I’d buy that for a dollar!

I’m not even going to pretend to justify this one.

Thanks to MMO Champion pimping Premonition and Paragon merging into one US guild, something that holds no interest for me whatsoever, I read down to the bottom of their announcement.

I did this because it was on MMO Champion, you understand, not because the topic held any interest for me.

They could be sharing information about airline travel discounts to the Bahamas, and I’d still read it if it were on the front page. I think I ought to get a shirt made that reads, “I’m Boubouille’s Bitch”.

At any rate, at the bottom of the announcement, there was this little blurb, accompanied by a banner ad;

NEW YORK (01 Apr 2010) AXE is giving a big boost to guys that feel the need to RAID! The iconic leader in men’s care, in partnership with Blizzard, launched the brand’s new product line: AXE Sunwell – Get Energized! Studies conducted about gamers concluded that this segment was completely untapped by any grooming products. The Sunwell line is targeted for appearance-conscious gamers that understand the social aspect of gaming. AXE products will now ensure that you stay uniquely fresh even during 24-hour raiding sessions and LAN-parties.

Axe Sunwell.

Axe brand body spray, or whatever the hell it is.

I can’t believe it.

I’ve been a simple Right Guard kinda guy for years. My big daring breakthrough was when I switched from cake style to gel for my underarm smell-nullifying needs.

But this. This is a company that makes products that have absolutely no relevance to geeks or gaming or computers or technology, a company that routinely makes ads that insinuate that if you use their products, strange women will cream themselves just from standing close to you in an elevator. 

And now they’re targeting ME, directly.

Am I going to buy it?

HELL YES I’M GOING TO BUY IT!

I’ll buy it for no other reason than to reward a company that wants to target me as a market.

Today, deodorant.

Tomorrow, what.

Beer?

Good lord, please let this test case succeed, and inspire other companies to pimp for us.

I want to drink Captain Rumsey’s Lager, or Caraway Burnwine, or Dos Ogris.

I want to see the marketing floodgates open, and I want to see the new range of commericals pour forth, as products that have no connection to gaming are forced to reimagine themselves to sell to ME.

The car commercials were a good start, but I don’t go out and buy a six pack of Toyotas.

The energy drinks didn’t go far enough towards breaking barriers, because gamers practically invented the market for them in the first place. Without geek gamers, there would never have been Jolt fan clubs (All the sugar and TWICE the caffeine), which inevitably grew into Red Bull and Monster and all the others.

No, bring on the Axe Sunwell. Bring it on, I say.

That’s right, market your stuff just for me.

Now, as long as we’re on the subject, any chance we can see a line of clothing for the ladies inspired by Warcraft? Cassie has a birthday coming up!

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Bear Butt transfer news update

Just a short little note. (yeah, right)

I spoke with Cassie about this last night, and I wanted to make sure that folks knew where we were coming from as far as what I’d be looking for, if I or we were to transfer our mains somewhere.

First, the time. We live in Minnesota, which is in Central Standard Time, also known as Greenwich Mean Time -6 (GMT -6).

I wonder how many people know how Greenwich Mean Time came about? Do they teach that in schools? Sorry, I always wonder about shit like that.

We happen to be on Kael’thas-US right now, which shares the same time zone as we do. I’m not wedded to that time zone, it’s just where we are now.

What we have done, to the best of our ability, is arrange playtime around family time.

At 8 PM CST every evening, we settle down for our son’s story time, chilling out and reading chapter books, and getting things ready, teeth brushed and all that sort of thing. It’s a time to calm down and relax before bed.

From 8 PM until 9 PM is pure ‘getting Alex settled in’ time every single night. Sometimes, it may go past 9 a little. We don’t want to interfere with that, or rush that time, in any way.

We especially do not want a return to the kind of thing we used to do in Legatum Ignavis (a really good raiding guild on Kael’thas), where start time may have been at 8:30 for something, and I’d be at my desk for the raid instead of helping tuck Alex in. Where I actually missed out on getting my son settled into bed and kissed goodnight because “daddy is raiding.”

Not happening. Never again.

So, I’d be specifically looking for a guild that would raid after, say, 9:15 PM Central Standard Time, and at least on weekdays, didn’t go past midnight.

A Friday or Saturday night raid would work perfect.

And really, no more than two nights during the entire week, tops. I have to get up for work early in the mornings during the week, and if I’m up late, in the words of Cassie, I get hella cranky the next day. 🙂

I know, I know. I must sound insanely picky and ridiculous.

But see, it’s pretty much down to either finding a situation that WILL fit in with that schedule, or not raiding.

O, of doing like I did last night and PUG something simple and short, where it’s done before 8 PM, or it starts after 9 PM and won’t go too long.

It’s why I haven’t joined ANY PUG that is in something interesting but long, like Ulduar or ICC.

We’re putting Alex first. End of story. If the game doesn’t work around that for us, the game loses.

I wanted to be clear about this, because a lot of really nice people have offered a home for us, not just for me but Cassie too (which means a lot to me, let me tell you), and I don’t want it to seem like this is some silly popularity contest. When we look at possibilities, we really are going to start with looking at what works around our time with Alex first.

Some folks have also mentioned there was a specific tank position open. I do want you to know, I’m not some demanding prima donna that can do one thing and only one thing. I’d be perfectly happy healing most of the time, with an off-tank availability, if that’s what worked for a guild. It’s the Druid I love, and I can tank Heroics whenever I’d like to get my tank jones on. I’m not worried about what it is I’d do, wherever it is I’d go.

I think I should have said all that in the last post about feeling in between times, but I wasn’t really sure it was something we’d even seriously think about doing. Now that we’ve talked about it, I wanted to be straight with you guys.

Thanks for your time. 🙂

A PUG Raiding Retrospective

Last night I decided to give PUG raids a chance once again, and on a whim volunteered for a VoA 25 run.

Let’s just say that, while I have seen the 2nd and 3rd bosses before, I haven’t done VoA since they added the Ice boss, and I’d only done the Fire and Lightning a few times. Possibly not even on my main, either.

In fact, thinking back on it, I think I’ve only done the Fire boss twice before; once on my Paladin on Horde side with the Zug Initiative, and once on my Hunter on Alliance in a PUG, winning some nice PvP boots that I’m still wearing.

I had studied before, and knew the tactics for all the bosses except Ice. I’d never intended to do VoA again, so I hadn’t bothered studying that one. Oh why look, an unprepared Bear. /win

I went as a Tree, and not only did I get to heal, I even bullied poor Dechion to come with me to heal as well. Misery loves company, and if I’m going to screw up, best to have witnesses, right?

It’s more fun that way.

Since I hadn’t studied in advance, a hurried query in guild chat followed as we ran in. “Hey, Occulus… wtf do we do on the Ice boss, dude?”

We were then given the following advice;

“Stay away from the Orbs.”
“Heal the tanks.”

Ooookay. We can do that. I think. Thanks for the tip.

It was a lot of fun. It did take a while to get the group together, people kept dropping in and out, and as far as I can see it was because people felt that the group was not forming fast enough to suit them. Which, let me tell you, when you drop group because you’re missing two people out of 25 after 3 minutes, it sure does speed up getting the group formed. Idiots.

We got the group full up, summoned or teleported in, marked the two main tanks (I love that, I really do), buffed up and ran to do the new boss first.

All things considered, it went very well, although I quickly saw what Occulus meant about watching the Orbs. The damn things spawn and swirl all over the place, and if they touch you it hurts. I have no idea if they had to be DPSed down or if they despawn on their own after a set time, because nobody… NOBODY mentioned doing any particular strategy at any time, for any boss. If you didn’t know how to do things going in, there was zero guidance along the way.

So, all I really know is, Orbs spawned and did lots of group damage that we healed through, and then vanished after a while. It’s kinda hectic in a 25, and I just don’t know without researching if they despawned on their own or not. 

After that boss fell, one person instantly left group. Guess he only wanted a piece of loot from the Ice boss, and had no interest in sticking around to like, I dunno, finish the run. That’s one to feed to the ignore list, and thank you very much.

We then continued on to Archavon, short 1, cleared that and went back and did Lightning. Lost another player after Lightning, a healer, and did the Fire boss with 23.

It amazes me how many people dinged boss kill Achievements all the way, even on Archavon, and yet there were no wipes, and no discussion about tactics at all.

I’ll admit, I was healing with all the skill I was capable of, and a lot of people getting stuck in Lightning Ring and in Fire and stuff got very low in health before we brought them back up, but we never wiped, and had very few actual deaths. I think we had four healers, and Dechion and I were two of them, so that always feels good.

Cassie walked in towards the end of the run, and of course almost everything that dropped was Paladin plate, so she was crying a little inside for her Pally.

That led us to talk a little bit about this whole raiding thing, and PUGging versus guild runs, and how things are now compared to how they used to be.

I think I’ve been pretty clear in the past year or so that I ain’t a regular PUG kinda person. Unlike most people I know, I haven’t done PUG raids as a regular thing in a long, long time. Not real raids. I have tried to do the weekly Raid boss on my Druid, when I think of it though.

When Cassie and I talk about raiding, and doing them as PUGs, the conversation usually turns to the last time we actually enjoyed PUGging a raid.

Karazhan.

That’s right. Karazhan.

There was this beautiful window of time where a lot of people had leveled and geared from Heroics, gotten some decent Badge gear, but the last load of uber-leet Badge gear costing beeellions and beeellions of Badges had NOT been released yet on the Isle of Pretentious Blood Elves.

It felt like a magical time.

We’d left our big guild that wanted to do serious raids, and there was just the two of us on our own, with our alt guild nametag over our heads. Karazhan was the only 10 person Raid in the game, and it was very, very long with tons of bosses. There was lots in there to do.

Karazhan was the stopping place for many casual guilds that wanted to raid, but didn’t want to merge into large guilds and deal with potential drama just to hit 25s. If you wanted to raid and didn’t have 25 people to field, Karazhan was the place.

For Cassie and I, it really was a magical time to PUG. We both loved the length of Kara, we loved the way the fights required people at our gear level to use all our abilities and to CC and move and play well and use tactics in order to succeed. It was lots of fun to be with a group of other people all at our same level, because raiders never went back to Kara.

We were also very fortunate that, most of the time, when someone was advertising that they needed a few more for Kara, they were really great people that just happened to be short one or two guildies at that moment, like Essence of Grandeur.

We got to join PUG raids as a couple, and do really interesting and challenging content at the time, with what were in effect entire guilds of skilled people. Not really a true PUG at all, when you think of it.

Looking back, it’s really a shame how things turned out.

When the uber-leet Badge loot was released, suddenly all the raiders wanted fast Badges again, and lots of them. So Karazhan got swamped by people that had insane levels of 25 man raider gear, raiders that wanted to run Karazhan, and who were in guilds that weren’t going to organize Kara in the middle of their progressive raiding schedule.

These people were in a rush to get done because they weren’t there for fun or to see the place or enjoy being with friends. They didn’t want loot from there. They just wanted Badges, and they didn’t respect the level of content OR the other people who were in there at the appropriate level.

These people also wanted to gear their alts up to join their raiding guilds, their raiding guilds weren’t organizing lower-level raids, and so they raided on their mains, and pugged Kara to gear up from the uber-leet Badge gear. And they broght with them their high end raider attitude.

Welcome to brute forcing content, speed pulls or nothing, trash talking, and e-peen waving. And of trying to brute force content on undergeared alts.

It really did ruin that as a raid for both of us, at least for the brief period before Wrath was released. And with Wrath, the whole game changed.

I personally thought that adding both 10 and 25 person versions of all raids would make everything all better. The raiders could move on, and never want to go flood the lower level raids again. The days of e-peen waving leet raiders PUGging with strangers and being asshats were over. Why PUG when you can run with your guild in all these actual raids?

What I didn’t anticipate was the Badge/Emblem system going live with such highly desired rewards, and there being small raids like Sarth and VoA that would be so conducive to PUG farming for quick Emblems.

The model we have is still what we had at the end of Burning Crusade. High end content for raiders to focus on in their official guild scheduling, and lower end content that provides Emblems for gear that high-end raiders will still want, and that will drive them to try and PUG the “lower” difficulty content to farm Emblems fast with their OP uber-leet gear.

Raiders are not encouraged to move on to one level of content, one level of challenge, push forward together with their guild, and stay there.

With Frost Emblems from both daily Heroics and from the Weekly raid boss from lower level raids, and with Triumph Emblem gear being so good to fill in spots like Trinkets and Rings, raiders in their uber-leet gear are encouraged to go, and I hate to phrase it this way but that’s how a lot of these people act, “slumming” in the lower level content. To run content they vastly overpower, content they don’t want any gear from, and content their guild has no interest in running together as a group.

So the raiders are still encouraged by the system to PUG with strangers.

And the raiders, ever and again, seem to act like they feel that they’re running content that is beneath them, with strangers that are beneath them, and they want to get done and get out as fast as they can with their Emblems.

I will say that the only thing about the entire situation I mind, what really bothers me, is simply how it brings up-and-coming players trying to do content at the appropriate level, trying to learn how to play and learn how to deal with different mechanics, face to face with people that are vastly overgeared, have no respect for them, and teach them nothing but bad habits and how to brute force content, and who actively discourage any other way of doing things because it would take too much of the raider’s precious time to even discuss.

I am thinking about it a lot, but aside from bitching, pissing and moaning about it, I really don’t see a viable solution. Cataclysm is coming, and Blizzard really wants more players to have the opportunity to see Icecrown Citadel before it turns into what vanilla Naxx 25 did; a place that only a handful of folks got to see before an expansion made it obsolete.

Without a method that is easily understood for gathering gear upgrades that leap you past older, time consuming content, or increase how many upgrades you can get over a limited span of time, players starting now would never have a chance.

I’ve got that Marine Corps mentality that says, before you bitch about the way things are, you better have taken the time to come up with your own idea on how things could be better. If you can’t, then shut the hell up.

I have some ideas, but frankly, I don’t know if they’d fix anything without making the overall fun of the game suffer.

Where I’d lean most, is to cut off the power of Emblem gear and drops a few ranks below the top progression content. Spread out the difficulty of the progression content (and the rewards provided) so you really do have to master the one below before moving onwards and upwards.

Instead of leaving people to have to bring alts up through older content that your current progression guild doesn’t run, one solution to that would be to have drops at your current content level be Bind on Account, so that if you as a player are already playing at one level of content, you could gear up your other toons as well from that level without going backward. That way, no matter what the drop, somebody is going to want it.

And finally, when there is Emblem gear to bring players ahead past old content, release one entire range of items, one for every slot, so that people are able to get geared and not feel they have to pug in lower levels raids to fill the same three slots every other player wants as well, and fight over those handful of drops while all the armor gets sharded.  

The problem is, even with doing something like that, trying to make levels of progression feel more significant on their own and remove the urge of high end progression raiders from running with people in places they don’t want to be, it still doesn’t take into account the desire on the part of players in 10 person guilds from wanting to PUG to get their hands on 25 person content gear to make their 10 man runs easier. 

See, that’s the hard thing about trying to second guess where things are now. Where we’re at now works. There may be issues with it, but it works. Would a change cause more problems than they’d fix?

Blizzard is very smart. Cataclysm is coming, and they watch all this stuff just like we do. They play as well, and I have to imagine they’re not all high end progression raiders in tight guilds, oblivious to the feel of the game and the effects of all these Emblems and PUGs on players. 

Who knows what kind of flowcharts and graphs they have of player expectations and feedback, what Six Sigma analysis they may have made on the situation and it’s core variables, and what decisions they may have planned for addressing things without breaking them?

What I do know is that I was able to raid last night in a PUG and succeed, and there was loot handed out, and Emblems that were won, and there were many other raids going on as PUGs at the same time. There are PUGs at all levels, from ICC to Ulduar to Naxx and even to Sunwell and the Black Temple. If you want to run something, at any content level, there is an opportunity available. You may need to run a ton of Heroics to prepare, but the opportunity to see content at all levels is there just the same. And that’s the single biggest complaint people had coming out of Burning Crusade.

For me, though, it also doesn’t change the fact that even though those PUGs are there, and available, and can be fun to run, the attitude among a lot of players is still there as well. That they want something from lower level content to gear at the highest levels, and they act as though they are somehow lowering themselves, slumming, in order to get it.

Hmm. I feel like I should be standing on my lawn, waving a fist and screaming at some kids.

Betwixt and Between

I’ve been having fun doing a bit of this, a bit of that, and a bit of the other for quite some time now.

As it happens, though, I’ve been feeling mighty bored without an actual goal to plan for. Something to be preparing for and looking forward to over the course of the week.

I’ve done the leveling a Profession route, twice now in the last few weeks. I brought my Shaman from nothing to almost max in both Alchemy and Enchanting in record time. That was a nice diversion.

And of course, there is having the Shaman herself, leveling, gearing, learning to play in groups.

And there are always alts, to mess about with and have fun.

Still, there is that part of the game I do miss, and that is playing with a group of intelligent, skilled people who care, who have a good sense of humor, and who all get together to tackle big challenges.

PUGs doing random Heroics just doesn’t cut it.

Sure, you get some Emblems, and you get some stuff to sell or disenchant, but I don’t play for that. I play in groups to have fun with other people. I really don’t get much satisfaction out of most group runs in random PUGs. The best I can look forward to is a run where I can say that ‘such-and-so’ player was really nice. And then regret they’re not on my server to chat with or group with in the future.

It becomes most apparent when I do a run like I did last night, with friends on another faction, and be reminded of what it’s like to run around with people you know who give a shit. Guess what? Everyone in my group last night had under 5k gearscore. One had just dinged his warlock to 80. They also worked better together and did a far better job of clearing Utgardt Keep smoothly than any group of random mismatched PUG idiots in 5200+ GS I’ve seen in months.

What I love most is my Druid, and what I’d like to do is be in a place where I can actually do something once a week with that mythical group of intelligent, skilled people who care and have a sense of humor. A weekly Ulduar, or Naxx, or something to look forward to, where you can anticipate rising to the occasion and doing something significant.

I’ve got a friend who does raid a lot each week, and he simply PUGs them. He seems to enjoy it, but as I said, I’m pretty much done with PUGs as a way to have rewarding, enjoyable game experiences.

I’m at the point now that I am contemplating doing a server or faction change on my Druid, going off the reservation to join another group of folks that would have an open spot once a week for a Druid tank or healer.

Will it happen? I have no idea. I’ve not actually got any offers sitting on my plate, after all. But it’s something I really am thinking strongly about, and have been for quite some time.

And I’ll admit… I wonder sometimes what it would be like to have a Tauren Druid. I like Taurens. 🙂

/moooooooo

Azriaga of Hellscream – guild ninja failsauce

Congratulations, Azriaga of Hellscream.

Instead of telling us you were leaving the guild, like a mature adult would, or stealth quitting like a person afraid of confrontation would, you logged in, took 18 Frozen Orbs and an epic tanking ring worth 1400g out of the guild bank, and then server transferred out of the guild without a word to any officers. Or anyone else, for that matter.

Yes, congratulations indeed. You have served to reinforce a lot of my feelings about playing with people, lately.

You asshole.

Forewarned is Well Armed

“Why is it that there is never enough time to communicate a plan, but always enough time to release and run back in?”

I had a nice reader, Trystalia, send in an email that got me thinking once again about roads left untraveled.

She reminded me that I’d meant to do something… and then let myself get distracted.

Oooh, shiny!

What she did was mention an old post I wrote, once upon a time, about Azjul-Nerub, talking about tanking the first mobs and boss.

Particularly, addressing the Skirmisher game mechanic. 

I’ll direct you to the post if you’d like to see it for old times’ sake, but in essence, I was simply talking about the way the Skirmisher mobs respond normally as melee mobs at first, but after a set time delay they abrubtly drop aggro, become untauntable, and dash straight for the player furthest away from them, there to whack them on the head, hey diddle fol-le-roll. 

If left alive long enough, the Skirmishers bear down on clothies like a steam locomotive driving down on a tied-up, helpess maiden lying on the tracks. It’s quite frightening, when it’s you they come after. Briefly frightening, anyway.

These days, with the rapid rise in potential DPS, they are almost extinct as a problem. Most groups I see don’t even seem to realize there is anything different about them at all.

It was nice to be reminded of the post, mostly because Trystalia said knowing what the heck was going on with those idiots really helped her get her tank on in AN. The groups she tanked wasn’t focusing on them, so they’d have some wipes. I love hearing that something I wrote actually helped someone. 

The other thing it really did, as I said, was remind me that I had always meant to write more… about game mechanics and learning to be a tank.

Here’s the thing. And here’s where it might get ugly.

Being a tank has a lot in common with being a raid leader.

For good or bad, with the rise of PUGs, more and more the tank is expected to be the leader, set the pace, make the decisions and lead the group.

When you zone into a Heroic PUG (or PUG Raid) as the tank, you really need to understand what is going to happen in the upcoming fights. If you haven’t seen the fights before, or only seen them in another role with a tank that maintained his silence, then you’re going to need to do some research on your own to prepare.

It’s your responsibility, now. You signed up as tank, and yes, that does mean you are saying you know what you’re doing, not just with your class abilities, but in leading the group as a whole.

If you are not confident, in your own mind, that you know what to expect, then you’re not prepared enough to do the best you can.

You need to understand the mechanics of each encounter, and you also need to understand the basics of all the abilities all the other classes have to draw on. You cannot expect everyone else to know what you expect them to do, and just do it.

Yes, you should be able to trust other players to know how to play their own class, but as the tank, it is up to you to specify that you want the Priest to keep the target you marked with a Moon shackled during the entire pull, and leave him for last. Or that you want the Hunter to use Freezing Arrow to ice trap the Hunter or Mage on each successive wave during Halls of Reflection, to keep the overall ranged damage down during the fights. The other players know they can do it, but in most cases they expect to be told if you want them to or not.

You need to know not only who to pull and how, but also know what the mobs will do that other classes can counter-act, nullify, cleanse and overcome with their abilities. You need to know that a boss or mob can and will Fear the group, and if there is a Shaman in the group, make a point to ask for Tremor Totem to cut down on silly running around.

Did you know Priests used to actually be asked to Fear Ward? No, really.

Above all, you need to be able to communicate, to direct those other players in what is coming so that they are prepared. They need to know exactly what to expect, and you as the tank need to provide clear directions on what you want them to do in special circumstances.

There is one last thing you must do, that is the hardest thing of all, especially with strangers. You really have to be brave enough to ask other people to do something other than mindlessly following along doing DPS or Heals. Expect some to be pissed at slowing down even for a second, but you have to be able to do it. And once you specify what you want someone to do, you have to trust them to do it on their own. You need to lead from the front as the tank, focus on doing your own job to the best of your ability, and trust that everyone will work together as a team and do the things that will make the run work.

That is the ideal. That should be every player’s ultimate goal in group play. To play with knowledge, with skill, and as a fine-tuned team, making every encounter you face seem smooth and effortless. To make the game look easy to any outsider. 

To be a master of the game.

Does that description characterize the runs you go on?

Do you try your best, study the encounters from afar, and stand prepared to Ice Trap or Shackle or Feign Death or Misdirect or use Tricks of the Trade and Fan of Knives? Do you watch your aggro, Misdirect incoming mobs to the tank, know to kill the Skirmishers first and foremost, know what happens when King Dred raises his claws in a threatening manner?

Or do you resent anything that requires you to hit any button that does not directly apply to a DPS rotation? Do you resent it when a healer doesn’t keep you alive while you stand in the green slime, so you are forced to move away, losing precious seconds of your DPS rotation? Do you resent it when you have to Feign Death for a millisecond because you were overtaking the Tank on aggro?

If you intend to play the game in a group environment, you should not be satisfied by ‘phoning it in’ and just mindlessly following a rotation no matter what. That’s fine in solo play, where no one suffers for your lack of skill or poor performance but yourself.

If you have no interest in actually trying to be the best you can be at what you do, why are you even doing it? Go play Hello Kitty Island Adventure and pick out a pretty sparkly wand with a hair bow and leave the rest of us alone, okay? 

What you’ll see in PUG after PUG is a lack of communication, a tendency to brute force everything, and at the first sign of trouble or a wipe, somebody will blame a bad tank for not holding aggro, or a bad healer for not keeping everyone alive, and drop group.

Do you buy into it? Is that really your view on how the game works when you play properly?

One prevalent attitude I’ve noticed is that raids are considered important enough to study, practise and learn about. To prepare for.

Heroic instances? Those are the places you go on your own to get your Emblems, lowering yourself to do content that is beneath your gear score, but what the heck, you’ll demean yourself to get your daily two Emblems of Frost if you have to.

There is no respect for the content, or the players around you. If people stop for two seconds to say something, to communicate, to do anything other than chain pull through a brute force approach, then the pissyness comes out fast.

I’ll be blunt. If you think that having 5500 DPS in Drak’theron Keep makes you shit hot, and that’s all that matters, then I’ve got news for you, sunshine; it doesn’t mean jack shit. It just means you’ve got good gear, not that you know how to play.

Any moron can stand there looking cute and repeat a chain of attack moves as instructed by Elitist Jerks. ANY moron. That many people do not visit Elitist Jerks to aid them in optimizing a DPS rotation just makes those that do think they are truly teh aw3some.

That does not make you a good player. A good player is not someone that can stand still and mash buttons in the right order to pump out DPS up to the potential permitted by gear and spec, while standing still and ignoring Mana or Threat levels.

Sorry, it doesn’t. The good players are the ones that are doing all the little things to keep the group alive and stable while you are playing Lone Ranger for the sake of your DPS meter e-peen. 

A good player is one that knows all those OTHER abilities of their class, and will use them when the situation calls for it, in their best judgment, or when called upon by their teammates, even if that means their DPS drops by a couple hundred on that pull.

A good player is one that knows the mechanics of the encouters they are going up against, is mentally prepared for the fight, and is ready to MOVE THEIR ASS and use class abilities other than DPS when necessary to ensure the success of the team.

That Skirmisher situation mentioned above?

Trystalia was glad to know about the Skirmisher mechanic, because she had problems with most runs, experiencing at least a wipe or two each time as the healer went down, and she was hurt for consistently being blamed for losing aggro.

She was blamed by pissy little snots for losing aggro on the Skirmishers.

Guess what, a good player of a DPS class knows that the Skirmisher needs to go down firstest and fastest, because in a few seconds it’s going to drop aggro from the tank and charge the person furthest away, and whomp them good.

You know, when the Skirmisher runs free, it’s not a failure on the part of the tank, it’s a failure on the part of the DPS. The death of the Skirmisher is a DPS race, pure and simple. If the Skirmisher nails a non-tank, then the DPS failed. Period. Bitch at yourself, not the tank, because you failed.

A smart Healer on those pulls will make sure they’re not the most distant from the tank, so that if/when the Skirmisher runs free, the Healer isn’t the one to go down, and they can heal someone through getting pounded.

Let’s use another example I see all the time, of mindless brute force in an inappropriate situation.

Heroic Halls of Stone, on the last boss, Sjonnir the Ironshaper. Sjonnir has a Lightning Shield, a Lightning Ring, applies Static Charge to a target, and taken all together they do hellacious group AoE damage to people close to him if those people all dogpile on top of him and hang out as a brute force approach.

He also does a Chain Lightning for up to 3 jumps, and stacks a debuff on players that causes you to take even more damage from Nature attacks (like all that Lightning), which stacks up to 20 times.  TWENTY TIMES.

God, I feel like shouting OVER 9 THOUSAND.

There are also adds that come rolling in from each side, and when ignored, inevitably they gain Healer aggro and start interrupting/slowing the Healer’s cast times just when everyone needs heals the most from the Ring of Fire… the Ring of Fire. Er, Lightning. Sorry, flashback.

What do I see? I see people literally all piling on top of Sjonnir, EVEN THE HEALER, getting as close as possible so that everyone can ignore the adds, trusting the tank’s AoE threat to grab them, and try to brute force him down fast. Inevitably, that leaves everyone within melee range and chain bouncing range of every single high damage ability that Sjonnir can do. AND also puts them all within range of the stacking debuff.

This is Halls of Stone, people. This is not a Halls of Reflection run, it’s not even Trial of the Champions.

And still, time after time, I see 5200+ gear score groups die by droves and even wipe on Sjonnir. 

After all, it’s just a Heroic, right? It’s easy mode, noob tank, noob healer, you all suck, /leave group in a huff.

Smart groups take the extra 3 seconds to decide that the tank will hold the boss in the center, the ranged will all spread out to prevent chain hopping lightning, a melee DPS or two (if present) will take the adds and keep them off the healer, and guess what?

The Healer is left to focus on the few players still in melee range of Sjonnir, the adds are never an issue, the Chain Lightning doesn’t jump 3 times, most people don’t get affected by the melee range AoE, and even the Static Charge is only a momentary nuisance on 1 or at most 2 people.

Almost as though the instance was designed to favor the mentally prepared, and those that take 3 seconds to formulate and share a plan.

I cannot count the number of Halls of Stone runs I’ve seen, across all my characters, where everyone just piled on in, even the ranged and healer, and then it’s a race to see if the entire group wipes before the boss dies. 

It’s disgusting, and people who play that way should be bloody well ashamed of themselves. If you’re not going to take the time to learn how to manage game mechanics and play your class in Halls of Stone, when the heck were you intending to start? Ulduar?

ICC?

I am, finally, getting to my point, and my point is this;

If you intend to tank, study the game mechanics of the mobs and bosses in advance, so you know what to expect. You will gain confidence and feel better prepared.

Give the encounters and your teammates the same amount of respect you would in a raid. A group activity is still a group activity, even if it’s with strangers, and it’s fewer people. Every instance is an opportunity to hone your skills and practise for the real serious shit.

Prepare properly. Take notes on what special problems there can be, find out who has abilities that can counter those problems, and use your judgment and experience to decide which game mechanics can be ignored and bulled on through, and which ones deserve your time and attention to nullify.

If you want to tank, even if you’ve seen all the fights as DPS, study them from the point of view of the leader. The organizer. The dungeon guide. You will have to explain them to other people, and that means you need to be able to articulate fast, with minimal typing. The better you understand the problem, the better you will be able to share your ideas and plans.

If you know what to expect, then you will feel much more confident in doing your job. I promise you.

At the very least, you will begin to learn that sometimes, when you might have thought you simply lost aggro from over eager DPS, you actually lost aggro due to built-in game mechanics. Or that the group wiped not because you failed to have aggro, but because the wrong mob was targeted for death first, and he had abilities that hit like a brick shithouse.

It may look from the outside like every pull and every boss in a Heroic is just “grab ’em and go”, but that’s not the recipe for success.

Tanks, knowledge really is power.

On the first boss in Old Kingdoms, know that the boss becomes invulnerable when the add spawns, and make sure you grab that add. After all, everyone that is DPS should be trying to kill it fast so you can all get back on the boss, right?

On the Etherial boss in Violet Hold, know that standing there and getting nailed by the summoned orbs is a sure prescription for pain, even in Tier 9. Don’t be afraid to move your ass a little.

If you prepare yourself, yes, you will find that a lot of things can be forced, game mechanics can be ignored.

With gear level availability the way it is, though, there is no excuse for you to be found dead in Halls of Stone because you were in Brann’s chamber fighting wave after wave, and you stood in the big golden beams of death and died during Phase 3. When the golden beam hits your ass, MOVE!

Yes, even the Tank.

It’s disheartening, it really is.

Not that people are getting used to using brute force to solve all their problems, no. No, that’s expected and, given the current state of affairs, inevitable.

No, it’s disheartening how often people try and brute force things because they don’t know any better, and then when they fail in a Heroic, they lash out at the tank or healer, dump their anger out on the rest of the party, and then abandon group.

Don’t be like that. Take pride in what you do, even if other people around you don’t.

If you take the time to upgrade your gear, gem it, enchant it, plan your DPS rotations or set up your healing macros, or study how to generate and hold threat, then take it that next step further. Do what you can to learn the fights, the encounters and mechanics, and when you see yourself in that instance, know what mob will do what, and how you can deal with it.

One last thing.

Don’t be shy about communicating.

If you know what’s about to happen, you go ahead and try and offer some suggestions for a smooth encounter. If you’re rebuffed, or ignored, or even ridiculed for it, don’t take it as a sign that you are in the wrong. No, take it as a sign that those people who reacted in that way are poor players, or that they don’t respect you or the game itself. That makes them prime candidates for your ignore list so you don’t see them again in the future. 

When you do meet someone that plays well, knows what they’re doing, and is open to a plan, add them to your friends list. Build a network of people that actually give a shit.

In time, maybe you’ll forget that the other kind of player ever existed.

The what of the which, now?

Continuing on from yesterday, I’d like to ramble on a bit about something that I get asked quite often.

Namely, “Hey, I’d like to start a blog of my own, do you have any suggestions?”

No. No, I never have any suggestions. I live my life without holding a firm opinion on anything, and on the rare occasions when I am forced into a corner and have to adopt a position, I never share it with others.

Just kidding, just kidding.

I’m a blogger. I have suggestions and opinions on everything.

When it comes to starting your own blog, I have one major suggestion for you; think about what it is that you’re trying to say. What is it that’s important to get across in your post? What’s your point? Focus on what you MEAN, what idea or ideas you are trying to get across. Nail down what it is, in your head, that you’re trying to say before you start writing.

In general, or in particular posts, the most important thing is to communicate your idea, and get your meaning across.

Once you know what the point of the post really is, you can play around when writing, meandering around and having fun, making digressions, dancing around with wordplay, whatever, as long as you continue driving towards your point.

If the things you are saying in your post all pertain, in some way, to your main point, then it’s going to be fine.

Now, about that meaning.

You’ve got to focus on your meaning, your point, the reason you’re firing off a blog post, but you’ve got to do it in your own voice.

A blog is different from other forms of media in one very important aspect; the core of a blog is that it is a very personal expression of your specific opinions.

When you are writing, when you are presenting your points and expressing your meaning, always keep in mind, people who know what a blog is about are coming there specifically to get YOUR opinion on whatever it is you are talking about.

No matter how impartial someone tries to be, everything you think or say or write comes through the filter of your experiences. If you’re lucky, you are well aware of that, and aren’t under the delusion that you and you alone are tapped into “universal truth”.

When you write, the posts you make are what you think about things, and not necessarily exactly how reality really works. It’s how you think it works. Never lose sight of that.

Don’t try to smother your opinions or personality or attitude to fit your view of  being “professional”. Be yourself, and by that, I mean write in your own voice. It’s why people are coming, they know that this is your opinion, and they want to get to know the person behind the words. They will get a feel about you from your voice in your writing. Hide it, and your writing will suffer. Badly.

One way to develop your voice is to write, and re-read what you’ve written, while thinking the words aloud in your head, or even saying them aloud after they’re on the screen.

What you write should flow naturally, just as you would say them yourself.

If, when you re-read your own writing, it sounds natural to you, then it’s you. You’re good. Have fun finding a way to phrase something you like better, if you wish. But you’ve gotten it to sound how you think you sound. It comes across as being you. Score!

If it sounds stilted, or confused, or isn’t what you’d say… fix it.

Everything on your blog is your opinion, your observations, and your understanding of how things are and how they work. Don’t try to hide that fact by being all monotone and clipped. Be yourself, and by that I really do mean, write as an expression of how you talk normally. Or, through the magic of having the time to think up the perfect phrase, how you’d LIKE to talk.

“But wait!”, I hear you say. ” What if I screw up! What if I get things wrong! I’m out here on a limb, damn you, and now you’re telling me to be the real me, honest and true, and if someone goes off on the real me, it’s gonna hurt!”

That’s true. If you are being yourself, and people go off on you, then you’ll feel it personally.

But if you are being false or hiding behind a mask, then if people like that person on the blog… well, it’s not you they like, now is it? If that’s a big concern for you, then you might want to rethink your reasons for writing a blog. It’s damn personal experience. If you’re not prepared to deal with the idea that some people will like you for who you are, and others will hate you, then you might want to find some other means of personal expression. Like origami.

Also, inevitably, you will make mistakes. Accept it. Write about your own experiences and ideas, and then read all the comments your readers leave, looking for new ideas, information and points of view. If you’re lucky and open-minded, you’ll learn as much from your readers as some of them may learn from you. 

An example. The internet is a crazy place. Crazy Cat Lady x1 beeellion.

Somewhere out there on the internet is an expert on everything.

Everything.

Someone who, shall we say, has devoted their entire life to the study of the mating cycle of the middle-American fruit fly.

They started studying at the age of 12, and have spent every minute of the last 43 years obsessing over that one thing. Fruit flies.

They’ve grown 100 generations of fruit flies in controlled environments, under varying atmospheric pressures, and measuring extremes in gas content percentages.

When that person sees your throwaway post about the fruit fly, accept the fact that they are going to be outraged, tee off on your audacity for daring to write about it, and then spend the next 4 paragraphs correcting you.

Be grateful.

It’s not that they hate YOU for making a mistake, it’s that they know a shitload more than you do about that subject, and when given the opportunity to share that knowledge, they are going to do it.

It’s rare that you’re ever going to get such expert guidance on any subject. Don’t feel like a failure that you got some facts wrong… seriously, feel grateful, because mistakes can always be corrected. 

Just update whatever post you wrote that had a few mistakes, make sure you thank the person for correcting you, and be grateful for having learned something new. Your understanding of the subject, and the world in general, has just grown.

Don’t worry that, now that you’ve made a mistake, all those people reading your blog took off in disgust. Some might stop reading, sure, but if you thank the person that corrected you, update your original post, and show that you are the kind of person that reads comments and wants to know what is right or wrong, and are learning from your readers as well, most will stay around. 

Your attitude, personality, and voice are yours and yours alone, and those are the reasons most people keep coming back. 

Now, as far as your grammer and spelling….

Screw ’em.

Seriously, don’t even worry about it.

Will spelling mistakes and grammer errors drive some of your readers crazy?

Hell yes!

Focus first and foremost on the meaning you want to get across, and in sharing it in your own voice. Conversational discussions don’t follow grammer rules, and you don’t write in the same voice as other people. Abuse triple dots for pauses all you want, use silly smily faces, care not for the worries of grammer nazis, and give of your thought more to the important things, like actually having a point to this damn thing somewhere, and saying it in your own voice. 

Once you’ve got your post done and you’re happy with it, sure, use spell check on it. When you’re writing very, very well and in your own voice, you’re in the groove and things are flowing, then go start worrying about spelling.

Spelling is important, and so is grammer. People can be so immersed in a story or article that a sudden mispelling is actually jarring. It throws them out of the moment, and back into an awareness that, oh yeah, this is some schmucks’ blog. Having a moment like that broken by spelling mistakes sucks.

That’s especially true of writing stories. A lot of mine are posted long before spell check is done, and re-reading my own stories on the PBeM I can see how disorienting it is to be visualizing a scene and boom! There’s a horribly mangled word, right there, throwing me out of the story.

So sure, go back over your work looking for spelling mistakes, if you’ve got time. Do it while re-reading it to see if it flows in your voice.

But don’t worry about it, don’t allow your fear of grammatical and spelling mistakes to stop you from writing. That’s the real danger.

The meaning of your posts is what you want to get across, and the voice you are speaking with is one of the reasons people keep coming back.

Long after you’ve forgotten you wrote about something, one of your readers may have walked away thinking about things in a new light, because they’d never seen that one thing from your particular point of view.

That person isn’t thinking about the way you mispelled “Mangle” that one time, in band camp. They carried away, and are thinking about, your idea.

That’s what lasts.

I’ll share an example that matters a lot to me, of how spelling and grammer are transcended by meaning and ideas.

My favorite poem is by Richard Lovelace. I’m adding it here for you to see what I’m talking about.

Tell me not, Sweet, I am unkind
For, from the nunnery
Of thy chaste breast, and quiet mind,
To war and arms I fly.

True, a new mistress now I chase,
The first foe in the field;
And with a stronger faith- embrace
A sword, a horse, a shield.

Yet this unconstancy is such
As you too shall adore;
For, I could not love thee, Dear, so much,
Loved I not honour more.

I love that poem dearly, but the first time I read it, it didn’t exactly flow smoothly in my understanding. I had to work through it, figure out how it should sound aloud, see how the meaning tied together.

If it were analyzed purely based on modern spelling conventions and phrasing, I’m sure it wouldn’t be handled kindly.

But spelling and grammer have nothing to do with why I love the poem.

It’s stayed with me over the years for the meaning of the words, the power of the ideas, and how they resonate with me.

If you want to write a blog, do it. There are several “How to get started” articles and posts out there to help you through choosing software, modifying themes, picking a name, and getting your posts seen.

But when you’re starting out, forget about things like themes and stuff. It’s all about the writing you do, what you’re saying, and how you do it. Most people will use a feedreader and never see your pretty theme or fancy sidebar.

What they will see is your writing, naked on a page. Your ideas. Your meaning. And how you choose to express yourself.

Make sure when they’re seeing you stripped naked… that it’s really YOU. Your voice, your personality, all natural, no bullshit, and all original parts. 🙂

And drive your post towards your meaning!