When you think about Guild Wars 2 super fans you might think of Dulfy, or WoodenPotatoes, or that guy who runs gw2efficiency. If you spend any time on the Guild Wars 2 subreddit though you might think of That Shaman before the rest. That Shaman is the resident Guild Wars 2 data miner. He posts his own version of patch notes every time there’s an update that at the very least gives players a sneak peek at upcoming gem store items. But that isn’t the only thing he finds and he doesn’t share everything he uncovers. I was given the opportunity to sit down with That Shaman to find out what his motivations are, where he stands on spoilers, and more.
Note from the author: This is a spoiler-free article. We don’t mention anything that isn’t already in the game. The same cannot be said for links which may contain spoilers. Click on at your own risk.
That Shaman has been doing Guild Wars data mining since Nightfall released for the original Guild Wars in 2006. It all started when he discovered that on an old laptop some textures weren’t rendering correctly. From there he managed to obtain map textures for the Domain of Anguish which had yet to be released and he became the first person to post them.
When Guild Wars 2 came about he found several people creating mining tools on forums he frequented. He used their tools for a while and looked at the data for his own enjoyment. Later he realized that he could share information about upcoming items, and he created his own tools to help him do just that. Over time he started doing regular updates with each patch and growing an audience as he did so.
Leak: deep sea dragon aka bubbles attacking pic.twitter.com/kxjxQksCh2
— that_shaman (@that_shaman) May 8, 2017
Today many of his fans consider his updates to be the “Real” Patch Notes and many (myself included) will read his updates before they settle in to see what ArenaNet has introduced. I asked him for his opinion on the fans calling his updates the “Real” Patch Notes and he finds it amusing. From his point of view, he’s just posting upcoming gem store items and other things which don’t really have an impact on the game. But his fans love them despite the updates being so simple. There’s always the possibility for something big and exciting. His patch notes are themselves like lockboxes. You never know until you open them what shiny thing you’ll find inside. It might just be a new mini, or it might be something a little bigger.
But don’t expect to see anything that spoils the story or impacts the economy. That Shaman has a strict, self-imposed rule about both of those things. Which may be why we never saw the Hound of Balthazar mini mentioned in his notes leading up to Flashpoint, Episode 5 of Season 3. Though ArenaNet wasn’t so kind and did spoil the big reveal of who Lazarus really is for anyone who read the official patch notes and can put two and two together. He also believes that if he were to start messing with the market by releasing recipes and other such things he would lose the trust of the community and ArenaNet would almost certainly ban him.
There's actually more hidden items in the PvP VIP area.. these letters found on a wall were written by rolling an angry cat over a keyboard pic.twitter.com/lPeArIfLGL
— that_shaman (@that_shaman) June 28, 2017
Indeed, ArenaNet knows exactly who he is. He’s told them directly and he wanted to let them know that he has no ill intentions towards them or the game. He also wanted to make it clear that he has a strict no story spoilers rule. In fact, if he does see something that is a story spoiler he will contact ArenaNet and let them know. Though this doesn’t happen as much as it used to. During Season 1 entire episodes could be found weeks before they went live. Another data miner found the ending for the season and leaked it online well in advance of anyone being able to play it.
That kind of thing he views as harmful to the game. Which is a topic I discussed with him, is data mining harmful? Does it hurt the game to release information in advance? For him, it entirely depends on the mining. If like mentioned above someone spoils a major part of the story then that ***“takes away one of the most important things people want to discover by playing the game.”* Which can potentially be detrimental not only to a player's enjoyment of the game but if people aren’t happy with what they see could, in fact, hurt the number of people who play that content. Meanwhile, his gemstore reveals get people hyped. People read his update, then share with friends and other communities what they’ve read and it forms a bit of mouth to mouth advertising. Something he feels doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of the game and only drives sales up. Obviously, ArenaNet can’t endorse his data mining but they seem to be on quite good terms despite what you would assume would be the case.
I've made myself a very expensive legendary fidget spinner! pic.twitter.com/6ZBs2LBfJ7
— that_shaman (@that_shaman) June 29, 2017
While we did touch on a lot of serious topics I wanted to have a little bit of fun with the interview as well. I started out by asking him what has been the hardest thing to keep secret for him. So far it has been the Heart of Thorns maps. He had the alpha maps long before anyone even knew how many maps there would be. That was one time he contacted ArenaNet to let them know what he had seen and he told them he would keep them a secret until after the expansion launched. He stuck to his word too, about a month after Heart of Thorns went live he released the alpha maps to the public. The maps were also his longest kept secret so far. He found them more than half a year before HoT launched. Another lengthy secret for him was Aurene, he found hints of everyone’s favorite baby dragon as far back as the first beta for Heart of Thorns when she was simply called “Glint’s Offspring.”
I also asked if there has ever been anything he regretted seeing, which of course there has. The one example he gave was that he knew how Heart of Thorns ended within minutes of the patch going live. While that would be enough to keep someone like me away from data mining he finds it an acceptable price to pay saying, “for me, it is a game on its own. There's a lot of things you can discover, making it almost as much (and sometimes even more) fun to find stuff via mining.” Most of the time though he only sees fragments of things that are completely devoid of context so nothing is truly 100% ruined for him.As for why he does it? Curiosity has a lot to do with it. But he also loves interacting with the community. He also uses it as a learning opportunity that he can then go on and use in real life. I didn’t inquire any further on that as I didn’t want to reveal anything about his real life. Though I do have it on good authority that he may be the Pope. If he isn’t well he can be the Guild Wars 2 Pope. Long live Pope That Shaman!
I would like to once again thank That Shaman for the interview! I had a fantastic time and I really learned quite a bit about him and the process. I’d also like to finish off with his final words of the interview. I had asked him if there was anything he would like the Guild Wars 2 community to know.