It came from the PUG

My experiences in random instances and raids in WoW has been pretty positive recently. I’ve been in groups with some people who weren’t good players but haven’t seen any of the type of bad behaviour that makes for amusing blog posts. That’s a good thing, although sad for the blog posts.

Still, here are a couple of PUG stories.

Suddenly, RP

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The instance is “Gate of the Setting Sun”, set on a wall-top garrison that is under siege by the mantid hordes. My group had been competent but silent, making our way through the various trash and boss spawns in a business like way.

Then we get to the section (shown above) where the soldiers are trying to fight through enemy ranks so that they can light a signal fire to raise the alert.  One NPC offers to try to run the gauntlet.

Suddenly one of my group pipes up on group chat: He was going to retire in two weeks time

Another player adds: And his girlfriend is pregnant

Then someone else adds: they just got engaged to be married

And that was it for group communication for the whole of the instance. I like to think everyone found it as engaging as I did.

Apparently anti-magic shield prevents magic

In another group, LFR this time, I was healing in a fight where there are a lot of enemies, and several of the mobs can  buff all the NPC to make them do more damage (Wind Lord Mel’jarak). So it’s down to healers (and anyone else) to debuff them, and priests have an AE debuff which makes them quite handy in this fight.

Anyhow, after the first wipe, the tanks were complaining about lazy priests because the debuff hadn’t been dispelled. I thought this was odd because I knew I’d been casting it and seen it not taking. Then I realised both the tanks were death knights, which means they both had an AE anti magic shield which had probably been covering the NPCs as well as the players.

“It will work better if you don’t put up anti magic shield,” I said.

There was silence. We killed him next try. (Note: I don’t know for sure that I was right, but I think it’s quite likely.)

[WoW] The mastery curve, holidays, and it came from the PUG

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Hallow’s End is my favourite of the WoW holiday events. This isn’t just because the Headless Horseman talks in rhyme like a pantomine villain, but because it’s the only event which feels more meaningful in the game world than in real life.

In real life, Halloween in the UK is a  hodge podge which is currently drawing hugely on American customs. It is kind of taking off, but I think we have a much softer spot for the home grown Guy Fawkes Day with its fireworks, anti government themes and politically incorrect  history. It may not be the world’s greatest festival but it’s all ours, dammit.  In game, Hallow’s End is the holiday on which the Forsaken celebrate their freedom from the Scourge. (A fairly brilliant concept from Blizzard which keeps the spooky feel but fits nicely with the lore.) So as my main is Forsaken, it is quite meaningful to me. This screenshot shows the daily ceremony in the Undercity where Sylvanas walks out and gives a speech/ pep talk in front of the Wicker Man. You can see that there are a few other players standing around, even though I don’t think you get any buffs from watching the event. They just wanted to come and see.

As players, we are probably all used to seeing thinly veiled lore-based excuses for having Xmas events. Players like them. But I much prefer the approach that imagines what type of holidays the in game races might have, what events might they celebrate? LOTRO does a good job with these, tying their holidays to the seasons and harvests. Anyone else have favourite events with game-specific lore that just really works for you?

Yesterday you were the noob, today you are the master

In any MMO, you can imagine a kind of learning curve where you begin as an inexperienced player and end up achieving the sort  of mastery where random strangers ask you for tips about your gear/ playing style in PUGs. OK, in my dreams maybe, but every player takes a journey from feeling new and awkward and unconfident to feeling comfortable with the content, confident, and capable in their role. This includes collecting gear, exploring the zones and instances, learning the fights and learning the class.

In particular if you want to take part in group content at max level, there is a trial by fire where you start queuing for PUGs as a nervous, barely geared level 90. Then as you get more experience and better gear, you don’t feel so nervous any more. Your tanking/healing/dps is fine and you know it.

That learning curve seems to get shorter with each expansion, but I suspect that is partly my being generally familiar with the game. It is, however, one of my absolute most favourite parts of WoW. That sense that every dungeon run is exciting because you can still make daft mistakes, help your group narrowly avoid a wipe, or just barely heal a fight and keep everyone alive. And more than that, the sense that you are still learning something with every run, still hoping for that cool drop, still engaged with the content.

I know not everyone likes excitement or that skin of the teeth feeling, but I do enjoy the learning curve. I feel that with Spinks I’m pretty much at the end of it now, she’s geared for the next LFR when it turns up, is generally top dps in instances, and I have most of the gear I really wanted.  When I run heroics now, I feel far more laid back about it. DPS warriors hinge on the very basic fun of hitting stuff with big weapons and putting up big numbers and that never really pales.

The main alt this expansion is a priest and I’ve ended up taking her down the Holy (healing) path. This was initially because queue times were so short, but I also really enjoy it as a spec. It feels like a spec with a lot of depth, and though I can heal competently, I still feel that I’ve barely scratched the surface which is pretty cool.

Undergeared healers can be challenging to play because they tend to run out of mana very fast. I think the priest has particular issues with this, but since I don’t plan on raiding with her, I am reflecting that this actually makes the instance learning curve rather more fun for me. Or rather, it’s more fun because sometimes I have really struggled with healing an encounter, which makes it so much more rewarding when I can go back later to the same instance with better gear/more experience/better group and see that I’ve improved. I will almost be sad to be over geared on her.

But there are still Challenge modes ahead. I look forwards to more exciting razor edge victories/failures.

It came from the PUG

A couple of positive examples this week, both from instances where I was healing.

I had struggled to heal Shado-Pan Heroic, there are encounters where the group can end up taking a lot of damage without much warning. But I am getting better with practice, and also noticing how much of a difference it makes when players can keep out of the avoidable damage. This is something Blizzard are really pushing with the MoP heroics, and I think healers are in a good place to notice it. I realised I was getting more confident as a healer when after one of the boss fights in Shado-Pan, one of the dps who had died during the fight said “pay attention healer.”  And my kneejerk response was to say “no, you pay attention and keep out of the bad stuff.” And no one in the group complained, I like to think this was because I was right.

Another, similar, healing moment was in Jade Temple Heroic. One of the (dead) dps said to me “where were the heals” and I said “you need to keep yourself out of the bad stuff”. There was a pause, and he said “yeah sorry.” THIS NEVER HAPPENS (i.e. people apologising), BUT IT HAPPENED IN MY GROUP!! Cognitive dissonance follows.

I imagine that once I am overgeared I’ll be better able to heal people who stand in the fire, but I quite like the playing style where it’s just not possible to do that and  healing decisions have to be made based on keeping enough people alive to beat the boss, which means triage on people who just take too much damage.

[WoW] It came from the PUG, and how the love of bling unites communities

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This is just a picture of Spinks standing around in a pub, but the detail on the interior furnishings in MoP is lovely. I think this is a Mah Jong set?

And so, with another WoW expansion, there is another rush of players into heroic PUGs so as to gear up their new level 90 characters. The instances on the whole are shortish and emphasise the boss fights, with minimal trash mobs between bosses. (Honorable exception: Shado-Pan Monastery, which does seem to have a fair amount of ‘trash’.) It does make for a different and more ‘theme park’ style of instance. But I am finding them quite fun and enjoying where Blizzard experiment with different types of mechanics, such as in the Siege of Niuzao, or the one where dps get fired out of a cannon. I am however now rather tired of Stormstout Brewery which I have been dutifully running once per day and still never seen the dps trinket drop from the last boss.

I haven’t tried any challenge modes yet, I hear they’re pretty tough and look forwards to getting round to it at some point.

I was also hoping by now to have some good anecdotes to share on “It came from the PUG.” Actually people have mostly been pleasant (or at least quiet) and reasonably well behaved, and willing to briefly explain boss fights if other players don’t know them. But there are a couple I’d pick out.

One was an instance of Stormstout where the first thing the Death Knight tank said to me when I zoned in at the start was “Are you going to roll on the dps trinket off last boss?” I said, “Yes,” and he left. This was in the morning, about 30 mins before the daily instance lock reset.

Since I’ve never actually seen it drop, I have no idea if tanks are able to roll need on the trinket. I’d guess that they can, because I could roll need on tanking gear if I wanted, and did get into an argument on one run where I rolled need on a one handed sword without tank stats because I thought it would be handy if I wanted to switch to dual wielding 1 handers.

So this is a player who would rather sit out altogether than take a 50% chance of winning an item if it dropped (which of course it didn’t Winking smile ), with the knowledge he could try again in 30 mins anyway. A lot of people apparently cannot handle the idea of a shared roll. I refuse to feel guilty about turning up to an instance with the intent of rolling for an item which is best in slot for me. I don’t personally feel strongly about people rolling need for off spec items, although the longer I go trying to get this trinket, the more pissy I am likely to be it does drop and I don’t win. I do wish there was a roll priority for ‘off-spec need’ which would take priority if and only if no one with main spec priority rolled need. i.e..  from top to bottom priority –> main spec need, off spec need, greed/disenchant, pass. Because I’d rather see an item go to someone who will use for offspec than sold to a vendor.

A more heartening PUG story was in a Shado-Pan PUG, where the group had wiped a couple of times on the last boss. One of the dps was going ballistic on a hapless warlock who hadn’t been focussing on the adds, and by going ballistic I mean serious anger management issues. The tank was a very placid player who told him/her to settle down and shut up, explained the fight patiently to the warlock and made sure they understood, and then we aced the fight. It’s not a very exciting anecdote, I admit, except to say that there are plenty of decent, mature players out there and it’s probably a good sign if your tank picks “the Patient” as his/her title of choice.

Bling bling, emergent behaviour

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The Blingtron 4000 is an item that an engineer can make, which doles out free gifts to everyone who clicks on it. It is quite expensive to make, requiring 4 Spirits of Harmony, Living Steel, Trillium, Blue quality gems, etc. So why would any crafter spend all those materials on something whose only purpose is to give free stuff to other random players? The only answer must be because it’s fun. But when you’ve spent that much effort making an item, you want people to notice, and to get some use out of it.

I noticed when one of my guildies set off a Blingtron, she announced in general chat where it was and most of the players in the zone turned up for their free gifts. (OK, a couple of them also got on their largest mounts and sat on top of the Blingtron to annoy everyone else, but they got reported.) The screenshot above was actually taken from an alt on a different server and faction. You can see again that he’s  put it in an accessible location and is announcing to everyone in range (this was in Stormwind) that they can come and get some freebies.

I find that kind of cool as emergent behaviour. It does bring players together, the engineer hopefully gets some social status and people might remember their name with good associations, and it’s quite fun to turn up and get a free random present from someone you might not even know.

[SWTOR] New world event rumours, LFD, and other patch related chatter

First up, there are rumours flying around the fleets of a new world event. I believe the source of the rumours was from someone datamining the new patch but since the website is down for maintenance at the moment I can’t provide a link for that. What I do know is that people on guild chat last night were guessing it might start today. So not long to wait to find that out, at least.

If true, t would be a welcome addition to a patch that is otherwise strong on functionality but weak on content.

What I’ve been up to

I have been quietly levelling my consular this week, and have rather enjoyed Act 3 of her story. Also the romance is quite sweet; it comes late in the game for female consulars, with Lieutenant Iresso. He actually has a first name, unlike Lieutenant Piece (Sith Warrior companion) which you could take as a sign that he was always going to be more fleshed out, so to speak.

The consular story is curiously impersonal compared to the agent or sith warrior, it’s cool but I never felt a personal link between my character and most of the NPCs. I think that sense of emotional distance, together with a slow Act 1, go a long way towards why it’s considered not to be one of the better stories. I have enjoyed it though, and it does come together neatly at the end. You also get to be quite heroic and have a nice “everyone loves ME!” scene at the end where Satele Shan tells you and your companions that you saved the Republic. It is a cognitive dissonance that no one else seems aware of this; the jump between single player storyline and endgame on this class is very weird for that reason. (The warrior came out top from some secretive Sith infighting and carries on serving the emperor, the agent makes some career choices but basically is still doing his/her thing, but where do you go after saving the Republic exactly?)

I will also miss having the squabbling diplomats on my ship. My other comment on the consular storyline is that there are a lot of tough fights. I don’t remember finding so many of the bosses this tough on alts. They aren’t unfair, the fights are doable if you’re careful and use all your crowd control abilities, but just something to note. There was at least one occasion where I wanted to try using a different companion but of course they weren’t very geared up.

My new guild continue to be a friendly bunch, and are also usually quite busy with flashpoints, warzones, and operations. I am not used to being in this size of a guild (it’s not HUGE but bigger than I’m used to) so trying not to find it intimidating. Since hitting 50, I’ve already been joined by a guildie to do dailies together and invited by someone else to come for a guild hard mode run. I did say that I doubted my gear but they said “don’t worry about it” and we headed off to whomp Taral-V, which I’m assured is the easiest hard mode on Republic side. So they’re all quite keen to help newbies, and I’m hoping to gear up a bit, get to know people and be less carried in future. I’m also toying with signing up for a story mode EV run, as soon as I decide if I want to play as dps or a healer.

I have successfully tried out the new LFD tool. Finding groups for levelling characters can be slow, although I’m told it’s fast for tanks (as you might expect) and the tool can be a bit restrictive as to which flashpoints it allows you to queue for based on level. Still, I healed through a Fallen Emperor run at level 48 that went well. Since hitting 50, I have upgraded some mods in my gear via daily commendations and queued for one hard mode via LFD. It threw us into Maelstrom Prison (one of the other republic-only flashpoints) and the group managed it fine. The tank left in the middle but we were able to requeue for a new tank and someone came in and neatly finished the run.

The other bonus is that I’ve now seen all the flashpoints and have the Republic half of Revan’s story. It is at this point clear that Taral-V/Maelstorm happen before Boarding Party/Foundry. Also Republic don’t get to fight HK-47 before the Fallen Emperor instance (he features in The Foundry), but they do get to kick the shit out of Grand Moff Kilran, which makes up for a lot.

So that’s 2/2 random groups which have been perfectly fine for me. I do find it strange that you can pick multiple roles to queue for, given that there is no dual spec in the game. For levelling flashpoints this is fine, and I’ve tanked plenty of instances in SWTOR on my warrior in dps spec, but I can’t see that working too well for a healer. And while I suppose you could run off and respec between finding a group and porting to the flashpoint, that could be a long delay depending on where you are.

I am also told that LFD may not work well if you have the breadcrumb quest for a flashpoint in your quest log. Daily or weekly quests are fine. I haven’t experienced that personally though.

The other thing of note in the LFD is that after the instance is complete, it doesn’t port you back to where you came from. You will end up outside the instance.

Free credits/ PvP gear for level 50s, and upgraded tutorials

I am not sure if this is new in patch 1.3 or if I had just not noticed it before, but when you hit level 50, you can pick up a quest from the PvP quest terminal on the fleet which will give you a free set of starter PvP gear, some of which is probably also better for PvE than your levelling outfit. If you don’t want this gear, or have some PvP gear already, you can opt for an alternative quest reward which is a token that you can sell to a vendor for the equivalent cost: 320k credits.

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This is a screenie of the quest, and of the quest rewards. You can also pick this quest up on an old level 50 if you haven’t taken it yet, so there’s free credits out there for the taking!

The in-game tutorials have also had a reworking, and are now much more graphically appealing. They show screenshots as examples of how to do things, and are context sensitive (eg. the first time a new alt ran through a fire, I got the tutorial about hazardous environments) which they also were before. As a newbie I think I would have liked these. MMOs are so deep that it probably wouldn’t be possible to provide up to date tutorials for everything, but I appreciate the attempt.

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This is the tutorial on how to use the group finder, for example.

It came from the PUG: Make him run!!!

Welcome back to the annals of my random PUG experiences! Things have been a bit quiet on the PUG front because after having maxed out my reputations and sorted out raid gear on Spinks, I found my motivation to queue was very low. The instances were great and all – instance review to follow later this week – but it was as if I was done with that phase of my life. “It isn’t you, WoW Instances, it’s me.” Clearly this does not bode well given that a large part of the WoW endgame for every expansion up till now has involved running lots of instances.

Anyhow, recently I was levelling a Death Knight alt and dipped into the unchlorinated swimming pool of random PUGs as DPS to see how the temperature is in WoW randoms lately.

One thing I noticed is that when you are playing an alt and haven’t instanced in awhile, chances are you’ll make the odd silly mistake while you are remembering how it plays in groups. Maybe you’ll forget to put the right aura up, or accidentally taunt a mob, or something minor like that. If you’re lucky no-one else will notice and you’ll swiftly correct it.

If you’re unlucky, you will get the group from hell. They will either assume*** that because you made one minor mistake ONCE, you are the personification of all their hates and fears about being grouped with ‘morons’ (or M+S as Gevlon charmingly puts it.) Or else they’ll be so highly strung that even a single thing in an instance that doesn’t fit their expectations will send them off the deep end.

Make him run!

So the instance was normal Vortex Pinnacle, and my alt was around level 83 or so, wearing levelling greens/ blues as you do.

I realised this was going to be an odd run when I noticed that the tank was level 85 and in  raid gear. (Warrior Tier 11 is very recognisable because it’s so fugly.) There are actually very few reasons why a raid geared level 85 would be interested in normal Vortex Pinnacle, it won’t give reputations for tabard wearers and they’re hardly going to care about the justice points. I can only assume Blizzard patched in the warrior gun again as a drop there.

Anyhow, he was barging his way through quickly with occasional mana breaks for the healer and we came to the section where the trash pack starts within a grounding area. This means they are immune to spells, so the group needs to pull them outside the grounding pyramid to kill them.

I figured it probably wouldn’t work but I’d try to death grip one to bring it over. It didn’t work, but it did act as a taunt so when the mobs came over our way, it was still fixated on me. So my character died and we killed the mobs.

The tank said, “Who do you think is tanking here, you or me? Don’t res, make him run.”

I said, “Sorry, that was my mistake but you could have taunted it back. Now you’re just being a jerk.”

And (this part is crucial) then I left because I made the same attribution error as he did, figured he was probably just an arse, and decided there wasn’t anything I needed in the instance for which I’d put up with it. The nice thing about being low level is that you can always just go and do some quests instead.

This fairly casual attitude to instances, now that they are so easily available,  is why we both made the same mistake.

*** Technically this is called an attribution error. If you see a dps get aggro in an instance, do you assume?:

  1. They are a moron. All dps who pull aggro must die in fire.
  2. It’s a low level instance, s/he is probably just learning.
  3. It was probably just a one-off mistake and they won’t do that again.
  4. You didn’t even notice. Either mobs were dying so fast that it doesn’t matter, everyone was tanking everything in any case, or (if you were the tank) you just taunted it back again as an automatic reaction.

If you always automatically assume (1) without ever waiting for more evidence then you are probably the problem. Obv. if they have a stupid name or say stupid things in chat prior to the event, you’ll have more basis for that opinion.

It came from the PUG: You can tell someone is a noob if ….

I always think it’s quite nice if people want to give tips to other players, as long as their information is basically correct.

But one I thing I have noticed in low level instances with alts this week is that as soon as anyone does so, the rest of the group immediately starts treating the other person as a new player. (ie. they’ll all talk to you as if you were a three year old and try to hold your hand through the instance.)

So for example, I was healing on a low level shaman and picked up an agility dagger that dropped in an instance, for my levelling spec. No one else in the group wanted it. Immediately the rest of the group asked why I’d needed it and (when I explained) jumped to explain that enhancement shaman should be looking for slow weapons and not daggers.

Sometimes a gal just wants an upgrade to her levelling gear, and not a lecture on how the offspec should be min/maxed at endgame! Just saying. But it’s hard to really convey that without sounding mean minded about people who are  just trying to help.

I wouldn’t mind but because they’d all evidently classified me as a noob, they were also giving me healing tips (which I really didn’t need, you can heal low level instances on a resto shaman by throwing earth shield on someone and going off to get some tea.)

Group 2: Raid mark roulette

In challenging instances, the group leader can help players out a lot by good use of marking.

Marks can be used to indicate the kill order for an assist train, to pick out which mobs should be targeted for different types of crowd control, and to make sure everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing and in which order.

In fact, there seem to be some generally accepted uses of marks. People often use the skull to indicate “Please kill this one first, ps. that means max single target dps, not AE to boost your numbers please.”

But I was in a random group last week where the tank carefully marked every mob, using different symbols each time, and there was never any discussion of what the marks meant. This actually worked better than you’d expect since the group was fairly together. Everyone who was able to CC picked a mark and did it and people held back on dps until they could see what was going on and which mob the tank had picked up.

But it did make me wonder at why anyone would think that marks explained themselves. (Maybe they should actually give us more explanatory marks than green triangle and purple diamond ….)

It came from the PUG: I’ll … roll … in … a … minute

Now I haven’t ventured into the dangerous waters of PUG heroics in Cataclysm myself, I think I have better things to do than spend a couple of hours in the company of Joe Random who cheated the iLvL requirement by buying PvP gear …. like washing my socks or something.

But normal Cataclysm dungeons in LFD I’ve had fairly good experiences with. I’ve had some groups where the tank or healer was nervous and the rest of the group was friendly and supportive. I’ve had several groups where different people helped to explain encounters to people who didn’t know them. I’ve even been in a group where one guy started with the ‘gogogo’ and everyone else told him to shut up. And he did!

The worst behaviour I’ve seen so far was the guy who said as we zoned in, “Sorry, meant to queue for the heroic,” and instead of either leaving or finishing the normal instance, he just sat down at the entrance and went AFK. This left the group the option of booting him (which couldn’t happen for 15 minutes) or leaving the instance themselves (leaving gives you a 30 min debuff before you can queue for another random).

Rolling with the slow rollers

But one thing that is mildly frustrating for me at the moment is people who insist on asking “Can I roll need for this drop” when it’s an upgrade for their main spec and role which they are playing at the time.

Really guys, if you are tanking and a tanking upgrade drops, you don’t need to ask if you can roll need. That’s what the need button is for. You don’t even need to ask whether you can roll need for offspec (it’s usually considered polite, but you don’t have to.)

Sometimes people do ask the group if they can roll need for offspec gear. I always automatically say, “Sure, that’s fine,” after a few seconds have passed regardless of who asked or what offspec gear they wanted. I figure it gets things moving, since no one else was probably going to answer. It also makes you feel very authoritative cos the person who asked usually just wants one random person to say yes to make them feel better about rolling.

I was in a group where one of the dps did this and then the healer paged me with a sad face several packs of trash mobs later. Well, chuckles, you could have spoken up and said, “This is an upgrade for my main spec, please don’t roll on it.” If you choose silence instead, don’t whine if you lose a roll.

And speaking of people who are slow to roll, there are occasions where I’d wait to see if the tank rolled need on an item before rolling need for offspec. And I noticed that some tanks (and healers) won’t do this until they can see that no one else in the group has rolled. I don’t know why this is. Surely if they want to need on a mainspec item, they could do that as soon as they compare it with their gear and find that it’s an upgrade. If they don’t need it, that gives everyone else the chance to roll need for offspec without having to ask pointless quests that random group members will answer.

Cataclysm Shot of the Day

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Another picture from the revamped old world. I’ve noticed that they’ve been tweaking the colour palette to be more naturalistic in some of the old zones. This is from Blasted Lands, if you can believe it.