Sunday, 28 February 2010

On dying (or not)

I've achieved level 30 on my baby hunter! Ring the bells, I've never gotten a hunter to level 30 before. Now I can pretend to die. Which I always thought was a hugely cool spell (less so when it meant the aggro was dropping onto me but hey...) But I haven't had a chance to use it as yet. My scorpid makes a stunningly good tank and now that I can make her intimidate stuff that I accidentally pull onto me it's easy mode. Also the Other Half is good at kiting and chain trapping. Obviously I am less so! But yay for level 30. And yay for levelling two hunters together. We do kill stuff fast and there's bugger all down time.

We agreed we'd go to Stranglethorn when we hit 30 (we were having fun killing level 33-35 stuff in the Shimmering Flats before...) as I don't think I've been there since the level requirements for mounts were reduced. I did like the zone but it had that 'oh really, you want me to run from end to end thing and it takes ages' effect on me. Now we zoom around on our ridiculous belf mounts and it's all good. The quests are a bit meh, a bit kill ten rats, but as the Other Half is a skinner he's happy.

We haven't been LFG with these characters yet. I'm trying to decide whether it's fair to take two hunters into a PuG or if it's just asking for an awful run. I have a DPS pet that I really like and I want to use but there is a part of me that's a little worn out with LFG having done pretty much every dungeon up to the late level 50s firstly on the shaman and then on the lock. And there's that queuing-as-2-DPS thing which means I waste time sitting round waiting for a group. The Other Half carries on merrily doing what he needs to do, not requiring the psych up time for groups that I do....

In other totally unrelated news, I was pootling round the Blasted Lands mining for the Other Half's brother as we have a deal about him levelling jewelcrafting and me levelling an enchanter. I take the retadin round mining, he makes stuff and my lock disenchants it. I've seen this dude shuffling around the zone (actually he doesn't shuffle anywhere, he stands in the same spot and I zoom past him). In fact I even found a bit of junk for him once. But this time I wandered into a big ass dragon who dropped a shiny for me. When I handed it in to the collector chappie he gave me a shiny chest containing, amongst other stuff, a shiny axe of badassness. Much as I'm sure I should sell it, I'm thinking my hunter would appreciate a shiny axe in a few more levels!

Thursday, 25 February 2010

It's always the same, only the names change.

I am unguilded to all intents and purposes. Oh I have a tag over my head but, as I have mentioned it's the Other Half's brother's bank guild. There is a reason for this.

I've basically only been in two guilds in the three years that I've been playing. In the first guild I levelled my priest from 0 - 70 in and did my first instances in, my first (BC) heroics in, my first raids in. Oh Kara, how I miss you /nostalgic sigh. For a whole host of reasons, foremost being the female co-GM (yeah, the guild was run by a husband and wife team) was one of those female gamers who should have had a sign over her head saying "does not play well with other women". Eventually, dealing with her issues and her ego (all teh boyz are belonging to meeee) got so old I quit (first time I cried IRL over the game). I then eventually dipped my toe into the waters of guild life again with the uber hunter which was totally different. Guild the first had the best part of 500 members (a lot of alts admittedly, but that's still a big guild), guild the second had, I think 12, maybe 13 (including me and the Other Half) active members. I adored them all with the exception of the GM who again had his own issues. I spent a very happy year or so with them until the GM and I hit a wall; basically the other 2 women in the guild were very different to me. They were reserved (I never heard them utter a word on vent) and I am a chatterbox. They were dutiful and respectful, I am...feisty. They were demure, I can do locker-room talk with other guys quite easily. They'd been there forever, I would always be the new girl etc etc. So again, with me in tears, we parted company.

In one of those odd moments where the heavens align or whatever, I had a whisper from one of the officers in guild the first that I'd kept in touch with, saying basically that the co-GMs had server transferred to save their RL friendship with one of the other senior officers. The senior officer in question was hoping to have a chat and 'extend an olive branch' which baffled me somewhat as I wasn't aware that we had ever disagreed. Granted I'd not really kept in touch with him, not wanting to put him in a difficult position 'loyalty' wise but we'd never said unkind words... Anyhow, long story to short I went back to guild the first. (It turned out that he felt olive branch was required as co-GM from hell had felt the need to inform SO-turned-GM that it had been his fault that I (along with numerous other female guildies) had left due to him being "difficult, misogynistic, aggressive" etc etc. I was agape with shock. And that is an understatement.)

Going back to guild the first felt weirdly like coming home. Oh granted there were some new names but basically it was the same guild I had left. With the same issues still festering away. I was quickly (and probably, with hindsight, unfairly and incorrectly) promoted to officer level and it was as though I had never been away. Here I was again, healing my priesty heart out in raids and heroics 7 nights a week. Here I was again, in a state about raid leading (only in my absence a DKP system had been implemented with all the additional admin that requires). Here I was again, stressing about raid sign ups and raid slotting. Here I was again, awake at 3am trying to analyse what had happened. Here I was again, chained to the computer gone midnight pretty much every night. Here I was again, raiding on the nights I promised myself that I wouldn't ("we need another healer" was the line I dreaded seeing on g chat). Here I was again, with a second job that I paid to do. Here I was again, with RL getting lower and lower down my priority scale. Back on that gear treadmill girly, keep that wheel spinning fast.

Only something had kind of changed while I had been away. It had always been a 'strictly casual' guild previously, where raiding was an extra, not the be all and end all. In my absence it had gotten a lot more raiding oriented (hence the 7 nights a week raid schedule) to the detriment, in my humble opinion, of the overall fun feel that the guild and guild chat used to have. Additionally, the Other Half had found himself a raid guild that he liked and had the wit and intelligence to realise that going back was A Bad Plan. But a lot of the people I'd played with, giggled with and had fun with back along were still there.

I think that within guilds, and I know that I speak from very limited experience, there are kind of unspoken but generic roles that get played out. The GM who everyone either does respect (or pretends to) because y'know, (s)he's the GM. There's the officer corps, usually a gang who know each other very well, have their own in-jokes and do the work. Generally, the officer corps are your basic enablers. They are the people who get raids going, keep the guild bank in order, level alts when there's an obvious gap, coordinate bloody everything that happens within the guild, are forever switching characters; to their JC because someone needs a gem cutting, to their enchanter because people's gear needs enchanting ad nauseum, ad infinitum. They administer the website and forums, deal with recruitment and pro(and de)motions within the guild. They're also the people who you whisper when you have something to discuss. That's right, they are the ones who log on to be hit with a barrage of whispers, what I used to call the Pink Plague. Even worse, they are the ones who get whispers from other guilds if people have been acting in an unpleasant manner in PuGs. They do all this and they get nothing for it. Other than a sense of working for the Common Good. Then you have your raiders and the varying different personalities that they contain, give me a good rank-and-file raiders and I was a happy officer. Give me a difficult one, or one with a sense of entitlement, or heaven forfend a Snottydin and I'd be bouncing my head off the wall conveniently placed by my computer. Lastly you have your mixed bag of true casuals. The PvPers, the alt addicts (cough), the ones who didn't want to, or couldn't commit to, a raid schedule. In amongst all this you have your personalities and the possibilities for clashes therein.

I loved my guild but it wore me out. It wore me out enough that I purged my characters, deleted their gear (and them) and all but quit the game. And that is why I don't intend to be 'properly' guilded. I want to potter. To be beholden to no-one. To have my playtime as my own. And because I invest too much in people. And because of this investment I invariably get upset if and when it goes tits up. Better for all, methinks to be beholden to myself and my alts.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Yes I have a Retadin (Doesn't Everybody?)

I have a level 80 paladin which is a moderately long story - short(ish) version: I wanted to try another form of healing other than my priest and a paladin seemed like a good idea. She, like most (all?) paladins has a ret spec, and also a holy one. Anyway, amazingly enough it turned out that your guild raid would rather you brought your epic holy priest to a raid than your less-epic'd healadin. Shocked? I wasn't. Probably also something to do with our guild balance at the time - paladins coming our of our ears but fewer priests. So she languished unplayed until a while back when I took agin Warcraft for being a stressful time sink and deleted my characters (that's a whole 'nother post). She however survived as I needed someone to send my BoA gear to. But I deleted all her armour (ok it wasn't that hot but it was iLevel 200 when that was still acceptable). I wrote 'delete' a lot of times that night. And it stopped the Other Half mid-raid: 'fuck my girlfriend is methodically deleting all her characters and their gear...!' Of course, as is the way I missed her a little. So last night I grovellingly asked the Other Half to ask his brother if he could make me some armour. And a weapon... and stuff. Which bless him he did, so I am now sporting a funky savage saronite ensemble. At least I won't get random raid invites...

Having done a bit of wheeee - yay for fast flying again and a few circuits of the Basin to mine (along with most of the server - don't these people have raids to go to?) I kinda figured that having basically resurrected her (and proved to myself that if I want to bin characters I need to delete all their gear and then delete them, and giving all your gold to the Other Half means he won't spend it but will keep it until the day when you say "Hun... see that gold I sent you... could I have a smidgen of it back...?") I should at least attempt to do something constructive with her. And with Cataclysm incoming 'soon' I figured maybe I should have a bash at the Loremaster title. Now as she is a faction change I have done no quests at all. So this should be interesting. She's now in newbie belf land hitting trees...

Who knows if I'll actually make it. There are some zones that I haven't been to with any character (Sithilus springs to mind) but it's either that or mindlessly fly around on her doing very little. It might be fun and it'll certainly be a challenge. And having a specific goal is A Good Thing. But a goal with no external pressure which I can moodle round and do at my own pace. Even if the other belfs in newbie belf land do look startled to see a level 80 belf running round the starting area doing the same quests as them...

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Grinding (and flower picking)

I'm having a 'moment'. Like my entire life doesn't consist of 'moments' like this. 'Moments' where some mainly benevolent (but-with-a-sense-of-humour) deity replaces my averagely functioning brain with, say, bits of fluff lovingly removed from his favourite sweater, strung together by occasional bouts of lucidity. I'm realising that whilst it may seemed to have been a good idea to get Eskie to take herbing and alchemy as professions, it would have, infact been a better idea to let Mishe do this; I'm remembering why all my previous Death Knights floundered, clogged up my character screen for a while and were eventually mercifully dispatched to the server where alts go to die. Because I don't enjoy melee DPS. And I don't get a whole heap of pleasure out of Inscription so am failing to level Mishe as a scribe effectively. See this is another thing. Why am I possibly the only person in WoW who doesn't find scribing to bet the best 'money for old rope' profession ever? (Answer: because I don't have Auctioneer, a bank alt and the time/inclination to spend milling, crafting, listing, cancelling, re-listing etc).

Mishe will actually get played. Therefore it would be more intelligent that she gets the benefits would it not? But this now means that I need to go a-flower-pickin' some more. In fairness, I like herbing as a gathering skill. I'm happy to potter round on a mount, looking for flowers. But I've just done it on Eskie and I've levelled it on Mishe enough that she can go to Outlands able to gather. If I swap out scribing for alchemy it means circles of The Wetlands again, and frankly there is only so much of that zone I can take. On the plus side having two alchemists means two transmute specialties... which might, in turn, enable me to break the mould of never having more than about 1k on any character at any one time.

Grinds don't usually bother me - hey, I play alts, levelling is the grind, amirite? The whole game is a grind (in a good way) one way or another. After hitting 70 in the BC that felt like all I did. Grinding to get keys, to get recipies, to get bloody rings that would give my poor priest enough health to not get one shotted by Shade of Aran ( you have no idea how many times that happened. The first time I lived through that fight I was so happy I nearly cried.) To get mounts (no I didn't manage it), more mounts (nor that one) and on and on. None of this 'put a tabard on as you go through dungeons and garner rep' malarkey. Not in the good ol' days... I regularly do circles of humanoids grinding the appropriate level cloth for tailoring or fist aid. I'm just not sure that I want to do it again quite so quickly. Now if you'll excuse me there's an iTunes playlist waiting to be made... music to pick flowers to....

On Empathy

Nice definition from Wiki: "Empathy, which literally translates as in feeling, is the capability to share another being's emotions and feelings." Not a hugely difficult concept to grasp, the idea of putting yourself in someone else's shoes for a period of time and understanding what they're feeling. Unfortunately it seems that this idea is often beyond the capabilities of my fellow WoW-players. That's an awful generalisation, I know but the LFG tool can turn a happy-go-lucky individual into a 'glass-half-empty' one with remarkable speed. Also referred to by Tam as Sanity Tap. If you haven't met Tam and Chastity go read. Now.

F'rinstance...the Other Half and I decided that we would give our rogue and 'lock some PuG love last night and jumped into the random LFG queue. We've been very spoilt on the paladin/shaman combo as we rarely have to wait for than a few minutes for a group, and more often than not it's instant - so much so that I ensure I'm in my resto spec with earthliving on my weapon before we even enter the Finder. But joining as a party with two DPS classes means a wait, so after about 20 minutes of (impatient on my behalf) waiting we zoned into Ulduman. Us, a shadow-but-healing priest, and elemental shaman and a bear tank. So group composition looked to be fine. After the first few trash pulls it became quite apparent that the tank had a 'gogogo' mentality, and that the priest was struggling mana-wise. Having (tried) to back up instance heal in 'oh shit' moments on my priest in shadow spec I know how mana heavy healing like that is. The priest was very aware of this and commented that he couldn't wait to hit 40 so he could dual spec holy. So good, the priest is aware of his class, spec and it's limitations. Now hopefully the tank will be appreciative of this and keep a weather eye on his mana bar... or not as he chain pulls another big group. The shaman dropped some heals around and we didn't wipe but it was a skin of the teeth moment. So the priest is totally mana drained, the tank is at half health and off he charges again to pull some more. At this point the priest did say he needed a mana break... and then he apologised. Now why, oh why would you apologise for needing mana? I said in party chat something along the lines of: 'Hey it's cool. No mana = no heals' and the tank did something along the lines of a /grunt. Now pull back a second. We're in Ulduman here. We're not kitted out in T9 lol'ing our way through Heroics. It isn't unreasonable for the healer to require a mana break.

We carried on, the tank determinedly pulling large groups, displaying an endearing (!) pechant for pulling them just round corners so the priest has to scramble around in order to have LoS. We did eventually wipe and the healer started to self-flagellate. Apologising profusely he explained that he hadn't run Ulduman before, how he was sorry etc etc. Mixed in with this was the tank demanding buffs. In context: the priest had a soulstone (because I am a well-mannered lock) and just finished ressing the whole party. The tank's view appeared to be that the healer did not require time to drink and he should be getting on with the infinitely more important business of buffing. At this point the Other Half began to twitch and asked him if we could possibly have a Mark of the Wild as well, as, y'know, it helps everyone. We rebuffed and and completed the instance with no problems. The priest asked for mana breaks when he needed them and the tank didn't grumble (too much). I had a chat with the priest via /w and said he was doing great, the healing as shadow was hard and that he should always but always ask for mana breaks when he needed them. There is no shame in being in the late 30s and not having infinite mana. And tanks need to know that if they want heals they need to make sure their healer has the mana to do so.

So stepping back from this a little. Firstly I've painted the tank in a fairly unpleasant light. He wasn't bad. He was a good tank, he was gathering up mobs so we could AoE them and make the run speedy. Ok, no shame there. He was specced to tank, he had no problems generating threat and keeping it. All good. My only issue, and it's a big one, was that he had no empathy with the healer. I may well be over-sensitive to the needs of healers in general, and priests specifically, having played one for so long, with it's accompanying burden of 'healer guilt' but I really believe that you should have some awareness of the others in your party. Again, as a f'rinstance - I tend to use Curse of Agony on my lock (probably out of habit) but when I'm grouped with another caster I try to remember to use Curse of Elements. This may mean, at face value, I 'lose' DPS in terms of a DoT effect but the party overall gains DPS from the increased spell damage taken by the mob. See, awareness of the group composition. It isn't hard. Now God only knows I'm not an uber player in any way, shape or form. I just try to understand other classes and roles.

If you haven't played a healer, it may well be hard to empathise with their mana needs. I know that on my lock if I run out of mana I can either life tap to regen or wand the mob. The mob might take longer to die but me having no mana is very unlikely to wipe the group. If your healer goes OOM it may well wipe the group. The 30 seconds it takes to let the healer drink is a lot less than running back from a wipe (and less depressing as well!) However the concept of no mana equalling no heals is a straightforward line between two points. I understand that bears and warriors need rage in order to generate threat and this can be hard to garner from a standing start and therefore it needs to be a balance, but if you aggro on a bunch of mobs when your healer is at 15% mana it is unlikely to end well.

In a similar vein (and to emphasise that I don't usually blame the tanks!), why do DPS classes feel that they are fit and able to pull? You have some dude(ette) with a huge health pool and good armour, yet you [in the spirit of fairness, insert DPS class here], decide that the best option is for you to decide which mobs should be pulled. Really? This seemed like a good idea when...? Now rather than just a straightforward threat gen on a mob the tank has to fight you for the threat. Wonderful. And plain rude. Please, please think of the other players in your group, if only because it will make the run smoother. Or roll an alt of that class/role. Maybe this is the only way to truly be able to empathise with them.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Uphill, backwards, in the snow. And with no shoes.

Of all the changes made to the levelling experience over the last year or so, the one that has had probably the most effect on me is the changes to the level and financial requirements for riding training. Back along (in the day yada yada yada) intial riding training was at level 40, epic at level 60, initial flying at level 70 and the further epic flying also at 70. Training was pricey, mounts were pricey and my first character to level 70 didn't get epic flying until Northrend and probably level 80. And non epic flying was slooooow. None of this 150% speed increase like now.

I recall when initial riding training was lowered to level 30 and reactions were mixed but favourable in the main. Then it dropped to 20, speedy at 40, flying at 60 in Outlands, epic still at 70 and having to wait til 77 to purchase cold weather flying. Now (in Northrend) you buy a book on your main and send it to your alt and fly pretty much from the get go. I think it's fair to say that reactions have been mixed to all these 'riding buffs/nerfs'. From the point of view of someone who runs multiple characters it's a massive advantage. Some of the vanilla WoW zones are huge (I'm looking at you Ashenvale, and you Stranglethorn) and running all over them was... well, I used to refer to Ashenvale as the 'sink of despair', enough said? In addition, Northrend spoilt me by having a lot more flight paths than I was used to, i.e. a lot more than the Old World has.

Now even by my fairly slow levelling standard getting to 20 doesn't take very long. At all. And no matter how many times I do it, I still get a little leap of glee when I first get a mount. It does improve the levelling experience. Flying from the get go in Outlands I'm not so sure about. Oh, don't get me wrong, I take the option. In fact moments (well an hour or so) ago I took Eskie to Thrallmar and bought myself a windrider. Training cost me 225 gold; I'm guessing I got a faction discount, amusing in itself as less than a week ago the Guards in Orgrimmar were hurling rotten bananas at me, making me smell delightful and the mount then cost me 50 gold. So less than 300 gold for the ability to zoom around Outland. Cool huh? Well yeah, kind of. Outland is special to me. Probably due to it being the first expansion, all the people I met while questing and instancing there and for multiple other reasons. And yes, flying round it is quicker, not having to carve my way through mobs is also (probably) a bonus. I've just spent a happy hour flying round picking herbs (last... few... alchemy... skillups... hurt) and it was a breeze. Maybe I'm suffering from inappropriate nostalgia as I'm failing to nail what it is about it I dislike. I'm sure when I take Mishe there she will also get flying straight away. As will the others. Much better really than having to level uphill, backwards, in the snow, barefoot...!

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Huntering (and why I've never managed it)

When I started playing, back in the heady just-pre TBC days (and then through TBC) hunters were everywhere. The character creator screen even gives you gentle encouragement to create one, saying they are good for "solo play and levelling". Pretty much everyone I know has a hunter alt kicking around somewhere and through TBC they appeared to many people's choice of main. Post Wrath this seems to have changed and now everyone has a Death Knight (that they play with varying degrees of success). Hunters used to err on the redheaded stepchild side, if you were PuGing and up rolled a hunter... well you sighed a little and kept your fingers crossed (now also Death Knight territory). I used to wonder why they had this rep, and then I grouped with a few randoms and watched the Other Half curse: pets with growl on, hunters who didn't know what the Misdirect button was for (true story, on one of my early guild runs into Kara, at Midnight and Attumen, the RL said "and 'hunter' will MD onto 'tank'" and hunter piped up with "What's MD?" [even after the explanation it continued to be a hard concept to grasp] and you could feel the raid grind it's collective teeth), hunters who didn't trap, didn't know how to LoS etc etc. We've all met them.

Then I met a few wonderful hunters and they made up for every fail ever made by all the other hunters in the world. As a healing priest I always had a freezing trap at my feet. They took pride in their ability to kite, chain trap, LoS pull and do excellent DPS at the same time. They adored their classes abilities. And they were engineers. Group wiping? /cast Feign Death and then jump start the priest. I adored them and took back every huntard comment I had ever made (well, nearly all of them anyways).

I met my favourite hunter while bored, between guilds and PuGing one of the Hellfire instances (I should know which one but I was never a great fan of any of them and they kinda roll into one in my head). He was on his druid at the time mind you, but I thought he was huge fun (it's fab when you meet random people that you just have that indefinable 'click' with isn't it?) and cheekily sent him an ingame mail asking if his guild ever needed a priest to look me up. I joined the guild the next day, the Other Half joined a few days later... and I discovered his main was a hunter. We ran all the Outland instances over and over (mainly out of boredom waiting from Wrath to hit), levelled through the Wrath instances on normal and then repeatedly on Heroic. He was an utter charmer who (un)fortunately decided sometime back to re-roll Real Life but he will always be the guy I associate the best players of the hunter class with. His only drawback was to take personally every nerf doled out to BM hunters and he hated Ghostcrawler with a passion which I always sympathised with but never quite understood....

He was also the guy that, at the point where one of the staples of our 5 man group decided he wanted to respec his shaman to resto and heal with him, took my priest by the hand and showed my how to play as a DPS class. Not that he knew anything about shadow priests mind, but he felt it was necessary that I was saved from future ass-hattery and being 'that girl' who thought the only thing worth doing in a group as DPS was topping the meters. He explained about when to single target, when (and how) to switch targets, when it was ok to AoE, about threat, Omen and boss mechanics. As a healer I had less than no clue. During instances and raids, all I looked at was the ticking of the health bars (and occasionally the Bad Stuff on the floor). He was utterly determined that I should understand the DPS mechanics that to him were universal and transcended class and spec. I hope that he taught me well.

But back to hunters. I had rolled and rerolled hunters as alts so many times. And never gotten them much past 30. This might have something to do with the fact that I levelled a 'lock as my first character and had that slight 'minions are better than pets' thing going on. Ok maybe not 'better' per se, they just appealed to me more. On a number of levels, hunters should appeal. I like solo game play, pets do appeal as God only knows I need something that can melee for me, pets have phenomenal situational variety and use (and sometimes are soooo pretty!), the stats aren't that complex and on and on. But I just always get to that same 'meh' point. In fairness I do with many classes, the 30-40 levelling point for me is the point that I've failed many an alt at (must be something to do with the zones at that point?) but hunters have never held my attention past 30.

So now I have a mission. The Other Half, natch, has a level 80 hunter and enjoys playing them so we have both rolled a hunter. They're currently about level 17 and to break the mould I have a scorpid pet (every other hunter has had a version of a kitty or a bear). I am resolutely going down the Beast Mastery tree as I long for a white two headed dog. Even after being told that they're hopeless pets. What can I say, I'm stubborn. The Other Half, meantime, is being reasonable and going Survival. This week I also read this which has decided me. I will get this one to 80 so I can go and see content I've not seen. And whilst I am highly unlikely to solo it as the Other Half will doubtless come as well it'll still be fun. Eventually. However, the Other half is requesting that we start to two-man the lower level instances, such as Wailing Caverns fairly soon so I get used to trapping and stuff. And that reminds me, I guess I need to go and learn first aid and start getting that levelled as well. And before you ask, yes, she is an engineer!