Tuesday, August 31, 2021

A Star Shines on the Hour of our Meeting

The other night I got a ping on Facebook Messenger from an old friend.

Around the same time PC was starting up, another blog about pugging instances to L80 began posting. The blog, Pugging Pally, soon showed up on my radar via the late blogs Righteous Orbs and The Pink Pigtail Inn, and over the course of several months the owner of the blog, Vidyala, and I became friends. Over the years, she completed her Pugging Pally experiment and went on to create a new blog, Manalicious, featuring her Mage, Millya. She also wrote the Mage column for WoW Insider for a few years, but she is probably most well remembered in the WoW/Blogger community for the webcomic she began with another friend and blogger, Rades: From Draenor With Love.*

From Draenor was one of those webcomics that really sunk its hooks into you and never let you go. I, of course, knew both Rades (from Orcish Army Knife) and Vidyala, so I had a personal reason to keep up with the webcomic, but it was nice to see that they'd developed a following over the years FDWL was active. Rades and Vid had a defined story with an ending in mind, and they stuck to their guns. It's been a few years since FDWL ended, and the website is no longer active was hacked and taken offline, which greatly saddens me, but even though both Rades and Vid had largely moved on from their blogging activities by then it was always a great reminder of how things were in the mid to late 2010s. 

So when Vid pinged me and asked if we could talk, I stopped what I was doing and waited for her phone call.


The moment I said hello, I knew something was wrong.

"Is everything okay?" I remember asking.

"No, it's not," Vidyala replied, her voice breaking. "Red, Rades died."

"What?" I asked, stunned. "Oh no! What happened?" 

"We're not sure yet." Vid paused for a moment to collect herself, and then told me how they discovered him.** She then apologized about crying and being a mess, which I assured her was no problem at all. If I hadn't been so stunned about the turn of events, I'd have been crying too.


Even now, a couple of days later, I'm still having trouble processing this. 

I kept myself busy at work, and doing some research on some bosses for the upcoming Phase 2 raids, but I kept returning to the phone call, and my helplessness at being unable to do anything. Rades lived on the other side of the continent, and Vid lived a Province away from him, and there was no way I could simply drop everything and go out there.

I wanted to tell the world about this immediately, but Vid requested that I keep quiet so that she could reach out to people and inform them separately. She didn't want people to find out about something like this via a post or a Tweet. "Okay," I replied. "Sounds good. I'll wait a few days."

As it turns out, she pinged me last night to let me know that she'd gone ahead and Tweeted about it, so I could publish my post.

But the problem is that I don't know how to say what I want to say. I've started this post about a half dozen times and I lose my way each time. 


Rades was smart, funny, and also very very shy. Vid related a story to me about the time the two of them first met face to face, and how she asked what is favorite food was so that they could go grab something to eat. Rades kind of hemmed and hawed about it, finally saying something along the lines of "Steak.... and potatoes... I guess...." When I told the story to my oldest, she laughed and said that Rades sounds "exactly like my brother!"

And if you'd read any of his numerous posts about Azeroth, you'd see the humor within. From his Fabulor posts to his Onion-style news reports, Rades enjoyed poking fun at the absurd in Azeroth. 

From Fabulor's Love Fool Guide,
found on www.orcisharmyknife.com.


What I will remember Rades the most for, however, are the times he participated in NaNoWriMo. He could have just as easily written a complete work of fiction, but Rades put his own spin on the concept twice by writing a series of fictional letters, entitled Letters from Northrend (2010) and  Letters from a Shattered World (2011). Getting inside the head of a ton of WoW NPCs and publishing them as separate correspondence was both classic Rades and an impressive feat by itself. 

I was always in awe of his writing talent; he could pump out posts with such regularity and high quality that I wished I knew what his secret was. Knowing Rades, though, he'd probably shrug and say that he just wrote what he felt like writing.

With his talent for storytelling and plotting, it was no surprise that I found out that he played D&D. He must have been a helluva person to game with; could you imagine him as your DM? You'd always have to be on your toes and have an encyclopedic knowledge of the storyline, because Rades was always thinking about 4-5 steps ahead of everyone else.


As sad as I am that Rades has left us, I'm sadder still for those whose lives he touched and won't be able to see him again. We were friends via our mutual love of WoW and blogging, but we weren't close. I wish there were words I could convey to comfort those, such as Vidyala, whom he meant so much to. When Vid told me that her best friend was dead, it tore me up inside. I may have lost family to Covid, but nothing like this. 

Remembering Rades is a good thing, but being respectful of those who want to just shut down for a while is important, too. Give them space and time to grieve, but be ready to be there for when they need you. 

I miss you, Rades. I miss your humor, your love of words, and your love of gaming. Even more than that, I miss you because of what you meant to so many other people. I have no idea if you ever realized just how much you meant to us.

To those of us still here, maybe the best way to honor Rades is to reach out to someone to let them know how much they matter. Be there for them for a while. Listen to them, and give them a hug, virtual or not.

Thank you, Rades. Life isn't the same without you, but I'm glad we met and got to know each other. 

Elen síla lúmenn' omentielvo.

*Vid told me the website had been hacked, and she and a friend are working on restoring it.

**Which will remain private.

Friday, August 27, 2021

The Blind Leading the Blind

(When I posted this, a half an hour later Blizz posted that Phase 2 will launch on September 15th. And they confirmed that there will be new Fresh WoW Classic servers. I'd have preferred the end of September, but I'll live with mid-September.)


When TBC Classic launched, I found it anything but fun.

I and the other leveling Shamans were kicked to the curb, as if we didn't exist, while everybody else rushed in. We were expected to get leveled and then attuned to Karazhan pretty much on our own, even though everybody else was working together. I had the (slightly) easier job of having my Gruul/Mags raids start at the end of July, but some of the other leveling Shamans had a much harder job of getting leveled, attuned, and geared in time for the first week of July, and I did not envy the work ahead for them. It was only at the very end of the journey did people suddenly become interested in our progress, because they quickly discovered that a lack of Shamans and Healers were a huge problem for raid teams.

All of this is old news to anybody who has read the blog over that time. 

But now, looking back on the two months from pre-patch up through mid-July, I don't think anybody --myself included-- knew just how dark of a place I found myself in. 

Well, my oldest noticed. 

She'd battled depression before, and from about early June onward she started checking in on me daily to make sure I was doing okay. While I assured her I was going to be fine, and I was just grumpy about the whole thing, she wasn't buying it at all. It's kind of strange, now that I look back on it, that I can tell when she was satisfied that I'd pulled through because she stopped checking in on me so much about mid-July.

Even then, I chalked my feeling down more to something akin to a mid-life crisis than anything else.


When I was mired in the middle of this, the only thing that kept me going was the sense of duty toward the commitment I'd made. The days were a blur: wake up, get into work, work for a bit, level a bit during lunch, work some more, then after work it was a 2-3 hour nap + dinner, then leveling until I reached my 3 levels per day (to get to L60). After I reached Outland, it was questing and leveling until I couldn't keep my eyes open. Each day, I probably got only 3-4 hours a sleep, including the nap. That amount of sleep was a blessing, because my dreams were filled with shadowy, nameless people berating me for being so slow and being such a detriment to the team, whether it was work or WoW or whatever else I found myself doing in dreamland. 

It didn't help that I was being slammed at work, and I could easily have worked 10 extra hours per week if I chose to just to maintain what my workload was at the time.*


If I knew what was good for me, I should have just quit.

Some people did; they simply just stopped logging in and vanished without a trace.** And you know what pissed me off even more? Two of them were 2/3 of the Mages slotted for our Monday raid. Not the Core Four Mages from Naxx, but the other two that rounded our team to six.

You know, the ones I gave up my spot as Cardwyn for so they could have a spot in raid

If you thought that made me a bit angry, you underestimated my fury. By a factor of 10.

At the same time, I knew I wasn't going back to Cardwyn. That their vanishing without a trace in a weird sort of way stiffened my resolve to NOT bring Card to Outland, weeks before I thought of trying to level her in the Old World.*** I wasn't going to quit on Briganaa, not after having gone through everything to get her there. And I sure as hell wasn't going to level another toon to L70 just because I wanted my favorite Alliance Mage in raid.

But what their quitting did do was break me out of my depression. 


Much to my surprise, it wasn't the Karazhan raids or even when we finally went to take on Gruul and Mags that got me started on a way out, but that others quit instead of me. Here were these people who had everything they wanted: a toon already at L60, a guaranteed spot in a raid, and they even got to raid on the toon they wanted. And they couldn't do it. 

Was it a perverse sort of satisfaction that got me moving again? Maaaybe? But I think it was, even more than that, the recognition from leadership that there were problems with how things went down, given the number of people who quit. And when people ask me about it, I am not shy about saying that I wouldn't wish that leveling experience on anybody. 


Why talk about this now? Why not just keep quiet about it, or wait until much later?

Part of it is because Kaylriene wrote this post in which I saw myself.

But even more than that, because I've logged into the Myz Discord recently and see people --invariably from the top guilds-- bitching that Phase 2 isn't out yet.

Or this snapshot, taken from
the WoW forums.
Courtesy of the Myz Discord.


That "everybody already has all their gear from the raids".

That they're all ready to go, and Blizz is taking too long to get problems with the raids in the Test Realm fixed. 

Basically, it's "I'm bored!" but posted in a Discord server.

For that attitude, I have two words:


No, not everybody has "all the gear from their raids".

No, not everybody who has been "trying at all" hasn't been nearly full BiS for a month.

No, not everybody is attuned to Phase 2 raids.

No, not everybody has been clearing all the raids since Week 2.

No, not everybody plays 6+ hours of WoW a night. 

I look at this attitude and see the seeds of the attitude that saw me sink into that FOMO led depression, that empty feeling that tells you that "you'll never escape from my clutches and amount to anything, so why try?"

It's not my effing problem that you rushed ahead, finished so damn early, and are now stuck twiddling your thumbs wondering what to do. You chose this. Nobody told you that you had to rush ahead and do all the things as if your ass was on fire. For every person whining that Blizz isn't releasing things on the schedule that you want, there's guilds out there, slogging away, just trying to progress in Karazhan or Gruul/Mags. 

Every week that Blizz works on bugs and doesn't drop Phase 2 means that there's an extra week for everybody that had felt so far behind. That people who can't afford the time investment to farm and do stuff 4+ hours a night every night won't feel even farther behind. Blizz put all those rep grinds and attunements there for a reason, and forcing yourself through them early is just setting yourself up to not have much to do for the next year and a half.

And for pete's sake, if you're whining about the release of Phase 2 and in the next breath you're complaining that the Political Correctness Police are after Blizzard, then you obviously don't know what "personal responsibility" means, do you? You can't seriously be talking about personal responsibility when Blizz changes McCree's name in Overwatch and then demand that Blizz release Phase 2 because you're bored since you rushed ahead and did all the things over a month ago, right?



That was a load off my chest.

So in the end... Yes, Shintar, you were right to worry about me, and it was probably worse than you thought it was. I just couldn't see it. But thanks for caring.



*Narrator: "He didn't."

**And in at least two cases, replacements vanished as well. I was flabbergasted at that, as one of them had actually server transferred to join our raid team, and the first thing they did when they got here was... to join a Karazhan pug from another guild, forgetting about our own Kara raids a few days later. I will say that none of the leveling Shamans quit, however. If anybody could have not been blamed for dropping out, it was The Leftovers, but we all made it through the gauntlet.

***Yeah, the old "and the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart" routine. In case anyone ever questions whether that sort of reaction in the face of obvious misfortune is possible, I'm here to say "Yeah, it's realistic."

EtA: Fixed grammar in the first couple of sentences. And a missing half sentence; not sure where it went.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

You want some motivation on blogging?


From diy-despair.com.

And that's that.

Oh, you want one more? Here ya go....

Tiamat has all grown up.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

A Messy, Sloppy Situation

Kayrliene has an interesting post about Retail WoW's problems and strengths, entitled Strong Core, Weak Fluff - The Real Weakness of Modern World of Warcraft. His contention is that while the core gameplay (and he deliberately sidestepped the story here) is and remains strong, it's the borrowed systems --the Azerite/Covenant quests from two recent expacs, for example-- that are Modern WoW's weak point.

I found the article interesting and was about to comment when I realized that my focus, on the story, had pretty much been written off by Blizzard as a lost cause.

If World of Warcraft were an IT organization, assuming the 3 year depreciation cycle, my resources would have been depreciated 4 years ago and taken off the books. My basic assumption, that Blizzard learned the wrong lessons from Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, and went in a story direction that turned WoW's story into a soap opera among the faction leads, has already been discounted by Blizzard based on their lack of interest in returning the faction leads to a more remote viewpoint and centering the story --as it were-- on us.

For people like me and other people who felt WoW lost its way in Cataclysm and beyond, Blizzard created Classic and TBC Classic,* patting us on the head and telling us to "go play and let the big kids alone to enjoy Retail."

But the thing is, without us, WoW hasn't consistently maintained subs at 9 million or higher ever since Cataclysm released. Sure, there's the spike around Legion, but that was just a spike, not a consistently maintained number of subs. And to be honest, I would never base my entire product strategy on "getting a quick spike so we can claim 'we're back!'", because spikes are just that: volatility in the face of declining subscriptions. 

And that's the thing: Blizz hasn't released sub numbers in years because anybody can smooth out the spikes and see the downward spiral in front of them.


"Modern" WoW has become spiky in nature in part because of Blizzard's 'the game begins at endgame' philosophy, and in part because of Blizzard's emphasis on faction leaders and cutscenes to propel the story forward. The former ought to be obvious, because if the game begins at endgame, then people will rush to get to endgame, complete a raid or two, and then say "I'm bored" in Trade Chat and log until the next patch. That by itself is unsustainable, because you've conditioned your player base to only login when something new is there, rather than there's things to do all the time that aren't a waste of time.

Believe it or not, not everybody wants to run Mythic or Mythic Plus.

When the dev teams focus on Endgame processes alone and don't harness the other stuff --the 17 years of other content that is just sitting there, unused, because Blizzard couldn't find a consistent way to keep all that old content useful without upsetting their current Endgame focus-- then you're just conditioning your player base to simply ignore 90+% of everything every dev ever created.

And that's not a healthy ecosystem.

The latter might not be quite so obvious, since cutscenes and faction leader content seem to get the current player base juiced, but the emphasis on those two items and their manifestation in game** take away from what the game is really about: us.

Back in Wrath days, Anne Stickney --long before she joined Blizzard-- wrote in WoW Insider how WoW is the story of us. We are the ones who make Azeroth tick, and it is us and our deeds that make the game come alive. 

And now, looking from Wrath to Shadowlands, it seems that WoW is no longer the story of us, but of those NPCs instead. We're just lackeys who do their bidding. These NPCs drive the story, are the emphasis on the cutscenes, and given the way Warlords of Draenor, Battle for Azeroth, and Shadowlands unfolded, were the damn reason these three expacs even existed. These three expacs started because of a faction leader's actions. And two of the three are the worst received expacs in WoW. Never forget that. 

When I was a youngster and back at college, in my History of Western Civilization (Up to 1789) class, one throw-away item from the Professor stuck with me all these years: the last English King to die in battle was.... Richard III. In 1485. Before Cristobal Colon's first voyage. A mere 33 years after Constantinople fell to the Ottomans. Over 500 years ago. 

So... Just how often have we seen faction/racial leader turnover in WoW and Warcraft? 

Very often. 

Roman Emperor type of often.*** Or barbarian tribe type of often.

Which is kind of nuts.

A WoW faction lead dying of old age, in bed, just hasn't happened yet in game. And what gets me the most is that if you're a faction lead or a huge NPC****, you're going to have a bodyguard around you large enough that it would take a brigade to cut through to kill you off. And even then, you're most likely to be captured for ransom and/or better terms in war.

But I digress.


From my perspective, the biggest thing that's ailing WoW the most is the thing that should give WoW such an unfair advantage over all other MMOs: the sheer size of the content. Blizzard has all this content, but instead the active game is only a very tiny sliver of the actual content itself, which is whatever the latest patch is. Blizzard is self-isolating, and it can't break out of this problem.

Timewalking, to be perfectly and bluntly honest, doesn't do shit. It only focuses on dungeons and raids of one particular expac for one particular point in time, and that's a temporary focus as well.

If you want to re-engage with older content, make it relevant.

Oh wait, that's right. Every single expac has their own separate borrowed system, whether it's Azerite for BfA or badges for T9/T10 sets in Wrath, and each one is totally worthless when the next expac drops. 

And with every couple of expacs, someone gets the idea to go mess up Dalaran again. 

Or blow up Theramore. 

Or destroy Teldrassil.

Or retake Stromgarde.

Or just in general destroy the Old World.

Kind of hard to go back and integrate old content when the content isn't even there, is it? When your oldest content in game is in the "original" Outland, because Vanilla WoW simply doesn't exist in Retail. You can't create a new toon and head out for Northshire Abbey and spend all your time in Vanilla.

Welp, I guess that kind of kills it. There's no going back, and Blizzard seems dead set on making sure that only a small sliver of the history of WoW is useful to its player base. It's kind of sad that the part in WoW's history where all the content was easily accessible to all players was at the end of Wrath. Cataclysm ushered in an era of rebuilding without a clear realization as to what the long term impact on the game would be. To that end, I'll harness a quote meant for those who were clamoring for Vanilla servers, but in a twist can now be used in hindsight on Cataclysm and later expacs, given Retail WoW's current state:

"You think you do, but you don't."

*And, to be totally honest, to try to get some money out of "official" servers from those who would otherwise be inclined to go play on private servers instead.

**And in the books, the short stories, the posters, etc.

***For every Trajan or Marcus Aurelius, there's a Commodus.

****Importance wise, not physically wise. Although I swear WoW's design showing important NPCs so much larger than anyone else drives me nuts. There is no way Jaina is going to play Center for the Washington Mystics of the WNBA, so stop making her and the other NPCs so physically large that they look absolutely silly.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Mighty Morphin' FOMO Fighters

You know that FOMO thing? How it was my persistent bugaboo while leveling Briganaa, but at the same time it afflicted people who were caught up in the big wave of people rushing to L70? Well, it's still there, lurking, while Phase 2 draws closer and closer. The thing is, for me what FOMO represents has morphed into something completely different than what it originally manifested as.

After all, I finally got myself attuned and have been raiding Kara and Gruul/Magtheridon, and the gear has been dropping.* I've also steadily progressed through the attunement process for SSC and The Eye, so I only need two more Heroic instances (and our weekly Magtheridon kill) and I'm finished. Slow and steady wins the race.

And, more importantly, I have not gotten on the "get all the alts to L70" or "get a spellcloth farm going" bandwagon that people have been jumping on. I've got Brig, and that's it. Sure, my options can be somewhat limited at times, but the fact that I don't have to worry about leveling an alt and getting them raid or BG ready means I don't have to deal with that aspect of the FOMO again. And when/if I get around to leveling an alt, it will be in such a relaxed state that I'm not going to worry about ever getting into a raid.

Instead, FOMO has morphed into the need to help everybody else on the raid team. 

We have several people on the raid team who are far behind on attunements, mainly due to recent recruitments or that their toon on Monday's raid is an alt, and they need help in getting their attunements done. And all of the raid leads have been trying to help out, making sure that instances are organized/run with an eye toward getting the raid team attuned.

And that means Brig has been running instances too. Not the ones she needs, but the ones that everybody else needs. And on days like Tuesday where I had to log early because of Wednesday's trip taking my son back to college, I felt really guilty having to do that. Yes, everybody knows that family comes first, but that doesn't mean I don't feel guilty about not being there. 

The same thing applies to one of the items I farm a lot, Fire Motes. I farm them to help my questing buddy keep herself in raid potions, and I also farm them to sell on the AH. Well, with the raid team helping to get the resistance gear the tanks need for Phase 2 by everybody tithing a set amount of gold (so that our resident AH wizard can get us the best deal on mats) that means any extra Fire Motes could potentially be snapped up off the AH by my raid team. Which I feel awfully guilty about, since I know what our AH wiz is up to, so instead I've just been donating the Primal Fire I've been accumulating instead. The quicker we get our Primal Fire knocked out, the quicker I can go back to making some gold off the AH.

In a way, my lack of desire to get an Epic Flying Mount means I can afford to not have to aggressively go after gold the way everybody else has, so I can relax a bit. I'm sitting around 3000 gold, which I can maintain by some instance runs and selling my excess Netherweave Cloth off. **

But there's always this guilt and nagging feeling like I should be doing more, and I have to constantly tell myself that if I tried to do more I'd burn myself out and that would be that.

So.... I'm coping. Yeah, coping is a better word than managing at this point in time.

*In a relative sense. There's only been one piece of gear from our Gruul/Mags raid night that I considered rolling on, and it was only after the fact that I was kicking myself for letting someone else handle the Loot Master gig while I rolled on it. Most of the gear that would be considered best in slot (BiS) either come from Karazhan or are crafted. And yes, I've been slowly working on my Leatherworking; it's just not been a priority.

**Seriously, how can people still need Netherweave like they have? The stuff drops off of mobs and out in the field like crazy. I sell about 20 stacks a week, and they're easily replenished. On top of that, I still have about 30 stacks sitting in my mail as a reserve. If I were actively farming Netherweave, I could probably get about 100 stacks in a week.

Monday, August 16, 2021


One thing about Blaugust --and other prompt type events-- is that if you've been around long enough you've pretty much answered all the questions. 

PC is --by far-- not the longest running MMO blog out there, but even in it's almost 12 years of existence I've answered enough "About Me" questions that I'm tempted to just share links to previous times I've answered those particular prompts. In lieu of regurgitating things, some bloggers turn to unique methods of answering these questions.

I give props to Kaylriene to providing a unique, photo driven way of answering the About Me prompt with his Getting to Know You Round 2, showing off his "work" area and all the cool things inside.* I don't have such a cool spot to game, because sitting at an old dining room table in what would in past years been a formal Dining Room** isn't exactly that cool to look at. (Who wants to look at bills and notes scribbled on paper, anyway?)

And believe me, I've seen cool gaming rooms, because my sister-in-law's husband has one in their basement:

This is one end of the room....

...and the other end, complete with
a booze collection. I was told not to take
a pic of the gaming table because "it's a mess."

At one point I was attempting to put in a gaming area in our basement --where my "office" used to be, but it ran into one inevitable part of life with three kids: we needed a place to stick their stuff as they grew up, and the gaming area became that place.

Therefore, we game as we always have: boardgames/RPGs are played at the kitchen table, console games on the television in the room next to the kitchen, and PC games on laptops (kids) or the desktop (me and my wife) in their rooms or my "office".


It's not as if my entire gaming history has changed much, either. 

My tolerance toward my kids' activities has been driven by my own parents' lack of the same. I don't need to rehash this, but my surviving parent --my mother-- still thinks to this day that D&D is Satanic. She told me once a few years ago that she was glad my kids "never got into that Satanic role playing stuff" like I did. I kept my mouth shut, because that wasn't a hill to die on, but I had a good laugh with the kids afterward. 

This tolerance extended into the kids' real life as well. I was never allowed to be in my room with the door closed until my Senior year of high school, and even then that was because I would be working on my two term papers for English class until late into the night. The tapping of the typewriter was too loud to leave the door open, and so my parents relented only so that they could get some sleep. 

When I came back home from my Freshman year of college, I hoped that I would be given the latitude and freedom I felt back there, but I discovered that I was wrong. 

Oh, so very wrong. 

I was still required to be home by 10 PM and in bed by 10:30. I was still expected to be at dinner at 6 PM, no matter what, although in the unlikely event I was on a date there was a bit of flexibility.*** I was also expected to go to Church in spite of my own creeping dislike for organized religion, which was fueled by a slow burning fury how the Evangelical Christian movement --exemplified by television evangelists-- stoked the Satanic Panic over my music and my gaming activities. All of that fueled my desire to be back at college, even during the Summer, no matter what it took. 

Even after I was married, my dad tried to exert some measure of control over me but soon discovered that I wasn't having any of it. I was my own person, a grown adult without any financial debts to him, and he no longer had any say in how I conducted my business.

When I had kids of my own, I swore I'd not repeat the same mistakes my parents made, and gave my kids more latitude than I ever had. That didn't mean that I let them do whatever all the time, because I did intervene when grades started slipping or there were other issues that required parental involvement, but I wanted to make sure they were given enough freedom to find their own way rather than be sheltered from the world. I didn't force them into playing sports or any other activities; I merely provided the opportunities in athletics, music, nature programs, or whatnot, and let them discover if it was something they wanted to do. I was the one who introduced them to gaming and geekery, and I gave them the freedom to explore both without judgement. 

Have I succeeded in my approach? I'm not sure, because I don't know what's going on in their heads, but I think they're on the right track.


I guess that's more of an "about them" rather than "about me", but I suppose they are a reflection of me to an extent, whether I like it or not. It'll be some decades before I discover if I really did the right thing, but here's hoping.

*His Getting to Know You Round 1 is also worth reading, but is much more depressing.

**I converted this to my --sorta-- home office because my wife gave me an ultimatum to move out of the basement. I used to have an office in our unfinished basement, but every winter I would come down with a severe case of bronchitis, and she finally got tired of me getting sick when the weather turned cold.

***When I graduated high school, I pretty much cut the cord from any real relationships from my classmates and those of the all girls Catholic high school next door. If you've ever been a non-conformist or a geek in a Catholic school environment that prized athletics more than anything else, you'd understand. Even those who I considered friends would attempt to use my friendship to get me to do things for them, as if friendship were a bargaining chip. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised, given that most of my friends' dads were salesmen. (Cue Willie Loman references from Death of a Salesman.)

Monday, August 9, 2021


Saturday night was a stroll down memory lane.

We returned to Naxxramas to get enough splinters for our third guildie to get her Atiesh.

When TBC Classic dropped on June 1st, she was sitting at exactly 20/40 splinters, and enough people in guild made a commitment to try to get her Atiesh completed that we knew that once things settled down enough* we were going back there.

I got Brig attuned --only got her to Honored with the Argent Dawn, but that's the breaks-- and away she went on Saturday Night.

From the way back machine to 1975 (in the US).

Only 22 started out initially, but we eventually ended up with 26 as some people from the old raid team trickled in. It was a bit rough on Anub'Rekhan at first, as we had only one Mage, but we cleaned things up and got through it. We didn't hit any bumps at all on Patchwerk and Loatheb --the tank was hardly taking any damage at all-- but we did wipe on Noth due to a lack of decursers. So... I hopped on Card and swapped toons for Noth just for the extra decursing boost.**

We made it through three wings --I saw Midnight Haze drop-- and we reached the end of the night after Razuvius in the Military Wing. And that was with 15 people short of a full 40 person raid.

If we managed to get a full 40 person raid together, we could conceivably blitz through the entire instance in one 4 hour raid block. 


How'd it feel?


Not that I'm not familiar with Naxx, but that I was on a melee DPS toon. The things such as positioning suddenly become much more important when I'm on Brig, and I was called out by somebody saying "Are you asking to be killed?"

"Oh, that's just Brig. It's pretty much his thing."

I couldn't argue with the call out, but the toon in front of me wasn't hitting me at all, sooo.....

But outside of that, and that the positioning on Razuvius was that the melee DPS were LOSing their healers, and the solution was to attack from the side, risking a parry haste to make sure I was left alive. And to be fair, the melee DPS who didn't move all died, so....

But still, I guess I'll get used to it, being down in the trenches in a raid where I'd previously only seen from distance. I am not looking forward to K'T, however, because there will be interrupts that have to go out, and I never had to worry about them on Card.

I might even just show up on Card on some of these runs, because they will need people to decurse and whatnot. But we'll see. I'm not even sure how this is gonna work out given that everybody has to get attunements done for Phase 2.



*HA! In TBC Classic, it seems that Blizz doesn't want you to settle down, so there's people running to and fro trying to get their attunements done before Phase 2 drops. In fact, that was a direct cause of at least one person having to pass on going back to Naxx. And really, I can't blame them. If the guild wants to commit to Naxx, something will have to be given up.

**She was not the lowest leveled toon in the raid at that point; there was one L60 who made it too. At one point he exclaimed "I've got 600 xp so far in Naxx tonight!"

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Surrender, Briganaa!!

Mommy's alright, daddy's alright, they just seem a little weird.
Surrender, surrender, but don't give yourself away, ay, ay, ay
--Surrender by Cheap Trick*


The TBC Classic Phase 2 --which includes the Serpentshire Cavern and The Eye raids-- is in the WoW Classic PTR, which means that Phase 2 is right around the corner.

And while I've already expressed my opinion that it is far too soon to drop Phase 2 and that Blizzard is merely feeding the beast, the reality is that our raid team has to start getting ready for SSC and The Eye.

Which meant that I had to go and confront my resistance to running heroic dungeons.

I'm gonna get used to seeing that skull.

Part of work surrounding Phase 2 preparations involves resist gear sets for two of the tanks and one of the Warlocks. The tanks' resist gear comes from farming/buying materials and crafting the requisite set, but the majority of the Warlock's gear comes from items purchased by badges. 100 of them, to be precise.** With Phase 2 imminent, that means a lot of heroic dungeon runs in a (relatively) short amount of time. My Warlock friend took on the responsibility of the Warlock tanking gig, and I'm not about to abandon her when she needs people to help her get the badges she needs.

Therefore, I embraced the Heroic dungeon challenge to help her out.

The past four days I've run four heroic dungeons with her: two attempts at Arcatraz, and one attempt each at Slave Pens and Underbog. They're not exactly a representative sample, given that the first one is one of the hardest and the latter two are some of the easiest of the Heroic instances, but they're enough to have formed a few opinions on them.

  • Most of the trash has an additional "trick" to them, and once you understand that they tend to go down fast.

    For example, in Arcatraz if you deal with the Arcatraz Sentinels, they have a little extra surprise for someone who is used to their Normal version: when they die, they emit an Arcane Explosion that will kill any nearby melee. Therefore, any melee --including the tank-- has to run out when the Sentinel's health is below 6%. If you have a location where you can hide out of line of sight, you're safe from the blast as well. In our first run, it took only one mass death from the melee for me to figure this out, but throughout the rest of the run the Rogue simply would not run away from the Sentinel and died every. single. time. That leads me to...

  • Just because you know the trick doesn't mean that you won't wipe on the trash.

    This definitely applies to the Gargantuan Abyssals that you find in Arcatraz. With the Heroic version, there's a Fire Shield that it casts that if you're in melee you take some pretty substantial damage every few seconds. However, it also has that Meteor ability --just like that found in AQ20 and AQ40-- that you have to have everybody in the group stack so that you're not instantly killed. So the trick is to stand just outside of the range for the Fire Shield, but run into melee when the Meteor is cast. (Or have the tank run out to the stack.) The first Abyssal we tackled, it went down pretty quick with only one death (me). The second Abyssal, well.... It took us about 6-7 tries before we finally got it down, and even then it was a bit of luck.

  • Sometimes the Normal version of the trash is bad enough.

    "Underbog... Calling Underbog.... White courtesy phone please...."

    If you knew that the Rays in the Underbog cast a Psychic Scream, and that a Tremor Totem is useless against them, then you knew this was coming. Yes, you can interrupt the cast. And yes, the fleeing in terror isn't typically that bad. However, when you've a pack of three of the Rays, unless you have exactly the right group composition you're going to have at least somebody running around like a chicken with their head cut off. And if they run the wrong way just long enough, you can aggro another trash mob.

  • You can pug these, but nothing beats a group of friends/guildies. Especially if you're all in Discord.

    The first Arcatraz run, the Warlock and I pugged with a random Healer (can't remember), Tank (Warrior), and DPS (rogue). From the beginning, the tank behaved as if he were running a Normal version of Arcatraz, and then quickly discovered that wouldn't work. That first (optional) boss in Arcatraz, we simply could not bring it down. Eventually we moved on, but we ran into a wall with the room before the Abyssals, and that was that.

    The second Arcatraz run we had four friends/guildies together, and the exact same tank as the first try. The four of us were in Discord together, and we offered to have the tank join, but he refused. That would have probably shaved about 1/2 hour off of our run time, particularly when organizing strategy.

    The latter two runs, while admittedly on two of the easiest Heroics, were full guild/friend runs and everybody was in Discord. We could coordinate, discuss, and basically get the damn thing done. Throughout both runs everything ran smoothly, especially given that I'd never been in either Heroic and another person hadn't been to Underbog in TBC Classic at all until that moment. 


So.... What do I think?

I believe that if I'd gone into Heroics about 4 weeks ago, which was still behind all of the Meta followers but about the time I became attuned to all of the Heroics, I'd have gotten stomped. By comparison, Karazhan and Gruul's Lair are easier than the harder Heroics, and they yield better gear. Waiting a month and gathering some drops from the raids improved my survivability immensely. It did not make the instances a cakewalk, but it probably made the easier ones far less of a dirt eating competition. Heroic Arcatraz, on the other hand, was still very much a slave to knowing the trick on the enemy you faced. If you didn't know the trick, you couldn't simply outgear it at this time. Maybe after Phase 2 with Tier 5 gear you'll be able to, but not just yet. 

Something I do remain adamant about is that chain running these things is the quickest way to experiencing burnout in game. I've a friend in game that I do care a lot about, and I'm really concerned for her getting burned out on TBC Classic.*** She'd done the Meta on one of her toons, and afterward she'd thrown up her hands and hasn't been in an instance since, even though she knows she has to do so to get attuned for Phase 2. I just wish I could help her out, but I think the best thing for her is to not spend so much time in game, so she can get that break she needs before pushing forward.

What I do wish is that people understand that there's more than one way to play the game, and that we shouldn't rush to fit everyone into the same slot. These Heroics are very much a good alternative to endgame at this point in the expac, but forcing people into them to perform attunements for raids is, in my opinion, a mistake on Blizz' part. Unlike Wrath Era Heroics, these should not be a stepping stone to raiding but instead their own separate entity. 

But yeah, I could do Heroics as an alternative to raiding. After all, some of them certainly take long enough to complete.

*Okay, I'm putting the version from Live at Budokan here....


**That number comes from two of the warlocks on the raid team, and I don't see any reason to challenge that assertion.

***No, she doesn't know this blog exists. So if you're one of the people in game and are thinking it applies to you, I'm actually talking about someone else. But yeah, I am concerned about everybody I know getting burned out, too.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Another Year, Another "Why do I do this to myself?"

A year ago, I participated (kinda) in Blapril, which was the Blaugust blogging event moved to what we considered then to be the height of the pandemic. It seemed a good idea at the time, and my goal was to blog about every other day or so. I managed 18 posts, but I also went kind of bonkers trying to keep up with it. Therefore, when 2020's Blaugust went around, I took a hard pass.

Well, here we are in August 2021, and Blaugust is once again upon us.

(Don't worry about the link, Wilhelm. I don't have that many readers, and most of them overlap between the two of us.)

I kind of hemmed and hawed about it, because I've got other things on my mind*, but I decided I'm going to participate in an informal manner. There are things on my mind, and some fiction to finish and get cleaned up for posting, so why not?

I'm not going to formally sign up or anything, and if nothing else I'll invoke my Rogue nature and just follow along in the shadows. That allows me to not worry so much about the 'formal' topics for each week, and instead talk about what I want to talk about. 

Such as laptops.


I've been doing my "second" job of being the IT resource for the family the past week or so, which has entailed looking for a replacement laptop for my mom's Mac. She only wants a laptop for basic finances, but she wants a fully functioning machine, so why spend money on an iPad or even a Macbook when an inexpensive Windows 10 laptop will do?

But I do draw the line at inexpensive vs. flimsy. (I'm looking at you, HP and Dell.) I can't believe I'm saying this, but Acer laptops feel more solid and less flimsy than either HP's or Dell's basic offerings. Of course, the Acer I wanted wasn't in stock at Microcenter, so I had to fall back on another laptop option, which ended up being a Lenovo. So I got the job of purchasing the thing, bringing it over to my mom's house, and spending the evening configuring it. 

I then turned my eye to her "other" laptop, the one that she does all of her other computer oriented stuff on, and... the thing crawled. I mean, really seriously crawled.

"Mom," I called to her, "you're going to need to replace this hard drive with an SSD."

"What's that?"

I groaned and spent a few minutes explaining the difference between an old style hard drive and an SSD.

"Okay," she replied. "How long will it take to replace?"

"I'll take this laptop home and get it done over the weekend."

So I did. I got a replacement SSD, the Samsung EVO 870, and installed it.

I thought that was that.


"Dad, my laptop is generating graphics errors."

Oh. Shit.

My son had come downstairs to inform me that his laptop, whose fan sounded like it was a jet engine chewing through ducks, had begun throwing graphics errors and crashing. Just what I didn't need.

I mean, I knew there was a likelihood that he was going to need a laptop before he went back to college, and I was moving in that direction, but I didn't need this just now.

So back to Microcenter we went.

The salesperson gave me a look and said "Didn't I just wait on you recently?" 

"Yep, for a laptop for my mom."

"Need another?"

"Yeah, for my son." Having spent the morning looking at options, I'd narrowed it down to an Asus based on its upgradability and spec sheet, but I wanted to actually see and feel the thing before we pulled the trigger.

So we pounded on the laptop for a bit, kicked the tires, that sort of thing, and then nodded and went ahead and bought it. I then got the job of configuring THAT one too, which wasn't too bad. It's now busy downloading FF XIV, which will be an all night affair. The only drawback is that the thing will need another m.2 drive added, as the primary drive is only 500 GB.



After this week, I'm significantly poorer, but at least I have some happy (?) customers. Now, please, no more IT surprises.



*Including two kids to send to college, resist set creation for SSC to organize and farm badges for --"Hi, Zargala!!" ::wave::-- and spreadsheets to keep track of. And that's not counting all the documents at work I have to look over. But I'll be frank, the latter isn't that thrilling, while blogging is a lot more fun. And the former, well, I'm seriously invested in getting my friends' geared up for SSC.