The Dead Server Scrolls

3 05 2010

As is seen daily in /2 Trade, Ahn’Qiraj is a dead server. Much like the instance, many Alliance players lost interest in what was becoming a joyless activity. The Horde have always been the dominant force on this PvP server for as long as I’ve played the game (3 years this month). But over the last 6 months-plus of Wrath, many have migrated or jumped faction. It’s affected the progression-focussed raiding guilds more than Old Timers, but even as a real-life-friendly guild, we have had our share of losses. Some swap faction to experience… erm… the same stuff in another skin. Others switch servers where the imbalance is the other way around. There are those who switch to opportunities in more progressed raiding guilds, while others throw their hands in the air, whinge, and do nothing.

Managing the consequences of a low pop server guild brings its own pressures. Like Captain Edward J. Smith, I (with my ‘crew’) have to steer the ship through tricky waters. As long as we spot the icebergs, we can deal with what’s ahead, but on-board troubles distract from that important job of ‘keeping an eye out for trouble’. Okay, that analogy wasn’t perhaps as weighty as I thought it might be… my literary talents (for what they are) disappeared in the maw of a passing seagull.

Here’s the crux then: Those deserting Ahn’Qiraj: Alliance all pay their money for their fun. I pay my money, where’s mine? This is a self-indulgent post, designed to crystallise my thoughts as to the way out of the low pop issues. Any comments are worthwhile; options I may have missed, solutions that have worked for you… If not, at least I’ve got the start of a plan here…

Option

Advantages

Disadvantages

Conclusion/Notes

Change my attitude

Less stress when shit happens

I develop a wider perspective

Requires ‘not giving a shit and letting go’ which is hard for me to do

Doesn’t help to support the guild

Simplest resolution, hardest to achieve

Sit it out and wait for Blizzard to resolve the issue

Get to remain with those I have grown close to over the last 3 years

Cheap, as no paid services required

Who knows when it will happen

Get to sit on the deck and watch the HMS Ahn’Qiraj sink faster as more people ‘leave’

Feel more and more depressed as friends leave

Affects ‘real-life friendly’ guilds like us less, unless a key raiding position is vacated

FCM doesn’t seem to be working, as people are paying to ‘leave’

Wait for the possibility of whole-guild transfers in Cataclysm

Faction transfer

More like-minded players who aren’t frustrated with the balance of power

More opportunity to release the burdens and become a non-Officer guildie

Finding the right guild

Leaving friends behind

£20 per toon

Could cost £500

Server transfer

More like-minded players who aren’t frustrated with the balance of power

More opportunity to release the burdens and become a non-Officer guildie

Finding the right guild

Leaving friends behind

£15 per toon

Could cost £375

Anonymity

No guild pressures

PuG pressures galore if I want to see any end-game PvE content

Coward’s way out

£6 per toon

Could cost £150

New guild

Fresh start with no baggage

Hand-pick those I want who share the same approach to the game

Danger of slipping into roles that place pressure on me

Can the AQ numbers sustain anything productive?

What would the new guild be about?

How would it change the current situation?

Join existing guild

More opportunity to release the burdens and become a non-Officer guildie

Doesn’t resolve faction imbalance

Who says I’ll get in? Leads to PuG issues

Danger of same issues, different people?

Option

Advantages

Disadvantages

Conclusion/Notes

Change my attitude

- Less stress when shit happens

- I develop a wider perspective

- Requires ‘not giving a shit and letting go’ which is hard for me to do

- Doesn’t help to support the guild

- Simplest resolution, hardest to achieve

Sit it out and wait for Blizzard to resolve the issue

- Get to remain with those I have grown close to over the last 3 years

- Cheap, as no paid services required

- Who knows when it will happen

- Get to sit on the deck and watch the HMS Ahn’Qiraj sink faster as more people ‘leave’

- Feel more and more depressed as friends leave

- Affects ‘real-life friendly’ guilds like us less, unless a key raiding position is vacated

- FCM doesn’t seem to be working, as people are paying to ‘leave’

- Wait for the possibility of whole-guild transfers in Cataclysm

Faction transfer

- More like-minded players who aren’t frustrated with the balance of power

- More opportunity to release the burdens and become a non-Officer guildie

- Finding the right guild

- Leaving friends behind

- £20 per toon

- Could cost £500

Server transfer

- More like-minded players who aren’t frustrated with the balance of power

- More opportunity to release the burdens and become a non-Officer guildie

- Finding the right guild

- Leaving friends behind

- £15 per toon

- Could cost £375

Anonymity

- No guild pressures

- PuG pressures galore if I want to see any end-game PvE content

- Coward’s way out

- £6 per toon

- Could cost £150

New guild

- Fresh start with no baggage

- Hand-pick those I want who share the same approach to the game

- Danger of slipping into roles that place pressure on me

- Can the AQ numbers sustain anything productive?

- What would the new guild be about?

- How would it change the current situation?

Join existing guild

- More opportunity to release the burdens and become a non-Officer guildie

- Doesn’t resolve faction imbalance

- Who says I’ll get in? Leads to PuG issues

- Danger of same issues, different people?





Playtime: Festergut (ICC 10-man Normal)

2 05 2010

Festergut ICC10 Normal





Ninjas out in the cold? They aren’t alone…

15 03 2010
So, Frozen Orbs will become a new uber-currency, tradeable for items such as Eternal Fire and Frost Lotus. In order to combat the loot ninjas, these orbs now become ‘Greed’able only.
Although this simplifies the system, and I’m all for simplfying choices for the masses, I don’t think I agree with the reasoning behind it. There’s this whole approach of ‘the player not the class’. Yet I am not rewarded for my time in that heroic, I am rewarded only for the toon I take. So if I tank, I can link my two crafting professions from Anaster, and justify a ‘Need’ roll. If I heal on Haevn the Shaman, I have two gathering professions, and so can’t justify a ‘Need’ roll. Yet I have every single crafting skill that needs Frozen Orbs on other toons. Let’s say I ‘Needed’ the orb to get an Eternal Fire that I ‘Needed’ in order for my tailor to craft a healing cloak for me? Could I justify that ‘Need’ on my gathering Shaman? Of course I could…
 
But it’s the bigger picture here. Getting rid of ninjas is great (though it’s been a long, long time since I encountered any) but reducing it to ‘Greed’ limits the choice of the mature player also…




The February post: The state of Old Timers

27 02 2010

/tongueincheek title, but despite my laziness in posting, I will not let a whole month go by without posting.

I have 4 or 5 drafts saved that all have the common theme of team-play. Individual topics vary from committment to a guild, to the responsibilities and duties of a raid leader. But it struck me that they all centre around this idea that we work better when all the parts of the group are doing what they need to do. Progress halts (be it raid, guild atmosphere, or whatever) when links in the chain break. This will be a wall of text… I’ll start with a bit of guild background, personal ambition, problems and limitations, and finish with the way ahead. I don’t like the phrase ‘casual’. Sure, compared with ‘hardcore’ we don’t raid as frequently or as hard, but casual implies a less professional approach to being prepared. I’ve always wanted as a GM and RL for the group to be ‘prepared and repaired'; the same high expectations that I would have of a progression-focussed raiding group. I’ll continue to use the phrases though, as those with a brain know what we’re on about here… :)

GUILD BACKGROUND

Old Timers is a ‘casual’ Alliance raiding guild on EU-Ahn’Qiraj, a PvP server. The server itself is predominantly Horde, and has been since the guild’s inception 2 years and 9 months ago. It was a Medium population server back in 2007, but is now ‘Low’ as many Alliance have migrated to other servers to facilitate 25-man progression content. We didn’t start raiding until Karazhan in mid-2008, and that was a bumpy start to 10-man content. Eventually, we broke through it, and almost cleared it before the ‘big nerf’. We then went on to almost clear Zul’Aman too. Wrath hit, and we started to get our 80s rolling. The intention was to start Naxx-10 around January, clearing it by April 2009. We weren’t far off from that, dropping KT in early May. On the server, we were generally amongst the 40-55th guilds to clear said content (according to GuildOx). As a strict 10-man guild, which is all we have ever managed to build rosters for, we are currently in the top-10 on the server, and the 2nd Alliance guild. When the realm was much more active, we were generally 6th or 7th as an Alliance guild. This helps to show two things: 1) the server is dead as far as Alliance guilds go compared with Horde raiders, and 2) in strict 10-man content, we’re not bad. Our raiding population consists of two types of players; 80s who want a chance at raiding but won’t or can’t commit to 4+ nights per week, or those who have raided at an energetic level, and don’t want that pressure anymore or all the time.

Our ethos is self-reliance; we don’t hold hands, but we provide the tools and resources for people to be able to provide to the guild their skilled class, professions or, sometimes, their gold. Most of us go by real names rather than toons, reflecting the ‘family’ atmosphere we have. We are an equal-opportunities guild.

PERSONAL AMBITION

I take control of things. It’s in my nature, and it’s helped make Old Timers what it is today; a guild that has lasted a long time, is (generally) well-liked on the server, with a strong core of officers, a roster of great guildies, and someone that the average WoW player will ask to get their friends invited to.

I don’t like tools that fail. So rather than the in-game comms, we have a paid-for website and Vent server.

I don’t like absent resources. This is why my main is actually several mains. My hunter serves a role, as does my prot/holy paladin, arcane mage, elemental shaman… you get the picture. All of these are geared (to a greater or lesser degree) for ICC-10. It may be more of a DPS challenge for the shaman than the hunter, but it means I can offer flexibility on a raid. I choose the other 9, then see what’s needed.

Yeh, I choose the other 9. As well as being the de facto GM, I’m also the main Raid Leader. Scheduling, managing raid composition, ensuring raid consumables are available, researching tactics, understanding class abilities… again, anyone who’s ever led a raid, you know the score. No-one wants a boss kill, a wing clearance, or an instance achievement more than I do.

I’m an addict to WoW. In no small measure. Multiple accounts, playtime every day, I spend a lot of my free time invested in this game and invested in the people who play it. Consequently, I watch, listen and learn. I play my hunter damn well. I’m a pretty good paladin tank, and an adequate paladin healer. I know most of the classes very well, and have spent significant energies on managing my UI so that I can play these classes more effectively. Hell, I even run Decursive on my lock!

Here’s an admission that only a few in the guild are aware of. I want to see more content than my guild can offer. It’s always been this way, from our first raid, to ICC. My ambition is greater than Old Timers can supply.

PROBLEMS IN OLD TIMERS

This isn’t meant to be a diatribe of why x is shit, why y is full of fail, and why z won’t do anything about it. Firstly, I keep that frustration inside me… being shouted out won’t make anyone move out of the fire more quickly. It might help the shouter, but not the shoutee or their friends. Yep, I’m very much a social…

And yet again, I’m not. At least, sometimes I wish I wasn’t. I recognise the impact that being a bastard has on the person on the other end of the digital divide. ‘But you standing in the fire did just waste us 10 minutes of (for some people) precious playtime’. I’ve had necessary conversations with people about actions, specs, the like. But where I am a goblin* is in my own play. BM is a lovely warm blanket for me, but when it came to switch for higher DPS, I did it. And I’ll do it again now that my gear means Marksmanship will yield more.

And this is the problem. I want to see more. I am skilled enough to see more. I have had opportunities to see more. But I am an Old Timer. I need 9 more to kill Arthas and everyone before him. Unfortunately, Old Timers will never kill Arthas. Not in 2010 at least. Why? I’m glad you asked. I’ve prepared a nice list for you…:

  • We’re not good enough
  • We’re not committed enough
  • We’re not prepared enough
  • We’re not bothered enough

To any guildies reading this… I have a duty as GM and RL to highlight what’s wrong. But I also have a duty to myself to manage my frustrations so that they don’t begin to affect my health. ‘Onyxia trash wipes, really? Fire Bombs on Gormok, are you kidding? You didn’t see Lady Deathwhisper’s big green Death and Decay? Even though we just talked about it for the fourth time?’ Anyone who thinks I’m making a big deal out of how annoying these little things are when it’s only a game, try planning and leading raids twice a week, and running a guild that keeps everyone involved. Try managing everybody’s expectations, loot lists, processing whispers explaining why x is shit, why y is full of fail, and why z won’t do anything about it. Try doing all of this and more, whilst trying to enjoy the game that you pay to play, that you want to enjoy… and try still enjoying it, knowing that what you know you are capable of doing won’t matter one bit because some won’t ‘work’ as hard to play the game well.

(This has turned into more of a rant than I wanted, but I won’t change it… as someone who rarely externalises their emotions, some things need to be said and left said).

  • We’re not good enough: Ignore Gear Score, Recount, wow-heroes, all that. We haven’t cleared Ulduar-10. We have cleared ToC-10, but Faction Champs is still a struggle. We wipe on Onyxia… usually.
  • We’re not committed enough: For the last raid, 6 signed up on the day. 2 signed up in the two hours before raid invites. Despite the reasons for using the Calendar being highly publicised on the guild, sign-ups are very frequently late.
  • We’re not prepared enough: Every raid that involves several wipes, someone needs to repair before we’ve passed our 3rd or 4th wipe. Gear, potions, consumables, reagents, bandages… are they always as stocked as they should be?
  • We’re not bothered enough: Horde toon levelling, achievement chasing, mount grinding, alt levelling… Even I as a multiboxer can’t do all these things at the same time as raiding or prepare to give my best in a raid.

Okay, some of you will have read that, and will have a list in your head of why these things happen. Hey, I can defend late sign-ups (real-life comes first), needing to repair (was questing/farming/etc. as the invites came in), toon levelling (it’s your money after all). None of that is a problem for me. But, if the guild wants to progress through cutting edge content, these things all hold us back…

Old Timers is not an Icecrown Citadel raiding guild. I am an Icecrown Citadel raider. I am not alone within Old Timers.

THE WAY AHEAD

I might think I can, but I can’t speak for anyone else. I have two options… should I stay or should I go? Achieve my WoW raiding ambitions with another guild or on another server? Or stay with the countless friends and great memories I have, but struggling week to week inside raid instances. It’s easy to answer, and I’ve just answered by paying for the guild website for another year ;). But some things will have to change if I’m to reduce the hassles associated with raid leading. I was going to write a list, but found that it just became another whinge. Simply, I need to lower my expectations of a full Old Timers raiding group. Not of them as people as they’re a great bunch of people, many of whom I am proud to call friends. I need to assess the guild’s ‘wants’ with their ‘capabilities’ and provide advice or requests in order to improve our chances of progression. If this means stepping down a content level, then so be it. We’ll see how the guild receives this.

I’m sacrificing my personal goals in this game for the guild, but I won’t sacrifice my well-being…

*For more info on goblins and socials, google greedy goblin.





Interfacing: Raiding addons

26 01 2010

Like tourists huffing and puffing to reach the peak we forget the view on the way up

It’s my intention to detail some of these addons further rather than simple recite lists. Should you not be able to wait however, you can find most of these at www.curse.com or www.wowinterface.com.

At 80 (or earlier should you so desire a particular function) the use of addons can change its focus. Gone are those used simply for the levelling experience, and enter many whose purpose it is to ease your passage through the Heroic and Raiding experiences. I tend to find that I enable more addons at 80; this can be counter-productive as you could argue that at 80, your gaming experience requires more of your computer and bandwidth. More addons means more demands on an increasingly utilised system. Most people should be fine, but with my ISP provider and location limiting my capacity, I’ve had to pick and choose those instance addons that are necessary and important:

  1. Atlaslo0t: Honestly, I could probably live without this item database addon. It’s great for convenience, but I don’t find myself using it to study loot. I tend to use websites like http://www.maxdps.com and gear-wishlist.appspot.com/ and build my gearing programme that way. However, if you like convenience, this is the way for you.
  2. Buffalo: Being able to move your buff and debuff positions becomes much more crucial for maintaining productive real estate. This allows buffs, debuffs and weapon buffs to be configurable. Be aware, it doesn’t have a nice menu system as it’s all based on chat instructions. /buffalo will get you started.
  3. BuffEnough: Analyses your group comp and tells you what buffs you are missing. Can be instructed to prioritise certain class buffs (like Blessings) and even checks for flasks and food. de rigueur in our raids now.
  4. DXE: Deadly Boss Mods just got served. DXE (Deus vox Encounters) is clean, fresh, lightweight and more informative.
  5. eZicons: You can set up macros or keybindings for mob marking, or just double-click (left mouse button please… no premature pulls :D ) and select from the radial icons.
  6. MSBT: Blizzard’s combat text is half-arsed. Mik’s Scrolling Battle Text is extensive, but spending a little bit of time gives you the information you need.
  7. Omen 3: Threat meter. If you need more info than that, go play Solitaire. Threat meters allow you to play with others… Solitaire?
  8. Omni CC: An extra signal to inform you about cooldowns.
  9. Power Auras Classic: I’m only just getting to grips with this involved addon. Any visual signal that can help my role beyond that which the encounter offers (like, I don’t know, big bubbling puddles of FIRE!!!) is well received here. You can copy and import other people’s settings as strings of code… this one is definitely a topic for future posts.
  10. Recount: Its value is both over- and under-estimated. If it’s for personal use, with training dummies and the like, then great. If not, and you run raids with it as your Bible, then might I suggest a game of cards… on your own. When used in groups, it is a yardstick, nothing more. It may be source for friendly competition, but it is not accurate enough to berate individuals. Including yourself.

A rushed post today, but one I was going to write anyway. More details on some of these will follow. If you have any specific requests, you know where to find the comments section…

/logout





Guilded: The cost of raiding

24 01 2010

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity

I intend for this post to start a series of linked topics on being ready to raid with your guild. It could of course apply to non-guild raiding, but it is targetted to my guild which I know very well…

3 hours of raiding =

  • 10 level 80s: an optimistic levelling time is 100 hours, just over 4 days of game time each. A month and a half of cumulative time.
  • Suitable level of gear: Even entry-level raids like Naxx require some gearing time. Let’s be optimistic again and say 10 hours each. Another 4 days.
  • Flasks: 2 tanks; 1 spellpower healer; 2 MP5 healers; 1 spellpower DPS; 4 rage DPS… 78 Lichbloom, 36 Icethorn, 18 Goldclover, 15 Frost Lotus, 9 Crystallised Life, 9 Pygmy Oil, 9 Enchanted Vial…
    • These require either gold to buy the mats and flasks, or someone to to train the appropriate professions, gather the mats and craft. Let’s say 10 hours of profession training.
  • Food: We’ll go straightforward… assuming you have the mats, 2 hours of training to make Fish Feasts… and a couple of hoursof fishing and cooking dailies to make 20 feasts.
  • Buff reagents: Just gold really. Which means time to earn…
  • Ammo: Hunter-dependent of course, but it means (if the hunter is half-decent) someone needs to level Engineering. 3 hours.

So, before the instance portal is even crossed, we have about a conservative estimate of over 900 hours of cumulative (wo)man-hours.

And now, the message…

Consider the time that our fellow guildies put into being prepared for each raid. Whether the guild is real-life (casual), progression or hard-mode orientated, 10- or 25-man, we all have a responsibility to be properly prepared and focussed on that group activity. In case anyone needs a list :)

  • Punctuality
  • Repaired
  • Reagents/Buffables
  • Prepared for the role
  • Geared for the role
  • Gemmed and enchanted for the role
  • Specced for the role
  • Knowledgable about the run
  • Available for the run

Even real-life guilds don’t want to spend hours after hours wiping on trash or bosses. If the raid is cutting-edge content for your guild, you have a responsibility to those others who have also played hard to get ready.





Experience Points: Heroic Failures part 1… Tanks

22 01 2010

What we have here is a failure to communicate.

The implementation of patch 3.3 brought with it the Looking For Dungeon (LFD) feature. Precisely 12.7s after that came the implementation of the cross-realm twat. No longer were ranting, inconsiderate idiots isolated to their own realm (or forums… or blog). The ease with which LFD allows us, particularly altoholics, to gear up our toons means that those who don’t use the LFD system miss out on the arms race. Maybe you’ve used them on the way up, but if you are new to 80, these heroics can be a daunting place, full of bile and vitriol. If you are a tank or healer, prepare for special treatment.

This is the first part of a triplet post about how to learn from these negative experiences. Kanye tells us that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. If you can develop a thick skin against the fascists, you will come out of it more equipped to fulfill vital roles for your raiding groups and guilds.

Intro

Let’s consider the ideal 5-man PuG:

  • Group: all appropriate buffs given; tank set as focus for DPS to assist; each player knows the instance and the class abilities well; class utilities are considered, with relevant actions when needed should the unexpected happen (CC, threat reduction, etc.) or to assist the tank during tricky pulls; debuffs removed (anyone remember that Warlocks can use Decursive?); everybody’s position reduces party damage and accidental pulls
  • Tank: threat generation on multiple mobs is maximised; pace appropriate for capacity of group; situational awareness allows pro-active interceptions when things go awry
  • DPS: threat is managed to less than pulling levels; optimum dps per mana/energy is delivered
  • Healer: healing and damage prevention is almost prescient

Now, have a look at the opposite, the nadir PuG:

  • The tank runs off and begins to chain pull the instance before the crash of the buffs has finished or the dual-spec healer has finished switching specs…
  • The DPS runs off and begins to chain pull the instance before the crash of the buffs has finished or the dual-spec healer has finished switching specs…
  • The Healer runs off and begins to …
  • /p is full of rudeness, intolerance, impatience and elitism…

In reality, most PuGs fit on the spectrum between these two extremes (though I remember the ones closer to the nadir, but that may just be selective memory). How can we enhance our own gameplay so as to turn these negative experiences into something that can benefit your future groupings.

TANKS

The Pull: As a starting heroic, you are likely to get Utgarde Keep. Once the first pair of mobs are down, there is a set of potentially tricky pulls that can bring mobs raining down on your party members:

  • Mark the mobs – at the very least it gives you some practice, those who will follow kills orders have their trained routines triggered, and it may even prompt a gracious piece of help about which ones should be the first targets
  • Range and Line of Sight – understand the ranges of your abilities, how you can use chained abilities to build threat as the mobs progress towards you, and then what’s your quickest way of building AoE threat on multiple mobs.

Taunts: You must learn where your taunts are. Be comfortable with the taunts that pull single targets as well as those that intercept mobs on an ally. You should also understand how taunts work, when they can miss, and what they do with threat. Not all taunts are created equal.

Threat increase: Never become comfortable and relaxed with rotations. As a new tank, I’m hoping you’ve done a bit of research, found websites discussing tanking ‘rotations’. Stay on top of current thinking. Beyond that, make sure that you have the right self-buffs (Righteous Defense, the correct stances and presences, etc.). Also, on multiple target situations, think about spreading the love. Don’t wait until skull is dead before moving onto cross if your threat lead is large enough to switch early. Make sure other classes are using Misdirect effects… it all helps.

Threat reduction: Vigilance is useful just to help you get that little advantage over the top dps. Use whatever tricks your class has to increase that gap between you and them.

Stuns: There’s a group with a ranged caster that you just can’t pull into the group. If there’s no mage with Counterspell, what else can you do? Think about mobility, but look at how you can take it out of the fight for a few seconds. If DPS really want their own playthings, give them that one to drop.

Damage Reduction/Health Increase: Long cooldown life-savers. Know where they are. Using them wisely takes time, but you need to be using them.

DPS: If all else fails, and tanking just isn’t working right yet, see if DPS is an option. Sure, it won’t change the opinions of the sub-humans out there, but it will allow you to look at what’s going on from a different viewpoint. Maybe you can get some tips along the way, watching other tanks. If they’re over-geared, it may not be that useful, but at least the emblems will keep flowing, you’ll get some upgrades from bosses, and in time, you may feel you can step back into the furnace that is the PuG.

Do not forget the other resources you have; look at gemming and enchants, make sure you have hit the minimum requirements to start these runs, but most of all, ask around. Guildies should be more than happy to help, even those Friends you’ve added along the way. In time, you can become the one overgeared for the instance. And you can break the cycle…

Disclaimer: I loathe PuGs. I love them more than I used to, but that’s brought on by the necessary evil that is gearing up multiple toons. I have come to tolerate them a bit more, and those special moments when our random fellows are genuinely supportive helps to temper the anger brought on by anti-socials.








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.