It’s Not So Bad

23 Feb

Okay folks – I logged back in today.  It was only for a moment though.  I realized I’d left characters with tons of useful things (like heirloom items) sitting around in their inboxes.  No sense in giving that all back to Blizzard I suppose.  I mean – I did *earn* it after all.

Still, I was amazingly self conscious about the whole thing as I keyed in my authenticator code.

“What am I doing?”

You’re doing something simple stupid.  You’re clearing out your mailbox so Blizzard doesn’t do it for  you.  You’re transferring leadership of your alt guild back over to your buddy so that the guild doesn’t go POOF when your game time card runs out.  You’re cleaning the house before your lease runs out – quit making this out to be more than it really is.

“Okay, that makes sense, I get it.  But is that all I’m really doing?”

My inner dialog got kinda snippy with me after that.  I mean, c’mon – I logged in because I wanted to see how it felt.  I wanted to see whether or not if jumping in for five minutes would suddenly turn into some kind of “lost weekend” scenario where I wake up at the keyboard three days later with maxed professions on 2 new alts and half way through downing the Omnitron Defense System fight on a character I’ve never played before.

Yeah – no such luck.  I popped back into game and for a very short time was utterly delighted with being back in the game world again.  I danced around, emptied mailboxes and even spent a few moments testing my hunter’s dps.  The delighted wore off rather quickly and was replaced with some kind of pervasive need to log out.  No idea what that was.  I was even a little disappointed in myself because I felt like I should be able to dance back and forth into Azeroth as if it were a game that I could simply enjoy and not…I don’t know…live.

On the writing front, I’m working on cleaning up a couple of (old) pieces of fiction right now.   I plan on submitting them to the poisoned fangs and black hearts of the unsolicited manuscript editors of a couple of popular sci-fi / fantasy magazines.  I’m not particularly expecting anything to get published really, it’s more an exercise in getting back on the horse and letting it throw me a couple times.  Nothing like getting slapped upside the ego by a few soul sucking rejection letters (e-mail these days) to really rev up the commitment engine.

Say.

I like that.  The Commitment Engine.

That’s a blog name if I’ve ever heard one….

Giving up the Game

18 Feb

My name is Tomas…not Windpaw…and I’ve been WoW free for over 20 days.  The last time this happened I was in another country where the Internet just didn’t live.  Short of my time in Kosovo and Afghanistan there hasn’t been a day in the last six years that I can remember where I wasn’t either playing, wanting to play, or writing about World of Warcraft.

Six years….

In a world where commitment to well…anything…is at an all time low, a six year uninterrupted relationship with a virtual world is pretty significant.

Perhaps all the more significant because I’ve finally called it quits.  WoW and I are no longer seeing one another.  We’ve moved out, I’ve got all my concert t-shirts back and we’re both embarrassed about the whole “who gets the dog” thing.

I think for most people, this is the part of the blog post where I’m supposed to wax all bitter and despondent about how WoW has ruined my life, destroyed my relationships and maxed all my credit cards.  How WoW kept me from being me, how it kept holding me back and stifling my creativity.

So before I get much farther here let me make one thing clear.

I still love World of Warcraft.  It’s a great game.  I miss playing it.

I think it’s important to say that.  Most people, when they finally decide to cut something loose, seem to feel the need to destroy their feelings toward it as well.  They demonize it, call it bad, blame it for all of the ugly and unfortunate that wraps their lives.  Sometimes that’s all true.  More often though, it’s because they’re trying to absolve themselves of responsibility.

In this case, I knew what I was doing.  Simply put, I finally realized that I’ve been playing the game for too long and that I was playing too much.

Perspective though – lets have some perspective.

Lets put apply some of that to the phrase “too much”.

I’m not saying I was playing so much that I had forgotten about my family or ruined my career.  I didn’t become a 400 pound slab of marbled man-fat squatting in front of a computer screen, eating pork rinds and chain draining quarts of Mountain Dew while raiding six nights a week.  Nothing like that.  I just played too much.  I played too long.  I let the game become a salve of sorts that kept me from worrying about things that bothered me.

What’s kinda funny is that I really didn’t even have some defining moment where all of this came together into a shining epiphany.  It was gradual.  I think the first clue to all of this was when I started using (abusing) Blizzard’s race / faction change service.  Every couple of weeks my main characters would go to bed in Orgrimmar and wake up in Darnassus or Stormwind.  A few days later and they’d be back on the other side of the fence.  I’d be $60 bucks poorer and apparently no wiser.  Within days things would start to go stale again.

Add in my own OCD like tendencies and WoW was becoming an extension of work.  I’d get home, kiss the wife and kids, then plop down on the couch with my laptop and do my dailies.  After that I’d have to try to get into a heroic so I could make sure I wasn’t getting left behind in the gear game.  I played Tol-Barad every time it popped, not because it was worth a crap as a battleground, but because I need the honor and I needed more TB rep.

From a personal point of view, the relationships I had with people in the game started to suffer as well.  I was getting thin-skinned.  People were pissing me off constantly.  It seemed like I couldn’t get into a 5 man group without getting angry about some part of the group or feeling like my time was being wasted.  I know a lot of people complain that WoW player base has become more toxic and awful.  I don’t think so.  I think for the most part they’re as great or as lame as they ever have been.  It was mostly me.  I was getting bored and I didn’t want to be bored.  I was getting tired of playing and I was scared of what finally quitting might mean.  You know what happens when people get scared, don’t you?  Yeah, they get touchy, they get mean, they stop talking to people.

So anyway, the Army called me a few weeks back and asked me to come visit for a bit.  I did and it was a good visit.  It was a tame visit too.  No running around in the woods, no freezing, no getting wet and wondering if chow was going to be edible.  No, it was the kind of Army stuff that 40-somethings end up having to do.  Planning, putting together yearly training briefings, eating out and letting the per diem pay for it.  Boring stuff.  But each night, after working out and heading back to my hotel, I did something different.  Or more to the point, I didn’t do something.

I never logged into the game.

A day went by.  Then a week.  Then almost almost a month.  I *do* miss the game.  But I think I need to stay away for a while.  A long time ago I told all the people that mattered in my world that I wanted to be a writer.  I think I was seven then and “all the people” in my life probably consisted of my parents and the kids next door.  In a lot of ways I’ve made good on that early hope.  Sure, I wanted to be a Paleontologist and a Fireman too, but at the end of the day, I was writing stories about dinosaurs and firemen, not studying bones or hosing down the house.

My ability to string words together in some coherent fashion has played a part in every success I’ve had in my adult life.  I’ve been published, I’ve won some awards and best of all, I’ve had you Internet people tell me that  you like my stuff and that I should write more of it.  But plodding along in a blog can be just as distracting as playing a game.  Worse, it can give the illusion of progress: “Hey I’m writing here!”

The one thing that I have never really done is given myself a goal.  In fact, I can’t remember ever having goals.  I blunder into them from time to time and have had some pretty neat successes all without the benefit of goals.  But without a goal – without a target to aim at – that’s all I’ll ever do.

Blunder around aimlessly.

If anything WoW let me practice goal setting in miniature for a while.  Early on in the game I couldn’t commit to anything.  I never leveled to cap, I never raided and I never accomplished anything.  After a while, after seeing my in game friends leave my horrible stack of alts behind I decided I needed to change.  I focused on one character.  I learned my class.  I made a commitment to raid and actually showed up.  It’s kind of funny, but in a way, the grind of the game helped me work out some effort vs. reward issues I’d been having in my real life.  How?

Simple.  Nothing worth having comes easy.  Nothing.

The other thing I learned was that if I wanted something – I really needed to work for it.  That thing. That specific thing I wanted.

That’s my next job.  Figuring out what the hell I want.  What I really want.  And getting it.

So, that said, this isn’t a “So long and thanks for all the fish” kind of post.  It’s just a post.  But it’s a post with intent and one that I want to signal good things in the future.  Even if they’re not taking place in Azeroth.

See you all around ;)

Auto Shot While Moving….

13 Jan

It’s in the latest PTR patch notes and it looks like it’s real.

Hunters can now use Auto Shot while moving.

It’s about damn time.

I’ve been rediscovering my hunter the past couple of weeks and while I’ve been a proponent of the mana to focus change I can’t ignore the gimping that this move has introduced to the class in high level PvP.  A hunter in PvP at 85 runs around in a constant state of focus starvation with shots that hit like wet noodle slaps on targets with over 100k health.  Our level 83 mobility move in Aspect of the Fox should allow us to fire steady or cobra shots while moving, but there’s a maddening ‘pivot’ bug that more often than not clips the shot and prevents it from firing.  Folks that can kite fairly well can still get some cast time shots off but are unable to keep their camera oriented correctly when the pivot happens.

While still fairly strong in PvE (particularly survival hunters) the state of hunter PvP is a mess.  Our mobility is too easy to counter, our damage output and CC fairly weak.  All in all, it’s a mixed bag for a class that has felt rather like the unloved step cousins of the WoW class continuum.  The fact that they’re going to allow us to auto shot while moving is the first good news in a while.

Maybe it’s this change that makes todays patch notes almost hopeful.  There was a great deal of *potential* good news for hunters.  Or at least the bad news from previous patch updates mitigated a bit.  Several survival spec damage nerfs were throttled back and a promise to make cobra and steady shots scale “better” with haste are apparently going back to the drawing board.

The hunter community is on pins and needles at the moment. Still stinging from the promised nerfs and still taking it “prison style” in PvP (as one arena player put it) they’re all afraid to have much hope that the class is going to fair any better once Blizzard is done tweaking.  Perhaps the most telling is the general feeling that even if hunters do wind up in a better place, that the positive changes will simply be reverted or nerfed with a quickness, leaving the class feeling unfinished.

Time will tell.

The Blessing of Tol Barad

3 Jan

‘Twas a couple of days after Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except dad’s mouse.  He was cursing and swearing and throwing out heals left and right, the Alliance was on the attack and that just wasn’t right.

They’d held Tol Barad all week, the dailies secure and the honor gain tight.  But it had all been lost in a moment because of a bunch of noobs playing the other night.

So there dad sat – his laptop cradled in his lap.  His paladin pouring out heals while they attacked and attacked and attacked.  3 bases at one time?  Impossible!  Improbable! Against the injustice they did thrash.

“You noobs quit fighting on the roads – rezzers to Slagworks – we can win this if we’re fast!

Like thunder they did ride, all the way across the zone.  Arriving before the Horde Zerg could call Slag its new home.

With an whoop and a cheer dear dad did wake the house!

He couldn’t believe it!  They did it!  The impossible task!

Taking back Tol Barad on Offense, 1800 honor points…

/bask

(This is what happens on my first day back at work after a fantastically flu filled Christmas Holiday)

Gnome White Mage

16 Dec

I was trolling through the forums and came across this gnome priest and just had to grab a screen shot….

Too freaking cool.  I mean – if I see him in a battleground I’ll still have to try to punt him into the end-zone but STILL.

TOO COOL!

Holy Paladin Stealth Nerf

14 Dec

WOW.

Holy Paladins are furious.

Their tier 6 talent ( Tower of Radiance ) and a much loved healing mechanic that it enabled are now dead.

What many paladin saw as an unexpected byproduct (bug?) of the hot fix lands on people as they’re trying to take care of business by healing heroics and raid content.  Suddenly with no warning, holy pallies go from healing superheroes with wings to mana starved heal spammers sweating to keep the tank alive.  They begin to furiously test their heals – check the tool tips on Tower of Radiance – nothing seems to have changed, but they’re absolutely no longer working as expected.

Pallies think it’s a scary, scary bug.  Until a Blizzard Community Manager comes along and tells them the changes are intended and proceeds to explain why.

The thread – which can be found HERE devolves into twenty odd pages of FLAME and FURY.  Most of it is great reading.

Still…as a player (if not a healing paladin) I feel like Blizzard handled this extremely poorly.  While it’s not wrong to fix a mechanic that they feel imbalances the healing game it is wrong to do it the way they did.  By slipping it in under the radar, not updating the tooltips and not offering holy paladins a talent reset.  Then coming in and rather smugly informing people that it was an important fix to maintain their intended healing balance across the classes.

Well…that’s fine…really.  But if it were really important and you’ve been paying attention to it for a while, why not include it in the patch notes?  Why not some warning?  I don’t get that part.  Alienating players is never good silent nerfs are never fun.  If you’re going to tank a classes tier 6 talent at least step up and tell people you’re going to do it.  Don’t toss it out on the down low and justify it afterward.

To me that’s just poor customer service.  I love the game and I’d never quit over something like this, but you know what?  Do it enough and I might.

And there are players out there with far, far shorter fuses than I have.

-1 Cookie Blizzard.

 

** Note – Blizzard updated their community site today with several gotchas.

Moon Guard vs. Farstriders (so far)

13 Dec

So I made the big “free” jump from Moon Guard to Farstriders this past week.  The jump was made in order to recapture some of my rather scant game time from the massive login queues prevalent on Moon Guard since Cataclysm’s release.

Always a highly populated server, MG has seen a dramatic uptick in returning players.  Starting in the mid-afternoon, Moon Guard promptly locks and a login queue is implemented to keep things on the server at least somewhat playable.  As I don’t usually get in from work until around 8pm and usually not into game until 8:30 I end up facing queues nearly 40 minutes long.  The problems don’t end once you get past the queue.  Once in game, those of us playing on challenged hardware (as I am) are faced with another problem:

Crushing lag and tepid frame rates.

During prime-time, Orgrimmar and Hyjal on MG are both flooded with people.  There are enough of them in the zone that my poor Macbook Pro is forced to chug along at anywhere between 9 and 18 FPS.  I’ve done what I can graphics wise.  I’ve dropped render distances and other eye candy in the video settings down to the crayola levels, I ensure that nothing else is binding up my CPU, asked my wife to lay off You-Tube or streaming music to keep bandwidth available, whatever I can think of to help.

But even with all of these efforts, the act of getting from 80 to 81 on my hunter was an exercise in aggravation.  My computer still struggles to keep up and I’m often swarmed by rapidly spawning mobs as I wait to catch up with the game.  I can put up with a lot.  Hell, I’ve played from Afghanistan before on a connection that ran around 1000ms on good days.  What I’m experiencing in game most evenings on Moon Guard is honestly worse.

On top of the performance issues are the players themselves.  With the new leveling zones choked with people, competition for mobs and trade skill resources are fierce.  Simple courtesy is currently out the window as everyone fights for mobs, fights for herbs and ore and fight to be the first to tap named quest mobs.

Still, you can get used to the hectic pace and even some of the outright rudeness.  What’s harder for me to deal with is what’s happening to the public chat channels.  Most RP servers tend to be exuberant, chatty places.  Moon Guard in particular.  While Moon Guard chat isn’t as crass and vulgar as many large PvP servers (or even normal servers) I’ve been on, it has been on a rather slow decline for some time.  Now, with our regular trade chat heroes in place and the sudden return of trade chat heroes of expansions past, we have what constitutes a low roar of inane and abusive banter flowing in a constant stream through the game.

This last part is really subjective.  For me – it’s like someone constantly rubbing salt on an open cut. Others ignore it or turn the channels off altogether.  Many honestly enjoy it and feel it adds to the “high population” feel that some folks actually go looking for.

Farstriders on the other hand is completely different.

First off, it’s quiet.  Really quiet.  So quiet in fact that I often feel like I’ve forgotten to turn chat “on” when I’m in the cities.  It’s almost funny that the few times I’ve heard general chat light up it’s because some type-A Moon Guard transplant can’t hack the silence anymore and and starts poking sticks at people.

Frame rates and general in game “smoothness” are significantly improved as well.  There is no lag to speak of and there is none of the horrible stop and go I get on MG.  On top of the performance increase is the number of people in each zone.  There just aren’t as many to contend with.  On Moon Guard the demand for ore and herbs in the new zones was such that it took me nearly 3 days  before I managed to tap my first post-Lich King ore node.  On Farstriders I’m stacking ore up nicely.  There’s still competition, but it’s not nearly as bad.

It’s hard to report on things like quality of RP or quality of progression and guilds and the rest.  I don’t RP all that much and to be honest it doesn’t hold that much interest to me.  I do enjoy RP – I love having it fill in the corners of my game via snatches of overheard conversation, running into RP events going on deep in Darkshire or seeing groups of people that have obviously put care and thought into their character and guild names.  But I don’t play to RP.  Many folks on Moon Guard *do*.  I wouldn’t have to go far out on a limb to say that this is equally true on Farstriders.  If there’s an argument to be had it likely has to do with tthat elusive and ephemeral entity known as “good RP” and how hard it is to find on any given server.

For some “good RP” requires a strict adherence to in game lore and even stricter adherence to social niceties expected of others that attempt to partake of the ArPee.  The game within a game of how to RP “correctly” can be overwhelming for some to keep up with and thus – there are a  goodly number on any RP server that have simply given up and do their own thing.

Moon Guard has for a long time arguably held the high ground as a “quality” RP server.  The more canonical of the RP crowd tend to flock there.  While Goldshire based exploits and SilverMOAN city have done a great deal to tarnish this reputation, MG is still a massively popular RP server and by population alone, probably offers the most opportunities for any given players take on “good RP”.

That said, several Farstrider folk have written to me in the past week to tout just how strong the RP actually is on their server.  Additionally, there’s an opportunity on less populous servers to “make your own community” that many feel simply isn’t possible on a server as populated as Moon Guard.

I can’t comment on the validity of any of this as I refuse to get pulled into an RP quality war.  I love all RP.  Canonical, Vampire Bunniculal and even the guys on Farstriders touting the Forgotten Realms based guild tag “The Knights of Myth Drannor“.  You’re all great – I love you all equally.  Seriously.  Play what you want – I do.

If there are any cons to the Farstrider move thus far it has to be faction based vs. anything else.  Farstriders feels far more Alliance focused than Moon Guard.  Not terrible by any means – but for the PvP minded hordey this might be an issue.

The only other issue is the fact that the bulk of my friends are all still on Moon Guard and have no intention of ever moving.  I don’t blame them.  For them, Moon Guard has been a great home for years and for the most part they have schedules that aren’t as impacted by the lengthy login queues.  For myself, I still have my two “favorite” mains living there.  I’ve just accepted that they’ll be leveling much slower than the toons I’ve moved to Farstriders.  But part of playing the game means actually *getting* to play the game.

We’ll see how it goes.

Have any of you moved or thought about moving now that there are free server transfers going?  Do you feel like your server was left out of these moves?  If you haven’t moved yet – what would it take to push you over the edge?

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