I really can't think of a more enjoyable way to game than in the same room as your friends. Even back in the EverQuest era, when my husband's Monk and my own Magician actively avoided one another outside of raids (incompatible characters, incompatible playstyles – we couldn't have been a worse mix), we got plenty of kicks and giggles from keeping an eye on one another's screens. These days, raid nights at our house mean not two but four players (three in my office, one upstairs – more, if friends with laptops are here). AFK breaks spawn a queue at the fridge that inevitably coalesces into a rowdy debate over the evening's tactics and drops.
So when I spotted these kindred spirits in a news tip from Khaz Modan-US, I knew I'd found a group of players who could show WoW.com readers the glories of playing in the same room. "We're a group of eight friends in real life that get together once a week for what we call 'Craft Dinner,' which involves lugging all our gear to one of our houses, sharing a meal together, then hitting up a 10-man raid (we PuG the last two to three spots, generally)," wrote Stumpsky. "Last night, we just cleared 10-man Naxx for the first time -- which was a big accomplishment, as we just started to raid as a full group at the beginning of May. We don't use Vent, because we're all in the same room, and we all find it the most enjoyable way to play the game we love."
Main character Stumpsky
Server Khaz Modan-US
Gaming background I started playing WoW just prior to its initial release back in November 2004, when they opened the beta up to the public a couple weeks before WoW was officially released. Back then, I was a Dwarf Priest that leveled Holy (due to my ignorance of the Shadow tree) until I was level 50. I'd like to think I have a better understanding of the game now. I've always been a bit of a console gamer, milking the N64 for all its worth, along with dabbling with the PS2. As far as PC goes, Starcraft was the main culprit, along with Warcraft III. WoW was my first MMORPG.
15 Minutes of Fame: Before we dive into dinnertime, Stumpsky, can you untangle the roots of your gaming group for us? How do you all know one another?
Stumpsky: Soon after I started playing, I got my brother to start playing. After leveling our Alliance characters to 60, my brother got two of his real life friends to play, and we rerolled Horde characters in the winter of 2006. After getting all of our characters to about level 45, we lost interest, and we all stopped playing for about a year.
Then in spring 2008, we talked about how sweet it would be to start a weekly night in the summer where as a group, we casually would level our characters through Outland, doing the level appropriate dungeons each week. So the four of us made a push to get our characters to 60. But it's no fun to have to have a random fill the last spot of the group, so we looked for a fifth person to join us. It just so happened that we found out that a new friend that we met about a month before used to play, and he was all for starting up a character on our server. By the time summer rolled around, we had a solid group of five level 60s ready to take on Outland.
How did dinner work its way into the weekend gathering?
Back when we were discussing having a weekly play night, we all agreed that to be at the same location would greatly increase the fun and the experience of play. Since we're all guys who enjoy to eat, it seemed natural to combine dinner with the evening before we started purging Outland.
We've always affectionately called WoW "The Craft," and since there was now a dinner aspect, we thought it funny and suiting to call the evening "Craft Dinner" -- but thankfully, the original Kraft Dinner has yet to make an appearance.
Do you cook or order in? And who gets stuck with cleanup?
Our meals are generally fairly simple to make, but that doesn't necessarily mean simple in taste. Depending on the mood (and weather, for that matter), the meals range from fresh vegetables with olive oil, salt and pepper on the BBQ with a cut of meat and a fresh salad, to deluxe steak burritos with black beans, avocado and a variety of other fixings.
Last summer, all the dinners were at my brother's house, and due that both of us find cooking relaxing and enjoyable, we did the brunt of the cooking. At the end of the meal, generally the people who didn't cook clean up, though the dishwasher usually makes short work of the cleanup.
Who's the host of this whole host?
Last summer, pretty much all the Craft Dinners were held at my brother's, mostly due to it's being a central point for everyone as well as having the space for us to set up our gear. This summer, however, we've been playing at Grumuuk our Shaman's house, due to him and his wife having a baby boy about three months ago. This allows him to take breaks during the night to give his wife a break (as well as it gives his wife the opportunity to enjoy the laughable fact that seven grown men are playing computer games in her living room). Due to this location change and being a new parent, the dinners themselves have been on a bit of a hold so far this summer, as to not overwhelm Grumuuk and his wife.
How do you handle all the hardware? That's a lot of equipment and bandwidth for one room!
Right now, we have two people with laptops and four people who have desktops. Our Mage has a laptop, but due to his moving fairly far away this past year, he remotes in to join us. Two of the desktops have wireless, and two are connected directly via ethernet. We haven't had any problems with the connection so far, and we've had success with the lag-sensitive fights such as Heigan and Thaddius, so overall it's been great. We'll see how it holds up when we add two more to our ranks in a couple of weeks.
We suspect a room with this many computers and this many WoW players must heat up and develop its own, shall we say, particular fragrance. Discuss. ;)
By the end of the night, it definitely gets quite hot. We liken it to a sauna -- as does Grum's wife. We'll see how this goes as the summer gets hotter and our bodies rebel.
How would you compare the chatter level to what's typical on Vent?
I would say it's generally more talkative and I'd say less interruptive, as face-to-face communication often offers better cues than Vent can. Conversation often stretches from the boss strategy we're trying to master (including making fun of the bosses' mothers) to work or life in general. Since we all know each other (and some of us even work together), it provides a very comfortable, friendly atmosphere.
After moving from doing Outland dungeons last summer with five of us to 10-man raids this summer with seven (soon to be nine) of us, I can see why Vent is so important for those gamers who aren't able to play with their guild all in the same room. In general, there's one or two of us that brief and/or remind everyone of specific mechanics for each fight.
Due to the last spots in the raid being filled by random players, the conversation around the table can get fairly heated, particularly when the random Paladin we picked up is trying to kill zombies on Gluth instead of letting our Mage kite them. Overall, the game-specific communication is still fairly light and sprinkled with general conversation.
Do certain players prefer to sit together – for example, tanks and healers?
For the past couple of weeks our healers have sat beside each other, which has been very helpful, as one of our healers is fairly new to raid healing, so watching an experienced healer is a great tool. Tanks generally don't sit beside each other but are usually talking back and forth for coordination. It's fun for me as a healer to sit beside a DPS, just so I can get another flare of the game by just averting my eyes to their screen for a second, then quickly pop a heal before letting my eyes wander again.
What's been the most enjoyable aspect of your gatherings?
I'd say the most enjoyable part of Craft Dinner is that we have a tight-knit group of skilled, very casual players that are accomplishing 10-man raid content with great success. Even though we raid once a week (alternating Wednesdays and Mondays, as to be able to play twice on the same reset), we've even been able to clear Naxx, killing Kel'Thazud for the first time last week. Having 70% of the raid group as the guild also generally ensures that most of the loot that is dropped goes to someone who's around the table, which is always great to see.
What about those last few spots in the raid?
Everyone in the guild is part of the RL crew, although they may not always be present physically at Craft Dinner. Currently we have a Warlock friend leveling towards 80, as well as another friend (an 80 Mage) who is currently tree-planting in Northern Canada who will join us in about a week or so, bringing our total number up to nine. Ideally, it would be great to have 10, but we're all right with asking one or two of our online friends if they're interested in filling the last spot. We're not recruiting.
"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- neither did we, until we talked with these players. From an Oscar-winning 3-D effects director to a custom action figure artist, catch it on 15 Minutes of Fame.