Raiding Upkeep

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This is not exactly a topic I planned on talking about this morning, but in truth it is a pretty fresh one for me as well.  This morning while doing my early morning trying to find excuses not to start blogging thing… I encountered this topic come across my feed.  The interesting thing about it is that I am currently living on both sides of this statement.  Firstly…  I have lived most of warcraft life in a perpetual state of poverty.  For years I dealt with tanking repair bills, and even then never really got used to using the whole making gold off the auction house thing.  My preferred method of earning gold is laying waste to zones… but that has never really been that lucrative.  By now any profits that I gained from the era of hot and cold running garrison gold is disappearing rapidly.  On the other side of this coin I am part of the leadership of a fledgling raid, and our folks… myself included are running into the same lack of ability to really afford the normal trappings of raiding.  For now we have been eating up the stock of Warlords era flasks… just to feel like we are doing something, but those are not that useful with the mudflation of this expansion.  Right now in theory every raider needs cloak, ring and neck enchants, gems, flasks, and if we want to get really serious about things two potions per attempt.  At this very moment the prices for these items on my server are kinda madness.

  • Good Ring Enchants – 10,000 g (each)
  • Good Neck Enchant – 25,000 g
  • Good Cloak Enchant – 2000 g
  • Primary Stat Gem – 25,000 g
  • Secondary Stat Gems – 2,000 g (each)
  • Flask – 2,000 g (each)
  • Potion – 1,000 g (each)

So to walk into a raid night as good as you can possibly be, carrying a single stack of potions you are well over the 100,000 gold mark.  I have long since ceased to have that sort of money, and am presenting sitting around the 17,000 gold mark on my Main, with a few other characters that I could potentially steal gold from in the 20,000 range.  In theory I should be selling enchants to make money, but getting the materials has been its own challenge.  With everything functioning off of personal loot, the only way I get materials is if something is simply not an upgrade for me.  Now my guild is pretty awesome because it has been tradition lately in runs that they trade over anything that cannot be used for me to disenchant.  The challenge there however is that I have gotten enough materials so far to do one and a half neck enchant.  The material cost for everything is just insane right now, and as a result…  since we are not really a progression raid we have not pushed the point.  I personally have gems and enchants on everything, and have been using last generation flasks just to feel like I am doing something.  I am passing out as many ring enchants as I can since that represents the cheapest thing I can do, but even then…  a single ring enchant is 10 dust, which represents me eating 3-4 green pieces of gear or shattering 3 blue crystals.  My stock of materials is pretty much spent at this point, and I have only outfitted a handful of people in enchants.

We are in a similar boat with wishing the raid bank could be chipping in more.  We just are not getting enough of anything to be able to pass it around freely so right now…  folks are largely dipping into whatever profession they have on their alts.  Traditionally when a new expansion launches I play through whatever characters interest me, leveling alts as a method of relaxation.  This time around… I am absolutely leveling whichever alt has the profession I am finding myself really needing.  I pushed up Exeter my Paladin because I felt like I needed a miner to feed engineering on my main…  however I am wishing I had instead pushed up either my gemcrafter or my alchemist.  Presently I have been working up the alchemist, but so far it feels like there are just so many other things that I need to be doing, especially considering we are under a world quest faction bonus event.  More important than that… I through some strange string of luck have managed to get two legendaries already… so I absolutely need to have that 15,000 order resources ready and waiting in a few days for me to start researching that final trait that will allow me to equip both of them.  Ultimately it feels like there is simply too much to do right now, to shift into the mode of trying to find ways to make money to be able to afford your raiding upkeep.

The real challenge is of course this is the sort of expansion that brings back folks from the mists of time.  We have had so many people renew their accounts that have not touched the game since Cataclysm, or at least since Pandaria.  The problem is these folks did not have a pile of gold built up from the era of free garrison money.  I admittedly did not milk that as much as I should have because I was off playing other things.  Alt proposed that if it is that important that we have the Token system, but that seems horrible.  Not that she said it, because I don’t necessarily think she was being completely serious, but that it is something to consider.  The problem with this theory however is that right now those tokens are only going to get a player about 35,000 gold which seems insanely low when confronted with the price of things.  That would be able to afford you a neck enchant and a single ring enchant at the prices things are going for your $20.  My personal theory is that all of the crafting materials are purposefully painful, as a way to soak up all of the excess gold that is floating around on the server from the garrisons mistake.  Then at some point in the near future, be it 7.1 or a hotfix…  across the board crafting materials are going to be reduced making literally everything easier to create.  As a long time enchanter, I have seen this happen so many times over the expansions where enchants are mindboggling insane at the launch and then are later tempered considerably.

Where the real pain is happening is that those of us who did play Warlords are going through a bit of whiplash.  Tradeskills in general have gone from a complete polar shift, going from being extremely casual and something that everyone can do…  to being something extremely difficult to even get materials for.  As an example… even after crafting goblin gliders for basically anyone in the guild who wanted them this expansion…  I am sitting on a stockpile of over 2000 True Iron Ore on Belghast.  Comparatively I have less than 300 Leystone Ore so far… and that is from both my miner actively mining anything I come across in the world, and my main running the salvage armor shoulder enchant.  This post might be coming off  as complaining at the current state of things, but in reality I am mostly okay with it.  That said I have just had to come to realize that we are not going to have a raid of fully flasked players every single week.  If I cannot bring myself to spend that kind of gold just for the privilege of raiding casually…  I am certainly not going to expect anyone else to do it.  Similarly I also remember a time before flasks in raids was an expected thing at casual levels.  Hell our progression vanilla raid maybe had a flask on the tank, or on a handful of overachievers… but the other 34 of us seemed to get along just fine taking bosses down without consumables.  I realize fights are scaled completely differently now… but my ultimate hope is that consumables become an edge that players can use if they choose to afford it, but less of a hard requirement.  I realize this is going to mean we are progressing slowly, and I am largely okay with that… given that I am raiding this expansion to hang out with my friends more than anything.

A Busy Weekend

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Mondays are always a challenge.  I realize that is the understatement of the year but there is just something extra heinous about trying to revive your week day routines after happily nuking them from orbit over the course of Friday and Saturday night.  Sunday night is always the roughest night of the week to get to sleep, because my body is not quite ready to relinquish the last vestiges of true freedom.  Similarly since giving up the whole weekend blogging thing for lent….  or whatever I did to actually give it up…  rebooting that process each Monday morning is an equal challenge.  This morning for example I have logged in to “check on” several things, all the while happily avoiding actually sitting down to put thought on paper or at least virtual paper.  This weekend was an odd one, but a good one.  It started off Friday night with House Stalwart my guild throwing together an impromptu raid into the Emerald Nightmare.  We did not really have a lot of time, since it was literally thrown together over the course of that evening, but we did manage to go in and one shot the first boss.  From there we started work on the spider boss, but given its moving parts I am wondering if that was the best choice.  In truth ALL of the next bosses seem to have their own madness going on and with it a challenge or two that will force us to shift and adjust to the fight.  We managed to get spider to phase two, which isn’t much of a challenge but at least I can claim it was progress.

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Another thing we attempted this weekend was our very first Mythic+ dungeon… because well Grace and I had keys burning a hole in our pockets.  However after attempt number one, I think we are going to wait to do number two… until we know the dungeons better.  Mythic Plus Halls of Valor… also happened to be the very first Halls of Valor Mythic run for most of us.  As a result we were less than efficient at a number of the fights and failed to get the timer.  That said given the number of wipes we had I think we did fairly well in that our timer ran out around the time we crossed the glowing bridge of nonsense.  So while we failed… we at least failed in style?  The truth is all of us just need a lot more normal mythic runs before we start burning any more keys.  None of us have any of the magical legendary drops that our UI tells us we can currently equip one of….  but I hear they absolutely maybe sometimes sorta drop in mythics.  We were maybe unprepared given that we were also dragging Ashgar into his first mythic ever…  and we went for a timed one.  The truth is I think we just wanted to know what the challenge looked like so we could prepare for it.  I know personally I find it hard to wrap my head around what is needed until I have failed for a bit at doing something.  Similarly we had to fail at the spider boss for me to be able to wrap my head around the videos that I will ultimately watch before we make another attempt on Wednesday.

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Finally I made a significant push on Exeter my Paladin, who is now 108 and about halfway through it.  Not shockingly I ended up dropping Retribution around 102 and have been leveling as a Protection Paladin the rest of the way.  This has allowed me to do things like tank for friends when they need to run lower level instances.  We pulled together an Eye of Azshara for Thalen over the weekend… and I happened to need it as well.  Now I have several more dungeons waiting in the wings for me to do that I may or may not wait for friends to get to as well.  Now that I am so close to 110 I sort of want to push across the finish line so I can start doing world quests and such on this character too.  Similarly I want to get in some Coren Direbrew runs for trinkets before those things go away.  So at a minimum I am probably going to finish out the rest of 108 because 109 allows me to start queuing.  I still think that is a major missed opportunity, in that they should have allowed the Direbrew event to scale with players.  At this moment I have finished Azsuna and Highmountain and have just trudged through the faction bullshit in Stormheim.  The first part of that zone feels so unlike the rest of this expansion, I can only hope in the future they are going to realize that this game feels so much better when you give us an interesting place to explore with its own story… and quit trying to force everything into a dated red versus blue narrative.

Imaginary Band

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Yesterday a good friend of mine from my Wrath raiding days, showed back up in my life suddenly.  Now this isn’t exactly a strange occurrence because folks know that I tend to be the ring leader of a network of gamers.  I am the one that tends to be good at maintaining connections with folks regardless of what game we happen to be playing.  So an attempt to get in touch with me, generally also means an attempt to get back in touch with a gaming core of friends.  The strange part of this whole experience however is when a few years pass between speaking.  In this case, it seems like every few years our paths cross, the challenge being that large swaths of time pass between and my memory is often times spotty at best.  Thankfully most people are super forgiving about me remembering the super granular details…  and I seem to be relatively good at the large picture as a whole.  The thing with the impending release of Legion next week is that this has been happening an awful lot in my life.  Running around and doing Events, means that I have casually bumped into a lot of folks from my past…  some of which I was interested in rekindling friendship… and others not so much.  We talked about the mixed bag that playing World of Warcraft since launch is on the podcast this weekend.  There are friends that I adored, and would still do damned near anything to help…  and then there were folks who were super toxic influences and lead to a lot of the anxiety ridden struggles I had as a raid leader.  Coming back to this game… and the server I have played on since the beginning of it all…  means I am ultimately going to confront a good deal of both.

I remember thinking yesterday how cool it would be to “get the band back together” because I miss raiding with some of these people.  The key word being “some”, because ultimately I don’t really want the band back together at all.  I want a revised image in my head of the band.  I want this amalgam of a bunch of different raid teams, from a bunch of different eras of the game.  I want to create the “All-Star Team” from my memory, but the thing is…  my All-Star team is not really the best players.  I found out my ideals for who I wanted to play with were vastly different than that of my friends during Cataclysm.  We built what we supposed to be the “best” team to raid with, for 10 man…  but my best was completely different than their best.  Ultimately when creating my team I would want to play with the folks I had the most fun with…  some of them were also the absolute worst at standing in fire.  They were fun to be around and invigorated my enjoyment of the game, and I didn’t give a damn if we had to take forever trying to learn this fight or another because their presence made me happy.  It is moments like these that I realize I play a vastly different game than most people do.  I play a game made up of the people sitting behind the screen at their keyboard, hanging out with me on a nightly basis… and not a game of abilities and number crunching.  At the end of the day for me at least, playing for victories is ultimately a hollow experience unless I did so with the people I enjoy playing with the most.

In a lot of ways this is what makes the Final Fantasy XIV raid group so special is that it is a bit of an amalgam of the two.  These are all people that I greatly enjoy playing with, but at the end of the day are also extremely good at the game.  Hell there are so many nights I feel like I am the “bad” that is being carried to victory.  While I largely said I would swear off raiding in Legion…  there is a big part of me that wishes he could form this same sort of group in World of Warcraft.  I want raiding to be a focus on having fun with friends and doing something together that we can’t necessarily do apart.  By the same token though, I don’t want to be concerned with damage meters, or reviewing the logs after the raid.  I don’t want to care if someone stood in the fire too long… or if we could do something more efficiently.  I want to just have a night hanging out with friends, talking on voice chat and killing bosses…  hopefully getting some sweet loot in the process.  The problem being that I don’t think World of Warcraft is that game, or at least its raid game… isn’t that game.  Final Fantasy XIV I can go into a fight not knowing anything about it… and learn everything I know from a series of attempts because it messages the mechanics extremely well.  World of Warcraft, I realistically need to read the dungeon guide and some third party sites to fully understand the mechanics of the fight and what I am supposed to be doing to counter them.  That is a huge difference, because one I can discover the fight with friends… and the other feels like homework.

Legion launches next week and I really don’t know what it has planned for me yet.  I am enjoying the game, and I am enjoying making my own way through it.  I am not sure if raiding will be part of that greater picture, but in the end I am going to try going with the flow.  So many times I have had a raid that I knew I was gearing for, when an expansion launched.  As a result I felt like I needed to push through the content to get raid ready within a weeks time.  This time around…  I am more focused on which character I am going to level first and which zone I am going to start in.  I have never gone into an expansion before with a complete set of characters, and ultimately liking something about each and every one of them.  If enough of these old familiar faces stick around… then I think I might want to try my hand at raiding again.  I am not super concerned with doing much more than 10 player/flex raiding if I do however.  Another thing that I would really like to do is set up a night to work on older raid achievements and get folks some awesome mounts.  I know there are several tiers where I am one or two achievements away from my own mounts.  The problem being that there just are not enough nights in the week to try and schedule things on, and continue to play other games.  Whatever the case I am trying my best to go into the Legion expansion with an open mind, and not really focused too tightly on what I am going to do… and when I am going to do it.  This is undiscovered territory for me, and it is going to be interesting to see what comes of it.

 

Toasty on MMORPGs

The Decline

One of the more interesting trends that I have picked up on, has to do with my own blog.  It feels like the more I talk about Destiny, the lower my reader numbers dip.  I guess it makes sense, as I started this blog out with World of Warcraft and moved towards other MMORPGs as well.  Destiny has a slightly different audience and not necessarily the sort of one that really reads blogs.  The Destiny community is largely contained within a combination of Reddit, Twitch and YouTube.  I don’t have a lot to say about this, but I just found it interesting.  On one hand I hate that I am alienating a bunch of readers, and on the other hand in order for me to keep doing this daily blogging thing… I have to be writing about what is interesting me.  At this very moment that is Destiny and Diablo, and nothing much in the traditional MMO camp.  Now I have logged into a bunch of MMOs in the last few months, but none of them really seemed to hold my attention past that initial login.  Each time there was something that would ultimately cause me to log out.  It might be that my bags were a mess, or that I couldn’t remember what I was last doing.  Ultimately I found a ready excuse and used it to “nope” the hell out of the game.  The problem however I think is somewhere in me.

Right now I am finding myself enjoying games that shower me in loot, and games that allow me to have engaging solo experiences.  Granted I have been spending a lot of time mooching off of folks as they run high end content in Diablo 3, but when I log into that game I can go off and do something by myself that feels like I am moving towards some goal.  In Destiny no matter what I do I can always be working on getting that next faction package, or even spending time in the crucible hoping for that next 335 item.  These two games specifically play extremely well by myself or with friends, and that is just something that I can’t say for MMORPGs right now.  In most cases the only real way to get good gear is through raiding, and that takes a time commitment I am just not willing to do right now.  There is no path for me to piddle my way to victory, and at the moment I don’t want to commit to much more than that.  Raiding in Destiny has felt far more “à la carte” and I think the small six player raid size helps that.  It seems easy to pull together a raid group, and even easier to pull together a three player team.  For example we spent last night doing Challenge of Elders and it honestly felt just as engaging and rewarding as doing an MMORPG raid group.

Burnt Out Genre

For awhile now I have kept thinking that sooner or later I will get over this funk.  That I will get that drive to go off and play an MMORPG.  For example I really want to have the desire to play Final Fantasy XIV and to “get the band back together”.  However there is just some wall keeping me from getting back into it and enjoying it.  I’ve patched up the client a few times, but I know when I do log in… someone is going to do the “Bels Back!” thing and I will feel guilty when I log out a few minutes later because I and confused as to what to do.  It is not a time issue, because I still have the same amount of time I ever did… it seems to be an attention span issue.  Diablo 3 and Destiny both reward me for spending ANY time with them…  and there is always an explosion of shiny colored loot just waiting on me around the corner.  The grind of an MMO is a much more slow burn, with large gaps of time between those moments of excitement.  For years I played MMORPGs as a way to hang out with friends, but thanks to tools like Slack, Discord, and Band… I can take my group of friends with me wherever I happen to go.  I no longer need to rely on the MMO as a chat client, and when that happened I guess the games lost a part of their hold on me.

I guess it hit me last night when technically I was scheduled to be raiding in World of Warcraft, and I didn’t even remember that it was a thing I was supposed to be doing.  The leader said over chat that I was just burnt out on WoW, which is a bit true…  but its more than that.  I feel like I am burnt out on MMOs in general.  I’ve been rabidly playing this one genre since 2000, and I feel like maybe I just need other types of games in my life.  The parts of the MMO that I really liked, which were the acquisition of new stuff and the feeling of constantly evolving your persistent character…  those things have been exported to pretty much every single genre out there.  I guess I realized this was happening when nothing that was coming out, that actually excited me… was an MMO.  There are plenty of things to be excited for out there, and I think Black Desert is one of those games that I would have loved…  were I not over-saturated on MMORPGs.  I am not really sure if I have a point this morning.  It sucks that I am driving away readers, but I just don’t think I can write with the same love and excitement that I used to about MMORPGs right now.  I keep hoping at some point I will climb out of this hole, and be able to log into Final Fantasy XIV and be excited again for story and world building,  However in the meantime… you are probably going to see a lot more talk of Diablo 3 and Destiny because that is where my attention and excitement has landed.

Week In Gaming 12/5/2015

Sunday Madness

Today my posts and the AggroChat podcast are coming out a little late, because reasons.  My wife has this thing at church this morning, and stuff was not going very much as planned.  So instead of wrapping up the podcast when I got up, I went into the mode of attempting to support my wife as she flailed around the house trying to get everything ready.  I don’t really do the religion thing, but it is important to my wife so I’ve always attempted to support her in whatever way she needs.  Normally speaking I would have been further along in the podcast creation process by the time I slept last night, but instead I decided to have a knock down drag out fight with Amazon.  There is an item that starting last Tuesday, has been updating daily to tell me it would be there by 8pm the next day.  This has drug on for several days… and the FedEx tracking that I finally received shows that there is no way it is going to be here until sometime at the end of next week.  Needless to say I was more than a little perturbed, and ended up trying to get to the bottom of it.

Where I feel bad however is that I know I took out some of my frustrations on the agents that were working the case.  I realize why companies hide their chat functionality, but overall it is a horrible practice, that only leads customers to be pissed as hell by the time they FINALLY get a hold of a person to talk to about their issues.  I know I probably came off as a mad man, but seriously…  I’ve been an Amazon customer since around 2000, and been a prime member for I think as long as the program has existed.  I keep that active so that I can have items here in two days… and there have been a lot of times in the past where they actually have it here next day.  Since the swap to using the US Postal Service however, I have had several delayed orders… and this one just seems to be another in that line of problems.  The worst part about it is.. that after spending over an hour last night trying to get someone to tell me where the ball was dropped…  no one seemed to have any answers.  I did however get two months of prime added to my account apparently to appease me, so I guess that makes up for some of the frustration.  I have no doubt that the item will arrive and be just fine… but man this situation has been annoying.  It is nothing nearly as bad as Tam and Amazon quite literally losing his shipment.

The Week of Warcraft

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For the most part this was in fact the Week of Warcraft as I am attempting to play both characters on Argent Dawn Alliance side… and the joined The Scryers server Horde side.  This means  there are two different communities that I am trying to be an active part of, and as a result pretty much everything else I am doing has fallen by the wayside.  Part of my Sunday ritual is to go downstairs and watch a sequence of television shows until ultimately it is time for bed.  However during this sequence I got pulled into the Horde side guild raid with my friends in the awesomely named Facepull.  Between some gear upgrades from drops and some crafted gear by the amazing Brerhoof it took me to around the 670 range.  Now after some LFR this week I am sitting at 679 so a stones throw away from 680.  I have two parts left to do of LFR and my hope is at some point before this evening I can actually get them knocked out and will hopefully see some more upgrades.  My lowest piece on the Paladin is his necklace which is still the level 640 boosted green gear.  In theory if I get lucky I could get a baleful item to drop while I am doing dailies… which I also need to do at some point.  I have everything enchanted and gemmed… at least with cheap enchants and gems so my performance as a whole should be better tonight… that is if they still want me to come and pewpewpew things.

Then Wednesday night I was invited to raid with some twitter folk that I have known for ages.  There I brought my Alliance Warrior Belghast, and similarly have made some jumps in gearing as the week went out.  I started the week at 680 and have bumped it a little bit up to 684.  This is still a long ways off from the 705-710 range that I need to be in order to really function in Heroic for the Friendship Moose fun, but whatever I am enjoying the process.  In both cases I was mostly a fly on the wall as the raid went about their business, but I could see myself enjoying both situations greatly.  It is my hope that in both scenarios are am invited back for future weeks, and in spite of my crummy gear I still managed to end up I think 3rd in total damage done for the raid.  My burst dps is still on the weak range, but I am throwing out a lot of total damage which still is nice.  Gladiator is such a fun spec that I am really going to hate losing once the expansion ships.  I guess there is hope at a later date that they might revive the spec, but I seriously imagine it was just too hard to balance when it essentially took all of the same gear that tanks did… which means that my overall survival is among the highest of the dps classes.  In any case I am having fun… and that is what really matters right?

Reaching Diamond City

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The original plan for this week was to record our final Fallout 4 show last night, and because of that I felt this overwhelming need to have completed the storyline.  This means that a good chunk of this week I was pushing hard to get through the main story, and I have to say… it was some of the most miserable I have been playing Fallout ever.  My play style is very much a “forget the story exists” method, where I wander aimlessly and go explore whatever happens to suit my fancy.  This means there is a lot of ADD induced gaming as I see what that building over there in the distance is, or go explore that wrecked vehicle there because it looks interesting.  The result is that I spend a lot of time playing, but not a lot of time getting anywhere specific.  With the severe content density that is the Commonwealth, it means I had at 70 hours not gotten anywhere vaguely close to Diamond City.  I knew where it was, but I was busy wandering around the Cambridge area and exploring lots of little nooks and crannies.

Instead this week I forced myself to follow the storyline, and while it is really awesome… and there are lots of interesting characters… the entire process feels forced.  I mean it IS forced, because I am trying hard to play in a style that is not natural to me.  I talked about this for quite a bit on the podcast last night, but essentially most of the time I don’t like it when games end.  In Mass Effect 2, I enjoyed every moment of the side missions… but it felt like all of my fun was being sucked down a drain the moment I started that sequence of events that lead to the end of the game.  I want these worlds and settings.. and characters that I have created to essentially live on forever… and the sooner I “beat” a game… the sooner that fun for me is over.  I think in part this is why I like the MMO so much, because my characters never have to go away… they just keep going on and changing and adapting as new content is released.  So as it looks like we are pushing off the Fallout 4 show a bit…  I am going to try and find a happy medium where I alternate between following story… and also spending some time following my heart.

Nostalgia Continues

DRC_Gruul

Eleven Years

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At this point eleven years ago I was spending the morning with a friend and coworker desperately trying to raise the money to buy a guild charter on one of the two original roleplaying server… Argent Dawn.  I remember we rolled a set of toons that we had no interest in playing, and wound up selling literally everything we got from quests and drops all in the hope of hitting that magic number.  From there I mailed all of this to my would be main character and started the guild, running back to Coldridge Valley to get signatures.  At which point a bunch of people made Dwarves or Gnomes and we got our charter up for House Stalwart in rapid fashion.  WoW was the first game that I had a planned entrance into, because it was that one game that everyone seemed to be able to agree upon.  So we pulled folks from Everquest, Horizon, Dark Age of Camelot and City of Heroes all together into one large organization.  We had noble amibitions of having both an Alliance guild on Argent Dawn and a Horde guild on Silverhand.  Most folks that have worn the House Stalwart tabard probably don’t even remember that the crusader cross that has become so recognizable… was not even our original design.  You can see in the screenshot to the side that the colors were similar… but instead we went with the tree logo.

It was not until the first “reboot” of the guild that we went with the crusader cross, as a bit of a way of signifying that things had changed.  Hell there was a period of time when I didn’t even have my mains in the guild.  About six months into the game I took a hiatus and went off to play Everquest II, which I talked briefly about during my MWP post a few weeks back.  When I came back to the game pretty much the entire guild had disappeared.  Later I found out that some of those that remained ended up going and creating their own guild, and rather than shaking the boat I decided to move most of my characters there as well.  We had some good times, but it didn’t last and before long I was asking my friend Finni to help me move my characters and pass back the leadership from my bank alt to my main once more.  Before we knew in… within twenty four hours we went from being a guild of essentially one… to a guild of like sixty players again.  This began the golden age of the guild, and with it we started dipping our toes into regular raiding with what was our sister guild at the time… Silent Strike.  Granted we never really did anything much more serious than Zul Gurub and AQ20, but we had a lot of fun doing it when we raided as a guild.

Misplaced Intentions

wowscrnshot_012406_220132One of the more interesting things about this game is that I became known as a tank, but even now there are folks like my friend Eralia that still call me Lodin my original Late Night Raiders main.  I played a hunter for the better part of Vanilla, but I never intended to do that as my role in the game.  It was shortly after the launch of the game that we had a pretty horrific death in the family.  So while I was keeping up with my Paladin for a long while… I quickly fell behind and when I came back… the only thing I could seem to level quickly was my hunter.  I pretty quickly realized that the class was not really for me once I started raiding.  However my good friend Shiana needed a replacement for a less than reliable hunter, so before I knew it I had become a regular cog in the Late Night Raiders machine.  Once I was geared… I felt like I simply could not swap to another class.  It was during this time that my fellow hunter Ailah decided that she really would rather level a priest… so we rolled Belghast the Warrior and Finni the Priest and started leveling them as a duo to make life easier on both of us.  At that point the hardest possible thing to level was a Holy Priest, and the second hardest was a Protection Warrior… and we figured as a duo we could burn through the content quickly.

It was not terribly long before both Belghast and Finni had become our “unofficial” mains, so when Late Night Raiders disintegrated at the end of Vanilla, I took that opportunity as my change to be the class and role I had actually wanted to play.  I tore through Burning Crusade with a vengeance and became one of the folks that people relied on to make dungeons happen.  When LNR finally called it quits I transitioned over to another raid group that I had been tanking for on the side.  NSR or No Such Raid became a second family, and through that raid I met so many of the people that I keep in contact with on a daily basis.  We had a really great run with the raid and made it to the start of the Tier 6 raid content before various things happened, and the leader dumped the raid in my lap.  I tried to make it work as best I could, but week by week we were hemorrhaging folks.  We started with baring being able to pull the group together, then the next week we were down around five people… and the bleeding continued at that pace until three weeks in I just called it.  I felt like a failure and honestly was uncertain what my future would bring.  I talked to a handful of the highest tier raid guilds on our server… and had essentially made my way through the recruitment process on a couple of them.

Durable Nubs

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It was around this time that a good friend of mine from the days of Late Night Raiders pulled me aside to talk about an idea that he and some of his friends had.  The theory was simple… pull together a raid group in the style of Late Night Raiders and go off and tackle the content on our own.  There were a lot of things about the methodology of NSR that never set right with me.  I’ve never felt like yelling orders at a team was really that effective.  Basically I had a choice… do I go with my friends and start a brand new raid, having to train people up from Tier 4, or do I go off and join a hardcore raid guild and continue my progress into Tier 6.  If you have read this blog much, it would be pretty obvious which choice I made, but I have  to admit that choice haunted me.  As we wiped to Gruul or later Leotheras the Blind…  I kept thinking…  what did I give up to make this happen.  I spent a good deal of Burning Crusade being grumpy about my decision but in the long run I absolutely made the right one.  When Wrath of the Lich King launched we were prized to be a real force for awesome raiding.  The atmosphere that evolved was awesome… but we did a few things that I think ultimately hurt the raid.  We had this policy of “never let the children see the parents fight”, so while we raided the entire group of officers remained connected to a second voice server.  The problem being is that when heavy deliberation was going on… the normal raid chat could be deathly quiet as we sorted out what we needed to do to fix the situation.

To the members this felt like a vacuum of information, and we also failed to take into account the possibility that some of those folks might have some really good ideas that would help solve whatever problem we were having.  LNR was the example that we were following, because almost all deliberation there happened in a separate and private server channel.  The problem being… we had no clue just how contentious that channel could end up being.  I had zero intention of being the voice of the raid… but over time that is precisely what happened.  The thing is… as burnt out as I eventually became…  I still look back on the moments of us raiding together in a positive light.  Namely because so many of the people from the raid groups I have been in… make up the folks that I converse with on a daily basis.  Like all things…  Duranub came to an end, but this time it was only slain by the Cataclysm release and the shift of focus to guild based raiding.  There are several moments that I wish I could go back to, and several raider line-ups that I wish I could pull together again.  With Cataclysm we ushered in a plot by some of my friends to create the raiding dream team… the problem being… it wasn’t my dream team.  It ended up feeling like a really forced thing, and while the team was called “MellyBelNore” it felt like neither myself, Elnore or Melyloss really had any control over where the team was heading.  This frustration… combined with a brand new shiny game on the horizon called Rift, ultimately got me to leave WoW on a semi-permanent basis.

Always in Your System

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The problem being… that World of Warcraft is one of those games that I can never seem to fully flush from my system.  Over the weekend I spent chunks of it playing around on my Blood Elf Warrior that I rolled ages ago on Scryers… as a way of having both Horde and Alliance characters on Argent Dawn.  Once upon a time I was a forum junkie, and with that came pretty frequent postings on the Argent Dawn server forums.  Through them I met lots of horde players on my server, and cultivated a pretty great relationship with many of them.  I’ve never had a lot of faction loyalty, I just tended to prefer the look and feel of alliance races and cities.  I’ve never had that streak for playing “monstrous humanoids” to borrow the dungeons and dragons term.  One of my big regrets has always been that I never really got a character high enough to be useful on the horde side.  I have an account that I no longer play that managed to catch up during Wrath of the Lich King, and I raided a bit with the Batteries Not Included raid…  of which lots of folks are in the guild that I am hanging my hat in currently.  For years we had a relationship with Bloodmoon Chosen, and I guess there was a bit of a major dramasplosion there.  As a result the folks I was actually friends with ended up leaving and creating their own guild called Facepull, and as a result I moved my characters there over the weekend.

I’ve been having a lot of fun, because there is just something about leveling in World of Warcraft that makes me happy.  I’ve not spent much time on the House Stalwart side of the fence, namely because I have no clue yet how long I will actually be around.  I always feel like a dick when I have one of these relapses and folks start saying things like “Yay! You’re Back!”.  I don’t like letting people down, because for all I know I will be gone  in two weeks time when something else catches my fancy.  If you were to look at my subscription history since the launch of Rift, you would see each expansion there are two or three of these relapses, and of all of them… only two managed to stick for any length of time.  What is ultimately going to hurt this time is the fact that I really don’t have much of a guild to return to.  That also feels like my fault, because when I left again this time after us defeating Blackrock…  a large chunk of folks followed me into Final Fantasy XIV.  In the resulting vacuum, the guild as a whole just vanished.  I am looking forward to us ramping back up to doing things as a group in Eorzea, and this past Saturday night before the podcast was a lot of fun.  That said… WoW right now is like slipping into a warm sweater…. or fixing a hot cup of soup.  It is comfort gaming, and works perfectly for being wrapped in a blanket cocoon on the couch watching stuff on Netflix.  It is the mode of gaming that I need right now, and I have stopped fighting the desires for the moment.  Only time will tell if this is just another outbreak of nostalgia, or if I really truly want to be playing the game.

 

Mourning The Past

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Another Time

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Lately I have been struggling with fits of nostalgia, mostly surrounding World of Warcraft and in the middle of it I had a revelation.  I know the moment I started to distance myself from raiding, and the events that lead up to me ultimately checking out mentally.  When the Cataclysm patch went live, Blizzard in their infinite wisdom decided to deeply incentivize guild-centric raiding.  This was probably a no brainer for them, because in truth this is more than likely how the vast majority of people raided.  If you wanted to raid… you went and found a raid guild… and life moved on normally from that point onwards.  Since the early days of Vanilla however…  we never really raided like this.  There was a clear distinction between “The Raid” and “The Guild” that was significantly harder to maintain after Cataclysm.  The reason being that we raided as an entity that was distinct from any of the guilds that came together to make it up… we raided as a coalition of sorts.  In Vanilla it was the Late Night Raiders, in Burning Crusade it was mostly No Such Raid… and from late BC through Wrath we formed the Duranub Raiding Company.  In each case the “raid” was an organization with a distinct leadership, made up of a bunch of people from different styles of guilds, with the one thing in common… that they wanted to clear content.

There was relatively no pressure to join any of the guilds, though folks did from time to time filter back and forth between them…  nor was the fixed and set number of guilds that made up the roster.  It allowed us to recruit people to fill slots, without asking them to give up everything they knew about the game from that point… just to raid.  It also allowed people who were far more comfortable in five or six player guilds to remain in their small close knit groups, while still having access to a larger raiding life.  It also solved some of the problems that you run into with guild based raiding, where individuals have the impression that if they join X guild they will have an automatic guaranteed spot in X raid.  We were able to keep a completely separate infrastructure, with its own rules and tenets, and then fall back on our larger social guild for non-raiding interactions.  It was a structure that felt so natural to me, and it almost seemed like a personal affront when the Cataclysm changes showed that they would be shifting focus away from this style of raiding, and only crediting kills to the guild with the largest number of members.

Death of Duranub

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When Cataclysm launched we tried an experiment that ultimately failed.  House Stalwart, the guild I had lead since the day World of Warcraft launched… attempted to consume all of the smaller satellite guilds for the purpose of “keeping the raid together”.  So over night we quite literally went from a 600 character guild to an over 900 character guild.  With this came so many different cultures and so many different “norms” that it rapidly became a jumbled mess.  We also made the decision to focus on 10 player raid groups, and ended up splintering the raid into a bunch of teams.  The problem there is that not all teams were created equal, and some of the teams had the deck stacked heavily including more of the seasoned raiders.  So when the progress was not equal, it caused strife and competitiveness between the groups, where it had never existed before.  Previously we were there Duranub Raiding Company… we were a group that made the easy things look hard… and the hard things look easy.  The phrase “Duranub” tied lineage back to a saying that Shiana the leader of my first raid group said about the Late Night Raiders… that we were a “Durable Pack of Nubs”.  In fact Duranub was our attempt to pull out the best things we experienced during Late Night Raiders and congeal them into a modern raid group.

In the process all of the officers sacrificed a lot of their time… and for me a lot of my sanity to keep it going.  So when that disolved and we splintered into smaller raid teams…  it introduced a whole mix of things that I just didn’t care about any more.  I have never been a competitive player, and I have never cared about clearing content first.  I am all about working together with my friends to make bosses dead, and to get new and interesting pieces of gear.  So when I felt like I was in a competition with those same friends, it somehow tarnished the experience.  When Rift launched it became all too easy for me to walk away from World of Warcraft, because the thing that had been keeping me in the game for so long… was this concept that I believe in so deeply.  That you could gather up a bunch of disparate parts and make them into a raid group…  and have fun doing it.  The problem with raiding as a guild… is often times there are people that you end up raiding with…  that you don’t want to share a guild with.  They are great raiders, but lacking in the human being department.  The end result causes you to make compromises…  and either diluting the atmosphere of your guild… or sacrificing talent for the sake of culture.  This is the part that I was never really able to put into words before now.

Extended Family

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I have been nostalgic lately, and it seems to be far less about what we did in World of Warcraft, and more about who I was doing it with.  When I said the other day that I didn’t wan’t World of Warcraft, I wanted the WoW that existed in 2009 during the Wrath of the Lich King patch cycle…  I meant more than just the game.  I experienced that game with a certain set of individuals and a certain feeling of togetherness… and that is the game that I want back more than anything.  So many of the people I’ve raided with, I keep in touch with today on a regular basis…  definitely more that any other group of people that have been in my life.  I don’t talk to anyone from High School, and there is only a couple of folks from college that I keep in touch with other than my wife.  I have a notoriously bad track record at keeping in contact with folks I have worked with in the past… but when it comes to folks I have raided with…  three of the five other people in the AggroChat podcast are folks I have raided with since Vanilla.  Rae and Dallian I’ve raided at least on some level with since Burning Crusade.  Other than that there is a huge list of people that I have raided with in one fashion or another that I talk to on IM or Slack, which shows how much more important this group is to me than pretty much any other.

When you spend year after year with these people, even though it is only on voice chat… you develop a bond that is forged in shared struggle towards a goal.  Having never really been serious about sports, maybe this is the same sort of bond you develop between your team mates, or the same sort of bond that soldiers come out of conflict with.  Whatever it is, it is important to me… and what Cataclysm and our decision to abandon 25 player raiding did was to force me to choose between which group of friends to play with.  House Stalwart forged on without me, and when I came back during Warlords out of the ashes of numerous groups was forged a really fun raid team.  I got to experience the content with people that I had not played with in years.. and for a moment it was magical.  The problem being… even then, it just wasn’t quite the same.  It is impossible to sort out guild drama and raid drama… when both are mixed into one big amalgam.  So as I sit back being nostalgic… I miss the era of non-guild raiding.  If I could bring back any one element of the past, it would be that… and even put in systems like formal raid alliances to bolster that style of game play.  If there is one thing I have learned throughout the years… it is that raid guilds are just not for me.  What I want is to be able to have my friendly social guild… and raid effectively at the same time.  While that might sound like wanting it all at the same time…  I did have it for years, which is why I miss it so much looking back upon it.

Performance Anxiety

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Cash Shop Fodder

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With the impending launch of the Wildstar free to play model, I thought I would talk this morning about one of my problems with cash shops in general.  One of the most popular items in any MMO cash shop is the “experience potion” for lack of a better generic term.  These are items that grant a limited duration buff and increase the aquisition of something.  These sometimes apply to experience but also pvp systems and token currencies.  They seem to be fairly ubiquitous when it comes to MMOs and they often times hand them out like candy in your introductory packs.  My theory is that they want to get players hooked on these early so they keep coming back to the cash shop anytime they run out.  Now if you had boomboxes in Wildstar you already have a few of these more than likely.  My problem is…  I never spend them.  I just logged into my Rift account to take a quick census and I am currently sitting on somewhere between 150 and 200 of these in various forms.  They are generally locked from you selling them on the auction house…  and since I am not using them they just take up inventory space.

The problem I have with them is that I feel like there is a value associated with them.  They cost money, and I want to make sure I get my most out of them.  So when a game gives me one.. I hold onto it forever never quite finding the right time to spend it.  If the potion is an hour long, it feels like I need to find the perfect time to use it when I will have an hour of uninterrupted time at the keyboard.  Even more so it feels like I have to figure out the optimal way to spend my bonus experience time.  I do a lot of running around aimlessly in video games, and when I have used an experience potion it feels like I am “on the clock”.  I have to get the most out of my time and need to do whatever I am doing with minimal downtime.  As a result I just end up crushed with indecision and so they sit in my inventory unspent collecting dust.  I end up resenting them being there, because they are taking up space that I could be using for other things.  I didn’t want them in the first place, and the game keeps handing them to me like they are important and special… and something that SHOULD be desired.

Performance Anxiety

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This just highlights a bigger problem I have in games, that I will  call performance anxiety for lack of a better term.  It is like there are times when I have to be super focused on the game and take it more seriously than I really want to.  When I sign up to raid I accept the fact that once the raid starts it is “go time”.  The rest of my game time however I want to be able to stop and smell the roses.  The problem is when I group with another living person… I feel like I am also “on the clock” and responsible for making the most of that time grouped together.  So instead other than dungeons and raids I actively avoid grouping with anyone.  That way I am only responsible for my own enjoyment and won’t feel guilty when I need to step away from the screen because my wife needs me, or the animals have knocked something over and I have to go investigate what they just broke.  The worst is when I am in an MMO and there are quest objectives to be done.  I feel like I not only have to be aware of my own needs… but the needs of everyone in my party and assure that they also accomplish whatever they need to get done before moving on myself.

I realize all of this is irrational, but this is the sort of mental struggle I go through each time I accept someone else’s group invite.  Most of the time I can steel myself against the anxiety and just push forward, but there are other times…  when I just cannot risk taking responsibility for others.  I talked some yesterday about my current desire to “hide out” and as such I thought I would talk a bit this morning about the other side of the coin.  Grouping with other people is often times a draining experience for me.  I shift into responsible adult mode, and step up to the plate like I know what I am doing.  I am willing to take on this mantle for my friends and my guild…  but I am rarely willing to take on this mantle for strangers. I realize most other people don’t quite have the hang up I do with grouping with strangers.  So when someone asks me to tank something, or dps something…  I always feel strange asking if it is a guild only group.  The worst of these experiences so far has been when it comes to partially queuing for raid content.  The anxiety that comes with tanking for strangers in a dungeon… is nothing compared to the anxiety of tanking for a raid group full of strangers.  For me at least it ranks among the least comfortable experiences, and I would rather simply do nothing… than queue with a bunch of people I don’t know.

Opening The Curtain

I get the impression sometimes that folks seem to think I have my act together.  The truth is I am just as strange and vulnerable as the next person.  I put on a really good front sometimes, and I do a fairly good job of pushing down my own insecurities.  You might ask yourself… why in the world would I be opening up like this?  Well the truth is that I know there are lots of people out there with their own quirks, that think they are somehow lesser for them.  My theory is that by showing the weak points in my own armor, that others might be more comfortable with themselves as a result.  Once this down cycle finishes I will be back to my normal self again, and the armor will go back up.  In the mean time I am talking about the things I am struggling with, in hopes that it might help someone out there.  We all have our own hang-ups and we learn to deal with them however we can.  My coping mechanism tends to be disappearing for a bit while my shields recharge.  Tonight I will be submitting myself to a raid group where I assume that we are ultimately going to have to PUG people…  even though every fiber of my being tells me to run screaming into the night.  There is a certain power in knowing your own limitations and forcing yourself to face them.  I’ve learned over the years that everyone is broken inside…  just most are better at hiding it than others.

Raiding Drama

Eleven Sads out of Ten

Ori 2015-03-12 11-52-32-79 Yesterday I ended up running home over lunch to fiddle with a server here at the house that was no longer responding.  While here I decided to boot up Ori and the Blind Forest and play for a bit while I scarfed down my lunch.  I had been prepared slightly for this intro by my friends and by watching the video from e3.  In truth I still was not quite prepared.  If you do not cry through this intro, or at least get really damned close to crying…  you likely have no soul.  We have joked a bit on the podcast that the video game industry seems to only really know how to do rage fueled revenge and soul crushing depressing sad as far as an available emotional range.  This game is most definitely in the crushing sads territory, and I would give it eleven sads out of ten as the title goes.  Quite honestly the best comparison I have is the introduction to the Disney film Up.  It manages to be so touching and adorable… and at the same time so unfortunately depressing.

The positive is however that once the game proper starts and you manage to get through the introduction… the tone does get quite a bit more hopeful.  The game itself is this wonderfully animation quality experience.  At its core the game is very much a metroidvania, and it is quite clear early on which obstacles you can pass and which you cannot.  Additionally the game has some interesting combat in that you have a light spark that follows you around and ends up flinging fireball like things that lock onto your target.  So this is vastly different from the traditional mechanism of slashing things with a weapon or firing directly at your enemies.  The game right now is $20 on steam, and as little as I have played of it… I am already hooked.  If you like beautiful games with excellent narration… of the metroidvania genre…  I highly suggest you check it out.  I will more than likely be streaming some of this over the weekend and playing a good deal more of it.

Raiding Drama

Wow-64 2015-03-05 21-06-19-69 We had a bit of an incident happen last night, and I have to say it was primly surreal to experience it.  Over the years I have been the guild leader of most of the guilds I have been part of, and even when I was not… I still was treated as such by most of the membership.  However for the past year in both World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV..  I am not leading anything.  I have taken up the role of cruise director and recruitment…  but have not been doing any of the heavy lifting that comes with the crown.  Apparently over the last several months I have finally gotten used to that role.  One of our problems over the course of this expansion has been a lack of critical lack of available healers.  For the most part we have struggled through, but are starting to get to content where we need the intended balance of dps, tanks and healing.  As such our raid leader opted to bench a few people of our dps to try and get our ratios more in line with what they should be.  Unfortunately it seems that at least one of our players took offense to this.

During the middle of the raid one of the players chain logged in all of his characters and de-guilded them one after another.  I have to give him credit for saying a rather nice farewell message when he got to the last one…  but all of this felt a bit over dramatic.  Normally I would have been tracking that player down, and trying to talk them off the ledge.  Last night however… I was content to watch the events play out in front of me, as I realized…  this was no longer my problem.  World of Warcraft is a game that comes with more than its fair share of drama, especially when it comes to raiding.  However I am not the guild leader any longer, nor am I responsible for raid leading at all… and I can simply sit back and watch the events unfold in front of me without feeling any guilt in the situation.  I have to say that was a pretty awesome feeling when I finally realized that I was fine with someone else dealing with things.  It sucks when anyone leave the guild, but I have to accept  that people are going to ultimately do whatever the hell they want to do.  I have a feeling the person in question will cool off and come back, but if he doesn’t it is not really that big of a deal anyways.

Thogar Down

Wow-64 2015-03-12 20-26-53-85 On the positive side of things, pairing the raid down to a more reasonable ratio of healers to dps…  did manage to improve our performance.  Before last night we had really only spent a single night of attempts on Operator Thogar in Blackrock Foundry.  For those unfamiliar this is the “train” fight and it takes place on a series of four tracks.  During the fight a dance happens of moving back and forth between the different lanes to avoid the oncoming trains that buzz through.  If the player is hit by a train it seems to reduce their health by a specific percentage, leaving the player on the edge of death…  but not quite oneshotting them.  Previously our big issue was that in two places during the fight… the entire raid needs to split into two groups.  The problem here is there is a fairly hefty tank swap mechanic so that the tanks need to time this swap in such a way so that the fresh tank is taunting Thogar as they are moving to the new position.  The margin here is super slim, and both sides have to burn through their adds extremely quickly so that we can join back up and let the then free second tank taunt back the boss before the damage gets to great.

Last night we managed to do all these things right, and very quickly got to the second one of these swaps.  Within another try or so we managed to push through the fight and down Thogar.  One of the things that made last night extremely difficult was the fact that we essentially had no battle rez.  Our druid healer was out for the night, as was our Deathknight DPS… meaning our only option was to have the bear tank stance dance and someone get a rez off before dying to the boss.  Needless to say we largely did this without a rez, and I have to say I am pretty damned proud of how fast the progress happened.  We spent the rest of the night working on the Heart of the Mountain event, and I feel like we need to sift through the logs and see exactly what was going wrong there.  It is one of those events where there are dozens of mechanics happening at the same time… and while we could consistently push into phase two without issue… we struggled to get elementalists down.  I have a feeling that we are going to have to split into teams and each focus on a finite number of mechanics.  Drama aside it felt like a really good night of raiding.

Wildstar Attunements

Bon Voyage

Finally home and sitting on the sofa and starting to tackle the blog post of the day.  I ended up taking the day off from work to make sure I was able to do whatever my wife needed me to do this morning.  She however has been successfully ferried to the airport, and while I got turned around leaving the airport I got to flex my knowledge of the backroads of North Tulsa to get back home.  I am going to have to master highway 11 this summer during the Twitter Math Camp, where I am serving as a shuttle driver.  However for the time being I am nice and safe and home.

When I got here it was really nice out, so I opted to go for a little walk rather than having to do all of it this evening.  The thing this highlighted however is that I apparently need to try and find some earbuds with a longer cord.  If I moved my head too quickly they ripped out of my ears and went flailing to the ground.  If I am going to make it through the nightly ritual of walking I am going to have to do it to music.  So after while I guess I will make a trip out to target or best buy and see what I can find.  Once upon a time I had a set of head phones that had little behind the ear clips, so I am thinking I need to find a pair of those.

Wildstar Attunements

For some time now an infographic has been circulating around the internet outlining the “12 step process” for raid attunement in Wildstar.  I admit when I first saw it, I was extremely hesitant because it is quite the ordeal… however the longer I have “lived with it” the more I think it might be just want the doctor ordered.  I talked about my feeling regarding attunements and skill checks this weekend on the AggroChat podcast, but this mornings post is completely devoted to two excellent posts I read yesterday from Liore and Syl about the subject.  I am not going to preface or summarize the posts, because you really need to just read their own words on the subject.  Instead I am going to go off in my own rambly direction to talk about skill gates and attunements in general.  If you are curious about the 12 step image… it is spanning the right side of the page… for dramatic effect.

Evil Attunements

Once upon a time in another life I was a somewhat successful raid leader in World of Warcraft.  I lead a few raids during the 40 man era, but got really serious about doing it during the Burning Crusade 25 man era with the non-guild based raid groups of NSR and Duranub Raiding Company.  I know the pain that attunements can be all too tragically as a raid leader.  In order to get fresh blood into your raid, it meant either you spent time running old content and gearing those players up… or you resorted to stealing members away from fledgling raids that were maybe not as highly progressed as your own.

The problem with the World of Warcraft attunement system, was that it required an entire raid to complete.  This was a constant drag on the raid system, and meant lots of players would have to join one raid just to get keyed to be able to join a bigger one.  This system invoked so much animosity, just like it did back in Everquest where the system really saw the first light of day.  During the Planes of Power expansion, getting keyed for various planes became a power vacuum that only a few elite guilds allowed anyone to have.  Considering the raid designers for World of Warcraft were themselves the leaders of these elite raids… it was not surprising that the keying system ended up something very similar.

The Gatekeeper

The problem is that the attunements also served as a way to gate the content, and provide a level of gearing that you must be able to get past in order to proceed.  To some extent they have tried to do this with item levels, but that in itself is also inefficient.  Just because a player has a really high gear score, it tells you nothing about their ability.  I’ve known more than a few players who have reached high gear score out of persistence, and still perform horribly in a raid environment.  For ages these games have needed an objective measure for just how prepared a player is for the encounters contained within a raid.  Nothing feels worse than having to be that raid leader, and tell a player that they simply do not perform well enough for the raid to carry them along.

One of the best mechanisms I have seen in a game to gate based on player skill… is the not terribly creatively named “Gatekeeper” encounter in The Secret World.  In fact I have gushed about the need for this encounter on more than one occasion, but the latest is in the “WoW Needs a Gatekeeper” post.  This encountered required you to complete a specific test designed to exemplify your ability to heal, tank or dps nightmare level content.  Your reward for completing it, was literally the ability to get to the nightmare level gates in the game.  As a DPS player at the time, I have to say that the test fully prepared me for the rigors that would be Nightmare difficulty content, and I am sure eventually raid level content.

What was so great about the encounter was that it was entirely personal.  No one could carry you through it, or even assist you.  You had to come to a solution to the puzzle of how to complete all of the necessary tasks to progress forward.  This type of skill gate draws a clear line in the sand between the players that are ready and the players that are not, and takes a lot of the stress off the raid leader.  I don’t like elitism, but raiding was never one of those things designed for the masses.  It is designed to be an extremely rigorous skill based activity, much like high level PVP.  The harsh reality is that not everyone should be able to raid.  That is not to say that I don’t think there should be valuable high end content for everyone to complete.  But I don’t necessarily think that raiding should be something that every  player has the expectation of being able to do.

Why Wildstar Isn’t Evil

One of the coolest things about the Gatekeeper encounter is it gives players a shared struggle that they had to get through to be able to progress to the next level.  My friends and I still to this day talk about what a colossal pain in the ass the dps version was.  It took me 25 tries and I think it took my friend Warenwolf around 30… because we were both too damned stubborn to respec to the “optimal” path to complete it.  We beat the damned thing on our own terms, and now carry it as a badge of honor.  This is what raiding used to be, not about elitism, but about defeating something really hard together as a group and carrying with it a sense of pride in that accomplishment.  I honesty feel like Wildstar is trying to return to that era when you felt like you earned every inch of space in each dungeon or raid you completed.  I for one am fine with this change, even if it means I will likely never be able to raid again.  I just hope that they put in content to keep me entertained in my casualness.

The main reason why I feel like the Wildstar attunement process is just is the fact that for the most part it is a personal journey.  Steps 1-5 are entirely soloable, or at the very least zone events that will likely have other players completing them without the need for a premade group.  Step 6 requires a group but should be able to be completed through pugging if you need to.  To be honest every single achievement listed in the attunement, is either solo or something you can accomplish with either a freeform group inside of the zone, or puggable through the dungeon finder system.  Sure you can get your guild to help you out significantly on several of the steps, but the length of the quest chain means that not many guilds will be dragging players through it.  This means the onus of the entire event is on the player, and not on a guild or a raid to “catch them up”.  So while it is not a one stop shop like the Gatekeeper, I feel it creates a sufficient skill gate to make sure that the players are prepared for raiding in Wildstar will likely mean.

I feel like Wildstar is a game with so much casual but challenging content, that there is always going to be something for the players that cannot raid to do.  While World of Warcraft has made so many steps to make raiding an inclusive thing…  it feels like it lost the epic quality that it used to have along the way.  Some of my best moments in gaming came from Vanilla and BC era raiding, because when we FINALLY downed a boss… it felt like we had done something spectacular.  When I got that tier set…  it felt like it was a long fought struggle… and not something I gained by simply “putting in enough time” or “grinding enough currency”.  I feel like raiding could definitely use an infusion of hardcore again, even like I said earlier… if that means I won’t be able to participate.

#Wildstar #Attunements