On Sunday, Ringo and Beli hit level 100, 10 years to the day after the characters were created on the live Silver Hand US server back in 2004.
We have been playing World of Warcraft since the very first push (humans only, limited to level 10, as I recall) of Friends and Family alpha, back in November 2003. Well, sort of: Beli made a character and ran around, but the night Ringo was sitting down to do so, there was an announcement that the server was coming down, to prepare for the next phase of alpha, the dwarf push.
This was fitting, since his interest in Azeroth stemmed from Warcraft III, specifically the dwarven rifleman. Of course, we then had to wait many long months before the hunter finally debuted during beta. We already knew we liked WoW at that point, having faded away from EverQuest once we started playing.
By the time the game officially launched, we’d played every class and every race that existed up to that point and were excited to make our characters and guild the first day Silver Hand went live, one of the two roleplaying servers that initially launched in the United States. (Argent Dawn and Silver Hand were soon joined by others throughout the day, as Blizzard got walloped by greater-than-expected demand, proving that some things never change.)
By the time the game started, though, this blog was already underway, in the form of fanfic by Ringo, at first posted by Ringo on game forums, and Beli starting a blog for art and her own journal of her character’s adventures. We decided to merge forces, bought the Flinthammer.org domain in the never-realized hope that WoW would get surnames like EverQuest had, and we were off and running.
The first year and change of posts were sort of formless: in-character accounts of what was happening in the game. It wasn’t until the build-up to the opening of the Gates of Ahn’Qiraj that this blog really started to take shape, telling the adventures of World of Warcraft characters experienced alongside those of readers. Then the lead-up to Burning Crusade began, establishing a long tradition of Ringo and Beli being completely in the dark about what’s happening in their world — they don’t have access to MMO Champion, WoW Insider or Twitter, after all.
The blog has chugged along for 10 years, documenting the birth of our son (who has his own account now), and going almost weekly during Wrath of the Lich King. Although I’d thought we’d hit a creative peak previously, during the Isle of Quel’Danas campaign, based on reader feedback over the years, the Fall of the Lich King story line is what most resonates with people.
Ringo likes to thinks he’s a pretty happy-go-lucky guy in real life, but people seem to like his tearjerker stories the most, especially Fathers Day, Letter from the Front and The Bear Necessities, proving that our readers are a bunch of old softies, apparently.
The initial plan wasn’t to turn Ringo’s in-game story into one about what it’s like to be a multiply deployed soldier, but between the nature of World of Warcraft and personal and professional interaction with real-life veterans (including Ringo’s father, the inspiration for Magnus Flinthammer, although he happily returned intact from his real-life deployment), that’s what it’s evolved into, warts and all. We hope that it does real-life veterans justice.
Our posting has slowed down a lot over the years, Beli’s especially. (Beli’s great art, aided by both WoW Model Viewer and her hardcore Photoshop skills, has slowed down even more.) Our son grew older and needed more attention, Cataclysm underwhelmed, Ringo got a better and more demanding job (which isn’t anything to complain about, in this economy) and we had another child, a girl, who’s going to be two years old in the spring.
But Flinthammer Hall is still here, we’re still playing WoW, although Bioware’s siren call will likely peel Beli away from Draenor in the near future, and still having fun. We’re very grateful to all of those who’ve read our stories over the year, including those who’ve reached out to us in-game and said hello — even if you killed us in a battleground first and had to switch to an alt to say hello after, which has happened more than once.
Ringo regularly jokes that he’ll be playing WoW when it’s time to turn the server off once and for all. (Beli would really like to see dwarven children models added to the game before that point, though, Blizzard.) We’ll see you in Azeroth and here at Flinthammer Hall.
FOR KHAZ MODAN!