Damn Near a Decade of Warcraft



I don’t recall how much I wrote about Warcraft in the past, but it feels safe to discuss now. Not that there was ever any risk to others from discussing it, but for a time it was a huge part of my life. Big enough that I didn’t consider changing my involvement and my defenses were up when someone would mention it.

“Sure, I play every day. Some people watch TV every day.”

At some point a few years ago I totaled my ‘playtime’ output and discovered I had over 5,000 hours in the course of a few years. That hit home. A full time equivalent work year is 2,080 hours minus vacation and holidays so I had put in the equivalent almost three years of a vocational equivalent PLAYING A GAME.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. My time on Oblivion was pretty high before I found Warcraft and that was single player. Warcraft was so much more immersive and with the added factor of making friends online it was even more addictive. I also new a few other players in real life.

Yes, I consider it addictive and to some extent myself to have been an addict. I didn’t run off to a twelve step program for Warcraft players, but I thought quite a bit about those 5,000 hours.

I suppose it would be logical if I said I quit immediately. Recoiled in horror at the wasted time. But I didn’t. I didn’t think it was wasted time then and I still don’t. My reaction was more practical. I started hunting for the root cause of my unusual interest.

Honestly, I wasn’t that good at the game beyond a certain point. Long before “looking for dungeon / raid” features were in the game I played with a guild. I ran in 5-man pick-up-groups (PUGs) and just leveled multiple classes, races, and factions. I raided with my guild, but never really got the bug for high end gear. I leveled professions (including fishing WTF?) and experimented with different play styles. But other than my pursue time committment, I was pretty casual. No schedules or weekly raids (well few).

Ultimately I discovered it was merely an escape from work. It’s not like I’m an air traffic controller or 911 dispatcher. My work isn’t exactly stressful, but it was boring and I really wasn’t passionate about it. So I escaped into Azeroth. I quit my job a few years ago and started my own company. I quit playing Warcraft almost immediately and rarely felt compelled to log in and ‘waste’ any more time.

I maintained my account (and those of my family members that still played, the kids), but the only times I logged in were to do something with them. Even then it was usually around a new expansion. I’d play for a month, hit the level cap, see a few new instances and then move on.

I logged in again tonight, but only because they offered a 7 day free pass. I visited 3-4 of my old characters, patiently parked in their garrisons. I even ran one of them through some new questline to build a harbor. Not sure what that leads to, but I’m unlikely to be back again within the next seven days to advance that line. Draenor just isn’t that compelling. I might come back to fly over Stormwind and Orgrimmar. That’d be cool. Maybe grab a few screen shots and throw them in a folder somewhere.

Edit: Well damn, now over 10.

Tanking Ego

Zahraah at Pugnacious Priest asks,

“Do you need an ego to tank? Should I roll a ‘tank’ and see?”

Lao Tzu is credited with the following quote –

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”

I love that quote and its variations and forgive its author for a 600BC gender bias.

To have or not have an ego isn’t an option. By classical definition, our sense of self is our ego. However, if I read the question as “Do I need an inflated ego to tank?” I can have some fun. Now our answer revolves around whether an inflated ‘sense of self’ manifested (occasionally?) as arrogance helps a successful tank. I’d say at times “yes” but in the long run absolutely not.

However, what we’re talking about here isn’t exclusively about tanking. It’s leadership. As a tank, the [simplified] job is to make sure everybody wants to smack you around more than they do your generally more squishy compatriots. Do that and stay alive and you get the cookie. I think that’s trainable through research (EJ) and class mentoring.

Leadership is much more complex and not the exclusive domain of tanks. I’ve seen some great dungeon/raid leaders that were confident, patient, knowledgeable and most importantly aware of the need to work as a team to be successful. I’ve also seen plenty of groups with poor or no leadership. In my experience, that leadership role seems to more commonly fall on tanks, but I have seen great leaders in the DPS and heals spots too.

So what about this ego issue? Here’s it in a nutshell: Leaders see the success of the group as part of the value they add. If you’re a tank and find yourself as the defacto leader AND you accept that responsibility then confidence (in the form of appropriate self esteem / healthy ego) balanced with humility (it’s not the “Mr. Tank and scrubs” show) can get even a mediocre group through difficult content. That’s not an inflated ego.

On the other hand, tanks relied upon to lead that don’t accept or understand the role can easily become arrogant (“oh it’s all up to me”), hostile (“what the hell are you thinking with that gem?”), and or just disengaged (“pulling w/o watching mana levels or group proximity”). They might be proficient tanks, but lousy leaders.

Personally, I don’t know if I’m good at either. I’ve been druid tanking for about two months as I moved from 75-80. I’ve tanked most of the Northrend 5-mans but no raids. Some people have been very complimentary of my ‘tanking skills’ and others have offered good suggestions about gear/gems/etc. I have occasionally pulled a boss too early and to my amazement, I’ve pulled before my healer is ready. I heal as Resto too and have an 80 holy priest I’ve healed on for over a year /facepalm.

I start most instances with an honest statement about how many times I’ve tanked it (either reg or heroic). Most people seem to respond very well after that. In my approach, I’ve also had to step up my game and read more about bosses and fight strategies. I also feel I need to understand what all classes bring to fights and how to best use them. Many of those skills I learned as a healer, e.g. raid wide resistances make healing so much easier.

Does any of that make me an effective leader? Only time will tell, but I suspect that the better I get at bringing out the best in the rest of the group the closer I’ll get.

Fragg’d – an oddly graceful moment of Zen

Interesting commentary at Wired on virtual killing [and death].

— you watch as your corpse goes pinwheeling
gracefully through the air, arms and legs flailing in the grip of
rag-doll physics.

Clive Thompson recounts the ways he’s died in video games and a new paper on emotions of gamers by Niklas Ravaja. It appears we actually enjoy getting fragged. Or as Shakespeare writes in Othello:

If after every tempest come such calms,May the winds blow till they have waken’d death!

Juice Tiger 360

Ok, so it draws a little power even when turned off. Big deal. At least it’s efficient, right? The team at DXGaming put consoles to the power test to determine how much juice they suck out of the wall and your wallet while turned off, sitting idle and playing games.

The results – You guessed it, the Xbox 360 draws the most power of any current console devouring 17.52 kWh (annual) while turned off, 145W while sitting idle, and 165W after playing 5 minutes of Burnout Revenge.

  • Cheapest to run for a year – the venerable Playstation 1 at $0.90
  • Most expensive to run for a year – Xbox 360 at $19.88

The good news is that while it’s the hungriest electron attractor in the bunch, it’s also the most efficient in terms of CPU cycles/Watt. No measurements exist for the upcoming PS3 and Wii, but DXGaming estimates they’ll book-end the 360. Until then all I can say is, “Put me on the budget plan with the power company. While you’re at it, turn the ‘fridge down a notch. That last Jolt was too warm.”

Microsoft: I want my TWO DOLLARS….

In the never-ending saga of Xbox 360 hardware maintenance agreements, I recently received three refund checks for the one extra maintenance agreement they accidentally charged to my credit card. The backstory can be found here, but I’ll just say “wanted ONE, got TWO due to their double entry” and it’s been almost half a year since I spotted the problem.

I called the team at Xbox support to inform them:

  • I have received three checks
  • I will cash one and shred the other two
  • I still want the first contract I purchased

..and I was told:

  • Hey, you might get full coverage until 2010, we don’t really know. [shh] don’t say anything
  • That department’s kind of weird to work with (you think!?)
  • Call back in a month to find out if you still have a service contract (great, this will never end!)

I have such high hopes for Microsoft’s in this business, but occasionally you see a sign they still have work to do handling hardware. Sometimes that sign haunts you like the paperboy in Better off Dead. Wait, I think in this case I’m the paperboy and Microsoft is John Cusack. At least in this case, “I got my two dollars.”

Wi-Fi Hotspots in Cyrodil

To paraphrase the late Douglas Adams

“Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Blogosphere lies a small unregarded blog named Inks End.”

For those following my initial foray into the world of blogging, you might have wondered where I’ve been for two months. I’ve dropped the ‘vacation’ excuse already but that was April and doesn’t explain the paltry handful of posts since then.

I must now admit the truth. I’ve been hanging out in Cyrodil. Around the end of March, Bethesda Softworks released The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, arguably one of the best role playing games launched in years. The rest is history. To be exact, the rest is about 220 hours of my life (and game time) spanning four (or was it five) major quest lines, countless hack-n-slash, spell casting, sneaking and sniping, and generally ‘other world’ experiences.

I’ll leave the game reviews in the capable hands of those at GameSpot and other sites that specialize in reviewing, ranking, and ranting about games in general, but will just leave it at this – 220 hours (so far). Throughout my travels, I’ve run across many Inns and Taverns but none with reliable wi-fi access or power outlets for my laptop so my blog has suffered. I’m seeking counseling from someone I met in Bruma and have recently found a way to drop back into the ‘real world’ for extended periods of time.

So thanks for coming back and checking in.

Console Price Drops

dollar sign In recent years the big three console makers are pretty consistent in their pricing strategies with Playstation 2 taking an early lead and launching at $299, Xbox (original) following at the same price a year later, and Nintendo GC coming in as the value player. Price drops seem to occur during the first half of the year around the time of E3.

Console Prices at Launch and Drop Points

2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
PlayStation 2 $299 $299 $199 $179 $149
Xbox n/a $299 $199 $179 $149
GameCube n/a $199 $199 $99 $99

In the last generation of consoles, the PS2 launched at a higher price point than the SEGA Dreamcast the year before but brought superiour technology to the table and got away with it. SEGA found themselves shown the door quickly and exited the business. At the time everyone was fighting the 900 lb gorilla known as Nintendo.
Since then, Microsoft followed Sony’s PS2 price with [slightly] better technology in 2001. Each price drop for either MS or Sony has been matched by the other while Nintendo stays below them both in the value category (possibly due to the GC being ONLY a game platform and not playing DVDs).