Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Losing Connection

This time of year is a strange time for me; I get little melancholic and a lot nostalgic. September seems to herald both beginnings and ends as the leaves change colour and the temperature cools; it's time for warm scarves and spicy cider. Classes begin and I miss the feeling of starting a new school year. Fall slips into the still-open windows while summer is ending, and the warm nights with long winding conversations outside go with it.

Every year around this time, I get the same feeling.

The itch to be around people, do something, go somewhere. Figure out what am I doing with my life. This year that feeling is particularly noticeable. The last few years I feel like I'm finally becoming myself. So much of my teen and adult life has been a cycle of "getting better" that I don't know what to do when I am well.

It's taken a long time to get where I am in terms of my health. Ten years ago I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease. Between surgeries and trying all the different medications, I retreated into World of Warcraft. For a time, all I could do was play. It was too hard to go out, my friends were all further away than I was comfortable driving. Warcraft let me sit in my room and talk to my friends online when all I was capable of was sitting upright.

All of this history with Warcraft (meeting my boyfriend, and current friends) seems to culminate with this year. In February this year I stopped raiding mythic difficulty with Apotheosis in World of Warcraft. Seven years of raiding at the highest level I could until midnight, three nights a week and I'd finally had enough. Quitting entirely was not an option so I switched to raiding in a new, more casual, raid group. While I adore the people I play with now, I do miss my remaining friends in Apotheosis. And so, I'll log in to the Apotheosis forums to check on things or to be nosy (who doesn't?), but the other day I saw something that made my heart sink.

I logged into the Apotheosis website on a whim and found that the wife of one of the guys I've known for a very long time was hospitalized (she's now recovering out of hospital). Leaving that guild, and removing myself from logging in every day and chatting online with that group of people has directly separated me from what is happening in their lives now.

To give a little background, there was a core group of people that I've been playing Warcraft with for a long time. Over the years the group trickled down to a few people. These were people I shared a lot of moments in our lives with - graduating high school, getting into university, surgery, graduation from university, meeting my boyfriend, and more. Life happens! New jobs, moving, weddings, babies - lots of things that open the door for reevaluating how you spend your time.

Now I play WoW two nights a week and I'm thinking about dropping my subscription. I've met so many people through Warcraft that it feels a little blasphemous to even consider being done completely. The problem with WoW for me is that when I played it more, I had time. And it was at a time in my life where all my friends were close and everyone I knew online was a good friend. I'm not sure if I'm nostalgic for the game or that time of my life.

All things must come to an end though, and no game company has given me those feelings of missing my friends as much as BioWare has. Mass Effect and Dragon Age are two titles where the characters are so well written that when I'm done playing them, I have to go cry under a blanket for a few hours because I miss them so much. And then I usually load up the game and start again.

This year saw the final DLC for Dragon Age: Inquisition released, Trespasser picks up where the main game ended. Your companions have all come back for one last hurrah while the powers that be decide what to do with your (now) very threatening military force. I learned that these characters, most of them friends to my inquisitor, went their separate ways during this two year hiatus.

Mirroring real life, Trespasser made me long for when I could just pop by a friends dorm room at school or see Dorian lounging in his armchair as I sped by to see Leliana. At the end of Trespasser, all your companions go back to their lives while your inquisitor (depending on how you ended the game) is alone.

The DLC starts off slow as you check on each companion one by one, catching up on the last two years. There are lovely reunions, new romances blossoming and even a wedding (if you romanced certain someones). But very quickly it starts to feel like you're careening towards the end, and there's nothing left to do but walk through that last mirror and no amount of saving will stop it and I knew it was coming so why am I so sad?

The characters I love in my games are there, they always will be - but their stories are done for now. Just like in high school or university, you meet people and say you'll keep in touch but you never do. That group of people with whom I used to roam the halls or enjoy an after raid chat at 2am are gone, scattered all over the country or lost to time.

Growing apart is natural, I just wish it didn't hurt.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Sara's First Cosplay: Annie Headband

I've recently gotten back into playing League of Legends, playing all sorts of champs. But of course, Annie is my favourite.  She's just so delightful and evil and I love stunning nerds so my ADC can stomp their faces.

I do love her outfits - all her skins are so cute and, in my opinion, surprisingly cosplay-able.  I do love her classic in-game skin, but I decided to make the headband as featured in her splash art:

Annie's official NA League of Legends splash art
Now, just to put this all into context.  I have never in my life "cosplayed" anything.  I have dressed up at Halloween, and for various rugby events (Togas were very popular).  I do think of myself as crafty but not particularly skilled at it.  So this is sort of a stab in the dark in terms of my skill at making something wearable.

I started with a trip to the craft store.  My first mistake.  I should have started with a plan! I should have looked up things about making ears on headbands.  Oh well, you know what they say - YOLO.

Here's what I picked up at Midocco Art Supplies and Dollarama:

2 sheets of magenta card stock
1 sheet of magenta felt
1 sheet of light pink felt
Fabric glue
1 sheet light pink foam (I didn't end up using this, it was my alternate to the inner ear felt)
1 roll of magenta ribbon
2 junky plastic headbands.

I also used Binder Clips.

I had this idea in my head, and I think it was correct, that felt wouldn't stand up on it's own and needed some card stock to keep it upright.

I started by freehand sketching (in pencil!) the shape of the ears in the above picture onto the card stock.

I cut one out, and used it as a stencil for the second one.  Don't worry about the pencil marks, these are going to be covered with felt.  I left a bit of extra card at the bottom so I would have something to stick onto the headband, like little feet.

I used these card stock ears to stencil ear shapes onto the felt.  I used a marker because I'm bad! Fabric chalk would have been best here, but alas I had none.  I rationalized this with "cut inside the marker!" yeah right.  Use chalk.

When I cut them out they still had the black marker edges on them - I tried to trim it off but it was a mess.

They ended up looking reasonable when I cut them out.  I started putting the ears together first, thinking I'd worry about attaching them later.  I made loads of mistakes.  The bottoms are straight across/flat.  Heads and headbands aren't flat.  Oops.

I used the larger magenta ear stencil and freehanded the smaller inner ear part to cut out of the light pink felt.

Again, I used black marker! What is wrong with me, I'll never know.  These parts I was mostly able to keep all pink and trim off the black after I'd cut them out.

So I had all my parts for the ears and started gluing them together using Aleene's Fabric Glue.  I loved this stuff, it did exactly what I wanted - glued porous fabric to other stuff.  It says wait 24 to dry but I found it was perfectly dry in about 8 hours.  Waiting for glue to dry sucks.

Once I had all the ear parts together, I started working on the headband part.

I couldn't find a magenta cloth-covered headband, which is what I pictured.  No, of course, I went to the dollar store so all they had was this gem to your left. So ugly and not easy to glue stuff to!  So I decided to cover it in magenta ribbon.  This turned out to be a good thought, and I looked up a tutorial on how to do that successfully and it was pretty easy.  Started with making the ends ribbon covered, and just wrapped from there.  Super easy.

With the headband done and the ears all ready to go, it came time to attach the ears.  I made lots of mistakes here.  I didn't measure once, ever.  Big mistake.  So of course, the ears are crooked and too close together.  Don't do what Sara does.

This part I did do correctly - making the little feet out of the paper inside the felt.  This made it SUPER easy to glue these ears onto the headband, even though they weren't curved.  They are also super sturdy and stuck on quite well.  

 I used a healthy amount of glue and then left them to dry with binder clips attached: 

So then I though to myself - I don't want the shiny ribbon on the outside of the headband, her headband isn't shiny at all! So I cut out a strip of the leftover felt, cut two slits in it to fit the ears in, to place over the headband.  The strip looks like I was drunk when I was cutting it out, so again, measure twice cut once, unlike me.
It actually worked out okay, other than the edges looking extremely rough. 
I left lots of extra so I could tuck and glue and trim it to make it at least look a little presentable.

Again, I used the fabric glue and the binder clips to make sure it dried in place.

The ears ended up not exactly how I wanted, but I think they are pretty okay for my first (blind) attempt at making a cosplay prop.  Notably, the ears are too tall and pointy. But they are fun to wear, they are sturdy, cute, and comfortable. Oh and I had fun making them, except for waiting for the glue to dry.

These, in total, cost me about $11 and I got everything I needed at 1 craft store and a dollar store.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Back to my Roots

In July 2012, I wrote this post about changing my role in raids. Looking back, I'm glad I made the decision I did.

I was a main tank for my guild all through Mists of Pandaria. It was fun, challenging and I accomplished a lot. I tanked challenge modes and got the gear to prove it. I made the calls for the Stone Guard in Mogu'Shan Vaults. I tanked Rik'kal. I kited the meteor into Heroic Garrosh. I loved tanking with my boyfriend and I'll never forget that experience.

A few weeks after killing Heroic Garrosh, I took a break from raiding entirely. Close to 600 attempts on a boss really takes a toll on your mental state. I was sick of my guild and I hated the game. Eventually I came back, got my scorpion mount on one of the last kills we ever did and kept playing.

I wish I could say I was still tanking for my guild, but a number of factors caused me to make another role change. *

First, I changed classes at the beginning of Warlords. I chose to level my paladin tank, and leave my druid behind. I was tired of not seeing my transmog, or toy effects and I wanted to try something new.

It went well. I tanked Highmaul and Mythic BRF with a warrior and another paladin tank. I don't feel as comfortable with my paladin. It's not easy to explain because druid tanking came naturally, while paladin tanking is work. Paladin tanking for me is constant vigilance. If I slip up, I die. If I use a cooldown at the wrong time, I take more damage than I should. If I'm tired? Forget it. I could tank on my druid with one hand. With my paladin, my hand is gripped so tight on my mouse that I have physical pain in my thumb after a night of progression.

It may sound like I don't enjoy paladin tanking - I do! But the style is very different from my druid and I don't think it suits me.

Second, there were things I started to notice after a while that started small but chipped away at me. My suggestions or observations were often ignored on voice chat but then repeated by another and considered. My statements were interpreted as questions. If I mentioned a mechanic, people would jump to explain it to me. The tanks were continually asked to pull faster, to move the raid along through easy pulls for a faster night. I tried, for a while. When I told the raid I was pulling trash, I was met with silence. When the other tanks announced it, people answered. So I stopped talking. If I had a suggestion, I asked others to relay it. I stopped trying to lead.

It's puzzling, and frustrating how someone else can slip into your role so easily. I felt like I had to claw and scrape my way in, to prove to myself and everyone else that I was good enough. I'm still terrified of screwing up somehow, and when I first started tanking it was like having a giant weight above me. I do think I'm a good tank, and I do think I'm capable but I'm tired of being talked over, or ignored. I'm tired of feeling small.

A miserable part of me thinks that maybe people just don't care to hear me on voice chat. Or that they tuned me out. Sure, sometimes I can be loud but in my role as a main tank, I need to be heard. Another part of me thinks that the loss of the other lady tank hurt more than I thought.

I started dreading logging on to tank and I hated feeling that way. I was constantly reminding myself that it's just a few hours and then the raid will be over. I volunteered to sit more often, or I asked to DPS - though, admittedly I'm not very good at it.

I feel like I let myself down and I hate it. I feel like I should keep tanking to prove a point, but I don't need to prove myself to anyone but me. I need to play the game for me, again.

To bring this all around, I stopped tanking for my mythic group as of February this year. Instead, I swapped back to my druid to heal. Before I did this, I was healing on my druid with another guild on off nights and it was easily the most fun I have had all expansion. Partly due to the atmosphere (more laid back, but still gets the job done) and the role I play. Healing (like druid tanking) is a natural thing for me. It's comfortable, it's easy and it's familiar. I follow the tanks and the raid and I keep them alive.

Things got very stressful and I was going into raids upset and continuing to be upset for the night. We lost people I care very much about to new guilds and real life. The atmosphere became hostile (as it does when content becomes stale and progression isn't happening fast). In addition to some poor communication about raid plans and goals that exacerbated my feelings, I decided that raiding for three hours until midnight EST for three nights a week was no longer for me. As of May 2015 I ceased all mythic raiding with Apotheosis.

This brings us to right now where I'm healing full-time for Business Time on Moonrunner doing heroic modes. Admittedly, I already miss mythic raiding but taking it easy on heroic isn't a bad thing for me. Now we're starting Hellfire Citadel and the first foray into the new content was an absolute blast. I'm really enjoying the encounters we've seen so far (I actually squealed out loud when Kromok pulls the weird creeping ooze from the different coloured pools).

I'm going to play Warcraft a little more casually and it feels weird to say. I don't think I've ever been casual about WoW until this year. I'm looking forward to maybe just fooling around and seeing the world again and playing on my own time.

* If you're interested, I was a guest on TankCast and spoke with other women regarding tanking in WoD! http://www.theincbear.com/podcastgen/?name=2015-06-27_tankcast20.mp3

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Paragone to Hell in a Handbasket - Tanking Heroic Paragons

Congratulations on making it this far in Heroic Siege of Orgrimmar! While many of the fights have had more damage or different mechanics added, Heroic Paragons of the Klaxxi is on a whole new level. With the Klaxxi, any normal mode mechanics that didn't matter REALLY MATTER now. Those parasite casts you didn't notice? Hell, you better notice them now. Aim? Really hurts. Rapid Fire? Also bad. Korven? You better tank swap if you weren't before! The list goes on.

When my raid group was looking for tips on how to kill this boss, we couldn't find a lot of information. There was very little out there and of what we found, 1/4 of it was tank related. We ended up having to trial and error our way through much of the encounter (as tanks). It's my goal here to provide that missing link for future tanks who end up tanking this encounter. I'll provide links at the bottom to the various strats we attempted as we used more than one (and there is certainly more than one way to kill this boss). This post assumes you've already killed normal paragons, and if you're looking for a guide check out my previous post!

Let's get started!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Going Back to Cali: BlizzCon Edition

It's hard to believe it's already been two weeks since we were all gearing up for the excitement that is BlizzCon. I was wiling the hours away at work, checking the Meeting Stone forums and official site for something - anything! - to distract me from what I was doing. Now I'm grasping at straws for a way to get back to that feeling of shared happiness and belonging that I felt in Anaheim. I think that's the best thing about BlizzCon, it's unlike any other convention because everyone who came to this event is passionate about Blizzard games. You can have conversations with complete strangers about WoW/SC/Diablo and not get a confused look back. There were so many people to talk to and meet that when you come back there's this sort of... recovery time or recharge period, because suddenly you're at home not surrounded by thousands and thousands of people. Now that I've decompressed, I wanted to record my experiences and share them with all of you!

Our trip began on Wednesday. I took the day off so that I could pack and get things sorted out with the people who were going to babysit my kitties. I picked up my friend Sara (@SerrinneWoW) in the afternoon and she and I waited for my boyfriend Brian (@Chronis_) to be finished at work before we left. We drove out and picked up another guildmate, Andy (@Slout_ET) before we really started the drive to Buffalo. Let me tell you, if you need to get across the border quickly bring Chronis. I don't know if it's that Cape Bretoner charm or what but he didn't have his passport signed and we still got through the border in under two minutes.

It was so dark so we didn't see much of the scenery (although, it's Buffalo so we probably didn't miss much), but we got to our hotel safely and decided to get some dinner. We ate at this hot dog place called Ted's Hot Dogs because a) DONGERS and b) they have gluten free buns! They even changed gloves while handling my food so that was a welcome relief.

With our bellies full and the realization that we were so close, we all hit the hay and dreamed BlizzCon dreams.