Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Healers - It's a girl's world?

As is typical in the blogosphere universe, I draw inspiration upon the subjects of other great authors. This time, we'll go with one of my favorites, Larisa over at the Pink Pigtail Inn. Yesterday she posted a discussion about stereotypes, specifically the DPS as the children of a 5 man party (siblings competing with each other over the biggest toys), the tank as the father figure leading the family and protecting them from harm, and the healer as a mother figure. Larisa revolts against the fact that she has rerolled an alt druid and is loving the healer role because she thinks that's being stereotypical "girl gamer."

"Suddenly I find myself, a modern women, playing the traditional female healing role in an MMO. I’m standing in the back, a pretty night elf chick in a beautiful robe, dutifully renewing the HoTs, trying to keep everyone alive instead of boldly killing evil stuff. And it bugs me that I enjoy it so much. It bugs me a lot...Back in the early days, female gamers had to struggle quite a bit to get accepted and respected. But now there’s nothing unusual about us, we’re like other players. No more, no less, exactly how I want it to be."

So why exactly is this the case? Larisa and many commentors point out that anecdotal evidence shows very little female subscribers playing main character tanks or melee DPS while most of them have ranged DPS mains or healer mains. Three reasons jump out as an offshoot from Larisa's own discussion of the early days of gaming.

1. Women play healers because of who brought them in the game

Many female MMORPG players do not just stumble onto the game on their own. Indeed, most players get invited by friends to such a social game. In the case of girls, it's far more typical than not that these friends are boyfriends, husbands, etc. So the boyfriend/spouse has typically had to go it on his own, and guys like to feel self-sufficient so they will roll tanks and hard-hitting DPS classes. Anybody who's ever leveled a warrior knows that the best thing to ever happen is groruping with a healer to level, so when the new player inevitably asks advice for what class to start out with, the boyfriend/spouse will likely say healer for their own benefit. Then the happy couple can be a wrecking ball force in Azeroth together, which is how the game was meant to be played.

2. Women play healers because they are more willing to help where the guild needs it

This may be more on the psychological differences side, but it's also closely related to the previous point. When girls come into social groups or guilds in Warcraft, they want to feel needed and appreciated, perhaps trying to overcome the stereotype that girls gamers are bad. As the lifepsan of a guild goes on, it appears that what is always lacking is tanks and healers, depending on your specific guild and your specific server. Typically both are in short supply and you need more healers to raid than tanks, so recruiting guilds almost always are looking for healers even if they need something else. So a new guild member asks the guild master what they need and the guild master obviously says healers. The psychological aspect of this is that women seem to more willing than men to sacrifice their own enjoyment for the better of the group, and that fits right into rolling a healer for your guild. However you wish to prove the point, I guarantee this is another reason women play healers.

3. Women play healers because they are not stuck on the former stereotypes of clerics as weak

Even in a cultured modern household, boys are groomed to not be weak. So when they play games, they want to be super-strong like their role models or heroes. Lots of boys experience other kinds of games like RPG's where a typical group needs someone to be a cleric/healer. However, the cleric doesn't get to carry cool weapons or wear shiny armor, and despite being the primary reason the group survives a dungeon...the cleric is always the last character chosen or the "short straw" in a group of guys playing a game who want to avoid any weakness. That's just the sad truth about clerics/healers, so the boys growing up reinforce this stereotype of that role being weak and undesirable. Necessary, yes. But they don't want to do it. Girls don't grow up playing fantasy wargames and RPG's as much as boys, so they don't have any preconceived hang-ups about weaknesses of a class. Unlike a man, they don't come into the healing role typically with a negative outlook on it, which can spoil the game quickly.

Now Larisa also rightfully points out that the tank could be perceived just as well as the "mother bear" of the group, which is just as protective of the family as any father figure. However, she absolutely gets it dead wrong by saying there's no genetic reason for it. This leads me to two much more powerful reasons why I think there's truth in the stereotype.

"I refuse to believe there’s some genetic reason for it. After all, tanking doesn’t require any special physical abilities, such as real life strength. Basically WoW playing is the same for everyone. You push your buttons; you move your mouse and you click. The only difference is what kind of targets you have and what effects your spell have."

4. Women play healers because they like to nurture

Alright now we hit the heavy psychological stuff head-on. Before the fine women of Azeroth get into a frenzy or we throw anecdotal evidence against the wall to refute the point, consider this: have you ever been around a mother and her children? I've known a few women in my life who have had babies and all of them have one thing in common - they have a natural instinct that kicks in to nurture the child and protect it. This link is built over the months of pregnancy when a man really has little connection to the future child. By the time the baby comes out, the father is already a full year behind in nurturing and protecting the child, and this imbalance between the parents usually never equalizes. That's not to say both parents don't love the child equally, but the mother has a special bond that just naturally leads her to nurture. So it's a natural psychological fit for women, who are already wired with this nurturing disposition, to be comfortable in the most nurturing role in the game, that being healers (or tanks, but see the next point).

5. Women play healers because their brains are indeed wired better for the task

Now the previous point about nurturing actually supports the "mother bear" idea and being a tank as much as a healer. However, there's another genetic difference that swings the balance towards healers instead of tanks. A woman's brain has been scientifically proven to be better suited to multitasking. ( This has to do with the amount of testosterone flowing through the body, which is proven to lead one to be focused on a single goal, as well as blood flow in the brain, which is more active in more regions of the female brain when given multiple tasks to do than the male brain. This translates to World of Warcraft because a DPS is focused on their rotations, only targeting one or AoE'ing a group at a time; a tank is focused on doing enough taunts and damage to the group of mobs to keep aggro; a healer is typically tasked with decursing/cleansing as well as keeping the life bars of 9 or 24 other people full. This requires fast thinking and multitasking as you manage that renew and power word shield on the tank while nabbing circle of healing every cooldown and targeting the appropriate group with prayer of healing. There's a lot of things going on at once, and you have to be able to multitask to succeed at the challenging role of healer. Consequently, as the female brain is proven to be better at multitasking, women will gravitate to that role more than men.

So there's at least five reasons why the stereotype that "girls play healers" has a lot of truth to it. There's absolutely nothing wrong with it though, as every person brings their skill set to the keyboard to do what they do best. That's how the biggest corporate managers make millions in bonuses, it's all in allocating your personnel so that they are most useful to the company. In Azeroth, this means more women with subscriptions with gravitate towards healing because it makes the raid or guild more successful. That makes everyone happy.

Oh and one final note...

"After all, it doesn't necessarily mean that you're gay because you're a male healer... :)"

I'm anecdotal proof positive that you can be a guy who heals and is not gay. At least I think. :-)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Seeing the Cutting Edge of Progression, Once Again

Lots of raiding over the weekend on Ekat. On Saturday I knocked out the Vault of Archavon for the second time since Patch 3.1 hit, and this time we did it completely differently than the first time. Apparently you can keep Emalon and all his minions over on one side of the room instead of splitting them, and it helps the add tank pick up the new adds after you dispatch and overcharged minion. As a healer, this was a nice improvement. We also only used 2 healers and had no problem, so maybe we were better geared than my previous attempt as a group. I grabbed nothing off Emalon but Archavon dropped another DPS chest, which I had to dump because it was tier 7 and I have the tier 7.5 piece already. Ahh well.

Sunday I was in a group for Eye of Eternity to try and get my neckpiece upgrade finally, but the group was headed nowhere. At the same time Xusha was begging for guilides to fill a Naxx-25 run. I thought that our guild was running it, but it turns out that some other guild was pugging half the raid and The Illuminati filled about half of the PUG slots (7 or so). This included the sweethearts of our guild in Soph and Cantique as well as my child's Godfather Mikola and one of our regular raid leaders Fanroth/Maz. So I came into the raid on Xusha's request and noticed the raid leader was asking for DPS. I asked him if I should stay Holy as it's my main spec and he tells me to go shadow. Before first pull, the loot rules were stated as "open rolls for loot for your main spec, roll 1 for offspec."

This may not seem like a big deal, but it sure turned out to be. Keep in mind I came to the raid to gear myself a bit more hopefully for the guild progression night in Ulduar-10, and I could've guaranteed a neckpiece upgrade by doing EoE instead. So we down Anub'Rekhan (I think) and he drops the healing trinket which is an upgrade over my Egg. So I roll and I win the roll. The second place roller then says "but Ekat's rolling for offspec, right?" on vent. I immediately respond that no, holy is my main spec. Well after a couple minutes the raid leader comes on and says "we've decided that for the purposes of this run, you are shadow." Which means I'm not going to get a single piece of gear I care about, but now I'm saved to Naxx-25. Needless to say, I threw an absolute fit in guild chat. To their credit, Cantique, Soph, and Mikola whispered me to make sure I was OK and even Maz said some nice words in gchat. Xusha remained silent.

So in reality, the raid loot rules were "open rolls for the spec you are raiding, roll 1 for anything else." Now that's the system we use in our guild raids, but for some reason we make it more clear upfront than they did in the PUG, especially when we invite outsiders. I've raided PUGS with both systems, so I don't think it was unreasonable to believe I could roll on holy loot instead of DPS loot. Especially because they asked me to change specs at the beginning of the raid. While I appreciate that DPS is replaceable, but I have collected enough shadow gear to hold my own in a raid just as a convenience to PUG raids and Illuminati raids...not to pursue that kind of raiding. So I had to roll my eyes as a couple other healer upgrades went by. Am I being completely unreasonable on this?

To top it off, the next boss dropped a DPS upgrade that was not a massive upgrade for me, but I won it anyways. At the time they announced me as high roll, I noticed Mikola was second-highest and told them to pass it to him. Well then someone rolls late and ends up second-best, and the piece gets passed to them. Again, not happy as I wanted the gear to stay in our guild either as a slight upgrade for me or a big upgrade for his desired raiding toon. As it turns out, I later was put in the same situation with no late roller and passed a DPS chest to Mikola which was a good upgrade for either of us. Again, I'd rather see Mikola be able to raid with Illuminati on his desired toon (which is not Cazaldora currently though that's all our RL wants) than have a DPS set that's moderately better. So I did get to give him something, which is good. I obviously did not win anything else and we quit after clearing Arachnid, Plague, and Military except for Four Horsemen. I was still supremely steamed about the raid, which I took out on the weeds in my lawn during the break between raids! I guess the one good thing was that the raid got me back into the habit of looking at my surroundings a bit, but not healing meant I was not really preparing for the Illuminati raid. Ahh well.

So after a break, it was time to come back online for Ulduar Night 2, A.K.A. progression night. A bit of background: while I full-cleared Naxx-10 multiple times and was present for our guild's first downing of Sapphiron and Kel'Thuzad, I've only been in Ulduar one time since it came out. It was also a progression night, and all we did was kill Auriaya and wipe a few times to Hodir at that point. So I've seen two bosses total in Ulduar, and raid night one this week had a great night, clearing all 8 bosses they had previously downed (Flame Leviathan, Razorscale, XT-002, Ignis, Assembly of Iron, Kologarn, Auriaya, and Hodir). So again, I was back on the true progression of the guild, except now we were told to prep for the other three keepers. I just hoped I wouldn't bring the group down, but we had a pretty good healer team of Fiasko (guild leader's alt), Miraelle (guild officer) and Ekat.

We started in the Conservatory of Life, clearing a couple mini-bosses and a bunch of trash. Nothing real bad here as the RL Fanroth knew exactly what we needed to do on each pull and things were explained. We cleared everything leading up Freya herself, and here we are prepping for the fight (also a first look at my raid UI setup).

We had some issues on the first try, as the second time the three adds come up that need to be killed simultaneously, we missed killing the last one within the 15 second window by about 1 second. All of them respawned as did the Ancient Conservator add and we got overwhelmed. The second try went flawlessly, and we added Freya to keep Hodir company in the central chamber of Ulduar as shown below.

The next fight is Thorim, who had very little trash leading up to the boss event. For those who don't know the fight, you enter a room with a balcony where Thorim stands, then clear the mobs in the room to start the event. Your raid splits into a tunnel group that traverses a tunnel full of mobs and a couple mini bosses on their way to Thorim while the rest of the raid stays in the arena room and clears mobs that continuously spawn. Here's a picture of Thorim from my P.O.V. in the arena as the event started.

Our first attempt we lost me to an add that got away and the arena group did not recover despite the tunnel group getting to Thorim and activating him. The second attempt saw the tunnel group get overwhelmed by too many mobs and they died, leaving the arena group to wipe. The third time we got it right with a battle rez or two thrown in, and Thorim was added to the now three Keepers in the central room of Ulduar.

As we walked into Mimiron's room after skipping most of the trash via teleporter, I was awestruck by the room. Ulduar definitely has some cool visuals and this room has to be one of the best. Here's a quick screenie of the area above Mimiron's chamber.

Then I got called on to move past the bomb-ombs (yes that's a mario term, but that's what they are) in another frogger encounter, and we found Mimiron working on his new creation. Here's a view of the shadowy little Gnome who should really be the final boss of heroic Gnomeregan when we outgear Ulduar.

We gave Mimiron a few good tries, learning more and more about the fights as we went along. I probably hurt the group in 2 tries, the first by going down in Phase 1 and not being around to AOE heal through Heat Wave in Phase 2, which is my primary responsibility. The second time I got confused on where I was standing and ended up in Mira's third of the room, so when Edovard was going down no healer had range on him despite it being my responsibility. Ahh well, lots of moving and paying attention and things make this fight a very fun and difficult encounter. We got to Phase 4 a couple of times where the entire robot comes together, but we only got the various parts of his body down to 23-25% (from 50%) on our best attempt. We certainly had a group that could clear the boss, but we were at raid end time and lost our effectiveness in the final two tries. So Mimiron is left for another day, but we conquered Keepers 2 and 3 and learned more than enough to be ready to open up General Vezax and Yogg-Saron very soon.

In summary, a good weekend of raiding, despite the bad time in Naxx-25, which gives me a lot of boost heading into my last week of IRL work before vacation. I capped the night with a cigar on the back porch with the dogs, relaxing and toasting our guild's new success. I hope it continues, and hopefully I can raid a bit more with them to help them out.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Hopes for Icecrown Citadel

Well everybody is testing the Argent Coliseum, the patch 3.2 raid that will drop in a month or so now. But while doing some old world dungeons and making Eitrin the king of Blackrock, I realized that Blizzard should take a page out of their old playbook in making the patch 3.3 raid, Icecrown Citadel. I also just installed Warcraft on my new laptop and watched the storyline of Arthas as the thing slowly installed. The lore behind this expansion is ridiculously rich.

Arthas brought Kel'Thuzad and Naxxramas to Northrend to be a first line of defense, which we crushed. Ulduar is pretty, but it's basically off the beaten path of the true story of WOTLK and is just us saving our own butt from letting Yogg Saron loose. But now with Argent Coliseum, we'll take down Anub'Arak, the right hand spider of Arthas so to speak. Yet in doing all this, none of these dungeons has an epic feel. You just waltz up to the door basically and jump in. This doesn't make Naxxramas and Ulduar feel epic on the outside.

Now compare that to Blackrock Mountain from vanilla warcraft. Blackrock is a massive mountain between two zones and you have a long walk through a picturesque lava-filled mountain to get to the instance portals. You really feel like you are a small cog taking on giants in Blackrock, and the visuals of the lava and the chains is ridiculously well-done. So I propose to Blizzard, please do the same thing with Icecrown Citadel, just with ice instead of lava. Patch 3.3 should have enough content to support a big castle you have to walk through to get to a couple 5 man instances (like BRD and LBRS) leading to an initial 10/25 man (UBRS) and then the final epic raid (10/25 man like a redone Molten Core). They could even stagger the release of the content like they are trying to do with 3.2's raid. This would give people a ton of content and make them feel the payoff of the Northrend and Arthas storylines was worth the wait.

If we just walk up to the door of Icecrown like we do Ulduar, doesn't it take away from the awesome feeling of walking into a mega-bad-guy-zone like Blackrock Mountain? And in turn, wastes one of the great storylines of Warcraft...perhaps the best storyline of all? The only caveat I have is that the linear style of the instances of WOTLK should remain in the new content, as the Blackrock instances are terribly confusing. Nevertheless, I'd rather run those four instances over anything in WOTLK based on the epic feeling you get there. So until we start getting details of 3.3, I'll be praying that this castle...

Looks a lot like this Mountain!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Happy 10th Birthday to Clarissae

Well it's official, all three of the younger members of the AE Team now share a level, that level being 10. This is a good time to really begin to learn what these characters can do, and we'll see how long it takes before we're celebrating the big 2-0 on all of them. Clarissae is almost done with Azuremyst Isle now, and will be making a trip to mecca, I mean the Exodar, before she heads up to Bloodmyst to continue her training. She's also trained up a level in Mining hitting 55/150 and Engineering which is at 67/100. Engineering is a neat profession as it kind of builds on itself rather than requiring fresh mats all the time like Tailoring and Enchanting. I'll get to see how some of these explosives work as I level now.

Here's the DING picture just because I hadn't posted one yet and well, Ekat doesn't get these anymore.

And an update is in order with Clarissa hitting double digits, here's what she looks like in some more quest greens, her new staff instead of a mace, and her heirloom shoulders (can we call them shoulders if they only cover one? /boggle).

Blowout City


Let that sink in for a moment. That's the embarrassment my beloved Cincinnati reds put up last night against defending world champion Philadelphia. It stands as the worst losing margin in the 140 year history of the Reds organization. While most people today appear to be wishing there were a mercy rule in Major League Baseball (it was 10-0 in the first inning), I have to say I get some sick enjoyment out of watching a position player come in to pitch like Paul Janish did for the second time this season. Sure, he gave up 5 in an inning of a 15-4 loss and gave up 6 last night in an inning, but it's like watching a little leaguer out there pitching in the big leagues. I can only imagine what the pitching coach went out there to tell Janish last night before he gave up the grand slam that made it 22-1...what advice can you give a non-pitcher on how to pitch??

This game brought my attention to other blowouts in my life. Whether it be my usually awful slow-pitch softball team or my PvP record on my main, I don't have to look far for blowouts in my life. Ekaterinae is a holy priest, which means most of the time in a battleground I look like this:

Now things got better in 3.1 with dual specs, as I could experiment with Shadow and learn the secrets of purple power. One of the best moments in my PvP career was defending Ironforge and Stormwind against an AIE Horde raid, as both throne rooms are close quarters and Mind Sear does about 15,000 DPS when there's 60 raiders in close quarters. I've even taken down some bad Death Knight players at 80 in battlegrounds, at least when I can go mano-a-mano. But anytime I want to heal, Holy just does not cut it. Perhaps there's someone out there who could give advice other than "spec Disc," but until then I'll be experiencing a lot of battlegrounds where I spend as much time in the Spirit of Redemption form as I do in human form. In other words, PvP to Ekat is like last night to the Cincinnati Reds.

Considering Ekat is my achievement hunter, I'm actually thinking about dropping the Shadow spec down the road to pick up Discipline. That way I wouldn't feel as inadequate about single-target healing (although Guardian Spirit with a 1 minute cooldown is pretty spicy for Holy) and could fully immerse myself in this PvP aspect of Warcraft that I just have not experienced enough of to this point.

In other news, Biancae (10) and Arielae (10) are resting up for more leveling work while Clarissae (8) has dinged a couple of times and picked up some heirloom shoulders to make the xp fly by. Clarissae will continue to clean up Azuremyst Island from the wretched results of the Exodar crash, and soon I suspect she'll be on her way over to Bloodmyst.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Achievements Yay!

So I nabbed Clarissa some quests and got her over to Azure Watch, where she picked up her heirloom shoulders from Ekat and some money. Clarissa is trained to learn First Aid, Engineering, and Mining as well as she levels out on the islands. Clarissa dinged to 6 this weekend, and Arielae and Bianca are at 10.

I actually spent a lot of time on Ekat, finishing up another faction at the Tournament (Ironforge) and getting exalted with Darnassus and Ironforge as well. This leaves Gnomeregan as the last faction to champion and get exalted. I also went in search of keys, which led me to BRD as well as the plaguelands for Scholo. Then I ran Scholo, BRD, and LBRS with Eitrin, who finished off his classic dungeonmaster. I need to do Stratholme to be done with that. While in BRD by myself, I took on a couple fire elementals and grinded my unarmed skill to 400, finishing off Master of Arms as well as Knuckle Sandwich. The old school instances continue to amaze me, as they are definitely fun and engaging. Must have been really hard back in the day though.

So Ekat will be working on Keymaster, as she's only 4 keys away now. Also will knock out Strat for classic dungeonmaster and then will move onto classic raids with Eitrin. Fun times!

Oh and a picture because Eitrin is obviously THE KING! :-)

Friday, July 3, 2009

The AE Team

A little history...I started playing back around Labor Day 2008. I had 4 real life friends in the game, one of which has moved on to prepping for Starcraft II. The remaining four of us have been members of The Illuminati on Earthen Ring for about the entire time I've been playing. I started on a human priest (Ekaterinae) because healing always intrigues me, and sure enough I fell in love. Everything has been an absolute joy on this main, even though I leveled her holy all the way to 80! What a grind! I also played around with a dwarf hunter (Vanadae), which is a nice relaxing side project when I want to be alone. I tried a draenei warrior (Aenariel) but never got into it, and once the Death Knight craze had died I tried one of those and got him all the way to level 71 (Navarionae). I bought some tanking gear and ran UK a couple of times, thinking I would find some freshness in the game. However, all I found was a frustrating challenge. I realized a few days ago that each of us in my group of friends has completely different playstyles and goals. I'll refer to them by their main's names to keep it cool.

Aurys loves playing on a million alts (he has 50 toons), he loves PvP and raiding. He's splitting his primary time between his original guild Nights on another server and The Illuminati. He's also the only one who plays Horde-side as well as Alliance.

Eitrin loves leveling toons, and has 1 of each class on Earthen Ring, alliance side. Most over 60.

Mikola loves dailies, and has more money and dailies completed on his 2-3 powerful toons than any of the rest of us.

And as for myself, I love the healing role. I love being the backbone of groups and never having to worry about finding anything other than a tank. I have limited playtime for real life reasons, so I'm only working on 2 mains and 2 alts, all healers. So the new AE Team is officially formed, made up of healers of each class to keep my life interesting in game. I will only play Vanadae and Navarionae when I need to get away from it all...but those toons will likely never see max level and that's the plan. So without further ado, here's the AE Team!

First, the Alliance-side main is Ekaterinae (80), a human priest who has received the lion's share of my playtime and is my achievement and seasonal holiday hunter. She was created in August 2008. Priest healing is so amazing, and her offspec is currently Shadow for dailies but I might make her Discipline for more healing goodness. She's also bankrolling the Alliance-side with a bag business and emblems for heirlooms. She's maxed Tailoring, Enchanting, Fishing, Cooking, and First Aid.

Second, the Horde-side main (and only toon for the foreseeable future) is a blood elf Paladin named Biancae (10). She will be receiving the most of my initial attention on the new leveling plans, at least over the next two. She was created in July 2009 and will be a Miner/Jewelcrafter as well as Fishing, Cooking, and First Aid.

The first Alliance alt is a night elf druid named Arielae (10). She was created back in March 2009 and has been languishing behind my previous set of alts until my recent revelations. Although still subject to change, I believe she will specialize in Herbalism and Alchemy.

The second and final Alliance alt is a draenei shaman named Clarissae (1). She was also started in July 2009 and will be tearing up Azuremist and Bloodmyst Islands very soon. No professions have been selected for her, though Mining and Engineering is where I'm leaning for fun. After all, who doesn't want fun on an alt?

And the team would not be complete without bank alts! Aebanky has been my little pink-pigtailed gnome banker on Alliance side for many months now, and Aetrusty has now joined the fold as a companion on the Horde side, since my mains cannot always go auction housing themselves. So here they are:

So with all that being said, welcome to WoW Trek. I will mostly be talking about these leveling alts and healing in the 4 classes, although there may be days when I talk about other aspects of the game. If you happen to cross paths with any of my toons in Earthen Ring, say hello! I'll be happy to see you.