Microblog: Talent Experimentation

It’s funny. I love talents more than the average joe. Like, a lot more. I get frustrated when people who don’t change talents for like I do (that’s basically everyone). I quietly rage at people who aren’t open to talent variation. But I also hate spending gold. I’m frugal to a fault. So I rarely change talents in raids unless a) it’s something vital to our strategy, b) there’s a tome set out for everyone, c) we’re on a break so I have time to visit a city, or d) I’m on my monk and I can Zen Pilgrimage to quickly get out and back.

This can be really frustrating when I want to experiment. I love experimenting, especially in those early progression pulls where you have no chance of actually killing a boss, so you might as well learn as much as you can about your talent choices. But I have to really really want it to spend that much gold on a tome. (And I’m not actually spending that gold, I am a herbalist and a scribe for the one reason: making my own tomes. But just knowing how much they sell for stays my hand.)

I usually take down notes between pulls of what talents I’d like to spec into during our next break. We only get one break in the middle of three hours, so sometimes that’s a long period of thinking really hard about how much I want a talent instead of experimenting with it.

I know a lot of people make their talent decisions before a fight by researching what other people do. That’s the smart thing, but it’s not what I enjoy. And with how communities tend to cling to certain talents, I don’t quite trust that other people are making decisions based on experimentation over what’s viewed as the only acceptable choice by the group.

I find a lot of joy in swapping talents even if I don’t have a specific plan in mind, because all the time I’m accidentally finding creative solutions I never thought of. I would love to also use farm raids as an opportunity to experiment, though that’s even less likely to be worth the gold cost of a tome.

Microblog: Talents as Identity

There are some talents I feel an emotional attachment to, like this is how my character is. For my dh, that includes Felblade, Fel Devastation, FalloutFeed the Demon, and Soul Barrier. I’ll change them around sometimes, but I just really like the way those talents are and what they add to my perceived playstyle.

I don’t have quite the same attachment to brewmaster talents. Most of their talents are a choice on what tool solves a problem. Do you need aoe? Hard crowd control? Raid healing? (The one exception is the level 100 talents, which are my favorite for this reason.) But vengeance talents do things like change how you value soul fragments, how you layer your active mitigation, how you generate or spend your mixture of various resources. Choices that enable you to create completely different types of demon hunters, leeching demon hunters, soul fragment demon hunters, cooldown demon hunters, etc.

Brewmaster 100 talents are similar. There’s only that one tier, but that tier allows you to be a damage reduction monk, a smooth monk, or a complicated monk. It’s a beautiful tier! The key difference is that the entire tier has three interesting choices that increase complexity in different ways, whereas demon hunters rarely have three interesting choices on the same row. They’re all spread out so that each row might have one complex choice and one simple choice and something else.

Since I see so many of my DH’s talents as identity talents, I tend to not change them much. Sure, there are cases I will find Last Resort more useful than Soul Barrier, so I’ll change. But if there’s not a clear winner, I want to go with the choices that define the playstyle I want.

On my brewmaster, with their mostly-straightforward talent tiers, I change things around more. Sometimes I need RJW or sometimes Special Delivery, and I don’t particularly love one over the other because they don’t carry an identity with them. I am not the RJW monk like I’m the Felblade DH. I don’t feel deeply unhappy when I spec into Special Delivery like I would if I had to spec into Razor Spikes.

My identity talents add fun to my game. I don’t like speccing out of them because the other options are less fun for me. Fun can come from finding the right tool for the job, as it does when I play around with brewmaster talents, but it also comes from regularly using tools I enjoy the most.

Microblog: Time Management

This expansion has forced me to practice self control. At the beginning, I felt compelled to do everything. All the artifact power dailies, the daily heroic, all mythic 0s, etc. It wasn’t driven by a competitive drive, but that little voice in my head that loves to fill bars (that’s so helpful when it comes to meeting my fitbit goals). It would not shut up until I completed it all.

But it was too much, especially on two characters. Late one night, doing world quests long after raid, it occurred to me that I need to manage my time. That final world quest that awards 1/3 the amount of artifact power I’d get from my daily heroic is not going to get me any closer to my personal goals (which are simple, it’s all about fun for me).

I need to focus on the rewards that are the biggest bang for my time-buck, things like the rare world quests with huge AP rewards, or only doing mythics when I want to. Once I got over the urge to complete everything, I found time to do stuff I like more. It’s been a long time since WoW drove me to reevaluate my schedule like Legion has.

I find myself thinking about my WoW schedule like I do my work schedule. There are all these little things of varying priority, size, and requiring different skills, and a good schedule has to sacrifice some things if you want it to be maintainable in the long run.

My priorities are all about taking care of my two mains, meeting social obligations, and having time for other things like alts and transmog. When I decided to have two mains, I knew that I would not be able to min-max both. I don’t have the time to do that. But I can still get 80% of the way there for 50% of the effort.

Microblog: Actually Terrible

Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.

I’m not sure what the context of that quote is, but when I apply it to myself I find it funny. The whole reason why I maintain this blog is to teach myself, because I struggle with a lot of things. I struggle with learning and paying attention, with reaction times and memory, with verbal communication.

It’s true that once had the trappings of a competitive player, when I was in one of the first US guilds to clear Cataclysm raids. I attribute that to a) unemployment and b) tanking Dragon Soul wasn’t the most difficult thing in the game, and c) I lucked out in joining a guild that had three arcane mages with the legendary staff.

Whenever someone complains about bad tanks, I think “yeah, that’s me”. I pull too cautiously, I do terrible dps, I don’t communicate well verbally. I forget to use cooldowns, zone out, and get defensive (and not in the tanky way). I take forever to pick up on mechanics. I balk at spending gold of any magnitude on consumables.

But I’m okay with my mediocrity. There was a point in my life I wasn’t okay with it, and I got to experience being good at something. But I don’t need that anymore, and I’m having fun in a place where my mediocrity doesn’t hurt too much.

So when I adopt the tagline on my blog “Actually Terrible” that’s my way of just being honest. I don’t want people coming here thinking they’ll get good advice from a top raider. My hope is that average people will come here looking for average advice from an average raider.

Actually terrible, totally fine with it.


Microblog: Words Without Conclusions

Usually when I write posts on this site, it’s with a goal in mind. At least, the only posts that make it to the public eye have to have a point. It’s sort of an unconscious rule of mine, along with presenting everything constructively, even if it’s something I’m particularly peeved about, or decorating everything with meaningful pictures.

I also tend to edit obsessively. It can take me a few days to get something from “nearly done” to “actually published” because I don’t want to put something in the public light if my word choice and sentence structure isn’t polished to the best of my ability.

But there are still things I’d like to write about, things that aren’t important but that I still have some words to write. Things that don’t necessarily have big conclusions or arguments, words that aren’t guides.

I often fill text documents with little tangents. My Google documents are full of them, stuff I find years later that I’m a little sad never left the safe harbor of my private internet. Sometime someone says something on Twitter and I have thoughts about it. Usually more than 140 characters, but usually random enough that I can’t justify a full blog post.

So I’m going to try to write a couple hundred words about these random thoughts once a week (twice this week, since this post is boring by itself). Few pictures, limited editing, just short and sweet all around. I have a couple written up already on topics like talents, transmog, branding, and a few more ideas. We’ll see how long I can go.

Thoughts on My Own Learning

So far, demon hunters have been hard for me to master. That isn’t because of the class, it’s just me taking forever to learn how to intuitively play something new.

A while back I ran heroic Halls of Valor on my two tanks. My demon hunter was at about 850 ilvl, my monk barely above 810. And throughout the whole thing, I actually felt more confident on my monk than my demon hunter. Not for any class or balance reason, but because when bad stuff happens to my monk I intuitively know how to handle it. When my health becomes unstable, even if I don’t know why, I can probably put up an Ironskin Brew and I’ll be okay. I know to do that without even consciously thinking it.

Continue reading Thoughts on My Own Learning

A Sunnier Musing: Stat Apathy

Some may wonder why I no longer have stat priorities in my guides. When I released the new Legion class guides, I instead opted to link to other guides for that information. (Excluding the brief period where each stat priority was that picture in the header.) The short explanation is this: in Warlords I got overwhelmed by all the stat priority questions from random people, to the point where I now cringe whenever any stat topic comes up. Getting asked the same question a million times by a million strangers expecting a million different answers wore me down. In an effort to avoid a similar situation in Legion, I’m delegating.

But there’s a longer answer, having to do with how I find stat priorities in modern WoW boring (and I’m okay with that).

Continue reading A Sunnier Musing: Stat Apathy

Thoughts on Guides for the Quick and Dirty Audience

A few month’s ago I wrote about the two major audiences I see reading WoW guides. To quote myself:

Guides generally have two different audiences: “I want to jump in and play” and “I want to understand”. The vast majority of a guide’s readers will be in the former group, what I’ll call the quick’n’dirty players. They can range from new players who want to tank a 5 man with a freshly boosted monk, to experienced players who want to try a new class, to casual players who want to spend their precious few hours of free time playing a game instead of reading about it. They are interested in getting an introduction that is easy to digest and follow. Cookie cutter builds are targeted to this type of reader, and they often get frustrated when the answer to their customization questions is presented as subjective. They build the body of a readership and are really important for establishing an audience.

The latter group, the “I want to understand” people, or what I’ll call the comprehensive players, are more interested in why these choices were suggested and how to master the spec they are already familiar with. These are a smaller group that usually starts out as the quick’n’dirty type, but eventually want to know more. They may want help solving a particular problem, or they want to customize their character to their liking, or they simply want to be better at the game. They want explanations for everything, beyond the “do this”. Cookie cutter builds can actually harm this group because cookie cutter builds don’t offer nuance. A talent row that is actually competitive might come across as inflexible because the majority of cookie cutter builds suggest a single talent. Brewmaster healing talents and resource talents often hit this wall, because each row has a popular choice (Chi Wave and Ascension, currently), but there are good reasons to change that choice when need arises.

Today I want to talk about that quick’n’dirty audience, and how to better meet their needs. Right now my Brewmaster guide is sort of in the middle of catering to quick’n’dirty players and comprehensive players, which disrupts its ability to serve either group particularly well. To focus on the larger group, I want to find out what the majority of my guide readers look at, and use that information to craft a better experience.

Continue reading Thoughts on Guides for the Quick and Dirty Audience

On Talent Restrictions, Social Friction, and Cookie Cutter Builds

Blizz, I need your help.

A few months ago there was a little movement among guide writers (you can see my contribution here) on how to discourage cookie cutter talent builds and advocate for individual experimentation. For one, swapping talents is just fun — you feel smart when you pick the right one, and it’s more rewarding when there’s an interesting choice and opportunity cost with that talent tier. Two, players will probably do better when they are encouraged to find talents that work for them and their current struggles, as opposed to the general “best in slot” talent. I mean, Blizzard knows all these things. Some devs even retweeted my arguments. But that all lies in contrast to the significant barriers that will be placed on talent swapping come Legion:

Continue reading On Talent Restrictions, Social Friction, and Cookie Cutter Builds

Five Year Blogoversary!

Five years ago today, a talented young bear tank posted the first thing to her brand new blog: A Sunnier Bear. It was a guide to heroic Magmaw 25. It was really an excuse to get views on her kill video.

Eventually that blog morphed into Sunnier’s Art of War and that talented young bear tank morphed into a less-talented, less-young brewmaster.

Continue reading Five Year Blogoversary!