Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

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Spontaneous Shenanigans

March 5, 2009

dance partyLast night I logged onto Draka for a continuation of our Naxx 10 raid from last night. Through a series of unfortunate events, we were down a tank and two healers. Being the hard core raiders that we are, we turned the event into a naked dance party atop Naxx. After about thirty minutes of raucous debauchery, I logged off Aleathea and retreated into the relative anonymity that is my life as Reant on Cenarion Circle.


I was breathing in the heady scent of jungle flowers, enjoying the peace and quiet while slaughtering Bloodsail Buccaneers, when I got a whisper from a level one warlock whose name was suspiciously similar to that of my Raid Leader, the one I had just left in a naked punching duel with my Resto Druid friend. Next thing I know I get a whisper from said Resto Druid, and before long my Hunter buddy shows up too. About this time, my hubby gets home from work and joins the fun.


forsaken-friendsDeciding it was time to visit me on my new realm, they had all rolled Forsaken and were questing in the Brill area.  My creative friends came up with the idea of starting a guild named “Zombies in Arms” (our Draka guild is named “Brothers in Arms”). Somehow I got talked into funding that venture and, next thing I know, I’m standing in front of the Brill inn emptying my coffers into their greedy little mitts.


Charismatic man that he is, my Raid Leader set about recruiting immediately. Only trouble was, he had taken the whole idea of “RP” quite to heart and had spent a good five minutes coming up with a back story. It involved one of the other Forsaken  having chewed his jaw off, so he could only say, “mrrghh!”.


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Undeterred by this little difficulty, he (Kraknagma) proceeded to advertise in trade while my hunter buddy (Onaboat) inserted helpful comments. I offered them each ten gold to swear never to mention my name or indicate they know me.


We spent most of the evening on vent, and the laughter continued late into the night. Tearing up raid instances is fun in its own way, but it doesn’t hold a candle to a night of spontaneous shenanigans.

Long after the bosses are forgotten and the epics are disenchanted, it’s nights like this I will remember.  The night my friends, not willing to let me drift quietly away, invaded my server, stole my gold, wreaked havoc on my reputation, and touched my heart yet again with their friendship.

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Seeing For the First Time

February 9, 2009

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the computer issues I’ve been having and the unexpected gift from an on-line friend. The new computer arrived this week. It is an actual gaming computer, complete with a 24” flat screen monitor, and a Razor Tarantula gaming keyboard.

I have been playing WoW for three and a half years, but when I logged in for the first time with my new computer, it was like seeing the world for the first time. The beauty, the color, the intricate detail quite literally took my breath away.

I spent a good two hours just reveling in new discoveries.

  • As my dragon touched down in the Carrion Fields, I saw a dark shape following us.  I lept to the ground and prepared to defend myself  … from my shadow.  I’d never seen it before.  I had no idea I even had one! I laughed with delight and shouted for my husband to come see. 
  • The sun actually sparkles off the snow in Dragonsblight.  The light, so much more intense than ever before, actually made me wince.   I could see Aleathea’s frosty breath every time she exhaled.  It felt so real, I wanted to make snow angels.
  • Flying over Crystalsong Forest, I could see for the first time individual leaves on the crystal trees.  I hovered for many minutes, just enjoying the breathtaking view. 

I’ll admit, that night left me a bit misty eyed.  Silly, perhaps.  But beauty has always had that effect on me.  It’s as if the world I saw before was just a shadow of itself and now, suddenly, I could see it all in the clear light of day with all its beauty and detail.  It’s an experience I won’t soon forget. 

Last night, for the first time, I was able to join my guild for a full run of heroic Naxx. I was running at 40-60 fps the entire night with no latency issues whatsoever. Due to my huge screen, larger than any television I’ve ever owned, tanking is much easier.  As if all that weren’t enough, the new Razor gaming keyboard is an absolute dream come true. 

One of the additional benefits of my new computer is the fact that I can now work on my blog from home. My old computer would shut down every time I tried to access my blog, or my google reader, or my email, or pretty much anything. I could only post from work, which was a bit problematic at times. 

I am attempting to learn how to upload images from my digital camera to the web. Once I cross that technological hurdle, I’ll post some pictures.

My pleasure in this new computer is equalled only by the knowledge that my friend, someone I have never met outside of WoW, wanted to do this for me.   If there were ever a question in my own mind as to the reality of on-line friendship, it has been laid to rest.  My smile is just a little bit brighter these days.

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The Worst Kind of Scrub

February 6, 2009

1145062Undeterred by my previously failed attempts to find a challenging PUG, I joined the LFG channel again. This time I thought I’d try Azjul Nerub, a slightly more challenging instance. My guild is currently working on Sarth +1 drake. The last boss encounter in AN involves many of the same mechanics. Move out of the bad stuff, pick up multiple adds spawning from all directions, keep the boss faced away from the group. Perfect opportunity to practice.

It wasn’t long before I got an invite from a mage whose name was vaguely familiar to me. This is always a little disconcerting, because I can never remember if I know the name because they made a really good impression, or a really bad impression. Regardless, I accepted the invite and all we were lacking was a healer. At this point, the mage began spamming LFG channel “LF healer, have an over geared tank!” I started to look around, wondering who on earth he was talking about. Then it occurred to me I was the only tank … ergo, he must mean me. I was a bit nonplussed. I guess I’m not used to being used as a bargaining chip and I don’t think of myself as particularly over geared. But … ok … this was all part of the PUG adventure.

spell_magic_greaterblessingofkings1 I suppose this is as good a time as any to admit a little secret of mine. I have found that 99% of the time, all a PUG looks at to determine the value of a tank is their hit points. They have no clue about avoidance, block cap, non-crit cap and all those other extremely important caps we tank types work so hard to reach. They want to see a ton of HP. So, I oblige them. Whenever I join a PUG, I equip my max stam set and buff myself with kings. Once they are sufficiently impressed, I switch to my regular tanking set and throw up sanctuary. They never notice the difference, and it avoids a whole lot of annoying questions.

So anyway, back to my PUG. We got a Pally healer in short order, and it turned out to be an old friend of mine. We exchange warm greetings, and off we went.

The first two bosses were fairly uneventful. The dps completely failed at targeting the web wraps, but no one died and we approached the two pull immediately before the final boss. I marked them and charged the skull. The mage immediately pulled agro on the X, whereupon he began shouting, in all caps, for me to taunt.

Now, my inclination was to let him die. After all, he completely disregarded the kill order … and I guess I was still a bit piqued at being used as a bargaining chip.

However, this whole “run with PUG’s” kick was instigated by a blog post from Vene of TankingTips.com in which he suggested running with PUG’s as a means to keep your skills sharp. In that same blog post, he recommended trying to save everyone, even the annoying dps’ers. He maintained that by trying to save everyone, you will be forced to learn and maintain the techniques so that you can save everyone.

Biting my tongue, I taunted and we finished up the pull.

Now for the good fight.

I explained about the frontal nature of pound. Never stand in front of the boss.

I explained about the spikes that come up from the ground during the tunnel phase. Never stand in the bubbling earth.

I explained about the Venom spiders nasty aoe poison volley and the importance of focused dps burning those down.

I charged.

The kitty druid died in the first pound.

The hunter died in the spikes.

The mage dps’ed everything except the venom spiders.

/facepalm

/facepalm

We ran back and I explained again, very patiently, about the frontal nature of pound, about the necessity of moving out of the bubbling ground that denotes spikes about to rise, and about the importance of focused dps burning down the venom spiders.

I charged again.

The kitty druid died again from pound.

The hunter died again from spikes … so did the mage.

The holy Pally and I focus dps’ed down the venom spiders, but the boss overcame us.

We ran back and I explained, again, not quite so patiently.

I charged a third time.

The kitty druid ran out of pound … only to die in the spikes. I don’t think he had ever lived long enough to actually see them before.

The hunter did not die from spikes, but didn’t dps the venom spiders either. Actually, I don’t think he was dpsing anything … but at least he didn’t stand in the spikes.

The mage, who at a whopping 1600 dps declared himself to leet to be bothered with moving out of spikes, died.

Upon wiping this third time, the mage declared,

“We can’t do this with a Pally healer.”

I am a patient person. It takes a lot to make me angry, and few people have ever seen me in a fit of temper. But, in all my WoW playing days, I have rarely been so angry as I was at that moment. Even The Angry Raid Leader would have been proud.

Yes, the druid failed at moving out of pound. Yes, the hunter failed at moving out of spikes. Yes, the whole group failed at any type of coordinated movement. But this didn’t bother me. After all, this was exactly why I was here, with a PUG, instead of tearing up instances with my uber leet guildies. This presented a challenge. This gave me the opportunity to practice my skills in a setting where what I did actually mattered, where the group needed me to succeed. So, it wasn’t these players lack of skill that bothered me. It was the mage’s attitude.

death_is_pretty_by_bdchan1For most of us, becoming a skilled player isn’t something that just happens. It takes time, and it is a painful process. Because it involves a lot of mistakes, and a lot of embarrassment, and a whole lot of frustration. And there are times when you fail so badly that you think you’ll never be able to face your friends, or yourself, again and you want to give up.

But you don’t. Instead, you get back up and you try again, and again and again. And, gradually, you find the things that used to be so difficult are now a little bit easier. And one day you realize that you are doing things now that you once thought impossible. And that gives you the courage to face the next failure, and you get back up a little faster this time, and in this way you grow – not just as a player but as a person.

What this mage wanted was to skip all that. He wanted to be carried by better players. He had no intention of working to learn the skills necessary to become a contributing player. He was the worst sort of scrub.

You show me a player who fails miserably and takes responsibility for his failure, and learns from it, and gets back up and tries again and again, and I’ll show you a player who has what it takes to become great. You show me a player who fails miserably and whines, and blames the healer, and quits after a wipe or two, and I’ll show you a player who will never be more than a scrub. It’s not a lack of failure that separates the great players from the scrubs. It’s how you handle failure, what you learn from it, and whether you have what it takes to get back up and keep trying.

I didn’t say all this to the mage. I did tell him exactly who was the problem … and it wasn’t the healer. I was prepared to stay with that group all night while they worked on developing some skill. Not surprisingly, the mage suddenly remembered he had to get up early the next day and needed to log … right now.

I ended that run with a renewed appreciation for my guildies. We may not be the most skilled players in this game, but we are always trying to better ourselves, and not one of us expect to be carried. Sometimes I need to run with PUG’s just to appreciate the high quality people I run with every day.

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A Sad Story with a Happy Ending

January 28, 2009

The last few weeks have been some of the most frustrating of my WoW life. No, it’s not because of my guild. No, it’s not because of the PUG’s I’ve run in. No, it’s not because for some insane reason I leveled enchanting. The trouble is my computer. It is old. It’s graphics card is old. It can’t handle 25 man raiding.

I discovered this while tanking my guilds first attempt at heroic Naxx. Things started out fine, but while kiting Anub’Rekhan my frames per second plummeted, accompanied by paralyzing lag spikes. The rest of the evening was a nightmare. By the time we reached Maexxna, I was down to one frame per second and reduced to spamming consecrate once a minute when my screen unfroze.

We called the run early and I didn’t get much sleep that night. My wonderful husband stayed up half the night researching the problem. I play on an old MAC computer, a gift from a friend who upgraded about five years ago. My husband came to the conclusion that my graphics card was the issue. He found the best graphics card available for my computer and, since it wasn’t available in local stores, he ordered it online.

The new card arrived the day of our next raid. Of course, being a responsible, hard working member of society I was at work when UPS tried to deliver. I spent two hours chasing down the delivery truck and got home less than an hour ‘till raid time. Only once I had the new graphic card installed did I realize I was missing a connecting adaptor required to hook my monitor to the card.

A desperate on-line search revealed this connecting adaptor was not sold locally and could only be ordered online for exorbitant sums of money. Being the frugal, patient sort, I trotted over to ebay, exercised the buy out option and plunked down my gold. The guild went to Naxx and kicked around some spiders. I re-specced Ret and pugged some heroics. It was a depressing end to a frustrating day.

Over the next week I eagerly watched the mail … each day came and went with no connector. A week later it still hadn’t come and the raid formed up for heroic Naxx. Without me. Again. They pugged a tank. My raid leader is a warlock accustomed to spamming seed of corruption. My husband is a mage accustomed to blizzarding everything in sight. They are both accustomed to running with me. They died … repeatedly … while I sat in Stormwind all night and fished. I didn’t have the heart to laugh at them. My raid leader declared he wasn’t going back until I was there to tank. I felt loved … and a little guilty.

My connector arrived the next morning (go figure) and I was set to roll for the next 25 man. Things started out great. My lag issues were gone and tanking was suddenly so much easier. As we approached the first boss, things started to unravel and the world dissolved into rivers of color streaming down my screen. I tanked up through the second boss like this. By the third boss, Aleathea was nothing more than a puddle of pixels and I could barely make out shapes in the sea of colors. The raid leader called a break and I asked him to replace me. I went to bed that night more discouraged than I can ever remember.

You see, tanking 25 man raids is a dream I never though I would see become a reality. My fellow officers and I have had offers from larger guilds. We could have gone to the big leagues and been part of end-game raiding guilds. But we made a decision that our friendships and what we had built together in Brothers in Arms was more important than our desire to see end-game content. We made the choice to stay together and stay with our casual friends and, because of that, we never saw BT, or Hyjal, or Sunwell.

Now we have a chance to experience all that Wrath has to offer. Over the last few years our guild has grown up together. Players that were brand new to the game when they joined have had the time to level, to learn, to develop their skills, and we now have a core raid team strong enough to take on 25 man content, and every one of these people are long-time friends who share our values. We got here without compromising our standards for the sake of warm bodies. I am so proud of us for reaching this point, and I wanted to be there, leading the charge, as we brought this dream to reality.

I have spent hundreds of hours studying, practicing, reading guides, watching videos, preparing myself so that when this moment came I would be ready. And now, to have that chance taken away, to realize that I may be confined to heroics and 10 man content, watching from the sidelines … it was difficult. That day I wrote a post explaining about my computer issues and letting the guild know that it may not be possible for me to participate in 25 man raids.

I got a PM the next day from one of my friends. He was going to surprise me but needed to know, did I want a flat screen for my new computer? No, I wasn’t allowed to refuse his offer. He was going to buy me a new computer and that’s that. Now, did I want a flat screen or not?

I cried. And you know what? It wasn’t the fact that I was getting a new computer. It wasn’t the fact that I would be able to live my dream of tanking 25 man’s. It wasn’t the fact that this would be a tremendous help to the guild. It was the fact that this “internet friend” would do this for me. Because sometimes it gets to me, all the crap RL people give me about my on-line friends. Sometimes I’ll admit there is a part of me that wonders, these friendships that are so very real to me, are they real on the other end too or am I just kidding myself? His act of friendship silenced the voices of doubt and gave validation to my belief that friends are friends, whether you’ve met in person or not.

There have been times through the years when my husband and I have questioned whether it is worth it to GM. The hours upon hours of your life that you pour into your guild. The heartache of dealing with drama, the frustration of people who hold you responsible for their happiness, the strain of dealing with ignorant and immature players. At times leadership takes a lot of the fun out of this game and you question whether it’s worth it. It’s easy to let the frustrations pile up and lose sight of the big picture of what you have achieved, of what you have gained.

For me, there is no feeling so satisfying as that of belonging. The feeling you get when you walk in a crowded room, and know your friend has saved a seat for you. That’s what I have in my guild. When I need to talk, the vent channel is always open. When I need to relax, my friends are there to tear up an instance with me. When a raid is forming up, I know there is a spot waiting for me. In our two and a half years together, we have become a family. We have laughed and fought together. We have hurt and forgiven each other. We have made sacrifices to remain beside each other, and what we have together is worth all the struggles it took to get here.

I will never stop defending my belief that these friends we make, these relationships we develop, these communities we build are as real as anything we experience in the “real world”. The next post I write will be from my new computer. A gift from a friend I’ve never met, but whose friendship has touched my life and who is as real to me as those friends I see every day.

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Rise of the Superstar Tank

January 7, 2009

I have been a long time reader of John Patrelli, aka Big Bear Butt Blogger. He plays a feral druid and hunter and, despite the fact I don’t play either of those classes currently, I find his writing style personable and his posts entertaining and insightful.

Yesterday he wrote about the Rise of the Superstar Tank in which he discusses the death of CC, the need for speed, leading by default, and a rockstar attitude – among other things.

His insights provided a perspective I had not considered before and gave me a lot to think about. The article is a bit lengthy, but it’s well worth the read. Whether you agree with his points or not, he does provide a perspective worth considering and a voice for those who may be unwilling to speak up for themselves.

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Changing Perspectives

December 2, 2008

Aleathea and Romer reached eighty twelve days after the expansion was released. The journey was most enjoyable and kept both of us up far longer than we intended each night as we eagerly quested on to see what would happen next in the story line. The Dragonsblight quests were second to none and the beauty of all the zones made the experience as aesthetically pleasing as the quests were engaging.

Thanks to some lucky instance drops and easily obtainable rep rewards Aleathea was quickly defense capped and headed straight into heroics. Since the tank shortage on my server is second only to the healer shortage, I’ve had no lack of opportunities to tank instances and even got my first look at Naxx last night. This expansion has afforded a unique opportunity in that it provided a “reset” button; effectively equalizing gear, breaking up established groups and bringing together people who would not have met otherwise.

Which brings me to an interesting story.

Last Friday I was keeping an eye on the LFG channel while doing my Sons of Hodir dailies. I saw a group in need of a tank for heroic Nexus and, since I was feeling particularly brave at the moment, I sent a tell offering my services. Once we arrived inside the instance I looked around and discovered that I had fallen in with a group from the top guild on my server. To say I was nervous would have been an understatement. Fortunately, I’d run heroic Nexus before and had some idea what I was doing. The run went well and we proceeded on to heroic Oculus, Old Kingdom and Culling of Stratholme. Throughout the runs we chatted on vent and, once they got past the shock of discovering their tank was a woman, (something of a rarity I surmise) the conversation was quite relaxed and enjoyable. By the end of the day we were joking around like old friends.

The holy priest and I hit it off particularly well and, over the next few days, we sought one another out for frequent heroics. I spent several hours one afternoon helping him farm mats to power level his enchanting and he surprised me that evening with a gift of several twenty slot bags. Only twice, in all my years playing WoW, have I met someone with whom I so quickly felt a connection, and our friendship has steadily grown. I was on line Sunday night when a server announcement popped up acknowledging that his guild had achieved the realm first completion of Heroic (25 man) Naxx. My friend was actually part of that raid and, trying to ignore the flood of snide and derogatory comments spammed in general chat, I whispered him my congratulations. Several hours later, I still found myself disturbed by the negative comments I had seen directed at those raiders who achieved the server first. What bothered me most was not the comments themselves, but the knowledge that only a few days before, such comments would not have phased me.

You see, up until now, I have never actually known someone who was part of an end game guild accomplishing server firsts. It was easy enough to label their kind as elitist snobs with no lives, no families and no jobs and to accept that they deserve the derogatory epithets hurled across the computer screen. But now I know him – and I couldn’t have been more wrong. My friend is a hard core raider. He is also a happily married, well adjusted family man in real life. My friend is a member of an end game guild that is number one on our realm. He is also one of the kindest and humblest individuals I have ever had the fortune to meet. He is an exceptionally gifted healer. He is also a real person. He gets lost in instances almost as much as I do. He apologizes for wipes and tries to take the blame – despite the fact that I pulled a whole room full of elites. He is nice to obnoxious people and forgives their rudeness when most people would kick them from the group. He accepts PUG players and treats them as equals regardless of their gear level or what guild they come from. He is everything I never expected of an elite end game raider and our friendship has shown me how dangerous it is to label someone before you get to know them.

This is what I love most about this game that is so much more than a game. You never know when a chance encounter will lead to a friendship that will teach you something about yourself and leave you changed. I made a promise to myself that night, that if I ever found myself among WoW’s elite, I would remember his example. And then it struck me … there are those within my guild who already look at me as elite. I am to them what my friend is to me. My responsibility doesn’t begin on some far off date when our guild has cleared all of Wrath’s content … my responsibility begins today. Kindness, patience and humility – these are the characteristics I most admire in my friend. These are the characteristics I would like to develop in my own life. I may have reached the level cap in WoW, but in real life I have a long ways to go.

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First Love

November 13, 2008
Aleathea

Aleathea

In the weeks leading up to Wrath, I struggled a great deal with which character to level first. I weighed the pros and cons of each, I discussed the subject ad nauseum with my friends and hubby, I even did a blog post hoping that writing about the subject would help me decide. Nothing helped and the night patch 3.0.2 went live, I was still undecided – although I had narrowed it down to my two dps characters. 

I went home from work that night with every intention of logging on to Kess (my shadow priest main for all of BC) or Deb (my new hunter and recent favorite) … but somehow when I found myself looking at the character screen, it was Aleathea, my prot paladin and original character, that I wanted to log on.  And from that night to this, I have only wanted to play her.

I did finish leveling Deb to seventy. I took her on a few raids, got her the T4 set and a shiny bow off Zul’jin, pvped my way to 27,000 honor for a sweet new axe … but as soon as the raid was over and as soon as the honor was farmed I would switch to Aleathea.

This wasn’t in the cards. I’d already ruled her out. The carefully weighed pros and cons declared one of my dps’ers to be a better choice. My hubby was leveling his tank first. It wasn’t supposed to be like this … but I found myself racing home from work to log her on. I found myself jumping in PUG’s for the change to tank when my guildies weren’t around … just because I loved playing her so much. I found the closer Wrath got, the more I wanted to bring her up regardless of my carefully laid plans.

In the end, my hubby decided to level Romer, his mage and his original character, along side Aleathea. It’s been a very long time since those two have leveled together and there is a bit of nostalgia in bringing them together again. If you’ve read my story (particularly chapters three and seven) you’ll understand.

I guess there is something to the idea that your first love is your lasting love. Aleathea was my first in so many way. The first character I ever created on that day, nearly four years ago, when I logged on to my first MMO. All along she has been my first love, and it seems only right that I return to her at the dawn of this new era. She is, afer all, a Paladin and Wrath is her time to shine.

Tonight, Romer and I have an Utgarde Keep date with our best friends, Deakan and Maggee. I remember almost two years ago when the four of us were making our way through the BC starting dungeons. Aleathea, a brand new tank. Deakan, her long-suffering healer. Romer and Maggee, the gnome mages of mass destruction.  Here we are again, two years and so many memories later.  Northrend, here we come!