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Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

My last post on personal situational awareness promised a follow on. Last time I was talking about you being aware of things that affected you in your role as healer; your spec and gear, your buffs and debuffs, the big purple ooze at your feet. This time we’ll broaden the outlook and pay attention to the things around you.

First off, as a healer, you care about damage that you and the party may take. Anything that will not cause damage or prevent damage from being repaired is inconsequential. In dungeons and raids that means you can ignore… um… the vanity pets that people have out. Usually. Pretty much everything else out there is a potential damage cause or complication. Let me define what I mean by those really quickly:

A damage cause is something that results in a player losing hit points. This includes mobs, cliffs you can fall from, exploding mushrooms, and puddles of goo on the floor.

A damage complication is anything that makes the task of repair or preventing damage more difficult. This would include pillars that block line of sight, curses that reduce healing effectiveness, and things that your party members do to themselves and their pets (for instance when a warlock’s imp is phase shifted and you can’t drop a heal on it).

These two factors work together to make your life interesting. Proper situational awareness will help you know what combination of these factors is in play at any time.

Most of the time in instances, the causes of damage are fairly predictable. Certainly by the time you’ve run Drak’Tharon Keep a hundred times you’ll know which groups you can be afk for and which you actually have to heal, when there’s going to be aoe damage and when you can just let your hots tick. Being aware of the causes of damage lets you heal proactively rather than just reactively, by throwing out hots or shields or timing a big heal to land just when the damage has hit.

Damage complications usually need to be handled as they appear. Again after a few dozen times through an encounter you’ll know that the orb stands on the platforms in OK can block LOS if the tank runs around behind them, or that such-and-such mobs cast silence, and plan for that, but in general it’s the complications that make our job hard because let’s face it, the biggest source of damage complications come from our fellow party members and not the encounter. When the hunter disengages right back into a patrol, or the shaman’s totem shoots a passing sentry, or the tank doesn’t do anything about the mobs that the mage has kindly frozen next to you, that’s when your life gets interesting. Proper situational awareness can help you before this sort of thing happens.

Try to note where your party members are at all times. That way when someone aggros another group, you can be prepared to heal, or be over next to the tank, or even run away and shadowmeld and let them all die, depending on what you feel like doing. This is really hard when you’re focused on health bars and nothing else. You’ve got to ditch healer tunnel vision and broaden your scope to see everything.

Pay attention to debuffs on the others in your party. I’m bad at this; Vuhdo tells me about poisons and curses, since I can do something about it, and special boss debuffs, but diseases? If I’m lucky I’ll notice they’re dying too fast and heal them up. I ought to have a special icon for “something you can’t dispel but might wanna check out” that I apply to their health bars; it would help me with awareness.

Omen or another threat meter – I have Omen and also set Vuhdo to give me an overview of people’s threat. When a dps is pulling a lot of threat, I’m preemptively ready to heal. A paladin or priest healer might be able to use a threat-reducing cooldown on this errant player. Either way it could help prevent a death. On the other hand, if this person is regularly and deliberately pulling aggro, you may choose to let him take some damage and try to send him a message. That can work too. Either way, Omen is a handy healer tool.

Most of my wipes that shouldn’t have happened resulted from me getting too far behind in damage, getting aggro from mobs, or healing the wrong person at the wrong moment. Yes, other people usually did something wrong but I care about what I can do better, not anyone else. It usually comes down to where the immediate cause of wipe was a triage failure – I misdiagnosed what tools to use on what people – but the more general cause was me failing at situational awareness.

Healer tunnel vision kills! I can’t stress enough how important it is to get out of tunnel vision. Do whatever you have to do. Tweak your ui; get mods; disable mods; run a few instances as dps. Try something new and learn to get out of the tunnel.

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Situational awareness, or  “looking at more than just health bars so you see the puddles of goo on the floor”, is insanely key to being a good healer. So key in fact that I would further break down the topic into personal situational awareness and global situational awareness, the later being “seeing the goo that everyone ELSE is standing in”. So I’m breaking this up into two posts and starting with personal.

Imagine you’re looking at your WOW UI. There at the center of the screen, what do you see? You. It might be a dwarf priest, a Tauren shaman, a Draeni paladin, or a Tree (by the way, save the trees!), but it’s you. Too often in healing we are so busy looking at everyone else (at least, everyone else’s health bars) that we forget to look at ourselves.

To learn to escape tunnel vision we must be more aware of ourselves and our surroundings.  It makes a great story when we can say “… and then I realized I was wearing my fishing pole!” or “Then I remembered I hadn’t switched out of my PVP healing spec!” but in truth, when you say that, you have failed. Personal awareness is your first goal when entering an instance or a raid.

Your pre-flight checklist:

Am I in healing mode?

Healing gear?

Healing spec?

Tree form?

Am I ready to go?

Buffs ok? (what do your party members bring?)

Mana bar up?

Phone off the hook, dog outside, baby changed?

Is my party ready?

Identify the tank

Classify each dps player

Mentally categorize their resource type (more on the last few when I do the global situational awareness topic)

Communicate

Tell the tank “I’m ready to go”. Let him know after pulls if there were too many mobs or if you need a second. Remind the mage not to stand in fire.

This is in ideal world. In the real world, the tank has pulled three patrols before you’re actually in the instance, the mage is already dead, and the paladin doesn’t speak English and has given you Blessing of Might. So while you’re running to catch up, do as many of these things as you can, while firing off whatever “Oh Crap” spells you have and wondering if those Frost badges are really worth it.

During the Run:

Your location may vary fight to fight. In general, you want to be close to but not in melee range. If you’re too far away, then when the mage pulls aggro, frost novas the mobs next to you, and blinks away, then you’re in trouble. If you’re closer in the tank will have an easier time. On the other hand, sometimes you’ll want to stay back. Do you know that a mob throws chain lightning or fears? You might stay farther off. For a rule of thumb, never get so far behind that if the tank charges he goes out of range.

If you know an encounter cold, you might think about where you should stand to best help the tank. For instance in Utgarde Keep on the Prince fight, stand so that the tank is between you and the door where the skeletons spawn. When they aggro on you, they will run over the tank who has an easier job of picking them up than if he had to run over to you.  If you have a good tank friend, ask him about fights and where particularly you can stand to help him out.

Stay out of the fire, obviously. If you’re having tunnel vision, make your own health bar nice and visible so when you start taking damage you notice – and then move! Most fights you probably know cold by now anyway. You’ll know when a boss is going to do a move that means you need to move. Watch where you stand when you’re fighting dragons (head and tail are bad, stand on one side). Just run down an encounter before it happens so that when you need to react, it takes you less time

Remember your own defensive cooldowns: chances are when the party takes an AOE, you’ll take damage too. Throw a defensive cooldown ahead of time if you can, like Barkskin, to give yourself breathing room. Or have a shield or a hot on yourself already.

Watch your aggro: Try not to heal the tank until he’s got aggro. If you do pull, bring the mobs to him. Don’t count on him seeing that one that’s hitting you, take proactive steps. Again, if you have problems with tunnel vision, make your own health bar really big and obvious and when it starts going down, figure out why.

Afterwards:

Assess the run. If you were going with a friend, talk about it with them. Were there avoidable deaths? Places things could have been smoother? Figure it out and file it away under “next time”. Mistakes are for learning, not recrimination.

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Maybe you’re like me; totally psyched for Cataclysm, starting to be a bit bored with current content, wanting one last run through Old Azeroth before it becomes New And Improved Azeroth (Now with 500% more Lava!). And you’ve rolled, or are thinking of rolling, a class that can heal. Let’s say you’ve never healed before. Does the prospect seem daunting?

It definitely can, especially at low levels when you don’t have as many healing abilities. Team that up with low level tanks not having all their mitigation abilities and low level dps being no better than top level ones at not getting face stomped and a pug of RFC or Stockades suddenly approaches the difficulty and pain of a Blood Princes encounter.

The first thing you have to do is start thinking like a healer, and I think the most important skill there is triage. It’s a term referring to what battlefield medics or ER staff do; assess the injury status of patients in such a way as to save as many lives as possible.

For triage in WoW to work, you need to know what your abilities are and what they do. Even at low levels most healing classes will have at least a long slow big heal and a short fast small heal. Some classes already have hots or shields or other ways of preventing or healing damage. Make a mental inventory of all these.

Next, assess your party makeup. I’ll assume a classic five man group; fewer than five man and the problem gets easier. Our imaginary party will be a young Warrior tank, a hunter and his pet turtle Bessy, a frost mage, a rogue, and you, a priest (translate this to whatever healing class is appropriate; the priest is a good one for this scenario).

Notice that I set up this party so that other than the hunter’s Mend Pet ability, nobody else has healing spells. We’ll assume the rogue can bandage and likes to do so. Everything else is up to you.

Now set up a priority queue in your mind. It goes like this:

You
Tank
Whatever DPS has done the least to make your life miserable or you are romantically involved with
The other dps
The pet
The DPSer you are romantically involved with if he forgot that your birthday was last week

This is the “keep them alive” priority and not the “heal them” priority. What’s the difference? The “keep them alive” priority stays static the whole time; it doesn’t change unless someone annoys you enough to move down the ladder, or brings you chocolate and wine and moves up the queue. The “Heal them” priority queue changes every second of the fight. Here’s how it work.

You engage a small patrol. The tank picks up aggro and starts taking damage. You throw him a Power Word: Shield and a Renew and he stops taking damage while the shield is up. When it wears off, he starts taking some damage again. The Renew is a Heal Over Time spell and mends some of that damage, but he’s down about a quarter of his hit points and the mobs are still hitting him, so you start casting a Heal. (Assume you don’t yet have Greater Heal). Now he’s got his health back. You refresh the Renew, the mobs die, and everyone’s happy.

That one was easy! Only the tank needed healing. You adjusted your heals based on what he needed to keep his health bar full, didn’t waste mana, and nothing got scary.

Now on to the next pull. This one has more mobs and some of them are ranged. As you throw a Renew and Shield on the tank, it causes you to get aggro from one of the casters, who starts throwing ice bolts at you. You immediately put a shield on yourself and since you don’t have much damage, a Renew. Then the mage gets attention from one of the mobs, who wanders over and starts hitting him. The mage panics and runs over to you and then frost novas and runs away, leaving the mob right next to you. The mob decides that you look tasty and starts biting you. Meanwhile the tank just got critted and is at 50% health and falling.

Summary: You and the tank are both being actively hit
The mage is not being actively hit
You are at 70% life. The tank is at 50% life. The mage is at 30% life.
What do you do?

Well, whatever you do, you’ve got to get the mob off you. Take a few steps toward the tank. While the frost nova holds the mob can’t bite you. When it wears off, it will have to come toward the tank to get you. At the same time, refresh the Renew that’s on yourself. Now pay attention to the tank! If you can shield him again, do that. If the Renew is gone, refresh it. Then cast your fast quick heal, Flash Heal. It doesn’t do as much, but your tank is hurting bad and you need to get some breathing room. Often a couple of quick fast heals will get you enough breathing room to have time to cast your long slow top-them-up heal.

Now the tank is at 70%, you’re at 85%, and the mage is still hurting. If you can spare time, drop a Renew on him and let him stew. If you eventually have the time and mana, Flash Heal him to about 80%. More than that is a waste of your global cool downs and mana. He should have learned his lesson and not pull the mobs again this fight. A few missing health points is a good lesson.

Oops, mobs still not dead. The tank has them all now, but the hunter, who has been afk, finally wakes up and sends in his pet, who growls at one mob and gets it to turn and fight him. Bossy the Turtle takes some damage. You can choose to heal it, or not; the hunter ought to Mend Pet on it and he was stupid to have its Growl on, but the pet is doing good dps and if you can spare the mana, give it some love.

And the rogue is taking a little aoe damage. He bandaged himself earlier when things were messy, so now you drop a shield and a Renew on him, and then turn your attention back to the tank who is in need of more Flash Heals.

Oh, dear – you guys just aggroed the boss who was wandering around, and he runs in and throws a big AOE that damages you all pretty badly. What do you do now?

Throw a shield on yourself and the tank (if you were a druid you’d be dropping more HOTs on you both here) and then cast your AOE heal. Sorry paladins, you don’t have an AOE heal, but the other three classes do and this is where to use them; you’ve got at least three people hurt and the tank is not taking so much damage that your heal can’t keep up.

Now you’re all at manageable health. Go back to the tank, keep him alive, and – oh dear. You’re out of mana. This will be fun.

Warn everyone “OOM!” and hope they get the message. No matter how much damage is flying around, do not spend mana on heals for anyone except you and the tank, and mostly the tank. If he drops you’re all dead, whereas if you keep him alive you might survive this.

Every time you have enough mana, cast your Flash Heal. It’s the fastest cast you have and so will get you back into mana regen mode as fast as possible (takes five seconds after the end of your last cast for your mana regen to start actually doing much).

Now let’s talk about what happens when things really go haywire; multiple groups of mobs, aggro everywhere, tank getting low, mage getting squishy, and your own special set of ravenous admirers.

First off, don’t panic. Easier said than done, but don’t panic. If you do, things will get worse. The worst outcome here is a wipe. Nothing can be worse than that. Your goal, once things start going turnip-shaped, is to keep yourself alive at the end. Everyone else is a means to that end. Remember, you have the magic res fingers!

If you are to stay alive, that means someone has to kill the mobs that want to eat you. Probably that means keep the tank and some dps alive. Sometimes it means all the dps die really fast and you and the tank slug it out slowly with the last few mobs.

start with keeping yourself alive. That might mean moving instead of healing; go over to the tank and hope he pulls the mobs off rather than trying to heal through the bites. You are not the tank. Don’t act like one. If you have damage mitigation cooldowns, use them. A druid should throw a hot on herself, throw Barkskin, and go to the tank. A priest should shield herself. A Paladin can use Hand of Salvation or Divine Protection (use HoS on yourself, Divine Protection on the tank, and gain some breathing room).

Next, if the tank is getting low, throw heals at him while you scan everyone else. Is there someone who is very low but not actively taking damage? Throw a hot or shield or Flash of Flight/Flash Heal at him to give him more breathing room. Someone who is low and actively taking damage, and not the tank, is probably going to die no matter what in a “ah crap” situation. Don’t waste mana and GCDs on a mage who has three mobs on him. He will die and his friends will come eat you next. It is his job to ice block at this point and avoid death, not your job to save him.

Heal the most likely to survive; this is why it’s triage. You decide who lives, who dies. Who is stable or could be stable with minimal intervention? Did the hunter just have his pet growl mobs off of you? Heal that pet, unless the hunter is about to die, in which cast that’s wasted mana.

Keep an eye out for environmental issues that affect you; fire on the ground, curses. Moving cuts down on your heals but so does being dead. Some curses can be ignored or healed through. If you have a curse that makes your casts take 50% longer and it can be removed, remove it! The one GCD and minimal mana you spend there pays for itself almost instantly. On the other hand, if it’s a curse that makes you have 100 less skill at Bows, like in SFK sometimes, ignore it.

Avoid tunnel vision at all costs. I think this is the number one cause of healer death; you’re too busy staring at the health bars to notice the gnolls eating your spleen. One of the best tools for preventing tunnel vision (and sometimes for causing it) is a good raid healing frame mod. Healbot and Grid + clique are both popular setups; my personal favorite is Vuhdo which I think combines the flexibility of Grid with the ease of setup of Healbot. Other sites have done far better rundowns of how to install and tweak these; if you’re stuck for ideas, I recommend visiting the http://www.PlusHeal.com forums and their UI and Mods subforum to see screenshots and suggestions of Healer UIs. Sometimes though healing frames can make tunnel vision worse, when all you focus on is the part of your screen with little boxes and icons. I suggest moving the frames somewhere near the middle of your screen and forcing yourself to see other areas.

Other than that it’s about practice, practice, practice. Going into battlegrounds can be good practice at getting a UI with raid frames set up to where you can concentrate on the frames but still watch your environment. Pug some dungeons – and please don’t wait til you’re 80 to start. It is harder to jump in at top level because your gear will be lagging compared to what people expect. But if you did just dual spec to Holy and you’re 80, go ahead and start! Don’t take stupid comments personally, just have fun.

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I’m a bit of a control freak.

(Reversion is not allowed to make a comment on that statement)

I’ve always had control freak tendencies. Sometimes they come in handy, like when I was applying to grad school. Or organizing a bookstore run with my younger siblings. All six of them. No surprise it would spill over to WoW; the biggest surprise is how long it took me to roll a healer.

As a Resto druid, my inner control freak is very very happy in 10 man raids. I feel like I’m responsible for keeping everyone alive and I like it. Even if I’m supposed to be raid healing I can keep an eye on the tanks for a good time to drop a Swiftmend or my Nature’s Swiftness + Healing Touch macro.

25 mans are another beast. “Ok Analogue you keep Rejuvs on groups 3-5″. There’s my healing assignment. Drop a WG on the melee if I can spare the GCD. Otherwise, Rejuv, wait for the order to battle res. Drop a hot on the tanks. Don’t even think about Nourish, unless the fight goes to heck and the healers start dropping.

It’s fun, don’t get me wrong. I see more of the fights in 25 man. I’m glad I did Rotface in 25 first; I have a really good idea of what to do in 10 man now. But I’m not in control. How could I be, as one of 25, one of 7 healers? It’s as bad as being DPS. In 10 man, I’m one of two, maybe three, performing my role. I can challenge myself a lot more. Should I Swiftmend the tank or heal up that mage over there that took a few ticks of fire damage before moving? Do I need to focus heal the Mark target? Doing my own thing and actually thinking for myself is an asset. In 25 man, I’m part of a team, greater as a whole than as a part. We can do some awesome things together – but deep down inside I feel insecure.

Do other healers feel this way? I bet it’s more of a Resto druid thing than, say, a Holy Pally thing. I think we probably are more likely to feel like we have to heal everyone at the same time rather than focusing on assignments, but I might be wrong.

And how, when the tank’s health bar keeps going down, can I NOT heal him?

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The tank is the leader of the party. The big cheese, the head honcho, el presidente…

Some of you are disagreeing already, assuming more than one person is reading this. To fully explain that statement we should take a glance at the nature of leadership and then put it in the context of WOW. Webster.com defines leadership as something a leader does…  yeah that helps. It defines a leader as someone who leads… hah. But further down it says that it means someone who ‘has commanding authority or influence’. Right, so tanks have authority. Hah! No really, they do. It is just a limited kind. It is limited in EXACTLY the same way all authority everywhere is. You get authority as people give it to you. In politics they sometimes call it a ‘mandate’. Like if the big issue in an election was ‘fix XYZ’ then the person that wins is said to have a broad mandate to do things about that issue.

Now think about a club. Let’s say you are the president of a card playing club. What authority do you have? Well you can decide what day you are going to play cards on. And people will go with that decision unless you pick a bad one. So you get to pick any day that works for the majority…. Ok.

And you can spend the membership dues on new cards. You have total authority there. You can buy ones with the checkered pattern on the back or ones with pictures from a gift shop some place. But you can’t buy a new car with the money. You can also decide who brings the snacks each week. But you can’t order one person to buy pizza every week. Your authority has a narrow river bed it flows down. You can do what you want inside those narrow banks, but if you try to splash your authority out of those narrow banks the other people just laugh and ignore you, or leave the club, or kick you out for embezzling the dues money. It is a voluntary organization and the leadership you wield has only the power to motivate people along lines they have implicitly agreed to in advance. And you have the responsibility to, within those confined channels of authority, make decisions and lead in ways that further what the people signed up for. In the case of a card playing club those things are playing cards on regular schedule and having fun.

Pugs are like this. Tanks have the authority that the other people give them. It comes with the responsibility to help make the run go well. You can give orders and make demands based on things they will think are reasonable. But within those bounds of reasonableness you have full command. If you say ‘I am going to pull this group LOS to this corner here’. That is a 100% reasonable statement. It is also an implied command for everyone to support that action. If some moron messes the pull up you have a mandate to complain to that person. The other members, assuming they are reasonable, and assuming you don’t take it so far you are ‘spoiling their fun’, will support you complaining to that player and telling him to not mess up your LOS pulls. It is this pact of peer pressure that gives the tank the mandate to give instructions that will further the group’s aims (finishing the run, getting loot).

For the good of the group the Tank MUST speak up and communicate if something is going wrong. It is the responsibility that goes with that authority. If a hunter left his pet on growl it is well within the mandate of the tank’s authority to say something about that. To a point. He/she can’t throw a hissyfit over it any more than the members of a card game club would be ok with the president flipping out over bad shuffling. They might be ok with some gentle remedial shuffling instructions or advice, but not with a full blown tantrum.

It is not ok for the leader to let something important slide. If some moron is pulling without you and you don’t say something about it you are failing as a leader. The other guy is making the mistake but it is YOUR duty to speak up and try to fix the problem. That is leadership. If the problem is fixed, everyone wins. But there is a fine line here. If the DPS is all impatient, and you stop the whole run to give them a lecture about impatience you are more likely to get a vote-kick than you are to get a smoother run. One of the things a leader has to do is make the most of the resources at hand. A manager can’t fire everyone who works for them for bad performance. Instead they must assign people to tasks that fit their ability, get them training where they need it, and fire people only as a last resort.

For example if the hunter can’t figure out how to turn off his pet and absolutely insists on picking a target you are not primarying you can point them toward a caster mob, even mark it for them. This is taking a bad situation, an uncooperative DPSer with bad skills, and assigning them to a task they ARE capable of doing. This also saves your sanity as a tank. Plus it helps the other person learn a skill and play style that is useful for groups. If the DK insists on gripping and pulling stuff, you might just let him tank that target. It gives you one less mob to tank and hopefully he takes enough damage to die in shrieking agony. But don’t be passive aggressive about it. If you just drop a mob and don’t say anything everyone assumes you are a bad tank. If you tell the dps ‘you yank it you tank it’ then they know you are making a stand on bad behavior and they can either correct it or tank their own mob. Again, stopping everything and throwing a hissyfit over either of these examples would only piss off the whole group. But even short of that there are active steps that can be taken to either fix or harness the behavior.

The interesting thing about tank leadership is that you don’t have to do anything more than what you do… most of the time. Moving ahead from group to group, picking your targets, marking where needed, checking on the healer’s mana before a boss, throwing your cooldowns when needed, taunting mobs where they need to be, moving the melee tangle out of the fire, all these are what a tank should be doing anyway. But they are also all leading a group.

My dad once told me being a leader was keeping management off the back of his people so that they could get their jobs done. Things like helping them get their payroll problem straightened out with headquarters, or handling the annoying customer so they can get back to the register. Those are things a manager does to enable his or her people to get the real job done. In the case of a tank you are doing exactly the same thing. You are there to do anything you can to let the dpsers kill things. That is it. You goal is to line up packs of creatures for them to kill. Your goal is also to do it at a rate where the healer can keep up. In this way you are warding off the obstacles in that person’s way also. That is your job. But if one of the DPS is doing something that threatens the whole it is also your job to try, within the bounds of your authority mandate, to fix the problem.

If the rogue over behind the boss is standing in the fire then you can tell him to move, or you can shift the boss and force him to move. But you can’t do nothing and then sneer when he dies. That is not leadership and that is not your job. You forced him to have to decide between being in good back stab position and being safe and he chose wrong. Or he just did not notice, but YOU did. If a leader notices his people making a design mistake, or even flipping their burgers wrong, but does nothing about it, then they are all at fault and the group as a whole fails. But the leader is at fault most of all. It is only after the leader has done what he can to help the others fix the problem that the responsibility for the failure moves to solely rest on the ‘underlings’.

There are a lot of bad leaders out there. Most people just want to get along. So they say nothing and the group muddles along, or fails and re-forms. And often no learning happens. There are a lot of variables in a failed group and many people can’t see/admit what they did wrong to cause, or help cause the problem.

Anyway I think I have wondered off tanking and into advice giving in general so I will wrap this post up.

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WoW and Stereotypes

I’ve read a couple posts over the past few days that brought this to my mind:  Klepsacovic’s I Started Blogging To Meet Women and Would You Pay to Play With a Girl over at Pugnacious Priest, Pink Pigtail Inn’s Musing Over Boobs and a new one I discovered linked from that, Girls Don’t Exist on the Intertubes at a blog called Digital Incorrectness.

What’s sort of funny is how the assumptions being analyzed in these blogs are a bit contradictory. One blog is about guys paying for girls to play with them, another is countering the idea that girls suck at WoW. I assume the girls who are being paid must have some modicum of skill at the game, or it would just be frustrating, and I assume the guys who are paying for their company expect them to be at least competent. Maybe that’s a bad assumption.

Then the contrast between Klep’s post and Larissa’s, where Larissa muses that blogs are about a meeting of minds and therefor she doesn’t notice the sex of the blogger (as much) while Klep wonders if there’s a reason why there’s a disproportionate number of female bloggers.  Klep also brings up the stereotype of “women as healers” and I myself have noticed that all the Resto Druid bloggers I read are women. All of them. All the trees I currently know in game are women; the first one I remember, the one that made me say “Wow, druid healers are COOL” was a guy. A gay guy. (Stereotype affirming or breaking?)

But they’re all dancing around that same issue; men and women are different and those differences carry over into our playstyles. There’s a reason stereotypes exist; they are a distorted exaggeration of a truth. It might not be a truth that is universally applicable but somewhere some collection of observations supported the idea.

Stereotype 1: Women are bad at WoW.

Truth: not everyone who plays WoW is any good at it. People can be stupid and therefore play badly. People can have other reasons for playing besides being good (social reasons). This second group is less likely to give up when they know they are bad at the game because being good at the game is a secondary goal. My parents have played WoW; my dad liked it although he’s gone back to EverQuest, my mom followed him around with her priest, clicked the “heal” buttons when he said to, and picked flowers. She didn’t like the game but she played to spend time with my dad. I got into the game because a few months after we got married my husband wanted to get back to playing WoW and wanted me to come with him. I sucked at first, but I eventually liked the game and got better. If you’d seen my hunter the first month I played you would have classified me as one of those “Women who suck at WoW” players and you would have been right.

The solution is to find a way to convert this type of woman player into an active fan of the game. Once she is motivated she’ll become a better player. Blizzard does a better job of this than anyone else out there, hence their huge female market share. Trolls in trade or party chat calling these women out and saying “lol u suck girls cant play wow” will never improve things. This doesn’t inspire most women to get better. It’s more likely to get them to quit.

Stereotype 2:  Women who can play Wow, play healers

Hard to counter this. I have an arcane mage and a prot pally and I’m good with either one, but Analogue the resto druid is my main. She’s who I raid on, and I feel most in control of the situation with her.

Women tend to be more nurturing than men. Guys tend to be more protective/aggressive than girls. Women tend to work toward the success of the group; men strive for personal achievement. Both sexes are drawn to both goals, of course, but the dominant leanings tend to be as I’ve stated. Avoiding any discussion of whether this is good or bad, these tendencies would explain why there tend to be more female healers out there.

Everyone can think of counter examples; awesome female warlocks or warriors, terrific male resto shaman. But nobody is surprised when the tree starts talking in vent with a girl’s voice.

This is a good thing! Remember how I said about that for a player to be good at WoW, she needs to actually want to get better? Well, if she discovers that healing a party appeals to her, now she has motivation to improve! Healing isn’t easy, and the skills to do it well translate over into general Wow uber-ness. I am a much better mage since I’ve leveled up my druid. (And a better healer after I leveled my tank but that’s another matter)

So yes, I’m suggesting that we counter one stereotype with another. No, I’m not suggesting that you tell the fail hunter girl to go roll a priest. But be supportive of her if she wants to do it. Guys, if your girlfriend who tentatively follows you around in WoW expresses a desire to heal, don’t laugh at her because you know she’ll wipe you. Let her do it. If  you wipe, let her figure out why without yelling at her. You’ll have a lot more fun if you let her convert herself to a WoW fan than if you convince her to never play with you again.

One final note: the blogs I read I think are probably close to 70% female, because I read a lot of resto druid blogs and “Wow Social” blogs like Pugging Pally or Stories of Wow.

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Blessed are the altaholics, for they shall receive heirlooms

Lissana over at Restokin had a long blog post today about Specialists vs Generalists as a play style. Pretty obvious this blog falls more on the generalist side of the equation! Reversion and I have three level 80s each and three other characters that we are actively leveling (each). We both have healers, tanks, and dps classes and play any of those roles pretty well. We’ve got most professions covered between us (don’t have a max level blacksmith and the leatherworking char is only at about 430 skill).

On the other hand, if you ask us who our mains are there’s no question. Reversion and Analogue, the druids, see the most content, have the best gear, and are definitely our most played. They weren’t our original mains by a long stretch but during the course of WotLK we began to realize how much more content we could see with a dedicated tank/healer pair than with a couple random ranged dps. I think our experiments with other classes have made our mains better. Analogue has become a better healer as I’ve gotten better with tanking on Divergent.

As Lissanna mentions,  one reason for alts is to see content you didn’t see before, particularly opposite-faction content. We’re trying that now with our low-level Horde alts. It’s fun, and I’m running a few other experiments at the same time (like whether we can run these guys up and afford epic flying without needing cash from our mains, thanks to gather professions)

She’s right that WotLK has been paradise for generalists, and her conclusion

However, I’ve come to accept that being a generalist is a viable play-style in WoW as of WotLK being released, even for end-game purposes. I appreciate handing out new gear and heirlooms and all the fun toys that generalists get to play with.

I agree with. In fact, I think that Blizzard has actively been pushing the generalist playstyle for the same reason they’ve made raids so much more accessible this expansion. They want to maintain their subscription numbers so the game can continue. In Vanilla WoW, hardcore raiders had a reason to play every day for many hours, but that never represented more than a tiny fraction of the population. In WotLK, anyone who devotes  a few hours a week can eventually see most if not all of the endgame content, and that makes Blizzard happy because players who feel like they are progressing continue to subscribe.

But, the player who really likes questing and leveling and running low level dungeons is just as good a source of cash as the end-game raider. In fact,  from Blizzard’s point of view he’s a better cash source because it takes few developer-resources to keep him happy.  I suspect most players fall somewhere in between those two extremes. My personal experiences make me believe that most end game raiders have some alts that they like playing with, and a lot of less-raid-oriented players still join pugs or weekly raid quest groups. I think that’s probably Blizzard’s intent.

Blizzard must like alts, because they’ve given us 10 slots per server and 50 total slots to play with. A lot of other games? Not so much. EVE Online lets you have 3 (I think) but because of the training system you really only play one character per account. Star Trek Online released with only 2 character slots as the default (you can buy more). On the other hand, Lord of the Rings Online supports the generalist playstyle and from what I’ve heard, that’s part of why people go back and play around in that game. It’s a lot harder to get totally bored of a game when you can just log in to a different experience every night of the week.

The day when you could claim that the specialist was the true WoW elite is passed. Nowadays, it’s the tank who can’t say “oh yeah I hate healing this goup on my shaman” or the dps who doesn’t mention “I know what a pain that pat is to LOS when I’m tanking” who is the noob. Anyone can be pretty good at one class, especially with the epics falling like cherry blossoms, but it takes skill to be uber at everything.

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