Sunday, 29 June 2008

Virtual vs Real

Warning: This is not directly on the topic of WoW, it's more generic I guess you could say. So if you decide to continue reading, don't say I didn't warn you.

There are still people that make a value distinction between online and Real Life (yes, usually in capitals). As someone who has been a member of a couple of online communities over the last 9 years or so, this view frustrates me, greatly.

A community is a grouping of individuals who have a common goal/interest. Way back when it would be the local village where the burning communal issues might be about who used the common land for grazing and how the local school was run. When towns and cities grew, you might not have that much in common with your neighbours, so you became part of a community that wasn't about the geography of where you lived, but about something else that made you feel a kinship. It could be religious beliefs, political alignment, a hobby you were passionate about. This was the start of sewing circles, charities, football clubs, local chapters of political parties. Communities that were based not on geography, but on a joint interest.

For a long time local clubs, societies, circles, chapters were the place to find like-minded people. You might be a member of several or maybe a very active member of just one. You might have sewing circle meetings two evenings a week and then you need to spend some extra time to create items for the circle's stall at the weekly local market. But that's fine because it is your hobby and you really enjoy sewing, not to mention that the other circle members are all great friends.
Or it might be awful because you're not really that keen on sewing, but in the small town were you live it is the only way of socialising.

Fast forward to the present time. With the rise of the internet, communities have gone from not being based on geography to transcending it entirely. Through the world that is cyberspace you can become part of virtual communities independently of where you live. It doesn't matter that you live in a small town where no one shares your passion for stamps - there is a whole world out there with lots of people that would love to talk to you about stamps.

Some online communities are transient, just as Real Life ones can be - but also like Real Life ones they can endure for years and be the basis for life-long friendships. And this is were the sticking point is. Many people seem to make a value judgement that says that online communities/friendships are not equal to face-to-face ones.

I have a suspicion that this has to do with certain stereotypes. You know the ones I mean. Adolescent, pimply hacker boys that spend every minute they can in a dark, dank basement desperately seeking virtual excitement through computer games that they cannot find in their Real Lives. The 30-something spinster/bachelor that is overweight/ugly/painfully shy/all of the above, lives on take-away food and uses the virtual world as an escape from the tedium that is their Real Life. How sad they are. Let us all with Real Lives join together to smugly pity them.

Sure, there might very well be people out there like those stereotypes, but they are the minority. Yes, that's right. There are millions of 'normal' (whatever that means) people out there whose lives are made richer by their involvement in virtual communities.

The value judgement that many people make that virtual = not having a Real Life annoys me, but I hope that as more people experience online communities/friendships the stereotypes will be seen for what they are. However, the thing that really makes me angry is when these people come online and behave like complete twunts because, "it's not Real, is it?". They completely overlook the fact that even though the place where they are meeting might be virtual, the people at the other end of all those internet connections are just as Real as they are. They have Real feelings that can be hurt when someone behaves badly towards them. They have a Real Life that can be affected when you don't turn up for a scheduled group activity.

I'm sure there are people that use the anonymity of virtual worlds to pretend to be something they are not for their own twisted pleasure. They are, however, the exception. Mostly, it seems to me, people show their Real Selves when online. In most cases this is not so very different from what they are like in face-to-face interactions. By and large they are decent people, though of course, they will have their foibles and quirks. Sometimes you will meet people for whom virtual communities actually help them be more like the person they want to be. They become less shy and dare show more of their personalities, a bit like butterflies emerging. It is a beautiful thing to behold.

Then you have those people that behave the way they would like to behave normally but do not dare because of the very real impact it would have on them. People that would never behave badly when they are face-to-face with someone, become selfish and/or abusive when online. This is what they would behave like in their Real Life, if they weren't bound by the possible consequences. Start shouting at someone on the street - you might get punched in the nose. Try to steal from work - you might get fired. These are usually the same ones that use the excuse "it's not Real Life", if someone challenges their boorish behaviour.

The virtual world is no Utopia, but neither is it merely a haven for social outcasts. In the end it is just another facet of the Real World.

Friday, 20 June 2008

The lure of the Dark Side

Yes, I did it. After levelling the whole way from 1 to 70 without ever putting a single point into the shadow tree, I succumbed and re-specced shadow for the evening.

Tufva was always meant to be a heal priest, so that was how I levelled her. I really enjoy being a heal priest, despite it sometimes being quite a stressful role. I've never had any wish to spec her in shadow at all.

Then last night happened. We were nowhere near getting the numbers for Karazhan, so we decided to hit a heroic instead. The priest that was supposed to have healed alongside me in Kara desperately wanted to do Heroic Botanica. He needed just a little more reputation to be able to buy the +81 healing weapon enchant, which would benefit all the healers in the guild as no one else has it.

We have several people in the guild that have more than one 70, there's even a couple that have the triumvirate of tank, healer and DPS. However, unusually, what we were lacking yesterday was a DPS. I only have one other 70, a hunter, which was retired when it hit the level cap, so has neither the reputation to buy heroic keys nor a flying mount. I explained that I was happy letting the others go without me, when someone suggested I respec to shadow for the evening.

After having spent the day levelling my shadowpriest together with someone else, I found myself quite excited about the prospect of seeing what it could be like DPS-ing as a shadowpriest at the top level. Of course, my gear would let me down horribly as I don't have any off-spec damage gear to swap in, but I was looking forward to the outing with excitement nonetheless. A quick visit to the priest trainer and some scrounging for damage elixirs, oils and buff food and I was ready to roll.

The run was as smooth as a baby's bottom, we got through Botanica in 1h30 and if it hadn't been for the Badges of Justice we would have thought we'd done it on normal. Admittedly, the group was very well geared as well as skilled, which helped a lot. I had great fun DPS-ing, it was a very relaxing experience compared to healing, so it has really given me a huge incentive to level my shadowpriest as fast as possible. With my heal gear, I managed to output around 500dps, which makes me think that I could quite easily achieve credible DPS when my shadowpriest gets its Frozen Shadoweave set.

So it was a good evening, great fun was had by all, but it did feel somehow wrong to see Tufva in shadowform and she will be speccing back to holy. However, I am very much looking forward to having both a heal priest and a DPS priest to play with.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Healing as a team

I've had another revelation. The fun - and success - that can be had from healing as a team rather than as individuals.

Going from healing 5-mans to 10-man did require some co-ordination but not a huge amount and not at a very detailed level. We were allocated a tank each and played whack-a-mole with the rest of the raid. Apart from agreeing to try to always keep HoTs on both tanks we pretty much left each other to it. Of course, if you see that the other healer's tank is in trouble and you have the spare capacity - you help out, that goes without saying, I hope.

For certain fights, like Curator, we changed the healing assigments slightly (one healer for tank and bolt-soaker, one healer for all others), but again each healer did their own thing to fulfill their healing assignment. I'm not saying that one should have to tell each healer exactly what spells to use and micro-manage them, but what I did find was how much it can increase your success by discussing the tactics with the other healer and agreeing on how to pool your resources in the best way.

I was healing together with my husband's new alt, a holy priest, and as we sit next to each other we can easily chat about the healing side of things without having to go via in-game voice-chat. We both use Grid with the ability to see incoming heals and tracking each other's HoTs, and that in combination with direct communication just made it so much easier. It was also more enjoyable when you felt more as part of a little sub-team rather than two players with the same role in the larger team.

I doubt it made a huge difference to the outcome of most of the fights, but when we came across Prince it made ALL the difference. It was our first try ever on Prince and since it had been a spontaneous on-the-fly decision to give it a go, most of us didn't know the fight at all - though luckily some people had done it with other chars in other guilds. We managed two credible attempts, but on the first one both healers ran out of mana far too soon and on the second we had an unfortunate encounter with an infernal.

For the third attempt me and my co-healer discussed how we had healed previously and agreed on a specific rotation of flash and greater heals to help our combined mana pool to last longer. There was also a couple of shout-outs to each other in the fight "I've got this for a bit, you stand idle for a short while and regen". And we managed to stay the course, keeping the tank AND the rest of the raid up throughout the encounter. That was such a buzzy feeling - we got the job done and we did it as a team!

I am convinced that this tactical chat before the 3rd encounter made a big difference as we then went in focussing not just on our own mana pools, but how to best keep our joint pool up enough to last the encounter. It almost made me want to do 25-mans, just for the buzz of being part of a proper-sized heal team. :-)

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Goodnight sweet Prince

And Prince is down!! On Tuesday night we had our first Prince kill - it was such a buzz. Now I know that for most guilds Kara is very old news, but for us this is huge.

First week of December 2007 was when we first set foot in Kara. We had a grand total of 10 raiders, all freshly attuned with gear so new it squeaked when we moved. Our guild never raided pre-TBC and never even had organised runs until a group of us decided that we wanted to try Kara and set up regular runs for gear and attunement.

Since that first visit we've had some downs. Half the original core group left for raiding guilds or retired from the game. We have still not been able to get a second raid night off the ground. But we've had ups as well. We've found some fab new raiders and we've managed to improve enough to fit more and more into our 3 hours of raiding per week.

First it seemed that we'd never be able to have time for proper tries on Curator, then that we'd never have time to get beyond him. Now I think it is safe to say that we have everything up to and including Curator on farm. We've downed Illhoof on all evenings we've tried, except for once. Aran unfortunately still eludes us, we've only tried him a couple of times, and then never with great success.

On Tuesday we went straight from Curator to Chess as we were running out of time (we had a couple of early wipes due to carelessness). When we finished Chess someone suggested giving Prince a try as he is so close after Chess. There was a unanimous decision to extend the raid time to give it a go. Everyone was super-excited to try something completely new. With good use of soulstones and self-rez we didn't have to worry about respawns and had two very good tries. Third time it all came together and Prince went down. I was so proud of everyone!!

Oh, and did I mention that I got my grubby little hands on Light's Justice? Yay! Though admittedly I only got it as the other healer who out-rolled me, graciously allowed me to have it as he had got Shard of the Virtuous the week before.

I'm now officially Kara-ed out loot-wise, not sure whether to be happy or sad about that.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Adventuring as a pew pew priest

Doing DPS is much easier and less stressful than healing, right? Right?

That was my assumption when rolling a shadowpriest to complement my holy priest. I had visions of lazily running around instances tossing out shadowy spells - I mean, how hard can it be?

The other evening a guildie asked if I wanted to join a group for Maraudon. Instantly my instance-phobia came back full force. I'd managed to get to level 47 without ever doing an instance, preferring to blast through to 60 as quickly as possible thanks to Jame's guides. Never having been in an instance in a DPS-role, I felt it might be a tad late to confess to this at such a late level. I had visions of pulling aggro and wiping the group over and over because of not being used to having to pay attention to Omen. When I am in a group healing I have Omen running in a corner of my screen, but I barely ever look at it. When you are the only healer or one out of two (the only things I have experience of), most of the time you cannot stop healing just to let your threat go down.

Now normally I reply to instance requests stating that I am a DPS priest and as most people are actually after a healer they
will recant the invite at that point. Yes, I know that shadowpriests can heal perfectly well at this kind of level, but the point is that I don't want to - I want to experience the other side. Of course, that's not to say that I wouldn't pop out of shadowform if a group's healer bites the dust - no point being a hybrid/off-spec/whatever the correct term is if you're not willing to utilise it.

So anyway, this guildie asked me to come along and wasn't put off at all about me not wanting to heal - apparently there was another shadowpriest in the group that was happy to heal. I decided I might as well take the plunge and try my hand at DPS-ing sooner rather than later, so I accepted and jumped on a gryphon to Desolace.

In the end though, I think it is safe to say that I needn't have worried about appearing a complete noob for not having any DPS experience. The whole thing was a complete shambles from start to finish.

I will not dwell on the mage that didn't buff other group members nor the tank that did not have a threat-meter nor the complete lack of communication and common sense. In spite of all this, my main regret is that from this experience I can't really judge what it would be like to be out there DPS-ing in a real group or whether I'd be any good at it.

I would quite like to dwell at length on the short-comings of the other priest who was supposed to heal (healing does not mean standing around until people have only a sliver of health left and then bubble them... *sigh*), but I am not going to. As much as I would love to vent my rage at his ineptness causing wipe after wipe, I should have had a word with him about it at the time rather than bottling it up and releasing it on the innocent public. Lesson learned for next time - do not assume that everyone knows better than you and couldn't benefit from constructive criticism.

However, the main lesson I learnt from this (mis)adventure was that it might turn out that NOT being the healer is more stressful than being the healer. At least when I heal I'm not worrying about the tank's health as well as my own damage output. As I saw people's health go down and down my fingers were twitching, wanting to zoom over to Grid and put a Renew on, maybe just a teeny Flash Heal while I was at it? "Put down that Prayer of Mending and step away, madam. Nobody likes a back seat healer."

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

The Adolescent Guild

The guild that I joined a long, long time ago as a very new and green WoW player is a-changing.

A few months ago our founder and original GM decided to retire from the role. He had started the guild to be a home for people that wanted some fun banter in gchat while levelling and maybe group up sometimes when it took someone's fancy. All very casual, relaxed and small scale. These days we usually sit at around 60-odd accounts, but as most of the active members as also alt-a-holics, we tend to have about 150-odd characters in the guild. So not large, but big enough to create a need for a bit of organisation, which our GM did not have the time for. So he handed over the mantle to one of the long-term officers, who I think would have done a great job, but he then ran in to RL stuff and had to leave the game. None of the other officers were quite ready to take on the responsibility of GM-ship, so we decided to institute a council to run the guild.

So now we have a guild on our hands and we need to figure out what it should be when it grows up.

We have many members, but few are active in the guild. They have been in the guild for a long time, but you never hear them on gchat, not even to say 'Hi!' when they log on - and heaven forbid that they should ever post on the guild forum. So even if put ideas and proposals for the guild's future on the forum I doubt we'd hear back from more than the handful of people that we normally hear from on the forum.

We know that we will never be a full-on raiding guild and we are happy with that. Kara is on farm up to and including Curator and we are trying to find a second raid night so that we can progress further. The guild does not have enough people interested in raiding to do 25-mans and that is ok. Members who have decided that they want to raid more have departed to raiding guilds and every so often we've welcomed them back again when they decided it wasn't what they wanted. I have seen in quite a few places the comment of that "you don't have to like them to raid with them". And for a proper raiding guild I can absolutely see that - well, up to a point anyway. I'm sure most raiding guilds won't put up with people behaving as complete twunts towards other members, no matter how good their DPS is - but for a guild that has in the past mostly had a social focus it is important that people get on and enjoy hanging out together in gchat.

So we're not a raiding guild, more of a social guild. But what do we mean by social? Do we just want to liven up gchat? Do we need to arrange in-game entertainment like naked Deadmines? Set up a schedule for instance runs to get people doing more stuff as a guild?

Most of all I wonder whether we need to do something about all those members we have that are not active at all? What can we do to make them participate? And if they do not want to participate - should they still be in the guild? It's not like they are doing any harm being in the guild per se, but it seems a bit pointless. If we weeded our membership would that create a bit of a shock-wave making some other people leave or would it maybe make it feel closer and encourage more togetherness?

All questions and no answers at the moment, but I hope to be able to start finding answers as we move along our learning curve on guild management.