Tag Archives: CFN

Five Things I Learned From 2-Manning Magister’s Terrace At Level 70

I got my blood elf disc Priest to level 70 and locked her, because, you know, that’s what I do these days. But I did it also because @druidis4fite’s baby warrior is also locked at level 70, and we thought duoing BC instances would be a lot of fun.

And it is a HELL of a lot of fun.

We tried Magister’s Terrace last night, figuring that if it proved to be too hard, we’d figure it out pretty quickly, and we could work on SSO rep while giving it a go.

It took us a while, but hey, we cleared it, and learned a lot in doing it.

So here’s an actual serious 5 Things from me this morning.

1. Healing 5-mans through LFD teaches you to use, maybe, 4-5 spells total. I’ve never really had to blow a lot of cooldowns in a 5-man. All those spells you didn’t touch in Ramps or Mana Tombs? Duoing MgT will make you wish you had them keybound closer to your rest position. I spent an hour afterwards just moving things around and discovering spells I didn’t know I should have used.

2. You’re going to have to DPS while healing, and Smitespec isn’t enough. I like Atonement healing in 5mans (but not in PvP), it gives me something to do while waiting for the bubble to wear off. When the shit hits the fan in some of those pulls, you’re going to have to provide a lot of DPS while healing. The more DPS you put out, the less healing you have to do.

3. There are times that having 2 players instead of 5 actually makes pulls easier - Priestess Delrissa, while totally chaotic, was easier to heal because I only had 2 people to focus on – me and Norm. Norm only had to worry about me pulling aggro, not anyone else. While it was chaotic – OMG THE TANK IS A SHEEP – OMG THE HEALER IS CHARMED. (I’m glad that I had my PvP trinket equipped.) The problem is that you have to be on the ball, and REALLY focus on your partner. I needed to be faster on the dispels, and should have used Fear when Norm got sheeped.

4. There are times that having 2 people makes fights a lot tougher. Kael is pretty easy if your DPS is high enough – just burn him and the phoenix down, keep away from the orbs – but with 2 people, it’s a tough fight. I need to get more into a DPS/Heal rhythm while avoiding orbs, keep dots rolling on Kael, keep Holy Fire off CD, keep smitin’, keep smitin’.

5. Popping glowing wings while flying during the Gravity Inversion phase is AWESOME. Best use of wings, EVER.

If you haven’t tried doing something like this with friends while leveling… DO IT. You will learn more about your class than you ever expected. I’m glad Narci locked her XP so we could do this – seeing Burning Crusade at level, even years late, is a lot more satifsying than just blowing through it on the way to 80/85/90.

Normal MgT was wild.

Now that we have our keys, I can’t wait to try Heroic. :)

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On Having Fun and that Damn Moving Cheese

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Who Moved My Cheese? is a book that most folks in business run into eventually; it’s kind of like Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus in that once you’ve heard the title you’ve pretty much got the gist of the book, which makes it perfect for business people (like me, sadly.)

The idea behind the book is that you’re a mouse, you work hard in your maze for cheese, only to discover that the cheese has been moved when you get to where it should be. How do you handle it? How do you learn to accept that your cheese has moved, that the goal you’ve been working for just isn’t worth it anymore? How do you embrace change instead of fearing it?

Today I unlocked Ashwalker’s XP and will level her up for a while, probably to 85. I’m going to run some Cata dungeons with Cynwulf as Frost DPS to get used to the style, and then unlock him, too.

Unlocking is kinda scary; it’s saying, yes, you’ve gotten really good at this level, but it’s time to move on and start sucking again. It’s saying that all that effort to make a character great … didn’t make them fun.

It’s saying, someone moved my cheese, and I can either stay and be an unhappy, cheeseless mouse, or I can go do something else.

I discovered something about the 70 bracket: it sucks for Warriors. The only times I have fun are when I’m the FC and tanking Drek, which is different than when I was leveling, when I enjoyed all sorts of different PvP situations. I don’t enjoy the other BGs on Ash anymore – a marked contrast to Cynli, my Druid, where I literally don’t care which BG I’m healing, just let me heal EVERYTHING. Not so with Ash.

It’s a similar situation to the one I’ve found with Cynderblock; I don’t really enjoy DPS PvP, but damn if I don’t enjoy being a good FC. Block, however, has so much invested in her, stuff that can’t be replaced, that leveling her would be silly – instead, I’ve learned to embrace her limitations and become the best flag carrier I can be. And it shows on other toons!

There’s really nothing sacred about tanking Drek at level 70. If I can be a good FC on a resto druid, I’ll probably remain a good FC on a prot warrior. I have other toons at level 70 now; a druid and a priest, one Ally, one Horde. I won’t miss out on the bracket if I move her.

But its not just about the Warrior. It’s also about the Warlock.

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In the last few weeks, I’ve realized how much I prefer playing with friends. Having people that I know in BGs makes boring BGs fun. Even characters I don’t like playing all that much become fun with other people around. There are a few characters where I find them fun no matter what – my Druid, surprisngly, I could queue for BGs all day long and not worry about it – and there are a few characters where even the presence of a lot of friends doesn’t make them truly enjoyable.

My warlock is sadly in the latter camp. I enjoy hanging out with folks, but I’m just … struggling. It’s painful.

It feels like there are two different components to knowing where your cheese has gone off to – social and playstyle – and they both have to work to making your time on a toon enjoyable. If you like the activities you do on a toon, you can probably play even if your social circle is neutral (pugs, for example.) Having a negative balance in either circle can pretty much sink your interest in the character.

Characters compete against each other for your attention and cheese. When you have a main, you have one character who so clearly outclasses the others in both social enjoyment and playstyle enjoyment that they’re who you spend your time on, and with that toon you chase a lot of cheese. It can be a beautiful thing.

But when you no longer enjoy the playstyle, eventually the social ties aren’t enough to keep you playing it. So you look for something new. You look for more cheese.

Unlocking Ashwalker is a step towards embracing change. I enjoyed the heck out of leveling her – questing, dungeons, PvP, all of it – but I don’t enjoy having her be locked into only one subset of that. I’m in a guild I enjoy being part of, but I don’t actually do anything with other people in the guild – they’re either leveling or 85.

This is auditioning a new main. I’ve finally come to terms with this – I’m now auditioning a new main. I harbor dreams of getting back on Cynwise, rediscovering the spark, and writing a post called “On Waking Up From a Bad Dream,” where we’ll all laugh about how silly I’ve been and then I’ll show you this awesome PvP video I made and you’ll go AW YEAH, CYNWISE IS BACK.

But that cheese is a dream.

I don’t know if it will be Ashwalker, to be honest. I’m having fun on my DK again, so I’m going to try running Cata regular dungeons (he’s locked at 84) and get some experience with him in that environment. I’ll dip my toes back in 80-84 PvP, too. I have to resolve his Doomsday Messenger issues – can’t play Arenas without losing that buff, which is one of those activities I actually enjoy doing at 85 – but that can wait. I still have a lot of twinks to keep me entertained, depending who is on.

But that cheese has moved, and I’m not finding it at level 70 on a warrior.

Time to embrace change.

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On Lone Wolf and Cub, Oriental Adventures, and Pandas

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Lone Wolf and Cub is probably the first Japanese manga I read. While it was originally published from 1970-76 in Japan, it arrived in the US in 1987, right when I was starting to get into collecting comics. This was a fascinating time in the comic medium, with works like The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen shaking up the American comic establishment from within, while the new Japanese style represented a strange, vitalizing foriegn influence. It was an exciting, dynamic time in comic history.

I didn’t know any of that at the time. I was 13 years old and discovering comics. I could see the differences between old and new, the strange mishmash of styles some were favoring, but I didn’t have the historical context yet. None of us did, really, since we didn’t know what these new, dark, gritty, realistic comics were harbingers of.

Consider Eastman & Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a brand which many know about through the PG-rated TV series and movies, a sanitized version of a gritty black-and-white comic that had more in common with Cerebus than Muppet Babies or Transformers. It started off life as a gritty, urban-apocalyptic tale of 4 turtles making their way in a strange world, and ended up with catchphrases and pizza.

Lone Wolf and Cub came onto the scene in a way that my adolescent mind wasn’t ready for – a story of Edo-era Japan, historically faithful but amazingly violent, artistic yet gritty, beautiful yet containing all the horrors of human existence. I found it a compelling, hard read at that age. I’m positive I didn’t understand even half of it; but I tried to get it, even as the shiny full-color Marvel and DC books beckoned. It’s the story of Ogami Ittō, a disgraced samurai and former executioner of the Shogun, and his son, Daigorō, as they seek revenge on the Yagyū clan.

The entire set is available to read online, which is a great way to get a sense of the story – but the entire tale is over 8700 pages long. Find the books, it’s a worthwhile read.

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When I say that the Tokugawa-era world of Lone Wolf and Cub is both artistic yet hyperviolent, consider the formative events of the story. Ogami’s wife and household are slain by the Yagyū clan, leaving only his 1-year old son alive. He presents a ball and sword to the child and waits to see which the boy chooses.

Should the child choose the ball, he will kill him. Should he choose the sword, the boy will join his father as a rōnin.

Daigorō chooses the sword, and together they wander the countryside, an assassin with a sign for hire pushing a baby cart. It’s an iconic image, one that is used in the television and film adaptations of the manga. Baby carriages have been used within violent scenes before – consider Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin‘s famous massacre scene on the Odessa Stairs, (a masscare which did not happen, at least not in that fashion) and the baby carriage rolling down the among the fleeing and dying crowds represents innocence amidst violence.

While there is innocence in the cub of Lone Wolf and Cub, he is raised in an environment of unrelenting violence and austerity, of revenge, and strict codes of honor. I love scenes like the one above for the juxtiposition of childlike joy on one face, and the joy of battle on the other.

Yet, the context of that panel is that Ogami just killed a man with a spear in front of his son. His son is happy because he’s peed, so he feels okay. A slaughter is about to take place; there is joy, and hatred, and fear, and a wild acceptance of fate and death.

This is a complex scene. It’s not about the glory of violence, though that is present throughout – the fierce honor imparted by bushido is not a simple one – but the contrasts that that violence brings about, how a cycle of bloodshed can consume families, how it leads people to depraved acts, and how – in the end – the son avenges his father’s death, though he is linked in ways to the Yagyū clan which he cannot comprehend.

Samwise Didier is 3 years older than I am. He was 15 or 16 when Lone Wolf and Cub appeared in American comic stores.

He is also the art director of Blizzard Entertainment, and he created the Pandaren.

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The first thing I thought when looking at the Pandaren images in Samwise’s gallery is the influence of Lone Wolf and Cub, both in theme and in style. There are even a few pieces featuring “Lone Panda and Cub,” which is drawn in a style so the cub looks cute, and the father could be interpreted as being happy – yet the cultural interpretation must be one of violence, of revenge, of regret, of discipline, of honor.

There are references throughout his gallery to old-school samurai movies, like the Zatoichi series (which he likes because they’re short). Other pictures resemble poses from Kurosawa films; this is an artist who has enjoyed many years of oriental tales, and it shows in his artwork. The Pandaren in there are not cute, except for the cubs – some poses evoke Conan on his throne, others are out of a Frank Miller fight scene - and that they are treated with gravity and seriousness by the artist. Even pieces which seem whimsical at first glance have depth within their tranquility – I like how the adult Pandaren serenely regards the dragonfly on his nose, while his cub tries to play with another dragonfly while balancing on his parent’s broad back.

There is a depth and history within Samwise’s artwork which suggests that this is not some passing Kung-Fu Panda-inspired direction. Lone Wolf and Cub appears to have resonated with Samwise at an important point in his life, and left its mark on his artwork.

More than anything else, the pictures above reassure me that the Pandaren will not be a joke race within the World of Warcraft. The stories which originated them are too deep, too dark, too steeped in human tragedy, to allow them to become a mere punchline for an expansion. Will there be humor? No doubt. We’ll see Jackie Chan’s influence in Pandaria, and thank goodness, because I love Jackie Chan movies.

The Pandaren vision originated back in those samurai classics which I grew up with. It takes one of the national symbols of China and transforms it into a creature that can be used to represent oriental culture in a fantasy world, without caricature or implications of cultural superiority. Remember the Neimoidians of the Trade Federation, introduced in Star Wars Episode I? Hackneyed villians with a caracitured oriental accent that left you wondering how George Lucas thought this wasn’t going to offend someone? That’s the wrong way to associate your fantasy race with a culture. Don’t pick the negative stereotype and use that as the only reference back to the original group – that’s offensive. Pick the positive elements and adapt them to the fantasy world you’ve created, instead.

I wonder about the limits of CGI art, sometimes. I wonder if the associations people are making with Kung-Fu Panda is due to the resemblance between two different computer-generated CGI pandapeople more than anything else. Yes, they look somewhat alike. But will they act alike? I don’t think so, at least not universally.

Looking at Samwise’s art, and remembering the depth of Lone Wolf and Cub, I see a lot of potential in the Pandaren expansion.

Blizzard just has to execute on that potential.

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Oriental Adventures was one of the first sourcebooks released for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (back in 1985, do you notice a trend here?) that changed the cultural setting of the game. It was one of the first sourcebooks, period, but it was especially groundbreaking in that it presented a way to play AD&D outside of the Western European feudal-inspired fantasy setting that was core to the game’s early development. You could take the same rules that let you play a Paladin or a Magic User, and use them to play a Ninja, Kensai, or Wu-Jen.

This was actually pretty big for the time. RPGs had already started exploring plenty of genres outside of traditional fantasy (Gamma World, Boot Hill, Twilight 2000), but always in the context of a different game, not the same game in a different setting. Oriental Adventures plucked us out of our traditional western setting and dropped us in the orient, creating a new game with the rules we were used to. We could mash them up, or play them separately, but the exotic people, races, and lands of Oriental Adventures had magic all their own.

Twenty-six years later, it seems kind of silly to talk about the impact taking an occidental fantasy game and porting it over to an oriental fantasy setting. We think about games differently now, thanks to GURPS and FUDGE and the D20 system. Rules are portable, settings vary. Rules should be able to handle any world.

But at the time, man, it was big.

Another thing to consider is that China was still very much a big unknown to Americans in the mid ’80s – a sleeping giant who had turned almost totally inwards. Our cultural focus was upon the Russians and their influence on the Chinese, not China – not yet. We didn’t see them as a serious source of competition yet.

Many things have changed in the intervening quarter century. China underwent an accelerated industrial revolution and is an economic force to be reckoned with. They’re a dominant player on the world stage, having embraced limited, controlled types of capitalism, yet with the Communist party still firmly in control. Sino-American relations are complex, and far beyond the scope of a video game to cover.

Mists of Pandaria is WoW’s Oriental Adventures. 

It’s a little bit different, to be sure – there’s an optional element to AD&D that is always lacking in WoW. You can’t look over the sourcebook and say, hey, this isn’t for me, let’s go back to our medieval campaign in Warcraft. If you want to play WoW during MoP, you’re going to have to play WoW: Oriental Adventures.

(You, of course, have the option of sitting out this round. But there are pressures to keep playing.)

The Pandaren and Monks are the gateways into this new world, which I find exciting. I find it exciting because I’m not expecting Kung-Fu Panda, but rather Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Hero, even The Replacement Killers.

Picking one aspect of a culture, especially a negative aspect, and assigning it to the entire culture, is counterproductive. It casts cultures in a overly-simplified light that makes it easy to accept or condemn them based on one thing.

I see a lot of depth behind the Pandaren concept. I see an artist who created them out of respect for the artistic works he enjoyed growing up, and the works he continues to enjoy.

Will there be silliness? Yes, absolutely.

But will there be darkness, and violence, and warmth, and passion, and betrayal, and revenge?

Yes. Absolutely.

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We will be given a ball and a sword, and the choice will be ours to make.

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On Witches and Warlocks

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Modern English uses warlock as the masculine form of witch, which is surprising when you consider that the words are etymologically unrelated.

Warlock comes from the Old English wærloga, or oath-breaker, deciever, liar. Witch comes from wicca and wicce, and used to apply to both men and women. At some point the word shifted over to refer to primarily women, so another word had to be brought in for “male witch.”

Some of this, no doubt, is due to the effects of works like the Malleus Maleficarium, a fifteenth century work which argued that most practicioners of witchcraft were women. But even works like this (aided by the new printing press) aren’t to blame for the polarization of the terms witch and warlock - the entire early Reformation was a time of strange cults, of religious fervor and occasional hysteria, and of people trying to adapt to a suddenly fluid religious and political landscape.

It’s interesting to look at the rise of cults like the Benandanti in Italy to see how the meaning of “witch” changed over time. In the eyes of the Catholic church, the Benandanti were witches, even though they explicitly said they fought against witches and warlocks to protect their towns. In their eyes, they practiced magic akin to shamanism; channeling the good spirits in a battle against evil. (The book to read is Carlo Ginzberg’s The Night Battles.)

Consider the position of the Catholic Church on witchcraft; in early medieval times, before the witch-hunting craze hit Europe, it was considered a sin to believe that witchcraft existed. Thinking that people could wield magic innately was a pagan superstition.

In the fifteenth century, however, the church completely reversed itself; it became a sin to not accept that witchcraft was real, that people who wielded it were tools of the Devil. It’s a remarkable about face. But even during the height of the witch huntes, the concept of “good” witches lingered, and never completely died out.

The rise of neopaganism in the late 19th and 20th centuries did much to restore the good name of witches. By adopting the old name (wicca/wicce) and harkening back to a more shamanistic vision of a witch, the neopagan movement reclaimed the name. In the 20th century, the commercialization of Halloween made witches seem even more benevolent; in TV, books, advertisements, witches were helpful, if somewhat misunderstood.

Warlocks were left behind in this reclamation project. They remained true to their original form – dealers with the devil and demons, unrepentant evil, traitors to their race.

It’s interesting to see how Warcraft picked one word over the other, and what the implications for the class might have been had they named it differently.

You hang a lot on the name of a magic-user. Even that term – Magic User – carries with it connotoations and expectations. Sorceror, wizard, mage, enchanter, necromancer, conjourer, witch – all of these carry baggage and flavor. They’re interesting and distinct in their own right.

I have been flying around on Cynwise, getting enough treats for her to get a kitty on a broom. I’m still really uncomfortable on ‘wise, still working through issues in my own head with my relationship to my ex-main.

As I looked at her, I wondered how this would have all played out in a more traditional RPG, where you can change the flavor of the character to suit the desires of the player.

And I can’t help but wonder, would warlocks be more popular if they were witches?

Would I be happier if she a witch instead of a warlock?

Possibly.

Names are important, but their meaning to people change as the language develops.

I could get used to ‘wise being a witch. It would make a great change of pace.

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On the End of the World

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This isn’t a post about Mists of Pandaria. Let me get that out of the way right now. I might talk about Mists a little bit, but more about the idea of Mists than anything about the expansion itself. There’s a lot of buzz around the expansion announcement, and the coming days will be chock full of news tidbits. Some of them are going to be awesome. Some are going to induce panic and nerdrage.

Very little of it will be set in stone.

A lot of things will change over the next six months, year, however long it takes to get Mists done. But the announcement itself is, in many ways, a psychologically liberating event; it expands the horizons of our plans in-game, allowing us not only to look past Deathwing, but to say, hey, stuff is going to change again in a little while.

Be ready for it. Be flexible. Show some fucking adaptability, in the words of Doug Shaftoe.

(What? You haven’t read Cryptonomicon? Fix that, now!)

I need to learn to accept things as they are, not as I’d like them to be, and that those things are going to change. My hobby is going to stay relatively the same for a while – a few months, maybe a year, but not much longer – then things are going to be different again. The things which I learn to enjoy now may not be so fun later; the things I don’t find fun now could be completely different in Mists.

This is, ultimately, a good thing; we don’t find the same things fun forever; every activity grows stale with time.

Attachment leads to sorrow. I feel like I’m going back to my DT Suzuki books from college here, and revisiting the tenets of Buddhism in Warcraft, but I can see that the changes in the future mean that it’s important to find joy in play now, not later. If you don’t like something, put it down and try it later.

The annoucement spurred me to try new things tonight in Warcraft. I had a chance to run a normal instance with my guild, and I took it.

Not on Cynwise, though; on Cynwulf, my Death Knight. He’s been a mining mule for ages, but I dusted him off and am giving him a go. And instead of PvP, I ran a dungeon (Throne of the Tides) and lost my Cataclysm dungeon virginity.

Look at me, I’m PvEing! And not dying!

Holy fuck, but it’s a pretty instance!

And I had fun, wtf?!

I’d grown attached to the way things were going, or more correctly, the way I perceived things were going. It was a big step earlier this week to admit that I had a problem with warlocks, and that I not only had put them down for this patch, but that needed to put them down for a while longer. I needed to break free from the idea that my happiness was tied to a single character, a single way of experiencing things. Not only did I need to jettison the idea of having a main, but I needed to discard the idea that I should be having fun on a class I used to have fun on, just because I used to have fun on it!

Mists reminded me that there are changes coming, substantial changes, and that I can’t know how I’ll react to them. That’s okay.

Instead of attachment, cultivate mental flexibility. Instead of grinding out a single toon, have multiple options available for the future while playing now, while having fun now.

The world as you know it will change. Be ready to change with it.

—-

There’s only one real immediate problem I see, and it’s a kind of big deal to me. While I’m starting to have fun on my Death Knight right now, if I level him up to 85 and decide to do any Arenas, he’ll lose the Doomsday Messenger buff which gives him the sandwich board proclaiming the end of the world.

And we can’t have that! That would be a crime!

Okay, fine, I admit it, I’m really attached to him in that board. I should probably get over that.

(Or … I should roll another DK for PvP… ?!)

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Five Ways to Troll The Denver Airport En Route to Blizzcon

1) Wearing khakis, polo shirt, and a blue blazer, loudly decry the MMO subscription model and rave about Facebook games to random people. See who you can get to agree with you.

2) Walk around to different stores and try to sell them Fish Oil. Get upset when the merchant doesn’t want that item.

3) Argue loudly that your reputation entitles you to a discount with all vendors.

4) Walk up and down the terminal asking people where you can buy PvP gear.

5) [Thunderfury, Blessed Blade of the Windseeker].

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On Revelations

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Vidyala has a great post up about her return to her mage that will probably leave you hungry for cookies. It will also leave you appreciating her zest and joy in playing her mage, Millya.

I’m really glad to see this post from her. Vid has struggled between the needs of her raid group, her own enjoyment of being a healing paladin and loathing being a DPS paladin, and her affinity for playing a mage.

I’ve received more than one whisper from people saying they’re happy to see my mage again, and that it feels “good” to have me be a mage. It does feel damn good.

Damn, it feels good to play a mage.

Vid and I had a quick twitter conversation when she published her post yesterday, because we’ve been facing similar struggles with character identity, utility, and desire. Who do we want to play? Who do we feel we need to play to satisfy the needs of our respective groups? Who do we really need to play to satisfy them, and ourselves? Two healers, or three? Is Afflock/Afflock ever a viable arena comp? What about HPal/Ret/Aff?

I’m going to quote Vid’s twitter response, because it’s good advice:

You have to play whatever makes you happy. The only time it becomes a problem to play many characters is if it’s a problem for YOU. Only you will know when that is. If deleting some helps, then do it and never look back!

This is basically the same advice I gave her when she was talking about her problems with playing her pally instead of her mage – minus the deleting characters part. I appreciate it when folks throw my own advice back at me. :)

It’s simple advice – play what makes you happy – and it’s good advice. But it threw me for a bit of a loop yesterday, because it made me look at my characters and wonder which of them actually do that.

THE EXISTENTIAL CRISIS OF THE PURE DPS PLAYER

I have a draft post on CBM with the above title, started just before the CTA satchel was released. The title reads like a #fakewarcrafthesis, but it’s an honest attempt to reconcile some of the problems the holy trinity design creates when you enjoy playing a damage dealer, but outside pressures provide motivation to take on roles you may not enjoy quite as much. It might be your immediate gaming circle (guild, team) needing a certain comp to do well, or it might be broad, gamewide pressure to take on healing and tanking roles (like the CTA satchels provide.)

Paladins and Druids are about twice as popular as Rogues and Warlocks. Some of this can be simply attributed to the class flavors: Paladins and Druids represent two forces for good (one civilized, one natural), while Rogues and Warlocks are pretty much bad guys. But some of it also has to do with class design: Druids can do every role in the game, and Paladins can do almost every role (sans ranged DPS.) They are the holy trinity in a single character.

Rogues and Warlocks, however, do one thing: deal damage, and lots of it. Or in theory it’s deal lots of damage, because it doesn’t really work out that way anymore. Hybrid DPS is on par with Pure DPS in a raid setting. Hybrid PvP DPS is excellent, too, plus they can fill the hugely powerful healer role. Pure DPS classes get three different ways to deal damage, some of which are more powerful in PvE than others, some of which are more powerful in PvP.

But they can never switch roles. There’s no opportunity to say, hey, I like this character, I identify with this character, I want to experience the game through this character, but from a different role. There’s no way to accomodate social needs – say, your guild is down a healer tonight – your arena team needs a healer – hey could you come tank this for us? – without going to a different character. That’s the nature of a pure DPS character. Of the three options you’re given, it’s just three variations on the same theme.

Before I go on and conclude that the pure/hybrid discrepancy is the root cause of all the problems Rogues and Warlocks face, I should point out that Hunters are usually the #3 most popular class, and Shaman are the #3 least popular. So being pure DPS isn’t the only thing going on here, but it’s still a factor to be considered.

The fact remains: hybrid classes offer more flexibility between roles, while pure DPS classes offer more flexibility within a single role. This isn’t set in stone – Priests have two healing trees, Warriors and DKs have two melee DPS trees – but in general, hybrid get to choose roles, while pures get to choose playstyles.

Which brings us back to the original topic of this post: playing what makes you happy.

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ACTIONS LOUDER THAN WORDS

I had a conversation with Psynister a long time ago about playing Mages. I may have been waffling about deleting my first Mage twink, to be honest. He said that I was a good, thoroughly competent Mage player, but it never seemed like quite the right class for me.

“It’s because you play Warlocks with style,” he said. “You’re a good Mage. You’re an awesome Warlock.”

It took me a while to absorb what he meant by that. What did he mean by style? Style is joie de vivre, style is letting the world know you’re having fun with what you’re doing. I had that on Cynwise. All the jokes my guild tells about raiding with me are true, and it’s because I had fun being a suicidal warlock. (Most nights, admittedly. There were frustrating nights in there too.) Watching me in combat on her was a glorious thing at my peak. I was a chaos engine. I was a machine of slow, unstoppable fury, of death and destruction and unpredictable fear.

But something happened. Something happened to take that fun away, and I’ll be damned if I know what it was. But I know my warlock-joy (surely, there’s a word in German for this) went away.

How do I know?

Because if my only reason for not playing Cynwise was leaving the endgame, I would have rolled another warlock. I would have rolled several warlocks. I would have gone warlock-crazy.

But I didn’t. I rolled everything *but* a warlock.

  • I rolled three warlocks at the start of Cataclysm with the intent of leveling them with each different spec. None of them survived past level 10, and they were all gone before the elephant incident.
  • I rolled several warlocks named Cynwise to visit friends on other servers. They’re all bank alts. One of them quested through the Forsaken zones, and that’s her sole purpose: see those zones. I have no desire to level her past them. (I haven’t even gotten to Silverpine with her yet.)
  • I rolled a new Warrior and got her to 70. I got my Priest from 30 to 70. I got my Druid from 54 to 70. I got my DK to 84. I’ve made a lot of twinks: survival hunter, holy pally, arcane mage, sub rogue. I made some PvP leveling toons: a pally, resto shammy, frost mage, feral druid.
  • I learned to tank.
  • I learned to heal.
  • I went from having 1 twink to having 7. Seven. None of those are warlocks.

If I loved the class more than the toon, why did Cynwise not spark a rash of other warlocks when I put her aside? In theory, I should have been able to level them with ease, after all.

I thought that many nights. Why am I not leveling a bunch of warlocks? Why am I plugging away on a warrior, of all things? Why am I reclaiming a druid? Why am I trying to figure out a rogue?

Something happened between me and the warlock class which made me go, I don’t want to do this anymore, endgame or no.

I’d hit the existential crisis of the pure DPS player: what do you do when you don’t like the three playstyles you’ve been given? You can’t just try out a different role, after all. You get to do the same thing, only there are three different ways to do it. You can go Fire, Arcane, or Frost, but you’re still standing in the back pew pewing the boss. You can go Aff, Demo, or Destro, but you’ll never heal the battleground, you’ll never not be the one applying pressure but not KBs, you’ll never not be the Fearbot.

If you want a different role, you have to reroll. That’s what you do.

Vid realized what her guildmates and friends already knew – she loves playing a Mage.

I’m slowly realizing something, too, based on my own behavior over the past few months: I love playing Cynwise, but not playing a Warlock. 

I don’t know what to say about that.

I love playing a certain character – an ambitious girl from Northshire who made some bad choices – but not enough to get over my endgame burnout.

My own behavior shows that, no matter what I say, I do not find the warlock class compelling enough to keep on playing it.

Maybe the class was changed in Cataclysm too much. Maybe the 12% nerf really did matter. Maybe the Fel Armor and Soul Siphon changes hit me harder than I admitted to myself. Even now, I have a mental list of all the changes, and I’m like… they’re weren’t that bad, were they? Losing Drain Mana sucked, but you adapted. Right?

Well, if I really adapted, if I really didn’t let it bother me, why am I not playing one now?

I played the class for two years with style and grace, but when I got knocked off my only endgame character, I didn’t try to recreate the fun I was having – I ran straight to every other class but that one.

It’s possible that the reason I’m not playing another warlock is my well-known dislike of doing the same thing again – why I don’t like grinding out PvE content, why I enjoy PvP so much, why I struggle with things like replay value – and I can’t discount that. I really can’t.

But would that be enough to keep me away?

I have to believe that I play what I want to play. If I’m not playing my main, it’s perfectly okay, but god damnit, I have to be honest with myself – I’m not looking at my login screen and going: CYNWISE I CHOOSE YOU.

I still don’t really know what to say about that.

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ROLE VERSUS PLAYSTYLE

I am currently playing almost exclusively healing and tanking classes. I rolled a pally a little while ago, and was like… I’m going to take her Ret! She’s got the BoA 2H Axe AND Sword, I’m totally going to DPS it up!

Who am I kidding? I’ll get to level 20 and go, dur, I need to run some dungeons, let’s go Prot, and that will be the end of it. Or I’ll go Holy, and heal all the things in PvP. I might even do both!

I’m discovering that I don’t really want the flexibility of a hybrid. My druid taught me that. My priest taught me that. My warrior taught me that. I tried to dual spec on them and it was a disaster. Dual specialization gives me a chance to do a different role, which is good for the long term – but in the short term, it presents too many options for me to try to learn.

No, it’s not the flexibility of a hybrid that’s drawing me to them; it’s the non-DPS role. Tanking. Healing. I don’t want to DPS on a hybrid, I want to be a tank or a healer.

  • When am I happiest on my warriors? Tanking Drek or being the FC in WSG.
  • When am I happiest on my druid? Healing the heck out of a battleground.
  • When am I happiest on my priest? Healing the heck out of an instance.

Why do I enjoy those roles so much?

Because I feel like I’m playing a critical part – the critical part – in the success or failure of an activity. 

Healing a BG is a visceral rush. Standing there and supporting my team, being a beast of a healer and keeping everyone alive? It’s awesome. Does the DPS have to be smart? Sure. But they don’t have to be stellar – they’ve got me covering their back. Don’t be derpy and we’re probably going to win.

Tanking (and healing tanks) is another rush. It’s not that everyone doesn’t have a job to do, but if the tank fails, it’s all over. If I make it difficult on the healer as the tank, then I’ve done my job incorrectly. There’s a pride to being the one to tank Drek, to tank the nightmare pulls of H-MgT well, to be the one where if you don’t do your job right, you wipe.

(I’m a Leo. Maybe warlocks aren’t good fits for Leos, I dunno.)

I remember when there was a meme going around about a year or so ago, how tanks should get special privileges because they were so damn important, and both healers and DPS responded with outrage. Everyone’s important in a 5-man, came the cry. And they’re right – if you have a really skilled, geared DPS, they can make the run really easy for an undergeared tank. Not a bad tank – DPS can’t save you from them – but an undergeared yet competent tank, certainly.

And there’s the rub. If you have a derp DPS but a good tank/healer combo, you’re going to be fine for most content. (Not trolloics, perhaps, though that could be changing now. Not raids. Myabe raids? I dunno, to be honest.)

If you have a derp tank? You’re screwed.

It’s funny: PvP never entered that discussion. I wanted to weigh in at the time, but it didn’t seem appropriate, because the dynamics are different. Very different.

Standard RBG comp is 4 healers, 1 FC/melee DPS offspec, 5 DPS (at least 1 frost mage, sub rogue, defensive peeler – hunter/frost mage – another melee, and then an open slot). Healers are usually 1 of each type, except for TP/WSG, where if you can get 4 priests for LG you can do some real damage.

You need a rogue. You need a frost mage, maybe 2. You … well, you can bring a warlock, but they’re not essential.

You might need a tank to be the FC, but it depends on the battleground.

You need healers. You need 2-4 healers, period. 4 healers, especially healers with offensive capabilities, are really your best bet.

You need a higher amount of healers in an RBG than in any other aspect of the game. In a patch when raids are ditching healers and tanks to squeeze more DPS in, PvP still requires healing and dispels. It still requires a FC.

Random battlegrounds are a little different, certainly less rigid, but the same idea applies. The closer your random pug comp gets to the 4 heals / 1 FC / 5 DPS standard, the more likely you are to win. It’s not a magic formula – a good 10 DPS team could beat them, remember Gnomey’s post on it? - but I’ll be damned if it’s not a good rule of thumb.

So when I queue up as heals, I feel like I’m giving my team a better chance to win than when I queue up as DPS. When I queue up as a tank for AV, I feel like I’m giving them a better chance to win.

Would I play my warlock if she could heal instead of do three flavors of DPS? Maybe.

But then she wouldn’t be a warlock anymore.

I hate this line of thinking.

I feel like this whole discussion becomes circular very quickly, like my thoughts have gotten trapped trying to solve an unsolveable question. Which role is more important is the wrong question, especially if you want to play what you like. What role do I want to play is probaby the right one, but it is informed by feelings of utility, which then leads to which role is more generically useful and then you go right back to which role is more important?

You need all the roles filled in a BG. You need all of them filled with good players.

Good players – who enjoy what they’re doing.

I think a desire to be useful can be detrimental to having fun.

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THE JOY OF PLAY

You have to play whatever makes you happy.

That was my advice to Vidyala, and her advice right back to me, and it’s now my advice to you, and to myself. It’s simple advice, but hard to know how to enact.

Vid returned to her Mage because she loves the character, she loves the class, and she loves the role she plays in the activity she does. Her move to a healer was prompted both by enjoying the class and character (come on, just read Pugging Pally, it’s obvious that she loves Vid too) but also out of a desire to be useful to her raid. She picked the best option to be useful to her guild and raid, and that worked out. But once the utility ended, she was left going… I don’t really want to be raiding on Vid, I want to be raiding as a mage, and not just any mage, but to raid on Millya.

And she switched back.

I respect the hell out of her for having the courage to do that. For choosing to play what makes her happy over useful.

That’s how you have fun. That’s how you keep playing. That’s how you avoid burnout, how you play with joy.

Play with style.

I’m trying to find that joy again. Sometimes I find it for a little bit, but nothing defining, nothing that makes me go, yeah, let’s do THIS.

I might be able to find the hexerfreude again, if I could get over my aversion to the endgame. But there are two variables there – class (warlock) and activity (endgame PvP). Leveling another character up to try to address the endgame issues seems more logical, but daunting. Leveling a warlock might work, but … I don’t want to. I know I don’t.

I’ve mentioned trying some healing PvP in Arena next season; I don’t know if that’s what I really want or not, but it might be worth a try. I might unlock and level up my Druid… or my Warrior… or my DK… Or maybe the lowbie PvP alts – mage, shammy, pally?

The priest is probably staying where she is. I’m pretty sure about that.

I don’t know. I hate not knowing, but I don’t know what to do next.

I’d like this story to end like Vid’s – wayward warlock rediscovers his love of the class, returns in force with vigor and pwnage, film at 11. I think Warlocks need champions, need people to publically stand up and say, this class is awesome, because it is.

But it’s a hard class to play, and I’ve lost the spark. I probably lost the spark before I’d quit the endgame and just didn’t notice it, but I’m only now coming to terms with it. I’m only now sitting here going… I really just don’t want to do that anymore.

Maybe I’ll find it again with Cynwise, but trying to find it there right now feels … wrong. It’s the easy answer, the one that says, this is who you were, this is who you should always be. But the easy answer doesn’t feel right anymore.

Realizing that I need to reinvent myself is the first step.

We’ll have to see what comes next.

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On Decadence

Cynwise_-_tol_barad_-_reflecting_on_failure

Jacques Barzun’s From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life (1500-Present) is an intriguing work from an intriguing historian. Barzun examines many common threads over the past 500 years, weaving them into a tale of a society exploring themes in religion, government, art, literature, and technology that is really a prodigious book. I recommend it highly.

The decadence in the title – used to describe Western culture in the 20th century – has a very specific meaning in this book. It has to do when a society’s focus is spent, when it’s exhausted the potential of a single idea and it starts casting about for a new direction. Periods of decedance aren’t lazy periods – the same amount of energy that was brought to bear on, say, the rise of the nation-state or the Industrial Revolution is still present, but it’s diffuse, unfocused, unsure of its goal or purpose. These are chaotic periods, where things don’t make sense, where cultural themes are hard to detect because they’re still being formed.

Barzun makes the point, over and over, that decadent periods aren’t morally inferior somehow – but rather that they accomplish less than periods of building, not due to a lack of vigor, but a lack of focus. People are casting about. The energy of a culture is unharnessed, so while things happen, they aren’t necessarily lasting.

I feel that way a bit in WoW right now, like I’ve entered a period of decadence.

I bounce around from alt to alt at night, trying to find something that catches my fancy. Sometimes I level, mostly I don’t. Usually I PvP.

I was thinking about Barzun tonight as I struggled with PvP on various alts. My 24 Hunter, which is usually good for a faceroll, got focused by the other team – yet we still lost. My baby Shaman got steamrolled. My Warrior got a win in AV, but it was a dirty, nasty win, with a lot of deaths, /bg filled with racial slurs and a turtle in FWV. Druid lost, badly. Priest lost, badly. I logged into Cynderblock and figured I would start on Hallow’s End, only … it starts today in Europe, tomorrow in North America. Whoops.

So I cast about for inspiration, and decided to log into my dormant main, Cynwise.

Cynwise_-_tol_barad_-_thinking_of_the_future

It’s been a while. At first I was looking for heirlooms … maybe for the shaman, maybe for the baby gnome warrior. I went to the Argent Tournament to stare at the Heirloom vendor for a bit. I couldn’t make up my mind, so I went to kill cultists for a few badges. That wasn’t so bad.

So I checked the PvP pane, saw that Tol Barad was in progress, and decided, hey, it’s TB, how bad can it be?

I’m in Season 9 gear, many, many weeks into Season 10.

I got slaughtered.

I went 1:1 with folks and lost. I dotted up an AFK druid and only took her down to 1/2 health. I got killed on the way out. I got graveyard camped, so I stepped aside and went to put away the dishes. When I came back, the same guys were still there, teabagging my corpse. I was like, guys, you realize I don’t care, right? There are 6 of you and 1 of me, you have 2 healers, I’m in last season’s gear. I couldn’t kill an AFK druid, let alone multiple Conquest-geared PvPers.

That’s when I thought of Barzun’s book, and what I’d become.

Decadent.

I’d logged into 10 toons over the course of the night. Different projects, all of them, but mostly just casting about for somethig fun to do to make me feel better about a crappy day.

I used to comment that I could PvP as either Affliction OR Destruction, but not at the same time. It took me about 2 weeks of PvPing to switch specs and play at a high level, and I knew both those specs very well.

And here I was, PvPing on six different classes in the course of a night, expecting that I’d do well at any one of them. I’m getting by on being a good PvPer, not a good player of X class in PvP. There’s a big difference, and it’s starting to show.

I haven’t done much with Cynwise in 4.2 – maybe 2 bgs total – but I can’t remember the last time I felt so impotent with her.

Decadence has a price.

I sat there in Tol Barad after the campers left, thinking about the collapse of feudal monarchy, the rise of nationalism, and the existential crisis of a pure DPS player. About a newfound love of healing but a dislike of leveling. About character projects which succeeded, and projects which failed.

And I realized that I miss having the focus I had a year ago, but that I have little idea how to get it back.

That’s how decadence works, after all. In the absence of a clear new direction, you have to make it up as you go along.

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On WoW Insider’s Open PvP Columnist Position

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WoW Insider is looking for a PvP columnist. I will not be applying for the position, but I encourage you (yes you, dear reader) to do so if it interests you.

I’m flattered that people think I’m the right choice for this job. I really am. I have a lot of respect for the staff of WoW Insider, and appreciate the effort that every single one of their writers puts in to produce quality articles. It is not an easy job, but from listening to the authors and editors chatter on Twitter, it looks like a very fun one. There’s an experience to be had there unlike any other in the World of Warcraft community, and it draws people together.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I wasn’t tempted. I have been. I am.

But right now, Warcraft is a hobby for me, not a job. If I was so fortunate as to work for WoW Insider, I would have a professional obligation to put out a quality column every week, and I take those obligations seriously.

I need WoW to remain a hobby at this time. If you haven’t read my post On Priorities, Elephants, and Desire, I recommend that you do so. I haven’t forgotten the lessons of that week, and one of the most important is that I need to be able to walk away from this hobby at will, as necessary. I’ve already walked away from the endgame.

To be very frank, making WoW a professional obligation would simply not be fair to my family. My wife already loses me for 40-60 hours a week. She already puts up with me being on call 24×7, of getting calls at all hours of the night and weekend, of me having to say: I have to go, take the kids, I’ll see you in a few hours. Many outages, handle it is not as funny IRL as it is on the internet.

I am making changes professionally to lessen work’s intrusion on my personal time, and adding an additional responsibility wouldn’t be the right thing to do. This isn’t about WoW Insider, or even about my desire for privacy (though that’s a factor); it’s very much about doing what’s right for me and my family.

I really appreciate the endorsements people have given me for this position. I really do. The fact that people want to read the things I write is a pretty amazing thing. I’m grateful for all of my readers, and to have the opportunity to share my thoughts with you.

But I promised myself I wouldn’t forget the lessons of that week in July.

I will not forget.

I wish WoW Insider the best of luck in finding a new PvP columnist. It’s not an easy position to fill, but I’m sure that they will find someone who will do a great job with it.

The more good PvP writers we have, the better off the community will be.

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Five Reasons Deathwing Should Have Visited Major Cities All Along

1. Deathwing has been an impersonal villain this expansion. We should get to see his softer, gentler side. With catapults.

2. Raiders would have a truly personal reason for killing Deathwing: avenging their slain bank alts.

3. Human hunters named Bard are currently out of fashion.

4. Scatters alts throughout cities in hopes of 1) getting burned and 2) figuring out how Deathwing is going to get into Ironforge, Undercity, and The Exodar.

5. Maximum epicosity.

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