When a Raid Member is Not a Team Member

When a Raid Member is Not a Team Member

Quick summary: When the announcement was made that 10mans and 25mans would be on the same loot system, I cheered. All things considered, I just enjoy the feeling of 10mans more. More responsibility on each member, the boss fights can be less forgiving.  Because of work reasons, I had to take a break from Unpossible, Lodur’s guild.  As much as it pained me to lower myself to the bench, it needed to be done.

In that time, I’ve been pieceing together a 10man team that will be Cataclysm ready. Starting with a core group of players that I’ve been gaming with since Pre-BC, it’s starting to flourish. And now, the tale begins…

First Incident

We’re keeping it simple. As our guild name implies, this is a Team Sport. Everyone plays a role. Those of us that are “raid leading” are putting forward the effort to bring these people together. We’re not the “you need #### gear score” or the “link acheivement” type. As I’ve posted before, it’s more about the people than the gear/class/loot. I’ve downed Arthas on 10man normal with Unpossible, but killing Putricide with my friends gave me an even bigger rush.  It may sound crazy, but it’s true.

We’ve been doing what we can to accomodate schedules. We’ve found that Tuesdays and Thursdays yield the most guildies. So, I put up the signups on the calendar. People click Accepted/Declined/Tentative. If they click Tentative, all I ask is that they contact me when they know ‘yay’ or ‘nay’. They all have my email, as well as my cell phone number. This leads me to “Kevin” (not his real name).

The first time Kevin signs up for raid, he lists himself as Tentative. After being a random no-show, the next time I see him, I simply say, “Hey Kevin, sorry we missed ya Tuesday. If you sign up as Tentative, would you mind shootin’ me a text when you know if you can or can’t make it?”  He replied, “Dude, that’s why I signed up Tentative.”  “I know,” I respond, “but I just need to know if we’re waiting for you or moving on.”  “Oh yeah, sure.  Sorry man,” was his final quote.

Second Incident

Kevin signs up for the next night as Tentative. Totally cool. Obviously, real life takes precedence over WoW, and it should. Time ticks down to the first pull of the raid night. No text from Kevin. No email. No in-game mail. His status still listed as Tentative.  So, I text him. His girlfriend has been sick, and he’s taking care of her. “Oh, sorry to hear that. Awesome you’re taking care of her. If you could just shoot me a text if you know you’re not gonna make it, that would help out a lot.”

His reply: “Yeah of course, no problem.”

Third Incident

This time, Kevin signs up as Declined. He sends me a whisper, “Hey, I’m signing up as Declined because I’m not sure I can make it or not.” I say, “Cool, we’ll count you out for the night. If that changes and you can come, just text me and we’ll see what we can work out.” “Yeah cool!” is all he says.

Raid starts a little late because our MT got bogged down with work and needed time to do it. We grab a couple new Applicants to the guild, a few of our usual non-guild friends we raid with, and we set off into ICC to at least get through the first wing.

Approximately 3 hours after the raid was scheduled to start, Kevin signs on.  “Hey guys, how goes ICC?” “Pretty awesome, actually. We just started,” I answer.  Raid continues, we only get through Saurfang with the 45 minutes we had before we started losing people to family, work, sleep, etc.

Face-off

After the raid is over, I get a whisper from Kevin. Here’s essentially the conversation:

Kevin: “Hey man, whatever happened to Team Sport?”

Me: “Not sure what you’re getting at.”

Kevin: “You had 3 Applicants and 2 PuGs in there. What happened to full members getting priority?”

Me: “Well, you signed up as Declined, and didn’t let us know you were coming.”

Kevin: “The Team Sport I know would boot one of the Applicants or PuGs to get a full member in there.”

Me: “Actually, that’s not the way it’s been. If you would’ve given advance notice you were coming, maybe we could’ve work ed something out. I’ve made myself available for you numerous times to get in touch with, and you haven’t taken advantage of it once. Just because you wear the tag is no guarantee, Kevin.”

Kevin: “Whatever dude, I’m out”

**Kevin leaves the guild.

You get the point. I was also called selfish, and accused of not caring about the Team. In actuality, it’s because of this team that we’re trying to make it work. The core of us could go anywhere to raid. We could join random guilds just so we could see and conquer the endgame content, but it’s not how we want to do it. Building and filling out this group is vastly more important to us. If other guild members are up to the task, awesome. If not, no big deal, there are other options to explore.

There’s only so much reaching out we can do.  We can’t do much for people that don’t reach back.

TL;DR – Raid Leading is hard.

**If you’re interested in possibly becoming a part of this team, email me at the link provided below. We’re building a small 10man group of talented and friendly team players. Particularly looking for dps with off-specs in healing/tanking. Even if you don’t fit that bill but are still interested, email me all the same**

Email: Elder.Thespius@gmail.com | Twitter: @Thespius

The Aftermath of Real ID

The Aftermath of Real ID

It’s not going away as it’s already been integrated into the game. At least we won’t get our real identities attached to the forums. Personally, I don’t post on the forums that often. When I do post on forums, it’s usually to advertise that my guild is recruiting players (an absolute, shameless plug I might add).

I can’t pretend to know what the full storyline was behind the closed doors of Blizzard. I am a little worried about the direction that this network is going. I don’t have an issue with the idea of Real ID. I think the ability to communicate across platforms and servers is a great idea. But greater control over who can and cannot be on a friend’s list is needed.

Now as for the forums, that idea has been shelved (at least temporarily). That’s not to say that one day it isn’t possible for that to thrive. In order for that to happen though, we need to exist in some super utopian society where stalking and harassment simply cannot occur at all. That day is a long time away. We probably won’t ever live to see it.

A compromise

I do think Blizzard might’ve been on to something though when they set off on implementing a united ID of sorts for players. I might have different characters on my World of Warcraft account, a Starcraft 2 account and potentially a Diablo 3 account. Perhaps I don’t want to go through the hassle of logging in and out everytime I want to switch game forums. Having the forums display first and last name is (obviously) a very bad idea.

steam

But what about a handle that’s universal? That would work. For example, I could apply Matticus as my universal handle and whenever I’d post something, it could attach my chosen character name (like Matticus [Mallet] or something). Haven’t quite thought of all the negatives yet and there’s bound to be some, but I know it won’t generate such an uproar across the entire forums blogosphere community internet.

realid-bbc realid-msnbc

But most importantly…

 realid-reddit

(High five to anyone who reads this blog who is also a Reddit reader)

Posting employee info was wrong though

One thing I did not agree with at all was when certain individuals took it upon themselves to just publically post information about their names, their jobs, their addresses, pictures of their family and so forth. Personally, I felt that action crossed some line. I don’t know, maybe it’s my idea of ethics and my time in school which taught me better. Actual implementation (if it happened) wouldn’t have been for a couple of weeks. Many arguments across the internet already raised the privacy issues. I just don’t think it was the right thing to do. I mean these guys are developers and people who work on the game in some aspect of it too. They’re the architects of the world we love. Do we really want to threaten them and run them out of a job (or possibly worse than that)?

Like, I don’t need to see a nuke go off to know it’ll level a city.

I do know that a number of players voted with immediately cancelling their subscriptions (and some closed their accounts). That’s probably the better way to go especially if it’s something that affects you on such a personal level like this.

Did anyone really like the change? I mean really?

realidpol

Those are most likely not the official numbers, but I generated them purely based off of Twitter, blogs, opinion pieces and people I spoke with. For sure, a solid majority of the community was strongly against it. There were some individuals who felt indifferent or gave off the “doesn’t bother me, I don’t care vibe”. But, I was hard pressed to really find anyone who was seriously gung ho and all for it.

Or maybe I just didn’t look hard enough.

Anyway, my point does sort of stand. You were either against it or felt indifferent. Not many (if any) truly embraced it.

Why the UFM policy doesn’t work

“I don’t like that you’re clogging up my twitter timeline with your junk”

“I don’t want to get spoiled by <some upcoming expansion>”

“You don’t talk enough about warriors” <- (Yeah, I know. I actually had someone tell me this.)

UFM basically means Unfollow Me. I have a twitter policy in place simply because I’ve had former followers who disapproved or disliked aspects of my tweets or personality. Following is a volunteer action. If you don’t like someone on twitter, you do not have to follow them.

And this was the logic provided by players who weren’t really affected by the ramifications of Real ID.

“If you don’t want your name shown on the forums, then don’t post”

For the most part, that was the exact solution I was going to use.

Ultimately though, the carpet bombing solution would lock out a lot of productive individuals who contribute guides, advice, or other beneficial things to the forums. The cost-benefit ratio is greatly skewed where it becomes way too costly. The rewards did not even come close to exceeding the risk. Players who troll are going to troll anyway.

For the vast majority of us, I like to think that we’re all level headed, reasonable individuals. Looking someone up, tracing their location or phone number, and making menacing phone calls or threats? Hey, you just crossed over to criminal territory. Yeah that guy you’re calling up may be the biggest douche bag on the forums, but right now, you’d be the one that’d face jail time or fines or some other form of punishment.

It’s something I learned (and somehow still remember) from my criminology courses. Someone who is going to shoplift a product is probably going to do it anyway regardless of the consequences. The main reason that stores have cameras, store personnel, bars on windows and so forth is to act as a form of deterrence for the rest of us normal, civilized people.

In any case, it’s all over with. It’s done.

At least for now.

Real ID on Blizzard forums, the good and the bad *Updated AGAIN!*

Real ID on Blizzard forums, the good and the bad *Updated AGAIN!*

*update* Real ID is canceled on official forums Blizzard most definitely listened, and it’s a good thing!

So, Vaneras over on the EU forums just informed us that Real ID will be making an appearance on the forums. Needless to say there is a slew of comments slinging around about this. Some people love it, some people hate it. Some say it will be the new life of the forums while others think that this marks their imminent death. So I thought it would be good to talk about it a little bit here.

First off, lets talk about the current state of the forums. There are some good threads there. There are some helpful guides and bits of information. But for each helpful bit there is a counterpart. People that just show up to cause issues, scream drama and pick Internet fights. I know a lot of people personally who avoid the forums just to avoid those specific people. This is a sad thing though, as the forums are set up to help build the community and not to be a source of drama or argument. On a personal level I hate having to weed through 15,000 posts of people complaining to get to the 1 that has a valid point in a discussion. This is obviously an exaggeration, but you get the idea.

Let’s face it, the Internet is a place where people can hide behind a fake name and say and do whatever they want with little to no recourse. This can be simple complaining out outright just being an ass-hat.  This Internet anonymity is what Blizzard is trying to take away I think. How many times have they posted a proposed class change only to have intelligent well thought out responses from posters get drowned out by the wailing masses? How many times has a person asked for advices on gear or spec or spell priority only to be called a noob for pages on end? It happens, trust me I know.  So I can see what Blizzard is trying to do here, by eliminating the ability to hide behind a character name, that person is held accountable for what they said or do.

Quick story here. I know a guy who in real life is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. Intelligent, well spoken and would give you the shirt off his back. When he logs into game or on the forums however, he does a complete 180. He yells at people, argues incessantly, turns into a complete womanizing bigot and has a completely abrasive personality. This sounds extreme but it is a lot more common than you think. When you don’t have to be held accountable in real life for your actions, the rules change. The Blizzard forums have been plagued by this from day 1.

By adding this level of accountability Blizzard I’m sure is hoping to cut down on the forum slop by discouraging the trolls from posting, and making people think twice about just posting empty whining.

There is however another side to this coin. There are a ton of people who try very hard to separate their real life from their game life. They post helpful guides to trade-skills, or how to level efficiently on the forums for general reading. They offer insight to class changes and constructive criticism when people ask for help. This group of people also has something to lose by this change going live, as does the community in general if they stop posting. Some people like the anonymity of their toons as a way to just separate their lives into distinct parts. If they stop posting because of this change, that will be very sad indeed.

Some are concerned for their safety. They fear stalkers and real life harassment and fallout from the forums following them into real life. As a person who has worked in internet security for a long time, I can tell you the chances of this are pretty slim. A persons name alone does not provide a ton of information. It does not for example provide your address and township. Your internet providers work very hard to keep that information private as do most websites, banks etc. It is in Blizzards best intrest as well to keep this information private, and so far they have done a pretty good job of it. Unless you have a one of a kind name and are publicly listed in an international phone book or public websites with your pertinent information, the chances aren’t too great that your name will give up enough information about you to harass you outside of your online personae.  I understand the concern there,  it is a valid reason for being against the change. But it can be rather difficult to find someone .

Another argument is that this goes against the originally stated purpose of Real ID. It was toted as an optional, convenient way to keep track of your friends across servers and even games. Some people feel that being forced to use it to interact on the forums violates this and removes the “optional” portion of the feature. This is a valid argument as there is no way to circumvent this at current.

There are also those of us that this has absolutely zero effect on. Those of us that already live in the public eye and have our names out there will see no change in how we do business essentially. Me personally, doesn’t phase me one bit. My name is out there from the For the Lore podcast and WoW.com. Having my real name show up on the forums isn’t a big deal at this point. I also have the good fortune to have a name that is not exactly unique. Joseph Perez is the Steve Smith of Hispanic names. Try looking it up in the phone book sometimes, it is rather hilarious.

Here are some facts to remember about this

This will only affect the new forums created when SC2 and Cataclysm launch. Old forums and old posts will remain untouched (for now, hopefully this won’t become retroactive)

Blue Posters are not immune to this, and will also be showing their real first and last names

Having your name does not compromise your account security. Email, password (and hopefully you’re using an authenticator) are what let people in. Even if you call Blizzard customer support and say you are “so and so” you have to provide a LOT of proof of identity.

So what do you think? Do you love it? Do you hate it? Will it be a new beginning for the Blizzard forums or will it mark its death?

UPDATE

Let me clarify something real fast. While the change doesn’t affect me personally I still do NOT like it. I understand what they are trying to do with it, but I don’t think it was thought out enough. On facebook I can go silent, I can turn off chat and no one has to know I’m on. I can hide details like my email, phone number and location, and if I so choose I can change my name on the account. Here we don’t have the option. I do NOT like the idea that choice is being taken away from the gamers. We choose to play this game and who to interact with. Why do we not have a choice in this? I think that the overwhelming response people are having to this is a good thing and hopefully Blizzard will see it and make some changes. But again, I am NOT for this change, but I don’t think it needs to be attacked with nukes instead of calm rational discussion. It is a lot easier for people (i.e. Blizzard) to dismiss an over the top emotional response to this (which don’t get me wrong, it’s a perfectly valid response from us as users to be passionate about this change) as opposed to when people calmly lay down why they don’t agree with it. That’s all.

Lodur’s Week In Review

Lodur’s Week In Review

A couple weeks ago we heard that AVR/AVRE has an expiration date. Simply put the addon just did too much by allowing a player to draw essentially in 3D on top of the in game environment. This really drove home how much players respond to visual cues. However not everyone is a visual based player. How about those that rely on sound for their notifications?

I started thinking about this last week. I have been using Deus Vox Encounters as my boss mod of choice for a little bit and have grown pretty accustomed to it. Last week though, new requirements for a particular fight called for BigWigs to be installed over any other boss mod. I’ll get into the why of that in just a second. Making this switch really clued me in to how much I actually draw from audio cues. As a healer, and a raid officer, my attention is always in a thousand different directions at once. My own healing, watching where I’m standing and paying attention to the boss fights, but also watching all my healers and the other raider to make sure people are doing what they are doing. Even with screen flashes, and emphasized bars / buttons etc, I can miss things. Well let me be honest here, I WILL miss things. You can only divide your attention so much before it is spread too thin. DXE allowed for custom sounds for all major and most minor events, allowing me to play a different sound for an incoming Infest or a Pending Defile. This way I wouldn’t have to look for an alert, but rather just listen for a sound. I play with most of the in game sounds turned pretty low unless a specific encounter calls for something different, so it made it easy to add another layer of my awareness to playing.

Enter BigWigs. BigWigs has been a pretty common standard among raiders for a while now. The mod is pretty robust and allows you a lot of different choices in your notifications. The reason it became standard for raider was how it alerts you to defile. If you enable a mode called super enhanced, it will actually have a voice counting down the time to cast audibly. Some folks were having trouble with defile and moving away from it, so BigWigs enhanced mode was the answer, and to be honest I do really like that part of it.

This leaves me with two boss mods installed. I tried running this entire last week with only BigWigs and I just can’t do it. I tried, but all it did was make me realize how much I rely on those audio cues to keep my own rear alive while watching everyone else.  It does not have the same depth in the library of sounds that DXE does. Where I could literally have dozens of sounds in DXE, there is only a limited number in BigWigs. I tried adding new sounds by modifying the .lua files as well, but found that to be nigh impossible with BW, but it was something I’ve been able to do with DXE. So, for every encounter BUT LK, I use DXE. For LK I swap BigWigs on. Now if only DXE could do me a super enhanced countdown mode I’d be super super happy.

I’m sure you’re wondering what today’s post image has to do with my post.  This last week I realized exactly how much I love having a ret paladin and a boomkin in raid. I am a haste junkie, there is no denying it. I love the stat and its ability to give me 1.5 second (or lower) cast time chain heals. If you were to roll my character’s sleeves up, it is likely that you would find the tell-tale signs of haste abuse. Before we would rarely have one, and more commonly neither, but recently it has become much more common place to have both in our groups. Improved Moonkin Form gives all players in range of the aura 3% haste as does Swift Retribution these stack as a multiplicative effect with Wrath of Air Totem. With my current haste total, either of these combined with the totem pushes me to the haste cap, and let me tell you it is addicting. The added bonus for me is that our fairly recent new hire and boomkin Friskme is one heck of a guy. Good sense of humor, good numbers, knows how to handle himself in a fight, and as of recent has become my corner buddy on BQL and the sparkle council. We’ve gotten used to each others movements during the encounters and know exactly how to shift around each other without vocalizing. Also, he’s damn fast on the innervate button when I need it, and that makes me happy. I’ve always enjoyed the company of the druids in <Unpossible>, and Frisk fits right in.

Last but not least, for those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter, I have had a wonderful idea for a new project that a lot of people seem to be behind. Come Cataclysm I’m starting a fun guild up as a side project. No, I’m not leaving Unpossible, that will always be my home. Instead the guild I want to make will be more fun and casual with a slight character quirk. I’ll get more into it at a later date, but for now I need your input. There have been several choices as to where to start this little party, and so far there are 4 major contenders.

What Server Should the Guild be Started on?

  • Other (44%, 8 Votes)
  • Earthen Ring (33%, 6 Votes)
  • Nerzhul (22%, 4 Votes)
  • Feathermoon (22%, 4 Votes)
  • Zul'jin (17%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 18

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So if you think I should start it up on one of those please feel free to vote on it. If you think I should start it on a different server, vote for other and let me know what realm and why in the comments.

Well that’s it for this past week, how about you? Do anything fun? Find out anything interesting?

Special thanks to @immamoonkin for this week’s article image. Thank you!

What Will The MMO of Tomorrow Bring?

What Will The MMO of Tomorrow Bring?

Cataclysm is rapidly approaching and the game world we’ve known for the last 5+ years is changing. Towns destroyed, new races about and new powers for each race to play with. WoW is not the only game facing changes though, In fact the state of MMOs is changing as a whole, I mean let’s face it, in the coming months everything we thought we knew about this genre is going to go right out the window. The best part is, we as gamers are in the right place to enjoy the best of these changes to come … hopefully. You may ask yourself what am I talking about? Well let’s take a look at things that are going to be happening in the very near future.

Star Wars: The Old Republic


One of the most highly anticipated games coming up is Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR). The game takes a popular franchise and is recreating the universe for a new MMO. So far it is shaping up to bring some new features with.

Every NPC / Quest is voiced: That is right, talk to an npc to get a quest, the whole thing will be read off to you by the character audibly. Pretty massive undertaking, and a pretty cool feature.

Consequence system: Every choice you make in the game, every quest you take every mob you kill has consequences. It can alter what quests you have available to you as well as what powers become available to you. It is possible to play two different characters and get completely different experiences based purely on the choices you make. The other part that is interesting about this MMO is that your choices can lead to faction changing. It has been stated that a Sith can be redeemed and a Jedi can fall from grace, all based on the choices you make in the game world.

Advanced Class system: Each starting class can evolve into one of two advanced classes, each of those advanced classes has two skill trees it can choose from. This allows for a large variation among players and classes and lets you customize your character to suit your needs and play-style. The depth of this is not yet revealed but this can be very very interesting in the future of updating and personalizing your in game avatars.

A Whole Universe to Explore: Most MMOs take place on a comparatively small land mass or group of landmasses (EvE online is an exception here), and can often times feel very linear in its progression. This is a truly massive undertaking as they are creating many many worlds for us to explore and each world is to be massive in and of themselves. The sheer scope of this, and the potential for player freedom here can be an altering factor to MMOs to come after.

These are just things off the top of my head about the game, there will be more to come as the game is closer to release, but they are truly beginning to push away from MMOs as we know them.

Guild Wars 2

Guild Wars received great attention when it was released 5 years ago in part because it was a free to play after you purchased the game, but also because it was (and still is)  a good game. The sequel is shaping up to be even bigger and badder than the original (which is a good thing), but like Bioware with SWOTR, Arenanet aiming to shake things up a bit.

Whole New Way to Quest: I’ll open this up with a quote from Colin Johanson, Lead Content Designer for Guild Wars 2.

When building an MMO, we had to examine every core piece of accepted content from traditional games in the genre and ask, “How can this be improved?” By looking at the traditional quest system used in basically every MMO ever made, we’ve come to the conclusion that quests have a lot of areas for improvement. To address these flaws, we’ve developed our dynamic event system.

Traditional quest systems involve walking up to a character who usually has an exclamation point or question mark hovering over their head and talking to them. From here, you get a massive wall of text hardly anyone reads that describes a horrible or totally mundane thing going on in the world that you need to help with. You run off, complete this task, then return and talk to this character again to receive another wall of text and a reward. Traditional quest systems rely on these blocks of quest text to tell you what is happening in the world; this is just an outdated form of storytelling.

In Guild Wars 2, our event system won’t make you read a huge quest description to find out what’s going on. You’ll experience it by seeing and hearing things in the world. If a dragon is attacking, you won’t read three paragraphs telling you about it, you’ll see buildings exploding in giant balls of fire, and hear characters in the game world screaming about a dragon attack. You’ll hear guards from nearby cities trying to recruit players to go help fight the dragon, and see huge clouds of smoke in the distance, rising from the village under siege.

That is fairly massive right there, I mean just think about that. Total immersion into the world. That is pretty impressive and really sells the world to the players. He goes on to say the following

There is a second fundamental flaw to traditional quest systems: what the quest text tells you is happening in a quest is not actually what is happening in the world.

For example, in a traditional MMO, the character who gives you a quest will tell you ogres are coming to destroy the character’s home, and you need to kill them. You then get a quest which says, “Kill 0/10 ogres” and you proceed to kill a bunch of ogres standing around in a field picking daisies. Since every player in the game needs to be able to do this quest, the ogres will never actually threaten the character’s home – they will just eternally pick daisies in the field. The ogres aren’t actually doing what the quest says they are – the game is lying to you!

At ArenaNet, we believe this is NOT good enough. In Guild Wars 2, if a character tells you ogres are coming to destroy a house, they will really come and smash down the house if you don’t stop them!

We’ve all seen it, we get the quest to go kill x of y because they are coming to hurt z, but in truth they are just standing around doing nothing but waiting for the players to come and kill them. This adds a real consequence to the game world and leads into the second big thing about the game.

A Living Breathing World: Every action you take has an effect on the world around you. This means if you don’t stop the ogres from destroying that home, guess what? The building is actually destroyed and gone. If an army lays siege to a town and takes it, they will occupy that town, until someone frees the town from the army. There is no case of say a certain inn in a certain western location being built for 5+ years. If a city or town gets decimated it is not outside of reason that in this game it will be rebuilt over time. Traditionally in MMOs once you complete a quest or a task, you collect your reward and you move on with no effect on the world (That damn Corki keeps getting caught by the Ogres…), here everything you choose to do — or that which you choose not to do — has an impact on the world around you and can cause a chain of events that you may not see happen from making one innocuous choice.

Bringing a Community Back to MMOs: Right now in most games if a player goes off to kill a named NPC and another player gets the same quest, unless they are in the same group together they have to wait for the mob to respawn. This has often let to things such as griefing and harassment. Arenanet aims to end that. I’ll end my section here with one more quote

All players that fully participate in an event are rewarded for doing so; everyone who helps kill a monster or blow up an enemy catapult will get credit for doing so. There is no kill stealing and no quest camping. Everyone works together towards the common goal of the event and everyone is rewarded for doing so. To help ensure there is always enough for everyone to do, our events dynamically scale, so the more players who show up and participate in the event, the more enemies show up to fight them. If a bunch of players leave the event, it will dynamically scale back down so it can be completed by the people who are still there playing it. This careful balance created by our dynamic scaling system helps ensure you have the best and most rewarding play experience.

Tell me that doesn’t sound pretty cool. Again this can help shape how players move and interact through MMOs to come, depending entirely on execution of course.

Tera: The Exiled Realms of Arborea

Recently I had the good fortune to speak with Producer Brian Knox and writer Robin MacPherson from En Masse Entertainment on the podcast. If you’re interested you can click here for the show notes and the episode is free for download on iTunes or direct link from the site. The information we gained from the interview is pretty killer. The game itself is being simultaneously developed for both the eastern and western markets. There has been some trouble bringing eastern games over to the west based purely upon the different ideas of what we want in a game. En Masse aims to not only break those barriers but redefine the MMOs while they do it. So what do they have in store for us?

Define Your Own Player Relations: As of now there are no factions like we are used to in World of Warcraft and other games, instead it is entirely up to a player to choose who they side with. You choose your allies and your enemies. There is no pre-set racial enmity so you have complete freedom here. This is kind of a big deal for some people, and hasn’t really been seen since the days of Star Wars Galaxies. Yes there is PvP in the game, but it is about groups and teams versus other groups and teams. It is very likely that at some point you will be facing off against members of your own race in gladiatorial combat! It really opens up a lot of opportunities for the players both in terms of the game and, if they so choose, role playing.

Combat and Healing: The developers of Tera aim to make a much more involved combat system. There are no auto attacks here, there are no infinite stun locks, Tera’s tactical combat system gives players more control and constant involvement in the the game-play. No more point-and-click or just cycling through a palette of spells and skills, you really have to pay attention. This is not only true for damage dealers, but also for healers. They gave us two great examples on the show. One of their healers has a multiple target heal, it is activated by the player and held, the player is then required to select the target of the heals by clicking on them and then releasing the heal. Another can drop a series of orbs that will be used to heal players as they move around, requiring tactical placement and attention to the fight. They also are working to not make healers so fragile that they fall over in combat, but not so powerful that they just can’t be killed. They will have offensive capabilities so that they can hold their own in a fight, both PvE and PvP. One of their goals is to make healing more involved than playing Green bar Whack-a-Mole and to add some more excitement to that particular role. They aim to draw more people to the healing class through interest. The enthusiasm Brian Knox and Robin MacPherson had for the development of their combat system is rather infectious and they are excited to be able to showcase it in more detail soon.

Collision Between Players: Most MMOs don’t include collision in their games, you can run through bosses and other players. This reduces griefing in cities, and helps take a little stress off of planning some encounters and spaces. In Tera when a player is in a city there will be no collision, but when they step outside of the city there will be collision enabled. This is actually a pretty big move and adds a new level of complexity and strategy to combat, both PvE and PvP.  How many times has a boss gone waltzing through the tank and smack a healer dead in one shot? How many times in PvP does the healer or clothie just get burned down because no one can stop them? In Tera that is no longer the case. Tank types can intervene and try to place themselves in harms way to save a squishy. This also means that tank types in PvP are useful as tanks keeping players away from healers or fragile casters and giving their teammates time to react and adjust. Think about in WoW in a battle ground, when you see a warrior, druid, paladin or death knight you rarely will find them in tank gear and spec. It just isn’t useful because PvP in WoW is mostly about burning things down quickly. This also adds a level of strategy to PvP and PvE we haven’t seen before and will require people to work together in more involved ways. This can lead to varied and interesting strategies between different groups to accomplish the same goal.

Political and Economic System: Players make up the world for the most part in any game, we out number the NPCs and aside from driving auction house prices, have little impact on the world. The same leaders are in place and if you go to buy a consumable from an NPC the price largely stays the same. The developers of Tera have been pretty tight lipped on this system but I hear rumors that they may be explaining this in more detail soon. On the cast the stated that players will have a deeper impact on the economy of the game and that players will be able to be elected to offices for their server. Again no details are available yet, but if they do it like SWG did (but better) I think that will be an interesting change. Allowing players to have a deeper impact on the game and a larger investment in their time spent playing.

If you get a chance stop by their website and check out the trailer for the game, it has a glimpse at the UI as it stands right now and a view of some of the PvP action and starts to give you an idea of the size of the world they are creating.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm

Another of the years most highly anticipated games, Blizzard Entertainment has been hard at work to give us not only an expansion to a game we’ve come to love (or hate in some people’s cases), but to take time and change the game. We’ve been keeping up pretty heartily with things that are changing but let’s take a look at some of the highlights so far.

Stats and Class Abilities/Talents: They are re-balancing stats, pruning excess and making it easier for players to understand their characters. They are doing this not only with classes in mind, but also player roles. It will be easier than ever to know if a piece of gear is meant primarily for healers or DPS. While they are hard at work pairing down stats, they are also taking a look at all of the classes core abilities and talents in the game. In some cases their are some radical things in the works while others will receive some minor tweeks. We have had some information given to us from their twitter dev chat, as well as their class previews that were released not so long ago. New talents are being added and taken away, some find themselves converted into base abilities or trainable spells for the characters, and while they are at it they are adding a whole new talent system to the game called mastery. Rewarding players with key abilities and stat boosts as they invest points in their chosen roles. Tanks become better tanks passively by spending points, healers become better int heir roles and DPS do just that much more damage. This allows players a certain freedom while choosing talents and is working towards eliminating “cookie-cutter” specs and allow for more diversity.

New Races and Race/Class Combinations: They are adding two new playable races to the game just like they did in Burning Crusade. Worgen for the alliance giving them access to a monstrous race that is heavily steeped in the games lore, and Goblins for the horde with a very compelling story for the little green folk. While they were adding new races to the game they also decided to add new race and class combinations to the game. Trolls can become Druids, Humans can become Hunters and so forth. Some of these are based on lore (Dwarves in particular come to mind, but that is a post for another day) others are based on logic and the changing times of the game. Either way it opens up new avenues for players to enjoy the game and immerse themselves in the world the Blizzard has crafted.

New Graphics and a Changing World: Blizzard is simultaneously destroying the world we’ve known for the last 5+ years and making it more inspired at the same time. The game has been around for a long time and as a result the older content does not compare graphically to the newer content we’ve been seeing. Blizz is taking the time to update everything, from the polygon count and character models of the races, to the water and fire effects in the game. This is a huge leap forward in the ever escalating graphical war between game developers these days. While they are upgrading the technology of the game they are also doing a few things to the game world to add an feeling of epic grandeur to to the game breaking zones and cities and creating new areas to explore, bathing the world in fire and destruction and bringing new life to places long since thought dead, and in doing so they are expanding the lore of the game and bringing new life to an old world.

Changing Mechanics: When Wrath of the Lich King was released, tanking had been updated and changed around. Threat generation, tank DPS and the overall feeling of tanking has evolved since that expansions release. This time around Blizzard aims to change the way healers interact with the world. They want to make it a less stagnant role by moving it away from whack-a-mole and having each heal, each use of mana mean something and require not only thought and planning, but for the healer to pay more attention to the encounters and what is going on around them to try to predict where damage will be coming from. This includes adding spells, changing mana consumption and regeneration as well as a myriad of other factors we have yet to see. I think we will see the mechanics of healing change over the course of this expansion as much if not more so than tanking changed and was updated. Also by doing this they open up a multitude of avenues to re-invent boss fights and create new and dynamic encounters within the game that previously they could not do.

Scaling the Game: One of the biggest problems games that have been around a while have is scaling with the players. As you gain levels and powers older content loses its appeal and difficulty. Sometimes this can lead to players becoming bored as they outgrow the content put before them and start looking back on the previous content. Constantly adding new challenges is something that all MMOs do, but adding content that keeps you feeling as if you are in the midst of an epic world takes talent. Back in Vanilla we faced gods, elemental lords and children of dragon aspects and it felt epic. In BC we faced demon lords, specters of the worlds history, demon lords and NPCs that were super powerful and integral to the story and lore of the world, even after Vanilla it still felt epic. In Wrath we fight to face the architect of much of the worlds strife, and along the way face dragon aspects and a plethora of political intrigue as well as beginning to unravel the mysteries of Azeroth’s birth and forgotten lore, again even after BC the content moved in a steadily increasing arc. Now in Cataclysm we are working to uncover more about the titans that shaped our world and that still live somewhere among the multitude of worlds, are working to safeguard the world from a tormented Dragon Aspect that could have likely shrugged and destroyed Icecrown Citadel and crushed the Lich King. It seem that the arc continues as even now it already is starting to feel epic and it appears to be scaling properly with our ever increasing level and powers.

The game is still in alpha stages right now, but information is slowly trickling in and Blizzard has yet to reveal everything they have in store.

In The End: Needless to say the next year is going to be huge for the MMO industry, WoW is still the standard by which most people gauge an MMO, just like Everquest before it was the measure of the genre. The industry seems to no longer want to make another WoW, instead they seem to be working towards re-inventing the MMO genre. The best part is, in the end it is us the gamers that will benefit from this. We are at the horizon of a new age in gaming , everything is updating at an increasingly quick pace with new graphics, stories and game-play. This is an evolution of social gaming that has been long anticipated by the masses. In the past year alone we have had more choices in games of various shapes, sizes and types than ever before. I think there is a new arms race about to begin amongst the super powers of gaming, and I personally can’t wait to sample each of their wares and play with some shiny new toys.

So how about you? What do you think? Do you think that MMOs are going to evolve? What are you looking forward to the most? What would you like to see developers tackle? Are you excited for what is yet to come?

Well that is it for this week, until next time.

 

A Fond Farewell to AVR/AVRE

A Fond Farewell to AVR/AVRE

I’m sure you’ve heard the news by now. In patch 3.3.5 Blizzard intends to intentionally break AVR/AVRE. It is not the first time that something like this has happened, but it does strike me as a bit odd as to the reasoning behind it.

If you missed the full announcement here it is for you

Bashiok — AVR Mod Broken in 3.3.5

This is a notice that we’re making changes in 3.3.5 in attempts to break the ability for the AVR (Augmented Virtual Reality) mod to continue functioning. For those unaware, this mod allows players to draw in the 3D space of the game world, which can then be shared with others who are also using the mod. In some cases this manifests itself through drawing/tagging/defacing the game world, but more popularly is used to give visual guides for dungeon and raid encounters.

We’re making this change for two reasons. The invasive nature of a mod altering and/or interacting with the game world (virtually or directly) is not intended and not something we will allow. World of Warcraft UI addons are never intended to interact with the game world itself. This is mirrored in our stance and restriction of model and texture alterations. The second reason is that it removes too much player reaction and decision-making while facing dungeon and raid encounters. While some other mods also work to this end, we find that AVR and the act of visualizing strategy within the game world simply goes beyond what we’re willing to allow.

The change we’re making in attempts to break the functionality is light in its touch and approach. When blocking any functionality we run the risk of affecting other mods, but we’ve targeted the changes as carefully as possible. If we find that the AVR mod (or any mod attempting to replicate its functions) are usable after 3.3.5 we will take further, more drastic steps.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that they are wrong to not want to see mods like this disabled, but they claim it is because of the invasive nature of the mod and that it allows altering and interacting with the game world. Well, we interact with the game world all the time don’t we? We kill a mob, that’s interacting right there! Silly statement I know but it is the truth. Simply by being in the world and playing the game we are interacting with the world and on some level altering the state of play for those around us. As far as calling it invasive or that it alters the game world, I don’t know. Is it any more invasive than any other boss mod? Take a look at most boss mods, they mark players that are affected by effects, provide warnings both visual and audio before a boss does an ability and effectively simplify encounters. Some even give you arrows telling you where to run from an effect, others include range finders to tell you how far away you are from other players in order to avoid making some boss abilities chain or augment. Mods like Auctioneer allow you to alter the way you interact with the auction house, postal allows you to modify how you access the mail in the game world, power auras allows you to be notified of every single buff and debuff in the game and mods like grid allow you to alter how you view the members of your party and allow you control over what information is filtered through and omen alerts you to threat compared to all other party members.

So what makes AVR so taboo? I was thinking about it and it reminded me of a funny story from my pen and paper days.

I was playing Dungeons and Dragons (tabletop pen and paper version) with a group of friends. Our party was supposed to set up an ambush to take out a band of mercs about three times our size. I was playing a halfling rogue at the time and was the party’s wet works guy. I would sneak around, spy on things and help set traps. Our fighter in the party was a tactical genius (the player has since moved on to a military career and it is very fitting for him as he honestly was a huge strategist) and came up with a plan that involved key movements at key points in time. My character happened to have a bunch of chalk, and came up with the idea of setting markers on the walls and floor to indicate thresholds for those lying in wait. It could indicate when to attack and after a point when to break off and regroup or attack from a different direction. The fighter loved this idea, and we set about marking the ruins we were using as the kill zone in markings the party would understand. We then set various traps and waited for our ambush to take place. As the mercs entered the ruins we watched from hiding as they breached the thresholds, we attacked. The mercs moved past another marking and we dove back into hiding and onto the next position. This continued until the band was no more. We took no casualties and had a well executed plan thanks to a series of chalk markings. The GM joked at the time of having allowed us to have such general items and them coming in so handy.

So, is AVR so different than the chalk we used in that game session? I don’t feel that it is when used to say, mark spots on the ground for people to collapse to or stand at during certain encounters. On a personal level I will miss it not because of anything it did during a boss fight, but I truly loved the way it interacted with Totem Radius in showing me the effective range of my totems in real time. That said I wont lose any sleep over it going away, but I think Blizzard may have been a bit hasty in their aggression towards this mod. Personally I don’t feel it is any more invasive than any other mod they currently allow in the game, and honestly once you allow mods or addons of any sort you are inviting a sort of intrusion into that which you created.

Did it make things too simple and remove player thought from the game? I don’t think so either, I’ve seen enough people with it installed still mess up quite frequently. It was not a guaranteed win for boss fights otherwise we would see a lot more people having downed ICC heroic mode when using this. In the end a mod is no substitution for attentiveness to the game and player skill. This one just happened to let us John Madden things a bit, and occasionally draw funny objects where they don’t belong.

So what do you think? Do you support Blizzard decision to break the mod? Do you think it made things too easy? Will you miss being able to draw stick figures randomly in ICC?

Book Review: The Guild Leader’s Handbook

Book Review: The Guild Leader’s Handbook

There is a book for everything it seems. Some will tell you how to hack an iPhone, others will tell you how to cook rare and exotic treats. In the gaming world there has been everything from strategy and content guides to art books and everything in between.

A few weeks ago a new book hit the stands, The Guild Leader’s Handbook by Scott F. Andrews. Scott is not only an accomplished and long time  guild leader in World of Warcraft, but also the author of “Officers’ Quarters” on wow.com. His book takes a look at what it is to run a guild in today’s modern MMOs and offers readers both looking to start a guild and those who have been at it a while, a cornucopia of information from his collected experiences. Today I’d like to share my thoughts on the book with you.

Before we begin I’d like to make a few things clear. Firstly, Yes I do write for wow.com as one of the class columnists. This does not mean however that I will be unfairly biased towards the book. I have had little to no interaction with Scott and anyone who knows me or has listened to my podcast knows that I do not temper my criticism and critiques based on acquaintances or tangential relations. In short, friend or foe I try to tell it exactly as it is and as unbiased as possible. In mathematical terms we would call this “Correlation does not imply causation”. Secondly, while I myself am not currently a Guild Leader in WoW, I have lead numerous successful guilds, super-groups, and various other groupings in many other games. I am however still the Healing Lead and one of the raid officers for the guild I call home, and thus in a leadership position within the structure.

The first thing I noticed when opening this book, is the level of accessibility. It was very well written and very easy not only to read but digest. The concepts and ideas in the book are thoughtfully laid out and the way the topics are grouped not only make sense logically, but allow the material to be more easily digested. Potentially confusing concepts are quickly explained, often times with a real life scenario that the author has experienced himself. The second thing I noticed while reading this book is the confirmation of the author’s depth of experience. The familiarity he writes about the topics is comforting and also conveys a sense of certainty that is easily lost when writing something of this nature.

The book itself covers many topics such as;

  • Forming a guild and making it successful
  • Choosing a guild size and focus
  • Dealing with guild drama
  • Differences between leading a guild and leading a raid
  • Loot distribution
  • Alternate styles of guilds (PvP, RP)
  • Choosing officers
  • Guild Morale
  • Planning for the long term
  • Dealing with Real Life

Seems like a lot to cover in such a small book doesn’t it? It is, but the author cuts out most of the unnecessary and leaves in the most relevant information to the topic. Each topic is subdivided and dives into specifics and does so with the perfect amount of detail.

There were a few pieces that really stood out to me while reading this. First was the section on forming a guild. Beyond setting a size and focus for your guild, the author talked about a topic that I think deserves some attention. Forming a guild identity and presence. For any established guild or group, their name and longevity carry a certain weight to them. If you think about any guilds, corps or fellowships you may have come across, I’m certain you can find at least one where their name is well known. For a new guild starting out it can be hard to forge an identity and establish a presence. The author offers some solid advice for creating a server presence. This ranges from specializing and becoming rock solid at a particular goal, having a history of cooperation with other people and guilds to having fun contests and events. One example that I found particularly enjoyable was the idea of taking a completely meaningless piece of land in the game and claiming it as your own, while challenging anyone to take it from you and doing anything you can to hold on to it. That would certain generate some notice, and could be a particularly fun event.

Next was explaining the differences between leading a guild, and leading a raid. The distinction is one that sometimes goes unnoticed. A lot of players seem to feel the two are always synonymous. The author explains the characteristics of a guild leader very well and talks about the shift in personae needed to lead a raid. The two can often times be polar opposites of each other. A guild leader is at the end of the night the ultimate authority of a guild. They can control who becomes officers, who is kicked or invited and tend to be looked upon as the arbiters for any guild disputes. Compassion, openness, friendliness and approachability all play very well to a guild leaders station. A raid leader has to evaluate performances constantly while keeping the group focused. They have to play the role of team captain, coach and player all at the same time. Leading by example, but also calling out problems and fixing issues as quickly as possible. This can sometimes involve not being very nice and squishy in your assessments. I was quite pleased to read this section here and it would be something I encourage not only people in leadership roles to read, but also those in a raider position. It is very much like being friends with your boss outside of work. When you’re at work you still need to work, and it’s your bosses job to keep you focused.

Another part that particularly stuck out to me was the section detailing real life interactions and issues. Even though this is a game, it is a social network. You are interacting with other players regularly, and you are devoting time out of real life to play this game with other people. As a result real life will always impact a gamers life and a game may affect the life of those that play it. This section of the book covers topics like dealing with addictions (both substance and potential video game addiction), Depression and mental illness, sexual predators, relationship problems, family problems, burnout and criminal confessions. These are real life topics that can and do affect people who play MMOs. This section offers advice to deal with these situations as they arise. Let’s not forget it wasn’t so long ago that a criminal was tracked down through WoW by law enforcement.

This section also talks about planning real life meet-ups. Investing as much time as you do in a guild there may come a time where you want to meet the people behind the avatars face to face. It sometimes requires a lot of planning, but can indeed be exceptionally rewarding.

So in the end what does this book really have to offer?

For the new guild leader or leadership role

A plethora of information that is neatly gathered in one place for you. There is a lot that goes into forming and running a guild. This book takes the information and neatly bundles it for you for easy consumption. The information contained in the book is very accurate, and is very universal in it’s approach. The advice offered is solid, well thought out and has been tried and tested by the author himself. The book may have items you never thought to consider, or just did not occur to you. It offers a new officer or guild leader a chance to be prepared and also educates you on exactly what you can expect. Everything from personalities in the guild and group dynamics to planning for the future and longevity of your guild. All the basics you could possibly need to know are detailed here for you.

For the old-hand

Even if you have been playing MMOs for a long time and are quite experienced at leading groups, running guilds and leading raids, this book will offer something that can often times be lost over time. Perspective. We fill these rolls for so long that things become second nature to us. Like everything sometimes it’s nice to have a refresher. No one is perfect 100% of the time, we all make mistakes or forget things. The way I view it is like this. Next to my computer I have a series of books for programming, APA style and formatting guides, marketing and business books and a variety of other reference material. No matter how long I’ve been doing something, there will be things that I will forget. Having these books handy gives me a reference. somewhere I can go to clarify questions and vague points or remind myself of things I may have forgotten. This book now has a permanent place on that shelf. For us old hands this book is a perfect reference to when we need to get back down to basics.

For the non leader

Even if you are not in a leadership role this book can offer you a great insight you might not have otherwise. Ever wonder why your guild leader made a particular decision but don’t really want to ask them? How about when a raid leader does something that you’re not quite sure of? This book will give you a basic understanding of what it is your guild’s leadership has to go through and constantly juggle to make sure the group remains stable and that you have a place you can unwind and have fun.

I applaud the author for this book. I found it easily accessible, accurate and a fantastic read. I was able to identify with the examples he presented right away and could have compared them to any number of stories from my own past in gaming. This book is a great starting point for anyone looking for form a guild, new to an officer position or for those who just want to understand what happens behind the scenes of their groups. On a personal level, reading this book allowed me to catch something happening in my very own guild that I almost missed simply by reading about it and being reminded of it.

The only criticism of it I have is that I feel it could have been longer.  Some of the sections could have been more fully explored and may have benefited from having a little more room to breathe. The book ends at a surprisingly short186 pages.

I feel it is well written, logically put together and is a must read for anyone seriously involved in MMOs and guild structure. Even with consideration of the length I feel that is well worth the money, and even more worth the time you would invest reading it.

The book retails for $24.95 us ($31.95 CDN) and can be purchased directly through the publisher’s website.

If you’ve read it and would like to share your thoughts on it we’d love to hear your opinion on it.

 

The Antidote for Fifty Enemies is One Friend.

The Antidote for Fifty Enemies is One Friend.

“The antidote for fifty enemies is one friend”, at least that’s what Aristotle says. I think he was on to something there. You can have an entire army facing you ready to run you through, but if you have one friend by your side you may just have the chance to win. Before when I started EVE Online and Lord of the Rings Online, it was hard to get into the game because my friends either couldn’t play the same time as me or were vastly higher level than I was. It made the games much less fun at the time than it was to play with a friends.

MMOs force you to get to know some one’s personality before anything else, this is especially true when you’re grouped up in guilds or clans. This is vastly different than what our human nature normally allows. As people our nature is to find others like us physically first, then discern intelligence and mentality. Video games have made it so we get to know the person’s personality before anything else. As a result, friendships you make through the game can create a stronger bond than even you may realize.

I’m sure you’re asking why all of a sudden is Joe going on about friendships and want-not. Couple nights ago my guild was working on Lich King (25) and we were coming back from a break when we got on a tangent because an old friend of many of the long time people in the guild expressed interest in not only coming back to the game, but finding a home on our server. We started talking about all the “old timers” we used to hang out with and it came up that someone I used to farm honor with late night that I hadn’t heard from in a very long time, passed away. I had no idea and that really bothered me. I mean this a person that I used to stay up all hours of the night shooting the shit, while shooting the horde. I remember being dog tired after a particularly long day at work and being JUST below my requirement for Knight rank in the old PvP system. This person was part of the group that convinced me to just queue with them and then let them do the work while I napped. Just so I could make sure I got the points before the next day’s calculations to get my rank. This person was also part of the group that when me and my girlfriend at the time split for good, decided it was city raid time to try and break me out of the slump I had fallen into. All the while joking and cajoling me trying to get me to laugh. Say whatever you will, these were good people.

The news of the death was a bit sobering sure, but it made me think of the other people I’ve made friends with through this game and how much their friendships impact my life. One of my best friends was found through the game. I’ve talked about it before but it’s still a good story. Back in BC we got an influx of new recruits, one of which was a smart-ass warlock. We always joked in game and always got along. One raid night I offhandedly mentioned having gone to a local coffee house before the raid. Erommon perked up on vent and started asking questions. Soon as the raid was over we met up, went to Deny’s and just hung out to the course of another 3 hours or so just talking. Needless to say he has become one of my best friends.

Another one of my best friends I met as a result of WoW. I had just been hired for my current job and we were on a break from training. I logged into my guild’s website to check raid sign-ups and my friend Dan happened to see it was a WoW website. We started talking and quickly found out we had much in common outside of the game. We became fast friends and now he is currently the person I’m working with for the 2D video game I’ve been working on.

I try to make myself accessible to guildies, but there are some I talk to more than others just out of shared likes and dislikes and play times. I’ve had guildies call me with real life problems at very odd hours just to vent and seek advice like they would from any long term real world friend. I’ve had guildies call me to make sure I was OK with things going on in my life outside of the game.

Even through the community there is this amazing bond that can be shared. I can’t tell you how many friends I’ve made through blogging and the community that surrounds it. If not for that community I never would have met my girlfriend or been introduced to such amazing people as I have been. Hell I’ve talked about Thespius from this site before, we hit it off right away when he joined my guild and through game time, this site and just chatting in general I’m happy to call him my friend, and would share a frosty pint with him any day.

Sometimes it amazes me and I have to sit back and take stock of it all. Today is one of those days. I mean how long ago was it that gamers were shunned covens of outcasts? Now gaming is it’s own social media giant that is allowing us to make some great contacts and meet people we normally wouldn’t have thought to talk to or get to know. Look back and think about all the friends you’ve made in the game or through the community. Do you consider them actual friends? Any stories to share?

What is missing from the Arthas fight?

What is missing from the Arthas fight?

First before I begin I would like to say congrats to Matticus on his 10 man Arthas kill!

Now onto the matter at hand. My guild is plugging away at the Lich King 25 man encounter, our 10 man team is just about to take him down as well. There is a certain sense of accomplishment when you get to the end of not only the content, but let’s be honest in this case the entire point of the expansion! This entire expansion has geared us up for this fight. Egging us on, pushing us to greater heights and taunting us at every turn. The Lich King has been found in so many quests, instances and cinematic events it is impossible to not want to kill him.

When Trial of the Crusader was released, I’ll be honest I was not impressed. In fact I down right hated ToC. I’m an old school raider, I like instances with trash and having to work at getting TO the boss. I mean in every book I’ve read the hero and the villain don’t just run into each other randomly and just go to town. The hero normally goes through various trials and or henchman before they get to the big bad. In James Bond movies, he has to go through the henchman before making his way to the final bad guy for the show down. To me that is what trash is in an instance, it is a warm up but it’s also story fodder. These are the creatures the various bosses thought good enough to guard them from US. So when I walked into ICC for the first time you can bet I was over-joyed at the amount of trash that lay before us. One of my fondest memories as of late was when we were first heading into the Plagueworks, I was flying solo leading the raid that night and we were coming up on Stinky and Precious. I didn’t warn the raid about them at all, instead as we pulled I laughed maniacally at the frantic screams of “HOLY SHIT WHAT THE HELL IS GLUTH DOING HERE?” as the raid wiped. Everyone laughed about it afterward  and I felt happy that there was trash that was actually DANGEROUS if you weren’t prepared.

My guild has fought our way through all the bosses up to Arthas and there is a sense of accomplishment there. The fight itself is amazing fun, if for no other reason than because there is so much going on. So, why then am I feeling slightly ripped off with this fight?

Arthas is one of those lore characters that has shaped this game. Warcraft 3 was a game I played to death and out of it what I got was the setup for World of Warcraft. It was heart-wrenching when Arthas slew his father and you saw the darkness in complete control, it was epic when Illidan and Arthas fought. The story, even though it was an RTS, was colorful and rewarding.

So last night Unpossible was working on Arthas and I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong with the fight, that something was missing. After the raid I thought back to burning crusade and Black Temple. The Illidan fight felt epic. The scene opened up with Akama going to face Illidan and speak his peace, followed by him running off to hold off reinforcements and give the group time to deal with Illidan. Partway through the fight, a fed up Warden Maiev Shadowsong bursts in to help try and take down the demon prince. He had wronged her so much that she had to have her revenge. In short the fight felt epic. It felt like great payoff to all the work of getting there. I attribute this to a well designed encounter, but a lot of that had to do with NPC interaction.

When you reach Arthas there is a small back and forth between the fallen prince of Lordaeron and Tirion Fordring. To be honest the back and forth is a little weak, and Tirion is one of those characters I could do without. I mean, of all the people Arthas has pissed-off and messed with over the years they picked Tirion to be the one to confront him. I mean I guess I expected him to be there from the beginning, after all he is the bearer of Ashbringer, but I expected someone faction specific to be there along side him as well. I know Jaina and Sylvanas made an appearance in the 5 mans, but this is the big show, the big payoff. Personally I expected them to be there, or rather someone who Arthas has wronged on a deep personal level to be there.

Before you say anything yes I know the history of what happened between Arthas and Tirion and the subsequent exile. My point though is as fun as the fight is (it IS an amazingly designed encounter), it just doesn’t feel as epic as I think it should.

We have airships right? After we’ve taken down the Frost wing, why not have the ship fly up to assault Arthas only to have him blow it out of the sky? How about King Varian Wrynn or Thrall gets to deliver the epic speech debasing Arthas and spurring us to victory. Instead we get Tirion running forward, and getting hunter trapped.

I still love the encounter don’t get me wrong. I love the fact that there are a thousand things you have to watch for and so many ways you can die. I like having fights that have consequence and Defile is the greatest thing EVER created (no sarcasm on that). I guess in the end I just wish there was a little more NPC interaction at the end to help lend the cinematic / literary climactic feel that the encounter truly deserves.

What do you think about the encounter?

So with that I bid you all a good day, hopefully next week I’ll be writing you as King Slayer Lodur. Until next time, Happy healing and may all your heals be swift and your mana plentiful!

Why It’s A Problem That Healers Don’t Communicate in PUGs

The end is nigh.

Healers don’t communicate properly in PUGs. It’s a can of worms waiting to explode in Cataclysm.

WotLK minted many new practices, including PUGing raids. While the level and quality of communication in PUGs has always been unpredictable, there’s been decline in healer communication since the LFD tool was introduced.

People don’t seem to want to engage in communication unless pushed. I rarely see anyone bring up the topic of healing assignments. I usually wait to see if anyone else will initiate communication to sort tank and raid assignments and then organise it myself. The favourite responses vary from “sure”, “just heal ffs” and the particularly fine “lol Apeorsa tht healing setup is so naxx”.

Considering how players might feel these days I’m not greatly surprised at this lack of communication. As the root of group play, random 5 mans are largely to blame. They tend towards brief and impersonal affairs at best and arenas for bullying at worst. Sure, nice runs do happen – but for some there’s little incentive to be nice with strangers they’ll see once. There are no seeds of trust and friendship, and that dearth puts cracks in the foundations we build bigger PUGs on.

I’m sure some healers think communication in PUGs is unnecessary. From their POV, they’re kinda right. Think of a tree – call him Furtree. He’s used to raiding with his guild. Perhaps PUGs just don’t feel the same – he doesn’t get the mutual comradeship and pride he does with his guild. Perhaps VoA25 isn’t the challenge he’s used to in his guild’s ICChardmode runs. He has no reason to show loyalty or effort; he’s only here for a handful of badges to put a minute edge on already spiffy gear.

As a seasoned raider he might have a lack of patience with less experienced healers, or anyone inclined to ‘overtalk’ the situation – he just wants to get through the fast content as fast as possible. Many of us – including me – have been guilty of these at times. We’re slightly bored by now. I’ve even seen healers hiring themselves out as one-man-band progression healers, effectively amputating dialogue and shared learning.

At the other end of the spectrum we have new, struggling, healers. Imagine Timmy the timid priest who’s hit 80 and has blues and 219s. He wants to PUG for kit and badges, but PUGs can be harsh. Timmy’s more likely to be laughed off than invited to PUGs. When he does get an invite to his first ToC25 and the raid wipes to Burning Inferno because the healers didn’t communicate on Incinerate Flesh, Timmy’s may well get the blame.

Healers not talking mean that new healers don’t learn their own versatility in encounters or specifics behind healer setup. Sure, Timmy can read and watch tactics, but there’s an equation for learning encounters you’ve never seen plus how to heal in the first place which doesn’t necessarily = 2, for new healers.

equation2

A lack of teaching and support from other healers could have several effects. Timmy might get bored because the other healers have it covered. Or Timmy may believe all wipes are his fault and he can’t heal. Or he’ll have been given the easiest job and will think he’s brilliant – then he joins a guild and his lack of knowledge sticks out like a sore thumb. All of these can turn a new healer off of healing. There aren’t many of us to start with!

It adds up to a vicious circle in which there’s no incentive to communicate in PUGs. As in random five mans you’re unlikely to see these people regularly. As in random five mans it’s easy to believe you needn’t be loyal to anything but your character’s gear, for various excuses from improving it for guildruns or because you have something to prove. As in random five mans the atmosphere can be of distrust, which increases the chances to wipe when no-one’s healing the tank, and then snipe at each other with Blame Bullets. Frankly, I’ve found that people are grateful and relaxed if you run groups saying there’ll be oodles of communication.

Communication is the foundation of relationships. By not engaging in it any more than necessary healers distance themselves from possible ‘relationships’ in game – be they new friendships or just networking for team members. We should never, ever forget how to socialise in a game we play with other people.

If that’s not incentive enough consider this. Cataclysm is going to challenge us in ways Wrath wasn’t meant to. Healers may face changes to mana and even role setup. We’re going to need to communicate. It may come as a shock; falling into apathetic and uncommunicative habits now is signing our characters’ – and WoW’s – death warrants.

Crucial tweaks to the LFD system – like cross-realm friends lists – would encourage us all to communicate better. Whether or not that happens we can all take responsibility now, in content we might be bored of. Take fresh interest in ‘healing’ the foundations – just by putting a bit more effort in. For The Cataclysm!

I’m not whining; there are positive cases and it’s not all bad. I’m genuinely concerned. Question is -what do you think? Have you noticed a difference in communication or has it not been too bad where you are? Do you think this could turn into a longterm problem or am I doomsaying? Do you think we’ll be flexible enough to adapt out of bad habits?

This is an article by Mimetir, an owl (and resto shaman) of a raid leader on The Venture Co. (EU) You can find my twitter feed here.

Article image2 originally by Tim Trueman @ Flickr