Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Breaking the chains of habit

Captain the First at NoobDing made an interesting observation in one of the major cities. He watched the trail of people rushing back and forward between AH and the closest mailbox. Or rather: AH and the SECOND closest mailbox. No one seemed to notice that a new mailbox had been added to Orgrimmar in the last patch, cutting the distance to run into half, if you just noticed it. But they apparently didn't. They kept walking the beaten path, as they always had.

And Captain the First asks the disturbing question, which is about more than just the mailbox example:
Has all this practice and experience with wow in fact made us blind to unique playstyles and new experiences that we could have if we just did things 'differently'?
Speaking for myself I think that I spend a little bit too much sleepwalking in the game. During the raid offnights there's nothing that stops me from trying out new experiences, such as respeccing frost, working my ass off to solo some big nasty mob, even though there isn't an achievement for it. No one prevents me from trying to find someone who is drunk or stupid enough to want to be my partner in an arena game and check out what it's all about.

Instead I join the trail to the daily heroic dungeon quest giver like everyone else, doing a couple of dailies or making my daily transmute while looking for a group for it. I behave as predictable as if I someone had programmed a "Larisa offnight macro" and then just hits it with a keystroke to get it going.

The pet discovery
How many equivalences of the undiscovered postboxes do I walk by everyday without noticing? Quite a few I bet.

Actually I found one of those "how did I miss that things" the other day, in the pet shop in Dalaran. A guildie of mine said that a new non-combat pet had been added in the last patch. And there was no self torturing grinding of tournament quests involved in getting it. Just 40 bucks and the pet would be mine. Since I'm a sucker for useless vanity pets I couldn't resist it, so I dropped by to pick up my own little creature. And would you believe: the pet shop didn't just sell those new pets - Breanni also kept an assortment of adorable, completely useless but oh-how-cute accessories for pets! A look at Wowhead made me realize that those things had been around in the game for ages, I just hadn't noticed.

I used the Happy Pet Snack and watched how my little Blizzard bear suddenly started to express his love for me. Touched by this I decided to play a bit, casting the Fetch Ball for him to catch. Then I gave him a bath, thanks to the Pet Grooming Kit and suddenly he started to sparkle like a precious quest item. And when I put on the Red Ribbon Pet Leash my pet was suddenly knit in a beautiful, elastic red rope, so he couldn't run away from me. I was delighted! This was one of those silly, childish, pink pigtailed fluffy things I love most about WoW, apart from raiding. But at the same time I hit myself in the head wondering how come that I haven't even bothered to visit all the shop keepers in Dalaran until this day. Compared to Stormwind, the city is smallish. It shouldn't take long to explore it. What had kept me from doing it?

Breaking habits
But after all, I guess it's no wonder. Very much of our gaming is built on habits and constant repetition until we're playing more with the help of our muscle memories than out of well considered decisions .

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Many situations in PvP and challenging raid encounters actually demand that you act so quickly that it's rather out of instinct than a result of a deeper analysis.

However, the habits we develop when we first enter the game aren't always the best one from a result oriented perspectives. This has become painfully clear to me recently, when I after doing some analyses on how I could improve my damage output in raids, have come to the conclusion that I need to learn move quicker, more efficiently and still keeping up casting whatever instant I can come up with. The key to this is to completely change my keybindings and the way I use the mouse and the keyboard for moves and spells.

I know there's a not-quite-settled debate about the benefits of using a mouse or using keys for turning and moving and I won't go into that one. But I think that few would argue against the benefits of strafing. Moving sideways without turning around isn't only quicker, it's also better for casting, since you don't risk to end up facing the wrong way.

How to do it
Belghast wrote a post about how to do it properly, using the qwe-keys and some tricks with the mouse. Until now I haven't come around to use it in my own gameplay, but finally I've come to the conclusion that I have to. Considering the high amount of movement in many of the WotLK fights (think Yogg-Saron or Hodir), you won't get many seconds to stand on the same spot, just calmly throwing your 3 sec spells. The world has changed. And it's time that I change with it.

Now, if you start messing around with things like this, you mess around with all of your keybindings. The moving commands aren't isolated from the rest. If my right hand is occupied with the mouse and my left hand is supposed to do things that make Larisa strafe, I have to put they keybindings in such a way that the left hand can reach the spells ever so easily, just by reaching out a finger.

This is easier said than done. My willpower and thought says one thing, but my hands and fingers seem to have a will of their own, or are rather slaves under a much stronger will than mine: the habit.

My combat companion team
I can't see this happening over night. It will take long time and many, many hours of practicing and trial and error in front of the dummies in Ironforge. This will be a repetitive, frustrating and lonely task. But it's a price I'm prepared to play for breaking the chains of my bad habits.

And after all I've got some 65 adorable pets to keep me company. I just spoil them some of the newly discovered treats and give them a brush up, and they'll sparkle and shine for me, loving me to death, no matter how I fail at the strafing, brightening up the shady, gloomy corners of the military quarters in IF.

We've left the beaten path, me and my combat companion team. And I tell you - we sparkle!


Klepsacovic said...

I was fortunate, my first time in Dalaran I ran all around checking out everything. Ooh, what's in here? What's in here?

I suggest every now and then tipping your camera up to see the full pan of the world. It's amazing how well-painted the ceilings are. :P

Anonymous said...

found the garden out back of the inn oyu HS into yet ?? surely you must of for the daily cooking quest items....I hadnt until i lvld my shams cooking up :O


Magma said...

In Org I often find myself running to the second mailbox, despite knowing the first is there. This mostly happens when I am not paying attention (which is most of the time). I then kick myself for wasting a trip, but I keep doing it.

Bell said...

I like to think I've never lost my ability to break out of the norm. From running around Teldrassil looking for places to jump off into the ocean that wouldn't get me killed, from trying to kitty-dash-leap from a floating rock to a TK instance area, to following a group of NPC's just to see what they would say or where they would go...I've also enjoyed the random mailboxes in SW near the bridges, and get disappointed when there isn't one on the side I'm looking. :(

Just keep your eyes open! So many fun things to find.

Gevlon said...

Actually leaving your habits and trying out something completely new is really great experience, much better than following some protocol.

Yesterday I tried to SOLO heal a Sarth+3 (yes, "of the Nightfall") raid.

Didn't work.

But was much more fun than any farmboss.

Rem said...

Conditioning gets a hold of us very quickly. It's not just the old saying that "when you carry a hammer, everything looks like a nail", it's more that after having encountered a few thousand nails, we tend to forget there's also a screwdriver in the toolbox and just try to hammer harder.

Bell said...

@Gevlon - that would work...if you used the zerg strat. But I suppose that's not really breaking from the norm, though it was at one point (and considered cheap, too).

Larísa said...

@Klepsacovic: hm... got to do that!
I'm actually looking a bit in the sky currently as I'm levelling my druid. I've never been a fan of Hellfire, but the sky is wonderful for an old SF fan like me.
I think I never had a closer look at Dalaran because of the insanely low fps of my old PC. Now with a new machine that can handle the town, I should really sneak into every corner of it.

@Cacknoob: being a mage don't HS to the inn... I teleport to the portal room. My HS is currently at the tournament battleground in IC. But yeah, I think I've been to the backyard - if I remember it correct, I landed in the top of one of the trees standing there when I once flew to close and fell down to earth in a parachute. I giggled at the sight of me, stuck among the trunks.

I never thought about checking for the mustard at the backyard though. Could be an idea to check it out.

@Magma: I wonder if they've added some mailbox i Ally cities that I've not noticed yet. Perhaps in darnassus? I rarely ever go there, much beacuse of the annoying lack of conveniencies such as mailboxes.

@Bell: that sounds like seriously fun things to do! Got to try it myself.

@Gevlon: sounds fun to me! You were in blue gear as well? Glad to hear that you're not falling into the trap of just maximising profit in your guild, but rather going for maximum experiences.

@Rem: so very true.

Llyrra said...

I'll walk through cities (/). I'll walk to the bank from the inn or to repair or pick up the profession dailies. When slowed down, I catch a lot more of what's around me. I've also started several parades through Dalaran doing this as others will form a line behind me, mounted or on foot, pets tagging along, Alliance and Horde! It's really awesome.... and oddly enough, I find it therapeutic!

Dismounting in flight over Dalaran is a great way explore the rooftops! Quite the shift in perspective.

Anonymous said...

I had this in real life.

I had been posting my mail at the same mailbox for 2 years, until my wife noticed that it took me 10 minutes to post a letter.

She told me that a new one was just around the corner, the next time I was back in 2 minutes.

Hatch said...

Larisa, I agree that changing around your controls as you describe is a great idea. For anyone who doesn't do it, I'd say it's the #1 way to improve your experience of WoW, especially your raid performance. Best of luck with it, it can be quite challenging to retrain yourself (as I'm learning while playing Champions Online; trying to master those controls without ruining my WoW control habits)

G-Rebel said...

I never did look up much, till I went through the Dark Portal into Hellfire for the first time and saw the sky. From then on I make it a point to look up in every zone or city I'm in. I'm always amazed at the attention to detail that goes into the artwork of the world.

Dorgol said...

"I wonder if they've added some mailbox i Ally cities that I've not noticed yet. Perhaps in darnassus?"

Actually, there is. In fact, I think the AH -> Mailbox trip is fastest in Darnassus now (though Exodar is still pretty close). Sadly, AH -> Bank is still a trip.

I remember noticing the ceilings in Shadow Labrynth. Amazing the amount of detail Blizzard puts into areas that aren't part of the main focus.

If you haven't already, you should check out the "toy shop" in Dalaran. I found the pet stuff early on in Wrath, but I didn't go to the toy shop until 4 or 5 months later.

Twan said...

For sure I am going to check out all the dalaran shops now. AS for the mailboxes I still run half way past the new SW mailbox otw to the old about 1/2 the time before I turn around smacking myself.

Fitz said...

I just found the toy shop in Dalaran the other day, so I completely understand not being able to see the nice things outside of our beaten path. But now I have a super-duper train toy!

But we do this in real life as well as in Azeroth. It's something to be very wary of, as a routine is good but you need to be open to escaping the routine/rut before it becomes boring.

River said...

Sometimes though I like habits, habits are comforting. Sometimes in a chaotic world all we have are our habits.

It's when those habits become a rut, thats when we need a change.

Larísa said...

@Llyrra: that sounds very therapeutic indeed. I stress to much. slowing down would do me fine. and stop using that blink button out of combat, perhaps...

@anonymous: don't tell me about it... I fail at noticing my surroundings.

@Hatch: necessary, but oh, how hard. More about it in the following post...

@G-Rebel: I look too little into the sky, definitely. Outlands has a beautiful skyline. But still I think I prefer the old world - I really appreciate the changing weather.... It makes the world feel realistic and immersive.

@Dorgol: awww. I must stay away from that toy shop! My bags are already cramped with junk :)

@Twan: new mailbox in SW? hm... Haven't checked that yet. I've gotten into the habit to do all errands in IF.

@Fitz: this isn't the first post I make about get-out-of-the-routine. And yet it seems I need to remind myself, over and over again.

@River: true... habits can be a sort of meditative state of mind as well - which can be relaxing. I think you need both ways of seeing the world.

Cap'n John said...

All of my Ally toons that made it to Feralas also picked up the Sprite Darter Pet quest. A tucked away, time-consuming quest that (IMO) was an easier way to get a Dragon-type Pet, at least before BC came along.

I had a friend whose Hunter skills I admired...then I found out he couldn't Jumpshot kite because he was a keyboard turner. Blew my mind. I didn't lose all respect for him, I just couldn't believe how good he was while still being a keyboard turner.

Tesh said...

For what it's worth, the subscription business model banks heavily on inertia. Once you've squirreled that $15/month away in the back of your mind and budget, you don't tend to wonder if you've actually gotten good value out of it, either for any given month or in aggregate. That money is just gone; out of sight, out of mind.

Ditto for the time players spend on these things. To me it's still mindblowing that the *average* WoW player plays around 20 hours a week. That's a part time job that they are *paying* to do. To me, that's nutty, and I even mostly like the game.