Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I Cheesed the Raid Finder

But not in the way that has gotten some people banned. I didn't get double rolls on loot, but I did slip in there wearing sporting my shoulders off Chimaeron, my gloves off Maloriak, two pieces of ZA/ZG gear, a Brewfest trinket, and a 359 in my other trinket slot. I had only one piece of T12 and my average ilvl for my raid healing set was definitely not 372.

But I got in to the raid finder last week and completed the four fights that were available. I actually went last Thursday because I wanted get a preview of the Dragon Soul raid (my group raids Saturday and Mondays so we haven't gone yet) and because I didn't want to do the same raid twice on my druid, I took my holy paladin instead.

As to how I got in... it's was perfectly legal by Blizzard's standards. I happen to have a full set of Ruthless Gladiator PvP gear from all the arena I do, which pushed my average ilvl for all gear to a handy 382 and well above requirement for Looking For Raid.

Looking For Raid was not the nightmare I thought it might be after hearing all the complaints on the PTR. I think it may be because the only people who were eligible to go into LFR that first week were all raiders or their raiding alts.

No one called me out on my crap gear, but with all the transmogging going on maybe they just thought I had awful fashion sense (I've only changed my paladin's shield and head so far, because the level 60 PvP gear I was going to wear is sadly unavailable to me).

The first two bosses were one shots, even with a tank that admitted he had no idea what he was doing and hadn't looked into the fights at all. Yor'sahj, the faceless boss who summons slimes, was actually the sticking point as a pug.

The other bosses it's very clear what to do. Shoot the boss, don't stand in bad, group up with everyone else when you see people clumping. There were a couple people who already knew the fight and made callouts in chat when needed, and the fights weren't complicated enough to require more than a little nudging for everyone to get the message.

But Yor'sahj featured the ever popular problem of people dps-ing the boss instead of the slime adds. We wiped three times and each time loss some people. Fortunately the raid finder found replacements quickly.

I think the 25-man formula was a good choice, as there was none of the waiting I'd normally associate with a 5-man. Though we lost a tank, a new one appeared immediately.

And by the fourth attempt people finally got it into their heads to kill the adds and we one-shotted the fourth boss with only two deaths due to ice wall failure.

I'm not sure what it is about the Hagara fight, since it didn't particularly strike me as very paladin friendly with all the running in circles chaining lightning or avoiding moving ice walls, but I had my best healing performance in that fight versus the other healers.

No healing assignments were given, so it was really a free-for-all, which makes me wonder what it's going to be like healing Ultraxion this week since the second wing is opening up.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Skywall: Now Accepting New Players

I've dropped off the blogosphere a bit, between raiding, a wedding, two conventions, and now NaNoWriMo, but I'm still around.

For all of my time on WoW, Skywall has always been my main server. I knew the names of the vanilla guilds, the names of the top raiders. I knew who the PvP enthusiasts were on both sides of the faction divide, and I remember laughing at some of the forum jokes, like how members of the Sacred Samophlange had managed to get Eringobragh's name into the urban dictionary with an entirely inappropriate definition.

I've certainly made enough alts on other servers (mostly to play with friends) and I've gotten a feel for some of them, but I've always come back to Skywall.

The funny thing about being on the same server so long is knowing the history of how one guild rose from the ashes of another, or who went where and why.

Skywall has been a Medium population server since late vanilla. There was a brief period when it was high and we even had queues to come on, but then Arathor opened up and a lot of people transferred there, including the Alliance guild I played in with my coworkers. Server technologies improved and we went back to Medium pop.

At the end of Wrath of the Lich King we had at least five or six strong 25-man guilds on Alliance and perhaps four on Horde (Horde has always been weaker on Skywall). But when Cata launched, the 25-mans started dropping, with many reducing to 10-man during Tier 11 content, not all of them voluntarily.

Then Disconnected broke up. Driven to Conquer broke up. Language Barrier and Sanguine Curse couldn't managed the numbers and by Firelands had either dropped so low on the radar as to be invisible or vanished. And I know these guild names won't mean anything to 99% of the people who read this, and if they had gradually vanished it wouldn't mean as much to me either, but before I realized it, something was happening.

It was when Osmosis began struggling that it really hit me. Osmosis had long been one of the premier guilds on Skywall, and been undisputedly the best on Horde since TBC. I don't pretend to know all the details, and Osmosis still exists as of this writing, but they lost a lot of players. One of those who server transferred was a guy I'd known since vanilla.

Osmo, the last of our progression 25-man guilds, did their last progression kill on 10-man.

Skywall still has one 25-man guild on Alliance (Choice) and one on Horde (Tortured), so that kind of raiding still goes on for those who like it and can make the time slot, but they aren't the bleeding edge that Disconnected, or Osmosis, or DTC was.

Progression on Skywall is now in the hands of 10-mans guilds.

And while I like my 10-mans very much, I am very sad for those who want the bigger raids, who want to work the edge, and can no longer find that outlet. I don't remember the exact words used, but I remember the guild leader of Osmosis venting on the forums at the end of Wrath about the equal loot for 10s and 25s. He loves the 25-man format, he hates 10s, and he was afraid of what the change would do to recruitment.

Why aren't there more 25-man guilds on Skywall? Well, it seems everyone's leaving.

We used to be Medium population, but when I logged in last night we were one of only two realms with the blue New Players population size.

I hesitate to say Skywall is dying. A walk around Org nets a fair number of people and our economy is healthy. Pugs still happen and my guild hires itself out every now and then for achievement runs of old content to stuff the guild bank with more goodies. There are new guilds forming as always, and for all I know one of them will be fantastic and fill up a gap that people had forgotten was there.

But seeing New Players has been demoralizing. It is proof of how many people have transferred away.

I'll still be on Skywall. I don't do the transfer thing. But if you're looking for a new server, I won't mind if you roll here and say hi.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Writing Update

Just a quick update to my post from Monday, but I did get a contract (woohoo!) early this morning so that finalizes my not participating in this year's Blizzard Writing Contest.

I now have a story to write and an outline due later this month.

Good luck to everyone who enters!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Blizzard Writing Contest 2011 Redux

Well, it's a couple weeks from the deadline, I have a draft that is 75% done, but I thinking of calling it in. There are a couple good reasons for this.

Firstly, from a creative standpoint I could force the story to completion, but I don't think it would be very good, and when I think of what I could be writing instead, I find I perk up--a lot. Nutshell: My heart's not really in this story.

Secondly, I am 90% positive that I will soon have a contract for a paid writing assignment. It'll be a short story of equivalent length to the Blizzard contest requirement. Nobody gets rich from writing short stories, but in the current economic climate, any additional spending money is welcome. The 10% of doubt is only because I haven't received a contract to sign yet, but communication with the editor points to a yes.

Earlier last week, a friend of mine was talking about a work-for-hire writing job I did several months ago. Like the Blizzard contest, I give up all rights to the story I create, but unlike the Blizzard contest, I get paid and I'm not obligated to write the story until I sign on the dotted line. My friend was urging me to talk with the editor again to see if I could get picked up for another contract, which means more work.

After I sent that e-mail, I got a positive response and the story bibles for two different properties with the possibility of writing stories for them both.

And that brings me to my contest entry.

For me, the Blizzard contest is a hope to be recognized as a writer in a way that will eventually lead to a job. I do like Warcraft, so this thinking isn't entirely mercenary of me, but the fact remains that I am in a fortunate enough position where I can be paid to write fiction and time spent writing for the contest is time I'm not writing for potential pay. Writing is not my day job, but I would like to make a career out of it someday, and each story I write should be furthering that dream.

What will bring me closer to being a paid novelist? The Blizzard contest or pursuing other short stories? Thus far there has been no correlation between winning the contest and writing novels. Richard Knaak and Christie Golden came into the business of writing books for Blizzard through other media-tie in work. Aaron Rosenberg, who wrote the Tides of Darkness Warcraft book is a fellow writer in the same universe my last work-for-hire job was in. In fact, you can get the ebook collection containing both our stories here. I'm doing professional level work.

With the contest deadline coming so soon, I have to look at my schedule, and I see NaNoWriMo is coming up next month and one of my top concerns is finishing the outline for my novel before November 1st hits, and then all of November will be eaten by the book. Assuming the work-for-hire contract comes through I'll probably be due a story in December. And I'm also rewriting a short story for a book anthology I've been invited to submit to that has a deadline in January.

This is not counting the second and third tier projects sitting on my hard drive beckoning me or the fact that something unexpected may come up and I'll have another opportunity to do a short on request. (It's so much easier to write knowing a story is pre-sold.)

But the thing is... I hate to give up. Even though I can rationalize this is the best use of my time, and I know some of my writing peers would agree with me, it still feels like giving up.

I had a really good opening to my entry for this year too. Maybe I'll try to salvage it and turn it into an original story later.

Friday, September 2, 2011

[Paladin] The Lament of Flash of Light

Flash of Light used to be my bread and butter spell. This blog is Flash of Moonfire because Flash of Light was such a key part of my repetoire as a holy paladin ever since I first hit 70 and started healing Karazhan.

But when Cataclysm hit I had trouble figuring out where I'd put it on my bars. The tilda, numbers 1-6, and F1-F6 are the keys I bind things to, with occasional Ctrl or Shift combinations. Flash of Light used to be number 2 since I hit it so often. Then it moved to F2 to be a little more out of the way since I didn't use it that often. Now...

Well, it's still on my bars, but it's not bound to anything. That's probably bad, but its usefulness has become so far out of sight and out of mind that I have trouble thinking of moments where someone died because I didn't use it.

The thing is... it doesn't heal that much for the mana cost (making it an expensive proposition for what you get out of it) and it still has a cast time unless there's an Infusion of Light proc (making it's usefulness while moving limited).

I've been doing arena the majority of Season 9 and since the start of Season 10. I've seen other holy paladins run themselves dry casting Flash of Light too many times while I'm still at 90% or more mana. Whereas when I need an emergency heal and Holy Shock and Word of Glory are on cooldown, I hit Divine Favor for that 20% haste and crit and chug out a speedy Divine Light or two (perhaps combined with Aura Mastery to ensure no interruption). I figure if I'm going to spend the mana I'm going to get the most health I can for it.

I'm sure there's room for a Flash of Light in there. Again, it'd be instant with an Infusion of Light proc, but as a cast time spell I just wouldn't use it. An IoL-enhanced Divine Light goes by so fast that 90% of the time it's too fast for my opponents to interrupt (gladiator level I am not, so YMMV).

Then this week I did some Firelands raiding with the second 10-man team in my guild as a fill-in healer. I know these fights on my druid, but for those I've always been dps or a tank. I had little to no experience healing them, so I was surprised by how much faith the raid leader had in me, suggesting we two-heal several fights, considering that my paladin had only the Firelands cape and a bizarre mix of BWD, troll dungeon, and PvP gear.

I thought that perhaps as I was doing PvE raiding I would find a use for Flash of Light, a reason to keybind it again, but I didn't.

It's not that there were no wipes that were my fault, being rather scrubbish for the duties I was assigned, but they weren't because I didn't get a quick heal off. I'm quick with my Lay on Hands and I'm not afraid to use it if I think a tank's gonna die.

Wipes were more due to missing the Smouldering Devastation cue on Beth'talic (I'm not usually on the web, let alone as a healer), being in the wrong place on Alysrazor (until recently I always tanked that fight so I had no concept of where the caster adds spawned and lost a dps and a tank because of range issues), and there was the occasional, for some reason or other I didn't think the tank's health was going to drop that fast so I wasn't ready with a heal.

But we cleared 6/7 and I two-healed Alysrazor and Rhyolith so at the very least I know I'm not bad. I was just on a bit of a learning curve, and I was the only healer who didn't let someone die to Torment on Baelroc so I was rather happy about that.

Getting back to Flash of Light though... I still didn't see when to use it. I thought maybe Baelroc would be the boss.

Torment's a nice stacking debuff that eventually chews through dps the higher it goes. But it ended up that I would Holy Shock, Word of Glory, and then roll almost immediately into Divine Lights to make sure no one dropped.

My mana was hurting almost every Firelands boss (inexperience healing the fights combined with not as geared as the rest of the raid), so if I needed a "save" I wanted it to be Lay on Hands because at least that would give me some mana back.

I guess I don't use Flash of Light because I try very hard not to be in the position where Flash of Light would be appealing to me; namely where someone's going to die and that little sliver of health would make it worth the cost of using it.

In PvP I use Holy Shock and Word of Glory as much as possible. If I use cast time spells I'm either using them under an IoL proc (making them very fast and hard to interrupt), I Aura Mastery to make them uninterruptable, or I prepare to cancel the cast if the possibility of getting interrupted exists and then cast again after the interrupt is wasted. It's rare I do unprotected casts in arena, and if I do it's because my partner is probably going to die in the next couple of seconds if I don't and all my cooldowns have been burned.

In PvE there are multiple healers and the the damage intake doesn't seem to warrant it. Tanks get hit too hard for Flash of Light to make much of a difference. And if they're dps or another healer, there is typically enough time between damage bursts to allow HoTs or a Holy Light to save them.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Human Decency

I like to think that most people, even in a game, are decent to each other if not actually friendly. It takes some effort to be a jerk after all, and usually people, particularly in pugs, just want to do their business and be done with it.

But yesterday I came across an unusual bad specimen that I had to write this to wash my mind of it.

I joined a pug on my resto druid alt (my third druid) and it was for Hellfire Ramparts. We did the first couple pulls across the bridge and all was well.

The third and fourth pulls were more chaotic. It looked to me like a couple of the dps pulled, but the tank soon had everything under control and I didn't get blasted in the face by caster mobs like I expected. The mage even commented that he was happy to find a healer who would heal his pet. (For me, pets are last priority, but I do heal them if I am sure it will not result in another party member dying.)

Then the tank paused and asked the dps to stop pulling. He has been away from the game for several months and is getting back into the habit.

The mage is ballsy enough to say no to the tank's face, saying that the tank is too slow, and pulls again.

The tank replies that he's not going to taunt mobs off the mage if he pulls them. And he doesn't.

As I have done from time to time out of sympathy for much put-upon tanks, since it is most often the green and the rusty among them that get this treatment, I offered to not heal the mage so that there is a real consequence to the dps for having a mob on them. The tank is grateful for the support.

The mage dies, and I rez him figuring he's learned his lesson.

He hasn't.

And so we go down the corrider to the first boss with the mage berating the tank, saying that it doesn't matter that he's been gone for months, he's wasting other people's time by pulling so slowly, and all the while continuing to pull. Unfortunately the mage is a pretty good player, so even though he pulls mobs and the tank does not taunt off him and I don't heal him, he continues to live.

The tank snaps back at the mage, and also apologizes to the rest of the group. He says he's not normally this snippy, but after getting so many awful people in pugs it's starting to hurt. I comfort the tank and the atmosphere in the group is so bad the other dps start yelling at the mage to shut up.

The tank really isn't pulling that slowly. He's not chain pulling, but he's not 10 seconds between pulls like the mage claims.

After a pull in which the mage nearly dies, the tank whispers me that the mage tried to have me vote-kicked for not healing him. I laugh it off, though I'm a little surprised that he didn't try vote-kicking the tank first considering he's who the mage has been venting at. Perhaps he doesn't want to wait in the queue for a new tank.

Right before the boss the mage says if the tank is rusty he'll tell him how to tank. And rattles off a warrior rotation.

The tank is a paladin.

No one says anything, but the mage must have caught his error because he then spews out a bunch of random prot paladin abilities and proclaims that he has now taught the tank how to do his job.

Moving on, we kill the boss and it is no problem. The tank doesn't chain pull, but he knows how to hold aggro. The rest of the party continues defending the tank, the hunter even saying that the tank is pulling faster than others he's seen so he doesn't know what the mage is complaining about. The death knight tells the mage to stop QQing.

After the next pull the mage runs ahead. I have bad feeling about this.

When the mage comes back with two enemies in tow, nobody hits them, but the mage ice blocks sending them on us and we're forced to pick them up.

The mage runs away for the next batch.

I know his game now. If we're too slow for him, he's going to force us to speed up by bringing us enemies to fight.

We try kicking him repeatedly, but we're never out of combat long enough to activate the vote kick. He's not giving us enough breathing room.

Finally he runs down with six mobs after him and he can't save himself. Unfortunately, it's a bad situation for us with the ranged mobs not being on the tank, and I get killed second when I try to heal. The rest of the party soon falls.

I grumble in chat that at least now we'll be out of combat long enough to vote kick him.

The mage declares that he got what he wanted and he won't care if we kick him. We, of course, kick him as soon as the timer lets us.

The rest of the instance was fantastic.

The tank was easy to heal, held all the mobs, and only took a couple seconds between pulls, checking to make sure everyone was with him, which was fine with me. I don't see what in the world the mage had to complain about.

After the last boss was dead, the tank thanked us for the run and I told him that I hoped he had better luck with future pugs. What we had there was one of the nastiest I've seen in a while, and I hoped he wouldn't think that happened all the time. Pug tanking is often thankless work, but it's a role that needs filling, and I hope by encouraging young tanks we'll find more of them out there.

The thing that bugs me the most, I think, is that Ramparts is a leveling instance. People are still learning things, trying out new specs, figuring out when to use new abilities, getting familiar with the pulls. Not everyone is an old hat who knows every instance inside and out. The tank was in the proper instance for getting back into the swing of tanking. He was doing nothing wrong.

If the mage had a problem with that, he should have left, but in fact did not, even when the option was raised.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

2011 Blizzard Global Writing Contest

Well, it was bound to happen. The 2011 Blizzard Global Writing Contest is up. I'm oddly ambivalent about it this year though, reason being that a lot has happened since then.

In 2009 I was pretty hungry as a writer. I didn't get much recognition for my work, and getting an Honorable Mention in the contest was an amazing validation.

In 2010 I wrote what I thought was a fantastic follow-up to my 2009 Honorable Mention. My one beta reader who'd read both works thought the second was much better than the first. But it ended up that I didn't place at all. (My feeling is the competition was probably stiffer, or perhaps Blizzard was just tired of blood elf paladins.)

Meanwhile, in 2010 I ended up winning a critically acclaimed international writing competition for amateur writers. Patrick Rothfuss is a previous winner, and if you've been reading fantasy fiction at all these past few years his name probably rings a bell even if you haven't read his work. Since my 2010 win I have sold an additional two short stories (the winning story was published in a compilation of winners) at professional rates.

Now I'm faced with the conceit that while I find the competition fun, time writing for a Blizzard contest might not pay off. It will take time away from work I can probably be paid for, for a remote chance at getting Blizzard to recognize my work as a writer (which may or may not lead to additional work as a writer).

Is it worth writing what is essentially an audition piece I will not be able to use anywhere else instead of a short story I could sell at a number of different publishers?

None of Blizzard's winners have gone on to write a novel or even the short stories in the Warcraft Legends manga,--just the short stories on the web site. The novels are the department of established pros such as Christie Golden and Richard Knaak who cut their teeth on Dungeons & Dragon products. Aaron Rosenberg, one of the less utilized Warcraft novelists, is still a known media tie-in author who presumably came to the attention of the company through his pre-established writing chops.

I'm not saying I won't write something. I've been having an idea knocking about my head in anticipation of the contest. But I still have to ask myself: Is it worth it?

By the way, if anyone happens to be curious as to my non-WoW writing endeavors, I've added a link on the side-bar of my blog (you won't see it on an RSS feed) to my award-winning novelette, which is now available on Kindle at just $0.99. From there you can also get to my Amazon author page and find information about my other upcoming works, my author blog, and author Twitter.

I generally try to keep my WoW and writing identities separate, but when they collide like during the contest some crossover is expected.