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I bit the bullet and started leveling an undead priest; this weekend, I got the 1 – 20 stretch done, which got me all the way through Silverpine and dropped me neatly at the start of Hillsbrad. Once I recover from the trip I will bravely continue forward, but for now, a bit of commentary on the experience:

Holy crap!

I don’t think I included any spoilers, so if you’re being cautious I think what follows should be safe for you to read.

In short, nearly everything has seen some degree of change. The maps are the same, but different; things look better (Stillwater Pond, for example, is really pretty now) individual areas have been remodeled, mob groups have been lightly redistributed, that sort of thing. Many of the NPCs that used to populate the 1 – 20 stretch are still around, but they’ve been moved to different quest hubs or shifted to occupy a new space in their original quest hub – some have even been given new gear, so they look a bit different than before (that’s neat, IMO). Seeing the same people/mobs helped me maintain a sense of familiarity which (ultimately) wound up making it easier for me to take in all the otherwise glaring physical & plot-based changes.

So much has been built. The Forsaken settlements are all styled like Northrend’s New Agamand (which I think is fantastic), and tons of buildings, blockades and outposts have been added or fortified. At first I didn’t quite know how to feel about it… Am I supposed to assume it always looked that way (i.e. retcon), or is all of that actually supposed to be new? I’m a bit confused about past V.S. present, and the quests aren’t entirely helpful; some quests are very similar to quests I remember from old-Azeroth (e.g. I’m pretty sure I remember Executor Zygand asking me to kill Captain Perrin before…but I guess he’s back now), while others are totally new and clearly show the world moving on past WotLK. Makes it really tough to tell what saw a retcon and what didn’t!

That aside – and taking into account the fact that I am woefully bad at keeping plots/events straight in my mind – it’s still enjoyable. The quests are way, way more linear than before. While that may not be some folks’ cup of tea, I certainly like it (please see what I just said about my ability to record events)! All quest text has been rewritten in order to provide new/more/updated context, and you’re never left wondering where to go next. Some of the original quest chains that were either quite long or straight up annoying have been clipped or removed entirely, and the new chains they put in are entertaining. Amusingly enough, all the quest rewards have changed as well! They look much nicer now (both on your character and the actual icons for each piece), which is always a plus; smart idea, too, given that the first 20 or 30 levels (or perhaps even the first 10) is when you want players to bond with their character & get hooked – and I’d think you’d be shooting yourself in the foot if they have to perpetually stare at ugly gear.

The Silverpine quest chains are of particular note; some of them are ‘directed’ like mini-movies. Those that revolve around Gilneas and the Forsaken’s efforts there are lots of fun to work through and give you a huge chunk of story. While I’m not super-keen on taking quest after quest from my faction leader (I can’t explain why, either – it’s like, if it’s not a raid quest, I don’t want to hear from you), I suppose I can accept it for the sake of getting a decent understanding of WTF is going on in the world. I was very pleased with the information I got from the variety of quests I did while in Silverpine; I now understand the Worgen and Gilneas and all that jazz far, far better than I did before. I even know who the new Shadowfang Keep bosses are and what they’re all about! I’m actually thankful for that, ’cause there’s nothing like running an instance or a raid without understanding a single thing about it.

Despite all the learning, there are some things I’m still confused about:

  • How many val’kyr does Sylvanas have, exactly?
  • The val’kyr can only raise humans? What?
  • This deal that Sylvanas has with the val’kyr – does it apply to all her val’kyr? Why would they agree to that?
  • Why oh why was the Royal Apothecary Society not disbanded after Wrathgate?
  • How did that Darnell fellow get so big?

Something else that jumped out at me? Rep gain. It’s massively increased (or, at least, it was in the undead 1 – 20 quests). I can remember 2 quests that got me 1000 rep with Undercity – that’s wild! Back in the old days, the most I remember being awarded for any single quest was 500 (e.g, the main Scarlet Monastery quest, though the rep gain there was faction-wide). That’s amazing! I wonder why that is, though… They added home-city tabards that allow you to collect rep from instances (any), so I’m curious to know why there’s a sudden push to get people to Exalted (I’m guessing) on presumably all home factions. Hmm.

On a side note: when next you roll an undead character, pay close attention to the language used in all the quest text. Notice a lot of questionable terms? I do. I’ve seen stuff like hell, god damn, bastard and bitch (this last one was even voice acted). Personally, I don’t care and I think the grit is great (especially for the undead, I dunno – it just fits), but…don’t kids play this game? Then again, I have no clue what’s considered acceptable language in media today, so perhaps that’s all OK. I did jump out at me, though.

There are a small number of quests that contain elements that are full-on Blizzard making fun of itself/its player base. For the most part, I think these are funny, but sometimes they sort of shatter the illusion (especially when it’s a joke quest as opposed to a joke element in a quest)… I’m torn. I feel as though they should almost only be used as ‘intermission’-style quests, where they don’t interfere with an actual (story) chain and are only there to provide you with a little break before you plunge into the next chain (e.g. the cute ‘be a quest giver’ quest you get right as you enter Hillsbrad). I suppose it really depends on your sense of humor.

Overall, I think the redo is impressive. We’ll have to see how quickly it gets old/what the replay value is on it all, but for now I’m more than satisfied.

I enjoyed the 1 – 20 experience enough that I rolled a new ‘lock in the same zone; now that I am familiar with it, I can go comb the new landscape and farm it to death. That’s neither here nor there, but…did you know that pet class characters can’t (fully) control their pet ’till level 10? Does anyone know why that is?  Has it always been like that and I just don’t remember?

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Prot’s been excited about Cataclysm since its specifcs started popping up on the various websites she follows. For the last little while, she’s been telling me all about how this & that’s gonna change and how it’ll affect her enjoyment of the game. She’s been gushing about the new races and starting areas and how cool it’ll be to roll a new alt (or five…) in order to experience the new content. She’s even had a fit of premature tank rage over the fight mechanics on some great big flying genie-esque boss we saw in a PTR raid video – as though our tiny, most-folks-don’t-even-play-any-longer guild was in any sort of position to begin raiding in Cataclysm when the content opens up.

And that works for her. On Tuesday? I was happy to be in heroics. It’s not that I’m not interested or excited or that I don’t think all the Cataclysm changes (most of which were implemented this week) Prot told me about aren’t neat – it’s that they fill me with a weird breed of dread. Cataclysm is, I feel, a much bigger expansion than its predecessors and brings a ton of changes to many areas of the game. I feel a bit – no pun intended – shaken up by it, to be perfectly honest with you. As a result, all of the great news and neat stuff that Prot’s brought to my attention and that I’ve started seeing in-game since Tuesday has left me feeling more than a little overwhelmed.

There’s so much of it to see & discover…I don’t know where to start, or how best to approach it all. It’s like a gigantic mess; picking up that one Kleenex near the bed doesn’t really get you that far ahead. Since Tuesday, I’ve basically been staring at it from the door, taking it all in – but that’s inaccurate. I’ve been acknowledging it, I think. Yes – just acknowledging that all the strange, foreign stuff I see when I hit the ‘M’ key or watch the loading screen is my new WoW reality.

My mind has been working a mile a minute in a futile attempt to calculate the safest, quickest path through the onslaught of changes. Part of what makes new content of this magnitude so terrifying for me is that I am a profound lover of systems and order; in short, my new WoW reality is not my old WoW reality, and I am no longer master of my environment. That’s stressful. My brain is being petulant about it; it’s trying really hard to huffily turn its back on the fact that it’ll need to focus and re-learn everything – even if it knows it’ll probably enjoy the process. I’ve been craving a new game (or, more specifically, the act of learning a new game) for some time now, so there’s no reason for me to have frozen up the way I have this week.

That being said, it is what it is. I just have to power through it.

As a devout farmer, my first concern is the nodes and level ranges of the new map configuration. I used to know where to find each and every type of plant or ore, and I knew the level ranges of all mobs in any area – but not any more! Many maps have been re-tooled and Horde/Alliance levelling paths have changed, so I’ll need to run (I guess it’s more like ‘fly’ now, come to think of it – oh man, what if that turns all of Azeroth into Sholazar Basin, where the skies are darkened by hordes of ill-mannered protodrake-mounted farmers?!) out and survey the world to get all of that straight in my mind. I enjoy levelling professions, so knowing where to get things is paramount!

In the same vein, knowing that the profession cap will be raised in Cataclysm freaks me out as well. There’s nothing I can do about it right now, except maybe save up some mats to help finish up whatever professions haven’t reached 450 yet (they tend to put in these cheap little catch-up recipes after they raise the profession cap, which handily get you up to speed without need for any huge cash droppage, but I don’t know whether or not those recipes will require the use of old mats or new mats…hmm) and keep some gold stashed away for the initial upgrade cost and first few recipes. Getting my first profession to 450 in WotLK was quite the adventure; tons of cash and time (many, many thanks to all the guildies who sent – and still send – me mats, and to the one guildie who spent an entire morning killing undead in Icecrown for me) went into it, and I know it’ll be the same in Cataclysm.  Am I ready for that?

Weird, isn’t it? You sit at the top for a while and as soon as things change you’re uncomfortable and scrambling to get back up there. Thing is, I’m not entirely sure why it matters that I be ‘up there’… I enjoy the process of levelling, gathering, building, etc. far more than the ‘being up there’ part. It’s like any trip – I generally enjoy the journey more than whatever happens once we get to our destination. In WoW, I tend to pick a goal and then race towards it…only to get instantly bored again as soon as it’s over. I have time and time again threatened to wipe my entire character list and cried to Prot & Save about how I have nothing to work on or build or what have you and that I need a challenge, so why would the promise of new goals in Cataclysm appear so…unsexy to me?

Confusing, I tell you. Despite having repeatedly threatened to wipe my characters, I haven’t done so (yet – I will relapse, Prot, I promise you. It’s only a matter of time!). In fact, I was thinking that one way to cheap out on having to deal with all the new content would be to grab my main and just level her to 85 after Cataclysm comes out. That way I could ignore Azeroth entirely (save for wherever my hearth is; I could just choose a city that hasn’t seen any changes and pretend like it’s the good old days) and act like this is BC or Wrath and not all that much has changed. It’d be like a quarantine. A safe zone.

But it wouldn’t last. Alas…I fear I must come to terms with the new WoW, even if it’s just a bit at a time.

I rolled a lowbie Horde priest on a different server on Tuesday (we went to Brill last night, by the by. Did you know that it’s been fortified? Watch out, Scarlet dudes – the Forsaken are pimp now!). It’s the opposite strategy to the taking-my-main-to-85-with-blinders-on one I mentioned above. I figure I will subject myself to as many Azeroth changes as I can prior to December, so that I’ll at least be able to navigate the world when the expansion finally comes out. Reacquainting myself with the world map, I think, will be a good, strong step towards feeling confident again.

But you know what would be nice? If Blizz stopped resetting my talents. Please just stop. Stop. It’s driving me insane and making me curse the day dualspecs were implemented. Also, it’s not helping the whole stress thing; I keep rereading the shaman/priest/paladin trees each time and running back to my trainer, just in case something big’s happened. And I don’t even want to think about the whole 12% damage nerf to warlocks that I kinda quickly saw (and immediately looked away from) in the latest patch notes…I think it’s best that I permanently keep the blinders on for that one.

So it seems the key to retaining my sanity during this period is setting new goals for myself. I can do that:

  1. Get one of those awkward-looking camel mounts for my priest.
  2. Run the new AQ (I cannot explain to you how excited I am that Blizz kept this raid).
  3. See (just see – I’m not even going to think about actually running it) Uldum.

There. I think I can be happy again.

After a long, long run of tear-out-your-eyes boring old content farming, we (as a guild) finally stepped into ICC-10.  It’s still very new for me right now, so I’m in this kind of weird state where I haven’t actually formed a real opinion of the experience overall, but, nevertheless, I’ll share with you my first impressions.

I apologize in advance for the randomness, but…this is the internet, so *shrug*.

The good

a. The gunship battle is incredible fun.  Savethefails mistakenly triggered it early the first time and we all died horribly thereafter as we ran around like chickens with our heads cut off (hilarious!), but once we got the hang of it it was a blast.  Seeing the Horde ship fly in with Muradin yelling (Ulduar and HoS spoiled me for dwarves narrating instance and raid events — they are just too awesome to hear over the comm) at us to get our butts in gear…  Really epic.

b. Trash.  Trash means greens for DE and possible BoE epics, so I love trash.  It’s refreshing to see it again after months of boss loneliness in TotC! Plus, all the mobs in ICC grant you rep with some faction you can get neat stuff from; as much as heroics got boring fast, I did appreciate using them for rep grinds, so I’m pleased to be working towards something again (besides downing the next boss). 

c. Getting useful badges again.  So many of my little-played alts have full-on heirloom gear, and that’s a bad sign — it means I’ve been doing less-than-optimal content for a really long time.  But not any more!  ICC bosses drop Emblems of Frost, which must otherwise be acquired through the weekly (only 5, and only once per week), VoA (assuming you ever nail WG down at a time when you can get into VoA), or by running a heroic every day (difficult when you have time constraints IRL or no real drive to heroic dive).  Suddenly that fourth piece of T10 is not so much the stuff of dreams…

d. The raid group seems to have a bit more energy now that we’re into something new.  People talk on Vent — not a lot, sure, but it’s better than silence — and actually express joy when a boss goes down.

e. No incredibly annoying boss mechanics (yet).  That is…with the exception of phase 2 on the Lady, where occasionally one of the adds turns into some mutated fellow that the tank has to kite around but keep threat on.  That’s upsetting.  That aside, though, I rather enjoyed the fights (especially Saurfang, where we had a somewhat less-than-ideal class makeup to work with where the Bloodbeasts were concerned and yet still managed to do well) and am looking forward to seeing some new, original boss mechanics in future wings.

The bad

a. Because everything is new, the raid leader talks over the bosses in-game all the time and I (as a result) haven’t yet had the pleasure of actually hearing any of them speak.  I like boss speech, I dunno; it’s just one of those things I always look forward to when we do new content.  This becomes incredibly important in cases like, say, downing Saurfang — I’m sure something Ultra Mega Important was going on between the NPCs after the battle went down, but I could not hear a peep over the loot raid warnings and the people asking about whether or not what dropped was an upgrade.

b. Really short distances between bosses.  This is more a matter of personal preference than any kind of legitimate concern, but, there’s something about walking into a raid and being able to SEE the first boss RIGHT OVER THERE that just makes me raise an eyebrow.  What happened to suspense?  Anticipation?  The presence of trash at the start got me hopeful for a bit, but afterwards it felt like a string of bosses.  There was a bit of a jog at the top of the elevator after the Lady, but still…  Maybe I miss Naxx.  Or Kara.  I’d like the building to feel more like a building, but, at the same time, without boring the crap out of people with endless trash.  Tricky…

c. The traps in the room before Marrowgar (if I remember correctly — which I may not).  That’s just…ass.

d. I wish I didn’t have to go to my specific tier vendor in order to repair.  I mean, there’s a guy using an avil & hammer RIGHT THERE.  Does he just not like the way I look?

The ugly

a. Everything that drops in ICC is an upgrade for at least half the raid.  This is awesome, to be sure, but it also means we’re likely to have to wait a while before we can move to another wing.  That’s a shame, as I’m afraid this first wing will get boring quickly once we’ve covered it for a few weeks, and there may or may not be time to try our hand at the next before the summer rolls around.  I’ll keep my fingers crossed — I’d like to check out those plague bosses!

b. Rogue T10.  Hahahahahahaha, suckers!

Spring is in the air, and I’ve been positively infected by it these last few weeks.  I’m feeling the need to do silly things, like re-acquaint myself with the outdoors, wear loud-coloured clothes, buy lots of fruit, inappropriately harass the hubby, and take long lunches at work.  It’s rebel season.  Time to get awkward with strangers and make career-limiting moves at work.

In the midst of all that, WoW’s taken a back seat.  I find it hard to concentrate on one thing for more than 5 minutes at a time, so raiding and heroics grinding (which I had firmly started doing on my DK) is not really where I want to be right now.  Outside of weekly raid nights — that last of which, I might add, I was blissfully brain-AFK for and somehow miraculously managed to get through on pure finger/mouse memory — I’ve been suspiciously MIA…

Until last night, that is.

Less WoW time doesn’t mean no WoW time — it just means less hardcore WoW time.  I had a few hours to spare and wanted to absently dick around online while listening to music, so I hopped onto Argent Dawn and loaded up my little SAN-US alt.  SaveTheFails did the same, actually, and we met up at Exodar to do some questing.

It was one of the quietest, most satisfying WoW evenings I’ve had in months.  Hands down.

The SAN-US guild is a gargantuan beast compared to my home guild.  Like walking around in a mall or on a busy downtown street, you can lose yourself in the crowd and just be an observer.  That’s actually very liberating.  I get on and there’s already walls of text in the gchat — conversations I am not part of and don’t have to take part in if I choose not to.  Some people say hello, but they do it out of politeness or habit; there are no expectations, as we have no established relationship and they don’t know who I am.  There are so many people, in fact, that I had to stick SaveTheFails and Protflashes on my Friends list to make sure I’d be able to find them quickly without having to search for them in the guild roster.

But anyway.  In the safety of this near-to-anonymous environment, I decided to work on an experiment: I am trying the hunter class.  Sure, Amma’s itty-bitty right now and nothing more than an auto-attack bot, but someday I hope to grow her into something with specialized skills, something that can fill a slot that none of my other toons can…  Like a tree stump remover.  Sure, you could hack at that unsightly, ill-positioned tree stump with your shovels and picks, but that would take forever, you might even break your implements, you’ll make a mess of it, and it would be hard.  Unless, that is, you just happen to have a tree stump remover.

See, I’ve made something of a WoW-career over the years out of doing stuff my class is sub-optimal for.  Though challenging, digging tree stumps out with a butter knife and a detergent scoop really gives me time to wonder what other options exist…  This mini-hunter of mine on SAN represents an opportunity.

Because I am an ass I had badges to spare, I loaded up my barely 2-minute old alt’s scraggly arms with shiny heirlooms and frostweave bags and guiltily moved her over to Argent Dawn to start her journey towards usefulness.  Shoo shoo, little one!  Go do what elves do and…frolic, I guess.

It was a blast lowbie questing last night.  It’s hilarious to see all your old/raiding habits crop up as you play.  I put Omen up and had to physically force myself to shut it off because…who cares?  I caught my eyes sliding over to peek at Recount after we fought a monster that didn’t die in 2 hits.  I looked at my heirloom bow and noted that there’s +Hit on it and thought “I wonder what the hit cap is at this level?”.  I paid attention to my ‘buffs’.  I stressed out over my pet’s positioning when I’d send it into combat.  I waited for SaveTheFails (who has decided to try pally tanking on SAN) to ‘get threat’ on mobs before attacking.

And then I stopped.  Outright.  Well, not exactly; I stopped all of it except waiting for Save to hit first.  I just can’t get past that one, no matter how hard I try.  It’s cool, tank — I don’t want the mob(s), they’re all yours.  Seriously.

Instead, I focused my attention on the experience itself.  The quest, the scenery, hanging with Save — that sort of thing.  I admired the look of the heirlooms I bought and blindly shipped over without really giving two hoots; I actually paid attention to the music I was listening to and sang out loud/zoned out every now and then (to my delight, when my senses returned, we were both still alive!  What a novel thought: nothing is crucial at level 14); I stopped and typed out meaningless chatter and didn’t care about pats or how much time we ‘have left’ in the night; I stared at all the creatures ambling about Blood Watch and happily shopped for an entirely aesthetic alternative to my El Defaulto cat (I decided I like ravagers, BTW — trading fur for spikes FTW).

It was awesome.  In a fresh way.

Despite all that, we wound up accomplishing a lot.  By the time the night was over, we made our way back to Exodar, said good night in the gchat and logged.  A few folks said good night back, which I am fond of (more so than the initial hello — don’t know why), and that was that.

Who knew WoW could be so short and sweet?

As I was hoping to, I ran a string of LFG heroics yesterday on my shiny new DK tank.  I took SaveTheFails with me as my healer and Protflashes as one of 3 DPS.  Despite the horror story Prot felt the need to relate to you, it was actually a positive experience overall.

For ye experienced Blood tanks out there, some questions:

  1. I hear you can do a double Blood Boil when you open up on multiple targets.  Problem is, I don’t seem to have the runes available to do that after I throw down D&D/diseases/Pestilence — I usually have to immediately blow Blood Tap in order to get the runes back to do one (not two!) Blood Boil.  Which seems…wrong, I guess.  Thoughts? 
  2. Is Blood Tap a ‘Oh shit!’ button for you, or do you use it regularly?  What do you use it for?
  3. What do you do if a party member pulls an extra group and your D&D is unavailable?  After taunting one mob and using Death Grip to grab another, the only option available to me short of blowing something like Empower Rune Weapon seems to be to use straight up melee to get the new mobs’ attention…  Is that right?
  4. Where gear is concerned, how much T9 are you wearing, and what Emblem of Triumph gear did you buy?  I’m sure buying full T9 isn’t worth it.

They say Blood is weaker on AoE threat than Frost and that’s probably true, but whatever — I want to play Blood.  The only thing that drives me nuts is how many GCDs you need to get through in order to set up threat on a group of mobs…  I suffer a small heart attack every time the DPS starts AOEing  halfway through me laying down diseases.  That’s the sort of thing that would cause me to hover over the Empower Rune Weapon/Blood Tap abilities and seriously consider wasting their CDs right then and there just so I get can a couple Blood Boils in before things get out of control. 

Threat gen on single targets seemed fine, though — even VS substantially better-geared DPS (which is not hard: I’m taking with a green weapon, for God’s sake).  That was cake.  Too bad the days of single-target DPS are long gone, and the only thing that matters now is AoE…*sigh*.

Despite that, I will not be so easily discouraged.  I specced into Corpse Explosion to ease the burden, and I have to say it’s been pretty handy!  It just doesn’t help build initial threat.  If I’m to be really, truly honest with myself, though…I specced into CE in part for flavor and in part for nostalgic reasons, so I’ll have to review how practical it really is once I’m more familiar with all my abilities.

Now.  All that being said, in the vast majority of cases where the DPS weren’t deliberately being asses, I was able to hold aggro on mob groups without issue.  I installed the Tidy Plates > Threat Plates mod to get a better view of what I have threat on VS what I don’t, and, from what I could tell when it was toggled on, everything seemed alright.  So that’s good news!

Doing heroics from the tank’s perspective was both reasonably familiar and oddly alien.  It occurred to me only partly through UK that I should be turning the dragons away from the party when I run in & engage.  Hehe…yeah.  The idea of turning the mobs around such that I am facing the party and the mobs are facing me is the weirdest thing.  As DPS, you just don’t care about that stuff (most of the time, anyway).  I also realize that I need to learn how to do certain pulls.

Luckily, despite having seen many PuGs commit all manner of tank-enraging atrocities, I didn’t get that many bad party members.  Most people were dead quiet (I can never quite decide if I like that, or if it annoys me), but fairly well-behaved.  I got zero negative comments about skill-related stuff, and I think that’s why I came away with such a positive outlook on the experience in the end.  That, and the fact that I haven’t been tanking nearly long enough to have invested any real pride in it, so I’m unlikely to get super-pissed or overly stressed beyond the usual noob-tank performance anxiety (which, BTW, has disappeared almost entirely).

I did, however, get a winner of a whisper from a Ret pally that told me that I shouldn’t be tanking ‘without Frost’.  I asked him what he meant by ‘Frost’ and quickly checked to make sure I was in Frost Presence (and I was, haha!), and his reply was something like: “frost pres, spec gear armor and u shouldnt be using a 2h”.  Very nice, LoL.  I thanked him for the advice and asked him to let me know if he detects any issues during the run.  The guy was below me on DPS and never came anywhere near me on threat…so I dunno.  Kinda hard to get upset at stuff like that!  Only other comment was the dodgy one from the pally (what is it with these pallies?  Do all the catty ones come out on Saturdays?) in VH that Prot posted about earlier.  Again — the comment was gear-related, so it didn’t really put me off.  

It was tons of fun overall, and I’m absolutely going to continue with it.  I netted a load of upgrades during our runs and even got my T9 gloves, as well as a new 245 sigil to replace my iLevel 70 one (yeah, I still had the one they give you in the DK starting area).  So I call that a win.

I was over at Fulguralis’ blog reading the latest posts there a few days ago and I randomly wound up getting the warm & fuzzies.  Because of Valentine’s Day, there’s been an appreciable number of posts to do with gaming couples and I guess I’m just charmed to see it out there.  Ful and Fuu are particularly amusing for me because, as a couple, they share a few similarities with me and my own significant other.  Seems ‘locks and pallies fall in love, what can I say?

I have a unique place in my heart for gaming couples.  Maybe it’s just that I think they’re a ‘hip’ twist on an old stereotype, but I really think there’s value in sharing the gaming experience with one’s better half.  Like any other cooperative activity, you stand to learn things about each other in the process.  It can even help develop certain aspects of your relationship, like communication, patience, and compromise.  Big words, but every drop in the pot matters, right?  You have to take what opportunities you get in that respect, so if you and your sweetie are lucky enough to both enjoy games, it would be a waste to keep that part of your lives totally separate!

There’s nothing quite like partnership IRL and that absolutely carries over in-game.  It’s like running around with a buff on that grants you (as a player) additional courage, purpose, and tolerance.  Discovering new content is more exciting, wiping isn’t so frustrating, queue wait times aren’t so onerous, getting drops is more rewarding — and that’s just a few of the bonuses that come to mind.  This is especially evident in raiding (I find, anyway); I’ve PuGged a few raids and the whole damn thing just seemed…hollow, I suppose you could say, by comparison.  It felt more like what it is in essence (a glorified loot machine) than what it should be in spirit (an experience through which I derive entertainment).

The same thing could technically be said of bringing friends into the gaming environment, but bringing your mate is kicking it up a notch.  It adds into the mix that additional brand of comfort that only the two of you share.

I know there are plenty of WoW-couples out there, but it’s always a curious pleasure to find a new one.  Maybe I’m weird like this, but interacting with another duo makes whatever it is we’re doing as a unit feel safer, more positive, and less alien.  The whole engagement just feels different.  It’s lighter, more fun.  Maybe it’s because it legitimizes my chosen passtime?  Like, as something that full grown adults with ‘normal’ lives actually do?  Huh.  Perhaps.  Maybe it’s just a case of me wanting to be with people that are in the same situation as me (which would make sense).

It’s just nice to know that games are another place where couples can and do (more and more) move about.  It’s nice to know that while my behbeh’s in Blade’s Edge at some point this weekend (probably while I’m in the shower, so I don’t have to waste my ‘precious’ time) grinding ogres for a rare drop I’ve been talking about since BC, someone’s else’s behbeh is hard at work achieving some equally inane goal for their AFK sweetheart…and that that’s OK.

With my DK inching ever closer to 80, I’ve been doing some serious thinking.  I run a Blood/Unholy spec and have been levelling with extreme ease, and I always assumed I’d be DPSing my way into heroics & beyond…but, as I take a closer look at what the class has to offer, I realize that I’m no longer so sure DPSing’s what I want to do at 80.

I want to tank.  Yeah — for real.

I find the DK versatile overall, but for some reason it seems particularly attractive as a tanking class.  I’ve played a couple other tanking classes to varying degrees (pre-60 and past-70) and gave them thought to try to figure out what I like and don’t quite like about each; the conclusion I came to is that I like options.  I like having a good toolbox I can plunge my hand into when shit hits the fan.  I like knowing that I can react in a situationally appropriate manner. 

From what I can tell, I think the DK can do that.

But I’m not there yet.  I have a tanking ‘set’ (i.e. 3 greens and an old trinket, yay — PuGs are gonna ditch like mad when the random hooks them up with me!) saved up in my bank and am hungrily eyeing my XP bar as it climbs towards the-point-where-I-no-longer-have-to-log-in-an-inn, but I have no experience.  I’ll be surfing the net to find info in the next couple days, that’s for sure. 

Any folks who’ve DK tanked before have any spec suggestions, rotation ideas, or general advice to offer?  I’d love to hear it, as it’s all golden at this point!

– smartphone app
– multiple add-ons
– a download manager for the add-ons
– RSS feeds
– various mathcraft sites
– two online item/quest search engines
– a desktop app that evaluates various gear options
– two general reference sites for gear score and other checks
– a preview-type site that warns me of upcoming content changes
 
And this is all stuff I use on a regular basis.  Like it’s part of the actual game. 
 
But it’s not.  And I forget that.
 
Sometimes I like to sit back and think about the people that (still) play the game without all that stuff; those who play it ‘right out of the box’, so to speak.  Those people scare me because they make me wonder if I’m a freak by comparison, if I’ve taken the game too far.  Have I become the proverbial crazy cat lady?

For at least a year I played WoW with no knowledge of/help from/need for all the extras.  I wore white-quality weapons until level 40ish and proudly purchased my gear upgrades (when I had enough money) from whatever guy in the next town had a repair icon on mouseover.  I knew about the thing people referred to as the auction house, where I could purchase…stuff, I guess…but my considerable cynicism and distrustful nature kept me away from it for fear of being taken advantage of.  I ran instances with PuGs and thought I did quite well, despite my talent tree being a total mess.  Blithely I plodded along, all the way to level 40+ and I had a great time doing it. 

So…what happened?  I got serious about it at some point, I think.  That’s my suspicion.  Try as I might, though, I can’t quite put my finger on when it happened exactly.

The only thing that makes me brush my abovementioned fears aside and continue on playing the game in the extras-augmented way I do is the knowledge that I am not alone in my insanity.  Everyone uses all that stuff to play, don’t they?  They talk about it in the general chat, amongst guildies, on forums…  So I can’t be crazy.  Right?  Maybe.

Perhaps crazy’s not the right word, then.  ‘Dependent’ might be more apt.  It’s a case of the classic ‘the more you have, the more you want’ type situation, where I (and a whole whack of others!) got used to playing with all the additional things and now I can’t fathom the game without it.  DPSing without Recount?  Preposterous!  Healing without Healbot?  What a n00b mistake!  Equipping a random purple item that looks like it’s an upgrade without first checking 2 or 3 gear ranking sites?  I must be out of my mind!  Not using DBM in raids?  /gkick!

See what I mean?  Scary.  That being said, it’s a difficult beast to get around because a dependency on/the use of a lot of that stuff is expected now – at least at the endgame, anyway, though Protflashes’ recent SFK experience indicates that much of the endgame’s idiosyncrasies have leaked beyond its borders (has it always been that way, though, or have I just been blind to it this whole time?).  Who knows.

I’m not too sure if I’m complaining about all this or if I’m being nostalgic, to be honest with you.  It’s just strange to go through some old screenshots sometimes and to see the evolution of the – of my – game.  Makes me wonder what I’ve gained by moving in the direction I did.

People, myself included, are obsessed with forward motion; it’s the whole progress thing.  I would assume, then, that by jumping on the bandwagon and getting in on all the WoW-extras, I’ve somehow attained a higher level of understanding of the game and that I’m now playing it on a different level as well.  Sure…  I guess I am, in some ways.  A lot of the stuff I use, I use primarily as a means of improvement.  That’s moving forward/up, isn’t it?  Mechanically it is.  But what more do I get from it?

The weird disconnect there is that I might be playing the game on a ‘different level’ now than I did years ago, but what I want from the game is still the same: enjoyment.  It’s just that, to be able to achieve that now, I feel I need the extras.  In the overall equation, then, I think I’ve lost something; I’ve made it more complicated for myself to achieve the same results.

But maybe that’s not all bad.  I’m just looking for a new goal, a new way to get the same results because the old way isn’t cutting it any more.  I’ve learned more about the game and that’s made some of the earlier goals too easy to achieve, so I’ve changed them up for myself because the medium can’t without penalty.  And that’s normal.  Thing is, I’m not entirely sure the medium hasn’t had a part in that.  How much of it is me/the people playing and how much of it isn’t?  Why can’t I pinpoint the moment where the transition between ignorance and requirement happened for me?  Interesting that a game can be that insidious.

It’s the neatest thing to act as a catalyst for that same transition, too.  A while back I introduced a fellow DPSer that’s relatively new to the game but still quite virginal with respect to its extras/in-depth mechanics to the Recount mod.  He asked me if he was doing well on damage one day and I talked to him about downloading Recount and using it to gauge his performance.  He was instantly fascinated.  I recognized the eager look in his eye and had a moment of self-loathing, aware in that moment that I had damned him.  Since that day, he’s done nothing but stress over the DPS rankings when we group up.

It’s weird.  As the WoW community grows and the availability of extras along with it, we all succumb to this odd sort of gluttony, consuming more and more stuff in search of the same feeling of satisfaction we once felt from so much less.

Bleh.  Enough of that.  Time to go see if there’s any Altoholic updates on Curse…

To be perfectly honest with you, like most DPSers, I am a gear person.  I love gear.  I will completely forgive spending 20 – 30 minutes in a hellish PuG, wiping every 5 minutes, and being called all manner of names if at the very end I win that epic I had on my wishlist.  It’s like, when that purple is in my bags, all ill will just evaporates.  I don’t know what that says about me as a person and I don’t really have the mental stamina to give it too much thought this morning, but that’s the bald truth.

The other thing I love is the rush I get when I achieve something with a group of people.  It’s truly something else to hear 10 voices on Vent cheering when a boss we’ve been banging our heads against finally drops — and, at that point, it doesn’t matter what the loot is, because the prize we all got was victory.  And a shared victory’s (for me, anyway) way sweeter than any epic.

Thing is, I find it’s getting harder and harder to get that feeling of connection or cohesion.  Even with guild runs.  Seems everyone’s focused on something else instead of on whatever it is we’re trying to do: everyone wants ‘the next thing’, whatever that may be.  It gives them an inward focus, and affects their ability to see challenges as things that must be overcome by the group.  They close off, begin to point fingers, and often find other ways of getting to ‘the next thing’ as soon as there’s a bump in the road or a small detour to take.

You want gear?  You want to progress?  You want the group to work?  Then contribute.  Contribute with more than just DPS/heals/tanking.  A group is made up of players, not classes and roles.  Everyone has to give it all they got, and I unfortunately see more people who don’t than people who do.

Volunteer.  If a fight includes some mechanic that requires one (or more) person to do something other than what their role entails, put yourself out there and do it.  I mentioned in an earlier post that I’m something of custodian for my guild (in that I do the ‘odd jobs’, so to speak), so this topic is really close to my heart.  Usually the odd jobs are the DPS’ responsibility and that’s logical, but the unfortunate fact is that DPSers are more often than not concerned with Recount and don’t much like to stop DPSing in order to do something else — no matter how trivial the time investment.  Not many people volunteer for extras in places like UP, Ulduar, Naxx, EoE, and even good old SL and ST, and that just drives me insane.

Alright, so let’s say you occasionally pick up harpoons in UP or you help position sparks in EoE.  Well done!  Is there anything else you could be doing to help?  Why of course there is!  Silly you.

Make sure you’re using all the abilities granted by your class.  If you can cleanse, dispel, heal, decurse, CC, buff, etc. — do it.  Don’t expect other people to handle everything (maybe your healer is busy — what a concept!).  Most of that stuff takes a second to do, and there’s (typically) no way in Hell you’ll lose aggro or kill your DPS in that space of time.  If you want to make it even easier for yourself, download Healbot.

If you’re asked to CC or you’re managing a particular buff, do it like you mean it.  Stay on top of the situation by using a focus macro or downloading a cooldown timer.  There’s no excuse for laziness with the virtual horde of mods out there designed specifically to make things simple.

No group is gonna have the exact right class combination to be able to overcome a particular challenge.  Sometimes a job needs to be done that no one on the team is really optimized to do, but that doesn’t change the fact that it still needs to be done.  If you’re asked to do it, shut up and do it instead of whining about how you’re not really the best choice.  Better yet, volunteer for it before it becomes an awkward assignment for the party or raid lead.  Strange things are borne of necessity.

If more people did this stuff, I wouldn’t feel quite so disconnected as I do.

WoW for me is about 25% play time and 75% chat time — no joke.  Between my guildies and friends list, there’s always a bunch of people who have something to say; whether I’m sitting in Dal doing nothing or chasing adds in Ulduar, there’s really no getting away from it. 

For the most part, I like the activity as it keeps the game interesting.  There are times, though, when it can get stressful and particularly difficult to manage…especially when impatience comes into play.  It’s easy to forget that chatting with someone over the internet is not, in fact, equivalent to a phone call.  You don’t have each other’s full attention — a fact people frequently fail to take into account when they get upset over delays in response time.

Instead of flying off the handle or dreaming up a bunch of negative nonsense to worry over, take a sec to examine the situation.

Here’s what I figure are the main reasons, from most likely to least likely, why a person may not reply to your whisper: 

a. They might be busy.

Hard to believe sometimes, but WoW is not a chat client.  Chances are your whisper target is doing something while you’re talking to them, so be sure to keep that in mind before you send them another prodding (and often times rude!) whisper.  That aside, a player’s ability to chat is sometimes limited by the class they’re playing.  A paladin, for example, can be safely left on auto-attack pretty much indefinitely while the player does whatever else; on the other hand, a rogue will have his ass handed to him within seconds if not closely watched.

Additionally, there are times in-game when hitting enter to access the chat window simply isn’t an option: in the AH window where you post auctions, for instance, and when composing an in-game mail.

b. They may have missed it.

Most folks don’t split up their chat windows, so they get blasted with lines of text almost all the time — especially when they’re in a capital city.  The various global chat channels move so fast…blink an eye and you may’ve just missed an important tell!  It’s not hard to miss a whisper crammed in between the otherwise impressive ascii STFU Truck and some desperate person’s enchant spam, so take it easy.

Other possibility in this vein?  You might not be the only person whispering your target.  If it’s an involved conversation, your tell can easily be overlooked.

c. They might be AFK.

This is obvious.  We all need to pee or get food or answer the phone, and we don’t always raise a flag each time it happens.  Just because the game isn’t marking a player as legitimately AFK doesn’t mean they aren’t.

d. You’re being willfully ignored.

See how this one came 4th and not 1st?  There’s no reason to default to the assumption that the person you’re looking to reach is choosing to not reply.   Most people reply when spoken to!

That being said, it is possible that your whisper target is through speaking with you.  Usually you can tell why a conversation’s come to an end (e.g. nothing more to say, suddenly busy or AFK, upsetting subject matter, etc.), but if it’s tough to gauge for whatever reason, try to attempt resuscitation once and once only.  Learning when to cease and desist is an art, but it’s worth the trouble experimenting with it in order to get it right.

e. They don’t know how to reply.

There was once a time when I didn’t know what a chat channel was, let alone how to access one.  There are tons of people like this, and it’s important that we show them a bit of patience; those few nice high-levels that showed you the ropes back when you were in Linen Boots really made the game for you, didn’t they? 

f. Their UI chat settings may be set to filter you out.

There are a crazy amount of mods out there, and Blizzard’s made tons of changes to the way the chat UI works, so it should not be a stretch to consider that your UI may not work like your whisper target’s.  Narrow down the possibilities by trying an alternate channel.  At worst?  Send them an in-game mail when you get a chance.

Just remember: if you’re really, truly being ignored by the person you’re trying to reach, WoW will politely tell you so.  If you didn’t get the “You are being ignored.” message when you hit the /r, take a deep breath and try again in 10 or 15.

Communication is what makes the game new each time you log in, so make sure you do what you can to keep the experience a good one for all involved!