Mages, ten-man raiding, and other things that are awesome.

Archive for the ‘The Social Aspect’ Category

Memory Lane: Burning Crusade Edition

I found this entry in my draft folder from June! I don’t know how I forgot about posting it, but it seems particularly appropriate now as many folks endeavor to recapture and revisit old content in preparation for Azeroth’s greatest fashion show.

I was struck the other day by nostalgia. I don’t think I’ve played any other game so consistently for so long. (And I’m not an “old-timer,” I only started at the end of Burning Crusade in approximately May 2008.) But that’s still three years of time!

I remember being so completely awestruck the first time I saw someone riding a Talbuk. It was in Menethil Harbor and we’d just taken the boat. Someone rode by on one and I gasped to Voss, “What is that? I want one!” I swore then and there that I would have one. I was the first person of my acquaintance to complete the grind with Kurenai. Talbuks have been Millya’s preferred mount ever since. They just seem so perfect for draenei to me, and even when I hadn’t seen Nagrand at all I somehow knew they’d be “right.”

Before I had a talbuk, though, I had my eyes on another prize. The first time we saw the Barrens I was similarly enamored with the Zhevra. It’s a unicorn, but it’s also a zebra! I was crushed to learn that they weren’t actually available as a mount. Until about a month later, they were announced as the very first mount reward for Recruit-A-Friend. Naturally, I knew what I had to do.

Millya's first "fast" mount.

I remember feeling very pleased with myself, too, because I saved money by not having to buy one of the mounts. Yes, the money at the time was a big enough deal to me that I was concerned about saving enough to buy a mount. At the time, WoW felt very much like the “haves” and the “have-nots” and I was squarely in the “pretty poor” camp. This was something I could have, and I was happy with it. (Note, I’m not whining here about my broke state. I hadn’t learned to use the AH or make money in any way. Nowadays it seems really easy to make money and there are plenty of resources for folks to learn how.)

So fashionable!

The other thing I greatly looked forward to was matching armour sets. When I hit 70, I had my pieces of Spellfire robes ready to roll because I’d been painstakingly crafting cloth (and borrowing the CDs of others) for weeks! I was so excited to have a set of armour that matched. I then spent a week straight in Alterac Valley to get the best (PvE and PvP) entry-raiding staff that there was:

Giant Pink Lipstick of DOOM!

Every caster had this, because it was awesome. I still have it in my bank because I am so proud of it. I’d never PvPed before, but I wanted the best thing available to me. It was nice to go to Kara and be passing on stuff because it honestly wasn’t an upgrade. (My obsession with gearing my characters even outside of raiding started really, really early).

Firehawks and lynxes and bears, oh my!

One of my other great memories is going to Zul’aman with our ten-man group and downing it all. I think we missed the nerf by a week; I can’t remember if this was pre or post-nerf but I was so proud that we did it. This was as far as ten-man progression allowed at the time, and we were just a small guild. This screenshot of old friends makes me smile.

"Wicked, wicked, mortals! The forest weeps. The elements recoil at the destruction. Ivus must purge you from this world!"

In the time I spent doing AV, I got to summon Ivus the Forest Lord not once, but twice! For those who are unfamiliar, you can summon this big bad when an AV match is interminable. It seldom happens now because there are things you need to do beforehand and most AV battles tend to be zergs. This is what the summoning looks like. I unfortunately lack a screenshot of the Horde players flailing around as we rode forward with Ivus ahead of us, scattering players like popcorn. The element of surprise was on our side because I think most of them didn’t even understand what was happening and had never heard of Ivus, let alone seen him. This is still hands-down one of my favourite AV memories.

"Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth, and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings..." (John Gillespie Magee Jr., "High Flight"

Finally, this is a screenshot I just had to include. Do you remember how you felt when you were first able to afford a flying mount – any flying mount? Who cared that it wasn’t as fast as the other ones? I imagine for most of us, we’ll never have the actual feeling of piloting a plain or hang-gliding. Yet who isn’t captivated by the idea of flying off into the sky?

I know some folks are not happy about the changes to Azeroth and the addition of flight. I think that it’s absolutely a shame if you never come down to the earth to pay attention to all of the details and work that’s been put into creating this world. At the same time, I love being able to fly everywhere since the first moment I could fly, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

“Those” Raid Nights and What To Do About Them

We’ve all been there. You show up ready to raid. You have read the strats for the progression fights. You’ve been talking about how to better execute fights that you’ve already downed. You have flasks, you have food. You have nine or twenty-four other people.

Or maybe you don’t even get to that point. Maybe someone’s internet is down and you can’t get ahold of John to step in. Someone disconnects as you pull the boss or someone has an addon problem or someone makes a mistake on something you’ve done a million times before. Whatever the reason, something is just off. You’re in for one of those nights.

I wish I had the magic recipe to prevent them. I don’t. Sometimes storms are hitting several areas. Tonight the storm was in our area – massive chunks of hail pounding on the roof so hard during Shannox that I had to turn my sound up just to hear the aural cues I am used to! Thankfully we didn’t disconnect, and no one had any technical difficulties. Regardless, for us it was one of those nights.

Call it a full moon, call it bad luck, call it a combination of factors – we’re still getting to know our new raiders, we had one more melee than we usually do, we made a mistake on assignments, we swapped healers to roles they weren’t used to, and tanks to roles that they weren’t used to. We started the raid night with high hopes for a certain number of bosses that we didn’t achieve. It’s the kind of night where you finish and can feel the collective sigh of relief and discouragement over voice chat. Everyone’s demoralized. Where do you go from there?

There are a few ways to handle it. You could cascade into a doubt spiral, second-guessing everything that happened and your role in it. You could lay blame, you could pout or gnash your teeth. Here’s what I do.

Recognize that it happens to everyone

No, really. You may feel like there is no other single raid group that has struggled as your group struggled on that night. Trust me on this – Vodka has nights like this. No one plays perfectly all of the time. I challenge you to show me a raid group that hasn’t had a crappy or an off night. (Okay, an off night for Vodka doesn’t mean the same thing as it does for other raids, but that’s not the point). We all have times where we feel like we didn’t play to our potential, that we could have done better, that we failed.

We’re human. It happens. So then what?

Take a break

Our group takes regular breaks anyway (once an hour for six minutes), so I always seize this opportunity. Some of the things I do during breaks include:

  • Rub the dog’s belly.
  • Run downstairs.
  • Give the dog a carrot.
  • Open the back door and take deep breaths of fresh air.
  • Yoga. (I’m serious.)
  • Make sure I have a big glass of cold water on my desk for the end of the break
  • I’m kind of a hippy like that, so I have essential oils (mint!) and I’ll put a dab on my wrists or neck or temples. Mint and citrus smells can help reduce stress and aid focus. Lavender is calming, unlike the Firelands, which is…well, on fire.

Sometimes you just need to get your body thinking about something else. I like to stretch my legs and move around during breaks if I can. Long periods of sitting combined with tension can lead to muscle cramps or aches. Focusing on something else even for a few minutes can help you to do better when you come back and sit down.

Switch it up

If you’ve been beating your head against a boss wall for hours and you aren’t seeing any progress, don’t be afraid to tackle something new. It may not result in a kill, but at least it’ll present new frustrations. If your faction has Tol Barad, go do a Baradin Hold run. Kill some more trash. Even switch instances if that’s an option and you have the time to do it.

Get some perspective

Was your night really all that bad? For our raid night, we didn’t kill all the bosses we would have liked, but the ones we did kill we killed pretty cleanly. I healed a different tank than I usually do on Shannox; our other tank healer got a chance to experience the damage patterns of the opposite tank as well. Beth’tilac went down very easily, and it was again a new tank doing the “upstairs” task. It could have been worse. We could have killed nothing. Or one less boss, or two less bosses. We got some valor points. Trash went very smoothly. I was mostly happy with P1 of Alysrazor as well. We’ve killed these bosses before. We will kill them again.

Above all else, no matter how many internet dragons did or didn’t die in any given night, I’m always happy to hang out with BT folks and have fun regardless. So I’m not going to dwell on the raid night. As far as I’m concerned, once it’s ‘in the bag,’ it’s over. There’s no sense beating ourselves up about it. That said, though, the next thing I want to do is:

Identify and learn from your mistakes

I already know what was going wrong with Rhyolith. We made some poor calls on assignments. The melee are going to have to put their heads together when it comes to driving duties. I did not do the best I could in my new role. So there’s a few lessons there, but most importantly I want to find out was going on with Baelroc. What was I doing wrong? Why was it so hard at first, and what can I do better for next time?

Depending on how you work, it might be a good idea to wait before you proceed with this step. If you go in still frustrated, tired or upset, you’re liable to just beat yourself up over things you can’t change.

Put that thing to bed

The single best thing you can do, I think, is just sleep on it. You’ll be able to process tomorrow what may seem hopelessly aggravating right now, because it’s still too close. Re-evaluate your performance and the overall raid performance the following day when you have a clear head and a rested perspective. Ask yourself, was it really that bad? Even if it was, it’s still over, and tomorrow is another raid day.

So how about you? What do you do when your group is having one of those nights? Don’t try to tell me you never do, either! I know you’re fibbing.

Double O Podcast

Ten Vosskahs are better than...?

I have a few post ideas I am mulling over for here, this past week has just been so busy! Vosskah and I joined Ophelie and Oestrus this past weekend on their podcast. We talked about a lot of guild leading-related things and had a good time and a long chat. So you can check that out if you are into podcasts, and thanks again to those two ladies for having us. We both enjoyed ourselves.

How Real ID Grouping is Going To Save Me Time and Money

It's me! With Walks! Neither of us are actually blood elves, but we do a good job of pretending.

You may have heard that Blizzard planned to roll out some changes to the Real ID system to allow you to group with your friends from other servers. Ignoring the whole debate about whether this should be a paid service or not – I am so freaking happy about these changes! I can’t even tell you.

Since beginning to blog in late 2009, I’ve met a number of folks I’d love to play with – always on other servers, of course. Sometimes I even went so far as to roll alts on their servers to hang out, and I’ve moved characters too (especially Horde). In the time that I’ve been playing, I:

-Made my draenei shaman a troll shaman
-Moved her to a friend’s server
-Made my troll shaman a draenei again
-Moved her back to my server
-Leveled a troll mage on a friend’s server
-Made my troll mage a draenei
-Moved her to another friend’s server
-Took a spare Horde shaman I had and made her a draenei
-Moved her to a friend’s server

Do you see a trend here? By the way, if anyone adds up the total cost of those transfers and changes and posts it in the comments I will be miffed at you. I live in a blissfully happy world where I don’t think about how much money I’ve spent on this kind of thing. La la la la I can’t hear you…

Actually, no. Let’s do it. Let’s face that number. That’s nine changes, I think they all cost $25 USD. That’s two hundred and twenty-five dollars I have basically wasted with my indecisive attempts to spend time with friends. It’s a lot of money! But let’s take a closer look at my reasons for doing it. I wanted to have a Horde character. I wanted to have a Horde character on a friend’s server (two different friends, one of whom stopped playing, thus the extra transfer). Then I wanted to have an Alliance character to help out some other friends, on another server. That’s a pretty strong trend here. I wasn’t just doing this on a whim, it was because I wanted to hang out with people who don’t live on my server.

The problems I encountered while leveling alts on other servers are numerous. When my friends weren’t around I was bored or lonely because I didn’t know enough people there. LFD was demoralizing. I couldn’t manage to make money (some servers have an odd economy). I didn’t have access to the resources I ordinarily would and so everything was a struggle. Sometimes that kind of adversity can be fun, but mostly it’s frustrating to me. I don’t want to make a huge venture out of becoming self-sufficient on a secondary server when I spend plenty of time playing and working on my main characters already. We all have a limited amount of WoW time.

So I look at it this way. Should the Real ID grouping feature be a premium, paid service? Obviously, I’d like it if it wasn’t. It’d be nice if it was just included with your subscription. But even if it costs $5 a month (and I think they’re talking about more $3-$4), it would take 45 months of paying for it before I’d equal the amount I’ve spent on server and faction changes. That’s almost four years worth of premium subscription. What is my time worth to me? Because this way, to hang out with Horde friends and run a dungeon, I can level a character on my home server. With access to heirloom items from head-to-toe, the time commitment is much less. I can run a leisurely dungeon with my Horde friends if I feel like doing that.

Or like we did last night, I can invite a friend from another server to finish off a five-man. That screenshot above is from a ZG I ran with three guildies and my good paladin friend, Walks. I know he thinks I’m crazy because I kept enthusing the whole time. “I’m so happy about doing this! I’m so happy you’re here!” I’m serious, too! It’s as if we were “meeting” for the first time. We’ve chatted and been friends for ages but we’ve never once been able to do anything together other than chat. This new feature changes that completely. It basically means the end of LFD for me if I can help it. All of the awesome WoW folks I’ve gotten to know can now get together and do a dungeon together! (If they happen to be playing the right faction, anyhow, but “cross faction Real ID grouping” is a whole other can of worms).

This basically makes it so that all of our guilds suddenly got a bit larger, a bit more flexible. Server-transferring to join another guild? You can still hang out with your friends from your old guild and run a five-man from time-to-time and keep in touch. Don’t want to deal with LFD? Perhaps you have a friend on another server who is just farming herbs and would love to join you and your guildies. Or maybe they need one more person for their own run! Whichever way you look at it, if you use Real ID and have any friends on your list, the Warcraft universe just got a bit smaller (or larger). In case this wasn’t clear, I’m thrilled about it, and it’s a fantastic change for me. Being in a smaller guild, there aren’t always a ton of people online depending on the day and time of day. Sometimes I play at odd hours and would still like to run a dungeon. This is going to be game-changing as far as I’m concerned. I’m also of the opinion that Real ID raid grouping isn’t too far behind, but I could be wrong, hopefully BGs too! If the social aspect of Warcraft is what keeps you playing, make no mistake – this is huge for you.

It’s a feature that is worth its weight in gold to me, too. I’ll happily pay $5 a month to spend time with my friends from different servers. It’s much better than $225, and getting to play with folks I’ve never been able to really play with before? You can’t put a price on that as far as I’m concerned!

Time Warp

I recognize this strange feeling of vertigo because it’s happened once before. Somehow, patch 4.0 managed to coincide with our last vacation. This time, 4.2 did the same! We don’t take many vacations, so I don’t know why this keeps happening, but there you have it. It’s always strange to come back after changes like these because you’re discovering them after the fact and any exclamations you might have are quite moot. Everyone else is “Been there, done that.” If you’re me, you end up asking confused questions such as, “Where in the heck did my guild tab go, why does some random person think my hard-earned keys are only worth two gold, and who put the giant portraits on the dungeon maps?”

It’s been a hectic few days.

Our vacation, I’m happy to report, was excellent in all ways. We had a chance to walk around Vancouver, eat great food (key to any vacation in my books), as well as mingle with Canada Day crowds on Granville Island, meet a long-time guildie and his fiancee, and even see fireworks. Of course, the highlight of the trip for me was definitely the reason we went in the first place: seeing Rush live for the first time on their Time Machine tour. I had heard they put on a good show, but I was Not Prepared. Here’s one of the videos I took. I’m uploading more (some folks on Twitter asked me to) but for right now this one will do! We had really good seats.

Meeting Awesome WoW Folks

We’ve known our priestly (formerly hunterly) friend Zierlyn for, oh – around two years now! We played with him on our original server. We raided Naxx and later Ulduar (and Naxx again, it’s a long story) together. He was one of the folks I sorely missed when we left, and was quick to snap up when we saw the opportunity for him to come to Business Time. Unfortunately his schedule doesn’t allow raiding but I still love being in a guild with him and it was so awesome to meet him and his fiancee. We went to the library, and to Granville Island, and later to an all-you-can-eat sushi/Korean BBQ place (and much later, to Denny’s, one of the few places that will let you nurse a single drink for hours and not really care about the space you’re taking up). I wish we lived closer so we could hang out more often. Still, I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth and I was very happy to have the opportunity. I’ve never actually met specifically someone I met through WoW before, so this was completely new. At one point we were driving along in the car (I was in the back) and I was just listening to Z talk and it was so weird because I know his voice! But it wasn’t coming through a microphone. But now I know him in person too! This is as articulate as I’m able to be on the subject. I can’t describe how cool it is to meet someone you “know” and get to know them all over again, but I’m sure those of you who’ve had the experience know just what I mean.

After our trip was over, we made a point of staying a night in Rade’s city so that we could meet him, too. Rades is one of my closest online cohorts and I was equal parts nervous and excited to meet him. What if we didn’t get along in person! What if it was weird? I needn’t have worried, because it was totally natural. He even had a really nerdy sign made for us so we wouldn’t miss him. “Welcome Vid and Voss!” Again, I only wish he lived closer so we could all hang out more often.

I have also had questions about the status of Rades’ tusks and green skin. Well, folks, I have an inside scoop for you. Rades is not, as is popularly believed, an orc. No, I have uncovered his true identity. He’s a robot.

Proof.

Specifically, it seems he’s an Autobot. I found several indicators. I’m surprised, I always thought he’d be a Decepticon. I did make a point of drawing everyone I met, but I don’t feel comfortable sharing the images of folks without their consent so hopefully other pictures of random things will be able to suffice. We did also do this:

Unfortunately, our raid on ICC didn't go exactly as planned...

This, for clarification, is a special edition of the WoW TCG that Voss and I picked up in a comic store on our trip. ICC Raid edition! It has pre-made decks intended for use by four players. One person plays the Big Bad himself, the Lich King – and the other folks play Jaina, Tirion, and Sylvanas respectively. We only had the three of us so Rades and I shared responsibility for Tirion. All did not go according to plan. The LK deck, as it happens, needs to be ridiculously powerful in order to counteract the efforts of three other players. Which is great! Except none of us had ever played before and Rades and I made some key tactical errors, resulting in Fordring’s death. We managed to get LK only down to about 20 HP (from 60) before we were overwhelmed. I think if we played again we’d stand a much better chance because now we know how stuff works. I’ve only recently been dabbling in the WoW TCG anyway; I’d like to play it some more. It was pretty fun! I think that building a deck around your own hero would be rewarding.

If only we could get geography to comply, then I think we could clear ICC properly! We DID manage to kill Sindragosa, though, and that was a victory we both relished. Hey, I’ll take what we can get! Sadly, our time with Rades was all too short, culminating in many hours spent at Denny’s (yes, Denny’s again) talking about anything and everything and eating a very late-night breakfast. I think the biggest revelation of the evening was just how truly evil the man I married really is. Folks, I am married to the Lich King. The man enjoyed killing our heroes so much. He has no soul.

Playing Catch-Up

I neglected the blog woefully while we were gone, but I think you all were so busy seeing Firelands that you probably didn’t notice! We got back on Sunday and were able to squeeze in dailies before the day rolled over, so I’ve been trying to get up to speed on those. I really enjoyed the lead-in quests (no spoilers!) Then yesterday, in typical “all-or-nothing” fashion, I ran seven heroics so I could cap my valor points for the week. Success! I also happened to score the bracers from Zul’Aman, finally. It took about 16-18 runs all-told, so I suppose that’s not too bad. And I was able to cap my points, which was the important thing. Tonight is our first raid of the new content, and I am excited! I’m sure I’ll have more to say about Firelands (again, long after everyone else has already said it) once I’ve seen it.

I did pay for and enjoy mobile guild chat and the mobile AH while we were on our trip. I managed to make a bit of money with gems I’d pre-cut before I left, but again I missed out on the ridiculous AH rush of a new patch. Regardless, it was nice to be able to pop in and chat for a bit during downtimes of the vacation and it made me feel less disconnected now that we’re finally home.

Let’s not talk about all the blog posts I missed while I was away, though. I may just have to call those a loss and mark everything as read. I’ve missed commenting on my favourites, but trust me, it’s not you, it’s me!

A Very Bossy Pally Tuesday Art Day

Sometimes, real life and the virtual worlds we inhabit intersect in a delightful way. If you follow Ophelie (the Bossy Pally) over at her blog, The Bossy Pally and the Giant Spoon – then you already know some parts of this story.

I’m woefully remiss in taking my time to write about this, but I wanted to do it just right. When I heard that Ophelie intended to swing through Calgary on her cross-Canada trip, I knew I wanted to meet her! I’ve met folks who had been “only” internet friends before but never another blogger. I met Ophelie downtown and we walked over to Kensington – first for some pho, and second for a mini-cupcake from Crave. They have really big ones, too, but they’re a bit too much for me so I like to get the little ones.

I’m struggling to keep this from being too prosaic – we went here, we did this – but it’s tough. I can tell you about how we went over to the Glenbow Museum and stayed there so long that a lady came to tell us they were closing. And that’s true. I can tell you how we met up with Vosskah later that evening and went for sushi and then a sort of whirlwind driving tour of Calgary. All of those things are true! But they don’t actually describe how fun it is to meet someone you already kind of “know” and connect while sightseeing, commiserating about guild challenges, and chatting about common acquaintances and WoW stuff. It was a total nerdfest and a mini-taste of what it must be like to meet up with people at Blizzcon.

I loved meeting Ophelie, I wish she lived closer and I hope we can meet up again, hopefully along with Fannon and other semi-local WoW-folks. I’m actually in Vancouver writing this right now and we’re going to be meeting two guildies and Rades this week! Both of the guildies are retired raiders but folks I’ve known for over a year in each case and I’m very excited. I’m sure I’ll have more things to say about that after it happens. I have another post lined up for later this week but nobody is going to be reading anyhow, you’ll all be too busy exploring Firelands! (I’m not bitter that yet another content patch lined up with my very seldom vacations, not at all! It’s as if Blizz knows.)

Meantime, I like to doodle when I’m going around – on the train, or whatever. Here are some sketches I did of Ophelie when we went for coffee after sushi with Vince. To echo her words, “I just like food.” We have this in common, and we made sure to have a constant stream of it all day!

Ms. Bossy, Herself

She didn’t actually know I was drawing her talking to Voss, although maybe she suspected, I don’t know.

She is a very mobile person to draw. This is a good thing!

Anyway, so that’s my story. Meet bloggers if you can, they are awesome folks! At least meet Ophelie if you can; you can buy her coffee and ask her about the giant spoon. Have a great patch week and fun ripping up the Firelands. Save some for me!

Further Adventures in Troll Land

For reasons that will be the subject of another post at some point in time, lately when I pug I’ve been pugging as a mage. It increases the wait times significantly and it’s often the result of insomnia. Last night I was fishing and when my LFD window appeared I was surprised. I had completely forgotten I was even in the queue! The pug started off poorly, which I actually prefer. If a pug is going to fall apart within the first few bosses, it’s nice to know.

This pug had a tank with other important things to do. So he stood there, and stood there for about five minutes before he finally started moving or responding to greetings. “Sec,” he said, and continued to stand there. Finally, mercifully, we killed the first troll and he began to run through the hornets and then promptly died. The hornets killed everyone, and the tank made some sound of confusion in party chat.

“You fell off the bridge,” the hunter told him. We all run back in, this time killing the hornets. I figure, hey, everyone makes a clumsy move sometime. Except then the tank stops moving again. “One sec,” he says. The healer drops group. We get another healer immediately and we’re moving onto the next actual troll in the instance. Somehow a hornet joins this fight and eats the healer while the tank blithely keeps “tanking.” The shaman healer uses his ankh and the tank pulls the next trash before he’s even moved off the bridge. We all die horribly. I don’t do this often, but I initiate a vote-kick on Mr. “Defender of A Shattered World.” The reason? “Self-explanatory.” A tank that can’t even make it through the initial Zul’Gurub trash without falling off bridges, AFKing and pulling without his healer is not going to do well.

We get another tank – a paladin – and things go pretty smoothly for awhile. Amazingly we kill the first boss with no deaths, which is fairly unheard of in the ZG pugs I’ve seen. So many things that need avoiding usually kill at least a few people! The raptor boss dies as easily, and we kill the Archaeology boss without occasion for remark. Nobody even dies to the fire gauntlet! It’s all going swimmingly, up until we reach Bethekk (aka the Panther boss). This trash is pretty intense anyway, but some of it is also bugged and will pull through the wall if you use AoE. In a guild group we’ve managed to survive the combination of extra trolls along with existing trolls, but not tonight. We wipe to this trash at least twice, it might have even been three times. Patience seems to be wearing thin quickly judging from the tone in party chat. We apply crowd control liberally to the group at the bottom of the stairs and manage to make it to Bethekk. The actual boss fight is easier than all of this wiping on trash. But the best is yet to come – as we make our way to Zanzil’s area, the tank confesses that he is new to the fight.

Something about saying he hasn’t done it seems to send both the shaman healer and the hunter into a rage spiral. “Oh great,” the hunter says. They give very cursory directions to the tank, amounting to “don’t stand in the fire” and then pull. Somehow, they’re surprised when we wipe.

I can't remember why I took this screenshot, but somehow Millya's making a great "pug expression" for me. She even looks like an insomniac, but that could be my imagination!

The shaman berates the tank for not getting out of fire as quickly as he should, and the tank admits that he was looking down at his ability buttons. Mr. Shamtastic is so busy berating the tank for being terrible, that he stands there typing insults while the tank pulls again – so he’s locked outside of the encounter area, and we all die quickly. Of course, this only makes matters worse as party chat is degenerating into an epic round of the “blame game.” It’s just this shaman’s luck, being stuck with such a fail tank, etc. etc. I interject at this point, “It’s no crime to be new to a fight.” (Thinking of Shintar, I add a smiley at the end.)

“It’s a crime to pull without the healer,” the shaman retorts. I don’t bother to reply. Each mechanic is re-explained for the benefit of the tank, and after approximately four tries (total) we kill him. “The next boss is going to be a bitch,” the hunter grouses. We proceed to the next boss while the shaman and hunter alternate scolding the tank about how he has to do THIS for the last boss and THAT for the last boss or we’ll fail. They seem to be hitting all the relevant explanations so I just let them go on.

The tank assures us that he’s seen the fight, just not tanked it. I add some paladin specific stuff (yes, I tanked it for a pug just the other week! It’s a sickness) mostly related to using Righteous Defense on CD to help keep things from killing the healer. Unfortunately, the tank doesn’t manage to get into the safety bubble quickly enough to avoid the Shadows spell. So we try again. And he fails to do it, again. At this point I can imagine the hunter on the other side of the screen frothing and throwing a fit with his keyboard. But I figure the tank deserves at least a few tries to get this fight right.

“45 mins for these last three bosses!” the hunter rants. The atmosphere in the pug is getting worse, if that’s even possible. Completely contrary to how I would have reacted in his shoes, the tank says, “Let me give it one last try and then I’ll drop group since I’m holding you up, np.” This attempt doesn’t go any better than the previous ones, and we wipe again before even finishing the first phase. The tank drops group wordlessly, and his corpse lies there like a silent testament to the punishing nature of pugs (and perhaps hunters in particular). It doesn’t take long for us to get a replacement tank; this one is a DK that knows the fight and it goes off mostly without a hitch. Every Body Slam hits a chain, which is probably for the best, as I’m sure the hunter would’ve popped a vein in his forehead otherwise.

I guess I am different from many people pugging. I would’ve preferred if the first tank had stayed, figured out the fight and really aced it. But the impatience of the other DPS (and the healer, who was at least as rude) didn’t allow him to do that. The hunter shouted his (expletive) relief when the tank dropped group. In terms of time and money invested, maybe I was a bit relieved too. I’d rather complete a fight than spend a half hour wiping to it. That said, I join pugs fully expecting to wipe and to take much longer than I would if I went with guildies. The next time I look at my thirty minute queue time, I know I have people like that hunter to thank. Why would anyone want to subject themselves to that kind of abuse? Why put yourself in a position where your mistakes will be judged so unforgivably? The answer sure isn’t because of the potential for a mount in a fancy satchel of big fat nothing. (I’ve claimed a few satchels myself, but apparently the loot force is not with me).

Granted, the tank wasn’t entirely without fault here. Before queuing for these instances, he could have prepared himself by reading the fights over quickly. When you put yourself at the mercy of a pug, you want to have all the defense you possibly can – which to me, means not having to rely on them for probably inadequate boss explanations. When the hunter’s explanation of a boss fight amounts to “Stay out of fire and get the red cauldron,” you have to be sure you’re missing something. Even so, there’s no call for treating other people like this. If your time is so valuable, then don’t pug, it’s that simple. Spare the rest of us who are actually willing to patiently work through difficult content with a group of strangers. We recognize that coordinating such a group isn’t always easy, but we’re willing to allow for that. Sometimes you have to wonder if folks like this hunter even remember that it’s a game they are playing – that they’re supposed to be having fun.

Random Acts of Kindness: Cross-Faction Edition

My druid, Shae, and her original Teldrassil Sproutling! He seems to have fallen asleep. He's so lazy. He'd usually find a spot to snooze smack in the middle of the raid, preferably in fire.

I’ve been working on my various collections lately. Due to my history with changing mains, my achievement hunting has been hindered in some regards. For example, I started collecting pets with my druid and more or less had to start from scratch with Millya’s collection. This is the background story behind why I was seeking the Argent Tournament pets, so long after the Argent Tournament’s conclusion.

It happens that I think the AT pets (all of them) are some of the neatest pets in the game. My Teldrassil Sproutling was my constant companion for druid healing. It was pretty easy to just quest until I had enough Champion’s Seals to get the Alliance ones for Millya! Where I ran into some trouble was trying to get the Horde ones. Back on my old server, I’d just spent a bit of gold to buy them for my druid. This was when the Argent Tournament came out, most people were doing it every day, and that server had a healthy Horde population to match the number of people playing Alliance. My current server doesn’t have that. There aren’t very many Horde players there, period. Some of these pets are up for sale on the neutral AH (or people transfer them over) but for exorbitant prices. And why not? They do take some time and effort to obtain, and the low population keeps them fairly exclusive.

I could probably have afforded to buy them all. But I thought, there has to be a pet collector on the Horde side who also doesn’t want to spend 6000 gold per pet to get the Alliance version. I made a post on my realm forums to the effect of, “Looking for Horde to trade AT pets with.” They cost 40 Champion’s Seals each, so we could just straight up trade. Alliance pets for Horde pets!

After about five days and no replies to my thread, it wasn’t looking good. I thought I’d been too ambitious. Maybe Moonrunner’s Horde players aren’t pet collectors, or else it was so easy to obtain the pets that they’d all collected them ages ago. Then Fsob mentioned to me, “Hey, did you see someone responded to your thread?” I’d stopped checking it! A Tauren warrior had replied saying he thought he had some seals left over.

I sent him an in-game mail (Horde-side) to ask him which Alliance pets he most wanted. I didn’t think I had enough seals for all five, but I definitely could get three right away. We played a bit of message tag until Sunday, I logged in and found a message from an Alliance character of his, and the character was online. We started talking, he was mostly asking how he could get the pets to me. It was the next part that flabbergasted me.

“I don’t collect pets,” he told me, “So I don’t need them, but I have all five for you. I made a lot of money selling them before so I figure this is karma. I thought when I first replied that I could get maybe two, but it turned out I had a lot of seals on different alts.”

He wouldn’t hear of taking anything for them. His Alliance character didn’t need anything. He suggested we make the switch then, if I had time. I made my way to his character in Orgrimmar, still completely floored. There they were in the trade window, all five of the pets.

I thanked him repeatedly and told him that if nothing else he’d made a friend Alliance side and if he ever needed anything at all, I wanted to help him.

A little bit of Mulgore wildlife. Hey, Draenei can appreciate creatures from all over Azeroth, right?

This is undoubtedly the kindest thing a complete stranger has ever done for me in WoW. He suggested that if I wanted to ‘repay’ him I could just pay it forward and do the same thing for someone else Horde-side. It’ll take me a bit of time to get all the Seals and find the right person, and I just might do that, or think of something equally momentous to do. Best of all, I will not be able to take out any of the new pets without thinking of this generous Tauren and his completely unexpected gift. I think it will always make me smile, and so not only do I have new pets, they also mean something.

Has a stranger in WoW ever done something really nice and totally unexpected for you? Did you do something nice for someone else in return, or maybe even without the initial catalyst? If you find yourself inspired yourself, let me know, I’d love to read about your experiences. I like to generally believe that all people are basically good, I love when the universe tries to prove me right!

6 Reasons To Sign Up For Twitter

The bird is the word.

You may have heard of this newfangled social media thing. Like me, you might be initially opposed to it. I thought that Twitter was mostly people talking about what they had for lunch (in 140 characters or less). I suppose sometimes someone mentions lunch. The breakthrough for me with Twitter came when a blogger I liked and respected (hi Anea!) suggested I ought to sign up for Twitter “because I seemed like I’d be fun to talk to.”

“People talk to each other with this?” I remember thinking. They do! It’s like a big IRC channel where WoW nerds hang out. Whether you are a blogger or an avid blog reader, a knitter, a runner, or just someone who enjoys MMOs, there are people who share your interests that you can talk to. You’d be surprised how many of those interests often intersect. I think there are many reasons to sign up for a Twitter account and start tweeting. Here they are, in no particular order.

1. You can unsubscribe from the major MMO news sites, because you’ll never miss news again. I’ve truthfully ‘heard’ more breaking news on Twitter than anywhere else. Of course, it’s not a ‘news source,’ (do your own research!) but if a new armour set has been released, if a Blue has said something noteworthy, or if some major change has been announced – you’ll usually hear about it in under a minute. Sometimes controversial news is marked by what I fondly think of as a twitsplosion – a flurry of incensed or astonished tweets from different people.

2. Get to know your favourite bloggers, or get to know your readers. Often, discussions on Twitter can be similar to blog comment discussions (albeit a bit truncated). Most bloggers and WoW folks have a Twitter account – everyone from Big Bear Butt to El from El’s Angling. (I really like fishing!) People use them to various degrees, but it can be really fun to see the person behind the blog or site, as most folks are a bit more personal on their Twitter.

3. Take advantage of a resource in its own right. Usually, if I have a question that Google doesn’t immediately answer, someone (or multiple someones) can answer it for me on Twitter. Does anyone have good links to warlock guides? Does anyone know of a holy paladin leveling guide? My guild has been wiping to phase x of fight z, can someone give us some pointers? The people on Twitter in my experience have been incredibly helpful. You can probably find anything from a recipe for a good bean soup to a boss strat just by asking, and there will be someone willing and able to help.

4. Find new reading material. Most bloggers will tweet about any new blog entry they make. People who read their list can then choose to “retweet,” or repeat that message to their own list of followers. In this way, you might see a blog entry whose name or subject matter catches your eye. I have found many new blogs via Twitter, just from following people who follow me, or clicking on interesting sounding blog articles. This doesn’t just have to be WoW-related, either – I also follow a few Canadian newspapers that tweet new articles as they happen. I definitely read more news because of this than I would otherwise.

5. Gather around the virtual ‘watercooler.’ Especially if – like me – you work from home, you’ll know that sometimes it can get a bit quiet on your own. Sometimes saying hi on Twitter in the morning can feel like strolling into an office, with fellow telecommuters and at-work people alike. There are people to commiserate with about the weather, or in my case to remind you that spring IS happening somewhere and will eventually come to the frozen north as well. (It did happen eventually. We have sun now instead of snow). If you have any kind of smart phone, you will find Twitter is a boon when you have to suffer public transportation or other boring necessities.

6. Customize your Twitter feed to suit you. By this I mean, you can follow five hundred people, or you can follow five. You can limit it to people you ‘know’ really well. I know people who follow three thousand folks, and people who follow forty-five. It’s entirely up to you how you choose to use it, and you can say as much as you like or as little. I guarantee you, it’s more fun if you join in the conversation, though. To find new people to follow you can always just look through someone’s Twitter friend list and see if there are any familiar faces. Don’t be shy; if you do decide to give it a shot, make sure you say hi to @_vidyala!

Twitter Basics

Hashtags: are used to separate subjects or topics people want to talk about and keep separate. For example, #wowarttrade2011 might be used for a specific purpose. Sometimes people use a hashtag ironically to comment on the subject matter they’re discussing or just to be silly. (e.g. #shitmyguildsays or #needcoffeenow). I don’t drink coffee, though, I’m just making this stuff up.

@s or “Mentions”: When someone ‘mentions’ a twitter name by including it in their tweet in its entirety, that tweet will appear in their timeline as a mention. You can mention multiple people in one tweet (reply all is the easiest way to do this). Even celebrities see their mentions and sometimes reply. Yes, I had a total fangirl moment when Brandon Sanderson answered a tweet of mine, what about it?! Anyway, make sure to check your mentions so you don’t miss when someone is trying to talk to you. It’s considered polite to reply if the tweet is a question, but depending on how many people you follow sometimes it’s not possible to reply to everyone.

DM or “direct message,” Twitter’s equivalent of a whisper. You can only direct message someone who is a reciprocal follower.

The specific tag “#FF” is used on Fridays to denote ‘Follow Friday,’ when people recommend others that you should be following. The Oatmeal summarizes what actually happens on Friday. For this reason I try to limit my #FFs and actually explain why the person is fun to follow.

Twitter applications: There are better ways to use Twitter than via the website. Personally, I use Tweetdeck on my computer and HootSuite on my phone. (Twitter itself has an app for the phone but it had a few bugs that were driving me crazy). These allow for more customization in the feeds and tags that you might follow, as well as easy ways to reply to everyone, block or report spam, etc.

Which brings me to: bots and spammers. Not everyone that might follow you on Twitter is a real person. It has more than its fair share of bots and spammers, unfortunately. I always go to someone’s home page and glance at their tweets and description. If there is no description, no avatar (the default Twitter ‘bird’), a page full of links with no commentary – or all of the above, then it’s quite likely they are a spammer. Tweetdeck has an option where you can block and report spam in a single click. On the persons’ avatar, it’s under Other Actions and then Block & Report Spam. Use this feature liberally. Death to spammers!

A final note about Twitter privacy and etiquette: You can opt to have your tweets “protected,” i.e. visible to only those you allow to follow you. Be aware though that if you want to acquire many followers of your own, this isn’t the best way to do it. If someone follows me and I have to request to follow them and I can’t see what their tweets are like, typically, odds are I just don’t follow them back. If you are uncertain about privacy, at least consider staying public until you find the folks you want to chat with and then go private later.

Remember: if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all, and nothing you say on the internet ever goes away. Your tweets are searchable, so I’d advise not saying anything about someone you wouldn’t say to their face. But that’s just plain old life advice anyway! The only trouble I’ve seen on Twitter are when people start talking about religion, politics, and sometimes mages vs warlocks. Don’t assume that everyone who also likes to kill internet dragons shares your politics, and above all be respectful. If someone really bugs you, you aren’t obligated to keep reading what they have to say. The number of people you will love reading greatly outweigh the few though, I think.

What do you think? Are you still a Twitter holdout? Are you thinking of giving it a try?

I Miss The Horde

This is going to sound crazy coming from me, because I am so die-hard Alliance. Really – I’ve tried playing Horde. I’ve even documented the results. I faction-changed my shaman and it lasted a few months at best – I faction changed her back. I managed to level a Horde mage from 1-80, but at the first opportunity I moved her to another server and made her a draenei. Yes, I have two level 85 draenei mages now, do you want to make something of it? Also, Blizzard makes a fortune because of people like me. I can’t ever add up the amount of money I’ve spent on server-transfers/faction/race changes or it would cause my head to explode.

I know that the vision for this expansion was to really put the emphasis on the capital cities again, and I can appreciate that. I never thought I’d hear myself say this. But I really miss seeing the Horde around. When we used to share first Shattrath and then Dalaran you really got the sense that there was a whole half of the world you were ‘missing out on.’ Oh, sure, I can visit Orgrimmar and Thunder Bluff (and I do, every time I’m doing archaelogy and I accidentally fly overhead and flag myself for PvP…) but I never see the people playing. I know Horde players exist (err, hordes of them…?) Voss and I went to Video Games Live this past weekend and after they played the Warcraft music some guy yelled, “FOR THE HORDE!” We really need a better battle-cry. It doesn’t have the same ring. Although someone else a few rows back from us yelled back, “Let’s take this outside!”

Part of my problem might be that my server doesn’t have a healthy population balance so there are fewer Horde players to see. But there are dragons perched on every surface in Stormwind, the banks are constantly jam-packed with people, and it’s starting to make me feel a bit stir crazy. At least running into an orc or seeing a Tauren around was a change of pace. Now there may be a crowd of people, but there’s also a sense of sameness.

So there, I said it: I miss your fur and horns, green skin and rotting knee-bones. I know it’s the world of Warcraft and so we’re kind of at war but we’ve done some things together, right? We’ve killed some common foes, and all. I know you’re out there, but I don’t see you any more! Maybe I need to hit the BGs (although it’s not quite the same as sharing a bank).

What do you guys think? Do you miss me too?

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