Monday, September 15, 2014

How to Learn How to Learn to Play

World of Warcraft is remarkably popular. It's actually pretty surprising sometimes when I search for something without using any warcraft terms and I find exactly what I'm looking for. I mean, searching "auctioneer" brings up the Warcraft mod before it brings up anything about actual auctions.

So many people use Google to find answers to their Warcraft questions that sometimes it knows what I'm looking for and puts it in an information box at the top of the screen. Heck, there are more results for "World of Warcraft" than there are for "kittens".

combine searches for best results

Among all the websites, news articles, and forum posts, you'll find a lot of websites that just aren't that great. There are sites that try to tell you what gear you should get, how you should gem and enchant, or how to play your class - but can be incomplete, outdated, or just plain incorrect. There are guides and resources available that are very useful, while there are other websites that are entirely unreliable.

It is unfortunate because someone who doesn't know any better who is trying to help themselves get better find these websites and have no reason to believe that they're learning incorrect information. Depending on which class you are looking for information on, it could be more or less correct. There might be a guide on a website that is decent for a certain player's spec, while being awful for the others, causing players to unknowingly recommend bad information to a friend.

like that you should use bear form as a balance druid

I have had several situations where I had well respected guild mates tell me they use certain websites all the time that I had found to produce wildly inaccurate information for my class. It's entirely possible that they might get one out of eleven correct, but that's the problem with big websites that try to "do it all" - the site moderators aren't experts at every class.

A lot of people want a short, simple guide that they can read in a few moments and become a master. They want an addon or a website that they can plug their character into and be told exactly what gear they need or how to reforge and gem. I'm here to let you know that unfortunately, you'll never be able to do that. While they are doing a lot to simplify things in Warlords, like dropping reforging, if you are genuinely interested in becoming very skilled at your class, you'll have to do some more research.

this says I should gem strength... okay seems legit

The short answer is to never use just one resource when trying to figure out how to get better or while learning a new class. Some of your best sources will be from places with active communities where players combine their knowledge and effort in order to help each other get the most out of their spec. If the website you're looking at has no open forum discussion it is probably not reliable.

Remember that guides and resources are all contributed to by the same players you see in game - the same ones who may be unknowingly playing incorrectly. Without discussion between them to fact check, math check, and balance each other out, they may never know that the information they're giving out is wrong.

the player helping you out might be this guy

Don't get the wrong idea, though. When you dissect it to its core, the only resource available actually is other players. It is valuable to have conversations with people who play your spec if you're looking for help, however I would obviously recommend asking players you know to be talented. While I've had random people whisper me asking for help, I'm going by the assumption that they inspected me and decided I was a good resource, or they were in my group at some point and noticed my performance. I would not recommend whispering the first player you see who shares your spec and asking them questions, as without background knowledge you have no way of knowing if they are actually reliable.

For the most part, guides you will find on other sites are cut and paste versions of guides written by highly active members of your class' community. As they are not the primary location of these guides, they can go unmaintained. Some websites will keep a very clear notification of which patch the guide was written for, so that you'll know if a guide wasn't updated since there were changes made to your class. One of the best tips when looking for information is to look at the date.

Any website that simply tells you what to do without explaining why is probably best to avoid - the most important thing to learn when researching your class is not what stats are best, what gems and enchants to get, or what talents to pick, but rather why those are the choices you want, and what taking other choices will mean for you. Knowing why a certain stat is better for you or knowing the situations that make certain talents better is going to help teach you far more than just being told what to do. The most valuable talent discussion will end without telling you which talent is "best", but it will explain the pros and cons, math, and utility behind each choice.

One highly active source with open discussion between community members is MMOChampion. While each class may not have a guide for every spec, there is open forum discussion. Each class subforum has moderators who actually play the class they moderate for, and there are stickies and additional links to other resources within them and posted by other players. The highly active community makes it a good place to start when there have recently been changes to your class, as theorycrafters and raiders will begin to post information about changes and how to deal with them almost immediately. The thing to remember is that this is not a plug and play answer to how to play your class - highly respected heroic raiders post right alongside people who don't even play the class they're talking about. Finding the right answer may involve scrolling through a few pages of a forum post.

Another source I would recommend is Icy Veins. It has guides that are incredibly in depth and are compiled with the help of active community members. Depending on the input given by members of the community, they can provide individual hints and tips for particular boss fights for your class as well. They have guides for more than just playing your class and are highly maintained and are held in generally high regard.

While it's dwindled in its activity since the olden days, Elitist Jerks is still a reliable source of information. Some classes may find that their subforum is inactive, but due to elitist jerk's posting policies and stringent moderation, there is a lot of good information to find. The only issue is being sure to watch the date that posts were made, as information could be outdated depending on how active your class' community is.

Another valuable tip can be finding some active, talented players of the class you need help with and seeing if they have a website or a blog. Just with any other source, combine your results with other websites and guides, and always fact check and do your own testing. Some choices can vary based on gear levels - high end raiders may get better results than you for certain things if they have higher stat values. Certain communities are more active and very passionate about their class - if you're a balance druid you're in luck as the balance druid community is crazy about their spec and there are several significant and reliable players out there helping to teach people how to play.

The most important thing to remember is to cross check your sources. Any source I've linked, any high end raider you speak with, and any other guides you come across could be incorrect on some points. Gather your information from many sources and see which information has math to back it up, or which information is most often repeated.

remember to hit it very hard
Remember also that testing on a target dummy can be misleading. In order to reliably test a rotation or talent on a target dummy, you need to apply some parts of scientific method - remember to remove any factors that could skew your results and remember that you need a lot of results.

If you DPS a target dummy for 3 minutes, that is not an accurate representation of your parse. If you only compare two parses, that is not an accurate comparison. There's always math, testing, and theorycrafting, but you must remember that nothing will give you flawless results - you need to combine different efforts in order to make the most effective and efficient choices.

With Warlords coming, everyone's class will be changed - some more significantly. Forums will be blowing up with people looking for help and for the most part, players will be happy to share their theorycrafting, parse tests, and experiences. The important part is to know how to use information you find and what to look for in the information you find.

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