Posts Tagged ‘definition’

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The GearScore fallacy

01.10.2010

Vacation time means catching up with one thing. Gaming, and sleeping. Two things. Vacation time means catching up with two things: Gaming, sleeping and blogging. Three. Three things…

Before this ventures too far into the surreal world of Monty Python, something completely different.

I read Gevlon’s blog. Most of the time I don’t agree with him, for the simple reason that I don’t think he ‘gets’ why people play games and his poor understanding of what ‘being social’ means. But that is not the point at hand. Occasionally, I come across a post that I do agree with. In this case, a rather old post, titled GearScore Failure.

He proposes that, in a casual environment (pugging, in his example), GearScore is actually inversely proportional to player skill. The reasoning – in my own words – is thus.

Acquiring gear is mostly a function of time spent. While time spent also equals experience (as a player) gained, this ratio varies wildly. A skilled player is someone with a high ratio of time spent to skill gained. An unskilled, carried player is someone whose ratio nears zero. Both type of player, though, acquire roughly the same amount of gear.

Now for context. In a casual environment, what type of player is more likely to apply for a pug? A skilled player that is himself more likely to be in an actual raiding guild? Or a player whose applications get turned down again and again because of a lack of actual playing skill? You can’t see the skill. But you can see the GearScore. And since time spent equals gear, skill equals time spent to skill gain and skill gain means higher probability of raiding guild membership – high GearScore in pugs means probably not much playing skill.

Probably. Of course there are a ton of exceptions. It also depends on how high you set the bar for being a skilled player. Or an okay player at the least. But factoring in other outside elements, such as character name and general demeanour in chat, you should be quickly able to discern into which category the player falls.

Why am I posting about this, anyway?

Enter the casual player.

Time spent means gear. Or rather, time spent raiding means gear. Time spent questing means less gear. But time spent no matter what means skill gained. Granted, the ratio is potentially higher when raiding, but still. Skill gained, in this case means nothing at all for guild membership. To get that gear, though, a casual has to spend more time questing and soloing instances. Whether soloing instances is still casual is open for debate, I say yes. More time spent means a higher potential skill gain. Soloing can be quite stressful, and a good training ground for improvisation and quickly adapting to new situations.

So, since a skilled raiding player won’t apply to pugs (he will, but for the sake of argument, he’ll be the exception), we have two players applying for the pug run: One with a high GearScore and dubious guild membership and one with a medium to low GearScore and no guild membership. Unless both have the same dismal outside factors in chat, the low-GearScore casual is not only much more pleasant to run with, but also probably more skilled. Go with the casual. You’re doing yourself and everybody else a big favour.

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Effort vs. escapism

02.09.2010

One of the reasons I started playing WoW was to find a way to quickly relax after coming back from the office. A nice ride through a couple of zones, grinding a few mobs, finishing a level or two and top it off with some meditative profession training and auctioning.

This works remarkably well. Without any obligations to a guild, raid attendance or so much as PUGging, I can get home and just play for a bit while my mind settles down. Then I can decide if I should do something actually useful, or keep playing. In a good mood, hop into a battleground, or maybe start a solo run in an instance.

However, I also set myself a few goals. Having one character of each class, all within ten levels of each other was one of them. This is so I can decide spontaneously which class to play without having to adjust to a completely different power level. Of course, there still is a huge difference between finishing off level 30 and starting fresh at 20 to bring the next character up. But mostly, it works well. All classes play differently but on average I’m within a five or six level range, which means the general feel of what is dangerous stays the same.

My druid is a problem, though. I want to keep him leveled with the rest. Partly because that’s what I set out to do, partly because I expect him to start being fun on the higher levels. Still, it feels a bit more like a chore to level him in comparison with my other characters. My current questing zone of Stonetalon Mountains doesn’t help either, I put that on par with Westfall when it comes to being the least entertaining or engaging zone. So I log on, manage to gain half a level, then start pondering if peace of mind has to be achieved by boring yourself out of it.

In the long-term, yes, I want to level my druid. And I want to do it before continuing with my hunter, simply because she’ll be even more fun after spending seven levels on my druid. And who knows, maybe I’ll get to the fun part of being a druid sooner than I think.

There are quite a few world events coming up this month, maybe they’ll provide both a decent distraction and a level boost.

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Through the looking glasses

23.08.2010

Last week’s Shared Topic was about how I imagine my class is treated by NPCs. I have a small problem with that. I don’t play a single class. I’m also not very good at this sort of RP posts, which is why I originally wanted to skip last week. However, to get some blogging rhythm back, I’ll use that shared topic as a starting point.

My version of it: How do I see the world of Azeroth, depending on which class (and character) I’m playing?

Two classes are missing: Priest (waiting for a Worgen priest in Cataclysm) and Deathknight (highest character level is 36 so far).

Mage

The world is a stage, filled to the brim with an audience expecting a spectacle. It’s not only about killing mobs. It’s about doing it and looking good. Looking great. Impressive, even. Sure, you could go for a quick and efficient kill, but there are still four spells available on cooldown, better use them! Freeze, Blink, Blizzard, Evocation, Blast, Arcane Barrage and for the finale, Teleport and leave them standing in awe and envy.

Druid

Seriously? I’ve got no clue. If I knew, maybe my druid wouldn’t play the role of the unwanted stepchild.

Paladin

When all you’ve got is a hammer and a Seal, the world starts looking like a giant nail. You’re still killing mobs, but you’re doing it with a purpose. You want to make Azeroth a better, safer place. You might even start to feel some regret, but never fear, because you are on the only true righteous path! Bless and heal passersby, then proceed to smite infidels with holy might.

Hunter

The world is full of creatures. Always be on the lookout for a new pet to tame, a companion drop or a rare elite mob that you can add to your trophy board. And do I wish there was an in-game UI for tracking your rare kills, I have to do it manually. Also, practice your jump-shots! Show them off whenever you get a chance, to show you actually have some skills instead of facerolling the keyboard. Keep your pet on a very short leash – it’s not a bludgeoning sledgehammer, it’s a fine rapier to be used exactly the way you want. It’s much more impressive if you use your pet as an extension of your traps and skills than if you just let it loose on an unsuspecting world.

Shaman

The world is my castle. See that spawn camp over there? Well, I’ll make camp over here, set up a dozen totems and then instigate the monsters into attacking. Yes, a Shaman is an offensive force, but their true strengths lie in defence. An aggressive turtle, so to speak.

Rogue

A giant playground, full of challenges. And if there aren’t any, set some for yourself! Sure, you could just kill any mob standing between you and the target NPC, but see how far you can get unnoticed. See how many of them you can pickpocket. See if you can kill just the target, then Vanish and be amazed that the entire camp is up in arms and down one leader. Find new and creative uses for Sap, Disarm, Rupture, Gouge and Vanish. Leave your victim shaking their head, wondering what the hell just happened.

Warlock

The world better bow down if they see you coming. Even if only because you’re a Gnome. But never mind! They bow down, they crawl at your feet. You are the master, they are the slave. And if you ever team up with another warlock, the world will tremble in fear. Rightly so. You don’t care about flash. You care about brutal efficiency, making the kill hurt. Pain makes stronger, yes, but it’s the other‘s pain that makes you stronger.

Warrior

Besides the age-old question over two-handed, dual-wield or sword and shield, it’s pretty much about pushing yourself. How strong a mob can you take? How many mobs at once? How much damage can you deal in a single hit? How much a head start on damage can you give a mob and still win the fight? It’s not about winning, it’s about conquering insurmountable odds.

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How to be a proper newbie-helper

19.05.2010

This week’s shared topic over at BlogAzeroth is “Helping New Players“. I think that is phrased the wrong way around. The topic, in my opinion, should rather be, “How To Be A Player You’d Like To Help”. A while back, I wrote a small piece on some fresh experiences with “helpful” players, so I’ll take this spot to highlight what the ideal help-seeking player would look like and behave in my mind.

Be polite.

Blizzard actually says in their introductory pages somewhere that it is considered ‘good manners’ to buff players you encounter. So, if someone buffs you, the very least you could do is hit your “/thanks” macro. This way, the buffer is encouraged to continue in this way. In a similar vein, if a whisper for help goes on for a while, a quick “thanks, see you around” isn’t too much to expect.

Return in kind.

Most of the time, you won’t be able to directly repay the effort (because they are higher level than you), but there are myriads of lower level players out there. Buff them. The chains keeps on going this way.

Do your homework.

Now, if you can’t find the Golden Lion Inn for some quest, asking “where is it?” is fine. “Goldshire” is the answer. You can even ask “where is that, then?” or “how do I get there?”. But if you continue asking “where in Goldshire”, you’re starting to make yourself look plain lazy. Or worst case, trolling. We all like to give general directions. Or, in some cases, give a few tips if you are not sure of the gameplay – turning on quest markers on the map, for example. But if we see that you don’t make the slightest effort to learn something from that, well… don’t expect any helpful answers.

Type properly.

Seriously. Okay, the first quick, “wait pls” is acceptable, you need to catch the askee (Yes, that’s word. Well, now it is…) before he mounts up and disappears. But after that, when it is clear the other person is indeed waiting and willing to help, type properly. In fact, if you find yourself asking for help more often, make a macro out of “Hi, could you please help me with a question?”. Works wonders.

Ask precisely.

If you’re going for a swim near Bloodmyst Isle, don’t ask “how do I get to the bottom of the sea lol?”. Ask “Can someone tell me a way to reach the bottom without drowning?”. Or better “Can someone buff me or sell me an Elixir of Water Breathing so I can reach the bottom?”. People might not bother answering if they get the impression they have to start from zero. If you can show that you know the principle and just lack the specifics, you’ll get a quick answer and maybe the item you need for free.

Interestingly, I find that these points hold true for the other direction as well. Be polite when you answer – a “lol” after each sentence feels like you’re ridiculing a newbie for not knowing what they can’t know. Especially since “lol” seems to trigger an Emote with your character laughing. Don’t expect them to immediately reward you for helping – they’re a newbie, not a quest NPC! Ask them before helping out actively in a fight. Passive help (Heal, Buff) is always okay, but jumping in and killing mobs usually just annoys. Type properly. Seriously. Answer precisely and concisely. “Near Stormwind” isn’t helpful. “South of Stormwind, centre of Elwynn Forest”, now that I can use.

Now, what if you want to help, but honestly don’t know?

Let’s have a pop quiz.

  1. “IDK lol”
  2. “sorry, don’t know”
  3. “lol wowhead noob”
  4. “Sorry, I don’t know, try wowhead.com perhaps they know.”

Well?

  1. No comment.
  2. Acceptable, if curt.
  3. Violates about every single guideline so far. Wowhead is kind of useful, granted, but for the average newbie probably complete gibberish.
  4. Ideal answer. You indicate that you want to help but can’t, and you show him the way where he can find help himself. Not only now, but in the future as well.

So. Hopefully, by now, you noticed that I place about equal responsibility on the player needing help as on the one giving it. Both parties follow the same rough guidelines – or honestly, plain manners and common sense.

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Key skills

15.05.2010

A colleague, who also plays WoW, asked me a while ago how I manage to adjust constantly from one character to the next, seeing as I have no definite ‘main’ character. In particular, how I manage to keep my hotkeys straight.

I’m just about to switch again, so this is the chance to share my thoughts on that matter.

Switching characters

Yes, I have a lot of alts. But I don’t switch between them constantly. I play them a few days, maybe a week at a time, or until they hit the level I set myself before switching again. That means I do have some time to adjust to a specific character.

Hardware setup

More specifically, my mouse. A Logitech MX Performance, which allows me to map ALT, CTRL and SHIFT (as well as ESC) to mouse buttons. So instead of twisting my fingers on the left hand, trying to hit CTRL-SHIFT-F11, I just press F11, while having my right thumb on the two mouse buttons. A lifesaver, really.

Actionbars

Bartender. More action bars, automatic paging, for example when stealthed, or when shapeshifted. I currently have 4 ‘normal bars’ – set up as bars running straight from 1-´, plus modifiers, and 4 ‘action squares’, which are grouped F1-F4, F5-F8… for each row. You can see this setup on the screenshot to the right.

Skill selection

Soloing WoW has an advantage here. I can safely ignore all skills that are only useful in groups. Resurrection? Not making the list. One less skill to memorise and place on a bar.

Skills

Or rather, ordering of skills on the bars. I use the same system for every character. Again, you can see part of it on the screenshot, although I have made some changes since then. Generally, the right-most actionsquare is for trivial stuff – hearthstone, fishing, etc. the next is for macros – I’m currently thinking of moving macros into the right-most square as well so I have one more free keyset.

The two actionbars on the right are my health and preparation bars. Potions go to the top bar, always in the same sorting (least to most effective), drink and food to the lower. Scrolls, flasks, elixirs go into those two as well – they aren’t time critical, I just like to have them ready on the main interface so I don’t forget about them.

The left-most action squares are special abilities and panic keys. Healing, Stoneform, Lifeblood… anything I can hit more or less blindly and know it’ll help me survive. Again, the fact that I have the modifier keys on my mouse help immensely, on my rogue F1 is Evasion, SHIFT-F1 is Stoneform. Whether I hit the thumb-button on my mouse in time doesn’t really matter, I usually want to blow both cooldowns anyway. On my shaman, totems go here, sorted vertically by element, so I can simply hit the row F1-F4 in sequence and know that the most helpful totem of each element will be up.F5-F8 would be the next, and when I get to F9-F12 I know those are speciality totems that I normally have to place in preparation.

The left actionbars are a bit more tricky. The top bar auto-pages through bartender. Those are my most used skills, what I call ‘active’ skills. Heroic Strike. Sinister Strike. Arcane Shot. Sorted by frequency of use, usually. Interrupts go here as well.

The lower bar is for DoTs, CC or AoE effects. Basically anything that I use fairly often, but which need a little bit of thinking before applying the effect. Again, sorted by importance and utility. A few skills are far off to the right, for example the meelee skills of my hunter. I don’t really need them, but if I do, they are right there.

The pet bar is a separate bar, thanks to bartender, and doesn’t factor into this. Although again, it’s sorted by frequency and importance.

Summary

And that’s it. Really. Maybe if you are struggling to adjust between main and alts, look at your bars, look at the skills. Categorise the skills. Active, situational, panic button, preparation. Set up your bars exactly the same for all characters. Sure, the skills themselves will differ, but if you know that you can hit ALT-(1 to 4) any time and there will most likely be a healing potion of varying quality there, it’s one less thing to think about. And thinking about which key you hit is what gets you killed.

I’m under the impression that I’m doing fairly well for a casual, switching between characters on a more or less weekly basis. Then again, even when I’m complaining that I didn’t get any WoW-time any given day – that usually means I only had two or three hours.

Caveat: Mapping ALT-1 to ALT-´is fine. Mapping ALT-F1 to ALT-F12 usually leads to some hilarity when you reach ALT-F4. True story.

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The definition of fail

09.03.2010

While the first chunk of 3.3.3 is downloading, I get time to read some more blogs. One word that I find mentioned fairly often, in blogs or on the official forum, is “fail“.

But what exactly is fail? Or, more precisely, what do I mean, when I call something “fail”?

Fail is, simply put, not achieving your goals. So the basic premise is that without knowing another person’s goals, it is hard to declare someone “fail” on pure observation. It has always to be in context. The most prominent goal is survival. We can all agree on that – if you’re dead, you’re hard pressed to do anything in-game. But being dead doesn’t mean you “failed”, because there’s bad luck, honest mistakes, or just plain learning experience. So we have to look further than that. Fun seems a good point. But what determines fun? For me it’s definitely something else than for a high-end progression raider. Am I fail? Is he? Either could be, depending on the point of view.

Group play is a bit easier to judge. The goal of the group is to clear the boss, preferably with as few wipes as possible, and for all members to have fun. That last part is important. I know that I, personally, enjoy a relaxed style, quite possibly suboptimal equipment because it fits the character and what I want to achieve. But if I were to join a raid, things would probably change, because the goal is suddenly bigger than just me. So yes, that tank in full ICC-whatever gear that can’t keep aggro, fail. The newly-dinged 80 that hasn’t had a chance to gear up yet? Not fail, as long as he’s doing the best he can.

Solo play, however, I find it hard to call anybody honestly “fail”. Only in interaction with others, because, again, suddenly it’s not only them, but they affect others as well:

That level 80 in front of the auction house, advising some newbie to install Gearscore because they “need it for raiding”? A wonderful fail, unless you want to be part of the Gearscore crowd. Personally, I’d even call it a success, because I now have two more people to avoid.

The priest I met, dying to some mobs because he asked me in chat about grouping instead of fighting when I had already started to taunt mobs off him? Fatal mistake, but not really fail.

The people who just pop up the join group dialogue in the middle of combat? Fail. And annoying.

Thank god for Autodecline. As a side note, you might think that they get the hint after two or three declines – I have set it up to only accept invites from people I have whispered to. But I have had as much as a dozen invites in succession, thankfully only flying by in the chat window. Fail.

The level 80 Death Knight at Northshire abbey, “helping’ newbies by killing any mob they have targeted and trying to impress them? Fail on so many levels… but that is a post for another day.

Larísa has a wonderful story today about her fresh experiences on an RP server. She is enjoying things that she would have never done on her normal server. This, for me, is the essence of what I am trying to say. Change the context, and suddenly your definition of success and failure change, while the goal “have fun” stays exactly the same.

If you find your fun-factor in World of Warcraft declining, why not try something completely different? Stop being hardcore. Roll on an RP server for a week or two. Take your time to do wacky things that you wouldn’t normally do. Laugh as Gearscore junkies call you fail and know, that, from your perspective, you’re a huge success – having fun.

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