Monday, December 22, 2008

Three Simple Vent Rules

...that will earn you the healer's respect.

1. Don't tell them to heal you when you're taking damage.
2. Don't tell them to decurse/cleanse.
3. Don't tell them to heal the tank.

A good healer is already taking care of it. A mediocre healer is catching up. A bad healer won't make it anyway.

And of course, avoid your own damn damage! Better loot isn't earned for topping the meters.

Having healed full-time for a few months now, and reading things like Tobold's latest complaint about healing, I agree, healing can get annoying.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Playing to your base

Having a durable, long-lasting guild is a difficult chore in the world of Warcraft. Attachments are often virtual, play schedules vary, not to mention the extremely broad codeword "drama". If you want this goal though, the only way to achieve it is to anchor the guild around your core membership. What is your core? It's the people you can depend on, those who play often, get involved in operations, maintain a positive attitude, demonstrate some skill, and keep plugging on during good times and bad. If you're in charge of or can shape the guild, those are the people to keep in mind when implementing policy and making arrangements. New members might become core, or they might leave. Long-term but unreliable members won't be there for you. Certain things, especially loot and formation rules, should be fair towards everyone, guilds that operate as pyramid schemes don't last. But if you match your core's interests to what the guild is doing and how it operates, then it has the greatest chance of longevity.

Luckily I've almost entirely been in the same guild for the bulk of my WoW career, roughly 3 years. While its direction sometimes changes, in general it holds to those principles, whether directly or indirectly. I was an officer for a large chunk of that time, and in that position I've learned over time that when the chips are down, you have to keep things in line with your chief membership, it's the only way to keep the ship sailing.


Apologies for not posting in a while, there are topics I want to discuss but just haven't felt like writing them down yet. I'll be traveling home for a couple of weeks starting tomorrow, maybe being in a different routine will make me write more. A lot of big announcements though!

* I rejoined my old former guild 2-3 weeks ago. It's good to be back!
* My healing skills have improved dramatically. My ten-man group has cleared Naxx two weeks in a row now, and is learning Malygos. The most fun was two-healing the four main wings our first time in there, my paladin partner and I have a good grip on things. However, I don't think we'll be able to two-heal Sapph or KT for a while.
* My new druid heal, Wild Growth, was integral to our first Kel'thuzad kill. Our dps was only one-ranged, the rest melee, plus the lich tank, so 5 people in danger of chain ice-blocks. We arranged the melee in a tight triangle around the boss, and I would periodically cast Wild Growth on them, and with its 15 yard range and multiple target affect I was able to heal all of them at once most of the time. That and swiftmend for ranged ice blocks helped a ton. While the kill was a total team effort, it was nice to see how the bosses were (re)designed around the new spells (or vice versa).
* My mage is 74, and inching closer to The Loremaster achievement, first two zones down, working on Dragonblight.
* I need to decide on the blog's overall focus. If I'm going to spend more time talking about non-WoW things, I should probably change the name. But if those non-WoW posts aren't going to be regular, than I should just focus more on WoW and not really write on other things. Decisions, decisions.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Commenting on The Shield

Over the last two years or so I discovered what is currently my favorite television series ever, The Shield. It's this amazing police/crime drama that aired on FX, and actually just finished its seventh and final season a week or two ago (it started in 2001). When the program debuted it set the record for Emmy nominations for a cable drama, but basically after that it sort of lurked beneath the radar of TV entertainment for the rest of its run. It wasn't as flashy as 24, not as aspirational as Lost, not as 'steamy' as Grey's Anatomy, and not as headline-grabbing as The Sopranos (or The Wire retroactively). Heck I feel like even Nip/Tuck eclisped The Shield in "buzz" on its very own network.

However, noticed or not, The Shield is a fantastic endeavor. Here's why I like it, without spoiling much. I think The Shield took advantage of being on cable instead of network or premium TV. Network television is very dependent on maintaining massive-viewership numbers, so programs have to always be accelerating in their ideas and events, until they fly out of control. 24 suffers from this need to one-up itself until finally jumping the shark and becoming a virtual laughing-stock (I used to be a huge 24 fan). On the premium channels, there is a lot more "freedom," both in terms of content and creator control, due to the culture and they have fewer legal restrictions. This however can result in overindulgence, I have a working theory that creativity is most productive when it has to confront some sort of boundary. The controversial series finale of The Sopranos (and much of its later run) is an example to illustrate what I'm talking about.

By contrast, The Shield was on FX, a cable network. While this means it would never have the ratings of the big networks nor the hip factor of the paid-channels, there are some definite benefits. For one, The Shield was able to develop mature content and really push the limits of cable tv standards by somewhat flying under the FCC's radar. For a program on standard cable, The Shield was allowed to display far more mature content (like partial nudity, graphic violence, "adult situations," and profanity) than any other show I've seen on cable. That said, FX is not HBO, and there were definite boundaries the show would never be able to cross, which promotes creative storytelling and alternative possibilities.

Because of this "constrained freedom" the show operated under, The Shield was able to develop a fantastic atmosphere, which is the second thing I liked about the show. It takes place in a fictional county of Los Angeles, known as the poorest, most crime-riddled, and rife with various street gangs. There's a palpable sense of desperation and futility in Farmington District, in many respects the show portrays society on the brink of collapse. In order to make this world convincing, you need "adult situations" to make it plausible.

So now we have this bleak world, teeming with street drugs and street crime, rival gangs, and ethnic feuding, and we focus on the local police department. Another thing The Shield does great is its portrayal of the different aspects of the department; really four elements that intermingle throughout the episodes/season. Our main character, Vic Mackey (increasingly brilliantly portrayed by Michael Chiklis) is in charge of a special task force devoted specifically to cracking down on gang violence. Then you have the homicide detectives who investigate the other violent crimes that occur in Farmington, a number of "street level" regular police officers driving their beats, and the administrative and political workings of the captain's office. This allows you to view how the police perceive and affect society, and what society thinks of and how it influences the police force.

That is just what the show is structurally about. Thematically I could go on for a whole other essay, which I'll spare you (for now!). Briefly however, the show is a great analysis of corruption, loyalty, brutality, race, authority, society, anarchy, and (in)justice. In many respects the show becomes a tragedy in the Shakespearean sense, but I won't say more on that since it would spoil everything for a new viewer. There is a great team of actors filling out an excellent assortment of supporting characters, from Claudette Wyms, a dogged obsessively moral detective, to Julien Lowe, a rookie officer who's strict Christianity runs counter to his homosexual leanings, to Dutch, a well-intentioned but awkward homicide investigator with a penchant for profiling serial killers.

All this text aside, at the heart of the show is Farmington's unique anti-gang Strike Team, whose activities and members dominate the series; Vic Mackey, Shane Vendrell, Curtis Lemansky, and Ronnie Gardocki. What I haven't explicitly mentioned until now is that Mackey and the Strike Team are essentially corrupt police officers, but surprisingly sympathetic ones. Every end justifies their means; from planting evidence, to ignoring warrants, to much, much worse operations. From the very first episode, you'll be boldly demonstrated how "bad" these cops can be, but somehow you end up feeling sympathy for their actions and lives, and the show ends up asking you why it's so easy to become complicit in their deeds as an audience viewer.

In the very first episode Vic confronts a suspected child molestor/rapist/murderer in an interrogation room after the detectives couldn't sweat a confession out of him. The suspect looks at Mackey stalk into the room, and smugly asks, "What is this, the old good cop, bad cop routine?" Mackey stares him in the eye and replies "No, I'm a different kind of cop," and proceeds to 'acquire' the information from him using only the local Yellow Pages... it's a great, (very) raw show who's protagonist is practically the show's villain; and which gets better and deeper with every season, pretty much unheard of in my television viewing life.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


I dinged 80 today. For the record, it seemed to take about 8 hours per level, but the time for each level stayed mostly the same. I think it took about as much time to get from 71-72 as it did 79-80.

I have 4-5 new blog topics I'm going to write, maybe all tomorrow. It seems like I write in spurts rather than daily. Some of the topics aren't even WoW related! Otherwise now begins the gear grind, which I'll start with some easy heroics and planning a gear guide via WoW Armory, since most other internet sources haven't caught up yet (WoW Loot is good but doesn't include everything).

Friday, November 28, 2008

Update on Profession Approach

I've put my professions on the backburner for now. A lot of internet resources haven't caught up with updating all the new recipes, set items and efficient-leveling techniques for the new expansion yet. Plus my leveling plan for my characters is more focused. I'm going to level my druid Moneyball to 80 first and start planning my Naxx starter set. Since a lot of that is group focused, I'll be able to spend my free time working on alts and my profession empire. So it looks like:

Druid --> then (most likely) Mage/Rogue/DK concurrently (with an emphasis on the mage perhaps to get everyone good bags and since the mage is my cook/fisherman).

That said, I have leveled my druid's leatherworking slightly past 400, to keep my LW-bag uncongested if anything. LW is an easier profession to get the early points on, so it hasn't been time-consuming. But, Blizzard is on record as saying that they don't plan on making the early crafted gear from items as powerful as they were in TBC. This is a disincentive for me to farm, since I don't really like it and do it mostly for rewards.

So when it comes to capping LW, I'm going to compare the crafted gear to the pre and Naxx rewards, and if there is better gear I can get more easily than crafting then I may do that; and just get LW high enough for the drums I want and the bracer augmentations (I can already do fur lining at 400). If the crafting gear is on par then maybe I'll just stick with that, since soloing doesn't force you to rely on others (unless they're tagging your mobs). Once I cap or finish my major crafting assignments beyond things like future drums or fur linings, then I anticipate dropping skinning for enchanting. The ring enchants are great for healers and I'll always be able to DE in instances. The only other option is Blacksmithing for the extra sockets, but that seems kind of unusual to me to do.

I've also been storing necessary trade mats on the character who uses the profession. I might however take an alt, give it a "guild bank" and then use that character as a storehouse for all my wares. This way I can mail everything to one source, and then that source can parcel it out. Then I only need to buy bag space on one character instead of all of them, too. That said, there are some rather expensive vanity mounts in Wrath (the choppa! the elephant! flying mounts!) so I may play my cards close to the vest for the time being. Time to start brain-storming cutsey guild bank names. How about, the Nouns of the Modifiers But In Latin?

Leveling Speed a lot faster than first impressions

as I'm sure most people have discovered by now, leveling in Wrath of the Lich King "feels" like it speeds up dramatically after level 70-72. Right now I can't call it anything but an impression since I haven't looked at any XP numbers or rates to confirm (I will when leveling my second character), but the feeling is definitely there. Originally it seemed like it took 8 hours or so for every level (so 80 hours to level 80!), but after hitting 72 my pace has quickened. There are some possible explanations for this, some may explain why it's faster, and some may explain why it just feels faster:

1) I've built up more rest experience lately due to the Thanksgiving holiday, my fiancee's family visiting, and a few days where I lost my Internet access.

2) I only did roughly one instance run from 70-72, but since then I've run Nexus 3 times (cry), and the first two Nerubian instances (AK and AN) once each. Instances give sizeable more experience than soloing (about 2-3x as much). However I haven't run an instance in a level or so and it still feels fast.

3) Quest completion bonus points increase past the starter zones, perhaps to make people leveling in BT/HF pre-70 take longer to catch up.

4) Gear changes. While I haven't replaced all my gear, I have replaced a few pieces (my TBC gear on the druid was mostly badge/ZA/late-KZ with some T5), which may help. More importantly, all my "balance" gear going into Wrath was former healing items, so most of my upgrades are really sidegrades, like trading regen for crit. I keep some healing-slanted items in my bags for 5-mans but my character is more like a boomkin now than when I started.

5) While most of my new talent points have gone into boosting the resto tree rather than the balance tree (I'm doing balance to boomkin and the rest in resto basically), I have received new spell ranks, which might be increasing my damage output.