January 2010


The levelling of my awesome troll fire-mage continues at a crushing pace. Crushing in its slowness. Level 46 becons me from afar. Waving its little level 46 arm at me. ‘Here I am, come and get me.’

I want to, I really do. But these PuGs are killing me, literally. I was pottering around on the new look armory this morning, and on the stats page I noticed that so far I had died only 8 times. That’s pretty good, I thought naively. A few PuGs later on a blissful Sunday afternoon of gaming and that figure had been blown out of the window. Things started off well enough. I got ported into the hell that is Maraudon on the first random run of the day. But I was determined to make the best of it. I said hi to the group and then I asked if anyone would like some water. No replies. Oh well, I thought naively, they must have all their water already. We then ran into the instance. After a few minutes of running it became obvious that they had already cleared quite a bit of it. And for them all to be at the entrance when I ported in meant that they had wiped and someone had left. And now lucky me got to take their place.

Lucky me!

We ran past that larvae pipe thing that spews out larvae, and what do you know, out popped a larvae and attacked us. Now surely they had just been through this. But no, it was all a big surprise. Like if you got out of bed in the morning, looked out of the window and excalimed, ‘Holy shit! The sun’s rising in the East! When the fuck did that happen?’

So I started fireballing the horrible big ugly green puke thing from behind, while the rest of the group just kept running on while it tore bits out of their bottoms, until it got sick of that and naturally turned on my bottom. I managed to take him down all by my lonesome. Whew, that was close …

Healer: “Mage, can you hurry up, we want a quick run here.”

I have a little thing I do in PuGs: if I like you, I call you by your actual name. If I think that you’re a pile of dogshit, then I call you by your class. So if I get called by my class instead of my name, I get a bit uppity.

The healer was the traditional, gogogoggo type. Except that he didn’t actually heal. I was quickly top of the DPS chart but I wasn’t getting a single heal. And this was on trash. Just going from trash to trash, and my health steadilly crept down from all the little AoE attacks and body slams from wavy palm fronds. Still no heals for me. I was like a heal-free zone. I considered if it had anything to do with me wearing pyjamas but then I figured that they couldn’t see that. I was itching to get my pirate hat out though. Finally I got a heal. An AoE heal. Thanks a lot, bud.

Then we fought a boss and a really nice cloth chest dropped. And the tank rolled need.

‘Oops, lolz, soz, haha, hope i dont win the roll.’

The warlock won. The chest was for level 46, I was level 45, and the warlock was level 41. Oh well, I guess he can put it in the bank for a while …

We went on, the healer not healing, the warlock winning the rolls, the rogue doing 56 dps. The rogue had an awesome way of starting a fight. He would hang a long way back and then go into stealth as the tank pulled, so by the time he had managed to stealth all the way up to the fight at 0.04 miles per hour, we had already finished. We took down the demon satyr boss and some really great cloth somethingorothers dropped. And the warlock won again. Fair enough, alls fair in love and PuGs.

And then my trade window opened – it was the warlock, and he put the previous chest drop in there for me. He was my new bestest friend in the entire world. We continued apace, hurry up, pull, stealth, no heals. We wiped a few times. And then I got the hell out fo there. Next stop, Uldaman.

I had a bunch of quests left over for this place with some nice rewards, so even though I was a bit high level for it I went looking for a group. I mean, it was still green on my LFG finder thing, so I’ll be right. In we go. The tank is a warrior, which is usually a good sign. He is pulling mobs with care, and then waiting for mana people to drink. He’s a downright fucking genius, that’s what he is. Oh, and he has the staff from a previous run, and he knows enough to say that only he can loot the chest to get the other piece. Thank the lord, a good group, I can get through here and get all these quests done and …

Healer: ‘Can we hurry up I am getting bored.’

The healer is a cow. And before I can understand what is going he runs over and pulls a seperate bunch of mobs on the other side of the corridor from the tank who is already fighting a bunch of mobs that the hunter thoughfully pulled for him without asking. Somehow we get through it. Well of course we would, I’m hitting 300 dps and the closest to me is less than half of that. I am close to the magical 50% dps of the group number. But that’s fine, I’m a few levels higher. I don’t care about the dps levels, I just want to get through and get my quests done. Still, the hunter is doing low dps but he’s only level 41 … actually the tank is beating him, and the tank is a level 38 warrior …
We continue through the tunnels after the map room until eventually the forces of angst line up against us and three people pulling mobs from three different directions gets us a nice big serving of wipecake.

It’s a long run back to Uldaman.

I get back, take my time getting back to the scene of the wipe. When I get there, the hunter and druid have pulled the same bunch of mobs that had just killed us. I sit back a little, as they are not going to get through this and I am not going to do that corpse run again if I can help it. The tank sits down beside me. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could share a ciggie in WoW?

They die, they run back, we clear the room while we wait for them. I now speak up:

‘Would it be possible to just let the tank do the pulling?’

Healer: ‘The tank is doing the pulling, lolz.’

Me: ‘Yes, he is, and so is the healer and the hunter.’

Healer: ‘Just once.’

Me: ‘Once is too many.’

Healer: ‘Can we just go now? I want a quick run.’

We take literally 3 steps and the hunter starts pulling mobs. I then mention that the hunter should stop doing this. His response?

‘No.’

Now, I could have dropped group but I had to wait a long time to get into this specific dungeon. But I wasn’t going to keep up my very high dps output. Oh no siree, I was going to turn into an archelogical sightseer. Ooh, this looks like a nice bit of wall, I’m sure a dwarf would like this, and so on, while calling the hunter a failure of a retard. The healer said could we just drop it. I pointed out that the hunter was pulling seperate mobs from the tank, causing the tank no end of distress, and doing less dps that the tank into the bargain. While I was typing they were fighting, and then the loser hunter linked recount, OF JUST THAT FIGHT.

Hunter: ‘Hahaha, look at the dps, you are a fail mage, hahas.’

The healer chimed in as well. My overall dps for the run was now down to a lowly 45% of total damage, but I linked it anyway. That’s the real dps you bunch of fucking morons. Insults were traded back and forth as somehow we got to the last boss, which the hunter pulled of course while nobody was ready.

We killed it, people began to leave the group, and just as I was leaving the hunter whispered me:

‘Noub.’

Noub indeed.

This afternoon I watched, with my Dutch wife, the movie The Sure Thing. It’s a road-comedy-right-of-passage bit of fluff made in 1985. In 1985, I was 14 years old, and this film was a big deal for my friends and I. So when my wife suggested that we watch a film, I trawled through the internet and stumbled upon this old chestnut. So we sat down, with the fire going in the background, snow outside on the mountain tops, and our bordie collie breaking our balls until I had to put the little prick upstairs in his cage.

And it brought back a lot of memories. Films can do that. Books can as well.

So can video games.

I got my first computer in 1986, an Amiga 500. I played a lot of games on that thing. Some great fantasy games, the percursers of modern day World of Warcraft. And I can still play them now. I can download them and play them through. Relive old times, as they say. Nethack, The Bards Tale, The Faery Tale, all of the orginal hack and slash games.

But it got me thinking. And WoW? Will I be able to go back and relive it years from now? And the answer is, only if it’s still running as a paid game. Because once they close down the servers, that’s it. And I find that a bit sad. It’s a cold, snow Saturday afternoon. Never a better time for being a little whistful.

Us dpsers have been getting a bit of grief lately, particularly from smug tank types who, just because they can walk straight into instances and that we’re dependent on them to a certain extent, seem to think that they can treat us like dog shit. Because, here’s the thing; good tanks don’t walk into a group and start reading everyone the riot act about how they need to behave to make this tank happy or he will leave, yada, yada, yada. Good tanks walk into an instance and start tanking well.

So, to be fair to those good tanks, (and I love you good tanks, I really do), I wanted to set out a few little points that DPS can use to make those good tanks lives easier. The bad tanks can go kiss my butt while I put them on follow.

1. Don’t be Lazy – Yep, that’s right. Don’t be lazy. Is running PuGs a snooze-fest for you? Well, then go and do something else because I don’t want to carry your lazy butt, (but I may do anyway, see point 3). Get in there and do good DPS, goddamit. Your role is to do DPS, not to waltz through the dungeon whistling a merry tune. (I am assuming here that you are actually able to do good DPS.)

2. Understand your Tank – All tanks are not created equal. They like to do the same thing but often in different ways. You need to quickly work out what your tanks style is and adjust yourself to that. It is not the tanks job to adjust himself to you. Is he a sprint and pull tank, gathering up mobs and herding them together? Does he take his time? How long does he need to get good threat? Do your big crits give him problems? Is he able to handle a good deal of AoE? Does he mark the mobs for kill order? Does he give the mana users time to drink? Whatever his style, you will have to adjust accordingly, so do it.

3. Recognise your Priorities – No, I don’t mean spell rotation. I mean, why are you in there? Why are you running this PuG? Is it for badges? Reputation? Experience? Gear? Whatever it is for, quickly size up if this group will get you what you want. Back in Burning Crusade, I used to run a lot of battlegrounds. I was doing it for the honor points to get some gear. If our side won the battleground I would get a lot more honor points. So players logging on and then going AFK were a liability for me. If a player on a PuG now goes AFK, work out if it will hinder your chances at getting what you want. If the rest of the group is great and you’re going to steamroll through the content anyway, carry the prick and then ignore him at the end of the run. If your goal is gear but players are needing on everything, drop the group. It isn’t going to give you what you want. If you need to finish some quests in the instance but the group won’t give you the time to do it, maybe it’s worth finding another group also. Recognise your priorities and act on them.

4. Is your Healer up to the task? – A great tank coupled with a sucky healer means that you may have to spend some time looking after yourself. And you may have to spend more time than usual saving the healers butt. You may keep the healer alive through every fight but the recount chart doesn’t reflect your efforts. Do it anyway, the best thing the fail-healer can do at the end is put you on ignore. The worst combination is a poor healer who is a rez nazi. The kind who cause the group to wipe but expect every player to run all the way back, even if the instance is a long and meandering nightmare such as Mauradon. In this case, let them die just before each boss goes down. Deeply satisfying.

5. Be nice. Say hello to everyone when you zone into the instance. Put out a table without being asked, throw some buffs on immediately, ask people which buffs they prefer, set your soul stones to the healer, ask if everyone has done the run before, admit when you haven’t or that it’s been a really long time and you might need some brush-ups. And at the end thank everyone, (and then immediately stick the utter fail-cases on ignore).

Oh, and if you get any grief, particularly after the party has used up its vote-kicks, put on a pirate hat. It really seems to annoy people.

I have first aid levelled on my rogue. You need to have first aid levelled if you are a rogue, because you will use it a lot. That’s one of the little drawbacks of being a melee dps class with no ways to heal yourself. I suppose you could take alchemy but I’ve never heard of a rogue with alchemy. T’would be blasphemy!

So I’ve always levelled first aid as a matter of course. And I started doing it on my mage, and I got to heavey woollen bandages and I’ve stopped. Because I just don’t use it. Like, ever. I can make my own food, so I eat my food because at the same time I’m drinking my mana beverage. I wish they had it in Dr Pepper. So I began to wonder about this first aid business, which is mainly due to the fact that my bank tab is rapidly filling up to the brim with lots and lots of cloth. I have stacks of the stuff. I am overflowing in cloth. So I was wondering if I should just level the stupid first aid or use it for something else. Like perhaps levelling tailoring. That wouldn’t be bad, seeing as I’m a mage. So I went and did a little research on the costs of levelling first aid. Apparently you require;

150 linen,
150 wool,
150 silk,
140 mageweave,
80 runecloth,
100 netherweave,
270 frostweave.

I checked current AH prices as of today, and the rough cost of all of this cloth is 466 gold. Then I checked out how much a stack of heavy frostweave bandages cost. Because if I level first aid it’s due to the fact that I will need it for these babies, if I need it at all. And a stack of these bandages sell for the low, low price of 5 gold per stack. So I would need to buy and consume 93.2 stacks of these bandages to make levelling first aid worth the gold. I can maybe, and I mean maaaaybe see my rogue using this number of bandages, and that would be if I was raiding with a bunch of morons. But my mage? Nah, I don’t think so.

So I’m keeping my stacks of cloth. Either I’ll dump them on the AH or I’ll level tailoring if and when I decided to take it. And if they do to first aid what they have done to fishing, then this will be a no brainer.

Low cost airlines appeared in the skies of Europe around 1998 and they quickly blew apart the established status quo. Headed by companies such as Ryanair and Easyjet, they caused air fares to plummet while opening up air routes to distant corners of Europe. They promised a new golden age of air travel. They reality 10 years later, is a little different. For starters, often now you have no choice but to fly with low cost companies, as the regular companies have been driven out of the market. The great lowering of fares coincided with a great lowering of standards and behaviour on flights. Flying used to be somewhat of a pleasant experience. Now you are more than likely to share your 4 hours in an aluminium tube seated next to a rowdy yob throwing pretzels at his mate two rows behind you. Seat allocation is non existant – so elbow your way up those stairs otherwise you won’t be left with any space to store your little bag that you are allowed to bring on.

But more to the point, the flights aren’t that cheap anymore. These companies make billions of euros every year in micro-transactions. What started out as a side line has grown to the extent that the owner of Ryanair recently joked that if they could charge for the use of the toilet, they would. Every little extra is charged for. Just the act of checking in now costs you something like €40. And once you’re in, if you need any type of service, you’re stuck. You have to pay. The ultimate joke charge is the ‘priority boarding’ fee. You pay something like €20, (I’m not sure of the exact fee), and you get to que in a priority line which will be the first to board the plane. Well, now what’s starting to happen is that almost everyone is using the priority boarding service. So in effect, there is no priority. But everyone is paying for it. Ryan Air effectively added an extra €20 or so to every ticket and at the same time eliminated 99% of their check-in desks and their subsequent costs. And the thing that really sucks? As I said before, you are now almost forced to fly with these companies as they are the only ones plying the skies.

I prefer the regular airlines. Sure, the tickets cost more up front. But there is no stress, no hassle, I am not surrounded by yobs, and if I want a drink on the flight I will damn well have it. And more importantly, if for some reason I miss a connecting flight then the airline will take care of me, whether by arranging another flight for me or putting me up at a hotel until one is available. Low-cost companies won’t do that for you – you’re on your own.

With MMO’s, there are regular subscription games and then the free ones. The subscription games cost you say €13 a month, but you get everything. The world is there for you to enjoy. Free games are just that – free, but you have to pay for any little extras that you want. These payments can quickly add up. €13 a month for a full service game quickly adds up. That’s €156 a year for a game. If I’m paying that sort of money then I want to get my monies worth, and I sure don’t want to be having to fork out extra money for in-game products.

I’ve spoken before about my complete hate for the paid for in game vanity pet service offered by WoW. But it has taken me a little while to completely understand why I think that it is so devious. It’s the fact that a fully-paid for game service is now expecting you to pay extra to have something more inside the game. It’s as if British Airways suddenly decided to start charging me €40 because I wanted to check-in in person and not online, after having paid for a full service ticket.

In game services such as faction changes and realm swaps are something different. We fly Spitfires spoke about this the other day. I don’t have a problem with Blizzard charging us for these services for two reasons:

It will encourage people to make decisions that it is better to stick with, and will discourage ninjas and other undersirables from jumping between realms on a continual basis,

It doesn’t cost them any time. A service member just needs to click a button. Big deal.

But things like in-game vanity pets are another matter. Developers had to work on those, dedicate time and effort to make them as good as possible. Well, that is their time and effort that I am allready paying for by the act of subscribing to the game. So they are taking that time paid for by me, and using it to work on something that I then have to pay for once again if I want to have it. Which is a load of bollocks.

I think that the paid for vanity pet service was a big experiment on Blizzards part. They wanted to see if they could charge full airline prices and then charge again for the little services the low-cost carriers can get away with. And they got away with it. So expect more in the future. And expect the nature of games to change, just as flying has done. And it won’t change for the better.

I lived in Uganda for two years. When I first got there, walking down the streets of the city of Kampala, it was a weird experience to be stopped by just about every person on the street. They all wanted to be a friend of the white guy. White dude in their language is, ‘mazungu’. As I walked down the street there would be a constant chat from people as they passed me.

“Mazungu.”
“Hey Mazungu, give me my money.”
“Hey Mazungu! We are friends! We are best friends!”
“Mazungu! You come with me! I show you amazing things!” (more…)

The Undergeared Project continues apace – I recently passed the all-important level 40 barrier on my mage, and now get to ride around at something above a slow crawl. Some new spells, the 7th tier of the talent tree, and a bunch of new portals to whisk me around the world.

Although rogues and mages are both DPS classes, their play style is vastly different. My rogue was my first ever character in WoW and as such, I don’t think that I have ever really appreciated quite how tricky it is to play. Leveling a mage and running instances is proving to be substantially easier. (more…)

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