Archive for the “Bearwall” Category

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.

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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!

Comments 21 Comments »


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!

Comments 19 Comments »


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…”

Comments 48 Comments »

A post about perspective.

Or, to quote one of my favorite movies, “Spaced Invaders”, “Maybe you’d better step back and look at the big picture here.”

I’ve been playing for a while, and I believe most of you have been also. “A while” is subjective, but I’m using the term to mean “You’ve played long enough to get comfortable with how the game works, how your characters(s) are controlled, and you’ve got at least one character to the end game and have been sitting at end game since before patch 4.0.1.”

That’s a whole lot of meaning to dump on one poor, innocent little word, isn’t it?

Patch 4.0.1 came along and shook a lot of things up, but it’s starting to settle down a bit. We’ve all had a chance to play what we consider our “mains”, get Glyphed and specced and regemmed and move our stats around a bit if we’re into that sort of stuff.

I’ve seen some comments out there since the Patch came out, and it seems that responses are a bit mixed. As one example, Dechion, a long time devotee of the Hunter class, is so unhappy with the overall changes that he just can’t bring himself to play his Hunters anymore. He’s moved on to other classes.

The post I’m writing now is inspired by two things; Dechion’s post and his reasons for not liking the changes to Hunters, and my own personal experiences since Patch 4.0.1 went live.

You see, contrary to Dechion, I’ve had nothing but positive experiences in actually playing since 4.0.1 went great gonzo on the servers.

I’m obviously not talking about bugs or crashes or instability or the world server crashing because OOB got the Kael’thas Realm First 25 man Heroic ICC Lich King kill last night (grats, guys!).

I’m talking about having fun playing a class.

There is a reason for that, and it has to do with my forward planning. When Blizzard announced the intent of their changes in Cataclysm, and the scope of what they were going to do in revamping Talent Trees and abilities, I stopped making new alts… of classes I do not already know.

It’s been hard. I get tired of end game, and love making new alts. I love the travel, the exploring, the following of new paths, the road not taken the last time, choice ‘C’ in the Make Your Own Adventure book story, the trying on new pets or new specs, doing stuff that’s unfamiliar.

But I did it. I put my Warrior on a shelf, I didn’t make another Warlock, I canceled other alts, and really the only altage I was doing was a Death Knight on another server, and that was mostly so I had a gold maker should Cassie and I start playing somewhere with more character slots… she’s plumb run out.

With 4.0.1, I’ve played my maxed characters a bit, Druid, Hunter, Shaman, Paladin and Rogue. Playing those characters gave me one perspective on the changes. Settling in, getting used to how they feel, trying to work out the changes and develop a new flow.

Then I respecced my leveling Mage, dusted off my 43 Warrior, I started playing my level 73 Shadow Priest again for the first time in, literally, over a year (haven’t played her since hitting 73 a month after Wrath was released, just made her my Jewelcrafter bot), And even made a Warlock for just 4 levels, to kinda feel the class out. I played my leveling Death Knight a teeny tiny bit, since I was loving Blood before and Blood for DPS feels dead as a doornail.

Playing the characters I’m more unfamiliar with gave me a much different perspective.

You see, the characters I was really familiar with obviously feel like strangers now. Enough of the core rules have changed, but enough of the intent has stayed the same, that it’s not just that there was change. It’s that some things look like how they used to, spell names and Talents, and it leads me to expect them to work a certain way from past experience, but things are changed enough that once I get into a flow using abilities can feel jarring, unnatural.

But the characters I don’t have any pre-conceptions about come off as feeling fresh, smooth, and extremely well-designed. It’s the well-designed and well thought out aspects that make me look more closely at the classes I know.

I respecced my Warrior as Fury for now, after playing the new changes as Prot for a bit, because I wanted to see if it was just me. Leveling as a Protection Warrior with the new changes felt like being an evil little killing machine… so how much more powerful could an actual DPS spec feel?

Well, pretty crazy, actually. The new Fury is just nutso. I had two Heirloom swords, so I went dual-spec Fury, and it’s just zero down time. Stuff dies so fast I wish there was a Glyph that refreshed the cooldown of Charge when you kill a mob that grants honor or XP, like Death Grip does. ‘Cause I’m ALWAYS waiting on the Charge cooldown.

What about the changes to Frost Mages?

Well, I never use the Water Elemental because I’ve got my own pet tank (sorry, Cassie), but I love that you DO get it as a base ability of the class/spec at level 10, and while I miss a lot of the focus of the original Frost Talent Tree in being able to concentrate on pinning down monsters and raining a Blizzard on their heads, the new method of play with Fingers of Frost and Brain Freeze, and the instant Ice Lance and all of our other goodies is just hilariously awesome. As my crit increases I feel like I’m riding a wave of juggling procs that’s actually fun to manage based on the situations. It’s never really about following a set chain of triggers, it’s about knowing what to use at the moment out of what you’ve got available. Decisions and judgment, gotta love ‘em.

The Death Knight I switched to Frost and had a lot of fun on for a couple nights, picking out one-handers and dual wielding and messing about before the lure of the Mage called to me.

The Priest… ah, the Priest. I tried, I really did. It was fun, and I did blow through another level, but here’s the funny thing; the playstyle of Shadow actually doesn’t feel like it’s changed much at all, and so I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as the others. The whole “Pop some DoTs and Mind Flay to slow” thing was still in effect. Oh sure, stuff died so damn fast that it felt like I was casting too many DoTs and I pared it down… but it still felt too automatic. Not enough room to mess about with other things. Probably just me, but the class certainly wasn’t lacking in any power, just variety. But back when I was originally Shadow in BC, I loved the playstyle… so again, it’s not that the class is lacking, it’s probably my own perception of what I like now compared to then, and Shadow is still very good… so good they didn’t have to change it that much.

I did make a Paladin alt just to see about the differenec when you hit 10 as Ret, and I’ve watched Cassie as her Druid changed and got Mangle as one of her given moves while leveling. Both clearly rock the casbah.

It really does seem to me that the class changes, all of the class changes from level 10 on, have been extremely successful. They were all well thought out, from a “starting fresh with a new perspective” point of view.

Every new class that I play, or every new spec of a class that I play feels tight, smooth, fun and exciting.

The only real dissapointments I have are when I play classes or specs that I already knew very, very well, right?

So, I gotta ask, is it the design on a few of them, or is it just me? Because it sure seems as though it’s probably just me.

If I’d never played a Feral Druid before, would I be rocking the changes better than ever? I’m still loving it now, I soloed an instance just the other night to manage multi-mob threat, and it was lots and lots of fun.

With the AoE cooldown timers, it’s the return of multi-mob threat distribution, but I preferred that style over Swipe spam by a light year anyway. Only reason I and so many others started spamming Swipe was because DPS stopped giving us a second to grab all the mobs. These days I follow the apparent intent of Blizzard; mark some targets, dish your threat, use Swipe to stay above Healer threat, and if a DPS grabs from me on an unmarked mob before the marked ones are all dead, let his dumb ass die as a learning experience.

Oh, and my Druid is back on the Alliance side. I’m a Night Elf again. It’s only temporary, though, until Worgen get opened up for race changes. Just an FYI. Now I have a max level tanking character on both factions, which was my original intent.

It’s just funny. I don’t dislike any of my max level characters, I actually LIKE my Hunter’s changes quite a bit, the trap launcher and multiple trap types up at once and expanded stables and new pets… much like Mania, I can see Hunters have a BLAST in Cataclysm. I dislike feeling like Arcane Shot spam for Beastmasters is a viable technique, but I’m sure that’ll get nerfed.

But while I don’t dislike my max level characters, the changes to the characters I’m unfamiliar with, now that I’ve learned those abilities and integrated them into a playstyle just as if they were brand new characters all feel fresh, vital, and above all exciting.

The whole thing REALLY makes me look forward to making a brand new Troll Feral Druid when the expansion comes. Leveling from level 1 as a tank from the very beginning seems incredibly exciting. Having that chance to flush all of my preconceived ideas and experiences, to start over with a clean slate and work out what to do and how to do it, wow. I’m excited.

Plus, I get to be a Gummibear. How cool is that? Yes, yes, I know, I’m in the minority on the colors, it’s okay. I’m freaking wierd, it’s understandable that I’m a rare bird when it comes to liking rainbow bears.

But that’s going to be the big challenge for me in Cataclysm. To look at the old and familiar with new eyes.

I fully intend to level as a Troll Bear Tank for Cassie. I intend to make a second Hunter and level as BM, collecting new and exciting pets along the way. I intend to finally make that Warlock that never was, as a new Goblin. And I’d like to try a new Tauren Paladin from the ground up.

Mostly classes that I’ve played before, classes that I KNEW very well indeed. I know it’s going to be a challenge. Can I really set aside the years of “this is how it works” and see the classes for the way they really are now, and LIKE them on their own terms?

I think so. I think I can do it now at max level, but how much easier will it be when the characters are new and the world is changed and alive?

How about you? How have your experiences been going in the new Patch? Have you experienced any of this kind of dichotomy between the new and the familiar? Are you looking forward to the new expansion like I seem to be?

Or have the changes to your familiar characters clicked with you even better than the old way did, and far fro feeling wierd, they now feel ‘just right’?

Oh, and as far as my Warrior goes… he’s a Blacksmith. I managed to achieve one of my goals, and maxed out Blacksmithing as high as i can get, and am running around wearing personally crafted ‘Imperial Plate Armor.” Is it just me, or wouldn’t it be cool if we could choose what color to make the accents of the armors and weapons we made? ot the bse steel greys or blacks, but the accent colors. I find it cool that my badass Orc is tooling around desecrating the Imperial Plate armor, but I sure wish I could have made the accents and helmet plume colors Horde Red instead of Alliance Blue.

Just saying!

Have a great weekend folks.

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