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Five Things Gaming Can Teach

While browsing through Blog Azeroth not too long ago, a former Shared Topic caught my eye. Titled “What has WoW taught you?”, I realized that there have been a number of things that I’ve learned in my time playing World of Warcraft (as well as other online games). Thinking about it, I’m reminded once again how certain positions in online games warrant being mentioned on resumes.

People Management

If anyone has ever been a guild leader, guild officer, or raid leader, they’ll know that this is very true. Managing people is a very difficult task on any level, and something that may have been thought as small and insubstantial can easily turn out to be the opposite. Raid organizers from Vanilla will probably shudder a little bit, as filling 40 raid slots while maintaining optimal balance was extremely difficult.

As soon as people start voicing their opinions, or certain people want certain things while other people want other things – managing this and keeping cool is an incredibly important skill to have in any situation. Companies can have seminars and courses specifically on people management. Consider your WoW experience as the preliminary stages.

Time Management

So much to do, so little time to do it. I’d say a large majority of people have a set amount of time to play WoW. Whether that time is two hours after the kids are in bed or all day because you have nothing better to do, there is still a limited number of minutes to do what you want. Figuring out what to do in the ideal order can help organize things much more efficiently.

If you have certain daily quests to do, it might be better to start out with certain ones first because you’ll need to use your hearthstone to get out of there. After that, the other areas where you do the next sets of dailies might have a portal to go back to your capital city, so the cooldown on your hearthstone isn’t as big of a deal.

Every job that is out there requires some sort of time management. The average job has an eight-hour day, and there’s certain things that need to be accomplished in those hours. By prioritizing certain things, it can increase productivity and make life a lot easier.

Keyboard Skills

Before I played my first MMORPG, my typing was horrible. I was the typical “hunt-and-peck” person, and I hated the “home row” style that was trying to be forced upon me at school. The game I played at first had a focus on role-playing and required quick responses with good grammar. In not much time I was able to increase my words per minute and the quality and accuracy of what I was typing.

Any data entry or administrative job requires this. There may even be jobs that have a typing test as part of the interview process, and even getting the job could rest on these skills. Fortunately online gaming makes practice enjoyable.

Patience

The person who likes to collect things must possess a lot of patience. Whether you’re a hunter camping a rare spawn to tame or waiting for the Time-Lost Proto-Drake to spawn so you can get the mount, there will be a lot of down time. Learning to be patient is a very important thing, or else it’s very easy to go a little bit crazy.

Anyone who has ever worked in customer service has good experience with this. You’re ringing through their order, and they take forever to count out the change in their wallet while there’s a long lineup behind them, all tapping their feet. There are times where you just have to take a deep breath and go with it.

Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

Crap happens, deal with it. Very few things ever go according to plan, and it’s essential to be flexible and work with what life gives you. The perfect raid composition can still end up being a bad experience because people may not know the fight, people might disconnect, among other things. Just roll with it, keep on keeping on, and all those other phrases.

Life is full of surprises, and there’s nothing we can do about it. If an urgent file is dropped on your desk with 15 minutes to go before you leave, we have to deal with it one way or another. How you deal with it, however, is up to you.

Conclusion

If you’re the leader of a level 25 guild and have been running things for a while, I think that it would be a great thing to put on a resume. Everything that I just mentioned are very real skills that can be transferred over to any life situation. Hopefully one day employers will realize this.

Who says geeks don’t know how life works?

Out of the Frying Pan (Patch 4.2)

It’s not just any Tuesday today. Maestro, please begin the ominous music.

Today is when patch 4.2 hits North American/Oceanic realms for World of Warcraft. It’s been just over six months since Cataclysm was released, and our first major content patch with new and exciting things to do. We technically have had a content patch already, but redoing two existing instances takes a lot less work than a whole new raid and daily quest hub.

To say that there are a lot of changes is quite the understatement. I will be referencing links from WoW Insider throughout, and the best place to get a run down of the major changes is their guide to patch 4.2.

The major points of the patch are the inclusion of the Firelands raid and the Molten Front daily quest hub. Ultimately defeating Ragnaros once and for all, the raid also includes the chance to get a new DPS caster legendary staff. Similar to the Isle of Quel’Danas, the Molten Front area is a daily quest area that advances along with personal progression (I touched on this on a previous article).

For the first time with a patch, we actually have explanations for the class balance changes that came along with it. Ghostcrawler took every single change and said why they made them in point form. Rather than just saying “here you go, deal with it”, we at least have an idea of the philosophy the developers use when making their decisions. There are a great number of changes, best to take a look at which ones apply to your own class(es).

Another great change is the Dungeon Journal, which includes a version of AtlasLoot. Once again we see Blizzard taking addons that they like and feel should be part of the default UI and incorporating them. The Journal has information all the fights of Cataclysm content (will be expanded for the rest of the game eventually, I’m sure), along with abilities that the bosses use and gear that can drop. Currently there is the gear information on the Battle.net website, but this is a great way so people don’t have to use a third-party addon or alt-tab to find out what drops from a certain boss.

Lastly, one of my favourite things about 4.2 is the inclusion of a great cosmetic change. Since I’m back to being feral DPS, I can be a flaming kitty! I believe that it only requires the person to have the staff that drops from Fandral, and whenever you’re in cat form you become a cat… on fire. Dragonwrath turns the caster into a dragon with a proc, but it looks like this is a passive cosmetic change.

I hope that this opens the door for more cosmetic changes down the road, as we really need them – especially for druids. We have great gear, but in combat we’re in the shapeshift forms and are unable to see the great looks. The community has been asking for changes such as this for years, so hopefully we’ll see more down the road.

New content is awesome. I know I’ve been getting impatient, as this six month period since Cataclysm released seems to have gone by very slowly. Hopefully I’ll be able to raid the new place, for the main reason of becoming a flaming kitty. Otherwise, at least I’ll have the new daily quest area to keep me busy for a while.

Screenshot of the Week – June 4

Click for full size

This week we see a view of Netherwing Ledge in Shadowmoon Valley.  Anyone doing the Netherwing dailies will see a lot of this place, and even though it’s beautiful it will get old really fast.  It’s nice to see it after not having been there for a while and appreciate the scenery.

Personal Accomplishments

In a persistent world like a MMO, sometimes it’s hard for an individual to see what kind of difference they make in the grand scheme of things. Sure, through the years you have done a bunch of neat things like behead Nefarian a number of times (yet he’s still back, head intact), kill Illidan the Betrayer, and Arthas the Lich King – the grand poobah of evil. But, what did your character exactly accomplish?

Canonically, Tirion killed Arthas with help from a group of adventurers. Maiev and Akama killed Illidan with help from a group of adventurers. Nefarian is somehow alive and ready to be killed again. While your character does help these people out, so does everyone else who has completed these raid encounters. It almost gives a feeling of apathy, since people do like to see their accomplishments and feel proud about them.

I believe that this is one reason why the Achievement system was implemented. I’m sure that Blizzard saw the success of the idea on Xbox Live and Steam, and thought that it would be a great way for people to become more personally invested in the game. Whereas before it was there, why would anyone want to do something out of the ordinary like kill 20 turkeys in under a minute?

With achievements, people know what your character has accomplished. My druid can say he’s killed Arthas, plus he has the achievement to back up that claim. Along with the claims of demise of various raid bosses, it also allows rewards for doing things out of the ordinary – the basis of every tier of raiding having a mount reward. Why in the world would you try to defeat Yogg-Saron with only one of the watchers helping unless there was something in it for you?

From MMO-Champion

In 4.2, there will be a new personal progress in the new Firelands daily quest area. Similar to the Isle of Quel’danas, by doing a number of daily quests and completing goals set out for you, the player will see personalized progress of the area being healed from Ragnaros’ invasion. This is the epitome of making the work your character does over a long period of time actually count towards something. You may be the only one able to see it, but that’s not a bad thing.

This is truly personal progression. With Quel’Danas (and to an extent, the preparations for the opening of Ahn’Qiraj), it was server-based and once again your personal contributions could be seen as not being too much. One person who is just starting will see a seed being planted for a tree, someone who has completed everything will see a massive tree and the area starting to be healed.

Along with this, there is a tremendous amount of single-player content that will keep people busy for a long time. Over 60 daily quests will be available in a random pool, I’m assuming similar to Tol Barad, which will give certain quests per day. At the completion of the area, a new flying mount will be available – the Flameward Hippogryph. Basically, this is like the Argent Tournament but a whole lot better and giving better rewards.

Apart from the nerfs to Boomkins, I’m quite looking forward to 4.2. I’m very happy that Blizzard is giving us so much information so shortly after the release of 4.1.

Objective Complete

The past two weeks have been an interesting time for me. Three different long-time goals that I have had have been achieved, and I’m a little bit lost. These are not just small things, but goals that I have been working on for years.

Four months into a new expansion, and I’m already bored. I’m a Loremaster of Cataclysm, I got exalted with the factions that give me the best gear upgrades that I need, and I do my daily heroic when I have the time. I’ve become exalted with Hellscream’s Reach in Tol Barad and have my awesome dragon from them, and I dread having to grind the daily quests again to get another item.

My long-time goals that I have completed are not even from Cataclysm, but actually from Burning Crusade. I was able to get exalted with the Sha’tari Skyguard and get the Nether Ray flying mounts, and as a result of that also getting exalted with Ogri’la (again for both – I got this on my Paladin back during BC). Shortly afterwards, I finished up the grind to get exalted with Netherwing and get all the awesome dragons.

Finally, this past Sunday I completed a goal that has eluded me for quite a while. Every day for a long time, I would venture into the lair of this foul beast and slay it in hopes that it would drop itself for me to ride upon as a trophy. At long last, it finally happened. I was excited, had a bit of a gasp as I motioned for my wife to see the loot window, and learned the Raven Lord mount.

But… now what?

I do stuff in-game as mentioned before, but it’s not really keeping me entertained. Lately I’ve been working on my goblin shadow priest alt and have been enjoying it greatly, but it’s only a matter of time before I run into the same problem as I have now. I get the priest to 85, run dungeons until I’m raid ready, raid until I have all the gear, but then will I want to do all the extra stuff I’ve done already on my druid? I highly doubt it.

This is the classic symptoms of burnout. The game isn’t as enjoyable as it was and I’m trying to find things to keep me occupied. At the moment, the priest is doing the job of keeping me busy and getting a sense of accomplishment. My main character is sitting in Orgrimmar building up cobwebs, which is dusted off once a week to raid.

I’ve definitely been cutting down on my playtime lately, and trying other games. I recently bought Magicka on Steam and have been enjoying it greatly. It frustrates me many times as I find new and exciting ways to get my character killed, but still lots of fun. Portal 2 just came out, and I’m hoping I can find a way to get it soon.

Looks like I’ll be scaling back on my WoW time. This isn’t a bad thing, as when 4.1 comes out and there’s new features to the game I’ll be rested and ready for them.

4.1 and Call to Arms

It’s time for me to add to the growing group of voices in the blogosphere in regards to the upcoming change to the Looking for Dungeon group tool in 4.1 and the addition of the “Call to Arms” feature.  There has been a number of posts regarding this issue, and a number of different opinions about it.  From all the posts I’ve read and podcasts listened to, it seems people are pretty much split down the middle.

When the announcement first came out from Blizzard that they were adding in the “Call to Arms” feature for the LFD tool in 4.1, I have to admit I was a bit surprised that they would make such a move.  Since the tool first came out in Wrath, there have been average wait times depending on your class.  DPS players have long queues, healers are medium to short, and tanks are extremely short or instant.  People (mainly DPS – including myself) have complained about the wait times, but nobody has had any ideas of how to fix it.

Enter Call to Arms.  Basically, this feature adds an incentive for a player to queue as one of the roles that is lacking in the LFD tool at the time to help speed things up.  Lots of healers and DPS in the queue but lacking tanks?  The system will add CtA for tanks, and give that person an extra reward after a successful dungeon run.  Basically, it’s a new version of the grab bag added at the end of The Oculus from Wrath to convince people to do something.  It’s not a bribe, it’s incentive.

To break it down in a simple format, here’s what I think:

Good things about Call to Arms

  • Gives people a reason to want to tank – for example: making it a dual spec, rolling an alt.
  • Extra rewards are bind to Battle.net account, so the rewards aren’t just for that character.
  • (Hopefully) fills roles which are needed in the queue at the time, reducing wait times all around.

Bad things about Call to Arms

  • Throws money at the problem without fixing the overall issues – the tank is the expected leader of the group, whether they know the instance or not giving extra pressure.
  • Increases chances of getting tanks who aren’t ready for heroics – their item level might be high from other gear, no clue how to tank.
  • DPS will never get the extra reward – likely it will be tanks most of the time, healers rarely.
  • Encourages people to queue solo, as there are no rewards for queuing as a needed class with a group.

I personally have my second spec set up for tanking as a bear.  I tanked through Burning Crusade and Wrath, and enjoyed it.  The changes that came through in Cataclysm made things different, and I wasn’t comfortable with doing it again, but I would like to try.  4.1 has some good changes for bears, which will hopefully make keeping aggro easier for AoE groups.

Altogether, I think the Call to Arms system is a good one.  I just hope it works as Blizzard intended.

To Alt, or Not To Alt

I’ve confessed a couple times before that I’m an altaholic.  I go through various stages of it, and there have been times where I’ve gone weeks without working on my main for any significant amount of time.  I enjoy the different scenery, mechanics, point of view, role… all of these.  However, recently I seem to have been doing the exact opposite – rarely ever have I had so many alts with full rested experience waiting to be played.

The circumstances haven’t changed much, apart from the fact that I haven’t been raiding much in the past little while due to family stuff.  Even before that, I’ve been working on things to improve my main more and more.  First it was getting the Therazane reputation complete, since that would give access to good shoulder enchants.  Then it was the Tol Barad dailies, and wanting to get the dragon (because it’s a dragon!).  These could be classified as working towards improving my character, as there are benefits that are associated with those repuatations.

Unfortunately the same can’t be said of the reputations that came next.  I managed to hit exalted with Lower City by doing my daily runs for Anzu, and started up my Ogri’la dailies again after not touching them for a long time.  After getting exalted with Ogri’la on two characters, I really hope I never put myself through that again.  Currently, I’m trying to finish up the Sha’tari Skyguard and Netherwing reputations so I can get some Nether Rays and Nether Dragons to fly – which are both really good looking mounts.

These things I’m working on have absolutely no benefit to me in a raiding or progression standpoint.  They are things to occupy my time and give me something to do while I watch the rest of my guild do other things that I wish I could be doing.  I only do the daily heroic because I need the valour points, and many times I don’t do it because I want a guild group, or I’m listening to see if my son is actually asleep.

There are a few alts in particular that I want to level: my shaman, priest, and warrior.  The guild has a lack of those three classes and I want to help out if needed, but even though the majority of the leveling is going through new content that I haven’t seen yet, it’s still getting a bit boring.  I’m actually enjoying working on my main, and working towards accomplishments that I’ve been wanting for a long time.

As with everything, I go through phases.  It seems that I’ve run out of stuff to do for new Cataclysm things right now, so I’m working on older stuff.  Once I have my new dragons and nether rays, I’m sure I’ll be moving back to the alts again.

Professionally Speaking

This is part of a Blog Azeroth Shared Topic.

Of all the time sinks in World of Warcraft, there remains one that is not only a way to spend lots of time, but also lots of currency as well. People will debate until the end of WoW which is the best, which is the worst, which is the most boring, which is the most fun… which I will give my thoughts as well. I speak of our friends, professions.

There are a good variety of professions, as well as opinions about them. My main character is currently maxed in all of his professions except for archaeology, having: skinning, leatherworking, cooking, fishing, and first aid. Altogether, I have personally found these skills to not be too bad to skill up with, having decent rewards. Going from a pure min/max perspective, they’re not the best ones, but it comes to the laziness factor in certain things.

Here are my thoughts on professions in these categories: best, worst, most boring, and most fun. For this purpose, I’ll be defining “best” as looking at it from min/max standpoint, “worst” being the least beneficial, with “most boring” and “most fun” being self-explanatory.

Best profession: my thought for this is jewelcrafting. There are a great amount of benefits from this, mainly being the jewelcrafting-specific gems that have the bigger bonuses, as well as the bind-on-pickup trinkets that can be used to supplement them. These, along with the incredible resale value of the products made, make a very attractive profession to get. I find that it’s rough to get the skill up to around 300, but after that it gets much easier (or so I’m told, my highest JC is only around 150).

Worst profession: to me, this one is first aid. In the grand scheme of things, a bandage will do very little to help out in a battle. On my characters that have no way to heal themselves except through food and bandages, I still have found myself to rarely ever use bandages. If I’m in combat, I’m being damaged enough that the channeling will be interrupted easily, and if I’m out of combat I have food to heal me more efficiently. I’m maxed in first aid, but this is mainly for the achievements and nothing else.

Most boring: this is a no-brainer, of course it’s fishing. Though there is a great amount of benefits from cooking the fish you get, it doesn’t stop the skill from being tremendously boring. If it wasn’t for the daily quests, I doubt that I would have it maxed yet. The introduction of getting a skillup when completing the Orgrimmar (or Stormwind) dailies made this profession bearable. I’ve tried to watch movies, TV, read books, many other things while fishing to break up the monotony, but I’ve yet to find something that works.

A close second to fishing, however, is mining. It’s almost a requirement for certain other ones, and if you choose double gathering for your professions you’ll be able to make good amounts of cash. Yet, if you choose it along with one of the other professions that needs the smelted bars (blacksmithing, engineering, jewelcrafting) you have to go out and mine the ore, then wait for your character to smelt it. When you’re smelting hundreds of bars, you might as well go make a sandwich.

Most fun: it seems that many people have this same thought, which is engineering. In all honesty, how can a profession that allows you to create explosive sheep not be fun? One downside to this one is the amount of materials that are required to make certain items can sometimes get quite exorbitant. The rewards, however, are worth it – I remember back in Vanilla, many paladins would pick up engineering for the trinkets so they had something ranged. There are mounts like the flying machines and mechano-hog, the various types of engineers’ goggles, and now the cogwheel sockets for engineer-only stuff… among many other really neat things that can be made. It’s one of the professions that I have never maxed, but is high on my list of wanting to do.

The runner-up for this would be alchemy, out of sheer usefulness. Being able to make your own potions and elixirs is a huge benefit for any sort of use, whether it’s in PvE or PvP. There are the alchemists’ stones which are a great addition for any up-and-coming player, and the fun things like pygmy oil which will shrink you and eventually turn you into a sand gnome. Then there’s the pinnacle of them all, the Vial of the Sands – who doesn’t want to turn into a dragon?

Blizzard has done a great job of giving us a choice for things to waste time in. They created WoW in the first place, why not create something inside it to make it even more of a time waster?

Gaming Socially

One of the most awkward things for me is talking about some of my hobbies with real life friends, coworkers, and associates. The conversation inevitably comes up at work, parties, or whatever you’re doing: “So, what do you do for fun?” There’s a little bit of a pause, then I would say something along the lines of, “Well, I mostly play online computer games.”

Depending on the company, there is a good chance for an awkward pause. Yet, there is always the chance that the conversation will continue and you’ll find out that some people, who you may have never thought would, also play online games – or even better, play World of Warcraft. Crisis averted!

I know my first question in this case is always the same: “Horde or Alliance?” That in itself is usually a good icebreaker, since that conversation can go on for a long time debating the merits and downfalls of both sides. The best thing about it is that you found common ground with someone else who enjoys things similar to you. Who says that geeks can’t socialize?

A great benefit of knowing fellow WoW players in real life is that you usually have something to talk about. After the usual talk of the weather and how the local sports team is doing, you can get to the meat of it all. The forums can get quite heated in their discussion, and that’s through faceless walls of text. If you have someone in front of you, that’s where great things happen.

The game also has a great way of introducing people. Back in Burning Crusade, we had a random applicant who was looking for a Band of Thorns guild on another server and found us, and applied. We let the person know that we weren’t that guild, but they sounded like a great fit for us. Sure enough, they applied and were a great addition to the guild. One day, we ended up talking through a Karazhan run, and through a lot of conversation we found out that I knew her from junior high school. Not only that, but she was one of my best friends through those years, and we hadn’t spoken to each other in about eight years. Through random chance, I rekindled a great friendship with this person, her fiancée, and some of her other friends.

Lastly, another fun example is a story that I overheard on Twitter. Fyreuni, one of the people behind the Daily Quests webcomic, was at a restaurant with friends and talking about WoW. The waiter heard this, and at the end of the meal he gave her the leftovers in a container with “For the Alliance!” written on it. She paid the bill, drawing a Horde symbol on it and writing “For the Horde!”

WoW has a great way of crossing all age groups, social groups, stereotypes, races, genders, and so on. There is usually never a lack of topic when you can talk about the game and solve all of its problems. There’s lots of fun to be had discussing the game online, but I think it can be even more fun when you have friends in real life who can do it with you.

Twilight Highlands Roundup

By the time someone reaches Twilight Highlands, they’ve gone through quite a bit of stuff. At the minimum, that person would have completed or at least done part of the zones of Hyjal or Vashj’ir, Deepholm, and possibly Uldum. At this point there is a lot of expectations to live up to, since we’ve seen the new questing and zone design philosophies that Blizzard has implemented in full force. When you’re in Twilight Highlands, you expect to have the best of the best – and Blizzard delivers.

(As always, this is from a Horde point of view, and will contain spoilers)

The lead-up quests to going into Twilight Highlands were really the only part that I didn’t like. Going to the gate in Azshara to inspect the gear that will go with you into the attack and then collecting the gear in Bilgewater Harbour was a little bit boring. I understand that the intent was to show that it’s a big effort and that you have an effect on the big attack. It doesn’t just appear out of thin air. Once you step on the zeppelin and head out towards the zone is when it gets fun.

You are on a zeppelin with a fleet of others, along with small fighters to provide escort towards the landing site by Dragonmaw Port. Along the way the fleet gets attacked by Twilight dragons, and Garrosh (strangely enough by himself on his own zeppelin) and his zeppelin go down, and you follow shortly after. The only “friendly” people in the zone for you are the Dragonmaw, which are under the rule of someone who isn’t too fond of giving up his power over the clan. He styles himself Warchief of the Dragonmaw, so being the patriotic Horde member you are, you decide to help lead a revolt that brings the death of the impostor and the promotion of Zaela – the new leader of the Dragonmaw. She is quite a bit more reasonable and is more than willing to help the Horde combat the Twilight’s Hammer in the Highlands.

Throughout the zone, it’s a constant battle: Horde vs Alliance, Horde & red dragons vs Twilight people, Deathwing vs Alexstrasza, lots of fun stuff. Very quickly about each part:

  • Horde vs Alliance: I like the tensions in the zone. Everyone knows that the major enemy is Deathwing and Twilight’s Hammer, but the temptation to strike a major blow at the Alliance is just too much to pass up. The zeppelin gunship battle against the Alliance base was great, along with attacking the Dwarf camp. The dailies are a little annoying, but that’s to be expected with daily quests.
  • Horde & red dragons vs Twilight people: the major plotline of the entire zone. Starting with the Dragonmaw joining the Horde and ending with an assault on the Twilight base camp along the side of Garona Halforcen, it’s a lot of very fun quests. The Isorath questline where you battle inside the stomach of a big “thing” is really neat, especially seeing Deathwing attack people at the Maelstrom and not knowing it isn’t real until the end.
  • Deathwing vs Alextrasza: best cinematic of all quests that I’ve seen so far. Seeing the two of them battle, then following them to attack the smaller drakes was a great sense of accomplishment. I took a great many screenshots, a version of the one above is my current desktop background right now. I really can’t wait to see what the Deathwing raid encounter will look like.

All in all, the zone was incredibly well done. A very fitting end to the questing chain through the Cataclysm zones, and really making me want more storyline through the raids that will eventually be added through future patches. Now, all that stands between me and Loremaster of Cataclysm is Hyjal.

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