Actually, this Real ID thing isn't all bad.

I've been following the discussion about Real ID for a few weeks now and mostly found myself agreeing with the skeptics whenever the subject came up, whether it was because of the occasional urge to play on your own or due to serious privacy concerns. (I was going to link to a post on the subject at Murloc Parliament here, but the site seems to be down for the time being. Oh well.)

Now the patch finally reached Europe and I have to admit... when I logged on and found a guildie whom I know and trust online, I immediately whispered her asking whether she wanted to be my Real ID friend. She was happy to oblige and we then played a bit of "now you see me, now you... still do" with me hopping back and forth between various alts. There still seem to be some bugs though, as the realm and zone fields were always blank, so you couldn't actually tell when you were talking to a character on a different realm. My customised (with the default interface) chat windows also got messed up so badly by the chat change that I had to reset them completely, but it didn't take long to get things back to the way I wanted them to look.

A bit later I asked another friend whom I've known for years to exchange Real IDs as well, but she declined saying that she was using a super secret e-mail adress for her WoW account that she didn't want anyone else to know. I didn't take offense. The old, "normal" friends list for WoW only still works fine so it's not as if I'm losing anything by someone not accepting my Real ID request.

Don't get me wrong, I still agree that the Real ID privacy options are very poor (though you can't actually see the online status of friends of friends as I had feared) and could do with some more choices. But if everyone involved is aware of how much information they are giving out and fine with it, it's a fantastic way of staying in contact with people who have a lot of alts, especially if you have a lot of alts too. (If you don't have some sort of shared friends list addon, remembering to add all your friends' alts to your friends list on all of your alts is quite a hassle, not to mention that it can eat up a lot of your limited friend slots.) I've only just started cleaning up my friends lists (removing all the individual alts of people who I now have as Real ID friends anyway), and it's rather liberating.

I can't guarantee that I won't have regrets later on if I ever feel like "hiding" on a new alt and find myself unable to, but then again, I'm only adding people whom I trust a lot anyway; what's the worst that could happen?

Friend: Oh hey, is that a new alt?
Me: Yeah, I felt like doing the human starter area again and wanted to get away from the guild for a bit.
Friend: Ah, I guess you wouldn't be interested in coming to ICC then?
Me: Not really, sorry.

And they'd understand, because they are my friends.


Why is nobody running BC heroics anymore?

I've been working on the quest for epic flight form for my Alliance druid recently. I know I could just train it, but doing it the "proper" way just feels more rewarding to me, not to mention that it's simply an extremely cool and entertaining quest line. I now have Vanquish the Raven God in my quest log, and figured that with the dungeon finder it should be easy enough to get a group for it these days. Oh how wrong I was.

I don't know how much time I've spent sitting in the queue and waiting for a group for heroic Sethekk Halls in total by now, but it must add up to several hours. At no point did I ever see more than two other icons light up as the group was being assembled, even though I had signed up as able to fulfill all three roles to be as accomodating as possible. Often I'm utterly alone. It's discouraging.

I can understand that BC heroics are nowhere near as popular as the normal Northrend dungeons - there's no emblem reward and most drops are outclassed by Northrend greens. But still, I would have thought that there would still be some interest, be it for the achievements or simply a change of pace. I'm sure many altholics are tired of running normal Nexus for the umpteenth time, and I would have thought that simple curiosity would be enough to lure the occasional newbie into a BC heroic as well. After all I had little trouble getting into the old level seventy instances on normal mode, and that's with Blizzard removing the "random Outland dungeon" option from the dungeon finder at level sixty-nine or so, so you can only get into instances like Magister's Terrace if you sign up for them specifically. At least "random Outland heroic" remains an option for several levels. Why is that not enough?

My best guess at the moment is that the old attunements are simply too much of a stumbling block. I like attunements in general, but keeping them in place for instances that are nothing but levelling dungeons these days strikes me as a mistake on Blizzard's part. I know they are not at all difficult, and people might even reach the honoured requirement with various factions without as much as trying, but actually buying the keys requires knowledge that many curious newbies probably don't have, and effort that the jaded veterans might not want to bother with, as in: they might consider queuing up for an old heroic on a whim, but once they realise that they are locked out because they didn't think of buying all the keys while they were levelling through Outland, what are the chances that they'll actually stop their questing in Howling Fjord to march all the way back to Zangarmarsh or wherever just to buy those keys? Not very high, that's what.

The old Caverns of Time instances have the same problem, even on normal mode, seeing how you can't enter them without completing this quest first, which is a massive shame considering how much fun Escape from Durnholde and Opening of the Dark Portal are to play through. But again, a new player simply receives no pointers that this attunement is needed at all, and a veteran might simply not want to bother with flying down to Tanaris and then trudging in a circle for ten minutes just to unlock another instance that he'll soon outlevel anyway.

I did get lucky with Old Hillsbrad myself as I got a group almost instantly, but it was telling that one of the dps immediately exclaimed: "Finally, we've been in the queue for this one for three hours!" And the only reason that I got the Black Morass completed as well that day was that the group from Durnholde wanted to continue straight towards the followup really badly, probably knowing full well that they might not get another chance at finding a high enough number of attuned people anytime soon.

Really, it is just bizarre that it requires more effort to get into an Outland heroic than to get into a Northrend one, even though the former is levelling content that provides very little reward. I'm all for making people work to reach the top of the game, but if you want people to group while levelling as well, you really mustn't throw hurdles like that in their way (or even leave them as forgotten leftovers from a different time).


Damn you, Drakuru

This is a post that I've been meaning to make for a while, and Allison Robert's recent WoW.com article about some of the most fun achievements finally provided me with the much-needed incentive to write it. I always like Allison's articles, but in this case I must disagree with some of what she wrote, in particular with her choice for the 25th most fun achievement. Or rather, I'm not entirely sure whether I agree with the assertion that Guru of Drakuru is a very entertaining achievement to get - I'm not really into collecting achievements myself so I can't really say how it compares. However, I think that as a quest chain it's pretty poorly executed and more frustrating than fun. There are so many more entertaining quests in Wrath; this one just gets a lot of publicity because it has an achievement connected to it.

People praise it for telling a great story, and I certainly won't claim that the story is bad, but it's hardly all that original and inspiring either. We heroes of Azeroth already had quite a history of accidentally helping the bad guys before we ever went to Northrend. We don't always get to exact our revenge right away, but it's not entirely unheard of either.

However, as far as I'm aware we never had a quest chain before that allowed us to complete the ending before we'd even done the beginning, and that's shoddy storytelling if I ever saw it. Why not just do away with quest chains altogether? All quests should be available to everyone right away without anyone having to complete any prerequesites. Forget logic and consistency, long live freedom and accessability! Bah. I really don't think people who went to Zul'Drak before completing Grizzly Hills would have suffered massively if they had been temporarily blocked from this one quest chain for the sake of logic.

That aside, a good quest chain needs more than a nice story, it also needs to be fun to play through, ideally more than once, and I think this is an area where the Drakuru chain fails quite badly.

It's not so bad in Grizzly Hills; in fact the very first step of the way intrigued me a lot. Having to bloody myself with a knife to seal a truce? That's different. The rest of the chain was mostly old-fashioned item gathering however - something that I don't really mind - but considering how far WoW's quest tracking system has come over the years, it still fails quite impressively on this quest. You repeatedly have to gather troll mojo to be able to talk to Drakuru, but I suppose because the quest items get consumed before completion, they don't show up on the quest tracker. Meaning that you'll endlessly go back and forth between your inventory and everything else, trying to figure out if you've got enough troll mojo yet or need to slaughter another dozen trolls, which I found rather annoying.

The real kicker is the Zul'Drak half of the chain though. You have to infiltrate Drakuru's base using a scourge disguise which has a habit of failing every so often. Now, I'll admit that this was a neat idea in theory, especially inside the necropolis itself, where there are a couple of nasty elites and limited space, so the disguise failing really creates a certain sense of urgency whenever you squeeze yourself into the nearest corner to hide. Most of the sub-quests lead you out of the citadel itself however, and nothing out there is truly threatening, which makes the failure chance nothing but a nuisance to stall you as you wait for the "disguise failing soon" timer to run out so you can reapply it before moving on.

It's even worse if it happens during one of the tedious tasks that you have to complete for Drakuru to gain his trust. There's one step in particular which has you using a quest item to control geists and make them collect blight crystals. For some reason the geists move really slowly and you need to maintain control throughout the whole process for it to count - nothing like getting close to finishing a gather just as your disguise fails, and after you reapply it you have to start all over again.

The rest of the sub-quests are also mostly pet- or vehicle-related and while I don't remember my disguise ever failing while piloting a vehicle, I'm not entirely sure that it's actually impossible. Either way these quests featured more annoyance than fun for me as well. I particularly disliked the one where you have to AoE down some trolls using an exploding abomination. It wasn't entirely un-fun whenever it worked, but it wasn't unusual for me to be caught by respawning trolls in-between aboms, being forced to kill lots of them manually without getting any quest credit. Lame.

And then you finally get to the end of it all and get rewarded with one of Arthas's "joke" appearances, mocking you from on high but otherwise being amazingly unthreatening for the big bad of a whole expansion. Just fantastic.

I've been meaning to take my night elf priest through the Zul'Drak quests for a while now, but the mere thought of slogging through the painful latter half of this quest chain again has been putting me off so far. Blizzard has made a lot of great and fun quests in this expansion, but the Drakuru chain is not one of them in my opinion. They certainly tried, but in my eyes at least they missed the mark with this one.


Oho, Ahune!

I've expressed my distaste for the way holiday bosses used to work before: fighting the same dude (at least) five times in a row just to see the fight? No thanks.

No more of this silliness!

But lo and behold, along comes the dungeon finder for holiday bosses and I've been completely converted. You don't have to do the fight more than once anymore and it doesn't even hurt your chances at one of the rare drops since they go directly into a personalised satchel that's only available once per day anyway. Not to mention that it's extremely fast; even as dps I never had to wait more than five minutes so far. I don't know if that's simply because the fight is short or if there really are a lot more tanks queueing up - the ease and speed of the fight probably encourage a lot of people who usually feel intimidated by the notion of tanking a full heroic and the possible abuse they might expose themselves to in there.

The two frost emblems you get in your satchel are a nice bonus as well. A bit silly really for a whole five minutes of effort, but what the hell - the new expansion is drawing near and soon all our gear will be replaced anyway, why not let people gear up their alts while they still can.

Oh, and speaking of gearing up alts: so much love for the ilevel 232 cloaks for every class and spec. So far, good cloaks have been one of the things that are slightly harder to come by, at least if you're not swimming in frost emblems and thus own one of the frost emblem cloaks. Without raiding,, the best drops you could hope for until now were from the normal ICC five-mans and heroic Trial of the Champion, but they didn't cover everyone's stat needs optimally, and the best the vendors could offer you below frost level were these valor cloaks that haven't excited anyone for one and a half years. Across all my alts I've already acquired three new cloaks from Ahune (including for off-specs and the like) and I'm hoping for another three before the festival is over.

Oh, and until then, any non-useful cloaks that I might win on greed rolls can be vendored! Joy! It's been so long that I visited Ahune before this year that I can't actually remember for sure how his loot in specific was handled before, but I remember other holiday boss loot having no sell price so if nobody could use it, it would just rot there because there was nothing else you could do with it. Hopefully that won't be the case anymore for any of them, as I hate having to leave sparkles behind.

The one thing that threw me a little was how easy the fight seemed compared to what I remember. The last time I fought Ahune before this week was two years ago, when the level cap was at seventy, and I remember him being quite a tough bugger that took a long time to kill. On my recent attempts however I didn't have a single party that didn't down him the first time he withdrew into his frozen core or shortly afterwards. I remember in the past he would easily go through two or three phases at least, and didn't the elite adds spawn much more frequently as well? That said, I'm not complaining - he's clearly not meant to be much more than a holiday loot piƱata, and I can live with him being just that.

All in all I really have to give Blizzard kudos for the changes they made to the system here. It's not entirely without downsides (I've seen comments from people who miss being able to boost their lower-level friends and alts for example), but as far as I'm concerned this is one change where the good definitely outweighs the bad, and by far.


Going from WoW to Dragon Age

I have a confession to make: I haven't been playing a lot of WoW in the past couple of days; instead I've been playing Dragon Age. This is unusal for me in so far as I never played a single-player roleplaying game before. Yep, you read that right. Before I got into WoW I used to play old school adventure games, real-time strategy games and The Sims, but never any RPGs. They looked very similar to action adventures to me, and I didn't like action adventures because they took the old school adventure games that I loved and slowly shifted their focus towards jumping, running and fighting, which was simply not something I wanted from the genre. The only reason I ended up getting Dragon Age was because Spinks raved about it when it first came out and I was intrigued by the things she posted.

After I finished playing with the extremely detailed character creator, I found that the game itself looked pleasantly familiar to a WoW player: I need to upgrade my gear, clicking on things that sparkle is useful, there's my health and my mana bar, warriors are the tough guys in plate, mages cast cone of cold and heal... wait, what? Healing mages? Well, since there are no priests or anything of the like, someone had to do it I guess.

The main difference between Dragon Age, or any single-player RPG I suppose, and a game like WoW is the shift of focus. A single-player game is all about the story: You need to go out and save the world, and everything you do is focused on making the next step necessary to achieve that goal. You gain levels on the way, upgrade your gear, learn some professions... but it all feels damn trivial in comparison. I mean, my main character is a herbalist and can make healing potions out of flowers she finds by the road, but considering the same potions drop off dead monsters like candy it feels pretty superfluous. Not to mention that there are no skill-ups for using your profession or anything like that.

Upgrading your gear is nice, but there don't seem to be all that many different options and it all kind of looks the same (boo realism). In WoW I get excited about gear upgrades; in Dragon Age the constant need to check whether what just dropped is better than what I already have before selling it all simply feels like a nuisance that stalls my story progression - though I guess the fact that I'm having to manage the outfits of a whole party at once isn't helping. (Are these boots an upgrade for my warrior? No? What about the other warrior?)

In contrast to that, a game like WoW has an overarching story too (like in the case of the current expansion the expedition to Northrend and battling the Lich King), but it's comparatively low-key. Most quests are only very tangentially related to the plot (at best), and a lot of things that are basically just "fluff" in single-player games are inflated to be full-blown, very time-consuming features that become a goal onto themselves, like gaining levels to be able to advance, skilling up professions or collecting all the best gear available.

Looking at it from that angle, I think I can understand why many people complain about a lot of aspects of WoW being too "grindy", if these people are used to the way these things work in single-player RPGs. Why do I have to waste so much time collecting all that gear if all I want to do is kill the Lich King?

Coming at it from the other end of the spectrum however, as someone who started with MMOs without ever having tried anything similar, it feels like the MMO way of requiring everything to take a lot of time is the normal way to go and anything else is lacking. After all, things like skilling up professions can be a mini-game of their own! It's all about perspective I guess.


Your friend, the healing UI

While there are a lot of guides out there on how to use various healing addons to your maximum advantage, I noticed that among many players who are new or not that dedicated to healing, there still seems to be a lot of prejudice against healing addons in general. People consider them "cheating", think that they are such good players that they don't need them, or might be interested in getting one but find them too confusing to use efficiently.

Is Healbot "cheating"?

I think part of this prejudice goes back to a long time ago, before I was raiding myself. I remember being told about Healbot, Decursive and other addons being so "smart" that you basically only had to push one button and they would always cast the right spell on the right target for you. But Blizzard banned that functionality for a reason, and nowadays Healbot for example certainly doesn't make any decisions for you; it just allows you to get a better overview of what's going on and to react to changes more quickly. Healbot changing the colour of the raid frame of a person that has been hit by a debuff is no different from Deadly Boss Mods telling you about the same thing (and few people would want to forsake DBM or similar addons), and I believe the "click to heal" thing can be achieved with mouseover macros as well, but I suck at macros so installing an addon that does the same thing is simply easier for me.

In other words, I know that different people have different ideas of what's "cheating" and what isn't, regardless of Blizzard's official policy, but unless you're completely against addons altogether, there's no reason to frown upon dedicated healing UIs. They just give you bigger or at least more distinguished icons and health bars and replace the functionality of mouseover macros.

But I'm a good healer anyway, I don't need any addons!

I admit it, I used to think like that. And then I watched a friend of mine play the game one day, using Healbot in a raid, and she obviously saved so much reaction time! I was so amazed by this that I installed the addon myself and guess what, I became an even better healer.

The thing is, WoW's default UI is really not that healer-friendly. It's got a bit better over the years but still... I never had trouble raiding as dps with the default UI, because I could set it to only show my own debuffs on the boss, and if I had to switch targets quickly I just hit tab or used a targetting macro (hello there, Kael'thas in the Eye). As a healer on the other hand, something as simple as Kel'Thuzad's frost blast completely screws you over if you don't have an addon. I mean, you can set the default UI to only show debuffs that you can dispel to reduce clutter, alright, but you can't dispel frost blast so if you use that setting you can't see it. D'oh! Tab through all the people in your raid until you find the right one? You've got to be kidding me. So you frantically look for the right person, finally find them, select them, cast your heal... and they are probably dead, because you only have three seconds to react and cast your heal before the damage kills them.

This isn't even a question of being good or bad at healing, as in knowing which spells to use or how to manage your mana. It's simple reaction time. It's human nature that you can only react to things so fast, and when the game makes healing a matter of seconds, then shaving off even a half-second can make the difference between failure and success. Being able to see the debuffed person highlighted right away and healing them with just a click instead of clicking and then pressing the heal does save time. Even if the addon only enables you to cast your heals a half-second faster, just think of how much difference that's going to make in today's world of non-stop healing in raids! You could be going from casting 120 heals in a four-minute fight to casting 160, increasing your output by a third!

You certainly don't need an addon to heal five-mans, and maybe if you never ever heal anything but the tank in a raid you can get away without one too, but if you are actually raid-healing ten to twenty-five people, constantly having to switch targets, this kind of thing is really a must. I'm pretty sure Blizzard is so used to everyone using these addons that they actually design the fights with these minimised reaction times in mind these days. Who knows, things might change in Cataclysm if healing becomes slower and a bit more relaxed - plus they said that they want to make changes to the UI too, so maybe there'll finally be a built-in "healer mode". Until then, addons it is.

Okay, you've convinced me... but this stuff looks so complicated, it's giving me a headache!

The main big addons that people like to use for healing are Grid, Vuhdo and Healbot. Zelmaru writes a lot of Grid guides and Tam has one for how to set up Vuhdo. From what I hear they are very good addons if you love customisation, but being more of a "give me something simple that works" person, just looking at those guides makes my eyes glaze over (no offense). If you have similar feelings I can heartily recommend Healbot as something that is easy to handle right out of the box. I don't think anyone even needs a guide on how to use it, really. Just install it, go to the "options" panel, under "spells" type out which abilities you want to be bound to which mouse clicks or mouse/keyboard combos, under "cure" set it to show debuffs affected by your class's dispels (so as a priest, you'd select "abolish disease" and "dispel magic") and wham, bam, thank you ma'am, you should be good to go. You can make other adjustments too of course, like changing the size of the displayed health bars, but that's not that key and either way easy to figure out with a bit of trial and error. So no, it being too complicated definitely isn't an excuse either. Come on, give it a try!


Bad pug of the month: Pit of Saron

Looking back at my own posts here it's actually been months since I last had an absolutely awful pug. With things quieting down a bit in the pre-expansion lull I was hoping that the atmosphere in your average run was indeed getting better. You know, people chilling out a bit and not fretting about how every second in which they don't gain badges is "wasted". It was just a pipe dream of course.

This morning my boyfriend woke me by proudly announcing that he had just won a battered hilt - lucky sod that he is - after we had both talked about wanting to get one for our alts the day before. Not wanting to be one-upped like that I grabbed one from the auction house as well and we set off to do the quest chain together. Eventually this involved jumping into heroic Pit of Saron. The characters we were doing this on were my bear druid and his warlock alt.

We got grouped with a mage, another warlock and a priest healer. The other warlock immediately asked if anyone else was going for the Nevermelting Ice Crystal from the last boss, and when my boyfriend answered truthfully that he was after it as well, the guy got annoyed and basically offered to bribe him if he wouldn't roll on it. Someone pointed out that you can't trade gold cross-server anyway, and he went back to just muttering angrily.

We killed a couple of extra trash mobs around Garfrost's platform to gather our quest items, but soon decided that it was probably more prudent to finish the instance first and then go back and look for more, so as to not keep the other players waiting. After the first boss, the other warlock started to question my boyfriend's damage output and demonology spec, going on about how destruction was the way to go for PvE. The priest actually disagreed with him, claiming that his own main was a warlock as well. For the record, my boyfriend was below the mage and the other lock on the meters, doing about 3k dps - probably less than he should be capable of, but the spec was new to him and it was hardly holding us back in any way. At a guess, the other lock was just angry that my boyfriend wanted the trinket as well and thus decided to be as pissy to the competition as possible.

As we progressed through the instance he became more and more obsessed with emphasising how much more "leet" he was, even standing completely still in Krick's explosive mines to squeeze out as much damage as possible and constantly berating my boyfriend's performance as if he wasn't even there. We continued while gnashing our teeth, but still wanted to finish the run.

On the way up the tunnel the rude lock unsurprisingly started to nuke the loose skeletons before we even made it to the middle, got aggro and died. The healer wanted to go back and res him, which led to a lot of milling back and forth until we decided that it was more sensible to finish clearing out the tunnel and worry about the dead lock later. As we did this, said lock - who, which bears repeating, had got himself killed stupidly on the first few mobs and was thus doing exactly zero dps - still kept going on about how my boyfriend's lock was supposedly doing terrible damage, and the healer was so busy discussing this fact with him that he didn't heal me and we wiped just as we made it to the top.

As I was starting to lose my patience by that point I told them to shut up and that nobody cared about the damage meters, at which point they decided to vote-kick my boyfriend... and it went through. Yes, after the other lock had got himself killed and the priest had been so busy discussing warlock specs with him that we wiped, my boyfriend got the boot. Where's the bloody logic in that and why did the mage support it? I left of course, because... DUH.

I have no illusions that they probably got replacements fairly soon and managed to finish. Maybe the warlock even got his trinket - I couldn't check on the armoury because I forgot his name. It's just sad because it really highlights the kind of crap people can get away with these days. Pre-dungeon finder a guy like that would have found himself blacklisted real quick, but nowadays it's all just part of a hard day's pugging. Pfft.


Three reasons why not looting in instances is bad team play

This is an old subject, but it came up again when I was chatting with some of my guildies last night.

Personally I don't understand people who don't loot their kills. Ever since questing in the area around Northshire Abbey for the first time conditioned me to find sparkling corpses interesting, I've simply found the lure of the sparkle irresistable. I hate having to leave things behind because I ran out of bag space and will often destroy something that's already in my bag just so I can loot the new drop and make the sparkles go away. Moving on while ignoring them just won't do!

However, I realise that's just me. Obviously everyone is free to handle these things in whichever way they want when they play on their own. However, once you step into an instance group things change in my eyes. I'm continually amazed by the amount of people who just don't bother clicking on the sparkles at all. Once upon a time I might have asked people to loot so I can skin the mobs or whatever, but since it's become so frequent these days and people are always in such a hurry I don't find it worth the hassle of arguing anymore. Nonetheless the fact remains that I simply consider not looting all the mobs in an instance very bad form. Mainly there are three reasons for this:

1. Gold still has value

Money has never been as easy to come by in WoW as it is now, and I think that the poor raider who can't pay for his repair bills at the end of the night is a thing of the past. Dedicated goblins will even hit the gold cap repeatedly, but I dare say that they are a minority in the overall playerbase. For the average player, earning gold is at least still relevant, and there's almost always another goal to sink gold into, whether it's epic flying for all ten of your level eighties or a stable of mammoths.

So even if you personally don't need any more gold, there's a good chance that several people in your instance run are still saving, and by not looting all the mobs you're denying them money. I'll admit that it's a bit of a silly system - since any looted gold automatically gets distributed equally among all party members, why does it matter who loots it anyway? Still, fact of the matter is that only the person who the dead mob was assigned to can actually take its money - which means that if you decide not to click on a mob that has five gold on it, not only are you passing on one gold for yourself, you're also depriving all the other party members of one gold each. They don't get an option to not share their loot with you without hurting themselves, but you deny them their part. Nice.

To be fair, a regular instance mob generally won't be dropping five gold, but even if it's only a bunch of silver, that adds up over a whole instance run and then over the course of dozens of instances.

2. You do like those shiny epics, don't you?

I saw an off-hand comment in a thread on the official forums where someone claimed that after being the only person left in a completed heroic Pit of Saron run, he went back and looted any corpses that people had ignored before and that hadn't despawned yet, and one of them had a battered hilt on it. I don't know whether that's a true story or not, but I thought it was amusing. I wonder how many groups there are in which none of the party members bother to loot anything and miss out on a whole bunch of stuff? But hey, at least they all agree on it.

However, if you've got at least one person in the group who clicks on all the sparkles he sees, items of uncommon or greater rarity will always pop up for rolls. Funny how all those people who "don't care" for loot are still happy to make a bid for stuff that someone else dug up. They could just pass if they really didn't care, right? Let the ones who need the money have it! But no, they still do like money, they just can't be bothered to even put the tiniest bit of effort in to grab it themselves. Let the others loot gold and items for them but don't contribute to the pool yourself.

And yes, I realise it's pretty bizarre when we talk about looting as if it's more work than actually killing the mobs. Unfortunately that's how far we've come these days.

3. Give those professions some love!

One of the little perks of many professions is that they allow you to gain extra crafting-related loot off certain corpses. Many beasts can be skinned, treants and flowers can be herbed, constructs can be mined or salvaged for engineering parts, humanoids can be scavenged for additional cloth if you're a tailor. Except, here's the catch: it only works if they've been fully looted by their rightful owner first. Fat chance of that happening, eh? But why not? Why deny the other people in the party their profession perks? If you were a tailor, wouldn't you also want to gather as much cloth as the game allows? Even if you have a different profession like jewelcrafting, you wouldn't have got that design off heroic Anub'arak on your own either, would you?

Cooperation is a great thing, and two seconds to do your share of looting is hardly asking for much.*

*Then again, I had a healer in heroic Pit of Saron complain today because I pulled an extra mob so someone else could finish the quest to free the slaves. OMG, how dare I waste his time time like that!


A slightly different view of Ulduar

Between going back to Ulduar for some achievements with my guildies, having this song stuck in my head and finding this article on WoW.com, I couldn't help but think about my own experiences with this raid instance. Many of the commenters on the WoW.com article called it Wrath's best raid, some even the best raid ever. While trying to decide whether I agreed or disagreed with that, I realised that I have quite a love/hate relationship with Ulduar.

To start with explaining the "hate" part, I'm really not that into the whole titan stuff. Everyone's got bits and pieces of lore that they like more than others, and for me the titans are one of those pieces that I don't particularly care about. I blame it on early trauma induced by endless Uldaman runs. To be fair, WOTLK managed to get me a little more interested in the subject than I was before, but still not massively.

Secondly, I experienced Ulduar as extremely dull from a visual point of view. After reading that sentence you're probably feeling a bit incredulous - Ulduar, of all places, looking dull? Let me explain: When I went back to Ulduar last Sunday, seeing it from my new PC for the first time, I was absolutely amazed when I first entered the central chamber and saw all that glass swirling up into the sky. It was beautiful. The problem is that while Ulduar was actually progression content and we were going there three times a week, I was still sitting behind my rickety old PC back in Austria that struggled to give me five frames per second during a twenty-five-man raid even with all the graphic settings turned down. Now, obviously that made every instance less interesting to look at than it could have been, but Ulduar was particularly bad because of its sheer size, which resulted in the limited viewing distance not even showing me the walls a lot of the time, so I was endlessly wandering through clouds of grey fog, which is not the most interesting way of spending a Sunday night. Even Trial of the Crusader was more fun to look at under those conditions, because at least I could make out the NPCs on the stands there.

Behold the glory of Ignis's room! Somewhere behind that wall of fog, presumably.

From a mechanical point of view, Ulduar was also the instance that really introduced the idea that the best way to make a fight hard for the healers was to have lots and lots of unavoidable raid damage. Naxxramas had that on Sapphiron, but that was only one fight. In Ulduar there were Ignis, Deconstructor, Kologarn and many more, with Hodir remaining many a healer's worst nightmare for months, and that's without even getting started on any hard modes. I already wrote a post about why I don't like the "crazy damage everywhere" mechanic, so I can't help being grumpy with Ulduar for starting this trend.

I also didn't really like the whole hard mode/achievement model. I explained my stance on this a bit at the end of this post: Zul'Aman had created very different expectations of what "hard mode" meant to me, and compared to the good old bear run everything that Ulduar had to offer in that regard just felt clumsy in comparison. For the most part "hard mode" didn't so much mean playing better as it meant being "intentionally stupid" and activating avoidable mechanics that would make the fight more difficult by hindering you. Not to mention the whole problem of some early hard modes being easier than the final bosses, which inevitably led to all kinds of arguments about what "progression" should focus on. It just felt like a major pain in the arse to be honest.

That said, I can understand why many people look back on the Ulduar hard modes with a certain fondness, mainly because everything that came afterwards was simply so much worse. Heroic TotC was nothing but an exercise in tedium and frustration. Heroic ICC has been a step up from that but still strikes me as a bit of a mixed bag, as the differences between the two modes, at least mechanics-wise, are still pretty minor on most fights. And heroic gunship is just a joke. If you can't think of a good "hard mode", does there have to be one? Ulduar didn't try to force it on absolutely every boss and that actually worked better - why not favour quality over quantity?

I still think that hard modes are a poor excuse for extra content, but Blizzard clearly considers the concept a success and it looks like it's here to stay. And well, when my choice is between just not raiding anything new at all after finishing all the normal modes and having at least a little bit of variety by trying heroic difficulty, I'll go with the latter. I can still wish for more varied and interesting hard mode fights though, and Ulduar was actually better at that than any of its successors.

Ulduar generally had a pretty interesting variety of fights, with Yogg-Saron still being my favourite WOTLK raid boss. The Lich King's not bad either, but from a healer's point of view that fight is too unforgiving and too scripted. Big speech at the start, big speech at the end, the rest of the time you try to stab Arthas in the kneecaps while also doing some running around and dealing with adds. Yogg was no pushover either, but missing one global cooldown wouldn't immediately wipe the raid, and he gave me a much bigger sense of excitement - dodging clouds and add spawns as we tried to bring down the mysterious Sara, plunging into the brain of the old god as he revealed himself, trying to fight off the deadly tentacles outside until he was finally vulnerable enough to be killed - if you could make it without being overwhelmed by the reinforcements he called in.

Actually, I think Ulduar as a whole felt more like an adventure, more organic than any of the other Wrath raids. All the bosses seemed to be there for a reason, and the whole place just felt "right". Why of course, Freya would live in a lush little paradise where frost lotus grows naturally. And a great inventor like Mimiron wouldn't just be content to sit in a little room, he had to build his own considerably-sized lab connected to the main complex by a train! Also, anyone remember when Sara would occasionally emit ear-splitting cries for help? (I don't know if she still does it.) I remember the first time she did that to us it made the whole raid jump, it was just that sudden and unexpected. But what's a good dungeon without surprises?

All in all I would agree with rating Ulduar as WOTLK's best raid. ICC is pretty good too, but the bosses seem a bit more random to me and as I said the hard modes are quite a mixed bag. I think everyone was just absolutely thrilled by it because the previous raid instance being TotC had really lowered everyone's expectations. (You know something's out of whack when you first enter a new instance and everyone goes "hurrah, there's trash" and means it.)

All in all I still liked Zul'Aman and Karazhan better though.


On Lightwell and Circle of Healing's increased cooldown

While reading Dawn Moore's analysis of the holy priest talent preview on WoW.com I noticed two important changes that I overlooked yesterday: the first one being that speccing into Lightwell will be required to get the new Chakra talent, and the second one being that they intend to increase Circle of Healing's cooldown from six to ten seconds.

Reading the responses related to the Lightwell change was more amusing than anything else, and people weren't so much complaining as expressing a certain amount of exasperated resignation. You have to admit that they have a point - Lightwell has been around since late Vanilla WoW, has seen tons of changes since then, and still most people think that it's a waste of a talent point and refuse to spec into it. How many more years will it take for Blizzard to get the hint? They must be really fond of the concept to be so stubborn about keeping it no matter what.

That said, I don't think that this is a terrible idea on Blizzard's part. It was clearly a problem in the past that no matter how much they improved Lightwell, people still didn't even want to spend that single talent point to try it out. (I've never been specced into it myself. I only ever saw other holy priests drop their lightwells and then have them be completely ignored, and that was enough for me.) By "forcing" everyone to take the talent by making it a prerequesite for something important, people will at least have the spell in their spellbooks and might be more willing to experiment with it here and there. Hell, I'm looking forward to being free to play around with it without feeling like I wasted a talent point that could have been spent more beneficially elsewhere. With more people having it available it should be easier to get an accurate picture of how good or bad it really is.

However... personally I think that even if more priests try it out, lightwell will never become a rousing success. It's true that we don't know what the fights in Cataclysm will be like, and that they might have mechanics that will make the spell more viable. I don't think that changes the talent's underlying problem though: it's not a healing spell. It's an ability that gives other people a tool to heal themselves, like a warlock's Soulwell, or like handing them a healing potion or a bandage.

So from a healer's point of view, all that lightwell does - even if it's crazy-effective - is put you out of a job. You can now say "there, heal yourselves" and then go AFK or start smiting (for a brief period of time anyway). If people are taking so much damage that you need to heal them on top of the lightwell HoT, it will likely "break" anyway, and if they aren't taking that much damage, doing more would just result in overheal. Either way it doesn't quite work.

From a damage dealer's point of view, spending time on healing yourself when the healer is standing right there is kind of stupid as well. People like to rant about dumb and lazy dpsers who don't care about their own survival, but fact of the matter is that when you're in a group with a healer, healing you is what they're there to do. You shouldn't constantly have to stop to bandage yourself. In a party or raid, self-heals like that are mostly for emergencies, like when you suddenly find yourself out of range, the healer just died or whatever. And for those situations you already have a health stone, a health potion and a bandage, which all have the advantage of being in your bag instead of in some static place on the battlefield that might not actually be close to where you're having your emergency.

So no, I don't think the concept of healers spending mana on not actually healing and instead expecting everyone to heal themselves at the dedicated "HoT spot" will ever go anywhere. It just goes completely against the established role distribution that Blizzard implemented themselves.

As for yet another CoH nerf... hrmph. Nobody likes being nerfed. However, with the initial six second cooldown vs. no cooldown at all I could at least see it coming. I remember going into Black Temple for the first time with the new and suddenly raid-wide CoH and thinking even then that it was ridiculously overpowered and was unlikely to stay that way. I also got bored very quickly, literally doing little else besides spamming that one spell. So when the cooldown was introduced I was a little worried about where that would put priests in relation to the other healing classes, but I could definitely see why they were doing it.

Going from six to ten seconds however is just something I don't entirely understand. To me it feels like my CoH useage is in a good place right now. I use it a lot, but it's far from overwhelming. On an average raid night about twenty-five to thirty percent of my effective healing will be from CoH, which means that I still spend two thirds to three quarters of my time casting other spells. That strikes me as a healthy balance for what's supposed to be a "signature spell" of the spec. In fact, I've found all the other healing classes to be a lot more spammy with their own primary healing spells, be it the bubble for disc priests, rejuv for resto druids, chain heal for shamans and holy light for paladins. When I see that sixty percent of all healing for both resto shamans in the raid came off chain heal, I can see why Blizzard wants to encourage the other healing classes to use different spells more than they do now, but holy priests can't be one-button spammers right now anyway! I have to admit that I'm a bit worried that by nerfing CoH too far, Blizzard might be robbing holy priests of their "healing identity" once again, leaving them in the "jack-of-all-trades, master of none" hole. I've been there before and I'd prefer not to have to go back.

That said, I realise that we're still very early in the expansion's development and it might all end up very differently in the end. I won't mind having to eat my words on this subject, because it would just mean that things end up going better than expected.


Confused by the priest talent preview

So I just found out that the official Cataclysm talent preview for druids, priests, rogues and shamans is out. I haven't really been following the Cataclysm news all that attentively because I don't want to spoil myself too much and thus ruin any surprises that the expansion might bring, but I figured hey, new info about my favourite class is something that I should check out.

My main impression after reading what WoW.com had to offer on the subject is a feeling of - disappointment is almost too strong a word because I wasn't exactly excited about the upcoming talent changes to begin with, but I can't help feeling somewhat underwhelmed. I thought Blizzard said that they wanted to get rid of all the "boring" talents that just give you passive increases to your damage and healing, fold them into the mastery trees and fill up the now empty slots in the talent trees with more "fun" stuff that actually changes our gameplay? Because that didn't really happen, and a lot of those "more damage and healing" talents are still there. There's a bit of discussion in the WoW.com comments about this, with people trying to figure out if we might have misunderstood what Blizzard was trying to tell us, but mostly people seem to agree that the preview doesn't really live up to what was promised.

Now, I won't go over the whole thing in detail because long lists are boring, you can read it in its entirety elsewhere if you really want, and most importantly, most of it is exactly the same as the current talents anyway.

The most major change that is worth noting in my opinion is that there are suddenly a lot of new talents specifically empowering smite, most of them in the disc tree but some in low holy too. Penitence (disc tier 2) increases smite and penance crit chance, Atonement (disc tier 3) heals someone near you when you do smite damage, Evangelism (disc tier 4) gives a stacking damage buff to smite and the other holy damage spells, Archangel (disc tier 5) consumes Evangelism stacks for a healing buff and allows you to cast penance on the move. In the holy tree you mostly have the same talents affecting smite that also do it right now, but with the addition of Divine Accuracy (holy tier 2) which increases your hit chance with holy spells. The new Chakra talent (more on that later) also has an "option" for smite to increase your overall damage if you're smiting a lot.

The big question that comes up when looking at these changes is simply: why? Is smite spec meant to make a comeback as a valid PvE damage spec? I consider that unlikely to be honest, because there still aren't enough talents to empower it, not to mention none at all in the higher tiers. It also wouldn't really fit with Blizzard's decision to make every tree focus on one role for the mastery system to work, which was part of why they scrapped the whole concept of letting death knights tank and dps in all three trees. Making discipline and holy into secondary dps specs would go completely against that. Not to mention that a smite-smite-smite dps spec wouldn't fit Blizzard's ideal of an interesting dps rotation either.

It's noteable that especially the new talents in the disc tree seem to encourage a combination of both damage and healing, seeing how Atonement does some healing while you smite and Archangel increases your healing afterwards. But again, why? Are they worried about healers being bored of doing nothing but healing and inviting them to do some damage in-between heals? When you think of how we faceroll heroics right now and how a geared healer's mana pool is nearly bottomless, that suggestion doesn't seem entirely crazy (though you could still question whether healers really want to dps while healing), but considering that Cataclysm is supposed to gimp our mana regen massively, I don't see us as having the mana to spare to throw in five smites between each heal and I have a hard time imagining that Blizzard just forgot about that themselves.

So what's left? I can only think of soloing and PvP. The new disc talents in particular sound like they could make a disc priest an even more powerful force to reckon with in a battleground. Then again, disc priests were already good at PvP, so why make so many talent changes particularly tailored to them becoming even better at it? It just doesn't quite add up to me.

Compared to that, the other changes in the two healing trees seem comparatively minor. The promised power word: barrier is coming for disc, Serendipity is being renamed to Deliverance for some reason. Choir Leader is a funny name for a marginally useful new talent that affects our hymns, and Improved Holy Nova reducing the global cooldown of the spell makes me wonder how the mental image of spamming holy nova as fast and maniacally as possible is supposed to fit into the slower and more mana-conscious healing world of Cataclysm.

Chakra still sounds like a cool concept - the effect it has on the heal spell sounds great for tank healing, the renew portion will be useful for raid healing I guess, and I can appreciate the smite damage increase for soloing I suppose, but the prayer of healing portion still sounds ridiculous. Nobody casts prayer of healing three times in a row. Ever. Because even when there is massive raid damage going on, throwing around CoHs, ProMs and Renews is still more effective than spamming ProH non-stop. I just can't see this one happening.

And Thriving Light with its bleed damage reduction just has me shaking my head - an obviously purely PvP talent in tier 8 of the holy tree? Is that really going to make PvPing as holy any better?

The shadow tree looks even more unexciting than the two healing trees I'm sorry to say. There's a new talent that gives a damage increase to the mastery-related shadow orbs (woo?) and Mind Melt is being changed to introduce a synergy between the new mind spike spell and mind blast (we'll see how that pans out). Shadowy Apparition is the only new talent that sounds vaguely amusing, though it remains to be seen how effective it is.

All in all there seem to be fewer changes than there were going from BC into WOTLK - which doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing if you like the way priests play now, but as far as exciting new content previews go it's a bit of a letdown.


Summer break to the core

So my guild is officially on summer break, after about three weeks of nothing but raids that ended up being cancelled due to lack of signups. I still find the notion a little disconcerting, because I don't recall having a similar kind of break before during the three years or so that I've been raiding with the guild (though I'm not completely excluding the possibility that my memory might be failing me). We had a break at the start of this expansion to give everyone enough time to level to eighty and occasionally cancelled raids over the holidays, but I don't remember ever just "giving up" like that in the face of a summer lull.

There is always something scary about changes like this. Time online passes differently than in the real world, and things can fall apart very quickly if people become sufficiently detached, which is very easy if you don't log on frequently enough to remind yourself that hey, there are people there with whom you used to hang out three times a week. Can we really survive two months of summer break just like that? How many of the people that still want to raid will leave for greener pastures, leaving our roster even more thinned out than it already was? How many will leave simply because guild chat has become too quiet with no-one around? Could resignation in the face of combined end-of-expansion blues and summer doldrums spell the end for a guild that survived so much coming and going in the past, as well as two leadership changes in my time alone?

Reactions on the forums were unexpectedly reasonable to my surprise. I don't know what I expected, seeing how the people who tend to quietly bugger off when they get bored are never the ones who use the forums much to begin with, but everyone who posted agreed that it was probably for the best. Even the people who had stubbornly kept signing despite of all the cancellations seemed relieved - at least now they can make other plans in the evenings, knowing for sure that there won't be a raid instead of having to wait for the raid leader's final decision whether it goes ahead or not.

My own feelings are kind of mixed. I'm not bored of WoW, and working on new alts all the time, but nonetheless I have to admit that I'm currently not that bothered about whether I raid or not, as in doing any actual boss-killing. I think one of my guildies hit the nail on the head when he said that we might all be feeling the lull more strongly than ever simply because throughout previous summers and patch droughts we always had a new instance to progress through as we were always behind on the progression curve, what with not being a top guild, having to struggle with attunements and gearing people up for new content. In WOTLK however it's been a lot easier to get through all the normal-mode content, and while we haven't killed the Lich King on twenty-five-man, a lot of us have done so on ten-man and even those of us who haven't have at least seen the fight. There's a strong feeling of "been there, done that, seen it all" in the air. Not having done all the hard modes hardly feels like a huge loss and they aren't nearly as interesting a goal to pursue as say, working your way through the Black Temple to see Illidan.

On a more personal level however, I really miss those regular raid nights. A few months ago I moved to another country, and while I've made some new friends since then, my social circle still feels a lot more limited than it used to be. Raiding made sure that I never felt isolated, because to the people on the other end of the line it didn't make a difference what country I was playing from. And while I've never been much of a talker on vent, killing stuff together was still a social activity, getting something done with people you know and like. Not having that to rely on anymore makes me a little sad. It could be a cold, lonely summer.

On the other hand that doom and gloom might be completely misplaced. Almost immediately after the official break was announced, someone piped up with "okay, let's do something else then", and already plans are forming to go on some just-for-fun runs of old raids for achievements and just to hang out. Last night we went to Ulduar ten-man and did some of the hard modes. A lot of things felt utterly trivial in ICC gear, but others still wiped us and made me have all the more respect for the people who did this stuff when it was actual progression.

But the most important thing for me was that we were socialising. There were people from two different ten-man teams as well as someone who only did the official twenty-fives. We were waxing philosophical about raiding dynamics all the way through and it made me feel strangely comforted and reassured. These people might be bemoaning the summer lull, but nonetheless they are absolutely loyal to the guild. And it's good to know that the guild still has a strong core. I have to admit I was starting to wonder because a lot of people whom I used to think of as the heart of the guild stopped playing in the last couple of months, and sometimes I have a hard time stopping to think of anyone who joined after me as just another newbie, but fact of the matter is that a lot of these former newbies have now become the new core of the guild and they are no less reliable and fun to hang out with.

As long as a guild has a strong core, it can survive two-month raid breaks and worse. Over the years I've seen a lot of raid guilds form and fall apart again on my server, some of them making better progression faster than we did - but as soon as there was conflict or a major stumbling block, they all fell apart because raiding and being successful at it was all that was holding them together. Past experience has taught me that my guild is not like that, and as long as we retain that strong core of players who have similar goals and just like each other, we'll get back on track eventually. And until then, we might just have time to have some fun.


Fishing and me

Today I'd like to talk about a slightly random subject for this blog: fishing. I believe that I have a somewhat strange relationship with this profession. I'm generally not interested enough in it to write about it, and I'm not even close to earning the Salty title (and not trying for it either), but four of my level eighties have their fishing skill maxed out and the three others are all working on getting to that point as well. People often tell me that I must be insane when I share this particular bit of information with them; I wonder why?

Interestingly enough my relationship with fishing didn't start out very well at all. I remember my little human paladin approaching Goldshire for the first time and immediately running into the local fishing trainer. I had read in the manual that fishing was a secondary profession so I figured that there was no harm in acquiring it. After asking in general chat where to find a fishing pole (since Mr Lee Brown is one of the few fishing-related NPCs that doesn't actually sell any fishing goodies himself and hasn't got a vendor next to him either) and successfully locating one at the local trade supplies vendor, I eventually gave the actual fishing a go. My biggest problem initially was figuring out how to actually use my fishing pole, because unlike with the other gathering professions there's nothing in the world to click on (I remember trying to click on the water so many times...) and unlike a mining pick or a skinning knife you actually have to equip the pole to use it. To this day I think that's something that's rather inconsistent and probably a bit of a deterrent to newbie fishermen. After some more inquiring in general chat I eventually managed to catch a couple of raw brilliant smallfish I believe... but I didn't persist for very long; after all there were more interesting things to learn and see.

I didn't do any fishing for a while after that, until I came across this quest in Redridge which asks you to acquire a couple of fish either by pulling them out of the lake yourself or taking them off the local murlocs. "Oh, I can fish," I thought to myself and started casting my line... except that almost every single time I seemed to have caught something, it got away. I was so confused and frustrated at the time, because again unlike the other gathering professions, fishing doesn't give you any kind of indication whether what you're trying to do is actually appropriate for your skill level. In fact, at the time I didn't even realise that lack of skill was my problem. I just thought that fishing required some insane reflexes to click on the bobber the instant it moved or else the fish got away. It shouldn't come as a surprise that I just resorted to the murloc-killing solution eventually.

When I rerolled as a night elf with two friends shortly afterwards, I pretty much treated fishing the same way as before. I trained the skill and got a couple of skillups early on, but I came into territory where I couldn't fish efficiently anymore way too soon (even with the slower levelling speed back then) and thus quickly gave up on it again. My friend was into reading guides before I even knew that people wrote them, so she made a point of keeping her fishing at the right level because it was useful, and I remember envying her ever so slightly as she stood there in Booty Bay actually catching something while I wasn't even allowed to cast my line. But fishing just wasn't that interesting!

The thing that brought the turnaround for me during BC was something shockingly simple: the introduction of the daily fishing quest from Old Man Barlo. Nothing to make something interesting like giving it an actual purpose in the game. I mean, I know that fishing was useful before, but it wasn't really obvious that fish was a great source of food, and anyway I wasn't raiding yet so I didn't even know that you were supposed to be buffed from eating. There's a big difference between some outside source telling me what I should do in the game because it's supposedly good, and actually seeing the effects for myself. I suspect that's also the reason why I'm so fond of gemming for socket bonuses even if the min-maxers frown upon it. Seeing that green text light up and tell me that I got an extra five spell power is just so much cooler than watching it stay greyed out and trying to content myself with the knowledge that I'm now naught-point-two percent more efficient according to some website.

But back to fishing. Having got into raiding myself by that point, I came to find that a lot of fish made for great buff food for a priest, and the fishing daily offered a great incentive to slowly increase my skill. Basically my problem when trying to level fishing in the past had often been that I just felt like I wasn't doing anything useful while standing around in the middle of nowhere, fishing up low-level fish just to get up skillups. The fishing daily however gave me a reason to work on it in small chunks at a time while also providing a tangible reward, even if the stuff I fished up beside the quest items was utterly useless. At first I started by just doing Crocolisks in the City whenever it came up (since it only requires a fishing skill of one), then I actually spent some time fishing up Deviate Fish in the Barrens to get my skill up high enough so that I could do the other fishing dailies as well. And from there it kind of snowballed as I naturally started to repeat the process by doing dailies on my alts once I had maxed out my main's skill.

In WOTLK Blizzard continued to make more changes that made fishing even more fascinating, such as the introduction of junk items that you fish up instead of just getting the "your fish has got away" message, allowing you to cast your line anywhere you want regardless of skill level, decreasing the cast time for each fish and the amount of catches needed to skill up, and adding another bunch of extra incentives such as the aforementioned achievement and a rare mount.

I'm actually not entirely sure where I'm going with this post. I think I just wanted to give Blizzard kudos for converting me to fishing when I really didn't find it all that interesting back when I first started playing. Supposedly they have more exciting changes planned for the profession in Cataclysm. Personally the only things that I'd like to see would be for them to bring it more in line with the other gathering professions mechanics-wise, as I already hinted above. If you don't have to equip a mining pick to mine or a skinning knife to skin, then you shouldn't have to equip a fishing pole to fish either. Along the same lines I'd love it if you could just right-click on any body of water to start fishing if you have the skill and a fishing pole in your bags. And there definitely needs to be some kind of indication of whether you're fishing in waters appropriate for your level. Sure, you can always just try and catch nothing but junk, but that's not massively helpful. Maybe some flavour text on the fishing pole that could change colour whenever you're near fishable water, using the same scale as the other skills (green for easy success, red for likely failure most of the time). Either way I'm looking forward to what they'll come up with.


"Gogogo" and being on the other side

Thanks to Shayzani from 2fps for letting me write my first ever guest post. Hurrah!

One of the things I mentioned in said post and that I wanted to talk about in a bit more depth is the issue of "gogogo" people in instances. I'd like to think that I'm a pretty patient and mellow person both in real life and in game, but there's just something about the phrase "gogogo" that makes me see red instantly. In part I guess I simply don't like to be rushed in my leasure time, and from my experience those who constantly push for everyone to go faster tend to expect an absolutely unreasonable pace. I realise that everyone probably has a different idea of what the ideal speed for an instance run should be, but I dare say that for the average pug group rushing from beginning to end without ever getting out of combat is simply asking too much. There will be breaks. Maybe the healer needs to drink up, maybe one of the dps is lagging a bit behind after skinning the dead mobs from the last trash pack before the boss, maybe the tank would just like to pick up his share of the loot too. Maybe someone received a whisper from their guild leader, maybe someone's phone rang. If having to wait even a couple of seconds for that kind of thing to get sorted makes you twitch, you have a problem.

More than anything though, I think it's simply the implied tone of the phrase "gogogo" that gets my goat. I mean, when do you ever shout "Go!" at someone in real life? If you're starting a race maybe, but otherwise it's likely to involve a situation in which you're annoyed with the other person and want them to get a bloody move on already. Saying that kind of thing to your tank every time he hesitates for two seconds just strikes me as utterly inappropriate and rude. In fact, it reminds me a lot of Tam's rant about people overusing the acronym "ffs". Communication skills, people!

Now, the other day something funny happened. I was in a heroic Utgarde Pinnacle run with my mage... and I found myself thinking that the tank was going kind of slow and wishing that he would go faster, seeing as he seemed to spend quite a lot of time between pulls just standing around. And almost as soon as I had that thought I did the mental equivalent of clapping my hands over my mouth and blushing furiously, feeling like I had committed a "gogogo" thought crime.

So, what do you do when you would like your tank to go faster? You could ask politely I suppose, which someone in the party eventually did - though then the shaman healer insisted on starting to pull whole groups with chain lightning to speed things up, which kind of ruined the effect of the initial polite enquiry.

Something still felt off to me however, and after thinking about it some more, I came to the conclusion that it's probably the fact that nine times out of ten, asking the tank to go faster - even if it's done politely - won't actually achieve much beyond making him miserable. I mean, why do people think tanks pull at the speed at which they do? I doubt anyone would make deliberately slow pulls just to waste people's time and piss them off. Neither is a tank very likely to be distracted enough to have forgot what they are supposed to be doing.

Most of the time the tank will pull at the speed at which he does because that's what he's comfortable with and what he considers fun. If he's new, that can be quite slow. The tank in my pug for example definitely exuded a certain aura of newness or at least rustiness, presumably thinking about how to best make each pull whenever he appeared to just be standing still for longer periods of time, and sometimes rounding up the mobs a bit clumsily. But even if the tank is not new there are plenty of reasons for them to want to slow down occasionally. Would I rather pull that group of casters now and struggle to get aggro quickly or wait five more seconds for Avenger's Shield to come off cooldown? Easy one! Or take loot. I'm continually amazed at the amount of tanks who don't seem to loot anything during instances, but that's their choice. Personally I like my sparkles even when I'm tanking, but people already get fidgety if I take even three steps backwards to grab the gold from the mob that ended up dying behind me.

To get to the point, what is it going to achieve if you ask a tank to go faster? The newbie might struggle to keep control while pulling things faster than he can handle, convincing him that he sucks at tanking and should just give up now. Another one might keep going even if important abilities are on cooldown, but the ensuing chaos is unlikely to increase his fun factor either. Or he might decide not to loot even though he wants to, just to speed things up, and then decide to sign as dps next time so he can actually get what he wants. In other words, all you're likely to achieve by putting extra pressure on the tank is that their job becomes less fun and they are less likely to do it again. First off this is hardly desirable considering that tanks are still highly sought-after for groups, and secondly I thought we were all in this to have fun. Don't spoil it for others just for the sake of speed. If you're so pressed for time that two minutes of delay will completely ruin things for you then you shouldn't be signing up for random instances with pugs.

The only situation I can think of where it would really make sense to ask the tank to go faster is if you're say a new healer and you think that the tank is holding back for your sake even though you feel that it's not needed. But even then I'd make sure to point out that that's what I'm thinking and don't pressure them into going faster if they don't want to.

You want them to lead, let them pick the speed. It's the least you can do.