Shhh, be vewy, vewy quiet, I’m hunting DEMONS!

Bearwall! Ah, the smell of fresh bear droppings  on a nice clean blog page.

It smells like… oh, damn.

Smelly bear, smelly bear, what have they been feeding you?
Beer and bacon and BBQ beans, that’s what a big butted bear is made of.

Surprise, surprise, I have been playing a little Diablo 3 this week.

I don’t know that my experiences are going to be all that interesting, but my approach to the game has been to ignore it and all related discussions completely until release.

I wouldn’t say I’ve taken pleasure in ignoring the latest details MMO Champion would release during Beta, or in passing by the fevered, frenzied arguments about it’s features that popped up like shrooms all over the blogosphere.

Well, yeah, I guess I would.

I was playing World of Warcraft, and while it’s nice to see what is intended in a beta for a game I’m actively playing, like WoW, I really couldn’t get into following all the details of a game that was unplayable.

Basically, I ask this of a company – if you’re creating a game, give me a video pimping your art design and music to entice my imagination, then give me some gameplay videos showing me what it’s like to actually get embedded into it. That’s it, I’ll take it from there. The more detail you tell me, the less left to my imagination. Give me a good view of the gameplay, I’ll see all I need for a snap judgment.

I played Diablo, Diablo II, and the expansions. I’ve got fond memories of them all, but the gameplay… they are, at their hearts, button mashing hack and slash dungeon crawlers, and there was nothing wrong with that at all. But the tastiest bits of those dungeon crawlers was exploring the world, the lore, and the specifics of the gameplay as it unfolded through the levels, so why would I want to spoil the mysterious bits with spoilers before I even crack the can?

Plus… one of the things I loved about my previous Diablo experiences was how rock-solid polished they were. Shit worked, no bugs. Why spoil by trying them when they’re all buggy?

I wanted to walk into the new game just like I did the old ones, to get immersed in a POLISHED game experience and enjoy my ignorance.

The best reason I could think of to follow the development would be to see if I felt enticed enough to buy it for $60, so as soon as they announced you got the game for free with an Annual Pass in WoW, well, I stopped following the news. Purchase was a done deal, I’ll play it when I get it, and see what it’s like then.

Fast forward to launch week, my friends. Ooh, new game, cool, time to see what all the hype was about. I hope it doesn’t suck!

I’ve been so successful at remaining spoiler free (that sounds better than ignorant, doesn’t it?) that I had to no shit look up how many classes there were and watch the “What the heck does this class do” videos on MMO Champion just to get some idea of which one I might try first.

I didn’t have even the most basic awareness of what was going to happen when I fired it up. Except, like, you know.

Demons and shit.

I watched the Barbarian video, the Demon Hunter and the Monk. I didn’t watch the Witch Doctor because the gameplay description was all “lol pets lol”, and I didn’t watch the Wizard because, well, squishy was my first impression, and squishy is for after you play around with it.

A heavy plate wearing class, a damage sponge, that is just the thing for a training wheels experience.

I didn’t think I’d start with a Barbarian though, because, well, it looked identical to a WoW Warrior, been there done that, I deal with rage issues enough as it is. If I want to deal with rage, I can just catch up on Twitter, plenty of rage to be found there.

I didn’t think I wanted to start with a Demon Hunter because, and this is the only real reason, I didn’t fancy micro-managing traps. Demon Hunter went on my mental “try when I’m bored with my first character, twin crossbows look sweet” list.

So I watched the Monk video, and I thought it looked pretty cool. It is about damn time someone decided that what the world lacked was Hungarian Ninjas, and I for one welcome our new Hungarian Ninja lightning-fisted overlords.

Awesome voice acting on the accents. I started off with a male one, booted through the startup intro and then thought, “Holy crap, this guy is so awesome, what does a female Hungarian Ninja sound like, OMIGOD RUN GO SEE GO SEEEEE”

I do not regret my decision. Sunshatter the female Hungarian Ninja is a lot of fun.

In getting started, the Monk certainly felt powerful, I kicked some skeleton ass. It was pretty cool. Nice effects, a melee class with lots of “get to the bad guy fast” abilities, very nice.

The more things change, though, the more they feel the same.

The first thing that really got into my head like Deja-Diablo-Vue was how like Diablo II the gear situation felt.

One of the things I carried forward from Diablo II was my irritation with their loot system.

Drops were always random, and it was difficult to know what stats you wanted, and if you did know exactly what was optimal, good luck ever finding it.

I only ever played Diablo II single player, and I remember feeling really irritated that they couldn’t have drops that were a little more… focused towards being useful, but in different ways.

I’m a warrior, what do I need Intellect on my plate helm for? Why does my two handed flamberge give me +Arcane Power? WTF?

At the time, I figured it was so that, when playing Diablo II in a group for years, the drop of an actually USEFUL piece of gear would be cause for celebration, acrimonious arguments, and furious dissention. All the stuff that helps bond a group.

So, yeah, when I saw the return of some of the silly stat combinations, it brought me right back.

The reality of Diablo III is better, much better, the new game does not bear any real resemblance to how bad Diablo II gear drop stats were, but the feel is there on each wtf drop.

See, the reason it’s all good is, all that crap gear has a point! You can destroy it for component parts without regret. Plus, and this is amazing, as far as I can see there is NO soulbinding, so you can equip a drop, use it as long as you’d like, and then trade it to someone else.

Oh yeah, did I mention my shock at that change before? There is an Auction House, and you don’t have to decide between equipping an awesome item to level with or selling it. You can do both!

Level with that awesome item, then when you get an upgrade, turn around and break it up into forging mats, or sell it on the AH to someone else. Or stick it in your shared stash for an alt to use someday.

That… that is pretty amazing to me. It seems almost TOO useful, too considerate to players, to be a Blizzard game design decision.

Then again, the Black Market Auction House is coming soon, as well as account-wide shared mounts, and those are a bit of a shocker too. I thought Blizzard wanted us to run things a bazillion times hoping for that rare drop, and then suffer the anguish of the “soulbound on the wrong character that ran it once to help a friend” tragedy.

Your tears nourish the black soul of Blizzard developers, who, or so I’ve heard, are all retired Special Forces E&E Trainer cadre who miss torturing willing participants in a myriad of perfectly legal ways.

My amazement of the transferrable loot system was overshadowed by my annoyance at how confused I feel at Blizzard’s itemization.

Understand, I could answer all of these questions with a 30 second web search. That’s not the point. The point is to have the joy of discovery all on my own, and that joy has to be balanced by my inevitable irritation when I’m ignorant, and can’t figure out a solution quickly.

As much else that I love, I continue to feel confused with armor and weapons.

For example… are there actual armor types?

I look at an item description, and it seems sometimes it says an item is cloth, other times leather, but many other times there is no actual ‘armor class’ or type listed, just an armor value.

Stats are fairly obvious in association, but can my Wizard wear the same types of armor as my Barbarian? There are class-specific items with a class name in some pieces, but in others, it seems pretty shaky.

It’s not quite as obvious as the system that I, as a WoW player, am used to. Such as “You are a Mage, you wear Cloth. Suck it up, silk-boy.” Or “You are a Druid, you can wear Cloth or Leather armor, you have a level 60 Skill that says if you wear all Leather you get stat bonuses so you are intended to wear leather whenever possible, if you don’t like it go stick a feather in your butt and pop flight form, bird-brain.”

Not a big issue, just… ah, the feel of Diablo II in the air. Refreshing!

When I’d played my Monk for a while, I decided I wanted to try a ranged class. I was having fun, but I was curious if a Wizard would feel noticeably squishier, and if so, would that be more challenging? The Monk was feeling a bit too easy mode.

I created a Wizard. A male Wizard. I refrained from making the obvious emo jokes when I saw his default pose, I just named him Unbearable, and really, when you look at his pose, why wouldn’t you? I look at him and I know *I* want to smack that smug know-it-all smirk off his face.

Here is the funny thing.

Because my monk was a melee combatant, I worked hard to get weapon upgrades. More powerful paired Vampiric daggers means more stabby-stab damage, right? Sorta?

But the Wizard is a spell-casting inferno of magical destruction. I am throwing lightning bolts and orbs of arcane might at the bad guys, all doing with the blowing up thing.

What does the DPS of a sword have to do with the damage my fireball does?

Well, it doesn’t, or so I reason out, and off I went through most of the first act ignoring my weapon unless a Wand dropped, since Wands might affect my Magic Missile.

I was having a pretty hard time towards the end, fighting the waves of bad guys in the Cathedral leading up to the Skeleton King. I was getting swamped, and as good as Arcane Orb is, it was taking every bit of skillful use of Frost Nova and that Arcane Explosion thingie AoE and running and gunning to stay alive.

Then, I decided to toss a 14.5 DPS flaming spear into my weapon slot. Just cause, you know. Flaming javelin mages are so the thing, right?


It turns out, and this was a hell of a surprise, it turns out that the higher the DPS rating on my melee weapon, the more powerful my magical spells are.

So… my weapon is a stat stick that has no intuitive link with my magical power, but does anyway. Fair enough, lesson learned, time to toast some Horny Tauren… err, goatmens.

It’s been lots of fun, dungeon crawling has never been more interesting. Learning to hold down the shift button whenever I want to blow stuff up at range (it keeps me from moving when I click), learning that I can click on my Templar companion’s portrait and train his skills and GIVE HIM gear to make him more powerful, there are all sorts of fun little discoveries so far.

And I’ll be honest with you, the fact that I am trying, screwing it up, getting myself in stupid situations and then discovering my error later? That is actually a large part of the fun.

There is something inherently perverse in how I’m playing the game. The moments that stand out for me as the best are the ones where I go “Oh shit! THAT’S what I was supposed to do! Well, duh.”

And yet… it’s been good.

I’ve been thinking, I’m having so much fun and being delighted by wonder and getting surprised by my mistakes and working through them, that I’m thinking I ought to try working ignorance into the rest of my day to day activities.

I’m thinking, from now on, when I’m driving I might want to stop turning my head around to see what is behind me and to the sides before I make a lane change. I think going to that extra effort to actually SEE the blind spots and make sure they’re clear before I change lanes is keeping me from having a certain taste of mystery, of wonder in my life. I think I should cut back on being informed, no turn signals either (why should I prevent other drivers from enjoying their own moment of enjoyable surprise learning experiences) and just glance in the side mirror and pop over in the same movement.

What could possibly go wrong with this plan?

Don’t worry though, I know I’m not the first one to think of this as a way to add a certain flair and excitement to my day. Hell, from what I can see on the road, I’m apparently the last one to realize how fun it must be.

Here’s hoping that you and yours are having a great time in whatever game you may be playing, and I’ll leave you with this tagline:

“Ignorance – It’s not just a playstyle choice, it’s a LIFESTYLE choice.”

It Was Just A Blown Fuse

BEARWALL that has nothing to do with gaming.

Has anyone ever told you this before?

“Oh, it was no big deal. It was just a blown fuse. I replaced it, we’re good to go”

Just so you know, that saying is a test.

A lot of things in life are tests, and it can be hard to recognize it when one comes around.

This post is in the way of a public service message for those of you that aren’t all too sure what “a blown fuse” means, and don’t want to look stupid or ignorant when someone tells you this in the future.

From now on, instead of nodding your head and walking away feeling vaguely worried, I’m going to arm you with science so you know what they’re saying… and what pointed questions to ask.

A Firm Grounding

Here’s the deal. If you’re reading this, you’re plenty smart enough and educated enough to understand what a fuse is, and what it means. You might just need a frame of reference.

Don’t panic. This won’t get technical.

You know your electronics runs on a power source we call electricity.

There are lots of technical terms used when discussing electricity, how it’s measured, how to calculate volts and amps, etc.

You don’t need to know any of that to live your life.

What you need to know is, how does it make that iPod spin out music, and can my iPod electrocute me if I drop it in water?

Quick answer: No.

We can functionally describe electricity as being similar to water. Water that is unaffected by gravity… but that loves finding a path to the deep, dark underworld.

What do I mean?

Let’s look at how water functions.

Water, when flowing, pushes things in front of it. The force of water pushing on things in it’s path can be used to get work done. The stronger the flow (or current), the more it can push, the more it can do.

Electricity works much the same way.

Picture a flowing stream or babbling brook. If there is a building on the riverbank, and that building has a waterwheel dipping into the river’s current, the force of the flowing water pushes on the paddles that are at the bottom, moving them forward, turning the wheel so that the next paddle dips into the current, and the rotation of the wheel continues, forever and ever, amen, ’til the river rises and the cows come home.

That waterwheel rotates on a shaft, and the shaft goes into the building, and what you get is a turning shaft inside a big building, powered by the flow of water. You can then attach stuff like gears and things, linkages and doodads, and get working machinery… powered purely by water. Triphammers, mill wheels, saws and drills and all sorts of stuff can be powered in this way.

Well, electricity is the same exact thing.

Except… instead of electricity flowing as water does, pulled down by gravity following the lowest surface it can find, electricity is special water that flows wherever it can find a conductive surface to carry it into the ground.

Electricity always heads for the easiest, simplest, fastest connection to the deep earth it can find. It follows the path of least resistance.

What is a conductive surface? Well, it depends on how strong the current of the electricity is, really.

Things like metal and water can be great conductors. Electricity touching metal will go straight to wherever the metal is touching the ground at the best point.

Rubber and the air can both be very good insulators, blocking the flow of electricity dead in it’s tracks. Plastic is pretty good at that, too.

But the more power, the more force, the more oomph in the electricity, the more resistance (or insulation) the electricity can overcome.

At high enough levels, the electricity can even jump through the air, conducting through the air itself to get to the ground. We call that an arc, and that’s some serious high power fry your ass mojo.

Why, if there is enough current in the electricity, YOU can be a conductor! You are a lot more conductive than the air, by the way. A LOT more conductive than the air.

Safety First

Let’s have a brief experiment to illustrate this point.

Say you take a metal knife, and you stick it in a wall outlet… the electricity will instantly see that if it flows through the metal knife, and then through your body, it can reach the ground through your knees where you’re touching it, and off it goes.

At this point, you will either get blasted away from the outlet because the electricity flowing through your body from your hand to your knees caused your muscles to spasm, OR you will get locked rigidly to that knife, taking the juice constantly, because your muscles all just convulsed and locked up.

This can be a fun experiment, because if your friend or loved one sees you there unmoving or unresponsive, they might run over to grab you and pull you away… and IF they are suddenly a better conductor (say they are in bare feet while you’re wearing jeans) than you are, now the electricity sees a BETTER conductive path of least resistance through them, and BOOM, they get zapped too.

Quick fun fact: In the Marines, when you’re going to work with electricity, we used to make safety devices. What these were, were long wooden sticks covered in rubber, with a metal hook screwed into one end and also covered with rubber. They were for when a Marine grabbed a live wire, convulsed, and you had to get them free without electricuting yourself. You could grab the 8′ long rubber-coated hook off the wall, and either hook them and drag them away or just whack them good with the rubber stick.

Oh no? Oh, hell yes.

Are you paying attention now?

Just to ease your worried mind, you should know that there are two kinds of electricity… direct current (DC) and alternating current (AC). The kind of electricity in your wall outlets and in your home is all AC, or alternating current. Think of it as special electricity that pulses instead of just staying strong and steady. It pulses so fast you wouldn’t notice it without special gear, but your muscles will know the difference, because if you get zapped by AC, the first pulse may lock your muscles up and cause them to contract but the next pulse will convulse you and blast you free.

Direct Current, now… that shit will lock you up, holmes.

Where do you mostly find DC (Direct Current)? Why you find it INSIDE a lot of pwoerful electronics like TVs, stereos, microwave ovens, motors, air conditioners, all that kind of stuff. AFTER where the AC power cord comes into the gizmo, goes through a transformer and some other stuffs, and gets distributed throughout the thingie as nice, smooth DC voltage.



Electricity is like water, it pushes stuff in front of it. It is supposed to start at, say, a wall outlet or breaker box. Then it flows through a conductive material, like metal wire, that is covered in a insulating material like rubber to keep it IN the wire, goes into a gizmo, pushes stuff around inside the gizmo to make it move and get work done… and then, believe it or not, goes right back out a second insulated metal wire and back into the wall outlet, return to sender.

It makes a complete circuit.

This is why, if you look at an AC power cord, it is two wires, each wrapped in rubber to isolate them from each other. One is the supply of juice TO teh gizxmo, the other is the return pipe FROM teh gizmo. They are commonly called the ‘Hot” and the “Neutral”, respectively. The hot is usually coated with black rubber, and the neutral is coated with white, when found in American wiring diagrams or inside a junction box.

You often also find a third wire. It is colored green inside gizmos, and it is called the ground wire.

Why? Because the ground wire does NOT carry any juice at all. None. It is dead as a doornail… and it is there to save your life.

The ground wire is attached to the deepest, darkest pit of black underground wetness there is anywhere near your house. It is THE favorite path for current to flow.

The ground wire is plugged into your gear, fixed to metal parts like the case… and is supposed to be a safety. If the hot or the neutral gets cut or shorted, instead of you getting killed by touching the metal case of your stereo, the power goes through the case, to the ground wire, and down to that inky it of blackness where all electricity finds it’s home instead.

It also provides a wonderful way of making sure you don’t get outside sources of electricity, like static electricity, interfering within your delicate electronics like your Xbox 360. If you zap the case, the ground wire bleeds the electricity off to ground so it never zaps the guts of the machine.

But what about fuses, you idiot!

It is normal to put a fuse in the wire at different points.

Breakers in your electrical panel in your house are, essentially, fuses too.

What a fuse is, is a wire designed to melt at a certain temperature, enclosed in a VERY insulative holder. It’s just the same as wire, but if it gets too hot, it melts. 

Fuses melt when they get too hot, and when that happens, no more path for the current to flow. Electricity stops flowing, because the wire just got cut. The gizmo stops working… because the electricity HAS to flow for it to push or otherwise make the gizmo do stuff.

So, if a fuse is designed to melt when it gets too hot, what causes it to heat up?

Electricity does.

More specifically, the amperage in the electricity.

What is amperage? 

You don’t need to know exactly what it is, but it can help to think of it like this.

Now, this is completely and totally wrong, and yet it may help. Professionals, if you think I’ve taken liberties before this, hold onto your hats. It’s all in a good cause.

When you see a sign saying # of volts, # of amps, think of it like this.

The amount of volts is the size of pipe the electricity is traveling in. The more volts, the bigger the flow of electricity can be, the more work it COULD do.

The amount of amps is the actual POWER, the push, the big honking wave that is flowing through the pipe, doing the actual work.

To complete this horrible analogy, the stuff that the electricity is pushing in whatever gizmo you’ve got? That is the resistance. The more it resists the amps trying to push it, the more amps you need to provide to get it to go.

Here is why you should care.

You could have 480 volts on the line, a huge pipe. But if there are only .2 milliamps in the circuit, an itty bitty amount of current, you can grab the bare wire in your hand and only feel a tickle.

If you lick a 9 volt battery, getting your tongue on both prongs at once and feel the electricity flow across your taste buds from one pole to another, it won’t blow your ass up because the amps are very low.

But if you grabbed that same 480 volt wire, and there were 20 or more amps on there… if those 20 amps of force decided to flow through YOU as the fastest way to get to the ground, if YOU became the “path of current flow”, then you can die, cooked from the inside out, with your feet blown off and still steaming in your boots.

I’m not kidding around here.

What makes a fuse melt?

Amps of force performing work, pushing through things that offer resistance, generate heat.

If there is too little wire to handle all the amps flowing through it, that wire will, literally, melt.

The reason you have circuit breakers in your house is to prevent you plugging in too many things on one circuit or loop of wire, drawing a SHOTLOAD of amps through the wires in the walls of your house to power all that crap, melting the wires buried in your walls and setting your house on fire.

The circuit breaker is a fuse, designed to trip out or ‘break’ when it gets too hot… and capable of being reset. It trips when there are more amps flowing through it than the wires attached to it are capable of handling.

Circuit breakers are designed to be reset, on the assumption you know enough to unplug stuff from the appropriate outlet when one pops. Old school power panels had actual fuses that you had to replace… and many skilled and brilliant electricians would replace them, all right. With copper pennies. Sigh.

So, pop quiz because you know the answer now. What does a blown fuse mean?

It means that something got so hot it melted a piece of wire. It melted a piece of wire that was designed to melt for a reason; to protect something else from getting damaged from too much force/amps/electricity/power.

So now we come to the main event.

If a fuse blew, it didn’t do it out of spite, or vindictiveness.

That fuse blew because something somewhere else went wrong, and the fuse melted to protect your valuable shit, or even your life.

Why your life?

Because the most common place to stick a fuse is right where the wire comes into your gizmo from the power cord plugged into the wall. If that fuse melted, something somewhere in your gizmo suddenly decided to suck so much juice out of the wall it melted a wire… melted that wire before it melted something else. Or tripped a breaker in your power panel.

Or shorted right through you, blowing off your feet.

So if someone says to you, “Oh, it was no big deal. It was just a blown fuse. I replaced it, we’re good to go”, the very next question you need to ask is, “What caused the fuse to blow?”

That is the test.

To know that a blown fuse is not the problem, a blown fuse PROTECTED you from the problem.

What caused the fuse to blow? Because if all you did was replace the fuse, what the hell is stopping whatever it was from causing it to blow again?

What if the reason the fuse blew, was that there is water somewhere inside the gizmo. Electricity likes to find the easiest path to ground, right? And water makes for a good conductor. the electricity doesn’t want to do work, it doesn’t want to flow through any resistance, it’s always looking for the easiest way out.

So there is water, and sometimes the gizmo moves, the water flows, touches somewhere that has electricity, and the electricity says “Ah HAH! I can bypass almost all this other shit, flow right through the water, take a shortcut, and go through this here control knob, through that person’s hand, down their arm, and ground myself on the metal arm of the chair. YAHOO! FREEDOM AT LAST!”


Or maybe, and god this is common, maybe you’ve got a motor that is powered by electricity in your gizmo. Like your car. Or your air conditioner. The motor is physically moving, spinning round, from the force of electricity pushing it.

It takes a lot of amps to physically move a motor. Lots more than your iPod needs. Rule of thumb, if the electricity has to get a motor physically moving, it’s got a LOT of juice running through it. Moving parts take power.

The motor has all this power running through it, some insulation starts wearing away, or the bearing that lets the shaft turn nice and smooth starts binding up making the motor use a LOT more power to get that shaft to turn, and the heat from the increased amp draw builds up.

The fuse blows. It gets hot and melts, protecting your motor from turning into slag.

If this is caught right away, the motor can usually be fixed. Maybe by something as simple and easy as putting a bit of grease or oil on the bearing that the shaft turns on, reducing how hard the motor has to work.

But what do I see all the damn time?

“Fuse blew, I replaced it and got the device back in service.”

“What caused it to blow?”

“I dunno, probably just a power spike.”

“Nothing else went down, and the lights didn’t flicker. Go check it out, find out why it blew.”

“Okay.” *very grumpy*

A week passes.

The motor ‘burns out’, from too much heat because instead of greasing the motor bearings, the jackass replaced the fuses and didn’t ‘waste his time ‘troubleshooting the core problem.

I look inside at the fuses, wondering why the $20 fuses did not pop, protecting the $3000 motor from melting by blowing first, like they were designed to.

I see that the fuses, which are supposed to blow if the electrical current flow exceeds 20 amps, have been replaced by 30 amp fuses.

It takes a lot more heat to blow a 30 amp rated fuse than a 20 amp rated fuse. If the amps never rise above 30 amps, the wire inside will never heat up enough to melt.

But that motor sure did love the extra amps that drove it far harder than it was ever designed to, at a temperature it’s wires weren’t designed to handle. Wires melted, or maybe even the motor windings.

Meltdown. $3000 motor burnt to shit. Repairs and rewinding will probably cost about $1200.

Oh wow, but at least those $20 fuses are still in great shape, and the tech that decided to swap 20 amp fuses for 30 amp fuses so he wouldn’t have to keep replacing them when they blew over and over?

Well, at least he had some piece and quiet for that week.

Wrapping this up

Now you know what a blown fuse really means. It means more juice, more power, more amps, more OOMPH just went through the thing than it was designed to safely handle, and the fuse blew before something SERIOUS happened. Read: expensive or dangerous.

If you simply replace the fuse, you are giving whatever it was a chance to do it again, shocking the system and risking damage from the fuse melting too SLOWLY to stop the big jolt of power from going through and doing it’s damage to the sensitive guts of your gear first.

If you replace the fuse with a BIGGER fuse, what you’re doing is saying, “I don’t like to live safely, or to save money. Fuck it, let the motor burn, just as long as it stops bugging me by popping all the time.”

Yes, a spike of power from the source can cause a fuse to blow or breaker to pop. A lightning strike on the main supply coming into your house, etc.

But if it did… you should have seen lights flicker, or had some other indication than just one thing popping a fuse.

At the very least, I hope that now you will feel confident whenever you are talking to someone about your car, or stereo, or air conditioner, or circuit breaker, to call them on the carpet if they feed you that old “It was just a fuse” line.

Today, it was just a fuse. Tomorrow, it’s the water pump, or the fan motor, or the overhead crane drive, or whatever it may be.

Or something compound in your car. I don’t care what it is, if it’s compound, it’s money.

This may not have helped you, but by God I’m glad to get that off my chest. Freaking idiot techs, I swear I’m going to start using the Big Safety Stick™ to give them a current test they won’t soon forget..

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

A new post up this morning at WoW Insider struck me as being damn timely.

The article, written by Josh Meyers and titled “Has the early Cataclysm gearing model failed?”, takes a look at the intent of early Cataclysm leveling, of gating content by iLevel, and then touches on whether it has held up or not this late in the expansion.

It’s a good article, one I found especially timely since I am actively working right now (well, when I’m not at work-work) to do everything I can to subvert that very gearing model he describes.

You play the game and get a character to level 85, and what do you want to do?

You want to go do the fun stuff.

For those that want to PvP, there are fairly new craftable PvP blue items, full armor sets as well as jewelcrafting rings and necklaces to get you started.

Clearly, the powers-that-be realized that the PvP arms race would make it painful to get stuck right in. So they added new gear as a stepping stone.


Because in PvP, there is no ‘working your way up the difficulty ladder’, no ‘easing into it’. When you zone into a BG, it’s gametime, baby and you’d better bring your ‘A’ game or find out what it looks like in first person to be teabagged by a Moonkin’s big feathery butt. Everyone else is in their best earned gear, and whether god or grunt, it’s everybody for themselves. No artificial gating of content, it’s just you, your computer, and the cold, harsh reality of survival of the fittest.

Been this way several expansions now for PvP, clearly they like how it’s working for them. Well, Burning Crusade brought PvP blues bought at the rep vendors, so it’s only been two expansions now with the crafteds. My bad. But they saw how the BC model worked, and changed it up the next time.

On the PvE side… by this late in the game, I don’t care how cool the starter heroic instances started out, everyone is sick of them as a gearing necessity.

Is it great to be able to level by running instances? Yes. Is it great to be able to do instance quests? Yes. Is it awesome that as you level and have fun in even the normal instances, you get Justice Points towards end game gear? Hells yes, sweet incentive.

Is it cool to do them and see the story and learn to play an unfamiliar class or role in the end game group content?


But I challenge anyone to say that they find it FUN to have to run the expansion starter instances in heroic mode at level 85 on every new character to grind the gear upgrades and Justice Points needed to unlock higher iLevel content.

And I won’t even go into how much sheer joy is to be had in considering having to grind rep to get epic shoulder enchants or gear on your fifth character, even with Tabards.

So, we try and subvert it, to a greater or lesser degree. Are we to be blamed for trying to bypass the system as intended?

Or, and I’m just throwing this out idea there, is subverting the original gearing process exactly what Blizzard expects us to do, and is precisely WHY we have things like the new high-level BoE epics from the new heroic instances dropping like snowflakes in winter?

Crafted epic items, auction house BoEs, new heroic instance quest rewards, the Thrall and Aggra Elemental Bonds questline that gives a nice cloak, etc.

Is being subversive simply the game working as intended?

I think so.

Look at the facts.

I’ve played the game the way it was meant to be played on three characters now, my druid, warrior and hunter. Leveled, geared, got crafting skills, reputation grinds, all that stuff.

I am damn glad to have done it, too. For example, I am proud to have a character maxed in every rep, plus exalted with my guild.

When I have new characters come up now, I don’t have to worry about head enchants because I’ve got one character with max reputation on all factions, and that character can buy the enchant and mail it over.

For weapons, I can gather ore, transmute Truegold, gather or buy Orbs, and use my epic Blacksmithing patterns from rep to make some iLevel 365 weapons… or buy cheap Beermug maces, BoE epic drops from the new instances, etc.

I can craft rings, necklaces and armor that, while intended for PvP, is good enough to get into new content and get the job done, but just crappy enough for PvE that I’m going to want to get rid of it as soon as bloody possible.

I even have BoE gear of incredible power that I can earn on my max level characters through Valor Points, to feed down to my new alts.

But what if I don’t have max level characters to feed my new alts, characters all decked out and done with the content?

Working as intended. If you don’t already have all the content done and maxed on anyone… Blizzard wants you to get out there and do it all, at least once.

In my opinion, the only truly glaring weakness right now is that the epic level shoulder enchants purchasable from rep with Therazane is not bound to account, and the ease of getting that rep has not been reduced the way the Sons of Hodir were towards the end of the expansion.


I’ve been preparing my Rogue for max level, because I truly do not want to do a single original heroic, not a one. I want to ding 85, equip gear, and step into a 4.3 Dragon Soul heroic.

To that end, I’ve been seeing how far I can game the system on my Combat Rogue, and how cheaply.

Slow main hand weapon, fast offhand are the Combat preferences.

A Tremendous Tankard O’ Terror goes for about 800 gold on my server, so I bought one. Oops, Cassie had 8 in her bags, and I actually had one I forgot about in my Hunter’s bank. Stupid of me not to check, but point made.

For an offhand, my blacksmith crafted the Brainsplinter, using all personally farmed/transmuted mats. Done.

For a thrown weapon, maybe due to lack of demand the Thorns of the Dying Day are going for a mere 300 gold. Done again.

Sure I’m going to want to upgrade as soon as I can… but these aren’t pure crap, either. These are all weapons that, in terms of stats, would have been great before 4.3 shipped.

For armor… well, there is the obvious.

My max level characters have taken a week off from upgrading their own gear with Valor Points to donate the Bracers of Manifold Pockets and the Rooftop Griptoes. If I was wealthy, I could have easily bought them instead, they get advertised in Trade Chat as Valor boots or bracers, your choice, 5000g or 6000g golod all the time, YMMV on your server.

Still, I wanted to go as cheap as I could as far as I could.

As I said before, once I reach level 85, I’ll be able to do the Thrall and Aggra quest chain, Elemental Bonds, to get the iLevel 365 cloak, Mantle of Doubt. I could simply craft the new iLevel 377 PvP leatherworking cloak Vicious Fur Cloak, but I’d vastly prefer lower iLevel but more PvE oriented gear.

There are 17 item slots to fill, and already 6 are at 365 or better at level 85, plus one quest chain I like to do anyway. :)

I then did dip into my own pockets, and bought one item I’ve been repeatedly tempted by at the auction house. I got the Nightblind Cinch belt for 7000 gold. Maybe they saw me coming, but an upgrade THAT huge means future Valor Points don’t go to a belt, they go to things like necklaces, rings and trinkets. I’m willing to pay it, and be glad.

The rest of the slots ALL have iLevel 377 PvP items that can be crafted with leatherworking and jewelcrafting if I wanted to, but let’s go one step further.

What about the Molten Front?

Yes, yes, I know. Craft some PvP stuff and go have fun, get upgrades in one day that outstrips what you’ll earn after 45 days of Molten Front dailies.

There are still two things to keep in mind.

First, after only three days you can unlock the Molten Front area, and purchase Matoclaw’s Band from Zen’Vorka.

Second… my Rogue is a skinner, and the spider area is a skinner’s paradise. I’m going to want that anyway, so why not at least look at what I get after those three days, right?

Where I’m going with all this, is really that it’s too damn easy to craft or otherwise acquire high level items to bypass the starter heroics for it to have somehow slipped past Blizzard’s attention that we can do it.

No, I think it’s working as intended, and I like the fact that I don’t have to just equip PvP gear to beat the iLevel restrictions, I can go for lower level gear but with better overall stats if I so choose. And I DO so choose.

As I said before, I just think there are a couple areas that could be finished up, like the Therazane rep shoulder enchants being made Bind on Account.

What do you think? Is this all some cunningly designed master plan to give us lots of options and choices, or is it a failure of the Blizzard gearing model?

Bacon Bits

It’s the little things that really bring a smile to my face.

To follow up from my post on Friday, to me it doesn’t matter how long a game has been out, or how much has been written about it in the past.

What matters to me is playing a game my own way, of finding my own path, without worry that I’m ‘doing it wrong’ or something. I want to have enough options that I can make the game experience my own. I want to step back from the screen for a second, look upon what I have wrought, and think, “Yeah, that’s pretty f’ed up. Sweet!”

Take my new Paladin alt, for example.

I’ve been playing on Azuremyst-US, and I really like it there. The climate on the server is just friendlier than I’m used to seeing elsewhere.

It’s got a kinder, gentler Trade Chat troll. Why, I can’t hardly recall ever seeing [anal] jokes at all! Instead, they go off on [pet type] memes. Hardly any filth at all!

Frankly, it’s a little unnerving. Trade chat on Alliance side without constant foul BS feels like you’re playing on a server of pod people.

I’ve been playing a lot on Azuremyst, the Band of Misfits is just a great group of people, lots of humor, very active, and a bunch of characters. Characters as in kooks, clowns, cavorting karoake carousers, college kids and couples. They are pretty active, too, doing old raids for the Achievements and such. I just took part in downing heroic mode Yogg-Saron last week, and had a blast. We’ve got heroic 25 Lich King tonight, and I’m really looking forward to it.

No matter how great things may be in the guild, though, they don’t have a horde side experience. I’ve wanted to play through all the new Cataclysm zone quests and changes on the horde side ever since they came out, but every time I made a horde alt, they leveled too fast to see everything.

Enter the Paladin.

A Tauren, because they’re awesome. Protection specced, since I want to see how Pally tanking really stacks up against the worst the PUG lifestyle has to offer.

And fully decked out in all the plate tanking and associated Heirlooms, because I’ve done the leveling thing the hard way, and I have no problem being ridiculously OP. Especially as the tank.

I almost made a critical error in playing the Paladin.

I leveled to 13 in Mulgore, did the whole zone for the second time, and it was quite fun. Things flow very well, and Paladins get lots of good tools for smacking things upside the head.

From Mulgore, I went directly to Silverpine Forest. I have heard a lot from Cassie about how awesome the questlines are in Silverpine, how cool it is to see the Banshee Queen in the aftermath of the fall of Arthas.

She was right, of course. With the Banshee Queen free of Arthas and the breaching of Greymane’s Wall giving access to Gilneas, Silverpine is transformed and has a great story to it.

Early on questing, everything was great. Then I dinged 15, and queued for randoms as a tank.

Stupid, stupid bear.

The random PUGs were fine, I dominated with Spear, er I mean Shield and Magic Helllllllllmut, but after just a handful of runs, I went back to Silverpine disgruntled to find I’d leveled past the damn zone already.

All the mobs were gray to me, and I could walk past everything without aggroing. That is SO irritating when you want to feel immersed. Whack, dead. Whack, dead. What, can’t you see me slaughtering your entire Gilnean Resistance Front? Whack, dead. C’mon, notice me, damn your eyes! I’m a skinner! I’m skinning wolves, and I’m /emoting skinning YOU! Did I just skin your cousin? I bet I did! After all, I got your whole village piled up back there in the cart, I bet he’s there somewhere!


So I had to swear off pugs and focus on questing through the gray zone. I dinged 25 last night, but at least I made it to the end of Silverpine without outleveling it TOO bad… and I logged out with a certain quest in my log.

A quest that promises to make me a quest giver, if only for a little while. Sitting on a horse, golden exclamation point overhead, the whole bit.

I’ve heard a lot about that quest, I intend to savor it slowly. :)

It’s the little things about the game, making it your own. Like having a huge, looming badass Tauren Paladin, rocking the spiky shoulders and helm. A Tauren whose very name proclaims his passion for the most valuable treasure in existance, a treasure that entire generations have gone to war for.

Baconburgler the Paladin. No bacon is safe.

(Yes, I know burglar is spelled with an ‘a’. I spelled it in the name with an ‘e’. It’s a riff on both bacon thieves and bacon burgers, get it? Yeah, I know. What can I say, I’m me.)

Having a name that makes you giggle when you see it is a solid part of making a character feel like it’s all mine. But there’s more.

Heirloom gear looks the way it looks, but there is one thing you can truly control. Your mount.

I’ve worked hard with humans before to get the Night Elf faction maxed JUST so I could have a kitty mount. Having strange mount/race combinations as early as you can get them, and fun/unusually distinctive mounts at max level are tried and true ways of being yourself.

I’m sure that every single person out there has spent at least SOME effort deciding which of the hundreds of mount/color combinations was the perfect mount for their favorite character.

I think many of us try to have that special mount for every main character, because it really is something that is up to us. Whatever mount you choose for a character says something, even if it’s “Hi, I still have the default mount I bought when I trained because I’m cheap and I don’t give a shit and I have no romance in my soul whatsoever, lols.”

The new Tauren Paladin mounts are pretty cool. The coloring style used resembles earthy clay pigments, and goes very well with the Sunwalker motif.

But that didn’t really give me the badass vibe I was looking for. It didn’t say, “Hi, I’m Baconburgler, and I’ll be taking your order. No, I’m not giving you any food, I’m taking your order. Give it up. Mmm, now that’s a tasty burger! You mind if I have some of your tasty beverage to wash this down?”

So, let’s do something to give BB a little spiky Jules vibe. Let’s pimp his ride.

(I’d like to add that I wish Blizzards April Fools Gag of Pimp my Mount from 2009 was live. Yes, yes I WOULD like to pimp my mount, thank you very much.) 

Band of Misfits (the coolest raiding guild evar, they raid the most from coast to coast with mobs on toast like Emily Post) is level 25. Beartrap the Hunter be exalted yo, so I can buy the Reins of the Golden King, a pretty cool looking lion mount.

How does that help my Paladin? Well, as most of you know, the character that buys the mount from the Guild Vendor has to be exalted with the guild… but the mount itself is Bind to Account. You don’t have to be in the guild to use it, any of your characters can.

Why, just look what happens when that faction-specific item gets mailed cross-faction? It turns into the applicable item of the other faction, of course. :)

Introducing my level 20 unguilded Tauren Paladin, riding around on a massively badass Kron’kar Annihilator!

As I said, it’s the little things. Sure, most people can do the exact same thing I did, but the point isn’t what other people may or may not choose to do, or whether you think blowing 1400 gold on a mount for a level 20 alt is stupid, what matters to me is what *I* do, and doing something crazy that looks that cool puts a big ol’ smile on my face. 

The other thing that has been putting a smile on my face lately has been having the Vial of the Sands on my Druid. Not just because I like having Dragonform, but because I can carry a rider.

Cassie is having a good time leveling yet another Shaman, her favorite class. She’s in Outlands, getting all the quests done in a zone, collecting all the group stuff, and then she whistles for her pet Dragon to come and carry her around from place to place, killing stuff.

You have to be careful how you treat your pets, though. 

Last night, I carried her way to the top of the atmosphere in Nagrand before transforming into Swift Flight Form. As Cassie began falling to her death on the hard rocks below, I swooped down to get below and take screenshots.

To my dismay, she lofted a parachute and floated all the way down nice and safe with a full canopy overhead.

The parachute had no time limit, so she floated safely all the way down.


Now, this may seem harsh to you, but in my own defense, I think there was sufficient provocation.

After all, I didn’t fly out over the edge of the abysss before I shifted. I gave her a fair chance at splatting on solid ground. And she’s a Shaman. She could rez. I could even bring her back myself!

Oh, wait, I forgot to tell you the provocation, didn’t I?

Well, I’m tooling along the skies of Nagrand under her guidance as she turns in quests.

As we leave the Ring of Blood, headed for Nesingwarys camp, she says to me, “If I’m going to keep you around, I’m going to have to break out my Carrot on a Stick.”


“Or in your case, I’d better make a Bacon on a Stick.”


It wouldn’t have hurt so bad if it wasn’t so damn true. I finally understand those poor turtles swimming endlessly around Northrend. Put some Bacon on a Stick and hold it in front of me, and I’ll be sure to follow.

Of course, unlike those turtles… eventually, I’ll simply go get some of my own. Eventually. You know, just as soon as that delicious aroma is mine!

Just. Have. To. Fly. A. Little. Faster.

One inch deep but a million miles wide

Yesterday, I touched on some of the things I was doing in World of Warcraft that has me feeling like there is too little time for me to do everything I’d like to do.

It wasn’t meant as any kind of statement that there is too much content in WoW for anyone to feel bored, but that seemed to be how at least one person took it, and they wrote a great comment that brought me up short.

Syl of Raging Monkeys said, paraphrasing here, that from the point of view of someone that has one main character they love as their avatar in the game, there is very little to do other than raids and instances. Any new content feels gone the day after it comes out. Being able to do the same 5 quests on 10 alts does not equate to 50 quests worth of content anyway.

I wholeheartedly agree with you, Syl. I’m not saying there is tons of content to do, I’m saying there are tons of things I’m keeping busy doing.

Watch this next bit… I’m going to start rambling about the good old days. And yet, were they really all that good?

There was a time when my Druid was not just my main character, but my only character, just like Syl.

I know for people new to the game it may be hard to imagine, but there was a time when I played my first and only character for three months in Azeroth… just to get to level 60. No alts, no distractions, no other games.

I tackled everything at level, trying to take stuff on at Yellow or Orange difficulty for boosted XP rewards, and I scoured the land looking for more quests. What I didn’t do was try to rush to level, and I didn’t grind mobs. But I quested pretty consistently, and yep, three months.

When I look back on those days, and all the things that have changed since then, I do feel the changes were for the better. But the side effect of all those changes has removed the one thing that helped me love my Druid so much; I loved spending so much time in one zone doing quests that it began to feel as familiar as home. 

When you really think about it, the original pace of the game forced us to take time to advance. And when you spend a lot of time somewhere, you come to know it well.

Maybe you come to love it, maybe you come to loathe it, but damn it you know it!

Aside from the pace of earning XP from quests, and needing more XP then to advance to the next level, there were other reasons we were feet wet in zones for a long time.

We didn’t get mounts until much later, then. We spent 1 through 40 walking everywhere. We carefully planned our hearth settings, gathered and consolidated quests to need fewer trips, we did what we could, but we were slow moving mammals.

One aspect of that easy to forget is that when you’re on foot, it’s a LOT harder to just blast on through to where your quest objectives send you. When you’re on foot, you sneak in or you fight it all, and trying to run just got you dazed/slowed and eaten. You spent more time fighting your way to places.

Another aspect was fast mount speed cost a shitload of gold by old school prices. I knew a lot of people before Burning Crusade that raided, that simply couldn’t afford a thousand gold for an upgraded mount. They had repairs and enchants and crafting Flasks to spend money on instead. So even if you WERE 60, you could be running around and aggro bad guys, and they would be fast enough to catch your ass and knock you off your mount. Phase three… fight!

I still remember the moment I bought my Druid fast mount speed. I was still questing in Silithis, and I had a fast mount, and I was riding past mobs… and they couldn’t catch up to me in time to knock me off my riding cat! I swear to you, that moment I felt a surge of disdain blast right through me.. “Hah! Try to catch ME, mother-)&*(^er! My ass is OUTTA HERE! Nyah, nyah! Woot!”

Another reason I spent a lot of time in zones, time enough to get to know them very well, was that we were comparatively much weaker back then. Gear and talents were aimed at incremental upgrades. It was all additive. You’d get a +3 strength boost on an epic as compared to your best blue. It didn’t seem like much, but when all your gear had those little boosts, it all added up and made you far more effective.

With content balanced with that in mind, tackling 3 or 4 mobs at appropriate level was a hell of a challenge, and just traveling through mobs to get to a quest objective could take a while and some careful planning.

By the time I was done with a zone, I might have been frustrated at how long it all took, but I really knew the area well. I had spent enough time there to develop unique experiences that stayed with me as special events. And gaining a level or two felt like a big deal.

Even now, I can cast my mind back and call forth doing escort quests, orc stronghold invasions, and performing genocidal slaughter of centaurs in Desolace as if it happened to me, and not something that flitted past my eye on screen for a second and was gone.

I remember with fondness the turning point in my feral Druid life, when I took on groups of mobs in Un’goro Crater because they were packed so tight, and developed a feral spec that drew deeply enough on Restoration that I could take Nature’s Swiftness. If it weren’t for how challenging the fights were then, there would have been no call for me to develop a fighting style where I could pull four raptors, burn one down in Cat while accepting the increased damage, switch to Bear and stun one to reduce incoming damage I’ll take in caster to two mobs worth, shift to caster, fire off a Nature’s Swiftness instant cast max level Healing Touch, shift back to Bear to grind them down to one left and then back to Cat to finish it off.

Three mobs, even four, and to still be alive at the end! That was some intense and satisfying fighting, and a true sense of accomplishment that lingers to this day. That was when I began to get a handle on how fun Feral could be if you lived it.

There, just like an old fool I rambled on about the good old days. Those days are long gone, and we have the game to deal with as it is now.

I drift off into into these things, and I think one reason is because I am having a very hard time convincing myself that everything today is rosy red.

I make alts, and they’re fun so long as the rush of possibility is still there. New alt, new name, maybe a new spec to play with, a new race combination, a new combination of professions.

The excitement only lasts while I can keep it different. The new content in Cataclysm is great, and I haven’t seen everything yet, but the closer I get any character to Outlands, the greater the dread grows.

What I try and avoid thinking about is how we have backed ourselves into a corner when it comes to new content.

The playerbase got Burning Crusade, and played it through and loved it. Once we got into end game raiding in Burning Crusade, where there were tons and tons of raids that had all these keys and attunements and quest chains and things to do before we were allowed to enter, we begged to have the leveling process accelerated so we could bring up a second character to help our groups out. DPS wanted to be able to have a Healer alt for when Gene can’t make it. Tanks wanted a DPS for when they felt burnt out.

There was so much to do at end game, we wanted to have extra characters to try and do it all. 

Well, now we’ve got it. The genie is long out of the bottle, the leveling experience is accelerated to ludicrous speed, and we can get alts up in weeks, not months.

But the acceleration applies to all PvE content outside of raids. And those of us with armies of alts long ago leveled them all most or all of the way there.

We’ve done Burning Crusade 8 times, Northrend 8 times, even Cataclysm 8 times.

Cataclysm feels more brutal to me than the others, and I think it’s because they gave us so much new in Azeroth. There is a limit to how much new content anyone can provide in an expansion, and the scope of what we got in Cataclysm was wonderful. It was more than I ever expected.

But it wasn’t quite enough in the end game to satisfy the need for new questing and adventuring.  

Blizzard has done a great job with Azeroth’s revamp, and the races/class combos, and the guild leveling, and the PvP, and even the raiding pace. They are fulfilling their promise of continuous new raiding and instancing content.

But Syl nails it on the head, that for those of us that want to take our main characters on an exciting new adventure, there just isn’t enough. Everything I’m doing is to distract me from that truth.

It is the adventuring that I love, and that calls to mind my favorite moments in the game over the years.

It is going new places with my Druid and seeing new things. In a perfect world, I’d be able to keep doing that with new questing content that came out as regularly as raids and instances. In a perfect world, there would be frequent mini-pack expansions of expanded worlds full of solo or two-person adventuring delight.

There would be $15 expansions of ‘pirate adventures’, and ’empire toppling’, and ‘lost civilization discovery’, the same as the D&D modules we used to buy from TSR. Things to keep you going for another couple of months of lateral adventuring at the same level and with new green level (or blue) quest rewards, leaving the epics to PvP and PvE raiders.

What keeps me from getting cranky about it, or seriously talking about it, is the simple fact that content for adventuring pleases one person at a time, and is only repeatable in that you can do it again with your alts. Content aimed at challenging a group of people can satisfy a whole lot of folks at once, and has a weekly reset timer.

It makes more economic sense to focus design team work on creating content that is inherently repeatable for a group.

The other thing I keep in mind is, Blizzard does have another design team hard at work on a new MMO. They are trying to make something insanely awesome, something that will both blow us away, and at the same time not compete directly with those of us that love the myth and feel of WoW. So I don’t expect the same level of investment in WoW as I would if it was all they had on their plates. WoW revenues help to support new product development. How could it be any other way?

I guess all I’m coming around to say is, I can’t always get what I want, but if I try sometimes, I justmight find, I get what I need…. until something shiny comes along, or the new MMO comes out, or getting to know a good group of folks to play with changes the game experience itself in new ways.

Thank you very much for the thought provoking comment, Syl.

And have a great weekend!

I’m a bad player and proud of it


I am a bad player, and I *am* proud of it.

Tobold revisited the ageless topic of players that don’t use the ‘optimal’ spec or rotation in group play this week. 

It’s certainly been talked about before over the years, but damn, what a great subject to chew on! That’s one that really gets the juices flowing, know whut I mean?

No matter what you do in game, if you play in group settings, you’ve got an opinion on this one.

I’m going to present mine, because that’s the only one I know that comes from the heart. BUT! I can easily see there being several different, equally valid viewpoints available, because there is no one set goal in World of Warcraft. Not everyone is in it for the same reason; as in, not everyone is focused on clearing the end game content firstest and fastest, or focused on completing every 5 man in heroic mode, or in completing a boss fight with zero deaths, or always using the pretty green fire, or beating content on hard modes, or playing with complete stoic professionalism get in get done get gone, or to romp through the game with a relaxed, friendly joking atmosphere, or beating the snot out of bosses with all of one particular class. Or ‘whatever floats your boat, honey’, to quote Flashback.

For each player, the goal of the game is personal to them, and with a game so vast in content, of course it’s going to vary from person to person. Therein lies the fun of the discussion, for when you get two people who disagree on a topic, if they don’t go into a discussion with open minds, they’re liable to assume that ONE of them just HAS to be wrong instead of thinking about it from the other person’s point of view.

I guess what I’m saying with that preamble is, I anticipate much anger and chest beating about this subject, and I honestly won’t mind.  

What’s the core issue up for discussion?

“Is it okay to play below your potential when grouped?”

That’s the core issue. Right? We talk about this subject, and around this, endlessly.

But is that really the core issue here?

There is another underlying issue at work here too, because this wouldn’t be as big a topic as it is if some folks didn’t feel they had a right to answer this question FOR OTHER PEOPLE.

The real topic is, “Is it okay for other people to play below their potential when grouped?”

People don’t treat this as a personal decision to make up their own mind about. Instead, people take a stand on this, make up their minds about what standard of behavior everyone else should follow, and then act as though everyone else should agree about it and be held accountable to that standard.

That’s where I’m going first with this post. That’s the meat of what I’m going to talk about, and I’m going straight to the part of this that causes drama. Taking other people’s inventory.

Every time we talk about a bad pug, we’re doing this. “Oh, this one player, he was so bad, he did blah blah blah”… “Oh, I joined this one group, and the tank had prioritized blank stat over blank…” Oh, how horribad.

We group up, and we take other people’s inventory. We check them out and hold them up to what our own personal standard is, and if they don’t measure up, we ain’t happy.

I’m going to come right out and say it, I do this all the time, I judge the performance of other people, I judge how people act towards others, how they behave, how they spend their time (as in, is the dude actually going to HEAL at some point, or just bitch about the crappy DPS?), I’m sitting right there and you betcha red ryder, I’m watching you. :)

Most of the time, and this may surprise you, what I’m watching and noticing are the things people do that are good. I don’t like dwelling on the negaitve, I am always looking for things that are praiseworthy, that would make for a good ‘This person kicked ass” mention.

Still and all, if there are problems or wipes or terrible behavior towards others, absolutely damn straight, I’m noticing and probably getting irritated.

What I’m not going to do is act the assclown to you based on your class, spec or gear. Nor will I ever mention your rotation to you. Ever. Behavior issues WILL get me all riled up, but even then, it takes a lot for me to say something to you. 

Let’s put behavior aside, though. Let’s just talk about specs, gear, classes and rotations. There is a big difference in thinking “This healer isn’t really geared up enough for this”, and saying in party chat or whisper or any other way, “Hey, I don’t think you’re ready to heal this content yet.”

I don’t pull that crap, for two reasons. First and foremost, it is not my place to tell someone else how to play their character. It is not my place, I do not have the right, moral or otherwise, to tell anyone else what to do, unless it is my specific job as agreed upon by the group.

If I’m the raid leader for a group, and it’s part of my responsibility to ensure that everyone in the raid group is properly prepared, then sure, I’m going to be making observations and asking questions if, in my opinion, I think things could be improved. Notice I’m not saying I’d dictate changes that needed to be made. I’m saying that if I saw things that looked like they could be improved, I’d ask the player for their opinion on the subject, and work it out. Maybe they’re going with some new spec or focus of stat and rotation they researched that might show improvement on a boss fight.

If five strangers meet in an LFD pug to do an instance, ain’t nobody got the right to tell someone else how to play. Here’s why;

The phrase ‘taking their inventory” originally came from Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12 step program. Step 4 of the process is to Take a Moral Inventory of Ourself.


Step Four is a fact-finding and fact-facing process. We are searching for “causes and conditions.”

We want to uncover the truth about ourselves. We want to discover the attitudes, thoughts, beliefs, fears, actions, behaviors, and the behavior patterns – that have been blocking us, causing us problems and causing our failure.

We want to learn the exact nature of our “character defects” and what causes us to do the unacceptable things we do – so that once they are removed – we can acquire and live with new attitudes, thoughts, beliefs, actions and behaviors for our highest good, and for the highest good of those with whom we come in contact.

From this concept of taking a moral inventory of ourselves to identify our own hidden defects and try to find ways to improve came the language of taking someone else’s inventory FOR them; of judging someone else, making assumptions about that person, identifying what we think of as their defects in character and behavior, and then deciding what we thing they should do to fix it.

One of the things that experience has taught people in AA is that you can’t make those decisions for someone else. No matter how much smarter you think you are, unless three conditions are met, any suggestions (or judging) you make for them will serve little useful purpose.

Those three conditions are; they have to need your advice, they have to want your advice, AND they have to ask for your advice. If one of those is missing, you’re not going to be helping them, you’re just fulfilling some need of your own to make yourself feel better by speaking or acting out towards someone else. You’re dumping your unwanted and unasked for opinion on someone else. As the saying goes, opinions are like assholes, everyone’s got one, and yours stinks.

The very first condition is, they have to need your advice. You’re already making one walloping hell of an assumption by thinking they need YOUR advice to fix their problems. If you can’t see that, then hey, you probably never read this far.

So… before you blurt out in party chat exactly what you think of someone else, hows about you look at yourself first, and ask yourself, “what do I really need to say to them, and what purpose will really be served here by saying it?”

Let’s change it up and flip it over the other way.

Taking other people’s inventory. It’s a great phrase for our game, isn’t it?

What else do you call it when some stranger you just met in a group begins to tell you how your spec needs to be changed, what gear you need to replace, what stats you’ve prioritized wrong and what part of your rotation is messed up? That your healing is crap, you can’t tank, you need more health, you’re not moving right, stop acting like a noob, etc etc.

How does that make you feel? Even if it isn’t directed at you, how do you feel when one person begins telling someone else how they should play their character or perform their role in the group?

If someone starts talking to you like that, does your mind open up, willing and eager to learn from the pearls of wisdom that this idiot is sharing with you?

I know I don’t. I tend to think he’s acting like a self-important little asshat instead of focusing on playing his own character the best he (or she) can. And I put him on ignore or just tune the idiot out, and focus on carrying him since he can’t be bothered to pay attention to his own actions. Judging my actions (or someone else’s) is more important to him than playing.

Is it true? No way to tell, because even if the person really DOES think there is a problem they could help with, their approach was confrontational and only served to piss people off.

Again, sure, we judge other people in game and in life, that’s part of who we are. I’m not suggesting we all be perfect little saints and stop making decisions based on our opinions of the people we meet in game, or to stop following our gut feelings. 

What I *am* suggesting is that the actions we make be directed NOT at yelling at other people, but instead be directed at changing ourselves to take us OUT of a bad situation we don’t want to be in. Don’t waste your time and energy directing your anger or annoyance at someone else to try and make *them* change.

Okay, so what if you’re a naturally helpful person? A mentor, a coach.

Then ask yourself what you’re really trying to do. If you really are trying to provide guidance and support, to mentor someone through what seems to be difficult at the moment, then the first thing is to not be confrontational. If the other person really is trying their hardest to do the best they can, then chances are good they know they’re not playing as well as they could be. Your yelling at them for it will just put them on the defensive and close them down.

Instead, try and be open and helpful. Compassionate and friendly. Warm and genuinely trying to help as a guide, not as a dictator.

You can ask, gently and with great courtesy, in a whisper, if the other person is familiar with the next fight, boss, battle or instance. You can ask if someone has been playing their class for a long time, or has done much research on their current spec or gear. IF the person seems receptive to suggestions, then and only then, after mentioning, again in non-bragging, non-epeen waving  fashion, that you have some experience with the content/spec/gear in question and would be willing to help, you could offer to share some pointers.

All of this conversation, by the way should be by whisper ONLY. There is no need to make this a “everybody else just chime in to tell him what to do” situation. By approaching it privately, and making sure the person understands you are offering some suggestions if and only if they are welcome, then you can feel your way towards seeing if the person IS needing advice, looking for advice, and if offered, will ask for it.

They may need advice, and want advice, but just not from you. People can be very proud, and what good does it serve to get somebody all riled up if they don’t want to be told what to do? If you have them thinking in the direction of support or advice, they might not want it from you as a complete stranger, but they might be open to being directed to where a few awesome resources are for their class, such as Tree Bark Jacket for Restoration Druids, or Warcraft Hunter’s Union for Hunters. You can point them in the direction of brilliant tips and guidance and feel good about having helped. When in doubt, directing someone to Elitist Jerks is always in style.

The important thing is, if you really want to be a helpful person in groups and help out those that might seem inexperienced or new to a class/spec/role, take away the suggestion or insinuation that they are a bad player, and turn it into a discussion about suggestions for dealing with this one unfamiliar situation

How many people, good friends, do you know that are like unto a living god at their normal ‘main’, but have taken to trying new classes or specs lately? How would you feel if you saw them playing their new and unfamiliar character in a group, and got ripped a new one and called a ‘worthless noob wrath baby’ because they didn’t do something someone else expected as they try and master their strange group situation?

It’d probably piss you off a little, wouldn’t it? Here’s the best damn Warlock you’ve ever known, and this monkey-muncher just went off on him for no good reason. So what if it’s taking him 3 extra seconds to get his Rogue turned around and facing the right way behind the mob the tank is attacking… dude’s not used to running into the damn fight from the back is all, it takes a bit to get that down. You don’t exactly get to practise running around behind a mob much when you’re soloing.

If you are at your most gentle and circumspect, and you try and whisper the offer of a little help and the person gets defensive or hostile, that’s the point where you drop it. You drop it and you be courteous when you do so.

If someone else is not open to your suggestions or ideas, then it’s on you to take action for yourself if you feel you have to, and not to try and force change on them.

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the behavior of other players on this blog over the years. I talk about crap I’ve seen, things that have annoyed me, and people I’ve just wanted to smack the crap out of. In a lot of cases, it’s my firm belief that beating all the crap out of them would be an all day job, and I’d have to make sure to both pack a lunch AND dinner to get it all beat out.

The big thing here is, it is incredibly rare for me to take out my annoyance in game on other people. Eve if the person is just having the most offensive behavior, how do I know what that person is going through? How do I know if maybe they had a rip roaring big breakup fight with their significant other, got canned at work, or are half drunk and really starting to build up a rage on.

It’s not right that they take that crap out on me… but I don’t need to be the one to take them down. I can just put them on ignore, and move on with my life.

My point is, trying to be helpful to others is great if you’re doing it to be a mentor or be compassionate because you remember what it’s like to be new. It’s something else entirely to tee off on someone else for gearing, speccing or playing in a way you don’t like.

If you are in a group that has players having trouble, then you need to take a look at yourself. If you can deal with whatever it is with a song in your heart and a smile on your lips, then go get ‘er done. Have fun. It may not be the greatest run in the world, but heck, they’re not all going to be the greatest run ever. Some of them will be merely good. And yes, some of them will downright suck.

But if you are getting way stressed out about the situation, don’t assume you have to try and change the other person… do something about the one thing you DO have power over – yourself. Leave the group. Leave, or try to vote kick the person if it’s their behavior you just can’t tolerate. Vote kicking someone else because you don’t like their spec or gear is bullshit. If someone else is being a tool, though, sure, vote kick the sorry bastard. If enough other people agree with you, then cool. If they don’t… again, move yourself out of the situation. Beat feet. Boogie on out of there.

I’m sure this whole post has been preachy as hell, but it’s something that I wanted to make sure I say, nice and loud and clear. This is truly how I feel about calling strangers out and chastising them for what you perceive are their problems in performance.

Now, about the real core point, from way back in the beginning…

“Is it okay to play below your potential when grouped?”

My answer to that question is, “Hell yes!”

With the goals I have in game, of course it is.

I don’t play World of Warcraft with the goal of playing as the most optimized possible character in the game.

I do not read Elitist Jerks to lock in what spec I should use, what rotation I should use, what stats to prioritize or what gear to hunt.

I *DO* read Elitist Jerks and other bloggers to gain guidance, suggestions and insight into what works, what doesn’t work, and to find out what research and experience have to say about whichever class or spec I’m interested in.

I reserve the right to deviate from the ‘optimum’ spec, rotation, stat or gear based on my one priority; is it fun to play?

That’s my goal in the game. To have fun playing

On my Hunter, I do not study the recommendations and research to make my choice on spec based on highest potential DPS. Instead, I start with the baseline; I want to play as a Beastmaster, because I like my Exotic pets.

After I have made that decision, THEN I check out specifics on how to gear for the best advantage, what stats to reforge into or out of, what abilities within Beastmaster do whatsit, and to find suggestions for doing my best in groups or solo, all that jazz.

I start with what I feel will be the most fun style to play, and work from there.

Maybe that’s not what you think that question is about, but I’m telling you, yes it is.

The underlying principle behind that question is, with a way to measure performance, be it as DPS, Heals or Tank, those classes that can perform those roles have potentials they can reach. If it is that important for you to be at your highest possible potential, then the differences between playing a specific rotation, a specific spec or a specific class based on potential performance are different from each other only by degrees.

“Oh”, you say, “But I only mean you should have to play your most optimized rotation, not that you have to play a specific spec within a class”, and I say to you, at it’s heart, it’s all the same thing.

“Oh”, you say, “I’d never tell someone what class they have to play based on which one does the most DPS”, and to that I say, it’s all the same thing. 

Now, that’s the direction I’m coming from. My goal is fun in playstyle first, and then within that, to play the best I can.

For other folks, just as an example, the goal may be the fast, certain destruction of content with the greatest ease possible for the group as a whole.

With that goal in mind, you could approach the discussion by saying, “If everyone isn’t playing at their very best, then someone is having to carry someone else.”

I’ve written blog posts about this before. I agree with that sentiment, to a certain extent. I feel that players that are grouping together have a personal responsibility to do the best they can to be ready on time to run with the group, to be prepared with whatever consumables they may need (or to have made arrangements with friends to bring them), to be ready to play their best and to kick ass. To pay attention, and to be focused on the success of the group.

I strongly feel that if you agree to play as part of a group, to do any less than this is to show a lack of repsect for the other people in your group.

But my personal goal is to have fun, and within that goal, I reserve the right to choose my own class, to choose my own preferred spec, to perform my own research, and to deviate from what is considered ‘optimal’ if I think it’ll be fun and not hurt anyone else.

Other people who are organizing said raids can reserve the right to tell me, “We don’t need or want you in our group unless you bring the blue sparks”, and I’ll have no hard feelings.

From the raiding success point of view, I completely agree that if someone isn’t doing the best they can, then the group as a whole will have to work a little harder to compensate in order to reach the same point.

However… from that same point of view, taken to the logical extreme, if Frost Mages do the most potential damage, then all raiders should be Frost Mages. Or Moonkin Druids, or Fury Warriors, or whatever is considered, through research and experience, to be the one class and spec that has the greatest potential damage of all of them.

If a group is not willing to go to that length, then there is already a tacit understanding that raiding success and individual fun are meeting somewhere in the middle. So maybe both sides could agree to chill out and find that common ground?

Heck, some groups may even be so devoted to the speedy, efficient destruction of content, the completion of world firsts and Hard Mode obliteration, that specifying what class to bring on top of spec and rotation and gear are considered perfectly normal.

I’ve got no problem with that… at that level, everybody knows what they’re getting into. But do those same players remember when they get into a five man random that not everybody else is quite that… well, extremely gung ho? I hope so. I surely do.

If I queue in a Heroic 5 man LFD, I certainly don’t expect to get ripped because I’m a Beastmaster Hunter, or a Kitty Druid, or a Frost Mage, or any other combination of class and spec. But yes, it’s happened.

If I happen to LIKE being a Warlock and finally having me some green fire? Yeah, I reserve the right to bring that green fire. To bring it, and to use it to light bosses up right on the ass. In five man content, and as a solo player.

I choose to play what I find to be the most fun. I will do all the research I can to be the best I can be within that framework, but the fun WILL come first.

It may not be optimal, it may not be the greatest potential way to play my class effectively and efficiently.

But it will be FUN!

Yep… I’m a bad player, and I’m proud of it!

The (Un)Holy Trinity


Thanks go to the MMO Melting Pot for clueing me in on a kerfluffle in progress around the blogosphere. I tend to miss these things, as I’m an old, out of the loop kind of Bear. 

From what Rebecca said, Tobold wrote a post recently that has inspired other people to write their own posts, either in support or condemnation.

There’s always some kind of drama in the blogosphere, so I’m not too sure what this particular kerfluffle is really all about. (I do love that word, I think kerfluffle shall be my word of the day. Not to be confused with the word ‘fluffer’, which, as we all know, is someone who heaps praise on the writers of WoW Insider in the hopes of being linked to. Right? That *is* what a fluffer is, right? Hold on, let me just check the urban dictionary… whoops! Oh, really? Wow, okay, moving on…. ya know, on second thought, that really is a fairly apt, oh never mind…) 

Umm, right, the kerfluffle. As far as I understand it from the Noisy Rogue’s post, the big to-do is something about Tobold saying that DPS only get to have their selfish fun because other responsible people step up and do the nasty, undesirable jobs of tanking and healing. Furthermore, if DPS want to be socially responsible, then they have a duty to step up there and take a turn as the tank or healer their own selves, whether they like it or not.

Yeah, I paraphrased mightily, tongue firmly in cheek. What I did was take a perfectly innocent quote, and read into it with the utmost of paranoia and suspicion, looking between the lines, above and below the lines, behind the lines, and coming up with my own damn lines as well. My version sounds kinda BS, doesn’t it? But that’s what some people seem to have read into it before they teed off.

Right up front, I want you to know that I don’t really care what all the drama is about, or what Tobold was really trying to say, or whatever. He knows what he was trying to say, and I’ve been on the blogging front long enough to know that while I always know what I meant to say in a post, that doesn’t always translate into the words on the screen. Did he mean whatever it was in the way it’s been taken? Only he knows, and only he knows whether he’s satisfied that he got his point across or not. Plus, you know, maybe he’s right.

I like to tank. I love to tank. That is the part of the game I have always loved the most. And, that is the part of the game of World of Warcraft I do not currently do at all, because I will only tank for people I know, and enjoy playing with. If I were playing on Horde side, there are folks there I like playing with and I would tank for them if they so desired. I’ve been focused on Alliance side since the expansion released, though, so I haven’t. I will not tank for strangers, not because it’s hard, but because every time I’ve tried there is a person that is a rude little obnoxious asshat… and I refer you to my comment above about being an old kind of Bear. Life is simply too short and too precious to me to waste my time dealing with punks, so I don’t.

That being said… Tobold has a valid point that since the current system has fewer tanks and healers looking for groups than there are DPS, it provides a good source of conversation on why… or, better yet in my opinion, a constructive discussion on what could be done differently, if anything at all?

I’m planning on taking a crack on speculating on ways it could be changed. Not for WoW, but for another MMO design looking to try a different approach to what is ‘known and accepted’.

As I like to say, even a blind squirrel gets a nut once in a while. Who knows, maybe I’ll actually have an idea worth something. Don’t hold your breath, though.

Whatever else you care to say about it, Tobold clearly wrote a successful post, because here I am writing a post inspired by it. Sorta.

I’m really more inspired by the central idea behind it all; the relationships between tank, DPS and healer, and what can be done about it. 

For any of my readers that have played MMOs in the past, the dynamic is a familiar one; challenges are designed to be too difficult for any one player to complete on their own. A group is needed for victory. The challenge typically has villains that do too much damage for someone who is not a healer to live through, does too powerful a single attack for anyone not a tank to survive even with a healer, and has too high a health for anyone not a DPS provider to burn down before the juice that keeps those heals going runs out.

So, roles are decreed; a tank to survive the big hits and keep the big bad’s attention; a healer to keep the tank alive through all the damage, and a DPS (or more) to do enough damage to defeat the big bad before the healer’s mojo runs out.

Thus, the unholy trinity upon which so much of our MMO group gaming is based.

Where we often see a disconnect, is that our MMO play experience is not IN a constant group. It is a combination of solo play with just occasional group situations.

When playing solo, most encounters are designed favoring a playstyle that delivers high damage output in a very short period of time, burning down individual bad guys quickly to move on to the next one. Thus, the most common and friendliest playstyle for solo players, by design, is the DPS role.

This means that, also by design, in order for a tank or healer to rise in the game, someone has to step outside of what they already know and are familiar with, the DPS playstyle, and take on a brand new role they know nothing about and have no previous experience in.

What is even more intimidating, often they have to do this in front of a live studio audience, who may have varying degrees of experience on how to play themselves… along with varying levels of civility, patience and compassion. 

And the final catch – while you can stack on more DPS players, as many as you’d like to increase the groups’ damage output, the overall success or failure of the entire group often rests on the shoulders of the tank and the healer. If the tank fails to hold the attention of the big bads or the healer fails to heal the people who need it as fast as they need it, then the DPS players or healer, who BY DESIGN are far squishier, will fall. Generally, once players start dying, the group will fail. Nobody likes to lose, and strangers can be downright vicious and cast blame far and wide when it happens.

Is it any wonder that, no matter how fun you try to make the healing or tanking roles, there shall always be people who refuse to try it? For fear of failure, fear of looking stupid, fear of letting other people down, fear of ridicule, fear of something unknown, fear of the expressed rage of others at a loss, fear of the consequences of not being prepared enough or ‘good’ enough.

Is there a problem with this system, or is it fine as is? Does it maybe just need some tweaks?

I think one fundamental issue that could stand to be addressed is how tanking and healing are roles that do not come into play in an MMO until it’s time for a group. Until that first group, there is never a time when tanking or healing are a valid, fun, successful playstyle.

If, through some combination of changing classes or encounters, the healing or tanking playstyles became both fun AND equally as effective as DPS to play solo, then I think you would see more people getting skilled in using them, and thus have a lot more confidence in those roles going into a group.

Tanking as a viable solo playstyle has already been done before, and people loved it. People who play World of Warcraft are already familiar with the concept of the person who levels as a tank, usually as a Paladin.

Why? Because Paladins, once upon a time, had both good survivability AND self-healing abilities, and although their damage output was lower than standard DPS classes, they could damage multiple bad guys at the same time. A leveling Paladin tank would just gather up lots of bad guys, and by damaging them all at the same time, burn them down slowly but as a big group. Yes it took them a long time for the fight to finally end, but overall, they killed enough extra enemies that it all kinda evened out. 

Even at the time, it wasn’t a very consistent way to level. The biggest reason being, you need areas your level that have lots of enemies close enough together that you can gather up a group. With single target fights being the norm for soloing DPS players, you didn’t see that kind of arrangement at every level of the game.

How could you make leveling as a tank a more attractive solo option? By placing more bad guys in an area that can be gathered up, and have those opportunities at every level of progression. Also, you could encourage it by increasing the ratio of physical bad guy to stationary spell casting bad guys. This would let you gather up lots of bad guys that will dutifully chase you around, but leave you one or two spellcasters that will let you practise silencing/line of sight pull techniques on them.

So, sure, you could modify your game world a little bit to accomodate the player wanting to level as a tank. Keep the enemies spread out enough for single target DPS style players to move through without being swarmed all the time, but have enough of them just close enough to each other that a leveling tank could gather a bunch up without too much trouble, in every zone they adventure in.

That is a game adjustment that would help encourage more leveling tanks, and in the process remove some of the fear from new tanks joining a group for the first time.

But what about healing?

How do you set things up so that healing is a valid playstyle?

I think one way to address that issue is to eliminate healing as a seperate role. Incorporate it into the management all players have to handle for themselves.

I’ll get back to that point in a minute, and let you build up your anger in the meantime over the very suggestion, by getting back to tanking. :)

I think another change that I’d love to see done is that tanking should be an option every class should have.

Let’s look at World of Warcraft for some examples of what I’m talking about.

During the Burning Crusade expansion, a lot of players took pride in finding ways to perform as a tank with classes that were traditionally DPS only.

The most famous of these was the Rogue class, which has the option to activate abilities that increase their chance to Dodge incoming attacks very successfully, for a short duration of time.

The challenge for these Rogue players was in arranging encounters so that they could get all the killing done before the duration of the especially high Dodge wore off. The tanking also usually required gear chosen for it’s very high Dodge boosting stats.

There have been many players who, of their own initiative, tried to force a DPS class into tanking, and succeeded. How much more successful would it be if the designer of the game gave them intentional tools to do that tanking properly?

What’s the biggest role of the tank? Is it to survive incoming damage? No, because a Mage with Ice Block can do that as well for a brief period of time, and so can a Hunter with Feign Death.

The main duty of the tank is to keep the attention of all of the big bads on him, and off of the rest of the group. Only after that is health important.

If a player can keep all of the big bads on him alone, AND survive the fight, that player has accompished the role of a tank.

So, two aspects of the tank to duplicate amongst the classes; a way to hold the attention of bad guys, and a way to survive that attention.

Anyone who has played World of Warcraft for any length of time around a Paladin tank knows that, even when fully specced as a tank, sometimes a Paladin would just be utterly unable to hold the attention of the bad guys. As soon as people started shooting, the bad guys would go running wild.

Why? The Paladin has a special ability that they can choose to turn on or off called Righteous Fury. The sole function of Righteous Fury is to make everything a Paladin does cause increased Threat. Heals, damage, anything that any character could do that would normally cause Threat (the effect that gets the attention of a bad guy) would have the value of that Threat significantly enhanced. Enhanced high enough to normally overshadow anyone else in the group.

It’s a “I’m the tank now, dog” button, and Paladins that forgot to activate it would find themselves quickly ignored as the DPS players, with their higher damage output, attacked the bad guys.

My suggestion is, why not offer all players an “I’m the tank now, dog” ability? Something they can activate that intentionally boosts the Threat value of everything they do.

But go beyond that. That same ability could incorporate a multiplier to the player’s health, providing the boosted life that tanks often need. It could also turn on a ranged Taunt ability, something that only a player with the “I’m the tank now, dog” ability active could use. (You know, to prevent those accidental taunt tag teaming). And of course, with ITTND on, there would have to be a downside, or people would run with it on all the time. So, as soon as it goes on, your Threat output may go up by 400%, but your damage output would be reduced by 400%. You are holding attention and surviving, not being a one man death machine. Boom, instant higher threat, higher survivability, and a reason not to use it when you want to do lots of damage. Sure, you could level using it… you’d just need to grab up 4 or more enemies to kill at one time to make up for your reduced damage output.

But there is more to being a tank than threat and health. There is also having a unique way to feel like you’re tough to bring down.

World of Warcraft has shown us that it is possible to have tanks designed around something other than shields and plate armor. Rogues have long effectively survived some nasty stuff using their long cooldown abilities. Remove or reduce some of those long cooldowns, and give them a threat increaser, and they’re a ready made tank.

Druids had their high armor value to reduce all incoming (physical) damage. Warriors and Paladins had their Defensive Stances, Shields and Swords to Block and Parry.

Hunters have a pet they can send in, in their stead. That never has worked very well for consistent group situations, mainly because there are limits to how powerful the pets are designed to become for fear of PvP balance issues. Having a toggle for a tanking mode that dramatically reduces damage output while increasing threat output and health/armor would go a long way to changing that, especially if the Hunter could use their Misdirect to their pet as a Taunt. How fun would that be? A long distance tank, seeing when their pet lost aggro and taunting the mobs back to the pet? It can already be done with Intimidation, and traps help control enemies very well. Hunters are just so close to being tanks, they can taste it. 

With these examples, it’s easy to see that if this was the direction a design team wanted to go, it could happen. 

There are so very many things that could be tweaked a little bit to every existing class in WoW to accomplish the goal of giving an option to perform the tanking role; hold the attention of all the bad guys, and survive incoming damage.

As long as damage output was drastically reduced while tanking, and the focus was put on generating high threat instead, it wouldn’t even be a destabilizing influence on most PvP situations, especially if you could only change into that tanking mode while out of combat.

But what about the healing role? I hope you held onto your anger and are ready to unleash it on me now :)

Why not remove dedicated healers entirely and put the responsibility of self-healing squarely on the shoulders of each player?

Again going back to an existing example, currently the Rogue class in WoW has a very interesting experiment going on. Recently a new spell was added, giving Rogues a heal over time capability. Recuperate is a new Rogue finishing move, giving the player the option to choose to use combo points on a self-healing “Heal over Time” spell instead of on increased damage or on speed boosts.

Similarly, Paladins with their new Holy Power combo point system can use those points on an instant cast heal spell called Word of Glory.

With some modifications, such a system of self-healing choices, sacrificing damage output in exchange for self-healing at various rates, could be used to replace the traditional healing class entirely. After all, how much damage is taken, who takes it, and at what rate is directly controlled by the game design team.

But the only way it could work would be if the dedicated healing classes were no longer an option, and every class had valid ways to choose to either heal themselves OR do damage/generate threat.

If you give just a few classes the ability to self-heal, and keep the dedicated healing classes, you’ll quickly run into what Rogues are seeing now; changes to the effectiveness of Recuperate as the designers try to find a ‘sweet spot’ that let’s it be helpful while the Rogue is alone, but isn’t too powerful when there is a healer nearby during a raid.

Many challenges in MMOs like World of Warcraft right now are balanced around trying to find ways of keeping dedicated healing classes busy/occupied during a raid. Because the design is built around the trinity of tank/DPS/healer, then a healer has to be there. But, if there isn’t enough for the healer to do, the healer will be bored and not have fun. So encounters are intentionally designed with more kinds of damage, more things that need to be removed like Curses or Poisons, bigger spikes of sudden damage that may kill the tank instantly to keep you on your toes, a limited resource like Mana to manage so you have to stay aware of what’s going on at all times, all sorts of complexity just because there has to be a healer role, and that player has to be kept busy.

If you remove the dedicated healer role from the design equation, you remove the need to design encounters to intentionally tax healers to the edge all the time. You can cut back on the massive damage spikes, and force each player to be responsible for his or her own cleansing of curses, or of moving out of goo that causes damage, or of sacrificing damage output temporarily to regain some health when needed… or of choosing to push harder on damage, trusting in the defeat of the boss before they die.

You bring the responsibility back squarely on the shoulders of the players… and you also force them to use their judgment, with nobody but themselves to blame if they die, unless they pulled threat from the tank.

I know that World of Warcraft is far too developed and fine tuned to ever go in that kind of radical direction.

What I do hope is that someday we will see a game designer take a hard look at the unholy trinity, and decide to see what would happen if healing were the responsibility of each individual player, instead of just one or two in the group.

I also think it would be a lot of fun to see a game where leveling as a tank was an option for every class, and thus the question in any group would never be “who here can tank?”, but instead “which of us wants to tank this one?”

To misquote one of my favorite songs; “Glory be to God that there are no more of us, for one of us could tank it all alone…”