Singed Feathers

Last night, I took my Moonkin specced Druid into the Firelands, to join Team Teddybear (and friends) in a spontaneous clearing of trash.

I know, right? My Moonkin spec is active one day and I’m managing Eclipses against Firelands trash.

Ahem. A little trial by fire.

/ducks

So fun, though. Playing on my main is really so much more satisfying than on alts. If given the choice, I’d always be on my main, and I’m being given the choice.

You see that up there? What that spider is doing to the head of that Hawk… that ain’t right.

Now, taking on the Firelands bosses may seem daunting, but let me tell you, killing the trash is well within a raiding team’s capability. If your raid has been able to successfully down most of the current bosses prior to the Nefarian and Council fights, then you can do eet. 

Why would you want to? Well, this is the ICC rep raid of the expansion. Farming trash mobs gives you reputation with the Avengers of Hyjal, and at each rank you gain access to some truly sweet gear purchased with minimal gold.

At Friendly, you get an option of very, very nice cloaks, at Honored there are Belts, and so on.

The cloaks look cool, too. The bottoms are rounded and the pattern is very fancy, not that how they look makes a difference to anyone. Er, anyone else. Hmm. Looking good, Captain Shakespeare, looking mighty good. 

We went in and cleared trash under Matheos leadership, and after just three clears/resets, everyone in the raid was Friendly and had some new cloaks.

We also averaged one BoE epic drop per trash run. Each of the firs two runs, a BoE item dropped, and the third time it was a Leatherworking recipe. A one handed Strength axe and a Strength/Expertise necklace. 

Would it be worth stopping your normal raids to go farm trash? I don’t think so. Personally, I’d prefer to do all the current raids until they were well and fully nailed down if I hadn’t already, and then move on to Firelands. It’s not going anywhere.

At the same time, if you miss the days of pug raids forming to do IceCrown Citadel, then you should be delighted to hear that they’re back, at least as far as trash clearing goes.

I don’t like doing spoilers, but there were a few things I wanted to mention about Firelands that I think won’t ruin anything.

First, it feels much better than Molten Core, or other underground raids. Having it be totally open to the sky, with fiery meteors hurtling to the ground and blazing Hawks circling overhead adds a sense of being exposed to scrutiny, with the freedom to move around.

Gazing across the vast landscape truly feels like you’re venturing into another world. 

Second, this may surprise you, but the trash encounters are more forgiving than the early run up to the first boss in ICC.

In ICC, you had a narrow channel you had to go down, and there were traps that would activate the giants (that were instant raid wipes in the early days if you popped them while other trash was still alive), and there were masses of things to web your party, and all sorts of other fun stuff.

In Firelands, it’s very open. If you are careful, you can pull each different group or single individual without getting extras, and without getting knocked back into other mobs. If you charge straight in like a bunch of billy badasses, well, that’s not the fault of the design team. 

The Molten Lords are two tank fights, where each tank wants to swap lead whenever they reach 3 stacks of the debuff. The rest of the group wants to watch for a little powder-puff of flame under their feet, it signals an impending eruption of boom. Not too bad, not an instant kill or even all that damaging, but do you really want to stand in the bad if you can avoid it by paying attention?

The groups of 5 salamanders are designed to test your groups CC. There are two (or three) casters that WILL chain heal the rest… hey, this shouldn’t surprise anyone that’s done Molten Core before. Since we CC’ed three of the Salamanders, I can’t tell you how many were casters, but it’s an easy fight if you get your CC off and keep on it while the first two get burned down. 

The turtles and the hellhound patrols… we avoided those. Matheo said they are bad news, and there is plenty of trash to kill without having to worry about them. We did pull one group of turtles, and you know, they were pretty tough. We ran out like little girls, in the finest traditions of raiders tired of repair bills everywhere.

Really, it was just fun. I was expecting to continue Hyjal questing to unlock the Firelands dailies, and ended up having a very fun night of raiding instead.

It helps that the mobs patrol everywhere, and you’ve got freedom to move where you want as you go. They’re spread out a bit, and while some paths overlap each other, well, that’s what Silencing moves are for, to drag ’em, right?

Anyway, what I’m saying here is that if you’ve got solid heroic gear, and you put in the effort to get crafted epics made for your character, and you’ve been doing some Troll dungeons and got your shiny new Justice gear wearing a hole in your pockets, well, why not look for some Firelands trash clearing pugs, and have yourself a great time?

Boldly going where this Bear ain’t gone before

Good day to you, my friends, and welcome to what is likely to be the only WoW blog post you’ll read today that ain’t about Patch 4.2 or the Firelands.

What I wanted to share with you was my excitement and nervousness as I boldy embark on a great new adventure in the life of the Big Bear Butt.

No, I ain’t quitting WoW. Or the blog.

Some of you got your hopes up there for a second, didn’t ya?

My Druid has, for the very first time in the history of WoW, got a Moonkin spec, and I’m not afraid to use it.

I knew so little about the Moonkin lifestyle going into this that it’d be just like having someone hand you their max level character and saying, “Here, go play this for a while. Have fun, knock yourself out.”

“But what do all these things do? How do they work together?”
“Eh, you’ll figure it out.”
“Hey, why did you rename your character Farkingebaynub?”
“I believe in giving my friends fair warning.”

After reading up about the current state of the spec at Grey Matter, I find I’m pretty excited. It’s always cool to try something completely new, and this ain’t even an alt. This is my main.

The joys of playing a hybrid. Even after all these years, you can have the same character, and still do something new.

Now, before we go any further, this post ain’t to say, “Oh, look at me, I did something new, blah blah blah”. What this is about is the excitement of learning about a very rich, well imagined and implemented character class. 

Last night, after reading Graylos’ fully updated Moonkin raiding guide, and checking out the recommendations of the Twitterati, I walked away impressed with how well conceived the spec sounds now.

These days, I expect each class to be well-balanced.

I expect classes to be designed so that, in the hands of a reasonably competant player, DPS characters can reach a consistent sustained and burst damage ratio. Tanks can survive a certain amount of damage for a certain amount of time, and have cooldowns to boost spike survivability. Healers can generate positive health by a certain amount per second, to a certain number of players to handle burst and sustained damage.

Maybe one is capable of a little more burst compared to the others, or handles sustained fights with consistent output while others go silent to recoup Mana, but by and large, they’re balanced.

What surprises me about the Moonkin is how delightful the Eclipse management system sounds as a concept, how different it seems to the other caster classes I’ve played.

With the other classes, you cast a spell, it activates, and aside from what it can do, it might also trigger something else that makes another spell more powerful. Once that buff is gone, though, you start over. Warlocks can burn their Soul Shards to buff spells, but it’s still a ‘cast this, trigger something else to be buffed, cast first spell again and start sequence fresh’ type of power progression.

For the Moonkin, this whole Eclipse sounds like an amazing playstyle to flow with.

Maybe you’re a highly experienced Moonkin player, or maybe you don’t know anything about them and don’t care, but from my fresh perspective, it sounds brilliant and I’m itching to try it on level 85 bad guys.

In fact, the only thing about it that I would wish, coming at it completely fresh, is that I wish the spell names and effects were tweaked the rest of the way to really highlight that you’re channeling the raw power of the Sun or the Moon.

You have an actual Eclipse bar registering both Solar and Lunar energy. Think of it as how attuned you are to one or the other at any given time.

Some of your spells, when cast, generate Solar power, and others generate Lunar power.

When your bar is at full Solar or Lunar power, you are at an Eclipse. The corresponding power is buffed… but every time you cast that spell, you move away from full eclipse and back towards the other side. The buff remains until the moment you reach equilibrium.

The amazing thing about this mechanic, to me, is that it gives you control over when your Eclipse buff will go off. Not all of your spells cause Solar or Lunar power… and you can intentionally cast the opposing spell to drop your bar back a step.

Think of it this way, and by all means correct me if I’m wrong, but say you’re on a boss fight.

For a lot of the fight, you’re doing the best damage you can, including pushing to each Eclipse point, but at some point you want to be able to push it on command. To ‘pop all cooldowns’, to go all out. Heroism is fired, everybody on the boss.

You want to be using Eclipse to buff your spells during the fight, otherwise you are hurting yourself, sure. But you also know that when the boss falls to, say, 35% health, it’s time to go all in. And when the mark ticks 35%, that’s when you want your chosen Eclipse, Lunar or Solar, to activate.

So when the boss gets to 40% or so and you’re getting close, a Moonkin can cast a Lunar spell pushing towards a Lunar Eclipse… and then once you’re on the edge of the Eclipse, cast a Solar spell or two, bringing it back again.

At 35% boss health, you can actually cast that one last Lunar spell, tipping the bar to 100 and firing off a Lunar Eclipse, right on schedule, buffing your Lunar spells like crazy. But of course, each buffed Lunar spell you cast drops you back towards equilibrium again.

That’s so freaking cool.

As I said, my only teeny gripe about this is that some of your spells are still Nature based in name. To my mind, the idea that you are channeling the raw force of the Sun, or the more muted, radiant energy reflected off the Moon is awesome. I’d prefer all my spells to relate to this Solar/Lunar theme.

I fully understand that the Moonkin started out with pure Nature, and the Solar/Lunar thing grew later based on Moonfires and Starfires, but now the Eclipse theme is so sweet that I’d like to expand on that, and leave the Swarm of Angry little Bees Chasing Pooh the Bear behind, y’know? I’d love to see Entangling Roots become more of a Gravity Well thing to pin people down.

I ain’t crying, just saying.

And for those of you that love Moonkin and wish they’d drop Solar and Lunar Eclipse, Moonfire and stuff, and go back to pure Nature for the spell theme… I totally understand.

I personally see the Eclipse thing as being more appropriate to an Astrologer-style Mage, and seeming kind of wierd tacked on to the Owlbear.

But I love the Moonkin form, the Moonkin dance, and the Eclipse cosmology. Can I help it if I want them juxtaposed, no matter how little sense it might make?

So, off I go. I intend to try running normal instances as Moonkin to try my hand at the playstyle. I’m going to explore totally new territory.

Oh wait, I AM scared. Hold me!

Now, on to a more serious note.

The Moonkin playstyle really is not that different from other casters, except that it gives you the ability to manage a resource that has no zero point. You have a sliding scale, and at any given time, you are moving somewhere on the scale, and you can change directions at will. 

It is that aspect of the mechanic added to the traditional caster playstyle that I find very intriguing. With the help of addons like the one Graylo recommends, Balance Power, you can see exactly where you are at any given moment, and also how far the next spell you are actively casting is about to push you towards an Eclipse.

This small addition is just enough to take away the feeling that there is a specific fixed rotation to master, and instead, however mistakenly, gives me the feeling I am in control of my own destiny. I and I alone choose when I buff my spells, AND which spells will be buffed (Solar or Lunar), based on the choices I will make. The moment I unleash the power of an Eclipse will be in my hands.

It’s a small thing, but at the same time, just the idea feels more fulfilling than knowing that a spell I cast as a Mage has a chance to proc an extra buff or effect on a Crit.

I have no control over when crits go off, unless I have a spell I can trigger to make my next cast spell an auto-crit, which doesn’t have the same feel. All I can really do is stack more crit, which is a function of gear upgrades and Reforging/Gemming and Enchanting.

It’s a small thing, but it adds an excitement to the idea of playing a ranged spellcaster that had been a little lacking before.

It makes me wonder… is the way the Moonkin changed over the years a sign of how Blizzard sees class design these days? And if so, is this the level of control over our class we can expect to see them introducing in the new MMO they’ve been working on?

Bacon Bits

It’s the little things that really bring a smile to my face.

To follow up from my post on Friday, to me it doesn’t matter how long a game has been out, or how much has been written about it in the past.

What matters to me is playing a game my own way, of finding my own path, without worry that I’m ‘doing it wrong’ or something. I want to have enough options that I can make the game experience my own. I want to step back from the screen for a second, look upon what I have wrought, and think, “Yeah, that’s pretty f’ed up. Sweet!”

Take my new Paladin alt, for example.

I’ve been playing on Azuremyst-US, and I really like it there. The climate on the server is just friendlier than I’m used to seeing elsewhere.

It’s got a kinder, gentler Trade Chat troll. Why, I can’t hardly recall ever seeing [anal] jokes at all! Instead, they go off on [pet type] memes. Hardly any filth at all!

Frankly, it’s a little unnerving. Trade chat on Alliance side without constant foul BS feels like you’re playing on a server of pod people.

I’ve been playing a lot on Azuremyst, the Band of Misfits is just a great group of people, lots of humor, very active, and a bunch of characters. Characters as in kooks, clowns, cavorting karoake carousers, college kids and couples. They are pretty active, too, doing old raids for the Achievements and such. I just took part in downing heroic mode Yogg-Saron last week, and had a blast. We’ve got heroic 25 Lich King tonight, and I’m really looking forward to it.

No matter how great things may be in the guild, though, they don’t have a horde side experience. I’ve wanted to play through all the new Cataclysm zone quests and changes on the horde side ever since they came out, but every time I made a horde alt, they leveled too fast to see everything.

Enter the Paladin.

A Tauren, because they’re awesome. Protection specced, since I want to see how Pally tanking really stacks up against the worst the PUG lifestyle has to offer.

And fully decked out in all the plate tanking and associated Heirlooms, because I’ve done the leveling thing the hard way, and I have no problem being ridiculously OP. Especially as the tank.

I almost made a critical error in playing the Paladin.

I leveled to 13 in Mulgore, did the whole zone for the second time, and it was quite fun. Things flow very well, and Paladins get lots of good tools for smacking things upside the head.

From Mulgore, I went directly to Silverpine Forest. I have heard a lot from Cassie about how awesome the questlines are in Silverpine, how cool it is to see the Banshee Queen in the aftermath of the fall of Arthas.

She was right, of course. With the Banshee Queen free of Arthas and the breaching of Greymane’s Wall giving access to Gilneas, Silverpine is transformed and has a great story to it.

Early on questing, everything was great. Then I dinged 15, and queued for randoms as a tank.

Stupid, stupid bear.

The random PUGs were fine, I dominated with Spear, er I mean Shield and Magic Helllllllllmut, but after just a handful of runs, I went back to Silverpine disgruntled to find I’d leveled past the damn zone already.

All the mobs were gray to me, and I could walk past everything without aggroing. That is SO irritating when you want to feel immersed. Whack, dead. Whack, dead. What, can’t you see me slaughtering your entire Gilnean Resistance Front? Whack, dead. C’mon, notice me, damn your eyes! I’m a skinner! I’m skinning wolves, and I’m /emoting skinning YOU! Did I just skin your cousin? I bet I did! After all, I got your whole village piled up back there in the cart, I bet he’s there somewhere!

Sigh.

So I had to swear off pugs and focus on questing through the gray zone. I dinged 25 last night, but at least I made it to the end of Silverpine without outleveling it TOO bad… and I logged out with a certain quest in my log.

A quest that promises to make me a quest giver, if only for a little while. Sitting on a horse, golden exclamation point overhead, the whole bit.

I’ve heard a lot about that quest, I intend to savor it slowly. 🙂

It’s the little things about the game, making it your own. Like having a huge, looming badass Tauren Paladin, rocking the spiky shoulders and helm. A Tauren whose very name proclaims his passion for the most valuable treasure in existance, a treasure that entire generations have gone to war for.

Baconburgler the Paladin. No bacon is safe.

(Yes, I know burglar is spelled with an ‘a’. I spelled it in the name with an ‘e’. It’s a riff on both bacon thieves and bacon burgers, get it? Yeah, I know. What can I say, I’m me.)

Having a name that makes you giggle when you see it is a solid part of making a character feel like it’s all mine. But there’s more.

Heirloom gear looks the way it looks, but there is one thing you can truly control. Your mount.

I’ve worked hard with humans before to get the Night Elf faction maxed JUST so I could have a kitty mount. Having strange mount/race combinations as early as you can get them, and fun/unusually distinctive mounts at max level are tried and true ways of being yourself.

I’m sure that every single person out there has spent at least SOME effort deciding which of the hundreds of mount/color combinations was the perfect mount for their favorite character.

I think many of us try to have that special mount for every main character, because it really is something that is up to us. Whatever mount you choose for a character says something, even if it’s “Hi, I still have the default mount I bought when I trained because I’m cheap and I don’t give a shit and I have no romance in my soul whatsoever, lols.”

The new Tauren Paladin mounts are pretty cool. The coloring style used resembles earthy clay pigments, and goes very well with the Sunwalker motif.

But that didn’t really give me the badass vibe I was looking for. It didn’t say, “Hi, I’m Baconburgler, and I’ll be taking your order. No, I’m not giving you any food, I’m taking your order. Give it up. Mmm, now that’s a tasty burger! You mind if I have some of your tasty beverage to wash this down?”

So, let’s do something to give BB a little spiky Jules vibe. Let’s pimp his ride.

(I’d like to add that I wish Blizzards April Fools Gag of Pimp my Mount from 2009 was live. Yes, yes I WOULD like to pimp my mount, thank you very much.) 

Band of Misfits (the coolest raiding guild evar, they raid the most from coast to coast with mobs on toast like Emily Post) is level 25. Beartrap the Hunter be exalted yo, so I can buy the Reins of the Golden King, a pretty cool looking lion mount.

How does that help my Paladin? Well, as most of you know, the character that buys the mount from the Guild Vendor has to be exalted with the guild… but the mount itself is Bind to Account. You don’t have to be in the guild to use it, any of your characters can.

Why, just look what happens when that faction-specific item gets mailed cross-faction? It turns into the applicable item of the other faction, of course. 🙂

Introducing my level 20 unguilded Tauren Paladin, riding around on a massively badass Kron’kar Annihilator!

As I said, it’s the little things. Sure, most people can do the exact same thing I did, but the point isn’t what other people may or may not choose to do, or whether you think blowing 1400 gold on a mount for a level 20 alt is stupid, what matters to me is what *I* do, and doing something crazy that looks that cool puts a big ol’ smile on my face. 

The other thing that has been putting a smile on my face lately has been having the Vial of the Sands on my Druid. Not just because I like having Dragonform, but because I can carry a rider.

Cassie is having a good time leveling yet another Shaman, her favorite class. She’s in Outlands, getting all the quests done in a zone, collecting all the group stuff, and then she whistles for her pet Dragon to come and carry her around from place to place, killing stuff.

You have to be careful how you treat your pets, though. 

Last night, I carried her way to the top of the atmosphere in Nagrand before transforming into Swift Flight Form. As Cassie began falling to her death on the hard rocks below, I swooped down to get below and take screenshots.

To my dismay, she lofted a parachute and floated all the way down nice and safe with a full canopy overhead.

The parachute had no time limit, so she floated safely all the way down.

Damnit.

Now, this may seem harsh to you, but in my own defense, I think there was sufficient provocation.

After all, I didn’t fly out over the edge of the abysss before I shifted. I gave her a fair chance at splatting on solid ground. And she’s a Shaman. She could rez. I could even bring her back myself!

Oh, wait, I forgot to tell you the provocation, didn’t I?

Well, I’m tooling along the skies of Nagrand under her guidance as she turns in quests.

As we leave the Ring of Blood, headed for Nesingwarys camp, she says to me, “If I’m going to keep you around, I’m going to have to break out my Carrot on a Stick.”

O.o

“Or in your case, I’d better make a Bacon on a Stick.”

(”)-.-(”)

It wouldn’t have hurt so bad if it wasn’t so damn true. I finally understand those poor turtles swimming endlessly around Northrend. Put some Bacon on a Stick and hold it in front of me, and I’ll be sure to follow.

Of course, unlike those turtles… eventually, I’ll simply go get some of my own. Eventually. You know, just as soon as that delicious aroma is mine!

Just. Have. To. Fly. A. Little. Faster.

In at the Ground Floor

One of the aspects of World of Warcraft that has made it such an enduring part of my life over the years is the scale of content available.

It’s obvious, but it bears mentioning; Azeroth and Outlands are vast in size and deep in lore. With such a massive world to explore, and with things changing every so often, it keeps me coming back for more.

I am more than willing to return, too.

My journey in playing Playing World of Warcraft over the years has often reminded me a little of my journeys in learning to play chess as a child.

I was introduced to the game of chess by my father. I wasn’t really sure of the rules, or the goal, other than head to head games usually meant trying to outsmart the other person. Battleship, Stratego, Chess… head to head domination. My father liked that kind of arena, so that was what I expected going in.

After playing for a few weeks, I learned the basics of the rules, understood where I could go and what my standard options were, and I felt I could take on other players. I even won a few against my father.

The longer I played, the more connections I made between the rules, the moves, the layout and the way you needed to play a deeper tactical game. Instead of action and reaction, move to move, you needed to think ahead, plan. Move one piece here seemingly for no reason, and the next piece you move could be protected by the first. Using the first piece to protect the second by threatening retaliation through a rudimentary overwatch.

And it was mental, of course, because once your turn was over, the initiative was in the other players hands. He had the choice to make, was it worth it to take your piece, knowing it was covered by another that would take his in turn? 

Had he already anticipated your move, and was planning his own attack around your flank where you weren’t paying attention, having nothing to do with your two pieces out there in the open?

The more I played, the more I saw that there was a deeper game to learn than what was on the surface. Much deeper. And I felt pretty sharp for seeing it. I was going to get really good, and kick my fathers ass.

Then there came the day when I checked my local library for books that someone might have written about playing chess better. It seemed a long shot, I mean, who the hell would write an entire book on how to play a board game like Stratego, Checkers or Chess? That’s why they stick little rules pamphlets in the box with the game.

What I found out was that the world of chess that I thought I was getting a handle on, that I was just now discovering, was old, familiar, highly debated and researched territory.

Thousands of books, movies, programs, historical data on matches, newspaper games using some kind of obscure letter/number code designations, omigod are you shitting me?

I just hoped to find a book on how to play a deeper level of the game, and now suddenly, it felt like if I really wanted to play the game well, I couldn’t just do what I was doing, or even just read a book, I needed to make it a career.

I came here to play a game, and I wanted to play it well.  I didn’t want to devote the rest of my entire life to mastering all this…. this shit. I’m fucking seven years old! Screw that, I ain’t got time for that, summer’s here! Time to see if I can use the garden hose to tunnel a hole in the back lawn that will go all the way through to China. I hear it’s on the other side of the world.

Do they all stand upside down, down there?

Yep, that’s what I’m reminded of when I play World of Warcraft. The difference is, in WoW I was fortunate enough to start at the very beginning, and as the game grew and changed, I was there every step of the way to adapt and learn. 

I can’t imagine what it must be like now to approach this game from the outside.

I do know that I don’t ever feel comfortable calling anyone a noob. If I do get annoyed, the other person has to be max level in some decent gear, because that to me says they’ve been around the horn long enough to have had lots of opportunity to see how things work and ask other people questions.

I never assume anyone else has visited a website to study the game.

Much like chess, if you start getting into the game, what would it be like to be told, “If you want to play well, you need to go watch this list of videos, read these website guides, use these training dummies, and practise a lot first. Also, you need to go find these addons to install, otherwise, you’re never going to be able to compete in a tournament with other people. You’re never going to be at that level on your own. Too much study and research has gone before you to catch up and be rediscovered all on your own.”

Would you do what I did with chess, and decide it’s just not worth it? To choose willingly to remain a dilettante, a player who enjoys playing the game, but knows that they will never be in the big leagues of top play because they just aren’t interested in investing that much time and effort into research?

Or, now that we are mostly mature adults, do you start playing the game, love what you’re doing, and when you poke around looking for information on how to play better, see the hundreds of websites and guides and blogs and tools and addons, and rejoice that for every question you may form, there are a dozen people eager to answer?

It’s questions like this that fascinate me, because there really are no ‘right’ answers. It all comes down to how you feel at the time, what you like, and when you began playing the game.

If you’ve just gotten into WoW, do you wish you too could have been in at the ground floor when it all began?

If you are fairly new to WoW, and sick of hearing about ‘vanilla’ or BC or how great Karazhan was, are you trying to dig in deep and catch up, or are you looking with interest for a new MMO. A game that you can try at launch, see from the very first baby steps, and be there for from day one?

You can never go back and be someone that played WoW from beta, but you can find something else to start with fresh.

I wonder, how many people look around the aging, established insular WoW community, and find that one of the reasons they want to leave for Rift or Star Wars: The Old Republic or Guild Wars 2 is the opportunity to be part of a revolution, to forge a brand new community and be there at the dawn of a new era. 

And having seen what the WoW community grew into, is it even possible for such a thing to happen again? Nothing succeeds quite like success, and bandwagons are made for jumping on. How do you forge a vibrant community for another MMO when there is such a monolithic leviathan sloughing along the tracks, sucking the light from the room? 

With all the interest in SWTOR and Guild Wars 2, such are my thoughts on a boring Friday afternoon.

Sometimes it’s just for the best

I’ve been using Vuh’do for a very long time now. Been happy with it, love it.

I have two default profiles that I had spent a lot of time customizing, a “Standard DPS”, and a “Druid HealZzz”.

The standard DPS was one I set up for, you guessed it, a default DPS player. I could load the profile on a new character, save it as a copy unique to that character, and then modify it a little if I wanted to have mouseover heals, cleanses, misdirects or trinket procs when using an ability without macros. That sort of thing.

The Druid HealZzz one was set up with all the bells and whistles for my Druid to heal. All the buttons on my mouse set to just the right spells, the colors and textures of the health bars just the way I liked ’em, all the icons and countdown timers and everything.

Been using those profiles for years.

Well, I took my baby Priest, loaded the Druid HealZzz profile, saved it and started customizing. I figured, best to start with the bars all done, and just adjust spells to buttons.

It worked nice for my first few runs yesterday. No problems.

One issue I noticed that I wanted to fix, though, was I wanted a visual indication of Weakened Soul on the bar of whoever had it.

When you cast Power Word: Shield, the target gets your bubble, and also gets the Weakened Soul effect preventing another bubble right away.

Normally, they’re both on the same timer. Bubble fades, time to recast (if you want).

I noticed more than once during the runs that when the tanks PW: Shield absorbed enough damage to fade early, I had no visual on the bars of the Weakened Soul countdown. In a few tight spots, that left me spamming PW: Shield for the few seconds I waited.

I wanted that Weakened Soul on my bars. I didn’t want to have to hunt for it on the default party UI, mixed in with all the other buffs. And I wanted a countdown timer on it.

Well, I rooted around and found that the HoT window showed my normal Power Word: Shield, and that there was something new I’d never had cause to notice before called “Bouquets”.

One of the Bouquets was named “PW: Shield and Weakened Soul”. That sounded promising, so I opened the editing configuration for it.

I wasn’t sure what I was looking at, clicked the “remove” tab, and the options in the bouquet vanished. Poof.

I was pretty sure that was a booboo, so I tried to recreate them. Then I tried reinstalling the addon. Then I tried loading a different profile.

Nope, what I did seemed to be a global change. And I was getting error messages from the addon trying to call to that bouquet.

Pretty, huh?. Pretty stupid of me, anyway.

So, I went into the options and reset the addon configuration to stock.

Which…. ALSO deleted all of my profiles. Every single last one.

/facepalm.

‘Kay, fine. Whatever. If I’m going to make a mistake, why the hell not sink the Titanic, give me something to be proud of. At a certain point, if you screw up BIG enough, you can turn it into something positive.

You know, something so incredibly stupid that at least when you tell the story in a bar someday, people will laugh and buy you a beer. You don’t get that if you, say, ran over a nail and flattened your tire driving through a construction site as a shortcut.

You might get the free beer if you try to cut the tree roots out from under your natural gas regulator coming into the house with a Sawzall, and cut right through the gas main coming TO the regulator, causing a major gas leak that floods the area, resulting in the city fire department and police department all rushing to the area, along with the public works and gas company first responders, and an entire crew to repair the leak… all on a Sunday. On 4th of July weekend.

At least the house didn’t explode.

So, as long as I’d just wiped every custom setting I’d ever created in Vuh’do, let’s start with the easy one; configuring the Priest.

What I found out, in having to look at all these options again for the first time in years, is that all of these updates to the addon I keep downloading CHANGED shit.

I know, right?

Not only do things look better than before, but there are two new features that seem simple, but that I never had enabled before, or even knew had been added.

The first one, is that yes, the bouquets that are added allow you to have one visual icon that changes condition states.

There are many of them pre-programmed, you just put one in one of the HoT icon slots.

The one I wanted to use, PW:Shield & Weakened Soul, when modified to add ‘show Shield condition’ and ‘Countdown Timer’, does the following; it lets you have PW: Shield icon displayed as the 1st priority. If the Shield is still up, the blue square icon shows you the shield is active, the timer on how long it has left if it doesn’t absorb all the damage and fade first, AND a white circle around it that starts to vanish as the Shield absorbs damage.

Then, if the Shield vanishes early, the blue square icon disappears, to be replaced by an orange diamond with a timer, telling you EXACTLY how long Weakened Soul still has to tick down before you can recast your Shield.

These bouquets, which all of you regular Vuh’do users probably already know all about, let you tie multiple effects and stuff together, chain the alerts in a priority. If this is active, then it’s showing. If it goes away, the next one on the list that is active shows instead. And so on.

Hey, that’s some awesomeness.

Now, the second thing that I found out is that there is now an option to turn on Target, and Target of Target, for your health bars. All fully customizable.

That’s pretty sweet, but there is more.

You also have the option of configuring your mouse buttons for HOSTILE casting mode. You’ce got two buttons settings you can configure; what to cast when mousing over a friendly party or raid member, and what to cast when mousing over the target bar of an enemy.

You can set offensive spells on mouse buttons, and cast them while mousing over the bad guys displayed right on the target frames.

Now, I know this is all old hat to people who spend lots of time customizing bars and stuff, but I’ve always gone for a minimalist approach. I keep my viewing area clear as much as possible.

But what this is giving me is so much fun as a caster, that I’m squeeing in the instances.

I mean, check this out.

I can see at a glance where everyones health is at, I’ve got my blue square with a white circle on the tank for my Shield, I can see who EVERYONE in the party is targeting, AND I can see who the mobs they are on are targeting! All sper clear, easy to read at a glance, nothing extra cluttering it up. Bold, solid colors.

In this example, everyone is on the boss, and the boss is on the tank. No hankypanky.

In this example, you can see what it looks like as the Bubble begins to absorb damage. You can also see the corner of the blue square poking out. And of course, you can see the time remaining on the Renew.

We take a step back now, and you can see that while I’m healing, I’m also able to use mouseover on the bar to cast Penance on the boss without my mouse having to move OVER the boss, or away from the health bars. I like that. Fast response time if I need to drop a heal, yo. For those that don’t use it, the bar showing my Penance spell ticks is an addon called Quartz. I couldn’t play without it.

In this example, you can see that the DPS are not on the same target as the tank… and it looks like the Warlock pulled aggro with AoE on at least three different mobs, and has aggro on all of them. You can tell because all three are at different health levels. I have instant notification BEFORE his health starts dropping that he’s pulled aggro. How interesting that it looks like he’s the only one without a Renew on at the moment, hmmm?

Yes, being able to see immediately who the players are targeting, and whether or not they are pulling aggro off the tank intentionally, is a lot of fun.

You can do that with the normal party frames, but I don’t look at them all that much, I’m looking at the area around me in game, at the bad guys, at the bad on the floor I need to get out of. With this, and being able to cast damage spells directly on mouseover of the target bar, I can Heal using Atonement so freaking easy, and still be poised to keep Shield up or drop a Renew or Flash Heal in a tight spot. This has made 5 person instances so clear cut that it’s amazing the difference I feel.

The other thing I think is funny, is that it’s made it so easy for me to see when other people are screwing off or being dicks.

The last run I had of the night, I had a tank and rogue that I did Gnomeregan with that wanted to queue with me again. We got Scarlet Monastery Graveyard, and two new players, a Paladin and a Warrior, both guilded together and queued as DPS.

Within seconds of attacking, I saw something amazing.

The other Warrior and Paladin may have queued as DPS, but the Warrior was charging off into groups nowhere near the rest of us… and the Paladin was following along and doing nothing but healing him. I could easily tell from the grayed out bars that they were out of my cast range most of the time. I didn’t even have to look for them.

The tank and Rogue and I who had all queued together were three manning the instance towards the boss while they farmed the outer edges on their own.

The Paladin never stopped targeting the Warrior and casting heals. The Warrior didn’t rejoin us until we were down the stairs into the crypt… and kept pulling aggro in tank mode, and charging extra groups.

I stopped healing those two, of course, and told them that if they wanted to tank and heal, then reach down, find some guts, and queue as tank and healer. I stopped healing them and focused on the two folks who were doing what we came there to do.

It’s just an example of how nice it was to be able to see, instantly, that those two weren’t on the same plan as the rest of us, but off in their own little world. No wondering, no doubts or confusion. I could see exactly what they were doing, while still staying right on top of my game. I could have been dancing out of the bad while DPSing and healing, AND spy on those idiots, all at the same time.

Oh, and as a funny side note… I stopped healing the two at all, since hey, the Paladin was so eager to be a healer, and the Warrior bit off more than he could handle, the Paladin ran out of mana, and they both died. I did not rez. We finished the instance and wanted to requeue… but the others refused to drop group. They also refused to say a word, I believe under the mistaken assumption that if they didn’t say anything, I couldn’t put them on ignore.

Wrong answer, turkeybreath. We weren’t able to kick them once the instance was complete, so we did have to drop our group without being able to requeue, but I have the satisfaction of knowing that’s two more idiots I won’t be seeing again, ever.

It’s hilarious to me that, after all this time, my own profile settings and laziness prevented me from seeing the cool new features that are in Vuh’do. I had to screw up in a major way to get the awesome.

I can’t wait to dig into them even deeper!

Raise ’em right or rock and roll?

A Rogue, a Druid and a Priest walk into a bar.
The bartender asks them what they want.
The Rogue says, “Gimme some fresh leather gear, heavy on the agility and crit. I’m DPS.”
The Druid says, “I’ll have what he’s having. I’m a tank.”
The Priest says, “Gimme some rings, necklaces and trinkets heavy on intellect and spirit, I’m the healer.”
The Druid says, “I’ll have what he’s having. Sometimes I’m a healer.”
The bartender says, “Hey, who do you think you are, pal, a hunter?”
The Druid says, “No, that’s my alt. Hey, you got any BoE epics that I can need roll for him?”

I read somewhere that you’re supposed to open your speech with a joke. There you go.

I checked. It didn’t say it had to be a funny joke.

About this Priest thing.

I re-rolled a Priest, dear lord help me a gnome Priest, and went Discipline spec.

I dinged 15 yesterday, and immediately stopped questing. I went LFD as the healer, and leveled to 20 by the end of the night.

This may surprise you, but Priests don’t heal anything like Druids.

Bubble? BUBBLE?!?

Man, I’m a Druid tank, we were taught to hate and fear that bubble.

The bubble meant we no get hit in face. If we no get hit in face, we no get rage. If we no get rage we no hit bad guys. We no hit bad guys, we no get aggro.

We no hold aggro, and that dumb son of a bitch that bubbled us on the run in just died screaming “Tank? WTF?!?!”

Years of training have taught me to sneer at bubbles.

To be a Bear Tank, you gotta be fast and you gotta like pain. You eat it like candy. The more I get hurt, the more dangerous I become. But you got to be durable, too. Real durable. Most ain’t. 

You want to bubble me? What do I look like, a Paladin? “Ack! My bubble popped, they can touch me with their gooey zombie hands, I just had a bath last week, run away, run away!”

Bear tanks do it in the buff.

Just sayin’.

While I’m kidding my fellow tanks, I’ll acknowledge the Warriors and Death Knights for keeping it real and getting down and dirty with us.

Warriors: “Look, last time they took a swing at me, I felt something get through. I’m telling you, bolt on another couple steel plates, and this time, weld some more damn razor fins on top. If they’re gonna hit me, I want ’em to suffer, damnit.”

Armorer: “But you’re already layered in 6 inches of steel with blades and spikes over everything but your asshole. If I add any more you’ll need a crane to get into combat.”

Warriors: “What? That’s unacceptable! I expect blades and spikes everywhere! Especially protecting me arse! Get weldin’!”

Death Knights: “… What do I care if they hit me? I’m already dead. If they cut off my fist, I’ll just choke them to death with it. Dirt? Slime? Have you SEEN what I clawed my way out of to get here? A little slime just adds color.”

I kid because I care. (bonus points if you know where that line came from, it’s one of my favorites.)

Back to the topic!

My Priest is specced Discipline, because Hedwig told me to. I wish I could say that I researched it, but I’d be lying.

I asked, “Which spec is the one that you think would be most fun to level as for pug healing?”

I was told Disc.

From what I understand as a Druid and Hunter aficionado, Priests what spec Disc can do this thing called Atonement Healing, which means that when you DPS the bad guys with Smite and Holy Fire, part of the damage you do heals the people around you in a completely uncontrolled fashion.

That sounds fascinating.

The more DPS I do, the more healing output I have? Really? God bless you, Blizz, you’ve given Healers a reason to obsess about damage meters too. That took skill.

Of course, from levels 15 through 20, I ain’t got Atonement yet. In fact, I only just got Holy Fire.

What I’ve got, are a damn expensive bubble, a Flash Heal fast big spendy heal, a piss poor long cast meager Heal, and a Renew instant cost HoT.

That’s enough for going on with.

First thing I noticed… son of a, really? REALLY? None of my caster cloth Heirlooms have Spirit on them? Really?

Way to encourage overpowered tanks and heals in the leveling pugs. /sarcasm.

No, by all means, let’s maximize DPS burst damage, we don’t need mana to keep idiots alive while they stand in the fire.

That’s okay. It’s better than being poked in the eye by a banana… or even a pointy stick.

I did, in sequence, Ragefire Chasm, Deadmines, Wailing Caverns and Shadowfang Keep.

In two of those, I zoned in at the first boss, to find the tank and DPS all looking at me, like I better not suck.

In each one, three of the other four people shared guilds. The tank was always one of the folks with two guildies.

I’ll give the tanks I saw credit. They tried. There were marks, there was an orderly progression, there was movement.

The rest of the DPS, on the other hand…

I’m gonna keep healing pugs. It’s certainly entertaining.

What I have to decide is how I’m going to handle the DPS players.

When DPS players attack whatever they feel like without paying any attention to aggro or the tank, what should I do?

When DPS players stand in bad stuff and their health plummets, what should I do?

It looks at first glance like there are two ways I could go with this.

I could try to teach the DPS the consequences of their actions, in the hopes that they will learn what not to do in a very darwinian way. It would also be an investment in the mental health of their future healers.

The mind I save could be my own.

All that I would have to do, is closely monitor the reasons the DPS take damage, and make a conscious decision to withhold my heals if I don’t approve of their behavior. 

The other way I could go would be to ignore what any of the rest do, keep my head down, and do everything in my power to keep everyone alive, starting with me, then the tank, and then everyone else in that order.

Now, if I just do my best to keep everyone alive and do my own job, I’ll be benefitting myself a ton.

I’ll be forced to learn how to heal as efficiently as possible, using the right heal with the right cost and cast time for the purpose at hand. I’d HAVE to, because I’d never know when the group would all decide to take a swim in lava for shits and grins.

I’d get smooth, short runs. If I keep everyone alive, then there would be less deaths, less downtime for run backs and rezzes, less QQ, less drama.

Overall, it would be a decent experience, and I would be as happy in the short term as possible.

In the long term, especially if most healers act like I do and try to heal everyone just to benefit themselves with smooth, drama free runs, then the players will never be forced to learn anything beyond “Blow all cooldowns, stand still going all out, move to next group. Rinse and repeat.”

That will lead to healers that might be trying to learn themselves getting treated like scum for not being overpowered and capable of handling idiots with the self-preservation instincts of a lemming and the life expentancy of a mayfly.

There is a fallacy at the heart of my dilemma. I’m sure you caught it, my friends.

I said there were two ways I could go… and that’s not true.

There is a third way… I could do my own job the best I can, but also watch the actions of other players, and offer unsolicited advice in a friendly, non-aggressive way if I have suggestions on how players could improve their teamwork.

The question really comes down to, is it any of my business how anyone else chooses to play their character?

And even if it is, where is it my responsibility to make other people play the way I think they should, and punish them if they don’t?

Are the lower level dungeons there for pure fun, anything goes, you pays your money the same as everyone else, you takes your chances on what you get?

Are the dungeons there as a proving ground, a place to learn how to play your class and role in a group environment?

Are they a little of column A, a little of column B?

If they’re just there for fun, even only partly for fun, then it’s none of my business how other people play.

I queued up as a healer, and nothing in the PUG checklist said, “You are signing up to heal this group, unless people in it do stuff you don’t like.”

There are no conditions placed on the other members. They signed up to pew pew or stab stab, or tankity tank, and I signed up to heal. I’d be flat out wrong to not heal.

Low level dungeons can be a great place for people to start learning how to play their class and role, but you don’t get all the abilities at the beginning that you do at max level. I think the current system was designed to introduce players slowly to the concept of the abilities and how they are used, giving us time to get the hang of what we’ve got before adding more.

If we can’t practise at low levels the way we’ll be playing at max, then it’s meant for fun as well.  

So, the way I see it, I can see people act like idiots, and I can blog about people acting like idiots, and I can put idiots on ignore if they do not play their characters in a group setting the way I would like them to.

But where the line is drawn, is where I can control my own actions. If I don’t like how people act, then I change my own behavior. I either don’t queue up, I choose only to queue with friends or players whose style I know, I queue but place people I don’t like on ignore so I don’t see them again, or I mention during the run, in a non-aggressive way, things I would ask players to do to help the run go smoothly, and offer guidance and suggestions to be helpful.

Regardless of what else I do, if I queue up, then I made a commitment to either play my role the best I can, or leave the group as an acknowledgement that I cannot handle the conditions and give the group a chance at a healer that can. 

It’s funny, isn’t it? It’s exactly the same as approaching runs as a tank, except the tank is expected and encouraged to lead, and part of leadership is establishing clear expectations for the team.

The healer is a more passive. You follow along, keep up, mana up, and try to keep everyone alive.

You are used to persevering through the tough places, to enduring in frustration but keeping your mouth shut and following the tanks lead.

I wonder how long I can go leveling as a quiet, dutiful healer before I crack?

Update: Thanks to Some Random Guy, who reminded me I didn’t finish this the way I intended. I need to clarify a little bit about the bubble mechanic. As Some Random Guy said, the bubbles were changed a while back so your rage generation will still continue even while bubbled. Also, rage generation mechanics in general were modified so more of your rage comes from damage you deal in comparison to damage received than it used to in the time I was talking about. So, the days of having to strip naked to get rage back while running through content you vastly outlevel are pretty much gone. I fully intended to mention this in the post, but got distracted by shinies. I failed at closing the circle. /sigh.

The Struggle makes it Sweeter

Just to be clear for those visiting from search engines… the post title refers to an article about playing World of Warcraft.

MMO Champion dropped a feral bombshell on us this last weekend, showing a video of a wonderful item effect for Feral Kitties.

There will be a staff in the next expansion, Fandral’s Flamescythe, that, when equipped, will cause your Druid Cat form to transform into a gorgeous flaming cat when engaged in combat.

The video highlights this item in use… and it’s stunning.

How do we get this incredible item? Is it a quest chain, or a crafted Legendary for Druids, or some such thing?

No, my friends, it’s not. It’s an epic drop from a raid boss in Firelands, Majordomo Fandral Staghelm, and therein lies the heart of our discussion.

I’m not going to act all stupid and incite a flamewar between raiding players and those who focus on other aspects of the game. Every aspect of the game has it’s own special rewards, and if you want the reward, then you play that part of the game. I’m not looking to ask who is excited at seeing this item go to raiders only or something like that.

PvP, Crafting, Archeology/Fishing/Cooking, Raiding, Exploring, playing together as a guild, killing critters… there are a lot of special items that you can only get by taking part in activities outside of questing. If I were to ask a raider vs non-raider question like that, it would be pandering for pagehits on a polarizing position, a pathetic ploy to pursue.

People who raid and want it are excited, people who don’t raid and want it are disappointed, but hopefully looking forward to the day when Firelands is old content that non-raider 5 person groups can farm for the fun toys they want.

Where I’d like to go with this instead is to muse on how working hard as part of a group to get something while it is still viable adds spice to the game that long outlasts the item itself.

There was another item that was arguably designed for Ferals that I once lusted after. It was also an item you could only get as a raid drop, except at the time Druids couldn’t equip polearms. This particular item was a staff.

I’m talking about Terestian’s Stranglestaff, which dropped from “that demon guy what you used to kill in Karazhan behind the secret door, the one with all the imps that you needed Seed of Corruption for”.

Yeah, you know who I mean. 🙂

I was a Feral non-raiding Druid, a fresh member of a guild that DID raid, and I wanted that staff. I lusted after those tentacles writhing on that pole. Err, this went in an uncomfortable direction all of a sudden. Hold on, swerving to avoid gratuitous tentacle sex references.

I wanted that staff not only because it was awesome for Ferals, not just because it looked freaking wicked… but also because wearing it would have been a readily identifiable tentacle-waving symbol that I had entered and experienced Karazhan while it was current with a bunch of friends.

I’d have a visible reminder of having done something fun with the guild, a shared experience with souveniers. 

A fun part of the MMO experience, for me, is simply talking with other players and swapping stories, reminiscing about the fun we have had along the way.

Over the years, even though I’m not a raider, I have been fortunate enough to have friends who either formed raid groups with me, or who invited me along as a hired gun. Er, borrowed claw. 

So, I’ve raided Onyxias’ Lair, Molten Core, Blackwing Lair, AQ20 and ZG 10 when they were current. Not 5 times a week, and not every week, but I did enter them and see them when they were what people had to talk about for current events. I was part of the conversation, and to this day I can bring forth my own “Do you remember when…”. I carried away the only thing you really own with a video game; the memories of fun times. 

Same with Burning Crusade, although for the most part my time there was in Karazhan, Gruuls Lair, Magtheridon’s Keep and a very teensy bit of Serpentshrine.

With Wrath of the Lich King, I got to see Naxx, a good bit of Ulduar, some Trial of the Crusader and Icecrown Citadel. Not on the leading wave of raiding, not consistently and certainly not all the way through, but I got to take part and build those shared experiences with friends.

Does that make me leet in any way? No. But what it does do is bring to mind all of the good times, and when looking back on things, a whole lot of the good times was taking on difficult challenges, and getting drops for overcoming those challenges that I was proud to wear.

I knew at the time, the same as you, that wearing Tier gear or having a Stranglestaff didn’t make me special, I wasn’t posing in front of the Ironforge AH hoping some0ne would gawk in admiration, tears of awe shining on their faces.

What they did was serve as visual cues, little reminders that, “Yeah, I did that, and I remember when we killed that son of a bitch Curator for 3 months before the Tier piece finally dropped that I wanted.”

This staff from Fandral Staghelm will be very cool. It’s a sweet idea that I love Blizzard for adding to the game, a neat goal for Ferals to look forward to.

I’m a little sad knowing that a lot of players who would dearly love having a flaming kitty form will not get to experience it until a long time after Firelands has been out, because they just can’t raid, or they can’t raid on their Druid. I’m likely one of them, getting my Druid raid worthy is a seemingly impossible task. Maybe one day.

At the same time, and even knowing that I likely won’t be able to get it myself, I like knowing that part of the pleasure of having it will be the satisfaction of overcoming a challenge as a group, and having something to chat about in the future. When you see someone pop kitty and flame on like Ghost Rider, you’ll know that they saw Fandral and took part in killing that worthless, traitorous, sniveling little bastard.

Ahem. Sorry. 

I love the items I have earned from questing, from exploring, from Archaeology and crafting, the pets I’ve found and the mounts I’ve had drop.

But there is something to be said for items that you can only get at the conclusion of kicking the hell out of a challenge as a group, and seeing that purple you want drop while you’re still riding that adrenaline high.

Plus, hey, remember when?

And we’re back!

Hello again, nice to see you! We’re back!

What, you didn’t know we were gone? Yep, been to the Wisconsin Dells and back again, a little mini-vacation for our son to celebrate the ending of another school year without his ending up in jail.

He’s eight years old, so that might not seem like much of an accomplishment to you, but I’m hoping to start a trend.

Everyone has goals for their children. Some want their children to be rock stars so they can live through them and somehow forget what complete wastes they are, others hope for a college journey, a career as a doctor, a veterinarian, a police officer or architect, a painter or even plumber.

Some might even harbor hopes that their child will be the next piano prodigy, professional athlete, astronaut or president.

Me, I hope for three things; still alive, no criminal record, no underage pregnancies.

If I had a fourth wish, it would probably be; dear god, not a lawyer. I dream that he’ll find something to engage his life that leaves him his soul. But, hey, you take what you get.

And for those lawyers that read my blog; you know I love you. Please don’t sue me.

Before moving on to the next week, I’d like to wrap up the last one.

Thursday, it was revealed that our plant will be closing towards the end of next year.

This marks the fifth of my last six jobs that have vanished due to a closed plant/failed business.

What I find ironic about this one, is that my last five previous jobs were in the electronic PCB manufacturing industry. You know, making those circuit boards that go in cell phones and computers? Each one of those companies closed down because they could not compete with the prices overseas manufacturers could offer, based on lower wages.

So, the last time a plant closed out from under me, I chose to flee a dying field for one that showed a healthy, robust energy and limitless opportunity for growth; the flexible packaging manufacturing market.

The company I joined innovated designs to manufacture flexible packaging… all those products you buy on supermarket shelves that you can get in eco-friendly packaging instead of metal cans, reuseable zipper pouches, all that stuff.

Say what you want about being green, if you’ve gotten into that business, you’re doing all right. It seemed like a smart move.

Well, I guess it was if you’re a shareholder; business has gone so well that they built a brand new massive manufacturing complex to consolidate two plants into, and really crank up production capacity.

The problem is, the new plant is located in Illinois, near Chicago. Umm, yay?

So, our plant here in Minnesota is going to shut down and all the assets get moved to Illinois. I’m SOOO happy to have worked my ass off the last three years to fix the nightmare problems our plant had that prevented us from meeting customer deadlines or ship commits. I can truthfully look back and see that the plant is closing due, in a major way, to my efforts to get all of our production capacity to the point that it was reliable and dependable and satisfying our customers. We run at least twice the production they did before I changed the entire operation around.

Congratulations! Things went so well that we’re moving it all somewhere else! I’m proud of our accomplishments, happy that the business has become so successful, and delighted that it’s continuing to grow.

I just wish I was going to continue being able to be a part of it.

They were nice enough to ask me if I wanted to relocate and move with the company. They certainly didn’t have to do that.

Sadly, we own our home here, and even if the housing market hadn’t taken a massive dump, we wouldn’t consider moving. All of our family is within a few miles of where we live, and that’s very important to all of us. We ain’t moving. But we were given the opportunity to choose. 

Anyway, happy Thursday, now go find a new job. At least I got to leave on vacation Friday.

Right after updating my resume and sending it out to a couple dozen interesting prospects.

Wish me luck, I had a few calls asking me to come in for interviews, and one of them will be with a company that, again, would be a perfect fit with tons of growth potential. In fact, it would be for a healthy raise, to work with a larger core stronger team, and would be a better fit for all of my skills. You never know, the shutdown may have been a blessing in disguise for my career potential.

The way I like to think of it; how many people in this economy get a years warning that their job is going away? I am blessed. The last time I was laid off, the way it was handled was, “Hey, can we see you and fifty other people upstairs in the conference room? Oh, and pack your shit in this box. kthxbye.” I wish I were joking.

So, the weekend. Or, as I like to think of it, the downside to having a backup plan.

Our son is eight years old, and isn’t very adventurous around water. He likes the kiddy water slides and stuff, so we were worried about putting all our eggs in one waterpark basket for a weekend at the Dells.

We’ve gone to Great Wolf Lodge several times, and it’s always been great. Alex LOVES the wave pool, and their kiddy slides. We like how professional the lifeguards are, they are ON POINT at all times, the place is huge, the indoor pools are ALL heated and nice, and the rooms tend to be very comfortable.

This year, Alex is tall enough that he would not be allowed in the kiddy pool area. Verboten. It’s for little kids, and he is just too big. So, going for the weekend, we worried. What happens when you book three days at a waterpark, and the only thing he’d be able to do is the wave pool? He’s always been too scared of the dumping water from the big bucket to do the climbing tree area, or the darkness of enclosed slides, or being dunked in the pool after a long slide. 

Well, we hatched a backup plan.

We booked Friday night at Great Wolf Lodge, with the MagiQuest package, and Saturday night at The Polynesian.

MagiQuest, if you haven’t heard of it before, is a live game where you purchase and activate a magic wand. YOU are the Magi, and armed with your wand, you enter a massive four story structure that is a combination of cunningly disguised touchscreen kiosks, artifacts and fantasy decor. Almost everything in the place is armed with sensors, and I’m not sure exactly how your wand interacts with it, whether it be infared sensors or RFID technology combined with movement detecting switches, but if you point your wand at something and give it a flamboyant gesture, the object lights up, and concealed speakers give you clues or move you on your way. Chests have lids that open to reveal riches, armor visors glow with an inner light, and large flatscreens with some terrbile drama0school dropouts come alive and talk to you in appropriate fantast garb.

Everything is tied in together with a computer system that tracks all of your quests, gold found, adventures achieved, all that stuff. There are quests to obtain runes of power that allow you to cast spells in adventures, and three adventures for you to take part in once you’ve obtained enough runes, culminating in the grand finale… challenging a red dragon to a duel!

It is all very, very cool… and it can get damn expensive. Oh, not the game itself. You buy and activate a wand for $25, and you’re playing the game. There are no ‘advanced’ play things to spend more money on, you don’t pay more for more quests, or to come back another day. We played the entire thing over two days, spent probably 7 hours total, and Alex walked away having defeated the red dragon (after three attempts and learning better each time), and became a 3rd level Master Magi.

No, the money can add up by purchasing wand accessories, if you would like. Wand belts and holsters, kits to modify the wand with chains and leather straps, screw on wand toppers that, okay, are freaking cool, different, fancier wands to choose from when you start, they even have fantasy clothing there you can buy to get into the whole experience.

It did my heart good to see all the people playing, who had spent the extra money to trick out their wands, or buy cloaks. Just put a big geek smile on my face. Everyone we met in the game area was nice, too. I strongly recommend it… but yeah, if you want to go whole hog, we’re talking $50 – $60 to buy and trick out your wand all flash and cool, so budget accordingly if that’s the direction you want to go.

I know I wish I’d have gotten one of the fancy wand toppers for Alex, but we bought him the Red Dragon pendant as an award for conquering the dragon instead. As much as he keeps that wand close to him since the game, I think I may have chosen poorly. Ah well. You pays your money and you takes your chances.

A brief mention on MagiQuest, dueling the red dragon, tips but no spoilers;

Once you have accepted the Red Dragon adventure, and found the clues on how to access the portal to his domain, you will need to travelt to the dragon location, find and activate a green crystal, THEN activate the three runes of entrance, activate your portal rune to allow you to enter… and THEN once inside you have to use your wand to activate the rune on the podium that has the letters “MQ” to start the duel, and wake the dragon up. After that, you are on your own, and it took us three tries before we learned how to battle and succeed. But I can’t tell you how many kids we saw get frustrated as HELL unable to figure out how to activate the starting point. We felt real bad about some of the teenagers that were really trying to puzzle it out, because there is no hint that once you’ve done all the runes and the crystal, that you’d need to activate the “MQ” letters to begin the fight. That was all ‘why the hell won’t this damn thing start, I did all the runes’ wasted time. So, if you go, there’s a tip. You don’t just walk in and point your wand, you have to listen to the clues and work it out, and activate the MQ to wake the dragon up.

So, we figured that with MagiQuest, we had the wave pool, we had hours of wand adventuring fun, and maybe he’d get into the big rides. If so, awesome!

But, if he couldn’t do any other rides or slides, just the wave pool, then we had the Saturday night at the Polynesian resort on the other side of town for backup.

That was it. That was our backup plan. I recalled that the Polynesian had like, outdoor pirate ships, pools, slides, indoor stuff, all kinda aimed at a more medium sized child. So, one way or the other, he’d have fun, damnit.

The key drawback to my plan became evident Saturday. The one thing I didn’t consider was, what if we were having SO MUCH fun at Great Wolf that we wouldn’t want to leave?

Great Wolf Lodge was outstanding. Simply wonderful. As I said before, the lifeguards are some of the best I’ve ever seen. I don’t know what kind of training they give them, what kind of supervision there is over them, but the kids there take it seriously. They patrol, they watch, they are alert and are 100% active in looking for any possible sign of a problem. They are scanning the water at all times, they are at the top and bottom of each slide giving each other the high sign when the slide is clear before sending the next rider down, I can’t stress enough how good they are.

From this, if you get the idea that I was less than thrilled with the lifeguards at the Polynesian… well, yeah. There were lifeguards there… yes there were. But they were bored out of their mind, clearly thinking about other stuff, and chatting in places. Just, a lot less attentive to what they were doing. They were there, it was a gig, no big deal.

When it comes to my sons safety at a waterpark, I like knowing that the lifeguards are as attentive as a pitbull eyeing a porterhouse. Just sayin’.

MagiQuest was, to my jaded geek eye, a LOT more fun than I expected. I figured it would suck. I’m sorry, but I did. I figured it was going to be a massive ripoff with shit that was lame or didn’t work.

For my cynicism, I apologise. My son had a BLAST. The MagiQuest facility at Great Wolf Lodge is built around the original playplace slide and climb structure, so while there are stairs all over the place you can take to each level, there are also slides, chutes, tubes and climbing netting for kids to take as ‘secret’ short cuts up and down and all around. We took quite a few of these with Alex, so don’t think it was just teeny-tot sized. It is probably aimed at the eight to twelve range, but it is by no means ONLY for them.

I’ll admit, by the end of the Friday, I had probably done a total of 200 flights of stairs. The reason I call this game a success is, I didn’t resent them, nor did they kill me. I was too focused on questing. I paid the price Saturday morning, but that’s what a hot tub is for.

This form of exercise should be encouraged. I would like our American Council of Fitness to look into making all of our gyms change over to adventure parks with quests. I’ll go. Gladly. Just watch my ass get in line!

The Great Wolf waterpark was a big success. Alex found the larger slides exciting, we all got crazy and frolicked in the water until checkout time Saturday.

From that point on, the weekend kind of sucked for Alex.

Polynesian just sucks. That’s all there is to it. I swear, nothing has been cleaned up or updated since we last visited seven years ago. And the reason it sucked for us was that none of the pools, inside or out, are heated. None of them.

I figured, silly me, that by the second week of June outdoor water pools and slides would be rocking. Sigh. Hello, freezing water and 50° F temperatures.

Don’t get me wrong, we did the slides… but everything was in crappy shape, and Alex spent the time split between hitting an indoor slide and hitting the hot tub to stop the shakes. He is a trouper, he had a great time, sliding and running and laughing, but it wasn’t the same as a second day at Great Wolf would have been.

We made up for the crappiness of Saturday night and Sunday morning with lots of mini-golf. 🙂 That was Cassie’s plan C.

All things considered, I think we would all have enjoyed a full weekend of Great Wolf, but as it happened, we had a great weekend anyway, we learned a lot for next time, and I won a game of mini-golf against Cassie.

You could tell that we were at Pirates Cove mini-golf, because the game we were playing was cutthroat. Aaargh. It came down to us tied at the end of hole 17, and I beat her by one point.

Not that she brooded on it or anything. Ahem. Love you dear!

That’s it. That’s a wrap. Now that I’ve got that out, I can move on to finding out what kind of crap everyone is spazzing about in World of Warcraft. I heard something on Twitter about Valor Points being changed, and it being a slap in the face to raiders? Or something?

That sounds fascinating!

I hope that everyone had a wonderful weekend, found some time for silly fun, and got as much exercise as I did. I’d love knowing that you’re all going to be feeling it every bit as much as I am right now.

You made the Bear cry!

I had another post planned, but I just had to get this out first.

Last night, I ran a few Heroics. I’ve been enjoying them quite a lot lately, mostly because I’m running with full guild groups more often than not.

Even when we wipe repeatedly on silly stuff, nobody gets all cranky at someone else. People are more likely to own up to their own mistakes, and take the ribbing. It’s also a lot more satisfying when things go tits up and the team pulls out a win anyway. You know, one of those shared feelings of accomplishment that you will carry with you out of the instance, into the rest of the game where you’ll see those same people again.

I do feel sad that, for a game that is so strongly tied into building communities, the PUG system makes it so easy for people to wander anonymously from group to group without ever building a lasting connection with someone else.

Say what you will about the game and how it’s grown over the years, even with the insanely long wait times it was nice to run content with people you knew were from your server. Win or lose, good times or bad, you were meeting and getting to know other people you could run into on your server again, and it was always worth putting actions and behaviors to names.

If they were really nice (or good) they could go on your friends list, and if they were horrible, you could put them on ignore. And if you added a comment to their name, then when they did a paid name change to escape their well deserved reputation, you could track them!

Not that I ever did that. Ahem.

I got my own invite to the guild Legatum Ignavis during Burning Crusade based on my behavior in a pug group doing Escape from Durnholde Keep. The guild master happened to be in the run, and thought well enough of my behavior to offer me an invite. I don’t think my performance had anything to do with it; I think it was simply that I was unguilded, and I wasn’t an overt asshat. Legatum Ignavis was a guild of very nice people, and I was overjoyed to join.

It’s pretty hard for something like that to happen now. For better or worse, you have to learn different ways to meet someone than just running a pug with them and getting to know them by their works.

On the other hand….

There is a lot to be said for doing runs with people you’re never going to see again in your F^%ing life.

I ran some Heroics last night. 

One of those runs involved myself on my Hunter, Matheo on his MM Hunter, Asco tossing some Paladin heals, and two other pugged additions, both Druids. Bear tank, Kitty DPS.

I really didn’t pay them any mind at first. I was distracted by talking in vent. I spent my time talking, listening, and playing my Hunter. I wasn’t studying other players and judging them. I wasn’t watching the Bear tank to see how he was doing (or see if I could learn something nifty from how he handled the instance), and I wasn’t watching the Kitty DPS except to see that the Kitty was a cute pinkish-white color.

That changed fast.

The Bear tank was fine. He was just there for bidness, didn’t break out the mad tanking moves but he never had much trouble. How much of that was having two Hunters using Misdirect every time it was off cooldown in conjunction with Multi-Shot, I couldn’t tell you. I can say that even if he didn’t want aggro, he got it.

The Kitty Druid, on the other hand….

I sometimes see things that make me say “I ought to pull your Druid card”, but they’re mostly jokes. Everyone has a bad day, makes mistakes, does something silly, or just doesn’t know any better.

I’m saying, I’m pulling that Cats’ Druid card, ripping it up, and setting the pieces on fire. Then I’m gonna piss on the ashes.

Once I started watching, there were lots of other little things I picked up on, but this one scene should say it all.

One pull, multiple mobs. The Bear tank dies. Kitty DPS, two Hunters, two pets, Misdirects frost traps… we keep burning them down. We can do this, easy.

The Bear tank asks for a fast Brez.

The Kitty takes the time to type, “Can’t, I don’t have reagents.”

The Kitty, I will add, is dealing with the loss of the tank by DPSing the mobs while staying in Kitty form.

So. Much. Fail.

There was actually shouting going on in our vent channel. I about lost it, and Elo wasn’t far behind.

How the f^&k do you play your Druid to level 85, gear up far enough to enter heroic instances as a Feral, and never, ever bother to get the minor Glyph of Unburdened Rebirth?

There aren’t that many minor Glyphs to choose from! And if you just recently changed specs? The Glyphs last forever! You learn it once and use it whenever you want! There is NO EXCUSE for not having that Glyph!

Now, if for some strange reason you don’t know anyone in the entire game that can make you a Glyph, and you’re too cheap at level 85 to spend 40 gold on the damn thing… how do you not buy reagents, while at the same time KNOWING that your Rebirth requires them?

“But wait Bear”, I hear you cry, “Calm the heck down! Maybe they’ve used Rebirth SO MUCH that they just ran out of their stack of reagents, and forgot to buy some before queueing up!”

My answer to you for that one is, how the f*&^ do you play as Feral Kitty DPS, with all that the gear for Kitty entails, and then when the tank dies and it’s you and two hunters, you DON’T POP BEAR FORM TO CLOSE OUT THE PULL

How can you play a Druid, the class of flowing versatility, and yet be so rigid in your playstyle that you won’t even shift to save your own bear butt and the smaller butts of your party?

Please. Let this be a reminder to you. If you are going to play with others, make sure you’ve got at least the basics of your class understood.

Being fully prepared to Bear tank if you want to Kitty is NOT necessary! You don’t have to be in a mixed BearCat spec, you don’t have to be in tanking Glyphs, you don’t have to practise tanking at all.

But DO take the time to shift into Bear form, arrange some abilities on your bar, and put on that bar your Mangle, Swipe, Growl, Survival Instincts and Frenzied Regeneration. If things go all wahooni shaped, at least know you’ve got a Bear form that immediately makes you as tough as a dedicated tank to fall back on, with self-healing and health buffing abilities RIGHT THERE to pop, and some threat generating abilities to give you a chance to pull crap off the healer.

You can still pull it out of the crapper. You could make the difference. It takes 15 seconds of thought and preparation.

Oh, and please… if you’re too cheap to buy a Glyph, bring some reagents, okay? For me? And have Rebirth on your bar somewhere?

You don’t really want to see a grown Bear cry, do you?

Ask the Devs; Irritation Factor Nine

The answers to Ask the Devs #9: Tankin’ went up this morning.

I’m gonna preface what follows by acknowledging that I am grateful that the developers take the time to tell us anything at all. In the early years of World of Warcraft, all we had were prognostications from tea leaf readers and drunk hoboes off the street as far as what the Devs were thinking, planning, or their reasons for changing things. I much prefer the amount of information they share with us now. I don’t want to go back.

On the other paw, when something like Ask the Devs comes along, and the membership is asked to submit their questions for consideration, this is an exciting moment.

The Developers are knee deep in the gore, they swim in the chum-slicked waters of “what is, what may, and what will never be” all week long. They are engaged in the active process of updating and improving the game all the time. They consider new ideas, revisit old ideas, continue forward progress and face obstacles all the time.

When you’re up to your ass in alligators, it can be real hard to remember that you were hired to drain the swamp, and a whole bunch of folks are waiting behind the construction fence, wondering how you’re doing getting their new swimming pool finished.

The players are enjoying the game they’ve got, but they can see your blueprint for the proposed structure, and they’re curious how things are going on the other side of that big fence. They can’t see the alligators the Devs are fighting, so it’s possible they have a different vision of where things are now, and might come up with surprising questions on what the pool will finally look like, and what features they hope to see.

Asking the players to submit questions is awesome, it gives an opportunity for the Devs to really see what people are thinking and wondering.

So, questions got asked. The Devs chose which to answer. 

In that context, question #2 and it’s answer pissed me off. Yes, I am a Grumpy Bear right now.

Q: Have you considered normalizing initial Rage for feral druid tanks? For example, when a warrior uses Charge, it generates 15 points of Rage, which lets them use another aggro generating ability quickly, something that Feral druids tend to be a bit short on. Why in Cataclysm was the bear bonus health pool was reduced, as well? Their survivability always depended on the amount of health since they don’t have parry or shield block. Do you have any plans to improve bear tanking in the future? At the moment, it’s considered to be the weakest tank. Have you considered giving druid tanks an additional tool to pull casters at range? It’s the only tank class that doesn’t have a talent or spell to help in those situations. – Pødêrøsø (LA), Вирко (EU-RU), Амелья (EU-RU), Condenacion (EU-ES), Whitewnd (KR)

A: Bears are getting a significant mitigation buff in 4.2 and we’re retuning their damage such that it’s a little easier to hold aggro at low gear levels, and a little harder at higher gear levels. While we definitely don’t expect the community to ever agree on anything, we’ve seen little evidence of a widespread concurrence that druids are “the weakest tank.” There are plenty of druid tanks out there, handling everything from Grim Batol to Sinestra. Tank balance overall is in a really good place. Players may focus on potential problems that could arise in the future but we also have ample time to address those problems should they occur. Gone are the days when we would just release a class into the wild and refuse to touch it again until the next expansion.

Oh, that irritates me so much.

First up, the question was a bad question to answer in one wall of text. That is not ONE question, there are four questions in one paragraph, each asking something different. But it was presented as one question, and so the answer was provided as one big rolling answer.

Let’s break that wall o’ questions down some and insert the applicable answers with my comments.

Q1. Have you considered normalizing initial Rage for feral druid tanks? For example, when a warrior uses Charge, it generates 15 points of Rage, which lets them use another aggro generating ability quickly, something that Feral druids tend to be a bit short on.

A2. (and) we’re retuning their damage such that it’s a little easier to hold aggro at low gear levels, and a little harder at higher gear levels.

This tells us there will be changes to how fast we initially build Threat, but the way it’s phrased implies that whatever they do will NOT be giving us normalized tools to build initial/instant Rage as was asked, but instead will be some kind of change to the threat generated by our instant cast abilities that start strong but don’t scale with AP on a 1 to 1.

Q2. Why in Cataclysm was the bear bonus health pool was reduced, as well? Their survivability always depended on the amount of health since they don’t have parry or shield block.

A1. Bears are getting a significant mitigation buff in 4.2 

This does seem to be how they are answering Q2. I’m willing to believe this is meant to acknowledge that Bears need a little tweaking to improve mitigation, possibly because our health is normalized but we can’t Block or Parry. I do wish that the reason for the ‘significant mitigation buff’ was more clearly revealed. I don’t feel there is an issue, myself. If they feel Bears need some buffing, I’d love to know why or what the data says as a cause.

Q3. Do you have any plans to improve bear tanking in the future? At the moment, it’s considered to be the weakest tank.

A3. While we definitely don’t expect the community to ever agree on anything, we’ve seen little evidence of a widespread concurrence that druids are “the weakest tank.” There are plenty of druid tanks out there, handling everything from Grim Batol to Sinestra. Tank balance overall is in a really good place.

If they have seen “little” evidence, then I’m going to trust them. Anything I’ve seen personally would be anecdotal evidence unsupported by server-wide research. A solid, non-waffling answer.

Why non-waffling? Because for the little evidence they have seen, they have announced they are implementing significant mitigation buffs in 4.2 and a change to low level initial threat generation. So maybe there is a little evidence, but they’re doing something about it. Can’t ask for much more than that. I still haven’t seen problems. Only thing I heard people bitch about was the Swipe cooldown issue, and they fixed that. Matheo who raids as a Bear says it’s made a huge difference.

Q4. Have you considered giving druid tanks an additional tool to pull casters at range? It’s the only tank class that doesn’t have a talent or spell to help in those situations. 

A4. Players may focus on potential problems that could arise in the future but we also have ample time to address those problems should they occur. Gone are the days when we would just release a class into the wild and refuse to touch it again until the next expansion.

Oooo! Just, grrr! Do you see what I see here? How is that in any way an answer to Q4? “Potential problems that could arise in the future”? It’s a problem that exists NOW, insofar as it is a problem. Was there any real mention whatsoever to Bears getting a method to deal with ranged casters in a group pull like other classes have?

NO. Completely ignored.

And THAT is the source of my irritation and general feeling of pissyness. Sure, the questioners stuffed the box full, but the Devs chose this questionwall to answer, cherry picked which parts of it to address, and then completely ignored the only bit of it I would really want a direct answer to!

Devs, If you don’t want to answer the question, then don’t put it up there in the wall o’ text! If you put it up there like that, and then completely ignore it, it feels like you are intentionally dodging a question like some politician accused of being a weinie wagger.

That just pisses me off. It shows us you know we’re asking the question, and tells us you aren’t WILLING to answer it.

What are the options here?

Either you know there is an issue and don’t WANT to address it, or you know there is an issue and you don’t know HOW to address it, or you know there is an issue and you don’t consider it important enough TO address for the cost in development time, or you don’t agree there is an issue there at all.

None of those seem like a shameful secret that must be concealed. This ain’t a stiffy in your shorts you want to hide in class, it’s a question on group management tool planning for the development team, and who else would you ask about that but the Devs?

Why can’t you just pick one and tell us!