Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Ding

That's right. Two years ago I bought my new car, only several days after OMET graduation, when my former ride died in the middle of San Bernardino County. James was at Tech Camp, and he and Christiane helped save me from a sweaty death. A day or so of frenzied internet shopping and a test drive or two, and I left LA driving a new Honda Accord.

This morning I rolled over 60,000 miles. And Viamedia logged in briefly to scan the AH (I assume). James is done with classwork. I'm a year away.

And this morning, in the overheated wastelands of Sillithus, an anonymous scorpion died for no particular reason.

Ding.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Strat Dead, Dire Maul, and the precipice of 60

Over the last two weeks Twinkleheal has been on a fast grind through the upper 50s, and it’s given me a hint of what the end game looks like. What it looks like is a bit humbling quite frankly.

At the outset of last week, I was traveling to state meetings, which gave me the chance to play on broadband for several evenings in a row. Viamedia had been running with me to grind XP, and he related to me that he’d been on his first high end instance (I forget which) as a tank, and that it had been nerve-wracking to hold aggro. I heard the comment, but didn’t know whether to chalk it up to James having to learn a different style of play, or something else.

Something else, mostly. I know James is working to figure out what the proper spec will be for Viamedia, and how that will fit into the roles he’ll play in instances. But the fact of the matter is, what I didn’t understand, and what I think maybe we all didn’t understand, was that there really is a quantum jump between, say, Zul’Farak and Sunken Temple, and Stratholme, Scholomance and Dire Maul.

I say this because Tuesday night Twink was invited to run Strat Dead with Blizzarov, Renton, Imprecora and Crymarc (Rogue, War, Lock and Hunter, all 60 – Twink was 58). I had the comfort of being on Ventrillo with Renton and Crymarc, but since Blizz was running the raid, the communication was still a bit sketchy.

To be truthful, I’m not even sure I remember all of the run – just that it was amazing and overwhelming for the speed with which things came at me. Ken tells me that Strat’s a showpiece for a priest – juggling the heals of the group, and also managing the process of shackling selected undead mobs. All I know is that things were coming out of every nook and cranny, Blizz was throwing down insane amounts of DPS, which in turn drew amazing aggro, and I let him die almost immediately. Renton was talking in my ear about the fact that he was having trouble holding aggro from all of the DPS Blizz was doing. And within a moment, we’d wiped.

It was discouraging. I was so locked into watching the health meters of the party, I didn’t even see the action, so I couldn’t have shackled a mob even if I’d know which one to take. I also realized that my standard keyboard mappings for soloing, where 2-5 on the keyboard were offensive spells and then 6 and 7 were my heals, was hurting my performance – the distance to the keys for my left hand was too far, and I was losing people because I couldn’t get the spells off quickly enough.

“You need to adapt” was what Blizzarov said to me as we ran back. It was harsh, perhaps, but it was true. I was thinking as a healer, separated from the action – 1 and 4 – instead of a member of the party with defensive AND offensive responsibilities. And as we progressed along – killed the first boss, moved on to the second – things got a little better. I did cause another wipe precisely because I didn’t follow orders and pulled a crowd – I was trying to get into line of sight to heal, even though Blizz had been quite specific about where I should stand. That wipe felt bad – I thought I knew better, and I didn’t – but the others felt like learning, even though I was learning on others’ repair bills.

Blizzarov left the group after the second boss, and Crymarc a little after that – I can’t say whether they were frustrated with the pace or shepherding a baby – but as their replacements were Datta and Gimpee, I felt better and better to be surrounded by friends I knew. Both joined in on Vent, so that only Imprecora wasn’t talking in my ear, offering directions and encouragement. We wiped several more times, but eventually, got all the way to the Baron, who’s the end boss.

He beat the crap out of us. Made us look silly, really. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen my equipment meter read at 0% - completely red. The others had a bit more gear, but not much, and we called it a night. I think I spent about three hours in the instance – a lot of it was waiting, and running back, to be sure, but still, that’s a run that now people have to do in 45 minutes to get their tier 2 armor set. The practice and the commitment to learning to play well enough to do that is daunting.

It was a humbling experience. I’d spent too much time recently playing the “Priest Tank” in Deadmines, and soloing in Felwood, where I looked competent; I was reminded that I’d become a routine expert, but only at a low level. I felt bad for the others and their repair bills, so I sent gold to all of them, thanking them and offering a token for their repair costs. I took it as a mark of the community experience, and the awareness of “everyone’s a noob sometimes,” that every one of them returned it.

Friday night, then, I was invited to Dire Maul by a group that I’d never run with – Basty, Giles and a couple others. We were all on Vent, and I came late to the run – they’d been with another lower level (!) healer who was pulling too much aggro, so they asked me to step in. I have to say, I agreed, but with some trepidation that I was going into another situation where I was going be a liability.

As it turned out however, Dire Maul isn’t quite the same as Strat. There’s more room to work, the mobs don’t seem quite as aggressive or densely packed, and I’d gone up to 59. It seemed to make a difference. We wiped several times, but we succeeded in killing the boss we needed to, and I knocked off a couple of quests from the log. I felt more competent, but still was aware that the end game is a different one than what had come before. I got a nice ring out of the run, and an upgraded wand, too, which has been helpful.

So now I’m poised to push it over the threshold. I’ve run down into Un’goro and Silithus in the last couple days; Silithus is a tough town to solo, but Un’goro’s been fun. I’m at 59.75 – five bars to go, and three of them blue. I’m waffling internally whether I want to do 60 by myself, or with a group of friends. Either way, it’s coming up. And then I’m going to run Scholomance, and go back into Strat, to get started on getting better.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Constance, Discourse, and Legacy

Constance Steinkuhler has an article on discourse in Legacy and Legacy II in this month's Mind, Culture, and Activity journal.

Monday, July 17, 2006

4th of July in Booty Bay

Top Ten Reasons the 4th in Booty Bay is Better than the 4th on Redondo Beach Pier.

10. No fat chicks, including me.

9. Snacks and beverages close at hand and free.

8. Great view without having to sit on a lawn chair.

7. Noise optional.

6. Color adjustable.

5. You can still kill while you cheer the next explosion.

4. You can fish and watch.

3. No sand in your pants or shoes.

2. Easy access to clean bathrooms.

And the number one reason it's better virtually...

You can drink and drive your ride legally.



people were also a little nuts in Stormwind, also. see below.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Sense of loneliness in the NS Guild (or lack thereof)

Several of you have been posting about your new guilds and leaving old ones; its my turn. I have been in Night Shift since the dawn of time (aka November of last year). I first joined the guild to play with my buddies and see what this whole idea of "guild" was all about (me NOT being a gamer). In the beginning of my guild experience, I would chat with several members, quest with some of them, and generally enjoy interactions. Good conversation that helped the game play experience along. A few months in, there was a pissing match between the 2 guys who were heading up the guild. Several people split, going with the other head guy, and one member being Hall. Once Hall left, it was Twink and I.. which was still cool.. cause I really like Twink. The guild started to dwindle, along with conversations and guild play. I tended to just ignore it and say hi to Twinkleheal when I saw him online.

However, the other day, I logged on and saw the words in green "Twinkleheal has left the guild" .. eek! Twink left the guild, and my heart sank. WHY? Why on earth would my heart sink to see a person that I chat with on AIM, and see IRL, cause me to feel that when the leave a guild in a GAME? I suppose I realized out of the crew, I am the last one, not so much the survivor, but more the lost one. I haven't explored the option of a new guild yet, but I plan on it very soon. Being a level 40 isn't much of an enticing option for a guild, so I may have to stick it out for awhile.

This time around, I am looking for something more. I want the sense of community, a group that wants to run raids, shares good chat and values each member. I am past having the notoriety of being in a guild with clout; I want to find the community. The past several months I have been questing alone, with the occasional quest from Navarre or Via, but usually alone. I determined months ago, I play WoW for the social interaction, and I am not getting that these days.
On the WoW website discussing guilds it says, "Guilds offer many benefits including free items, opportunities for groups, access to trade skill masters, quest items, and readily available trade skill ingredients through gathering guild members. You may discover that a guild greatly enhances your gameplay experience. You can meet friends, share adventures, and find people to protect you if you fight in faction versus faction combat. Typically, players in good guilds can go places and do things that players in poor guilds or no guild can't." WoW Guild Info
This could be the main reason I rarely am on anymore, because no one is online to quest with. So, on July 4th, I watched fireworks in Booty Bay .. all alone :(

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Community *is* the High

I find it deliciously ironic that the acronym for World of Warcraft is wow. As James and others have pointed out, there are so many wow moments. Eric's rejoineder to James's post reminds me that social gaming creates an aura of wow. Our successes are more satisfying because they are shared, not only in the aftermath, as a child or spouse might share a significant accomplishment through anecdote over dinner, but shared in the moment they occur. We know that people bond, who have shared, in the moment, triumph over adversity or challenge. We know that social bonds enrich the human experience, for most people. I don't want to overanalyze.

ASIDE: Check out the Terra Nova commentary on a Jared Ranier posting, both of which offer an interesting take on the role of the collective.

I do want to think about identity a bit though. We have crafted, in our avatars, alternative identities with alternative competencies and opportunities to demonstrate competence. That is, we live is a social world that helps us be successful and be identified as successful. In some ways, it is a wonderful place to live. We can do well. We can show others we are doing well. Things are somewhat under our control. Rules are clear. Information and help abound to ensure we succeed. ... and it feels damn good!

The culture clearly values collaboration, indeed assumes it in some places (as we have each noted in entries elsewhere in the blog). Thus we can exist in a world where it is more than okay to ask for help, to give help, and to rely upon help to accomplish tasks. So, when we master a quest chain with help, we still feel success for ourselves. It is not diminished by the co-presence of helpful others. In fact, the experience is often enhanced by the presence of those who understand the challenge and have put shoulder to the wheel to help us.

The failures and unsuccessful moments are made less painful by the shared acknowledgement of difficulty. The only other situation I can think of like this is sport, where players know that on any given play or turn they too might chili dip the club face, throw an interception, hit into the net, or miss the unmissable slam-dunk...and it's *okay*. [picture of a bad day in STV]

Of course we learn and thrive and develop new identities of competent performance in this sort of environment. And, oddly, this does not preclude competition. It does not preclude assessment of performance. It does not preclude labeling of competence/skill levels. And everyone is *okay* with that.

Wow indeed.

p.s.
Hmmm, odd random thought... perhaps social gaming is inherently addicting because it is so forgiving and supportive. Most of us give up on things that are mean to us when we don't succeed in them. Hmmmm.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Why are we playing, redux

Motivation was my point. We all have different counts in the categories. Yet, I think a category is missing.

I’m up in the WPL and Twink and I are killing . . . err . . . I long ago stopped paying attention to what I kill. I should, but I don’t. So, it’s an undead or it’s this or that. Really doesn’t matter to the simple mind of a dwarf warrior whose motto is, “Hit, rinse and repeat as required”

Well, we pull a large mob. And for the second time in as many hours, we are outnumbered and outgunned. I go to town trying to hold agro and Twink does whatever the hell he does behind me. I’ve played long enough with enough folks to see the difference skill makes. I’ve wiped on a mob this size with twice as many people. Yet, I know my jorb and Twink knows his and unlike me I suspect Twink knows my jorb as well.

And whenever I am about to die he gets my health up and if he doesn’t, I have the potion or the bandage ready. I watch his health and when it gets too low, I pull the baddie off of him or throw my own bandage on him. We both keep each other alive, though the credit is his far more to him than mine.

I think I probably have a style others have to conform to as opposed to compromise. Yet, I have always felt that was my jorb as a warrior. Aggro is my biddness and I get the first thwack regardless. How I hold it it and manage it is also my biddness, but this requires partners who understand that. I’m going to let some mobs chew on you while I chew up others, but I’m going to try and make sure they don’t chew you up too much.

It is a bit of an exercise in juggling. And for someone who tries to avoid direct leadership, is also a challenge. And there is not a lot of time to talk once I’ve screamed, “Remember the Alamo” and plowed into a crowd committing the party to a course they might still be discussing the merits of. Again, have to have partners who find that charming and not caustically annoying.

Back to motivation . . . Twink and I take down the mob and both of us were on sliver of health here and there, but we came out the other side and the sparkly things over the dead bodies were as pleasing as any forth of July celebration. I do not think I could have survived that pull with any other player . . . and that is a motivation for me to play.

But Yee’s, “Relationship, Immersion, Grief, Achievement and Leadership” don’t really cover that for me. It touches on relationship and achievement, but it is somewhere in-between. Having someone to hi-five and go, “Dude!” and “Damn!” with and knowing that moment was ‘real-time’ and unique . . . that is a big motivation for me in the game, but not exactly covered in the list.

And Dude, Damn!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Goodbye, so long, Night Shift

So Wednesday, I'm happily trailing along behind the rolling bloodbath that is Viamedia, when I get a whisper from one of the Night Shift members, asking me if I wanted to join that high level raiding guild...

Ok, I should back up.

Night Shift was my guild because it was OUR guild on Blackhand, and after we moved across and the Fellison/Gimpee drama happened, I stayed mostly because I felt beholden to Brudie for taking us under his wing. I knew I'd always be able to run with Hallgrima and Viamedia regardless of guild, but I don't like feeling like a social butterfly, so I figured, "love the ones you're with," and though I enjoyed running with Felli, figured it wasn't that big of a deal.

And in fact, that's proven itself out. I've mostly played with Hall and Via, as well as my IRL buddies here at the college. Occasionally I've run with Brudie, or other NS guildies, but mostly it's been pickup groups, or the SMASH crew. I know Eddiva's still poking around in NS, but she's got better time managment skills than me, so I don't see her very often, and the differential in levels has become a challenge to overcome. (As an aside, there's something real to study about what happens when IRL friends find themselves separated by their virtual level differences - It's not just a difference in toon ability, it's also a difference in IRL play experience and expertise. I'm so much more comfortable of withstanding a bad pull now than I was 3 months ago, and it's not just that the toon has more time before death.) But in general, the guild didn't matter much, and if you'd asked me, I'd have said that SMASH was my real guild.

There has been a core of Night Shift, however, that has pushed forward, and one by one, 60s started appearing on the guild roster. Brudie, Gimpee, Sarianas, Arianas, Renton ... gradually they dinged over. Several weeks ago I'd have said there were maybe 10 or 12 60s in the NS guild, and I knew they were running the higher level instances, but didn't know what they were talking about, until a new guild MOTD showed up from Renton saying "Don't worry, the 60s have gone to a new raiding guild, but they're still around if you need anything." I caught up with Brudie and asked what was up, and he said that the players who'd reached 60 were looking for a way to participate in end game raiding, and that had led them to start talking with a larger guild, Crimson, about joining. Crimson agreed to take all of Night Shift's 60s, and Brudie said there was also talk about forcing all of Crimson's non-60s to move to Night Shift, as a sort of minor leagues for levelling up. Just as a matter of communication and group dynamics, it seemed a bit presumptuous to assume guild members were going to be willing to swap around. I thanked Brudie for the information and went on my way - as I'm still not a 60, I was content to let things fall out a bit, work on levelling up, and working on the SMASH experiment.

In the days that followed this, I did notice that there was a decrease in the number of members in the guild list, and not only the 60s were missing. I also notice that Sarianas, who'd been a Guild Mommy to Night Shift, popped up advertising a new guild in IF. Clearly, not everyone who'd been "elegible" to move to Crimson had found it a perfect fit.

So I was a little surprised when Renton contacted me and asked if I wanted to join Crimson. It seemed like somewhere the rules that I'd been playing under had shifted again. But I figured, it's all part of the process, so I told Renton that sure, I'd play along, and he walked me through the /gquit process, and then got me into Crimson. The GM is Blizzarov, and I was welcomed warmly enough by the guildies on at the time.

Perhaps the only thing I feel badly about the move was that it happened just after Eddiva logged in, and all she saw was the /gquit process. I'm sorry Holls - I said I'd explain it that evening and I didn't.

On the whole, I'm not sure what to make of it - I'm still focussed on 60, and SMASH, and the dialup at home has been so bad of late that I'm hesitant to enter into raids where people might be counting on me, for fear of dropping at an inopportune time. All of that said, the most notable thing about the shift has been the guild chat - there are people talking about the planned Zul'Gurub run, and the attunement process for MC. I'm back in newbie land after feeling more and more expert for the past several months, and that's an intriguing place to be again.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

End Game or Bust

Okay. Why still play at 60? Are you nuts? I am barely a week into 60 and I'm sooooooo diggin' the power. Yesterday, Viamedia and I took on a level 60 elite by ourselves and slew it handily. OMG. I was stunned. And it wasn't the first time I was stunned this week. I am learning to abandon my seven-month-old, clothie, caster/DOT, fear of attacking. I love attacking. I can pull. I can hack. I can slay and smote and otherwise trash baddies. I can go places by myself. LOL.

But now...a new itch arises. Dudes, let go on some raids! More and nastier dungeons! Onyxia, Molten Core, Upper Blackrock Spire, Dire Maul, and the new Naxxaramas (or whatever his name is)! I'm sick of questing, even in a party. I want to sweat bullets as the pull goes bad...and we squeak by. I want to feel trepidation as the creaky metal gate unlocks and we venture in. I want to worry about the pat. coming up from behind us. I want to roll for epic drops! I have needs! LOL. I have been on two runs through BRD (BlackRock Depths) and loved it. Just balancing down that long chain suspended over the lava pools...eek. All I could think of (and did say to the party, the first time through): Throw the ring in, Frodo!

So that's my end game...that's why I'm here. Who's playing with me?

I"m also into the BG experiment. It's tough though. I f'n hate those shamies. This is Meranda, my lvl 18.5 twinked warlock. She's an engineer, which, btw, I'm hugely digging!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Meet the new grind . . . same as the old grind.

Nick Yee lists five motivating factors for playing an online game as Relationship, Immersion, Grief, Achievement and Leadership. As I’ve reached 60 and find myself grinding as hard as I ever have, I am questioning my own motivation. Why do I keep playing this damned game?

It used to be for the relationships on some level, but my life has taken me away from the game more and more and I feel less and less connected to those within. There are the constants of Hal’ and Twink’, but my ‘relationship’ with them exists more outside the game than inside.

I am not really into the immersion aspect. I’ve yet to be bothered to learn exactly what the scourge are or why there are large floaty things outside the cities. I know names like Licch King and Dark Tower and have a vague understanding of their place in the mythology, but it does not drive me.

Grief? Err . . . well . . . hmm . . . Yeah, I’ll have to cope to this. I love to see how folks behave in the game when I tweak them just a tiny bit. Sometimes it is more of a motivation than kill yet another thing in front of me.

Achievement might be the top of the list for me. Grinding to 60 had little to do with the above and was more an arbitrary goal that I made a personal goal. Now I am up in the Eastern Plaugeland grinding out reputation with the Argent Dawn for no reason that means much more than getting 60.

Leadership is important to me as well, but I exercise it in a covert fashion. Leading parties or guilds does not appeal to me. I prefer more of a servant-leadership approach when not questing or grinding. By this I mean I prefer to offer support or goods and goodies. When out and about, I am MUCH more comfortable letting just about anyone take the up front position when in a party. I prefer to hit and rinse and repeat as opposed to taking the responsibility for the group.

So, if Achievement, apart from the minor distraction of griefing players, is my real motivation than why am I fixated on MMOGs when I could be playing a solo game? I don’t know yet, but I’m thinking about it.