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: 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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WoW Wednesday: Weird PvP Behavior

I’m continuing to level my priest primarily through PvP, with a few quests thrown in here and there. She’s at 48 now. I’m hoping to get her to 50 before the weekend since I’ll be switching back to my death knight on Sunday for the holiday achievements (more on that next week).

I mentioned in my last PvP post that a lot of whining happens in chat during these games, with people telling everyone how much they suck. Horde always sucks according to these people, which cracks me up since if you play enough bg’s, you realize that it’s probably about even and depneds on the composition of the group. Besides the whining, I’ve noticed some other interesting behavior, some of which is quite detrimental to the group.

I’m going to use Arathi Basin as my main example, a bg where there are five bases to be captured. When a team holds a base, they receive resources. Whichever team gets to 1600 resources first, wins. When I play a bg, I think of myself as part of the group and try to look out for the group interests. In a good bg, most people are thinking this way. At the beginning of such groups, someone will often designate subgroups take on different tasks, so that everyone’s not running for the same area. If no one does this, I tend to follow a group to a particular area. And I generally check the map fairly frequently to see where people are. I ask where the opposing team is, etc.

The first behavior that bugs me is being afk (away from keyboard). If you do actually go afk, either by typing /afk or by not pressing any keys for a certain amount of time, you’ll be kicked out of the bg. But there are people who go hide in a corner, sucking up the experience and the honor without doing anything. These people can be reported as afk. However, all that does is send them a little note asking them if they’re afk and notifying them that they need to engage in combat or they will receive no honor. I’m not sure about experience. When I was investigating how this whole thing worked, I found out, too, that if you’re reported by enough people often enough, you can have your account banned for a few hours.

The problem with being afk is that it means your team is shorthanded. I was in a bg where there were two people afk and when there’s only 10 or so people playing, that can make a big difference. It got frustrating when those two people kept showing up again and again. I was doing the daily bg quest and need to win the bg in order to complete the quest (which gives significant experience). I reported them every time. One of them went out and fought and then died and stayed dead. Another holed up by the start point. I checked to see if they ever moved, and they didn’t and I reported them. A couple of other people noticed them, too, and reported them. But they still kept showing up, which made me think there were few consequences for their actions. This is a clear case of individual desires (xp and honor points) trumped the group desire. The sad thing is if they had participated normally, they would have been more likely to get more of what they, as individuals, wanted.

The other annoying behavior is when people go after bases that are hard to hold or solo a base. Each team, for example has a base near their starting point. Generally, these bases are captured immediately at the start of the game. While it’s true that it can be a good strategy to capture the opposing team’s nearby base, it’s hard to keep and you can lose valuable time and players by trying to keep it. The reason it’s hard to keep is that team players often spawn at the start point nearby, meaning there’s a constant flow of opposing players coming at you. Sometimes people will get bored and go after another base, just because, leaving a base unguarded or weakly guarded. Usually, it’s a suicide mission unless you get lucky and it’s unguarded. Usually, though, as soon as the announcement goes out that you’ve assaulted that base, the team comes swarming in and you die.

Despite some of this annoying behavior, I’m still having fun playing in bg’s. I’ve generally had more good groups than bad and I like the way it’s a limited amount of time. You’re in and out quite quickly, while quests and dungeons can take much longer periods of time. So it’s been a great way to take a quick break..

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WoW Wednesday: PvP

For you non-WoW players out there, PvP stands for player vs. player, a part of the game where, instead of fighting virtual monsters, players battle each other. There are PvP servers where this kind of fighting happens constantly in addition to the virtual monsters fighting one must do. But most PvP action takes place in special battlegrounds where a group of Horde players battle a group of Alliance players in trying to reach a certain objective. There’s a capture-the-flag-like place, a place where one holds bases (actually several like this), and a place where one is trying to reach and capture a certain area. Naturally, as one tries to achieve these objectives, players from the other team will try to prevent this from happening, usually by killing people. Killing other players and achieving the objective rewards honors points, which can be used to purchase some cool items.

Back when I first started playing, I tried PvP and generally hated it. My fingers did not move fast enough to counter attacks or attack much myself. But there were some good rewards that came from honors points, namely swift mounts. So I suffered through enough battlegrounds to get my mount and then never really went back. But then, they made it possible to gain experience through PvP. So, I decided to give it a try again with my alt, an undead priest. I was struggling with leveling it because I found questing to be getting a bit tiring. As a priest, it’s also difficult to level simple by killing off a bunch of creatures. To vary my activities, I thought I’d try leveling via PvP.

When I first did this in my 20s, it hardly seemed worth it. I was in Warsong Gulch (a capture-the-flag-type game) and I was rewarded experience only when our team captured the flag and then more if we won. If you’re losing, you don’t get much experience at all, a token amount I believe at the end. So, I held off on that for a while until I got access to Arathi Basin, a battleground I’ve always liked, even when I didn’t like PvP more generally. I happened to venture back in this past weekend on its holiday weekend, when both experience and honors points are increased. I was level 38 when I started. I’m now level 43. Some hard-core players would probably have leveled to 50 by now, but this is only doing a few bg’s a day, throwing in a couple of quests while waiting to be let into battle. You can often complete an AB battle in 10 or 15 minutes (if you’re really kicking butt) and at most 30 minutes. This makes it easy to hop in over lunch, do a quick bg and then go back to work. You can also earn experience by doing the daily bg, for which I’ve been receiving around 7k xp. In AB, I’ve been getting 7-10k xp for each battle, a little less when we’re really sucking.

The other reason I hopped into PvP again besides wanting a more fun way to gain experience was that I wanted to try out healing in a group. I especially wanted to test out the effectiveness of two healing addons I was trying: healbot and grid+clique. It’s hard to find a group for a low-level dungeon these days, so hopping into a bg was an easy way to be in a group quickly. And I was able to test out my addons and settled on grid+clique for now. I’ve found that I enjoy healing in a bg better than attacking and that healing is much appreciated. Like in dungeons, where keeping the tank alive can mean the difference between defeating the boss or not, in bg’s, keeping a powerful player alive can really make a difference between winning and losing. I am often thanked for healing. And no one ever makes fun of me for dying since as a cloth-wearer, that’s a common event.

One reason that I didn’t like PvP before (besides sucking at it) was that the chat in PvP often degenerated into insults about how bad the rest of us are at the game. I still see that, but I’m able to tune it out most of the time, and I have also been in plenty of bg’s where that doesn’t happen, possibly because I’m often doing them at lunch, when there aren’t any kids online. When it’s a bunch of other grownups getting in a quick WoW session over lunch, there’s less likely to be any moaning and groaning.

Once I hit 80 with this alt, I’m not sure I’ll PvP much. Most of the rewards for PvP are PvP gear and if you’re interested in doing dungeons and raids, that gear isn’t going to be so helpful. Plus, I like the quests in Outland (lvl 58 and up) and Northrend (lvl 68 and up) better than the old world quests so I might be hitting bg’s less often as I get up to those levels, though I hear Alterac Valley offers some good xp. Only 8 more levels to go before I get there.

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WoW Wednesday: Late Edition on Stress Reduction, or not

When I called my husband a little while ago complaining that the hotel I’m in charges for Internet access, he said, “Bah, treat yourself, go play some WoW.” So I probably will later this evening.

I spent the last couple of hours finishing up my presentation and trying to arrange various social engagements. After a plane ride and some heavy duty slide wrangling, sometimes it’s fun to go kills some monsters. When I was younger, like 27, I used to play Quake after work. There’s nothing like sending a person virtually across the room through strategic rocket launcher use to relieve some stress. I think it’s not so much about the virtual killing, which now that I’m older, makes me more squeamish than it used to, but that playing a game uses different parts of my brain than I use for the work I do. I write. I put ideas together. I construct presentations and workshops where I have to think about who I’m presenting to. In a game, there’s a different strategy. I’m not thinking in words or images and how they go together. Instead, I plan routes. I think about using particular spells in a particular order so that a particular shot is timed to be especially lethal. I run like hell. In some ways, my more primitive survival mechanisms kick into gear.

And most of the time, while I’m doing that I’m chatting with people (which was true in Quake too). Until I get in front of an audience, much of my work is isolating and while I do get out and have lunch with people on occasion, I can’t do that every day, so poking my head into a game and doing something with other people for a while is nice–and it’s different from Twitter or blogging or Facebooking, which are also social. It’s more like a collective experience rather than either a one-on-one conversation or broadcast. And that’s more satisfying to me much of the time.

On the other hand, gaming can cause stress if you take it too seriously or otherwise get caught up in it. I’ve gotten stressed out over tanking a number of times, so if it’s stress reduction I’m after, I don’t tank. It’s rare for me, though, that a game causes me stress. After all, it’s a game. that we play for fun. right?