Then in late August, long-time shadow priest Veiled stepped through the shadows, purchased the site, and transferred the community to a new and growing home at HowToPriest.com. "I can promise you that H2P won't be sold to the highest bidder," she wrote in an impassioned message to former community members. "I won't litter it top to bottom in ads. I will do everything in my power, even if it means spending my own money, to keep H2P alive, thriving, and happy for as long as I possibly can."
Dispersing the cold hand of commercialism, Shadowpriest.com lives on in spirit via HowToPriest.com, where Veiled and a collective of priest fans labor to provide a resource and community center for not only regathering shadow priests but priests of all specs.
WoW Insider: What an unexpected return for this community resource! Can you give us a look behind the scenes, Veiled, and explain how the changes came about? How did you make this happen?
Veiled: Originally, the site was created by Nikitabanana back in 2006. Back then, it was ad-free and it was just a wonderful and thriving community. Here's the history as I know it: Nikitabanana eventually switched to holy paladin and sold the site (in 2007) to Bryghtpath. The company was passionate about the game and actually played a shadow priest, so it wasn't too bad. They had made promises of how things would be run (such as no ads or any monetization goals). Those promises were eventually broken as the site became more popular and more expensive to keep online.
None of that ever happened. ZizZero turned the site into a "money maker." It was plastered with skyscraper, banner, and the all-intrusive pop-up ads. It would take several days to get in touch with someone who could log into the admin account if there ended up being a problem. The site would be down for days at a time with no explanation.
The community, in my opinion, did great toward the end of The Burning Crusade and through most of Wrath of the Lich King. It was the gap between the end of Wrath and the beginning of Cataclysm that I feel like Shadowpriest.com took the biggest hit. The amount of people who decided to quit the game or reroll coupled with the state of the site was just a bad combination. Through Cataclysm, it just ended up deteriorating completely and many people either migrated over to HowToPriest.com or used both of the sites out of loyalty.
Wait -- HowToPriest?
There was a thread on MMO-Champion that ended up giving me the idea for H2P. This was around the time that Shadowpriest.com was down constantly, there was malware from the site ads, [and] people were just really unhappy with everything. I think this thread was the final straw, in my mind.
I won't lie to you: I was terrified to take this on. I went back and forth with it for nearly two weeks. Then on February 6th, 2011, I finally did it. I thought that everyone might think it was a joke or that it might not be successful. It was so surprising and really overwhelming how quickly people embraced this new site. That response just fueled me to make it better, to do more, to make the site easier to use.
H2P now gets over 60,000 unique visitors per month, nearly six times of its first several months traffic.
Realm Baelgun (US-Horde)
So when did you take on Shadowpriest.com?
Last summer, I contacted ZizZero about purchasing [Shadowpriest.com] and their asking price was the same as they'd paid for it (and just something that I couldn't do). I knew that eventually they would hit rock bottom by losing many of their users and I'd be able to buy the site for cheaper, which is exactly what happened.
Shadowpriest.com deserved better than what ZizZero did to it and I thought it was fair and appropriate to finally put the site to rest. The community that we built at H2P has Shadowpriest.com as its foundation.
So the downfall of Shadowpriest.com was what -- the cold hand of commercialism?
Yes, it really was. There was this thriving, beautiful community that was literally unlike any other class community in the game. Then here comes a decent-sized company that buys it up and tries to turn it into the next MMO-Champion for priests. Monetizing a class-specific site in that way just isn't smart because you're appealing to such a smaller audience. It's even more penalizing if you are a company that knows nothing about the game. I honestly don't know what they were thinking.
And then along comes HowToPriest into the gap. But how does H2P fit in? Isn't this site for all priest specs?
It is. I do admit that our holy and discipline forums were lacking during Cataclysm, but we now have some amazing people on board that really know what they are doing. Ashleycakez is a fantastic young woman that has a very strong community presence both on H2P and on the official forums, as well. She really knows what she's doing and she's been just amazing. Then you have Derevka, who has the most trusted healing priest blog on the internet, TalesofaPriest.com. This guy is a theorycrafting beast! He really knows the ins and outs of priest theorycrafting and has already published two lengthy guides for Mists of Pandaria (one for holy and disc).
For shadow, we have multitudes of theorycrafters and heavy-hitting PVEers from top-end guilds such as Method, Blood Legion, vodka, and so on. This place really is a melting pot for the priest class. At the end of the day, we all just want to provide the best information for players that may not have the time or skill to do this. We want everyone to feel welcome, no matter their level of play.
Nikitabanana gave me some good advice when I purchased Shadowpriest.com: "Don't ever sell your site. Don't try to monetize it. Ask for donations instead and just keep it running." So that's what I will do. Currently we have one tiny text ad at the bottom of the site and one skyscraper ad on the right side. I will likely never add more, but I can guarantee that H2P will never be covered in ads the way Shadowpriest.com was. I will always accept donations, which will primarily fund the site and all those expenses that go along with it.
So what are the other hallmarks of a community centerpiece? What takes a site from being just another resource site to the place players turn not only for information but advice, inspiration, and solidarity?
I think that the early stages of a site like H2P are the most important. I made sure to get people on board who I knew could help build the site's foundation. Twintop has been a huge part of the site. He's pushed out best-in-slot lists since the site's early days that have become a widely loved resource. Valiane (of Method-EU) and Drye (of WHATEVER WERE AWESOME-US) have also been moderators since the site's early days. We also have Kilee, who had a fantastic shadow guide up on Shadowpriest.com. He helped bridge the path between the two sites in a massive way by cross-posting his guide and using H2P as references for questions people would ask.
Having so many of these amazing people as moderators has given this site everything it needs to be a true and trusted resource. I believe that once people see the amount of work that my moderators and senior members put in, that they want to contribute in the best way that they can.
Even more importantly, you get to know many of these people on a personal level. A good example being Kilee just had a baby not long ago, Derevka's seven-year anniversary was yesterday, and today is Twintop's wedding day! You want to see pictures of their brand new baby or the new house they bought. You want to congratulate them for graduating college or getting that big job they were hoping for. You really start to care about these people that you've never met. It makes me a little misty-eyed just typing about it because it's so true! It's just amazing how close you can become with people who live all over the world that you would've never known if they didn't pick priest on the character selection screen!
Labor of love is an understatement. I can say that I've already put in several thousand dollars of my own money with no expectations of ever seeing it again. This community is my passion and likewise for many of the users.
A large majority of the site's regular users have no idea the amount of time that is put into the site by the whole team. A great example of that would be Twintop's BiS lists; he put in at least six hours a night for three to four weeks just to generate the shadow priest stat weights!
There's no pay for myself or anyone else on the team. I would love to be in a place where I could buy them a pet, mount, or even give them game time. We've only recently reached the point where we can do pet giveaways, thanks to some leftover ad money. Many of us do this while still working hard on progression. Moderators and senior members like Valiane who are racing to world first somehow will still manage to have time for the site. We are all very dedicated!
That's right -- on top of all this website business, you're a pretty involved raider too, isn't that right?
I am. I've been a very involved raider since The Burning Crusade. I feel that I have an aggressive playstyle. I take raiding very seriously, and I will be upset if the other 24 people on my raid team aren't doing their best. I'm very involved with my guild, Bless the Martyr, and do quite a bit to help out where it's needed which includes running the guild site, as well!
In game, raiding is my priority and I do my best to min-max my character. I enjoy farming achievements, mounts, and pets, too! I recently just did most of the fishing achievements, Reins of Raven Lord, and Fiery Warhorse's Reins! I've been pretty lucky lately. I've also discovered that while PvP isn't my favorite thing on the planet, I really enjoy rated battlegrounds. I'm really hoping to do more of those with my guild in Mists.
You're definitely neck-deep! So let's talk a little shop for shadow priests. What would you say is the overall temperature of the shadow priest community toward what's ahead for the class in Mists of Pandaria?
Eh. I had to make a special forum where priests could complain without hindering the site, if that's any indication of the community's feelings. Since we've had a few buffs, things have obviously calmed down a bit, but I feel that Blizzard will need to give us a bit of a buff when MoP hits.
Currently shadow is simming very low, around 112k (barely above destro warlock), while an affliction warlock or any spec mage is 125k to130k. Personally, and I've always said this, I know that Blizzard will eventually put us in a place where most people will be comfortable. They've done some crazy things with us in beta but they are going in the right direction with the class. This is probably a rare thing to read, but I trust the developers to not screw us over. "The sky isn't falling" became a popular and widely used phrase in the shadow priest community.
I'm looking forward to shadow play, even if it's not as high DPS as other classes. We may be slightly under everyone else, but raiders with high awareness and survivability will still be valued in raids. Bring the player, not the class, right? That's the wave I'll ride until we see true MoP raid performance. I'm thankful that my GM is also a shadow priest!
Something tells me you're the kind of person they were talking about when they coined the saying "If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it." What's on your plate AFK from WoW?
I have a pretty calm life! I'm a North Carolina girl living in New Mexico, thanks to a wonderful Air Force guy who is deploying soon. Weekends could be filled with a variety of things: camping, fishing, bonfires, parties, poker nights, movie nights. Another passion of mine is photography, which you can see at SusanCore.com, though I'm not that good! I am also a huge fan of quite a few TV shows! I enjoy The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Dexter, Boardwalk Empire, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, Homeland, Grimm, Glee, Falling Skies, The Newsroom -- wow, I'm a nerd, haha!
If you don't mind, I'd like to publically thank the following people for all their dedication and patience, and for their help shaping H2P: my moderators, Twintop, Drye, Kilee, Blackmorgrim, Ashleycakez, Derevka, Valiane; other members and outside support, [including] Althor, worldboss, Woaden, Arlee, Rubine, Ruhnaycake, Kelesti from MMO-Champion and the priest forums there; Blood Legion (Affinity, Optee, Nadrii, Maladii, Ararat, and Riggnaros), vodka (Kevin *RIP*, Koilie, Killars); and last but not least, Zarhym and the other amazing Blizzard community managers. Thank you all for everything you've done.
"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with Game of Thrones' Hodor (Kristian Nairn) ... a blind ex-serviceman and the guildmates who keep him raiding as a regular ... and a 70-year-old grandma who tops her raid's DPS charts as its legendary-wielding GM. Send your nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org.