Monday, 7 June 2010

I like to move it, move it

All the cool kids are playing over at WordPress. Blogger's comment system is antiquated. Not going to write a novel on the subject of moving the blog.

Please update your bookmarks and/or readers and find me at See you there!

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Sunday quote

What should you do when you find you have made a mistake like that? Some people never admit that they are wrong and continue to find new, and often mutually inconsistent, arguments to support their case - as Eddington did in opposing black hole theory. Others claim to have never really supported the incorrect view in the first place or, if they did, it was only to show that it was inconsistent. It seems to me much better and less confusing if you admit in print that you were wrong. A good example of this was Einstein, who called the cosmological constant, which he introduced when he was trying to make a static model of the universe, the biggest mistake of his life.

Stephen Hawking - "A Brief History of Time", the updated tenth anniversary commemorative edition

I read it and it struck home. It appears harsh at first, but when you really think about it, it's probably the easiest way to deal with being wrong. You get it out of your system and don't need to dance around it or awkwardly explain to different people over and over why you have (not) been wrong. All within the borders of sensible, of course, I'm not saying we all should make public announcements every time we make the tiniest mistake. But sometimes it's easier to make a thread in your guild's tactic forum and admit that you've been wrong, rather than having an uncertain number of people either having learned an incorrect thing from you or learning the correct and then questioning your competence.

So, yeah, Tyrannus heals when the healer is branded, not when the branded person is healed, as I, for some reason (read it somewhere, no idea where), thought all this time. Not such a hard thing to admit, really!

Saturday, 3 April 2010

The Musical Easter

In response, or rather in reaction, to a brief ABBA moment I shall publish the Little Rogue song I composed (*coughs*) about a month ago.

*clears throat*

When I was just a little rogue,
I asked on EJ, how shall I spec?*
Will I be Combat, will I be Mut?
Here's what they said to me.

Que Sera, Sera,
There's upside in every tree.
The future's all RNG.
Que Sera, Sera.

* The author hereby denies all responsibility for any corporal or mental damage that may result from asking questions on EJ that may be deemed inappropriate.

Friday, 2 April 2010

The tale of a Gnome Mage

No, not Coltoon. Nor Frostydude.

Once upon a time, there was a gnome mage. He grew up, experienced 5-man dungeons and obtained gear of a reasonable level. There were these raid things he had heard of, so he went on the official forums to ask his fellow inhabitants of Azeroth for advice on his further mageing and on how to transition from 5-mans to that fabled raiding. Coincidentally, we were also about to take that very step and just started active recruitment. So, we left a message in his thread (which quickly became an EJ-outpost of arcane mages beating each other in wit while reasoning over trinket cooldowns), I added him to my Friends list, greeted him when he logged on and after a bit of chatting he agreed to "join and see".

"Hmm, you only have 6 level 80 characters in the guild," he keenly observed first thing after joining. And, just to be clear, I had not lied about, not even concealed our small scale and state of development.
"Well, yes, but at least they're actually from 6 different people. And we have 2 friends who run with us," I tried to come back.
Hmm," he concluded. Abstract friends reliable guild rosters do not make, and even 6 + 2 still only gives 8, which is remarkably less than 10.

A couple of hours later he apologetically explained that he received a better offer and that although he's sorry, he will seek his luck there. You shall not hold up the travellers, as a German saying says. I politely expressed my regret about his decision, but assured him I can't blame him for it and wished him all the best.

Today, little more than a month later, we have close to 30 level 80 characters in our guild. People transferred server and faction to play with us, people resubscribed to play with us - you cannot imagine (well, maybe you can) the magnitude of pride this fills us with, more than any measurable in-game achievement. We've cleared Naxxramas and The Room of the Crusader, as well as VoA, Sarth and EoE. We have two bosses left to best in Ulduar (not counting Algalon...yet!). Our raids are some magically impossible combination of competence and amiability - even though we are still working on the structures and infrastructures around them (that punctuality issue was pretty severe and started, as always, at the head - myself. I think we're getting a firm grip on it now though). When we feel prepared and roll up in ICC, that Arthas dude should better make a life insurance. Or death insurance .. whatever it is he'd like to insure.

But on that chilly evening in late February, I felt very, very helpless and borderline desperate. Yes, of course, the very fact that he left was best proof that the gnome mage was not a fit for us. That was not the point, though. The point was that terrifying vicious circle starting up a new guild this late into an expansion (and even later into the game itself) puts you in. You can't do anything exciting unless you get the numbers - you can't get the numbers until you can offer them something exciting to do. We were lucky. We were incredibly lucky to find and be found by some incredibly nice people who then recommended us to other incredibly nice people or just contributed their incredible niceness. It's all pretty incredible. And nice.

But back when even a totally inexperienced little gnome left us for greener pastures the probabilities looked rather dire. So, what is he up to now, you may wonder? According to the Armory, he has yet to set foot into a raid and changed guilds at least yet another time. He came back into his thread once or twice saying, right, thanks everyone, now he's got a guild and is prepared and totally looking forward to raid really soon. Which made me smirk, because at that point we were already raiding, and he'd have been raiding as well had he remained with us. But he did not believe. And wanted to go the path of the least resistance. The thing about the path of least resistance is however, sadly, that it rarely leads to the place you want to be in.

What was the point of this post? I'm not sure. But I am sure how I will end it - by thanking everyone who believed and took the risk with us. It is a pleasure to be around you, it is a pleasure to log on and emerge in your company and it is a pleasure to do our best to reward you for your faith with the best you could believe in. Thank you.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Things learned yesterday

Yes, I know, zomg, two posts on one day. This should be a quickie, like the other one, though.

So, things I learned yesterday:
  • No, you will not participate in a heroic 30 minutes before raid time. No, there is nothing in particular you would have had to do in that time, but, you know how it goes, you get CoS, and then you come out of it 5 minutes before raid time. Which would be perfectly fine for a "regular" (that sounds so unintentionally demeaning) raider. But you're a raid leader now. Things are different. You need to relax and unwind before a raid, so you can be focused on the spot when the lights go on.
  • No, after the raid you will not agree to run the level 70 alts of two of your guildies through a dungeon, no matter how much you like them. Especially not if you're fully expecting to run a random heroic when your favourite druid gets home that day. It'll leave you with 5 hours straight of tanking/leading in dungeons, which is, with all due love for the game, taxing.
  • No, you are not the only tank in the guild. Relax. Heroic 5-mans do not require your attendance to be saved from the evil LFD. There are others who can (and do!) take that badge up (curiously, you ended up DPSing on that first run you impulsively joined, which was fun, but...). Run when you want to run, not when you "have to".
  • In short: learn to say "no".

Realisation strikes .. with a hammer

Ever wondered what those pretty bugs you occasionally see around the Argent Coliseum are supposed to be there for? I did! So did my favourite druid (attention - new forest! Update your pathmarks). Every time we'd be there and one of these creatures would cross the area only to disappear under one of the buildings, we'd exchange curious remarks in chat or on Vent. What are they? Why aren't they even targetable?

There I was yesterday, running The Room of the Crusader. It was going very smoothly, we got to the last boss without incidents. One of our raiders had to AFK briefly, I was done outlining the tactics (and people who know the fight better than me were done correcting my mistakes - thank you guys!), so we were all just standing around for a few minutes, mentally preparing for the fight ahead. I was gazing around the cave. My eyes stopped on one of the scarabs, non-aggressive at that point. "Hmm," I thought, "he looks remarkably like..."

And then my mind wandered back to maybe 10 minutes earlier.

The Lich King yells: The Nerubians built an empire beneath the frozen wastes of Northrend. An empire that you so foolishly built your structures upon. MY EMPIRE.

Structures. Coliseum. Passive bug here ... non-targetable bug there ... oh ... OH!

Subtle, Blizzard, very subtle. Consider my hat taken off to you.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Faction Champions is not PvP

Yesterday, our spunky little guild had a crack at Lord Jaraxxus and then at the infamous Faction Champions in the equally infamous Trial of the Crusader raid. To clarify: some (few) of us had done those fights before, some others (very few) had even been in the unfortunate situation to farm them. Of those 9 (yep, nine) who were in there yesterday, the majority (including myself) had not seen those before. But, boy, have we read about them! Well, about Faction Champions.

Respected bloggers foamed at their mouths, raid leaders everywhere ended up shouting at their members to quit whining and focus, the waves of rage rose high and strong. It was nerfed and subsequently overgeared, yet probably remains as the most hated encounter in recent WoW history. Maybe in all of WoW's history. And now lil' Rem here has finally participated in it. We even beat it, despite being only 9 people (and, boy, if on any fight that makes a particularly large difference, this is the one), after several attempts during which we polished our tactics.

After we were done, a guild mate asked me if I see now why people call it a PvP-style fight. We had a little discussion about it before, an utterly friendly discussion as I shall immediately add, where I claimed most problems people have with it stem from mislabelling it as PvP and then getting all worked up about it instead of just taking the encounter as it is and focusing on it. I shall further add that I am hereby in no way dissing said guild mate - she's lovely and competent - this is merely about perception and interpretation.

What shall I say .. yes, I do see why people call it a PvP-style fight. Because those models look just like player models and use the same skills player characters have at their disposal, that's why. It's not a PvP fight (obviously) nor a PvP-style fight at all. Sorry. Okay, okay, I'll be fair, there is one good reason why people tend to call it PvP-style: it utilizes many tactical elements usually observed in PvP (particularly Arenas). Lockdown, kiting, dispels, focus fire, defensive/reactive crowd control. They all appear in PvE as well though. So, what's really different?

Actually, really different is that the traditional PvE rules of the holy trinity are ignored. You know, tanks gather stuff up, DPS burns stuff down, healers heal tanks and DPS. The simple fact that in the Faction Champions opponents may just start chasing your healer while there's very little your tank can do about it makes people call it PvP-style. But that's not enough, by far not enough, and the reason is quite simple. This is not what constitutes the difference between PvE and PvP. And no, I am not going for the cheap out of syntactically claiming that you're not playing against other players. The come back to that is to call it "PvP-style" instead of "PvP". No, the point is that the Champions do not emulate player behaviour in its most crucial aspect - adaptation and reaction.

Remember, in the second paragraph, I wrote that we got them down "after several attempts during which we polished our tactics"? This is it, basically. Over the course of those attempts, we analysed the problem and improved our approach to solving it. At the same time, the Champions made no adjustments to counter our changing tactics. Their approach remained entirely static, modified only by RNG. We were confronted by a set of rules, and once we figured out its weakness and honed our execution, we cracked it. This is PvE, absolutely and utterly, regardless of the fact that we may have used different skills in different ways to those we are usually utilising.

You have to react and adapt in both PvE and PvP, but in the case of the former, your opposition does not react and adapt beyond defined rules and RNG influence. And this is why Faction Champions is not a PvP-style encounter.