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.