Monday, August 30, 2010

Starcraft: Know Your Opponent

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For those familiar with PvP in any game, the mantra "know your opponent" shouldn't be new.  Very simply put, the more you know about the person/team you're facing, the better you are able to anticipate and counter their moves.  No brainer, right?

In a Starcraft, unless you're playing against friends, you generally do not know the person(s) playing on the other side.  It is, after all, a semi-randomized matching system.  What you do know, however, is the race the other person has chosen.  If you haven't been paying attention to that on the loading screen, do it!  It could mean the difference between a win and a loss.

After playing a lot of 1v1 and 2v2 over the weekend (and netting myself a rather sweet "bronze" league ranking... yeah, I'm that awful right now), there seem to be only a handful of strategies.  At least at the lower echelons of play that I'm haunting, there are.  If you can identify the opposing race early, you can prepare pretty accurately.  Here's the breakdown of what I've been seeing.

When facing a Protoss opponent - I would say something like 90% of Protoss players right now are using the "Void Ray" tactic.  Simply put, they race the tech tree to build a quadrant of Starports early in the game, and show up with the fleet maybe 20 minutes into the game.  It's a pretty effective strategy.  With air, you minimize terrain effects (something Blizz has really lent weight to in this iteration of the game), and with the Void Ray in particular, they have a pretty solid range that will pretty much let you pick apart an opposing defense.

To win against a VR rush opponent, you're going to need good air defense.  For Terran, I've seen a guy build a whole bunch of Thors, and that worked pretty well.  Also, Vikings are a solid choice.  If you're also 'toss, you can always try to out-race them, or go with your straight air support units.  For Zerg, a mass of Hydras seem the way to go here.  A strong counter attack is key here.  If you can chop their legs out while they're trying to attack you, VR's aren't the fastest killing machines in the book, you may be able to hold off and defeat their force. 

Referring back to my last SC post, protect the probes!  If you're expecting a VR rush, then don't worry so much about blocking your base off.  Keep construction tight, and keep air defenses around your home base.

When facing a Terran opponent - I've seen two effective strategies here.  The first is a sending in a mix of ground troops.  Lot's of them.  With medivacs.  This tends to be the majority strat.  Other strategies tend to revolve around mass producing one type of unit.  I've seen Thors and Vikings used effectively as well.  In addition, a lot of Terrans try to rush with Reapers right away.  They're pretty easy to get early and can circumvent defenses. 

Since most Terrans take a ground approach, work more on your ground defenses against such an opponent.  Blocking off helps, but don't forget the ability of Reapers to jump up walls and forget to protect the rest of your base.  Marines are decently effective against air, but larger armored units will tear them up. 

When facing a Zerg opponent - The Zerg are all about fast numbers.  There's a reason we verb-ized the race to connote "speedy overwhelming death".  Look for 'lings early.  Blocking is especially effective here.  When a rush doesn't succeed, a good Zerg player will likely go for Brood Lords and Hydras.  Don't count on using cloaked units effectively against the Zerg, as they tend to have a lot of airborne detectors.

If you're successful at surviving the rush, get ready for BL's and Hydras.  Air turrets do very little against the range of the Brood Lord, you're going to need air support in the form of units.  Keep your frontal defenses strong, as Zerg are less likely than the other races to try to get in behind you.  Counter attacking is key to defeating a Zerg opponent, as they likely build a large wave at a time to try to wear you down.  If you can dual task both an attacking and defending force, you have a good chance of catching them with they're spiny pants down.

With being able to tell so much about someone just by the race, you can easily see the appeal to learn each one so that you can effectively play on "random".  Choosing random doesn't give you away, and can leave opponents especially vulnerable to rush.  When facing a random opponent, it's probably worth your while to send a worker unit to scout early, just so you know what you're facing.

These tactics, at least, are what I'm seeing from the matches I've played.  What has been effective against you?  What should we watch out for? 

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Fruits of Wrath

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Fulguralis turned and calmly wiped his blade clean with one of the discarded scraps of frostweave that seemed to fall as frequently as snow flakes in Northrend.  It was not blood on the blade that bothered him.  No, a good Warlock would never get blood on his blade.  A good Warlock would never let anyone close enough to need to use a blade, much less get it bloody.  It was rust, and the wiping didn't help a whole lot.  They had been living out of tents for far too long in the snowy wastelands of Icecrown.  The harsh winter weather had begun to take it's toll even on good steel.

Still, he had filched the blade off the corpse of a multi-headed, reanimated sack of bones.  How good was the steel?  Fulguralis had no experience as a smith.  Who was he to judge?  Maybe actual metal was complete crap, and it was simply the magical resonance that made the thing valuable. 

In any case, the Warlock felt the urge to do something dramatic.  Here they stood before the Frozen Throne of the Lich King himself.  Fulguralis would not stand there all wide-eyed.  This was not his first dance with the shadows.  And wiping your blade felt suitably menacing.

That is, until he saw what Arthas was packing.  Frostmourne.  Devourer of souls.  That thing sure must like cookies.  It was pretty large, and a lot less rusty.  For a sword that spent so much time around ice, you'd think it would have at least some rust.

Fulguralis slowly returned his sword to his waist.  It was clear swords would not be what would win this fight.  Instead, he cracked his knuckles. Yeah, he thought as they made a series of loud crunching noises, shoulda went with that in the first place.

He and nine other adventurers clustered behind Tirion as the Great Orator himself blustered through yet another Light inspired speech.  He seemed to be full of those.  Fulguralis supposed it was suitably epic, considering the locale, but he would just as soon get on with the killing.  Sorry, the justice.  He needed to remember that.  They were here on business, not pleasure.

Fulguralis glanced at his companions.  The short, robed priest that was Jessabelle sat wringing her hands and standing on her toes trying to soak the scene in, while her druid tentmate stood right behind her, talking animatedly to several other group members behind her.  She tried to shush him a few times, but, as usual, he was all up in his limbs, unable to hear the noise down by his roots.

One of their two Paladins, the dwarven one, stood off to the side, sharing what appeared to be an inside joke with one of the Hunters.  They always were having their own side conversations.  What could a Paladin and a Hunter possibly have in common?  They both turned and eyed the Lich King with equal parts apprehension and anticipation.

In front of all nine of them, just to the right of Fordring himself, stood Fuubaar.  And his wife looked pissed.  Before most battles she might be found joking around with the dwarf, deciding which aura to use.  Or chatting it up with the priest, commenting on which ale to celebrate with.  Or any number of other things.  Never before had she seemed so focused.  Never before had she seemed so on edge.  She was like a felhound, pulling at the leash, begging for the chance to rip at her enemy's jugular.

Fulguralis felt a chill run up his spine.  He had seen many moods in his young wife, but this one was new.  The world could cease to exist, for all she appeared to care, as long she got to take a swing at Deepthroat up there on the throne.  The thought popped into the Warlock's head, what did he do to her? 

He had no time to reflect on the thought, however.  No sooner had Tirion ended his exchange with Arthas, than the big, cold man hefted Frostmourne and charged down the stairs toward their group.  The battle had begun.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Button Philosophizing

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I decided to take the bait and run with it. BBB was hoping to inspire folks to share how they arrange their buttons, and I feel inclined to bite.  I think I talked about this a little bit on here a long time ago, so it's prime time for a revisiting of the topic.  There is a very simple philosophy that I use in constructing my UI, and it's not related to any sort of manufacturing technique (though electronic assembly lines are pretty dang cool to watch in action, and a PITA to design a flow for).

First of all, we need to start with the presumptions.  The Bear is a clicker.  I'm not.  I try to use my mouse as little as possible for activating abilities.  There reason is really two-fold.  One, I don't have a whole fel ton of alts.  Two, my cursor tends to disappear on me, so I spend valuable time trying to figure out where in the Light the thing is.  So, for me, I just find button presses to be generally faster than clicking.  I am not a button turner though.  My mouse is used extensively for positioning (two finger running ftw), which is probably why I can never be sure where the cursor is.  In any case, the fact that I'm a "button guy" is important because it definitely affects my layout.  Clicking lends itself to different strategies than button pressing. 

In addition, I have one of those gaming keyboards.  It has a special gaming area on the left side with two accessible rows of numbers, arrows that represent "wasd" and several other assignable buttons.  I didn't always have this, so my original set up colors a bit of my current set up in terms of what I could reach easily before I had the double row of the gaming keyboard.  Really, it has just made more skills accessible, my main abilities were never a problem thanks to macros.

So, what is my strategy then?  Simply, I try to put the same types of spells on the same buttons for my main and all my alts.  When I first started as a baby lock, my shadowbolt found a home on my number 2 key.  Thus, my main nuke for every class finds it's way to 2.  1 is where I generally like to macro in my trinkets (on my 'lock I trinket with Corruption/Curse applications), so I pick an appropriate spell that is probably not a nuke, but is used often enough to keep my trinkets popped.  3 and 4 gets my secondary spells (for a 'lock that's UA and Haunt).  5 tends to be my finishing moves (Drain Soul for a 'lock).  6 happens to be my "oh shit" button (soulshatter) since it's not as easy to accidentally push it.

That exhaust the first row (or the single hand).  Moving up to the second row, I switch to "AoE" mode.  7, 8, and 9 are all reserved for AoE spells.  RoF and SoC happen to be 8 and 9 right now, 7 is shadowflame.  9, 0, and "-" are my buff buttons.  For my 'lock, that means my Life Tap/Fel Armor macro is on 0.  9 and - switch depending on the fight.  So for AoE trash and such, I shift up to row two.

Since I rely a lot on muscle memory to keep me sharp, I find this setup works well when translating to my alts.  For my DK, from left to it goes BS, diseases, OB, FS for 1-4.  My "oh shit" alternates based on whether I'm tanking or not, so the taunt tends to be on 6, with my cooldown buttons like Lichborne and such on 5.  For DPS, five gets HB and 6 is an armor increasing cooldown.  8 and 9 get blood boil and pestilence for AoE goodness (and HB is already being used in normal rotation).   0 is my Horn of Winter.

It's not a perfect mapping, but I find the muscle memory works out well for me.  If I goof and hit "0" out of reflex as a fight starts (like I would on my 'lock to pre-cast life tap buff), then on my DK I've just hit my Horn of Winter.  When I panic as a 'lock I hit my aggro drop, as a DK, I hit my armor cooldown.  It's pretty simple.  Then highly situational stuff gets put on the UI directly above the abilities they're closest too.  So special nukes would be in the 1-4 range (just above and only clickable), with buffs trending to the later part of the bar.  Middle tends to be "oh shit" and cooldown buttons, with some AoE mixed in.

We'll see how well this strategy translates to the druid healer I plan to roll for Cataclysm.  Maybe I'll find myself clicking more as a healer.  I definitely click more as a tank than I do as a DPS.  It's just what the playstyle demands.

The bottom line here is that I try to make the most of reflexes and muscle memory.  I try to put similar buttons in familiar places so that when my brain goes out the window, I'm not pressing the completely wrong things.  I was actually able to transfer this theory somewhat to Aion too with a good deal of success.  I had to remap a few buttons since the hotkeys for like the character screen were a bit different, but ability-wise it worked well.

I know Fuu is a clicker.  I've watched her play and I'm not sure there is a strategy to her bar layout.  If there is one, I'll try to convince her to post it.  That is, if it's more interesting than /roll 10, put Hand of Insert Holy Thing Here, put Judgement of That there.  Ugh, Pally spells.  They're all basically the same name, amirite?
A More Recent Screenshot of My UI.
My Keyboard de Choice
 (Update: Here's the link to one of my old posts about my UI, complete with a screenshot.  I'm in my demonology spec in the pic, so things are mixed up slightly, but it should give you a good idea of what I'm working with.) 

(Update of the Update: I added a newer screenshot, in aff'lock mode no less.  My #1 starts at the corruption puking mouth and goes all the way over to my howl of terror.  There is a vertical bar to the left of everything that is my CC and 'lock portal macros.  Also my wand.   You know, situational, clickable stuff.  I have some fire spells on the top right now (in case stuff's immune to shadow), as well as various buttons for pets, bandages, food, etc.  I drag pretty much whatever onto that bar.  The spells you don't see (such as curses) are macro'ed onto appropriate buttons to be used by holding shift, control, or alt as the case may be.  I'm a big one for putting a lot on one key, especially since one of my "special" keys is control, making it easy to hit and essentially doubling my pleasure and fun.  Below that is a stock photo of my Merc Stealth gaming keyboard  Note the assignable gaming section clearly on the left.  I love it!  Most of the time I can drink the beer in my right hand while corrupting away with my left.)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Finally, Back to Being Chained

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No more Unchained Magic! I never thought I'd celebrate restraint so joyously.  After what seemed like an entire summer (but was really probably six weeks of actual attempts when you don't count the normal summer attendance issues) of wiping on Sindragosa, we downed the bony bitch last night.  Yep, summer is officially over for us, as we head straight for the fall of the Lich King.  I know we're behind, but I'm quite proud of our extremely casual (2 hour/wk), ragtag raid crew.  We've really stuck with it.  It's not always easy moving at a snail's pace due to scheduling and all, but there isn't another place I'd rather be.

Sindy, We are SO over.



By the time all was said and done, we were pretty much pros at the first phases.  We would fly through the first 65% of her health, and get to the final phase in short order.  It just seemed like we couldn't ever put it together long enough to get over that final hump.  For the past three weeks, I think we were perpetually stuck at 14% wiping.  Then, last night, we started to see a 9%, then a 6%.  Then, finally, dead internet dragon.  And with the amount that she taunts in that freaking annoying voice of hers, we were all glad to see her go.  Betray this. /'lockfinger.

The key (apart from having a third healer, we'd been stubbornly trying with two for a lot of the attempts) for us was to have two designated spots to get entombed in the last phase, alternating between a closer "front" spot and a further "back" spot.  We just called them out on vent, and split the DPS so that half was going after one, and half the other.  This minimized the time the melee spent running (since they were only responsible for the front tomb), and provided a pretty clear rotation for clearing your debuff.  Of course, plans never go exactly as expected, and the actual victory push was probably more semi-organized chaos than anything else.  There was a b-rez.  There were a lot of close calls.  And when she fell, one poor sap passed out in his ice tomb.  I think we had more than half the raid still up.  I think.

What a hectic, challenging fight.  We now set our sights on the LK.  We may be behind the general curve of things, but we're right where we want to be. 

Afterward, we had about 15 mins left of raid time, so we went in to try to one shot the LK.  Got him to about 78% with absolutely no prep whatsoever.  Any tips for a 'lock on the LK fight?  I'll be doing my research this week...

Group Shot, with ubiquitous hunter arrow rain and pally wings.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Some Points on Sexism

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I'm going to go a bit controversial on you today. Larisa, over at the PPI, summarized her long-standing view on sexism nicely, contributing to the recurring theme of sexism in the gaming industry.  I say long-standing because, as she aptly points out, this topic seems to come up a couple times each year and gets a lot of attention.  Thus, many of the older bloggers have written books on the topic.  Comments could be collaborated to rival even the thickest tome of information.  In short, everyone has something to say and says it.

I wanted to jump in as well and just throw off a few points.  I'm not going to argue "for" or "against", because I can see the truth on all sides of the argument (and there are definitely more than two sides, fwiw).  There are great points being made, and these are issues we should all think about and reconcile with our own beliefs.  You have to be ready with what you think because, in life, issues like these are inevitably going to come up.  It's when you haven't fully explored how you feel that anxiety occurs.   Thus, anything that promotes discussion and self-discovery is a good thing.  Just don't make the mistake to miss the "self" part of the discovery.  What you discover may be completely different and no less valid than someone else's discovery.

In any case, here are the points that I wanted to make for the pure sake of promoting well-rounded thought about this topic.  Please do not take these to be attempts to "prove" or "disprove" anything.  They are just thoughts. Anyway, hereafter follow the disjointed paragraphs of points...

I appreciate Larisa's view on the issue because I think it really promotes equality.  She's not afraid to point out the flaws she sees, but she doesn't let that ruin the work as a whole.  She's not throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  We will never find the middle-ground by oscillating between two extremes.  Strive to lead by example and action, which I believe is what Larisa does well in her article.  She's not telling you what to think or do, and yet is describing a wonderful mentality to have.

One of the common points made in these arguments is the number of "attractive" females we are subjected to by things like the loading screens.  First of all, attraction is purely subjective.  Different people find different things attractive.  Furthermore, studies have shown that women find women more attractive than men find men, in general.  That is to say.  Women have been found (in a heterosexual study) to be equally aroused by women and men.  Men show a far greater skewing to arousal by only women.  (Consequently, if you'd like to look at the studies, I was first introduced to them through my collegiate psychology coursework, but Wiki has a good entry on attractiveness.  Not that Wiki is the best source, but if you look at the footnotes for 80-83, those are the studies referenced by this point.)  The point here is that we see more generically attractive females because they are more generically attractive to everyone, females included.  It's catering to the greatest common denominator, which is not sexism, but pretty much Blizzard's business philosophy.  It is just how we are as humans.  Sexism may be involved, but it is also not the full story.  The female form is just more generically pleasing than the male form. 

Reverse sexism is also true.  For instance, an all-female guild is seen as empowered, enlightened, and unique.  An all male guild is seen as exclusionary, bigoted, and wrong.  It also seems to me like some of those people that praise the all-female guild will be the ones who persecute the all-male guild.  That's what we call a double standard, and does not promote equal treatment.  Still, at what point do we do "too much" to "promote" equality and end up destroying fun, helpful groups that aren't hurting anyone?  It's a delicate dance.

One anomaly does not a point make, but the Wheel of Time series contains some of the best female characters I've ever read.  They are truly heroic in deed and description, even though they may not be the main protagonist.  I'm sure my own views color how I read the text (how can they not), but I see a male hero that is very much propped up by strong female heroines.  Without the females, the wheel does not turn.  I'd like to see this in more stories, and in the genre.

Going along with my thoughts about the Wheel of Time, I can't help but think a lot of the feminine success in those stories is due to the fact that women are, in general, the more powerful sex there.  Let's be honest, in our world, men tend to be physically dominate.  Across the board, men are just usually bigger and stronger than women on average, and that gives us a certain amount of natural dominance.  Not that it can't be overcome, not that there aren't women that are stronger than men, etc.  Just playing the averages here.  In the WoT, men aren't allowed to develop magical abilities (for good reason in the story).  Thus, while men may retain their physical edge, women have all the magic.  Magic that can negate physical prowess, and I think you end up seeing more matriarchal societies form as a result.  It really is fantasy, because more societies in our RL are patriarchal.  That's just how it's worked out over the years, and to a certain extent that will probably be the case for years to come, as long as men are just naturally stronger.  We are not so enlightened yet as to negate raw physical power.  We're a lot better than we have been historically though.

Those are just a few of the thoughts I have on the issue.  Like Larisa, I tend to turn a blind eye to a lot of it.  For right or wrong, it falls back on the fact that I, like girls, just want to have fun.  And enjoy the stories for what they all.  I mean I totally hear what she's saying about LotR and Narnia, and I like both stories in the same manner.  At the end of the day, I want believable, relate-able characters.  WoT proves that a single sex writer can do this with both sexes.  Perhaps he relied on his wife a lot, but behind every great man there's a great woman right?  So maybe the answer is that Blizzard doesn't necessarily need to hire more women.  Maybe they just need to provide free marital communication seminars. :-).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

When you just shouldn't trust what you read...

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H
ey Gang!


With everyone so freakin' bored out of their minds with the current state of "in-game" things, many are choosing to find other means of entertainment; be it, Leveling Alts, Making Gold, Achievements, Raiding, running in circles in Dalaran, etc. I choose to dust off an old alt that has been sitting at level 60 for quite some time. You saw Tamedfuu's Misadventures previously but that's not what I wanted to talk about today (even if some of it creeps up in context).

My main purpose of this post is about the Cataclysm Beta.

Now before you "spoiler free" readers flee the scene, this has nothing to do with the content within the Beta itself but what it brings to those of us who do not have a Beta key and are "patiently" waiting for one. The boredom that we are experiencing plus the impending doom of All Life on Azeroth with the excitement of "new and improved" content mixed with the possibilities of experiencing them first hand before the expansion actually rolls out can prove to be too much for some folks.

Personally, I would have liked to have seen a charity drive "Adopt a Blizzard Employee into the Family Week"  where you select a Blizzard employee from the "Needs a Good Geek Home" website. You choose from a list of possible candidates for what it says under each caption:

- "Will HTML Code for belly rubs"
- "Haz many alts, HANDLE IT!"
- "Will Dance on Mailboxes for tips"
- "Owes you a moose"

The list goes on & on and you can donate anything from Gold, Saronite Ore, unwanted green items, or even that pesky troll that has been feeding on your tears in Trade Chat. All proceeds go to the "Help a Noob Foundation" to help the fight against melee hunters and mages who die to warlocks. It's an uphill battle but someone's got to do it!

Many folks are also finding creative ways to take your donated goods without giving you something in return... and that would be HACKERS!

*Cue loud scary music*
~DU DU DA!
*Cue loud Screams*

This may come as a "shock" to you but there are people out there trying to take advantage of us desperate souls out there who want to experience the Cataclysm Beta.

/gasp

 This desperation is sometimes so bad that if we even get a wiff of it, it drives us MAD! So mad, that we will accept anything that even remotely looks like a Cataclysm Beta invite in the hopes that it will overshadow our boredom with the game.


As you can see in this picture (other than my crappy noobish huntard trying to make it in this cruel world), the website looks pretty damn good but the name of this said whisper sender is completely ridiculous. Now, this is the second whisper that I had received within the past 24 hours. These hackers are really taking advantage of those of us who want a Cataclysm Beta invite. Someone who wasn't paying attention would click on the link & could potentially lose everything.

When I stated that I got a whisper from this horribly misspelled Blizzard look-alike and that they now knew someone in the Cataclysm Beta, every single one of these people in my group claimed that it was a fake that "Blizzard would never whisper you about such a thing" and this statement alone put me into a super happy mood.

*Confetti*

Random people within my PuG knew that this whisper was a fake. Even if 2 of them knew that and 2 others didn't, now it's 4 that could be saved from such an attempt on their account. Education is fun!

So my public service announcement for today is:

IF YOU SEE AN EMAIL OR GET A WHISPER FROM SOMEONE WHO CLAIMS TO BE BLIZZARD, DO NOT CLICK ON ANY LINKS. GO STRAIGHT TO YOUR BATTLE.NET ACCOUNT AND CHECK THERE! BLIZZARD WILL NEVER SEND YOU A VAGUE WHISPER INGAME OR A RANDOM EMAIL POINTING TO ANYTHING OTHER THAN THEIR BATTLE.NET ACCOUNTS.

*phew*
/wipes brow

That was a lot of bold, italicized, underlined, and embiggened words. :-)

Please stay safe everyone!

<3 Your friendly neighborhood Fuubaar

Monday, August 16, 2010

Starcraft: Protect the Probes

4 comments
Since I've been thoroughly enjoying Starcraft II, I thought I'd write about it a bit while we exist in this pre-expansion lull.  I'm going to talk about pretty basic, newb-ish stuff and encourage other players to comment with anything I missed.  I don't plan to do this on any given day, just randomly as the mood strikes me for as long as WoW content is lacking.

Today's "pro tip" is brought to you by my late night, drunken attempt at a 1v1 match.  For the most part, I've just been playing custom games when I do multi-player, having yet to complete the single player.  I guess I feel that I should finish the campaign before throwing myself into laddered matches and such, mostly because it makes sure you're familiar with any new stuff.  Still, it's not like they re-invented the wheel here.  There are enough old things to make a classic player feel comfortable.

So, yeah, I've been playing Vexal Tower Defense until my eyes bleed in between campaign missions.  Then, I started drinking on Saturday night and at about 2 in the morning I said: "I should skip the 50 newb matches and just try a 1v1".  I didn't completely skip them.  I tried one.  And the guy was chatting to "all" during the game.  So I'd see stuff like: "Hold on, I gotta kill this guy real quick" where "this guy" was me.  I was Protoss and he was Terran.  Fortunately for him, he didn't share any strategy hints like "zerging now".  Even so, it didn't help his cause as I sent a dozen Dark Templar in and they are pretty unstoppable if you get to them early enough.  Cloaking ftw.

In any case, with one "pwn" under my belt, I decided I was ready for the big leagues.  Well with one match and about 6 beers.  Always a good choice.

I went in as 'toss again, figuring to go with my DT strat.  Problem was, I got matched with another 'toss player.  The protoss have detector photon cannons as their main defensive implement.  With terran, it's easier to forget to build your turrets because you shouldn't need air defense right away.  With protoss, this is a moot point since they defend both air and ground.  So I adapted and decided to try and speed up the tech tree for air superiority.  Got my stargate early, and thought I was sitting pretty.  I had cannons blocking my entrance pretty solidly.  It was going well.

Then my probes started dying.  Yep, cloaked DT's were back there probing my probes.  And since this is an alien race, the probing wasn't good cop/bad cop, no, it was anal.  It's just how aliens roll.

Without workers, you're pretty well boned.  You can't do a whole lot without minerals (or crystalz as one tower defender referred to them).  I tied warping in some cannons near my nexus, but by then it was too late.  As I watched my little outpost being overrun, I had to chat with this strategic genius.  I had to know: "how did you get those guys in there?"  After all, I had thought my entrance completely sealed, equipped with detectors and everything. 

The response was as simple as it was drunkenfacepalming: "Shuttle."  You mean someone else thought of taking to the skies?  No, freaking way!  Needless to say, I immediately wished I had played at least 2 newb matches before making this guffaw.  It's not that big of a deal, but, still, I hate being "pwned", which is certainly what I was.  It wasn't a close match, it was me being dumb and him/her exploiting it.  I mean, I had just used the same tactic (albeit sans shuttle).  Dur.

We said a few more words, then "gg" and parted ways.  I was actually pleasantly surprised with the fellow.  I guess I expected to be trash talked or something, and that was not the case at all.  It was all friendly and fun.  I suppose I'll need to be careful in raising my expectation for the "new" battle.net.  After all, there is still plenty of ignorant e-trashing in TD matches.  Heaven forbid someone new try to play one of those.  At the same time, there were an equal number of people trying to be helpful.  Maybe my memories of the original battle.net are colored, but I think we're trending in the right direction.

Short version of the tip: Protect your workers.  Put the token detector back near your base, especially when playing Protoss.  Do this, and ye shall not feel as newbish as I.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Gathering Dust

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Six empty chairs sat vacant around the wooden table in the manor. Decedereful stood in the doorway peering into the darkness. It was obvious no one was home. The thin layer of dust on all of the surfaces spoke volumes.  The Death Knight didn't know what she had expected.  She knew her brother and his wife were out in Icecrown, struggling to break through the last lines of the Lich King's defense.

Strangely, the closer they got to destroying Arthas, the less Decedereful seemed to think of the man who had imprisoned her in her current state.  For the longest time, the foremost thought on her mind had been revenge.  It had been her sustainable.

Finding her brother, becoming part of his family again, it was slowly changing her.  A part of her she had thought forever lost was winking back into existence.  It was easier to see how she was used, but also how little hope she'd had of freeing herself in the first place.  She was one of many Death Knights, and not all were as lucky as she to be free of Arthas's will.  The closer her brother got to breaking Icecrown, the lighter its touch on the world became. 

And really, what would killing Arthas accomplish?  He was nearly as much of a victim in this as she was, his mind twisted and controlled by powers he'd been unprepared to deal with.  The crown prince had never seen the noose as it was tied around his neck.  A certain part of Decedereful felt sorry for him.  Still, that part was very small.  Decedereful had grasped at the idea of forgiveness for even the most heinous of sins, but forgiving and forgetting were two different things entirely.  She would never forget the reign of the Lich King.  The Death Knights were living proof that even when you found yourself overpowered and in a bad situation, you should never stop struggling to free yourself.   Arthas had most certainly abandoned his human side long ago, and that was the truly unforgivable aspect.  That was what made him irredeemable.

"We going to go in, or just stand here?" the young soldier said from behind Decedereful, startling her out of her musings.  

Decedereful swung around to glare at the pleasant looking man behind her.  His black hair was ruffled and a couple day growth of stubble grizzled his slightly scarred face.  The marring lent more of a ruggedness to his features than anything, though Decedereful tried not to allow herself to let her eyes dwell.  His baby blues were alert, though she swore he had not slept in his tent last night.  She'd heard a lot of thrashing around, as if a rabid felhound had gotten in.   Who was she to judge though?  Maybe he'd had a particular horrid nightmare.  She didn't even need to go to sleep to find those.

"Well, Mr. Wow, does it look like anyone's home?" Decedereful asked with more edge than intended, stepping out of the way and swinging an arm to indicate the emptiness back inside.

Where was that bookworm, Abigora?  She never went anywhere.  She was probably holed up in some library somewhere having a bookgasm.  Decedereful never really understood books.  Why read a book when you could have a mage conjure the scene for you just as easily.  And there were always GobsNotes.

"Has anything jogged your memory yet?" Mr. I'm-Perfectly-Muscled-So-I-Use-Any-Excuse-To-Go-Shirtless asked.  You should have seen him when he got out of the tent in the morning!  Wearing nothing but tattered rags like he was so innocent and had no idea what he was doing.  He was not going to get her in bed.  Again.  The first time didn't count.  She'd been stoned.  Literally.  The flaming rock had fallen from the sky.  What was a girl to do?

Decedereful frowned, "You're just full of questions now, aren't you?"

Mr. Wow just looked back at her innocently with his arms spread.  He was playing the victim.  Ugh!  She hated when guys did that.  Like when those stray cats in Stormwind came up, rubbing you on the leg and begging for food.  Kitty eyes were not going to work on here, blast it.

There was an awkward pause.

"Well, we may as well stop here for tonight," Decedereful finally allowed, breaking the stretching silence.

A look of panic crossed Mr. Wow's face for just a moment before he repressed it and responded, "I'll just pitch my tent around back, if you don't mind."  He folded one arm beneath him in a mock bow at Decedereful's raised eyebrow.  "I wouldn't want to impose on a lady's honor any more than I already have," he answered.

Well, Decedereful wasn't about to argue.  Sure it was silly.  They had plenty of free rooms in the manor.  But Light be damned if she was going to try to convince some scruffy looking... gnoll-herder... to come inside!

"See you in the morning then," Decedereful replied quickly, slamming the door in his face.  She turned around and leaned against it, catching her breath.  Why was she winded?  She didn't even need to breath to live. 

A feeling of mild regret passed through her as she regained control of herself.  She hadn't really meant to be rude to the young man - honestly she hadn't - but she wasn't going to be some fool NElf of a girl either, pining after the moon and the stars and crap like that.  No, sleeping indoors, alone, was just fine by her.  Maybe rummaging through her room would remind her what she was doing as well.

Decedereful stripped out of her armor, tossing it into a heap in the corner.  It made a clanking sound loud enough to wake the dead.  Luckily, she was the only one in the room.  As the pieces came to a rest, a small locket slid out of one of the bags she'd tossed over there and spilled out onto the floor.  Decedereful paid no attention to it as she strode towards the washroom.  A hot bath after a journey would feel so nice.

As she started to gather what she would need for the bath, the loud howl of a wolf pierced the night.  For some reason, it sent a shiver down Decedereful's spine.  It sounded almost... human.  She shook off the thought.  Yes, a relaxing bath was exactly what she needed to take the edge off of her unsettling journey, or her mind was going to run roughshod on her all night.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Comment Dump

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It feels to me like once a week I need to expectorate all the crap in my head that doesn't quite make a full blog post.  There is a part of me that abhors random ad hoc posts (that I've written), but another part thinks there is some value in it.  After all, I can usually point you guys to the stuff that's entertained me (if you haven't seen it), or you guys can help me out with things I just don't quite get.  At the very base, I guess it's my solution to commenting.  Since I'm blocked from nearly everything at work (where I do my reading), I can't really go and leave comments as much as I'd like.  So here's another comment dump.  Pick and choose.  One man's trash... and all those things.
  • I found this chart particularly helpful.  Namely, I enjoyed the baby wrapped in bacon.  Can someone photoshop a mage in there so we can gift it to B^4?  Was I the only 'lock excited to find a druid ally against mages?  And we all know how much he loves his bacon.
  • As much as I love seeing Abi around, I think his base problem is that he's playing a mage.
  • Grimm hit the nail on the head of fictional writing here.  I actually went to leave a comment, then went to try to tweet, and my entire system shut down.  So I called it a night and went to bed, and now the comment gets dumped here.  Totally love getting surprised by characters though, probably one of the best parts of writing.  
  • Really arousing posting by Spinks lately, first about sex and then about hype.  Hyped sex next?  In any case, I really thought the points about riding the hype wave were especially apt.  I always just temper my excitement and expectations, taking a "we'll see when we see" attitude.  It makes for bad writing like this, but a happier me.
  • I got a loot card at GenCon.  I redeemed it.  The whole time I was thinking: these numbers are completely superfluous and ridiculous.  The system works, so I can't complain too much, but my keypad sure got a work out.  Anyone else find the process just the slightest bit confusing?  Put in a huge number online, get another huge number.  Take that huge number to a little green goblin in-game and put it in there.  Get item.  I'm just lucky I have dual screens.  That poor goblin has to have a hell of a cataloging system.  We need to get him a bar code scanner.
  • Any y'all play the card game Dominion?  Pretty fun game I was introduced to at GenCon.  No electronic gaming link here, just something fun to do unplugged (and not terribly expensive/hard to pick up).
  • Any Starcraft II players out there have a strategy they'd like to share?  I'm thinking about making an SCII post if there's interest, maybe throwing some strat advice in there (though I'm far from an expert).  I've just been doing the campaign pretty much, but I intend to get into match play eventually.  Are there any good SCII blogs you've come across?  I've been using my old tried and true Terran method of sealing your entrance with siege tanks and then jumping the tech tree to battlecruisers.  I used to be a big carrier guy, but I don't think I've quite figure out the "new" Protoss yet.  I feel like the cannons seem a bit more frail than they were in the original.
  • I heard "double rainbow" used as a verb on a popular radio station the other day.  As in, "... and then he went all double rainbow on me."  I thought it was hilarious.  They didn't even explain it.  I guess I didn't realize it was that ubiquitous of a viral meme.  I want to use this in a meeting: "I promise, you will double rainbow this idea.  It is that good."
 That's all I've got for today.  I'm going to go have a conversation with the voices in my head now.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Using the Mental-Physical Link in Raiding

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I attended a coaching seminar last night on the topic of Sports Psychology, which I immediately followed with our usual Monday night raid. Thus, it was easy for me to pick out the similarities between what had just been presented to me and how it applies to raiding.  It struck me once again how similar coaching and raid leading can be, with the same principles applying almost verbatum.

In sports, it's very easy to understand that physical component, though we often neglect the mental component of the game.  Most coaches will admit that their game of choice is largely mental, and yet what part of practice is ever spent in mental training?  Twenty years ago, the concept of mental training was completely foreign to the sports scene, and sports psychology was seen as somewhat of a joke.  After all, you only went to a psychologist if you were a nut-job. 

In more recent years, research has identified the benefits of mental training for elite athletes in any and all sport disciplines.  Sports psychology has seen a rise in popularity, though many of the old school coaches are still hesitant to embrace what they see as smoke, mirrors, and magic.  Still, the results are undeniable, so employing a team psychologist is an idea that's gained a lot of traction in the upper echelons of sports. 

I think it's a lot easier to understand the mental component of raiding, though I think we often fail to link that to the physical component.  After all, what's so hard about pressing keys in response to external, pixel-based stimuli?  You may not break a sweat when raiding (which I actually find I do, by the way), but make no mistake, a couple hours of raiding definitely take a physical, as well as mental, toll.

So, am I suggesting we all hire a guild psychologist?  Perhaps some of the hardcore, professional raiders might benefit from such a move, but 90% of us, no way.   Still, as leaders (or even followers) we shouldn't ignore key facets of team development if we're serious about creating strong raid teams.  Not that they all have to be hardcore, but that there are little things we could be more aware of that have been shown to contribute directly to team success.

Perhaps the simplest and most applicable tip I heard in my seminar last night is one that was equally valid (and abused) in both my coaching life and my gaming life.  Basically, the point was made that, as coaches, we need to focus on positive correction instead of negative corrective action.  That is, phrasing our suggestions for corrective action positively.  It's far to easy to see someone make a mistake and say "don't do that," when instead we should be saying "do do this."  It might seem like we're splitting hairs, or that this is some sort of Dr. Phil, pop-psychology tip, but it's really not.  It really has deep roots in our understanding of the human physiological response to negative phrasing. 

Let me demonstrate. 

Do not look at the clock on your screen.  Don't do it.  Do not look in the lower right hand corner of your screen, at the clock there.  It's probably got some sort of black numbered text font.  It has the AM/PM designation after it.  You know the one.  Don't look at it.  Do NOT.  Whatever you do, do not look at that clock.  That is the incorrect thing to do right now.

What did you do?

If the statistics are true, 20% of you looked anyways.  You know, the old "red button" phenomenon.  For the other 80% of us, we tried very hard to focus on anything but that clock.  And what happened physically?  We tensed up.  Our neck muscles tightened.  If there were EKG probes attached to those muscles, they'd be going crazy as we fought the urge to turn and glance at that clock.  Maybe our hands and fingers even tightened down on something.  At the very least, we saw our physical arousal level increase, and not in a good way.

Athletes often talk about being "in the zone", which has been studied in psychology as "flow" or being "in the flow".  The same could be said of raiding and raiders.  There are times when we are feeling the flow or in the zone.   In this zone, we know exactly what we need to do, and we execute it at a high level.  How do we get into this zone?  Very simply, we balance arousal and focus, combined with a visualization or what we know we need to do.  We are not "flat" (under aroused) or "freaking out" (over aroused).  We are excited, juices are flowing, but we're in that zone.  We are able to block out distractions and focus solely and completely on the relevant cues.  We know what we need to do, and, simply, do it.  It seems so easy, when put like that, yet it's often so hard to get to that state of flow.

A lot of money and effort has gone into studying ways to find the flow.  If you think about it, that makes sense.  It's like taking performance enhancing drugs without the whole drug part.  You're just performance enhancing, and you're doing it all mentally.  What's more, you can develop and hone your mental approach in order to give yourself a better chance of finding the flow.     

Returning to that little example we just did, if we understand that finding the flow is a balancing act involving visualization, then we can easily see how using negative corrective language makes the flow that much more difficult to find.  By saying don't do something, we're contributing to over-arousal while at the same time making it more difficult to visualize the correct task.  We're basically throwing two wrongs out, which we all know doesn't make a right.  If we instead were to use positive correction, as in: do do it this way, now we're avoiding the red button stressor while providing a better visualization of the correct method.

Here's a simple example.
  • Instead of: "Don't stand in the fire."
  • Say: "Please stand in the areas that are fire free."
Sounds simple and seems to be almost purely an issue of semantics, and yet it's not.  All those "don'ts" add up.  Likely you have at least one person who hears what you said, stays in the bad anyways, and freaks out about it, going straight to over arousal and leading directly into poor play with mental mistakes.  On the other hand, if you've been using that second phrase, they're a lot more likely when they notice that they're in the fire to think: I need to be in an area that is free of fire.  After all, that's what you've just coached them to do.  If you used the first phrase, there is no correct visualization. 

It may not always work, but you are definitely giving yourself a better chance of success by making  a very simple change in communication behavior.  Using negative correction, you don't even give yourself a chance.  With positive correction, it won't prevent all mental errors, but you're being more constructive about it, and that's a step in the right direction.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Not Enough Energy

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The title is said in my very best deep Protoss voice.  If you've been playing SCII like I have (or ever played the original, it's the same guy), you know the one.  I can't help but hear that repeated in my head this morning as I sit here gulping coffee and trying to get back into a normal routine after the craziness of GenCon.  I'll keep the weekend recount short, but I did want to touch on a few things.

First, I'm not a huge table top gamer.  In fact, I'm more of a traditional card player than anything else, but a whole bunch of my friends are big gamers, so a lot of GenCon for me is social.  We did find out that Fuu enjoys the board games more than I do, and I gravitate more towards card games like Dominion.  We also both picked up starter decks for the WoW TCG as well, giving that a try.  It's actually pretty easy to get going if you play WoW.  It really does a good job of mirroring a lot the things we're used to, and is not overly complex, though Fuu and I find ourselves spending a lot of time reading each card and kind of scratching our head before it clicks.  As long as we try to keep in mind that it's supposed to operate kind of how you would expect in WoW, it's easier to conceptualize.

So we tried a few games out, playing pretty casually.  Drank a whole lot of beer.  Hit up a lot of bars (which, while crowded, were also pretty gamer friendly, which is a whole different downtown scene than I'm used to when we go for like, football games and such.  Really a neat contrast, especially if you're a local.  It's like all the nerds ooze out of the woodwork, even the servers and staff at most places).  All in all, it was a fun weekend, but really took it out of me.

We saw the folks from The Guild, which was pretty neat.  Also, Blizzard was well represented as usual.  Apart from the entire football field sized room dedicated to the TCG play, there was some great artwork on display.  The vendor hall was jam packed with everything from authentic chain-mail to gaming minis to steampunk shoulder bags.  However, the highlight for me, by far, was the Video Games Live concert held Saturday night.  VGL is a concert that travels and, while being offered during GenCon was planned, it's not officially a part of the con.  Still, if you ever get a chance to see one of these, they are really neat.

They basically take a popular orchestra (for us, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, who I've actually seen doing the normal orchestra stuff... you know, classical music and the like) and add a couple of their own people to facilitate playing the music from popular video games.  It was extremely entertaining and well presented.  They had the orchestra play the music while two guys played Frogger on the huge backdrop screen.  They had another guy play Jump by Valen on Rock Band live with the Orchestra and a real guitar backing him up.  They had an absolutely amazing flautist that played requests, and an original composition of Legend of Zelda music (complete with interruptions from Navi).  And while they're playing the backdrop shows trailers and clips from the actual games they're taking the music from.  Just an all around cool experience, in my book, and I'm glad we got the chance to go.

I gave you my favorite.  If you went, what was yours?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Guest Post From Miss Medicina: Dead Horses Don't Lie

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A special treat today! Jessabelle of Miss Medicina sent me an email with a guest post in it. Well, rather, she sent me an email with a thinly veiled, in character, personal ribbing, and I love it.  (You may recall that we raid and play together quite a bit, thus hilarity ensues at times.)  If you can't laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at. Besides, this is totally not canon; I mean, my character hasn't held a staff in years. In any case, perhaps you will enjoy it too. I may or may not get to post the rest of the week, as we will be attending GenCon in Indianapolis. If any of you are going, I'll be wearing a red guild hat with my character name on the back of it, so feel free to say hi. Jbelle will be there too. And maybe some horses...

Jessabelle awoke with a start, and on reflex, bubbled, dispersed, and let out a horrendous scream of terror.  After calming down for a few seconds, she attempted to find the source of her rude awakening. She was in her tent, comfortable as can be. She could hear the whinnies and swishing of tails all around her outside of her tent, so she knew she was still parked near the Argent Tournament grounds. But what had awoken her?

THUMP. squish. THUMP. squish. THUMP. squish.

Arthas’ knees. The idiot was at it again.  Groaning in annoyance, she donned her slightly less sissy robe and stumbled sleepily out of the tent to find her target.

THUMP. squish. THUMP. squish. THUMP. squish.

Not far from her tent, she located the source of the unLightly racket. A strange scene unfolded before her. Tordun, the lovable and number spouting plated dwarf, was tied to the top of a post. He couldn’t have been happy about his situation, however, it looked as though he’d been asleep for hours, indicated by the drool in his straggly beard.

Standing a few yards away stood an elegant Fuubaar, looking both amused and slightly drunk. Jessabelle caught her friend sneaking a sip from a golden flask and tucking it back in her breastplate as she leaned against another fence post.

THUMP. squish. THUMP. squish. THUMP. squish.

And there, in the middle, for all to see, stood a very angry looking Warlock beating some poor four legged animal with his staff. Behind him, a small imp bounced around energetically, cackling non-stop about something incoherent. What was his name? TweakerTyke or something? Jessabelle always hated that creepy thing, it annoyed the Light right out of her. Everytime she tried to kick the stupid thing it went invisible too. Pansy.

Jessabelle rolled her eyes and slowly creeped nearer to the loudly rambling Warlock, who was working up a real sweat with his staff-wielding. The animal before her was unidentifiable, and long since dead from the strenuous beating. Granted, it was a Warlock beating on it, so it must have taken a long time.

“Fulguralis. What in Tirion’s New England Accent are you doing?”

The ‘lock looked up, not surprised in the least, but with a strange glint of madness in his eyes. “This horse needed to die. It was diseased! There were problems in the nether…” blah blah blah. Fulguralis began to wave his arms about wildly and ramble even louder than before.

As he continued his hysterical musings, Jessabelle looked over to Fuubaar for help with a questioning look. Fuubaar raised an eyebrow, chuckled and let out a sigh.

“He’s at it again, isn’t he?” Jessabelle asked.

“Yup. Been going since dusk, actually.”

Jessabelle pointed at the Dwarf tied to the pole. “This is new. What’s that about?”

“Well, Ful has to have an audience when he’s on one of his rampages, and I had to run to Dalaran to refill my supply of HappyDrink. I figured Tordun would suffice. He wasn’t very happy about it, but he fell asleep about the time Ful started the segment about his Nether-granted super psychic abilities.”


THUMP. squish. THUMP. squish. THUMP. squish.

“Clever, Fuu.”

“Yes, thank you. I’m getting better at this.”

Jessabelle turned back to Fulguralis, and decided to once again place herself in the middle of something in which she had absolutely no business .

THUMP. squish. THUMP. squish. THUMP. squish.

“Ful, honey, why don’t you put down that staff, and just take a break for a minute?”  Jessabelle tried.

“NO. THE HORSE MUST DIE.”

“I’m pretty sure it’s dead already, actually.”

“That’s where you’re wrong, dwarf! It’s still bleeding.”

“I don’t think it’s actually actively bleeding, Ful. I think you are just drawing forth all the blood that was already there before it died.”

“Well it’s not dead until all the blood is gone.”

“Blood doesn’t evaporate, Ful. It’s just going to keep spouting blood the more you beat it.”

“Well then it’s not very dead, is it?”

“I’m pretty sure it’s dead.”

“What level of certainty do you have in that estimation?”

“At least 99.9%.”

“Well there’s still that .1%.”

“I said ‘At least’!”

“At least doesn’t mean less!”

“It means it could possibly be more!”

“Not necessarily.”

“THAT’S NOT THE POINT, FUL.”

“It’s an important component TO the point, J-belle! You can’t ignore all the relevant details!!”

“We’re arguing about semantics again, aren’t we?”

“SEMANTICS ARE IMPORTANT TOO. Also, how do you know blood doesn’t evaporate? Things that are dead should not bleed.”

Jessabelle and Fulguralis continued to argue for ten minutes about the proper way to determine if a dead horse is, in fact, dead, and then whether the beaten beast before them was actually a horse in the first place. Somewhere during this heated debate they also ventured down various lines of argument regarding animal husbandry, and the proper way to determine the sex and genus of a beast of burden until Fuubaar finally cut in.

“Jessabelle, I don’t think you’re actually helping this situation. Ful, put the Light-damned staff away.”

“Not until Jbelle admits that there is a possibility that this beast is not entirely dead!”

“IT’S PRETTY BLOODY DEAD, FUL. STOP BEATING IT.”

Fuubaar glared at Jessabelle, and whispered “If you don’t tell him what he wants to hear, this will continue on for weeks, Jbelle.”

“But he is so blatantly wrong, and in complete denial about it! He can’t go on continually thinking he’s right about something so obvious!”

“You’ve got a lot to learn sweetheart. I would like to sleep sometime this week, thanks.”

The raised voices had apparently awoken Tordun, and he whimpered. “Can you pass a bit of that liquid over this way, lass? Feelin’ a bit parched.”

Fuubaar swaggered over to the post, and lifted her flask somewhere near the vicinity of Tordun’s bearded mouth, and proceeded to pour some of it on his beard. Tordun seemed satisfied, and slurped some of the liquid from the hairs on his face.

Fuubaar gave Jessabelle a look that plainly said “Well?”

Jessabelle sighed, stamped her foot, and turned back to Fulguralis. With gritted teeth, she succumbed. “FINE, Ful. There is a slight, almost nonexistent, but still there in some small way, chance that the beast is not actually entirely and completely demolished.”

Fulguralis gave a smug smile, and nodded approvingly. “That is correct. And since that is the case, it’s important I make sure that this evil and diseased beast is fully and completely dead, for the good of all Azeroth.”

Fulguralis lifted his staff to begin again as Jessabelle groaned in misery and Tordun began to weep. Both were caught off guard by the swift cast of Repentance by Fuubaar.

Fulguralis stood stunned and immobile, and Jessabelle glanced over to Fuu with a smirk.

In the next edition of “Adventures with Fulguralis”, the manly warlock seeks the source of the [Shimmering Scarf of Tact] worn by all of his companions, only to decide that it’s a pointless piece of epic loot anyway, and he’s far too superior to need it.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Office Space

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After yesterday's more serious ranting, today I felt the need for a bit of levity.  I will warn you in advance that this is going to be (mostly) non-WoW related.  However, I think you can all get a chuckle out of it and that makes it worth the words.  Which is more than I can say for these these examples of wasted effort.

The back story here is that there are two things I do on a pretty much daily basis.  One is receive mass company emails.  The other is browse job postings (I need out!).  Both can find their origins in the Human Resource departments.  Now, if you're an HR person, I'm going to go ahead and apologize now.  I totally respect what you do, really, and maybe you're the lone shining star in an otherwise polluted sky, but I'm going let you in on something: you work with a lot of idiots.  At least half of any HR department has to be made up of morons and slackers, by my calculations (I'm sure Gevlon's is higher).  How else do you explain the crap that comes out of there?  It's not all bad - some of the acronyms are really creative - and maybe a lot of it is a function of being given totally vague and inappropriate direction by management, but I see things almost daily that make me shake my head sadly and die a little inside.  Such as...

This was from a public job posting, in the description: “We are seeking an Value Added Engineer to be responsible for increasing productivity by maximizing customer and end user perceived value at the lowest possible cost.”

Really?  An Value Added Engineer.  I think you need an Value Added Grammarian, or a VAG.  (I totally want that title, what achievement do I need?)  Do they offer degrees in Value Addition?  BSVA?  Is there anyone who admits to be an Value Subtracting Engineer?  And I also find it baffling that they only want you to maximize the "perceived" value.  Not the actual value.  No, it's all about the gear score here, folks.

This sort of thing makes me want to have a special resume with gross grammatical and spelling errors to send.  Don't wanna stand out too much, you know.  This is the Corporate America Guild.  Individualism gets you a perma-ban.  Literacy, only 48 hours.  You gotta put in the time and effort if you wanna make Officer.

Honestly, the more I look at job postings, the more I think they're written by monkeys who hit random buttons of corporate keywords together to form a mostly coherent sentence.  It's one step from illiteracy, one giant leap to Shakespeare.

That first one was a lot of fail packed into a sentence.  My company takes a different approach.  We like to spread the fail out so that there's plenty of it to go around.  In our defense, there don't seem to be many grammatical errors in this one.  It's just a shining example of "looks good on paper" (and "sounds funny when related to gaming").

You see, what happens is from time to time, the HR department gets a directive shoved up their ass.  Like "Be more green" or "Encourage workplace productivity through positive reinforcement".  Or, in this case, "Cure the Fatties."  Sorry, what they really said in the meeting was "to promote health awareness and physical fitness."  I'm sure the rising cost of health care never factored into the discussion.  I'm sure it was a saint-like desire to have us all be healthier and junk.  Healthy people are productive people, right?  Not that this is about productivity either.  No, we're here for you.

In any case, what they came up with was a "program" where you use "life points" to earn "rewards".  Sounds to me a lot like an MMORPG, and we all know how silly games are.  However, in a stark divergence from gaming, LP is awarded not through eating, but by doing "anything from moderate activities like walking to more intense ones like running."  So the casuals will walk and the hardcore will run.  INTENSE.  Are there factions in this game?  PvP?  Or is it just PvF (Player vs. Fat)? 

I know, this sounds like it might be tough, but fortunately we "will receive tools and support to help you reach your goal. There are also fun prizes and events throughout the program to help keep you motivated."  Loot! ... like shoes?  They can be tools and prizes!  No, no... the loot table is... what is the loot table?  It doesn't say.  And trust me, shoes are far too expensive for players of our caliber.

Oh wait, a little further down we find out more about the competitive aspects.  There's a top loot for the most LP accumulated.  A runner-up loot for second LP.  And, of course, a random drop loot for participation.  What would any competition be with out the participation ribbons?  What are these phat lootz?  "Gift cards of your choice!"  Boy, I hope I can choose Coldstone Creamery.  Loots options are pretty BA. 

I feared a rather complex combat system until the next paragraph reassured me of the simplicity:  "It could be as simple as taking a walk at lunchtime, or using the stairs instead of the elevator. It could be going to the gym after work, or training for a 10K run. It doesn’t matter what the activity is. You set personal goals, then you work as part of a team to achieve them. And you don’t have to be a marathon runner to get in shape. The thing to remember is that it’s important to set realistic goals and to look for ways to stay motivated." 

So, when I get Eric to push me up the stairs after my Bison Burger at lunch, we're both winners!  The elevators are broken anyways.  I wonder what the roles and classes are?  Could one of the encounters be Walking To Your Car In The Parking Lot?  Because that's an encounter of Indiana Jonesian epicness, let me tell you.  If your parking lot is anything like ours, you know what I'm talking about.  It's like a platformer sidescroller mixed with a FPS.  There are black pits of death.  Water traps.  Froggeresque dodging of the managers who speed through rows in their BMWs.  Random obstacles.  The occasional world boss spawn.  It's a pretty tricky instance.

And are there veteran rewards?  I mean, I'm worried about finding those ways to stay motivated.  Oh wait, forgot about the loot already.  Focus on the Creamery drop.  That'll get me through the grind.

"That “sweet spot” of fitness makes all the difference in maintaining your energy level and managing stress." No, that's my morning coffee spawn, and, unfortunately, the pot was completely glitched out this morning.  I blame the wifetank, it's her job to set the coffee maker alarm.  Speaking of sweet spots, I think someone brought donuts in today... 

So my next logical question is about the scaling of these LPs.  How does that all work? "Your success can be measured in points. Points have been used for decades to help us accomplish goals – like earning free travel through frequent flyer programs, or being rewarded for accomplishing workplace objectives. The program uses points as a way for you to measure your commitment to yourself."  

Can I measure my failure too?  Also, I'm glad we're using the tried and true "points system" instead of going with something more modern and innovative like "heart rate" or a scale.  Furthermore, the workplace "reward points" must have been from my previous job.  I keep looking for these reward points and keep getting told that the Economy Boss is wiping them.  On the other hand, I guess my previous job was school, and there they gave me letters to measure my success.  Oh, and the much vaunted Gold Star.  I think I'm going to measure my commitment to myself by the number of pints of ice cream I can eat tonight.  Eating 100 wings in a sitting is commitment.  Walking up the stairs is just inconvenient.  

But more about the scaling.  Scaling is srs bzns.  "In the program, each minute of physical activity is equal to 1 Life Point. But depending upon how your company chooses to run the campaign, you could earn bonus points for other activities, such as attending a seminar or agreeing to evaluate the program at its conclusion."  So you're telling me I can level up my activity skill by doing non-active things.  Woot!  Then again, seminars are pretty trying.  Is there a single player campaign or is it all multiplayer?

How about leveling? "Choose a goal that will take you to your next level: stretch a bit but make it realistic. The Life Points Log does the number-crunching for you. It’s that easy." Whew, I'm glad I won't have to do any maths.  Can I get addons for my Log UI?  I might need the one that alerts me when I aggro a bowl of cookies and cream.  The cookies should work like a pot to replenish my LP though, right?  And there they go with that realism again.

Still more about scaling? "As a participant in the program, you earn 1 Life Point for each minute of daily activity. If you’re fairly inactive, yet do 45 minutes of yard work on a given day, you’re still entitled to 45 points." So it looks like there are two types of activity: daily and physical.  I wonder if they function as trade offs where buffing one debuffs the other.  That would be an interesting mechanic.  Likely they just function like BMI and Lbs though, being essentially the same thing for most talents, just measured differently.

I wonder if one of the drops will be a lawn mower.  Like maybe it's the random drop, otherwise, you won't be geared properly for the Lawn Instance.  Sucks when they expect you to gear up on your own. 

Fortunately, after I waded through the three page description of what I thought was a rather simple game, but turned out to be incredibly complex, they reassured me at the end.  "The most rewarding part of the program is knowing that with a little self-discipline, you can achieve your goals and continue to reach for higher levels."  So it's more of a sandbox game without a level cap.  There might be a lot of grind involved, but really only as much as you want.  Sure you can "win", but everyone defines "winning" differently (except with respect to the loot drops), so everyone's a winner.  After all: "It’s up to you."

All in all, I'm not sure the free to play model is going to work for me here.  I suspect there will be micro-transactions down the road to unlock the full game.  Despite that "it’s as easy as getting off that comfy chair behind your desk," it seems to be a direct conflict with the other game I'm playing: Work. The bosses there aren't nearly as forgiving.  Oh, and this chair isn't really all that damn comfy.

Brought to you by the Warlock Council on Obesity.

Monday, August 2, 2010

It's Not You, It's Me

4 comments
One of our tanks said "peace out" recently.  I wanted to write a snarky email response to the team, but I'm adhering to the "if you don't have something nice to say" rule.  Seems odd for me to do that, being a 'lock and all, but my desire to kill the LK outweighs my desire to create trouble.  At least for today.  No promises on tomorrow.  And no, it was not my wife.  Also, I'm probably beating an undead horse by writing this, but writing is cathartic and I have a blog, so I'm going to try to vent generically.  Here goes...

(Note: I want to make it clear that our tank chose option two, and I respect him for that.  It still sucks, but we have stuff lined up to go on.  I wanted to vent to get it off my chest because I don't think there's a way not to feel hurt, and I've been in a lot of groups where they didn't choose option two.  In fact, I think that's a larger problem in the realm of casual raiding than we sometimes give credit to.  Anyways, I just wanted to make that clear.)

I guess you can't fault a person who admittedly subscribes to the Me First magazine.  It shouldn't then, surprise you when people like that continually place the needs of a team behind their own.  I mean, it is their $15, right, and we should all respect that and junk.  And I guess I just get sort of miffed when people throw out "kids and a family" or "other priorities" or other BS like that as an excuse to leave you in the lurch, and then ask everyone to not "take it personally".  Whereby they mean they want to desert you, and you to be happy for their leaving you.  It's the old "it's not you, it's me" mantra, and I think we all know how that one feels.

(If you don't, I'll let you in: You feel like a PuG.  Like someone just picked you up at a bar and left you in the morning.  Used.  Cast aside.  I maintain that pugging, both IRL and in gaming L, is only tolerable when both parties are aware of the nature of the PuG.  If one party thinks this is a team, and the other a PuG, then someone is going to be hurt.)

I mean, it's hard to argue with these reasons and they sound really good in e-ink.  On one hand, kids and a family are totally more important that a game, I agree.  By all means, if that part of your life is suffering, stop raiding.  Stop playing altogether, I would say.  Or maybe work out the communication issues.  A lot of problems in relationships are simply a result of poor communication, IMO.

I know it can work, the gaming/marriage/kids thing.  I mean, I know plenty of people who are happily married, with kids, and can juggle one (or multiple) two-hour commitment(s) per week (especially if it's not gaming, because, you know... double standards and stuff).  So when I hear the excuse, what I really here is: "playing with you louts isn't worth two hours of my precious time".  And maybe that's true for good reason, but I don't see how I'm not supposed to take that personally.

Or the whole "other priorities" thing.  I'm a busy guy, I get it.  I have tons of important stuff that I do, whether it be coaching, work, writing, or family (Fuu and I both have BIG families, and big families warrant big amounts of your time and travel).  And maybe you just want to go level that brand new Hunter alt you just rolled on the Horde side of things.  The fact remains, we're two bosses out from the LK and you're leaving us short a tank.  In the game I play, tanks are hard to come by.  I can't speak for anyone else. 

In all honesty, what I hear instead of these generic, overused excuses is "I have a problem with the way things are being run or a specific person."  And in that case, I wish you'd just say it so we can all have a fist fight and get it over with.

So Mr. Ful, you might ask, what am I to do if I've legitimately lost my desire to raid (and/or it really is not a personal squabble)?  Well, I believe there is a right way to excuse one's self from a team.  The wrong way is to wait a few days before a raid and simply say "see ya", transferring your toon to an opposing faction or server so that there is no possible way you could be called on as a sub.

The right away?  Make sure the team you're leaving behind will be all right without you.  Talk to the RL about your intentions well in advance.  Let him/her know of your issues.   Be preemptive!  If it's a simple matter of time conflicts, maybe things can be rearranged.  If not, then at least you tried, and that sits with people a lot easier.  Caring is directly proportional to Effort.

Suggest/find a replacement.  Make sure they're geared as near to you as possible.  Especially for a tank, it really sucks to lose someone you, as a team, have spent months gearing up.  The other roles are a little less gear dependent and, thus, easier to stomach, but it still sucks.  If someone is waiting in the wings, then things can transition smoothly and it will go over much better.  Getting shot back two wings in a progression path because you just lost 6 months of skill/gear is a rough pill to swallow, regardless of the reasoning.

Offer to sub as much as possible until a replacement is ready/up to speed.  With the current state of WoW, it shouldn't be that long.  I think people are understanding of a shift in desires/priorities, but everyone else shouldn't have to suffer just because you changed your mind on a commitment.  And, let me be clear, joining a raid team is a commitment.  It may almost be worse the more casual you are, since people are more likely to count on the player and not on the generic class/gear combo.  Plus you generally have fewer folks in the replacement pool. 

If the RL has it all covered, than you're good to go.   Just make sure it's covered first, or leaving can be a lot more dramatic than necessary.  Of course, I guess this is all assuming these are bridges you care about burning.  If you hate all the people, then by all means, choose option one.   I don't care what your reasons are, option one will always cause some sort of hurt.  All it takes is a small amount of effort to let people know you care and have thought about those left behind.  The bottom line is just to follow the Golden Rule, and that little pebble of effort will send out larger ripples of goodwill in the pond of group emotions.

Now, if you're really pissed, then just go all Tsunami on their asses.