Starcraft II Book Contest – Winners Announced!

That’s it, folks!

Stick a fork in it, the Starcraft II: Heaven’s Devils Book Contest (North American version), as announced last week, has now drawn to a close.

There were some excellent submissions, but at the end of the day, two clearly stood out from the rest for their sheer awesomeness.

And the winners are!

Adgamorix, of the Divine Plea blog, for his story of using StarCraft I during his time in the military as a group tactics instruction method.

Dechion, of the Dechion’s Place blog, for his excellent fictional story set within the StarCraft universe. It kicked butt. Hopefully, he’ll post it (when he’s polished it up to his liking) on his blog for us!

It’s purely coincidence that both winners have blogs. Sometimes I think all blog readers eventually start writing their own blogs, and then we all just link to each other in an ever-growing circle of blogging cannibalism.

Congratulations to the both of you! I hope you enjoy your books. 🙂

In other news, I’ve got my copy and I am reading it, so you can expect the second contest to go up sometime next week for my (slightly) used copy.

Again, congratulations to you, and thank you to everyone that sent in an entry. They were all wonderful.

Have a good weekend!

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You think consumer Customer Service is bad?

Offtopic Bearwall rant!

Okay, a lot of consumer level Customer Service people are pretty wonky, but when you step up into commerical purchasing, it’s a whole new ball game.

In the comsumer market, you might think that when you’re buying a $120 DVD player, sure you deserve some reasonable customer service help if the thing doesn’t work, but you don’t expect someone to hop in a lear jet and fly out from corporate headquarters to hold your hand, right?

You’ve got certain expectations. You figure someone should really try to help you, but you know that, in the end, it’s a $120 DVD player, the person you’re talking to on the phone didn’t actually break it personally when it went out the door, they’ve got rules they’ve got to follow, they’re not being paid all that well in the first place unless customer service is only one facet of the responsibilities of their position, and if you’re being a tool to them in the first place, well…

What about consumer Customer Service for things other than goods? What about monthly services, like, oh, let’s just say for example cable internet?

That’s where you start getting into interesting territory in the consumer side of things, right?

Because I know NONE of you have ever been trying to log into WoW 30 minutes before raid time, only to find out your internet was dead, had no way of letting anyone, you know, online know what was wrong with you, and had to frantically call customer support for your internet service provider, desperate to get it fixed.

On the line is your current irritation at a momentary interruption in service, weighted against your inherent laziness when it comes to changing service providers. They know they don’t have to be good enough to win your business, they just have to not suck so much that they piss you off enough to throw off your laziness and switch.

God help you if they’re the only high speed game in town. Sucker.

Someone should actually do an audio montage of those phone conversations. That’s got to be one hell of a sub-cultural bubble, right there.

Protip: If you’re afraid it’ll be a problem in the future, have a “swim buddy” in your guild that you share cell phone numbers with, so if your internet goes out, you’ve got someone to get in touch with and let ’em know.

Okay, fine, so everyone has their customer service horror story.

When you step up into the commercial arena, you’d expect things might be a touch different, wouldn’t you? Sure, a $120 DVD player is one thing, but drop a few hundred thousand on some gear, you’d expect just a teensy bit more, right?

The first change is, in most cases, you don’t ever go to a store to make your selection or final purchase.

Instead, you start with a specific need, you identify companies that make products that fit those needs, you contact their sales offices, make appointments to meet with them, sales people fly out to meet with you and do the hard sell, you read their brochures, check schematics and characteristic data, and in some cases actually visit other customers already using the equipment, to see how they like it, see how they’re using it, and observe it in action.

When you’re contemplating buying a $250,000 to $1 million+ machine made in another country that will be designed and built from scratch based on your requirements, and that will have a several month lead time, preceeded by preparing a place in your production facility with appropriate power, water, pneumatic and exhaust capacity, it’s a whole other experience than walking into Best Buy or Sears.

If YOU were preparing to drop a cool million in another companies’ pockets, you might think that they’d treat you a nice, right?

And the sales people do.

But once the sale is made, what about when you need something later on? Like the machine ain’t working right and you need help figuring it out? Or a part broke and you need a new one?

Do you think when you call in to customer support on that big ticket machine, you get treated the same way the sales guy treated your company president?

Oh, hell no.

The majority of us in this position don’t expect or want trips to Cancun or other kickbacks when we call in with a problem, either.

We just want someone to do the bare minimum. Help us get going again.

What you don’t see the upper management types who will make the final decision considering is what happens AFTER the sale.

What is their support like?

What happens when you need parts to fix it when it breaks down?

See, when you buy a custom high-cost machine like this, you’re chaining yourself to their repair parts system. It doesn’t matter if you like it or not. They built it, and they intend to make money off of you. BIG TIME.

You’ve got two choices when something breaks down. Buy it directly through them, or try to find it somewhere else on your own.

If you buy it directly from them, then if you’re lucky, they have some in stock, or know where to get it already, so you know it won’t take that long to get it. Maybe. BUT, they are buying it somewhere else, or having it made by a fabrication shop somewhere else to their specs, and then adding a fee on top of it before selling it to you.

If you find it direct from the manufacturer, it may be a lot cheaper, but it will often have a long lead time… like weeks or even months before you’ll get it.

Especially if you just bought a piece of equipment designed and manufactured in another country. Guess what? Japanese engineers seling machines to the American market aren’t known for looking for American solutions to engineering problems. The parts they choose to build from are sold, guess where? Japan!

So when you call in looking for parts, where do you think they’re coming from? That’s right!

Another fun issue is, companies don’t want you to go around ’em for cheaper parts. A lot of companies work deals with the manufacturer to use custom part numbers on their labels, and only sell those part numbers to the guy who makes the machines. You call, say, Koganei in Japan looking for a new air cylinder, and tell them the part number, and Koganei sees in their system that part number is for something they only sell to Toshiba… and they tell you to talk to Toshiba, ’cause they won’t sell ’em to you. You want one to fix your machine. Toshiba buys them by the hundred. Guess who they’d rather piss off.

And lots of manufacturers don’t want to deal directly with the end user. They’d prefer dealing with a middleman willing to put up with your bullshit. So they don’t sell to end users at all. They only sell to people that are set up as regional or local distributors. So, you have to find a distributor in your area… and hope that person is willing to help your one time purchase.

And if they are, you tell the distributor you want an air cylinder, they say sure, they email the manufacturer in Japan, the manufacturer in Japan sends the email to a translation department, a few days later they get it back, they get some info on your part, send their reply to the translator, then get it back, then send it to the distributor, who calls you, if they even remember you since a week and a half has passed since you asked for a quote on price, availability and lead time.

Now you can place an order.

Nice, huh?

But okay, you deal with what you got.

What blows my fragile little mind is how hard it is, even if everything works according to plan, in GETTING THE DAMN PARTS.

Every day, every single day, about half my time is spent calling people and asking where the stuff I ordered is, days, weeks or even months after I was promised I’d receive it.

That’s exactly right. This is not time spent ordering items.

No, this is time spent asking where the (%^ the shit you promised me is, damnit!

You won’t let me order it from somewhere else? Well, damnit, then you’d better sell it to me when I need it!

Grrr.

“Hello, yes, I do have a question. I’m trying to find out what the status is on the part I ordered on PO# P349087. Yes, yes I did order it. No, I’m afraid you’re wrong, I did place the order. Oh, you have no record of that on file?  I must have faxed it to the wrong location, or the fax didn’t go through, so it’s my fault you don’t have it? Well, what would you say if I told you that thanks to the last three times you’ve pulled this same exact shit, Amanda, I now document all phone conversations, take down all names of people from your company that I talk to, and that I email AND fax in all orders I place, and then call back to verify your companies’ receipt of said order before I consider it ordered? Do you remember the order now? Would you like me to fax all of that documentation in to you now to helpfully remind you?”

“Still don’t have any record on your end that I ordered that $5000 servoamp, huh? Must’ve been one of those famous computer glitches in the database, right? Dog ate the homework? ”

“Oh, is it a ten week lead time on getting one from Japan? Really? And now that it’s really ordered I should wait for ten more weeks before I call back if I don’t see it?”

“Yeah… that’s what you told me ten weeks ago. Thanks!”

Bitch.

You think I’m joking. I bet you do.

Here’s another example.

I am sitting here, telling this person on the phone, “My company has one of your machines, and cash. Your company made the machine, and presumably wants cash. Tell you what. Your machine broke. I need the part. You buy the part from someone else, and keep the part in stock. You actually charge us $150.36 for a part that the manufacturer charges us $36.54 each (real freaking example from 5 minutes ago), but I’m willing to pay you that extra $115 bucks right now because you have one in stock, right now, and the manufacturer wants a two week lead time to ship from Japan. So here’s what we’ll do. I’ll order the part, you’ll put the part in a box, toss it at your UPS guy for overnight express, and we’ll pay you. Okay? We get the part tomorrow, the machine will be back up and running after one day of downtime, and you’ll get money at a truly bullshit markup. Okay?”

You give me goods. I give you cash. You’ve made stupid profit because your design engineer used a substandard part for a high stress application in the first place, so the parts wear out frequently.

Sounds good, right?

And yet… AND YET… a week later, I’ll have made 10 phone calls asking WHERE THE HELL THE PART IS. I base this knowledge off of past history with this company.

Third example. This one is still going on.

We’ve got three machines made by a German-based manufacturing company. They’ve been in the plant about ten years, they cost a ton of money, and none of them have ever worked quite right. A lot of money has been sunk into these machines over the years, trying to get them to work reliably.

In particular, one machine has a Rube Goldberg invention for an outfeed carriage. I’ve been trying to get it working properly. 

About 5 months ago, I decided to start from scratch with perfect components, to make sure everything was set at zero per the manufacturers’ design, and then if things weren’t quite right we’d redesign things ourselves to increase reliability.

I ordered all the parts from Germany. I had to. They have all of the build drawings for fabrication. They are the manufacturer themselves, nobody else. They hold the keys to the kingdom.

We get the parts, we install them after the two month lead time, it still doesn’t work with a damn.

WTF?

So I’m going over schematics, I’m reading exploded parts diagrams and design drawings, and I come across a mention, in a faxed memo in one manual’s folder pocket, about an engineer visit from Germany to install some modifications in 2007.

A what to the who?

I gather up all the manuals and documentation, and sure enough, in one manual out of the entire set, there is a note that the parts list shown is obsolete due to modifications designed and installed by the manufacturer to correct the very issue we’ve been dealing with.

But those parts as described ain’t in the machine, and haven’t been since I’ve been here. They do not exist on site. But now I do have their new parts list with a description of what they did.

The manual showing the changes was in our engineering library, not the maintenance OR production libraries. Nobody in the maintenance department back then, apparently, was involved in this project, and none of those people work here anymore now, anyway.

So, I’ve been fighting these problems for a year now, and I’ve spent thousands of dollars ordering things to repair this machine from the manufacturer, things that wear out too bloody fast, and here I find out that the very person in Germany that I have been talking to, and ordering from, is the person that according to this memo I found designed and installed an upgrade to permanently fix their machines’ original bad design.

I’ve been reinventing the wheel. And this guy has been letting me. “Oh no, no idea what could possibly be wrong, are you sure you set it up right?”

We even, and I’m not freaking kidding, we even flew this guy out from Germany to look at the machine and provide us with suggestions on making improvements. After all, he’s the expert, right?

When he came here, he acted as though it was the first time he’d ever heard of such a problem with this machine.

And he got away with it, because none of us were here when it happened. BUT, he also never volunteered any information about the modifications he had designed, the parts they had installed, nothing. He let us sit and spin.

So here I am. I need this thing fixed. So I tell him two months ago I need to order a full set of the parts from the modification, the CORRECT parts, so we can implement it. Again.

We’ll worry about how this all fell apart some other time. Fix the damn problem.

It’s been two months since I ordered the parts. Two months. I have followed up on this every week. Hell, several times a week.

I still… STILL do not have an estimated SHIP DATE, let alone the parts in my hand.

A month ago, I started telling them that if they are THAT busy, give me the design drawings, we’ll fab ’em ourselves. They refuse to give design drawings to customers, because then… hold onto your hats, folks… then the customer would not buy their parts from their company anymore! Their company would lose revenue!

Never mind that there is no way in hell we’re ever buying a machine from them ever again. I’ve made sure of that.

At the moment, I’ve actually cut away that section of the machine, and modified it to use a belt driven conveyor with a variable speed drive I designed and installed so we can run. It works. It ain’t pretty, but it works.

It blows my mind. It really does.

And now that I’ve ranted about this… I am going to pick up my phone and give them ANOTHER call, to see if and when I will ever get my parts.

Bastards.

I just don’t understand these people. I’m literally giving them enough money for some bloody-be-damned milled plates and a rail that, for the same amount of money, I could use to buy a car, drive it to the East Coast, buy a plane ticket, fly to Germany, rent a car, drive to their factory, and BEAT THEIR ASS IN THEIR OWN F’ING LOBBY. And then come home again afterwards, tired but satisfied.

Don’t think I haven’t considered it.

Oh, and yes, in case you’re wondering, my unit of value when making commercial value comparisons is based on car equivalents. “I could buy your air cylinder… or I could buy a new Hyundai. I think, just possibly, your air cylinder might be a bit overpriced. It’s 6 steel plates, a spring, a bronze bushing and two threaded holes for quick disconnect air fittings. And you don’t even provide the fittings. And you think this is worth the price of a Hyundai?”

Holy shit.

Look, if you’re going to put yourself intentionally in the position of being the only possible source for repair parts, PROVIDE THE DAMN PARTS!!!

Oh, as an FYI… this is why a proper maintenance management program involves analyzing machines for expected wear items and critical parts based on expected lead times, parts costs, and downtime. You figure out what is important, what you can’t live without if it breaks, how long it’d take to get the parts if they were ordered, how important machine downtime is, and then you build an on-site parts inventory to hold the most important stuff. And you also try to find alternate sources of supply for EVERYTHING.

Grrr.

Reminder: Starcraft II book contest ends soon!

The Starcraft II book contest draws to a close this Friday. Time is fast running out.

If you wanted to enter the contest to win your own copy of the book, and haven’t done so yet, please do so now! Even a one paragraph entry is far better than not entering at all.

I’ve got my review copy now, and let me tell you, it’s pretty damn cool.

So, go refresh yourself on the contest details here, and get your entry mailed in now!

~

Tell you what

I’ll add one more way you can make a cool entry.

You could send in your favorite screenshot of you in Starcraft or the Starcraft II beta pwning the enemy. If you find it hard to come up with the words to describe how much you love Starcraft, let a picture do the talking for you.

Good luck!

Looking back on things you miss

Yo, time for an old fart moment.

What makes an old fart moment? When you spend too much time reminiscing about the past, and not enough planning for the future, that’s what!

Tooling around on my Warrior for a few moments last night, negotiating the long ass Horde trip from Hillsbrad to Badlands to grab flight points, Cassie pointed out that at level 27, I was SO going to get my ass eaten in Badlands.

I sniggered, for truly, I can ride through the valley of the Badlands without fear, for I am the baddest mofo in the valley. 

Once actually IN Badlands, however, “Holy crap, that’s a lot of leopards! And WTF are rock giants doing running that damn FAST?!? They’re made of rock!”

While riding my little wolfie hell bent for leather, it made me wish, truly wish that I had a “Sprint while Mounted” button.

It made me think, just for a moment about how things have changed in the game.

Once upon a time, the Carrot on a Stick was one of the rites of passage for a player. You knew you were growing up when you got yourself that Carrot on a Stick to increase your mounted speed just the tiniest bit.

It was a silly little speed boost, but we as players took that shit seriously. We even used item changing addons programmed to swap the Carrot trinket in and out automatically when mounting.

Carrots is serious business.

It seemed, in true old fart splendor, like a golden time in the game, a time of innocence whose like we shall ne’er see again.

Over time, of course, the game changed. Blizzard’s programmers noticed the incredible surge of demand for the Carrot on a Stick, all out of proportion to it’s actual effect. Perhaps out of a desire to give players more of a good thing, they added items like the Riding Crop, and talent changes and assorted other goodies to give us more options on the ‘mounted speed increase’ buffet.

Even later, perhaps realizing that the whole thing had gotten a bit out of hand, they simply nerfed all such items for max level players. You want a speed increase, then earn a better mount, or play a class with increased mounted speed in the Talent Tree, and shut the hell up.

It’s a sad, tawdry sort of tale of good intentions gone awry.

Please excuse my style of prose, today. I’m reading Terry Pratchett’s Unseen Academicals, and it’s doing things to my brain. Oh, and don’t blame the book, blame my poor, lagging brain chemistry. It ain’t up to snuff for the good stuff.

Where the heck was I going with all this? Hold on, time to change the chemistry with the addition of coffee.

Okay!

The point is, back in the day we had no idea where things would someday go. All we knew was, there was a cool trinket called the Carrot on a Stick, at a time when there just weren’t trinkets much in the first place, and once you got it, you could go faster.

Faaster than the average bear, dare I say? Hey hey, Boo-Boo!

Barring having truly obscene amounts of gold to buy an epic mount at 60, a goal that seemed as distant as the furthest reaches of space, the Carrot was among the best items we were going to ever see.

And knowing there WAS such a trinket gave us hope that there might be other changes to mounted speed coming some day, as well.

If we could have a Carrot on a Stick to increase top speed, why not a trinket that would make the mount move hella faster for a short time, even if it were on a long cooldown? There were abilities like Sprint and Dash, and even Charge in the game, so why not an oh shit “Hut hut hut” ability when mounted?

“Pop quiz, hotshot. There you are, getting chased by all the coyotes in Badlands, and they’re right on your butt… they’re getting closer, getting closer, and all it’ll take is one back attack to daze and dismount you, and you’re coyote kibble. What do you do? What DO you do?”

Why, you simply grab your stick and start whacking your mount, screaming “Hut hut hut!” frantically.

Admittedly, that works best if you’re Yosemite Sam, and don’t really love your mount. Poor wolfie!

Better that than seeing the alimentary canal of a coyote the hard way, all I’m saying.

Oh, and if you’re eating lunch when you read that and get the image… you’re welcome!

Somewhere along the way, I think we’ve lost some of the magic to be found in the simpler things. The charm of the mental image of a Carrot on a Stick. Heck, even the feeling that, at level 40, you were really making a lot of progress in the game. When 60 was the cap, 40 wasn’t that bad. You were getting somewhere. You were getting into the home stretch and fighting your way past some of the harder parts of the leveling curve.

No sense holding out our hands, though, and begging the tsunami of change to stop, is there?

Instead, let’s move past being old farts and look to the future.

Is there something in the original game, something from the very beginning that really grabbed you, something that you found charming and loved? Something that you think has lost some of it’s magic over the years of expansions?

What is it?

And now think for a second… what was it that really charmed you… is there anything that could be done to bring back some of that magic? Either by changing the thing itself so it grows with the rest of the game, or by bringing it back in an end game version?

Hehe.

“When I say whoah, I mean WHOAH!” *whack!*

Feeling like a badass?

This far advanced in the WoW cycle, a lot of folks are playing alts, either out of boredom, or to see the original quests and zones before Cataclysm changes things forever.

I think some of us who are playing these alts are actually making disposable characters. We’ve got completely full character slots on our main server, characters we leveled and maxed and geared and got professions built up, characters that we could never get rid of. So, to play an alt we’re left with the choice of deleting a character to make space for a new one. Should they stay or should they go now?

We know Cataclysm is bringing new races, and changed starter zones and old world areas. In order to play any of that, we’re gonna need at least one new character slot.

Who to delete? Decisions, decisions.

Assuming someone gets the boot, you’ve got one space.

So, maybe you start an alt and enjoy it, but in the back of your mind, you’ve got a little judge sitting there, analyzing each new alt, weighing them in your mind. Which ones are the most fun? Which ones are teh über awesome?

Which classes are going to make the cut, and when are you killing them so you don’t get too attached?

In the end, do you know who’s getting the axe to make room for a Worgen or Goblin? 

If you have a few open alt slots, do you ask yourself, “Who am I playing now, knowing I’d better not get too attached to ’em, because in a few months it’s *slice* across the throat and off they go, consigned to the dustbin of history”?

You’ve got to make the most of those alting opportunities. This is the time to decide which class is the perfect choice for when you make that Worgen or Goblin, when it’s time to get serious, ’cause you ain’t gonna want to delete that one.

Since the release of WoW, the game has changed dramatically. These days, we’ve got so many opportunities to be overpowered with our alts that it’s not even funny.

You’ve got accelerated leveling from level 10 to 60, although it’s been around for so long that a lot of people have probably forgotten what it was like to have to do every quest in every zone to progress.

We’ve got Heirlooms available on top of that, Heirlooms that not only have the capability of adding another +20% to earned XP, but in effect give you Blue quality level appropriate gear for shoulder, chest and weapons.

How many of you remember leveling without Heirlooms and with original experience? As I recall, vividly, I watched the AH like a hawk for any possible upgrade every step of the way, because when you’re gonna be level 34 for a week, every little bit helps. Having a weapon that keeps pace with your level increases, keeping your base dps up all the way is huge.

What I recall the most in my own case was how different it was to level a Hunter in vanilla WoW after a melee dps, because with the Hunter’s pet keeping mobs off my ass, I was able to be a complete slacker about gear upgrades. I went from seeking armor upgrades every level to simply planning out weapon upgrades and settling for grabbing the occasional green on armor.

Not only do you have the Heirlooms to increase your power, but classes have been redesigned along the way to have solid Talent trees, Glyphs that really boost your effectiveness at level 15, and mounts are available ridiculously early.

Furthermore, Wintergrasp Commendations that grant 1000 honor each are dirt cheap at 30 Stone Keepers Shards, are Bind to Account and can be sent to your alts, and you can buy some really nice Rings, Trinkets and Necklaces for minimal honor cost are open to buy at low levels.

On top of all that, Jewelcrafters can now make Rings and Necklaces that were nonexistant in vanilla WoW at low levels.

And last but not least… with LFD in play, you can get instance runs as often as you’d like, to try and get that Blue drop that would be just perfect.

Yep, if you want to pimp your alt, it’s crazy out there.

Fine. Now that I’ve said everything that you already knew, I’ve got a question.

Since all the changes, what alt have you played recently that feels the most like an overpowered god?

  • What DPS class has felt the most like an unstoppable juggernaut of destruction?
  • What healing class has been the most ‘Thou shalt not die, for *I* watch over thee.”
  • What tanking class has felt like the most hardcore aggro-grabbing damage sponge?

I’m interested to know, because different classes click with different people, and just because I’m feeling the Mage and Warrior are pretty powerful in DPS compared to the Warlock, with the Druid somewhere in between, that doesn’t mean other people share the same opinions.

What do you think? What alt are you rolling with that’s just way too OP?

StarCraft II: Heaven’s Devils book contest!

Just within the last week, I posted a list of some of my favorite authors.

One of those authors is William C. Dietz, creator of the “Legion of the Damned” military science-fiction series.

I love well written military science-fiction, and Dietz is one of my favorite authors in the genre.

Amusingly enough, at the time I  wrote that list, I had no idea that William C. Dietz had just released a StarCraft book, Starcraft II: Heaven’s Devils.

It came out in hardcover on April 6th, just a month ago, and I never knew.

Well, I know now.

Guess what?

I have two copies of StarCraft II: Heaven’s Devils available to give away in a contest!

Much like the last book contest we did, for “Arthas: Rise of the Lich King”, we here at The Big Bear Butt Blogger are going to hold a contest based on your creativity!

Here are the contest rules;

The contest will start today, May 20th, and will run until Friday, May 28th. You’ve got one full week to get your entries turned in.

If you’d like to enter to win, send an email submission to “tigerlordgm AT yahoo DOT com” that contains the following;

  • Your actual name and mailing address. Your address for THIS CONTEST must be in the United States or Canada, only. (More on this below)
  • Your chosen alias for publishing the winners name on the blog.
  • Make the title of your email “StarCraft II book contest entry”.
  • Write a minimum of one paragraph describing your favorite fanboy (or fangirl) moment concerning StarCraft. It can be as long as you’d like, gushing is completely appropriate.

That’s right. This one is up to your creativity. Tell us what YOUR favorite StarCraft related moment was.

It could be the feeling of godlike power when you pwned noobs in your first ever zergling rush in the StarCraft game, or maybe when you experienced the campaign story shift with Kerrigan, or maybe when you were reading one of the other books already released in the StarCraft universe.

Maybe it’s something that inspired you to write your own StarCraft fanfic, and you want to share that as part of your entry.

Maybe it was the thrill you felt meeting someone dressed as Nova from StarCraft: Ghost. Yeah, that would do it. 🙂

What I’m trying to say is, it doesn’t have to be an in-game moment, and it doesn’t have to be a StarCraft short story. What it does have to be is a gushing squee moment in your life that came from StarCraft.

That’s it. That’s all there is to it.

Write it up, email it in, and on May 28th we’ll read ’em all and decide which two win themselves books. We’ll announce it on the website that very night.

Now, the fine print.

This time, we can ONLY send books to addresses in the United States and Canada.

I know, last time, with Arthas, we made sure that we worked out a way to include contestants with addresses outside the US and Canada. I can’t do that this time. The books are being mailed directly from the publisher.

What I can do, is hold a second contest later on.

See, I am being sent a copy of the book myself, and when I get it I will read it and write an honest review, posted here.

Nothing says I have to keep the book when I’m done.

When I’m done reading the review copy I’m given, I will hold a second contest, open ONLY to people NOT in the United States or Canada, and we’ll personally mail it to the winner. 🙂

Of course, that means the winner of that second contest will get a slightly used copy of the book. 

So, there you have it. We’re holding a contest, you have a chance to win a copy of StarCraft II: Heaven’s Devils, and all you’ve got to do to win is either gush like a crazed fan, or fake it convincingly. 🙂

And now, on to some links about the book!

For the poor, hardworking citizens of the Confederacy’s fringe worlds, the Guild Wars have exacted a huge toll. Swayed by the promise of financial rewards, a new batch of recruits joins the fight alongside a slew of mysteriously docile criminals — and a few dubious military leaders. Eighteen-year-old Jim Raynor, full of testosterone and eager to make things right at home, ships off to boot camp and finds his footing on the battlefield, but he soon discovers that the official mission is not what he’s really fighting for.

For the first time ever, StarCraft enthusiasts will learn the origins of the enduring friendship between the young upstart Jim Raynor and the streetwise soldier Tychus Findlay. Watch as they battle on the front lines of a fierce interplanetary war and bear witness to the Confederacy’s rank corruption — corruption so reprehensible that it rains immeasurable death and destruction upon the government’s own people.

You can find StarCraft II: Heaven’s Devils by William C. Dietz at Simon and Schuster’s website. They’ve got audiobook clips to listen to, excerpts you can download from the book, and links to either buy it from them directly, or from other web based vendors like Amazon.com. 

Premiere Collectibles also has a limited run of 5000 copies of the book, each numbered and signed by William C. Dietz, and shipped in a collector’s leather gift box. A gift for the StarCraft fanatic on your Christmas list. 🙂

So get those entries in for the United States/Canada contest, and stay tuned!

~

Big Bear Butt’s disclaimer: I am not paid by anyone for any of this. I don’t get money from pagehits, I’m not being paid to write anything about books or anything else, I’m not paid to write a review, and I’m not even keeping the review copy of the book. I do this stuff because I love it. I’m a squeeing fanboy for Blizzard too. So please… keep the ‘sellout’ comments to a minimum. I heard ’em all last time, and I don’t need to hear it again. Thanks! /grumpybear

Altapalooza!

Lately, I’ve been enjoying seeking out aspects of the game that are new to me.

One of the things I’m doing is trying out different styles of alts.

I’ve tried every class in the game at one point or another, some of ’em I’ve loved, some of ’em left me feeling pretty bleh.

Specifically, the Human Warrior, Gnome and Human style Warlocks, Gnome Mages, and at least ten different races of Death Knight.

Each one I got to at least 20, in the case of my Warrior I’d gone to 40 in vanilla WoW, but in the end they just didn’t click.

What I recently decided was, maybe it’s not the class I have a problem with, but the class in combination with specific races.

Maybe it’s an aesthetics thing. Or even a spec thing.

What I’ve found in my researches is that the race of the class DOES make a difference to me.

While I didn’t care at all for the Gnome or Human Warlock, my Undead Warlock feels just right for the race/class combination. I played the character to level 20, and spent the last 4 levels in Looking for Dungeon random groups, and had a lot of fun.

I’ve also got a Human Mage alt that I’ve played as pure Frost spec all the way to 40, and that’s also a race/class combination I’ve really enjoyed. I love Frost. 🙂 Having a skilled tank round ’em up, and then unleashing my Frost Nova/Blizzard/Cone of Cold on ’em never gets old. Screw the min/maxers, I’m Frost4Life!

My latest experiment, though, is a bit off the radar for me.

I created a Warrior.

An Orc Warrior.

I do not have a single Orc character. I started an Orc Rogue, an Orc Shaman, neither ever really grabbed me. I’d love a Tauren Rogue, but Blizzard doesn’t believe in sneaky cows.

What I’d do as a Tauren Rogue, of course, would be to sneak down to Westfall and go farmer tipping. Just sneak on up, get behind ’em, /tip and Vanish away! Revenge!

As far as Warriors go, as I said I’d played one as a dual wielding Fury spec Human back in vanilla, and I’d also made a few Tauren Warriors on other servers, but never got them up to beyond 12 or so. They were my “My home server is down, but those bastards are always up! Fine, I’ll make an alt there!” characters.

But no Orcs ever grabbed me for long.

That just doesn’t seem fair, that I’d discriminate against the Orcs. Sure I discriminate against the Gnomes, but, well, punting’s in the blood.

If punting a gnome is wrong, I don’t want to be right!

(Gnomes named Occulus or Larísa excluded)

How this particular Orc Warrior came about, was I played those LFD groups on my Warlock, and tried one on my 40 Mage, and what stood out was the lack of skilled tanks in the low level randoms. Just… wow.

Trained analysts puzzled over the problem, and then Cassie told me her conclusion was that plate wearing DPS were queuing as tanks for faster runs.

Well, that’s not right. A tank needs to be prepared to TANK.

But, if put in the exact same position, could I do any better?

Well now. That sounds to me like a challenge. If, given a low level character, could I do a better job as a tank than what I’d been seeing? Do the classes have the tools? Do other characters have too much burst DPS for a tank to handle?

I’ve got a max level Druid tank. I’ve got a max level Paladin tank. Death Knights start out too high for the purposes of the challenge.

But a Warrior.

I’ve never, ever tanked as a Warrior before. Such ignorance is unforgivable! And my ignorance makes the challenge all the sweeter!

What better way to solve both problems than by making a new Warrior and leveling as a tank running random instances?

My preparations for this were ridiculously easy.

I already had all the Heirlooms I could possibly want from leveling a Paladin alt as DPS/Tank.

A quick transfer of the Polished Spaulders of Valor, Polished Breastplate of Valor, Venerable Dal’Rend’s Sacred Charge (preloaded with Crusader) for tanking, Bloodied Arcanite Reaper (preloaded with Crusader) for DPS/early leveling, the Charmed Ancient Bone Bow for free stats off my ranged slot, twinned trinkets of Swift Hand of Justice, and I was all set.

Yeah, I had them all lying around.

What? Don’t look at me like that! So, I like Heirlooms. And alts. So what if stacking the deck in my favor with gloriously overpowered Heirlooms was, technically speaking, not fair.

Sue me. 🙂

There ain’t no such thing as a fair fight, and since the other people leveling characters are free to equip ’em if they’ve got ’em, hey.

I took Mining and Blacksmithing right off the bat, and as I ran around leveling as DPS I mined up, leveled BS up, and found out a Warrior Blacksmith can make very attractive armor quite easily.

Except for a shield. Grrr, 5 gold AH fees for a level 15 shield grrr….

I dinged level 16, trained up, sorted out my Defensive Stance button bars, equipped a few carefully chosen Glyphs (ie I asked Brokentree), and Cassie graciously enchanted all my crafted Blacksmithing gear and the Shield with Stamina enchants.

Trained and equipped, off I went on my quest to tank instances as a Warrior that didn’t suck.

Now, prior to level 16, I’d gone with the two handed axe, and I was, for all intents and purposes, a hug green buzz saw. With the Spell you get now that gives you an instant cast attack increased by attack power immediately after killing an opponent, I found it simplest to exterminate entire villages in the Barrens.

I’d enter a village area, Charge, Rend, Heroic Strike, and after that mob died I would just chainthe villagers one after another. Rend/Auto attack to soften, instant cast attack to bring low, Rend tick to finish, next! Charge when it’s up just to speed things along.

Keeping in mind that every single alt I play has every possible Heirloom item, I can honestly say that I have never experienced faster killing sprees than with the Warrior in Battle Stance with the Heirlooms and the two handed axe. And this is even with all my Talent points going into the Prot tree.

Big. Green. Buzzsaw.

It’s actually quite scary. Sure, on the Tauren Feral Druid I was used to things dying as fast as I could get to them, but there was something more brutal about the Warrior.

At level 16, I had my Defensive Stance button bar set up with Taunt, Thunder Clap (AoE) with it’s range enhanced through Glyph of Thunder Clap (+2 yards range), Sunder Armor next plus Glyph of Sunder Armor (affects +1 target just like Glyph of Maul), Revenge and Rend. Shield Block and Mocking Blow were also present, on the periphery.

My expectation was that in random instance runs, DPS would tend to pull instantly at range before the Warrior could get close. Most DPS, after all, don’t seem to engage the brain, or give a damn about anyone but their own DPS meter results. So what if they pull the mob, so long as they have the top DPS spot on Recount?

That being said, and later instances proving it out, I discarded the more reasonable concept of pulling with the bow as taking too damn long.

My intention going in would be to use Bloodrage to build up Rage, get into melee range if at all possible but be prepared to pop Taunt if a ranged DPS unloaded early. Once first mob was in range, engage with Sunder Armor. Assuming a body pull of additional mobs, unleash Thunder Clap once they get in range, keep Sunder Armor up, and toss in a Rend on my current target.

From that point, watch my health, apply Thunder Clap and Sunder Armor as needed, changing targets to spread Sunder Armor around evenly when fighting groups of 4 or more, be prepared to Taunt if anyone showed signs of getting balky, and if things got tight, Shield Block.

My Talents have been spent purely on Thunder Clap, followed by Shield Specialization. After that, I spent one on Dodge. I figure on filling out Parry and Dodge 5/5 before improving Bloodrage.

So, what were my results?

I started as level 16, ended as level 18 after a full clear of Ragefire Chasm and Deadmines.

Ragefire Chasm, I had a good group except for a Rogue that d/ced on us early in, but we cleared the whole thing, all the bosses, with 4 players. Everybody wanted to keep going, because it was going smooth.

The threat generation on the large groups? Zero issues. I regularly had 2k threat against next highest player at 200 threat on a mob.

The issue I had was, of course, Rage management. Bloodrage is on a reasonably long cooldown, and I just wasn’t getting enough Rage back when only fighting one or two mobs to start the next pull fully loaded.

At one point, I had the healer say he was bored because, between my 910 health at level 16, two Swift Hand of Justice trinkets and the Crusader enchant, I was self-sustaining.

At the end of Ragefire Chasm, the other members begged me to tank Deadmines. That’s pretty damn gratifying. But my focus wasn’t on damage output, but on keeping 100% threat on all mobs at all times. The other party members were appreciative.

Sadly, because the Rogue had AFKed early and never returned, we could not requeue as a group, and since the instance we were on had finished, we could not kick him. For some reason, you cannot kick someone after the official “instance is completed’ boss is dead… even if they are afk, and you’ve waited for them to leave for 15 minutes.

So, we decided to abandon group and instantly, individually requeue for Deadmines.

I got a whole new group.

Umm… ugh.

I had a Shaman healer that seemed to be on auto-follow, a Hunter that had to fire at extreme range at every target and kept his pet on aggressive… and sent it out usually to the far side of rooms, and a Mage that was, frankly, a delight to play with.

I love Frost Nove, and so did he.

Then there was the Ret Paladin on DPS… just ugh. But all that would be found out later.

First, there was the sadness that I lost the good group of fine folks. Then, the initial pu…. hey! Damn, the Hunter pulled. Okay, grab the mobs and play ping pong until they get back on me… hey! Where’s that pet going? Did he just shoot that other group?

I asked, as usual in these situations, if folks would do my the favor of letting me get to the mobs and get a whack in before they opened up with the killing.

Deadmines was a different proposition than Ragefire. In Deadmines, I was level 17 and the mobs were mostly 18 elites, so it was a more even challenge. Misses could be more of a factor. Incoming damage was more significant to mitigate or avoid.

I found myself using Shield Block much more frequently, and also a couple pots in tight moments, but the Mocking Blow still sat untouched.

In Deadmines, Thunder Clap and Glyphed Sunder Armor continued to rule the threat charts, despite the Mage being level 19, the Ret Paladin being 20, and the hunter pulling things from beyond me.

If it came in my range, Thunder Clap had a very good chance of pulling aggro off the hunter’s DPS. Sunder Armor ALWAYS pulled mobs back on me if they ran by, and Taunt of course, is, well, a taunt.

The Rage management issues, the levels of the mbos and the way the party was more disinclined to work together made it even more of a challenge… but I never felt that I had no control over Threat. So long as I could Taunt or Sunder Armor, I could take aggro back and then hold it.

As I mentioned earlier, I ended the evening exhiliarated at proving that, yes, you can tank successfully and hold aggro at level 16 as a Warrior. Even against the DPS of a level 20.

At the same time, I wondered, with Bloodrage having such a long cooldown, if my best bet to increase Rage generation was to spend the 10 points to fully Talent the Dodge and Parry Talents. With Shield Specialization, every Block, Parry and Dodge returns 5 Rage. So, the more I Parry and Dodge, the more I get Rage.

I just don’t see anything else, besides taking and dealing damage, that directly returns Rage for Warriors coming out of Talents. So if I want more, then so be it. 

The only thing I’d like at this point is to get high enough level to be able to have Tactical Mastery to keep some Rage between Stance shifts, so I could start a pull by Charging in Battle Stance right into the mobs (and staying ahead of pull crazy hunters), before switching to Defensive and laying down my Thunder Clap. 

Warriors. Damn, they can be fun.

Huh, go figure. 🙂