Tuesday, August 2, 2022

All About that Approach

I remember when Rades spent several posts* showing how he does his screenshots, and I kept thinking that's a lot of work for just a few pixels.

Of course, I don't know beans about Photoshop --or the free competition, GIMP-- so that might have something to do with it. It's not that I didn't try to learn GIMP (free is free, after all), and I discovered pretty quickly I was in over my head. An old version of Paint Shop Pro for $5 proved pretty damn inadequate for doing much, so I fell back on my old standbys --Paint and MS Office-- whenever I need to tweak things graphically.

But here were a set of instructions on how to do things that look pretty damn good.

There's a catch, however. (There's always a catch.) It required me to actually learn Photoshop or GIMP to do some of the advanced techniques, and given the breadth of my hobbies learning GIMP instead of blogging was a hard pill to swallow. So I basically internalized some of the cheaper ideas, such as framing a shot, to improve my screenshot capability from the early days. 

That's a pretty big catch if you ask me.

Other ideas, such as using a second account to get some of those multi toon shots, were things that while sounded good I simply couldn't pull the trigger on. Yes, I know you can have a free account up to a certain level, but.... No. Too much temptation to use that second account as a full account. 

My screenshots did end up improving a bit over the long run, although I'll also admit that they tend toward the basic end of the spectrum. If you're looking for fantastic screenshots, you need to look elsewhere. Getting the concepts down, however, was a huge step forward. 


It's kind of like that with playing MMOs. Or blogging, for that matter.

There are going to be some items and techniques that will simply be out of reach unless you want to spend a lot of capital, whether it's time, money, in-game gold, or whatever, but you can do reasonably well enough with some basic principles and practice. 

Lots and lots of practice.

But you knew that, right? 

Just like in any other form of practice, however, there's a right way and a wrong way to practice. Sure, about half of practice is just showing up, but if you show up and start with bad habits, then that practice will go to waste. 

Back when I was a kid and I played basketball, a lot of practice was spent learning how to handle defense and offense. Our teams played a lot of zone defense, which requires you to know where to go when the ball is at various locations on the court. As I was a backup player who sat on the bench a lot, I could be inserted into either a guard position or a forward position, so I had to learn up to four different positions** while I was out there during practice. On some types of defense, such as a 2-3 defense, the two guard positions (and the two forward positions) were interchangeable, so it wasn't as hard as it sounded. But on a 1-3-1 trapping defense, only the wings (shown below) were interchangeable.

The basic 1-3-1 setup.
From this, a lot of coaches have
devised some truly esoteric defenses,
such as John Chaney of Temple with
his infamous matchup zone.
From basketballforcoaches.com.

To not only learn your position, but play it well enough with the rest of the team so that each person could depend on everybody else in a game, you had to practice.

And practice.

You don't have to practice like this to play an MMO for certain. I'm certainly not advocating for a starters/bench method that my old guild was pushing heavily toward, especially when you're a person likely to be sitting on the bench week in and week out, but it does help to work on figuring out what your rotation ought to be, based on what you value.

Such as with Linna. 

A Knight in her natural habitat.

When she's out in the field, her priorities are:
  • Maximize mana efficiency.
  • Keep your health topped off when you can
  • Keep using Crusader Strike on cooldown
Maximizing mana efficiency can take many forms. Sometimes it's Judging Wisdom on an enemy and then using Seal of Wisdom once more, mainly to keep your mana pool as high as possible. Sure, you're losing damage while doing that, but on the flip side you have mana you can access for damage as well as your second priority, healing yourself.

Just as often, however, Linna will Judge Wisdom and then cast Seal of Command, Judging that on cooldown. That helps a lot with DPS, especially with higher powered mobs, at the cost of some of the mana pool. 

If you notice, I didn't put Consecrate into any of my priorities. That's because it's an AOE attack, and depending on the situation presented to you casting Consecrate can backfire big time. I'd say that about 6-7 times out of 10 it's perfectly fine to cast Consecrate before going into Crusader Strike, but when there's a wandering enemy out there, casting Consecrate can accidentally pull that enemy, especially if Linna moves away and brings the enemy she's fighting with her, leaving an empty Consecrate out there for anybody to stumble into. It's at points like these where situational awareness is highly critical.

Now, if we turn this whole thing around and stick Linna in a 5-person dungeon, her priorities change a bit:
  • Before starting, make sure there's enough water for drinking and consumes for buffing.
  • Watch your threat.
  • Provide interrupts as needed.
  • Judge Crusader on the primary target and then cast Seal of Command, Judging that on cooldown.
  • Be ready to pick up adds and/or enemies if the tank goes down. 
In a dungeon, mana efficiency isn't a big deal. Paladins tend to be drinkers, and making sure you have enough water to drink between pulls is a thing. If we're talking about Quintalan, well, he does have the Blood Elf racial abilities of Mana Tap and Arcane Torrent to help out with the mana pool, but typically Q will hang onto Arcane Torrent for interrupting purposes rather than boosting Ye Old Mana. 

But outside of that, watching your threat as a DPS is THE thing to do. If you think you don't have to worry about that, trust me. You will. And you'll live to regret it otherwise.

Okay, all this aside, how does Linna (or Quintalan) work this all out? 

By practicing on mobs out in the field.

That's the beauty of an MMO: you can work on a rotation out in the field without causing any problems to anybody but yourself. And while you're out there, questing, gathering, or whatnot, you can work out the kinks in how to down an enemy as best as you can.


Okay, given that this is Blaugust, what about practicing writing?

Well, the best way to practice is to write. And write. And write.

Without listening to your inner critic.

If you're like me, you write something and then your brain goes "Wait, I think it'd look better if we said it another way. How about this...." and then you're stuck rewriting the same lines over and over again. Or your brain goes "This sucks. This whole post sucks. This story sucks. You need to start over. Do something better. Like, say, literary. You need more depression and angst, the literary types all like to wallow in people's depression. You know what, maybe you should stick to IT work." And then you can't write anything at all.

Which sucks.

What I've seen in books on how to write --both fiction and non-fiction, but especially fiction-- is to set a timer for about 10-15 minutes, and you just pour your fucking heart out on the (virtual) page. Don't worry about grammar, don't worry about whether it sounds "right", or any of that crap. Just write. Force your way through your inner critic, running it over with a 2 ton pickup truck. 

After those 10-15 minutes, take a break. Peruse your email or something. I have writer friends who are in a chat channel, the "War Room" they call it, and during that little bit of downtime they just chat amongst themselves. They're not allowed to critique things, to edit things, or anything of that sort. Editing is for later. Then they start up another 10-15 minute push when their downtime is over.

It's frankly quite amazing how well that works in terms of silencing your inner critic. 


Now, after having gone down the rabbit hole of basketball, which led me to watching videos breaking down St. Peters' amazing run in the NCAA Tournament --hey, any team that beats Kentucky I can get behind-- I really need to get back to focusing on some writing. 

How did this get here? Oh look, it's
Dayton beating Kansas at the buzzer last Fall...
(Photo from CBS Sports.)

After I bask in that moment of basketball glory for a bit.

Okay, okay, I'm going...


*Starting off with a guest post from Hugh of the late lamented MMO Melting Pot. And before you complain about where the pics are, remember: Rades passed away last year. I presume the pics vanished into thin air because of that.

**Nowadays, the guards are known as positions 1 and 2, the forwards are 3 and 4, and the center is 5. This way you can swap out guards and forwards as needed, so you could go small with a three guard lineup --1 through 3 are guards, with 4 and 5 as forwards-- or go tall with 1 as the guard, 2, 3, and 4 as forwards, and 5 as the center. If your team is in foul trouble or has injuries, you just have to wing it and adjust your personnel as you can. The beauty of basketball is being able to think on the fly and adjust to the situation on the court at all times, just like in a raid you have to be on your scramble game when shit goes sideways.

EtA: Corrected some grammar.


  1. I certainly need to work on my screenshots. I tend to think of doing them only when in a big fight or when the scenery is pretty. You’ve given me another August goal. Atheren

    1. Oof. Oh well. It wasn't my intention, but I guess....