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February 2011

Screenshot Friday: My Favorite Gnomey

still life with gnome and night elf

 This little gnome makes my heart go pitter patter.

We just celebrated our 6 year anniversary this week. And believe it or not, we've been playing WoW together for five of those years.

He's been by my side through ridiculous guild meltdowns, megalomaniac raid leaders, passive aggressive guild leaders, three expansions, and untold numbers of ridiculous guild (and guild forums) dramas. We've fought side-by-side to save Bolvar, ridden our motorcycles all over Azeroth together, and cleared out ZF I don't know how many times.

When I'm feeling down, his sexy gnome dance can usually bring a smile. I mean how can you resist the sexy gnome dance?

For all these things and so much more, I am so lucky. Love you, Wrenz.

aren't these goggles the awesome?

Providing Constructive Criticism Without Being a Jerk

shadow priest versus the world

So you've decided you need to provide someone in your raid team with some constructive criticism. My first word of advice: put that thought on simmer on the back-burner for a while before doing so. Seriously. No matter how well-intentioned, "constructive feedback" given in the heat of the moment is rarely effective. Instead, take some time to think through what you have to say to the person, and how you're going to say it. Here are some thoughts to guide you through that process.

First, Evaluate if You are the Right Person to Give the Feedback, and If It is Warranted

Once upon a time, I was filling in on a ToC25, healing on my shaman. An elemental shaman in our guild, mid-Jaraxus fight, started telling me everything I should be doing differently. On my alt. In the middle of a boss fight I was healing. This person was just another teammate. Not the raid leader. And I wasn't failing either mind you-- my shaman was 3 out of 5 healers, which I was pretty proud of given her limited play time that expansion and her crappy gear. This unsolicited criticism was ill timed, came from someone who had no business telling me what to do, and was directed at an alt that was actually doing just fine. This was a great example of how NOT to give constructive criticism.

In general, if someone is playing an alt to fill in for a role your raid needs, you should consider carefully how you give feedback. The player is less comfortable with that role generally, and is doing it as a favor to the raid. If you did want to help them boost their future performance, it would be appropriate, after the raid, to say "hey if you think you are going to be healing on your shaman a lot moving forward, I read a great blog post on healing you might be interested in."

Make Sure You're Providing an Expert Opinion, Not Just Your Opinion

Yup, that's right. Holding the title of raid leader or guild leader does not, in fact, make you an expert in every class and spec. If you have a hunter who is struggling, have your guild's best hunter talk to them. No one wants to hear someone who doesn't play their class regurgitate a well-meaning blog post they read somewhere, and being told to "just do that." Likewise, no one wants to be told how to improve by someone who uses another class/spec as their example for what to do. Each class and spec is different, and takes different finessing. If you don't have an expert in your guild on that class, do some online homework: start with Elitist Jerks and from there fan out to class and spec-specific resources. If you're not sure where to start, WoW Insider has a nice big list of WoW resources, including bloggers by class.

Praise Publicly, Coach Privately

This one should be obvious, but I have many times heard a raid leader berate a player and give them detailed instructions on how to improve in the middle of a raid, over vent. this is fail. How would you like it if your boss came up to you, in front of all your coworkers, to tell you you were doing a sucky job and should change X, Y and Z immediately? Yes, WoW is not a job, but the scenario still applies. No one wants to be taken to task in front of their peers. By doing that, it is unlikely that even good, well-intentioned advice will be heard by that player. Instead, they'll remember how they got chewed out by that jerk (YOU) in front of their raid team.

Make Your Feedback Specific and Actionable

Bad Feedback: Your DPS sucks, improve or we kick you from the raid team.

Good Feedback: Elitist Jerks is modeling a player with your spec and gear level at about 2k DPS higher than we're seeing you perform. I think we can do some fine tuning to your spec/gems/enchants/rotation to get you to where you need to be.

See what I did there? I gave specific feedback on what needs to be improved, and by how much, and laid out a possible check list to start with, and offered up a partnership with the person to help them improve.

Be Sure to Praise the Improvement

Once you give the feedback and support, and the person improves, you have one last constructive feedback task ahead of you: Praising the person for their improvement. This reinforces the change and shows the player that you are paying attention, and are aware of the efforts they made, and their progress. If you don't say anything, the player can feel as though they wasted their time and efforts trying to meet your standards. It's a small thing to do and doesn't take much time, so make sure to acknoledge your teammate's progress.

Friday Five: Five Reasons I Raid

oh hey Maloriak, your momma dresses you funny

Last night I went in and killed this guy, a guild first. I had that awesome heart-pounding adrenaline rush, and thought it would be fun to share the 5 primary reasons I raid.

  1. I love the adrenaline rush of a new boss kill. First you make steady progress. Then you get the wipe at 17%. Then you get the attempt where everyone is in the flow. No one has died. You are in phase 2. Everything's smooth. The raid leader says "BURN HIM!" and you do. You push your character, micromanaging every GCD, You find that volcanic potion you forgot you'd stashed in your bag. Push, push push...and he's dead!
  2. I love the teamwork. The world is full of plenty of ways to be an individual contributor. Raiding on the other hand is very much about the entire team doing the dance, ebbing and flowing together. And I love being part of a team accomplishing a goal together. I also love all the silly inside jokes you have after a year or more of raiding with the same folks. See also why I never let my horde guild's paladin tank Dreb off the hook without making at least 1 funny voice for me.
  3. I love seeing new places. And taking many many screenshots.
  4. I like to push myself to be a better player. And raids have endless room for fine tuning and experimentation. You can raid on the same character for an entire expansion and still have room to fiddle with things you do in the raids to keep it interesting. And of course raiding has the potential, RNG willing, of your getting new gear with which to improve your character, which feeds back into this reason.
  5. I like to have the opportunity to shadow priest tank. What, your raid doesn't have any shadow priest tanking? My raids *always* have some shadow priest tanking. Like when both tanks die at 3%, and someone needs to keep the boss engaged long enough to finish him off. Or when a nasty dragon trash mob kills the entire raid and I get to DoT and kite him down a long hallway until he keels over. Those are incredible moments of fun and joyfulness for me.

So why do you raid?

Friday Five: Five Things to Remember if the Game is Getting You Down

why can't I use this pretty seahorse in all watery areas?

  1. It's not just a game -- it's YOUR game and it's supposed to be fun. What makes you smile in game? What in-game activities pop up in your dreams or daydreams? That's what you should be doing regardless of what other people tell you you should be doing.
  2. It's not just the game-- it's the people you play it with. Sometimes, you may do something such as choose guild progression over playing with people you like. But I've found that playing with people I like eventually trumps progression without camaraderie and friendship. Find people you like to play with then stick to them like Krazy Glue. And the people whose behavior annoys you to no end? Put them on ignore.
  3. You can always roll another character. You can even do this on another server. To play with people you've met through the blogosphere or twitterverse. So if you hate mechanics changes to your class or your guild is overrun with SpecX, you can always putter around and do something new. It's never too late to roll another toon!
  4. If your friends behave terribly to you in game, then they weren't really your friends. Write them off and move on. No amount of analyzing or dwelling can ever tell you why people behave the way they do online. If people treat you poorly, cut your losses and move on.
  5. The only constant is change. Chances are whatever it is that is really bothering you in game at this very moment will be a small blip in your rearview mirror in a very short amount of time. Take a deep breath, keep calm, and carry on.

It's Too Soon for ICC to be a "Retro Raid" for me

wasn't this shadow priest just in this place?

Last night, the scheduled 10s ended up morphing into 25-man ICC. "Retro Raid!" was the call to battle. "No thank you!" was my atypical but firm reply.

There is just not enough distance between me and ICC for it to live in that rosy pink nostalgia haze in my brain where the other retro raids like kara and BWL live. I don't get the warm fuzzies at the idea of going in there.

I knocked my head against the ICC wall, in 10 and 25, for 9+ months, finally taking a break from it only a month or so prior to the Cataclysm. Anexxia alone had 30+ kills of Marrowgar in 25. I'm tired of the icy winds of Northwind consuming my soul. It's going to take ma at least a solid year -- if not two-- before a big smile will come across my face when someone suggests heading in there.

Right now, I want to do new content. See new instances, kill new bosses. ICC will still be there in the morning. And I need to give it some serious space for its absence to make my heart grow fonder.

Waiting it Out

shadow priest hiding in plain sight

Right now, I'm playing the waiting game on my undead shadow priest Anexxia. Specifically, I am waiting to see how our raiding schedule shakes out. And this is why I have had a sad as of late.

You see, I love raiding. I've been raiding ever since my first character hit 58 in vanilla WoW days and was goaded into coming along to a guild alliance's MC run. I've been hooked on it ever since. Fast Forward to WotLK. I finally found a good server and home for my shadow priest, in a guild for whom I am currently serving as an officer. I managed to complete all of the WotLK raid content, including getting my Starcaller title. Some pretty amazing and rewarding accomplishments.

I'm still wearing my Starcaller title but I don't feel much like a raider at the moment. My work schedule has been erratic and unpredictable, and we've done some changing up in our schedule.

One of the things that I really liked about our guild's raiding schedule was it offered up 4 or even 5 possible raiding nights per week, all of which started at 6:15 Pacific. Even if I got waylaid a bit at work, I could get home in time for the raid. But even before the expansion hit, we had some East Coasters lobby for an earlier start time. And thus, we now have a 5 Pacific start time raid night, soon to be 2 raid nights.

So, depending upon how things shake out, that leaves us with either 1 or 2 Pacific time raid nights during the week. And Saturday which starts at 6 Pacific. There aren't too many folks who work on the weekends, and for those who do, 6 Pacific on Saturday is no better or no worse than any other time on Saturday. Although I used to count Saturday as one of my raid nights, RL schedule changes on my SO's part mean I would be choosing raiding over the one weekend night we both have to go do something, so that's out.

This leaves me at 1 or 2 nights per week I could possibly raid. Which is usually about how much I want to raid. but here's the wrench: we're going back to our old seating system that seats you based upon how many times you sign up and seated versus other folks. So, back when I could sign up for 4 raids per week, I'd get seated once or even twice depending upon signups. Now, I could sign up for our 1 or 2 nights, and be sat half the time or more often depending on how the math works out. That could put me at raiding 4 times per month on Anexxia. unless of course, like my schedule for the next 2 weeks, I have work-related events that either spill over past 5 or mean I will be stuck working late to make up the time after 5 on those few possible raid nights.

That's just not going to work for me. I don't see that I can improve my character, learn the fights, and be a rel part of the team if i am seated in 4 raids per month. I get that could work for other folks but for me, it's like being a visitor, not being an active member of the team.

So for now, I wait and see what happens. I am signing up for raids when I know for sure I can attend, and I am crossing my fingers it will work out. I've spent the entire weekend stressing and bummed about this. And there's absolutely nothing I can do to influence the outcome one way or another.

Wish me luck.

Friday Five: Vanity Pet Edition

Who's a cute little fuzzy wuzzy? No, not you miss boomkin, I was talking to the spectral tiger cub!

I know I shouldn't love any of my vanity pets more than others, but I have to admit it: I do have my favorites. here are my top 5 favorite vanity pets, not in order because I really can't rank them:

  • Spectral Tiger Cub. I wanted this guy ever sine I saw him previewed on a TCG promo back in the day. This little guy also wins the prize for being least expected birthay present ever.
  • Hippogryph Hatchling. This was my first ever super rare vanity pet. I'd received a box of the TCG cards as a gift from my SO after a particularly tough week traveling for work, and this loot card was in it. Totally unexpected and so adorable. I was totally annoyed when a vanilla WoW guild mate's boyfriend bought her one of the cards off eBay after she'd admired mine in our raids.
  • Wind Rider Cub. Yet another awesome present from my SO. He is so adorable, and I love it when he flies along behnid me.
  • Singing Sunflower. It's so nice to be out in the middle of nowhere and have this little pet start singing to you. You're never lonely in Azeroth with this little lady by your side.
  • Moonkin Hatchling. I whined and pined and dreamt of having a mini me for my boomkin. And then this year, our dreams came true with the adorable moonkin baby! I seriously stood around in Dalaran dancing with this little cutey for a solid half hour after getting him in the mail.

What's your favorite vanity pet?

What's Your WoW Theme Song?


This weekend on twitter, I noticed a certain someone using the tag #ThemeSongsForWoWClasses. And it got me to thinking, if my favorite WoW characters had theme songs, what should/would they be? Of course, upon close inspection, almost all of my characters are actually named after the musical inspiration I had in mind when I created them. All except for Anexxia that is.

WHAT SONG: Silent Hedges by Bauhaus.
WHY? Too many reasons. First of all, she adores Peter Murphy. Because he is an amazing singer, whose songs encompass her many moods. The song not only sets the dark and moody scene for her explorations of Azeroth...the words speak to her as well: Looking into purple eyes / Sadness at the corners / Works of art with a minimum of steel.

What would your primary character's theme song be?