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Boredem and changes

Over the past while, I have to admit that I haven’t been playing much World of Warcraft. It’s not that there is nothing to do – far from it – but there just really isn’t much that can keep my attention lately. I find that I’m logging on for a random heroic or two, but after that I’m finding that I can’t keep interested.

I’ve come to realize that finally, after over seven years of playing, I’m mostly bored of WoW. There have been times where there have been some gaps where I haven’t had as much fun, but it never has been like this before. Even though there are things coming up with Mists of Pandaria that look really cool, at the very least we’re around 6-7 months away from that. When the time comes, I’ll definitely pick it up and play it, but there’s just the problem about the time from now until then.

Previously, I had a solid raid team that I would work with twice a week and work through the raid content. Not having this sort of anchor has affected me more than I ever thought, as the only person who I spend much time with when I’m playing WoW at all is my wife (not that this is a bad thing, it’s just that I would like to have more acquiantances). Even though I have joined a guild on my Death Knight that has a great number of people, unfortunately I have yet to find a suitable raid team that works with the times that I’m available.

With all of this being said, I’m playing other games and having some fun doing different things. I purchased Terraria and Portal 2 during the Steam Christmas sale last year and have started playing them again, and this year I’ve purchased Skyrim and Bastion, along with being fortunate enough to get into the Diablo III beta. Between these five games, I’m keeping myself quite occupied and not really missing WoW very much.

As I’ve said many times before, I’m a Blizzard fanboy and will continue to be one. I still really enjoy WoW, but as many other people do, I think I’ll just play it less than I have in the past. When the New Spawn comes in February, it’s quite possible that I might be doing some Archaeology at three in the morning while feeding the baby.

Maybe I’ll get lucky and get into a raid team that works for me, because I know that it will re-kindle my interest in the game. The future holds many unknown things, and what I will be doing with my spare time to have fun is most definitely one of them.

Guild Reputation

Guild reputation was a brand new feature that came out with Cataclysm and combined with the guild perks, rewards, achievements, and other stuff like that. Your guild levels and gets perks, and the more reputation that you have with the guild (by killing bosses in a guild group or doing daily quests), you get access to more of the rewards.

I’m not talking about any of this.

As I had mentioned before, I recently joined the AIE guild with my Death Knight on the Earthen Ring server. I was looking for an alternative place to hang out and find somewhere that had a better raiding schedule. After being in the guild for about a month, I’ve found that I’m rarely ever spending any time on my Druid anymore and mainly hanging out on my DK.

Many times I’m doing random dungeons for the Valour and Justice points, daily quests, a Baradin Hold run, or whatever the case may be. Yet, I could easily be doing these things on my Druid as he also needs some upgrades as well. At this point, I’ve all but decided that I will be moving him over to AIE soon-ish.

Getting used to a new guild is tough, and even more tough when there’s so many people in it. At any point in time, there’s at least over one hundred people online, and it’s hard to see familiar faces when there’s over 7000 to pick from. That being said, AIE is fortunate in the fact that the guild as a whole is very well run and has a great culture by itself that people seem to embrace easily.

For an example of the guild culture, twice a year they have craft fairs.  People give up a ton of materials from each profession to help others level up theirs.  I’ve heard stories of people maxing whatever profession they are (even the annoying ones like Leatherworking and Blacksmithing) within the short period of time that the craft fair is on.  This is a guild culture that I can support without a problem.

The Instance podcast has definitely made AIE popular, and is the reason why I decided to join.  Yet, even though it was the podcast that got me there, it’s the people who keep me there.  During BlizzCon, there were a bunch of volunteers who made a guild hall in one of the nearby hotels, which was basically a place for guildies to hang out when they weren’t at the convention.  Some people flew down there just to go to the hall, rather than the convention itself.  Goodie bags were made specifically for this, and it was a whole event contained within that hall.

Just by these few examples, it’s obvious why I’ve decided to try out this guild.  The reputation that it has gained from the amazing people who are members is truly awesome.

As a whole, I’ve had enough experience with AIE that I want to continue my association with them. The reputation that a guild has outside of the reputation panel is extremely important. If you don’t enjoy being in a guild, why bother getting Exalted with them?

Moving On Up

I have mentioned before that I was working on a goblin priest for an alt, something I’ve wanted to do for a while. That priest is finally level 85, and heroic ready… but the process was a little bit different from the expected.

Originally, my thought was to try to level through the dungeon finder to work on healing skills as I had never healed on a priest before. It worked out well for quite a while until level 41, when I got too frustrated at other people and then decided to just take the plunge and quest with a shadow spec. This ended up being a good plan, as I now have the basics of both specs down.

The thing that was scaring me was the idea of healing Cataclysm instances. On my druid, I have done all of them multiple times (excepting the new Zandalari ones), so it wasn’t that I didn’t know the fights. I had the simple fear of failing at something that I set out to accomplish. Many times I’ve been in a group where there’s been one member that was doing a very bad job at their role and I was afraid that one day I’d turn into them.

Once my item level was high enough – unfortunately heirlooms make this a bit difficult, as they’re an item level 1 – I decided to give it a try. From when I first made my priest, I decided to use discipline as my healing spec since it looked like fun, and so far it has been. Having the multiple methods of damage prevention and utilities make it so I have more tricks up my sleeve, and hopefully will make the run go smoother.

All in all the regular instances went fairly well. It didn’t stop me from being nervous through all of the runs, but at least we were able to make it through them. The hurdle now is the transition into healing heroics.

I’ve done a number of heroic runs with my shadow spec, getting drops and justice points to improve my gear before I try to heal them. As of last night, I am at the point where I think my gear is ready to go into a heroic. There are a few fights that I’m worried about that have high levels of damage, and whether I’d be able to cope with the stress.

Unfortunately, I have a bad habit of forgetting to use cooldowns at times. The biggest problems are two of the best cooldowns a discipline priest has: power infusion and pain suppression. Huge increase in healing throughput and huge damage reduction, and I forget to use them? I have to set up some power auras to help me remember, the same I did for my boomkin stuff.

My priest has yet to heal a heroic, but I think I’m ready for it. If not, that’s why there’s the option for a dual spec.

Melting Faces and Taking Names

Once upon a time, it was said that Shadow Priests can melt faces. After testing out this theory for myself, it turns out that the information presented was indeed correct. For the first time in my World of Warcraft career, I’m playing a “squishy” class without actually being squishy.

When Cataclysm hit, I had my sights set on making a goblin priest. I’m not sure why exactly I wanted to do that specific race/class combination, but it seems to be working for me so far. The first bit I decided to try to level entirely by using the dungeon finder, and it worked – for a while.

Levels 15-35 were fairly uneventful, with decent groups being able to go through a dungeon in a good amount of time without much drama. After that, it seemed every second group would either be completely full of idiots, or people who don’t know what they’re doing. If I was really fortunate, it would be a nice mix of both. I was really hoping to continue leveling through the LFD tool to work on my healing, since I would likely be doing this once I hit max level. However, this didn’t end up happening, and at level 42 I decided to start questing again.

Unfortunately, since this character had been parked in Orgrimmar from levels 15 to 42, I didn’t have any flight paths other than Bilgewater Harbour and Razor Hill. Thankfully I had epic riding skill, so the drive down to Dustwallow Marsh to pick up the Thousand Needles breadcrumb wasn’t too big of a problem. I changed over to my dual spec of Shadow, and promptly began to melt the faces of Grimtotems, pirates, and anything else that stood in my way.

Since then there has only been one circumstance when I switched back to my Discipline spec for use, which was to heal a tank so we could duo Durn the Hungerer in Nagrand. Apart from that, I’ve only switched over to spend the talent points that I had earned. Fortunately, there hasn’t been any need to do so.

While I was leveling my enhancement shaman I found I was able to solo most things, including some group quests which I had never been able to do before. Out of curiosity, I decided to try this in Hellfire Peninsula on my priest. I had gotten the feel of the class by this point, and was comfortable in what to do for an elite mob. After some preparation and making sure I had the proper buffs, the giants for the Colossal Menace quest were destroyed efficiently.

I was honestly quite shocked – a clothie that can solo group quests this easily? It was different from what I had expected. (For the record, I have leveled a Warlock previously and they did well for group quests – but having a Voidwalker or Felguard will help quite a bit! Warlocks aren’t that squishy, but I don’t have any experience with one since originally leveling through Outland back in Burning Crusade.) Not having a pet or something to tank an elite mob, while I was able to still do very decent damage and have self-healing… it was a nice feeling.

Going through Outland, I was able to solo all group quests in Zangarmarsh and Nagrand (with the exception of Durn). In my brief time in Howling Fjord I’ve been able to solo the one group quest that has come up which has always presented me with problems on other characters, which is March of the Giants – elite giants who do heavy damage, along with a hard-hitting damage over time debuff placed on you. Fortunately a priest’s arsenal includes Dispel Magic, which saved my hide a number of times through the course of that questline.

I was able to hit 70 before completing the quests in Vengeance Landing and Camp Winterhoof in Howling Fjord the other night. Originally, I was expecting to level by healing the dungeon finder groups I found with a Discipline spec. I’m extremely glad that I decided to make the switch.

It will be interesting to see how things go through Northrend and Cataclysm content. I’ll be wanting to get more healing experience, but being able to melt faces is just so much fun. Rolling this priest as an alt seems to have been a very good idea.

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.

Dungeon Finder and YOU!

There are numerous stories that could be told about the Random Dungeon Finder.  The good ol’ LFD/LFG/looking for PAIN tool is a wonderful and horrible invention that can be used for good or for evil.  Unfortunately, there are many people who seem happier to use it for the latter.

I have a lowbie Priest who is currently level 23, and has leveled purely through the dungeon finder so far.  Through that I have come across many great players who have been willing to help out others who aren’t as good, as well as many players who have no clue what they are doing and don’t want to accept any suggestions at all.  Of course, this doesn’t go just for the lowbie instances – my Druid main has come across many different types of people through the dungeon finder for regular and heroic dungeons at level 85 as well.

After all my experiences, I think that the most important thing to remember when with any group (LFD or not) is to have good communication.  It doesn’t matter if it’s all guild members, one pug, or if it’s all completely random – if there’s a communication breakdown, failure is sure to come knocking at your door quite soon.

A good example would be a Wailing Caverns run that I did the other day on my priest.  I don’t remember the exact makeup, but the tank was a paladin who didn’t like to listen and who liked to do his own thing.  After killing the first boss, Lady Anacondra, 4 of the 5 of us drop down and proceed to the west side to start the trek to the second boss, Lord Cobrahn.  The tank proceeds to continue around the top side towards where the Naralex event eventually happens at the end.  In chat, we asked multiple times what he was doing and if he was going to come back to where the group was, and he never said anything.  In hindsight, this would have been a good time to initiate a vote-kick.

The group was fine, since we had a hunter with us and the pet tanked just as good as the paladin was, and fortunately I was able to keep everyone alive.  We put up with the tank’s eccentricities like randomly running ahead and getting new packs of mobs before we were done the previous ones, or randomly going afk for 5 minutes without saying anything.   Once again, I’m thankful that we had the hunter’s pet to be a better tank than the one who was in the group.

Don’t be “that guy”.  Don’t be the one that people write blog posts about, or laugh about with their guilds, or complain about to their wives.  As a sidenote, I’m glad that my wife enjoys listening to my dungeon finder stories.  It makes those brutal groups much easier to bear.

Try to help others who are having difficulties.  Don’t post damage meters, because nobody cares (on that note, if you’re trying to see how you’re doing compared to others, you don’t need to announce it to the rest of the party).  If you don’t know your way around, ask.  If someone doesn’t know the way, help point them in the right direction.

It’s really not that difficult.  If everyone puts in a little bit of kindness, it’ll go a long way.  Maybe the idiot from the last group will pick something up from you, and next run will be a little bit less of an idiot.  If during that run, someone gives him a few more pointers, he’ll be even less of an idiot.  Hopefully the idiocy will flush itself out, but that’s just me being hopeful.

Remember Wheaton’s law: “Don’t be a dick.”

Experiences with the LFG tool

Now that I’ve had a bit more time to use it, I once again must say how much I love the LFG tool.  Of course, it’s that much better with being able to get instant queues by tanking them.  With more experience, comes more thoughts.

The thing that surprises me the most is how competent these pugs seem to be.  Both individually and as a group, I’ve had more positive experiences than not – my main exception being (you guessed it) Oculus.  However, that’s partially my own fault, as I had only run it once before coming across it in my LFG randomness.  You get the random scrub that you have to carry, or the over-zealous DPSer who learns the hard way (or fun way, in my opinion) that he should be attacking the tank target.  At the end of the run, the majority of groups complete the instance without a wipe – sometimes without any deaths.

People don’t like to talk.  At all.  Usually when I join a pug, I would say a hello, “Ahoy matey”, or something.  95% of the time my response is silence, and I’m sure that I can hear them thinking: “why isn’t he pulling yet?”  Of course, the exceptions to this are those who like to spam recount, chide others for their supposedly crappy DPS, or telling you how to play your class.  Albeit there are some people who deserve to have a talking to, but usually they’re just being annoying.

I could play bingo very easily.

Lastly, I’m very glad when I have a guild member go along with me for the runs.  Back in BC, I tanked more often than DPS, but the way our guild has gone, I usually raid as a kitty.  Being able to have someone give me hints and pointers as I’m going through is a very nice thing to have.  Plus, I at least know one person is competent on the run.

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