Saturday, July 30, 2011

To All the People I've Liked

The way we interact with people in WoW is kind of weird when you think about it. With the implementation of the dungeon finder system, I can't really think of any other area in which you continuously meet up with complete strangers, team up to manage a task (sometimes with good results and sometimes with not so good) and then say your goodbyes only to probably never meet that person ever again. If you think about it, you've just spent an hour with someone around Europe (in my case) who after the instance he just did with you will go do other stuff in his daily life just like you. You've just grazed eachother over the internets and you will never meet again (sometimes you're glad that is so). Will you remember that run for the rest of your life? Probably not. Although that might happen of course if it was particularly horrible or awesome. In what other area of life could you have these kind of meetings? There might be some field of work that works this way, but I can't think of a good example that is similar to how we meet people in WoW, except perhaps other areas of the internet. When you study at the University you often meet people for periods of a time, do work with them, and then never again. But not in the same magnitude as in WoW. In WoW we don't just team up with new strangers once a week, but several times a day. And most importantly, it's only that once, then all those people in your group are gone forever. What really makes me sad when a blogger decides to close down shop is mostly that I'll have lost my connection to them. I've shared so many thoughts and so much time with that person (or they with me anyway) and suddenly they'll be just - gone.

Outgrowing a guild is often like outgrowing your old friend team from childhood, moving to another guild is like moving to another town. You might stay in touch with a couple of them, but mostly you'll just have fond memories of all the fun you had a couple of years ago and get on with your current life. You left for a reason. But what if you didn't leave willingly? What if the connection wasn't severed willingly, or never even got a chance to become anything?

I've left a group of friends twice in WoW, once because of choice and once because I was forced to. In the first case I had spent several years in my old guild, and therefore several years with some of its members, before I decided to switch to another guild. I do still have some alts in my old guild and we do occasionally do some heroics together, but it is far from our glory days when we raided Karazhan, Zul'Aman and even Mount Hyjal and Serpentshrine Cavern with that guild. Oh all the fun we had. I even met some of them outside of WoW. And then one day I decided to leave all that behind and start a new "life" in another guild. There were many reasons for it, but to a big part because many of the people I liked so much in my old guild had left the game so there wasn't really much left for me to miss. And fortunately I can still talk to the ones that are left on my alts. I am more sad actually about my involuntary guild break, although it really shouldn't be a big thing to me.

Back in Wrath, maybe two years from now, I leveled one of my Prot Warriors. Somewhere around level 40 I was whispered by someone who asked me if I wanted to join his guild - Nightfall. Since I was all alone on the server I didn't mind the company, he also seemed like a really nice guy. So I said yes and joined them. They turned out to be a really nice bunch, they even raided and had been around for some time as I understood it. I join tons of guilds on all my alts, and I usually don't invest much time into them. I talk to people when I am online, I ask if someone wants to do a dungeon, but that is basically it. But things were different with this guild. I became friends with some of them, even added them to friends list (and I seriously very rarely do that, although this was before RealID), and probably played that warrior more than my priest. They got completely thrilled when they found out there was an achievement that would give you the title "of the Nightfall", since it suited the guild perfectly. Before I got to 80 however, almost looking forward to maybe being able to raid with this guild as much as I liked raiding with my main guild, the guild got into trouble. For some reason, of which I still don't know, the guild master and his girlfriend, one of the officers, just stopped showing up. Completely disappeared. If I recall correctly they said they were going to be gone for some week, but then they never turned up again. At first people didn't think much of it. Even a GM needs a break sometimes. But after a while this became a problem. Without the GM around some things were just difficult to manage practically, not to mention that when there is no outspoken leader in a guild, no one really knows which way to go. After a couple of weeks of trouble, most people had finally decided that the only solution was to disband the guild (which meant leaving it since only the GM could disband it) and reform it as a new guild under new leadership. It had to be done to save the guild and the people in it, because everyone was becoming frustrated at not knowing what was going to happen and not seeing any of the regular events going up.

Eventhough I had only been in the guild for a short while, perhaps a month (if even) when the issue first arose, I did commit a lot of time and effort to trying to help the guild and to help them find a solution to the problem. I might even have been the one that came with the suggestion that the ultimate solution might have to be to disband and reform. After much discussion it was settled. They picked a date, people logged on, quit the guild and were invited into the new one, named Dusk. Everyone had agreed on the new GM and other practical business, it really seemed like they might be able to get the show on the road again. But for some reason, that never happened. Something had been lost in the transition, and we never managed to find it again. Dusk dwindled further, people stopped logging on until finally one day, I parked my warrior in Dalaran and forgot about her. Forgot about the friends I had, forgot about the fun we had had. I just didn't log onto her anymore, I didn't see a point - for some reason. And before RealID, logging on to that particular server was the only way to keep in touch, but if I had no reason to play that character it made it difficult to keep the connection.

I know when people complain about the Dungeon Finder, this is exactly what they have a problem with. Meeting people fleetingly only turn them into no-named faces which you mainly use to get to your own reward. Back in the day when you only had your own server, you often played with the same people over and over, even if you didn't know them from your guild or real life. RealID is supposed to solve this to some part. But I don't necessarily want to hand out my real name to every nice guy I meet out on the internet - mom told me that was a bad idea already when I was 4 years old, and it has stuck with me. Right now, I don't even bother with talking to people because I know that even if I find someone who's interesting, I won't ever meet them again after this dungeon (although I'm really too chatty to keep my mouth shut in dungeons, but I can see why many other people think this way). WoW is all about interaction, and promoting friendship among strangers - it is what is needed to complete the majority of the content after all.Wouldn't it be great if there was some way to add friends cross server, maybe whisper them if they want to tag along on an instance? That way I can stay in touch with people I enjoy chatting with, without necessarily wanting to be best friends forever with them.

A couple of months later I logged back on - eventhough I can't really remember why - checked my friends list and saw the names of the people I had once spent so much time chatting with, offline. It made me sad. I had once really cared about these people, then I had turned my back on them. Or had I? How much had I really invested into my alt, this other guild and these "other" people. Did I have an obligation to stick around when they didn't? I don't know, but I do know that I sometimes still feel bad about the guild Nightfall/Dusk, and I suppose this is a memento to them all, all the people I once played with and liked that I'll never meet again.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Skill = Patience

So Paragon (or DREAM Paragon as they're now called), got world first on Ragnaros 25 man heroic. Congratulations! Let's read their statement as it is posted over at mmo-champion;

"Ragnaros: Too soon! (From Paragon)

Or was it? No, not really. Not if you ask us.

We've NEVER put as much effort into a kill as we now did on downing Heroic Ragnaros. We had a few grueling low percentage wipes and we were already planning on continuing early tomorrow with a better set of gear. Our kill attempt was going to be our last pull of the night as the thunderstorms and disconnects were kicking in.

Then everything clicked. All of our combined effort, practicing, theorycrafting and planning finally paid off. We had a near-perfect try and Ragnaros just melted away. A wave of relief washed over us. It was finally over. We wiped 500+ times on the boss, although I lost count at some point. Absolutely epic feeling after such an epic fight! (...)"

As always my first thought is - wow. I could never even imagine to be as cool and skilled as - WAIT WHAT? Ok, let's re-read that.

"We wiped 500+ times on the boss, although I lost count at some point."

Wait a minute here. 500+ wipes? What's the worst I've ever had? Somewhere around 140 I think. Now this warrants a comment.

When people think top 10 guilds, or even top 100 guilds, and especially the best guild, they think about players who are insanely skilled. Players who not only know their classes like the back of their hands, but who also learn from mistakes at a faster rate than a mere mortal like you and me. And I don't doubt that these players actually do possess some of the overgodly properties that people ascribe them, but look at that number up there. 500+. Let's say an even 500 wipes just because it's a pretty figure. Let's say half of those were just due to bad luck and/or bad fight design, because doing it first means you'll be the one to discover all the cute little bugs that always exist in a game. But they even admitted Blizzard had been "lightning fast" with their hotfixing, so I don't think half has to be completely wrong.

That still leaves 250 wipes with no other explanation than good old human error. That still leaves 10 wipes per person in the raid who just went "woops, I killed you all due to my failing". My guild has a three strike rule, meaning that if you fail to the same obvious mistake three times in a row, you're out. Admittedly we don't follow this rule very much, but it's there. And even if you fail to ten different things, most people would get cranky when you fail at the fourth. Somehow it seems like Paragon players wouldn't be allowed into our raids (although of course we fail way more often than that each fight, but we still have that rule).

Now, I know Paragon players are better than probably everyone in my guild, definitely myself included, but you know what they've really got that we lack?


And I don't mean exceptionally high patience like a parent has with their child, I mean godly patience, the way only a figment of our imagination could have with the way humans behave.

Let's take a look at my guild. We consider ourselves a "progression" guild, which means we have certain demands on our players performance. So we had 50 wipes on Atramedes, people start becoming frustrated, whiny and blaming eachother. Forum threads are created trying to discuss how we could better ourselves, but still in a constructive manner. After another 30 wipes people start whispering eachother about how much that, this and those people suck, how they'll probably consider switching guilds and how this is hopeless. The forum threads have diverged into name calling and yelling. After another 30 wipes people actually start switching guilds. The forum threads are now "goodbye" notes. Ok, it's not that bad, but it's definitely not far from.

The point is, we lose patience after a tenth of those wipes. We'll be close to giving up after a fifth.

It's quite possible that Paragon had the same issue in their raid, but they still managed to do another 400 wipes. Could you honestly say your guild would be able to handle that? I am quite sure mine wouldn't. I think nearly any guild would break from half that amount of tries. There are factors to consider of course. The reason for the wipe does make a huge difference to how whiny people get - but we already agreed that 10 mistakes per person in Paragons raid probably wasn't a crazy figure. They might've switched people around, but how many? They've probably got a limit to how many times someone can fail to the same thing before they get switched out, but switching people also means having someone with a fresh learning curve.

It's also quite possible that 500+ wipes is exceptional and that they've never ever even been close to having had to wipe that many times to a boss. They do say that "We've NEVER put as much effort into a kill as we now did on downing Heroic Ragnaros.". But I am quite sure they get over a 100 wipes on a standard heroic boss.

You know what else is patience? The countless hours they spend learning everything they can about their class, getting gear, getting every little buff possible, researching the fight and tactics and best setup, getting new gear once you discover that another spec is better, regemming, enchanting and reforging everything if necessary, gathering all those money and materials necessary to get all that. I think I spend a lot of time researching my priest, experimenting and trying out new things, reading up on changes and whatnot. And I probably don't spend one tenth, maybe not even one hundredth of a time that a regular Paragon player spends on his char.

We have less patience because we don't have the carrot of a world first and the possible excuse that our gear still is fairly bad compared to the encounter requirements, but we lose patience faster than those points can account for. Or so I think. And other than bad gear, Paragon really has no excuses for failing. They've done all the research, they should be the best at what they do. When they fail they probably do thorough research as to why and what they can do about it, but most importantly they keep on going. They keep their focus and constructive analysis. We put far from that much time into our raiding, yet we expect success a lot faster than they had? Or we think that losing our professional attitude would make things better?

Don't interpret this as me saying - "The way elite guilds do it is the only way to do it". I'm saying that one of the things that make them so good is that they have the patience, even after 450 wipes, to get back up and give it another go. It's not about unattainable skill, but maybe about unattainable patience. Even if we'd account for the fact that we get to the encounter with better gear and knowledge about the fight, we don't allow ourselves even half the wipes that the best guilds do. People in "progress" guilds want to play the Paragon way, but without putting nearly as much effort as needed. It's not through some unreachable skill that they soar high above us in capability. It's when we start whining at the 30th wipe and give up at the 60th that we really show why we'll never be as skilled as a Paragon player.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Comments on "Ask the Devs - Healing"

I was very excited to see that Blizzard had thrown us a Healing "Ask the Devs", especially since it was pure chance that I noticed it at all, what with being away from mmo-champion for over three weeks. It finally held some words on priest healing, which I of course threw myself at like a pig throws herself in mud. Here are some of the things that were said and a little comment from me on them (shortened, you can get the full versions here).

Epicfail, some Taiwanese guy and Pikapika ask this question;
"Is it intended for “smart” heals and target capped aoe spells to heal companions/pets like bloodworms instead of players?"

This is one of the things that has really bothered me about my "smart" heals, since forever it seems. As a priest I have a couple of those, Prayer of Mending and Circle of Healing both randomly heal meaningless targets like pets and summoned pets from time to time. The only other healer to whom this is a major concern are shamans, because apparently Chain Heal can bounce to a pet, which honestly is even more annoying than having PoM or CoH do that. It's annoying because you know it's basically a wasted heal, and there is nothing you can do about it. It also makes it a lot harder to heal when the dk decides to pull out Army of the Dead, it is possible that all my heals from CoH hit a ghoul, and for each time I heal a pet instead of a player I've wasted mana and time. It's not a major concern but it's always bothered me that some targets are healable at all. Would it be so horrible if Bloodworms or Shadowfiend weren't healable? And like mentioned, some healing classes are more affected by this than others. I just don't see how fixing this could be so difficult, but apparently it is because this problem has been around for ages.

Blizzard answers;
"True AoE heals (e.g. Healing Rain) will heal pets and guardians, but will not count those units towards the AoE cap. We’d prefer for “smart” heals to prioritize players over non-players whenever possible, and we’ll continue to improve the logic on such heals until that is the case – it certainly doesn’t feel particularly satisfying to see that you’ve just delivered a critical heal to a Bloodworm."

I'm glad they've realized this, and I didn't know actually that non-pets didn't count towards the aoe cap (although it would've been really silly if they did, but you know how Blizzard are sometimes). I don't mind healing pets, but I don't want them to steal heals from target that actually need them.

Frazlo and some Korean guy asks;
"At the start of Cataclysm, the the idea was given that developers wanted to step away from niche healing and let all healers be capable tank or raid healers. Has this goal since changed?"

I think that Blizzard did a pretty good job with shamans and priests, giving them tools to be decent tank and aoe healers as needed. They did fail on changing the roles of paladins and druids however, where I definitely agree with the people who think that druids are mainly aoe healers and paladins are mainly tank healers just as back in Wrath. You could argue that the way paladins and druids heal somehow force them into these niches, but I just don't think that is true. I don't think there is something inherently about hotting that makes it impossible to point heal with, or something about cast healing that makes it impossible to aoe heal with (just look at Prayer of Healing!). If you look at them just like that, then yes maybe. Hotting does work well for healing multiple targets for small damage because they're mana efficient and instant. Big heals work well for big damage for obvious reasons. But the real reason paladins can't do aoe and druids can't do tank (and remember I use the word "can't" as in "are less good at") are because they lack the tools. Paladins have decent aoe heals, but once they've spent their Holy Radiance and Light of Dawn they have nothing else. Druids barely even have a good, big heal that is worth throwing continously and that could save a tank in a pinch. But I think they could both be redesigned to do the other area of healing better. I think hotting could be designed to work for tank healing and cast-heals be designed to work with aoe healing (something along the lines with how GoAK works now perhaps?). Maybe Blizzard are afraid druids and paladins would become too good if they did this, and they're ultimately satisified with having two healers that are slightly more niched and two healers that are more to the middle.

Blizzard answers;
"Currently Holy Radiance can just be layered on top of the other heals, so the paladin isn’t shifting into group-healing mode the way a shaman can focus on Chain Heal or a priest can focus on Prayer of Healing."

I think this is the problem. Blizzard are afraid to give druids tank healing tools and paladins aoe healing tools because they might be able to do both at the same time (kind of like how druids can keep LB on tank while aoe healing and the above example). I know plenty of druids who think they're good at tank healing, so we might already be there. I don't entirely agree that priests and shaman have to switch though. A shaman can keep Rain up while nuking a tank and as a holy priest I can keep Sanctuary and PoM up (and poke the occasional CoH in) while spamming a tank (as disc I have to switch, but Blizzard hate disc). But yeah, I can't throw GH and PoH at the same time (nor can a shaman do Chain Heal and GHW at the same time). A druid can do WG and HT at the same time though and a paladin can do Holy Radiance and DT at the same time. It's all about balances, but it's definitely possible.

Kahlan and Zerruhju ask;
"What are the developers' thoughts on perhaps giving Discipline priests three strengths/types of shields/absorbs, in a similar manner as all other healers have three main heals? (...) Why does this become shorter and shorter, always saying we should go for direct healing instead? In that case you could play another healing class that has better direct heals."

This is a tricky one, but I agree with the general point here - why force disc away from shielding when that is what the class is about? But similar to how they revamped druid mastery to force druids to use their direct heals, Blizzard just can't make us all about shielding, because hots and absorbs are so superior to regular heals in most situations, especially absorbs. Blizzard says the same thing;

"Balancing the Discipline Priest is often challenging because they can provide so much more damage prevention than the other healers. If Discipline priests had all absorb spells instead of heals, it might make them mandatory for all raids but weak when healing a 5-player dungeon. "

This is exactly what I have been whining about regarding the mastery vs haste discussion for discipline stat choice. If I focus on mastery, I will have awesome shields, but shielding alone isn't good enough in any situation other than 25 man raiding (similar to the debate going about holydin mastery vs haste now). For 5 and 10 mans I'll still need to mainly use my regular heals and that is where I will need haste. Problem is, making the shields too good is easy because they're instant and big and prevent damage. I think in a 5 man environment, the Weakened Soul debuff is enough to force us to use cast-heals inbetween the shields, and they probably implemented the Strength of Soul talent  because WS was too punishing for point healing, but in raids we've got plenty of targets and the shield quickly becomes overpowered.

Blizzard continue;
"However, players who cling to the attitude of “I’m a Disc priest; I should only shield,” aren’t really understanding our design for the class. Ditto with druids who only want to cast hots, or paladins who only want to drop heal bombs on the main tank. “I’m good at something” isn’t the same as “I only do that thing.” "

This is partially another discussion, but I don't agree with Blizzard at all here. Let me just say I wish that how they see it really is how it would work but it's simple - Why would you choose someone who is less good at something to do that, if you've got someone who does it better? If you're going to play basket ball you wouldn't pick Zinedine Zedane, you'd pick Michael Jordan. Zedane is great at football, so you'll pick him instead when that comes up. The same goes for healing. Why would I put the paladin on aoe healing when I have a druid who does it better? As long as Blizzard design classes to do things more or less good (and I think that is inevitable), people will put whoever does it best in that position. I think Blizzard should acknowledge this and account for that when they design their classes instead of just saying "you should do something else because you can". We all want to do what we're best at, obviously.

Two korean guys ask;
"When healing, it is hard to see the overall screen because healers must keep an eye on the Raid frame. And due to PVP balance issues, dispels are only allowed for healer’s. This situation makes it too harsh for the healers and gives to much responsibility and also a burden because healers have to heal and move at the same time during raids. Isn’t this a little too harsh? "

The ye olde debate about whoever pulls the biggest load in a raid will never finish. I do think however that now more than ever, everyone really have to bust their ass off to get things done. Some fights are dead easy for tanks, some are extremely difficult. Most fights are fairly difficult for healers (as long as it's progression) but on the other hand I always felt like the very fact that we get to concentrate on those neat little frames made our job easier. We don't have to keep track of stuff that are out of our screen (much), we rarely have to keep track of advanced tactics like certain interrupts, target switching and whatnot, we can just focus on those frames and stay out of shit. No, I don't think healers have a tougher job, I think it's fairly even.

Some Taiwanese guy and Galadruin ask;
"Healers are usually responsible for the loss of the teammate, but not all the mistakes are made by healers, such as over taunt or damage zone avoidance. This also happens in the 5 man dungeons frequently. Is there any chance to add a design to punish damage classes with inappropriate behavior? Is there ever going to be a clear indicator that the indivdual [sic] died from "unhealable damage" in combat logs/on screen warning?"

Blaming the healer seems 2006 to me. Now it's usually always the tanks getting the blame. I suppose this can differ from place to place and pug to pug, but overall I don't get much whine thrown at me as a healer, and that is far from being because I'm always such an awesome healer. I've had people die just because I had tabbed out (yes, shame on me) and they actually usually assume they did something wrong than that it was my fault! Do you think people still blame healers overly much? I get the impression we've actually got the easiest time right now.

Nehalim and some Russian guy ask;
"How do you plan on addressing our inflating spirit and mana pools later in the expansion to keep mana a resource, rather than a solid blue bar?"

This is a very good question, and something I have been pondering myself lately. As I've told you, I've moved away from spirit more and more because I just don't need that regen. My mana pool is usually not an issue at all during raiding or instancing, and I'd actually really have to go out of my way to go oom (it's usually in a fight that I don't yet know how to heal and where I heal more than I have to). It's always difficult to give players an impression that they improve and advance, without making them overpowering the old content. I think actually it's probably impossible not to. Now, I haven't had a chance yet to try out the new Firelands (I am slow, I know), but throwing new content at us is probably Blizzards best way to counter this effect. By giving new bosses that hit even harder and have even more aoe damage, they're forcing us to use more mana. Or they could just nerf our spirit like they did in Wrath. In either case, I'm not much worried about this issue. It goes back in forth in waves and always will.

Maladi asks;
"Are there any plans to give Holy Priests access to a viable 3-minute raid cooldown? There are concerns that without a cooldown along the lines of Power Word: Barrier, Spirit Link Totem, or Tranquility, we may need to play disc a lot in firelands. Maybe simply an improved Divine Hymn? "

Interestingly enough, I never thought that the holy priest lack of a 3 minute raid cooldown ever was a big problem - because we still have tools that people like having in a raid. As long as we do what we do good enough, people will want us. Blizzard seem to be on the same line;

"(...) we feel the Holy priest toolkit overall is strong, that they provide meaningful contributions to raid healing, and are well represented in actual raid groups."

Sergan asks;
"Looking at the healer changes with patch 4.2, there are changes being made to paladins and druids, but there doesn't appear to be any for either the priest or shaman. Do you feel comfortable with where these two classes are? Where do you feel the other healers are at currently? "

I was assuming that the lack of changes, or notes of any kind really, regarding priests were due to Blizzard being happy about where we are at the moment. Or possibly because they had more pressing matters. In any case, I overall agree. Priests have always been fairly solid in their design, and eventhough Blizzard seem to be uncertain about how discipline should play their shields, how holy should play their chakras and how shamans should deal with raid damage, they've pretty much fixed many issues regarding that and have now turned their eye on the next problem - druid and paladin masteries. I bet priests and shamans will get plenty of love with the next content patch.

Anohako asks;
"Do you feel that the three-heal model you implemented at the start of Cataclysm is a success? Have you changed your expectations or goals in regards to the three-heal model after watching a tier of raiding? How do you feel about how the various specs are using or avoiding these three core heals?"

If you ask me, I'm quite pleased with the three-heal model. As a priest I use Heal and Greater Heal regularly (and I know many priests use Flash Heal about as often as it's supposed to, although I'm bad at using it). On my pally and shaman I heal with Holy Light/Lesser Healing Wave and Divine Light/Greater Healing Wave pretty much like I use the equivalents on my priest (and same with Flash of Light/Healing Surge). When I heal as a druid I use Nourish a little less than I would Heal, but still quite a lot. I don't use Healing Touch (except if the tank is the only one taking big damage) because it's usually less useful than spamming hots and I only use Regrowth when I've got a cc proc or I'm in ToL form. So druids are the only ones that work very differently from this system as compared to how the other healing classes use it - but they still use the skills (except maybe Healing Touch), just in a different way. What I like about it is that Blizzard really made our tool kit easy to understand. So eventhough they gave us more tools to use (making Heal a viable heal at all), they also made it very simple to identify when to use which heal. Not to mention how easy it is to switch between healing chars ;)

Blizzard answers;
"Overall, we still like the model and we intend to keep supporting it. One flaw with the system is that healers in 5-player dungeons often have to make harder choices about which of the three core heals to use at any given moment."

More than any other class, healing really changes from raiding to 5 man (tanking does too, but healing even more imo). You go from having a couple (or many in 25 man) support healers, to being the only one on whom the rest of the group rely. It does make a lot for how you have to heal, and I agree that you sometimes have to be even better in 5 mans than you have to be in raiding, at least as far as healing goes (in raids you often have to succeed more with the fight mechanics rather than skilfull healing). Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you see it), 5 mans don't stay difficult for very long, but I rarely feel like I have to be more skilled healing than when I do new 5 man instances.

Now I will have to long until the next time Blizzard open their mouths about priest healing. Another two months?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Field Report - Summer Hiatus

I kind of like how the summer vacation forces me to take a break from WoW, and especially raiding. It allows me to look at it from another perspective, instead of being the one caught right up in it, I'm watching it from outside and think "why do I do this?". I can only imagine that this is part of the explanation to why so many guilds have trouble coping with the summer and pre-new-expansion/patch hiatus. I'm probably not the only one who takes a good look at myself and think about it. But I don't think at it in some sort of existential way, I'm not trying to answer why I raid at all. The answer to that question is simple - I like it. Rather I ask - why do I raid the way I do? A lot of things have happened in my guild that have influenced my gaming and myself overall. So much drama that I hardly thought it was possible. What's the deal really, and what should I do about it?

If you've followed my blog you'll know that I've had my fair share of weird arguments in my guild. In short, I had a major clash with our GM regarding the seriousness of raiding and what that entails. Later on I was demoted because one person, new to the guild and with really low attendance (and who just recently left the guild with her boyfriend, after being with us for some 3 months), had complained about - well I don't know what really. I never got to know. As I understood it, something I said regarding how priest healing works, which go figure, I as an officer and raid leader probably was supposed to talk about. And when my boyfriend and some of my best friends decided to leave this guild, some of the reasons being exactly that the leadership is illogical at times, I still decided to stay behind. Did my loyalty become rewarded? No, instead I get to hear later on that much of the trouble I've gotten in to has partially been because some never really trusted that I'd stick around. Or even worse, that I only stuck around to be some sort of a spy to my boyfriends new guild. An undercover agent! (I wish I was that cool). Well, I'm not. I stayed because I like the people in this guild, I like the raiding. But how can I ever convince the management of that? Right now the mere fact that I have connections to people in the new guild (and there aint much I can do about that) seems to be reason enough not to like me. If they've decided that I'm not worth investing time and effort into, they'll only fulfil their own expectations by chasing me away. If I don't feel appreciated and like what I do matters anyway, I will inevitably leave, right? But through all the issues so far, I still haven't. I won't lie and say I've never pondered it, but so far the choice has always been easy to me. Why?

Because I know that I'm not an easy person to work with. I can be obstinate, for sure. But I'm not arrogant enough to say "this is who I am, deal with it". When my GM approached me, basically telling me that I was going to be demoted because this one person had a problem with how I did the job assigned to me, I didn't tell him to fuck off. I thought it, but I didn't say it. Instead I said "so what can I do to make this work?". Apparently nothing, demotion was the only solution. And I wasn't angry about it, I wasn't angry about the demotion. I was confused that they thought that was a good solution, but not angry. I'm still part of the guild, or so I thought.

I also know that a lot of the problems that have arisen have been in part because of simple misunderstandings. Believe it or not, I will give people the benefit of the doubt. I will always think that there is a possibility that people don't actually mean to be malevolent and/or stupid, that we've just simply understood the situation in different ways. I could ask for more transparency regarding the decision making process but on the other hand I could probably handle the questioning in a more delicate manner too. Clearing out misunderstandings has so far been how this has been handled (except regarding the demotion). My GM, whom I respect despite our differences in points of view, usually takes me aside, explains why something is a problem and tells me what I have to do in order to fix it. Which usually entails "just don't do it".

I understand that I can be more argumentative than other people, but I've also been around in the guild for longer than 95% of our current raiding group, who only joined the last three months approximately. I've been around for a year, since before Cataclysm, since before the "split" and I know how the management deals with things. And I don't always like it. Sometimes I just have to ask why something is done the way it is. Is that really so wrong? And if I don't get an answer, I won't let it go. I will keep on asking. I think I have the right to know why people do stuff the way they do when they affect me.

Like when I asked whether I could get my position back as an officer since the whole problem with the person who had complained had been solved (and she had left the guild). Assuming I was promoted for a reason in the first place.
No, they say. Your officer position isn't needed any longer. Apparently I had held one of the arbitrary officer positions that they had wanted to get rid off for some time. They only want class leaders, nothing else. Nothing personal.
I can understand that, but why is X an officer, I ask - he isn't class leader.
No, but he holds a veteran status in the guild, they say. He gets to be an officer just because, they say. Ok, I think. But how come Y is the melee class leader when he's not even a melee? I ask.
We're working on that, they say. He's only temporary, they say.
And will you demote him once you've replaced him? I ask. Because then he holds an arbitrary officer position.
No answer.

This is standard procedure in my guild.

Believe it or not, I am not the only one asking questions. I am far from the only one noticing when something odd is afoot. When we had trouble with people failing on Cho'gall some asked "why don't you just replace the ones who keep on failing?". This is exactly what I asked in early Cata, which is what started the first big argument I got into. Or when the officers announced a new, awesome system that would punish the healers for not having enough attendance, although that never was a problem. Each healer didn't have high attendance, but since we are many enough, there were always enough people to fill the raid with good healers. First I asked - why? Why change it when it's working? Then other people chimed in, why? Why change it? (Apparently some healers had been complaining, but since a majority of the healers were the problem to begin with, only a minority (1-2) could've been complaining. Why cater the few I asked?). And they finally decided to scrap the idea.

It is possible there is a perfectly viable reason to why some people in the guild can hold arbitrary officer positions, but not everyone. Or why some people should get special treatment regarding whether they have to use certain raid tools or not. Or why the voice of some people weigh more than others of the same position. All I am asking for is the reason. And I usually have to ask a thousand times before I get an explanation. Or why H suddenly doesn't get to come to raids, because the officers thinks he's performing bad, when he's in fact far from performing the least good out of his class? Why I ask. Because, they say.

Without the real answers I have to make up my own. I've even ventured into the megalomaniac area of my brain where I imagine that the GM only took the complaint as a well timed excuse to remove me from officer position. I am quite sure it hadn't happened it if had been anyone else who had been the issue. I wasn't asked to become an officer, they just suddenly promoted me. Somewhere along the way they probably thought it wasn't a good idea, for reasons I'll never know. This kind of arbitrary treatment is exactly what annoys me.

Why don't I just give up? Throw in the towel and say - you clearly don't want me here, I'm off. It's not only because I enjoy being a pimple in the ass of the officers, although that always will be a small part of it. But I'm just not a quitter. It took me at least 1 year of struggling in my previous guild before I switched. By then I had seriously tried everything to get it to some decent raiding, but it was impossible. I won't leave this guild until I feel like I've really tried everything. Everything I can to have myself understand the ways of the people around me, and have them understand me.

I'm not trying to fight people just for the heck of it. It just really annoys me when things aren't done for logical reasons (as I see them). Or when people use arbitrary rules. When something applies to one person but not to everyone else. I have to say and do something, or it will poke me in the brain forever. I can't just let it slip. I have to understand it. When the wrong person got loot I say "but C had a lot more dkp" and the mistake is solved. An honest mistake. But no one else said anything! Giving the loot the wrong guy isn't the end of the world, but why don't people question the things that matter more? Don't they care?

Why did he suddenly get uninvited, why did he get a promotion? Why did he get that loot when I'm ahead, or why is he allowed not to use a flask? I ask these questions. But people are too content, and I really wish I could think that way. Just not care. Unfortunately I can't. But I like my guild, I like the people. I wish I could shut up but I just really think some things needs explaining. Not every little step, but every decision that is made that people don't understand must be explained, using the guild rules as guide lines. People should be able to think "ok, I see why they did that" or "I don't agree, but it IS according to rules that I signed up for". We didn't vote for our officers, so we can't always trust to leave the good of the guild in their hands without some transparency. At least I don't when I see how some people act. So don't do everything behind locked doors. Our current GM only took over because our previous (and awesome I might add) GM was burned out. He was the only one with enough time, both on his hands and in the guild, to take the job. He didn't ask for it and we didn't ask for it so he'd definitely benefit from some transparency in his decision making.

Nothing hurt me more than when H was removed from raiding and no one in the raid said anything (openly). Did no one in the raid care whether he was there or not? Did everyone, but me, agree that he wasn't good enough? Maybe everyone got an explanation and I just missed it, but that can hardly be the case with every decision that is made. Will the guild allow me to be treated this way too? Singled out until I give up. Ignored and quelled for reasons I don't even know. Maybe I deserve it.

Or maybe I am using my own shortcomings as an excuse to let other peoples shortcomings not bother me enough to take action. How long should I accept bad behavior just because I'm not perfect myself?

On a less rambling note;
I've finally decided to bind my scroll to some casts - Prayer of Healing on scroll down and Binding Heal on scroll up. I noticed that even my solution to put PoH on R wasn't good enough, since it still meant I had to target first to use it. Considering how much it is used, both as disc and holy, I felt it was too slow. Binding Heal got scroll up since it didn't have any good binding yet and I actually use it a lot. I also should practice using Flash Heal more since right now I barely use it a handful of times (if ever) during a whole raiding night. But it's worked so far, so I'm being lazy with that one.

I also thought to use Glyph of Power Word: Shield instead of Glyph of Power Word: Barrier. I am unsure on which will turn out to be more healing in the end, because evaluating the extra healing during the Barrier duration is rather tricky. But the shields have been rather buffed since I last tried the Shield glyph, and it worth giving a new go.

This was written in June.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Circle of Healing Webring - Zinn Edition

I've been seeing this Circle of Healing meme going around, but unfortunately it started just when I went on vacation so I didn't really get a chance to check it out, and then somehow, it fell out of my memory. Until I noticed that Oestrus over at the Stories of O, Rades over at Orcish Army Knife and then also Minstrel over at Holy Word: Delicious (and maybe even more people, omgomg I am famous) had "tagged" me to do my own version of this rather long questionnaire. Well, that must mean at least THREE *holds up three fingers* people are interested in knowing what I have to say about this, and three who also happen to be some of my favorite bloggers, so let's give it a shot! I must admit, I have been enjoying reading what other priests have had to say. I remember my first impression of this was "woah!". The questionnaire is rather long, and equipped with questions that each on their own could warrant a full post. I feel like the challenge here is to say something concise, which really isn't my strength at all *cough*. All the better. So let's get to it.

1. What is the name, class, and spec of your primary healer?
My main currently, and has been for some 5 years (except for a brief blackout as a warlock), is Zinn the Priest. I started out as a pvping shadow boob, but was eventually coerced persuaded to do some healing. After a lot of healing, it actually grew on me, up to the point where I realized I love priest healing and hate shadow priest dpsing, I switched and never looked back. I alternate between disc and holy, partially because my raid group has varying demands and partially because I seem to enjoy the different specs in periods. In early Cata I preferred holy, and then when they fixed disc somewhat I turned back to that (I had primarily played disc in late Wrath). So although I'm in a disc-phase right now (31/8/2), it could easily turn into a holy-phase.

2. What is your primary group healing environment? (i.e. raids, pvp, 5 mans)
I heal on many chars, and they all have their own little niche. On occasion, my main isn't even the one I heal the most with, which might make you question the valiability of calling it my "main" at all. But that's matters for another post. With Zinn I've primarily healed raids the last couple of years. With each new expansion there are loads of dungeon crawling of course, but I quickly turn Zinn into my raids-only-character, where I only log on to her to do raiding. Nothing else, not even dailies (because doing dailies as a healing priest really sucks). I'm currently in a 25 man raiding guild, and have been for the last year. After having played in a 10 man raiding guild for some 3 years, I think what I enjoy about 25 man is how it allows me to tailor my stat gearing to my liking a lot more than a 10 man would. In a 10 man I always felt it like I have to adapt my playstyle and gearing to a large degree to what the rest of the 10 man group looks like, while in a 25 man it's a lot less vulnerable and I can play and fool around a lot more. Not in that I take 25man raiding less serious, but it allows for more experimenting and individuality. In a way that is what I enjoy about priest healing over all, that it holds so much possibilities to heal different situations in varying ways, and these possibilities really bloom in a 25 man environment. Some people say they like the challenge that the 10 man restrictions put up, but I say screw restrictions.

3. What is your favorite healing spell for your class and why?
I know I probably should say Power Word: Shield, but really I don't like that spell much at all. Why you ask? Because you don't notice it. PWS is the absence of healing. Although I really love the concept of absorbing damage, and think it is superior to conventional healing, there is no denying that there is something really special in burning off a 50k critted Greater Heal. Ok, so much for why I don't like PWS. But I do love Prayer of Mending. I think of Prayer of Mending as my sidekick. Whenever I pop it I think "I CHOOSE YOU PRAYER OF MENDING!" and imagine this awesome something something that jumps forward and does my bidding by jumping from person to person and heal. I do this because I'm crazy it heals while I heal (such an awesome idea), and it's mostly smart. I'm very proud of my Prayer of Mending. Whenever there is some tough aoe going I can hear my PoM bounce around while I pump those Prayer of Healings and I think "yeah yeah yeah!". And cackle devilishly. It is one of those spells I really miss when I heal with other healing classes. I completely ignore the fact that it more often than not, ends up on someones pet. I forgive it. When it comes to effectiviness, there is no denying that the Shield probably tops it. One spell that single handedly makes out 30-40% of my healing done just has to be loved.

As holy, it's still Prayer of Mending that I like most for the same reasons as above. As for effectiviness, it's a tough choice because so many of the skills are fun to use. I'd probably say Renew. It had a downer in early Cata, but has made a great come back imo, and I am reverting back to my old renew-spamming, wannabe-druid healing style more and more, which I actually enjoy. Circle of Healing and Lightwell come in as close seconds.

4. What healing spell do you use least for your class and why?
Flash Heal. Funny, because it was probably among my most used spells in Wrath. Then came Cata and Blizzard threw out flashy looking slogans like "mana management is the new black" and "once you go slow you never go low" (no actually I made those up myself). I thoroughly learned NOT to use Flash Heal in early Cata. Having to struggle with slow-ass heals like Greater Heal and Heal (and actually anything with cast time besides Flash Heal) was torture (which explains my stat choice, more about that shortly), and I think somehow, deep inside, I blamed Flash Heal. Like "you used to be my friend but you completely turned your back against me. How can I ever forgive you?". I can't. And I haven't. Eventhough using Flash Heal now isn't the end of the world that it was in early Cata, I still use it way less than I should - I even use Renew more, especially for 5 mans. I think being in a 25 man environment also makes it less necessary because I can rely on other healers with way better fast heals to do that sacrifice instead of me. It does make me lazy for when I, albeit rarely, heal 5 mans and 10 mans, and I should probably practice that Flash Heal finger some more. I mean, I don't even have it bound to a click button!

5. What do you feel is the biggest strength of your healing class and why?
Versatility. Unfortunately less now than ever before. Not that we've become less versatile, but that all the other healing classes have become less rigid. I remember all through Vanilla, Bc and Wrath, whenever a healing situation arose, or you didn't know how to tackle something, someone always screamed "THROW MORE PRIESTS AT IT!" and it almost always solved the situation. Druids, paladins and shamans all had their very cut out role. They've all had glory moments (ok, not shamans), but in the end there were still things they just couldn't handle. Not so for priests, we can do anything. But as with any class that can do anything they suffer from it sooner or later. Just look at hybrids, because they could do everything, they didn't do anything with prominence. I never thought that way about priests, we didn't win the meters, but we were the most trusted to really get our job done regardless. Any fight and you knew the priest would at least be useful. I feel that less and less the further into Cata we get, where they tweak and pull the other healing classes left and right, but just seem to have given up on priests. Or maybe we're just perfect.

6. What do you feel is the biggest weakness of your healing class and why?
Like I mentioned above, I feel like priests aren't awesome at anything. Or actually, let me put it this way. I know priests are awesome, but I can sometimes feel like everyone else think they're not good at anything. Like they think they can't reliably put us to do neither tank healing nor aoe healing, that we've somehow just become the backup healer. Or like they know what the paladin, druid and shaman are good for, but what do we do with the priest? When people assign they think "ok, the paladins does this, the shaman does that, the druid does this and the priest... can do whatever she likes". Maybe I am burned from how much priests sucked in early Cata, to the point where people actually lfgd for a healer with the clause that it couldn't be a priest. Maybe I am burned by the fact that I never got the feeling that Blizzard actually knew how they wanted to design priests for Cata and that we've somehow ended up half done (that might be true for many classes though). Maybe I am just being whiny while writing this.

7. In a 25 man raiding environment, what do you feel, in general, is the best healing assignment for you?
Oh, hmm. Any I think. I like change most of all, and I would've rather chopped off my pinky toe than play through what paladins did in Wrath - "Ok paladin, news for you. You heal the tank!". Looking at the same healing situation every fight is probably what scares me the most, and I enjoy taking on a little of the crazy stunt healing assignments that pop up, like healing a kiter or being the one to run three times around a pillar or whatever a fight might include (Blizzard have such wacky ideas nowadays). I especially love to pinpoint what could be my strength in a particular fight and do that, which can vary between fights and raid setups. For some fights I might be the best choice for aoe healing, for some the tank healing. As long as I get to try different things I'm happy.

8. What healing class do you enjoy healing with most and why?
When I first read this question, I understood it as "which healing class I enjoy to play the most". Altoholic as I am. But I quickly noticed, by reading other peoples answer to this question, that that's not it at all. My answer in any case, is that it varies. It's not a particular class as much as someone that can complement my healing style, depending on the fight. If I want to focus on the aoe healing, I might want someone who is good at tank healing. In the end I probably prefer some certain people rather than some certain classes.

9. What healing class do you enjoy healing with least and why?
It used to be druids, because they facerolled over the keyboard and won the game. Which maybe should've made me love them, but it only made me feel useless. They're still pretty much like that, but I've come to terms with it. Or have I? Again, I would have to say it's more about people than class. Since Blizzard really have streamlined the classes so that all of them should be able to fill out any shoes at least half decent I don't ever feel like a certain class does a job less good than anyone else. A good player can get any job done, or at least nearly any job. Another disc priest does make things tricky though, fortunately not as much as back in Wrath. Nowadays I can at least remove the other disc priests pesty Weakened Soul debuff with my heals and sneak a new shield in there before they ever knew what happened. Come to think of it, that's actually rather fun. But maybe not very effective.

10. What is your worst habit as a healer?
You can't see this, but it is taking me a really long time to figure something out. I have loads of bad habits as a person, but I don't know about my healing. I'm actually quite proud about my healing. I do mistakes like everyone else of course, but I like to think that I learn from them and that I'm quick to adapt to new situations. I have been doing this for 5 years after all, at some point you should become pretty good at it, or just give up. If I had to think of something, it'd probably be that I can sometimes be a little too defensive with my mana pool. I sometimes choose the cheaper, lesser heal eventhough I really should've chosen the bigger, more expensive one (this is true for all my healing chars). Fortunately, in a 25 man environment, this kind of healing works out fine, and that might actually be the reason I've put on that habit in the first place. I save myself for when I'm really needed, which of course sometimes means I was too cheap and someone died due to lack of healing. But I rarely let that mistake happen twice in the same fight though.

11. What is your biggest pet peeve in a group environment while healing?
I bet many people have said this, but I'll have to say it too - asking for heals. Dude, I'm here to heal - trust me I will. I am as eager to have you survive as you are, so if I'm not healing you it's because I was busy healing someone who is more important. Actually, that a healer doesn't heal at all has very, very rarely been the issue when I do pugs. They might heal badly, but they always do heal, so I never quite understood it when people start capsing "HEAL ME!".

But overall I am the most relaxed when I heal and very few things bother me. Overpulls, bad pulls, bad players. It's ok. As the healer I have tremendous power and can punish people as I like. I think that makes me more relaxed, and ironically, more forgiving.

12. Do you feel that your class/spec is well balanced with other healers for PvE healing?
At the moment, I do. I don't think things are perfect, they never are, but I'm quite happy about the priest healing situation at the moment, despite my earlier whining. I always think priests have been in a good position healing wise, with some highs and very few lows. We're reliable as a class and as a design concept in Blizzards brain, and I can only take the complete lack of any changes to healing priests in 4.2 as an indication that Blizzard agrees with me.

13. What tools do you use to evaluate your own performance as a healer?
I wish I had a fellow priest healer in my guild (or otherwise close to me) who could help me evaluate my ideas and healing, but I've never found one. The only time I ever felt like I had a priest with me that was on par with my own healing and equally interested in discussing it was in my old guild and early BC. But alas, she switched to druid healing (Traitor! *shake fist*). Eventhough I play with other healing priests all the time, it's rarely the same person for a very long period of a time or they're just not as interested as I am. But enough about that. The tools I do use are regular old logs and damage meters. I compare my performance with myself in previous, similar situations, or to other priests in my raid or even complete stranger priests on occasion. Whenever I find a new priest (on a blog or application or whatever) that seems to be in my situation raiding wise, I check out their stat choices, spec, glyphs, reforgings and muse over why they've decided to go the way they have.
More actively, in an actual raiding situation, I often think through a wipe to try and figure out what I could've done better. The good thing about it is that I very rarely tire of wipes. On tougher fights I often find something I could've done even better with every wipe, be it as little as standing 5 yards to the left or saving a cooldown for another 3 seconds. I probably wouldn't have enjoyed doing the same thing for as long as I have if I didn't love tweaking myself this way.

14. What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your healing class?
Like I said earlier, I don't like that people seem to think that we're not good for anything, save perhaps for our cooldowns. People will probably say that holy priests are pretty good aoe healers and disc priests are pretty good tank healers, but not much else. In reality, a holy priest can do some really good tank healing and a disc priest can do some good aoe healing. But again, because we don't do it as good as the other classes (druids for aoe healing and shamans/paladins for tank healing) people just think of us as "not as good". That might be true, but that does not mean we're not good enough.

15. What do you feel is the most difficult thing for new healers of your class to learn?
Since I play both holy and disc, I've been writing from both these perspectives so far. The difficulties differ between the specs however. As disc I would say balance. To find a good balance between the stats and the skills is the tricky thing as a disc. How much should I shield? How much mastery/haste should I have? Disc priests play pretty differently, and finding a good balance that works for your healing goals is the biggest challenge imo.

As a holy,
it's probably to figure out when to use which skill. Because holy have one trillion billion skills, all of which have some sort of area in which they can be used (yes, even Holy Nova!), the dangers of holy priesting is that it overwhelms you and you start spamming Flash Heals just because you don't know what else to do. Ironically, I feel like this problem is bigger for 5 mans, since you mostly just spam Prayer of Healing in raiding. In 5 mans you'll really get to work your arsenal (if you're badly geared) to get the most out of each situation without ooming yourself too fast.

16. If someone were to try to evaluate your performance as a healer via recount, what sort of patterns would they see (i.e. lots of overhealing, low healing output, etc)?
You mean, what are my weaknesses/strengths as a healer? As mentioned above, I tend to unconsciously become overly mana efficient, this eventhough I have tweaked my gear to have just enough regen and advocate a "rather one heal too many" healing style. But it's not in the amount of heals I can fail, it's in the size. In my recount you will therefor see a lot of Heal, both as disc and as holy. My overheal is generally low, but disc overhealing is very low as compared to other healing classes because of how absorbs work. My healing style also helps to keep overhealing low, and I usually pride myself more in being last on overheal than being top on healing done (which is pointless, I know). Overall I think my logs are pretty conventional and boring, as disc I've got Shield as number one healing done except for those occasions where I aoe heal in which case PoH takes that spot. Prayer of Mending and Divine Aegis are up high too of course. When tank healing there can be more Greater Heals. Pretty average me thinks!

17. Haste or Crit (or Mastery) and why?
I'm going to be boring and direct you to the post I wrote in the matter, and also I've answered this somewhat further down. For holy, which I haven't played for a couple of months so I might be out of date, I'd primarily go for mastery. It does depend a lot on healing situation and raid setup however.

18. What healing class do you feel you understand least?
Shamans. And I've played shaman fairly much. In Wrath it was probably the healing class I played second most and I raided loads on it. I really liked it too. Then came Cata and for some reason I just couldn't get it to work anymore. I know in theory what to do, but I don't do it right. I oom way too fast and I never quite can figure which skills to use. Paladin and druid are so simple in comparison, I've given up on my resto shaman for now, out of laziness.

19. What add-ons or macros do you use, if any, to aid you in healing?
I use Vuhdo for my healing at the moment, no macros though. Not much to say about that, except that if you're raid healing and not using some sort of clique-alike-addon or mouseover macros, you're doing it wrong. Taking a target and then throwing the heal is just so much slower, you can't even imagine the difference until you've tried it yourself. Overall I'm actually quite bare when healing, or maybe I use more addons than I think. They've become second nature, or like an extra skin. I just don't think of them anymore. I've got some timers that I never look at for instance, but I'd probably miss them unconsciously if I'd remove them and that would have me fail miserably. I know it.

20. Do you strive primarily for balance between your healing stats, or do you stack some much higher than others, and why?
I've currently focused on Haste, which isn't because I think it is better than mastery, but because it suits my healing better at the moment (and to try it out). For disc, mastery is a great stat, unfortunately it only affects 50% of our healing. The same goes for haste though, so as a disc you go for either one, depending on heal style, or strive for a balance. I tried mastery at first, now I'm haste heavy. I might go back to mastery soon if I can get myself to not nerdrage over the extremely slow heals. The way I have figured now is that with more haste I get more shields, since haste = more casts = lowered cooldown on Weakened Soul and more DA procs. It is working pretty well, and especially for 5 mans where I can't rely on another healer to help me out while I do my slow casting. Now that 4.2 is out and I might do a lot of instances, I'll probably keep my haste heavy gearing, but once I go back to only raiding, I might go mastery again.

And now to tag someone else to do this. Unfortunately, many of the ones I would've chosen have already done theirs!
Does it have to be healers?
I'll have to be the ever-loyal girlfriend and tag Eldhorn to do his version, either as resto druid or as feral cat.

Here are a couple of bloggers I'd like to see fill this out, either class/role they like - because honestly most healers are taken, and I'd love to see other perspectives on this (if you've already done it, please link!);
Elfi at Elfi's World
Vixsin at Life in Group 5
Pradzha at Piercing Shots
Gavendo at Rapid Fire

Saturday, July 16, 2011

You no take key!

I remember back when 4.1 was released, sifting through the general whine thoughts regarding nerfs and buffs that had been made and what the new za/zg instances would bring, a lot of concern was vented regarding the fact that they decided to implement the Bear-run mount reward in the revamped version of ZA. It ranged between the bear-huggers who didn't want to see people run around with this fake-bear, to people who thought it was their turn to have a shot at a cool bear mount. And eventhough the raid version was more difficult to get, the current version actually requires a pretty good setup and skills to get. It's not like you can just waltz in there and grab it, like some people feared. I remember our guild really struggled to get that mount, but we usually got our asses handed to us by those pesty scouts before the official third boss, quite like nowadays actually. I wasn't lucky enough to get one, and I was quite awed at those who had it. Envious? Not sure. My guild wasn't good enough obviously, and whoever had got it must have busted their asses off and definitely deserved it. So when it was announced that they'd re-implement it, in a version that basically looked the same but with a slightly more pinkish hue (making the original look better imo) I decided to stand inbetween these two stand points.

On the one hand I thought that the bear mount was a relic, a thing of the past and whoever had it should consider themselves lucky.  I don't necessarily think everything in the game has to be available to everyone at some point. I think this game needs some exclusivity. I think the dude with the Scarab Lord title is the coolest guy around, but that doesn't mean I think I should have a chance to get that title. If everyone had a shot at it, it wouldn't be as cool. Even if it means I can't be that cool, so be it. On the other hand I do understand, and to some point agree, that you should make "old" stuff accessible to new people. And so many things still are without it being a problem. Anyone who likes can go and build their own Thunderfury with some patience (and luck). It's still cool. It might not be as cool as back in Vanilla, but not far from. It still stands for dedication and hard work. I'd argue that some items are cooler to get now than when they were current, like Val'anyr or Shadowmourne. Imagine what you have to do to get the mats and kills for Shadowmourne without a raid group backing you up? That's not even possible right now. Getting these things now doesn't tarnish the glow of the item or those who managed to get it when it was current eventhough it's the exact same item.

Why is the bear mount such forbidden grounds? One reason I can see to it is that the bear mount is a lot more visible than say, a legendary weapon. It might hold more bragging possibilities, that would vanish when everyone can sport a bear mount (although they don't look exactly the same and I personally think they're quite easy to tell apart). But to a bigger part, I think, it's because the bear mount was made unaccessible for a long period of time. All through Wrath, having the Bear Mount meant the equivalent of saying "I was there", pretty much like having an old pvp-title or tier 3. Because you've been able to get Thunderfury all through Vanilla, BC, Wrath and now Cataclysm, it has never been part of those items that mostly symbolized some sort of "veteran" status. Having these veteran items was the same as being able to say "I saw [insert random no longer living artist here] live" as many parents do or like my mom said "I saw Star Wars when it was first released, before it was remastered". Young me became awed and envious and thought she was totally cool. There is just something special about being able to say, or show, that you were there. That's why we take pictures of ourselves with celebrities or cool stuff, to prove we were there and to remember what it was like to experience it. Re-implementing a revamped version does tarnish some of that memory and worst of all, removes the possibility to brag about having been there when it was current. I myself usually run around with my Senior Sergeant title, not because it's a cool title (because it aint) but because it shows everyone that my char has been around for some time. And it matters to me, for some reason. Deep inside we're all small hipsters who want to be able to tell people that we had it when it was still underground/current/cool.

But it's not just about bragging. We care equally much about the stuff no one else can see, like special quest items and the thing that have made many people sad in 4.2 - the keys. Eventhough you might never have opened that key chain and looked at your keys, you knew they were there. They meant something to you, they were your photo album over all the time you spent collecting them and everything around it. Those keys usually stood for hard work and loads of memories are attached to them. Eventhough I never was a key collector myself, I actually felt a sting in my heart when I read that they were going to remove so many of them. I felt an equal sting in my heart when they said that they were going to revamp the za/zg instances, but figured that those revamps could just as easily be seen as a homage of the old instances, which I've already written about. But items often mean more to us since they're personal. They're keep sakes and bragging rights at once and we need them. This game has been around for 6 years now and many of us have been around just as long. That's a big chunk of our lives that I've spent more hours than I'd like to count with. I'll gladly admit that I am proud of having been around that long, and eventhough I don't think that necessarily makes me a better player than a Wrath-baby it makes me feel special to be able to say that I was around when enhancement shamans weren't a viable raid spec (along with a tons of other specs), when any class that could heal only healed and when warriors were meant to tank. That I fought that boss when it was still difficult, that I managed to get epics when that was still epic and that I got the bear mount the first time around (although in my case, that isn't true). We don't even have achievements to help us remember all the cool stuff we did back in Vanilla, to many of us keys, and things like them, are all that we have left (and I've kept my Benediction/Anathema of course).

Now that they've removed the key chain, I need some other bag to keep my useless most important stuff. I know they removed the key chain to save up space, and I have no idea what they intend to do with this precious space, but what could be more needed than some sort of scrap book where I can keep things, perhaps with a little note and attached screenshot of the place I got it. Or would that make WoW too much like real life?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Game Developers Shouldn't Listen To Us

The gaming arena is surrounded by many interesting and long lasting debates. Most of them have the gamers and game developers in one corner and everyone else in the other. Unfortunately, the gamers seem to still be the underdog (not because of lack of viable arguments and facts, but because of lack of understanding from everyone else). No, I am not talking about what probably is the biggest debate in the gaming industry (or so every non-gamer seems to think anyway), whether gaming makes you more violent or not. I am talking about whether games can be considered a work of art or not. No matter what your or my personal stand point is in this matter, there is no denying that this isn't a purely philosophical debate - the outcome actually has many practical implications (for instance, if games were considered "culture" in Sweden, we'd pay 27% less tax for them).

First of all, it's difficult to define "art"
. The all-knowing ever-truth of Wikipedia says that "Generally, art is made with the intention of stimulating thoughts and emotions." But my question is; for what purpose? Because it really makes all the difference. Thing is, there is an important difference between "I made this for the heck of it" kind of art, and "I made this so I could make money out of it" kind of art. The first is probably what is more generally considered art, and the second is probably more generally considered any commercial product. But it's not really that simple of course. Beethoven might be considered art and Justin Bieber definitely isn't considered art, but why not? They're both musicians (excuse me for using the term to describe Bieber) and they both did/do music mainly to earn money or make a living. In fact, it is quite impossible to know why one person decides to create what he creates, you and me can never know for sure if the creator has "for the heck of it"-reasons or "want to make money of it"-reasons. And if we don't know, does it matter? Yes, of course it matters. Otherwise we wouldn't even try to distinguish between "true" art (whatever that is) and commercial crap design. I'd like to argue that the big difference is that commercial designs are made with a certain target audience in mind, and specially designed to appeal to these kind of people, while "true" art doesn't care about anyones ideas but the creator´s. It is "this is what I wanted to do" versus "this is what I'll do because you wanted me to". I'm not trying to say that I personally think that the one is better than the other - I really believe that both forms exist because they're needed and there are excellent creations in both areas. It can even annoy me that "true" art is considered the better of the two, so that only obscure, deadly boring authors win the Nobel Prize instead of the commercial ones. And of course, just because you happen to end up as a commercial product doesn't mean that that is what you wanted to create. Just because people like what you do doesn't mean you're trying to cater their tastes at the expense of your original idea (although it often ends up that way). The point is rather that which form you choose to create in does change the end result, this goes for any type of creation - literature, movies, painting and games to mention a few.

I'm not naïve enough to think that there used to be a time where game developers didn't care about what the general public wanted or money and just went their own way  (although of course there are plenty of good games created that way). Game development has always been a costly undertaking and most creators tried to develop something that would sell, of course. But I do think that in the early years of gaming, most game developers didn't even know what people wanted. They created games they thought they would like - "this is what I want to play" - because that was really the only idea they had of what would make a good game. Fast forward to today and games are even more expensive to develop, the competition even more murderous. Game developers can no longer afford to think "what would I like?" but have to look at the market and think "what do people want?". The commercial ideas sell and there is nothing wrong with that, but where do we end up if we keep that course? What will happen if the safe choice is the only choice and when indulging the consumer is the only factor that determines game design? David Wong asks us exactly this in his article "6 Most Ominous Trends in Video Games" over at

"For instance, each of the Big Three game console makers took the stage at E3 to show off their biggest games of the upcoming year. Microsoft led off with the aforementioned Modern Warfare 3, which is really Call of Duty 8 (game makers like to switch up the sequel titles so the digits don't get ridiculous). Next was Tomb Raider 10 (rebooted as Tomb Raider). Then we had Mass Effect 3, and Ghost Recon 11 (titled Ghost Recon: Future Soldier). This was followed by Gears of War 3, Forza 4 and Fable 4 (called Fable: The Journey)."

Sequels and remakes don't have to be a bad thing. And it kind of goes without saying that the longer something exists, the likelier it is that it will be remade. In the early years of gaming we had a lot of new games simply because there were no old games to make sequels of. But it also seems to make game developers comfy and cowardly - they prefer going for a sequel that they know will sell for a certain amount, rather than trying to invent something new that might not (and who can blame them really?). And yet, people who create games because "I would like to play this" still can make loads of money. Just look at Minecraft.

Sequels and remakes is just one part of the problem. The other is the simplification of every concept. Making games more accessible generally means making them both easier to understand and play, but also rewarding continously smaller achievements. I see the point in this in games that are designed to be played only a couple of minutes at the time, like Angry Birds. But this kind of thinking and game design is sneaking its way into other games as well - because this too is what people want (and therefore ultimately where the money is).

"(...) the most profitable game company right now isn't Activision/Blizzard or Nintendo or EA, it's Zynga, the makers of Farmville.

But do we really want this in every game? Just because it's a working concept in one game really mean that it will be a good idea in another? I don't think so. We're making the mistake of thinking that all games can be treated alike.

"(...)what we're now calling video games will cease to be a thing, and will break up into several different art forms, each with their own medium. We'll have true "games" where we perform simple tasks to kill a few minutes or get a high score (Angry Birds, etc) that will cost a dollar or two. We'll have interactive stories that are less about "winning" and "losing" and more about relating to characters and following drama (...)"

We could discuss the gamers responsibility in this. With big costs come big fees, and few people are interested in paying a lot of money for something they don't know will be good. I'll pay for the next Pokémon, because I am quite sure I'll like it. But I might be more reluctant to pay for some new title. Game developers are comfy and cowardly because the market is comfy and cowardly. But it doesn't really matter who's to blame, point is there might be a problem which we need to acknowledge. The core of the issue is that gamers think they know what they want so game developers feed them what they think we want. But I'd like to argue that we don't actually know what we want. I sometimes get the feeling that the gaming industry treats us like a parent would treat a 5 year old who could decide for themselves what kind of food they want and whether they have to go to school or not. I know what 5 year old me would've chosen, and 26 year old me is glad my parents lovingly forced me to grow up - not by removing the easy and appealing choices, but by making me understand why I should try something else. Instead of giving us CoD 4 for 50 euro, they could give us Minecraft for 10 euro, making both choices about equally appealing.

So what does this have to do with WoW?

I like to think that when WoW first was released, it actually brought something new to the gaming arena. It was definitely not the first mmorpg, but it sure did something first to become so big as it did, basically making mmorpg to not only a viable gaming genre, but perhaps setting a new standard for how games must look at all in the future to make players interested. I don't think the Blizzard crew sat down one day and said "ah screw it, let's put millions into this project just to see where it will take us". I think they really did believe it would become a hit - but they didn't know. Nothing like it had really been done before, Blizzard just had to have that gut feeling that this is what the gaming market was ready for, without being able to look at a competitor and say - hey look, they made it, let's copy that concept. They must've thought "this could work, because we think it would". Gamers didn't say "we want mmorpgs", Blizzard said "we would want mmorpgs, and we think you will too". There will always be some mmorpg veteran who'll say "WoW didn't invent anything new", but again - they did something revolutionary to the genre.

Putting on my rose tinted goggles I'm going to say that WoW initially started out as a vision, an idea, which might or might not work. But since then it has been treated less and less like an idea and more and more like a product. Blizzard is doing a tremendous job, almost unlike anything else in the gaming world before, keeping in touch with their consumers and trying to find out what we want. Almost too good a job if you ask me. There is nothing more important for a game developer that being able to steer firmly between the idea of the product and what the consumers want. There is no doubt that there should be some work done to improve the game towards what the gamer wants, but you also have to be able to sit down and think - is this really a good idea? We all want immediate satisfaction, we all want to win. When given the choice, it is damn difficult not to cheat or get something the easy way. If Blizzard asks us what we want, we'll probably yell "TO PWN!" (and this goes especially for the whiners on the forums), but when given the IWIN button we quickly realize that it didn't actually make the game as fun as we thought it would, or at least not for a very long time. Syl over at Raging Monkeys makes a similar case regarding the removal of the key ring and attunement quests in WoW;

"Maybe they get us straight to where we want or at least, to where we think we want to be. (...) Maybe "timesinks" are where life really happens."

But "takes a lot of time to complete" is not the same thing as "timesink". There is a huge difference between having to travel 5 minutes to vendor something while questing and having to spend 7 hours on an attunement quest. The first is inconvenient and in my view a waste of time, the second is part of the game design and part of the idea of the game. Blizzard have to be able to point at something else and say "this is probably a better idea" and not force us to like it, but design it to be equally appealing as the easy choice. We bust our asses in heroic modes not only because of the greater feeling of accomplishment, but because our characters get even cooler gear. We spend hours with archaeology, not because we all secretly hope to become the next Indiana Jones, but because some of the rarest (and in some cases best) gear can be found that way. We will struggle if the reward is good enough. Instead Blizzard tends to remove the struggle more and more, and also minimizing the reward more and more. Back in Vanilla, blue was the epic - epic was TRULY epic. Nowadays we sigh when we group up with someone who, god forbid, has a green item equipped. Most achievements and novelty items, such as mounts and pets, aren't that difficult to get either. Having Val'anyr wasn't as cool as having Thunderfury. Heck, having Shadowmourne isn't as cool as having Lok'delar/Rok'delar (not to the individual anyway). Soon, having a legendary will be standard while not having one will have people sigh at you (if you're the appropriate class).

Making the game more accessible isn't automatically a bad thing, but it mustn't be taken too far. At some point, Blizzard have to tell us that they won't change what they think is the core concept of the game, just because we feel it is the best thing to do for the moment. We're not paid to know everything about game development, they are. We must trust that they ultimately know better than us what this game needs, and they must trust that too. Yes Blizzard, we think we want it easy, we think we want fast epics and easy gear - but we probably don't. Don't listen to us.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Who gets to need on gear?

I got a very good question the other day, on my post on "Top 5 things that will have me kick you". Commenter Ralthrus asked me to clarify what I meant when I talked about ninjas because as he said it;

"If someone is able to need on an item then it's rightfully as much theirs as anyone else who can need. Doesn't matter who needs it 'more.'"

I can definitely see where Ralthrus is coming from with this question. There tends to be somewhat of an elitist view on who should and should not need on gear, to the point where it almost becomes counter productive. Just as with the old Gearscore addon, people forget the uses and reasons to why such a system is developed and just take it too far to the point where people around think "does it really matter?". People just learn something without understanding it, and then think everything else is dead wrong. I remember when I was laughed at on my level 15 warrior for using a staff. It just happened to be the 2hander with the highest high-end damage in the game at that level (and seriously, who cares what a level 15 does?). But people only saw a warrior with a staff. It might not have been the best weapon around, but it was damn good. Just as in our everyday life, we see people who make it their business to advocate something, eventhough they don't have the slightest clue to why. I've met plenty of people who want to kick the level 34 warlock in my group for needing on a wand with spirit. Is it really that important? Does it matter who needs on what and why?

Yes, it does matter. Most people playing know that some stats are basically useless to some classes and crucial to others. Intellect is a very useful stat to a mage, but useless to a warrior. But that's only the obvious. Even with stats that a class can use, there are differences. A rogue can use agility a lot better than a warrior, although a warrior can still benefit from agility. And even further, a rogue can use a dagger a lot better than a hunter.

Each item holds 100% potential, but not all classes can use 100% of that potential. Some classes use more, some less.

So he can use 95% of that item and I can only use 60%. Why should I care? It's still better than what I have, it's still an upgrade to me too.

Yes, why indeed. You don't have to, of course. And in many many cases I don't care. When leveling characters or otherwise when the differences aren't big enough or I don't expect to keep said item for very long, I don't think it matters - as long as you at least intend to use it. Most importantly, as so many people tend to forget, just because you'll want to aim to use as much potential as possible, doesn't mean that that is the only acceptable way to use it. It's not 100% or nothing. But there are times when it actually does matter.

As with so many informal systems built up around human interaction, this one relies on a "treat thy neighbor as thyself" idea. An item drops and you know that you could use it, but someone else could use it even better, what do you do? When you pass that item to another person, it is because you hope people around you will honor this system when it is time for you to have a chance on something. The more important, or more of a difference an item does to us, the more we care. The same goes for everyone around us. You're not the only one who wants good upgrades. So if you hope that people around you care when something good drops for you, you should care when it is someone elses best gear at stake.

But you don't have to. We could have a system where everyone frantically need on everything that is the slightest upgrade or would bring some vendor gold. That would also be a viable system and I honestly don't think there is something morally wrong with that, as long as that is what we've all (ie the majority) decided to use. It just would be a way less good system of distributing gear, and we seem to have realized that somehow. So most of us have decided that instead of having a system that is equally sucky for everyone, we've got one that is equally beneficial to everyone.

Ralthrus goes on to explain that Blizzard condones this behavior since they allow it, and thinks that being able to need equals having the right to need (or at least that is how I understood the comment).

"Go ask blizzard. They will tell you that it is working as intended."

It's not really that simple. Saying that we should need on it because we can is shortsighted. With the system we have it is true that you might lose some gear you wanted right now, but on the other hand you might gain a gear piece you'd lost otherwise the second time. This system is built around being able to do a smaller sacrifice right now for a bigger gain later, and fortunately most people realize this.

Blizzard have been asked many times to change the need-system, because people abuse it. And they've answered and changed many things about it (just imagine, back in Vanilla there was only need and pass, and you had to ask everyone to pass on loot if you wanted it! Couldn't trade it when someone else had won it either). But it's impossible to build the perfect need-system, because no AI, no line of coding, can ever tell what your character needs as good as you. Because we can have multiple specs, classes and roles in WoW, there could be plenty of reasons for you to roll on something that you might not need right away. This is exactly what Blizzard have stated as their primary reason for not wanting to change the current system. It would make it impossible to gear up any other spec than the one you're currently on. Imagine you want to start tanking with your paladin, but only have holy gear? You join a group as a healer and hope to get some tanking gear. This wouldn't be possible if all you got to roll on was more holy gear. Getting gear is a big reason to why we do instances, to many the only reason. This unofficial system doesn't forbid anyone from needing on gear they can, and intend to, use. It only kindly asks them to consider whether the needs of someone else outweighs your own. I am glad that Blizzard think we're intelligent enough to work out a system of our own that works, and don't need everything to be with 27 rules attached just because we can't agree. There will always be people who don't understand this concept however.

Blizzard have carefully designed loot-tables so that all classes and all specs have about equal chance to get the gear that is best suited for them (although holydins who never got the bracers from Cho'gall probably don't agree with me). That means that if everyone follows this system, it will even out in the end. If everyone needed on everything it probably would even out in the end as well, but a lot of gear would be wasted in the process - it would take longer for you to get the gear you really needed. Instead you would get more items that are less of an upgrade, or for vendoring. This current need-system is agreed upon since it is supposed to effectivize gear distribution so that each drop is made as usable as possible. And since Blizzard have made it so that some classes can roll on more items than others, any other system would turn out unfavorably for anyone who isn't a warrior.

To get back to the beginning here though, I do agree that some people take this too far. The idea of the system is to have someone who can use the item the best have prio, not that anyone who can't use the item to 100% not have a chance on it ever, even when no one else needs it. When a gear piece drops, imagine everyone in the group being ranked on a list based on who can use the item the best (which has nothing to do with skill, but how Blizzard has designed the game). Whoever is top on that list should be allowed to have first dibs on the item. But if he doesn't want it, the second on the list should have every right to need on it. I'll allow anyone needing on basically anything, as long as they can and intend to use it. I don't even mind holydins needing on hit-items, as long as no one else wanted that item and it somehow still is an upgrade to them (this happens suprisingly often to me in pugs). If there is any stat on an item that is beneficial to someone, and the item is better than what they had, I don't mind them rolling. But I don't think they have equal right to it as someone else who'd use it more, just because they both can press the need button. Maybe next time something drops, the tables will be turned, and you'll probably be damn happy that that shaman doesn't need on your tank shield, just because he can.