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State of Yay!

June 23, 2014

Dear Reader,

As I’m sure many of you are aware, the Steam Summer Sale is in full swing.  Early on, I scooped up a game that caught my eye a few months back, but I’d never acted on that eye-catching due to the game’s price, my extreme cheapness, and my fear that this game was yet another copy of another popular game with little ingenuity that would end up providing little fun.

However, when the price fell to five dollars, I really couldn’t avoid purchasing State of Decay.  I have been happily surprised that I did.  You may be aware of the feature in Steam that shows you your game completion rate; mine’s 30%.  Not terribly below average, but not very impressive, either.  The facts behind that rate are simple.  I don’t feel obligated to play games that end up being a let-down.  I don’t feel obligated to finish games that I know I can finish.  I don’t feel obligated to push through grinds or trial-and-error style games.  I stop when I’m ready to stop.

As a result, when I report that I finished a game, it carries some weight.  I finished State of Decay in about 5 days, playing a total of 21 hours over those five days.  That gives State of Decay a 4x Ed Value, which stipulates a game should provide at least one hour of entertainment per dollar spent.  That’s a great ratio, and even better, I paid two bucks for the “endless campaign” DLC that will allow me to keep playing it and racking up a higher and higher Ed Value.

To put it simply, this game is a Saints Row / Grand Theft Auto style open-world exploration game with targeted storylines that takes place in a zombie apocalypse.  From what I saw, it was extremely well conceptualized.  I played it with a controller and found that the gameplay was smooth; my hard-of-sight buddy is playing with a mouse and has had few overall complaints.

I don’t often to get to play those GTA style games because I don’t play games that glorify crime.  As a result, I’ve missed out on a lot of that genre; this game more than made up for it.  You get to build a base, make decisions as to what to do with your resources, go out and fight zombies or stealth, gather resources of your own, and develop your character with special qualities.

The fighting system is nicely complex, too, and advances as your fighting skill improves.  Each button and button combo allows for different moves, but you can often get by with just pounding or slashing away if you’re not interested in learning the more in-depth fighting.  There is a good variety of zombies, too, though all but one are often a pushover; that one, though, is devastatingly dangerous, as are large hordes and infestations.

So overall, the game offers a complex fighting system, character advancement, base operation, exploration, and questing.  If that sounds like something you’d like, check out the price on the Steam Sale.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and Decayed)

I’m Weak

June 20, 2014

Dear Reader,

I am a weak person.  Apparently, according to my buddy, I have no values to which I hold strongly.  I think he was being glib saying that, considering, you know, I’ve dedicated my life to educating others, but I understand his point.  After vowing no more server and/or faction transfers, I paid for server and/or faction transfers again yesterday.  What can I say?  I’m weak.

I started leveling a monk, you may remember, to have a tank on my new “full-time” server.  It went really well until about 40, when it started to get really boring, since I couldn’t just do each dungeon once and move on.  I thought about boosting the character, but that’s 60 bucks, and, well, I just didn’t really want to.  It was too much money.

So instead, I paid 80 bucks to faction and server transfer my rogue and just server transfer my paladin.  There’s a reason I’m an English teacher and not an economist.

So now I have a whole slew of characters on Greymane, ready, willing, and potentially able (my tank only has 650k hp) to do raids.  I’m all suited up.

I have to be careful, though; I don’t want to burn myself out with “should be’s.”  I already felt the tug this morning regarding my now three farms on one server.  I stopped myself, though, and went and did something else.

Speaking of raiding, Wednesday’s flex went really well.  Too well, almost, as I felt useless healing.  We had six healers, and one of them was top-end heroically geared, so I wasn’t really contributing much.  I switched to dps on Dark Shaman (to try for the xmog gear) and just stayed on as dps.  It’s so much easier to dps, no matter what other dps may say, and since I wasn’t really doing much as a healer anyway, I at least felt like I was helpful.

I also got my fourth heirloom – the bow – which will likely never be used.  I of course considered moving my hunter instead of my rogue, but I already have a ranged dps, so I didn’t really see a point.

That’s about all for today.  I have my first aid/CPR/AED training super early tomorrow, so I’ve got to go to bed early tonight.  I need to milk this day of all its potential goodness while I can.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and milking)

Surrealism – or – A Pleasant Change from the Past

June 18, 2014

Dear Reader,

We’ve talked before about how having a blog that one’s guild knows about creates a weird strain between facts and delivery.  I’m not claiming I know whether it’s right or wrong, but without a doubt, knowing that the people I’m writing about will be reading what I have to say makes me much more careful about how I write things.  It may in fact be a boon because it makes me that much more reflective about my messages.  Then again, it may make me a small traitor to my own thoughts and feelings, to be writing for another and not myself.

I don’t claim to know, but it’s certainly an interesting situation compared to having a blog in secret.  My first several guilds didn’t know I had a blog, and I felt safer that way.  I was able to complain vehemently about tanks who backed off LK ledges and insane guild leaders whose hypocrisy regarding drama knew no bounds.  And god knows that my previous guild experience, where the person who recruited me knew me through my blog, turned out to be a disaster.  I didn’t know then how much I contributed to the problem versus how much the guild members did.

You may remember their attempt at starting a shouting match here, one I didn’t participate in.  The fallout of that was that I was eventually blacklisted by both the GM and the person who recruited me, who dropped me from their bloglists and twitter.  This sort of social isolation doesn’t phase me much; I endured far more personal forms of it throughout public school and I certainly don’t consider everyone I know on the Internet to be a close friend; that comes with time and familiarity.  The final outcome of that, too, was that the problem people in the guild, the ones who came here to start up trouble, left the guild.  They’d shown their true colors, so no one really trusted them any more.  If only I could perfect a way to bust bullies without having to detonate all my relationships in the process.

That’s neither here nor there for today’s correspondence, though, but serves instead as the background of the surreal experience I had the other day.  I admit I was a little nervous about Monday’s missive, as again I was writing about internal guild politics in which I wasn’t fully versed, but I wanted to have faith that the people involved were good people and both understood and valued my position.

I was right to do so.  Apparently the concerns I voiced in our correspondence had already been discussed between the guild leader and the raid leader, so not only did my post not ruffle any feathers, for which I’m grateful, but it instead acted as a talking point to discuss future raid opportunities.  Rather than shutting down communication, it opened it up.  As I’ve written in the past, that’s the hope of many of my blog posts (that aren’t just whining about LFD), that they further conversation among others.

The one sort of uncomfortable and weird outcome was that I was apologized to about the whole thing, which I said then and will repeat now was completely unnecessary; I joined the guild for the conversation and flex raiding, and that’s precisely what I’ve gotten.  That I’ve had the extra experience of a normal raid and even a few heroics now was just icing on the cake.  It was uncomfortable because I’m never apologized to by people who are my equals or superiors in an organization.  Really.  It’s just not a position I find myself in with anyone but my wife, to whom I also apologize from time to time for my bad behavior.

So it was a bit surreal; not only had a post about my current guild not ended in trouble, but it actually ended in interesting and progressive discussion.  That more than I think anything else has shown me that while I may not be a heroic raider, this guild of other heroic raiders is precisely where I want to be.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and comfortable)

A Bit of a Surprise

June 16, 2014

Dear Reader,

So I had a bit of a surprise this past weekend.  It wasn’t necessarily a bad surprise, but more of a surprise that requires rapid readjustment of how one acts or thinks.

The surprise was this: I was doing a heroic raid.

As you’ve read, I’ve been doing normals for the past few Saturdays (minus the one on which I did a real life heroic – building a deck – which nearly caused me to wipe – no healers were in range).  I’d grown adjusted to most of those fights, which are essentially just the flex fights with harder hits and bigger health pools.  I felt like I was adjusting well, too, and really contributing to the group in a meaningful way.  It was a satisfying experience, even though we hadn’t quite downed normal Garrosh just yet, though we had downed all the previous bosses.

Then a decision was made at the executive level of the normal raid, apparently the weekend I was away, to do heroic raids.  Some very strong raiders had come back from unavailability and contributed to the run, and as a result they’d been able to do the first five bosses on heroic when I was gone.  I was quite happy to hear that news; if the group was strong enough to be blowing up heroic SoO when some of regular raiders were absent, then we should have no trouble finishing normal when I got back.

What I didn’t consider – stupidly, in hindsight – was that we weren’t going back to normals, that we’d be doing heroics again the following week.  So when my wife and I logged in and joined up with the group, we hadn’t prepared at all – no videos watched, no mechanics studied.  Both of us were a little off-kilter as a result, though I can only blame myself; how many times have I told students it was their responsibility to find out what they’d missed if they were absent.  Fortune favors irony.

Now, the good news is that we did get the first four bosses on heroic.  Immerseus only took a little adjustment, as at first the healers were too far from the rotating tanks, and then they were too close and got hit with the nasty cleave attack.  We downed him rather quickly, overall, and on top of that, a Bindings of Immerseus dropped; that’s been by far my weakest piece of gear for while, as I only had the LFR version, never having gotten it in all the flexes or normals I’d since run.  I lost the roll, though, but then the winner coined them, so, being second highest roll, they were given to me.  Excellent!

Things continued strong as we one-shotted Protectors.  I was quite pleased with that fight, as I not only got to contribute some to dps, but to interrupting some effect from one of Rook’s adds – something I don’t have to do in flex or normal.  Still, I noticed that my dps as a whole was lacking; I was below most of the other dps and even below one of the tanks from time to time.  It didn’t so badly on Immerseus, since I got to chain lightning all the little adds, but the deficit was much clearer for the rest of the raid.

Then we got to Norushen; I’ve said before that I hate that fight.  It has seemed like a fight that put the brakes on a lot of the groups I was in early on in this tier and even represented a sizable roadblock that had to be overcome in the early normals with this group.  I was quite worried about the heroic version.

I don’t remember how it went, honestly.  I can’t even remember if we one-shotted it or not (but I don’t think we did), but overall it wasn’t too much of a struggle, that I remember.  That was good news, because I’ve always considered Sha of Pride a joke of a fight compared to Norushen.

Not so on heroic.  Not so by a long shot.  There are several extra mechanics in heroic that add to the corruption tally, and as a result, there were more corruption effects, as well.  In the flex run – and in the normal, if I’m remembering properly – no one’s even gotten to 25 corruption before.  We had people hitting 100 in this heroic run.

To top that off, the real problem was dps; we weren’t generating enough of it to get the boss to 30% before people were getting 100 corruption, nor to down him after 30%.  My wife got asked to switch to dps, which she is always willing to do with a coy look at me, a knowing look that her dps is garbage since she never plays dps.

This time, it mattered, though, because we did eventually get the boss down, and right at the metaphorical buzzer – meaning that without my wife’s dps, we’d have wiped again.  Still, regardless of that fact, my wife feels like she’s not contributing enough healing to be valued as a healer and not asked to switch nor enough dps to be valuable as a dps when she is asked to switch.

We didn’t get past Galakras.  After multiple wipes to being overwhelmed, dps getting aggro too quickly (which was mostly me), and dps not doing enough aoe (which I was holding back on so as not to get aggro too quickly), we finally got Galakras on the ground.  We were pounding him (her?), too, and the Flames rotation we’d set up was working.  Then, for no apparent reason, one of the pugs we had got flames and ran it to a place where it didn’t pass through anyone, and we wiped instantly.  We never got Galakras on the ground again.

And that really sums up what I hate about 10 man raiding, particularly heroics.  I’ve made jokes about it before, mostly related to healers – that when you’re in a such a zero-margin-for-error environment, every mistake is magnified in a way that it’s not on 25 man.  As a result, each mistake someone makes breeds the tiniest amount of resentment in others that, after months of doing these fights, grows into something unhealthy.  I felt it in H ICC 10 when that goddamn tank backed off the H LK platform again, when the dps didn’t CC the mind controls on LDW immediately, and so forth.

I don’t know how long-term healers do it, really.  The druid in our guild is a very positive, upbeat person.  She apparently feels none of the ill-will like I did; I don’t know how she does it.  The other healer is a much more blunt person who’ll call people out for their mistakes.  She’s not wrong about it, mind you; just blunt.  Perhaps that’s how you prevent letting the hostility grow; you just tell it like it is.

Regardless, I know that my “normal mode” dps was part of the problem, and since I personally made several mistakes during a lot of the encounters, the hostility that was bred was often at myself.  I said before I didn’t think I had heroic raiding in me any more, and this is some small confirmation of it.  Even with all the good that was done – we did down 4 bosses, one as a one-shot, and I got a major upgrade – I just don’t know if it’s worth it.  It was clear that there were 8 heroic raiders in there plus my wife and I.  Some of the pugs were less than kind, as well, though all our guildies were positive and encouraging.

Both my wife and I left the raid feeling disappointed in our performance.  She’s never even really done heroic raids before, mind you; was the one in LK tier hard modes and heroics.  She may have been carried a time or two – who remembers – but this was the first time she needed to perform, and I don’t think she feels like she did.

All of that said, I want the people in my guild to know I appreciate their attendance, patience, and management of the raid.  I’m not in any way upset about having been included, nor do I think it was in any way mishandled.  I just don’t know if H raiding is for me any more.  Keep in mind I decided eventually not to app to the H raiding portion of my guild, and I think it was the right decision.  But perhaps some time is needed to fully contextualize what happened.  I don’t know.  I’ll see how I feel next Saturday.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and a bit bored)

More Druid Healing

June 13, 2014

Dear Reader,

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working more and more on my resto druid.  It was slow going at first, as I had to get over the healer tunneling that I’ve found to be one of my biggest problems in the past.  Once I got past the “ohmygod ohmygod avoidthatfire stayalive” phase, though, I was opened up a bit to the more subtle possibilities of the class.

Luckily, I have a very solid resto druid in the guild who was giving me a hand.  She noted that my mastery – harmony – uptime was pretty lousy, which was adversely affecting my healing.  To be frank, I hate the harmony mechanic; it, and other similar changes, were what made me want to stop playing a druid healer in Cata.  For those of you unfamiliar, Harmony increases HoT healing by whatever % (about 20 at my level of mastery) by casting a non-hot spell every 20 seconds or so.  Being forced to case a particular category of spell to empower my other, more archetypal category of spells irritates me.

Sure, one spell every 20 or so seconds isn’t a big deal, especially since Swiftmend’s cooldown is less than Harmony’s duration, but still, it irritates me.  I feel like I should have my options there for me in the toolbox and be allowed to choose which to take out, not have to meet some time-based quota on casting non-hots simply because the hotting was so crazily powerful back in Wrath.  Seriously, that’s what it feels like; it feels like a punishment for being too good in Wrath and now having this extra hurdle to jump over.  Bah.

I’m sure I’m over-analyzing it and likely being irritated by something that’s actually a benefit, but it is what it is.

Beyond that, I learned that I should be blooming my efflorescence/wild mushrooms more.  I was heavily relying on the Efflo ticks, but the bloom is an enormous about of healing.  I’m still learning as to what the perfect time for blooms on particular fights are; is it better to bloom in the middle of a Garrosh whirling but lose a few seconds of efflo ticks or wait until the end for the maximum effect and no real penalty for waiting?  These smaller subtleties are still being learned, but I’m getting there.

I also learned that nourish is useless and just to cast regrowth if you need a hard direct heal.  I thought nourish was meant to be a stop-gap for little mana and little healing, but it’s such a useless spell it seems not even to be worth casting.  Of course, I went from having zero mana problems to running oom from time to time, but that’s likely partly a gearing issue.  I’ll let you know when I get better gear.

So those have been my recent healing lessons.  I still really like the versatility and utility of druids, just like I did back in Wrath, but the new mechanics are still stumping me a bit.  I’m sure more practice will help iron it out.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (top healer on some of our flex fights!)

It’s Finally Over

June 11, 2014

Dear Reader,

Not the work.  No.  It wasn’t fully completed when my father-in-law left.  No, the pace of the work is what’s over.  The deck still needs to be painted – repeatedly, apparently – but it’s been raining, and the taskmaster has left, so it can be done at a more leisurely pace.  Thank god.

Yesterday I just laid around.  All day.  I watched like 10 hours of T.V., then logged on to WoW just to see what was up.  Nothing particularly exciting was, mind you, but I figured I’d check.  I flew characters on all of my various servers (7 in total) out to Felwood; I’m going to get that damn Minfernal.  Both my wife and my buddy already have one.  He got his on like his third check.  It makes me want to fly over to Aki and slap her in the face.

Well.  I figured since I was writing about it I’d give all my Felwood stationed characters a peek – and right now, while I was writing this, and I got my minfernal!  HOORAY.  That finishes up all my collecting and finally gives me the zookeeper title.  I’ve had all the other collection achievements since December 2012.  It’s nice to finally be done.

Anyway, I’m still a bit tired, sore, and cranky from the whole experience, but at least it’s over.  As I mentioned before, the best thing that came of this whole experience was that I’m quite sure I can readapt to being a public school teacher, which I wasn’t fully confident about before.

More on Friday once I’ve had some time to actually play some games.

See you then!

Sincerely,

Stubborn

More Delays

June 9, 2014

Dear Reader,

Again, I have no tales of gaming heroics (or, just as likely, mediocrity) with which to regale you.  I haven’t sat at a computer since our last correspondence until this moment, when I’m stealing a little time at work after a meeting I had to attend.  Instead, I’ve been working my body into pulp, slowly, like laying upon a grindstone and passing it over myself again and again.

I’m not made to work like this; I’ve worked – this is not exaggeration or hyperbole – 30+ hours in the last three days outside doing “strong man” manual labor.  At one point I had to hold two 2″x8″x8′ boards laterally in front of me while I stood on a ladder for a long time – or so it felt.  It was probably only 5-10 minutes, but by god it felt like more.

And the kneeling.  I’ve never done some much physically exhausting work that I actually got a muscle cramp.  You hear stories about people drowning and the like because their muscles seized up and they simply couldn’t continue.  Sure, I’ve had sudden-onset charlie horses, but never something that would permanently immobilize me.  Until this weekend.  At lunch yesterday, my leg started to seize up in excruciating pain and I had to work to keep it straight, which is where the pain was the least.  My “boss,” my father-in-law, told me to drink a lot of water and rest a bit – 30 minutes, mind you, not like half a day – and it would go away.  It did, but the muscle still is sore as all get out.

In fact, sore is basically the story of my whole body.  I’m taking 1000mg of acetaminophen every 4 hours and pounding back diet cokes for caffeine (as well as hydrating with water and gatorade) just to stay on my feet.

The crazy thing is the work he was brought up to do – the deck – wasn’t even started  until yesterday.  The first two days were completely other work that “needed” to be done.  And it probably did need to be done, but I’m not going to be living in this house but for seven more weeks; let the next people do it.

But alas, my father-in-law’s standards are high; I can’t fault him too much for that.  And I refuse to “stop” working or the like, even if I do sneak off to write to you, dear reader, when I get the chance.

Things I’ve done:

Pressure wash the whole house with a pump-action backpack pressure sprayer.  I probably pumped the pump with the same arm 10,000 times.  That is not likely an exaggeration, as it did it over the entirety of a day.  A day.  All the while I was covered in a mixture of bleach, laundry detergent, and water.  I think I’m blonde now.

Lift an enormous amount of lumber at every possible angle physically manageable to the human body, and some that aren’t.  In fact, at one point, I was standing with my arms by my side on a set of stairs while my father-in-law was bracing a piece of wood above his head – another 2x8x8.  Then the bracing failed and the wood started to fall.  At that moment, Bruce Lee’s disembodied spirit entered my body and compelled my hand to fly up and catch and enormously heavy (for me) piece of falling wood mid-air and steady it so it wouldn’t bash my father-in-law in the head and likely knock him off the ladder he was on.  It was legitimately an impossible move made possible only by luck.

Unscrewed every screw and pulled every nail in the deck and replaced them all with new screws.  We have used 8 pounds of  2 1/2″ decking screws so far to give you an idea of how many screws we’re talking about pulling and replacing.  And when I say pulling, I mean it, as the old work was not done with treated screws so probably half of them broke off and had to be physically removed with force of one kind or another.

Climbed ladders – and I hate climbing ladders.

Washed all the wood on the deck – scrubbed it.

And there’s still work to be done.

What I’ve learned is this: like tax preparers, every single contractor thinks all the others’ work is done incorrectly and is inferior.  Every one of them thinks they’re doing it properly, though.

I think today is the last day.  God I hope so.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (a prisoner in – or rather outside – his own house)

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