How I Write Leveling Guides

23 Feb

Part I ~

“Psyn, when are you going to write more leveling guides?”

I’ve heard that question quite a bit lately, along with a few people asking whether or not I’m going to get back to writing leveling guides for WoW, so I figured I might as well answer it on the blog where everyone who didn’t ask could see the answer as well.

I could answer the question in short as, “hopefully soon for SWTOR, and maybe sometime after MoP for WoW,” but to really answer that question I need to explain a little bit about how I go about writing my guides.

When I Have Time to Write
I didn’t want to start with this header because it sounds so much like an excuse. I decided to leave it in and to go ahead and start with it, because even though it is an excuse it really does play a major role in how and when I write guides. If you’ve seen my guides then you know that I don’t write short and sweet little guides. If I’m writing a leveling guide and it’s not in the 5-10k word range then I don’t feel like I’m adequately “guiding” anything. I like to give you the full scoop with as much detail as I can cram in there because I can’t stand looking around for information myself and then finding a guide that has almost no information.

Sometimes I can go for a week or two at work having very little to do, and that gives me extra time to write. When I’m running reports at work or publishing a new version of software and waiting to see how the launch and install processes turn out, then I usually have time to throw together at least a few paragraphs worth of a post.

For the last four or five months I’ve been steadily busy at work which has drastically cut down on my blogging time because not only do I not have that time at work to piece it together, but I also get home and would much rather play the game than have to use my brain to write about it.

Most of my posts go through 15-20 different draft versions just from me piecing them together over a period of time that can be anywhere from a day to four or five weeks. Sometimes that also shows up in the text when you see me repeat myself or when I leave a sentence unfinished, or it looks like I crammed two sentences together with words missing in the middle. (Sorry!) That’s the other drawback to writing large guides like I do, typically it’s so freaking long that going back to edit and proofread is a hassle. If I were doing this professionally, then I’d keep them all as pristine as possible, but that’s not the case.

When I Truly Understand the Class
Sometimes I will put off writing a guide even though I know how to play it just because I don’t fully understand the reasoning behind certain aspects of it. For example, if I know that you should start your rotation with Spell X, but I have no idea why Spell X is actually better than Spell Y, then I’m not comfortable writing about it unless nobody else really knows either. “Cast X before Y. Why? Nobody has a clue, it mysteriously increases your DPS so just trust me on this one.”

This topic includes stats as well. I don’t want to tell you that stacking Crit is a good idea for this spec because I like to crit when the class should actually be stacking Haste because it’s significantly better in the long run. So knowing things like that is something that I like to make sure I have at least a decent grasp on before I feel like I’m qualified to give advice on playing a class. I don’t like to just read someone else’s guide and assume that they’re right either, I have to test it out for myself to know for sure that there’s a difference between one stat and another. I’ve seen too many other people make incorrect suggestions based purely on what someone else told them rather than actual testing for me to just take their word for it.

Knowing That It Doesn’t Suck in PvP
There are a lot of things that you can get away with while leveling in PvE, even if it’s completely wrong for your spec (like my brother-in-law who liked to dual wield on his Arms Warriors). But PvP is a higher testing ground.

If I see that I am consistently failing with a spec in PvP then I know that either it sucks or I do. That tells me that there’s no way I am going to blog about that spec unless I can find a way to fix it. If I never find a way to make it work in PvP then I’ll simply accept I’m not qualified to blog about it.

Some of you might look at this and say, “well, I don’t care about PvP, I just want to have fun!” While I totally agree with you on the importance of fun, I can’t bring myself to suggest a certain spec for people if I know or suspect that it’s going to fail for them in the long run. Since most players do plan on spending time doing end game content whether that be dungeons or raiding, I want to make sure that whatever spec I’m blogging about is at least somewhat viable, and PvE leveling content tends to be the worst method of judging viability because it’s designed to be “easy”.

Summary: When I Feel Qualified
I guess you could really take everything I just said and summarize it all into this: If I haven’t leveled it myself, if I don’t know what I’m talking about, or if I haven’t experienced it for myself then I’m not going to write about it.

If I’ve leveled a Jedi Knight to level 20, then sure I’ll write a 1-20 guide. But if I haven’t seen 21-50? Nope, not gonna write that one until I’ve been there and done that.

I do a fair amount of research when I’m leveling my characters. I see what other people are doing on forums, YouTube, livestreaming, blogs, podcasts and so on because I don’t want to fail at my own leveling and I also like to see what kind of information someone else might have that I’ve missed out on. I do plenty of my own trial and error with oddball specs or things I haven’t seen/read about before because I like to try new things and experiment on my own, but in order for me to feel qualified in writing a guide I need to feel like I have the knowledge necessary to succeed with the class/spec myself before I bother telling other people about it.

This is the biggest hurdle for the SWTOR guides right now because the game is still fairly new, I’m still hopelessly altoholic, and I’ve got friends that I want to play with spread across five different servers that I’m often bouncing between. Of the eight classes, I’ve only got three of them over level 20 and my two highest level characters are the same class and spec, going down different Light/Dark paths because all of a sudden I care about story.

Guides Are On the Way
SWTOR guides are definitely on their way, I just need to get a little bit more comfortable with my knowledge of some of the classes before I’m going to feel qualified to write about them.

As of right now, the following guides are in the works:
– Sage/Sorcerer DPS 21-40
– Sentinel/Marauder DPS 1-20
– Commando/Mercenary DPS 1-20
– Commando/Mercenary Healing 1-20
– Scoundrel/Operative DPS 1-20

Right now I have just under 20 alts that I’m leveling in SWTOR, so things have been slow moving as I’ve bounced around playing them all. I like to write my guides in 20 level increments, so as I get a class up to 20 and beyond I’ll start writing about them.

The following guides are likely to follow in the near future as I’m currently leveling them:
– Sage/Sorcerer Healing 1-20
– Guardian/Juggernaut Tanking 1-20
– Shadow/Assassin DPS 1-20
– Scoundrel/Operative Healing 1-20
– Vanguard/Powertech Tanking 1-20

I’ve found that I actually enjoy the Jedi Knight a lot more than I thought I would, and more now than I did when I initially rolled Knight/Warrior. It’s amazing how much my character’s choices in game can impact how much I like or dislike the class as a whole while I’m playing. I think I’ve finally found the way that I prefer to play my characters though, which has changed how I look at a lot of things that initially turned me off.

The one guide you’re not likely to see for a good long while, at least not without a guest poster, is Gunslinger/Sniper DPS. I just can’t get behind the whole cover mechanic. Maybe it’s just my time spent in PvP that makes me cringe at the idea of rooting myself in place and being forced to do so to maximize my performance, but I just don’t like it.

As far as WoW is concerned, whether or not I return to writing leveling guides is going to be entirely dependent on how much fun I have with Mists of Pandaria once it’s released. If it’s fun enough that I get sucked back into the game, then I’ll definitely be writing guides as I level up all new toons (because I can tell you there’s going to be one heck of a mass deletion when I return). If it fails to catch my interest, then my time with WoW will likely be at its ultimate end.

Still Looking for a Definitive Imperial Home
We’ve found three different servers that we enjoy playing on for our Empire alts so far, but we’re still looking for the one server that we’re going to call “home”. My wife and I are both altoholics and we enjoy being able to spend time on different servers with our friends, but we like a stable and healthy place to settle in and direct our own friends to come join us.

What we’re looking for in an Imperial home is an active alt-friendly guild, on a non-PvP server, that has at least 10 active members on during evening (US) hours during the work week. We don’t care about raiding, we’re just looking for a place to hang out, have fun, and chat with guildies.

If you’re in a guild that fits that criteria, drop me a line here or send me a message via twitter, email, etc and we’ll be happy to come over and check our your server/guild to see if it’s a nice fit.


Posted by on February 23, 2012 in Blog, SWTOR, World of Warcraft


5 responses to “How I Write Leveling Guides

  1. ghostdawg

    February 23, 2012 at 9:43 AM

    I’ve always loved your guides, and have known how much care and attention you put into them. They are appreciated.

    Wish I could convince you to spend more time with us on the Imp side, however as you know, we’ve rarely got more than a couple people logged in (as of late, myself and Eleana).

    Hope you and Jen find a good home for your dark side toons.

    • Psynister

      February 27, 2012 at 5:21 PM

      Thank you, Roger. I know a lot of people appreciate them, and I really appreciate all those who take the time to read anything I post here.

      I’ve logged in on EH a few times over the last week or so, and I’ve seen only 1-2 people on and they didn’t seem to feel much like chatting. =\


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