Thoughts on Guides for the Quick and Dirty Audience

A few month’s ago I wrote about the two major audiences I see reading WoW guides. To quote myself:

Guides generally have two different audiences: “I want to jump in and play” and “I want to understand”. The vast majority of a guide’s readers will be in the former group, what I’ll call the quick’n’dirty players. They can range from new players who want to tank a 5 man with a freshly boosted monk, to experienced players who want to try a new class, to casual players who want to spend their precious few hours of free time playing a game instead of reading about it. They are interested in getting an introduction that is easy to digest and follow. Cookie cutter builds are targeted to this type of reader, and they often get frustrated when the answer to their customization questions is presented as subjective. They build the body of a readership and are really important for establishing an audience.

The latter group, the “I want to understand” people, or what I’ll call the comprehensive players, are more interested in why these choices were suggested and how to master the spec they are already familiar with. These are a smaller group that usually starts out as the quick’n’dirty type, but eventually want to know more. They may want help solving a particular problem, or they want to customize their character to their liking, or they simply want to be better at the game. They want explanations for everything, beyond the “do this”. Cookie cutter builds can actually harm this group because cookie cutter builds don’t offer nuance. A talent row that is actually competitive might come across as inflexible because the majority of cookie cutter builds suggest a single talent. Brewmaster healing talents and resource talents often hit this wall, because each row has a popular choice (Chi Wave and Ascension, currently), but there are good reasons to change that choice when need arises.

Today I want to talk about that quick’n’dirty audience, and how to better meet their needs. Right now my Brewmaster guide is sort of in the middle of catering to quick’n’dirty players and comprehensive players, which disrupts its ability to serve either group particularly well. To focus on the larger group, I want to find out what the majority of my guide readers look at, and use that information to craft a better experience.

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On Talent Restrictions, Social Friction, and Cookie Cutter Builds

Blizz, I need your help.

A few months ago there was a little movement among guide writers (you can see my contribution here) on how to discourage cookie cutter talent builds and advocate for individual experimentation. For one, swapping talents is just fun — you feel smart when you pick the right one, and it’s more rewarding when there’s an interesting choice and opportunity cost with that talent tier. Two, players will probably do better when they are encouraged to find talents that work for them and their current struggles, as opposed to the general “best in slot” talent. I mean, Blizzard knows all these things. Some devs even retweeted my arguments. But that all lies in contrast to the significant barriers that will be placed on talent swapping come Legion:

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Guide Writing and Cookie Cutter Builds

Yesterday there was an excellent post on Blizzard Watch written by Zoopercat, one of the creators of Ask Mr. Robot. In it, she shows through data (sims and surveys) that the community’s perception of a talent (or any other character combat customization) effects usage far more than the actual value of the talent would imply. The suggestions from cookie cutter builds, such as those found in guides, tend to present choices as black and white, and discourage customization, even when case-by-case choices are nearly equal or even more optimal. I highly recommend reading it.

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Best Hairstyles (and therefore, races)

The best races also have the best hair. It’s no coincidence — you never really see your character’s face in action, but you’ll see her pigtails swinging wildly every time you hit a thing. So here are the best ones.

The best hairs:

  • Flow in the wind and with jumping.
  • If they don’t bounce, then they should at least look flowy.
  • Bangs are really important because foreheads are intimidating.
  • No uncomfortable-looking parts.
  • No frumpy pony tails (they just make your neck hot).
  • No random pieces that shoot off in weird positions.
  • Curls are a big plus.
  • Pigtails — depends on the race. They just work better on round faces.
  • The physics of the hair have to mostly make sense.
  • I don’t want to see the back of some races’ necks (why are pandaren necks so wierd?).
  • Variety. I want to be able to swap between many hairdos with each race.


I don’t normally go with humans, but they do have a wide variety of good hairs.

A classic. Sideswept bangs, practical length. If only ever race could have this basic look.

Basic ponytail with sideswept bangs. For the active and stylish ladies.

Overlong bangs, but the curls are lovely.


Dwarves have the advantage of braids to add lots of movement. Sadly, most of the braided hairstyles have ugly bangs.

A round face to pull of short pigtails. This is acceptable. The bangs don’t hurt.

Cropped hair with lots of little braids throughout. This is my favorite dwarf style because it’s spunky but with just a little bit of dwarven complexity.

A classic bun. It feels like there’s a lot of thick red hair under control.


Gnomes have one very cute hairstyle: the pigtails. But everyone has them, so you’ll have to look somewhere else if you want to break the mold.

Of course, can’t go without mentioning the classic. Lots of movement, nice bangs, strong silhouette.

A bit of a break from my mold, since this style doesn’t have sideswept bangs and long hair. But it makes up for that with some attitude!

Here’s a relaxed ponytail, which I typically don’t like but as gnomes don’t have many options, it’s the best we’ll get.

Night Elf

Night elves get to use some of the sportiest hairs, plus some awesome colors.

What a nice headband! The World of Warcraft needs more hair accessories.

A cute little pixie cut. Not bounce here, but she makes it look cute.

My favorite night elf haircut, just because of the cute little tail in the back. I wear my hair like this quite often (but with bangs).


Worgen hair often looks the same at first glance, but there are many little details, like curls and braids, that really make each hairstyle stand out. They also benefit from having a mane, which means that hats will never turn the bulk of their hair off. Too bad all the color choices are boring.

Little pinned clumps and one of the few worgen styles with bangs. For the rugged worgen.

A tight little braid at the side plus some classy waves.

I like the bump at the top, provides some nice volume (not that worgens really lack for volume). Plus she has some cute little knots at the side.

This picture doesn’t do it justice, but this style is great because it has a thick braid down the back.


Draenei have some cool styles that work around their horns. I can’t wait to see the upped resolution versions. (Their models are currently a little broken on beta.)

These are the best bangs, and the whole style incorporates the horns such that no race could borrow this hair do. It looks simple and athletic.

This pony tail is great. Nice bangs, high tail.

Bangs so full that they cover half the face. Elegant.

My favorite style ever. Curls and a headband that almost looks like a tiara.


As mentioned above, pandaren necks look strange for some reason. That’s unfortunate, given that pandaren have access to some otherwise excellent ponytails. They also only have direct control over the colorful accents, not the bulk of the hair.

She’s got some nice volume in the back, plus accessories (chopsticks?)!

My favorite pandaren style because it’s got everything: cool bangs, a pony tail for movement without baring the neck, braids, and accessories!

These are the best pigtails for pandaren because the hair color is nicely distributed.

Blood Elf

Blood elves have a ridiculous number of pretty hair styles. Many races borrowed these hairstyles, they’re just that good.

Ah, the “Rachel”. A classic hairstyle that looks good on any face.

The humans have this style too, but I think blood elves take it to an entirely different level.

I really like this style’s bangs and headband.

The classic ponytail, borrowed by the draenei.

Standard sideswept bangs with loose hair.


Despite being a small race, usually relegated to one or two pigtail variations and that’s it, goblins actually lucked out with a multitude of complete looks.

Little curly cue.

Everyone needs more fauxhawks.

Just so many sideswept bangs. I can’t even.

Skull accessory!

Great way to break up a bare forehead — with some loose wisps of hair.

Not only are the bangs amazing, but the pigtails are giant ringlets.

I wish these bangs would show up more often in such a cute way.

Triple pigtails amg.


Trolls haven’t had their makeover yet, so I’m mostly assuming these styles will become more awesome at that point.

There’s just so much going on in this ‘do, a mohawk, braids. So much hair.

I don’t think this style looks great now, but I’ll give it points because I think it will look great with a few more polygons.

Sometimes it’s nice to have a style that doesn’t shave anything off.


Poor tauren. They only have four styles total, so out of kindness I featured three.

The classic main. I like this one because it makes the most sense (where do they get all that hair for pig tails longer than the rest of the mane?).

This is the ‘cute’ style for tauren. Two pigtails aren’t good enough, why not four!


Undead really have no good choices right now, though that might get changed when the updated models are in the beta. But they’re always gross so good luck with that.

Really this hair is okay because it just goes everywhere.

I dunno, this is probably the style she died in.


Just that little spot on her head grows that much hair.

Not exactly sure how to describe this, but


  1. Goblins. Not only do they have great accessories, lots of bangs, and fantastic colors, they have the biggest assortment of great combinations. Too bad goblins can’t be monks. :(
  2. Draenei. While many draenei ‘dos miss the mark, there are still quite a few varied choices. And really, they have my favorite curly style so that’s important.
  3. Blood Elves / Humans. They’re not my favorite races, but I have to give credit where credit is due — they got some great hairdos. (Lumped together because they have a very similar set.)
  4. Pandaren. The ursine race loses some points for base hair color, but they win some back from the multitude of styles with movement.
  5. Night elves. Not quite so many cool options as the others, but they have some great hairstyles for the monk in action. They have some of the best colors, too.