standing at the back in my sissy robe

August 10, 2009

an open letter (I am the anti-Nim)

Filed under: Bitchin 'n' Moanin,Deathtards & Co.,UR Doing It Wrong — Tamarind @ 10:09 am

Dear Melee DPS (and, yes, Dicknight, that means you),

What in fuck’s name is wrong with you people?

Don’t stand in fire.

Don’t stand in green.

Don’t stand in mana-wee.

Don’t stand near whirlwind.

Don’t stand near bladestorm.

If the ground looks funny, don’t stand there.

Seriously, what is wrong with you? This is elementary WoW. Are you stupid or merely lazy?

Think about it. If you were going about your life and you looked down and suddenly saw you were standing in a circle of fire, and your clothes were starting to catch alight, and exposed portions of your skin were starting to blacken, would you keep on doing whatever it was you were doing?

Would you?

Whatever it was?

No. You wouldn’t. You just wouldn’t. This is not the Burning Times. You can get out of the fire.

Would you, moreover, expect a passing paramedic to start giving you emergency medical treatment while you whooped it up in the raging inferno?

Again. No. You wouldn’t. You just wouldn’t.

Ignorance, I can forgive. But when I specifically say at the beginning of the fight “please try not to stand in the [whatever]” you have no excuse.

Just plain fail, I can forgive again. I cannot count the occasions on which I have been so engrossed by healing that I haven’t noticed the enormous pool of death in which I’ve been standing. On the other hand, when I have noticed, I’ve moved, and bloody quickly.

What I can neither support, nor forgive, nor understand is what seems to me to be a resolute reluctance to undertake something as profoundly basic as NOT STANDING IN FUCKING FIRE.

I am trying to get into your head here – tiny, stultifying place though it is. And I only assume that your perspective on the matter is that you taking damage is not your problem, and that I ought to be man enough to heal you through it regardless.

Well, fuck you. With a rusty teaspoon.

To be honest, I usually can heal your moronic arse through it but why the fuck should I? Why should your selfish determination to make the game an order of magnitude easier for yourself make it an order of magnitude more difficult for me?

Quite frankly: you don’t deserve to live.

I am not wearying my mouse fingers to the bone grinding for epix in order to allow me to heal dribbling, syphilitic cockmonkeys like you through damage a touch of generosity and a smattering of common sense would allow you to avoid.

Unfortunately you kind of have me by the short and curlies here because there’s nothing I can do. I could stop healing you. And then you would die. But without the DPS to take down the big bad, probably the rest of us would die too. And whereas I’m pretty sure you’d take no responsibility for the wipe whatsoever (shitty healing, you’d say), I’d feel as guilty as hell about it.

I could, of course, refuse to group with you full stop.

But even though healers are moderately in demand, you are out in there in your multitudes. Attempting to put together a group for anything with only caster DPS would the height of silliness.

So yes. You have me. You win. But I hate you for it.

And one of these days I will snap, and respec shadow.

Yours at the end of his tether,
With loathing and contempt,
And certainly no hugs
Unless my arms were lined with poison-tipped spikes,



August 4, 2009

glyphs and why they suck

Filed under: Bitchin 'n' Moanin,Soapbox,UR Doing It Wrong — Tamarind @ 10:32 am

In news unconnected to WoW. I think I might I have swine flu. I have a special number given to me by the special pandemic hotline (we have a pandemic hotline? Holy fuck!) in order that I may receive anti-swine flu medication from the government. I feel kind of bad, but not bad enough not to be bored. Also I wish it wasn’t called swine-flu. Firstly it sounds way over-dramatic (pigsniffles, if you please?) and secondly it sounds basically unhygienic. As if Fair Tamarind in pigsty lay… (poetry NSFW, and I assure you I’ve been doing absolutely NOTHING with pigs, or in pigsties). So you’ll have to forgive me if my comments sound like I’m stoned on anti-pigsniffle meds and my posts are a bit more unfocused than usual.

I’ve recently been on a glyphing spree and I’ve realised something.

So, glyphs right? I hates them, precious.

I am not, however, debating their utility. They are extremely useful. That’s kind of part of the problem. They are so unarguably, indisputably useful that you’re pretty much obliged to have them in order to play your class effectively. While you’re levelling, enchanting or gemming or any of that other stuff is a bonus. It’s nice if you can get it but since you go through gear so quickly anyway it’s not a necessity. But that’s not the case with glyphing. Not having the right glyph in place is the equivalent of not having spent a couple of talents points or having forgotten to visit a trainer (not that I ever do that, oh no, not at all, ahem). Whereas having a decent enchant or a gem is a fortuitous improvement, not having a glyph is actually a hindrance.

Glyphing is basically an arms race.

Every other holy priest with half a brain at my level has the glyph of Guardian Spirit. Thus they are a better a healer. And no matter how inspired, quick-moused or intelligent my healing may be, they still have a basic, mechanical advantage that I’d be a fool not to take for myself. So I have to have the glyph of Guardian Spirit.

What’s ostensibly in the game to give you a greater degree of choice and customisation, is, in practice, extremely restrictive. Basically all glyphs fall into one of the following categories:

Glyphs That Are So Useful You Can’t Not Have Them

For a holy priest, these would be the Glyph of Flash Heal, the Glyph of Renew, the Glyph of Prayer of Healing and the Glyph of Guardian Spirit. Ultimately which selection of them you have (oooh, mighty choice, 3 out of a possible 4, wow, I’m so glad for this increased customisation) is basically dependent on your playstyle, how you use renew, whether you’re single-target healing more, or AoE healing more, or if you’re neurotic about Guardian Spirit.

Glyphs That Would Be Nice But You Will Never Use Them Because of The Glyphs That Are So Useful You Can’t Not Have Them

So, for a holy priest, these might be something like the Glyph of Power Word: Shield (although this probably goes in category 1 if you’re a disc priest), or the Glyph of Inner Fire, or perhaps the Glyph of Circle of Healing. Again, it would be really nice if you could tweak your skills to suit your style but ultimately there’s no point giving yourself the Glyph of Inner Fire to make yourself more durable if you could instead give yourself a 10% mana reduction in your most used healing spell.

Glyphs That Remove a Regent Cost

I genuinely don’t see the point of these. I’ve got a couple because they tend to be minor glyphs and there’s rarely anything better to do with minor glyph slots. I’ve got the Glyph of Levitate for Tam which basically means I spend an inordinate amount of time standing on one leg in the air … because … well … why not? And I’ve got the Glyph of Unburdened Rebirth for my druid. But the availability of glyphs to remove the reagent cost of spells, especially when the reagent is readily available from vendors, seems to merely render said reagent cost pointless. If the fact the spell costs a reagent isn’t actually balancing anything (because if it was you wouldn’t let us remove it) why is there in the first place? Huh?

Special Occasion Glyphs

So that glyph of Fear Ward. Yes, it actually makes fear-ward semi-viable but how often, seriously, do you use fear ward? Enough to deny yourself a 10% mana reduction in your most used healing spell. Didn’t think so. I suppose these glyphs would be worth it if you were going into a fight, a raid maybe, in which your primary function was keeping a nasty de-buff from settling over the group. In which case possibly you’d temporarily replace a Useful Glyph with an Occasional Glyph, but you’ve still got the problem of what you’re going to replace.

Glyphs That Actually Make Your Class Less Interesting to Play

Hello Glyph of Swiftmend. Fancy seeing you here. This is the most egregious example I can think of. I love the way druid healing works. I love the fact it’s different to pally healing and different to priest healing. I love the carefully balanced ticking HoTs. What the Glyph of Swiftmend does is remove an interesting tactical decision and replace it with a bog standard, instant cast healing spell. Thanks Blizzard. But, again, you can’t not have it because a boring instant cast healing spell that doesn’t consume a heal over time effect is better than an interesting one that does. M’Pocket Tank’s lock informs me that the Glyph of Conflagrate is similar.

Glyphs That Are Completely Useless

Of which they are too many. Glyph of Fade anybody? I’m sorry but if the tank didn’t get what was attacking off you the first time round, being able to cast fade again more quickly won’t help. You’ll need the Glyph of Not Having A Tank That Sucks. Or there’s the Glyph of Drain Soul which gives you something like a 1% chance of getting an extra soul shard sometimes. Woot! Or what about the Glyph of Consecrate – the glyph that makes one of your primary abilities fit less well into your rotation.

Minor Glyphs that are Disproportionately Useful

So you have our friend the Glyph of Fade which reduces the cool down on something that you shouldn’t have to use more than once per fight anyway. Compare that to its precocious little brother the Glyph of Fading, which reduces the mana cost of fade that one time you use it. Not only is this actually better than the major glyph but it’s better than quite a lot of other minor glyphs. Given the choice of being able to stand on one leg for no apparent reason whenever the whim takes me and my 1-off emergency button costing me less mana, I know which wins my vote.

Ultimately I think glyphs just don’t fit comfortably with the way we play WoW, and the way WoW is designed to be played. Essentially each class has a relatively narrow core of primarily abilities on which they rely, surrounded by a much wider selection they use on specific occasions. Naturally glyphs which buff the former are fundamentally better than glyphs which buff the latter. It doesn’t help that Blizzard doesn’t seem as though its been able to settle on the function of minor glyphs. Currently they range from the absurdly pointless (yes, please, improve my Eye of Kilrog!) to the pleasing but cosmetic (I love you penguin!) to the actually genuinely useful (ah, my old friend, glyph of fading). Either they have to be purely cosmetic or purely functional. You can’t balance one against the other because although players love customisation and will go to great lengths to attain what you might call luxury glyphs ultimately the nature of the game means utility will always trump aesthetics.

As for major glyphs. I think we’re just fucked.

I will say this though. There is one major glyph I like. It’s the Glyph of Fireball. This removes the DoT effect of your fireball spell but ups the crit chance by 5%. I think this offers you a genuinely interesting tactical proposition, but not such an overwhelming advantage that you cannot be a fire mage without it. The glyphed fireball does less damage overall but if you’re reliant on crits for procs then it’s a sound investment. It just depends how you’ve specced your fire mage.

Isn’t it this kind of thing that glyphs were meant to do?

August 3, 2009

Holy Priest Tanks Dragon!

Filed under: D'oh,Real Men Wear Purple,UR Doing It Wrong — Tamarind @ 11:32 am

Hmmm…bad choice of headline I think, since the story is much less interesting than the concept. I believe that’s what the Earl of Rochester would term imperfect enjoyment (blowing one’s load too early). Annnyway….

I ran Ramps Heroic with my guild, basically for the lulz and the practice. M’Pocket Tank was away in Cambridge so I was healing a DK tank (well, if you’re in different collegiate universities it doesn’t count, right?). He was significantly squishier than M’Pocket Tank and had made some questionable spec decisions (no toughness?!!), added to the fact that I’m so accustomed to the rhythms of healing M’Pocket Tank that learning a new tune can be a pretty fraught initially. It was one of those incremental-learning runs I find so satisfying. And in terms of the diplomatic / political aspects of running with guildies, having the guild leader with us was very helpful indeed in that I was tactics-guy and she was “please don’t do that stupid thing again” girl, which meant I didn’t have to worry about alienating people with my outrageous demands, like following kill order and letting the tank pull. We died more times than a group of 70s has any right to, but we learned and we improved and eventually we triumphed.

The final fight was … shall … we say … unorthodox.

When Nazran came down, he went straight for the healer – as is his wont – and the tank just couldn’t get him off me. I’ve no idea what he was doing, but I tried everything, fading, running towards the tank, everything. The thing is, I don’t know what you’re meant to do when you’re a healer under those circumstances. If you’re DPS, it’s obvious. You stop DPSing and hope for rescue. But it’s not like I can just stop healing. Anyway, in a state of panic, I threw up the usual protections, kept up a steady stream of healing on myself and did my damndest not to stand in fire.

And, of course, the best way to do this when he’s right in your face is to kite Nazran round in a circle. I died when he was on about 2% health, and then the DPS finished him off. And then I realised that, apart from a bit of splash damage, everybody else was absolutely fine.

I had, entirely inadvertently, tanked the drake.

Holy priest tanking! It’s gonna be the next big thing!

The DK, who’s basically the loveliest guy, apologised after. But the next time he makes me tank a boss, he’s healing, dammit.

The other thing I learned from this experience is that tanking = fucking terrifying. I’ve done a bit of tanking but at much lower levels. And maybe it’s different if you’re in a full set of spiky macho platemail but if you’re a skinny guy in a sissy robe who’d much rather be standing at the back and instead you’ve got an enormous, black, bat-winged drake right in your face spewing fire, well, yes, I found it genuinely traumatic. Bosses look considerably less scary when you’re standing behind them, some distance away and somebody else is whacking them in the face.

Disconnected update on Queen Susan’s Guardian Spirit. The glyph has helped the situation considerably but I’ve uncovered yet another problem with Guardian Spirit. Casting it makes you feel like you’ve done something. This is actually lethal. Because obviously what you need to do is keep healing. Perhaps it’s the happy little wings or something but casting GS feels so much like having solved the problem that I tend to chill out completely instead of following up. ARGH! Can I never win?

July 31, 2009

Of shoes and ships and sealing-wax

Filed under: Hemo,UR Doing It Wrong,World Beyond My Naval — Tamarind @ 11:27 am

As the title should indicate, this entry is a jumble of stuff.

Queen Susan’s Guardian Spirit

Since I may be 5-manning regularly (fingers crossed!) I’ve been thinking about my healing, and generally engaging in mild fits of hemo. I’m pretty rusty to be honest. Intellectually I know what I’m doing but what’s missing is that instinctive, muscle-memory, second nature kind of confidence. But that’ll come back with time and practice. I hope.

The bulk of my hemo at the moment is reserved for my persistent crapitude with Guardian Spirit. I did a quick search through the archives of World of Matticus and The Egotistical Priest to make sure I was, in fact, neglecting an important tool in my arsenal. I’ve found that very occasionally the reason you can’t seem to deploy something effectively is because it’s not very effective in the first place (why, hello living bomb, fancy meeting you here). But, no, the problem is definitely me. The consensus of Greater Minds Than Mine is that Guardian Spirit is amazing

The problem with Guardian Spirit, for me, is not the mechanics of it (40% increase to healing, get out of death free card, sign me up!), it’s the psychology. And by “the psychology”, you understand, I mean “my neuroses.” It’s active for 10 seconds, and it’s on a 3 minute cool down. It functions very much as a “ohmyfuckinggod” button, which is like an “ohshit” button but worse. It’s for the moment when you have one of those blinks that last forever and when you look again the tank is on 10% health. Aieeee!

But here are the associated issues:

1) The 40% healing increase means that the Death Save very rarely occurs – which, on some level, makes you feel as though you’ve ‘wasted’ your Guardian Spirit. Yes, yes, I know this is stupid.

2) The fact that you only ever use it when something has gone horribly wrong means it’s always associated with a sense of failure and panic. Essentially it’s an ability with a negative feedback loop.

3) That 3 minute cooldown means I never use it nearly as much as I should because I’m always thinking “wait, what if there’s an EVEN WORSE emergency in, say, 2 and a half minutes time.”

4) I’m always scared of using it on somebody other than the tank because, again, I start angsting about snatching it from the lips of starving children … I mean … I get myself all knotted up over the possibility squandering something on the DPS (sorry) that might be needed by the tank.

5) Whenever I look back over a fight, I can always see, with the clarity of retrospect, about a hundred and one possible moments when Guardian Spirit could have been used to great effect. But whenever I’m actually in the middle of a fight, there’s never an emergency that feels quite bad enough to merit its use.

This is why Guardian Spirit is the Queen Susan’s horn of healing.

And the way to get over Queen Susan’s horn anxiety is simply to blow the thing as much as possible.

Is it me, or is this analogy getting more lewd by the sentence?

But what I’m trying to say is this: my new self-imposed healing assignment is to use my fucking Guardian Spirit, instead of drenching it in hemo. I’m also going to invest in the Glyph of Guardian Spirit, which reduces the cooldown from 3 minutes to 1 minute if the Get Out of Death Free card isn’t triggered. I think that will help overcome some of my issues.

Not The Sharpest Pig in the Box

We haven’t had nearly as much time as we’d like to devote to the DGC of late (given all the nonsense that’s going around about game addiction, we’re paying a bit of attention to a healthy life-WoW balance) but Rosencrantz has a new pig. Alas poor Yorick, you did not last. I am a shockingly fickle pig owner, I feel almost guilty about it. I’m limping down the beast mastery tree (possibly with my eye towards a fuck off enormous dinosaur of my very own … I will love it and hug it and call it Reginald) and it strikes me that it’s a slightly emotionally counter-intuitive tree. Like most people interested in hunter pets, I have a tendency to invest in my animals. You give them a ridiculous name, you start to ascribe them a personality, and, suddenly, bam you’re engaged in all sorts of absurd behaviour, like fishing for what you’ve arbitrarily decided is their favourite fish or waiting for them to catch up with you if you’ve jumped off a ledge and going to absurd lengths to stop them dying in combat.

When Comfrey (my druid) was levelling with his cowfriend Doriff (not to be confused with Cowfriend), Doriff’s first pet was a tiny tiny, entirely bog standard, not even ornery plainstrider we named Clucksworthy. And although Doriff’s eye would occasionally wander in the direction of turtles and raptors, I’d always guilt trip him back into the arms (wings?) of Clucksworthy because, by that time, Clucksworthy felt like part of the family. Players actually occasionally used to lol us in the street because we looked so silly. 2 enormous level 60 cows with this incredibly small and crappy looking chicken. But Clucksworthy tanked a dragon, I’ll have you know. He was valiant, we shall not see his like again.

But the Beast Master tree seems to be all about the acquisition of MOAR pets, as well as, of course improving the pets you have. But I think if you’re the sort of person who specs beast mastery, maybe you’re also the sort of person who is likely to cleave to a single pet. Recognising this early on, I tried to foster in myself a love ‘em and leave ‘em attitude to pigs. The consequence of which is that Rosencrantz is a rampant pigtart. Seriously. I’ve had, like, 3 in about as many levels.

His first pig was Empress, a small crag boar from Dun Morogh.

And then he upgraded to Yorick, a pig marked for tragedy if ever there was one, an mountain boar from Loch Modan.

And, most recently, a mangy mountain boar, also from Loch Modan, he named Boracchio (gettit? Boar….rachio… sorry)

The happy thing about being pigfickle is that they’re all subtly different pigs. Boracchio, who is my favourite (they’ve all been my favourite, by the way, for the short span of time I’ve had them), is definitely looking at bit worse for wear. It’s the mange, and the battle scars, I guess… I also like the way the pigs move and snuffle around when they’re not running, squealing joyously, into battle.

Except there’s something up with Boraccio. I was watching him lovingly the other day, with paternal pride, and, I swear to God, he fell over. My mighty battle hog FELL OVER. He face-planted into the sward.



Is it swine flu? Or rabies? Or what?

Friday Links of Loveliness!

It’s been such a fun week for WoW blogging. The shared topic from Blog Azeroth has led to some thoroughly delightful nostalgia trippin. I’ve really enjoyed every post on the subject of I’ve read but I’ve especially loved:

Spinks on the eye-opening rampant insanty if the Thunderfury, Taz on, errr, well … modesty issues in Outland (how I giggled) and Pewpewlazerz (whose blog I have only recently discovered, and I guess should count as my “Have I Been Blogging Under a Rock” entry for this week), whose defence of the old world makes me want to attempt Molten Core right now. And probably get humiliatingly taken apart but, hey…

Vaguely in-keeping with the nostalgia-theme, there’s a lovely post over at Magic and Madness about Reasons to Keep Playing when your enthusiasm founders and your heart doesn’t seem to be in it. I think it’s in the nature of WoW to lead you through peaks and troughs and so remembering what you love about the game is important during the troughs.

I also stumbled across an utterly charming post over at Dreambound Druid about Boo the prairie dog (I won’t say more, just go read it, it’s the cutest thing in the world, especially for a Baldurs Gate fan)

On a more general note, I’m digging Priest With a Cause. Lots of thoughtful, insightful and nicely whimsical posts over there – I especially enjoyed this lament for the tragic fate of the island shoveltusks.

Absent friends missed:Krizzlybear

July 26, 2009

Sin to Win!

Filed under: Diversions,UR Doing It Wrong,World Beyond My Naval — Tamarind @ 11:59 pm

Apologies in advance, but this isn’t about WoW. It’s also not about me failing to pull either, so we can all breathe a sigh of relief about that.

Spinks recently drew my attention to EA’s latest marketingfail, in which attendees at this year’s Comicon were invited to take pictures of themselves committing “acts of lust” with the booth babes as part of a promotion for the forthcoming Dante’s Inferno (I mean, a game spuriously connected to Dante’s Inferno, the original having already, err, come). As far as publicity goes, it’s certainly a winner in the “get lots of attention” respect but it is, of course, profoundly offensive on every conceivable level. They have since issued an apology which is so hilariously point-missing that I feel obliged to quote a large chunk of it:

We created this promotion as part of our marketing efforts around the circle of Lust (one of the nine sins/circles of Hell). Each month we will be focusing on a new Circle of Hell. This month is Lust. Costumed reps are a tradition at Comic-Con. In the spirit of both the Circle of Lust and Comic-Con, we are encouraging attendees to Tweet photos of themselves with any of the costumed reps at Comic-Con here, find us on Facebook or via e-mail. “Commit acts of lust” is simply a tongue-in-cheek way to say take pictures with costumed reps. Also, a “Night of Lust” means only that the winner will receive a chaperoned VIP night on the town with the Dante’s Inferno reps, all expenses paid, as well as other prizes.

Again, I could go into why this is still mind-bogglingly offensive but this gives it too much credit. Let’s concentrate, instead, on the STUPID, which is present in equally generous quantities.

Basically what jumps out at me is this: so you’re doing a series of competitions based on the circles of the Inferno, one per month in fact. You do realise, don’t you EA marketing department, that the circles of Dante’s hell do not quite correspond to the seven deadly sins in the way I suspect you think they do? Um, do you think maybe you should have, perhaps, just perhaps, read The Inferno before you embarked on this doomed endeavour?

With this in mind, M’Pocket Tank and I hereby present our own take on the Sin to Win competition which we hope compensates to some degree for EA with its fidelity to the original text.

Circle 1: Limbo

In order to win, invitees must wear togas and compose epic poetry in dead languages.

Circle 2: Lust

Attendees are invited to perform such SINful acts as marrying for love, getting divorced or fancying someone against their parent’s approval.

Circle 3: Gluttony

Attendees are invited to send photographs of themselves eating in a manner which serves as a metaphor for the politics of 13th century Florence.

Circle 4: The Avaricious and Prodigal

Attendees will be encouraged to waste as much money as possible on useless crap they don’t need. We are currently re-thinking this promotion as it is functionally identical to the normal behaviour of punters at a convention.

Circle 5: The Wrathful and the Sullen

Attendees are invited to perform acts of violence on other members of the convention. We apologise for any misunderstanding this description may have caused. “Acts of violence” is just a tongue-in-cheek way of saying “have your photograph taken with.”

Circle 6: Heretics

Attendees are invited to tweet in support of interpretations of Christian doctrine which deviate from Catholic orthodoxy.

Circle 7: The Violent

Attendees are invited to commit suicide.

Circle 8: Malebolge

In order to win the Malebolge prize, attendees are invited to submit a photograph of themselves engaged in acts of pandering, seduction, flattery, simony, fortune telling, grafting, hypocrisy, theft, evil counselling, sowing of discord and falsification with other convention goers.

Circle 9: Cocytus

Attendees are invited to commit acts of treason.

In the event of fire, attendees are reminded that there is an emergency exit situated between Satan’s buttocks.

July 22, 2009


It’s disconnected Wednesday! Recent thoughts / happenings that are not quite significant enough to merit to posts of their own.

As idle as a painted ship, Upon a painted ocean.

I want a meta-game title.

Champion of the Frozen Wastes can go take a running jump.

I want: Tamarind the Guild Killer.

For, lo, I am. Another one bites the dust. Gah! I know it’s not actually me – I’m not that hubristic – but I’m starting to think I must have inadvertently shot an albatross somewhere along the line In some ways, I suppose, the collapse of my guild is quite fortunate because it has saved me from the social awkwardness of gquitting. But my (ex)guild had been around on Emerald Dream for a good while actually and, clearly, once upon a time, it was a great place to be. Yet within literally moments of me joining, there was an eruption of drama and fail that led to, well, more drama and fail. And then the centre could not hold. And that was the end of it. Sigh.

My leaves may be provocative, but that doesn’t mean I’m asking for it

I was heal-harassed repeatedly in Hellfire Peninsula last night. I was already committed to 3-manning BF with M’Pocket Tank and Cowfriend (downed, by the way, downed!) but almost the second after I put hoof in Thallmar, a level 60 deathcow came running up to me and said: “Blood Funuce????” (Blood Funuce, putting the fun back into prisons for pit lords!) Possibly it’s just my anti-DK impulses kicking in again but I think anybody who, in cold blood, deploys more than an absolute maximum of three question marks (or any elements of punctuation for that matter) is probably not to be trusted. Also, and I admit I make plenty of typos myself, but I do consider being able to spell the name of the instance you’re trying to run advantageous. His next collection incoherent syllables expressed, to my mind, disappointment and he trudged off.

I thought that would be the end of it but then I got the whisper, the one familiar to every jobbing healer. “U heal?” it goes. Yes, I heal, weddings, funerals and Bar Mitzvahs, and why can’t anybody ever ask me nicely? Just a couple more syllables. Go on. Say “are you a healer?” Push the boat out, say “excuse me, are you a healer?” Acknowledge that, perhaps, I have an existence of my own outside my in-game function of healing you on demand. Go on. I dare you. Seriously, is it really too much to ask? It improves my heals. I’m a civility-powered healer. No. Really. Look, I can prove it with science:

Here comes the science....

Here comes the science....

Anyway. “I do,” I responded, “but I’m afraid I’m already committed to a group.” There was brief pause.

“Fuck,” he said.

And then again: “Fuck.”

And finally: “Fuck.”

I have to admit, I was genuinely startled. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the swearing; I read Restoration poetry, and WoW has nothing on that. And it wasn’t even directed abuse of the usual sort. Despite the fact he is wearing (though no choice of his own) a skin-tight purple shirt tunic, split to the navel, and a skirt … sorry … “war kilt” nobody has yet dared to call my cow a fag. At least not to his face. And I suppose U Heal Bob was just expressing his frustration at the scarcity of healers currently available but the three angry fucks (I can’t decide if that’s an excellent name for a band for a comedy trio) struck me as weirdly disproportionate to the situation. “Fuck,” you might say when you lose your keys, or stub your toe. “Fuck fuck fuck” you say when you run over your neighbour’s cat in a juggernaut, or forget to phone your mother. And, regardless, it’s something you mutter to yourself rather than express directly to another person, especially not the person involved in the disaster, especially not if that person is your mother.

You certainly don’t whisper it to me. Right? I mean, what could I do? “Ah, your ability to deploy the word fuck three times in a row has moved my heart of stone. I will abandon this group and fly immediately to your side.”

It’s kind of the equivalent of going up to somebody in a bar and asking if they’d let you buy them a drink. If they say “no, sorry” you respond with a smile and some generic reassurance that you’re not Jack the Ripper: “maybe some other time then,” or “enjoy your evening.” You don’t burst into tears and punch the wall.

Was that the end of it? The fact I’m still writing about it indicates not.

About five minutes later, he whispered me again: “So, you gonna heal, y or n?”

Now, my druid is a very nice cow. His hobbies are saving gazelles and eating picnics. He looks like he doesn’t have a bad word to say about anybody and, consequently, when I’m playing him, I’m a much kinder player. However, at that moment I channelled Tam, pure and simple:

“What part of ‘no sorry, I’m committed to another a group at the moment’ suggested to you the answer to that question might be yes?”

“Fuck,” he said, but at least only once this time.

“Same to you,” I offered, /ignoring.

But it kept happening. Different people, less fuck-happy folks, but every ten minutes or so: “U healer?” “Wanna heal [whatever]” and a constant stream of invites to groups without so much as a by your leave. Obviously I get occasional whispers for healz and when WotLK came out being the only healer in the village was a bit painful but nothing on this scale of epic and perpetual stupidity.

And, no, I wasn’t randomly on LFG. I checked.

Maybe it was National Harass Tam’s Alt Night.

But it made me really bloody grumpy.

July 6, 2009

We may not have to atone for evil doing until the next world but we pay for stupidity in this one

I’ve been meaning to write for a while now about ignorance in WoW.  Gosh, that sounds like a portentous introduction to what is actually a rather simple topic.  I guess I shouldn’t have weighed in so heavy with the Schopenhauer.


When it comes to instance bosses (and raiding, from what I’ve read, looks even worse), the way WoW works a lot of the time is that if you don’t know how the fight works in advance you’ll probably fail.  I think the notion behind it was originally that you’d learn by doing.  Shamus Young characterises this sort of gameplay as Do It Again Stupid and, although it’s the kind of gameplay that drives me mad in single player games, there’s a degree to which it works moderately well for WoW.  I mean, sometimes, you get what’s going on and you muddle through by sheer luck and a bloody minded refusal to lie down and die.  And if it’s been a smooth run I often quite enjoy the first post-boss corpse run in which you’re all typing at about hundred miles a hour: “okay, we take out the healer first,” “yeah, yeah, and when he mind controls, if you use entangling roots, then we should be able to moderate the damage,” “I’ll off-tank the adds” etc. etc. It feels genuinely exciting.  There’s nothing duller than a fight you know you’re going to win.

But, sometimes, going in cold and hoping for the best is not what you need.  Maybe it’s been slightly tense, maybe it’s past your bedtime, maybe your shield is flashing yellow, maybe your tea is getting cold, who knows.  In which case you can alt-tab and look it up, or somebody can talk you through the fight.  But the point is, in order to make a decent go of things, you really need the knowledge.  Not only knowledge of the forthcoming fight, but knowledge of who amongst you knows what.

The amount of times, I’ve stood there at the top of the steps of ZF watching the tank who said he knew exactly what he was going go charging straight down to the bottom and get torn apart by the gazillion trolls.

Now I realise that there’s no obligation present in the game to act as an educator to all and sundry, but equally I’ve noticed a widespread contempt for ignorance which makes it genuinely difficult to admit it if you haven’t done something before. Just on principle I usually do – I don’t want to be the guy who fucked everything up by not coming clean.  And if I had a gold piece for each time someone has sneered at me for it … well … I’d have some gold pieces.  Similarly, if I had a gold piece for every PUG that crashed and burned because somebody didn’t have a clue what they were doing and wouldn’t admit it …  well … I’d have some more gold pieces.

Ignorance isn’t the same as stupidity, or even being a bad player.  It’s just a natural part of the learning curve, and it becomes a hugely problematic one if other players sneer and bitch at you for it. It’s like PUGing in an Orwellian dystopia, where nobody dares say anything lest they another player turn them in to have rats stuck to their face.  I suspect it comes down, like everything else, to WoWcockism – but quite frankly I think you’re trying to add inches to it by deriding other players,  it’s beyond the help of science or religion.

I remember when were running AN, the warlock who was leading the group, took about 2 minutes before each boss fight to outline it for li’ll ignorant me.  And I really really appreciated it.  Not only was I a super effective healer of a fabulousness but I feel pretty confident about running the thing again.  The first time I do an instance, I consider it pretty much my duty to learn it and that’s a whole lot easier if it doesn’t go past in a blur of bewildered panic.

Anyway, before the final boss, the lock was running us through the strategy and the local deathtard, who was bouncing all over the place in what was either an orgy of impatience or desperation to go to the toilet, suddenly interrupted.  “Strategy,” he said, “1) Pew Pew 2) ??? 3) Loot.”

“Is 2) a wipe” asked M’Pocket, dryly.

Which, I think, says it all really.

July 4, 2009

wtb one intact healer

Filed under: Bitchin 'n' Moanin,UR Doing It Wrong,Vainglory — Tamarind @ 6:14 pm

I solo-ed The Ruins of Ahn’Qiraj.

Oh, yeah baby.

Well, okay, there was a DK tank along for the ride but since he was triumphantly claiming after to have solo-ed it,  I think that means I did as well.

We also had a handful of DPS with us but Ossirian the Really Rather Blue took them out pretty quickly, leaving just me and the tank.

I see this story needs a small amount of context.  I was playing the mini-game World of Dithercraft (you know the one where you shuffle yoru bank-bursting quantity of pointlessly accumulated mats between all your alts on a 30 day rotation) in Org and a frantic cry went out over general: LF healer, any level over 60 for AQ.

Five minutes later, the same frantic cry went out.

And, again, five minutes later.

So I took pity and the next thing I knew I’d been summoned to Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom, a bunch of level 80s were running around in circles, disco lights were flashing everywhere, health bars were dwindling, waves of enormous mobs were descending on us, orange text was streaming up my screen and, holy fuck, I was in a raid???

It was perhaps the bizarrest, most bewildering experience I’ve ever had in WoW.  I think there were 5 level 80s and my good self, so it wasn’t like a proper raid.  And I suspect we would have scythed through it had there been even a whisper, a whisper I say, of organisation.  The DPS were all running around like headless chickens, paying no need to LOS at all, essentially taking it in turns to die.  The tank was standing in the middle of a group of mobs who were whacking at him but he didn’t seem to have any particular inclination, y’know, to tank them. I was always pulling aggro, partially because I was healing him and partially because, as the level 70 amidst the 80s, I had an aggro radius of about a hundred and eighty thousand miles.  I’d deal with it by pelting towards the tank, desperately casting PW:S, renew, desperate prayer and fade on myself, and occasionally whatever was wailing on me would peel off and start swiping at the tank instead.  And whenever this happened, the DPS would go wild, shrieking “Is the healer intact, is the healer intact” like a platoon of Victorian matrons trying to sell their debutante daughters on the marriage mart.

When I first joined the group, I did come straight out and admit I’d never done it before and didn’t really have a clue about what I was supposed to be doing.

The advice I got was so pricelessly profound I think I’ll carry it in my heart for the rest of my days.

“just heal, lol.”

What srsly?  Heal?  ‘Cos, I was gonna try tanking this one.

So I took what I’ve learned from the blogsphere to heart and tried to put the only rule I felt able to apply into practice.

Don’t Stand In Fire.

And the reason I didn’t die horribly and repeatedly was because I was so damn mobile.

Standing at the back in my sissy robe?

Running around crazily at the back in my sissy robe, more like.

I understand there’s some funky stuff with crystals you’re meant to do with Ossirian the Really Rather Blue but I guess at level 80 it’s not really necessary.  Except he smooshed the DPS in the first five seconds and then it was down to me and the tank … sorry … the tank.  He solo-ed it, of course.

I was slightly surprised that the DPS all got instantly blatted.  As I say, nobody took the time to explain what was going to happen (did anybody know?  I’m not entirely sure) so if I was meant to be on some kind of Super Healing Miracle duty I wasn’t aware.  But ultimately when somebody goes from Being Alive to Being Dead, there’s not exactly much even the most IMBA (haha) healer can do.  I have a feeling they just expected me to heal through whatever-it-was.

I’m not sure whether that’s complacency, laziness or stupidity.

I mean, I remember standing there halfway up the steps thinking to myself “gosh he’s big and blue and he seems particularly pissed off right now … there’s a kind of light radiating from him encompassing my whole screen  … that’s probably not good … ruuuuuuuuuun awaaaaaaaaay” which, I like to think, is the kind of verbosity of thinking that saved my life.

I seem to be brushing up, explicitly or implicitly, against a “just heal through it” mentality a lot these days.  From trivial things like ignoring the proximity bombs in BF to deciding to prod Ossirian the Really Rather Blue in the toe when he’s feelin’ all Supreme.  It annoys me because it tends to put unnecessary pressure on the healer, as well as reinforcing bad habits.  The rule is not Don’t Stand In Fire Unless Your Healer Is Over Level and Over Geared.  And, ultimately, what does it cost you, not to stand like a pillock on a proximity bomb?  WoW players aren’t Wile E. Coyote standing there with a confused look on their faces while Acme AoE Affect ticks away comically.  It reminds me sadly of Northrend instances, actually, which, as I have ranted about previously, can either be healed through or not.  Big AoE splatters can either be healed through or not, and that has nothing to do with whether you’re any good at being a healer.  It just depends on how much spellpower you’re packing.

So much for bring the player not the spec.

It might as well be:

Bring the gear, not the player.

July 1, 2009

punting from both ends

I about to disappear to Cambridge for a couple of days on a conference so there will be a brief hiatus in the WoWblogging.  Alas!  Unless it’s insanely dull in which case, I’m sure, there will be a deluge of WoWblogging, difficult though it is to blog about WoW without the inspiration of, err, WoW.

I do have a few musings, however.  None of them would constitute a full entry so I will therefore present them as they come, in a heap of undigested thoughts.

I Tank In French

I tanked a guild run of Wailing Caverns a couple of nights back.  As I’ve said before I don’t think I’m a natural tank.  People tend to gravitate towards roles and although platemail and I don’t actively repel each other we definitely exist in an uneasy harmony.  Even melee DPS doesn’t do much for me.  I guess if there isn’t a sissy robe involved, I’m not interested.  Also I haven’t had much practice so I’m tanking mainly on theory.  I know what I’m meant to be doing, but there’s still a bit of a gap (mind the gap between the tank and the platform!) between the realisation and the activity.

I think people involved in the academic study of videogames talk a bit of about what they call the “grammar” of games – all a bit structuralist for my postmodern tastes, but it’s an interesting way of thinking about the interaction of the game mechanics and the game itself.  Like learning any language, there’s a point at which grammar becomes instinctive and inherent.  When you say “I would like it if you could attend my dinner party” you’re not consciously parsing the conditional subjunctive.  Yer just talkin’.

Healing, for me, is like that.  Of course, I’m still improving my comma placement and deploying the occasional audacious semi-colon but, for the most part, by the time I’ve thought “a CoH would really help things about now” I’ve already used it, and have moved onto the next thing.

The grammar of tanking, though, isn’t there yet for me, and given my lack of a natural enthusiasm for the role, it sure is taking its time to get here.  So I think my tanking is like my French.  I can do it if I concentrate but it’s just not elegant.  And occasionally people will cringe and ask me, for the love of God, to just speak English, please.

Je voudrais taunt you now, you morceau de merde.

Je vous frapperai avec mon sword enorme.

Please send for the concierge, I appear to have a frog in my bidet.

Shut Your Eyes and Trust in Me

There was something else faintly bewildering about this run.  It was me tanking, M’Pocket Tank healing, and 2 random shadow priests we picked up.  We were, I think, within the level range but it was pretty straightforward.  If only I’d had my WoWcock with me, I’m sure he’d have had something to say on the subject.  I guess it’s been NERFED.  For the casuals. Anyway, despite my poor command of the grammar, I was tanking absolutely adequately.  I might even go so far as to say ‘well’.  The group was pretty competent (although it’s hard to tell at low levels – you don’t really have enough tools at your disposal to be able to fuck things up as comprehensively as you might like) and quite nice.

Except I kept seeing this golden gleam out of the corner of my eye.  It turned out that one of the shadow priests – the one in the heirloom gear, no less – was Power Word Shielding himself continually.  I tried to chalk it up to Bizarrolandia but bitchy bloody mindedness got the better of me and finally I whispered him to ask why.

“In case I pull aggro,” he said.

Uh?  Right.  I could understand if you’re soloing but, seriously?  Except in the case of arrant stupidity (oddly popular playstyle that it is) there was no way this guy was pulling aggro off me, I was so damn threatening.  And even on the couple of occasions I did momentarily lose threat, I was there with my taunt and my mocking blow and my “I shall knock your armour off you!” skillz.  The worst damage anybody took was a couple of hits on rare occasions, before the mobs remembered that they were more interested in the stocky orc in platemail than the skinny dudes in robes.

“You know,” I said, as gently as I could, “that if you pull aggro, I’ll get the mobs off you again?  I’ve got a bunch of skills  for that.  Being a tank.”

“I’ve had some terrible tanks,” he whispered back.

I genuinely didn’t know what to say that.  “Haha, I’m not that bad,” was the best I could manage.

Now what’s going on here?  Seriously.  Was that some kind of fucked-up tankism?  You know, you tanks, you’re all the same, coming over here, stealing our threat.   Or was it, in fact, the tanking equivalent of the dreaded “heal pls.”

Ultimately, it did no damage to the run.  It was a low level instance, they tend to be pretty forgiving, and it was his mana he was squandering. But it pissed me off.  Mainly I thought it was discourteous.  After all, I was right there, tanking perfectly competently.  He might as well have renamed it Power Word: I Don’t Think You Know What You’re Doing.  Despite, I would say, abundant evidence to the contrary.

Also it’s hardly a sustainable strategy (I’m using the word ‘strategy’ in its alternate sense of ‘dumb thing a complete moron was doing while instancing’) – there’s going to come a point when wasting time and mana putting a redundant PW:IDTYKWYD on himself was going to actually impinge on what he was supposed to be doing (DPS, you drivelling pillock).

Or do you think he was some kind scarred and wounded soul, abused beyond redemption by too many bad tanks.  Even so, I think there comes a point when you have to let go and move on, maybe get some counselling.

Of course, the most likely answer was: he was just that stupid.

June 22, 2009

the fallacy of WoW machismo

Filed under: Bitchin 'n' Moanin,UR Doing It Wrong — Tamarind @ 3:44 pm

I dithered for a while about writing about this because the blog was certainly never meant to be a space for the airing of personal grievances.  But then I thought ‘what the fuck.’

The background:

M’Pocket Tank and I have a couple of alts in the early-to-mid sixties, a boomdruid and a warlock, a combination that makes getting any instance just about impossible.  Tank + Healer looking for DPS will usually shake a couple of guys out the woodwork but 2 DPS Looking for Tank, Healer and Maybe Another DPS – well, you might as well give up and retire to Hillsbrad. I can, of course, off-heal a bit but he’s a boomdruid to the depths of his little cow heart. He doesn’t want to be healing.  He wants to be blowing shit up for nature.  I did try to respec him but he was a small, sad cowtree and didn’t like it much.

The sensible thing, I imagine, would be to give up and simply levl to 80, noob, but M’Pocket Tank and I are really into instancing.  It’s our favoured way of playing. We have a long and not entirely glorious history of attempting instances in a fashion other than the generally prescribed one so we looked at the problem from all possible angles and decided to embark on an experiment to see whether it was actually possible to DPS our way through an instance, with a mixture of heavy firepower, off-healing and, of course, pretty major crowd control.

(For the record, the conclusion is very definitely with the right team, a modicum of intelligence and enough care – and it’s an experiment I’d like to try again someday)

Two of us definitely weren’t enough and, rather than trying to a recruit a random who would likely find the whole premise as mad as box of hair, I convinced a friend of mine to bring the frost mage he’s currently levelling along for the ride. The same friend who poo-pooed my Magister’s HELP I HAVE NO ACRONYM Terrace run.  Not, perhaps, my brightest ever idea.  But, “we’ll have all the cc and all the DPS in the world, the voidy can tank, it’ll be fine,” I promised, glibly, “it’ll be fun.”

We settled on BF as not likely to be impossible and, after one humiliating wipe, found our rhythm. But what really killed the run stone dead, put a stake through its heart and then spat on its corpse was the fact my friend kept banging on and on and on about how BF had been horribly nerfed and this was way too easy.

“We’re 3-manning a 5-man instance,” he kept sneering, as if the fact we could rendered the whole experience beneath contempt.  “I remember when this was challenging.”

Well, gosh, is there any more fun you’d like kill to while you’re at it?  Here’s a balloon animal, why don’t you pop it?  (M’Pocket Tank did some research afterwards and it turns out that BF has been mildly nerfed but ultimately it’s always going to be quantitatively easier than it used to be simply because players now have access to additional tiers of talents.)

The thing is, M’Pocket Tank and I weren’t attempting to 3-man BF at level with 3DPS classes because we wanted to add length to our WoWcocks.  It was never going to be the kind of thing you take a video of yourself doing, and send along to the Website Formerly Known As WoW Insider.  We were doing it for the interest, to see if we could and because it struck us as being fun way to spend a couple of hours in Azeroth.  Having a member of the party constantly undermining the value of what we were doing, well, put a bit of a damper on things to say the least.  Eventually all pleasure had been ruthlessly sucked from the experience so we gave up.

I suspect a part of the reason we took against his whinging as badly as we did was connected to the fact the run fell right in the middle of the great divide between PUGs and friends.  Usually I go into a PUG with no expectations whatsoever.  I’m anticipating moronity.  Any advance on that is a blessed bonus.  But you expect to be able to relax with a group of friends.  In short, you acquire standards.  Confident of not being pissed on, you put down your umbrella.

I genuinely don’t know what he was trying to achieve by constantly wanking about how doing BF Meant Something In His Day, other than making us feel rubbish I mean.  It wasn’t like we were going to immediately fall to our knees in worship of his mighty WoWcock. All it did was reinforce the idea that he wasn’t in any way interested in playing the game with us, preferring instead to use it as opportunity to insist upon  his superiority.

Also, I can’t help but think he’s rather missed the point of instancing.  It’s always been easy.  It’s designed that way.  It’s not raiding.  The point of an instance, surely, is that any sensible five dudes should be able to walk in there at level, wearing what they’re wearing, and do it.  The hardest thing about instancing is assembling the five sensible dudes.  Instances fail because people can’t play their class or work as a team, not because of the challenges within the instance itself.  The other thing, I think, that speaks well for the design of instances across the Old World (I am less impressed with Northrend, as we know) is that they’re flexible enough that you can essentially substitute 3 guys who know what they’re doing for 5 guys who don’t.  We 3-manned our way through most of the Old World – and in some ways I actually prefer it.

The other thing I think this mess illuminates is the fallacy of WoW machismo.  The things for which one tends to rack up WoWcock points are often the things least earned.  For example, being 80 is an automatic extension to the WoWcock but any doofus can do that just by walking across Azeroth, whacking pigs on the head.  Similarly, face-rolling instances because you’re either over-level or over-geared: sign of WoW potence.  Using CC in instances that might otherwise be challenging for you: sign of wussiness.

Where BF was easy for it, it was easy because we were using heavy cc.  On our first attempted pull, I didn’t spot an imp and we got mullered in less than twenty seconds.  In fact, the whole tragic wipe could be encapsulated in: “mind that imp, what imp, splat.”  Essentially BF was either  impossible or  simple depending on whether or not we applied very basis strategy to it.  But to my (ex?) friend being able to suceed through care, attention and liberal deployment of cc was somehow less skillful, less worthy than whatever he’d done the first time round to make it feel difficult.

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