“There’s actually several characters in WoW that people haven’t really thought about that are blind,” said Richard Harlow, a blind raider in World of Warcraft. He told me that tidbit after I mentioned I was thinking about using the Burning Crusade baddie, Illidan, in an image for this article. “There’s a dragon in Black Wing Decent (Atramedes) that’s blind. The whole way that you did that fight was actually through sound. He would try to find where you were using sound. That’s my favorite fight in the game. Hands down.”
Richard Harlow, of Nanaimo British Columbia is a comedian, sociology student and a blind raider. He has beseeched the gaming community for some help paying for medicine that could bring back his sight. He has set up a fundraiser to pay for expensive medication that could literally cure his blindness. There is less than a week left to gain pledges that could turn this blind raider into a regular ol’ raider, which is probably something the average gamer takes for granted.
Harlow’s story is almost unbelievable. He was attending Emily Carr University in Vancouver studying 3-D animation and media arts when he noticed something was wrong with his right eye. He was loosing his sight. “That happened in June of 2009,” he told me. “By Thanksgiving of that year, I was legally blind in that eye. By Christmas the same thing started to happen in my left eye and then by March of 2010 I was legally blind.”
For a while it wasn’t certain what was wrong with Harlow, and it was going to be a long time before specific test results were in. It was decided that he should undergo chemotherapy and painful steroid treatments just in case it was some kind of cancer, which turned out not to be the case. He went through chemo for nothing. “If I would have not gone for the chemo then I probably would have felt that I did not do everything in my power to get my sight back.”
Harlow now knows that he has Leber’s optic neuropathy, a rare hereditary disease that causes the loss of central vision. The crazy part is: there’s a possible cure. It’s basically a bottle of pills that costs a minimum of $12,000. The estimated length of the treatment would likely cost more along the lines of $24,000 for Richard. It is expensive because the disease affects such few people that it is hard to cover costs for making the drug. Insurance companies don’t pay for it and neither does his Canadian health care.
Yes, he is a blind raider
The night before our interview, my team pulled Harlow into our raid. We needed a DPS, and he agreed to come. To be 100% honest, I was concerned. We had spent the past few raid nights wiping on a boss with complicated mechanics. Throwing a blind guy into the mix didn’t seem like the best idea. I changed my mind after our team got the boss down in one shot. While running to the next fight, I checked out the damage meters. He beat out five regular members of our 25-man team… and he wasn’t even on his main character.
I knew from listening to segments on different WoW podcasts that he can see about 1/8th of the screen at any given time, and even that is blurry. “I try not to trick people or anything like that,” he said. “I quite simply identify as a blind person. It is a lot easier to explain blindness than it is to explain legal blindness.”
“A lot of people say ‘Oh hey, I’m legally blind when I don’t wear my glasses.’ Well…you haven’t been diagnosed by a doctor saying that you cannot see and need to use a white cane or use a guide dog.” Then he added, “Some married couples are like ‘Oh yeah, my partner’s deaf’ well no, that’s actually only when YOU are talking to them.” Yeah, Richard is always cracking jokes.
So, I asked him: How the hell do you raid if you can’t see?
“Addons!” he exclaimed with a little more enthusiasm than I thought appropriate. He was being sarcastic because he had answered this question hundreds of times.
“I use addons that use beeps and sounds and whatnot to kind of help me out.” He uses GTFO to stay out of the fire. Many WoW players know that Weak Auras allows you to visually make prompts for when things occur in game, but it also has auditory prompts, which helps Richard in particular. He has another addon that notifies him of when his health is low because “Dead DPS does no DPS.”
Harlow said that without voice communication in Mumble—which is how this interview was conducted—it would be really hard for him to do much. He also pays close attention to the game. “Every Boss has its own sound file that you can memorize what it is associated with. You can memorize things that the boss does… except for Sindragosa. God, I have nightmares of that fight still from Wrath.”
“My raid awareness is actually quite possibly better than some people who can see because some people tunnel-vision, but with me I only have peripheral vision so it’s impossible for me to do that.”
Being a blind raider hasn’t stopped him from progressing in the game. When he is on his Warlock, even the best players will have trouble keeping up with him. One of his favorite moments was when he received his legendary staff during the Cataclysm expansion. He is particularly proud of this accomplishment because it required him to raid in the Firelands, which was all red with very little contrast.
Although WoW is known as being an accessible game, Blizzard recently took out the ability to use the “follow” command in PvP battlegrounds. That move was controversial among visually impaired players. I asked about it, and it turns out that it didn’t affect him at all. “I don’t /follow people,” he said. “If I’m PvPing with a small group of friends, I will maybe put an icon above their head so I can know that person is my buddy and I can easily glance at that person’s head and know I should follow him.”
Every Date is a Blind Date
Richard Harlow has used his disability as a subject for laughter as a standup comedian. I asked him if he had ever dreamed he would do something like this. “Nobody really has a dream for taking abuse in a public setting… When I grow up I wanna go on stage and have people heckling me,” he jokes.
Actually, he has had a positive reaction from the crowds. “With my standup comedy, I kind of use self-deprecating humor to talk about my disability and bring awareness to it in a way…At my last show I had a father come up to me and say that his daughter was blind and that my work is inspirational.”
And then Tom Green got involved. In a video on his YouTube channel, comedian Tom Green interviews Harlow about his situation. He is trying to get word out about the fundraiser. Green and Harlow met after the blind raider/standup comedian won a contest to be able to open for him. Green said that after the show he didn’t even realize he was having beers across from a blind guy until he noticed the walking stick. Harlow told me that was pretty typical because he gets around pretty good. “There are tricks.” In a restaurant where he can’t read the menu, he will say, “Tell me what your special is!” and nobody will be the wiser.
Harlow’s online fundraiser ends on May 3rd. He is trying to raise $12,000 online and another $12,000 by holding events in his home of Nanaimo. You can find him on his Facebook page or @Richard_Harlow on Twitter. He hopes to go on tour someday and is available for comedic performances. And he’s a damn good Warlock.
The Converted is available on iTunes, Stitcher and YouTube.
My Podcast has taken off in a way that I hadn’t expected. Omar (Belshnickle) and I get along very well and he makes the process a lot of fun.
Had someone told me how many hours of work went into a 30-minute YouTube video, I might not have jumped at the opportunity so readily. Oh, that’s a lie…I love it. I do all the stuff that precedes the show and Bel does the techy stuff after the show.
Our big news is that we are now a part of the Signals Media Network. That is Pat Krane’s network of podcasts that includes Convert to Raid, which brought Bel and I together in the first place. It was really cool for Zhug to invite us to the party, and it encourages us to up our game.
Speaking of upping our game, I am very proud to say The Converted has gotten better every week. We have a long way to go, but it’s starting to click. Our list of goals is daunting, but we are taking it step by step.
Anyway, people seem to like it. Our guest list is booked ‘til June.
The last few weeks have been wild. It’s been a long time since I have worked so many hours—and made so little money. Haha, I must be making up for my “University Professor” 12-hour weeks. Right now I feel a combination of disbelief that I left such a cushy job (that I was good at) and pride that I am pursuing what I am “supposed” to be doing.
Now if I can only monetize it….
Good news is that I have a strong portfolio. However, my 10 years abroad has left me with very few U.S. Connections. But I’m getting there.
I’m a gaming industry journalist, a podcaster, a teacher, organizer of a 25-man raid team, and (most recently) a social media coordinator. I’ve also met a bunch of new people, and am making more friends in America. My next few posts will be about the different projects I’ve got on the go. Stay tuned.
Allow me to share our raid team's newspaper, The Salad Senator. It is written by one of our tanks, Dralfir. I thought I might could add some photos to it.
The Salad Senator
Official Newspaper of the Salad Senate (pending approval)
Editor in Chief: Monsui
Issue 2: March 16, 2013
First Course Almost Ready
reported by Dralfir
Sorry for the delay in getting this second issue out our reporters have been busy trying to handle the chaos brought to Azeroth by the return of the Thunder King. Despite this upheaval the members of the Salad Senate have been diligently working to make the Shores of Pandaria safer for every member of the Alliance. I am pleased to report that they have reported a resounding success.
The second week the team found that some Mogu Sorcerers had been hard at work and reconstituted the Stone Guard in the Vaults, the senate was undaunted and quickly tossed the Quilen yet again. However they found that despite good progress they were unable to show Feng who was boss that week. They did not hang their heads in shame and upon their return the next week despite finding the Stone guard back once more they defeated them and in the process showed their love for dogs. Another week staring down Feng the Accursed resulting in Feng blinking and the Senate mixing him into the delicious dish they were prepared.
Some may say that was enough, two bosses tossed after a tough fight the week previous, yet the Salad Senate did not agree, they moved forward to find Gara'jal the Spiritbinder blocking their path, they quickly diced him up like a handful of tomatoes ending their third week in the vaults with three bosses tossed.
The next week the Senate returned to the Vaults to find the enemy had been busy and some of the bosses previously tossed were determined to prove it had been a fluke. They failed even though some made it tougher than before and with very little time left the Senate made their way further into the Vaults. Lorewalker Cho, the guide the Senate had hired to show them where the problems in the Vault were stemming from, gave the Senate a lecture about some of the mogu kings of old and even learned something new, yet was mysteriously absent when the kings he had just told them about appeared on the upper level of the room ready to try and take back Pandaria. The Senate rose to the occasion and told the kings in no uncertain terms that their time was past.
To help insure that the bosses did not get brought back the Senate found a mage to cast a spell on the Vaults that hindered the aura in there that allowed the bosses to come back week after week and the Senate went in once more this past week and showed the Titan construct Elegon that they had every right to the data it was protecting.
The first dish made from the bosses of Mogu'Shan Vaults is almost ready and the Salad Senate has set its eyes on the troubles the Klaxxi are having out in the Dread Wastes as the next recipe to tackle.
What a Mess
By guest reporter Jan Itor
The evils of Pandaria must be stopped they are making a mess all around the continent and I do not get paid enough to clean up the disaster the place looks like when they are through. That being said I would like to note my thanks to a group of ten people from the Salad Senate who have been helping me out most Thursdays. To show their support for me they have dubbed themselves the Salad Senate Clean-up Crew. A number of weeks ago they came up and cleaned up after Feng and Gara'jal which was real nice since the night before the main crew of the Senate could not take care of Feng.
A week later they came back and mopped up the Spirit Kings and tried to clean up that infernal star dragon Elegon, though they were not as successful on that count, but they came back a week later and finished the job. But that week the damn Emperor's machine halted them.
Last week the shut down that machine and went to the Dread wastes and gave me a hand with Imperial Vizier Zor'lock.
All citizens of Pandaria can help janitors like me by stopping the bosses from making the mess and it is always nice to see a determined group like the Salad Senate Clean-up Crew helping out where they can.
Food for Thought
Cooking and Crafting in the World of Azeroth
Dinner is Served
by guest Chef Trakoiram of Azgalor
Hi how are you? I hope that the world of Azeroth is treating you well. Cooking is a fun way to make sure you are putting you best gadget forward when showing the bosses of Azeroth that size does not matter, but power does. There are many gizmos that can improve your cooking (Editor's Note: I have edited out the gadgets listed here since Gnomish engineering has been known to have side effects such as the chef getting cooked instead of the meal, a simple campfire is all you need to cook the ingredients in any recipe we have found) Now that you have all the best toys to cook with you have to ask yourself what should I cook? While a feast is the most cost efficient option there are many items that are better for you but only feed one per serving. Take a powerful warlock like me I find the best dish to be a delicious Mogu Fish Stew. You want to make sure you have some Mogu Pumpkins, the inside add flavor and as long as you make sure you have enough you should be able to make an edible bowl with a few of them to serve the stew in. You take the pumpkins for the main part of the stew, add some Emperor Salmon, and Crocolisk bellies (nice and raw to get the most out of them) cook well, flavor with some Black Pepper and you have a meal that will expand your mind beyond what even the feasts can manage.
Mogu Fish Stew Recipe
25 Mogu Pumpkins 5 Emperor Salmon 5 servings Raw Crocolisk Belly 1 pinch Black Pepper
It is the Small Touches that Matter
by guest columnist Sitnalta of Azgalor
I would like to thank the editor for having me back and may the Naaru bless him for his wisdom. With the Thunder King running around again the world of Azeroth has gotten more dangerous. While the average adventurer is doing his best to save the world we have come to call home sometimes he forgets some of the little things that could save him. In the past some faction took it upon themselves to create intricate patterns to enhance the shoulder armor of adventurers. Some of the best scribes in Azeroth went to them and after diligent study found out many interesting things. For instance did you know that the inscriptions were chosen to go on shoulders because they need to be paired to work and due to the constantly growing size of shoulder armor (a mystery even Prophet Velen has not been able to solve) there is plenty of room to fit the design and mirror it on the other shoulder. The scribes have since passed the secrets to those of us who study the art and so I advise you adventurer as you figure out the way to get the best vision looking around your new shoulder armor make sure you see a scribe to get the best inscription for them
All Greater Inscriptions
All use the same mats but give different buffs ask your scribe which is best for you
1 sheet Light Parchment 3 Vials Starlight Ink
Leisure time in Azeroth
Tiny Battles of Azeroth
Fishing for a Fight
Saving the world is all well and good, but every hero needs to find something to help them relax. For me and many others out there that sometimes ends up being battling our companions. I have always been an avid hunter of the mystical companions around Azeroth and recently they started flexing their muscles and are ready to fight all kinds of critters around Azeroth. However some of these creature will still only accept your friendship if you personally find them around the world. Today I want to let you know where you can find one of the Rare colored carps around Pandaria. Almost everyone knows about the large golden carps that have proven quite sturdy and abundant. Any fisherman can tell you they can be caught anywhere on the continent, however recently anglers have come to realize there are other colored carp around the continent, they tend to stick with specific fish perhaps to help them hide and are smaller than their golden brethren. Today I want to tell you about the Tiny Blue Carp, this little guy like to hide primarily in the waters of the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, he finds the Jewel Danio out there while they may not match his coloring exactly have enough flash for him to hide among them. So if you see a pool of Jewel Danio he may be hiding in there. He has also been know to hide in pools of Redbelly Mandarin. Yes, I know they have red bellies not blue ones, but their tops are usually blue and most fish swim with their bellies down. I wish you happy hunting trying to befriend this little guy.
As per usual, I fell into a situation that has lead me to a new project. On our first raid night, Belshnickle filled a slot that we had open in our 25-man team. He is even in our very first team screen shot. After that run, he continued to whisper me in-game to chat or just say "hi". One day he revealed that he had been kicking around the idea of doing a podcast about our new guild, Convert To Raid on Aerie Peak. Here's the kicker: he wanted a cohost. Never turning down a chance to talk to people, I agreed to do it before ever having spoken to him.
That all changed. He is now the most called/texted person on my phone list. I've met most of his family and have even taken him to Moonguard. I put a ton more work on his shoulders when I said the word "video" and changed our format.
It is a podcast because we will release the audio portion on iTunes, but it's mostly a vidcast. Belshnickle would probably say exactly the oposite.
Anyway, here is the video. It's our very first episode. I can't wait for a year from now when we look back at it and cringe :)
(The plan was to embed the video, but because it's a new account it's tricky)
Being a DPS player in WoW has been pretty harsh in the past. Constantly begging a tank or healer to group up with you was tiresome… to everyone. In Cataclysm, the queue times for a dungeon (lets not even talk about LFR) could be up to 45 minutes or an hour. We were very limited as to what we could do: gather materials, do daily quests for reputations that we had gotten exalted with months earlier, or fly around your choice of faction city waiting for the queue to pop. But you had to do it: it was the only way to get valor points aside from downing raid bosses. In Mists, Blizzard gave big love to those who prefer actually killing monsters over healing or teasing and swatting at bosses to catch their attention.
Valor Points: The Gift of Choice
I don’t run heroic dungeons anymore. Why? Because I don’t have to. There are no gear upgrades for me and I don’t want to have to explain each fight to someone who just dinged 90 and is only tanking for the insta-queue. Sure these instances are easy for me, and as long as I stay out of bad I basically can’t die, but they take a while and are kind of boring now. In Cata, I had to run dungeons to get valor capped. That simply isn’t the case anymore.
Valor points come from everywhere and everything. I can choose to do whatever the heck I want and still work towards getting valor-capped for the week. People constantly complain about daily quests, but if I look at my VP and see I am down 30 points, I just spend 10 minutes, do six quests and I’m done… with some extra gold in the bank as well. Aside from daily quests, we get valor from raiding, LFR, scenarios, challenge mode dungeons and yes, heroics. It’s true that it is not quick and easy to get valor these days, but at least I’m not running Zul’Aman or Zul’Gurub seven times a week.
This might be my favorite change that came with Mists. Yes, my shaman can heal a dungeon with one hand while playing Book of Heroes on iOS with the other, but /yawn. I like the pow pow POW of my lava burst across Orc face. Next to the crackle of Chain Lightning, Chain Heal just seems kind of… damp. I want to kill all of the things, and queuing up for a scenario gives me just what I want: to blow all of my cooldowns and flex my DPS muscles as I compare my numbers to those who are less geared. Epeen aside, (my numbers are actually dismal) I enjoy getting my own insta-queue. Tanks and healers can go do their own thing; we don’t need or even want you there. Get a DPS spec if you want join the party.
That said, I joined up with a holy priest that out DPSed a rogue the other day… so I guess you guys aren’t useless after all.
If you like giant queues, then by all means wait in them. I like to maximize my time when grinding out my weekly valor points. One big way to do that is to be in multiple queues. In Mists, you can queue up for an LFR, a dungeon and a scenario all at once. Whatever pops first is what you will go into. I can run a scenario instantly and still be in line for my LFR spot. It’s a brilliant idea. Give a raise the guy that figured that one out.
I could give an honorable mention nod to Pet Battles as well. It’s a good time waster instead of gathering or flying in circles. In 5.2, it will even help level your character… a bit. The majority of WoW players are DPS, and Blizzard has started catering to us. The most important role in the game has been given both time and options. Tanks and healers don’t kill bosses; DPS does.
This isn't about wow... but still games. There's a WoW post tomorrow, I swear.
Last week I wrote an article about the SimCity 5 launch and how bad it was. There were plenty of people mad about the launch, so the article got a bunch of hits and comments. As a writer, those hits and comments are what I live for... but I wonder if I reported the news with a bit of commentary or did I just do my part to fuel the fire of the media train wreck?
Before I posted the article, the boss asked me if it was fair. That got me wondering if the entire circus was fair.
Should I feel sorry for poor EA who might not have understood the server capacity limits for a hugely popular game using a hugely controversial Digital Rights Management tool? I don't hate always online DRM. I don't hate EA (but if I keep writing about them, I can see myself getting there). A week later, people all over the world are enjoying SimCity. A month from now, will I write an article about how smooth it is running and how much I enjoy playing a sim game with other people?
Galleon has a very long spawn time... he is around about twice a week. Those that are lucky enough to find him, get a group together, tag him and kill him first have the chance at getting very Very good gear. I've killed him twice and have gotten nothing. Such is life... and warcraft.
Every Monday, I post a
WoW-related photo or screenshot. I would love to put your screenies up here. To
submit your own, send me an email.
Our raid team, The Salad Senate was at it again this past week. This time, we were able to down Feng the Accursed AND Gara'jal. This was a big improvement from the week before when we weren't able to get Feng down at all. For those of you who raid regularly, this might not sound like a big deal, but most of our team isn't experience in progression raiding, so we are chuffed.
One great thing about our group is that leaders are coming out organically. We made an alt guild bank and allowed everyone full access to it. Some might think that unwise, but I'm not worried in the slightest. Our members are excited to be part of the team, so they are stuffing it full of materials. One person took up the responsibility of organizing the stock. Another starting making feasts and keeping tabs on what we need more of. Next, we will start dealing with flasks. We have the mats for flasks, but it is hard to know what flasks to bring week-to-week, as we have a few slots unfilled, people have to take weeks off and a few of us are still deciding which character we want to bring.
Something important that effected our dynamic was the clean up group. One member of our team took it upon himself to make this clean up crew, bring in some pugs, and get a few bosses down on an off night. We only raid on Wednesdays, so it's perfectly fine for others to use our lockout if they want. On the first night, we take 25 people in and kill what we can. On Thursday, we take 10 people in and pick up where we left off. No only do a few folks get a chance for gear, but we get practice killing the bosses. That's great for someone like me who has never done anything beyond LFR. We learn a lot, and bring that knowledge with us the next week.
The knowledge we gained in the clean up crew helped us a bunch this past week. So our first week, we worked all night and got The Stone Guard done. The next week, we did the Stone Guard and then worked on Feng. We had three people DisConnect and not come back, which cost us about half an hour. We also started late and took too much time between pulls. After it was all said and done, I bet we lost an hour in total. Never again. The next day, the clean up crew took down Feng and Gara'jal. They are easier to manage in 10-man, but we got a feel for them. Our third week with the Salad Senate saw us bang our head against the wall on Feng for about two hours. It was disheartening and when we actually got him down, it kind of felt like luck. Nobody even mentioned getting a screen shot.
We moved on to Gara'jal. I honestly thought it was the harder fight because you have to do it fast. The trick to beating him is getting your DPS going strong before the six-minute enrage timer. That was what got us every time in the 10-man version. I figured we would get in a few pulls and work on him the next week. Then...
WE ONE-SHOT GARA'JAL
It wasn't even hard. One of our newer members volunteered to call out who should go into the other realm to kill the ghost-guys, and he didn't falter. One of our healers died at the start, she was resurrected but she didn't have mana for the rest of the fight. That was a big deal because that meant she couldn't go into the spirit realm. "Someone else has to go!" And other people did. We knew the fight, so it wasn't even that big of a deal to kill him well before the enrage timer.
That was a perfect end to the night; a high note that will bring positive people back the next week. I believe our clean up crew had a lot to do with our success.
As 5.2 comes, we will continue with what we are doing now. We want to see the content... even if it is a few months after everyone else does.
I've got so much going on, and it's crazy to me that other games are dominating my brain space. I can't wait for this one. Carbine is inviting people with fan sites to super secret gaming events. It makes me want to start a WildStar blog.... almost. How do you blog about a game that's not out yet?
Every Monday, I post a
WoW-related photo or screenshot. I would love to put your screenies up here. To
submit your own, send me an email.