Wednesday, September 30, 2009

If this was a single player game...

If WoW -or any other current AA rank MMO- was a single player game, I wouldn't most probably play it. At least not the gear min-maxing game, which is the most apparent one in the level cap.

In fact, I don't know a single single player game which would require the player such a dedication, information digging and preliminary preparation as playing at level cap requires at the moment. In a sense the 'fun' is lost for the most part due to the fact that every time I log in I'm faced with the obligatory requirement to have learned the fights off game, tweaked my gear beforehand and/or created a 'wish list' for the min-maxed gear setting.

If I do not do this, I will be shunned upon, my gear and performance will be evaluated before entering the dungeon, instance or group and even if deemed proper I will be held responsible for the poor performance of the whole team due to the fact that it's always either tank or healer who blunders.

The more I think of it, the more apparent it is that there is something else in the game that is keeping me logging in than the co-operative game (which feels more abuse than pleasure): I haven't yet grasped what it is in tangible terms, but when I find that out, I'll tell you. But it isn't the group playing except with guildies, as in parties the players are most of the time for themselves: either to top the damage meters, to ninja the next piece of gear or just pass time and whine about others. Especially newbies who are running the dungeon for the first time are pointed at as being "n00bs" and usually claimed to be the fault when something goes wrong.

I mean, how many times have you stated that someone was either a noob or just a loser in a group, causing a wipe after a wipe, and forgot to see your own part in the whole? How many times have you started the evaluation from the point of view that there might be something you could do otherwise or -God forbid!- wrong?

There must be a decent amount of masochist in me for letting this go on and making me log in voluntarily to the cesspool of disappointment time and again. But then again, there are millions of us who are chasing the digital holy grail day in, day out, just by logging in and moving some bits across the screen.

Still, if WoW was a single player game with the population and itemization it currently has, I wouldn't be playing it.

I would still be playing Oblivion.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Random thought: Loremaster after Cataclysm

Thought popped up in my small mind yesterday, as I had written my latest post: What will happen to the achievement Loremaster after Cataclysm has destroyed the Old Azeroth and most of the quests have been redone?

How about other Old Azeroth, vanilla-WoW based achievements? Will they be replaced with something as extravaganza, too?

Just a thought.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Challenges to overcome

(EDIT: Forgot to name the post, so it was broadcast allover... with wrong topic. Sorry.)

Darren from The Common Sense Gamer posted a post with great video link, which reminds -at least me- very strongly about man's need to excel his own abilities and how rewarding something very, very hard is to complete, eventually. It requires, however, devotion and dedication to achieve something so rewarding that you are willing to try time and again and seek ways to improve yourself.

In WoW there has been discussion about the dumbing down the game and making the instances easier and easier for the cursed casual gamers to enjoy. The hardcore content is getting too easy for the hardcore players, and it certainly annoys them to see us casuals romping around on the same mounts they worked so hard to earn way back when the game was hard (read: before the latest update patch).

This brings out the question, why do you play? Enjoyment or to achieve something? Pass time or win the game?

The latest interesting discussion in Highland Warriors forum has been about the new Brood of Onyxia mount, which as 310% mount should be very special and rare. The discussion has been about the 310% mounts status, whether they should really be very, very rare or are certain of them too easy to obtain (like Violet Proto-Drake meta achievement mount), only requiring good sitting muscles and no real skill/work.

While I agree with the fact that there should be gear/items/mounts which should be very, very rare and unique even, the discussion over one mount or another is kind of pointless: the game itself is currently in a state that it doesn't require anything else than the ability to sit behind your computer as much as possible to achieve anything there is to achieve. Be it Loremaster or Insane in the membrane or downing Lich-King himself later in the game, it all requires just time to devote to the game. There are no 'unique', universally recognizable rewards for anything, let alone totally unique loot, so this as a way of reward for achieving something is pretty much voided by the game mechanics.

Sure, the proto-drake mount is a nice thing to look at and wonder if it's owner has a life at all, but would I like to own it? Not really. Perhaps only because of that 310% flight speed, but nothing else.

So the real question for me is what do I get from the game itself? The best I've come up with over the weekend without playing is the company, the enjoyment and passtime. Achievements are a nice add, but if I do not have to work for them, they are just fluff without any reward value what so ever. I have gotten more kicks out of my first tanked instances than from the loot I've received from there. I've gotten better boost to my spirits from downing that one elite which was hard than from the farmed to death repeatable dailies.

I don't want to have a game with bosses which really ask for your dedication to the game and all the theorycrafting: I get enough of that in the real life. What I would like to see is a game with mechanics that scale up or down according to your (or the groups') level, creating more or less hard encounters.

Or at least an illusion of a hard one. And a proper cliffhanger to the next one.

That shouldn't be too much to ask today.

Copra from Bullcopra

Friday, September 25, 2009

what is a bull without horns?

I started to play WoW on Horde side. Mainly because the group I belonged at that time played on horde, but also because the looks and feel of horde appealed to me more. I have never -even in my pen and paper roleplaying games- wanted to play human or some other 'classic' fantasy race: my most beloved RPG is still Skyrealms of Jorune, in which I would rather dip my feet in very alien races rather than the ever present human.

However, as times changed and I got my brothers to enter the game, I've switched to Alliance. Naturally I took human as my main: can't stand the small people in game (both mentally and graphically small) and male night elves don't appeal to my hetero palate. Besides, human warrior is such a cliché, much like dwarf wielding a huge axe or elf being a master marksman.

Now as Blizzard has made the faction changes possible, I have come up with an idea to transfer my nearly abandoned Tauren Druid, Copra, to Ally side. Sure, he would lose his horns and become a poofy little night elf, but he would be on the same side of the faction fence and would be benefitting from my AH grinding and lv80 support. He would get into a great guild as an alt and all would be spiffy!

This thought had haunted me for a while already, when I read RockHound's post in Hudson's Hideout. He writes a great post about how Cryptic's Champions Online has split the player base already in two conceptual groups: Conceptionists and Minmaxists.Conceptionists create their character from history up and do not care so much of the actual power level of their characters, while Minmaxists will not take anything less than over 9000 in their characters, caring less about the history, story or background of the character. In RockHound's words, Minmaxists are playing to win the game and overcome the obstacles as well as possible, while the Conceptionists are looking to play the character as 'real being', much like roleplaying them.

After reading the post I noticed something that I hadn't thought about. I cannot bring Copra to the Ally side, as I have a backstory for him. I just cannot take Bull out of Copra, even though I very seldom play that character. It's the same reason why Laiskajaakko rides a ram instead of a horse, or why Pupunen will never intentionally gain high reputation with Stormwind.

I have a Conceptionist mindset when I create my characters: they have basic idea of a background and I could easily drop them all into a RP server with their stories.

Enter level cap: the game in level cap doesn't work with a Conseptionist mindframe. It's hard and heavy min-maxing game and I think that for me this has caused the biggest difficulty to accept. It's not about questing, decisions or 'making the difference', it's all about tweaking the gear to be able to run the next tier of scripted bosses. And this clash of realities is even more hard to accept with all the kids who are really looking forward to win the game in which there is no end game screen.

I had a discussion with Förgelös about this and he brought up that this extreme achieving mentality in the end game I'm talking about is not what he expects to see when he logs in. He plays for the recreational and entertainmental value of the game, not competition or recognition. Those he has enough in his real life, in form of work, family and ... well, real life. I agree with him. Of course we like to have challenges, like doing a trio Shadow Labyrinth in inadequate gear. But we do not take that so seriously that we would kick the weakest link from the group, call him/her n00b and /ignore. The main issue would be to make fun out of the wiping, without a frown or scorn.

If the game gets too serious, then it's not fun. At least for me, so I cannot say that it's so with everyone. WoW is a game, after all, but like pen and paper RPG's, the designation 'game' doesn't serve it properly.

There are no winning conditions in either, except the feeling of being entertained, moment of escapism and -occasionally- satisfaction on doing something well.

Like downing that next boss. Or clearing the instance you failed to pull through earlier.

But it definitely is no Bull(copra) without horns.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

First PUG without guildies

Ok. I have been in the dumps with my tanking performance ever since I hit 80 and started to gain experience on the 5 mans and the gear/stat requirements. Like I posted earlier, the brick wall of hitting 80 is can be devastating, and there surely doesn't seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel.

The other night I tanked for a guild 5 man heroic daily (what a monster of a sentence), of which I wrote something about earlier. I was very careful and I commented all the time how I am newbie, how my tps sucks and how the others should take care when I'm tanked: and I was silenced by the healer who said I should just tank and not worry.

The result was glaring success and thanks from the group. What a rush! Saved my next day at work, really, giving me that extra boost needed.

Yesterday was somewhat different. Guild people started forming guild run to VoA, and somehow I just slipped through the gaps and didn't find a spot in the dps team. In addition to that, a guild daily hc just formed right after that and despite being the first to ask for one I was somehow left out.

Crossed, short on time and more or less in a state of "do or die" I answered a call for PUG tank in daily hc, Gundark. The first comment after I joined came from the dps shaman: "Are you a tank with just 25k hp?"

I thought wtf and told her that yes, quite so. What was the clever question after that?

"Are you going to stay alive with that?"

Come again? 25k unbuffed and heroic? Never in my life, especially as I had tanked the same instance with guild run a couple of days earlier. I responded to her the following way.

"It depends so much on other issues, too. If the heals land on time, I can tank. If the rest of the group works fine, I can do it. Tanked the same instance yesterday, no wipes."

That was it. Simple "ok" and off we went.

This left a sour taste in my mouth anyhow: in heroics you should be able to cope with even less hp than that, provided your def and armor are at least decent. Those were not even questioned, even though I would be more interested in the def for obvious reasons.

Simple paladin and shaman buffs brought my hp to 31k, anyhow.

Fast, simple and solid run. Only that dps shaman died once due to the fact that I missed an add and she took the aggro. Otherwise it was a great and educating experience.

And the healer, paladin, was very much taken for the fact that even though I died on the end boss, I thanked him for the excellent healing. Naturally he couldn't heal me as I was tossed to the other side of the room with DoT ticking in.

Anyhow, I could imagine him blushing at his computer, that much awkward the response was. And the rest of the group got their share of the thanks, as they were more or less the guild-like people: sharp, quick and effective.

Just like me. /flex

Intimidating lv80

Last night I had a discussion with my brother, Bishopgeorge, about the play in the level cap. He had had a couple of pretty disappointing experiences where he just couldn't deliver what the instance run required. He's more or less as devastated with the situation after dinging 80 as I was with all the problems with the minimum stats and values.

And he's a priest, after all.

Granted, his gear still consists of greens and crafted blues. But so did mine before I got into guild daily hc runs and went through a couple of successful Trials of the Champions. But considering how devastating the feeling is for him, who has heard the warnings and frustrations from me and my frustrations, I can't imagine how awful the situation is for someone playing the game alone, without a guild and hitting the cap.

Like Bishopgeorge said, the fun of exploration and questing has been taken out of the game and all that is left is humiliating feeling of inadequacy. Exactly my feelings! It's funny and sad that the cap hits the crucial roles so hard. DPS has been doing the same tweaking forever, but these two roles -healing and tanking- have been able to deliver with the level range gear easily. Now the playing field changes completely and the numbers game is crushing.

I think Blizzard is making the right correcting movement in simplifying the stats and bonuses. The less the game has real theorycrafting, the easier it is to enter the 'real game' for someone who's playing/net time is limited. This lowers the bar for the newcomer and casual gamers, naturally crossing the hardcore players even more.

But as long as reaching level 80 causes you to crush and consider leaving the game for real, anything lowering this threshold is for the common good. Even the hardcore raiders retire every now and then, and if there are no new players to take their place, what will become of Lagalan?

Ghost city.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

One mess of a post

This post may be a sort of flow of consciousness kind of rambling, as I do not have a real thought behind it. Instead, I have several. For one part because of the recent guild runs in daily heroics, partly because the podcasts I have been listening to (and the connections made in there).

The first thing I have to say is that I decided long ago that I won't go into the guild life in this blog, except if completely necessary. Today I have come to the point that I have to say something about the guild, it's members and the attitude and spirit the whole "team" shows ingame. It's no secret that I -along with my brothers- quit our own guild and joined a casual, social, hardcore raiding guild. What I've kept out of the blog itself has been the name of the guild and people in it.

We joined The Highland Warriors on Thunderhorn, EU. And it's an understatement that I have been very pleased and happy with the decision and acceptance. The guild is great, the people are fantastic and it all comes down to the mentality of the guild master (I know you are reading this, Windavell) that raiding is serious progressive effort and everything else is for fun. I wouldn't like to take it in any other way.

Highland Warriors have also shown me that my tenet "you get what you give" really holds true: being the strong silent type I've bugged and bothered the people in the guild chat somewhat constantly while online, especially emphasizing my lack of experience and inability to cope with my gear. I suppose there are no guildies who wouldn't have noticed my whining. (I like my cheese with whine, btw.)

I have been hushed silent about that lately. In the last daily hc Gundrak, where I tanked pretty messily (but effectively to a point), I complained about my performance and apologized my lack of knowledge about the instance (my second time in there, first time in hc), and the healer, Pirux (hi!), told me to stop it. I was doing fine and in the end of the day 1) we ran it through without problems, 2) my solutions to certain encounters were ... interesting and 3) the healer (asparagus-drood) said that it was more fun to have a tank like me instead of an Ulduar geared one because there was something to do. Well, the last was quite understandable, as Laiskajaakko stands currently at 25k hp, 22k armor and 542 def, pretty much on the edge if things start to get sour.

I did well. That's the point. And I felt great after the run: quite steady pulls, one after another, up till the end: only one boss was a mess due to my lack of knowledge of it, but still it went pretty good.

It was fun. It felt great. I will do it again.

The overall comments and discussion in the guild chat and forum is very helpful towards the newcomers and no question is shunned or hushed down. All capable are invited to guild daily hc runs in groups they can be accomodated: needless to say that the Ulduar geared people can carry the new 80's through the instances pretty easily, but still we have to contribute something. And the guidance we get -or at least I have gotten- has been very positive and -at least for me- a very strong motivator to be good enough to fit the raid groups later on.

Then again, too much of anything is bad for you. Like I stated earlier I started to test DDO now that it is 'free to play'. Well, that is a sort of illusion, as there are only a small amount of free dungeons to roam up to the level cap (lv20), with the majority of them being purchasable from the DDO Store. Never the less, I listened to the excellent Van Hemlock Podcast (Episode 69) only to learn that there is a blogger/blogcaster guild on Khyber server in which I have my both free characters, namely Broanagh Perpignan and Hansom Sweid. First is a cleric and second acrobat thief. Looking for that guild, so if anyone knows the name, please leave a message: the game sucks in grouping due to the fact that with people who have played it for sometime now it's a kind of fast forward to the end, and most of the GM cues just fly past.

The grouping is easy, but even as WoW is very much min-maxing micromanagement, DDO is even more so. In old AD&D you couldn't gimp your character, but in the new version rules it seems possible: at least it feels so when I look at the traits available on every quarter level. That may well take the joy of dungeon romping off for me, because the rest of the game is easy grouping, running through a dungeon and returning the quests: the min-maxing just doesn't fit in for me anymore, I'm having my dose of that in WoW, thank you.

So that's what I've been thinking over this morning and part of yesterday. It's great to be part of an excellent guild which pulls you forward, it's great to have interesting podcasts and blogs to follow and it's nice to notice that your game of choice is what you want it to be.

And that you get what you give. In this case, one mess of a post.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

How about being utility?

I just listened the Twisted Nether Blogcast episode 58 and something that I have been thinking over some time now just clicked. In the interview portion the discussion crossed the ever sensitive subject of hybrid and pure classes and their roles in raids, where the usual split is between DPS and healing. What Lissanna stated was that as a moonkin/restoration druid she has to specialize into either DPS or healing and there is nothing else for her to offer to the raid than either of these traits.

Either it's poor instance planning, total bull or I have completely misunderstood the concept, but isn't the main point of hybrids their vast array of utility? To be able to fill in and use traits not in their direct concept, even at a slightly lower power?

For a tank, the utility is their ability to disrupt the casters, as Tanking for Dummies so cleverly noted in a recent post. I think it was Veneretio mentioned sometime ago the fact that the best utility of a protection warrior is their ability to disrupt the casters, something I'm severely missing when I change to my DPS build. So instead of looking at the dps or anything else, I try to focus on my utility to be of most use in a current 5 man run.

It should be even more evident on a hybrid class that their whole performance isn't measured in the pure forms of DPS or healing, and the over-used DPS/healing meters should be abandoned! If the raid is dependant on the meters only and not evaluating the overall performance, then there is something missing in the system.

If all encounters are measured only by the DPS/healing meters and capping in them, then the encounter design is lacking. Or the players are playing the wrong kind of whack a mole. Really.

I'm sorry for the fact that this blog is turning more and more a tanking blog. Which isn't my intention, but comes naturally from the fact that my main IS a tank.

And I like to tank.


I LOVE to tank. But I hate the meters, because they do not measure anything relevant. Either the mob dies or the party dies, and there are no inbetweens. The rest is skill, gear and interesting solutions to overcome the resistance.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sidestepping and tap dancing

After a great success comes the experience which puts you into your place. Learned a lesson yesterday that you should never ever hurry an instance, even a hc with Ulduar-geared people, and I'm very grateful for that. It was no-one's fault it was cut short after a wipe caused by a series of mishaps, and I surely hope that no-one took offense on my oneliner about a lesson learned.

Anyhow, that was the part about tap dancing: you learn everytime you do something and the more you do the more you learn. I was reminded that all it takes is practice, failure and practice. Meaning in short terms to PUG whenever possible and with as varied groups as possible. Hoping for a guild run for gearing up in the middle.

The sidestepping part is that I installed and created first toon to DD Online. Why? The downtime of WoW frustrates the living daylights off of me. And it's free, almost triple-A MMO available to all.

Created a Cleric in Khyber-server, male by the name Broaghan Perpignan. If you happen to 'live' in that server, please nudge me if you see me. The reason is as simple as wanting to group with like minded people in a game which enforces grouping.

My initial thoughts about DD Online are mixed: its very simple and actually quite pretty game, which works nice and smooth, but the forced grouping and combat system cause twitching. My son, 8 years, came to see what I was doing and his first comment was "Oh, you started EQ2 again", only to be followed by "Look, Murlocs!" after I explained it was not EQ2: Sahuagins look like overgrown murlocs for sure. The clicking in combat makes my interest for the game decline, though, and combined with forced grouping it causes total lack of interest.

I'm starting to feel that I'm the negative magnet in the grouping side in any game I join. In DDO I was invited to join a group almost immediately I got through the tutorial (with Sahuagins and all), and I found myself in a group with another cleric. We dove into the warehouse of sorts and this other fellow had faster fingers and better connection or something, as he looted everything we saw. Leaving me with almost nothing. Him being the group leader it was a drag.

The biggest problem in my mind was the fact that the dungeons progress the pace of the 'fastest' or the one who triggers the GM event: In my case I could be standing at the entry door of a cave, trying to loot the few copper coins from a smashed box when the other triggered the event at the exit of the cave. In at least one case there was graphics involved, of which I saw only part, missing the cue to move on.

Like I said, I have mixed feelings about this game. Perhaps I can make myself give it another try and get myself some more motivation to practice my grouping skills in WoW a bit more. Using one game to boost motivation in another.

Just typical.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Listing The List

I had planned on doing a list of entry gear and where to get it, but Kadomi beat me to it.

This post is Tank Love in it's most pure form.

I love Kadomi. I really do.

New dawn after the dark

I have to admit that my last posts have been dark, gloomy and negative overall. Mostly due to my frustration on the gear-centric approach of WoW which really hits you smack in the face when you get to the level cap. You are worth jack without capping certain figures, even though you might as well pass the skill side. You are evaluated by your 'face value' which is that of your stats and gear.

Knowing that that doesn't change later on makes it even more disturbing, though the first threshold is that of getting above that 'capped' level in the crucial stats. For tanks, def cap for heroics and more if you're looking for Naxx and above. It can be a pain if you cannot get into groups, but grouping at below norm def cap is neigh impossible.

I want to be rated by my performance, not by my gear, especially if it's close enough to make it.

This point was proven yesterday in daily heroics. It was a guild run, granted, with two guild newcomers (me and a rogue), and my first time tanking in a heroic. Granted, the Ulduar level gear does miracles to cover the lack in the group, but still I was tanking and I lost aggro only once when our rogue got a bit trigger happy. We had only one death, no wipes and it was fast and clean run.

Sure, the dps was fast enough not to cause any problems, but still I see I performed well. Tank's job is to keep the boss pounding on him and keep the other's safe, up and doing their dps/healing/what ever they are doing.

And I did exactly that. With 22k unbuffed hp, which is 'inadequate' in local /trade calls for LFM. With 542 def to help the healer to stay on top of the damage. I was especially taken for the private comments after the run that "you tanked good for being there for the first time ever". This from a guildie doing weekly Ulduar really felt great!

Of course, it's a learning process, and for the first time since hitting level cap I can see some light at the end of the tunnel. Not only lacking stats or inadequate feeling of not being able to group ex-guild.

And now I can laugh at the LFG calls stating: "DK LFG, 28k HP UB, 560 def cap". Yea, you're a moron for not checking your stats. As well as the next guy calling for [Epic] for ToC normal...

This success gave me confidence on my skills, too. Meaning that I can be in charge of the group in a heroic, fake it if need be, and still make the day.

It's good to be a tank when you pass the gear test. But sucks before capping the crucial stats.

It really does.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The world has run out of tanks

As a matter of fact, the quote was "Jesus Christ, the world has run out of tanks!", and it was from Dalaran /trade channel on Sunday. It was one of those instances I almost responded that "no, the ones available just are not good enough for you", but decided to silence myself.

The next two lines came almost immediately after the first one. "LF 1 tank 1 healer TOC10 normal. Must have gear, experience and DBM.", and last "Tank LF guild doing lots of HC's".

I had to rub my eyes and post these to the guild channel. Caused a silence for a while, only a lol to the first one.

Jesus Christ, the world has run out of tanks!
LF 1 tank 1 healer TOC10 normal. Must have gear, experience and DBM
Tank LF guild doing lots of HC's

What a combination showing the appreciation for tanks. Out of tanks I just commented about: the ones who are available in /trade or LFG tool are not geared enough to cut the need of the 'free market'. The LF TOC10 shows the reason why: the requirements for the free tanks are high (free market tank for TOC10 man? Sure). And the third is the desperation of such a tank to get good enough gear to enter either raiding or fulfill the free market requirements.

And because no tank is masochist enough to be only a freebooter, they are most certainly in a guild and doing their best in a controlled environment rather than PUGging the free market dailies or requests.

Like it's been commented all over the blogosphere, the most crucial parts of a 5 man group are the healer and tank: if the healer is inadequate, the tank will die, causing a wipe. If the tank is inadequate, the healer will die, causing a wipe. But what brings imbalance to this is the fact that not all tanks or dps are equal: hybrids can ease the pain of the healer if they want to, healing whenever the urgency calls. Druids and paladins can do it for themselves and others, DK's to themselves. So the crucial part of a party is the tank, and the worst cards are in the hand of the warrior tank.

Warrior tank is a damage sucking toolbox of interrupt utilities. Enraged regeneration is a once in a fight cooldown heal which is actually the panic button when everything else fails. Warrior tanks cannot heal others, they are best in sucking the damage and staying put.

So why the heck is it so hard for a warrior tank to come up with a group? Because the first question that you encounter is "What is your def?" or "How much HP?". And if they are below what is considered good, you're out and some other class get's the spot due to their other abilities. As if the HP matters if your def is too low...

People are so fixed with the idea that a tank must have 540 def at the cap. It's not so: 535 is the cap in heroics, in normal even this is too much! And the progression is normal 5 man, heroic 5 man, others, I think. Now ToC 5 has ruined the progression and everyone and their cousins are 'farming ToC' and even to the normal 5 man Trial of the Champion they request def cap!

Players at the cap have confused the actual requirements for the game with the requirements of the highest level of the game, raiding. Due to the fact that people are always seeking the route of least resistance, they are looking for the easy way to the best gear.

Example: Laiskajaakko has tanked ToC5, successfully. In one group the healer somehow 'forgot' to heal, or was himself inadequately geared and the group wiped. Who was to blame? The tank as he didn't have proper gems (mind you, I had all +STA gems then and 512 def, no problem). The next wipe with inadequate heals: The tank was lacking aggro (generated steady (!) 3.5k all the time, the first dps came around 1.5k...) and so on. I left the group after the Black Knight fell and didn't get a single piece of gear. Maybe some experience on dealing with poor PUG's but that's all.

That was just the tip of an iceberg: Gundrak. Normal instance, first pull. Laiskajaakko was the only capped toon in, charged to the first three snakes. In comes the hunter's pet -bear- and pulls two of the three. Being on aggressive, this bear starts to follow the retreating mobs and pulls several adds. Which I get to keep from the squishies.


The result of the wtf round was that even though the hunter's pet pulled the aggro, it was tank who's fault the wipe was. Round two. The hunter enters the instance and his pet aggroes immedieately. Tanks fault.

I quit the group there.

Tanks are always to blame. Is it any wonder there are no tanks to run instances out of the guild runs?

Guild run: good clean run with everyone looking for their own performance and how to proceed best. No name calling, no bickering, all good advice and learning for the newcomer. And in 5-mans, both normal and heroic, a clean pass even with a slacker like me. No wipes, no regrets.

Would you change that to the PUG abuse?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Just on the verge

I almost pushed enter after typing "Fuck. I quit." in the guild channel yesterday. As I today opened my reader, one of the first posts I read was Oakstout's post about the end game in WoW boring the living daylights off of him. Not only that, but on the server I am it's next to impossible to even ENTER the darn game.

The reason I got so crossed was the fact that Bishopgeorge finally got to lv79 and almost immediately got into a group doing the Violet Hold. He was asked to come. Begged even. And this proves my point, a point both Tobold, Gevlon and many others have written about lately: the level cap is very much broken and the tanks especially are expected to be something super. Even though healers and tanks are of high request at the cap, the tanks seem to be under more strict scrutiny over their stats than healers ever.

Don't get me wrong, tanks are super. It's the expectations of the rest of the populace, mainly dps, that are strangely off. Tanks should be uncrittable, with 22k HP and 25k armor when they hit the cap. For a healer it's enough to be able to heal through the instance, no real requirements at the moment. Just as long as they tag along and do their job adequately in a normal instance. Like I wrote sometime ago, if there is a LFM request for a tank, it's 99% for a heroic one. That 1% actually is already a dual spec tank/dps and will switch to tank if he must.

Maybe I'm too honest about my lack of stats and maybe I'm too nice to tell people about the lack, too. Bishopgeorge commented my outburst that he won't tell the party he's in there for the first time, so he won't get kicked out. I have the habit of telling before entering the group because I don't see no reason to waste my nor the rest of the groups time in /kick /invite cycle. And sure as hell I won't sit in a Lagalan... I mean Dalaran lagfest spamming LFG in /trade for hours on end to get the group to a normal instance only to get in there and start the same cycle again. I feel that I can do something else with that time... like do the dailies to all the factions I can to have a snowball's chance in hell to get at least one decent piece of gear outside the guild runs!

The uncrittable cap seems unattainable at the moment: I'm sitting on 529 def at the moment without a clear vision on how to improve that at all, without spending my nest egg completely or winning in a lottery. Due to this, I don't dare to look for heroics outside the guild and there are next to no opportunities for normal runs which would even offer the slightest improvement (except in giving rep to the faction of choice).

And if someone comes and tells me that it's not in the gear but in the skill, I wipe their face with my... nose. It's all about the gear at this point, no doubt about it. I have started to build up a dps set to even be of some help in guild daily heroics, and each gear upgrade pulls my dps up a 100-200 points. It's not about learning the rotation anymore after spending a whole day (almost 10 hours) in learning and tweaking. It's about those additional points in +hit and +STR which increase the dps, no doubt about it.

I honestly hate being dps. But if it's the only route to the light, I'm willing to take that burden.

Still, the game at the cap is boring, repetitive and frustrating grind to those not in the raid grind. There just isn't anything not repetive to do and there is nothing non repetitively gainable. Levelling has stories, advancement and joy of discovery, but cap doesn't have any of those. Without raid progress, I guess, but at the moment the grind is too grim.

I might quit if it wasn't the greatest guild and people in it. Perhaps I start sitting at the AH and count my coppers...


Friday, September 11, 2009

Year one, pass

The blog has been around for a year. Sadly I noticed after a few posts that the date I posted the first post was pretty badly chosen, but let's not stick to that.

A lot has happened over the last year. My main toon has changed from Holy Priest Pupunen to Protection Warrior Laiskajaakko, which I levelled from zero to hero during that time. Now facing with the situation that the story is at it's end and the repetitive instance grind is about to begin, I can still undersign what I wrote in my third post:
Make me a Call of Cthulhu rpg in which your actions will decide whether you end your days in an asylum or die in a horrible ritual for the Old Ones or are the one to conduct such a ritual. Make a game in which our decisions make the progress of the game different.
Not even Cataclysm is promising that, even though the Wrath of the Lich King provides the illusion that I'm making the difference with my character.

I have formed a guild and closed it, joined a casual raiding guild and found home. Home in a sense that I feel I'm with similar minded people who take their playing seriously in wanting to best the content, but being lighthearted about their attitude towards the company and the game as whole. I've been frustrated over the game, over the blog, over the whole scherade of entertainment, and been exhilarated by everything only a few posts later. I do not dare to plunge back to the posts, they would most certainly build up some interesting new posts and ideas which I would forget before the next post I read.

Thank you for the nearly 6.000 page views and several daily visitors. I'm still wondering who is the brave one who visits the blog daily from Singapore: this one is the regular visitor of the year, being the one I can time my blog posts almost to the minute.

All in all, thank you all commentors and visitors. This blog would be around without you, but it would be a lot more boring place without the comments.

And about the comments. I haven't regretted that I have switched them to Disqus: a lot of dung has been automatically removed and the quality of the comments and critiques (?!) have been civil. I hope people would get enough courage to comment even more, bring out their opinions and -occasionally- give a pat on my shoulder.

It really means that much.

That's all. The Three Stooges will ride any day now and till eternity.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Casual social hardcore gaming dad

Had a discussion with my son the other day, and I came to the conclusion that he is a hardcore gamer. And after a short deliberation we came to the conclusion that so am I.

We play WoW (and every other MMO we've tried) to excel in the game: to best ourselves and our performance: to be better each time we set our foot on the pixelated countryside. We play to be good.

You can be casual and hardcore: the hardcore is the mentality of doing your best within the frames of the game's rules. Without breaking them, mind you BG AFK'ers.

Excel yourself every time you play. That's the tank way.

The hardcore way.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What I've learned after capping

1. It's all about fulfilling certain gear requirements. At least to be able to enter the 'real' endgame consisting of heroics and raiding.
2. Without the proper gear, you are undergeared and will not be able to perform in a group. This should go without saying, but obviously it doesn't. Note: I haven't been shrewd enough to hide this fact that I'm lacking...
3. People do not read the notes you write into the LFG tool. Really.
4. People do not care if you have put yourself into the queue for a NORMAL instance: the assumption is that if you are level capped, you are prepared to take on anything and beyond. That includes Algalon.
5. If you are a newcomer -and state that clearly to the group- be prepared to get two kinds of responses. First one is outright calling you "noob", which should be false. The other one is the professional -guild like- response "Ok, this is how we do it..."
6. If you're tanking, after the first wipe there are two responses, too. First one is "Noob tank!" continued with "DK tank next". The professional -guild like- response is "So we failed, I had this problem and we should try it like this next..."
7. PUG's teach you only one thing: to be selfish and need everything that drops.
8. Usually in any MMO, politeness goes a long way. "Sorry" and "Thank you" are powerful things to say.
9. In most PUGs, the former doesn't apply.
10 You shouldn't look into the gift horse's mouth: that is, when the PUG starts and there are two or more hyperactive kids fooling around, it doesn't mean that the instance is failed.
11. Expect the unexpected. Like the former hyperactive PUG performing top notch, or the stiff upperlip group failing miserably.
12. Blow your cooldowns early rather than late.

These lessons I have learned from 'only' less than ten ToC normal PUG runs in WoW. The best runs have been the ones with the guild, granted that the runs were meant to gear up us newly dinged 80's and there were a couple of very capable players with accordingly capable toons. The worst have been the runs with two players, who claim they know how to play and what to do, but do not see their shortcomings. These are the source of the name calling and noobishness themself.

Sad to say, it's the first time I've put anyone on ignore list for the conduct they have presented in a PUG instance run. Then again, any MMO would be much newcomer friendly without these arrogant kids, who do not see that the instances can be run more effectively by playing in co-operation rather than soloing.

More lessons to learn, and most certainly more things to report from the casual side of the hardcore mind.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The game starts at the level cap

Sure. They all say that the game starts at the level cap. The tutorial game -levelling- is over and it's time to tackle the 'big boys'. Instances, raiding, gearing up for the next level raiding.

What can I say. I'm a real newbie to the end game, but already the thought of repeatedly encountering the same scripted instances and bosses bores the living daylights out of me. It may well change as I start to tackle the heroics and early raid instances, if I ever will be as lucky as get into one with the 'adult' schedule I'm playing with.

Try to combine 8 hours of work, 1.5 hours of driving to and from and 2-3 hours of gaming into a normal social family life with kids, dogs and some other hobbies. Oh, yes, and come and tell me in the face that I'm M&S.

Yea, the game starts at the cap. No more levels to show you are advancing.

Only the game.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Looking back

Finally I quit levelling on Northrend and it's time to reminiscent the journey. As it happens, Lodur at World of Matticus just did a nice comparison on the expansions: while I don't share his opinion in all accounts, its good reading for its own sake.

I have been pretty negative on the storytelling aspect of Vanilla and Burning Crusade, mainly because the catching and compelling storylines have been far and between. The few lines in Vanilla (Missing Diplomat, or the Darrowshire Heroes questline for example) are just remarkably good story telling, both taking you along as the 'hero', or at least creating the illusion.

Burning Crusade follows the same rule: sometimes you feel like part of the story, but there is no real storyline to follow. And the areas are pretty much separated one from another, with as much connection in between them as there is connection in their visual styles. Like Lodur said:
The terrain didn’t blend very well between zones. Good example would be going from Zangarmarsh to Nagrand, the contrast was incredibly violent. This theme persisted through most of the between zone areas
I quite undersign that. Also, levelling now, way behind the main wave of players, the reputation grind is pointless: at the point when you start to gain benefits from the rewards (or are in a position to get them) you are headlong in the Northrend already, wondering how to get that Scryer shoulder enchant easier...

To the word of the day: levelling game in The Wrath of the Lich King. The short version is that the levelling speed was too fast, levelling was too easy and the quests pretty repetitive with few very nice sideshows on the road. Longer version: let's break the short one into pieces.

Like I stated earlier, I levelled for the first time and way behind the main population. This causes the illusion that you are levelling alone or in the best case with just few people around. This makes grouping a pain in the behind, too, but that seems to be common problem persisting till the level cap (and not getting any easier even then, either).

The entry to Northrend is shocking: after the tranquil and almost solemn Outlands you enter into a warzone: where a certain *other* MMO claimed that the War is Everywhere, it surely feels like that when you set your foot on the continent! In Borean Tundra -where I landed first- you are confronted with Nerubians fighting to push the human contigent in to the ocean (and end up saving their day), in Howling Fjord you are put against the raving Vrykul's and their bloodrage. In both places the quests are pretty standard, not too involving but usually continuing onwards. This was a change in the pace: you didn't get single shots, nor the 'best' quest rewards from the first quest. The gear reward came only after completing the quests on the questgiver, which actually showed you easily when the quests got finished! Great thinking in continuity wise.

The levelling speed increased greatly, in my case most likely due to the fact that I got myself involved with the stories. I just had to kick the green viking's butt for the Kaluak's (gaining reputation enough to get the sweet breastplate as early as possible), help the Explorers Guild to get into the bottom of things in Howling Fjord and so on. The questing in storylines compelled me to check the next phase. This caused even more profound problem: I over levelled the instances yet again. For a first timer this is a loss, for the gear reward from the instance quests and bosses are huge improvement to the gear achieved otherwise.Also the fact that the areas have dailies available from very early on increases the levelling speed, for the dailies are very easy quests with maximum exp reward, and in addition to questing you could easily do easy dailies every day without hindering your questing. Reputation grind while questing is an option, and a good one.

Even though the speed was increased mostly because I wanted to continue the book, the quests were overly simplified. At very early stage the protection warrior was downing mobs 2-3 levels higher, and with max rested bonus this means 2-2.5k per mob. Take ten "kill ten foozles"-quests and its reward and you're rocking. It was a kind of disappointment that the 'challenge' was off, but then again the experience in Utgarde Keep showed me that the challenge was in the instances. The disparity of these two is huge.

Needless to say, that the graphics are beautiful. But phasing still amazes me from time to time, as I encounter it while tying the lose ends of the quest chains. The first instances (Borean Tundra coastline) showed that it's a powerfull story telling device, Wrathgate proved that it combined with a strong story gets you very much involved in the story yourself and the Argent Vanguard and Shadow Vault quests show the power of the phasing in a way that the game makes you feel you are making a difference. I still cannot fly over the first without grinning, you know why if you have completed the Tiron Fordring's quests in the area. The effect is fantastic!

There are few sideshows which are worth the while and some which aren't. Granted that the D.E.T.H.A quests are nice and cuddly and all, but they serve no purpose in the overall content. Well, maybe they foreshadow the Hemet Nesingwary quests in the Sholazar Basin in a way, but otherwise they were IMO just a distraction. On the other hand, Nesingwary's quests -even though they were mainly killing and slaughtering as always- gave the feeling of accomplishment in a peculiar way. And no one can deny the power of distilling your own booze, for sure.

If there is one thing that bothered me all the way up in Northrend was the fact that the gear upgrades were pretty static and came at certain level ranges. You get seven similar pieces of gear with just slightly different stats to suit some specifications, which was enraging. The gear ups till -something like- lv75-76 were more or less cosmetic, at least looking from the world drop/quest reward side, but at that point the reward structure changed dramatically. Perhaps because at that point the first Honored faction rewards came into play, the rewards from quests had to be at about level with them. Inferior, but at level.

All in all, I levelled too fast and skipped several areas. But then again, the only areas that really matter are Dragonblight and Icecrown for obvious reasons, and everything else is just foreshadowing the incidents in those areas. If there is something I wish for in Cataclysm, it's that they bind the stories into as good and narrative packages as they did in the best ones in The Wrath of the Lich King. That will make the day for sure.

With a little help from my friends...

What an appropriate quote from The Beatles' to describe last evening's furious couple of hours.

Last evening was a special one for several reasons. Not only did Azariel pay a visit on the 'wussie side' and chat  with me (read: mock and abuse me), but everything seemed to click into place.

First of all, the fishing and cooking dailies were one shots both. I found a helmet from a quest chain I hadn't finished which alone helped my defense to come closer to my aim.

And I learned that the defense caps are a myth to normal 80's instances, providing you have a good group.

You see, I was minding my own business (dailies in Dalaran) when there was a question in guild channel, offering a gear up run in normal Trial of the Champions. Me, being the carefull and concerned bugger, volunteered to join if my presence wouldn't ruin the fun of the rest of the group.

During the meantime I made the Argent Tournament's dailies, learned a bit more about the jousting (which I hate even more) and finally we entered to the instance. My first 5-mans at lv80.

Trial of the Champions, normal.

Anyone who has been there knows that the beginning of first stage is... Jousting.

The end is tank and spank with emphasis on grouping the mobs and not standing in the muck. I've learned from Outlands already, that anything on the floor is bad and should be avoided. Except the dead mobs, of course, but anything else is BAD.

The second part is more grouping exercises and avoiding aoe and turning your back to the boss.

Third is the Black Knight with his army of exploding ghouls.

The group being that of our guild's finest I was lead from stage and encounter to another in a very civil manner. Needless to say, the first run was spectacular: everything worked lovely, we cleared stage after stage without a hitch and the crowd was cheering. In a way I was amazed how my lacking defense wasn't an issue at all, not to mention the fabulous drop I got. My first lv80 purple. (Don't ask me now what it was, I'm relishing the moment, not looking at the Armoury!)

After a successful run we decided to do another. The other players had their alts (or alt's alt or something) and it was obvious they really knew how the encounter works and all. Like I've commented at some point, it's a pleasure to run with a group of professionals: the mentality strikes at all levels and makes you perform yourself at higher level.

The second run wasn't as easy, and we wiped a couple of times. This is where the professional, achiever mentality shows even more: there was no calling on who lacked and who sucked. Instead, everyone more or less analyzed their own performance and what they did wrong THEMSELF and tried to find the reason WHY the wipe happened. And adapted on the next run.

Needless to say, we cleared the instance with flying colours, I was very happy camper and owned two shining pieces of purple gear. I was pretty pleased on my first run on a lv80 normal, even though my defense was 499 after the loot and 'miscolored' gem.

As the whole instance run was so smooth, the whole group agreed to do it again today. Provided all are at the computer: after all it's friday.

And guess what: by receiving this kind of welcome, I'm bound to the guild even stronger.

I'm there to help others when they need. Suck that, Gevlon, with your M&S speeches. This provides continuity to a healthy guild and makes it sure that the guild which is strong from inside will continue to exist beyond the 'next guildbreaker' expansion.

Now I'm hungry for more guild love. :P

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Twitching, twitching...

Memoirs of a newbie lv80 with inadequate gear continue. Last nights experiments: Argent Tournament and Wintergrasp.

Argent tournament. What can I say, I hate PvP and PvP style playing. The first 'tournament' style quest (daily) is the Argent Aspirant quest, in which you have to beat 3 NPC's in jousting. I found out I suck in that particular game style, and I mean totally. I quit after the tenth try, without winning any. I just can't deliver. The darn jousting event is too twitchy to my fingers and fine motorics to be enjoyable, or even vaguely beatable.

I hate Argent Tournament and resent PvP. The reputation comes from the repeatable dailies and that's all.

This being said, I was to avoid the whole Wintergrasp due to PvP resentment. It happened by accident, as the fishing daily was the one in which you have to fish Terrorfish from the Wintergrasp area. Oh, joy.

But much to my -pleasant- surprise, as I was flying around the lake from which the fish is caught, the Wintergrasp had just started. All of a sudden I was invited to the foray, and I landed conveniently to the Workshop just as the machines of destruction had started to roll out! Off we went and the Achievements started rolling in.

With the final one being Victory of Wintergrasp.

I can't say that I didn't enjoy the disorganized chaos within the combat. Had my computer and connection worked to the perfection, I might have even loved the foray. I suppose I should put a national lottery in today, as everything with the slightest of luck went awry yesterday: Windows had decided to download and install some update, and that was most probably stalling my machine for the most part.

This being said, I know now how I will spend my time after cooking, fishing and Wyrmrest dailies. For I learned something yesterday which summarizes the whole playing session.

(this post should have been named by it's ending line)

How I stopped worrying and love PvP.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tanking dilemma

To tank in heroic lv80 5-mans, you should have 535 defence, 20k HP and 20k Armor. To be uncrittable -prepared to raid-, the defence should be 540. Only way, gearwise, to reach either is to run as many normal lv80 5-mans that you can get the gear composing these values. Or to spend a fortune in AH to purchase the gear to compose the stats. To which end running normal 5-mans would be ideal, as it would create both wealth and the possibility to get the gear as reward.

The only problem in a top heavy server is the fact, that though there is constant need for tanks and healers to the instances, the requests are always for heroics. Especially when the mode isn't informed in the LFM announcement.

I feel 'gear gimped' as I cannot even participate.

Oh joy.