Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Why Can't I Just Enjoy the Ride, Part Whatever

Work has been kicking my butt the past few weeks, and between that and the stress relief of raiding I've not had much time for writing.

Hopefully this post will get me back on track a bit.

I've been enjoying my time in Classic, and as (I believe) Shintar put it that it's more enjoyable when you're with a group of people --a guild or a cross-guild group-- that you enjoy hanging with. And in true WoW fashion, while the focus is on downing the last boss in AQ40 (Viscidus), raid chat has been filled with what's coming up. Not Naxxramas, mind you, but a bit farther down the road than that: Burning Crusade.

To say that people are excited for BC to drop is probably an understatement. Draenei, Alliance Shamans, Outland, Draenei, flying, Karazhan, and Draenei are just some of the things that people are excited about.

And did I mention Draenei?

Of course, all this excitement for the Burning Crusade left me with an uneasy feeling. Oh, not that I'd be not interested in playing through Outland when it was relevant, or any sort of other petty reasons. In fact, I'd love to see some of my long time blogger friends (Hi, Vidyala and Voss!!*) come back and get a chance to play Burning Crusade again. 

Then what's the problem?

In a word: guilds.

Yeah, I'm just a ray of effing sunshine.

What will happen when BC drops and people start raiding? The requirements will plummet from 20 and 40 man raids to 10 and 25 man raids, and dropping the number of people in a raiding team by 50% and 63% (respectively) is going to result in some tension. Remember, we're coming at BC from an entirely different place than Vanilla: from what I've been told by people who were there, raiding was something that few guilds were able to do in Vanilla, so dropping the raid requirements to 10 and 25 people were a godsend. But in Classic, the situation is reversed: a LOT of guilds raid in Classic, so when you take a raiding team and chop it down like that, there's going to be some tension. The larger guilds with multiple raiding teams can probably absorb this adjustment, but the smaller guilds that field only one? That's another kettle of fish. 

For example, I'm one of six Mages in our AQ40 team. I'm also quite aware that due to a combination of (lack of) experience, skill, and gear, I'm probably 5/6 or 6/6. So, when the time comes to make up raids for BC, I'm likely to be left off the main team. I'm okay with that, since you want the best people in your raid, but I'm also not a member of the guild either. Being demoted as a guildie, however, is going to have a completely different impact.

Guild leaderships throughout Classic are going to have to navigate this minefield, and I'm not sure a lot of guilds will survive. People will want to get a chance to raid and see the content they never got a chance to see, and to be put on the bench will hurt. Hell, look at sports: just how many sports figures take being pulled from the starting group well? You spend your life competing, you're a proud member of the starting lineup, and then the coach pulls you over and says "Look, we've got this kid here, and while we still value your contribution, we've gotta look to the future. It's a business, you understand."

Sure, some people handle a demotion with grace and think of the overall team as the important part. But there are others, lots of others, who still want to prove that they've still got it. They're upset and angry, and they've got instant motivation to prove their coach/manager wrong. They split for another team that gives them the chance they wanted.

And this is what worries me: the necessary demotion of people from a raid will cause drama, more drama than was experienced in the original BC. 

***

I suspect that the drama will be closer to what happened to guilds in Wrath, when the requirement to raid was only 10, and suddenly less than half of a guild was needed to put together a raid team. It could get ugly really fast, with a lot of guilds blowing up into chunks, effectively balkanizing the guild environment on Classic servers.

And seeing some of these guilds that I've run with breaking apart is not something I want to have happen.

There are a lot of great people I've gotten to know through raids, instances, BGs, and just goofing in general around Azeroth, and I would really prefer that my nightmare scenario ever happen. I play to have fun and socialize, and dealing with drama is not what I signed up for. Sure, I realize that some drama is inevitable --we're talking people here, after all-- but the less drama the better.

***

Perhaps my concerns are overblown. Perhaps things will work out and there won't be an excessive amount of drama in Classic.

But if nothing else, the year 2020 has taught me to not be optimistic.



*I'm on Myzrael-US, in case you're wondering. It's West Coast time, so more in line with your own time zone. Just leaving it out there....

Sunday, October 11, 2020

This is Why I Don't Stream, Part Whatever

Oh sure, I've got a sense of humor about my limitations playing games, but this video illustrates perfectly why I don't do livestreams:


I really feel for the guy who was showing how to do a Slow Fall to get right to the Black Lotus location. I've done that exact thing and discovered too late that I don't have any feathers left.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Know When to Hold 'Em

One of the major reasons why I like to play a Rogue* is the thrill of outsmarting the enemy. Not tactically, mind you, but being so clever that you can sneak around and bypass enemies to get where you need to go. It's that rush you get when you sneak through Timbermaw Hold and none of the Firbolg find you, or when you're sneaking around Orr in Guild Wars 2, trying to avoid having to fight your way through every five feet (or so it seems).

Being able to get all the way to Frostwolf Hold in Alterac Valley and drive the Horde nuts by moving back and forth and assaulting the two Frostwolf Towers --all without being seen-- is a huge rush.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered just how much of a gambler you have to be when you play a Fire Mage. 

You knew this was coming, didn't you?

One of the major reasons why I specced Frost all those years with Neve was because Frost is not only a great PvP spec but that it is the best spec for questing out in the field. All of the damage mitigation and defensive skills that Frost has means that a Frost Mage will typically not suffer much damage at all, or if she does she can quickly escape without much issue. And while speccing Frost is highly sought after for raiding in Molten Core and Blackwing Lair, for the rest of WoW Classic it is not seen as a "raider's spec" per se.

That's Fire's domain.

When you see a max level Fire Mage out and about in Azeroth, odds are good that Mage is raiding AQ20 or AQ40. A lone Fire Mage out in Blackwing Lair or Molten Core is at a disadvantage, because the reason why Fire Mages are so powerful is that their buffs stack based on the number of Fire Mages in a raid. Put that same lonely Fire Mage in AQ40 with 4-5 other Fire Mages, they can wreak havoc on enemies. 

Scratch one Anubisath.


A lone Fire Mage in a 5-man instance? Not a problem; only Blackrock Depths has bosses that resist fire spells. 

A lone Fire Mage questing in the field? Well... That's a completely different kettle of fish.

The reason why I say a Fire Mage is a Gambler's Spec is because a Fire Mage has no damage mitigation outside of the Fire Ward, Frost Ward, and Mana Shield spells. And let's be honest: the Mana Shield isn't used much because it sucks your Mage's mana dry to shield them, so it's typically looked on as a spell of last resort.

Add to that, a Fire Mage doesn't get the slowdown or freezes that a Frost Mage gets when utilizing Frost Spells, so dumping Blizzard or a Frostbolt on an enemy doesn't give you the slow debuff that a Frost Mage gets, which is a huge advantage when you want to escape from (or DPS down) an enemy.

No, the Fire Mage says "I bet I can throw more damage at you before you kill me" every single pull. 

I believe a Fire Mage's mantra is "Go Big or Go Home".

Bring it, you blowhard!

Am I comfortable with Card rolling the dice like this? After a month of speccing Fire, I'm still not really comfortable yet. Oh, I understand the rotation, and I don't die if I space out my pulls in the wild, but Card's survivability pulling a pack of 3 or more at level enemies has taken a bit of a hit. 

I guess I have to embrace my inner gambler a bit more.



*Or a class similar to one, such as a Shadowblade in Elder Scrolls Online. Guild Wars 2 has a Thief profession, and if you guessed I play that class in GW2 you'd be right. In Star Wars: The Old Republic my favorite class --and class story-- is the Smuggler; I've played both the Scoundrel (Healer) and Gunslinger (DPS) subclasses, and I've found both of them to be a blast. (Literally, at times.) Hmm... I've never played a Burglar in LOTRO, because I can't get into playing a Hobbit, but maybe I should try one out.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Getting Rid of the Blur

The past 3-4 weeks have been a bit of a blur.

Learning to play a Fire Mage, running raids I've never (or almost never) seen before, and trying to get geared enough to be useful have been akin to my head spinning around on a turntable like a Dee-lite video.

Groove is in the Heart,
featuring homeboy Bootsy Collins.

However, the longer my raiding has gone on, the more I've wondered just how much of my output is decided by gear and how much by skill. 

Okay, let's be real for a second: you have to know what the hell you're doing if you want to be useful in any group format in WoW. I don't mean that you have to know the entire rotation like the back of your hand, but you have to realize that --for instance-- if you're attacking a mob that has fairly low health, spamming Fireball isn't your best option. For one, it takes forever (3.5 seconds) to cast, and 3.5 seconds is a looong time for a cast on a trash mob. At that point, you're much better off spamming Scorch (1.5 second cast) to at least get some damage on a mob before they're cut down. So, that's the sort of basic understanding about your class that I'm aiming for here: once you get these basics down, you're 75% of the way there to maximizing your DPS output from skill. 

Yes, you can practice and improve your output from there, but I think at this point you get more bang for the buck by improving your gear. 

And using Cardwyn as an example, boy did my gear need improvement.

***

In order to understand the impact on gear, let me show you where Card stood when she was convinced to join the AQ40 raid:

From sixtyupgrades.com.
I can thank the Mage Lead for showing me the site.

Um, yeah. I wasn't kidding when I said I wasn't ready for Blackwing Lair, much less AQ40.

The nice thing about Sixty Upgrades is that with a click you can see the impact of an upgrade on your gear. For example, clicking on the Star of Mystara (which I held onto because of the plus to hit) gives you this:

Yikes. The Star of Mystara doesn't
even the Top 6.

The table is easy to understand. The left column is the name of the piece, the middle is the impact the gear on the Fire Spec, and the right column is where the gear can be found. If you hover over the middle column, it gives you the details in the bonuses (Spell Power, Int, Hit, etc.) 

What I did was target gear that were (relatively) quick upgrades that had a big impact. Like that silly looking turban from Upper Blackrock Spire, that you'll never ever ever see Card wearing with "Show Helm" active. Or that Robe of the Archmage that I had in my bank, which (ironically enough) has better spell power than even the T2 Netherwind Robe. Or the Fire Wand I had (also in my bank) that gives a better boost than the wand I'd been using. 

Combine all this with a few lucky rolls and drops in MC and BWL and my gear looked a bit more, well, raid worthy.

The net result was that my output went up by a decent amount over the next few weeks, something like 18-20% per week.

That was just gear, mind you, because I don't think I've gotten that much better at handling "Fiery Cardwyn" over the past few weeks than my first week or so running with the spec.

***

I suppose you could say that both gear and skill have their upper limitations; gear has a hard upper limit while skill doesn't. But skill produces diminishing returns the higher up in skill you go. The effort it takes to go from 0 - 75% is less time than to go from 75% to 90%, because you have to work longer and harder to raise your skill to that sort of level. 

Gear is just a time grind without any performance pressure: you put in the time and the drops will come. Skill is a time grind as well, but one with no set ending: you're kind of limited by your physical skillset, and the older you get the greater the limitations.

But for me, gear had the biggest impact on my performance in raids. I'm still bringing up the rear in the Mage Crew, but the gap has lessened considerably. I can now focus on skill without worrying about being such a liability compared to before, and because I've gotten a bunch of easy upgrades I can now focus on specific ones that I can target in Molten Core that have a big bang-for-the-buck to them. 

Overall, things are much less chaotic and overwhelming. For which I'm eternally grateful.


Tuesday, September 29, 2020

A Not-So-Brief Toast

This is the 11th anniversary of Parallel Context, and for this year, I'm going to do something different.

I'm going to use this space as a huge thank you to people who, over the years, have made my time spent gaming --and writing about gaming-- so enjoyable.

Oh, I've said thanks before --hell, I even said thanks to some friends who never read the blog a few days ago-- but this is different. 

I'm going to be all inclusive, and as much as possible, name names. (Hopefully in Alphabetical order.)

There's plenty of people over the past 11 years who shaped me as the gamer --and gamer Dad-- that I am. If I miss a name, it's not that I deliberately ignored you, it's likely that I forgot to include you. So this is my catch all "I love you, man!" moment.

First of all, I'd like to thank my wife, Laura, for tolerating my gaming habit. Given that she outplays me in Mario Kart and Scrabble I'd say she's got the gamer bug too.

The mini-Reds, Kathryn, David, and Stephanie: Sorry for outing you like this, but you know, it's a Dad thing. And besides, you're not exactly "mini" any more.

Sam (Souldat) and Missy, who got me started on WoW back in 2009. Soul and I started up the blog a month later. Their own kids will be gamers too, I just know it.

My fellow bloggers --some still here, others who have moved on-- who over the years provided encouragement, criticism, and friendship: Ancient, Arcturus Wilhelm, Atherne, Bhagpuss, Chas, Cymre, Cynwise, Dacheng, Darth Solo, Ehna, Gevlon, Gypsy Syl, Jaye, Joseph Skyrim, Kamalia, Krikket, Kurn, Larisa, Linedan, Lyrestra, Miss Medicina, Navimie, Nogamara, Njessi, Oakstout, Ophelie, Rades, Ratshag, Ravanel Griffon, Rohan, Sayville, Shayalyn, Shintar, SilkRX, Spinks, Syp, Tam, The Duke of O, The Jazz Panda, The Red Cow, Tobold, Vidyala, Voss, Zeirah, and Zinn.

My fellow pencil-and-paper RPG and boardgame players, who have provided hours of amusement and bad jokes, frequently at my expense: Bill, Cara, Craig, Dave, Emily, Elizabeth, Elizabeth, Ed, Eric, James, Jeem, Kathleen, Larry, Michael, Richard, Roy, Todd, Tom, Tom, and Vincent.

My fellow MMO players whom I've interacted with and become friends/acquaintances, without whom the online world we inhabit would feel so empty. Some of these people I've not seen in-game in a while or maybe even met once or twice, but their online personas had a lasting impact on me. I'm also going to have to apologize about the lack of memory from my previous years playing WoW and the heyday of SWTOR. So naturally, this is gonna skew heavily in the direction of WoW Classic and Myzrael-US, so forgive me the bias*: Agarramesta, Akumabby, Alendor, Amorilla, Amyspaladin, Anarya, Andahar, Andrisa, Angelarenee/Ashablake, Angrymom, Angryslash, Annimagus, Aquilaen, Archimond, Artey, Arthur, Aryasmercy, Astrologic, Athenaheals, Auggustus, Azsharianna, Babushkae, Badsectorz, Ballowman, Beatocarlos, Beerly, Blackcadence, Bobknight, Brawhalla, Brandir, Brisse, Briteyez, Brohlm, Cambry, Camie, Candrilynn, Cathoran, Cerilya, Chantsy, Chowmeinz, ClickyMcHope, Clorinda, Coolbeanz, Corcair, Cormar, Crammarius, Crenshawe, Criminy, Dagalor, Daile, Dalazar, Danzandrin, Darlon, Dealtfate, Deeps, Deonysia, Diadema, Dilutes, DJDoug, Dnara, Draggonbite, Dreadxoom, Druldin, Elanda, Elavear, Eowin, Epa, Epyk/Naytiri, Etnwhvac, Eucaly, Exileriven, Faebissa, Fatality, Fermiumvolt, Feytor, Frozenchosen, Galaxyx, Galea, GeeGee, Gerran, Gerardian, Giblin, Gigglemug, Gohealurself, Gohmorr, Gorome, Grapenut, Grayhair, Gruber, Gwenthe, Haldol, Hallowman, Haylnn, Heathcliff, Henneli, Iamzlaw, Ita, Jaeger, Jalen, Jashal, Jasperin, Jeras, Jesup, Jukes, Jhaydis, Juliette, Jyhaero, Kaben, Kagatoe, Kale, Kaitie, Kellevi, Kendogg, Kerlin, Keren, Kiltpeeper, Kobuk/Sitka, Kokolo, Kuzon, Kyrisa, Lashuenta, Levilla, Lg, Lilboo, Lionusdrake, Lipwig, Lojze, Lolcats, Lollipop, Looksa, Lottarage, Lottathreat, Lottaheals, Ludovika, Lynestrex, Macfarquar, Malaia, Mathibarad, McLoughlin, Meatballsoup, Missguided, Mithridates, Mirshana, Mojack, Mool, Moonraye, Mysteria, Necrosis, Nehi, Neristranna, Neshama, Nikkifrost, Niplsauce, Nokt, Nubisa, Nugsy, Nysarra, Oakshanna, Oceani, Oldmanvekk, Ontherocks, Oom, Ophelia, Orcsquasher, Otaylig, Qanya, Paulgladdin, Payorth, Pelham, Penryn, Phaela, Phylox, Potatoetot, Primera, Prone, Quidz, Quintessence, Raike, Rashelle, Raziael, Realnoice, Reapicheep, Redlough, Rehni, Remedy, Remiel, Retrokitty, Reuro, Rhognald, Rhustto, Ritavrataski, Roddrigo, Rodeo, Rubmybelly, Sabreena, Sandella, Saylorjerry, Scro, Semiretart, Serah, Seri, Serona, Shag, Silkenblade, Sinean, Sitka/Kobuk, Smashpee, Smokywood, Sorla, Spoken, Stegg, Stumpymcaxe, Swearengine, Swifts, Swiftlist, Swimbish, Tanyquil, Thalor, Thedarkelf, Thelasmag, Thorry, Thrall, Thyrrien, Timmywayne, Travieso, Valarie, Valerianna, Verminyard, Verushe, Wexit, Wheelofzaps, Whitemage, Wip, Wiseman, Wraps, Wtfmate, Wulfgar, Xaya, Yaroslav, Yrenja, Yutenat, Zanzabahr, Zarae, and Zwak.

So to all, a big thank you. I'd say that most of the people listed will never know their name is here, and that's fine. It's just my way of getting this together and thanking people for 11 years of Parallel Context.



*I went with a person's definable main, or if they split time both toons.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

In Soviet Russia, Tentacles Kill You

Yesterday was one of those days where you kind of wish would keep going on and on.

And then you realize that it did.

Setting aside work for a moment, the evening began with this:

Yeah, and on AV Weekend, no less.

And ended with this:

Yes, Card is in there somewhere.

In between there were a lot of deaths.

A LOT of deaths.

The last one, by one of the Eye Tentacles, came right before C'Thun was weakened for the second time and those still alive were able to DPS it down.

And somewhere about an hour before first pull, I got pulled into a work call that lasted longer than the entire AQ40 raid.

So yeah, that made for an entertaining evening. 

But C'Thun is dead, and we proved we could kill it while trying AQ40 once a week.


Sunday, September 20, 2020

Off Topic: Take This Seriously Part 2

Tonight I lost another member of my extended family to Covid-19.

Who's next? I don't know. But I do know we have it within ourselves to halt the spread of this virus. And we have to be all in on this.