Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Plex - Level 40

Did you miss me? I know you did. It did take me longer to level 30-40 than the previous levels, even when taking into account that you need more exp to do so. It is partially because I've taken active counter measures, to actually level slower, so that I can do the quests in each area while they are still current. I try to never log out in rested areas to get as little rested as possible, for example. I still only do each instance once, and just when I dinged 40 my guild dinged level 2, which means I gain 5% more experience from quests and killings. Maybe I will have to go guildless to not level too fast. Yes, leveling is going way too fast - eventhough I really try not to get any "unecessary" exp and have no BoA at all. Therefor it really cracked me up when a guildie asked for help with leveling faster, although he had full boa and played a tank-class. Some people are just never satisifed, they'd probably roll a fully leveled character if they could. I wonder if I'd ever do that if that option was given to me? I don't think so. Well maybe. I don't know.

So I'm actually in a new guild now, both with Zinn and Plex interestingly enough - I left my old one in a furious nerd rage after I had been killed by Yetimus the tenth time around (on Plex, not Zinn). I had to punish someone, might as well be the empty guild that had abandoned me! Why I joined another? I don't know actually - there are some perks that are useful, but I think maybe I should avoid the exp bonus one, like mentioned.

Another reason it has taken me long to level Plex is because I realized why I've never leveled another priest to max level before. Why I always abandon them very early on. It's because I already spend so much time playing a priest, and suddenly I play this stumped version of my main. And I don't like being handicapped in my healing - not when I know exactly what I could've done but I can't now because this isn't my main. I miss my Prayer of Mending. I miss my haste. I miss my Shadowfiend. I miss a thousand other things. And I miss them so very much. Worst of all was probably when I had Atonement on Zinn, had fun with it in raids and then returned to Plex to quest with it. So slow Smites, it was horrible. Fortunately I removed Atonement from Zinn so now I've only got Plex if I want to play around with it, but this is definitely my main issue with my little priest right now. How hard she ever would try, she'd never become my main. Poor thing.

The discipline tree is similar to the arcane mage tree or survival hunter tree in that many talents don't become especially useful until later on. This removes the feeling of getting talents that actually make a difference, and somewhat stagnates the progress feeling of a discipline priest. For instance, many talents rely on heavy shield usage, while the shield isn't very useful on low levels, or at least it hasn't been for me all the way up to 40. This means that talents like Imp PW:S, Sould Warding, Renewed Hope and Rapture are weak because I just don't have much use for the shield. I haven't even specced into Soul Warding because I shield like twice every instance, and Imp PW:S is actually preventing my Rapture from proccing even on a low leveled tank who has 6 mobs hitting on him. The shield is still way too good. Can't believe I am complaining about that, but I am. Pain Suppression will also be pretty moot, unless I decide to pvp more. Same goes for Strength of Soul. Why would I want to recast a new shield when the old one isn't even absorbed yet? And so on.

This guy ate me! Never seen that before.

Questing goes very easy however. Atonement rocks ass, even with my slow casting. I never go low on health and now that I've slain Yetimus I have yet to come across anything that has been a challenge. The fact that I outlevel the quest areas by a handful of levels (although I really try not to) plays a big part of course. Atonement works really well for lowbie healing instances as well, probably better than it does later on. Atonement is among your best heals when you get it, and it also adds a good portion of dps to the group. Mana doesn't have to be an issue if I use it sensibly, which often means I can dps "normally" on most trash packs and don't have to think much of healing the tank. I even seem to dps more efficiently than most other casters, who constantly go oom while I still have plenty of mana left. Unfortunately, without the extra level of difficulty that some planning takes, which you have when you use it for raid healing, smiting your way through all quests and instances does become boring quickly and I am considering not using Atonement for instance healing just to give myself some variation. Oh, and I had some logs over my healing, but I accidentally deleted them when I was enthusiastically cleaning out my blog picture folder.

A lot of the joy and frustration of doing lowbie dungeons, or elsewhere meeting new players in WoW, is having to learn them about all the things I take for granted. No, strength is not good for you mr Mage. Not to mention all the tank mistakes I did a post about and that people take with them all the way up to endgame. I've asked myself, where should new players find good information about how to play the game? Some say that looking at the character sheet and drawing conclusions from that should be enough. But that too requires some sort of pre-existing knowledge. Who says that attack power is a bad stat for a holy paladin? It might sound dead obvious, but is it really? Or how do you know that spirit isn't very useful for a mage? Or that agility is less good than strength for a warrior? I remember back when my brother started playing WoW, in early Vanilla. He played a rogue, and did exactly what people say you should do as a new player - check the character sheet and see what stats will benefit you the most. He quickly learned that agility would give him ap, dodge, armor and crit. Why would he need any of the other stats when Agi gave him all of that? He stacked only agi and was constantly owned in pvp due to not having enough of a balance. But knowing you need a balance (and that some classes don't!) takes trial and error. You could argue that people should read up on their class online, but should they really have to do that or should Blizzard provide new players with this kind of information in game? I don't know.

Gammerita has put on some weight.

Speaking of pvp, I did give it another shot. And it worked a lot better than my first try, this time around I actually managed to make a difference (or so I think anyway) and survive more than two hits, at least most of the time. Unfortunately, the opposing team (I was in WSG) had no less than 8 stealthers. Seven rogues and one feral druid. So we couldn't see most of their team until they had all stacked up around one or two of us and all opened with their hardest attack. For some reason it made me wish that there was a cap on how many of the same class, or spec when hybrids, that could join the same fight. It's no fun when you meet a team with a balanced setup of healers and dpsers and your team has one or no healers. Would it be worth the extra queue time? I think it might, depending on how much extra time we're talking about of course. It's the same really as commenter Christopher noted about old heroics. Maybe there should be more restrictions between what geared people end up together? It would mean longer queue times, but maybe also more fun runs.

Oh most of my bg raid is dead, that's nice.

Now that I am finished with the early questing areas I've ventured into some that haven't gotten the major overhaul that Silverpine Forest and Hillsbrad did. Arathi Highlands wasn't that interesting, I was also very disappointed to see Valorcall riding around alone, non-elite. A complete mockery to my skill after having fought Yetimus if you ask me. And I've always loved Hinterlands, but Jintha'alor has pretty much turned into the pain in the ass it was in Vanilla and BC, but for other reasons. Back then I really liked the area, the problem was that all the mobs were elite. It was an outdoor instance if you like, and you nearly always needed a couple of players to be able to do the quests. Trouble was finding said people. Then they remade it into a regular questing area, and I liked it even more (except the Hexxer lady at the top had an extremely annoying Hex spell). The area has gotten completely new quests in Cata, and unfortunately not for the better. Oh they might be interesting, but they force me to run up and down that hill some six or seven times. If they want me to kill trolls, why can't they just ask me to kill all the trolls at once? And after they've made most chain-quests (quests that rp-wise can't all be given at once) into pop-up quests, so that you wouldn't have to run all the way back every time, why have they left out this entire area? First I run up to kill 15 of X troll, and back again. Up to kill 15 of Y troll, who were exactly where X troll are! And back. Up to get some cauldrons, and back. Up to test some blight or whatever, and back. Up to collect some spiderlings, and back. And so on several times. It's not fun.

Shadra used to be badass, but I had some help this time.

Another thing that wasn't fun was that I found an Iridescent Pearl lying around in my bags when I logged on the other day. What's wrong with that you might ask? Well, I have been searching high and low for such a pearl to skill Enchanting on Zinn. They cost 150g each on that server, and I refuse to pay such ridiculous prices. I sold it for 35g on Plex, only to remember I need it on her too, because she has Enchanting as well /facedesk.

Mocking me...

I have no idea how long it will take to level 50.
Actually, my leveling isn't that slow, I dinged 40 and wrote this already in early september. It's just getting posted now because there has been so many other fun stuff to post about inbetween. But, until next time!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Field Report - View From a Dark Hole

I could probably count the amount of times WoW has made me cry on my left hand fingers. Never out of sadness, although there have been some touching moments throughout the game (like Kingslayer Orkus losing his faithful steed Kasha *sniff*), but out of sheer frustration. I remember losing a roll on the tier 8 chest token that dropped from Yogg-Saron, after our guild had really struggled with the fight and just barely made the kill and I thought to myself "That shit will never drop again and I just really deserved it". I don't consider myself loot-horny, I passed on the first tier 5 gloves we got on Leotheras (on what I also deemed to be our only kill, fortunately I was wrong) and I constantly turn down loot in my current guild in favor to the ones who are currently working on Rag hc. But that tier chest was mine, and I definitely needed it more than the guy who won it. I was so damn angry - I cried uncontrollably for several minutes. Although looking back at it, I can't remember now whether we ever did kill Yoggie again and if I ever did get that chest token. But I do remember how angry I was. And that is one kind of frustration, but recently I've felt another kind of, and a lot worse, kind of frustration - the self hating one. And remember, I am considered among anyone who knows me to be the happiest, most confident bitch around. But apparently anyone can fall into a dark hole sometimes.

As you may or may not know, I recently joined a new guild. As I mentioned in my last Field Report, it was a chain of events that only could've turned to the better - I left a guild where I didn't get raid spots because the GM had it in for me, for a guild with better progress and people who begged me to join, not to mention some of my closest play in that guild (irl friends and bf). As it turned out however, it wasn't going to be a bed of roses.

Unfortunately my timing for joining wasn't very good. When I joined I had barely set foot in Firelands (because of abovementioned reasons) while the guild I joined was at 4/7 heroic. I was basically thrown straight into the hellfire, and didn't have a clue where to start. Love, who is currently the GM of Astralis, likes to describe the guild as tight knit. Unlike my previous guild where people seemed to come and go each day, this guild has a very small roster and little room for anyone to squeeze in. It looked especially tight on the healing department, where our Holydin and Resto Druid are just awesome and barely miss a single raid. At first this wasn't a problem at all - most of Cataclysm has allowed for three man raiding in 10 man raids and everyone was happy that they finally had been able to fill that last healer spot with a reliable player. In Firelands heroic however, everything changed. In fact there is only one fight where you have to have three healers - Beth'tilac. For all the other fights it's actually a lot easier to go two man healing. Our first Majordomo hc kill was actually with three healers, but since we realized how much easier that fight is with only two, we never take three anymore. This goes for all the other fights of the instance. Suddenly, I find myself having to actually prove my worth and fight for my raid spots in a way I've never had to do before. For the first time I have to do it from the underdog position. And it's been tougher on me than I thought.

I've been raiding pretty much since early BC. That's when I first joined a guild that really needed me. I had just decided I was going to main a warlock when my guild said they desperately needed a healer for their raids and I told them I had a priest "lying around somewhere". I've been raiding with Zinn ever since. And I've always considered myself among the better in any raid group I've been to, because I've always really tried to be. Looking back at it now I realize how much of that has come from pure experience, the fact that I usually was among the first to get to a boss and had the time and interest to kill him several times more. I realize now how important that has been for my confidence, knowing the first times around that I knew the fight as little as anyone else, and knowing the 20th time around that I knew it better than any other healer in the guild. Being there first and the most always made me come up on top, and I took it for granted.

For the first time ever I find myself in a completely new situation. Suddenly I am the one without experience, suddenly I am one of the people with the least raid attendance. Suddenly I am the one who gets picked last. It's ironic because one of the last things my old GM told me before he kicked me from my previous guild was that "since your bf is the GM of your new guild, I am sure you'll have no problem getting into raids over there". And yet I have never felt less needed, less useful. And as a result - less wanted. And worst of all - it's all in my head.

When I joined my new guild I was so happy to be able to raid again, to be able to raid with people who were skilled and who actually liked me. When I first joined I made absolutely clear that I wasn't there to take anyones place (as if I could! How naive I was). And as long as the three healing worked that wasn't a problem. As soon as it was clear that only two of us three healers were really necessary to clear all but one boss of heroic Firelands however, dark clouds started to gather around me, or so it felt anyway. And no matter how I tried (I'm not sure I did, sad people tend to be bad at thinking constructively about their own sadness), it just went downhill from there.

It probably started when we were going for our first Baleroc heroic kill. The best setup was generally considered to be a holydin and disc priest, yet my guild chose to go with the holydin and the resto druid. It was completely logical - the resto druid is awesome, there is nothing about the fight that says a resto druid can't do it (and they did make it) and I had just joined the guild. Furthermore, he had done the fight several times on normal already, while I've only done some of the bosses in Firelands no more than 10 times, including wipes (Baleroc was one of those). But I didn't see all those reasons. All I saw was me getting benched - although clearly I was the better choice. I'm never benched! To me, there could only be one reason for wanting to choose a subpar healer when you have access to the best choice - they thought he was better than me. The fact that the resto druid had been in the guild since it's creation and barely missed a raid since didn't factor in with me. The fact that everyone agreed that he at least deserved a shot at a guild first kill for his dedication just blew past me. All I could think of was that they had chosen a "lesser" choice over me.

Now you might think I'm being extremely selfish - in a way I was. But I agreed that he deserved the guild first, when I had said that I didn't want to take anyones spot I really meant it. It wasn't that particular fight or kill that bothered me. It was the implications of that choice. I realized that if they made this choice now they might do it the next time and the next. The resto druid would always have more experience of the fights than me, he would always have been longer in the guild than me. Right there, right then I realized that a door that had been open had been firmly shut for me when the two man healing system was in place. These two healers are both so good, have such great attendance and have been around for so much longer than me that I just saw a curtain fall in front of me. How could I ever get into a raid again? How could the guild ever motivate picking me over them? Would I only ever get the left overs? Get to join farms nights weeks after the first kill? For the first time since I started raiding I was not the top hand choice, and I had no idea when I would be again. That is what I saw - and it hurt me badly.

It actually hurt me more than I thought it would, and it would only become worse. I was brought in to do Alysrazor heroic, a fight they had already downed. When writing this I have done 2 normal kills and 1 heroic kill of Alysrazor, back then I think I had only downed her once on normal. Now I was thrown straight into the heroic mode with probably less than ten overall tries on the fight ever. Normally I would've loved it, I have no problem with wiping at all and just love to get to heal some. But now I was affected by the knowledge that this was all I would get - bread crumbs thrown at me, well fare kills to maximize loot distribution. I knew these kind of opportunities would be my only shots at showing the guild my worth, showing them what I was good for. Suddenly I've felt more nervous about my perfomance than I have done for years. And I failed. And failed. Probably no more than the others had done, considering they all had about four to five times the experience of the fight that I had - but all I could think of with every failure was how they all looked down on me and thought "good thing we didn't bring her to that boss" or "we can't bring her to any progression fights". With every failure I could feel their frustration and annoyance with me through the screen and it definitely didn't make my playing any better. Comments I would normally love to get felt like stabs right into my self-confidence. At the end of that raid I was angry, angry at myself for making excuses and angry at my guildies for not cutting me any slack. I hadn't raid healed properly for months! I had barely even done the fight on normal! I thought every comment was aimed directly at me when it really was aimed at the fight in general. I was not the only one failing, yet I could think of nothing else.

And then we finally got to Ragnaros heroic. Threads were made on the forums to discuss how to tackle the fight. One of the first issues to adress - going with a solid 10 man team or have redundancy? Both tactics have their pros and cons - going with a solid 10 man team is best as long as all those people are available. As soon as one can't show up, the raid has to either cancel or pick one of the "outsiders" who has no experience of the fight. One thread was made to discuss whether it was worth gearing me up at all. Since I would probably never get to join the Rag hc tries anyway, why even bother wasting gear on me? And in a way that is absolutely right. The two healers that we have have better attendance than me (I sometimes have to work on our raid nights), had done the normal rag fights plenty of times (I had only killed him once on normal back then) and are both very skilled healers. But all I got was confirmation about my previous fears. I had come into this too late, and now I couldn't see myself ever getting back. Would I be deemed worthy for the next tier? I had no idea. Raiding suddenly seemed less and less meaningful. Why bother when I wasn't needed or wanted anyway?

A debate ensued, since most people thought it wasn't a good idea to completely cut some people off from the fight while others though we had to do whatever was necessary. I ended the discussion by saying that I didn't want the argument to take our server first kill and that I would gladly (I lied) step back in favor of the other two healers. Yes, I definitely want us to be server first, and I definitely think the other two healers deserve the kill more than me - but that doesn't mean I don't want to be in on it! What kind of raider doesn't want to raid? No more comments were made, not even a thank you to me for stepping back, and they started doing the tries. Night after night I wished them good luck and sat next to Love watching them try different tactics. To make it hurt less I decided to stop caring about raiding. Maybe it simply was my turn to stop raiding, as so many others have done recently? Maybe this was my cue to leave the scene?

Then one night I was brought in. They had decided to kill him off on normal and that I could use some of the loot he dropped. I should've been thrilled at the opportunity, instead the Alysrazor incident replayed in my head. I was sad I only got picked for the wellfare epics. I was nervous because I had barely done the fight and I knew I would fail on something. I would fail on things everyone else thought was easy and they would all be annoyed with me and be happy they didn't bring me for the heroic mode. And I failed. And failed. On the simplest of things. On things I normally never would've failed to. I got more and more frustrated, as did everyone else and finally they called it without a kill. My friend told me "just don't fail, do you even know how that mechanic works?" and I tried to explain but somewhere inside me something broke and I just couldn't keep it together anymore.

I sucked so badly. Everyone hated me and I would never ever get to be a wanted healer again. I just screamed "what's the freaking point, I'm too bad for this shit anyway, I'll never get to raid!", threw myself in bed and cried like I haven't done in ages. I haven't felt so bad about myself in a very long time.

And the worst part is, it was all in my head.

None of the above is what actually happened except in my interpretations. No one had treated me badly but me. I had come into the guild, didn't have a clear spot and it wounded my self-confidence (it probably wasn't the best after the huge fight I had had with my previous GM for some six months before that). It was a completely new situation to me and I reacted to it by interpreting every decision, every comment, every situation negatively. Even positive remarks were turned into comments of mockery in my head.

It's not their fault that the fights require two healers instead of three.
It's not their fault that I didn't join them earlier, although they've asked me since the start.
It's not their fault that I have less attendance than the other two healers.
It's not their fault that I have less experience and gear than the other two healers.
And it's definitely not their fault that I couldn't handle the situation and felt like shit about it all.

There was just nothing to do about the fact that the guild already had two great healers. I joined at a bad time, and that was just my problem, no one elses. I (and Blizzard) had brought it on myself and I had no right to come and claim anything from anyone. One of the original healers had already switched to tanking, and I realized that I probably would have to do something similar to have a shot at raids. So I started doing shadow. I have been able to join in on a couple of rag hc tries so far, and eventhough I haven't played shadow seriously since before they introduced Alterac Valley and only three pieces of my gear actually are shadow gear (rest is gemmed, enchanted and reforged towards healing), I am having a blast. Somehow, being shadow has made me let go of my restrictions or the need to prove anything. My shadow self is an unwritten slate, I have no expectations to live up to, especially none of my own. I can truly just relax, do my best and improve with every try.

I'm no good at it of course. Most of the other dpsers are at 20-26k, where I lie somewhere around 16-19k, and I was totally freaked out when people told me not to worry, that I was doing fine, that my shitty gear stood for most of the difference. I couldn't believe it when they said "you're not a bad player so it has to be the gear". They really didn't hate me? They didn't think I sucked? And that's when I realized - it had all been just me all along.

I had never known how much confidence could impact on your playing. Me realizing this has allowed me to step back and look at the situation for what it is. I feel sorry for Love and all my other guildies for having to be in the position of choosing between three awesome healers - all of whom deserve to raid, yet only two can have the spot. Someone has to be put out, and it doesn't mean that that person is less of a player or less of a guildie than the others. The demands have been put there by Blizzard, and we just have to adapt around them. Still, there is no denying that it sucks being picked last at gym class/WoW, no matter the reasons.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Class Feedback - Healing Priest Edition

It's time for me to answer the Blizzard Class Feedback questions. Hey, everyone is doing it, so I must too right? In fact, when I first read about them I didn't think they were that interesting. Quality of life, who cares? But then I read beyond the first three questions and realized thinking about the answers might actually be more fun than I thought. I've been reading some of the answers over at the forums and I'm happy to see most priests are as happy about priestlyhood as I am. Here are some of those posts;

Cannot Be Tamed
Type "H" For Heals
WTS Heals
Scribblings on the Asylum Wall (Shadow Priest)

There really isn't much to fix about priest healing. So without much further ado, here are my answers.

What type of content do you focus on? [PvE/PvP/Both]
Pve. And primarily as a healer, have very limited dps knowledge.

If PvE, what type of PvE? [Heroics/Raids/Other]
Mostly raiding, although I have started doing more and more dungeons lately (albeit in a shadow spec then, and not healer).

What are your biggest quality-of-life issues? For instance, no longer requiring ammo could be considered a quality-of-life improvement for hunters.
Honestly, I've cared very little for quality of life issues, which can either be because I don't think much about details or because they've overall worked very good for priests - I don't know. I like the design philosophy of the class, the way the spells look and the mechanics overall for both discipline and holy. If I had to say anything it would be to fix the spinning around that Penance forces us to do. And also I would like it if Divine Aegis perhaps didn't have the same visuals as PWS.

What makes playing your class more fun?
Successfully coordinating my skills with that of anothers (either dps, healer or tank). Feeling like I have my niche to fill. I sometimes imagine myself, and all the others in a raid group, as different Pokémon, and when a certain situation arises I hear "I choose you PRIEST!" yelled out and I have to go do my thing to save the raid group. Although I don't actually mind the homogenization that much, it still removes some of this aspect. I do realize it's difficult to design fights where every class have their own responsibility but still are equally needed, but it's still where I have the most fun. The feeling that me playing a priest actually matters, not just that I am a healer.

What makes playing your class less fun?
I could say "the opposite of above" but I still enjoy healing eventhough the classes look more and more alike. And also, priest healing still differs a lot in feeling over the other classes. Overall I think both disc and holy work really well, we have interesting tools for countering most situations and I rarely feel like there is something we can't tackle because of the design of the class. Stat choices are interesting for both specs too.

How do you feel about your “rotation”? (Rotation is the accepted order in which abilities are used to maximum efficiency.)
I think it is good for holy, we have a great mix of direct heals and hots, big and small heals, aoes and point healing. Discipline has interesting point healing, but the aoe healing does become very PoH spammy. I don't know how many fights in current content that end up with me just pressing basically one button for 3-4 minutes straight, or throughout the majority of a fight. The only challenge becomes to time the bubble between PoH clicks. It's mindless, not to mention it also removes out possibility to point heal unlike for the other healers. Mana regeneration (HoH and Shadowfiend) tools for priests are interesting and fun too.

What’s on your wish list for your class?
  • To finish the discipline talent tree, it doesn't feel completely polished the way that I think holy does. The holy gimmick Chakra works well and adds some depth to holy healing, whereas the discipline tree offers many different choices that none in themself feel completely interesting or like they make a big difference (Train of Thought, Strength of Soul). Most notably is of course Atonement healing - a really interesting tool that just doesn't matter enough today to warrant spending those points there.
  • Make Divine Hymn more interesting, I really like the idea of making it increase healing done by other healers - it feels very much in line with the general holy priest idea, however it too doesn't really feel like it matters enough for such a long cooldown.
  • I like the challenge of having to choose between stats as discipline, but since they synergize so bad, it often ends up with choosing one and go only for that. Making the stats work better together than they do now would definitely make me happy.
  • Please make Smite and Holy Fire reach 40 yards like the majority of our spells! Atonement isn't good enough to be hampered by something like this, quite needlessly.

What spells do you use the least?
Something I really like about priests is that most of their spells have a place in their healing arsenal and is useful at least at some portion of nearly any fight. But there are a couple that aren't used very much;
  • Holy Nova - The hps of this is pathetic, right now I'm not really sure what this spell is supposed to be good for.
  • Mind Soothe - I like the idea of this spell, and would of course love it if could find more uses - nowadays things rarely need to be soothed, they're either ccd or killed.
  • Shackle Undead - Even when things need to be ccd, there just aint that many undeads to shackle.
  • Mind Control - Time for another Razuvious fight perhaps?
  • Mind Vision - Much like sentry totem, this probably never has much use, but I think there is room and a need for spells that are just there for "fun" as well.
  • Heal - I use more as holy, but barely at all anymore as disc.

Thanks for taking your time!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Class Feedback - Feral Cat Druid Edition

So Blizzard dared to ask players to fill out a questionnaire regarding the current state of their particular class. I've seen several interesting posts about it around the bloggosphere actually, and here comes one from Eldhorn (Love), my resident feral cat druid, as it was posted on the class forums.

Feral DPS PoV
(Thanks for listening to all this feedback. I commend you for this herculean labour you took upon yourselves)

What type of content do you focus on? [PvE/PvP/Both]
Only PvE

If PvE, what type of PvE? [Heroics/Raids/Other]
All kinds. I love questing, raiding on as high level as possible and doing 5mans.

What are your biggest quality-of-life issues? For instance, no longer requiring ammo could be considered a quality-of-life improvement for hunters.
Not being able to see any progression on my character. Can't I even adorn my tusks with diamonds, or at least in some way see that experience and a life of fighting has made a difference? I look just like the little cat cub I once was, and that is, if not boring, then at least not very interesting.

What makes playing your class more fun?
Special play style makes feral a special snowflake, and that in itself is enjoyable. The high mobility, interesting utility and our durability is what makes me keep loving the class.

What makes playing your class less fun?
Feeling like me being a very dedicated feral is a burden to my friends and guildies is not something I enjoy very much, but that is how it has been for quite some time. I make sure to do my job, and to do it quite well, but they always have to accommodate for my special needs. I can't deal with my own shortcomings (big one being pos. requirement) as well as other classes can.

This far in Cataclysm there is also the issue how bringing several melee can be so very cumbersome to the raid. It is not a purely feral issue, but it does affect smaller raiding communities a lot. As a feral I can bring a lot to the table, but it very rarely feels like I can make up for me not being a Balance druid instead. DPS numbers go up and down (to be fair "the best" has stayed pretty much the same all through tier 11 and 12, but that is another question and thread), but a melees value has been pretty much his interrupts or a gimmick fight where mechanics force ranged to suffer movement. As it is now almost everything can and should be dealt with by a ranged, since they don't suffer as much from movement (a ferals forte) as we suffer from having to go toe to toe with something that will either burn us to a crisp or require a heroic healing effort. This does not seem to be a "right now" issue, but rather a design philosophy for this expansion, and ferals suffer quite a lot since we have positional requirements on top of the already heavily burdened melee role.

How do you feel about your “rotation”? (Rotation is the accepted order in which abilities are used to maximum efficiency.)
Too much emphasis on Shredding. I don't want to deal all my damage up front. It's useful on some encounters, and big numbers are fun - but having to find ways around problems is generally more fun than only having one single road available to us.

What’s on your wish list for your class?
  • Revamp of Feral Charge Cat so that it is as useful in raids as Charge is to warriors. Right now it's very hard to use, as some bosses actually have an overlap between Out of Range and Too Close, or the charge just puts us somewhere where we definitely don't want to be.
  • Skullbash cost and untalented cd lowered. Make us spend talents somewhere else (or change the talents), so that it feels like we gain something by spending the talents, instead of making up for a disadvantage. Doesn't matter if the only change will be how we think of it in our minds, since that is still where all our fun happens.
  • Increase the range of Stampeding Roar so that people don't have to touch me to hear my inspiring growl. They're not deaf, I hope. It is useful, just on a -very- varying scale. Gathering on some fights equals suicide.
  • Move Combo Points onto the feral instead of on the target. I have no idea of what the pvp ramifications are, but it would make our clunky target switching more intuitive and fluid.

What spells do you use the least?
  • Thorns
  • Healing Spells while dpsing (obviously, but doing more than actually dpsing adds depth e.g. Enh Shaman and Healing Rain)
  • Claw. It can safely be removed from the spellbook as it is.
  • Entangling Roots (Ever since the glyph was changed)
  • Prowl (Not used at all in a raid environment. A bit sad, but understandable)
  • Remove Corruption (Could be used? Hard to make raid encounters not require certain classes and specs though)
  • Soothe (Same as above)
  • Nature's Grasp (Purely a design issue. No fights need me to root anything that is chasing me)
  • Maim (Less effective than any other solution, due to its high cost in terms of dps)
  • Cyclone

You probably read hundreds of pages and thousands of posts before mine, but I still appreciate you reading this, a lot.

Eldhorn out.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Beth'tilac Heroic 10 Man Guide

I've finally gone and done my first video guide for a fight. Unfortunately I couldn't get my mic to work, so it's not narrated (you'll be spared from my voice for a little bit longer). Instead I have texted it, and hope that works too. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask!

EDIT: Don't worry about the lack of sound initially, I've just put the music to start 30 seconds in because I wanted to present the video. But since my mic didn't agree with me, it's just silent for some seconds and I was too lazy to change it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

6 Year Anniversary!

Ages ago, Love snuck an addon into my addon folder (something he does occasionally when he thinks my UI needs some "help"). It was a very small, very simple addon. So simple in fact that I've never had to update or change it in any way through all the years I've had it, it's always worked. And it only does one thing. Whenever I log on I get a huge poster in the middle of the screen that says "I Love You!" and one of the sounds from Love is in the Air holiday.

Logging in on any other computer means I don't get this poster smack in the middle and no sound, and it feels really... wrong. I've become so accustomed to it always being around that I don't like it when it's not there. And I don't even look at it anymore, I just click it away with a reflex and go about whatever I logged on for, but I still always notice when it's not there. And every now and then, I stop at it and remember why it's there. That it's been there through every change and everything new - something familiar and safe. I look at it and smile. The smallest, yet maybe most important of my addons.

Today Love and I celebrate 6 years together!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Old Darkmoon Cards

The other day as I was randomly scanning AH in lack of better things to do, I noticed that someone had put up Darkmoon Card: Blue Dragon for 250g. Definitely not worth the money, of course, but it got me interested in the old Darkmoon Cards. What do they do and are any of them still worth getting? Let's have a look.

Level 60
The simple but odd trinkets.
Darkmoon Card: Blue Dragon - Caster
Equip: 2% chance on successful spellcast to allow 100% of your Mana regeneration to continue while casting for 15 sec.

This is a remnant from the Vanilla days when casters didn't have mana regeneration at all during combat. Trinkets like these were the only way, and I can only imagine that this was one of the best healing trinkets in the game, especially considering that getting any trinkets at all was pretty tricky. They didn't exactly hang from trees back then, as they do today. But how good is this today?

It seems to not have any inner cooldown, which means it benefits you more the more casts you can fit in to any given time frame. Casters like resto druids, shadow priests and affliction locks might see the most use of this item. Paladins and disc priests might see the least. Generally dpsers tend to have a lot less spirit than healers in endgame, but they usually use the same gear at lower levels. "Spellcast" also seems to mean basically any skill that isn't physical, much like how Clearcast can proc from just about anything, like herbing, switching specs or crafting. It does not however, proc from each tick of a hot or dot.

100% of your mana regeneration is a lot, but 2% is very little. How much you can gain from this trinket varies greatly with your class and gear so it's difficult to say some numbers, it's probably better to look at uptimes. You'll need 50 casts in average to get a proc. If you're dpsing you might have higher uptimes since you normally do more casts when dpsing than when healing. If we estimate one cast every two seconds while dpsing (average over all caster classes) you could hope to have one proc every 100 seconds or roughly every one and a half minute giving it an uptime of 15%.

At level 60 this actually is a decent trinket, and if you find it anywhere below 100g and don't happen to have any other trinkets that rock your world, I'd definitely recommend this one. In fact, some people are even arguing that this is a great starter trinket for healers in Cata (!), because it's usually rather cheap and it has relatively high mp5. Healers also stack a lot more spirit now than they did in Wrath.

Darkmoon Card: Heroism - Melee
Equip: Sometimes heals bearer of 120 to 180 damage when damaging an enemy in melee.

This trinket wasn't even that good back in Vanilla. Some loved it, some hated it. On the bright side, the procs do stack, don't seem to have an inner cooldown and they can crit. On the downside, 120-180 damage is a fixed number and for most people it's just not much enough to make a difference. This is even more true now that many classes that didn't have any way of healing themselves back in Vanilla, have become heals since then, like Recuperate and Victory Rush. The less hp you have and the more strikes you can get off in a time frame the better it will be. Druids with swipe can have it procs tens of times per minute, other see it proc a couple of times per fight.

It's not awful, but it's usefulness depends a lot on your situation. If you find it cheap and feel like surviving while questing is your biggest issue, it might be worth a shot (in which case you might also want Crusader enchants).

Darkmoon Card: Maelstrom - Melee
Equip: Chance to strike your melee target with lightning for 200 to 300 Nature damage.

As with the other trinkets, it doesn't seem to have an inner cooldown, so yet again this is heavily dependant on how often you strike something. It does work in shapeshift (as I assume Heroism does too, but haven't found confirmation). The proc rate seems to be around 2%, which is true of Blue Dragon and probably true of Heroism as well (Blizzard liked to make things even that way back then). just as with Heroism it can crit, it is affected by modifiers such as Stormstrike, but doesn't seem to be affected by spellpower.

On a level 60 character, this is actually a rather nice dps upgrade apparently. If you find it at AH at a reasonable price, you should get it as it could serve you well for many levels to come.

Darkmoon Card: Twisting Nether - Any (Pvp)
Equip: Gives the wearer a 10% chance of being able to resurrect with 20% health and mana.

This has always been considered mainly a pvp trinket, unless you're one of those who die a lot while questing and instancing. It is more of a fun trinket than a useful one, but it does actually work in Bgs and Arenas! I'd like to see the faces of the opposing team when the disc priest they just struggled to kill gets back. 20% mana and health isn't all that of course, and the stat loss is probably not outweighed by the few times you'll have use of this. Remember that eventhough it will resurrect you every tenth death (on average), that are nine deaths where it is absolutely useless. I'd only get it if found dead cheap on AH and your character lacks a trinket. On the other hand, as kingbread, commenter on Wowhead puts it;

"the only item like it. its always funny to pop back up and fireblast that cannibalizing UD rogue. and laugh in its face, cause the shock on a dead rogue's face is simply priceless"


Level 70
No healing trinkets here unfortunately.

Darkmoon Card: Crusade - Any dps
Equip: Each time you deal melee or ranged damage to an opponent, you gain 6 attack power for the next 10 sec., stacking up to 20 times.  Each time you land a harmful spell on an opponent, you gain 8 spell power for the next 10 sec., stacking up to 10 times.

It's fun to see how Blizzard started thinking about hunters when they designed the level 70 trinkets, as compared to the level 60 ones. Overall, level 70 (and Burning Crusade) is marked by the realization from Blizzard that they have to design their gear with less specific targets in mind. If they do gear that only works for one class, they have to put in the effort to design a completely nother gear for another class. If they make it so that some items work for anyone, they only have to design one item!

  • Crusade gives either 120 AP or 80 spellpower for 10 seconds. First of all, it's not really balanced across the classes. 80 spell power is way more than 120 AP.
  • On the other hand, this is basically a permanent buff as long as you're in combat and you keep on swinging/casting, since each new swing/spell will refresh the buff.
  • Any spell cast works apparently as long as it's harmful, ie no healing.
  • It's based of off landings rather than casts, which means channeled spells (like Arcane Missiles and Penance) will give multiple stacks.
  • Wanding will give the AP buff.
  • Aoe attacks will give multiple stacks, one for each target, which means you could get a full stack with a well timed aoe attack.
  • Some classes (paladins and shamans for example) that have attacks that count as both spells and melee will get both buffs, depending on what skills they use. This makes it especially valuable if you happen to use different dps specs, since the trinket works for both ele/enhancement or balance/feral.
  • Passive effects (such as armors doing damage) do not give procs.

Although players have way more spellpower when leveling through those levels nowadays than they did before Cataclysm, this is still a really good trinket for those levels.

Darkmoon Card: Madness - Any dps or quester
+51 Stamina
Equip: Each time you land a killing blow on an enemy that yields experience or honor, you gain the Power of Madness.

Along with Vengeance this is the first Darkmoon trinket to actually give some sort of stat bonus, a plain stamina so that it works for any class. It doesn't actually mean that it's mainly aimed at tanks, but just a buff for the equip. So what does the equip do? A whole lot of things actually, depending on what class you are;

  •     Delusional: +70 attack power (Rogue, Hunter, Paladin, Warrior, Druid, Shaman)
  •     Dementia: "Down the rabbit hole..." Every 5 seconds either gives you +5% or -5% damage/healing. (Druid, Shaman, Priest, Warlock, Mage, Paladin)
  •     Kleptomania: +35 agility ( Warrior, Rogue, Paladin, Hunter, Druid)
  •     Manic: +35 haste (spell, melee and ranged) (All classes except Hunter)
  •     Martyr Complex: +35 stamina (All classes)
  •     Megalomania: +41 damage/healing (Druid, Shaman, Priest, Warlock, Mage, Paladin)
  •     Narcissism: +35 intellect (Druid, Shaman, Priest, Warlock, Mage, Paladin, Hunter)
  •     Paranoia: +35 spell/melee/ranged crit strike rating (All classes except Hunter)
  •     Sociopath: +35 strength (Paladin, Rogue, Druid, Warrior)
  •     Extra: The player will occasionally exclaim "This is madness!" This is similar to the things said by NPCs in combat. It is not controllable.

Eventhough you'd have to look at which class you are to fully evaluate this trinkets usefulness, the buffs are actually all pretty well balanced among the classes, which means that the trinket is about equally good regardless of which class you are. We have to take into consideration that the buff is granted when you land a killing blow, which makes this best for grinding/questing, maybe also pvping if you happen to be one of those classes that get a lot of killing blows. As such it is also unfortunately rather useless for anyone aiming to be an instance healer, but so is pretty much everything else around this level. Unless you plan to level your way through a killing spree, I wouldn't recommend this trinket. If you find it cheaply you could get it just for the funs of having a trinket that procs random buffs, and to get your char to yell randomly.

Darkmoon Card: Vengeance - Tank/pvp
+51 Stamina
Equip: You have a 10% chance when hit by an attack or harmful spell to deal 95 to 115 holy damage to your attacker.

Now this would actually be considered a tank trinket if anything. I know back in BC you had some paladins get the shield from Sporeggar, a shield spike and this trinket and be able to kill off huge amount of mobs just by doing loads of mini-damage. As such this trinket (and that complete combo) probably works really well for any paladin or warrior who plans on leveling that way. For the rest of you this might be a decent pvp or questing trinket, and if you don't have anything else, why not?

Darkmoon Card: Wrath - Any dps
Equip: Each time one of your direct damage attacks does not critically strike, you gain 17 critical strike rating and 17 spell critical strike rating for the next 10 sec.  This effect is consumed when you deal a critical strike.

This trinket works rather differently for melee and casters. Melee will probably stack up faster since they usually get off more skills within a time frame. Also, this trinket is of course better the less crit you already have. Aranarth over at has kindly provided us with some information;

"Base crit --> Average trinket gain

5% crit --> 5% (110 crit rate)
9% crit --> 4% (88 crit rate)
15% crit --> 3% (66 crit rate)
24% crit --> 2% (44 crit rate)
41% crit --> 1% (22 crit rate)

Based on 100 000 000 tries simulations, assuming you attack or cast a direct damage spell at least once every 10 sec."

This conversion list is rather rigid of course, but in short it means that this trinket becomes better the more you need crit and the less you have of it. At level 70 you might actually be rather badly geared out on crit, and this trinket could probably provide with a lot of extra needed dps. I definitely recommend it, especially if you're a class that relies heavily on certain crit procs. As another commenter, Phinar, points out, this is also a great tool to combat increasing resilience on your enemies if you happen to pvp around these levels, since the more resilience they have the less you crit and the more crit buff you will get.

Level 80
The double equip trinkets!

Darkmoon Card: Berserker - Pvp (or possibly a moon lighting tank)
Equip: Increases your resilience rating by 100 (3.83% @ L80).
Equip: You have a chance to gain Berserker when you deal or take damage in combat, increasing your critical strike rating by 35 for 12 sec.  Effect stacks up to 3 times.

Resilience at low levels either points towards pvp, or towards a tank. As a pvp trinket, any class interested in some extra crit could have use of it, as a tank trinket it's actually a lot less good since tanks don't need crit for anything (unless you happen to be a Deep Wounds Warrior). Also, at level 80 tanks won't need the extra resilience anylonger since they'll all have the anti crit talent since long, which means only someone who doesn't have that talent could be interested (and I'm not even sure resilience works anti crit anymore, think they changed that in cata). Long ramble short, ignore what I said about tanks - it's for pvp.

It's important to note that it procs both of off taking and dealing damage, which makes it not all worthless for a healer (especially since I have been hearing that healers are targeted like never before). Since most healers don't value crit very much, this trinket is probably best for the pvping crit-lover, and there aint that many out there.

Darkmoon Card: Death - Any dps
Equip: Increases your critical strike rating by 85 (1.85% @ L80).
Equip: Each time you deal damage, you have a chance to do an additional 1750 to 2250 Shadow damage.

This is like the prequal to DMC: Volcano in that it deals extra damage as a proc (35% chance in this case). As with Volcano you should probably see the extra damage as a bonus rather than the big whoop of this trinket. It has an icd of 45 seconds, which was very common in Wrath. It can proc of off dots, the damage can crit and seems to be affected by various talents and buffs and crit chance, but not spellpower. Nonetheless, the proc isn't worth much dps and should either be seen as a tool (to interrupt bandaging in pvp perhaps) or as mentioned, a small bonus. 85 crit rating is 1,85% crit at level 80 which makes this trinket an overall rather weak trinket for its level.

Darkmoon Card: Greatness
+90 Spirit/Agility/Intellect/Strength
Equip: When you heal or deal damage you have a chance to gain Greatness, increasing your Strength, Agility, Intellect, or Spirit by 300 for 15 sec.  Your highest stat is always chosen.

This is probably the best of the level 80 DMC trinkets, and that was the case already back in Wrath. +90 in a primary stat of your choice with the possibility to get another 300 as a proc is still really nice. The only reason not to get this trinket at level 80 is if you know you'll go through level 80-85 and replace this trinket too fast for it to be worth whatever money you put into it. Only you can make that decision.

Now go out there and find yourself a nice trinket for your lowbie alt.
Thanks to for the pictures and specifics.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Field Report - Time for something new

I'm in a new guild now. I was kicked out of the last one. I don't think the matter deserves more attention than that, but I know I had promised you a little more information. If you've followed this blog for some time you will know that I had quite a lot of trouble with my previous guild. Long story short, the GM finally had enough of me and kicked me during yet another huge argument that we had on the forums. He also kicked all my alts from the guild and removed me from the forums, so I didn't actually have any chance to tell people why I suddenly wasn't there anymore (fortunately I still saved the final thread so I can chuckle over the fun argument we had anyway, it's really quite hilarious in its craziness). Some actually thought I had left myself. But it doesn't really matter, the people I liked in that guild hopefully know so, and the rest... well, they hardly knew me and me them so no loss.

The sad thing about it is that I know I'm argumentative and even provocative at times, but this time around I really just had bad luck. I got into this position because the leadership punished a couple of people for not performing to standards, and when I pointed out other areas that needed improvement I was suddenly the bad guy. There was no way for me to know that this particular area, or rather this particular person, was completely off limits. And it only spiraled on from that. My boyfriend (Love) and a couple of irl friends left the guild and started a new one, which apparently the GM held me responsible for (eventhough I had discouraged Love to leave and stayed in the guild myself). Yet again, nothing I could do about it. And once I had realized that there wasn't really anything I could do, that they had obviously decided that I was evil (like they seriously believed I was some sort of spy for my boyfriends guild, that's just sad) and that I was to be pushed out of the guild somehow, I thought what the heck. What is there to lose? When I didn't leave the GM simply took the matter in his old hands, telling me in the process that it was something he had wanted to do for the last half year. Which would be well before my bf left and started the new guild. What had I done to warrant such a treatment? Questioned the wrong people. Take warning, don't ever question the GMs friends.

Some of you actually told me to get the hell out of there, and I should've long ago. Plenty of people in the guild told me they would've if they were in my shoes, and that they would've left the guild themselves if it wasn't for some thing or other. I can't be bothered about that whole thing anymore. I am out of there and first thing I get to do is join in on a server first heroic Majordomo Staghelm kill. How many server firsts did I have with the other guild? None. So that was definitely an upgrade. I find myself actually looking forward to raiding, actually being disappointed that it is not raid night, while in the other guild I was happy when I was put on standby so I could watch some more Star Trek or knit some socks. Believe it or not. In the end I just fought it because I didn't feel like they deserved my silence. And, I did get a Mimiron's Head out of the whole shabackle, so it was all still worth the trouble.My computer is also happy about the switch to 10 man, no more huge fps drops to 2 fps makes for better healing.

Something is wrong in Holy Land
Rushing on to other matters, I have been pondering the recent drop off in holy priests, something I am ashamed to say I've done myself. I removed my holy spec to get a shadow spec (more about that shortly) so for the first time since Vanilla (except for short periods while leveling) I no longer have two healing specs. I've been trying to put my thumb down on what the issue about holy really is, but I've had trouble finding the right words for it I think. But when doing Hc Majordomo, and now recently also hc Beth'tilac (although we haven't killed her when writing this) I definitely noticed what the problem was. Both those fights are perfectly designed for holy healing, they're all about handling shit loads of aoe damage. Both on Majordomo and Beth'tilac I really felt like I would've done a greater job healing as a holy priest. And yet, I stayed as discipline. Why you ask? Beacuse of the bubble. That dear people was the only reason I chose discipline over holy (and some extra point healing), and unfortunately it was an easy choice too. Because eventhough my aoe healing as holy is superior to disc, it still doesn't make up for the fact that I can mitigate all that damage. The bubble is just too much healing when used at the right time.

All this time, I never thought the lack of a proper raid cooldown was an issue in my holy spec, we could still hold our own. We still had a our niche in the group. But now, that all healers have a raid cooldown, we're just left too far behind. Mitigating damage is just too powerful, and not having that option means you're left out. It's ironic because holy isn't broken. Holy is just fine. But Blizzard fixed all the other classes too good, so holy is lacking. Just being really good isn't good enough when everyone else has an IWIN button. The question is of course, what could Blizzard do to fix it? Some have said that maybe we should get lowered cooldown on Divine Hymn, just as Tranquility has turned into a raid cooldown for druids. Unfortunately, I don't think it will be enough. Far from to be honest. It will still have holy priests at the bottom of the raid cooldown list. Tranquility is currently seen as among the worst raid cooldowns, and mostly shines when you can't use the other cooldowns due to being too spread out. Divine Hymn is currently like a weaker Tranquility, so just lowering the cooldown on it won't do it. When I use DH, I often feel like I probably could've done better healing if I had just continued spamming PoH, that's how bad I think it is. What holy need is either something like a raidwide Guardian Spirit (because no other cooldown, except Divine Hymn, currently increases healing done, so that would still be in line with the holy priest feeling), or a completely revamped Divine Hymn, or something completely else of course. What do you think would be a good idea?

Trying something new
In any case, the current problems that holy have have made me turn to shadow, because being in a 10 man guild means you'll be of better use if you can offer two roles instead of just one. Last time I was shadow was in early Cata. At that time I hadn't really tried shadow for a couple of years (iirc) so I thought it was about time to give it another shot. I loved shadow in Vanilla, that was before Vampiric Touch was introduced. But then I eventually turned to healing, and for some reason I just never got back to shadow. Whenever I tried I felt that it was so very dull. I thought that if I wanted to dps I would play mage or warlock or anything really, rather than being shadow. My attempts at being shadow in early Cata failed miserably, and mostly because I didn't enjoy it probably. This time however I thought I would really give it an honest chance, because I am hoping that I might be of extra use to the guild, so there is that extra motivation.

Unfortunately, I don't have any gear whatsoever. Fortunately, I can use a lot of the healing gear I have as a starter set, because spirit turns into hit (which I need a lot of) and I am currently haste geared, which I should be as shadow as well. I've replaced a couple of my healing specific items, such as tiers, with shadow items, and intend to continue that way with trinkets and so on. What really cracked me up was when I was reading up on the shadow priest rotation on Elitist Jerks forums. Would you believe me if I tell you it hasn't changed the slightest since I last played it? We're talking some 6 years here. Start of with Shadow word: Pain, throw VT, Devouring Plague, Mind Blast and Mind Flay until something comes off cooldown. That is almost identical to what the rotation looked like when I stopped playing shadow (with the addition of DP as a proper dot, I used to have it back then too though since I was undead). I'm sure there are some differences in the specifics, but overall we're talking about a spec that hasn't changed noticeably in the last six years. So yeah, now you know why I think it's so dull. I thought it was all about Mind Flay spamming six years ago, and hey! It still is. But still, I will learn it and master it and damn me if I won't love it too.

Oh, the fun.

I've also, for the first time since I created this char somewhere early 2006, thrown Herbalism out the window. I suppose I've always found some pride in being that crazy old herbalism lady who had what isn't an awesome raiding profession, but I've finally had to let it go. Instead I am going to get myself Enchanting, so that I can get those extra 80 intellect on my rings. It also holds more practical value because eventhough I did use my Lifeblood cooldown on occasion, I will surely enjoy being able to disenchant stuff on this character more (although I already have an enchanter). It still feels like an era coming to an end though, so I am still kind of sad that progress raiding demands me to leave a profession I liked. Or did I only like it because it's been with me since forever? I've still got my alchemy, and I'll be damned if I abandon that!

Trying something old
Speaking of tough raiding, I did Ascendant Council heroic the other day, and the difficulty of that fight really hit me. We had a free raiding night and decided to do some of the old achievements left in BoT/BWD/Throne, so some people could get some mount or whatever it was (I'm not really bothered with achievements or mounts). Halfus was faceroll obviously, he was pretty easy already when he was current, V&T turned out to be overgearable as well so I must admit I was pretty cocky when I first marched into the Ascendant Councils room. I had read that this fight would be pure horror, probably even more difficult than Sinestra and maybe even more difficult than heroic Al'Akir, but somehow I still thought that it couldn't be that difficult. And you know what, I think heroic Al'akir could be more difficult in that there are more things to think about, but one thing about AC was damn hard to get the hang of and we wiped due to it plenty of times before people realized that they probably would have to focus the most on that - I am talking about the frozen orbs.

Better late than never?

The first phase is pretty much like on normal, only perhaps more damage. In the second phase, everything is like normal except a frozen orb will spawn and randomly chase someone in the raid. If it catches up, it wipes the raid (it actually deals 200k or so damage so with cooldowns you can survive it). The problem is that the orb goes faster and faster the longer you kite it and the only way to get rid of it is to kite it through a patch of fire that spawns under someones feet. What killed us was when someone without speed boost (like me) got it and the fire spawned on the other side of the orb. Because that meant having to kite around the orb, which just never worked. Even when switching to Inner Will and using Rocket Boots (which is total cheat) I wiped the raid due to it a couple of times. Not to mention that you have to keep track of getting the regular buffs and moving with debuffs just as on normal. We quickly noticed that kiting the orb had precedence over anything else. The last phase was extremely healing intense, so I can only imagine how horrible it must've been back when the fight was current. That fight took the greater part of the evening, and we noticed afterwards that it was a server first. No one on our server had bothered killing them on heroic before!

It came, it saw, it left
Although I really enjoyed Atonement healing, and blabbered on about it quite a lot in my previous Field Report, I've now specced out of it (when writing this). It's lovely on some fights like Ryolith and occasionally on Shannox and Majordomo, but basically useless on fights like Beth'Tilac, Alysrazor and Baleroc. Since that is where we're currently progressing, I decided to try a couple of other talents, mostly some that reduce my damage taken. One thing Atonement really had me notice, or maybe perhaps re-notice, was how extremely annoying it is that your character turns when you use Penance. I don't know how many times I got the message "facing the wrong way" or whatever it is after using a Penance and wanting to start using Smite again. It also bothers me when I have to run somewhere and my character is facing the wrong way. Please Blizzard, fix this, it's very annoying.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Review - Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal

I recently finished reading Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal, and unlike most other books I read I feel like this one could be worth commenting on, especially since it's about one of our favorite subjects - games. If you've never heard of McGonigal, Wikipedia will tell you that;

"Jane McGonigal, Ph.D. (born 1977) is a game designer, games researcher, and author, specializing in pervasive gaming and alternate reality games (ARGs). (...) Recently, McGonigal has grown especially interested in the way that alternate reality games and massively multiplayer online gaming generate collective intelligence, and interested in the way that the collective intelligences generated can be utilized as a means of improving the world, either by improving the quality of human life or by working towards the solution of social ills. She has expressed a desire that gaming should be moving "towards Nobel Prizes."[1] McGonigal has been called "the current public face of gamification".[2]"

My first encounter with her ideas was when I was writing a chapter for a book in pedagogy aimed at helping teachers (and other people in a teaching position) to know how they could use childrens internet usage to their advantage in a teaching environment. What I found then was a lecture on where she spoke about what is mentioned above, her desire to learn how we can harness the creative power and will to "do stuff" that people seemingly possess in near infinite amounts, to the benefit of mankind. I was intrigued by the idea, but didn't think much of it until my mom sent me this book, in which McGonigal discusses her ideas in more detail. So what did I think of it?

The Good
Like I said, I think the concept of trying to turn all the creative power of humankind into something useful is extremely interesting. Right now, we have millions of people who spend countless of working hours doing things for no other reason than that they can. We've got all the people who spend time writing blogs (like me), doing vlogs, creating memes and all the other things that the internet is filled with and that keeps us entertained on a daily basis, with no other reward than knowing that other people are interested in what I am doing. I don't even know how many hours I've put into this blog of my spare time, and all for free. I do it because it is fun, of course, and to me it is as if I would be playing WoW or do any other thing that I do just for fun. One could perhaps question the practical value of a blog like mine. It makes me happy to write, and hopefully some of you people happy to read, but does it really help people more than that? Some people instead spend countless hours creating things of more practical value like Wikipedia or all and any free source-code out there. While at the same time we don't spend very much time doing our homework, cleaning our apartment or helping people in need. What is the difference between blogging and cleaning? This is really what McGonigal is trying to get to. She thinks that if we could make anything as fun as whatever we enjoy the most, we'd be able to harness all that creative and working force that people has and put it into practical use, into something that could benefit all of mankind. This is something that I have been discussing before as well.

McGonigal argues that constantly doing stuff is what people want to do. There is really no one out there who prefers to sit around and do nothing. When we have time to do things we want to do, as opposed to being forced to do things we don't really want to do, we choose to play games, meet with friends, watch movies, write blog posts and so on. These are all things that take time and effort, only we choose to do them. This is one of the biggest differences between fun work and boring work according to McGonigal, and although it seems obvious it really does makes all the difference. It's not the amount of work, how much time it takes, how stressful it is, that we have a lot of responsibility or any of the other things we normally associate with work that are the defining factor for "boring work". We enjoy all of the above as long as it is work we have chosen for ourselves. We can put on a butt load of work for ourselves, like clearing a raid instance, as long as it's fun. We don't mind that it takes time (again raiding, or the amount we spend with any game if we feel like it), if it's fun. Raiding can be plenty stressful, and I know I've had my heart racing like crazy a lot of times when we're damn near a difficult kill, I have to do everything right and 9/24 other people depend on me. It all really comes down to whether we want to do it or not, and McGonigal argues that what we consider "fun" is arbitrary enough to be anything, if only presented in the right way. We could make cleaning fun, we could make doing homeworks fun, we could make saving the world fun.

In many ways, I think McGonigal is on to something. I am constantly amazed by human teamwork, from the everyday things like 50 workers erecting a new building in my town or an orchestra where every one person has an important part of the whole but they all need eachother to get it done, to the more majestic human collaborative accomplishments like the already mentioned Wikipedia or actually just about anything created by people for other people just because (I am still amazed that no matter how obscure a game I happen to play, there is always at least someone who has spent countless hours writing a walkthrough to it) . It sounds cheesy, but it is a truly beautiful thing to see in action (and what would internet be without it?). The old saying "money is what makes the world turn" seems further and further from the truth. On a less beautiful note we've actually seen this kind of work in action plenty of times, although rarely voluntarily, but sometimes at least disguised as a game - in Communist China the Communist Party used to issue "games" for youngsters to participate in, in which they would do the society some good while also having fun (or so they said) and most importantly, try to become the best in that game. That could be anything from trying to find as much iron as possibe, killing as many flies or sparrows as possible or finding as many anti-communists as possible. McGonigal actually takes this one step further, what if you could turn a suicide bomber into a happiness "bomber" (p316), who spreads joy instead of sadness? Couldn't it be possible to turn that angry power into happy power?

I definitely think that corporations and institutions should consider using this "power" more often when they need help or when something needs to be done. My mom (again) showed me a link to a site powered by the University of Oxford in which they ask the public (that is you) to help them decipher ancient Greek on old Papyruses. Because they have thousands and thousands of snippets of papyrus, but only so many people who can read old Greek, it would take them years to get the job done. But hang on a second, you say, I don't read Ancient Greek! Well, you don't have to. All you have to do is look at a snippet, see if you can find any symbols and then mark it - quite like the captcha works actually. This way the real Ancient Greek readers will know which snippets are worth looking at and also what might be on them. To you, it could be a fun little puzzle game, to them you're saving them a whole lot of time. McGonigal has many more examples like these in her book with games more or less aimed at using the vast amount of people on the internet and the old saying that "someone has always done it". People shouldn't underestimate the amount of people out there who will do anything to get away from the "boring work" for a little while. Even if it's another kind of work. You just really have to present it in the right way. Unlike McGonigal I don't think people do it for some need to do the "right thing", but simply because they feel like it, because it is there. That's exactly why you need to present it like a game in the first place. If doing the right thing was all that was needed, we wouldn't even need this kind of idea and McGonigal would be out of a job.

The Bad
Although I really did enjoy the overall concept of McGonigals idea, there were still plenty of stuff that bothered me while reading the book. I'll mention them as I remember them.

Games are better than Life
McGonigal presents a couple of "truths" that act as a foundation to the ideas she later on produce, and I don't agree with all of them. The one that bothered me the most is when she tells us that games, in a sense, are better than reality, because reality is all about "fake rewards". She tells us that according to a study conducted by the University of Rochester, aimed to find the difference between extrinsic (outside) and intrinsic (inside) rewards, they found that;

"the attainment of extrinsic, or 'American Dream', goals - money, fame and being considered physically attractive by others - does not contribute to happiness at all" p46. 

In essence, we're not happy about things that are fun, unless they're fun just for being fun. If I lost you somewhere there, I can tell you it only sounds like more mumbojumbo when you read the book. The worst part is probably when McGonigal tells us that;

"We only ever play because we want to. Games don't fuel our appetite for extrinsic rewards: they don't pay us, they don't advance our careers and they don't help us accumulate luxury goods" p50.

Has McGonigal ever played a game? To me, the above things are exactly what games do, and exactly why they are so much fun. Through games we can achieve all these "extrinsic" rewards easily, while in real life they're usually difficult to attain. And that is really the difference between them, not that the one holds some sort of "better" form of happiness. Let's just look at WoW as an example - we accumulate luxury goods and get constantly paid in all the gear and money that are thrown at us, and everyone aims at advancing their careers either through succesful raiding or pvping. Even a player who only levels a character a couple of levels will have attained all of the above. And most games follow this formula - they allow us to attain rewards in a constant and clear manner. McGonigal lists the four intrinsic rewards that are most essential to our happiness: satisfying work, the experience (or hope) of being succesful, social connection and meaning. All sound like stuff you're looking for in real life? I'm not saying that they can't be difficult to obtain outside of games, that's exactly why games are so popular, because they're easier to get in games. But that doesn't mean you can't obtain these things in real life, or that when you get it, it would be some sort of "fake" happiness. The real problem is more often that we don't really know what we want, but only think we know what we want and chase the wrong kind or unattainable goals. This happens in games all the time too, in fact games are far from always just about fun, but then we always have to choice to simply put it away (or disband the guild). Indeed, it is the choice that makes the difference, but that's it.

In the last page of the book she finishes;

"Games don't distract us from our real lives. They fill our real lives: with positive emotions, positive activity, positive experiences and positive strengths". (p354)

What bothers me about this isn't necessarily that McGonigal dismisses activities like wanting to become popular among your friends as "fake" happiness and wanting to brag about your new epic mount to your friends as "true" happiness (after all, the research says it's so and it's always right), but that she says there is a difference between these two kinds of happiness. The gaming industry, and more specifically gamers, have fought since the late 70's to be considered a part of the normal entertainment system. In sweden we fight to have games considered culture as much as movies and literature. We don't want to be considered less, but we don't want to be considered more either. Going out and saying that real life can't satisfy our needs and that we can only find true happiness in games is like when feminists go out and say men should pay special tax because they're usually the most violent. That's shooting way off target and it definitely won't have people with disbeliefs think any more of us gamers. We don't play games because they're better than real life, we play them because they are like real life and because so much in real life works like games do. I'm guessing that people who feel bad about getting money, fame and physical attractiveness are people who are just plain sad (seriously, who can be sad about those things), and they wouldn't be much better off in a game either.

What McGonigal is really talking about is how games make us mindful of our rewards, of course - this is a typical approach of the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and good old mindfulness. Games help us point out that we did something good, and help us pick ourselves up when we fail - these are tools we can use anywhere and not some property unique to games. It's ironic because what she's really after is to make people understand that games are more than just escapist entertainment (p349), but she takes it so far that she actually comes out like saying gaming is the best way to spend any kind of spare time, and the best way to do things generally.

It also annoys me when someone writes about a topic, and then somehow manages to only mention one brand within that topic. It feels so much like a misplaced advertisement that it disturbs my reading. If I was reading a book on how milk could make you a better person, I don't want the author to mention only one brand of milk producers - unless only that type of milk will make me a better person. McGonigal does this when she discusses how various music games can allow us to connect with other people and live out our dream to become rock stars. Somehow she manages to only mention Rock Band in this context, although a game like Guitar Hero is basically the same (and there are a bunch of other games with similar design that could be mentioned as well). In the entire book, Guitar Hero is barely mentioned, while Rock Band gets an entire subchapter. It makes no sense. Especially since Guitar Hero has sold just about four times as much as Rock Band and was released first. Spore, which wasn't even that good, is another example of a game that gets too much space for my comfort. If there is some reason to this (like GH being published by Activision and she thinks they are bastards that don't deserve recognition) I would like to know about it, otherwise it feels like I can tell pretty easily whom she got her funding money from.

Towards the end of the book McGonigal gets a little too fond of the big pretty words and concepts. She starts throwing around terms like how we can save a doomed world from almost certain demise (not exactly like that, but in essence). In fact she's got an entire chapter named - Saving the real world together. I realize this is what she probably was aiming at with the entire book - how can we use this creative force to actually help, like really, really help? But as soon as you start using phrases like "we can break free of the cognitive chains of the short-term isolated thinking, with games that direct our collective attention to the future and challenge us to take the global perspective" (p301) and "clearly we were embarking on a decade of extreme-scale challenges: economic collapse, pandemics, climate change, the continuing risk of global terrorism, and distruptions to our global food supply chain, to name just a few. (...) Our hunch for surviving the next decade would require entirely new ways of cooperating, coordinating, and creating together". (p318) it makes me cringe and think about those flashy ads saying "single girls in your hometown, only a credit card number away!" or "you can also get happy and rich, with this simple 10-step method!". It's too extreme, it's promising or wanting too much. It's what Jerry Bruckheimer would write if he produced a book.

She is talking about "surviving the next decade" like if some huge ship loads of aliens had just landed or like the Zombie Apocalyps truly was upon us. Don't get me wrong, there is a lot that needs to be fixed in our world, and I think using multi-games to make people interested into caring could be a very good way to do something about it. But let's not overdo it, shall we. It will only make people take the whole idea less seriously when you try to cover the real ideas in words like "Make a difference now". That is exactly what we've already been hearing all our lives, we're reading this book to see what we can do about it. It is as if McGonigal was worried we wouldn't bother with this concept unless we could truly change the lives of the entire planet, and preferrably within the next decade. She forgets that the people that really are worried and really care are the ones already out there doing a difference (maybe like her). The rest of us will only get turned off by challenges like these - we prefer to sit in our comfy homes and do a little good now and then, we don't want to be the saviors of the world. That is exactly the point of bringing in a game to allow us to have fun and (in the background) help people at the same time. And would it be so horrible if this concept didn't involve saving the entire planet from certain demise? Would that be the only thing that makes it worthwhile?

It's unecessary, because McGonigal actually offers a bunch of really interesting ideas for how you could practically put this into use, and I don't want her to cover it up in "sure we can do this, but most importantly, we can save lives!". One of my favorites is the Groundcrew, which basically is a site on which anyone can post a wish and anyone can fulfill that wish. McGonigal gives the example with a woman at work who desperately needs a latte - someone reads her wish, happens to be in the neighbourhood and comes by with a latte. Now this would be a really cool way to use the wanna-do-good of other people who have some spare time. Another idea (that I had heard of before) is the folding@home where Stanford University gets to use the ps3 computer power of players when they weren't using their consoles (unfortunately that too was advertised with phrases like "It's time to do your part for humanity" and announcements like "PS3 gamers are trying to save the world!" Can't just let it be about folding proteins, can you?) (p239). Or like when she tells us how she got through an awful concussion by playing her days like a game (again about mindfulness). There is nothing wrong with allowing an idea to start off small and then escalate. Or letting it be about what it is instead of trying to hausse it as the mankind-saving solution of a millenia.

The Verdict
In the end I'm not sure what to say about the book. Like I mentioned I really like the idea, and I'm fascinated to read about how it has been put to use, and could be put to use in the future. On the other hand, there is much about the presentation that I don't like. McGonigal is obviously deeply engaged in this concept, and I don't blame her. But in some instances I feel like she want it to sound so much better than it is. I think there is great potential in this concept, and definitely something worth spending more time into analyzing how it could be best put to use, but the nearly religious aura that covers the book does put me off. I often don't agree at all with her interpretation of the result of some of the research she presents in the book (as mentioned above), and that does of course make it more difficult for me to just accept everything else she says too. I love the parts where she gets into specific examples about how the concept has been used (and what result has been given), but I dislike the parts where she gets unfoundedly (in my meaning) enthusiastic about its implications.

So, the benefit of the book is that you get a run down on some of the games developed with this concept in mind, which definitely was interesting in case you're into knowing more about this subject. I must admit it did have me ponder some ideas for myself, how to get me to do stuff I don't enjoy doing and things like it (not that I actually did anything about it in the end, but still). But otherwise I think you get as good an idea of the concept as a whole by watching one of McGonigals lectures than reading an entire book about it. Ironically, McGonigal mentions herself that the book medium isn't a very good one to convey this kind of idea, because most people read about it, nod to themselves, put the book away and forget all about it - or in any case, they won't actually do anything about it. That is probably true, and unfortunately probably what I will do too.