Upon further consideration…

Yesterday I put up a rather long post about what I see as some of the reasons for the disparity in the amount of tanks and/or healers available in the game. The post did not draw a huge amount comments, but it did draw some pretty insightful ones.

After reading those and doing a bit more thinking on the subject some of my opinions are somewhat changed. I thought of simply putting this all in the comments, but it actually deserves its own post.

Remember when I said I might hijack some of your comments for further posting?

I wasn’t kidding :)

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In yesterday’s post I broke it down into four categories, mostly to help me keep my thoughts in order. I did, after all, write that before I finished my morning coffee.

Today I am going to go about it just a bit differently..

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TheReaper brought up a few good points last night.

In my opinion tanks are far easier to gear than any other archetype in the game.
Are you defcapped? Yes? Stack stamina. No? Get more def rating.


Avoidance automatically increases with gear and unless you went really wrong somewhere threat generation isn’t much of a problem either these days.


There are certain encounters where a specialized set of gear comes in handy, but those are usually hardmodes that I don’t worry about on my twink (even though I have successfully tanked all raid instances in the game and my paladin is currently sitting just shy of 5400 gs).
On my rogue however, gearing is a nightmare. What stats do I look for?
Expertise
Agility
Critrating
Hitrating
Attackpower
Haste
Sounds complicated? Well, it gets worse…
Expertise pretty much trumps everything until you hit the dodgecap (26 expertise).
Hitrating is imperative up to the poison hit cap, which differs depending on: specc, group composition, available debuffs, race and weapon. If you wanted to really squeeze every last drop of dps you might need up to 5 different sets to hit the different hitcaps.
Hitrating raises your soft crit cap, its great if you reached the cap, pretty bad if you didn’t.
Agility/critrating are good until you hit the soft crit cap, but fall behind AP/haste above it.
So every time I could get a new piece of gear I have to pull up my spreadsheet, see if equipping it would bump me over my soft crit cap, regem/reequip hitrating accordingly, figure out if the upgrade is still worth it at that point and so on.
 
 
 
 Sorry for the wall of text, but gearing a dps class is by no means “easier” than gearing a tank or healer.
Gearing becomes difficult when you try to maximize your effectiveness, I want to do that on my rogue, so its hard, I don’t want to do that on my paladin, so it appears easier to me.
Someone with a pally tank main and a rogue alt would probably react in the exact opposite way.

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I will admit that when I look back at it with a more critical eye I see that I may have filtered my perceptions of the complexity of gearing through the lens of my experience. Then again, I think we all would.

Today I am both properly caffeinated and looking at this from a wider perspective. The relative difficulty of gearing any character for a specific role will be different for different people. It will also to a large degree depend on who is doing the gearing and why.  

First, how familiar are you with the class and role?

If you are gearing a character class you are familiar with for a role you are familiar with it will be a lot easier. Like any other task, it will be easier with experience. The more you do something the easier it seems.

Secondly, What are you gearing for? The reasons you are gearing up will also influence not only your gear choices, but how in depth you need to go into “perfecting” your gear, spec, and play style.

For instance, I enjoy battlegrounds on occasion, but have no desire to do arena. My gearing for PvP would be simplistic in comparison to someone who was playing on a top rated arena team. Someone who levels up and decides just to stay in 5 mans will have less of a need to min-max their character than someone who plans to see Arthas fall in Icecrown 25.

As TheReaper said, Gearing becomes difficult when you try to maximize your effectiveness.

There are the absolute basics like he mentioned about gearing a tank, and I mentioned about gearing a hunter at one end of the spectrum. At the other there are calculators, spreadsheets, stat weighted gear sorters, and just about any other thing you can think of to help min-max. I suppose it’s really about how far you want to go down that particular rabbit hole.

Fortunately (in my opinion) the stats are planned to be streamlined in Cataclysm which should make the learning curve a bit less steep when deciding to change how much you choose to focus on a given role.

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A few people touched on the social aspect.

Isa wrote (in part)

… While a different game design could make tanks and healers less obvious points of failure, and thus less scary, I think it’s this social mechanism you’ve mentioned that drives the shortage, and not the design. In other words, I believe game design can be a solution but it’s not the real problem.

Greysmoke wrote (in part)

… There does seem to be a pervasive idea that once you hit 80, you should know perfectly whatever role you’re playing, so if you’re wanting to switch from dps to heals or tanking, you’re either going to take a lot of abuse OR you’re going to have to rely on friends and guildies to see you through the learning curve. And it seems to be much worse for tanks than healers, in my experience. …

Humans are for the most part social creatures. That is one of the big reasons Wow is so damn popular. If I got this level of enjoyment out of a solo console game I would have saved a bloody fortune over the last four years. Hell, if I were not a social creature I would not be writing about it and you folks would not be here commenting.

One of the things many people fear in a social situation is rejection by ones peers. They may not admit it, or even consciously know it, but it will influence their decisions.

The steeper the learning curve would be to achieve success the fewer will be willing to climb that learning curve. The greater the cost, or more visible the failure would be, the less likely people are to take the risk.

This can be lessened somewhat by being able to practice alone. Target dummies and random critters out in the world do a good job of that for Dps classes. Battlegrounds (especially AV) can be a good training ground for healers.

I have yet to find a way to “practice” tanking in a way that does not involve running a five man.  Of course, having said that someone will come by and tell me how to do it now.

The only ways to eliminate that would be for Blizzard to somehow put in the ability to practice tanking into the game, or to eliminate the distinctions between tanks, heals, and dps. Somehow I think that the simulator is more likely in Wow, and eliminating the distinctions is more likely to happen in the next generation MMO, but that is a whole other post.

As Isa said, game design can be a solution but it’s not the real problem.

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The more I think about this the more I think it boils down to two major reasons for the disparity.

The first is the fear of failure, particularly of public failure and the ridicule that can go with it.

That goes a long way to explaining not only why people tend to not play the single point of failure roles, but why many that do will have periods of “burnout” where they drop that role in favor of Dps. Whether actually performing the tasks to play the role well is more difficult or not, the perceived stress coming from the fear of failure will get to some people after a while.

I know there was a time when I took six months or more off healing and went shadow on my priest, just because I was tired of getting blamed for choosing to throw my heals on the tank who is holding the boss and letting some idiot that was standing in the bad die.

*note to all:  if your feet are on fire… please move.*

The second is the ability to practice and improve ones performance outside of a group setting.

How much “soloable” content that can be practiced on may not be a factor, but I do see a direct relation to role choice. It may be coincidence, but then again it might not.

  • Dps

Training opportunities include everything from “kill ten rats” quests, to target dummies. There are lower level instances to run solo or in a group, battlegrounds to fight in, mobs wandering the countryside, in short it’s a Dps paradise.

By the time people leave their starting zone they have the beginnings of a grasp on Dps. Unless you heal or tank instances as you level every character is a Dps’r all the way to the level cap.

Most training opportunities, most common role.

  • Healing

Training for healing is a good bit harder to come by. Since the only way to learn group healing is to heal groups your choices pretty much boil down to healing instances, healing raids, or healing in PvP. I suppose we could throw in the odd group quest while leveling that requires a bit of healing, but honestly most can be solo’d by a Dps class.

That’s pretty much it for healing. Sure there are a few times here and there where you can learn healing outside of running instances and raids, but not much at all.

Much leaner training opportunities, much fewer players in the role.

  • Tanking

Training for tanking is simple. Run five mans, or run raids. That pretty much covers it. Perhaps a few group quests would count here as well. I can think of no ways to practice holding threat and managing cooldowns as a tank in a group other than being the tank in one.

Could you go practice your rotation of a target dummy, or random mobs out in the world? Sure.

Will that show you whether you would actually be holding aggro against high output Dps? No.

Will that get you practice in using your “oh crap” buttons at the proper time? No.

There are a very few skills you could actually practice, such as line of sight pulling of casters, but there is really not much you can do without a group.

Least amount of training available, fewest people willing to step into the role.

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I don’t see these things so much as a reason people will not roll a tank or a healer. I see them more of a reason that tanks and healers both will tend to find groups of friends while learning their trade. Friends that will help them out and not give them a bunch of grief as they learn the ropes of that role.

Once a person has done that why would they want to run with strangers? Why take a further chance of getting crap from people you will never see again in favor of rolling with folks you know you can depend on? Why put yourself out there in a spotlight ready to be criticized if someone pulls aggro or stands in the fire?

In the bigger picture I don’t really think that there exists a disproportionate number of Dps. I simply think it much more likely that people choosing the tanking and healing roles are less apt to run with strangers. The are a lot more likely to run with those they have had good luck with before.

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The next time you are in a pug 5 man and one of the players says “Hey guys, My gearscore is low and I am new to this role. How about you help me learn the ropes?”

Are you going to be one of those that just bail and leave that person hanging, or will you be one of those that says “Thanks for the heads up, we can do this.”

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Think about it.

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It’s about class, in more ways than one

Lately there have been a ton of posts about the differences between the three major roles (tanking, healing, and Dps).

It all started with a guest post over at World of Matticus. As that slowly simmered in peoples heads I suddenly started to see my feed reader positively explode with posts on the subject.

Over the course of a few days it has spawned posts from Blessing of Kings, Spinksville, forbearance, The Pink Pigtail Inn, Azure Shadows, and the  Big Bear Butt to name a few. Actually I suppose I could include myself in that, but you are already here.

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Now, I am not going to get deeply into whether I think tanks and healers deserve a greater reward than Dps for running the same content. I will simply say no.

Same content, same reward.

The party is a 5 player team, and should be rewarded as such.

Now that I got that out of the way, moving on…

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The defining point of this topic seems to be the fact that there is nearly always a lack of healers and/or tanks. That is what I am going to look at.

No, I am not arguing whether there is a shortage or not. There is, and I think I know a bit of why.

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  • Fear

Simply put, both of these roles are single point of failure roles. Generally if one of them goes down it’s a wipe.

Fear of failure keeps many from ever trying.

Peer pressure can be a bitch. Just look at how Kaylynn started off planning to learn tanking as she leveled, and after getting treated like crap by her peers gave up on it.

Yes there will occasionally be a second character in a Dps role that can take over if needed. I have seen a cat Druid go bear when the tank went down. I have seen an elemental Shaman pick up heals when the Priest pops angel form. I have seen Rogues evasion tank that last few percent, and Hunters that pet tanked.

I have seen a lot. However I would say at least 90% of the time that either the tank or the healer goes down we will be running back.

There is a good amount of stress involved in knowing that if you screw up the whole group dies. Lots of people I know play the game as a way to burn off the stress of their daily lives. They don’t want stress where they have their fun.

Barring a complete redesign of the games mechanics I don’t really see a solution for this one. It simply is what it is.

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  • Gear

In my opinion gearing up as a Dps is simply easier. The vast majority of quest rewards are geared towards exactly that.

Dps gear.

Now that makes a good deal of sense on the part of the designers. At the point you are leveling up the vast majority of players do so in a Dps spec. It simply makes sense to do it that way, as the questing is generally more easily managed and faster as Dps.

I know I have always always gone that route, at least until yesterday. (I am going to attempt to level a Pally as Prot. She is all of level 10 right now. More on that in later posts.)

Gearing as Dps is also generally simpler. Lets assume my Hunter just made 80. A little bit of reading shows me that I need to gear for the hit cap of 8%. Once that is done I simply stack agility, int, and perhaps a bit of  stamina and I will be fine.

Not perfect maybe, but fine.

There is also a decent amount of  crafted blue quality gear that will make decent Dps gear. Hell, that same hunter could put on most of the Swiftarrow PvP set with a few other crafted odds and ends and be geared enough to do his job in heroics about 3 seconds after hitting level 80.

From my experience at least there is simply a lot more number juggling that goes on with gearing a tank or a healer.

Take as an example my Priest. As a healer he needs Spellpower, Int, Spirit, crit, haste, MP-5, and Stamina, not necessarily in that order. He needs to balance throughput with mana regen in addition to everything else. Stacking one thing will simply shortchange him somewhere else, it needs to be a balance.

Trying to use my DK tank as an example is pretty shaky for me since I have yet to actually tank with her. I do recall spending quite a bit of time working on which gear to get from what source to achieve all the numbers that were on the notepad I had to write them all down on.

Off the top of my head I can think of Defense rating, Stamina, Strength, hit rating, Dodge, Parry, and Expertise. I am sure there is more that I am forgetting, my notebook with all the math in it is at home. Actually my head hurts just thinking about it.

Simply put, when gearing my character turns from “oh, cool this is an improvement!” to “Hell, I don’t know. Lets do some calculus to figure out if it’s an upgrade.” that is no longer fun for me.

Fortunately most of the solutions that I could think of for this are already being worked on, and are planned for Cataclysm. They have already announced a streamlining of stats to make them a bit simpler when figuring out what to wear.

An example would be all tanking classes getting their defense capped through talents, similar to the talent Survival of the Fittest which Druids already have. At least that will be one fewer number to juggle.

Not only do I think that will help with designing the entry level crafted gear, but should lessen the need for dual-specced characters to carry multiple sets of gear. A player that can simply re-talent and use most of the same gear is more likely to try out a role than one that has to drop a sizable chunk of change on an “offspec” set of gear.

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  • Skill

There is much to be said for being skilled at what you do.

Running as Dps, Heals, and Tanking require very different skill sets than each other. Yes, that is pretty obvious, but it bears repeating.

Every character that comes into the game starts as Dps. Depending on which race you picked you might be killing anything from wolves to pigs, possibly even walking flowers or glowing worms. The simple fact is you will be killing something, at least for a while.

Could you level up purely through LFG? Sure thing.

Actually I am planning to try it with the Pally I mentioned earlier. My failures should be blogworthy at very least.  

For now though, she is a Dps prot Pally questing her way towards level 15 or so before I start pugging.

With Dps I can (and have) simply solo leveled my way to the cap, learning as I went how to do it. There used to still be a difference in skill however. If you made the level cap as a Dps there was still more to learn. Crowd control, threat management, and  mana management were things that soloing did not teach.

It still doesn’t, but we no longer really use them. The second half of WotLK has been Aoe the trash, blow cooldowns on the boss, balls to the wall and don’t worry about mana or aggro for the most part. If something goes wrong its the tank/healers fault.

Both tanking and healing require a completely different set of skills, skills that will only be learned by practicing them. Unfortunately there is no place to practice them other than in a group. A group generally composed of extremely judgmental strangers. No one likes to be called out as a failure.

Here is a secret. We all start out failing.

Some learn faster than others, some never do. The fact remains that no one simply installs the game one day and magically knows how to do everything.

Another quick example.

I made a party chat macro that goes something like this:

Hiyas folks. Just a heads up, I am new to tanking. I may move a bit slower than you are used to as I am learning the pulls. Please give me a few seconds to get everything really pissed off at me before starting Dps, it will make our lives a lot easier. I will mark the kill target with a skull, please concentrate Dps on that one.

I have so far used that macro three times.

Both times I used it on my lowbie Druid I got a wall of “kk, ok, can do, or thanks for the heads up”, and my favorite “my main is a bear tank, mind if I offer a few tips”? I ran Wailing Caverns twice on that character and had a blast both times.

When I tried that on my level 80 DK it did not go nearly as well.

I decided to forgo the two Emblems of Triumph in favor of going to an instance that I know fairly well. I qued up as a tank for the first time, choosing normal Nexus to cut my teeth on. I que up, zone in, and as we are buffing up hit my macro.

One by one the other four dropped group.

The only one who so much as whispered me was the healer, and all he had to say was “Sorry mate, I just want a quick badge run.”

Four people would rather take a 15 minute debuff than give me that 15 minutes to show that I had a clue which button to push. Three out of the four likely lost a solid half hour between the debuff and the re-que time. 

I wonder if any of them bitched about there being so few tanks while they waited.

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Thats just a single example of how learning the needed skills can be a bit harder for the tanking and healing roles. 

How do we solve this?

I think the new LFG tool will actually go a long way towards helping to even things out given enough time. Other than that I can’t really see a way to get practice in for group roles without a group to heal/tank for.

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  • Design

Just a quick note on design. Since every class has to be able to level solo, and that was set up as a Dps task. Every class has to have at least one spec that can Dps.

Look at that for a second.

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Ten classes, all of which can Dps.

Four can only Dps.

Four can tank.

Four can heal.

Two can do all three.

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There are thirty talent trees.

Six are tanking trees.

Five are healing trees.

Twenty-three are Dps trees.

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The game is designed to favor the creation of Dps characters. Without completely re-inventing how characters work that is not going to change. I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Do I have some ideas for how it could be done differently? Oh, I most certainly do, but now is not their time. They will be coming up in another post on what I think Blizzards next generation MMO might be like.

This wall is long enough without me opening that can of worms.

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Has another year gone by already?

Thinking about the new year to come, well, that will unfold in its own time.

As I stand here looking back towards the year that was I smile.

It has certainly had some moments, both good and bad. Taking my que from such esteemed bloggers (and friends) as KestrelTamiLarisa,  Matticus, and Pike, amongst others that populate my feed reader I will give a bit of a look back.

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A glance, as it were, at the year that was.

January saw the death of my old gaming machine, and the arrival of it’s replacement. My hunter finally quit trying to make a broken spec work and I finally figured out a good use for DKP. Overall it was a good, if cold, month.

Early February bore witness to a one of the few pieces of fan fiction that I have made public with the (very) short story Blood in the Water. Towards the end of the month there was call to be happy as my Priest Morham (now renamed Dechion) became my second level 80, and the lights grew dimmer in the blogosphere as we said goodbye to one of my favorite blogs, Gun Lovin’ Dwarf Chick.

March was a very melancholy month for me, and it showed in my posts. I had to leave town for an unexpected funeral, those are never really a pleasant thing. The month also saw one of the first posts about an asshat, one I was guilded with no less.

As April dawned I reexamined my priorities, not just with WoW but with life as a whole. I lamented about always how we always seem to be waiting for the next big change, instead of playing the game as it exists.  Patch 3.1 blew up the servers and I nearly deleted my Priest in anger.

In May life was much busier outside game than in, causing me to spend a lot of time AFK. What I had going on in-game was not too pleasant either. I simply did not post about a lot of it. It did see my blogs first birthday and oddly enough me discussing PvP in a way that shows that I actually like it when it’s done right.

June was a time for family, particularly towards the end as my wife and I celebrated our 20th anniversary. I did manage to squeeze in a short post about welfare epics, and a few looks at the upcoming 3.2 changes. Overall it was a quiet month.

In July real life critted again right before the fourth of July weekend.  Not for the first time, and surely not the last, I noticed WoW becoming more like a job than hobby and took a step back. I also wondered what people would ask if given a chance to talk to one of the game designers one on one.

August was a frustrating month, and most of my posts show it. I enjoy instancing, and I simply could not get in. I ended up so damn frustrated that I canceled my subscription. On the plus side, the problem was fixed before the time I had already paid for ran out.

September was a really lean month as far as the blog goes. I answered a few questions about why it is that I have so many Hunters, and why I have a priest at all. I also tried (in vain as it turned out) to change the direction of the blog. It is what it is, and shall stay that way.

October was an interesting month around here as I wrote about how Wow was for me more like an emotional vacation  from the stresses of life than a mountain to be conquered. I wrote of a way to level alchemy from nothing to 450 on the cheap, and then answering a question I received I put my money where my keyboard is and proved it could work by doing it.

As November arrived it brought with it the first of the microtransactions that I think will one day change the very nature of Warcraft. I pondered this as I asked folks to wake up and smell the future. I looked forward to the future of Warcraft in Cataclysm in the great retcon. I said thanks to veterans around the globe and ran with a ton of wonderful folks in Raid for the Cure.

December. We will just call December “The Month of Pugging Dangerously”. Thats putting it mildly. It was a whirlwind of pugging heroics. Right now the new tool is shiny and new, I am pugging my way along and for the most part having a grand old time. Pretty soon though, the shiny will wear thin and groups might be a little harder to come by.

I had a few problems with elitist prima donna’s  thinking the world revolves around them, and experienced a shiny and new (to me at least) exploit. On the plus side some of the comments got me to looking at ways I might be able to improve my own performance, and I am having fun trying out a few new things.

I also mentioned getting into tanking on my Death Knight. I even went so far as to set up a gear plan, but still have not actually run anything as a tank. Something about not wanting to be horrible at it.

Looking back at 2009 I am pretty happy with where things sit right now, both in game and out.

I wonder what the next year will bring.

Playing favorites

I got to thinking this morning.

If you have been around for long you know that usually is followed by some random observation about life, Warcraft, or the state of mind I happen to be in. Today however, that is not the case.

Instead of reading the news or any other such thing I decided to look through my past posts. I have quite a few posts I really enjoyed writing. Some were funny, some were serious, some were not even about Warcraft. Hell some were not even on this blog.

Anyhow, since I spent my time woolgathering instead of brainstorming I don’t have any good ideas for todays post. On the plus side I did spend a good amount of time enjoying some of my other stuff. 

I suppose instead of just ignoring my friends on the intertubes I’ll just afflict you with  “best of” list.

Well, maybe not the best, but some of my favorites anyhow.

Not so funny stuffs:

Casually Addicted (um, yes)

What are epics worth? (whatever your willing to pay)

Will heal for food (I never feel like this anymore, thankfully)

Everything I needed to know about WoW I learned in the Barrens (yep)

Something was missing (They nerfed it to the ground, then kicked it)

Kinda funny stuffs:

This just in (Arena really would make more sense like this)

Dads kiss up points, or DKP for short (yes, it’s working)

Way beyone grumpy (a rant, but a funny one)

/Headdesk (I still do things like this, often)

Blah (all purpose patch notes)

Stories about that place thats not Azeroth:

Five hours and counting (from yet another meme)

Escape to Azeroth (like a vacation commercial, only not)

Farewell old friend (once upon a time I lived there)

What would you ask? (what the next gen’s genera is going to be)

Oh, snap! ( I hate it when that happens)

Fan fiction/ stories:

And the lights grow dimmer (my all time favorite post, it just felt right)

Blood in the water (why don’t they clean up after themselves?)

Mirrior mirror (it would  be an odd feeling)

The same, except completely different (Mmmmm…. beer)

Missing (a diferent take on Mirror Mirror, and better written IMO)

Stuffs from my other distinctly non-WoW blog what might be entertaining:

A line in the sand (I wonder what I would have done?)

Frogs (still makes me laugh)

Oh cool, I found it! (yes I know it’s a recent post, but it’s a good one)

Mans best friend (sadly only one is still with us)

A ride (makes me want to get the bike out and go)

And there you have it, the perfect post for a day when I had no idea what to write.

Escape to Azeroth

I, like thousands of others, just had a really interesting post from Wow.com drop into my feed reader. The Breakfast Topic is generally something they post to bring about a bit of discussion. Most days I simply skim over it, but todays post about real life cataclysms kinda hit close to home.

I’ll briefly recap for the one person out there that may actually follow my ramblings and yet not read Wow.com. The post was about how at times the game can reflect the suffering in the real world, and yet at the same time be a refuge from that suffering. If you have not read it, go check it out. It’s worth your time.

Be advised, this post is not so much about Wow as it is about my personal experiences and those of my family. If you choose to read on do so knowing that. Also know that this is my life I talk about today, not just the game. If you choose to comment please keep that in mind.

 

A little over three years ago… has it really only been that long?

Life was a lot different back then. So was I.

I was talking to a friend of mine from work about the game that he played. He was far from pushy about it, but got across the basics of the game. I picked up a copy and started goofing off with it, not realising where it would lead me.

Have you ever noticed how the smallest things seem to loom with importance when looked back upon through the lens of experience?

I was bored, all the shows I cared to watch were in reruns, and I picked up a game to amuse myself. I had no idea where that path would take me. I still don’t know where it will end, we shall see.

Slowly as I played the game I made friends online. Starting with the coworker who had introduced me to the game and moving on to guild mates. I have made some very good friends in Wow, and honestly I don’t know how I could have dealt with the next few years without both their support and the separate reality that is Azeroth.

About six months after I started playing, shortly after The Burning Crusade my mother made a mistake. She was living on her own after the death of my dad and doing relatively well. My family and I visited often, and when we were not there we were on the phone. She never went more than six or eight hours without someone either calling or stopping by.

The doctor said that is probably what saved her life.

 

One day I called to see if she would like to go out to dinner with us, as we often did back then. When she did not answer we waited a few minutes and called again. When she did not pick up that time we just hopped in the car and headed over, figuring she was napping.

When we arrived I saw what no one really ever wants to see…  mom on the kitchen floor laying in a puddle of spilt orange juice, the refrigerator door hanging open.

Mom was diabetic, badly so. Somewhere in the afternoon she had made a mistake with her insulin and diet, Taking her shot and then falling asleep before she ate.

She never did remember what happened. I can only assume she awoke on the couch realising that her sugar was low and tried to get some orange juice into her system before it was too late. She lost that race.

Had we not stopped in when we did she would have ben gone that day.

 

When she got out of the hospital a bit over a month later she moved in with us. I learned way more about diabetes during the next two years than most folks learn in their lifetime. I also learned about other things like Alzheimer’s disease, chronic pain management, and drug side effects and interactions.

For two long years my family and I watched her slowly come unglued as her health failed. We spend countless hours with the doctors working to make things better. Even the doctors eventually said all we could do is keep her comfortable until the end comes.

By all rights we could have simply put her into a nursing home and awaited the inevitable call. Most folks would have, especially towards the end.

We could have, but we didn’t.  As long as the doctors who were monitoring things said we could still handle it at home we did. As long as they are able a family takes care of their own, thats just how it works. Anything else is so foreign to me that it doesn’t even register.

Watching it all happen was, shall we say, less than pleasant.

During one of her stays in the hospital, a bit over two years after moving in with us, the call came. My brother and I needed to be there… like now. We made it there just as she finally was too tired to keep fighting and passed away.

 

During those two years I found refuge in the game. I could log in any time day or night and know that everything would be right where I left it. I might be up at three in the morning farming primals, I might be pugging my way through Shattered Halls, I might just be sitting in Shattrah watching the trade chat trolls banter back and forth.

Escaping into a virtual world could not make the pain go away, but it could make it slip to the back of my mind for a little while. It was never completely gone, but for a little while I could slip away to a place where things were easier.

It was a place I could go and have fun relaxing with friends, while still being home if I was needed.

Friends that sat up talking to me all night long when things were so bad I could not sleep.

Friends that said not a word when I left with no more than a quick “Afk” before I vanished, sometimes for days. No matter what we were doing in Azeroth I could walk away and it was understood.

Friends that in some cases I have now met in real life and talk with more out of the game than inside it.

The friends I made in that virtual world are just as real as those I have made anywhere else.

Many, many a long night I sat up with them, one ear on vent and the other ear listening. Waiting for any change in her ragged breathing, or a call to come help her.

 

The world of Azeroth may not be real, but the people there most certainly are. During my own personal cataclysm it was a refuge. A place I could go where I could still have control. A place where things made sense and the reward always came if you finished the quest. The quest giver never said “sorry, you did everything right and it still didn’t matter”.

 

A lot has changed in the year and a half she has been gone. I don’t play nearly as much anymore. Most of the friends I had then are scattered across different servers. Some have quit the game entirely, some just want different things from the game than I do now.

One thing I have learned though, is when things were really bad one of the things that kept me sane was Warcraft and its virtual world.  I could log in, if only for a while, and take a mental vacation there.

Almost as though, before it all happened,  my friend had sent a touristy postcard saying “Escape to Azeroth”.

Tag, I’m it

Actually nobody tagged me on this one, but I like it so here it goes.

An interesting meme has been floating about lately, originally started  on the blog One among Many. It goes something like this.

Go back to your first few posts. Who was the first person to EVER comment on your blog? Call them out, link that post and thank them! Then tag a few folks to see who they call out.

On May the 14th of this year I first sat down in front of a shiny new empty blog and typed out a hello to the blogosphere post called Welcome Aboard. I did not expect much, after all I am still a complete and utter noob when it comes to this whole blogging thing. I knew even less back then!

Imagine my surprise when I checked in the next day to find that none other than Ratshag had stopped in to say hello, Or the following day when Kestrel stopped by.

This got me to thinking, I never actually sat down and actually said thanks to my readers.

I started this blog as a place to store my notes. To collect my thoughts in a way I could come back to later (sometimes wondering what the hell I was thinking). I kept it going because I found I enjoyed the conversation. Many thanks, both to the commenters and the lurkers, for coming along for the ride.

Now I suppose I should tag a few folks myself,

Altaholic Mom from Altoholic’s Are Us who has been a longtime guidmate, and a friend both in game and out.

Larisa from The Pink Pigtail Inn who may not even realize that a few kind words once kept me from retiring the blog.

Breana from The Gun Loving Dwarf Chick who was one of my inspirations for starting this thing up in the first place.

Big Bear Butt of (you guessed it) Big Bear Butt who’s writing showed me that you can be both informative and funny together.  Somehow I can only manage one at a time, but I am working on it.

And last but not least Gevlon of the Greedy Goblin. I may not always agree with what he has to say, but it makes me think. That alone makes it worth reading.

Once again, thanks

It’s all about your point of view.

Casual?

Hardcore?

This topic has been, and will be, talked about until MMORPG’s are no more. Larisa who writes The Pink Pigtail Inn states that the words have lost their meaning. Isisxotic from Musings of a Raider writes about the definitions being a matter of mindset.  The 2nd Nin writing on Life of a Nin speaks of the differences not only from guild to guild but from player to player within the same raid group. Starman at the aptly titled Casual Raid Leader puts forth a third perspective in the form of the hobbyist, someone who is in the middle. Even I have waded in on this subject in the past.

My thoughts on it are pretty simple really. I see it all as a matter of perspective.

Think of it like looking at ships and deciding what “big” and “small” mean. Is a 400 foot long freighter big? First think of it sitting next to a 15 foot bass boat, Looks ginormous right? Well then put it next to a thousand foot long aircraft carrier and see how insignificant it looks.

As I said, its all about the view from where you are. It’s all a matter of perspective. If you raid, no matter to what degree, then you are a raider. If you Pvp, no matter to what degree, then you are a Pvp’r. If you grind for gold or materials, no matter to what degree, then you are a farmer. Weather you are perceived as casual or hardcore is in the eye of the beholder.

For example, a friend of mine allows his 11 and 12 year old sons to play. The younger of the two recently managed after several months to hit level 30 and get his first mount. The other has several characters mostly in their teens. To me they are both very “casual” but to the older brother the younger is quite “hardcore”.

So my definitions would have to be this. If you raid, Pvp, or Farm more than me you are “hardcore”. If you do less than me you must be “casual” since the only real point of reference I have is my own.

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