Is it getting quiet around here?

I’ve got the cure for that!

People are either quiet in the blogosphere, or they’re, like, overcompensating by talking serious hardcore Cataclysm news or testing or specs.

I?

I prefer to follow my own star.

You might think that I’d try to steer a course down the middle between those extremes…

But no… you know me by now, right?

No, I don’t see the middle as the only other option… I’m choosing taking a 270° corkscrew turn up the waterspout and firing all thrusters.

My first blow against normalcy is reminding you of the other reason why the battle cry “For Pony” should sound upon the halls.

Come on, you know you like Phaylen… it’s okay, you can admit it.

Advertisements

Psych!

Sorry, no, really.

Due to circumstances truly beyond my control, I won’t have the big announcement/update ready until I get a teensy bit more research done.

Personally, I blame Samwise and Perry Gatner.

In the meantime, I will seek to distract you with shinies.

If you like podcasts, and listening to random people talk about role playing games and such, then as a BBB reader it might interest you to know I was a guest on the first episode of a new gaming show, “Gaming in the Bear Cave“, created and hosted by Ursiheil for the Versus the World Productions podcast lineup.

There ain’t a thing about WoW in it, but it was fun to chat for a bit about role playing games in general, and PBeM games in specific. If that’s the kind of thing that interests you, why not go check it out?

Please stay tuned for Raid From The Heart news!

Plans are almost finalized on the Raid from the Heart event.

It’s really looking to me like it’s going to be a lot of fun.

The event WILL be taking place on Kael’thas-US, both factions, on saturday, october 16th, in the early afternoon.

What are the details?

Well, you’re just going to have to stay tuned to find out! I plan on releasing our grand design this Monday.

Don’t miss it!

This is gonna be soooo much fun!

NOOO!!!! NOOOOOOOO!!!!!

You… you….

No.

I can’t believe it. I won’t accept it.

No. Not just no, HELL no.

Someone hold my coat, I’ma gonna get my claws bloody on this one.

Someone give me the name of the rat bastard fink that is responsible for this insane travesty of all that is right and holy!

I swear, when I find out who’s behind this, I’m gonna gut ’em.

First I’ll skin ’em, and THEN I’ll gut ’em.

And I’m not even a skinner, so it doesn’t matter if I use a damn spoon or not, it’s STILL gonna hurt.

Can you believe this crap? I swear, this time they’ve gone too far. Screw writing my congressman, not that he’d give a shit.

Oh, hey, you know what the definition of a congressman is?

A member of the second group put up against the wall after we finish shooting all the lawyers.

You think you’ve got things under control. You think that you’re on top of the world.

You’ve got plans. I had plans! Damnitall, I had plans!

And then they go and do this.

I just…. I just don’t know what to do.

<sniff>

You know, I try so hard. <sniff>

I really do. I keep those embers burning, ya know? I never give up.

No matter how hard it gets, and some days, it’s really damn hard, I just stay with it, ya’know? <sniff>

<sniff>

It’s like, you know, just when you think you’re up, they gotta drag you right back down, man.

I just… I mean, man… I just don’t know if I can take this anymore, man. Just, just game over, man, game over. Maybe we should just roll over and put them in charge.

What? What do you mean, them who? What am I talking about?

Good lord, where have you BEEN?

Haven’t you HEARD?!?!

It’s right there in Black and Green.

According to the tooltips, Swift Flight Form, Flight Form, Aquatic Form, Travel Form, Bear Form, Cat Form no longer make you immune to Polymorph.

They did it. Those damn Mages finally went and did it.

I never thought they would, but they finally got their hooks into someone in Blizzard and made it happen.

It’s the big one. The balloon just went up. Screw DEFCON 5.

Damnit, I WARNED you all it was coming!

I tried to tell you. I warned you, and did you listen? Hell no.

I told you, first you give them a forum to talk, and then you give the short ones a soapbox so they can reach the mike, and then you let them assemble without hosing them down with the firetrucks…

The next thing you know, it’s all over. It’s all Bears in sheep form, BRK wandering around drunk looking for the cheese dip, and drunken Mages having their wild depraved parties with NOBODY TO MAINTAIN SOME DAMN DECENCY ANYMORE!

Well, okay, no, *I* don’t maintain the decency… I’m talking about those other Druids in the Annarchy guild over on Dark Iron.

The point is, we were safe! We had protection!

And when the Mages are around, you know you bloody well NEED all the protection you can get!

As I always say… if you’re planning on hooking up with a Mage later, you better darn well make sure you’ve got protection with you.

What’s next? huh? What’s bloody next? Are they gonna make Druids wear a thong like Jong?

You KNOW that doesn’t go with our fur, dagnabit! You’ve got to have baby smooth skin, freshly waxed to pull that off. An all over Brazilian body wax. You know, like Jong has.

I can tell you one thing… this just proves beyond a doubt that Mages are a more powerful force than Hunters ever will be, even counting BRK.

Because if the Hunters had their way, we’d be tameable pets tomorrow.

My God, it’s full of stars!

I would like to give my eternal thanks to Penny Arcade for linking to this video, for without them, I never would have watched it.

I never imagined anything like this before. I’m still not sure what it is I saw.

I just know that I LIKE it!

Having thought about it, I want to warn you that the video is gameplay from the upcoming Bioshock Infinite, and there is a lot of violence, gore, disturbing images and freaky stuff. If you’re squeamish, please do not watch the movie. Thank you.

Teachable Moments

Before we leap ahead into the Cataclysm of another expansion, I’d like to do my traditional pre-expansion look back on the joys of WoW past.

Most days, day in and day out, it’s kind of the same old thing, right? Especially when an expansion or content patch is this long in the tooth.

Ahhh… but there are those moments, and you know you’ve had them, where the everyday game is eclipsed by sudden pulse-pounding excitement, chills, thrills, surprises and “Holy crap, that was cool!” moments.

The one truth to those moments, is that once you’ve had that moment, you’ll never experience the magic in quite the same way again. The best we can hope for is to try and recapture the remembrance of that magical moment while playing a once and future alt the next time around.

I was talking with Cassie about this, and for her several once-in-a-gametime moments sprang immediately to mind. For this retrospective, it’s these special, magical, once in a lifetime moments of Cassie’s I’d like to visit.

The first one for Cassie, literally the first, was when she was playing her first ever character, her Rogue, in Elwynn Forest. She was questing, and exploring, moving through this unfamiliar, strange new online world. Her video game experience, while extensive, had to this date resided solely in platformers and console RPGs such as Spyro the Dragon and Kingdom Hearts. An expansive, persistant online world where she was free to roam and explore to her heart’s content was wildly new, when framed against such a background of “on the rails” linear storylines.

It was while she moved ever deeper into Elwynn Forest, clearing the way and feeling like a badass, stabby stabby, that she ran into that diabolical archfiend, Hogger, for the very first time.

The moment was exhiliarating, terrifying, and in the end, a brutal, bloody defeat. Hearing her cries of rage and frustrated bloodlust, I rushed to her desk to see what was the matter. That was when I had the dubious pleasure of explaining that, oh yeah, Silver Dragons around mob portraits, and mobs with unique and personal names, were generally BAD THINGS. Yeah, I know, thanks for the news flash, any more things I might like to add? Like daggers do damage and traveling without a mount sucks? “Umm, no dear. Love you!”

The next memorable moment came soon after, as Cassie traveled on foot walking along the road from Elwynn Forest to Westfall, and picking up quests along the way.

This moment also evoked cries of anger, and I again went rushing to see what had happened. There Cassie lay, her body broken and bloody upon the road of Westfall.

“But… I was on the road! They’re not supposed to eat me if I’m on the road!”

Oh yes, that was truly a memorable moment full of surprise, shock and dismay. Not even traveling upon the road will grant you safety in the deadly world of Warcraft. Plus, I have to say, in the coyotes’ defense, Cassie did look mighty tasty.

Yep, just leaving the castle of Stormwind some days is putting your life in your own hands. Or, to put it a different way like Martin Sheen expressed in Apocalypse Now, “Never get out of the boat.” 

Another moment for Cassie that she remembers with stark vividness is when she was questing on her own in Loch Modan. She has a policy, where she will never cause harm, or by her inaction allow others to cause harm to innocent little critters. Bunnies and squirrels of the lands, rejoice, for if I were to look as if I might target one, my ass, it doth be grass.

This softhearted kindness, however, does not extend to that most dreaded of ursines, “Ol’ Sooty.” Ol’ Sooty, the massive bear possessed of a strength and power dwarfing that of Hogger, at the time of this telling still a mighty Elite, normally resides up in her mountain lair, overlooking the small village down below.

But not on this day, oh no. No, this day, while Cassie strolled peacefully along, Ol’ Sooty apparently had heard about this most tasty of travelers, and descended from her mountain cave in order to path back and forth along the trail, where any questor scurrying hither and yon to and fro from Thelsamar may run across her.

Cassie, seeing a bear wandering out in the open, took aim and fired.

Ah yes. “Bear in the open, 30 meters, fire for effect.” “Hit.” “OH SHIT!!!”

You could hear the cries of anguish all the way to Mississippi, I swear. “A big damn bear just fell on me!”

Ever since, as she levels new alts, she makes a point of stopping by Loch Modan to “say hi” to Ol’ Sooty… from the barrel of a gun.

Not that she holds a grudge, or anything. Oh no…… far be it from ME to ever suggest such a base canard.

Last but not least of Cassie’s recollections, is the day she sought to level her Rogue’s lockpicking skill.

She had read that just up the road and over the hill from Lakeshire was a wonderful spot for young Rogues to pick lockboxes that respawned quite speedily.

Nobody, however, thought to warn her that she should watch for PACKS of HUGE FREAKING ORCS hiding behind the trees looking for tasty Rogues to eat.

In her own words, she was “brutally assaulted”. I asked her, “What, by the orcs?”

No, by all the people that, when Cassie complained to friends about being ganked and dying, told her “Oh yeah, they always do that.”

Not. Helpful.

In conclusion, I’d like to add two moments for myself.

First, is the incredible tension being on foot, without a mount, brings when leveling without a flying mount in Hellfire Peninsula. Whenever that ground shakes, my head whips around. “Fel Reaver? Where? Oh shit, RUN!”

Which is a laughable idea, considering those bastards move like the wind. A foul wind. Nothing says “Another poor sucker’s getting eaten” quite like watching from a distance as a Fel Reaver pauses, and then breaks into Formula Mach One mode across the plains in hot pursuit.

My second personal moment, and to show that not all of them have to be “Surprise, you’ve been jumped by an overpowered Elite”, is the entire Wrathgate chain.

That moment when the cinematic first unfolds for you, taking you out of the game and immersing you unexpectedly into the story was just a wonderful thing.

I understand that’s going away in the new expansion. That makes me sad, in a way, but the truth is… once you’ve experienced any of these moments, you can never quite recapture that same magic.

You will never think you’re safe on the road once you’ve been eaten, you’ll have learned about aggro ranges.

You will never idly tag a mob with a Silver Dragon portrait, or the title of Elite, or having it’s own, unique name again in pure innocense. You may do it by accident, but if you do, you won’t be shocked and horrified, because you’ll know what just happened, even as it’s happening to you. Again. Damnit.

Each moment in the game that you learn something new is a good experience, growing, getting better, gaining knowledge and, hopefully, wisdom. And that’s a good thing.

But it does raise the bar for what it will take for us to feel that next magical moment. That new surprise.

Here’s looking back at many long years full of such moments, and hoping that in the years to come, the biggest Cataclysm will be the destruction of our expectations, and a whole new range of magical moments to experience.

Balancing personal desires with group needs

There was a great comment by Darth Solo made to yesterday’s post, a comment I thought was very thought provoking.

The comment from Darth Solo that I liked was;

“I would like to respectfully disagree with the premise that rotation doesn’t matter. Of course it matters. Otherwise GearScore would reign supreme. This can be easily checked in RAWR where you can switch around the skills in your rotation. As ret paladin simply using one skill before another can cost 100 DPS. And that’s valid for most classes.

Here’s a story to back this up. While running a heroic I noticed that the lowest person on the DPS chart was a DK who managed to deal about 700 DPS (yes, in a heroic!). Checking his gear revealed that the dude was wearing at least ilvl 264 items. And he was actually attacking mobs and everything. How the hell was that possible? It remains a mystery. I guess he’d probably bought that char off ebay or something.

In closing I remain of firm opinion that rotation does matter and is often more important than gear. Top DPS is also important in groups because otherwise the entire group might suffer due to one player. When playing alone, you can do 1 DPS as far as I’m concerned, and as long as you’re having fun it’s all good. I agree that people generally play games in order to have fun, yet by under-performing badly in a group you’re basically having fun at the expense of others and that’s not very nice.”

Now, I thought the comment didn’t really use the included example very well, the comment was about the importance of rotations, but in the example he didn’t have an exact reason why the DK from the story had only 700 DPS. In the end, it’s not really relevant. Whether it was because of poor rotations, or from having a weapon skill of 300 on a new weapon drop, the point was the DK was in a group providing DPS that did not match in any way his Blizzard-measured gear levels, and at least one person in the group noticed and was annoyed.

The more I thought about his comment, the more I really think that maybe he was right about his interpretation of what I was saying, if you read between the lines of my post. And that’s what made his comment so intelligent and enjoyable to me. It really highlighted the difference in our two approaches to the same issue, and showed me that maybe there was a much bigger issue lying underneath it all to talk about.

The first thing I want to make clear is, I agree with Darth Solo’s point about wanting to put your best effort into your performance during group play. I also agree with him that intentionally joining a group for the purpose of group play without being properly prepared shows disrespect or, perhaps better phrased, a lack of consideration for the other players in the group, and is a bad thing.

Long time readers know that one of my first posts from years ago was ranting and raving about people showing up to raids late, unrepaired, out of ammo and without self-buff foods and items. My opinions on that really haven’t changed very much.

But I think I have a better handle now, and can talk with a little bit more clarity on where your responsibility to your fellow team members should be balanced with your own personal enjoyment of your gameplay experience.

Where I think Darth Solo and I differ in our opinions, is to what lengths a player should go to meet the expectations of other players.

Isn’t that the core of what we’re talking about? You may have your own idea of how to play, and you really enjoy it. But there are also expectations that other players will have when they group with you. If what you like and what others expect aren’t the same, how much of your fun are you willing to sacrifice to meet those expectations?

How much SHOULD you be expected to sacrifice?

It’s in this middle area, I think, where my “casual” point of view deviates from that of a dedicated group player in serious content.

It’s not casual versus hardcore, it’s not even solo versus raider. It’s “I play this game for fun, enjoy playing this class and spec, and don’t want to play something else because you say so” meeting “If you don’t do everything you can to be the best you can be, you’re letting the whole team down.”

When I write posts, the point of view I invariably argue from comes from my own feelings of where that balance point lies.

Here is my personal take on it.

The game is an extension of the real world, in the sense that you interact with other real living people and should act accordingly, with courtesy towards others and consideration for their needs.

In accordance with this consideration and respect, when you choose to group up, whether in an instance or a raid, you should do what you can to be able to “pull your own weight” in the run. 

Having your weapon skill maxed, Defense Skill capped if tanking and your class requires it, your own buff food, flasks or elixirs if the situation calls for them (or mats to have same crafted), equipment repaired, ammunition on hand in sufficient quantity, reagents if necessary to cast your class buffs, and being ready to go when the group is SUPPOSED to be ready to go.

Along with these reasonable preparations, I feel that it is also the responsibility of each player to actually CAST their class buffs, as appropriate, and work together with other members of buffing classes to ensure even distribution. It’s a part of teamwork.

And finally, I feel that during the course of group play, it is the responsibility of each player to act as a member of the team, intentionally working together towards the common goal; killing internet dragons.

That means that if your job is to make the pull, you check your six first to make sure nobody is out of range or drinking to get mana back when at zero. You pay attention to what is going on around you, and try to stay on top of your game; you don’t spend half your time typing in your Erotic RP chat channel. If it’s someone else’s job to make the pull, and they have a reasonable expectation that they will be doing so, you don’t pull for them without clearing it with them first. And you do your best to watch your threat generation as DPS, and have exit strategies planned if you accidentally pull. Yes, running in terror to the tank screaming “get it off, get it off, get it off of me!” at the top of your lungs is a formally recognised exit strategy, known in the trade as “you pull it, you tank it, we rez you”.

All of these things are along the lines of unwritten rules. They are reasonable expectations we could each have of the other players, but there are no actual rules in place to force you to do any of these things. As some random pugs make all too clear.

But rules or no rules, I still try to personally abide by all of them, and hell yes, I do expect the other players to do the same. 

These are all things that, if not done, can hurt other players in the team in measurable ways. Wipes can happen from your pulling when healers or tanks aren’t ready, players time can be wasted significantly by having to wait for you to get food or repairs or ammo, you could cost other players their money by having to provide you with food and flasks you should have gotten yourself.

But what I do not see as falling within the realm of a reasonable expectation is that one person be expected by the rest of the team to choose a class or a Talent spec to play other than the one they prefer.

I strongly feel that each player should have the reasonable expectation that they can damn well play the class and spec they enjoy the most, so long as they do so to the best of their ability. 

Now, suppose we take Mages as an example. As things stand now, Arcane mages are considered by the general population to have the best potential DPS. Frost and Fire Mages, therefore, are considered to be inferior Talent specs.

So f&^%ing what?

I honestly don’t care if the grand biomass has theorycrafted the figures and proven that Arcane is a much more powerful DPS spec than Frost or Fire. If a player finds Frost or Fire to be more FUN, than they should have the reasonable expectation that, so long as they play that Frost or Fire Mage to the best of their ability, nobody else gives them any bloody shit over it.

If you like Arcane Mages so much, YOU bloody well play them, and shut the hell up about it.

Why? Why the difference when we get to Talent spec changes?

Because in this case, the only difference that affects the rest of the team is a theoretical reduction in potential DPS output over the course of the run.

And per my last post… if the Arcane Mage is in crap gear, and the Fire Mage is in great gear… are you REALLY going to be “hurt” more by taking the Fire Mage? Really? No. And what changes over the course of raid progression? Equipped gear strength based on dropped loot and Emblem investment. 

And is potential DPS even the biggest consideration here? Which is truly more beneficial to the team? An Arcane Mage that is focused on living up to DPS expectations, or a Frost Mage that is a master of using all of their utility spells while also cranking out the damage?

My key point here is, all rhetoric about potential DPS aside, in my opinion, if you’re going to argue that players have to follow a stringent set of  prescribed Talent specs and rotations on the basis of “having fun at the expense of others”, you need to show how doing it their way is actually HURTING those others.

As I said. I’m not an idiot, and I know that, for many if not most dedicated raiding groups out there, the expectation IS that in order to be considered a valuable team member, you will do everything you can to play your class to the maximum of it’s potential, and that expectation does include being told by the raid leaders/guild leaders how they expect you to spec your Talent points and what rotations to utilize.

I know. If that’s what you’re looking for, that level of commitment of doing what the team wants as a whole in order to achieve victory, that’s great. Making sacrifices for the sake of furthering the goals of your team of guild mates and friends can feel very rewarding, a true bonding experience. Another sign that you’re all in it together, sink or swim.

But it’s this general belief that random nitwits and nimrods in PUG raids have the right to criticize some other player’s choice of Talent spec based on the theorycrafting spreadsheets of an out of game website that I totally and completely object to. Why the hell should some stranger sacrifice their enjoyment for you in your PUG raid? Who died and made YOU grand archon?

And in conclusion…. I’d like any guild out there, 10’s or 25’s, that has successfully cleared ICC with groups consisting of non-optimal specs to feel free to trumpet your successes in the comments. Brag to your hearts content about how you were able to kick the Lich Kings’ bony ass just fine with a group including BM Hunters, Frost or Fire Mages, Frost DPS Death Knights (especially before the buffs of 3.3.3), Demonology and Destruction Warlocks (depending on which patch), and weird combinations of pure “flavor” rotations and gear.

All Druid clears are, of course, nothing but win, but we’ll take all Paladin clears and cheer you if you’ve got ’em.