WOOT!

They say a picture is worth a thousand words? Well, here are three Bearwalls…

We did it together!

We’re not only totally hawt, but we’re armed and dangerous, too!

And of course, we’re riding in style!

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Master a class? I’d be happy if I could remember how to play!

This blog started out as my way of having a place to get down my thoughts and suggestions on playing a Feral Druid as a tank.

I also love to just ramble on about whatever, but really, I called it the Big Bear Butt because I loved the bearing, and so figured that was what I’d be talking about.

That has remained true, but for other reasons than I originally thought. It’s the only class I really think I know how to play, and the only class I think about and whip up tests and stuff for.

Over the years, I’ve made a lot of characters.

On my main server right now, this be what I’ve got;

  • 80 Tauren Feral Druid main spec with a Resto chaser.
  • 80 Nelf hunter Beastmaster with a BM off spec. What? One specced for instances, and one for faster flight speed while farming.
  • 80 Draenei Shaman Healer main spec with a “beat the face with a mace” off spec.
  • 80 Belf Pally Retribution main spec with a Prot off spec that, frankly, is used more often. But I’m a supaflyretpally in training! I swear! Jong is mah hero.
  • 75 Human Rogue running as Combat Daggers. Why? I wanted to have the best of both worlds… Combat spec because that’s what Cassie runs as and can advise me, and daggers because I get to play with all the “dagger in main hand” toys when stealthed.
  • 73 Draenei Priest Shadow main and only spec. I’ve got this massive mental block agasint playing this character, and I don’t really know why. She’s been level 73 since two weeks after Wrath was released.
  • 43 Human Mage – Frost all the way, baby. Only play this with Cassie as a team.
  • 41 Orc Warrior – Prot spec all the way, mostly leveled in instances.
  • 24 Dwarf Hunter – placeholder for a Cataclysm something or other, have no bloody idea. 
  • 1 Draenei Hunter – name placeholder for my Cataclysm Troll Druid. Hee hee hee… “Gummybear”. As soon as I saw the Troll form colors, I couldn’t resist.

So, I’ve got two openings for Cataclysm characters in my list, and 8 characters I really like.

Ignoring my placeholders, I have 8 characters, and of those characters I’ve got 11 spec playstyles to know.

Where am I going with this?

Of those 11 specs, there is only one that, when I log in no matter how long it’s been, I don’t have to ask myself, “How the hell do you play this character again?”

And that’s the Bear tank Druid. Not even Kitty, I don’t kitty anymore. If I’m killing, I’m Bear.

Every other class/spec I’ve got, if I haven’t logged in and played for a couple of weeks, when I log in, I look at my button bars for a few minutes, and even more fun, check out my Vuh’Do settings, and try to remember how I used to play it.

The Feral Druid (not Resto spec, either, just Feral side) is the only one I don’t have to do that with.

To me, that helps explain one of the many reasons that when I talk about classes on this blog, I only really talk about Feral Druids. It’s the only one I grok. The rest I enjoy, I can play, and I like to think I can squeeze some good results out of. I do make a solid effort to learn a class, test things and practise skills and get smooth and natural before I ever join a group.

But there is something about my Feral Druid that I connect with differently than the others.

Just last night, been messing around for two weeks now on Rogue and Starcraft 2, I decided it was Prot Warrior time.

I logged in, loaded up my Warrior, and I had to stop and look at every button to remind myself what they do, and how I’d been using them in battle.

“Where the hell is Charge? Oh, damn, I only get that in Combat Stance. Oh, right, stances, damn. Oooh, when did I get a button that lets me break fear every 30 seconds? Sweet!”

Am I the only one running around with more characters than I’ve got mental capability to stay 100% on top of?

I’ve mastered the Bear tank, that’s for sure. So I’ve got one spec of one class I can claim to have mastered. I’m sure others would disagree that I’ve mastered it, but screw them.

For groups, I’m pretty solid with about ten seconds notice on Resto Druid, BM Hunter, and Ret Pally. That’s it. If I want to play reasonably well, tolerably well by my standards in a group, the Shaman on both Healing and Enhancement, the Paladin on Prot, and the Warrior would all need a few minutes of sniffing around to pick it back up.

The Rogue I’ve been playing in groups, but I still don’t think I’ve done more than scratch the surface of what she could do. That’s just embarrassing.

My Mage, I love my Frost Mage, but she’s never done a dungeon. Strictly a duo team player. And my Priest? Fugedaboutit.

Seriously, am I the only one? The only person that has settled for having fun, and stopped trying to master every character I’ll ever play in a group? Not because I wouldn’t like to master them, but simply from having too damn many to pick from at any given time? No matter how much you play, somebody gets put on the shelf for a while.

At this point, I seriously have just one goal before I take a character into an instance with strangers; be skilled enough to be sure I’m not going to embarass myself or make stupid mistakes.

Master the class? Yeah, pull the other ones, they’ve got bells on.

I dunno, maybe I’m too hard on myself. But when I put my abilities as a Druid Tank up in comparison with the other classes I play, I certainly can feel the difference. 

Prot Pallies shouldn’t have to spend a few seconds searching for the Divine Intervention button when they need it, right? They should just know exactly what to hit and when, where it is, and wham. If I can’t, if I have to search my button bars to remember where I put it, I think that says it all.

Anyone else? Do you play one main at elite level and have others you’re good with? Do you play 10 level 80s all dual specced and you’re master of every single one of ’em?

Or are you somewhere in between?

I think it’s funny sometimes, coming back to a character I haven’t played in a while… it’s like driving a Yugo for two years, and then pulling the GTO out of the garage for a run. “Okay, which one is the gas HOLY SHIT THIS THING IS FAST!!!”

It’s also one of the reasons I like seeing people who really do master their class. I can see someone take their specialty out on the open road, let ‘er rip, appreciate the skill that took, and admire the hell out of it.

Starcraft II kicks butt

I did run out and get Starcraft II on Tuesday night. Kmart has a special this week that if you buy Starcraft II, you get a coupon worth $20 off any video game (PC or otherwise) good until Jan 1 of 2011. The coupon prints at the register when you buy it.

We’ve been talking about buying Mario Galaxy 1 or 2 for the Wii for Alex, so $20 off is pretty sweet.

Of course, if any of you have a free copy of Mario Galaxy sitting on your shelf gathering dust you’d want to mail to me, hey, I won’t whine.

No? Didn’t think so. 🙂

There has been a general lack of blog posts this week, mostly due to wanting to wait until the hilarious “You might be a bad tank” comments stop. But they don’t stop. They keep coming. When I finally bite the bullet and take all of your submissions and names and roll them out on a blog post, it’s going to be epic.

Getting back to Starcraft II, I’ve played it a little bit on Campaign mode now, the first 5 or 6 missions.

I’m not going to write some kind of walkthrough, or guide. Many folks were in the Beta and probably beat the campaign already, and any one else interested in the game should want a spoiler free discussion, because the first thing I can say up front is, the single player campaign mode is beyond anything I expected. It’s just great.

I have yet to play a single PvP style mission or quick battle. I played through all the mini tutorial missions (that are 100% optional; I just wanted to see how good they were. They were perfect, except I don’t think they ever discussed creating teams of units using Control-1, Control-2, etc. Still, great job.)

I then started the campaign, and it’s been great. Incredible amount of CGI cut scenes, tons of them. Lots of options. Every mission has drop dead mission objectives, and then optional objectives that reward you with potential upgrades to units and stats.

The upgrade tree customization really is VERY rich. You can even choose upgrades from the Laboratory based on mission exploration of optional objectives that give you new units. They also designed the upgrade trees from exploration so that you have to choose between two upgrade options, and whatever you choose locks out the other one forever. The difference between the two options is usually one of your playstyle.

As an example; one option level is, choose between two gathering upgrades – either you gain +25% faster Vespene Gas gathering, OR you can make two SCV gathering units at a time in your queue.

Basically… it’s an RTS game with tons of story, imaginative missions, and above all a great opportunity for making decisions that have an actual impact on your future success, and have long lasting effects on your game.

It’s great.

I did play WoW a bit last night, I’m not trying to burn out or anything. It’s not like I’ve left WoW forever or anything.

But I’ll be honest; Starcraft II is a far, far better game than I would have hoped for. I’m damn glad I bought it.

Have a great weekend!

Request for Reader Input

I’m looking for YOUR suggestions!

On what?

Oh yeah, so excited I forgot to tell you.

I’m making something funny. And I suddenly realized… why have all the fun on my own, when I can make it a community project?

What I started doing is making a bingo card.

“BBB’s Bad Tank Bingo”.

That’s right, you already know where I’m going with this.

A bingo card with spaces describing the classic warning signs that this pug is being run by a BAD TANK.

Now, hold your horses. Don’t get all fired up just yet.

That idea alone would be enough content for MOST blogs, but this here is the Big Bear Butt. There’s more.

What I’d like fer you folks to do, is go ahead and hit me with your favorite indicator that you’ve got a bad tank.

But I want you to put it in a special format.

No, not PDF or Xcel or any of that crap.

No, I want you to give me your best Jeff Foxworthy impression.

“If you spend more time talking about being a leet raider on your alt then you do holding aggro… then you MIGHT be a Bad Tank”

That’s right, ladies and gentlebears, I want you to hit me with your best one liner, and not only will I pull my favorites to make the bingo card, but you’ll get to have fun reading the funny in the comments that YOU come up with.

Now, let’s take a moment to pretend there is a high minded purpose behind this, instead of mocking people who suck as tanks.

[ahem]

“This project is being started in the hopes that, by using humor to highlight the most common behaviors displayed by tanks with little skill or experience, we will help to educate players about what to watch out for before they get started.”

Nope, we’re not making fun of sucky tanks in any way. Nope. Nosireebillyjoebob. Totally trying to be helpful here.

Ayup.

C’mon! Hit me with your favorites! And don’t spare the sarcasm, bitterness or misery! They made you run in that group and deal with it… now vent!

Dropped off the grid

I feel like I’ve dropped off the grid lately.

I haven’t logged into any of my Horde characters in over a week. I haven’t done much of anything.

When I have logged into the game, it’s been to continue single-mindedly completing my Rogue’s goals.

Not exactly blog worthy fodder, eh?

Cassie and I jointly finished the entire quest chain for Dungeon Set 2… she has all the pieces for her Paladin set, but I’m still missing the Hat and Chest for my turn in.

Since I was still only level 73 when we finished that quest chain, I’m spending my free time leveling. Once I hit 80 and get a little geared, I’ll go back in and farm Scholo and UBRS solo until the two things drop.

And then? The Rogue gets retired as a bank alt in Darkmantle.

It’s been an interesting exercise, but I’ll be honest; the Rogue is a very annoying class to play solo in old school content compared to the melee classes I’m used to, the Retribution Paladin and the Feral Druid.

Mostly, I feel squishy fighting groups of mobs, even level 60 instance groups. Part of that, of course, is that I’m wearing Leather as a melee DPS.

You know, I’m really not complaining about the class itself. I’m not even level 80; I only dinged 75 last night. I don’t know how it plays in groups beyond the groups I do in regular instances.

What I’m annoyed by is something that is an ‘unofficial’ playstyle; soling old school content. And the only reason I’m annoyed is because of how spoiled I am by playing other classes.

I have a Feral Druid, I have a Retribution Paladin, and I even have an up and coming Protection Warrior.

Each of those three classes is a melee class, the same as the Rogue.

The difference is, each of those other three classes is a hybrid; each is designed to be capable of tanking in normal situations as well as of dealing DPS.

Each also benefits from the modern design of easy group aggro generation; each class has plenty of AoE capability.

The Rogue is not designed to be a tank, although while it’s up, Evasion is great. Since Rogues aren’t meant to be tanks, Evasion is on reasonably long cooldown. It’s not an “I’m the tank” ability, it’s an “Oh shit the tank is asleep” ability.

Likewise, Rogues are not designed to establish or hold aggro on large groups, so Rogues only have two abilities that affect groups of mobs; Fan of Knives at level 80 (which I don’t have, but as it costs 50 Energy to use, I don’t see it being a spam button when soloing) and Blade Flurry, which lets your attacks also hit a second target for a very short period of time. A very short period of time. And it has an annoyingly long cooldown.

Rogues are not exactly “AoE monsters”.

So, I’m spoiled. I’m cool with stealthing in and assassinating bosses in old school content, it’s fun. But there are lots of encounters where you have to deal with waves of trash to get a door open, or something, and then it’s a pain in the butt.

Laziness. It’s my anti-Rogue.

Seriously though, the longer I play my Rogue and have the opportunity to compare playstyles with the Paladin, Druid and Warrior, the more the Rogue feels like it got a rock.

How to fix it? I’m not going to make any suggestions about how to fix it. Cataclysm is coming, changes are already coming, and part of it seems to be building in nerfs to those other three classes’ ability to solo groups, so soon it might not only be the Rogue that has that ‘hang tough’ feeling.

I just wanted to throw it out there, that on the one hand, I know Rogues can really deal some smooth, slick damage in raiding environments on single targets, and bring some great utility with Tricks of the Trade, Disarm, Kidney Shot and such.

But on the other hand, for being this great evil stealthy soloing class… Rogues are one of the hardest melee classes I’ve played to solo with, just because of the weakness against unavoidable waves of mobs in scripted encounters.

Why can’t they make MOVIES like that?

Look, have you SEEN the damn video trailer for DC Universe Online?

I honestly want to know, in looking at this trailer, in looking at the Starcraft II trailer from the last post, dear lord why can’t that insane level of quality actually make it into a real movie?

Why do we keep getting TV show mass produced cartoon crap released as actual movies? Why, lord?

I see that trailer above for DC Universe, and I think about the crap animation in the most recent DC animated movie I saw, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, and it makes me want to scream in frustration.

If you’re going to leave the half hour TV show episode realm and venture into the bright lights of movie making, for crap’s sake, BRING YOUR “A” GAME!!

Iron Man: Armored Adventures was a style I really, really enjoyed. I thought I could live with that as my new standard for enjoyable, smooth animation.

No. Hell no. If they want to make a movie costing millions that we’re going to pay our hard earned money to see (I know our family drops $35+ on a single movie going experience) how about stepping up and making something somewhere remotely close to the level of quality in the game trailer above?

Am I crazy? Did that 6 minutes of footage above really cost them so many millions that another 124 minutes would cripple the world’s economy?

Gaaaaaahhhhhh!!!!!!

Book Review: Starcraft II: Heaven’s Devils

I promised you a book review, and by golly you’re gonna get it! In my own, inimitable BBB style.

Starcraft II: Heaven’s Devils by William C. Dietz is at it’s heart a military sci-fi tale that follows a very familiar style.

There is a familiar theme that keeps getting repeated in military novels. Naive young man goes off to war, enters boot camp, is exposed to the order and structure of training, feels prepared and confident, and then goes out into the harsh reality of the real world, where blood stains your stuff, people die even when they’re you’re friends, and chaos seems to reign. 

It’s a familiar theme because the coming of age tale is something to which we can all relate, and it helps draw us into the setting. Much like us, the new recruit doesn’t know what the future holds, and as things are explained to him along the way, we learn right along with him.

For those of us that have been there before ourselves in some way, we can also chuckle as we remember just how naive and stupid we really were back then.

This particular story is centered on Jim Raynor, a young man helping his family keep their farm alive on a dusty agrarian world, as the Guild Wars rage between the Confederation and the Kel-Morian guilds over who will control the future of Terran colonized space.

As the story progresses, we follow young Jim’s own coming of age tale as it unfolds, from his very beginning on the Confederation world of Shiloh, and all the way through until the end of his military career.

Along the way, we become acquainted with the ways of the Confederation military might, and bear witness to the birth of an elite force, the Heaven’s Devils.

The story is set in the Starcraft universe, and is faithful to the Starcraft lore that has come before. This is not a reboot, revamp or reconstruction for Starcraft II, it all fits nicely in the existing storyline. In fact, much like the recent book Arthas, the back of Starcraft II: Heaven’s Devils includes a detailed Starcraft timeline that lays out important events in sequence, and for each event lists the book(s) in which those events can be found. 

Yes, Starcraft II: Heaven’s Devils is a tale set solidly in the Starcraft universe, and yes it is faithful to the existing lore, but first and foremost this is a military sci-fi novel in keeping with the finest works of William C. Dietz. Anyone that is familiar with his work on Legion of the Damned will feel right at home here without having read anything else, or having played SC1.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Legion of the Damned… Dietz infuses his military sci-fi with a stripped down quality; the story advances from event to event, and you’re expected to keep up and pay attention. He doesn’t spend much time describing the color of the grain in the fields of Shiloh, and he doesn’t bother you with details on what the major export crop of whatever town the characters happen to be in might be. His books also bear a cynical edge and black humor common to military sci-fi, a tone perfectly in keeping with the setting and subject matter of this book. 

I enjoyed this book a great deal, but at the beginning, it was hard for me to get into. The “From boot camp to the front lines” theme has been done so many times, in so many ways, and let’s be honest… not all of them can be Full Metal Jacket. When you realise what the theme of this story will be, an experienced reader will start to worry… “Is this going to have some imagination, some new and interesting edge to it, or is this going to be some formulaic piece of derivative crap?”

Hey, I know that’s what I was worrying.

So yes, starting out, when I saw what direction the book was heading, I was worried. I dragged my feet a bit.

In the end, it goes off the rails in a very good way, and has a great “Oh crap” feel to it. It’s not a story you’re going anticipate, it does a good job of sucker punching your expectations. 

Still, in the early stages, I didn’t know that it was going to go off the rails.

What kept me going was the promise that this was Jim Raynor’s story.

I played Starcraft I, so I know who the hell Jim Raynor is. At the time Starcraft I begins, it’s been ten years since the end of the Guild Wars. We know that the Confederacy won the war and now rules unchallenged over Terran space. It’s all one big happy Confederation family. we als know that if you want any sense of freedom in the Confederacy, you go out to the rim of colonized space looking for some crap out of the way planet and find a hole to hide in.

Four days before the Starcraft I story begins, an alien fleet popped out of nowhere and laid waste to a colonized Terran Confederacy world. Panic among exposed colonial worlds ensues, and we enter from stage left as a Confederation assigned Magistrate abrubtly placed in command of the colony of Mar Sara.

As the Colonial Magistrate, we are tasked with protecting the colony from a feared alien invasion and chilling them out so they don’t panic at the idea of being Zerg chow.  On our very first Starcraft I mission (real mission, not the training mission) we encounter a very dusty, tired, and cynical James Raynor, the “local Marshall” of Mar Sara, and we enlist his aid in relocating refugees immediately in the wake of General Edmund Duke’s surprise announcement of a 48 hour lockdown and colonial quarantine.

From there, the Starcraft I story takes off running… and from there we got to know Jim Raynor very well. Jim, and Kerrigan.

But what was Marshall James Raynor’s story back before he ended up on Mar Sara?

Starcraft II: Heaven’s Devils did what I really wanted. It does tell Jim’s story, and along the way also tells the story of the elite unit he was a part of, and gives us one hell of an eyes wide open view at the reality of the Confederation Terran Marines.

Unfortunately, the book ends near the conclusion of the Guild Wars, and leaves us with a ten year gap to wonder what happened until we see him again in SC1.

Still, have you seen the trailor for the Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty game out this Tuesday?

God, I love that trailer.

I think it’s safe to say that if you want to know more about the man that comes to lead a Mercenary force in the new Starcraft II game, if that trailer makes you interested to know more about what kind of actual military background he had in the Confederacy, and why he wasn’t STILL a loyal little happy Confederate puppet, then Starcraft II: Heaven’s Devils will answer those questions admirably.

Oh, and yeah… I’ll be buying the game on Tuesday. What can I say? They had me at “Kerrigan”.

Bottom line – It was a good book. I had a good time. I’d like to see Dietz fill out those missing ten years.