Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Would we perform better in a morning raid?

It was 10 am a Sunday morning, Coldarra felt colder and remoter than ever before and as I clicked the summoning stone I was wondering if I had lost my mind. A speed run in Occulus. At this time of the day? I was barely awake and it seemed like everyone else in the party was in the same shape. We had hesitatingly tried our morning voices on vent, shivering at the sound of it and decided to turn silent.

The night before it had seemed like a brilliant idea to have another shot at this achievement. We had been so close (until I died from a bubble) and now that we had practiced we thought we could make it next time.

“Let’s do this again tomorrow! Wait, it’s raid night… And I’ve got people coming over in the afternoon… But we could do it in the morning. 11, that will be fine!” It sounded just great when I suggested it. What I didn’t remember was that Europe was switching to summer time during the night, which meant that one hour of our weekend would be lost. 11 am was in fact 10 am. Not according to my watch, but according to my body. And that hour made a huge difference.

Nightly adventures
To me WoW playing is a late night activity. Outside of my two raiding nights a week, I normally don’t play much before 10 pm, in order to keep my family from suffering too much from me being absent. It happens that I’m online for a stray hour daytime in the weekend, if I can find a hole in the shopping-cooking-cleaning-driving kids to activities-schedule, but I usually won’t do anything more advanced than a little bit of peaceful questing or crafting, so I easily can go log off whenever needed.

And apart from that, playing during the day makes me feel somewhat guilty. For some reason, gaming is a thing I normally do covered by natural darkness, without having to pull down the blinds to be able to see what’s on the screen. When I enter Azeroth, I feel a bit like a vampire or ware wolf, setting out for the hunt. Larísa is a creature of the night.

This was probably the first time ever I ran an instance before noon. And without being able to present any logical reason,, it felt utterly wrong. It was as if I had suddenly replaced breakfast with pizza and beer. Something inside me revolted against it.

At the same time I was a little bit curious. How would this affect the outcome of our mission, would we perform better or worse, playing early in the day? I couldn’t help feeling sort of stiff, in my fingers and in my consciousness; it was as if I was asked to suddenly start playing soccer without having a proper warm up. On the other hand, maybe you could expect the opposite. From a working perspective this was prime time – I should be able to focus much better than in my half-asleep playing sessions passed midnight.

A race against the timer
Not many words were needed. We knew exactly what to do, now it was just about execution. The rest of the party had done this several times before, without success. It was the last achievement they needed for their Glory of the hero mount. I still had two more tasks to go, but was as motivated as the others to get this one done.

The first few trash pulls turned out to be the warm-up I needed. Once the race against the timer started (you have 20 minutes from the killing of the first boss to complete the instance) I was fully awake, present and completely focused on what I was doing, oblivious of the daylight calling me to go out and do some gardening or other grown-up stuff.

Our performance wasn’t perfect, but it was damned good. We had a few deaths on Varos Cloudstrider, but no wipe and we recovered and continued on our mission, as if nothing happened. This fight wasn't lost yet. And before I knew it we were facing the final big dragon.

I honestly can’t say that I excel in mounted flights in three dimensions, especially not when it requires you to be mobile. But I pushed away any tendency to negative thinking “Larísa, you’ll die on the bubbles and let down those guys and deprive them of their mount”. This was NOT the right time to doubt my own ability. I kept focus on what I was doing, emptying my mind from every thought except that we were going to make it. And lo and behold! We downed him with 1.5 minutes to go.

I’m not used to get adrenaline kicks at 10.30 in the morning. It still felt weird, but I enjoyed it as much as I would enjoy any first kill of a raid boss. The same evening we did a complete Naxx clear on 23 man in a little more than 3 hours. It was smooth, efficient and successful, but it couldn’t compare in any way to the joy I had felt in Occulus.

Morning raids?
Before we entered Occulus I had jokingly suggested that we should look at it as a test run. If we succeeded it was a sign that we should consider moving our Sartharion+3d tries to daytime, when people are fully awake. Now I don’t think that will happen – normally most people have real life commitments daytime, so scheduling raids to the mornings would leave us with very few signups. But judging from performance maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

Monday, March 30, 2009

How Larísa became Larísa

At least I was sensible enough not to pick one of the main characters from Lord of the Rings. But apart from that, I was pretty much clueless when I made up my character name. It was a jump into an unknown world and I had no idea about name conventions in the MMO world, what to do and not to do.

I wasn’t just clueless, I was also exhausted after making all of those choices of hair, skin, face, not to speak of essentials as class and race. Wasn’t there any end to the decision making process? When was I supposed to start actually playing the game?

I remember clearly how I fumbled, trying to come up with some kind of concept. I wanted something that felt like a name, but still not a name that you see people wearing in your everyday life. It should work in a fantasy inspired environment. The more timeless, the better.

Greek inspiration
My first source of inspiration was Greek Mythology. Yeah, it’s hardly original, but I guess I thought that the youngsters in the game probably hadn’t heard about it. Little did I know. Even the most tiny, insignificant deity had already been discovered and used. I continued to the Egyptian equivalence, but the result was the same. Name not available.

Desperately I picked up an atlas, hoping to get some inspiration from there. For some reason it was Greece again that pulled my attention. I didn’t want to name my character after some spot that everyone knew of, like Crete or Rhodos. And then my eyes fell on a town I’d never heard of called Larisa. By now I had more or less given up on finding a name so I typed it pretty much absentmindedly. And to my astonishment, a pink pigtailed little gnome girl was born.

If I’d known what I know today I would have put the Atlas aside and concentrated on playing round with letters and syllables until I found something completely unique, not referring to anything. Picking names from maps isn’t a great idea. Even though Larisa isn’t well known outside of Greece, it certainly is known to the Greeks. Especially on my former server Kul Tiras, where there was a significant population of Greek players, I had to deal with numerous whispers from enthusiastic Greek players who were happy to see a fellow landsman around. Always in Greek. For a while I considered to make a macro, autoresponding: “Yes, I know that Larisa is a town in Greek, but no, I’m not Greek, I don’t speak Greek, I’m from Sweden, and I just picked the name from a map without any good reason to do so. It was a mistake, I’m sorry about it and I promise I’ll never do it again.”

The strange character
Time has passed and the Greeks seem to have disappeared, or maybe there aren’t that many of them at my current server. People leave me alone nowadays.

Larisa has become an integrated part of my character that I can’t imagine naming her something else. And it’s got some advantages. For instance it’s fairly easy to pronounce and call out on vent. I’ve never ever considered a name change – and especially not after establishing myself as a blogger with the same name as my main.

A year ago, when I switched server, I could have done it for free, if I had wanted to. It turned out that there already was a low level horde character on Stormrage, carrying my name. This came as a complete surprise to me, I hadn’t thought about the possibility.

What to do, what to do? It was in the middle of the night and I just wanted to finish the transferring process as quick as possible. I didn’t want to quit Larisa and I still lacked imagination. So I changed the normal “i” character to one with an accent over it. It wasn’t a great solution, since it effectively prevents people from posting to me and adding me to their friends list – they don’t know how to do this accent and since all keyboards are different I can’t help them. But I just couldn’t come up with anything better. And that was the story about how Larisa turned into Larísa.

Other names
Now Larísa isn’t my only character. I’ve got a bunch of alts, of which I play two. So how did I name those? Did I have another go at the atlas? Actually I did at first! When I created my rogue I started to randomly look around in it once again. I had learned my lesson to avoid WoW populated countries. But what about Indonesia? Maybe I could get some inspiration from some unknown island?

After some looking around I finally gave up the idea. I looked at the blank paper I had in front of me. Without thinking much I wrote down the name I already had: Larisa. Then I started to play around with the letters, moving them, seeing how many ways you could combine them. Many, it turned out. The self-imposed restriction helped me to become more creative. And that’s the origin of the name of my rogue alt: Arisal (to be pronounced Air-e (as in eat)-SAL). The other week I started a new side project, a wanna-be-druid. I repeated the procedure and so Arasil was born.

Larisa, Arisal and Arasil. I like the fact that the names are somewhat connected to each other. It gives a hint to guildies who’s hiding behind an alt name, even if they don’t bother to look at my note.

My names aren’t the most beautiful, original and brilliant ever seen. But they’re not something I suffer from either. They don’t come from a TV series. They’re not trying to be funny. They’re names, not words with a distinct meaning. They’re pretty easy to remember and there aren’t a ton of variations on “Larísa” around on the server. Even though they’re not perfect fantasy names, like something an author could come up with, I think they can pass – at least they don’t destroy the immersion experience for other players.

All in all – they’re good enough for me. And that’s the end of the story about my character names. Thanks to Darraxus for passing the meme to me!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pink Pigtail Awards and some honesty incoming

My cheeks turned as pink as my pigtails the other day when I found out that I had been appointed for a Blog Award by HP at I am a paladin.

I’m supposed to brag a bit about it, following the rules set up for this meme. Consider it done. If you want to read her motivation you can check out this link.

The rules
The whole set of rules for the appointed bloggers are as follow:

1. When accepting this auspicious award, you must write a post bragging about it, including the name of the misguided soul who thinks you deserve such acclaim, and link back to the said person so everyone knows she/he is real.

2. Choose a minimum of seven (7) blogs that you find brilliant in content or design. Or improvise by including bloggers who have no idea who you are because you don’t have seven friends. Show the seven random victims’ names and links and leave a harassing comment informing them that they were prized with Honest Weblog. Well, there’s no prize, but they can keep the nifty icon.

3. List at least ten (10) honest things about yourself. Then pass it on!

So after checking #1, I’ll move on to the next one and hand out Pink Pigtail Inn Blog Awards to a few bloggers that I think deserve some more attention and encouragement, mostly blogs that I haven't given so much of linklove before (with two exceptions). If you're not in the list, don't feel excluded and unseen. It just wasn't your turn this time. If you're on the list - don’t feel like this is a tag and that you’re more ore less forced to bring it on. I am, as I’ve said before, totally opposed to chain letters. So just look upon it as a sign of appreciation from my side.

1. Spinks at Welcome to Spinksville. It’s so intelligent, interesting, in depth and well written that it’s only a matter of time before she gains a bigger audience and a spot on most blogrolls

2. Elleiras at Fel Fire. She’s sort of a companion to Spinksville, it’s the same genre. Writes about guild management, raiding, motivation and other topics that I love to read about. Amazing.

3. Typhoonandrew. He’s got a special voice of his own, a full of humour and intelligence. He’s not one of the most talked-about-bloggers. But he definitely deserves more attention.

4. Krizzlybear at Frost is the New Black. He clearly needs a little inspiration in his blogging right now. But I don’t award him out if pity, but because he’s an excellent writer – and brave. No topic is too hard for him to try. He can write anything from highly emotional rants to pieces of humour, theorycrafting or fan fiction. Gifted.

5. Dechion at Dechions place. He lets people in under his skin and manages the balance of being personal without falling into just being private. It’s honest, straightforward and very much enjoyable. Just as his simplistic design.

6. Fulguralis at Klilling’em Slowly. He has a mission – to bring hope to the world, stories of inspiration. Only this ambition is worth a mentioning, and he also has a way of ranting that Larísa likes. New blog that deserves attention.

7. Gnomeaggedon. I know I’m a little bit predictable here and that I’ve linked him a ton of times, but I also have to follow my heart in making those appointments. He's got a special place there. He makes me laugh. As long as there’s a Gnomeaggedon around, I feel that there’s hope for the world, even though he claims it’s close to its end.

… and a special mentioning to Kromus at Stories from the Nether. He’s a guildie of mine and recently started a blog of his own. He hasn’t written so many posts yet, so I guess I can’t give him an award. But I’ve got an instinct for spotting talents and I know Kromus has it. I just hope he’ll get hooked. /waving to Kromus.


Now it’s time for some honesty. HP was honest about RL stuff, but I think I’ll stick to WoW. I tend to do those confessions all the time on my blog, so some of it is probably well known already. Anyway: here are some truths about Larísa:

  • I’m not an experienced kiter. There has never been any need for it. I remember kiting the bird in Magisters Terrace. But that was the exception. The other day I was suddenly asked to kite slime in Naxx. “OK” I said. It wasn’t the right moment to be honest about my lack of experience. So I threw some spells and ran off. Nuked again and ran off. It worked. I don’t know if it was because I kited correctly or if the raid just was OP though. I really should go training it for a while. It’s basic skill for a mage.
  • I’ve never won a duel to another player at the same level as me. On the other hand, the occasions I’ve been duelling can probably be counted on my fingers.
  • I haven’t run Auctioneer for ages. I just can’t bare myself to deal with it, it’s so utterly boring. I’m rather poor than spending loads of time on that.
  • I don’t follow the development of the patchnotes of 3.1. I bide my time and wait for the think tank at EJ to make up their minds. Then I look for the sticky summery posts and just read the conclusions right before the patch is about to arrive.
  • I consider human females ugly. I’d rather play a troll than one of those. The human males aren’t too handsome either. I’ve got a phobia for humans.
  • I used to think that gnome males were ugly too, but I’ve changed my mind for some reason. Brain wash, mind control or pure gnomish hormones?
  • I keep getting lost, not only in huge dungeons as BRD, but also in the tiny non-instanced caves where you sometimes go while questing. They come in a few standard models, but I haven’t yet been able to memorize a single one. The only cave I don’t get lost in is the kind that’s just a single whole in the wall.
  • I’ve people on my friends list that I seriously don’t know who they are. For some reason I can't make myself delete them.
  • In spite of my experience as a leader in real life, I’m quite shy in game. I normally don’t take the initiative to make a party because I’m afraid to be turned down. At the age of 41 I’m sometimes turned into an insecure teenager. Strangely enough.
  • I’ve blogged for over a year and written almost 300 blogposts. And I’ve still not come around to tell my family about it.

Now bring it on if you feel like it!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Would you like to be my guildie?

I normally don’t accept any ads in my blog. But today I’ll make an exception. This is not a real blogpost, it’s an advertisement. My beloved guild Adrenaline has lost a few members recently. Currently we’re short on ranged dps of all classes except mage. We're looking for 2 hunters, 2 warlocks, 1 elemental shaman, 1 shadowpriest and 1 boomkin druid.

Now you could wonder if there’s something wrong with the guild since we’re losing people? I assure you: there isn't. We’re a fantastic team and the drop outs haven’t jumped the ship for other guilds. We’ve lost them to this odd existence outside of Azeroth called Real Life. They’ve simply stopped playing (which makes me wonder: is this a general tendency we're seeing? Has the game finally started to lose more players than it gains?)

Anyway: Adrenaline raids three times a week and you’re expected to attend “most” of them. We’ve had some nice progress during the last couple of months and most of the content is on farm. We’re working on Sarth+3d and hope to get it done before the patch hits.

Our home is at the Stormrage server, EU. You’ll find further information about the guild and what we expect in our recruitment ad and on the guild website

That was what I had to say. Thank you for your attention and don’t hesitate to spread the word if you know a nice and skilled EU-player who’s looking for a new home. Now back to blogging!
Edit: apparently we're not just looking for dps. We would also be happy to get another healer or two, preferrably druid or shaman.

Do you fear to appear in WoW Insider?

There was a time when the highest wish of a newborn blogger was to get a mentioning in WoW Insider. A dream coming true. A brief moment of fame in pond of the out-of-game WoW community.

The first time I was mentioned, it was indirectly. I don’t remember from which blog it was, but WoW Insider had linked to a post on a blog, which in turn linked to a post at Larisa’s Corner, as the blog was called at that point. The effect was instant – the visitor numbers skyrocketed for one day, to then go back to the normal. I was thrilled.

To get a link at all wasn’t anything that you counted on, on contrary. In those days WoW Insider had a reputation for being a bit careless when it came to giving credits. They tended to use blogs for inspiration and content, a bounce-off for their own posts, sometimes without adding any new information. There were moments when there were pretty upset feelings among bloggers who felt that they made a profit on their material without following the normal Bloggers Code of Honour.

This practice has changed over the last year. I don’t know if it’s because of the entry of Matt into the WI staff, but I wouldn’t be surprised, since he’s a true friend and protector of the blogging community. Or maybe they’ve just realized how much the smaller blogs mean to them as content and idea generators. But they’ve clearly improved. It’s evident that they read more blogs and do it more carefully, but they’ve also adapted a policy to give credit to those who should be credited.

The daily quest
A little while ago WoW Insider got a new regular column which reinforces the new link-to-other-blogs-deal. It’s called The daily quest and provides a few links to recent blogposts. I can’t say that it feels indispensable if you’re as deep into blog writing and reading as I am – so far I’ve already read the interesting links they’ve come up with. But I guess it fills a role as a teaser and appetizer, like a road sign, pointing in the direction towards the rich world of the Blogosphere.

However the reaction towards this new column isn’t altogether positive. Apparently some bloggers who have been mentioned have suffered from trolls that suddenly have found an unspoiled area to start to pollute. Even though we’ve had some attacks before – especially the most popular blogs, such as BBB and Tobold, we’ve generally had somewhat of a sanctuary in the Blogosphere. This was a place where you could still discuss issues in an intelligent, meaningful and civilized manner, in sharp contrast to the official forums which since long has been severely infected by trolls. Now WoW Insider has provided a road sign, viewable not only for the friendly blog readers who are interested in a good discussion. The sign is there to follow for anyone, a free entrance ticket for those who for some strange reason find pleasure in being rude to others.

Krizzlybear has gone so far that he hesitates to write a blogpost since he doesn’t know if he’ll end up attracting a bunch of trolls through WoW Insider who will come over and destroy what he’s built up over so long time. That’s sad to hear, to say the least. I think – or rather hope – that he’s overestimating the risk for it – personally I’ve never ever had a single comment on this blog that I’ve had to take away because of it’s trolling nature. But I can’t blame him either for thinking the thought.

Building barriers
Some bloggers don’t wait for the trolls to arrive. They put up barriers, such as approval procedures for comments. Others don’t allow anonymous comments. You could go even further if you wanted to. I come to think about Gevlon’s post where he said that the major purpose of a raiding guild was to build a barrier, to form a small island of competence where you keep the morons and slackers out, a place to hide in. We could do the same, requiring blog readers to apply for a membership, giving out passwords needed to read and comment on the blogs. It’s not something I hope for or advocate though, since it’s so much against the nature of the blog.

Blogging is about sharing ideas, opinions and perspectives. Through the blogs our minds can meet, no matter of hindrances as distance in space, time and social status. We want to tear down walls – not build them.

I don’t know what the best way to fight trolls is. But I sincerely hope that there aren’t more bloggers out there who consider turning silent or start to whisper because of the WoW Insider readers.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The reward of raiding achievements

Sydera @ World of Matticus wrote an interesting post about the tensions that Conquest – and probably many other raiding guilds as well – currently faces. The issue is about different approaches and interest in achievements. While some players see it as the natural next challenge to overcome, once the instances are beaten in the normal way, others can’t see the point of running wipe nights, with a reward that in best case will be 10 achievement points and eventually a vanity mount.

GM Matticus doesn’t hide his own point of view. In a comment he makes a comparison.

“Let’s say I got a Civic. I have the option of painting the car red with racing stripes at some cost to myself. The performance of the car doesn’t change. It doesn’t accelerate any faster. It doesn’t handle any better. It just looks different and it stands out amid the crowd of black and white Civics.

On the other hand, if there were some type of miracle paint on the market that some how causes less drag and improves my fuel efficiency by 5%, then it’s something I would consider.”

My position
So where do I stand in this? Well, as I wrote in a post the other week, I’ve been fighting myself a bit lately, not to get obsessed by chasing a goal that I don’t stand a chance to reach due to my limits in gaming time. I try to find other things to head for, things that challenge me and trigger my fighting spirit, but don’t demand that I raid four or five nights a week in prime time for socializing with my family.

But on the other hand I must say that I can completely understand those who insist on raiding in achievement mode rather than just clearing the content quickly and efficiently for a maximum quota of loot/invested gaming hour.

Raiding to me is not business. It’s not work. It’s not about getting a certain material (even though it’s in pixels) reward. Raiding is a performing art, where enjoying the beauty and the perfection in the performance is reward enough.

I don’t watch football a lot, but honestly, isn’t it much more fun to see – or participate – in a football match when you make that perfect goal, after dribbling around a few of the opponent players, tricking the goal keeper to the wrong corner and then just putting it in an angle, impossible to reach? In the records it won’t count as anything else but a sloppy, ugly, hazard goal. But the feeling, the memory of it, is entirely different.

It’s the same thing in a raid. I get quite a different feeling if we get Heigan down through a safety dance (done it twice now in heroic mode, yay!) than if half of the raid is dead and can go AFK while the rest slowly, slowly takes him down. The loot is the same. But not the experience.

Extra motivation
Lately the signups have dropped a bit – I guess it’s a sign of slight pre-patch-apathy that has infected us – so we were forced to do Naxx on 20 man last week. And how much more fun wasn’t that! Suddenly I got a real thrill again from the Thaddius fight! It took us a couple of tries, but at last we got him, with about 0.1 second to go before a raid wipe. And I knew that every single decision I had made in this fight had mattered for the outcome. It mattered when I did my evocation, how I managed my cooldowns and how I got another extra cast away while moving. It gave me the extra motivation I needed to stretch the limit of my ability, to give edge to my performance.

Naxx hasn’t got much more to give us now loot wise. Tons of equipment is being disenchanted. I’m still waiting for the turning tide, but apart from that, there are very few things to hope for. I can’t expect to get any kicks whatsoever from loot now until Ulduar hits. But as long as there are raiding achievements to go for, that isn’t any big problem. The reward of doing things in a more difficult mode and forcing yourself in the direction of perfection is enough to keep me happy.

An art form
Raiding achievements definitely have a value to me, which has nothing to do with dragon mounts. To be honest I can’t distinguish one dragon mount from the other myself, and I don’t expect anyone to be impressed by whatever mount I have – they probably don’t notice it. Raiding achievements is about the beauty of the perfection. It’s an art form.

Other kinds of achievements don’t give me that kick. That’s why I really can’t bother to cook a ton of different sorts of food that is useless to me, just to get my 10 points for doing so. It’s not art. It’s boring and feels like a time sink.

Now, Ulduar is only weeks away. Let’s hope that Conquest and other guilds that are facing the same discussions can stick together in this period. Soon enough we’ll have our hands learning the new boss encounters. And we’ll get loot reward again, yay! The achievement issue will be put on the shelf. I guess it’s likely that it will pop up once again, causing splits, once Ulduar is on farm. But I’ll leave those worries to the future.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Do players from different countries have different mindsets?

The non-breakable barrier between the EU servers and the US servers has always intrigued me. I’ve kept wondering what’s hidden behind it. And I bet my curiosity just comes out of the wall. If it wasn’t there, if I had free access to any server in the world, no matter of continent, I probably wouldn’t care much about it.

I reckon some things are pretty much the same. The setting, the environment, the quests, it’s all the same. Even the bugs are global. When the ice stone melts, it melts all over the world, at every single server.

The language would be pretty much the same too. Belonging to one of the smaller languages, I’m assigned to an English speaking server, and English is the language I play on, except for when I’m in an all-Swedish party, which happens pretty rarely nowadays. There are quite a lot of UK players on the server, so I guess the English we speak is more UK-oriented than US, but to be honest, the differences are pretty small, at least for a foreigner. I don’t think much about on which side of the Ocean an expression or a spelling belongs, I mix it up happily all the time and it works decently anyway.

So language and setting would be the same. But would the players be? Could I expect to meet a different mindset in a US guild than in a European one?

Yes, if I should believe Euripides at Critical QQ. He had a post last week, which was about an ongoing forum discussion about arenas, but his statements are pretty general. I’ll give you a couple of quotes:

“I think the difference between the top classes for EU servers and US servers has everything to do with the mentality of the players.

For pure example’s sake, let’s say every player has two values: they want to win, and they want to have fun.

For EU players, it’s the latter value that’s more important. They want to play the class they have fun playing. They still want to win, but that’s secondary to doing what they liked doing in the first place.

US players are a little different. That whole having fun thing is secondary to winning. American players want to win, no matter what the cost is.”

So the US players are more winning oriented and competitive than the European ones? Is that really so, or isn’t it just on old stereotype of the American obsession with financial and professional success?

If you look at the world top raiding guilds, according to Wowjutsu (for whatever it’s worth), all of the current 10 in top are European. As a matter of fact the first US guild appears on 18:th place. I do understand that this may have to do with time differences in the moment of the release of WotLK, but still I think it shows that Europeans certainly are as interested in competition as anyone else.

It’s the same if you look at the PvP ranking. Of the Arena teams listed at SK-gaming, 6 out of 10 in top are European and 4 are US. For individual players, 8 of 10 in top are from Europe. And the player with the highest achievement points in the world plays on a EU realm. Of course.

Studying blogs could be another way to capture the mindsets of players from different countries. Is there any difference between the European, the US and the AU bloggers? For a long time I tried to see it. I looked at the blogs through my stereotyped glasses and tried to see a pattern where US bloggers were cheerful, optimistic and perhaps a little bit superficial, always with a smile on their face, no matter what happened to them. The Europeans on the other hand, I expected to be a bit dull, depressed, introspective and analyzing. Like the cinematic tradition.

But after more than one year of blog reading I must say that I couldn’t tell which blogger is from Europe and which is from US, if you would hide the about-page and just showed me the content. There are cheerful blogs, that don’t intend to give anything more than a laugh in both places. And there are low profiled, thoughtful posts coming from US as well as from UK (or Sweden for that sake).

Perhaps globalization has had a smoothening effect on us all, for good and for bad. Or maybe we weren’t as different as we thought we were from the beginning. It was all about prejudices.

I can’t be sure though, since there’s no way I can peek over the wall. I know there are a few players who have played on both sides. What’s your opinion in this matter? Would I be likely to notice a difference in the atmosphere if I joined a US guild?

Friday, March 20, 2009

A post about emotions, passion and my need for ironskin

This post takes off from another meme. I was tagged by WTF Spaghetti, who thought that I could come up with something on the “Wanted” theme, that has been going around in the Blogosphere for a while, originally initiated by Megan, as far as I remember.

Following the rules you’re supposed to make a very short statement, following this pattern:

On the road of X there is Y and Z
Insertwitthyhere Wanted

The word which made me hesitate to jump on this train was “Insertwittyhere”. To be honest I’m not the witty type, especially not on request. Being witty in English is even worse – I don’t master the language well enough to come up with fun puns. And finally the most effective way of killing a joke is to beforehand claim that you’re just about to be “witty”.

Still: a tag is a tag, and I’m a service minded blogger. If someone asks me to write something, I try to deliver. So after some pondering I came up with one. It’s supposed to be in a picture, but I skipped that part since I a) don’t have any good imaging program b) fear that people who read the blog through a feed will have problems to see the text if I hide it in a picture. So here we go, the Wanted meme in a texted PPI version:

On the road to the closing screen
There will be broken hearts and lost illusions
Ironskin Wanted

After writing this one I realized that it was rather sad. It needed to be balanced somehow. So I made another one:

On the road to the closing screen
There will be moments of laughter, happiness and triumph
Replay button Wanted

Why emo is a problem
What do I mean by those Wanted poems? The idea was to somehow catch the emotional aspect of World of Warcraft. “Emo” isn’t a pretty word; normally it’s used pejoratively, as a way of belittling people who’re making too much fuzz about small annoyances they encounter in the game. In guild recruitment ads you often see statements about that they don’t want players who “go emo”, “crybabies”.

And I can understand this reluctance. It’s not that there’s necessarily something wrong about having emotions. The problem is if you display them at the wrong time. You can be on an emotional rollercoaster by yourself and that’s fine, but if you let your hurt feelings out at the wrong time, in a raid for instance, you’ll force everyone else to join you in your emo ride, losing energy and focus.

But even if it isn’t ok to go “emo” at certain times, I think it’s OK to have those feelings. It may even be a good thing. After all, what are those emotions, but signs of passion for the game?

Being passionate
For some reason the norm seems to be that we shouldn’t be passionate, shouldn’t involve ourselves too much. How many times haven’t we read the “cool down, it’s only a game” statement? No matter what issue you’re discussing, you can always pull the “only-a-game”-argument card, thus killing the debate.

I don’t buy it. If I was to keep my playing at a cool, distanced, intellectual level, not involving my passion and my emotions, the game would be close to dead to me. What’s the point of trying to kill a boss if you don’t knit your fist when you fail or cheer when you succeed?

I know a boss kill, an achievement or an upgrade doesn’t matter in real life, but it matters in the game. I invest dreams and hope in the game. I will feel fear, anger, frustration and disappointments, but also joy, laughter and sheer triumph. It can be quite exhausting from time to time. But it makes me feel alive and it keeps me hooked.

Ironskin wanted
Sometimes I get a bit too much of it. There have been moments over the years when I wished that I had an ironskin or a reflecting shield to put up to protect myself a bit. Hence the first Wanted verse.

Funny enough what really brings me down isn’t failures in raids. I can cope with wipe nights. I can cope with getting criticism (more or less disguised as “suggestions”) when I deserve it. I see it as a help and I don’t get a breakdown because of that. And I’ve never ever become depressed about not getting a certain drop.

No, the things that make me sad are all on the social side, the guild drama like stuff that happens. Sometimes I find myself in situations that for some reason remind me of the school yard jungle. For instance, when I see clicks getting formed, “cool” people sticking together and find myself standing alone along the sideline, unnoticed, unwanted, like a cast out, I’m emotionally turned into a 10 year old schoolgirl once again. In moments like that I start to blame myself, for being an outsider, but also for having those emotions, for being so squishy that I care. Ironskin wanted.

Replay button wanted
But being emotional can also be the opposite. I probably sound like an extremely pathetic, pity worthy WoW addict now, but to be honest it happens quite rarely that I get the same level of pure joy and excitement in real life as I get in WoW.

While raiding you build up a tension during a long time. When you finally succeed – or someone cracks a good joke – the relief and the feeling of happiness is so intense that it’s hard to compare to anything else. Some players remember to take screenshots – unfortunately I’m not one of them. The golden moments pass too quickly and more than once I’ve wished that I could rewind the tape and play it again. Replay button wanted.

A wave breaker
Emotions. Passion. Some people get scared by it, but not me. I’m rather angry and frustrated than cool, bored and indifferent. I prefer to clash into players who are passionate about the game than to play with people who don’t care much about anything.

Maybe what I need is a wave breaker. It wouldn’t stop the waves altogether – I could still enjoy the intense movement, the flashes of joy and of sorrow. But it would give me some protection against the biggest waves and prevent me from getting crushed into pieces.

End of post. I didn’t insert anything witty. Sorry about that, WTF Spaghetti. Hopefully it gave you something anyway. I stick to my habit when it comes to memes: I tag no one and therefore everyone who’s up for this one.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Realm Clown retires

I don’t know how many players my server hosts, but I guess there must be thousands. Most of us lead very anonymous lives. Even if you’ve made yourself a “name” after spending several years in different raiding guilds, I doubt that you’ll be recognized by more than a couple of hundred people, at the most.

There are exceptions though; the players who manage to put such a big spotlight on them that you just have to notice, even if you try not to. Cacknoob was one of those players.

A Realm Clown
Just the name tells you all, doesn’t it? Ugly as it is, I bet he had picked it on purpose, just to get attention and annoy people, his favourite occupation. I haven’t got much experience from playing at different servers, but I can imagine that every server has a handful of players of the same kind as Cacknoob. A Realm Clown.

No matter at what hour you logged in, you could bet Cacknoob was online. Probably that could explain his odd behaviour – I imagine he was somewhat speeded from a combination of lack of sleep, Red Bull and ultimate boredom with the game. He seemed to spend almost every single moment of his online time, filling the Trade channel, constantly arguing. If he didn’t argue with other players, he found ways to argue with himself. Mostly he seemed to hang around in the major cities, preferably at the bridge in IF. But it must have happened a few times that he actually played the game.

I remember when I joined a realm PUG for AQ40. I was shocked to see Cacknoob in it. A legend in my raid! Apparently he did something more than chatting, after all.

Now, this kind of extremely attention seeking people can be rather annoying. But for some reason I could actually put up with Cacknoob. He could be rather funny and entertaining from time to time. There were pearls hidden in this endless stream of rubbish coming from his mouth. And even though the trade channel surely isn’t intended for general chatting and abusing, I didn’t really suffer from it. On the contrary, during lonely gaming sessions when I didn’t have any other company but my non combat pet, I rather liked that there was a voice in the night there, even though it was rather crazy.

A farewell letter
So I was rather surprised the other day when I found a farewell letter from Cacknoob on the official realm forum. Apparently he has taken a break from WoW, or even left the game altogether. And even though people have loved to yell at him in the trade channel, urging him to shut up for once sake, he’s got quite a few farewell greetings from people wishing him good luck in real life, saying that they’ll miss him.

I can’t help wondering how his real life will be. Where will he now unlash his energy, after all this time spending it in the trade channel? He seems to be looking forward to it himself: “Woot I get my life back!” as he puts it.

You sure do, Cacknoob. I bet someone else will take the place as the Realm Clown. It’s a spot that needs to be filled. You have served us long and well, and now you need a break. Get yourself out in the sunshine and enjoy!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Finally I’m a teacher – time to shut up

Ever since I started playing WoW in the beginning of 2007, I’ve been a student. Beginning at a level of knowledge far below zero, I’ve constantly been looking for information, inhaling whatever words of wisdom and experience that has been tossed at me. I’ve been lucky enough to meet generous players who have been happy to help me out, patiently telling me the same thing not only once, but several times, until it finally sticks into my brain. And I’ve frequented out-of-game resources – forums, websites and blogs, to get a basic knowledge of what this game is about.

Disciple seems to be my assigned role. It has happened that I’ve found myself in the opposite role, as a teacher, but it has been so rare that I even wrote a blog post about it the one time it happened. It’s not that I don’t like to teach and help others; it’s rather that the people I meet in game tend to be at the same level of knowledge as I am, ore above it. Or maybe it’s just that they don’t expect that pink haired little merrymaker of a gnome to be a trustworthy source of information, so they don’t bother to ask.

But the other day this changed. Finally I’ve found myself in the Expert role. But contrary to what you could think I’ve also come to the conclusion that teaching is exactly the last thing I should do right now. If I’ve got any sense at all I’ll just keep my hands away from the student as much as possible, staying silently in the back. How come? Here’s the story:

Wow hating daughter
The student in question is my daughter. After turning her back to the game two years ago, leaving her lvl 32 druid eternally stranded in Booty Bay, she has been a dedicated WoW hater. I play mostly at odd hours, when my family’s asleep or doing other things, except for those two raiding nights a week that we have agreed on. And yet those two single nights have been a constant source of conflict. To see her mother sitting in the middle of the living room, completely focused on a game, talking to foreign people through a headset, freaks my daughter off completely. This isn’t a normal hobby for a middle aged mother. It’s rather an activity for her classmates. In fact she has been running a private war against Warcraft for such a long time now that I’ve started to take it for granted. To me playing Wow is most of all about managing family aggro, being careful to never go above the threat cap. I balance my gaming time, we negotiate and make agreements, and I stick to those agreements no matter what.

So I was taken completely by surprise the other day when the same wow hating daughter approached me and asked me if I was going to play for long. I was just logged in very briefly and I wasn’t up to any spectacular, just casually levelling my rogue, so I said: “no problem, I can finish any time, do you need the computer?” And then she answered: “I’d like to play a bit if you don’t mind”. Of course I didn’t.

We spent a few hours together in that afternoon. “I’m spending quality time with mum”, she said to her sister, who couldn’t believe her eyes, seeing the change. She decided to start it all over again, since she didn’t remember much of the game after such a long time. It seemed better to begin from scratch. Looking at the creation screen, she asked me about the different classes and I explained, trying to remain neutral as possible about what to roll. She ended up making another druid. (I think there definitely is something in their appearance that attracts 16 year old girls.) Then I helped her to get the UI working properly with all the addons I had installed during the years. I also sent her 100 g and a bunch of bags to give her an easy start, where she didn’t have to worry about not having enough copper coins to be able to pay the training fees or about full bags. But that was about as much as I gave her. After this I backed off to the back, where I tried to stealth, biting my tongue not to say too much.

Staying quiet
I assure you it wasn’t easy. The way she used the camera, the way she moved… it didn’t seem efficient at all. It looked as if she was going to become a keyboard turner, a nasty habit that I slip into myself from time to time and constantly try to rid myself of. I knew she would be much better off in the long run if she tried to rely on the mouse rather than on the arrow keys. I told her once. Then I didn’t say it again, since I saw an angry little wrinkle popping up between her eyes.

The same thing happened when she was starting to cast her spells. “Try not to click on the spells, I said. Use the keys instead. Look here! You can just press the 2-button!”.

She frowned and I stealthed once again, cursing myself.

A few minutes later she exclaimed:

“Mum, this surely must be the prettiest area in the game?”

I thought about it for a second. The older parts of the game are a little bit outdated. I can’t sincerely say that Teldrassil is prettier than for instance Stormpeaks. But why point it out to her? She didn’t ask me for information or about my opinion. She just wanted to get confirmation that she had made a good choice picking a night elf.

“Yes”, I answered. “It really is”.

“Now off you go and do something useful”, she said. “Don’t hang around here looking over my shoulder.” Reluctantly I moved away from the screen. I could be a teacher to her, at least in some aspects, even though I’m honestly pretty clueless about druids.. But in this situation I shouldn’t. She didn’t need any teaching. She needed time to discover the game again, on her own conditions, in her own pace.

Learning by watching
Before leaving her I offered her to sit next to me and watch next time I’m raiding. And she wasn’t completely opposed to the idea, as she’s been before. I think this would be the best way to share some knowledge with her – in case she wants it. I’ll tell her about what’s in my mind when I play, about the things that I monitor and the decisions I make on the fly. She can study me and if there’s something in it that seems useful or interesting she can ask me. But once I turn over the controls to her, I’ll stick to my pervious strategy, staying silent and passive, unless she actively asks me for advice.

I have no idea about how long her newborn interest in WoW will last. Maybe it was just for one afternoon. Maybe she’ll get hooked and end up insisting me on getting her an account of her own.

But I know one thing. I will not be the one jeopardizing her interest in Azeroth, pushing her too much or making her feeling overwhelmed.

I’m going to be the quietest teacher ever seen. Take it as a promise.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Another painful day riding my mechanostrider

Let’s be honest about it. Mechanostriders squeal. And they give me a headache. I don’t think it’s something that could easily be fixed if you just looted one of those Harvest Golems in Westfall for a flask of oil. It’s worse. There’s obviously something wrong in their construction.

A danger to Azeroth
I know Gnomeaggedon, the defender of everything gnomish in Azeroth will shake his fist at me for saying this, but frankly I think that any mount in the game – even those extremely ugly and unpractical elekks – is better than the failed gnomish experiment of a vehicle. It’s a shame that those rides are still around on the roads – they’re a danger to mankind and are likely to blow up any minute, considering the sound of them.

Painful is the word. And even though I respect and admire Green Armadillo, the brilliant author of Player versus Developer, I sincerely can’t understand his love for mechanostriders. It’s… kinky and incomprehensible.

I had all but forgotten about the existence of the striders, since I stopped using them, quite abruptly.

It was last year, during the summer event, when I visited bonfires in every godforsaken corner of Azeroth during a couple of several hour long travelling sessions, that I for the first time fully realized how much the sound of my mount annoyed me. I didn’t really want to turn the game sound off completely, missing all the music, all the events, npc:s and the information that I get from the spellsounds and the sound-playing addons. So there wasn’t any way to avoid listening to the squeaks and creaks. As my journey continued I started to hesitate every time I had to mount up again to go to a bonfire situated a bit away from the fp. Finally I swore an oath to never again let Larísa suffer from the noices from the stupid machine bird. Any animal, be it a horse, a tiger or an elekk, would be better than this.

Shortly after this final odyssey of the strider I bought my Stormpike Battle Charger to replace it. The Battle charger is a beautiful mount and goes very well with a gnome, considering the size and the looks of it. I’ve never ever looked back. My battle charger is my loyal companion wherever I go.. Even though the mechanostrider nowadays dwells in the spellbook, without occupying valuable slots in the bag, the spell of summoning it remains untouched.

Until now. The last week I’ve started to commit most of my out-of-raid hours on the task of leveling my rogue Arisal, who naturally is a gnome like Larísa, only that her hair is black and quite punk-like, looking great on a rogue. I’ve been roaming around Dragonblight and Grizzly Hills, once again accompanied by a strider, only that this one was yellow instead of white, since I for some reason had the idea that this would suit a rogue. And with every step she takes I’ve been thinking: I must change her. Give me whatever you can think of: a horse, a ram, an elekk, a broom. Give me those soft sounds from the paws of the ride touching the ground, every so lightly instead of the squeaking machine and I’ll be just fine.

Looking for alternatives
It remains to see what I’ll do about it. The ultimate ride would be the Winterspring Frostsaber, but since I’m pretty much focused on leveling, I’m not really up for grinding all those hours just for a reputation, without getting any xp whatsoever. So I’ll have to look into the alternatives. Run a bunch of AVs perhaps (after all rogues are MEANT for PvP, aren’t they?). Or bribe the inhabitants of Darnassus with huge amounts of cloth so they let me buy a REAL mount instead of this perverted Frankenstein like copy?

Any other suggestion about how to escape the Curse of Mechanostrider would be very much appreciated.

Something definitely needs to be done about this before my head explodes.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The art of setting the right goals

So finally he got his proto-drake, Josh of Eye for an Eye. I read about his Glory of the Raider achievement the other day and I rejoiced at his success. Really well done! I was especially happy to see this since I remember his frustration and pain last autumn when he had to give up raiding due to RL commitments. He was all about to give up on blogging as well and I remember how I tried to convince him to stay around as a blogger. And now, this! Title, mount, you’ve got everything you wished for.

At the same time I must admit that I can’t help feeling a little pang of envy. As the Patch with a big P is approaching I’m realizing that I’ll probably never be able to get that one. I tend to miss the 10-man raids, since they’re on off nights and usually too early to me, at a time when my children expect me to join them watching a movie or some other family activity. At the point when I’m able to log in, people are already tied up in instance groups, knocking of 5-man instance achievements or running normal raids on 8 people. So I often find myself pugging, and assembling a PUG with the ambition and capacity to do achievements isn’t exactly easy. If you get a group at all, you could as well end up with someone’s ungeared, unplayed alt, not the best setting for an achievement run. Reading about Josh achievement I get reminded of the fact that it’s beyond my reach and for some reason this hurts a little.

It’s not an emotion I’m proud of, on contrary. It’s completely pointless, illogical, and childish, not to say spoiled. I’m better off than many other bloggers, in fact I belong to a small privileged part of the WoW population that has been lucky enough to get into a guild where I can enjoy quality raiding two times a week. I’ve cleared all 25 man content except Sarth+3d and I’m geared enough to be ready for Ulduar. Compare this to poor Gnomeaggedon, who hasn’t yet reached 80, or Part Time Druid, who only has been into Naxx 10 a couple of times and recently gquit since he couldn't find a group. “Larísa”, I tell myself with my most severe voice, “it’s really about time that you grow up and you’ve really got nothing to complain about!”

Goals in real life
For some reason it appears to me that setting the right goals for ourselves, goals that challenge us, but don’t leave us completely frustrated, is much harder in WoW than it is in real life.

I came to think about my first dream job: at the age of four I wanted to become the Queen of Sweden. As time passed I must somehow have realized that this job wasn’t announced publicly and not available to anyone, so I switched plans accordingly. Now I wanted to become an astronaut, travelling to the End of the Universe, exploring the stars and whatever was beyond. Gradually this dream too faded away for several reasons (my physical appearance being the most obvious limiting factor) and another one was born: I wanted to become a journalist. This idea actually made me take action and became reality. It was obviously the right goal for me. It was difficult enough to motivate me to go for the needed top grades and to keep me hungry, motivated, alert, to make me feel challenged and through this sort of alive, if you get what I mean. At the same time it was realistic enough to not make me just bang my head into a wall and then drop dead on the floor, disillusioned, bitter and frustrated.

At one point in my struggles I became a bit annoyed. This was when I for tactical reasons had chosen an “easy” course at school, just to get the grades I wanted. It was completely unchallenging and I turned up so bored due to lack of stimuli that I finally left for a harder course that gave me more to work for. I ended up much happier. But apart from this incident, goal setting never was a big deal for me. I’ve found goals to strive for in my life and career, goals that have been challenging enough to be fun, but realistic enough to prevent me from being unhappy.

At the age of 41 I know that I’ll never become Queen of Sweden. I’ll never travel to the stars either, unless something really amazing will happen in the space tourism in the next 30 years. I’ll never become a world famous pop star or a bestselling author.

And do you know what? I’m fine with this. It doesn’t bother me the slightest. I’m not envious of neither our current Queen of Sweden or the next one to follow, our Royal Princess. I don’t envy the first and only Swedish astronaut, Christer Fuglesang. I can even cope with the fact that I’m not J.K. Rowling.

Goals in the game
For some reason it works differently in WoW. I can’t as easily accept the fact that I lead a different life to those who get the Glory of the Raider achievement done. So what to do about it? Well, I certainly won’t start to complain about the achievement requirements as such. The whole idea about some of the achievements is that they SHOULD be very hard to get and thus appear rarely on the realms. If they were to be handed out easily to anyone, much of the point of them as motivators and driving forces in the game would be gone.

No, the way to go is not to whine, but to reconsider my own goals in the game and make sure that I set them at the right level. Guildwise my current goal is very clear: to down Sartharion+3d before the patch and then conquer Ulduar. On a personal level I’d still like to knock off a few more achievements, even though I won’t get a mount. But there are other, better goals. For instance I’ve got alts to level, something I can do no matter if I play at odd hours. It would be really cool to feel that I master the basic skills of my rogue, well enough to be able to run a normal instance without making a fool out of myself. And recently I initiated another little side project: I’ve done the unthinkable and rolled myself an un-gnomish character, a druid, currently merrily roaming around in the woods of Teldrassil, which actually is a brand new area to me. In some distant future I plan that she will give me a little bit of personal experience of the art of healing. I’ve always thought that the druid rains is one of the most beautiful spells in the game.

Setting the right goals is really an art. Don't misunderstand me, it's not about giving up on ambitions, settling for only the things you easily can get. Being a little frustrated doesn't hurt, on the contrary. The day I'm not hungry for more I figure I'm done with the game. But you should also be able to see that you're making some kind of progress towards your goal, that it could be possible to reach if you really put your heart into it.
To Larísa, levelling a couple of alts is a perfect goal to strive for. Glory of the Raider is not. I know this logically. Now, if I only could make my heart accept it too.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

One of those nights

It was one of those cursed nights when nothing seemed to click, except for the portal from the graveyard in Dragonblight that was thrown up after the final wipe. We all clicked on it promptly to just get the hell out of there, flee the field, pull a blanket over our heads and try to forget. Yeah, the portal worked as it should. In opposition to everything else this evening.

For the first week in ages we hadn’t cleared all of Naxx. Kel’Thuzad was still alive when we called it night a few hours before reset, and I think we were quite shocked. This instance was on farm. This was something we could do almost with our eyes closed, easy content that bores us quite a bit because of the lack of challenge. We’re one of the ten-top-guilds on the servers, working on Sartharion+3. We’re NOT working on KT, it’s supposed to be if not a joke, so not far from it. And now this! How could it happen?

Signs of failure
I called it cursed, but to be honest it’s the wrong way to put it. The word implies that there’s some problem coming from outside, a natural disaster just happening to us. We’re helpless victim, it isn’t our fault. And that’s crap. If the raid doesn’t perform it isn’t because a curse has been put upon us. It’s because we’ve become too certain about ourselves, too unfocused, to careless, yes to be blunt, maybe even too lazy.

The signs of our failure were there in the very first trash pull in the Spider wing. Three aggro-crazy mages (including me, sigh), died on the spot after too careless spamming of aoe. What a start. I felt like the M in the M&S expression invented by Gevlon (Moron&Slacker).

We continued our way through Naxx with annoying, unnecessary deaths, slowing us down a bit. What we had thought would be a quick and easy raid (three wings plus the final two bosses), turned out to be quite painful. Too many errors, even a wipe on trash.
The only exception was the Heigan dance, which went better than usual. Only one player died, and it wasn’t me, yay!

But except for that. Failure. Sapphiron, normally easily oneshotted, took us two tries, and when he went down, a third of the raid was dead, so it definitely wasn’t any speed record. Far from pretty. And then the failure at Kel’Thuzad…. So humiliating that people lacked words to speak about it afterwards, but rather logged off, to sleep and to forget.

How easy it would have been if there was a particular player to blame (preferably not yourself)! Unfortunately there wasn’t. We all had our share in this. I have no other explanation but that we’ve become a bit like fat, sleepy cats, too full to be interested in real rat hunting, after having too much of an easy ride too long. It’s just like what can happen if you climb a mountain. You’re most likely to stumble and fall when you’re going downhills afterwards. That’s the point when your attention will fail.

Dealing with it
So how do you deal with one of those nights afterwards? Normally I think it’s a good thing to analyze every run, think back, see what went wrong, learn from the mistakes and make it better next time. In this case I’m not so sure. We all know how to do this by now. There are no doubts about the strategies. It was just the execution that was poor. We all know it and I don’t think anyone want to have a night like this again. Ever. I doubt we’ll do any in-depth analysis about this, but it’s obvious that we need to find our focus again. If we keep performing like we did this night we’ll run right into an unforgiving wall in Ulduar. And that will hurt.

Personally I recovered pretty quickly. I didn’t sulk and I didn’t log off. Instead I asked our raid leader if he had time to go to OS with me, which had been cleared earlier in the week. I wanted him to show me his ideas about the optimal positioning to minimize movement to avoid fire walls and maximise dps time. I’m a friend of learning by doing, rather than just by looking at pictures and movies. Our next raid on Thursday will be Sarth+3d and I wanted to come prepared. He was happy to help me out, and I felt how I quickly got my energy back, just by focusing on what was lying ahead of us, rather than feeling depressed about what has passed.

This done I went to Dalaran, turned in the token for the T7.5 chest and got my new gear piece enchanted and gemmed, which made me smile a bit. Upgrades DO make you in a better mood, don’t they? I also went to Wyrmrest Temple to turn in the quest for the Heroic Key to the Focusing Iris, which I had been lucky enough to win. And realizing that this quest will lead me to the best-in-game neck next time we down Malygos, my spirits increased even more.

I parked Larísa outside OS, ready for her next raid, with my mind set on that it won’t be a cursed night, but a blessed night, a night to remember. I thought about the inspiring post that I read by Elleiras at Fel Fire the other day, how they more or less unexpectedly did their multi-dragon-kill. It showed me so clearly what raiding is all about. To have the right gear, the skill and a good strategy is important, no doubt. But even more important is to have the right attitude. To have faith, hope and endurance. To perform, even when the odds seem to be going against you.

We’ve had one of those nights. Now it’s time that we move on and show again what we’re capable of.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Names I avoid to say aloud

I’ve never been into Scholomance – as a child of TBC I never had any reason. And frankly I’m pretty happy about it. You see, this is one of the places, wearing names that I’ve knew how to say. I’m just fine with the second half of it, the “mance”. Not much to ponder on. But the beginning… ???

According to Garen, guest poster at Altoholic’s Are Us, it should be said “sk”, as in school. It’s not like shampoo, even though I’d be pretty temped to think it was, since it’s got some German resemblance and Germans are crazy about those sounds. And then there are those “o”s, how to treat them? Is it a “uuuu” sound, as in “Zulu” or “school”? Or should it be pronounced more like “corn” or “raw”?

Doing some research for this post I went to Wowwiki and blushing I realized that in this case I had got the answer much earlier if I had bothered to look it up. “SKOH-loh-mance”. But this is an exception. It’s quite rare that Wowwiki bothers about the say-it-aloud-issue.

So the question I put to Garen and everyone else is: where is your source of information? Is there some hidden website where Blizzard employees give language classes in Wowian, providing sound clips so there’s no doubt about it? Or is it a secret, spreading from mouth to mouth, over Vent and TS servers all over the world?

Alternative strategies
Since I’m not one of the members of the Secret Society of Wowian Pronounciation, I’ve got to rely on alternative strategies. The one I use most is to by all means avoid saying any name aloud, be it a boss or an instance. If I really have to name anything I write it in the chat. This tactic may give you a reputation for being a very shy player (or possibly having a broken mic), but at least you don’t risk to sound stupid.

Another solution is to use short forms. Stop worrying about how to put the emphasis in Naxxramas (NAXXramas, NaxxRAmas or NaxxramAS?). Call it Naxx and you’re all safe. Sartharion becomes Sarth. Prince Mala…whatever, I can’t even remember his name well enough to even write it, becomes “The Prince”. I had never heard anyone brave enough to pronounce Ahn’Qiraj until I heard Fimlys saying it at TN a little while ago – at first I didn’t understand what instance he was talking about, I wasn’t familiar with the name. Everyone, absolutely everyone I’ve ever met has been cheating, calling it AQ, followed by a number.

A special thing about Northrend which has puzzled me a bit is how to deal with the names which indicates a Scandinavian Heritage. It feels a bit silly to wrinkle my tongue so I sound like an Englishman painstakingly trying to pronounce Valgarde or Gjalerbron in a Nordic way. Why not pronounce it in Scandinavian, without the English accent, since I’m capable of it? On the other hand I do the same thing with “smorgasbord” and “ombudsman”, two other Swedish words which have managed to slip into the English vocabulary. They sound very different when I say them in Swedish – when say them in English I happily adapt and mistreat them. Or perhaps people would consider it rather fun and exotic if I could teach them to say the names in a true Viking way, adding some more local flavour to the game?

Who decides?
The remaining question is: who decides what’s the Right way and the Wrong way to say a WoW name? On what basis do you ridicule me when I after twisting my pigtails finally make up my mind and spit out “Gnomeregan” according to how it sounds in the mind of Larísa? Is there really a manual? Or are we all clueless, only that some of us have better confidence in promoting our ideas than others?

By the way, maybe there are some guests of the inn who hesitate about how to pronounce Larísa. I don’t think it’s too hard, but if anyone’s wondering, stress the “í” and say it like the “I” in “pity” or “lily”.

The name of the blog, “The Pink Pigtail Inn” should be quite evident how to say. It’s only the execution that may be a bit tricky. Trying to say it myself when I was going to appear in the Twisted Nether show, I realized that the word bounces around in your mouth like popcorn. If you have difficulties, just follow one of my tricks above. You can always call it “PPI”.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Player not found

It was just an ordinary night, nothing fancy going on. I think I was standing by the stove in Underbelly, waiting for my daily meatloaf to get ready, when a yellow text message suddenly appeared in the chat window. It wasn’t long, just two short sentences, but still they made me feel strangely sad.

“Friend removed because the character no longer exists. Player not found.”

Desperately I started to scroll down the list. Who was missing? Not he, not she… I had no idea who it could be, and that made me feel worse. I hadn’t only lost a friend – I’d lost my memory of him or her as well.

What had happened to this no-longer-existing unknown person? Was it someone who had left the game altogether? Or was it just an unloved alt that had been deleted to leave place for an upcoming deathknight? Maybe this character still existed, but had gone through a gender and name change? Perhaps he or she had transferred to another server.

There are a ton of possibilities, but only this short removal message, which doesn’t say anything about what has happened. It only gives this vague feeling of loss and guilt for not knowing who the loss is about.

A suggestion
Couldn’t “the ones in charge” offer a little bit of help to gnomes with bad memory The information surely must be in their systems somewhere. If they know exactly how many manna biscuits I’ve ever eaten, how many times I’ve been resurrected by a priest and how many hugs I’ve given away since the statistics were launched, they surely must know the fate of my friends.

So please change this message to: “[playername] removed because [the character has changed name/moved to the XX-server/been deleted/whatever].

An alternative is that we could be allowed to keep people on our friends list, even though they’re not currently active. In that case we would be given the information about what has happened to our friend, followed by an option: “Do you want to remove the name from your friends list”. Thus sentimental players like me could get a help to keep the memories of our lost friendships alive.

Leaving a message
“The character no longer exists.” "Player not found." It’s a message completely void of emotions, and perhaps that’s why I go so emotional about it.

One day the yellow words will be about Larísa. I don’t know when, but we’re all mortal, even our WoW characters. I too will be automatically deleted from someone’s friends list. I wonder if they’ll figure out who’s missing?

Probably they will. The day I’m leaving Azeroth I’ll see to that I inform everyone I know might notice – online or by in game mail. When I switched server a year ago, that’s exactly what I did. I sent letters to my entire friends list, thanking them for our time together and suggesting them to come by the Stormrage server and say “hi”. Not many of them did. But at least they didn’t have to be clueless about the yellow sentences.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Six word stories about WoW

I’m a blogger of many words. Scroll down this page and you’ll see what I mean. I’ve never quite understood the point of Twitter.

At work I’m just the opposite, often preaching that less is more. Keeping your message short is essential if you want to get any attention in the media flood. I never hesitate to put my butchers knife into a mass of text that is too heavy to be readable.

But when it comes to blogging I allow myself to go wild; I let the words and sentences grow as they like. It’s nice to slip out of control for a change and there’s no customer around to complain about it. I’m the innkeeper here and if it doesn’t suit you, you can go to another bar and hang around.

There are exceptions though, and this post is about one of those. I’ve just stumbled upon a website, Six Word Stories, which made me fall in love on the spot. In case you haven’t seen it, it was inspired by a challenge that once was given to Ernest Hemingway. He was supposed to write a complete story in just six words. He did. The famous story: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn”

The site is full of other six word stories in all sorts of genres. Some are written by real authors, others have been provided by enthusiastic readers, more or less anonymous. Like this one:

“Checked Facebook. Apparently we broke up.” Being an old science fiction fan, I checked out the SF six word stories and immediately found a few that I liked:

“Computer becomes conscious. Immediately commits suicide.”

“TIME MACHINE REACHES FUTURE!!!....nobody there….”

“Dinosaurs return. Want their oil back.”

I’m really not a creative writer in the sense that I can make up fantastic stories, but I couldn’t resist the thought that it should be possible to write “stories” from Azeroth in just six words. Here's a couple:

"Icestone melted. Prime Directive violated. Engage!"

"Baby cries nine months after servercrash."

"Last mage quits. Working as intended."

Now I’m pretty sure you can make up better ones. So I challenge you to make up your own six word story with WoW connection and share it with us - in a comment to this post or on your own blog.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Why Big is Beautiful

Tessy at Reflections from the pond (by the way a wonderful blog, which should appear in many more blogrolls – go check it out if you haven’t already – it’s an order from your innkeeper!) had an interesting post about how she’s changed her mind about raiding.

When Tessy’s guild announced that their focus in WotLK would rather be 10 man raiding than 25 man, she was disappointed to begin with. Now she appreciates it, and she gives several reasons why the 10 man raiding is more fun. Tessy argues that it’s more challenging since you don’t have access to every single possible raid buff and utility. You have fewer people to rely on, meaning that there’s less room to screw up. She also finds it much more relaxed and social, since the smaller scale allows you to have some banter on Vent or in the raid chat in a way that would be unthinkable in 25 man raiding where you need keep those channels as clear as possible to avoid chaos.

In some ways I can give Tessy right. Especially on the social side, 10 man raiding is clearly superior to 25 man raiding. I’ve never ever encountered a management expert saying that 25 people is the optimal size of a unit. On the contrary, they generally recommend you to gather 8-12 people if you want to build a well working team. And looking at that, about 10 people should be quite ideal.

Just like Tessy I enjoy the coziness of the 10 man raids and I really love run them at offnights. But they don’t feel quite as indispensable as the bigger raids; I would be rather disappointed if my guild for some reason decided to scale down. And Tessie’s post made me start to think about why. What is it in the 25 man raids that attracts me so much that they’re the very core, the ultimate reason for me to play WoW at all?

The epicness
There must be something in the very size of them that gives them an aura of epicness that the smaller raids never will get, no matter how challenging the content may be if you go for the achievements.

Yeah, yeah, I hear that the WoW veterans among you are muttering over there by the bar disk, pointing out that the raids were much more epic when you did it on 40 man in Vanilla WoW. I believe you, but I wasn’t there. I’ve only got experience from 25 man raids (except for some nostalgic trips to AQ 40, which hardly gives the right impression), so that’s all I can talk about. But those raids are epic enough to me.

It’s true that 25 man raids aren’t good for smalltalking. While you can joke around to keep spirits up during corpse runs or during a scheduled break, at least my raiding guild guild will expect you to not talk more than necessary, since there’s so much information that needs to be exchanged about roles and tactics that there isn’t room for anything irrelevant.
With a bigger group the leading must be performed in a more military like style, with simple order giving rather than dialogues. It comes with the size of the group. This may seem a little bit frightening the first time you experience it. I have to admit the silence freaked me off a little bit to begin with. But I’ve learned to love it. I like to be a foot soldier, to adapt to the given orders, while still keeping my eyes open and thinking for myself if the situation requires me to improvise.

The silence and the focus on the task in the bigger raids have somewhat of a cleansing effect on my mind. This is probably as close to meditation as I’ll ever come. I know it isn’t the case for everyone. There are imba players who can manage to watch a football game or chat on MSN with friends while raiding. I can’t. I’ve got to concentrate on what I’m supposed to do or I’ll cause a major disaster, which is rather embarrassing when there are 24 other people who will suffer from it. It’s as if the outer world ceases to exist, whenever I’m in a big raid. I get a tunnel vision, where there only thing I know of is “here and now” and the real life worries can’t touch me or distract me anymore.

The challenges
What about the challenge then? Do 10 man raids give you more resistance than the overpowered 25 man raids with an abundance of buffs? Well, that depends on the group composition and if you’re going to go for achievements or not. Generally I think the 25 man raids are more difficult, at least from a managing perspective, since there are so many more people to keep track on, organize, motivate and evaluate. Easy content or not, you can always do daft things, take the wrong turn and get an additional pack of trash mob, pull aggro from the tank and such. If you’re 25 people instead of 10, there are another 15 people who can cause a wipe by accident. The human error factor shouldn’t be neglected.

The fact that you don’t want to mess up the raid for 24 other people also put a lot of pressure on the individual, more than in a 10 man raid where people generally are more forgiving. The mental challenge shouldn’t be underestimated. Sometimes you can be given a central task that you’re not sure you can perform and yet you have to pull yourself together and to it. What a triumph it is when you succeed!

The adrenaline rush
On the screen there’s a ton of things going on to keep track on. More mobs, more players, more spells, more curses, more of everything. It’s easy to panic and lose track of what’s going on if you’re for instance doing Sartharion with dragons up. The whole experience with firewalls, dragons, portals, whelps and elements in combination with 24 other players running around performing different roles can be quite overwhelming. But at the same time it gives an adrenaline rush that I rarely can get from a 10 man raid.

Now, since I’ve been raiding in the 25 man format now for a while, about a year by now, I’ve started to get more used to it and take it a little bit more for granted. I see it much as the natural way to raid than as something extraordinary. But a little while ago I got a letter from Woulfie, a friend on my old server. He’s a veteran player compared to me, but hasn’t been as much into raiding and now he shared his impressions from his first 25 man raid. Reading his recount of it I can recall my first, confused and thrilled steps in a bigger raid.

Although I am running Naxx with our casual guild, we are making only moderate progress. We are almost finished the last quarter, but it is a struggle to get a group of people of mixed languages, ages and abilities (not to mention drinking habits) to understand and obey tactics.

I had sort of lost my confidence in being competent to heal the top end of the game. I had an idea that I am too old and too slow. I had stopped doing 5 mans when I dinged 80 and would have been obliged to do them on heroic mode. Bit by bit I have retreated into the crafting and levelling trades end of the game.

I was good at healing in earlier levels, I knew that. I did nothing except five man instances from 55 to 70.............. not a single quest except instance quests. God bless Death Knights levelling through Outlands I made friends with lots of nice tanks. But then went solo pretty much all the way from 70 to 80.

Then last night a very well organised guildie who runs Naxx with me asked me to come along as healer for OS 25. I told him I was nervous but he told me not to worry and to go on team speak with the other guild members running it too and all would be fine.

I can admit to you that I was simply terrified. Literally shaking. Got my flask and buff food together, made sure healbot was configured properly, cleared out my ui a little, and took a very quick look at Matticus for healing tips on the encounter. I was to heal a pretty newly dinged 80 warrior from my guild who is an off tank.

Meanwhile Draco had been utterly ruthless in organising the group. Fascinating to be in on the process. Anybody whose stats did not pass muster was not let in, or if they got in, kicked when the deficiency was discovered. The Gevlon principle.

We assembled, I stayed right beside my warrior, making sure he had a big diamond
over his head so I could find him in the crowd characters milling everywhere, raid chat full of buffing and communication among players, who will buff who with what, a few seconds shuffling into position and we charged...............................

The air explodes with spells going off. It was a beautiful sight. I upgraded my computer screen and graphics card recently and have never seen such colours, patterns and light on a pc screen before.

It was soooooooooooo easy. We tore down the three drakes, and then demolished the boss. Healing everybody through the lava waves that appeared unexpectedly....................... Off then to Voa where we did 25 and 10 man. In 10 man my warrior main tanked, and I healed................. Healed him, and anybody else who needed healing. No wipes, and my tank only died once all evening; when I did not expect an aoe and could not get out of it in time to get heals off...................

AND I got that trinket from os 25 that basically increases your spell power by 200 all the time. Illustration of the Dragon Soul.............

I did not think that wow still had the power to leave me trembling with excitement, exultation and triumph, but it has. It was probably my best night ever in the game.

And maybe, just maybe, I am a better healer than I thought. Why do we (or me at least) not believe in ourselves more?
Woulfie, my friend, I’m afraid you’ve just been caught by the 25 man raiding bug. There’s no cure for it, as far as I know of (well, joining a terribly bad PUG raid might help). I hope you can find a way to taste more of it in the future.

Big is Beautiful. That’s how it is. Not for everyone, but for me.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The identity crises of the specialists

Dual specs. Hybrids getting buffed. Specialist dps:ers being marginalized. This seems to be the topic of the day and for some reason it stirs up a lot of emotions. There have been quite a few very thoughtful, eloquent posts, and a lot of equally interesting comments.

If someone missed it, Forever a noob wrote an angry rant, ending up I a list of demands, including a tanking spec for mages and a healing spec for rogues. Tobold’s take on this is milder, but he agrees that class balance is an issue with the changes. Big Bear Butt has also showed his understanding for the frustration that rogues and mages can feel.

Spinksville on the other hand harsher towards complaining mages and rogues, arguing that we should have thought about those issues before we rolled our toons. If we wanted to be able to heal we should have picked a hybrid class. I’ve heard this before and I must say that I don’t quite buy it. I had no clue at all about raiding when I rolled Larísa – I didn’t know such a thing existed. My interest and insight about the different roles and the demand for certain classes is something that has slowly evolved over time, and to be honest, with my limited gaming time it’s too late to change course now and roll something else. I’m as stuck as you can get. If Blizzard wants to get mages out of the game – well then I’m out of it too.

David at Alt Fanatic agrees with Spinksville, saying that mages and rogues should grow up and stop to want to feel special.

The probably best summary of the arguments comes from Aurik at /hug, who wrote an anti-rant. However he shows quite little understanding for the point of view of a mage.

Feeling cheated
I’ve been arguing with myself whether to comment on this or not. I do see that the pro-hybrid posts with the mages-grow-up-approach are right in many ways. I understand where you’re coming from. It must have been horrible to be a moonkin druid, not being able to get a raid spot. But at the same time I AM a mage and I can’t quite rid myself of my specialist glasses and my somewhat hurt feelings. I feel a bit cheated.

Even though I didn’t have much of a clue about the game when I started it, I do remember that I gave this aspect a thought. It was presented as that you had a choice: either to become a generalist, good at several things, and therefore handy and attractive in many situations. Or you could specialize into one thing and become really good at that and only that.

I saw it like athletes in the Olympic games. You can specialize for sprint or high jump or long jump. Or you can compete in the special class for those who do a little bit of everything, the multiple-athletes. They’re not as good in each separate class as a specialist, but they’re damned good sportsmen.

I chose to become a specialist, trading the loss of flexibility for being slightly better. That was how it was at that point in the game, but since then it has clearly changed. We don’t get rewarded any way for our focus. Does that really make sense?

The need to be special
Stop qq:ing, Alt Fanatic says, stop wanting to be special. It isn’t so easy. Everyone wants to be special. Everyone wants to feel needed, valued, appreciated. It’s quite basic needs we’re talking about. If you make a druid do the same dps as a mage, with the difference that the druid instantly in the raid instance can switch to becoming an additional healer or a tank when needed (and that is needed sometimes, as you know, it varies from boss to boss in multi-boss instances, which Ulduar with be), I seriously can’t see what the point is of bringing mages to a raid.

There would be a point if mages had more unique utilities – dps:ing isn’t all we do, after all – but the trend goes against that as well. Blizzard tried to equalize everything, smoothing it out, handing up buffs and utilities so that it isn’t unique for a class anymore.

Now, I’m not overly scared of the changes. I don’t expect myself to lose my raid spot and get kicked from the guild just because the hybrid classes will get another buff by the dual spec thing. I’m not in that kind of a guild. But in the long run, I can’t see anything but that the demand of mages in raiding guilds probably will go down. It will become harder and harder for mages and rogues to find a home, unless Blizzard comes up with something else to rebalance the game once again.

Gone are the days when we were the specialists of dps or the specialists of decursing or buffing intelligence. No one is asking for our sheep, and it doesn’t help that we turn them to cats, rabbits, turtles or pigs – cc isn’t needed. Even the demand for taxi services is going down with the free portals in the capitals and now the nerf of the cooldown of the HS.

I think that the mage class is in the middle of an identity crises. We’re not specialists any more. We're not doing better dps than any other class. Fine. But then, what are we? What's our reason for existens?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Dancing with Gevlon once again

Haven’t we danced this dance before? The thought passed my head after a post of Gevlon last week. Once again we’re into the guild discussion. Do guilds have any other purpose than hosting Morons and Slackers who can parasite on naïve carebears who carry them through content? Are you better off just watching for your own interests, doing things in a coldhearted, rational goblin way?

You could ask yourself what the point is to discuss those things. There isn’t any objective truth out there to be discovered, just different approaches to the game. We have different reasons for playing it, different expectations, we get our kicks from different things. I don’t get a big kick out of ganking other players. To others that’s the essence of the game. Gathering gold will never be a major goal for me. Making a fortune on selling something doesn’t give me the rush of joy and entertainment to motivate me to pay for my subscription. On the other hand I don’t think Gevlon could ever understand what a joy it is when you step by step, wipe by wipe get closer and closer to a first kill as a guild. It’s a long journey and sometimes people make stupid things. But you tolerate those flaws, you support each other, you learn from each other and finally you succeed – not in the company of some strangers you’ve never met before and never will meet again, but with people you have laughed with, cried with, quarrelled with, people whose voices you recognize. To some gamers a one-night stands is fine, it’s all they’re looking for. Fine. PUG it and enjoy yourself. I want more.

A look at the conveyer belt worker
Yeah, we’ve definitely discussed this before. But here we are, dancing once again. This time Gevlon has written a post where he compared WoW to simple work at a conveyer belt, requiring you to do nothing but to follow a manual. Every worker is replaceable, and if I’ve understood Gevlon correctly that makes it pointless to try to apply management thinking on this. The workers are like machines and should be treated like such. If someone gets broken – replace it. If some player doesn’t deliver the dps you would expect – trash him and find someone else in LFG. Don’t bother trying to make him improve – there are dozens of them waiting to be let in.

This way of looking at the staff seems quite old fashioned to me. I don’t think that even McDonalds will see their employees that way. I come to think of a post that Gevlon himself wrote a little while ago, where he actually pointed out why you shouldn’t look down on people keeping those kinds of jobs. They aren’t necessarily less intelligent than white collar professionals and they definitely should be treated with the same respect as anyone else.

When I’ve been in a leading position I’ve always looked for the potential in my co-workers. There’s so much to be brought out if you just bother to look for it and to encourage it. Try to see the hidden gold within other people. Give the plants some sunlight and water and they will grow amazingly. And nothing, absolutely nothing is more rewarding than to see the process, knowing that you helped to enable it.

If you look at your employees as changeable units, they’ll behave like that. They’ll deliver what the manual asks them too (hopefully, but they’ll probably try to cheat on you if they can). If you treat them as valuable members of the team, people that you trust work together with, they’ll try to live up to and even exceed your expectations. The conveyer band worker can surprise you if you just give him a chance. He may be the one who finds out a clever solution for improving the manufacturing process. He may step up as a leader when something unexpected happens.

I can’t tell how McDonalds look at their staff, but I’m pretty sure that many “conveyer belt industries” bother much more about group dynamics – not only for their engineers, but for the whole team, than Gevlon does. And I think it’s necessary to do so if you want to run a business that is sustainable over time.

Why bother?
Now let’s jump back to WoW and guild management. I think Gevlon and Tobold are right when they say that it’s possible to succeed as a raiding guild without bothering about group dynamics and using the full potential of forming a strong team, building on trust and mutual dependency. The instances in the current game can be cleared with pretty crappy management where you look at other players as tools rather than as co-workers. And since it really takes an effort to be a good leader and to create a strong team, why go the hard way if you can get by with less work?

I see several reasons. One is that I think you can save yourself time and effort in the long run. Yeah, initially it takes a lot of work to build up a healthy raiding squad. But once you’re there you’ll see much less of guild drama, which otherwise is pretty common and a pain to handle. You’re less likely to end up in a guild split where the person handling the website or the TS server suddenly leaves, leaving everything in a mess. You’ll also have less rotation of players, meaning that you’ll need to spend less time recruiting to fill the gaps.

A second reason to bother about developing the group rather than just kicking the machine parts that don’t deliver enough dps is that you can learn something from it. WoW is a fantastic sandbox where people who’re not in leading positions at their real life work get a chance to try what it’s like to be the boss. It’s exactly how Tobold expressed in a reply to a comment Gevlon gave him to a post about some guild drama Tobold just had experienced:
The skills you'd need to motivate an underperforming raid group, instead of just kicking the weakest guys out, are skills which would be useful if you ever got into a management position at work. Being able to get along with people has a value, 3.5K dps on Patchwerk hasn't.

Social more than a flavour
Finally: I know by now Gevlon that you don’t value the social aspect of the game much at all – at the most it gives you some “flavour” as you put it. I think that many players appreciate it more than that. It’s a misconception that the social stuff is just something that casual or even careless and poor players value, that “hardcore” and “serious” players don’t care. I actually think they do.

Of course serious players care about skill and gear if we’re for instance evaluating a new application to the guild. If the player is at a completely different level it won’t work. But the applicant also must fit into the team or we’ll fail. Once we get to meet the WotLK equivalence of Archimonde, it will show. Spending night after night wiping, learning a new encounter can be quite satisfying and rewarding if you’re doing it with people that you trust and like. It can equally be a pain if you’re doing it with a bunch of goblins who don’t give a damned about anything but themselves, no matter if they follow the “conveyer belt manual”.

It would be interesting though to see an experiment. Two players starting from scratch at a new server with new characters and no network. Both are given the task to “beat the game” in the sense that they kill the hardest raid boss, in the position of being the raid leader. One will act like a goblin, looking upon other players just like any ore or cloth drop – as resources to be used for your own winning. The other one will apply ideas about group management, systematically building up a strong raiding team, considering aspects such as group dynamics. Who would succeed best?