Sunday, November 28, 2010

Forgetting

Along with Ashenvale, I also said good bye to an old friend of mine with patch 4.0.3a.

My character Joachim Hamar as I used to role-play him, was for all intents and purposes finished. I had stopped role-playing with any consistency for some time now, but when I play any game, I typically get into the head of the character and find a voice for it, especially when the game doesn't provide one.

Joachim was probably the most detailed character I have made - I fleshed out his history, and background, to a great level of detail, who he was, where he came from, what he did, and what happened to him. I outlined NPCs who were important to him, events and places that played significant parts in molding him, and always, the trajectory of his arc was tragic.

He was a pious, righteous, proud man pushed into Seminary but turned towards the Military, he was educated, philosophical, but short-sighted and blinded by his preconceptions. There were elements and themes running through his life, from little things like his devotion to horses, to the big things like the constant compromise of his morals for the sake of political practicality, that all tied together in strands of story.

There was a constant ebb and flow in him, balancing his hatred for the Horde against the necessity of doing the right thing against the greater threats. The corruption that slowly filtered into his own life as he began to protect those close to him against persecution and the self-loathing it generated even as he felt thankful for buying security with his own morality.

By the time I stopped role-playing, Joachim wasn't just a character, but a second skin with a complex, fully-developed story that I knew intimately. Every action I took in game had a reflection in my head about its impact on that story.

And at one point, earlier this year, as the last of the people I used to role-play with left the server or the faction, I finished off his story line, with the last of his friends carrying a dull, bureaucratic note from the Argent Crusade to his father notating his son's death and returning his arms and armor.

Ever since then, I've felt like I was wearing a dead man's skin. His story was done and over, and yet, I still wore on, continuing his existence, and it really felt weird and wrong. I wanted to change, but I didn't want to say good-bye to Joachim. He was like an old friend. A flawed, weak man who had failed to live up to the challenges of his life, but a friend never-the-less, and I would miss him.

So I tarried, I lingered, I prolonged the inevitable, and as I sat in front of the computer on Tuesday, after dinner, waiting for the servers to come back up, I thought, this was the moment I was waiting for.

We were done with raiding for the rest of the expansion, there was little left for me to do, and if I was going to pull the trigger on Joachim, this was the moment. So I logged into Battle.Net and commissioned a race change.

The process was thankfully brief and painless. When I logged in, I quickly began to switch race, gender, appearances until I settled on something I liked - a Female Draenei - and after typing in a new name, my finger paused for a second before clicking that "Accept" button and then it was done.

When I logged, it was into a new skin, a blank canvas, it felt like I had finally said good-bye to someone that I'd kept on for too long. It was past time.

Rest easy, buddy. I'm sure you and your pony will be happy in whatever Elysian Fields paladins with stained souls find at the end of that long, dark tunnel.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ashenvale

Monday night, I logged in to game and reset the hearths for all of my characters, I took a stroll around Stormwind, killing Elementals as I went, and then I paused, thinking about all the places in the game world I'd spent time in. What was the one place I wanted to ride through, one last time?

Even though my Paladin is my main and will always be my favorite character to play, he wasn't my first. I barely remember the leveling process through Vanilla and TBC. I have fond memories of the leveling process in Wrath due to my leveling partner and all of the RP that came out of it, but that wasn't at stake here.

What was at stake here was the old world.

And I remember my first two attempts at leveling, they were confused, uncertain, fitful things. First a mage, then a warrior, both of which were left in the mid forties over some unquantifiable misgiving and so I rerolled for the third time, a Night Elf druid, and I began to level, with a bit more certainty and confidence.

Now that I knew how the game worked, I was able to focus on the lore, the stories, the environment. In my head, a story began to write itself about who this guy was, the world he came from, the confusion of waking up into a world so changed from the world he went to sleep in so long ago.

Teldrassil and Darkshore were fine and entertaining, but his story really hit me when I came to Ashenvale. It is likely the most Night Elfish of all the zones in the games, purely executed, and though it comes across like a bit of a new-age crystal shop at times, I can indulge myself and enjoy the music and lighting and the purple colors. I remember leveling as Feral and prowling through the misty glens and hiding in leafy bushes, running solo as I went, and the place carved a little space for itself in my heart.

There was a quest in Ashenvale, long gone now, I'm sure, and at the culmination of the quest, you were given a vial that would grant three seconds of invulnerability so you could defeat some elite boss, but I thought the vial was so amazing that I couldn't use it for a simple quest, so I saved it and saved it and saved it.

I remember when I began raiding, tanking the Prince in Kara, when I wanted to take the potion to save a wipe but I never did. I went on to Gruul, Magtheridon, Zul'Aman, pieces of the next tier, but never used the potion. It stayed in my bags.

It was like a piece of Ashenvale that I never got rid of, that stayed with me.

So, on Monday night, I rode from one end to the other, back and forth, over and over, until finally I sighed, bid farewell to the purple glen and hearthed for the last time.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Near The End

If patch 4.0.3a (or as it likes to call itself, THE SHATTERING ) winds up hitting on Tuesday, it'll be the death-knell for Wrath Raiding, I think.

And I can't wait.

20% reduced XP in Northrend will let me get my Warlock and Warrior up to 80 before December 7th, hopefully, and that will leave me standing with a total of six level capped characters with most professions covered. The problem being that with Cata, crafts at least need to get near the level cap to learn the final professions but that's okay. My main professions of Enchanting and Jewelcrafting are on Joachim anyway, so he'll get there, but I need to level up my mage for the Alchemy and Tailoring, my druid for Leatherworking, my DK for the Blacksmithing and 2nd Alchemy, and my Warlock still needs to train Engineering and Inscription from scratch.

Looks like I'll be leveling a lot of alts when I'm not grinding out Heroics for points and gear. But I'm excited for the new zones and the new quests and new dungeons and hopefully I don't need to do every fucking quest in every zone to get to 85 so I can get up there while questing without doing a lot of repeated stuff.

I've also started working out a raid plan for Cataclysm. With the two medium-length raids to tackle and the one short raid, I think we'll focus on Blackwing Descent first and then Bastion of Twilight. I'm happy to leave Throne of the Four Winds to the side for a bit until we gear up a bit in raids as that raid seems to have some steep DPS requirements and gear can only help.

In terms of end-bosses, I think we'll be doing Nefarian, then Cho'gal, then Al'Akir, with Lady Sineastra coming late in the gearing process, I think.

For a while, I was thinking about swapping over to DPS as my main spec in Cata but honestly, I'm absolutely loving the Protection Paladin tree and playstyle right now, and after an hour and a half of working on and downing Heroic Sindragosa last night, I have absolutely new-found respect for the Paladin tool-kit.

Between Word of Glory, Hand of Freedom, Hand of Salvation to make taunts trivial, macroed Divine Shield to drop debuffs, glyphed Divine Protection to provide 40% damage reduction from magic, Ardent Defender anytime I dip below 50%, Avenger's Shield with a Focus glyph, a 2 minute Avenging Wrath, and the massive crit-scale of both Shield of Righteousness (I was getting 50k crits on H:Sindi, I've hit 90k crits on H:Festergut) Hammer of Wrath (crits in the 30k+ range) I was keeping myself alive through some crunch moments, able to work through movement impairments so easily that I didn't even miss a closer, while pushing nearly 7k Damage while downing a single-target boss with messy movement heavy mechanics and a fair amount of downtime.

I'm a little worried that we might even be a bit over powered right now, even with the Ardent Defender nerf (I actually like being able to chain DP and AD to give healers a breathing room stretch when they're really busy healing up a raid).

Do I sound a bit giddy? I'm getting pretty excited for Cataclysm. I think it'll be a good time and I'm excited for my guild to come roaring back from the year-long malaise that ICC has plunged us into.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Problem Solved

As might be clear from my posting habits, out little guild is a friendly, cozy little place. Generally speaking, we're a warm, inviting, and very open group that embraces new members and will quickly assimilate people and their quirks and jokes and such into our own group. In the seven-odd months of our existence, those that don't fit in generally slip away quietly and quickly in the midst of the night and I generally don't go chasing after them.

By now, those who're going to stick around, do so, through thick or thin. We've had members stick with us through the really really difficult time from August till now when putting raids together has been absolutely brutal, when teams fluctuated almost weekly, and progress just about crawled to a stand-still. About a month or so ago, we had a tiny infusion of fresh blood and it really pushed us back into gear and we finally started making some progress, especially as 4.0.1 dropped and excitement crept back in.

However, some of this new blood also brought in its own problems.

This member was really informed, knowledgeable, generous with their information, a good player, filled a class need, but... there was a feeling that this person maybe belonged in another guild somewhere. They were obsessed with their position on Recount, being knowledgeable they had very strong opinions about things, and constantly contradicted their own expectations of raiders with their personal behavior.

My problem with this person generally only extended to their behavior in raids and we spoke to this person a couple of times, but here is where our guild structure causes a bit of an issue. Because we're so friendly and the line between officers and members is so thin, when situations for corrections and discipline come up, authority isn't really established outside of raids. It makes having these discussions more difficult, but I took it up as an officer, and I thought I had made myself clear about my expectation of this person's behavior.

It worked for a couple of weeks, but then, last night, it all came screaming back in high-velocity. So much so, that an argument broke out in GChat at one point, and while I was forcefully retaining my impulsive GKick button the person spared me the guilt and GQuit themselves.

Things immediately restored themselves back to normal. I threw a tiny fit in my head about loosing ANOTHER geared, trained raider but the peace of mind that followed their absence was worth the price. The tragic thing is, I liked this person quite a bit, and had it not been for their behavior and epeening, we could have enjoyed a long and healthy relationship.

Ego can be a big thing in games, and I understand it's a rush to be at the top of the heap and it stings to be at the bottom, but:
  1. I don't need you to flash Recount every time you do well
  2. I don't need you to make excuses when you aren't
  3. I don't need you to blame everyone and everything else but yourself when you die
  4. Sometimes, the Healers choose tanks over you and you wind up dying, so deal with it
  5. Dying to mechanics you fail to execute does not mean the mechanic is bugged
  6. You might have been top DPS because you sat on the boss, but the people who actually switched over to the adds saved the fight
  7. Please don't correct me, and then when you're proven wrong, feign acute memory loss
If you're in a raid and find that you're suffering from a feeling of being the Outsider, check the above list and if you do any of the things on it, the problem might be you, not the raid.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Lessons Learned

I really hope Cataclysm changes things for me and I fall back in love with the game because I really enjoy playing Warcraft quite a bit, but things are just not a lot of fun right now.

A lot of it has to do with the boredom of a lack of content, and even the new elemental invasion feels anemic with the quick little questline which was fun the first time, and then the wide-spread elementals which is more of a chore, trying to find a node when it happens to be open.

Some of it has to do with the lack of guild activities (or guild interest in activities) so that when I log in game, there is little of the socializing and commaradarie I crave desperately which I think also ties into the big "people are bored and they aren't playing" thing.

I've just about given up trying to push any progression or agenda at this late point and we're trying to use raid-nights as a chance to keep interest up and just do achievement runs in old raids or whatever people want to knock out. Someone mentioned that one of our problems is that we only Raid and maybe if we expand out to do a BG night or something, we can open up things a bit more and I'm certainly open to such activities.

--

I'm trying to think ahead and see what lessons can be learned from the last six - seven months of raiding and I think the biggest - the biggest - factor in success and failure is a consistent team.

We made amazing progress when the same core people showed up again and again and we really floundered and struggled when we didn't. That's number one. As a small, friendly, casual guild, I can't really use loot or member standing as a motivation to help attendance and so I'm just hopeful that a year of old content is what is causing this hot-and-cold attitude towards raiding and that this is not an endemic issue.

Another was loot. I don't know what to do about loot (see above re: small guild) as we've always been very casual about handing it out and loot is easy to get these days so it's not really a motivator but I have seen people with BiS trinkets or weapons decide to GQuit or stop raiding and that's always a bit of a pinch. I'm willing to chalk this one up to a shrug and move on, as we've been relatively okay regarding walk-outs and our inner core is very strong.

Lastly - progression. I think I need to set higher standards for progression and be more ruthless towards loot farming and extending lockouts to force progression. The last time I really pushed for progression, we got LK down on our second extension. I think there's a lesson to be learned there.

--

But all of this won't be a factor for another long, hard month. Thankfully a holiday takes up part of it, at least. I really, really hope Blizzard doesn't make a mistake like this again - a year between expansions is ridiculous and I for one am just about burned out on the game entirely because of it and I can't afford to quit and come back because I have a guild to sustain.

/waits_for_December

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Reason For Lack Of Posts

My drop-off in posting is directly tied to a drop-off to my time in game! Often I log in and then my toon just sits around doing nothing. I've even begun missing raids here and there, and often, I have to take an AFK while the raid continues clearing trash without me.

It's quite shameful and I'm expecting to be fired from my lofty position as a Raid Lead any minute, now.

And there is someone directly responsible. And it's this guy:


My little son! He was born on October 7th and has become a giant distraction from gaming and blogging. This was the little project I referred to a little while ago in a post as to why I might not be posting or playing as much in the near future.

He hasn't figured out what class to roll yet, though based on the insane level of energy, excitement, movement, physical ambition and strength he displays on a regular basis, I'd say he's going for a Fury Warrior. He spends all day in Berserker Stance anyway.

What a betrayal! Doesn't he know his dad plays a Paladin? For shame!