WTF is Westholme?

I had prepared to post about something I’m sure very important today, but then I realize that there was something far more important to discuss. Like, for example… um, what’s Westholme and why are you running it?

Westholme is, specifically, a street here in Los Angeles that Morello and I drive past pretty regularly. The first time we saw it, we laughed about how it sounded like a horrible zone in World of Warcraft. You know the one… you do it because it’s great XP and there’s no other zone that’s going to get you the same gains. You could run 5 mans, maybe, if you had the heirlooms, but really, you’re probably not going to get what you need. So you run Westholme. You just gotta get it done.

What we realized later is that Westholme is a metaphor for life. You can opt out of it (ask hikikomori!) but if you’re going to progress, you got to run Westholme. Westholme isn’t necessarily fun, it’s not exciting, but you can make it that way depending on the choices you make (including making the choice to have fun doing it!) and who you run it with.

So, as we wind down for the holidays, I hope you get to spend some QT with your favorite folks, maybe save up some heals and potions for a later date or get some leveling in. We’ll still be posting over the month, so follow us on FB, Twitter or Twitch!

Why should I run Westholme at all?

One thing that’s not always obvious (and, personally, this was one of my biggest hurdles) was understanding why one should even run Westholme at all. Many times it’s long, it’s difficult, and you’re not always sure what the rewards might be – not the greatest sell on the surface. Allow me to be an ambassador for a bit, and let you know about why this zone even exists in the first place.

It’s the best place to get skill-ups.

While people with intellectual curiosity will learn from a number of endeavors and activities, making the choice to even go to Westholme primes your brain to learn. While eventually you’re gearing up for whatever your end-game content is, you can’t very well show up with low stats, insufficient skills or missing abilities. Westholme, by its very nature, will put you in uncomfortable places and situations – one where you must learn, adapt and grow to get past the next boss and proceed. The more enjoyable zones typically are easier, and won’t require you to level-up important skills or abilities since you can coast by pretty smoothly.

Whether you’re trying to trying to get the first boss down in the “Weight Loss Chasms” or getting the epic cheevos on “Employment Citadel,” all of this is so you can do something you want – something that you hope get achieve, feel or receive after you’ve geared up for it.


zone entrance
With all this dreary brown wood, SURELY this zone is going to be epic.


You can have fun here, but it’s up to you to find it.

Let me share an anecdote of my own on this. While I’d wanted to be a game designer for a long time, making that happen had difficulties – I had no car, very little money and was 90-120 minutes away from all the game development studios in my area. After speaking to some friends and getting sage advice, I’d gotten a job at Microsoft doing QA on the X360 launch (and as a PC gamer, this is not the most exciting thing in the world to me!) in hopes that I’d get the aforementioned skill-ups. This is a job that involves playing the same content over and over trying to make the AI do something it did once-every-1000 times, writing technical reports on how to functionally reproduce the bug, and other very rote tasks – waking up at 5:30am still being something I never hope to do again.

But in the end, I had a blast.

The way I managed that was to focus on enjoying myself while I knew I had a grind ahead of me. “How does this AI work behind the scenes – if I learn more about that, I can write better bugs and get a skill-up!” “When talking with the developers, can I learn more about their intent so I can see the thought processes of their design?” For anyone who’s passionate about a subject, this is a fun mental space to be in. That perspective turned what could be seen as a pretty unfulfilling job and made it enriching – thereby keeping me focused on getting those skill-ups. So if I was going to log in and run Westholme (to get those sweet gains!) dammit I was determined to make it enjoyable. And that perspective has no small part in having been able to build a successful career out of it.

Because the alternatives are far worse.

Even if it sucks sometimes, the alternatives to running it are much worse in the medium-long term. Alternatives are:

* Don’t do endgame at all (ie: screw around at the expense of not accomplishing what you want to).

* Grind on zones that you’re way over-leveled for (you can feel powerful, but you won’t get any XP).

* Keep ressing at the Graveyard instead of waking up at the Inn (via having a dissatisfaction with your level, spec and class).

To me, these all seem like way worse alternatives to just getting it done and getting sweet loot! Maybe you want to be a better artist, or write a book. Maybe you want to start a family but have a hard time finding someone, maybe you want to be an indie developer – who knows. I will say, though, zero of things we tend to actually desire are resultant of avoiding Westholme.

Overall, Westholme is defined by hard work and, many times, deferred rewards. However, Westholme is an important, valuable place to get comfortable with as we’ll all have to go back at some point to get better gear, level up, or practice our class a little more. At the end, all this gets you to a bit closer to Ultimatopia – a concept that I’ll go into deeper in a future post.

Happy hunting,

– Morello

The Basics of Nerdly Super Communication Skillz

AKA A Glossary of Terms

The basic premise that must be understood (outside of a familiarity with World of Warcraft or other similar RPGs) is that you are a player in the game of life. As such, you have a certain amount of HP, MP, gear, spells, skills, level, etc. Real life is a set of quests, bosses, etc. that you must complete. Sure, you can take days off and choose to not log in, but do that for too long and you’ll probably deal with some pretty serious consequences, like homelessness. The wandering minsteral seems like a cool choice until it’s time to eat.

So, not only are you playing, but so is everyone else. Their dailies and bosses may not look the same as yours but they’ve got them too. People you’re close with, either by choice or force, can fight near you  and help you out, but they really can’t fight FOR you.


So, your quests, dailies and boss fights are your normal responsibilities. Maybe it’s school, a job, errands, basic self-care, etc. Doing these cause your HP to drop. This is not the only thing that can cause HP to drop, however. You can have debuffs, like being ill, DOTS like being depressed, or your gear or level might not be high enough for the stuff you’re doing. All of these can change how fast or slow your HP drops.

Just like in the games though, there’s a way for you to regen health. Maybe you work out and that gives you a slow heal over the day. Maybe you eat a particularly good meal and that gives you a boost. Maybe a chat with a close friend refills you. Only you can really know what’s going to refill your bar when you need it.

Remember those people around you that I mentioned before? They can also help you get some of that HP back. They can cast spells on you, like shields (for example, running an errand for you) or heals (like say, making you a meal or giving you a massage.)


MP exists in this as well. MP, as you probably know, allows you to cast spells on yourself and others. MP is really like how much mental energy you have to make things happen, both for yourself and those around you. Sometimes you can boost this the same way you can with your HP but it’s generally a lot harder. Your brain will check out far before your body will. Also, often things that might boost MP, like say caffeine, are temporary and may start doing physical damage, either immediately or as a DOT.

MP is great for boosting those around you too. If someone needs a heal (say, a hug or some time to chat), you can give from your MP to them to help them regen some HP.


Each day, you start out at the inn. If you’re lucky, at the end of last night, you got there on your own two feet. If not, you respawn there. If you got there on your own power, there’s a good chance that you’ve regened some of your HP and MP, repaired your gear, maybe even gained a level or two. You were able to contain the battle to that day and you’re starting the new day with an advantage.

However, sometimes (or even generally for some people) you don’t make it to the inn under your own power at the end of the night. You run out of HP and you wipe, rezzing at the inn. You wake up the next morning and you know that you didn’t regen much if any HP and/or MP. Your gear might be broken.You certainly didn’t gain any levels. You may be screwed for today and, if you’re not careful, you could be screwed for a week, weeks, months or years if you don’t recognize how bad your situation is. But that’s for another post…

So, those are the basics. It’s not perfect, but we hope that as we fill this out more and more and work with it, it’ll be of use to some people. Let us know what you think!