February 7, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Posted in General | 3 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

Both of my regular readers will be fully aware of my ongoing attempts to get Shaman Herewerd raiding in World of Warcraft.  There was leveling through Cataclysm’s new high level zones, followed by heroic instancing, followed by binges on the Auction House, followed by gemming and enchanting and all sorts of min-max-tweaky-loveliness.

Then there were the first few attempts where I attempted to get back up to raiding speed, followed by rising up through Recount’s damage meter.

There was also the joy of being present at a number of first kills for the guild, and that was the source of some very good feelings.  It might have taken some hours at times, but it’s a lovely change from just turning up at the farming stage and hoovering up the goodies.

Through this time, I’ve been a trialist with the guild.  I can understand having a trial policy; before letting someone onto the full roster, the guild wants to know if any given player (me, in this instance) is going to be someone who enhances the team, or if they play like a howler monkey with an itchy groin.  And the guild I am with is a nice, welcoming place.  Trialists get as fair a deal as the rest of the guild when it comes to opportunities to go raiding, and trez, and support from the other members.

Last night, after the raid, I was involved in a chat with one of the raid leaders, and whilst it was never (in the end) asked, I’d like to think I was going to be asked if I wanted to join the roster.

I was not asked because, before I could be asked, I asked to not be considered for the roster at this particular time.

Yeesh.  Even as I write that, my headbrain keeps shouting; “Thicky Hawley!  You’ve been working towards this since Cataclysm launched!  Thicky thicky thicky!”  Headbrain is also tempted to add some head/desk interfacing at speed in there.

But despite my feeling-stupidness (the Germans probably have a long and cool-sounding word for “feeling-stupidness”.  Being completely inept with other languages, I shall just have to stick with the generally rubbish-sounding English version), I felt it only fair to inform my guild that I couldn’t devote the time that World of Warcraft raiding requires.

At the moment, the raid team is selected about an hour before the raid start, from the available signups.  It’s largely because margins are so tight between success and failure that gear analysis is a necessary part of team selection, and because gear is changing so rapidly (even between raids, due to the myriad methods of gaining gear), it’s difficult to put together the best raid team with more warning.

It’s a system that is working for the raid as a whole, and I’m not going to challenge it.

But right now, I could really do with a couple of days notice.  My lovely lady has a *lot* of relatives, and they’re all coming to visit her parents recently.  Seeing as most of them are traveling some considerable distance, it’s only fair that I put some effort into going to see them.  And whilst my lovely lady is aware of high-pressure geekery such as MMO raiding, and is willing to accept; “Sorry dearest, need to go and kill stuff with fellow geeks online” as an excuse, she loses tolerance when I’m sat in front of the pc idly clicking because I’m not needed for the raid that night.

Whilst my lovely lady will acknowledge that my hobbies are important to me, she can also tell the difference between me raiding and me farming, and has every right to get tetchy because I’m not doing what I said I’d be doing, and she’s stuck at home not meeting relatives or going out for a lovely meal with them because I said I’d be busy.

It’s also a busy period at work, which usually means being more tired than usual and more likely to get in late.  This impacts both opportunities for and desire to go farming to get all those raid supplies that are needed.

It got so that, even after a few short weeks, I was on the verge of becoming resentful about *having* to raid, and that’s not a place I particularly want to go.  I was enjoying the raiding, even the multiple wipes bit, but the logistical side of gaming was causing all the problems, all the hassle.

In the end, all I could do was ask to be a last minute substitute; if they need an extra body to make up the numbers, or if they need a particular skill-set, give me a shout.  I know when the raid times are, so if I’m on I can most probably cover, if not give me a shout and if I can come on, I will.  For my part, I’ll try and keep Herewerd raid-ready as much as possible.

It might mean I never get asked again, but that’s better than having to state I’ll definately have to drop out.

Big fat sigh.

There is a part of the headbrain that is quite happy at this state of affairs, though.  It’s the part that knows that hobbies are fun, but no substitute for a busy and fulfilling social life.  We have visitors, we go out, and we are able to be a part of a wider community.  Since the earliest of my Everquest playing days, I’ve never allowed MMO gaming to take precedence over going out into the real world to be social, and I refuse to start now.  The fact that I have to make that choice is a sign that, from a social standpoint, my life is win right now.

The unfortunate side-effect of me standing down as an active raid-wannabe is taking a step back, looking at World of Warcraft, and asking (in a rather accusing tone); “What are you *for*?”

I suppose I shall find out the answer to that over the next few weeks.



Raid Ready

January 24, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Having beaten various rep-vendors with the stick of give-me-your-honoured-and-revered-gear-now, and then beaten the resulting set of melee damage gear with the gems-and-enchants stick to try and eke out every last droplet of damage, I was about as raid ready as Shaman Herewerd could be.

I even decided to put Avalanche on the two blue axes that Shaman Herewerd uses.  It was a tad expensive for something that will hopefully be replaced soon enough, but at the end of the day, damage is damage and plenty is needed.  (Even if the most obvious effect is looking like a small, spherical snowstorm with hooves and tentacles.  Yes, as soon as I can find a way to switch off the enchantment’s effects, I will.  My screen is covered in swirling snowflakes.  It’s embarrassing.)

Keeping a close eye on Recount showed that my damage per second had jumped by about 1,500 points, which in practical terms means normal, surface-world mobs of the same level are easy meat.  Them and all their adds…

In a way, it’s a shame when the outside world becomes less of a challenge, more of a larder.

Anyhoo, I was about as raid-ready as I could get, without extensive Heroic PUG runs for drops and points.

A couple of the community’s officers had also stood up for me, both in helping me to get gems and enchantments sorted, general advice regarding gearing and stats, and then making sure that the rest of the officers didn’t forget that I was now at the point where I could commence raiding.  Which, when you see the callous disregard evinced by so many of the inhabitants of the World that is Warcraft, is really nice; being a part of a community.

Even so, I have a sneaking suspicion that one of the more compelling reasons for why I was chosen was because, in ‘Clysm, it seems that interrupts are the new black; not only was I the only Shaman player who could make it, but no Rogues could make it either.  Hey, I’m not complaining about that.  I wanted to go raiding, and if the random intersection caused by class/ability requirements with the vagaries of player signups is the only reason I get to go gives me the opportunity, I won’t spurn it.  A winning personality and a sunny disposition can only take me so far, especially in a progressive raid team.

It was still nice to go raiding, and it was a reminder about how different raiding in World of Warcraft is to instancing.  Or should that be wake-up call?

The raid team is still working its way through Blackrock Descent, and I got to join in with the process of learning how to take down Maloriak.

Of course, my role was simple; deal damage, and interrupt his Arcane Storm channelled ability, as it seems designed to eat raids.

Well, it was messy, for quite a few attempts.  In all, we spent just shy of 4 hours trying to drop Maloriak, although that wasn’t all one attempt.  There were many.  Many, many attempts.  Some were failures due to wipes, some were intentionally reset by ourselves, some were resets due to us running out of time and hitting the enrage timer.

I also think it’s fair to say that the first attempt’s failure was my mistake.  Unfortunately, I’m one of those disgusting individuals that learns by doing and experiencing, rather than from watching videos or reading notes.  But the upshot is that I do learn quickly, and as a result the first few attempts saw me diligently (on the whole) interrupting, whilst learning what was going on well enough to be able to start doing some damage.

Damage was, admittedly, poor to begin with.  Despite raid buffs, flask and fud it was barely higher than it is unbuffed and unfed.  However, repeated attempts meant that I was able to grow more comfortable with the interrupting, and being more comfortable with one role, I was able to devote more attention to the other.

Slowly, as the raid got further along the fight, my dps rose, until our final attempt saw me at an almost respectable level of damage output.  All that, and interruptions too…

All in all, it was a fun night, and one I had enjoyed regardless of the number of attempts to bring down one boss.  Yes, even when it was all going wrong and it was wipe after wipe, I was still enjoying it.  For me, gaming has always been about the challenge, not about success or failure.

The icing on the cake was that, with time running out, Maloriak was downed.  Even sweeter, out of two items he dropped one was a mail chest ideal for melee dps, so that was me, emerging from the depths of the raid instance, clutching some shiny trez in my sweaty palms.


Sisyphean Gearing

January 13, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

I currently feel like a one-man farming machine.

The answer to why is simple; it’s all part of getting everything ready to start raiding.

Of course, the important part of that last statement is the use of the word; “start”.  Sometimes it really feels like the mountain that Yawning Angel refers to in his latest post.  At other times, it feels like the part of Sisyphus will be played by Mr Hawley Poppet for this expansion.

Why Sisyphus?  Well, as our erstwhile rock-roller is pushing his boulder to the top of the hill only to have it slip and roll down, so it feels with getting raiding gear.  You struggle to the gear requirement to enter a raiding tier, only to find that the raid group has already moved on, and you need to gear to the next tier.  Or suddenly the mountain has changed completely, in the case of a new expansion.

It also feels like gearing up for raids is the new levelling (which was the new purple, before it became the new black which was the old black, but now the new black).  Levelling is not the beast it used to be, and without wishing to immediately leap for the term “devalued”, it’s hard to find a term that encompasses what has happened to the levelling game.

It’s a lot quicker, for a start.  With xp requirements being slashed, with quest rewards (in terms of xp gain and materiel) being improved, there is no longer the requirement to spend months levelling a character to maximum level.  It’s now weeks, and that’s if you’re a slacker like me.

Nothing you gain while levelling means anything, either; none of the rep, none of the gear, none of it.  It’s only what you gain after attaining that maximum level that matters, because that’s the rep that allows you to get the gear that allows you to go first into Heroics, then into raids.

Even the money you gain whilst levelling means little.  The amount is paltry compared to the sums that can be made whilst at maximum level, from the gold substituted for xp in quest rewards, to selling phat purple lewts on the auction house.

So if levelling has been lessened in importance, where is the game that *was* levelling?

It’s simple.  It’s now gearing for raid.

I admit that I’ve not been attempting to gear up in the same way that I gorged on levelling from 80 to 85, but that’s largely because levelling solo is an awful lot easier and quicker than attempting to gear up from jumping in and out of Heroics.  It’s also a lot more gratifying; without having to rely on the vagaries of PUGs and randomised loot tables, I am relying on my own skill and gaming time.

But it’s taking a longer time for me to get my gear to a point where I won’t embarrass myself in a raid environment than it did for me to level through 4 zones and 5 levels.  And I’m a slooooow leveller.

I suppose that’s a symptom of the modern MMO.  Gone are the days where it was as important to have a good and fun levelling game as it was to have something to do when the levelling was over.  Levelling used to be a part of the social side of gaming; now, it’s something done as quickly as possible, and alone because levelling with someone else is only going to be slower.

It’s even got to the stage where Blizzard have removed the requirement to group whilst levelling.  The only times I grouped during ‘Clysm’s open play was when a named mob needed doing over, and there was a queue.  The grouping wasn’t a necessity due to the challenge of the mob.  It was to cut down on having to queue for respawns, and the truth was revealed in how fast the group disbanded after the mob’s messy demise.

Once we’ve started to gear up, suddenly we’re outstripping same- and similar-levelled mobs.  Shaman Herewerd has gone from having to actively fight mobs, to pressing five (maybe six, if the mob is particularly recalcitrant) keys in a particular order before the mob is dead.

A few week’s time, it will probably be down to two or three key-presses.

It does make it easier to go farming.  I don’t have to worry about having to slow down much between herb and ore resource nodes, but there is a little part of me that feels saddened that the world outside Heroic and Raid Instances becomes a hazy shadow, compared to the bright, vivid world of challenge within.

At the same time, there’s always that lure of more exciting gameplay to keep me going.  It’s the challenges that make me want to continue playing, and without that I’d probably get bored.  Stagnant game-play is not fun, and logging on to do the same set of things by rote is the surest way to get me logging off, for good.


Fun and Raiding

November 15, 2010 at 7:25 pm | Posted in General | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Having read the posts of my more erudite and talented peers, recently there has been a few posts regarding behaviour whilst engaged in the playing of MMOs.  The marvellous and fabulous Arbitrary has a lovely post here, over at Spinksville, for example.

Personally, I blame the parents.  I really do.  Parents are both omniscient and omnipresent.  They are all powerful.  Especially where questions of plumbing and automobile maintenance are concerned.

That’s in later years, though.  In more formative years, the Parental Unit is usually there as a moral compass, as an arbiter of fairness, and as a method of injecting the youngster with the appropriate amount of manners.

Those building blocks form the part of our personalities, as well as providing the framework for most, if not all of our interactions as a member of society.

So how is it, with the Parental Unit being omniscient enough to know when ears have not been washed behind, or teeth not been brushed, and omnipresent enough to be there when they are really, really needed, can they have really messed up by not bothering to tell us how to survive the peer-pressure world of the internets?

When I were naught but a wee bairn, computers were large things that occupied entire rooms, replete with large tape reels and entire walls’ worth of flashing lights.  They would sit there and store customer databases for large corporations/banks, whilst idling between attempts to destroy the world (or just astronaut crews) and attempts at gaining their own sentience.

To put it another way, there was no internets when I was younger.  Even so, it was shoddy of my omniscient and omnipresent parents not to see the way the future was shaping, and impart upon me the required etiquette lessons to survive online.

Shoddy.  I am so disappointed.  They were *so* close to getting it *all* right.

Ah well.

As a result, I’ve had to muddle along.  Just like, I’m sure, we all have as we’ve partaken in the birth of a new culture.

Within that culture are further subcultures, of which MMO Gamers are but one subculture.

Into all this steps I, your genial host.  I started to wonder at some of these unwritten rules because I’ve been looking forward to getting back into raiding properly in Cataclysm.  I might well even make an effort at the Radiance Grind, and see if I can raid as one of the Free-to-Play Peoples.  Who knows?  I am a one-man raiding renaissance at the moment.

I have, of course, been pondering whether it’s possible to have fun whilst raiding.

Now, if you ask them, I’m pretty sure that 99% of all raiding guilds or (guilds that raid, if you prefer) will answer that “Yes, we have fun raiding”.  It’s only natural; raiding, just like any other game activity, is *supposed* to be fun.  At the same time, no-one wants to put themselves forward as the Moon-Faced Assassin of Joy, especially when they’re attempting to recruit more players.

In point of fact, the only 1 percenters I can think of are those po-faced guild websites I’ve seen, wherein one must be screamingly, ragingly *hardcore*, and everything else must be sacrificed at the Altar of World First.

Luckily, I don’t need to associate with them.  All the raiders I know are cool people, with not an MFAJ amongst them.  It’s not just my belief that it’s possible to have fun whilst raiding, *it’s my experience*.

Professionalism isn’t about being HARDCORE!  It’s not about being the online equivalent of “Po-Faced” Harry McGlum on a particularly grimace-y day.  It’s not even about treating the game as if you’re being paid to do it.  It’s about balls and attitude.

It’s about having the balls to think; “I can do that”, when faced with impossible odds.  It’s about having the attitude to continue on, even when the impossible odds seem to be winning.

Sometimes the only thing that keeps me going is my sense of humour, and not just when gaming.

I’ve always felt that “professionalism” is about respect.  In MMO gaming, that’s about respecting your fellow gamers and seekers of entertainment; your raid team mates.  Turn up on time, with the right gear, in the right place.  And respect your fellow players enough  to take your turn on the bench when the situation requires it.

Not acting like a wanker is really important when it comes to having fun when raiding.  And yes, it can be really difficult at times for me to maintain that professional attitude.  What can I say?  Acting all wankerish comes naturally to me.

Now, there is a rather valid question to raise at this point; “When does the fun go too far?”

I’m terrible when it comes to practical jokes.  In most situations, practical jokes just seem to be a more advanced form of bullying.  Not only does the victim of the practical joke get to be ridiculed (usually in public, so everyone can have a good laugh at their expense) but if they don’t “join in”, then they don’t have a sense of humour.

To me, it’s a bit like having to thank someone every time they punch you in the gonads.  I fail to see why it’s such a harmless and funny activity.

To me, the fun goes to far when someone can end up hurt, physically or psychologically.  The line is easier to see in the real world than it is in an MMO; non-verbal communication makes up so much of our contact with other people that we struggle when it’s no longer there, and as a species Homo Geeksor is not yet capable of discerning the exact postion of The Line through text or voice communications, never mind be aware of how far they have crossed it.

To me, the fun goes too far, that line has been crossed, when someone is ending up having a bad time.  When the raid leader is frustrated at no-one else seeming to care about progression; when those on time have to wait for the laggards; when those with provisions have to cater for not only themselves, but the ill-prepared.

When someone is having a giggle at everyone else’s expense.

And there is an expense; time and effort aren’t cheap.  That’s time and effort that could, for example, have been spent with family and sundry and assorted loved ones.

So wasting time by doing something “funneh” that causes a wipe, or leaves everyone in deepest of deep doo-doo?  That’s not fair, it’s not right, and it’s definately not a fun practical joke.

Yet I can’t help feeling; “No Wipe, No Foul”.  A joke cracked at the right time can not only lift spirits, it can make them soar.  Laughter is part of what makes us human, and such wonderful, creative, beautiful souls.  It shines a light on our frailties, and makes kings of paupers.

I worked for a company that, for a short time, banned laughter in the workplace.  No word of a lie.

And yes, it was just as stupid in practise that it sounds in concept.  Absolutely.

So apply that to raiding.  Are MMOs there to be taken so seriously that we’re not even allowed to laugh whilst playing?

Humour serves another function, and that is to remind others that “I am here”.  It’s easy to get lost in a crowd and raiders are, on the whole, part of a crowd.  It’s not a solo sport, it’s a team sport.  Yet everyone craves individuality, especially when it’s so easy to get lost amongst so many of our peers.

It’s easy for raid leaders.  They’re easy to spot.

Regular members of the raid need to rely on our personalities to get noticed, and no-one wants to be noticed for being a grumpy wanker.  Not only does everyone notice the funny member of the raid, but they’re always happy they’re coming along.  Fun begets fun, after all.

Sometimes it’s more about how we do a thing, rather than how well we do it.

Yet at other times, it’s about concentration, and putting our game-faces on.  I wonder how many times a raid team has had a last attempt of the night.  Orders from the raid leader are for serious attitudes, no unecessary chatter, no being silly.  One last do-or-die attempt before leaving our fantastic worlds, and going to back to our humdrum every-day world?

It’s a valid position to hold.  Work hard, make the most of it, because that evening’s raid is over no matter how it ends.  It’s that whole “going down guns blazing”, but for a modern, geeky audience.

We subsume our personalities into the whole, for when the whole succeeds, we as individuals succeed.  Or something.

Success.  Success brings fun; those heady and exciting moments where the boss hits the dirt, and it’s trez time.  It’s exciting, it’s joyous, especially when it’s the first time that big bad boy has dropped.

Is it worth removing all fun from the exercise, to have that fun later?  I think not.  Part of the joy of the thing is in attempting it, not just in the divvying up of the spoils of victory.  Even divvying up trez gets boring when there’s no challenge to gaining it.

It’s also worth pointing out that we are all beholden to each other, and ourselves, to have fun.  To ensure that the fun doesn’t go too far.  To not act like a wanker, and to not misinterpret a comrade’s actions as those of a wanker.

It’s about losing any judgemental attitude.  “Not in my raid” might end up with you being the only member of your raid.  And yes, I realise I’ve just lost 50 dkps for saying that out loud.

In the mean time, we can all muddle along whilst we try and sort out the rules of etiquette for our own weird, wonderful little subculture.

But, whilst we do, give the fun a break.


P.S. Well done to everyone who has got this far.  Here is a picture of a kitten.


Embracing Choice

June 24, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Posted in General | 2 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

Yay for debate!  It stops the world getting a little boring, and the little (big) chaos of internet debate means that some subjects will never die.  Ever.  Not ever.

Blizzard deciding to throw the cat amongst the geeks by stating that 10- and 25-player raids will now be equal in every way that matters in World of Warcraft has been a godsend to internet gaming debaters in general.

This is because Geeks love hierarchies.  Star Wars is cooler than Star Trek.  Fanfic writers are cooler than slashfic writers.  Everyone looks down on furries.  Sorry furries.  And the way that we define whom gets to be the top of the pile, and therefore gets to look down on everyone else, is through reasoned debate.  And a whole load of unreasoned debate.

Things change, though.  I remember when Whovians (fans of the original Dr Who series) were looked on as the poor cousins of Geek Fandom.  Now they are in the ascendancy, and saying you’re a NuWho fan is no longer a cue for people to roll their eyes and utter soothing; “Poor thing; you’ll get over it in time” noises.

In World of Warcraft, 25-player raiders looked down on 10-player raiders.  As a 25-player raider, you got better gear, more of it, and the fights were cooler and more dangerous.  10-player was easymode (even in heroic mode), and the phat lewts were actually skinny mocha versions of the gear you already had thanks to your 25-player raiding successes.

By making all lewts equally phat, and by making all fights equally challenging, what is the difference between 10-player and 25-player raiding?  Apart from 15 players?

There is *a* difference.  25-player raids will get *more* lewts.  I’m not sure how much more, but not enough to make people think that 25-player raiding will “survive”.

This is where I tend to digress from many of the random forum screamers that are out there.  Phat lewts are a tool, to me.  They allow me to join in with raids and see more content.  They allow me to go raiding and partake in a meaningful fashion.

It’s the raiding itself that matters.  It’s that bold leap into danger, facing off against terrible odds, and emerging battered, bruised and victorious.

It’s about being part of a team, of playing your part in a shared success, and of making friends whilst doing it.

It’s about war stories and anecdotes, about those experiences that stood out, and that defined what it was like to be there at the time.  And with that comes bragging rights, the abilitiy to say “I did that.  We did that”.

Of course, if that’s not enough, and it *is* all about the phat lewts, and it’s not so much bragging rights as being able to rub everyone else’s nose in the dirt about just how much better you are then they are, then we both have differing views of what MMO gaming is about, never mind raiding.

A change in the number of players allowed into a raid means a change in the social dynamics of the group.  I’m pretty sure MMO raiding teams are pretty much the same when it comes to sports teams; players want to be *in* the team, not looking at it from the outside.

Just try and imagine the chaos, the screaming and the shouting that would happen were the football authorities to change the number of players allowed onto the pitch at any one time during a game.

Football has the benefit of a over a century of formal sporting code, and the refinement thereof.  MMO raiding is still just coming out of the “two excitable mobs fighting over an inflated pig’s bladder with a clock tower as one goal post and the town gate as the other” stage.

But that doesn’t mean these are bad times; these are the exciting times, where anyone and everyone means something, as opposed to it being all about overpaid sporting stars.

Right now is where all the choice is; being pioneers means we have the opportunity to play as a part of an excitable mob, or a 5-a-side team, or anything and everything in between.  Whatever style we prefer, there is a game or games that will cater for us.

So I don’t see it as a case of there being only One Way, and every other way is The Wrong Way.  It’s just different.

Difference should be celebrated, as it’s what makes life interesting.  I find that defining myself by my chosen style of raiding (which in World of Warcraft is 10-player, for those interested), or to define anyone else’s choice of raiding as *Doing It Wrong* is very negative, and generally makes us all look like cranks to the outside world.

Even Blizzard have decided to step out of The Great Debate, by stating that 10-player and 25-player raids will be just as challenging as each other and drop the same loot (just differing amounts) in Cataclysm.  It’s just a case of personal choice, helping us to find the gameplay that we want.

Surely that’s a good thing?


Raiding Return

June 1, 2010 at 2:06 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

I had a harsh lesson at the weekend.

Actually, as harsh lessons go it was a rather fun one.  I went alt-raiding.

Actually, everyone else went alt-raiding.  I went main-raiding with some alts who were alt-raiding.

We started off by going into the Obsidian Sanctum.  Then we went to Ice Crown Citadel in normal mode, getting as far as Professor Putricide before wiping.  After that, we went into Winterspring to have a go at the Vault of Archavon, which went swimmingly.

It was lots of fun.  I’ve not raided in a melee dps role since Skooge and World of Warcraft Classique, so that was a surprisingly lovely (if bloodthirsty) change.  There is, of course, a completely different set of gaming skills required to healing, so it was nice to get to use it.

And it was lovely to be able to go raiding again.

However, the harsh lesson came via Recount.  It was an eye-opener, let me tell you.

The lesson being that despite everyone else playing alts, I was still bottom of the dps pile.  Even one of the tanks was doing more damage than I was.

There are a few mitigating factors; the people I was raiding with had alts that could go into Ice Crown Citadel through the gates that said “You must be this uber-geared to go on this ride”, and not worry that they were sneaking in the back.  Herewerd is getting to that point, but some of his big chunky armour is bulked out a bit with papier-mache and double-sided sticky tape.  I’m way too much of a slacker to try and raid-gear more than one character, but the gear is coming.

It was also my first time for a lot of the encounters I was facing.  Luckily the raid leader, and the raid, were nice and patient, and willing to give me enough information to know what I needed to do, and where I should stand to do it.  Even so, a run-through or a strategy guide isn’t the same as actually doing it (otherwise why bother playing a game; read the guide, it’s cheaper) and my default setting is always set to “Dun die, dun be stoopid, dun be a monkey” and with that comes a bit less damage than I could be capable of.  Learning the encounters will mean more time smacking, which will help damage output.

I’m also out of shape.  A few instances is useful practice, but won’t get me raid-sharp.  Knowing what to hit and when, maximising the damage I can do by choosing the right ability at the right time, as well as simple things such as grabbing the right target fast and first time.  Even being able to differentiate targets in the grand melee, when there’s half a dozen sprites all stood on the same spot, and one of them is really, really fat and four times taller than all the rest (and it’s not the target you want).  All of that needs more practice in raids.

But there were a couple of plus sides.  I wasn’t laughed out of the raid, and no-one shouted at me for standing in the fire.  So it’s nice to see that I’m not completely raid-inept.


Enhanced Gaming

May 20, 2010 at 5:40 pm | Posted in General | 2 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

I feel like such a raid hooer.

I spoke to my friend in the rather successful raiding guild, checked out their website, and found that whilst they have restoration and elemental shamans up the wazoo, they don’t have an enhancement shaman.

I’ve never played an enhancement shaman in my life.

Until now, of course.  Yeesh!  Is there nothing I won’t do to get into a raid group?

The answer seems to be; “No”.  I’ve respecced from elemental, which I didn’t really mind as I found it to be rather boring to use when farming and questing.  Of course, it was boring because it did such a scarily large amount of damage.  Three key presses and whatever normal mob it was would be lying down on the ground, desperate to give me all its xp and trez just to make the pain stop.

That is no longer an option.  Mine is the more involved, more difficult route.

(See what I did there?  I’ve managed to alienate every single ranged dps player in every game ever!  Just with one simple little line.  Let’s see if they notice.)

Ahem.  The gear, or lack of it, didn’t help.  Being the only enhancement kid on the block wearing +spell gear doesn’t help in the Not Looking Like A Njub stakes.

Follow this with what I previously knew to be true about Enhancement Shamans:

Windfury gud.

Umm.  That’s it.  So I did some research.  Deciding to cut out the middleman, I decided to go straight to Elitist Jerks.  There I found that:

Dual weapons gud.
2.6-3.0 second swing times Gud.
Two-handers bad.  Ded-bad.  Even more bad than ded-bad.

I tried to find out more, but there was a lot of acronyms going on, and maths, and I was already feeling out of my depth.  There was also a throbbing vein in my temple which I’m pretty sure is a bad sign, so I cut out whilst I was ahead.  And before some sort of head-explodey thing happened.

Time for Plan B: I installed a Shaman mod.  Now, I look down on people who use mods for gameplay purposes.  I am a gaming snob, and feel that gameplay mods just prop up poor skill.  So, with my get-out clause of “It’s just until I have a better idea of what I’m doing” at the ready, I started my first fight.

And almost died as my screen suddenly lit up like a Christmas Tree, and I couldn’t see anything for all the bars and screens and something was in my head screaming; “Thicky! Thicky! THICKY!”

I’m not sure the voice in my head came with the mod, but by turning most of it off I now feel that it’s helping me a bit, without playing for me.  And the voice went away, so maybe it was an option in the mod’s settings after all.

It’s called Shock and Awe, and I use the timer bars as they are very helpful.

Of course, all this wasn’t enough.  I needed proper practice, not just picking on normal mobs for pocket change.  My friend very kindly offered to team up through a few LFD runs.  Now, both of my regular readers will know of my dislike of going off for a bit of LFD, but if I’m going to go raiding I need the gear that those little dungeon monsties drop, as well as their lovely little, oh so juicy emblems.

So here am me, in a nasty patchwork of low quality enhancement gear and high quality +spell gear, girly-giggling as I try and keep up through a dizzyingly phantasmagorical selection of instances.  Needless to say, Recount said I as wrrrrrrrrrubbish!

And, honest admission time here, with my mate as co-pilot, they were much more fun.  In point of fact, I had a good couple of hours as we worked to get me enough emblems to get a set of shoulders from the nice emblem man.

And I had fun as an enhancement shaman, even if I’m a particularly poor one.  I need to work out a proper rotation of abilities, as well as learn when to use the right ability.  I need to sharpen up my positioning skills, as well as sharpen up my gaming enough to keep up with ranged dps, but hey, it’s a challenge I look forward to.

Have I sold my principles for a shot at raiding the big time?

Well, sometimes principles are misguided, and it takes something like this to remind me of the fact that I have a bad habit of deciding on a certain course of action, to have certain principles, and do my utmost to keep a death-grip on them despite any negative influences that they might have upon me having fun.

Whereas sometimes it’s fun to be a complete njub, and feel like I have to learn everything again.  It’s refreshing, as is deciding to lay aside any principles and prejudices I might have created, and go and have fun.

I’m all for challenges in my gaming, and if playing an enhancement shaman in a raid group is too much of a challenge, then I’ll be happy as long as I gave it my all.


Armchair Raiding

May 17, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Posted in General | 4 Comments
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Wotcha everyone

Am I an Armchair Raider?

It’s a question I asked myself as a result of a conversation held in World of Warcraft with an old friend, who’s co leader of a strict 10-man raiding guild that is doing remarkably well (*cough*firstonserver*cough*) in the rankings.

They took a gamble, leaving their respective 25 man teams to set out as 10-man raiders when it wasn’t fashionable, so that they could have more of a hand in guiding their own fate.  They took the risks, they now get to reap the rewards.  Well done chaps.  Really impressed.

Now, I think of myself as someone who enjoys raiding.  I enjoy the challenge of progressing through a raid, and I even enjoy those raids where the challenge is gone, but we’re going out just to have fun in the raiding instance.

I like the sense of teamwork, spending time in game with my peers, and the sense of camaraderie in the face of all those elite odds.

This conversation was a bit of an eyeopener.  Have I become an Armchair Raider, living off past glories and old tiered armour, more content to just sit there talking a big game, yet clinging to any old excuse for why I can’t go raiding just now, rather than get off my ares and go raiding again?

Many raids run a twice-weekly schedule.  And one of those days is usually a Sunday.  This, more than anything else, is my easiest opt-out clause: I can’t spare two nights a week from my hectic social schedule, to devote purely to raiding.  Sundays are a rubbish night to try and organise something, as there’s normally something that I’ll be attending on that day.  Never mind that most of the time raids are finishing about 30 minutes after I need to be going to bed for my much needed ugly sleep, due to my early-morning wake-up.

I am no longer young enough to withstand the slings and arrows of a lack of sleep the night before, especially if I have to go to work and use smarts.

And for all its “sociable, being a part of a group of players” notions, raiding is remarkably unsociable for those around you.  It means headset on and random shouting at the internet, which isn’t exactly encouraging to the lovely lady near me who’s trying to watch telly-e-vision.  Or do anything else in the same room.

Can you teach an old raider new tricks?  Or just new encounters?  I tend to learn better and faster by doing something, rather than just reading something on the internet, or watching a walkthrough on youtube.  In fact, I really hate watching how someone else downed a boss on youtube, because I really do learn nothing from it.  For me, it’s not just the formula required to down a boss that’s important, it’s learning how to use the abilities and skills I have as both a player and a character to their best effect, and that means going and doing it.  It’s about experiencing the encounters, so I can learn how my class, my spec and my nouse as a player will help most.

If I was to join an established raid now, I’d be expected to go off and do homework, so that I could hit the ground running, wouldn’t I?  My life is busy enough, without having to go and study…

Raiding also takes preparation.  It’s not just about turning up and playing.  There’s consumables to bring, there’s enchantments to keep up to date, there’s sockets to be gemmed up and there’s cash required for repairs.  Do I really have the time to get all that together, ready for each and every raid?  I don’t know if I do.  I have a multi-game habit to keep going, after all

Yet I’m also unwilling to let someone else do all of that for me.  If I’m going to be part of a raid team, then I want to pull my own (considerable) weight when it comes to getting everything sorted.  I don’t want to be the idiot that’s constantly asking for flasks, or never putting fishy feasts down, or having any healing or mana potions.  Or begging on Dalaran street corners for enough coppers to repair gear.  Or even worse, having to do favours for sailor goblins…

Of course, all of this is dependant on me actually managing to get into a raid team.  For a start, I wouldn’t know how to begin to find a raid team to join.  The only ones I know of in any real sense of the word are the one I used to be in, and the one that my friends are in.  Secondly, I’m not sure if I want to go through that whole approval/rejection process.  I’m staring 40 down the barrel of a gun, and that means (in the eyes of the law, at least) I am an adult.  It means I care not for the rejection of others, and do not require the approval of others when it comes to finding my own entertainment.

But there is still a part of me that’s 8 years old and desperately hoping that I won’t be picked last.  And it’s enough to make me really wonder about whether or not my self esteem really wants to go through that whole getting into a raid team process.

The indignity of being picked last goes for more than just attempting to join a raid team, though.  It’s about not being picked for the first team, about having to stay on and do nothing whilst everyone else is having fun in the raid, because you’re the reserve.  Because you’re not good enough to be in that first team.

I really hate that.  I have to clear a night: I have to use up some hard-won girlfriend rep to ensure that nothing’s been planned, there’s nothing I’m needed for, and that I’m not going to be told half-way through a boss fight that I *MUST* go and empty the dishwasher *NOW* (or the world as we know it will end, or something).  And then I get to just hang about in case someone else decides to drop out early.  It almost seems like anti-fun.

And that’s the most important thing.

I don’t *need* to raid, in order to be a proper and valid MMO player.  I don’t *need* to do anything, in fact.  That’s one of the joys of a good MMO; multiple ways to have fun.

But the fact is that I have fun raiding.  And I should at least make an effort to stop being an Armchair Raider.  It makes me look like the scary old bloke that’s somewhere in every pub in England.  The one who is convinced that they’re an opinion of note on every subject, yet is sitting in a pub talking at strangers who just want to escape, and smelling vaguely of wee.

And another, equally important fact is that I really, really need to loosen up.  If not, I’m in danger of coming complete with reverb effect because my head is so far up my own ares.  I am not that special.  I’m just one of plenty of players who have social lives, but whom are able to juggle that and playing MMOs.

So that means that if I want to raid, I need to stop being prissy about it, and take the rough with the smooth.  That means reading websites for strategy tips *before* seeing the monsty-boss for the first time.  It means being willing to sit on the bench *because sometimes you have to*.  It means being part of a team effort, and sometimes that means not being the star of the show, in order to shine.


First to get de sugar…

September 17, 2009 at 5:32 am | Posted in healing, raiding, Shaman, World of Warcraft | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

I had an entertaining conversation the other day, which made me ponder the nature of online gaming, with reference mainly to World of Warcraft (but there is a certain resonance with other MMOs).

I was asked by a level 80 Shaman: Where do I get my level 80 gear?

Now, that’s a question isn’t it?  I was pootling around Dalaran wearing 4 out of 5 items of (I think) Tier 7.5 gear, which means Bright Orange! and somewhat over the top in the style stakes.  So I was an obvious person to ask.  I was someone obviously wearing a tier set.

In a nutshell, the conversation was this; chap wanted to know where to go to get the items, and then how to get into a raid to get the items.

I shall now leave the chap and conversation, and instead ponder some of the thoughts that slowly bubbled up through my brain in the couple of hours following…

Is it easier for healers to get into raids?  I think so.  Most people enjoy dishing out damage, so they play dps characters.  And I think some feel that healing is a chore.  It doesn’t help that when things go badly, it’s generally the healer that gets blamed.  So healers get the twin bonus of less people competing for the role, and the fact that without healers, no-one goes raiding.

Should a hybrid class with healing use that to get into raids?  In this respect, I think it’s something that World of Warcraft players brought upon themselves, so yes I’ll use it all I can.  I play a Shaman.  I can be melee dps, ranged dps, or healer.  So whilst the class is, effectively, two thirds dps, one third heal, most only see the one third heal.  So I can happily have a class that can solo with a minimum of effort, and raid in a role I enjoy.  Win for me!

Should hybrid healers be able to change to another role once in a raid?  That depends on your raid, but with most things being so gear-oriented, the only way to perform to required standards in a raid is to have good gear.  And that means having more than one outfit.  But once in a raid, it’s easy to get that second set of equipment, and once in a raid it’s a scary amount easier to swap roles, or even characters (with attendant class swapping).

Is raiding, or Tiered equipment, a right?  No, it’s not.  But it’s a real shame that so much of the focus of the game at maximum level (I hate the term “end-game”.  It has far too many negative connotations for my liking) is towards raiding, and grabbing hold of tiered armour sets.  It’s a powerful draw, and there is a remarkable amount of peer pressure when it comes to being decked out in purpz.


Revolving Doors (and contemplation)

September 16, 2009 at 5:25 am | Posted in Grouping, Guilds, World of Warcraft | 2 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

If a week is a long time in politics, it could quite well be forever in raid communities…

On Friday I wrote a post that I can thankfully consign to the recycle bin of history.  Mainly because it was admittedly whiny, with me feeling very sorry for myself.  The reason it can be thankfully discarded is because events of the weekend moved quickly, and resulted in the post becoming redundant. 

Here’s the short story:

Over the weekend, I left my raid community.  All of my mates had left it, and the only reason I had joined it was because they were in it.  And yes, one of the reasons I had been able to join it was because they could stand up and state that I was likewise a stand up chap and all-round good egg.

Now I’ve left them.  I did actually think long and hard about it, and decided that I’d rather do other things than raid with people I don’t know so well.  It’s not that they’re bad people, or even bad players, but when it came to staying, the negatives outweighed the positives.

Then, to prove the universe has a sense of humour, just as I’m working up to telling my raid community that I’m leaving, I get asked if I want to join the guild that my mates are helping to set up.

The rambling thoughts begin here:

I’d rather PUG with strangers than raid with people I don’t know well.  Yes, because I’d feel like I was just hanging around with these people because I wanted the phat lewtz, rather than their company.  Call me strange, but I like my friendships (real world or online) to be more about enjoying each other’s company than about what epixxx they can help me get.  PUGing for stuff just seems more honest.

The timing makes me look like I’m leaving them for the cool kids.  Which stinks, but hey, that’s timing.  Besides, is there a cooldown on joining another guild?  Is there a period of time one should wait after leaving one grouping, before joining another?  Who exactly *is* writing the MMO Book of Etiquette?  And who is reading it?

It’s alright if you’re invited.  And it must really stink if you’re not.  Hey, I felt rejected I wasn’t asked immediately, but I’m just passive-aggressive with rejection issues.  I suppose it’s similar to being a multi-platinum selling musician in a huge band, and some of your musician mates decide to set up a super-group, but without inviting you.  “Sorry, Dave has baggsy’d guitars already, and we all think you’re rubbish really”.

Being beaten with the Casual Stick.  I’ve seen it far too much to care about the term “Casual” when it’s used in online gaming.  It’s only casual if you do what the consensus wants.  If you try and change things, you’re *literally* worse than Himmler.  And should you leave for pastures new?  *Literally* worse than Hitler.  It shouldn’t be like this.  A casual group (guild, kinship, raid community, whatever the term used) should know that they have no recourse when players decide to act in a casual manner, or decide to leave if it’s not for them.  The benefits of a relaxed, casual atmosphere outweigh the potential loss of players who want to play in a more demanding atmosphere; it’s not fair to judge them as a result.

Raid Communities are the sum of their parts.  So if those parts leave (or have stopped working) they fold.  A mass migration like this could kill a raiding community, just as it could kill a guild.  But this is also time for those players who have been on the periphery of a community to stand up, be counted, and have the opportunity to take a more active role.  Stagnation is a bad, bad thing, and can kill a community far easier than renewal.

Millenial Fever.  Announcements of impending expansions cause all sorts of upheavals; Cataclysm is quite an accurate name, for once.  Only alts go over old content, so moves are already afoot to see as much of the Wrath of the Lich King content as possible.  For some that means exchanging casual 25-man raid groups for stripped-down, lean-mean-fighting-machine 10-man special-forces raid teams.  I can see why.  Finding and organising 25 players can be like herding cats, and just as rewarding.  Ten like-minded individuals is far, far easier to manage.  Being someone who sets his own achievements rather than relying on Blizzard (or Turbine, or any other games developer) for them, I’m somewhat bemused by them, but for others they are a powerful draw, and now there is a time limit.

Sooo…  Here I am.  Raid-less, but with possibility of joining another.  Older, wiser, more enriched thanks to my experiences.


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