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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