The Lutheran Geek

The life and times of a WoW-playing, Java-programming dude in Chicago

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Patch 2.0 coming next week!

OK, on to geeky stuff again, finally. 😀 The big Patch 2.0 is dropping in WoW next week. This means free respecs for everyone, including my prot warrior. Here’s what I’ve come up with for a spec. I’m gonna miss the +5% crit that comes from Cruelty, but I’ll deal. Focused Rage should make my hate generation a bit better across the board by reducing the rage required for all my abilities; in particular, Revenge should drop to 2 rage! I skipped over Imp Sunder since I’ll only be using it enough to get 5 sunders on a target, then switching over to spam Devastate. Imp Defensive Stance and Shield Mastery will reduce my damage taken significantly – the former will be even more useful in later end-game encounters where a lot of the damage is magical in nature, not physical. And after wiping repeatedly on Huhuran the last few weeks with Djörk, I think the 2 points in Imp Shield Wall will definitely help us out a lot when every second of survivability matters. It’s just too bad Improved Disciplines is so deep in the Arms tree – that would be a very, very nice thing to have for everyone, including us Prot warriors.

Oh, and one thing I just noticed! Last Stand is an 8-minute cooldown now, not 10. That’ll make it a lot handier to use. Fun stuff! I’m looking forward to next Tuesday – well, at least for the talents, not the likely server instability… 🙁

posted by Peter at 10:52 am  

Thursday, July 6, 2006

The Joy of Se… er, WoW

So, I’ve been pretty heavily into World of Warcraft for a while now. It certainly didn’t start out that way, despite how cool the game looked at first. Back in August 2004, I got my first exposure to the game when I participated in an open stress-test beta. I knew absolutely nothing about the game at the time, and yet was able to pretty painlessly level up a Tauren druid up to 16 by the end of the weekend. I spent most of my time in the Barrens, so I didn’t see too much of the game, and there were some aspects of the game that hadn’t been tweaked, including a confusing “skill point” system where you accumulated points at seemingly random intervals that you used to “purchase” weapon skills and crafting skills; this was greatly simplified to the current system.

Anyway, I loved it. The game came out in November ’04, but I deliberately didn’t go rush out and buy it since I was in the midst of my fall semester at Loyola working on my MS in computer science. I waited till winter break in early January to go pick it up, only to find that the game was so incredibly popular, there was not a copy to be found anywhere! Finally, I learned to haunt the GameStop website every morning to find which local stores had it in stock, and one crisp January morning, lo and behold, the local store in Rosemont had one in stock!

My cousin Eric had gotten the game earlier, and he and his friends had started Alliance characters on Malygos, a PvE server, so I followed them there. My first attempt at a character, stupidly, was a priest, the single hardest class to level. I got him up to about 20, and gave up in frustration. I then started on a dwarf hunter. That went a lot better, and got him up to level 41, but then I hit a wall, and let my account expire in May. Looking back now, I see what was wrong: While I had a few friends on the server (my cousin and his friends), it was just a few of us, and they were all 10+ levels higher than me, so I never really had a tight group with whom I could regularly run. Plus, Eric let his subscription lapse before mine, so I really didn’t have anyone at all to help me.

Fast forward to July. I saw a post by Scott Kurtz on PVP Online, his web comic page, asking fans to join him and his wife on the newly created Dark Iron server. I said to myself, “Self, that sounds kind of fun!” So I reactivated my account, and went to start a new character on Dark Iron.

But what would I roll? On Malygos, I’d dabbled with priests, hunters, warlocks, and druids. One class I never touched: warriors. I though, bleh, what a boring class! All you do is hack and slash – no magic, low damage (rogues are the uber-DPS melee class). Meh. But now, I though, hey, what the heck, I’ll give it a shot. Now, I’m also terrible about coming up with creative names, unlike my fellow guildies Tahri (a made-up childhood nickname), Bigguykills (an ironically-named priest), or Cheesewheel (I mean, is that a cool name or what?!). Thankfully, for us boring types, Blizzard provides us a “Generate Name” button. So I press it a few times to see what pops up, and finally I settle on one that sounds vaguely menacing, matching the snarling visage of the orc warrior on my screen. Thus was born…

Gorekras.

I started in solo – Scott’s guilds weren’t taking lowbies like me – and found that I was able to level my warrior quite quickly. In the blink of an eye, I was at level 20, and asking to join Djörk. Huzzah! I was now in a guild, a first for me. I’d played MMOs before, like Star Wars Galaxies (shudder) and City of Heroes (pretty cool), but never been in a guild. Almost instantly, I recognized the benefits of being in a group of fun people who like playing the same game. At the time I joined, there were 3 guilds that Scott and his minions were running: Panda Attack, Djörk, and Face on Fire, all named after various little inside jokes based on the PvP comic strip. From the time I started in Djörk in the early 20s, I was running every single instance I could with all-Djörk groups who were all cool, fun people. By the time I hit 40, the leadership decided it was time to merge them together under one banner: Panda Attack. I continued to hit the higher-level instances with pretty much all-Panda groups, and so blew through SM, ZF, Maraudon, etc. with really fun people.

Sometime while I was in my low-50s, back in late November or early December, there was a shift. A lot of Pandas had hit 60 and were starting to angle for some 40-man raiding through Molten Core. At that time, there were over 500 people in the guild, and, as I recall, the 60s were doing weekly runs through ZG, cutting their teeth on raiding. The feeling was, though, if they were to get serious about progressing through Molten Core and Blackwing Lair (and soon, AQ40 and Naxx), they would have to break off and form their own group. So a lot of 60s departed for the previously-defunct guild Djörk. Thinking I was just a noob and wouldn’t raid much anyway since I was still at NU pursuing a Ph. D., I thought nothing of it. Meanwhile, though, I continued to edge closer to level 60, only to take a 3-week break from everything (including the game) at my parents’ place in northern Minnesota around Christmas.

Coming back to Evanston in January, I finally sat down and ground myself through the last couple of levels to 60. I was amazed – holy cow, I actually had a level 60! At the time, I was a so-called “fury” warrior, meaning that I had it in my head that the only fun way to play the game was to DPS my way through. Let’s just say I was more or less an uber-n00b.Then we had yet another shift in the guild: the leftover 60s in Panda Attack decided they wanted to start raiding too. I was reluctant – wasn’t raiding a huge timesink? – but I went ahead and jumped in on the first few attempts at Onyxia and Molten Core. The main tank, Gorefast, pulled me aside and asked me if I’d consider going protection-spec, the normal spec for “tanks” in instances. At the time, I was running battlegrounds pretty regularly, and I was afraid of gimping myself in that field, but I thought raiding might be a lot more rewarding, so I went along with it. Eventually, I found myself going to every single raid, tanking alongside Gorefast, and now I’ve actually become the main tank myself now that Gorefast has respecced to Arms to do more DPS with his big axe.

It was interesting to see how fast we progressed, considering we were all completely new to raiding, with a couple exceptions. Ony got nowhere fast back in February – we just didn’t have the gear for it – so we dropped her and concentrated on getting tier 1 gear in MC. After a couple tries, we got Lucifron down for the first time in early March, then Magmadar, and over the next month, we progressed our way all the way to Majordomo Executus, getting him down in mid-April. Flush in our success, we tried Ony again a couple weeks later, and downed her on consecutive nights. It was a bit rougher after that, but she’s on farm status now more or less; but I mean, we just wiped on Shazzrah last night, so any fight can go sour, no matter how good the crew. Finally, after a few attempts, we got Ragnaros down in mid-June.

But I digress. The fights are fun and stuff, but there are two big things I learned from being in this guild:

1) I love being a tank! I’ve come to accept my goal in a fight is not to kill the bad guy, but to keep the bad guy from killing everyone else. At first, it was incredibly stressful, but once I managed to tank my way through the so-called “Crazy 8”, the 8 bosses in MC that precede Domo, as well as Domo himself, I really convinced myself I could do it, and it’s been awesome fun since then.

2) The community in a game is incredibly important. I’ve met some really cool friends through this game. Mind you, I’ve never met these people in person, but I’ve talked to them at length over Ventrilo, a sort of Internet party chat program that we use to coordinate groups, and I really feel like they’re real, fun people. Breaking down the walls to learn “real” names is key for me, too: Tahri becomes Sara, Naraktrako becomes Rebecca, Weshea becomes Danny. While we’re playing, we still call each other by our in-game names – thanks to there being another tank with a name starting with Gore, my nickname in-game is “Kras” (same as “crass”). But I still try to give my friends a call on the phone now and then, though it’s hard not to slip and call Danny “Wes” on the phone.
I’m now an officer of Panda Attack, so I have to deal with a good chunk of the drama that goes on among people in the game. But I also get to help lead raids, and my goal is now obvious: The game has to continue to be fun. There are lots of powerful raiding guilds out there that are stone-faced killers, grinding their way through MC, BWL, and so on, but the fun is left behind in favor of the loot. To what end? For me, the relationships are the key. I wouldn’t keep coming back unless I knew my friends like Meraddison, Jyandria, Bigguy, Pwenet, and so on were there to greet me and share a laugh.

So I’ll use this as a space to log my thoughts as I progress through the game. Tonight we’re going to wrap up Molten Core, hopefully taking down Ragnaros again. My hope is that, if we can’t, we still are cheerful. My only regret would be if I spent all this time playing a game, only to end up not having fun. Quite a bit of irony there.

posted by Peter at 1:18 pm  

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