Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Where I have been...

First off let me say welcome back to the everyone (read: one person) who reads my ramblings (thank's Mom).  I've been retired from WoW for about a year now, and I must admit I do miss it.  I miss the friends and I miss the interaction, and the adventures we would go on together.  I hear about MoP and the simply fun gameplay that it has brought and I think: "Yeah, I could do that."

But I cannot.  I have too much of an emotional investment in WoW, a drive to succeed and excel based on the history of my playing, it would quickly consume my life and my time, a consumption I cannot afford.  I tried off and on with The Old Republic, as well, though lag issues and the same consuming drive to min-max myself to oblivion set in and began to occupy my every waking moment.

I crave MMO's for their social interaction, but my drive to explore and experience the entire world in such games causes me to eschew the social relations in pursuit of perfect understanding of the game world.  I do this too with single player games, RPG's chief among them.  There are two unique differences, however.  Firstly, MMO's as we know are never complete, there is always new content, either via micro-patches or unlockables or expansions, there is no end, and it is designed so.  Secondly, and perhaps this is my greatest failing, is the feeling of constant competition and the clock ticking down to the next release, gated encounter, or expansion.  This continuous pressure weighs heavily on me, driving me to constantly seek to explore, discover, and gear up.  This is not a criticism of MMO RPG's, this is my own problem, one I've come to recognize and now seek to mitigate.

More on this in posts to come, but for now, I'm back, just not in WoW.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Addon Pimpage: ErrorMonster, & BugSack + !BugGrabber

A'ight, so this is gonna be a kinda short post.  I had originally considered doing a post last week about Ursagate, but the few people who actually do read this blog already know my opinions and feelings on that, so there you have it.

So my last post I talked a little bit about what I do and do not need to know when tanking (or at least, what I think I do and don't need to know =P)  You know what else I don't need to know when I'm tanking an encounter?
 "You do not have enough rage."
"You cannot do that yet."
"You do not have enough mana."
"That ability isn't ready yet."
 Yeah, OK, I get it guys, I'm a button masher, call me bad, call me w/e, but it works for me.  I know I hit the ability too soon, or I don't have enough rage, I don't need my character telling it to me emphasized by red lettering across my screen.  (A. I hate my character's voice. B. Shouldn't it just be a bear grunting something about rage, not some prissy Night Elf saying it?)  Now, this first part, the voice, that can be turned off in sound options (YAY!) which is really handy, it gets in the way of my Alan Jackson blaring in my headphones, and Vent when I turn off my music to raid.  And the second part? The red text that makes my movies look like shit because you can clearly see that I'm a button masher?  That's where  ErrorMonster comes in.  It's very simple, lightweight, and configurable for a variety of messages, you can even filter out procs, buffs, etc. or only certain error messages.  I simply disable all of them, like I said, I know I hit the ability too soon, I can see the ability on my cooldowns, and I can see when something fired off or not, I don't need error text to tell me that, it just clutters my viewing area.  That's that, it's a bit of personal preference, but I feel it helps to eliminate some on screen distractions while tanking.

Ok, so the next two addons are a little bit different, and more crucial, IMO.  In fact, I don't consider these ones optional if you choose to play the game with -any- addons at all, you should have these installed.  Heck, even without addons, you may find yourself in need of these.  This is because of one other thing that "I don't need to know while tanking.":
  LibBabble-3.0-2 (LibBabble-Boss-3.0):51: LibBabble-Boss-3.0: Translation "Deathknight Understudy" not found. ...gs_RazuviousAssistant\BigWigs_RazuviousAssistant.lua:19: in main chunk: <in C code>: in function `LoadAddOn' BigWigs-2.0 r4929\LoadOnDemand.lua:34: in function <Interface\AddOns\BigWigs\LoadOnDemand.lua:26> BigWigs-2.0 r4929\LoadOnDemand.lua:228: in function <Interface\AddOns\BigWigs\LoadOnDemand.lua:204> <in C code>: ? AceEvent-2.0-91091 (Ace2):298: in function `TriggerEvent' BigWigs-2.0 r4929\Core.lua:401: in function <Interface\AddOns\BigWigs\Core.lua:397> <in C code>: in function `pcall' AceDB-2.0-91094 (Ace2):24: in function <Interface\AddOns\Ace2\AceDB-2.0\AceDB-2.0.lua:23> AceDB-2.0-91094 (Ace2):1863: in function `ToggleActive' BigWigs-2.0 r4929\LoadOnDemand.lua:249: in function <Interface\AddOns\BigWigs\LoadOnDemand.lua:238> <in C code>: ? AceEvent-2.0-91091 (Ace2):298: in function `TriggerEvent' AceEvent-2.0-91091 (Ace2):910: in function <Interface\AddOns\Ace2\AceEvent-2.0\AceEvent-2.0.lua:903>
 "Wow, that was alot of nonsense that just popped up on my screen in the middle of an add spawn on a boss fight, crap crap crap close window I need to pick up these mobs."  Next spawn, same thing happens, huh, that's annoying, and really hard to deal with.  Not only that, it is apparently from some addons, it would be nice to catalogue these and show them to the bug report forum, or better yet, the addon maker, in order to fix it, but I'm too busy deleting the message across my screen to get back to tanking to deal with it.

Having an addon break mid fight can be deadly, but still manageable, but having that addon spamming your screen throughout the fight while it's breaking can be even more so, as it can cover up alerts/players/mobs that you really need to be paying attention to.

This is where !BugGrabber and BugSack come into play.  Simply put, !BugGrabber will capture any error alerts that pop up and instantly put them into BugSack.  (It also defaults to having some crazy gnome voice saying "Fatality!" whenever it happens, which got kinda irritating, I turned it off)  By default, your Bugsack will be green, when it has an error captured, it will be red, you simply click on the red sack in your Minimap menu, and from there you can select and copy the error, to paste into a notepad, word, or w/e you want in order to use it for reporting purposes.

So that's today's addon pimpage, three little addons that have done wonders to make my game play more streamlined and viewer friendly!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Scrolling Combat Text, and why it might be hurting your tanking.

...Or why I'm not Data from Star Trek.

If you are going to find one theme to take home from across all of these blog posts, I think it's going to be this:

"Know your limitations."

What does this mean, in the terms of today's post?  For me it means that about a year and a half ago, while tanking Ulduar, I figured out that I'm human, and that's ok.  Like I'd mentioned in my previous post, I tanked a lot of heroics, and smattering of ten mans in BC, and I really started raiding as a priority in Wrath.  Through all of BC, I used the default UI *shudder*, and honestly didn't think much of it at the time.  Sure, I had like, Omen, and Recount, and DBM, but that was it, and it was cluttering the crap outa my screen.

Enter Wrath of the Lich King, and I was going to get serious about raiding.  So I started watching videos, on Tankspot, etc...   And I marveled at how AWESOME everyone's UI's looked.  I started collecting addons, and crafting my UI.  I fell into and out of and back into love with IceHUD.  I learned the difference between X-Perl and PitBull.  I eventually learned how to use Viewport addons like Sunn - Viewport Art and BTex and haven't really gone back.  I also noticed that a ton of the videos and a ton of my friends, were all using Scrolling Combat Text addons, such as MikScrollingBattleText, and I thought "Hey, that's really cool, I'll try that out."

It was AWESOME, seeing all the health getting taken off my character, and all the heals coming in, notifications of EVERYTHING to do with my character, and the DAMAGE!  Every Swipe, Maul Cleave, and Berserk Mangle were consolidated in a nice big CRIT that made me feel like a champ!

I also noticed something else, quietly, over several months of time.  None of it really mattered.  Do I really need to know when Mangle comes off cooldown? No, I see that just fine.  Do I really need to see when FFF comes off cooldown? Same answer.  When Trinkets become available? I can kinda already see that, I have them on my bar.

"Well what about damage and healing, Feranel?  Don't you need to know that so you can pop cooldowns?"

Short answer: No.

Long Answer:
My healers worry about my health, they worry about the damage I take.  I worry about fight mechanics, adds, and the boss.  I know when the Lich King just cast Soul Reaper and is going to try to pirouette behind me to donkey punch the back of my head, I don't need scrolling combat text to tell me that.  I know when Festergut has had three inhales and is dual wielding freight trains at my face, I don't need scrolling combat text to tell me that.

"What about when you don't get heals because the healers are dead/stunned or there's raidwide damage?"

I run with Healbot, everyone who tanks should run with some form of Raid Frames, between that and general awareness, it's easy to see when the whole raid just got punked by something and you should probably pop a cooldown because you suddenly aren't the healer's only priority.

Ok, so I've knocked on the notification alerts, and the damage/healing in, what else can I knock on about Scrolling Combat Text?

The worst part about scrolling combat text for tanking is the scrolling Damage Out text.

You know that really awesome thing scrolling combat text does where it consolidates your AoE damage into one, really cool looking number?  Awesome, you know your swipe/thunderclap/blood boil/hammer hit REALLY hard, you know what it doesn't tell you?  Which mob you hit for what.  Or which mobs parried, or dodged, or blocked, or were missed.  The Default Floating Combat text actually does this just fine, take these two images:

So this first shot is as I've described, ton's of stuff going on, and a pretty little Thrash Crit right on the side.   Awesome, I look like a pro, my Thrash hit hard.  You will notice this thing tells me how many hits I land, not how many were avoided, and when it does, it won't show who did.  You can also see things have come off cooldown, if my actionbar glowing at me didn't tell me that already.  Lots of information coming on the damage/healing in side as well, good to know, if  you can follow it.

This second image, here, is interesting, in that right on the screen there, you can see I was Parried by one of the mobs, specifically, the one right in front of me.  That tells me that I don't have as much threat on that one as I do on the others, and in a purely AoE scenario, I should switch targets to put a lacerate or something on that.  It sounds pretty elementary, but there it is.  Default floating combat text will display the number or alert above the mob's head, indicating to you what is going on where.  For me, this is a very powerful tool, and one that I had come to rely on, even when I didn't know it.

It was in the middle of Phase One Thorim when it occurred to me, where, for the life of me, I couldn't figure out just why I was sucking at tanking the Arena.  When it hit me that it just didn't feel right because I couldn't see who I was hitting for what.  I turned off Scrolling Combat Text, and it was like the whole world snapped back into place. 

Another thing you will notice in the above picture with default floating combat text, is that I do not display Healing or Damage in.  For the reasons I've mentioned above, it is just too much.  As I said at the begining, I'm not Data, I'm just human.  I simply don't process that much information simultaneously, I'm your average young American with ADHD, and I know that.  One of the key goals I had in mind with making my UI was to make it simple, clean, and clear.  I want as much viewing space as possible on the battlefield, so I can infer as much from the encounter as possible.  Namely, I need to be able to see the mobs and players on the screen, and what they are doing.  I don't need to process all of that extraeneous information to do that, I simply need to see the mobs, their nameplates, and how much I hit the mobs for so that I can estimate how much threat I've dealt to them.

In the end, and to recap a little, if you are going to take away anything from this post, let it be this:

"You aren't superhuman, and that's OK.  Acknowledging that your limitations exist and working with them can make you a better player."

So for everyone that plays with information overload, and can process it just fine and perform better and faster than everyone else, I'm going to paraphrase something that Esteemed once said to me: "Grats, you're a baller, not everyone is as smart as you."  To everyone else, who maybe has experienced something similar, or has read what I've written and thought in the back of their head "maybe it is a little too much," I encourage you to try playing with some of the information turned down, and spread out, and see if that speeds up your reaction time and increases your performance.

As always, feel free to share your thoughts and opinions!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"To Bear in Mind"

Yeah, I know the first post is titled after the blog name, I couldn't come up with something.

Anyways... Howdy all, thank you for checking out my blog, I'm going to open up with a little about the intent of writing this blog, and who I am, by leading into a topic I find near and dear to my heart, and the intent of this blog.

To start off with, my name is Sam, I play Feranel, a Bear Druid on Proudmoore, I've been playing Bear since about mid-BC when I swapped factions from my Orc Warrior, to play with my friends and tank for their raids (they needed tanks.)

Now, I had already had some experience tanking, namely, I played a Fury Warrior on Horde in Vanilla, which means, pre-BC, Horde didn't have Blessing of Salvation, so Fury wasn't as viable due to threat issues.  Subsequently I spent a lot of time specced half Prot so I could offtank for 20 man raids.   I didn't know what I was doing, just that I was told "Good tanks don't loose threat, for anything."  I guess I kinda took that to heart when I got Feranel up to 70 in BC and started tanking heroics to get my gear.

This is when I started to view heroics as a sort of "training ground" for tanking.  I learned a lot, about LoS, CC'ing, focus firing, I also started to learn a lot about leading groups of people.  Around the time Wrath hit I ended up being made my guild's Raid Leader because of this, but that's going to be a topic for another post.

I'm going to sort of re post a topic I posted in the tanking forums, I don't think I quite got the point across, I think I may have been a little too passive in an attempt to not be inflammatory, but I digress:

"If DPS pulls, or gets aggro by attacking the wrong target, I just let them die."

This bothers me to no end, for several reasons.  First of all, in my mind it's a breach of your duty as the tank, many will argue that it's not our job in a Pick up Group to cover for other people's mistakes, and perhaps it isn't, but when I click the Shield Icon and the Leader Checkbox, I believe that "Yes, it is."

Secondly, who are you  to be appointed judge, jury and executioner?  Do you think letting them die and have to run back is going to teach them "oh I did something wrong"?  Guess what, for the average person playing WoW, they aren't going to figure it out unless you tell them.  People don't react well to negative stimulus, not in this day and age.  Is it PC-BS coddling to keep them alive, then to politely explain why what they did is wrong and what they can do to improve?  Maybe.  Is it more effective than summarily punishing them for their actions? I believe so.  By and large these people are adults, treat them with the respect they deserve and more often than not you will receive that respect back.  This subject is also a digression that I wish to address in later posts.

The last thing that bothers me with the aforementioned statement is that it truly hurts no one but yourself.  If in every pull of every heroic run, when you lose aggro on something, you consciously make a determination if the person who pulled threat deserves to live or die,  I believe you are wasting time thinking that could be spent getting aggro back.

Furthermore, this hurts you, in my opinion, because you become so accustomed to making this decision that when you need to damn the consequences and hold aggro, you will hesitate, and you will fail.  Who cares if you guild's healer accidentally backs into a pack of trash while strategies are being given out, pick them up anyways.  If you don't the resulting wipe can cause time lost for your raid, and a reduction in morale that can negatively impact your raid's performance that night.

By extending this philosophy to every aspect of tanking I believe you are practicing good habits that will assist you in raiding, leading, and performing any role within a group of people.

I want to thank Feandel and Diamonium for their responses to the thread in the tanking forums, I won't go into Feandel's concerns at the moment, but I will address one of Diamonium's points:

I had used an analogy of "if a fighter always practiced to pull his punches, he will most likely pull them unintentionally when the time comes that he needs to strike." To which the response: "To continue with your analogy, a boxer who has a pro bout every day is going to lose every single one after the first." is posed.

This is a legitimate point.  Can you get burned out by giving it 100% in a heroic every time? Yes.  But I want to point out that you are your own "manager."  You decide if you are up to giving 100%, you decide if you want to queue up,  when I don't think I want to deal with it, or give it my all, I don't queue up.

Edit: I'd also like to follow this up to reiterate the point that I'm really trying to make here:  Any Athlete, Fighter, Martial Artist, heck, even Gamer, will tell you that the training is never over.  I am not so arrogant as to think there is nothing I can improve on.  There is always something to work on, and heroics are an excellent place to do this, the worse the group the better.  Treat every run like it's the real thing, and rise to the challenge of any adversity you face, you will be made stronger for it.

I think that about wraps it up, and gives everyone a taste of the theme for this blog.  This is going to be, well, my "soap box" for some of the ideals and mindsets I have when it comes to tanking, and playing, in groups of people.  If I come off a little preachy, well that's kinda the point.  Some of these posts will be technical in nature, some will be like this one, some will be silly, some will be just me rambling into the wind.  I hope you all have fun, and if anything, find some amusement, and maybe some insight into how I play the game.