal request to your provided e-mail address. When I’ve received your payment in full, I’ll start working on your image! I’ll send you at least one sketch and you’ll have the opportunity to request minor changes. You can expect to have your image in twenty-one business days from the time I begin provided you answer me quickly if I have any questions. For watercolours, please allow additional time for delivery.

Character Commission Form

Commission type: Colour avatar, watercolour image, black and white avatar or sketch (choose one)

Please note: for watercolour images include your mailing address so that I can calculate shipping. I’ll assume you want “normal” shipping and not any rushed type.

Character Name:
Race:
Class/Spec:

Physical Description: Skin, hair, eyes, any other defining features. Particularly helpful if including any details which may differ from “in-game” models or screenshots. Write as much as you like.

Weapons/Armour or Clothing: Please be specific (e.g. item names) especially if you would like the character to be wearing clothing/armour that differs from armory profiles.

Personality Description: Whatever you care to share about the character’s quirks, history, etc.

Suggested Expression: Facial expression or general mood of the image.

Suggested Pose: Less relevant for a bust-style image but you can indicate a preference here for straight on, ¾ profile image, or profile image.

Desired Background: What colour background would you like? If you’d prefer a specific background (Nagrand, any area in Star Wars) please include a reference image for this as well.

Miscellaneous: Anything not covered by the previous topics that you think I should know.

Screenshots and references: Please include a minimum of two screenshots of the character; one close-up of character’s face and a second showing from the torso up or full-body for full-body drawings. Screenshots should be taken with a fairly plain background in good lighting (Sides of buildings work well for this and areas/zones where the lighting is fairly neutral. Think Stormwind/Dalaran, not Icecrown). If your character is using an in-game area as your preferred background, you can include a screenshot taken there.

Thanks for reading and your consideration, and if you so choose, thanks for your interest in my art!

I was a pretty late adopter of cell phones. I don’t really like talking on the phone, and phones at the time were just that – a bit big and clunky, nothing like the smart phones of today. They didn’t have games or any other distractions. I finally gave in to the cell phone trend when I moved away from home to go to college. My Mom insisted I needed one since I was moving to a larger city, as a safety measure. I got a “Pay as you go” type and hardly ever used the minutes on it.

Moving to the city was in itself a transition for me. I came from a town of about 70,000 people and moved to my city just as it was marking its millionth citizen. It’s not the biggest city, but it was a pretty large adjustment! As I made my way around my new city, exploring the downtown, taking the train and the buses, I was struck by a feeling: No one knew where I was. This wasn’t a scary realization, rather, it was liberating. In my old town, you couldn’t go to the grocery store without running into at least three people that you knew. This used to drive me crazy, especially because my mother worked at a school and knew hundreds of kids and their parents. It used to irritate me because I just wanted to go through the cereal aisle or whatever without having to always stop and chat. In my new city where I knew so few people, I could have a coffee, go draw in the botanical gardens, spend hours wandering around on my own and no one would bother me. I loved it.

I still carried my cell phone with me. But my distaste for it was driven home after an altercation with my father. Frustrated that he couldn’t reach me, he complained: “You never answer your cell phone! What’s the point of even having it?” I told him in no uncertain terms that I had a phone for emergencies and in case I needed to reach anyone. It was not a guaranteed way to get in touch with me. I wasn’t going to be at anyone’s beck and call. This was over ten years ago, mind you. Since I first reluctantly brought my clunky phone in my purse, smart phones and constant internet access have become an expectation. Twitter, e-mail, text messages, Facebook messages, instant messages and cell phones give people almost immediate access to each other. The introduction of Real ID into the Blizzard family of games lets you play with all of your friends – and don’t get me wrong, I think it’s fantastic. But there are a few drawbacks.

The stoic refusal to introduce an invisible mode into Real ID (and now, I assume, Battle Tags within Diablo) has been a constant thorn in my side. Like when I first explored the city unattached, sometimes I want to play a game without someone knowing where I am. Suppose I wanted to roleplay on another server for awhile – all of my Real ID friends can see my character name, server, and zone. If I want to login to my bank alt and just spend some time auctioning, everyone can see that too. Even if I just want to make a silly lowbie alt and play quietly by myself, I can’t do that. I’m far from the first person to bemoan the lack of an “invisible” mode with Real ID. The counter-argument is, “Why are you playing an MMO if you don’t want to talk to people? Just don’t use Real ID if you don’t want anyone to bother you.” But that seems really ridiculous to me, and overly simplistic. A person might go to a coffee shop by themselves in real life and read a book or just sit. It’s not expected that anyone will just walk up and sit at their table and talk to them. “But why did you go to a coffee shop if you didn’t want to talk to people?”At another time, you go to a coffee shop with a friend to chat and catch up over a hot drink. You shouldn’t have to choose that you ALWAYS want to go for coffee only with friends, or that you always want to go for coffee always alone. If it wasn’t for Real ID, I wouldn’t be able to run five-mans and raids with friends from other servers and factions. I love Real ID. But there are times when I also hate it.

Because solitude doesn’t necessarily have to be anti-social. There should be room for stillness in every day life. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be alone sometimes. I really struggle with this because I get messaged a lot in Real ID. And the people I have in Real ID are my friends, so it’s not that I don’t want them there. But sometimes I just don’t feel like talking – and this even applies in real life. Voss knows more than anything, because he is more extroverted than I am. Sometimes I’ll be reading something quietly and he’ll be talking to me and after a few minutes of “Mmhm,” or me not responding he’ll say wryly, “You’re ‘peopled’ out, aren’t you?” He’s usually right. Being social takes energy from me. It’s possible to overdose on it. At those times, I really wish that Real ID had an invisible feature. It’s possible to manage your status with “Busy,” and “Away,” but that requires that people pay attention to your status and also respect it. It can be hard to tell a friend, “I just don’t feel like talking now,” without hurting their feelings or making it seem as if it’s something to do with them.

Now that I’m adding Battle Tags in Diablo III, it’s my understanding that the tags will carry over to the Real ID system in WoW, and I’ll be honest, I’m wary. I’m not quite sure why I need to be able to connect to Battle.net to be able to just play Diablo by myself (as sometimes, I am going to want to do just that). Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited to be able to play with a wider range of people than I had available to me on Real ID. I’ve met so many great folks via blogging and Twitter that I’d love to game with. But if I have you on either of those systems, don’t be surprised if someday I’m set to busy and I don’t respond to your messages, or I don’t tweet back at you right away, or immediately answer your e-mails. Sometimes I may deliberately let my phone go to voice mail, close my Twitter client, and sit quietly by myself. Since the days when I played Super Mario Brothers and Bubble Bobble, gaming has been an escape for me. I could sit for hours and play – and sometimes I’d play for hours with my Mom or a friend, too! I love shared gaming experiences, and I love solitary ones. With our current expectations of connectivity, it can seem radical or selfish to say “I’m not available at the moment,” but trust me – sometimes everyone needs a little space to get lost in the world, virtual or otherwise. Diablo III seems like it’ll be a blast to play with other people, and also solo. I promise to respect your “Busy” tag if you’ll respect mine, since it doesn’t seem like invisibility is on the horizon anytime soon.

At the beginning of Firelands, I made a mistake. I’ve acknowledged it before, but let me go on the record here to re-iterate that it was a mistake. It wasn’t the first time I’ve made it, but it was definitely the last. I switched characters so that I could play what I thought the guild needed instead of what I wanted to play. I’m not going to belabor this point because I’ve discussed it here, but I think this is seldom a good idea. Unless someone is really and truly unattached to any character and willing to play whatever (and I know there are people who are this way), you should always play what you want to play. Except that I didn’t.

So I took myself out of the running for a Dragonwrath. I was thrilled for the very deserving Fsob who received it, but selfishly I was always a bit sad. I’d danced when the legendary staff announcement came up at Blizzcon. I wanted to see the accompanying lore, I wanted to carry a piece of Warcraft history, and by gosh I wanted to be a blue dragon with jewelery. But I had done it to myself, and I told myself I would just have to suck it up. Except that Blizzard changed Real ID to allow people to run raids. “It would take too much time,” I said. “Isn’t it selfish?” I told Voss. He said, “Maybe it is, but you deserve it, and I’ll be there every night if you decide to do it.”

So on February tenth I posted on our guild forums to say that I was going to organize a Firelands alt run, probably normals, just for kicks. Anyone who wanted to could attend, and I’d find Real ID friends to fill in where necessary. I had big ambitions at first because interest seemed high so I thought I could organize a 25-person run. That didn’t happen the first time (although I did organize one 25 during the course of things!) But that Saturday we headed out to Firelands and we killed some fiery things. I didn’t realize at the time just how fortunate I am. Over the following three months, at least three people never missed a single Firelands run. Several more missed perhaps one or two, but were there for the majority of the runs. Voss held true to his word, and he never failed to tank the Firelands bosses for me. On weeks when Saturday wasn’t possible, we did it on Wednesdays because it was the only day that worked with everyone’s raid schedule.

For twelve weeks, a mixture of close friends and acquaintances came to Firelands because they wanted to help me and because I asked them to. Our little Firelands raid went from a “let’s clear through here on normals” to “let’s clear this thing on heroic every week” to “why don’t we pull heroic Ragnaros?” over the course of that time. We got to know each other better. I’ve had the chance to raid with friends who might not be in the guild but who are really fun, great folks. I organized that 25-person raid and it was nerve wracking. I’ve never organized a 25 for anything before; the sheer amount of organization and coordination required made me admit that I gained new respect for 25s folks (not that I lacked respect, but walk a mile in someone’s shoes, etc.) Each week everyone got together to do this and I couldn’t articulate my feelings about it. I experienced a mixture of excitement, guilt, awkwardness. Part of me couldn’t believe that I had friends like these, who would devote so many hours of their time to get me some pixels in a video game – because they knew it mattered to me, and so it mattered to them.

I don’t want to sound at all pompous or overstate the importance of Dragonwrath itself, though I will cherish it forever and it is my most prized virtual possession. There are many Dragonwraths out there, and many casters wielding them. But this one was pieced together by Fsob’s fireballs, Voss’ shield slams. I imagine each piece to have healing powers from Nowell, Itanya, Karanina, and sometimes Yahwen. It has Shaen’s elements, and Tassager’s bear butt, Bittersteel’s howling blast and Sara’s daggers. It even has some fel magic courtesy of Supplicium and DarthRegis, but we’re going to pretend otherwise. Apple Cider and Kurnmogh DPSed for me one night when we were really stuck without a tenth person! Solard and Cutaia and Rooster helped to tank, Beru, Tikari and Jasyla all had a hand in it. Killskillz, Priggle and Nyxy all helped to DPS. When I did my 25-person run, Korixa, Cordella, Oathblade, Luthvian, Tsunomi, Maelinixi, Fyriat, Rhuanious and Pix all came along. That’s a total of 31 people who helped out with Dragonwrath. I tried to be comprehensive but unfortunately I didn’t keep a running tally so if I have forgotten you and you attended, please know that I am so grateful to you and didn’t mean to leave you out. (Incidentally, there is going to be a special surprise for you Wednesday, May 23rd. Just check From Draenor With Love).

I do want to mention especially the people who were most instrumental in this endeavour: First of all, Vosskah, without whom I probably wouldn’t have organized the runs at all. As always, anything I do is made more fun when you’re by my side.

Nowell/Walks: You said that you would heal for me and you meant it, and you never missed a single run or complained although I know you weren’t really interested in Firelands at all. That means you were there especially to help me. Everyone should be so lucky as to have a friend like you.

Karanina/Snack: You said that you’d heal for me and made it clear that you weren’t taking no for an answer! It’s been a blast to rediscover Firelands with you alongside. You are an outstanding healer and a great friend. I’m thankful to know you and I hope someday I can repay your generosity of spirit.

Fsob: You are an indispensable part of Firelands for us; despite the smallest stature you never shirk from the largest tasks. Thank you for driving Rhyolith, assigning Baleroc, dog wrangling and flying through all those hoops with me. There’s no mage I’d rather have by my side. Mage mage, my friend.

All of my guildies: I hope you won’t mind me lumping you together, but I happen to think we operate best that way. For coming to Firelands to help tirelessly for so many weeks, I can’t thank you enough. You kept it from ever feeling like a chore to me. You are a fantastic bunch of people who brings excellence to everything you do. Thank you.

Last night when I siphoned that last essence from Baleroc and the moment approached when I’d be reaching the end of this three month task, all the words flew right out of my head. As I said, this is more than pixels, it’s more than a Dragonwrath. To me, it’s like carrying something that is a piece of friendship, kindness, and team work. I think it’s going to make me smile whenever I think of it. I don’t care that it’s a tier late, or that there are many other people out there with one. Dragonwrath itself isn’t unique, but the experience was unique to me. I’m left with only gratitude to everyone who had a hand in it, and most of all for Blizzard: who made the world that allowed me to find all of the people who gave me this great gift. Some of you I’ve met in real life and some I hope to meet someday, but it’s not geography that determines friendship. Last night culminated in a Stormwind rooftop party including a bunch of off-server folks who had seen the Dragonwrath ceremony a million times but they wanted to see mine. You all helped to make it special, and we created enough of a rumpus that random people flew in and said, “What is this?”

This is my friends helping me celebrate something we made together. It’s the spirit of this game for me, and everyone who helped is an indispensable part of that.

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