Welcome to the first in a series on WoW topic podcast reviews. I listen to a lot of these as I often have to take long trips in the car and it beats listening to the soulful crap tones of Italian radio. There are many WoW podcasts out there and I’ve listened to most of them. So this is your chance to benefit from my experience.

I’m going to begin with the WoW Insider Show. With the resources behind it, it should be one of the best podcasts out there. The sad fact is that it’s not. It’s been getting worse for some time now and I can lay most of the blame for the lameness of this podcast squarely at the feet of one person. The host, Mike Schramm. To put it simply, as a host, Mike sucks big hairy donkey balls. He couldn’t organise a piss-up at a brewery, and yet here we have him attempting to organise a podcast with often three or four guests. It’s difficult to record a podcast because you cannot see the people that you are speaking with. WoW raiders would have experience of this. Have a 10-way conversation on Vent and see how you go. It’s hard, because you never know who is about to speak. If you just leave it up to random chance and get everyone to chat then it not only doesn’t work, it’s a disaster. What it needs is one person to direct the conversation and steer it to each person at a time in a smooth and clear manner.

Something which Mike just isn’t able to do. It doesn’t help that Mike seems to be in love with the sound of his own voice. Which means that often, the only time a guest on the show gets to speak is when they interrupt Mike. Guests quickly learn this, so what you end up having is four people trying to interrupt each other. It doesn’t work, it’s a mess, and often painful and frustrating to listen to. Mike also has a unique way of asking a question. He will ask somebody a question, and then keep on talking, often for a minute or more. So that in the end the original question has often been forgotten, which makes me want to pull my hair out at times if it was something which I really wanted to hear an opinion on. I was going to actually type out one of his monologues, but this post would turn into a book.

Another example of Mike’s inability to handle his show is what he does when he finally reaches the end of one of his epic monologues and hands the reins over to his guests. He won’t specifically nominate someone and ask their opinion. He will simply end his speech by saying, “And what do you guys think?” There will inevitably be a four second silence while three people sitting in front of a computer on skype on different parts of the globe try and work out if they are the one who is supposed to speak, and then they will all begin talking at once. On one occasion, Mike actually berated them for all speaking at the same time. That left me with my mouth hanging open.

Just re-listening to some of the episodes while writing this I came upon a situation where someone made the mistake of asking Mike about his paladin. The ensuring diatribe lasted over five minutes while he went through every ability and situation possible about this toon. At the end he thanked them for asking him about his paladin. Turpster, his sidekick immediately responded, “I wish we didn’t.”

Turpster is an English player whose shtick is being bitingly sarcastic in an over-played English accent. This is funny the first time. It is only funny the twentieth time if you are a 15 year old male who still reads MAD comics. So our two hosts consist of a guy who speaks in boring monologues and won’t shut up and a sarcastic dude who likes making fun of everyone and anything. The WoW podcast Odd Couple? It would be, if it worked. It doesn’t, it’s frustrating and painful.

But the most painful thing?

A podcast consists of two aspects – its hosts and the quality of its information. Considering that this is the WoWinsider podcast you would assume that the info coming out would be awesome. It’s not that there isn’t good information, there is. Sometimes. Maybe. Right now while I’m listening to the latest episode, Turpster is talking about his socks. Brilliant. Just what I was hoping for when I tuned in after taking the time to download it. In fact, I’m going to list now the things that they talk about in the latest episode from this point on. Lets check it out!

1. Talk about their video show that will be coming up in the future. This goes on for a bit.
2. Mike reads some fan emails. Lets sub-list this;

2.1: The first email asks that Turpster talks more as the writer is trying to learn an English accent for a school play. The four of them then put on ‘funny’ accents for five minutes whilst Lesley Smith does her best to laugh like a horse.

2.2: The next email is read out. It’s not clear what this email is about. Something about wolves, and The Fonz, and then the guy writes that he feels like an idiot for something. I feel like an idiot listening to this episode again to be honest.

2.3: Email about who gets the legendary mace in Ulduar. This could be an interesting discussion from four people who write for WoWInsider. Oh, but it’s not. It starts off well when the first guest flat-out says that she will be taking it in her guild. Brilliant. Then they suggest rogues, cause that’s “funny”. Then they decide that they best way to give it out is to play Peggle for it. Outstanding information from the Insider team on a subject that is already quite serious in my own guild. Oh, then they go on about using peggle for all loot division. Lesley does some more Horse-laughing. Now a Peggle challenge after the show between Mike and Turpster. This is really going on for a long time now. They all think that they’re incredibly amusing.

2.4: The email that brings up giving Bloodlust to Rogues! Here Lesley comes out with her awesome, “Stabby Stabby, sneaky, sneaky, pewy, pewy” response. No more needs to be said here. Now some Shaman talk that is fairly interesting, mostly from Amanda to be honest.

2.5 Last email here. This proposes that the next expansion will have a new race, the Worgen, and that the next MMO form Blizzard will be a Starcraft space one! Wow, that’s really big news that we know and they admit is incorrect.

2.6: Oh wait, one more email thanking Turpster for his tip last week about the Argent Crusade dailies. Turpster then comes out with an interesting point about doing those dailies. This is the first real nugget of info in this episode.

3. Turspter’s Tips time! But he hasn’t got one. They get him to give a tip about soloing as a warrior. He gives one, which is about a level 60 raid from vanilla WoW. Great.

4. Now it’s the “Meat of the Show”. This is apparently the really good bit. They speak about the next patch, the first thing obviously being Murky the Murloc space-marine. They mention the Juggernught nerf and they say that it has dropped to 25% and that this is bad. Why? Not sure, but they think that it is bad. Maybe some in-depth analysis that had been prepared beforehand about this … naw, what was I thinking! Quick list of patch notes, no discussion at all. I mean, it’s not like we can go and read a list ourselves or anything … Equipment manager – Mike likes it! He doesn’t really know why, he just does. Mike is scanning through the list and about to pass onto something else as there is “nothing really interesting here” when Amanda points out that there is a new change where you are only saved to a raid or instance when a boss goes down. Kind of a massive change this one, eh Mike? What follows is a good discussion generated mostly by Amanda.

That’s enough, I can’t take any more. Amanda saved this episode, and that is what usually happens. We get one interesting guest per episode that when they are allowed to speak are fonts of information. Actually, that’s the third thing that a podcast can offer after its hosts and information – interesting guests. WoWinsider can do this, it’s just that they’re not allowed to speak much.

But don’t take my word for it. Find out for yourselves! Download the WoWInsider podcast and listen to the monologues, the crap jokes, the unprepared script, the useless or wrong information, and the occasional nugget of good WoW info that you want to hear. You may love it. Or maybe not.

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