A marvelous night of raiding success

Last night, the good old Sidhe Devils had another raid scheduled.

In keeping with the ‘limited playstyle’ theme, we had Vault of Archevon and Obsidian Sanctum on the schedule.

A couple nice ten man runs, shouldn’t take too long, and everyone can have some fun and get some loot.

Well, first thing we did was see that Alliance held Wintergrasp, and was due to lose it in a half hour at 7 PM server. So, even though our raid was scheduled for a 7 PM start, everyone that was on went to Wintergrasp Fortress, in the hopes that we’d have time to get inside before we lost it and had to wait for the culmination of the battle.

Thanks to the awesomeness of the guild, by 6:45, everyone that had signed up for the raid was not only online, but had made their way to Wintergrasp and was able to get inside.

We buffed up, got ready… and got an announcement that the instance was scheduled to reset in 10 minutes.

OH SHIT!

Now, I was under the, obviously totally mistaken, impression that once you were actually IN Obsidian Sanctum, they wouldn’t boot your ass out for losing Wintergrasp. Maybe you’d have issues if you died and had to run back, but I guess I didn’t think it through.

So we had 10 minutes to pull and kill the four trash and down the boss, assign loot, and get the heck out of there.

You’ll understand if I’m justifiably proud that our crew did, in fact, accomplish that just fine. A total beatdown slam dunk in your face kind of thing.

And even better, both Tier pieces that dropped, a Mage chest and a Paladin Healer chest were usable by guildies, so nothing got wasted.

I was absolutely delighted. Talk about time pressure!

So from there, we went on to the second half of the scheduled evening, Obsidian Sanctum.

We’d talked a bit about doing it with no drakes up or one drake up, but after we cleared all the trash but the last drake, and discussed it… Graimerin described what he knew of how to handle the extra drake… and our healers had massive coronaries in anticipation. 

I decided that, since some of the folks there hadn’t had a chance to see the normal fight yet, we should pass on it this time. It made more sense to me to do it straight with everyone at least once, to make sure everyone is comfortable with the normal encounter before we ring in any changes. From what I’ve heard leaving drakes alive is quite challenging, and I’m going to respect that.

Again, it went smooth as silk. There was a bobble at the beginning, when I wasn’t exactly sure where the heck the ‘safe zone’ to handle the single-opening Lava Wall was, couldn’t twist the camera angle fast enough to see it coming, and ended up getting brushed by it, but now I know… and will remember for next time.

Wham-bam and loot was had by many. Of course, at this rate it’ll be Christmas before everyone has their Tier gloves, but what the hell. That’s why you can buy them with Emblems of Honor, right?

Well, we did both raids… and it was only 8 PM. A one hour raid night seemed kind of lame, we spend more time on Heroics than that… so I suggested we go on and take on Naxxramas: The Arachnid Quarter.

Surprisingly, this suggestion was met with a certain measure of enthusiasm.

So we headed on over to Naxx, after explaining how to get there for the folks that hadn’t been on last weeks’ failed excusion.

Yeah, that’s right, this would be the guild’s second shot at it, and some of the folks hadn’t been there before. See? We ain’t no hardcore raiders, nope, not us!

Some folks took side trips to Dalaran to pickup Tier items and gems so they could equip their new shinies before the run. So we weren’t even as maxed on gear and enchants and stuff as we could be. What a bunch of noobs.

We went on in, cleared the little spider trash, and faced off on Anub’rekhan.

Now, last week we tried the commonly accepted strat for this boss, which involves the main tank (me) dragging the boss all up and down the right side of the room, hugging the wall on the other side of the green slime trench, while the rest of the raid takes down the adds, and I get some heals.

We met with varying success last week, sometimes I’d die on the run when I got out of range of heals or a healer got silenced, and on our last try of the week we just didn’t have enough sustained DPS on the boss for long enough to get it done and met with the Enrage timer.

See, we have outstanding DPS… but most of it in the guild is melee. Cassieann the Rogue, Razedbarre the Death Knight, Caladorn the Paladin… great DPS one and all, but they have to play the ‘run and catch up’ game whenever switching from boss to add and back again.

We had two ranged DPS, Elystia the Mage and Sinnas the Hunter, and while both are great, Ely was kept pretty busy AoEing the little swarmers that spawn from corpse explosions.

You’re not going to get the boss down in time unless you get some focused fire on his ass, and sustain it.

So I went with the suggestions of a few of you wonderful folks, and decided as Main Tank to try just standing and taking the Locust Swarm in one place.

I pulled and tanked him right where he starts the fight, in the alcove at the end of the room where adds spawn in the green curtains, and when he started Locust Swarm, I just made sure I was closer to the group than he was, kept his back to the alcove, and I ate the Swarm.

It had the advantages that the healers could all be confident they were at a safe max range from me to stay outside the silence, and the DPS knew where exactly they were running back and forth to.

Also, and this was a key consideration for us, as Graimerin the Paladin was the offtank, it left him able to handle his pulls on the Crypt Guard adds while knowing exactly where the range of silence was going to end… with Sinnas there with Misdirect to help out.

The first time we tried it, it went perfect… incredibly perfect. With my gear and our healers I was never in any danger at all of going down from Locust Swarm. It just wasn’t an issue. Nobody else got silenced, and I still got heals when needed, the adds got beat up, and it all went very well… until somehow during a Locust Swarm the boss got taunted off of me… and I was silenced so I could do NOTHING to get it back.

Wipe.

Whoops!

Well, okay, so we went back in, I yelled and screamed and threw a tantrum… oh wait, no, actually I just said let’s try the same thing again… and try really, REALLY hard not to taunt off me this time. Please guys?

And we did that, and it was a slam dunk “nothing but net” crushing of the boss, no deaths, totally owned him.

anubdown0

anubdown2

If you’re curious what a Feral Druid in 100% pre-Naxx gear wore when standing still and eating the Locust Swarm in ten man, here is a snapshot of my list of gear worn at that time;

Of those items, the only one that really embarasses me are the gloves. Instead of buying my Tier 7 gloves, I keep blowing my Emblems on Bind on Account Heirloom items. My Shammy really loves my mace, though.

Ahem.

I am slowly working on saving 40 Wintergrasp Marks of Hnor for the Titan-Forged helm.. but every time I do Wintergrasp, we are defending and we lose. It’s getting OLD playing for the entire run, from start of battle to finish, and lose in the last 30 secsonds and get 1 Mark. Grumble.

So, moving on… we destroyed the first boss. Shall we take a chance and move on to boss two?

I think so!

After killing the trash, we squared off on the second boss.

I described the fight as I understood it from reading multiple strats.

We have a platform, with four adds and the boss, Faerlina. I was going to hold the boss, so the plan is, we mark all adds with a pre-arranged kill order of Skull, X, Star, Circle. Graimerin was going to shield throw on the far left mob, Sinnas was going to Misdirect/Multi-Shot on the far right mob, and that would drag everyone to Graimerin on the left side of the platform.

I would then in mid pull ranged Growl taunt the boss off Grai and drag her over to the right side of the platform.

Near enough for the boss to be affected by the death of an add when Frenzied, not so close to gimp mobility.

Everyone works to beat the adds down to about 15% health, and then all out on the boss.

When the boss frenzies, everyone switches DPS to the next mob on the kill order, pre-marked.

Then back to DPS on boss.

And if you are standing in Rain of Fire, move out.

Ready? Pull!

And yeah, it went about that easy. Everyone was right on the money first time out the gate, and we trashed her crib.

faerlina

Well, hell folks… this shit be ez-mode. Third boss, anyone?

Okay… moving on…

Clear some more trash, take some AFK time to tuck children into bed and feed cats and such, and look at the big ugly spider boss, Maexxna.

I could run down the strat we used, but it was pretty much the normal that can be found many places on the web, I think. I tanked with my back to the rear wall, Graimerin laid down a Consecrate to pick up spider adds on the spider butt, Ely and Sinnas AoEed the spiders when not hitting boss, and worked on un-Web Wrapping folks, and we had great heals.

We wiped the first time when Paraclesis our Paladin healer… and Main Tank healer… D/Ced at the first second of the pull from a massive thunderstorm in his area taking his power out, and we didn’t know… until I died wondering why I wasn’t getting ANY heals.

Oops.

Well, fortunately Nighthawque was online, a Resto Druid healer I’ve mentioned before, and we were able to ask him to come in.

15 minutes later, we tried again and had massive success.

arachnidachieve

I want to reiterate that these were not ‘by the skin of our teeth’ wins. These were ‘everyone is alive and at full health and close to full mana’ wins.

It’s pretty crazy.

So I want to thank everyone that took part in these raids for preparing their gear so well, for knowing how to play top notch, for being so damn good, and for making Naxx look so ridiculously easy.

One of the things we have to decide now, since we aren’t a raiding guild, is to what extent we follow this up.

Do we have two raid nights on the calander each week? We had one scheduled for Thursday, a work night, and didn’t get enough to sign up. I hate the thought of having them on both Friday and Saturday, since hey… I HOPE normal people are going out and having fun or doing something other than gaming all weekend long. And I don’t like the idea of scheduling things when I would expect most folks would normally be making other plans, since then they might feel pressure to log in instead of log out and dance party.

See, we aren’t a raiding guild. We are a friends guild where the first rule of law is, Real Life comes first. The second rule is, friends come before loot. If you want to raid so bad it’s burning a hole in your gut, and playing with friends is a secondary concern to seeing the content and getting phat loot… well, there are a lot of raiding guilds out there. We aren’t going to change our focus.

Sure, friends come first… but we all also love to see new content and get phat loot of our own. So, I guess the question is going to be… how many nights per week do these friends of ours, who put real life first, want to commit to going and doing raids?

And how will we know if they are signing up for raids because they really WANT to, or just because they feel pressure to help the guild?

ARGH!!! There are days when being a guild leader is a pain. We have a huge night of victory… and all I can worry about the next day is trying to schedule enough to keep everybody having lots of fun, while not scheduling TOO MUCH!

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Does Blizzard enjoy a competitive edge from the community?

I was thinking some on what I briefly touched on the other day; the explosion of WoW information available among the online community.

What I was considering was certainly nothing new. WoW has a massive following of dedicated players, and many of those people, like myself, enjoy the game and our long-distance friends within it so much that we talk about it outside the game incessantly.

There are probably thousands of websites at this point hosting opinions and information about everything to do with WoW.

Some of them, like MMO Champion and WoW Insider, take it to the next level and become sources you can depend on for the latest news and info as to what is happening to the game RIGHT NOW. Server down? Wintergrasp crashing every 15 minutes? Chances are quite high that checking either of them will tell you if it’s just you, or a more widespread problem.

Some sites like Wowhead and Wowwiki provide data and information that is, and I sincerely mean this, absolutely essential for serious “I want to know what is available in game” questions.

And still others find a single rich topic of info and focus on it, and do so to a brilliant degree, like Petopia.

Whatever it is, there is a TON of information available about WoW, a supporting framework around their game that Blizzard, in their wildest dreams, could never have imagined or created.

And here is what I was thinking, my unoriginal thought; it is the community that ensures that the chances of my leaving to play another MMO is somewhere between slim and none at all for a very long time to come.

Age of Conan, Warhammer, City of Heroes… any of the up and coming MMOs like Champions and the DC Universe.

They all have solid things they either brought or are bringing… but the one biggest draw for me in playing isn’t just isolated to the game itself anymore. I am not kept in WoW because of the rich lore, the available player classes, the races, the quests, the game mechanics, the PvE or PvP gameplay, or the graphics.

It’s the massive community that has built up around it to help me feel that no matter what question I may have, or what enthusiasm I may feel overwhelm me… there are lots of other people all over the web that either have answers, or want to talk about it and share it too. And not just on asshat-ridden official forums.

The information is there to help me play the game smart, if I only were to reach out my hand and grab it. The data to help me make informed decisions. The people that share the same enthusiasm that write about it and share their knowledge, experiences, and fun.

I don’t care how good any other MMO is going to be… I don’t care what killer graphics they are working on, what new gameplay mechanic they are planning on implementing, what neat new class ideas, PvP scenarios, rich Lore from an already established fan favorite genre, what accessories or big name design talent they are bringing to the table.

None of them will have the insane depth of community in place like WoW does, and so I won’t feel all that tempted to try them.

Many, perhaps most other players probably don’t feel the same way. They might see them as games that stand alone, seperate from any community, and really don’t care if there is a Wowhead out there or not. And as soon as they get bored with WoW, they are eagerly looking for the next game to distract them with shinies. It’s just another thing to put $50 down and have a little fun with.

That’s cool, and it might even be the most clearheaded way to look at the game.

It is, at it’s heart, a video game like any other, after all. It’s a very good one, no question, but it’s still just a video game. When it came out, it was running head to head with Everquest II, and few folks thought it would stand the test of time against a juggernaut like the Everquest community.

But they weren’t up against the Everquest community… because you couldn’t transfer your Everquest characters to EQ2. It was a new game, with different everything… and it stood up agaisnt WoW on it’s own.

WoW seems to pretty clearly have won that battle, yes? And the original Everquest is also still going strong… but why would that be, with new expansions still coming out for it, when they had a new graphics engine and everything else for a ‘better’ more up to date game in EQ2 already in place to move to?

Could it be that the community just refused to pull up stakes and move on?

I think that IS what has happened… and what truly sets WoW apart from all the other games that have come since is the sheer, crazy size of the interactive community, and the high quality of websites that talk about all aspects of the game.

And that the game itself is still good enough despite it’s age.

Oh, and when I talk about the quality of community websites, no, I don’t mean this website. The other websites. You know, the good ones.

It sometimes amazes me that Blizzard often seems to act as though their game is so massively successful based solely on the brilliance of their game design. They seem to either not be aware of the powerful draw of the community, or even to wish it would go away and leave them alone.

For example, Blizzard has long shunned WoW Insider, for completely unknown reasons, to the extent of occasionally granting exclusive interviews to gaming news journals that barely have anything to do with WoW or MMOs, and leaving WoW Insider in the cold. Blizzard absolutely does not court WoW Insider in any way, or reach out to help share news and upcoming events with them, so as to reach even more of the community.

A damn strange behavior to consider if Blizzard understands the role such news and opinion sites play in strengthening the sense of community WoW players share.

It makes me wonder… does Blizzard understand that, in many ways, they should not be breaking their arms patting each other on the backs over their long term success? That it is not just the excellent quality of their product that keeps people like me coming back all the time?

Do they really understand that it’s not the occasional Californian Blizzcon that I’ll never get to go to that makes me feel part of something bigger that is hard to walk away from?

I don’t know… maybe they really do feel over there that their game is just THAT much better than every other new MMO that has come out.

Regardless, I really wish the other MMOs that are being developed success and good fortune. And I hope that the design teams are putting serious thought into more than just new graphics and gameplay innovations.

Becasue you aren’t just fighting a successful game when you want to bring players over from WoW.

You’re trying to break up a relationship.

Play a level in their class!

As you all know, I’ve been a tank on my main now for quite a while.

It wasn’t always this way, I played kitty-mode for all of Pre-BC, until the time came to go into a guild that did 40 man raids, and I found that my contribution to the team was considered more valuable as a healer.

Or, to be blunt, “We don’t need any worthless ferals or balance in our raid. Durid is 4 healz if Durid is 4 raid.”

At the time, I’d had 60 levels of feral, and enjoyed every minute of it… but the guild I’d played in was ultra-teeny. Having 4 other players around the same level as myself to do a 5 man run just didn’t happen. 

What that meant was I just didn’t KNOW what any other classes strengths or weaknesses were in comparison to mine.

I was told feral was no good in a raid compared to other DPS classes.

True or not, I had no way of knowing.

Nowadays you have umpteen billion news and opinion and theorycrafting sites where players share their opinions ad nauseuam about who is better than who, who does what better, who is where on DPS or heals or whatever the heck for each class and each spec. What spec of Rogue does the msot PvE Raid DPS?

I don’t even PLAY a Rogue and I know that Mutilate builds got a huge buff for PvE raiding, and overtook Combat as “the” raid spec.

Who is better DPS for raiding, Survival or BM as a Hunter? I only know because I read the opinions and analysis of others online, not because I have firsthand knowledge.

Why?

Because to know these things, you need to have a common baseline for comparison. You need to have certain gear standards, to say X Hunter with spec and gear should compare favorably to X Rogue with spec and gear. Different gear, but obtainable from the same level of progression, to keep it even. Who does more DPS? How to know if you don’t have them all yourself and geared well enough to find out?

At the time, as I almost never saw 5 mans in Pre-BC as Feral, my gear was not at the same level as the other players when I joined a raiding guild.

So I could not tell, apples to apples, if a feral cat Druid could DPS favorably when compared to a Rogue, or a Hunter, or whatever. I had no basis for comparison. When we went into UBRS, my feral kitty was in greens and a handful of blues, while the rest were in high blues and purples.

So I just accepted the prevailing wisdom, and said with my usual “What the hell, I’ll try anything once for the experience” attitude, that I’d spec heals.

For the first time ever I looked up healing gear choices, studied this whole “Plus Healing” stat thing, and read up on specs and stats and what to gear towards.

I still remember the surprise I felt when I had been working towards my gear for about a week, running some 5 mans in the guild, LBRS, UBRS, that kind of thing, and when I announced my +Heal amount, I was actually higher than other long-established raid healers.

Why?

Because again, the available information on the internet to help a player understand the ‘min/max’ of playing and gearing a character just wasn’t really out there. So most players went by word of mouth in game, and in personal guild website forums. Or assumed that a blue in a gear slot was an upgrade because, well, it’s a blue.

Most players knew what they knew through personal experience. And went to Thottbot for gear searches as the only option. That or Allakhazam. /shudder.

It was playing a class and spec and gearing based mostly on the school of “What some guy said in a bar that one time”.

Oh god, even worse, “What some guy said in Trade chat that one time.”

What a strange time.

Anyway, I healed for a while, I hoped I was pretty good at it, but when BC came out I went Feral again for the duration.

The biggest difference, really, wasn’t how the class changed.

The difference was really one of information.

I had played long enough to have formed a huge assortment of bookmarks to WoW related news and information, and where to research and HOW to research on my own.

Personal experience drove what questions I wanted to ask, and having had that time to look for answers had given me the tools to find things out.

I have, since the time I have been aware of the vast community of resources available to help learn how to play and how to gear, gotten much better at how I approach gearing and speccing my own characters.

But my knowledge and appreciation for what each player goes through is still limited by either reading stories on websites, or by having played the class myself.

And I now know I do not properly appreciate what Healers go through as much as I should, because I have never really played one before. Not since before Burning Crusade… and the game has really changed for Healers since then.

I’ve got a DPS Hunter and DPS Shadow Priest to have two different perspectives on ranged DPS issues, both mana and non-mana related, and for understanding of the issues surrounding pet management when the fur starts flying in a raid. I have my Feral Druid for an in-depth understanding of the issues a Melee DPS faces in positioning and mobility, and of course a LOT of experience in knowing what kind of juggling act a tank can find himself in when rage run low and mobs run wild or players top aggro charts and pull off you for whatever reason.

But a healer… a healer is just something I have not played now in, what? Almost two years?

So, cut to last night.

I am a level 61 Elemental specced Shaman. I have some quests to do in Blood Furnace, and I ask if anybody in the guild wants to do a run in there. I’ll heal.

And Nighthawque, a former feral druid turned Resto Druid since hitting 80, says he’ll throw on his tank gear, still as resto spec, and go.

He had played all of WotLK as feral, he’d tanked at 80 in some of the instances, but he switched to resto and has found he loves the healing.

He was a great feral, and now he’s a great healer. We drag his ass everywhere.

So, okay… a resto specced level 80 in tanking gear in Blood Furnace, an instance run 19 levels below him. With a ranged DPS/Healer hybrid in Spellpower gear.

Not a bad combo, right? Seems reasonable, you Swipe ’em, I’ll keep you alive.

I learned a very valuable lesson in there.

Healers on their blogs just never share stories about the kind of crap they face in runs. It’s truly horrifying.

My first spot of fun was having the Technicians Silence me every time Night pulled them… because they apparently have some kind of Silence thingie if you get too close. And Night took some solid damage from standing on their timed Mines. Okay, gotta stand back out of range. But I can’t stand back there and hang out, because I need to drop my totems where they’ll do Night the most good. Okay, so run in, drop totems, run back to proper range. Okay, this is learning. This is what learning looks like. This is good.

 Then every time Night aggroed a spellcaster further in, if I dared to throw down a DPS or heal, it seemed I got a Debuff that increased my cast time by 50%…. and when your big heal spell has a 3 second cast time, that SUCKS. Okay, so prepare in advance just like old school… chain cast, and if Night doesn’t need the heal RIGHT when it’s ready to go off, move to break my own cast without losing Mana and start casting again. Always have a pre-emptive heal ready to pop.

Then we got to the last third, with those huge buffed Felguards the Warlocks carry around.

Those things wipe aggro and go after whoever the hell they want, as long as it ain’t the tank. I can’t remember the actual mechanic, if they go after #2 on aggro list or what, but with only two of us in the instance, Night would aggro one, and it would spend the rest of the fight charging me and STAYING on me every 1.5 seconds thereafter. Night would pull it off, it would charge me again, back, forth, a freaking tennis match.

And it gets real fun when you have a 3 second cast time and you are getting charged and knocked down EVERY 1.5 seconds.

Oh, that’s not so bad when you have Lesser Healing Wave with a 1.5 second cast time. I started using that, of course, and just eating the charges… until you get to the pulls with TWO Felguards, and they are tag teaming you every .75 seconds.

I have to say, not having an insta-heal, a DoT, or anything other than long cast time heals when getting continuously bum rushed by two Felguards gave me a MASSIVE appreciation for what happens on the other end of the healer’s screen when the tank is tanking… and the mob mechanics don’t give a shit.

Aggor from tank? Who cares? We don’t want the tank to keep control of the mobs, that would be BORING. Adding random charges to kill squishie casters is exciting!

I’m not the kind of person who EVER does this, but I have heard plenty of times the cry from tanks in PuGs, “Why didn’t the healer heal X? if you hadn’t LET them die we wouldn’t have wiped.”

Recently, the most recriminations I’ve heard are when pugging 25 man VoA, but it’s not exactly a rare occurance to hear that anywhere.

After seeing just a little of the crap Healers have to deal with last night, the way Blizzard has events set so it just doesn’t matter what the tank does, the healer is taking one in the shorts anyhow, I have to say, I think every player should take the time to play every archtype at least a few times in a group environment at end game

I’m serious. I think the lessons to be learned from having to be sole heals for a 5 man group in an instance, to be melee DPS, to be ranged DPS or have a pet or be the tank for a group is something everyone should do.

If nothing else, maybe some of these pugs I’ve gone on would be less… judgmental when the brown gooey substance hits the spinning metal blades.

Cause lesson learned… you can be doing your best, and sometimes… shit happens. You deal with it, and get rezzed if things don’t work out.

From the Mannyac… An Incredible Story

Longtime readers will remember my friend Manny, whom for some strange reason I started calling the Mannyac… might have been that I missed him, and couldn’t annoy him in person anymore.

Anyway, he sent me another one… and I had to share it. It really… this story, like all of his others, really touched me. Deeply. At the end of it, I was so touched I was nearly in tears.

I hope that this story means as much to you as it does to me.

THIS IS AN INCREDIBLE STORY

In 1986, Peter Davies was on holiday in Kenya after graduating from Northwestern University .

On a hike through the bush, he came across a young bull elephant standing with one leg raised in the air.

The elephant seemed distressed, so Peter approached it very carefully.

He got down on one knee, inspected the elephants foot, and found a large piece of wood deeply embedded in it.

As carefully and as gently as he could, Peter worked the wood out with his knife, after which the elephant gingerly put down its foot.

The elephant turned to face the man, and with a rather curious look on its face, stared at him for several tense moments. Peter stood frozen, thinking of nothing else but being trampled.

Eventually the elephant trumpeted loudly, turned, and walked away. Peter never forgot that elephant or the events of that day.

Twenty years later, Peter was walking through the Chicago Zoo with his teenaged son. As they approached the elephant enclosure, one of the creatures turned and walked over to near where Peter and his son Cameron were standing.

The large bull elephant stared at Peter, lifted its front foot off the ground, then put it down.

The elephant did that several times, then trumpeted loudly, all the while staring at the man.

Remembering the encounter in 1986, Peter could not help wondering if this was the same elephant.

Peter summoned up his courage, climbed over the railing, and made his way into the enclosure.

He walked right up to the elephant and stared back in wonder.

The elephant trumpeted again, wrapped its trunk around one of Peter legs and slammed him against the railing, killing him instantly.

Probably wasn’t the same fucking elephant.

This is for everyone who sends me those heart warming bullshit stories.

Ahhh… Manny, you know how to really reach my emotions, man. I’ll carry that story, and the lessons it teaches, for a very long time. Peace.

Morality in WoW… and the desire for a choice

My friend FauxPaws wrote a very excellent post this morning, first time in a long time he’s written, to talk about his strong objection to the famous quest in Borean Tundra, The Art of Persuasion.

To bottom line it for you, the Kirin Tor have a prisoner, they want information… and they want the information tortured out of the prisoner.

But they have no intention of dirtying their own hands to do it, so they want you, the player, to torture the prisoner FOR them. And they give you the tools to do the torturing, which they just happen to have lying around. Go to it!

I personally found the situation infuriating. It really, really pissed me off then, and it still pisses me off to this day.

Now, I’m not angry at doing the quest. Or at the existence OF the quest. The programmers and scriptwriters added a lot of political nose tweaking in the expansion, with the D.E.H.T.A. and other things, but I could care less about what their agenda or intentions may have been. It’s all minor BS.

I have played the Death knight starter area, counting Beta and Live, three times through. The things you do as a Death Knight in thrall to the Lich King is a bit more over the top, and I did them anyway. And I enjoyed playing through those quests.

The difference to me is the situation.

There is only one possible decision to make when you are playing the quest; torture, or abandon the quest chain.

If you go ahead and torture the prisoner, you get rewarded by XP and a continuation of the quest line, which leads directly to another quest line, which leads in turn to another quest line in Coldarra, etc etc.

If you refuse, you can drop the quest from your logs. That’s it. Done. Denied any further interaction with all the quests that follow, and I haven’t done the math, but I think it’s likely that you’ll be unable to get enough quests to complete the Achievement for Borean quests.

It’s just a game, but the big problem for me is, even though I am not playing on a RP server, I HAVE invested life, in my imagination, to my characters. I have gifted each of them with a personality, an attitude is probably closer to the truth, and I think of them as the avatars whose journey through the World of Warcraft is guided by my decisions… based on how I think they would approach things.

I play Windshadow the feral druid as an “in your face” rampaging lunatic that prefers to square off and charge in, Swiping and clawing and chewing the enemies face off. I tank with my face, I choose to TAKE your pounding because that’s the price I am willing, no, EAGER, to pay to get in and tear your fricking arm off.

Oh, and I’m quite cute in my Lovely Black Dress.

My Hunter, Windstar, on the other hand, isn’t all about being a max DPS hunter.

I was asked about this in game very recently. I was asked if I was going to respec, like the rest of the hunter population, to a BRK approved Survival DPS spec.

And my answer was, quite simply, HELL NO. Beastmaster isn’t about damage to me. My Hunter isn’t about dealing out damage. Not at all.

My hunter is an adventurous free spirit, traveling the world and seeing the remote, inaccessible reaches of the vast universe, her best friend at her side. And when the shit hits the fan, she is never alone… her best friend is right there to chew their face off and give her the time she needs to back off and throw down the artillery.

Playing my hunter is all about a partnership, an enduring friendship between my pet and I. Period. And Beastmaster allows me to buff my pet up as an equal partner, so I feel that I can reasonably say that we beat the odds and see the world together, instead of me seeing the world and, oh yeah, dragging my DPS booster along with me.

I don’t ever picture Windstar as lounging around in Dalaran in a Pretty Black Dress. I picture her pushing her way through the jungles of Sholozar Basin, Moonclaw at her side, stinking from being in the field for three weeks straight, looking for the secret of the lost Saronite Mine.

And if the guild has an instance run to do, Windshadow is the one lounging around, bored and eager for some action to fire adrenaline off in her veins, and Windstar is the one that has to be drug out of the most remote jungle to come and do what needs doing… and then wave goodbye to civilazation once more as she heads back out into the back of beyond. 

Neither of my characters are the “okay, you need some info? Could you hand me that poker from the fireplace and turn around? This’ll only take a minute” kind of lady.

Whether or not *I* am that kind of person is totally beside the point here. THEY aren’t.

And it pisses me off to no end to feel that my only options are to either dump the quest chain completely and miss out on a TON of follow up quests leading all over the place… or direct my character to do something that is totally, jarringly out of character for her.

My point to this rambling rant is to say that it is long past time that Blizzard implement branching quests.

If Blizzard wants to have a quest that requires your character do make that kind of decision, it needs to BE a decision.

You need to be presented with two choices, and the follow up quest has to be related to your choice. They should both lead to a junction that ties both into going back to ONE quest that unifies everything back together, and neither quest should have better reputation or XP rewards than the other. There should truly be no advantage to choosing one over the other, except that YOU made the decision that felt right for your character.

It’s way past time this was done. When other quests were more vanilla, it wasn’t that big a thing. You were always presented with quests that place you in the role of hero, or at least of adventurer.

But with the D.E.H.T.A. and the slaughter of hunters, with the torturing of prisoners, with the hunting of rare and uniqe animals for Nesingwary, even when the spirit of the animals asks you to depart the lands in peace, with quests whose journey takes you to places that require a moral decision…

I do NOT call for Blizzard to remove these quests. They are more mature, more adult than what we have had before, and I applaud the direction and depth Blizzard is bringing to the game.

However, in bringing these moral issues into the game, I feel Blizzard needs to go to the next step… and allow us to make our own decisions about these issues for our characters.

A choice, not an echo.

Webcomics, ah how I do love thee

I’ve certainly made no secret of the fact that I love webcomics.

I’ve posted my ‘squee’ of delight about getting my Richard figure from Looking for Group, my desk photos showed my little Boo from Megatokyo… I eagerly purchase every book that Order of the Stick, Girl Genius, Schlock Mercenary and Penny Arcade put out.

My preferred ensemble is black t-shirts from these webcomics, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t occasionally think of picking up a pair of mad spark goggles from Girl Genius… but if I did, Cassie wouldn’t let me wear ’em anyway. 

In fact, it’s safe to say that I read webcomics as a preferred replacement for real paper comics. I don’t have to find time to run down to Source Comics and Games in the hopes something new will be in… and I don’t have to invest in a comics by mail service, either. Those suckers are expensive!

They get paid by my love of their work. They do the work I love, they get paid afterwards. I hope like heck they make money at it, because I love ’em.

Now, Order of the Stick is consistently hilarious, especially for an old AD&D player like me… but it’s great for anyone that loves fantasy gaming, computer or tabletop, I’d think. You didn’t have to play AD&D 2nd edition to ‘get it’. Not at all. The genres and conventions are very recognizable and enjoyable.

But there is another webcomic that is damn near a secret webcomic, hidden and obscure, that is the tabletop wargamers version of Order of the Stick.

The art of this secret webcomic is brilliant, the story is intricate, intelligent, consistent, humorous, sad and wistful, and draws heavily… no, MASSIVELY on internet memes to structure it’s world. But in a cute way.

I’m talking about Erfworld, the webcomic that is ALSO hosted on the Giant in the Playground Games website.

This webcomic is not featured prominantly on the main page of the website, but there is a link to it on the sidebar.

It is a vibrant, rich, detailed world whose personalities and story are really building strong, and I find myself treasuring every page. I can’t wait to see where it continues to go…

If you love fantasy gaming and webcomics, I encourage you to go check out Erfworld.

Don’t let it remain a secret. It really deserves all your love as well!

And don’t despair! They have a link there on the sidebar so you can sign up in your feedreader to get both comics sent directly to you when they are posted! Score one for readers to lazy to regularly visit!

I'm up they see me I'm down!

My fellow Marines know what the title refers to. 🙂

It’s applicable to the night I had, though. In more ways than one.

It was mostly a big upper of a night. I have mentioned that I’m feeling the Shaman groove thang, and I went at it full bore.

I started off the evening at level 58, Enhancement specced, with 264 Leatherworking and 360 Skinning.

I first polished off my Leatherworking to 300 using my bank full of saved mats I’ve been too lazy to craft with for the last year. I’ve just been skinning and cramming the stuff in the bank for a loooong time.

Hey, there is room in dat dere bank now!

Once my LW was up to par, it was time to wave farewell to scenic Azeroth… GOOD RIDDANCE!

God, I’m sick of leveling in the old world. Flying mounts in Azeroth to speed up leveling alts, NOW.

Hey, you added Bind on Account items… how about a Bind on Account flying mount, and let us use them in Azeroth? PLEASE?!?

Or do you really want no more new healers coming down the pipeline?

All I can say is, I hope and pray a new Hero class is coming, and that it’s a healer class.

Anyway, hello, sunny outlands! Home of the Fel Reaver that will stomp your poor old Shammy butt flat in about 3 seconds…

I wandered around, I did some quests, I dinged 59…

And said “To hell with this, fortune favors the bold” and went to the vendor, sold every piece of gear I had, went to the AH, bought all Intellect/Spellpower/Crit/MP5 gear, and then went and respecced to Elemental.

Yes, I did it at 59, not 60.

Did I study a spec?

Oh, hell no. I just cherry picked stuff that sounded spell damage-y, threw my gear on, went through my Spellbook and rearranged stuff on my bar purely by reading such uninformative things as.. GASP!.. the tooltips…

And went back into Outlands with a smile on my face determined to try something new.

My starting setup was to have Flametongue Weapon and Water Shield up at all times, have two Totems as my “always drop if I’m fighting more than two seconds” totems, Totem of Wrath for Spellpower and Crit and of course the Mana Totem.

For rotation, I had the Lightning Bolt for pulls, throw down one or two of them, have Flame Shock for a small up front hit and DoT for most pulls once they got in range, Frost Shock for up front fast damage or finishing move, and Earth Shock for spellcasting sleazebags. 

Anyway, so I’m powering through the pulls, having fun, getting two or three extra on me and handling it most of the time, but the adds really push back the heals, and I miss Maelstrom Weapons’ insta-cast heal. But it’s fun, it really is. I think I’m getting the hang of it.

I quest a bit, I ding 60… it’s pie in the sky time, because now I have Thunderstorm. And a fast mount, of course… but THUNDERSTORM!!!

I go train everything, hook up at the AH for more upgrades, and hit Outlands again.

Oh wow… Thunderstorm is FUN!

I was just having a blast… pulling a mob, rolling around it and getting to where I wanted, and then popping Thunderstorm to knock the mob off like a billiard ball. It was hilarious.

“Fel Orc off the cliff… swoosh! Two points!”

I was truly enjoying it.

Having lots of simple fun, enjoying the game, taking my mind off recent troubles… riding that emotional high from learning, doing, and succeeding…

And then I got that quest.

If you play Alliance, you know the one.

Fel Spirits.

You are given an Anchorite Relic, and told to go and kill some Fel Orcs, and the Relic would summon forth their spirits, and then you kill them all over again for revenge. Really nice, spiritually moving and uplifting. Bleagh.

And the mechanic for this quest is you have to pop the Relic, which lasts 5 minutes… and then drag the orc within range of it, so a blue beam hits the orc… when the orc dies, it’s soul is sucked TO the relic, and that is where the spirit spawns, and then it runs to you to fight all over again.

This area is fairly small, the mobs are tightly packed, the relic will only activate if you are pretty damn close to the orc spawn points, and the orcs chain pull… which is lots of fun if you are fighting two orcs, and when you kill one the damn thing’s spirit comes back to continue double teaming you.

It’s potentially a fun quest, because it is challenging. Setting your Relic in position, controlling the pulls, only allowing one mob to die at a time to control the adds, etc. It can be fun and give you a fine sense of accomplishment for keeping your cool under pressure, unless you pick a spot to solo pull where you won’t have to ever worry about adds. There are one or two spots like that I’ve seen folks use before.

The problem arises in the Relic mechanic.

Your Relic is tied to you. And it pulls the spirit from any orc that dies next to your Relic… as long as your Relic is the closest.

The Relic lasts for 5 minutes, so you can’t just cancel and move. But it does make this an area that was famous in the heyday of Outlands and BC for asshats to go, wait for you to drop your Relic, pull two or even three mobs… and then they would run up and drop theirs CLOSER to the mobs than yours was, and THEY would get the tag on the spirits by standing and AoEing on their Relic when the spirits spawned there.

So, things to be aware of. But that’s all a long time in the past.

The biggest problem with the area is how few mobs there are if you get more than three people doing the quest. But the mobs respawn really fast, and having to place your Relic usually means that if someone has started in one area, you can setup in another and not inconvenience anyone else.

So, I had the quest, I was well aware of the history and setup of the area… but I was looking forward to orc juggling with Thunderstorm!

I get to the area, and first thing I see is a Death Knight has already set his Relic right at the outermost edge of the zone, in the middle of the ramp up, where it is as far from orc spawn points on the rocks as possible and still be in the zone where the Relic will activate.

It occurs to me that is a fairly cowardly place to put it, it shows little faith in a players ability to handle adds, but hey, he’s a Death Knight. He’s probably still trying to adapt to a new playstyle. Even though he does have a lot more health than I do. No lie, Death Knights easily sport 4900 health at the same level as me, and I have about 3200.

But, like I said.

Cluck, cluck ,cluck, not my concern.

To be on the safe side, I figure I’ll go all the way around the entire area, and come at it from the exact opposite side, over near the mountain.

That way, he has that entire side to pull to his Relic, and I can pull mobs on the other side near the mountain without ever coming anywhere near each other. It’s the polite thing to do, you need ten spirits to complete the quest, and that gets to be a pain after a while.

I come in on my side, set my Relic, make my first double pull, since the pair closest to me are standing real close together, and start juggling.

It’s exciting, it’s frantic, it’s just what I hoped. It’s fun. And I’ve got a good measure on Thunderstorm, it knocks them back far enough for me to finish one off and get a dot on the other before melee again, without aggroing an extra mob.

I finish off my two, thanks to Water Shield and Mana Totem I’m still fine for go juice, I throw down a Healing Wave, go to pull my next target…

And the Death Knight runs through the middle of the entire camp, a long, long run, passing by at least 5 other mobs that were closer to him in the rocks, to pull the mob I had targeted. 

And then he pulls a couple of the others closest to my Relic, and drags them ALL THE WAY BACK to the other side of the camp, where he proceeds to take them down. And then he moves on back to the other ones that were close to him in the first place.

The little cocksucker ran across the camp for no other reason than to pull the mobs that I was going to hit, when he had PLENTY on his side of the camp.

I’m just incredulous.

Are you serious? What the…

I whisper him. I almost never feed trolls, but I’m annoyed, and I am also curious to know what he’s got to say. Usually if someone does something that annoys me for a second, like grabs an ore node I’m actually standing on mining, it can be explained away as someone flying really fast, diving down and hitting “mine” before they noticed I was there. A mistake, that’s all. Easily explained away.

But with this, this totally up front in your face blatant asshattery, I just have to ask… so I do. I HAVE to know what he’ll say. They ALWAYS have something to say, it’s no fun if they ignore the person they just screwed. They have to have a smartass reply. In the movie rolling inside their head, where they were just totally badass and shoved something in someone else’s face, they have that Terminator “I’ll be back” line all queued up and they really want an excuse to use it. But it’s best to use it when someone feeds you a straight line, so you can throw that smartass remark back for the little grinding touch. 

What could he possibly say? Does he have an imaginative spin on it? Or does he have some choice 13 year old expletive deleteds? What?

So I do it. I ask. “Why did you run all the way over here to pull those mobs?”

He whispers back, “Too bad.”

That’s it? “Too bad“? That’s the best he can come up with?

Whatever, that’s just lame. I was hoping for something with some pizzazz. Maybe a “This camp ain’t big enough for the both of us, pard. Best be on the next Griffon out of town or it’s your ass.”

Nope. No style, no wit. Just a dick.

I reply “Nicely done”, because yes I am sarcastic by nature and he was a prick. But I don’t see the need to swear at him. Just a little gentle dig to annoy him with my lack of a response, a quick add to the ignore list, and then on to wait for a respawn on my side.

I wait for a few minutes, a couple respawn near me, I get them on me, I’m getting them down… and our pal the Death Knight runs over to me, drops his Relic between mine and the mobs, and finishes them off before I can drag them so they are closer to my Relic than his. Both spirits go to his Relic.

The worthless little sack of shit just intentionally waited until I fought them both down, and then dropped his Relic to take the spirits!

Now, don’t forget, we are the only two people out here. There is no competition for these pulls. I even went way out of my way to give him a TON of free space.

He just did it, all of it, to be a prick.

He then proceeded to show that, yes, Death Knights are a LITTLE overpowered, by pulling all the rest of the mobs in the entire camp, and hitting them with that chain Plague of theirs.

So, like, apparently he needed 20 spirits for his quest?

Well, anyway. Congratulations, Lieden, Death Knight on Kael’thas. You are a pathetic, unimaginative, cowardly little asshole. 

You’re not even worth the term ‘asshat’. Asshat kind of has style. You have no style. You’re just a dick.

I’ve called people out on this blog before. It’s not something I have any intention of making a habit. At all. In fact, I seriously doubt any good can ever come of it, because people have the potential to change, but the words on this blog can remain forever, long after the person has grown up and moved on and actually stopped being a dick. 

But this guy… Lieden… he won the game.

If his purpose was to get a rise out of someone, and he certainly managed to make it clear to me that being a dick was his first priority… well, he won.

I hope that someone points this blog post out to you, Lieden. I hope you read it, and realize that yes, you can cherish knowing that you did get to me. You absolutely did affect my emotions, and your being a dick, coming from totally out of nowhere in left field, killed that great feeling I had all night.

I’m only human, and as much as I would have loved at the time to just let it roll right off my back and continue to have fun, somehow encountering you, and being reminded of the presence of complete dicks in the game just wiped away that good feeling.

I’m not a robot, and I can’t just decide to be happy.  I could fake it, but where is the point in that?

I was having fun, then I wasn’t.

And it wasn’t you, so much as the knowledge that I’m playing a game that has you in it. You’re nothing. You’re a pimple on the ass of an elephant, worthless and of no consequence whatsoever.

But knowing that every time I log in, I’m sharing the same game… and knowing that your REAL toon could be anyone. That’s what crushed my mood for that moment.

Lieden, you managed to go out of your way… WAY out of your way to be a dick.

And you know what? It’s so incredibly childish I can’t believe it, but why the heck not. I’ve had a hell of a bad few weeks, and I will certainly feel better if I tee off on someone that oh so richly deserves it.

So I am returning the favor, by going out of my way here on my blog to make sure that every friend I have that reads this blog knows it. And knows your name, Lieden. 

I am even going to add a “Hall of Shame of Kael’thas” section to the side of my blog, reserved for those assholes that pull something like you did, for no reason at all. And if your name is the only one to reside there… well, so what? That would be a good thing.

But in the future, on your shiny new Death Knight, I truly hope that you make the mistake of asking one of my friends here for an invite to a guild, or for an instance run, or simply to craft something for you, and are denied.

Because there is one harsh truth in this world, asshole.

You are what you do when you think nobody is watching.

Maybe you’re in a guild where you are watched, you’re raiding and can’t act like who you REALLY are or you’ll lose your spot in the raid or the guild, or no longer get to go on runs. From how you acted, yeah, I can see your sole motivation for acting polite in a guild as stemming from selfishness over raid spots and loot.

But here you are on your brand new unguilded Death Knight alt, and you feel free to cut loose and be yourself, nobody knows who you are, nobody is watching, you can let your dark nasty true inner assclown all out and shit on someone else, with no consequences at all.

Right?

Well, that’s who you really are. The other stuff you do is a lie, the mask you wear to get what you want in a social game.

Lieden is who you really are. And who you really are sucks ass.

You’re not misunderstood. You’re just another asshole.

And broadcasting that fact to the world has restored the smile to my face. Petty, childish, vindictive… ah, screw it.