Fucking Mexicans (On the Language Barrier and Xenophobia)

Let me tell you a story. It was the end of Cataclysm and I was working on nerfed heroics with my guild at the time. A friend, who’d started playing right around the time I had but never made it past sixty, had just come back to the game, bought Cata, and was levelling his paladin tank mostly through dungeons. He was around level 81 at the time and his first attempt at running BRC had been disastrous. So I offered to help. I figured, even if he screwed up massively, my overlevel, overgeared disc bubbles would keep him alive, and I could explain how to do the bosses in the dungeon as we went.

Everything was going more or less fine. With a steady stream of whispered explanations, we got to Karsh Steelbender without incident. This is, by and large, the boss most likely to make a tank cry, and so, I wrote a veritable essay detailing the importance of only leaving him in the fire for a couple of seconds. This would’ve been fine, good even, except that I accidentally wrote half the explanation in party chat, and -me and my friend being Mexicans- I wrote it in Spanish. And that was, apparently, the worst offense I could’ve comitted. Our hunter exploded (a hunter who had taken me chastising him for standing in the crap during the first boss relatively well), and no amount of ‘sorry, mt’s would deter him. His response was ‘SPEAK FUCKING ENGLISH YOU STUPID MEXICAN BITCH’.

This being the first instance of xenophobia directed towards me in my life, let alone my WoW career, I was more than a little upset. I reported him, tried to kick him, failed (his brother was in the group, I think), and spent the rest of the run letting him die and refusing to res him (because I am petty like that). And that was that. Except it wasn’t.

I honestly thought this would be a one-off sort of thing, just some random bigot I happened to encounter (whom I like to believe was twelve years old). I honestly wish I could say this was a one-off sort of thing. But, alas, I transferred to Lothar.

One of the quirks of being a Lotharian, is that my random groups tend to have a high concentration of people from Stormrage and a high concentration of people from Latin American realms. A lot of these people speak English (or WoW English, at least), but a lot of them don’t. And whenever a problem is identified as being attributable to the language barrier, insults follow. They range from ‘everyone in -whatever realm the perceived offender hails from- sucks’, to my favourite and the most common, ‘fucking Mexicans’.

I mean, seriously?

I get that trying to communicate something to people who do not speak your language can be frustrating. I get that, after it happens a couple of times, you might feel like you’re on your last nerve. On my tank, I had a Brazilian hunter use pack during the bunny gauntlet in Stormstout Brewery and just never take it off (this after a long series of hunters with growl on that would not turn it off, some also Brazilian). I speak no Portuguese. I have no idea what the Portuguese name of the ability is. I eventually dropped group, it annoyed me that much. But while that hunter could use some tips on how not to suck at his class, the fact that he couldn’t understand me when I politely asked him to turn it off wasn’t his fault.

The onus to learn your language isn’t on people from LA realms anymore than it is on you to learn theirs. It’s hardly their fault they’re stuck in a group with you. They paid Blizzard to pay a localised version of the game in Latin American servers, just like you paid to play on US servers.

Not only is insulting a whole group of people based on the language they speak wrong (something I would expect people old enough to play WoW to understand), it’s counter productive. If I’m one of the people from Rag or Quel’thalas, and I see you insult my whole server or call me something nasty, do you think I will be willing to engage the next time? Willing to learn new bits of English or translate for someone else? I will probably just turn off instance chat at that point.

There are other, more productive ways to go about it. There was a thread on the forums with common phrases in Spanish. You can browse the talent calculators in the community site for Brazilians and Spanish speakers (as long as you know your WoW icons, you should be able to find what you need; except for growl – I couldn’t find that.) Ask for someone who can translate. You might be surprised.

And, for God’s sake, if you feel the urge to use the phrase ‘fucking Mexicans’ do remember that a bunch of the LA realms are actually Brazilian, and the remainder have people from all over Latin America. Reducing a huge diverse group of people to one single nationality is ignorant and idiotic, and just plain wrong.

Mythic!

So, much to my suprise, and after worrying quite a bit, I’m actually rather excited about Mythic raiding. Not only did my raid team pleasantly surprise me by pretty much uniformly agreeing to the idea that we’d have to go 20-man, but the upcoming change has led to a series of discussions on the structure of the guild. Honestly, I think if we can pull this right, it will be incredibly beneficial in making us more efficient a team so we can push a little harder come progression time, which makes me all kinds of happy and excited.

Of course, one of the proposed changes involves role leads. And I think I might’ve sort of volunteered to help out as healing lead, which makes me incredibly nervous. It’s not that I don’t think I’d be a good fit. I mean, I know I have the knowledge to do it. I spend probably entirely more than I should reading up on other healing classes’ mechanics, so working out assignments and rotations shouldn’t be too much of an issue.Ā  I’m slightly more concerned when it comes to the interpersonal aspect of it. I find being firm with people quite hard, and I tend to be paranoid about hurting other people’s feelings. Still, I really want to help and if this is the way I can, I’ll definitely give it a try. Plus, this gives me an excuse to set up a healing channel for the guild, which I’ve been wanting to do since day one.

Beyond how this affects our guild, though, I’ve been thinking a lot about how this might affect the healing game. Blizzard devs made a point to mention some of the more niche abilities and how they could go back to designing mechanics around these abilities now that you’re more or less guaranteed at least a member of each class in a Mythic raid, and this makes me hopeful that they’ll go back a bit on their homogenisation of the healing classes. While I think it was definitely necessary at the time, I miss having proper assignments. Obviously, it’s a delicate balance, since they still have to make every healer viable in Normal and Heroic in just about every comp without making the encounters trivial to heal if you’ve got every class available to you, but I’m optimistic that it could be pulled off.

And I’m simply excited to get to meet more people. šŸ˜€

The Lagging Strand

I’ve been having lag issues recently, and it terrifies me. Now, I’m fairly used to having stupid internet; for the first eight months or so of Mists, my internet decided to stop working once every few weeks. Usually, it happened just as I was beginning to think the problem had been fixed for good. Often, it would not only span a raid night or two, it actually went out right before raid, so that I couldn’t properly warn my raid team at the time. On the nights when I did have internet, I would often have quite a bit of lag. This wouldn’t be too awful (as long as lag is constant, it’s pretty easy to learn to deal and heal with it), though I did often need to move preemptively out of one-shot mechanics, lest I got smashed into itty bits before my screen realised it was happening.

I’m not sure how my raid team put up with me. In restrospect, I probably should’ve just quit. It wasn’t fair to them, but the hope that it would be the last time -that my ISP had really, actually fixed something that time- and how much I loved raiding with them, just got the better of me.

The problem did eventually get fixed, when me and a neighbour reported our internet going out on the same day, and the ISP finally figured out there was something broken somewhere. It was magical, suddenly sitting at 100ms no matter what content I was running. I realised that I didn’t actually suck at Iron Qon’s whirlwinds as much as I thought I did (though they’re still pretty far from being something I excel at), and that 200ms really did make that much of a difference. I stopped dying to Durumu’s beam, and to the smoke (since the only way to survive the beam when I was lagging was to run well ahead of it into the purple; if I miscalculated, I was pretty much dead). I was able to jump onto platforms on Ji’kun, knowing that my character would actually jump when I hit spacebar instead of just running off the ledge. Life was good.

But, recently, it started again. And it wasn’t the fun kind of lag, where everything is just happening 0.3 seconds after for you. It was the sucky kind of lag where everything’s slightly laggy for a couple of minutes and then your screen suddenly freezes for four seconds and you’re frantically spamming your ‘q’ key on the tank hoping that that Penance will actually go off before he dies. On Garrosh, which is where we’re at now, it’s particularly bad. The tanks take so much damage from adds that clutch heals are pretty important, and that’s the kind that is hardest to provide when you’re lagging. Predictable damage, I can handle just fine; I just need to be more proactive. But there’s nothing more frustrating than watching someone’s health slowly drop, knowing that casting a life saving shield on them is within your power, but only if your connection allows it.

Unsurprisingly, beyond how personally frustrating it is, it’s not very good for progression. I feel like I can claim at least 30% of the responsibility for not having yet killed Garrosh. I actually volunteered to sit out this week, partially because I needed to study, but mostly because I was terrified that the lag would flare up again and screw up our Garrosh kill. As they say, though, the world is not a wish granting factory, and our mage had to work and was late on our progression day, so I had to heal for about half the raid night. It was not pretty. And it was wasted time.

Thankfully, I’m pretty sure it’s not my internet this time around, since just turning off my computer for tennish minutes managed to fix it last week (after my horrible night ended with a painful DC that, thankfully, coincided with the arrival of our lovely mage). I’m pretty sure it’s an overheating problem, so I’m going to try and keep my computer turned off for a while before raid (I have the awful habit of keeping it on sleep mode), and hopefully it will resolve itself. But even if I have to do something like replace the fans or the computer or whatever it may be, at least I have a modicum of control over fixing the problem and that makes me feel a little bit better.

The Peculiar Plight of the Middle of the Road 10-Man

With this weekend’s Blizzcon we’ve learned lots of things about the upcoming expansion and while I’m mostly (so many orcs make me unhappy) really excited, there is one aspect of Warlords of Draenor that worries me: raid sizes. I suspect I’m not alone in this, heroic 25-man raid teams must be quite annoyed at having the difficult decision of which players to drop and heroic 10-man raiders must be looking with dread at the recruiting on steroids (or merging) that will allow them to continue raiding at their preferred level.

My guild falls into neither of these categories. Yes, we are a ten man and we do habitually raid heroic level content at the end of the tier. The problem is, it’s only at the end of the tier. Which means, unlike every other guild who is strictly a heroic raiding guild or a normal raiding guild, we have to figure out how much we value heroic raiding and whether it’s worth the effort of recruiting ten more players. And the big problem is we’re probably not all going to agree. I mean, I know which side of the fence I’m on. I spend mostly all the tier hoping we will get to do some heroic progression and it’s the most enjoyable content for me. I hate doing farm content and if WoD suddenly means two or more months of doing the same thing over and over again with no new challenge to look forward to, I will likely go insane.

But, then, I’m also not an officer. The onus of finding a solution that will allow us to do this heroic (mythic; one day I will get used to the term!) content will not fall on me. We’re a tiny guild. We have a bench of one. Of the people who are active on a regular basis, 100% of them are raiders. Of the people who poke their heads in occasionally, 90% of them are former raiders that had to quit for one reason or the other. If all of them came back, we’d still need to recruit seven to ten players to ensure having enough people to be able to do heroic content, not to mention a bench big enough to sustain that roster. It’s going to take quite a bit of effort, and if our GM decides it’s not really worth it, I could easily see why.

I also am not particularly averse to 25-man raiding, but I know a few of our members raid 10 man because they like it. Not everyone’s computer can take large raids. I know because mine barely does (one of the reasons I have not really actively pursued 25-man raiding before now).

There’s also the fact that the difficulty of tiers varies greatly. Tier 14, my guild was racing the patch to get their (alas, I was not yet a part of the team by this point) Sha kill. They got it on the last week and mustered just one heroic kill. With ToT, we had about three months to work on heroics. This tier? It’s looking around the same, perhaps a bit more, depending on when Blizz releases the new expansion. If every tier looked like tier 14, then we’d be able to happily remain normal raiders, but there’s no way to know.

Mostly, I’m just crossing my fingers that making this decision won’t turn into a drama bomb.

Hearthstone! Hearthstone! Hearthstone! (And the cost of the arena).

I was going to write a post about priesting and proving grounds and whatnot, but then I got a beta key to Hearthstone (on the first day, too! – I’m pretty sure someone must’ve pressed a wrong key somewhere) and since I’ve been playing obsessively, and can’t seem to stop thinking about it, I figured I’d write a post about it.

Firstly, I have to say the game is awesome. I mean, I killed someone off with a sheep! How brilliant is that? But, in true me fashion, I’m going to go and whine about things. (Let’s face it, even the title of this blog is complaining.) And my complaint of the day relates to money.

sheeep

I killed someone. With sheep. The greatness cannot be overstated.

First off, I know that Hearthstone is a free to play game, and that Blizzard owes me nothing. I’m not averse to the idea of paying some money every once in a while and will probably do so sooner than later (although my cheap self secretly hopes to be able to avoid it). That being said, F2P games do rely on people not feeling like they can’t do anything fun if they don’t pay and, personally, I’m kind of disappointed with how the entry to the Arena and how you earn gold work currently.

The Arena was, hands down, the feature I was the most excited about. I’ve been playing Hearthstone for two days and I’ve only gotten to play it once. If I hadn’t bought two packs (which I did because I was silly and didn’t really think about it) I would’ve been able to play maybe twice (three times if I’d gotten super lucky). The one time I played, it was free and, since I’d never done it, and I’m a relative newcomer to the world of card games (though I enjoy them a lot) I lost quickly and horribly. I got five gold, fifteen arcane dust and a pack for my troubles. (I also got my ego stomped on, but I don’t think that counts as a reward).

Here’s the thing, once you’re done spending your initial bit of gold, you can only do arena about once every four days (dailies give you 40 gold, while winning a match gives you just one sad piece of gold). Beyond those, it will take you about fifty hours of grinding to get enough gold to get into the arena (assuming 50% win rate and a ten minute match time – it’s significantly longer for me because I enjoy playing control-ish decks). If you’re good at arena, you’d be able to get in indefinitely -obviously- but the only way to get good at it is practising (well, and reading about cards and theorycrafting and whatnot – but I still think that knowing the bases and being able to apply them are two very different things), and you can’t really practise without playing, and you see what I’m getting to.

I realise that the Arena has to have a cost in order to have rewards. The part that irks me is that a large part of your rewards come in the shape of packs, which are sort of pointless if what you’re interested in is the Arena since you can’t convert them to gold. And, in theory, your winrate should remain about equal regardless of the power of your deck, so getting packs doesn’t help accelerate the winrate of gold in any way.

I think that the easiest fix is to increase the amount of gold you get per win. Even at five gold per win, you’d still have to play for about ten hours to get in, which is a LOT of time. They could also lower the amount it costs in RL money. Currently, trying to play a fresh arena daily comes out at around twice what I pay for my WoW sub (supposing you spend all your gold on getting into Arena, as well), which is a lot considering how much WoW costs to make and maintain and how much I can play (hint: all the time I want).

I suspect the biggest reason Blizz might not want to do either of those things is that it throws off the rate at which you can accumulate packs. This is easily fixable by converting the packs you get from playing Arena into gold and then adjusting accordingly.

/endQQ

The RNG Gods and the Problem with the Healing Proving Grounds

Proving Grounds have been something I’ve been looking forward to trying since the moment I first heard they’d be a thing. Naturally, the second they popped up in the PTR, I was in there. I figured I would give it a couple of tries to satisfy my curiosity, see how far I could get in endless, give a little feedback (so I could feel like a good tester), and then wait for it to come to live so I could get all my achievements in a permanent sort of way.

A couple of tries turned into a couple more and, at this point, I would not be surprised if I’ve put in upwards of a hundred attempts on endless. I blame my nemesis, the eighth wave (formerly knows as Wave 8, also known as Wave 7 or ‘the one with all the evil Pyroblast-spamming Flamecallers in which the annoying hunter stands in the fire’). I’ve gotten past it twice, and not once since they made Flamecallers immune to fears. I could probably go on and on about all that’s wrong with this wave (and me, given that I keep bashing my head against it even though I know I’m very unlikely to succeed). But I want to talk about the one element in it that I think is problematic on all of endless healing mode: RNG.

Now, RNG is a great thing in most regular fights. It makes them feel slightly less predictable, slightly more interesting. It makes this week’s Iron Qon, where my side of the room got no fire spears during the first phase and healing it was a breeze, completely different from last week’s, where we got all the fire spears on our side and I needed to lifegrip people over lines, Pain Suppress our shammy with five stacks of cinders and use Voidshift so our mage wouldn’t die. Sure, it’s very frustrating to die because you got crappy RNG but, for the most part, you can look back and figure out what you (and your raid) could’ve done to prevent the dying, and hopefully get a little bit better at reacting to crappy RNG in that particular fight. And there’s nothing more satisfying that surviving through crappy RNG.

So what is wrong with a little RNG in Proving Grounds? And let me assure you that there’s a lot of RNG, ranging from the one-hundred-and-something-k Pyroblasts cast on random people, to the bleed debuffs cast on other (or sometimes the same) random people, to your party’s seemingly random ability to interrupt certain spells at apparently random times, to you hunter’s random ability to tell his butt’s on fire.

Nothing’s wrong, really, except in endless. Endless, as you might be (might be) able to tell from the name, doesn’t end. It doesn’t end ’til the health of one of the people in your party reaches zero, and this is only limited by two things: your ability to keep up with the damage, and your mana. There is this ideal point in gearing every healer intent on getting to wave thirty must look for, where somehow you get enough spirit to boost your longevity without making the throughput stat loss make your heals hit like wet noodles, rendering you unable to respond to the HPS requirements (or being only able to do so by spamming your large, or quick, inefficient heals). You also need to figure out the most efficient way to deal with abilities (is it better to cast two Flash Heals to get rid of the bleed? Should I try and use a Flash Heal and a Greater Heal) and how to space your CDs so that they both provide an efficient way to heal through medium damage waves and are up to save your butt during high damage waves.

When RNG goes way wrong (when two high damage abilities hit the wrong person, or your rogue fails to interrupt any AoE attack), though, it punches this delicate balance you’ve woven in the face. You’re suddenly forced to either burn a CD early, or burn through a lot of mana. And when that happensĀ  you won’t be thinking ‘hey, I’m awesome, the tank survived that!’. Instead you’ll have to wallow in the knowledge that, that wave you’re having trouble with, there’s no point in even attempting it because you won’t have the resources needed to succeed.

Because the success of every wave directly depends on how well you did on previous waves (unless you can manage to do a ‘reset’, where your party is sitting at a 100% health and your mana regens to full before the next wave, but that’s pretty hard after about wave five), and there’s no other cooldowns you can rely on but your own, there is no fixing it. There is no way to undo the damage. And bad RNG, instead of being a fun challenge, is the thing that made lose earlier than you should’ve.

So, Blizz, how about we get rid of some of that RNG? Either make our DPS’ers interrupt more reliably, or don’t make them interrupt at all and adjust damage accordingly. Don’t put three pyroblasting loons up at the same time, or make that pyro hit a little less hard. Maybe make the aqua bombs prefer people in ranged, and don’t allow the tunnelers to apply two bleeds to the same player. Make damage a little bit more predictable so we can all rejoice in one of the other joys of healing, proactive healing.

On ‘Flex’ Raiding and Being Forced to Do Things

I came across this post today and it made me want to write a (tangential) response to it. I’ve been wanting to discuss the issue of certain aspects of the game feeling mandatory to raiders since the start of the expansion, but I never did get around to it. Luckily for me, the announcement of ‘Flex’ raids just made this discussion relevant again. So here’s my take.

Firstly, I should say that I’m precisely the sort of person who grinds LFR and valor caps every week. I’m not a super high-end raider. My current guild just downed Lei Shen this week, and this is probably the most progressive guild I’ve ever been a part of. Regardless of this, PvE progression has always been one of my personal goals while playing this game. By saying this, I mean I want to progress as much as I can within certain constraints I’ve come to accept limit my potential overall progression (things like the time I’m willing to raid, my own skill, the sort of people I want to raid with, etc.) This is why I do dailies at the beginning of patches, and run the LFR version of Horridon every week to see if I can get a half-decent trinket. I know if more gear translates to me putting out more healing, my guild has a better chance of success on every attempt and that, in my mind, means faster progression.

One of the points Rossi made in the article I linked is that guilds that enforce a ‘run all the LFRs, all the weeks!’ policy are mistaking gear as a substitute for skill. I disagree. I mean, obviously, gear is no substitute for skill. It doesn’t matter how many ilvls you have on your character sheet if you can’t get out of that sand trap. But I find this a simplistic argument precisely because gear has no bearing on skill. You’re not comparing higher skilled, crappily geared you with unskilled, heroically geared you; you’re comparing your perfomance at the same level of skill with slightly more gear. And more gear does translate into more output, which can be a deciding factor when getting new kills.

I’m going to give you a small example of why this argument makes no sense to me. I have a friend whom I raided with at the end of Cata. He is an amazing priest, much better than me. Yet, he never enchanted his gear. He still did better than me on meters, but he would’ve been an overall better asset to the raid if he’d gotten off his butt and gotten his gear enchanted, and I don’t think anyone would disagree with this. (I understand that LFR and ‘flex’ aren’t comparable to enchants given that it takes a minute to enchant your stuff, which is why I was much more frustrated with him than I’ve ever been with someone who would not run LFR.) Sure, enchants are not a substitute for skill, but they’re a nice addition to it. And so it goes with extra gear. And, sure, it’s debatable how much you getting a single piece of gear will impact the overall performance of your raid, but if everyone in your group makes a point to accelerate their own gear progression it will make an impact eventually.

On the other hand, you could certainly make the argument that the time spent doing LFRs, dailies and ‘flex’ raids would be better spent working on your skill. I agree, to a point. I find that, after a certain point, skill is something that improves very slowly and with plenty of practise. After all, just because I know that I should be keeping my rapture on cooldown, doesn’t mean that I’m very good at doing it in actual raids. The most I can do is look at my rapture gains and how many shields I used in a fight and try to do better next time. Theoretical knowledge does not translate to practical skill. There are obviously things you can do to improve your practical skill. Funnily enough, LFR is one of them. I use it occasionally to practise my DPS’ing or mechanics I’m doing poorly at (*waves at Iron Qon’s whirlwinds and Blade Lord’s whirlwinds and all whirlwindy mechanics in general*). It’s not very good for practising healing, but there you go.

But is the impact worth the time invested?

Honestly, I think that’s for every guild and raider to decide. I think I’ve seen it make a difference, but it’s nothing more than anecdotal evidence.

So, yes, I acknowledge it’s a choice.

The thing about choices, though, is that some times one of the options is so unpleasant or unthinkable, it doesn’t really feel like a choice. This is the real reason people feel forced to do it. They know no one is holding a gun to their head. They might find running the same raid three times in a week about as pleasant as scooping their own eyes with a spoon, but letting their guilds or themselves down is the equivalent of having to eat them as well.

What people want when they ask Blizz to stop ‘forcing’ unpleasant activities on them is for Blizzard to not give them the choice, and -in my opinion- this is a perfectly valid thing to want. There’s also the matter that sometimes people faced with a choice that’s tough -either because they don’t like either option, or because they’re both awesome- will just refuse to make it. And in WoW, there’s a very simple way of doing that: just don’t log in.

What about Blizzard, though? Why should Blizzard baby us and make sure we don’t overwhelm ourselves?

In an ideal world, they wouldn’t have to. The problem is they are a company, and giving us the choice might drive people who feel compelled to do something they hate (for any reason) away. This is not good business, unless giving us the choice in the first place makes up for it.

In the case of both ‘flex’ raids and ‘LFR’, I think they’re absolutely worth it. I think it fulfills a need for a portion of the population that is bigger than the people who will beĀ  negatively affected by it.

Personally, I’m not sure what I’m going to do when we get ‘flex’ raids. I’m not sure if I’m going to run them in addition to LFR or instead of LFR. I can’t really say until I know how hard they will be and how long they will take. What I can say is that the main reason I’m glad they don’t share a lockout is it’ll let me experience something close to a current content raid with some of my former, off-server guildies, with a lot less pressure than actually levelling an alt and raiding with them also would involve.