Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Feckless Leader's 2013 Long-Form Review

@thronus@kennylogouts, and yours truly in the lobby of the Hilton Anaheim during Blizzcon 2013.

Well would you look at that. It's 2014 already.

I've been meaning to do one of these looking-back-at-the-year recap posts but I wanted to be sure I wasn't going to write something last-minute on New Year's Eve that would miss the cut. I didn't. Technically, I started this blog in December of 2012, but that first month was essentially me feeling out just what the hell I'd use this space for (aside from holding the unpublished carcasses of my failed WoW Insider applications). Didn't think that it was year-in-review worthy. That makes this one the first one!

Patch 5.1

You'll remember that one year ago, Mists of Pandaria had been out just three months. We were roughly one month into MoP's first patch, 5.1: Landfall, which is where many of us spent the next month killing each other in the name of conquest Wrathion. Around that time, I'd been struck with the notion that there were a ton of people out there who'd like to give away their extra battle pets to other pet-collecting enthusiasts. Ever-present WoW Insider comment poster Jeff LaBowski (aka Spacebard) was eager to help me in this endeavor, but it never quite got off the ground despite the fact we created a blog space for it and mentioned it quite a bit. Oh well.

That failed project turned into My Duplicate Pets --- Free for the Taking, something that's been a feature on this blog since early summer of 2013, though it took a few months before I was contacted by the first of what turned out to be quite a few interested parties. I've sent well over a dozen pets to good homes now, and for free!

I began to focus on topics or features I could continue to write on in an effort to ensure this blog regularly had fresh and relevant content. While I attach the tagline of "A World of Warcraft blog that explores enhancement shamanism, gold-making, completionist-leanings, and pet battles, among other things," this is really a general World of Warcraft blog. The gold-making bit of that description wasn't added until after I stumbled across Nev's blog and the "20 Days of Gold Making" feature she'd just started. I'd been acquiring gold at a steady rate for quite some time and had amassed over a half-million by that point, so I figured it was something I could handle.

My initial post about Arcanite Bars spun into a full-on Chasing the Gold Cap feature. After reaching the gold cap in spring, the feature evolved into Spending the Gold Cap. I've met a bunch of incredible people on the gold-making side of things, but I owe it to Nev for providing the catalyst that helped me get into writing about it.

By late winter, I'd published the first of four battle pet leveling guides, all of which turned out to be ridiculously popular --- way beyond my own imaginings or expectations. The first was meant to be an easier leveling path for players who had a few max-level pets. I don't normally bring up numbers or search results and whatnot, but I can't deny that I'm both proud and humbled by the fact the Feckless Leader hosted it's 200,000th visitor over the Christmas break. Granted, the vast majority of those visitors came to the site via the battle pet leveling guides. Still!

After the first guide's popularity, I penned a guide for the complete noob who had absolutely no pets, and yet another for the battler who had a decent stable of max-level pets. Then in mid-summer I discovered that in using a couple of in-game items, players could level a battle pet from 1 to 25 in four fights.

To gloat a bit more (I promise I'm nearly done), practically every organic search query on the web about anything related to battle pet leveling will produce at least one of my guides in the top search results. I'll never forget the morning in early spring when I googled a phrase to find the beginner, intermediate and veteran guides holding spots one, two and three. Should've taken a screenshot now that I think of it. Anyway, after I'd realized the guides were quite popular, I figured the steady traffic would soon taper off. But it continued to grow and I continue to experience 1,000 daily visitors to the site on average.

I don't do ads, and I'd like to explain why: I love being a part of this rich, vibrant community and this is my contribution to it. I need or desire nothing more. That's not a cut against those who do; some folks might think I'm pretty stupid for not making a couple of bucks off the site. Perhaps I am!

All right, enough of the sappy-bragging shit.

Early on, I took a break from the light-hearted fluff I'd been posting up to that point and voiced my frustration at the casual jokes being told regarding gender and race in a pug raid I'd joined. While this group was clearly comfortable with one another, it felt much differently as an outsider. Right or wrong, I wrote about it, and this marked the first of many times I would speak out about something I saw that I didn't like in-game.

I've given up on learning why 5.2 farm changes: what would you add? from January continues to receive traffic to this day. On page views alone, this is the most popular post of the year. That blows my mind. It regularly shows up at one of the top-viewed posts for the week. Note to self: use beefier analytics for 2014.

After claiming I knew a little something about enhancement shamans, I ponied up with a simple post about mount farming. Thanks to Ravyncat, the series about the dual-wielding element-lovers has been affectionately titled Bashes with Wolves. I don't do as much with it as I'd like, but I feel there's some decent information there for a newer enhancement shaman.

Patch 5.2

March of 2013 saw us on the Thunder Isle with Patch 5.2. This is also the first time we heard about Hearthstone. While I've only written a couple pieces about the game, expect to see more this year. This is also around the time where my former Co-GM realized that our goals as they related to maintaining our raid guild was no longer possible on our dying server. Keep in mind, this was a couple of months before they announced cross-realm grouping for raids and flexible technology. So I laid out the situation (can someone please teach me the proper use of "to lay/to lie" so that I never, ever forget?) and requested the advice of anyone who happened to stumble across the post.

We ended up choosing the route of server-transferring our guild and merging with an active guild on the Alliance side of things (we were Horde). This was an uncomfortable, but seemingly necessary concession we made to join a good community and continue our raiding. Of our raid roster at the time, all but two made the transition. Unfortunately, that transition was relatively smooth for some, and not so much for others---me being the "others." I was quickly identified as a rabble-rouser and "shit disturber," as my friends jokingly liked to term it. What started as a friendly conversation with an officer one morning turned into me being told I wasn't a good fit for the guild.

It was the first time I'd been cut off from my guildies---people I'd been playing with since Wrath. They were Alliance, and now that I'd been cut off from them, I went back to my Horde toons. Alone. I refused to ask them to transfer back to the Horde and join me once again. After all, I'd been an advocate of the first transition---off-server and to the opposite faction---in the face of serious reservations by my guild mates. That was a weird time in-game.

Just after that debacle, some good news: two local friends and I were able to score four tickets to Blizzcon. Having gone with one of said friends to 2011's, I was super stoked to return again, this time as a "veteran." Bolstered by our successful bid, I put together some tips on how to position one's self to acquire these high-demand tickets.

Patch 5.3

Patch 5.3: Escalation landed in May, perhaps one of its more exciting features being the ability to select a loot specialization. While 5.3 was on the PTR, I'd posted my first of a few pieces having the deal with Looking for Raid, this one about how Blizzard can improve it beyond 5.3 by making it even easier and more pug-friendly. Turns out it may not be LFR that's the problem, but rather a good cross-section of the playerbase and/or its attitude about accessible contact.

Summer brought a Feckless Leader first: even if it didn't make large (read: any) waves in the community, my post about the future introduction of a peacock battle pet was technically breaking news, and I'm pretty sure I was the first (back me up here Liopleurodon). Bolstered by the warm Wisconsin air and the fact that my employer decided a termination would help me enjoy the summer even more, I started putting more of my voice out there as it related to the game and the community. For instance, I incorrectly predicted (and tried to back up) that WoW could soon go free-to-play.

In addition to keeping many of the features I've mentioned above I started publishing more opinion-based posts as my frustration with how people treated others in-game increased. While I'm an advocate for "report every time" as it relates to player behavior, I've never felt the in-game tools were adequate enough. I feel like there's no "positive feedback" when a player reports another player for bad behavior. Essentially, I realized that Blizzard won't, and frankly can't change the culture of the players in game.

But we can. And that's what the post titled, "Be Part of the Solution," is all about: creating a better environment for everyone. It was really the intro (or perhaps addendum) to a ginormous piece I wrote afterwards called "It's Not About LFR." I'd spent two or three weeks putting together a piece about how LFR will be the bane of this game's existence, only to realize LFR wasn't the problem at all. As I alluded to before, the problem, it turns out, is us.

Fall brought us Blizzcon, for which I put together a survival guide aimed at folks who'd never gone and because of it, was featured on a podcast. A podcast! If you told me in January last year that I'd be on a podcast by year's end, I'd ask you just what the hell you were talking about. It wasn't in my mind as a possibility, which to me, made it all the more special. Anyway, people seemed to dig the survival guide, but even I didn't follow it to a T, some of which I covered in my review of the event. Oh, I also put together a list of predictions for Blizzcon prior to the event. You'll want to see the recap post, if interested, since that's got all the information plus the commentary on just how much I got wrong.

I did call "Hit & Expertise....GONE!"

Patch 5.4 

After Blizzcon, I found myself a bit tongue-tied when it came to the blog and Twitter. I think I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of awesome and talented people I met out west. It wasn't that there was this pressure that wasn't present before just because faces were put to names. It was more than that, I think. I was so impressed with the community, as I was when I attended in 2011. That nasty stuff you get in game---you just don't see much of that when you get these people together. I saw more love and acceptance than anything, and I wish the con lasted a week. The whole experience was pretty fucking endearing, and it took me while to regain my voice. Not to mention I straddle the introvert/extrovert line, so being surrounded by that many people near-constant for four days required some serious recharging.

Lastly, I put together some tips for playing WoW with your kids, and finally started the series I've been meaning to about being a Completionist.

Though I could go on, I won't. In looking back at the blogroll from the year, I'm kind of surprised at the volume of posts: on average, one every three days. It sure didn't feel like it. I can't wait to see what 2014 has in store for us as a community and the game as a whole.

Anyway, if you've made it this far, I owe you something. Snarfabajiggles.

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