30 July 2012

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck

Unless you're oblivious, Blizzard made a small official announcement last week that the new expansion, Mists of Pandaria, will be released on September 25, 2012. With that announcement, Deathwing is officially a Lame Duck, joining other has-beens like Arthas - The Lich King and Illidan Stormrage. According to Wikipedia, a Lame Duck is:
... an elected official who is approaching the end of his or her tenure, and especially an official whose successor has already been elected.

Cyron on Flickr via everystockphoto
Well, almost a lame duck. Deathwing wasn't really elected; he sort of proclaimed himself as the new bad ass on the block and melted a few towers in Stormwind to prove his superiority. The comparison falters further when you consider that his successor is not really known, either. With MoP, we know that Deathwing will fade into past-expansion obscurity, but what we don't know is who (or what) will replace him as the end-game bad guy. The character development of that end-game bad guy will dramatically impact my enjoyment of the game during MoP.

Bosses are Goals

When I started my addiction playing WoW, it was just after the release of TBC. I leveled up in Vanilla zones when most of the veterans were already going after 60+ content. Sadly, by the time I dinged 60, nobody was running older instances. I had heard all about Ragnaros and C'Thun, but I never got to fight them. As a result, my experience in Vanilla zones has just been about leveling.

Instead, I jumped into the Outland kept on chugging. But, with all the lore that I saw in Outland, it all pointed to Illidan. The trailers told me I wasn't worthy. The majority of Shadowmoon Valley quests pointed me towards an ultimate encounter with him in the Black Temple. Sure, there were other raid bosses, but Illidan was the star. After I finally dinged 70, the goal became to get into a raid group to actually work towards the final progression of fighting Illidan. There was a clear end goal to reach with the expansion, and that goal was reinforced as the primary story line.

Fast forward to November of 2008 and Wrath is released. I loved how in Wrath, every single Northrend zone had an element of foreshadowing the ultimate encounter with Arthas. Not only was he the star in the trailer, but you saw him as a character element to quests everywhere in Northrend.  Arthas' fall from grace even had an instance dedicated to it (The Culling of Stratholme). Similar to the BC expansion, in Wrath you knew exactly who the end boss was. But unlike BC, you actually saw that end boss in your leveling experience before raiding was even a possibility.

Part of my ambivalence in Cata has been that it lacked, in my view, that in your face reinforcement of Deathwing's superiority and why he's the end dude. Cataclysm totally changed the environment of the old world, and you know that Deathwing is the end boss because he's on your login screen and the star of some cool trailers. Also, you can get crispified if you're lucky and get an achievement for your death at his 'hands', but other than that the only time I really saw Deathwing was by going back and leveling alts. The quests in the Badlands with Rhea and the hysterical variations of The Day that Deathwing Came are awesome. But I never saw Deathwing on my level 80 as he was going through the 'newer' level appropriate content except on a brief tour of Mount Hyjal when Ragnaros rose.
In cata, I did know that Deathwing was the boss, but I rarely saw him the way I did with Arthas in Wrath. It lessend his importance to me as an end boss.By the time LFR was introduced and the final encounter with Deathwing released, I just didn't care.

Hopes for MoP

So I'm looking forward to MoP and a new end game target. I'm really hoping to see Blizzard develop a worthy villain and that my questing experience introduces me to that villain's rise to power -- as well as provides justification on why he needs to be dealt with. I'm taking encouragement from the direction of zone-based questing -- I won't have to complete an single quest line story within the zone, but I'll complete multiple (smaller) quest line stories within the zones.

I'm really hoping that Mists expands the best elements of Wrath; questlines and lore that diverge but yet all lead up to a worthy villain. As far as possibilities at this point on who (or what) the end boss will be? From teasers and press, it looks like Garrosh Hellscream will fill at least a minor role, and I can't wait to see how that develops. I've never liked Garrosh. He's a bit over the top, even for an Orc.

27 July 2012

Mr. Tough-Tank

Dun-duh-DUH! (That's the sound of LFG dinging to say my wait time is over!). I pause my questing in Borean Tundra to run an instance. Let's set the scene, shall we?

source: WoW Wiki
Drak'Tharon Keep. Yes! I love this place. It's quick, it's fun and there aren't that many mechanics to wipe PUGs. It's also great experience for my level 74 self.  The group is a warrior tank, pally healer, enhancement shaman, unholy death knight, and me the fire mage as the DPS. Not a bad draw!

So, as usual, I'll greet the party in chat to engage communications...

Me: Hi all!

Wham!  Here it comes.


Yeah, that's pretty much word for word what the dude said, and he did yell it all in caps. I swear his caps lock was broken. I'm assuming he's male. I'm also assuming he doesn't get out much. If I were a gambling man, and I am, I'll bet you those assumptions are correct.

Anyway, already my hackles are up. Not only is this attitude an issue, but also I despise "chat speek". If you're too lazy to type the words "are" or "you", you need to log off and go text your pals on a number-pad phone. It's not that much more effort to actually spell these things called words, and it makes you look competent instead of childish. And don't even get me started on being called "bads".  Ugh.

That aside....

After the oh-so-wonderful introduction of putting all of us non-guilded inferior DPS into our places, he begins on the first hallway. On the second pull, the caster puts a pool of black death on the ground. Mr. Tough-Tank side steps slightly, but not dramatically so the DK and the shammy stay right where they are and proceed to die. They aren't healed.

DK: Why did I die?
Healer: You stood in black stuff.

So, at least this clown's healer is trying to be somewhat helpful. The tank continues to be a jerk and berate people for their lack of 'skillz'. Ugh! After rezzes, we successfully clear the first hall and move into Trollgore's anteroom. Mr. Tough-Tank then proceeds to pull the entire room. He also fails to turn the golems so now all of us are getting poison spat at us as we're all jammed in the doorway and it's an instantaneous wipe.

So I'm cussing to myself and trying not to go ballistic in party chat, thereby causing more drama, but I'm barely containing my inner nerd-rager. I zone back into DTK. The tank and heals are just ahead of me, but the other two are both still 'Dead'. They haven't released. Ugh. I know what's gonna happen next. Drama!

Shaman: Rez, please?
Tank: F%!K U. (My censoring)
DK: ???
Tank: RUN.
Shaman: Wow. Nice.
Healer: Sec
Healer: Hey, I'm nice that way.
Healer proceeds to resurrect the dead.

Meanwhile, Mr. Tough-Tank is going on and on a little tirade to prove the point of what I thought was common instance etiquette; on a full group wipe, unless there is a survivor to mass resurrect the party, everybody runs in. In other words, if the healer has to run, then everyone runs.

Well, now the moaning really starts and insults are flying in party chat as we're clearing the anteroom. Mr. Tough-Tank is getting called out in party chat for being a schmuck by the DK and the Shaman, but he doesn't take well to being challenged. Next thing I see is:

Tank: OH YEAH?

The jackass runs ahead, pulls Trollgore, and quits group mid-fight along with the healer. Yay for three dead DPS. DK quits. Shaman quits.  Are you flipping kidding me?!?

What's the moral of this story? None. Morals are intended to teach a lesson. I have no illusions that anything I say will ever change that clown's mind. For the rest of you, though, I have hope! Indulge me as I step up on the soapbox.

Random Groups Are Random

Looking For Group (LFG),  and by extension Looking For Raid (LFR), combines random people into a group to attempt an instance.  If you decide queue for this random pairing, you must understand you have no choice or control over who you're grouped with.  They could be heroic DS raiders, or they could be scraping by on the iLevel requirements in all the wrong gear.  Don't get me wrong -- seeing a rogue wearing spirit leather to meet minimum iLevel requirements is mind boggling.  My point is that you have to expect some level of that craziness when you're randomly matched with other people.

This further applies to PVP; if you want to PVP with elite PVPers, form a pre-made and run rated battlegrounds. Random BGs may have folks in PVE gear without any resilience. There's a whole series of posts on this (The Harpy's Nest has a great one), but it boils down to this:  because the game matched people for you, you live with what you get.

I take exception to players that complain when they are in random groups about other players abilities. Now, I'm not talking about calling out that rogue in +SPI leather. If that is an honest mistake, it needs to be corrected. If it's a shortcut to get into an instance, it's negatively impacting my experience by sandbagging me and I take exception to that. What I am referring to is having adequate DPS but not necessarily heroic-caliber DPS within a non-heroic instance.  As long as the bad guys are dying and the good guys are living, all is well. I'm talking about berating a tank for not having a million health while running a level 74 instance. I'm talking about not giving the healer grief because the tank died while trying to pull an entire wing instead of 3-4 adds at a time.

There seems to be a level of elitism where the self-proclaimed 'Goods' berate and ridicule the 'Bads'. If you want to play that way and be all elite, suit yourself. But, please stay the hell out of LFG. Or at least shut up while you're there.

Educate, Don't Berate

Once you are matched, you may get lucky and have an elite squad of veterans that breeze through the run without fuss and with minimal communication. Consider yourself blessed! Now, for the rest of us, there will be challenges.  People will not know the instance. They will be brand new tank specs because they're tired of waiting for hours in the DPS queue. They may be inebriated and just not give a shit. Before going on a nerd-rage vent, try actually communicating and explaining the problem. "Hey, don't stand in the black poop. You have to move out of it".  They may honestly not even know!
Save the raging for the ones that are inebriated or obnoxious. Spare the ignorant!

I like to feel that I can help others. I've run Wrath instances over and over. I know 'em. I can explain the mechanics. I have alts for every classes, and all but a few are level 85. I'm not the Big Red Kitty or Frostheim of Hunters, but I know the class. I can offer suggestions and help improve players.  Assuming a player is even open to suggestions, when something is phrased as a suggestion rather than a dramatic criticism of epic failure, I for one would be much more open to considering that advice.  But if someone's just going to insult me, welcome to ignoreville!

And now I can step off the soapbox. Hey, if all else fails, start a blog and post the experiences for others!

21 July 2012

Things that make you go Hmmmm

If one decides to play a Tauren, then you may choose from the following class choices:  Druid, Hunter, Shaman, Warrior, Death Knight, Paladin, and Priest.
I get the Warrior, DK and Pally; Taurens are big honkin' things and they racial War Stomp, so it makes sense for them to tank. An angry bull seems more aggressive than say, a pretty Blood Elf in shiny armor.  But now we're just feeding stereotypes.
I also get the Druid and Shammy because of the spiritual natural vibe that Thunder Bluff gives off.  The Tauren have strong Native American overtones and are very in touch with nature, so Druids are a given. There are totems all over Mulgore, so why not extend that to Shaman? I suppose I can even tolerate the Hunter, but it's a stretch. Hunter's are more agile, but I guess you can get away with standing in place and blasting away.
But a Priest? Please! All I can picture is a cow in a robe. Besides, priests are restricted to cloth armor. As a Tauren, aren't you already sporting leather with just your skin? Just wondering....
Any serious cow priests (by serious I mean other than those that are simply leveling to 85 for the guild achievement Classy Tauren)? Why?

20 July 2012

Two Rules of Life as illustrated by WoW

I have found that there are a few other things in life that you can count on, aside from the whole death and taxes schtick. While these observations are not Gallilean in their breadth and scope, let alone impact, they are pretty damn true based upon my experiences.

Rule #1

This observation has evolved from my becoming a parent, and I have seen nothing in my personal life to disprove this observation.
The smaller the person, the more space they require.
Pretty simple statement, but consider this:  a baby cannot simply get strapped in the minivan (oh yes, I am so cool that I drive a minivan) for a visit to the grandparents. You must load the spare diapers, creams, lotions, toys, changes of clothes for when the diapers fail to contain their intended product and portable bed. This is why parents drive those vans -- the kids take up all the room!
As my children have aged, the amount of crap they need with them has lessened.  My son would be content wearing the same clothes all weekend long and would just lobby to carry his cell phone and his iPad.  My daughters require their whole wardrobe along with the entire play room!
The warcraft equivalent? Well, I'm pretty sure this is just me, but I choose the tradeskilling combination of Engineering and Mining on my Gnome. Now this improved with Wrath's introduction of the Gnomish Army Knife, but when I first leveled engineering you had to have all this crap in your bags to make things -- Blacksmith Hammer, Arclight Spanner, Gyromatic Micro-Adjustor to name a few.  Then, you had to make all these other parts just to assemble the thing you wanted to make in the first place. A toolbox - preferably the Elementium Toolbox - is pretty much mandatory!

Rule #2

I started realizing in staff meetings and client design sessions that:
The more ignorant someone is, the louder they complain.
At work, this was for a change request that would ultimately help someone save days of work during the week chasing down issues. Sometimes, I skate close to the Bobs from Office Space - I don't ever recommend staff reductions, but I do recommend working smarter. However, if an outsider tells you how to do your job, you may want to tell that outsider to piss off.  I get that!  Professionally, I'll explain to you and educate you on how this change will help you, so long as you give me a chance. Those folks that decline that chance fail to see the improvement and they sabotage the project every chance they get from that point forward.

Where do you see this in WoW?  Too many places!  How about an LFR where someone didn't get their drop (never mind they were an enhancement shaman rolling on spirit mail that the resto shammy won)? Or a BG where after the first death one of your teammates spends the entire remainder of the battle complaining in /bg about how everyone else sucks -- instead of suggesting tactic changes that may possibly allow your faction a victory. In each of these, someone feels slighted and/or attacked, they go on a rampage. Despite efforts of others in the group to explain why, they fail to listen to explanations and instead go on a nerd rage bender.

How about you folks (if you're out there)?  Any rules of your life that crop up in your Warcraft experiences?

18 July 2012

Hello, world!

source: Wikipedia

On Christmas morning, 1978, I unwrapped one of the best presents ever: an Atari console. That system is now known as the Atari 2600 (when it's ever discussed, at least). But on that Christmas morning, it was simply the Atari.  I have no earthly idea what else I got that year because any other toys were outshone by the sheer fun I had with that console.

From Combat to Space Invaders, the late '70s and early '80s were all about come home from school, get the homework and chores done, and then hop on the console.

Fast forward three decades...

I'm forty years old. I work full-time (often way more than full-time) as a Project Manager in the computer software industry. I've been happily married for over a decade and I have three children between the ages of 2 and 10. My wife and I enjoy spending time with each other, yet we also retain separate pursuits on our own.

At the moment, the kids are in bed. She's catching up on DVRs of shows I really don't care for, and I'm in front of the MacBook with Blizzard's Launcher blinking in the Dock.

I haven't changed all that much in those three decades. I still take care of my chores and then spend some of my free time enjoying a video game. However, instead of having to take out the trash, my chores are now all of the responsibilities that go along with having a career, being a father, and being a husband. While the demands of those things can be substantial, they're also rewarding.

As you can imagine, most of my waking hours are already claimed by other aspects of my life.  However, when I can make some "me time", I enjoy losing myself within a video game -- World of Warcraft.

I started playing WoW at the launch of the Burning Crusade expansion. I had been playing Everquest for a few years, and the guild I belonged to had several members quit EQ in favor of Warcraft. About the same time, Blizzard offered a free promotion to try the vanilla expansion for 10 days free, so I figured why not?

I downloaded the installer, which then had run over night; broadband of the late 2000s is not the broadband of today. After work the next day, I installed and the rest is history.  I made my wife watch the opening cinematic -- twice. That dwarven hunter with his bear was the reason I rolled my hunter -- still my main toon today.  I was totally blown away by the quality, the story, the pure "epicness" of the game. I loved questing, and grouping, and crafting, and dungeons. Mostly, I enjoy the escapism of it all -- getting away from real life and immersing myself in a fantasy world that always evolves.

It took me nine months to reach level 70 on my hunter, but I enjoyed the hell out of the experience. Once I hit 70, I wanted to repeat the experience, but this time as a healer so I rolled a priest alt.  The addiction reached new levels: today, I have seven level 85s [hunter, priest, death knight, shaman, druid, warlock, and paladin]. Also in that stable are two characters [rogue and mage] progressing through Outland in their 60s, and a level 29 warrior loving Warsong Gulch and Arathi Basin.  Hey, PVP with BoA gear is ridiculously fun!

I never succeeding in joining a raid team during TBC, but I was fortunate to raid as both a hunter and a priest during the Wrath expansion. My raiding experience culminated with Arthas' defeat the week before 4.0 was released. Since then, I burned out (which translates to wanted to get more than four hours of sleep) and I have reverted back to questing, instancing and rambling through Cataclysm at my  own pace. With the coming Mists, I'll add an eleventh alt  -- if you guessed Pandarian Monk you're on my wavelength -- and continue towards my personal goal of having a max-level character of every class.

So consider this a teaser or a text-based trailer into Me. The whole point of this blog will be to share my thoughts, musings, ramblings and rants stemming from my experiences in and out of Azeroth. I have no idea how this will shape up, or the direction this will lead, but I hope to have some company along the ride.

Until the next post!