Thursday, July 29, 2010


Tonight will be a mad [Dash] of packing. I'm leaving tomorrow to go help lead a camp, teaching girls to admire [Nature's Splendor] :) Time to get in touch with my [Nurturing Instinct] while avoiding the [Insect Swarm] (with their [Ferocious Bite]s) and hoping the [Gale Winds] don't blow my tent away (which would most definitely have a negative impact on my [Tranquility]). I shall call upon my [Primal Tenacity] to survive the long hours, but may need to rely on coffee (which I rarely EVER use) to [Revitalize] and [Innervate] myself, else there may be some [Primal Fury] shown.

When I get back, I expect to [Hibernate] for a day or two.

Okay, done linking. WHAT? It was fun :D
I posted a pic of where I was going to my guildies, and Bus used MSPaint to draw me into the scene:

<3 Bus!
There's a running joke in the guild about my wilty tree leaves... I'm jealous of the treants.

BBL :) Maybe once camp is over I'll finally find time to finish my belated Halion strats!

Monday, July 26, 2010

What is Skill?

"Skill" is a term we throw around a lot in gaming. So what exactly is it? From the dictionary:

  1. the ability to use one's knowledge effectively and readily in execution or performance
  2. dexterity or coordination especially in the execution of learned physical tasks
  3. a learned power of doing something competently; a developed aptitude or ability

Skill is not given to us by the game. Skill is learned and grown from experience; it is a willingness to learn, an ability to learn, and applying it directly to our play. It's your adaptability and your mental "processing power." Greater skill at one task will lead to quicker learning of a similar task, and this is why skill is so important in progression raiding (any raid where you aren't overgearing the content) and PvP.

Things we gain skill in include use of our own computer (your keyboard and mouse, your direct link into controlling the game), ability/spell selection, reaction speed, and awareness of what things are or might be "bad" (be it a boss ability, environmental effect, or even a game mechanic like pulling aggro or going out of healing range). The speed and accuracy of these things are what make a skilled player... and they are born out of the ability to learn, mental quickness, and experience.

Skill is NOT:
  • Gear
  • Sims
  • Research
  • Meters
  • Mods
  • Macros
  • Hardware
All of the above are TOOLS. Tools are very separate from skill. They are used to better your character and can impact your performance, but they do not in themselves make for a skilled player. Unskilled players, if given these tools, won't become skilled players just because of the tools: they will become skilled players through experience and an innate ability to learn and react quickly.

I have known players who have failed to improve after being given all the "right" tools. On the flip side, I have known skilled players who didn't use many of these tools at all (we just about all use some mods!). Skill and tools help each other to make a better player, but they are not the same thing.

How do they relate?

In my rough opinion,

Skill + Tools = Player Performance

Skill, or the ability to learn from experience while adapting it to a new situation, is very important. Various tools(when used correctly) add to your situational awareness and aid in processing information, such as perusing logs or comparing gear or knowing what stats you should focus on to what caps; the stats on the gear itself will aid in your overall output and survivability.

A player with a lot of appropriately-used tools can make up for some failing of skill; likewise, a player with a lot of skill can make up for some failing of tools. A player who makes great use of tools while being highly skilled makes for an exceptional player. Though it's not always fair to count on one's luck with gear drops in the game as a measure of their ability as a player, you cannot deny that a person with a legendary weapon should have an edge over someone with a weapon from a heroic 5-man.

Not all tools are accurate or appropriate, either. In a simple example, we could say "Wow, that guy has a i-level 9,000 shirt! He must be AWESOME!" while the shirt is all +spellpower and he's a warrior. While that is unlikely to ever happen, there are some more realistic examples: like sims that don't take into account your own raid composition, or BiS lists that aren't made for a WotLK 10-strict itemization, or suggested rotations that assume you'll have full raid buffs, or that someone else will take care of a debuff that you would otherwise need to apply (mangle/trauma, IFF/misery, totem juggling, etc). Or situations where you could spike the meters through the roof by AoEing on a pack of adds while some other mob should be CC'd or interrupted or single-target-bursted down before it wipes the raid: because you topped meters, you think you did everything right.

This relationship is why we often see people mistakenly equating various tools to skill: they ultimately both impact a player's overall performance. For example (allow me to beat a dead horse for a paragraph), Gearscore is often used as a limit on invites to pug raids because it's a measurable component of the overall performance you would expect from that player. It does not measure actual player skill in the slightest, of course, but some players do like to imagine that it does. What Gearscore does allow is for a raid leader to ensure at least one crutch (being gear with a lot of raw stats) to lean on towards success in an otherwise unknown mash-up raid. Even if I don't like seeing people use Gearscore, I can't deny that gear does contribute in some amount to a raid's success: gear is specifically why we see WotLK 25-man guilds clearing through the lower-iLevel (and less itemized) 10-mans with relative ease. However, gear is just a tool (one that can be misused), and a player not having gear does not mean they can't make up for it with skill... just as a geared player may not necessarily be skilled.

Short of the long: if the guy with the legendary is dead in a fire cuz the internet dragon ate him for the fiftieth time, he's worthless against the raider in blues who is alive because he learned at level 12 that "fire=bad."

How would we measure Skill?

If we could provide a "skillscore," how would we do it? I imagine, for purposes of awareness, it would involve the statistics tracking: number of times you've died to cleave as a DPS/healer, or died in fire, or got hit by a death beam. It would need to be more particular, though: how many times you did these things when the raid was still mostly alive, as I know I use these insta-death mechanics to facilitate a quick wipe when we're resetting a boss for another try! Or whether the tank was still alive, as top-threat dps or healer is sure to die next after a tank goes down. You could measure reaction times by monitoring combat logs, especially in the case of healers or interrupts, or tanks swapping taunts or using protective cooldowns. It's possible with algorithms, but that's only a rough sketch that doesn't cover every possible thing that could happen in a raid, and whether it's that player's fault.

Some other aspects of skill are much harder to quantify: what about those times a tank decides to run LoS from healers? Or carries a cleave or whirlwind right over their squishy fellow raiders? Or how about spell selection--how do you measure that, when it needs to be adaptable from boss-to-boss, situation-to-situation, PvE to PvP, raid comp and spec and talents and lag all contributing to your choice? What about those times a player's just "off" that night, due to mood or lack of sleep or dehydration or family distractions, or a major need for a bio break in the middle of a 15-minute-long encounter, reducing their attentiveness?

How exactly do you measure the full extent of someone's ability to perform their job, without being able to measure their skill? All we can do is to play with a person and see how quickly they learn in a new situation: their adaptability, learning speed, and reaction times. It's not a quantitative measurement, but there is a definite qualitative bar you can place any given person on and say "yeah, she's pretty good," or "wow, that guy sucks," or even "HOLY CARPS we need to recruit that person NOW."

An Example

I spent some time, long ago, trying to help another player who was having a lot of trouble. They were very nice and willing to learn. I sent them all of my mods and macros. I helped them set them up over vent. I walked them through how I chose spells, how I wove my spells when healing, etc. Their gear was on par for the content, and was on par for the others they were healing with. They had a good computer and didn't have a high latency. They didn't die very often to "bad stuff;" they seemed situationally aware.

But they just didn't improve.

I worked with them for a long time. I still feel bad to this day that I never saw any increased performance out of them. All I could do was shrug and say "keep trying." As much as I liked them, I knew the only other possibility was that it had to be an issue of player skill. It was something difficult to pinpoint and quantify, but the result was clear: a poor healer.


Skill + Tools = Player Performance

Don't say gear = skill. Don't say mods or sims or spreadsheets = skill. Those are tools to help you in your growth and ability as a player. Skill, on the other hand, is your adaptability, your experience, your willingness to learn, and your mental reaction time all rolled up into one incredibly-difficult-to-quantify ball of "skill."

You can have a skilled player who doesn't make use of many tools, like spreadsheets or having great gear... just as you can have an unskilled player walking around with a Legendary and quoting EJ (and then dieing in a fire). When recruiting or even looking at a random person standing next to you at the inn, keep that in mind before judging their "skill."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Offtopic: Directoring

So, as some of you know, I spend quite a bit of my free time that isn't consumed by WoW with volunteering for Girl Scout camps. The biggest of these is a week-long resident camp that I'm now deputy-director of, and is starting in about a week and a half.

Needless to say, it is ze crunch time.

Some of the things that I have spent my spare time on lately:
  • Creating a detailed class plan for the wildlife science class activity
  • Organizing a guest speaker (with real animals)
  • Chasing down other volunteers that need to touch base and turn in paper work
  • Researching suggestions for those activities that haven't bothered to come up with a plan yet (/facepalm)
  • Testing out possible last-minute activities (I made a tiny hand-molded clay dragon this weekend)
  • Working on props and necessary signage
  • Creating cool little gifts for the 20 girls that I am the unit director for
  • Touching base with my own unit staff to assign them to different groups of campers
  • Figuring out how to fit my assigned programs' material purchases into the very limited budget
  • Creating a "camp tour" and rules guide for the staff to walk their groups through on the first day to make sure everything is covered
  • Reminding campers about space limitations and "YOU MAY NOT BRING" items on their packing lists
  • Proof-reading emails being sent back and forth between director and volunteers and parents
  • Watching the weather forecast and trying to pick a good night to take a small group of them for a night under the stars
  • Keeping the head director from completely loosing her head and exploding before camp even starts
  • Consuming fudge and cookies at an alarming rate.
When you're in charge, things are always popping up: problems, research, etc. Any good guild officer can relate to this :)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Monday, July 19, 2010

Guild Perks (no longer talents)

Rather than a choice-based talent system, the guild perks have turned into a straight-forward leveling system based on your guilds' advancement (undetermined as to what that means, though achievements are mentioned) and your reputation with the guild (not assigned guild rank). I'm happy with this.

While it does not let guilds specialize as "raiding" vs "leveling/alt" vs "pvp rawr," it gives everyone a bit of something, and the leveling-useful perks are easier for the guild to get while the major big raiding buffs will require more commitment to the guild (as I feel a raider should provide).

As per MMO-Champion (not seeing a blue source yet),

The guild talents are gone and your guild now gets extra bonuses depending on its level. There are 25 levels and each level will automatically reward with more cool stuff. The leveling process remains unchanged and your guild will gain experience through PvP, Dungeon and Raid progression, questing, etc ...

Guild currency has also been removed and rewards will just be "unlocked" after you reach a specific level or complete a guild achievement. Once a reward is unlocked, members will be able to purchase it with gold. Some of the rewards include guild tabards, mounts, heirlooms, and it looks like you will finally be able to have a guild tabard on your mount. (Just like the Argent Tournament banners)

New members of a guild won't be able to buy everything directly, they will have to contribute to the progression of the guild before they can access the top rewards. Each time a player helps towards the leveling he will gain reputation with the guild, the best rewards will require players to be exalted with their guild before they can buy it.

Some tasty tidbits I pulled out for commentary:

Cash Flow: Each time you loot money from an enemy, an extra 5% (later 10%) money is generated and deposited directly into your guild bank.

Guild repairs just got significantly easier for guilds with stingy players. It's not like the player is loosing any of their own hard-earned gold with this, while ensuring the bank's coffers are full of cash that can be used to purchase supplies for flasks (cauldrons?), feasts, mats, etc.

Happy Hour: Increases the number of flasks gained from using a flask cauldron by 100%.


Chug-A-Lug (Rank 2): The duration of buffs from all guild cauldrons and feasts is increased by 100%.

  • Consumable buffs for raiding guilds? Awesome.
  • Applies only to you and not the feast you put down that all the puggers are munching on? Likely.

Working Overtime: Increases the chance to gain a skill increase on tradeskills by 10%.

This one is a bit later in the line, which means it may not be active while we're all leveling to 85. That's my only complaint about it. I'm hoping we'll be able to unlock it while we're leveling so that it will be useful during that time... though I'm going to guess that the "server first" achievements will occur without it. Maybe. We'll have to see.

Have Group, Will Travel: Summons all raid or party members to the caster's current location. Unlimited range, 6 sec cast / Channeled, 2 hr cooldown

Very handy. Can you imagine the implications for bringing lowbies to, say, Dalaran? Mages and Locks, you may've just lost a corner market on summons, but I think it's for the best. Let's just hope your friends aren't so cruel as to drop your level 5 alt into Deathwing's lap :)

Mobile Banking: Summons your guild bank.

If you have a more open bank policy, this will be useful to a lot of guildies; if you've closed it off to a restricted few due to risk of hacks stealing it all, then your guild will see less use out of it, but your officers might enjoy it. Overall, I see this one as being far less interesting or useful than a lot of the other perks... like insta-guild mail.

Mass Resurrection: Brings all dead party and raid members back to life with 35 health and 35 mana. Cannot be cast when in combat. 64% of base mana, Unlimited range, 10 sec cast.

Bwuhhhhh /drool. Okay, so this sounds to me like EVERYONE in the guild that is max-rank (exalted with the guild having unlocked everything?) will get access to mass res. They *might* limit it to only those classes that can res, but I dunno, it's vague and I think it'd be awesome if a rogue could mass-res a whole raid after vanishing during a wipe.

I mean... seriously.

(Edit: AJ burst my bubble by pointing out the mana cost on the spell. I want a rogue mass-res, dangit!)

The whole tentative list is up at MMO-Champ if you'd like a browse :)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I'm awake now...

...and I find I must steal the words of Karmakin at I Be A Tree:

I saw the new 31 point talent trees, and I was all…ooooh! More bloggy material!

But nope. The Resto druid tree is messed up and will have to be revised so really, it’s not even close to finalized as of yet.

My sentiments, exactly. Some other bloggers have been having fun hacking together their own versions of the talent trees, but I'll just leave it at this:
  • I don't want flat boosts to stuff in my talents. I want abilities. I like talents like Efflorescence and Revitalize and Living Seed that ADD something SPECIAL to the spells they effect, not a "boosts power by x%."
  • That said, I don't like: Blessing of the Grove, Nat Shapeshifter, Imp Rejuv, Emp Rejuv, Genesis, and Moonglow. They are just flat, "necessary" boosts or mana reductions to certain already-known spells. They are BORING. The only reasoning I can see for them is that they separate a "specced" healer from a feral or, to a lesser extent, moonkin; which I feel is redundant to gear and talented abilities. I was under the impression that they were removing all these sorts of talents :p
  • If Natural Shapeshifter is going to be there, I'd rather it give me something more interesting than just a mana reduction. As it currently is, I'm more likely to put points in furor for the times I say "lol imma bear, rawr" and bash something during a trash pull.
  • Yay for trained OoC.
  • If you &%*# with my Nourish, I will be a sad panda-tree. There will be many frowny faces. Be warned. >:(
  • Perseverance makes me face-palm. Not only is it flat, but also, in its current incarnation (the whole tree being subject to change), it's required for PvE specs (while it strikes me as a PvP-focused defense). It's also very flavorless, especially in comparison to Natural Perfection. If it added some kind of imp-barkskin flavor to it, it might be more interesting. It might be useful to bear tanks in PvE, but it's still pretty boring. I don't mind that spot providing some defense (maybe give bear tanks something to spec into resto for, in addition to pvp trees?), but it needs... more, so it doesn't feel like a waste of points.
  • And finally, I wonder how much of this the devs already know and intend to change or improve upon, since they haven't looked at the druid 31-pt-tree in much detail. If they threw it at us to have us help develop it based on feedback, they are succeeding.

General Kae-Updates:
  • My puppy is two weeks old as of yesterday. Squee.
  • I found out last night that they took Barkskin off the GCD sometime in the distant past. /facepalm. /remacro.
  • We saw P2 of heroic LK10 last night, and survived long enough to kill off two valkyr and a raging spirit. Quote of the night: "Yay, it didn't give Kae an aneurysm!"

EDIT: oh, and because Keeva demanded a stick figure in every post, here:

You even get a rattie, Keev! <3

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I get swamped for a weekend and then get sick and pass out for a day and look what happens...

Not sure what to think, yet.

Gonna go get some tea, and probably pass out for another day.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Go here. Now.

That is all.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Security Shot in the Back

Why are so many people concerned about their online presence being linked to their real identity?

For myself, it is one major, glaring issue:

I don't trust EVERYONE.

This is different from saying "I don't trust anyone." If I don't trust anyone, then I don't trust my husband, or my mother, or my friends, or my cat who I do talk to about random things as if she can understand everything I say. No, not trusting everyone means that I can trust some people, but I don't trust every single person that might happen across my blog or forum post via links or web searches. There are some seriously insane people out there who go on murderous rampages--or stalkings or harassment--over perceived wrongs online. And it is disturbingly easy to find out information once you have a name... seriously, google yourself. It's good to know where your name pops up and how easy it is to find info about you (BTW, thank you Averna for linking over to that post, it is priceless).
The vast majority of people are ones I wouldn't care about having them know who I am. Those few that would do evil things with the information frighten me into a little ball of paranoia.

I do use RealID for chatting with a few close friends, but this is very different.

Security in Anonymity

I can understand the argument that removing anonymity will result in accountability for one's actions and speech, and in doing so, result in fewer jerks saying things just to get a rise out of people (there will still be some who troll anyway, of course). Hiding behind a level 1 alt won't work anymore: everyone will have to say what they feel with their name tagged to it. Sure, that's all well and good until they are stalked down for voicing their opinion. Even if the vast majority of people are good at heart (or at least abiding by some morals or self-preservation against jail time), that small percentage of the population that are driven to evil acts are enough to cause trouble, sacrificing their future to cause harm to others... and when they know a real name, and can hunt down work and home addresses, it can spill over from what would be online harassment into physical harassment or violence.

That is the benefit of anonymity. The web is a huge communications network, spanning the globe and overcoming time with its ability to store entries until they're deleted, each piece a footprint left behind by the person who posted it, fossilizing if forgotten, until someone stumbles upon it again while digging through your website or web searches. The immense number of people it reaches is far greater than a local newspaper or school flier. WoW itself is only a portion of that enormity, but it is still a large number of people around the globe. We've already seen cases where something as simple as stating one's like for bacon resulted in a threat against the opinionator's family.

Not all "trolls" will go to this extent. It's a relatively tiny amount of the population that will do these horrific acts, and a relatively tiny amount who are victims. There ARE victims, though. Is it worth playing those odds when you have your opinion voiced to the world?


What do you tell the police? "Hey, there's some crazy guy on the internet that's threatening my family." Pretty much, that is all you can do. The internet is still new enough that policy for policing it is still being hashed out, and threats (or even bullying) on the internet have resulted in a huge demand for what are limited resources for policing (nevermind the international boundaries it so easily crosses!). Once things spill over into the physical world, it's much easier to police, but too often it seems to be too late. Beyond the physical, though, even the mental/social jabs can be devastating for some people. I watched a news report not long ago about a girl who committed suicide over bullying on the internet, and I know hers was not a unique case.

Professional "Backlash"

In addition to the more worrisome security issues, there are the more prevalent work-related backlashes. For some bizarre reason, media and society have labeled gaming as a negative thing (I expounded on this topic earlier), stemming from the few cheetoh-encrusted stereotypes living in their mother's basement contributing "nothing" to society, or those few cases where a demented kid went gun-crazy at school and also happened to like playing games Grand Theft Auto or Counter Strike (or even if there wasn't evidence that the maniac played games like that, people will still blame the games). Gaming, as a hobby, is often looked down upon or sneered at by employers to the same extent as having photos of drunken antics publicly viewable. It's not viewed as "professional" or "conventional."

I'm lucky that I work for people who are more likely to bring a Wii into the office than hold gaming against a person, but I know not every office is like that.

As much as it pains me to say, there are simply some professions and employers who will hold it against a potential employee when hiring to find their name posting to a game forum, or against a current employee when it comes to promotions, or even just firing them outright. Even if it's illegal for them to bias against such a hobby, they may still do it "for the company's image," etc. Productivity is called into question, while other hobbies that can be just as (if not more) time-consuming or exhaustive are ignored or applauded. Right or wrong, it does happen. Several other bloggers have already commented on their concern over this particular topic.

In some cases, the player may actually be famous (or infamous) outside of the game. Their ability to become a part of the crowd may be exactly what draws them to the game. Once that is taken away from them, can they really continue to play?

What of Blizzard's Decision?

There is no easy answer to the issue. Trolls will run rampant where there is anonymity, but anonymity also provides a security for the innocent. Are Blizzard's steps towards removing anonymity a right choice? Is this a test run in a large setting, to see what needs to be done to provide protection in a world-wide scale where differing views on religion, race, gender, lifestyle, economic standing, and even diet (the game itself makes a crack at PETA) have sparked physical violence? If it works out, will we see steps taken towards removing anonymity in other games and forums across the internet?

...will someone's hacked account start spewing trollish onto the forums?

...will recruitment more easily pry into a person's real life to judge their worthiness?

...will the game no longer be an escape from reality, at least where the forums and Real_ID are concerned? Will it stop there?

...will similar be enabled when pugging, to stop the cesspit of cruelty that so many groups often become?

...will most people stop posting to the forums completely, even if they have constructive things to offer, out of fear of loosing their secure anonymity? (Lissanna, IceDragon?)

...will fewer people say "girls don't play WoW" after seeing all the feminine names popping up on the forums from those bold enough to do so? Or will many females be more likely to avoid posting simply to hide their gender from the wider community?

Whatever does happen, this is certainly a bold step, given the size of the game's client base and forum useage. If it were JUST to kill the trolls, they could have instated a policy that makes users post under the name of the character they have the highest time-played on that entire account (for that particular game, if a game-specific forum)... just one, single, static character name. But they didn't choose that route.

It makes me wonder why they decided to do this.

"Opt out."

I hope that RealID names are removed from being accessible by addon scripts. I hope there may be a check beyond parental controls that opts for anonymity, flagging you with your top character name rather than your real name. I hope that Blizzard isn't being tempted to these actions by the over-zealous owner of Facebook who seems to believe for some reason that everyone should throw their identity out to the whole world, privacy and security be damned.

I hope it doesn't go further without extreme restrictions being placed upon the security, with the default being an "opt-out" rather than an opt-in.

The forums have been one of the most useful places to go for technical support, but players are less likely to post their problems if their name is attached publicly to it. While it is optional, this change will result in a widespread loss of good guides and the variety of tech-support possibilities.

Recruitment can find new avenues, at least, and very likely will settle onto one of the more popular fansites as the "go-to" for recruitment posting: if an interface like the old World-of-Raids recruitment system is redeveloped, it would probably be extremely popular.

In the meantime, I suggest reconsidering your passwords to your account's email address (16+ characters with numbers, symbols, and caps/lower all included), and getting an authenticator if for some bizarre reason you still haven't purchased one. If your security is going to be questioned, at least put some of these walls up.

A few links to some other good posts on this topic that I haven't already linked:
  • Variant Avatar, mentioning several different aspects of how this impacts the community
  • Too Many Annas, which also suggests some ways you can let Blizzard know you don't approve (just in case they do decide to change their minds)
  • Murloc Parliament, on how it's further limiting the players who will post on the forums (with an amusing representation of a troller before and after)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

They're here....

I could blog about how the WoW Forums are all going to be showing the poster's real names as an effort to put an axe in trolling.

I could blog about how the up-rating and down-rating of posts on the WoW forums could seriously be abused on the recruitment boards.

I could blog about how some people still don't seem to understand that, even if item levels are the same, having access to ICC25 normal loot makes 10 mans easier due to a broader (and better) choice in itemization and quicker gearing.

I could blog about how I think that guilds that aren't 10-strict are still viable ten-man guilds and how I respect their choice to NOT limit their players, including their non-raiding-roster friends and family, from running ICC25 and RS-25 pugs, though they may have a slightly easier time of content due to their expanded gear selection (assuming their raiders partake of the ICC25s).

I could blog about how it's a PitA to monitor strict rankings for the guild and have to remove friends/family who threaten to push a guild out of strict rankings in order to pick up raiding recruits who happen to already have those achievements, because honestly, what's the likelihood of finding recruits who don't?

I could give you a stick figure guide on how to Halion.

But I'm not going to right now.

Instead, I give you this...

...that you might share in my giddiness that my puppy was born last week.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Kae Fail

"Pulse," Kae calls out on vent, alerting the raid that the purple energy beams are about to fire off. Kae then walks into said energy beam and dies immediately.