Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Seven lessons learned from trekking

As I spent a few days trekking in the Swedish alps a while ago I pondered a bit upon the similarities of mountain climbing and doing progress in WoW. (Yeah, I admit it, I’ m born a a metaphor addict, I just can’t help it.)

I’ve been into the mountains quite a few times since my childhood and learned some strategies for how to cope with the struggles and make the tour a bit easier. Here are a few of the “wisdoms” I’ve inherited from my parents and other “know how to do it”-guys – and the way I think you could apply it to the game.

1. Don’t overload your packing. But be prepared for the unexpected.

Making a great packing is an art. You've got to be prepared for bad weather, heavy sunshine, some basic first aid... and still it shouldn't weigh a ton. Making up your mind what to bring is actually one of the harder things you do, at least if it's a long trek you're about to do.

In the game it's just the same, even though it's maybe not as crucial as in real life. But don’t you agree with me that you feel sort of lighter at heart if there’s a decent amount of spare slots open in your bags? So that you don’t have to start throwing away junk in order to pick up precious loot (blushing, I must admit that happens to me every now and than) and waste precious time and focus messing around with your bag. It should be neat, tight and under control.

At the same time you should of course be prepared for upcoming changes. OK, you know some else mage is going to tank Gruul? But shit happens, right? What if he dc:s and you’re next in turn? Why not bring your very best stamina gear right from the beginning, to be on the safe side?

You’re heading to SSC? Supposed to do Lurker and Leotheras? But what if the raid leader changes his mind and wants you to give Hydross a try? Wouldn’t it feel better to have a bit of resist gear with you, rather than keeping it in the bank?

Use your imagination and figure out what situations could come up during the night. It’s way too often that I’ve seen people HS to go grab some gear and then be summoned back. It’s really an unnecessary time sink.

2. Look up and get inspiration now and then from the distant top that you eventually intend to climb. But also pick a one or several smaller goals on the way to it, goals that are easier to grasp and reach.

I often use this way of looking at tasks that are awaiting me, whether I’m about to start a huge grinding session for exalted by the x fraction, or if I’m levelling a new toon or if I’m entering a new raid distance. Try to make partial, reachable goals on the way. Still – don’t forget the final, challenging goal in the distance. Let it inspire you while you’re dealing with the smaller hills that are in the way.

3. Keep an even pace. Don’t rush. Don’t stop. Just go on, step by step. It saves you energy and effort and you’ll advance faster than you think.

When I was a child I never could understood how my dad from the very start of the walk always picked up a (in my eyes) rather slow pace, and how he then kept it that way. Never going faster, never slowing down, no matter what. As a child you just want to rush of and have a look at all the stuff NOW. You rush up the first hill you see… and then you get tired pretty quick and start whining for a break. But that’s when my father’s way of walking started to shine. He just kept walking… uphills, downhills. And of course it won in the long run.

I think this strategy is viable in many situations in the game. Set your focus, make up your mind what to level or what PvP gear you want to grind for or whatever it is. Don’t rush it so you grow bored after a while and drop it. Do it systematically. A couple of BG:s a day, so you see the marks drop in. Farm a couple of primal shadows before you call it night. Or whatever it is. Keep an even pace and you’ll get surprised how far it will take you.

4. Learn the names of the stuff you see. It will give you pleasure.

You’ll see a lot of stuff on your way to your goal. Flowers in the nature. Or mobs in the game. I’ve learned that when you actually pay attention to your surroundings – when you for instance learn the name of the flower - that this is a Alpine Gentian, which only will open it’s flower in full sunshine, and not just “something blue”, the walk will become more interesting and also feel shorter. To distinct the distance mountain tops from each other and not just look upon them as “another alp” will make you notice their beauty.

Applied to the game this is like learning more about the mobs. Not just about the bosses, but also about trash and other NPCs. Learn their names and their abilities. Read the lore, and read the quest info a little bit more carefully than you normally do. Also learn about the history of the zone you’re questing in. What exactly IS Alterac Valley about?

I promise you – it will add another dimension to the game and even an otherwise boring grinding session can be quite tolerable.

5. Treat yourself with candy every now and then.

I can’t emphasise it enough. Whenever we walked as a child we had short breaks now and then. Sometimes we were treated with chocolate, sometimes it was just small Tic Tac mints (introduced to us as “magical pills” that would give us “supernatural power”. Even if you take this game pretty seriously, try to do stuff that’s just fun and easy for the moment, treat yourself from time to time, in whatever way you can. Get a silly, useless, lovely pet just for the fun of it. Or treat a friend with an unexpected gift – maybe you’ll get one back when you need it mostly.
In raiding environment there are other ways to fill your physical and mental mana pools, se a special blogpost I wrote a while ago.

6. Don’t underestimate the dangers of downhill walking

Climbing a mountain takes a lot of effort. You long to reach the top, because when you walk down you’ll just have a rest. It’s easy to think that way. It’s just that it’s totally wrong.
Going down from a mountain top is just as hard – if not harder – as to climb it. You have to pay attention to the steps you take. It’s so easy to go too quickly, which will mean that you’ll stumble and fall, hurting yourself and in worst case others as well.

This applies very well to farming content as well as clearing of trash mobs. I’ve experienced way too many times that the raid keeps wiping for stupid reasons on the trash mobs, while the boss fights are flawless and easy first-kills. And how many times haven’t you experienced the annoying backlash on farming content? Bosses that should go down easily suddenly don’t. It’s the downhill effect, trust me. The challenge is to make people put just as much attention and focus into downhill content as they do on uphill. It isn’t easy, but it’s doable, if you’re aware of the phenomena.

7. Enjoy the victories. Stay for a while on the top of the mountain and have a look at the view.

Every minute’s precious during a raid night and you’re eager to go on to have as many shots at the next boss as possible or to fight the timer for some annoying respawns. But still: don’t forget to enjoy the view from the top. Enjoy the victory. Taste it. Be proud of your achievement! For a fresh, inexperienced, undergeared guild, downing Attuman or Moroes can be just as challenging as it is to a 25-man raid to take down bosses in BT.

A first kill is a first kill, no matter of at what level it is. If you’re in a hurry, at least try to take a picture. Write a little story about the event, give praise to the participants on your guild website. Enjoy it. This is precious fuel for the next mountain climb of your raiders. Don’t waste it.

Or if you’re on your own – well enjoy it anyway. I know a guy who took a screenshot of his char every time he levelled from 1 to 70. Not for anyone else to look at, but very enjoyable for himself.

Celebrate your victories some way. It gives you the fuel you need to climb the next top.


Anonymous said...

This may well be one of the best WoW-blog posts I've read so far.

I think every picture and metaphor you use is totally (and absolutely surprisingly!) matching. Plus, I found what you say to be true, for real life as well as for the game.

Thanks a lot! Great read! :D

Enyx said...

Oh, *that* kind of trekking.

I was expecting some weird Star Trek analogy.

Anonymous said...

@Jarla: Thank you so much!
I'll keep the memory if this comment forever. Right now I'm sitting on the mountain top, just enjoying the sweet taste of it and looking at the great view...

@Enyx: So sorry to disappoint you. Being a dedicated Star Trek fan I think there definitely are ideas from Star Trek that should be appliable when talking about WoW. Sometimes I've used some of the classic lines in my posts, like "Resistance is futile" and "To boldly go...". But it should be doable to take some classic quotings from Picard, Janaway etc and place them in a WoW context, ranting a bit more about them... Maybe I'll do it one day. Thank's for the idea!

krizzlybear said...

Your metaphors are always wonderful and relevant. I surely hope that one day I could do some mountain climbing myself, even if my in-game trekking seems to be in check. Great job!

Anonymous said...

Great article - I loved the analogies between trekking and warcraft (especially the wonder pills!). It's a great way of leaning back and enjoying WoW - thanks for the perspective! :)