A different kind of red shirt

I’ve mentioned on here a few times before, that John Ringo is one of my favorite authors. He writes truly great military Sci-Fi with tons of black humor, and he also has had lots of fun with different genres, like fantasy, and what could be called GURPS Black Ops, and just knocked them out of the park.

Oh yeah, Princess of Wands. Great book, and I hope like heck more in the series are coming.

For those of you that don’t know, GURPS is a table-top role playing game system developed by Steve Jackson Games, a set of rules that are supposed to be a ‘generic universal role playing system’, meaning that you can grab the basic book, and then have rules for how fast characters can run, how much damage you take by being hit upside the head by a blunt object, that sort of thing. Then, you design your own setting, apply the rules, and away you go.

In reality, the draw of GURPS for me were the hundreds of books that laid forth special rules and background for various settings. GURPS Supers, GURPS Robots, that sort of thing.

And GURPS Black Ops was a world setting for playing special agents of a black ops department of the government that takes care of ‘things man was not meant to know’.

Think the movie Men In Black, but with the possibility that the bad guys weren’t just aliens, but could also be remnants of ancient civilizations, mythical creatures, time travelers, dimensional explorers, demons, ghosts, vampires, werewolves, and anything else that could go bump in the night. Super agents vs Cthulhu. You know exactly what I mean.

I ran one GURPS Black Ops game once where the agents went down to Georgia to investigate a strange energy spike, and got tangled up in a plot that involved the Russian government, nuclear waste disposal, dimensional travel and space orcs. It was a lot of fun, and I spent many hours researching it, too.

Anyway, my point here is that John Ringo wrote one of his books, Princess of Wands, creating a brand new approach to the black ops concept that just blew me away, not just with the stories but with the character and the world setting. I wanted to play a role playing game set in that world, and I can’t wait to see more books in the series.

As great as his books are, though, one of the best things about John Ringo, to me, is his willingness to go places you just can’t believe he went, and then to wonder just how many folks read what you just did, stopped, and stared at the page in shocked horror.

Most of John Ringo’s books are perfectly appropriate for all audiences, well-written books of adventure and war, as long as that audience is mature enough to read about honor and duty, loss and sacrifice, and the death and dying that comes from being at war. The Posleen saga and There will be Dragons comes immediately to mind.

He writes novels that are filled with death and violence as men and women struggle in war and battle against terrorists, slavers, and genocidal aliens. You know, military adventure fiction.

Yet he is getting famous in some circles for the outrage his Ghost series has caused, because in that series he included his own version of sex scenes in the same way that James Bond books would normally have scenes of seduction in exotic locales. 

Yes, I said outrage. Over sex scenes. In a book filled with people getting killed in battle. No, these aren’t picture books, either.  

It’s the same kind of distorted sense of proportion you see when politicians and lawyers are outraged over the ‘Hot Coffee’ mod for Grand Theft Auto, a mod that let you play a sex based minigame, inside of a game that is about jacking a car and killing hundreds of people by running them over, blowing them up or shooting them.

I just want to scream sometimes… “You can’t stand the thought that gamers might see a naked breast… but stopping a car at gunpoint, yanking the driver out, getting in, and running over 40 pedestrians on your way to a drug deal is okay? Are you people INSANE?!?”

Not that I want the violence banned either, mind you… I’d just like a game, OR book, to be sold to the audience it’s designed for. If it says “M” on the box, then sell it to a mature audience, not a freaking 13 year old, hmmm? And if it says “M” on the box already, and it’s a mature audience that is playing the game, and you were okay with selling a game about killing innocent people while building your criminal empire in the first place, what the heck does adding breasts do to make it more inappropriate?

Anyway… off topic from the off topic, as usual…

Bottom line, John Ringo writes great books, and at the same time is becoming notorious for writing over the top sex scenes in the middle of some of his Ghost books, books that are filled with terrorists getting killed in gruesome ways,  and it’s the sex scenes that prompt a shocked exclamation of “Oh John Ringo, NO!” Never mind that I think the writing of the Ghost series to be the best I’ve seen anywhere, for it’s sense of pure adrenaline super-spy anti-terrorist mercenary action.

This amuses me a great deal. And, as I have a particularly dark sense of humor, I saw with pride that there is a new shirt available from John Ringo’s website.

That’s right… you can now get a red shirt (to show that you are liable to die within seconds of your away team appearing on the planet’s surface) that proudly proclaims “Oh John Ringo, NO!”

The thought that this whole thing not only makes me laugh, but also makes enough other people laugh that someone created a shirt, raises it to the level of greatness.

By the way… if you are now worried that reading a John Ringo book might expose you to inappropriate material… well, then I suggest you just avoid the Ghost series, and either read Princess of Wands, the ‘Prince Roger’ series he co-wrote with David Weber that starts with March Upcountry, or the War with the Posleen saga that starts with A Hymn Before Battle (brilliant military sci-fi).

Those are all great books, and there will be nothing in them more offensive than people getting killed in battle. And maybe the possibility of all life on earth being eradicated by aliens. But at least the aliens don’t have sex, right?

Isn’t that a relief?

Sigh. Like life isn’t difficult enough without trying to find more things to be offended by. I used to watch violent, gory movies and TV shows all the time. Since Alex was born, however, I don’t watch anything with blood, guts or gore if there is the slightest chance he could come into the room and see it. That means we watch Top Chef, basically.

If I want to watch something, I wait until he’s tucked away in bed. Or go see it in the theater. I’d love to take him to see Iron Man, but some of the early battle scenes are a little more than I want my five year old to see. And I’m pissed at Transformers, because the movie toys are all marketed at his age group, and he loves the toys, he knows exactly who Bumblebee and Ultimus Prime are, but there is no way that I want him to see a Marine base in Iraq torn apart, and the Scorpion spearing Marines to death. He’ll just have to watch the cartoons. I wish that wasn’t necessary, all his other five year old friends seem to have seen it, but that’s the way it is.

So no CSI, no NCIS, and no Matrix or Dirty Harry or Platoon or Starship Troopers. He doesn’t need to see people getting torn apart or cut open and their brain removed at the age of five. Why? Because I am mature and able to tell the difference between fiction and reality, but he isn’t. And, as I am the adult, (cue the laughter), it is my responsibility to make that decision for him.

Every time someone tries to ban something outright as being inappropriate, whether they be a politician or an outraged parent, the message they are sending me is, they think that I am a child and unable to make decisions for myself, that I cannot tell reality from fiction, and only THEY are mature and wise enough to make those decisions FOR me.

Oh John Ringo, NO!

Thinking about my strong feelings towards people telling me what I should or should not believe, has reminded me of a Storytime… but it’s short, so I’ll tack it on here. 

Warning, this is another note in the “Big bear is not a nice person” file.

There was a very strong ‘born again’ congregation in Yucca Valley, CA, during my brief stay in the area back in the late 80’s. It was very common to see groups of earnest young missionaries hanging out in public areas, looking for Marines.

The group of four to five young people would, upon seeing a Marine of an imperssionable age leaving a gas station, or movie theater, or grocery store, surround the said Marine and start with the opening line “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior”, and move on from there.

Now, while I certainly have nothing against the sentiment, it was the approach, the surrounding, isolating, and pressure inherent in the way they would try to seek converts amongst the Marines off-base that I found personally offensive.

I found out about this because I had a good friend, a PFC that played in my role playing group that we nicknamed “El Destructo” because there wasn’t a single challenge he wouldn’t try to find some way to blow up, that was pretty upset by a run-in he had with them. He was genuinely scared at the way they surrounded him and treated him, because when he told them he was Jewish, he said they got pretty ugly and threatening. And to be fair, he wasn’t scared because he thought they were gonna hurt him, as much as because he knew damned well that if he got into a fight off-base with civilians, for any reason, his butt would have been in big trouble. When you’re a PFC, you dread ever being in any kind of trouble.

So yeah, I had a chip on my shoulder after I talked to him, and I planned in advance what I would do if I ever ran into that kind of trouble in Yucca.

And of course, I did have the pleasure of running into some of them… they accosted me as I left the movie theater in town, after watching the latest new release, Predator. Looking at IMDB tells me it came out in 1987, so that pins down when this happened.

They were very clean, young, somberly dressed men and women, a nice group of people, really. They certainly didn’t look like they were the kind of folks that would cause a disturbance, or start a fight. They’d been hanging out in teh parking lot of a gas station that shared a parking lot with the theater.

One of them, I guess the spokeman, walked up to and in front of me to block my way to my car, while the rest circled and closed in. It felt pretty threatening, they were well within what we think of in the states as our ‘personal space’. And the spokesman asked me the line I will never forget, “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior?”

And I replied immediately, having previously thought long and hard about this exact situation, and what I would say if I had the chance. I can’t remember exactly anymore, but I practised it enough that I remember what the high points were. And I know that I was so happy that I had practised what I was going to say, that I was grinning in my most menacing way. Which, sadly, probably isn’t all that menacing, but you do what you can.

“I am a believer in the coming of Nyarlathotop, the deep old one of ancient times, the Goat with a Thousand Young. I am one of the true chosen ones that will serve to usher unto the world the great return, when the skies will turn to blood and the unenlightened shall be eaten by the mighty, and the balance of power on this world shall finally be restored to the dark gods as spoken of in the Books of Blood and the Necronomicon”.

They ran. They really did. It wasn’t the spokesman that started it, but as I kept going on, they broke and ran to their car and got in.

El Destructo laughed, and laughed, and laughed when I told him. 

Ah, good times. Good times.

I do think of those kids every so often, and wonder just what they thought. Did they really think I was serious? Do any of them still remember that? Do they tell stories in hushed voices around the campfire of the day a dark cult of devil worshippers revealed their existence? Do they make plans?

Well, as the New Testament says, “As ye sow, so shall ye reap.”

These days, I am much more boring. If I was accosted in the same way now, I’m far more likely to just say, “Thanks, I’ve got to be somewhere, you guys have a nice day though,” and move along.

Hey, enough rambling. Go buy a shirt! Or a book!

Memorial Day hopes and wishes

I logged on first thing this morning to write a post.

I went to YouTube and did a search for “Memorial Day Armed Forces”.

After watching nine or ten videos comprising collections of photos and videos set to music, I no longer wanted to put one on the blog, I just wanted to go back to bed.

For every single one of you who is still overseas, I hope and pray that you return home safely to your families when your duty there is done.

For every one of you who has a friend or loved one still in harms way, I hope and pray that they return to you in the fullness of time, safe and sound and full of stories that are appropriate for young listeners. The stories they could tell, but won’t, over a few beers late at night? Probably not so safe for virgin ears.

I find it sad, and more than a little amusing, that when I read the viewpoints of the pampered and the petty, the asshats and those used to instant gratification of their every wish and whim, and most of all the stupid crap that comes out of the mouths of those who feel entitled to everything AND a new car just for existing in America, that the freedom they each enjoy and take for granted was earned, HARD earned with the blood, sweat, tears, hardship and devotion to duty of the American service-men and women that chose to volunteer to stand up and do their best to serve the people of this country and defend our liberty.

For all of you and your families, no matter where the hell you are, that have ever served or are serving now, God bless you all.

Many in this country may not have the slightest idea of how much of their way of life they owe to your sacrifices, but I sure as hell do.

I hope I see you all in game, someday.

Peace, brothers and sisters. Semper Fi.

Tales from the Dark Side

My shadow priestie has been 70 for long enough that I’ve maxed out my gear except for raids, heroic Magisters’ Terrace, and Badge Rewards.

Everything is properly gemmed and enchanted, and I float around 1050 shadow damage unbuffed. I’m pretty darn happy with that.

The Sidhe Devils has our own Kara run scheduled for the morning of Saturday, May 31st, where two of our powerful Feral Druids will be tanking away, and neither of them will be moi.

Instead, I’m gonna play mana battery, ranged DPS, and Shackler.

Now, I’ve only ever soloed as a shadow priest before. You guys know me; that leaves me nervous about my ability to properly perform my role, and not let the rest of the raid down.

So, I’d been keeping my eye out for two weeks now for a Kara PUG in the makings, to join and go in and learn my place and practise rotations and thinking on my feet, and mainly seeing what things look like from the back of the pack for a change.

The funniest part is, with my current gear, there are all of three upgrades I could get from Kara, and they’re all from the first two bosses. I’d be looking mainly for badges, and for fun. How often would you expect tha from a Kara pug? Someone that wasn’t out to be a loot whore?

As a shadow priest, I knew that my Shackle would be welcome, but it might be hard to find a pug that felt secure enough to take a non-healer priest.

Well, last night I was giving Alex a bath, and Cassie calls out that someone in Trade chat was asking specifically for a shadow priest to fill the last slot in an all-guildie Kara run.

WTF? Are you kidding me?

I looked at Cassie with my beseeching kitty-cat “can I haz kara run?” eyes, and she not only said yes, but she even finished up Alex’s bath for me so I could scurry off and log in. Yay!

The guild was Essence of Grandeur on Kael’thas, and although they usually run two Kara groups, I got the impression the US Memorial Day weekend had left them short one for a badge run.

They welcomed me quite warmly, asked if I could join Vent, and once I ran off to get my raid mats and consumables, threw me a summons.

The run was completely unlike any Kara run I’ve ever done before.

We started with an untouched Kara, took down Attumen, and kept rolling without pause until we reached the large room at the top of the huge ramp past the library just after Curator. We didn’t STOP there for the night, I just had all I could take without a bio break. 

So a pause to put Alex and cats to bed, and a bit of bio regen, and it was back in business. We started back up and kept on until Chess was cleared.

That was the longest single run I’ve done in Kara. Every Legatum run I’d been on, there was usually an acknowledged stopping boss about halfway through. And that was typically Curator. When we 7 manned Kara we went further, but we still bypassed Aran and Illhoof when we went on and cleared Chess.

This one, we went until we just got too tired, and in our case last night it mean we rolled on until 2 AM.

So, Attumen, Moroes, Maiden, Romulo and Juliette, Curator, Shade of Aran, Illhoof and Chess, dead.

That guild has a great sense of fun and playfulness on vent. Definitely a nice group of folks to play with.

Let me talk a bit about some of the things I learned as a shadow priest in Karazhan for the first time, when I thought I was completely prepared.

1) Bring twice as many sacred candles as you think you’ll need. You’ll probably run short anyway. I brought about 40, needed a fast trip to snag 20 more. Next time, I’m bringing 80.  Why? When someone dies, I found it easier to redo the whole group buff for the full duration rather than just a ghetto buff of 30 minutes on one person. So they got used a lot more than I expected.

2) Don’t freak out if you have the cookie-cutter priest spec, that gives you +102 Stamina from your Improved Fort buff, and when you buff people, it displays a tooltip saying they got a +79 stamina buff instead. It’s a known bug that I was previously unaware of. I did the math, and after I did the buff, the tooltip showed the +79, but I really got +113 (from the +102 Fort and +10% stats from Pally buff).

3) It is vital to use a shackle focus macro that allows you to continue to provide ranged DPS uninterrupted to your target while keeping a second one shackled. Allow me to show you mine;

#showtooltip Shackle Undead
/clearfocus [modifier:alt][target=focus,dead][target=focus,help][target=focus,noexists]
/focus [target=focus,noexists]
/cast [target=focus]Shackle Undead
/s Shackling %f

I did not create this. I am, despite all that Kirk could do with his series of posts on how to write macros, still macro-creating illiterate.

BUT, I now understand better what to look for IN a macro. So I went to the Shadow Priest forums and did some searching. 

In a thread about Moroes and Shackling Macros, way towards the end, a player named Acererak wrote that macro I listed above… and another player named MnilinM came by and helped explained what it did, an explanation even I could understand, so I will share it with you here.

MnlinM described the macro as doing the following;

Show the tooltip for Shackle, instead of just a random macro icon/name
then:
Clear the focus target IF I hold alt, OR my current focus is dead, OR my current focus is friendly, OR if my focus doesn’t exist anymore.
then:
Set my current target as my focus, only if I don’t have a focus target set
then:
Cast, using my focus as the target, Shackle Undead
then:
say “Shackling [target’s name]”

So… it’s a nice macro. Works great. Kinda does everything I can see that I would need in the heat of battle. In actual use, it kicks ass. I target the mob that has been marked for Shackle. At the pull, I hit that macro, and it makes my target my focus, and Shackles him. I then can target the Skull or X and begin blasting away, and I have a dot-timer mod that shows me Shackles’ duration even if I don’t have that mob targeted. And every ten seconds I just hit the macro button and it recasts Shackle on my focus, without changing my current DPS target.

So.. I macro-Shackle the purple diamond, retarget on Skull and mana dot death dot blast death flay mana dot blast reShackle death flay mana dot… you get the idea. As long as I keep my eye on the Shackle in case it breaks before the ten seconds I give myself to reShackle, I’m good.

Now, a few lessons learned from the run itself.

Essence of Grandeur seems to have always used a Paladin Tank as their main tank. As most of you are well aware, I am used to a warrior and feral druid, or mostly the two feral druid tanking combo.

I have only once ever played with a Paladin Tank, and that is when Gerolan the incredibly awesome tanked Steamvault and I was on my Hunter.

A paladin main tank in Kara was a very, very different experience.

I had heard before that a Paladin using Consecrate and AOE tanking, especially against undead, is an amazing sight.

That is an understatement.

Basically, if the healers could keep the pally alive, the team wins. No matter what else happens. It was shocking.

I made a mistake early on, body pulled a group on the run to Attumen while trying to back up to make some space/LOS to the fight we were on… I died right away as the three mobs came charging me… the Pally picked them up, and they kept right on trucking. No other deaths.

The group did have a warrior as well, for off-tanking, but the bulk of the fight was on the Paladin, and the first thing that surprised me was that he did not use pulls from the hunter’s misdirect to bring mobs to him, instead he charged in face to face to body pull.

In hindsight, it’s obvious why, since if you don’t have a ranged pull or Linkin’s Boomerang, you must get into the habit of running up and saying “hi” all nice and personal every time.

But what that does is bring all the mobs automatically into the range of your Consecrate, making Shackle useless. Shackle/break, Shackle/break.

They used Crowd Control, don’t get me wrong. But it became clear they used it only on those fights where they had problems in the past with the ‘pally rush in’ technique.

I’m just used to always walking up to every fight wondering how to apply the crowd control we have on hand to the given fight to break it up into bite sized pieces…

So I was there in a cautious mindset looking for things to CC, and they were there in a ‘blast the doors down, matey’ mindset.

Their way is much more fun.

But there were not as many chances to Shackle as I was hoping for. I practised it a lot, damn it!

But yes, I have seen firsthand now, what people mean when they talk about Paladins being awesome tanks, especially in Karazhan. No question.

What came to my mind was to wonder, if a newer guild started out for their very first raids with only a paladin tank, would having that incredible threat generation holding a group of mobs cause the new raiders problems in higher-progression fights?

Some fights are very CC dependant in other raids. Do you think having players used to NOT being able to pull aggro easily would cause problems in the learning curve?

These guys didn’t have that kind of problem, Moroes is a CC issue and they had it locked down, the hunter chain trapped very well, and BRK would’ve been proud. but it did make me wonder, seeing as how I’m going into Karazhan in one week with a group of my own guild’s, many of whom haven’t been far inside… if the Tank is that good, does it prevent your other players from having to stretch and struggle to master their own abilities to get the job done? And can that hurt a guild in the future, if they are used to success, and then suddenly hit a brick wall in progression?

Oh, and as long as I’m talking about the Hunter… this is hilarious…

So, we down Illhoof last night. And we have a very strong boomkin in the group. She stayed locked onto number one on the DPS chart from minute one, just great DPS output. Very cool. In case anyone cared, the DPS chart looked like this;

  1. Boomkin
  2. Warlock
  3. Me
  4. Rogue
  5. Hunter

Considering the Hunter was in a lot of blues and even some greens, it wasn’t his skill, it was just his gear. And he got some damn nice upgrades. That Steelspine Faceguard, for example.

But he had a green for a weapon… and a certain Staff dropped off of Illhoof…

And since the balance-specced Druid didn’t want it…. well…. that’s just awesome. Yes, yes he did. The Hunter won the roll on Terestrian’s Stranglestaff.

And he had a great time emoting ‘the tentacles brush up against xxx leg’ and similar for the rest of the fight… oh, it was priceless… the jokes about all the people that would be seeing him with that staff that would QQ in Ironforge were perfect.

If you live and play in Kael’thas and happen to see Essence of Grandeur around, give ’em a /salute, they’re a damn fun, and mature, group to play with.

hunterstaff.jpg

A little light listening music

So, the music thread is paying off… big time. If you haven’t contributed your music selections, please go over there and give me some suggestions.

Just so you know, I seem to tend towards enjoying music sung by powerful female artists that put a lot of emotion into their music.

My latest love IS Flyleaf, but I can add Nemesea and Paramore to new music I’m enjoying a lot.

Basically, I’m liking this harder rock, and, I guess the screaming force behind it, but the powerful passionate female vocals are also a big plus for me.

Other music that ain’t as hardcore, stuff taht is mainstream mostly from hearing it on the radio, that I seem to love just because I love the powerful singing includes; Concrete Blonde, Heather Alexander, Republica, Kelly Clarkson (go ahead, mock me, I still love Behind these Green Eyes and Miss Independant), Madonna, Loreena McKennitt, Sarah MacLachlan, Christina Aguilera, Evanescense, Garbage, Hole (yes I do like Hole, again, send me your well deserved slams, It’s a guilty pleasure but DAMN do I like Northern Star), Nina Gordon, Scandal, Pat Benatar, Patty Smith, Pink, Tori Amos, Traci Lords (believe it or not, she did some techno stuff that was on the original motion picture soundtrack for Mortal Kombat I thought kicked ass), and as you might have guessed from Nina Gordon being on here, Veruca Salt.

And I just have to laugh, because when I answered that thread, I mentioned music I listen to that people had mentioned, and forgot to add Tool. And you noticed, and most everyone has pointed out to me since how great Tool are.

Sorry folks, it’s my fault, I should have mentioned that Tool is one of my favorite bands, and I have several CDs I’ve mixed of various Tool songs to fit different moods while driving. I really liked thier latest CD, too. I lived in SoCal, so let me ease your minds when I say that I consider Tool – Aenema to be a prayer, not a song. Learn to Swim, hehe.

Enough of all that. The point of this post wasn’t all that, it was to say… I have seen the acknowledgement of the wise as to the supremacy of da Yoopers, but clearly some of you are… unenlightened.

This shall not stand.

Therefore, I gift you with Da Yoopers, singing their classic rendition of, “The second week of deer camp”.

Enjoy!

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The banhammer strikes the just and unjust alike

Recently, Blizzard dropped the banhammer on a ton of players, players that were removed from the game for allegedly using the Glider software to bot.

I’m not even going to try to break down that statement. People doing it were intentionally cheating, and while some may complain, I’ve personally seen several emails by folks that were banned that had been using the software, that openly admitted that they new they were cheating, but figured they’d never be caught because the software was designed to be hard to trace, and that, as Monty Python might say, “It’s a fair cop”. they also mostly said leveling without botting was too boring once they had their first level 70, and if they wanted to get into playing another character in PvP they saw no reasoning to go through the grind of leveling it all over again.

/facepalm

I do have to give credit to those players whose emails I saw, by the way. I hate cheating in multiplayer games, but I have yet to see a cheater that got banned that objected because they thought it was okay. They knew it was against the ToS, and they were busted. They didn’t cry about it.

I’m sure they are out there… please don’t direct me to where they are QQing. Leave me my illusions, please?

Just last night I remarked in guild chat how delightful it was to fly around on my Hunter Miner, farming nodes of Rich Adamantite, at times when the zone and server are usually barren and overfarmed.

But as with all good things, there has to be some bad. And this is just particularly vile.

Blizzard banned a great many people. And at least one of those people seems to have a massive following asserting that they have known him and played actively with him for a very long time, and that he has never ‘botted’ or cheated.

I am talking about the Hunter Lamaa of Aetherial Circle, the same guild that so very many WoW bloggers are a part of.

TJ wrote a very good post about it, asking for other bloggers to issue a call to arms.

I do not know Lamaa personally. I’ve never even spoken with him, as far as I know. I can’t speak for his integrity, or what he may have tried while drunk and high on crack for two hours in the depths of a dark Saturday night of his soul.

Personally, I believe Lamaa, but I certainly can’t swear to his innocence before a court of Blizz law.

But there is a part to this story that slams home, with great force.

And that is Lamaa’s utter inability to make personal contact with anyone in Blizzards’ customer service that is willing to help him. That, in fact, he is just completely without any kind of helpful guide to getting an answer, explanation, or resolution.

I have stated before that my account was hacked a year and a half ago. I’m pretty sure I already wrote about the experience extensively elsewhere.

Even better, I mentioned just yesterday, is that I still have all of the emails that I received from Blizzard about my petition to get my stuff back. Emails that span a month and a half, and that were literally my ONLY recourse to getting my problem addressed, and that repeatedly say not to attempt to call about my issue, and that in the end let me know that they would not help me in any way, via a form letter. I think I might just make those into PDFs and upload them with appropriate blackouts for your enjoyment later.

Because my account was still active after I was hacked, I was able to post my problem in the official WoW Forums Customer Service section. Where my posts asking for help were first, filled with people (not Blizz employees) assuring me I must be a gold buyer, account sharer, moron or user of illegal software or I would not have been hacked. Then, without a Blizz reply, my thread was deleted. I tried several times to post my problem, with it getting deleted each time, and I started camping on the Customer Serice forum to figure out what was going on.

What I found out at that time, the week after Christmas, was that MANY people had been hacked, that MANY of them were posting anxious threads asking for help, and that within minutes ALL of them were being deleted. Once I recognised that it wasn’t a mistake or glitch, that there was intentional action taking place to remove any thread created by anyone that had been hacked asking for help, I stopped going to the customer service forum. I waited for my emails to update me on the status of my stuff, and I never went back. Why bother?

I’ve said it before… I love Blizzards’ game designers and programmers, the artists and writers. I love the game. Even after my experience with customer service and getting hacked, I still play, because I love the game.

But I see the customer service department for what it was then… worthless. Amlost criminally so. Just because you sell a product and make people agree to your terms of service before they can use it, does not in my opinion mean you are absolved from providing any customer service to them in the future. Nice trick if you can pull it off, though.

I had thought that there were now manned phone lines for help with account problems. I had thought that customer service had become MUCH more responsive to problems people experience when their accounts get hacked. I thought, basically, that the word I had gotten recently was that Blizzard had acknowledged the shameful nature of their customer service, and worked to correct it.

I sincerely hope that Lamaa gets the opportunity to receive what we expect as the very least that any company can provide in terms of customer service… someone to try and help him with his problem. 

I hope that, as someone in TJ’s comments said, the problem may be as simple as Blizzard wanting to help everyone to the best of their ability, but being temporarily swamped by the sheer volume of complaints and reported issues, both honest and not, and that it will only take them some time to investigate his particular situation and get it straightened out.

I really, truly do.

But believe me when I say, I was there the week that hundreds got hacked for Christmas… I was one of the ones affected… and I saw, first hand, how I and many others were treated when we tried to have our cries for help heard.

We were silenced… our pleas for help not merely ignored, but deleted by the Blizzard forum customer service moderators.

I speculated at the time as to why they did it… were they afraid that people would see that hacking was a major issue, and they wanted to prevent the sheer volume of complaints from being reported on a news site, scaring other customers away? Or was there some other reason, one that I just didn’t know? Were they afraid news that customers were getting hacked would hurt sales of the game after Christmas? I have no idea whatsoever.

It’s enough for me to know that I will continue to love this game, and play it, but I have no faith in Blizzards’ customer support to treat the customers fairly and with actual concern, and I will never, ever log into the game without wondering if I’m going to see my characters stripped naked again.

Good luck to you, Lamaa. God bless you. I wish you all the best, and I hope you get to play with your friends again soon and provide Massive Quantities of Sustained Ranged DPS.

WTB a phone number at Blizzard someone actually answers, to forward to Lamaa. PST.

From the mailbag – Barkskin and Tanking

Disclaimer – I am horrible… HORRIBLE… at returning emails.

I get hundreds of emails a day. Between the blog and WoW Insider, I’m freaking serious.

BRK never mentions this, so either he is far more organized than I am, or, well… he’s probably just more organised than I am.

I made the mistake of mentioning my email depsair to TJ once. She quickly informed me that she spends hours each night answering every single email, because HER readers matter to her. And she reaffirmed the fact that, yes, I suck.

Note to self: Don’t go crying to TJ for sympathy in future.

But really. I cry inside, but I just can’t answer them all when I’m at work. I do my best to answer the ones that are folks saying Hi, but if there is a question asking for info, it gets read, and then I move on, fully intending to get to it as soon as I can.

And then a month later, with several hundred emails asking for in-depth answers to tanking or druid questions… none of whom I even acknowledged at the time, because “I’ll answer that tonight when I get home”… I give in to despair, crack the seal on a bottle of Captain Morgan and get drunk.

But sometimes… sometimes, I get an email that not only asks a question, but asks one that I can answer super-quickly, and at just the right time at work for me to have the 20 minutes it takes to actually put the answer down in pixel form.

Congratulations Saresa, you managed to hit the window of opportunity, and your email question will actually get answered instead of sitting forgotten for two months.

And if you have emailed me with a serious question, and never heard from me again… I’m sorry. I really am. I read it, I swear I did.

I suck. I know this.

I really do intend to answer your questions when I get home, but… my email’s the black hole, it swallows not only your questions but also my will to live.

Now, on to the question from Saresa! 

Saresa of Destructive Reach wrote;
 

I was talking to a druid friend of mine the other day, and he mentioned Barkskin when we were AoEing.  Now, me being the noob druid I am, didn’t even realise that feral druids had that spell. 

Anyway, my friend said that it is useful for tanking, but I am not so sure, seeing as it lasts a whole 12 seconds.  I was just wondering what your thoughts were on the issue.

Saresa/Hermia

Thank you very much for your question, Saresa!

Your friend is right, but possibly not in the way you might be thinking.

What Barkskin primarily does for feral tanks, is allows us to cast a channeled spell against a group of enemies without the possibility of interruption.

Feral druids do not have any threat mitigation abilities, and that applies to our spells, as well. So our spell damage does a little more threat than other spell casters.

To provide you the most common example of Barkskin tanking, I’ll talk about the trash pulls prior to Moroes in Karazhan.

There are mobs of non-elite opponents just prior to Moroes, that are too great in number for a bear tank to swipe or tab-target easily, and that are a mix of physical and ranged casters.

As a druid main tank for these pulls, you can have the rest of your team stand down a bit on the stairs, and then you pop your caster-form head up onto the landing.

Target one of the non-elite crowd, fire off a ranged spell of choice, and then duck back down the stairs out of line of sight, forcing the entire group, ranged casters and physical alike, to come to you as a tight group.

When you back down the stairs, pop your Barkskin, and activate your channeled spell Hurricane to bring up the targeting reticle.

Barksin lasts 12 seconds, Hurricane lasts 10. This gives you 2 seconds after firing off Barkskin to activate Hurricane and center your targeting reticle properly, and still get your full 10 seconds worth of damage ticks on the mobs.

Be warned, sometimes I have found the reticle graphics to bug, leaving you no positive idea where your AOE target is for Hurricane. Just an FYI, keep an eye on where your mouseover icon is when you prepare to activate your spell.

As the group of enemies crests the rise and comes down the stairs to you, you fire off Hurricane, doing a ton of AOE damage to every mob at once, and with Barkskin up they can pound you for 12 seconds without interrupting the spell.

As long as your healers are prepared for you to be in squishy form, and the party casters let you have a second or two for Hurricane to tick some Threat, you should have no problems holding aggro for the life of your Barkskin.

If you practise how you back away and at the last second jink back in towards them a bit as they crest the landing, the ranged casters usually abandon casting for melee, tightening the group up some more, something I do most often when pulling the tables right in front of Moroes…

If you have multiple Druids that are also Barkskin/Hurricaning, and of course the masters of AOE, Mages, it makes potentially hectic free-for-alls of mobs running all over the place chasing healers and spike damage into a tightly orchestrated massacre, leaving a small pile of corpses at your feet.

Win! 

Saresa, I hope this answers your question, and that you enjoy having this additional technique to pull mobs of enemies.

With multiple healers in a 5 man, this can be nuts, but lots of fun, if your group is in a playful mood.

Say you have an atypical group makeup for a 5 man, with two healers and two druids or a druid and a mage, and a DPS. You can have a lot of fun on your pulls as the tank by Moonfiring a mob, ducking around a corner to force a line-of-sight pull to your face, Barkskin/Hurricane the group while the two healers focus on you, let the other druid start his Barkskin/Hurricane two seconds after yours so his Threat trails yours, and then once your Barkskin runs out shift to cat and claw the faces of the poor dazed bastards that survived.

Hey, remember, we be droods. Improvise, adapt and overcome. And above all else, have fun!