WoW Wednesday: Don’t Panic

And always carry a towel.  That’s my new mantra.  I’ve noticed that when I’m healing, even when things get a little scary, I don’t panic.  I just calmly try to rectify the situation.  Sometimes, I let the mage die.  As long as the tank and most of the dps lives, I’m good.  I find the whole process much more enjoyable when I’m not in panic mode.  Even if someone gets mad at me, I’m cool as a cucumber.  I’ve carried this over to tanking, which I’ve returned to doing since our guild is often short of tanks.  I’m still not as good as a lot of tanks I’ve seen, but being calm really helps.  Panicking when a mob gets loose doesn’t help as you’re not able to think clearly about what to do.  By remaining calm, I can usually fix problems before they get out of hand and I enjoy myself a lot more than if I’m thinking, “Crap, crap, crap! Where’s the runestrike button?”  I like the contrast of a situation where things around you are chaotic–mobs everywhere, the mage is taking damage, and the tank is on the verge of going down–and a calmness internally.  When the mobs finally go down, the tank survives, and even the mage doesn’t die, it feels really good.

I’ve tried to carry this feeling over into my physical life by remaining calm in the face of stressful situations.  I don’t have too many of these, thankfully, but when I feel overwhelmed, I try to draw on that feeling I have in WoW, where I’m calming taking down mobs or healing the tank.  I think that other players could learn a thing or two from this inner calm I’ve tried to maintain.  Those players who get really angry when they die or if someone makes a mistake should just relax.  They’ll have more fun themselves and they’ll make the game more fun for others.  I’ve found that when I exude my serenity through chat by telling people not to worry about mistakes or telling them it’s okay that they aggroed an extra mob that the whole group feels more relaxed.  I know, I sound a little hippy dippy, but you know what, I’m having fun and I think I’ve learned something important.

And the towel? Comes in handy when you spill water near the keyboard.  Just saying.

WoW Wednesday: OMG! SNOW!

This is the view out my back door right now.  It’s still snowing.  And the power just did a little blink on and off.  So, naturally, I’ve been playing WoW. 🙂

My priest finally hit 80 a couple of days ago and so I’ve ventured into my first heroics.  They’ve gone relatively well, although most people doing heroics are way better geared than I am at this point.  The irony.  You have to do heroics to get the gear, but then people make fun of your gear when you’re in one.  I’m also grinding reputation points, which will allow me to get some good gear and enchants.  It’s pretty hard to manage both actually.  Grinding for rep takes a pretty long time, running long quest chains with each quest giving about 350 points in rep.  When you need 6000 or 12000 to get to where you want, that’s a long grind.  I can buy rep with emblems of triumph earned from running heroics, but it seems a waste when I should use those for gear.  I did shell out a couple to get my Wyrmrest rep up to honored and that netted me some new gear.

Because my gear isn’t quite up to par, running a dungeon right now can take longer than it would with a geared priest.  Which annoys some people.  But whatever.  I prefer running with my guildies, which I’ve done a little of.  Now, though, I’m taking a break for hot chocolate, a hot bath, and a good book.  Even on a day when one could play WoW all day, sometimes a break is good.  Still, I hope to be geared enough to run them more quickly and/or run a raid by the weekend.  I have goals, after all.

WoW Wednesday: What to do about hate speech

I’m kind of cheating here, since I’m pulling content from  WoW.com, but I thought this column and the comments that follow it were pretty interesting.  In it, the Drama Mamas discuss what to do when someone in your group says something racist or sexist or offensive in some way.  The suggested strategy is a good one, boiling down to basically: 1) tell the person you find it offensive and to stop and then 2) if they don’t stop, kick them from the group and 3) report them to Blizzard.  I’ve had this experience more than once.  Just the other day, while we were waiting for someone to return, a guy told a racist joke, a bad racist joke.  I was stunned, but didn’t say anything.  The other two people said something, and one even virtually spit on him.  I doubt they reported him and we continued on our way, mostly as if nothing had happened.  According to both the columnists and many of the commenters, this is a pretty common reaction.  You’re thinking, damn, it’s just an avatar; I don’t even know this guy.  And you just let it go.

But I think the argument to call these people on their misbehavior is a good one.  It probably won’t change their underlying racism or sexism, but it might make the game space a more pleasant place for those of us who are behaving ourselves.

The whole pugging experience has made me think about how and why people behave so badly among strangers.  When I was growing up, I was taught to be on my *best* behavior when I was around strangers. Yes, the Internet provides a screen to hide behind, but I still have the sensation that the people might be able to figure out who I am, and I’d want them to think highly of me. It’s amazing to me that there are people who’s idea of letting their hair down involves making everyone around them uncomfortable.  When the guy told that racist joke, I thought, how does he know one of us isn’t black?  Or is he the kind of guy who would tell that joke even if he knew one of us was black?  Really, I shouldn’t want to play with a guy like that and I should have done something more.  And next time, I will.

WoW Wednesday: Resources

One thing I had not realized as a tank and/or dps was the level of resources one needs to have on hand to heal.  Sure, as a warrior or dk, I might have a few healing potions or flasks to enhance my health or my damage, but not always and certainly not for just a regular ol’ dungeon run.  But as a healer? I stock up on drinks to replenish my mana, mana potions, and reagents for buffs.  And all that costs money.  I do have an alchemist who can make mana potions, but I don’t play that character a lot, so I end up buying potions from the auction house or getting them from the guild bank when I can (my priest is poorsauce).  I can’t go into a dungeon without drinks (to replenish mana between fights) and I won’t go in without potions either.  I’ve been through many a dungeon where the tank ends up being undergeared and/or the dps draws too much aggro and then I run through mana pretty quickly.  If I don’t have a potion to get us through a boss fight, that’s bad.  And though I think no one really notices the buffs at this point, I do use my priest buffs–always fortitude and sometimes shadow protection, occasionally divine spirit.  Some people ask for buffs.  But I kind of knew that buffs needed reagents, but I never really thought about how often one must buy those to keep up.  I almost always go through two buff rounds–one at the beginning and one after a wipe (almost every group I’ve been in has wiped at least once)–but then there are the times when we wipe 3 or 4 or 5 times and then I’ve gone through 5 sacred candles.  None of these things cost that much, but I tend to keep a stack or two of 20 of most things.  It adds up.

Add to that that now that my priest is nearing 80, I’m starting to get gear that needs gems and/or is worth enchanting.  That, too, takes resources.  And gathering those resources takes either time or money.  It’s interesting that WoW incorporates these resource needs in a pretty realistic way.  It’s not points or some arbitrary way of saying you’re ready to go into battle.  You decide it’s worth investing in these things because your gameplay will be more enjoyable if your group doesn’t die because you’re undergeared or didn’t bring your mana potions.  Some people take the approach of being as resourced as possible–having the best gear with all the best enchants and gems, having a full stock of potions, food, drinks.  And some try to get buy with the least, sometimes out of necessity, aka lack of funds.  I am somewhere in the middle.  When I can afford it, either in virtual cash or the real time investment, I try to have an optimal setup for playing.  If I don’t have what I need for that enchant right now, I shrug it off.  After all, I don’t want to sacrifice too many real resources for virtual ones!

WoW Wednesday: Stopping to Smell the Virtual Roses

Many have complained that WoW has become mostly about the grind.  With the ability to gain experience and rewards that turn into gear through PvP, quests, and dungeons, the end result, some imagined endgame where your character has the perfect gear set, is what people focus on.  I took a step back in the last week to see some content I hadn’t seen on any character yet.  I hadn’t seen it because I leveled past it, barely giving it a second glance as I moved on to bigger and better things.  So, my priest hit 68 and I immediately hit Northrend and a few Northrend dungeons even.  But I  hadn’t seen huge swaths of Outland and had only done a few of the dungeons there.  I was hitting a wall, though, when it came to healing the Northrend dungeons, so I decided to go back and do the Outland ones for more practice.  It worked out well on a number of levels.  First, I was definitely better at healing these dungeons, for the most part, so I felt more confident and could more easily hit my healing stride.  Second, the gear I got in them was still pretty good for me.  Third, I gathered tons of materials for my professions, which I hadn’t quite gotten to the level of being able to use them in Northrend yet.  I still needed Netherweave and Arcane dust, things that could only be found in Outland and which could be found in abundance in the dungeons.  Finally, I got to see some really cool places.

I would venture to guess that everyone who plays WoW regularly has been to all the Northrend dungeons.  If they hadn’t before, they have now, through the dungeon finder.  But I know plenty of regular WoW players who never went into Magister’s Terrace or Mechanar or even Archatraz.  But now I’ve been to those places, and they’re pretty cool.  The groups I ended up with were in the same boat.  They’d never done the places before either, so we’ve all marveled at certain rooms or commented on different mechanics, like flying around for the last boss in Magister’s Terrace.  We’ve taken it more slowly and appreciated our virtual surroundings.  That just doesn’t happen in the heroics I’ve been running, which are a rush to the finish so that one can accumulate more emblems to exchange for gear.

At some point I realized i was close to finishing all the Outland dungeons, so I’ve quit queuing for Northrend ones.  I had to venture into one located in the old world that very few people do, so I dragged a couple of my level 80 guildies with me and we knocked out that one and the next one.  We also ventured into a raid that none of us had ever done.  We ended up dead practically before we started, but vowed to come back.  It looks pretty fun.  There’s something about seeing new stuff and having new experiences that I really like.  That wonder of, oh I’ve never seen this before.  It’s happening in my quests somewhat, too, since I’m tackling some questlines I never did on other characters.  Once you hit 80, it’s easy to run out of those experiences.  Luckily, I haven’t.  There’s still plenty of places I haven’t been, quests I haven’t done, raids I haven’t seen.  And they keep adding new things all the time.

Focusing on the new, on completing quests, on doing dungeons just because you haven’t done them makes the game feel like less of a grind, like you’re doing it for fun again instead of competing for some imaginary brass ring.  I think, too, it keeps the game in perspective.  I haven’t played as much lately as I’ve been sick and/or have been working and there have been times when I’ve missed a day where I’ve thought, “Damn, now I’m 2 frost emblems behind on getting that new set of shoulders.”  Seriously, that’s not a good way to think.  It makes you all anxious and shit when you go into the game.  Now, if only I could get those PuG tanks to slow down a little.

WoW Wednesday: FAIL!

In the new dungeon system where one ends up running dungeons with complete strangers, failure happens more often than it did before and happens within a context that lacks any trust whatsoever.  On my 80 death knight, this has been less true, though I’ve seen new tanks and new 80s fail pretty royally.  As I mentioned before about tanking and in this post, I’m okay with failure.  It’s how we learn. In these new groups, however, people aren’t so okay with failure.  It’s becoming increasingly common for someone to quit after just a single wipe.  For new tanks or healers, the chance of wiping is pretty high and if you’re in a group of people who don’t know each other and where there is zero communication, the chance goes up dramatically.  I’m fine with wiping as someone learns.  In guild runs, after a wipe, we reevaluate.  Was it bad luck? The wrong strategy?  Did we forget to buff?  And then we go at it again after a few tweaks.  In these pugs, that kind of evaluation doesn’t always happen.  Often, another player just starts complaining about who caused the wipe, calling them names and/or quitting.  That’s not helpful.

When I got my healer (71) into Northrend after hitting 68, I headed into a dungeon pretty soon thereafter.  I didn’t do a wide variety of dungeons in the previous region, because I wasn’t there long enough really and because I decided I really didn’t like them. But, my experiences healing them had been mostly good, with only a few rough spots where I wasn’t quite geared/leveled enough, but going back later, things went fine.  So, I announced at the beginning of Utgarde Keep, the first dungeon most people do in Northrend, that I’d never healed it before.  One person quit immediately after saying, “Oh, wow.”  I don’t know if he looked at my gear and saw that it wasn’t up to par or just didn’t relish the idea of running with a new healer or what.  But the group overall went quite well.  I had trouble with the Prince Keleseth fight and we wiped once or twice, but after that, things went pretty smoothly.  And then I had a couple of other good runs through, still struggling a bit with the Prince, but not doing too badly.  And then I had a group where the tank wasn’t in tank gear or tank specced and she was impossible to heal.  And she kept dying, on trash even!  And that was bad.  And after a while, she said she should quit and I had to go so we never finished.  And then, I went back in a day or two later.  And nothing was going right.  I felt like I couldn’t keep up with healing and though we wiped a couple of times on the Prince, we finally made it past that, only to wipe on the next boss, which I’d never had a problem with.  The tank kept charging ahead and was often either out of range or out of line of sight.  And so, I’d arrive at the fight already behind.  Which really isn’t fair.  So we’d wiped on trash a couple of times, then the boss, and then someone said to me, “WTF are you doing?”  And I could have yelled back that it wasn’t my fault, that the tank was out of range, rushing, etc.  But I didn’t.  I just quit without saying anything.

And I was burned for a couple of days.  I didn’t want to go back to a dungeon for fear of failing again and getting yelled at again.  But I knew I had to.  Dungeons are where the gear is.  Dungeons are fun parts of the game.  They’re challenging and interesting.  But I wondered at my own taking this failure so much to heart and I wondered if other people did the same.  Did anyone in that other group, the one that yelled at me, think that they were at fault?  And if so, did they just brush it off or stew about it for a couple of days?  It’s hard to tell, but I sensed that the people in that group were college age at most and all men, so I suspect that they feel invincible and never think they’re to blame for anything that goes wrong.

I try not to be clueless.  I had done my research on healing this dungeon, on healing for my spec.  I’m spec’d according to some of the best advice out there.  And my gear isn’t *that* bad at this point, having gotten a few nice drops and quest rewards.  I turned to this blog to find out more and found a nice post on the PuG experience, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  And I wish more people would follow this advice:

You were a “newbie” once as well, I bet you appreciated a little guidance and kindness rather that “WTF YOU’VE NEVER DONE THIS YOU FUCKING SCRUB?”. . . . [G]ive them a chance. It may take a few minutes longer, and you may have to explain a few fights, but many of these players might actually turn out to be great players given the chance.

That’s the thing that gets to me when people complain.  First, this is a game.  How much does it really matter if someone makes a mistake?  Second, not everyone plays the same amount.  Some people have said they got the game for Christmas or got the expansion for Christmas or just came back to it.  They’re new.  They’re rusty.  Or maybe they’re old, like me.  And third, maybe you should ask if they need help.  Ask, nicely, if they need some advice or if they are having difficulty for one reason or another.  And if you’re the one who feels like things aren’t going well, say something.  Even if it means someone’s going to quit over it.  Say, I’m new to healing/tanking/playing a druid, and I’d appreciate some advice if you think I need it.  If someone doesn’t want to play with a noob of any stripe, you don’t want to play with them anyway, because they’re not going to cut you any slack and they’re going to assume abilities you don’t have.

I finally did go back into a dungeon yesterday, and pulled Nexus for the first time ever.  I was a little nervous since I’d never healed it, but it’s a dungeon I’m very familiar with.  I didn’t say anything.  I waited to see how things went.  And they went fine.  We wiped on the first boss, because one of our dps went missing and we didn’t realize it.  And a couple of people died later.  And we wiped on the last boss because I forgot to move around to avoid a debuff.  But it went fine otherwise.  No one yelled at me, though they did remind me, nicely, about the moving around thing.  I got back on the bike and I skinned my knee a little, but I’m riding again.

WoW Wednesday: Cross Training

With so much actual WoW playing going on, I almost forgot it was Wednesday.  Actually, I’ve pretty much lost track of the days.  I do know tomorrow is New Year’s Eve.

So anyway, I’ve been leveling my priest a lot, even taking her into a dungeon or two to heal.  And she’s been doing pretty well, until she got to Northrend.  And then, it all fell apart.  But I’m learning, and not just about being a healer, but about being a tank and a dps-er too.  Being a healer gives me a completely different perspective on the game.  I am usually at a distance from the action (so as not to incur damage) and can see what everyone is doing.  I can now tell good tanks from bad ones.  Good tanks can take a lot of damage and don’t let anyone else take damage.  Bad tanks are often not geared well enough to sustain the damage and/or can’t control the mobs.  I have more bad tank moments than good ones myself.  Good tanks also pay attention to what’s going on, being aware, for example, when their healer is out of mana.  As a healer, I can also see when a dps pulls aggro, attacks the wrong mob, etc.  When the healing is going smoothly, I am just in a better position than most to see all of this.  So, now when I switch back to dps, I’m aware of what I need to do to make the healer’s life a little easier (and the tank’s).  And when I tank (a rarity, but it actually happened today), I do the same.

I think everyone should play a few different roles, so that they have a better understanding of how everything works.  Go try to tank or be a mage or a priest.  It might mean that you don’t yell at the tank once you realize how hard it is to do.  More importantly, it will probably mean that you play your own role better.  And you can help others as they learn, making suggestions that are specific to the situation with an understanding of various roles.

This is a dictum easily applied to life, of course.  The saying “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” is one of many related to empathy/sympathy, but more importantly is the idea that one really tries to see things from another’s perspective, both so that one can understand that person better, and so that you can see your own position better.  It doesn’t mean agreeing with the other person or approving of them, but understanding where they come from.

WoW Wednesday: Winter Veil

It’s Winter Veil time in WoW, which means achievements and general frivolity.  Here, for example, are snowmen dancing, which is part of the Frosty Shake Achievement.  You can also dress up in Santa gear, get presents, and drink egg nog.  You can also have virtual snowball fights! I’m almost done with my Winter Veil achievements, just waiting for the gifts on Christmas day!

A couple of sites are giving away pets and other items as part of the holiday season.  WoW.com is having a Twelve Days of Winter Veil giveaway.  The current gift is one of the new pets, the monk or the panda.  WoW Achievements is having a 12 Days of Grunty giveaway.  They’re giving away . . . gruntys, which are little murloc marines.  Who doesn’t want one of those? They’re on day 11, so you only have a couple more days.

In game, you can also buy wrapping paper and give gifts to your friends.  It’s very festive!  If you’re looking for a virtual gift for me, I can always use titanium ore.  It’s a girl’s best friend!

WoW Wednesday: Anti-Social Groups

Many of my compatriots have noted how unsocial the groups are in the new dungeon system that automatically groups people together.  I have noticed the same, and in fact, that’s why I’m still doing runs with guildies on a regular basis.  The other thing about running with these anonymous groups is that they go so fast, you can’t even pause to comment in guild chat.  At times, this isn’t a problem.  After all, the point of these runs is to get emblems and most people in the groups have run these dungeons plenty of times.  Often, then, the dungeons are just cruising along just fine; there’s no real need to say anything.  But I’ve been in a few groups where some communication, even if just about the task at hand, is definitely in order.

Once I was healing a dungeon where the tank wouldn’t wait for me to get mana before plowing ahead into the next group of mobs.  He died once as a result, and then yelled at me for not healing him.  I yelled back that if he wanted me to heal him, he needed to wait until I had the ability to do so.  I’d said something a number of times about this.  If he’d been paying attention, which I don’t think he was, he would have known that.  One of us, him I think, quit the group over that.  And the next tank we got was great, waiting for everyone to be mana’d up before beginning a fight.  And I’ve seen other situations where someone should probably have said something before someone else messed up and got us all killed.  I saw a druid aggro an extra group or two, making healing super challenging for me.  And I’ve seen the less traveled dungeons, like Oculus, fail pretty badly.  Actually, my experience with Oculus has been that as soon as people see that that’s the draw, they quit.  I popped into one where 2 people had already left the group and another person was saying this was their first time in it.  I quit that group.  It would have been hours of my time, just gone!

Some people are saying that the new dungeon system eliminates the need for guilds.  It might for some people, who are in the game just for the game, but for people who like to hang out with others virtually, guilds will still play an important role.  It’s a little like IRC chat with a game in the background.  And the harder content, raids and the highest level dungeons, are still better to do with a group you’re familiar with.  So guilds might change, but they’ll probably still be there in some form.

WoW Wednesday: Shiny and New

Yesterday, Patch 3.3 dropped. With it came new dungeons, new raids, and a whole new way of grouping up with people to run dungeons. It also came with extended downtime, tons of issues with people logging in, not being able to zone into instances and more. Even on a standard patch day, one can expect servers to be down until about 1 p.m. est. But on this day, servers didn’t go back up until about 7:30 or 8. Which left a lot of us a little antsy. I had planned on a little late afternoon trial, but when the servers didn’t come up, I had to do actual work. And laundry. It was sad. I was thinking about all those poor sys admins freaking out as they tried to figure out how to fix the problems.

But once I got in, I was able to run a couple of dungeons fairly quickly. I was anxious to try the new dungeon finder that collects a group across not just your server, but all the servers. Like battlegrounds, where people from many servers can be in one battleground, dungeons now work the same way. And it’s random! Which I really like. So, the way it works is that you click on the dungeon finder, which is where the old LFG icon used to be, and an interface comes up where you select what role or roles you can play. Some healers can heal or dps. I can dps or tank (though I’m off tanking for a while). After a few minutes, you are automagically grouped and transported to the dungeon. No summoning people, no waiting for someone to finish a quest or fly from the boondocks. It’s awesome! There are pictures and more info on how this all works at WoW.com.

Don’t get me wrong. I love running dungeons with my guildies, but sometimes there just aren’t enough people on to run. And we tended to stick with just the daily and maybe ToC. And it sometimes took forever to get a PuG together to run something. The general public also wanted to just run the daily usually. Now, though, I can see myself running enough dungeons until both my 80s have hundreds of emblems of triumph and can buy all the gear they want without wasting a lot of time. So last night, I hopped into the dungeon finder, checked off the dps option and wandered around Dalaran while I waited. The first dungeon I ended up in was my least favorite, Oculus. In fact, the whole group complained about it. But we did it. Because it was the first random dungeon I’d run, not only did I get Emblems of Triumph off each of the bosses, but I also got some gold and 2 Frost Emblems, which gets you gear like this. My next dungeon was Azjol-Nerub, which went very quickly and netted me a couple of extra triumph emblems.

For fear of getting sucked in and playing all night, I logged out after that, but plan to play again later today, after I get my work done. I’m anxious to try the dungeon finder with my lower level priest and with my 80 who lacks decent gear. I really like the fact that it’s random. I’m partial to surprises and back when I played a lot of Civilization IV, I always chose the random option. I like the challenge of dealing with the cards you’re dealt. Though some of my guildies said they’d had some weird groups, with players who weren’t geared at all, the two groups I had seemed really good. I didn’t inspect their gear, but I could tell from how fast we downed mobs that we had a good collection of people. It would be cool if they could add the ability to friend across servers. Then you might end up with a collection of strong people you could call on for raids and dungeons when you can’t or don’t want to rely on randomness.

I’m also looking forward to seeing some of the new content, but that’s definitely something I hope to do with the guild. And, of course, I’ll write about it here when I get there.

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