The World of Warcraft Diary

Created by John Staats

If you missed Kickstarter's most-funded nonfiction book in history, you can order it here! The WoW Diary was written by the game's first level designer and covers the story behind making Vanilla WoW. With over 130 behind-the-scenes images and 336 full-color pages, it is the must-have book about game development.

Latest Updates from Our Project:

Happy New Year!
3 months ago – Tue, Jan 01, 2019 at 01:27:31 AM

Hi guys, 

I hope everyone is enjoying 2019 so far. Some local backers are getting their books early this week, so let's cover the arriving rewards: 

#1 Be careful opening up your packages! Some people are damaging their books tearing into the cardboard mailer. Just take a breath, and open them carefully. ;)
#2 If you have a damaged book, email john@whenitsready.com with a picture and I'll see about putting you on a replacement list. I cannot track individual Kickstarter messages, so definitely contact me via email. 

The majority of people are ecstatic with their books (actually, no negative reviews), but with such a big shipment, there's always going to be mail problems. Moving forward, my printer is going to do a follow-up distribution every couple weeks with replacements, as long as supplies last. There's only a dozen or so damaged copies, but it bums me out if even a couple people are distressed, so don't panic. We got this. :D

I spent the evening getting the press sheets packaged in my living room (no parties for me). Unfortunately the US Post Office's website isn't correctly processing my label orders, so I need to haul them into my neighborhood post office. With the line at the post office so long, I'm unsure if they'll welcome the task of labeling 20 packages individually. The line is supposed to shorter later in January...this is going to be a learn-as-you-go exercise. (What a great time to deliver packages!! LOL) 

Deliver Update: Even with the holiday delays, most US/Canadian books will reach backers by next week. Overseas shipping will arrive weeks later. 

Lastly, thanks for all the positive support! Its great to read that some of you have your rewards are loving the book. I'm crazy-busy this week, so expect delays in my responses to Kickstarter posts/messages...but I'm loving your good vibes about The WoW Diary. Not a bad way to ring in 2019. 

While everyone's been on vacation throughout the holidays (leaving my business emails unanswered), I'm moving forward on my board game. I got a 3D printer and will be prototyping as soon as I can. I spent Sunday morning designing combat encounters, and it reminded me of the encounter designers developing fights for Nax. I'm happy to say, each monster's rules look bite-sized (no long paragraphs of instructions), while the game play seems quite varied, more so than the standard "safety dance" or tank-and-spank encounters. I've already redesigned some combat basics, so we'll see how fun gameplay is after the overhaul. 

Scaling elements tells me how much real estate my text will have. I'm thinking the "jigsaw" connectors between my rooms need to be sturdier.
Scaling elements tells me how much real estate my text will have. I'm thinking the "jigsaw" connectors between my rooms need to be sturdier.

I sat on my couch, turned on some music (classical, if you can believe it) and began sketching on graph paper. It's been a while, but it feels good to be "home." With only one day of brainstorming, I've completed the initial pass of my first dungeon (roughly eight fights in a dungeon). Nothing's tested yet, but it looks good on graph paper (it always does, LOL). 

Amazon Gone
3 months ago – Thu, Dec 20, 2018 at 12:52:12 AM

First of all, thanks for the feedback! Out of hundreds of showcase editions sent throughout the US, only a few had damage, so the bumper is doing its job. Just be careful opening it with knives, you could damage the case (even though cases are easy enough to replace). If anyone has damaged cases (or books), I'll take care of them after the bulk shipments are sent. The shipping department doesn't have the bandwidth for replacements now, so email any problems to john@whenitsready.com, and I'll take notes and track them for later. 

The reason why the US showcase editions are shipping before everything else is because they were packaged immediately after I signed them. When I was at the plant, I  gave the staff specifics about how I wanted the books to be scrutinized for quality. Right now, the printer's QA department is going through the inventory before packaging. 

I hope no one thinks the hassles I'm talking about in these updates are getting me down. They don't. And they shouldn't get you down. Things are slowly chuggin' along. It's just that I appreciate and talk about the complexity of large projects...and that why I think The WoW Diary will resonate with so many people. I love all the ugly details. And when there are problems, you just deal with them, and work them out.

For instance, yesterday I learned Amazon can't give me shipping labels for packing cartons until I know exactly how many books will be in each carton. I won't know that until my printer designs a carton specifically for our books. It sucks, but its just another parameter that I wouldn't have known about before using Amazon's "shipment plan workflow." Fitting our packages into Amazon's inflexible process is going to delay shipments too much, so I'm switching to a more flexible courier. The timing kinda sucks because I just figured out all the ins and outs of their system, but using Amazon is just going to be too slow. 

I've also given up waiting to hear back from our other 3rd party couriers. I can understand that this is their busy time of the year, but I do not abide uncommunicative partners, so I told my printer today to use a more expensive delivery company called IMEX. My printer has used them before, so I'm expecting a smoother process. The switch to IMEX means my EU customers might have to pay for import fees. Through Spiral Galaxies, I was going to pay them (which was why we were putting up with SG's poor communication), but the new courier says "bound, printed matter" often doesn't qualify for import fees. It's been impossible to find anyone who can give me a definitive answer, so using the company whom I believe will give us the best option.   

Ugly details aside, the book is getting very positive responses, and that has me feeling upbeat. 

Another positive thing happened around at 2:00 AM in the morning: I figured out a roadblock to my tabletop dungeon game that I've been working on for a couple of years (on and off). A month ago my friends and I playtested an old prototype...and it wasn't fun enough. It was clever and innovative (which counts for nothing) but not exciting. They gave me positive feedback, but I suspect they were just being supportive. I know when something isn't fun. For a month I have been mentally tearing the game apart. I've been considering whether I should scrap everything and move on to either a new design or another project entirely. (That's the GREAT thing about self-publishing, it gives you the freedom to do that.) Anyway, lying awake at night, I realized an elegant, engaging solution that simplies gameplay while adding depth. I'm pretty pumped, so I'm moving forward with it (mentally at least, I won't be able to work on another prototype until 2019). 

Why am I mentioning this now? While I've been waiting for my printer to give me specs on a packaging carton...I took some time this afternoon to update my personal journal about developing my board game. While I'm not delusional enough to think it'll be another WoW Diary, the journal illustrates the work and thought that goes into design. It'll show how I'm building the game, from the ground up, and I'll probably use it as promotional material for the game's Kickstarter in the distant future.

Incrementally, by degrees, things move forward. Large endeavors don't always move as fast as we'd like, but maybe that's a good thing.

Big Time Delivery
3 months ago – Tue, Dec 18, 2018 at 12:33:35 AM

Short Story: We're probably going to miss the Christmas delivery. The only customers that have a chance are US backers...and they might not receive theirs in December.

Long Story: Shipping is vastly more complicated than I originally thought. Shipping is so automated that every inventory detail needs to fit into every company's parameters. 

I spent three days in the Amazon Marketplace interface trying to configure a shipping order to international customers NOT in the US, Canada or the EU. Amazon offers a shipping service for inventory not actually sold on Amazon, but the system is so complicated the details in the workflow aren't exposed until you're actually placing an shipping order...so it was very hard to prepare for. Our problem is that we're shipping books inside a "bumper mailer" which is a highly protective cardboard box. It's expensive, because it's put together by hand, but that's how I wanted to deliver the product. 

This is the bumper mailer, wrapped around a book.
This is the bumper mailer, wrapped around a book.

In order to stop Amazon from automatically unpacking all of our boxes, there are a number of hoops my printer's shipping, labeling, and packaging departments need to jump through. You can't just tell them to NOT do open them, because there's no one to tell; everything is automated (at least on my end). I sent these instructions to my printer Friday, and I'm awaiting their response because it involves changing schedules of  multiple departments.

Learning this took me three days of parsing Amazon's back end for shipping instructions that are scattered across many web pages. There are an unbelievable number of instructions, terms, and standards, and Amazon's customer support (for its shipping system) is spotty and slow. 

Ordering a freight service that complies with both my printer (which is a $300M company) and Amazon's systems could be as complicated. I won't know until I'm actually placing the order and I can't do that until I know that the inventory is ready for pickup...and I'm waiting to hear back from my printer. For international delivery, this is gong to be a long, cumbersome educational process...but we'll get through it. 

For US, EU, and Canadian backers, I expect my printer's shipping department has been fraught with the same issues, as each company does things its own way...and the shipping partners to Canada and the EU aren't the most communicative companies. We will not know when books are being sent out--until they're actually being sent out. It is a learning process to not only me, but my printer. Even though it's a giant company, they never directly ship books to customers, because they usually go use a distributor or a consolidator, or some other giant, industry entity.  

Shipping Preparations
3 months ago – Mon, Dec 10, 2018 at 09:36:37 PM

Some of the shift workers who helped me last week.
Some of the shift workers who helped me last week.

 After a long, period of signing books we are, at last, moving toward fulfillment! 

I signed many showcase editions surrounded be some of the hardest workers I've ever seen. They not only worked fast, they walked fast. And they loved the company the worked for, there was no complaints or gossip about their managers. Their work ethic was refreshing and it sustained me throughout my marathon signing session. 

I saw The WoW Diary for the first time last week. It came together beautifully, but I became alarmed by minor printing errors were some of the books. 95% were fine, but I worried so much about the errant copies, that a couple QA staffers joined our production line to filter out the rejects beforehand. The printer said they'd go through the rest to make sure you guys don't get books with mistakes. 

This is what 900 packaged books look like. It's approximately one-tenth of the Kickstarter's print run.
This is what 900 packaged books look like. It's approximately one-tenth of the Kickstarter's print run.

I went through 13 gold markers to sign a total of 1500 books. I knew signing all of these books would make my hands ache, but by the halfway point, the constant contact with the paper had dried out the skin on my fingertips, which had cracked and started to peel! I'd never seen this before, and I didn't see any of the other workers wearing gloves, so I felt like someone with "soft, city-hands." The strangest thing about the signing was learning that my handwriting style always seemed to change...I suppose police profilers would have a hard time identifying me if I ever wrote a ransom note. At least I have that going for me. 

In the mail, this morning, I received the signed press sheets. To send these, I will need get mailing tubes (of the proper size). They will be mailing separately from the showcase editions, so don't panic when one arrives without the other. 

So what happens next? The printer fulfills our orders! When? We don't know. The printer needs to run the books through their QA staff (to pull out the problematic copies), and no one can know how long that will take until it's done. Lastly, the printer's shipping department is labeling everyone's address information (from Backerkit's database), and the only hitch we've discovered is non-English characters won't work with their labeling system, so they're going through every address, one-by-one, to do whatever they need to do to make it work.

Manufacturing!
4 months ago – Tue, Nov 27, 2018 at 01:16:56 AM

Great news! There were no major snags with the spot UV varnishing! The WoW Diary has moved from the ink/drying stage of production to the physical manufacturing of each hardcover. I'm flying again to the printing plant on December 6th to sign copies for the showcase editions. I haven't seen the spot UV sheets myself, but my printer says this job is looking so good that they're submitting The WoW Diary for their entry into trade contests and industry competitions for the year 2018. I suspect whomever spends the most money to print their book wins these contests, but that's just me being cynical about something I know nothing about. ;)

As you know, spot UV varnish wasn't part of our original plan, so adding it has set us behind schedule a bit, but that's fine since most people prefer superb quality to holiday deliveries. That said, we're still unsure when deliveries will happen, as we're shipping things all around the world, at the busiest time in the year, using multiple fulfillment companies my printer has never worked with before, so books will arrive as providence allows.

My next update will likely be December 8 or 9, and will include loads of pictures from my visit to the plant. Wish me luck on my trip. ;)