Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Setting myself up for... fun?

The other day I was tanking for my wife again.  I've been having great fun doing it, I must confess.  It allows me to see the game in a different light.  By that I mean, not only am I seeing the game from the tanking point of view, but also from the view of my wife who, by admission, is not very interested in the finer points WoW may have to offer.  She could care less if her rotation is solid or if she's specced right or has optimal gear.  She just wants to punch stuff in the rear and get loot, so she then can do more damage, so on and so forth.

Unlike her, I have spent countless hours in the past dissecting boss strats, optimal rotations, optimal talent setups and gear optimizations.  That's a LOT of optimization.  I guess you could call me... Optimus Exlucis.  No, please don't; that doesn't have the same ring to it.  It became apparent to me that I optimize myself in every way, shape, and form, and until last night I never thought about the reasoning behind it.

Why are players obsessed with being optimal?  That is a pretty easy question to answer in theory, but realistically, does having the perfect setup guarantee fun?  I mean, we are playing a game to have fun right?

The proof is on sites like Elitist Jerks or Wowhead, or even WoW Insider.  The official game forums.  In game.  In your own guild.  I'm sure you could find someone right now, with numbers to back up the claims that having a certain spec, rotation, gear setup, keybinding, addon, etc. will grant you the ability to kill whatever is in your way, be that in PvP, Dungeons, LFR, or Heroic Raid content.  And it's true: if you set yourself up to be completely optimal, you are putting yourself in a position for success, arguably more so than those who do not.  Don't get me wrong, if you are not skilled at the game, you will not have as high a potential as someone who is more skilled than you.  However, by the nature of the game and how characters scale in power relative to their gear and knowledge of game mechanics, optimization is key.

So... great.  Optimal.  Conformed, even.  Sure, big numbers, record kills, epic loot, glory, titles, achievement points, etc.  That's great for most.  My wife could still care less.  She has a point, too.  I mean, how much fun can a game be if you have to put in hours of work in order to kill a boss?  My argument to her has always been and always will be that I see it as more of a game; to me it is a hobby, a lifestyle, hell, even my lively hood.  Does that make it right?  I don't know.  I do it because I want to have fun.  That's where I got to thinking last night.

My gear is getting better, but my trinkets aren't very good for a Shadow Priest.  They're fine, they're just not the best; they're not optimal.  Does that mean my numbers are bad?  No, although they aren't the best.  I think I pull my own weight, especially in heroics where I do most of my gaming.  Where I'm worried is LFR when I give that a shot.  I finally am high enough iLevel to do LFR, but I am reluctant to do so, even now with better gear and more practice in game since my hiatus.  That doesn't mean the stigma is any less present, even in LFR.  In a vote-kick now, ask questions later mindset, the pressure is there for me to be optimal in order to avoid criticism, to avoid embarrassment, and to avoid the kick.  That isn't very fun.  And it's everywhere.  There's no escaping the mindset, especially in harder content where one mistake could mean failure.  Everyone is relied upon to be optimal.  That doesn't sound very fun either.

Yet it's everywhere.  There's always that one guy, the buzzkill guy, who has to chime in with the strat that will save the day, the rotation to beat all rotations, the gear list to epic glory.  What's worse is that I used to be that guy... to my wife.  Before I got help, I used to criticize my wife about her talent choices, gear choices, rotation, the way she fought bosses, etc.  She never wanted to run with me because I would point out how much better I was than her.  She wasn't having fun and she told me so.  At the time, I didn't think about it.  It's funny how time changes things.

So back to tanking.  Now that I am getting better, I can adjust my mood to expect people to be people in instances.  That is to say, not necessarily being optimal while I myself am not optimal either.  Especially as a tank.  Yet as a tank, even if I'm not lead, I control the flow.  Things kind of go around my pace, which is a great power in game I did not know existed.  Aside from the first time I tanked when I couldn't keep up with the DPS, I think I have done admirably, and now that I know what to do rotation wise, packs stick to me like glue... well, mostly.  No one's died yet still.  And more importantly, I'm having fun with my wife, and we haven't had that in-game in quite some time.

My anxiety is still there.  I always get nervous around people, I'm always shy, and I always prefer to be told to do something even if I know what to do.  The difference is I'm finding myself working through it more than ever, trying to be more active in my guild, being more vocal on twitter, even popping on Twitter Mumble.  It's been fine.  No issues.  Am I an optimal person?  Hell no, I mean I'm a pretty conservative person compared to most people I follow and interact with.  But that doesn't matter.  I'm just as much a person as they are, and no one's jumped out of the bushes yet saying I'm ruining anything.  Yes, my biggest fear is someone coming at me with a random tell, whisper, email, comment, or DM saying that I'm a bad person for what I believe or what I do or say.  It's one of the reasons I don't talk politics much and don't say much at all.  I don't want to put myself in a compromising situation.

But that's in an optimal world.  In this world, in reality, there is conflict.  There are real life bosses I will have to tank.  It won't be in optimal situations.  There will be times I won't get my full DPS rotation off.  There are times when we ALL are uninformed or unprepared.   In my opinion, it's ok to want to be optimal.  It's also ok if you aren't.  We can all still have fun.  And in game, and reality, if you aren't having fun, you're going to get bogged down.  That bogging down can take a toll, and you can wind up being Mr or Mrs Buzzkill.

As I was contemplating all of this, I was on Ask Mr Robot to see what my optimal reforges would be as a Shadow Priest.  I think today, I'm just gonna let it go.  I am sure I will do fine, and I'm sure I will still have fun.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

In His Dreams...

Beating drums, hammers ring;
Rallied cries for the renowned king.
Banners raised, feasts prepared;
In revelry of how he fared.
Beast an ale and merriment;
While praises far and wide were sent.
Gifts of salves, hides, and ores;
Paid the debt of which they bore.

For had the king not claimed his soul;
Unspoken would be the bloody toll.
As Hordes would raze the lands by fire;
Adding fresh kills to every pyre.
But the proud king stood his ground;
Empowered by the strength he found,
Subdued the Horde, Orcs and the whole band;
By the beast within, now ruled by his hand.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Quick Thought from a New Tank

I originally wanted to call this post "Tank-xiety" or "Everybody Starts Somewhere" but it's late and I want to get this thing out.  Also, I probably should keep it kind of short, else I rant on endlessly.  I have been known to do that from time to time.  Hopefully I can get my thoughts across.

I have played every class to some degree.  I have done every role to some degree.  I am best at DPS, mildly OK (though out of practice) as a healer, and probably a mediocre tank.  I have tanked a whopping 5 instances in the 5 years I have played WoW.  And three of them occurred yesterday.

Recently, my wife has expressed interest in learning to tank on her warrior.  At this news I was shocked, mostly because she abhors the thought of tanking.  I think a lot of this has to do with the tanking stigma, but I'll get to that.  So I thought I would help her out, run her through some instances on my priest to help her get the hang of it.  After a practice run, I felt she was competent enough to continue onward.

This is where things get kind of meaty.  See, her warrior on our server is only 60.  My main is 85, max level.  I can't very well run with her, so I did the next best thing: rolled a DK of course.  Now, my experience with DKs is somewhat limited, but given the tools DKs have at their disposal, I find them similar to the kit of a Shadow Priest.  So I thought I would give it a shot with her, and enter this brave new world of duo queuing. Unfortunately, my wife did not want to tank just yet, so she asked if I wouldn't mind, as I am leveling Blood spec.  So, despite my hesitation, I queued us up, and a minute later we were staring at Ramparts.  I picked up the quests, and away we went.  I thought it wouldn't be too bad.  I was wrong....

Truth be told, I wasn't wrong after all.  Nobody died.  Loot dropped.  Bosses died.  Most everyone had a good time.  I felt invincible.  I felt like I had all this power.  The reality, however, was that I did not have anything, at least in my mind.  You see, in the first run, I did not queue as leader.  The leader of that group was a 65 hunter with two 63 friends.  They also felt invincible, and did most of the pulling for me.  I tried to keep up, and while the changes to threat and such made it mostly easy, I felt helpless to grab stray mobs.  I'm sure this will ease up as I get more experience (and an actual taunt), but I couldn't help but feel like I failed to do my job PROPERLY.

Two more times we queued, once again Ramparts, then Blood Furnace, and were matched up with people closer to our level.  I did much better these times, but I still felt like I left something out there.  Again, nobody died, bosses dropped, loot was had, etc.  But that doesn't mean it was fun.  I mean, yes it WAS fun being nigh invincible, but I had help.  And I felt like more of a hindrance than I did a help.  I felt like, although nobody complained, like I let the group down by not having the best tanking skills, ui setup, or addons to do the job proficiently.  It's at this point that my anxiety normally would kick in, and it sure did.

My wife was quick to correct me, saying that I did fine, reassuring me that I did just fine.  Like I said, NOBODY DIED.  And still, despite her consoling, I felt like I could have done better.  I felt like if I could have been more bold, taken charge, and communicated better, that we could have had perfect pulls every time.  Is that naive, absolutely.  Possible?  Who knows.

My point is that I think tanking will inevitably be good for me.  It will help with some of the things I'm supposed to be working on, like communicating, being bold, taking charge, and working through my anxiety when it creeps up.  Hopefully I will have my fears more assuaged when I get more Twitterland friends.  Of course, that would also take more effort on my part.  Why am I such a coward?  People will like me if I just give them a chance.  At least that's what I'm supposed to believe.  Plus, I think it's at least a bit more interesting and exhilarating that healing.  But that's for another post.

It's hard for me to be bold.  I don't like being talked down to.  I don't like being wrong.  I want to be right, good, respected, wanted, even loved.  I mean, love is everything.  I have a loving spouse and loving cats of course, but no close friends that I talk to regularly.  Yet I tweet with so many great people, I bet if I talked with them on mumble we could become friends.  Some day, I promise.

So keep me honest, readers.  I am thankful to have readers at all, and someday I hope we can all be friends.  So if you see a Belf DK named Exatrus, wave hello and don't be shy.  I will do all I can to keep you alive.

Speaking of LFR and Twitterland...

Exlucis is getting closer to being LFR ready.  i366 and growing, though truth be told I am cheating with a PvP piece.  It replaced my original blue shoulders though, so I don't feel like too much of a noob.  I took some screenshots of him so the world could get a look at my current mog of choice.

He's sporting the BC Dungeon recolored Nemesis (?) pieces on the helm and shoulders, and the Scarlet Sin'dorei Robe from Magister's Terrace.  Beautiful if you ask me.  I thought I would be original if I made my Shadow Priest look like a warlock.... /facepalm

Anyways, that's my rant.  Again, thanks for the continued reading of my blog.  If you are on twitter, feel free to send me a tell or something, I'm always looking for new contacts.  Maybe someday I can tank for ya.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

An Introduction to the Priesthood

Hey look I made another one of these bloggy things!  I was worried I wouldn’t be able to keep up.  I totally did!!

So in my last blog post I briefly talked about my background and what I hoped to accomplish with this new blog.  I realize I never talked about my in game persona and my first max level character.  So I would like to introduce him to you.

This is Exlucis.  Roughly translated, it means “of the light” in Latin.  I should really just take a screenshot but I am really bad at those.  Plus this way, you can all laugh at my gears and whatnot.  The gear he has mogged was his first raiding gear, his first blues. This was my first raiding toon, my first max profession alchemist, my first PvP success… Really, he is my first WoW love.  He is my fallback, probably because he can heal AND dps like a boss!

Exlucis was born at the start of Burning Crusade, when I started the game on a whim.  Quick backstory on that: so I was engaged at the time to my wife, and her best friend had played since Vanilla.  Her friend wanted her to play as a way of them to stay in touch.  Well I thought I would give it a try and I was hooked.  Even MORE backstory: when I was five my dad bought me a Nintendo, and I beat almost every game I played from six onwards.  Original Mario, OWNED!  Mario 2, EASY!  Mario 3, one of the best games every made.  Yes I beat that game too.  But no game I had every played ever matched the world of Azeroth.  Quite simply, it is one of the best game worlds in existence.  I had played the original RTS games in high school, so it was nice to see what had happened to the world since then.

Anyways, Exlucis was originally born out of my inability to decide what kind of character I wanted to level.  I had originally rolled a Draenei Paladin named Gentral on Zangarmarsh, where he resides today.  Back then leveling was slow; this was before they had done the original nerf to leveling experience.  Hell, this was before they nerfed ANYTHING! Gentral was on his way to level cap, but because he was a paladin it went slowly.  This was also when I had no idea what WoWhead was, or what the forums were, or what ANYTHING was, so I was putting talent points in ridiculous places (this was something you could do back then).  Why Paladin, I don’t remember, but I do remember one time when I wanted to “tank” Scarlet Monastery Cathedral.  I was politely told to stand in the back and heal, which I did poorly at.  I felt unequipped to perform the role of healer, which I was new to as well.  I thought “if I’m going to be asked to heal, I’m going to roll the perennial healing class…”

Thus the birth of… Healdude.  Remember, this was before paid name change as well.  But I was a healer, I was a dude (not really), and I wanted to be labeled as such, so off the Draenei Priest went.  Of course, I was told to level as shadow, so when I wanted to “heal” I had to re-spec (before dual specs) and waste all my money.  Eventually, I did make enough to buy epic ground riding.  Eventually, I made it to 70 (it took me six months of off and on play).  Eventually, I bought normal flying (and spent the dough on a name change) and I eventually geared up to raid.

But I was asked to DPS, as we had a priest healer already.  So I learned to DPS.  I learned what add-ons were.  I learned to not stand in the fire.  I learned all the normal tricks you learn when you raid.  I also learned that Shadow was a valuable asset to have for healers, as I provided a lot of regen (this was back when Shadow was the mana battery.)  My AH HA moment occurred at the end of my first Kara raid.  I was so excited to finally go to one of these raid things.  I pulled my weight, I thought, and while I was second to last on the meters, I had provided the healers enough mana to help down bosses.  The healers were happy to have a shadow priest in the mix, and I was thanked in a tell by a paladin healer.  I was hooked.

That guild went through many transitions during BC, as we couldn’t down Magtheridon.  We failed at cubes.  This failure caused a lot of turnover, and we were forever a Kara guild.  However, this transitioned well into Wrath.  10 mans! I thought it was excellent, except we ended up having a lot of transitions again.  We also ended up having a large amount of raiding priests.  This led me to level a shaman, which was fun but not AS much fun as the priest.  My desire to play the game dwindled as time went on, and coupled with my varying work schedule, I decided to take a break.  I came back about halfway through TOC , and did some 10s on my shaman.  I participated in some Lich King raids, but never made it past loot ship.  Sad, I know, but I just couldn’t commit to raiding full time like I wanted to.

Since WoW is a game primarily built on raiding, or at least has been, staying with it has been tough.  I was gang ho for Cata, but faded fast after 6 weeks at max level.  Most of the guild was fed up with WoW, and wanted to try RIFT.  Heroics were too hard to heal.  Heroics were hard period.  I’m not complaining, as heroics were hard in BC.  But in BC you took a hard CC.  There was no group finder.  There was no 4-tank model.  There was down-ranking and chain-potting.  The Cata model was fine, but not for me.  So I did what many people seemed to do; I quit WoW.

At first it was fine, but I had made so many friends during that time, that I had no one to talk to except my wife.  Since the start of Wrath, she has been wrapped up with intensive schooling while she works on becoming a grade-school teacher.  She doesn’t share the same passion I do for video games, but she does enjoy WoW.  We used to play together, but she had quit around the same time I did.  The point is, I walked away from my only effective outlet for socializing.

That’s right around the time I started having the problems I talked about in my last blog post.  That also wraps up the backstory of Exlucis, the shadow priest turned disc priest turned holy priest turned shadow priest.  That also brings me to Exlucis’ current incarnation as a troll.

So in October, Blizzard introduced the Annual Pass.  I asked my wife what she thought about it.  She seemed reluctant to let me go back, as money is tight for many folks these days (including us.)  I told her about all the perks that came with it, and she warmed up to the idea.  So in November I went back to Zangarmarsh and logged into Exlucis since before the start of Firelands.

Only all I found was an empty guild and a server full of strangers.  Reality slowly sunk in- I would have to start over.  I was distraught at first, but I made several posts on the forums about finding a new family, and I found my current home – Ride the Lightning on Malfurion… Horde?  So yes, I made the switch from a Draenei to a Troll, from Zang to Malf, from Alliance to Horde, from old to new.  And everything was great…

But things weren’t as easy as I hoped.  There has been some transition (what a surprise) since I joined.  The original guild leader (whom I had never met) had left, and the person who interviewed me is now Guild Leader.  The class lead still plays, as do many people; it is a fairly large guild.  However, there are some people who were active that are kind of taking a break.  As a result, guild chat is fairly quiet, and most people only show up for raids now.  It’s not surprising given the end-of-expansion doldrums that hit every guild, every server, and every time the expansion comes to a conclusion.  It’s just hard on me, as my one social outlet is now gone.  It’s hard enough for me to make friends; this just makes it even harder.

So imagine my joy when LFR was announced, along with Real ID raiding and Battletags.  Except I’m still shy and I haven’t signed up for any of the new social groups that I talked about in my last blog post.  I’m still hoping to hop onto Twitter Mumble.  I’m still looking to sign up for a raid on the LFRaid or Twitterland sites.  I guess I’m just battling a couple different things in my head right now.

One of them is my anxiety.  My doctor told me that I would have to make conscious changes, and while I’m working on it, it isn’t as easy as hopping on Mumble and saying “hey guys I’m JayVick82 aka Exlucis lets be friends k?”  I know that relationships take work, but I am so fearful of rejection that I would almost rather be a hermit.  To me, this isn’t acceptable.  I need to be more vocal.  I need more friends.

Another issue I’m having is my inability to share.  My wife likes to make lowbie characters, and even though she could re-activate her account, she isn’t eager to get seriously into the game again.  I don’t mind that she tinkers around on lower level toons when I’m not playing, but it’s hard to do that when I want to play and she wants to also play.  I'm hoping the tinkering will re-kindle her desire to play WoW so we can play together again.  I’m still trying to figure that one out.  I have League of Legends to play when she wants to WoW, but I miss my priest.  I miss achievement hunting.  I miss my Annual Pass charger.

So I’m asking my readers, my twitter tweeters and RE-tweeters; I need your help finding friends.  I need motivation to gear up to do LFR with the twitter mumble peeps.  I need to find the motivation to get those Fel drakes.  I need someone to talk to.  I need to try to be social again so I don’t revert to super-introvert anxiety man.  If you would be so kind, please drop me a line and maybe some suggestions.  I know I’m not alone, as was pointed out to me so kindly this morning by a blogger with similar issues.  Together we can start to form the bonds and take them well into Pandaria.

Speaking of…

I saw the updated talent calculators that came out yesterday.  I was surprised there were no real changes to the priest trees, but I did see the blue post saying that they were doing a lot of work on it at the time.  That has me excited to be honest.  I am eager to try Divine Star; it reminds me of a League of Legends skillshot type ability.  Here’s hoping that the future has many priestly things for us to ponder.
Next time I’ll talk a bit about my League play, and hopefully I can tell you about my first LFR experience.  Only time will tell.  Until next time, may your days be full of fortitude… get it?  Priest, Fortitude… eh you get it I’m sure.

Monday, February 13, 2012

An introduction to unskilled blogging

One of the most challenging things I’ve ever done was attempt to write a blog.  It can be challenging to write about topics consistently. It can be more challenging if you don’t have a defined purpose.  Without a purpose (to write about, that is), one could argue that you have no identity, blogiforically speaking of course.  And yet, here I am giving it a shot.

I don’t know exactly what it is that I hope to accomplish with this blog.  I have a couple of ideas that I’m tossing around still, but I have so many interests on my mind that it’s hard for me to focus on one.  I definitely want to use it to network with other people and hopefully make new friends.  I want to use it to share my opinion, albeit limited, on topics such as music, gaming, movies, and coffee.  I want to share pictures of my cats; seriously, they’re adorable.  I want to share my views of the world we live in today, and where we could be heading.  I want to offer hope to people who feel oppressed, abused, unloved, or unwanted. I want to be funny, while being semi-serious.

Perhaps the most important topic I want to include, no matter what I talk about in this blog, is that humans (or perhaps humanity in general) play a role in almost every aspect of our daily lives.  For better or worse, we are more or less stuck with each other.  If only it were as simple as typing out these simple words instead of actually interacting with people.  If only it were as easy to limit people to 140 characters or less. Perhaps it would be much easier if we had the power to block or ban those we didn’t want to deal with.  If only things were that easy.  I know that would be the case for me.

It is becoming more apparent as every new day dawns that we are evolving in so much as we now are able to foster deep, meaningful, and even loving relationships via Facebook or Twitter.  10 years ago we were scratching the surface of the power of social media with Myspace and Livejournal.  Today wehave grown up from the big name websites, and people are starting to focus on generating smaller, more intimate communities.  For example, I play two very socially driven games as my hobby of choice; World of Warcraft and League of Legends. World of Warcraft’s Real ID grouping is allowing people to spend time together no matter what server or time zone. In response, sites like LFRaid and Twitterland Raiding are allowing people to find like-minded (and like-factioned) people to group up with and slay those pesky internet dragons.  Wanna use voice chat with your raid? Sleepy Ham's official "Twitter Mumble" has the hookup with a mumble server.  If only there were such websites for finding League of Legends players…

But aside from coming together for a common goal of loot and achievements, these communities are allowing people to have close and personal conversations with people they may have never met.  In the same vein, people may be more willing to be more open and talkative about their personal lives.  I mean, why not?  Like I mentioned, these may be people you have never met or never intend to meet for one reason or another.  If I’ve learned one thing from the internet, the freedom of anonymity allows people to do or say things they wouldn’t do in the outside world.  This can create an interesting and exciting dynamic.  This can also create a lot of trolls, funsuckers, or straight up jerks who are intent on doing everything they can to get under your skin.

The question then becomes, is opening up to perfect strangers (or imperfect like Cousin Balke) worth the risk of getting hurt?  Is it worth the risk of judgment and ridicule to come out and say exactly what’s on your mind to others?  What great things could be accomplished if all of us were willing to take a leap of faith, hop in a mumble channel, and have an intimate conversation about Norwegian swim shorts (see edit below)?

Honestly I may never know myself.  In my desperate attempt to try and foster more and deeper relationships, it has come to my attention that I am my own worst enemy.  I have tried so many times to log onto Sleepy Hams, only to cancel and close mumble.  I read people I follow on twitter having conversations about WoW or social issues or whatever, and I wonder “Geez, how cool would it be if I got on and started talking and people liked me and what I had to say?”  I wonder what it would be like to gear up to do LFR and meet people with similar music tastes or similar coffee roast preferences.  I keep waiting for the day I log into solo queue and hear someone talking about their cute Hairless Persian (Note: I do NOT think hairless cats are cute).   I basically was asking myself in the last paragraph: what do I have to lose by taking a risk and introducing yourself to people?

There are a few reasons why I haven’t tried yet.  First, I get uncomfortable talking about politics.  People get very heated over them and I have difficulty dealing with confrontation.  Second, I get intimidated talking to men (we’ll hopefully get to that someday), and I’m happily married so I wouldn’t want to say something stupid like I tend to do around women I respect (I’m a flirt and an idiot all at the same time). Third, I tend to have distorted views of myself, and I take things too personally sometimes (working on it). Fourth, although I have more recently come to understand what a true Christian should be, saying that I believe in Christ could instantly put a wall up, and I don’t want to offend anyone ever.

Fifth, and most important, is that I have abnormally high anxiety.  I am working to get better, but because of the things I mentioned above, it’s probably easy to see why I am reluctant to open up.  I keep waiting for someone to take the first step and help me make the transition easier, but I’m an adult and I need to act like one.  So here I am; here is my attempt to open up. I think this could be good for me, and I’m hoping it serves its purpose as a tool to help connect with other gamers and cool people out there that may think I’m a cool guy as well.  There are so many people that I follow and respect, and I hope that someday you all would come to respect me as well.  Friendships don’t occur overnight, but it would be cool if it didn’t take a year to really have a good network built up, or at least be a part of one.

So hopefully next time I get to talk about my initial experiences with Sleepy Hams, gearing for LFR, or what solo queue is like as a leveling summoner.  Maybe I’ll show you the cats, or write some poetry or songs or something creative. I hope I have more positive (or perhaps more interesting) things to talk about.  I hope I can open up more and show that I’m not some cat/coffee obsessed, God-loving, married old guy with a thing for twitter and stuff.  I hope I can share my creativity and not be ashamed of who I am and what I can be.

I hope to show you I’m a funny guy too.  Did I mention I love my cats?

Edit: I have a weird sense of humor and hopefully that translates well onto this blog. I tend to get random or silly sometimes.