Prepping for Mr. Lich King

November 28, 2007 at 1:51 pm (1)

I’ll admit that it’s hard for me to invest time in a MMO unless I see a future in the game.  I’ve started and quit more MMOs than I can remember not because I ran out of content, but because I couldn’t see myself enjoying it down the road, a few months or a year from then.

I suspect that WoW has peaked in terms of subscription numbers at its three year mark (but of course I could be wrong).  At 9.3 million players, we’re probably looking at another 10-15 years of game lifespan before it becomes a complete barren wasteland — after all, people STILL play Diablo 2 online!  So we’re guaranteed another half dozen expansions, most likely, and maybe a nice graphical overhaul down the road.  So I see a future in WoW, and it keeps me playing.

In 2008, at some point, we’ll see Wrath of the Lich King launch.  It’s a ways off, and I’m sure that you could start a new character today and get him or her epic’d out at 70 before WotLK ever hits your hard drive, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t start prepping for it!

What do we know we’re going to get so far?  And what does that mean for our preparation?

  • Level Cap Raised to 80 – 10 more levels not only temporarily satisfies the leveling urge in all of us, but it comes with the promise of new skills and greater power.  Will Warlocks get a new pet?  Will Shammys finally get crowd control?  Will Mages be able to summon twinkies for their sugar rush?  The new level cap in the future helps you to keep interest in your character now — you haven’t reached the end of the road, and there are still new abilities yet to be unlocked.
  • Talent Tree Additions – I’d love to see Blizz a fourth tree for each class, usable only at higher levels, but I doubt they’ll get that creative.  New talent builds = new playstyles!
  • Death Knights and Inscription – As with Burning Crusade’s cross-faction shammy/pally mix and Jewelcrafting, WotLK is banking on a new class and a new profession to fill the need for some serious new content.  Of course everyone under the sun will be making a Death Knight (Gnome DK’s for the win!), but you can start planning on what use this character will have in your arsenal — will you finally make a tank, or will it be pure sweet DPS?
  • Gear – At high levels, it all seems to come down to gear, gear, gear.  You make progressively smaller leaps forward in your gear’s stats as you spend larger amounts of time gaining it (which is incredibly twisted), but a new expansion in the future assures us that no matter what gear we now attain, it will be outdated within a year’s time.  So the only good reason to be pushing hard for epics is to experience raid content (Kara, ZA, etc.) and have fun with buddies without dying a lot.
  • Professions – You have enough time to level any profession you want up to 375 in time for the expansion, so it’s not a bad idea to take a long hard look at what professions you really need right now and in the future.  Herbalism/Alchemy might’ve seemed cool at first, but maybe you could be benefiting a lot more from blacksmithing on your warrior.

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In The Beginning… Part 2

November 24, 2007 at 1:38 am (1)

If anyone’s interested, I thought I’d finish sharing my memories of my early WoW days back in its 2004 launch.  You can read the first part here.

November 23, 2004.  I took the day off work (I think), and eagerly ripped open my World of Warcraft Collector’s Edition box purchased right off the shelf at Best Buy.  Blizzard does great Collector’s Edition boxes, and while I liked the cloth map, the making-of DVD and the soundtrack, one of three unique in-game pets was the clincher.  To this day, every time I start a new character, I continue to get to chose between a panda, mini-Diablo or a zergling.  I usually go with the panda, even though he falls asleep on me all the time.

Ask anyone who was around for launch, and the following two to three months: it was a mess.  Sure, the game ran great and was fairly polished for the genre, but Blizzard was almost clueless as to the level of demand that the new players were going to put on their meager servers.  With only a dozen or two servers available at launch, people jammed on there like crazy, creating massive queues and crashing the servers almost routinely.  It took them months to fix the problem, and months more to eliminate the queues.

In any case, I didn’t care about that — I got in, found an open server, and made my first character: a dwarf hunter named Chark.  I was most interested in making a hunter and warlock initially — pet classes are a favorite of mine — but I never quite got around to making that undead lock I wanted.

To risk sounding old fogeyish and overly nostalgic, there was just something about those first few days that I’ll never get back, as long as I play WoW.  That fresh, brand-new feeling, where I had little clue about the game, where the music, sounds and little details like footprints on the snow amazed me.  The dwarf newbie area felt HUGE, and Chark probably was the biggest idiot trying to run around and figure stuff out… but I had a blast.  Everyone was shouting on general chat “How do I do this?”, nobody had higher characters to help finance them or give them a leg up, and the economy was so meager that 25 silver for a sale of ore felt like a small fortune.

I abandoned Chark around level 25 and deleted him at some point.  Since those first days in 2004, I’ve left WoW a few times to take breaks and try other games, but always seemed to come back.  I played a Tauren druid to 58 with a regular group of friends until burning out on the PVP server nonsense.  I’ve made tons of alts and played at least three warlocks into their 50s.  But really, I consider my serious WoW start when I joined up with TWW in September 2006, having newly moved to Rexxar and starting a new character from scratch.

I have a nostalgic twinge for those earliest days, and sometimes wish that I could go back to just experience it all over again for the first time.  But then I remember how utterly broken some of the classes were back then, and how many of the tools we take for granted now weren’t even present (you had to get a mod to give yourself more than one toolbar, for pete’s sake!).

So, really, it’s great to be playing today.  I hope to be doing so through the next expansion and beyond!

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A Hearty Thank You to TWW..

November 21, 2007 at 3:58 pm (1)

Well, it’s that time of year again.  Turkey, pumpkin pie, football and naps.  A true celebration in the name of giving thanks!  Not to mention yummy turkey leftovers, enough stuffing to re-stuff another bird, and dishes.. so many dishes!

Ok.. on to the reason I’m posting this.The main reason we celebrate this holiday is to give thanks to many things.  Whether it is giving thanks for a healthy year, or if you are a farmer, thanking the weather for a great season of crops, giving thanks is an act of selflessness rarely seen in today’s society.  It really is too bad we only celebrate giving thanks once a year.

So what do we have to be thankful for, both in-game and in real life?Here’s my list…

I give thanks to friends I have in the game now.

I give thanks that i have a sleepy one-eyed willy.

I give thanks that, with the changes taking place in the guild recently, that we did not split up. 

I give thanks to those that have accepted me as a Guildmaster, despite my lack of true leadership qualities. 

I give thanks to everyone who has donated their time and gold to making Karazhan possible in our guild.

I give thanks to the new recruits, many who have donated gold to the guild bank, allowing us to buy a 3rd tab, not to mention the items donated.

I give thanks to those who have helped get my characters to 70.

I give thanks to the officers and Co-GM’s, who have made the job of being a GM so much easier to maintain with my busy schedule.  Without them, I don’t know if we would even have a guild.

I give thanks to Blizzard for giving me a summonable buffet table.

I give thanks to Tami, for her lack of typing skills.  We love ya Tams, and your sentences do bring a smile to my face J

I give thanks to Nny/Mythicor, for putting up with me tabbing him as our Raid Leader.

I give thanks to Syp, for his many enlightening posts here, along with managing the overall aesthetic of the page.

But most of all,

I give thanks to Time Well Wasted.  This guild has made the game for me.  I don’t know if I would still be playing this game if it wasn’t for the people in our guild.  ::cue sappy music::

And to sign off, I’d like to wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving, and to travel safe.  Boazar

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FREE Mechanical Squirrels — while they last!

November 16, 2007 at 6:25 pm (1)

Back in TWW’s earliest days (fall 2006), we had a “thing”.  A “tradition”.  A “fetish for robotic rodents”.  Before you knew it, every member of TWW boasted a [Mechanical Squirrel] in their inventory, whipping them out when we were together as a show of TWW/Squirrel pride.

We’ve let this notion falter, but I’m here to bring it back!  Just mail Syp in game and I’ll send you a FREE [Mechanical Squirrel] pet to hog one of your precious bag spaces.   All I ask for in return is that when you’re grouped with other TWW members, to take out your squirrel and let it frolic with the others.

Get your OFFICIAL TWW pet before they’re… um… ridiculously easy to make!

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Karazhan and Recruitment

November 16, 2007 at 4:05 pm (1)

So I want to get a really good idea of what we need to form a 2nd team that starts a bit later in the evening (8-8:30 server-ish), so I’d like some feedback on group composition, etc.

We have a pretty good idea of what to expect based on our initial groups fighting in there, so here is a breakdown of what we can expect inside the guild, and what we need to recruit.

2 Tanks (for nearly every boss fight, and trash mobs)

Right now, we have Hildegarde keyed, and Rhylind can always come in and tank maybe, depending on when he can be on.  On top of that, Tyrista will be keyed soon, and so will Val.  So tanking may not be as big an issue as we think.

3 Healers

Now with this one there are certain classes that are nearly required.  2 priests would be nice in this slot, especially for Moroes.  Right now we have.. hmm.  Naheed or Nehalennia can get keyed here hopefully soon, so we’ll have a Holy pally or a priest (not sure what Neha’s spec is though)  along with Rinkha (I’m sure I mispelled that) 

So this might be where we need to recruit. 

5 DPS

Now with this one, we need a very nice mix of classes.  A very solid group that will bring a lot to the table involves a couple different classes.

Right now we have Syp, Tami, and Boaz who might bring the dps if we have enough tanks.  Ghostfire can also take the place of syp (frost trap is a VERY handy ability here) along with Branywen, Nagarathna, Nohah, and I know we have others in the guild to fill this slot.

So let’s make it a goal to get everyone keyed who wants to go.  Then let’s see what we have, and who we need to recruit. 

Boaz

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“Barclay’s Bank of Boaz” or “How TWW got a Bank.”

November 15, 2007 at 10:12 pm (1)

So this last Tuesday, with patch 2.3 (zomg what a patch) Guild Banks were introduced.

Thought this would be a good place to lay down some simple rules concerning bank usage.

So here it goes!

Guild Rankings Actually Mean Something Now

Yes, that’s right! That fancy title that used to mean “you’ve gained our trust, you are a friendly and competent player, and helpful whenever possible” now includes “you’ve gained our trust, you are a friendly and competent player, and helpful whenever possible. Oh, and you get to withdraw more items from the bank.”

So what does that mean for each ranking?

Well, let’s break it down.

Alts: This is a new ranking put into place to avoid having someone with 7 alts all withdrawing 8 items each. All alts will be able to view both tabs and deposit, but cannot withdraw. Anyone below Officer ranking will have their alt moved to this new ranking. Please let an officer, Co-GM or myself know which character you want labeled as your main so we can make this as painless as possible.

Probation: Someone on Probation cannot see, withdraw or deposit in either tab. Simple.

Newbie: Newbies can see both tabs, and can deposit, but cannot withdraw.

Private: Privates can see both tabs, and can deposit to both, but can only withdraw from tab 2, and will be limited to 2 withdrawals per day.

Corporal: Corporals can see both tabs, and can deposit to both, but can only withdraw from tab 2. Their limit will be 3 items a day.

Sergeant: Sergeants can deposit to both tabs, are allowed 1 withdrawal from tab 1, and 6 from tab 2 per day.

Officer: Officers are given a much larger trust. They are allowed to withdraw 20 items from tab 1 and 2 per day. The reasoning for this is to keep the bank clean and things in proper tabs, which I will get to shortly. Officers also have access to the guild bank gold to use to repair. Using the guild gold to repair should only be used with the best intentions, and with the assumption it will be paid back. I also understand accidents happen, so if it does, please be polite and pay back the bank.

Co-GM’s and GM: Full access to gold withdrawals.

Ok, so now we know what each ranking can do. What about the tabs?

Tab 1: Super Important. This tab will house high level potions, recipes, blue items, hard to find items, blue gems, cut gems, high-end enchanting mats, etc.

Tab 2: Profs and Random. This tab should be used for cloth, leather, lower level potions, low level profession recipes, random items that you can put in for guildies, limited amounts of food, green items, etc.

We will be introducing another tab as soon as the guild bank has enough to purchase one. I will open access to that one a bit more. It will be similar to tab 2, but with more stuff essentially.

If you are unsure to an item going in tab 1 or 2, ask an officer

Zomg I can’t withdraw something!

If you desire an item in tab 1 and can’t withdraw, ask an officer (or higher) to get it out for you. The officer will make the decision to give it to you or not.

If you are asking to withdraw over your given limit for a day, ask an officer if it is ok or not. If the officer deems it worthy, they will withdraw the item for you. If they deny your request, please take it with a grain of salt and wait until the next day.

Ok. That’s it. I hope we can enjoy this new feature, and I hope we have set it up to be as fair as possible. If you can think of a way to improve it we will gladly listen.

Thanks,

Boazar and Co-GM’s

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In the beginning… (part 1)

November 13, 2007 at 11:42 pm (1)

January, 2004.  I remember it being a particularly cold, snowy Sunday as I sat in my church office and wasted a few hours browsing around on the internet.  I found myself captivated with an upcoming MMORPG that was supposed to come out this year.  Called… what was it?  World of Warcraft.

There was scarce information on the game — just a few anemic previews and loads of speculation on forums.  A couple testimonies from reporters who gained access to the alpha.  Nevertheless, I ate it up, and started a nine-month vigil for one of the most-anticipated games I’ve ever experienced.

I thought I’d relate, in a pair of articles, about my experiences with WoW starting at the very beginning: from pre-beta through the open beta and release.  These days, you can’t assume that most people have been around for the three or so years since WoW’s been out — most people have NO idea, for instance, how Shamans were THE overpowered class for the first half year or so, how painfully stunted warlocks were, and how all of the little tools and in-game UI improvements were simply not there.

2004 was an incredibly long year, in terms of waiting.  I filled the hours by playing City of Heroes — an excellent MMORPG, but depth-challenged and prone to giving me headaches.  Along with thousands of others, I was incredibly eager to get into the WoW beta, even knowing that it would “spoil” the release version of the game for me.  I didn’t care — for all of the “WoW is not original” rants that you read, it really looked like something new, improved and far more polished than anything out there.

I never got into the closed beta, but I followed the message boards closely.  I remember the utter outroar over the first version of the “rest system”, and how your XP would *decrease* the longer you played in one session (this was supposed to encourage alt playing and playing in moderation… but Blizzard quickly reversed their position on it).  There was a beloved community manager at the time who unfortunately left before the game’s release (and I forget her name, but she was definitely THE voice of Blizzard for most of 2004).

What seemed new and revolutionary?  Well, you have to consider that in 2004, my online RPG experiences were limited to Anarchy Online, FFXI, City of Heroes and… well, I guess that’s it.  I resisted Everquest and Asheron’s Call and DAOC, knowing that I’d soon be getting into a fantasy MMORPG, and not wishing to ruin the experience when it came.  But all of these games really worked hard to make online gaming obtuse, bloated and inaccessible.  AO, for instance, let you allocate dozens of points every time you leveled into various skills — but you had no reference for which skills were important, which were meaningless, and what the points meant.  In WoW, we found out that you’d be getting an automatic set of skills, and then could modify your character with unique talent trees.

I recall thinking that the quest system seemed almost revolutionary — that you’d naturally find some quests in the world, quests would lead to other quests in a chain, and that quest givers would be identifiable with a little ! over their heads.  We take this for granted now, but certainly not then.

Fun fact: Hunters were the last class in beta to receive their talent trees (players simply played the class talent-less, if you can believe it), as theirs was one of the more difficult to impliment.

I couldn’t wait for release, so when November 2004 rolled around and the option to get into open beta presented itself, I hopped in with glee.  I remember telling my wife (fiancee at the time) how incredible this was.  And I remember my first WoW character: a human female Paladin that I leveled up to 11 in Elwynn forest.  I had no desire to play a pally on release, hence why I chose it for open beta.

One of the most fun events I’ve ever seen in WoW came at the end of beta — and a few days before release.  The GMs literally unleashed hell on the major cities in WoW, summoning giant demons to stomp around causing chaos and killing us by the ten-score.  Skeletons, everywhere.  Then the final countdown: 5 minutes until server shutdown.

4 minutes.

3 minutes.

2 minutes.

1 minute until server shutdown.

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At The Cusp Of A New Career

November 13, 2007 at 4:07 pm (1)

You’ve been playing the game for a long time.  You just bought and installed it for the first time.  In either case, you find yourself staring at the character creation screen with a heart full of hope and a future full of 29 Days /Played.  Many MMO jockeys will tell you that this moment — making a brand-new character — is one of the most addicting experiences in online gaming.  The choices are many, the possibilities endless.  So what’s involved in making a new character?

I look at it as starting a new career; yeah, yeah, we hate “MMOs as jobs” metaphors, but “lifetrack” sounds a bit like pricey equipment sold on late-night QVC programming.  If you’re wise about things, you’re not just going to whip together a character in a few seconds and start bumbling through the world without giving it a bit of forethought.

Recently, I made a new World of Warcraft character to feed my alt addiction, and I thought I’d walk you through my mental process of planning out her career:

  • Name: A good name, by FAR, will be one of the greatest things to impact your play experience.  Your main character’s name should be something that’s memorable, short (I like short names), and agreeable — after all, this will be the name people will be calling you for months to come.  Put some time and effort into choosing a fun name (I like looking through lists of cool words), and for the love of Caesar, just skip right over any LOTR/Harry Potter/Star Wars/Matrix/D&D references.  You’re “Dryzzit19”?  That’s great for instant messaging with your buddies in 4th grade homeroom, but if I see that name in game I will do everything in my power to drop a summoned Infernal on your oblivious noggin.  For my new character, I called her “Twisty” — a word that conjures up emotions of attitude and sass.
  • Race and Class (and Faction):  Where do you want to start?  What role do you want to play?  What do you want to look like?  What advantages do you wish to have?  All important, and all crucial decisions in those first few minutes.  I picked the Alliance side, as I both know the quests and have my guild over there.  I knew I wanted to bring up a healing class to compliment my DPS class, and since I’ve more or less given up on my druid, learned to loathe Shammys, and am awash in a sea of Pallys, I went with a priest.  Finally, I researched racial abilities, and since Draenei come with a free heal over time, a nice mana regen spell, and (in patch 2.3) a cool interrupt spell, I found my home.  Twisty became a Draenei priest.
  • Short-  and Long-Term Goals:  Setting goals for your  character is important, particularly right at the beginning.  For instance, I know that I hate the Draenei mounts (big fat elephants? no thanks…), so I make it a goal to gain Stormwind reputation and gain access to the human horsie mounts.  That meant, from level one, I needed to transport Twisty to the human starting zone to start working on quest rep.  I also knew that Twisty was going to try her hand at both tailoring and enchanting, two professions I’ve never done much, so I trained those at level 6 and started working on them diligently.  My longest term goal was to get Twisty up to 70, have a bit of fun healing, and collect as many vanity pets as I could.
  • Twinking: There’s no shame in getting an early boost to your career, considering how much longer it takes these days to get your character to the max level.  A generous donation of gold from my main put Twisty in rich land, outfitted with 16-slot bags all around, and with a pile of cloth to start tailoring so I wouldn’t have to worry so much about farming it.  Helpful guildmates are great assets to run you through low level dungeons to get great beginning gear (at level 18, I have no less than three blues on me) — but make sure to return the favor for their alts!
  • Guides: People are often divided on the topic of leveling guides, although these days its seen as a necessary evil.  A good leveling guide will maximize your XP/hour, and if getting to a certain level range is more important to you than enjoying a lazy journey, then go for it.  With Twisty and the post-2.3 leveling situation, I plan on making my own way and exploring the new quest hubs in Duskwallow Marsh when I hit my 30s.

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Toon’s Best Friend

November 12, 2007 at 4:34 pm (1) ()

They call it “fluff”. Items and features in an online combat-oriented MMORPG that have little to nothing to do with combat, yet give flavor and fun to the world. My theory is that most all players LOVE fluff, whether it be a new tuxedo outfit, the ability to shoot off fireworks, or emotes. My personal favorite fluff, however, are non-combat pets, i.e. “Vanity Pets”.

Vanity Pets are as good a name as any for them — a small traveling companion that moves alongside of you and does little else than look interesting. To say they don’t do anything is erroneous; they may not contribute to combat whatsoever, but Vanity Pets DO quite a bit:

1. They’re status symbols. I’ve been farming forEVER for my Firefly pet in World of Warcraft — it looks awesome, has great flavor text, and is one of the more rare drops in the world. For me to run around sporting one of these things that most others don’t have is a teeny tiny boost to my own status. Hey, I’m not being egotistical, just honest.

2. They provide companionship. That’s what pets do, right? Online worlds tend to be large, and you’re not always running around with a group. Virtual companionship is better than no companionship, I suppose, and seeing a jumping, hopping, walking, dancing critter trail after me helps combat that alone feeling.

3. They entertain others. I often carry around a wide assortment of pets on my characters, and pull different ones out depending on the group I’m in and what mood I’m feeling. I get a kick out of WoW’s Eggbert running around like crazy, or Hellgate’s Zombot suddenly breaking into Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” dance routine. Being in groups is just plain more fun when everyone’s got a little pet out to join the fight.

4. For the mad collector, Vanity Pets can provide an amusing self-imposed side quest reminiscent of Pokémon: collect ’em all! Pets come from quests, drops, collector’s edition boxes, promotions, crafting, vendors, character generation… the possibilities are endless.

5. If you’re one of those socially twisted “roleplayers”, then I guess Vanity Pets might help you, I dunno, give you another tool in your off-kilter one man play.  “Well blimey, black cat!  Fancy seeing you around here again!  Let us go and forsooth and conquer and get you a saucer of milk!”

6. Finally, sometimes they provide buffs (or debuffs, in the case of WoW’s Disgusting Oozeling). I love the notion of making Vanity Pets as tiny buff bots — it makes collecting them more important than ever, and there’s even a slight strategy about which pet you want to bring out.

I thought I’d go around to the current big bad boys of the MMO world and examine how each of them add Vanity Pet fluff to their game:

EVERQUEST II: EQ 2, surprisingly enough, is a leader in the Vanity Pet field of research. Although I don’t play it, I find their devotion to these critters admirable. You can shop from a wide variety of pets to decorate your in-game house (want a duck? why not?).  Also — and I could be wrong on this, so sorry if I am — I read somewhere that most of the Vanity Pets provide buffs of varying levels to the player.

STAR WARS GALAXIES: SWG isn’t as huge with Vanity Pets, although they do make some attempts. If you were insane enough to stick with SWG for FOUR YEARS, you get a new familiar pet that actually buffs you in different ways. They also have Mynocks, Gackle Bats, and Mouse Droids as familiar buff VPs.

WORLD OF WARCRAFT: WoW’s Vanity Pet bestiary is absolutely enormous, and allows for a wide variety of acquisitions. You can blow a few silver on one of the standard city vendor pets, do seasonal quests for unique pets, or farm for SIX SOLID WEEKS TO GET THAT STUPID FIREFLY WHYOHWHY WON’T YOU DROP ARGGHHHH! When I first started WoW, I thought the absolute coolest quest was the secret one to get a pet chicken: you had to /chicken emote at a chicken on and on and on until a little ! popped up over his head. Then you fed him some special feed, and he pooped you an egg. Actually, that would be a “she”, I’m sure.

HELLGATE LONDON: I grabbed two pets in Hellgate before giving up on the game. One was a Coco Moko (demon coconut monkey) as a PC Gamer promotion, and the other one was an extended effort to assemble pieces and the blueprint to make my very own zombot. The zombot acquisition was one of the cooler ways I’ve seen to get Vanity Pets in any game.

LORD OF THE RINGS ONLINE: With Book 11, they implimented a handful of Vanity Pets, although they are fairly boring and cannot be out if you have a combat pet out at the same time. The one thing I like about their Vanity Pet system is the ability to name the pets — more games should do this!

TABULA RASA: The only pets I saw in-game were either collector’s editions pets or pre-order specials.  And they were freakin’ HUGE.  Because when you think “intergalactic military combat”, your next thought is “alongside of a huge purple ape”.

CITY OF HEROES/VILLAINS: Vanity Pets are also called “Sidekicks”, come in a wide variety and provide semi-useful buffs and attack powers.

VANGUARD: Some of the players regard the cardboard box it came in as a pet that they take out and stroke slowly, mumbling to themselves “What could have been”.

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Spiffy!

November 8, 2007 at 5:20 am (1)

Here’s a big “huh!”: TWW’s blog was just mentioned (and linked to) by Massively, WoW Insider’s sister blog.  You can read the post here!

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