Thursday, July 16, 2009

Essential Tools for Guild Officers: Heart

When my older brother was in high school, he, like almost everyone from small town Texas, played football. To succeed in the sport you normally have to have the 3 S's: Strength, Size, and Speed. He had 3 S's, but not those three. He, and most of his team, were Small, Scrawny, and Slow. They won one game...ok, they had one tie, but in a season like they had, we called it a win. Needless to say, they weren't State Champs, and my brother, who was even smaller, scrawnier and slower than most of the rest of the team, didn't win MVP of the Season. But he did get an award. He got the Heart of a Lion award. He loved the game. He loved his team. He never gave up. And his attitude and encouragement of his friends was amazing in the face of such devastating defeats (and one tie). He had Heart. He wasn't a world-class football player, but he was a world-class team member.

In the 20 years or so since he graduated from High School, our hometown football team got much better. We stopped producing so many small, scrawny, and slow boys, and ended up with a few that have gone on to excel in college ball and even one that is playing pro. We won 4 State Championships and have been to the playoffs almost every year for the past two decades. And yes, that is a picture of a Yellow Jacket, although it is definitely not a picture of my brother. But one thing hasn't changed for the Jackets or for football teams across the country...you still need the guy with Heart.

Winning or losing, you need the guy who stands on the sidelines getting everyone involved. You need the guy that paces in front of the bench wearing his jersey and jeans because he hurt himself last week and can't get on the field. But you can see in his every move that he wants to be out there. You need the guy who's peprally speeches give the great leaders of history a run for their money in terms of motivation. It may be easier to be that guy during the good years, but the team needs him whether they are plowing through games 50-0 or being plowed over 0-50. You need Heart.

Guilds need it too. You need people, hopefully Officers, who have a Heart for WoW. You need people who love to play. Not just people who love to raid or pvp, but love every aspect of the game and allow their enthusiasm to overflow and infect others. If that person can also lead raids, distribute loot, write up strategies on the website or wiki, and bake everyone a cake during a raid, good for you. But even if all they do is quietly encourage others on vent or diffuse arguments on the forums, they are invaluable and shouldn't be underappreciated.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Essential Tools for Guild Officers: Part One

Hi guys! Did you miss me?

I could go into what I've been doing instead of blogging, but really, that would bore us all. So instead, I'll jump into what I hope will become a semi-useful series of posts about what it takes to be a successful Officer.

I have been an Officer in xeno for 1103 days. Which is 157 weeks. Or 26,472ish hours. Or in simple terms, just over 3 years. (http://www.timeanddate.com/date/duration.html is fun).

Within a few days I had read through the threads of the Officer forums on our site. One of them was the contact information of the other Officers, who all used an instant messaging program called "gtalk". The rest is history. Hundreds of thousands (possibly an exaggeration, but not by much) of chats later, this is still our main method of communication. Sure, during a raid, we use the in-game O chat. Sure, I have the cell phone numbers of almost everyone so that I can contact them by text message if I'm going to be late or, gasp, the electricity/internet go down. But for day to day communication about what we want to see happen with the guild, we use gtalk.

Gtalk is google's free instant messaging service. It can be downloaded and installed on your computer or smart phone, or if you are in a place where that is a no-no, it can be accessed through gmail.com. Which is what makes gtalk perfect for government employees like me. Well except for that small feeling of guilt I have occasionally, but that's easily dispelled when I think about the fact that I could be on ebay or some other website wasting time instead of just discussing guild matters.

When it came time for me to upgrade my old Motorola Razr, my main criteria in choosing a new phone was making sure it was capable of running gtalk. I've had my Blackberry for almost a year now, and I have never regretted purchasing it. Being able to chat with my wow friends keeps me sane when I'm at zoo court waiting on another annoying defense attorney.

It's not uncommon for me to have 2-3 chat windows open with different officers. Of course, we're not always discussing the intricacies of the three tank strategy for Ignis. Most of the time, we're just chatting about various things. But when we are in the midst of a heated debate about policy I know I can hash out my thoughts with any of them before posting on our forums. And, in my opinion, that easy means of communication is one of the things that keeps us going.

So, whether you choose to use gtalk or some other instant messaging program, contact both in and out of the game is essential for Officers in a guild. You need to be able to speak to each other about the big things and the little things and just the every day gripes that will develop. Otherwise you grow apart and start to think you're in this all alone.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

File 13

wtb more Ulduar trash.  

I know, you think I'm crazy.  You think I hit my head in a freak accident slipping on a banana peel.  You think I was kidnapped by clowns (not the sad hobo kind, but the creepy happy ones).  And you might be right.  (Not about the clowns; I'd remember being surrounded by big red noses and bright orange hair.)

I guess I should be more specific.  Because in many places there is too much trash.  Is it really necessary to have quite so many freaking flowers in Freya's room?  We get it.  She's a tree hugger.  Can't she just hug the inanimate kind and not so flipping many of the mean flowers.  You know, on the few occasions people have sent me flowers, none of them attacked me and 24 of my best friends.  I'm just saying.

There's also a few too many worms.  I like finding the occasional worm hiding under a rock (or snow drift) just as much as the next computer nerd.  But I don't really need to have those same 24 best friends flying into said drifts and bringing back so many wriggly pals.  One or two, sure.  I'm only asking for a little moderation, here; I'm not discriminating against the no-peds.  

The place I would like to see more trash (just a tad, mind you) is from Assembly of Iron to Auriaya.  And I fully admit that I'd like to see this change purely for selfish reasons.  You see, I often (not all the time because Srom rocks, and even Blue is stepping up to do his share) keep track of our raid points and loot during raids.  And when I do, I generally load the loot immediately after a boss kill and then reload my UI to update the ingame whisper mod that allows people to check their point balance.  My computer is a bit slow to load.  So this process takes a little while.  In addition to running the RP system, I also normally make the healing assignments.  And despite the use of a couple of different mods, I haven't been able to make that quite as simple as I'd like.

I need more trash to have time to do everything.

That's not too much to ask, right?  Just a few more mobs.  They can be simple mobs.  You can even name them "Slowtams" or something.  I'm not that picky.  

I just wtb more trash.



Saturday, May 2, 2009

Fragments of Drama

xeno has it's first Fragment of Val'anyr

Our discipline priest outbid a holy priest by a tiny (and by tiny, I mean miniscule) amount on Thursday to purchase the right to one day equip a gavel of awesomeness.  A long time ago--back in the MC days--we decided that when loot comes in the form of many smaller drops that need to be combined together to actually make anything useful, we bid on the first piece and subsequent drops automatically go to the winner as long as they are in the raid.

Before you ask, I wasn't in the running.  Our loot is always decided by bid, and at the time I had about 800 points less than those involved in the RP bid war.  I like to pick up cheap pieces instead of letting them be disenchanted, so I'm bad at saving RP.

Here's the situation:  
Both priests have been in the guild for years.  One is a founding member of the guild, and the other has been around since I joined in 2006.  The second one has left us for other guilds (following her husband) and returned to us.  She's always been a priest; the other has been a mage (vanilla), rogue (BC), death knight (early WotLK), and priest (WotLK).

I've touched on our RP/Loot system in the past, but basically you earn points for attending raids, showing up on time, and staying for the hard stuff.  These two priests were neck and neck, the discipline priest edged out the holy priest when he had to miss a raid due to his girlfriend's knee surgery.  So it does totally suck for him that she edged ahead by such a small margin when he was doing the right thing.

I'm friends with both of them.  The discipline priest and I probably talk more now, but that is a pretty recent development.  She used to always be busy with her husband who is also in the guild, but currently taking a break.  He's kinda...hard to ignore.  I've been closer to the holy priest in the past than I am now, but we're still friends and have met in real life a number of times. 

There was a pause after he typed "all" on Thursday, then she followed suit and her "all" beat his.  To his credit, he didn't cause a scene, which is something we all know he's capable of.  Instead, he got really quiet in vent.  I've heard through the grapevine that he may stop playing his priest and try to go back to raiding on his death knight.  I hope that doesn't happen, but if he makes that choice, we will follow our guild policies, founding member or not.  

I'm glad we got a fragment.  I'm glad we were organized enough years ago to figure out how to handle similar situations, so we weren't scrambling to decide who to give it to.  And I'm not sad that the discipline priest won the auction.  I will be sad if a good healer gives up because of a piece of loot.  But I will deal with the fallout if necessary.  Bring on the Drama!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sweet Bye and...Hi

Quick updates:

No, I didn't quit WoW, although it was kinda touch and go there for a while before patch 3.1.  

I ended up spending a week in Texas at the end of March/beginning of April for my Granny's funeral.  Yeah, the one with the lace curtains.  I didn't play at all while I was there, which was actually kind of nice.  I got to do things like help my sister-in-law plan for Vacation Bible School and watch my niece and nephew do cool kid things.  Although I miss my grandmother, the service was actually really nice--my brothers and I sang at the funeral and got two thumbs up from our critic (so the critic is also our father, and he always gives us thumbs up, but this time he really meant it) and even got my grandfather to nod his head to our version of "Sweet By and By."

Before I left, we managed to get "Undying" with our 10 man group, which finished up the meta achievement for two of our members.  Grats to Whammie and Kromise for their Plagued Proto-Drakes.  But Whammie needs to stop posting it in chat or he may have a mysterious accident when he goes to visit the Floridians next week.

Since 3.1, our guild has downed Flame Leviathon, Razorscale, Ignis, Deconstructor, and Kologarn with our 25 man raids, and our 10 man group has killed all those plus Iron Council, Auraiya, Thorim and Freya.  So raiding is going pretty well.  

In real life news, I'm starting the job hunt (with knowledge of my boss) with the intent of moving back to Texas.  First choice is to return to the Lubbock area.  And since it's early in the hunt, that is my focus.  Later on I might settle for anything that gets me back into the Lone Star State, but for now, I'm focusing on being able to move back there.  

I guess that's all for now.  Happy raiding.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Undying Conspiracy

Our dedicated 10 man Naxx group decided a while back that rather than become "alt friendly" (although we do have two guys with healer/tank alts that switch it up), we would focus on getting some achievements done.

I think I've stated before that I don't actually hate achievements, I'm just not as obsessed by them as a lot of people have become. The two that I would really like to have are Undying and The Immortal. As a healer, I like the challenge of trying to make it all the way through a late night Naxx without letting anyone die.

The trouble is, we seem to be cursed with really bad luck. I know that these achievements require perfection (or the ability to save the day) on boss fights, but, for the most part, our recent failures haven't been user error. They've been flukes.

I wasn't there, but three weeks ago, we had a poorly timed taunt between our main tank and off tank on Gluth. The report I received said: "Basically, our druid was off tanking Gluth and the warrior told him to taunt. Just as a decimate hit. And well, you can guess how that went. The warrior was watching his debuffs and not the decimate timer."

Two weeks ago, we made it all the way to Kel'Thuzad. A retadin 'sploded, but the healers managed to save him. Unfortunately, his life dipping was only an instant before our elemental shammy was iceblocked. In my defense, he was the one person who had stepped out of my range. But that's no excuse. Three healers should have been able to save him--if our attention hadn't been on saving the pally one second before.

Last week, our Canadian friends had some internet issues. These issues decided to present themselves after we started the Heigan dance. We kept one of them (a healer) alive until he could make it up on the platform, but his counterpart happened to be our main tank.... We weren't as successful with him. The raid broke up after that, but he reported that he had no more lag the entire evening.

This week started out promising despite the fact that the same Canadian duo were at a BSG-themed lan party (meaning slightly buzzed and sharing the internets). We wouldn't let them talk about BSG, but the run itself was going well. We breezed through Heigan. Recovered from a miscommunication on Four Horsemen. And even managed to survive a kinda rocky Grobbulus (there were WAY too many slimes at one point for comfort). Everyone seemed to be on the ball, and even if we had some minor mishaps, we were surviving them. Until Gluth. There we all are, preparing for the Decimate. The Holy Priest had a binding heal cued up to land on the adds tank and himself as soon as the cast finished. I had a chain heal going on the tanks/melee in the front. And the pally was doing his pally thing. We were set. We weren't going to let everyone down. This was the week we'd make it.

Only it wasn't. Apparently there is a known (but not known to us) bug where if you use commanding shout or a warlock imp during the Gluth fight, the encounter can miscalculate how much health you actually have when dispensing the Decimate damage. And instead of taking you to mostly dead...it takes you to overly dead. All three healers died. Instantly. Our preparatory casts were useless to save us or anyone else. I used my reincarnate and we ended up killing the boss, but over half the raid died.

So I guess this week we should research and try to find any other obscure bugs that will ruin our chances at this achievement. Damnit, I want to get Undying so I can stop staying up all night, or at least start taking the Shadow Priest. It's a conspiracy. I know it is.

Image courtesy of Toothpaste for Dinner.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

You Know It's a Bad Raid Night When...

1.  You get the message from your raid leader that his cable car crashed on his evening commute.  And you tell him his night isn't going to get better once he's home....
2.  Your main tank has a note next to his sign up saying he will be an hour late.  And everyone is surprised that the raid doesn't start on time.
3.  The wait list has two names on it.  And both of those are people you'd think twice about having dps in a nostalgia run to BRD.
4.  Your healing corps includes that player who has to link all of her gear to the raid to determine whether a drop is an upgrade.  And she seems surprised when you point out that healers don't need hit.
5.  Your hunter has to go buy ammo.  Not just once.... Twice....

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Shaking Things Up...Again

Quick Updates:

It looks like I totally failed as a blogger in the month of February. In my defense, not a ton was going on in game (at least for me) and I was studying, or at least feeling guilty about not studying, for the Bar Exam. The test is now over, and things are starting to get back to normal.

I was reminded today at work that every case, no matter how small it seems to me, is vitally important to someone. This may sound like a lofty statement or a moment of true enlightenment about my role in the justice system, but that's only because I just finished a successful Heroic Naxx run and picked up a few more achievements necessary for the fast mount that I say I don't want, but really wouldn't mind having. What I really mean by that pompous sentence is that a petty misdemeanor case (0ne I never should have agreed to prosecute in the first place) totally killed my buzz from prosecuting a guy charged with 11 felonies today. I spent approximately four hours of my day negotiating a plea agreement with a thug facing enough charges to send him away for over 20 years. Then I spent three hours and fifteen minutes working with a witness from a case that carries a maximum penalty of a $500 fine and three months in the county jail (with good time, that would be about 45 days, tops). I came out of the interview room wanting to hurt someone--I mentioned the THREE hours, right? Good thing I made it home just in time to raid.

More related to WoW, I've spent the last few days totally overhauling my UI, for like the 15th time. I still have a few issues to work out like fine tuning Grid and Clique a bit more and perfecting my buff/debuff displays. Although I'm not the one to cost us the Immortal achievement tonight, watching for the polarity shifts on Thaddeus was a little nervewracking with the new set up. So I'll try to perfect that over the weekend. Here are the latest screenshots, both in and out of a raid.







Thursday, February 26, 2009

We now return...


to our regularly scheduled programming.

Or nearly anyway. I finished up the test today at approximately 3:30 pm Texas time. After a nice dinner with friends, I headed back to my parent's house which is about 2 hours away from Dallas. I'm so glad to be here. Mase's futon was a great place to crash, but I'm looking forward to a nice night in a real bed where I'm not disrupting anyone else's routine. I'm also really looking forward to sleeping right on through that whole 5:30 am thing. Ugh, I really prefer thinking that there is only one 5:00 on the clock.

I've returned just in time to get to help calm down the drama llama in our guild. We seem to have developed another small case of the doldrums. We have a few newer 80s joining a few established 80s who fill dps roles who are unhappy with the state of our raiding recently. With me basically being on hiatus for at least the past two weeks, the unfortunate timing of some other real life issues for people--including tanks and healers, and the state of end game raiding in general (meaning boring), our raids have become more infrequent and frustrating. Although I sympathize with the people angry over confirmations--again--we're working on the problems and doing our best. Airing the grievances is a two-sided sword. It's probably good that they feel like we have to take their complaints into consideration, but they are mostly spewing problems and not trying to help with solutions.

Oh well, that is a problem for another day. And we will weather this like we have weathered drama storms before. But for now, I'm just going to curl up on my bed and sleep until I wake up. Happy gaming, all.

Monday, February 23, 2009

This is a test. This is only a test.

The torture starts tomorrow. Two and a half days of fun fun testing. When I have stopped having nightmares about the Rule Against Perpetuities, I'll start posting more regularly again.

Until then, have fun in WoW. I vaguely remember how to play...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

"chock full of hoot, just a little bit of nanny"

Sromkie: @Silver Did you watch the Buffy series when it was on TV (or DVDs since)?
Silver: No, I never did watch the Buffy series. I assumed it was cheesy due to Sarah Michelle Gellar being in it. Was I wrong?
Sromkie: ok... you should rent the seasons on DVD.... Season 1 isn't the greatest, but it gets really good. Anyway, you need to see it before I can point you to something else to read.
Silver: Ok, I'll check it out. How many seasons are there?
Sromkie: 7!
Silver: O.o
Sromkie: it's worth it though. Get crackin'!
Verm: Just start with the first season and decide if you want more after you finish it.
Tam: Buffy go!
Silver: All the peer pressure! :) I guess I'll add Buffy to my list.
Sromkie: Well, I would say at least give it until half way through season 2. Season 1 was still finding its legs. you'll enjoy it.
Sromkie: @Tam, please explain to @Silver how watching the series is vitally important to understanding the Season 8 comics.
Silver: @Tam Yes, please do as @Sromkie instructed. I am curious.


Watching my Twitter list over the last 24 hours has been a study in how I end up doing Sromkie's dirty work. I'm pretty sure I said all of two words about Buffy and suddenly I'm explaining why watching seven seasons of a television series is vital to understanding a comic book.

I'll admit that vital may be pushing it, but it's hard to imagine being drawn into the Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 comic books without knowing the background from the television show. So to start off Silver's lessons, I asked him to give me a run-down of what he does know about the show. And for fun, I pulled Thren in, too.

Pretty blonde girl (PBG from here forward) is born with some crazy power to fight and kill demons and vampires. PBG doesn't want this power and tries to deny it, but people around her tell her that she can't deny it and she must follow through with her destiny. PBG begins hunting demons and vampires and makes some friends along the way who have the same, or similar, powers. Throughout the series, PBG makes out with a lot of hot, spikey haired boys and creates some drama. Amidst PBG's drama, she has to deal with her friend's who create their own relationship issues at the same time as she's fighting off thousand-year-old demons and vampires. PBG has some close calls and almost dies a few times, but she miraculously comes back to life and picks up the killing right where she left off. Meanwhile, one of her spikey haired boyfriends betrays her and she has to kill him, which makes her very upset. About midway through the series, she has to think of some way to keep people interested, so her and her friends come up with some crazy new vampire/demon killing technology to make things more interesting. In the end, half of her friends die and she ends up alone, having killed every demon/vampire that the underworld has thrown at her. Roll credits.
Ok so I think Buffy is a high school student, though she really looks more like she's in college. Ooo I think the name of her school or town or somesuch has Sunny in the name. I suppose that's designed to be "oh ho funny," because it turns out there's a portal or gate or something in the town that leads to hell. Oops! How'd that get there?

So I guess all they have in hell is vampires, because that's what Buffy has to fight. I think the librarian at the school gives her assignments or tutors her in the stabbing arts or something. There are 2 other sidekicks, both of whom probably also don't look like high school students. At some point, Buffy falls in love with a vampire named David Boreanaz. I only remember this because he is also in the show Bones, which I rather like.

There is a sordid love affair between everyone on the show at some point. Buffy can't NOT fall in love with vampires, so eventually someone probably gets hurt by one. Does she even sleep with the librarian? I think Tim Curry should have played the librarian.

I'm pretty sure that's the plot for all 7 seasons. Buffy kills vampires using her cheerleader skillset, which apparently includes stabbing motions. That's all I know about the plot of Buffy.
~Thren
Seasons 1-7 of Buffy span three years of High School and the four years after graduation. A lot happens to normal people during those years; they go from being awkward teenagers answering to parents, teachers, and any other "grownup" they encounter to being considered "grownups" themselves and expected to know the answer. For Buffy and pals, add in monsters, magic, and momentous moments. And over the course of 144 episodes, there are a lot of monsters and moments. Although the show never really lost its continuity, there is a big difference between Episode 1 of Season 1, Welcome to the Hellmouth, and the Series Finale of Season 7, Chosen. More than just seven years of life have linked these characters, they have celebrated the good times, suffered through the bad, and helped each other survive everything a gifted writing staff could throw at them.

So why can't you just take all of that on faith and jump into the Season 8 comics? I guess you could...if you're ok with missing the nuances of relationships. Good books, movies, and television shows do more than just tell you a story, they make you care about the people caught inside it. And Buffy the Vampire Slayer is no different. Sure, in Episode 1 you might think Buffy is a shallow sophomore wearing trendy clothes and butchering the English language. But by Episode 144, you've watched her sweat, bleed, and cry over all the badness in the world. You've watched her laugh in the face of overwhelming odds and get the job done even when it's not a fun or glamorous job. You've watched her make friends with two fairly awkward teenagers who grow into pretty incredible people. And you've seen her hurt them, intentionally and unintentionally.

Again, it might be possible to just accept that the characters have a history and hope you can catch up. But the books don't dumb it down for you. They fully expect that you will have some knowledge of the Buffyverse, and not just the basics. You need more than just "Blonde Girl Have Power/Blonde Girl Have Friends." You don't need to have stretches of dialogue memorized, but you need to know some of the things that have happened to these characters to fully understand the stories being told in Season 8--because reading a story about what happens after the end, always makes you wonder about what happened before. The villains from Seasons 1-7 may not make a big comeback in Season 8, but some of the more memorable minor characters play a part in the story arc. The main characters have definitely morphed from gangly, but witty, teenagers into powerful fighters in their own right. And the journey from High School Library to command center is worth sticking around for, after all, as Oz says, it's "chock full of hoot, just a little bit of nanny."

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Heart Candy, Skimpy Dresses, and a Naked Goblin

Happy "Valentine's Day" to those of you who like it. Happy "Ugh...Hearts" day to those of you who don't.

I spent a small amount of time doing the Love is in the Air quests on Tamzz today. Mostly because she didn't have a Lovely Red Dress. I didn't take the time to do all the holiday achievements, which I may regret at some point. But I didn't do all the Lunar Festival ones either, so meh. I don't actually mind the in-game Valentine's Day festivities that much, but the number of gaudy flower bouquets the secretaries received at work yesterday made me throw up a little in my mouth. I fully admit that my V Day attitude is directly proportional to the likelihood of me actually getting a present. So this year it sucked...unless a Valentine's Day card from my parents makes up for no roses. Pretty sure it doesn't.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

If the internet died...

What would you do if the internet died tomorrow? You wake up, and the internet is just...dead. Forever.

This frightening question appeared as Silver's status message yesterday. And, after my panic attack ended, I decided to answer it.
  1. Remember how to pay bills by check.
  2. Shop by paper catalog and phone, meaning switch the X and the V in the product code and end up with yellow pants.
  3. Read more books...that don't come from Amazon.
  4. Find a local bookstore.
  5. Convert my computer desk into a puzzle assembly area. (The desk is already used to my nerdiness...it could adapt to puzzles...maybe...)
  6. Go to the gym...ok, that's just crazy talk.
  7. Subscribe to the local paper.
  8. Go back to not caring what people from high school do now.
  9. Write real letters that I forget to send.
  10. Use the actual books at the law library to look up stuff.
  11. Get rid of my Blackberry.
  12. Write a book.
  13. Tune in to the radio or TV when the weather looks bad.
  14. Buy a set of encyclopedias from a traveling salesman.
  15. Never stop that weird nagging feeling by finding out what else an actor has been in.
  16. Call the movie theater's phone line for movie times.
  17. Actually have to talk to co-workers instead of e-mailing them. Or develop a way to make paper airplanes fly down the hall a la Harry Potter.
  18. NEVER see another chain e-mail telling me that the only way to prove how friendly/loving/Christian/patriotic I am is to forward it to 53 people within 6.7 minutes.
  19. Not know where to purchase Viagra.
  20. Forget how to speak lolcat.
  21. Actually laugh out loud.
  22. Use a travel agent. Or stop traveling.
  23. Miss the season finale to The Guild.
  24. Stop using the words "fail" and "horribad."
  25. Do the Draenei female dance while I'm alone in my apartment.
Hope I didn't scare you too much with that last one.

I'm off to watch Heroes on Hulu and catch up on the xeno forums.

Edit: The xeno forums timed out. Ahhhhhhhhhhh. It's really happening! Noooooooooooooo.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Eye Exam?!! But I Didn't Study!

I went to a new Optometrist last week. I've worn glasses/contacts since 5th grade, so it's not a new experience for me. But this was a more interesting trip than usual. First of all, when I started trying to find a doctor here in town, I should have been suspicious when I recognized this guy's name. I've mentioned before that if I recognize someone at Wal-Mart, it's most likely not because they've brought me cookies--they have probably been to court for breaking the law. But I didn't worry about that when I made my appointment. This guy took my insurance, had an appointment time that fit my schedule, and was close to the office.

When I walked in, the lady who handed me my initial paperwork looked familiar. It didn't take me long to realize that I recognized her from Juvie Court. The Optometrist's son was in court a few months back for basic stupidity and hanging with the wrong crowd. Once I met the Optometrist, he recognized me and I got to talk about work some. I don't really like talking about what I do for a living with people that I've had to do it to--something about knowing I helped send your kid to rehab makes the normal jokes inappropriate. I can't joke about upholding justice one fine at a time, or mention that stupidity means job security. So mostly I just have to smile and nod a lot.

Anyway, so I have new glasses coming next week and I can't wait. I wasn't really happy that they use snail mail to get the glasses instead of having one of those one hour turn around labs or even same day service. It seems like lately everywhere I look I'm reminded that this is a small town two hours away from the nearest real place to shop, go out to eat, etc. He did have all the new-fangled eye-exam gizmos though, along with the standard ones, so that's ok I guess. I just hope I passed the test; he kept asking me which was better: 1 or 2. And honestly, sometimes I really wanted to pick 3 for none of the above. Maybe I've just been studying for the Bar Exam too much lately.

And to sorta relate this back to WoW...I ordered new headphones last night hoping that they will work better and stop pushing my glasses into my head when I'm on vent. I hope they don't suck.

/ramble

Why Now?

Well it's official, I've quit WOW. Now to be fair, I've quit before and I won't swear I won't play again. I started playing in February of 2005. I played for a year and a half and quit. It was the right decision at the time, but I did miss it. I wasn't a very serious player at that time. I started playing WOW as a resto druid and then started a warlock to level with my friend whom I'd talked into playing (Tam.)

So I took off a year and then decided to start playing again. The main reasons I came back: 1. My husband started playing again 2. I missed Tam 3. I missed playing the game in general 4. boredom. I came back with BC in full swing and decided to continue on with my warlock. I really enjoyed playing her and found it painful to level my druid.

So I became more serious about the game. I tried to research more and actually begin raiding. I also really enjoyed the people in our guild. I have fond memories of ARCOG with Verm. I got my first epic there and I loved that instance. I was so proud to be a part of the first Illidian kill. It seemed our guild had the right mixture of drive to get it done, but enough character to make it fun in the process. I even went to three guild outings and it was fun each time.

I'll be honest... I was dreading WoTLK coming out. I knew it meant major change and I don't do well with change. But I tried to level quickly and get back in shape to raid again.

So why did I decide to quit? Several reason: 1. game content was too easy. Not that I'm not saying it was too easy for me personally. I was usually behind the curve. However, it was too easy for our guild, so attitudes changed. 2. Guild changed - I knew where I stood pre-WoTLK. Now it was different. I felt that dps ruled all. I know it's important... but it didn't matter if you could follow orders, show up on time, come prepared or just plain and simple be decent to work with. DPS was what mattered. So it's a personal thing, but quite frankly I got tired of feeling rejection every week when confirmations were made. I got tired of worrying that I was abusing my friendship (unintentionally) to get confirmations. I was tired of worrying about competing with someone I really don't know or care to know. Most of all I didn't like feeling like I was being used to prove the power that some people have. 3. I have 2 wonderful little daughters that I felt I needed to devote more time to. So I felt guilty no matter what. If I spent more time with them then I wasn't as ready for raid as I should have been and didn't so as much research as I should have. If I spent more time on WOW then I felt my daughters missed out. If I played less I missed being with my husband and Tam and being a part of the guild. It was a no win situation.

So I quit. I'm happy with my decision. And I really don't miss it. My nights feel so long now - which is a good thing. I'm free to go do whatever any night of the week. I don't feel that panic and pressure on raid nights worrying about how I'm going to get everything done in time to raid. The down side is I really miss the friends I had in the guild. I know besides Tam I probably won't see or talk to them again :( I'll really miss their companionship over the last few years.
So there it is. Why I quit. Why I'm happier now. Why I really think I won't be coming back to WOW. (But we all know it has a way of sucking you back in muhahahaha.)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Feel the Love?

Eyonix gave us a bit of a preview of upcoming Priest, Rogue and Shaman changes in Patch 3.1. Although my Rogue was my first toon, she's sitting in Borean Tundra at level 70.6, so the Rogue changes don't really matter to me too much at this point. The proposed Priest and Shaman changes, however, make me cautiously optimistic.

Shaman Changes
Most of the Shaman changes (listed in full below) are for Enhancement or Elemental Shamans. The main change for we healy types is in the continued streamlining of totems. No longer will we have to choose between a Mana Spring or Healing Stream Totem; they will be combined. This is a small but awesome change for us. There are times that the steady stream of heals would be useful, but I just can't bring myself to use Healing Stream when my party (or sometimes, just me) is begging for mana. Less exciting, but still cool is the introduction of a combined Poison and Disease Cleansing Totem. In certain areas of Naxxramus this will rock. We will just have to see if there are more fights in future instances that require simultaneous cleansing of poisons and diseases. Now if they'd only give us a Virus Obliterating Totem so I could cure Sromkie of his cold, I'd be a very happy camper.

Priest Changes
The Priest changes are more exciting and should make our holier than thou friends very happy. Mase's main complaint about the Circle of Healing nerf was that Blizzard didn't give Priests anything in trade. Priests are my favorite healers because of their versatility, but that versatility makes many of them grumpy because they aren't the best at any one thing. The proposed changes give them more toys to play with and some additional AOE healing tricks. Prayer of Healing won't be confined to the Priest's own group anymore, so they will be able to cast it on any group in the raid. (Ladyspam will finally be able to heal someone who isn't in her group!)

The coolest sounding new spell is Power Word: Barrier, a Discipline only spell that will bubble the Priest's group. We'll have to see if this raid wide as well and how exactly it works, but I like the sound of it. It may end up moving Discipline Priests back into the tank or melee group.

It also looks like Blizzard is moving forward with their plans to make healers have to think about a spell rotation--at least in a small sense. Riptide followed by a Chain Heal results in a huge heal on the target, so Resto Shamans should be somewhat familiar with this already. Now our Priestly friends may get a taste with the changes to Serendipity, however, it looks like this talent will only reduce the cast time of Greater Heal or Prayer of Healing without increasing the amount healed, but it still seems like a step towards a spell rotation for Holy Priests.

Overall, I'm happy about the changes, and even more excited to see what else they have in store for us in 3.1. I know the details of the class changes will likely change many times before the patch hits, but it's nice to know what the develpers are thinking about. I just hope that 3.1 comes out soon.



PRIEST
  • Divine Spirit – this spell is now a core ability available to all priests.
  • Discipline has access to a new talent, Power Word: Barrier. (Think of it as Power Word: Shield for your whole group).
  • Several area of effect (AOE) heal spells have been improved: Prayer of Healing can be cast on any groups in your raid party. Holy Nova’s mana cost has been reduced. Circle of Healing now heals for more.
  • Shadow priest PvP survivability has been improved: Shadow Form now reduces magic as well as physical damage. Dispersion now removes snares.
  • Penance – this spell can now be targeted on the priest.
  • Serendipity – this talent now reduces the cast time of Greater Heal and Prayer of Healing when Binding Heal or Flash Heal are cast.
  • We are also working to give Holy additional PvP utility.

    ROGUE
  • Hunger for Blood – instead of a self-buff, this ability can only be used when there is a bleed effect on the target. However, it has no stacks and grants a 15% damage bonus.
  • Adrenaline Rush – the cooldown on this ability has been lowered.
  • Lightning Reflexes – reduced to 3 ranks. In addition to 2/4/6% dodge, this talent now also grants 4/7/10% passive melee haste.
  • Killing Spree – while this ability is active, the rogue does 20% additional damage.
  • Savage Combat – now causes 2/4% physical damage done.
  • Mace Specialization – this talent now grants haste in addition to armor penetration.

    SHAMAN
  • Chain Lightning – now jumps to 4 targets but does less damage. We wanted to make the distinction between Lightning Bolt and Chain Lightning more clear.
  • Storm, Earth and Fire – this talent now increases all damage done by Flame Shock, not just periodic damage.
  • Spirit Weapons – now reduces all threat, not just melee threat.
  • Unleashed Rage – reduced to 2 ranks, now also increases your critical strike chance with melee attacks by 1/2%.
  • Totem streamlining: The Mana Spring and Healing Stream Totems have been combined. The Disease Cleansing and Poison Cleansing Totems have been combined.
  • We are also working on giving Enhancement and Elemental more PvP utility.
  • Monday, February 2, 2009

    Christmas Eve, Memorial Day Weekend, and Superbowl Sunday


    What are days to avoid Wal*Mart?

    I needed to stop by Wally World this weekend to pick up a small appliance for my kitchen and grab some groceries. I knew going in this was a bad idea. My town has a population of about 20k...during the week. On weekends we swell to closer to 100k because so many people from the rural areas come in to shop, do laundry, and party. You can find most of them at Wal*Mart. After fighting my way through the crowds to grab some necessities, I parked myself in line to check out. A couple of women were in front of me (probably sisters or cousins) with their kids in tow. Each lady had a full cart, and 2 or 3 kids...maybe less, but it felt like more.

    One of the kids was a very cute girl with a long black braid. She was probably about 5 years old. I first noticed her when she wandered over to the impulse buy area next to me. She was trying to put some Chapstick in her jeans pocket. A 5 year old shoplifter. /sigh. She saw me watching her and slowly put the Chapstick down on the bottom shelf, near the batteries. She came back to the Chapstick after my attention drifted for a second. This time, her mother told her to "Stop it!" and distracted her with a Blues Clues Gogurt. After the little girl finished her yogurt drink, she put it down on the counter and walked back to "her" Chapstick. Knowing she wouldn't get away with taking it now that both I and her mother had seen her playing with it, she just took the cap off and used some instead.

    Moral of the story: Don't buy unpackaged Chapstick at Wal*Mart. Or go shopping on Sunday afternoons.

    Saturday, January 31, 2009

    Anatomy of a Healer: the UI

    The User Interface of a computer game is one of it's most important hooks. No matter how pretty a game is, if you can't figure out how to perform basic functions easily, you probably won't play for long. World of Warcraft's UI can be customized to fit your play style, and tweaking your UI can make your reaction time faster and the survivability of both you and your group or raid go up.

    So how can you take your screen from out of control to controlled chaos?

    Then:
    Although I'm embarassed to show the screenshot to the right, that really is my Priest healing in Molten Core. It's a miracle that I didn't fall into the lava and burn to death every week (I'm not saying I never did, just that it's amazing I didn't do it more often). Not only is it ugly (/shudder), it is hideous. Ok, so yeah, the ugly factor is what is most apparent. But it's also not good to have a 3 inch square of actual visibility. With all the information overload on the screen (most in bulky frames that overpower the environment) it's hard to tell where exactly I was standing, much less see what scary thing might have been heading my way. Luckily, mod makers have come a long way and I've found ways to condense the information while still having access to it. (A larger monitor helps too. At the time of this screenshot my monitor was a 15". So the picture is pretty close to actual size.)

    The important information displayed on the screen includes:
    • Raid Frames (they're huge!)
    • Buff Durations
    • Target and Target's Target Frames
    • Incoming Heals/Heals Cast on the Target (the huge box in the bottom right is tracking who the healers are targeting)
    • Resurrection Monitor
    • Damage/Healing Meter (I'm winning, otherwise it wouldn't be that important)
    • Chat Box (where we're discussing a drama magnet in Officer chat...some things never change)
    • MiniMap (so I can get lost)

    Now:
    A little over two years later, my UI looks more like this. Most of the information is still available to me, but the overall feel of the screen is more open. I now actually get to see the fights, which is incredibly important with nearly every encounter requiring heightened awareness of what is going on around you. I now also have room to see who has used a cooldown, countdowns on boss abilities, and a truncated combat log.

    In my current UI, there are five main areas that I focus on.
    1. The Boss Mod (I use BigWigs) announces important phases of the fight at the top center of my screen. This place of prominence is out of my way, but still noticeable enough to be ready for Deep Breaths or Lava Waves (most of the time).
    2. The center area is reserved for my cast timer and situational awareness. The scrolling combat text that floats at the edge of this area also makes it easy to notice the big heals that land and, conversely, the ones that are all overheal so I can judge whether or not my healing rhythm is in sync or not.
    3. The player bar has a lot of crucial information. My totems and their duration are prominantly displayed above the health bar, as is the timer on Water Shield. All buffs are arranged beneath the mana bar. And debuffs appear to the left of my name.
    4. My raid frames are also packed with information. Player health bars are colored by class, and players with aggro turn a bright red. Players in range of my totems have the buffs below their bars, so I can tell if we've moved too far out of range and I need to drop them again. I accidentally deleted the names from my raid frames a while back, and, for the most part, I like it this way. If I hover over a player, the name will appear on the screen, but, in the heat of battle, who I am healing doesn't matter. I've always joked about having a "No Heal" list, but I clearly don't. I don't usually even know which dps I'm healing at any given time. The green oval shows my group, which generally has other healers in it. I try to watch their mana to judge when to drop my Mana Tide Totem.
    5. My Shaman mod, TotemTimers allows me to see what totems I am using as well as quickly change them in mid-fight. A pop up menu appears when I hover my mouse over the bar, so I can switch from Mana Spring to Poison Cleansing or from Strength of Earth to Tremor when needed. Over to the right, it tracks my Reincarnate, Shields, and Weapon Buffs.

    How Did it Evolve?
    I am constantly tweaking my UI, and I'm proud of how much better it looks now than in Molten Core. But it is also more informative without being overwhelming now. But how did I get it to this point? I started by researching compilations of mods on Curse and WoWInterface. Once I found one with a screenshot that appealed to me, I downloaded it and began tweaking. Over time, many of the individual mods have needed to be replaced, and I've learned how to configure their replacements to do what I need them to do. It has taken a lot of time, patience, and trial and error to create a UI that works well for my play style. I do not recommend downloading a new compilation or any mod that significantly changes your UI unless you have the time to customize it and try it out in a low-pressure setting. You do not want to try to heal with it right out of the box. But if you take your time and work at it, you just may find that it increases your healing effectiveness to have a UI that is aesthetically pleasing and functional.

    I also recommend looking at other people's screenshots. I recruited these two from fellow healers in xeno. Mase's Priest and Moxy's Druid both have effective and appealing UIs. I'm tempted to give Moxy's target set up a try. PlusHeal also has a thread going with a collection of UI screenshots. You never know what great idea you'll be able to steal until you've looked around. There may be an awesome new mod that does exactly what you need just waiting to be discovered on someone else's screen. So keep looking and keep tweaking. Your UI is never done.

    For a partial list of mods I use, check out this post.

    Thursday, January 29, 2009

    Why WoW?

    In the midst of an article about the success of World of Warcraft, the Analyst over at MaximumPC posed a question today that caught my interest.

    Why do you still play WoW?

    With all the frustrations, personality conflicts, and technical difficulties I've experienced over the past three years, why do I still play WoW? It's a timely question because several of my friends and guildmates have made the decision to stop playing. Even Marnas and her husband are quitting the game because of real life concerns. So why, after 40 months of subscription fees, have I never made the same decision?

    Here are a few of my reasons.

    1. The Story.
    I love to read. I own so many books that helping me move is a horrible experience--even moreso than helping most other people move. I read mostly fiction, and I don't mind re-reading a good book.

    I also love movies. I can find merit in almost any movie (the only genre I dislike is horror because I can't help jumping). So it seems natural that the text (whether or not you read all of the quests) and the graphics that combine to tell the stories in the game draw me in. It's like being inside a book and a movie at the same time. Paying $15 a month is way cheaper than buying all the books and dvds I'd need to fill up the same amount of time.

    2. The Challenge.
    I'm quietly competitive. I don't need everyone else to know I'm good as long as I (and a few others) do. WoW has built in goals that keep me moving forward; there's always something else to strive for. I'll never "win." Even though that can occasionally be frustrating, I love that I can always find something to do. I always feel like I should be doing something to make my characters better or help someone else.

    3. The People.
    I'm a fairly social person, but I live alone and have absolutely no desire for a roommate who doesn't spring for a diamond ring first. I've managed to end up in a town that is scary after dark (not that I was much of a bar or club person anyway) and I mostly only know people from work. When you recognize people at the grocery store and know that that probably means they've spent some time in jail, you learn to keep to yourself.

    Plus, I like geeks. And through WoW I've made some realy good friends. Friends that have helped me through panic attacks from a thousand miles away. Friends that will offer me a couch or an air mattress whenever I'm passing through. And friends that will make a vacation way more fun just by showing up.

    The commentators over at MaximumPC point out that these things are not exclusive to WoW, and they're right. If Marnas had pushed for me to play another game, I probably wouldn't have a blog about Blizzard's baby. If I hadn't moved out of state and ended up living in a small town with big city crime, I might not play as much. If I liked getting papercuts or having glue stuck to my fingers, I'd be a scrapbooker. None of those if's change what is. And, for the moment, I'm ok with what is. So I'll continue to play WoW and plan vacations with my friends from far off places. Because even when we try to drown a Waverunner or get blisters on our feet, we're still having fun.

    xeno Orlando 2006:
    xeno Texas 2007:
    xeno Toronto 2008:
    The Dead Waverunner:



    Wednesday, January 28, 2009



    Wow is a guilty obsession and we all know it. We all know we play too much and have to come up with an excuse about why we can't be available for something besides explaining that we have a raid and 24 other people are depending on us to be there, plus hello loot!

    This is one of the reasons I find The Guild hilarious. If you haven't heard of it, check it out. The characters are exaggerations to the extreme and thus quite funny, but we can relate as well. The writer and lead of the show, Codex, actually plays WOW in real life. Check out her teaching Jimmy Fallon how to play WOW. He claimed that when he tried alone, he entered the world, swam for an hour and then was killed immediately by other players until he quit. I thought surely this was a comic exaggeration until I saw he played Draenei - yeah perhaps he did jump in the ocean and swam just to avoid Exodar. It's possible.
    So what's my problem with The Guild? Well of course I have to have a complaint, this is a blog. Clara, grr, Clara. If you don't have kids, I'm sure Clara is hilarious. As a mage, Clara plays round the clock just like the rest of the guild. Here's the problem. She has three very small children and a seemingly loving and wonderful husband. She makes me feel very, very guilty about not spending enough time with my kids because I'm playing WOW. Am I Clara? Certainly not! I've never let my 3 old use the microwave alone nor do I cage them so the can't get near me while I'm playing WOW. In the latest episode, Clara sends her husband and children to her sister's wedding without her. She has a raid so makes up an excuse for not going (she's the matron of honor.) So I'm not much like Clara, but the 1% of me that is like her feels guilty.

    OK there's my gripe, but the show is great so watch it.

    Monday, January 26, 2009

    Catching Up

    I've been bad about posting for a few days. I caught a cold last week and instead of spending my self-induced free time (it may be fun to share germs with hated co-workers, but it's even more fun to get to stay home) blogging, I used it to get to 80 on my Shadow Priest. That's her impressive ding to the left. I celebrated by giving her another make-over and committing to the alternative priest lifestyle by getting her some facial markings that evidently mean "shadow."

    In real life news, I'm supposed to be studying for a 3 day test that I need to take the last week of February. It will probably mean fewer regular posts for a while, but I'll try to keep posting pretty often. I still have more Anatomy of a Healer posts planned and I'm sure various frustrations will turn into blog fodder. I do promise not to blog about the Rule Against Perpetuities.

    Thursday, January 22, 2009

    Anatomy of a Healer: the Class

    Why is it that looking for the images to accompany my insightful blog posts (it's my blog, I can pretend I'm insightful if I want to) almost takes longer than actually writing them? Today I got distracted by a blog by a med student/resident. Evidently she wants to be a pediatrician (but not the cutesy "here's your lollipop" kind) and has fat cats. Now on to the actual post.

    If you don't count rogues with bandages--and you really shouldn't--World of Warcraft has four classes that can choose to heal: Druid, Paladin, Priest, and Shaman. Each is very different both in lore and play style, but all can be excellent at healing. So why should you choose one over the other?

    I'm not trying to get into the intricacies of each class, or preach about why one is better than the other. What I do want to do is explain why, to me, it doesn't really matter which you choose, as long as you take the time to be good at what you play. I'm going to oversimplify a lot here. And I'm probably going to get yelled at by my healer friends. Please don't take my statements as gospel, but research your chosen class and read the blogs of people who actually play those characters.

    Hybrids:
    First of all, all healers are hybrids.

    There are four "pure" classes in the game: Hunter, Mage, Rogue and Warlock. These classes cause damage. That is all they can do. If a Rogue respecs from Assasination to Sublety or vice versa, she will still do damage. She does not have a tanking tree or a healing tree--she has three dps trees.

    Every other class in the game is a hybrid class. Let me say that again. Every other class--except Hunter, Mage, Rogue and Warlock--is a hybrid class.

    I'm sorry for harping on this. But Priests are not pure classes no matter how much a certain guy I know thinks they are. And it's important to think of all healers as hybrids in order to get over certain misconceptions many people have.

    Druids:
    Now that I've beaten the hybrid concept into the ground, we can focus on the class that is arguably the biggest hybrid of them all. Druids who choose to embrace their outer Barkskin are very powerful healers in Wrath of the Lich King. Restoration druids have many heal over time spells to absorb spiky damage as well as several larger heals that make it possible for them to heal bigger chunks as well. The druid play-style isn't for everyone and requires that you be able to manage a lot of different timers as well as predict who will take damage when. I see druids as proactive healers who can spread their healing over many targets. They are less whack-a-mole and more sand box; they enjoy filling the smaller dips with HoT stacks but are able to pour out more healing on demand to plug the larger holes as well.

    Paladins:
    Holy Paladins are still great at single target healing, but WotLK gave them more tools to use as well. Playing a paladin well requires quick reactions and is most often seen as whack-a-mole at its finest. I'll admit that I know little about raiding as a paladin. But from what I've read on other blogs, WotLK has given them more flexibility. And I know I'm always glad to have them along.

    Priests:
    I'm biased. I love the priest class. I chose to bench my priest for a few different reasons, but none of them was because I disliked the class.

    Priests are my favorite healers because they have so many different tools to choose from. If you need a priest to be a single-target healer, they will do it. If you need a priest to spot heal the raid, they will do it. If you need a priest to help mitigate incoming damage on a player, they will do it. Priests can do everything, and they can do it all well. I'm not saying that a priest will do better than another class at a specific job, just that they can do any job. Being a good holy or discipline priest requires the same level of dedication as the others with the added burden of choosing the right spell at the right time.

    Shamans:

    I've talked about shaman healing a bit before, so I won't bore you with all the details here. Wrath of the Lich King gave shamans a few new tricks to make them a little more rounded than they had been before. Chain heal is still what we're known for, but it isn't the only spell in our arsenal, and shouldn't be the only one we use. However, in a raid situation, knowing who to use as the anchor for chain heal based on positioning is very important. Shamans need to have better than average situational awareness (something I'm still working on) in order to choose the right spell to the greatest effect. Using a Chain Heal on the mage who is way out of the group may not be the best choice. Likewise it may be better to cast a Chain Heal on a rogue when those around her are about to take damage than to top her up with a Lesser Healing Wave. I may not advocate true heads up healing, but knowing what is going on around you as well as who is standing where is necessary to be a great shaman healer.

    Whack-a-Mole, Sand Box, Heads Up, Spacial Awareness. Whatever you want to call it, healing takes skill, patience and a certain amount of trial and error. I stand behind my assertion that all healing classes can be effective healers. No one class is better than the others, but one class may be better for you.

    Tuesday, January 20, 2009

    "Tact is just not saying true stuff. I'll pass"

    10 points if you recognize the quote. 20 if you know the episode.

    Being in a leadership position often requires a lot of lip biting (or backspacing). WoW is no different. You need to be able to tactfully tell someone how to improve. You need to be able to explain what they did wrong without hurting their feelings. And you have to stop yourself from lashing out at them for pissing you off--at least most of the time.

    And frankly, it sucks.

    There are days when I just want to tell it like it is. I want to be able to tell the whiny person that if they get off their ass and get some heroic gear they'd stand a much better chance of getting to raid. I want to be able to tell someone that their efforts to "help" aren't really all that helpful. And I want to be able to throw a hissy fit when things don't go as planned.

    But I normally don't.

    Because, despite the momentary satisfaction, the fallout is absolutely no fun at all. Having to apologize after blowing up at a guildy (who deserved it) is a lesson in humility I'd rather not have to endure again. Alienating people who help even a little just makes me feel guilty. And publicly freaking out over a botched pull, failed raid, or massive stupidity doesn't make the next pull, raid or stupid person any easier to deal with.

    But I think it.

    Snarky Tam is alive and well.

    Friday, January 16, 2009

    Who's the Boss?

    In WoW there are many types of guilds. Many people join a leveling guild soon after beginning to play the game. Others have a group of friends who start a guild of their own. Some end up in twink guilds focused on lower-level PvP. Almost any aspect of the game can be the basis for the commonality needed to make a guild. Well, maybe not fishing. In my experience, raiding and end-game PvE content has led to the creation of the largest number of guilds. These guilds range from the casual to the hardcore and everything in between. And each one is run differently. Many are under the leadership of one person with a vision, but others, like mine, are run by a group of Officers who work together to handle the many responsibilities inherent in a raiding guild that also tries to be a pleasant place for all members.

    I have read a few blog posts lately about guilds and how they illustrate how society works on a larger scale. What is expected of a member of a guild is what is expected in all societies--that they do their share to help the group accomplish a common goal. But who sets the goal? Who's the boss?

    In some societies--and, by correllation, some guilds--the people at the top of the food chain decide what is important and everyone else falls into line. The people making these decisions are expected to focus on things that benefit the group as a whole, and as long as they do this--or have power over the group members--, they can make the decisions. If they stop making decisions that benefit everyone, they face the risk of revolution (or mass /gquit). In other cultures, the people themselves make their wishes known and do what the majority says. Still others have a combination of the two: a person or persons who lead the group, but who also listen to opinions about what should be done. But what happens when no agreement can be made? What do you do when some people really want to do one thing, others really don't, and the rest don't care enough to express much of an opinion either way?

    Our guild is facing this kind of discussion at the moment. I don't want to call it a "problem," at least not yet. Right now we have a few people that really (and I mean vehemently) want to do all of the requirements for the achievement Heroic: Glory of the Raider. The 17 requirements for the Meta-Achievement include killing bosses with fewer than 21 people in the zone, changing strategies to make the fights more difficult, and keeping everyone alive on every boss fight. The reward for completing the achievement is a faster mount.

    I'm not going to get into my own personal feelings about the achievement itself. Instead, I want to focus on who gets to make the decision about whether or not we adjust (and in some cases, break) our strategies to do achievements.

    I can see both sides of the issue. I understand wanting to feel like you are part of the decision-making process whenever the choice affects you. (After all, that's exactly what I've been whining about in my work situation lately.) But I also know that sometimes decisions have to be made "without input from 30 different people." (Sigh, I seriously just quoted my boss. Don't you hate it when something happens to make you see the other side of the issue and then you find out you agree with the enemy?)

    I guess you can figure out that I think the Officers and Raid Leaders should make the final decision about whether or not to switch things around in order to do the achievements. So I guess what I'm saying is we're the bosses. That doesn't diminish your own freedom, you are free to choose for yourselves whether or not to stay or leave, raid or not raid. But the decisions about what happens during a raid are the Officers' responsibility. And I'd appreciate you shutting up about it now.

    Wednesday, January 14, 2009

    Goldilocks?

    I read quite a few WoW-related blogs. I don't always agree with every one of the authors, and I don't always care about everything they write, but overall I enjoy hearing from people about all aspects of the game. One of the best things about this is being reminded that there are other people out there wanting something entirely different out of the game than I do. Whether that is every mini-pet available or an AV that lasts 12 hours doesn't matter. What is important is that checking my Reader reinforces the fact that WoW is a game with wide appeal.

    But is that wide appeal diluting the things I loved about the game?

    My guild is ranked in the top ten on our server (or at least we were the last time I looked at a ranking page), but we aren't cutting edge progression either. We've killed Sartharion with one drake up (did I mention how ridiculously easy that was?) and plan to tackle him with more drakes alive this week. In my almost three years raiding with xeno, we have gone from being a bit behind the raiding curve to being right in the thick of progression guilds. Every step has been a challenge, and overcoming those challenges was part of the appeal of the game. I love the feeling you get when a group of people from all over the world work together to accomplish a goal.

    Many of those blogs I mentioned have commented on Blizzard's apparent watering down of the raid content. Most hardcore raiders dislike the trend to make things easier. There have been rants about the changes in WoW reflecting the overall tendency in our culture to make things fair for everyone. There have been parodies comparing WoW raiding to a rollercoaster that can now only go 10 miles per hour. I can understand these authors' viewpoints, but I'm not sure I share them.

    Don't get me wrong. I do think that the early raiding content in Wrath of the Lich King has been very easy compared to raid content in both vanilla WoW and the Burning Crusade. But I'm not convinced that this is the end of the game. Blizzard has promised that harder content is coming. And although I've jumped on the "hurry up already" bandwagon, I think that the easier early content will mean that my guild can be part of the cutting edge when it gets here. We're farming Naxx, Eye of Eternity and Obsidian Sanctum. We're gearing up our regular raiders and their subs. We're teaching new members how to raid with us. And we're learning how to work together as a team. All of these things will help us conquer the next wave of content.

    Are the raids too easy right now? Possibly. Mama Bear's bowl of porridge was too cold for Goldilocks, too. I'm hoping that Ulduar and the raids that come after that will be just right. And that the early content will have taught us how to use our spoons.

    Tuesday, January 13, 2009

    Anatomy of a Healer: Peripherals

    When I first picked up a copy of World of Warcraft (after much badgering by Marnas), I was under the mistaken belief that it would be like every other computer game I'd ever played. I'd played strategy games like Rise of Nations and role playing games like Prince of Persia. I'd even played Warcraft (the original) and Diablo. But the largest number of people I'd ever played those games with was four. I thought I'd load the game on my system and that would be it. I never dreamed that three years later I'd own a special keyboard, a gaming mouse, be constantly seeking a more comfortable (but affordable) headset for vent, and have upgraded not only the memory and graphics card in my computer, but also have purchased a new system--and even have upgraded that.

    To start off my Anatomy of a Healer (because really we are a totally different animal than tanks or dps), I thought I'd start by discussing some Peripherals I use now.

    Keyboard:
    As I have become more and more focused on PvE endgame, I have sought ways to decrease my reaction time. Despite being a typing teacher's daughter and taking a full year of the course in high school (back when we actually used--gasp--typewriters), I fully admit that I have never really mastered the number keys. On a regular keyboard I can hit 1 to 6 fairly reliably. The rest are really beyond me. Especially when my right hand is on a mouse. So for a long time any spells or abilities bound to 7 through = could only be accessed by clicking them. This wasn't necessarily a problem back in 40 man raids when my priest mostly just needed 1 for renew and 2 for flash heal, but as I learned more spells (and went shadow) I needed to be able to hit more keys more quickly.

    I currently use the Merc Stealth Gaming Keyboard from Ideazon. And I must say I love it. It combines a regular keyboard with a special keypad. The keypad is offset at a slight angle that has eliminated some minor wrist pain I was experiencing. The number keys are arranged in two rows making it possible for even me to hit all of them when needed. The software allows you to bind keys to any series of strokes you want, making it possible to press one button instead of a complicated series of keys. It takes a little getting used to, but the main drawback I have found is not being able to function on other people's keyboards. I kinda suck on the regular kind now.

    Mouse:
    I splurged about a year ago and purchased a Razer Diamondback Gaming Mouse. I spent some time looking over the options at a couple of computer stores before making my purchase. The main feature I wanted was a thumb button for my vent bind. I know a lot of other people get fancier with their buttons, but for the most part I'm old school with the mouse. I just wanted it to fit my hand (I have pretty small hands and a lot of the big gaming mice felt awkward to me) and have the thumb button. I appreciate the responsiveness of the Diamondback, and I haven't regretted buying it at all.

    Headset:
    A few members of my guild often gripe that the Officers don't read Raid Chat. Although I do try to read most of what scrolls through my chat screen, I don't always manage it. And I'm convinced a couple of the other Officers don't really even try. We're vent people, and we'd much rather explain a fight or discuss a problem on our Ventrilo server than try to type it all out. Because of this, I spend at least 11 hours a week wearing a headset. I think I have a permanent indentation on the top of my head where the band sits.

    I'm not completely satisfied with the Logitech USB Headset I use, but the microphone doesn't usually make my guildies yell at me, and the sound quality is good. It isn't incredibly comfortable, but that is probably due to the fact that I don't wear it correctly. I run game sounds through my speakers and only use the headphones for vent, so I keep the left earpiece behind my left ear rather than on it. I'm on my second set of similar headphones; they seem to last pretty well even through my rough treatment. I tried using a bluetooth headset for a while, but evidently I sound much better through this headset, and I'm vain enough to not want to sound horrible.

    Gaming Peripherals have become big business. Everytime I step foot into BestBuy or another computer store I am amazed at the number of new products taunting me from their shelves. Although I can't bring myself to spend $300 on a headset, I do think the makers of gaming accessories fill a niche in the marketplace. I spend enough time playing, researching, and thinking about WoW to justify making my experience in game comfortable--maybe not $300 comfortable, but even that isn't really absurd. I remember my dad having headphones for listening to his records that I wasn't allowed to touch...I think I once got a spanking just for looking at them. I guess spending big bucks to enjoy your hobby isn't anything new after all.

    Monday, January 12, 2009

    Minutiae

    • I still have thoughts percolating about an Anatomy of a Healer series of posts. They will probably continue to percolate since I'm too tired to actually write much of anything tonight. Maybe tomorrow night I'll finally write something of substance.
    • My job sucks lately. I know that doesn't matter much, but it's of consequence to me, so there it is. WTB office leadership that can make non-idiotic decisions.
    • I caved to peer pressure today and signed up for Twitter. @tambarke is me. Not entirely sure why I let Srom and Silver talk me into it, but I did.
    • We one-shot Heroic Sartharian + 1 for the first time tonight. It was ridiculously easy. I had more challenge in the series of heroic dungeons I put together afterward than in the actual raid. That's sad. I'm jumping on the "I want Ulduar!" bandwagon.
    • I read Matticus's post today about becoming a successful blogger. Then I ignored it all. Just thought you should know I read it even though I then threw it out the window.
    • OMG. I need sleep. I almost posted this with the last line reading "I then through it out the window." Ugh.