Hey, there’s a podcast out there somewhere!

The fine folks over at the CASTaclysm podcast were nice enough to invite me as a guest last week, and I think it was a pretty good time.

That is Bear speak for, they’re a bunch of crazy bastards.

My kind of guys. ūüôā

It’s now available for download as an mp3¬†from their website directly, and hopefully by the morning it will be live on iTunes. It’s Episode 22, and it wasn’t on iTunes when I just checked, so if you don’t see it there, you ain’t crazy.

I hope you enjoy it!

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To post or not to post

It’s been a funny weekend, all things considered. A weekend worth a rambling, stupid, tired Bearwall.

It started out with a rather unexpected bonus, and then kinda drifted from there.

I’ve been playing on lower level characters¬†for weeks now, having fun on the Warrior here, the Paladin there, just messing about. It’s been fun.

Along the way,¬†the Rogue that I was leveling hit 80, and the “hey, I’m 80, I should get gear” impulse kicked in, starting a frenzy¬†of Heroics.

That started a cascade effect.

Running on the Rogue just reminded me of the good times on my Hunter, who had never quite finished getting geared from Heroics.

Running Heroics on my Hunter just reminded me of the good times on my Paladin, who REALLY had crap gear on his Ret spec. Most of his early emblems went to tanky stuff. Blech.

Once on my Paladin, I was reminded that, hey, I like my Druid too.

That began a weekend long process of flipping back and forth between the two in Heroics.

That brings us to this last Friday.

I hopped on my Druid to tank a quick one, and what should I get but Heroic Pit of Saron, immediately followed by the Battered Hilt dropping, and my winning the roll.

Hurm, as Rorshach might monotone.

What to do, what to do.

The Battered Hilt sells for around 7500g on my server at the moment, so it’s 7500g sitting there… but, I don’t care about gold. If I need it, I sell some of the tons of mats my various crafters collect. Never really had a problem with gold yet. Sure, I can’t just buy a Tundra Mammoth out of pocket, and¬†I don’t have a motorcycle, but that’s okay. If I really wanted either THAT bad, I’d have gotten it already.

I was going to get a motorcycle for my Engineering Hunter, but she won the roll on a VOA Mammoth a long, long time ago, a nice three seater model, and after that, it kinda seemed like a moot point.

Back to the Battered Hilt… if I use it, who to use it on? And what spec?

This was an actual crunch time for me, because it caused me to really think about what I enjoy doing in the game, how I felt about playing the game, and who I wanted to invest in with a big ticket item for the long term.

I thought of my Druid first, of course, but I have the Orca Hunter’s Harpoon on him, and I really like the way it looks. From a pure graphics standpoint, it’s the awesmome. I don’t like what the weapons Feral Druids get from the Battered Hilt look like, despite how awesome all that Expertise is.

But, but… the weapon would have been better! Yeah, but this was the first realisation to come out of my thinking… I really, no I mean really, don’t care about stats beyond Heroics at this point. Faced with the guaranteed big time tasty weapon for someone, I decided against stats…

And went with looks.

My Ret Paladin has the big honking axe from Heroic Pit of Saron. It’s a good axe. Thing is… I don’t like the looks of the axe.

The Tyrannical Beheader is one bitchin’ looking weapon… but meh. My Paladin is SO over axes this season.

But do I really like my Paladin enough to replace a perfectly good, powerful two handed glowey axe with a two handed sword valued at 7500 gold, no matter how smokin’ hawt?

I thought about it a long time, and realized… yes, I guess I do. It’s only money, and screw stats.

Plus, hey, I’ve heard thats a real fun quest chain. That’s a bigger draw than whatever weapon¬†I eventually get.

The second thing I internalized is, I like my Druid for Tanking and Healing. I like my Hunter for ranged DPS. And I like my Paladin for in-your-face melee DPS.

Any other character I play is, inevitably, going to end up being a good time leveling, before being dumped on the trash heap of MMO history.

Oh yeah, and being a Profession bot.

I¬†did¬†the entire Battered Hilt quest chain, and when I finished I had a massive two-handed Quel’Delar with Berserking enchanted on it courtesy of a rather melancholy player. ūüôā

I was, initially, quite pleased.

I was so pleased, so heady with that ‘new gear’ smell, that I dropped the¬†8 Primordial Saronite I’d been stockpiling to someday craft my Druid a pair of pants to cover my big bear butt, and instead had¬†a pair of stainless steel britches forged instead.

They chafe in places that I shall not mention.

It was quite nice to sit and enjoy the feeling of having significant gear upgrades on a character I used to like to play.

Alas, like any other toy, there’s only so much fun to be had looking at it sitting on the shelf.

I decided to take that new gear out on the road for a spin, see what it could do. Open it up, feel the wind through my fur… um, hair, and glory in ridiculously oversized male compensation, er, I mean brandish my big honking sword, a mighty weapon that requires two hands to lift, no, no,¬†that’s not much better, perhaps I shall leave that line of descriptive narrative, hmmm?

It was at that moment in time when the weekend kinda went downhill. At least it started on a high note.

Now, I’m not going to let this just degenerate into pissing and moaning.

I did some runs using LFD, queuing mostly as melee DPS, and gee whiz, it took a while to get groups.

I’m sure you never expected that.

When I did get groups, there was a pretty even mix of groups that failed due to people way undergeared and not playing well, or people way overgeared and not playing well, and the asshattishness such things see as a result.

When there were no problems, when the runs would go smoothly, which I’d say realistically were about 40% of the time, the accompanying silence and curtness would remind me of playing Unreal Tournament Onslaught in bot mode. Fun group play, but you feel like you’re the only actual person in a field of automatons.

There were about a solid 10% of runs that had friendly people, people who met adversity in some way, rose above it, and became groups that were fun to be a part of, if for no other reason than it was nice to know that for once I was playing with people that seemed friendly and mature.

But the worst of the runs… they do stand out, don’t they? They stand out for what they tell us about ourselves, and what we choose to do.

I’ll grab one example out of the grab bag, because as a proponent of Feral Druid Tanks, this guy just pissed me off.

I happened to pop on my Druid to heal one, since I’ve mostly forgotten what healing is like.

I got a random Heroic Gundrak with a Feral Druid tank. The Feral Druid had over 6k GS, and by the time we were done with the snake boss and hitting the Elemental Boss trash, I had begun to realize that this tank, by my standards, just sucked. Bad.

Why? Because either from lack of skill or lack of give a shit, he wasn’t bothering to actually play as a tank.

First example? I spent most of the first boss with 4+ snakes on me because he went after the boss rather than clear the trash first.

Apparently, holding aggro is for lesser geared tanks that actually give a shit. I spent the entire short time healing myself and everyone else while the other DPS shot things off of me, bless them. The tank, of course, was busy being a 6k GS rockstar out front.

All the snake adds that came in after the boss aggroed? On me as well. 

Really? Just, really?

So yeah, I’m thinking to myself, self, what are the chances that this guy just happened to get so many prime pieces of feral tanking loot in high end raids that he’s an (actually 6.1k GS) rockstar, but he doesn’t know how to tank his raid groups? What are the odds he’s really¬†normally kitty DPS and just stupid at tanking?

Maybe 50/50, I guess.

Either way, he sucks, and it’s irritating.

But here is realization #3; the runs I have with people possessing a gearscore of over 4800 are far worse than those with people in 4000 to 4400. They are more painful, there are more deaths, there is a lot more bitchiness and general pissyness, and people display a complete and utter lack of skill at the most amazing times.

Cassie, having long ago decided the same thing, tells me that¬†I need to start queueing with my weapons and shoulders unequipped,¬†cutting down on my apparent gearscore, so I’ll have a better chance at¬†running with lower ranked players.

Why is that? Because¬†she thinks, and I’m starting to agree, that one of the biggest irritants we see is that people with high raiding gearscores are arrogant, think they are ‘the shit’,¬†feel like they are too good for Heroics with ‘the scum’, and yet do it to get their two Frost emblems each day anyway.

So, they’re slumming, resentful of it, and phone it in, playing with their heads up their ass, and frankly sucking at it. Gear does not equal skill, and I have seen countless 4400 GS tanks do a mind-blowingly superior job tanking compared to the¬†5.5k GS idiots I see more often.

I agree with her… I’d rather play with people that are still cautious and trying to play with skill because they think their gear sucks and are trying their best so as to, ugh, not offend the high gearscores that are deigning to carry them.

You think I’m kidding?

Let me finish talking about that one Gundrak example.

We are just hitting the trash in the room outside boss numero two, the purple goo elemental that inhabits the stone statue,¬†when our masterful Feral Druid tank decides, after a run of dead silence, that he has wisdom he’d like to share with the class.

Specifically, he starts talking shit about the Warlock in the group. Just, out of nowhere.

First, he announces, “Mr Warlock.¬†Stop using Rain of Fire. It sucks. Only¬†Seed of Corruption.”

Now, before anyone has a chance to respond to these words of Heroic Gundrak wisdom,¬†while still sucking as a tank and I’m healing everyone frantically while the Death Knight is pulling one of the mobs the tank ignored off of me, he continues, with¬†the flat announcement¬†“crap DPS pisses me off.”

What, crap DPS pisses him off? Well, eating mobs in my branches pisses me off, bad tanking pisses me off, bad FERAL DRUID tanking freaking enrages me, and I’m not pissing and moaning about it in group, now am I?

And then, right on the heels of that stunning bit of personal sharing, he announces that “I’m sick of playing¬†with crap DPS.”

Now, I’m pretty confused.¬†I hadn’t noticed anything wrong with¬† the run so far except really crappy tanking, to be honest. Stuff is dying mighty fast, ain’t that what DPS is supposed to do? They’re even grabbing the mobs off me that the tank is ignoring, I’d rate them as a bunch of fine chaps, they’re all right in my book.

I glance at the DPS Meter, maybe there is someone that ain’t pulling their weight.

I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on that one, since I had JUST been in a Heroic Halls of Reflection where a Warrior gleefully¬†announced he was still leveling his weapon skill… he was at 320 at the time. During most of that HHoR run, the warrior averaged 352 DPS, so yeah… I could understand a¬†little aggravation if we had another one of those types of situations.

Oh, that HHoR run? Nervous Tank with 4400 GS, Healer with about the same, my Paladin, a Mage and the aforementioned Warrior… it was one of the smoothest HHoR runs I’ve ever been on, thank you very much. Not a single 5k+ GS to be seen (except me), and yet us poor little peons managed to do JUST fine… unlike the runs in HHoR I had later in the weekend with the 5500 GS tank and healer combo that couldn’t make it past the first boss.

That’s not evidence of anything, by the way, unless you want to think of it as my experiences in reinforcing why I increasingly don’t want to play with strangers in Heroics with really high gear.

now, after that build up, where do you think that Warlock came out on the DPS meters?

He was indeed at the bottom, with a measly 3000 DPS.

You know and I know that¬†3000 DPS isn’t exactly rocking the ICC hard mode charts, right?

But this isn’t ICC. This is Heroic Gundrak. Heroic GUNDRAK.

It’s not even ToC, FoS, PoS or HoR. The four instances where gear over iLevel 200 drop.

It’s Heroic Gundrak.

I don’t care how you measure it, 3k DPS as the lowest on the chart doesn’t suck.

A couple of the other players, not even the Warlock, talk for the first time in the run, one saying that he wouldn’t exactly call 3000 DPS “crap”, and the other saying “asking a Warlock not to use Rain of Fire is like asking a Hunter not to use Volley, lol” which I thought was pretty damn funny.¬†

I was initially busy, because you know… getting eaten and having to heal frantically and all.

But I find the manual dexterity to¬†chime in with, “The only problem I’ve seen so far is you aren’t bothering to tank, unless¬†I’m supposed to be tanking all these mobs as part of your master plan.”

The tank, without a further word, runs forward, pulls the boss, hits it once and drops group.

Well, that’s show us, won’t it! That certainly put us in our place.

Without a break in stride, the Death Knight went all out while the Warlock sicced his pet on the boss, we easily killed the thing, and there were no deaths, thank you very much.

Then we requeue for a tank, and laugh at his idiot fail butt. He couldn’t even handle a proper seeing to!

We wait for about 30 seconds before I say “I can switch to my tank spec”, at the same time as the Death Knight says HE can switch to tank… and we get a new tank anyway.

30 whole seconds.

We get a measly 5500 GS tank, who lols at us for wiping, and when we explain the tank abandoned us in mid pull, he kinda metaphorically shrugged his shoulders, hitched his suspenders and away we went.

The rest of the run went smooth as silk, and hey, nobody said anything the rest of the run. We even ran the extra boss, which is nearly unheard of.

That’s just one example of the kind of thing that’s been eating away at the back of my brain, making me nibble around the edges of realization #4.

It’s not yet a full blown¬†realization, it’s still a burning question.¬†

Why?

No, really, why do I continue to play this game?

I don’t like other people’s snotty little kids. I just don’t.

I don’t put up with that kind of bullshit in person, so why should I put up with it on the internet? Serious business? Oh, please. Cry more? Yeah, keep talking that brave internet talk.

I keep telling myself that the number of really nice, mature people that play the game are the silent majority, and the asshats just seem more prevalent because they make SURE they make their presence felt.

It’s always a comforting thought to hold dear. Sure, this guy may be an assclown, but most folks in the game are nice, pleasant, mature folks it’d be a pleasure to quaff Guinness with.

But, is that true?

Are most people in the game nice? Or pleasant? Or mature?

Over the weekend, I ran into two players in a run, both¬†from a guild called something similar to “Sofa king reh todd edd”. That one stands out in my mind as almost demanding a bitchslap, but it’s certainly not an isolated incident.

Others I know told me of similar naming delights they experienced in their pugs, but fortunately my memory has blocked it out.

There is something I’ve long held to be true, and I’m starting to wonder how it applies in an MMO.

“You can’t depend on anyone else to make you happy. In a relationship, in life, in a game, whatever, only you can make you happy.¬†Other people can¬†try and bring you up or down, but whether or not you’re happy all comes down to you.”

I get cranky at times, and take a shot at an asshat or two, or wonder at the idiocy I see around me, but when it comes to having fun in the game, I’ve never had a problem finding the fun. If I’m not having fun at the moment… I move my butt until I’m back in the fun. I don’t expect the game to do it for me, to present me with a covered platter, under which there shall be found ‘teh fun’. Nope, if I ain’t having fun,¬†I go looking for it.

I don’t expect other people in the game to¬†make me happy, or be my good time. I expect to have to seek out things that I find fun, and my good mood has to come from my own point of view.

Realization #4 is that¬†I really have to re-examine what I want out of the game, and how I spend my time… because more and more, max level activities with strangers, any strangers, are just NOT it.¬†

And from that realization comes some corollaries.

For example, if I ain’t gonna play at max level anymore,¬†why bother getting upgrades for level 80 play in the first place?

I have been riding that edge already, spending every Emblem on my toons to get Heirloom gear to make leveling new alts a smooth experience.

But aside from a kick ass weapon… do I really need Heirlooms? What’s the rush to get to 80? All I’ll be doing is putting another character on the shelf and starting another one.

I still really enjoy leveling new character classes, building new adventures around a new persona. That’s still a lot of fun, and nobody talks about how they raped someone else in PvP when you’re soloing in Barrens with all the chat channels turned off.

What I’m¬†thinking,¬†is maybe I should restart on another server entirely, much like Elystia did.

Just pull up stakes, start somewhere new, and if I want to help a poor low level alt out, I can make a Death Knight to go do some quests in Outlands, pull in a few gold.

Make a new character, go out without Heirlooms, and see the World of a different server.

And before I take that first step… shut off every global chat channel in the game. Make it the equivalent of the biggest single player game filled with random bots ever seen.

I’m getting burnt out. Burnt out on playing a game where the misfits are starting to outnumber the people I’d like to hoist a few with.

It’s too bad that Quel’Delar can’t be Bind on Account, and scale in power like an Heirloom.

In fact, it’s too bad all the Legendaries don’t do that. That would make them oh so glorious to have, a true joy to play with rqather than an epeen bragging right on your trophy room wall? If your Legendary scaled and was Bind on Account? That would be just too cool to see on a level 1 in the Exodar.

Podcast alert! Going LIVE in 3… 2… 1….

Surprise!

I’m going to be on the CASTaclysm podcast, which is streaming live, like, in 5 minutes!

Here is the link, if you’re somewhere near a computer, and have any interest at all in hearing it and taking part in a live podcast.

Guess what?

I don’t even talk about Cataclysm Druids on my blog, but they kinda forced me into agreeing to talk about Cataclysm.

No, I don’t know what I was smoking.

Come on, you know you want to be on Ustream with me.

Itty bitty comic geeky!

A word or two about Spider-Man, if you’ll indulge me.

Okay, I’m kidding. It’s a bearwall.

This one is so offtopic it’s off the map. Or is that off the chain? I get those two confused, I’m old.

A recent Gutters comic (god I love that webcomic) captured how I felt about the entire Joe Quesada “Brand New Day” Spider-Man retcon… well, perfectly.

Look, I think Joe Quesada has done a lot of positive things for the Marvel line-up. I really do.

I love the entire Ultimates concept that he supported, for example. 

And if we take a look at what actually happened to the mainstream Spider-Man comics, it wasn’t all bad ideas.

For one thing, there were just too damn many Spider-Man monthlies with similar titles, different numbering schemes, and crossover storylines that you had to hop from series to series to try and piece together.

Blech. It’s stupid. If you’re gonna tell a serialized story, put all the pieces of the story under one title, OR do it rarely and then clearly label those seperate issues that are part of the crossover.

I’m gonna have a very limited amount of patience with trying to decide if an issue is a tie in from another series in the middle of a story arc if you’re not gonna clue me in on the cover. And no, I’m not just going to buy everything you ever publish in the hopes that THAT way I’ll get the whole story. Umm, /facepalm.

Now, if you’re in the comics industry, and all you do is think about and follow the comics industry, then I bet you’ve got no trouble whatsoever keeping it all straight. After all, it’s what you do. You read everything done by everybody, and follow it all, and read the authors blogs, and developer diaries, and whatsis.

If the people who do that are your intended demographic… well, okay, then I should shut up ’cause I ain’t who you’re marketing for.

But if, by some chance, you do hope to catch the marketshare of the ‘people who like to read comics along with other stuff’, well, I gots better stuff to be doing with my time than keep track of your entire publication lineup. No, I don’t follow the trades catalog to see if you’ve got a special one shot coming up that will have a critical part of the story from your normal series that I’ll miss otherwise.

NO, I will not pick up a comic purchase story arc card from the comic shop so I can plan wwhich issues come out which month so i don’t miss them (are you f’ing kidding me with this? I’m looking at you, World War Hulk).

Just saying.

No, wait,¬†I can’t let that go. Seriously, LOOK AT THE CHECKLIST THEY GAVE OUT!!!!

That’s just asinine. Joe, I want to bitchslap you so hard your ancestors will be put off sex, that’s what I want to do.

Anyway, Spider-Man and multiple series simultaneously.

Joe Quesada, perhaps bowing to sales figure reality, collapsed all the various Spidey titles under one umbrella… and then made it a triple a month release.

Hey, that should’ve been done years ago. One series to follow, and you bring it out more often per month to catch the sales interest in that character. Good job. Even *I* can follow one series. At least, until you do one story arc across a bazillion other titles.

No, I’m not going to even try to pretend that Joe Quesada is some kind of evil, smelly demon-man. Nah. He’s done a lot I can agree with.

I’ll bring up that Ultimates thing again. Umm, Joe, thanks for helping bring about the single greatest pleasure I have had in comics as an adult… seeing a brilliant re-invention of my favorite comics lines, from the ground up, done by adults.

I know the Ultimates brands are referred to as marketed to the teen audience, but I beg to differ. I prefer to think they were targeted, in terms of story, towards people that like tight stories.

Brian Michael Bendis’ Spider-Man run is my favorite, by far, but a real close second is the¬†Fantastic Four relaunch. I really loved the entire Cosmic Cube storyline, from seeds planted early to eventual conclusion.

Yes, I know that a ton of pop culture is embedded in them… hey, that’s one of the things I like about them. I can identify and relate. Spider-Man interrupting a film being shot in New York about him? His fight¬†action getting recorded and included in the film… and since he can’t reveal his identity, his not making a dime on it? Oh, that was hilarious.

I won’t pretend to like or enjoy the Ultimatum Wave ending, it felt pretty half-assed compared to other aspects of the overall Ultimates storylines, but hey… At least Ultimate Spider-Man is still continuing on.

But let me get back to that Gutters comic, and Joe Quesada’s¬†continuity retcon.

I really liked J. Michael Straczinski’s run on Spider-Man. I did. He brought a ton of great concepts and built them very well.

And then, and pardon me if I still choke a little, Joe Quesada kicked all us fans right in the nutsack.

Peter Parker, after decades of us growing up right alongside the smartassed, wisecracking little nerd trying his best to fight the good fight, the kid with all heart and no quit, married the woman of his dreams. A real marriage, hard times, problems, stress, and working through it. He decided to try and do more with his life than swing around looking for muggings to interrupt; he got a job teaching a class in a school. Just a regular class, trying to make a difference, a difference we could relate to, a damn hard task for anyone, making a difference in the lives of some real kids who need a mentor and understanding teacher more than they do a guy in spandex.

I for one grew up reading Spider-Man comics.

I wasn’t some idiot who tried to be Spider-Man when he grew up, but I could definitely relate to the underdog aspect, the trying your damndest and never giving up aspect of it.

Okay, so i also loved that he was a smartass. To EVERYONE.

Who else do you know that will be a smartass to Galactus? Yeah, ahuh.

People talk about inspirations and examples for our formative years. The importance of having something to look up to, someone to admire.

And then, for the most part, we’re told to look at politicians and sports athletes and rock stars and movie stars to seek that inspiration.

Umm, no. Athletes pretty much equals a desire to take any perfomance enhancing drug if they think they can get away with it, drunken wild orgies on boats on lakes in Minnesota, driving over policewomen in downtown Minneapolis, and flying personal jets to training camp after the actual ‘training’ part is¬†over, blowing off practice because you’re apparently too good to need any of that teamwork building¬†crap, and making me applaud one brave announcer who proclaimed “The Ego Has Landed” when Farve touched down.

Wait, what was I saying?

And politicians? If you use a politician as your role model, well, jeez. Anyone aspiring to be a politician when they grow up might as well just be a bank robber – it’s a less dishonest way of making a living. At least you’re stealing it all at once without pretension to a higher calling of public service.

Rock Stars? Umm… okay, I’m not gonna go there. And movie stars? Man, give me a target that takes at least SOME effort.

But you open up a comic book, and what do you have?

You have an attempt to depict, for the most part, people trying to do the right thing… and exploring what that means. Whether they be aliens from another planet, or normal people overcoming great personal tragedy, or anything in between, one of the most prevalent recurring themes in comics is struggling to do the right thing… even struggling to understand what the right thing even is.

It goes way beyond “with great power comes great responsibility”. Many modern storylines take serious looks at what it might be like if someone with godlike power but flawed concepts of morality or ethics tried to impose their will on various cultures.

One of my favorites was the recent Black Summer by Warren Ellis, who writes some damn fine pieces of speculative fiction hiding behind pretty pictures.

Getting back to Joe Quasada’s gutting of Spider-Man.

The Spider-Man had it. His life was hard, it wasn’t glamorous, it wasn’t even fun most days. It was frequently bleak, long hours of dedicated back breaking work, trying to do the right thing.

But he had the most wonderful, vibrant marriage to the woman he loved above all else in his life. That, and knowing in his heart that he was doing his best to actually make a difference, in costume and in normal life. that, and the struggle, was enough.

And Joe Quesada not only broke up Pete’s marriage and dumped Peter back into the Daily Planet, but he also decided in his massive retcon that all of that grown up crap NEVER EVEN HAPPENED ANYMORE.

It didn’t exist. No marriage. He didn’t even get along on speaking terms with MJ. Just, slam! Didn’t like that, did ya Joe? It’s more fun to have a single, angsty, dating problems¬†Spider-Man with crap tossed in his direction by old tired super-villains, and teaching? What, teaching kids in school? SPIDER-MAN? Hell, who can relate to THAT? Nah, make good old Peter a struggling kid out to make a buck taking photos, and hiding his secret from Aunty May.

That… that was a galactic level kick in the nuts.

Why?

Because, there are SO DAMN FEW GOOD EXAMPLES OF A NORMAL LIFE in the media!

I actually, mentally just did a Jesse Ventura “meee deee ahhh” there in my head. I knew I should have stopped for beer on the way home tonight.

Take a good, long look at comics, or television, or really any other form of media.

Just how many examples of a strong relationship that weathers any storm do you SEE out there?

Look, emotional turmoil makes for spicy drama, so I know, I KNOW that for a quick and cheap dramatic turn by a lazy writer, you build up a quicky relationship JUST so you have something to tear down later. 

But it’s everywhere. That kind of writing, that relationship foundation¬†is the norm out there. That is the most prevalent example you’ll ever see… nobody, but nobody has a stable relationship for long. They all fall apart eventually.

How many incidents of true love, true enduring ‘can’t touch this’ love can you name in comics or television media?

Relationships that lasted, and grew, and no matter what bullshit went on around them, just stayed strong because no matter what else, the two people loved each other and trusted each other, and no lazy writer came along and decided to shatter that trust by writing in a bullshit cheating or lying or deceiving moment?

Now… of those loves… how many were ended by the death of one or the other to provide some good old fashioned grief or revenge?

Don’t you think that such a relationship, depicted in fiction, and left alone¬†to just keep going is a rare enough thing that it makes for an interesting story concept on it’s own?

Ahh, but it’s almost never done… so, for lazy writers, you’ve got to actually WORK to keep it interesting, don’t you? Nothing much to copy out there, is there?

But there was one. call it what you will, Peter and MJ finally had a strong, enduring relationship and marriage together.

And along came Joe Quesada, who saw nothing worth saving, nothing of value, in the enduring love of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson. Just tear it down, that stuff doesn’t make for gripping drama.

Hey Joe? Yeah, for that, and that alone, kiss my ass.

You know what I thought when I read that issue? The One More Day/Brand New Day arc?

I thought of the death of one other enduring, unbreakable love that really pissed me off.

I would be talking about the Willow Rosenberg/Tara Maclay relationship from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Now, episode after episode, once it got going, that was true, unshakeable love. It was hard at times, there were issues, there was some shaky writing in there, and there were moments of real high drama. But the drama was in our expectations… the episode where Tara’s got a group of, umm, ‘people’ who come to try and bring her back to their, umm, ‘home’ with them, in particular, was one of the most intensely worrying ones, because it really looked like there was an intentional storyarc building to show that Tara’s love and trust was a deception after all. The drama from that one came from the way you just can’t trust a storywriter to NOT write in a bullshit twist to cause a TV relationship to fall apart.

But no, that was a romance and a relationship that made me cheer what¬†I hoped was a new age in TV writing. Writers daring to show a strong, trusting relationship that didn’t get betrayed by one damn thing or another, or by some stupid misunderstanding that could have been worked through if there was actual trust between the two. Damnit,¬†I would have loved to have seen those two get married on top of a sealed Hellmouth as the series ending.

I’m not going to belabor the way that relationship ended. Aside from noting that, and I am not exaggerating, that moment, that exact moment when the relationship died in the backyard of their house¬†stands out as one of the few moments in my life where I was truly pissed off and livid at a television show.

I mean, ‘choke the living shit out of¬†the writer if he was in front of me’ livid.

But, that’s where they took it, and I guess a lot of people agreed it was a good direction to take the story, so whatever.

I’ve got a big middle finger for how they did it because i wanted it to keep going… but then again, if they started by wanting to get to ‘Dark Willow”, and were trying to find a way to do it, I’d rather they did what they did than that they cause some form of deception or failure of trust or messy bullshit breakup be the reason.

IF they really wanted to get to Dark Willow and were looking for a way while still treating their relationship with repsect, that is. And that’s what I think happened there. They wanted to get to a Dark Willow story arc, and wanted to find a way to do it while treating Willow’s relationship with Tara with respect.

Joe Quesada, from what I saw while reading those comics, simply wanted to destroy the marriage.¬†He didn’t treat it with any respect, he treated it as something to shitcan for expedience in the name of a series reboot and as an attempt to boost sales.

Seriously, I honestly think that if I want to see a long lasting, enduring romantic relationship that withstands the test of time, two people that never lose faith in each other come what may, I’m going to have to write it myself.

Ahem… one shot movies like the Princess Bride, and Romeo and Juliet, don’t count. And R & J [spoiler] both die at the end, which cuts down on the recurring episode market for that one.

You know, even the most powerful on-screen recurring relationship I can think of,¬†Beauty and the Beast, couldn’t maintain it without destroying it eventually in the name of ratings.

You’d think they could, considering the structure of the show… and if you stop watching after season two, and DO NOT WATCH season three, you can retain your blissful ignorance of any eventual tragedy, and prefer to believe, like I do, that Catherine and Vincent remain forever in love, sharing their lives in the Tunnels Below with their family.

Ahh, I miss that show, damnit.

Anyway, in the name of shining examples of actual, enduring love and trust and mutual respect, Joe Quesada, this middle finger’s for you!

Thank you!

For those of you that contacted me offering your aid in planning/organizing the upcoming Red Heart Roundup, thank you very much for volunteering!

I’ve sent out the invitations to our communication group, so if you emailed me to volunteer and didn’t receive your invitation to group, check your spam filter… I might have ended up there. ūüôā

Again… thank you all very much.

Managing Cooldowns

It’s probably something everybody’s already on top of, but¬†I thought it’d be fun to trade our methods for managing cooldowns and arranging our button bars.

Why? Because it’s something everybody has to do, and some folks might have ways they like that someone else will think is an interesting idea to try.

For example…

I was playing my Warrior the other night (Prot spec while leveling) and noticed I had a neat ability called Concussion Blow on my toolbar.

Okay, so I get a single target stun. That’s cool. My Rogue got a lot of use out of that little button while leveling.

But wait! When I got that ability and stuck it on my button bar, I put it where it’s a little away from my ‘use all the time rotation’ abilities. It’s over in the area of my button bar¬†where special abilities with long cooldowns get placed and saved for rainy days.

See,¬†when I lay out my button bars, I use the default layout… with all ‘extra’ button bars enabled. Left, Right, and both the ones on the side. I do that so on borked/broken addon patch days, I am mostly unaffected. Vanilla WoW cured me of UI changing addons forever.

I arrange the center of the bottom bar with the abilities I use most often, and then radiate outwards from there in both directions for the lesser used abilities. Typically, pulling/initial abilities radiate outwards to the left, while healing or taunting/aggro control abilities move out to the right. I’ll start the pull on the far left, gravitate to the center for the most ufrequently used abilities, and when¬†I need to pop something special dart the mouse¬†to the right. If it’s utility or situational, OR cross-form, then it goes right above. I’m looking at YOU Druid and Priest!

The abilities that complement them, or should be triggered first, or are situational/utility typically go on the bar right above, again starting in the middle for most used/fastest cooldown and working outwards to both sides.

This leaves me with a small area in the middle of the button bar where I’ll be spending most of my time, and a relatively short distance for mouse travel no matter what other ability I need at a moment’s notice.

I did that automatically, because first, I like clicking buttons, and the more alts I make, the more¬†I click buttons. I just don’t use number keys for abilities on all these alts. On my Druid, sure, I use number key shortcuts. But not the alts, thank you very much.

Second, when¬†I did a time analysis study on the ‘pick and place’ SMT equipment I used to program, it was very clear that this method was the second most time effective technique in picking and placing surface mount computer components from feed trays.

Lemme ‘splain.

In building modern circuit boards, you use what are called surface mount components. Rugged components are still soldered ‘through hole’ style, connectors and toggle switches and big doodads, but the rest are small, flat bottomed components that are shipped in reels. You load these reels up by the hundreds into a pick and place machine, one reel per part. So, you’ve got a long bank of hundreds of reels of computer parts. In the center of the machine is a fixed pick and place head, basically a vacuum system attached to teeny nozzles that can move up and down and rotate,¬†with camera inspection.

The entire rack of parts reels is on moving rails. The pick and place vacuum head is fixed in the center. So, when you program a machine to build a circuit board, you have a list of all the parts that will be populating the board. You have sizes, shapes, part #s, etc.¬†You want to create a build program that will populate a single circuit board in the shortest time possible, because the board is going along on a conveyor one at a time, and the longer you take to place parts per board, the fewer possible boards you can build.¬†It’s a natural choke point.

So, say you’ve got 1200 parts to place on a single circuit board. You’ve got maybe 230 different part numbers. You use 250 of one particular part, 80 of the next,¬†63 of the next, and so on.

In this second fastest technique, the first thing you do is analyze¬†what the most frequently used¬†parts are. You want to minimize travel time of that big honking rail full of reels of parts. A single parts reel can be from 1 inch to 5 inches across depending on the size of the part in it, and if you’ve got hundreds of reels on a machine, travel time sliding that rail back and forth to get from¬†one reel to the next to present a part under the pick and place head is… slow.

So it’s all about minimizing rail/reel movement as much as possible. Orrr…. minimizing mouse movement as much as possible? Eh?

Now, you might think that the best way to do it is stick all of your most used reels on one end, and slowly work your way down the row.

The problem with that is, when you optimize your pick speed, you find that you have to take ergonomics of rail motion into account… and also the fact that frequently, in order to minimize PCB board travel (that thing you’re sticking the parts on, which itself has to move around for the fixed pick and place head to stick parts down), you’ll start populating one section of the board… then when it’s mostly full, move on to populating another PCB board section.

You end up wanting to come back to those most frequently used parts throughout the course of the board build, not just blow through them all up front. If you stick them all at one end of the reel rail, then after a while you go all the way down one end, get a part, and all the way back to the first, over and over again.

So, when in a situation where you have several parts (buttons), some used more frequently than others, some with longer delays before able to be used again, and some you need to come back to more often than others, it’s more time effective to put¬†your heaviest hitters in the center of the rail (bar), with the lesser used parts (buttons)¬†going further and further out in each direction based on¬†frequency of use,¬†linked part associations and length of¬†cooldown. Err, pick speed.

I’ve done a lot of time studies on programs like that, and it just works real well. So, if you’re, basically, a clicker, it’s a great default system for button placement. ūüôā

Now… when you really crunch the numbers, this is, as I said, the second fastest button clicker technique I know.

You want fast? You take rotation sequence into account, and you streamline those sequences to make the mouse flow smooth across the board, then mirror it for secondary button placement about the bar. I actually did that with my 969 rotation for my Paladin tank button arrangement. Since you’ve got a fixed cooldown sequence for the rotation, it only makes sense to optimize placement based on mouse movement and associate buttons with similar cooldowns.

Anyway, for me, a¬†button clicker with lots of alts, that’s what I do. And a lot more information than you care to know, I’m sure.

Where I am going with this behind the scenes look at the way I setup my button bars/UI, is that I had initially placed¬†Concussion Blow with the¬†‘long cooldown, to be used in tight spots only’ abilities on my bar, up on the top bar and far to the right of bottom center.

Re-familiarizing myself with the abilities caused me to take another look at Concussion Blow.

The cooldown is only 30 seconds.

Well, dip me in mustard and call me a weiner if that¬†wasn’t a¬†bad mistake, pardner.

I typically break cooldown abilities into sub categories.

There is the “this is my oh shit button, to be saved for when it’s REALLY an oh shit situation”, and then there are the “this is pretty good, but the cooldown is long enough to only break it out on boss fights, and trash fights when I can expect the cooldown to be up when the next boss fight done cometh”.

And then there are the cooldowns that go into the sub category of “short enough to pop every bloody fight at least once in the beginning.”

A few examples?

Enhancement Shamans have one of the medium cooldowns, boss fight plus early trash – Shamanistic Rage. Geez, a 1 minute cooldown sounds bad, but it’s up for 15 seconds and gives you just tons of mana on top of the damage reduction. I pop that sucker all the time.

Feral Druids have Survival Instincts, which is great but on a 3 minute cooldown. That’s definitely long enough to make it an “oh shit,” held in reserve button. But, it’s also complementary to another long cooldown, Frenzied Regeneration, which is, hey, on a 3 minute cooldown.

Now, one common method of getting the most out of that 3 minute long cooldown is to only use those two together. You pop Survival Instincts, which raises your maximum health, and then you pop Frenzied Regeneration, which bases healing per point of Rage off of max health AT THE TIME IT’S ACTIVATED. So, SI boosts Healing Per¬†Second/Healing Per Rage of FR when triggered first, for the entire duration of FR.

A few folks I know, during boss fights, actually don’t do this. What they do is stagger the cooldowns. Instead of one really big huge whomping heal with a 3 minute dead time, they space it out, taking the reduced survivability benefits of only having one effect up at a time, in exchange for having them¬†up twice as often.¬†1.5 minutes and pop, 1.5 minutes and pop… If all you need is a little ‘oomph’ to help your healers out, why drop the big bomb when a well placed single shot will do?

But what about Barkskin? Barkskin is right on the edge, isn’t it? It’s a 1 minute cooldown, so if you’re doing fairly middle of the road content, heroics and easy raids, it’s no problem to incorporate it into a macro that pops it whenever it’s off cooldown. It’s not on the global cooldown, so no worries on working it in. 100% uptime. Doing this means it’s uptime is maximized, so you’re getting it’s benefits and saving your healers’ mana as much as possible for the long term fight over the course of a run.

BUT… 1 minute is long enough, and Barkskin’s 20% damage reduction is powerful enough, that if you’re raiding something serious you most likely want it OFF a macro so you can pop it in sync with a boss attack, perfectly timing that 20% damage reduction for when it’ll do you the most good. Like, say, when the entire raid is taking massive damage, and you want to give the healer on YOU the chance to ignore you for a few seconds to help keep the squishies alive.

The trade off, of course, is then you’ve got another button to remember to pop during the trash fights, and that might lead to suboptimal usage and reduced overall uptime.

Umm, wah.

Oh, wait.

Anyway, I wanted to bring it up all up to¬†see if I could inspire you to share your own thoughts on how you like to¬†arrange your abilities, what your philosophy behind it may be, maybe even what UI addons you just couldn’t live without, and how you like to control your cooldowns.

And to leave you with this one, key point…

The only truly bad use of a long cooldown ability is when you save it for a rainy day… and then never use it all when¬†it might have saved your butt.

Practise using them! Much better to use them all the time and sometimes have them on cooldown when you’d like them than to never use them at all!

If you use them all the time, and get used to using them, then after a while you can back off and use them more strategically.

But use them!