Thursday, August 4, 2011

My Russian Interview

A Russian Blogger contacted me a few months ago to do an interview. He's done several great interviews with other moonkin like Hamlet from EJ and Lappe from Paragon, and I am honored by the request.

Since, I assume most of you can't read Russian, I asked Avl if it would be ok for me to cross post the interview here. He graciously agreed. You can find the original version in Russian here. Also, please note that I answer all of these questions in late May early June. Some of the answers may seem a little strange and out of date given that 4.2 has since been released.

Hi, Graylo! Let’s start with a question about your nickname - it’s kinda unique. Can you tell us about the story behind it?

- It's not all that exciting. My middle name is Gray, and I just started adding syllables on the end of it until I found one I liked. All of my alts fit that same pattern. It's very creative as you can see.

What’s your WoW story, Graylo? What classes have you played?

- WoW is my first MMO. I got a free trial with one of Blizzards RTS games and decided to give it a shot. That was in December of 2006 just before the TBC patch was released. I was hooked almost immediately and have maintained my account ever since with out any big breaks. In that time, I've played ever class to some degree, but only the caster DPS classes to max level. Prior to the release of Cataclysm I had 5 level 80 characters (mage, warlock, Shadow Priest, Ele Shaman, and Druid of course). I have raided the warlock and shadow priest at various times as an alt, but never seriously. Most of my attention is focused on my Druid, but I have gotten my shaman to level 85 as well.

When was your famous moonkin born?

-Graylo is actually the first toon I created, and has always been my main toon. I chose a Druid because they were said to be easy to solo and very versatile. I didn't know anything about the game other then what I had read online, so a druid sounded like the safe choice. My first few months playing WoW were an absolute disaster. Two thirds of my talent points were spent in Balance, the other third was spent in resto, but I spent half the time DPSing in Cat form with a mixture of caster and melee gear. As I said, I was a walking disaster. Then at about level 50 I realized that if I respecced I could pick up moonkin form, and haven't looked back since.

What’s you favorite thing is WoW currently? What activity you like the most?

- I've always been a raider. My primary goal in this game is to kill all of the raid bosses before the next content patch and get all of the raid related achievements. I've tried other aspects of the game off and on, but none of them have really stuck with me.

Is there any WoW achievement you are proud of? Some PvE boss or arena rating actually?

-The achievement I'm most proud of is getting Glory of the Raider (25man) and Immortal before patched 3.1 was released. This meant that I got the Black Proto-Drake as a reward. The Immortal achievement was such a pain in the butt because, little stupid things could screw it up. When we finally got the achievement it was cathartic. We had been working on Immortal for months with several near misses. The tension we felt by the end of the instance was enormous and being able to let all that go at the end was awesome. It was one of the happiest moments I ever had in this game.

The other big moment was killing Lady Vashj in TBC. My guild at the time had gone through a lot of trials and progression related drama, and it was awesome to finally kill her. In reality, it wasn't all that impressive because we were the fifth or sixth guild on the server to do so and it was after Sunwell was released, but it felt like a breakthrough to us.

Is there any feature, ability or mechanic in the game you would like to change?

- There isn't really a specific mechanic that I would like to see changed, but I do think that moonkin are a little too complicated overall. Having three nukes and two DoTs by themselves would be fine, but they way they interact with Eclipse and some of our other abilities pushes it a little over the edge for me. I don't like all of the run of play choices that we have to make at the moment.

Should I save this Starsurge cooldown for Eclipse or cast it now? Should I wait to refresh this DoT or do it now? Should I clip this DoT or refresh it later? Should I spam MF while moving? Should I cast Starfall now or wait? Should I hold solar now or can I get back to it in time?

I'm not against having to make choices in the run of play. That is what separates the excellent players from the average, but it seems like Moonkin have a lot of choices at the moment. I would like to see some of those choices simplified.

If I had to pick one mechanic to change/remove, I would pick the 4T11 set bonus. Yes, it is very strong and yes it is going away for all practical purposes in patch 4.2, but I've found it to be a real pain in the neck. It's just too easy to waste in my opinion. We transition between Eclipse procs so quickly now that it's difficult not to waste part of it with Starfall. I will be glad when I don't have to worry about it any more.

Back to your moonkin, what thing amuses you the most of him?

- Obviously the dance is a lot of fun, but I find the various graphical errors over the years to be the most fun.

What do you mean by graphical errors? Will be happy to see one myself!

- The moonkin model can only stand, sit, and dance. As a result it's had issues where and there where it didn't interact well with something else in the game, like having Moonkin stand on mounts rather then riding on them. My favorite one comes from Ulduar. For a short period of time when a moonkin got on one of the choppers the sidecar folded up and it looked like the moonkin was being dragged behind the bike. I posted a picture of it on the blog a while back.

What specs your moonkin has? What are the reasons behind it?

-The spec I use changes depending on the needs of the fight we are focusing on and the needs of the raid, but this is what I consider to be fairly standard raid build. (link)

I consider the fourth tier of the balance tree to be my optional choices. I picked them up because they are the best DPS options available at that point or I like the utility they provide. I skip all of the mana talents, because I haven't had any serious mana issues since the start of the expansion. I do pick up Fungal Growth on some fights because the slowing utility can be helpful, but the graphic is annoying enough that I leave it off when I don't need it. I skip Blessing of the Grove because it is incredibly weak (0.05% increase per point) and I prefer the utility of other talents.

Some people disagree with me but I do not consider Perseverance to be an optional talent. In my experience, raid attempts rarely wipe due to a lack of DPS. Most of the time the wipe is caused by someone doing something stupid and dying or killing someone else. They are also due to not having enough experience with some mechanics of the fight. Damage reduction and survivability help with both of these issues. Therefore, I don't consider it to be an optional talent.

Given only 3 words, how would you call current state of moonkins in PvE?

- Complex, Wanted, Beaten up

If a blizzard developer asked you to add only one feature to your beloved spec, what it would be?

-I would like better cooldowns. I would love to have something like Arcane Power, Icy Veins, or Elemental Mastery. Those cooldowns are nice because they say, I need to do more damage right now, without the complication of having do deal with trents or stars hitting the wrong targets.

Time for some blog questions, Graylo! When have you started to write Gray Matter?

- I wrote my first post for the blog in September of 2007.

What were the reasons for you to start a moonkin blog?

- When I started my intent wasn't to write a "moonkin blog." The blog started out as more of a WoW diary then anything else. As I've said before, I didn't know anyone who played this game when I first started, but I had read about it quite a bit online and had looked at a couple of WoW blogs. As I was leveling Graylo, I had a lot of thoughts and issues I wanted to talk about, but I didn't have anyone to talk about them with. Since I had read a couple of the other blogs I got the idea to post my thoughts on this game on a blog. It took me probably six months to actually sit down and write that first post, but I've been a fairly regular poster ever since.

The blog became more moonkin focused when I got more serious about raiding. Moonkin was not a popular raid spec in TBC so there weren't a lot of Moonkin theorycrafters out there. Also, I didn't trust the few numbers being posted by people on the forums. So, I did the math myself to verify or refute the numbers being posted. With that math I was able to show things like why Wrath was a bad raiding spell and why Crit was the worst raiding stat. I didn't do the research for the blog, but I wanted to get more readers and no one else was posting this type of information. So, I started to post my research on blog to get more readers and I became known as a moonkin blogger.

Does your blog improve your playstyle and WoW statistics?

- Yes and no. I didn't do my spec research to have something to write in the blog. I did it so that I would know what was the best way to play and then realized it would be good info to post on the blog. With or without the blog I would still do research and read the various sites see how I could improve my play. However, the blog keeps me honest and attracts a lot of attention and suggestions. If I post something stupid on the blog it gets corrected pretty quickly because someone reads it and tells me I'm being stupid. It also, forces me to do the research a little more quickly rather then waiting for someone else to do it.

In short, I would probably come to the same conclusions and play choices without the blog, but I probably get to them a little more quickly because of the blog.

What drives you crazy about it?

- At time's I am a victim of my own success and I feel like the blog is more of an obligation then a hobby. A lot of good things have happened to me because I've written this blog and I don't regret any of it, but the pressure to be Graylo can be tough at times.

Hm, obligation? Pressure to be Graylo? Sounds like you have more to say, Graylo!

- If someone's looking for moonkin information now there are several good sources to find it. Hamlet's guide on EJ is great. Calculated's Guide on the Moonkin Repository's the best I've ever seen. WoW Insider is finally covering Moonkin well. There is Moonkin information all over the place now but this hasn't always been the case. As a result, I used to get a lot of e-mails, asking why I haven't talked about a particular topic or why my gear list hasn't been updated yet. The worst example happened in ToC when Blizzard used different names for the Alliance and Horde items. Adding the horde items in the list required a lot of extra work that I wanted to avoid. I thought people could figure it out, but a ton of people complained and I ended up adding them anyway. To some extent I think it's forgotten that the blog is a hobby and that I have a career and family outside of WoW. I'm not always able to respond to things right away, or even do the amount of theorycrafting I used to do, because I just don't have the time anymore.

And it's not just readers that put this pressure on me. I put it on myself a lot of times, because I like being "Graylo, the Moonkin Expert." I find it very frustrating to see others make comments and observations on EJ or TMR that I think I should have thought of as well or posted about first.

I love writing the blog, and I love all the things it has provided me over the years, but it's no longer a casual activity that I do when I have time or feel like it. In that way, it's become a bit of an obligation.

What thing you want to improve in your blog?

- There are a lot of things I would like to improve about the blog, but I'm too lazy to do most of them. I would love to switch it to a Wordpress format instead of Blogger, because I think it looks a lot cleaner. I wish I had an editor to find my mistakes that I miss. I wish it had more pictures.

Our readers liked your moonkin gear rating. What’s the story behind it? Was it a social demand from your friends/colleagues?

- I wrote my first gear guide purely to get readers. This was during TBC and there seemed to be a lot of questions about cloth vs. leather and crit vs. other stats. It was just a simple pre-kara guide to tell people where the good rep gear was and what were the good dungeons to run. In early WotLK, I stole the idea of using a more mathematical approach for creating the gear list from the feral blogger Kalon at ThinkTank.

I like to think of the gear list more as a reference guide then an actual gear guide or BIS list. BIS lists are impractical because you don't get all the gear at once, and most players don't have a hope of ever getting the BIS item in every slot. What I like about my gear list is that it shows all of the options and where you can get them. This way, if you know you are weak in a particular slot you can quickly see where your upgrades are. I also like that it shows which upgrades are significant and which others aren't that important.

Is there any secret benefits of having a moonkin blog? :)

- I've benefited greatly due to having the blog. I've gotten into guilds, because of my blog. I got into the Cataclysm Beta because of my blog. I've been offered free stuff from other game developers because of the blog. Most of all, it's very pleasing to know that I've created something that the players and creators of this game have found to be valuable. I'm very proud of the fact that I've had some impact on this game.

What advise can you give to a novice blogger?

- The best blogging advice I can give, is to write because you want to write. I've seen a lot of people start blogs because they want to be e-famous, be listened to, or make money. Most of those guys burn out quickly and are unsuccessful because blogging is a lot harder, and less rewarding then it looks. I wrote Gray Matter for over a year, before I got any serious traffic, and most of my success comes from a lack of competition when I started rather then being a great blog. A new blogger starting today would have a much tougher time then I did. So, if your primary reason for starting a blog is to be read then I would reconsider, because chances are you are just going to be frustrated and disappointed.

From a technical perspective, my suggestion would be to buy your domain name when you start. Domain names are not expensive and owning your own can make a lot of things easier down the road. Owning your own domain name means you can redesign or and move your blog/site without having to redirect your traffic. I wish I had bought my Domain name when I started.

Moonkin bloggers an elusive people, don't you agree? :)

- Moonkin Bloggers have become more elusive recently with people like Quith and Relevart getting out of the blogging game.

What can you tell our Russian readers about yourself?

- I'm a married 35 year old father of two small children. I work in the banking industry. All in all my life is fairly normal and boring. Outside of WoW I spend my free time reading, watching movies and tv. I also spend a lot of time watching and reading about soccer. Most of my casual wardrobe consists of soccer jerseys. I am quite pissed that Qatar stole the 2022 World Cup from us, but congratulations you Russia for getting the 2018. Choosing Russia made a lot of sense to me.

Woot! Married, two small children! Does it mean you play less now and spend more time with your family than before?

- Yes, and no. My son was born about 6 months after I started playing WoW, so family has always limited the amount of time I could play. In my four years of raiding the amount of time I spend raiding has been fairly constant, and since my kids go to bed before raid time they don't have any impact on my WoW time from that perspective. That said, they have limited more of my casual raid time, since we do more stuff on weekends, and they don't take as many naps as they used to.

Where do you live atm?

- I live outside Milwaukee Wisconsin in the US

What music you prefer to listen? During raid-time maybe?

- I can't listen to music or watch anything on TV while raiding. It's just to distracting for me. Outside of raid my musical interests very. Right now I'm listening to band like Emery, Thrice, Bullet's for my Valentine, but my interests change pretty quickly.

Some people think we, moonkins, are fat, clumsy and got large hair irl. Is it true?

- Unfortunately for me this is a little too true, but definitely not true across the board. Have you seen a picture of Murmurs/Tyler Caraway on WoW Insider? That is one skinny kid.

Is there a favorite moonkin meal you like to eat? :)

- Now that I'm not a Tauren anymore I have to say a Hamburger.

Time is money, friend! As a final word in this interview, what would you say or wish to our Russian audience?

- I just want to say thank you to all the readers. My blog would be anything without them and I appreciate all of their support.

Thanks a lot, Graylo, that was an awesome interview!

Thanks Avl


Faeker @Fatal Union on Kargath said...

I really enjoyed reading the interview. As a 30 something father of two myself, it's nice to know that even the hardcore theory crafter's and raiders know that family life is always put first. Kudo's to you on your music choice as well. I'm a big Emery fan (did you get he new album?) and a long time listener of thrice. Not a fan of Bullet though. I always look forward to your posts, and I hope to continue reading them for years to come.

Hana said...

"My first few months playing WoW were an absolute disaster. Two thirds of my talent points were spent in Balance, the other third was spent in resto, but I spent half the time DPSing in Cat form with a mixture of caster and melee gear."

Haha! I did that too. I'm glad I'm not the only one. :) I was always going oom so my solo-ing strat was cast spells until mob got in my face, then go cat to finish it off.

Korda said...

Great interview. Nice to see another Wisconsin Boomkin. I grew up in Waukesha County and now call Stevens Point home. Also a 30-something dad.

Keep up the great blog!

Anonymous said...

How Graylo came to be...

You literally wrote my WoW leveling experience. I too was a feral druid in resto/ balance clothing :) I do think I have you beat though. I didn't even cast a spell or use an ability until I was questioned by my vanilla experienced cousin (this was at lvl 10). I just melee swing things to death. Oh the good old days.

Anyhow, great article.