Thursday, February 25, 2010

Goin' Slummin'? Thanks, But No Thanks.

During my time spent in WoW, I, like the rest of you, have had occasion to encounter a wide range of behavioral types.  Being somewhat of a psychology geek (or is that nerd? or dweeb? Jbelle?), I usually view a lot of these types with a bit of a clinical detachment, holding myself aloof from the drama.  Most would say I have a rather high tolerance for things that can be quite annoying or even downright rude.  Hence why I don't write a whole lot about failed PuGs and getting ninja'ed and such.  I'm the type that wants to find the source of the behavior and puzzle it out, fix it maybe.  In another life, I was probably a decent shrink.

Despite my compartmentalization of issues and natural immunity (+15) to behavioral issues, I have my weak spots the same as anyone else.  There are just some types that bug the hell out of me.  I'm sure this isn't a surprise because, after all, everyone has their own peculiarities and proclivities.  Even Superman has Kryptonite, and my behavioral Kryptonite takes the form of a pattern found in some (not all) hardcore gamers.

I'm not even sure what to name the pattern, but I can certainly describe the symptoms:
  • The player thinks they are better than everyone else.  They probably raided hardcore before, but have since backed off, so they still consider themselves "hardcore".
  • Since they've backed off, they're now stuck with us "casuals".  They're not playing with their current group by choice, rather it's just the best they can do.
  • They are not an open asshat.  This isn't the person who is a blatant classist or immature prick.  In fact, in their mind they probably think they are the most mature, well-adjusted person in the game.
  • They see casual gaming as really the "second tier" of the gaming status hierarchy.  These folks couldn't possibly put the same amount of thought/preparation into an encounter as a hardcore group because they're not hardcore, right?
  • They believe they are the all-star of any group they join that isn't hardcore.  After all, they have the experience, so they're obviously the best.  It's not something they try to rub in, but you know, and they know, and everyone should act accordingly.
  • They often overcompensate for any perceived "harshness" as if the casual player were a fragile creature that cannot possibly understand the intricacies of true raiding.  Thus, all wisdom is related in a patronizing manner, but it is not meant to be mean... it's just all us fragile casuals can handle.
I think that paints a rough sketch of what I'm talking about.  Surely you've encountered someone like this before.  I guess I'd label it the Fish Out Of Water Syndrome.  Like Donny, this person is most clearly out of their element when it comes to grouping with casuals.  FOOWS is not something that every "harder" core player exhibits, only a select few, and it bugs the shit out of me. 

I mean, I don't consider myself the best player out there, but I generally feel that I'm pretty competent.  I like to think I know my class, and can understand raid encounters.  After all, I blog about it damn near every day.  I can't be that dumb, can I?  (Shut up, Jbelle).  There are certainly things I miss or don't do correctly, but, on the whole, I'm doing just fine, thanks. 

For some reason, the individual playing with FOOWS just thinks everything they do is so damn smart and good.  They couldn't possibly have made a mistake; it's always someone else.  They often try to blow smoke and sunshine up your ass, because all casuals need their fragile e-peens stroked so that they can confidently fail and perhaps stumble into success.  The problem is, they are so out of touch with reality, that the smoke and sunshine fail to become anything more than smoke and sunshine.  We all know you're full of shit.  I think we'd rather you just came out and said: "Hey, you twats, you guys suck and I'm good and if you did everything my way we'd win."  The false front drives me nuts.

I guess the core problem is just that I dislike "fake" people.  I prize honesty a great deal, and think it's condescending when someone tries to BS me.  I'm generally a smart guy, and I can see what's going on just as well as you can.  The fact that I don't have the time to play 40+ hours a week, doesn't make me unintelligent.  It just makes me casual, and casual does not equal dumb.  Not always anyways.  A lot of us so-called casuals (by playtime) spend a lot more time researching and reading to make up for our lack of time and experience.  Hence the success of my ICC group.  We only raid two hours for one night a week, but we succeed more than we fail because we spend a lot of time preparing and discussing via emails and what-have-you.

The whole FOOWS thing reminds me of when guys I know used to talk about "goin' slummin'".   I don't know if you've ever heard that phrase, but it can mean a lot of different things.  The basic gist behind them all is that you're going to spend some time with people who are beneath you in some manner.  Usually it's with a very selfish goal in mind, but it doesn't mean you're going to be an asshole about it.  In fact, it often implies a vast amount of falseness in order to "fit in".  Done well, a lot of people can be fooled and really do think they're "lucky" to have such an auspicious person in their midst. 

It's like the Lord who takes time out of his day to be with the Commoners, but doesn't do it out of a sense of altruism or anything, but because he thinks he's gracing them by his presence.  He never forgets that he's a Lord, and he never lets the Commers forget it either.  There's no sense of equality, but obviously the Commoners are benefiting greatly (as much as the Lord from all the fawning).

I suppose my aim here is to just try to describe one of my recurring social issues in the game.  Being a successful casual raiding group from way back in TBC, we've seen a lot of FOOWS sufferers pass through our ranks.  Inevitably there is drama and hard feelings, but usually it just ends up in each party going their separate ways.  It's sort of sad, because it is just such a part of who these people are that there is no way you could talk some sense into them.  They will refuse to see how their behavior could be causing friction.  It's textbook denial. 

So how do you deal with a person like this?  How do you smooth the friction they inevitably cause?  After all, they're usually a good player and can offer a lot to the group in terms of experience, but do you sacrifice the good will and togetherness of a group for high numbers and boss strats?  It's a tough call for a raid leader, since such a person can be a great asset, yet also a great liability.  For my part, I think I've just tried to encourage honesty.  Sometimes it blows up and changes need to be made, but if you aren't ever honest with someone, then you're never giving them a chance.  Maybe they can change their FOOWS ways.  Or, maybe you should just melt them with your laser eyes and get on with saving the World... of Warcraft.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Hey Gang!

So, other than buying a new home, playing Aion, Playing Dragon Age: Origins, fencing (the sport not the act of putting up a fence), full time job, and being a wife, I've had all sorts of time to play WoW (/end sarcasm).

As you may or may not know, I'm tanking for our ICC-10-man group on Monday nights. Even though we only raid once a week for two whopping hours (that's if our little Ret. Pally is on time ;)) we've made it all the way to Rotface without too much fuss.

Marrowgar -two shotted the first night we saw him (easy as pie)

Lady Deathwhisper- she was a Lady PITA and she still is. For some unknown reason, our OT would die right before we got the Mana Shield down so I would have to solo tank her. We finally got it so that he was surviving the last waves. Good Stuff.

Battleship - two shotted our first night & get this one every night we attempt it. It's easy & fun. I really enjoy it even if it gets me a little sea sick at the beginning.

Saurfang Jr.- Once we figured out how to tank him, he wasn't so bad at all. This fight relies on our DPS to be high & the Blood Beasts to go down quickly. They do a fine job and have excelled at this fight ever since we got it down the first time. We never have more than one mark before he falls.

Trash Pulls before Precious & Stinking - for some unknown reason, when we pull this, we GET THE WHOLE ROOM EVERY SINGLE TIME! We look at the two A-bombs and think ok just make sure you don't get the bouncing monkeys and we're fine. We always get them and they bring the mad Scientists & two more ugly big angry mobs. It's an huge AoE fest where half of our group dies every time. It's sort of humorous really.

Festergut- Once we figured out the "Paladin bubble" trick, it actually is just a DPS race. Not too hard if we can keep the OT up for the first phase. Funny thing though, I have died every time we succeed in this fight. *shrug* if it gets the job done I guess.

Now, we are currently working on Rotface. This is my most challenging fight yet. I'm the Ooze Kiter. Now, thinking back, what other fight requires such an awkward job for a tank? Gluth comes to mind but I feel it's a bit different because other people are helping you out with the Zombies. Grobbulus was awkward for me but it wasn't all that terribly hard. Just keep my finger on the Reverse key and smash my keys like I normally do and turn when the floor says so (the grate path).

Rotface is a completely different challenge for me in tanking. What our group was doing was, I would stay outside of the group and when the first person got the Mut. Injection, they would run to me, I would cleanse them and they would merge the oozes together. I've seen the Tankspot videos and read all of the strats that I could get my grubby little hands on but it's just not the same as me actually doing this. I've dealt with adds before. Hell, I was the ADD tank for all of BC. Add tanking doesn't bother me but it's the cleansing & the kiting I feel that's really screwin me up. We probably did this fight around 6-7 (edit: 11) times on Monday before our 2 hour mark hit and we had to quit. We continued to make improvements throughout the night, which is wonderful. That night, I wasn't at all frustrated, I would laugh about forgetting to do some of the more simple stuff, like keep the big ooze on me when I was running. I was so focused on getting the path right, not running through puddles, getting to the DPS or healers to cleanse them. It wasn't just one aspect of this whole kiting thing that was tripping me up, it was a combo of all of the above.

Best way I can describe it is like rubbing your tummy and patting your head at the same time. Neither one of these tasks is all that hard but putting the two together and you look like an idiot because you are patting your tummy and rubbing your head. But throw this extra tid bit in that every time you screw up the combination of rubbing & patting, 9-24 other people get really pissed about it...and you die in a green puddle of death.

I understand that I could potentially make someone else be the kiter while I sit in the middle where I feel comfortable but what would I learn from it? What if these type of mechanics show up in another area in another raid down the line and I HAVE to do it. I don't want to gimp myself and pass up an opportunity to grow in my tanking skills.

So here's the question for all of you out there (tanks or not), what has been the steepest learning curve for you & your group thus far in your WoW career? It doesn't have to be WotLK. It also doesn't have to be a single fight either, maybe a type of mechanic really trips you up. Also, how did you overcome this problem to achieve your goal?

I'm curious if everyone feels the pressure on similar mechanics or if each person has a different take on this.

<3 Fuu

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Here's a Few Things

Just a couple of random thoughts today since I'm out of here at noon. House hunting is a pretty time consuming process it seems.  Well, that and Dragon Age: Origins.  All work and no play... amirite?

After my post yesterday, I mentioned in the comments that I'd taken the liberty to go and update's Demonology section while the information was fresh in my mind.  I wanted to make the effort to mention it in a more public area (this post) because it really is a good resource, and I was happy that I finally found a way to contribute.  You see, Nibuca is the Queen of Affliction as far as I'm concerned, and she's always done a wonderful job of keeping that part up to date.  Thus, I'd never really had a reason other than to double-check her always accurate information.   Yay for finding an uncovered niche!

The second random thought is more of a suggestion.  I love finding uses for my warlock portal.  I also finally saw my first kill of Festergut yesterday.  That fight is a great fight for the portal.  You collapse with the spore, then pop right back out to your designated position.  There is almost no downtime if you do it right.  Sure you still have to hoof it in, but I'm generally back and casting before anyone else is.  Good stuff.

Oh, and one more bonus thought.  If you're like me and haven't been able to get a wrist upgrade since ilvl 219 gear, go pick up the Wrathful Yadda Yadda Wrist piece.  Even though it's PvP, it's pretty good and wrists have been hard to come by in my neck of the woods.  We never did get the Ulduar pattern to drop, and haven't gotten anything in ICC either.  In fact, the piece was also an upgrade for my DK as well.  It'll run you somewhere around 43k honor, but that's not all that hard to drum up if you spend a week running BGs and such.  They both seem to be great pieces to bridge the gap until I get my lucky drop.  The next thing I'm going for is going to be the Wrathful Yadda Yadda Necklace.  I'm still sporting the EoE one.

Monday, February 22, 2010

3.3 Demonology Warlockery

For some time now, I've been running my second spec as Demonology. I primarily use the spec for the daily random heroic that I run, but I've also lately found it quite fun in Battlegrounds. I want to go on record here at that start saying that everything I learned about this spec, I learned from the late Abigore (not that he's died, mind you, just moved on to other things) and his wonderful guides.  Since he's no longer blogging, I wanted to take the time to continue what he started, even if my advice will be somewhat more casual and less involved.  The spec is a great spec, and it deserves to be broadcast in it's own right.  I will still (and probably always) raid Affliction, but Demonology has strengths where Affliction has weaknesses, making it perfect for a second spec.

The Strengths
What strengths, you may ask.  Here's just a few:
  • Good Burst Damage.  
  • Great finishing damage (under 35% you really heat things up).
  • An engaging rotation.  Not just DoTs, but procs too.  
  • High Survivability.  For a 'lock, it's the best you can get.
  • Great buffs.  Raid wide spellpower? Yes, please.  Not to mention our normal crit buff.
  • A badass pet.  The Felguard really is the bomb.  Does a hefty amount of DPS too.
The Spec
Caught your eye yet?  Well, here's the spec: 2/54/15.

This is a slight modification of Abi's 0/56/15 spec.  Basically, I'm not keeping two sets of gear and I don't value Crit very high on my Affliction set, so instead of Improved Demonic Tactics, I choose to improve my Corruption.  Perhaps it's my inner aff'lock, but I just think I'll get a lot of mileage out of those two points since Corruption should always be up.  I thought about taking Aftermath in the Destro tree as well to improve my Immolate ticks, but I let Immo drop under 35% (more on that in a bit), so I wouldn't get as much use I think.  If this is your main spec and you have a lot of Crit stacked, you probably want to take Improved Demonic Tactics.

The aim of this spec is similar to my DK DPS spec.  That is to say, it is not first and foremost a min/maxed raiding spec, but one that I'm aiming more for general usage: heroics, BGs, and occasional raids that I overgear.  Abi correctly points out that the demo spec won't top an all-warlock DPS meter, but it will bring great utility to the raid and survivability to the table.  Those are things I prize in my heroics and BGs as well, so it's a great all-around spec.  Also, by "not top", we're only talking a few hundred DPS lower than Affliction or Destro on average.  It's not like it's way off.  Blizz has done a great job of making this spec competitive on the meters even with all it's advantages.

The Glyphs
Here are the glyphs I'm going with:
  • Major Glyph of Quick Decay - Great boost to Corruption and another reason I talented as I did.  I've always seen the Corruption spell as the backbone of any warlockery, and machinate around that.
  • Major Glyph of Felguard - A straight 20% bump to his attack power.  Good stuff.
  • Major Glyph of Life Tap - Operates like a SP trinket, and gives you something back for something you'll need to do anyways.
  • Minor Glyphs - Unending Breath, Souls, Drain Soul.  All pretty worthless as far as DPS goes, so just pick what you think you'll use the most.  Warlock minors still suck.
The Rotation
Before you do anything, make sure your buff yourself.  All 'locks should be popping on their Fel Armor, but you'll also want to make sure your Soul Link is active.  That is something special to Demonology that will share 20% of your damage with your pet.  Good stuff.

Above 35% Health
Curse > Corruption > Immolate > Shadowbolt Spam

It's pretty simple, only a few dots to keep up.  Curse choice is the same as for Affliction.  CotE if it's not covered elsewhere (Moonkin, Unholy DK, or other 'lock), otherwise CoA (or CoD for longer living stuff if you wish).  Also similar to my Affliction rotation, I like to get on the instants quick before moving to cast times. Crit shouldn't be an issue for this rotation (Edited as per comments).

When you see Molten Core procs, you may want to weave in a few Incinerates.  I believe the math has shown that just continuing to spam Shadowbolts is better DPS, but not by a whole lot.  I enjoy using my MC procs with three Incinerates as it keeps me on my toes, but only if I'm feeling clever.  So, if you want, you can do this.  Otherwise, just ignore the proc.

Under 35% Health
At this point, Soul Fire will become a part of our rotation.  Once you see Decimation proc, then you should spam soul fire as much as possible.  In 3.3 they changed it so that Soul Fire resets the Decimate buff, so it's almost spammable.  I say almost because we still want to keep Corruption, ISB buff, and our Curse up.  We can let Immolate fall off.  We keep up Corruption for the molten core procs, and the ISB buff for the group-wide (as well as self) implications.  The Curse is the same thing.  If you're using CoA, you may choose to let it drop off, but you must keep CotE up if that's your duty.  You don't have to do anything special when MC procs here, as your Soul Fires will use it up.

This is where you get to be big, purple (epic), and winged.  It is perhaps my favorite part of the spec, though it is by no means the "main part" as you've seen so far.  Meta is mostly a "Super Trinket" in that it does a whole bunch of cool stuff, primarily boosting your damage by 20% and your armor by 600%.  Awesome stuff.  As such, we want to use it judiciously.  It has a rather short cool down that is similar to a trinket, so you should plan according.   I would not recommend macro'ing this into a spell as we do our trinkets, since the key to proper Meta usage revolves around situational awareness.

You see, with Meta usage, we gain access to four new spells while in demon form.  The two we're actually concerned about are Immolation Aura and Demon Charge.  The aura will give you a >1k DPS DoT that radiates from you in melee range, and the charge will get you in range to use it.  You have to be aware that the aura is a pretty beefy AoE, so don't get yourself killed by pulling aggro.  Charging in, popping the aura, a Shadowflame, and then Rain of Fire amounts to a ridiculous amount of AoE damage.  Even my uber-geared pally partner has a hard time keeping the mobs off me when I do this.

Apart from the AoE goodness, you will just want to cast as normal.  If you're using this on a boss fight, say, then after you charge in (being careful not to get yourself cleaved or whirl-winded or something), pop the aura, then go back to your normal rotation.  If you're under 35%, use Soul Fire just the same.  There really isn't too much of a "trick" as far as when/how to use meta, you just have to be smart about it.  Any time you'd be gimping your normal DPS with things like moving, or strange "stop casting" mechanics, or awkward boss phases, you probably want to save you "Super Trinket".  After all, if you pop it and then have to stand there waiting while the Black Knight talks and rezzes and all that crap, then you've wasted some good bonus time.  Think of it as a personal Heroism (that you can use multiple times in a longer fight) that you have to try and use at the best times possible.  Also, don't forget to use this on trash too, since it's only a few minute cool down.

The Stats
Stat priority isn't all that different from Affliction, except for a two notable changes.

Hit (until capped)>SP*>Crit>Haste>Spirit>>Int.

First of all, Crit and Haste swap in terms of importance here.  I don't have clever pawn numbers, but Crit is going to be a better stat on this build.  After all, Crit is synonymous with "burst" and this is a burstier spec.  Second, I put a star next to Spellpower because it really is almost the only stat you should stack.  Because of Demonic Pact (which grants a raid-wide buff for 10% of your Spellpower whenever your pet crits), you really want to maximize your SP number.  Also, since the buff it dependent on Crit, that's just another feather in the cap of the Crit Crew.  Gem, enchant, and stack accordingly.  Still, apart from those considerations, you still have to hit cap, and those other stats are still pretty good for you.  Nothing earth shattering here.

Wrap Up
That's it for this primer.  I want to again voice thanks to Abigore, formerly of several WoW blogs (now doing a general gaming thing at 8-bit Gamer) who taught me everything I know.  His guides are still worth checking out from the link above if you'd like to look deeper into this spec.  I tried to just skim the surface and give the basics, but even that started to get a bit lengthy.  This is a really fun spec.  I run 98% of my heroics in it as it nets me good numbers (since it's burst and everything dies real fast) and keeps me on my toes watching procs, buffs, and thinking about when to pop meta. The survivability can also come in handy when you find yourself pulling off of the tank (whether it be your fault or the tank's)Plus, like I mentioned, it can be quite fun in BGs.   In any case, I plan to try to keep up with the the Demo information as well (hence writing this as a starting point). 

As always, tips and feedback are most welcome.  Also, definitely let me know if I missed a typo.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Daring Rescue

A crowd gathered around a large wooden structure in the middle of the town square.  The female Dwarf had a crazed look in her eye as she was led up the creaking wooden stairs.  Her arms and neck were secured into holes in the structure by several armed guards.  Despite the gathering, the armed men wore a bored look on their face.  It was just another trip to the stocks.

Two heavily cowled individuals at the rear of the crowd spoke in hushed tones emanating from deep shadows that obscured their faces.

"What in the name of the Light is she doing?" the first asked, a female voice.

"Look at her eyes.  She's gone all zealot on us," the second replied, male.

"But why? What transgression could she have committed to consider such a public chastisement?" the woman asked.

Shaking his head, the man replied, "Who knows?  She probably called someone a bad name.  Priests are touchy like that."

"Pssch.  I call people bad names all the time and I'm a soldier of the-"

"Look.  Here comes the executioner," the man said with an odd note of excitement in his voice.

A man clad entirely in black mounted the steps, weapon swaying ominously at his waist.  The other guards spread out in a semi-circle around the captive, bored eyes unfocused.  The Dwarven woman stared straight ahead, jaw clenched, quite obviously preparing herself for the worst.

"Well, at least he opted for the whip and not the axe," the woman observed.

"Still, they're not going to release her so easily when they've finished.  You know how these noble types are, and she's a talented Priest.  They're going to try to twist her and use her to their ends," the man explained.

"Right, right.  I know why we're here.  Let's just get this over with, shall we?"  The cowled woman started to take one step forward, the metal beneath her robe clanking.

Putting one arm on the woman, the man said, "Wait, the timing has to be just right."

The executioner unraveled the whip from his waist and checked the barbs on the end.  The cowled woman bounced up and down on her toes, clearly impatient.  Her armor made slight clinking sounds, and the man cast her an annoyed look from the depths of his robe.  Stilling herself with effort, the woman's hand still clenched at her side as if trying to refrain from drawing a weapon.  The executioner drew back his arm, the whip stretching out behind him.

"How about now?" the woman asked anxiously.

"Not yet..." the man replied.

"But she's going to get-"

The sharp crack of the whip stung the air and slapped into the dwarf's back.  To her credit, she did not cry out though a bloody rip evidenced the strong blow on the back of her white robe.  Guards did not flinch, spectators did not cheer.  It was just another day at the stocks.

The woman cast an annoyed glare at her partner, "You're awful, you know that."

Throwing back his hood, Fulguralis grinned, "Right, let's go save her now shall we?"

Fuubaar was already discarding her woolen robes, the sound of sliding steel filled the air as she drew her weapon and rushed up towards the podium.  Fulguralis rushed on in her wake.  The captive Dwarf's eyes widened at the two adventurers running towards her.  However, instead of looking relieved, Jessabelle looked pissed.

The executioner had drawn back in preparation for the second blow, but had frozen at the sight of the heavily armored Paladin rushing towards him.  Several of the guards started from their stupor and began to fumble around with their sheathed weapons.  Before any of them could even bring a shield to bear, Fuubaar was in their midst, sword and board held threateningly in front of her gleaming, armored bodice. 

"Hurry, honey.  I'd rather not have to hurt all these men," Fuubaar growled as her Warlock husband strode casually up the steps behind her.

Fury blazed in the Dwarf's eyes as she spat, "You should have just let me have it.  It's less than I deserve."

Fulguralis smiled at Jessabelle and then turned to his wife, "Well, you heard her, dear.  Who am I to bust up a delightful self-flagellation?  You! Good Sir Executioner! Please continue!"  His wife shot him a murderous glare that made each of the guards take a step back.  Fulguralis threw up his hands, "What?  We have great seats now.  This should be quite a show!"

"I. Don't. Like. This. Honey.  Let's go," Fuubaar said forcefully.

"Fine, fine.  But only if she asks nicely," Fulguralis said, turning back to Jessabelle.  The Dwarf just glared back.

Looking around at the guards who seemed to be regaining some of their composure, Fulguralis announced, "Well, good enough for me."  He waved a hand and the wooden stocks burned to ash.  The Dwarf rubbed her wrists and neck where her skin had been singed.  Her eyes shot daggers at the Warlock.

"What? You're a Priest.  Did you forget to heal yourself again?" Fulguralis defended.

"Oh for the Lightssake! Tease her later, Honey," Fuubaar yelled.  With a simple hand gesture, Fuubaar appeared astride her magical mount, holding an arm down to Jessabelle to help her up.

Fulguralis surveyed the guards as his wife made ready to leave. They appeared on the verge of rushing her and had formed a circle around the lot of them, effectively blocking their escape.  With a sigh, he threw up both of his arms.  A gigantic and horrifying visage appeared above his head, complete with an earsplitting howl of terror.  Guards and spectators alike scattered.

Fulguralis wave his arm once more, summoning his fiery steed.  Mounting up, he followed his wife as she calmly picked her way between the guards and townsfolk who were running around like chickens with their heads cut off.  One of the wayward guards, drunk with fear, ran directly into the path between him and his wife.  A ball of shadow appeared in the Fulguralis's palm and bounced there as he took aim.

"Honey! You promised!" Fuubaar chided in a singsong voice.

The Warlock wore a disappointed scowl as the dark energy winked out of existence.  As he maneuvered his horse around the panic-stricken man, his steed appeared to let it's rear hoof linger just a slight bit longer than was natural and the guard tripped over it.   The man tumbled forward, a cacophony of metal on stone.  Fuubaar spun in her saddle, frowning back at her husband.

"It wasn't me!" Fulguralis said.

As his wife turned back around, Fulguralis patted the horse fondly.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Fringe Benefit of Synergy

Back when Jessabelle (of Miss Medicina fame) was putting together our ICC group, I had sort of an active role in "helping".  That is to say, since her and I chat a bunch, and I'm not exactly shy, I lobbed my opinions at her whether she wanted them or not.  Gracious being that she is, she mostly listened, even if with a simple nod, smile, and "you're wrong". 

I think something that a lot of people don't realize is just how much effort it actually takes to form a successful raid group.  I'm not talking about a simple one-time thing, but a group that will stay and play together for the next several months while tackling the challenge of the month.  To balance schedules, attitudes, strengths, and roles with and eye on the long-term ramifications of your choices can be a very daunting task.  Jbelle loves it, even though it sometimes frustrates the hell out of her.  I, on the other hand, would rather just be handed a group and told to "lead it".  Organizing is really not my bag, baby.

So it was that Jbelle was putting in a ton of effort to get this thing off the ground and I was trying to help, though probably often degenerating matters into heated discussions of the minutia, as Jbelle and I are wont to do.  One of the intricacies that we kept coming back to was the issue of class synergies.  Much has been written about it before, but the down and dirty operative here is that a lot of time can be spent looking at how different classes compliment each other in a raid setting

Jbelle's goal has ever been to come up with the perfect synergies.  When she's forming a group, she turns a keen eye to who buffs the brings, what type of damage they do, etc., in the hopes that when she's done, she's made the strongest group possible.  I would even venture so far as to say that achieving the perfect raid synergy is one of her very top goals when organizing.  It may take her extra time, effort, and consternation, but, by the Light, we will have our buffs!  All of them! 

Where the argument between us used to arise is that I hold synergy in a somewhat lower stead.  When I'm organizing a group, the first (and almost only) thing I look for is "how strong is the player behind the toon".  I always want to try to focus on the human aspect above the game aspect, obviously buying Blizz's "bring the player not the class" policy hook, line, and sinker.  I would most certainly throw synergy to the wind if it doesn't allow me to bring the best players I have available.  I guess, using a baseball analogy, Jbelle is really looking for the complete team, every position filled, while I'm content with all nine positions being played by Shortstops, provided the Shortstops can play all the other positions adequately. 

Critiquing the analogy, you may say: "Well Jbelle's approach is obviously better, since she's taking more things into account."  My argument here is that it really depends on the level of baseball you're playing.  In the big leagues, where you have access to really stellar players of all positions, you'd be exactly correct; Jbelle's approach would blow mine out of the water.  However, at lower levels, say Little League, it may behoove you to just put all your athletes on the field in various positions to allow them to make plays, even if they're not actually outfielders or what have you.  The point is to not gimp yourself with a poorer player just because he/she is listed at a certain position

(Short aside: Our raid group is neither at the Little League or Big League level.  In fact, we're somewhere in between as I'm sure the vast majority of raiders are.  Furthermore, when all was said and done, we've got a great group of people who are good players AND can play the different positions so as to give us a great synergy.  Through the heroic efforts of Miss Jbelle, we really get to have our cake and eat it too.  Still, her and I enjoy discussing things in the abstract, and that's really where this argument about synergy resides.  It's not really reflective of how our RL situation unfolded, since RL stuff is almost never as simple as theory would have you believe.)

Being Jbelle's group, she obviously got her way, despite perhaps some protestations otherwise from my end.  Not that we ended up gimping ourselves, mind you, I just thought she had made it too complicated at times, causing herself needless headaches to find the perfect group when a semi-perfect group would work too.  In the end, though, I think she was able to achieve a very synergistic group of good players, really the Holy Grail of raiding, and has been a big reason why we've had so much success in ICC while on such a short time budget.  (We raid once a week for two hours.  That's it.  We're now on the second boss of the Odorous Quarter.  Rotface I believe.  Their names all run together for me... some variation on "smells bad".  We also reset on average once every two weeks, depending on weekly quests and needed gear drops.  So I think that makes us pretty efficient.) 

As something of a WoW-humanist, I thought I had the human element covered in my Ruminations With Jbelle (A new show on Oxygen!).  She wanted to maximize the built-in game benefits, but I kept focused on the players behind the toons.  While for the most part, I may have known what I was talking about, there is certainly one aspect of this synergy business that surprised me (That's the closest you're going to get of humility from me, Jbelle).  I'm sure our fearless leader had this all thought through in her dwarven head, but I guess what I didn't realize is that loot distribution is really one of the key fringe benefits of synergistic class formation.  It may seem obvious in retrospect.  After all, if you have a healthy spread of classes, you shouldn't be fighting over the same loot as much.

In practice, however, it surprised me.  Loot seems to rarely be contested by our group.  If something drops, there only ever seem to be one or two people who want it, at most.  We don't have three of the same class and spec fighting over the same key drops, and the result is that you feel like you get a lot more loot

I think it's human that players will sometimes get frustrated by gear.  Even if you're not a "loot whore", you like gear drops.  Who doesn't?  When you happen across a string of bad luck, it can seem like forever since you've won a roll, and can lead to frustration even in the most patient of players.  No one likes being screwed over by Lady Luck.  It's inevitable, then, that throughout the life of a group, the chance for disenfranchisement with the loot situation increases.  That is to say, the longer you run with the same people, the more likely it is for one of you to run afoul of a bad string of luck and get a bit disgruntled. 

A synergistic group can stave off the Loot Miasma.  Like a vaccine, starting a group with a healthy spread of classes can inoculate your group against infection.  On an intangible level, what Jbelle did was smart not only from the game design benefits, but also concerning the more hidden human element of raiding.  She really did a great job in giving us the best chance to succeed.

It can be frustrating when you're desiring to join a PuG and are told "no, we already have too many warlocks", and really, a PuG doesn't need the benefits of synergy and long-term goodwill to succeed in it's goal; most PuG's are all about short-term success.  (And also, isn't a PuG the bottom level?  It's like the sandlot ball of raiding.)  For a cohesive, future-minded raid team, "class denied" might not be as bad a policy as previously thought.   It pays off in the long run given time for fringe benefits like the Loot Miasma Vaccination to manifest.  If you have the choice, go for the synergy.  It may take some extra work, but it'll probably be worth it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I'll Have The Fish Sandwich

Am I the only Catholic that gets a small, juvenile kick out of fish sandwiches during lent?  Yes, I'm Catholic.  For those who don't pay attention to such things, this means that today is an important day: Ash Wednesday.  The beginning of Lent.  Now, I'm not going to go all Holy Roller on you and explain stuff.  If you don't already know what Lent is and want to, Wikipedia that shit.  It's not light reading, but it might be Light reading.  The humorous point that I'm trying to get to is the method by which I usually realize Lent is coming. 

You see, around this time every year, nearly every fast food establishment begins to advertise deals on their Fish Sandwhiches.  You may have noticed this.  If you have, rest assured it is completely due to the Catholic tradition of not eating meat on Fridays (and Ash Wednesday).  I'm not going to get into the theology of it, don't worry, the point is that it's a long standing tradition that a lot of people take part in (or semi-take part in, or ignore, as the case may be).  I'm not saying it's right or wrong, it's just a tradition, and it's heralded by Fish Ads. 

Since I'm a teenager at heart still, sitting down with my work pals and ordering the Fish Sandwich always makes me blush and giggle.  So sue me.  Life is full of little pleasures like this.  If you don't get it, or are shaking your head at my immaturity, I raise my right butt cheek and fart in your general direction.  Your father was a hamster and your mother smelled of eldiberries. 

But here I am talking about Fish Ads when I really wanted to be talking about Zombie Adds.  Different things, at least we hope so.

Since work has crit all over me this week, and house hunting doesn't help, I'm reduced to small, perhaps trivial, yet quick posts.  That or relying on my wife.  She did her duty yesterday, so today is my turn to kick out something small and fast.  Sort of like your father in the above Monty Python reference.  (How did you think you got here?).

Disjointed though this post may be, I promise I have a point.  It's a warlocky point though, so if you got this far expecting something about a Mage, I pity you.  Mostly for the Mage part.  Your alt is probably a hunter too. 

For the rest of us, there are Warlocks.  The best healing and DPSing class in the game.  Warlocks also have wonderful memories.  (Sometimes they have wonderful mammaries too, but that's something else and I won't go there today.)  If our memories serve us as our minions do, then we'll all recall after a moment the glorious days of Karazhan whereby one lucky member of the coven was asked to be on "Seed Duty" for a particular fight.  Remember it?  What was the guy's name?  (My minions don't cooperate sometimes). Behind the book case.  He summoned all those imps that we pwn'ed and borked the meters with crazy-high numbers in the thousands.  Yeah, remember when "thousands" of DPS was super-awesome?  *sigh* Those were the days. 

There's another fight like that in ICC.  Precious.  Don't look at me like that, mini-boss or mega-boss, it doesn't matter.  What matters is the raw pwnage.  I'm telling you guys, put a 'lock on Seed Duty for that fight.  Just spam Seed.  It's awesome.  You'll probably die if you don't stand near enough to the tank to benefit from the AoE threat.  Either way, it's fun and you gotta burn down those pesky zombies.  There's no time to worry about crap like "picking them up", just like when we went after Mr. Hides Behind a Bookcase in Kara.  Spam Seed and tell someone to "just heal you". 

If they don't and you die real quick, at least you can finish up your Fish Sandwich before it gets cold.  No one likes a cold Fish Sandwich.  No one.

Seed Duty.  I haz it.  (Jbelle - Just heal me).

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pumpkins and Word Vomit.. the usual

Hey Gang!

So I've been going back and listening to some of the old Twistednether blogcasts. I wanted to listen to some of the older interviews and see what changes and topics were hot over a year ago. It's truly a flash back for people who've been playing the game for some time. Not sure if you are like me, but I like to try and answer some of the questions that are asked during the podcast.

It really got me thinking about a few things.

One question that the Twisted nether folks always ask is, "What is your favorite part of the game?" Most people usually answer with one or two separate aspects (pvp, twinking, AH, leveling, Raiding, etc.) I understand that not everyone likes everything about the World of Warcraft but my "favorite" parts of the game sure do fluctuate. One week, I only want to do Raiding with my friends. Everything else seems boring to me. Another week, I'll feel the urge to make some gold so I hit up the AH. Each week, hell, each day could bring something new & exciting for me to enjoy.

I've enjoyed the leveling grind which is why I roll alts. I've experimented with twinking a shaman and it is really fun, even though I completely suck at it. I've had the urge to just do something on my own away from others so I do something in outlands that I didn't get a chance to see before.

I never have a chance to be bored in this game.

Even when I'm unable to play WoW, I still have a chance to learn about it and join in with the community of people who share my passion for the game (even from work shhhhh). What other game has such a thing?

So here's the thing, today, we have this game that has endless side tasks and immersive lore to keep any ADD human being busy for years (which is an incredible Feat of Strength on its own I might add). When did it start to be like this?

I still know many people who played from Alpha testing but I still can't fathom how this game evolved. I've been playing since May of '08 and I feel that the game is almost nothing like it used to be. What kept those Alpha & Beta players here for so long? Has Blizzard just been so perfect with adding new content and sprouting the community in such a way that it's impossible not to love it?

I doubt it really. Blizzard is fallible like every other game maker but sometimes things just seem to work out for them. I believe that it's both Talent & Luck that allowed this game to flourish into what it is today.

Now, let’s talking about "Wow Killers." Every time a decently advertised MMO hits the market, everyone speaks of how it's going to bring WoW to its knees.

Every time this new and "improved" MMO starts off, people leave WoW to try out the new features and see if it fulfills all of their dreams that Blizzard "blatantly" ignored for so long. They roll a new toon and have high hopes. A few months pass by and the majority of people start to drop off complaining that it isn't everything they wished for and quit the game. Most of the time, come back to WoW or they even find that neither of the games intrigue them anymore quitting all together.

Why do these new games fail in comparison to WoW? Is WoW just that much better? Is there nothing that could take over the monster that is Blizzard?

Obviously, this is highly discussed topic that many have pondered for centuries. Even Scholars have debated over who would be the next WoW killer.

My understanding is that it won’t be a new MMO that will kill WoW, it will be Blizzard and WoW itself that does it. Commit suicide I guess. I hope it's Samurai Style because that's pretty cool.

Why? Because of people like me of course. People who change their mind about thirty million times on what they actually enjoy doing in the game. If you started off playing a game for the pvp aspect of it, and the pvp was really good in your game, you would be happy to stay. What if you decide that you want to try something new? Well, you're sorta screwed if that's all that's offered. WoW has been able to implement so many different paths for players like me to keep us interested even when new things aren't really coming out fast enough. Did WoW start off like this? No. It did have crafting, it did have leveling, pvp, end-game raiding, etc. but they didn't have the stuff that we know now. Blizzard was given time to bloom without much interruption.

Here's an analogy that I feel best describes what we're seeing now:

Imagine an empty garden. Let’s say this garden is the gaming market for MMOs. Blizzard came in, tilled the land, fertilized it, and planted a pumpkin seed. The seed was largely undisturbed with the occasional seed planted and forgotten. This seed grew into a very large pumpkin over the past 5 years. It has dominated the patch and over shadowed anything that was new & needed sun. People would observe the patch and see the cute little saplings next to the huge mature pumpkin and unfairly compare them.

What these games suffer from is that they are new. They have few options for people like me who enjoy dipping our feet into fresh waters. When Blizzard launched its new MMO, there was nothing on the market that could even remotely compete with it. If you liked MMOs, you had one option. Today, you have a multitude of options, Warhammer Online, Eve, Aion, the super villain one can't remember the name..., and some random others that you can enjoy.

Where this all started from was me being really unhappy with Aion as of late. I'm just not feeling the urge to log in. There is no draw for me there but why? It's a good game and really reminds me of my very first MMO, Final Fantasy XI. I love anime and I love Asian art and culture. Aion is such a beautiful and intriguing game. I even believe that the PvP aspect is hands down better than it is in WoW. The Abyss is like a large populated Wintergrasp where there are quests to do and NPCs to kill but a random group of Elyos could gank your ass so quick it would make your head spin. They've balanced classes around pvp not pve like WoW. Each class has abilities to dominate others or escape if it gets heated. Players skill is rewarded rather than leet purps (gear does help a bunch though).

Then it hit me like a sack of potatoes, THE COMMUNITY! *facepalm* That's what WoW has that no new game could EVER have. We have blogs who blog about information and blogs who blog about blogs. WoW resources are what make this game so awesome! We have a massive group of people in all walks of life that share our passions for this game like nothing before. Yeah Blizzard could nerf your class to all hell but you'll keep coming back because of the people!

Wow... this post was a whole lotta word vomit.

Note: So, after I posted this, Fulguralis emailed me and pointed out that BBB has discussed this EXACT SAME TOPIC *facepalm* Apparently great minds think a like :) His is a really great read and I suggest if this topic is of any interest to you, head over there and check it out.

<3 Fuu

Monday, February 15, 2010

Someone Call Hermione, I Need Her Necklace

Muggle though I am, I still have need of a time-shifting necklace.  Do you ever just go through one of those streaks where time doesn't seem to agree with you?  It's agonizingly slow when you're away from everything you could possibly do, but then it speeds by like a racing freight train when you actually try to get stuff done.  Despite the dangers of the fabled necklace from Harry Potter, I'm fairly certain that I would not run into myself either, thereby making my head essplode or go bonkers.  I've just been all over the place this last week.  Even gaming wise.  Especially gaming wise. 

So here's the cliff notes version with some random bits of insight thrown in for spice.  I promise it's not just a Weekend Update.  Maybe.
  • Due to everything getting rescheduled and the weekly quest being ICC, I didn't raid this week.  At all.  Normally I'm a three day per week raider (short nights, mind you, but nights all the same).  Tonight we hit ICC up again from scratch to get the weekly knocked out.  Monday has become our day.  I'm excited, but it means that I have zero raid information to talk about.  I'm going to try using my 'lock portal on the gunship battle.  It might be cool.
  • We've been doing RL house hunting, which is kind of like grinding for rep in an alternating busy/not busy area.  Sometimes stuff's being snatched up as quick as you look at it.  Other times it's been on the market for 3 years.  Go figure.  I wish the tag system in houses were more like WoW (first caster wins) and less like Aion (most damage wins).  We're first time home buyers though, so what the bleep do we know?  In any case, it has nothing to do with gaming except that as a gamer, the Loft/Office is a big selling point for us.  If that shit can't fit two computers and will have heat issues or looks like a shoebox, we're not buying.  Anyone else have gaming impact their RL purchasing like that?
  • I picked up the 95 Frost Emblem non-tier chest for my Warlock.  It has haste, it has crit, it has spell power.  It has NO hit.  Hurrah!  Eventually I may get my 4pt10 (sans chest), but I was sporting the T8 chest.  The non-tier piece is a huge upgrade and really a great piece.  I don't have the link because I'm at work, but I would recommend checking it out and picking it up.  Pawn tells me it's a clear winner for the chest slot.  I'm gonna go after the belt next.  Those are where my biggest upgrades come from, despite the lure of T10 bonuses.   
  • I focused a lot on coupled gaming last week.  I wanted to follow up on it post v-day.  Here's how we roll: we did the usual dinner together and such, but we also spent a lot of time gaming.  My gift to her: Dragon Age: Origins.  It's pretty awesome when you can give that gift and it totally counts as a gift.  Not like, "honey here's a treadmill".   Which I always wondered... can Wii Fit really be given as a gift?  Isn't that sort of like: "We got you deodorant, take a hint"?  In any case, the hardest part for me is letting her play it first and whenever she wants.  After all, it's her gift.  Right?  It's sort of like a conversation I had with a gay friend of mine.  Once upon a time, he lauded one of the benefits of his sexual orientation as such: "It's sometimes nice when you can wake up and it doesn't matter who's jeans you put on."  If I put on Fuu's jeans... sexy, but well, no.  At the same time, sharing is fun.  *Ding* instant doubling of your choices.  Except when it's not fun and you want to wear the pants.  So I guess what I'm trying to say is: I'm am without pants right now.  Fuu is wearing the pants.  Still, being able to buy a game for your significant other and, like, you want to play it too: priceless.  I'll squeeze into it eventually.  If she'd have gotten me that treadmill...
  • Wow, that last bullet was long.  
  • We got the PC version of DA:O.  We love it so far.  Fuu freaks out about the "tough choices" and it's cute.  "OMG, they're making me betray someone.  Oh, nvm, he's evil, it's okay."  She's so sweet.
  • I need some topics to write about.  I think it's no secret that the blogosphere is in another lull right now.  It's too soon to really talk about Cataclysm, but we've also seem nearly all the patching (at least major) that we're going to see.  We're in the eye of storm.  I'm sure I'll come up with some stuff, even if it's horrible randomness like this and/or ridiculous ranting like I did last week, but if there's anything you've been dying to know about anything we do here at KeS, feel free to shoot an email to us.  Contact info can be found at the "About Us" page up top.
  • Soon, probably early next week, I plan to do a Demonology Primer.  Since Abi is officially gone, I'm going to try to pick up his torch.  He always did a wonderful job of covering Demonology (and got me hooked on it as my off spec/heroic dungeon spec of choice), but now that he's gone, I'd like to step into his large shoes and share what I've been doing.   I'm off next week so I can do proper linking and such.  Still, until I do and until it is officially out of date, he has a wonderful set of guides here.  I'm certainly not going to out-do the master, but I did want to cover it as I've been spending a lot of time (and having loads of fun) running Demo as Abi laid it out.  If you're a warlock looking for that extra something in the rotflmao-heroics (where Affliction won't work worth a damn), stay tuned.
Okay, that's it for the randomness today.  Maybe my brain will wake up for tomorrow because today it's rebelling against coherent thought.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Better To Ask Your Sister

Fulguralis stood with his back to the wall, calmly surveying the pandemonium in front of him.  His minions were all arguing loudly with one another, fighting to be heard not only over each other, but also over the general din of the Dalaran business district.  It was nearly Valentines day and the menfolk were out in force to try and squeeze in some last minute shopping.  All the women, of course, had apparently gotten their shopping done weeks ago, in secret.  His wife had shot him a barely concealed accusatory glare before he left that morning saying she was sure she would love her gift.  Fulguralis hoped his panic had not shown.

"Taking the minions for a walk!" he had yelled lamely, slamming the door behind him and finding the nearest port to Dalaran.  Now he stood with his back to a wall, both figuratively and literally, and he had no clue what to get her. 

"ENOUGH!" He yelled, holding up his hands and silencing his minions.  "One at a time.  Spaz, you first," the Warlock pointed.

"IthinkyoushouldgethertonsandtonsantonsofCANDY! I-mean-really-what-girl-doesn't-like-candy? I-love-candy! She'll-love-candy! Get-her-candy!" The Imp suggested mildly.

"Okay, thanks.  I'd ask you to wait while everyone else has a turn, but I know that's not going to happen, so shift your phase so we don't have to hear you."

"But-I-don-wanna-" he was cut off as his form suddenly got a bit translucent.  His mouth still moved, but his voice was lost in the parallel realm where he now half existed.  The little guy may argue, but he could not ignore his master's wishes.

"Double B. Go," Fulguralis said.

"Welllll.  If you want the advice of this loooove walker, you should buy her a staaar.  Then you can be like: Baby, look, you a star.  She'll be butter in your arms after that.  Ain't no girl can resist such a heavenly gift." Berry Blue leaned back with a satisfied look on his face.

"Hmm, not bad but tough to get.  The Mages are pretty protective about their constellations.  What do you have for me Nighty?"

"A Big Love Rocket," the Succubus said with a mischievous grin.

"Seriously?" Fulguralis asked.

"Mmmhmmm," she purred.

"No, just no.  Do you even know what that is?" the Warlock ask, arms spread wide.

Well, I've heard it has to do with mounting.  You see, when a man-" she began excitedly.

"Not even going there," Fulguralis cut her off.  She stuck out her tongue.

"It has Zhevra seats," she pouted.

"You guys are all worthless," Fulguralis said, throwing up his arms and stalking away.  His minions began to follow, but one sharp look from the Warlock froze them in place.  He stalked quickly into the nearest store, shaking his head.

His eyes swept the room and he found a vendor.  Striding up to the man he attempted to ask for advice, but a sharp pull on his robe diverted him.  Looking down, he found Sparkie, his Felhunter, wagging his tail excitedly with a bracelet in his jaws.  Fulguralis held out his hand and the pup deposited the jewelry.  It appeared to be a charm of some sort.

"How much for this?" Fulguralis asked, holding the charm in front of the vendor's face.

The vendor stared back at him blankly.

"Hello?  Customer here!" Fulguralis waved. 

The man stared straight ahead, not seeming to notice him. 

"HOOOOOW MUUUUCH FOOOR THIS?" Fulguralis yelled. 

The vendor blinked, slowly.  And by slowly, I mean, f-in slowly.  Fulguralis looked around and noticed that something was wrong.  Everyone moved in slow, jerky motions and sounds seemed as if coming from a great distance.  Even his own movements felt as if slicing through air turned into a thick, gelatinous ooze. 

As he was scanning the room, he noticed that just about everyone in the shop was holding the same charm he had.  In fact, one man was exiting the front door, jerky step by jerky step, with a whole bag of the buggers.  Even as he watched, the man seemed to take one step backward for every two steps forward.  It was an epic battle just to exit the door.  Fighting the ooze, Fulguralis return his own attention to the charm in his hand.  He didn't want to get his wife the same thing all the other men were getting their wives. 

Abruptly, time seemed to speed back up.  There was a small moment when everyone in the room looked a bit disoriented, patting robes and shuffling feet as if to ascertain that they were where they thought they were.  Then business resumed as usual.

"What the fel was that?" Fulguralis said.

"I'm sorry, sir, how can I help you?" the vendor said in an annoyingly perky voice.

"Oh, now you speak," the Warlock grunted, flinging the charm at the man's face.  It seemed to freeze in the air for a moment before seeming to disappear.  Fulguralis was surprised to find the charm back in his hand as if he'd never thrown it.  "What the..." he said, shaking his head.  "This store is slowed.  Damn Mages!"  How could they slow a whole store?

He ignored the bafflement written plainly on the vendor's face as he turned to leave the store, tossing the charm on the counter unceremoniously.  He had to get out of there.  Outside, his minions waited expectantly where he left them.  At the sight of them, Fulguralis rubbed his temples.

"Headache, Boy?" a familiar, tinny voice asked.  The Warlock looked up to find his Death Knight sister in a rather revealing gown.  A heart shape seemed to be cut out of the bosom.  He raised an eyebrow.  She shrugged, "It was a gift."

"From who?" he said icily.

She just grinned back.  "You should be more concerned about what you're going to get that wife of yours.  Leave the ice to me." 

Fulguralis just sighed.

"Oh, don't worry, Boy.  I've got your back.  C'mon," Decedereful said, taking his arm.  "This is what sisters are for, right?"

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Here's An Idea

I wrote earlier in the week about duo'ing experiences, with a special emphasis on your significant other.  Like I mentioned there, I rather enjoy the topic and got a couple of good responses to boot.  I've also found that a vast majority of my thinking happens in the shower.  Back when I used to write emo songs and poetry (didn't we all have those awkward years?), this was particularly problematic.  I mean, I slept with a notebook by my bed (as any good writer could advise you to do, who knows when ideas will come), but you couldn't very well take a pen and paper in the shower.  Well, you could, but I wouldn't suggest it.  Unless you're writing your emo song with a strong rain metaphor and using a lot of diminished chords.

In any case, I was in the shower the other day when an idea spit out of the nozzle and smacked me in the back of the unsuspecting head.  With my Pro Couples Gaming movement, I wondered why there didn't seem to be any games geared specifically for couples.  Think about it.  Can you come up with any games for couples?  I can't.  The best I can do is Co-op on things like Modern Warfare too, but despite my wife's best intentions, she is just not an FPS person.  She tends to freak out when someone is shooting at her, go figure. 

There are a lot of multiplayer games, but I'm talking about true cooperative games.  I think one of the big draws for MMO's right now is that couples can play them together.  I know a good amount of gaming couples and I've gotta believe they represent a significant market portions.  At least as significant as some of the other niche markets that games have been designed for.  So I say, why not?

I'll let you guys in on a little secret (Fuu, look!  Shiny object distraction!  Stop reading for a while! Go grab a coffee.): I'm going to pick up Dragon Age: Origins as a Valentines Day gift for Fuu.  You can get away with that shit when you're a gaming couple, and I love it.  I mean, we'll have a nice dinner together too, but we're not doing anything extravagant this year on account of being in the market for a house.  Houses are expensive.  Games, even with a ~$60 price tag, are not.  I'm sure I don't have to expound on the fiscal benefits of gaming.  Sure you may need to invest in a console or a decent computer, but the price per entertainment hour is probably the best bang for your buck out there.  But I digress.  The point here is that I'm going to pick up a single player, RPG style game that my honey has been "dropping hints" about for the last few weeks (you know, whereby the female of the couple says things like "Honey, have you seen _____.  I think _____ looks neat" *wink wink* *nudge nudge*).

As I was pondering over our shared love for RPGs, I thought: wouldn't it be great if we could play the game cooperatively.  Sure, we could help each other out, take turns, and the like, but I'm talking true cooperative play.  I'm not sure I've ever seen that in an RPG, and I think there could totally be a market for that.  Here's some of the things I would like to see in such a game:
  • Choice of complimentary roles - I spoke before about how duo'ing can be fun and effective when each person takes a role.  Doesn't have to be tank/heals/dps either.  In an RPG that isn't an MMO, you don't have to worry about things like "bring the player not the class", so you could make classes that are extremely synergistic and each with key abilities for certain fights.
  • Perhaps solo arcs to the same story line - Many of my favorite novels have seemingly divergent story lines that converge at the end for an epic conclusion.  You could combine solo and cooperative content so that they actually fit together in a story.  Not two separate modes, but side quests that each person could do, say when the other is busy, that would progress their character yet not totally leave the other person behind.
  • A love story between two playable characters - I'll admit it, I'm a sucker for love stories in RPGs.  I feel that an RPG without some sort of love interest is totally missing a key facet.  Wouldn't it be cool if your love interest could be, well, your love interest?  
  • Interaction on a small scale - Maybe this stretches the "couple" thing a bit to include more, but it would be neat to have playable characters play off one another.  Look at table games like the classic Dungeons and Dragons.  These games aren't massive and thus allow for a lot of player to player interaction.  I would say it's one of the main draws of the genre.  Why, for our electronic RPGs, do we only have "massive" or "not massive".  Games like Mario Party or Rock Band were big hits because you could just have a few friends and interact together.  Why not extend the same thing to RPGs?
  • All the usual RPG elements - I didn't want to list these all separately, but it stands to reason that I don't want things like moving cinematics, engaging storylines, well-designed UIs, smooth combat systems, and the like to be thrown to the wind.  A lot of us love RPGs and where they've been taken in the last few years.  This should be in addition to the current trend, not in place of
What else can you guys think of?  Maybe this is just the romantic in me getting revved up for Valentine's Day, but I thought this idea had some merit.  Perhaps a bored game designer will stumble across this and bring me on, or just poach the idea.  I'm okay with that too.  Or are there a whole bunch of games that fit this bill out there that I'm just missing? 

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

'Locks Can Heal Too

So it's finally gotten to me. I'm pissed because I never got tagged for this whole Ring of Healers crap that Jessabelle @ Miss Medicina cooked up.  I'm probably, like, the best 'lock healer there is, and I never get a tag.  Not only that, but 'lock healers were woefully underrepresented in the webring.  Then the webring was revisited and Jbelle took the "high road" playin' all like she doesn't "do memes" and junk.  Unfortunately for her, this sorta-kinda opened the door for me to respond as if I had responded in the first place.  Which is what I'm going to do.  I will be silent no longer, though it may shatter some illusions of her own personally fleeting awesomeness since, like, the truth will be told that I am in fact the ONLY healer in our raid group.  I mean, sure she sets it up wonderfully with things like "class synergies" and "balance", but really, no one cares about that crap.  I've always maintained a group of 10 warlocks would be the best approach to any fight, and really you only need one, especially if you can heal as well as I can.

(Did I mention the real reason Jbelle switched to Disc was because she couldn't stand seeing me power-of-ten her on the HPS meters and needed an excuse like "well I'm preventing damage so you don't see my HPS accurately reflected... yadda yadda WoLspreadsheet yadda."  Well I CREATE MOAR DAMAGE so that I can heal MOAR, as any good healer should do. DIAF, what do I care?  All of my spells have a chance to proc a b-rez.)

In any case, I pulled a copy of the questions from Tam's site, cuz there was no way I could stoop down low enough to pull them from Jbelle herself.  After spending at least three days clearing out all the humorous and thought-provoking crap that he'd written in there (I mean, the guy is certainly long-winded even if loquacious.  His WPT meter (that's Words Per Thought) rivals my own HPS in terms of awesomeness.  And, like my own heals... every damn one of them REEKS OF QUALITY.  He is to blogging what 'locks are to heals), after those forty days and forty nights of word clearing, I put in my own answers.

The New Questions:

1. Reread your original answers to the questions. With the benefit of hindsight, score your own work in terms of its cringeworthiness.
My work is always amazing. Even invented words like "cringeworthiness" can describe my heals.  That is, if you mean a "cringe of win".  Myself, I focus more on the "worthy" part, of which all other healing classes are not... worthy.  You are not worthy.  If there is one thing I do poorly, it is not being proud enough as a 'lock healer. After talenting into Siphon Life and Haunt for jollies, I've been seeing Haunt overheals as low as 100%.  I just can't get it to go any lower, but that's what happens when you're all win.  Humility is for chumps.

2. Has your class’s healing improved in the area you identified as its weakest?
Can you be buffed from perfect to more perfect?  If so, 'lock healers were.  Of course, since we didn't really have a healing "weakness" so to speak, all our our healing strengths were buffed.  Like making Superman immune to Kryptonite.  Hellfire, Life Tap... huge buffs to offset our heals to let us heal more.  Other healers will love what I bring to the healing table.  Huge healing potential.  Cash Money.

3. Have you changed your “least favored class to heal with”?

(I changed from favoured because I'm not sure what that word translates to here in the States.   Scholars have debated for years about it, but I think the question makes more sense if we look at the favored class and not some crazy made-up word that no one knows what it means.)

Hunters, definitely.  Before I think I said Mages, but hunters are my least favorite healing partner.  They have like, another pet and junk and do that crappy feign death thing that doesn't allow me to over heal them more and pad my stats.  It's all about topping the charts, and they're uber self-conscious about losing to a Warlock.

4. Did you read the entries from others in the webring, especially your class?
No. Why would I need the help of other healer classes?  What do you think this is about, building a community?  Pscheah... as if.  l2webring nubs.

5. If Yes to #4, did you learn anything that made you a better healer?
Even though I said "no", I'm going to answer this because I'm not going to be gipped a damn question due to simple honesty.  If there is one thing I learned, and only one thing, mind you, it's that I need to stack more hit as a healer.  Hit never goes out of style and it's on EVERYTHING.  Jbelle taught me about the importance of hit as healer... and by taught I mean she only reminded me that I already knew it cuz I know everything there is to know about healers.  Board it.

6. What tools/resources or information do you think you would need to improve as a healer and how could that help the community at large?
I need a meter that counts higher.  Recount sometimes just freaks out with my abnormally large HPS.  Plus, the combat log can't handle my awesomeness. It just pukes saying things like "A more powerful spell is active" and "working as intended" and "72 hour ban for healing with seige weapons".  I can't help it that all of my spells do seige heals.  I'm building walls, not bubbles.  Bubbles can pop. 

7. What did you identify as your worst habit as a healer? Have you improved in this area?
If you call winning at everything forever a bad habit, then that's it.  I've improved by letting some others share the spotlight from time to time.  Like every now and then I life tap to trick Jbelle into throwing a bubble on me (like any mob would ever have the audacity to attack me!), which I then pop and use her tears to fuel my own heals.  That's just how it works though.  Lock heals run on the tears of Priests.  You heard it here first.

8. What did you list as your favorite healing spell and your least used healing spell for your class? Are these answers still true? If they have changed, what caused the change (i.e. patch fix, different healing environment, etc)?
My favorite healing spell is the under 5% health life tap.  Since healing is not really the issue, it's really fun to see how much you can freak out the other healers before you swoop back in and carry all of them to victory.  I think last time I listed Hellfire Suicide for it's gear durability damage avoidance purposes, but since my heals have now been patched to also heal durability, the utility is just no longer needed.  I mean, your gearscore is higher when your durability is topped off, so you gotta keep that shit up anyways.  Life Tapping below 5% is a purely frivolous joyride for all healers.

9. I made up this question so that I have one more question than everyone and thus win at questioning.  The question is: If you had to say one thing to the creator of the original webring, what would you say?
Welcome to the jungle, baby.

(Note: No braincells were harmed in the making of this post as none were used.)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Do You Have A Dynamic Duo?

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Bloggers love email.  Still, many of us don't seem to get a whole lot.  Perhaps it's because our emails are conveniently hidden in the scary and un-entertaining "about" page (up over there on the right side, if you're curious).  In any case, the few emails I do get usually contain very good questions.  Often, they inspire a blog post of their own.  Such is the case today.

It was several weeks ago that I got an email from Deidra.  Here's how it reads:

I have been in a few relationships where I have played WoW with my partner in crime at the time and I have had medium success playing with them and their different classes. However, my hubby now and I have a dynamic that is out of this world! I am an affliction 'lock and he is a fury warrior, do you suppose that the combo works because we work so well together IRL or just that the warrior/warlock combo just works? What has been your experience partying up as a warlock/pally team?

I tried to shoot her a response right away, but I wanted to expand on what I sent today as well as open the topic for other opinions/experiences in the comments.  Here's what I wrote back:

I think Warlock with any sort of tanking class is going to be stellar.  Fuu and I are now playing Aion (another MMO) together as well.  We're both pure DPS classes there and it just doesn't seem to have the same synergy.  Our classes don't map directly to roles.  Even if you aren't specced into it, a tanking class with a 'lock will lend itself well to duo'ing roles.

Warlocks have a unique abilty to basically heal themselves through damage while also having a pet and doing great damage.  Thus, I can pretty much take care of myself, which frees up my partner in crime to do her own thing.  As a pally tank this means she could just basically heal herself when needed and keep threat.  I'd bet it's similar with a warrior in that he can focus more heavily on the defensive side of things and let you pew pew. In fact, probably any plate wearer would work for questing.  In Aion she's a leather wearer and I'm cloth, so that probably makes things a bit more difficult as neither of us can take much of a beating.

Apart from class roles, communication is the key to any good relationship and gaming together is a great exercise in communicating.  While the classes themselves may contain certain innate synergies, it is the communication that will take you to that next level.  Even with classes with non-synergistic relationships in Aion, Fuu and I can talk through an encounter and end up doing some really cool and crazy things to snatch a victory.

I would guess if you feel that you're having a lot of success with your current duo, it's both because of having complimentary roles and also being able to communicate well.  I've known plenty of couples that aren't necessarily the greatest communicators and yet still have a good relationship, however I think the strongest couples are the ones that can talk it out, whether that be facing down an elite monster or the laundry boss

Thanks for the email and don't be surprised if this pops up on the blog in the next few days.  I think it's a great topic that a lot of couples can relate to.  Also, don't feel disheartened if gaming together leads to some fights too.  I know Fuu and I spend a lot of time arguing over strategies and approaches.  Not all discussions are going to be sunshine and rainbows, especially not with at warlock!  The good part is that you can speak the same "language".

Pleasant 'Locking,

Coupled gaming is really one of my favorite topics.  We're lucky to know a few couples in-game and have compared notes, finding similar experiences.  The common baselines tend to be complimentary roles and good gaming communication.  The roles may not be tank/dps; it could be tank/heals or dps/heals.  The point is that each member of the couple takes on a responsibility and you work as a team.  The game is built around the concept of teamwork, so that this leads to success shouldn't come as a surprise. 

Also, communication may not mean that you guys talk well IRL, but it usually means that even without vent, you're probably hollering across the room at each other or communicating in some other way (Maybe not always pleasantly either.  Learning how to fight is a big step for any relationship).  A lot of times this is as simple as knowing the other person.  You don't even have to be a couple to be a good duo, as plenty of close friends can probably attest to.  It all comes back to complimenting each other and communicating, but isn't that the foundation of any good relationship?

I'm always excited when one of my gaming friends finds him/herself dating another gamer.  I mean you always want to try to share some interests with your significant other, but gaming can be one of the sticking points in a relationship when it's not shared.  It goes back to what I was saying the other day about the similarities with Sports and Gaming.   Sports is mostly understood, though we still hear all the time about wives complaining about a husband's laziness when the big game is on or what have you.  Gaming isn't much different, except it's less understood.  Whenever you're spending significant time apart, with something else, the natural question is going to be "why".  When it's something that's not understood, it'll probably lead to friction.  Thus, when you find someone that shares your passion, or at least understands it, things usually turn out better.  (You don't have to force your spouse into playing, but you will need to help him/her understand what you're doing and why you enjoy it if you want to avoid friction, IMO.) 

And when date night can also consist of raiding ICC, listening to TNB, and popping open a case of Coronas (while sporting your #iblamesyrana t-shirts, of course)...  well, then you know you have a "keeper".

Monday, February 8, 2010

Hope Is Hope, No Matter Where It Comes From

I'm going to step outside the realm of MMO's for a day here. I promise I'll try to tie it all in, but it's going to be a loose tie at best. 

I'm sure some of you watched the Super Bowl last night, and, if you did, I'm sure that the significance was similarly beat into your hear.  I'm going to go on record with a few things here.  First, I'm a Colts fan.  I live just north of Indy, so it makes sense.  I actually grew up a Bears fan, and am still very much a fan of all things Chicago, but it's hard not to like the Colts.  They have a very classy program, filled with classy players who, for the most part, keep their noses clean and play football.  That's more than a lot of NFL franchises can say nowadays. 

I'm also a Boilermaker.  I went to Purdue.  I lived and died with Drew Brees in the Rose Bowl.  He's another classy individual that does it "right".  Class shows.

Furthermore, I don't live under a rock.  I know that something happened down in New Orleans that had something to do with a real bitch named Katrina.  I might be fuzzy on the details, but apparently she really tore the place up.  (I'm not trying to make light of a tragedy, which it certainly is, but my point here is that while I wasn't directly affected by the storm, you don't have to go very far to have the effects broadcast into your home in full, stunning HD.  If you're human, on some level you're going to be effected, and I deal with tragedy via humor.  It's called a coping mechanism).  Having been to Bourbon Street, I'm not going to call New Orleans "classy" (I kid), but it is a city with a lot of soul.  It has history, tradition, and pride, like many cities.  Moreover, it's filled with people.  Living, breathing, hoping, dreaming people.  I may not speak a lick of Creole, but I can relate to people.  Especially people who have faced adversity.

So last night I watched a football game where one of my favorite teams went up against one of my favorite players, and then a couple tons of emotion were heaped on top by disaster cut scenes and the like, as the media loves to do.  I have to say, the only time I've felt more torn during a football game was when the Colts went up against the Bears a few years back, and every bar from Indy to Chi-town exploded with fights.  Who do you cheer for?    As a life-long Cubs fan, you have to feel a bit for the underdog-Saints.  As a human, how do you not enjoy the story of New Orleans?  As a Colts fan, you can appreciate the fact that Peyton Manning has strong ties to the city himself.  If the Colts weren't the other team in the Bowl, you'd better believe the lot of us would probably be crying "who dat" along with the rest of y'all.  Especially if it had been the Patriots.  Don't even get me started there (sorry New England).

The long and the short of it here is that after the final second ticked off that clock and the party started down in the French Quarter, I thought to myself "well, losing this one wasn't so bad."  Losing still sucks, don't get me wrong.  No one likes to lose.  But if you lose to another classy group of folks with a great story to boot, it makes it a lot easier to swallow.  And the Saints are a team it's easy to be happy for.  Like the Colts, they do it right.  Class shows.   Even for the ultra-competitive person, like me, sometimes losing isn't all that bad.

So what's the tie-in here, however loose it may be?  Well, as gamers and patrons of MMORPGs, we love a good story, and this was a great story.  And it was sports.  There's one thing I find myself saying to a lot of friends who don't understand gaming: "It's not all that different from sports". 

I'm a sports nerd, and I'm a video game nerd.  Those cultures generally don't mix.  I coach football and I lead raids.  On the surface, those would seem so different, but they're really not.  Raiding is a team sport just as much as football is.  Hardcore gamers spend hours upon hours researching stats and strategies, so do hardcore sports folks.  Sports are socially acceptable to waste time on, yet games are still struggling to gain that main stream acceptance.  Tell someone you spent a few hours in a fantasy draft last night and they'll probably ask you who you picked without blinking.  Tell them you spent a couple hours raiding last night and they'll wonder if they shouldn't be thinking about an intervention.  Yet the cultures really aren't that different.

As such, I find that a lot of the same feelings translate easily into both realms.  The feeling of victory when downing a difficult boss is the same high as taking the field on Friday night and outplaying a tough opponent.  The feeling of disappointment and loss when someone in your guild leaves isn't all that dissimilar from watching you favorite player get traded away, or a kid on the team you coach deciding the team isn't for him.  Sometimes we have more control, sometimes we have less, but the feelings are the same.  They're human. 

As I was returning home from the Super Bowl party I attended last night, thinking "losing this one wasn't so bad", it actually brought to mind a bunch of other times I'd lost in my life.  I mean, isn't that how it always works?  We remember the tough loses more clearly than the wins?  Failures more poignant than successes?  I was surprised, then, to dwell not only on my numerous personal sports memories, but also memories of gaming.  They were all intertwined in me, having the same base feelings.

There's a loose tie there, but it's a tie nonetheless.  Feelings are feelings, and taking hope from a football team winning the Super Bowl is no sillier than getting the same hope from running in a huge, pixelated group to a rooftop in Booty Bay.  Raiding for the Cure might not be the WoW equivalent of the Super Bowl, but the feelings of hope we get from our time spent together in game are real just the same.  Football is "just a game" too.  Good stories are good stories. 

Next time someone criticizes your gaming habits, wondering why you are willing to set time aside for something as silly as gaming, ask them if they watched the Super Bowl.  Gamers and Jocks aren't all that different after all.  We're all human, and at the very base of both MMOs and Sports is the human factor.  Sports are games too, just played with a different controller.

Congratulations to the City of New Orleans and Saints fans everywhere on a well-earned victory. Speaking as a Colts fan and an avid gamer: GG.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Like Watching Ice Melt

Fulguralis craned his neck to gaze up at the towering behemoth standing before him.  Nine other adventurers crowded the area, lending a nervous smell to the air.  The room felt a bit on the cold side, but then again, so did everything else in Wintergrasp as one might expect from the name.  The Warlock flexed his hands, still getting the feel of his new gloves and preparing himself for some more spell slinging.

"So, you're the Ice Watcher," Fulguralis mumbled to himself.  "Doesn't seem like it would be much fun, watching Ice.  Especially if it happens to be a Nevermelting Ice Thingy."

One of the other adventurers beside him was droning on about how they were going to approach a tussle with the Watcher.  Fulguralis kept one ear open, but was pretty confident it would be a piece of cake.  He had heard some things, plus those two wonky Gnomes had shown up just before he had entered the zone to give him another piece of parchment with pointers on it.  They were becoming eerily common characters in his adventures.  He wasn't sure what to make of it.  Where did they get their information?

"So basically," Fulguralis noted, "you want me to kill the big guy and some crazy, swirly Orbs of Wintry Death?"

"Yes.  The Orbs are a priority to destroy," the Random Paladin replied. 

This group of ten had been hastily formed outside of the Vault by a Rogue friend of Fulguralis.  The Warlock and his Paladin wife had been lounging around, casting lines into the nearby waters in the hopes of fishing up something tasty when the Rogue had mentioned an assault on the Vault.  Having just come from the Citadel, they had almost turned the offer down, but Fulguralis had wanted to try out his new gloves and the both couldn't help but see for themselves if rumors of a new tenant in the Vault were true.  Apparently Archavon had brought in the whole famn damily.  Or something like that.

"Ugh.  Can't I just focus on one thing," Fulguralis grumbled to no one in particular.

"Awww, are you afraid of a wittle orb?" His wife teased.

Fulguralis glared at her, "I make a point of shattering orbs.  And crystals.  And souls.  And..."

Fuubaar patted him on the butt, "I know you do, honey."  She sauntered off towards the boss, weapon unsheathed.

Fulguralis stared at her backside for a moment before his thoughts caught up and he unsheathed his own weapon.  The temperature in the room plummeted.  How does she always find a way to make me feel... so... confused?  Bah, I don't even know.  The Warlock began to fling shadowy spells at the boss as he lent the fight only half of his brain. Women are totally Mind Rogues.  A sharp, cold pain from behind snapped him out of his inner monologue.  

"What the fel was that?" he yelped.  Spinning around he found himself face to face with a swirling, icy orb that seemed to be spitting frosty bolts in all directions.  "Oh, well that's pleasant," he scowled.   The Warlock ran way.  Bravely ran away.

From a safe distance, he laid into the orb.  Soon enough, it shattered and filled Fulguralis with a smug satisfaction.  "Stupid orbs," he said.

Back and forth between Orb and Titan, the Warlock flung all manner of shadowy spells.  Soon enough, the giant fell.  As warmth seeped back into the room, the adventurers began to pick over the body for anything useful.  Fulguralis dusted the frost off of his robes before it could melt, catching a few orb shards with his wide swipes as well.

"There.  That wasn't so hard now was it?" Fuubaar asked in a patronizing voice, weapon resting jauntily on one plate-clad shoulder.  "Those orbs didn't get my baby did they?"

"D'ya see any Orbs left?" Fulguralis gestured wildly about the room.  He couldn't tell whether he was upset by her tone or embarrassed.  Either way, his face reddened.

His wife came up and kissed him on the cheek.  "You're so cute when you blush," she said as she strolled away. 

In the midst of his confusion, Fulguralis's stomach did a little flip.  It always did that when she kissed him.  Burn her!  She's always toying with me!  Still, as she grinned over her shoulder, plate swaying seductively as she walked away, the Warlock felt any consternation melt away. 

Apparently I'm no Nevermelting Ice Thingy, he thought ruefully, not where she's concerned anyways.