Feb 27, 2008

Bringin' More Than Just the Boom, pt 2

Un Muton!
Mage 101 is over, ladies and gentlemen, so if you missed the first class, I'm afraid we're going to have to send you back to grade school. Don't you dare return until you're feeling the urge to try Polymorph on your next door neighbor while sing-songing, "Un muton!"

Now that the kiddies are out of the way, welcome to the Advanced class, where we put away the things even the nubs know and pull out the subtler side of the Mage. Granted, 'subtle' is a relative term for a class that brings their own bonfire to every party and just adores hearing things Shatter, but ... hey. Rogues can have the sneak-up-and-murder-you end of the subtlety spectrum, and we'll take the veeeeeeeeeeery distant end, the one that kind of ... skirts the edges of the definition of the word.

So, on Monday, you pulled out the basic list to convince Mr. Party Leader that you're the right squishie for the job. He perused it, naturally impressed, but by some strange and perverse twist of the synapses, he's still not convinced enough to send you your invite! That's fine. Not everyone was born as smart as you were (after all, the World isn't 100% mage, is it?). Thus, it's time to bring out the big(ger) guns in your fight for your right to shusplodey.

Part 2: Advanced Abilities
  1. deCurse
    Decurse - Look, I know it's tough to take time away from the massive burst damage. We want to see the numbers fly. We want to see the fools who oppose us dying in blazes of glory! But... we do have a powerful and rather rare special ability that doesn't involve damage per second. Mages are one of only two classes* who can cleanse a Curse, arguably one of the nastier and more prevalent debuff categories in the game. Mobs and bosses alike love to throw curses around like evil candy, so your party will love you if you take the time to toss a few Remove Lesser Curse** on their sorry hides. It could save lives.

    ... and if saving lives is not a motivator at all for you, "Decurse" is also a great counter to those pesky, fear-loving Warlocks we love to hate. Take away their DoTs, and they're just pansy goth mages. If for no other reason than to thwart our most dastardly rivals, put that spell on a hotkey on your bar. Please? For me?

  2. Counterspell - Look, there's a set pattern for these things, right? We stand as far away as possible; we shoot a very powerful bolt of something destructive; the enemy gets mad; and while he waves his big axe and runs at us, we murderate him with extreme prejudice. Simple, right? Yeah... until you have to fight another caster. He, like you, prefers to keep his distance and nuke you from afar, which turns into an annoying casting-time battle that results in a few more scorch marks on your pretty dress. We don't like that, so we whip out our Counterspell and shove it in Mr. Caster's face. While he's choking on the 8-second lockout of his favorite (and hopefully only) school of magic, we are free to commence with the usual murderation.

    Word to the wise, though. Counterspell is not at its most effective unless your timing is precise. If he's not casting when your CS hits, then you've just triggered a 24 second cooldown for the pure joy of it. Watch carefully and account for lag.

  3. Whee!
    Group Hugsplosions - WoWwiki says that AoE stands for "Area of Effect", but we know better. AoE really means "All-over Explosions", because when we kick it into group-hug-destruction-mode, the fireworks of pain start flying. While a couple of other classes have a token AoE or two (pansy goth mages, for example), this is where the mages really take the field over their peers. No one else can take down multiple mobs with our speed and mana efficiency***, and when you combine that raw power with the fact that a lot of our Area damage spells also involve some form of life-saving crowd control, we become the best, most survivable AoE class in the game.+

  4. AmpMagic

    Amplify / Dampen Magic - Probably the best-kept mage supahsekrit spells in the game now stand before you, exposed in all their glory. Amplify and Dampen Magic are utility buffs that we can cast on ourselves, our allies or our enemies. They increase or decrease, respectively, the effect of magical spells and abilities on the debuffed target, which makes them a very flexible and situational pair of tools that most Mages seem to forget about in the pursuit of destruction. I'm here to tell you to dust those babies off and put them back on your bar. If you're smart about their application, these two spells can become a great boon to not only a party, but to the solo mage.

    Let's illustrate with a couple of potential situations:

    Example #1: You're bouncing around outside of Manaforge Cooru, taking out those pesky Sindorei for fun and profit. All those Sunfury Arcanists and Arch Mages in their red-and-gold robes make the place look like a Barbie convention, so you feel the need to bust in there and blow them out of the water with some Arcane Explosions. Cast Dampen Magic on yourself before you pull to save on the damage from these spellcasters, and throw some Amplify Magic on Spellbinder Maryana to take her down faster when she tries to come in and crash your murderation party.

    Example #2: Deep in a cave in Blade's Edge Mountains, there lives a large, smelly, and slobbery poppa gronn known as Gruul. If you gather up 25 of your bestest buddies and fight your way past the stupid ogres that worship him, you'll get your chance to molest him for his phat porples. Now, Gruul, being a rather unintelligent fellow, doesn't know any forms of magic at all; his attacks are all physical. This means that you can buff your entire team with Amplify Magic to enhance the power of any heals that are cast on them.

  5. Mage-Yoink - No longer do rogues have the monopoly on the glory of a good steal. Since the Burning Crusade, we mages have been given a gift of thievery that is not only powerful but is also a total blast to use. Spellsteal is a level 68 trained spell that lets us yoink the beneficial debuff off of our enemy and take it for our own. Are you feeling a little lonely in your travels, my dear mage? Find yourself a shaman or a Storming Wind-Ripper and steal away his Lightning Shield for some spinny, sparky company. Or maybe you want an extra +295 spell damage during your Botanica run? Grab that Holy Fury off of a Bloodwarder Mender and go to town! There's lots of potential for fun and fury in this spell, so keep it nearby to play with.

  6. ImpScorch
    Improved Scorch - Down on the fourth tier of the Fire talent tree is a lovely little gem that has the potential to bring some great benefits to both you and your group, depending on who Mr. Party Leader has brought to play, today. Improved Scorch is a 15-point mage talent that adds a pretty little debuff to the target of your Scorch spell. It makes the enemy mob 3% more vulnerable to fire damage - any fire damage. The warlocks, shamans and other fire mages are cackling in malicious glee, right now, since they all have abilities that can leach off this debuff and bring some extra hurtin' capability to your party. Share the destructive wealth, I say!

  7. Winter’s Chill - All right. I admit it. This one's stretching it just a bit, but I believe in giving credit where credit is due... even if it's very situational credit. Winter's Chill is a talent that comes from pretty deep (25 points) in the Frost tree. It's tough to reach and has limited utility on short fights, but if the group we're trying to get into is a raid going against the bigger boys, this particular talent might just blow them all away. Like Improved Scorch, this guy is a stacking debuff that the mob gains, this time from any of our frost damage spells. It stacks up to 5 times, giving a possible 10% increased crit rate from frost spells. Once again, any Frost spells. Unfortunately, the only people who really do frost damage on a regular basis++ are... well... us. Mages. Still, if we're in a raid with 3 of our Frosty, magey peers, it's a great talent to bring to the group, busting out an extra 10% crit for all of us! Our tank won't know what hit him, boys and girls. ... maybe because it never reaches him.
Okay. There you have it. I now pronounce you educated and graduated from the School of Boom. If this doesn't convince Mr. Party Leader that you should be the one he invites, then I'm afraid there's just no hope for him at all. Let him and his silly little group go slog through their task the hard way. There are plenty of smart people out there that will recognize that you're way more than just a dress-wearing squishy with a fireball in your hand.

* Druids are the other class.
** -50 DKP for that stupid spell name, Blizzmonster. -_-
*** ... Even though our AOE spells are our least mana efficient type.
+ Dear Blizzmonster, thank you very much for giving us all Ice Block. Our repair bills love you forevah!
++ I'm sort of discounting Frost Shock from Shamans, here, because my limited understanding of the shamanic ways leads me to believe that it's hardly ever applied in a raiding situation. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

Feb 25, 2008

Bringin' More Than Just the Boom, pt 1

It's 6:25pm, and you're feeling the itch.

Burn, baby, burn!

That's right. You need to go light some massive fires, freeze a few feet to the floor, and maybe add a couple of fluffy widdle sheepies to the wilds of Azeroth. You don't want just any old in-game murderfest; no, not for a mage of your caliber. You want to hit the Elites and burn your way through an instance. You want a meatshield to take the hits, a healer to keep your fragile little form alive, and maybe a minion or two to add their own paltry efforts to your explosions. In short, you're ready find a party and join a dungeon run.

You, however, are a mage. You may be awesomesauce in a wrapping of highly colorful cloth, but the fact is that mages just aren’t the lynchpins of a group. We are too smart to stand there and gleefully let the mobs beat on us, tank-style (blame Arcane Intellect for that) and too interested in furthering the cause of devastation to cast something pansy like a heal. Thus, the rest of the game lumps us into this nebulous ‘class’ called DPS. They weigh us off against rogues, warlocks, hunters and hybrids when they consider who to bring and who to leave chillin’ in Shattrath City.

So, how do we make sure that we’re the ones getting the invites while the lesser beings get left behind? We tip the scales with some facts. Let’s make sure that everyone understands just what mages bring to a party.

Part 1: The Basics
  1. DPS – You’re rolling your eyes, right? I know. Yes, the mage class, the ones that Blizzard says will "introduce monsters to a world of pain", does a healthy chunk of damage per second. Debatable though it is, I firmly believe that this is and will always be the foundation of our class. Everything else is icing and details.

  2. Arcane Brilliance
    Smarts for Everyone – Mages bring Intellect to the group. (Well, to the toons, at least. Sorry, but we can’t always say the same for the players.) Arcane Intellect and Arcane Brilliance give us the ability to make our fellow mana-users happier and longer-casting. All the better to heal us with, my dears.

  3. Crowd ControlPolymorph and Frost Nova are how we keep a respectful distance from those who would like to maim us. The other classes call this ‘Crowd Control’; me, I just call it smart. We wear cloth, my friends. It’s like bringing a paper umbrella to a sword fight: it quickly teaches us that the wise mage keeps her distance!

    Fire mages enjoy the effects of Blast Wave with its 6 second daze and Dragon’s Breath with its 3 second disorient. For the cold-inclined among us, it’s all about Frostbyte and Permafrost combined with some great cooldown-shortening talents like Cold Snap and Improved Frost Nova. Arcane mages aren’t left out, either. They get Presence of Mind to turn an angry enemy into an insta-Sheep as well as Slow, which affects not only the enemy’s legs but his sword arm, as well.

  4. Nomnomnom...
    Free MedsWater. Food. Our new, much-loved banquet tables. You, my dear mage, bring your group freebies that they would otherwise have to buy. You’re the anti-gold-farmer, earning money for your friends by dint of your generosity! Are they kissing your feet, yet? Turn them into pigs if they don’t at least say ‘thank you’.

  5. All aboard! Mage-love express to Shattrath City!
    Portals – Mages, probably because we spent so much time atrophying in the library while learning our weapons of massive destruction, don’t like to walk. Instead, we use teleportation to let us insta-blink to our favorite cities. Halfway across Azeroth? Hey, that’s easy. Other side of the inter-dimensional, time-space-spanning evil portal that destroyed a world by its very creation?! Psh. Give us ten seconds, and we’re there. We can even let our party members tag along or send them off to repair, restock, or buy us presents.
It’s not a bad start, huh? The basics are already pretty impressive. It’s only half of the list, though. If the group leader is still eyeballing Joe Rogue for your spot, then I guess we'll just have to whip out the Advanced Mage list! Let’s see who gets left in Shattrath, then.

... but I'm betting your eyes are tired. Let's save the Advanced class for next post. Until then!

Feb 21, 2008

Guest Post:
"How I Became a Warlock"

I'm not going to talk to you, today, but it's not for lack of love or anything. Only extreme excitement could possibly drag me away from my keyboard when it comes to Points of Convergence! But hey, my little warlock friend, here, has managed to put me all in a tizzy, and I really want to share her guest-post with you.

Say hello to Catrinova, everyone.

Cat is a writer and an artist, who joined the World of Warcraft craze (or was she infected with it?) not terribly long after the release of the Burning Crusade. With a busy family and work life, she's a casual player who has taken her time to look around instead of just rushing to 70. Most importantly, though, she brings a perspective to this blog that yours truly has long since lost: the outlook of the WoW newb*. Sure, she's level 67, these days, but the 'New Azeroth' in which she gained those first, important levels is very different from what it was back when I was running around in my Whitemane's Chapeau. She hasn't seen a lot of the 50+ instances that we older folks ground ad nauseum in the Pre-BC endgame. When we went to Scholomance to get her epic warlock mount, she was thrilled and fascinated by the aging old citadel, and it reminded me of my own fading fascination with Blizzard's crafted world. It's a breath of fresh air, honestly, to see and remember that excitement that we lost when we became old and grey, and I asked her to help me share it with all of you. :)

So, without further ado, here is today's guest-post, courtesy of my favorite newb, Cat.

How I Became a Warlock

When starting out in World of Warcraft, I had not done much research into the lore behind it all, so my choice of character was dictated solely by common sense and reason. ("Not done much" meaning "none at all," and by "reason and common sense" I mean, of course, "what was most shiny". I like the shiny.)

Warlock Cartoon
(c) Kellie Gillette, 2007
Warlocks sounded really fun and lighthearted! You even got a pet that you didn't have to feed all the time like those smelly boars and ravagers. I had lovely images of a snuggly, blue monster tucking my little warlock in at night, or having a lovely game of scrabble with that highly intelligent imp. What could be more fulfilling than nurturing such a loving and symbiotic relationship? Warlocks not only got a life-partner, they were like the social directors of WoW, summoning their friends to parties and handing out "green candies". They must be so popular, I thought, so loved and adored that they even got their own cheer: Nerf!

My Catrinova was born, and she was so shiny, so new and innocent, frolicking about Northshire Valley, that I suppose a fly in the ointment was inevitable. That fly was Beljub.

First off, what kind of name is that? It doesn't dance impishly off the tongue like Puck or Ariel; it sags and burps like a drunken hobo. However, that was Cat's imp and one must make the best of things. It's not his fault that he's named after a vomiting sound. I was sure his sparkling wit and conversational company would more than make...

"This was NOT in my contract!"

... up... for...

"Don't call on me, I'll call on you."

... the name. Or not.

Well, at least, at level 10, Cat can upgrade to her muppet-like friend, the voidwalker. Having some shadows cast now on my bright and shiny warlock outlook, I decided to do a little research ahead of time, just to see whether he preferred cookies or ice cream as a midnight snack.

"Voidwalkers are demons created from the chaos of the Twisting Nether.” Uh... demons? "These hulking blue creatures look vaguely humanoid.” Oh, well that sounds ni... "Their touch is misery... caring only for bringing an end to all creation”. Sigh! At least he wasn't named Beljub.

Okay, but there are other companion options at level 20.

No, never mind, there are no other companions at level 20. No, there aren't! I'm not listening… lalalalalalalalalala.

Level 30 brings us the Felhunter! Well... it could be a muppet. From a new, really dark interpretation of The Dark Crystal as done by David Lynch. With some Tarantino thrown in. Just don't touch it. Or look at it too closely because: ew.

By the time Cat worked her way through the Demonology talent tree and received access to a Felguard, I wasn't expecting any muppets and therefore wasn't disappointed in the huge, ugly and menacing minion that answered the summons. He does his job, does it pretty well and...

"Too pathetic to fight your own battles?"

Excuse me, Shaaghun. This is not your article, it's mine.

"Your time is running out."

No it's not! I have plenty of...

"Do not waste my time, lesser creature."

Lesser..?! You can just go back under your fel-rock, buddy!

"Summon me again at your peril."

I am so going to sacrifice that guy.

In the end the whole minion-as-life-partner thing didn't work out as I'd hoped, but I haven't given up hope. Warlocks are still greeted by that heartening cheer, and just yesterday I had some dwarf children try to throw candies at me! They mistakenly used rocks instead, but it's the thought that counts.

They knew, as I know, that warlocks might look scary with their demons following them everywhere, but we who are... iniquitously enabled... just need love and understanding.

Oh, and your souls. Almost forgot about that part. :-)

* Disclaimer: "Newb"is meant only in the most literal of senses! No comments on play ability are implied.

Feb 19, 2008

Outbrain: In or Out?

I know. It's not Thursday, again, but darn it... I just get excited, sometimes!

I've added a new feature to the blog that I hope everyone will enjoy: a post 5-star rating widget. It's a familiar concept with a few tweaks and upgrades for the specific needs of the blogosphere, brought to us by the far-smarter-than-I-am techie people at Outbrain. What's really unique about these five little yellow stars (and the reason I've given them a home here) is that they don't only give you the overall rating for my post from all the lovely people who've come here. These ratings are personalized to your own rating history!

I'm going to let the authors explain it, cuz they do a far better job than I can:

... whenever we serve the ratings widget to a reader, we look at his/her rating history, find like-minded people automatically, and adjust the rating scores accordingly. This is what the widget looks like with personalization:

In other words – two people might be looking at the same blog post, but each will see vastly different scores based on each one’s personal rating history. The more each person rates, the better our recommendations will be specifically for him/her.
So for those of you who follow a number of blogs and really want to get an at-a-glance idea of whether or not the post topic is going to be worth your read, I recommend that you spread your ratings around and seed Mr. Friendly Personalization Algorithm. In the end, it'll help you the most.

At least, that's the idea. :) Please leave me feedback (ratings on this post or comments) to register your opinions on this feature. I'm not above baleeting them if I'm overestimating their starry-goodness.

Feb 18, 2008

Titans and Demiurges 01 - Artist Llanir

We humans, wonderful animals that we are, love to derive inspiration from outside sources. From books, magazines, scenery around us, idle comments from our coworkers - that's the way of the demiurge, the creative force inside each of us. We're always watching, always listening, always flirting with ideas, concepts, and the boundaries of what we know versus what we wish.

Is it any wonder, then, that so many WoW players are inspired by Azeroth, Outlands, and their hundreds of thousands of years of richly-crafted history? 9 million subscribers, even if only a small fraction of them are creators who put these wonderful ideas on 'paper'*, that's a mountain - no, a planet full of mountain ranges - worth of media for us to enjoy. Videos. Paintings. 3D renders. Fiction. Poetry. Software. Web sites. Icons. Sound bytes. Songs. The list is ... well, pretty much as long as our imaginations are deep.

'Titans and Demiurges' is a series that's all about discussing, enjoying and sharing the creativity WoW has inspired. I'll be scouring the internet, bugging friends and contacts, following trails of animus, and gladly accepting suggestions for art, writing, webcomics and anything else that is born out of the inspiration of Blizzard's Warcraft world. Sometimes, we'll have simple showcases, a sharing of beauty and individuality. Other times, we'll discuss sources of inspiration in the game that might help your own demiurge kick into motion. For those that are interested, I will also offer critiques of paintings and stories, giving constructive advice from an experienced** artist and writer.

But enough talk. Let's start this party out right, with some beautiful World of Warcraft fanart gleaned from the depths of the Deviant Art community. Allow me to share with you the work of Llanir, a skilled portrait artist that has turned her hand to a few familiar races:

Blood Elf



Llanir's beautiful, semi-photorealistic style combined with lots of interesting angles and dynamic lines really makes these portraits feel natural, graceful, and engaging at the same time. I enjoy looking at them, picking out the carefully-placed details that really elevate the relatively simple backgrounds and uniform skin tones.

* In this modern age, it's seldom really paper. Let's just use the phrase as a euphamism for 'any shareable form'.
** Experienced does not equate to perfect, so don't worry on that account. Critiques will be by request only.

Feb 14, 2008

Stat-balance the Human 01: It's a Sedentary Life

Look. Let's face it. The gaming lifestyle is not exactly friendly to the human animal's body. Your character may be faster than a speeding hippogryph, more powerful than an enraged gronn, and able to leap tall zeppelins in a single bound, but you are probably something shy of a Man (or Woman) of FelSteel. After all, you're not quite spending your time working out, eating right, and relaxing away stresses while you're doing all these digital works of wonder. In fact, if you're anything like the average gamer, you're probably practicing poor posture, leading a typically-modern sedentary lifestyle and actually adding to your stress level by involving yourself in tense situations and (perhaps) some digital-social drama. I know. I do it, too.

You don't even have to be overweight. You could be Olive Oyl's long lost twin, but you may still be dangerously unhealthy. After all, physical health and well-being require so much more than a boney butt, a strong mind and witty reparté to share over voice chat. They require a balanced caloric flow, regular exercise, careful nutrition, a solid mental state, and a certain amount of ... well, not to sound too Zen about it, but a certain amount of periodic cleansing in both the literal and figurative sense. Mind and body both should remember the last time they had a bit of a wash. Meditation (or whatever you call a few minutes of peace and quiet and reflection) and showers are must-haves for any cool gamer.

Yes, that's right. Cool gamer. Times have changed, my friend.

Still, the human body remains the human body. Society may accept that your 4 hours in Zul'Aman are truly a worthwhile expenditure of time and your PDA is actually sleek and stylish instead of geeky and unnecessary, but your thyroid isn't going to kick it up a notch just because Nalorakk drops purples you reallyreally need. It's a stubborn little organ; I hear that convincing it to make that kind of adjustment can take generations and a liberal application of natural selection. So, I submit to you that you would probably be better off just doing what you can to work some good, healthful habits into your sedentary life.

The reality is that if we aren't attentive (or very lucky*), these poor mental and physical health habits will start to turn us into the Stereotype.

What Stereotype? Here. South Park illustrated it for you just perfectly:

Season 1
Southpark DVD cover - Season 1
Normal little South Park kiddies
Season 10
Southpark DVD cover - Season 10
Fat, greasy little WoW-playing South Park kiddies

We weren't designed for this modern lifestyle, so if we want to be able to live it well, then we need to understand how to incorporate as much of what we were designed for as possible. I don't know about you, but I want to maintain a healthy, active body and mind and still be able to get my video-game on. :) But where can we adjust our habits to help take care of our weight, our wellness, our muscle mass, our skeletal structure, and even our mental state? What does a gamer's lifestyle already have that we need? What does it lack?

What we have:
  1. Mental Intellectual Activity: You and I are already exercising our brains when we game. We are strategizing, analyzing, and problem solving as we optimize our play via spell rotations, gear sets, talent points and many other game mechanics. Running, jumping, jinking, hiding, and getting up on that darn fountain in Stormwind are improving our hand-to-eye coordination and our three-dimensional spatial recognition. Raids, pets and even chat channels are exercising our mental capacity for handling multiple tasks at once. Depending on who you talk to, we might even be forwarding our careers via the social contacts we create. (It's an ongoing argument.) We're giving our brains, our intellectual thought centers, constant growth and endurance training.

  2. Global Social Interaction: Modern games very often involve some sort of inherent or optional multiplayer functionality, and nowhere is that more obvious than in the MMO genre. World of Warcraft, like its predecessor MMOs, relies on its multiplayer content to enrich and enliven the in-game world. More than that, though, its global popularity makes it arguably the most interesting and unique social opportunity the world has ever seen. Where else can you meet and foster real-time activity-oriented friendships with people who live hundreds, thousands, even tens-of-thousands of miles away? It's not just text chat, any more. It's play style. Voice. Guild-inspired social dynamics. The only thing we're still missing is body language and ... maybe smell? :P
What we lack:
  1. Physical Activity: Obvious? Oh, yeah. We all know that sitting for four hours on our butts in front of a Karazhan raid, clicking and typing and maybe jawing on our voice chat program isn't exactly going to make us lean, mean fighting machines in real life. There's nothing to work out those biceps, triceps, delts and quads, and there's certainly nothing in there to get the old heartrate up to aerobic levels. (Unless you're practicing questionable activities in the Deeprun Tram (PG-13 language)?** Or maybe you just get really, really into your PvP (PG-13 language)?)

  2. Nutritional Eating Habits: Let me give credit where credit is due. I'm sure there are plenty of gamers out there who do eat right. Kudos to you! I submit, though, that the lifestyle doesn't do much to encourage it. We grab snacks (often fatty, well-processed snacks) and yoink them into the computer room, munching while we play without paying attention to how many / how much / how crumbly***. Meals get skipped in favor of "just one more run" or get inhaled because the party is waiting. Fast-food is always an attractive dinner option when you're rushing home from work or school to make raid. These little dietary faux pas add up quickly and become blind habit far too easily.

  3. Introspection: If that doesn't sound like something you need for a healthy lifestyle, then let's try some different words. Meditation. Mental Self-examination. Emotional Cleansing. Hey, it's just "me time". You do need some for your emotional well-being, and I'm becoming pretty convinced that the quality of introspection you get while you're autoshot-grinding CE rep mobs is just not sufficient. Games - especially MMOs - encourage a rush from one activity to the other. Play downtime is frowned upon, and I think that has become so engrained in us all, that we sometimes forget that personal downtime is so important.

  4. Informed Interpersonal Relations: "Informed" because as wonderful and diverse as our game-based relationships may be, they are missing some critical communication tools. Body language. Facial expressions. All the visual clues that inform us about intent, sincerity, depth of emotion, and even more animalistic things like physical appeal and compatibility. In this day and age, these are not requirements for friendships and fledgling relationships, but I do think it's very important to remember what you are lacking as you get to know someone in an online environment and know how that might effect your perception, his / her perception, and others' perceptions of your relationship.
In future Stat-balance the Human articles, we'll take a deeper look at each of these areas with the goal of helping us all avoid South Park's Stereotype and keep our mad pwning skillz. Knowing our lifestyle's weaknesses is a start, but we're going to discuss some ways to correct or at least minimize their effects. I've got some tricks and tips for snacking smartly and eating right, getting into the little habits that add up to big muscular and skeletal benefits, working exercise into our gaming day, facing what's going on inside our emotions and avoiding repetitive stress. There's plenty to share, and hopefully you all can bring some other good advice to the table!

Until next time...

* Congrats, you lucky few! We want to mug you for your metabolism wish you all the best in your continued, impenetrable skinniness.
** Please don't. Ew.
*** Alas. Many the keyboard has regretted the crumbly snacks.

Feb 13, 2008

Impromptu Link Love - Tankalt!

Hm. It's not Thursday. I hadn't intended to write anything for the blog, today, but when I saw this great tanking post, I found that I just couldn't resist.

Tankalt!, a very new addition to the blogosphere, has a great post enumerating the "5 Ways to Break Your Tank." Rhese has been tanking for all of a few weeks, so I'm a complete tank newb. Even so, I have already seen every annoying, irritating and frustrating point on this list.*

In fact, now that I think about it, I've probably been the guilty non-tank party on a few of these in the past, too. Um... oops.

Your tank will love you if you go, read and take Zagan's advice with you to your next raid or instance. I promise. Now, scamper off and do me proud!

* Sure enough, every time it happened, I thought I'd done something wrong, too. Zagan knows his fellow tanks so well!

Feb 11, 2008

Intro: Rhese, the Toon

Because all good things come in threes, here is the third and final character introduction. Meet my other significant other*: Rhese!

./who Rhese of Proudmoore

Rhese of Proudmoore
(c) Blizzard Entertainment, 2007
Allegiance: Alliance
Race: Nightelf
Class: Druid, Feral
0 / 44 / 17

Played: 15 days
(over 2 years)
Level: 70
Tradeskills: Skinning (375)
Leatherworking (362)
Raid Experience: Karazhan

Some people will probably chuckle when they hear about the origins of the dashing, daring and devilishly handsome Rhese. The non-roleplayers will snicker that little, self-conscious "oh, you're one of those" snicker that carries with it a hint of acknowledgment that gamers in glass houses shouldn't throw sharpening stones.** But I'm at ease with my origins, my baser instincts, if you wish, so I can admit that Rhese was born out of a story.

Yep. The toon was created because I had a tale wrapped around Rhoelyn's lithe form, and it demanded something that didn't yet exist: her brother. He needed to be a druid, to look like our lovely little heroine, have a young face and a wickedly wonderful grin, and generally... well, he needed to have his name reserved on the server. So back in the day, looooooong before he ever got any play time, a meaty nightelf with white hair and bright eyes plunked his pale-purple butt down on the character selection screen beside Rhoelyn.

.... and there he sat, chilling at level 0.

After a long-bass time in game, though, the ennui started to set in. I got more than a little tired of the same key sequences***, even despite having two different sets! (Rhoelyn and Livaeya ring any bells?). Not yet ready to retire my login screen, but sick to death of the same-old-shusplodey-face-melty, I turned to the dusty little boy waiting on my login screen.

Of course, he was never much of a newb. By the time dear Rhese met our old friend, Conservator Ilthalaine, I like to think that the person driving him was far enough beyond that particular moniker that even a level 1 toon was immune to newbishness. (Though, to be fair, he did spend a decent amount of time jumping his funky nightelven jump and dancing his funky nightelven male dance in those first few levels. Hey, it is pretty different, you know...) In fact, through Teldrassil and Darkshore, Wetlands and Duskwood, we pretty much encountered nothing amazing or new except how very much I loved my little baby druid.

Attack Power! Agility! Strength! Leather armor! Prowl! Panthers and Cheetahs and Bears, oh my!

Playing Rhese was a thing of beauty, my solace from the pains of raiding, guild responsibilities, grinding, farming, and otherwise being a priest and mage with connections. If I wanted to hide, I went to play my lowbie druid, who was just too darn weak to be called upon for anything more than the occasional Heavy Quiver for someone's hunter alt. It may sound irresponsible, but the game has to stay fun if you want to keep playing it. There are times when raiding mains and fighting eDrama llamas make World of Warcraft more like work than play.

Thus, Rhese crawled his way from 1-70 in fits and starts. He began his climb in the days before the Burning Crusade, but he hadn't even made 60 when the Portal was opened. Now, he is the proud owner of the Master's Key. He is getting ready to enter Medihv's stronghold and let some ghosts try to beat him through his shiny, Clefthoof-strong armor.

The Gyst: Rhese of Proudmoore is the third World of Warcraft toon in this blog whose experiences and abilities translate directly to game play. He's got a unique role when compared to the others, as he is both a) not a squishy little cloth-wearer and b) not a caster. He is also going to offer a lot of learning and growing lessons, being relatively 'young' and inexperienced in the game. Rhese is the third and final 70th-level toon you'll be hearing from in PoC, so look for him to share observations on the path to becoming a tank, mauling for fun and profit, PvP and the joys of shape-shifting, and much more.

* The one wearing the ring WITHOUT stats is my #1. Or maybe that ring is +1337 to Happiness for life? Awww... Heart!

** Geeks calling geeks geeky = pot and kettle, my friends. That's why we learn to laugh at ourselves as well as others. ;)

*** 1, 1, Q, F, turn, 1, 3, Z. Does anyone else feel like there are a lot of times when their WoW experience boils down to a single sequence of keys, repeated ad infinitum? Guh.

Feb 7, 2008

Intro: Livaeya the Toon

This isn't a simple blog with a simple focus, and I'm not a simple player with a simple outlook on World of Warcraft. It's not enough to play one class and do it well. For me, the true game is in the understanding and the experience of each mode of play - each class and role and capability. It's a tough goal to meet in a game that's as time-intensive as WoW is. Don't worry, though, I'm not about to subject you to the full brunt of my alt army.

However, there are still two 'voices' to whom I do want to introduce you. Today is a glance at one of them, the mage whose conversations will usually revolve around exploding something or populating the world with a few more muton. Meet Livaeya.

./who Livaeya of Proudmoore

Livaeya of Proudmoore
(c) Blizzard Entertainment, 2007
Allegiance: Alliance
Race: Human
Class: Mage, Fire
10 / 48 / 3

Played: 49 days
(over 4 years)
Level: 70
Tradeskills: Mining (375)
Jewelcrafting (356)
Raid Experience: Molten Core, Onyxia, Blackwing Lair, Zul'Gurub, Ahn'Qiraj, Karazhan, Gruul's Lair and more


Imagine yourself in the early days of the World of Warcraft Closed Beta Test. The Dwarf Beta* has just recently ended, and your character creation screen has blossomed into a veritable smorgasbord of options. Suddenly, your toon is allowed to be over 3ft tall and doesn't have to have mounds of facial hair. S/he can be blue, green, yellow or purple, and where there was one faction, now there are two. What would you do?

Well, you might just pick the most visually appealing model (in your humble opinion, of course) and roll yourself a pretty, svelt human female whose pert behind is going to wash away the blocky dwarven butt that's burned into your retinas. You might name her Livaeya and cry with joy every day for a week while she sashays around the world, blowing things up in a most un-dwarf-like manner.

Thus began our favorite girly-mage, who has survived unchanged since those earliest days. Her intelligent eyes and messy brown updo made such a lasting impression that she, like Rhoelyn, transitioned the beta-test wipe to the live realms to blast her way to 60 and then to 70.

In fact, she and Rhoelyn have been partners in crime for a very long time thanks to the glory of separate accounts. Their in-game experiences are similar, and you may as well hop back to the previous post if you want to know Livaeya's resume of raid experience. She's been everywhere that Rhoelyn has, and there have even been a few times when they were raiding together**. They make quite a dynamite pair, though Liv feels a little short next to her tall, purple friend. :P

Within the pervue of the mage, Livaeya has very broad experience with specs and modus operandi. In her day, she has spent time in each tree of her talents, so she knows the blast power of Fire, the mob control and massive crits of Ice, and the mental stamina of Arcane. She used to love tossing Slows around like candy and POM-Polymorphing Tauren in Arathi Basin. Now, she's enjoying the simple mechanic of building up Improved Scorch debuffs and then whaling away with Fireballs. Soon, I'm sure she'll just have to try out the builds based on Patch 2.3's Icy Veins, but for now she's pretty content where she is: burning ghosts to a cinder in Karazhan and vaporizing Gronn drool as a public service in Gruul's lair.

The Gyst: Livaeya of Proudmoore is another World of Warcraft toon whose experiences and abilities translate directly to game play. She'll be sharing the soothing grey theme with Rhoelyn, bringing the mage's perspective and experiences into discussions of game mechanics, strategies, play styles, PvP and all kinds of WoW experiences. There's one more voice to add to the mix, however.

To be continued, again ...

* The internet seems to have lost a record of this event, but basically, the very earliest closed beta-test was called the Dwarf Beta. The only playable race was ... well, c'mon. You don't even need me to say it.

** 40-man raids were so much more forgiving.

Feb 4, 2008

Intro: Rhoelyn, the Toon

Because everyone likes to know what the bejoolies is going on, let's continue getting to know the different themes and types of posts you'll find here. Meet the charcoal grey theme:

./who Rhoelyn of Proudmoore

Rhoelyn of Proudmoore
(c) Blizzard Entertainment, 2007

Allegiance: Alliance
Race: Nightelf
Class: Priest, Shadow
14 / 0 / 47
Played: 58 days
(over 3 years)

Level: 70
Tradeskills: Herbalism (375)
Alchemy (375)
Raid Experience: Molten Core, Onyxia, Blackwing Lair, Zul'Gurub, Ahn'Qiraj, Karazhan, Gruul's Lair and more


The scene is Teldrassil, sometime roughly in the middle of the World of Warcraft Closed Beta Test. One moment, Conservator Ilthalaine was standing alone on a grassy hillside. The next, he was staring at the game's latest newb, a silver-haired young priest wearing a shiny, green 'Rhoelyn' tag over her head.

Five minutes later, after she'd floundered around, learning the basics of moving and clicking and controlling the camera, he gave her the first quest on what would become a long and illustrious career in Azeroth... and beyond.

Baby Rhoelyn (or Rhoelyn I, as I like to call her) loved all the typical newb things. She danced her funky nightelven dance. She jumped her funky nightelven jump. She Smited some boars and imps and panthers, and over time, she managed to be less newb and more kena. (I'd say 'face melty', but keep in mind that face melting came along much later.) She figured out what Shield was for. She practiced her Heals and made funky resurrection macros. She made it all the way from level 1 to level 52... and then Beta was over, and she was wiped from the servers like so much errant data. But somewhere, on the other side of the computer screen, the knowledge she had earned of how to NOT be a newb priest endured!

Thus, when the live game began and people were scrambling to be the first to login, Ilthalaine found himself once more staring at a purple-skinned toon wearing a shiny 'Rhoelyn' tag. Only this time, he knew better than to underestimate his newest student. Armed with 52 levels of unproveable experience, Big Rhoelyn (Rhoelyn II) blasted her way through Shadowglen, then Teldrassil, and then an Azeroth that she had already defeated, stopping only to read every single in-game book she found. :P

As a result, Rhoelyn was hardly the first toon to 60... more like toon #198,204 to make the level cap. Approximately. She trailed her friends, but they were all kind and amused by her witty /g chatter. When she was level-appropriate, they helped her through all kinds of group activities, and she learned all about both solo and party play. She turned out to be passingly good at whatever needed doing, fun to play with, dedicated to her guild and her friends, and just generally a nice toon to have around. (Only a few people she's come across would disagree, and that's really because they wore their loincloths too tightly.)

Before the Burning Crusade came, Rhoelyn had the opportunity to get a lot of raid play time in with her guild(s). She had leveled with the Shadow talents, melting faces (once face-melting was invented) with evil joy, but she quickly switched to Holy in order to save her errant friends' lives in Molten Core, Blackwing Lair, the Temple of Ahn'Qiraj, Onyxia and more. Those experiences taught her a lot, not just about being a great priest, but also about people and devotion and the life cycle of guilds. She carried all of this into the next level grind when Azeroth gave way to Outlands in the advent of the Burning Crusade.

Now, having fought her way up to level 70, she resides primarily in Shattrath City where she devotes herself to her current guild, . She has returned to a Shadow talent spec, and lends her face-melting power to the guild's second Karazhan group, which she helps her good friend, Ultarn, to lead. Outside of raid time, she can usually be found pursuing some futile attempt to earn enough gold for her epic flying mount, gleefully mixing Alchemy potions, or farming for herbs so that she can resume gleefully mixing Alchemy potions. She takes great joy in learning about her fellow adventurers, including tips, tricks and abilities for classes not her own.

The Gyst: Rhoelyn of Proudmoore is the World of Warcraft toon whose experiences and abilities translate directly to game play. Journal entries in soothing grey will be discussions of game mechanics, strategies, play styles, PvP and all kinds of practical advice for the people who sit in front of a priest of their own. Here is where you will find class-related ways to improve your play, but if you think the only 'voice' you'll hear from is Rhoelyn's, then you might be in for a surprise.

To be continued ...