You Must Act Now, Champion

My dear fellow WoW players,

On the heels of the tenth BlizzCon, where everyone learned more about the upcoming battles they will face across all the different games, there is another battle to face.

Ladies and gentlemen of the United States of America, November 8th, 2016 is the day you get to go out there and do your part for what you believe in.

It’s your chance to slay Ragnaros, Nefarian, C’thun and Kel’Thuzad as part of a 40-man raid.

It’s your chance to defeat Prince Malchezzar and Gruul and Magtheridon and Lady Vashj and Kael’thas and Illidan and Kil’jaeden as a small part of a greater whole.

It’s up to you to do the real-life equivalent of clearing through Naxxramas, Ulduar, Trial of the Crusader and defeat the Lich King in Icecrown Citadel all on heroic 25-man difficulty.

It’s up to you to exercise your constitutionally-assured right to voice your concerns, to show you have confidence in one candidate or that you lack confidence in another.

As a Canadian, I can’t do much except implore you to exercise your right to vote. Would I like for Hillary Clinton to win? Absolutely. But I won’t tell you not to vote if you don’t support her. What I will tell you is a short story of how a single vote can matter.

Picture it, October 30, 1995: my home province of Quebec has decided to hold a referendum on whether or not Quebec should secede from the rest of Canada. (Ludicrous. Also, not the first time they did this!) I cast my very first vote that day, never having voted before in any election. It was a nail-biter. The No side (meaning no, let us NOT secede from Canada) won. The final percentage: 50.58% to 49.42%. In real numbers, that is a difference of 54,288 votes. That was it.

93.52% of all 5,087,009 registered Quebec voters voted. That left 329,638 people who did not vote. Imagine if everyone had voted. Quebec could now be its own separate country. It could have caused the collapse of the Canada we know today. It could have gone either way. The number of people who didn’t vote is more than six times the difference between the two choices. SIX TIMES.

And yet, the thing is, that is a crazy high percentage of voter turnout. It’s the highest turnout for voters in all of Canadian history.

In 2012, only 57.5% of eligible US voters voted in the election.

57.5%.

If you don’t like what’s happening in your country, you have a voice. If you don’t think someone can lead your country for the next four years, you have a say. History is decided by those who decide to show up. One vote CAN make a difference. And you know what? It’s not just one vote. There are propositions to vote on. Down-ballot candidates. Senate races. House races. You can have something like 20 votes on one ballot! Don’t ever doubt that you can make a difference. You can be that rogue evasion-tanking the boss while the rest of the raid gets those precious few seconds to finish him off. You can be the clutch player who just battle-rezzed a tank, or you can be that healer who just got battle-rezzed to make sure the rest of the raid stays alive. You can be the freaking shaman who puts on a shield and tanks after a warrior dies while tanking the priest on Council in Black Temple, leading to a first kill. (SHOUTOUT TO DUPER!)

You can be the hero.

You must act now, champion!

Some things to do or bear in mind (you know, the equivalent of reading strats or watching videos, then flasking, eating buff food and using potions in a fight!):

So. Are you ready to go out there and tackle a real-life raid boss? As Akama would say, the time has come! The moment is at hand!

Pulling in 3… 2… 1…

Legion, the Journey to 800 LW and Skinning Rants

(Spoilers abound for Legion, especially around Leatherworking. You have been warned.)

I’m quite enjoying Legion, but there are a couple of issues I have with professions. Don’t get me wrong, this is probably the best expansion since Wrath, I just have some… questions and comments regarding professions.

800 leatherworking

First of all, everything Gravenscale and Dreadleather for a Leatherworker goes grey at 780, assuming you don’t have any rank 3 recipes. By itself, this is fine, in my opinion. I knew we’d have a challenging expansion in terms of professions when I had to hurl myself off various cliffs and waterfalls, chasing a moose. (That’s a whole other story!)

The problem here is the acquisition of the various Rank 3 recipes. Let’s look at Gravenscale stuff:

  • Armbands: From elite Skrog Tidestompers/Wavecrashers at a ridiculously low rate
  • Grips: Drop from Advisor Melandrus in Court of Stars (Mythic only dungeon)
  • Hauberk: Drop from Latosius in Black Rook Hold only on Mythic
  • Treads: Drop from Cordana Felsong in Vault of the Wardens
  • Spaulders: ???
  • Girdle: Strap Bucklebolt in the Underbelly in Dalaran for 1500g and 500 Sightless Eyes
  • Leggings & Helm: Exalted with Valarjar

Of these items, the cheapest to make are the Armbands, which require no Bloods of Sargeras, though 110 Stormscale. The Treads, Girdle and Spaulders (who even knows where that recipe drops?!) all require 12 Stormscale and 2 Bloods of Sargeras, which is at least somewhat better than the Leggings, Helm and Hauberk, all of which require Felhide. (Though, interestingly, the Hauberk does not require Bloods…)

Of all of those items that drop in dungeons, none are a 100% drop rate.

It seemed to me that getting the Rank 3 belts for Dreadleather and Gravenscale were my best option. It took me a couple of hours, but I got all the crap I needed in the Underbelly and got my recipes (both Rank 2 and Rank 3, btw).

I was able to get to 790 pretty quickly, as my new hobby is farming basilisks for scales and Bloods of Sargeras, and then, disaster — the recipes turned green. Still, it wasn’t intolerable. I was able to get to 795 with a bit of effort and then 796 and finally, 797.

Ladies and gentlemen, getting from 797 to 798 required that I make nearly 40 belts. (I think the official count was 38, as best as I can tell.) That is 456 Stormscales (not a problem) and 76 Bloods of Sargeras. That’s where the problem was. Look, make it take 10, even 15 crafts to level up on a green recipe, but 38?! THIRTY-EIGHT. With two BOP items for each?! Ridiculous.

I guess RNG worked out for me though because I got from 798 to 799 on 13 belts and then, hilariously, I got from 799 to 800 with one single belt.

I hit 800 Leatherworking last night, before the Darkmoon Faire arrived, which was my goal. I don’t think that waiting for a monthly event should be your best chance of getting those last five skill points. I mean, it was good to know it was happening and, had I been stuck under 800 before the Faire left, I certainly would have taken advantage of it, but I don’t think it should almost be a requirement. I managed to get to 800 LW the old-fashioned way and I’m pretty pleased with myself, but the journey to 800 was difficult and I have spent way too much time killing way too many basilisks. (Current count is somewhere over 3000.)

And now, now we turn to Skinning, because there are some Issues.

First, I should note that miners and herbalists have it good, these days. No one can steal your node. Nodes exist for everyone and deplete for people individually. This is a great change. As someone with at least two herbalists and one miner, I can appreciate this. (I don’t want to talk about the quests related to these yet, though. More on that when I’ve maxed out those professions.)

Skinners, however, get screwed.

In this expansion, they got rid of mob tagging. On the whole, a great change. If you tag the mob, other people can tag it and you can all loot after you defeat the thing. (Well, same-faction tagging, anyway.)

Skinners, though, have the problem in that they need to have everything off of the corpse before we can skin. So if I’ve looted the body but my brother, Fog, who killed it with me, has not, then I cannot skin the corpse until my brother has looted the body too.

This is problematic for a couple of reasons:

  • Some people just don’t loot their mobs (which I do NOT understand at all! Looting is practically the whole point of the game!)
  • Other skinners will purposely tag all your mobs, let you do all the work and then deliberately will not loot, waiting for you to leave before they loot and then can skin.

The fact that when you loot, you loot ALL nearby bodies makes things even more difficult, because you can start skinning a couple of mobs and then other skinners can come running up and skin the rest. This used to be mitigated by not looting a corpse until you were ready to skin it, but that hasn’t worked since before AOE loot was introduced. This not only is still a problem, but is exacerbating the problem of other skinners purposely tagging your mobs, because if you loot one of them, you loot them all, giving them the ability to loot and start skinning when they feel like it.

That said, I’m pretty good at dealing with this nonsense, personally. If someone tags my mobs, I will go forth and tag ALL THE MOBS and just sit back and wait until they take off. I will feign if needed, I will get my pet to feign, and they may end up dead due to pulling all of the mobs. The lesson here is that if you’re a jerk to me, I will do whatever I can do to kill you in-game. Don’t mess with me, I farmed Elemental Plateau in Burning Crusade!

But we shouldn’t have to do that. If I have tagged a mob initially, you should not be able to prevent me from skinning it. Period. That’s where the problem lies.

Additionally, skinning in Suramar is a nightmare if you have a small cap on your Ancient Mana, because if there’s Ancient Mana on the mob that you cannot pick up, surprise! You can’t skin the corpse. That needs to be remedied ASAP and is, honestly, one of the main reasons I haven’t done a lot in Suramar yet.

Finally, Felhide. This is only acquired by skinning the Felhide Gargantuan when it shows up as a World Quest. This severely limits the number of Felhides that exist at any given time. On the one hand, that’s fine, because it means Felhides are valuable, but on the other, the demand and supply rise and fall with the RNG of the World Quests. I’d rather they be an extremely rare skin, even rarer than the Bloods of Sargeras, to be honest. There were two Felhide World Quests today and the price of Felhide is currently hovering around 300g apiece. Last Sunday, it was around 800g apiece. Do miners and herbalists have this RNG-World-Quest nonsense for any of their items? Honestly, I’d love to know.

Anyways. I’m enjoying the expansion overall. Kurn is 110 and I’ve still got a lot of quests to do in various zones. My shaman is 101 due entirely to mining and herbing and I’ve got Madrana halfway to 101 after opening up her class hall. (Loved the Dalaran Crater bit, check out this screenshot. We’re twins! Lightforge Armor and the Stormpike tabard FTW!)

twins

Oh, and I’ve finally hit more than a million gold. Yay! How’s Legion treating you?

Yet More Privacy Ruminations

So Overwatch is out and it is amazing. I love it. I play it basically as much as I can. I’m playing Lucio primarily, but am also enjoying Widowmaker and have dallied with Junkrat, Reinhardt, Hanzo and would like to play around with Mercy and McCree.

I typically play the game with friends, because friends make things a lot more fun and you also have a much higher success rate if you’re all on a voice chat together (we haven’t really used the in-game one, but I hear it’s not terrible) and there’s chatter. “There’s a Reaper top left window!” “Got it!” is just one example from a recent match wherein we were defending Hanamura Point B.

However, not all of these people are really my friends.

There’s Majik, of course, plus my brother, Fog.

Then I also play with Majik’s brothers, Sephden and ChaosMarine. Sephden used to be a raider with us in Apotheosis way back in the day, so I’ve known him for a while. I’ve only really known Chaos for a few months — although I did meet him at Majik’s wedding three years ago.

I also play with Palantir, who was also a raider of ours in Burning Crusade, and was Majik’s college roommate. He and Maj came up to Montreal a few years ago and so we hung out and we’ve played together a lot — but not for a number of years. (Although we did walk down the aisle together at Majik’s wedding.) He and Maj and my brother play a lot of League of Legends together. (Which I do not. For a lot of reasons.)

Then I play with three other people, all friends of Sephden’s or Chaos’. C, E and JollyPenguin. I think E (I could be wrong) was a short-term raider in Apotheosis in Burning Crusade, but I don’t know C at all and I only know JollyPenguin because we also played Minecraft together.

I even played a few rounds with Fusionsnake, who’s a friend of Sephden’s, who was a badass rogue of ours in Burning Crusade. (It was nice to chat with him for a bit.)

I am probably known for being extremely protective of my privacy and my BattleTag, yet I have recently decided to let a few, select people get added to my BattleTag list. At first, it was just Maj’s brothers. Then I added Palantir. My thinking is — hey, I’ve met them all “in real life”.

Fusion and C had requested I add them and I declined those, because while it’s nice to play with Fusion and I don’t mind playing with C, it’s like… I don’t really know you. Do I really want you to be able to see what I’m doing in Blizzard games at all times? No.

In fact, I don’t want anyone to see that at all times.

The more people you add as a BattleTag friend, the less privacy you have, period.

“So I saw you were hanging out in Stormwind,” Palantir said to me this weekend. “Making gold?”

Awkward. Yes, I was hanging out in Stormwind, yes, I was making gold (or trying to). But how did he… oh, right. We’re Battle.net friends now. As such, he can see:

a) if I’m online
b) what game I’m playing
c) what WoW realm and character I’m using and even which zone I’m in

True, I can see the same info of his, but I remain uncomfortable that anyone of my BattleTag “friends” can see detailed information. I posted my ideal solution, oh, four years ago, and it’s disappointing that essentially nothing has changed.

In fact, it’s gotten worse, because our BattleTags are clearly evident in the various official Blizzard forums. I’m never going to post on the official Overwatch forum because with one click, you can see all of someone’s posts — under their full BattleTag. True, you would have to accept the invitation, but I’m very guarded and I don’t want to be constantly spammed for invitations by random people. Would this definitely happen? No. But I’m long-winded enough and critical enough that it could happen.

Hell, Palantir spammed me by requesting to be friends over and over again. Thankfully, I only saw the one invitation, but if I’d declined each, I’d have gotten new ones repeatedly.

And those invitations follow you everywhere. You see it when you log in to WoW — so and so and requested to be friends.

You see it in the BattleNet app.

Yeah, I get it — someone requested to be my friend. Now knock it off.

And I’m not even someone who has problems with people stalking them. What about those people, who live in actual fear of people with malicious intents? Just having that information out there might not be a problem for you, but it is a problem for some.

While I appreciate the free BattleTag change (yay!) and I appreciate being able to play cool games with my friends, I would urge Blizzard, again, to please look into refining the system. Sometimes I don’t want my friends to know I’m playing WoW on a little-used alt. Sometimes I want to snipe people in Overwatch without my friends seeing I’m playing the game at all. Sometimes, I just want to play and not think about how I might offend someone if I didn’t accept their group invitation.

As I said in that old post, there’s no reason we should have to deal with these inelegant (at best) tools when it comes to human interaction. Blizzard can do better and we should encourage them to do so.

 

On New Games and New Players

Hi.

(looks at date of last blog post and sighs heavily)

Well. It’s been quite some time, eh?

I’m sorry. Life is work and work is insane and that leaves exceptionally little time to do much beyond my (sometimes weekly) podcast, The Kurncast. (You should listen.)

That said, I have this week off from work, which is delightful. So I’m going to throw my hat in the ring and chime in about Overwatch. But not about how gorgeous the maps are (they are) or how awesome the animation is (it is) or even about balance or characters.

I want to talk about being a new player in a new game and learning to play and being an experienced player in a relatively new game. I want to talk about talent and practice, work and understanding.

Let’s be quite fair — this blog is resplendent with examples of my frustrations with other Warcraft players. But I’ve also done a fair amount of trying to help people play their holy paladins better, be better raiders, be better guild masters

So I understand the frustrations of some, particularly people in a game that has been around as long as World of Warcraft has been and if they’ve been playing that long.

But… I remember being a scrub, myself. My history is filled with dumb things. Of note:

  • did not tame enough pets as I levelled, thereby not teaching my old pet new abilities (Growl Rank 1, anyone?) Of course, this mechanic is long-gone.
  • often forgot to dismiss my pet, causing a pet pull. (Whoops.)
  • “tanked” a dungeon with a melee weapon as a hunter instead of using my pet (Blackrock Depths) (long, long, long story)

Part of why I was able to do such dumb things is, of course, that the game wasn’t mature at that point. So many people were still learning. Do I have higher expectations of both myself and others in WoW nowadays? Yes. It’s been out for 11 years. The population of the game is declining. Most people who are playing WoW should know some basics. What basics?

  • what a tank is
  • what a healer is
  • what a DPS is
  • what bad environmental shit looks like
  • how to stay out of bad environmental shit

I wouldn’t even expect most players to know how or when to interrupt spells, or to know necessarily that healing causes aggro. I wouldn’t even necessarily expect them to know various fights, particularly fights that I do know, because I’ve run BRD like eighteen billion times and it’s their first time in the dungeon.

I do expect people to do a bit of research on their class. I do expect people to ask questions if needed. I do expect people to follow instructions if they’re unsure.

So now we come to Overwatch. The newest Blizzard game on the block, it’s been in beta for a few months and some people have had the good fortune to be in the beta this whole time. Others are just now getting their first look at the game.

Overwatch is a first-person shooter game that’s very reminiscent of Team Fortress 2. I enjoy TF2, I’ve spent many hours of my life playing it (nowhere close to my time played in WoW, mind you) and so this format of the game is not terribly foreign to me. But I imagine it’s foreign to others.

That said, as a newer player to Overwatch myself, this is what I feel I need to know:

  • what offense, defense, tank and support roles are for
  • what assault, escort, control and assault/escort maps are
  • what my particular choice of heroes can do in terms of basic and ultimate abilities
  • a general idea of when it would be useful to use my abilities to best help my teammates

The first thing I did during the Overwatch stress test a couple of weeks ago was play a LOT against bots. Easy bots. Medium bots. Eventually hard bots. Then I played with friends, primarily, against real people and realized I was still a scrub.

Playing with friends is great, particularly if you’re on Skype or Mumble or something of the sort (ugh to the in-game voice chat) because you and your friends can correct each other and learn from one another. Majik used to do that in arenas in WoW — he’d experience the arena and then discuss the reasons for failure with his teammates. It’s a smaller version of what I’d do as a raid leader, where I’d post a review thread and discuss the various items that needed to be addressed where we, as a group, had fallen down. So playing with friends is bound to help you out.

So new players should know the basics. I think everyone should be okay with knowing the basics I listed above. That’s not asking too much.

What is asking too much is that someone have amazing aim or know where all the medpacks are or even knowing the names and abilities of all the characters. If you think I know more than a handful of hero names and abilities, I’ve got news for you… I don’t know where anything is on most maps. I don’t even always feel like I’m using the right hero in the right situation. But I’m playing and practicing and learning. And I’m improving. I am, by no means, innately talented at FPS games, by the way. I am pretty bad to begin with — most people are. And that’s okay. As long as I keep trying and practicing and learning, I’m going to improve. The only way for me to go is up.

For those Overwatch “experts”, who have a lot of previous experience with FPS games (particularly TF2), I can understand your dislike of newbies. But we’re here. We’re learning the game. Give us a chance to catch up! This is our first real look at the game and there will be more newbies incoming on launch. Feel free to give us instructions if you see someone doing something “wrong”, but remember that we’re learning!

Oh. And here’s a pro tip for you: people are more likely to listen to you if you say it nicely. :)

Permanently Grounded

Forgive me, dear readers, it has been three months since my last blog post. I don’t even necessarily want to talk about what I’m going to talk about here, but, well, I couldn’t help myself.

The Announcement

This week, Ion Hazzikostas, the lead designer of World of Warcraft, had an interview with Polygon, in which he stated “that outdoor gameplay in World of Warcraft is ultimately better without flying. We’re not going to be reintroducing the ability to fly in Draenor, and that’s kind of where we’re at going forward.”

Let me be clear, readers — I kind of didn’t mind the concept of not flying until the “first major patch for Warlords of Draenor”, which was how this was announced to players before the game even launched. One might assume that flight would have been reintroduced in 6.1. When that didn’t show up, I personally thought “oh, hey, I guess they’re waiting for the next tier when we get into Tanaan Jungle. That’s fine.”

Apparently, this won’t be the case.

Some Thinking & Some History

So, I’m not pleased. But I took some time to try to figure out why I’m not pleased. How does the prospect of continuing on just as I have really affect me? Does it affect me?

Having started in Vanilla, where you not only didn’t have flight, but you didn’t even get a ground mount (and a slow one at that!) until level 40, I wasn’t used to flight when I started playing the game. The world was vast. Immense. Boats, flight points, all of these helped out a great deal, but to this day, it’s still a pain to go from, say, Un’Goro Crater up to Winterspring. The old world is freaking huge.

The new continents in each expansion… well, they’re not that big. They’re landmasses that don’t really come close to the size of each old continent in Azeroth. Which, you know, that’s fine. It’s an expansion. You’re not going to spend the rest of your WoW career in Outlands or Northrend or Pandaria, right? The old world is going to see a lot more action, particularly since we revisited it in Cataclysm, than the other continents and areas, which are much more transient in nature.

They introduced flying in Burning Crusade, but what a lot of people either don’t know (because they weren’t there) or don’t remember (because it’s been a long while!), is that flying was still incredibly rare! Epic flying was stupidly expensive (5000g) and regular flight was, well, I think it was around 600 gold. Gold, in those days, was really difficult to get. The people in my guild basically pooled their money to help people get epic flying. I think there were six or seven people in this group with my brother, all of whom would kick in some cash to help someone get their flying, and that person would then pay people back over a (long) period of time.

So it wasn’t always easy for someone to get flying, much less epic flying. I spent a great deal of time on an alt on Proudmoore, post-raids, chatting with my RL Friend the Resto Druid who was raiding on Pacific hours. I’d be doing circles on a ground mount in Nagrand, mining adamantium and fel iron and using my engineering thingy to get motes of air. This was perfectly reasonable and fine. I didn’t feel like I was missing anything by not having flight on that character. This, despite the fact that there were several areas in Burning Crusade that required flight — various dungeon instance entrances (and this was before dungeon queues!), various farming spots… Back then, you couldn’t get to Elemental Plateau without flying (or being awesome friends with a warlock and some others who could fly!).

When Wrath of the Lich King launched, I grumbled a bit about not being able to fly, particularly after that Wintergarde Keep quest where you DO get to fly to save the various people from undead things, but when I hit 80, I threw my 1000 gold at the trainer and I COULD FLY AND IT WAS AMAZING. I didn’t even have the super-fast flying on Kurn then, it was only 280%. (I would later get 310% flying when I completed What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been in late 2009.) Various raid instances were either impossible or very difficult to get to without flight if you didn’t want to rely on a summon. Naxxramas and Ulduar come to mind.

Flight in Cataclysm was, and let’s be fair, totally expected. If they were going to blow up our old Azeroth, flying just made sense. (Ultimately, I would probably trade flight to not have lost Auberdine and Southshore, though…) But think about things like where the raid entrances were! Nefarian’s balcony up at Blackrock Mountain, the top of a spire in Twilight Highlands, the instance entrance for Throne of the Four Winds… I mean, we were clearly meant to be flying in Cataclysm content, the same way we were meant to fly in parts of Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King. What was different here is that, for the first time, we were permitted to start flying at the start of the expansion.

In Mists of Pandaria, I did the same as I usually done — levelled up, threw gold at the training and luxuriated in the glory of flight and its freedom. I wasn’t really bothered by the fact that I couldn’t fly until 90.

Throughout all of these expansions, there were places where flight wasn’t allowed.

In Burning Crusade, there was the Isle of Quel’Danas, plus the entire old world, even the new zones for draenei and blood elves.

In Wrath of the Lich King, there was Wintergrasp. I recall frequently clipping the edge of the zone and getting dismounting and cratering. Oh yeah, plus the old world.

In Cataclysm, there was Tol Barad, plus the draenei and blood elf zones and… that was about it, because you were in the old world and you could fly from the start.

Then in Mists of Pandaria, you had… well, the Timeless Isle and those old draenei and blood elf zones. You could fly pretty much everywhere else.

In Warlords of Draenor, you just can’t fly. Period. And now we have confirmation that we will not be able to do so.

So I find myself thinking about how this affects me. Does it affect me? Can I go back to just being on the ground? I mean, I played for over a year on the ground in Vanilla, plus lots of time in Burning Crusade, the levelling-up time in Wrath and Pandaria, plus my time in non-flight zones (Timeless Isle, most recently), as well as these first few months of Warlords of Draenor.

Managing My Own Expectations

I can, of course. I have done so for the last several months. And what the last several months has mostly meant is logging in, doing Garrison stuff and occasionally flying out to Nagrand (via flight point, obviously) to trap 21ish clefthoof bulls.

Will having the ability to fly change my in-game priorities?

No.

Does it actually change the quality of my in-game life to not have flying?

No, because I haven’t had flight since Pandaria anyhow.

So why am I displeased?

I’m displeased because it was heavily implied that we’d have it at some point, but while re-reading the phrase from Bashiok, it’s clear to me that they never planned to bring it back. Read it for yourselves:

We intend to disallow flying while leveling from 90 to 100, and have flying become available again in the first major patch for Warlords of Draenor.

 

Reading that initially, I read “We will disallow flying while leveling from 90-100” and then “but flying will be available again in the first major patch”.

They covered their asses well. Look at that. We intend. Just because they intend something doesn’t mean it will happen. Personally, I saw that and assumed because the first part was true, it would follow that the second part was true.

My fault for assuming, I guess. But I think a lot of other people made the same assumption.

The Loss of Trust

As such, a lot of people are talking about trust for Blizzard right now. Frankly, I don’t have any trust for them any longer. They lost me in Firelands. Up until then, no matter what nonsense they threw at us, I was pretty much okay with them, believing that there were things I didn’t know, believing that there were things I didn’t understand, other kinds of factors that led to their various decisions. I supported them, believing that they knew what was best, believing that they were doing good things for the game and for the community.

The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was when, despite the introduction of LFR, content nerfs continued through Dragon Soul. And, as a result, I left WoW for about 13 months. (And then resubbed a few months after that, but I have not raided in any kind of serious fashion since then.)

Flying isn’t the end-all and be-all for me. It’s that we were led to believe flying would come back this expansion. It doesn’t affect my daily WoW life that I can’t fly, but I don’t take kindly to being led to believe something will occur that won’t. (Hey, where is the dance studio, anyhow?!)

There’s also the fact that some mounts are really meant to fly. My Violet Proto Drake is not meant to waddle on the ground.

Nor are my drakes from Dragon Soul (I have both the meta and the one from Heroic Madness), my bird from the Firelands meta or my Icebound Frostbrood Vanquisher.

It’s not as though I don’t have some nice ground mounts — I have Baron Rivendare’s mount, which is awesome. I have my paladin’s charger, also awesome. But using these huge flying drakes on the ground is pretty dumb-looking. I like using some of these fancy mounts. But not to see them waddle on the ground. To see things I worked really hard for get relegated to use in the old world… it’s disappointing. Someone on Twitter is even talking about false advertising in terms of buying mounts from the shop. (I don’t know that I’d go that far, but, to be fair, I’ve never bought a mount from the shop.)

Speaking of posts by people on Twitter, don’t miss Ross‘s post at Feckless Leader: “Yep, We’re Still Talking About Flying“, in which he talks about how maybe this is the beginning of the replacement of flight, not just the flat-out removal of flight. (I wish I had his hope and trust.)

And, of course, if you don’t regularly read Alternative Chat, shame on you. Go read her post about flying.

But What About THE GAMEPLAY?!?!

Hazzikostas talked about how it’s silly for people to fly to their mob, land on the hut, kill the mob and fly off again.

Okay, that’s fair. So stop having such simplistic quests. Add in “kill X number of mobs” to the quest. Or put the mob in a cave. Or underwater. Or something.

Frankly, I will say this — the terrain of Draenor sucks. It’s all hills and canyons and how in the actual fuck are you supposed to get up THAT hill and how do you get out of THAT canyon and seriously? This would be a lot less frustrating if I could fly!

Half the reason I don’t go out into Draenor is that I don’t really have a reason to do so, but when I do go out there, venturing out from my Garrison, I end up frustrated as all get out because there’s no obvious way to get to point B from my point A. The maps are not remotely detailed enough to take height into consideration. I see my objective on the minimap and, in the world, it’s like three stories over my head, dangling off a cliff. How do I get up on that cliff? The challenge should be in getting the objective, not in navigating the inhospitable terrain to get to the cliff, the way I see it. If the terrain weren’t crazy, I wouldn’t mind being without flight, really, when I’m out in the world.

But it is crazy. The ground is never just flat. This is not Vanilla. And I’m glad it’s not Vanilla. I remember walking into Hellfire Peninsula and being like “HOLY CRAP, THE GROUND IS SLANTED” when Burning Crusade launched. And I like that. I just don’t like being forced to travel around and over and up and down for the sake of absolutely nothing. There is no reason to make the terrain as treacherous as it is in some parts except to slow us down and annoy us.

That’s when I miss flight. It doesn’t make the gameplay any more enjoyable for me. It makes me feel as though I’m a rat in a maze. And that? That does not endear me to the designers of the game.

Want to hear more about this and other subjects? Don’t forget to tune in to the Kurncast — a (mostly) weekly podcast, (mostly) focused on World of Warcraft. Tune in today, on iTunes or Stitcher!

Friends and Comrades

My goodness, things get awfully dusty around here, don’t they? My apologies.

I was walking home from the store today, on a cold, snowy, wintery day here in Montreal, and I decided I wanted to dust off the blog and write something. Many leadership topics swim through my head on a regular basis, so, as I trudged home in the snow, I decided to talk about friends and comrades in a raiding team.

Your Friends, Your Core Team

As long-time readers already know, what happened to start up Apotheosis of Eldre’Thalas originally is that our previous guild, Fated Heroes, split up, scattering many of us to different guilds (or not — many of us, myself included, remained unguilded for quite some time). Eventually, those of us who had stayed in touch decided that we wanted to raid together. In those days, raiding together usually meant being in a guild together.

And so Apotheosis was born on June 1, 2007.

When we first cleared Karazhan, including Nightbane, as a guild, we took a celebratory screenshot.

Apotheosis fully clears Karazhan. (June 11, 2007)

Apotheosis fully clears Karazhan. (June 11, 2007)

In that screenshot, you have me (as Madrana), Cryptkikr, Karsomaric, Slovotsky (aka my brother Fog), Bregalad (aka Kaiu), Shadowcry, Findric, Tharivol, Huntertoga and Palantir.

All of us, except for Findric, had been in Fated Heroes, even if only for a brief time. Karsomaric was a real-life friend of Majik’s brother, Sephden, who had been in our previous guild for a short while towards the end.. Findric and Palantir had bonded during the levelling phase of Burning Crusade.

We were basically a group of friends in that group of ten. Sure, I wasn’t best friends with Tharivol, but we had history (oh my God, it was a disastrous Dire Maul North run that we bonded over). There were many more friendships throughout the entire guild. But, of course, you couldn’t run 25-man content with 17-18 people.

Recruitment & Growing the Roster

We needed people. We needed another tank. We needed more healers. We had a bunch of DPSers who were healing instead of DPSing and had to keep recruiting so that we could switch those DPSers back to DPSing. (Thank you to the dwarves — Hulkdwarf and Tankdwarf — for all those weeks of healing instead of smashing things in the face with an axe.)

Among the people we recruited, we welcomed our first shaman, Jitte (who was resto), a new tank, Baur, a hunter, Immortalis, two DPS warriors, Netsuge and Venality, and a mage, Pewpewmagoo. All of them helped us with our first kill of High King Maulgar, on September 2nd, 2007.

Apotheosis downs High King Maulgar. (September 2, 2007)

Apotheosis downs High King Maulgar. (September 2, 2007)

But except for Netsuge, who knew Kaiu, there were no bonds between these new people and the older core. What was to stop them from just taking off? Nothing. And so, when you look at a kill shot from nine months later, many of the names aren’t the same.

Apotheosis kills Lady Vashj, clearing Serpentshrine Cavern. (June 2, 2008)

Apotheosis kills Lady Vashj, clearing Serpentshrine Cavern. (June 2, 2008)

Gone were Jitte, Baur, Venality, Immortalis and Pewpewmagoo. Gone even was my brother, Fog and Majik’s college roommate, Palantir. In their stead, we have Aaza, Criza, Opus and Mightypoo (all of whom came over to us at once), plus Antidentite and Furormalic, Brodix, Dayden, Duper, Eviildeedz, Kazir, Massimo, Shadowmyth, Warthon, Scrixi, Euphie, Legolia and Quelyne.

But again, there were very few ties holding these people together.

No Social Ties Means Less Loyalty

Churn, which is something I think about a lot in my current job, can be defined in World of Warcraft terms, perhaps, as an individual who applies to the guild, gets accepted, passes their probation or trial and then, eventually leaves the guild. (I wouldn’t apply the term “churn” to people who stay in the game but quit raiding or who quit playing altogether — that’s something else entirely.)

Recruitment sucks so much that it’s much easier to hold on to your players than to go out and replace them.

But how do you do it?

You have to involve them. You have to integrate them. You have to make an effort to be social with them.

It doesn’t mean you have to be their best friend, but you have to make an effort (as does the rest of your guild) to make new people feel welcome and feel at home. The more they connect with people within your guild, the more they’ll feel as though they’re a part of the team, which will lead to them staying through difficult times to help support the team.

If you don’t have that connection, they’ll eventually leave, whether it’s because they’re tired of your guild dynamics or because they think there’s something better out there.

Friends and Comrades

I didn’t spend a ton of time with my guildies in my time as guild master of Apotheosis, at least in the second incarnation of it. I think that my lack of desire to incentivize people to spend time together (and my lack of desire to spend time with people in general!) contributed to the churn we experienced. Our progression wasn’t quite so advanced that it alone was enough to draw in new players, so replacing each and every person who left was extremely difficult.

All of this to say, have your friends in-guild with you, sure, but remember not to be exclusionary. You must be welcoming to your new members or you risk losing them whenever they find it convenient. You must make efforts to keep them involved, or risk losing them.

This is where the distinction comes in between friends and comrades. Your comrades are your fellow raiders (or PVPers, RPers, whatever team you have going), with whom you do spend a substantial amount of time. It’s important to think of them as something other than “oh, they’re just a guildie I don’t spend a lot of time with outside of our guild events”. These are people upon whom you rely, who rely upon you, without whom you might not be able to accomplish all that you do.

They deserve your respect. They deserve some social interaction outside of your events.

Without those things, it’s just a matter of time before they move on.

Having said that, you’re not required to be their best friend. Or even their friend. But remember that they’re something more than “another guildie”. They’re a teammate. A cog in the machine. Think of them as something more than the warm body they may represent or risk losing their presence in your events.

Don’t miss The Kurncast

Every Monday (or so), I put out a new episode of The Kurncast. I recently had Majik on the show for Episode 37, so check it out.

7 Things a Raid Leader Needs to Succeed

A raid leader’s job is terribly important when you look at World of Warcraft. The raid leader is, at least symbolically, the reason your raid team succeeds or fails.

Thus, the success of your raid team relies on the success of your raid leader. Probably.

Gathered from my own experiences, here, then, are seven things that most (all?) raid leaders need.

1) The desire, vision, energy and time to lead a group of individuals through raid instances. Seems a little obvious, I know, but if you’re missing any of these things, you will fail. If you’re not giving it your all, if you’re not doing everything you can to improve your raid team, you will almost certainly fail.

This means reading strats, tweaking strats, examining logs, explaining what happened on various attempts and fixing the issues that didn’t allow you to get the boss down. Perhaps it will be in the wee hours of the morning, perhaps it will be during your lunch break at work, maybe it’ll be while you’re supposed to be paying attention in class… It needs to be done. If you’re not ready to put in the time and energy, if you don’t have the desire or vision to drag people through, kicking and screaming as they go, then you probably don’t want to be a raid leader.

2) A great support system, both in and out of the game. If your guild isn’t supporting you, you won’t have a chance. Your guild officers need to work with you to build the team. Your officers are a huge part of the team and if you don’t have officers who are willing to work with you, who are willing to help research things or to help talk to people or to help organize people within the raids themselves, forget it.

You also need to be able to vent about your frustrations outside of the game, to someone who doesn’t really know all these people you’re dealing with. It can be a friend, a partner, a sibling, anyone, but the farther removed they are from the game, the better. It’s theraputic to vent.

3) A good understanding of the raid group. Look, you can only work with what you’ve got. If you have a resto shaman who never does anything apart from chain healing the melee, short of replacing them, you have to deal with them. That might mean just assigning them to stand there and heal the melee. Similarly, your group might be collectively terrible at encounters where you have to move (spreading out, collapsing, etc). You have to adjust for this. Change assignments, change requirements, change the strategy so that you give your team (your team) the best chance of success.

4) A good understanding of the game’s mechanics and past encounters. What helped me tremendously as a raid leader was finding similarities between different fights. So when I was fighting, I don’t know, Ultraxion in Dragon Soul, it was a lot like fighting Patchwerk in Naxxramas, with just the extra button push for Heroic Will. Being aware of how council-type fights work is a huge bonus. Understanding that jumping out of fire is generally a bad plan can be useful. Knowing the various cooldowns available to your team’s classes is key.

5) The tools for the job. By this, I mean something like Raid Buff Status, which is amazing to see who’s buffed, who’s not, who’s eaten or flasked, who’s not and the like. I also mean making sure you’re logging your fights, through a combat log parser such as (my preferred) Warcraft Logs. Definitely spend some time going through your logs. Analysis is key to improvement. (What are some of your favourite raid leader addons and tools? Comment below!)

6) The ability to let someone know that they’re just not cutting it. This is one of the harder parts of the job, but sometimes, you have to tell that resto shaman that they need to do more or risk being replaced. There’s no need to be personal about it, although it will almost certainly be taken that way, but rely on facts and be kind. You never know when someone will redouble their efforts because you let them know that even though they’re not doing the job right now, you believe in them. Give them a reasonable deadline to show improvement and if they improve, let them know how impressed you are. If they haven’t improved, at least you gave them a shot.

7) Raid team members to lead. Face it, without a raid team, you’re just another know-it-all in LFR who has no one listening to them. Always treat your members with respect, always emphasize that the team as a whole comes before individuals and know that you are just a few /gquits away from being That Guy ordering people around in LFR. What makes you a leader is that you are leading your team. Your team. Treat them well. Even that resto shaman.

Hope that was helpful! Share with me your suggestions for various addons and such a raid leader might want to use. Tell me a story about That Resto Shaman who insists on just healing melee with chain heal. What are some of your favourite raid encounters and why?

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