Tuesday, December 14, 2010

On Learning

Learning styles vary between people. While I think many can learn from multiple methods and there is cross-over, it's good to understand the three primary learning styles (visual, auditory, tactile) and realize which you prefer and learn best with, as well as understand that not everyone else will learn from the same methods that you prefer. Myself, for example, I categorize as primarily visual, secondarily tactile. Others prefer auditory learning and discussion, and still others may find they have no problems learning by any of these.

Why is this important for gaming? Encounter strategies, learning your class, learning how to play: how information is presented to you will impact how well you understand the material, which in turn impacts performance. If you know you won't learn as well with one method, seek out material that is presented in a way that is easier for you to understand.

As a side benefit, understanding these learning methods impacts other areas of your life, including schooling and career. I'm a firm believer in "never stop learning," and even when a friend tries to explain something or you're trying to troubleshoot a piece of tech/equipment, knowing your own preferred learning methods can help you to overcome a frustration you may have in not understanding it.

You need to see it to understand it. Someone telling you verbally what to do--like those raid leaders who just ramble on in voice chat before a pull--don't help you. For some, even reading it in text isn't enough. You need visuals. Visual details also tend to stand out for you.
  • Diagrams, charts, videos with written instruction and visual pointers
  • Highlight, font changes, visual IMPACT
  • Illustrations, pictures, comic strats!
  • Symbols, icons
I am primarily a visual learner, myself. That's why I make comic strats and illustrate my points where I can: I want to see it, I want to show it. I need screenshots and stick figures. I need an idea of what something looks like in order for me to fully comprehend it. Space, distance, layout, positioning... all are important to me.

You prefer to hear it spoken to you. The words, vocalized, make everything make sense. Lectures and speeches can keep your interest (assuming the topic itself isn't boring), and verbal discussions are no problem for you. Reading something out loud often helps with comprehension. Conversations about the topic help cement things in your mind, and you are good at picking up sound effects.
  • Reading aloud
  • Discussions, conversations
  • Lectures, or podcasts, or videos with detailed verbal instructions
  • Songs!
For me, I tend to start zoning out and misunderstand when all I'm getting is verbal words (much to Scythe's dismay!). I also have trouble focusing on one voice over others: when multiple people are speaking at once, it can just become a wall of noise. You can pick out some of your visual learners based on their preference to type rather than speak aloud in ventrilo/team speak.

Learn by doing. Hands-on is a great way to learn from your own mistakes. Truly tactile learners need to participate. They can often see why something is the way it is only when they have it right in front of them: they need to play with it and experience it, manipulate it and see what happens.
  • Test Runs
  • Models: mock up a situation with your action figures or by positioning in-game, build it!
  • Labs, field trips
  • Experimentation
The problem is that you have to go and make those mistakes to learn anything, sometimes at the expense of others who already know not to make those mistakes, if it's a team environment like a raid. Games like the old BT Teron Gorefiend simulator game help these players immensely, as do periodic breaks to get up and stretch. Spending time at a test dummy will often help these players learn, as with soloing content and general practice at playing their class and using a particular ability. If worse comes to worse, drop them into large-scale pvp where it's sink or swim!

Raiding with them All
The take-home lesson for raid leaders/officers: your raiders won't always learn the same way that you do. Provide or direct your raiders towards different types of resources, and don't expect everyone to all understand just by watching the same video that magically made everything make sense for you. There are a lot of resources out there, and while it will take some research on your raiders' part, they can often find something right for them to understand whatever they're struggling with.

A note on Videos:
You might expect these to be an excellent resource for visual learners. They are, in terms of watching the playing field and seeing what the players do... but in terms of spoken instructions voiced over the video, they are better for auditory learners. A more visual learner may benefit more from a written strategy + a diagram than they will from an instructional video, while an audio learner will prefer a video with a recorded set of instructions. Some videos may have written instructions included, or arrows added to point out things: those are of benefit to visual learners.

So: beware labeling all videos as "good for visual" vs "good for auditory" learners. Each video is different.

The most difficult type to work with as a raider is the purely tactile, as they need actual raid time to understand a concept, at the expense of others' time. For them, patient preparation and review of mistakes is key. What did they learn from that wipe? Pre-emptive mockups of a room for positioning and use of flares can help these players understand, just as much as for the visual learners. Telling them to all physically get up and stretch during a mid-raid break can also have good results, rather than having them all just tab out to browse the web: physical activity is a great way for many to re-focus themselves, after a long session at the computer. If it's a class mechanic they need work on, practice practice practice!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Tips, Notes, and Miscellany on Resto and Mana

So I hit 85 and started hitting up heroic modes. Here's a collection of things I've learned from healing the 5 mans:

  • Omen of Clarity is your Lifesaver
Use it for your expensive spells. It won't be consumed when you use nourish, though, so you don't need to cancel a nourish should it proc during a cast. Regrowth, Swiftmend, and HT will all consume OoC procs. Mana cost in order of expense: Regrowth (35%), HT (30%), Swiftmend (10%).

  • Roll that Lifebloom
Keep it going all the time; only drop it if you've got an extended period between pulls from explaining tactics or going afk. Especially if you get that Gale of Shadows trinket :) It not only provides replenishment for your party, but it also is our cheapest heal, which is ironic after the WotLK version. Other bloggers have pointed out that we can keep two stacks rolling using nourish or HT to refresh them even after our ToL has ended. If the tank is taking very light damage but dps/yourself are feeling kinda squishy (some circumstances of this HAVE happened for me) then pop your LB on them instead for a short time.

  • Innervate Early and Often
It's such a small mana return even in blues and greens that you don't want to wait until you're near-oom to use it. The longer you wait, the longer you're waiting on the cooldown when you're on your last dregs.

  • Leave the CC to the DPS
You will rarely be able to spare the mana and GCDs to keep CC rolling on a mob, and without much in the way of +hit on your gear, you have a high chance of your CC missing anyway. If you want to try to CC something during an initial pull, assuming your HoTs are running already on the tank, then it needs to be a CC that is not 100% necessary. If it misses, just ignore it and move back to your primary job healing. The time it takes to successfully get your CC on a mob is time that your tank may die.

  • Don't Cleanse Everything
Cleanses are expensive and can often be healed through. Some of them stack and these stacks are sometimes all purged at once with one dispel (ie: poisons in Vortex Pinnacle) or are cleansed one at a time... don't waste your mana and GCDs.

  • Don't Forget Tranquility
It is a super-powerful AoE heal that can and will save the party, assuming you have the mana to be able to cast it.

  • Take Care of your Gear
...and don't be like me and forget you can go buy iL346 blues from the points vendor when you hit 85. >_> Talk to your guild enchanters and feed them greens rather than vendoring them, so that they can provide you a few enchants that are also skill-ups for themselves. As for gems, while they are expensive at this point, you can, if necessary, socket cheap gems from earlier expansions just to net your socket bonuses until you can replace the gems with something better.

Run aggro towards them. LoS casters you have healing aggro on. Let them know if you need to drink; thank them if they're paying attention to your mana pool. If you need them to be popping more cooldowns, tell them. If they're being terribad and they're leaving mobs punching on you or casting spells at you in spite of your efforts to get them off (like standing right next to them and saying "HEY TAUNT THIS"), say so, or ask for CC on them. If all else fails, blacklist a bad tank and avoid having to queue with them ever again.

  • Play Triage
If the DPS pulls aggro, it's not up to the healer to keep them alive. It's up to the tank and the dps to manage their threat. If you have the mana, then certainly save them, or buy them some time, but a healer's mana needs to go to keeping themselves and the tank alive. DPS can always CC aggro that is on them, anyway, and most have some form of threat dump. In addition, if they're being idiots who stand in cleaves (flayers in stonecore) or fire, let em die. They need to learn from their mistakes rather than be carried by kindness. As one of my res macros says: "I simply found it more mana-efficient to res you."

  • Teach and Share
In spite of my above sentiments on the stupidity of DPS, it's only fair to give people a chance. A little note like "the flayers cleave, don't stand in front of them" and "if you jump mid-cast during quake, you avoid the damage" (both Stonecore) can go a long way to helping your sanity, assuming they listen. If they don't listen, that's when I take the "let em die" approach. With quests, sharing the limited quest spawns also helps lower frustration: if you're waiting for a spawn, take the time to toss a party invite to the players around you. Saves time and angst by lowering that competition, and engenders a more positive feeling of comaraderie among your fellow players.

  • WATCH.
That rogue that just took damage: was that a cleave, incidental AoE, or did they just get knocked back into another pack of trash and your act of healing would draw them onto you? Keep your eyes peeled on the environment. I have had this happen during a boss fight (hello, Stonecore again), and I was able to with-hold my trigger-finger long enough to watch him vanish the aggro off (letting the trash reset) before I healed him, and that moment's wait on my part saved us from a messy wipe as I would otherwise have gained healing aggro.

  • Thank those PuGs you Enjoyed
It will make them want to continue their good behavior. Things like a warlock saying "If I have aggro it's because I'm saving the healer," or a tank saying "Are you good on mana?," have stood out in my mind as PuGgers that I would love to play with again. Conversely, complaining about loot that didn't drop will make everyone else roll their eyes and think you're just greedy.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Quick Link

An online magazine made a post about the 7 most Catastrophic moments in WoW's history that was a fun little walk down memory lane. If you haven't been playing long, it's got videos, so it's a good history lesson on some of the big events--or rather, big problems--players have faced, in terms of bugs, lag, concerns, and "working as UNintended."

My favorite was the corrupted blood incident from Hakkar, which was somewhat replicated on a smaller extent from Vaelestrasz' bomb in BWL. KABOOM.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

WTF I want my Cattakissems!

When I went to pick up my copy of the game, I did it over a lunch break. I was on a limited timetable, needed to still eat lunch and drive home and let River out to do her business, and I looked at the line in the pick-up section of the store and thought, "hey, it's short, this shouldn't take long."

I was wrong.

I stood there with my hubby, waiting. There were two lanes open and 2 people in front of us.

Lane one went through both of the customers ahead of us. Lane two was struggling with confusion over a request for a gift exchange, where in he'd already exchanged it for gift cards (the computer systems track these things, people) and was trying to get it exchanged again using the old receipt, ie trying to pull a fast one for free stuff. Thanks bud for lieing, getting caught, and closing up one lane of the customer support line for half an hour or more.

So, lane one. Slow-moving customer support desk. The 2nd guy is wrapping up his pickup of his own Cataclysm game, and I'm getting ready to walk up when some guy comes around the corner and, walking behind the desk, grabs a vacuum cleaner box and puts it on the counter. Coming back around to the customer side, he waits right next to the other customer, watches him wrap up his transaction, and then immediately speaks up to the young woman behind the counter. "Can I pick this up now?"


WTF I want my Cattakissems!!

You, sir, have just been thrown mental daggers at by a rather pissed off gamer on her lunch break who is channeling her inner rogue alt. Hope you like those iLevel 232 dagger hilts sticking out of your skull, you LINE CUTTER.

I set my jaw and glare at the back of his head as he goes through his pickup of his vacuum cleaner. Angry Kae WTF-tree powers activated. I stand there thinking, "If I were working here, I'd've told him to go to the back of the line. The staff are rewarding him for his rude behavior by letting him get it. What is the world coming to?"

He doesn't even hurry with the transaction. He takes his time.

Finally, he leaves, and I get to pick up my big ole collector's ed box next to the guy who's still arguing that he wants to exchange something he doesn't own anymore for more merchandise, and rush home and let River go potty and give her lunch and pick up a COFFEE NOM MOCHA and head back to work for the afternoon, my soundtrack tucked under my arm.

My spot in line got ninja'd, though, and it rankles me. Grr. Argh.

/moonfires the vacuum.

Things I wish I could speak up and bitch about in-person, but haven't the guts or the time to make a scene about. /sigh.

A New Expansion

I went and picked up my collector's edition during my lunch break, and took the soundtrack with me to listen to over the afternoon. There are some truly beautiful tracks, and as I type, I am listening to Nightsong and absolutely falling in love with it.

Beautiful. It resonated with some part of me, and called back to my mind my first character, my night elf druid, Kae. That emotional tie I have to her as a character, my concept of her, my experiences with her from the early days tumbling off of Teldrassil's branches all the way to her first piece of T1 cenarian, when she ran around with leafy shoulders and deer antlers, up to her last raids facing off against the waves of undead in ancient Hyjal. Her home, Moonglade, and her heart, the Emerald Dream.

While that particular character is but an alt now, the flood of memories is still present and washing over me, very much a part of my experience and history in the lore-rich world of Azeroth. It is an appropriate time to look back over the past expansions and our experiences with the game, just as we look forward to the new Cataclysm. What will Cataclysm bring us, as players? What will it bring you?

I look forward to:
  • exploring the new zones and incorporating new abilities into my hybrid toolset.
  • the challenge of having mana problems while healing.
  • having to make triage decisions again in 5-man instances.
  • having to worry about aggro, and CC, and positioning again, as that difficulty makes for an enjoyable challenge.
  • experiencing the wonder of exploring new zones and new dungeons, and new raids with the friends I have made across the world.
  • my worgen alt, my love of wolves and wish for playable worgen finally realized.
  • playing again with friends who had left Azeroth behind, but are returning to see the expansion. Friends who had brought me to Azeroth in the first place, all those years ago, and helped baby Kae learn to love this game.
Whether you're already playing around in the expansion or patiently awaiting your copy and the freetime to play it, I wish you a fun and enjoyable expansion.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Puppy + Snow = Squee

As a northern breed, she took to the snow as if it were... well, all the world was a snowcone.

She and I chased each other around the yard after dark, kicking up snow under the reflected orangy-pink glow of the clouds, slipping and sliding around the yard. I was giggling like a child, and she obviously had better traction than I did and would zip past me trying to be fast enough to not let me tag her. This game isn't fair when mommy's in heavy snow boots and trying to not slide down the hill... but so much more amusing :D

She is solidly larger now than all of her play pals... over 5 months old, she's still growing. She learned she's still not the biggest dog in the world when she met two Great Danes on Saturday. Followed by a Miniature Dachsund puppy. Then she wanted Santa to give her a belly rub.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Literal Cataclysm Trailer

...credits go to Sember for posting this to the guild forums :)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Trade Chat Awesomeness

Usually, I ignore trade chat. I even have a whole separate chat window set up that filters out trade and general, to save my sanity from the deluge of filth that plagues its text.

But, sometimes, there is a conversation there that gives me hope.

And amusement.

Thank you, Turalyon trade chat. You made my day.

Dance magic dance, magic dance...
Jump magic jump, magic jump...!