Monday, April 28, 2008

The ethics of WoW blogging

Are there any ethical principles you should follow when you're a WoW blog writer?
Well, in the end I guess it's up to every blog keeper to decide for himself, I rarely tell other people how to live their lives (well, now and then I may try to give my kids a hint about it, but that's different).

But let's talk about me and my own standards. Is there anything in the WoW sphere that I wouldn't blog about?

Yes, there definitely is. I rarely write anything in length about stuff going on in my guild. Well, I do write from time to time about fun things we do. And I have written about my experience of a guild split. But generally I don't write about guild drama, as a matter of fact I hardly ever mention my guildies by name.

This doesn't mean that I don't like reading about drama going on in other guilds. Trust me, I'm as much of a Peeping Tom as anyone else. I don't know what makes reality so fascinating, but I guess it's the same mechanisms that make us interested in the lives celebrities or following those documentary sopas (survive-on-an-island) that make me follow Wowinsider column Guildwatch. Quite often those guild drama things pinpoints challenges when it comes to management and group psychology and I'm curious to see how other people handle those dilemmas.

So what are my reasons for not providing much of gossip or drama of any dignity for others to enjoy? Well, the obvious one is that I really care about my guild. A guild is built on having confidence in each other. And so is raiding. I think that's one of the crucial things to be successful in raiding: to build an environment where people trust each other. Telling the world about ongoing drama in your guild is exactly the opposite. It builds distrust.

But if you've already given up about trust? If you've been through some drama, a quarrel over loot or whatever, and that idiot has left or been kicked, shouldn't it be OK to give him what he deserves, to tell the truth in your blog and let out some steam? Well. I would think twice even in that situation. You never have the whole picture. You haven't got a clue about what's going on in real life for that guy. What if he has some kind of deadly disease that makes him freak out and act strangely? What if he's just lost his loved one and is only living day by day, being obsessed with loot since there's nothing else left for him? What if your blog post will be just the last little thing that will push him over the bottom line? What do you know about your guildies or ex-guildies? Really?

Another aspect is what signals you're sending to your current guildmates. Can they really rely on you? Maybe they can't. There will always be the suspicion that you're collecting stuff for your blog. Who knows, if you do something that pisses that blog author off you may appear in that guys blog in less flattering words? You always risk to get backstabbed from that blogger... better stay away from him to be sure...

There are other ways you can leave out your guild that aren't necessary about drama. Some bloggers don't hesitate to tell the world about how stupid their own guild is when it comes to raid organizing, loot distribution or how their healers, dps or whatever screwed up the other night and made the raid a failure. In my world that kind of criticism can be necessary, but it belongs to internal guild forums, not publicly available. On the other hand it also depends on how it's written. The failures ARE interesting, good stuff to blog about, as long as you do it out of an intention of learning from it and as long as you don't just blame others, but take full responsibility for your own part of it.

I think you should only blog about those things in a way that you could perfectly well face anyone that appears in the blog, that you're happy if they're reading it and you've got nothing to be ashamed of.

However I've read a number of blogs where the writers don't seam to realize that they actually get readers. I come to think of a story I heard from a colleague of mine, working at a big organization that was about to hire someone working with PR. They had chosen a bright young girl that came straight from university. But just as they were about to sign the contract they googled her name and found her blog, where she had written about the interview and called her new employer suckers. (She didn't get the job).

What I'm trying to say is: don't write things in blogs that you'll regret later. Once out there's no way to put the rabbit back into the hat. It works the same way in Azeroth as in RL. One day you may find that your application to that top rated guild will be turned down because of something stupid you wrote on your blog in a rush of anger.

And if you want to change things in your own guild - how to perform better in raid and things like that - be sure to tell your guild about it first, before you tell the world.
Be honest. Be decent. Don't be a jerk.

You may lose a few of your readers, thinking that the blog isn't quite as interesting as the more sharp edged competitors. But you'll win the respect - from your guild and from yourself. And that's worth a hell lot of more in the long run.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Fire mage is a way of life

There's an expression within the science fiction fan community that I come from, the abbreviation FIAWOL, meaning "Fandom is a Way of Life". In the old days (probably now as well) it was used by the more dedicated fanzine editors and convention visitors, as a way to describe how they looked upon the whole thing. The not-so-committed fans that tried to keep up some balance with real life, on their hand used to claim: FIJAGDH, ("Fandom is Just a Goddamn Hobby".)

Since converting from being a science fiction fan to a WoW fan, FIAWOL has got a new meaning to me: It could perfectly well be interpreted as Fire Mage is a Way of Life.

I chose the fire path right from the beginning of my mage career. I really don't know what I based the decision on. I guess I just read that playing fire would mean that I would kill things faster, levelling easier, while playing frost meant playing safe. Arcane was obviously out of the question for levelling. Thinking about my personality, I just couldn't identify with the safe way of the frost mage, it seemed kind of cowardly in my eyes, so I went for fire and kept so the whole way up to 70. At that point a more experienced mage in the guild I was in, told me to respec Arcane/fire. It's so much better, he said. Huge damage and less aggro problems. So I obeyed and it turned out he was absolutely right, at least with the gear I had by then.

I enjoyed playing arcane/fire for quite a while, until I slowly became aware of that I probably wasn't doing as much dps as you could expect from my gear (that had been quite upgraded, from crafting and Kara drops). According to most basic guides for raiding mages, I would do better now if I changed back to deep fire, and stay there until I had a minimum of two T5 pieces, when I could switch arcane again. So I went fire once again, and it became a bit of a chock since I obviously had forgotten a bit about aggro management in five man instances. Now I had to be on my toes all the time, unless my intention was to start tanking the boss myself (it wasn't). On the other hand I could clearly see that my damage was so much better than it used to be, especially after the patch when they gave us icy veins and I changed to 2/48/11.

Well, that's the talent build story of Larísa. Fire or arcane/fire. I have to admit that I until this very day never ever have played frost. And I guess I should be at least a bit embarrassed of it. Hey, you can't really claim that you know your class unless you've at least tried out all the basic builds of it, can you? What kind of crap mage am I?

My guildies have found out this weak point of mine. They keep nagging me, or rather begging me, to try out a frost build. One reason, which I guess is as good as any other, is that they think I'll survive better. "A living mage always make more damage than a dead one. You're just too fragile" they claim. Another reason - I suspect - is that they're much more into pvp than I am, where fire obviously isn't the strongest build. And they also think I'd be helped by playing frost when I do other things than raiding. As frost I could probably take down the trees in Skettis all on my own, which I can't at the moment.

But somehow I can't help feeling reluctant about it. And it's not about the money that I'll have to spend on it, it's rather about my identity as a mage. I just don't have the temperament of a frost mage, hey, I'm quite a warm and passionate person, not a cool and distanced one if you know what I mean. I like the symbolism of the fire mage, being that glass cannon, always walking the thin line between conquering or being conquered, on the verge of dying, but doing huge damage if I manage to live. And I love the simplicity of playing fire. Just burn them down. Keep control of your mana pool and aggro and then nuke'em. OK, keeping the threat on the right side isn't always easy, but sometimes it is (I tried out going with a pala tank this weekend, he tanked three instances in a row and I hardly caught aggro at all, I just nuked. It was like heaven for a fire mage). And when things get too rough we can always escape by iceblock - available even to fire mages these days.

Another thing I love about fire is how it looks. I enjoy watching my fireballs, blastwave, dragons breath, flamestrike and other pyrotechnical effects. Especially after I got my phoenix hatchling last week. You should see me, all dressed in red nowadays, chest from Magisters Terrace and cloak from Prince, with the bird on fire, throwing fireballs - what a sight! When we went to Mechanar and I could spellsteal and get a fire cloud all around me it looked even better - I just wish I could have that as a buff of my own. It certainly wouldn't have looked that awesome if I had been throwing snowballs (sorry, frostballs).

Well, the looking-good-argument isn't that heavy I have to admit. Then I find it more interesting that the Mage sweet information thread on the Elitist Jerks forum clearly states that the fire build is currently the best raiding build I could have, and that I should just forget about playing frost for raiding purposes, except for certain specific encounters. Why should I question those guys that obviously know what they're talking about?

The other day I eventually found the obvious answer, the reason why my guildies one day actually WILL see me surrender and spec frost one way or another. We've just started to work in Tempest Keep and I found out that Al'ar is resistant to fire. So if I want to join forces I'd better respec, or else I'll be left behind. It doesn't give me much of a choice, does it? I will abandon my fire spells, at least for a while, though I doubt that I'll go all the way down to deep frost. Maybe I'll pick an arcane/frost build. Thus I won't have to keep track of pet, which is one of those things that make frost seem kind of complicated to me. Just nuke them down as I always do, though I'll use some arcane blast and maybe a few frost balls instead of my normal spellrotation.

I'm happy as long as I can keep it simple. That's the way how fire mages do it. It's just our way of life.PSJust when I'd finished this piece I strolled into a quite interesting post on the official wow-forum, Risto's guide to arcane for beginners, that actually is advocating an arcane-frost build - even if you don't have two T5 pieces. It's one of the more convincing writings on this subject that I've seen. Maybe I'll try it out - who knows, maybe there will be a day when my device is: AIAWOL - Arcane is a Way of Life....

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Time for some bad poetry

Beware all readers of Larísas corner! Today I''ll do just as the Spectral performers just before Opera event - I'll torture you with some bad poetry!The idea seems to have come from the blog Asleep at the WoW, it was picked up by /hug, and now I've been caught by this haiku fever myself.

The idea is to write WoW-related haiku verses, the japanese poetry form, that celebrates the principle "less is more". I think this is perticular useful to me, since I've got the nasty habit of writing just way too long blog posts.It's only one thing: when I started to write those haikus, I just couldn't stop, it was too fun.

So beware, here's a bunch of really bad poetry (my lame excuse is that it IS quite hard to write poetry in foreign language). Of course the themes of the haikus (or Wow-kus as Asleep at the Wow calls them) are picked up from the WoW life I'm living. Here we go!

Nuking Attumen
the fire mage took aggro
Iceblock saved her life

Nightbane takes a breath
We nuke the skeletons down
Soon we'll get badges

From Hogger we go
The end goal is Illidan
Killing all the way

Hinterland's shores
A pigtailed gnome is fishing
Turtles are watching

Doing my dailies
will make me exalted
atIsle of Quel'Danas

The sheep was broken
by a noobish elf hunter
Go invisible!

In the lair of Gruul
darkness was lightened
by my dear phoenix hatchling

Mages were nuke kings
until warlocks took over
Blizzard must hate us

A short version of an earlier post of mine, Owned in Arena:

Owned in Arena
Now I'm practising duels
to get my revenge

And finally some strategies for Magtheridon, which we had a nice first try on the other day. This is for lazy ones that think WoW-wiki is just a wall of text...

Kill the channelers
Then klick on all of the cubes
Beware of cave in

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The night is my very own

A few years ago I read a book written by a woman, who didn't only run a farm, but also had at least eight kids. Her days were filled with cooking (making four fresh bread every morning), cleaning and caring for the cattle. After midnight, when everybody else was to bed, it all went quiet. That's when her other life started, reading, writing books, doing things just by herself. "The night is my very own" was the title of the book.

I came to think of it, reading the breakfast topic of wowinsider the other day, where they asked about playing times - when is actually the best time to play?

Honestly I don't have much of a choice when it comes to playing. Or at least I'm not the only one to decide about it, since I've got a family. The agreement so far is that two nights a week I'm free to raid, starting at a decent time, about 7.30 pm. Three nights a week I start to play after spending the evening with the others, driving kids to activities, watching TV etc, meaning I'll start about 10 pm. Two nights a week are playing free nights and I won't even touch the PC. In the weekends I play a few hours daytime as well, between doing weekend shopping, cleaning, laundry etc - in short, when it doesn't intrude on any other kind of activity.

All in all, most of my playing time is pretty late - I often find myself playing around midnight or even one or two hours after it. And the question is: if I was able to chose freely, would I make it differently?

Actually I don't think I really would. I admit there are evident advantages in playing in the early night (more players online makes it easier to find groups, enchanters and get the things you need on AH. You're probably more alert and it's easier to get the night sleep you need etc etc) - but it's still not as good as the late hours.

You see, something happens to Azeroth around midnight. Take Stormwind as an example, the town that I love so much, but from time to time have to flee from, because of all the whispers I get as a level 70 mage. Suddenly all those beggars, spammers, kids yelling for boost and lunatics in general seem to crawl back to the sewers they came from and even the main square turns into an enjoyable place, yet not completely empty. And if I go to Sunwell Island I can move around easily everywhere, even at the badge gear vendor, without getting the crowd related lag. When I go flower picking I actually find nodes in a decent pace, I won't have to waste hours on boring cruising. I can have a trip at Elemental Plateau and concentrate killing the mobs, rather than to keep an eye on the other players around, trying not to be cheated on my target.

If you want company you can easily find decent groups at those late hours. The risk that you find yourself teaming up with a 13 year old kid that suddenly has to go and have dinner or go do his homework because his dad's angry, will decrease for every hour that passes - after midnight you'll be more likely to be grouping with grownups.

If you're rather in the mood for contemplation there's no better time for it than after midnight. Just take your fishing rod, light a fire at the faraway shore of Hinterlands, watch the starry sky and pat the turtles passing buy as you slowly level your fishing.

Of course it isn't quite the same every night. During the weekends people are more likely to stay up late - and some of them combine the playing with a few drinks. Instance runs after midnight a Friday night can be a bit risky in that aspect. Even if the alcoholic percentage isn't too bad to begin with, you don't really know how it will be when you're coming to the end boss. Has that one glass of wine that you're buddy tells you about turned into several? You won't know until it's too late. But as long as you haven't got too high expectations about top performances, the Friday nights are great, maybe even the best playing time in the whole week.

I just can't possibly find anything more relaxing after a job week, a better way to start the weekend, than to slip into Azeroth, where I sort of transform into this other me, just like a Doctor Jekyll or a vampire, taking off the disguise I've been wearing. Boosted with a drink (spell damage elixir of course!) and a bite of grilled meat (basilisk ftw), I head out for the adventure of the night with a smile on my face.

The kids are asleep, the telephone won't call, it's all quiet around me and I enjoy the sweet taste of freedom. Time has come to live my other life. The night is my very own.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The fun of trash wiping

I rarely read the official forums of Blizzard. There's just too much crap to wade through before you found the gold nuggets. One of the few threads that I follow though is the guild relations forum on the American site. For some reason the discussions there are so much more interesting then the ones on the European one. One topic that keeps coming up is the difficulty of motivating people to sign up for progress nights. "They only come for farming. But when we're going for a new boss they just disappear. What should I do?". I've read it so many times, and it puzzles my mind. How do those people who won't show up think? What is their reason for raiding at all?

I came to think of it after another lovely raiding night yesterday. It offered the two different aspects of raiding: farming and progression. First the farming part: we started out on Gruul, and this was the smoothest run ever. Now we really can claim that we've got him on farm. HKM went down so easily, and I hardly think anyone died at all. And Gruul himself was almost just as easy, just one wipe out of some obscure accident, the next time he was nailed. Of course it was fun, feeling that we performed well, it gave us all a boost of confidence (and I got my T4 trousers as well). But really, we were very well geared, we'd done it before, so I guess the accomplishment wasn't so much to brag about.

I was completely taken by surprise when it turned out that we next would head to Tempest Keep. Actually it wasn't anything I had planned for - as a matter of fact we had intended to go to Zul Aman this night, but plans were changed in the last moment. Anyway, I didn't object at all, it was just as getting a surprise gift.

This part of the night was just the opposite to Gruul. Most of us were absolutely beginners in this instance, and since it wasn't announced before, we hadn't done any research on it at all. And of course we wiped - not on the bosses, because we never reached them, but on the trash mobs.

"This was such a waste, absolutely useless, what's the point?" a guildie of mine, less than half of my age and therefore probably a bit less patient then me complained after the run.

"You should have seen our speedrun in Kara the other night. THAT's fun," he continued.

Actually I couldn't have disagreed more. I simply loved Tempest Keep. OK we were wiping, but we were making progress! For every wipe we made, we learned something and we did it better next time. Step by step we were knocking down the walls, building new grounds, just the way as the Sunwell island is conquered right now (they started building the alchemy lab yesterday).

It was a brand new instance, with the same beautiful bright setting as for instance Botanica, that I love so much. It was all so exciting, I had no idea what to expect behind the next corner, since I hadn't prepared (next time I will, I promise). And even the trash mobs were fun! Like the flocks of birds that made us bounce around in the corridor just like popcorn. It was hilarious, and I wiped with a smile on my face. One or two more tries and we knew how to do them, and the popcorn era had come to an end.

I wouldn't have missed this part of the evening for anything in the world. The Gruul-on-farm-part was nice as well, but taking up a new mission, going for progress is better. No offence, but if you just stay with the farm bosses, where's the challenge? Eventually it turns into something that resembles to the picking-mana-berries-cooking-quest. Just go and pick the boss and get your loot... It's only fun if you've learned the fight by wiping, if you still remember the bank account draining nights, and know that you've actually improved.

Now we've got Gruul on farm and are starting to work our way through SSC and TK. I expect nothing but a lot of corpse runs in the next few weeks, unless we keep farming Gruul, which I guess we'll do until people got most of the gear they want from him.

And I'm so happy about it. With all those new daily quests you can't really say it's hard to get the money you need for the repairs. It's just as my blogging friend Consentire use to say: "I love a high repair bill. It's a sign of that you've been out for some mischief".

But back to the initial question: how do you motivate people to come to progress nights and not only to farming nights? The usual answer is to reward the faithful players, the ones that have been there all the way. Reward them with DKP, reward them with guaranteed raid spots even when the boss is on farm. And I guess that's fair, an obvious thing to do. Still I can't help thinking it's a bit sad it should be necessary.

In my world, if you've got the heart and soul of a raider, you're not just interested in picking mana berries, you also actually enjoy the learning process in itself. It's reward enough to have been there from the beginning, to have gone through all of the phases, from first encounter (Oh, shit, what's this about? Seems kind of impossible), via the first-kill (yes! We finally did it!) to farming.

Will we ever get to the stage that we have at least a few bosses in SSC and TK on farm? I don't know. Maybe, it depends on how fast the expansion hits. But I know one thing for sure: there will be more nights when we'll wipe on trash. And I'm really looking forward to it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Rawr - my new best friend

It's been five days since the badge vendor opened his shop on our realm, but we're still spellbound by it, aren't we? Oh, all those shiny new epics, and you keep counting your badges, wondering what to pick first. It isn't easy to make the choices. How should you compare the gain of damage to the loss of crits? Evident for hardcore theorycrafters perhaps, but not to plain players like me. We're all a bit scared of making mistakes. To put some hundred badges into a piece of gear that you one week later realize wasn't much of an upgrade at all, and that you really should have gone for something different...

On the premier day I went for the boots immediately, but I just couldn't my mind what to do with the next 160 or so badges that are still in my bank... What should the next goal be? And the one after that?

Lucky enough I've got a game friend who is much more of a theorycrafter then myself. He's got that engineerish mind, counting on everything to make things in a more efficient way. I kept begging him for advice until finally told me to download the program Rawr. "That's an order", he declared. So I did, without any further discussion. When he orders me to do something he's usually absolutely right.

And now I want to spread the word: do as he says, at least if you're lucky enough to have a mage, warlock, druid or retadin, which are the classes that are covered by the program.
This program is absolutely brilliant, it's a tool that helps you to compare and optimize your gear. The interface is so easy that even I can handle it, (and that's says a lot!). You just download your char from armory and then you can start trying out how your dps would be affected if you changed something, whether it's a piece of gear, an enchantment, a gem or a buff. It can clearly point out to me if it's wiser for me to buy that new dagger at 150 badges or if I should better take the gloves and the ring at 135.

And there's lots of more things into it, you can check out spell rotations as well, try out new talent builds, whatever you could wish for.

The only bad thing I can see about it is that it's sort of hypnotizing, time flies and suddenly the hour you had intended to go making your dailies has been spent on pondering upon your gear. You can really get caught into it. On the other hand - I'm pretty sure it will help me and save me time in the long run to have a clear picture of what upgrades I want, what goal to put up for myself next in the game and how I should make the best combination of the gear that is available to me right now.

Rawr - I hope you'll always be there for me as a personal counsellor, someone to trust when I'm all confused about my gear. And as always in this wonderful MMORGP community, it's all for free, thanks to those dedicated, generous people that keep developing things for nothing in exchange but our gratitude. In this case the name of the hero is Astrylian of US-Whisperwind. Cheers for you!

If you want to try it out yourself, here's the place to dowload it.

Getting stuck

There are many ways to get stuck into the game. You can get stuck in your levelling, losing the inspiration and the interest for your character. You can get stuck in progression in your guild, doomed to perpetually gearing up players in Karazhan and then just see them move ahead into guilds that are already into 25 man raiding.

You can get stuck being snared by mobs or other players (unless you're a gnome, haha.) Or you can get stuck just simply playing to much, forgetting about time and other duties in life.
But today I'm talking about getting stuck for real, physically, not being able to move your character in any direction.
Do you ever get stuck? I do it just too often. I don't know if I partly can blame it for being gnome - maybe we're so short that we somehow manage to get our bodies into small spaces that the game developpers never intended you to enter? It's a part of the ongoing discrimination of gnomes. Escape artist is just a joke.
Most of the times when I get stuck I'm in ghost form. I don't know why, but probably I get a bit careless, wanting to pick up my body as soon as possible, just quickly moving ahead, not looking where I'm going.
There are two spots that I know get me into trouble and still I do it over and over again: one is the spiky sort of area that you jump down to when corpse running to Gruul, the second one being the ruins when you're on your way from the graveyard to the instances in Terokkar. Don't ask me how I do it, but I do get stuck i these places. And I suck at wall jumping, so it usuallly takes me a while to move over.
I even have a faint memory of being so stuck once (not in one of those places thoguh) that I actually gave up and wrote a GM ticket about it. That was humiliation. But it helped.
Sometimes I get stuck alive as well. There are som tricky places there as well. One of them is when I'm licking the wall just above the stairs after the aoe:ing on the way to Maiden. There's some kind of obstacle there that catches me almost every time I pass.
I' m happy to say though that I'm not alone in my habit. On the picture you see what happened to a guildie of mine the other night in Zul Aman. If you look closely you can see there's a rogue, Chirocrazy, that has got stuck under a leaf. I wasn't there to witness it myself, but what I heard he was soon followed by others. The minute after the picture was taken our curious druid tank just had to check out what it was all about. Could he get stuck as well? He could. So could another priest, but he actually managed to get free quickly.
I must say the story made me very, very pleased. Getting stuck is obviously not only a habit of me. And I definitly wouldn't have got stuck on that leaf. For once being a gnome would have saved me from the humiliation.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The sporty side of WoW

Could you think of WoW as a kind of team sport? The thought struck upon me the other day as I was zapping through the TV channels turned up watching a bit of the finals of the national hockey tournament.

Until recently, probably out of prejudices, I had the idea that WoW-players generally weren't the sporty kind. Being a former science fiction fan, and a fringe fan of some other SF/fantasy connected subcultures, I've met a lot people throughout the years that are a bit odd in the eye of rest of society. You know the type: probably a bit more intelligent than the average, guys that rather would spend a night discussing a book over a pint of beer or watching an underground movie than playing football. Some call them nerds. And I guess I subconsciously came to the conclusion that WoW-players were just the same. A bit shy people, social on the net but quite inexperienced when it comes to normal relationships - and probably a bit overweight due to too much junk food eating in front of the pc.... All of the clichés you can think of.

Lately however, I've began to reconsider. Hey, reading the presentations of my guildies is proof enough. Most of them seem to be crazy about sports, not only watching it, but also performing it themselves, playing hockey and football, going skiing and golfing whenever they're not playing WoW. And honestly I do train a bit myself - growing older I've finally overcome the trauma of being picked last when you were supposed to form basket ball teams at school. Nowadays I do go to gym or aerobics once in a while, levelling my physical body in the same way as I'm usually working on my avatar Larísa.

Watching the hockey game yesterday I was struck by the resemblance between that game and the game we play online. And I'm not only thinking about Arena gaming, that obviously is using a traditional sport concept, having teams meeting in tournaments and competing in ranking. I think there actually are many sport connections in PvE as well, at least when it comes to raiding.

You have the same challenge of getting a bunch of people working as a team, working towards a common goal. You have to find a way to deal with the solo artists, to arrange them into an order, without making them lose interest and inspiration. You have to make people mentally prepared to endure a weak position, to handle wipes and losses constructively, to learn from the mistakes and keep thinking forward, pulling themselves together and focusing, even when the odds seem to be against you. You have to know how to position yourself, no matter if it's in front of the goalkeeper of the opponent team or if it's in Gruuls lair. You have to know by instinct where your team mates are and be prepared to move yourself if necessary. It's also about knowing your role - when to perform it and when to improvise and leave it. Not being a hockeyplayer myself, I still guess there are times when someone who normally is a defender may have to act as a forward - in the same way as a druid can find himself switching between tanking, dpsing or healing, according to the circumstances. And a keyword no matter what kind of game you're playing is trust. Trusting your goalkeeper or healer, trusting your tank or center.

I think there are a lot of things that raiders can learn from the sports - for instance to take fewer but more efficient breaks.. Don't mess around after each pull, using up your time on nothing. Keep the pace up, throw the next ball or target the next mob instantly. Of course you need breaks throughout the evening. Make them time limited and make sure they're long enough for you to really tend to your physical needs. If people know they'll be able to make a snack, go to the bathroom and say goodnight to the children, they'll easier stay focused, not going AFK when you least expected it.

Don't drink alcohol. I know there's a lot of drinking among athletes, but mostly they're cleaver enough to stay away from it until after the match is done, if it's about celebrating or trying to consol yourself after a loss. It's the same thing about raiding. OK you could have a beer, but not much more than that. We should save the parties until the game is over.

Watching the hockey match I realized that a huge part of the pleasure was listening to the commenting. A good reporter helps you to understand what you're seeing and suddenly you see the pattern, the beauty and the excitement of the game. I wonder if it couldn't be just as entertaining to see a commented WoW game or raid? OK, there are already a few instructive videos on YouTube with text messages that are explaining the strategies, but it's really not the same thing. Imagine having a pro reporter actually telling you about what's happening, what spells different players are doing, what they're trying to achieve, what abilities the opponent raidboss is using, how things are going... Couldn't that be just as entertaining and educating as watching the national hockey finals? In my world it would. And why not? With the growing amounts of wow players there could one day be a real time, commented broadcast from Nihilum taking down a brand new raid boss. Count me in as a watcher!

The borders between athletes and SF/fantasy nerds are obviously breaking up. And I'm the first one to applaud it.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Solving the riddle

Some encounters are just like laying a puzzle or solving a riddle. While you're stuck doing it it seems so hard, almost impossible to do it. And once solved - piece of cake. You just can't understand what kept you from doing it in the first place.

Just like that was our meeting with the third boss in MrT yesterday evening. When I logged on a party from the guild was already there and obviously things weren't going as smoothely as they usually do. This was experienced guys that play a lot and had been doing this instance since patchday, both on their mains and their alts. By now they know how to deal with the bosses.

This time however, they had gotten the worst kind of combination of adds."We're dealing with the ultimate Arena team" one of them complained."We're facing seven mobs today!""What? you must be joking, I said, can there be extra adds from time to time?""Well, including the pet and the minion".

Except for the warlock and the hunter the mob party also consisted of a MS Warrior, a rogue and then the priestess herself. A hard combination for a party that was a little short of cc. While I started out doing my dailies I kept listening to the puzzle laying and the wipes in vent.

Patiently my guildies were exploring every kind of alternative, trying to cc the mobs in different ways, trying new ways to positon, where to trap them, where to take the fight. After over an hour one guy had had enough. You could hear in his voice that he not only was physically tired, but also pretty fed up with puzzle laying. Would I take his spot? I hesitated for a moment. I knew this player was lightyears ahead of me as a player. If they didn't succeed this night with him as a team member, what would be the result if I replaced him? I knew this was a PvPish fight, and while the others were pretty dedicated Arena players, I just suck at it. On the other hand, the leaving party member was a warrior. I was a mage and they obviously lacked cc. Maybe I could be of some use after all? So I accepted.

I wish I could say that we oneshotted the boss after the replacement - that would have strenghtened my confidence - but actually we didn't. I had the privilege to enjoy a few more wipes myself. But on the fourth try or so we actually nailed him! I had been assigned to keep the warrior sheeped all the fight. "Don't you let him go for a second, he hits hard as hell and he'll oneshot you. And he'll stun you so you can't iceblock".This time we tried a new idea, taking down the warlock first of all."He hits hard, but he's weak, we'll take him down in no time at all. And he seems to stand still right in the beginning".Said and done. And suddenly all the pieces of puzzle found their places ever so smoothely. Mob after mob went down, and when we had taken the priestess as number three in the row I was assured that we'd go out from this fight as winners.

The reward was so sweet. You could hear the big smile on the faces over the vent, and although I hadn't been taken part of the struggle the first hour of it, I was as happy as anyone. But happiest of us all must have been the warlock that got his Timbal's Focusing Crystal trinket, after ever so many runs in this instance.Justice, for once, an appropriate reward for the effort!

Best of all, we had done it in a cheerful way, being challenged rather than annoyed. With this attitude I'm convinced we can solve any riddle the game can offer. Tonight Lurker is awaiting us. We'll probably wipe a few times. And then we'll nuke him to death, solving another riddle.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Larísa's Corner - now in English!

Well... I've had this blog for a while in Swedish, and I' find that I'm getting more and more frustrated about hardly having any readers of it at all. The Swedish wow blog community seem to be almost non existing, or maybe they all blog in English. For all my searching, I've so far only managed to find one decent Swedish wow blog, not much to build a community on.

Actually I'm a bit surprised at my own reaction about not having any readers. From the beginning I thought I only wrote for my own pleasure, but lately I've come to the conclusion that I need a little more than that. I don't need a huge crowd of fans, I don't plan to become the new Matticus or make my way into Wowinsider, but at least I want some kind of feedback now and then, just in order to know that I'm not sharing my heart and soul, tearing myself inside out just into pure silence and darkness.

So at last (probably too late, considering the amount of double work it will give me), I've made up my mind - I'm going to switch the language into English!

It will take some time before the transition is done, so you'll have to be patient with me. And you'll also have to accept that my English is far from perfect, regarding spelling and grammar. But hopefully my writing is good enough to give a fairly good idea about what I'm trying to say. I simply hope that I'll from now on will get a few more comments and changes of thoughts with other players than I've managed to get so far.

Obviously it's quite a huge project. After two months of blogging, I've made some 50 posts, and many of them are rather (too) long. Still I feel it would be a waste just leaving them the way they are. So in the next few weeks I probably won't write as many new posts as I've done previously. But I'll try to give you a new one now and then, and when I do they'll from now on be in English, right from the beginning. Instead my efforts will be concentrated into translating the old posts into English, starting with the last one, slowly working my way backwards into the archive all the way back to February 3, when it all began. I'll also try to change headlines and cathegorys step by step.I'll also try to find a decent name for the blog. Right now I call it Larisa's corner but suggestions for a better name are more than welcome.

I hope the few Swedish readers I have (seven a day on average, according to Feedburner statistics) won't mind too much. Since the game is in English in the first place I guess you won't have any trouble understanding it. I'm sorry you won't get as much new content in the Larísa blog as you're used to for a while, but maybe it will pay off eventually - I think getting some kind of exchange with the international wow blogging community, getting more comments and discussion, will make the blog more interesting in the long run.

And last but not least I want to send my thanks to one of my absolute favourite bloggers, /hug. Your enthusiastic comments to my comments on your excellent blog have inspired to take this step. Eventually you'll be able to read my pieces of writing as well as I'm reading yours!


Sunday, April 6, 2008

Time to make decisions

Larísas Corner had it's two months anniversary the other day and I still find the same pleasure in writing it now as when I started. Still I feel a bit lonely from time to time, thinking about the amount of readers I have. According to Feedburner the average is about seven unique visitors a day, that each spend about four minutes watching the blog. Of those readers I guess one of them is myself. A few of you write comments from time to time - and that means a lot. Except for that I don't know much about you, but I guess that most of you are current and ex guildmates. You live in cities like Stockholm, Gothenburg and Örebro, but also under more exact addresses like Hägersten, Ursvik, Svedmyra, Kungshatt and Vänersborg. A few foreign visitors have also found their way to the blog, probably by mistake after using search engines.

Now I've started to question if this is the right way for me to go. After all the very idea of a blog, at least in my world, is to have some kind of exchange of ideas, discussing with your readers, interacting with other blogs. And there certainly isn't any overflow of decent Swedish WoW blogs. At the same time there's a huge and strong Wow blogging community in the English speaking part of the world. I just feel a bit isolated where I am.

Still I'm the first one to defend the Swedish heritage and the Swedish language, and I'm convinced that I write both faster and better in my native tongue.

The question is: should I change language and switch over to English, hoping to attract a few more raders and get a better dialogue with other wow bloggers out there? Or should I forget about the statistics and just keep enjoying the writing, no matter if anyone else take part of it?
I don't know the answer yet, and that's why I'm actually going to ask you readers, you seven... well six out there, that follow Larísas world for advice. What do you think?

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The worst photographer in the world

When you think about it it's a bit strange that it should be so hard. Theoretically it should be a piece of cake. Turn your noses in the same direction. Make sure you can see a few bodyparts of the fallen boss. Zoom the camera in or out to the suitable distance. And print scr. Twice to be sure, if someone happens to blink (I've experienced that). It shouldn't take more than half a minute, at the most.
Still it always seems to fail in one way or another. I leave it open if the reason is that it actually IS hard to take wow pictures or if Larísa simply is the worlds least talented wow group picture photographer.
Yesterday I had another go at picture taking, after a lovely night in Zul Aman. We had easily downed three bosses - Nalorakk, Akil'zon och Halazzi, of which the two later were new scalps in my personal collection. We were quick, efficient, focused and cooperative, and all of this in spite of the fact that one of the tanks was a rookie in there. I was utterly happy. Of course I wanted to save the moment for ever by taking a picture.

But what happened when the Lynxx boss was down? Well, of course one in the party logged out, immediately. Well, he had a good reason for it, it WAS kind of late, rather morning than night to be honest, since we started so late in this spontaneous run. He was forgiven.
Worse was the trouble to get a good positioning. Just watch the picture above. We're really doing our best to stand in front of each other. Our bouncy hunter is als ostanding, jumping hysterically up and down (maybe a cleaver strategy if you want to be noticed). And myself I've found a kind of weired, twisted angle, that has the effect that no one is looking into the camera. You don't see anything of the boss, except for the knee. This is an awkwardly bad picture. It only lacks a chopped head to cover all the newbie mistakes.

The close up pictures I sometimes take during the loot distribution (as usual nothing dropped for me tonight, but the rogue that got The Savager's Choker was the happier.) are slightly better. In the picture below at least you see the head of the lynx, and it looks kind of cool. But what happens in the background? People strolling around like confused chickens, in all kinds of directions in the picture. Speaking about focusing...

No, it's about time to let Larísa take some lessons of photography. Surely there must be some intelligent advice written in a blog or a forum out there. And I'll keep on experimenting with the UI settings. I haven't yet decided whether to show the names of the players. On one hand you can't honestly say that the bluish tags above every head are beautiful. On the other hand - how on earth are you going to remember who took part in the event and what happened if you don't have them. They're necessary for achieving the right nostalgic effect.Hopefully the readers of Larísa's corner will see some kind of progress in the months to come. Even the worst one can always improve a bit.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The urge to collect things

I've never had the mind of a collector. Of course I dutifully had a box of worn bookmarks as a child, that I changed with my classmates with quite an unpredictable exchange rate, where glistening angels always were attractive. And certainly I, like any other kid in the 70s, had a couple of stamp albums, full of miniature images of Franco and the UK queen in all sorts of colors and glaring pictures of exotic animals from non existing countries. But my colleting efforts never went further than that,, and I honestly can say that my home is absolutely clean from armies of goblins, dolls, smelling rubbers and elephants in all sorts of shapes. Meaningless, dust collecting rubbish, according to me.

That's why I get a bit surprised myself when I kind of involuntary, in a sneaking way am building up a little pet collection in the bank. In spite of the constant lack of space I notice how slot after slot is occupied by little creatures, whose only task in the game seems to be to take up place.

To say that I'm a passionate pet collector would be to exaggerate. So far I've neither bought any game cards or thought about getting the collectors edition of the game just in order to come over some exclusive little pet that no one else got. Now, so far Larísa's got the standard pets in her menagerie. But just because they're common it doesn't mean I haven't got a relation to them. There's the cat, the first pet I met in the game, by chance in a cottage in Elwynn, where I bought it for a few silver coins - a fortune at that level.

There's the chicken, a memory from Shimmering Flats, that make me thing about the quite hysterical mage quest Get the scoop. You're supposed to find a mage apprentice in cover, and if you haven't looked it up at Thottbot or similar places, it's quite impossible to on your own find out where he is: disguised as a chicken that you're supposed to tell "beckon" in order to complete the quest. That chicken has become one of my faithful companions. I don't know why I like it so much, maybe it's just the fact that the size goes much better with a gnome than the rabbit, that is so big that it as well could be a mount. And the chicken is so obviously in the wrong place when you're about to face a tough end boss in an science fiction inspired instance. It's absurd and disarming, impossible not to like.

Then I have some gift pets, memories of friends from the game. There's Snowshoe that I got from my old companion Pjusk once when we were running around in Don Morogh, me boosting his little alt mage... And there's my moth that I had as Christmas gift from Kazzandra and the dragonhawk, reminding me of Wishart, both of them pala friends that I said farewell to when I left the Kul Tiras server.

The last addition in the family is the little miniature Larísa dressed in a bikini and a smallish reindeer (thanks Gurraberra!) Both need snow balls to be activated, but thank's god I've got two stacks of it left over since Christmas, so I think they'll get the chance to come out and get some fresh air now and then in the year to come. And of course I've got my beloved turtle Speedy, that I think came along with the think-about-the-orphan-children-festivity.

My little rouge alt Arisal has already got her first pet, the green parrot from Deadmines. And I like that one so much that I'd surely would like one on Larísa as well. But the drop rate is supposed to be low, so I guess I'll have to arrange quite a few boost runs in order to get it.
Well, giving it a deeper thought I think even I carry some collector instincts. And they're getting trigged a bit extra by the recent 2.4 patch. In MrT there's a lovely fire bird, Phoenix hatchling, dropping both in normal and heroic mode. So far I've only seen it once - but of course I lost the roll. I'll just have to keep running there until I've put my little greedy paws upon it.

The new daily fishing q also give you the chance to get your very own little spotted crocodile, Chuck. Of course I've got to get it! Where to put it is another issue, but I'll simply have to make an effort, systematically getting sorting out old unused quest items and strange "good-to-have-one-day"-things that now fills my bank all in vain. I'll make place for more pets.

What is the point in having pets? Actually there is non, and I think that's what make them so full of charm. The only idea about them is to offer entertainment, to spread little smiles around them, giving comfort and hope when you're in a bad mood. And to fulfil a little of that need of vanity that I guess that we all have, although we stubbornly deny it.

Well aware that I risk to seem out of my mind I actually want to claim that a well chosen pat even can fill its roll as company, brightening the darkness during long, lonely grinding sessions in godforsaken places.

At last, I just have to recommend a gold mine for all of you that like me have weak spot for pets, an Eldorado for all pet lovers: Here you can indulge into fantasies about all the pats you've ever dreamed of - and of the ones you until this day even didn't know existed.

For instance there's a guide about how to systematically farm your own Paddlefeet (something that sadly enough is only doable during the Valentine period of the year). It will take you about 20 hours of gaming time, but it's well worth it, according to the writer... Well, my pet fever hasn't gone that far. Yet.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Split vision

There are many things that catch my attention when I'm in an instance. I guess the top position on the what-to-watch-list is occupied by the threat meater. That is my life insurance. With my spec I often almost touch the tank, so I've really got to keep on the right side of that knife sharp edge where I do the best possible dps, without catching aggro. Sometimes I fail completely after throwing one ball too many, or after an unexpected large crit. But I TRY to keep myself cool and careful, believe me. :)

Of course I put quite a lot of attention to the mob that I've been ordered to work on in one way or another, whether it's about nuking a boss, taking down an add or keeping a mean guy sheeped. How is his life going on, what fase is he in now, is he about to do something evil so that I have to move on?

Or maybe there's something else incoming? Like now for instance at the end boss in the Magisters Terrace instance, of course the bubbles will be an extra moment to keep an eye on, except for don't-touch-the-floor-game and the nuke-the-boss-ambitions I carry. Then of course I've got myself to watch, unfortunately a person that I tend to pay too little attention to. How am I? How much damage have I taken, how's the mana pool, is there some need that should be tended to?

The combat log I hardly look at at all, but I do throw an eye at the numbers that are rolling up thanks to SCT, I've got the idea that I'm constantly learning from it, by watching my spells hitting, to see how they're affected by trinkets and my own and other cooldown spells, and what things make me gain mana and health.

The chat window is another thing that I don't look at much in the middle of a fight. But of course, a red warning from the raid leader usually makes me wake up. If he for some strange reason would prefer writing instead of talking, which fortunately rarely happens.

At last there's the thing about the wholeness. I think that is the most difficult thing of it all: to have a feeling for how others are doing - does the fight develop according to our plans, does someone need extra help somewhere, do I have to think in a new way, adjusting to changed conditions? I try to keep some kind of overview, but deep down I trust that my RL has the situation under control and will tell me if there's something that has gone wrong and must be dealt with.

Sometimes there are many balls up in the air to keep track of, and in real life I haven't been able to learn three ball juggling, in spite of putting some effort into it. But isn't it this challenge of doing many things simultaneously that is the challenge and the reward in the game? Somehow I make myself believe that I'm slowly, slowly training my ability to deal with it, improving. It would be even better if I could learn to see things out of sight, just by instinct, seeing them without focusing on them. This thing you can actually practice in real life, hopefully benefitting from it in the game, at least according to my favourite blogger Matticus, that wrote about this in a post about improving your healing.

So the next time I'm on my way home from work I'll do as he suggests. Try to read the numbers on the houses along the street, without turning my head and actually watching them. And then I'll have another go with the juggling balls.

Just keep on trying. Never give up. There will always be another ball to notice from your eye corner and pick down, more or less by instinct.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Springtime cleaning

The first sun of the spring has arrived. Merciless it's trying to look into my window, that has such a cover from air pollution and dust, that the glass looks frosted. In spite of those efforts to look it out, it manages to lighten up the room enough to make me feel blind as a mole every time I enter a dark room in the game. Which way does the corridor go in this monastery where I'm boosting a couple of guildies? Well... No, ooops, that was the wall! Ouch, I apparently left the instance. Here we go again! If you want to play during daytime this part of the year you should ignore the protests from the family, pulling down every blind you can find.

If I ever get the idea into my head to clean the house, it's in these days. It's also time for a major clean-up in the Wow-world, and then I'm most of all thinking about the addons. It's when those revolutionary huge patches arrive that the moment of truth happens. The natural selection. What addons do you really need in the end? And which ones are mostly hanging around, using space? Which ones have you completely forgotten the use of? Quite fast you can see what addons that are really paying off for the memory they occupy. Those addons that I never seem to remember to find new versions of I can probably live without. It's a little like those advice that cleaning gurus give us: if you can't throw away the junk you have at home, try putting it into the box and leave it in the attic. If you haven't touched it in a year, take it tu the tip.

At least I know what addon will be the last one for me to throw ever - the addon that always will by number one on my priority list of keeping an eye on updates: Omen. That was painfully obvious last Sunday when we were doing a badges run in Karazhan. It turned out there wasn't one version of Omen in the raid group but many, although everyone had done the homework the last few days, downloading new versions. It seems to be like trying to shoot a moving target, these days the major addons are updated hour by hour.

After some messing with it we had what was supposed to be the same version. But did it help? Everybody saw each other - except for the guy we most of all wanted to see - the main tank. For a brief moment in a fight he passed by on my list, like a ghost. Then he was gone again for the rest of the night. Sometimes the list on the other hand went completely blank - you didn't see a single name, even though we were in the middle of a fight. And then suddenly they all came back again - everybody but the MT of course.

"Well well, the hunter said patiently. I guess we'll have to play by instinct and you could always feign death". Myself I got the biggest repair bill of them all. If you're used to always be number two on the threat list, staying just below the tank, it's kind of hard to know what your top rating on the non complete threat list actually means. Well you know exactly what it means when the mob is running towards you, but by then it's often too late. Thanks god for ice block, I say, even though it felt bit strange for a fire mage to pretend to be an ice cube for such a huge part of the evening. Sometimes I played it safe, just standing there, doing absolutely nothing but trying to avoid to pull aggro and die. But I can't say that it's the play stile I like most. After all a fire mage most of all is driven by his thirst for blood. If we can't dps we could as well go to bed and sleep.

Anyhow, when the evening ended I had another 22 badges to put into the bank - now it looks as if I'll be able to buy at least both the chest and the trousers at once when the vendor opens his shop, so I won't complain. But until the next raid I beg the gods of Azeroth that the new Omen will be cured from the worst children diseases.

So dear addon developers, I hope now that you won't just close the curtains and let yourself be seduced to go out enjoying the sun. A whole word of players are waiting for you to give as a functioning Omen. Don't make us disappointed.