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 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. 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: 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!


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:


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.


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.


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!).


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:



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:



(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.

Spirit shelling your way through tier 14


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So I’ve been sucked back into MUDs and have only been playing WoW a bit every now and then between raids – my guild is now up to 3/6H MSV, 6/6 HoF and 4/4 ToES! Huzzah! I intended to post this ages ago, but it might still be helpful for other teams given how 5.0 raid content will still remain semi-viable for gearing in 5.2.

Spirit shell is, in my opinion, the best trick up discipline priest’s sleeves right now. I loved the spell since the moment we got it, even with all of the initial wonkiness and awkward feeling it first had for use. It rewards intelligent foresight, which I think is a core aspect of discipline priest play – we don’t just heal reactively, but we also use our knowledge of the fight and our raiders to blanket the raid before the damage hits.

So, here’s my quick breakdown of the best spots to pop spirit shell in each fight this tier:

Mogu’shan Vaults

  • Stone Guards – Excellent to use before an overload if your tanks identify that they are going to be unable to execute a juggle with the dogs. This can and does prevent a wipe. I ran holy for this fight due to the better mobility until I got better gear (plus disc was bad off back then), but spirit shell can have moderate use here. For heroic, the mines do enough damage that using it whenever you have a free CD can mitigate raid damage – however I saved mine for when I had From Darkness Comes Light procs and used it on tanks due to the immense amount of damage they take.
  • Feng – Perfect for every phase of the fight. If your tank missed grabbing an interrupt, use it for epicenters where nullification barrier is off CD. Use it at the start of draw flame that nullification barrier isn’t eating (draw flame damage ramps up, so starting the shell at the start of draw flames is good timing). For phase 3, use it for the arcane velocities that are not mitigated by nullification barrier. For heroic, you can use it for a general damage blanket during throw shield (though the damage is a bit spotty, so atonement covered that quite nicely).
  • Gara’jal – Spirit shell is stupid awesome in this fight. Voodoo doll damage almost always starts at the tank, so use bubble and spirit shell to absorb that damage off the bat with spirit shell and flash heal (even better with From Darkness Comes Light procs, but remember to save 2 for when you go in totems). The other voodoo dolls with take minimal damage.
  • Spirit Kings – Great right off the bat to absorb Qiang’s massive attacks. Spot heal until Meng is active and use spirit shell before maddening shout.
  • Elegon – Use early on to mitigate damage from Total Annihilation. A good timer for this is to start blanketing right after the celestial protector spawns. Atonement is amazing in this fight because of the dps and hps boost, so smite and offensive penance are your prime heals for most of this fight (especially since THOSE heals can reach the other side of the platform during draw power, whereas your direct heals can’t reach). I usually toss in another shell (or do a hymn of hope) while pillars are being taken down, just to absorb any splash damage from adds. Finally, in the last phase, spirit shell is obviously useful against the constant damage – try to get it out during that moment your team is grouped up at the console, so everyone goes in blanketed in absorbs.
  • Will of the Emperor – Use right before titan gas, obviously. However, there is time for 2 shells between titan gas phases, so I pop shell when I get FDCL procs to give the tanks extra absorbs.
Spirit (binder) shell (s)

Spirit (binder) shell(s)

Heart of Fear

  • Vizier – AMAZING before force and verve. For timing, I do instant holy and 4 smites to get full Archangel and then shell and prayer of healing. Timing is perfect to eat most of the force and verve – follow with a cascade or halo during the active F&V.
  • Bladelord – If you can get the timing down, this is great to use before unseen strikes. It makes a huge difference and can prevent wipes if people are slow to stack. Also, start shelling around 25-23% of the bosses’ health to give your team a night blanket that absorbs nearly all of the damage from storm unleashed (during which you can’t heal!)
  • Garalon – Start shelling when your pherome carrier is around 15 stacks, assuming you switch in the early 20s. Or just shell whenever it’s off CD, since the constant raid damage is just that nuts. The trickiest part of this fight is being able to heal people in range, since there is a lot of movement from the melee DPS. Bonus points – stand in the blue ring and smite/penance the legs. 200k heals for each penance tick? Yes, please!
  • Windlord – Shell before rain of blades, especially in the later parts of the fight. The trick to this is that the DBM timer shows you the ability’s CD, not actually when the ability is about to happen (the actual ability is several seconds after that) so shell once that CD is at 0, instead of anticipating having a shell up at 0 on the timer.
  • Amber Shaper – Use bubble and shell, especially with FDCL procs, on people afflicted with parasitic growth (and tell your other healers to stop freaking healing the people). In the later stages of the fight, this can and does save lives! Also be very wary of atonement if parasitic growth is up during phase 3, due to the smart-heal nature – a quick shell, however, can ensure that the person with growth remains with higher health than others, allowing you to smite away!
  • Empress – Shell is excellent to blanket the raid before a dissonance field pops. You can also use shell to absorb damage from cry of terror when targets are inside the dissonance field. For phase 3, damage is fairly constant, so you can just use it on CD.

Terrace of Endless Spring

  • Protectors of the Endless – The best use of this (especially if you are going for elite, which you should! It’s especially doable with a disc priest!) is to eat the increasing raid damage from corruption. Use it more heavily as the fight goes on and the damage builds up.
  • Tsulong – Simply use on CD during night phase to mitigate constant raid damage. Bonus points – during day, save your inner focus and 1-2 FDCL procs for sun breath. Start casting greater heal shortly after he begins casting sun breath (so your greater heal casts RIGHT when he starts breathing). You can get several million healing each breath this way.
  • Lei Shi – I use my FDCL procs with spirit shell to give tanks extra absorbs, especially during the spawn elementals phase. Ideally I’d use this for get away, but it’s really impossible to predict when that’s coming. :(
  • The Sha of Fear – UGGGHHHH. Hate this fight. I use spirit shell when I’m on the main platform to give extra absorbs in case people get hit by the adds’ bolts.

I’ll write up a version of this for the next tier, once we start raiding. Happy priesting!

Sha of Tedium

So my guild downed the Sha of Fear on Sunday. Yay! Incidentally, you can play the above song 3 times and hit the chorus of a 4th repeat before that stupid boss dies. I know. I counted.

For the final boss in a raiding tier, it’s a completely underwhelming and irritating fight. I mean, feel free to watch it and see:

Ha. Yeah. You totally didn’t watch that whole thing – I wouldn’t have either, and it’s a video of ME.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy that we downed him (though irked at myself for doing Karasang and Townlong on my paladin instead of my priest, so now I have to go back and do quests again to kill the Shas of Despair and Junkfood or whatever to get my raid title). I am not, however, looking forward to doing him next week for farm.

Here is my issue with this fight:

- First, if you’ve done it on LFR, you basically have done it on normal. The mechanics are exactly the same; the numbers are just kicked up a notch. So, there isn’t really an extra element, mechanically, to deal with – to me, that’s a let down.

- Second, the few mechanics that the fight has are really easy. Don’t stand in shit on the ground. Stand behind pillars when the panda is at 20%. Kill adds when you have the debuff from killing panda. Stand in cone when debuff is gone. That is it. It is REALLY easy.

- Third, however, is if anyone messes up on those mechanics, you’re wiping. Because of how your group gets split up, you don’t have leeway for anyone to die unless you have INCREDIBLE dps, or you won’t kill the panda quickly enough to get back in time for cackle, and then the boss just starts 1-shotting everyone because there’s nobody in range for him to tank. You can hope for a brez, but half the time your brezzer(s) will be in the other group or in the wrong pagoda.

- Fourth, your team is split up for basically 90% of the fight. This means that if people ARE messing up those mechanics, you won’t even see it half the time. I literally NEVER saw when people were dying – I’d just see them suddenly dead and hear the raid lead sigh and say, “Wipe it.” This kind of design is bad bad bad for team morale, as it’s a lot easier to get irritated and frustrated with people if you aren’t even seeing what they are tripping up on. There’s just also an emotional change, I think, that you feel in a fight when you aren’t really WITH half of your team. I actually felt a bit lonely without the other half of my healing team.

- Fifth, the fight is LONG. Nearly 15 minutes. That’s insane. You dedicate a lot of time to each pull, and that wears on people. We bloodlusted twice. I started fear warding myself as a joke to pass the time. As a side note, priests – shadowfiend shares a perfect cooldown with cackle, so pop it on the panda each time to help your dps team out.

- Sixth, and my biggest issue with the Sha of Fear, is that it is monotonous. You go through one mechanic in the first 3 minutes, and then you repeat that 5 times. There is NOTHING that changes the entire fight. Deathwing used a similar setup but HE GOT HARDER EACH PLATFORM. There is no rampup with the Sha, nor are there any phase transitions or extra elements to juggle as you push him lower. It’s basically 10 superfluous minutes of not fucking up.

Yay! Dead. FINALLY. We didn't fuck up :)

Yay! Dead. FINALLY. We didn’t fuck up :)

Not fucking up a static setup is far, far, far less exciting and fun than actively doing things to culminate in a win. Another fight with only one phase, Stone Guards – the very first fight in this tier – was more exciting than the ultimate boss, because Stone Guards gives us a continually increasing number of tasks to handle: the mines keep going off, littering the floor with more and more pitfalls. Chains and puddles mean that players have to dance around these obstacles, while maintaining heavy situational awareness. At some point, the lead will probably make a call to clear chains or clean up mines, and there will be a quick scramble to create breathing room while the tank juggles an overload.

In short, shit gets harder the longer the fight goes on. You feel a mounting sense of pressure and the fight gets more hectic. Small mistakes add up and you push more, hoping you can just hit hard enough, just heal fast enough, just keep going and hang on to down the boss before the slip-ups overwhelm you. There is tense anticipation, true excitement and shouts of palpable relief when you finally manage to succeed. To me, that’s a great fight.

Sha of Fear is not that. You could take away 10 minutes of it, and the fight would be unchanged. There isn’t even any long-term concern over resource management, because of the orbs and their mana return. The fight at 3 minutes in is exactly the same as the fight 10 minutes later.

I have to wonder what exactly Blizzard was aiming for with this fight. It seems to be a complete dud, but perhaps I am missing something essential and vital that I just didn’t experience during our pulls (I only heal right now, so my view is from that side of things). I hear it’s much harder and more exciting on heroic, but I don’t think “It’s way cool on heroic” is a valid excuse for a poor version on normal.

I think a simple change or two could have made this fight a lot more epic. Have the difficulty increase as the fight goes on, even if that just means tweaking damage so it ramps up over the fight’s duration. Maybe increase the number of adds that spawn; by the end, players would have to leave a good handful of them up, and focus on hectic avoidance of their ground effects. Have the cackles come sooner and sooner. Have a second type of cackle (an ominous chortle?) where something else happens in the pavilion (even if it’s just a RP change ala brain room with Yogg-Saron).  Have an ominous giggle where you just swoop around on a baby sha taking damage for a while. Ok, so maybe I really just wanted to fly around on the baby shas more….They really did do something right with the animation for that part. The movement feels awesome (why can’t the rocketway in Azshara feel that fast and swoopy?).

In any case, anyone else out there downed this guy? What did you think about it? Any thoughts to how he could have been spiced up?


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