I refused to speak in l33t. I didn't travel light — usually I had at least two bags of trinkets with me so that I could destroy practically any class. I was bearded and bald with slightly jagged pixels. I logged over 60 days, and countless sleepless nights. Those 60 days account for over 1/3 of my waking real life during the last 6 months.
Although Broadboar was not my first Warcraft toon, he became me in a way that my other characters failed to; for instance, on New Year's Eve I elected to run around the human capital of Stormwind naked and drunk. As I watched the angular firework show, I realized my connection with the hairy, bald dwarf. He was not to be just another drunken dwarf adventurer, he was to be a legendary man of the land, a stalwart companion, friend of all factions, and a gentleman in combat to be loved or to be feared.
I acquired my first taste of real Azerothian adventure in Loch Modan. I tamed a Crocalisk named Tiger near Thelsamar. He was not the best pet, but I loved his sounds. Tiger served me faithfully on quests all around Loch Modan and Westfall, and I sank each one of my talent points into the beast's mastery in return. While I'm sure I could have found better places to grind, Loch Modan was fun, and beautiful. Soon, I lvl'ed 23 and was ready for my first Instance.
I had no idea what it meant to play an Instance when I first stepped into the Deadmines, and I won't soon forget what I learned there. I was lucky: The realm was created shortly after Christmas, and thus I was never the only newbie. Moreover, I had the coveted “feign death,” which saved me numerous times.
Instancing was addictive. I often caught myself holding my breath. The thrill of seeing a hunter item drop was every ounce as exciting as gaining levels. Between VC and the world PVP in Redridge, I was content. I paid no attention to the quests, and often the gatekeepers dinged, reminding me to spend the talent points that I had earned.
As Broadboar, time passed quickly.
When I finally noticed that the mobs in the Deadmines were not giving exp, it was time to move on. I was an excellent shot, and while my dps was not terribly high, I was very skilled at managing aggro and rarely pulled off the tank. After the thrill of Instancing wore off slightly, exploration of unknown territory became my new task. I decided it would be best to grind until my level was high enough to play in the Scarlet Monastery.
Quickly, I was questing in STV. This was my first real experience with ganking. Questing in STV was simply about avoiding mounted hordes. I was often forced to party with others just to prevent getting ganked every few minutes. At this time, I began getting frustrated with myself. I should have been able to level quite fast as a hunter. However, I often spent a good part of the day conducting small raids on rival parties of hordes. As a result, a large portion of my time was spent running as a ghost to my corpse.
At this point I was active at least 12 hours a day, and I rarely left the house. I had moved from the Midwest to Portland, Ore., with aspirations of beginning a new career there. Unfortunately, Broadboar had other intentions. His goal was lvl60. This would not be easily attainable.
Even with all this activity, I hardly advanced more than one level per day. I was spending most of my time following quest lines to get worthless little trinkets and racing around on my new mount looking for iron mine spawn points. I was soon a lvl30 gnomish engineer. I loved the gnomish trinkets, and enlarged the world as often as possible. Cycling through all my various summoning and spellcasting cooldowns kept me busier than the average hunter, and my jumper cables brought many parties' healers back into commission. My favorite gadget was the Ultrasafe Transporter to Gargetzan. An expensive little device that shuttled me to the other continent, the Transporter ensured that I was never more than a short flight away from my favorite grinding spots or an alliance auction house. This meant I could work all day with almost no need for a break, making the grind that much more exhausting and less pleasurable.
RL was becoming problematic: I began to imagine my life as a race. Every moment spent away from home cost me 50g and countless experience points, while each meal I ate out was one less chance for me to kill Galgann and roll for his fireblaster. I was more determined to upgrade all my leather to mail than to learn anything new about the world. I was becoming a dwarf hunter like Broadboar. If a creature didn't give me any experience, I wasn't going to bother hunting it.
I stuck to sparsely rarely visited places, such as the coast of Dustwallow marshes where I could hunt turtles in peace. I no longer cared about my equipment, because new finds became obsolete after each new day. I had abandoned my dear old friend Tiger and tamed the Bangladesh tiger elite in STV to maximize my dps. My whole life revolved around becoming a fast and efficient enough grinder so that I could get to lvl60. Soon I was in the 50's avenging Timbermaws, and with only a day left in Portland I made it to lvl60. Ding!
I moved into my girlfriend's house in Seattle, where I agreed to be a testing patient in a Tacoma laboratory for a new heart medication. Soon, I was locked in a laboratory and given large dosages of experimental heart medications. I wouldn't have minded, except that my schedule was interrupted every hour when my blood was drawn for analysis. This left me no time to run into the lvl60 dungeons I had so eagerly awaited, so I decided to try and grind BG's for rep and try to complete the Lieutenant Commander's Pursuance pvp set.
The first two weeks of the medication testing were completely uneventful. I lived for those 2k-aimed-shot critical strikes; and I could think of nothing more than maximizing my crit percentage. When the queues to enter were too long, I was farming the mats for +agi enchants and scanning AH for schematics to build reflectors. Soon, I had built a macro to swap my trinkets for combatting shadow priests, destruction warlocks, fire mages, and melee classes. I was a Horde-killing machine, geared with tricks to stop even the most geared toons. While I was often at the top of the kill charts, my blood draws made it almost impossible to finish any battleground. As a result, my ranks still advanced slowly. After I reached exalted with AV, and purchased my Don Julio's band, I started playing more Warsong Gulch for the shorter queue times.
This is when my human heart betrayed me.
WSG was much more exciting than the other BG's, and sneaking into the hordes' flag room got my heart racing faster than running a marathon. Since the scientists were studying the effects of the heart medication I was taking, this proved problematic. As a test patient, I was not allowed to exercise or become upset. The scientists quickly noticed changes in my heart rate and blood pressure. They sent me home just short of rank 10 with 3 grand in my pocket.
Broadboar shouldn't have expected my collaboration after I moved in with my girlfriend in Seattle, but he was dying to explore the 5-man Instances to complete his Beaststalker gear. I calculated that I could run 3-4 Instances in the time it took my girlfriend to get home from work. If I was still working when she got home, I would simply encourage her to sit and listen to “This American Life” while Broadboar finished the Dungeon. Soon he was looking really sharp with a Wolf's helmet and had grinded enough for the mats to build a flawless arcanite rifle. While this gun was easily dominated by a 20-40 man Instance drop, it was the best I could do soloing. It looked very fancy with a feather dangling off its barrel. As important as dps was in this game, Broadboar still prided himself in his aesthetic choices.
Broadboar was much better at making pulls and killing mobs at this point than I was at being a boyfriend. It was our first time living together since we had started dating, and as much as I wanted to be a good companion, my mind was Broadboar's. In addition, it was also full of the nasty comments and snarky, ill-tempered remarks that filled Broadboar's Global Looking for Group channel.
Most of the time I avoided groups: Broadboar spoke as much in emotes as he did in group chat, and he was always quick to report someone who spoke in any way inappropriate to the public. His reputation on Azeroth was continually at stake. As for hordes, he killed only those who showed aggression, and only camped them if they acted inappropriate or harassed a lower-level alliance. I was not unethical, and neither was Broadboar.
I was really proud of Broadboar's achievements and wanted him to be as well-rounded as possible. There was absolutely no reason for him to learn low-level engineering recipes for things like shadow goggles, but he learned them anyhow. The same went for fishing, cooking, and first aid; every Sunday was spent in STV competing in the fishing contest to complete the ideal fishing outfit. While Broadboar didn't have enough end-game experience or hardcore grinding time to be notable in any one aspect of the game, he was far from lacking in any of them. He had tamed all the prettiest pets, found non-combat pets to complement each outfit, and had three bank slots full of commemorative items from every single in-game holiday event.
As Broadboar gained depth, I lost it. My girlfriend didn't understand me, and had absolutely no interest in going into the game to find me again. I fell ill — and had a good excuse not to leave the house. Instead of enjoying my last month in Seattle (or my girlfriend's company) I became obsessed with getting as much as possible accomplished with Broadboar before the flight to Taiwan.
Soon, I was in a foreign place.
When we finally had a home with working Internet, I immediately paid to transfer to an Asian Pacific server so that Broadboar could raid end game Dungeons with a larger guild. During Broadboar's first day on the new server, he joined the guild “Celeritus,” and within two days he had recruited enough people to run ZG and AQ20. As luck would have it, I was also hired as an English teacher, and after only three days of raiding had a work schedule that conflicted with the raid times of every single guild on the new server. To add insult to injury, something happened with the Internet, and Broadboar could not enter a 40-man Instance without getting disconnected.
Suddenly what seemed to be the perfect opportunity to work, live, and still raid casually became a big tease. There was essentially nothing left for me to accomplish while soloing that I hadn't done in Seattle, and for two months all I could do was research new talent specs and attempt to raid in vain. Broadboar dropped mining and started grinding low-level instances for tailoring so he could at least earn gold selling mooncloth. Every day found me in a mood worse than the day before, and I began getting extremely irritable. Some days the latency on my computer was as bad as 6k,: but Broadboar would still sit in battleground, send his owl ‘Panda' after hordes, and spam frost traps in hopes that anyone attracting him would freeze.
When even the BG's became too laggy to play, the best Broadboar could do was grind for Argent Dawn Rep and try to complete a formidable fire-resistance outfit for when he would eventually be able to raid in Molten Core. The Black Dragonscale set was hard to come by, and soon I was desperate enough to do the most unmentionable thing in the game: buy gold. For 30 bucks, Broadboar had enough gold to purchase the mats for the epic Dragonscale boots. And what did this earn him? Nothing more than an additional 10% (34FR) chance to resist fire-based attacks and lower his dps significantly. It did save him time though, and time was hard to come by with my new job and constantly disconnecting computer.
Broadboar never got a chance to use his new boots, because after only a few weeks of grinding in the plaguelands, he decided to give up. He could not play until I had a more reasonable daily schedule and a DSL Internet connection. I canceled my account with 20 paid days still left, thinking that it was time to get on with life. I left Broadboar somewhere that I knew he could be happy: playing with engineering trinkets and searching for the hidden “limited supply” vendors that had been one of his favorite things to do before lvl60. I left Broadboar in a nice vacation home on the ruined reaches of the Great Sea, where he could live with Blimo and Jubie Gadgetspring, who had invented together a very useful deepdive helmet. There he could rest in peace and hunt mosshoof stags while I got on with my life without Warcraft.
The moment I canceled my account, I was left with a horrible empty feeling. How was I going to numb my brain? What was I going to do with my time? For the next few weeks I tried various obsessions: risk, hearts, sudoku, and the newspaper. Eventually I settled on reading young adult books again. I averaged one per day. Fifty books later, my thoughts and dreams were still with Warcraft.
While I had managed to cut Warcraft out of my life, part of the gaming mindset still lingered. I was desperately trying to find ways to organize my life in the ways I had organized Broadboar's. Gratification and success were not things I could calculate or grind mobs to find, however. Even Chinese, which could easily be related to grinding skill points, seemed entirely impossible to obtain. My attention span and patience had never been worse and nothing seemed to make sense anymore. My life had been so much easier when Broadboar was in it. RL was not as easily arranged as Broadboar's inventory, and if I invested too many talent points into the wrong career, it would cost a lot more than 25 gold to re-spec. Warcraft has a high profile sponsorship presence in Taiwan. Busses covered in giant images of Orc Warriors drove by every few minutes and convenience stores were filled with Warcraft Merchandise. Even my ATM printed ‘in-game contest codes' on each withdrawal receipt.
Soon I was finding solace in Warcraft forums again, reading all the latest patch notes a hundred times. While I wasn't technically playing Warcraft, I was planning out exactly what the best moves for the new expansion were. I spent hours calculating maximum dps talent specs and reading about all the new exploits and glitches. A new talent tree for each class was released and in addition, the pvp system was entirely revamped: Now I could purchase Grand Marshal gear with Cumulative Honor Points rather than grinding my way to the top.
This new system was all too appealing to me. I desperately wanted to try the new 41-point talent tree — suddenly the Grand Marshal hand cannon had gone from an impossible wet dream to completely obtainable. Before I knew it, Broadboar's vacation had ended and we were camping bottlenecks in AV spamming Wyvern sting on any horde trickling through.
But so much had changed. Everyone had at least four or five pieces of marshal gear now, and I seemed to be the only hunter without silencing shot. The friends I'd started with had either dropped off the face of the earth or started playing on a new realm. My guild had kicked me out. Then came the burning crusade. All of a sudden, everything I had worked so hard for was obsolete. The gun I'd spent weeks grinding to obtain was outmatched by greens popping up on AH just two hours after the gates opened. With the level cap raised to lvl70, I knew it would only be a matter of days before I was totally useless in raids and battlegrounds. Broadboar's time had come. I could either buy the expansion or grind in coffee shops for another 10 days of game time — or I could retire Broadboar permanently and get on with my life.
I decided to do it, and soon all of Broadboar's items were being vended, his gold sent off to old guildies, and a nice comfy lvl7 cloth robe and a pair of lvl5 leather sandals purchased for lounging. I decided it was only fitting for Broadboar to retire at the Amberstill Ranch with the family that had sold him his trusty goat. I almost felt sorry for all the other Warcraft toons, being pushed to their limit to reach the ripe old lvl of 70. No, Broadboar wasn't going to do that, he had been through enough. Just 1k short of his first epic rifle, 200 gold short of epic rider training, and only one lousy epic bracer to show for his days downing rag. I don't think he would have been comfortable in the alien world of Outland; the new aesthetics of BC disrupted my fantasy world and there was no room for a character with as much depth as Broadboar there.
I said goodbye to my pets as I released each of them from the stables. I had my girlfriend hold me for support as I took my last few screenshots, logged out, and DELETE'd Broadboar.