Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Is when she confirms her uberness

I know I said I was retired, but this was too much fun to not share....

About three months ago, the uber gf says "keep friday 7/31 clear".

At that time, (A) I was still raiding and (B) my guild was not raiding on fridays, so sure honey, I'll keep the night clear. What's it you've got in mind?

Nuttin'. Just keep the night clear. Its a surprise.


Then a few weeks later, an envelope from TicketMaster gets magneted (*) to the fridge.

What'cha got in the envelope?

Nuttin'. Don't look in there. Its a surprise.

So week after agonizing week, every time I loot her fridge (no innuendo implied) I see this envelope flappin in my face.

The anticipation builds up. Quite a bit. So I get to thinking, and say to her....

You know, I could probably look through the browser history or google around and figure out what your little surprise is.

Probably. Don't tho. It's a surprise.

Grrrr. FINE! But you're killing me!

Good. That's my job.

A little more anticipation-filled time goes by.

My guild starts to raid on fridays, so I post my planned absence on the guild forums. Nothing's gonna keep me from finding out what this surprise is.

So the date gets closer and closer.

Then I have my big raid retirement a week before the surprise day.

And then on the day of 7/31, I have the worst day ever. Well, not ever, but it was a pretty shtty day.

When evening time comes and the uber gf gives me the GPS coords for the surprise destination, I'm in the worst mood ever. Well, not ever, but it was a pretty shtty mood.


So I drive, following that awful annoying voice of the chick on the GPS navigator, and we...fight isnt the word, because none of my anger was with her, but she was cool and let me vent and grumble and yell at the world and whoever I was bent out of shape with (boss, family, landlord, in no particular order).

I kinda cool off, but not really, but she says cool the whole time....


So I find a parking spot, ready to just rip the damn envelope open and look at the tickets.

And then we turn the corner and I see a giant tent with this on it....
Video Games Live

Symphony orchestra playing the songs from key video games throughout the history of gaming with a giant visual display of clips from the games up above the stage.

And we're sitting 2nd row, center.

I can't even describe how cool it was.

If you like Warcraft, which you probably do since you're reading this site, you likely know (A) the three theatrical trailers for the different WoW releases, (B) the song from the loading screen in WotLK.

The philharmonic orchestra plays a selection of the music (with matching video playing on the screen above them) from the trailers and other Blizzard-supplied clips, and they whip out a choir from a local college to do the vocals.

Like a kid in a candy shop.

Even games I never played were fun to listen to, the power of the full orchestra sitting 5 feet away from us, watching the games up on the screen, listening to the crowd go wild.

Some Highlights:
1) Fat kid from audience that they then stuff into a "gamer sized" (bullsht) medium tshirt so he can become a live piece in a game of space invaders.

2) Songs from Zelda. Nuff said.

3) Scrawny 13 year old kid playing guitar hero aerosmith on expert setting, acting like he is a total badass up on stage.

4) This Guy. Live. Fastest piano fingers I've ever seen. Blindfolded. Playing Super Mario Bros and Final Fantasy music.

5) Local jailbait dressed up as characters from Final Fantasy, Princess Peach, and some other random skimpily clad video game-inspired outfits. Oh, and some "dudes" dressed as Link from Zelda too.

6) There's a ton of other stuff, but since I'm retired from blogging (kinda) you'll just have to go read the website.

If Video Games Live comes through a city near you, I highly recommend you go, its a unique experience.

And if your gf can pull off a surprise as cool as this one, you might consider granting her a title like uber as well.

(*) Yes, I made it up. It means "temporarily affixed via magnet"

Thursday, July 30, 2009


EDIT: minutes after I wrote this post, I went to my rss reader and saw Daxenos Open Letter to Amava, and died a little inside. Thx for the post, you made me smile big time. Ok, so the dying inside thing was a bit of an exaggeration.

Here's the long awaited "farewell" post. And I'll try to do it with my favorite wall o' text style (jump to the mushy emo stuff if you don't want to hear the full story)...

Starting this week, I've retired from raiding and WoW blogging. The blogging retirement has been informal for a while, so lets make it offical with this post.

And too bad there isn't a 401k or pension to cash in on, but I suppose the payout is with the most valuable of resources: time.

Why the change?

The change stems from three big factors, in no particular order:

1) The Hunter is just no longer fun in raids. None of the raid specs has a rotation that feels natural or intuititive. Ulduar is very pet unfriendly. The end result is a need to continuously stare at cooldowns for whatever priority shot is available next, and continuously micromanage my pet and hope my fellow raiders dont blow up any Mimiron mines and one-shot the little furry guy.

On relatively stationary fights (think Iron Council), my DPS output is excellent, so you know the potential for the class, my gear, and my skill level is there. However, on high mobility fights like Hodir or XT hardmode, its as if I didn't even bring my bow to the raid, autoshots barely ever fire and you can kiss your 4 piece tier 8 bonus goodbye because you're never going to stand still long enough to cast a steady shot. I tell ya, the second you find a cosy fire, the ceiling caves in and you have to cancel your steady shot mid-cast.

And then I wont even get into people who analyze DPS performance on Freya. In your raid, do you ever see DPS nuking her while she's still got massive HoT's rolling because there's still 4 waves of her minions left to go? Yeah, that data goes straight into the damage done reports, but gets instantly healed the moment the spell strikes. And lol at anybody who says "i'm activating my trinket". Sure, I believe you. I do. No really, we all believe you. But I digress, that's not a Hunter thing, but rather relates to #3 below.

Bottom line, none of the Hunters I raid with say they're having very much fun with the class lately.

2) The summer schedule is interfering with family time. Prior to the summer, my daughter would be in bed before raid invites, so I'd be able to properly tuck her in and have quality bedtime rituals that will hopefully give memories that will last her lifetime. With the summer's arrival, her schedule changed and she's awake later now, so I've had to miss some of this.

Prior to this schedule change, the biggest family impact was to my time with the uber gf. Amazingly, she's got the patience and caring to support me through 3 or now 4 nights of raiding per week for the last year and a half, which I'm truly thankful for. Hell, shes so awesome she even helps me farm saronite for the endless supply of arrows 4 raids per week burns through.

But now raiding is taking me away from all the people closest to me, and that is unacceptable.

3) My guild and I have diverged in our views of what makes a high performing team. What kind of communication, what kind of feedback, what kind of leadership, what kind of command presence during combat, what kind of coaching fixes under-performance, what kind of individuals should make up that team.

It'd be fun to write a scathing post chock full of drama. When I go back through my volumes of unpublished material, I find I often went that route, and its likely at the heart of why I stopped posting because I don't want to bad mouth anybody. Whether we agree or not is irrelevant, but how we conduct ourselves is.

I did my best to share my ideas on how a team should work via conversations on vent, text chat, guild forums, even one visit in-person with my guildmaster (Coincidentally had to make a business trip to the city where he lives. We had prime rib and beer and talked about So You Think You Can Dance. It was fun). Not everyone, but enough of the vocal players of the guild have views that are dramatically different from my own, enough so that we are no longer compatible on the same team.

So the best course of action is to remove myself from the situation before things become toxic for all the people involved.

How does it feel?

When you take the three items above, it is a pretty obvious decision to make: stop raiding.

You ever read or see Lord of the Rings, Fellowship of the Ring? You remember when Bilbo has to give THE ring over to Gandalf? And he has that moment of hesitation, where he knows what he needs to do, but there's something inside him trying to make him stop? And then he does it and drops the ring on the floor and walks away?

The feeling he expresses at that moment is the only way I can describe the sense of relief at sending the email to the GM saying I'm done raiding.

I'm sorry if it puts the team in a temporary bind as they look for players, since they've actually had to cancel a raid recently, and had to cut one back to just a few easy-mode optional bosses to finish a raid week that should have ended with General V, Yogg, and Hard Mode IC. But again, I digress.

The guild deservedly has a fantastic reputation on our server, and has a strong track record of success. Plus, the GM has a very public spot in the WoW community, so attracting players is not quite the challenge that a run-of-the-mill guild is faced with.

I hope to read at WoM about continuing success through the few remaining Ulduar hardmodes, the new Coliseum (soon), and what ever lies beyond. It remains a great team, so I expect nothing less.

So what now?

Stopping raiding and blogging is in no way a slow-down to my WoW action.

Still love the game, and quite frankly, removing the social constraints of locking in 3-4 nights per week actually makes me want to play the game more.

However, I'll be playing it in 100% casual mode.

EDIT: Funny that Daxenos wrote his Open Letter to me today, because I've actually been holding onto his ideal for enjoying the game at a casual pace and not letting that sense of urgency dominate the play time as it seems to always do. When it feels like I'm in a rush to get something done, I'll put it down and do something else, just on principle. Go go Tango lessons!

Gotta go AFK, no problem.

Want to go see an outdoor play at the little park across the street from my house that only runs on raid nights, no problem.

Uber gf wants a quick piece, no problem.

Want to watch So You Think You Can Dance on the actual night it airs so that you don't need to invoke a cone of silence of all media channels for the day or two following an episode lest some radio DJ spill the beans on who got voted out, no problem.

Uber gf wants a not-so-quick piece, no problem. Well, at least no schedule problem :-)

Here's what I suspect is in my WoW future:

1) Amiva the Insane: I've been working on the rep grinds for Insane in the Membrane achievement for about 6 weeks now. Projecting out the remaining requirements and my own schedule, I'm estimating I'll ding Amiva the Insane during the October Darkmoon Faire.

The real question is am I completely off my rocker and going to follow up with Moodyswinger the Insane? The jury is still out.

2) Alts: As part of The Insane, you need to pickpocket 1405 (yes, you read correctly, fourteen hundred and five) junkboxes. Only a Rogue can do it, so I levelled one up to 68. And wouldn't you know it, I actually had fun.

Why was it fun leveling this alt as opposed to some other toons in the past? Because I have no end-game goals for this girl. If she took a year to get to 68, I wouldn't have cared a whiff.

I'll probably end up with like 10 level 80 toons by the time I'm done with this game. Or maybe just 3.

3) Casual Raids: I might find myself in an off-night naxx raid here or there. Or a VoA or an OS. Who knows, after everybody out-gears Ulduar, maybe I'll go back in there for a night.

But nothing scheduled or repeating.

4) Gold: I'm nearing 50k, earned via a combination of gathering high level herbs and ores, daily questing, selling the looted stuff from close to 300 dire maul runs (part of The Insane), and also buy/craft/sell value-added manufacturing of crafted goods.

I've got a very loose goal of hitting 100k before I quit the game, but that just sort of happens along the way, so no pressure, which is nice.

5) Battlegrounds: I love healing BG's on my druid. She's maxed out on No-Arenas-Required pvp gear right now. When the new arena season starts and the next tier of pvp gear becomes available from BG's, I'll probably hit the queues again like a crazy man.

6) Healing Heroics: I healed a few VoA's. I didn't like it one bit. I healed a few heroics. Its kinda fun. My favorite thing is letting an aggro-hungry Mage die when he refuses to (A) assist the tank and (B) stop with the nukes if he's close to the tanks threat level. I think its up to the healers of the world to teach people proper threat management via stopping fixing stupid mistakes, and I'm doing my part, one Mage at a time.

7) Rep Grinds: I dunno, I just kinda like zoning out and grinding sometimes. Its relaxing. I recently did the Explorer's League one-and-only daily quest for the 137th time, dinging Exalted and putting me at 38 factions.

Next up will be Ravenholdt, but only after roughly 1300 more junkboxes pickpocketed, which will be 39 factions.

40 is the big one, with "the Exalted" title. If I continue down the Insane path, it'll be Shendralar that dings me that. However, I need to loot 40 more librams for that. Took me close to 300 Dire Maul runs to net those first 42 librams, so who knows how long this mutha will take.

I might take a quick diversion to do Cenarion Circle as my 40th, and the Guardian of Cenarius title that comes with it. I like multiple simultaneous achievement dings, so I'm leaning towards this one next.

After that, I'll start jumping into every Black Temple and Mt Hyjal raid I can find to get Asstongue Deathsworn and Sands of Time exalteds.

Then maybe I'll take a look at more old-world raid reps, which I really don't know a whole lot about. As long as I can solo stuff on my druid tank with my Hunter following, I can solo my way to most of these.

8) Fishing for Profit: I fish a lot. I've been providing the fish feasts to my guild since fish feasts were introduced to the game. Some guildies chip in some fish here or there, but most of it comes from my pole (ewww).

Well, its time to fish for me now. Stacks of the ingredients for fish feast go for close to 50g if you time your auction right.

And I kinda want a turtle mount.

I also want that damn sewer rat, but it's not very lucrative to fish in there.

Anything else on the video game front?

If anybody knows a good current Realtime Strategy Game (like Warcraft II, or C&C, or Dune 2 from back in the day), drop me a line. I've got some room in my schedule for another game :-)

Or if any of my readers (you know who you are) wants to play some Rock Band, we can probably make that happen.


That's all, folks!

So this is goodbye. /tear

Last night was my first raid I was sitting out from.

While lazily taking an alt through Blades Edge Mountains, I saw the game generated announcement in my chat window that some guild just dinged the Realm First Algalon kill.

If it happened even one day earlier, I'd have felt jealous or envious or some other less-than-constructive emotion. But last night?

It echoed my relief at being off that treadmill.

Over the past nearly 2 years of blogging and 1.5 years of raiding, I've met some fantastic people and had some outstanding times with TagTeam/Kishi Kaisei during TBC, and in WotLK with Conquest.

Thank you all for reading, commenting, playing, and coming along for the ride. The experience has been memorable.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

More Insight on the Missing Rush

I've been doing lots of mental exploration lately about WoW and Raiding, and most specifically the missing rush of adrenaline that comes with progression kills.

The last BIG BIG Rush was Sarth+3, many many months ago.

Before that was a BIG Rush with Malygos.

And before that was a Rush when KT died in Naxx.

And then Ulduar was released. Fresh new content to push through. Should be pretty exciting, yes?

Well, it is exciting, but as I've shared in some other posts, it feels like its missing something. Many of the progression kills, even ones that required numerous wipes to master, just sort of happen and then you go loot the boss without so much as an elevated pulse.

There has been some good ones.

Our first Flame Leviathan kill, shortly after the servers came up on patch-day. I'd call that one pretty thrilling, in large part due to beating out the lag before all the majority of the server started raiding and crashing the instances rather than the epic feel of the event.

Mimiron was definitely a satisfying kill. Even the second kill evoked some dancing and fist-pumping celebration.

But what about all the others?

My most notable example: XT took us a few nights of learning attempts. Our progression kill was before they nerfed/relaxed his enrage timer, plus we weren't using the "bring him to one side, thus eliminating two of the four streams of incoming adds" strategy yet, so it was very challenging to master all the environmental factors plus keeping up with is enrage timer. No rush though, just loot like it was a farm raid.

And all the other progression kills? Similar. Wipe, learn, kill, put on Chef's Hat, take screen shot, loot, move on to next trash, notice you're still wearing the Chef's Hat, switch to DPS helm, prep for next boss. No rush.

So what is it?

I'm happy with our rate of progress on default-difficulty boss kills.

We're currently working on Yogg-Saron, having a pretty good handle on Phase 1 and had many good learning attempts on Phase 2.

We'll be onto Phase 3 and its insane DPS requirements soon enough, completing the full-clear of default difficulty.

Then it comes time for Hard Modes.

Which I think is the kicker. The thorn in the side of the adrenaline rush.

Yes, we killed the bosses. But did we really kill them?

Sure, our raiders are wearing the loot that only comes from a dead boss, so surely we killed them.

But it feels empty. I personally could care less about the loot. It is a necessary evil required for progress, but I'm here to bask in the glow of mastering the execution of complex encounters. I can mentally view each piece of gear our raid upgrades as one baby step towards being able to handle hard modes, but that only keeps the motivation for just so long.

Its tough to enjoy it if you know that when you come back for Hard Mode the fight that you just thought was a challenge will feel like a walk in the park.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

I'm happy with how Blizzard designed the dungeon. Algalon, the real final boss is only available after killing all the Hard Modes of the other bosses.

Its unclear to me whether that is during the same raid ID, or if you just need to have the achievements of each of the other hard modes to activate him.

Doesn't matter.

What matters is that they've provided ample motivation for guilds to keep pushing Hard Modes until they're mastered.

Sure we killed Sarth+3D. Several times. But we definitely never got that on farm status, and after a few kills, most people lost motivation to keep wiping for "just a vanity mount".

So we gave up before I'd say we mastered the encounter.

I hope that the alure of Algalon keeps the guild driving to complete the Hard Modes and then continue to improve until they're on farm status.

We may never achieve that goal.

It may be too hard for the caliber raiders we have including myself, it may be too hard for the caliber leaders we have, it may be too hard for the number of hours we raid per week, it may require decisions of raid composition and bench warming that are too hard for our team to make.

But being on the path towards excellence, dying trying to make it happen, never giving up (until the next dungeon in the rat race is released), means way more to me than farming some loot off of default difficulty knowing something greater is out there.

For The Alliance Quickies

Yesterday I dinged the For The Alliance achievement for killing all the Horde leaders.

So I share some quickies with you....

/trade LFM for the alliance - Logged in and saw the usual routine in /trade, some coconut is putting together a raid on Horde leaders. But I had a few hours to kill and my only real "goal" was to do some Jousting dailies and check the AH. Only one guildie on at the time and he was actually signed up to do it already, so I figured "what the hey".

Fountain Coins - Small aside. When you're in a raid group and cannot do any questing, fishing for coins is a not tooo unreasonable use of your time.

Staging Area - Meet up in Astranaar. Brings back old memories. When originally leveling, I had Amava hearthed to Astranaar for so much longer than would make actual sense. I was questing all over Azeroth, but would always hearth back to Astranaar and actually physically click on one of the beds upstairs to lay down before logging. Ah, the memories. Noob.

Yelling, Saying, and Emoting - One sure way (or rather, three sure ways) to ruin the element of surprise is to /y, /s, and /e (or any of the built-in emotes that don't require use of /e). Although the opposite faction might not be able to translate your words (kek), they will see the fact that you are nearby. Loose lips sink ships.

Don't Aggro The Guards - We assembled just outside the side gate to Orgrimmar with the instruction of "dont aggro the guards". I was fearing that this is when the PuG attempt would all start to unravel, before it even began. All it takes is one coconut to pull a guard and then hell breaks loose and we become a disorganized mob and fail. Kudos to the team for showing enough discipline to hold still and wait for instruction to commence the attack.

No Fuss - Not a whole lot to say, somewhat uneventful however lots of adrenaline. Most of the uncertainty was whether the PuG would collapse and we'd waste our time. Getting lost here and there added to the excitement.

The Route - Assemble outside Org. Kill Thrall. Port to Theramore and run to Thunderbluff. Brief moment of panic as half the raid got split up by taking wrong elevators. Kill Cow leader. Portal to Shatt and then portal to Isle of Quel Danas. Fly to Zul'Aman. Kill Blood Elf. Portal to Ironforge. Fly to Chillwind. Get lost trying to find sewer entrance. Get lost inside Undercity. Kill Undead boss. Hearth to Dalaran and check email.

Escorting a Friend - My friend was actually dualboxing the raid, playing his healer and /following his rogue. Traveler's Tundra Mammoth, FTW. Made transport of his toons so much easier.

War Bear - And I now have a Bear mount that I'll probably ride for a few days and then return to my Cobalt War Talbuk which remains my favorite mount. Something about the tall narrow shape and the hoof sound fx I like the best.

Better late than never - Some would say I was 6 months late dinging the achievement, and to them I would say "suck it".

The Number Nine - Nine honor kills. Yes. Nine (9). Only nine hk's in the process of killing all four Horde bosses. Talk about an organized resistance.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Leveling a pet and some RP

Its nice that we have a larger stable than during TBC for all our hunter pets. Even nicer to now have Call Stabled Pet capability to switch pets when you switch dual specs, if you so like.

I've been running Marksman for about 2 weeks now. I'm very much liking the rotation/priority. My only beef with it is that every so often, I'll end up with Chimera, Arcane, and Aimed all reaching the end of their cooldown at the same time. Means that, for instance, Aimed shot will sit for 2 GCD's during which it is ready to be fired but is lower priority and so sits. No big, but I like complaining.

Lots of forums and EJ's and Pikes say that a Wolf and the Furious Howl attack power buff is king among MM pets.

So I figure I'll leave Memphis the Raptor as my Survival pet, and go ahead and find me a wolf.

Finally, I get to raid with a dog!

And its time for some Role Play.

I can't just get any dog. No, for me, I need to go on a mission to rescue a pup from evil and give him a nice home and teach him things like "sit", "stay", and "sick balls". The kind of pup who lusts to tear the faces off of bosses during the day, and curl up on the couch with me and watch some American Idol at night.

So I set off to Mulgore. Seems those cows from Thunderbluff have been mistreating their animals and Amava is going to try to set things right.

Found the lowest level (5) Coyote puppy I could and offered him some cookies.

He was reluctant at first, but I eventually earned his trust.

And wouldnt you know it, badda bing badda boom, he's level 75. Man, these kids sure do grow up quick.

Now its time for a name.

Wanting to stick with the Native American vibe in Mulgore/Tauren lore, I went to look up various tribal translations of the name Coyote.

As it would turn out, none of them felt right when translated to Night Elf lingo.

However, a common theme in Native American legend and myths is the portrayal of the Coyote as the Trickster (aside: often depicted with disproportionately large junk, so big in fact that our little trickster sometimes wears a backpack to carry his mule. pure win) who is a master of deception, usually using his guile to get into somebody's pants (again, pure win).

And after spending a few hours to level him up to 80 grinding rhinos and elementals in Storm Peaks, the name stuck.

So lets all welcome Trickster the Coyote to the Stable. Tonight's his first raid, so we'll see how things go.

A New Idol

Do you mean your moody druid finally swapped out her last greenie, some silly mangle-enhancing quest reward loot that sits in the Idol slot?

Nope, I mean American Idol. All my friends in the guild make fun of me for taking wednesdays off of WoW to watch Idol, so as punishment, you all get to read about the finale here.

Here you go, some Idol Finale quickies:

1) When Fergie performs solo, I can't help but look for an Adam's Apple. No question she's hot, but it wouldn't surprise me for a second to discover twig and berries tucked around back.

2) WTF was with that Steve Martin banjo song? Me and the uber gf were debating about this one. She thinks its a serious song, I think its a parody about putting out on the first date hidden behind a fascade of seriousness. Either way, it was horrible. If you're going to bring Steve Martin, you better whip out some old school King Tut or something. Born in Arizona, moved to Babylon-a...

3) Norman Gentle, FTW. Outstanding delivery of the fake "what a surprise, I'm not prepared....HIT IT" routine. I'd totally go see him on an off-the-strip Vegas show or something. Then again, his schtick would probably get old after 15 minutes, but w/e, I loved him last night.

4) The uber gf called Keith Urban and Kris Allen's performance the Devil's Duet, because I mean really, staring into some dude's eyes while you're both singing about wanting to kiss a girl? All aboard the crazytrain, next stop, Broke Back Mt. I'm just sayin'.

5) From day one of the season, I was calling for Adam Lambert to bring some AC/DC. He's just able to do that kind of screaming/singing sort of thing. So when they whipped out KISS, pretty damn close. I'm generally not a big fan, but I must be a huge sucker for theatrics, because this performance was awesome for me. Even when I was scared Gene Simmons was going to break his hip while trying to smash his guitar, it was pure win.

6) Regarding #1 above, I'd still do'er.

7) Does anybody out there understand the appeal of Rod Stewart? Just how drunk WAS he during the show?

8) Cindi Lauper and Allison Iraheta duet was cool. They're both pretty wacky chicks, which only makes it more enticing. Hey, Cindi! Your knees are about 3 feet apart and the camera is staring straight up Grand Central.

9) Seacrest making fun of bikini girl's new fake rack was pretty close to the hilight of the evening for me. At first I was thinking "something looks different, but I'm not sure what?", and then he calls her out on it, and I was on the floor laughing. Kara's awkwardness after she almost flashed beav was icing on the cake and totally redeemed everything I hated about her all season.

10) I just don't understand Carlos Santana. No doubt he's got mad skillz, but the boat left and I wasn't on the boat. Maybe I'm just not a guitar guy, although I loved Slash's guest week. In Santana's defense, he did look totally badass on his little pedestle with white jacket and hat.

11) Sht, I cant remember the song right now but some white guy came out wearing a hat and a sport coat and a peace t-shirt and no shoes. His vibe and energy was so f'ing cool, it's probably the closest I've ever come to wanting to fill out a three way between me and the uber gf with a dude. And I usually hate goatees.

12) Lionel. Love his fiesta song even after like 25 years, he rules. But I couldn't help but feel bad for the guy. I mean, really. Your daughter is Nicole Ritchie, dude.

13) When the Peas came out to save Fergie from her lack luster solo, she suddenly stopped looking like a pre-op trannie. BEP are awesome, and the performance was outstanding. They should have put it later in the show, IMO, because Steve Martin totally killed the buzz this created. I want those zebra striped dancers to come with me to business meetings when I have to deliver bad news, just to lighten up the mood.

There you go. 13 quickies of the flat-out best Idol show I've ever seen. Good times, even if the wrong guy won.


14) What's the first thing probably ran through Mrs. Allen's mind...."well, its been nice knowing ya." How long you think that marriage will last through the stresses and temptations of the rock star life?

Sht, Simon said it himself early in the competition "you may have brought out the wife a little early". Granted, he meant that Kris should have kept the wifey hidden for a little while to let the girlie voters fall for him, but if you notice, they never mentioned the wife again from that moment on. They just said "Kris's Family" when they panned the camera past his posse.

Oh, and one more...

15) Proof positive that America's racism < America's homophobia. We're enlightened enough to be able to see past skin color when electing our President, but put a little nail polish on a dude who won't openly announce, confirm, nor deny his sexual preferences, and buh-bye.

Not to take anything away from Kris, because he had some amazing performances during the competition, but Randy Travis's open homophobia was disturbing.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

F'ing Boo-Ya

I knew something was wrong, and I couldn't have come out of blog-hiding at a more perfect time.

WoW Insider - High Level Ranged Weapons Getting Buffed

The article even features a pic of the butt-ass-ugly Kologarn gun that I carry around. Auryia, you stupid cat lady, gimme a new bow, soon. I'm so sick of using guns.

WoW Insider, quoting Ghostcrawler, says that (A) Hunter dps is low because Blizz f'ed up the whole ammo change they were planning but failed to implement so the wep damage is being buffed to compensate, and even mutha'f'ing better, (B) they also recognize that Hunters are still a little low beyond that and plan to change it over the next few weeks.

On one hand, this plays even further into my QQ about how volatile the state of the Hunter is, as we'll be changing more and more.

But on the other hand, maybe they're giving the class a little potential.

To quote a wise man (me. from just a day or two ago)...

"I don't want to be imba or easysauce, but I do want to be competitive and have a reasonable number of attacks that interact with one another in a logical way."

The Ghostcrawler quote might as well have read (note: hypothetical fake quote)...

"We became concerned at the drawn out period of silence amongst the Hunter blog community, for instance, Amava became all emo and didn't post for weeks. Well, his/her return to blogging inspired us to stop making Hunters suck dck for every point of damage they deal and you'll see them be a bit more competitive pretty damn soon. Stroking his/her ego is what we strive for here at Blizzard.

Knowing his/her hatred for guns in-game, we're also adding a unique piece of code that increases the drop rate of the Cat Lady Bow considerably if a player starting with A and ending with iva is in the raid.

We humbly apologize if this buff feels like yet another change in a long line of annoying changes, and we dearly hope this doesn't bring evoke another completely justified, pouty, emo fit from our beloved blogger who makes the game as awesome as it is."

Yeah, that's what he should have said :-)


This is My Big Fat Thank You Post.

Its actually rather thin to warrant the "big fat" title, but does My Little Thin Thank You Post really sound good? No. It does not.

Several of you wrote to me via blog comments, emails, in-game whispers on-server, and even a level 55 death knight rolled as a means to whisper me from off server (perhaps rolled for other reasons as well, but with my awful DPS lately, I'll stroke the ego however I can :-P )

To summarize those tidbits with a twist of my own slang and dialect, the common thread was: Where Fck You Been, Boi? Gitcho ass back in the writin' seat and gimme some mo'!

TOTALLY UNRELATED BUT HAPPENED RIGHT NOW AND I'M GOING ALL STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS ON YOUR ASS: I just won a f'ing donut! Tim Hortons (think Dunkin Donuts if you don't live in or near Canada) does an annual contest with their coffee cups. The contest is pretty much over, but the timmy-hoho's at work is still in stock with the contest cups in XL size. I just won a f'ing donut. I'm the King of the World! brb, donut....k, back.

My Big Fat Thank You Post is for you guys.

The past month or weeks or whatever gap its been has shown me that I write for myself, to explore my thoughts, to help make sense of the mental jumble that's pretty much with me day-to-day, to sing the praises of things I'm happy about, to vent my beefs and beat dead horses into the ground, to chuckle about frivolous things that I find amusing...

FYI, Lets talk amusement real quick. I wear my chef's hat for every boss progression kill screen shot, and sometimes forget to take it off for the next trash pull. Its my favorite part of the game, and if somebody stands in front of me, I get disproportionately angry. Down in front. Are my ears ok? Do these T8.5 legs make my ass look fat?

But I publish for all of you. It makes me feel good to know that people, however many or few, enjoy reading my walls of text, my far-from-scientific theorycrafting, my strategies and techniques that are anything but optimal, my revelations of things that've been spelled out much earlier and in much better detail elsewhere.

So here's a Thank You. The Big Fat variety.

And now to scan through the massive pile of unpublished posts to see if there's a tidbit or two worthy of the light of day.....

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Publisher's Block

Anybody who's been reading here for a while knows that the author is a bit of a strange bird.

Knowing that, you might not find it quite as weird that I've been suffering from publisher's block.

Its like writer's block, except you have lots of inspiration and write lots of material, but when you hover your mouse over the "publish" button, there's a demon who takes control and navigates the web browser away from blogspot and over to some barely legal smut sites. Weird.

I've actually written-but-not-published several posts like this one, trying to explore what's been going on in my head and why that demon has been winning the battles lately, as compared to the previous years (holy s, its been years?) during which, by willpower alone, I was able to delay the demon's inevitable websites of choice until after I published my bloggy blog.

Lets hope this post has a more impressive, or at least public, destiny than those that're sitting in the electronic Island of Lost Posts.

Start with the Positive

There's been lots of fun going on in my WoW game. Here's a few snippets for your enjoyment:

1) Raiding Progress - Last week, we got our first Mimiron kill. Its a fun fight with a lot of variety and the level of challenge is higher than WotLK has generally given us. Also, we started adding in some of the easier hardmodes this week, bringing down Flame Leviathan with one tower up. I like progress, I like hardmodes. Big win!

2) Healing BG's - ZOMG, I love it. My moody druid is pretty much in full Hateful/Deadly Gladiator now. Premade groups of 2-6 friends from the guild, and we just stomp around. A small pocket of players working very tightly coordinated and sticking to sound strategy makes such a massive difference to the outcome of battles. Very fun to see BG from a different perspective than my long-time hunter.

3) Low-Stress World Event - Argent Tournament. When I compare it in my mind to Isle of Quel'danas, it's a world of difference. When IoQD landed, I felt major internal pressure to exalt with the SSO and keep pushing those dailies every day. I have no idea why. Now with the AT, I'm actually enjoying it (well, except for that awful nasty awful jousting quest in southwest Ice Crown, which I refuse to do after that first awful time). I do a couple dailies every now and again when its fun. When its not fun, I don't do it.

4) Explorer's League - This one is purely frivolous. One daily quest for the faction. 250 rep max per day. I'm revered right now and my projections put Exalted somewhere in late July early August, depending on how often I forget to log onto the hunter for a day. No rewards that I know of, and I think that's actually what's motivating me. Pure amusement factor.

Some not-so-positives

1) The State of the Hunter - I'm actually growing to despise the Hunter lately. It feels like our rotation and the coefficients, tooltips, and internal cooldowns of our abilities change every week.

The current setup just feels like too many attacks/abilities to manage, and the cooldowns and durations overlap in a hugely counter-intuitive fashion. And to top it off, our DPS output is no where near what it used to be, even for outstanding hunters like the one I have the privilege of raiding along side.

Feels like punishment for the years of 1:1 macro spam and a brief period of unhealthy OP'ness at the beginning of WotLK.

I don't want to be imba or easysauce, but I do want to be competitive and have a reasonable number of attacks that interact with one another in a logical way.

2) Gathering - I've always loved gathering herbs and minerals. I find the activity relaxing and the gold income satisfying. Since I don't play the Hunter too much outside of raids, I don't gather very much. Even when I do, the markets for gatherables are collapsing on my server with stacks of herbs, even the fancy ones like lich and thorn, are selling for like 12g or less per stack.

But progression raiding costs about 1-1.5k gold per week, depending upon how many new gear items I get (driving enchant and gem costs up).

So I've been earning gold by buying these low cost mats, crafting across a diverse spread of professions, and selling high cost products.

Very profitable, with my best week earning roughly 885 gold/hour. However, I find the 2-4 hours I spend on that weekly to be massively tedious and draining. But, ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

3) Za Za Zoo - Kary (sp?) Bradshaw blathered on and on in an exhaustingly annoying way about how a relationship should have that "za za zoo", which I think meant chemistry or buzzing energy or something.

Well, the progression kills in Ulduar really have been lacking that Za Za Zoo. We work at a boss. We kill the boss. And nothing. Nada. No cheers on vent. Barely a few gratz's in text chat. Quietly loot and move on.

Mimiron kill last week was different (edit: repeat mimiron kill last night was f'ing awesome, major adrenaline rush). There was a sweet sweet outburst of jubiliation on vent. We all got that long lost rush that was last seen for Sarth+3D, which was back in like january or something.

I'm not sure what it is that is lacking. Challenge? Certainly mimiron gave us the biggest challenge and the most number of wipe attempts before the kill. So maybe its that. But still, to have the pulse of the raid flatlined after a hard won pre-nerf first kill of XT and his brutal enrage timer? Or Thorim and his inexorable Arena and Assault team splits. Something is not quite right with the vibe in the raid.

4) Fail Events are Fail - Noblegarden and Children's Week. Fail and Failer. Sure, bunnies are cute, and I love cute. But orphans are ugly, smelly, are constantly hungry attention whores and pretty much just screw everything up.

Noblegarden reeked of timesink, moreso than any of the generally time-sinky seasonal events. I mean really, just sit there camping eggs for a few hours hating everything and everyone. And lets not even speak of what Children's Week did to battlegrounds.

Combine that with the overlapping proximity of the two events and you have a massive failure, IMO.


So What's the Deal?

Sht. I don't want this to become more of a wall of text, but who knows, maybe that's what I need.

I think the bottom line is that the time sink aspect of WoW is bothering me more and more.

I thoroughly enjoy the invigorating parts of the game. Mimiron kill reminded me of how exhilarating progression raiding can be. Healing BG's is absolutely fun for me (at least when f'ing rogues aren't chain stunning me, but w/e). Relaxing heroics or a naxx alt run with the uber gf is outstanding.

But to reach any of these positive things, we need to do endless stuff we don't enjoy.

I want a faster flying mount. Means I have to suffer through awful seasonal events.

To perform in raids and BG's I need shiny equipment. Means I need to grind gold for enchants, gems, and repairs.

When gold earning is a natural part of my playstyle and server economy, life is grand.

When my Hunter's shot rotation makes sense and delivers quality results, life is grand.

When progression kills come with cheers and overflowing energy, life is grand.

Perhaps it is that fleeting "grand" aspect that's preventing me from publishing these forsaken posts?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Now they've gone and pissed me off

Been quiet over here for a bit.

Its due to an extended case of the Monday's.

On the raid front, things are pretty cool. On the first night of the second Ulduar Raid ID we killed off Flame Leviathan, Razorscale, XT, and Kologarn, and took a few very cool learning shots at Iron Council. Hunter loot was flowing like beer, with all three Hunters getting sweet upgrades. Yay us!

Other than a general "Ulduar is pretty cool", I'll just say that having to carefully plan and execute on TRASH is a refreshing experience. Here's looking at you, buzz saws before XT.

But, Blizzard has gone and pissed me right off.

For no damn good reason.

And I want BLOOD!!!!

1) No more Pack - The f'ing Aspect of the Pack no longer buffs my Traveler's Tundra Mammoth, so I have to run at normal speed like all the other elephants. Phooey!

2) No more Elevator - Standard pre-3.1 procedure for exiting Wintergrasp. Step (1) - Approach edge of zone. Step (2) - Mount up on Mammoth. Step (3) - Leap off 1,000 meter cliff. Step (4) - Walk away unscathed with mammoth taking 10% damage. Step (5) - Bitch and moan and QQ once patch 3.1 rewrites step 4 to read "Eat Rez Sickness and 25% durability loss because your corpse is stuck on some unreachable cliff location." I should have suspected this would happen once I noticed that Aspect of the Pack wasn't working. But I guess you gotta burn your hand once to learn not to touch a hot stove. Phooey!

We'll see if I can shake my awful case of the Monday's and return to some more regular posting.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Ulduar First 12 hours Quickies

Its been about 12 hours since the servers came back on line after the ridiculous 3.1 installation maintenance window.

Lets reflect....

1) I.T. Slop - In my professional life, I'm involved with massive global software projects, so I understand all too well how complex the actual Go Time of installation is. I really do, and if you've never been exposed to it, its an experience worthy of a couple dozen red bulls, a whole box of Tums, and a pillow in your cubicle.

However, knowing how hard it is, but also knowing how important it is, I'm somewhat intolerant of slop. Most of Blizzard's big installations are full of slop. In my line of business, if we insisted on taking 7 extra hours, nearly doubling the originally advertised down time, we'd have serious problems. Sure, if it happens once, customers are forgiving, but if it is a routine occurrence for major upgrades, we'd have customers voting with their feet (and wallets).

Get it right!

2) Too Early - The patch came too early, damn it! I need 2 more cooking awards for my chef's hat :-( And the servers are still down this morning for a 2-hour follow-up maintenance, so I can't post the screen shot that I wanted to post first :-( :-(

3) Nuff QQ - No more complaints (wrong, there's more), because I'm actually a fan of the patch.

4) Got my Dual On - Through pure coincidence, I was logged out in Stormwind. Convenient to trot on over to the trainer and pick up dual-spec. One will be cookie cutter max DPS raid spec, the other will either be Mana Battery raid spec, or Indestructible Tank Pet spec for soloing stuff.

5) Black Arrow - If I understand it correctly, instead of trap dancing to trigger Lock n Load (which I never did in the first place), we just fire BA whenever the cooldown is up? Ok, another DoT and cooldown to juggle. No biggie.

6) Flame Leviathan - This one rocks! Very cool fight. Yes its a vehicle event, so it was chock full of UI issues, bugs, cludgey aiming mechanisms, and general slop (see #1). All that aside, the fight is friggin cool! I was sitting on the back of a Siege Engine, operating a gun turret. Just mowing stuff down and blasting stuff out of the sky. Lots of fun, and it'll only get better as bugs get fixed and addon authors tweak their code.

7) Its not a race - BUT, and its a big but, if it were a race, we got the server second kill of FL by a scant 5 minutes. Pretty cool stuff, especially because if you didn't kill him very quickly, the lag of all the other raids starting up destroyed your chances.

8) More with the slop - Ignis. A pretty standard choice for guilds to go after as the second boss. He randomly selects a raid member and puts them in a fire cauldron. If you survive, the raid moves on and you get an achievement with a great name, Heroic Hot Pocket. However, if the boss bugs out and does a melee attack on the cauldron'ed player for between 43k-73k damage, its pretty much undoable. Lots of other guilds reported the same problem. Get the damn early fights bug-free, Blazzard! If the final boss is buggy, it'll be weeks before we find out, but the early ones? That's the stuff that gets visited on the first night, so get it right.

9) So we change plans - So we switched to Razor-something. Very cool boss split between "nuke the adds" phase and "massive drake-thingie on the ground" phase. Sweet visuals of the drake or dorgon or whatever the hell the lore experts are calling this guy being hauled down to the ground.

10) And the lag bit us - A few attempts on Razor-something and we had to leave Ulduar, the lag was unbearable and made it pretty tough to interrupt the nasty raid-wiping chain lightnings.

11) Vault of [New Guy] - Alliance held Wintergrasp, so we fly on over to try out the new guy. Pretty neat fight, took 3 or 4 tries. Basic idea is that its one main boss with 4 adds. Periodically he'll select one of the adds and charge it up. When he charges it, you have a very short time span to focus fire and kill that add before it blows up the raid. Nice for a quick and easy pickup of some T8 gear.

12) Fishing daily - There were 24 other fishermen in that tiny lake in Sholazar when I was out there doing the quest. Silly, I tell you.

13) I can haz bag space - Hunter ammo goes in your regular bag now, no quivers needed. With my normal load of stuff that I carry around all the time, I can haz 47 empty bag slots now. Dual Gathering FTW!

Ok, time to check the servers to see if they're back up so I can get my Chef's Hat, and maybe try out the Argent Jousting thingie.

Druid Tanking Quickies

First things first, some awards to hand out. As promised, the best comments to my Haiku post a little while ago will receive special mention on this here blog. The main criteria for "best comment" is actually having picked my own personal favorite as their own favorite. My blog, my rules :-) so the awards for Top Commenter go to:

1) Kestrel - Sure, he covered all the bases by including a few of his favorites, but he nailed it! Good job by you, Kestrel!

2) Kat - flattery will get you everywhere!

3) Fimlys - You'd think that since he started off the current round of WoW-ku poems, he'd come higher in the standings, but alas, he opted to not commit to a favorite one which limited his potential with the judges. Bronze medal is pretty spiffy though!

Thank you all for playing!

On to the tanking quickies

Well, this one is definitely old news. I mean, what with patch 3.1 landing a few hours ago, does anybody really even remember life before dual-spec? I didn't think so.

This past saturday we went on an alt run through naxx 25, during which I was part time bear serving as the third tank, and part time kitty serving as horrid DPS.

The event was a mix of pretty cool and a pain in my ass. More after the fold....

-- fold --

Pretty Cool

1) The difference between playing DPS and Tank - Mr. No-I-couldnt-possibly-eat-any-more-beans Grobbulus. I'm in bear form, assigned to pickup slimes. Some how or other, the main tank dies while kiting El Farto around the room. Boss running loose. Raid Leader calls for wipe. Moody says "Not on my watch", taunts the bitch, and begins kiting. Although we ended up making 2.5 complete laps around the room due to low dps and a tank who has no clue what is the right kiting speed, we finished off the kill, no wipe needed. Try that lil move on your Hunter.

2) Eating Hateful Strikes - Or is it Hurtful? Who the hell cares, I was eating them. Patchwerk with a bunch of entry-level geared 80's. Not quite the 2.5 minute snoozefest we experience on our mains.

3) Damage Meters be damned - It was such a refreshing change to not care about the Damage Meters even a bit. If I'm alive and the boss is dead, we won. Works for me.

4) Raiding with the uber gf - Her first real raid ever. And she rocked it! Lol at #3 above, Damage Meters are the only thing that even matters in the game. Is there other stuff to do in WoW besides try to make your bar the biggest? I didn't think so. After Amava's first week of the Performance Improvement Plan early on during WotLK raiding, she reached a nice healthy 3.4K dps on our favorite benchmark, Patchwerk, and that was as a totally OP un-nerfed BM Hunter. The uber gf nearly did that on her first raid ever. And only died in the fire once all night. And didnt cross up the polarities on Thaddius. And avoided all the various and sundry nasty stuff on KT. A good time had by all.

Pain in my ass

1) Three tanks is like three thumbs - On boss fights where we needed all the tanks, it was awesome. The rest of the time, I was a kitty wearing dodge and stamina gear. Meh.

2) OT with better geared MT - Our MT was not quite entry-level 80, he's got some good equipment. Even his damn consecrate was tough to pull mobs off of, damn threat machine. And a rage-starved bear really doesn't stand a chance against a fully mana-loaded Pally.

3) Way too fast - We nearly went at the speed of our main raid. Not quite, but pretty damn fast. Makes it kinda tough to explain upcoming boss fights to the gf in between pulls. But we cleared the place in one long night, so I guess we have that going for us.

4) Pugs, just don't go there - Ok, so none of the puggers were THAT bad, but when you're used to a pretty disciplined, pro team, the random calls for "somebody list the damage meter" or whatever just add up over the night. But luckily I was distracted by how fast we were moving.

So there you go

This post will likely disappear amongst the full blown 3.1 hype that's running rampant through the community, but I wanted to share some of the thoughts that were going on, finding a new way to enjoy stale content just hours before it became obsolete(ish).

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Potential Twist to Immortal / Undying

I won't really bother with a full-blown post about last nights Immortal attempt, or the associated emotions.

But I will sum it up: I went in not really even thinking about it. The butterflies are definitely gone. Two and a half wings later with no deaths, my interest was piqued. The first false-start on Gothic in four months of raiding, causing one player to be locked on the dead side and the rest of the raid on the live side showed me just how easy it is to piss this one away. Butterflies swatted, dead, kaput. They shall not be allowed to return.

Moving beyond last night, the experience over the past few weeks had me thinking about the overall concept of the Immortal.

(A) I've read a bunch of posts and comments to posts on other blogs that people want the achievement to be for them personally and not for the team. As long as you personally survive each boss fight during one raid lockout, you ding the achieve.

(B) I've read a bunch of posts and comments to posts on other blogs that people want the achievement to count for each boss individually, similar to the 20-man achievement. This week you do a clean kill of Anubrikan and ding that one part of the overall goal. Next week you do a clean kill of Heigan and ding that part of the goal, and so on with each boss being a discrete unit, until you eventually complete them all.


The people voting for (A) are not team players. They should go play Legend of Zelda or something where your game only depends upon your own play. Raiding is a team sport, whether you choose to believe it or not.

The people voting for (B) probably don't deserve a "double bah", but I don't subscribe to that one either.

Don't Stop Believin'

Although the Butterflies are dead, I still believe in the spirit of the achievement.

As the raid progressed last night, and we killed boss after boss with no deaths, my excitement level was definitely increasing.

That's a good thing, I'm here for excitement, so even if the disappointment of that first death is a nuisance, I still value the experience of the night.

An achievement like Immortal / Undying is trying to encourage us to do what we're here to do anyway, but only do it better. Nobody enters a fight thinking "ok, i'd like to die on this one." Well, maybe there is a strat for a Warlock to commit suicide at the beginning of Malygos P3 so he can cast some curse or debuff or something before he plummets to his death, but that's a bit counter-intuitive and an exception to the rule.

Consider the RP Aspect

I'm not a role player, per se, although I do suffer from mood swings that make my Druid Moodyswinger's name an extension of my own personality.

But I can empathize with the RP aspect of a toon dying.

Picture yourself and a band of 24 comrades-in-arms venture off into a dungeon in search of treasure or thwarting evil or rescuing a princess or whatever.

One of you dies in combat. Hell, maybe one of you dies in his sleep. Doesn't really matter, does it?

You're dead.

Makes it pretty hard to enjoy the treasure that the dragon was hoarding or a passionate night with the princess who just fell in love with her heroic rescuer, yes?

Consider the Performance Aspect

Tobold recently wrote about some of his joys and griefs with raiding. One aspect I'll focus on here is the concept of exploring fights blind with no pre-knowledge of boss abilities, contrasted with the execution part of a fight where you have full knowledge of the boss abilities and also techniques used in the past to successfully defeat the boss.

Execution and performance is what I'm all about.

I recognize that not all players share that view, but for me, its all about planning our fight and then performing under the pressure of combat. Mix in just enough random effects to require some improvisation on the fly, and tune it to be very demanding on each player to deliver flawless execution.

Our strategy and approach should be robust enough to mitigate the risks of all the little things that can go wrong.

Sometimes you randomly D/C. Call verizon and have them check your line, maybe that's busted. Stop downloading nudie flicks while playing.

Sometimes the boss does random things that can get ugly. KT iceblock is one such example, the target is random. However, your strategy should plan for this by informing raiders to space out and then during the execution it is up to each player to be aware of their surroundings and find a safe spot amongst the rest of the team.

Sometimes your cat steps on the keyboard. Give him cement boots and throw him in the harbor. Dogs, FTW!

Having a reward for flawless execution is a Good Thing.

Where's the beef?

I'm fine with the fact that my Immortal achievement is dependent upon 24 other people. Success as part of my team is what keeps me logging in and not playing a single-player RTS or RP game.

I'm fine with the fact that my Immortal achievement requires intense focus and attention to detail across an extended period of time and is bound to a single raid ID.

But, here's my beef with the current way Immortal works.

Once you fail, that's it.

There is no longer any benefit for flawless performance during that raid ID. No reason to keep trying. And in fact, the de-motivation that comes with failing Immortal encourages sloppier behavior since people don't care about the run as much once Immortal is disqualified.

Sure, people who die suffer a slightly larger repair bill. Also, people who die on a boss slow us down a bit because they have to rez/run back and rebuff (but we're looting during this time anyways, so this is minor).

Recommendation to Blizzard

Immortal should remain unchanged. You got this one right, but...

Blizzard needs to add a separate, parallel, persistent reward for each flawless boss kill. "Separate" means it has nothing to do with Immortal, the two are totally independent. "Parallel" means that both achievements/rewards can be pursued at the same time. "Persistent" means that this reward is present each time you kill a boss, and not just the first time you ding the achievement.

The reward should be tied to team performance, and not individual performance. Remember, we're not out solo'ing, we all signed up for a team sport when we accepted the raid invite.

Proposal 1: Emblems - Somebody died? No Emblems off of this boss for anyone in the raid.

All bosses, all the time, not just your first clean kill.

And make the Emblem gear f'ing fantastic. Make us WANT this.

Encourage continuous drive towards flawless victory.

Proposal 2: All Loot - A harsher example would be all loot from the current boss. No loot drops if anybody dies. Perhaps too harsh, especially since your first few kills are the sloppiest and hardest, and the loot from those helps subsequent runs be flawless.

I dunno, as I re-read this one, a part of me is liking Proposal 2. No loot until the team figures it out and nails it. Once you prove that, then the loot flows, making it easier each time you come back.

Hmmm, I wonder? Probably too harsh.

Proposal 3: Selective Loot - Make a separate loot table that only drops when the kill is flawless.

In my ideal situation, it'd be the Best-in-slot gear that drops in this mode.

For each "difficulty setting" (id, 0 drakes, 1 drake, 2 drakes, or whatever the equivalent hard-mode indicator is for each boss), include some exclusive items for a clean kill.

The better the reward, the larger the motivation for teams to help eachother improve and help eachother survive. Even after a silly death due to unavoidable D/C on a boss early in the night, there is still a reason for the team to maintain focused.

Potential Pitfalls

One issue I could see with this is that people who die will be kicked out rather than coached on how to improve survival.

Sure, that's always a fear. If they nerf our class, change our utility, homogenize our spells, always fear that leaders will just kick you.

However, this fear would be mitigated by the fact that the Raid Leader would need to replace you with....a person who reliably survives. This is much harder to PuG, since you really never know what you're going to get from an unknown player. I think the challenge to replace you is greater than the effort to try to coach you for improved performance.

Another issue might be that players focus too much on survival and not enough on their responsibilities in the raid. I know I probably DPS a little bit lighter on Immortal attempts, just to be that much more certain to not pull aggro. But you know what? I'm damn well attentive to web wrapped people and I bust them out immediately instead of hesitating to get just one more shot in on the boss while my DPS trinket is up so I can boost my epeen (not that DPS players do that kind of stuff anyway, amiright?).

I doubt my proposals would cause people to stop looking at the meters as the be-all-end-all of raiding, but a boy can dream, can't he?

What do you think?

Is flawless execution worth striving for? Is it something that should just sorta make you smile when it happens but shouldn't expect it as a normal occurrence?

What other ways can Blizzard encourage the team to survive?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

My first raid tanking Heigan

Last night was my first attempt at main tanking Heigan in a Naxx-10 alt and PuG run. In case you're new here, I've got next to zero tanking experience, with only a handful of normal-mode northrend dungeons and a single heroic under my Eternal Belt Buckle.

I can't even describe the state of mind as we're standing there in Heigan's room getting ready to pull.

I mean, I know the basic idea. The tank is supposed to keep him moving through the safe zones, trying to keep him as centrally located as possible to allow Melee to stand behind-ish and not get fried.

Yes, I've seen it done dozens of times while I was standing on the platform pew-pew'ing and cursing the tanks for threat-capping the Mages.

But now you want ME to do it? Yeah, right.

I was mentally prepared for a wipe-fest here.

I was wrong, and we one shot it, just barely, through the miraculous efforts of our one surviving healer and the few DPS players who knew how to dance. Some hilights:

1) Walk Backwards - I considered strafing to allow for more movement speed. I decided against it and wanted to just work on the basics. Slow and steady motion from safe spot to safe spot.

2) Spatial Awareness - This was nearly as disorienting as Malygos P3 for me. At one point I lost all track of where I was in the room. Is there one more safe zone towards the door? Or is it time to reverse direction and move back that way? So I flipped a coin in my head, chose to reverse and head back in towards the middle. You chose wisely.

3) Two healers enter, One healer leaves - Our PuG holy priest ate it on the first dance phase, leaving our Holy Paladin the full load to carry, with perhaps some help from the Elemental Shammy. Outstanding work keeping us alive.

4) Battle Rez, FTW - Our PuG Boomkin died on the second dance phase, dead center in the middle of the room. I'll only get a single chance to brez him, as we cruise on by during a dance phase, for the very brief moment we'll be standing stationary in the mid safe zone. Wait for it.....wait for it....first safe zone...wait for it...mid safe zone....NOW...transform out of cat form (yes, I was dancing in cat form for added speed)....find where the hell your brez spell is located (my first raid ever as a druid. say it with me....n.o.o.b.)....begin casting.....holy sht its time to move....finish casting....sccoot your ass out of the fire and keep dancing. What? If f'ing worked? And I'm still f'ing alive? And the owl listened to the Raid Leader and didn't accept the rez until appropriate time so he'd survive and in turn, brez another failed dancer? Elune be praised!

5) Mobile Threat - Generating threat while moving. Backwards. Fun. Not. The hardest part was that I use my keyboard S button to move backwards. Sure, I use mouse movement for forwards and snap turns, but not for backwards. Tied my fingers in a knot trying to keep hitting Lacerate (2), Mangle (3), Maul (4), with the occasional Swipe (5), while also hitting S. I think I was using my middle finger on the S and my index and ring fingers hitting the numbers. Its hard to recall, the whole event is a bit of a blur. Will probably need to map backwards to something else. My mind jumps to mapping the scroll wheel to reverse as a pretty intuitive control, but I'm hesitant to do that because I've been using it for camera zoom out since level 1 nearly two years ago.

6) Feedback on the fly - One of the nice things about working with other alts of mains that I raid with is that we have an established pattern of giving eachother feedback during combat. While focusing on navigating through the safe zones and simultaneously generating threat, I lost track of how close I was to the platform. Too close and he silences your casters, which is pretty much a bad thing what with the silenced heals and whatnot. So one of the guild Officers, using a calm tone with no hint of alarm or judgement, told me I was getting too close. The feedback was soon enough to allow me to correct the problem before it caused a wipe, which was nice, to say the least.

You'd be hard pressed to find this calm, clear, constructive, timely feedback in a PuG. In most one-time-only groups, you'll get either pure silence leading to failure and threats of being kicked out of the group -or- one or two grumbly folks who just tell people they suck and need to L2P. Best results come from healthy communication, and this was perfect.

7) A good scare - I can only imagine the slack-jawed look of astonishment on the faces of my team when I keyed my mic and told them I was lost during #2 above. Lets just say, I'm happy I chose wisely.

So, after 10 minutes, which is what? 4 dance phases? 5? Whatever, it was an eternity. Not too many of us were standing at the end, but a few of us were up, and the boss was down which is victory in my book.

I was trembling. Such a strange mix of adrenaline rush and disbelief that we actually did it.

Sure, we continued on through those stupid mind-flaying eye-stalks and maggots, and beat up loatheb afterwards, but it just sort of blurred together and paled in comparison to that Dance of Dances.

Heigan found a new place in my heart last night, as did the tanks of our guild who make it look effortless week after week.

For those about to dance.....We! Salute!. You!

And I'm still trembling

Short Version: Holy f'ing Dog Sht! I f'ing main tanked f'ing Heigan, having no f'ing idea what the f i was doing. And I f'ing did it! 12 hours later and my hands haven't stopped trembling yet. Major kudos go out to our friendly Ret Paladin disguised as Holy who kept us alive after her co-healer illustrated his lack of dancing prowess rather early in the fight.

Medium Version: Fresh off of tanking my first heroic, me and my alt-guildies were pumped up with confidence and ready to take on the world. So we filled in a PuG raid for Naxx-10 with full intentions of having the PuG DK main tank and me fill in the holes.

Upon discovering that the DK was...shall we say...challenged at following directions? Yeah, lets sum it all up and call it that. Upon said discovery, our little baby bear suddenly became the Go To Girl.

And Holy Sht, what a rush!

Long Version:

You've got a raid scheduled for tonight, but your team managed to clear out all the content in four or five hours earlier in the week leaving nothing for tonight's raid.

Ahhh, so that's what alts are for.

On to the heroics.

Tanking her first Heroic

Violet Hold. Sure, I know, not the toughest instance in the world, but we're new here, so bear (get it?) with us as we learn to tank.

Not a whole lot of fuss here, other than that I was totally undergeared and underskilled tank and our healer is undergeared but overskilled, while the DPS is made up of a collection of hardcore pro tank doing DPS to allow me to learn to tank, and a few alts of varying gear level.

And wouldn't you know it, we kicked its ass!

Noob mistakes galore, but we squeaked through and had a blast. Its always fun to learn new things along side with other people who laugh with you through the inevitable sloppy execution, ignorance of class abilities, fat fingers, untrained reflexes, and general lack of refinement.

Reflections on Tanking Ability

1) Was able to put out respectable single-target threat. Will benefit by tightening up the timing on refreshing lacerate and that other DoT (mangle?), I was likely wasting rage renewing them too soon out of fear of letting my 5-stack of lacerates drop off.

2) When a pack of mobs was under control, I was able to hold aggro on all of them via positioning my fat bear ass so that my swipes and glyphed mauls would hit all the mobs.

3) Total crap picking up a pack of incoming mobs. I tried FFF one, charge another, and then start swiping, and different variants of that cycle. Definitely need work here, and luckily will be saved by the bell that is 360 degree non-targeted swipe that's coming in a week or two. But still need work.

4) Health and survivability was reasonable. I can only really measure this via feedback from my healer, and he said there was no issue, and he's the type of person who'd tell you if you fail, so that's all that needs to be said about that.

Personally, I blame the DPS for #3, because its always more fun to point the finger elsewhere, and we all hate huntards :-) Focus fire. If you pull aggro, run TOWARDS the tank. But I digress, this is about my tanking, the DPS did just fine, so I should segue into a #4 about improving my communication skills to inform the team that I need their help in bringing mobs to me because I'm a noob.

And why not go for the Big Show

Fast forward through two more heroics during which I was DPS'ing as a kitty.

And a guildie asks if anybody wants to try out an alt/pug naxx-10.

Well, no time like the present, I suppose.

PuG a Death Knight who is supposed to be serving as main tank.

Begin the first pull, I'm nervous as balls. All these other people counting on me to keep the damn mobs off of them. And me having the whopping experience of about 7 or 8 dungeon runs tanked, with a single heroic thrown in there.

Trash is fine, even had to whip out a few improvisational moves to correct some sloppy multi-pulls. In my DPS world of Hunting, I have new respect for when a tank says "we're pulling these guys back".

Yadda yadda yadda, we're up to Anubrikan.

DK is on Anub, I'm on adds.

When its time to kite Anub, the DK didn't respond to the continuous, endless pleas from the Raid Leader to kite him. So he just stood there. So the fight was...interesting. But I did my job, took care of the adds, not knowing what to do, I dragged the adds away from the boss into the middle of the room. And threw a litle DPS on Anub when no adds were present.

All in all, a kill is a kill is a kill.

Is when I become Main Tank

RL wants the MT to be a bit more responsive to instructions, so we change assignments a bit.

Ahh, the bear is up front now! Time for some fun.

Lady Farina or whatever the hell her name is. To be honest, every single one of us forgot the "proper" way to kill her, we've been OP and just AoE'ing her down on our mains for so long. I'll admit that I was lying face down in the dirt at the end, died around 4%. Mr. DK did great job picking her up and the team finished her off. I cried for a little while.

Maexxena. A little uglier, however we did one-shot her. I died nearly immediately upon her enrage or whatever it is that she does at 30%. Me thinks I need to use more of the barkskin / survival instincts / frenzied regen stuff at this point. I was mentally ready to , but I was insta-gibbed so fast I didn't have a chance to trigger all of them.

Noth. Suck it! No fuss here. Easy because he doesnt blink/aggro wipe in 10-man, but still interesting to try to pick up all the adds during the teleport phase.

Heigan. TL;DR. Separate post. For the sake of this post, lets just say it was pretty f'ing cool.

Loatheb. Loatheb was fun because you just stand there and pour out the single-target threat. Didn't have survivability issues, no threat issues, pure win.

Mongoose is my new best friend

Got some new staff from the run.

Got my third mongoose enchant in three days.

Loot karma theory remains true, if you want to upgrade it, polish it and the loot will drop.

Confidence Boost

After clearing those two wings, it was bed time, so we called it quits.

I had no idea what to expect coming in to tank my first raid.

I could care less whether our success was because Blizz made raiding too easy or whatever. This was one of the most memorable raid nights I've ever had.

There's tons of room for improvement on both trash and bosses. There's tons of gear I should seek out to make life a little easier.

But the night showed that with the help of my team, I can hang in there and get the job done in a role that's so unlike ranged dps that its practically a different game.

And on the lighter side, hopefully the confidence boost to my tanking ego will ease the pressure to collect a backup set of healing gear, because all the multiple pieces is starting to make my head spin. I'm sure all you veteran hybrids are lmyao to hear that.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Alt Ding Quickies

For the first time in my illustrious WoW career, I now have two max level toons.

Yay, me!

A Druid, planning on being a tank in alt-PvE runs and an occasional healer in Battlegrounds.

On to the quickies...

) Crafting and Enchanting: With aspirations of tanking comes the responsibility of gearing. So I did a little homework, bought up a king's ransom of leatherworking materials, gems, and enchanting materials, found my crafters, and have a nice shiny toon who might just be able to squeak through a heroic or two to begin the gearing process.

) Inscription FTW: This girl gets to skip over the Hodir's grind for shoulder enchant. Although from what I can tell, now that the initial surge is long gone, Dundernifflem is way more tolerable than when Amava ground through.

) Bring forth the Dual-Specs: I've got no problem forking over the cash to swap between tanking and healing, but I do have a problem re-assigning my talent points, changing my action bars, glyphs, and whatever. I'm slightly looking forward to dual-spec for my Hunter to switch between glass-cannon-dps-pet mode and full-blown-tank-pet mode. But for the druid, dual-spec will be a many splendored thing.

) Her First Heroic: Of course, being in a guild with some outstanding tanks, my little girl had to DPS her way through her first heroic, which was pretty pathetic given that (A) she's spec'ed and geared for dodge, stamina, and threat, and (B) I suck royal sausage at melee DPS. You want me to stand where?

) Her First Loot: And also of course, the first three sweet sweet leather drops are....healer items. So she's got a headstart on her healing set, which'll come in handy at some point, I'm sure.

) The best way to replace an item is to enchant it: Perhaps the shortest lived Mongoose enchant ever. That first heroic run also yielded a decent tanking pole, which Bears learned how to equip with patch 3.0.8. Now if I can only find the weapons trainer who does polearms.

) Swift Flight Form FT-mutha-f'ing-W: Its not even funny how imba swift flight form is. Instant cast? Loot quest items or herbs from the ground without breaking form? And most importantly at this here home of the frivolous entertainment, able to click instance summoning portals with a glowing beak? Just fantastic, I highly recommend it.

) And finally: Pretty interesting to have a max-level toon who technically has very little aspiration. No particular achievements (especially since she already has Jenkins from a fun-run following Amava and friends through Something-RBS back while leveling), no stress to max out cooking or fishing, no real gearing up pressure beyond the basics to tank or heal heroics. Nice to have a toon that's here pretty much to fart around and have fun with, while leaving the srrs biznis to Amava.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Immortal Aggro

Immortal Failure
Achievement far out of reach
Death on second boss

A week or so ago, I wrote about the anticipation and excitement of our first deliberate attempt at Immortal achievement, clearing Naxx-25 without any deaths on boss fights.

Had two players D/C on the second boss, and one player run into the fire (invisible on her video settings), thus disqualifying the achievement about 20 minutes into the raid. Ok, put your feet up for the next 2.5 hours, the pressure is off.

Fast forward a week, and we're back at it, fresh raid ID, fresh expectations of becoming Highlanders. So how'd it go?

Death on second boss

Mind you, a different second boss than last week. This time we had somebody on the dead side of Gothick bite the bullet. Supposedly the DPS on that side were getting too close to whirlwinding mobs being tanked in the corner, leading the healer to need to blast away with larger than normal heals, leading to the healer generating lots of threat, leading to dead healer. I dunno, dude.

So, again, 20 minutes into the night, disqualified from the win.

From there on, it was all slop, all the time.

The highlight being a Gluth wipe that involved a continuous stream of zombie chow just running a train straight to the boss. Kiting was at the biggest all time level of failure. My favorite moment was when I "magically" had wings appear over my toon and I was unable to fire at any mobs for a little while. Did the f'ing pally cast f'ing BoP or f'ing whatever on me? Really? Are you f'ing kidding me? Makes it kinda hard to pull the f'ing chow chows off of the f'ing healers and f'ing boss.


I was able to control the nerd rage a little bit, and had enough composure to only throw soft non-breakable things around the room.

I'd be lying if I said it the experience wasn't upsetting, but then again, us drama queens thrive on getting upset, so in the end, a good evening of entertainment. There's no person to blame, there's no one single specific thing to change, its just that so many variables have to align perfectly, and I fear that we started too late to have enough chances before the upcoming patch that will make the whole point moot.

It Just Doesn't Matter

Like Bill Murray in Meatballs, I'm chanting "it just doesn't matter."

In a week or two, the hopes will pass and I won't be thinking about the fast flying mount that's out of reach.

And a week or two after that, Ulduar will release and we'll all be happily distracted for a while.

It just doesn't matter.

The Silver Lining

All was not sour for the evening.

A big feather in our cap on the Four Horsemen. We took a very slow, calculated approach to the fight to ensure no chain lightning nailed the team. We had good communication from the officers ensuring everybody knew their job, and the team showed good discipline during the execution. That was reassuring to see, although we did lose a player to god knows what in a phase of the fight that really should not have any death.

We also Safety Danced again, which is nice to know we can do that little beauty semi-reliably.

Kick me in the jimmy!

And the real kick in the nuts was when one of the players keyed his mic and we all hear a brief moment of cheering in the background.

Seems that his roommate or friend or neighbor at the LAN center or something just dinged Immortal.

In the immortal words (f'ing pun f'ing intended) of Buzzcut of Beavis and Butthead fame...

Kick me in the jimmy!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Fimlys at Asleep at the WoW put the call out for the wow-ku poems. He tagged some specific people (not me, which is good, because i'd likely not do it out of spite if he had singled me out. sorry, that's just how we roll). As of this writing, I also saw a post up at Kestrel's Aerie with some good poems also. Its a chain letter thing, so there will likely be more of them out by the time this gets published, but there you go.

I don't know what happened. I came back from a chinese buffet lunch, so clearly I cannot do any work for a good 30 minutes. Its like swimming after you eat. I read the Asleep at the WoW and Kestrel posts, and spent the next little while with the inspiration just pouring out.

Fimlys wanted to impose a constraint of keeping the poems limited to a single class. I went where the inspiration took me, so I bent the rules.

Vote for your favorite of mine in the comments. Creative comments judged to be the best comments of the bunch (ie, the ones that vote for my own personal favs) will be rewarded with the fabulous prize of special mention on this here blog. Does it get better than that? I've numbered them for easy reference in the many dozens of comments I expect on this thread.

Vote early, vote often...

Departing from our ordinary jobs

Number 1
Kiting Zombie Chow
Special job for the Hunters
No fun, want pew pew

We all like to be special

Number 2
Specialists beware
Hybrid class can dual spec
Where's my raid invite?

Number 3
Bring me, not my class
They homogenized our spells
I'm still a snowflake

Some more special than others

Number 4
His wife cracked the whip
Our mentor will write a book
Hobbes is in the pound

Number 5
TJ just posted
Perhaps he's not really gone
Send top secret mail

WotLK released almost 5 months ago

Number 6
No teamwork for trash
Don't wait, just A.o.E.
Skill not neces'sry

Number 7
Northrend in a funk
Farming naxx, maly, and sarth
Not enough content

Number 8
Achievements are cool
So long as we get rewards
Some folks disagree

Number 9
Some hard modes are hard
Others will be harder still
I can hardly wait

And an assortment to finish things off

Number 10
Factions waging war
Battling for Wintergrasp
Game completely lagged

Number 11
What's that on the ground?
Fire burning hot, health bar drops
L2P U Noob

Who knew fire had only one syllable?

Number 12
Rogue went AFK
The loot policy just changed
That's why I don't PUG

Go Vote!

Remember, there's an awesome prize for the most bestest comment. Really can't put a dollar value on it, its just that hot.

Disclaimer: The prize is special mention on my blog. If you're able to parley that into something of dollar value, good job by you. If you're a dick, I'll just delete your comment and give you no reward.

ZO-Mutha-f'ing-G, Breaking, HOT HOT HOT, Breaking News - MUST READ - GOGOGOGO!!!

I just read this beauty.

Forget Ulduar.

Forget Dual Spec.

Forget One Hour Flasks.

Forget sweet awesome really hard hard modes that'll feed on my tears.

Forget whatever the hell they're going to do the Hunter class.

Forget influential entertaining informative bloggers who may or may not be leaving wow, and may or may not be using said departure as a publicity stunt for a top secret project.

Forget all that stuff. The important breaking news is in....

I can haz chef's hat.

And to think I was debating just yesterday to redeem all my accrued Dalarans and make some phat cash.

If the announcement ends up being April Fool's Joke, I'm going to enrage like the Incredible Hulk, lift my computer over my head, fling it through the window, jump through the jagged glassy broken window following it, lift the broken computer case over my head again, fling it through the nearest car windshield, reach through the broken windshield and open the door, use the smashed computer case to bust open the dash board, hotwire the car, and drive it and the broken computer off the bridge down the street and into the lake. Oh, and before all this, I'll make sure my WotLK install disks are in the drive so they get destroyed also. redeem the dalarans and sell the spices.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Living at the Threshold

Matticus recently writes about the internal threshold of performance that each of us has, below which you push to improve, and above which, you've got little motivation to change things. Good enough, satisficing, perfection vs slacking, Pareto Principle, 80/20 rule, diminishing returns, whatever you choose to call it.

We all have an internal feeling for that threshold. It drives us when we're below the limit, it often leaves us feeling "why bother?" when we're above the line. And its unique for each of us.

There's three concepts intermingled in the original WoM post...

1) Human Performance

The post opens with human performance (dying on frogger, eating a flame wall, clearing the ledge), if Matticus is indeed human, which is the topic of endless debate on our Guild forum :-P

Each person is in control of his/her own performance. We all mess up sometime, the value is in how you recover and what you learn from mistakes. Are you interested in reliably surviving frogger? Then you can examine why you died and make changes. Did that fire wall taste good? No? Then you can try to review things like your positioning before the wall appeared (were you too far away from a safe spot? where would be better to stand next time?), or what distraction caused you to not react fast enough (was somebody babbling on vent, was House jibbering and jabbering about Lupus, or was your focus too narrow on your healing assignment at the sacrifice of situational awareness and personal survivability).

Although the specific threshold of performance is unique to each individual player, people tend to be highly critical of their own performance. I'd wager that most WoW blog readers/writers have a high threshold that they want to keep their performance above. Sure, some of us are in the blog world for pure entertainment purposes, but when it comes down to it, we're also looking for things that can improve our own performance.

Readers of my blog know I obsess on this aspect of the game. The experience of improving my own personal performance alongside my teammates who are doing the same thing is what keeps me playing WoW.

2) Toon Performance

The original post then moves to toon performance. Professions to eek out more heals, running a heroic every day until you win that one perfect trinket just incase you ever find yourself grossly under the hit cap, maintaining multiple sets of gear perfectly tailored for certain situations, and so on with the toon enhancers.

I think that we all vary greatly in our threshold for this aspect of the game. Personally, I'll grind the hell out of just about anything Blizzard can throw at us to get a gear item or a shoulder inscription (curse you, spear thrusting quest), but as long as I'm having fun with my profs, I have no intention of dropping herb/mining for a DPS enhancing profession, even if that means I'm leaving 20 or 30 DPS on the table. I tried the min/maxing LW drummer boy routine back in TBC, and learned that for me its just not worth it.

This will vary much more from player to player than our threshold for our own personal performances, and will even change over time as our mood or gear situation changes.

If I look back through my performance improvement plans at the beginning of WotLK raiding, it started out almost exclusively focused on gear items and enhancements, and then as I reached my internal level of satisfaction with my gear, my thoughts migrated deeper into the softer side of personal skill improvement.

3) Dim Sum

The article then moves on to food. Delicious food.

I discovered my love for dim sum on a business trip to Vancover. When I'm in town, my work team knows its all serious during the work hours, but once we leave the building, its all dumplings, all the time.

Inspired by my chopstick agility, the natives (well, technically Hong Kong natives, so I suppose Vanc "locals"?) started ordering some things that were clearly out of Fear Factor like duck tongues and chicken's feet. Once you get past the cultural gag-factor, both were outstanding, although I'd rather stick to the basics that Matticus will be forced to buy me next time I'm out that way and I stalk him down. Cue scary-laughter-and-eerie-staring-eyes.

Farewell to BRK, maybe?

In case his farewell post isn't an early April Fool's Joke. Sorry, but the WoW community has jaded me to be suspicious of any major announcements near 4/1....

I just read the farewell post over at BRK's site. Seems that he'll be stopping playing/bloging about WoW to open up more time to spend on things that're more important to him.

I applaud the move. For someone who is as passionate about our shared hobby as BRK is, I'm sure it is a very challenging time and decision. I hope that it works out well for him and his family. And I hope he continues with his book project, if it is written even half as entertaining as the blog, I'm sure it'll be a fantastic read.

BRK has added so much to the community, and enriched my WoW experience tremendously. Through his teachings I learned so many of the finer things that make a good hunter stand out from the crowd. He's given us so many entertaining stories, whether related to WoW or not, its been some good times.

If the announcement is an April Fool's Joke, I'll fly down to Florida with a wet noodle (which is easy to get past airport security) and pay my "respects", but if its serious, I wish the best and hope to hear good things about your first book in the not-too-distant future.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Immortal Cocoons

Ok, so yesterday's reference to "butterflies" was a phrase indicating a feeling of anxiety or nervous excitement, and not the airborne phase of a certain insect's lifecycle.

But, to switch it around, if the Butterfly is what we'll morph into when we ding the achievement, then we must still be snug inside our cocoons, still getting ready to spread those wings and fly. I think we're pupas right now or something. Whether the biologically correct term or not, I just like saying the word.

Ain't I poetic? And mature?

How'd it go?

Well, the early parts of the evening went according to plan. Quiet, soothing environment. The calm before the storm.

When I logged in, I started looking over my alchemist to see if there's some other elixirs I'd like to use than my standard Mighty Thoughts / Agi combo.

Brewed up some of the +350 health ones (fortitude?) and some Guru's Elixirs. +20 to all stats is actually pretty cool, and since it buffs agi and also raw stamina which then gets converted to attack power via Survival talents, it is not entirely discarding all DPS enhancement value.

Just like in my good old ice hockey days when, before a game, I'd visualize laying out a incoming winger at the blue line, I mentally pictured the little things l'll be doing to stay alive in Naxx.

We got the team together. You could tell there was an electricity in the air, although, thankfully, nobody was harping on and on about our goal for the night.

Everybody take a deep breath, because we're starting trash pulls.


Start the night with our good friend Patchwerk. Normally a testing ground for balls-to-the-wall DPS, HPS, and TPS. But not tonight. Tonight, we're here for one thing only. Ranged DPS wait 10 seconds or so before opening up. Melee DPS hang tight until the RL gives the instruction.

Spent way less attention to DPS than usual, and I refused to check the Damage Meters for the entire night. Despite trying to go so deliberately slowly, we still killed him in less than 3 minutes, which is comical.

25 players enter, 25 players leave.


Ok everybody, you know its not polite to fart near your friends, so run to the back before you let loose.

Everything's going fine, gassy folks are positioning right, tanks are picking up slimes, DPS is truckin.

And then the dreaded.....Oh, SHT, [name-of-healer] is D/C'ing.

Ok, don't panic. Another healer calmly calls out that he will heal the DC through any damage. We're focused, we're on target.

And then, maybe 5 seconds later, and the second dread....Oh, FCK, [name-of-dc-healer] just got tagged. She's about to fart in the middle of the room.

But we're a bunch of cool customers, so we all shuffle around the expanding cloud of nasty that's occupying the middle of the room.

Things continue fine for another minute or so.

The exact sequence of what happened next is a bit blurry to me, and I'm not looking over the combat log until later, so this is simply from memory of what I observed during the event.

*) A melee DPS D/C'd. DAMN YOU, INTERNETZ! Whether he then was insta-gibbed by something and died, or if it was over a brief time due to standing in a cloud that follows the kited boss, I'm unsure.

*) A healer got flagged, made the correct move to run away from the huddled masses, but made the incorrect move and ran straight into existing clouds and died. The player says that her screen was not showing any clouds at all, perhaps a visual setting?

So, about 15 minutes into the much anticipated Immortal attempt, phoot, no mas.

Then what?

Despite the three losses, we killed Grob, no surprise there.

Move on to Gluth, still interested in practicing Immortal, and we nailed him perfectly, no deaths, outstanding kiting (IM-very-biased-O) by the hunters and mages.

And then Thaddius and the dreaded Ledge Boss. This is one of those moments that just make you cringe. On a personal level, its been months since I've failed the leap, but it still gets me nervous every single time. On a team level, I havent really tracked it, but it does seem that we lose somebody almost every week.

Nailed it. All 25 across safe and sound.

And then for the real fun. We're trying for the Shocking thing. Simple strat, basically same as we always do. Just run in very wide arcs around the boss as you switch sides.

As the fight wore on, the tension builds more and more and more. Who's going to fkc it up? More importantly, will it be me? Push those thoughts out of your head, focus on your positioning, the boss cast bar, and your own debuff. Run WIDE to the outside when you switch.

The lower the health of the boss, the further you move to the edge of your seat.

And then he dies, and your screen fills up with Shocking achievements, which was pretty damn cool. One shot, everybody survived, no crossed polarity.

From there, since Immortal wasn't an option any more, we went and 20-manned some of the wings, culminating in finishing off the 20-man achievement for many of the players. Topping the highlight reel was 20-man Safety Dance.

What worked?

Although we didn't ding Immortal, I am very happy with the evening. Here's some of the keys that I think build the foundation for when we will ultimately get it done:

1) Communication - Two of the Officers co-led the raid, and the two of them did an excellent job of using calm voices and giving very clear instructions for things that we'd be doing differently versus our normal routine.

2) Pace - There was absolutely no rush. Example: Patchwerk. Its annoying how he paces around. If you're not ready to engage him at the right time, he might walk away and you wait 5 minutes. Or you might rogue distract him or have a MD hunter risk the frogger boss to pull Patch as he walks away. Not tonight. We were very deliberate about all our actions.

3) Control - Although only a series of trash pulls, the combination of large kicking/stomping mobs, roaming patrols, and hidden shades between Gluth and Thaddius often give us issue. The raid showed excellent control and discipline as we smoothly handled this area, allowing tanks proper time for positioning, choosing when to engage, focus firing mobs. Its the small things that make a difference and this segment of the evening was just right.

4) Confidence - Yes, we didn't get Immortal, but we did go in and nail out several achievements, all one shots. Thaddius Shocking and zero deaths was a big win. 20-man Safety Dance builds confidence.

I truly hope the guild wants to keep trying. We showed what our raid is capable of when we focus. We are disciplined. We are focused. We have effective leaders, and members who can follow instructions and deliver results. Immortal is DEFINITELY within our grasp.

What needs to change?

While building on the existing strengths, we definitely need to learn from mistakes and not repeat them. None of these is intended to zing, or single out, the player(s) involved. I'm proud of the effort each raider put in. However, we do need to take action if Immortal is going to happen:

1) Visual Settings - The player who died on Grobbulus by running into the damage. You absolutely must get your visual settings configured properly. We can go to a Naxx-10 before next week's immortal attempt, and just sit in Grobbulus's room, fiddling with your UI until its right.

2) Disconnects - We had a few disconnects. Yes, it does happen, and often times it is out of the control of the player. Sht happens, especially when it comes to computer networking. However, some things might be in your control. For instance, I know if I raid from the house with DSL, incoming calls usually disconnect me, and the Cable Modem house does not have this risk. I will never attempt an Immortal run from the DSL house. Each player might have similar things under their control that can improve our chances.

3) Practice on Each Boss - I do appreciate that we changed modes once Immortal was gone and got a few other achievements. It was nice, it was fun, and many raiders (me included) needed them for the meta-achievement. However, if Immortal is ever to be a reality, we need to visit each boss with every raider thinking only about team survival. If we consistently stop practicing after the actual Achievement is gone, then we will have a tougher time on the later bosses, the first time the sun is shining and we succeed at the early ones.

The Future

Not sure what the future has in store for our Immortal attempts, or how many more weeks we have to shoot for it. Probably 4 more?

The thing I like about Immortal is that it really is simply encouraging something we should be doing anyway. We all want to be alive at the end of the fight, however, things like DPS e-peen, youtube videos playing on a computer next to your WoW monitor, and so on, all get in the way.

The more I think about it, the more I want Blizz to implement a similar achievement in each dungeon, but with a twist. I want it to give some tangible reward each and every time you ding it, not just the first time when you get a title or whatever. I think the game is better when everybody is trying to focus together on survival for every fight during every raid.