May 18 2009

[Podcast Review] Coverville

So far I’ve only reviewed WoW related podcasts, so I thought I’d mix it up this week and appeal to the music nerds.

Brian Ibbott is reportedly the “nicest guy in all of podcasting”. While I haven’t had a whole lot of personal dealings with him, I certainly can’t disagree. So far, he’s played my request on the show, written back to me shortly after I sent him an e-mail with my show idea, and is following me on Twitter. That is one nice guy.

Coverville, as you might imagine, is a podcast dedicated to covers of songs. And we’re not talking karaoke at the local bar kinds of covers, these are real, honest-to-goodness reimaginings of the songs. Brian chooses versions that will appeal to a very broad range of listeners, rather than, say, the hardcore metal version of “Over the Rainbow”. For example, I am not the biggest fan of Dolly Parton, but I’ve got to say that the Dolly episode is one of my favorite so far. Her version of Stairway to Heaven is a must listen.

There are several formats for shows. The Cover Story takes one artist and presents covers of their songs and songs that they’ve covered. There are Originalvilles, where Brian plays the original versions of songs whose covers were more popular. Listener request shows. You get the idea. It’s a fantastic mix of songs you know by artists you don’t and songs you’ve never heard of by artists you know. Brian has a huge knowledge base and clearly has a passion for the topic.

The only thing I would change would be to selfishly make the episodes longer. But, realistically, since episodes are released 3 TIMES A WEEK!!!!, that’s more total content than most of my podcasts put out. The length of each show is actually pretty perfect, keeping whatever the topic at hand is from getting dull or over done. I just wish Brian Ibbott could be my personal dj every day. At least I have the archives.

[edit] I forgot to mention the awesome-est part of Coverville. In the show notes, Brian provides links to places where you can buy the songs played during the episode. It’s a fantastic way to find new bands.

May 13 2009

[Webcomic Wednesday] Dungeons and Dragons

Today I’ve decided to do three themed comics, all based around Dungeons and Dragons (or tabletop gaming in general). Enjoy!

Commissioned Comic

Alright, so this comic isn’t exclusively about gaming. O tends to have several story lines going at once, alternating between them as he sees fit. One such story line is “The Adventures of Dwarf & Elf (‘n’ Weretiger)”. It’s the ongoing campaign of three D&D characters and the people who play them.

O has been extremely prolific with this comic. It used to be a daily webcomic and is now a far more reasonable Mon-Wed-Fri posting. In addition to the D&D story line, the other ones are nerd based or centered around the business of trying to make a living as an artist. O has produced so many of these comics that his art style is strong and consistently wonderful.

DM of the Ring

This comic is different in that it has a definite beginning and end. There is talk of a sequel, but as far as I know, nothing has been done to that end yet.

The comic covers the storyline of the Lord of the Rings movies from the perspective of a DM and players playing each of the characters. Instead of original art, it uses screenshots from the movies with speech bubbles. Some of the facial expressions that are captured are just fantastic. A great read.

Order of the Stick

Arguably one of the best stick figure comics, it has become so much more than that. This is another long-running comic that has become very comfortable in its style and, as a result, puts out a really good product. I’ll admit, I haven’t been keeping up with story of late, but from the few recent ones I checked on before this post, it’s still high quality. It also makes a lot of references to the mechanics of playing a table top game rather than just the story of the characters, aiming for its target audience squarely in the middle of the dice-rolling masses.

So, nerd it out with a few great comics. Click sponser links, support awesome people. Go forth!

As a bit of an addition, I’m throwing in Mission Deep by the fantastic Brian Dunaway of ELR and Comics Coast to Coast fame. I’m tacking it on to the end of this post for two reasons. First, while he has promised us that he’ll be updating more regularly, he hasn’t started yet, so there’s not a whole lot there to see for now. Second, he rounds out the cast of ELR and finishes my Podcasters-I-love-who-also-have-web-comics collection.

May 11 2009

[Podcast Review] WoW Insider

Along with WoWhead and WoWWiki, WoW Insider is one of my major sources for Warcraft information. They are a fantastic resource. They have a vast panel of writers, some who cover specific aspects of the game, like events and holidays, and some who specialize in a specific class. They also dedicate a large portion of their coverage to what’s going on with the PTRs. It’s a great place to get a peek at what’s coming up.

The podcast maintains this high quality. They production values are high, with once exception. Listeners can send in intros for the show and the segments. While I appreciate the sentiment, some of them are not of the highest production value… and some are downright awful. I think their screening process might need to be a bit stricter.

But I digress.

Mike Schramm is an excellent moderator. Sometimes perhaps a little too good. Like so many podcasts, WoW Insider occasionally falls prey to its time limit. While I appreciate that a podcast could easily get out of hand and be hours upon hours long, I don’t feel that running a bit long once and a while in favor of lively and spirited on-topic conversation is a bad thing.

Of course, with Terpster it’s easy to get off topic. He is the color commentator to Mike’s play-by-play. Even if the show is on a topic that I care nothing about, Terpster makes the podcast interesting to listen to. There are many guests who appear on the show from time to time; the WoW podcasts really like to visit each other. There is also usually at least one contributor to WoW Insider on the show to offer their opinion. It’s during these shows with several guests that the discussion can become somewhat truncated. However, it’s always lively with multiple viewpoints on each topic. Mike does an excellent job of making sure everyone has their say.

During the “Meat of the Show” they discuss the most read article on WoW Insider. This results in an interesting variety of topics. The public at large does seem to be most intrigued by what is coming up rather than what is happening now, so many of the episodes deal with the goings on of the PTRs. There’s a little part of me that thinks it feels a bit like spoilers, but lord knows I’ll hear about what’s coming down in the new patch somehow or another. At least I know that this particular source is somewhat more reliable than many others.

All in all, a very entertaining and informative podcast. Waiting for the new episode to be posted on iTunes has become an important part of my Monday ritual.

May 6 2009

[Webcomic Wednesday] Penny Arcade, Extra Life, PvP

I’m introducing a new regular contribution this week. In Webcomic Wednesdays, I’m going to intoduce three webcomics that everyone should read.

Since this is the first post like this, I’m going to sent 3 big ones that everyone is probably already reading. And if you’re not, you should be!!

Penny Arcade

Let’s face it, every nerd reads Penny Arcade. Even those who don’t read it can’t deny that it’s a force in Geekdom. (I’ve got my PAX10 tickets already) I don’t know that it’s necessarily my favorite webcomic right now, but it is the comic I’ve been most faithful to. A few years ago, I started at comic #1 and read all the way through. It is an important part of my Monday, Wednesday, and Friday schedule. So that’s got to count for something. And since I am maybe a bit narrow minded in my gaming news, it’s nice to have a source that so suscinctly provides me with everything I need to know.

Extra Life

While I’m a recent newcomer to this, I’ve been back through the archives and am all caught up. I follow Scott on Twitter so that I know the moment a new comic is posted. This comic follows gaming and Geekdom in general. World events. Pretty much anything that pops into Scotts head. It’s impecably drawn and always entertaining.


I’ll admit, I haven’t read this one in a while. When I was first introducted to it, though, I went back to the beginning and read all the way through. It’s great. I do want to get back into it, but I have to figure out where I left off so I can catch back up.

All three of these are well established comics that have been going on for years. It’s pretty fun to go back and watch the evolution of styles.

So, go forth! Elevate the webcomic (and comics in general, for that matter) to the exalted level they deserve. Read them, click their ads, support the hell out of them.

May 5 2009

[WoW] Achievement Pressure

I went to school from the age of 5 to the age of 24. I had high standards for grades. Getting a C in handwriting in second grade is directly responsible for my clear penmanship today. I know the pressure of academics.

And nothing compares to the fact that I’ve only got two holidays left before I get my violet proto-drake.

If I screw it up now, I’ll probably lose my mind. Lord knows I’m not that hardcore of a player. I mean, I’m serious about what I do, I read the blogs, I research things, I’m down with it. But, man, these achievements are killing me. It’s not all of them that I care about, but this looming META-ACHIEVEMENT for all of the holidays.

I love having the achievements for holidays, not just because I enjoy getting the points, but because it gives you a list of activities that you can participate in during those holidays. I mean, I didn’t even know there was a Brewfest boss before the achievements came out. I had no idea how many elders there were… though I learned pretty fast.

I had heart palpitations about the pvp achievements for Children’s Week. I thought sure that was going to be the end of my proto-drake. Granted, they turned out to not be so bad, but still. Damage done. My stomach lining will never forgive me. And now that I’ve only got two holidays left, the pressure is really on.

Brian didn’t get all of his elders, so he’s out of the running til next year. He keeps telling me that Blizzard didn’t really intend for people to do the whole meta in one year.

I beg to differ.

It was a challenge set before us, a challenge so many of us have, for better or worse, willingly accepted and so valiantly fight towards. I have met several fellow achievement-hunters who have been wonderful. We’ve run instances, fought monsters, killed the Alliance. It’s been good. But, man, the pressure is here. I can relax for now. The next holiday isn’t for a little while. But it will come. And I’ll be ready.

It’s on.

May 4 2009

[Podcast Review] How I WoW

How I WoW might be a bit of a misnomer. Their tag line is “@ the intersection of Real Life and World of Warcraft”. This is a more accurate description.

Patrick and Shawn began as (and are still) regular contributors to The Instance. They’ve branched off to make what I find to be a very entertaining, if not entirely WoW-centric, podcast. It’s an interview based format with guests who are WoW players, very often those who are also what I will call “WoW Web Celebs”.

It’s still a young podcast, especially in terms of number of episodes. Their 1 year anniversary show is episode #17. The earlier ones are definately a bit rough. Both Patrick and Shawn are a bit overly concerned reigning the subject back in to WoW and a time limit. Later episodes become a bit looser and, consequently, more enjoyable.

While some of the more hardcore WoW players might argue that most interviews don’t have too much to do with Warcraft, but I find that to be to their credit. It is “How I WoW”. It’s people who game and how it fits into their lives. The longer format allows the guests to really be themselves, which is extremely enlightening.

If you don’t have enough time to listen to anything but the most hardcore podcast, there are still a few episodes that are must listens. Episode 1 has Scott Johnson, who is always fascinating. Turpster is on episode 9, and without Mike Schramm from WoW Insider to reel him in, he really gets to run a bit wild. It’s fantastically funny.

This isn’t to say that the other episodes aren’t worth listening to. They’re all wonderful, and the format just gets better and better as Patrick and Shawn become more comfortable with their positions as hosts. Felicia Day is precious and makes me question things about myself (Sorry, honey) and Curt Shilling’s episode is great for us baseball fans to see this whole other side of him.

I need to mention the two part anniversary show. The first half (Episode 16) has a bunch of the most popular guests from the past years’ podcasts all on together. It is a laugh riot. The second part (#17) is interesting in that the person interviewed does not play WoW. But it’s Jonathan Coulton, so that makes it awesome. It works because so many machinima set to his songs have been made using WoW footage, and he is a huge nerd at heart. If you’re a fan of JoCo, it’s a good listen.

How I WoW is a great listen. Highly recommended for it’s entertainment value.