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?

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)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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


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.

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.

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.

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


  • 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.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

How to Win Friends and...or not

Ok, so here's another of those real life posts where I rant about my life even though I know this is supposed to be a WoW blog. I promise that I have something WoW related planned for weekend writing, but today I just have to explain the "boss man say wha?" kind of week I've had. (Yes, I've seen Hannah Montana, wanna make something of it?)

I work in a professional office. Lawyers abound, support staff everywhere, all that stuff. This week has seen the arrival of a new lawyer, we'll call him Lawyer D, and next week Attorney E will start work on Monday. Now, Lawyer D took the only office that was available, so the powers that be had to find a way to open up an office for Attorney E. Assistant 1 had an office that was just perfect. So they have moved Assistant 1 and Helper 2 to two desks previously occupied by Secretary 3 and Admin 4. This made sense because Assistant 1 and Helper 2 both work on the same cases and being in the same area will make things easier. Secretary 3 went to an empty desk in the basement which is fine since she is the newest employee. She can live over the smell.

The making sense stops now...

Admin 4 didn't get Helper 2's now empty desk, instead she is moving to where Aide 5 had been sitting and Aide 5 is taking Helper 2's desk. Clerk 6 and Typist 7 are switching places as well. So, on the support staff side, 7 people have been displaced in order to empty one office.

You'd think that would be enough, right? And Attorney E would move into Assistant 1's office and call it a day. Wrong.

Prosecutor C is taking Assistant 1's office, and Attorney E is moving into Prosecutor C's vacated office on Monday. Counselor A is switching offices with Esquire B. Of all these moves, only Prosecutor C is getting more room and a better location. Esquire B is getting a decent location (damnit I didn't want to move!) but the office isn't any larger. Counselor A (me) got screwed.

In order to get Attorney E an office, 10 people have moved.

And we're supposed to ensure that justice is efficient...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


We all need it. And we all struggle to find it. In our families. With our friends. At work. In our guilds.

Marnas retracted a post about our guild and the way raid spots are filled. A friendly, if somewhat bumbling, melee dpser caught me tonight with some complaints. Other friends and guild members have expressed (sometimes vehemently) their feelings about raid invites. Not surprisingly, these conversations generally happen when they are not confirmed for a raid.

Why do they talk to me? Well, for one I am an Officer, and my name often shows up on our website as the one confirming people who have expressed interest in attending the raid. Although I am the one clicking the confirm box, not all the decisions are mine alone. In fact, I am usually in communication with at least one other Officer, sometimes two or three, as I click. Why else do they talk to me? Probably because I let them. I let them blow off steam, and I listen to their concerns. There may not be anything I can do about it, but I try to listen anyway.

So what do we look for when confirming people to raids? Balance. But not just a balance of classes, or even a balance of roles. We also have to balance the conflicting desires of the people in the guild and the entire guild as a whole.

In the Burning Crusade, we made the conscious decision to focus on progression, which changed a lot of how we did things. Those changes have carried over into Wrath. In vanilla WoW we were a casual guild that raided. Confirmations were made on a first come-first serve basis. It usually worked out that the dedicated and talented players signed up first, so they were confirmed, but if you forgot to sign up for Molten Core early, you were likely to sit out, no matter how dedicated and talented you were. In Burning Crusade, we tried to make that same system work, but with fewer people allowed in the raids and the difficulty amped up in the early encounters, we quickly found that that did not work. Since then, our confirmations have been based on more elusive things than signup order. And of course, this doesn't always make our decisions popular.

Skill. Dedication. Preparation. Reliability. Availability. Loyalty. These are easy to type, but not always as easy to measure...especially in oneself. It's easy to say, "Soandso's been to two raids this week and it's not fair!" It's harder to acknowledge that Soandso has quicker reflexes than you do and only needs a fight to be explained once. It doesn't always seem fair, and I'll admit that often it isn't, that someone who is hateful and annoying gets to raid because they do more damage than someone who is nice. But when the focus is progression, sometimes the abrasive but skilled win out over the friendly, but bumbling.

In addition to the idealistic qualities listed above, the truth is a raid confirmation may also hinge on who you know. I know that sounds bad. But it doesn't make it less true. I'm not saying that the entire raid roster will be filled with people getting special treatment because they are related to or friends with an Officer. But if a decent player has the ear of an Officer, he or she is more likely to get into raids than a decent player who doesn't. Maybe these are truths that I'm not supposed to share. Maybe I'm breaking some oath of confidentiality by telling it like it is, but honestly, that is how the world works. I've gotten my last three job interviews based almost exclusively on the recommendation of someone I already knew working there. My qualifications got me the job (or the offer of a job) but the word of someone the employer already trusted got me the interview.

I know we sometimes trip and fall, but for the most part, my fellow Officers and I try to keep a balance between people and progress, guildies and friends, the guild's casual atmosphere and getting things done. We're walking a tightrope. And we're doing the best we can.

Shave and a Haircut?

I left zoo court yesterday afternoon a little after 4:00 and decided to take my lunch hour instead of heading back to the office. I had an appointment at a salon in the mall scheduled for 5:00, so I headed over early to shop for a few minutes. After buying some work related clothes and a couple of books, I went into the salon.

I didn't have to wait very long for the stylist to be ready for me, which was a good surprise since she had been slow the other time I saw her. She asked if I liked my haircut from before, and I made pleased noises in response. She planned out the session saying she'd shampoo and condition my hair, wax my eyebrows, and then put me under the dryer for the deep conditioning to work. She stopped the sentence there, but I didn't think anything of it at the time. We headed back to the sinks and started the process of making me beautiful-ish. She worked on my eyebrows for what felt like a century and seemed surprised that my skin turned red. (Lady, I'm fair-skinned and you are torturing me with tweezers and hot wax...what did you think would happen?) After making my skin brighter than the Red Raider's hair--so red that it was difficult to actually see my eyebrows--she handed me a mirror and asked what I thought. Again with the pleased noises.

She wrapped a string of cotton around my head almost like I was getting a perm and sealed my hair under a shower cap. Then she led me to the row of old-fashioned hair dryers and told me to sit. Despite the novel I held in my hands, she tried to foist some outdated fashion magazine on me that I practically had to bat away with the aforementioned novel. As she adjusted the dryer over my head, she dropped the bowl thing too quickly so it bashed my head. Oops. She quickly righted it and set me to cook for another 10 minutes.

Finally I was done. But it took a few more minutes for her to free me from the dryer and take me back to her station. On the way she asked if I wanted her to style my hair or leave with it still damp. As it was approximately 15 degrees outside and I had planned on getting dinner after she finished, I opted for the style. I didn't fancy having icicle hair. (Why does styling hair cost extra? Seriously, they are using hot air and hot metal to make my hair go in strange directions. Usually, they use so much product "styling" my hair that it appears that I am at least two inches taller than when I came in. Why do I have to pay extra for poofy?)

At this point, I fully expected her to break out the scissors and start trimming my hair. Granted, it didn't need much, but with fairly short hair, stylists generally prefer to trim it often so it keeps its shape. The bangs at least could have used a little attention. After all, my hair grows incredibly fast. But instead of grabbing scissors, she picked up her hairdryer and started attacking my hair. Within 5 minutes she had it dry and styled (no product at least). I mostly sat there speechless wondering what had happened. How did I go in for a haircut and end up with deep conditioned hair (that I never asked for by the way, but whatever) that looked exactly the same as when I walked in? What cue in the conversation slipped past me without me catching on that I was supposed to say "Aren't you going to CUT my hair?" Whatever it was, at this point I mostly wanted out. So I kept my mouth shut even as my mind kept up a litany of "WTFs."

After she finished styling it she said "It's getting a little long in the back, are you planning on growing it out?"


So yeah...I'd rather have a goblin give me a shave and a haircut next time.

Second Thoughts

So I had second thoughts on my post the other day and deleted it. However curious minds want to know..... I was just mostly whining (some valid points too) about our guild's raiding selection process etc. etc. But I decided it was too whiny and took it off. It's tough to speak your heart when you know officers are listening muhahaha. All kidding aside, I know tough decisions have to made and I think I just need to learn to be happy with how it all works out.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Healing (Normal) Naxxramas - Part 2

Military Quarter

Instructor Razuvius
Bottom Line: The first boss in the Death Knight wing is fairly easy to heal. Two of your raid members will be using the mind control crystals to control the students. These two adds will trade off tanking the boss. Once your "tanks" have the hang of using Bone Shield and Taunt at the right times, these adds will be pretty easy to keep up. I bounce chain heals off the boss's current target to take care of any random damage your melee might take. You will also want to chain heal the ranged pretty often since the entire raid takes moderate damage (about 4k) every 15 seconds or so. The boss will also toss a Jagged Knife at a player that hurts. Use Riptide or Lesser Healing Wave to top them up.

Gothik the Harvester
Phase One: Your raid will split into two groups and position yourselves on either side of the center gate. The side you enter from is the "Live Side" and the one through the gate is the "Undead Side." Once the encounter is started, mobs appear on the Live Side first. Once they die, they reappear on the Undead Side and have to be killed again.

This phase starts out slow, but gets quite hectic by the end. The damage on each side will be random, but manageable. Just stay aware of your surroundings and be ready to hit any untanked mobs with Wind Shock if they start to head your way.

Phase Two: Gothik himself enters the fight and bounces between the Live Side and Undead Side. When he hits 30 percent, the gate opens and the raid can finish him off quickly.

Bottom Line: Don't get complacent with the slow pace of Phase One--it will pick up and inattention could prove deadly.

The Four Horsemen
The Four Horsemen must all be tanked simultaneously and kept in their separate corners to avoid getting too many debuffs of any one kind on the raid. Once the pull is made, each of the horsemen/women head to a different corner.

Front Side: The front side (closest to the door you enter from) will have two traditional tanks. One healer should be sufficient for each tank. The group (including the healer) stacks fairly close together in their respective corners and moves with the tanks to the exchange point in the center. The tanks switch targets and drag the new mob back to the same corner the group was in before. The switches happen when the tanks get three stacks of the debuff. After one mob dies, a healer and tank will be freed up and can move to the back to dps the remaining mobs. They should not follow the mob back to the other corner or the debuff will stack too high.

Back Side: The back side will most likely be tanked by non-traditional tanks such as a moonkin, hunter or elemental shaman. We often use an unholy death knight, but your group may vary depending on raid composition. One healer (someone who can efficiently heal two tanks at once) should stand on the platform dancing from side to side to avoid getting too many debuffs and moving out of the black circles of death. Our resto druid fulfills this job.

Bottom Line: I am usually assigned to the front side and the corner that the meteor boss runs to (I think of it as the left side from where you enter the room). I use chain heal to top up the group after the meteor hits. It's a slightly chaotic fight, but as long as you watch your debuff count and stick with your group, it isn't that hard.

Construct Quarter

Bottom Line: This is a fight where healing everyone is BAD. Your heals should be focused on the main tank or the hateful strike tank. I know it hurts to see melee be at half health, but if you don't want them to be dead, you will learn to leave them there. Your melee should be dancing in and out of the goo to drop their health below that of the hateful strike tank so that they do not get one-shot. I will occasionally throw a very small heal on one of them that is getting too low, but for the most part my job is to keep the main tank and the other guy with the most health at full health. Earth Shield + Glyphed Lesser Healing Wave is perfect for this fight.

Bottom Line: Don't dispel the disease. Ever. Grobbulus will place a disease on one person in the raid who must run to the designated area (for us, this is against the wall slightly behind where he is currently being tanked, so that the tank and melee will not be going through the clouds) and then run back to the group after they drop their poison cloud. Heal them up, but do NOT dispel the disease. Ever. Other than that, your main tank will be moving around the room dragging the big guy who will also be dropping poison clouds under himself. Keep the tank and melee alive. Your off tank will be tanking slime guys that spawn occasionally. It's a pretty easy healing fight, but don't get tunnel vision and forget to run to the wall if you get the disease. The disease that you do not dispel. Ever.

Phase One: Your entire raid will drop down into his room together and the tank will move the big guy to the back of the room. Two tanks are going to taunt back and forth because he puts a debuff on them that decreases healing received by 10% per application. It can stack up to 10 times. I'm no math whiz...but 10 times 10 is 100; and reducing healing received by 100% equals dead tank. A third tank type person (or kiter) will pick up zombies that spawn and keep them from running to the boss. These zombies also put a debuff on the person they hit increasing damage taken by 100 per application. This stacks up to infinity it feels like, although I think it only goes to 99. We have a Death Knight gather them up, which requires some intensive healing on him by the end. Other groups kite them around.

Phase Two: Gluth uses an ability called Decimate that reduces the health of everything around him to 5% maximum health. Quickly heal up the tanks before chain healing the raid. The raid will be killing the zombies to keep them from reaching Gluth. Any zombie that he eats will heal him by 5% of his maximum health. Healing your party is good. Letting Gluth heal is not.

Bottom Line: Our strat (with the Death Knight tanking the zombies) is pretty healing intensive, but doable. Our group doesn't usually include anyone that can effectively kite them. If you do have a "tank" on the zombies, be aware that by the decimate he will be taking massive damage. Also, it is unlikely that the zillions of debuffs will disappear before the next zombies appear, so you'll have to work pretty hard to keep him alive, as well as the two tanks switching aggro on the boss.

Phase One: Your raid will split into two groups, half going to the left platform and half going to the right. The mobs on the platforms must die at the same time. In addition, they toss the tanks during this phase, which means that you need to pay attention to which one currently is on your platform (meaning have distance fading enabled). Neither of these mobs do a ton of damage to the raid, just keep the tanks topped up and wait for the mobs to die simultaneously.

Phase Two: After the mobs die, you will jump from the platform to the ledge at the back of the room. Make the jump. If you don't, it's a long run back and everyone will notice that you missed. (If you do miss, blame it on lag.) After a few seconds of fighting Thaddius he will put a charge on everyone in the group that increases the damage you deal if you stack the same debuff. Run to your charge's designated area. Our group places positive charges near the green goo and negative charges up against the wall. After you are situated with people who have the same charge as you, heal and dps if you can fit it in without letting the raid die.

Bottom Line: This fight is a dps race and requires that you pay attention. Periodically the boss will change the charge on people and you do not want to be in the wrong area or you will blow up yourself and others. Your charge will not always change, so pay attention and don't just randomly run when a charge is called. We make sure everyone runs counter clockwise (to the right) during charge changes so that no one blows up.
yeah - posted something I later felt was too snarky - so deleted it, but don't know how to really delete - hehe

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Momma Said Knock You Out at The Hundred Club

We cleared Naxx 10 again tonight, as did another 10 man group from our guild. I'm more proud of them than of us, though, because I think this was their first night to finish in one setting. They also seemed faster than us, although a late start contributed to that, it wasn't the only thing that went wrong. We just weren't as smooth as we usually are.

We did challenge ourselves to complete a couple of achievements, though none of them were for speed--too many oops pulls for that (including one where I stepped too close to a spider who thought I looked tasty...have I mentioned my hatred for all things arachnid?). We killed Grand Widow Faerlina without killing one of her adds near her to dispel the frenzy. It made tank healing a little more intensive, but wasn't too bad with a holy priest, resto shaman and resto druid. Then we killed Sapphiron without any frost resist. Usually, I drop a frost resist totem to give us at least 130, but tonight we went without (or at least beneath 100). We didn't one-shot it, but that was more unlucky blizzard placement than the additional damage. It made the fight more challenging from a healing standpoint, but it also made it more fun.

I guess I'm not against all dungeon or raid achievements anymore. But I also have the 4 piece set bonus and pretty awesome gear overall. Maybe my opinion hasn't changed. I've just got the gear to make them fun instead of painful.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Ding! in RL

Happy Birthday to Me!
Happy Birthday to Me!
Happy Birthday to ME-E!
Happy Birthday to Me!

There, isn't that enough frivolity for the day?