Lodur on Twisted Nether

Well folks, looks like this Saturday I’ll be joining the folks over at Twisted Nether for fun and shenanigans. You should make sure you free up some time and come join us, I know I would appreciate it. Taken right from their website

 

  • When is it?: This live show is scheduled for Saturday, April 14th at 8pm PT (11pm ET). Not sure what time that is for you? Use this handy-dandy time converter!
  • Where do I go? To participate on the live show, you will need to go to the TNB Live Show page to connect with the stream. See, totally easy. If you are having issues then go to the Ustream page. Don’t forget to register/login to UStream so you can chat with us!
  • Some general ground rules:
    1. Be nice. If you say very inappropriate things be aware you will be kicked from the room. We are doing this to have a great time, come with a beer, come during a raid, come how you wish, just don’t come to cause trouble.
    2. You may ask questions to the participants during the show, but we reserve the right to use them if and when we can. We will be monitoring the chat room and if we can we will use the comments during the show. We love that you are with us, but we will have to weave them in. Even if it isn’t asked, we all appreciate your questions!

So be sure to stop by and spend some time with us!

The Burden of Leadership, Lodur bares his thoughts

There are a lot of folks out there that think being in charge, or in a leadership role, of a guild is a big fun thing. You get to set permissions, invite, kick and all that other cool stuff! Truth is, at least for me, it’s another job. Being in charge means that, like at every other job, you are responsible for those beneath you and how they perform. On top of that you become involved in the day to day running of something larger than yourself. This is especially true if you are among the leadership of a raiding guild.

After leaving Unpossible after 5 long years, I had put the officer mantle in the laundry bin to be cleaned pressed and put under glass. Circumstances did not allow me to leave the mantle alone for long, and I find myself in a leadership role again. Over the last two tiers I’ve had a lot on my plate between being in game, my podcast For The Lore, still consistently writing for WoW Insider, and also writing a novel that I’m submitting for publication consideration in the following weeks. On top of various other personal things, it’s been a hell of a long year and I find myself with an over abundance of ideas on the topic of leadership in a raiding guild. So, bear with me here, because I’m about to dump my thoughts a little.

The burden
The wear and tear
The hard choices

Truthfully it wears on you over time. You have to make a lot of hard decisions that are not always easy, and certainly aren’t popular with everyone. Lets take on the topic of friendship in real life, and raiding in game. I’ve talked about it before, but it’s something that keeps rearing it’s ugly head over and over again. Being someone’s friend does not make you immune from being included in those hard choices a competitive raiding guild faces. This includes officers and the rank-and-file of the raid team. Sometimes,  you have to look at someone’s performance, and if found wanting must bench them or otherwise remove them from a fight or raid, until performance can be fixed. It’s for the good of the entire team, and the progression of the raid, and ultimately if that’s your goal that’s what matters most. Don’t take it personally, it’s not a slight against you as a person, it’s just that the numbers aren’t where they need to be. I’ll use myself as an example here.

Firelands was not very kind to restoration shaman. The fights were ones that didn’t let us take advantage of our strengths and as a result other healers tended to do better than us. In our raid team, there were many fights where I would sit myself for the other healers because they were that good and the numbers worked out better. I did the same thing with the second restoration shaman in our group. Do I think I’m a crappy healer? Do I think the other restoration shaman just sucks? No, I don’t, it was just better numbers to configure our raid healers a different way to optimize success.

When you have to bench someone who is a friend of yours, especially in real life, sometimes it’s hard for that person not to be upset by it. I understand that, I get that, but it’s not personal. It’s not that they aren’t your friend, or that you suck at the game, it’s just that things needed to be done a different way. It’s not an easy decision to make, but sometime’s it’s the necessary one You have to separate the leader from the friend when those decisions are handed down the same way you would if your friend was your boss at your 9-5 job. It’s not easy, but it is what it is.

A sellers market
Make your own choices
Evaluate your position

There’s a saying that “it’s my game time and I’ll play how I want to play.” That’s all good and true, I mean you are paying to play the game. Consider, however, that you might not be in the best place to play the game the way you want to. A progression raiding group is going to be looking for a pretty solid set of criteria.  These include, but are not limited to the following

  • Are you willing to change your spec, gearing, chants and reforging to a more optimal setup?
  • Are you willing to play a spec you don’t normally play?
  • Are you willing to be benched if it’s for the good of the team?
  • Are you open to criticism about your performance and information to help attempt to improve your output?

If you answer no to any of these, then you should probably not try to get into a progression raiding guild. If you don’t want to budge on how you play your game it’s just not the right environment for you. Blizzard has made a big deal out of “bring the player, not the class, or spec or cooldown” etc. For the most part that’s true, but when you’re edging into hard mode encounters, or sometimes just a normal encounter in itself, and you want to get through it quickly and efficiently, then it simply isn’t always the case. See above where I benched myself for the good of the raid on a fight. No matter what, there’s always going to be an optimal setup. Whether it’s a raid full of paladins, or nothing but druid healers in a group, there will always be a tweak. Can you do the fights without the optimal group? Sure, but it becomes harder and harder as you progress through content. Sounds counter intuitive, but I assure you it’s true.

Another truth here is that right now it’s a sellers market. What do I mean by that? Cataclysm has royally screwed recruitment over pretty badly. Finding new members to add to your guild  can be a pain and prove rather difficult, especially when you’ve something specific in mind. It’s not that “beggars can’t be choosers” or anything of that nature, but a progression raiding guild might not be keen on accepting that applicant in normal Cataclysm blues and can’t spell their own name when the group is trying to kill heroic Deathwing. There’s a guild for everyone out there, and you need just look if you want to play a particular way that you aren’t allowed to where you are.

LFR
Doing what it takes
Better for the guild as a whole

This is something of a recent development, and something that irked me a little bit. A lot of guilds out there do LFR weekly as a group in order to obtain set bonuses for raiders, gear up new recruits and sometimes just to get a feel for the fight. It makes sense really, it’s an easy way to gear up and see the fights, and still have a bit of a safety net. Hell, my guild even did it for a few weeks to get some set bonuses in action. As a group we were going to go in, and just pound out the 8 bosses on LFR and then go back and do normal raiding. With the raid as geared as it was, LFR should have been easy and would do nothing but help everyone.

What got me about it was that some folks just simply said no and refused to participate in the LFR runs, even if it would help them and the raid as a group. I understand having a preference, I myself am not a huge fan of LFR any longer, but even I showed up for those runs because it allowed people to gear up, see fights and did nothing but raise the entire guild higher and help with normal raiding. What got me was that those same people wanted priority on invites to the normal raid, and expected to get the normal equivalent gear. When neither happened, they complained.

Not going to say someone should be forced into doing something they don’t want to do, but the way it was handled was bad. Immaturely logging out, refusal to listen to reason, and claiming that there wasn’t anything in it for them so they wouldn’t do it. Even when it was needed most, refusing to help the guild by tagging along. Like above, you have to be willing to give a little, especially in a group who wants to accomplish progression raiding. Sometimes you’ll be asked to do something you don’t want to do to help the group. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet, and if you can’t, then maybe you’re in the wrong place.

In the end

This is what’s been on my mind for two tiers now. Working out ways to do what needs to be done, and convey that the decisions aren’t personal, that the raid group as a whole is a larger organism thriving on everyone in the group working to the same means. It’s hard sometimes. It’s frustrating, and borderline infuriating some nights. But, it is what it is. At the end of the day, it’s the officers who bear an incredible amount of burden. Now, I’m not quitting or burning out mind you, just needed to gather my thoughts and get them out “on paper” so to speak. I appreciate my raiders and the ones that not only give me their all but also do more than that. The ones that send me funny tells in raid to keep me laughing or just making sure we’re progressing, I appreciate their actions and what they do for us the officer corp, and for the raid group as a whole.  Sorry for the brain-dump folks, but hope you enjoyed a glimpse into the skull of ol’ Lodur here.

How to Lose 14 Players in One Night

It took the guild 3 years, but it was bound to happen sooner or later.

I just lost over 14 players from my raiding roster.

It started out as a simple personnel disagreement. There was a quiet debate raging within me for some time. On the one hand, I understand the strains of progression raiding and the impact it can make to a roster especially on the drive to having flawless raid nights. We all want a mistake-free raid group with players who can ace every obstacle thrown at them.

But does that mean putting up with personalities you don’t agree with all the time? The game was getting to the point where it was no longer fun for me.

Actually, scratch that. The game itself was fine. The managing social dynamics and personalities aspect made the game not fun. All I ever wanted to do was kill internet dragons, with friends or otherwise. One of the policies I even had in place for players was that they weren’t required to be friends with everyone. They didn’t have to go to the bar with them or anything. Over time, however, I began to wonder if that was a standard I could hold to myself. I realized that I had a very difficult time doing that because of all the added responsibilities and inter-personal problems that I had to deal with as part of my rank. As a player, in contrast to being an officer or guild leader, the only person you really need to be cool with is the GM. If the GM isn’t cool with you, then there’s no point in being there. This goes hand in hand with the chemistry clause – The right for applicants to be rejected because they don’t “fit” with the guild.

Competence and likeability are not mutually exclusive. The players I’m looking for have both. But it seems that the higher the skill level you go, the more disrespectful people become. Why? I can’t help but wonder if it’s because they believe their skills can give them an excuse to act however they want and get away with it. I don’t want to deal with that. If a player is skilled but not likeable, I’ll end up showing them the door. If a player is likeable but not skilled, eventually a newer player will work their way in and take their spot. That’s just how it is going to be.

Respect the chain of command

For any budding officers out there, this is the most important rule. If you bring up an idea, any GM worth their salt will at least hear you out and weigh all the negatives and positives associated with it. It’s up to you to sell your perspective. But once the decision from the top is made, that’s that. There is no higher authority to appeal to. You’ll have a hard time finding a GM who says otherwise. Do not try to circumvent it even if you know every fibre of your being says it is the right or wrong thing to do. The only thing you can do is look inside yourself and decide if it’s worth leaving over. That choice is absolutely yours to exercise. There’s no contract obligations that force you to stay in a guild.

In this particular case, cliques were cliques. When it comes to social groups like this, nothing’s going to stop people from playing with who they want. Trying to would just cause a social group to leave and create their own guild. This was a scenario I actually had in my mind as a realistic possibility. I don’t take kindly to ultimatums or threats of leaving at all. Given the option between killing internet dragons with people I’ve shared beers and had a good time with versus players who are willing to throw other people under a bus at a whim, I’d rather shoot for the former. I absolutely love raiding but not at the cost of my own mental health. Leading a guild isn’t easy at all when it comes to executive level decision making.

I still maintain that is perfectly possible to raid in a progressive raiding environment with people who you enjoy playing with. I see it in other guilds all the time. It’s my ongoing goal to reach that state, current drama aside. The only thing I can do is look forward and exercise my recruiting skills. And what an opportunity!

The thing about hindsight is that it always occurs after the events. I wish I had gone on offense sooner and made earlier changes. I don’t know if that would have offset the events, but it means I would have been forced to start the rebuild earlier. You always think and second guess to yourself wondering if that was the right thing to do. Or if there was another alternative solution or another way. I can’t answer that because I don’t know. I felt I offered enough of a compromise by allowing a player to stick around in the guild and idle on our Mumble servers even if they weren’t in our raid team any no longer. But that’s not enough.

Regardless, I’m sure they’ll be fine. I know for a fact we’ll be fine. 9 out of 10 rebuild guilds don’t actually make it and I have zero intention of being a statistic.

I also may have made up said previous statistic.

My options

  • Do 10 mans
  • Look for another guild
  • Quit the game
  • Rebuild us back to even strength

10 mans are okay. I could go look for another guild. I could just retire from the game and step down from blogging and writing on WoW Insider.

Or I can pick my ass up off the floor, dust myself off and get back to work. I challenge you to find a GM more determined than myself. Am I saddened? Yeah, a little. Do I feel that I can recover? Oh, you bet I will. This is a great opportunity!

That being said, Conquest is open for business. Firelands 25 man raiding only and we’re presently 6/7. We’re looking for all players in any position. I think we’re stacked on Resto Shamans though. I have almost no melee DPS remaining so I’ll be entertaining Rogues, Warriors, DKs, Enhancement Shamans. Hunters, I have many of. But at this point I just need bodies. I’m interested in any caster classes. I’m also looking for hybrid specced tanks who can double as DPS (a main tank and an off tank position).

Join now

If you have any questions or want to discuss a few things beforehand, feel free to get in touch with me or Lodur anytime.

Circle of Healing: Lodur version 4.2

Matt beat me too it, but I too felt it was about time to do one of these again.  A while ago, the circle of healing was started as a way of members of the community to share information about themselves will everyone else in the blog-o-sphere. It has been so long, in fact, that many updates and an expansion have come along since I last filled this out! So, I guess it’s time for an update, as many things have in fact changed for me. For example, I’m no longer on Zul’jin, instead now I’m on Ner’Zhul.

Name, class and spec: [A] Lodur, Restoration Shaman (Ner’zhul)

What is your primary group healing environment? 25 man progression raiding

What is your favorite healing spell for your class and why?

If I had to pick one it would have to be Spirit Link Totem. If you’ve been reading me for any length of time, you’ll know that I’ve had a love affair with this spell since it was first conceptualized in the beta for Wrath of the Lich King. I’ve fawned over it, lamented it’s removal from the game, and celebrated (actually through a party IRL) the re-integration of this amazing spell back into our arsenal in Cataclsym. I’ve been finding new ways to use it and ways to combine it with other spells like Rallying Cry and Power Word: Barrier in various encounters for new and awesome results. I think though, that it really is my favorite not because of it’s versatility, but because I have been crusading for the spell to be brought back since it was removed. Funnily enough, putting it from a spell we cast into a totem to add a limitation to it was one of the very first things I ever fired off towards Blizzard years ago. I love me some totems.

What healing spell do you use least for your class and why?

If you asked me in the last tier of content I would have said Greater Healing Wave. Now though, I honestly don’t know. Every spell we have has a place in each encounter. It’s not like we have a huge toolkit (though it has been expanded over the years). If I had to just pick a spell that is classified under healing but I never use, it would probably be Totem of Tranquil Mind. It’s a water totem, water is the shaman element of healing, therefore I classify it as a healing spell. I just never use the damn thing. Compared to Mana Spring Totem or Healing Stream Totem, it’s just always outclassed. Honestly, give me back my damn Sentry Totem! At least I used that.

What do you feel is the biggest strength of your healing class and why?

Versatility. Shaman are capable of going from single target healing to group healing without really having to worry about switching gear or stats. While some stats are preferable for each role, we are capable of swapping on the fly and that lends us a certain strength. Combine that with a new defensive cooldown that cuts through healing reducing effects and well, we’re just one awesome healing class.

What do you feel is the biggest weakness of your healing class and why?

Unlike other classes our mastery is good/bad in a cycle. Beginning of a tier, or at the start of hardmodes, shaman mastery is a champ. After that however, it sort of becomes the redheaded stepchild in lieu of throughput stats like haste and crit. Other classes benefit from their masteries pretty much all the time, where ours only really gets the lime light if someone messes up and takes a ton of damage, or the raid as a whole is failing. It actually gets worse as players skill and gear improve. What’s up with that?

In a 25 man raiding environment, what do you feel, in general, is the best healing assignment for you?

Raid healing. I’m a roll healer by desire, I love placing Healing Rains, rolling Riptide and Chain Heal and keeping up as many people as I can through some ridiculous damage. I do well at it and I enjoy it. I also think I excel at special assignment healing, such as healing the kiting team for heroic Magmaw, that was just a blast.

Which healing class do you enjoy healing with most and why?

Toss up between Druid and Priest. There’s a lot of synergy there between the way druids and shaman heal together, as well as both flavors of priest. Hymns, barrier, Tranquility and crazy HoTs, they all seem to compliment shaman healing quite well.

What healing class do you enjoy healing with least and why?

Paladins, for the pure petty reason that they stole my Healing Stream mechanic! no honestly its just because of the difference in healing styles. I have a hard time working around paladins most of the time because they just feel like a brute force healing class where as the others feel more delicate or graceful.  No offense to any paladins out there, I know they are exciting to play, I just can’t get the image of a paladin busting his holy book over someone’s head while screaming “BE HEALED BY THE LIGHT” out of my mind.

What is your worst habit as a healer?

My worst habit? That’s a tough one. If I had to pick one it would be stopping healing on a wipe. I just can’t do it. I reflexively continue to heal until it finally clicks in my brain “oh, wait, wipe. Stop healing now!”. Partially this stems from a raid I was in years ago where the Raid Leader called a wipe and I told healers to keep going. We healed through a metric ton of damage and actually beat the boss. It was something that kind of defines me. Till the very last, I’m on the front lines healing your dudes. Whether it’s called for or not >.>

What is your biggest pet peeve in a group environment while healing?

Matt said it, and I’m going to echo it. Getting blamed for healing problems when it’s not a healing problem. There seems to be this mindset, recently even more so than before, that any problem can be solved by obtaining better healers. Sure, sometimes the healers are messing up or need to tighten up, but rarely is it actually a bad healer.  Too often are healers judged purely on meters and raw numbers. Sure World of Logs analysis plays a part in evaluating a healers performance, but unlike DPS being the top of the charts in healing isn’t always a good thing. There are always different factors to consider such as the fight, healing assignment , class of the healer as well as the healing team in the raid. Everyone is quick to blame healers, when DPS standing in the wrong spot can cause a wipe just as much as low healing.

I’ve been healing a long time. I’ve been writing here, my own blog and at WoW Insider now for quite sometime. I got to these places as a healer trying to explain healing to other healers. That’s tough enough some days, but try explaining it to non healers sometime. That’s a brick wall that’s hard to crack most of the time.

Do you feel that your class/spec is well balanced with other healers for PvE healing?

Yes. Shaman were used as the “model for healing” this expansion, so we’ve always been a viable class / spec. Even when our numbers weren’t perfect we were still doing well. Now with recent adjustments we’re right about where we need to be and I think we are pretty well balanced.

What tools do you use to evaluate your own performance as a healer

To evaluate my own performance I’ll go through World of Logs and check to make sure my spell usage is consistent with the encounter and my assignment in the encounter. If it is not, then that’s usually my cue to change what I’m doing.

What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your healing class?

Honestly, I’m kind of tired of hearing the phrase “shaman can’t heal this”. I have yet to fail in any healing assignment. Just because I don’t top the meter doesn’t mean I can’t heal something. All the classes are capable of all the healing roles. True some may be better than others, but nothing quite gets under my skin like the statement that I CAN’T heal something because I’m a shaman.

What do you feel is the most difficult thing for new healers of your class to learn?

Getting rid of healer tunnel vision. New healers are rarely aware of their own health totals, and you can usually tell how long a healer has been healing by how quickly they react to incoming damage. Whether it’s healing themselves or blowing a cooldown to survive it tends to be a tell-tale sign. That habit is hard to kick, and it’s because of that I love any addon that lets you put your own health in an easily visible place, or ones like GTFO which audibly alerts you to incoming damage or spell effects.

If someone were to try to evaluate your performance as a healer via recount, what sort of patterns would they see?

That I tend to pace my healing for long fights. I’m a long sight healer. I try to make sure I’m using the most cost effective heal for the job. So my throughput might not be as high as some of the other healers in the group, but I make sure I have mana to continuously heal through a fight, unlike a certain dwarf priest. Also that I cast Lightning Bolt quite a bit!

Haste or Crit and why?

The new 4.2 crit giving 200% healing is nice, but I’ll still pick haste first every time. Haste is just so good when it comes to pumping out the healing, and getting to each haste plateau does nothing but improve my healing and help increase the effectiveness I bring to a raid. That’s right folks, I’m a haste junkie!

What addons or macros do you use to aid you in healing?

Aside from a focus macro for Earth Shield and ones to keep me from casting Heroism or Mana Tide when not in combat, the only really healer centric thing I use for myself is Grid. I have it completely configured to show me exactly what I need to know for every member of the raid.

Do you strive primarily for balance between your healing stats or do you stack some much higher than others and why?

I try to hit the haste caps (916 and now 2005) and then after that I maintain balance between my primary healing stats. Haste just gives me so much more throughput on pretty much everything that I can’t ignore it.  I then adjust the rest of my stats according to the tier of content or fight, but generally try to maintain a balance.

That’s it for me on this circle of healing patch 4.2 edition. Normally I would tag individuals, but instead I’m going to tag the entire restoration shaman community as well as anyone who follows me on twitter, or on google +. This also goes for any of the readers out there with blogs of their own! Consider yourselves tapped for this Circle of healing, and I completely expect posts from you guys!

Battle.net Authenticator Changes, Don’t Panic!

So in-case you missed it, there was a recent change to how our accounts are authenticated, here it is again for you again if you didn’t see it.

If you use an authenticator – and we hope you do – you may soon notice that an authenticator prompt may not appear with every login. We’ve recently updated our authentication system to intelligently track your login locations, and if you’re logging in consistently from the same place, you may not be asked for an authenticator code. This change is being made to make the authenticator process less intrusive when we’re sure the person logging in to your account is you.

We hope to continue improving the authenticator system to ensure the same or greater security, while improving and adding features to make having one a more user friendly experience. If you don’t already have a Battle.net Authenticator attached to your account, don’t wait until it’s too late - http://us.battle.net/en/security/checklist

Well, this statement has raised quite a few questions. Many of us in the gaming community work in Information Technology / Information Security, and we are quite honestly interested in having more information on this.

Now before I get started I want to have a note here that the information after this point will represent a more general view of internet protocol. This is not intended to be a tech manual, just the musings of an internet worker who is also a gamer.

There are a couple ways that you might authenticate a computer at a physical location. One is by authenticating the public IP address that is reaching out to the login server. If you see multiple requests from the same IP in a short period of time, you can assume this is the same person to a certain degree. This works in part because IPs are purchased by ISP’s and assigned to a specific region. After that, you as the user rent the IP with a lease sort of like renting an apartment. If you have a static IP, you have a “permanent” lease on that particular IP. If you use a DHCP service, like cable internet, it may change based on what’s available. Every time you get a new IP, it’s from your local region and the local pool. It could also authenticate by not only your public IP address, but also your computers MAC address. A MAC address is a unique identifier that all networking devices have. Think of it like a social security number for your computer. Each one is unique per device. There is however a couple potential problems; IP’s / MAC addresses can be spoofed. Not that it’s something you should be worried about all the time, but it is a fact that it can happen. Also if you have a Dynamic IP and it solely authenticates by the address, every time your IP changes it could cause issues.

Another manner is the creation of software tokens that are placed on client end at the point of logging in. Essentially you log in to your account and a software token, or marker of a successful login, is created on your machine to further authenticate you. By doing this it can validate the token on your machine instead of requiring you to to punch in your authenticator code every time.  The potential problem with software tokens is that if your system is compromised due to trojans or other methods, it could result in a compromising of the security token. Again, while this isn’t something to worry about all the time, but it does happen.

There are several other methods you could use, but those are probably the easiest.

So what method is Blizzard using? Well I decided to perform a little experiment last night to see what I could gleam as far as information goes. Since I work for an ISP in my daily Clark Kent style life I have access to a few things that I can do easily (and legally) to perform a simple test.

Step one was to pick a new IP. I changed my IP to one available from a local pool in the lovely state of Wisconsin. I logged into my Bnet account, it asked for my authenticator normally. I logged out for a period of time, roughly 15 minutes, logged back in and it did not ask me for my Authenticator.

Step two was to change back to a local IP address from back in good old NY state. I logged into my bnet account, and it asks me for my authenticator code. I logged out for another 15 minutes and then logged back in and it did not ask me for my authenticator.

Step three was to repeat step one, but this time after it did not ask me for my authenticator I logged out and completely shut down and restarted the computer. Logging back in required me to use my authenticator. I repeated the steps with a local IP with the same results. Continuing this process multiple times confirmed the same results, each time with different IPs.

From this incredibly simple experiment it would seem that the new authentication process is using a combination of validating your IP either for location, consistency, or potentially both as well as potentially a software token on your machine validating it after a successful login. Every time you cold boot your computer it will remove temporary data, including any software tokens created. Whether or not this is actually how Blizzard is doing it, we won’t know unless they say something.

There are a couple things that confuse me slightly. First is that there was no prior announcement to the change going live rather than it just appearing. I’m wondering if this is a knee-jerk reaction to the recent string of hacker invasions going on across the blog-o-sphere. Second the lack of explanation of the process is concerning, not the exact process per say, but knowledge that this was carefully thought out and not hastily implemented would be comforting, as well as hearing the reasons for the change. Lastly is that there is no option to opt out of it, it just happens. If nothing else I am a creature of habit, and I like typing in my authenticator code every single time. It’s a preference, but it’s something that I would like to have the option to continue doing.

So in the end, while my first reaction to the change was not a positive one, I feel much better about it after my simple experiment. At the very least we know that they are checking for multiple factors before just allowing you to log in. While on a professional level I would love to know more about the process they are using, I don’t think it’s anything we should be too overly worried about. Now if only we could get that pesky opt in/out toggle…

WoW Premium services: Yes/no/murloc?

Over the course of a game’s lifetime, things change. Features are added, pricing models change, content evolves. Blizzard’s fantasy epic World of Warcraft is no different. The game has been around for over six years at this point, and in that time we’ve seen many things change.

Remember when the game was first released? There were PvE server and PvP servers. On PvE servers you could have toons of both factions no problem, but on PvP servers it simply wasn’t allowed. Over time that changed, and Blizzard allowed you to make toons of both factions on a PvP server. There was also a time when Blizzard said you wouldn’t be able to pay to transfer your toon to another server, that it was only for server stability / population control. Not too long after the service became available for a small fee, the birth of the WoW premium service. From there we’ve gotten to recustomize our characters look, the ability to race change or change factions and all for a small one time fee. Every time this has happened, people have drawn a line in the sand. Either they love it, or they love to hate it.

Recently we’ve seen more in the way of Micro-transactions and premium services being added into the game. In game mounts like the Sparkle-Pony or the Winged Lion coupled with numerous in-game mini pets are available for purchase with real money. Pets will run you $10, mounts will run you $25. When they are purchased they are made available for all of your characters that currently exist, and any that you will create from this point on. Permanently attaching the items to your Battle.net account. There are also other premium features, such as the remote auction house. For an additional $3 a month, you can set up and purchase auctions from your enabled mobile device, and as an added bonus you can talk to your guild mates using the application as well.

The most recent announcement was that the developers at Blizzard are working on a Cross-Realm Dungeon Feature. In case you missed it, or are reading this post from somewhere not Blizzard-site friendly here’s the blue post

With the continued popularity of the Dungeon Finder, many players have been asking for a way to group up with real-life friends who play on other realms to take on instances together. Today, we wanted to give you a heads up about a new feature currently in development that will allow players to invite Real ID friends ( http://us.battle.net/en/realid/ ) of the same faction to a party regardless of the realm they play on, and then queue up for a 5-player regular or Heroic dungeon.

As this is a fairly complex service to develop, we don’t have a release date to share quite yet. It’s important to note that as with some of the other convenience- and connectivity-oriented features we offer, certain elements of the cross-realm Real ID party system will be premium-based, though only the player sending the invitations will need to have access to the premium service. We’ll have more details to share with you as development progresses — in the meantime, you may begin to see elements of the feature appear on the World of Warcraft PTR.

So there it is, for a small fee, you will be able to invite your friends across servers into a group for 5-man dungeon running. This actually caused almost as much a stir as Real ID did when it was first announced. People either love, or hate the idea of having to pay to play with friends across different servers. Ignoring everything else, premium services or these additional cookies are luxuries. They don’t break the game, or give someone an unfair advantage. They are options, and love them or hate them they are very much real.

My personal opinion on this particular premium service is that I like it. I like the idea of being able to play my alts with friends from other servers for dungeon running. I recently moved servers and left a lot of my friends behind. I’m exactly the demographic that this premium service is aimed at. Is it for everyone? No, not even close. For some people though, they’ll gladly pay the extra cash for it.

Do premium services ruin the game? Are they a betrayal of the customer / supplier relationship we have with Blizzard Entertainment? I don’t think it does. These are all optional and don’t really have an impact on the overall game-play, they are just nice cookies for us to enjoy if we feel the price is right. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to pay for it. If it suits your needs, you can indulge in it. Our $15 a month has brought us many improvements over the years. New servers, higher population caps, improved development in characters, raids and the UI. The ability to talk with friends across servers anytime I want. I don’t think our free upgrades are done by a long shot, and if Blizzard wants to charge for additional services, that is their choice. While I can understand both sides of the coin, at the end of the day I see it as you’re paying your monthly fee to play the game, all the other stuff are just extra. The things they develop as premium services aren’t for every audience, so developing them for smaller groups, sure there may be a cost attached. I mean hey, just because you aren’t paying for mobile armory every month doesn’t mean you’re going to miss the chance to punch Deathwing in the face.

What do you think?

Topping Meters vs Assigned Role

Ask the healing community what they think about healing meters and you’ll get a varied response. Some people swear by them and attempt to dominate the healing charts or rank on fights through World of Logs (usually recent converts from DPS roles to healing). Other folks see them as a tool to measure spell usage and the overall feel of healing for a fight, not really caring what the overall numbers say.

Recently there has been a resurgence in the camp of people that evaluate healing based on nothing more than the number on meters and logs. While normally this is relegated to what I like to call “outsiders looking in”, or rather non-healers attempting to evaluate healing, it has become an increasing point of measurement amongst healers in Cataclysm. It is with that in mind that I bring up the age old question once again; what is more important,  topping meters or performing well in your assigned task?

Top O’the charts to ye

There are a group of players that care only about the numbers, and only care about how they rank in relation to one another. They have an inherit need to be the top dog, the big boss, the head honcho of the meters. This is because they equate larger numbers with success. For DPS there is some merit there, and having that competition between DPSers can help push your raid’s DPS to rather insane numbers. Sadly though, this doesn’t work for healers or tanks quite as well. Being concerned with topping the charts can lead to some unfortunate happenings.

The most notable effect is that people who tend to heal with the sole intent of hitting the top of the charts tend to run on E longer than other healers, and sooner. They waste more consumables and waste more raid resources like Innervates, or force earlier Mana Tides just to keep going. The wasting of resources can lead to trouble for other healers down the line, and can jeopardize the raid as a whole. A second effect is that you tend to snipe heals from other healers. This means an increase in over-healing and a waste of mana. Every time a healer snipes a heal from another healer, you’re basically denying them the effective healing for mana spent on whatever spell was about to land. Lastly, you have the potential to spread yourself too thin, which can result in a dead raid. Topping the meters on a wipe, well it’s still a wipe.

…narrow of purpose and wide of vision

Another group of players follows their assignments with slavish devotion. They latch on to their healing assignment, and even when they can see other people in need of help do not deviate. They put on healing blinders as it were. This can cause just as many problems as people who try to hog the healing glory. A tank healer may keep the tank alive, but may end the fight with a full mana bar, where other healers may have struggled and ended the fight with no mana and a list of dead that shouldn’t have been dead. The raid healer who focuses on nothing but the raid, but ignores the tanks could see a dead tank.

Locking yourself into one tiny aspect can turn you into a dead weight that brings the raid down with you. If you and your assignment are the last ones standing, and everyone else in the group is dead because you couldn’t deviate from the plan slightly or adjust, well you just doomed them all.

The Question, the answer, and the in-between

Would you rather 1. Follow your healing assignment or 2.  Show up at the top of the healing meters ?

I posed this very question on twitter to see what type of response I would get from the healing community. Seems like both sides of the coin are tainted so to speak doesn’t it? The question is in and of itself a trick. Both answers are wrong. Adhering to a narrow view of the raid can be as bad as trying to garner meter glory. I was pleased that almost everyone responded with the correct answer, adapt.

While healers shouldn’t be concerned with their placement on the meters so much as making sure they are putting out the healing relevant to their current raid content, they shouldn’t abandon their assignments and just do whatever they want. Raid leaders and healing leads assign people to certain tasks for reasons. Whether it is to coordinate defensive cooldowns on a fight or to make sure the healing load is even, they (hopefully) have the best intent for the group and know what they are talking about. That said,they expect you to adapt to the situation around you and help out as you can. Don’t try to be the hero, trust your teammates, but keep an eye out on what’s going on.

If your healing assignment is stable and you see a problem area that needs a little TLC, help. If you are in need of a little help in your task, ask for it. If you don’t agree with your assignment don’t ignore it outright, talk with the heal / raid lead about it and see if you can make a better plan. Our job as healers is to deal with some of the most difficult things the game has to offer. We have to adjust to fluctuating damage, mix ups, mistakes all while dodging fires, void zones, raid bosses, and rabid hockey fans. You have to stay on your toes and be aware, and be prepared to adapt.

Screw the meters, our job is to make sure that we worked as a team to keep the raid alive through the encounter as best we can. You do the task assigned to you, and once your stable and comfortable you branch out if you can and help sure up the sides. To give you a perfect example, we had an encounter where a raid cooldown went off early due to a miss-click. One of the other healers immediately stepped in and filled in out of his normal sequence for cooldowns to cover the miss-click, without being asked to. The healing team was able to adjust and it literally saved the encounter. It’s all about balance in the end. You do what you can to help out the raid without trying to be a hero. I encourage you to throw meters out the window and focus on survival, survival of the raid, of your assignment and of yourself. THAT is what you should be worried about. You show me a parse where you pulled 32k HPS on a H- Chimaeron wipe, and I’ll still show you a wipe. If people try to evaluate you purely on your meter rankings rather than looking at everything you do, ignore them.

Lodur’s Epic Journey to PaxEast 2011

If you didn’t know, for the last several months I’ve been the third seat on the RaidWarning podcast. This comes after the BDTU podcast came to a close. Since then I’ve dove back into podcasting pretty hard as it’s something I really love. We were invited back this year to do a Live Podcast at PAX East 2011. I was excited because though I’ve attended Blizzcon and other conventions, this was the first time I would be attending a convention as both Media and as a Speaker. My excitement only escalated further when I saw this little snippet posted on their site;

TypeFrag Presents: Raid Warning Live!
Manticore Theatre
Sunday, 12:30pm – 1:30pm
It happened at PAX Prime and it’s happening here. Seven, David, and Joe, hosts of the ill-humored World of Warcraft podcast, Raid Warning, step out from behind their Brewfest steins for a live broadcast show. Expect the latest in WoW community news, prizes, and Cataclysm information while the hosts and their guests attempt to do what their fans have requested: be funny live. Guest Lineup: Dustin Blackwell (MMOMFG.com) and more! 

 

Panelists include: Seven DeBord [Host, Raid Warning], David Morrison [Co-Host, Raid Warning], Joe Perez [Co-Host, Raid Warning], Dustin Blackwell [guest, MMOMFG.com], Jeff Cannata [guest, Weekend Confirmed]

It’s pretty exciting even still, and now that I’m home from PAX I’m going to frame the page from the convention book. So, back to the epic journey story part right? right!

Well anyways, I begin to make my plans to get to Boston, MA in time for the con. I start looking at train tickets and plane tickets and then notice that it’s only a 7 hour drive from my hometown to Boston. I ask the significant other and we decide that we’ll make the drive. Preparations are made, and the day of the journey arrives. I leave work at 5pm EST and Tart and I begin our long drive to Boston. Everything is going great and I doze off in the passenger seat. I wake up a couple hours later and we stop for gas and some food. We pile back into the car and start on our way again. We make it a few miles down the road, and all of a sudden the RPM gauge drops to zero. The car is still running, but the lights are getting dimmer, the radio is freaking out a little bit, the speedometer stops tracking speed and the odometer stops tracking mileage.We pull off into the next rest stop, and turn the car off  as the lights are continuing to dim.

We get out check the engine and everything on the surface looks good, so we get back in and the car wont start up. We begin looking for a jump, thinking the battery may just be dead. We find a couple willing people, but when we remove the jumper cables, the car just dies out. We call Triple A and they give us a hard time about sending someone out. Over two hours later someone finally arrives, and starts by trying to give us a jump from the truck. The jump starts the car, but again once the power is removed the car dies out. So we get a tow to the nearest WalMart thinking we can just replace the battery. $200 tow later, we swap the battery out, start the car and head off into the night. We get about another 100 miles or so and the battery dies. Clearly at this point it’s the alternator, but it’s super late and there are no shops we can go to at this point to get it fixed. We wind up having to spend the night at the rest stop and waiting until morning. Let me tell you, sleeping in the car when it’s bloody cold is not fun.

Morning comes, we get a tow to a local shop. $374 and a new alternator later, we’re on the road again. We get to about 20 miles outside of Boston, and the car, yet again, dies. Same as before too. The RPM gauge drops to zero, followed by the speedometer and the odometer. We manage to get a tow into Watertown, and it turns out the alternator is dead again. That’s right the second one was bad as well. We get a cab and head to the hotel from the repair shop, and get ready to try and hit PAX. What should have been a 7 hour drive turned into a 25 hour excursion! Next time I go, I’m flying and being done with it!

While at PAX though, it was a truly great time. I got to hang out with the amazing people at Cryptozoic, the company that makes the WoW TCG, got to play Star Wars the Old Republic, Guild Wars 2 and Duke Nukem Forever (yes it exists and it is pretty damn sweet). I got to meet a lot of game developers and really get to know the people behind some of our favorite games.  It was quite an experience honestly, and one I really enjoyed. And on Sunday, despite all the hurdles we had getting there, the live show was a huge success. People had a good time, we handed out lots of loot and had some great conversations about WoW and the upcoming patch 4.1. We even got to drink some nice home-crafted beer while doing so. Most of all,  I really enjoyed meeting some of my readers and listeners face-to-face. Being able to shake hands with you guys and say hello was a great experience and one that I’m hoping I get to repeat often.

Is Blizzard keeping you in guild by threat of rep?

Is Blizzard keeping you in guild by threat of rep?

Last time I posted, I broke the news that I left my guild and home of 6 years on Zul’jin, Unpossible. I actually wound up moving servers completely, and now reside on Ner’zhul a US PvP server located in the bloodlust battlegroup. I am now a member of the Conquest guild, and attempt to harass Matt (otherwise known as Russelcus) daily. Making the transition was quite daunting. It involved leaving everything I knew behind, transferring servers from PvE to PvP, getting used to new guild structure, raiding roles, other healers, loot system differences and generally getting adjusted. I can say to that effect that the players in Conquest have been nothing but top notch, and really welcoming. They’ve done a damn good job of making this displaced shaman feel welcome while I adjust to my new environment. While on that topic, I’d like to give a big shout-out to all the crew, thanks for helping to make the transition a little bit easier. I’m having a blast raiding with them, and I’m looking forward to seeing a large group of them again this year at Blizzcon 2011.

Now to the meat and potatoes of today. When I transferred I went from being exalted with a guild, to starting back at scratch. That means I lost the ability to purchase any of the guild vendor items that required any sort of rep at all. At first I didn’t think it would be a big deal, but then I rolled an alt and really could use that heirloom helmet to speed up the leveling process, but I can’t buy it yet because I don’t have the rep. Or the fact that while our guild got the achievement Guild Glory of the Raider, I can’t cash in on the sweet sweet Dark Phoenix quite yet. It’s sort of this constant nagging reminder telling me that I haven’t really earned my keep yet. Having hit maximum level and completed all the quests besides dailies and a handful of quests in Vash’jir, I’m climbing up a pretty steep hill right now.

So I got to thinking, is this a deliberate design mechanic to keep people in their guilds? Before Cataclysm, recruitment was pretty steady. You could post on various sites and forums, send out twitter messages or put out a new video and you’d get at least a few nibbles. Now though, recruitment is pretty arduous. I know plenty of guilds that are having a hard time filling in certain classes or rolls, and others that would have to beat away applicants with a stick now are seeing a steady slowing in the trickle of new applicants. So I have to wonder how many people are staying in their current guilds based on their guild rep and the level bonuses? By adding in guild bonuses and guild rep, they’ve bread in a certain brand loyalty based around personal desire. Sure you can leave your guild and join another one, but you’ll have to grind that rep out all over again! Sure you can join that other guild, but they’re lower level than your current guild so you’ll loose all those nifty bonus abilities!

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not all about guild hopping or anything like that. But from where I’m sitting, we used to get a ton of emails about finding the right guild, questioning if the guild you’re in suits your needs, things like that. Those emails have dwindled quite a bit since Cataclysm was released. I know a couple of people, who the idea of doing the grind all over again was just the last straw, and instead of switching to a new guild and maybe having their love of the game renewed with a different group of people, they just stopped playing all together.

I think Blizzard recognizes this a little bit and in Patch 4.1 we’ll be getting Heirloom Tabards. The Illustrious Guild Tabard allows you to gain an additional 60% guild reputation from your questing and tasks, while the Renowned Guild Tabard grants an additional 100%. I’m fairly confident that the Renowned Guild Tabard will be something you can pickup at exalted for alts, and the illustrious tabard might almost be enough to ease the burden. It just depends on what rep level you’re required to have before you can purchase it. Both tabards have the added bonus of being bind on account items and can then be used for your various alts as you level them up to help cushion the rep crunch.

The question still remains though, with all these new perks and bonuses coming out for being in a guild, and the things like guild rep being a factor now, do you think that this has contributed to the dwindling returns on recruitment? Are these incentives enough that they keep people in their current guild rather than potentially finding a guild that may be a better fit for them? So what are your opinions on the topic?

By the time you read this I will be heading to PAX East in Boston. If you happen to be heading there as well, or will be in the area, feel free to contact me here or through Twitter. There are no formal meet-ups at the moment, but I will be partaking in a Live Podcast on Sunday March 13th at PAX, tentatively scheduled for 12:30 in the Manticore room. Be sure to stop by and say hello!

Breaking Up is Hard to do

Things change. This is one of the only true universal things that will remain constant. Every day you log into the game there is always something changing. Whether it is your gold totals, your gear or just what content is active at the time. Things change from an administration perspective as well.

These last few weeks I went through a large series of changes. It started with me stepping back from raiding for a bit due to personal reasons, and has culminated with me now leaving my former home on Zul’jin, Unpossible. That’s right folks, I am no longer a member of Unpossible, a place where I have done everything from dinging 60 and killing Ragnaros with all the way up to the current content. It was not an easy decision, in fact it was one that I dreaded and hemmed and hawed about. I’m not too ashamed to say I lost sleep over it. At the end of the day though I had to do what was right for me, and so I’ve moved Lodur to a new home.

Over time things will change in a guild. As people drop out of the game, or come back, or new people take charge as officers and old ones drop away. Over time the climate can change, and you may find yourself in a position where you don’t feel you fit 100% anymore. This is something we get contacted about quite a bit through email, about how you gracefully quit. Well, I recently have first hand knowledge of this and figured I would share my insight.

Take time making your decision

Before you make the decision to quit, be absolutely sure that this is the right decision. Weigh the pros and cons. Think about why you are considering leaving your current position and guild. Are you leaving to take up a position with another guild? If you consider the environment you’re about to join. Why are you considering them? Before making your final decision, see if you can maybe make an alt in the potential guild to see how everyone is. Maybe see if you can hang out on their vent or mumble servers.

The key here is to really not do anything brash. Take your time and evaluate all the angles before you hit that /gquit. The last thing you want to do is quit only to go somewhere else and realize that you didn’t want to quit in the first place. It’s never an easy decision, and honestly it shouldn’t be. It’s a big decision, especially now that there are other things to consider like guild level, perks and reputation.

You’ve decided to quit after all, now what?

Assuming you want to leave on good terms, give notice. A heads up, a forum post, even a notice to the officers or gm is nice.  It’s also good for you to get a goodbye post if your guild has forums. This gives you a chance to say goodbye to your friends, and also to make sure everyone knows what is up. Without notification, a guild quit can cause quite a stir, and one of the last things you want to do is cause a stir.

When contacting guild leadership about your pending gquit, there are a few things that you need to do.

1.) Be clear about when you are expecting to be gone by

2.) Be clear about why you are leaving. If there are things that need to be addressed or concerns that are causing you to leave, be sure to inform them. Even if it’s something as simple as a shift in playstyle and times. Management will usually be interested in why anyone is leaving so that they can fix any problems they come across.

3.)  Be respectful. Again if you want to leave on good terms, try to keep that in mind while you’re writing your resignation letter to the leadership and any farewell posts.

Sounds like leaving or resigning from a job right? Well, in many cases it is just like that. When you’re in a guild you tend to spend a lot of time with these people. If you’re a raider, it can be as many hours as a full time job. It may sound silly, but in the world of MMOs that’s something very true.

Personal note from Lodur

Leaving Unposssible was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. When I hit the send and submit buttons on my PMs  and forum posts it was honestly quite an emotional thing. Having spent the vast majority of my WoW career with this group of people, drinking with them, gaming with them, sharing personal support with one another, it was like leaving a family. My decision to leave was based entirely upon my own personal issues, and it was the best of a series of bad options available to me. My departure was in not the result of failure on the part of leadership or anything else like that. I still have the utmost respect for all my friends, former raiders and former officers from Unpossible, and I never had, nor will, have a bad thing to say about them. If you’re on Zul’jin looking for a home, look them up. So for anyone from Unpossible that I didn’t get to say goodbye to, I will still be around and you better not be strangers. We’ll cross paths again soon, you have my word on that.

So how about you folks? Have you ever had an emotional moment leaving a guild or stepping back from the game? How have you left guilds before if you’ve done so? Why did you leave?