Second impressions

It’s now about a week and a half since Warlords of Draenor launched, and I am settling into it a little more, developing some leveling routines, figuring out what really works best for me for Garrison building plans, puzzling out a profession strategy. I spent much of the past few days leveling my second hunter — really she’s a second main for me — and should ding 100 on her tonight.

Overall, I haven’t changed my initial impression of this expansion — if anything I’ve confirmed it — but I have refined it. And I have started to see how my game play style is going to eventually fit into it.

Leveling

The leveling process is still fun the second time around, and this is coming from someone who does not normally enjoy leveling. (We’ll see how exuberant I am by the time I get to my sixth or seventh alt, though!) But I think Blizz got this part right. Even the “FedEx” quests (“Take this gizmo to NextQuestLineNPC.”) serve to advance the story line. The quests are ridiculously easy for my hunters, but I think Blizz rightly designed them so that anyone at level 90 — regardless of gear or class/spec — can easily progress through them.

I got smarter my second time through the process, too. More efficient. I made sure I completed the critical quests, so that I did not have to waste time at the end of a zone retracing my steps to find the one I had missed, the completion of which many other quests depended on. I also made much better use of the bonus quests in each zone, getting the huge benefit of the XP boosts from them — each one gave me the equivalent of 4 or 5 normal quests.

The more I quest, the more I appreciate Blizz’s decision to make most of the things you have to collect an individual thing, so you are not racing to grab that gottahaveitgizmo before that rude DK gets to it. You are not annoyed when you fight through all the mobs and while you are engaged someone else grabs the thing. Everyone is happy. Makes for a much more pleasant experience.

Garrisons

I feel like I am now way way smarter on garrisons than I was the first time through. Your mileage may vary, of course, but here are a couple of principles that work for me:

  • If you have crafting professions, your first small building should be one of those. If you have two crafting professions, your second should be the other profession.
  • Crafting buildings that you don’t have the profession for seem quite limited in value. My main is a JC and miner, so I thought my second small building should probably be Enchanting, in order to DE gear I picked up. In retrospect, the mats I got from this were pretty useless to me, plus quite a few of the pieces could not be DE’ed there because “Enchanting level not high enough”. Easier and more lucrative to just vendor  your excess gear in my opinion. With my LW-Skinner second hunter, I tried out an alchemy building, thinking I could get some lower level flasks and pots from it. Nope. Just Alchemy mats, which are pretty useless without an Alchemist. I finally switched to a storehouse for both hunters, and I like those perks much better (access to your bank, and increased number of work orders for all buildings).
  • Hoard your garrison resources from the start! After you hit level 100, it gets much harder to gather these. I learned this the hard way on my first hunter and really had to scrabble and scrimp to get the 2000 needed for my Level 3 garrison. So on the second one, I’ve been very stingy. I am careful how many I spend on follower missions, and I take every opportunity while questing to get all the quests that award resources. I go out of my way to find the treasures that have resources in them. And my first medium building is now always a Lumber Mill.
  • The whole followers and missions thing is to me a mini game, so right now I am largely ignoring it. I figure that is something I will do later in the game. I do a few, especially if they award player XP and I am still leveling, or if they award garrison resources, but for the most part I am waiting until later in the game. Same with going out of my way to recruit certain very cool followers (well, except for Nat Pagle of course) — I’ll do that later.
  • A level 3 garrison is just way cool!
  • Last, don’t be afraid to switch out buildings that aren’t working out for you, or that may have outlived their usefulness. Yes, it does cost you a few precious resources, but in the long run it’s better to have productive buildings than ones sitting there that you don’t use.

I find the whole garrison management thing very engaging, so I don’t mind spending a lot of time doing it. But I am sticking with my previous assessment that Blizz lied to us about this — these places absolutely require a LOT of player time, and they do not run mostly by themselves.

Also, while I am sort of on the subject, let me go ahead and crab about one of my pet peeves, one that I thought Blizz was going to remedy in this expansion — daily profession cooldowns. Maybe it was just wishful thinking , but I understood from the pre-xpac hype that garrison work orders were going to get rid of having to do profession daily cooldowns on, well, a daily basis. You would be able to queue them up for about a week at a time, eliminating the need to log into the game every day just to do your profession cooldowns. Instead of one a day, you could do like seven a week. Still gates the crafting process, but allows people with busy real lives to manage their time a little better. If you can only play the game on weekends, you would not be at a disadvantage. Hahahahaha, another Blizz gotcha! Blizz, I am very very disappointed in you.

Gear and instances

Possibly because I was pretty well traumatized by the whole awful LFR process in Mists, I have not been very aggressive about doing randoms in WoD so far. And since I am famously unlucky with drops of any kind, I have not got any epic upgrades and only one or two blue upgrades of quest gear drops. This means I am still stuck at ilvl 608 on my main, which means normal instances. Some bug resulted in me running three straight Skyreach instances over the course of two days, but that seems to be fixed now. Still, I have only managed Skyreach plus one other and of course no useful gear drops (other than the first part of the legendary ring, which is not a drop). I’ll probably just go ahead and craft myself a neckpiece and a second ring, just to get to ilvl 610, which hopefully will lead to getting to 615 fairly quickly and doing the anniversary event soon. Still, I am not excited about the whole prospect. Guild mates are far ahead of me on this, yay for them. (Still, MUST they incessantly link every damned purple they pick up which by the way seem to drop out of the skies like rain for them while SOME OF US apparently live in the gear Dust Bowl?????????? Their announcements border on a neener-neener attitude. I refuse to gratz them on these things. Grump, grump, scowl, scowl.)

Since I am not even adequately geared yet, I really can’t comment on how the new (and vastly more complex, in my opinion) gear stats are working out. Also, having only done two normal instances, not qualified to comment on these yet either.

Second impressions conclusions

Leveling — well done by Blizz and still fun. I expect it to become less fun as I level more alts, but still a good part of the game. Garrisons — enjoying them very much, but they will consume a huge amount of my time as I get more and more of them. Gear and instances — forcing every player to do instances and eventually raids to gear up is a big mistake, Blizz needs to go back to multiple ways to this, including some sort of currency like they had with VP.

I still think for me the design of this expansion is such that fairly quickly I will end up staying in my garrison, crafting and farming, and venture out only twice a week for raiding with my guild. Not sure how long that will keep my attention.

First impressions

After four days of Warlords of Draenor (it’s been live for five, but only playable for four), my initial impression is that it is really fun but I am not sure how long it will remain so. Right now it’s a shiny new toy, but I can see where the weak seams and thin paint might soon give way. Time will tell if this expansion is the milk model or the wine one that engineers like to cite: wine improves with age, milk not so much.

Once Blizz got its customer overload problems somewhat fixed, I had a great time leveling my main hunter. I was going just for level, not achieves for now, and the process seemed to go very quickly. I didn’t keep exact track, but I think it took me about 30 hours or so. It would have gone faster except for the fact that inevitably every time I got about 3 bars from the next level I would run out of quests because somewhere along the line I skipped one that turned out to be the single link for about 40 follow on quests.

Note to Blizzard: A better quest tracking UI would help here, including the ability to get a popup that says something like “To receive a quest from this NPC you must have completed Umptyfratz Quest from Snagglebutt.” So I spent a LOT of time trying to backtrack and see what I missed.

Once I hit 100, I started to see how best to gear up, and I am only partly along on that at about 600, but expect to figure out the best paths for it in the next couple of days. I did jump into the Proving Grounds and had no problem getting Silver on the first try, so that is done. Blizz indicated awhile back that these PGs are more helpful and instructional than the level 90 ones were, but I didn’t see much of that. For DPS, it’s still a timed race, and the only real skill involved is knowing the difference between aoe and single target and which button is which. There seem to be an annoying number of those shield guys that require you to get behind them to attack. Also, if you do not have an instant and fairly quick-cooldown interrupt you are kind of hosed. On a hunter none of this is a problem. But it might be challenging for certain classes and specs — thinking Boomkin, for example, and to some extent any caster class that has no instants.

I did the first leg of the legendary quest and got my initial ring. It was ridiculously easy and quick, hardest part was the long DPS queue for the instance. I am now starting on the apexis crystal, etc. part.  I don’t feel much of a need to rush, though.

Garrisons. Overall, I like the idea and have so far had fun building mine. One thing, though, is that I am spending quite a bit more time on it than I expected. I kind of believed Blizz in their pre-xpac hype when they said you won’t have to spend as much time on garrisons as you did on Sunsong Ranch, there will be followers to do the work, etc. Baloney. Every day you still need to gather your ore, herbs, maybe fish but I haven’t really started that yet, pick up work orders and put in new ones, and manage your followers and their missions. And my garrison is still only Level 2. I am sure I am doing all this rather inefficiently, but even so I can see I could easily get overwhelmed with 8 Level 3 garrisons once I get my alts leveled.

Still, it’s fun. But back to my original point, which was is this milk or wine. Right now I am coming down on the side of milk. Once leveling and a certain amount of gearing is done, there does not seem to be a lot to keep me engaged in this world. I will likely become a Garrison rat, pretty much hunkering down there on my main and alts, emerging now and then to raid. And at the risk of starting a flame war, I have to say I am already annoyed with the no flying thing. I have had my immersion, thank you very much, it was nice for a while, scenery was beautiful, but now I am just grumpy when I have to use inefficient and convoluted taxi service followed by galloping for what seems a long trip through annoying mobs I have already killed time and time again, all to get to my destination. Maybe if the mobs at least dropped Garrison resources I would not mind so much, but as of now it is just annoying. Not fun. Not immersive. Annoying. And this is after leveling just one character, think how cranky I will be as I level 7 more alts.

One other thing I have found to be annoying, which I never really thought about in all the ramp up to the xpac: THERE ARE TOO DAMNED MANY MATS!! Really Blizz, come on. We do not need dozens of special crystals and species of fish and herbs and fur and pieces of each special crystal type and separate Garrison resources and who knows what else. It’s ridiculous. Blizz must have Microsoft stock because there is no other way to manage all this shit except with a fancy spreadsheet. Sheesh!

OK, rant over. I would be happy to hear your take on the xpac so far.

How was your launch day?

Well, Launch Day is over. Thank goodness. For me, the day started VERY early, with great fun, and ended well before midnight with great frustration. So I suppose on average it was an adequate launch.

After grabbing a couple hours sleep Wednesday night, I got up around 2 AM local time, which is the same as my server time, for the scheduled 3 AM launch. Brewed coffee, logged in, jumped on to Vent to gab with sleepy guildies, found Khadgar, parked myself next to him, and waited. The launch popped early, around 2:45, and I easily jumped through the portal.

For the most part, I thought the intro quests went pretty smoothly. There was some lag in a few areas, and some people did get dc’ed but were able to get right back on, and there was the inevitable annoyance owing to the mix of too many players and too few mobs, but in general it seemed to be a good launch.

Got off the ship in Draenor, started leveling, and for a few hours it was terrific fun. Yes, my hunter one-shotted  everything so the actual game play was not very challenging, but I was having a great time running around to different areas, picking up quests, seeing story lines unfold, watching my XP bar fill up. (I’m pretty sure when I start to level some of my alts they will have a bit more trouble with this, as they are not nearly so well geared as my hunter.)

And garrisons? I am really liking the idea so far. I started mine as early as I could, quickly launched my first followers on missions, and built as many buildings as possible. I had a garrison plan going in, so I am sticking with that one at least until there is a reason to amend it. My only complaint about garrisons is that I am spending so much time developing mine that I am neglecting my own leveling!

So first half of the day I call an unqualified success for Blizzard. I logged off about noon to run some errands, hit the gym, and grab a nap.

I logged on again late afternoon to find everything had gone to hell.

No reason to catalogue all the problems, they have been described in detail if not very imaginatively by thousands of irate forum posters. To its credit, Blizz is admitting huge problems and seems to be doing everything it can to put band-aids on them. Along with all the other problems, there may have been a denial of service attack. The servers are all down as I write this, for much needed unscheduled maintenance. Fingers crossed that it works.

The baseline problem, so says Blizz, was too many players active in the same zones, compounded by the entire garrison phase mechanism. When peak play time hit in North America later in the day, it all snowballed into a gigantic unanticipated — and disastrous — failure. (And certainly if there was a denial of service attack at the same time it did not improve the situation.)

Now, I work in IT, and these vastly complex systems are, well, unimaginably so. To call them finicky is like calling that North Korean nut job “eccentric.” Some very respectable studies have shown Chaos Theory to be effective for predicting the behavior of some of the largest networks. The equivalent of a digital butterfly flapping its wings somewhere in the system can result in a network tsunami. So I get it, Blizz: this is hard.

But I still have this nagging suspicion that Blizzard failed to plan adequately for this rollout. They have been planning this expansion for AT LEAST two years. They have the disastrous examples of previous launches (the helicopter quest in Mists immediately comes to mind). They have spent the last couple of months hyping the hell out of this launch, doing everything possible to entice fallen-away players to come back. They have had a year of testing the interplay of zones and garrisons. They deliberately set up quest lines such that everyone pretty much needs to do the same ones in the same sequence in order to level. Presumably they have people who can read world clocks and figure out when players get home from work in North America.

So Blizz, do you really mean to stand there with a straight face and tell us you were surprised and unprepared for lots of people playing in the same zones at the same time????

To me, this is a perfect example of Blizzard’s Achilles heel: They simply do not have the demonstrated ability to carry out complex long-term planning at the macro level. They are very good at doing discrete pieces of it — I cannot even begin to imagine how complex the individual parts of the gaming software are, for example. But they can’t put it all together. This is not a failure of developers or of tech support or of the server and network team. This is a failure of executive management. It seems clear that no one was doing top level management of the entire WoD planning and implementation. No one asked the question “How are we load testing the whole zone versus garrison phasing interplay?” “What other major changes we have made could scale badly and crumble under heavy loads?” No one posed a series of what-ifs:

How will our recent server mergers affect this rollout?

What if 90% of players show up on our heaviest servers? How about 75%? 50%? How many can we accommodate and what is our gating plan to ensure we keep a manageable number?

We’ve hyped this a lot, what is our plan if some hackers looking for glory hit us on launch day?

What have historically been our heaviest play periods on launch day and what is the plan to accommodate those fluctuations?

Garrisons are the foundation of game play in this expansion, let me see all the testing we’ve done to ensure their success in a variety of situations.

What team will be on the tech support forums, how will they be tied in to our developers and network experts, what underlying tone and message should they strive for, who is overseeing our responses?

Each department give me your worst case scenario and how you plan to deal with it. Now how can we deal with multiple worst cases at once?

Et cetera.

For goodness sake Blizz, do your business and your customer base a favor and hire some world-class executive project managers for the next expansion.

All in all –if and only if today’s maintenance is fully successful — an adequate xpac rollout. But after 10 years Blizzard’s customers have a right to expect better.

Final Tally

Now that we are down to just hours before WoD launch, I thought it would be a good time to do some tallying and toting and enumerating, as a kind of farewell to Mists and a howdy to Draenor. Feel free to post comments about what you would add or subtract.

What I liked about Mists

— The art. The scenery and the details just blew me away when I first stepped into Pandaria. And — not to start any kind of flame war or anything — the sheer beauty of the land was greatly enhanced when I was able to fly and really take in the sweeping majesty of everything from the Himalayan-like mountains to the breathtaking waterfalls to the peaceful looking seashores. Even after two years, I take joy in just seeing all of it.

— The story line. I am probably the least-interested player you will find when it comes to lore, but I was drawn in to the Pandaren story and loved some of the mystical Eastern aspects of it. I also enjoyed the complexity of the motivations of some of the other races in Pandaria.

— The wide range of activities. Blizzard added things to appeal to a broad player base. Things like pet battles (I am not a fan but many people are, so that’s good), ways to earn valor other than raiding, Sunsong Ranch, flex raids, personal loot, tons of new mounts (darn shame many of them look completely ridiculous when they are ground-bound), scenarios,  challenge modes, cross realm raiding, guild gold-making from member activity, Proving Grounds. Probably more, but those are the ones that come to mind. Not all of them worked out once they were implemented, mind you, but I am just saying they were good innovative ideas.

— The Tillers. OK I know it was a very minor part of the expansion, but for some reason I loved running that whole quest and rep line on every one of my alts. I have no idea why I was not bored out of my skull by it.  After all I still refuse to do Archaeology because it is a mindless boring activity with no real rewards in my opinion, and realistically you could say the same about the Tillers line. But I always found the Tiller dailies and the ridiculous individual rep quests to be soothing and relaxing. Just last week I was still enjoying the dirt pile hunt on my last alt, trying to bribe Tina Mudclaw to spruce up my farm-house and Gina to give me a mailbox. *shrug* I chalk this one up to some weird personal mental quirk.

— Decent gear was available by means other than high-end raiding, but if you did do top level raiding you got somewhat better gear. This seemed to be a good compromise, even though some of the ways it was implemented turned out to be annoying and problematic.

What I did not like about Mists

 — The pendulum swings with regard to dailies. At the beginning the seemingly vast number of dailies was overwhelming. Also confusing and annoying, in that you had to grind out rep with one faction before you could even start on rep with another. Then — I suppose in response to player comments — when Timeless Isle was introduced, there were a maddeningly few number of dailies for that area (two I believe), and the idea of weeklies usually meant that Tuesday and Wednesday were crammed with players on Timeless, possibly contributing to the player rudeness I discuss later on in this post. Does not seem like Blizz ever reached a happy medium with dailies.

— Related to the above, the gating of valor-purchased gear behind faction rep. Given the annoyances of gaining rep, this just seemed like an unnecessary hurdle for purchased gear.

— Legendary cloak quest line. This is more of a love-hate thing for me. I loved the idea and the end result of the quest line. I loved the final cut scene where your character’s actions were recounted. I liked that you had to actually work at it to get it — grind out valor (although I was a tad annoyed that the week after I got my 6000 valor Blizz changed the requirement to 3000), get Black Prince rep, do some fairly challenging solo scenarios. But other parts seemed pointless and designed only to drag out the process and possibly discourage many from continuing. The PvP thing for example — all it did was completely piss off the entire player base: PvE players were annoyed that they had to do the BGs (and for Alliance especially, annoyed that actually winning was mostly an exercise in frustration), and PvP players were annoyed that all these non-geared clueless PvE players were ruining their BG time. The other main annoyance in the Legendary grind was the endless LFR grind, an environment that seemed to get more toxic as the expansion wore on.

— Random Number Generator (RNG) implementation. In spite of what Blizz said at one point, there just was never any noticeable bad luck insurance. I am not talking about the kind of bad luck that means not getting that particular piece of gear you want from a particular boss, I am talking about spectacular runs of consistent bad luck. I am talking about taking 10 weeks to get 12 Titan Runestones even running every boss that can drop one each week. I am talking about 7 straight weeks of running Ordos on 5 alts and using a seal every time, and getting zero gear drops (that’s 70 straight big fat RNG goose eggs for you mathephobics out there). I am talking about not being able to get 4 pieces of tier gear at any level on any alt for the entire expansion, until just last week. Such bad luck runs are dispiriting in themselves, but the feeling is usually compounded when you see others with extended good luck, getting their 12 runestones in 2 weeks, a couple of pieces of Ordos gear each week, etc. Really bad luck just makes you want to give up on the whole process, because you have no real hope that doing it one more time will be any more useful. Sorry Blizz, but if there is for example a one in 20 chance of getting a gear drop for a given boss, then if you don’t get it the first time, the next time you run your chances become 1 in 19, then 1 in 18, etc. until on your 20th run they are 1 in 1 chance. At least that way you know if you keep running it you WILL actually get the drop. It keeps your hopes up, keeps you coming back.

What I have noticed happening over the last two years

I make no claim as to cause and effect for these things — they may be a result of Mists implementations, they may not. Also, it’s entirely possible they are limited to my server, or they are a kind of “social RNG” run of bad luck on my part. I am only noting them as observations.

— LFR has become steadily more toxic and unpleasant. I have written about this before, so I will not dwell on it, but there seem to be more and more people who participate in it not to finish raids but instead to ruin the experience for everyone else. I have seen people who want only to make the rudest possible comments, expressing satisfaction only when they make someone else drop group. I have seen people who deliberately wipe the raid time after time. The list goes on and on. At any rate, it is to the point where I refused to get any more legendary cloaks on any alt, after 4 of them, because it meant running LFR and it just did not seem worth the aggravation.

— Pick-up flex (now Normal) and Normal (now Heroic) are trending the same way as LFR.

— Trade chat has gotten way worse in terms of not just trolls and spammers but real — and often misogynistic — hate speech. OK, I know trade chat has never been a very nice medium, but I notice an almost violent turn to it lately, players spewing vile epithets in place of the arrogant-but-mainly-harmless insults I used to see.

— Especially with Patch 6.x, guilds have become much less important to the game. They no longer have any significant perks for their members, and if you are willing to take your chances with the makeup of a group, guilds are no longer necessary even for raiding.

— On a personal level, I have become a better player. On my hunter mains, I find myself doing much better relative DPS than at the beginning of the expansion, being comfortable constantly moving around, getting more shots downrange, and being willing to take on whatever raid utility role we need. I feel like my raid awareness has improved significantly. On alts, I feel fairly competent on my Mistweaver as well as on my lock (one of the high points of the expansion was when I finished that ridiculously difficult Green Fire quest).

— I have become much more adept at making gold. Not that doing so is really a goal in the game for me, but it is nice to know that I do not have to pinch coppers to buy a few mats or do a few repairs. Also, I have every profession maxed among my alts, so there is very little I need to buy in the way of gems, enchants, or crafted gear. What I do not use for myself I can sell. It is a good feeling.

What I am looking forward to in WoD

— Leveling. It will be a nice break from the past year of grinding valor, gearing for raids, raiding, etc. Leveling is relaxing to me, at least for the first few alts, and I usually have fun with it.

— Garrisons. I realize I may eventually grow to hate them, but right now I am looking forward to all the new game aspects they will introduce.

— New raids, new world bosses, new art to explore.

— Seeing how my guild deals with the changes. Will we flourish or will we wither? Will we be able to assemble a viable raid team? Will we step out of our pre-xpac lethargy and become an active, fun guild again? Many possible outcomes.

— Blizz announcements for follow-on patches and the next xpac. While WoD will have my attention for a few months, I feel it is in the long run a very short-lived expansion, so I look forward to what Blizz has in store for long-range game development.

— Maybe finally getting to that one million gold magic number!

What I am not looking forward to in WoD

— Launch. I think tonight will be mostly just very frustrating, with server crashes, thousands of people all doing the same quests and trying to kill the same mobs, etc. And of course there will be the rude idiots who log on only to ruin the experience for others by parking their gigantic mounts on top of quest givers, etc. Blizz really needs in-game police officers on launch days to put a stop to such actions.

— Being forced to raid for most gear, especially on alts. Restrictions on crafted gear (only 3 pieces equipped!), absence of any means to purchase gear, and the fact that my guild rarely gets to the point where we can run anything but mains in our raids, means that I will either have ungeared alts or be forced into raid finder for groups. I think that effectively means that I will not play alts except as garrison keepers this expansion. Sad.

— The inevitable toxic argument in advance of 6.1 over flying vs. ground pounding for the expansion.

— Spending huge amounts of time building garrisons only to have them be useless come the next expansion.

— The inevitable QQ-ing within 6 months about how “There’s nothing to doooooooooooooo!” (like bored kids in the summer)

OK that’s it. Everyone have fun tonight — I’ll try to take enough breaks to post every couple of days as I progress. 

Veterans Day

No WoW talk today, just something that seems appropriate.

Freedom isn't free

Freedom isn’t free

It is the soldier, not the reporter, Who has given us freedom of the press. 
It is the soldier, not the poet, Who has given us freedom of speech. 
It is the soldier, not the organizer, Who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.
It is the soldier, Who salutes the flag, Who serves beneath the flag, 
And whose coffin is draped by the flag, Who allows the protestor to burn the flag. 

Author: Charles Michael Province, U.S. Army

Ready or not

Well, a week ago I thought I was ready for Warlords, but now I am not so sure. Yesterday I logged on in order to distribute my 13 new bags to my most deserving (that is, soonest to be leveled) characters. Six hours later I was still rearranging bank and bag slots, vendoring junk, reorganizing and cleaning out void storage tabs, mailing stuff to my bank alt for auctioning, and turning in and abandoning ancient quests. I also harvested the last crops from everyone’s Sunsong Ranch, made sure there were no weeds or occupied soils on any of the plots, and said goodbye to the comfortable and peaceful little farm house with its soft bed and bubbling stew pot.

The good news is that I made about 10k gold all together, and now all but one character have clean tidy storage areas and quest logs. The bad news is I discovered that I had still not done the Blasted Lands quests on my druid, and on top of that her gear is a total mess. Not only does she need a ton of gems and enchants, but she has a one-hand Garrosh heirloom and no off-hand at all, heirloom or otherwise. My plan for a while has been to have resto as her main spec, but I am not comfortable leveling as resto and I absolutely hate melee game play, so that leaves Balance. To me Balance seems, well, unbalanced, after all the patch changes. I admit that throughout Mists it was pretty complex to play well — and I absolutely did not play it well, in fact I hardly played it at all — but now it seems like it has boiled down to about 3 spells, all of which take a LOOOOOOONNNNNNGGGG time to cast and require you to stand still.  It just seems clunky and awkward, with no real fun aspects to it. But then I am spoiled by having hunters as my mains.

In the end, I will probably just ignore the one-handed heirloom and use the staff I got on my monk, since the druid will be close to the last one I level. Oh, and I’ll zip through the Blasted Lands quests later today.

Which brings up a question I have had for a while: What is the best way to level a healer and still emerge as a decent healer once you are done? I have never really figured that out. It seems like you either have to level very slowly in your healing spec, or level more quickly in a DPS spec, in which case you do not really learn much about how to heal at higher levels. This is especially true of alts, who have very little opportunity — particularly in the beginning of an expansion — to heal in a supportive group such as a guild, since everyone is trying to blast their mains through to gear up for raiding.

Leveling as DPS is natural, and the skills you hone during the process are the same ones you will need at top level. But that really doesn’t apply to healers ( and may not apply to tanks, although I have zero experience as a tank). This is the main reason I leveled a MW monk in Mists — I actually had enough firepower to level in my healing spec. This meant I could level quickly without assistance and not have to change up much of anything in order to heal a group. Of course, that has changed now, too, with the MW stance changes, but that’s a topic for another day.

All of which means I will stink at druid healing when I finally level, which will be unpleasant for me as well as for the unfortunate groups I will be in ….. Possibly the new healing target dummies and the revamped Proving Grounds will help, though.

I seem to be rambling. Like most other players, I am just marking time until Thursday (well, more like Wednesday night). Three days. I’m ready. Really. No, really.

People are basically good. Right?

People are basically good.

People are basically good.

People are basically good.

I know this to be true in the real world — it is one of the basic precepts by which I live my life and in the long run it has never failed me — but I find myself repeating it a lot lately in the game, as if by chanting it over and over I can convince myself that it holds true in cyberland. I am having a hard time believing it though.

What set me off on this? Last night I decided that one of my alt hunters could do with a small gear upgrade — boots and a ring — and that the best chance was in the first two wings of heroic SoO. My guild is doing only Garrosh loom runs these days, so I turned to the raid finder, listed myself as “lvl 571, cloak and 4-pc tier, know fights” and quickly got a fresh H SoO run. It was a good group, and we were blasting through one-shotting everything. No extraneous chat, just basic strategy instructions then go. I provided a noodle cart, repairs, and even a couple of flasks for someone who needed them. I was not topping the dps charts, but was consistently number 2 or 3. I got both my needed items by the time we finished Iron Jug, but decided to finish out the wing with the group. When we downed General Naz I said thanks very much for the run, everyone, but I have to go. That’s when it got ugly. Before I could hearth out and drop group, the raid leader unleashed a rain of invective on me that would make even trade chat blush, calling me vile names, saying dps are a dime a dozen and he can get more easily, and I should just get the f***k out of his group, and more vile names. Then he kicked me.

Now, in itself this is just a minor unpleasantness in the game. I have shrugged off much worse behavior. But for some reason I can’t get it out of my head. Maybe it was because this had a real undertone of violence and hatred. Maybe it was the surprise factor — nothing to that point indicated this was anything other than a competent well-mannered group. Nothing in the group posting had mentioned “must stay through Garrosh” or anything like that. I had been a good group member, providing consumables, doing respectable dps, not doing stupid stuff. I even stayed after I had got my gear, out of politeness. This just came out of the blue, and it floored me. I mean, why do something like that? It’s easy to fall back on pop psychology generalities, and maybe compensating for real life inadequacies is actually what was at work here. I even thought about whispering him to ask if I had done something wrong, but of course he was from another server so no possibilities there, and even if it had been possible it probably would have just enraged him even more.

Whatever else may be going on, though, I think anonymity is the enabling factor here. I seriously doubt that this person would have done the same thing if we had been actually face to face. Social norms — or possibly the fear of a punch in the nose — would have kicked in and even if he was frustrated that a dps dared to leave his — HIS! — group, he most likely would not have used the language he used in chat. I have to keep reminding myself that ingrained social norms do not apply to Internet interactions, largely because there is no social cost to acting badly. But I don’t have to like it.

(I have used “he” to describe this person, mainly because the likelihood is that it was a real life male. Not that I have not encountered females in the game being mean and using bad language, but nearly all of the true violent hatred I see coming through chat diatribes comes from self-proclaimed males. No way to be 100% sure of course.)

I will eventually chalk this one up to just another nut job in the game and be grateful I do not have to live next door to him. But the experience goes into my ever-growing “Con” column for joining any kind of non-guild group. It is a shame that a game meant to encourage social interaction for fun has so many features that actively discourage it.  No matter how much you tell yourself that it is meaningless, it still hurts to be called names, and that detracts from enjoyment of the game.

Meanwhile, repeat after me: People are basically good. People are basically good. People are basically good. People are basically good….