Up in the Air

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Wow, has it really been five months since I last wrote? Time for an update!

It’s been an interesting first half of 2014 for me. I had to deal with three deaths in the span of three months, had a nasty experience with a sexist asshole at the same time (see post below), and work shifted into high gear. Work (as in piano) is the thing that kept me going through it all. While I was going through all that shit, I was and still am playing really well. I have performance requests, students and a project to record the Beethoven sonatas. Things are amazing right now.

With piano being my top priority, I have less time to spend on my gaming hobby which has led me to be more critical of the games I play. If I spend my time playing a game, I want to be damn sure that it is fun – and that’s where my re-evaluation of WoW happened. My last six months of WoW have been more stressful and less rewarding than my full-time job. And, that’s just not going to fly.

With the exception of heroic bosses, there was nothing much keeping me in the game. Siege has now been out for about as long as Dragon Soul if not longer, and I’m so glad I’m not raiding. Even if there was new content currently being added, I’m not sure I’m sold on going through more drama just to raid or meeting the latest flavour of nasty. Without the raids, there isn’t much for me here. I’ve long given up on an immersive story, pet battles were something I did off and on, and I think I’ve collected most of the mounts I’ve cared for (heck, I’ve seen Rivendare drop twice now). Small wonder then, that when my sub came up for renewal, I decided to decline.

I’m currently spending my time playing other games – trying out different genres – and I’ve just been having fun again. It really has been a while!

The one thing that’s making this a dilemma rather than a decision is my love for blogging. I truly love blogging about the games I play and the blogging community is nothing short of amazing. If it weren’t for the fine folks here, I probably would’ve given up a long time ago. The community and the blog helped me stick it through the raging raid leaders, the PvP jerks and most recently the assholes of the sexist kind. Thank you :)

It really is all up in the air. Warlords is on the horizon but for the first time, I’m not really jumping in my seat with excitement. I haven’t pre-ordered it either (another first) – I will just wait and see. The only plan I do have is to continue my break (it seems to be the right time for it anyways with the lull) and see where I end up.

For now, I’m having a blast with other games and I am glad my hobby is fun again! I leave you with this awesome picture.

 

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Saying No to a Sexist

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This has been the month of hell for me. It’s almost like clockwork that around the time I get a bit idealistic and hope for the best in people, the Universe decides to prove me wrong and does it by outdoing the level of nasty I was met with the last time. (The fact that I haven’t blogged in 2 months is usually a good sign that something is very wrong for me in the game).

I was part of a guild I helped found with two others. A guild council with equal voices in decisions, and to share the burden of guild responsibility. It sounded great on paper, but I suppose the one thing we can never account for is what power can do to people. And for one of the members, having guild controls over two women who were co-leaders seemed to change everything.

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The Mythic Winds of Change

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I have been fairly quiet this last month. Someone who just wrote about a random awesome gnome machinima somehow couldn’t find the words to discuss Warcraft when a new expansion had been announced. Not a patch, not a pet, not even a raid tier – a whole new expansion.

So I decided to start at the beginning for me – which in Warcraft is heroic raiding. I am a raider and I love to raid. I don’t necessary do world or server firsts, but I still see heroic content at my own pace. It’s the main reason why I love to play.

It’s also one of the biggest changes that’s happening in Warlords of Draenor. Now, if a group wants to access the hardest content available in raiding, they have to  be a group of 20. Despite the reasons and logic behind this decision, I don’t think that the pros don’t justify the cons here.

More Mechanics for All

The biggest reasoning behind the Mythic change is raid design. It is easier to tune for a fixed raid size than have two heroic difficulties – that much has never been in question. Blizzard went a step further to to elaborate on why they thought this was the way to go. Making interesting encounters is the name of the game to keep raiders interested and to expand the kinds of encounters they can come up with, they’re taking a good long look at raid composition.

It’s fairly clear that in 10-man group, we can’t always have every class represented. My own group lacks a mage for example since we happen to have two shamans. This implies that if there were a particular fight that needed the spellsteal ability, we would be screwed.

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I understand the theory behind this. The part I don’t get is why is this a bad thing? Going back to class-specific ability requirements seems more like a step back rather than a step forward. Blizzard spent the last two expansions ensuring that groups would bring people for who they were rather than their spellbook. Burning Crusade in particular had some shamans jokingly (or sometimes not so jokingly) claim that they were simply brought for Bloodlust/Heroism. This brings us to the next question…

Bring the Class, not the Player

The devs spent the last two expansions chanting the mantra of “bring the player not the class”, going to great lengths to ensure that groups could bring their friends without constantly having to put their class abilities first. It’s one of the biggest reasons why amidst cries of homogenisation, they went ahead with the plan and so, mages got Time Warp; hunter’s got Hysteria; druid, paladins and monks can all provide the stats buff etc. My raid group is missing a mage, but it doesn’t kill our group because the devs went through the process of making it fairly easy for a raid to cover all buffs in some form or the other.

So why then, are we returning to the idea of the class rather than the player?

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I was around when priests used Mind Control on Razuvious on 25-man. I remember it clearly – and yet I can assure the feeling of being awesome and having a special task isn’t that great as you make it out to be. Why? Because it’s eclipsed by another issue that comes with class specificity.

Let’s take the paladin example. If you have a paladin in the raid who clears the debuff correctly, all is peachy. If you have a mediocre player who isn’t paying attention and is awful about his special task, it ruins it for the entire raid. What does this lead to? Well, Bob the paladin in the raid shows up and consistently has a 50% chance of doing his job right. Recruiting isn’t ever easy, and ideally Bob would do his job. You have a friend who you know is awesome at being reactive and clearing debuffs – and you would swap the two out in a heartbeat if not for one tiny detail – your friend plays a mage, not a paladin. Alas, it cannot be.

This is my memory of class specific abilities being required in fights. So-and-so is in the group because the group desperately needs an [insert class ability], and not because they have the raid awareness of a….well, very good raider. Ideally ofcourse, a team would never have to choose between the two – a player with the right class and the right raiding experience is just perfect. But in reality, raid teams are never perfect. There’s always a range of skillsets between players – recruiting is never an enviable task – and changing class requirements from being preferences of a raider leader to requirements of a particular boss just makes it all the more difficult.

As a sidenote, at the end of the Mind Control thingus on Razuvious, I never once went “Wohooo! I did a super special mind control – look, priests are awesome!” I actually went “Oh thank god this is over – can I go back to healing yet?” Maybe it’s just me.

The World of 10-man Heroic Raids

My final 2 cents on the matter boils down to why I chose 10 man heroic raiding in the first place. Why did I place that on my top requirements when I was looking for a raid team? Because the closeness and tight-knit nature of 10-mans is a far far cry from 25-mans. I have always enjoyed the level of coordination and personal responsibility that 10-mans came with.

Back in Wrath, when they were first introduced, it always seemed to me that 10-mans were in some sense more difficult than the 25-mans – despite the loot difference at the time. If one person died or messed up in 10-man, many times it just meant game over. The impact of a single death in 25-man was not so great. Thus 10-mans had a fairly high requirement in personal responsibility that complemented the close knit nature of working together with 9 other people. It’s an atmosphere I specifically signed up for, and for the last two expansions I didn’t have to give up seeing the hardest content for it.

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Lore asks an interesting question here: Make new friends or bench 5 current members? To me, this is the wrong question. The question here should be why should there be such a choice to begin with? Change is change – whether you’re recruiting new raiders or trying to find a way to tell your good-hearted but not skilled five raiders that they didn’t make the Mythic cut. We can look at this many ways but nothing about this transition seems easy or even pleasant. Why was Mythic not chosen to be a number that is already standard in the current raiding paradigm?

Final Thoughts

All my ramblings come down to this: it is not in question that having a fixed size for raiding is good – it clearly is; having new mechanics in encounters is also good. Ultimately, the question we have to answer is whether getting those is worth the price they’re coming? Is it worth going back to the class specific abilities? Is it worth overhauling current raid teams for it? No, I don’t think so. I think it does more harm than good and is a step back.

I agree that a fixed size and new mechanics would be healthier for the raiding community – at the very least there wouldn’t be this dichotomy. But this is not the path to it.

Hurray, I write again!

Gnome Powa!

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My warcraft life is currently a constant dilemma. I raid as a blood elf, but in my heart I am a gnome. And at every opportunity I get, I nudge my raid team with a “hey wouldn’t it be great if we were all gnomes?!”

When I woke up this morning, the gnome in me was particularly strong. And I was reminded of a machinima I’d seen way back, where the power of gnomes were unleashed on Azeroth. Can this be real please :P

 

Healing Perspectives: Thok

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This is the one fight where the big baddie we fight actually seems both to me – big and bad. If there was one fight I saved my all caps “OH MAH GAWD” moments for, this would be it. Just saying – having a ridiculously huge dinosaur come charging at you is a legit… and I mean legit reason to panic.

Not that I panicked. Not once. Nope. Ok… maybe twice. No, really.

OK FINE HE ATE ME THREE TIMES ALREADY! *ahem*

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Being Horde

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It’s a been around three months since I started raiding hordeside and that’s around enough time for me to consider bringing up my army of alts there. (I am still a gnome at heart ofcourse, and I always poke my raid team about going back to the alliance but hey, that’s not what this post is about.)

I’ve rolled numerous horde alts in the past – often inspired by the Warcraft cinematics I watched. In fact my very first horde toon, an undead warlock, was inspired by the badass murloc-burning guy you see up there. I’m the sort of the player who likes to relate a little bit to my characters – even if they’re only being rolled for something like profession purposes. And so I was quite surprised that when I tried to roll my alts this time around, I found myself somehow unable to play a majority of the horde races. What had changed?

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Healing Perspectives: General Nazgrim

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General Nazgrim is another of those familiar figures appearing in Siege of Orgrimmar. He was a cool quest-giver and a loyal orc in my book so he gets praises for that. And he is probably the only “honourable” boss in this raid instance. His decision to stick to Garrosh was disappointing but his choice lessens my reluctance to kill him. It was a choice and he chose to follow a tyrant – now he reaps what he sows.

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