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.

Friday, August 5, 2011

[Paladin] KFC in Season 10 - Back to 3v3

I can't take 2v2 anymore, the half hour matches because neither side can generate enough dps to kill the other. Last night my partner and I were about to strangle ourselves after fighting our third arms warrior/resto druid combo.

(The problem with that match up is that my partner can't get range as a hunter and the warrior can't do enough damage to outdps my heals.)

I'm hoping that will end this season. We only played 2s this week because our newest teammate was out on vacation, but it looks like he's going to be a regular for Season 10. I can't say I'm going to miss those season 9 2v2 matches that took so long we even timed out at the 45 minute mark three times.

My new 3v3 team is a KFC comp, which does not stand for Kentucky Fried Chicken. (It stands for Kung-Fu Cleave, which honestly doesn't make much better sense, but there you go.) KFC consists of an arms warrior, a marksman hunter, and a healer. It's not as strong in 4.2 as it was earlier in Cata, but since my 2s partner is a hunter, we wanted a third player who would be able fill in the gaps in our playstyle.

We wanted either a DK to match our previous success in WotLK as a PHD team, or a warrior to try out KFC. Nothing else we knew of would be viable for a hunter (holy paladins can fortunately be shoved into many more comps). Fortunately, one of our priest guildies also has a warrior alt he likes to PvP on, so we found a new teammate.

We've played two weeks as a 3v3 team prior to this week's vacation, and we're starting to get the hang of playing with each other. There are better calls being made, more communication about cooldowns people need to know. My hunter partner isn't used to letting people know when he has dps cooldowns ready for some burst, because in 2s it hadn't mattered, but KFC kills with focus fire and when our hunter and warrior get their cooldowns lined up together, they can put out some pretty solid damage, particularly if it's middle of the fight when the healer's no longer expecting it.

There are still weaknesses though. We had some line of sight accidents, where someone didn't get healed, and I'm still getting used to figuring out just when the warrior is in danger of being pancaked. There were a couple matches where he died early, but the hunter and I managed to hold out for a frightfully long time 3v2, almost bringing the match down to a 2v2 multiple times before the other team finally ran me out of mana. I'm sure that's because we've been playing together so long I know exactly what the hunter's damage threshold is and can calibrate my heals accordingly. The knowledge of how to do the same with the warrior will come with time.

Personally, I know I have to get better about juking my heals. Sometimes when I'm feeling particularly canny I do this, and I admit it's really satisfying getting the other team to waste a cooldown on a fake-out, but it's not a regular habit. I think part of the reason I forget is that many times when I'm silenced it has nothing to do with casting a heal at all. It's far more common for a mage to preemptively counterspell me than for a warrior to interrupt me, largely because if a warrior is on me, I try to cast only instants or use measures such as Aura Mastery to make sure I don't get interrupted. If I'm doing an unprotected cast near a melee it probably means that I think someone's gonna die before my next Holy Shock/Word of Glory if I don't, which of course is why I should juke so I don't lose such a critical cast.

My other "I want to get better at" item is pillar dancing to avoid being CCed. It's easier in 2s because there are only two opponents to watch and one of them is usually trying to hide behind a pillar as well. But in 3s, there are more people to watch and generally at least two of them are happy to CC a healer. In extreme circumstances I've ended up hexed, then trapped, then feared for good measure, because everyone on the opposite team, including the healer, had a CC.

KFC is not a CC bonanza. For us, it seems the best tactic is to pick a dps kill target and then focus fire it while keeping the healer CCed/busy. I try to Rebuke, Arcane Torrent, or Hammer of Justice the healer if I'm free. If I'm the focus target of a melee I generally run in circles casting instants to stay alive while my teammates do their thing. But if I can't take the output then the warrior peels (love the whole charge and root thing) so I can get a breather. And if the hunter is left unhindered... woe to the other team.

Right now, I think the point we can most improve on as a team is target switching faster (when needed) and going on the offensive more. We have a tendency, particularly because we have a hunter who wants to hide in camo, to wait for the enemy to come to us. But when we think about it, it's very obvious to the other team that we have a hunter and he's near the entrance even if they can't target him, which just gives them time to execute their plan of attack, particuarly if they have a stealther.

On the bright side, we felt quite good about ourselves when we ran into another KFC team of the exact same composition (pally healer) and beat them not only once, but twice, and the second kill was solidly in our favor.