Let slip the Bears of War

As you may have seen Gnomer mention in a few posts, I might have maybe sorta played some PvP this last weekend.

Gnomer, Keredria and the Pugnacious Priest along with many others from their guilds did some pre-made xrealm Arathi Basin over the weekend, and were kind enough to invite me along. I went willingly… on my Druid.

I know, right? I understand my PvPing on a druid is considered canon as the 13th sign of the eschaton. Sorry about that, just remember to use cocoa butter oil based sunscreen. It doesn’t protect you any better, but you will be tastier when fried in a lake of fire. Just trying to help!

As a non-raiding player of World of Warcraft, I have surprisingly good PvE gear thanks to LFR. I’ve had some really lucky rolls, I’ve invested in 397 Valor gear, and I optimized everything… for tanking.

When I go into LFR, I do 22k DPS, but all of my gear was gemmed, enchanted and reforged for Bear tanking. I just use a kitty DPS spec for my offspec, switch to DPS trinkets, and go for it.

Yes, it is gimping the LFR raids. At the same time, I only tank for friends, and I feel that right now 22k DPS is adequate. Or, as Shadowson would say, “Do the bosses still die? Right then, whats the problem?”

What this ends up meaning is, when I went PvPing without resilience gear, I had a gazillion Dodge Rating up the furry old butt, high Stam, and a kitty DPS spec. I wasn’t really a glass cannon, I’d say I was closer to ceramic.

The evening was fun. As Keredria said, playing with a bunch of folks with exotic accents is cool, it does bring home the international flavor of the experience. I didn’t know how long people intended to go, but I lost myself in killing Horde until Cassie tapped me on the shoulder and told me it was time to get my son to bed. I blinked, and realised three hours had blown past.

Time is so elastic. It compresses to get tons of things into a blink of the eye while killing, and then uncoils into slomo when waiting at the spirit healer for a rez again DAMNIT.

To be clear, no I do not recommend Bear gear with Cat spec as a good alternative to PvP gear. But it did aid me in burning down the squishies, and you’re supposed to kill the healers first, right?

My favorite moment of the evening was in one of our last Battlegrounds.

The others in the group, being professional BG gankers, had these addons that analyzed the opposing force structure.

Gnomer comes over vent, “Bugger, they’ve got nine healers!”

Holy crap. I can’t even remember if we won or lost. What I do know is that it was like fighting cockroaches, they just would not die. Stomp, stomp, stomp, NO DIE! Damnit, why won’t you die?

Gnomer mentioned I was working on a Shaman and he came and helped out. Let me elaborate on that for a moment.

We were fighting around Blacksmith, and there was a nice big scrum going on. I did the whole Prowl prep to Pounce thing, looking around for a healer to gank. Sadly, this was a target rich environment for healers.

I picked out a Shaman, on the grounds that this Shaman was chain casting and using totems and acting as a force-multiplier, and if I could take the group-buffing totems out of play for a few, that would be a net asset to the offense.

So I pounced and stunned and stuff. I went to town attacking that Shaman. The Shaman didn’t move, just kept casting.

So I kept attacking. Boom, boom, boom, down to 75k, then back topped off. Boom, boom, boom, then back up.

I stopped running and bouncing around. The Shaman wasn’t trying to evade in any way. Just stood there, chain casting and taking it. So I settled in, got all nice and comfortably positioned for an all day camping trip, and proceeded to use every tool at my disposal built around Skull Bash in an effort to kill the Shaman before she could heal herself back to full.

I failed. Completely and utterly failed.

What blew my mind was this turned into a private war at Blacksmith. Neither of us was moving, I was 100% offense, she was 100% defense, and it was total stalemate. Nobody came to kill me to get me off her, she didn’t try to run away, and when I finally mentioned in vent that this Shaman was pissing me off, Gnomer came to add his explosive contribution to the battle.

We still couldn’t close escrow, because that just meant one of the Horde Priests started dropping heals on the Shaman in passing while running around healing other people.

Grrr! Impressive. Very impressive.

In the process of talking about how much fun that was, I had a simple question on Twitter yesterday.

Since we were able to do xrealm RealID BG pre-mades with ten people by timing the queues, is it possible to do xrealm RealID Alliance vs Horde pre-mades?

To be blunt – is it possible to field a Horde blogger vs Alliance blogger pre-made BG match?

Lassirra and Gnomer and a few others seem to think that it is.

Wouldn’t you just love to see PvP bloggers on Horde and Alliance face off in a BG for bragging rights? Beyond that, wouldn’t you love to join one side or the other and take part in the big fat kill?

I hope this takes off. I really do. I’d love my chance to die at the hands of some of my favorite writers, and I’d like to see what kind of rivalries could spring from this… at least so long as people keep their perspective and a sense of humor.

Mogging is getting the PvP outta Me

It seems that time has come again.

About once every couple years, I start doing lots of PvP.

The reason is simple – there will be something my PvE soul craves that can only be gained through PvP.

Back in the day, during the Burning Crusade expansion, the best weapons I could get at my level of raid progression came not from raids, but from PvP. I played in the available battlegrounds until my Shadow Priest had one sweet looking mace, and my druid had a very, very tasty tanking weapon.

During the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, my reason for a sudden burst of PvP was to buy some PvP heirlooms, and also to get the Bind on Account commendations that could be mailed to my low level alts and converted into honor. I have an alt Rogue in full RP Dungeon Set 2 with a PvP black war tiger mount thanks to those commendations.

With Cataclysm, there are even more reasons to PvP, but I had managed to contain myself. Sure, I’d done a few Tol Barads to see if I liked it (results – as part of the guild chatting on vent, yes. By myself, not so much.) but other than that, I saw the Seagull pet and somehow just said no.

Mogging has changed all that.

I’ve been looking at all the gear sets available for my Hunter, my Druid, my Warrior and my Paladin. For my Warrior, I decided on the bright Red and Purple superhero costume from Outlands dungeons, and ran those dungeons until I had it complete. I love it, it certainly stands out.

Sadly, that outfit is now thrown out the window.

I posted my disappointment with the Hallows Eve season drop rates…. with one day still left in the holiday.

Yes, that’s right, the day after I posted that the Helm never drops for me, it dropped. The last chance of the year, on the only character that I wanted to have it.

By the way, now that I know that whining on the blog results in getting what I wanted, I’d like to go on the record by saying that I’ve been wanting world peace and freedom from oppression  for all people year after year, and it has yet to drop. I’m very disappointed in the drop rate for world peace and freedom from oppression. Just saying.

Ah, if only we could whine to God and have our prayers be answered, instead of having to pull together, grow up, deal with the situation and do it ourselves. Talk about a dev that doesn’t listen to customer feedback!

Returning to relevance, now that I have a kick-ass helm for my Warrior, I need a new outfit that complements it. I had some great suggestions from Twitter, but I’m still stuck.

What does that have to do with PvP?

Well, as I’ve been browsing through item sets, I keep coming back to what I think are the coolest looking sets in the game.

The level 60 Field Marshal PvP epic sets and weapons.

The Paladin set in particular, with the golden glow and incredible asymmetrical pauldrons with level 60 PvP shield are gorgeous.

The prices are very, very cheap for these items as well… at least, they are right now. With Transmogging coming in 4.3, I would be vastly surprised if these amazing-looking sets didn’t see a bigtime price bump, based on looks instead of functionality.

The prices are cheap enough that, by simply running random battelgrounds four or five times, you can earn enough Honor Points to buy the full set plus weapons. Yes, they are that cheap. An afternoon on your level 85 and you can have, not just a good set, but a great set.

No, really. Check out my Hunter.

Because they are so cheap right now, I imagine that there will be a lot of characters dressed in them come 4.3. They won’t have rarity value. If that is a concern for you, and I know I do like standing out from a crowd, then they’re not going to be very attractive to you.

The Paladin set just looks so awesome, though. I can imagine a Paladin with full Field Marshal gear, with shield, astride the Tyrial Charger mount. Gonna look bitchin’.

It does leave me with an ethical dilemma to consider, a dilemma that only an MMO player deeply into insanity could even consider. You know, someone like me.

Since I never earned the PvP Field Marshal set when it was very, very hard to get, excruciatingly hard to get, and since I do not play PvP much right now (or ever), is it fair for me to have a character wear it in 4.3?

Oh, I’m going to wear it, did you see how hawt my Hunter looks up there? It’s just amazing to me that I even have these qualms. The only reason I do is because I respect the skill and effort that went into earning those sets when they were ‘the shit’ back in the day.

It’s been a long, long time since those halcyon days of our MMO youth, and I think half the players today probably don’t even know there was a time when there could be only ONE top PvP player with access to buy the best gear per faction, per server at any one time.

Think of how things are now, and consider that for a moment. Do you remember? Were you there? Did you compete?

There was a time, and it wasn’t really that long ago, where the PvP battlegrounds were isolated, each server its own island, there were no battle groups. And on each server, there was a leaderboard for each faction. And for each faction, there was a vendor that had THE SHIT, but only the single solitary #1 ranked PvP player per faction could access and buy those items from the vendor.

And that leaderboard got reset once per week, just like raids.

Every week, you logged in to see where you ranked, and to see what you could buy.

Sorry for the digression, but I’ve been playing a lot of PvP this week, so I’m recalling the past. In some cases, in living color. SON of a bitch, stunlocking f’ing rouges, mascara munching menaces making me miserable.

As long as I’m on that topic… can you imagine if PvE raiding had worked the same way?

What if, instead of drops from individual bosses, or only drops from bosses, PvE raiding had been setup so that there was a weekly leaderboard, and you could buy your raid gear, and what iLevel of gear you had access to from the vendor was based on your ranking against the rest of the server on hard modes completed that week, group challenges achieved, speed to completion, etc.

Each week, the raid teams would log in to see where they ranked on their server to see if they could run to the vendor to buy better gear.

Sure as hell would ramp up competing for progression, huh?

God, can you imagine? Sure, say that there could be a 2nd through 50th place vendor so it’s not like there wasn’t good stuff to push for, but if there was that vendor with the ultimate shit, the really GOOD shit, that only the 1st place raid team could access each week… just, holy shit.

Sigh. Potty humor. I’m in the weeds, gotta pull this golf cart back on course.

I’ve been playing PvP. Right. Got it.

My Hunter was the first to go in and complete the set. I’d been looking for the Ironhide set, and the pieces just aren’t to be found on our AH. The level 60 Hunter PvP set looks great, and goes with one of THE best bow models in the game, so I was happy to gather it all up in one night.

My Paladin alt, though, is having difficulties.

My Paladin alt, who is tanking his way through the LFD with Cassie as a Healing Disc Priest, was level 47 when I realized I wanted that set.

We are leveling together, questing and pugging, and we wear the same heirlooms. Our XP has remained consistently close from 1 to 47.

I know you gain XP from battlegrounds now. So, I had the bright idea of shutting off XP gain, doing random Battlegrounds to gain Honor Points on my own, and then once I reached level 60 I could buy the set and shield, be good to go, and never throw our leveling off the rails.

So, I did that.

I was amazed at how much longer the queue times were for low level PvP as opposed to level 85. At 85 on my Hunter, I was getting a random PvP battleground to pop almost every minute.

I also found that I still love Arathi Basin, I like Eye of the Storm, I loathe Warsong Gulch, and Alterac Valley is horrible. I love AV, but now it’s over one way or another in about 5 minutes. Meh.

At level 47 on my Paladin, it was taking 30 minutes or more for a BG. Wow.

And the battles were hard as hell on my Paladin. Warsong Gulch was just brutal. And the Honor Point gain? Man, it was taking forever to get any points at all.

Well, I turned XP gain back on, and quested with Cassie some more, and noticed she was ahead of me by about 40% on XP somehow. So, this weekend I did a random BG with XP on, to kinda get caught up.

The group popped in less than a minute.

Wait a minute….

An ancient piece of news from MMO Champion was dredged up from the cob-webbed depths of my brain housing group.

I remembered reading that you could turn off XP gain, and if you queued up for a Battleground that way, it threw you into a separate ‘twink’ bracket, so you only played against other twinks.

Well, panda poop. That’s no fun!

No wonder PvP was brutal if I was playing against twinks, and no wonder queue times were so long since you’re not seeing folks just doing a quick BG to have fun and break up the leveling grind.

So, what to do? Cassie doesn’t like BGs, and I can’t hardly blame her. As a Disc Priest, she’d have a big fat target on her back. And a glowing red arrow floating over her head, most like. But I don’t want to try and do fifty different 30 minute long queues against twinks just to get the Honor Points I need.

Hell, that almost sounds like work!

Epics for nothing and the Honor for free, that’s the way we like it around here, right?

Sigh.

So, what we’re thinking is, we’ll quest together to 60, which is when I’ll be eligible to buy the items from the legacy PvP vendor. I’m level 51 now, that ain’t so hard.

Next, I’ll do PvP random BGs with my XP on, while Cassie quests solo as normal to keep pace.

When I get enough Honor to get the set, we’ll join up again.

So, a plan. A goal. Fun!

Right?

Just one worry…

So, what if I don’t hit 60 and earn the Honor Points prior to patch 4.3, and WHAT IF they change the costs of the items to what they’re really worth for looks, in the thousands?

My answer to that is the same answer I have for all such questions.

I’ll do the best I can, remember it’s just a game, and what the heck… I could get hit by a meteorite tomorrow and then it’d be completely irrelevant, now wouldn’t it?

Here’s hoping I get the set before the big chunk of nickel-iron says howdy!

If you are looking for that Mogging set yourself, why not see what the legacy PvP vendor has to offer you?

Your Kung Fu is Strong!

The concept behind player versus player combat in World of Warcraft fascinates me.

From the first time that I played the game, I knew PvP was out there, but I didn’t know much about it. Questing on a PvE server didn’t really give me much immersion in fighting for my life against cunning and vicious opponents… you know, those other players.

When I did start delving into it, I felt daunted by the complexity, the learning curve you have to climb.

When I first started talking to friends about how to get into PvP, what I’d need to know to really dig in, the discussion wasn’t about knowing maps, or flag capture strategy, or AV turtles and why they suck. It wasn’t about Resilience levels, there was no such thing as Resilience back then.

What I was instructed to learn was the specific attack and crowd-control moves of every class, and what every counter is for them.

The moves and counters.

I was assured that, in order to be a good PvP player, you needed to know every single thing that you could do with your class to lock down, neutralize and destroy the enemy, and what every other class could do in an attempt to get out of or survive your attacks, those bastards.

You also had to know everything the other classes could do to you to return the favor, and what you could do, specifically, to avoid being controlled or made dead.

Okay, that seems extremely reasonable. Every trade requires specialized knowledge and the development of skill, even digging ditches requires mad shovel skillz and an understanding of body leverage to move the dirt out of the way properly without killing your back after eight hours.

PvP is no different.

If you’re going to do something, why do it half-assed?

If I was going to PvP, I wanted to do it right. Better get studying!

Errr, you know, that PvP stuff sounds really cool, but I’m kinda busy at the moment. I’ll just tuck it away in the back of my mind, and do that research some other time. There’s always tomorrow to start that, right?

Oh look, shiny.

Yeah, so I’m a fail PvP bear. I own that.

The whole concept of PvP being a game of move and counter-move stuck with me as being a kick ass idea, though.

In PvE, really it’s all about bringing someone that could survive the attacks and hold the aggro of the stupid old monsters, while someone else heals and the rest of the crew just buckles down and does damage, tosses some CC as needed or bulls on through. The monsters never, ever take that moment in mid-fight to realize, “Hey, I bet if I ignored this fur-covered haunch of Bear meat that keeps snarling all up in my grill (no matter how hungry I am) and focused on killing the healer first, this would go a lot better.”

Flashback to the late 70’s. When I was a younger Bear, one of the things I loved was South Florida television.

We only had like 6 channels, but one of them would put on “kid programming”, starting up right after the schools let out.

This kid programming consisted of tons of black and white episodes of The Three Stooges, followed by the Kung Fu Power Hour.

The Three Stooges were awesome enough, but Kung Fu? And I’m talking old school wire-fu kung fu movies, badly dubbed, incomprehensible plots, just awesome martial arts.

As I recall one of the core concepts of the old Kung Fu movies was this whole ‘move/counter-move’ thing.

In the completely fictional world of Kung Fu movies, every distinctive style of Kung Fu was specifically designed to counter someone else’s style, while having their own special ‘unstoppable’ moves.

The plots would follow some group bullying innocents who could not defend themselves, then someone knowing Kung Fu would beat them off, then the bad guys would bring in higher-level support that knew a countering style of Kung Fu, then the wandering stranger that didn’t want to get involved would step in, and he know some esoteric or legendary Kung Fu that was unstoppable because nobody knew any counters for it.

Hilarity, as they say, ensued.

Ah, how well I remember those grade school discussions of Tiger style vs Crane style or Cobra style, and just… wow, what a concept for fertile young imaginations that knew nothing of the real cultures that inspired such things.

*Five minutes of lips moving without sound* “My Kung Fu is stronger than your Kung Fu!” *lips keep moving for a minute.*

*Lips move for thirty seconds* “You want to fight?” *lips keep moving* “Fight ME!” *incomprehensible screams as they charge at each other, flying through the air*

Ahh, bliss.

Good wins out over evil, altruism beats selfishness, bully gets trounced, innocents defended, Batman in a silk bathrobe wins again.

What was the underlying lesson, though?

Knowledge is power.

The Kung Fu of the stranger was unstoppable, not because it was better, but because it was unknown by the practitioners of other styles. Nobody had yet had a chance to see it in action in order to develop counters for it, and then train in using those counters.

Flip to a different comparison.

Professional team sports like baseball and football, how often do you hear commentators talk about how the new rookie pitcher or quarterback is wreaking havok on opposing teams because he’s an unknown quantity and nobody has a grasp on what his style is in order to plan their own defensive strategy accordingly?

How many seasons over the years have we seen teams with new quarterbacks break out strong with a string of wins, raising enthusiasm, only to have the team get stomped into the ground in the second half of the season as everyone finally has a chance to study game films, analyze weaknesses, and adjusts their counters to compensate?

Your Kung Fu is stronger… this time. But your enemies are scrambling to find a counter.

Knowledge is power. 

In World of Warcraft, there is no ‘unknown, unstoppable’ style of Kung Fu. Everything is laid out there for you to study and master depending on your dedication and commitment. And, okay, twitch-based reflexes.

If you practise your PvP-Fu, know your own moves and study the counter-moves of your opponents, then presumably you have a chance, and will be ready to learn from your losses and build on your wins.

If you don’t study, if you just toss on some Resilience gear and jump in the deep end, what do you think is going to happen? 

You’re volunteering to be a professional victim. Someone, somewhere, will happily use you to improve their score. You might as well wear a hat with a big sign saying “Honor farming here, form a line to my rear, please use lube. Kthxbai.”

After a few hours of that, you’ll stagger away so sorry and sore that they should mail you flowers and a nice card afterwards.

I wonder how many people actually make the attempt to learn the moves and counters ahead of time, how to recognize the spell effects that whisper of your sweet impending destruction… and how many others just leap in feet first, craft some Bloodthirsty Pyrium stuff with resilience and say, “Let’s do this thang.”

I bring this whole thing up really just to talk about an attitude I have, an attitude that I really didn’t know was there until doing Baradin Hold the other day.

How I play World of Warcraft, even the raiding aspect of it, I consider to be the average difficulty of the game. It isn’t quite easy mode, that would be questing solo without ever participating in the group aspect. But it’s not exactly hard.

The PvP… in the back of my head a little voice whispers that PvP is the hard mode of WoW. To demonstrate true skill and mastery of the game, you have to excel at PvP. If you cannot truly dominate in PvP, then you are not a master player of the game, no matter what bosses you’ve killed in which raid or dungeon.

It’s not something I’ve ever articulated to myself before, it’s not a belief I’ve looked at too closely. But when it comes down to it, I truly do believe that PvP excellence requires a knowledge of the game and all of the classes within in that surpasses normal PvE requirements, and also requires the active use of that knowledge against the most vicious enemies known to humanity – the other players.

While people can be carried in raids to get achievements or loot, it’s pretty damn hard to be carried in PvP Arenas past a certain rating. You can only go so far if you suck before the other rated teams you’re up against simply crush you because you’ve got the weakest link dragging you down.

It’s not something that bothers me, as I said, other shinies have always distracted me from buckling down on the PvP side of things. I’d probably suck at it too, some of those players hop about like ferrets on meth with a triple espresso shoved up their ass.

I just wanted to talk about the PvP a little though, the way I really respect the design that Blizzard has implemented for it that goes beyond just shoot and heal, the struggle they sometimes face to balance PvP and still have PvE operate pretty damn well. It all works incredibly well for the size of the game.

And also, I wanted to say how much I really do respect those that are very accomplished at PvP. I sometimes see a lot of snide remarks denigrating “little PvP kids”, sneering at PvP as though only the losers who can’t handle raids take part in it, and I wanted to give props where I feel they’re due.

If you participate in PvP, and you are really damn good at it, then my hat is off to you. You are playing the game at what I consider to be the most complicated and difficult level possible, and I respect that.

Just don’t gank me, bro!

PvP, Dragons and Raiding

PvP – Where big bear butt is the OTHER white meat

Gnomer wrote a post recently that would have had me blushing if I were still capable of it, and along with the love he called me out big time on being a slacker. Which, of course, I am.

What is the one aspect of the game that I have chosen to remain willfully ignorant of?

Shout it out with me, friends; PvP!

Now, I’m not entirely ignorant of what PvP is, just mostly ignorant.

Believe it or not, I have dipped my paw in the PvP pool before.

What, when? Why, back in Burning Crusade, when there were some sweet PvE rewards you could purchase for honor points, especially weapons and high-armor Leather items my Bear craved for the multiplier values.

I took my Druid into battlegrounds… and I took my long abandoned Priest, too. I wanted the epic PvP spellpower mace to help me Shadow it up in Karazhan.  

Yes, I know, surprise! Bear has a Priest. A Priest who has been abandoned since the day after WotLK came out. And now we move past the Priest, thank you very much.

Okay, Priests for 5 more seconds. I have tried to resurrect my Priest several times, and failed miserably. Lately, some Priest bloggers I read, and some Priests I know in Band of Misfits, have all made it look so damn cool and fun to heal as a Priest that they’re tempting me. But no! I cannot! Must. Stay. Focused.

I played in some PvP battlegrounds in Burning Crusade. I did! I wanted those points from the BG daily quests for bonus honor, so I saw all of them at the time, plus my favorite BG when it wasn’t the daily, Alterac Valley.

I liked Alterac Valley. I liked taking part of a massive battle fought in that valley, with multiple objectives, tactical opportunities, spoiler attacks, flanking manuevers, supply lines to cut (graveyards), the whole thing. The scope of Alterac Valley was pretty awesome.

I know this may sound stupid, but I also really liked the story and lore between the Orcs and Dwarves fighting over control of the valley. I did Alterac Valley a bit during vanilla WoW, back when the quests led you towards upgrading your Trinkets, and I still have my own trinket in my Druid’s bags. I enjoyed taking part in that story, it felt so epic. 

So, if it was all so damn great, why did I grind out the honor for the gear I wanted, and never went back?

What kept me out of BGs was a combination of three things; I don’t like PUGs, I don’t like trash talk, and I don’t like being part of a chaotic mess.

I don’t like PUGs. I don’t like playing with silent, faceless strangers. If I’m in a group, I like to be able to chat with them, hear them yell in joy or anger, shout in frustration, bitch when they get eaten by a grue. Vent is king. Plus, coordination and response is much stronger with friends, even if you’re NOT on vent.

I don’t like trash talking, name calling, blame throwing or errant bullshit spewed on chat channels, and from what I’ve seen over the years, that’s about the norm in BGs.

And I don’t like chaos. There is a learning curve to anything, and when you are first introduced to a new BG, with a map that is unfamiliar, names you don’t know, and objectives that aren’t spelled out for you, it’s all a mad swirl.

That’s fine, because even if you don’t read up on them, it doesn’t take long before you understand what’s going on and learn where things are, and what people mean by “Head for ICG!” or somesuch.

What fascinates me about BGs is that, no matter how long they are out, it seems at least half of the group, every single time, doesn’t know anything at all about where things are or what to do or why to do it. Even after all these years, half the people in a BG act like they’ve never set foot in one before.

Are that many players really trying battlegrounds for the first time every time? Am I just fortunate in my zone timing? Or are that many people just incapable, or unwilling, to learn?

I don’t know, but the larger the scope of the battle, the more chaotic it gets, and when you want to win, that is irritating in the extreme. Win or lose because you were outfought and outplayed by the other side, not because your side had the greater number of lost children and fools.

Last night, I entered Tol Barad with nine other guildies, and we proceeded to run around and kill people, and that was a lot of fun.

There were other guildies chatting in vent so there was some fun buzz, and that helped me completely ignore typed chat so I didn’t even see the usual idiocy until people in vent brought it up.

There was lots of tense battling, as Horde defended and we attacked. Excitement! Chills! Thrills! A raid run hanging in the balance!

We lost, but that was okay. It was fun.

Except… if the rest of the guildies hadn’t been there, all the things that MADE it fun would have been gone. What would have been left was fighting for the sake of fighting in a chaotic melee, while people bitched in chat. Meh.

It’s not going to be my last time in a BG. I want a seagull pet, and they can only be acquired through PvP in Tol Barad. So be it. I have a goal. And, much like my time in Burning Crusade, once I have enough points to achieve my goal, I will vanish once again.

The only thing that would keep me going back would be going with friends and having fun with friends, chatting in vent while we lived and, more often, died.

Would I run with the Gnomer? You bet your butt I would! Wouldn’t you? If only to toss a flare on him so the other side could see him more clearly just as his internet took a lag spike and threw him into freeze frame.

What are friends for?

Internet Dragons – Awww, hell yeah!

In other news… I can now do what all Druids should aspire to; I can assume my Dragon form.

When I played AD&D, the Druid class was one of my favorites there too. I loved the concept of nature as the ultimate weapon, and I loved Druids being able to shapechange into any other animal form they were familiar with, depending on the hit dice of the critter they were taking on. The higher in level you were, the more powerful an animal form you could assume.

Those might be house rules we ran with in the service, to be honest I can’t remember what the actual first edition Druid rules said about shapeshifting.

I do remember when someone decided to take on humpback whale form, because we all wanted to slap the silly bastard for jumping the shark breaking the genre. Just because the rules say you CAN do something doesn’t mean you should.

I also remember the sad day when the ruling was made in our group that Dragons were not natural creatures, but instead inherently magical due to the wingspan issue, so they could not ever be a Druid form.

A Druid well studied in archaeology might take a Dinosaur form, however.

I always wanted to be the Druid that could turn into a dragon. Always. Surprise ambush by Rogues in the woods? Dragon. Attacked by an army of the damned? Dragon. Bar fight? Dragon. Behind in your taxes? Dragon.

It’s the best answer to any problem. Once you apply Dragon to it, it goes away.

Last night Bigbearbutt learned how to transform into a dragon.

Now, Cassie doesn’t really see why I’d be so excited. After all, I can’t herb in Dragon form. The claws are just too big to get ahold of those itty bitty herbs. And it takes more time to shift into Dragon form, because hey… it’s a Dragon. A fast bird is a little thing of feathers and fluff, but we’re talking Dragon. It’s gonna take more time.

But utility ain’t the POINT. I’m a freaking DRAGON.

Wanna go for a ride?

Raiding – looking for more, please have a sense of humor. I need to be kept entertained.

In other news… Band of Misfits on Azuremyst has three raid teams, Team Teddybear, Team Snuffalupugus, and a third team whose name escapes me at the moment. I feel bad, but I can’t very well look it up right now.

I am in Team Teddybear, and Team Teddybear’s co-raid leader, Matheo, would like me to let you know that there is a strong need for a healer to join us in our raids. He’s looking for, hopefully, a Paladin or Shaman healer. The server is Azuremyst-US, on West Coast time, and the raid times are a fixed 5:00 PM start going for three hours Saturday and a 5:00 PM start going for 2 hours on Sunday.

The raid team is working on Nefarian in BWD, and is looking in a menacing way at the Ascendant Council in BoT.

If any of that is of interest to you, please send ingame mail to Matheo to let him know.

I ain’t raiding this weekend at all myself, since, you know….

The TERRY PRATCHETT convention is going on this weekend in Madison, Wisconsin! And I’m gonna be there!

Woot!!!

Your suggestions for Druid PvP resources

I don’t do PvP. I also don’t study it.

BUT… sometimes folks send me a link to a place they like where PvP info and advice for classes can be found.

For example, I was recently sent a link to a website called 2V2, specifically referencing a section for Druids. The site is supposed to have articles offering suggestions and advice for improving your game.

I invite you to go check 2V2.com out!

As long as I was thinking about the subject, I invite you, if you are a Druid PvPer and have resources on the web you find helpful, to please share links to those resources here in the comments. Hopefully, of someone searches this website for PvP advice, they will find your helpful links to give them a place to start.

I know that asking you for your experience is the lazy bloggers route, but as I said… I am utterly ignorant of Druid PvP. So why pretend to be what I’m not?

PvE, PvP and Achievements, oh my!

Let’s look at a simple mathematical formula.

PvE + (PvP + Achievement) = Drama

Okay, so it’s a silly formula. But I want to use it to illustrate a point.

At the moment there is a lot of unhappiness going around within the game because there are players that love PvP resentful of PvE players, and there are players that love PvE resentful of PvP players.

All of it is coming from friction between the two cultures over Achievements.

At it’s heart, this does come from a core design of World of Warcraft.

WoW consists of two seperate, distinct cultures; PvE and PvP. 

WoW seems to be two seperate games in one.

Players of the game may truly love both aspects of WoW equally, but within the rules of the game, they are handled and managed seperately.

You often hear about transforming behavior and motivating people through leading by example. In this case, the example we all follow is how PvE and PvP are set up, and the ways they are intentionally kept seperate (but where possible, equal).

What do I mean about seperate cultures by design? My point of view on this is directly relevant to my final point, so I’d like to explain.

In PvE, Player vs Environment, what is the goal?

The goal of PvE is to overcome challenges against AI controlled NPCs by working cooperatively with other players as part of a coordinated team.

In PvE raid design, no single person is of greater importance than another, because victory is not complete until the entire team successfully defeats the challenge. 

The player with the highest healing or damage on meters does not get bonus Emblems, gold or items. There is no MVP recognized by the game. Group wipe? Then group fail.

In PvE, the only true measure of success that makes world first headlines is “Boss downed”. When that boss is downed, it is the team that gets the well-deserved credit. All else is chest beating irrelevance.

Focused fire on a single target, coordinated movement out of AoE effects while maintaining unit seperation, synchronized tanking/taunting/kiting to handle adds and spawns or stacking debuffs, heals with multiple cleansing/CCing/debuffing duties, etc. Teamwork and prior proper planning to prevent piss poor performance.

What about PvP (Player vs Player)? How is it any different?

In PvP, it’s all about personal excellence against other living, thinking, reacting and planning opponents.

Real people, fighting against each other and using every trick they can think of, all in a fluid combat environment that requires various Battlefield objectives be met for faction victory.

But whether or not your faction reigns supreme, the focus is entirely on personal accomplishments, on excellence in playing your own character as an individual.

The line may seem to get blurred a bit, because overall success or failure within the Battleground hinges on how many players to a side both kicked individual ass AND were able to work together towards these Battlefield objectives.

At the end of the battle, however, it’s not just win or lose for a side. No, in a PvP Battleground, there is a Leaderboard that pops up which breaks the results of the entire battle down into individual accomplishments.

The leaderboard does show information that relates to team play. Who captured or assaulted flags or towers, etc. But all of the information, including numbers of honorable kills, is clearly presented, by intentional design, to single out and recognize excellence in individual effort. To put things in a “MVP” perspective.

Contrasting the two.

Those are the core differences between PvP and PvE. The difference in emphasis on teamwork recognition versus individual excellence.

Hey, sounds pretty good, right? Having the ability to play what is, in effect, two completely different game styles, each with very deep and exciting gameplay, using the same characters, and having the same games and relaxing opportunities for soloing and exploration and questing outside of these exciting challenges.

Oh, is it time for the guild to do the ICC raid? That’s fine, just let me finish this Wintergrasp battle and I’ll switch specs and gear and be right there!

Pretty cool. Pretty awesome. Brings a lot of replay value to the table.

So, that being established, on what points are the two cultures being brought into conflict?

There have always been, to some extent, conflict between avid fans of each of the two cultures. It’s the inevitable result of HAVING two seperate cultures with such a distinct difference in direction within the same game.

What’s brought things into heightened drama this time are the existence of Achievements in game that require active participation in both PvP and PvE content, Achievements that reward participation with highly desirable items (310% Speed Flying Mounts).

In a perfect World (of Warcraft)

Right now, the way it breaks down is that there are two Meta-Achievements that reward players with Proto-Drakes;

  • What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been (From completing all World Event Achievements such as Children’s Week, Hallow’s End, Love Fool, etc for a 310% speed Violet Proto-Drake)
  • Glory of the Hero (from completing all Heroic Dungeon Achievements such as Less-Rabi, Girl Loves to Skadi All The Time, etc for a 280% speed Red Proto-Drake)

As has been pointed out in the comments, there are also two raiding-based 310% flight speed mount achievements that are not part of this discussion.

Perception is very important to this topic. 

The current perception of these two Achievements is that the Glory of the Hero Meta-Achievement is a teamwork based PvE reward, and What A Long, Strange Trip It’s Been is considered a mostly solo effort PvE reward that has some PvP uncomfortably shoehorned in.

Take a step back and distance yourself from the emotion of the situation. What does “What A long Strange Trip” really do? It consistently takes you not only to various places in the traditional PvE game world, but also into Battlegrounds to complete different PvP based objectives.

“What A Long, Strange Trip” has the feel of a Meta-Achievement designed to be an all-inclusive grab bag of a little bit of everything WoW has to offer. A little solo work, a little fed-ex questing, a little searching for a lucky drop, a little PvP, a little dungeon questing, a little world exploring.

Still standing back and looking at things dispassionately?

What I’d like to see is the acknowledgement of a THIRD culture within WoW.

We have talked about PvE, and PvP, but there is now, and has always been, a third culture within the game.

The World Explorer.

They are not particularly vocal, and rarely get attention, but you either are one, or know someone who is.

World Explorers do not particularly enjoy playing in small or large groups, which is pretty much 95% of end game content.

World Explorers do not particularly enjoy intense personal combat against other real players, which is PvP.

What World Explorers DO love is playing their characters and doing their own thing in World of Warcraft itself, adventuring, questing, exploring, leveling, learning, trying new things, and often once they get to max level, they lose interest in that character and switch to a new one, simply because they do not feel drawn to end game group activities.

Three cultures, not two.

I think the Meta-Achievements, again in a perfect world, should be changed to reflect the existence of three playstyles, and to benefit players that pursue their own chosen playstyle to the ultimate limit.

Keep Glory of the Hero the same. It is an excellent example of a teamwork/PvE based Meta-Achievement. But increase the reward to being 310% flight speed. The dedication needed to accomplish this Achievement is pretty impressive.

Modify What A Long, Strange Trip It’s Been to remove both dungeon and PvP aspects of the Meta-Achievement. Make it the Achievement for people that love and follow the playstyle of the World Explorer. Perhaps even tie in Loremaster and exporing all zone areas into it. Again, it should not be easy, it should represent the ultimate expression of following that cultures’ preferred playstyle. Keep it a 310% speed mount.

And then, show the PvP culture the respect they deserve by adding a brand new, completely PvP based Meta-Achievement that would reward them their own 310% speed mount. Perhaps the Ebony Proto-Drake.

Perhaps that is something Blizzard is already contemplating. I have no idea.

What I do know is that having three distinct Meta-Achievements tailored to each of three playstyle cultures makes a lot of sense to me, in direct response to the current game design, and the distinct preferences of the players involved.

So. That’s my dream for a perfect World. 

Dealing with Harsh Reality.

Now that I’m done wishing in one hand, let’s move on to dealing with reality as it is (if you can call Achievements in a virtual world “reality”).

There is a lot of stress, a lot of unhappiness and a lot of drama in the game right now. Two cultures are in direct conflict.

For the purposes of the rest of this conversation, I am going to use the accepted “PvE” and “PvP” terms for two cultures, including World Explorers in the PvE group. It is the most commonly accepted and understood framework for the game. But you know what I mean. :)

For people that play PvP as their preferred playstyle, a playstyle that is equally valid and should be equally as respected as the others, this week SUCKS.

There you are playing the way you like, and the game design itself is sending people into your Battlegrounds that do not want to be there, and while they don’t want to get in your way, they really want that damn proto-drake.

So, an influx of the innocent, the ignorant, the confused and above all else the hopeful, just looking to duck in and get it done and get the hell out of the way of the people that belong there.

The people within your own faction will hate to see these people on their team, and will get pissed at them for the havok they cause. But PvP players have a term for PvE players when they’re on the opposing force.

I believe they’re called “farmable kills”.

For those of us among the World Exploring and PvE crowd, the first lesson to learn is, it’s all about individual achievement in PvP. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you will get steamrolled and die.

If you decide you want revenge, then just remember everyone had to start somewhere, and everyone gets pwned at some point. Get your fire up, reach deep down and find your intestinal fortitude, and devote yourself to learning how to fight back. 

If you decide you just want to get your Achievements and be done with it though, please remember you are a visitor in someone else’s house. 

Don’t be the player that zones in, get’s what you want for yourself and then bails on the run. Whether you do get your Achievement or not, please stick it out, do your best, and along the way why not try to learn to kick ass? Or at least support the ones that do.

Think about how it feels when it happens to you. You KNOW you see people do that in raids and dungeons all the time.

As an example, you go into a VoA pug, the group does the newest boss first, and as soon as he’s down and Frost/Drops are passed out, a bunch of people instantly drop group. After all, there’s nothing for THEM in the rest of the raid instance, so why should they stay? What, to help YOU out? Get real.

Selfish? Yes. After all, they needed you there to get them their shot at what they wanted. The difference is they aren’t willing to do the same thing for you. Selfish.

You see the same thing on a smaller scale during group runs like Love is in the Air, when people needed to get Roses as a boss drop. How many times during that week did you see or hear of groups forming, the first boss in Utgardt Keep killed, Roses needed and players instantly bail on the rest of the party. 

It’s all the same thing. You don’t like people acting selfish when you are in a group to see it to the end and win, and neither do PvP focused players. They’re in there to win over the opposite faction, not sit there and swap capping Towers for 20 minutes.

I think it’s a fine testament to how polite and nice most players are, that when an Achievement week brings the ignorant flooding the Battlegrounds, a lot of PvP folks WILL drop what they’re normally doing and help.

What you need to really keep close to your heart is, you are the intruder in their turf. It’s their house. This is the part of the game THEY like.

When you visit someone else’s house, be polite, wipe your feet, don’t take a dump in their living room, and when you come for the party, even if all you wanted was free food and an open tap, you stay until it would be a polite time to leave, as in, after you get the Achievement, you stay and help KILL THE OTHER BASTARDS and win the match.

That being said, if you are a member of the PvP culture, please, I ask of you to make a few allowances this week for the clumsy and clueless that stumble into your house, drunk and dazed, looking for the bathroom, but who are perfectly willing to piss on the rug in the corner if they can’t find what they’re looking for.

I know it’s trying, and I know it’s annoying, but this is your opportunity to sucker people into thinking Battlegrounds are filled with fun people just looking for a good time, instead of the evil, malicious little bastards looking to gut yers in a dark alley like we all know you are.

Remember… “farmable kills”.

Just try and sympathize. These are people who have been working on their Meta-Achievement all year, and are already feeling stressed out at doing something totally unfamiliar. If they want to get the very, very nice reward at the end of this rainbow, they don’t have any choice but to try and complete the challenge Blizzard set. 

In conclusion… until the day when the Achievements reflect our actual interests, all we can do is try and be civil and respectful to each other, remember that we want to treat other players how we’d like to be treated, make allowances to some extent, and above all else keep in mind…

It’s only for one week, and then we can all get on with our lives.

For myself… I tried for two days to do Alterac Valley. I looked at the stress everyone felt, the anger and frustration on both sides, and I made my decision for myself.

I am no longer going to pursue “What A Long, Strange Trip It’s Been”.

I’m going to mentally assign it the lable “PvP Meta-Achievement”, and I’m moving on.

I will instead set for myself the goal of completing, someday, “Glory of the Hero”, and work towards improving my teamwork and knowledge for that purely PvE related goal. Yes, even though it doesn’t reward you with a 310% speed mount as the game currently sits.

I hope that, even if you don’t agree with what I’ve said in this post, you’ll take the time to be a little more understanding during this chaos, on both sides.

None of us are out to intentionally screw up the others. It’s not personal. Give folks a chance, and they’ll be only too glad to get out of your hair.

My thanks for those folks who pointed out the inaccuracy concerning Red Proto Drake speed. It didn’t change my point at all, but leaving the mistake would have confused a whole lot of people, and I honestly did not know that.

Random world PvP: Asshattery or Adventurism?

Hello all!

In keeping with my tradition of saying whatever the hell is on my mind at the time, let’s talk about world PvP.

I’m not gonna talk about nice, organized, determined armies of players rolling on up to take out the enemy leaders and get Bears to ride. Oh, no.

I’m not even talking about PvP in areas with specific PvP goals and objectives to fight over, such as in Eastern Plaguelands, Silithis, Hellfire Peninsula, Zangarmarsh and Nagrand.

I’m talking simply about a small quest hub in a remote location, far from major trade routes or capital cities, guarded by flagged NPCs of low level… and the single level 80 of the opposite faction that comes in, kills everyone, and then camps the respawns until someone comes along, in which case he runs like a terrified rabbit afraid of being thrown in the stew pot.

PvP is an inherent part of World of Warcraft. Even if you’re on a non-PvP realm/server, there are PvP opportunities everywhere you go. How? The NPCs, including quest givers and Flight Masters, are all flagged.

Since they are flagged, the opposing faction can attack them at will, and kill them.

If you don’t like it, presumably you can get off your duff and mount a counter-offensive of your own, driving off the enemy players and defending the exposed village.

It sounds nice, doesn’t it? It sounds quite reasonable.

But let’s paint a picture for a moment, a picture that somewhat resembles reality.

You are on your happy little low level character, exploring a part of the world you’ve most likely seen 10, 20, 50 times before. Maybe it’s actually your first character and you have no idea what’s waiting around the next corner. Maybe it’s your first character of the opposing faction, and you’ve never seen these starting zones before.

Whatever.

There you are, moving along, questing from point to point, playing the game in the way that you want, rolling along.

You complete several quests, doing a circuit of the zone, and then you move on in to the quest hub to turn these in, and either pick up the next set of follow ups, or, if you’re lucky, level up and fly off to train.

As you make your way to the quest hub, the messages start coming in on the World Defense channel; “XXX is under attack.”

Ah, crap.

Sure enough, you arrive in time to see one or two level ??? players of the opposing faction finish off the Flight Master. All the quest givers are dead, and the enemy is mostly ignoring the guards, and they’re all a paltry level 14 anyway. The village guards defending the town aren’t even a mid-afternoon snack to a level 80.

So, you’ve got some choices. Do you have max level toons of the same faction as your alt? If so, you can then log out on that character, log in on your other character, and make your way to the remote region your alt was at to defend the village. You can even call your guild to arms, if some are online, to come help.

Have you ever tried that? I have. What happens? 9/10 I’ve found the little cowards have long since run off.

What about that 1 out of 10? In those cases, the guys seem to head into the surrounding foothills, perhaps, because if you hang out for 15 minutes and then log out, sure enough, as soon as you’re back on your alt, boom, NPCs getting killed again. Only this time, when you log back into your high level character that is just waiting there, you find that they called in stealthed reinforcements that are waiting for you.

Once a few other high level characters of your same faction start showing up, though, it all degenerates into a game of “Try and find where the cowards are hiding, waiting for you to get bored so they can go attack the village NPcs again.”

“Anybody see where they went?”

“Alliance Priest and Warlock south of Crossroads”

“How far?”

“Priest hearthed.”

“Warlock in Crossroads, anybody out there?”

“Coming back in.”

“Warlock heading north.”

You get the idea, and have seen it yourself, I’m sure.

What I have never yet seen is anyone that started killing the NPCs, and then, when equal leveled players come to fight them on an even numbers basis, stand their ground and fight an evenly-matched battle. Ever.

So.

Is the PvP in this situation adventurism as planned by Blizzard? An opportunity for a few players to be the spark that ignites a forest fire of unplanned, out of control PvP?

There was a time when such PvP was frequent. Anybody else remember the insane, awesome battles of Tarren Mill?

I think there were entire months back in the day where, if you were bored, all you had to say in Guild chat was “Tarren Mill?” “Sure, let’s go.”

And when you got there, you were sure to find an out of control battle raging between Horde and Alliance, even on PvE servers.

What’s changed? HAS anything changed?

Are the lone opposing players killing NPCs in remote villages just trying to get some PvP started? Or are they really griefers, looking to feel powerful in their pathetic, powerless real lives by annoying other people too weak to fight back?

I may have phrased that a bit strongly. :)

I think the point stands. If you want actual player versus player action, real challenges against real opponents that can fight back, your skill versus theirs, there is no end of opportunity, from Battlegrounds, Arena battles, PvP zone objectives in Silithis or Hellfire Peninsula, Wintergrasp for the highest level, etc.

What is the draw, where is the challenge, in seeking out the lowest level yet most remote village possible, and then killing all the NPCs there and running like hell?

I hesitate to label the players who do this asshats, because to be honest, I have no idea if, in my limited understanding of the PvP community, there are real, tangible challenges and risks involved in this.

But I hesitate to label such players as adventurous, because if they had any courage, especially in a game where there is no consequence for character death in PvP, they’d stand their ground and fight instead of running like a scared bunny. 

What is your take on this? What have been your experiences with this kind of thing, and do you know any of the players who do this? Are you one of them? What is their objective? Is there one, beyond pissing off lower level players who can’t fight back?

I think it’s clear that, as far as Blizzard is concerned, the system is intended as it is. But are we using it right?

Once, it cost you Honor to kill an NPC even by accident, if that NPC wasn’t an honorable conbatant. Further, if Blizzard felt there was truly anything wrong with it, they could make the NPCs be Neutral instead of flagged, in keeping with the current sort-of neutrality that the Argent Tournament was supposed to represent.

Obviously the one thing they can’t do is make all NPCs, regardless of location, be max level AND flagged. In some areas, opposing faction players have no choice but to ride perilously close to enemy villages to get to other areas. Intentional enemy choke points are built in, and it’s mighty smart of the factions (and designers responsible for it) to do so. Why command the remote passes out of the way, when you can fortify a position in the middle of the trade routes?

But make those NPCs max level and flagged, and as you run by hoping to resume questing on the other side… squish! 

I really am curious what your experiences with this are. I’m trying like heck to not pass judgment on players that do this without having a much better understanding of why.

Just the other day, I was on my Belf Hawt Biker Chick, in Ghostlands, and running into Tranquillien with a billion quests to turn in, and just like I described, all the NPCs are being killed, every single one, by a single level 80 Retribution Paladin.

As soon as they were all dead… he rode briskly away.

All I could think at the moment, as I waited for respawns, was, “Damn, he went to a lot of work to get all the way up here to kill these NPCs. Even flying to the Troll raiding area FP Alliance have available, that’s a lot of effort to go through, flying through the long zones in between Ironforge and there. What is the payoff? What am I missing? What could he possibly get out of that?”

“Am I supposed to be upset? Time for a Mountain Dew!”