Guest Post: Tanks and Healers Should Get The Biggest Rewards

This is a guest post from We Fly Spitfires.

Tanks and healers are the most important classes for any group. Tanks set the pace of the group, the flow of experience and man the vanguard as they lead the team into battle. Healers mend the broken bones of their companions and keep the tanks a live – without the healers there could be no tanks and there could be no group. These are the two most important classes that exist in any MMORPG. But the DPS? They’re just meat in the room.

Look at it in terms of supply and demand and stress and responsibility. Tanks and healers are in consistent short supply whereas DPS are a dime a dozen. And there’s a reason for that. Tanking isn’t easy and it comes with a lot of pressure and responsibility. Do it right and the group will sing your praises for days to come yet do it badly and you’re on the receiving end of every criticism and jibe. Healing is much the same and also comes with it’s own set of stresses and strains. If the tank dies who gets the blame? Not the DPS classes that didn’t burn the mob down fast enough but the healer who didn’t heal well enough. They carry the heart and soul of the party on their shoulders and all of the difficulties that come with that.

And raiding? That’s even more stressful. Not only do we even already acknowledge the importance of tanks and healers in this situation. We have Main Tanks and even Main Healers but who’s ever heard of a Main DPS before? There’s a huge amount of pressure to do these jobs right. Sub-par DPS can join a raid (even if it’s not desirable) but sub-par tanks cannot tank one and poor healers cannot heal one.

All of this stands to reason that tanks and healers should get bigger rewards than anyone else. I mean, it’s in our culture to reward those that do the most and work the hardest, right? Call it a Tank or Healer Bonus, and a well deserved one at that. They are more important and necessary than anyone else, rarer to find, and they’re jobs are a lot tougher and far more stressful. They’re like the mommas and papas of any group, bringing the necessary order and structure. Without a tank there is no group, without a healer there is no group. DPS can just be picked up randomly as required.

I’ve got nothing against DPS. It’s fun and there’s nothing wrong with that but they simply don’t deserve the equality of rewards. Tanks and healer should get a little something extra on the side (maybe a nice ‘Thank You Drop’ from the boss mobs they fell) because they have the hardest and most demanding jobs and are traditionally the slowest to level up (unless you turn them into DPS). They require the most effort and who can argue that as a result they should get the biggest rewards?

Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not?

Healing Icecrown From a Druid’s Perspective – Part 1

Healing Icecrown From a Druid’s Perspective – Part 1

 

This is a guest post by Epiphanize, a Resto Druid, and co-host of Raid Warning.

So you’ve just shaken the frost off of your branches and are staring down the entrance to Icecrown Citadel, the final raid of the Wrath of the Lich King expansion.  You and nine of your closest guildies (or 9 random pugs if your unlucky) are ready to face the challenges that await you in your quest to take down Arthas. The first of these will be the bosses of the entrance to the Citadel. Before we get into strategies, let’s discuss a few things you should think about before trotting into The Frozen Throne. There have been some major changes to how Druids approach healing that are worth taking a look at.

Most trees are in the process of making the swap from crit-laden gear to stacking haste (or at least you should be – Bad tree, bad). This, along with the introduction of Glyph of Rapid Rejuvenation, has given us some new and interesting options. The goal of this article is to help you understand the changes to Druid healing and how it affects you prepare to confront the Lich King.

In addition to these changes, 10-mans can leave a lot of uncertainty, and raid composition will often force Druids to fill rolls they may not be best suited for. Your choice of glyphs and spec will depend a lot on role, personal preference, and playstyle. However, there is some general advice you can follow when making these decisions. I’ve done my best to try to gives options for popular playstyles and specs.

I’m Still a Crit Machine

If you are still very early in the process of swapping gear from crit to haste, you are probably using either Nourish or Regrowth as your main spell. Nourish is a slightly better spell in most realistic situations where you aren’t sure you will keep Regrowth’s hot up on at all times (Thats a discussion for another article). However, at this level of raiding, either spell should serve you well regardless of role. So use whatever your little wooden heart desires, just make sure to bring the appropriate glyph.

Next, I would recommend Glyph of Swiftmend. This is especially helpful in situations where you are spot healing the raid or attempting to 2 heal. It allows you to quickly save a DPS that may be taking sudden burst damage, or catch up on a tank you may have neglected for a moment. It is also a nice way to save on some mana. Plus a global cooldown wasted refreshing a HoT can often be the difference between life and temporary, virtual death. If mana is not a concern and you are comfortable relying on some of your other emergency options, you can go with both of the choices for your third glyph.

Your third glyph is really up to personal choice and should be based on your role as well as the encounter. Glyph of Wild Growth is always a safe bet, especially if you are helping raid heal. There are lots of scenarios where the whole raid is taking damage in ICC, and that extra target is a welcome buff. Glyph of Rejuvenation is also good but slightly weaker option, as there won’t be large chunks of time where the tank is under 50%. Thought this can shine in some encounters, especially with the 4 piece tier 9 set bonus. One thing to keep in mind is that the small amount Glyph of Rejuvenation can play in helping catch up, can easily be replaced by a Swiftmend, Nature’s Swiftness/Healing Touch, or even a Regrowth.

When it comes to talent choices with a Crit build, not much has changed since 3.2. Living Seed is a must in my book if you are going to be tank healing, and is also handy when dealing with Saurfang’s Mark of the Fallen Champion. This especially holds true due to Nature’s Bounty increasing the amount of Living Seed procs.

Another option that is good for tank healers, but is especially strong for raid healing, is Revitalize. While not a complete replacement for Replenishment, it is better than the complete lack of a regeneration buff. You should end up with something similar to 11/0/60 (full build here) with either 3 points in Living Seed or Revitalize depending on what tickles your fancy.

Crit Is So Last Month

If you are at or approaching the soft haste cap (856 without Celestial Focus, 735 with) Rejuvenation is now your baby. Blizzard has really made this our new bread and butter spell. With two strong glyphs, 4 piece tier 9, and the last two idols granting you spell power based on rejuvenation ticks, it is clear you should be using Rejuvenation liberally. This being said, Glyph of Rapid Rejuvenation is a must in my opinion. This is obviously slanted towards raid healing, though I’ve seen instances where it has come in handy as a tank healer. It also comes in useful for mechanics like Mark of the Fallen Champion where a glyphed Rejuvenation with 4 piece Tier 9 can often alone keep up the marked target with minimal management. ICC encounters seems to have been tuned to encourage the use of Glyphed Rejuvenation, as there are lots of dots and healing on the move.

If you plan on focusing more on your HoTs, the original Glyph of Rejuvenation is a good companion for the new Rapid Rejuvenation. It will take time for you to get used to how quickly you can heal up someone with this combo. Once your haste gets up there and you get down the timing, this combo is a very powerful option.

Glyph of Nourish is your other option for your second glyph. Some would even argue that Nourish is the main reason to stack haste, not Rapid Rejuvenation, as you will have a 1s cast time on Nourish. This, combined with a reduced global cooldown, should allow you to direct heal your stump off. This is also a perfectly viable options, especially at the 10-man level. I think its safe to leave this decision up to personal preference. 

Of course you could always just use the above three glyphs and have the best of both worlds, which is what I have ultimately done. But if you are indecisive, Swiftmend will save some mana when you need a big direct heal. In the same vein, Wild Growth will give some HoT power to go along with those quick Nourishes. There really is a lot of flexibility here.

There is however, not so much when it comes to spec. For most people, you will be stuck going deep enough into the Balance tree to get Celestial Focus, that you will not have much of a choice but to go 18/0/53. Now as you progress through Icecrown you will be able to move those points out of Balance and back into the more useful Resto talents. Revitalize being a priority in my book due to the amount of Rejuvenation’s you will be tossing around. Where you go from there will depend on how often you decide to use you direct heals. Your build should look more like the crit 11/0/60 build..

 Phew…Who knew when you signed up to heal as a sapling, you’d be in for so much homework? However, as long as Blizzard keeps being bipolar in regards to Druid healing mechanics, you better get used to it. Who knows, maybe if we cut back on the QQ they will give us new Tree Form models before the end of Cataclysm. Well, we can dream can’t we? In the next part of this article we will cover specific strategies for healing the first 4 bosses of Icecrown as a Tree.

Interview with Epic Advice

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There’s a new Warcraft side to the community. It’s not really a Wiki. It’s not a directory. It’s not a news site or a blog. It’s nothing like those.

Welcome to Epic Advice! The premise is simple.

You ask questions and you receive answers from other players who might know. It’s entirely peer driven. There isn’t a single “authority” that has all the answers. Everyone pools their knowledge into answering questions. Sometimes it can be much more straightforward than browsing forums or wading through database sites to get a simple answer.

I managed to catch the team behind Epic Advice in a brief email interview to shed further light on their unique project.

So before we get on to talking about Epic Advice, I’m sure the community would love to hear more about you guys. Why don’t you introduce yourselves?

Corey: Introductions always seem so boring.  I’m Corey – I own my own web development company, and do a lot of freelance programming/system administration.

Aaron: My name is Aaron, I work for an international association as their lead web developer developing and managing about 7 websites. I also work with Corey on the side, doing programming and design work.

I’m guessing you guys play WoW as well. What kind of characters do you play and what do you do in game?

Corey: I started playing WoW shortly after the beta, raided molten core with my friends, saw naxx at level 60, wrote the original PallyPower – and find it awesome that they still use my "buff grid", although my code was horrible and the new guy maintains it better. I did it all again towards the end of Burning Crusade. I haven’t been playing during WoTLK, I started my own company and needed all the time I could find. I hope that someday I can make enough money to pay myself to play this game again.   I played many characters, but the best fun I ever had was being a 39 feral tauren druid pvp twink named ‘Cowbellie’. She eventually became quite the DPS cat.

Aaron: Many old school priests probably know me best by my priest, Jesta. I used to write a lot of shadow priest articles, before shadow priests were truly embraced. I am currently one of the GMs of a guild on Lightning’s Blade (US) called Untamed, we’ve cleared everything but Heroic Anub’arak, which were hoping to get this weekend! I also was the author of "VampWatch", which was a popular shadowpriest mod used to track how much mana restoration you were causing (back before Replenishment existed). Currently I am raiding on a DK named Jadra in my guild.

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What exactly is Epic Advice about? It’s slipped under the radar for a while. When did it launch even?

Corey: You cheated – thats two questions.  :)

Epic Advice is about World of Warcraft.  It is a Question and Answer site, a knowledge exchange as it seems to have been dubbed.  We hope to provide the community with a place to help ask and answer questions about World of Warcraft, from the early leveling process, to the cutting edge raiding instances.

It launched about 24 hours before you found us- It seems you’ve scooped everyone on this one.  It hasn’t really been under the radar for long.  We had been talking about the concept of doing a ‘Stack Overflow’ for WoW, have been playing with the idea of writing our own software to handle it.  An opportunity occurred when Stack Exchange hit its beta.  We could launch the site using their engine to see if it was something that the players even want us to work on.

Aaron: Yeah we launched on the night of the 6th, sorta told a few friends who told more friends, and um, this is where we are now. EpicAdvice’s goal is to try to create a centralized location to find answers about the game itself, and hopefully organize it so you can find what you need. The rest of it, corey seems to have summed up perfectly.

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Who came up with the idea and how did the team get formed?

Corey: I can’t remember which of us mentioned it first, but I remember being instantly in love with the idea.  I’d also like to say that the team has not fully formed yet.  We will need more moderators, and hope to find a few good ones during this beta phase.

Aaron: I’ve known Corey for a long time, we’ve been friends for like, 8 years? Over the past year and a half or so, we’ve been doing work together and just advancing ourselves as programmers. We have a lot of pow-wows brainstorming web-application ideas and this happened to be one of them. I have a passion for WoW, just like I have a passion for programming, and this was the perfect project to get involved with to play off both sides of what I enjoy doing.

Where did the inspiration behind the site come from?

Corey: The amount of time we spend on Stack Overflow basically started the concept rolling.

Aaron: Couldn’t of said it better. Also the fact that the WoW forums are so unorganized and hard to find information in, which is the same problem that plagues a lot of programming forums. Since the release of StackOverflow, its been a lot easier to find programming related material. So, we took that concept and decided it would be an amazing fit for WoW.

The WoW forums generally aren’t known to be the best place to go to for help or advice without some guy coming along with a smartass remark. How do you plan to control trolls and the like?

Corey: Well, the cop-out answer is "we don’t".  The idea behind the site is that the community will reward the positive, and punish the negative on its own.  This site isn’t really for me to control, it is for the community to control.  I just want to lay down a few basic rules and let the community decide from there.  You build up reputation by providing good questions, or good answers.  Hopefully the trolls and flames will get ignored or downvoted, while the informative and well-thought gain good reputation.  We are not here to flame, we are here to answer and ask questions.

Aaron: He’s nailed it on the head, its up to the community to "down-vote" those trolls, which will cause them to lose reputation, and in-turn, lose privileges they may have on the site. It self-polices itself pretty well, and we will look hard at the system rules we have in place to see if we could tweak it more to fight the trolls. But for the time being, I think the community will police itself just fine.

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What the current plans for the site? What kind of features can we look forward to in the future?

Corey: Right now – We are in a very early concept beta.  We aren’t sure we are going to stick to the current engine behind the site – there are a few features we want to add that may not be possible within the Stack Exchange system, but we want to start asking/answering questions now to build up a good user base and community.

As far as what kind of features we plan on implementing.  Thats where we want some of your input.   There is already a question on epic advice about just that.  Perhaps you should sign in and post an answer.  We can also be reached via e-mail: team@epicadvice.com

Aaron: We also have some amazing ideas written up in our todo list for new features to implement, its just a matter of time before we can get to them. We both have real jobs, this is just a hobby right now more or less. We want to make it as easy as possible to talk, show, link and organize answers as possible. A rough "item linking" system is already in place (thanks WoWhead!), but we’d also like for people to be able to link characters from the armory, spell ranks, tag a question with a specific "patch version" and so forth.

There are a ton of ideas we have floating around and we will take the best approach possible to try to implement them.

Bonus stuff with Corey:

Favourite drink: Coffee (mountain dew a close second)

Favourite movie: Too many to mention.

If you had a million dollars, the first thing you would do is: Laugh

If you weren’t doing your current job, you would be a: WoW Player

Top 3 sites you frequent the most for fun:

1: Stack Overflow (http://stackoverflow.com/users/91914/gnarf – its my crossword puzzle collection)
2:
XKCD
3: this space intentionally left blank

Your personal hero is: Underdog

Warcraft is like: Crack?

Any shoutouts? They know who they are.

Thanks for your time guys!

So if you have any burning questions or the desire to help, head over to Epic Advice! You may wish to check out the FAQ before doing anything.

Pass the Parcel: When Raiders Won’t Roll

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This is a guest post by Mimetir, an oversized owl of a raid leader on The Venture Co (EU). You can find her twitter feed.

Loot.

Shiny items of [insert rainbow colour here] pot of gold goodness.

Many players actively strive to better their equipment and make that their main goal in the game. Better, stronger, faster, more purple pixels than before, able and willing to go forth and vanquish something corrupt for the good of Azeroth. Go on, admit it – we all want loot: if we didn’t, our characters would still be pattering around in recruit’s regalia and would be prone to splattering over the scenery as soon as they looked at an end game raid. Better gear is a must not only for those players who actively raid but also for the other people they raid with in order to aid smooth group progression. But what about the people who just… don’t go for loot?

Say a guild decides that they are ready for Trial of the Grand Crusader and choose to invite one of their regular and generally competent raid healers.

Call him Homer.

The catch is that Homer’s in Naxx25 kit and the Trial is, well, at Grand Crusader level. Homer struggles and there are a fair few deaths and extra strains being put on other raid members to keep the group alive. There is limited success and the road to progression is rocky; the guild is increasingly beset by much wailing and gnashing of hooves. These are effects which would quickly avalanche into morale killers and unnecessary wipes – and, the longer they continue, similar cracks may start appearing in the guild.

You might think that Homer would have better gear considering he is a good healer and turns up for raids regularly. Is he contending against 9 other clothies for his loot? I’d hope not unless their lock is an astonishingly good kiter. Has he been on runs plagued with plate drops? Not at all, he’s seen useable loot every week for the past six and counting. He just never rolls on loot. He’s been known to pass gear with twice as much spell power than his own in favour of the druid tank’s off off spec.

Twice.

Players like Homer are not as rare as you might think: I have seen many different players pass on loot which seems a boon giftwrapped for them from the loot gods.

What goes through a player like Homer’s mind? Perhaps one of the following:

I don’t need it as much as X does, give it to him. This reason is quite acceptable if it’s not a regular occurance. The player may just be a nice person – it’s sweet for players to occasionally pass loot for other team members and can bond the group together. But if a player regularly passes in favour of giving loot to others it may cause frustration and have other, deeper reasons behind it…

I have equal stats to [equivalent class] so I must be just as good without new loot. This reason can be somewhat deceptive and is the by product of a lack in knowledge of game mechanics and an over or underactive confidence. The player may truly believe what he’s saying, in which case nodding and smiling at him is probably the best initial reaction. On the other hand it may mean that the player doesn’t believe this at all and is trying to mask the fact that he’s hopelessly confused.

I use custom / old stat weightings and that item doesn’t fit. Not many items seem to. Stats are understood in different ways by different people – some people have trouble getting their head around them at all. Some players get a grip on stats and then hold on to that understanding for all time, even though stats change over time. These approaches are fine and can be addressed gently, starting with the basics – not everyone needs or wants to know the mathematics in depth.

I don’t understand loot and you’re waiting for a decision from me so give it to someone else already. Some players have never got a grip on loot at all. They may think that there is a complex maze of mathematics and stats behind understanding loot and be terrified of entering it. Alternatively they may not want to ask for help in case people think they are stupid. Whatever the case, these players may get easily irritated when attention is drawn to them during loot rolls.

I don’t have any interest in progressing this character but I’m relied upon to be here with this character. If this is the case the player will show no interest in anything to do with the run – gear progression, instance progression, tactic progression. They may become bitter and, gradually, an unreliable raider in more than the loot sense. They may also spoil for fights; in this situation regularly passing on loot would just be an indication that this player needs a break.

There are probably many other reasons but those are the main ones I’ve heard players use. All of these responses can lead to an uncomfortable atmosphere in the passing player’s group – just look at the effects Homer has on his guild’s progression run. Progression requires every member of the group to be of an equal standard in their role in order that the group knows they can trust and rely on one another. Homer’s loot behavior may inspire bitterness and futility in his healer teammates, for example; the longer it goes on the more uncertain they are whether they will have to keep an eye on picking up Homer’s role.

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A player who is in this situation regarding loot is also likely to be feeling uncomfortable himself. Whatever his reason for passing on loot regularly, Homer is likely to be aware that it is creating tension. He may also feel cornered and not know how or whom to talk to about it: he has, to his mind, a good reason for passing on loot but his group members’ teeth are wearing into dust and their hooves getting chipped. He may realize that on some level he is letting the group down. This may lead to a drop in his performance and skill level, and potentially to a voluntary or forced drop from the raid team.

A player’s reason for constantly passing, whatever it may be, is their reason – not an excuse. It should not be ridiculed or dismissed out of hand by anyone in the group, including themselves. Neither should a blind eye be turned to this behavior if it is causing tension in the group. I think it should be brought into the open and discussed in a supportive manner, either as a team if everyone is comfortable to do so, or one to one between the player and either an officer or someone who is close to the player, who is comfortable being a mediator. Most of the reasons listed above are easily addressed – the second, third and fourth could all be eased through a variety of methods. The player might be directed to theorycrafting sites such as Elitist Jerks to read around their class in order to nourish or update their understanding of it. They might be encouraged to start playing with sites such as Lootrank, Warcrafter or download Rawr. Class group discussions and workshops could be run within the guild. Hell, a few patient players in the guild might take it upon themselves to run a few more relaxed instances with Homer to have him learn more about his class or become more used to loot rolling in a less stressful environment.

The fourth and fifth reasons listed above are the most worrying ones for a guild. Those are the ones which most quickly lead to a player feeling like they are being forced to do something they don’t want to, and becoming alienated from the guild. The player knows he is relied upon and this fact becomes a burden. He becomes more stressed and disinterested with varying reactions depending on his personality: the progression path gets rockier for everyone on it.

In my opinion it is crucial to watch out for raiders repeatedly passing on loot. I’d say that from a raid leader’s perspective it’s important to open those lines of dialogue with a Homer-like player and get an idea of his mindset and what should, if anything, be done about it: Obviously as a raid leader you don’t want to be stuck with a player whose loot behaviour holds the rest of the group back and causes cracks to appear.

Of course, depending on your agreed loot set up, as a raid leader you could simply give loot you consider beneficial to the player even if he passes on it, but that may cause its own problems. Will the player feel even more cornered and forced to do something they don’t want to? Probably. Will they and other group members loose or gain respect for you and the loot system and will it cause more cracks or cement over old ones? Probably the former. Do you, in fact, know better than the player himself?

So if you know someone who regularly passes on loot – or are someone in that situation – get talking about it. There’s no shame in not understanding something and the mechanics of WoW are too vast and perhaps fluid to be nailed down in one in one brain at any one time. Whether you’re Homer or Homer’s group member you may just learn something about another class or person and become a closer, better, faster – more purple – group for it.

I’d be interested to hear what you think, too – be you the uncomfortable Homer, the gnashing group member, the exasperated raid leader/officer – or you’ve seen it before, from afar, and pondered on the subject. Do you think loot passing is something which happens often? Something which is a taboo subject, especially in raiding guilds? Something which shouldn’t happen if the guild or group is set up correctly? How do you think this kind of loot behaviour should be addressed – with sidelining or discussion and support?

The Hybrid Pedigree

This is a guest post by Mimetir, an oversized owl of a raid leader on The Venture Co (EU). You can find her twitter feed at http://twitter.com/juddr.

I understood little about the game back when I was a young whippersnapper of a hammer-wielding paladin but I did know that those rather unfriendly zombies were hitting my party real hard now and I’d better cast that flashy light spell because no-one else did anything similar. Nowadays my boomkin suspects her claws are actually roots given the amount of times she’s dropped out of form to heal at a critical point. On the rare occasions my guild’s feral gets to DPS, he often finds himself bearing up and growling things off of the clothies. Even so, I regularly hear players bemoan that the hybrid classes are forgetting their utility and simply focusing on their single, chosen role. These comments usually come after an unsuccessful event or fight; a little help in healing from the paladin might have given the edge, or if the cat had just engaged bear’s-behind mode to help the overwhelmed tank out for a few seconds… A hybrid forgetting their flexibility just like a warlock forgetting to soulstone a healer. It’s something so integral to their class that they should do it automatically.

Hybrid classes allow a player to perform any and all of the three roles a group may require. Need a tank, DPS or healer? I can do all of those, says your paladin, druid or shaman. Admittedly the shaman can only tank under certain circumstances such as pre-60 instances, but this flexibility is something which makes these classes very popular choices for groups and also for players. Data shows that many players choose the paladin class, second only to the death knight – no surprise given the surge of DK mains when WotLK hit.

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Still, some players are not able or willing to play a class to its full hybrid potential. I think there are three types of hybrid players:

  • Those who are able to play different roles or specs for a sustained length of time – these are more common since the availability of dual spec
  • Those who are able to respond to a situation by switching into another playstyle and back out at the drop of a hat
  • Those who cannot or refuse to do either of these things and focus on one task.

I’ve said that a hybrid should know their class’ utility backwards – but should they? If hybrid players are a minority now this suggests that they are a dying breed. WoW is a lot easier to play than its previous incarnations, quibble as you like over the finer points. Perhaps gameplay no longer requires sharp hybrids with an eye always on utilizing their out-of-spec abilities. Mayhap the game has made facerolling, overpowered roles the hero of the day and has sidelined hybrid utility as a luxury addition to a raid. That would certainly explain why there seem to be less active hybrid players out there: Look, we are indeed all just DPS. Do you, as a raid leader or officer, notice more if your hybrid classes or your top DPS dies early on?

Raid setup is a lot more flexible nowadays and most encounters can be downed by any combination of characters. I have heard that level 60 raid setup required a lot more thought and arguably a different approach from the player to what they could contribute with their class. I often wonder whether a willingness to change roles at the drop of a hat is a long-term satisfying playstyle for hybrid classes. The cons spring to mind immediately. Two healers just went down; you the boomkin needs to heal, while the feral waits for an opportune moment to combat resurrect the tree. There goes your rotation. There goes your proc and DPS concentration. There goes the raid’s moonkin aura; the new order of the day is the stress of switching mental gears and trying to find your healing spells in order to keep the raid up. Your place on the DPS meter – sixth of ten. Yet again. Nevermind.

That shouldn’t matter of course – you have just saved the raid from a potential wipe: congrats, have a pat on the feathery back. Now get back to eclipsing.

Having a pivotal role in averting a wipe can be hugely satisfying. I would bet, though, that many hybrids find it wearisome to keep doing so. Speccing into a particular role means that you enjoy doing that and intend to do your best at it. A player constantly carrying the hybrid "millstone" may find that they don’t meet their own spec specific targets or feel that they are achieving their best. It can also be argued that WoW is a more competitive place than it used to be and many players no longer look deeper at performance than your DPS done during a fight, no mind that you spent half of it healing. That, too, can lead to friction in a group and for some players a disinclination to perform hybrid tasks or play that character at all – these are things which should be watched by both the player themselves and a prudent raid leader.

That said I believe that successful hybrids are still prized raid members. if you can perform whatever is needed without a moment’s notice then you may get a reputation as reliable and a quick thinker – attributes likely to get you a spot in the raid as much as the top DPSer of your guild. And wearisome though the millstone may be, it’s there as a reminder that you’re playing one of the most situationally flexible classes in WoW and that there are always new tricks to learn for a jack of all trades. What do you think? Do hybrid players play their classes as well as they could? Do you as a hybrid enjoy being pulled from pillar to post? Do your hybrid raiders matter more as flexible players or solid DPSers?

Bubbles and Crits: Paladins from 3.0 to 3.2

This is a guest post by jeffo, a Paladin blogger from Looking For More.

Before there is Cataclysm there was a cataclysm – a massive overhaul to WoW that patch 3.0.2 brought to the game. From this Holy Paladin’s perspective, these changes were more than welcome and, once I got used to 40-yard judgments, a spell that would let me heal two(!) targets at once and a greatly streamlined judgment system, I was in good shape. The road to level 80 also brought us a shield and a new mechanism for regenerating a lot of mana over a short period of time. The revisions to all three Paladin trees made many Holy Paladins rethink where their non-Holy points should be invested.

Prior to 3.0.2 most Holydins would go into Protection tree, primarily with the aim of picking up Blessing of Kings. With Wrath out most Holy Paladins decided to dig instead into the Retribution tree, picking up talents that increased spell crit by 8%. Although Kings remained in the same location in the Protection tree, the shuffling of talents around it made this build pale in comparison to a Holy/Ret spec. The crit talents took advantage of one of our key talents, Illumination, and enabled Holydins to stack Intellect, load up on crit gear, and Holy Light-spam our way through Naxxramas into Ulduar. Even as we watched a shameful moment in paladin history (Arthas disbanding the Silver Hand and sending Uther home in disgrace in Old Stratholme), healing Paladins seemed to be entering into a Golden Age, topping meters and putting out prodigious amounts of healing while our fellow healers were running dry.

Storm clouds appeared on the horizon in May when Ghostcrawler dropped the first hint that Blizzard was looking at nerfing Illumination. This touched off a vigorous debate on Plusheal.com (as opposed to the O-Boards, where it spawned much QQ from Paladins, and much ‘lol, nerf pallies, QQ moar’ from everyone else) about what this would mean if the change went through, though many seemed to believe that it wouldn’t.

It did.

On June 18, the news was announced, and it was even worse than we had imagined: Not only did the mana return from Illumination get cut in half, one of our key talents, Divine Intellect, was also getting cut by 5% at max level. Combined with an across-the-board nerf to Replenishment, it appeared that Holy Paladins were getting nerfed ‘to the ground, baby’ (sorry, can’t resist borrowing that quote from our favorite crab). Anguish and anger ruled the day on the O-Boards. We were going to be crippled, we were going to be benched. Never mind the huge buff to Beacon of Light (and it is huge), never mind the Flash of Light over Time effect on Sacred Shielded targets: Rerolls were incoming, subscriptions were being canceled. The Golden Age of the Paladin was over.

Or was it?

April’s Patch 3.1 introduced some new wrinkles that may well have been designed to lure healers out of the Ret tree: Divinity and Divine Sacrifice. With the nerfs incoming in patch 3.2, a number of Paladins began eyeballing and experimenting with Holy/Protection as an alternative. Siha at Banana Shoulders predicted on July 21st that a Holy/Prot spec would become the favored spec while other Paladin deeper in Ulduar than I were looking at this spec as a way to mitigate some of the high raid-wide damage seen in fights like Mimiron. Sadly, despite the theorycrafting that was going on, few people who were actually IN the PTR were posting their experiences with any real numbers. Instead, we got a mix of ‘it’s not too bad’ and ‘it sucks, I’m re-rolling’, so we were left to wait, wonder and speculate. Much of the speculation focused on whether or not the sky would fall when the patch went live.

Patch Goes Live, Sky Does Not Fall!

Just before the patch hit I dropped my 1000 gold on dual-spec training and created…a second healing spec. I went with a 51/20/0 ‘Bubble spec’, figuring there was no getting around the nerfs and that I was going to have to get used to it. A funny thing happened to me: I’ve been using the bubble spec almost exclusively ever since. A one-minute Sacred Shield is nice, and Divine Sacrifice is a very strong talent (provided I don’t inadvertently kill myself with it). I do miss not seeing quite as many BIG, GREEN NUMBERS as I used to, but with raid buffs I’m still typically critting well over thirty percent of the time, and have hit 40+% on some fights.

But what about the mana? Prior to 3.2 in my Crit spec, I was getting around 40% of my total mana regeneration from Illumination; Replenishment was a distant second at ~30%. Both were getting cut drastically in the patch, and switching to a Bubble spec would make my crit drop by another 8% or so – would I be able to heal, or would I find myself starved for mana?

In short, my mana is fine! Despite the fact that in bubble spec Illumination now only makes up 15-17% mana return, and Replenishment returns now seem to fall in the 25% range, I have had virtually no issues with mana to date. Even on fights where I find myself having to bomb Holy Lights, I’m not the healer that calls ‘Out of mana’ over vent – that doesn’t happen for me unless something’s gone very, very wrong in our raid. How can this be? I believe it’s due to a combination of the following:

  1. High crit rate: Despite the loss of 8% crit through my respec and the 50% Illumination nerf, I’m still regaining plenty of mana through crits. Unbuffed I stand at 27% Holy crit; with full raid buffs, I’m still typically critting on 40% of my heals.
  2. Guardian, Sacrifice and Shield: With 2 points in Divine Guardian, Sacred Shield lasts one minute (as opposed to 30 seconds untalented), and absorbs 20% more damage per hit. Divine Sacrifice can eat up a pretty high amount of damage every two minutes. Fewer shield refreshes, more damage absorbed = mana savings.
  3. Play Style: Three big things in this category: First, I’ve become better about finding safe spots in fights to use Divine Plea; second, I’m getting back into the habit of using Divine Illumination whenever I can (I used to use it pretty much every cooldown, but got out of the habit since the expansion, simply because I didn’t need it); third, where I’ve traditionally done my healing from 40 yards away, I will now be found a little more often around the bosses’ feet. A single swing with Seal of Wisdom active can get you enough mana for your next Holy Light, depending on the size of your mana pool.

Based on my experience, Bubbledins seem to be faring pretty well so far: we can still put out very large numbers and our mana seems to hold up well over long, healing intensive fights. I think that it actually makes us a more well-rounded healer than we were heading into the patch. But what about the holdouts? The nerfs seemed to be aimed pretty squarely at Int-stacking, Crit-bombing, Holy retadins, and there’s still a lot of them out there. For my next act (Matt willing) I will take a look at some numbers and reports from my critting cousins. A bit more research is in order, and it may mean taking the Crit spec back out of the garage and into Ulduar again – should be fun!

Online Gaming Addiction Part 3 – Coping Strategies

This is a guest post by Professor Beej. Part 3 of 3.

So now we’ve looked at my experience with Online Gaming Addiction and the four primary signs and symptoms that indicated a problem in the first place.  Today, I’ll deal with a few methods that can hopefully help addicts manage the addiction and at least take a few steps on the road to recovery.

Go Cold Turkey

Just stop.  Cancel the subscription, uninstall the game, and go on about your life.  It’s that easy.

Okay, no, it really isn’t.  Despite the fact that this sounds like the easiest, most direct route to overcoming gaming addiction, this is also the method through which the most backsliding occurs.  The mental need for the game will still exist in the gamer because Online Gaming Addiction just that—an addiction. 

Going cold turkey might work for some people.  It requires a great deal of willpower to maintain the distance between the addict and the game.  I know from experience that even when the game is cancelled and uninstalled, it just takes a few minutes from the time the addict gives in to get everything back into working order.  I’ve heard some players say that they delete characters before leaving an MMO to take away the urge to return, but in World of Warcraft’s case, Blizzard will generally restore a deleted character with relative ease, making that argument effectively worthless.

From my own personal experience, I think going cold turkey is the wrong way to go about ridding this addiction.  Sure, there are people whom it can work for, but the mental nature of the addiction makes entirely giving it up in one shot much more difficult on the addicts themselves than other methods.  There is a reason that there are step-down methods for quitting chemical dependencies such as nicotine and alcohol because the body has to learn to function without the drug; MMO addicts’ minds must do the same thing.  To take a person out of the world in which he or she has spent potentially 14+ hours a day in would designate an entire lifestyle shift; the addict would be totally unprepared to deal with everyday situations without the safety net of being able to escape online.  Such a shift could potentially send the MMO addict into a sort of shock, and he or she would not be able to cope with the complete 180 life had taken and know no other way to cope than to seek solace in the very addiction being worked against. 

Take A Break

Along the same lines as going cold turkey, the addict can possibly just take a short break from the MMO to which he or she is addicted, coming back to the online world with a fresh outlook on how to find a balance between the real and virtual worlds.  Small breaks can help an addict realize that the real world can offer enjoyment and validation that can matter even more than the virtual world.  The possibility of returning to the game at any point might offer enough freedom for the addict to re-engage in other hobbies on a limited basis.

Taking a light break from the game has the possibility of allowing addicts to also re-invest themselves with their family and friends because, unlike going cold turkey, there is always the possibility of a quick fix of the game when symptoms of addiction like I mentioned last time—crankiness and negative interaction—become too strong.  Such a limited exposure to the game can help an addict deal with the “withdrawal” symptoms. Addicts can learn to adapt the MMO to their own lives because a simple break allows them to set whatever boundaries they think are necessary to limit their playtime. 

MMO Methadone, or Slow It Down

If going cold turkey or taking a small break doesn’t work, then perhaps what I call MMO Methadone will.  This is the method by which I am currently trying to control my gaming habit.  I call it this because it uses the MMO to which one is addicted like a heroin addict uses methadone.  The player will still play an online game just enough to “get a fix” and feel fulfilled, but log off before things get out of hand. This is really a step-down method that gradually reduced playtime until the minimum playtime desired is reached.

Using this method, the player continues to do play the game to which he or she has become addicted, just in smaller doses.  I don’t think this method should really impact playstyle at all. If you’re a raider, you can still raid.  If you’re a PvPer, you can still PvP.  The addict can play whenever and however he or she wants, just less.  If there are four raid nights a week, then begin by trying to only make three.  Do that for a while, and then try to only make half the raids.  After the step-down becomes habitual and the time spent out of game is easier to manage, completely cutting ties (or becoming acclimated to the reduced and manageable schedule) with the game will be significantly easier.

My personal dose of MMO Methadone is PvP in WoW.  I want to play WoW some, but I don’t want to have to schedule raids or really dedicate long hours to it.  I came to the realization that I could not do that with raiding, even PuG raids.  So I decided that doing a few battlegrounds here and there has completely satiated my desire to play.  I started out doing hours of them a day, grinding 10-20k honor in a sitting, making every Lake Wintergrasp that came up.  Gradually, I have reduced my playtime to where I log on to do the PvP daily when I get home from work, a Lake Wintergrasp if one is imminent, and maybe a Warsong Gulch or Alterac Valley.  I have not spent over an hour and a half on WoW in one sitting in a while, and I am quite happy with where I am managing my schedule.  I might not have a 2500+ Arena rating or competitive gear this way, but I have fun in-game and still have time to do things outside of the game that I enjoy.

This method is the most useful in overcoming addiction, I think, because it not only allows for players to actually still enjoy the aspects of the game that initially attracted (and thusly addicted) them, but to do so responsibly.  If this method is approached correctly and actually adhered to, addicts nothing regarding their desired gameplay experience, yet gain the freedom of at least working toward not being tethered to a virtual existence.

Alter Your Playstyle

If you just can’t seem to kick the MMO habit through any other method, then perhaps the best way to do it is by altering your playstyle.  This is similar to #3 in that it might include stepping down one’s playtime, but it differs in that it helps players control their addiction by not allowing them to get sucked into the same part of the game over and over again.  The variety in playstyle might make the addict realize there is more to the game than the single facet that had been so overwhelming.  When transitioning to a new playstyle, addicts might be able to see the rut they had gotten into when otherwise they might have remained blissfully (or so it seems) ignorant of that fact.

For instance, if one is a raider and the scheduled raids consistently impact real life activities, then try PvPing.  Set a goal of a total honor to grind for each day, and then work toward that.  There is no set time to be online, and there is no pressure that one might perhaps be letting down the raid for not showing.  This is not to say that PvP cannot dominate one’s life, but if raiding is already doing so, then changing focus to something completely different like PvP will allow for raiding to take a backseat and perhaps the addict will see that other fun is to be had which might not have the same impact on his or her personal life.  This way is much easier to fit the game between other aspects of life because queueing for a battleground takes under a minute in most cases and can be done from anywhere.  With the PvP daily quest and the Wingergrasp weeklies, there is still a great deal to be done regarding casual PvP that still allows for immersion and character progression.

On the other hand, if the addict is a PvPer, then he or she might have the competitive nature of the system overtaking life or personality.  This kind of impact might call for a more laidback way of playing the game.  In this case, pugging a few raids or heroics might help ease the addict into a more casual playstyle that could mellow out the addiction.  Instead of being relegated to getting in a certain number of arena matches or maintaining a rating to progress one’s character, collecting badges and doing the daily heroic quest can be done with random people at one’s own pace.  There is little competition in this playstyle, and so a PvP addict might be able to find casual solace in instance running that would be impossible in the other playstyle.

Professional Counseling

If you or someone you know struggles with some of the signs and symptoms I outlined in my previous post, and none of these home-grown remedies and coping methods seem to be able to kill the addiction, then it is time to seek out professional counseling.  Online Gaming Addiction is a very real problem that therapists are trained to deal with.  There are also many online support group websites that can be Googled to begin seeking professional help.

Seeking therapy is not something to be ashamed of; I thought for a while I might have been in the position where I might have been forced to seek it out myself.  I was, however, able to control my addiction enough through the help of my family and friends that it never got that far, though it was a tough road.  Even without professional help, I was not able to keep my own addiction under control alone.  I did require others’ support to keep me on the right track.  Even as I write this, I had a discussion with my girlfriend earlier tonight about applying to a raiding guild in WoW for the 3 nights a week I generally have free, and she was able to help talk me down, citing these posts as an example of why that could be a bad idea.  I just could not do this alone, and I don’t know many people who can.

And don’t worry about money.  Yes, there are therapists out there who charge an arm and a leg and sometimes a first-born child for payment, but there are often professional counselors who can help for a nominal fee or for no fee at all.  If the addict is a college student, most universities offer counseling to enrolled students as a part of tuition.  All it takes is a trip to student services to find out how to make an appointment. For high school students, the school counselor should be able to help or at least find someone who can, and most public school districts offer a professional therapist for students in need. If the addict happens to be a non-student in the workforce, many corporations offer therapists and counseling as part of employee benefits, and many large companies offer free therapy to workers to maintain productivity and morale.  And again, remember that these are all generally free, and if there is a fee, it’s usually nominal.

Just don’t be ashamed or afraid to seek help.  If help isn’t sought and remedies aren’t tried, then the problem can only persist and the addiction can only get worse.

And remember that you’re not alone.  There are many people, myself included, who suffer from being addicted to online games to some degree or another.  These people might not even know they need help, but believe me, they do.  Through proper channels, this addiction is treatable and can, through work and perseverance, be overcome so that online gaming can become the social and fun pastime it was intended to be. 

Online Gaming Addiction Part 2 – Signs and Symptoms

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This is a guest post by Professor Beej. Part 2 of 3.

In my last post, I chronicled my ongoing experiences with Online Gaming Addiction that have led me to the point where I am now—I’ve realized I am addicted, and I am trying to rid myself of the problem.  Today, I intend to go through the signs that initially helped me realize that I was (and still am, but to a lesser extent) addicted to the hobby in which I have to this point invested eleven years of my life.

If you think that you or someone you know might be addicted to online gaming, then ask the following questions. These are the four points that predominantly signaled that I had a problem.

Has your personality changed?

It’s a given that over the course of our lives, we all change, and sometimes that change is for the worse.  Online gaming addicts, however, change for the worse in a very dramatic way, albeit one that might be gradual enough that it goes unnoticed by the addicts themselves.  The personality change will probably appear stress-related or just mild crankiness for the first little while, but it might actually stem from a “withdrawal” from the game world.  If the personality change persists and grows steadier while the person is away from their game, yet appears perfectly normal while logged on, then it could be a sign of online gaming addiction.

As I grew more engrossed in World of Warcraft’s world, I became more of a jerk to those around me.  I was more snide, more sarcastic, and I had very few pleasant things to say about anything or anyone that was not directly related to my success or enjoyment in WoW.  It was really like the nice guy I had been all my life had been transplanted with a completely different personality.  The more time I spent away from my virtual life in Azeroth, the less amenable to reality I became.  As soon as I was logged in again, however, I was chipper and happy and joking all night long.  I would ignore friends during the day, yet I would pester them for instance runs later that evening.

Those around me every day never really noticed this behavior.  I just seemed occasionally grumpy to them.  It was my parents who noticed it growing worse and worse on my visits home from college.  It took my mother saying “I don’t like who you’ve become since you’ve gone to college.  You’ve really become a smartass” to really make me look at my life and realize that I was going in a direction that I hadn’t even noticed, nor had anyone else.  My personality was worsening too gradually for friends who saw me on an everyday basis to really see, but when my parents only saw me every three weeks or so, they would notice that I was getting surlier with each visit.  My time away from WoW was becoming less and less pleasant, and my demeanor showed it.

Do you interact with your family and friends in a different, more negative way?

Online gaming addiction not only affects the addicts themselves, but also the people with whom they interact and how they interact with them.  If a person becomes addicted to an online game, real life can begin to seem like a distraction, and he or she can begin avoiding or cutting short responsibilities and engagements just to get a little extra time in the virtual world. In addition to my being cranky with my friends and family, I would also interact with them differently than I ever had before I became so engulfed by the game.  Gaming addicts’ interactions with others are often limited to online chats and channels without their realizing it.  If you or someone you know has stopped most offline socialization and typically only communicates through the game, then there is a good chance that person might be experiencing some level of addiction.  I’ve been in this situation before. 

In college, friends would rent or buy DVDs and bring them over to my house to watch as a group; I would be in the back room alone playing WoW while they occupied my living room, laughing and having a good time.  If my friends wanted to go eat dinner, I had to make sure it didn’t conflict with raid times or something else I had scheduled in game, otherwise I would not go.  I figured I could get all the socialization I needed in-game.  I would miss birthday parties, barbeques, and weekend road trips because I had a raid scheduled or just would have rather been playing my game than doing something that wasn’t WoW.  When I went home to visit my parents, I would set my laptop up on their coffee table and raid, barely paying attention to them (even as my dad recovered from heart surgery), because I could not stand to be offline and miss a raid for any reason.

The culminating incident occurred after I graduated college.  The girl I was dating at the time moved back in with her family who lived over three hours away from our college town.  I decided to spend one last summer at college instead of moving home.  She wanted to come visit me and stay with me a lot over the summer, but I told her no.  I told her I wanted to “spend time with friends and just play my game.”  She would ask over and over again, but I would still refuse to see her.  That summer, I would spend on average 15 hours a day on WoW, really only leaving the house for food.  I never even realized until afterward what was going on and that I was alienating my closest friends.

When I said I wanted to “spend time with my friends,” I meant I wanted to instance and raid with them.  My real-life interaction with friends and family dropped to nearly non-existent, and when I did see other people, I was unfriendly and always thinking about being back online.  Combined with my sour mood that had been slowly developing over time, some friends got fed up with me, and we still do not talk that often.  Other friends stuck with me, and I eventually was able to patch up relations when I realized how badly I was affected by this addiction. 

Have other hobbies been tossed to the side and forgotten?

I mentioned this briefly in my previous post, but it has always been one of the prime symptoms that made me realize I was addicted to online gaming rather than simply mismanaging my time.

One of the primary qualifiers of an addiction is the physical or psychological need to place it over other aspects of one’s life, no matter the consequences.  In the case of online gaming addiction, this “hobby” can entirely overshadow other hobbies and interests to the point where the addicted person simply has no other life.  While not as damning as impacting one’s base personality or social skills, online gaming addiction can lead to tunnel vision where the gamer thinks that nothing else is worthy of his or her attention.

In my case, I stopped reading any books for pleasure or, really, for school.  I would Sparknotes anything I had an assignment for in order to make as much time as I could for gaming.  Not only was my school reading impacted, but I see gaps in my journal of books I read for entertainment where there are months on end where no new entries are made, and I feel bad about that because I was an English literature major in college.  Reading has always been one of the things I do for fun.  When I became addicted to WoW, no book could even hold a candle to the entertainment I thought I was getting.  I claim to be a huge Harry Potter fan, even wanting to dedicate part of my doctoral research to the series, but when books 5 and 6 were released, it took me a good week to two weeks to finish them instead of the hours or days it took most of my friends.  I just couldn’t stand the thought of doing anything but being on WoW.

It wasn’t just books, either.  I mentioned earlier how I would avoid watching movies on DVD my friends would rent because I couldn’t justify not being in-game for those two hours.  TV was no different.  I could not justify the time to actually sit down and watch any shows.  I thought a DVR would fix that once I left college, but my DVR is filled even today with TV shows I refuse to set the time aside to watch because I spend so much time on various MMOs.

Even though this aspect of gaming addiction only directly affects the addicted players themselves, it can have far reaching consequences that can impact others when the addict’s habits and interests are shared with friends and family, as in my previous example.

Is it hard to concentrate on anything not involving the game?

Online gaming addiction is a mental addiction rather than physical, obviously.  There are no drugs being ingested and no body chemistry alterations, but the mental pull that online games have on the addicted is just as powerful.  A surefire sign of gaming addiction is when a person is participating in an activity entirely unrelated to the game, yet constantly draws parallels and references to it.  This symptom can also lead to diminished performance in other aspects of the addicted person’s life because he or she simply cannot (or will not) put forth the effort required to excel at anything but gaming.  Since no other aspect of life is as fulfilling to the addicted, why exert the energy required to concentrate? 

Sometimes, it’s not an active lack of concentration, though.  When I was in my worst stages of it, I could not help where my thoughts led.  I could have been in the middle of class, and I would be writing out gear lists or talent specs I wanted to try out.  I might have been at dinner and interrupted the conversation with yet another WoW related train of thought, even when the discussion was nowhere around it.  I could not concentrate on other aspects of my life, even when I tried.  When I did try, I was trying to relate them to the game so I could increase my enjoyment.  If I could not relate them in any way, I would consistently have my mind drawn back to the game because that was where I would have preferred to be.

Just like an addict’s social life, academic and professional lives are also at risk from being too engrossed in an online game.  Productivity and GPAs can severely drop as a person falls unchecked into an MMO.  I was always a student at the top of my class, with more A’s than B’s and never anything lower than that.  When I was at my worst, however, for the first time in my life, I began making C’s.  I just didn’t care that I hadn’t studied for that German vocabulary quiz because I had finally been on top of DKP and earned my Tier 2 shoulders.  I wouldn’t have been able to concentrate anyway even if I had studied because I would be thinking about having to farm consumables or which alt to level or any of a hundred other things that made WoW more appealing than homework (or any other part of my life).

Jobs are just as easily lost from lack of attention as grades; being too engrossed in writing out specs, checking forums, and reading MMO blogs are easy ways to waste time at work that could jeopardize one’s position.  If those aren’t available, then simply having one’s mind elsewhere, concentrating on the game and what “needs” to be done there when the working day is done, can severely limit productivity.  In the worst case scenario, lack of concentration at work can cause one’s job to be lost because the work being paid for is not being done.

If you or someone you know constantly references an online life more than their real one or is consistently distracted when outside of the game only to rush to log in whenever the day is done, that person might be addicted to a game.

Conclusion

These are only a few of the ways that Online Gaming Addiction can affect a person’s life and those around them.  These are the four most prominent in my case.  This is, by far, not an all-inclusive list, but the ones where I have experience recognizing that something is wrong.  I have personal experience with each of these four symptoms, and through the help of my friends and family and a good bit of willpower, I started to figure out that there is a wide world outside of my computer that really is more fulfilling on every level than the “life” I had thought I was building for myself online. 

And therein lays the problem.  Recognizing that I had a problem was not the same as actually doing something about it.  No matter how much I knew I was addicted, I was still addicted and had to do something about it.  So the next and final post in this series sorts through a few methods of reaching a sustainable balance between gaming addiction and a functional life.

Image courtesy of sundstrom.

Online Gaming Addiction Part 1 – My Experience

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This is a guest post by Professor Beej. This is part 1 of 3.

I wrote an article a few years ago regarding my experience with online gaming addiction.  Last month, I even posted that I had cancelled World of Warcraft yet again, and now I am backsliding again.  My main problem is that I absolutely love any game that is massively multiplayer online (MMO), and I have since I was 15.  These games give me a sense of growth and community that I adore. I just cannot find that in single-player games.  The driving force in these games is a quantifiable increase in the power of your character through various types of progression (weapons and armor or abilities) that appears to affect the game world itself. Unfortunately, most MMOs directly link this character progression with time spent in-game, thus making casual gameplay impossible if a player wishes to experience the highest levels of the game.  With my schedule these days, I generally can’t justify scheduling massive amounts of time to raid or PvP; however, I find myself still logging onto World of Warcraft or Warhammer Online even after I convince myself that it is in my best interest to cancel my subscription.

In the last month alone, I have reactivated my subscriptions to World of Warcraft and Warhammer Online, as well as started new accounts with the Free2Play games Luminary, Free Realms, and Runes of Magic. I know I don’t have time to play a single MMO to its fullest, yet I have been hopping back and forth through 4 (RoM is still downloading, and I have yet to try it), trying to get whatever fix it is that I feel I need. While it’s not a physical addiction, it is a mental one; my thoughts constantly and involuntarily wander to these games and things I “need” to do in them, even when I am out doing something entirely unrelated.

And that’s the crux of it.  It is an addiction I have little control over.  I always think I can control the amount of time I spend in an MMO, but when I log in and start chatting with friends and seeing all the good times I’ve been missing out on, I set new goals in my head that I start working toward when I know that I have no reason for or time to realize. I am so set in a certain playstyle in World of Warcraft that even when I try to play it casually, I can’t.

I was talking to my roommate about this a week or two ago, and we came to the conclusion that it stems from that we (my close-knit group of friends) have always taken gaming seriously and consistently stay at the top-end of any game we decide to play seriously. We generally don’t game to have fun; we game to win.  And that’s fine as long as one’s lifestyle can facilitate it like ours could in college, but now, we’re out of school and have professional careers and other responsibilities which make scheduling twelve to fifteen hours of weeknight raiding almost impossible.  I’ve played WoW since the first week of release in November 2004 on the same server with the same people, and I have become deeply rooted into a certain playstyle in those four and a half years.

Simply “going casual” (at least in WoW) is not an option for me. I assume this is the case for many MMOers who are struggling with finding the balance between their chosen fantasy world and real life.  I want to try Runes of Magic because I will be starting fresh in a game, thus allowing myself to dictate a new playstyle, as well as not feeling compelled to get my money’s worth from the subscription fee.  If a Free2Play game like RoM doesn’t do the trick, then I will likely PvP on WoW in hopes that the mysterious battleground revamp in Patch 3.2 will allow for more casual progression.  If not that, then I am going to have to rethink my MMO career.

I don’t know about other people, but I know how I became conscious that MMOs are an addiction for me.  I found this out through a few painful years where my social life and family life started going to hell. The prime reasons that brought my MMO addiction to light were that I would limit time with my family and friends based around a raid schedule, or I would ask my girlfriend to stay away from me for a few days while I would grind out the rest of my PvP armor or get my new alt leveled.  I haven’t regressed that far in around three years, thankfully, but I am sure there are people who still struggle with this on a daily basis.

These days, I know I’m still addicted because I truly enjoy myself while I’m playing, even losing track of time because I am so immersed in the fantasy world, but when I get finished and log out, I feel hollow and unfulfilled. I think of a dozen other things I could have been doing that would have been more productive.  I even sometimes get a sick feeling in my stomach that stems from disgust in my having given in yet again.

MMOs keep me from really enjoying my other hobbies and interests, too.  I keep a journal of all the books I read.  I started when I was in college, and I think it’s something interesting to keep track of.  In this journal, there are sometimes months-long gaps in my list where I don’t have any new books listed at all except for audiobooks (which I listen to while I drive to and from work/school, so they don’t get affected by my online gaming at home). For an English teacher, I think that’s pretty pathetic. I joke around with people that those are my WoW breaks from life, but the sad truth is that they are.  This particular sign of my addiction doesn’t affect anyone but me, but the effect it has on my ego is actually pretty significant.  I’ve been reading the same 400 page paperback for at least three weeks because I’ve been up too late playing an MMO of some kind than to even read my customary chapter before bed, much less spend part of an evening reading for entertainment.

On the other side of the media spectrum, I feel my MMO playtime impacts my enjoyment of television and movies.  I sit down occasionally to watch a movie at home, but I feel bad because even though my roommate goes and rents at least three movies a week from Blockbuster’s new releases, I rarely sit down and watch even one.  I am usually too involved in something online, most likely an MMO.  My DVR will sit idle during my stints on World of Warcraft, piling up hours of television I want to watch but can never dedicate the time to.  I end up deleting shows off my DVR to make room for other shows that I might or might not eventually get around to watching.  And I always feel bad about this because I hear other people talking about how fantastic so-and-so show is but cannot join in on that conversation. And anyone who knows me realizes how hard it is for me to stay out of a conversation.

Right now, there are thirteen episodes of C.S.I. and eight episodes of Pushing Daisies on my DVR waiting for me to watch them.  Not to mention the library of one-shots and documentaries I record because the guide info makes them look interesting.  I still have half a season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars to finish, too.  Yet lately, when I find myself not writing, I am on an MMO doing something inane and pointless instead of catching up on things I had previously decided I would use my summer for. 

What a lot of this boils down to is willpower.  I’ve tried going cold-turkey on my MMO addiction, and I can’t do it.  Some people might have been able to break the habit like this, but seeing as how it is an entirely mental addiction, I don’t think I’m strong-willed enough for that path.  My mind always drifts back to healing an instance or a battleground if I’ve been “sober” too long, and I end up reactivating my account and feeling like I’m an awful human being for it.  I put in my information to re-subscribe, and I immediately get that sick feeling in my gut.  But I log in anyway, and start chatting and healing, and I lose myself for a few more hours.  If I can find a game that fulfills me on a casual basis and doesn’t make me neglect the life I am building for myself or make me feel bad about myself for giving in to the addiction, I will likely stick with it for a while, using it a step-down method of ridding myself from the addiction, rather than the cold-turkey method that just does not seem to work for me.

Because the fear of falling back in too deeply exists with any MMO I play, even free or casual ones, I always have to be vigilant for the signs that I am going too far in once more.  The entire reason for writing this post is because I can feel myself falling too far in already, and I needed to take a step back and think about my problem objectively before it gets bad enough to begin affecting my outside life again.  I don’t see a good reason to completely cut myself off from MMOs right now, as everything seems to be under relative control, but there is every reason to guard myself and place regulations on how much I play, which is why I am looking at the battleground revamp in World of Warcraft for casual gameplay or F2P games in general.

Gaming addiction is a very real problem, and I have seen firsthand how it can all but ruin a person’s entire life.  I have always been involved with gaming in some fashion, and I guess I always will.  It’s up to me, then, to realize the difference in reality and fantasy and put my real life ahead of my virtual one, and even put my other hobbies ahead of this one.  Anything to give this addiction less power over me.  It’s up to me to distance myself from the aspects of MMO gaming culture which have been harmful to me in the past.  I intend to use casual gameplay and Free2Play MMOs as a way to finally ween myself from my online gaming addiction like heroin addicts use methadone.  I may always play an MMO of some kind because I do truly enjoy for the genre, but I hope that eventually the impact the games have on my outside life is minimal compared to what it has been.

And that’s where I stand today with my problem.  It is definitely an ongoing battle.  I am even writing this with WoW idling in the background.  I am not trying to come across as someone who has beaten this addiction, far from it.  I want to come across as someone who realizes this is a very real problem for some people, and I would like to put my story out there in order to maybe help save someone the problems I went through.

So this is the first in a three-part series I am writing dealing with Online Gaming Addiction.  Part Two will focus on Signs and Symptoms I went through that should help easily identify gaming addicts.  Part Three will cover methods of beating the addiction (or attempting to, at least) once it’s recognized.

Image courtesy of stokfoto.

Symbiotic Altoholism

This is a guest post by Saunder, a Holy Paladin from Non-squishy Heals.

Before I start I guess I should say a bit about myself. I have 2 level 80 Holy/Ret dual-specced Pallys (instance as holy, solo as ret), a 73 hunter and a 58 druid. Well I have lots more, but they are the important ones.

Most of you will be familiar with the idea of Symbiotic relationships. One definition of such relationships is that it occurs where both organisms benefit. I see alts as exactly this sort of relationship.

The hunter was my original toon. I leveled him in the blissful ignorance that comes from not reading about game mechanics, and running instances in the totally blithe knowledge that the tank will *always* have aggro, and the healer will *always* keep you alive. After all, a hunter is DPS so all that matters is how much damage he or she can do, yes?

I then rolled a Pally, and enjoyed it. I liked healing and now my Pallys are unquestionably my mains … Can you have multiple ‘main’s? Anyway … And I found out some rather nasty truths. The first one was that Hunters who don’t manage their own aggro, even at the expense of their DPS are very very unpleasant group mates to have for healers at times. I have come to realise that my play as the hunter has been immeasurably improved by playing a healer. You may ask why – well, now I know that DPS isn’t everything. You need to find ways to put out the best DPS *without* pulling more threat than the tank and, if that isn’t enough, sometimes there is no better thing for the group and the run as a whole than for the DPS to fall on their sword and protect the healer, even at the expense of their own life and repair bill. It’s not what you signed up for, but it *is* the hard reality. Not only have these observations led to much improved play as the hunter, I hope that the number of pug members swearing at me behind my back has decreased markedly. I firmly believe that to be a really effective DPS, you need to play a healer, most likely to a high enough level to run some reasonable instances with pugs and learn some of the mistakes that will keep you on your main, and your group mates, alive and happy longer.

The second truth I found was that of healing priorities. In an instance, your first and foremost role as a healer is to stay alive. That may be a very selfish view, but seriously, how much healing can you do dead? The best tank and group in the world will need heals at some point (ok, with a couple of Blood DK’s or a hybrid class that can step in that may not be an absolute, but you know what I mean) and that means you the healer need to be alive and kicking so that you can provide those heals. (It’s also a pain in the behind to have to keep running back from a graveyard if you are the only one who can res but that is secondary). The next priority is the tank. Obviously anyone who is going to keep the attention of the instance denizens away from you and the rest of the group is a good person to look after. And, in case you hadn’t noticed, healers tend to be high up there on the threat table. Second on a threat table is a bad place to be if the first on the table dies, usually leading to the situation above where you can’t heal the rest of the group as you are dead!

So there it is, Healing Priorities in a nutshell. Now, now, now, before I hear all you DPS baying at the moon for my blood (do feral Druids in kitty form still bay? *grin*), I don’t mean that I don’t heal the DPS, far from it. I will heal anyone in a party or raid, players, pets, mind controlled mobs or whoever but I will heal them after I heal myself and the tank. In a perfect world no-one will die in an instance run, but, with the exceptions of DPS-races where the boss enrage-wipes, the death of a DPS is merely an inconvenience. The death of a tank or healer is often disastrous. DPS need to understand that there are times, and that is particularly true if they do something crazy, that death is inevitable. Live with it, and know that we your healers try to keep it to a minimum.

Then there is the very uncomfortable truth that there are players out there who just don’t seem to ‘get’ it. You can tell them that unloading the full barrage of their uber talents and abilities before the tank has established threat is a bad idea until you are blue in the face and they will not change their ways. Surprising how fast they learn when you let them die as a result of their actions. Explain to them the pain they are causing, then if they don’t learn, just practice tough love. They will, and the group as a whole will thank you for it in the long term.

So on the one hand, playing a healer alt really is a good thing for the DPS classes out there, and as a side effect, obviously, some percentage of you will find that you like healing, thus helping with the perpetual healer shortage. Excellent. I can live with that! :D On the other hand, it is just as valuable for a healing class to play the DPS role. Why you ask? As a healer, you need to know as much as possible that will make your runs more successful. After all, rightly or wrongly, the finger of blame is often pointed at the healer when there are problems. That means knowing the mistakes the other classes are likely to make. It can be a general knowledge such as the hunter example above, or it could be something much more specific. When that particular glow comes from the mage’s hands, for example, a LOT of AOE damage is about to happen, and that, in turn, leads to a LOT of threat. So have the big heal part way throughcasting so that if the mage *does* get aggro you might save them from being one-shotted. For those classes where you have emergency buttons, bubbling a mage in those sort of circumstance is not a bad idea. How cool is it to hear the anguished sounds that the clothies make on vent when they get aggro only to find they are still alive! You get to sit back and bask in the adulation of your peers. Ok, they mostly just grunt at you and expect it, but that’s the life of a healer

Really look at the benefits of the different instance roles. Playing a different role is a big way to get fresh enjoyment and experiences. It will keep it interesting at the very least, and you never know, you might actually learn something and make life easier for everyone around you.

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