And I found the link, again!

I started you off with The Gord, and from the emails I’ve received, some of you enjoyed a bit of a laugh. Mission accomplished

Now to go to phase two: destroyer of lunchtimes.

Most of you are so internet savvy that you were probably right there from the start, but it’s been a long time. Maybe what was old is now new again for the New Year.

Say hello to the Bastard Operator From Hell.

There was a period of time where I spent not just hours but weeks reading every single story from every bit of the archive on my lunch breaks…

And then moved on from there to the literally YEARS of stories archived and still coming out (mostly) weekly on the Register UK.

You learn something new every day. Today, I learned the BOFH has books out at Plan Nine Publishing. Now I know what I could have asked for, for Christmas.

If you want to learn what true evil lurks in the hearts of the devious and criminally insane customer service professional (or IT boffin), then the BOFH has just taken away your free time.

You’re welcome.

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Ah HAH! Found the site!

While commenting about the Paul Cristoforo customer service guy from hell story, my buddy Mannyac reminded me that I had once linked to him a website detailing stories of a real customer service legend in the video game industry.

To tell you the truth, it had been so many years I’d completely forgotten about him, but oh shit, the internet really IS eternal!

I therefore have the incredible pleasure to introduce you to Gord.

Love the Gord, but above all, FEAR the Gord.

If you have already met and enjoyed the Words of Gord, then this will be the stuff of pleasant memories. If you haven’t… seriously, buckle up and get ready for an afternoon of reading and evil laughing.

For all the reasons we hate Paul Cristoforo, we still have to enjoy the stories of Gord.

Why?

Because Gord directs his ire on the screwers of the customer world, not the screwed. AND, he does it with snarky brilliance, not frat boy drunken anger issue ignorance.

As soon as I’m done working today, I’m reading all of Gords stories again.

Fail… Epic Fail

Today should be a red letter day in my diary. I don’t have a diary, so instead I share everything with you.

Most days, whoop de doo, I know. “Dear lord, how many years can this idiot keep blathering about a video game?”

Today is not that day. Today is “Share a moment of hilarity” day.

Do you read the webcomic Penny Arcade?

Part of the singular joy of Penny Arcade is the combination of mocking imagery and erudite commentary. You get a collaborative webcomic mostly about video games, and then you get what boils down to a blog post that might tie in loosely to the comic, or might wander far afield, but never disappoints in entertainment value.

It’s impossible for me to do justice to all that is Penny Arcade without being overly verbose, even for me. I’m trying.

I guess the best I can say is, two guys started to draw webcomics about video games on the internet, and in the years since they have grown into a major force within the video game industry itself. Penny Arcade webcomics have grown into Penny Arcade Expo video game conventions on both coasts (PAX East and PAX West), and all sorts of other influential activities.

There is so much more, but the point is these guys are heavy hitters in the video game industry… but they’re still two creative, imaginative guys, they’re not MBA suits trying to weasel their way up a corporate ladder by edging out Stan in accounting or Emma in marketing.

This brings me to today, and the blog posts that have gone live in the last two days on Penny Arcade.

It turns out that there was this dude, and he pre-ordered some gaming gear on the internet, paid in advance in full, waited months for his product to arrive in time for Christmas, and when the original ship dates were missed, emailed in to customer service to see what was up.

Sound at all familiar to anyone? I know I’ve been in that position before. Most of us have, by now, if you order from small businesses with an internet storefront, or do pre-orders of cutting edge gear.

What made this special, was that he got some truly legendary replies that started a conversation of epic fail rolling… and drug Mike Krahulik, one of the aforesaid video game heavy hitters, into the mix.

From that point on, it’s been the stuff of rapidly growing legend.

I haven’t laughed so hard in weeks. If you haven’t seen this stuff yet, I hope you enjoy it even half as much as I have.

At Penny Arcade, the first mention and majority of “Are you freaking kidding me?”.

Then, an update to the “WTF”

Then today, there was a Penny Arcade comic devoted to the hilarity that has ensued, and really, wouldn’t you expect one at this point?

And then, the accompanying articles, making it pretty clear that Paul is getting royally buttsurfed by the internets today. Right now. As you are reading this, a man’s professional life is spiraling down the shitter.

Already, gamers are running with this, and again, why wouldn’t we? Penny Arcade links to a kickass video about it already out (in one freaking day! OMG!)

Oh, it’s just getting started. I can already see this is gonna be the target of choice for mocking this week. Pauls’ emails are insanely quotable. 

What I love the most about this whole thing is, this has all descended on someone who is part of a PR/Marketing firm that somehow is clueless as to what the internet really is, how it works, and how eternal an email can be. Once you send those words, they’re gone, and you have zip control over what happens next. 

I have no sympathy for him. At all.

I ain’t even IN customer service or PR, and I sure as hell don’t get to walk up to customers visiting our plant or respond to their calls and tell them, “Oh hey, you don’t like the delay on our ship commitment to you? Well, suck it bitches, if you don’t like it, we’ll just take the shit you bought and sell it on ebay!”

In what universe do you think that is in any way remotely professional?

It’s not professional, but it sure is entertaining!

Since somehow my link to aforesaid kickass video was broken, here is the video embedded for your viewing pleasure. NSFW!!!

Hopefully helpful tanking tips

Hi folks, and a happy holidays to you all.

This will seem a little unusual, I know, but I’d like to spend a little time chatting with you about tanking.

Since the moment the new patch was released, I’ve been running the new 5 person instances and Looking For Raid like a fiend. Just like everyone else, I’ll wager. 🙂

I know that the new content is exciting to me, and in my gushing I’ve talked to quite a few people that maybe haven’t played WoW in a while, or who haven’t tanked in quite some time (or ever), people who are now interested in getting into the tank thang.

There are quite a few issues I’ve seen in the new content, things that just could have gone better when I was playing as DPS, that were smooth as silk when I did them myself as a tank. Now that I’ve had a chance to test and verify a few things, I wanted to take this time to bring ’em up, and make a few suggestions, things to keep in mind.

This is written for tanks, but honestly, I think it’s always good for everyone in a group to understand what is happening around them, what people are doing, and why. You never know when the chance might pop up for you to use your special class abilities to make everything better.

Tank Positioning

This is going to seem silly, but unless you’re used to being a tank or melee, the importance of your physical position in relation to the mobs isn’t immediately obvious. Especially if your view of tanks is being all go go go.

As a tank, you know you’re supposed to wear gear that makes you hard to damage, and gives you a healthy cushion to absorb the damage that does get through. You also know that you’re supposed to grab aggro on mobs and keep them focused on you, not the healer.

Positioning is almost as important as being equipped with the right gear and stats, but it’s not nearly as obvious. There is a lot more to it than “run in looking all cute and cuddly, then swipe.”

The first part of positioning is protecting your party. Some enemies have Cleave or Cone attacks, attacks that affect a cone or area directly in front of them in the direction they are facing. If you run straight in and start fighting, then the enemy is facing you… and the rest of the party behind you. If you charged, the rest of the party may be running in a straight line after you to catch up, and take a cone-effect breath weapon in the face. 

You handle cleave/cone situations by knowing what the enemy will do, and when you charge in (or pull them to you), immediately run off to one side so they are forced to pivot to face you, turning 90° away from the rest of the party behind you. This actually helps the group in two ways. You get the cone/cleave away from the group, and you present the side/back of the target to the group, making it easier for melee to get to their kill zone faster. Especially with Dragons (and their tail swipes), opening the side of the enemy to your group is handy and helpful. If you were to move the supposed Dragon completely around, then the tail is on your party, and really, we can’t be having with that. Sloppy.

One codicil to this… tanks, for the love of Elune, don’t move if you don’t have to. If you don’t have to kite, DON’T. Moving all over the place just screws with the melee, places your healer at risk of having to interrupt casts to get back in range of you, and generally pisses everyone off. Tank kiting Nozdormu in End Time, I’m looking at you. If you have to kite, kite in a clear, consistent pattern. Straight lines or gentle curves around the group are your friend. Trust me, you’re not a fighter jet, they ain’t enemy migs, and you won’t lose them by jinking all over the place.

The second part to positioning is protecting yourself. Enemies make the least amount of effort they can to attack you. If they have ranged attacks, they move forward just far enough to get you in range and line-of-sight, then stand in place to shoot you. If they can disengage like Hunters can (Azure Dragonflight in End Time, Thrall Gauntlet in Hour of Twilight), they will leap backward and shoot you from range that way. If they have melee attacks only, they will run directly to you in a straight line, then attack.

This is significant for a lot of reasons. The first is, and I am stunned how often I see this, if you run into the middle of a group of enemies, they will ALL turn to attack you. If you run forward until you are solidly in the middle of them, (probably to make sure your AoE hits them all), some of them will be in front of you, but others will be behind you.

I know it’s rude of them, but enemies standing there looking at your unprotected back will NOT run forward to get in front of you.

Enemies that are behind you are completely unaffected by your Parry, Block, and Dodge. You are literally standing there dropping your trousers, bending over, and asking them to shove their attacks like a red hot poker right up your unprotected ass.

That hurts. It hurts far more than you probably expect, since you are used to having damn good mitigation from frontal attacks, even as DPS.

I hope that the visual gets my point across, because I am constantly seeing tanks charge forward into the middle of a big pile of enemies, stand there in the center, and then use AoE threat-generating abilities like Swipe and Thrash or Thunderclap while standing still. Then, they get pissed at the healer because their health plummeted like a brick from the butt ramming they just got.

I have seen this cause group wipes. On trash. MANY TIMES.

Many whelps. Left side. HANDLE IT. 

But I digress.

Moving back on target…

I’ve seen this (standing in the center of a group of mobs) happen to a Bear tank most recently. His health dropped so freaking fast I thought he was just starting out as a tank. I inspected his gear, and to my surprise he was dressed head to toe in 378 or better, properly enchanted and gemmed and reforged. Great gear or not, that didn’t do him any good when he ran into the middle of a group, stood there and let everything behind him have a free pass at his ass. And he was by no means the only tank I’ve seen do this.

Even if you’re sword and board and used to it, make no mistake, do not EVER intentionally give things standing behind you a free pass at your ass.

Got it? Good.

Now I’m going to tell you when to ignore all that. This again comes under the heading of ‘knowing what you’re fighting’. Some trash mobs hit like a truck, but others really are candy-coated marshmallow puffs. You can be surrounded by 15 – 40 of the damn things and safely ignore their attacks while keeping aggro and letting the DPS burn ’em down. You have to know when it’s safe to do that, though, you can’t just assume ALL groups of trash are like that. Groups like that are usually accompanied by one really big, hard hitting enemy that you spend most of your attention on.

It is that subtle training we’ve had over the years, the ‘ignore the little adds when there is a big one in the mix’ that made me applaud Blizzard the first time I saw the trash in the Ruby Dragonshine for Echo of Sylvanus. The trash consists of a pack of Time-Twisted Geists and one big Time-Twisted Scourge Beast. If you focus on killing the big Scourge Beast, then all the little Geists will cannibalize freely, and, well, bad things happen. Bravo, well played. Moral of the story is, you gotta know when to hold ’em. Know when to kite ’em. Know when to pop your cooldowns, and know when to bubble-hearth. You never loot no corpses when you’re trying to interrupt ’em, there’ll be time enough for looting when the encounters done.

Using positioning to control the pull

There are several things you can do to keep from giving enemies a free shot at your butt. The simplest way is to charge in, use AoE to get some fast aggro, then take a couple steps backwards. This makes the enemies in front of you take a couple steps forward to follow you, and the enemies behind you will stand in place (since you are staying in their range) and simply turn to maintain facing, ending up with all of them in front of you or to your sides, and your butt poking safely out of the pileup.

I find it helps to think of it as covering your ass, even though the goal is to have your butt be the only thing not actually covered by anything.

If there are casters at range, and you aren’t fortunate enough to be a Death Knight to yank them to you or a Paladin to silence a bunch of them with your shield and make them come running to you, then you pretty much have to start by getting aggro on the melee enemies first, make sure they are all focused on you, then charge the ranged enemy, run a little past him and turn around looking back the way you came. This puts the ranged right there in melee range in front of you, and all the rest of the melee enemies will trot along after you to group up conveniently in a handy pack, nowhere near your butt. 

The problem with this? Mostly, if you do this and your group doesn’t know to hold up for a second while you drag the melee along, you will likely lose aggro on the melee since you’re off harassing the ranged. Then the pull gets all messy, with you darting back and forth trying to grab them all back up, and players running around screaming “get it off, get it off”, and isn’t it funny how they almost never run the mob chasing them TO the tank?

There are lots of other fun things you can do if your group is willing. If there IS a Death Knight, hey, don’t be too proud to ask them to pull the ranged in to ya. Sure, that forces them to have aggro from that mob for a few seconds until you taunt it off, but Death Knights can take a little abuse.

Also, and I know this is a strange thought, but those ranged trash mobs are sometimes able to be Crowd Controlled. Now, before you get too upset, let me tell you that I’ve seen about half and half in the new instances between groups that did use CC and those that didn’t. Both types succeeded, but the ones that used CC took a few seconds longer. Some folks just hate that. 

Don’t forget, while we’re on the subject, that Druids can do our own CC on dragonkin, Hibernate. The final boss encounter in End Time has two groups of dragonkin you pull first, each group having two ranged casters and two melee. By all means, Hibernate one of the casters yourself, wait a few seconds for the rest of the pack to walk out of Swipe range of the CCd mob, then nail them bastiches.

Make it hard to do it wrong

A lot of the new instances can get pretty chaotic. There are several gauntlet-style fights where mobs come running in at you from various angles, appear from patches of noisome darkness, or just uncloak.

When you are running from fight to fight, it is extremely common for the group to get spread out. Someone may stop to loot, someone else may have stopped for a sec for a quick mana drink, or maybe a patch of light appeared in the darkness ahead and everyone ran for it like a herd of cats, every kitty for themselves.

What happens next is quite natural. If people are running ahead of the tank, they face pull the mobs first, even if they didn’t do anything yet. When they get attacked, they start fighting back or casting heals, causing actual threat you’ll have to pull off. If the tank is running ahead to try and facepull first, other people lagging behind can get aggro from mobs still running in, or the healer may start casting heals on you and pull healer aggro on mobs that haven’t gotten near you yet.

The calm players will simply keep running to catch up to, or fall back with, the tank and trust the adds will be picked off.

Not all players are calm. They stop and panic, trying to fight the mob themselves. They run around looking for the tank. They buckle down and DPS harder, and sometimes that doesn’t always work if the mobs have some meat to ’em.

The best way to prevent this is to get the group thinking like a team instead of five strangers. You can help this along by marknig yourself with a golden star so you stand out in the chaotic mess ahead. Then just a quick message saying that the healer should try to stay close to you through the gauntlet, and everyone should try to match your pace and bring adds to the star if they get ’em should eliminate all the craziness.

If you want to mention that you’ll mark a Skull as a first kill on casters (like the Shadow Priests in Hour of Twilight or the healing Priests in Azure Dragonflight), who knows? You might even find people following them. 

The point is, if you communicate to your group that you have some kind of clue what you’re doing, and make it EASY to do it right and bring stuff to you or stay at your pace, why, people tend to feel reassured you won’t just facepull Swipe spam and will work as a team. If you zone in and proceed to pull in silence, you end up with every person for themselves half the time.

Try to step back and keep that principle in mind. Look for ways to make it hard to do it wrong. If it’s easy to lose sight of the tank in the crowd, mark yourself. If it’s hard to tell who should die first in the crowd, mark it out for the DPS to focus on. If it’s easy to pull two groups of ooze trash in the ring around Yor’sahj the Unsleeping, then move your ass around the outside ring further to center yourself before running in towards the center to pull instead of running across at them at an angle.

 Wrapping this fish up

The most important thing I recommend is to make sure you read up a bit on what to expect before you go in. If you haven’t run the new content as DPS or Healer before going in to tank it, take the time to read up on the boss fights at least, using a nice resource like Wowhead that will tell you info about the zones and what bosses do. Read the comments as well, people love to give tips there, and many are excellent. They won’t tell you much about trash mob encounters, those you’ll have to find out on your own, but knowing what is critical to interrupt and what the inevitable twist will be is just immense.

Make it hard to do it wrong… and that includes yourself. If you know what to expect, chances are a lot less likely that when Sylvanis raises ghouls in a ring around you, coming ever closer, you won’t panic and jump past ’em. 

Have a happy!

Ask Mr Robot got updated!

As someone that plays multiple characters, one of my favorite websites is Ask Mr Robot.

This ain’t a paid or requested advertisement, I just genuinely use and enjoy Ask Mr Robot.

I assume everyone already knows about and uses Ask Mr Robot if they have an interest in it, but just in case, Ask Mr Robot is all about helping you find possible upgrades to your gear, and also provides guidance on optimizing your reforge, enchants and gems to get just the right level of hit, expertise, and all those other things.

My favorite part is being able to customize the weights so that  if I want to go off the reservation and try something different, it is all transparent. I can change things how I like, and then save my profile for future use. 

What I’m saying is, it’s as simple or as complicated as you would like. Plug and play actually works VERY well.

Anyway, there is cause for joy here, because Ask Mr Robot got a website overhaul. It looks VERY pretty, now. Professional presentation, great functionality, intelligent design… what more could you want?

Oh yeah… they have forums, too. That’s what more you could want.

So, go check it out if you haven’t already!

As a completely unrelated side note, there was some kind of drama going on at Ask Mr Robot about bear tank bloggers, but I have no idea what it was. On the original Ask Mr Robot website, if you checked out the page on Bear tank specs and stats, at the bottom there was a blurb that Ask Mr Robot was where you should go for intelligent information instead of relying on asshat bloggers with old, misleading or hard to find information. Something like that, thats not a direct quote.

I always wondered what that was about, I feel like I always miss out on the best drama.

Like, there are those that are in the loop, those that are out of the loop, and those that don’t know there IS a loop. In this case, I didn’t even know there was a loop. I bet with animosity like that, there just HAD to be a story behind it.

Fear the Butt!

It’s a most wonderful time, for tank gear. Drink beer? TANK GEAR!

I have been having a wonderful time using this patch gear reset to get my Druid built back up while I could still ride the power curve, and be on par with the DPS I see.

By using my other DPS characters and the enjoyable way we can get Valor Points now, (omg, instances that aren’t agonizing slog fests of misery in the name of Valor! Who woulda thunk it?) I was able to get some BOE items from the VP vendor that sent my Druid over the moon in delight.

The drops in the new instances are plentiful in general, although chasing that one particular upgrade can still bring that pain we know so well.

Overall, gearing a Bear tank has been a pleasure.

At least, until tonight.

I did the LFR first wing earlier in the week, and I was fortunate enough to get a Tier token. Ah yes, even better tanking gear! So wonderful!

I went into some random Twilight instances, and had a lot of fun. I even did one as pure random, all by myself for the Satchel reward, and it went smoothly. How interesting, to see firsthand groups of random strangers in the freshest content, and the things they STILL do when running and gunning on the go go go. 

And hold my own easily, rather than struggling.

And then I entered the second wing of LFR. I downed Deathwing on my Druid tonight, and I won the most prized item that we as Bears could ever wish for… Kiril, Fury of the Beasts.

Oh yeah, you know it.

In the last content release, we had the Firelands, and what many of us thought was the ultimate gift for the Feral Druid, Fandrals’ Flamescythe.

Although not documented on the tooltip, using the Flamescythe in kitty form would have the chance to transform you into a flamecat.

How cool is that, yes?

Ah, but cool as that is, it benefits not the dedicated Bear, the big butted ones who toil endlessly for the tanking satisfaction of him or herself.

Check out the tooltip on Kiril, though, if you please.

Your melee and ranged attacks have a chance to trigger Fury of the Beast, granting 95 Agility and 10% increased size every 1 sec.  This effect stacks a maximum of 10 times and lasts 20 sec.

Fury of the Beast. Note there, where it says “stacks a maximum of 10 times”, please. Get it? Got it. Good!

I am here to tell you that the Big Bear Butt exists, and it is a massive posterior indeed.

Oh, and it has enhanced armor. Err, the weapon, not the butt.

Well, the butt has enhanced armor too, but… ah hell, thank you again, Blizzard. Merry Christmas to you too!

A few things to note, here.

First, from the moment the first tick of the effect begins, your 20 secs overall begins. Each additional stack you gain does not extend the overall time. Each stack takes a second to build, so it i a progression, not an explosion. It takes you 10 seconds to gain maximum buttitude, visibly increasing butt size every step of the way, and then you get to enjoy it for ten more seconds at max power.

At which point, after going hard for ten seconds, we experience…. shrinkage.

There IS an internal global cooldown on the effect, which seems to be about 45 seconds after the effect wears off. Maybe it’s 40 seconds, giving you the effect once a minute, but I need to do some testing to see how consistent it is, and where it really lies. 

One thing is certain. As you attack a single target, such as a boss, you can clearly see each second as your butt gets bigger, and bigger, and BIGGER, until you are what I have already come to think of as ‘normal size’.

I call it that, because when I’m in the middle of a scrum, mobs all about, players darting around, I don’t notice the effect begin. I find myself wondering, “Am I big right now or not? I seem quite normal.”

And then, all of a sudden, “Oh shit, little bear!”

When things get going in a crowd, I notice the buff more when I experience that sudden shrinkage, and find myself wishing wistfully for a butt that was big. 

This… this is why you wake up in the morning glad to be a Bear tank. For moments like this.

For all of you that still live the life of the Bear, I pray you take this gift that Blizzard has given for us, accessible to ALL in the current Looking For Raid functionality, I pray you take the chance, hit the raids, stay with it until you win that staff, and enjoy!

Many of us may never expect to see a raid team enter and clear the Firelands, or get the Fandrals Flamescythe drop. You have to raid with your guild, or be part of a raid group that forms and have the time.

But all of us truly have the same opportunity to get this magnificent weapon, and for that I can’t thank Blizzard enough.

Aww, look at that cute little warrior there. Kind of looks taken aback by the size of the butt, eh?

And how about that Dwarven Priest. That there is a whole lotta bear, right there. Look ma, I cain’t be fat, I still fit in tha bubble! Err, all except for that enormous butt.

The butt can’t fit in the bubble. Tank with my face?

Tank with my face, my butt.

….. exactly!

But in conclusion, I would like to say, it has not gone unnoticed that even at this late date…

It’s STILL all Hunter loot.