Archive for September, 2010


Getting Into her Skin

Like so many other players, as soon as Dhakeilh was level 55 I rolled a death knight on her server, just to see what it was like. Having played through and enjoyed the starting area (apart from that quest – ugh! I know it’s the coup de grace in a way, but still.), I ventured out into the real world and…ignored her for about four months in favour of leveling Dhakeilh. Which is good, in many ways, since a) I didn’t want to become a death knoob, and b) with my distractibility, not getting sidetracked by a shiny new character is quite the achievement. However, it does mean that I’ve had a level 59 death knight sitting around doing nothing for the last few months.

No, it's not a 'real' Brewfest mount - just the hops (/sniff). But I love it anyway!

 

I got her out today to do a few Brewfest dailies and also to start working through the Plaguelands quest lines. These are apparently going away in Cataclysm, which is good for the Plaguelands but bad for newbies like me who are insatiably curious and want to experience storylines before they vanish; therefore, I am working through them both on Dhakeilh and on this death knight, Nadezhda, who is a blood elf and will therefore get to experience them from the horde’s point of view. So far, it’s turning out fun, though I’ve only barely started with Nadezhda. It is of course a complete faceroll on Dhakeilh, with her upper 70s feral kitty damage…strangely satisfying after a week of coming last on the meters in instances!

Returning from the tangent…having resurrected the DK today, I started off by reading my favourite article about frost dps yet again, because I never remember what to do from one month to the next. The mechanics of the whole death knight thing, being a combination of DoTs and Hitting Things with an Sword, have so far eluded me; with most of my characters I can refresh my memory a bit and then fall into a rhythm, but with Nadezhda I seem to stare blankly at buttons and then just randomly hit whatever might look good. Somewhat scarily, that so far has been fairly effective – at least in the sense that the target’s health tends to drop and hers tends to stay relatively stable. It’s not a strategy I’d care to take into an instance, though, and I think that mental disconnection has really contributed to my total lack of desire to log her on.

Today, though, I’m hoping something has started to change. For a start, when I flew into Undercity on my way north, it actually felt like a natural place for her to be. For that sentence to make sense, it must be understood that Undercity does not rank high on my list of favourite places to spend time; undead things in general gross me out, and I tend to stay safely away from a city full of them. With my little reanimated blood elf, though, it feels like her natural habitat in a way that warm and robust Orgrimmar or arcanely dignified Silvermoon really don’t.

Then, of course, I got out to the Plaguelands. Now, an emotionally uplifting place they are not, but for a death knight who already has quite enough reason to be royally ticked off with Arthas, they are the perfect setting for her to practice her skills. Spreading diseases to ghouls and smiting skeletons seems to suit her, morbid creature that she is. Certainly I found her more engaging and smoother to play than I have in the past.

Maybe this will be a catalyst for me to keep playing her a little more often, anyhow. I hope so, since having a high level horde character on Terokkar would be helpful for a few reasons. Somehow I can’t seem to consistently play a character unless I can get into her head a bit, even though Terokkar is certainly not a RP server and I have no intention of roleplaying with Nadezhda. I seem to be getting a vibe of respect and sympathy for the Forsaken from her now, which worries me a little given their, er, ethical leanings!

Sometimes I think gaming would be simpler if my characters would hush up and do as they’re told…

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Heroes of the Past

 

This is my first Harvest Festival.

The first time you get to experience something always seems to be a bit special, and I’m guessing this is probably no exception. Although, now that Brewfest has started, I’m enjoying throwing mugs of beer and racing madly around on rams, something in the understatedness of Harvest Festival has caught my imagination.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no complaints with fun and silly holidays. Indeed, I’ve been looking forward to experiencing Brewfest and trying ram racing, and getting a new set of ridiculous holiday clothes (a night elven druid in German peasant dress? Right.), and all that goes with it…including the highly noticeable effects of getting completely smashed. I am endlessly entertained by trying to locate Dark Iron dwarves with my ‘vision’ so blurry I can barely make them out, which no doubt just goes to show that I’m easily amused. I also spent quite some time just chasing a Wild Wolpertinger around for the fun of it, making me wonder whether it’s me or Dhakeilh who’s a bit silly currently!

I’m glad, though, that Blizzard chose to start Harvest Festival a few days before the riotous revelry that is Brewfest. I actually find it a really intriguing  juxtaposition between thoughtful remembrance of the dead and an alcohol-drenched party which, it could be argued, encourages our characters to forget their cares and responsibilities and celebrate life. (If I’d ever drunk as much as Dhakeilh did the other night, I doubt I could remember my own name)! Just to complete the contrast, there is some overlap between the holidays – so your character can go and honor the dead and then come back to drown his sorrows, or conversely, can enjoy her wild party now and then in the morning nurse her hangover and contemplate more serious things.

Azeroth is, when you come down to it, not the most cheerful of places to live. Nearly everyone seems to have lost home, friends or family, or some combination of all of them. Countless threats to peace and safety, from the merely irritating to the devastatingly world-shattering, are part of everyday existence – and at least every second person you meet on the street is part of some sort of military or defensive group. (Also, the place is bristling with valiant heroes – it’s always an ominous sign when the heroes come out en masse). When you look at it that way, it’s easy to see their need for both kinds of festival – the celebration and the memorial. It’s the memorial, though, that draws me deeper into the lore of Azeroth, and makes me want to go and discover more about the heroes in my characters’ past.

Uther Lightbringer and Grommash Hellscream both, as we are reminded at this time of year, made the ultimate sacrifice for the good of their people. Watching my characters kneel at their monuments has made more of an impression on me than I really expected; it’s almost as though it ‘really happened’. It’s moments like this that inspire me to keep seeking out the more obscure lore moments, and to really think of Dhakeilh as fighting some great evil rather than as accumulating a collection of numbers…which, of course, makes everything more fun. Most especially, though, rereading Grom’s monument has given me a new respect for the orcs as a race.

Perhaps it’s because honoring our fallen heroes resonates so strongly within our own society, but I think Harvest Festival stands out among the other celebrations. It manages to be serious without being over-sentimental, and understated without being entirely swamped by the noisier Brewfest. Although there may not be as much to ‘do’, I think I’ve found my favourite of the Warcraft festivals. I shall have to think ahead and plan for Aminyara’s celebration of it next year…

All Change, Please!

I like to think that I’m on track to becoming a fairly versatile player in about 10 years’ time, mostly due to chronic inability to only do one thing at once. For that reason, I’m learning to tank and heal (or trying to) as well as practising various forms of dps on various characters. This love for variety means that if I had to pick one and only one class to play, it would be druids – and, of course, my main is a druid.

The useful thing about druids is that it’s usually pretty easy to tell (after the first 30 seconds or so of buffing up) what they’re planning to do in this instance or raid. Tanking druids will be in bear form, healing druids will have branches and leaves, DPSing druids will tend toward the furred or the feathered according to preference. This is pretty much a no-brainer (and an over-simplification, but I’ll let it slide for now). Likewise, one would hope and expect that the druid in question has a talent spec suited to the shape s/he has chosen; a druid rustling around in tree form probably isn’t specced to tank today. However, the nuances of this appear to have eluded our tank in a PUG of Shattered Halls I was in a little while ago (and fortunately, we got lucky).

We started off as a fairly conventional group: paladin tank, holy priest healer, two kitty druids (one white, one purple – because, you know, colour co-ordination is important) and a warlock. About halfway through, just before the first boss, things began to go increasingly pear-shaped; while the tank was fine with holding aggro on mobs that were in front of him, he wasn’t quite managing to keep the healer out of danger. We puttered along for a bit longer, but then Bad Things started to happen on the bigger trash pulls. Suddenly (ta-daa!), the other druid revealed a hitherto-unknown resto spec and turned into a tree to help heal (phew!).

Onward we forged, now with two healers. The tank, clearly not feeling quite up to the job, took a deep breath and pulled the first boss – but by the time it hit 50% health and was ping-ponging between the tank and each of the two healers, it was obvious that all was not going well. In the middle of the fight, the tank said to me ‘I can’t taunt, you tank’ – and started in to dps. Much surprised, I shifted into bear form and we did get through it (my l33t tanking skillz just about extend to keeping a single target’s attention if I try hard enough, and I was at the upper level limit for the instance).

We finished the instance that way, with a bear tank, holy priest and tree healers, and paladin and warlock dps. It seemed to work, even if it wasn’t exactly what we’d expected. I have to admit, though I was a bit annoyed with the tank at the time (what? It’s mid fight! Ack! Quick, growl and where’s-my-maul-key-dammit!), I enjoyed rising to the challenge of a sudden shift in role.

What about you? Do you prefer to choose a niche and stick with it, or do you like classes that can dabble in a bit of something different if it’s called for?

Today I was a good little fantasy hero and toddled off to do my Harvest Festival honouring of Uther Lightbringer in the Plaguelands. Since I was also on a low-level (but nonetheless valiant) hero at the time, I had to walk from Southshore as I didn’t yet have the Chillwind Camp flight point. My efforts were rewarded, however, by (re)discovering how gorgeous the Alterac Mountains can be – when they’re not being snowy and full of ogres, or cratered and ruined.

 

 

My sky- and mountain-loving soul delights in scenery like this 🙂 Chalk up another one for Blizzard’s design team!

 

Here’s my major discovery for the day: You can fish sitting down!

What potential that creates for lazy Sunday afternoons…should you, in fact, want to level your fishing. Which, of course, we all do. Yes.

Hardcore is a State of Mind

It took me a while to realise it, but even though I’m a newbie to WoW, I’m definitely not new to the ‘hardcore or not’ conversation. In my particular line of (real life) work, the conversation usually centers around hours, just as it often seems to in WoW. How many hours do you work? How many weekends? How much on call?

As it so happens, I currently don’t work weekends…at least, not all the time. I work five days a week and a weeknight on call, which sadly doesn’t allow for the following day off, so there’s nothing easy about it if you get to spend 30 hours straight on the job! Nevertheless, in the inevitable comparisons of jobs and hours that arise whenever a group of us from different fields meet up, anyone who dares to admit that they don’t work weekends will notice the raised eyebrows and glances being exchanged. This is usually followed in short order by some comment about how lucky this person is to have it so easy, which may or may not elicit a defensive response about how it’s not all that easy, really, and they should just try it and see.

Now where have I heard that before?!

Due to the abovementioned constraints of work, I am not what anyone would usually call hardcore about WoW. Although I do spend hours every week in Azeroth, the game does – oddly enough – have to play second fiddle to little things like on-call shifts and family commitments. Since I’ve never been in a guild that raids four nights a week (and probably never will be), and never had an arena rating over 1800 or indeed an arena rating at all, that apparently makes me a ‘casual’ player, with all that that entails. The word ‘casual’ usually comes with a whole lot of overtones thrown in when used in that sense – things like ‘doesn’t do their homework’ and ‘can’t play their class’ and ‘no idea what commitment even means’.

Personally, I beg to differ.

It’s been stated elsewhere, many times, that dividing the entire playerbase into either the ‘hardcore’ or the ‘casual’ category is too simplistic. I would agree – if we’re differentiating ‘hardcore’ from ‘casual’ based on time spent ingame and the ability to do things like rearrange one’s real life because a computer game has just released a new expansion. However, if the definitions are drawn along other lines – for instance, a player’s attitude to playing the game as well as he/she can – I can find a much stronger case for using the same terms.

Are you hardcore? Do you try to play your character(s) the best you possibly can, even if you can only log in for an hour or two in an average week? Do you listen to your raid leader and try to make your 5-mans run as smoothly as possible? Do you worry about whether you’re making the same mistake multiple times, or tanking at too slow a pace, or stealing aggro too often? All those things, in my book, are signs of being hardcore in the way that really counts. By ‘hardcore’ I don’t mean ‘perfect’ – it’s not the lack of mistakes but the presence of effort and paying attention that marks out a player who’s really serious about the game.

We’ve all met the casuals, under this definition. They’re the hunter who won’t turn growl off  in instances, the death grip-happy death knight, the tank who apparently can’t see his healer’s mana bar, the warlock trying to tank without a demon out, the healer who really wants to dps and forgets to actually heal…and the list goes on. The fact of making a mistake here and there isn’t what puts someone squarely in this category; rather, it’s the mindset – the ‘doesn’t matter as long as I have fun’, ‘what? this is a low level instance’, ‘so? we killed it anyway’ attitude. Even if this person is doing three times the dps of anyone else in the group and has played four times the number of hours this week, they are still ‘casual’, because – in a nutshell – they don’t care whether or not they’re playing to the best of their ability.

I’m not unaware that this is an idealistic view of playing WoW. After all, it is a game and not a job, at least for most of us. Am I hardcore by my own standard? Well, I’d like to think so, but in truth – like everyone else – I have more than enough days where I’m careless or thoughtless or just a bit behind the fair, and the tally of my stupid mistakes would fill a book without any difficulty at all. That said though, I can say with confidence that I try – and that I care when I do it wrong, and try to fix it. And that, I think, is my point, and much more important than how many hours you’ve played or how many boss kills you’ve logged.

Incidentally, I think this definition of hardcore vs casual also translates to my real job. Regardless of how many hours you work or don’t work, commitment is how much you care about doing it the best way you possibly can, and how much effort you put in to make sure it happens that way. I find it fascinating that basically the same discussions go on there as in WoW – fascinating, but not really surprising.

Art imitates life, apparently. Who knew?