Secret Santa: The Fellowship of Gamers

Happy Holidays from Thespius, over at Healer By Nature! As a recent transplant into the Star Wars universe, and also as a WoW player for 5 years, I thought it would be great to remind everyone that we're all gamers with a passion for what we do. Especially those of us that blog, read, podcast, or more!

I sincerely hope your holiday season grants you lots of love and happiness with family and friends, be they in person or in game! I wish the Blessing of Kings on you and yours. Bond with nature; be bestowed with the Mark of the Wild. Let the Earth Shield you from harm and negativity. Look to the new year with Fortitude and Grace! Look to your friends in times of need as they offer you a Hand of Protection. For the spiritual, sing your Divine Hymn to those you believe in, and find Tranquility in that Hymn of Hope. Swallow your pride, find Penance, enabling your Ancestral Awakening and Redemption. And finally, from the home of the Dwarven Battle Medic, let the Healing Rain down on your allies! And...umm.... Power Word: Barrier..... Let us all...

This post is part of the Blog Azeroth Furtive Father Winter event where bloggers exchange holiday themed posts in a Secret Santa-style, RNG-determined blog ring. My gift-giver, I was delighted to discover, is Thespius of the blog Healer by Nature. I have heard a lot about Thespius in my many conversations with his WoW guildmate, Opehlie, and am very happy to publish his gift post this holiday season on Battle Medic! Thanks, Thespius!

You can read the article that I wrote for Akabeko at Red Cow Rise entitled One Winter's Veil Morning...


Inconvenience, Entitlement and The Abominable Greench

"You're a mean one, Mister Grinch..."
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
Wie treu sind deine Blätter!
Du grünst nicht nur zur Sommerzeit,
Nein, auch im Winter, wenn es schneit.
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
Wie treu sind deine Blätter!
As in the real world, Azeroth is crazy busy with holidays this time of year. The Feast of Winter Veil is upon us and brings with it many new and interesting things to do. New dailies, lore and as with most of the holidays we have a big bad boss to fight for a chance at some holiday themed loot.

This Winter Veil is threatened by The Abominable Greench, who has stolen presents and other holiday goodies, hoarding them in his cave in the Alterac Mountains. There, adventurers must gather to defeat this implacable monster with a taste for Grandma's fruitcake. At stake, the very fate of Winter Veil itself.

Okay, that might be exaggerating things somewhat. The world will likely not end if Little Johnny doesn't get his toy train. But still, ooooo, The Big Bad Greench. Scary.


"Now look at them yo-yo's that's the way you do it
You play the guitar on the MTV

That ain't workin' that's the way you do it
Money for nothin' and your chicks for free" - Money for Nothing, Dire Straits

What is different with this years holiday boss is that the Greench is not available through the Dungeon Finder as the other holidays bosses have been. During Brewfest all you needed to do in order to defeat the wicked Coren Direbrew is to press the I button and you would be instantly transported to his location with a party of fellows to help you dispatch the fiend and collect your goodies. With The Greench, however, a long flight (for Alliance folk, anyway) to the Alterac Mountains is in order, and then the long wait in hopes you can find other people there to help you kill him.

Compared to past holiday events, this is inconvenient. Blizzard obviously has the technology to automate the Greench destruction process, but chose not to. Probably due to the fact that the Greench does not or could not be made to exist in an existing dungeon and the developers likely didn't want to spend the manpower and resources to create an instanced version of Alterac specifically for the Greench. There are more important things for the developers to work on after all, like fixing the silly Mature Language Filter bug that doesn't allow me to express myself with my accustomed colour and wit in Guild Chat.

These thoughts occurred to me as I was hovering over the Greench's cave, admiring his 3.4 Million health and the beautifully wrapped presents dangling from his horns. I was annoyed. Annoyed that I had to spend ten or fifteen minutes just getting there, and then finding no one to group with to get the boss kill and save Winter Veil. I was annoyed at the simple inconvenience of not having this boss kill handed to me as previous holiday bosses had been.

Needless to say, that is a terrible attitude to have. It's a sense of entitlement; that everything should be easy and convenient and require virtually no real effort. Money for nothing indeed - Mark Knopfler, you are truly the great prophet of our time.

As I was sitting and waiting for enough people to show up so that a group could be formed I started thinking about how easy everything has been made in WoW. The Dungeon Finder, the Raid Finder, the ease of levelling and so on. I don't want to complain about these things, because honestly I think they are very important changes and overall very beneficial to the game. The Dungeon Finder revolutionized the accessibility of dungeons and heroics, and the new Raid Finder is doing the same thing with Raiding. These are all great things. Easy is not necessarily bad.

However, what all these systems have done is create an expectation that things will always be that simple. And in those few moments as I was waiting, I started thinking about what my expectations were and frankly, just how spoiled I have become because of all of the great, time-saving convenience gifts that Blizzard has given us over the past couple of years. And the fact that this time I had to do things the old fashioned way suddenly didn't seem like such a big deal.

Still, it bothered me. Am I, and by extension the WoW playerbase as a whole, so spoiled that we can't handle a little inconvenience? Are we so used to getting everything we want, right when we want it that we can't deal with even the littlest setback? Are we forever in the days when a single wipe in LFD or LFR means that the group breaks up and everyone goes back to their little personal corner of Stormwind or Orgrimmar complaining at just how bad and impatient everyone else is. Is that really where we are?


All your presents are belong to us. Rawr.
Note the self-satisfied smirk.
So there I am: Up in the air on my flying mount thinking all these profound thoughts on the nature of entitlement and humanity, all the while the Greench is still down there needing to be killed. That's when something magical happened that would never have been possible if the encounter was set up through the Dungeon Finder.

Waiting with me were two other Alliance players and on the other side of the snow covered mountain plateau were hovering two Hordies. On a PVP server such as mine, situations like this can get messy, and involve a lot of running back from the graveyard as the factions fight amongst themselves and no one manages to get anything done. It was a standoff, with no one daring to pull the boss in fear that the other faction would attack from behind.

Suddenly, someone unexpectedly pulled the Greench and without a single word or indication, everyone there attacked the boss and left each other alone. We fought the Greench together; Horde and Alliance, fighting alongside one another getting something done in the spirit of the season.

Soon the Greench died to our collective, cross-faction efforts, and there was a great deal of /bowing, /waving and an overall general feeling of seasonal cheer and camaraderie, not unlike the temporary seasonal armistices between Allied and German soldiers during the bitter trench warfare of World War I. And like those weary soldiers in the battered fields of France a century ago, no one wanted a war - the Alliance and the Horde players that were there just simply wanted to be able to celebrate the season (in this case the seasonal achievement) in peace. Which is what this season is all about, isn't it?


Well, not always, of course. Stories like that are the exception. More likely, if a soldier was to stroll out into No Man's Land - Christmas or no - he'd be shot before the second verse of Silent Night. But no one remembers the second verse anyway, so it's probably for the best.

When I went to kill the Greench on my Shaman, Thallie, it was a bit of a different story. As I got there, I noticed that there were a large number of skeletons in front of him, and I swear that the bugger had a self-satisfied smirk on his face. I figured that perhaps some unwise souls had tried to solo him, with fairly predictable results.

Go Go Mountain Top Vengeance Squad!
Well, not quite.

As it turns out, a Horde hunter was hiding in the cave, sniping people as they attempted to fight the boss. He managed to kill me a few times as before I got fed up and had enough. Obviously, the spirit of the season did something nasty to this guy's eggnog and he wasn't exactly in a giving or charitable mood.

So I did what any self-respecting, non-PVPing healer would do: I called in the reinforcements.

Within three minutes, I had 3 hardcore PVP specced guildies zoned in and hunting for this guy. If there is one thing my guild is extraordinarily good at, it's raining fiery vengeance on any player foolish enough to ambush one of our guild in the world. Within a few moments we had showed him the other, much more violent side of seasonal cheer.

It just goes to show that magical season of fellowship or no, some people are just inherently douchebags.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy Winter's Veil from Dwarven Battle Medic! And honour any unofficial armistices lest we not forget the guild banner that gets planted in your buttocks. Happy Holidays!


One Year Later...

And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.” - Abraham Lincoln 
One year ago Sunday, I was sitting in my office at work. It was a cold, snowy, miserable Saturday in December, ensuring that only the bravest and most motivated customers would dare visit the lot. In an attempt to stave off a level of boredom that would have resulted in me falling asleep at my desk, I started casually fooling around with Blogger to see if I could find a blog design that would catch my eye. An hour and a half later, I had the basic look that you see here now (unless you're on a feedreader) and my first post up. The rest, as they say, is history.

I've talked before about what motivated me to begin writing Battle Medic, why I chose the name and who my influences were - all really excellent topics for an anniversary post, but I'm not going to go into all that again. But I have been doing some pondering on my experiences and feelings about this whole blogging thing.


Because I'm sure there are people out there dying to know...

Over the past year, as of this writing Battle Medic has seen over 41,500 pageviews according to Blogspot's statistic's page. The best month I had was June with 6,136 views. As well, I have a good number of subscribers to my feed, although I don't really have an accurate way to track that. Google Reader tells me that 188 people are subscribed to the blog.

4 of my Top 5 all-time posts in terms of traffic are unsurprisingly due to being linked by the 800 pound gorilla of the WoW blogosphere, WoW Insider, which always results in a 20-fold increase in traffic for a day or two. However, the post that is hanging on in fifth place is my most controversial post, but also the one that I am most proud of writing: On Raiding Disappointment: An Open Letter to Blizzard. Although some people didn't agree with the content of the post, I think that in terms of the way in which the ideas are expressed it is my most powerful bit of writing. I'm glad that it's managing to hold on to a top spot, despite not being linked by WoW Insider.

I'd like to give a shout-out to my top referrers while I'm at it. WoW Insider is, of course, the site that has sent me the most traffic, although it's not as extreme as you might think. Blessing of Kings - the big daddy of Paladin blogs - is second, even beating Google. It appears that a lot of you use Rohan's Blog Roll to find your way here, and I credit getting listed on his site as what really got Battle Medic off the ground in terms of traffic and exposure. Thanks, Rohan! Orcish Army Knife, Bossy Pally and the Giant Spoon round out the top referrers.

I am extremely proud that Battle Medic is listed on so many Blog Rolls around the blogosphere, and I thank everyone who thinks enough of my writing that they would add me to their site. It's a thrill every time I run across a blog that I'm unfamiliar with and see my blog listed there as something that they read and recommend.

All told, I have been extremely satisfied with the amount of people that are seeing what I write.

Traffic, however, is not that important if the people visiting are not finding the content engaging, and the only way to really know what you, the reader is thinking is the comments. There are a lot of reasons why a person wouldn't write a comment, but the only thing that is going to make someone (especially someone viewing a post in a reader) to stop what they're doing and respond to a post is if it has a compelling message. Agree with me or not, I value every single comment that I have received on Battle Medic, and over the course of the past year people have commented 572 times on the blog. Now I just need to be better at responding to them.


I can honestly say that Battle Medic has not quite turned out the way I anticipated. Don't get me wrong, I am very proud of the posts that I have written, but I hoped that it would have turned into more of a Kurn-esque resource blog rather than the personal game journal that it is now. While I would like to do more analytical posts, I think one of the most important lessons that I learned is that while those how-to and resource posts bring in a lot of views from the search engines, regular readers are more interested in what a blogger thinks about something. It's the personal opinions and viewpoints that keep bringing readers back.

That idea has shaped the evolution of Battle Medic more than anything.

Well, aside from the Dwarfling. I've written about this numerous times - it's almost to the point of getting quite stale - but my life, and consequently my ability to focus on my blog, has changed remarkably since I started a year ago. There have been far too many of the "I'm tired, no time to write" posts for my liking. The last thing I want is to turn this post into another of those, but the Dwarfling certainly has had a big effect on my posting and gameplay.

Still, I have enjoyed writing this blog more than I ever would have thought possible. Before starting it, I didn't realize how much I enjoyed the process and creative release of writing. More importantly, though, I didn't realize that I had something to say. I have opinions on this game and my experiences playing it, and I had no idea that there was a burning need to express them until I started writing about them. It's made me think about the game quite differently.


Writing a blog is fun, but interacting with the readers is much more rewarding. It's that interaction that begins to build a community, and the WoW Blogging community is great. It's diverse, engaging and very supportive. I don't think there would be much point in blogging in a void.

Everyone I talk to, whether it be on Twitter, forums or through comments, has been amazing. Support, advice and sympathy have been offered whenever I've been feeling like a grumpy Dwarf, and congratulations are never in short supply when something good happens. And, of course, there is nothing that will generate conversation and comments like posting a picture of the Dwarfling; the internet certainly seems to be taken with her.

I was planning on doing a list of people who have been influential to me and the blog and thank them, but honestly, there are far too many to list. The post would either get too long (it already is... this was supposed to be a short post!), or I would end up forgetting someone important, and I would hate to do that.

However, if you are reading this blog regularly, I thank you. I appreciate how special it is that someone takes time out of their day to read the drivel that I spew onto the interwebs. I hope that what I write is informative, enlightening or at the very least entertaining.

If you have ever commented on Battle Medic, I thank you. Believe me, I know how hard it is to comment on a post. Personally, I find it much harder to write an interesting comment than I do an interesting article. Know that each and every comment, regardless of whether I get off my tuckus to respond to it or not is read and appreciated. In fact, I get a shiver of anticipation every time I see that there is a new one.

If we have ever interacted on Twitter, I thank you. I jumped on the Twitter bandwagon quite late - I still haven't had one year on that yet - but I have a really good number of followers. In my wildest dreams I didn't think that there would be that many people interested in what I have to say.

If you are a blogger and have added me to your Blog Roll, I thank you. If you've ever ReTweeted, linked or written a response to one of my posts, I thank you.

If I have influenced you in some way - to start a blog, join Twitter, think about screenshots differently, or even to ditch all the other races in favour of the clearly superior Dwarves - I thank you. I write this blog for myself, but to know that there are people out there who enjoy what I write enough that it inspired them to do something themselves is very satisfying. I'm glad I could help, and I thank you for valuing what I do here.

And if you read this blog and didn't like it, well, I thank you anyway. Honestly, I get a lot of positive feedback here (the WoW blogosphere is very supportive), and I would love to get some idea of what I'm doing wrong. So thank you for all the constructive criticism in advance.

There... I think that covers just about everyone.


Back on that blustery day last December when I pushed the Publish button for the first time, I had no idea whether I would enjoy blogging or whether I would keep up with it. So many of the projects that I take on start out so brilliantly and then fizzle into a small, grey lump of nothing, and I'm glad that I've managed to keep Battle Medic as active as I have, given the circumstances.

I will continue to write this blog as long as there are people reading it. I'm hopeful that I'll be able to increase the frequency of the posting around here, as it's been much quieter than I'd like since August. I look forward to writing another of these posts next year!


The Proof is in the Search Terms

Yesterday I posted my first impressions of the new Dragon Soul raid. It seems as though I am not alone in my fears that the level of difficulty is a little too far on the easy side; Twitter and the Blogosphere have been abuzz with debate about it.

However, bloggers and tweeters are not necessarily indicative of how the average WoW player reacts to the game. Even though I in no way consider myself a hardcore raider, just the fact that I write a blog means that I'm probably more hardcore about the game than the average player. I tend to read a lot and think a lot about the game.

So what does the non-blogger, non-twitterer think?

Well, there really is no way to know for sure. But we do have a way to see what people are asking the search engines, or at least see what questions are leading people here.

Here are some of the Search queries that have lead people to Battle Medic since the First Impressions post:

  • dragon soul easiest raid ever
  • dragon soul easy -demon
  • dragon soul raid boss encounters
  • dragon soul sared lot
  • random ride drop in dragonsoul
  • zandalari heroics harder than dragon soul
Clearly, this is an issue that is on the mind of a lot of people. The proof, as it were, is in the Search Terms.

As well, I thought I would share this one because it gave me a chuckle:
  • a beacon of light hit my face when i say welcome to th
I would really like to know what he said to get a Beacon of Light in the face. We may never know. I bet it hurt, though.

UPDATE: Upon closer inspection of my Google Analytics, I managed to find the full search term from above: 
  • a beacon of light hit my face when i say welcome to the dwarf race!
I'm still completely mystified as to why someone would type that into Google or what they were hoping to find, but in the event that this suddenly turns into the new, fashionable search-term de jour, I am at the top of the results. Go me!


We went back to Dragon Soul last night to see how far we could get. As I suspected, our Raid Night was cut short again by Real Life issues. All told, over the two nights that we raided this week we managed a mere 4 1/2 hours total. Still, we got a fourth boss down last night and despite some add-on issues managed a few good pulls on Ultraxion.

Ultraxion (Image courtesy wowpedia.org)
To put things in perspective, it took us approximately 8 to 10 hours of raiding - in which we attempted 3 different bosses - to get our first kill in Firelands.

Our average pace in Firelands before the nerfs was to get one new boss down per week, excepting the first and last kills which took longer. Getting half of the new raid down in half the time it took us to kill one boss in the previous tier is a little alarming.

It's not as if we overgear the new raid, either. We're not loaded up with heroic Firelands gear; most of our raid team have 378 gear, and a few have even less than that. This week I was asked to bring my Shaman instead of my Paladin main in order to help with raid healing. My Shaman has a grand total of 3 raid kills to her name and wasn't even eligible for Looking For Raid based on the item level of her gear - not to mention that I don't have a lot of experience healing with her. At least two others in the group have a similar level of gear.

However, the level of difficulty does seem to climb as we get into the second part of the raid. Ultraxion is no joke. Timing is tricky, DPS requirements are high and everyone - particularly the healers - needs to know exactly what they're doing in order to get him down. And that trash before him is quite brutal in an oh-my-gawd-why-won't-this-end kind of way.

I'm actually glad that we encountered some resistance. I still think we'll be through Normal Modes very quickly, but at least a few of these bosses have some fight in them so as to make it interesting.

I just wish we could get a raid group together for a decent amount of time in a night.


This Week in Raiding: Dragon Soul First Impressions

Alrighty, now that the 50,000 Words project is done (and so help me if I see another screenshot again...) I can get back to writing about the game that I've been photographing for the past month. I would hate for Battle Medic to be known as just a screenshot blog.

There will be no screenshots in this post. I think I'm imaged out for a while.

As everyone knows, Patch 4.3 dropped Tuesday. Between a cranky computer that chose a horrible time to have a software glitch, a cranky baby that was overtired and dealing with a cold, and a cranky wife dealing with said baby, I didn't have a whole lot of opportunity to run the new content. I did manage to run End Time twice, once on my Paladin and once on my Shaman. End Time was a lot easier than I was expecting; very straightforward mechanics and what felt like low damage. I didn't really feel pushed all that much on either of my healers. End Time, at least, feels a lot easier than the Zandalari heroics and I am okay with that.

Last night Mountain Top went into the new raid instance Dragon Soul on Normal Mode for the first time. Our realm already has a number of 8/8 guilds, which made me optimistic that we would be able to get through it without too much trouble. From what I've heard, Dragon Soul is a lot easier than Firelands was, so long as the raid can manage the various different mechanics.

Without extensive preparation we managed to get three bosses down before we wiped to the Real Life boss. We spent about an hour and a half in a brand new, never-before-seen raid instance and yet still managed to easily one-shot Morchok and Yor'Sajh the Unchallenging Unsleeping. In addition, Zon'ozz fell after three or four pulls once we got the ball rolling, so to speak.

That's kinda nuts, really.

I really like the new 5-mans; they are short, well paced, absolutely stunning to look at and have the right amount of trash, I think. The boss encounters are easy enough to explain to a random group, and the entire dungeons can be completed quickly enough that they can be farmed without too much hassle. Which is what they are for, after all.

A raid, on the other hand, has to last. There is absolutely no reason that bosses should be killed on the first pull on the first attempt in the first week of a new raid - at least not by the non-hardcore crowd. Hell, some guilds have already 9-manned Morchok.

Now, as a disclaimer, we haven't pulled 5 of the bosses yet, so this may be premature, but I'm really worried that Normal Mode Dragon Soul is going to be easy enough that we'll blow through it in a week or two. And if this raid can be cleared by casual raiding guilds like Mountain Top so quickly, then unless the Heroic Modes are brutally, butt-clenchingly hard, the next five or six months until Mists of Pandaria comes out are going to be boring as hell. How long until we're through Heroic Modes and thinking, "What now?"

Mountain Top has never been a Heroic Mode guild - we have trouble getting the same people together each week and even more trouble getting a decent amount of time to raid. Five hours a week is about all we can manage on a good week, and quite often we're struggling to get more than two or three. With those time constraints, Heroic Modes always seemed out of reach. Now, however, with Dragon Soul it seems like Blizzard has lowered the bar for a guild like ours to get into them.

End game content in WoW has always been gobbled up extremely fast by the top-end guilds, and short of extremely restrictive gating mechanics (releasing the raid slowly over time, as they did with Trial of the Crusader and Icecrown Citadel) that's never going to change. Now, it seems as if Blizzard wants everyone to burn through the content just as quickly. I think this is a mistake.

When the Firelands were nerfed, I brought up the idea of the Tourist, which was received with a bit of controversy. Personally, I thought that the Looking For Raid difficulty level was going to be tailored for those people who couldn't or wouldn't run normal raids and just wanted to see the content to experience the story, but now it feels as if the Normal Modes are going that way as well.

Tonight we go back into Dragon Soul to see the remaining encounters for the first time. I would be very disappointed if we don't end this week at least 6/8, and wouldn't be the least bit surprised if Deathwing falls. Really, the only sticking point is how much time we'll have before we have a raider needs to leave in order to deal with the far more difficult fights with girlfriends, wives, babies and work.

It will be interesting to see where the numbers are in a few weeks. Will there be far more Guilds at 8/8 than Blizzard was expecting? And if Guilds do burn through the content as quickly as I suspect that they will, what is that going to do to the subscriber retention between now and Mists? Or, with the advent of the Yearly Subscription Pass does Blizzard even give a crap anymore, since the bribe of a pretty My Little Pony means that people aren't going anywhere and Blizzard has a free ride until the next expansion.

Time will tell, I guess.

I will say this, though, on a more positive note: I am enjoying the new content. Aside from the ease, I think the mechanics of the new bosses are quite cool, the scenery is beyond gorgeous and the sheer amount of lore that is stuffed into the raid and new heroic dungeons is amazing and engaging. I will be writing a lot more about the good things that Blizzard has given us in the coming days, I'm sure.