Silence and Thanks

Maybe a few folks noticed that I’ve been quieter lately – not posting to the blog, and not commenting as much over on WoW Insider. If you did – thanks. If not, that’s okay, too.

I’ve been ill – sicker than usual, requiring abdominal surgery from which I am still recovering, The doctors have been playing with my medications like a three year old with their Halloween candy, and that’s put me on quite a rollercoaster ride. Add in an absolutely crazy couple of months for my kids through September and October, capped off by the November surgery – and, well, I guess you can begin to see why I went quiet.

But I wanted to take a few minutes and thank all of you. Some are friends, some acquaintances that are either friendly faces at WoW Insider or folks who making arguing points there a blast. Thanks to all of you for putting a smile on my face, sometimes when I needed it the most. Being sick ALL OF THE FREAKING TIME either makes you really depressed, or makes you insanely grateful for the good things you still have in life. Usually some combination of both.

But for me, though I have bad days, it tends toward the first. Things I didn’t think to be thankful for before because I took them for granted suddenly stand out in stark contrast to the rest of my life. A Sunday a few weeks ago with good pain control led to a day at the mall with my younger daughter during which I didn’t yell at her once out of the exhaustion, pain, and grouchiness that have become my hallmark emotions. Such a little thing, shopping with your kid. But I’m grateful.

So take a look at your life, whether everything’s going great or everything seems dark and sad and impossible, and find just one thing to be grateful for. It could be worse. I guarantee it. That doesn’t mean that the bad isn’t still bad, but when we look past the things we are powerless to change and find the good in our lives, we open the possibility for new goods – new friends, jobs, loves. So go, do it, and be thankful.



Community Blog Topic: Do we need an ability squish?

While ultimately my answer is “yes,” it does come with reservations. If we get an ability squish, none of us will get to keep each of our favorite abilities. It’s pretty likely that every one of us will lose or see dramatically altered at least one of our favorite skills. I’m not looking forward to that part of an ability squish.

But with that caveat in mind, I can’t help but think of my poor hunter. She was my very first WoW character. I regularly level her to max out of a sense of obligation (pixels, I know, but she was my first!) However, once she’s there, she sits around and makes jewelcrafting items for my pally to disenchant. Quite a fall from her former position as my main, don’t you think?

She’s been relegated to boring money generator because of ability bloat. I enjoy complicated characters. I don’t want it to be faceroll easy – my main now is my Frost Death Knight, and I either PvP with her, or solo old raids. PvP on a Frost DK is anything but easy, especially when, like me, you go back and refine your craft every few fights, adjusting macros, using more complex combinations of abilities to take out those healers even faster.

But my hunter? Traps, stings, timed and instant shots, procs, pet management… the list is really long. I’ve never been able to get everything out on my bar, much less keybind it all, even with macros. I don’t want her to be easy. I want her to be playable.

So while I’ll miss some of those abilities, I trust my fate (and the fate of my hunter) to Blizzard’s capable hands.

Community Blog Topic: Do we need more levels?

One of these days, Robin is going to write a blog topic and I’m going to vehemently disagree with her own answer. Today, however, is not that day.

I find myself in agreement. As a fellow altaholic, I too really enjoy the leveling process. I would go so far as to say that I enjoy it more than I enjoy endgame. Until Mists, I would level a character to the cap, play the Auction House, buy whatever easy epics just for the fun of it, then move on to the next alt. It might not be everyone’s idea of fun, but I found it relaxing, diverse, and a fulfilling use of my downtime.

That’s right, I managed step into a raid just once in six years. For the record, it was old Naxx, they really needed a hunter, and… you guessed it. The boots dropped. I still have them!

I’m hoping for 10 rather than 5 new levels in the next expansion. Mists leveling felt slow in part because it was just a numbers game – I don’t think they’d make more or less material for 5 vs. 10 levels, the levels are just spread out differently. With 10 levels, even if you have to plow through a little more content to hit max level, you are getting that carrot of a level a lot more often. It’s encouraging, and, to me, enjoyable.

I love seeing my guys get incrementally more powerful, and I don’t want to have to always depend on a team of 10 to 25 other players to do that. While that incremental increase is certainly possible at max level by way of better gear, you have less flexibility about how you go about it. I don’t mind raiding or heroics – it is a MMO, and lots of people play it for the cooperative aspect – but I wouldn’t give up leveling for them.

Nagrand and Now: Garrosh Hellscream

A few weeks ago, I was working on Loremaster and finishing up quests in Nagrand. At the end of the quest chain, Garrosh made some statements that I found to be particularly interesting in light of the coming conclusion to this expansion. In the dialogue for the quest “There Is No Hope” Garrosh states:

“You have done much for the Mag’har. No one could ever deny your service to my people. Alas, the time of the Mag’har is at an end. You have shown me, more than anything, that I am unfit to lead these people. My cursed blood runs too deep. I will not… I cannot become the second Hellscream to damn the orcs.

Please, return to the Greatmother and tell her what I have told you. I am too ashamed to see her… to look into her eyes.”

Now, I’m pretty sure he gets a big pep talk from Thrall right after this happens, or at least he used to. But that line: “I cannot be the second Hellscream to damn the orcs.” It stuck with me over the last few weeks until I took the time to dig up that quest today.

As I watch the swirling torrent that is hurtling us toward a raid where we must tear down the orc who has not only been a major destructive force to his own people, but to the entire Horde, I think back on that line. And while the Horde and Alliance are at war, and many atrocities become more acceptable in war than they are when we view them in the daylight of peace, events like Theramore’s destruction are hard to justify, and make this long-time Horde player question not only Garrosh’s effect on the orcs and Horde, but the Alliance as well.

But at some point, Garrosh really wanted to be a good person. He felt he wasn’t qualified for leadership because he wouldn’t do a good enough job. A part of that person seems to have remained but gone off on a runaway train, where the ends justified the means to a frightening extent.

I won’t be sorry to see Garrosh Hellscream removed from power, however that course of events plays out in the coming raid tier. I just wonder what happened to the depressed orc in Nagrand who was afraid he wasn’t good enough to lead his people without damning them.

Community Blog Topic: Which faction’s story would you like to see more of?

Let me start of by saying that I play almost exclusively Horde, and have for years. Don’t get me wrong – some of my best WoW friends play Alliance, so no judgement here! But I did cross that line in the sand for one reason – I wanted to play a Worgen. I was disappointed when Horde got goblins, but werewolves? That can switch forms between human and werewolf? AND that don’t have to mount up to move really fast? I crossed that line so fast that if you hadn’t known it was there, you’d never find it now.

I wasn’t disappointed, at least not at first. The starting zone was complex, if a little buggy at first (okay, for about a year). Gilnean architecture is simply stunning. I love the old, steampunk, fantasy feel of Worgen architecture. The characters have so much flavor, so much possibility.

So I was pretty stunned when that ball got dropped, hot-potato-style. I play Horde, but hadn’t played through Silverpine since Cataclysm launched, and didn’t realize the story continued there until I ran into it by accident. It was nice to have a little more, but I’d rather have a story that is better integrated into the rest of the game, the way the trolls or orcs or even humans are. There is a ton of room for really interesting and fun story with the Worgen, and instead it sometimes feels like Blizzard regrets them a bit, as opposed to the goblins, who get a lot of screen time even in scenarios and who are making Orgrimmar a disgusting toxic waste dump.

Have your WoW skills helped you in real life?

I’ve learned a lot of things throughout the years I’ve played WoW. Many of the skills are fairly game-specific. For instance, I was very excited when I figured out how to strafe on my hunter, but I’d fall on my ass trying that in real life. It’d make an amusing youtube video, but that’s about it. But there are many other skills that I thought were game-specific until something came up in real life, and I realized I was applying the wisdom of Azeroth to real life problems. And that it was working. Over the last couple of years, I’ve been surprised by how often those seemingly game-specific skills overlap with my real life and give me an edge in dealing with very real, day-to-day situations, or even emergencies.

One example is trolling. I used to be really terrible about letting people get to me. I really didn’t know what a troll was, as it would never occur to me to act that way myself, and so I was troll-bait, getting into ridiculous arguments with people who were probably laughing out loud at my outrage. Attempting to respond to someone making troll arguments is a fool’s errand, but hey, I’m a fool, and once upon a time I took the bait. But the problem is that the person on the other end of the internet doesn’t really believe what they are saying, so they’ll just keep arguing more and more outrageous things to get a rise out of you.

Back to real life, where I deal with teenagers daily at my job. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love the kids I work with – they are smart, hilarious, and amazingly talented. But they do like to test the limits of what the adults around them will allow. In essence, they want to troll you – they want to see how far they can push you. Will you really punish them as you threatened? Will you back off in the face of a real confrontation? Can they get an emotional rise out of you? Poke, poke, poke!

Sound familiar? By the time I had a few kids try this with me, I’d had plenty of experience with trolls in WoW. Experience that taught me when to engage someone in a real conversation and when to refuse to do so. So I look at this particular young person and call their bluff. That might mean I punish them for doing foolish things. It might just mean I don’t fetch whatever it is we both know they want from me unless they ask explicitly and politely. But buddy, I’ve dealt with far worse than whatever you can dish out, so bring it on.

Had I not had the experience with extreme trolls in WoW, those kids would have walked all over me. I’m really nice, I really like to help out the kids I work with, so I’ll bend over backwards for them until they give me a reason not to do so. But they are teenagers, exploring their autonomy and testing the adults around them. Sometimes the best thing to do to a troll, on the internet or otherwise, is to stand smiling nicely while they dig themselves into a verbal hole they can’t get out of, then carry on with your life. The nice thing about real life trolls? Sometimes they actually learn something from the encounter.

Soloing content has its real life counterpart as well. For my relatively young age, my health is quite poor. It’s tough to go do normal things with my children, or with friends, but if I’m careful, I do have things I can do to temporarily bolster my health. I often pay for it later in pain, but for that day, I’m well enough to run around an amusement park with my kids. Sound familiar? It’s like saving up all of your cooldowns, then blowing them all at once to survive, allowing me to do something that is otherwise impossible for me to do. Thinking of it that way lets me manage myself better than if I didn’t see those health-bolstering methods as limited cooldowns that I have to time correctly for the maximum benefit.

My experiences with tanking have similar real life corollaries – being in charge without being a power-hungry pain in the ass, communicating with my spouse/healer in a way that is essentially work-related, because even fun tank/healer combos take good communication and work to maintain. When my partner and I are both totally worn down but realize we have another five hours of taking care of the kids before we can crash for the night, he gives me a look and says, “You tank, I’ll heal.” And there is something poetic about it. Just a few words can say so very much.

What about you? Have you found the lessons WoW has taught you coming into play outside of Azeroth?

Who is your favorite faction leader?

Once upon a time, Lady Sylvanas Windrunner, everyone’s favorite Banshee Queen, would easily have won. I’ve had a girl-crush on that character for years. Her story has such deep tragedy, and yet she can’t even die and finally rest. Instead, she’s chasing down Arthas through Icecrown. Better yet, remember that epic battle in her Undercity itself, with Thrall, where we got to run around fighting with her and SHE WAS SHOOTING A BOW THAT FIRED WITCHES INSTEAD OF ARROWS?! Ahem. Yeah, she’s my girl!

She still wins, really. She’s the freaking Banshee Queen. But I’m surprised at how close Vol’jin and Lor’themar have come to being favorites of mine over the past year.

I really, really dislike Garrosh. I didn’t like him back when he was supposedly a tough but decent guy. Remember how whiny he was out in Nagrand? But now I really hate him – so Vol’jin’s blatant offer to shoot an arrow into his black heart had me cheering in my seat. He doesn’t even try to hide how much he abhors Garrosh.

Lor’themar Theron is more of a steady force. He’s diplomatic, wise, and seems capable of guiding the Horde, though I’m not sure he could actually lead it. The eyepatch helps to dispel some of the typical male-blood-elf stereotypes by making him seem more badass.

In short, I apparently like my faction leaders to be “badass.” The Alliance always seemed like the sweet good guys, the one’s who make cookies. I’m not sure that’s all that true anymore, but they give off that aura. The Horde has more room for badassery, making me glad of my choice all those years ago – even if it means I have to put up with Garrosh as our warchief for just a little… bit… longer.