December 31, 2007

I Want This Nightmare to be Over!

image by Jeff Kubina
I was feeling some empathy for my old friend Aran today while trying to complete today's daily battleground quest. Alterac Valley was the name of the game today, and for some reason the Alliance just could not get their act together in the Shadowburn battlegroup.

It was like the first day of 2.3 all over again: no one knew how to play the new AV. I started the morning out with turtles.

"WTF u nubs take SH!" Stonehearth Graveyard, it seemed to my fellow puggers, was the lynchpin by which we would halt the onslaught of horde and win the day. This lasted for about four games.... then I gave up and made some oatmeal. Seriously people, your pug AV strategy is "hold SH"? What are you, nuts?

This afternoon brought me back for more pain, in the form of spreading ourselves too thin, favoring Galv over anything with, say, a timer on it, and leaving no defenders on our only graveyard. Now, I'm no AV wizard (oh wait -- yes I am! *pew pew*), but the lack of basic competence was enough to make me question my resolve ten times over.

See, I've been trying to complete the BG daily every day, rain or shine, and then quit after that unless I find an org group to play with. It's a nice strategy that lets me net at least 500 honor a day; often a lot more, since pugs are rarely successful on the first try. Up until now, this has meant I play a moderate number of BGs every evening on my priest and mage -- maybe six a day, on average.

Today took me 23 games to get one win on my priest. I don't think I can bear swapping over to my mage to do it all again.

On a related note, in between BGs I've been reading through my blog roll and trying to catch up on all the stuff I missed while at my parents' house for a week. Sometime around AV #19 I hit Tobold's proposal to make raiding more like PvP. Like so many of the posts Tobold writes, it's carefully argued and thought provoking (seriously, head over there -- even if you disagree wholeheartedly with him, there's food for thought), but when I consider the proposed outcome, I can't help but find it ludicrous.

As a voice for the casual WoW player, he's musing on the possibility of creating a new level of randomly-puggable PvE raiding with the same sort of guaranteed return on your time invested that you get with the PvP rewards system. That is, easy versions dungeons where killing anything would get you points or tokens that you could grind to turn in for PvE loot.

Now, maybe I'm just too far removed from the so-called casual masses of WoW, but a pure battleground-like pugging of even an incredibly nerfed Karazhan sounds horribly painful. I mean, let's face it. You can debate the merits of resilience and AFK mechanics all you want, but at the most basic level, battlegrounds do not require rebalancing. That is, even if you throw two horribly unbalanced, incompetent and disorganized teams together, someone is still going to win.

The same can't be said for raiding, even in a nerfed form. A pure pug of level 70s, even a balanced one, could easily fail at BWL from lack of coordination alone. Making raiding more accessible isn't a bad thing, but if there's one thing running battlegrounds daily has taught me, it's that the true lowest common denominator in WoW can be staggeringly low.

With this in mind, battleground-style pugging just isn't a good solution. Unless of course you'd like to go through 23 different raid groups just to get Attumen down on a bad day. But if you ask me, that doesn't sound like fun for anyone.

December 29, 2007

Real Life Specs

Over dinner tonight (Thai food, yum), The Boy and I got to talking about the wide variety of people we have in our guild. Out of 300+ people, we have the usual smattering of students, soldiers, coders, young parents, and the self-employed, but offhand, I can also name:

  • a professional jouster
  • a military intelligence analyst
  • an auto show model
  • a full-time forum moderator
  • a sex-ed researcher
At times like this, it really does blow me away that there are people who only play with folks they know in real life. And mind you, this is only from the small subset of guildies whose real lives I know about. WoW is fun like that, isn't it?

December 28, 2007

And a Happy New Year

So, I hope you all had an enjoyable week.

The Boy and I just got back from my parents' house for Christmas, which was one part computer deprivation, one part unavoidable socializing, and one part adorable puppy.

I'm glad to be back, even if I did have to say goodbye to my new noncombat pet.

December 19, 2007

That All-Druid Karazhan I Mentioned?

...Apparently it went very well.

Attumen, Moroes, opera, chess, and Nightbane (and almost Prince) before they called it a night. Go go dancing bears!

December 18, 2007

8 Resto Druids and Some Bears Walk Into a Gulch

I'm finally feeling better, and I've got a bunch of posts I've been itching to write for GMW: on fighting Kael, on my forays into arena, and even on (oh noes) Guild Drama.

But first, since I mentioned our guild's all-druid Karazhan (they've actually had to schedule two different runs, we have so many druids!), I thought I'd point you all to another all-druid extravaganza via YouTube: the all-druid WSG.

If you've ever wanted to watch a rogue get punched to death by half a dozen trees, a would-be flag carrier come face to face with ten stealthed cats, or the carnage that ensues when an entire team of druids cast hurricane at once, this video is for you.

It's like fighting the entire goddamn Savannah!

December 14, 2007

WTB +15 Cold Resistance

Man, this week has really taken it out of me. I'm slowly eking out a win over this cold, but I've been absolutely exhausted all week, so I haven't had a chance to write some blog posts as I would've liked.

While sick, I've taken up PvP again in earnest. Last week my spooky priest got together with my boomkin friend to form a 2v2 team, and then I joined up with a 5v5 team of all shadow priests to try and snag some more arena points. 30-some games later, I think I could write a book called See The Arenas on 33 Resilience a Day. Which is to say, I am damn squishy, but I am learning. The trick is to remember the spooky mantra: dot and run, dot and run, then dot and run some more.

My guild's also putting together a bunch of fun events I'm looking forward to for this month. We've got two Karazhan's in the works: one an all-girls Kara, and the other an all-druid run. (Sadly, I don't have a 70 druid... yet.) There's also an in-game secret Santa (I mean, um, Greatfather Winter) event in the works. Anyone else's guild have something fun going on for the holidays?

December 12, 2007

Quest Discoveries

My shaman's the fourth character I've gotten past level 30 -- fifth if you count the paladin I "borrowed" from The Boy, really -- so I've spent a lot of time in Azeroth by now. One of the things I've really been enjoying about post-2.3 leveling is the fact that quest givers now show up as yellow exclamation points on your minimap, which means that here and there, I find a few cool Easter egg quests I've never done before because I never knew they were there.

The screenshot above is me standing underneath the Thandol Span, the bridge that connects Arathi Highlands to the Wetlands. (Yes, water walking is fun, what can I say?) If you take a look at the piece of bridge directly behind my shaman, you'll see that it's broken on both ends, completely unconnected to the rest of the structure. Sitting in a small alcove in that section of bridge is this fellow, Foggy MacKreel:

Getting to him was a pain in the space-goat tail. There's a section of bridge on the Arathi side that has a broken-off overhang from which you can just barely make the leap. I had a guildie tell me she did it just fine with no speed increase, but even with ghost wolf on, it took me three tries. (If you screw up like I did, swim under the bridge and east a few more yards to climb back up on the northern bank.)

To be honest, MacKreel is singularly unconcerned about his placement as Least Accessible NPC in Azeroth.* What he is concerned about is his massive hangover, and how he's going to get his shipment of moonshine to Southshore in time. Except, wonder of wonders, some hapless adventurer just happened to hop over to his section of the Span.

You've got 15 minutes to get MacKreel's Moonshine to Southshore, and there's no way to jump back where you came from, so it's either swim or hearth from there.

*If you have an alternate contender for this title, please leave me a note in the comments!

December 11, 2007

Call of Air

Battling a cold this week (a parting gift from The Boy before his business trip to San Francisco), so I've been going through lots of tissues, leveling up my shaman, and generally feeling vaguely miserable and sorry for myself. I'm not a very stoic person about being sick, but WoW at least makes for a decent distraction.

I don't know how I'll spec him at 70, but my shaman is currently enhancement for leveling and has been a lot of fun to play so far. Just yesterday I completed Call of Air, the level 30 quest to get an air totem (and with it, arguments over whether groups should get Windfury or Grace of Air). As a bonus, the quest giver also gives you a cool buff that lets you fly down from the top of the Exodar to the bottom (plus an hour of increased attack speed).

I'm really enjoying the new buffs to leveling; it feels like we have a lot more choices to make about where we go and what we do in Azeroth, without actually sacrificing XP efficiency.

December 6, 2007

Your Guild Forums Need a Thanks Thread

When was the last time you publicly thanked a guild mate who helped you out?

If you're like me, you tend to thank your heroic run or crafter personally, then drop group and leave it at that. In a large guild such as ours, even the most helpful and all-around awesome new player can go unnoticed by most people for months this way.

Luckily for me, my guild has a way to combat this tendency. It's the second-oldest active thread on our forums (the oldest was a LOLcats thread that got so long it started eating itself), and it came about like this...

It Started Small
Back in February 2006, one of our paladins remarked on how our guild managed to fight a prevailing internet trend: many web forums are hives of drama and inanity, while our guild managed to stay largely above the interweb fray (aforementioned LOLcats thread aside). Despite having about 300 accounts and multiple threads dedicated to DKP values, on the whole we were already managing to keep a really positive, vibrant web community that made even ex-members want to keep tabs on our guild antics.

Having judged thusly, our paladin was then struck with a vision, a way to bring the power of the Light to our already-awesome forums.

He picked up his hammer and hit the Create New Post button, and wrote a short piece titled Post Your Gratitude, offering up the thread to everyone to thank fellow guild members for favors.

"Post Distinctly Positive Things"
As it happens, when you give our guild a dedicated place to thank each other, a lot more thanking goes on. The first page of our thread expresses gratitude for the following things:

  • a Lightforge belt, given as a gift
  • a guildmate who flew out to open up the Dire Maul library for unkeyed players
  • Doomguard quest assistance
  • epic mount loans
  • free bags, offered spontaneously
  • shenanigans
  • raid leaders for organizing our very first forays into Molten Core
  • midnight Stratholme runs
  • boar intestines, sent by mail
  • farming demons in Winterspring for Benediction
  • free enchants
  • the guild mount fund
  • bailing people out of random PUGs
  • the guild for being generally awesome
  • SM graveyard speed runs
  • help with the mage water quest

It takes 43 more pages to get to the current end of the thread, where I can read people's thanks for the following:
  • a BFD alt run
  • the members of a new Karazhan, for putting together a successful run even though they consider themselves latecomers to the raiding scene, and the veterans who've helped them out with alts, gear, and advice
  • a Shattrath port
  • a warrior who stopped to help with a pally alt's epic mount quest
  • five folks who went out to go trounce the Horde on the Elemental Plateau
  • a guildie who lead several hours of organized WSG that went 14-1 last weekend
  • a gift of primal lifes
  • a resident rogue, for being generally awesome
  • two guildies who flew out to lay the smackdown on horde messing with one of our mage's alts
  • a successful Ramparts run
  • my 25-man raid, for giving an extra [Pattern: Boots of the Long Road] to a Karazhan-level healer
  • nine people and a raid who helped support a hunter's push to 375 engineering

The Thread That Just Won't Die
In two years, Post Your Gratitude hasn't dried up. It hasn't even slowed down.

When our paladin created the thread, he said he hoped that it would strengthen the guild's sense of community, and make us more aware of the caliber of our members. I'd say it's done all that and then some: it's now an unstoppable juggernaut of altruism that encourages by example.

So if you've noticed your guild forums have gotten a bit negative lately, or if you're just looking for a way to build a stronger community within your guild, consider a thank-you thread. It just might end up one of the most popular posts on your forums.

December 5, 2007

Secondhand Nostalgia: The Wizard

Last night The Boy and I had a few drinks and watched The Wizard, as part of his continuing need to share the fundamental pop culture influences of his youth.

I mentioned this in my bio, but I have basically no gaming credentials. Unlike The Boy, who grew up playing Mario Bros in the original Japanese on a Famicom in his basement, World of Warcraft is my first MMO, and one of my first games, period. So watching a camped-up 1989 kiddie Rain Man of my generation's gaming youth was sort of bizarre.

The basic plot involves Fred Savage rescuing his savant-like younger brother from a mental institution and traveling from Utah to Los Angeles to compete in the National Video Game Championships. To do this, they spend hours on the phone with Nintendo support getting a list of every possible game that might appear in the finals (all, say, 100 of them), and then sitting wonder-boy Jimmy in front of Play Choice 10 machines in Reno casinos to play them all.

The film is loosely put together at best: passable child acting strung together with stock footage of highway America, constantly interspersed with product placement from Universal Studios and Nintendo. All of which adds up to a certain campy charm, at least if you've drunk enough to appreciate it. We nearly died laughing when the kids' arch-nemesis unboxed his NES peripherals and uttered the quiet, almost-reverent line: "I love my Power Glove." You could almost hear the (TM) on the end.

Call it naive, call it an early example of shameless commercial creep, but you've got to love this simplicity of pandering to the 80s child fan base: hitchhike your way across country on underage gambling revenue, and Super Mario Brothers 3 will bring your broken family back together!

And that's all I have to say about that. Back to WoW tomorrow.

December 4, 2007

Re-Write Your Guild Note or GMOTD in Color

My guild has just discovered the joy of colored text.

Turns out the WoW client allows for the use of color codes, which means that with a little tweaking, you can paint your guild note, guild information text, or guild message of the day in any color of the rainbow.

This hack lets you change the color of any of these fields for everyone in your guild to see. It uses hexadecimal color codes ("hex codes") to replace the default gray/green colors in the WoW interface.

To change the color of your guild note:

Open up the guild list and select your character's name. Then type:
/run GuildRosterSetPublicNote(GetGuildRosterSelection(),"\124cffXXXXXXYOURNOTE")

replacing YOURNOTE with the actual text of your guild note, and XXXXXX with the hex code of your choice.

To change the color of the guild MOTD:

Type /run GuildSetMOTD"/124cffXXXXXXGMOTDHERE")

replacing GMOTDHERE with the actual text of your message, and XXXXXX with the hex code of your choice.

Note that you'll still need the correct guild permissions to edit colors. That is, if your character doesn't have the power to edit the GMOTD, you won't be able to change its color.

All that code too complicated for your taste? No problem.

Vlacula's Colorizator page can do the work for you. Simply input the words of your choice and select a color, and it will automatically generate your text for you.

From there, just follow the directions to copy and paste into WoW.


Mages, We Have a Mascot

So I was talking with The Boy last week about upcoming changes to the frost tree in 2.3.2, trying to figure out if dropping clearcasting for icy veins will be worth it for our mages.

"I guess stacking the extra haste might be fine if you're already riding high on the mana hog," he eventually conceded.

"Right," said I. "That's what I've been saying."

"You realize now that there must be a mana hog, don't you?"

I did.

And so there was.