Saturday, 14 September 2013


After more than three years of playing World of Warcraft, I've finally pushed a character up to level 80. This is possibly a record for slowness. The winner is my night elf hunter Siegrune.

I know why it's taken me so long to get here (and for non-WoW-players, 80 is a significant milestone but not the end of the line of levelling, there are ten levels to go before I get to 90 and the endgame). I was continually upset and frustrated by the density of WoW, the enormous number of things to be done in each area — far more than any one avatar could achieve before having to move on because they had levelled beyond the area's quests. In many cases, I solved this by "freezing" the characters' level so that they can continue doing quests without gaining experience, but oddly enough I found that I lost interest in the characters once I had frozen them. Fact is, that I have not played on with a toon that I did freeze.

I never froze Siegrune though, just ran her through the regions of Azeroth until she learned flying and went to Outland at level 60 or so. I played out the long and intricate quest chains there as far as I could, until it became clear at level 74 that she was (a) far beyond the standard of the continent, and nonetheless (b) less than halfway through the quests! This was something of a dilemma: I wanted to finish them all off, yet didn't want to freeze (and probably abandon) yet another character. After a day or two of dithering, I decided to have her leave Outland and move to Northrend, which was more appropriate for her level. Once made, the decision was somehow quite lightening, like the lifting of a burden I didn't realize I was under.

She's now pushing at level 81, and it's time to leave Northrend although I've only scratched the surface there. But she will move on serenely, without a backward glance at all the incomplete quests and stories. Somebody else, another character, will follow on to complete them.

What I don't know is why it was she who achieved this milestone. All this time I've been talking about tanking and healing and so on, and how DPSers are coasting on the tank's risk-taking. So why haven't any of my many tanks got this far? It may be significant that Siegrune has probably done the least number of dungeons of any character I've made, she has been levelled almost entirely on quests in the world. My tanks and healers all got worn down by the thanklessness of their task, by the snark and grumbling when the dungeon went badly and the thoughtless silence when it went well.

Monday, 15 April 2013

On hunting

I've made yet another WoW character, a human Survival hunter called Siegrune. (Yes, another Wagnerian name. So sue me.) It's going surprisingly well. So well, in fact, that I am about to boast a little.

Have a look at that top line. Fifty percent of the total damage was done by me. Damn! To prove that wasn't just a fluke, let me boast a second time.

Unfortunately I didn't think to take a screenshot of the scoreboard at the end of the battle. I was only about eighth on the list there (ranked by kill-points). I killed seven Hordies personally, and assisted in killing another thirty or so, and only died four times.

Until I saw this Recount analysis, I was very pleased with my battleground score. (I still am, to be honest.) But given that I did the second-highest damage of the team, I feel that I should have been much higher up the kill-point ranking. My inference is that I am spending too much of my time and energy attacking targets that I cannot kill (heavily armoured paladins and the like) and not enough on the softies (rogues, priests and mages). On the other hand, it is a team effort and my chipping away at those paladins and warriors helped the team kill them.

It's that old conflict between personal ambition and the common good.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012


An embarrassingly long time ago I wrote:
I've had good runs through difficult dungeons, where the team moved as one and nobody died, and the difference is largely due to the tank. A good tank makes a good run, and a bad tank makes a bad run, whoever else is on the team. It's that simple.
Well it's not quite that simple, but the basic point remains valid. Since writing that I have spent a lot of time as a tank, and am enjoying it enormously. I started with a warrior, but am now power-levelling a "tankadin" (paladin tank). She will probably be my first level 85 character — after nearly two years of playing WoW. This is possibly a record for slowness.
Paladins are a great class for naturally curious (or indecisive) people like myself, because they can fill every role in the game more or less well. They can heal and revive (but not as well as a Priest), deal damage, and take it in too (but not as well as a warrior); they can run up to a mob and beat the stuffing out of it with their hand weapons, or stand back and throw damage spells at it (but not as well as a shaman, mage or a warlock). I'm finding the combination of tanking plus being able to bless, heal and revive teammates to be great fun.
They do have deficits compared to more specialized classes (intentionally so, else everyone would just play a paladin and the game would become monotonous). Warrior tanks are much better at holding the attention of groups of mobs, and have instant long-range attacks in case they need to persuade a mob to leave their healer alone. I'm not sure whether I will stick with the tankadin; for now my plan is to level her up to my warrior tank and play both side-by-side for a while, to see which I prefer.
I think what I like about tanking — and this was true of healing as well — is the responsibility that it carries. The tank and the healer are responsible for the safety and success of the party, and bear all of the risk.To my mind there is no significantly less challenge in DPSing, because nothing bad can ever happen to the DPSer if the tank and the healer do their jobs well (assuming that the DPSers don't stand in the fire*). The only way that a DPSer can endanger the party is by getting carried away and pulling new mobs into an already complex fight, overpowering the tank and depleting the healer's mana. If they avoid that mistake, and it's easily avoided with a little common sense, the worst trouble they can cause is to slow the team down.
This is not to say that the DPSers are unnecessary! The role of the tank is not to kill mobs, but to make them hate him more than anyone else in the party. Without good damage-dealers even low-level fights would soon be lost, as the injury to the tank would slowly but surely drain the healer's mana dry. No DPS = healer OOM** = dead tank = wipe.
If I say so myself, I am a pretty good tank. In many of my runs, nobody dies — which is as big a boast for a tank as it is for doctors. Updated In the interests of truth and keeping my ego in check, I should mention that tonight's trip to Gnomeregan wiped once and lost two players in single incidents.

* WoW shorthand for "doing something incredibly stupid."
** Out Of Mana, unable to cast any healing spells.

Monday, 16 May 2011

More wiping

Spent an hour in a new (to me) dungeon in WoW this evening, and very frustrating it was too. The party wiped twice, and nearly wiped twice more. The mobs in Maraudon are cleverer than in lower levels: they know to try to take out the healer, and react sooner and more viciously to my presence. I died in every run. In the end, the team just withered away, dropping out one by one after the last wipe. I have the strong feeling that at least some blamed me for the wipes. "WTF healer!" from somebody who ran ahead of the group, got out of sight and was hammered.

I see that differently. If I (the healer) tell you I'm out of energy (unable to do any healing in the immediate future) and sit down to replenish energy, and if you (the tank or DPSer) then walk away from me and get into trouble: that's your own damned fault and it serves you right.

It's amazing to me how little some players know about the mechanics of WoW: it comes as a great surprise to them to discover that I cannot heal them at great distances, or with walls between us. Many tanks don't appreciate that their role is to prevent others from receiving damage (the healer, for example) and will ignore cries for help from the "squishies."

Healing is a fulfilling role in itself, but carries much frustration with it. On the positive side, tanks and healers can always get a place in a random group almost instantly: I've rarely had to wait more than two minutes after joining the queue, compared to up to a quarter-hour for my mage.

However, on the other hand, many players seem to view the healer as a silent reproach, a reminder of their imperfection and fallibility: like standing in view of a juggler while holding a broom and dustpan. When things go well, the healer is superfluous: just extra competition for the trinkets and money that should have been theirs — because they're doing all the work, amiright? But the second things start to go wrong, the cry goes up "Healer! where the fuck are you?" And if somebody dies, it's the healer's fault for not saving them.

I've been in maybe two dozen dungeon parties so far as healer, in addition to other roles, and have saved maybe a hundred people's bacon many times over. I have been thanked for that: once. Now, I'm not doing dungeons for compliments but because I enjoy the role and want to do it well; but a little recognition once in a while would be appreciated.

It's not always like that. I've had good runs through difficult dungeons, where the team moved as one and nobody died, and the difference is largely due to the tank. A good tank makes a good run, and a bad tank makes a bad run, whoever else is on the team. It's that simple. I have met three good tanks and an excellent one, and the difference between them and the bad'uns can be summed up in two words: awareness and generosity. More on tanking in another post.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011


I've been playing a lot of World of Warcraft lately, I was inworld for most of last weekend and almost the whole of today (a midweek day off). I recently discovered dungeons, and what a barrel-of-monkeys of fun and stress they are!

A dungeon is a special challenge within WoW, a section of the world that is cordoned off for a team to fight its way through a set of quests culminating in at least one "boss" — a super-villain, particularly strong and difficult to kill, often with special abilities. The team consists of five people: the tank, a heavily armoured warrior who holds the mob's attention to keep it from hitting the weaker members; a healer to keep the tank alive; and three DPS'ers who try to kill the mob without attracting its attention. The healer is also responsible for reviving the DPS'ers if the mob manages to hit them.

The mobs are stronger than usual outside the dungeon, most of them need the concentrated attention of two or more people to kill them. (By way of comparison: although a discipline priest, just about the weakest role in the game, my healer can often take on two mobs at once outside of dungeons. And by way of a boast: my arcane mage, one of the stronger offensive roles in the game, once soloed a mob that had had the team sweating, when it respawned and attacked her while the others were taking a break. The tank woke up near the end and came running over, but then just stood behind her watching and laughing.)

Healer is my favourite role in WoW, as I mentioned some time back; and dungeons bring healing to a fine art. I was healer today in five dungeon runs, and mostly I did very well if I do say so myself. But on one run, I wiped out the party. Entirely preventable, and largely my fault. I let the tank get out of sight, he ran into a crowd of mobs and got killed; with him gone, they made short work of the rest of us.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Still here

But still tired. Absolutely drained this evening, I came home earlyish from work with the best of intentions, wanting to write something sensible and meaningful, but after thirty minutes of staring at the screen I have to admit that it isn't going to happen. Sorry.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Thought for the day

Just a quickie to prove that I am still alive:

[13:51] Bau Ur: I have confronted, in the last couple of years, how much of what I had thought was "me" was simply youth, and is now gone.
[13:51] Bau Ur: There is, however, a hell of a lot of me left to go around.