Friday, March 21, 2008

Know When To Say When

Think back to the first time you started up World of Warcraft, the cinematic telling the story of the race you are about to play as the camera pans in around until settling on you. You begin your adventure excitedly as you begin learning how to use the interface and interacting with the world around you. After a couple of minor quests, suddenly a burst of light surrounds you flashing upwards as a trumpeting sound announces that you’ve just attained a new level! The excitement courses through your veins as you become hooked.

As play progresses, you upgrade your gear, talents, and professions as you level. Each new item adding a little thrill of victory that pushes you ever onward, then you reach level 70. With sudden excitement at reaching this seemingly ever elusive goal, you look forward thinking “OK. Now what? Does it end here?" No. Blizzard has cunningly crafted and designed a world that quite frankly seems to only begin upon reaching level 70. So you push on.

Attaining level 70, you begin to pursue the reputation rewards and push through the many instances and quests to increase your reputation with various factions. Heroic instances beckon with the potential gear that can be dropped as well as purchased with the use of Badges of Justice. Karazhan tempts you like a succubus’ spell. And now the Sunwell looms on the horizon as the pinnacle of all we work for.

So when does this stop? When do we say enough is enough? For each person, the answer is different.

Currently I’ve been working on trying to get to Karazhan. I’ve spent months attempting to gear up in preparation for it and it hasn’t been easy. I’ve been told through others that one of my former guildmates said that I have done extremely well considering that I haven’t gotten into a raiding guild yet. I have to say that it was a nice compliment coming from this guy. He left our guild, Field of Honor, some time ago and joined a raiding guild. I’ve heard horror stories about what that has been like. He’s been in a couple of them now and they’ve professed to being about having fun; fun being defined as succeeding with no wipes and no problems at whatever they are doing.

If you watch the trade channel for guild recruiters, every single guild states they are fun-loving and looking to have a good time. Have you ever once seen a guild recruiter state “We are a cold, impersonal bunch looking for hardcore raiders capable of committing to raiding for 4+ hours/night, 7 days/week. Must be able to accept extreme criticism and not #*@! up”? Of course you haven’t!

[ed: By the way Blizzard, you really need to fix it so that the guild and looking for group channels are usable in Shattrath. That might help alleviate some of the traffic in the trade channel. Probably not, but it's a thought. :)]

I suppose that “fun-loving” and “good time” are subjective terms. Not many would say that wiping in an instance repeatedly for three hours is a good time. Repair bills become high and sometimes astronomical in nature for plate wearers. I have had a couple of times where wiping repeatedly was just fun because of the existing attitude of the group; we knew we probably wouldn’t get through, but the trying was what it was about anyway.

[ed: Ironically, last night another friend of mine, who happens to be in the same raiding guild as the friend mentioned above, told me she'd rather spend 3 hours dying in Karazhan with friends and laughing about it, than continue to put up with the crap she has to deal with in her current guild. Granted, she was very upset at the time she said it because of something that was going on.]

I have reached a point where very few upgrades exist for me through normal instances and quests. I have been looking at Karazhan for quite some time, but we do not have the appropriate number of people in my current guild that are ready for Karazhan. Actually, we don’t have enough of them ready for heroics either; the other avenue that exists for me to acquire upgrades.

So where do I go from here? My friend I mentioned above suggested that I join his guild. He warned me that they would dictate what spec I would play and when and where I could go. I don’t mind so much about the when and where, but what spec I play should be up to me. I’ve always believed that everyone should play as they see fit. Yes, there’s advice out there for the best overall spec for any particular healer, tank, and dps, but for heaven’s sake do what you want! How can you have fun otherwise?!

So why this post? Because I actually began to consider doing it. The thought occurred to me that I could join his guild for just long enough to get everything I wanted out of Karazhan. Right now, I want every piece of healing gear that I can get my hands on, plus tanking gear besides. I miss tanking and having the ability to switch when needed would be fantastic! Once gaining all that gear I can come back to the guild and assist the others in getting through Karazhan and moving forward from there. Makes sense right? No.

When does it stop? Once getting through Karazhan, I’m back in the same boat I am now. I could come back sure, but they would either be in the same place they are now or they would be into Karazhan and I would be ready for the next step looking for that next elusive upgrade. So when do I say when?

I know I won’t be happy in my friend’s raiding guild. It, like many others, sounds like you are there to do a job. It isn’t about the social aspect or about relaxing and killing some time. It’s about getting with others to finish something and move on. Thank you, I already have a job. Does that outweigh the desire to get the next set of gear? I don’t know. I do know that I’d rather go through Karazhan with friends I know, but are there enough of us to do so? I’m currently weighing my options and trying to “know when to say when.”
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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Another Character Audit Website

Just an FYI for those of you out there. Siha over at Banana Shoulders posted this blog about a new character audit website. Oh and might I interject, kudos to Siha because she's got absolutely the best blog site out there in my opinion. I wish I could write as well as her and look forward every day to seeing what she's posted. Thanks, Siha!

Anyway, back to the website. So far it's pretty rough and currently doesn't provide any more information than you can find searching the Armory. At least the Armory provides the pretty pictures unlike this site does, but again it's pretty rough.

This site does have some potential and I'm playing around with it. Evidently you can track characters and see the changes they go through. This will lead to running reports if you're so inclined. I could see this being a great tool for those serious raiding guilds.

The advantage this site has over Be Imba! is it isn't limited to level 70 characters only. So again, huge potential for this website. Here's hoping it turns out great! Continue reading 'Another Character Audit Website'

Character Tracking Websites

Although I'm still fairly new at blogging, I've done a poor job of trying to keep up on posts every few days. Lots of things have kept me busy both personally, death in my wife's extended family, work stress, and every day family life, and in Azeroth, including guild drama, shooting for 5000g for epic flying mount training, hitting the heroics, and gearing up for raiding.

However, in all this time I've stumbled across a great new website: Be Imba! Chances are you've either seen or heard about this. If you haven't, go check it out now!

Be Imba! is a character auditor for World of Warcraft. The only requirement is the character in question must be level 70. It will then evaluate your gear, enchants, gems, and even to some extent your talents and abilities.

This website is continuously being updated as even in just the last two weeks they have added functionality to include forcing armory updates, using cached reports, etc. One of the new features I really like is the ability to expand your gear score at the bottom to show the percentages each piece of gear contributes to the whole.

The two most useful items on this tool are the Unenchant/Misenchant report and the Gear-o-Meter at the bottom showing you where you stand with regards to heroics and the current popular raids.

If you're anything like me, then when you've upgraded your gear, you've forgotten to enchant certain items. The first time I ran this report I found three items that I had recently upgraded and hadn't enchanted; the thought hadn't even occurred to me. Rather embarrassing really, because even cheap enchants are better than nothing.

Ironically, looking at this as I post this, I just recently upgraded to the Lightsworn Hammer and haven't enchanted...AGAIN!!! See how useful this is? LOL! At least I have an excuse for the rings because my enchanting isn't high enough yet to enchant those.

Now for the other neat feature. If you're like most people tracking your gear score below is a great motivator to pursuing upgrades. Check mine out.

I've been eyeing Tier 4 gear for some time now, but haven't been able to get any. I believe the reason is I have been aiming too high. Every upgrade, however small, is one step closer, but I haven't been satisfied with going after the small upgrades. Be Imba! gives me the motivation to go after even the smallest upgrades.

Watching my gear score go up even one point is kind of a thrill so I look everywhere to find these small upgrades. Doing this has gotten me closer to Tier 4 than anything I have tried in the past. Now a few friends and I are working on helping others upgrade so we can all go to Kara to start our quests for Tier 4 armor.

Maybe some of you out there can't relate to this, but for those of you who play guys get it! I relate it to the same thrill that those of us playing Xbox360 have when getting Achievements. Achievements are items done within a game that once accomplished gives you a little ding, pop-up, and a few points towards your Gamer Score. A Gamer Score is set up to show off to others and give you bragging rights, but really only serves to show others how little of a personal life you have. It serves it's purpose though and is quite addictive! LOL!

The Gear-o-Meter at the bottom lists the relative difficulty of the different raids and heroics and will give you two colored bars showing you where your character falls. Remeber the red bar shows the approximation of where your gear comes from. For the most part I ignore this bar. For example, looking at my report shows that most of my gear comes from the high end of Karazhan. I have one piece of gear that came from Prince Malchazar in Karazhan. The rest is mostly PvP gear. So take it with a grain of salt.

The blue bar is the bar you'll be interested in. Based on your gear score, this bar tells you approximately how well you can expect to do in any given raid, given that the others with you are of the same level. Remember, being geared for Mt. Hyjal doesn't mean you'll do well in Karazhan if everyone else in your party isn't geared for it.

I hope you find this site useful and thanks to those guys running this site. It has it's problems, mostly resulting from the Armory blocking information requests, but when it works it's fantastic! The other problem is high traffic. I live on the East Coast and the best times I've found are before 8am, when most of the rest of the country is still getting up or asleep.
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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Passing of Gary Gygax

As we all know by now, Gary Gygax passed away last week. When I initially heard the news, I was shocked and found blog after blog paying tribute to him. I've spent the past several days trying to find something that I can say that would express how I feel about his contribution to the fantasy gaming world, something that could be said that hundreds before me haven't already expressed and there is nothing else that I can say. I know virtually nothing about Mr. Gygax, except that he helped create one of the greatest games in the world, Dungeons & Dragons. I haven't played Dungeons & Dragons since 1994, but it's impact has left a major mark on my life.

In 1985, my family moved to Pocatello, ID. I was in sixth grade. I had grown up on a small dairy farm less than an hour north of Bear Lake. For any who know the Pocatello area, it's a small town, but to a kid that grew up in a farming community of 500, it was a huge city. I was in sixth grade at the time and made a friend who's family was into a game called Dungeons & Dragons. A small group of us banded together and he introduced us to a world of swords and sorcery.

Initially, I didn't have a clue as to what we were doing. Although I've always had a vivid imagination, at the time I didn't understand a lot of the terminology commonly associated with the fantasy genre. It was something to do and I did enjoy it some, but understood little of what we were actually doing.

In 1986, my family moved to Eugene, OR. Again, I met some friends that played D&D and knowing more about what was going on, began purchasing the books to read up to better understand how to play. This led to other games such as Palladium, TMNT: Road Hogs, GURPS, Car Wars, Robotech, Mech Warrior, etc. This also lead to an intense amount of reading, but only in the fantasy genre. I read Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, Weis & Hickman (other story lines such as Death Gate), David Eddings, Piers Anthony, and even later in life Robert Jordan and Harry Potter.

My family made several more moves over the next few years, once each year. Dungeons & Dragons was there to help me through it all. It may sound nerdy, but I was indeed one of the geeks. Every year being the new kid in a new school was tough. My sisters made the transition rather simply, but I was the shy one. D&D was a means of escape for me and an enjoyable past time that got me through some lonely times. Don't misunderstand, I participated in school sports such as football and basketball, had a small handful of friends, but in the summers before school and after a move D&D often became my life.

As technology progressed and D&D made the transition to computers, I played all the original greats like Pool of Radiance, Hillsfar, Curse of the Azure Bonds, etc. It makes me wonder would World of Warcraft even exist without his contributions to fantasy gaming? This was easier than having to create my own adventures or use the store bought ones which required I knew what was out there and try to pretend that I didn't.

Either way, Dungeons & Dragons and ultimately Gary Gygax had a large impact on my life. Without him, the shape of the fantasy gaming world would be largely different. Although I know virtually nothing about him, I give my thanks, along with millions of others, to Mr. Gygax and may he rest in peace, dicing in the heavens.
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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Constructive criticism and helping others

I posted this on Blog Azeroth.

First, let me apologize if this topic is already somewhere here. I scanned through the list and nothing jumped out at me. As I wrote this, I began to ramble about how this question came up. I decided it was too long to post here and have posted my rambling on my blog. In it I talk about the more specific issues leading up to my question. I would appreciate it if you took the time to read it to further understand what I'm trying to get from the question, but it does ramble some and isn't necessary.

Question: How does one go about giving constructive advice to others about their gear, talents, skills, spells, class, or any other aspect of the game? How do you handle giving someone advice who “knows-it-all”?
I am currently in a new small guild that appears to be...I'll use the word disjointed. There are only 30 some odd accounts if I remember correctly. There are a select few in the guild that are almost geared for Black Temple based on and only four of us that are geared for Karazhan or Heroics, also based on There are roughly another 7 or 8 lvl 70s currently in the guild; none of whom are anywhere close to being geared for Heroics let alone Kara.

I may be getting myself into trouble here if any of my fellow guildmates frequent Blog Azeroth, but I feel this is important enough that it needs to be said. Without going into great detail, but based on observations a few of us newer to the guild have a theory that the elites in the guild carried several of the newer players. As such, we're afraid that they haven't learned certain aspects of their toons and don't understand how certain aspects of the game change in the endgame.

Please let me interject by saying that I am by no means an expert in any class. I have a level 70 holy paladin and 4 alts; none of whom are higher than level 27. I do not know how to play any other class other than a paladin with any degree of expertise. I do not tell others how to play their class, besides being rude, it would only show my ignorance. I am a firm believer in playing your class anyway you like. That said I do believe certain advice can be and should be given. Let me elaborate.

Last night, five of us went into Heroic Slave Pens. This is one of the easier heroics as I understand; only having attempted three in all. I’m still fairly new to heroics. I am currently geared, albeit with PvP armor, for heroics. One other in our group is geared for it as well, one is extremely close, and the other two are nowhere near ready gear wise. Although we went into this instance knowing this, we felt that perhaps we could at least take out the first boss with a little luck, hopefully get a drop or two that would help upgrade them, and get a badge out of it. It didn’t happen.

It came to my attention that certain things about my healing abilities were brought into question by the two that are not geared for heroics. I shouldn’t have known about this, but it was passed along to me by someone I trust (the person on the receiving end of the whispers). The only thing that gets me upset in WoW is being blamed for things that are arguably not my fault. It was brought up that I was allowing the tank to drop below 50% health. Yes, this was happening as I was trying to heal others; myself included. The two low-geared toons were DPS and CC, which neither was doing effectively. This was fine because we knew this would be a problem going into a heroic. Nobody expected different, except maybe them. It resulted in my aggroing several mobs frequently which lead to my demise and ultimately a wipe.

In all fairness, I wasn’t the only target of criticism. My friend receiving the whispers was also receiving advice from the same person on how to play her toon. This is something that we’ve observed in this guild; there are a lot of people who “know-it-all”. This is very important to my question as how do you handle giving someone advice who “knows-it-all”?

Even right now as I write this, I am upset about the apparent finger pointing and lack of self-criticism. Ironically, this was set up because I talked to the GM a couple of days earlier and expressed my frustration that the guild wasn’t attempting to try new things. Well, we tried and we didn’t fare so well. I would have had an enormous amount of fun regardless of the hefty repair bill, but once I found out about the comments behind my back, all fun went out the window. I know I would have had fun because three of us had tried it the night before with two others and got the first badge after wiping so many times I lost count. We finally quit because it was getting late and our warlock started to pull hubby aggro.

Anyway, I knew it wouldn’t be easy and I knew there was a chance we’d fail, but I want so much to help those not geared get a little better geared. Not only does it help them, but it helps the guild and ultimately me as well.

Near the end when we were calling it quits, some comments were made about grouping together and spending time in easier instances to “learn how to work as a group together” and “learn how each other plays”. My other friend whispered me and laughed. He was also frustrated and upset at some of the comments and the apparent lack of knowledge on how to play their toons and, please take this with a grain of salt, sometimes appeared to not being doing much of anything at all. I'm sure that last part is not true or they were trying to not aggro, I don't know. It was the heat of battle and hard to watch everything when concentrating on your own tasks. We also understand that we’re not experts in the other classes, but we do understand the Tank-DPS-Healer trinity.

We had a Balance Druid healing because I wasn’t able to keep up. Bless her heart I love her for it, but she’s Balance and needs to play that way. In the few groups that I’ve been with her, she spends most of her time healing. Checking out her gear she is set up for healing, but is 47/0/14 in Balance. She claims she’s Balance/Resto whenever asked and never just Balance. I’ve only ever seen her change to Moonkin form once. Again, maybe she’s just under the impression that I can’t do my job and is complimenting mine, but ultimately hurts the party by not using her DPS capabilities. I especially don’t know how to give her advice on her gear/talents because I really don’t want to offend her. She’s an absolute sweetheart! (Lil, if you’re reading this, please take it in the spirit it’s meant.)

It wasn’t long ago that I had no clue as how to play a paladin effectively. When I was around level 30, I found someone that gave me advice because I asked for it and it changed the way I played so much that I enjoyed it. Solo-leveling a Protection Paladin was no fun because of my lack of knowledge. Later on, when I switched to Holy I was asked if I was a Retribution Paladin. Apparently I had primarily Retribution gear was spec’d Protection and had only recently switched to Holy without time to re-gear. I didn’t understand the differences between the three types of gear for paladins and the amazing affect that having the correct gear can have on your performance.

So ultimately, here are the questions. How do you give advice to someone you don’t want to offend? How do you give advice to someone that believes they know-it-all?
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