How to break things like a boss

I work in QA. Yes, I’ve done video games – 4 years for Sony/Playstation, 1 year for Microsoft Game Studio, but I do android/iOS/website now. That being said, I had a pretty nice chat with a Blizzard QA Manager at Blizzon, so my interests may be expanding. In any case (haha that’s a pun), I do testing every day, so I figured I’d write up a quick and dirty guide for useful tips and tactics for testing. Every company is different, obviously, so some of this stuff won’t be relevant elsewhere.

Types of testing
There are many types of testing, all with specific goals. I’m going to outline a few, core types here to help make it easier to figure out what you should be doing at a specific stage in a test cycle.

1. Exploratory
This type of testing is basically the run-around-and-try-everything testing. This is when you go through all the commands, trying out weird as heck stuff to break whatever you can. Start with the “good path” (ie, basic user functionality) and then radiate outwards. Advance to common mistakes (typos, inverted command syntax, being in the wrong state) and then finally push the boundaries. Pretend you are drunk, or a 5 year old, or a total newb, and do unexpected stuff.

2. Test casing/Regression testing
This type of testing follows a template of expected results. You are basically ensuring things work when the necessary steps are executed. For example, a test case might include a test to verify that using x command produces y result. You would then verify that passes or fails or is blocked by some other issue.

“Smoke tests” are a sub-genre of this, where you do a quick once-over for core components to make sure stuff is a-ok.

3. Halo/Directed exploratory
This type of testing is a melding of the two above. Using a test case or design specs as a basic template for features to test, you explore around those features and poke at stuff, starting first with the core functionality and then advancing into outlying conditions and circumstances. For example, there might be a skeleton design doc saying that the LEARN command has changed. You would first play with LEARN in a variety of ways, and then try associated stuff, like TEACH or STUDY.

4. Balance testing
This type of testing is an analysis of the content itself, gauging its impact on the game. This is a much more subjective type of testing, with the focus on analyzing the game system and how new changes will integrate into it. Testing in this category should focus on core gameplay and functionality first, and then expand out to consider outlying situations, with a keen eye directed towards things like exploits and overpowered/underpowered balance. Remember that this sort of testing is NOT just about finding OP/UP scenarios, but also about finding core functionality and balance.

Bug Finding

If you find a bug while testing, try to globalize and generalize it. This means don’t just go x thing is broken and step away – instead, consider what facets of the game x thing relates to and analyze those as well. If a pair of lime green boots breaks the game when you probe them, try probing purple boots, try probing lime green pants and try equipping lime green boots. The bug might not be based in the specific circumstances that you found it in, so check related conditions.

Note time stamps. Some bugs are weird and can be tied to time tables, especially if they have to do with things like resetting items/quests.

As mentioned earlier, if you are exploratory testing, don’t just play like a normal player. Play like someone new, or derpy. Try out stuff that YOU know won’t work. Ensure it fails. It doesn’t always.

Don’t pigeonhole – don’t just test on one account, or one platform. Make a newb, play an alt, run another client. Something that works for one character or one client or one device may not work for another. With playstation, I once found a pretty fatal error for Killzone, where the ENTIRE game wouldn’t work with non 6-axis controllers – it’s imperative you test all scenarios that ANY player might encounter, so try stuff out in a variety of situations.

If you have access to code, use echoes to spit out values of variables, tables, etc to help you conceptualize where things are breaking. If I have a script that’s being a bitch, I’ll code in an echo to shout out WORKING #1, 2, 3 etc for each step to help pinpoint where stuff is going bad.

Test limits – outliers are where tons of bugs occur. Min/max, check scaling, investigate weird and cusp situations/numbers. Good numbers to test around: 255; 65,535; 4,294,967,295 and multiples/divisions of those (integer overflow). Iosyne’s order just saw a bug from this in action kill all our shrines when we hit overflow.

Be efficient – you don’t need to test every single condition ever. Analyze what could make bugs, and then test representative samples within each potential condition. Eg, don’t test 1-100 if 1 and 99 are the things that are going to bring the bug up. Just test those boundaries.

Identify patterns. If you see a common element between unrelated bugs, start investigating more. Odds are, there’s something in common – you just haven’t found it yet.

No bug is random. The conditions that make it happen just aren’t known yet.

Testing Tools

Most testing likes bug reports. In these include, if possible, steps to reproduce or an excerpt of your log/screenshot/video illustrating the issue.

Many games now have in-game bug reporting. These often have crash dumps automatically linked to them (crash dumps are a spit-out of all the code that was executing right before the crash) so it can be really helpful to write up a report asap.

When testing, some sort of recording of your methods is highly advised. Automatic logging upon session login, echo commands turned on, and/or fraps are all useful tools. When I exploratory test at work, I write up charters – this is a document that declares what I am doing to test, and then journals each step I’ve taken. You’d be surprised how hard it can be, sometimes, to remember the precise steps you’ve taken, so ensure you are documenting what you do for easier reproduction.

Google doc spreadsheets are great for collaborative, on-the-fly test casing software.

Have fun – testing is all about enjoying problem solving! You’re a code detective and enjoying the investigation is paramount to doing it well!

Let’s talk about disc, baby

This song encapsulates my feelings about disc: what, how, what, how, wtf, rage, what.

I haven’t really commented about the changes yet – I understand that they are only a stepping stone between here and the new expansion, but after playing (and raiding and PVPing) for a few weeks, I know enough to know that disc has been gutted.

My favorite moment from the past expansion was healing Shamans our first few times fighting them: there were two tanks to keep up. On weakened soul clear, both tanks got a bubble. I was rolling penance on CD to ensure I had a free bubble to use to kill that weakened soul on whoever had the HIGHEST weakened soul CD. The other one got FDCL flash heal procs – unless penance was on CD and that CD was 6+ seconds. In that case, greater heal, yo. If under, flash heals. Keep up grace on both tanks as well, using that penance smartly and those flash heal procs cleverly to reset the 3-stack CD. Weave in prayer of mending and holy fire/smite for boosted heals via archangel. Get that spirit shell in and time a halo or cascade to land when meteor lands. Fucking exhilarating.

Now: BUBBLE BUBBLE BUBBLE BUBBLE HOLY NOVA HOLY NOVA HOLY NOVA HOLY NOVA HOLY NOVA.

Obviously, our mana pools and regen will be changing, and we’ll be getting buffs from leveling and new talents, so I won’t comment on the balance – but the balance isn’t what upsets me. I trust that Blizzard will balance things. What I am concerned about is the deeper issue here: disc has been completely gutted and lost its complex interplay of skills. Disc was incredibly exciting to play – you had to know the fight, and you needed to use your skills well in conjunction with each other. You could do “OK” without maximizing that, and you could even do pretty good (which is a balance issue which should have been tackled) but to truly do great you needed to know every skill and know how to use them in conjunction with each other.

Now, I just play whack a mole and bubble spam.

…And the thing that frustrates me is that isn’t going to change. I’m going to passively get better at basic healing simply for levelling up and having gear, but that does not do anything to ameliorate the sting of losing all of my complex and engaging gameplay, nor do I want it to. I don’t want to be OP. I want to be CHALLENGED. I understand that simplifying things makes the game more accessible to more people….but does Blizzard even understand the ramifications of these changes?

I don’t want to get too heavily into the problems with PvP, but I’ll give this a short bit. First, self peels are super vital to healers. Who cares if we have silence? That’s very potent for arenas, yes – but most of us don’t play arenas. As someone who primarily just plays battlegrounds (because I’m a healer and love healing) god does stuff suck hard atm. I lost a self peel. I have a grand total of two instant casts (bubble and holy nova – both of which I already had). I lost my strategic and tactical stun interrupt. Hell, my freaking 4-set has even been nerfed. My hot has vanished. My strong prepared heal (glyphed Prayed of Mending) has been made a cast. On top of this, I lost my tiny hybrid potency (Shadow Word: Death), I’m physically weaker (lost Inner Fire glyph to increase armor), and now my shield glyphs are mutual exclusive – let me just reiterate this last part: I can either have a slightly less shitty bubble, I can have one that helps heal, or I can have one that deals damage. I am the class that basically just has bubble, but I can’t actually soup my bubble up to make it potent. That’s so damn depressing.

I think disc definitely had problems. Absorbs as a concept reward skilled healers way too well – if you know the fight, you can gimmick it to really just trivialize it and make things frustrating to your fellow healers. Absorbs really aren’t very fair as is, especially once you calculate in a good disc doing things like spirit shelling before big AoE pulses. My team didn’t like it initially, until we chatted out why I was nomming heals and making it clear that numbers meant NOTHING unless there were clear issues. I don’t expect every raid team to do that, and I’ve had to step in and go WHOA STOP to multiple pugs bitching people out for not competing with a 585 disc priest. Healers: you’re beautiful, keep on keeping on. You each have a special job to do. Raid leaders: Heal meters =/= dps meters so please stop citing them. Anyways, yes. Absorbs make other healers feel bad and unbalance fights, and disc was definitely due for a change.

Blizzard, however, cut the wrong things: aegis + crit gems + reforging + atonement were the big problems here (basically 50% of everything I did made an absorb), not the complex interplay around weakened soul and grace. Those things let anyone mindlessly stack absorbs without any skill, blanketing a raid without much thought, especially with this tier’s 2-set increasing crit. Seriously, most of us were doing fights with 30-50% of our healing coming from aegis. If you’re going to fix disc’s disparity, make it so absorbs require thought and pre-planning – and I’m baffled at why the more complex skillplay has been removed but mindless and RNG absorb procs have been left in. This isn’t smart gameplay. This isn’t rewarding clever players. Aegis is a fun concept, but its current iteration is the big reason why disc pisses people off. People do NO thought about aegis, it’s based on RNG, it can proc off anything, and derpy smart heals proc it….and as a nice toss of salt in the wound, it’s been kept in, while the actually engaging and intelligent aspect of the class has been gutted. Changing aegis to be a talent, making it be a buff you activate for x amount of time, or even just flat out removing it – these would have done a significantly lot more to fix disc than the changes we’ve seen.

I really don’t want to think that Blizzard is just slashing stuff to cater to the least common denominator – partially because I think that will backfire badly. Let me draw it out.

Mythic raids: people are min-maxxing. They’ll bring 1, maybe 2 disc healers. The disc are frustrated but play and do ok. Thing is, this is NOT where the problem is.

Every other (ESPECIALLY LFR) raid difficulty: You roll in via group finder or automated match-making and there are 3-5 other disc priests (according to the wow census priests are BY FAR the most popular healer class). One priest bubbles some people. The other priests can’t kill that weakened soul, so they are stuck unable to use their most potent (and in WoD, prime) skill. The top geared healer sees their numbers dropping to shit* because weaker absorbs are eaten first, and are ridiculed by clueless derps (this is already happening), and subsequently loses interest in trying to help out lower-geared people. Healers start sniping or recklessly healing to raise their numbers. Newer healers feel heavily discouraged. The new AoE skill invites mindless spam. It really just creates a shitty environment.

* Note, I do NOT promote heal chart number linking. You should only ever refer to heal charts as a tool for analysis. Heal chart numbers on their own mean nothing. See this article for more enlightenment.

In short, I am really unhappy with where disc is now. I used to enjoy healing. I don’t anymore. Numbers can be tweaked. Skill interaction and a dumbing-down of healing is a far huger task. I am worried about the expac.

Some leadership tips

Figured this would be a good topic – share your thoughts and tricks on leading orgs! Note, this refers to MUDs, and cities, but WoW guilds can snag a lot of the same ideas. Here are my tips:

- The “Oh?”: I use this all the time. People often want to talk. Invite them to elaborate, simply asking “Oh?” when they bring up a topic. Let them have their own, unbiased window to chat about an issue.

- On winning elections: Nobody ever follows my advice with this, but this WILL win you an election….and bring you into office with a powerhouse of ideas to work with: don’t ask for votes. Don’t rely on a post. Go to people, one by one, and ask them what they want and what they think. You’ll get some REALLY COOL ideas, and people will remember that you were the candidate that directly listened to them.

- Take feedback. Often. I actually turned this into an active scheme for my city, with credit/promotion rewards – feedback is super crucial to running an org well. You’d be surprised the type of things you’re overlooking, as well as the ideas you can snag.

- FUN > all. Don’t bankrupt your org, but don’t be afraid to splash out to ensure people have fun. Money or credits spent to make things fun are merely an investment in the game and individual characters…there IS a return on that investment, eventually.

- Focus on the positive. Don’t punish for not doing – reward for doing.

- Create a culture. Orgs thrive on an identity. Encourage memes and in-jokes, repeat motifs until they become canon. Treat NPCs like they are real and build up storylines for them. Really reinforce what your org is – a strong identity makes it easy and fun to participate.

- Encourage people. If someone wants to do something, find a way to make it happen. We’ve got a ton of tools at our disposal, and it’s pretty impressive what we can accomplish with a bit of crafting, RP and gumption. If someone wants to try something out, your first answer should be “Sure, lemme figure out how to make that work.” The more people you get engaged, the better your org will be.

- Exploit your rank. Being an org leader kinda puts you on a pedestal, and that’s a really useful thing to use as leverage. Taking a spin at the dunk tank, or giving a recruit an interview – that’s potent and leaves an impact. It carries a lot more weight than anyone else doing that, and you can and should play up that privilege.

- Wade in there. It’s super easy to get caught up in paperwork and delegation – make sure to make an appearance every now and then. Aetolian leadership is often heavily about the cult of personality – and if you fade away from an active presence, your org is going to dwindle in response.

- Ask people for favors. This is a weird psychology thing, but people tend to feel more loyal and aligned with you if you ask them to do you a favor. It shows that you trust them, and that they are part of the pack, etc etc psychology stuff. Let’s be honest – as a leader, you’re probably swamped with work as-is. This is a complete win-win: you get help and the person helping out feels great for being able to chip in.

- Don’t be afraid to be the butt of the joke. Some of my biggest successful events as a leader have ridden on me being a complete goof or taking a fall. People LOVE seeing their leader humanized and relateable – a spin in the dunk tank, reciting a silly poem, paid to not talk or change your title, these kind of things are great ways to get people excited and engaged. It doesn’t mean your org hates you – on the contrary, it means they love you. If they didn’t like you, they wouldn’t care about messing with you!

- Public praise, private condemnation. Obviously there are times when you need to step in and say tsk tsk, but for the most part try to keep punishment between you and the person being punished. There’s already a harsh sting to being punished – publicizing it makes it 10x as dramatic and painful. On the flip side, make praise super public! This tells people what’s good to do to earn rewards, it makes the praised person feel good (if they are privately praised, they are left wondering why they aren’t good enough to be recognized publicly), and it uplifts morale.

- Credits/gold are for spending. Don’t hoard. Share the wealth with your orgs. Earning gold/credits motivate people to login more. Stockpiling gold isn’t a priority – we don’t have a war system and there isn’t a need to buy a ton of troops at a moment’s notice. Spend that gold on citizens, or buildings, or whatever inspires RP and activity.

- Foster RP. This is probably my proudest achievement as a CL. Be a RP facilitator – toss out an open-ended activity/RP prompt. Create events that encourage people to interact in fun ways. RP is super engaging, and finding ways to inspire it is the crux of good event building. It’s not about the show – it’s about the interactions the show prompts.

The Curious Case of Catalysts

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I haven’t posted in a while, and this post is going to be a fairly serious one – I am not going to write about gameplay or mechanics or design today, but instead talk about a curious facet of multiplayer gaming most of us have experienced but rarely are comfortable looking directly at: the complex emotions driving the players behind the avatars.

You’ve seen it before – hell, it may have happened to you: someone loses an event or contest, they’re replaced in a leadership role, or maybe they just slip up and wipe the raid… and then, suddenly, they react, disproportionately upset. It seems irrational. It’s a clear overreaction to a simple setback.

And so, you tell them, “Hey. Don’t worry. It’s just a game. Relax. Don’t be upset over it. It’s just a game.”

Stop. Doing. That.

If you went bowling with friends, and someone got a gutter ball and suddenly burst into tears, you wouldn’t just tell them to “Shut the fuck up, Donny!” (obvious exceptions excluded) – you’d go “Holy shit, what’s wrong?” or you’d hug them or ask them to talk about it. You’d instantly realize it’s not that gutter ball that’s upsetting them – obviously it’s something far more. The gutter ball was just the catalyst, simply the last straw on a pile of other problems – and that’s a connection we can mentally make, in a split-second, when the person is right there, in tears. They are hurting, and there are clearly deeper issues at the root of it.

Somehow, in online gaming, that instant, obvious realization is muddled.

Maybe it’s because we’re all remote. We can’t physically see the tears. The pain in their voices is muffled by the static of vent, or sanitized into choppy text. Maybe it’s because our chosen games, themselves, can loom large – dramas can seem more important than they are, and part of us thinks maybe the game itself and solely the game could be the source of someone’s emotional issues. Or maybe, maybe it’s because we play games for our own distraction. We don’t want to login every day to deal with someone’s personal, real-life crisis. We just want to kill monsters and roleplay being a hero and escape.

And that’s ok – you don’t have to fix everyone’s problems. It’s absolutely fine to recognize that you don’t want to – or can’t – invest that emotional energy to help someone. Most of us who game have stuff we’re struggling with, on our own. It can be exhausting and depressing to face those things, even in other people, during our happy-escapism time. AND. THAT’S. OK.

What’s not ok, what’s harmful and painful, is minimizing the experience someone else is going through. When you are hurting, you are hurting. Telling someone that it’s not a big deal will just push them away and make them feel ashamed for being upset. I know, I know, you’re trying to be helpful – but that’s not helping. Neither is demanding them to tell you what about the game in particular is upsetting them. If the game is merely a catalyst, they aren’t going to have a logical, clear answer…and they will feel even more frustrated and ashamed for that.

So what CAN you do?

- Be insightful. Recognize that there’s almost always something else going on with this person who is upset, and the game – or the gutter ball, or the broken dish, or that stuffed animal they found cleaning their room – is merely the catalyst. Don’t minimize what they are feeling by dismissing the catalyst. More than that, recognize that people are passionate about their hobbies – and for many, gaming is a social outlet, with aspects of our real life persona tied into it. It’s a tangled mess, and for many people, it’s hard to draw a black and white distinction.

- Be constructive. Instead of asking for specific game examples, instead ask how the setbacks or negatives in game are making them feel. This can be incredibly helpful to assist them in pinpointing the root of their frustrations and painful emotions. Maybe losing contests is highlighting how they feel like they can’t win real life. Maybe a roleplay arc involving losing a loved one is poking at buried feelings they have about an incident that happened a while ago. Emotions aren’t easy, and they don’t play nice – sometimes they are insidious and sneaky and creep in corners we aren’t watching, and identifying the underlying causes can be so useful to healthily addressing them.

- Be flexible. Not everyone responds to the same things in the same way. Once, right after my boyfriend and I broke up (Heeeeey, I’m back on the market, wink wink), I was having an absolute mess of a night online – and my friends in game thought the best thing for me was to log off so I didn’t do anything rash. They were harsh, thinking I needed tough love – and that might have been a good answer, except the reason I was so upset was that I was feeling ALONE. Being told to log off, when, at the time, the internet held the only people I had to talk to…that was fairly devastating and the most wrong thing I could have heard. It only amplified my feelings of rejection and loneliness. Be flexible in how you help someone. Try to assess where they are at and what the root causes of their emotions are. What works on one person, or in one scenario, is not going to be the universally best answer.

- Be supportive. Sometimes you won’t know what to say. Often you won’t know what to say. You’re not a therapist – you’re a friend…and that’s fine. Sometimes, all you need to say is “Want to talk about it?” or “Hey, I’m here.” They might not even take you up on that offer…but trust me, they hear it. Sometimes, all someone needs to know is that there are people there for them.

In short, don’t minimize what someone is feeling – to them, when they are experiencing it, it’s incredibly powerful and painful and hard and there are often underlying causes. If you can’t help them tackle that right now, let them know that you still care, despite being unable to help. If you can help, be insightful, constructive, flexible and supportive: understand that there are almost certainly bigger root causes, address their feelings about things versus just the things themselves, be flexible in how you deal with them, and, most importantly, at the very core, be supportive.

Let people know you’re there for them. I can’t emphasize how important this can be.

Disc Priesting for Tier 15 (part 2)

So I’ve turned into a bit of a raidlogger these past few months. I’ve been busy diving back into Aetolia lately, and the type of immersion and engagement you get in a roleplay-focused game with a much more intimate community…is heady. The new patch looming has drawn me back, and I feel like I should finish this post just for completeness! Enjoy a beautifully moody song that’s only tangentially related!

 

 

So, here’s the last third of Throne of Thunder’s fights from a disc priest perspective.

10. Iron Qon

Man, what is it with Blizz and their love for tornadoes this expansion? I get that the tech to throw people around is new, but….ugh, I hate this as someone who runs a pretty low-end computer. The tornado effects in general are very unforgiving for those with latency, and this fight features a double whammy of invisible ground effects on low settings (I won’t get into a rant about graphics settings). Anyways!

If you have decent DPS, you can push a lot (or all) of the first phase with only a single group stacking in melee. This goes for heroic as well (although the damage is going to be a LOT higher). The basic mechanic here is somewhat similar to the Majordomo from Firelands, with increased amounts of damage being taken by the stacked group in periodic bursts, so open with a spirit-shell fairly quickly (I usually do a holy fire and a smite or two to get an archangel charge or three) to get the CD rolling on that – it’ll be back up off CD when the damage is getting nasty again. Directly bubble the individual members of the stacking group and if you are running power infusion, feel free to use it as needed during this phase. Feel free to go WILD with your mana – there is a lot of upcoming downtime and you can completely regen to full. I tend to pop a shadowfiend at the transition on Iron Qon himself then slip in a hymn of hope – if you hymn while shadowfiend is out, it raises your max mana pool, remember, and shadowfiend is still coded to regenerate based on a % of your mana, so you get like an extra 2 or 3k mana a tick.

I belieeeeve we can fly....it only toooook fifty wiiiipes.... (totally unrelated, I know, but it's preeeetty)

I belieeeeve we can fly….it only toooook fifty wiiiipes…. (totally unrelated, I know, but it’s preeeetty)

Spirit shell should be back by the early part of phase 2 (be careful in heroic with timing, as the dogs vanish at 25% health! I kept forgetting this and was using CDs thinking I had until they got to 0 for a phase transition). Tossing a shell out on your team right before the wind storm is a great way to help mitigate that damage everyone is going to be eating, as heals do essentially nothing while inside the radius of the storm. Sidenote – a fun trick you can do if you have a warlock: drop a warlock portal at the stack point for windstorm and one outside of the storm’s area. Hop through the portal and lifegrip the tank to you for basically zero downtime on boss control (having the tank go through the portal makes him unable to taunt for 6 seconds, so you gripping him makes him instantly ready to tank the dogs).

Basically sit and do your nails and atone until the last phase. Very little going on here if people do mechanics right. On heroic, the damage is high, but not insanely so. Get a feel for who’s taking damage and shell as appropriate or just use FDCL procs to shell the tank.

Final phase – shell in the first or second fist smash so it’ll be off CD for the later smashes, which increase in pain the longer the final phase goes for. Gauge your DPS’s potential here to asses how long this phase will go for to help you with the timing.

11. Twin Consorts

This fight is insanely boring as a healer. It’s really a facile fight in general (unless you kill blue before red comes out. Don’t kill blue before red comes out, oh god). I pretty mindlessly atone for the majority of it, using spirit shell before tidal force. If you wanna heal snipe, use bubbles/shells on ranged before cosmic barrage. One thing to actually pay attention to – use bubbles on your tanks! Direct heals give a debuff which sometimes kills inattentive healers, but absorbs don’t give you that debuff!

 

Let the bodies hit the floor. So....so many bodies.... :(

Let the bodies hit the floor. So….so many bodies…. :(

 

12. Lei Shen

This fight is actually fairly low on healing demands if your team pulls off the mechanics right – that’s a big if, though, so be prepared for lots of heavy and random spot healing. Atonement + FDCL shines here, as smart healing and flash heal procs give you a nice coverage and instant casting as needed.

This isn’t really a big glaring spiritshell! fight, so just kinda weave it in where you want. If you want to game numbers, toss it out at the very start to absorb the first thunderstruck and stagger use from there, or use it before each transition to a new platform to absorb the raid damage. After the first intermission, shell can be good if you preblanket the raid before ball lightnings are formed. For phase 3, you can pretty much use it whenever as the raid takes fairly constant damage, but I like to save it as a tank CD option if things are getting hairy.

Disc Priesting for Tier 15 (part 1)

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First, hey! You only need 50 lesser charms to get your 3 weekly Mogu Runes of Fate. Seems Blizzard realizes that the dailies are…not being done daily. I may actually get mine each week. My raid team will be happy (shh, don’t tell them, I’ve just been feigning horrid luck).

So, a post. Since I’ve been lazy.

1. Jin’rokh the BreakerThis fight is actually a fairly simple one. It took my team 2 pulls to down him, and that was the first week with Tier 14 gear. The trick is just managing where you drop the ball lightning (hint: the grates at the edge of the area are all outside of the puddles) and healing through lighting storm.

This fight is GREAT for a disc priest. First, when your tank gets slammed across the room, a pool forms underneath him. Standing in that increases your healing AND your DPS. Hello – atonement! Lightning storm is a great time to use barrier and it happens every 2ish minutes, which means that you can preblanket the group with spirit shells every time (and the spirit shells benefit from your increased healing from the pool!).

1.5 Bridge Trash: The banshees here put a debuff on everyone, reducing healing done, so once you get 5 stacks for archangel, when she is at 75%, spirit shell for a few prayer of healings to eat up the damage before it gets to your team (and is subsequently harder to handle since the healing gets eaten by the debuff).

2. HorridonThis fight is more about properly dispelling and add management and is fairly relaxed as a healer. Atonement works well as a low-mana spot heal. If your team is having issues getting all the dispells off, switch to the glyph of mass dispell to help there – remember MD and purify are on their own CDs so, glyph or not, you still have 2 dispells to work with. Just be wary of overextending yourself mana wise – MD completely eats it up. Spirit shell is best used here as a tank CD (I like to pop it when I have 2 from darkness comes light procs) and it can also be helpful during the venom phase, when the second priest comes out, as you should see an increase in AoE damage there. At the 4th gate, when people have the reflective damage curse, it’s also useful to mitigate the damage they are doing to themselves, since DPS are lazy and bad. >_> Switch to atonement once Wargod Jalak is dead, as the raid gets a DPS boost at that point.

3. Council of Elders: Disc can be helpful on this fight if your team is having trouble burning Suul before his phase. Our DPS, although low, can definitely contribute. Aside from that, both holy and disc work quite well for this fight. For disc, use barrier at the very first empowerment from Malak to eat the damage from his empowered frost dot; follow that with spirit shell and/or bubbles on the 3 people splitting that. Make sure to put bubbles on the people with the dot when he is not empowered, and spirit shell if desired. I tend to leave spirit shell for a tank heal, with FDCL procs, especially when the tank gets stunned and can’t mitigate.

4. TortosGreat fight for disc, as every time you kick a turtle shell at Tortos, you get a 30% temporary DPS increase! Keep bubbles up on the tanks and (at least) on yourself before quake stomp. The few seconds before that can be good for spirit shelling the team up, but the hectic nature of that fight makes that hard in actuality, especially once more than one wave of turtles has gone out. FDCL procs + bat tank sprit shells are a good alternate use which is much easier to do while remaining mobile.

Ignore the skeletons...

Ignore the skeletons…

5. MegaeraI think this fight is DESIGNED for disc. Spirit shell can (and should) be used every rampage. What I do is power infusion for the 1st ramage, barrier for the 2nd, power infusion again on 3rd, and the 4th (THE ONLY RAMPAGE I CAN’T COVER OMG HOW AWESOME IS THAT COVERAGE!) is handled by our Shaman. Then barrier again! This fight works so so so nice with our CDs.

6. Ji’KunI pretty much exclusively heal up top during this phase, but atonement is great for helping kill the hatchlings/healing quickly. Spirit shell is great for quills. The fight itself is pretty basic, as a healer. I use barrier as needed (usually when we get a downdraft into pools because WHY DIDN’T YOU INTERCEPT THEM DPS ARRGGHHH).

7. Durumu the FORGET IT: I have a crappy computer, so I hate this guy SO. FREAKING. MUCH. Can barely see the maze. Anyways, disc is very useful for this fight – pop spirit shell during the beam phase to eat up damage your team will take from red. If I have any FDCL procs, I’ll convert those into shell as well before disintegration beam just to give me a bit more wiggle room with running the maze.

8. PrimordiusWe really only pulled this guy once so far, and he died, so. But, from a theory standpoint, I like holy better for this fight. I think disc can potentially be potent if you snag all the empowerments, but until that point, you’re going to be switching targets a ton while also being mobile (Primordius himself takes reduced damage unless you get buffs). Bubbles and spirit shell are good for caustic gas to mitigate damage, as well as for the single dot that gets slapped periodically on people.

9. Dark Animus: This fight is fairly easy from a healing standpoint, with the only heavy lifting coming in at the end. Use bubbles on the matter swap people and dispel them as soon as the bubble is there (it’ll be about 7-8 seconds on the debuff) – this will ensure that the person with the debuff is taking the majority of the damage, which your bubble then mitigates! Use spirit shell before interrupting jolt (make sure to stop casting before it hits), both to mitigate AoE damage and in case your fellow healers (but never you!) get interrupted and can’t heal for a bit.

And! This is as far as my team has gotten. Hope this is helpful!

Where is Kaliy?!

Man, I loved this show back in the day. Being from San Diego kinda made it super cool, as well. I used to play the PC game every day for my allotted half hour at the library’s computer after school. I had the highest score and was like…two freaking missions from taking her on directly…and one of the boys from my history class deleted my account, out of spite. Everything…lost! :(

There’s a transition here, I promise. See, I’ve been playing MUDs again, this time back to roleplay-enforced one named Aetolia (I’ll write more about that later, but let me say if you like roleplay, MUDs can offer a dramatic and engrossing experience, and Aetolia is one of the best out there for RP), and one of the things we’ve been doing as a community is writing blogs based on our characters in the game, using the 100 themes writing prompt.

This is a really awesome exercise, but everyone wants to use tumblr, so I’ve been fiddling over there. Feel free to go check that out, but I do warn you that it’s pretty heavily based on that game, so it might not make much sense: http://moirean.tumblr.com/). ANYWAYS, tumblr is icky. There is no autosave feature, and I am a slapdash typer, so when I accidentally closed the tab (and I can’t find an easy way to disable these shortcuts!) – bam. Two hours worth of writing gone.

Denial: nooooo! What just- wtf!

Anger: OMG TUMBLR YOU ARE HORRIBAD AND WHY DID I EVER TOUCH YOU AAARRRGGHHH

Bargaining: Look, I’ll take it back. I’ll even setup a meme page. Just…please…let me have it back? Please?

Depression: It’s gone for good, isn’t it?

Acceptance: Le sigh. Oh well. At least I got Lazarus out of it. (This is a really awesome Chrome extension that temporarily saves EVERYTHING you type into form fields for instant recovery if you close the window or hit the back button. Very useful for active bloggers).

Anyways, I’ve been all caught up in MUDs and writing and, oh, I started graduate level courses down at the university. So, that too. :P My guild is a bit bummed out by me, as I’ve become a bit of a raid logger, but I’m making steps to hang out a bit more each week with them outside of raiding.

To-Do tonight: a post about disc priesting through the first half of Throne of Thunder.

5.2 goodies

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Awesome, awesome dancing in this video. Picking it out of C2C’s selection (my favorite new group) because I am happy! Why am I happy? My guild did an impromptu run of Throne of Tunder – we reached critical mass of all our raiders online and decided to dive right in. After only a few pulls we downed Jin’kroh and this happened:

rankal

Anyways! 5.2 is here and with it comes some pretty fun new things. WoWInsider already does a great job of covering the fundamentals of this new, huge bunch of content. Byeond the core new additions, here are some fun little “extras” I’ve found so far.

Fish upon fish upon fish!

Ben of the Booming Voice makes a surprisingly quiet addition to this patch as a new NPC fishing from the river east of Halfhill.

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There’s a one-time intro quest to meet him where you learn about the ability to fish without poles (although this was introduced in Cata, not everyone knew about it!), and you can get some easy golden carp. After that, however, is where it gets awesome.

Ben gives you a daily “secret” about where the fishing is hot. And by hot, I mean on fire.

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Dozens of pools spawn in the daily fishing spot (make sure to use your Ancient Pandaren Fishing Charm!) and not only can you fish up the the special Nat Pagle rep fish, sealed crates, a minipet fish and the infamous turtle, fishing up enough pools eventually makes a super big pool spawn, called “Large Swarm of [insert daily fish here]”.

This pool can then be fished up, ala The Lurker Below, to summon a big ol’ monster named Krakkanon. This elite doesn’t do much damage, but he has a huge health pool, so you might want to bring some pals. From what I’ve observed so far, he can drop a stack of 20 fish, Nat Pagle rep fish, and Nat Pagle journals (increases your fishing 50 points, BoA, worth 1k gold!). He might drop even more fun things!

I advise systematically fishing each pool, as every pool you clear has a chance to make this pool spawn. It’s not a quick process (at least 30 minutes or more for one person; 50-100 pools), but I think this will become quicker over time as more people become aware of this new little bit of fun!

Faster Farming!

The master plough, introduced in 5.2, is now more effective than ever, finally stunning and (nearly) killing pesky vermin found in untilled soil. This is a great speed up to clearing your farm’s land (it’ll till up to 4 plots at a time).

There are also new seed bags, which let you plant up to 4 of each seed type at a time. Each bag holds 10 charges, so don’t be deterred by the price. Once you buy one, just point and click to plant all the plots in a targettable circle (plots must be tilled first!).

seed_bags

Pets, Pets, Everywhere!

If you are a fan of battle pets, 5.2 is a goldmine. Basically ever new part of the game drops battle pets. If you haven’t checked out the new Jurassic Park Island, head on over there. Bring a friend or 5 (we had a group of 10 at one point) and kill dinosaurs to collect bones which you can turn in for a mount or a battle pet. OR, go alone and just pinpoint the Zandalari trolls. These guys have a CRAZY high drop rate for minipets. They have 4 different ones they can drop, and we were seeing one pet drop for about every 3-4 trolls we killed.

Who's a cute widdle dinosaur? You are, aren't you?!

Who’s a cute widdle dinosaur? You are, aren’t you?!

The rares on Isle of Thunder also hand out shinies. Our very first kill on Haywire Sunreaver Construct (down on the southern beach), Muttonhocks and I each got a Sunreaver Micro Sentry. Mutton’s the pet battling fiend in this relationship, so I asked him if the little dude was any good. His reply? An emphatic, holy shit of a yes. Apparently rare mechanicals are hard to find, and this guy can do a variety of attack types, making him great for hunting all sorts of pets in the wild. Plus, he’s so big he can’t even display properly in your window, which makes me giggle far more than it should:

DGAF PROTOCOL ENGAGED

DGAF PROTOCOL ENGAGED. ALL SYSTEMS NORMAL.

The Raid That Wipes Together…

Finally, if you are on a raid team, you are going to want to have your team camping out Ra’Sha. He drops an item that lets you kill yourself. Ra’Sha’s Sacrificial Dagger is insanely useful for a progressive raid team – not only does the death incur no durability costs, if your whole raid has it, you can quickly die to fully wipe and end an attempt, instead of wasting time waiting for people to stand in pools or whatnot.

He hangs out in a cave tucked away in a little beach cove past the troll area. If you see a Hakkar look alive (bone wind serpent) you are in the right spot. Hang a right past that ominous little clearing and there is a cave guarded by two elites. Inside is Ra’Sha.

This way to self-initiated doom!

This way to self-initiated doom!

My team’s been camping this guy on rotation. We have about half of our raid team equipped with the daggers so far. He only drops one, you see, regardless of however many people attack him, and that drop only goes to whoever tags him, so it can be a bit of a slog to get them. They are completely worth it, however, for any raid team trying to be efficient!

Darkmoon Arising

The Darkmoon Faire also got some minor upgrades! The daily quests now reward a sack instead of a single token. The sack can contain between 1-5 tickets, as well as a chance at a fluffy Darkmoon toy, like the sandbox rides. Minor upgrade, but definitely a change that makes doing the dailies a lot more appealing.

The elite pet you can battle there also now rewards a sack of fun things instead of the single ticket he used to give. This sack rewards the same thing as the daily quests AS WELL AS pet battle goodies. Not a bad change, at all!

I’m not sure when this change went in, but fishing at Darkmoon Island also now fishes up Pandaland fish, instead of the crappy level 1 stuff.

Plus, finally, you can get this:

AM I NOT FABULOUS?!

AM I NOT FABULOUS?!

(Caveat: it actually gives 10% extra rep/xp when used and using it consumes it. It doesn’t stack with the carousel buff, and you can only use it during the Darkmoon Faire Season. Still, for only 10 tickets, it’s kinda worth it just for awesome screen shots…)

Those are some of the less advertised goodies I’ve noticed with 5.2. Hope you are enjoying the new patch!

And now for something completely different!

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My guildmate Zakkimatsu loves to make videos of us raiding (I’ve linked several on this blog). He released this short little outtake video yesterday, and it cracked me up:

It’s gotten some amused responses from the WoW forums and reddit as well. The editing is awesome (he’s really getting good at making these!), and it seems like the in-guild jokes we share touch on things most raiders have experienced.

Check all the things.

Check all the things.

The pre-pull checklist cracked me up the most, since these topics (and reasons for wipes) have happened multiple times for us, to the point that they are now memes in our guild. For me, that’s the best part of hanging out with a group – you develop inside jokes and can laugh at silly things that have happened…and the fact that we can do that for an online game is a good sign that our guild has built up a community beyond just getting loot.

I found some of the comments surprising, reading people saying that they wished they were still having fun raiding like we seem to be. What has killed this fun for them? Why still continue if it’s not entertaining? For me, this shared community is why I raid! For those of you out there not raiding – what’s turned you off to the raiding scene? What would draw you back?

Lovely ladies

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So another blogger posted an interesting survey recently, although the sample size is small enough that I suspect there is some definite self-selecting bias in there. To me, that means we really can’t make broad extrapolations from the data. I still find the issues raised to be interesting – how does our gender identify with our toon? How does our gender affect our play? How does our relationship status interact with our gameplay?

However, the biggest “reveal” seemed to be the “issue” of female toons being hypersexualized.

I, personally, don’t understand the drama and “issues” that come up regarding costumes, especially those of female toons. Part of what attracted me to Tera (though I never truly played, their free-to-play launcher has serious design flaws with the download) was the highly sexualized costumes. On the same note, I love to transmog my blood elf in WoW to wear pantypants and crop tops.

See, I’m a female gamer, and I’m straight. I just like seeing my avatar as sexy – I don’t have the sexiest body IRL, and I like the escapist fantasy of running around as a badass damn sexy lady. I even play my characters in MUDs (text-based games) or freaking D&D as wearing skimpy gear. So do the other RL females in my D&D group. Think about that for a moment – there are no visuals attached to these last 2 genres, but we still make a conscious choice to pick “sexy” outfits.

Perhaps that hints at an underlying issue with society. Perhaps, however, it hints at a deeper issue with the portrayal of females in games.

These surveys always seem to insinuate that there is some underlying motive, usually by men, for wearing sexy gear, but why is it so bad to want to play a super sexy version of yourself as a female gamer? The overly muscled avatar isn’t nearly as criticized, but that is the male equivalent. To be frank, we like playing our idealization of ourselves – and I see nothing wrong with that.

My visualization of my MUD thief. Skintight leather, aye!

My visualization of my MUD thief. Skintight leather, aye!

I got into a rather big fight at work once with a handful of other gamers about female avatars and how they are portrayed. They were indignant and upset that female characters were portrayed as sex symbols, rather than as legitimate characters. My response to this, however, is that ACTIONS are what define the character, not her clothing – and that fact that the focus is on her clothing, even if it’s to protest what she’s wearing, is focusing on the wrong thing.

If a female character is marginalized in a game, there is a lot more than her outfit as the culprit (unless it’s something incredibly asinine and nearly-porn-like such as Bayonetta, where the devs seemed to think that her outfit constituted half the gameplay). Often there is a flat story or lack of real character development or motivation.

Consider WoW. Let’s name some strong female roles: Jaina, Garona, Anveena, Sylvanas, Sindragosa, Lana’thel, Vereesa Windrunner, Alexstraza, Tyrande, Onyxia, Magatha Grimtotem. That’s a good number of chicks; tweleve. Now, let’s remove all the one who have a big chuck of their story intertwined with a love story. This leave us with….Sylvanas and Lana’thel. Wait, out of 12, only two have stories that stand independent of their relationships to males? And those two got screwed over and corrupted?

Applying the Bechdel Test to video games yields a depressing result:

In order to pass, the film or show must meet the following criteria:

  1. It includes at least two women,

  2. who have at least one conversation,

  3. about something other than a man or men.

That, in my opinion, is what makes a female character marginalized. Tyrande could walk around 24/7 without clothing and still be an entirely powerful character if her focus was on freaking leading the night elves, instead of making her get caught up in (and her actions subservient to) a random love triangle. There are dozens of male characters who have storylines – or even ambient roleplay – that have nothing to do with romances. It is often the exception when their romantic lives are involved. Why doesn’t the same apply to the females?

Interestingly enough, touchedthesky’s survey shows that both male and female gamers, on average, got the same amount of insults about their ability – something which suggests that gamers, on the whole, are egalitarian with their dickish and trolling behavior. We all know that there is the random weirdo and creep, but it seems like today, perhaps, there isn’t actually a huge stigma associated with gender and gameplay. So, I think it’s fair to say that there isn’t some huge bias against female gamers on the part of the devs.

Another self-portrait of my sexy Thief lady!

Another self-portrait of my sexy Thief lady!

My theory? I think it’s unintentional and merely a result of the industry. Video game companies hire far more males than they do females (again, due to self-selection bias, but this time with the job applications). The gap is lessening over time, but it is still a largely male dominated industry. I’m not trying to suggest that male devs are sexist – I am merely stating that they may have stumbling blocks when characterizing females. Hell, I know I’ve had issues trying to RP a male character and have resorted to stereotypes.

However, until a conscious effort is made to make a solid gender equality in games, or we get enough of both gender hired that it becomes irrelevant, I worry that this is something we’ll be stuck with. And it doesn’t matter how many sexy hotpants you give me in game, if the female characters are badly written, I will be turned off.

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