Wednesday, July 30, 2008

How about a Bad Achievements Window?

This new Achievement feature in the expansion has really made it into my head. Last week I suggested some achievements which I thought should be rewarded, in My Alternative Achivements window. I got some great ideas in the comments from my readers, so I’ll keep working on the list!

There are so many ways in which you could play around with the concept. Another idea struck me the other day while I was reading Gnomeaggedon’s post Post Curator Black Hole, where he wrote about the terribly annoying habit some pugging players have to suddenly disconnect right after the Curator fight, if they didn’t get the drops they wished for. Do you think those guys would behave in the same way if it was somehow recorded in a Bad Achievements Window? After doing the same thing 10 times you’ll be Apprentice dc:er. The 50th time you’ll advance to Expert.

In this Bad Achievments List you could also see titels such as: Master of guild theft (demands that you clear the guild bank, gquit, leave the server and change name on your toon, all of it within 12 hours).

Of course there will be a number of Ninja achievements available, from grabbing nodes right in front of other players to misusing the masterloot option in a pug, or to openly robbing other players, pretending to be a crafter and then steal the mats.

On a second thought, of course, I realize we won’t see it. After all, we all make stupid things every now and then and it would be rather awful if there was no way to put those things behind us, if they would chase us to the end of the game.

It also gives me a bad taste in my mouth; it would make me feel supervised. Which I guess I am already in one way or another, but I don’t want it pointed out to me.

But the major problem is there are quite a few players out there who probably wouldn’t mind at all having their bad deeds appearing in such a window – they’d see it as a sport to complete as many behave-as-a-badass quests as possible. It’s the sad truth.

So I guess we’ll have to stick to the traditional way of keeping record of stupid players who behave badly: remember their names and put them on ignore.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Phat Loot and How You Get It

So how does the old loot-whore Zakesh look on the diffrent ways to divide the spoils after one of these trips where a bunch of aggresive people go and start a genocide on some creatures thats the hate-object of the day.

First of all I do think loot is important, after you are max level and skills, it's with loot that you improve and make your character better and that is for me a big part of game. The socializing its what makes the game enjoyable and even why you go online on the slow days, but on its own it wouldnt be enough, not for me atleast.

So when you get a big group of people together and I´m guessing that a big part of them is there because they want loot or rep (that gives loot) how to you make all of them happy or atleast satisfied since most of them probably wont get anything that specific night?

There is a couple of diffrent lootsystem out there, but most of them is a variant of DKP, loot council, suicide kings(which can be argued is just another dkp system) or random roll.

Random Roll
People just do some kind of /roll and winner gets the loot. Some system gives modifiers to your rolls or just allow certain people to roll.

*Easy, specially with a pug or when you have outsiders from another guild in your raid.
*Its usally dont start much drama because there aint no specific player to blame

*Its random, some people might not get their upgrades for a long time
*People tends to roll on everything they might need insted of just the best upgrades

Suicide Kings
Basicly you put everyone thats gonna raid with you in a big list, usally randomized when you start, when something drops you go from top to bottom if people want the item. The person who is highest on the list that wants the item gets it and drops to the bottom of the list. It's a variant of the DKP in that it rewards that people has been to the raid and then you spend 100% of your dkp to get an item

*People only goes for the best upgrades they can get
*Its easy to maintain for the raidleaders
*New raiders/casual players can usally catch up quick

*People tends to pass on upgrades because they wait for the absolute best upgrade
*Its easier for the people at the bottom of the list to get many items because all the top ones dont want to lose their spot.
*All items is valued the same.

Loot Council
You have a set group of people that decide on each item who deserves/benefits from it the most, usally officers of the guild.

*Properly used it can be very fair
*It doesnt take any maintenance outside raids
*People who really needs an upgrade gets it
*You can reward people that go that extra mile for the raid

*Often perceived to be unfair by ones not getting loot
*Tends to lead to drama because its opinion based
*Requires a big understanding on all classes mechanics and the raiders upgrade paths for the people in the loot council
*Can take much time away from your raidtime
*Very hard to be impartial for the council members

Dragon Kill Points, basicly a point system where you can reward people for boss kills, time spent in raid, showing up on time and for sticking it out on wipe nights. The points is then either payed for in certain fixed prices, fixed percents or with bidding to get loot.


*Rewards consitent raiders
*People can choose themselves how much an upgrade is worth to them
*Everyone earns loot based on their measurable effort for the raid


*Its impartial to people bringing diffrent value to the raid
*Takes alot of maintenance outside raid
*Colluding can cheapen the system

Lets draw politics into the mix
Many has drawn a parell between communism (loot council) and capitalism (dkp). Communism like loot council is a beautiful idea, but due to human nature it doesnt work very well in practice. Capitalism on the other hand is cold, hard and rewards those that can work the system. I do like the comparsion and finds it to be an interresting idea, but I dont agree that its 100% correct. We are all humans and as such we draw human flaws with us into the game. Greed, bias, envy and whole lot of other bad qualities is things that might always show up, even in people who we didnt expect to have them. There is also of course good qualities that offsets the bad ones, but the bad ones is the ones that tend to mess things up. If loot council and dkp really was like communism and capitalism we should expect loot council to be out of fashion very soon. Or is it maybe easier to implent communism in a fictional world over the real thing?

The 2 most popular system is definitly loot council and dkp in some form. Both systems can work very well for the right guilds but it differs alot which works for each guild.

Why oh Why Loot Council?
Loot council requires that the people in the council has the complete trust and respect from the other guildmembers, they dont have to like them, just think that they is impartial enough. Impartial can be really hard, I dont know if anyone can say they dont have guildmembers that they dont get along with or just dont think they bring much to the guild. Things like that tends to affect your descision and even if they dont affect your descisions its very easy for other people to think that they do. As another point, diffrent people may have very diffrent opinions about what people brings to the raid. If you know that someone tries really trying and doing everything they can do be better, but still performs worse than the guy who dont care how do you compare that in a fair way. If you dont know either of course you gonna give it to the guy who dont care, but if you do know them, its probably hard to not let stuff like that affect you.
It tends to favor the ones that is noticed the most rather than the quiet ones.

Omg, Why DKP?
Dkp on the other hand is complety fair and free of every bias because it just measure if you show up on time and how long you spend in the raid. Your people that raid alot get better loot than the ones who dont show up as much so you get more value out of good items. On the other hand the guy who do 500 dps each fight gets as much as the guy that does 1200 dps as long as he shows up as much. But the thing is that if you bring that guy it has to be for a reason, like you dont have anyone else and then you wouldnt be able to raid without him either. You can still reward people with signups and how you assign diffrent jobs, but its harder to do with dkp. Another problem with dkp is colluding, that 2 or more players reach an agreement to not compete for loot and choose in between themself who should get what so they have more points to spend on stuff they compete with others for. This is a problem with attitude in the guild and usally not easy to remove.

My final thoughts
I’m a big fan of DKP mostly because I know for a fact that you need all those 25people to be able to raid and in some way they should be rewarded for it. And even if people dont get loot that evening they still see their dkp points increase so they feel they have gotten something out of the evening while with loot council its harder to see the benefits of loot councils favor.

I have raided with both and I for me I have felt most comfortable with dkp.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Missing First Time Kills

I first started to write a post called ”why I hate mages”, not that I do hate them but Larisa has asked me to write a post why I never played a mage but every other class and that name felt fun. Well the post ended up a whole lot more negative than I intended because I’m in a bad mood. So I decided against posting it for now.

Why am I pissed then?

Well after weeks of trying my guild finally killed Kalcegos in sunwell. Being that it was Sunday and due to work I cant attend Sunday raids I missed this first kill and it really ticks me off. On one hand Im happy that he is dead and the guild is going forward but still its really annoying in missing those first kills, thats the feelings you play for, that big rush when something you fought about for a long time finally comes true.

We have had more issues with this boss than any other boss since C’thun, we have spent maybe 7-8 complete raiddays on him alone and most of it has been without any progress at all. Basicly fight going fine and then Boom, tank dead. Or some keyplayer missing a port and wiping their group or giving us another portal and messing everything up. When we struggled with Kael’thas atleast we always made progress and the we know why we wiped. What makes this fight so special is that it more than any other fight so far is dependent on every healer being able to function on their own, maybe we havnt trained on that enough earlier.

On Saturdays raid we finally started to see tries going solid into the 20% and felt like it was close, but even though we called last attempt and canadian last attempt and then tried one attempt after that we couldnt pull it off Saturday.

Well yesterday apparently they killed him after almost 5 hours of wiping on the canadian last attempt of the day. Now I feel cheated on the experience and also a bit guilty over being pissed about it. Feels really egoistic of me to not being able to be happy for the rest of them. Well I am egoistical normally but sometimes I like to pretend I’m not, ok.

This also means that I’m missing out on this weeks Illidan kill since we have only focused on sunwell, unless I want to try to really skip sleep tonight.. hmm.. tempting.. If I get a few hours of sleep after work, then I have to go chase a ball for 2hours, then maybe 2 hours sleep more than raiding and then maybe 2 hours more of sleeping. Sounds doable..maybe..

Striving for perfection

I’ve taken my mage a lot further than I could ever have imagined just half a year ago. She’s totally decked out in epic gear, and it’s not her first purples either, it’s rather the third generation or so.

According to be.imba it’s almost doubtful that she’s got any really great upgrades in Black Temple. (Though I must admit that I doubt the advice from that site, they seem to constantly overvalue gear imo). She’s exalted, if not with every single fraction, at least with the major ones, so she can get cheap flasks for raiding and has access to the alchemy recipes and enchants she needs. She’s got an epic flying mount which can take her anywhere in a brief moment.

Considering the content she’s doing right now, (T5 instances and just started in Mount Hyjal) there’s absolutely no need for doing anything more at all about her. She’s clearly good as it is – or even overpowered. Running heroics for instance is getting less and less interesting since it’s just a run-through without any real challenges at all (unless you’re pugging it).

So wouldn’t it be about time that I let her be and concentrated all my efforts in levelling up my rogue alt? Why bother at all about Larísa, apart from the raiding nights? I could farm a bit of gold and basilisk meat and herbs to get her the consumables she needs, but except for that, shouldn’t she deserve a rest?

No. I can’t. Because I’m one of those condemned players who just can’t let go of things and see that they are “good enough”. I seem to be compelled to keep on making her even more perfect.

So right now I’m scratching my head, thinking about how I should spend the hundred badges I’ve currently got. I’ve got so many nice trousers to use – Leggings of Tirsifal, Legwraps of the Sweltering flame and Spellstrike pants among others. Still – there COULD be an idea to have a couple of badge trousers with a great deal of spellhaste in them, Pantaloons of Arcane Annihilation. I wouldn’t use them in boss fights (much worse stats, and they’ll just make me go oom). But I’m thinking about a specific situation, the trash mob waves in Mount Hyjal we’re dealing with now. Perhaps I could make some more damage with my blizzard if it went a bit quicker? Mana wasn’t any issue at all last time we were there. Then I’d switch back to my ordinary gear when it was time for boss fights. It could possibly increase my total damage, a little at least. But there’s also a spellhaste trinket at 75 badges, which would give 45 spell haste as well. How does that one perform compared to the trousers? And what about the 30 badges that will be over? Perhaps a couple of gems to use in some exchange gear? Decisions, decisions.

Deep inside I realize I’m engaging myself into luxury problems. I’m obviously overdoing stuff. It’s a bit stupid, to be honest. But I just can’t stop. And I keep asking myself: where did it come from, this strange need for perfection?

Have you felt the same way or do you have some kind of blessing that protects you from it?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Going to Mount Hyjal - almost

Your ordinary innkeeper is going away for another vacation trip, this time to the Swedish version of Mount Hyjal, a truly epic place in my opinion. This will really be a ritual of refreshment!
I'll be back in a week, and during my time off there will be a couple of posts upcoming, so maybe you won't even notice my absence. I think Zakesh will come up with something as well. But no comments from me in a while, just in case you're wondering.
The Battle of the Mages will have to go on without my participation. Please all of you arcane collegues out there, prepare yourself! Now it's your turn to defend our talent tree against the coming attacks from the fire and frost fractions. I trust on you!

See you later.



Friday, July 25, 2008

The Big Battle of the Mages

I don’t know if you non-mage readers of The Pink Pigtail Inn have noticed, but there’s actually a Big Battle of the Mages going on right now.

Yeah, you have probably seen them, the strange lights and sparkles in the distance. It’s just like when Gandalf and Saruman had that major fight in the tower. Different schools of magic are once for all determining which one’s the best: arcane, frost or fire.

The participating fighters are currently:

A wellknown fire mage, so committed that he’s actually tattooed the fire balls into the subtitle of his blog: “It’s the end of the world as you know it - brought to you by a Gnome Mage with big balls of fire

Then we have Zupa from Automagica.
Also committed to his element, “Good frost is hard to find...” as it says on the blog… Or wait… Is he REALLY that committed? Recently he’s been exploring the dark side, doing experiments as fire… Hmm… What’s happening here?

Then we have Krizzlybear from Frost is the New Black. There you could expected a purist frost mage, couldn’t you? But actually he’s the one talking about that someone should be defending the mixed elemental builds.

I found myself being the one who’s been appointed as the defender of the Arcanists. Which is rather unfair since I’m such a crap theorycrafter. On the other hand the arcane spec is so good that it doesn’t really need much of sophisticated arguments to prove it’s superiority. It speaks for itself, doesn’t it?

The whole discussion seems to have started when I shared my experiences from going from fire to arcane.

That clearly brought Gnomeageddon out of balance and he started to rethink.

Then he threw a glance at his tattoo, remembering his passion for napalm, loaded and threw his first bolt, challenging the other of us to reply.

The replies must have made him even more scared, considering the amount of theorycrafting he had put into his second charge, that came the other day.

But little did he know what was upcoming… The frost mage Automagica shattered him into pieces with this attack, loaded with the most frightening curves.

And Krizzlybear didn’t make it easier to defend a fire spec, after his preview from what’s expecting us around the corner with the upcoming expansion. Another frostbolt that critted Gnomeaggeddon pretty hard.

So what’s up next? Obviously I need to do something to make those little guys playing around with snowballs and matches to realize that Real Magic is Arcane by default.

Hm. Another look into the talent tree perhaps? My eyes fall on…Wand specialization! Increases your damage from wands with 13 percent… Isn’t that talent just perfect?

Seriously, I’ve never EVER seen a mage taking it. Do you ever wand by the way? I don’t. I fight desperately not to go out of mana, so there’s no need for it…. Or… Well I may have been poking around with that stick a little in the third phase of Zul’jin. But that's it.

Still it’s so wonderful, they’ve given it to us, since you know you can skip it without losing anything at all. It’s a no-brain talent (not to pick) and that makes me so happy. Picking the right talents takes so much of thinking anyway. Thanks to this utterly useless talent I can use my intellectual resources to ponder upon other things. Thank you Blizzard for making life easier for Arcane mages!

The war goes on. I see a flash of light in the distance… I wonder what Gnomeageddon, Automagica and Frost is the New black are up to now? Will some other mages take the step and join the battle? Let's wait and see...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

What you (don't) need to know about mages

It’s time for another shared topic from Blog Azeroth, the wonderful source of inspiration and comfort and information for all WoW bloggers out there, this time suggested by Flux.

The heading for the week made me sigh a little bit though, I must admit. I can’t help I feel that I’ve seen articles on this subject a little too many times to get that kick of curiosity from it. Most of them seem to be written in an ambition to educate stupid, ignorant players, trying to make them treat you better, to behave. You can sort of feel the anger, frustration or at least the tiredness between the lines.

When it comes to mages the posts usually bring up things like:

  • sheeping (don’t dot them, if you spank them – tank them)
  • drinking (don’t rush off to the next pull, let us gain some mana first or we won’t be able to do our job)
  • portals (no, we can’t make any portal at once, so don’t ask for a portal to Shatt from a level 20 mage. And they’re NOT for free, we pay for the runes ourselves and the training’s pretty expensive, so a little bit of tipping would be appreciated)
  • food (making manna bisquets actually cost us some mats that we need to carry around, it’s got a cd and you need people to help you. Bread and water cost too – they cost TIME and mages really want to play the game just like everyone else, we don’t play it in order to become vendor machines)

Etc. You know the drill.

But let’s turn the perspective for once. Is it necessary always, in every single situation, better if everybody knows the basics about every class?

In a raiding situation the answer is obvious: yes. Raiding as such is so challenging that there is no reason to make it harder by being ignorant. It’s most of all a team effort and it’s impossible to work well as a team without some basic knowledge about other classes.

But for players who don’t raid - couldn’t it be fun to become surprised? To see other players and classes just like blank, unwritten sheets of paper – you have no idea what to expect from them. For instance in a role playing environment – imagine you’re duelling someone, you can tell he or she has some magic powers, but you’re not quite sure what those powers are – if you risk to be sheeped, feared or otherwise possessed by them. You have no idea about their weak points – that’s something you’ve got to figure out for yourself, by trial and error.

What if mages could turn into quite mystic guys, with superior intellect and secret knowledge that we refuse to share with anyone but other mages? Wouldn’t it be pretty cool to give another kind of answer (said in a deep, mystic voice) the next time someone ask you to inform them about mages:

“Stay away. The less you know the better. This knowledge was only meant for mages.”

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Raid mana – how to feed it or drain it

Without mana my mage is pretty helpless. And so is my rogue without energy. Damage isn’t created out of nothing and the same thing goes when it comes to the people behind the toons – the raiding players. They need mana to play at their best.

I often tend to think about myself in mana terms. I guess it’s a side effect from too much WoW playing. Whenever I’m physically or mentally tired I think “oh dear, it’s time to mana up a bit”.

When it comes to the physical mana needs while raiding, I’ve found that a glass of orange juice mostly makes the job for me. It gives some fast sugar, while it’s still a bit refreshing. And no slowing effects from alcohol.

But the other part, the mental mana is just as important. There are ways to boost it, like when you give a little speech trying to make the raid focus a bit better, which I’ve written about in an earlier post.

Today I’ll speak a little more about how to feed the raid with mana (not literally though, so if you were expecting a post about how to optimize your use of innervation, evocation and in which group you should put your shadow priest, you could as well stop reading now).

Feeding the raid group with the mental mana it need isn’t just the responsibility of the raid leader. Every single individual has got to do their share. Ideally we should all provide some energy into the raid group and help everyone else to keep the spirits up. Now, giving out energy is actually somewhat of a talent, so you can’t expect everyone to do that to any bigger extent. But what you could demand from every single raider is that they’re not allowed to burn the mental mana of the raid.

Don’t burn the raid mana
So what are the mana burning activities you should refrain from? I guess it’s quite obvious, but I’ll still give a couple of examples. One thing is complaining about small, insignificant things. Whining in general, no matter if it’s related to the raid or to real life. People think they’re entitled to vent stuff – and you are, sharing is a part of building friendship. But come on, you should pick the right time to do it – and a raid definitely is not the right spot. A constant whining, moaning tone in your voice will give the raid a small but significant mana leech.

Another way of stealing mana from others is to repeatedly take strange, unannounced AFKs and showing an absent-minded way of playing, where you ask about things that have already been said. It’s to show disrespect of others and it gives a bad taste in the mouth that eventually will make the raid a bit uneasy at mood.

But there are even worse things you can do, things that actually will drain all mental energy from the whole raid group in the matter of minutes.

Experiences from a mana wipe
I experienced it myself the other day, an event which inspired me to write this post. We had entered Mount Hyjal for the second time ever and were having a just wonderful night. It was my first visit there and I was thrilled. It was all green and beautiful, the birds were singing, we were dealing with the waves just splendidly. We had downed two bosses pretty easily (well, Anetheron was bugged so no infernals landed, but still it felt like quite an anchievement, especially since we had had previous doubts about if the pala tank was geared enough and if we had enough healers). We had been doing it at a decent pace as well, so we clearly would have a go at the third boss.

Then it happened – a loot drama came up, pretty unexpectedly. I’m not going into details about the issue as such – it’s enough to say it was a guy who was playing an alt and already had gotten two epic drops at the trash and now wasn’t allowed to roll for a third item. He went furious and he ended up leaving the raid, logging off. And the cheers you would expect after a first kill, the screenshot ceremonies, the celebrating of our sweet victories suddenly just disappeared, as quickly as he had done. He hadn’t only left the raid, he had taken the mental mana of 24 other players with him as he did it.

Of course we didn’t end the raid because one player had left, we moved on and the raid leader tried to explain the next fight, but I think people found it pretty hard to focus and listen, with the drama song still singing in their head. We just didn’t pay attention enough so we wiped after half of the waves and then we called it night.

How to deal with it
I don’t think this player intended to destroy the raid for 24 other people. Had he realized what effects his outburst had, he might have have thought twice before behaving the way he did. (I sincerely hoped that he would make an apology the next raid- and bring a cushion or something else he could use to deal with his frustrations; anything goes as long as he doesn’t vent it publicly. However he chose to leave the guild yesterday, so he can't make up for it, sadly enough.)

I guess it happens to many players; sooner or later we will get carried away and say or do things we’ll later regret. But don’t forget: the effect from it is much bigger than leaving an empty spot in the raid group – it’s a complete mana wipe. Do you really want to cause that to 24 other people?

On the other hand I think there’s also another side of the issue. To be a raider is to act professionally and keep your head clear, cool and calm even in tricky situations. You should train yourself mentally so that you’re able to deal with dramas like this. If I had been better at this I shouldn’t have let all my mana go with the guy. I should have shrugged at it and kept my focus where it should be – at the next upcoming encounter. As a raider you should follow the example of elite sportsmen. Do a professional football player care about the weather, jerks in the audience and such stuff? No. They’re trained to keep their mana bar up no matter what happens. So should we.

How to give mana to the raid
In this post I intended to talk about how to give mana to the raid, and so far it’s mostly been about how not to drain it.

Raid leaders provide a lot of mental mana all the time – by the way they talk by the praise they give, by how they give attention to players and show their trust to them. By showing a good example and always boosting the morale. But also we who are ordinary foot soldiers can be mana feeders – by joking and in other ways showing our good mood, by cheering when it’s appropriate and by noticing other players and giving positive feedback whenever we get the opportunity.

Try to always see the good things people do and then tell them about it. We all need to get some kind of appreciation from time to time – the unsecure fresh raider who has come to the raid prepared to the teeth, anxious to make a good impression, as well as the veteran raid leader who’s frustrated that you aren’t progressing quite as fast as you should, considering your gear and experience level. Don’t be shy! Tell them those things they need to hear, in whispers if nothing else, during a break. Or publicly, when you feel that it’s really needed. I assure you, it will give them some mana that will last for long.

Above all – take any opportunity you can to share the joys with others and to take part of their happiness. Notice the small progress you do (wow, this time we actually took this bunch of trash mobs without a single death, every time before at least one priest was killed, we’re learning how to do this!). Be happy when you get some loot – and be happy when someone else gets it. And then I mean happy, not just a lame “gz”. If it’s a real upgrade for that person – it’s a real upgrade for the raid group, which will help you a little step further on your path towards Illidan or whatever your goal is.

Always keep attention to the mental mana bar of yourself and everyone else in the raid. In my opinion it’s one of the most important keys to be successful in raiding.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Skipping T5 content and moving directly into T6 content

So, I’m Zakesh and according to most people the best theorycrafter and wow-player that ever existed, wait that just me saying that.. oh well. My main toon is a rogue on the US-Stormrage server with around 200 days /played who is currently trying to learn sunwell, but I have also raided with pretty much every class at some point(all but mage actually). I have also claimed that I can take any class into competing for top damage and I still believe that, with the exception av priest, but everyone loves shadowpriests anyway so I would probably be forgiven. Funny thing is that even if I’m highly competive about dps is that beside my rogue raiding that I have raided more as a healer than as other forms of dps. I guess because it can be kind of relaxing to do something completly diffrent. I see something here in the contract about max 10 rows of selfboosting, damnit, guess I have to move on.

Anyway I’m here to be a guestwriter and counterpoint to larisas usual blogging. While Larisa talks about how much the morale improved of our latest kill, I’m probably deep into mathcalculations about if I should try to use first lifetap 30 or 50 sec into the fight.

As a starting subject I got "Skipping T5 content and moving directly into T6 content".

Since the patch that removed attunment for T6 content there is a trend to jump directly into T6 content without finishing T5 content. Early bosses in Black Temple and Hyjal aint that hard while Vashj and KT is usally quite hard and complex in learning to execute. Some see this as cheating and skipping content where you could gear up and learn important mechanics. Other sees this as really unecessary work since you can just gear up from T6 content as well as T5 content as long as you can do both. What I think many is missing is how good gear you can get outside 25-man raiding now compared to when the first guilds did TK/SSC. The badge gear, beside being new and shiny goes alot faster to farm, you can get badges from quests and kara runs, any guild that is in TK/SSC most likely can clear kara in less than 3 hours for 22 badges. Zul'Aman, this instance has alot of loot that is T5-T5.5 value and if you are in SSC/TK you can probably get atleast 2 timers and clear the instance which gets you alot of value for each run. PvP gear is just a matter of time for T5 value items. All this is items that wasnt available 1.5 year ago so the guilds back then had to farm T5 content to be able to move on. Some specs that have really good gear from TK/SSC but not many pieces is really "needed". Exceptions that comes to mind is mage 2p T5. Probably is others as well but not many. As long as you raiders do 10 mans also, you shouldnt need the gear for the gearchecks atleast.

Time Constraint
Also there is the question of time, lets be honest, beside some occasional nostalgia trip noone is gonna enter any TBC raiding instance after wrath of the lich king comes out. So basicly you just have until the expansion release to experience as much as possible. If you fighting mid TK/SSC atm you most likely not gonna kill illidan before expansion but you have a choice of seeing a big part of BT or finishing TK/SSC. Starting T6 content gonna let you experience more bossfights but on the other hand the feeling on downing KT or Vashj is a whole lot better than killing supremus.

What would you learn from KT and Vashj that you cant learn from early fights in BT and Hyjal?

KT trains you in enduring a really long fight while still needing to clear certain dps-checks. You have to have 25 people focused for 15 min without potty breaks. Both fights but mostly Vasjk teach most of your raid to do things on their own without getting help from others. All must be able to click stuff in their inventory, make and use macros, check for 50ft high guys coming to bash you on the head while still doing your healing/dpsing/tanking. Doesnt sound to hard does it, but it can be quite tricky for some. Specially for us guys which about half the worlds population is convinced that we cant walk and chew bubblegum at the same time. This is the fights where we prove them wrong by using lots of diffrent buttons on our keyboards. Hm, that still didnt sound impressing, wonder why?

How far can you get in T6 content?
Well if you can kill anything in T5 content you can kill Rage Winterchill in hyjal. Its basicly get a prot paladin, survive trash, loot epics. Rest of Hyjal is mostly learning to do trash right to get clean tries at the bosses, once you figured out the mechanics none of the first 4 bosses should require that many tries to get past, in most cases getting to them is harder than taking down the boss. Najentus on the other hand is about having a functional raid where everyone is above 10k hp raidbuffed, and clicking on stuff in your inventory. After him you get to another bonusboss, Supremus, which you should kill in your first 3 attempts really. Same with Akama, its very likely you kill him within the first tries, simply mechanics, simply fight. Then Teron on the other hand require alot of execution and a decently geared tank, here is where you really find out if you have raidmembers who might not have what it takes. Getting to 4/5 MH, 4/9 BT is probably not gonna take you more than 2 months for a casual raiding group if you do it atleast twice a week. After that the difficulty steps up and it's a pretty big step to go further. But those first 8 bosses is definitly doable without huge geargrades.

What is my opinion on the matter then, I’m sure I’m biased enough that it shines through the rest of my writing, but I really think its ok to skip content that you dont really need to do. Some grumpy old man in me still goes, oh, we did it when it was really hard and unnerfed and had to farm that stupid morogrim for months before he finally dropped a sword, why shouldnt all those new young people go through the same pain as we did. Coming here in their new shiny tree gear and thinking they are cool and leafy. But I still think that most of us is here for the experience of exploring new content and getting as far as possible. If you have the gear needed to move on I think you should do it. I remember when working on naxx/aq we still had some runs back in MC because people wanted certain pieces, and no, I’m not talking about bindings here. There is a fear in many that they miss out on stuff if they dont kill a boss a certain amount of times. You dont, there is another item that looks almost the same on the next boss with just slightly better stats, it wont kill you to use that item insted.

Is there not something that would be better if we actually stayed and completed T5 content?
Well If I go from my own experience I know that the nerdscreaming was definitly louder when we killed Vashj over Illidan. When we killed Akama on the other hand it was more, oh, is he dead, where is the next one?

Introducing my co-innkeeper

I see an upcoming trend in the Blogosphere: several bloggers are currently introducing or looking for guest writers. It could be interpreted as a sign of fatigue, that the original writers get a bit tired from time to time and want some assistance to keep the blog going and new content incoming at a good pace. But you can also see it as a wish to broadening the content of the blogs, making them more interesting and varied by adding new voices. It’s also a great way to let people, who’ve got interesting thoughts to share but for some reason don’t want to run a blog of their own, get the opportunity to meet an audience and try out the wings of their thoughts.

Anyway, I’m doing the same thing now, introducing a guest writer, who will appear whenever he has something to share – and maybe he’ll also serve from time to time as some kind of stand-by innkeeper when Larísa’s off for vacation (at least that's what I secretly hope, dont tell him...). I’ve asked him to contribute, simply because I like his writing and because it will add some new spicy dishes into the menu of The Pink Pigtail Inn – bring you some other flavours from the game than the ones Larísa can offer. A little more of salt to this rather sweet blog. And since he doesn't want to run a blog of his own, I thought this would be a great match.

So soon you're about to meet Zakesh, who’s been playing WoW since the beta and currently is playing on the US server Stormrage. He’s a 30-something years old gamer with a huge experience not only of WoW but from other online games. With his rogue he’s cleared Black Temple and started on Sunwell. He’s also got a T6 raiding shaman, and has raided with most of the other existing classes.

In his posts you can probably expect a more hardcore approach to the game than I have. Maybe you’ll also get some good theorycrafting. It’s a specialty of his; if I ever wonder anything about how to spec, gem, enchant or anything that’s got to do with theories and maths – I just ask Zakesh. He’s sort of a WoW Encyclopedia in human form.

The posts by Zakesh will be labelled properly, so there won't be any risk for confusion about who's the author of a post. But seriously I think there won't be any doubts about it, since we're so different from each other.

Anyway, I hope you'll enjoy his writings and treat him well!

Friday, July 18, 2008

My Alternative Achievements Window

The blogs are flooding over with news about the arrival of the Beta and the WoW community seems to be bouncing around in exaltation, just like popcorn. So far most seem to be concerned about the new talent trees, especially for paladins and other classes which seem to go through some pretty radical changes. The change list for mages is saddening short so far, and quite disappointing, it mostly seems like nerfs to me, at a first glance. So I’m not so excited about that.

But what really made me smile and cheer on the other hand was the new achievement reward system. What a brilliant idea! It’s nice, motivating and player-friendly for players at all levels, with all different kind of styles and conditions for their playing. Even players with very limited time, who maybe get their sessions cut into small pieces due to the needs of small children or other circumstances, can find fun things to strive for, to get the feeling of accomplishment, that until now mostly has been rewarded through levelling, raiding and ranking in the PvP system (to simplify it a lot).

What made me even happier about it was the playfulness of it. Like that you proudly could have it recorded that you have given out ten hugs, that you’ve got yourself a new haircut or fallen from a great height. Cheers for that! Though I may admit at the same time that I’m a little bit concerned about those lines:

Every time you earn a new achievement, your accomplishment is announced to your guild and everyone in your immediate vicinity -- and the custom achievement animation and sound effect are unmistakable.

Seriously, with 500 achievements around, and many of them not so hard to complete, don’t you think it will become a bit annoying after a while?

So far they’ve only given us a few teasers when it comes to what achievements that will be rewarded. But my imagination is already at full work. I couldn’t help thinking about some truly epic achievements we’ll probably never see in the official achievement window. Here are a few ideas for Larísa's Alternative Achievements Window:

  • Sticking to the end and completing a PUG, lasting a minimum of 6 hours. During the run you must have faced at least 10 wipes and used up three different tanks/healers who’ve all left the group in anger and frustration.
  • Setting up your 10th Karazhan raid for your guild, preparing for it and turning up in time, full of hope and energy, even though the 9 first runs all have been cancelled because of lack of players.
  • Volunteering as a mentor for an obvious newbie player who seems a bit lost, giving them free lessons about talent choices, spell rotation, gear and other basics.
  • Staying around in a guild in crises, giving the officers a hand and helping to rebuild it, in stead of just jumping the ship like everyone else, giving the guild another chance for at least one month.

Feel free to complete the list with further suggestions! I'll make it a list and turn it over to Blizzard (at least if I'm let into the Beta).

Why do I WoW?

This week Blog Azeroth ask all the bloggers to share our motivations for playing the game. Why do we WoW at all? What keeps me coming back to Azeroth night after night, instead of knitting, tendering to my plants or ironing shirts or doing other stuff that you expect from grown-ups?

I’ve got a vague feeling that this topic isn’t entirely new in this blog – though I can’t pinpoint the post where I covered it. Maybe it’s just that I keep coming back to it all the time – I think a great deal about what’s motivating me and what gives me the most joy in the game.

Still – I’ll sort out the thoughts on this once again, under this shared topic headline. Of course there are short and easy answers to it: Cheap, price worthy entertainment. Escape. Just a Bad habit or even Addiction if you want to put it that way. But I’ll try to elaborate it a bit more, and I appologize if it's partly a repition from some previous posts.

Basically I think you could group my reasons for WoWing into five categories:

To experience the magic of team work
At school I just hated it whenever the teacher told us it was time to do some kind of team project. I knew it just meant that I would do all the work and then four other lazy guys would get the same cred for it as I did. Unfair and annoying. And I was never any successful player member of a sports team - on the contrary I’ve got quite painful memories of how it was to be one of those who were picked last when it came to forming teams for playing basketball at school.

As a grown up I’ve of course been into or lead teams at work, and seen that there are other sides of it – that team work can be fun. And WoW really gives me the opportunity to make up for what I missed when I grew up.

To form a good team and to make it work not just for one raid (or other kind of guild event for those that aren’t raiding), but for months – to take it forward through wins and losses, joy and sorrow, to knit it all together.. it’s just awesome! There’s no way I can describe the feeling you get sometimes when all the pieces sort of slip into the right spots and you know that you’re a great Team and you’re a part of it.

To enjoy the process of improving myself
Isn’t it a great feeling when you realize that you’re actually learning something, that you’re improving yourself? I’ve done this kind of learning journeys before. Like when I started to learn how to ride a horse. The first time I sat up and the horse just moved his weight a bit, leaning over to one side. I almost panicked, convinced I’d fall off. A few years later I wasn’t any elite horse rider, but at least I could jump over some barriers, ride comfortably outdoors or indoors and make some nice moves that looked pretty good.

Starting out playing WoW was the same thing – I was totally lost in a world that was totally alien to me and entered a new learning curve. One and a half year later I’m at least a bit more comfortable in it. And I still challenge myself all the time and I see that I improve – not just that my char’s gearing up, but that I’m actually learning. Every single day.

To escape and explore
I’ve always loved science fiction and fantasy – call it escapism if you want to, I don’t mind. I can’t think of anything more relaxing than to drift away from ordinary life and be somewhere where things are totally different. I used to explore and be thrilled and entertained by new worlds through books and movies. WoW offers the same thing, but through another media, and combined with interactivity, which makes it even more fun.

I’m aware that the development is going fast – probably there are other games around with even better graphics, environments, monsters and so on – but for me, with my limited experience, WoW is just amazing the way it is. It’s huge, it’s varied and there seems to be no end to it.

To get the kicks
I guess this is the chemical side of the game – I’m not sure whether it’s adrenaline or dopamine or both – I’m no physician – but you know what I mean. Being totally focused, all alert, struggling with the endless 1-percent stage of a boss fight – and odds are really against you, but maybe there’s a small chance you can make it. It really gives me a kick – the tension and stress in itself – and the relief when you finally actually get the boss down.

To be honest, loot may give some kicks too from time to time but not the same way as kills do, when it comes to me. But I’m pretty sure you all know what I mean about the kicks. I guess you can get them in PvP as well, especially when it comes to Arena matches, though that area so far is unknown territory for me.

To socialize
In real life I’m not one of those people who own a Facebook page crowded with friends. I don’t know why, but I’ve never been any good at getting new friends or keeping in touch with the one’s I’ve had. Socializing at home really isn’t one of my strongest sides (work’s a different thing though.) WoW really has been a big improvement in that aspect. For some reason it’s so much easier to get to know people online. Some of them become friends – some of them are people you just chat with like you’d chat with someone you happen to sit beside on a journey – you make that nice PUG and then you part and will never meet again. But still it’s socializing in a way that fits me very well.

There’s something so relaxing and refreshing in this possibility to look beyond what’s on the surface – age, looks, class, status, gender. I refuse to think of the online friendships as inferior to real life ones – they’re different though. And perhaps in one way they’re more honest. You can be true to who you really are without fearing anything.

These were my five motives for playing WoW. Pretty good ones I think – so I guess I’ll stick around for a quite a while (unless Armageddon's coming, servers closing down, you know).

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The taste of exclusivity

For a couple of years I've been trying to educate myself about wine. We're a bunch of people who've been doing blind tests, where we always have to guess about grapes, countries, prices and such before we get to know what kind of wine it is. I must confess that I seem pretty uneducable, since I've hardly improved at all during those years. I could distinguish a Zinfandel from a Cabernet Sauvignon I guess, but that's about all. However I've found one pattern which makes me a bit embarrassed: there IS a connection between the price of the wine and the taste in such a way that once you found out how expensive a certain wine is - you'll find that it tastes so much better.

It's predictable but quite human I guess. That's how we work - whether we want it or not we're coloured by how exclusive we think things are. Once we think something is expensive it will taste better. Or look better for that sake. You could take exactly the same garment and sell it at 10 $ in a bargain store or at 100 $ in a brand store. I promise you - you'll think it looks so much better if you paid 100 $ for it.

From a WoW point of view I'm afraid it's pretty much the same. Even though you may appreciate a piece of gear for its stats or usability, you're likely to like it even more if you know it has a drop rate on 0.01 percent. That's why I just can't love my badge gear or quest reward the same way as I love thing that have dropped for me. They're not exclusive at all. Anyone could get them. The wine is too cheap.

The same thing goes with pets of course. There's no really good reason for it, but a pet which you know must have been either bought at AH at a fortune, or be the result of an endless hunt for it to drop, will absolutely look cooler than the almost identical pet which you can buy at a few silver or a gold at most from a vendor... No matter how hard I try to resist it and think for myself, appreciating my little ordinary vendor cats and birds, I'm drawn into it myself - into the spinning wheel of vanity.

What is it that makes us stop thinking, becoming helpless victims of the chase of status, suddenly loosing our willpower and imagination, starting to think that a wine tastes better just because it costs more, without trusting our own senses? It's kind of annoying. I hate following the masses.
Still there are things in the game that I love even though they aren't exclusive. I think it's fun to play with tonks every now and then - even if though they're available at just a few gold each. I like my little chicken from Shimmering Flats, bought at 1 g when Larísa was young and innocent (and at that time it was a fortune, I'll tell you). I doubt that I would have loved her more if she had cost me 200 g. I still think my Nifty Stopwatch was an awesome trinket, even though it was available to anyone by simple questing.

But I must admit I'd do almost anything to get the knowledge to polymorph turtle...
Goddamn it. It tastes so... exclusive.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

From fire to arcane - an evaluation

I used to be a dedicated fire mage. Actually so dedicated that I think I could very well have qualified for the secret society of sworn fire mages that I’ve actually heard exists somewhere out there. Until this very day I’ve never ever played frost and never felt any longing to lock myself into a circle of ice or sending away a frost creature to help me attack things.

Until two months ago I had never stepped any further away from the Path of Fire than playing Arane/fire for a while. That was great too and I didn’t notice any big difference, since fireball still was my main spell at that time. Since so many theorycrafters seemed to agree that fire was the best raid spec I didn’t see any point in trying something else.

But then I started to reconsider. I think what made me start hesitating in my passion for fire was the constant aggro problems I was experiencing. It felt like if I was spending most of my time standing beside, not participating in the fights, since I knew that if I did I would end up not only grabbing aggro from the mobs, but also from the tank, getting furious about me grabbing aggro. And tank’s aggro is worse than mob aggro, trust me.

As I always do when I try to sort my thoughts out, I wrote a post about it, Fire mage is a way of life, and the answers I got helped me to finally take the step. I became an arcane/frost mage. Now after a month or so time has come to make an evaluation.

Since I respecced I’ve been using a standard raiding spec, 40/0/21. This means that I’ve got Cold Snap which gives me an extra Iceblock and Icy veins on every cooldown. But I don’t have Slow, which can be a handy arcane spell at times.

So far I ’m totally happy with the change. It gives me:

1. Less aggro. An obvious answer, after what I wrote above. It’s more fun to be able to participate in a fight from the very start and to be able to put attention to other aspects of the fight than just staring at Omen…

2. Decent damage. I think most theorycrafters still stick to fire as the best overall raiding spec, but still arcane really isn’t bad and I can compete pretty well on the damage meters with other mages.

3. A few candies to enjoy. I didn’t realize how much I had missed Presence of Mind when I swapped back from arcane/fire to pure fire until I became arcane again. I don’t use it for pyroblast anymore (I don’t even have that spell since I deserted the fire talent tree), so there’s no cool PoM-Pyro-macro for me. But it’s really handy when it comes to sheeping. I use it a lot, in instances and raids for quicker and more controlled sheeping, as well as life saver when I’m questing on my own, accidently pulling too many mobs. The Ice block x 2 as mentioned is also extremely handy whenever in a party with a healer. When you’re on your own it doesn’t help that much, it just postpones things since you can’t heal yourself while frozen.

And what about the drawbacks about going arcane?
Well, I don’t know if I want to call it a real disadvantage, but I’ve certainly got to get used to a different style of playing. Instead of staring at Omen I now find myself always supervising my mana pool, anxiously, always trying to make the most possible I can out of my cooldowns.

As a fire mage I hardly ever used evocation – now it’s quite common. Going for a raid I need to bring whopping 40 mad alchemist potions to make sure I’ll manage the whole way. I find myself constantly chasing more mana, putting mana oil on my weapons instead of damage oil, always hoping to get a shaman or shadowpriest in my group to help up my mana regeneration.

After every single pull I throw myself down to the floor hoping to be able not to go to 100 percent, but at least to have a mouthful of mana biscuits to get a long a few more mobs. I love chain pulling since it keeps me focused, but it IS a challenge for an arcane mage to cope with. I’ve even started to use some odd beer for the bossfights, Kreeg's Stout Beatdown, which is kind of hard to get, you need to make a tribute run in Dire Maul to find the vendor.

Still this mana management issue of course keeps me alert and it’s quite fun to try to figure out how to best handle it. Most theorycrafters these days seem to think that you should spam Arcane Blast as much as possible, just throwing in a few frostbolts as fillers if it seems too hopeless to keep up the mana pool. But I never get bored out of the single spell spamming - it takes a lot of skill to play an arcane mage properly and I’ve still got a lot to learn before mastering it to perfection.

A while ago I got two pieces of T5 gear, which has a set bonus making my damage from AB increase 20 percent – as well as the mana consumption. It makes this spec even more fun – and challenging at the same time. If heroism, icy veins and other spellhaste increasing cooldowns are popped at the same time I can make awesome burst damage – but also empty my mana pool in no time at all. So timing is more essential than ever.

All in all – I’m a very happy arcane/frost mage at the moment, so happy that I’ve regemmed my gear to fit better with the new spec. Arcane requires a lot less spellhit than any other spec. I’ll definitely stick to it for a while.

(This post I dedicate especially for my reader Ghostboci, who wrote that you’ve been following my blog since I’m one of the few blogging arcane mages out there. For once I wrote some magerelated stuff! I can’t help wondering though… There are loads of excellent druid, pala, hunter and priest blogs out there, but mage blogs seem to be rare, especially arcane mage blogs. Aren't we the blogging kind of people?)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Warcraft novels – crap and pleasure

The other week I went on vacation, spending a week on the beach. But actually I spent a couple of days in the Warcraft universe as well – even though I was completely offline. For the first time in my life I read a couple of Warcraft novels.

Until recently I honestly didn’t know those books existed. It was when I was doing some last minute book shopping for my trip that my eyes fell on those titles on the sf/fantasy shelf in the local book store. Afterwards I realized my picking was rather random. As a matter of fact I didn’t have anything to choose between – there were just two titles, both written by Richard A Knaak. There seem to be some more Warcraft writers around and quite a few books, but this was what I found in my little shop. In the hurry I thought I had got part 1 and part 2 from a trilogy. It turned out that I was wrong – the first one, Day of the Dragon (first published 2001) was from another trilogy than the second book, The Demon Soul (from 2004), which turned out to be the middle part of The War of the Ancients trilogy. Well. Things happen. Actually it didn’t matter much. Some of the main characters appear in both and I got the hang of the plot pretty fast anyway, so the only thing I really regretted was not having access to part three in the War of the Ancients series.

I guess there are a lot of connoisseurs out there who know a great deal more about the Warcraft novels than I do, so you’ll probably think I’m quite stupid and unknowing, but I’ll use my blogger privilege and write about my experiences from reading those books anyway.

First of all – the whole concept felt a bit weird. I may be a bit old and conservative, but when I grew up you usually first read the book. Then you saw a movie based on the book. If you had read the book first you’d probably get disappointed since you had all the pictures in your head and the movie rarely could live up to it, with all it’s limitations when it came to special effects as well as the very short format. No matter how great job you do with the movie you always have to kill the darlings… (like Tom Bombadill who sadly but necessarily disappeared in the Lord of the Rings movies, which I by the way think were excellent on the whole.)

And after the movie you would read the cartoons and play the games and the toys and wear the clothes and chew the bubblegum… you know. But the book was always the original, which everything else came from.

Now the world seem to have turned upside down and for the first time in my life I’m reading a novel where the cover tells me it’s based on a game. Mind you, I don’t complain about it, but it makes me realize how different it is nowadays. And that’s for good. Why couldn’t a game be the artistic original and the book a sort of copy? When you think about it.

Secondly: what did I think about it? Was it worth the money and time I spend on them? Well, to be honest, those books aren’t the best examples of fantasy I’ve read in my life. If you’d compare them to the classic, recognized fantasy eposes I think they’re meagre, written in haste by a very, very productive writer. They lack depth, especially when it comes to portraying people – they’re all sort of plain, flat and show up a lot of clichés. The language isn’t beautiful or original in any way and the plot doesn’t make me go wild. History is told rather clumsily in longue ranting parts sometimes. That’s the negative side of it.

BUT (here comes the twist)

I loved to read them! I really did and I don’t regret reading them at all, on the contrary. It’s just that it’s unfair to compare them as fantasy books to other fantasy books – because they aren’t – you could rather see them as companions to the game, the extra material you’ll find in any good dvd box.

I must confess that I’ve never until now been able to understand much of the lore until now, to conquer it and make it to a part of my own game experience. I don’t know why, but I found the descriptions in the manual that accompanied the game when I first bought it rather boring. I was eager to start playing and didn’t pay much attention to the glorious passed of the dwarves or whatever it spoke of. And once in the game I read at least some of the quest texts and dialogues properly, but I found it hard to put anything into my memory and to get the full picture of it. The world was too confusing, the game so huge and new, that I couldn’t grab that side of it too.

Of course there are an abundance of websites where I could catch up. Wowwiki would be a great start. Whenever I’m looking up tactics on the next raid boss I tend to come to the lore department by mistake, but then I’m usually in a hurry, so I quickly go forward to the strategy part of it. When it comes to reality I’ve never taken myself the time, and reading huge chunks of text on a screen isn’t really enjoyable.

Those books offers a solution – they’re far more accessible to me than heavy websites. By reading those novels, no matter how crappy written they were, I can now see the game from a slightly different point of view. Even though I’m not actually roleplaying, it’s quite a lot more interesting to go and take down a raid boss if you can think that you’re actually part of an ongoing war, and know what’s he been up to so far, and what this event actually is about. If you just ignore the lore altogether, I sometimes get the feeling that we’re rather technically trying to beat a PC-game just like Pacman or Lemmings, just a bit more technical. If you get the difference.

Especially the book from 2004, The Demon Soul, made me happy and excited. I was reading about how they were defending Mount Hyjal, where I hope to go very soon (typically I missed the guild-first kill of Rage Winterchill the other week when I was on vacation.) I’ve followed how Illidan grew up and I know why he turned evil. And my server, Stormrage, turned out to be named after his twin brother, a nightelf druid – I had no idea about that before! Maybe everyone else does, but I didn’t, noob as I am. Now that I’ve met Archimond in the battlefield through the eyes of this young druid, I just can’t wait to see him in the game as well.

Of course it’s a bit disappointing that no gnomes whatsoever appeared in the novels (I guess there are historical reasons for that which I’m still unknowing of). But there are mages! And trust me, there’s something special to read about how they counterspell stuff, conjure food, mount their gryphons and do other things you recognize from the game.

Everything in the game becomes a bit bigger and more amazing after reading the books. It’s all in the eyes of the beholder. The game can be just as thrilling as we want it to be. For instance you can chose to see the flying from point A to B, not just as another boring waiting for the next fight, but as a thrilling, dangerous journey, like in the books.

My conclusion is: if you ever like me stumble on those novels – give it a chance – for what it is: companions which can add a lot of pleasure to our beloved game – even though they may not be the greatest fantasy novels ever written.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Thoughts about guild mums

Are you a guild mum? If you are, do you always enjoy the role or do you sometimes want to get out of it since it’s become a burden?

A lot of questions came into my head as I just spotted a new blog, named no less than Guild Mum. (A blog which seems promising – I’ll definitely keep an eye on it and hope you keep posting, so no offense about this post!).

The blog author Sephrenia is a mum in RL and says she’s taken it into the game. She spends more time in the game chatting than playing, and all of her guild seems to confide things to her. She obviously enjoys this role and has even taken upon herself to try to contact personally every guild member at least once a week to catch up on how they’re feeling, if they need help with anything, how their RL is”

First of all I must say that I really think what Sephrenia’s doing is awesome. I think all guilds could benefit from this kind of people and roles. It’s so easy to focus on appointing class leaders, raid leaders and other officers, forgetting about who will make sure that people actually enjoy the game, that they’re comfortable within the guild, that the glue that holds the guild together is strong. It doesn’t matter if your guild is about raiding, levelling, pvping ore roleplaying, mums are always in need.

But… (yes, of course there’s a “but” coming, you were just waiting for it).

What makes me a bit worried is that you only hear about guild mums (this isn’t the first one I hear about). I’ve so far never ever heard about a male player describing himself as a “guild dad”, talking about how he’s performing the kind of work Sephrenia does.

I can’t help worrying that some female players are assigned this kind of role, more or less against their will. You bring patterns from RL into the game (it IS quite common that women are the ones in family who keep in touch and nourish the social network of the family) rather than grabbing the opportunity to explore other sides of yourself.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see some loving, tendering guild fathers who care about the social atmosphere in the guild, while some hardcore female players plan for the next raid?

About myself, being a mother in RL, I really try to avoid slipping into a “mum” roll in the guild. Yes, I guess I’m quite social and I do chat and get to know people quite a deal. But I’d never ever take upon me the role of actually mothering people within the guild. Not even the teenagers, which would be quite easy to do since my own children are in that age.

I want to be a player just like anyone else - a raider and a mage, exploring and enjoying the game. Not a mum - in another environment than usual, but still put on doing mum duties.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Picking a class – a matter of personality?

Part Time Druid recently published a great post: The Psychology of Class Choice in WoW.

He elegantly pictures different kinds of personalities who are generally found in the role as tank, healer or dps. If you love to lead you’ll probably end up as a tank, if you’re competitive or oven a bit “ego”, you’ll make a great dps, if you care most about the team effort to succeed you’re better off as a healer, to simplify it. He’s says that most of the players he’s met fall into those categories. To be fair he’s also made a positive side and a negative side for each category. For instance tanks can either be true leaders or arrogant control freaks.

I think PTD describes the different shapes players come in quite on the spot. I could easily put many of the ones I’ve encountered in either of them.

The post raises questions about my own choices. Why have I fell in love with my mage? And when I finally rolled an alt – why did I pick a rogue, which I instantly liked as much as I love my mage? Is it because I’m competitive – or possibly plain lazy, according to PTD, the negative sort of dps:ers? Honestly I don’t think so. Of course I love to compete, but I know I could fit into the other roles as well. I’m just as much of a leader and a selfless take-care-of-the-group person. And I’ve run quite a few personality tests through my RL career and gone through some quite harsh get-to-know-and-improve-yourself-programs, so I’m pretty sure about it.

Still it hasn’t crossed my mind to roll a tank. Why? Simply because it would be a too steep learning curve for me to climb. I wouldn’t only have to learn a completely different kind of playing - as PTD points out, I would also be supposed to lead instance runs. And though I partly think I could do it I know too well I lack an essential part of it: deep knowledge not only about my own class, but about all the other classes and about the different mobs we meet, their abilities and the best ways to deal with them. It’s just too much of information for me to handle, to many new things to memorize.

Although I’ve had a leading role in my RL for years, I don’t in the game. So, being a lazy dps:er, I lean back in the chair, wait for the sheep sign and the skull to come up and then start doing as I’m told, to simplify it a bit. I’m not a leader in the raid, I’m not a heroic lifesaver, I’m just a plain soldier in the background, trying to do her job, and sometimes secretly fighting for a good position on the dps-chart (unless the sheep duty becomes too heavy and mess things up).

Am I unhappy with this? Am I feeling that I’m making violence on myself, staying in the background? No, on the contrary. Actually it’s quite relaxing to play a different kind of role than I do in my real life. I’m less exposed and less responsible for the outcome of an event (even though of course everyone in a raid is supposed to do their best to achieve the goals of the night). On the other hand it’s probably easier for me, since I’m sort of a multiple-role-personality in myself, just like a druid or paladin. Depending on what the group needed I could be a leading tank, a group-caring healer or a pusher and dps:er. In the game I’m running the dps-side of “me”, and I’m OK with it.

Maybe it’s harder to pick up a different role if your personality clearly is in a totally different direction. Haven’t we all heard of people who with a deep sigh start levelling a healer or a tank as a sort of sacrifice for the guild, to make it possible to progress? Sometimes it means violating your personality, playing roles you’re deep inside not comfortable with.

On the other hand – a little bit of discomfort doesn’t hurt. Sometimes it’s just what we need: to get out of our comfort zone and actually try a role which doesn’t come naturally to us. Suddenly the timid, shy girl, put in the position as a steady, tough tank, can step forward, raise her voice, turn out to be an excellent leader and become confident in her own abilities. And that may be just the push she needs to dare to do the same thing in real life.

The roleplaying WoW offers doesn’t just include the possibility to play in character, create background stories and such. You can also literary try to play with different roles, different sides of your personality. Why not try them all out? Try a leading role, try a competing role, try a teambuilding role. I think we miss a great opportunity to get new experiences and discover new sides of ourselves if we just thoughtlessly pick the class which seems to fit with our personality.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Beta tester – what if they pick me?

Suddenly the news flashed last week– you could volunteer for beta testing of WotLK. And I couldn’t help myself, I got caught by the rush and tried to get into the website where you could sign up. It was pretty crowded, but at last I made it. I threw my name into the huge beta testing lottery and now I keep my thumbs crossed they’ll pick me.

Or do I really? I’ve never ever been a beta tester myself, for heavens sake, a year ago I had no idea what a beta tester was.

Generally I’m a bit suspicious about doing things on beforehand. Like excessive playing on the PTRs, what’s the point really? It doesn’t help your character a bit – you invest game time into something which won’t help you gear up or progress in any way at all. As a matter of fact, you take part of content on beforehand, which will take away a lot of the sense-of-wonder-feeling, the surprise effect I’m hoping to get from the expansion.

Thinking that way you can wonder why I even entered my name – am I just doing like everyone else, without thinking for myself?

But on a second thought I’m attracted to the idea of being a beta tester myself.

I’m curious. After all I’m a gnome. It seems the expansion still is pretty far away and sure, it would be fun to get some new content to enjoy. Grinding primals, flowers, dailies and running heroics for the 1 000th time isn’t quite as exciting as exploring unknown territory, is it?

It would give me a little lead to non beta-testers when the real expansion comes. For once I would know a more than some fellowplayers - I could be a source of information. Wouldn’t that be a great boost for my self confidence?

The idea that I actually could make a difference - that my input possibly could affect the way they design the game is really thrilling. Though my picture of what being a beta tester actually means is quite vague, I guess that’s what you do. You test things – you give opinion about it, and they listen to you.

They say that beta testers are chosen by hazard. Probably it’s the wisest thing to do. If testing only was done by the most initiated and dedicated hardcore players – they wouldn’t really get much information about how the game works for the more casual ones. On the other hand I wonder if the very casual players really will hear about the beta testing – or of they would care about it if they did. Maybe not. So when it comes to it, the testing group probably won’t be representing the average of the player population after all.

If they actually elected beta testers, would I be a good candidate for it? Yes – and no.

I’m pretty new to WoW and to gaming, which means that I’m not qualified to make in-depth analysis of game mechanisms and such. But maybe that’s not what they need from the beta after all? On the other hand I’m a speed writer and can easily formulate my opinion, if that’s what they need. And I think I’m pretty average as a player when it comes to experience and progression, which probably is good – they need input from ordinary people like me.

The fact that I’m running a blog speaks against me. They could suspect me for being one of those annoying leaks they want to stop. But since I don’t chase for huge numbers in my visitors counter, I actually won’t say a word more than I’m supposed to in my blog.

I don’t know how secret the whole business about beta is. Maybe you’re not even supposed to tell anyone if you’re picked as a tester? In that case you’ll never know that I actually won in this lottery.

But be assured. If I’m picked I’ll do whatever I can to help the expansion to turn out just as awesome as we hope.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Larísa's off for vacation

Larísa’s off for vacation. She’s going to Tanaris, sorry, I meant Tunisia, to lead a lazy life on the beach, not touching a computer for a week or so. But The Pink Pigtail Inn will still be open, you won’t starve, since there are a couple of prewritten posts upcoming if Blogger works as it’s supposed to do. It's just that it will take a little longer before I'll answer comments, if you feel like writing any.

During my absence I’d really like to recommend you another blog, a jewel I found the other day. Go and visit Cope, hosted by James Wallis. He has written a hilarious essay in several parts about the geography of Azeroth seen from a purely scientific perspective, trying to make sense out of how the natural laws work. At first he comes to the conclusion that it’s a spherical planetoid with a diameter of 12 kms. Then he changes his mind and argues that it’s flat – possibly resting on a pillar.

I can’t enough recommend it, it’s the most witty piece of WoW reading I’ve seen in a long time, written by someone who clearly has a great knowledge and big heart in the game as well.

I’ll print it out and take it with me to the beach, study it a bit further and see if I can make any sense of the logic of natural science in Azeroth!

See you!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Growing old

Larísa has grown up! As a matter of fact she’s like an old lady, despite her young and cute appearance.

I was struck by the thought as I recently visited Kalimdor, in a long journey where I and a friend went to every single fire – alliance as horde (which actually is quite a nice way to get gold, as long as you ensure you have someone to rant with during the endless flights and riding tours.)
It was a nostalgic tour, where I revisited places I hadn’t been to for over a year, but I also went to many spots for the first time, especially in horde territory. It’s great that Blizzard helps us to get our feet moving, get out of our comfort zones and have a look at the parts of the game we’ve missed out of sheer laziness.

While I was riding through Stonetalon, trying to cope with the horrible machine sound from my bird (I’ve now made me promise myself to finally get up my Stormwindrep up to exalted to get a silent mount), I was thinking about the last time I was here.

I was new to the game, a very scared and innocent and lonely little gnome girl, who didn’t have a clue about anything, not about playing my class, not about game, the world, not about what was awaiting me around the next corner. This young and unknowing way of seeing things lasted for a long time. I can’t say I was much wiser at level 40 – or even when dinging 70. I think I’d been playing endgame for quite a while before I started to feel that I had aged a bit as a player.

Travelling around for the midsummer event I kept pondering upon the subject. In fact, this thing that Larísa’s become old isn’t truly reflected in the game. It’s not only that she looks young – as a matter of fact WoW is created so that your char always is improving in every way – getting stronger and more powerful, learning more and more spells, getting better and better gear. The progression possibilities for a char seem endless. But how would it be like if the process reflected real life more? Would it be possible to create a MMORPG where the characters actually became physically weaker when getting old? On the same time they could get wiser, learning more abilities, like we do in life… Maybe you could assure that way that you wouldn’t lose motivation for levelling it – it’s just that the char becomes different. Priests and Mages could get only better as they become older and wiser – while you would really need young and strong tanks and rogues.

As you probably realize I don’t know much about game mechanics and design. This is my first and only online game. So it’s just a thought experiment – still I think I’ll be back to it in my mind, just for my own enjoyment. Developing this kind of ideas give me some kind of mental and creative exercise.

It helps me too keep my mind young – as I’m inevitably growing older in RL…

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Was knowing your weakness what made you strong?

This is a shared topic of BlogAzeroth. The topic of the week is pretty odd: you’re supposed to take the heading of a post from someone else’s WoW blog and write a different kind of post than the original one. It’s sort of like spellstealing the title. So being a mage that’s what I happily do now. I spellsteal this title from ReNoobed. Actually without his permission - I've tried to contact him through his blog but haven't got any answer so far. Suiting enough he’s stolen it in his turn, from a song title (of course he has, he’s a mage after all!).

I honestly didn’t quite understand what the topic of ReNoobed's original post was about (blame my lack of knowledge in English perhaps). Mostly I think it's about some fun links. Anyway this post will have a slightly different approach to this title, as I think it points out a great way to achieve personal progression.

Signs of professionalism
First of all I’ll bring an example from real life. Writing has been a part of my professional life for almost twenty years now. You could expect me to be an expert at spelling by now (in my native language, not in English, which the readers of The Pink Pigtail Inn know very well). But honestly I’m not. There are words in the Swedish language which I simply cannot learn how to spell, no matter how many times I look them up or check them in the grammar-and-spelling-program. The difference between me and an amateur writer though is that I know which those words are. I know when I should look up things – I know my weaknesses, and that makes me a good, or at least decent, writer. It makes me strong.

The weakness of your class
Next: how does this make sense out of a WoW perspective? Well, one evident thing is of course that you should get to know the weaknesses of your class. For the beginner it’s quite a painful process (at least if you’re a mage, dying if the mobs even throw an evil eye at you or breath at you ). After identifying the weaknesses, the next step is to find ways to deal with them. Desperately stacking up any stamina gear you come by may not be the best way to overcome the health problems a mage is suffering from. A better approach is probably to try to maximise your damage and learn tricks to keep the mobs at a sound distance, by kiting them, using frost nova, putting up shields, blinking or whatever you find handy.

This may sound very basic, but I believe that even players who’ve been around for a while can benefit from this way of thinking. Once you know the basics of your class, make an analysis of the available talent builds. Which are the weak sides in different situations – in five man instances, in raid, in BG? Are there ways to compensate it? For instance, I came to the conclusion that being a deep fire mage with a built maximized for raiding purposes, I had the weakness of getting huge aggro problems in five man instances. I compensated by always having a Subtlety enchant on my back and by being extremely careful in the beginning of every fight.

The weakness of your gear
I won't spend many words on this one. For many players improving their gear is one of the reasons for playing the game, the force that keeps them hooked. To analyze your gear and to look for the easiest, most essential upgrades, to look what can be done to improve it by enchants and gems is quite natural to most of us. It's just something you do, like washing your hands or brushing your teeth. Or at least it should be. So let's move on to something more interesting.

The weakness of your skill
For making personal progress I think you need to have an ongoing evaluation of yourself as a player. We all have our flaws - but as long as we’re conscious about them they won’t harm us quite as much as they would else.

Many of your weaknesses are actually easily compensated by addons (I guess that’s why they were invented in the first place). I for one used to have KLM threat meter. But from time to time I missed that I was running way too high on it – one of my weaknesses is that I can find it a bit hard to split my attention to a number of panels all over the screen as well as actually watching the fight. To overcome this weakness I changed to Omen, which in quite a brutal way flashes AGGRO all over the screen. There’s no way I can miss it.

If you’re weakness is that you always forget to bring enough of reagents – well as a mage at least you can install Crylosis, which will make it for you automatically whenever you come by a vendor selling that stuff. If you tend to miss to rebuff people after they have died – get yourself a buff addon, which will remind you.

Has it happened to you more than once that you have miss-clicked in an instance, taking need in stead of greed? Well, why not try to make it the safe way next time and suggest using master loot so you and your friends can feel comfortable?

The weakness of your personality
There are weaknesses though which can’t be compensated by technical devices. Maybe your weakness is a bad temper, running berserk when things won’t work exactly the way you want them to, and you from time to time say and do things which you sincerely regret afterwards. Then you should learn to handle it of course, use breathing techniques, having a pillow beside you ready to smash or do whatever you can to control or let out your feelings outside of the game. But you could also try to prevent a little of the damage by actually acknowledging the problem – tell the people in your guild or raid that you actually do get a bit emo from time to time. Ask them to be tolerant if that happens and to remind you if you’ve gone too far so you’ll sober up and get back on track.

If you’re a guild leader perhaps you’ve got a weak spot when it comes to administration. You just seem to be unable to keep track with applications and trials of new members, keeping your website up-to-date or to arrange guild and officer meetings? Acknowledge it and learn how to delegate.

Another kind of weakness could be that you’ve got bad situation awareness, that you’re not moving, targeting or reacting quickly enough. That’s one the things I’m constantly struggling with myself – I’ve even started to attend the WoW gym in order to improve. It’s hard to overcome this kind of weakness, but I’m convinced it’s doable.

Why knowledge makes you stronger
A final thought: remember the ending of the title. Knowing your weakness is what makes you strong. This means that you at no time should fall into the trap of getting bad self confidence or even starting to hate yourself for your weak spots. Just don’t! Always remember that you’re actually getting stronger, little by little, and that you’re constantly working on improvement.

If I was recruiting for my guild I would definitely rather pick a player who was well aware of his or her weaknesses and could discuss in an intelligent manner how to deal with them. Then I’d know I would get a strong and committed player, open for suggestions, always on the move to get better.

In my opinion there’s nothing weaker than a player who isn’t aware of his weakness.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The importance of the blogging archipelago

By now I think many of us have seen the wonderful map of the WoW Community, drawn by Tim Howgego.

I’m totally fascinated by it myself and keep coming back to it in my thoughts. I did have the feeling that the community was huge and varied, but this really helped me to sort things out, to see the big outlines of it.

Of course there’s one area which draws my attention a bit more than the others: the southwest corner, where the Blogosphere’s dwelling – a lot of small spots scattered over a huge area, with WoWinsider as a sort of central huge island.

We’re all there like small spots, nameless, hardly viewable at all. Even well known bloggers, read by many, such as Matticus and BRK haven’t got any named island of their own. An exception is Mania’s Arcania, who proudly could announce that she had got one, but on the other hand, she’s not categorized as belonging to the blogosphere, but rather to the Niche Class and Topic Archipelago, which is slightly different.

From this picture you could easily get the impression that the Blogosphere is something you could easily disregard of. After all it’s known by only a handful of people if you compare it to websites and tools such as Curse, WoWinsider, Thottbot, MMO-champion and Wowwiki. Can a blog with 3, 30 or in best case 300 regular readers really play any roll in the community at all?

Actually I think it can, and I think that the WoW bloggers shouldn’t be totally discouraged by this map. Even though most of us are so small and insignificant that we’re even not what I would call islands, but rather small cliffs, hardly viewable above the water, I think some of us (not me though) have more influence than we imagine.

I like to see the best of the blogs as a sort of think tank for the whole WoW community – and to Blizzard as well. (I imagine they actually care about comments from the community when they’re planning for further development.)

Many great ideas are originally born in the blogs – to be distributed and spread to the masses, after they’ve been picked up by the more established channels, such as WoWinsider. Sometimes bloggers are credited for the work they do – sometimes I’m afraid they’re not. But the ideas originated in the Blogosphere. We who belong to it know where we read it first. And even though we won’t get all the applauses we deserve, we keep on thinking and producing. Because, just as WarcraftBloggers puts it – we can’t shut up.

A last observation about this map: I really like how he has graded the community from “nice” to “evil”. In the very right corner are the gold sellers, while the blogosphere is perfectly well situated on the west border. Most of us are non profit amateurs writing just out of passion and of the pleasure we get from this ongoing exchange of thoughts. We’re facing the frontier, always exploring new territories of the WoW phenomena, boldly going were no man has gone before.

I’m proud to be an island in the Blogosphere. Even though it’s just a nameless cliff where the birds only land occasionally, seemingly by accident.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Reasons for staying underdog

Is it really important if you define video games as art? Isn’t it just a matter of trying to be socially accepted, to become one of the “cool kids” rather than “unpopular”? Blessing of Kings just wrote an insightful post about this, in a respons to Lume the Mads quite heavy, but very read worthy post Video Games as art. Now it’s my turn to take up the baton and add a few thoughts.

Even though I’m new to video games I’m not new to the discussion – I used to be a member of the science fiction fandom, where many people were just as frustrated as some gamers are – banging their heads against the wall trying to get science fiction accepted as “good literature”. The most annoying thing about it was that it actually happened that some great science fiction books finally were acknowledged by the critics – but once it happened for some reason the “SF tag” got lost on the way and they were presented as “idea oriented” “futuristic” or something else – anything but SF.

Myself I was brought up in a family where we never put up any borders classifying literature as “high class” or “trash”. My parents happily consumed everything – they praised the cartoons of Carl Barks one day and the next day they were reading the latest work of a Nobel Prize winner. They didn’t care if I read crime fiction or Sartre, as long as I enjoyed it. To take part of different sorts of artistic expressions was just as natural as to eat and breath and sleep – a basic need if you put it that way.

But clearly society in general until now hasn’t looked on those branches of art and literature with such a broad perspective as my parents. People love to arrange things in hierarchies, unconsciously if nothing else, and for a long time SF and fantasy literature and movies, comics and video games clearly have been considered “lower class”. But unlike Blessing of Kings I actually see signs that we may expect a change in this classification in the future. The quite conservative Swedish national morning paper I read, which has a clear middle-upper class academic profile, actually publishes in depth articles about video games in the art-and-literature section of the news paper, starting a couple of years ago. They don’t only do very serious reviews about new games, sometimes written by the same guys who do book reviews – they’ve also had a number of long essays analyzing video games from an artistic perspective.

From my point of view I really welcome the change. I want to read well written, intelligent analyzes of video games, targeting a well educated audience and not just kids. Currently I’m especially annoyed about a magazine dedicated to World of Warcraft published in Sweden, which is pure crap, which seems to written for 10 year olds who’ve flunked school. If we can get video games into the art section of the newspapers maybe the chances to find WoW writings intended for grown ups elsewhere than in the WoW blogosphere, which currently is the only place to go.

On the other hand you can look on it from an opposite way: do we really want to become socially accepted? Thinking about that the WoW playing is so common, that there are millions of players out there, that grannies and neighbours and colleagues and just about anyone you know may be playing it makes it a bit plain and ordinary, doesn’t it?

There is a pleasure in being an underdog actually, to be misunderstood by society, to find comfort and friendship with the other “unpopular” kids, to find a gang of your own to hang out with. This feeling may get lost, as the playing becomes more and more socially accepted and widespread.

It’s just like the SF bookshop in Stockholm. 20 years ago it used to be in a cellar, run by a few enthusiasts who had ordinary jobs beside it to make a living, open just a few hours in the evenings and in the weekends. You went there only if you knew on beforehand that it existed. It was an oasis where the misunderstood underdogs of SF readers could meet up, a sort of hideout. We looked upon any other kind of literature as “mainstream”, sometimes with a slightly prerogative undertone.

Nowadays I can’t help feeling SF has become the mainstream. At least it’s become quite accepted in Sweden. The SF bookstore has moved into the major tourist shopping area in a huge store, it’s got a huge hired staff, it’s open everyday of the week. You’ll find all sorts of people there, and they don’t look like underdogs at all. As a matter of fact I suspect they could have been some of the “cool kids” at school.

This post is starting to become rather long and rather rambling, it’s time to get to the point. I think that the conception of art is changing. And video gaming is probably going to be more socially accepted in the future than it is today. We’ll see it entering the art and literature pages in the newspapers. And we’ll see all kinds of players. Not just the unpopular kids at school, but also the cool ones.

This evolution is inevitable and mostly it’s for the good. Still being an underdog isn’t only bad – sometimes it’s quite enjoyable – you feel like a part of a secret society, a few enlightened people who’ve found something that others haven’t found. Actually I think there may come when we’ll miss the time when we were the underdogs.