Thursday, December 17, 2009

Social Noob: The Story of Mick

I must confess, when I saw the title of a recent post by Klepsacovic – ‘What to do with Social Noobs’ – I thought he was going to be taking potshots at Gevlon’s newest experiment. I was surprised instead to find it a post about people who may or may not be able to master WoW, the game, but are unable to master social interactions that are (mostly) necessary to gameplay. He examines a couple of different types of social noobs, from the outright selfish a-hole (i.e., people who are deliberately rude, disruptive, etc.) to people who may not mean harm, but are just unable or unwilling to communicate well with others. In the end he asks, ‘Can we save the social noobs from themselves?’

Last night we were forced to use the Booterang* (one of my all-time favorite in-game items and quests, by the way) on a guild member. He was a social noob. Is he an outright selfish A-hole or just stupid, and is there any hope for him? This is his story. We’ll call him ‘Mick’.

Mick was tanking an Ony-10 pug. The raid leader forgot to set MasterLooter. When the big girl fell, and the loot windows popped up, Mick rolled need. On everything. My first inkling that there was trouble came when I got the following whisper:

‘Who’s the GM of your f-ing guild?’

Talk about social noobishness! This is not usually the way to open a conversation. If he walked up to me on the street or in a place of business, I would have gotten defensive, or maybe hostile, who knows. Fortunately I stayed cool and responded politely. He told me about ‘f-ing ninja Mick’. After making some inquiries with Mick, the original whisperer, and one or two other folks in that raid, we kicked Mick out of our guild. I only hope that he had the decency to return the loot for proper distribution. The angry whisperer calmed down as the event unfolded, though he did apparently spam trade chat for a bit about the ninja (I have yet to see anything on our realm forum about it, hopefully that will be the end of it), and I think our guild reputation has remained untarnished.

There are multiple faults here. One of course is the Raid Leader, for goofing and forgetting to set Loot Master. I suspect we’ve all done this once in a while; in a guild raid it’s not an issue, but obviously can be trouble in a PuG environment. Mick for sure is at fault – you don’t exploit an opening like that just because it’s there. However, I also have to think that WoWsociety is also partly at fault: for assuming that all members of this society know the ‘rules’. I suspect that much of the social noobishness in the game comes from people who have just not learned the rules.

My own first run-in with WoW rules came back in Blackfathom Depths so long ago. We killed a boss, and a nice chest piece dropped. I rolled need and won. A little later something else dropped, I rolled need and won. Someone in the group said “You’re not supposed to roll on everything!” Thus chastised, I don’t think I rolled on a single thing for the entire rest of the run. But here’s the thing: How was I to know? This was my first toon, and probably my first real group. Nobody had ever explained the protocols of loot to me; there’s no real manual, maybe some guidelines on the Blizzard website, but at that point in time I wasn’t really using those kinds of resources. I had no friends or guild to guide me. I was completely on my own, trying to figure out how this strange society worked. I was both a WoW noob AND a WoW social noob. There I was, level 23 or so and already a loot ninja, though nobody called me that (and I might not have really understood if they had).

But what about Mick? Should he have known better? He’s no WoW noob, he’s been playing for about 3 years. However, he’s also a bit new to raiding and high-level heroics (from his character history, he never had a level-capped toon until hitting 80 last spring); is it fair to expect him to know those rules when he’s relatively inexperienced?

There would only seem to be two ways to learn these rules: From written sources (i.e., websites, magazines, etc.), or from other players. Written sources are not good for everyone – I’m amazed at the number of players I’ve run into who can’t seem to bother to look up information on the web for themselves, and while there are certain behaviors that cut across the entire game society, there are also many customs that are specific to each server. That leaves other players as the best source of the rules. For my part, I learned by taking cues from the people I played with, from paying attention to what party and raid leaders said, and from coming right out and asking. In this way I moved out of the rank of social noob even when I still played like a WoW noob. However, in order to raise yourself out of ‘social noob’ status you have to have the desire and the ability to learn. From what I observed about Mick, he did not have the ability to learn.

It’s a shame, too. Despite his annoying tendencies (in-guild he was a lot like Chester the Terrier: Anyone-wanna-run-something-let’s-do-something-are-we-raiding-tonight-we-should-raid-something-who-can-enchant/gem-this-what-enchant-should-I-get-for-tanking-where-do-I’AAAARGHHH!) he was enthusiastic about the game, and desired getting involved with raiding. His first actual guild run was Tuesday night; he did passably well, and spent a lot of time afterwards discussing tankie stuff with our other tank (on the other hand, one of the people from his fated Ony run told the GM how he was not using a tanking weapon while tanking. /sigh). I don't believe he's an 'outright A-hole', though the folks in the raid would disagree. In the end, it was his inability to socialize well and to learn from the people around him -- in short, his social noobishness -- that cost him a guild spot. Though not for long: I noticed by the end of the night he’d caught on with another. I wish them well.

*The Booterang is supposed to knock sense into worthless, lazy peons. I would like to think it knocked some sense into Mick, but we're more than happy to let his new guild find out.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

'Let's Do It on Normal Mode'

I’ve noticed a rather disturbing trend with my guild in recent months: a willingness to throw in the towel early. This popped up the first time our ten man group finally reached Yogg-Saron. That first night we took a whopping total of 9 shots at him (though that included our unintended ‘Alone in the Darkness’ attempt kicked off by someone stepping too far into the room) before we reached our time limit for the night. We actually got to Phase 2 once, but with so few players alive that there was no hope of getting anywhere. Most of those first nine attempts ended in Phase 1, but we were learning and progressing, even if it didn’t show in the final results.

A few nights later we went back with high hopes, sure that we would be able to down Yoggy in our three hour time frame. We had a couple of clunker attempts but found ourselves doing much better, getting into Phase 2 with everyone alive, which is where it fell apart. At that point, after six attempts in about an hour’s playing time, someone begged off claiming fatigue. ‘Have to work tomorrow,’ he said. When we discussed trying to replace him someone else said ‘I’ll stay, if we can actually get somewhere.’ I wanted to reach through the internet and strangle the guy – what did he think we’d been doing for the last hour? As it turned out, we ended up not getting replacements that night; we also elected not to extend the lockout, and we haven’t been back since.

A second recent event occurred last week when we decided to tackle 10-man Trial of the Grand Crusader. A month or so ago we had made an attempt at it, just to see what it was like. It was hard, and we weren’t ready. This time we hand-picked our top players (as opposed to the open invites for normal) and went in. The results were far better than our first time in – we were just a hair off on our dps on the first attempt, so that the worms were entering the arena while Gormok was still up. We gave it a credible shot, then had the obligatory 2-3 wipes due to stupid stuff. After our 4th attempt (30 minutes or so in) it happened: ‘Maybe we should switch over to normal mode.’ (NOTE: this was not one of the two principals involved in the Yogg bailout – neither of them is in the guild now) This angered me because I felt that leaving at that point would not be giving ourselves a fair chance. Ultimately the raid decided to continue on with the Grand Crusader. We stuck it out for 10 total attempts and, while we ultimately failed to take down the Beasts, we made enough progress so that we can say confidently ‘We’ll get them next time.’

I’m not really clear where the change in attitude has come from. In the last year as a guild we’ve worked hard. We’ve had our share of triumphs and cock-ups, we’ve wiped on fights that we should have considered ‘farmable’, and surprised ourselves with some unexpected wins. From the time we started raiding Naxxramas right up through most of Ulduar, our raiders were determined to see through to the end. What happened?

I think the issue here is with the content. It seems as if most of the non-hard mode encounters are very easy, once you’ve defeated it once. As an example, Kologarn gave us fits when we first went against him. And then we beat him for the first time. Next week when we went back to face him again he proved to be no trouble at all. This was very different from our experiences in Karazhan and Zul’Aman, where some bosses always seemed to give us trouble, no matter how often we beat them. Had we simply managed to get enough gear to make Kologarn (and Auriayah, and the Keepers) easy? Or had we just discovered ‘The Trick’ to beating each of them?

Crusaders’ Coliseum is largely the same on normal. Our first time in there it was Lord Jaraxxus who gave us all kinds of trouble. He’s trivial now. Aside from the Faction Champions we have no trouble whatsoever in normal 10 man mode. And, to be honest, though I don’t yet have the achievement for ToC-25 (the groups I’m in have all fallen apart by the time we get to Anub’arak), it’s really not that hard from a healers’ perspective. But hard mode – that’s another story.

Hard mode is supposed to be hard; I don’t object to that at all. Unfortunately I think the disparity between ‘hard’ and ‘easy’ (whether it be hard mode vs. normal, or a boss that’s simply ‘hard’ like Mimiron or Yogg vs. one that’s ‘easy’) is too great – not for me, but for some of my guildies. They’ve forgotten what progression means – wipes, frustration, repair bills, less emblems this week. They’ve also forgotten how thrilling it can be when you finally get that boss down after so much head-banging. Maybe when we start getting into Icecrown it will be different. Maybe they just got tired of Ulduar over and over again, or watching the same conga line of bosses run through the gates of the Coliseum. I certainly hope that's the case, because I’d hate to wipe a couple of times in Icecrown and have someone say ‘eh, let’s go back and do Ulduar, we need the gear.’ As much as I’d still like to finish off Yogg-Saron, I’ve got my mind on Arthas – and I don’t want to wait until Cataclysm to visit him.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Raid Healing: The Right Field of Raiding?

"Hey, you're riding the short bus with me!"

These words were uttered by a Resto Shaman in my guild to another guild member last spring when I handed out healing assignments in Naxx-25 and put both of them on 'Raid Healing'. It was the second negative comment I'd heard from him in as many weeks when given that assignment. I let it go right then and there but asked him later about it. He said he was only goofing around, though I did take his point and tried to vary his assignments (indeed, all of the healing assignments) in subsequent raids, variety being the spice of life and all.

His comment was brought to mind today when I was cruising around the O-Boards and hit this post in the Healing section. If you don’t wish to read it, I’ll summarize. The poster commented about a Raid Leader who wanted to switch a Holy Paladin from tank healing to raid healing on Northrend Beasts. Seems the Pally in question was having some difficulty keeping the tank alive, so the Raid Leader ordered the switch.

Rather than debate the merits of putting a Paladin on this sort of assignment, I wanted to comment instead on one of the things the Shaman said to the Raid Leader:

“I said that in a raid environment, holy paladins were tank healers, end of story, and it'd be … insulting … to assign them to raid.”*

These two comments, separated as they are in time and space, still make me wonder how people feel about getting the assignment ‘raid heals’. Is it taken as an insult? Should it be taken as an indication that the Raid Leader or Healing Leader doesn’t have confidence in you? Is ‘Raid Healing’ the Right Field of WoW, where we banish the virtual Timmy Lupus where he can do the least harm?

There’s no doubt that ‘heal the raid’ doesn’t have the same sort of glamor that tank healing has. After all, a tank healer is responsible for keeping alive the one person that stands between the raid and that snarling, angry boss that will happily eat you for lunch. Make one mistake as a tank healer and the entire raid is strewn about the room taking a dirt nap. On the other hand, make a mistake as a raid healer and it’s just a dps dead. It’s not even like in Burning Crusade where that person might have been responsible for maintaining crowd control or anything, what’s the big deal? Yet the more that I think about it, the more that I realize raid healing may actually be a tougher assignment than people give it credit for, and we may vastly underestimate the abilities of the people we put in that role.

As a tank healer, I have the luxury of being able to focus exclusively on one target. Heck, in a good group I don’t even have to worry about my health, save for moving out of whatever will kill me in two ticks. Heal myself? Nah, that’s what the raid healers are for. I can happily spam away on the tanks, making sure that I avoid the bad stuff and do what I need to do to have enough mana to make it through. While I do pay attention to what’s happening with the rest of the raid, I’ve learned that Wrath bosses hit hard and fast enough that there’s often no such thing as a ‘spare’ global cooldown to spend on a threatened dps. My assignments tend to survive much better when I maintain my focus on them.

Raid healers on the other hand have to worry about everyone. They do keep an eye on the tanks and are expected to ‘help out’ when/if needed. They are the ones who have to take care of the dps (or healers sometimes) when they stand in Flaming Cinder. They are the ones who have to mitigate and clean up the mess of Tympanic Tantrum, Plasma Blast, Staggering Stomp and the like. They are the ones who have to somehow coordinate with four other healers when they’re given vague assignments like ‘just heal the raid’, and they are the ones who have to maintain range and LoS when 24 other people are running around like Elder Harkek’s chickens. Furthermore, with the various hard and soft enrage timers that many of Wrath’s bosses have, keeping those dps up is perhaps more important than ever: A bad tank healer usually results in a rapid wipe due to a rampant boss. Bad Raid healers often mean an agonizingly slow wipe as the result of an enrage 10 minutes later. As Tom Petty sang “I can’t decide which is worse”.

So rather than looking at 'heal the raid' as being Right Field, where the slow, uncoordinated, has-no-talent-but-the-rules-say-he-has-to-play-anyway kids go, we would do well to think instead of it as Right Field, where Hall of Famers like Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente and Tony Gwynn played. And even if you do feel that it's the safest place for a less-skilled healer, remember that the ball gets hit to right field a lot, but even Timmy Lupus made a game-saving catch.

*full quote: "I said that in a raid environment, holy paladins were tank healers, end of story, and it'd be either insulting or incredibly ignorant to assign them to raid. "

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ups and Downs: 2-1/2 Years of WoW

I’m a little late to this particular party thrown by Blog Azeroth – the ‘shared topic’ for November 2, which was relationships in WoW. I thought I’d throw a slightly different spin on things, and talk about my own relationship with WoW. Like a relationship with real people, the WoW relationship has changed in the 2-1/2 years that I’ve been playing.

First, a quick bit of background. Prior to WoW my computer gaming experience was mostly with ‘puzzle’ types of games and adventure games – the Monkey Island series, Tex Murphy, Myst, a couple of the Indiana Jones titles, and Grand Theft Auto III, Vice City and San Andreas (the GTA series is an extremely guilty pleasure – I loved them, but almost hate myself for that). WoW first broke onto my radar screen when someone posted the infamous Leeroy Jenkins video on a board-gaming site I frequent. I knew nothing about the game, but I know comedy when I see it, and that was gold.

My daughter brought WoW into the house. My wife and I grudgingly agreed to a trial account so that my daughter could play with a friend, whose entire family played. My daughter, cagey for a 12 year old, got my wife to try it out. We soon went from a trial account to a permanent account.

I kept my distance. However, over the period of about a month or so, repeated exposure to the game started changing my indifference to curiosity. Instead of shaking my head and walking out of the room, I’d ask my wife or daughter a question about what was going on and why. World of Warcraft had begun to work its way into my head the way a commercial jingle does. I guess it was inevitable that I’d end up trying it out. One Saturday morning I sat down at the computer and said ‘What the hell?’ I was now a player.

In the first few days or weeks of playing, the game was a (mostly) pleasant diversion, a nice way to escape from reality for a short time. I enjoyed the simple act of playing, with no goals whatsoever save to complete whatever task I was assigned by Marshall McBride or the other fine people I met in Elwynn Forest. Kill some wolves? No problem. Scout out the mines for kobolds? I'm on it. Lay a beatdown on some Defias Thugs? With pleasure. Even when it came down to finding the missing guards and killing murlocs near Eastvale logging camp ('Hey! That murloc drank a healing potion! Not fair!'), the game was still light fare for an evening or early weekend morning before everyone else got up.

The increasing complexity of the game is what drew me into what I think of as the Seeker phase of my relationship with WoW. This occurred when I realized I needed more information about the game than the in-game tutorials or the official web site could provide. Blizzard's site gives some nice overviews of the talent system, professions, etc., but not enough. Furthermore, the quests become a bit more involved as you progress (or maybe the quest text becomes more obtuse) and there are times when it's just not clear where you need to go to proceed. I quickly made a mess out of my talent tree and needed more help. I started seeking help from outside of Blizzard.

I think my wife found Thottbot first. It soon became a handy reference for me as I looked at the lengthy Verigan’s Fist quest chain. I tried not to abuse it (i.e., ‘hmm, I just accepted this quest, where do I go? Thottbot!’) as I much preferred to explore and discover on my own, but there were definitely times where quest text was so obscure, or defeating a mob or group seemed to have some trick that just eluded me, that it was necessary to consult other sources.

The Seeker Phase lasted a long time – in fact, in many ways I’m still in it as a raiding level 80. What is interesting is how this facet of the WoW relationship changed over time. Initially, I hit the Seeker Phase initially to understand the talent trees, but most of my Seeking thereafter was to help with quests. As I moved along in the game, however, I started seeking more out of a desire to better understand my class, and learn how to play it better. Perhaps not surprisingly it also developed as I became a more social player. I had joined a guild and started running a bit more in groups (for quite some time I avoided most of the social aspects of the game – largely due to self-confidence or lack thereof) and found that there was much more to know than how to navigate the elite Ogres in the Ruins of Alterac (back when they were almost ALL elite). At this point I started seeking advice on things that would make me a better player within groups, even though I was still ‘only’ in the 40-50 range.

The nice thing about this time in my relationship with WoW is that I was really living in the moment. I wasn’t looking ahead to ‘end game’ and raiding – in fact, it was something I had never even thought about. I also wasn’t rushing through to try to get to level 70 as fast as possible. I would occasionally push hard to get to a certain level if I knew something very cool was coming up – plate and a warhorse at level 40; class quest at 50; Charger questline at 60 – but I pretty much followed the quest givers and went happily on my way. I think I did push extra hard the final two levels to 70; happily, when I did hit 70 there was no ‘Now what?’ moment. For the time, my relationship with the game had not changed -- I was able to continue finishing up quests and exploring new areas, not realizing that I was about to change my relationship to the game again.

I soon had people asking if I wanted to heal Kara – some were people I knew, some were random strangers. It almost felt as if I had a Holy Paladin tracking device installed on me. I was definitely hesitant to get involved in the raiding scene -- my confidence was still shaky from a completely disastrous Hellfire Ramparts run (I was level 63, it was awful -- so bad that I don't think I healed another instance until I was 70!). However, quests were running out, and I began wondering what I would do now. I spent a lot of time ‘Seeking’ to see what I needed to do to raid. Once I did, my relationship with the game changed once more, and I quickly became a Raider. Aside from the month or so after Wrath hit where I had to level up to 80, I’ve been a Raider ever since.

This current relationship still involves a lot of seeking. However, it's much more 'serious' in most ways than my earlier days. Raiding has proven to be a different kind of fun, but one that I still enjoy. There are other changes as well: I’m not on my main quite as much as I used to be. Most of the time I spend on my main is spent either in raids or preparing for raids (thankfully, this doesn’t seem to take up quite as much time as it used to), which will include a few dailies to keep up the gold supplies. While I try to be helpful to guildies, I find that I have less patience for ‘can someone run me through ’ requests than maybe I used to; I’m definitely a bit more selfish with my time than I’d care to admit. On the flip side, I've also tried to help by advising other guildmembers both in-game and on our forums, and I've become much more involved with the greater WoW community as a whole. Interestingly I’ve also found that, while I liked leveling and loved most of the quest lines in Wrath, I definitely hustled much harder to get through 70-80 than I ever did anywhere else along the way. I think this is part of why I feel less of a connection to Northrend (even though I spend almost all of my time here) than to some of the older zones like Duskwood and the Plaguelands – my earlier self viewed these zones as important destinations, while my newer self sees these zones as places to travel through.

I sometimes look back at my earlier selves and my earier relationship with WoW with a bit of wistfulness -- the wide-eyed innocent stumbling into Mor'Ladim; the slightly more grizzled (but equally foolish) level 60 that poked his head into Stratholme for a quick peak -- and then discovered the gate was locked behind him; the guy that kept using Turn Undead in Shadowfang Keep -- and wondered where all those ghosts were coming from. It was a different time in my relationship with WoW, and a lot of fun. I find that I can't quite get back to that same relationship, even with alts (I'm always stuck now at the Seeker mode at the very least). On the overall however, I'm quite happy with where I'm at in the game, and look forward to seeing how my relationship will change moving forward.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Know-It-All Man

He’s a real Know-it-All Man
Sitting in our gaming LAN
Telling us how we can all play better.

Thinks we haven’t got a clue
Prob’ly calls us noobies, too
Know-it-All Man has no respect for me.

Know-it-All Man, you’ve got skill
But your constant one-upping kills the thrill
Know-it-All Man, you’re heading for a guild chat ban!

Calls himself a WoWwiki
Tries to set our strategy
Even though he’s not leading the raid

Know-it-All Man, don’t be headstrong
Even you have been wrong
Remember when, you thought E-o-E needed no key?

Tells us how to play our toons
Right down to our choice of runes
Know-it-All Man I know what to do

Apologies to John Lennon and Paul McCartney

I suspect we all know a Know-It-All Man. It’s the guy that says or acts like he knows all about the game, usually isn’t shy about letting us know how we could be better, and makes it known that we would succeed if only we had more of him.

As I’ve thought on this subject, I actually have come to the realization that my guild has not one, but three Know-It-All Men, and that their Know-It-Allness manifests itself in three different ways. Furthermore, while the phrase ‘know-it-all’ is typically used in a very negative way, one of our Know-It-Alls is extremely helpful and a real asset to the guild. Here’s a look at three variations of Know-It-All Man that I have in my guild:

Know-It-All Man #1: Mr. WoWwiki
He actually referred to himself as the ‘Walking WoWwiki’ in guild chat on several occasions. He’s a very knowledgeable and skilled player, and he likes to let everyone know it. If the Raid Leader says ‘The boss will do an AoE shadow effect every 20 seconds or so’, Mr. WoWwiki will immediately interject ‘Every 23 seconds. It’s called and it does .’ He will make authoritative statements on how things should be done, even if he has never encountered the boss before. He tries to direct raid strategy even though he’s not the raid leader, and prefers to refer to WoWwiki even when the Raid Leader has actually experienced the fight before. He’ll go along with the Raid Leader, while leaving it clear by tone of voice that he thinks it’s sure to fail. He types faster than anyone in the guild and will go on and on at length to demonstrate his knowledge about any subject. While he does help people, it always comes across as if he’s doing it to show how much he knows, as opposed to out of a genuine desire to help.

Know-It-All Man #2: The Sniper
A good sniper is a master of covert operations, staying well out of sight until the target presents itself. One good shot and the sniper again disappears, and nobody is certain where the shot came from. Our guild Sniper spends long hours hiding in plain sight, saying much, but of little consequence. When he does take his shot, it’s either a completely irreverent answer, or it’s a straight answer delivered with such conviction and so little elaboration that it doesn’t really help anyone, but presumably demonstrates his expert knowledge. This guy drops unexpectedly into the raid vent channel when he’s not in the raid and listens in, telling us how his Horde toon has pretty much downed all of the content, so he knows of what he speaks, yet he offers very little of substance. He’s prone to making broad, sweeping statements about things that can’t be dis-proven, usually about upcoming changes to WoW, or games that he hasn’t even played.

Know-It-All Man #3: The Helper
The Helper has been playing WoW since release, and it shows where it should – in his play. He pays attention to what’s going on in the fight, can often figure out where the trouble is, and makes suggestions on how to fix it. If he’s asked to help someone work on their rotation, spec, enchants, etc., he does it willingly, nicely, and privately. He thinks about what he says and how he says it, and will actually take the (unprecedented, for WoW) step of apologizing to people if he thinks he’s overstepped his bounds. With just a touch of hubris he could very easily cross the line to become another Mr. WoWwiki, but he hasn’t fallen into that trap yet.

The Helper is very close to Mr. WoWwiki in several ways: both have a deep knowledge of the game and their class(es), and both have a great degree of skill in playing the game. The principal difference, however, seems to be intent. Where The Helper seems genuinely interested in helping individuals and the guild get better so that everyone can enjoy the game more, Mr. WoWwiki seems more interested in showing everyone how great he is. While The Helper switches toons because he thinks doing so will help us beat the encounter, Mr. WoWwiki appears to do it because nobody can do it better. Both may recount how their Rogue was able to lock down the shaman in Faction Champions: The Helper speaks of it with the relish of a war veteran recalling a great battle; Mr. WoWwiki seems to be saying ‘look at me, look at what I did!’ I don’t think I’ve ever seen The Helper link meters of any kind, even when he’s the top damage dealer (and he often is). Mr. WoWwiki will selectively link meters (i.e., when he’s on top): when he brought his Disc Priest into Ulduar and was last among the healers in healing done, not a peep. When his Disc Priest healed on faction champions, he linked the dispel meters, where he was far and away ahead of everyone. The Helper is about the group, Mr. WoWwiki is about 'me'.

Dangers of Know-It-All Men
While Know-It-Alls are not as dangerous to your guild as Drama Llamas, they can have a negative impact nonetheless, depending on the number and type of Know-It-Alls you have. As long as The Helper remains a helper he should be a great asset to the guild, since he acts in the best interest of the party/raid/guild and thinks beyond himself. He probably won’t slide into ‘Mr. WoWwiki’ territory, but it’s always good to keep an eye on him.

The Sniper is not particularly dangerous, but he can still have a negative impact. Like a sniper in the military, the guild Sniper is crafty; his Know-It-Allisms are borderline insulting and dismissive, but he never quite crosses the line to where he would be warned, demoted or kicked. Yet his flippancy, or his backhanded attempts at helpfulness when he ninjas into the raid vent channel sap the energy from the group. For our Sniper, I can’t quite tell if this is deliberate or not. His only value to the guild is what he actually does when the fight is in progress; he offers very little otherwise. Snipers do require careful monitoring to see that they push over the line to the point where they hamper the guild.

Mr. WoWwiki is probably the toughest to deal with. His game knowledge and play skill make him an asset to the guild. On the other hand, his attitude and delivery irritate the hell out of people. Our Mr. WoWwiki has been muted by several people in vent, has been /ignored and has had us occasionally pull in pugs rather than ask him in on one of his toons when our 10 man team has needed an extra. This is not a healthy state of affairs. While it’s unreasonable to expect everyone to get along all the time, muting or /ignoring can have disastrous effects on a raid. Mr. WoWwiki requires a much higher degree of maintenance, and ours has been told multiple times to think about how he says things.

As an officer in my guild it’s part of my responsibility to maintain both our progression and our sense of communities. Know-It-All Men are one of the challenges we face. How about you? Have you dealt with these types before? What did you do, and how did you solve it?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The New PTR is Here! The New PTR is Here!

This year Blizzard has spit out patches faster than a haste-capped mage can spit out Arcane Missiles. Look at where we were a year ago at this time: waiting for the big pre-Wrath content patch that was going to rock our world, while clinging to every scrap of new information on the beta forums and from sources like MMO-Champion, WoWInsider, and all the various WoW-related blogs. Since 2008 turned into 2009, Blizzard has kept up a frenetic pace, particularly recently: Patch 3.2 dropped on August 4th. Just a week later, Blizzard announced the arrival of Patch 3.2.2, which came out on September 22nd. Now, with the paint barely dry on Onyxia’s Lair, the PTR for Patch 3.3 is up and running – less than two weeks after Onyxia returned. The World of the World of Warcraft is buzzing with news of the patch as PTR testers and data miners start spreading information. While I appreciate the efforts that these folks put forth, I have to wonder:

What the Hell happened to patch 3.2.1? And (seriously this time)…

What truly useful information will we learn from the PTR?

For the first question, who really knows? I’m not familiar enough with Blizzard’s naming conventions. Perhaps Onyxia had long been planned as a 3.2.2 release, and the designation of 3.2.1 was reserved for something that might have been needed in between. Maybe 3.2.1 was some sort of bug-fix patch, although since 3.2.2a got its own designation, I doubt it. Still, one wonders. Meanwhile, let’s consider the second question: What useful information will we learn from the PTR?

Well, from my first scan of the O-boards, I’m learning that:
-the PTR is glitched, buggy, and/or down
- a lot of people are having trouble logging in
- Jaina’s got a new model – and she is ‘hot’
- the PTR is still glitched, buggy and/or down
Strangely enough, there’s no complaining (yet) that we still don’t have new dances in place. I expect that will change.

Meanwhile, WoWInsider has a lot of Patch 3.3 goodness on it – most of it focuses on new UI features, achievements, dungeon/raid previews, tier 10 set bonuses, and Jaina’s makeover (and how ‘hot’ she is). Most of my favorite bloggers are giving pretty much the same info that WoWInsider is giving us, with a bit more info on how to fight the bosses and a little less (mercifully) on Jaina. In the coming weeks we’ll also get to see previews of loot, which is probably the most important thing to most people.

Personally I’m not really that interested in the new Jaina model (she looks too snobby), or where the best upgrade will be for me – I figure I’ll find out soon enough. What I really want to know from any PTR is How will the proposed changes to my class affect how my toon plays? To me it seems that this would be the most pressing concern of most people, yet it seems to be the least-reported aspect of any PTR cycle.

Granted, 3.3 isn’t necessarily bringing huge changes to most classes; it’s actually understandable that people are going to be more excited about finally breaking down the doors of the Citadel and squaring off with Arthas than they are about a change to a spell or two. However, even when there are big changes for classes, very little information about how it plays gets out to the outside world. Those of us who can’t or won’t go on the PTR are left to chew our nails and wonder.

A good example of this is with the Holy Paladin Illumination nerf that came in patch 3.2. The speculation leading up to release focused mostly on worst-case scenarios; the nerf sounded very, very bad indeed. In the end, the nerf didn’t turn out nearly as bad as the speculation and napkin math indicated, as I wrote in a guest post on World of Matticus. Some honest reporting from the PTR would have spared many a Holy Paladin an anxious month while testing was going on.

We’re seeing the same thing happening -- again with Paladins -- as 3.3 looks to be bringing a pretty big change to Divine Sacrifice and Divine Guardian. How big will these changes be? Right now there’s a great discussion happening on PlusHeal, complete with some substantial napkin math, but as of right now, nobody has stepped forward with any numbers or reports on how it’s actually working. This is not just a problem in the Paladin community, I might add. Most of the posts I read related to any class changes -- on the O-boards and elsewhere – focus on hypotheticals and gut reactions to new and revised abilities. This makes me ask a third question: Why do people sign up for the PTR?

Now I can hear my two readers asking ‘Hey Jeffo, if you want to know how this works so badly, why don’t you get your butt on the PTR and report for us?’ I should. I’ll also point out that as a beta tester for Wrath, I did in fact post hard numbers on the PlusHeal forums. I’m an educator at heart and I like to share news of this sort with my ‘colleagues’ where I can. Sadly, I find that I play too much as it is; joining the PTR means I’d either have to play even more than I do now, or I’d have to cut back on the amount of time I spend in the ‘real’ virtual world to participate in the virtual virtual world. I’d rather not do either, so I’m relying on others for my information. Maybe that’s a bit of a copout, but it is the reality of the situation. Perhaps in the future I’ll have more time to hit up the PTR’s and betas, or I’ll be more willing to forego ‘live’ time for the PTR. That day is just not here yet.

I realize that I will benefit from the work of those on the PTR on patch day, however, beyond the feedback they’re hopefully providing Blizzard as they go. On Patch night (should server stability allow it, that is), my guild is likely to send a group of brave travelers into the new 10-man raid. When we come to face-to-face with our first boss, we will have some idea of what’s about to happen because it will already be on Tankspot, or Bosskillers, or some other site – straight from the PTR to a Youtube video near you.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Can Recycling Save the World...of Warcraft?

‘Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss’
-Won’t Get Fooled Again, Pete Townsend

Most people these days agree that recycling is good for the planet – it saves natural resources and landfill space, creates jobs, can cut down on pollution. With the release of patch 3.2.2 and the return of Onyxia, Blizzard is making a strong case for winning ‘Recycler of the Year’. In some ways, perhaps this last expansion should have been called Wrath of the Recycling King. Think for a second about what we’ve seen in the expansion so far:
- The first big raid was Naxxramas; recycled from patch 1.something
- Arugal was dragged out of Shadowfang Keep and resurrected to serve as a mini-boss in Grizzly Hills
- We got to revisit a scene out of Warcraft III in the Caverns of Time: Culling of Stratholme.
- We defeated the Black Knight in the Argent Tournament. Now we get to kill him again – 3 times!
- Trial of the Champions (or is it Crusader? I’m so confused!) brings us Anub’arak. How the Hell did Tirion dig him up? I can’t use Redemption on enemies.
- Confessor Paletress summons images of old bosses, though this doesn’t quite count because they don’t use their original abilities (if they did, this might actually be an easier fight)

Blizzard looks to continue the recycling with Cataclym, where we’ll be seeing heroic version of Shadowfang Keep (Arugal, part 3?) and Deadmines. I’ve heard rumors that Ragnaros will be somewhere in there, and Deathwing will be the featured baddie (since I have not played all that long, has Deathwing ever actually been faced down as a boss?). Given the recent history of the expansion, and the announcements on Cataclysm, I would not be at all surprised if Arthas throws some recycled bosses at us in Icecrown. Anyone for Patchwerk again?

While recycling is good for the planet, is it good for Blizzard? There seems to be a big difference of opinion on this. There are folks like Lodur over at Matticus who are very excited over these developments. These folks remember raiding Onyxia back when; who look back with fondness at the frustration of banging their heads against that particular wall, and are happy to relive those memories, and make new ones. They’re looking forward to seeing what new wrinkles Blizz puts into those old characters, and seeing how well their own new abilities match up. I think many of these folks are looking forward to these new encounters, not just because of the nostalgia factor, but also because they’re hoping they will be as challenging now as they were then. (Based on my first attempt at Onyxia last night, which was cut short by unstable servers, I think they’ll be disappointed – we didn’t get her down in the time we had, but it was not the 'holy-crap-this-is-impossible' event that I thought it might be. The difficulty right now seems to be in the unfamiliarity that most of us had with it.

Then there’s the other end of the spectrum, folks like my GM. They look at the recycling of content as laziness on Blizzard’s part, a further slide down the slippery slope that started with the whole change to the emblem system that came out in 3.2. Already feeling alienated by the direction WoW had taken, content recycling is pushing them further away from the game. They feel that the game has gotten too easy, that ‘epic’ gear is too commonplace, and that recycling is evidence that Blizzard is putting as little effort into game design as players have to put into getting those epics. While forum posts threatening to quit the game over one thing or another are not new, the case of my GM (well, former actually; he gave up the GM spot a couple of months ago) are representative of a general loss of enthusiasm amongst a set of the playerbase.

To be honest, I’m kind of mixed on the subject of content recycling. On the one hand, I do feel as if Blizzard is somehow slacking on the raids since Ulduar hit. The design of the Crusaders’ Coliseum, with its no-trash, no-scenery, four raids in one! approach feels like a bit of a ‘cheat’, even though some of the encounters in there are actually fun and creative. Taking an old encounter and just upping the HP and damage of the boss is not creating new content. Will Deadmines and Shadowfang Keep be exactly the same as they used to be? If we see Kel’Thuzad resurrected once again in Icecrown, will it be the same fight that we just did, with maybe one new wrinkle? If the answer to these questions is ‘yes’, then we are right to feel that Blizzard is cutting corners. BUT....

Does it really matter?

From what I can glean from the forums, the new Onyxia is pretty much the same as the old Onyxia. I wouldn’t know, as I never fought the old Onyxia. I never went into Blackrock Spire or Blackrock Depths; never raided Molten Core or Black Temple. Yes, I did Deadmines and Shadowfang Keep (as any good Paladin should – Verigan’s Fist, ftw!) but that was a long time ago. There are lots of players these days who have never done any of them, for whom these dungeons and raids are not ‘old news’, but the stuff of legend. Leveling is faster and easier than ever, and can be done with stunningly little group play (even less than when I started playing, which was in the spring of 2007). There is little reason or opportunity to run these instances at proper level; introducing them as high-level will play into the nostalgia factor for the folks who have been there, while giving others the opportunity to experience it for the first time. In many ways I prefer the prospect of facing van Cleef as a level 85 bad-ass more than I want to see yet another iteration of Anub’arak. When Cataclysm hits next year you can also expect that there will be plenty of people pushing through the levels that will not set foot in Naxx, Eye or Ulduar on the way up – will it be so terrible to have these people square off against Sartharion in a buffed-up version of Obsidian Sanctum? It might actually make a certain degree of sense given the importance of the Black Dragonflight in the expansion.

Recycling in and of itself won’t save the Real World; it must be part of a larger strategy that includes proper resource management, source reduction and changes in consumption. Recycling in the world of World of Warcraft has to be a part of a larger Blizzard strategy for breathing new life into a game that seems to be getting stale for many players. Time will tell if this is a winning strategy for Blizzard.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Patch 3.2: the Ten-foot tall Bug

"Nothing is so frightening as what's behind the closed door.’ – Stephen King

In his book Danse Macabre, a treatise on horror movies, books, radio and TV, author Stephen King wrote an excellent passage about how monsters are always more frightening when we can’t see them – when they are a shape in the dark, or a sound under the bed or in the closet. The reason is that, while it’s hidden, it could be anything. As King writes ‘When you made the monster in your mind…it was a perfect monster.’ Good movies makers understand this principle, and will keep the monster in the closet as long as they can, to keep you and me on the edge of our seats as long as possible.

The weeks leading up to the release of Patch 3.2 (in fact, pretty much every major patch I’ve seen in the 2+ years that I’ve been playing WoW) is much like the walk a movie hero/heroine makes towards that closed door at the end of the hallway. Even though the patch notes tell us exactly what’s being changed, they still represent the ‘closed door’, because we really don’t know how much the change will affect us. In fact there seems to be an interesting progression in how the community deals with that closed door. It starts with the release of the patch notes detailing changes for each class. This kicks off an eruption on the official boards (and in blogs and other forums) of shock and disbelief, followed quickly by Righteous Indignation (sounds like a great Paladin spell, doesn’t it?) and outright rage. Typical posts go along these lines: ‘They’re making obsolete! You’ll never see us in raids anymore!’ followed closely by the ever-popular ‘This is a slap in the face!’ and the old standby ‘I’m quitting/rerolling’.

As we get closer to the door, we get into the ‘Desperate Prayer’ stage (in the movies, you’d be scrunching down in your seat, muttering ‘don’topenthedoordon’topenthedoordon’topenthedoor’. In this stage, the more thoughtful players fill the board with all manner of theorycraft and hard numbers from Actual Raid Parses from the live realms to demonstrate to Blizzard just how this change will gut Class X – the hope is that Blizzard will examine their numbers, and realize that the player base is far more knowledgeable about the game than their own developers, and will either:
a. cut out the changes altogether
b. mitigate the changes a bit (nerf the nerf), or
c. nerf the Hell out of the other guys

Of course threats, insults and player numbers aren’t enough to sway Blizzard. We don’t want them to open the door, but Ghostcrawler is there to fling open the door and shove us through. I’ll complete the King quote from the beginning to describe what happens next:
"Nothing is so frightening as what's behind the closed door. The audience holds its breath along with the protagonist as she/he (more often she) approaches that door. The protagonist throws it open, and there is a ten-foot-tall bug. The audience screams, but this particular scream has an oddly relieved sound to it. 'A bug ten feet tall is pretty horrible', the audience thinks, 'but I can deal with a ten-foot-tall bug. I was afraid it might be a hundred feet tall'.”

With the Monster of Patch 3.2 officially out of the closet, we can now think rationally. We can examine it in the bright light of day, size it up, and do what the heroes and heroines do in the movies: grab the nearest chainsaw, fireplace poker, or other conveniently-located improvised weapon and go kick some ten-foot bug butt. Learn to play with the new tools Blizzard has given us, because the next closed door is just down the hall to the right.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Does the Old World need and Overhaul?

Well, look at this.

A month and a half into my blog, and I’m slacking already.

I have plenty of ideas for posts. I just seem to lack ‘finish’. I’ve also started plenty of posts, but find them all lacking. Usually they start out fairly well; then I stop and read over what I’ve written and think ‘what’s the point I’m trying to make? I can’t find it!’ and that’s where I grind to a halt – but not this time!

A recent-when-I-started-writing-this-but-not-anymore thread on Ten Ton Hammer suggests that Blizzard needs to update the Old World. Levels 1-60 are stale, they say. The quest hubs are poorly designed, the quests are boring, and that levels 40-58 in particular involve too much traveling. He compares the Old World with both Outlands and Northrend and finds, not surprisingly, that it is lacking. He further suggests that Blizzard streamlines some of the quests and questlines to make them more like the newer zones, and appears to say they should add in new quests (I may be reading into it. His exact quote is: 'What would be nice, is enough quests in a series of closely linked zones to level through 40-58, and then other alternative zones, so that with one alt you can level in one region (eg. the south of kali), and then another alt you can do different quests and kill different mobs in another place (eg. the north of east kingdoms), so that you don't end up doing the same quests over and over. It would make it a much more cohesive, varied and enjoyable experience that would match the rest of the game.'

Now, I have to say there are some valid points made here and in some other similar threads on TTH and elsewhere. The chief one is that the ‘modern’ world of the World of Warcraft is miles above the Old World in many ways: graphics and scenery, innovative quests involving vehicles, storylines, and quest hub designs. In particular, the hub designs are so much better than they used to be. I was reminded of this while questing in the Zim’torga section of Zul’Drak on my No-longer-Secret Warlock last week (Yes, I joined my main’s guild): I picked up a quest to go to the northeast and kill a nasty mob. Two nearby NPC’s then sent me to the same area to gather items and kill other mobs. This pattern is pretty typical of Northrend design, and while there’s a fair share of making multiple trips to one place type of quests, you can usually knock out two or more quests in the area at the same time. It’s a far cry from finding out that you need to kill Araj the Summoner for the key to Scholomance after you’ve already killed him as part of Alas, Andorhal (or vice versa); and don’t get me started on the multiple quests that have you running back, forth and back again between Westfall, Lakeshire, Darkshire and Stormwind – several times. While those particular quests served a purpose beyond getting booze or appealing for more help – they directed you into new areas with potentially new quests – they were a brutal time sink in the days before you could get a mount at level 20, especially the first time, before you picked up all the flight paths.

In general, I have little sympathy for Berniemac’s plea for updating the Old World. Why? Note again what Bernie said: ” so that with one alt you can level in one region (eg. the south of kali), and then another alt you can do different quests and kill different mobs in another place (eg. the north of east kingdoms), so that you don't end up doing the same quests over and over.” (emphasis added) Bernie and the others who agree with him are looking at it from the perspective of the veteran, someone who’s run multiple alts through that content. In fact, Bernie states in the very first line of his post that he’s leveling a Rogue AND a lock, and that they’re both in their 40’s – no wonder he wants the Old World redesigned! How many times can you run the same content and NOT find it lacking, especially if you have other toons that have been to the Golden New World?

The issue here is,to twist a phrase commonly seen on the forums ‘Old content is old’. If you’re like Bernie, you’re going to be bored with it, having run it a half a dozen times. If you’ve recently been running around Northrend (or even Outlands), it’s going to pale by comparison.

Does that mean it needs an overhaul?

In my view not at all. Beginning at least with , the XP needed to reach 60 was cut, along with an increase in XP gained/quest. We’ve seen more recent developments (mounts at level 20), heirloom items, recruit-a-friend, all designed to make the leveling process faster. How much faster? Upon reaching level 80, my warlock had completed 180 fewer quests in the Old World than my main, who leveled past 60 before patch 2.3. Around level 60, I bought my lock a set of heirloom shoulders and he sped through Outlands, only doing significant questing in Hellfire, Zangarmarsh and Nagrand. In comparison my Paladin, had to complete most of the quests in those zones, plus Terrokar and Shadowmoon Valley before hitting 70. Even without the benefits of a ‘rich uncle’ toon for heirloom gear, or recruit-a-friend speed, leveling is pretty speedy.

What about the other argument – the one that says Azeroth is ‘stale’? Again, consider that the people who are complaining the most are the people who’ve gone through it over and over and over. I had a recent conversation with a guildie who’s in his level 50’s on his first ever toon – he’s loving the game, and has no complaints. The world is certainly not stale to him and, while I’m sure he’s had some annoyances with some of the old quest hubs, they haven’t diminished his enjoyment of the game or his desire to play. I think that’s the most important thing here. Blizzard has catered very much to the Altoholic out there by making many of these changes already. They have to make sure that they don’t ruin it for the real rookies, the ones that have never been through this before. Leave the Old World alone, I say; it’s not broken. It kept me interested enough to play to end-game (twice!), and it’s still working for the rookies. Let’s not ruin it for the new kids coming up.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Epics for Nothing

Now look at them newbies,
That’s the way the do it.
They run through Nexus and Heroic OC
That ain’t raiding!
That’s the way they do it
Get their emblems for nothing and their loot for free!

Now that ain’t raiding,
That’s the way they do it.
Let me tell you, them scrubs ain’t dumb.
Maybe get a tier piece and a brand new necklace,
Maybe get a trinket or a gun.

We had to raid through all of Naxxramas
Then kill Maly, Sarth plus 3
We got no freebies, we got no handouts
I had to spend all my effing DKP!

I should have known
To wait for the patch.
I should have held off ‘til 3.2
Look at that hunter, he’s decked out all in epics
But what achievements did he do?

And who is that? My GM’s alt?
He just dinged 80 and he’s rocking two one three’s!
Oh that ain’t raiding, that’s the way they do it,
Get their emblems for nothing and their loot for free

I had to raid through all of Naxxramas,
Then kill Maly, Sarth + 3
I got no freebies, I got no handouts,
I had to spend all my effing DKP!

With apologies to Mark Knopfler for destroying his classic Money for Nothing.

There's been a fair bit of hullabaloo over the upcoming patch, much of it focused on the changes to emblems. Not surprisingly much of the reaction to the 'new' emblem system is negative. Maybe I’m in the minority on this; maybe those who are filling blogs, O-boards and Trade chat with QQ over this are in the minority, just noisier about it, hard to say. Maybe I just think about my gear differently than everyone else: for the most part I don’t look at my gear as The End. To me it’s the Means to an End, and the End is downing the boss and completing the content. The gear helps me reach that end. I don’t go into Naxx and Ulduar so that I can parade around the streets of Dalaran brandishing my Horologist’s Wristguards and my Torch of Holy Fire, making others wish they were me. I don’t curl my lip at the guy wearing a BoE epic and think ‘Huh, he probably bought his’. So what if he did? Who is he hurting?

The only argument I might buy into about how so-called ‘welfare epics’ can hurt the game is the notion that ‘bad’ players can now get good gear with less effort. The thinking is that these guys will then worm their way into your raids due to their artificially buffed stats. Once in the raid they will quickly be revealed as being ‘The Mole’, and will cost you time and gold. I don’t even think that this argument holds up that well; it’s entirely possible for bad people to get good gear by being carried through raids and instances anyway. As an example I give you Badpaladin (not his real name). Badpaladin is a member of my guild who picked up 5 good Naxx/heroic Naxx pieces of gear (through pugs or a friend, I’m not sure) before the rest of us really got started, yet it didn’t help him heal his way through Azjol-Nerub. Regular. With an 80 tank and level-appropriate dps. They never made it past the first boss. My GM (who was there on one of his alts) reported a failure of Epic Proportions, as it was clear Badpaladin had no real clue how to heal. Yet he has good gear.

In some ways, this kind of ‘welfare epic’ may be worse than cheap badges. At least with the cheap badges it will take much longer for the ‘moles’ to farm enough emblems to get the gear they need to get into your raid. Maybe by then you’ll be well past the content they’re trying to worm their way into. In the meantime, I suggest you remember that gear is a tool, a way to help you get the job done. Enjoy the fights and the camaraderie involved in defeating raid bosses; that’s where most of the true fun in the game lies.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Still independent

My Secret Identity is growing up – he just hit 73 and has moved into Dragonblight – and as he grows up, the Call of the Guild grows ever stronger. Despite the concluding line of my initial post on this subject, I have not yet made up a contest, and my Secret Identity is still somewhat Secret. I think part of it is that I like to maintain some semblance of independence, like George Costanza:

(Incidentally, this is the reason I jokingly gave when people would ask me why I wasn't in the same guild with my wife. We're in the same guild now, but we still joke about it once in a while)

Aside from the ‘Independence’ factor, staying out of my guild does provide me with some interesting experiences, which will hopefully translate into interesting blog posts! The following event occurred last night.

I was in Stormwind playing APS (Azerothian Parcel Service) between my Secret Identity and my bank when a Guild Charter popped up in my face. Now it’s an absolute pet peeve of mine when I get group invites, charters, trade requests and the like with no preamble, and this was one of them: No whispered ‘could you please sign’, no offer of gold in exchange for a signature, nothing. I closed it. It promptly opened again. I closed it. It opened again, with a whisper from the persistent, would-be GM: “You can just exit”. So I signed, wished him luck, and went back about my business. About an hour later I became a founding member of …err, ummm, well, I actually didn’t even notice the name of the new guild, except that it miraculously did not have the word ‘Knight’ in the title (If I had a gold for every guild name that includes ‘Knight’, I’d have enough for my epic flyer!). Instead of /gquit, I thought ‘well, let’s see what happens’ and delivered the first message in life (actually second, the first was that some other guy left):




Not a good sign. A couple of minutes later, the GM wonders if anyone has any gold they can contribute for the bank tab.

My inner Deadly Boss Mods began flashing a warning across my mental monitor: ‘MoneyGrubber reaches for your gold!’ I deftly parried his thrust by admitting that my toon is poor – he’s leveling enchanting and tailoring after all. At this point one of the other new guild members chimed in with The Big Question:

“So, what are your plans for this guild?”

What would it be? A raiding guild? A leveling guild? A social, hang out and have fun guild? A hide from your guild guild? Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong! His answer:

“I just want to use the bank tab.”

Well at least he had the guts (or maybe it was stupidity) to admit it. I wonder if he would have kicked us all had we ponied up the cash for the tab? I wasn’t going to hang around long enough to find out. I told him ‘Good luck with that’ and /gquit.

Independent once more, but for how long?

Friday, June 12, 2009

What Do People Do All Day?

Every time I’m in a city for any length of time I think of the title of a book I used to read with my children when they were small: Richard Scarry’s ‘What Do People Do All Day?’ Not because I see Huckle Cat or Lowly Worm running around (wouldn’t that be frightening?), but because of all the junk flying around in the General and Trade chats. The murloc game, the anal [link] game, ripping people for asking questions, ripping people for inflating AH prices, accusing people of spamming for posting recruitment messages: It goes on constantly, and it’s the same people all the time!

What do these people do all day?

Now I understand that WoW is a social game, and I understand that people get their enjoyment out of it in different ways; still, isn’t there something better to do with your time than sit in Stormwind and tell Chuck Norris jokes?

A big part of the problem is that, even though there is a lot to do in the game, there’s also a lot of downtime: Waiting for the BG to begin, waiting for all your raid members to log on, waiting for that elusive healer for the heroic daily. It’s sad, though, that idle time and a large ‘audience’ results in such massive amounts of outright stupidity. Is it really that funny to type in ‘Raiders of the Lost Murloc’ or Anal [Wrath]? Especially when it’s been done over and over and over again? (I logged on in Dalaran the other day to a ‘Murloc game’ in progress. Someone boasted ‘lol, I left to take a nap two hours ago and it’s still going on!’ You’re proud of that???) I know, I know ‘QQ moar’ and ‘/leave trade, /leave general’. The problem with that is there are real questions out there, legitimate deals to be had, and people honestly looking for one more dps or healer out there – it’s a shame it gets pushed off the screen so fast that you miss it. So does guild and officer chat for that matter, and I frequently find myself scrolling back through the drivel to find the important stuff.

I suppose I should be thankful in a way that these people are taking their boredom out in what is ultimately a harmless manner. After all they could be out on the streets of the Real World harassing old ladies, or getting blitzed and puking on my lawn or wrapping a car around a telephone pole. So I guess I’ll just continue to deal with it by spending as little in-game time in the cities as possible, and hope that, when I do have to visit the city, that spammers will have come up with some new material.

Monday, June 1, 2009

My Secret Identity

I have a confession to make: I have a Secret Identity.

No, it's not like Ferraro's Secret Identity (identities?), or the Secret Identity that Sarah Townsend didn't even know she had. Mine is an in-game Secret Identity.

It's a Warlock.

My Secret Warlock is and is known only to a handful of my guildies: my wife (of course); my GM and his wife; and three or four others. Ironically, my GM has his own Secret Warlock; we've done some quests together and we chat pretty extensively when we're both online at the same time. Our Secret Warlocks are secret: they are not in the guild.

When I created my Secret Warlock I had every intention of bringing him into the guild, but I figured I'd have some fun with it. I envisioned a 'Find My Alt' contest, with Fabulous Cash Prizes for the lucky guildie who was able to find me through clever clues posted on the website or by my wife in-game. The contest never materialized, however; I could never quite figure out how I wanted to do it, but I think the real reason it didn't happen was because....

It was quiet. And I liked it.

I love my guild. I really do.They’re a great bunch of people, and there’s always something happening in guild chat – frequently entertaining, often enlightening, never boring. Yet I found the peace and quiet refreshing. It was nice to be able to kill worgen in Duskwood without watching the constantly-streaming lines of green chat flowing by, or stopping to see what I missed while siccing my Voidwalker on Stalvan Mistmantle. I didn’t have to feel guilty for not dropping what I was doing to heal a heroic, or worry that I wasn’t being nice for not giving someone that run-through of Scarlet Monastery. So, I enjoyed the silence.

And then I got lonely.

Now, being a Warlock means you’re never really alone, but minions are generally poor company. They’re not much for conversation, they just grumble and complain, or slap their butts. I was looking for more than that. So, when someone asked if I could sign a guild charter for them, I thought 'Why not? It will be nice to have some company'. I also thought it might not be a bad idea to experience being in a different guild, with different people, so that I could be exposed to different ways of thinking and organization.

So I joined the new guild. And I hated it.

Here is a typical conversation in the new guild (actually, both of the ones my Secret Warlock has been in):
[Myalt] has come online
[Myalt] Good evening, all
[Guildie1] sup
[Guildie2] yo
[Myalt] What's everyone up to tonight?
[guildchat] /cricket

I find it interesting that as much as I liked the Sounds of Silence when I was unguilded, I hated it more when I was in a guild. If I’m in a social organization then I want to socialize. I’m not looking for run-throughs, or handouts, or a spiffy guild tabard. I don’t have to spend every minute of every session grouped up with you for no purpose; I don’t need an extensive detailing of your personal life – but I DO want more than ‘sup’ and ‘yo’. In short, I’m looking for more from my gaming experience and my guild, and I think I know what to do.

So, if you'll excuse me, I have a contest to design.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Old Tools, New Tools: Changing with the Times

Lodur had a great post over at World of Matticus this morning on the state of Chain Heal and Resto Shaman. His post was a response to a now-23 page thread on the O-boards lamenting the state of chain heal compared to other AoE heals in the game. Lodur examines the shaman toolbox and concludes that shamans are not broken, it’s just a matter of reaching in and pulling out a different tool than the trusty old Chain Heal.

I don’t play a shaman so I’m really not qualified to comment on whether or not they’re broken. My guild is also not pushing the progression envelope of hard modes at this time (we’ve taken down Flame Leviathan in 25’s, woohoo), so I can’t really look compare our shammies with Lodur’s. What prompted this post was the following comment Lodur made near the end of his piece:

‘[Chain Heal] not the crutch it used to be. I think people should stop looking to it to be the spell it was in Sunwell, and should accept that it is one of many tools to be used with great effect.

Lodur’s point sums things up very nicely; I think the source of most of the complaints on the O-Boards is change, and how people adjust to change.

The game has changed since TBC. Classes have had major talent overhauls and upgrades (and downgrades and sidegrades), and things no longer work the way they used to; developers have made an endless series of tweaks and adjustments, i.e. change. Change makes us uncomfortable; it takes us out of our comfort zone and disrupts our routine. Even the anticipation of a change is enough to make the O-Boards light up with ‘OMG, NERF, I QUIT!’ When the change is actually implemented there’s usually a brief period of complaining, and then things settle down. We adjust. We move forward, we discover that the change is not so bad, and might even be a good thing!

I think particularly of Beacon of Light. When this shiny, new tool was placed in the Paladin’s toolbox there were tons of complaints: It’s not a true AoE heal, costs too much mana, doesn’t last long enough. There’s nothing really inherently wrong in any of these complaints, but much of the problem seemed to be that many just couldn’t figure out how to use it – the new tool didn’t have an instruction manual! Does it get used on the tank? A dps? Yourself? Should it be used all the time? Instead of asking those questions, the paladin community just blasted the tool itself – until we played around with it more and figured it out. Take a glance at the O-boards now, when’s the last time you saw a true ‘Beacon Sucks’ thread? The last Beacon-specific thread turns up on page 7 dated 5/14, and it’s not an ‘I hate Beacon’ rant. Once people figured out how to use it, the complaining stopped. It’s not a perfect spell, but it’s much more useful than most initially believed.

I suspect that many Shaman will come to the same conclusions about shaman healing as the Paladins did with Beacon of Light. Maybe Chain Heal doesn’t work the same way it did in Sunwell. It doesn’t mean the class or heal is broken. It just means it’s no longer the All-Purpose tool that it used to be; it’s time to reach into the toolbox and find something that will work for the job at hand. And when you do get a shiny new tool? Don’t look for the instruction manual. Just play around with it until you figure out how it works. It’s more fun that way, and you might even discover a use for it that the developers didn’t think about.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Gquit: The Ghost of Tom Joad

My guild had a mini-upheaval this past week, a fair bit of drama that was the culmination of a two months’ worth of frustration for the members who left, and a fair bit of consternation for the officers as well. All told we lost about eight people in this bit of drama. Considering that our guild has over 400 members eight doesn’t seem like such a lot. However, two of the people were good ‘in-game friends’ of mine; we share history, we do, and each departure hurts in a way. Each person has their own story; since they’re not here to tell it, it will be up to me to do so. The first installment is the story of Tom Joad. I call him Tom Joad because, like Steinbeck’s hero of The Grapes of Wrath, this guildie was always there:

When we walked into Kara the very first time as a bunch of severely undergeared and overmatched 70’s, back when the guild had to PuG 2-5 slots just to get in the door (which is how they ended up with me), he was there.

When we had to kill Attumen’s trash twice each week because we were so bad (and slow), he was there.

When Moroes served us for dinner – over and over and over again – he was there.

When we decided that we really needed to run more heroics for better gear, and when you needed to make just one more run of Shadow Labs to get you exalted with Lower City; when we ran more guildies through the arduous ‘Kara Keying’ process to get a solid team – he was there. When we finally broke through and started downing bosses, and when we finally claimed Kara as our own, he was there.

He was the guy that got us into another guilds’ weekly ‘organized pugs’ of Mags/Gruuls, and when we actually managed to form our own, full-guild 25-man team, he was there. He was the one who started pushing us to Zul’Aman, and he was there when Nalorakk first cleaved his way through our ranks. When we started to figure out how to beat the bosses in ZA, he was there.

And then, he wasn’t.

When we set foot into Naxx 10 as a bunch of severely undergeared level 80’s, and couldn’t even best Anub’rhekan, he wasn’t there. He wasn’t there when our one Naxx-10 team turned into two, when two turned into three, and when three 10-man teams turned into a 25-man squad. When we scored our first recorded Bigglesworth kill, faced the frenzy of Faerlina, and choked on Grobbulus’s dreaded ‘poo gas’, he wasn’t there. ‘Tom Joad’ had turned into the Invisible Man, due to a combination of real life events that had interrupted his WoW playing time. While we were forming one, two and then three Naxx-10 teams he was puttering around on a Death Knight, while his main was just finishing up Howling Fjord. As we started drawing the noose around Kel’Thuzad in 10’s and began making decent progress in 25, he was hitting up Old Kingdom. I think he suddenly realized how far behind he was and made a final push for 80. Once he reached 80, he underwent another identity switch, and became ‘Mr. Entitlement’ – not very complimentary, but earned:

Mr. Entitlement expected to be given a slot on the Naxx-10 team with his old ‘Kara buddies’. He seemed to feel that the history we had warranted it.

Mr. Entitlement expected to be placed on the Naxx-25 roster, just because. Never mind that during his one trip in his dps was below the tanks, and he privately griped to the GM about loot distribution.

Never mind in the first two cases that there were people ahead of him on the lists; never mind that we were still in progression mode, and that we didn’t really have the margin of error to be carrying sub-1500 dps in Naxx-25. Mr. Entitlement tried to subtly cash in on our history and get himself placed on these raid teams. What kind of message would that have sent to our other members?

Mr. Entitlement was unwilling to work with guild members that he didn’t know well. The simple fact is the guild had grown by quite a bit while Mr. E was away from the game. We tried to get him to hook up with the Naxx 10 team that was raiding on weekends, and actually needed dps help (although I have since heard that there was some funny business with this team; this one may not be Mr. Entitlement’s fault). Mr. Entitlement’s preferred method of getting a group for heroics was to look to see if the old raiding team was on – if we were, he’d ask us to group. If we weren’t, or were busy, he’d quietly slip away, and his disgruntlement grew.

The transition from Tom Joad to Mr. Entitlement was a surprising one. The transition from Mr. Entitlement to Mr. No-longer-a-member-of-this-Guild was inevitable. I was (and am) sorry that he’s no longer with us; however, the only way to stop him from leaving when he got to ‘Mr. Entitlement’ stage would have been to give him what he wanted. Doing so would have required us to compromise the standards and regulations that we had established for raids, and that was a step none of us was willing to take, for those compromises lead to charges of favoritism and cronyism (ironically, Mr. Entitlement made a few not-so-subtle hints in guild chat that we were guilty of that all along), and that leads to even more unhappiness in the long run.

I’m not sure how much Mr. Entitlement’s departure and unhappiness effected the other seven who left. The timing may well have been a coincidence, or it could have been related; I’ll look at the curious case of ‘Pebbles’ next time. Thanks for reading!
Welcome to Looking for More! I will be using this space to comment on things I have observed over the last two years of playing World of Warcraft. This will not be a site devoted to the finer points of playing your toon -- there are so many sites out there that already do this far better than I could, so I'll stick more to observations of a social nature. I realize I'm probably doing a Very Bad Thing by putting this site up without having a post ready to go -- so be it, I'm willing to break a rule or two here or there.

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