Thursday, September 25, 2008

Long absence

Hey guys, back again. I've spent the last week playing Spore, largely. Haven't logged into WoW the entire time. Still working in the story as well, though; had to research some more stuff for what I'm planning to write next, actually.

It should be up in a day or two. :)

I'd work more on it now, but I'm feeling restless, and need to get out of Spore, and go and solo some instances; especially considering that according to Rilgon's most recent post, I'm likely not going to be able to do that in any coherent manner once WoTLK hits. I'd get angry about it normally, but have been trying to meditate a little more recently, and so aside from said restlessness, am not really feeling as though I could be antagonised by anything right now.

Besides which, the devs will do whatever they want, in the end.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A reply to Bellwether

(The second half of this post was written while listening to A Dark Knight, the final track of The Dark Knight soundtrack. If you can't find it anywhere else, it's available here)

On having my usual look at Pike's blog, I came across her response to this post on another blog, written by Bellwether. Pike had responded to this post herself, but I thought I'd take a break from the story I'm currently working through, to reply to Bell also.

Bell, I empathise with how you're feeling. Probably less than a week ago, I wrote here that I was having even more extreme feelings myself in the same direction.

I want to offer you two theories. First, on why I think this is happening, and secondly, about the only thing which I feel we can do about it.

You sound like you've been following the beta changes to Hunters as well as, presumably, your own class. That being the case, I'm sure you'll probably be aware that my own native tree for the Hunter class, Survival, has undergone some fairly radical changes in the beta so far.

Expose Weakness, the DPS buff that used to be the reason why people were willing to put up with us in raids, has been made self-only. Trap Mastery, our new combined trap talent, no longer has a duration buff to Freezing Trap, and the other major nerf that happened for me a while back was to boar Charge, and now I hear tell that it is possible that in WoTLK, my boar may not be able to even get Charge at all. On top of all that, I don't really feel that some of the new damage talents (Lock and Load is the main one that comes to mind) really belong in the Survival tree at all.

I will admit that I don't know how Restoration for Druids is being changed or nerfed in the beta, and you didn't really mention that in your post. Can you maybe tell me a little about what is happening to it?

Something you said which was particularly revealing and insightful, I think, is that the current company (I won't call them Blizzard, because they're actually not, in the same sense we're used to thinking, and I'll explain that in a minute) are trying to create an entirely new game from the original game's foundations.

The reason why that struck me is because, in truth, they are doing exactly that. They've been doing it since the release of The Burning Crusade.

You see, the people who are working on World of Warcraft at the moment aren't the same people who originally created it. Mark Kern, the original Live Team Lead for the game, left around a week before the release of The Burning Crusade, and he took a number of the other people who were involved with WoW with him, to form a new company.

Bill Roper, a member of the now-defunct Blizzard North, the old, core group that was responsible for the creation of all of the company's most successful game titles, (Diablo, Diablo 2, Starcraft) also confessed that before its' initial release, Blizzard did not have excessively large scale expectations for WoW, and hoped the game would sell one million copies. (Source:-

This is important, because it is a marked contrast to the pervasive greed which now dictates the game's development strategy, a level of greed which I'm sure you yourself have noticed, as have I and I am sure, many other people.

It is also at this point in our story, (to quote V) that along comes a spider. In 2004, Blizzard hired Tom Chilton, the man who previously was primarily responsible for running Ultima Online into the ground, with the Age of Shadows expansion for that game.

It is worth noting that Age of Shadows fundamentally changed the core mechanics of Ultima Online in a very similar manner to that which TBC, and now more completely, WoTLK, are doing to WoW. Chilton has a recognisable modus operandi which he methodically follows, which ultimately leads to the destruction of the games he works on. I explained that in more depth in this post.

That, then, is essentially what has happened to World of Warcraft. The game's original developers have at least partially left, and the development of the game is now being (mis)managed by a group of individuals whose only real motivation is the maximisation of profit, rather than creative integrity, or creating a game which players might genuinely find enjoyable.

That's the first point; what has happened. Here's the second point; what we can do about it. The point of what I'm about to say here might not become immediately apparent, but bear with me.

I've had some praise for the rp story I've been doing about my Hunter, so far. I appreciate that, but the point is that there is an old saying in literary circles, to write from what you know. Metaphorically speaking, that is actually what I've been doing. I will leave it to you to figure out which parts are allegorical, and which are not, but in some cases, the truth of that might surprise you.

The reason why I mention this is because for a long time, like the character I'm writing about, I've been a reclusive individual with a traumatic past, and am in the process of attempting to achieve social integration with the rest of my species, or at least a small subset of it. My plan for this game (and others like it) has been to use it as a means by which I could develop social skills within a comparitively low-risk virtual environment.

Although I had a levelling guild for a brief period in 2007, for the most part, my 2+ years playing this game have been spent largely alone; for at least part of that time I had a number of abusive offline relationships which prevented me from focused participation in a raiding guild, or from forming any other strong social connections either within the game, or outside it.

However recently, that changed. I not only began to have more time, but I joined a raiding guild. This was in response to a belief that I had finally reached, that if I could form social relationships within this game, it was worth staying for me, but that the game in its' current form had degraded sufficiently that I was no longer motivated to play alone.

This finally brings me to my central point, and the reason why now, I actually am staying, regardless of whether the game's mechanics continue to be trashed in WoTLK or not; that I've come to realise that this game is ultimately only about one thing.


I watched a video on YouTube recently where a large group of people, including many from outside of the guild in question, came together in Nagrand on their server to mourn the death of a woman who was the co-founder of a guild, and who had essentially become a maternal figure for many of the people there. Pike also wrote a post about something similar which occurred on her own server.

If it hadn't been for this blog, and the forum, I would have left this game probably a year ago; maybe a bit less. There honestly wouldn't have been anything left for me if I'd tried to continue on my own.

Pike. Rilgon. Trackhoof. Efri. (who I've lost contact with, although I've had AIM open again recently; so if you're reading this, get on!) Zulazilu. Tamuka. Nagara. Great Green. Mama Druid. Maevet. Nomakk. Rakan. Alarand. Ashraf. Bandet. Brigwyn; and more, like Boozsha and Awlbiste, who are only just recently joining this list. Even Alumatine, despite the degree to which he has cut me apart verbally at times. I can still see his skill, even if I also see his arrogance.

These are the reasons why I stay; these people. I don't know how many of them you're in contact with, Bellwether; but they're good people, and there's more out there like them. They're worth staying for.

It's true that this game doesn't have much time left. Chilton will drive it into the ground as he did UO, because he's an incompetent, creatively barren, cynical, excessively capitalistic, greedy bastard, and that's all he knows how to do. Mythic will then probably be stupid and gullible enough to hire him after WoW crashes and burns, so he can then do the same to Warhammer. He will survive, no matter how many games he destroys, because he still knows what the suits like, and he knows how to give it to them; in their minds, the players be damned.

That isn't what's important. What is important is that we find those individuals within this virtual environment, and the virtual environments which follow, who are worth keeping.

Try to meet someone in this game who, when they die, if they do, it causes you to cry like a baby, simply because of how crucial they've become to your own existence, no matter how stupid that sounds in the context of a game.

That, however, is what WoW is about. It's the only thing it really can be.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Chapter 2

Chapter 2

I sat at the fire at the end of another long day, and looked across at Nariyya. I was enjoying my usual Earl Grey at this point, which she also seemed to have taken to. Although I took it black, I realised that it was my own, single concession towards the sort of opulence which many of the others now customarily lived in.

She'd been with me for three days now, and so far we hadn't done anything hugely consequential. Hunted a few minor animals here and there, while I watched her, figured out how much she already knew, and took her measure, generally.

I had to admit; she had promise. She reminded me of myself when my own tusks weren't quite as long, alhough she was a bit more steady and less headstrong than I had been, and I didn't consider that a bad thing. I decided to mention that, for I felt that it was important.

"You move more cautiously than I did at your age, Nariyya," I began. "That is a good thing. Impatience has nearly got me killed more times than I can count. Lunge forward, make the kill, be quick, and do not worry so much about attention to form, or your own safety. That is the message of the others in Shattrath. That it is not my message, is one of the major differences between me and them."

I paused for a moment, listening to the slow crackling of the fire between us. We'd had a little rain recently, and I figured some of the wood was still damp. I closed my eyes, taking in the residual scent of the rain and the smoke from the fire, the sound of the boar snuffling contentedly at my side, and the intermittent feel of the rough grass beneath me. These were all things which, no matter how many times I experienced them, I never got too used to them, and never took them for granted. Despite the occasional pain, I still considered life itself to be the greatest gift that I had been given.

I continued speaking.

"There are many, from both of the two worlds, who do not know what it means to be a Hunter, and who hate us from the position of their ignorance. Our brothers and sisters in Shattrath are frustrated and caused great pain by this, and they have tried to compensate for it by acting recklessly at times, in order to try to gain credibility from those who will never give it to us.

If you also, truly choose to make the bow your own weapon, you will have to take that burden on your own shoulders as well. You will not find a more lonely path in either of the two worlds. You will be derided, mocked, and insulted at times wherever you go, and although in time, you will eventually come to realise our worth, and power, most of those you meet will never understand.

I do not tell you this to dissuade you, but so that you may make the choice with your eyes open, in full knowledge of the truth. Doing what we do, can only be motivated by love of it. That alone is what will sustain you in the face of the mockery and ostracision which you will receive. As you have seen, I myself am not only an outcast among those of other paths, but even among many within our own order."

Nariyya had turned somewhat pale as I finished speaking. Although she had travelled a bit, I got the feeling that she hadn't really lived in solitude for a long period of time before. I suspected that she was taking in the full gravity of what I was saying, and that was appropriate. I gave her a few moments, and then picked up the bow she had taken off before sitting down.

"Is this yours?"

I studied her for several seconds, wondering if she understood the real meaning of what I was asking her. Then her jaw set, she looked me squarely in the eye, and I realised that she did.

"It is."

"Then get some sleep." I grinned at her, much less serious now. "We'll be going somewhere more interesting in the morning."

Chapter 3

I woke suddenly, covered in sweat, my breath coming in great, shuddering gasps.

We were running forward, always onward, the sounds of Human screaming a constant echo in our ears, fires on both sides of us, and the ground reduced to featureless mud beneath our feet. Farmland, farmhouses, all the Human buildings; we smashed through them, burned them, always seeking the families within, to try and end our mad, desperate hunger. A hunger that could not be ended.

The hunger to kill.

Human men, often smaller than the smallest of us, tried frantically to defend their wives and children. Most barely lasted seconds before being overwhelmed by us, and they never died cleanly. They were always smashed, torn, burned to the point where nobody could have known afterwards that they had once been Humans.

Red blood, black blood, theirs, ours, covered us. We waded through it, it washed over us when we killed. We didn't know which, and we didn't care. We only sought one thing, and we found it. Again and again, times beyond number, we found it.

When I woke, when I remembered, in the few seconds when I could see both of my lives, contrasted, laid side by side, it was always the same. For a moment I would struggle to shut it out; I couldn't bear it, but something forced me to remember, to look.

"Spirits, help us...

What have we done?"

I struggled with my body, now semi-aware of where I was, telling myself to stop. "Must heard...don't know who could come. It's only a dream. Only...a dream!"

"What is wrong?" Nariyya had heard me, and stood at the entrance of my tent. Her voice helped bring me out of it.

"You shouldn't...see me like this," I managed to growl out between convulsions. She didn't move, but her face registered concern.

I couldn't answer her for several more moments, as I was still fighting to bring my body back under control. The customary, agonising fire in my stomach was there, caused by the convulsions and the involuntary storm through my nerves.

I grit my teeth.

"It is...a memories..."

I answered her haltingly, still shaking.

"Memories of...the Blood."

Although Nariyya was young, she'd obviously read some history, because all of the colour drained from her face, and her eyes widened in barely comprehending horror as she realised what I meant. Her next words were a whisper, and she slowly began backing away.

"You can't mean..."


I closed my eyes, trying to get the shaking to slow down more.

"They gave my parents. They gave all of us. I was...six years old."

My boar then pushed past Nariyya and came into the tent, putting his snout against my face. He had, of course, seen me in this state many times over the years, and he knew that simply his presence was the main thing I needed. As usual, with him there, I was gradually able to regain control, though I gripped his mane tightly for another several seconds.

"It sent us mad, Nariyya," I was speaking more evenly now. "The Humans and your people saw it, saw what we did to them because of it, but they didn't *know*. They weren't us, and they didn't feel it. It was something that the mortal races were never meant to be exposed to. It very nearly destroyed us."

The boar grunted, reminding me that he was there. I ran a hand through his fur, and continued.

"For me, the memories are largely unconscious, and only come when I am asleep. It is like that for most; our minds cannot tolerate consciously remembering. There was only one of us who could still control himself while under the influence of the Blood, although even as strong as he was, for him the control was only partial. He died in order to free the rest of us."

I could see that Nariyya knew who I was referring to. I spoke again, briefly.

"Although it is true that we naturally love to fight, and still have a bloodlust of our own, we can usually control that. The demons used...who we are...against us.

The Blood took our nature and distorted it; sent us berserk, and kept us in a stronger version of that state, constantly, for years. While it affected us, the only thing we wanted to do was kill."

"Will all right now?" Nariyya asked me.

"Yes," I answered her. "Until tomorrow night, at least. There will never be absolution for me, Nariyya. Not for any of us. Grom was able to free us, but even he could not change the past. What is done, is done. Some of the Humans still consider us monsters, and have spat on me. Our Warchief told us that the only way any of us could cope with it was to realise that although we can't change the past, the one thing we can still change is the future. I hold to that, and more than anything else, it is the reason why now I never take life unless it is necessary."

She nodded, and went back to her own tent, as it was still the middle of the night. The boar moved closer to me, and I lay back down next to him, as I was gradually taken by a few hours of what was now, a mercifully dreamless sleep.

Monday, September 15, 2008

On the story

More of the story in my last post is coming. I've already started the second piece, but now need sleep, so will complete it when I wake. ;-)

I spent the day today thinking about where I was going to take it, and I think I've now got more of an idea, at least for the next piece. I'd been planning on probably continuing it anyway, but the feedback simply confirmed it. ;-)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Some more fiction

I recently read Trackhoof's piece, written from his character's perspective, about why he was leaving the game. I also read some recent WoW fiction from Bandet, which I thought was good. So that actually inspired me to write something else of my own, loosely based around an email exchange I've had with Negara, and some forum adventures as well.

I was initially a little ambivalent about posting it here, since like a lot of what I write, it's probably controversial, and stands a fairly good chance of offending at least one person, and probably several. My rank on technorati has fallen by 70,000 odd in the last two days...but in the end, that's fine. One of the things what I'm posting is actually about, is that there's always been a difference between being me, and being popular.


The pig and I had just finished eating, not long before, when I heard her. I got up, and approached warily.

This was a surprise. Night Elf. I could tell from the features...and the scent. Her luminous eyes were almost a light source of their own, although the rest of her was partly hidden among a few thin trees.

I briefly wondered how long she'd actually been here. The Kel'dorei were very gifted at avoiding being seen, but this one appeared somewhat young.

"You're a fair way from home, little Elf," I told her. "What's your business out here?"

"Actually, I came looking for you," she answered me. She was a little startled to see the pig materialise next to me, as well. I guessed he could be intimidating. As well as the black colour, he was almost as long as she was tall, and about a quarter of her own height.

"Oh?" I kept my voice even, although I didn't usually get visitors.

"I've heard two different sets of rumours about you," she went on. "According to one, although you haven't accomplished anything which is usually renowned among our kind, it is possible that I could still learn something from you."

"And the other?" I asked. I felt I was being tested.

"There is one Orc in particular, a leader among the Rogues' guild, who tells everyone he meets that you are a fool, filled with false arrogance and delusion. That despite your claims to the contrary, you know nothing whatsoever of the Hunt, and that your words are as weak and empty as the wind against the grass."

My facial expression did not change. Evidently the Elf had expected me to be angry at this, for she then began to appear awkward. I said nothing, and went back to the fire. The Elf just stood there for a few minutes, uncertain of what to say or do next. She shifted her feet...and although my back was to her at the time, I felt her lower her eyes.

I sprang.

I'd learned how to fall so that most of my weight hit the ground, and I was over her at a 45 degree angle, as I knew I would have crushed her otherwise. Seeing fear and surprise in her eyes, my tusks went to her throat, drawing but a single drop of blood before I caught myself, moving back slowly and letting the bloodlust subside. I could have killed her for what she had said, but my parents, and my Warchief, had both taught me not to act blindly on those sorts of emotions. I also realised that it was not her, in truth, who had said it at all, but the Rogue she had mentioned.

After holding her there for a moment, I let her up, using my legs and one arm to get back up myself, while holding my eyes on her, and holding the other arm across my chest, in case she decided to try and use the knife I had seen materialise a few seconds earlier. She had debated, like me, and had apparently decided against it, but I wasn't taking any chances.

She surprised me again by then forcefully side kicking me in an ankle, causing me to fall. I rolled, dragging her down with me, and then lifting her head up and bringing the side of it down against the ground, hard.

I pinned her again, and when her eyes cleared, spoke in a furious whisper, my eyes level with hers. The basilisk I'd had earlier was not good eating, and I knew it would smell as foul on my breath as it had tasted. Sure enough, she flinched.

"This is what I can teach you. I know of the people you speak of. They at times go to dangerous places, yes; but with healers and mages beside them, warriors in thick plate in front of them, and enough others in general to hold their hand and make sure it's *safe*."

My lower lip curled.

"They also eat three square, even meals a day, with wine, cream, and gravy, and every night they sleep in the same soft, clean, perfumed beds that they will die in, behind thick stone walls, that yet more of those men in plate stand on top of."

My next words to her were a snarl.

"I live out here."

Her expression changed, and after studying her for another few moments, I felt that she understood. We again got up, and this time I knew that was over. She hadn't come out here to kill me; somehow I was aware of that. The pig knew it, too; he would have been on top of her otherwise. He actually loved fresh Elf meat, having developed a taste for it during our visits to Ashenvale, but he wouldn't attack her unless I asked.

I gestured towards the fire, and she sat down, pulling out some tea, as I did also.

"You can go and see the others," I continued. "They have sets of antlers on their walls. Their weapons are also bright, and shining, and often set on the wall as well, as are the various trophies, accolades, and awards they have received from all over both of the two worlds."

"Out here, however, there's only one kind of prize that matters."

I gestured to a large nightsaber that was asleep just outside the ring of the fire. "When you're on the ground, with the animal beside you your only ally for a hundred miles, one of those on top of you, and you can tell it hasn't eaten in close to a week...if you're still breathing two hours later, you've won it."

She looked shocked. "You let them sleep that close to you? Aren't you afraid they'll..." she trailed off.

I gave her an Orcish grin. "I hope they try. I can always use the practice. However..."

I trailed off and pointed to a cat carcass that was hanging from a nearby tree, that the Elf apparently hadn't previously noticed. There was a long cut almost down the length of it, and blood had been dripping from it to the ground. It was apparently also only then that the Elf noticed the smell. Flies had also already started to gather to it.

"That was the patriarch of the local pack. I made sure of that. The rest of them know what that means."

I went quiet after that for a bit, and we drank some more tea. After a few moments, I had a sudden flash of memory, and realised I'd seen this Elf before.

"I've actually seen you before, during my last resupply in Shattrath," I said to her. "You were talking to the leader of the Hunters' Guild there."

"Yes, that's right," she answered me. "I saw you there in passing as well. That was when I actually first heard of you. I noticed you didn't speak with the others, and asked them about you. To a man, they told me that you were insane, and to have nothing to do with you, but when you were mentioned, I noticed the expression on the face of the Elf I'd been speaking to. It was one of exasperation, and I could be wrong, but I think a very small amount of regret. I admit it made me even more curious."

I grinned at her. "They're probably right, you know. I'm a bad influence. You should probably go back to them. Being socially acceptable is easier, psychologically...or so I'm told."

She shrugged. "I still could go back. Possibly will, at some point, in fact. I wanted to see both sides."

I nodded.

"So you'll teach me?" She asked.

I let out a bitter laugh. "Teach you what? I don't know a damn thing, remember?"

She looked at the ground, embarassed. I silently cursed my own abrasiveness, and tried again.

"I'll tell you what. Stay with me for a couple of weeks. If you survive that, whether or not you've learned anything will be your own conclusion."

She smiled.

"So what's your name?" I asked her.

"Nariyya," she answered. "And yours?"

"I assumed you already knew," I answered her. "Mirshalak."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The spirit of the time.

Although, no, I've resolved that I'm not doing this myself, the reason why I post this is because I honestly feel that in a collective sense, this is pretty close to where many of us are at with WoW, now. To me, the above video sums up the attitude I've been seeing among the playerbase recently pretty well.

Trackhoof left again last month, for what I now suspect will be the last time. I still remember when Howitzer went. I believe he knew what was coming.

I was on the forum earlier today, and saw that Activision (no, I'm not going to call them Blizzard, because they aren't) had allowed PvE to PvP server transfers. As a single isolated incident, most people would probably say, "so what?" Maybe as one isolated case, they'd even be right. However, consider this.

In The Matrix, Morpheus tells Neo that as a virtual environment, the Matrix is based on rules. So it has been with WoW.

Freezing Trap, as one example, exists within an extremely intricate web of interdependency. It relies on mobs being flagged as belonging to one of a certain group of classes in order to work. In turn, it is in the Frost elemental school, and also relies on Spell Hit in order to determine whether it is resisted or not. The cooldown time shows signs of having initially been extremely carefully thought out and refined, so that you have a new trap when you really need it, particularly if you spec Resourcefulness, without making it short enough that trap deployment feels effortless.

My point is that, while being a system that relies on rules, WoW is now at a point where probably 80% of said rules either have been broken, or are in the process of being broken.

* Class balance is now largely non-existent.
* Class diversity has been beaten senseless, but somehow to some degree still manages to exist, despite Chilton's ongoing efforts to finally annihilate it entirely.

* Instances in TBC are less carefully designed, and WoTLK will surely follow the trend. Pairs or groups of mobs are hard linked together, rather than proximity linked, which means that attempting to pull a single one unavoidably pulls all of them, regardless of how much space might be between them. In addition, Blizzard have explicitly stated that they are trying to make classes completely interchangeable, eventually removing any class uniqueness more or less entirely.

* The old gear colour coding system has been disregarded more or less entirely.

* The old PvP system, which with the ranks, was designed to (and did) give players legitimate motivation to play in the battlegrounds was removed. Battlegrounds are seen largely as farming venues, now; individuals like myself who still go into them to enjoy them are scorned.

* Survival has been severely weakened, with Expose Weakness being made self-only and the Freeze Trap duration boost having been removed from Clever Traps. In addition, even some of the new abilities we were going to get have been nerfed, while the Rogue is given whatever the class is perceived to need, presumably in order to satisfy the all-important Asian PvP demographic.

I'm staying for Wrath of the Lich King, but I don't fool myself. In doing so, I'm going to be here after the end. I'm one of the people who's going to still be here after anyone with any sanity will have left. The cinematic for me actually did have a funerary air about it; reminded me of the last scenes of First Contact, when I realised I was looking at the end of Star Trek.

I remember that one of the last people seen alive on board the Titanic was Benjamin Guggenheim, shown in the film, who said that he and his friends were dressed in their best and were determined to go down like Englishmen. My attitude towards WoW now is very similar.

When I can farm Mageweave in the Sunken Temple for 3 hours, still reach a flow state, and still go back for another half hour because of the degree to which I'm actually enjoying it, I know there's something still left. I've said it before, but I have truly loved this game, more than most other things I've ever done. Rakan said that he thought it was just that I didn't have anything else to do, but I honestly don't agree. I could find something, if I really wanted to.

Even more, there is this blog, which has meant more to me than smarter, more worldly, and less naive people than me would probably be willing to admit. I don't think I'm going to want to give you people up even after WoW really is finished. Maybe if we all end up migrating to WAR eventually, we can blog about that as well.

Although we're coming up to the end, I feel, in earnest now, I'm still going down with the ship.

Maintaining a positive WoW experience

Martyrmaul mentioned in the comments of my last post that he wanted to maybe come back to WoW, but also implied that he was worried that his experience wouldn't be more positive than it was last time. He also mentioned dislike of the Arena, which is common.

With that in mind, I decided to offer some suggestions on how to keep this game worth playing. The usual disclaimers apply; this is only my experience, I'm not God, your mileage may vary, blah blah blah. ;-)

Tip 1: RP servers are the best kind.

Although this isn't as true as it used to be, it's still largely true that preferably RP, but also to a lesser extent Normal servers, are where you've got the most chance of finding relatively stable adults to play this game with. Comparitively speaking, PvP servers are war zones, and just like such places in real life, tend to attract comparitively more aggressive, anarchic, violent, and juvenile people.

Don't get me wrong, here. WoW is the first game I've played where I've learned to genuinely love PvP. However, for the most part, that's battleground PvP. You can still have as much of that as you want on an RP or Normal server, whereas about the only three things you'll miss by not rolling PvP are, a) being spammed with duel requests by a Rogue ten levels above you as soon as you start a new toon, b) being serially drive-by speed ganked by Rogues while you're trying to quest, and c) hearing some 14 year old announce how potent his current stash of marijuana is on General Chat.

Tip 2: Don't roll Oceanic.

This is another one in the category of, "mistakes I've made, so you don't have to." I love my country; I just don't, in all honesty, love most of the people living here. ;-) Australians, I'm sorry to say, have a marked tendency to be aggressive, mind-bogglingly immature, excessively jocular people.

That's not to say that US servers don't have idiots, but it has overwhelmingly been my experience that on US servers, the idiot quotient is visibly lower, even on PvP servers. Also, although there are some notable, positive exceptions, people on US servers have tended to be radically more helpful, generous, and otherwise companionable, and I also remember a surprisingly insightful and genuinely enjoyable conversation I had on Demon Soul once, in Barrens General of all places. Although I've got a couple of friends on Thaurissan, in the public channels on Oceanic servers, intelligent conversation quite simply does not happen.

Aside from the above, PvE progression has a tendency to be poor, (which I normally wouldn't care about, except it makes buying high level enchants, crafteds, and gems a lot more difficult) and for those who enjoy playing the Alliance, at least a few of the servers are fairly heavily Horde-dominated as well. Avoidance, and rolling on the US servers, is strongly advised.

Tip 3: Define your own goals.

The attitude expressed on the forums is, "Raid, Arena, or die." Truthfully however, if you don't want to, there's no reason to be doing either of those two things. You can run Heroics and battlegrounds, and still get perfectly good loot from there, in addition to having a thoroughly enjoyable experience in many cases.

In addition, a strategy I developed not long ago was to look at the possible crafted items from a few of the professions now, and solo various old instances for the money to buy them, which, while intended for lower level groups, provide a good challenge to a single player at the cap. In this way, you're seeing content which may be unfamiliar if you're a newer player, you're getting a level of challenge which will more then keep you on your toes in at least some places, and you're also actually getting relevant loot in the end through the accumulation of money. Farming some of the old instances can be extremely lucrative, as well as an enjoyable activity, as I have shown.

Another mini-game within WoW can be speculation on the Auction House. Download Auctioneer if you're so inclined, and go and sit on the forums of that addon's site. You can soak up loads of knowledge about the in-game economy from people who proverbially speaking have very good lobes for business, many of whom work on Wall Street as their day job.

Build an army of servitor alts which you can use for gathering from all over the virtual environment; you'll end up making buckets of money, and it will keep you occupied for a long while. The other added bonus here is, if you think you're burnt out on this game already, believe me when I say it gets better if you've got an appropriate amount of coinage. You could then buy an epic flying mount, or offer loans to people who want to buy their own, with interest. ;-)

The Arena and raids are what the proverbial cool kids do. You don't have to be one of them in order to have fun, though, and it's very possible that you'll actually have more fun if you're not.

Tip 4: Stay off the treadmill.

I've seen a lot of people in this game who treat it as a race. The moment a new expansion comes out, they have to be the first to reach the new cap, and to do it in under two weeks. Then they have to have the "world first kill," of whichever new primary raid boss is in existence. They have to be the first to get the new tier set of armor, etc etc etc.

These same people are the ones who write "I quit," posts in the General forum less than a month later. They tear through content as fast as they possibly can, in truth seeing hardly any of it, get bitter and bored, and hit burnout.

It took me more than a year to reach 70 with this Hunter, and I can truthfully say that if I could do it all over again, I'd probably take close to twice as long. This is a huge game. There is a lot to see, and a lot to do, and you won't experience it by doing by the bare minimum necessary to level up.

Roll a Protection Paladin/Warrior, Survival Hunter, or Druid.
Do all the quests. I did every last one in Zangarmarsh; I love that place.
Be happy with one level a day, or even one every few days.
Follow every path that appears in front of you, just to see where it goes.
Give yourself a good amount of time in the battlegrounds at the end of every bracket. Explore every nook and cranny you feel like in every zone you go into.
Smell the roses.
Have a place in the game where you do the virtual equivalent of going jogging. (Although real exercise is more important, of course) For me that was the Southern Gold Road at 4 in the morning, just listening to the night sounds; or Thousand Needles at dawn.

WoW is a true virtual world. Most are so worried about their e-peen that they never give themselves the opportunity to see it as such. That leads me to my next point.

Tip 5: Do not EVER let your game be about e-peen.

If this game ever becomes a source of self-esteem or ego gratification for you, it's likely time to stop playing. There are far too many people in this game who have as their sole motivation, a burning, never-fulfilled need to view themselves as superior to as many other people playing as possible, and they will invent whatever arbitrary, totally subjective criteria that they can for that purpose. Elitism is a more chronic problem in World of Warcraft than any other online game I've ever seen.

Don't be an elitist, and don't ever make a need to keep up with the Jones' a reason for updating your gear. That way leads to bitterness, insecurity, unhappiness, and burnout. Being elitist also doesn't improve the experience for your fellow players, either, and has a tendency to encourage them to dislike you; you only need to visit the official Hunter forum to learn that. There's more elitism there than in any of the other class forums associated with this game.

If you think you're progressing in terms of developing your abilities, a certain quiet sense of accomplishment is fine, but don't go overboard. The primary thing to keep in mind with regards to elitism is that no matter how good you think you are, in 99% of cases, there's always a bigger fish.

This is something I need to remember more myself, but in reality, the only person we should ever be competing with in this game is ourselves.

Tip 6: Find the class and spec that is in tune with who you really are.

I begin to suspect that upwards of 90% of people that I come across in this game aren't truly playing the right class for them, but ended up in the wrong one due to any number of extenuating circumstances, (peer pressure among them) and although they're not really happy, just struggle along.

Don't do this. If you want to be able to continue enjoying WoW for a long time, it's vitally important that you ask yourself Mr. T's question, "What's your game?" and then make sure you find out. Try and get one of every class in the game up to level 30 or so, maybe level 40. Some of them you'll probably hate right from the start, and be able to tell that they're not for you, and that's fine. However, with some of them, it takes time for the class to really grow into its' own. The Hunter doesn't get Feign Death until 30, and Misdirection until 70, and more than anything else, those two abilities are really our bread and butter.

Don't listen to the flavour of the month spec monoculture that is upheld in the various class forums, either. The Hunter's current dominant spec is Beast Mastery, and pre-TBC, it was Marksmanship.

Back then, Survival had literally the same degree of stigma attached to it as homosexuality used to. Threads written by people wanting to know about Surv truthfully sounded like the halting, scared confessions of the bi-curious. Before The Burning Crusade, speccing Survival simply was not done, and woe betide you if you did it and made it known. In addition to the vitriol that used to be heaped upon me was an element of genuine amazement, that anyone could be brazen enough to violate such a fundamental taboo of civilised Hunter society. BM and Marks were the only two trees anyone spoke of; Survival wasn't mentioned even in whispers. Before the change to Expose Weakness in patch 2.1, it was as though it literally did not exist.

Then, after patch 2.1, everything changed. Suddenly, Survival was what the cool kids were doing. It still wasn't the dominant tree, but it started being seen in the rebel offspec position, similar to how BM was percieved pre-TBC. Alumatine materialised seemingly out of nowhere, despite claiming he'd been around since 2005. Bandet got Gladiator with it in season 2, and in general, people started realising the truth of what I'd been trying to say all along. Even history was rewritten, and I started seeing claims that using hybrid Marks/Surv had been entirely respectable pre-TBC, when I had the psychological scars to prove otherwise. Survival was finally no longer considered exclusively the talent spec of Joseph Merrick.

The point is, if you want a Destruction Warlock, a Balance Druid, a Ret Paladin, an Arcane Mage with Blacksmithing, or a Combat Dagger Rogue with Herbalism and Alchemy, go ahead and make one. It's your character, it's your $15, and it's going to be your enjoyment alone which decides if you keep paying said $15 and playing. If you're not enjoying your current class and spec, dump them, and find a combination that you do.

Tip 7: There's no school like the old school.

Although a lot of the TBC content is enjoyable, preference is to be given to pre-TBC wherever possible. It's better designed, more detailed, bigger, (in terms of the instances) more epic, was visibly designed by people who actually cared about what they were doing, and just overall more fun. Apologies to the company, but as far as I'm concerned, it's a fact.

The original Blizzard North are not the people still working on this game for the most part, and it shows. The most entertainment you will get from this game, therefore, is pre-60, while you're still doing content that they did produce. Realise that, and if you're going to do 5 mans or raids, opt for the old stuff first, and enjoy it for as long as you can before moving to the new material.

That's not to say that enjoyment can't be had in Outland; it definitely can. However, the visibility of the degree of difference in overall quality between one side of the Dark Portal and the other can be jarring. I considered pre-TBC 10 out of 10. TBC from me, gets an 8.

Tip 8: If you're going to guild, make sure it's with like-minded people.

If you don't want to be one of the e-peen set, then it follows that you don't want to guild with them either. There sadly are large numbers of guilds populated by jerks, so make sure yours isn't before you join them. Restrictions on talent spec in particular for the most part should not be accepted.

Tip 9: If you're going to pug, develop spider sense.

What I mean by this is, when you get into a pickup group, you'll often see warning signs being displayed in the early stages of a run by individuals who are likely to cause problems. If you can learn to identify these, they can give you the opportunity to spare yourself some headaches, and simply find another group.

Acronyms and mangled speech ("plz," "plox," "lol," "QQ moar,") are generally the single best indication that the person using them is juvenile. (At least mentally, if not always chronologically) Being asked for a run through of practically anything is also almost a guarantee that the person asking you is at least under 18, and usually under 15. Realise that if you say yes to such a request, what you're essentially doing is volunteering to engage in unpaid babysitting.

Someone who seems to be paying excessive attention to inspecting or looking up the Armory profiles of others usually isn't a person you want to associate with, either. If someone is posting LFG in Trade, and on messaging them, I get asked to wait while they check my Armory profile to make sure I'm elite enough for them, my immediate response is to tell them not to bother.

Also be very wary in 5 mans of individuals who can't control threat appropriately, since they will almost certainly cause repeated wipes. This is more common in lower level instances, but if you start to notice a pattern developing, be prepared to leave the group.

Along the same lines, don't tolerate hyperactive tanking. If you have a tank (Paladins tend to primarily be guilty of this) who isn't willing to wait for you or the healer to regain mana after each pull if needed, and who seems to want to skip adds (in the Coilfang instances, especially) and charge ahead generally, that is a warning sign to either leave the group, or prepare for a large repair bill due to repeated wipes.

That's pretty much it, that I can think of. I'm sure there are more, but those are the main ways that I've managed to stick with the game for as long as I have, when other people are quitting all around me all the time. Probably the single biggest thing to remember is every so often, to simply take a week off and go outside. ;-) If you do that, the game will be a lot more fun again when you come back.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

More gold farming suggestions

Got some ideas for gold farming, based on a couple things I've been doing over the last few days. I'm wanting to eventually resocket a lot of my gear with spinels if possible, and they're usually 150-200g uncut, or 250g cut; so I'm having to make a lot of money to do it. So, here are some destinations to maybe check out.

These aren't daily replacements; they're things that you can go and do after dailies for even more money, for whatever you might need it. For me anyway, they're a lot less boring than primal farming, too.

Tyr's Hand, Eastern Plaguelands.

This is a small village south of Light's Hope Chapel, which has a large number of Scarlet Crusade human mobs in it.

A lot of people who played this game pre-TBC will probably know about this place, but new people might not. The main point of this area is Runecloth, which peaks at around 4g per stack on my server. A single lap of the town can net 5-6 stacks, but in addition, you'll also probably get 5-10 greens, and a lot of grey stuff which sells for 1-2g apiece as well. The single best thing about this place is that there's a mailbox at Light's Hope. This means that you can fill your bags, do a drop off at the mailbox, and then go back and farm again. My usual quota here is 10 stacks per day, or two laps, which gives me 40g, plus another 20-30g in greys and greens. The best part is that there aren't usually a lot of other people out there, which means you'll often get the place more or less to yourself.

Sunken Temple, Swamps of Sorrows.

This place is particularly well accessible, since not only is it on the way back from Kara, but you can also buy portals straight there. The point of this place is Mageweave Cloth, which sells for 5-6g per stack of 20 on my server. The trolls here have around a 28% chance to drop it. There are places where the rate is higher, yes, but such places generally aren't in instances, and also aren't normally this close to a portal destination or mailbox, which means that although the droprate is lower, you can compensate by being able to do runs more quickly.

As you go into the instance, take the left side passage, and go up the stairs until you come to the circular area called the Halls of the Cursed. Do a full lap of that, and it should give you anywhere up to 5 stacks, depending. If the place has respawned by the time you've done one full lap, go around again. After doing the second lap, reset, rinse, and repeat. The Stonard mailbox isn't a totally unbearable distance away, either.

You can do that up to six times an hour, from memory, and if you get 5 stacks each time, that works out at up to 180g an hour, which isn't too bad. That also doesn't count greens, which can be worth 1-2g each. The grey stuff from there generally isn't worth much, however. Throwing it out manually can also be a pain, but I found an old addon called DropJunk. Once you've loaded that, all you have to do is type /dj drop, and it deletes everything grey in your inventory. You might not want to use that after a Scholo run, however. ;-)

People generally hate ST, and so avoid going there, (and truthfully it genuinely is very painful to do a full clear) but simply doing laps of the Halls of the Cursed isn't too bad. Given that Mageweave tends to be hard to find in large quantities, it would be possible for you to set up a nice little monopoly on it on your server. ;-)

The Scholomance.

I've mentioned this before, probably too much, but it's worth mentioning again. A good trash run up to the Great Ossuary will get you up to three Dark Runes, and in addition to being great raid consumables for you, they sell for anywhere between 15 and 45g on my server, depending on what the market's doing. A typical run will also net 5 stacks of Runecloth, for another 20g, some greens, maybe one or two blues, and a generous amount of the more lucrative grey trash I've seen in the game, as well.

Scholo's single major drawback is its' distance from a mailbox, however a four node multiboxing Warlock could take care of that problem. Fill a Warlock's bags, and have that 'lock hearth back to Shat, sell the junk, mail the cloth/greens/blues to your bank alt, and then use the other three to summon that one back. You could repeat that process until the inventory of all four Warlocks is empty again.

East edge of Bone Wastes, Terokkar Forest.

The thing to get here is Warped Flesh from the Warp Stalkers, which cooks into Warp Burgers, one of the Agility buff foods for Hunters and Rogues. I've seen raw Warped Flesh go for 20g per stack of 20 on my server before, and there's usually a lot of Warp Stalkers in that area, as well. You can also find more of them north of Tuurem in Terokkar, as well.

Some other addons which I've found to be good for farming/selling are:-

* Igor's Mass Auction for TBC. This wonderful addon gives you 18 slots for putting large amounts of product on the Auction House at once, and if you specify a universal price for a given stack size of items, it will also automatically calculate the cost of a smaller one. Say, for example, you set the price of Copper Bars at 1g per stack of 20, if you then put a stack of only 5 in one of the slots, it would price it at 25 silver.

* Quicksplit 2. Another miracle of automation, this addon splits stacks of items into the size you specify. With a stack of 20 Mageweave, I can hold down shift and left click, and instead of getting the usual interface, type in the number 2, then hit the multiple stack button, and get 10 stacks of 2 pieces each automagically, rather than having to do that manually and move closer to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. ;-) Check the comments section, as they include some stuff to copy and paste into the lua file in order to squash a few minor bugs, but it's really not difficult to do.

* ArkInventory.

This is probably the single most amazing addon I've found for WoW so far. It lets you sort your inventory into visual categories in a single inventory window, and you can write textual search rules so it knows which items to put in which categories. That means I can have cloth, quest items, greens, blues, soulbound stuff, and so on, each sorted into an individually spaced category. It is infinitely easier on the eyes and brain than simply having everything in a random jumbled mess, and it means I can find whatever I need in a few seconds. If you don't have this already, I strongly recommend it. If you need example search rules to get you going, let me know and I'll share some of mine. It takes up a bit more memory perhaps than most addons, (around 2 mb) but I feel that for what it does, it's worth it.

* Better Inbox.

I suspect that there are more elaborate mailbox addons in existence, but this one is simple and does what I at least need. If I get a lot of mail to my bank alt, what this does is let me open all of it at once while putting the items in my inventory, and if there's gold attached to any of the mail, it will display a sum total of all of it at the top of the mail window.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

WTF, are you Survival?

I just discovered Kordwar's blog. If any of the rest of you don't know about it, you can also find it at It seems he only started last month, so I figured he could maybe use a little exposure. :)

If you haven't yet, though, go and check it out. :)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Why low threat matters.

I mentioned in my last post, how, despite being a lovely weapon, my shiny new S2 crossbow was generating too much threat for me to be able to solo Gargolmar and his adds in Ramparts successfully. I've also actually started to have more threat problems while farming in Quel'Danas since trading in Valanos' Longbow, as well.

However, last night while trying to come up with a solution, I'm pretty sure I came up with an answer. I haven't been able to test this too extensively yet this morning, but my initial results are encouraging; and I'm going to play with some numbers in a moment to try and bear it out.

It may initially seem like a bit of a crazy thing to do, but this morning, since I had the honour and marks spare, I went and picked up the High Warlord's Recurve in Orgrimmar. Why would I do this, I hear you ask? I'll explain.

For this example, I'm going to use a mob we're no doubt all intimately familiar with, the Wretched Fiend of Quel'Danas.

Premise 1:- This adorable creature has 5,400 hit points.
Premise 2:- Each Immolation Trap I cast, lasts 15 seconds, which is the same duration as Serpent Sting.

Premise 3:- Dividing 5,400 by 15, to give us the total amount of DPS needed to kill this mob within 15 seconds, gives us 360. I'm going to take a wild stab in the dark here, and assume that this fact is the specific reason why Blizzard chose to give this mob precisely this amount of health.

Premise 4:- Serpent Sting rank 10 does 660 + 1714 (my RAP) * 0.1 = 831. Immolation Trap Rank 6 does 1156 damage without Clever Traps, or 1329 damage with. Adding these two together, we get 2160. 2160 / 14 gives us 154, which is the effective DPS of these two spells combined. Without Clever Traps, (for anyone non-Survival) that's 1987 / 14 = 141 DPS.

Premise 5:- My Wind Serpent's base DPS is 116. This isn't going to include numbers for Lightning Breath, since I'd need to go back into the game to get my pet's AP, and for the sake of what I'm trying to show here, it doesn't really matter too much anywayz. 360 (our base DPS needed to kill this mob in 15 seconds) - 141 (our non-Clever Traps dot number) = 219. 219 - 116 (my pet's base non-cit DPS) = 103. For Clever Traps, 360 - 154 = 206. 206 - 116 = 90.

These two numbers, 103 without Clever Traps, or 90 with, represent the total personal DPS that as a Hunter, we need to do to kill a Wretched Fiend in 15 seconds, (our dot duration) when taking the above two damage sources into account. To really put that into perspective, 90 personal DPS should be well within a Hunter's grasp at level 40-45!

Here's why this matters. A Wind Serpent at 70 with Rank 8 Growl, can generate 250 TPS. (Source here) If after trapping and pet damage, the most personal DPS we need to kill non-elite mobs in 15 seconds is on the order of 90-100, that effectively means that our pets can hold aggro equivalent to more than twice the total DPS needed to kill the mob. Yet raiders still cry that pets don't generate enough threat.

My paperdoll DPS with the High Warlord's Recurve, while using my usual Warden's Arrows, is 247.6. As you can see, my base, non-crit DPS, even with a weapon with a pre-requisite of level 60, is nearly three times that needed, barring armor, to kill a Wretched Fiend in 15 seconds. Hence, I could use a level 45 weapon and still do enough damage with the other two sources to kill these mobs within the alloted time.

"But Mirsh," I can hear you saying. "I can just blast these with my (random purple raiding bazooka of doom) and they die in two seconds flat. Who cares?"

Here's why I care. Ever had 4-5 of these things on you at once? I have, and I'm telling you, even at near 10k health, it ain't a picnic. I've died because of it on occasion. However, with Readiness and a Carrion Bird, (if you're good, you'll still be able to do it with a Wind Serpent) if I'm not doing more than 250 personal DPS, here's what I can do if I get 4-5 of these things on me at once.

1) Drop a Frost Trap under the crowd.
2) Put Mend Pet up. (keep it up at all times)
3) Hit the dirt with Feign Death.
4) Hit Readiness.
5) Drop an Immolation Trap at the feet of one mob.
6) Jump back once, and apply Serpent Sting.
7) Use Auto Shot to quickly but calmly kill the first mob.
8) Drink a health pot if need be, rinse, and repeat.

Given how long the trap cooldown is, I might not be able to drop a trap for each mob. If I can't, I'll keep Serpent up anyway, and do a slow, measured 1:1 rotation, while keeping an eye firmly on my damage meter, and applying Disengage if needed, or Feign again when it's back up.

Here's the single main point of this post; if you don't get anything else from it, get this. It isn't that pets don't build enough threat, when soloing. It's that Hunters are generating too much.

Raiders are used to the idea of their encounters being a DPS race. In such an encounter, you want every last bit of DPS that you can get, right? Sure. However, in such a scenario, you've not only got a human tank in front of you with a potentially much higher max TPS, but you've also hopefully MDed onto him in order to give yourself a higher ceiling. You can still MD onto a pet, sure; but if you get a group of mobs on you, you're not going to be able to MD for every one.

In other words, when you're soloing and you get hit by a group, you actually want the opposite to the raid scenario. You want to dot, and hug the 15 second personal DPS requirement after your pet and trapping, as closely as possible. I guarantee you that, if you study this for non-elite mobs, you will always calculate it at below 255, which means you will still have a threshold between the amount of damage you need, and your pet's max TPS, so it will be able to keep up.

TL;DR version:- For farming or dailies, if you want to be able to fend off packs, and also avoid needing to kite, (which boosts your overall speed) get an old weapon, (between level 45-60) and use it. DoT mobs, lean on your pet's damage as well, (which you already likely do as BM anywayz) and stay below 250 personal DPS. You will never need more than 400 overall to kill a non-elite mob.

This is vitally important, because against groups while soloing, it is the secret of how we are able to survive. By staying below 250 personal DPS, we can keep mobs on the pet even when we're standing just outside melee range. Thus, they don't swamp us, and we survive.

The other fun part of this is that doing the above, even without Resourcefulness, you generally won't use more than 10-12% mana per mob, either. I normally use around 8%.


I did another solo Ramps trash farming run last night.

I've also been watching some of Pike's videos, specifically the ones on jumpshot kiting and chain trapping, since I still badly need practice in both of these areas. I had thought it was just me where kiting was concerned, but apparently the amount of lag suffered by Oceanic players is a genuine factor.

My grasp of multi-mob pulling is getting a lot more solid; I can now manage four mob pulls at the HFP level at least, or five with Readiness. I only died once in my second attempt at reaching Gargolmar, and that was on the Beastmaster where I consider it more or less inevitable. The initial pull there is three mob, and then the Beastmaster summons another four hounds. Thus, I do that in two parts; I will die on the Beastmaster's adds, but as long as the Beastmaster himself is dead before I am, I still consider that progress, as the other two mobs can then be very easily dealt with when I run back.

I'm still not able to successfully down Gargolmar himself yet, either; my pet just doesn't generate enough threat to hold one of the healers, even when MDing. I'm going to go back there this morning and apply a new approach which I think might work, but up until now, I've simply ended up pulling the healer to me. Killing it melee is then too slow, and the trap the other one is in breaks before the first one is dead.

Aside from simple enjoyment, my other reason for wanting to practice more is to get better for hopefully more raids; I've become aware that in SSC at least, a very solid grasp of such skills as kiting is extremely important for a Hunter.

I've been called a scrub a lot on the forum, as I've written here, and I think the real reason why I'm not more able to ignore it is because deep down, I fundamentally believe that the people who call me that are largely right. I was a mess on Zul'jin, and when we went to SSC, the raid wiped probably three times each on both Leo and Tidewalker; they didn't get past either of them, and even though I know those are 25 man groups, part of me wondered how much (if anything) that had to do with me. I'm sure some of my resident haters in the forum would probably take great delight in telling me that if I hadn't been in the raid, at least a couple of said wipes may not have occurred.

People have wondered why my progress in this game has been so slow; truthfully I've wondered myself, but I think it's primarily because it's only been relatively recently that my offline life has become sufficiently peaceful that I've been able to truly start to focus on this game. I've missed raiding in two of WoW's iterations now, for the most part; first the initial game, and now TBC. I can only hope I will be able to progress quickly enough in WoTLK to have a shot at the new Naxx, since I always wanted to go to the old version.

I've realised something else as well, and that is that, as do a lot of people, I also consider Alumatine to be the grand master of Survival, and possibly even of this class in general. I've read some material recently on the definition of the term alpha male, and realise that Alu is also a good example of what that term refers to. Although I don't know for sure, I tend to suspect that, as he has at times implied, for him that carries over into offline life as well.

I still find his level of arrogance difficult, as I always have; but I can not deny that it is more or less entirely justified. I realise now that that was actually the cause of the conflict I had with him; I have a tendency to put people on pedestals, and can react very badly when it turns out that they're human.

When Brandon Sato wrote to me and asked me to write a Hunter class guide, I truthfully felt in no way qualified for the task, and although I initially consented, did not ultimately end up writing it. I wish now that when I had replied to Mr. Sato, I had told him to get in touch with Alumatine instead. Pike ended up writing the guide that Sato now has on his site. I consider Pike exceptionally competent; moreso than myself, truth be told; but she still isn't tier 6, and neither, so far as I know, is Big Red Kitty, who is AFAIK more or less considered the o sensei of Beast Mastery.

One of the reasons why I resisted raiding for so long is because, although it's obviously more relaxed, (the game not being real, and guilds, for the most part, being entities comprised of civilians) it genuinely is about a chain of command. In attempting to learn the lessons about human social interaction that I feel that raiding can give me, I'm trying to reconcile myself with this psychologically, and also learn, while continuing to seek to improve myself, to give my superiors their due.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Growing concerns about the Rogue.

This was originally a much more emotive, and somewhat negative post. I've since edited it fairly heavily. I want to refrain from foaming at the mouth like I have in the past, now that I've thought about it; but in all seriousness, I am genuinely concerned with what I'm seeing starting to develop with the Rogue class in this game. It's getting worse than it has ever been.

Just on Saturday morning, I was ganked again on the island, close to a dozen times by an Alliance Rogue who had literally spent the entire night there, purely for the purpose of inflicting misery on others. This particular Rogue spent almost all her time in stealth; she only decloaked to kill someone, and would very rapidly re-stealth again.

In every class forum I visit, and General as well, the picture is the same. Every other class, melee or range, hybrid or no, shares a common enemy; a common source of anguish and misery for them in the game.

The Rogue.

Were it not for this class, other classes would be a great deal more competitive with each other in the Arena, and would be able to persue quests and other PvE activities in the game, far less frequently molested than they are now.

Another example. I wonder; do many of you know of a particular new talent Blizzard are giving the Rogue in the expansion? The tooltip will be linked from WoWHead; read it carefully, and ponder the implications.


Swords and shields, gone. Daggers, staves, gone. Bows and guns, gone. If the reference to "equipment," above means what I think it does, even offhands, ammunition, and thrown weapons would be included.

Even more than the real implications within the game itself, the above is an example of the true source of the misery that the Rogue causes me; Blizzard's consistent, continual, unrelenting favouritism of it, at the expense of every other class in this game.

Vanish. Cloak of Shadows. Shadowstep. Dismantle. Fan of Knives. Four consecutive slows or stuns, more than can be used by any other class in this game that I know of. The list of largely uncounterable exploits just keeps getting longer and longer, and each new patch, there are often subtle and barely documented nerfs to the ability to counter them. Snake Trap no longer breaks stealth. Flare has already been historically nerfed, and yet a Rogue had the gall to call for more in the Hunter forum not too days ago. Trap radius has been diminished, with arming time added and then increased.

The icing on the cake, however, was when I recently found a link in the Hunter forum to this particular Armory profile. Look at the ranged weapon this Rogue has equipped. Now be aware that apparently, this Rogue was given this ranged weapon in preference to two other Hunters in the same raid. If this is not the very definition of injustice as it applies to the context of this game, then I have no idea what is.

Note also the Warglaives of Azzinoth. The Hunter was originally one of the classes that was able to equip these weapons, and in terms of stats, they are extremely well suited to us, while arguably not really being suited to a Warrior in particular at all. I would have had no objection to the Rogue being kept as one of the classes able to equip them, but I do not understand why the Hunter was removed as one of the classes that were originally able to do so.

It is true that in Bartle's treatise on the social ecosystem of MMORPGs, he mentions one specific demographic that could be described as unsparingly malefic. Bartle calls them Killers; others have called them griefers. These are individuals whose existence in a virtual environment is for no purpose other than to inflict the maximum possible amount of misery upon others, for their own enjoyment. The offline term for such behaviour is sadism.

This group, as with the other three, are actually necessary to some degree in maintaining a stable game population. I have written before about how I believe that the Rogue was specifically and consciously designed for the purpose of catering to this demographic of WoW's population. You can look at the image at the top of this post, yes; but also look at the image at the top of my blog. Contrary to how this post, and my rantings against Rogues have sounded in the past, I actually am aware that darkness, as long as it is in equal measure, is as critical to life as is light.

However, one of the things that Bartle also warns against is a state of imbalance or disequilibrium occurring, where the numbers of any one of the four demographics, Achievers, Explorers, Socialisers, or Killers, could end up exceeding the population of the other three. If this were to occur, the most likely result would eventually be the total loss of population, and the death of the game in question.

Any healthy, viable ecosystem has to be inclusive, and the social ecosystem of an online game is no exception. Spiders, snakes, scorpions, reptiles, and rats all provide vital ecological services, to the same degree as herbivores or more benevolent organisms do. However, as described above, in order for said ecosystem to survive, balance must be maintained.

Predators overcoming the other organisms eventually results in a scenario where they find themselves out of food, and faced with the prospect of starving to death, due to all of the available prey either having been eaten, or having retreated to a more distant, safe location. The way this translates in WoW terms is that if Rogues continue to be reinforced to a state of chronic imbalance, such that other classes are completely unable to defend themselves, one of two scenarios will develop. Either a) everyone will roll a Rogue, as it will be the only way in which they can defend themselves, and you will thus have a class monoculture developing within the game, or b) increasingly large numbers of players will begin to leave the game.

Neither of these scenarios are in the Rogue's long term best interests. The first scenario means that while the Rogue may still be able to grief new members of the class, it will be much more difficult to do, because they will be facing the same abilities that they themselves have. The second scenario is the worst case, because it means a gradual slide towards a total loss of potential prey; which will of course lead to the eventual demise of the Rogue itself.

Predator and prey actually exist in a symbiotic relationship. The predator needs the prey for nourishment. (In the case of predatory animals, said nourishment is physical; in the case of the Rogue, it's psychological)

The prey, on the other hand, needs the predator for several different reasons. One is population control; if the prey's numbers grow too large, that can in turn threaten the prey's own food supply. This translates in WoW terms to there being a need for different classes and roles, both for PvE and PvP. If too many members of any one class were to develop, an imbalance would then exist.

The second is genetic development. By learning to resist and survive the predator, the prey develops genetically and becomes more biologically fit. In WoW terms again, this translates to players who Rogues attempt to attack, being forced to learn and try to improve their own level of skill within the game, in order to successfully defend themselves.

Blizzard's developers would be very wise to take heed of the above, and realise that where the Rogue is concerned, the scales began tipping some time ago, and are only now truly beginning in earnest to manifest as serious social damage to the game.

Truthfully, when I really look at it, it really isn't the Rogue itself that upsets me. It's the manner in which Blizzard treats it; continually reinforcing its' dominance and near-invincibility, rather than improving the chances of other classes to survive against it, and thus maintaining a balance. I do not, contrary to how it may have sounded in the past, truly advocate the outright deletion of the Rogue class. I do, however, advocate that some of its' current abilities be toned down to an extent, and that proposed travesties like Dismantle be scrapped rather than being introduced in WoTLK.

Griefers exist; they're a fact of life, and I wouldn't actually want it any other way. Some of my most enjoyable experiences in this game involved fending off Rogues while I was levelling. However the point is that back then, while it was a legitimate challenge, I had a chance. To a large extent, that isn't really true any more.

If there's anything that really causes me pain, it is imbalance on either end of the spectrum; because I know what it has the potential to do.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Karazhan and Ice cream

I've not too long got back from the Friday night Karazhan raid. Although the loot I was after didn't drop, it was still a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and I was in the end able to get the Ring of a Thousand Marks from Prince Malchezzar.

Although this ring is almost an identical sidegrade to my current PvP ring, the difference of course is that it has +hit, which means it is now possible for me to stay hit capped without needing to equip my old green trinket.

I was also able to reach 700 DPS in the Prince fight, for third place, and a total of 600 DPS and fifth place overall. The latter wasn't so good, but what it demonstrates is the truth of Survival's lack of mana efficiency causing problems on long fights. I'm also not too unhappy with myself on the grounds that we didn't have a Paladin present in the raid, and only a single Shaman, so I didn't have either Kings or GoA, and in fact, was only self-buffed.

As mentioned in a previous entry, my personal record is 851 DPS on Murmur, with a spec identical to my current, but for long periods, I struggle to stay over 600.

While the above definitely isn't stellar, perhaps, I also don't feel that it's excessively unsatisfactory, either. I will need probably another 150-200 AP if I can get it to be truly, comfortably Gruul capable, from what I have read; I would want to be able to reach at least 650 sustained.

The other part of the title of this post happened an hour or so before writing this blog entry. My diet, owing to both physiological and economic constraints, is customarily very conservative, but on this particular occasion I felt like doing something unusual, and after the raid, bought myself a half litre container of Homer Hudson's Cookies and Cream ice cream. For anyone who hasn't tried it, I recommend it; it is noticeably more affordable than the same flavour in other brands, and not discernibly different in taste, either.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Militia duty

I'd just finished my dailies last night, when a distress call went out on General. A group of four extremely well geared Alliance players were creating an unusually large and intense disturbance on the island, repeatedly ganking people who were simply trying to do the quests. I've said before here that if the Alliance themselves don't cause trouble, I will not bother them, and will even sometimes try and help them; but that if they start something, I'm going to make my best attempt at finishing it.

I will also admit that, as insanely stupid as this possibly sounds, I'd never had any truly experential, emotional understanding of the concept of patriotism before having a character in the Horde. It was my earliest exposure to the behaviour of the Alliance that actually created that in me. There's no stronger motivation for developing the strong perception of, "Us," than when there is also persecution being engaged in by a vindictive, arrogant, and cowardly, "Them." From the very first time I encountered them as a Horde player, the Alliance became the enemy.

At first, that was with fairly extreme reluctance. Then, as I grew to actively despise the behaviour of the Alliance players on my particular server, fighting them became easier.

So myself and a group of around three other people got together, and went hunting.

I admit; we never really had a chance. The Rogue was Sub spec with warglaives and apparently actually hacking; someone noted that Vanish and three chain Sprints were used in a manner that seemed faster than the cooldowns for those abilities would allow. The Moonkin Druid, in addition to being well geared, was also the first native of his spec that I have encountered in the game who was genuinely skilled.

I was able to kill both of them once, but only once. They both then ganked me at least four times, sometimes camping me.

I initially killed them with my usual combination of Wyvern Sting, and then Aimed, Multi, and Arcane Shot, and I believe provoked a significant amount of anger in them by doing so, judging by their subsequent response. Given that the above combination and Frost/Snake Trap kiting are my only real defense against Druids in particular, once the Moonkin started adapting, there wasn't really anything else I could do. He began making use of Abolish Poison to pre-emptively counter the sleep of Wyvern Sting, and Barkskin in addition to the already high base armour of the form, in order to mitigate my burst. He also created an enclosure around me with treants and then simply killed me with Moonfire.

I've been using Beast Mastery on the island before, and the 1:1 rotation is a lot easier to use in PvP than the 1:1.5 of Marks/Survival. I have a strong preference for Survival while questing or farming, however.

Still, it seems I might have to consider using BM while doing dailies, especially given that I'm considering guard duty after finishing them more often. I'm tired of being ganked, and of fellow Horde players being ganked as well, when if they left me alone, I'd be more than willing to simply quest and let others do the same.

I'd prefer that it didn't have to be this way, but it's becoming apparent that the Alliance on Thaurissan need to be sent a message.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Mentally preparing for WoTLK

Rakan messaged me on MSN earlier and made the statement that, "SV isn't really SV any more."

Although I'm still going to be here post-WoTLK, I agreed with that statement. It won't be the same, in terms of EW having been made self-only, and the duration talent to Freezing Trap having been removed. In addition, I've felt myself ever since first reading about them, that Explosive Shot, and particularly Lock and Load, are fundamentally contrary to what I anyway thought Survival was about. They're threat generators, and will change things; not in a good way.

It's funny, though. I've experienced something in the last few days, that a lot of people would tell me is impossible. Namely that after using both 41/20/0, and my current and favourite spec, 0/21/40, my measured DPS (I'm running a meter myself now) with the latter spec is greater; close to 100 greater in some cases. I can only assume that that is because my gear and experience are still far more heavily in the direction of Surv than Beast Mastery. I don't know any other explanation for it.

That, however, was one of the single main defining characteristics of Survival as a tree; that it was greater than the sum of its' parts. That somehow, contrary to the opinion of a great many people, it worked, and it did so in a manner that fell outside of anyone's ability to completely explain it in genuinely quantifiable, empirical, atheistic terms. Alumatine made a very valiant attempt to explain it, but I'm still not convinced that he entirely succeeded.

In the last couple of days, I also remembered something else Alumatine wrote to me once, and that is that it's possible for Survival to be a completely pet independent spec; that once your damage reaches a certain point, if you stay out at maximum range, you can literally put the pet away, and kill mobs before they reach you.

This morning, while farming earlier, I tried it out and experienced it for myself. It made me realise, that when you get to a certain point with Surv, you go back to where, as a Hunter, you began. It's like before level 10 again.

I'm becoming emotional now as I write, and am beginning to realise just how much this is affecting me. The emotion is an old, familiar one. I'm genuinely grieving.

The only consolation I have is what I've already been able to experience; the joy I've had using the tree. Additionally, while there are some truly great Hunters who've used the tree, I am in all honesty not among them, but one other thing this experience has given me is perhaps a greater sense of quiet competence and satisfaction than I've had from virtually anything else, whether online or off.

I still have Brad, my old boar, stabled; I nearly got rid of him just the other day, actually, because I needed an extra stable slot for a ravager, but couldn't bring myself to do it.

I think if I can find out the date when WoTLK will be released, the night before, I'm going to take him with me out to Desolace. We'll do some farming and centaur hunting, and then after that I'll go to the Charred Vale, my favourite place in this game, and that which most closely resembles Survival's background image as well, coincidentally enough. I'll light a fire, the boar at my side, and sit, and look up at the stars. I think I'd like that.

Mater genuit, Survival...
Mater reciept.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Zul Aman baptism by fire

So, earlier tonight, the offline friend I've been playing with comes over as usual. He says to me, "There won't be anything up for you tonight, because Zul Aman is being run by the core team of the guild," and so I'm thinking fine, and decide to go do some fire farming in SMV. I'm trying to amass 2-300 hundred gold if I can, simply in order to pay for various fairly basic things, in terms of consumables and my armor having to be repaired from zero.

Anywayz, I'm doing this, and suddenly get a whisper from one of the officers in the guild, telling me they're doing Zul'jin and would I like to go in? So I get a summon and go in.

Apparently they've downed Zul'jin before, but don't quite have it on what they consider farm status; they feel that way with SSC as well I think. I admit; we wiped twice, and my own damage output in this scenario was terrible, mainly because I was still the Marks spec I use for PvP, (AV weekend the night before) and had no mana pots, having spent close to 200g on various other kinds of consumables on the weekend. So I was oom the entire fight, and even when I wasn't oom, Feign Death got resisted almost every single time I cast it.

I apparently got around 550 overall, which was just above a DPS warrior in the group. I got almost exactly the same in a Black Morass run straight after that because I was on add duty, with 807 on the last boss there.

What I don't understand is that I respecced Beast Mastery between the ZA and BM runs, and in that Black Morass run actually apparently got *less* than I had previously with Survival. Although I'm not running a damage meter myself at the moment, (I am of course running a threat meter, however) I was told I got 650 in SSC on Sunday, and a little over 800 in a Heroic SP run earlier that day.

This goes against everything any of the forum trolls have ever said, that there is categorically NO way anyone could ever do more damage with Survival. I'm thinking though; Surv not only is what I'm more geared for, (I still have my Quill with close to 100 ag on it, and the crafted sockets) but it's what I have more experience with as well, and I'm wondering if that then explains the difference.

Either way, it's a mystery, and one I need to get figured out ASAP. There have been too many wipes in runs I've been in so far with this guild, and I need to figure out what I can do to reduce at least any contribution I might be making to causing them. One person quit the guild after the second Zul'jin wipe, and I know the forum trolls would probably gleefully try and tell me that it was almost certainly because of me being invited and then wiping the group.

I'm going to sign up for Kara on Friday, which is more my level, and try and get my new boots from EoTS sometime this week as well. I've also been looking into the best pet; a Raptor seems to be, because it has the same damage as a Ravager according to petopia, but slightly more health. I'm also planning on possibly doing some training sessions in Ramps after I've installed a DPS meter. SSC showed me I badly need more practice kiting, among other things.

I'm also open to whatever spec I need to use to improve my damage output now as well. Whether it be BM, Marks, or Surv. My motto at the moment is, whatever it takes.