Warning: Long/Boring post Ahead, read at your own risk
Be warned this post may be exceedingly long, and due to it being Saturday I was unable to write it just after I awoke. I haven't decided if I'm going to split it in two or not but we'll see. I have a very clear mind right when I wake up for around 2 hours, so I do most pertinent things then and do them quite well, but after a while it gets a bit hazier and my general goodness becomes less reliable. As to the content of the post itself; if you're reading this you likely come from one of three groups, friends of mine from Starcraft, friends of mine from World of Warcraft and random people from Warhammer Online. As such some connectivity with those primary segments of this post will undoubtedly occur, however the strongest narrative by far is the one from WoW; in which there will be drama, excitement, disappointment, and the vigorous fist of the upper class shall crush your soul. How does one go from being Captain Karazhan on one of the shittiest servers in the game to the top tank on the 4th ranked server in the United States? Read on. I cannot promise the other narratives will be nearly as interesting however.
Starcraft: Brood War
Ah such grand and glorious days these were. From the late 90s to mid-2007 I played Starcraft almost exclusively online, playing over 1500 different custom maps over 25000 times, with about 5 or 6 maps taking 30% of the share by themselves. One wonders how custom games could be so interesting? Well, for one the mapmaking core for Brood War was absolutely outstanding for a time, and is thus far still vastly superior to those who worked on maps for Warcraft III and who are working on maps for Starcraft II. I feel an immense nostalgia every time I boot up the game and still to this day enjoy it much more than the sequel, despite the sequel copying almost everything about the original game with a few minor changes. I did not have daily access to the internet (or a computer for that matter) until early 2006, so I played part time essentially, but still developed outstanding friendships with a variety of people, including my best friend to this day, and was generally a fairly competent player. After attaining daily access I became quite good at essentially every map I played. I perhaps even attained that legendary status of "worthy of elitism" alongside several friends, all of them huge elitist pricks, but I was much more kind to the masses as I annihilated them with a wave of the hand. Eventually the haphazard scheduling of Brood War games around random friends being online led to me wanting for a more scheduled sort of gameplay experience, and naturally there was one place with which I was quite familiar to where I would go. Ironically Brood War was simply too addictive for me. But first, a brief interlude;
It took me quite some time to actually get into D2, perhaps the excessive point and clicking turned me off (my favorite character type continues to be a summon necro), or the generally grindy feeling of the experience. However, with the miraculous addition of music to planet earth randomly slaughtering creatures becomes much more interesting. Quite simply, this game absolutely never gets old provided you're multitasking while playing it. At the same time there's a good deal of random strategy to it that you wouldn't think was there on the surface, provided you're not playing a Barbarian. Of course, the first 3 characters I got to 70 were all Barbarians... Nevertheless, when I finally strayed to a much more overpowered class in the Lightning Sorceress I was able to play this game for quite some time, but ultimately sort of figured, if I'm going to be grinding I may as well be grinding in the 800 lbs Gorilla's World.
Presently still playing D2 (Of course!) with a summon necro on the ladder, whilst my PS3 game marathon continues.
World of Warcraft
I started playing WoW around launch before I had reliable internet access and made a character on my brother's account. While I did gradually level this character up it became clear that sparse weekly play wouldn't work like it did with Starcraft with an MMO timesink. So I waited, and watched the progression of the game closely and successfully predicted most of the progression of the game even prior to beginning to play it myself. I basically predicted the entire Burning Crusade after 2.1 on the Raids and Dungeons forums, and continued doing so on into Wrath, though I quit before Ulduar and came back briefly, only to predict the rest of Wrath.
I began by choosing a "recommended" server, which basically just means god awful population and server, thanks Blizzard. Despite this I gradually worked my way up, my first hurdle of learning coming in the mighty Blackrock Depths. This single 5 man was about equal to the size of every 5 man combined released in the Burning Crusade, as "Winged Dungeons" became the norm and gone were the cavernous exploration sessions which could often take several hours from yore (An Everquest holdover, so they say). In BRD I learned how to tank multiple mobs while holding threat on all of them, which was much more difficult back then than it is now. I ran through the depths about 5 times with the same core group, taking several hours each time and gradually progressing, this was my first taste of that fabled thing, progression. Progression no longer exists in the World of Warcraft, but once upon a time it did, and it was fairly gratifying. You see once you take out absolutely all the difficulty of tanking the capacity to stay entertained goes to shit.
The first wall I hit was one made of wondrous gear, Heroics. Heroics were nerfed a fair amount, but still generally more difficult than the first raid instance, Karazhan. I attempted to go into them with a full set of normal 70 instance 5 man gear, but failed miserably. In fact I almost gave up on the game at this point, however a mage friend of mine in the top guild on the server (actually not too bad of a guild, despite being on such a terrible server) eventually invited me to a Karazhan run, through which I was able to gear up and learn yet more tanking mysteries. Karazhan is perhaps the best raid instance ever made in any MMO ever, extremely atmospheric, fairly challenging at the gear level, and with extensive reason to return again and again without really getting bored. In fact while the game became utterly stagnant for 9 months after 2.1, this sole instance kept the game population growing. And it was here that I improved my raid tanking capabilities and gear, and eventually transferred off of Vashj; fully geared in Karazhan gear, Captain Kara expands his horizons!
The next server I was on (Smolderthorn) was mid level at the time I arrived, with one outstanding guild which is now dead (actually, every good guild from then is either dead or merged with a hodgepodge of other dead guilds into a new fairly good guild, such was the way of Wrath's extensive boredom and Sunwell's utter brutality). I gradually worked my way up the tanking ranks as my mediocre guild somehow managed to progress through Serpentshrine and Tempest Keep, both of which had a few difficult bosses (/gasp), Kael and Vashj being the massive cockblocks to the new instances for quite some time, keeping the secrets of Black Temple and Mount Hyjal away (psst: It was much easier than Kael and Vashj even at launch except for 1 boss). Through whatever astonshing miracle the guild actually did kill Kael and Vashj but failed to progress very far into BT, as killing those 2 essentially made several people quit. Yay we finally did it! Oh fuck this I'm outta here. Another recurring theme in the douchelands of WoW guilds.
Around when I arrived on Smolderthorn Threat production (i.e. how much a boss wants to kill you instead of your friendly DPS buds) became a standard epeen statistic and the biggest skill measurement available for tanks. Warriors were by far the most difficult to tank with at the time. MMOs, you see, are not very skillbased at all. Only a few players in each raid has to do something skillful due to either the differing creation of his class to be more than a few buttons or his specific role being more difficult on whichever boss. My standard ideology concerning MMOs amounts to this Zero Punctuation review. I took it upon myself to master threat, as surely producing record setting threat indicated skill, and skill must be what top guilds are seeking! Ah, if only. Being that MMOs aren't particularly skillbased, skill is not really a factor in top guild recruitment...
As I was saying, the guild on Smolderthorn (whose name I do not even recall) essentially stopped progressing for about a month, so I decided to expand my horizons once more! To Korgath! When I arrived on Korgath there were about 12 Horde guilds in Black Temple, and 8 or 9 Alliance, including the top guild for most of Vanilla WoW Death and Taxes and another top 10 guild on horde, Overrated. But, a few months after I arrived a certain instance was released (still hailed by many as the best instance in the game, no less), and a few bosses there completely annihilated the top 500 guilds in the US, killing say 80% of them. But, combined with those two bosses (M'uru and Kil'jaeden), and so the stage was set for my progression in the Chaos! Wee... First I had to progress through Black Temple, which was just about as easy as I expected (though I was proclaimed ignorant for daring suggest it was too easy, despite the massive burnout those 9 months of dead content from Black Temple to Sunwell created). Clearly you had to be there to play the easy ass fights or you were not worthy of having an opinion!
Around halfway through this I upgraded my computer substantially and from then on was essentially 90-95% of the skill level I was when I set a bunch of threat records and sat on a throne. I really did/do adore the guildmaster of this particular guild (one Glamrock) and we eventually did clear Black Temple, a few months after Sunwell was released. So in we went to suicide land, but we did not actually make it to the real cockblocks unfortunately. Around this time I started experimenting with "threat suits" and eventually broke the record for Naj'entus, the second best threat measurement fight, so proud was I of this grand accomplishment! However, once again the guild's progression stagnated and while I felt like a huge douchebag doing so I had an opportunity to join the second best horde guild as their main tank, and so I did, guild hopping with glee. At this point about half of the Sunwell guilds had died, the better ones due to losing members in the great void after Black Temple, and the others were simply no match for M'uru.
The guild I joined, too, would have died, but fortunately they mass recruited (the only sure way to progress) and wound up with about 8 good players from the third best Horde guild, 2 or 3 from Overrated, 2 who were there initially, and myself. This particular guild, I do not consider it the same guild after merging, was perhaps a top 25 in the US caliber, though we still took a few more weeks on M'uru. But for my part I pumped out the most threat on Felmyst ever, with no threat equipment except my beautiful Stormrage Signet, and never caused a single wipe on M'uru past the first day, not even losing aggro on the second phase, Entropius, a single time, despite the best tank in the US crying about this intensively on the forums. All the while having the highest DPS Warlock in the game trying to pull aggro from me. How dare he!?
Following the killing of Kil'jaeden one day after 3.0 was released (only had a couple of weeks on him prior to that, every guild in the game save SK took at least 2-4 weeks on KJ) the guild quickly disintegrated back to its old constituent parts, and we were left with only 4 or 5 good players instead of 15. Clearly it was once again time to jump ship, this time straight to the top! Unfortunately, the game simply doesn't work that way, as I learned. You see, my class was not only in exceedingly poor demand, but my skill level was irrelevant, and my having all best in slot gear, too, was useless. What was the key to advancing? Playing Everquest, or simply playing WoW since launch within a halfway decent guild. Recruitment at the top has to flesh through so many random applications that ultimately it boils down to who knows you, not how good you are, and how demanded your class is. If you want to join a top guild you either know someone already there or you play the hell out of a fruit of the month class and get really lucky. I may have been a top 10 tank for those few months, but it didn't make one bit of difference in the end. Wrath of the Lich King came, and with it the end of skill as even the slightest used to a Protection Warrior, and my hopes faded entirely. So I quit.
About 5 months after I quit I returned for the sole purpose of forum trolling (I was to that point a top 5 troll or so, the best troll, sir Metroelf, had come to Korgath to discuss this wonderful art with me), and got around 45000 views within 3.5 weeks, 25000 of those from large humorous threads considering the horrible present instance and how it was "too difficult" for 10000 guilds, or rather simply horribly balanced. I wrote a farewell post in this time and got another 5000 views or so, explaining why I quit. I was even mostly recognized by the peerage of wondrous tanks, most of whom have quit by now, or at least play different classes. But, I was finally banned by Furor for my insolence, failing to reach my goal of 50k views in a month, alas. I would wager 5-10 current/former Gentlemen's Club members (top guild on my server) would still strongly suggest I was the best they ever saw, even though I was never in the damn guild! Hah. But oh well, if skill was only vaguely important when it took something to play the game, now that there is none required I am completely withdrawn. I will always have my 10/15/08 Sunwell Badge of wonders, despite never truly playing the game again.
Changing gears entirely I went back to Warhammer, which I had also played at launch for a time, though only to rank 20 or so. I went in knowing that Warhammer was dead and ultimately I probably wouldn't find another single good player in my entire playing time to commune with (well, I found a few humorous halfway decent fellows, they certainly had no reason to be good with the competition though, so hard to say if they ever were). I purposely chose the worst class and took upon my new name, Fredchuckdave, since I had to rename the character upon transferring, and ironically the pet's name was already Dave, who would surely fetch a shitload of people into guards. Being that Warhammer is a purely PvP game it bears mentioning the importance of gear in success, as opposed to skill, and class/group composition further dictating results. This is basically what Yahtzee is referring to when he says "You click on a player and start kicking his shins, then he starts kicking your shins and you go on until one of you falls over, ultimately it comes down to who's got the biggest boots." This game is no different, and since the population is oh so low there are only a few (say less than 5) players vaguely within the good aptitude region it doesn't even matter. Being aware of this from the start I set out on a mission to troll absolutely everyone and entertain myself while doing out. I was surely successful in this, though I had another opportunity due to trolling eventually.
Mythic decided to buff my class, to my chagrin, thus making me lose my fierce individuality and pride at being the only White Lion that even continued to play the game. So I despaired, how must I continue to troll!? I joined KoS, that land of great men, all far too smart to keep playing this piece of trash, but yet still quite humorous in those brief escapades we had. And to singlehandedly produce @ posts for this guild, such pride swells in the heart. You see, simply by changing to one of the easy-mode classes and stacking my group I was able to outperform absolutely everyone else at the class undeniably, I was even presented a new method of doing so on a silver platter, the wondrous city scenario wherein I accumulated the finest of scorecards to fap to. But really, it was just so I could piss people off with yet more trolling, except this time my Impregnable fortress had silly numbers to further create fools. But then, disaster struck and they killed my forums, and on that selfsame day another game was released...
Well, here we were supposed to come full circle but Fate decided it was not to be. While this game may yet further develop better custom maps to return me to it, unfortunately I was simply too good at custom maps and too bored with repetitive melee strategies to continue. Diamond league or no, the fools still play generically; if only I were in Korea, where hundreds of thousands of Kim Jong Ils face off each day instead of nuking each other, then this game would be undeniably the finest of experiences. Alas, American lack of creativity and the prepoderance of Battlenet kiddies instead of old friends murders my poor soul. The campaign was pretty fun though, just not hard enough on the hardest difficulty.
Shoutout to Furg, whose idea it was that I start this blog, and Happy Birthday sir.