Thursday, March 31, 2011

Traveller's Guide to Zul'Aman

Zul'aman is my favorite raid instance of all time, and shares that spot only with Karazhan. They're both incidentally the first two raids I seriously raided. In fact I think there is no coincidence about that at all. I had just started raiding and exploring my preistlyness, I felt like I had everything left to learn and experience. There is no doubt something very charming about being a noob. The bosses of Zul'aman were well designed and fun, the only drawback of the raid instance were the tedious trash (especially those blasted Scouts). Malacrass is still on top of my Worst bosses ever- list in terms of difficulty and challenge. Because he adapted with the group setup, he was truly never the same from one try to the next. Throw in a random setup of four adds that he had and you could have some truly hellish fights. Because of him I only ever got to kill Zul'jin twice or so, we always got stuck on that bass turd Malacrass *shake fist*. Those are really fond memories however, so when Love asked me if I wanted to do a run through Zul'aman just for fun, I immediately said "YES!". Also as a chance to see the instance one last time before it is revamped. Running in there with a handful of level 85 players doesn't do the instance much justice. most bosses lived for some 5-10 seconds, which didn't allow them much time to get the fight into the difficult parts. If I had the possibility I'd easily get in there with a proper level 70 raid.

Running up to the instance through Ghostlands, in which you still can't fly by the way. I know they'll fix this, it's just funny they didn't implement it from the start.

I love the design of this place.

This is the first time we got to meet Harrison Jones, and even though he meets a rather nasty fate in here, he returns in both Wrath and Cataclysm and turns into a rather prominent feature in Azeroth. Time to gong the gong!

Most of the bosses had some sort of gauntlet event leading up to their platform, only exceptions are Malacrass and Zul'jin. Nalorakk the bear lord, was usually the first boss one killed, seeing as he was the easiest. As I was in a swedish guild back then we called Nalorakk "Nalle", which is swedish for "bear".

The gauntlet usually meant alot of ccing. I remember you had to tank switch when he changed forms, and we usually used bear on bear here.

Another gauntlet. You had to work your way up with mobs spawning from both ends of the gauntlet. We usually had our raid split in two, with one half dealing with the front mobs and one half dealing with the back mobs.

On our way to Akil'zon, the eagle lord. He had a nasty thunderstorm under which you had to gather and also summoned loads of eagle adds that we had locks and hunters shoot down.


The worst gauntlet was the one leading to Jan'alai, it had scouts that called for help and Fire Breathers that dealt big damage. You had to advance in a steady pace and make sure to kill all scouts you saw asap, much like in Stonecore. I don't know how many times we wiped in this gauntlet.

Jan'alai the dragonhawk lord, was a really funny boss to do. In the background you can see a group of eggs, he had another group of them on the opposite side. After a while he would call on trolls to open up the eggs, which would then spawn buttloads of dragonhawks. It was managing the dragonhawks that was the real challenge of this fight, all the while he threw out fire balls that looked like popcorn on the ground and which of course had to be avoided at all costs.

Next gauntlet! Many lynx, handle them.

Halazzi the lynx lord was definitely one of the tougher bosses in ZA. He hit like a truck and you basically had to have a hunter for tranquilizing shot back then, because when he enraged, people died.

Malacrass... my nemesis. Malacrass was a fun boss to do as lock, because you could be put on banish, fear and seduce duty if you were unlucky. I regularly had to shackle on this fight when healing.

Malacrass took on skills depending on which classes you had in the raid. I remember paladin being among the worst because it made him Consecrate, use Retribution Aura (which did alot of damage) and use Avenging Wrath (which had to be dispelled asap). Priest was pretty annoying too with the fearing.

Due to a trigger happy priest in our group I didn't get to join in on this fight. I remember the cyclone phase being the worst one, where you had to constantly move from cyclones that moved around in the room. We wiped once due to Love forgetting to re-equip his staff from a previous wipe, and he was critted because without the staff he wasn't crit immune. This is at least the third time I tell that story on this blog alone. He will never stop hearing it.


Victory!
I got 7 sticks to try my luck with getting Mojo, but alas. I did get an epic blacksmithing pattern however!


Good bye Zul'aman. It will be interesting to see how the 5 man instance version will turn out. If it is half as fun as the raid, I'm happy.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I'm less of a gamer than I used to be

Sometimes I walk around and ponder a thought for quite a while before I decide to sit down and put it out in print. Usually I get the final kick in the ass by someone else taking up the same issues and by giving me some views of theirs I have an easier time to formulate my ideas (usually as a response to theirs). This is what happened this time as well. Chris over at Levelcapped asked - "what is it that makes some games stick?". Why is it that we decide to spend so much time with some games and not with others? An interesting question indeed and I can only imagine the millions that have been spent by various game developers to find out the final answer to that question. Blizzard have obviously managed quite well since they have plenty of people who've spent several years and countless hours on their games (even more if you count all of their games and not just WoW). But the way I had pondered the question was really the other way around - how come I don't spend as much time with games today like I did when I was younger? They're not entirely the same question. In one corner you've got things like game design and immersion, in the other corner you've got the development of a person and how that person plays her games. But I will leave the first question to the game developers and the second question to me. It's all interlocked in the end anyway.

It has really bothered me recently that I've got so much trouble to just stick around with a game. Even if game design and immersion and all those things are important parts of why I enjoy a game or not, more often than not it didn't really matter if I really enjoyed the game or not - after a while I just put it down and never got around to pick it up again. It annoyed me, because there are tons of good games I want to play, and have half way started playing through, or would want to play through a second time, but I just never get to the point where I start the game and play it. Why do I lack the motivation? What made me stick with games for weeks when I was younger and what is keeping me from doing the same today? There are several possibilities;

Lack of time
Growing up means having more responsibilities aka more stuff that needs to be done before I can start having fun. Sitting for several hours with a game each evening won't happen if you've got kids and work and spouse to think of too. To many of us it means having to prioritize. Even though lack of time actually is a minor issue for me, I still notice that the prioritizing part is quite important. It might be that game A is awesome and fun, but it only takes for game B to be slightly more fun (or accessible, I'll get to that) for me to choose that game. After all I can only play one game at the time, so it would only be logical for me to choose the one I enjoy the most. But is the other game really more fun, or is it just more accessible? An example - I want to play FFVIII and sit down to start it up. Love asks me if I want to do a heroic with him. That would mean instant queue on my mage, who only needs a little more rep, or a little more vp, or a little more of anything, to get that new shiny gear piece. I put FFVIII away to be able to do that heroic instead - although I probably would've had more fun with FF than in WoW. Don't get me wrong, I never play WoW when it bores me. But the fact that WoW relies heavily on us wanting to complete things and get things done each day, it basically implores us to do our daily chores. Even though I have more fun playing FF, the thought of letting that instant queue hc go to "waste" would really nag on me. I hope you can appreciate this feeling and that I don't sound like a total WoW-addict now. Blizzard are changing this in some ways, for instance you won't have to do your hc each day to get all those vp but can distribute your 7 heroics as you wish throughout the week, but the fact remains. FF waits, WoW doesn't. And so FF will have to continue to wait, because WoW demands my constant attention to be fun.

Suddenly, choices. Thousands of them.
Unlike when I was young, I've now got 15 games ready and waiting for me at any given time. I have a handful of different consoles on which I have a dozen games each which I could and would enjoy to play. Yet again I can only choose one. The competition is murderous. I think a big factor that contributed to me spending so much time with a game when I was younger was simply that there were no alternatives. How many times haven't you tried to replay some old game that you remember as the jewel of your childhood, only to realize that it really sucks. The graphics are bad, the controls are worse and the gameplay is just horrible. Yet you clearly remember spending hours and hours with this game and nothing of it ever bothered you. I have tons of memories like this, games I wouldn't touch with a stick today that I -know- I loved when I was younger. Many of those games are obscure 100 in 1 game pack-games or really old pc games (Monkey Shines!), but there are recognizable games in this bunch as well like Castlevania and Mario Kart. These are still decent games (they definitely don't suck!), they just don't hold up to all the fun I could have with other games today. Yet again, even if game A is awesome, it only takes for game B to be slightly more awesome and I will probably choose the latter. And it only takes for game B to be slightly boring for me to jump to the next game, because I can. Because I am spoiled like this, I am much less likely to stick it through the rougher parts of an otherwise great game. "Oh this was fun up until now, but I really don't like this level. Time to switch!". A good example is the horror game Chtulhu - Dark Corners of the Earth. It's a great game, but it has a few events which just are horrible (and not in the good way). These events are kind of trial and error, and when you've failed the 20th time you will decide to do something else for a while. The next time you think about the game you'll remember that you're at that boring place, and decide not to pick it up. This has happened to me with countless of rpgs as another example.

With a little help of my friends
Thinking back on my favorite games, most of them include my friends in one way or the other. Even the single player games were usually played together with friends, either you discussed them when you met up at school or you actually sat a bunch of people together and played that single player game. I loved watching my brother play Diablo, I loved watching one of my friends play Fallout and I loved watching my ex play Resident Evil (hey, did I do all the watching?). The only game I can think of right now that I absolutely love but that I never played with anyone else, is Settlers 2. Other than that I've had some connection to my friends in all the games I played and really enjoyed. Now, if I pick up Advance Wars or Diablo 2, there is no one around me who plays the game simultaneously with whom I can enjoy the game that little extra bit. No one with whom I can discuss interesting parts of the game, or where to find that certain object or how I managed to kill that boss. This lack of "added value" to the game really does alot. I never even played Diablo 2 until I played it together with Love. I just didn't enjoy it all on my own (I had tried it), but when I had the opportunity to play it with someone else, even if we didn't play at the same time, it really made all the difference. When we had a friend over to visit us for a week, we all played Escape Velocity together. The game is fun but really nothing fancy, yet we all went quite nerdy about it for that week. The interesting part is that it's not even a multiplayer game. We all just played our own game, but together, which made all the difference. Maybe I am especially multiplayer oriented, but I still think that being able to share your gaming experiences with someone else is a big factor to how fun it is as well. I am quite certain I wouldn't play WoW at all if the social bit was taken away.

Drop it like it's hot
Another problem is that many games require me to spend a certain amount of time with it, and can't be put down at a whim. This means I have to be ready to spend that time beforehand for me to want to pick it up. I will stand there with some RPG in my hand and think "if I start this up, I will have to spend at least an hour with it, remember where I were and what to do next and get to the next save point". That is true for many single player games today. Some games are just more accessible than others, and so we play them more because we know we can stop playing them at any time. I've never played Angry Birds (but similar games), but I can imagine accessibility is a big factor to why that game is so popular. You can just start it up, do a level which takes a minute and turn it off. No big investment of time needed. WoW works the same way. Although really we only think we can spend little time with it, in reality it always takes more time than we think it will, but that is another issue.

These are all personal reasons and don't apply equally to everyone in the world, of course. For instance Love plays new games all the time, and he clearly has little issues with being the only one he knows who plays them. But I also know that all of the things mentioned above factor in to how much time he will end up putting into a game to some extent. Maybe knowing about these issues is the first step towards doing something about it. Even though it is difficult to do something about the fact that your friends don't want to play the same games that you do, there is alot that can be done towards devoting more time with other games than the easily accessible ones. Perhaps the next time I decide to start up WoW I just leave my computer shut off instead and go sit in the sofa for some good old FFVIII. No means no.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fire Mage Guide - 4.0.6 Edition

This is a new and updated version of my old fire mage guide that I wrote back at the end of Wrath. Fortunately, fire mages work pretty much the same as they did back then, so you who have read my old version will recognize alot of things. There have still been some small, but important, changes to how fire mages work which I will mention, also the glyphs/gems section is updated for Cataclysm of course.


Table of Content
- Introduction
- Talents
- Glyphs
- Stats
- Gems
- Rotation
- Resources


Introduction
What role does the fire mage have? How does it differ from the other mage specs and what can you expect from playing a fire mage?
More than any of the other mage-specs, fire mage is about dot-damage. In fact it is so important that our mastery affects nothing else. Alot of fire mage talents focus around spreading this fire damage and getting increased stats when more than 2 targets are affected by our debuffs. What does this mean for our playstyle?

Issues
The ”problem” with fire mage used to be that doing aoe-damage is part of our core-mechanics and standard rotations. Some of our most important talents depend on us being able to do aoe-damage. Back in Wrath this was more of an issue, but in Cataclysm there are plenty of fights that will allow the fire mage damage to get to their full potential. Basically any raid boss has some sort of aoe component to the fight, which allow us to get full use of our talents and skills. However, even though this is alot less of an issue now, it still means that playing a fire mage means you have to learn how to keep track of more than one target to deal optimal damage and that you will deal less damage whenever you only have one target.
The other issue with fire mages is that they are heavily dependant on crit, which gives an ”rng” feeling to the class. Your damage output can vary greatly depending on your crit streaks. Increasing your crit will reduce the rng feeling of course, but because of how crit works (either you get one or you don't, unlike haste which always affects all your casts) this is something that may annoy and frustrate players at time. On the other hand this could also be a reason for great fun with the fire mage – dealing decent damage without crits and awesome damage with crits.

Potentials
Fire mage is arguably the best mage spec for moving dps. We have several skills that work while running (Flamestrike, LB, Blast Wave, and Scorch) that are unique to our spec. Fire mages are heavy on the mana, but are also the only mage spec that can cast spells when completely oom, thanks to Improved Scorch. This adds another level of planning to the spec. Because of the fact that Blizzard have designed most raid bosses to work greatly with the fire mage fighting style, fire mages are a really strong class in raiding right now. Fire mages are fairly easy to learn but difficult to master, allowing for great depth and potential. If you enjoy a challenge that really pays off, fire mage is definitely the spec for you!

Talents
Because of the above-mentioned issues, there are also some issues to how we would want to place our talents. Since some talents actually require us to have multiple targets they are essentially useless at any time that we don't have multiple targets. This also means the loss of alot of synergy between talents. There is also some difference between speccing a raiding mage and an instancing mage (this isn't a guide for pvping mages though).

Main Tree
Tier 1
Master of Elements: Although mana has become less of an issue than it was some patches ago, it's still something we have to keep an eye on. Since we really don't want to use Spirit (read more about stats further down) our main income for mana and resources for mana management will be talents like this.
Burning Soul: Because Fire Mage is alot about throwing Fireballs, any cast time lost is dps lost. This all depends on how big an issue you taking damage is. In instances this usually is less of a problem but some boss aoe-mechanics also have spell knock-back mechanics for instance, so even if you don't get actively hit my something you might be passively.
Improved Fire Blast: This isn't a bad talent, but overall we use Fire Blast too little for it to be worth the points.
Tier 2
Ignite: CORE TALENT. You are useless as a fire mage without this.
Flame Power: 3% extra damage straight off is awesome. Exploding Fire Orbs means more aoe damage.
Blazing Speed: You shouldn't be hit by melee or ranged attacks in pve (and if you do in raids you're usually dead anyway). This is a pvp talent.
Impact: This talent is in synergy with the talent Pyromaniac (see further down). One of the biggest contributors to those awesome amounts of aoe damage that fire mages can push out.
Tier 3
Cauterize: Since dying always is the ultimate dps-loss, this is also useful in a pve-setting. Especially in raids where there is loads of aoe damage going around that is unavoidable, and as a mage you might not always be on top priority on the healers list. Less useful for instances, I would skip this talent if you don't raid.
Blast Wave: An aoe skill which synergizes with Improved Flamestrike and Pyromaniac but will still only be useful when there are several targets. No longer has the knockback effect.
Hot Streak: CORE TALENT. There is no point in playing fire mage without this.
Improved Scorch: The usefulness of this talent depends a little on the content you're playing. Less useful in instances in instances where the fights are short enough that you won't oom. As soon as you feel you can handle most boss fights in raids without ooming, you don't need this talent much. Otherwise this is a great talent for mana management.
Tier 4
Molten Shields: This could've been an interesting utility talent for extra movement. Unfortunately the Blazing Speed effect doesn't kick in until after 30 seconds or after your Mage Ward dissipates due to absorbtion, which might make it a little difficult to time properly to actually be useful in pve.
Combustion: CORE TALENT: When used correctly this is one of your most powerful damage dealing tools.
Improved Hot Streak: CORE TALENT: You won't do any damage without this.
Firestarter: Great talent for both instances and raiding.
Tier 5
Improved Flamestrike: Aoe-talent. Synergizes with Pyromaniac, but is only useful when there are multiple targets.
Dragonbreath: Even though it has a limited range, in current raid and instance content there are plenty of opportunities to use this. It is also a prerequisite for Living Bomb.
Molten Fury: Talents like these aren't testable against dummies, but that doesn't make them less good. Great overall damage increase, especially in raids where you can expect your target to be below 35% health longer than in instances.
Tier 6
Pyromaniac: Great talent when you learn how to handle your fire mage. Requires you to have dots up on several targets, which is possible for at least periods of time on most raid bosses.
Critical Mass: 15% extra damage to one of our most important skills is awesome. 5% extra crit to our targets is also good, but often applied by someone else in a raid.
Tier 7
Living Bomb: CORE TALENT. Don't even think about not taking this.

Off Trees
Arcane Concentration: This has become alot less useful since the reduction of mana cost made to several of our most important spells.
Netherwind Presence: Haste is one of our most important stats.
Piercing Ice: We want tons of crit and thus we want this talent.

Raid-build
Instance-build

Glyphs
I won't talk about them all, but the interesting ones (which aren't very many unfortunately):


Prime
  • Molten Armor – Is our strongest glyph.
  • Pyroblast OR Living Bomb – The Pyroblast glyph gets better the better gear you have. If you don't proc Pyroblast often I recommend Living Bomb instead (thanks to Justin R for pointing this out!)
  • Fireball – Increasing the damage on one of your core spells is a good thing.
Major
None of the majors change your damage in anyway, so you are pretty much free to choose. Here are some recommendations;
  • Polymorph – If you ever intend to cc, this is a good glyph to have.
  • Evocation – Being able to self heal in some way is always useful, but remember that the mana component of Evocation still is the main goal of using it.
  • [Free to choose] – Any glyph you like.
Minor
None of the minors change your damage in any way so you are free to choose any you like. I'd go with Slow Fall, Armors and Conjuring. Arcane Brilliance is also a good glyph for raiding, if you need to rebuff during combat.

Stats
As you might have noted by now, there are four very important stats for a fire mage - Crit, Haste, Hit and Int (and spellpower). Which one is more important?

Hit: Our most important secondary stat. If we don't hit with our spells, there is no meaning in even casting them. Since we no longer have any talents that give hit, we now need 17% through gear (which includes enchants and gems).
Crit: Without any crit our damage falls like a house built of cards. Crit is the very foundation of fire mage dps.
Haste: More haste = more casts = more crits = more damage.
Intellect: Our most important stat overall. Try to avoid trading intellect for another stat if you can help it. We want our spells to do a lot of damage when they hit of course. Nowadays we get spellpower through intellect. Intellect also gives us crit!

Unlike in Wrath, haste and crit are about equally good. Whether you should aim at more depends completely on your current gear, which means that if you want to min max your gear you really have to turn to number crunching or using programs like Rawr to do the numbers for you. Basically, a good balance between the two is what you should aim for. Mastery on the other hand is currently considered the weakest secondary stat, and can safely be reforged into any other stat that you need. In order of importance;

  1. Intellect
  2. Hit (to 17%)
  3. Haste/Crit (Keep a balance)
  4. Mastery

Reforging
Use the above priority list to reforge any lesser stat into a better one.

Gems
Following the above rules for stats these are the best gems for us. Going for the socket bonus is overall better now than it was in Wrath, but it still doesn't mean that you should always go for the bonus. A bonus of +10 stats is for example worth ignoring (and putting a pure intellect gem there instead), unless it is 10 intellect.

Blue - 20 intellect and 20 hit Veiled Demonseye, until capped.
Red - 40 Int Brilliant Inferno Ruby
Yellow – 20 intellect and 20 Crit rating, Potent Ember Topaz or 20 intellect and 20 haste rating, Reckless Ember Topaz.
Meta – Burning Shadowspirit Diamond.

Rotation
What makes Fire Mages so much fun is the lack of a dull rotation or spamming of one skill. There will be plenty of Fireball casting, but the better your gear gets the more you have to react to procs and debuffs. To do optimal dps as a fire mage you have to follow a set of rules and keep track of your buffs and debuffs.

  1. Keep Molten Armor up.
  2. Keep Critical Mass debuff up (unless someone else already is)
  3. Keep Living Bomb up. DO NOT CUT IT! Reapplying Living Bomb before it runs out is basically useless. Rather miss a second than reapply too early. It is no use applying it to a target that will die before the debuff runs out.
  4. When Hot Streak is up, use it.
  5. When Ignite, Living Bomb and Pyroblast debuff are on your target, use Combustion. (There are addons to help you keep track of this. I just use DoTimers).
  6. Spam Fireball

Skills with certain rules;
Mirror Image: The best time to use Mirror Image depends a little on the fight. Simple testing seems to show that Mirror Images are affected by your permanent stats, like your hit and spellpower. I am still unsure whether they are affected by temporary stats like procs and buffs, they seem however to be unaffected by Bloodlust, regardless of if they are cast before or after.
Impact: How to properly use Impact is a whole school of thought in itself. The best way to use Impact is when you have strong dots on one target among several others. Use Impact to spread that damage to the other targets for great amounts of aoe damage. Remember that Living Bomb only is applicable to 3 targets now, meaning that if you have four or more targets and use Impact on a target with LB, it will remove LB from your current target.

Resources;
Here are some great sites for more reading (if you have suggestions for more, give me a shout and I'll check it out!)
Elitist Jerks - Fire Mage Compendium


Monday, March 28, 2011

Top 5 Misspelled WoW words

Since I'm not an english native speaker, there are plenty of words that I misspell on a regular basis. Love always proofreads my texts and makes smirky comments when I've missed an "o" in a "too" or I've written quite instead of quiet (Ok, maybe I've never done that but I have a guildie who does that all the time). Speaking of guildies, I've got a guildie (although he left recently) who insisted on always writing rooster instead of roster when we were talking about how to fill our ranks. Those threads quickly filled up with pictures of roosters and questionmarks. Poor guy. The english language is quite unforgiving. Don't get me wrong, I love it and use it alot in my everyday life. But being the mish-mash language that it is, and being prone to undergo a prescriptive point of view in its development, english is very far from logical. Phonetically you could write "chef" just as well as "sheagh". The linguistic meltingpot that is WoW, with people from all over the world who have their own frame work on how to use a language which they apply to english, will sometimes produce hilarious talk. Here's a list of some commonly misspelled words in WoW and why (probably) people keep spelling them wrong.

5. Orgrimmar - Ogrimmar
A common linguistical mistake is to omit letters that aren't distinctly pronounced. One good example is surprise - suprise (a mistake I do often actually). Just as with surprise, the first R of Orgrimmar is quite silent, and I can also imagine people thinking "hmm, I've already put one R there, should there really be another one?". The common abbreviation OG probably adds to the confusion. Some people feel that the abbreviation is wrong too, because it is treating Orgrimmar like a two word name, like TB , UC and SW, when Orgrimmar really is a one word name like Darnassus and Exodar. It should be considered a two-word name since it stems from Orgrim Doomhammer and so really it is Orgrim-mar. Then the abbreviation correctly should be OM. But since orcish isn't a language that anyone actually speaks (or is there?), people should grammatically treat Orgrimmar as a one-word name. I don't know how you abbreviate Darnassus and Exodar though? Darn? Darnass? *chuckle* Exo? So then Orgrimmar should be abbreviated OR or Org (which some do).

4. Enhancement - Enchancement
It's about equally common for people to add letters that shouldn't really be there as it is for them to remove letters that should. One example is the enhancement - enchancement misspelling, another one is Wraith of the Lich King instead of "Wrath". The enchancement problem probably also stems from the fact that there is something called enchanting, and these words look enough alike for people to have unconsciously combined the spelling of them in their minds, producing non-existant words like enchancement. Some people take it even further and call it enchantment shaman. I love people who simply need an enchantment shaman for their raid. Worst of all, I know people who actually say enchancement. *shudder*

3. Efflorescence - Effloressence
This mistake is extremely common all over resto druid blogs. It's a simple mistake, because people think it's a combination of the (non-existant) word "efflor" (maybe some think it's a latinized version of the word "flower") and "essence". It's really just a version of the word Florescence, with the prefix Ef- in front which is used to mark that the word is active. "Ef" is really a version of "ex", only that in front of the letter F it turns into Ef instead and means;

'a prefix meaning “out of,” “from,” and hence “utterly,” “thoroughly,”'

Another common example of this mistake is Maelstrom - Maelstorm. A strom (a word that doesn't exist on its own) and a storm aren't the same thing. The strom in maelstrom comes from the word stream and has little to do with storms.

2. Rogue - Rouge
A simple misplacement of a letter, and suddenly you've changed the entire meaning of a word. Ever since I took my first steps in WoW, this misspelling has haunted me. Yet again it is easy to see why - In most cases, it's ok to misplace some letters, add some letters or overall not get a word completely right because everyone will understand what you mean anyway. That is why words like Effloressence and Enchancement exist and prevail (if no one ever understood what these people said they'd probably go away). Just as with rouge, most people who read the misspelling will correct it in their minds, and maybe never even notice the misspelling took place in the first place. But rouge is still worse than effloressence/enchancement exactly because it actually changes the meaning of the word. It's hilarious to read people write

"looking for rouge to pvp".

Make-up as a new, cunning tactic in pvp?

1. Scribe - Inscriber/Inscriptionist
The list of terms used to call for a scribe can me made very long. Everything from glyph maker to inscriptionator has probably been used by now. The most common misspellings are Inscriber and Inscriptionist, but they are wrong for two different reasons. Inscriber is not so much a misspelling as it is a misusage of a word. The word inscriber actually exists, and it's quite related to scribe. In most cases people probably wouldn't think twice if you used Inscriber where there should be scribe. But if we want to be lore-nerdy (yes we do!), using inscriber for scribes is wrong in WoW. As Wowpedia explains it;

"In World of Warcraft, one who takes on the Inscription profession is not intrinsically an inscriber; such a person is properly referred to as a "scribe." Specifically, an inscriber is a variant of the broad "arcanist" core class, as is the mage, the necromancer, and the warlock. While scribes employ a degree of knowledge concerning rune magic (as evident by their creation of glyphs), they are not themselves versed in the secrets of rune-casting and rune-channeling in the unique way that inscribers are. "

Inscriptionist or Inscriptioner on the other hand don't exist, but is simply a solution some people have taken to how they should inflect the profession name "Inscription" so that it fits the person who does it. It works for many other professions like Alchemy - Alchemist and Herbalism - Herbalist. Other professions like Engineer hint that it should be turned into Inscriptioner. But really, it's scribe. I would accept inscriptionator.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Great Divide - PvP vs PvE

If you've followed this blog for any length of time you've probably noticed that I very rarely (if ever) write anything about pvp. The reason is simple - I don't enjoy pvp, so I don't engage in it, therefore I don't have much to say about it. Whether I don't enjoy pvp because I'm bad at it, or I'm bad at it because I never do it (probably a mix of both) is another question, suffice to say that I can hardly remember the last time I joined a bg. It might come as something of a surprise then if I tell you that pvping is how I started out to play this game.

When I first rolled what now is my main - Zinn the priest - I nearly exclusively pvpd for the first year or so. Back then I preferred playing shadow over healing, but unfortunately shadow priests weren't designed to be eligble dpsers in pve content. If I ever wanted to do instances, it had to be as a healer. So to get to play the spec I preferred at that time, I had to pvp, and that is what I did.

Pvp back then wasn't much like it is today. The only bgs around were WSG, AB and AV and classes were still pretty unbalanced on the pvp scene. The only arena around was the Gurubashi Arena. Warlocks had their trollolol fear and rng stuns made rogues and warriors really annoying. Some classes definitely kicked everyone elses ass, I even remember that rogues had a pretty easy time killing people with nothing but dirks. Skilled mages could pop PoM with their trinkets to solo a band of enemies. Shadowpriests weren't too shabby actually, I became really good at kill stealing with Mind Blast, easily getting me topped on the "kills" list.

I eventually found the joy in healing, and when BC was released I had pretty much left the pvp scene, never to return. Pvp changed alot during this time. To me the biggest bummer was that pvp became less of a fun side-game and more and more of a game of its own. This isn't a bad thing, only it made me enjoy pvp less. When you had to have a full special gear set only to be able to pvp, and the differences between those people who pvpd regularly and those who only wanted to jump in now and then for fun (like me) became too big, the fun just went out of pvp for me. The random skirmish that I enjoyed had transformed into a full fledged CS-wannabe where fun had been replaced with seriousness and people screaming "noob" after you if you didn't do everything perfectly. There is obviously fun in it, since people do it. It's just not my kind of fun. In a way I felt about pvp back then what alot of people feel about pve right now.

But even though I moved away from pvp, pvp became more and more prevalent in my gaming. As Blizzard set themselves on their quest to balance the two worlds together, players noticed that whatever happened on one arena was going to affect the other as well. Pvp was always an important part of the game, but never as important as the pve aspect. If it had been, then Blizzard would've started out with both parts equally well designed at the beginning. Instead pvp was slowly trickled into the pve setting. I can understand Blizzards idea here, catch them with the pve, keep them with the pvp. I'm not sure how many people actually start playing WoW because of the awesome pvp possibilities (there are probably loads of games out there that do it better than WoW). But I can imagine a whole lot of people who started out enjoying the pve part, getting bored with raiding/instancing, decided to sticking around because of the fun they found in pvp. I'm not sure if Blizzard had planned for this from the beginning, or if they soon realized the potential in pvp and from there on decided to make it a more and more important part of the game (as with many other aspects of the game). Either way it may be, pvp has become an equally important part of the game right now, if not perhaps, even more important than pve. Why do I say this?

Like I mentioned, when I pvpd back in Vanilla, the class differences and the game balance were an issue. But it was a charming issue for everyone who didn't take pvping dead serious. Being able to master a class that was an "underdog" and win over a class that had a better pvp design was very prestigeous. People really awed at skilled mages and druids. That doesn't mean you should keep design choices that meant one class never ever had a chance against another class (kind of like rogues vs warriors) or the ones that made some races completely overpowered against other races (like orc stun immunity). If the differences are too big, people won't play. But differences don't have to be a bad thing. Being bad in one area but excell in another is what makes a class interesting imo. When you chose to play a mage you knew that you'd have no survivability, unlike a paladin, but on the other hand you could one shot people if you played your cards right.

As pvp got more and more serious, so did the little details become more and more serious, similar to the course pve has taken as mentioned. It might just be that this is an inevitable part of how a game progresses. To keep peoples interest they have to be able to go nerdy into details, and the designers have to be able to offer everyone an equal chance at what they do. Maybe. It is clear that in any case, alot of people seem to enjoy the newness and freshness that new games offer, where people don't know the best course of action. But maybe it is impossible for a game to go back to this state, it can only move towards more and more detailed design choices and homogeny among the classes.

Just as too much homogeny among classes in pve has bothered me, so does too much homogeny between the pve and pvp arenas bother me. I never really understood why they had to be perfectly balanced. And in the end it always felt like it meant pve was really being balanced to work better in pvp (although I bet pvpers feel it's the other way around). Why did I, who wanted nothing to do with pvp, have to see a skill changed or nerfed (very rarely buffed) because of the fact that it didn't work well in pvp. A good example that comes to mind is the druid Entangling Roots Glyph, or the recent change to being able to shapeshift out of roots. A system (and glyph) I thought worked perfectly well and had a clear role in pve, completely changed because, I imagine, of reasons related solely to pvp (I could be wrong, but even if I am there are tons of more examples).

Don't get me wrong - I don't mind pvp being a big part of WoW. I do not necessarily wish for them to be completely split up, as I know some people have suggested. Where you choose servers that are either balanced towards pvp or pve. I do feel like everyone should be able to choose to do either at any given time without having to switch servers. But I also wish that they would be split up in some sense. The funny thing is that Blizzard already have taken steps in this direction. There are plenty of skills, mostly cc skills, that work very different in pve vs pvp. Some skills and items don't work at all. Yet they completely refuse to take the final step to just have every skill work differently (if needed) in pvp and pve. Blizzard have stated that they will never take this final step, because it has always been their intent to have the both worlds intertwined. I don't feel like splitting the skills necessarily has to remove this. Like I said, they've already done this to a couple of skills, so the technology and knowledge as to how to go about doing it is already there. Players have already played with these differences for a long time so I can't imagine that being a big reason for not wanting to do this either.

About a year ago the company I worked for were bankrupted, and I was out of a job. The company had been doing well, and had a positive net, yet they had to close down. The reason was that another company within the corporate group had made a bad move and lost a huge sum of money. My company was deemed less necessary and the entire shortage was put on its shoulders instead, saving the other companies ass. Although I had had nothing to do with the other company, although the two companies had nothing in common besides being under the same corporate group, and although my company had done nothing wrong, I was still the one without a job. Some other peoples problems became my problems, because it was a "smooth way to solve the situation". I can see a resemblance to how pvp and pve works in WoW.

Interestingly enough, these are one of the few things where Blizzard stubbornly go against what the majority of the players would want. I don't know anyone who feels like the constant balancing between pvp and pve is a good thing about the game or that the game would be ruined if they just made a pvp and pve version of all the skills. I believe most people would enjoy this idea. Imagine if you could play your class completely unrestricted by rules put on it from another part of the game? Imagine if you could pull off awesome pve stunts, that would be overpowered in pvp, but completely cool in pve? Imagine if the Blizzard dev team could go "Omg this idea would be completely awesome to implement!" without having to go "no wait, scrap that, too good in pvp" (and vice versa).

That is really another argument for it. When Blizzard first launched dks, they wanted them to be able to dps or tank with any spec. In Cataclysm they scrapped that design choice because the balancing between specs was too difficult. It was too much trouble making a talent tree that would accommodate both a tank and a dpser without making the spec too powerful, let alone three (there are probably other reasons, but I am sure this is the main reason). Yet they are decided on keeping the same idea for pvp and pve. Imagine all the trouble that would be solved like with a magic wand if Blizzard just could cut the chord between pvp and pve. They should love the idea as much as I do!

One of the reasons Blizzard thinks world-pvp is dead is because of the balance issues (another is the lack of rewards, which should be easily fixed although that says something about the motivations of pvpers in WoW too). I've done the bolding (bolded? Boldified?).
"The best I can think that you could do is create a specific world PvP zone where you don't allow flying mounts, give some objective to tug-o-war over, and so you can justify giving some semi-meaningful rewards and keep people interested you'd need to find some way to even up the sides (because world PvP is inherently going to be unfair). I think you do all that and you probably have the best working solution for bringing back world PvP." - Source
If we leave out the kind of world-pvp where one player jumps another who is questing, and take the kind where both parts are ready for it, does world pvp really have to be inherently unfair? Unfixably unfair? It isn't in other pvp games, at least not to the extent where the game is unplayable. World-pvp is basically pvp in a pve setting, and throughout the years Blizzard have made alot of adjustments to how pvp works in a pvp setting, to be able to fix the balance issues. Because they wouldn't have the same control over the pve-setting they have balance issues. But isn't that because they're really patching the wrong area? What they really are doing already, is having classes and items work very differently in pvp and pve, only they've moved the fix to the surroundings instead of the classes themselves. I am speculating now, but maybe world-pvp would get another chance if all our spells (not just a few) just simply worked differently when used against other players in any setting. That has to be simpler to balance methinks.

Right now pve and pvp are holding eachother back. I wouldn't have minded Blizzards grand ideas of balancing the two with eachother, if I ever, during these 6 years, felt like it had actually worked. Right now I constantly see how one is hampered by the other and also that the problem is growing (see abovementioned druid issues for example). In the end I feel sorry for Blizzard, for undertaking such a huge task and refusing to just admit that everything would be so much simpler if they gave both arenas equal chance to be important and grow in their own directions. That their pve-pvp marriage just wasn't meant to be in this manner. Now Blizzard reminds me of when I tried to learn juggling with clubs at 9 years of age. I ended up crying and completely blue on the arms but sternly refused to realize that I'd be better off trying another way of doing and learning it. Practice makes perfect, and Blizzard might just get the hang of the balancing act in the end. I'm just not sure it's worth all the pain it takes to get there.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Field Report - Between a rock and a hard place

I'm going to start this post with one of the most common blogger statements ever - alot has happened since last time. Although I don't mean since my last post, that was only yesterday. But since I did my last post about my raiding. No wait I did a post about that just a couple of days ago. Ok, nevermind! Alot has happened in the last couple of months anyway. Some of which I've spoken of and mentioned in passing by already. Considering these are issues that are affecting me rather deeply I thought I'd ellaborate more on it. Maybe get some advice on how I should proceed?

Just a week ago I did a post on pointers for succesful raiding. Back then I wrote;

"We're there again. The waypoint which all guilds seem to get to every now and then, where some people want to go one way and some people want to go another way. Everything was going just fine and suddenly you smash into a brick wall. Choices have to be made. Whom do you accomodate? Can you make everyone happy? Who decides which way to go?  (...) right now we are having trouble deciding where to go next. Boot the failures asap, or work with the team we've got? People have different ideas. (...) My current guild is nowhere near the situation my old guild was in, we still have plenty of time to adapt to the problem and actually do something about it."

Although the post was posted a week ago, it was written some week before that. And alot managed to happen during those two weeks. A couple of our best raiders weren't happy with the raiding. The reasons were many, in some part they didn't agree with how the raids were run, in a bigger part I think they were just sick of the 25man raiding system and wanted something more relaxing. Like I've mentioned before, people are more easily bored and stressed out with the current content because they need things to be perfect. These people decided to leave the guild and reform as a much smaller 10 man guild that would take on serious raiding in their own pace. That didn't have to be a big thing, if it wasn't that these people were 8 of our best raiders. It gets worse, at least for me. 4 of those 8 happen to be my boyfriend and my 3 irl friends, the only irl people I raid with, and have done for the last couple of years.

To most people it was probably a no brainer that I'd join them. Boyfriend and friends leave guild, I follow, right?

I didn't.

And this is where it becomes tricky.
4 of the most important people in my wow-gaming head in a new direction, but I decided not to join them. You might ask why? It's simple. I don't agree with their choice. I'll try to explain.

To me, my guild really turned out to be a savior. Leaving my old guild was no easy choice, and I didn't choose my current guild just because they happened to be at the right spot at the right time. I had high hopes for this guild, and I must say they've really delivered. I've really had a blast the last 7 months! My guild has offered me high quality raiding (with few exceptions) with an awesome bunch of people. I feel like leaving them as soon as things go a little rough is... just low. This is when I have to pitch in and try to make things work. Put on a happy smile and work it through, because there will be sunshine after the rain. There is little for me to gain in switching guild at the moment. I don't feel the need to do hardmodes, I'm happy with any pace my guild can offer. When I left my old guild it was in part because I felt that by staying there would I be left out of experiencing the new content that came in Cataclysm. This isn't the case with my current guild. Why leave a guild that I am perfectly happy with? I feel like the people who left didn't even try.

It's not really that simple of course. Love has explained to me very carefully why he's chosen to leave. He was made officer pretty soon after joining, and quickly noticed that more and more burden was put on his shoulders (and a few others). While I was just logging on and having a blast each raid, he had to do all the administrative business around it. Taking out raids, talking to people who weren't picked, get reserves when people didn't show up, make the epgp system work (we switched a couple of months ago because the old one wasn't updated properly). Alot of officers that should've helped out, just didn't and more and more work was put into his hands. Finally, raiding had become more work than fun for him. He tried to talk to the other officers, and he was far from the only driving spirit in the guild. But the few others just weren't enough. If they didn't get things going, nothing happened. This is one of the major pitfalls of a guild and should be avoided at all costs. All officers must know their role and chip in, otherwise all the work will be put on a few, and they will inevitably crumble under the weight. There are few things as frustrating as having the responsibility to lead the guild without the proper tools to do so. Poor Love, who is very scatter brained, tried to make everything work, but he got really stressed out from it. Also he really didn't enjoy the 25 man setting, because he felt that having to keep track of so many people made his own playing suffer. A feeling alot of the other ones who left shared with him. In 10 mans it was easier to just rely on your fellow gamer. For him, leaving the guild was the only option to be able to relax and enjoy raiding again.

Before they left, I suggested we'd do both 10 mans and 25 mans in the guild, to accommodate both kinds of players. But that didn't swing well with the guild idea of being a serious 25 man guild, which I understand. People were scared that if we split up into two different groups we'd be like two guilds in one, which probably is true.

I on the other hand, have had none of the issues Love has had. I have been blissfully ignorant of all and any problems (except the one I recently mentioned). I understand that having to take on a buttload of responsibility although you really didn't ask for it could make you tired and bored of raiding. But since I haven't had those issues I don't feel the same need to get away from anything like that, like he did.

Still, as much as I love my guild and still enjoy raiding with them, there is no denying the fact that the people I enjoy playing with the most are in another guild right now. Love says he's sorry for putting me in the position of having to choose between being the bad guy or the bad guy. The bad guy for choosing not to raid with my own boyfriend, or the bad guy for leaving a guild that really doesn't deserve it (in my opinion) and that needs me. *sigh*

Needless to say, this has put down my overall enthusiasm over raiding somewhat. I don't blame Love, or any of the ones who left. I do think they could've tried a little harder than they did because the majority of the leavers didn't have the same excuse as Love did, they just didn't like the raiding. On the other hand, if they honestly don't enjoy the 25 man raiding setting, they should move on. There is really nothing to gain in playing something that isn't fun. But I like 25 man raiding, and I like my guild. I did 10 man raiding for several years already. So, on one side I have my boyfriend and irl friends, on the other I have my guild, a raiding style I prefer at the moment and a bunch of nice players. Stuck between a rock and a hard place anyone?

Right now I am thinking about reducing my overall raiding attendance (which I must do anyway because of work). Another idea I have is to do one raid with my guild per week, and one raid with Loves guild (on an alt). Not sure if either guild thinks that is a great idea though. Two timing and all. Maybe I will just have to wait and see how things unfold, perhaps a solution will drop into my lap, which is usually the case in my life. Or maybe I will actually have to make a decision. Is not making a decision a decision?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Addon Review - DrDamage

With the coming of 4.0 and the loss of basically all my addons, there were a few I undoubtedly missed alot more than others. One of those was DrDamage, one of my favorite addons. What it does sounds fairly simple in theory, but is very complicated in practice (for the addon authors, not the users), which meant it took them several months to get the addon up and running again. Rejoice, it is back and I am happy like a pig in dirt.

So what does it do? I am glad you asked. Simply put, DrDamage will tell you just about any information you'd like to have about your damage and healing skills. Hps, dps, hpm, dpr (damage per rage), average damage, highest/lowest damage, how various gear/talent coefficients affect the skill, how a stat affects you hps or hpm and so on. Whenever I write a post on how some healing skill works and bring up numbers about hps, hpm and the like, I've based most on my maths on numbers from DrDamage.

Because I like to play around with numbers and experiment with output and throughput, this addon has proven to be invaluable. One good example was when I was leveling a rogue and by using DrDamage I could see that whether it was worth opening a fight with Garrote or not, whether I should use Eviscerate or Rupture, completely depended on which rank of the skill I had. Even at endgame, even if there is a best way to deal with a situation, a rotation if you like (especially if you're dps), DrDamage is the tool you need if you like me like to tweak your play to be optimal for each encounter. It is especially useful if you play alot of different chars and want an easy way to keep track of how to use your skills. With a simple mouseover I can tell that Fireball has a higher dps than Scorch and draw conclusions from that, instead of having to sift through various forums on the internet for the same information. Instead of having to sit down and count the numbers for each skill manually, DrDamage will give you a nice breakdown of all the information you want about your skills.

Many choices to add, of which I've only chosen a few myself. Easy usage, you need only to tick the information you want displayed.
Easy comparison of skills. This is an example of how the tooltip looks with my above choices (scorch has no dpm, because I'm fire).
Comparison of skills between classes (you have to switch character though), also shows different settings for different characters (if you want it to).
Displays average damage/healing of your skills on your hotkeys (which includes crit damage), if you like. No mocking of the skill setup.
 I want to hand out a big thanks to the addon authors for taking their time with collecting all the necessary data for this awesome addon! The addon can be found here.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

This Post Is Not Here

Todays post is a guest post over at Elfi's World. She was going out of town and was asking for some guest posts to post on her blog while being away. How could I say no? So I sat down and pondered what would be suitable to write on another persons blog. I ended up writing about an idea I had about how seriously we take WoW, and how serious is ok? Some people are ashamed that they play as much WoW as they do, but no one seems to be ashamed that they spend that much time with any other hobby. We deserve to be proud about how serious we take our hobby too! And then again, as with everything else some people go and take it too seriously. It's a fine balance.

You can check it out here.

Thanks for having me Elfi :)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Perfect Pull

One thing I really had to re-practice when Cataclysm was released was the fine art of a good pull. All through Wrath there was very little need to think twice about the way you decided to deal with a group of mobs because A: You'd probably keep aggro on them anyway and B: You could tank 15 mobs without dying. Alot of this changed in Cataclysm and I quickly noticed that I had really been slacking in terms of keeping my pulling-skills (if I ever had any) up to date. I remember actually having to use cc, los and other complicated tank skills back in BC, but that was such a long time ago. My first shots at marking and tanking around cc didn't go too well. Fortunately I did my mistakes in normals which rarely ended in distaster. Still, it made me notice that the fine arts of a perfect pull really is a school of knowledge in itself. There are so many things to factor in to make a pull a good one. There are still a couple of pulls I dread and very rarely get right, most notably the final pack of mobs under a lightning grid in Vortex Pinnacle. The one where you have to pull three casters out of the grid and collect them all, hoping your dpsers haven't already barged and/or forgotten all about your cc marks? Allthough I rarely wipe there, it's still a blow to my pride when I see mobs running around everywhere untanked. Here are a couple of things to think about when going about doing a good pull.

Identify yourself
How you will deal with a pull depends alot on what kind of tanking class you are. Some classes have great aoe threat (paladin/dk), some have less good (warrior/druid). Some tanks have great ranged threat (paladin/dk), some have less good (warrior/druid). Some have a great setup of cooldowns for survivability (paladin/warrior), some have less good (druid/dk). Some have good cooldowns for threat (paladin, druid), some have less good (dk/warrior). If you feel like your aoe threat is an issue, you might want to cc just to make the group more manageable to you, not just to the healer. If you feel like you can survive a big pull by popping the right cooldowns you might avoid cc where other tanks would prefer some.

Identify your party
Make sure you know which kind of cc your party is capable of. If you're unlucky you've ended up in a group with a warrior, dk and priest dps, which gives very limited cc possibilities. Fortunately this doesn't happen often, most groups have at least some sort of cc at hand. At first you won't know if your cc actually knows how to cc, so it is possible that although you have classes that can cc, you don't have players who can cc. Still, the first step of a good pull is to recognize what your party can and will do when you do your first attack. This doesn't just include cc, this also includes charging head-first warriors or druids, trigger happy hunters or aoe-happy dpsers overall. Knowing whether you will get help from your party or have to struggle against them will do alot to how you would want to do a pull. If you can't hope for cc, you won't have to mark. If you can hope someone else will deal with a certain mob (silencing, ccing, killing solo) you might change the way you mark. Another factor that makes a big difference is the amount of dps your group has, or how good your healers is. The better the healers and dpsers are, the less likely you will actually have to think much about your pull at all. Just as in Wrath, you can worry less about cc and just barge in head first. If your party dps is low or your healer badly geared/skilled, you will need to think alot more before a pull. Some of these things aren't things you know before you've already done a couple of pulls unfortunately. Therefore it is generally good to use the first couple of pulls to test your group. Try setting up marks and see if people care to follow them. Try to put up less marks and see if your healer can still keep up. This will determine how you deal with the rest of the pulls of the instance.

Identify your mob group
The next steps to good pulls are more situation to situation based. The first of which is identifying the group of mobs you're about to pull. Depending on the quality of your group, you must now decide how much cc you will need and how to go about doing the pull in itself. Are there many casters? Are some mobs more dangerous/annoying than others? In some cases, like with the VP-healers, you will want to cc at least one because keeping two healers up is a real nuisance unless your dps is awesome. They heal themselves and eachother for nearly full health, which means that even if you have no trouble surviving the fight, neither do they, making the fight take ages (this has happened to me a couple of times). Some mobs do tons of aoe damage, while others might cc your healer which could end in tragedy (unless you have dpsers who can and do remove that).

Identify positioning and surroundings

Look around you, in what way can you use your surroundings to ease up on the pull? There are a couple of things to decide on. Do you want to tank them where they are or pull them back to a new location? Do you want to tank them by mob X or mob Y? This too depends alot on your party and the group of mobs, but also on what kind of tank class you are. Warriors and druids that generally have more trouble with ranged mobs, usually prefer to line of sight multiple casters to have them gather in a manageable group (unless they can all be ccd).

Identify the first strike
Once you've decided if and what mobs you want to cc, you need to decide how to do the actual pull. Do you want the cc to make the pull or do you want to do the first attack yourself? It is important to note that it is not always the best idea to use your initial attack on the mob that is supposed to die first. There are plenty of reasons to why you would want to use your initial attack on a mob other than your skull marked target. Although it might sound like this would make your tanking more troublesome, it is actually to make your tanking less troublesome that you want to use this tactic. Say for example that you have a group of mobs that are spread out. You want to barge in where the most mobs are standing and start doing your aoe threat, but also keep aggro on the mob that isn't standing in the group. Your initial attack could be on that lonely mob, making sure that he doesn't immediately run towards the healer when you tank the rest of the mobs (because he will be out of range for your aoe threat). One example is the pack of casters just after Corla in BRD. Another example is yet again the last pack of mobs in VP (before the stary things by the boss). If you don't have cc for all the casters you might want to use your initial attack on one caster and then attack the other, so to keep aggro on both.

Pulling is a huge part of the tank role. Most tanks absolutely hate it if they don't get to do the pull themselves, because it really makes alot of difference to how easy or difficult a tanking situation will become. As you notice there are loads of things to think about. Unless you see this as a fun challenge, at least to some extent, tanking probably isn't for you. Fortunately (?), cc is becoming less and less needed even in heroics now that people are getting better and better gear. Personally I feel like there are few things as rewarding as a succefully executed pull. On the other hand there are few things as frustrating as a utterly failed pull (which doesn't have to be just the tanks fault). Don't let this scare you off however, you quickly learn exactly how to deal with an instance and every pull in it, with only minor adjustments to accomodate your group setup. Eventhough tanking always is a challenge, many parts of it quickly becomes routine. How to deal with groups for a good pull is one of those things.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Good Old Games

I have a vague memory of once reading an interview with Shigeru Miyamoto in some game magazine were he said something along the lines of "I don't mind people emulating SNES games much, actually I'm just happy the games get played at all". Then again I could've just been dreaming that up. On the other hand, I don't think it is all off. In the case of old console games the reality is often that no matter how much you'd love to pay honest money for it, the games are just dead difficult to find. In some cases the game doesn't even exist in your language, and the only way for you to experience it is to go to a digital fan-subbed version of the game, or learn the language (usually japanese). The second alternative still means you have to find an actual copy of the game. In the case of oldies but goldies like Final Fantasy, Dragonquest and just about any good game for a console older than Playstation, this can be really difficult. Also, none of those money actually goes to the developer anymore since they all only exist in the second hand business.

This hasn't stopped from me from buying games for which I don't have the means of playing. I own a complete copy of Zelda A Link to the Past (although my mom threw away the map *sad face*), eventhough I don't own a SNES. I own a copy of Tales of Phantasia, eventhough I barely speak japanese and don't own a japanese SNES either.

I don't even want to think about all the games I would've never been able to experience if there wasn't the opportunity to play them emulated or downloaded. Do you know how difficult it is to find a copy of Final Fantasy 6? I'd completely love to have one though. Fortunately SquareEnix have re-released new versions of the old Final Fantasy games for Playstation. I only wish more games would get this love.

This isn't limited to console games. There are tons of good computer games out there that are difficult to get a hold of as well. But the problem isn't limited to supply only (although that is a big factor). In most cases the games are difficult to play just because they are so old. Unlike with old console games, few people still have a PC with windows 95 standing around just so they can play Diablo, Fallout and Baldurs Gate without trouble. In many cases, emulating a computer game isn't even an option. Even if there are a couple of emulators aimed at emulating computer games, such as SCUMM for DOS, these often have alot of problems that aren't easily surmountable. Even if you get the game to work properly, you might not get the sound to, or the controls, or a bunch of other things. Since computer games are built to work with several devices instead of just in one console machine, they are so much more sensitive to change. Or rather, like mentioned, finding a setting that corresponds to the ones the game was designed for is so much more difficult with computer games.

For a long time, this really bothered me. How I would've loved it if there was some way to just buy old games, without having to spend all those hours sifting through the "used games" boxes in various game stores, just to buy a game that doesn't even work on my computer anylonger. Fortunately, it seems I haven't been the only one who's thought that there is a market for old computer games. A couple of months ago, Love stumbled across a page called Good Old Games, gog.com. They've taken it under their wing to not only sell good old games, but versions of good old games that have been converted to work with new computers and sold to a reasonable price! Not only do you get the game, you get everything that was ever in the original game box, such as a digital booklet and any other extra material. How about Psychonauts, Planescape Torment or Neverwinter Nights for 9.99 (dollar) or Myst for 5.99? It's available across the world, and once you've bought a game you can download and install it to an unlimited amount of computers. In many ways it works like Steam in that you get an account, buy a game and always have access to it through your gog-account. I'm not sure in what way the original developers get their share of the cookie, but I can only imagine that there are some license fees that need to be paid before you can do this kind of thing. I know this sounds like a bad commercial, but I really feel like this is an awesome thing. Many of these games are great and don't deserve to be lost and forgotten just because we don't have the means to play them anylonger. If there is some game that you love and always wish you owned, or some game you actually did own but have lost somewhere under your bed since - now is your chance to own it, and most importantly re-experience it, again.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Committing to class designs (or not)

Some time ago I was fistfighting discussing something with Love about a post I had written. I don't remember exactly which post it was, but I remember something he said. He said that as far as Blizzard had come with their game now, they had a moral obligation to their players to make a worthwhile game. Because they had basically made it impossible for any other mmorpg to get a piece of the cake, their cake had to be pretty damn awesome. No matter if you agree with him or not (I didn't back then, because no one is forcing us to play WoW. Right?) I found his line of reasoning interesting and thought more about it. And even more importantly, I realized I had heard it before, but in a slightly different discussion.

When Cataclysm was launched, and as the months passed and people started to get the hang of their new classes, and how Blizzard had decided they should work for the upcoming years (?), I read an increasing number of blog posts starting out along the lines of "I didn't choose this class to do X" or more often "I chose this class to do X and now I can't". Since I mostly read healing blogs, it was mostly along the lines of "I chose a druid because I liked to spam hots, and now I can't" or "I chose a paladin because I liked to spam the tank and now I can't". Whether these bloggers are right about the fact that their class has been completely changed is less of a point. My question is rather - do Blizzard have the right to do whatever they want with our classes?

On my discussion with Love I argued that Blizzard had the right to throw all the servers into Mount Doom if they felt like it. Legally they own everything about the game. The name you've chosen, all those years you've spent on that character and just about everything else about it is theirs. They can delete your character or suspend your account or treat it in any other way as they feel like without you having much to say about it (which they do now and then). The only thing Blizzard have to do, is provide some kind of game for the money you've paid them. They can't take a full months payment and then shut all the servers down without having to pay you back (I think). Needless to say, legally the abovementioned question is easily answered. It's yes. They can do whatever they like with our characters.

But that's not interesting. Of course I mean it in a more moral or philosophical way. Is it ok for a game developer to "promise" something about a class and then completely change it? One recent example is now with hunter pets, who are becoming less and less important. Whether you think those changes are good or bad, I can not help but ask if Blizzard aren't really fundamentally changing something about hunters, and if that is ok? Another example is Oestrus struggle to get to keep his character name, a struggle I've had plenty of friends lose as well. Is it ok for a game developer to treat something we've put so much effort and time into recklessly?

Going back to the sad druids and paladins (I haven't read about any upset priests or shamans yet actually). If druids have been about managing hots since the dawn of WoW, would it be ok for Blizzard to completely change that? I know they haven't, just for arguments sake. Fact is they did change the healing classes, alot. Some more than others, paladins probably the most. This isn't really a matter about what you think is fun or not, but rather if you've spent years with a class, is it really ok for the allmighty game designer to change it enough so that you don't recognize your class any longer? If Blizzard say our class is about X, and we choose that class for that reason, we've poured ourselves into that class for that reason, is it ok for Blizzard to remove that element from the class? Is it ok for them to nullify what could be years of commitment?

Maybe I chose to level a disc priest and play it for all this time because I thought shielding was the awesomest thing in the game. Would it be ok for Blizzard to declare that shields are no longer part of their designer plan for discipline healing and to be removed from the game? That discipline priests would get a completely new way of healing? And if I don't like it, I will have to look elsewhere. Blizzard will try to accomodate the will of the majority of the players. They want us to enjoy the game so they wouldn't do anything to upset us. But in a game as big as WoW, a minority would still include millions of people. And even if they want to accomodate their players to some extent, should game designers have to draw the line at some point? Maybe I'm really asking if Blizzard has an obligation to commit to their designer choices? To work a little harder to find a solution that works with the grand idea of the class, rather than an easy solution that solves the problem fast but doesn't suit the class.

There are many examples where we can see that Blizzard are doing exactly this. They refuse to change the way totems work (or remove them completely as some shamans have suggested), because they are a fundamental way about shaman healing. Now that they are implementing a raid cooldown for shamans it is unsurprisingly a totem. I'm not saying a bad game mechanic should stick around just because it has always been there, and eventhough I personally think totems is a great example of when Blizzard stick with an idea through thick and thin they could still need a little tweaking. They could've just removed them or have them work in a completely untotemish way, which is what they seem to do with many classes today. When do we draw the line between simplicity and individuality (something I've written about before with slightly different takes). Other examples include rage and shield blocking as an avoidance stat.

As much as Blizzard have shaped our lives, we've really shaped Blizzard as well. We've poured faith and money into their hearts and pockets, does it really just extend to a month to month basis? Haven't we accepted already that WoW isn't something you just pick up and play? To many of us WoW is or has been a serious commitment with which we have spent more hours than we want to count. Chances are that if you're reading this post, WoW is a integrated part of your day to day life. I populated the world, I shaped it with my commitment. WoW has outgrown being just a provided service for money. To me, Azeroth and most importantly the character I play is as much mine as it is Blizzards. It shouldn't be treated in a reckless manner.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spilling the Beans or Where I Bitch and Moan

I don't talk much about any drama that I encounter in WoW, besides in my random pugs. That doesn't mean I am happily blessed without it, actually there is plenty of drama going on now and then, mostly in my guild of course, this wonderful place where people can clash their minds into what nearly ends up in fistfights. The only reason I haven't mentioned much about it is because I feel like it's somewhat private. Don't hang out your dirty laundry and all that. Although I am completely convinced that all guilds with an active member base bigger than 10 people has drama now and then, I just haven't felt like I wanted to vent my particular drama. I am also biased (it's inevitable) and probably wouldn't tell it the proper way.

I wrote this post mainly to get a load off my chest. This was back in end of January. It has taken me this long to post it because I wanted the situation at hand to have cooled down somewhat, and because it somewhere, somehow still feels wrong to post it. Yet, with all the things that I read around the bloggosphere, with guilds breaking up left and right I feel like this could actually be relevant. To show, perhaps, that your guild is not alone. I've always found great comfort in other bloggers posts like this - "Ah nice, I'm not the only one with guild wide issues". Maybe even to be a little educational. Be careful kids. This is what can happen when grown ups turn into kindergarten children. Like I said, this is written from my point of view so it will naturally be biased. I do not write this post to point at anyone and say "that guy did it wrong". We all did it wrong, some way or the other. Rather it fascinates me how easily things can go out of hand when we're dealing with eachother over the internet and misunderstandings might be even easier to get into than elsewhere. Read it, see what you think about it and try to avoid these kind of situations in your own guild.

This will be a rant of epic proportions, mixed with alot of nerdrage and frustration, so be warned.

As you may or may not know, I switched guilds about half a year ago. My old guild was great, we just didn't completely agree on raid commitment. I decided to join a guild that advertised themselves as a relatively serious 25 man guild, that had a "3 strikes and you're out"-rule. Basically, if you didn't perform to demands, you would be replaced. At this point of my raiding career, this suited me perfectly. I wanted to raid with people who were as interested, and had as much time to dedicate to it, as I did. My entrance to the guild went overall smoothly. I got along really well with nearly all in the guild and felt I had found just the right guild for me.

But soon, a small issue turned up. It started already soon after I had joined and blew up completely about a month ago [three months ago when posting this]. We had a healer, a holydin, who was treated specially by everyone in the guild for some reason. She had been in the guild for a very long time, and was seen as somewhat of the "veteran-healer" of the guild. She, along with a few other "old" healers were showing us newbies how things were going to be run. Most things went really well, because both she and every other healer in the guild were really skilled. But one incident in particular immediately made me flinch. I had just joined the guild and we were doing Valithria. Her being holydin and all I thought it would be a no brainer that she was taking one of the portals. But no, she didn't want to. And she didn't have to. I was completely flabbergasted. Valithria never was the toughest boss in the bunch, but if you have a best option, why go with the second best? Why do the fight in a more troublesome way when there was an easier way to go about it? Holydins and resto shamans were without any discussion the best healers for the portals on that fight. What really confused me was that I thought I had joined a serious raid guild. And it had behaved like one all the way, up until this particular moment. They actually tell disc and holy priests (omglol) to do the portals instead of her. I hope you understand the craziness. Eventhough the fight isn't the most difficult fight, we still had loads of wipes in heroic mode due to slow healing, something I felt could've been easily remedied by having the best healer do the appropriate job. You might ask "well if you managed the fight anyway, what does it matter?", and this is how everyone else in the guild reasoned about it too. Yes, we did manage the fight eventually, but to me it was a matter of principles. Everyone had to chip in and at least try do what had to be done for the best of the raid, no one was excused because they "didn't feel like it". Except her. That is what annoyed me. Special treatment should be for everyone, not just one player.

Now I would understand this treatment if the holydin in question was a newbie or completely undergeared. But this was the guilds maintankhealer and probably the best geared healer in the guild to boot. And she was a really good healer! She was inevitably one of the models to which all new healer applicants would conform. I didn't understand it at all. And all I got as an explanation was "she doesn't want to". I accepted it the first time. I was annoyed the second time. After a couple of weeks I just had to vent so I started asking questions. Delicately. I realized that this was something not to be spoken of. And people just brushed it aside. "Ah well, it doesn't matter. This is such an easy fight and if she doesn't feel like it etc etc". It really annoyed me. How will she ever become a good healer if she can pick and choose not to do the things that don't come easy at once? The most annoying thing is that the portals aren't even that difficult. I failed at them every now and them too. Everyone did. Well, if you've read my posts about gaming girls and how they don't dare to believe in themselves you know where I stand in this matter. I tried to tell her that no one is perfect, everyone make mistakes, but no. She refused. And everyone just patted her back and said that it was totally ok. It made me furious to be honest, because they were all doing her a disservice. And in any case, why was it ok for her to behave in this way, and no one else? Could I say "no I don't want to use shields on LK" and get away with it? Could I say "I don't want to spec Pain Supression because I don't want to use it"?

The matter subsided since Cata was launched and well, we didn't do Valithria anymore. Instead we started raiding Cata raids. I let the matter go, but realized that this mentality wasn't going to just go away. And another issue surfaced. Cata raids are, as most of you probably have noticed, alot more difficult than most Wrath raids were. At least the first couple of times before you've got the hang of the fight. Communication, of any level, between healers is a must, in my opinion. And I don't mean you should vent every thought that pops into your head, but telling your fellow healergroup if you're unable to heal your assignment, oom, silenced, using a certain cooldown and the like is necessary. "Oh I got into twilight realm, someone heal the tank!" is information that the other healers might want to have. Join in on discussions and answer questions given to you in chat are also things I enjoy. But this holydin refused to speak. She never used TS, not to utter a word. Apparently her english was bad, but in my guild people come from all over Europe and we all speak bad english, even the native english speakers. And I don't want her to recite Shakespear, I want her to say simple stuff like "Out of range" or "oom" or "Used Lay on Hands" and etcetera. She completely refused. The guild, still on her side but seeing the sense in my demands tried to get her to at least use some sort of chat macros. She agreed to this and I said that that of course would be better than nothing, but completely unfair and most importantly not effective enough. It would force every healer to check the chat for her messages every now and then, when she could just as easily convey the message into our ears. We're doing stuff, we don't have time to read the chat. Before you tell me that I am too elitist, hear me out. I don't mind that people don't want to use vent. I don't mind if people don't want to use flasks or pve gear/spec when raiding either, as long as that is what everyone has agreed upon. But this was during a time when my guild was fighting for server firsts, and people were getting dkp fines for not using enough speed pots during fights. I could just not understand how people could allow for this kind of critical issue to exist, when everything and everyone else had to be perfect. How come she didn't have to use vent, when everyone else had to do everything in their power to make the raid as good as possible? That is what I was trying to wrap my brain around, and I just didn't get a proper answer from anyone. I was frustrated to say the least.

Then things got really out of hands. I am curious about all healing classes. I enjoy healing overall, I read several blogs about all healing classes and I love comparing the classes to get the most out of them. I play them all for this reason as well. It is good to know which class will handle which situation the best. Eventhough I'm not the healing leader, and don't assign people, I still like to know. And so I ask people about things they do in raid. I do this with everyone. I've asked our shamans and druids about skills of theirs, to compare them with my own and figure out how we can use our differences to our advantage. And this particular raid I was asking her. We had wiped alot on Ascendant Council and she was low on healing done. We had a problem and everyone were looking at it from different angles to figure out how to go about fixing it. Some people were looking at whether the dps was too low, whether people didn't move fast enough from shit on the ground. Just about every stone was being turned. I had read about how paladins had some issues with healing at that time so I thought I'd ask her about it. This was not to mock her! It was not to point out I was better than her. On just the fights before she had outperformed me in healing done, and she often did. And healing meters only say so much (actually next to nothing most of the time). But in this particular fight she was lagging behind and I thought that if she had trouble, maybe getting out of range or having to move too much, the rest of us healers should know about it so we could step in. Since she wouldn't tell us over vent, or in chat, I figured the only way to know was to ask. We were trying to improve ourselves, all of us, so we could down the boss. And I knew this was a touchy subject, so how would I go about asking? I really, really tried to make it as nice a question as possible.

"Do you need some help? You're a little low on healing done :)"
and then quickly added
"Because I read paladins were having some issues, so that might be it. Not much you can do about it then :)" (note the smileys)
and after a while she replies
"Then replace me"

I had really tried to ask nicely and that was totally not the answer I wanted. So I told her.
"That's not what I mean. And it's not up to me anyway"
and she says
"Just tell the raid leader to replace me".

And then I became really annoyed
. Why couldn't she just discuss the matter at hand? We had a problem, and we had to solve it. She was definitely not the core of the problem, but her not communicating didn't exactly make the fight easier, and when her tank target kept dying, someone had to ask if there was something we could change about our setup, right? Annoyed as I was that communicating with her was impossible I said;

"I just asked you a simple question, there is no need to become such a drama queen about it. I'm not saying you're doing a bad job, I am asking if you have some trouble in this fight".

Apparently she snapped there because she didn't say anything more that fight (which means it was just as normal). Later on the guild forums she had posted an extremely angry post which started with a F*CK OFF! (yes in caps) and some more caps about how people (namely me) shouldn't question her way of healing. How I didn't know anything about pala healing and should just shut up. And I totally agree. I don't know anything about pala healing. That is precisely why I ask her about stuff during raids, so that I understand more about how we can encounter the fight and work together. I have to know which cooldowns you have, which healing you prefer, if you will focus on the tank or on the raid and etcetera. I have to know what everyone else in the raid is doing, this is not about 25 people simultaneously soloing the same boss.

It all exploded into a heated argument between me and some other guildies (in which she didn't take part) on how important communication really was. The interesting thing is that this fight had huge implications for the guild as a whole. We suddenly decided to split into two 10-man groups, where she happened to be in one and I in the other. That was trouble initially because we didn't really have people for two 10-man groups. And also suddenly the whole "we have to become server first" was blown away. Instead the very same people who had argued for it initially were now arguing that we shouldn't become too elitist. And I was standing there totally confused. The guild had set up a goal, everyone had worked for it, people had been punished for not doing their best. Punishing people for not using enough pots during a fight was never up for argument (although the people involved weren't happy about it). I find an area in which we can improve and suddenly the goal disappears. It was never there. And I am the elitist bitch because I questioned the wrong person. It reminds me of Communist China in the 50s. Tell people to do something, encourage them to do something, and when they finally do it, punish them. Yeah I warned you about the ranting.

How do you like them dramas?


Towards the end of december we had enough players at max level to do 25 mans again, and the holydin suddenly went "away" (that is what they said, she and her boyfriend who was the guild main tank and tank role leader). Nearly three months has passed and not a word from them. Because of... me. Somehow I managed to get the main tank, an officer of the guild, and one of the main healers in the guild to take a three month break, just because of my question. They both returned to the guild this week, and maybe the officers of the guild knew they'd return some day all along. But any questions on the matter have been answered with "no idea". I never really understood what happened. Clearly I had stepped on the toes of an esteemed member of the guild, who signed for every raid and usually did a very good job. But Cataclysm had set up new demands and communication was definitely one of them. Your track record can't protect you from having to adapt to these new demands. Months and years of service mustn't blind people to the fact that everyone have to be included in the guild rules or no one will take them seriously. Imagine doing a Cataclysm boss without vent? I dare you.