Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How come survival has explosive shot, anyway?

I really do like huntering. And despite the name of the blog, my conceptually favorite tree has always been survival. I've always ended up speccing whatever tree does the most damage, but my abiding love is for the "ranger" tree. In pretty much every fantasy game ever, single player or multi, videogame or pen and paper, I roll a "ranger" type character. I love the skill and beauty of archery, I love the aesthetic of the lanky independent traveller, skilled in the ways of the wild, I even love the story of Agincourt - although to say one loves a story wherein a lot of real people died is kind of bizarre. I suppose I simply mean that it gave me an appreciation for the elegance and power of the bow as a weapon. Bows as art are also compelling: the bowyer's craft is intricate and involved and somewhat mysterious, from the selection of source woods to the shaping and steaming and lamination processes.
I just think they're neat.
So you can see why I am drawn to the survival tree conceptually, while at the same time I'm disappointed by its reality. Tying a bomb to an arrow is, in addition to being unlikely to work, something of an exemplar of inelegance. Black arrow makes very little sense, and certainly has nothing to do with having a connection to nature and being able to perform extraordinary feats thereby. It's just not satisfying.
By the same token, the Marksmanship tree is lacking. I like that it's the tree that focuses on physical damage. That makes sense to me. But why, then, is its top-level shot chimera shot, which does nature damage and refreshes serpent sting? And how or why does said chimera shot cause the piercing shots bleed? Again, it's just not satisfying.
So I was thinking about this the other day, and it seems like some of the flavor issues with the class could be fixed by simply shifting things around for a little bit. I would move explosive shot over to the marksmanship tree and rename it aimed shot, for continuity. Instead of being a 3-second fire damage dot, I would make it a 3-second powerful bleed with crittable ticks (complete with an animated gout of blood every tick). What is now lock and load (again, inappropriate for what I'd imagine survival to be) would move over to Marks as well, perhaps being renamed to something like "Uncommon Precision". I'd proc this buff off of regular old auto-shots instead of the weird and unpleasant juggling between black arrow and a variety of traps that it works off of right now. I'm unsure if I'd even want to see Marks hunters continuing to use serpent sting, but if I did perhaps I'd tie a talented bleed damage increase to it.
The survival tree would of course get chimera shot. What is now the "improved steady shot" buff (and what does that even mean?) would be renamed serpent's swiftness - the 20% haste talent that lived in the old BM tree but is now gone. Proccing serpent's swiftness off of cobra shot makes a lot more sense to me than "improved steady shot". Chimera shot would probably not refresh serpent sting but instead consume it for additional damage, which would hopefully make for a fun resource management game as well as be fruitful for theorycrafting. How long should one extend one's serpent sting with cobra shots before eating it with chimera shot? Is it better to keep chimera on cooldown or try to manage your chimera use situationally?
This would all be a pain to re-balance of course, and I'm quite certain nothing of the sort will ever happen. It's fun to think about how things would be better If Only They Put Me In Charge, though.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Low-level random dungeons: meeting the moon-people

I suppose that, sad as this is, it really should not surprise me that the wow-playing population is perhaps not as well socialized as one might hope. Nonetheless, I'm surprised at how completely bizarre some of these interactions have been. I just - I simply don't understand some of the rudeness I've encountered. I'm pretty sure Oliver Sacks would be just fascinated by some of the dysfunction. Here are a couple examples:
  1. Tanking scarlet monastery's library, I at some point or other mentioned LoS. You know, the common and widely-known abbreviation for "line of sight"? A member of the party accused me of laziness because, get this, I hadn't typed out the whole phrase. I'm serious. He asked what it meant, I explained, and then he called me lazy for using an abbreviation. Verdict: from the moon. There is no way you could be reared amongst regular Earthlings and think that this made any sense.
  2. I was in a WSG and there was a flag stand-off. A rogue and myself snuck up on the opposing team's roof, where we almost returned the flag. Almost! It was so close. So while waiting to respawn I said: "Shoot." Someone in battleground chat cared so deeply about my word choice that he berated me for not using a stronger word. This one is even weirder to me, so I'm thinking Venusian. I mean, really? On what planet does it ever occur to someone to say: "that person really should have sworn, I shall inform them of their deficiency." Possibly Venus? I know it still seems like a stretch, but it's more believable than the relative neighborliness of the moon and I'm trying to be charitable.
Other than that, there's just been the garden-variety rudeness of the mage that wants to do the pulling for me, but that's pretty standard. It still makes me want to reach through the monitor, grab hold of the person by their shoulders and shake them as hard as I can. I'm not sure why I think that vigorous agitation will fix the problems here: it's just one of those feelings that you get deep down in your heart. You simply know it's the right thing to do. I think maybe my subconscious reasoning is "it works pretty well on clothes in the washing machine, so why not moon-people on the internet?"

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thurvik and Diwali

Hooray for the shattering! As soon as I could I made a little dorf shaman named Thurvik. He has the mail heirlooms (mailooms?) and two big hammers with the crusader shimmer on them, which is pretty satisfying. He's kind of fun, and he's definitely way more fun than the shaman I got to 17 a few months ago. But he's just nowhere near as entertaining as Diwali, the troll druid I made after I got Thurvik to 12. She's now 35 and is just starting in on Desolace.
Being a druid and doing the horde-side quests in Ashenvale and Stonetalon was kind of... odd. The questlines mostly seem to be along the lines of "time to clearcut the forests and stripmine the minerals, FOR THE HORDE!" Which I would be fine with if she were an orcish warrior, but she is not. She is a druid. She draws her power from nature, and trolls have been a forest and jungle-dwelling people for hundreds or thousands of years anyway. Stonetalon, at least, was a little bit redeemed by the very final quest, where you get to see Hellscream be a little bit less of an idiot.
I've also tanked a couple instances on her. Specifically I've tanked Scarlet Monastery: Library and the lasher wing of Maraudon. It's a little tough because I don't have swipe and glyphed maul only hits two targets, but I've been doing ok so far. What I really wish I had were some damage reduction cooldowns. I'm going to be getting a few in the next five levels or so, which is nice.
First time tanking and first time healing were both quite similar. For both roles I've been very intimidated and put the whole thing off in favor of more questing for level after level. What finally gave me the confidence to try tanking was talking with my BF about it for a bit, not least because he reminded me that, you know, glyphs exist.
Of course having a horde druid doesn't do my alliance mains much good, but that's fine, because seeing all the hordeside stuff has made me excited for my worgen warrior. I've now seen some of the worgen animations and I love them so much. And I'm really just totally down for open warfare with the Forsaken. Pradzha rode through Hillsbrad on the way to SM to help my BF tame one of the crusade's mastiffs, and on the way she encountered bears with spider eggs on their backs. Hurrrrrrrrrgh. Urrgl! Shudder. So gross. I think Blizzard has finally made a quest chain I wouldn't be able to complete. Oh god. Parasites: nein. So yes. I am absolutely ready to roll a plate-wearing wolf lady and fight off the genocidal undead. And then in a few months I can roll a goblin rogue and experience the goblin starting area and Azshara. Yay!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Predictably extended maintenance

Dammit. I was really looking forward to making my dorf shaman, but I doubt the servers will be up before I go to bed tonight. Kind of a bummer, but pretty much to be expected. I'll have some time to play with it tomorrow.

Monday, November 22, 2010

4.03a and weapon speed normalization

One of the things happening to hunters in the 4.03a patch is that all of our special attacks are being normalized with respect to weapon speed. Let us reflect, for a moment, on the oddity of that sentence. What does it mean to have an attack normalized? What does weapon speed have to do with anything? Wasn't that something only rogues and stuff worried about?
Well, no.
To explain what's going on here, let's first take a look at two different imaginary bows. [Humbert's Mighty Twang-Stick] as compared to [Wesley's Elegant Willow]. Humbert's is a 100 DPS weapon with a 1.0 speed and Wesley's is a 100 DPS weapon with a 2.0 speed. That is: they're both 100 DPS weapons, but Humbert's is twice as fast as Wesley's, firing once a second instead of once every two seconds. It's pretty obvious that Humbert's is going to have to hit for 100 damage every shot to do 100 DPS, while Wesley's is going to have to hit for 200 damage every shot to do the same thing.
So here's the issue: the formulae for most damaging abilities for a hunter look like this:
Platypus Shot attacks the target, doing ([weapon damage] + [N% x Ranged Attack Power]) nature damage and dazing the target by forcing it to consider the inexplicable reality that a creature such as the platypus exists.
What that little formula in parentheses means is that the game figures out how much damage a white attack would be, then adds a number to that by multiplying your RAP by some percentage. If you think back to Humbert's and Wesley's respective bows, you'll realize that the weapon damage the game will calculate for Wesley's is always going to be higher than the damage it calculates for Humbert's because Wesley's is a slower weapon. If you had two otherwise identical hunters shooting at a target dummy and using only Platypus Shot, the one with Wesley's will do more damage because his platypi are envenoming harder.
Or at least, that's how it used to be. With patch 4.03a, hunter weapon speed will be normalized when the game is calculating our special shots. What this means is that Blizzard have picked a speed (hopefully 3.0 or slower), and every time a special shot needs that "weapon damage" value, the game will figure out what weapon damage the weapon would need to pull its stated DPS at that normalized speed.
To go back to our example bows, imagine the game normalized hunter weapons to a 2.0 speed. If this were to happen, the two identical hunters will do identical damage. This is because every time our hunter with Humbert's fires his Platypus Shot, the game will go "if this bow were a 2.0 speed weapon, it would need to hit for 200 damage to do 100 DPS, so that's what I'll use for weapon damage for this shot."
This is overall a positive change because it makes the game a little more intuitive. Without normalization, hunters were using the item-level 264 Wrathful PvP bow over item-level 277 heroic Zod's, even though the DPS rating on Zod's was higher. They were doing this because Zod's was such a fast weapon that the PvP bow's special attacks were still hitting harder than Zod's were. With normalization, the answer to "which weapon should I use in Cataclysm?" is almost certainly going to be "the one with the higher DPS rating."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pugging Arthas and killing time

I saw someone in trade looking for a healer for LK10 last night and I had a free hour, so I hopped on my holy priest and helped out. They actually made it to p3 before wiping on the first attempt, which made me hopeful, but we still hadn't killed him by the time I had to go.
Incidentally, it was nice to hear one of them on vent say "oh no, the rockin' healer has to leave?" But yeah, no kill. It's interesting how raids differ. My guild raid had and still has its biggest difficulty dealing with defile. It consistently gets too big, and then that forces the raid out of the center, or a couple people are getting clipped by it so it expands faster than they can run, or whatever. One way or another, defile is what kills us.
With this raid last night, the defiles were beautiful. But as soon as the first transition was done, the DPS wanted to kill the Lich King yesterday! That last raging spirit? Psh, the tank's got it. Val'kyr? Whatever, it's probably the fault of the person she picked up. The important thing, for these folks, was doing more damage to Arthas.
The problem with this instinct is that it led to them getting frequent little tastes of phase 3 - just like we did on the first attempt - so they decided that they were doing it right. Despite the fact that their desperate sprinting for P3 meant we were just going to wipe to viles because the two remaining DPS couldn't actually do anything about them. For my guild raid, like the 2nd or 3rd time we made it to phase 3, we killed him.
Anyway, I just thought it was interesting how raids develop in different ways.
Other than that, we're definitely in full-fledged "can it please just be the Cataclysm already?" mode. Over the past couple days I've been farming the old-world enchant patterns for the afore-mentioned priest, who is also my enchanter. I've got Crusader, fiery, 15 agility to weapon, 25 agility to 2h weapon, and lifestealing. The last one was probably the most annoying, because I had to get the key to Scholomance, which involved going from WPL to freaking Gadgetzan, from Gadget to Un'goro, realizing I needed a thorium bar, flying to Darnassus to buy one and flying back to Un'goro, realizing I needed two thorium bars and flying back again, etc. Good god the classic questlines were awful, sometimes. Nothing says "fun" like AFKing for a 15-minute flight path. But now I've got almost all the standard enchants people need for their heirlooms.
Apparently getting the spellpower enchant is more involved, possibly involving one of the classic raids? Which makes me wonder if it's going away? I should probably get that as well. And I should probably farm up some righteous orbs (oh, so that's what their blog is named after...) to put crusader on the new heirloom axe I got for my furry warrior.
Clearly there's stuff to do - just not very fun stuff. For me, at least. Which is why it could really be the Cataclysm any day now, please.

Friday, November 19, 2010

WoW-playing couples

The BF and myself were doing some grocery shopping earlier and came across these:
Said boyfriend looked at them and went "what are those?"
To which I responded (because I am so helpful): "wisps."
Prompting him to say: "This is what happens when night elves die."
Which made us both laugh, because we're nerds. Also it's funny to think of an alliance raid wiping on the Lich King or something and having a bunch of tiny, disposable toothbrushes clattering to the ice.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Final Wrath Project: Rusted Protos!

Well, I mentioned my Ulduar idea to the raid last night, and everyone seemed pretty excited by the idea of finishing up Glory of the Ulduar Raider. I'm really looking forward to it. Ulduar was, in my opinion, the finest raid of the expansion, and we've actually got several people in the raid that didn't have a chance to experience it. The inflated health pools and DPS numbers from the ICC gear will really help take some of the stress out of things too. Steelbreaker is going to be hitting for a lot less on a tank with more health to soak it and will almost certainly die before the first tank blows up. Large health pools will mean we're less likely to get instantly blown up by lightbeams on Freya +3. And DPS through the roof means it will be much, much easier to kill Yogg before everyone goes crazy.
I'm honestly not sure if we'll be able to manage everything in the space of two weeks - the hardmodes were actually tuned pretty tightly and overgearing content only counts for so much. But I certainly think it's possible, and having a rusted proto to fly around on in Cataclysm would be really neat.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Shattering of the world is duly scheduled

Sometimes the nature of the game being a game is funny to me, because we're all pretty sure that the shattering of the world is scheduled for a week from yesterday. It seems like maybe a thing like that ought to be a surprise, but of course it can't be in a project as massive and carefully managed as WoW.
I know I keep saying this, but lord in heaven I can't wait. I think we're probably going to clear ICC one more time and try to get titles for a couple more people. I'm really leaning towards letting that field go fallow once the Shattering happens, though. Of course it's not a unilateral decision and we'll have to talk it over with the raid, but the other end of that decision is that, what with us all wearing ICC gear and the various Ulduar HMs having been nerfed, we could maybe get rusted protos before Cataclysm, whereas I absolutely don't think we're getting bone dragons beforehand. And for that matter! ICC and its bone dragons are ugly and boring, but Ulduar and its rusted protos are pretty and fun! And I've still never seen Algalon and you see way more Kingslayers than you see Starcallers.
Anyway, this will be the argument that I shall make to the raid tonight.
Moving on to an utterly different subject, apropos of absolutely nothing, I'll mention that I watched a bit of youtube of what I guess is heroic Deadmines earlier. My boyfriend had brought it up on his computer and was watching it (because it was from a holydin's PoV and there are few things he likes more than holydins) and I wandered in and went "what's that?"
To which he responded "aw, it's cute because you don't know what Deadmines looks like."
This is true because I've never actually been in it. I grew up Horde, as they say, and am pretty familiar with Wailing Caverns (I think that's the level-equivalent dungeon) but I have never actually set foot inside the mines.
But yes, watching the video made me all kinds of excited, especially because it had a boss fight in it, and even though the player characters were premades decked out in free T11, that boss was living a long time. It had a whirlwind thing it did, and the (totally amazing looking!) trollish feral druid got itself out of LoS of the healer and then stood in the whirlwind and it died. Truly, in these days of overgeared Wrath heroics and bosses with total life expectancies rarely exceeding ten seconds, that's pretty impressive.
During the Cataclysm leveling/gearing period, I'm going to try to encourage guildmembers to log on during our normal raid times. Obviously we won't be scheduling raids or anything, but I really would like to have 2-3 dungeon groups just chaining dungeons together for 2-3 hours during Cataclysm. Most importantly it will be so fun! And less importantly (but still important), it will mean we'll be free to do things like exercise our atrophied crowd control reflexes in an environment where it's far less likely to be broken by a hellfiring 'lock whose mind and all his soul are bent unwaveringly on the sole purpose of making us wipe and then calling us noobs before demanding a rez. Instead! We'll all be on vent, we'll be able to talk with each other about Buffy or whatever, marking a mob with a blue square for frost trap will mean I'll frost trap it, etc etc.
To say it for a millionth time: I really can not wait.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Leveling MM in Cataclysm

The subject line is what this post will really be about, but first! I wish to report on how I did with the "physical agility assessment" for the Madison PD: it went relatively ok. Minimum passing scores were: 25 sit-ups in one minute, 15 push-ups in one minute, and a mile and a half run in no more than 14:30. I performed 40 sit-ups, 26 push-ups, and made my run in 12:15. None of these are superlative, of course, and three to four years ago my scores would have been much better. But I've been working on getting back into shape, and clearly it's had some effect.
Moving on back to hunters! First, as soon as Cata drops (and I'm able to log in), I'm going to convert my secondary spec to something like this. Here's my thinking:
  • It's irrelevant to a long boss fight, even one with adds because you'd need the killing blow, but when it's just you and yourself out questing, Rapid Killing + Rapid Recuperation will suddenly be awesome. I probably won't even bother using Aimed Shot due to that long cast time, but getting 50 focus every time something dies means I'll be able to spam Arcane Shots constantly.
  • On the rare occasions when I want to MD a bazillion things onto my pet, Glyph of Misdirection and Bombardment mean that I'll be able to AoE down some pretty large packs with no problem, especially if I bring out my trusty Crabadin.
  • The points in BM may seem strange, but they're mostly there to get me to Pathfinding as soon as possible. Especially if I can manage to farm the five thousand gold to get 310% speed flying, that extra 10% bonus will be awesome.
  • I'm not bothering with Piercing Shots (even though I named the blog after it) because having another DoT is not really relevant when you're killing mobs that die within the space of two globals.
In conclusion, it's looking like leveling a hunter will continue to be the easiest thing in the world. And I honestly think this will be faster and easier than leveling BM. A really substantial pet tank is nice, but entirely eliminating downtime (and killing things as fast as the GCD refreshes) will be even better.
But wait, there's more!
Sorry, the post was going to be over when I finished talking about that spec, but I just noticed that MMO-champ put some updates up. Most importantly, there are now pictures of all the race/gender combinations with the new tier.
  • I still hate hunter T11, but at least with the hat turned off (who the hell makes all the hats in the game? Lawd hammercy!), Pradzha will just look a little goofy.
  • Goblin hunters will just look like murlocs.
  • Worgenlocks with the helm enabled will look like goofy dogs that got stuck in a silly hat.
  • Female orc warriors will look totally righteous.
  • Although my BF continues to adore priest T11, I am mostly indifferent. Once again, I would never enable the hat. I guess it's sparklier than T10 though, so that's good.
Ok, done for real.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Weather (entirely unrelated to WoW)

I currently live in the twin cities in Minnesota.
Tomorrow, I have to drive to Madison, WI to do a physical agility assessment with the Madison Police Department. Then drive back.
The entire month of October, the temperature rarely dipped below seventy degrees.
Today, it suddenly looked like this outside:

Friday, November 12, 2010

In which I shall dance carefully around substance

To begin with, this blog is not remotely secret from guildies, and in fact I've linked to it from the new guild website I've put up on guildomatic. I have also been serving as raid leader for the guild since April, albeit with a several-months-long break from raiding during the Summer. To complicate this issue, I was a friend of the guild leader in the real world before I started playing WoW, much less before I joined her guild. I'm not sure how aware of this fact several of the guild people are, but I could easily see it turning into a dramabomb at some point in the future.
What I'm getting at here is that if I want to talk about my guild, or about raid leading, or anything like that, I have to be very careful about it. The thing is, I also do quite want to talk about my guild and raid leading.
I think I want to start by just going over some things that I think are true, so that even though they've been said a million times before, I'm clear about where I'm coming from when I talk about things. Then I would like to congratulate myself for prefacing clarification with possibly one of the vaguest statements ever uttered by a human being. Yeesh.
Be of brave heart, self! Onward! Hiyah!
  • The term "casual" is a loaded one, which is why I put it in square quotes. What I mean when I use it is: we raid two nights per week and three hours per night. This isn't a particularly strenuous raid schedule, and we're not going to be getting server firsts in Cataclysm, but I think we'll be able to do quite well.
  • As has frequently been noted by innumerable people, Starting the Raid Late is the barbed and venomous bane of pretty much every small, "casual" raiding guild. Even if all you're trying to run is a 10-person raid, an endeavor exponentially less complicated and awful than running 25s, it's pretty easy to find yourself with 8 or 9 people in the raid waiting on the last person or two, and then someone goes to Dalaran to respec or hops on an alt "until the tank shows up" or whatever, and by the time the last person logs on and zones in, you're making your first pull 45 minutes late.
  • This sucks. It is no fun for anyone. And it cuts in to time that could actually be spent killing new bosses and listening to each other cheer on vent, which is why we do it, right?
  • This, then, is the fundamental reason I think that a guild doing any raiding at all whatsoever needs to have rules.
If you accept my argument above, then everything else is just dickering, to paraphrase a misogynist aphorism. Unfortunately I'm pretty sure that in 2-4 months this is going to cause Issues in the guild, and I'm probably going to be the guy that has to be a dick. I am really, really not looking forward to this, for a whole sticky web of interconnected reasons.
Note to any guildies reading this: if you think I'm thinking of you, well, maybe? But probably not in the way you think I am. A safe zone example of the bridges I profoundly do not want to come to, let alone decide how to cross and/or burn, is my boyfriend's participation in the raid. First, I love him. Second, I love playing with him. Third, he is in my perhaps biased opinion one of the best - if not the best - healers on the server. Fourth, he may or may not be able to convince his job to play nicely with our raid times. I encourage the reader to refer to my foundational Argument For Why We Ought To Have Rules, found above. What am I going to do if fair enforcement of guild policy mandates that I bench my boyfriend?
Honestly, as I am not a terrifying and emotionless automaton, I have no idea. Here's hoping I don't find out.
I'm also clearly, in my opinion, not doing very well with handling things so far. I can justify this in part by noting that, even though we did just kill Arthas, the guild is in a very fragile (perhaps even frangible!) state. It has franged before, in fact! And some of our current members are actually fragments of this previous cataclysm, if you will, that we have since grafted back on to the trunk. One of these fragments has been guildless since he originally separated some months ago, but then came to a night full of Arthas wipes on Wednesday, the day before we got our kill. He was filling in for one of two regulars who weren't able to make it that night. When that person returned, there wasn't space for him, and I knew that person would be returning, but I didn't warn him. He was understandably upset when he got benched Thursday, and I'd assume more upset when we then killed the LK. He is also connected in to a social network the full extents of which I am not fully aware of, but it seems possible to me that mis-handling this further could again cause damage to the guild.
The hilarious irony of all this is that, when we were both a member of the same (hordeside!) 25-person raiding guild, I frequently talked with my boyfriend about how easy it would be to fix all the little drama problems in the guild. I still think that perhaps, as GL or RL, I might have handled some issues differently, but I am also forced to face the fact that I was largely full of poo. Especially because I was in an extremely odd position in the guild, such that I sort of ended up being friends with leaders of both of the most prominent squabbling factions in the guild. I indeed I think even made a post on the guild forums at the time about how I thought everyone involved was just terrific and why couldn't they all be friends!? You would think that the very fact of having to make such a post would tip me off that it wasn't that simple, but I suppose not.
Angst having been appropriately wafted around like spoiled myrrh from a censer (does myrrh spoil?), I should point that I actually am the happiest that I have been with my guild situation since a certain moment* in Burning Crusade. I have my boyfriend, several RL friends, vent is friendly and welcoming, raids are fun and wonderful: it's just great. I love it so much. And that's why I'm afraid I'll break it.

*I actually posted this story to LJ a long, long time ago - you can read it here, if you like.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

lol months behind noob

Click to enlarge
I am very very very very very satisfied with this kill. I realize it's like... way late, and no chill of the throne, and 30% buff, and etc. I really don't care. We first started working on Arthas in early May, and then our raid fell apart due to summer slump, raider burnout, etc. Also, that raid collapse essentially happened on the GL's birthday, and I was a part of it happening, so it felt good to right that wrong for her.
I'll probably go back to my "Hand of A'dal" title in a bit (hello, she's a space goat, she calls A'dal "uncle Addie"), but it's fun to put on the Kingslayer title for now. And this will continue to help recruiting for a really solid raidteam for Cataclysm.


I'm sort of floating around the WoW blog biome today, mostly looking for writers I really enjoy to add to my teensy weensy little blogroll over there to the right. I have some sort of vague idea that doing this (and then commenting on other blogs) is part of how one gets one's own blog read. My first find is Righteous Orbs, which I very much enjoy. Reading through their stuff, though, I realized that a lot of what I like is that they're telling stories.
"Of course!" I said to myself, "these strange human creatures love their 'stories'! If only I had tales of my own to tell, perhaps I would have some readers!"
You know it's serious when every single sentence and fragment is concluded with an exclamation mark. One of the best sources of stories is pugging frequently. Pugging puts you in groups with random people who may or may not have a firm grip, or even a trembling palsied grip, on any of the game's concepts. Pugs are how you meet melee hunters, undergeared tanks that went off their meds and have developed delusions of being skilled and overgeared, healers who spend 80% of their time just watching healthbars go down, etc. You know, all of the stuff that makes for all those great (if somewhat mean-spirited) stories. Sadly, even during periods when I'm pugging constantly to try to gear up, I seem to mostly have good luck with groups. The vast majority of the people I play with are at least mildly competent, and a good half the rest suffer only minor impairments.
While this makes grinding gear much more pleasant, it makes for something of a shallow, scummy pool to try to skim stories from. Luckily, with Cataclysm coming out, I'm sure there will be several months-worth of gibbering, drooling primates hooting imprecations at one another in the midst of wiping to trash. This misery, in turn, will become alchemically transformed into delightful stories! Yay!
Unrelated: I halfway expect to finally get our Lich King kill tonight, after the summer slump destroyed the raid for so long. And if not tonight, I am absolutely certain he'll die next week. I am quite excited.
Oh, and I've added disqus comments to the blog, so conversations thread now. Hooray!

Actual UI update!

Click to enlarge
Well, there she is! At least as she stands. I had the presence of mind to put omen in test mode for this one, so you can see where it is. Some of this is just moving things around so they fit together better. I also changed my watcher settings so watcher tells me when my ISS buff is going to fall off - that's the icon you can see sliding in along the timeline from the right. I also got around to reinstalling tipsy, so although you can't see them, I've moved my tooltips to the upper left-hand corner of the screen, allowing me to tuck grid back down in the lower right. Chat is still using blizzard default, as are buffs/debuffs, although I've enabled durations on those. Oh, and I hid the top-most action bar, which just had mounts on it. It still exists and I still press those buttons to mount up, I just can't see it.
Oh, and in case you didn't notice it, I updated my banner image!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

UI update and some other stuff

Making the post yesterday finally motivated me to try to fix more of the issues with my UI, so I added tipsy, WiM, and SexyMap to my list of mods, as well as moved some stuff around and changed some of my settings in Watcher. I won't do another full post, but I'll take another screenshot of it and post that. I also still need to add some functionality to my interface - pretty much watching for the longer cooldowns to come available. I think I can do that with Watcher too, though, so that's cool.
On an unrelated "yay, Cataclysm!" note, I'm sort of frozen with indecision right now. Which is fine because it's not coming out until December 7th, but I'd really like to have reached some sort of conclusion by then. Essentially I want to add a third real alt to hang out with my hunter and priest, not least because I really (really!) need an herbalist/miner. I am considering three directions to go for this:
  1. Dwarven male enhancement shaman.
  2. Worgen female druid.
  3. Worgen female fury warrior.
Option 3 wasn't on my radar at all, but for some reason when I mentioned the things I was thinking about to my boyfriend (in addition to being sad about not being able to have a troll druid), he said "wouldn't a female Worgen fury warrior look really cool?"
And I was like dot dot dot while imagining a badass wolf-lady cuttin' off heads with two enormous axes.
And then I was like "yes, yes it would."
SO. I have no idea. One of the tangles in this particular knot comes from the fact that I have all the heirlooms necessary for an enhancement shaman or a feral druid, but I have zero of the heirlooms for a warrior. But I'm almost done re-doing the whole Argent Tourney thing (just a couple-three days of valiant dailies left to go) and I have a fair amount of champion's seals, so I could absolutely buy the plate heirlooms with those if I wanted to. And the advantage of starting up a Worgen character would be getting to see the Worgen starting area. And then, since you can mail heirlooms cross-faction, I could make a little goblin rogue and take a look at their starting area. So yeah. I'm leaning towards the fury warrior option, I think, but still firmly in the clutches of indecision.
More Lich King practice tonight. Sadly, since my BF has an unavoidable work thing, I'll be coming on my priest to heal instead of on Pradzha. I mean that's fine - the priest, after all, has all the initial kill achievements from like April and March - but I'm just not as confident on her any more as I am on Pradzha. We're actually having to fill in two of our regular spots with, er, irregulars though, so it probably won't be a kill until Thursday anyway.
Finally! Veritas Aequitas of Thorium Brotherhood - US is recruiting for T11. The website is obviously a work in progress and isn't really in use yet. I promise we do have people in guild chat though, and we are making our raid nights happen.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

UI in progress

Prompted by a post on WoW Ladies, I thought I'd update my old UI post. Since the last post I've taken two breaks from playing as well as spent several months raiding as a discipline priest so: quite a lot has changed. Further, although I've made my UI functional, it's not really where I'd like it to be. Heck, after having taken a look at my old UI post, that one wasn't where I'd like it to be either. But part of my vision for this blog has always been that I want to talk as much about the process as I do about the results. I know it's intimidating to just like... jump into the front page of Curse or whatever and go OK GUYS I'M GONNA MOD MY UI NOW without really having any idea of what or how.
To begin with, the biggest part of UI modification is paring your screen down so you only see the things you want to see. And to get to that point, you're going to have to spend some time deciding what those things are. What information is important to you? Focus? Cooldowns? Raid status? Ability to see if you're standing in fire? And so on. Then you try to figure out how to change your UI to get the results you want. Let's take a look at what I've got so far:
As you can see, I don't have a whole lot going on there so far. I'm still using the default minimap. I'm using the default chat window. I'm using default buff frames. Already, though, it's pretty far changed from what you might expect to see. I'll go through what I've got, and why I'm using it, just by the numbers.
Click to enlarge

  1. Quartz. This is a highly customizable castbar modification. It lets me move my castbars around, resize them, add a GCD monitor to them, and (as you can see) add timers that monitor my debuffs on my target. You can see that right now I've applied the Marked for Death affect to the target dummy, as well as having the Piercing Shots and Serpent Sting dots ticking on it. The castbar for my current target appears just to the right - directly over the target's healthbar. Which brings us to:
  2. PitBull4. This is another very powerful, highly customizable addon, but this one takes care of what are called frames. You know how, in the default UI, you get a portrait and healthbar, your party members do, your pet does, your target does, etc? Well those are all unit frames, and you can't do much with them in the default UI. Pitbull4 lets me (much like Quartz with castbars) move them around, resize them, add little 3d portraits, and decide exactly what gets displayed on which frame. You can see my kitty (Yann) right above my portrait, and if my target had a target, it would be another small box to the right of its frame. My target will also display a power bar if it has mana, rage, or whatever.
  3. Watcher. Watcher is a really cool little addon that, as you can see, adds a scrolling timeline of your abilities. To be honest, keeping chimera shot on cooldown is not as important as it was pre-patch (I will frequently delay a chimer to renew my ISS buff), but I can also do things like add Rapid Fire to my priority list in it, so I'll know when it's available. Something like Watcher is almost required to play Survival, though, because it's honestly the best way to try to keep all of your dots and short cooldown abilities lined up. It would be a huge help with BM managing bestial wrath as well.
  4. Bartender 4. BT4 lets me move my action bars where I want them as well as resize them (are we starting to detect a pattern here?). It also, as you can see, lets me keep things such as my mini-menu, pet bar, and stance bar mostly hidden, although they pop into full opacity when I mouse over them. I only rarely need to interact with those menus, and never during a boss attempt, so keeping them transparent frees up a lot of screen space. I also always open my bags just by hitting "B," so I have that menu totally disabled.
  5. Grid. Grid is actually another unit-frames addon, but this one is geared more for use by healers. Nonetheless, having a compact and very clean raid-frames area lets me do things like target people for summons, monitor readychecks, and cast misdirect on the fly. My priest, of course, has a separate grid profile, and hers is located right in the middle of her screen and takes up more space, because she needs it to heal.
I've also outlined the location where Omen shows up. A raiding necessity since forever, Omen keeps me from pulling off the tank and wiping the raid.
You can see how, just by looking at my UI, you can tell what information is important to me and what is not. In the future I'd like to find a way to reduce the watcher/portrait/quartz bulky lump in the middle of my screen, and I'd like to make my minimap hideable as well. The chat box does a decent job of fading out when I'm not actively using it, but it still eats a pretty decent-sized chunk of space. Overall, though, I think this gives a pretty good sense of how to start modifying your UI: decide what you want to see and what you do not want to see and find mods that help make that happen. Of course, it's a WoW truism that, for some of us, our UI is always a work in progress.

Archery and Alchemy

Today's MMO-champion update on alchemy has some exciting stuff for me, personally.
  • Turning into a dragon and carrying friends around will be pretty cool (although it makes the pressure to buy 310% speed flying even greater). 
  • Having a pure agility flask means that the profession bonus from alchemy will be just as good for raiding hunters as the bonus from jewelcrafting or blacksmithing, which is awesome.
  • However, I'm seriously going to need to level an herbalism/mining alt, because I'm going to have to have stacks and stacks of the 1200 agility potion so I can add it to my cooldowns macro.
All in all, I'm really looking forward to it. I started playing after (I think) patch 2.3, and I stopped playing for several months a month before Wrath was released, so this will be the first time I'll have been actively playing when an expansion comes out. Jumping in to leveling, and then trying to get a small guild assembled and ready to raid is going to be a challenge.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


I just realized: now that hit is a blue gem property, we're going to be reforging most of the hit off of our gear. That way we can get as much hit as possible from gems and actually make good use of all of those blue sockets. And that, in turn, might make gemming for socket bonuses a more frequent choice.


The Warcraft Civilization

I've been reading The Warcraft Civilization by William Sims Bainbridge. I'm not quite done, but mostly, and it's sort of a funny book. Professor Bainbridge is clearly a very erudite, very thoughtful gentleman. He has spent much of his life thinking about human relationships: how they form, for what reasons, and what they mean to us. He then spent a couple years playing WoW (with two accounts!) and a total of something like 20 characters, all of whom made some progress towards the level cap. Two of them hit 70 during BC, and one of them made it to 80 after the Wrath release. I'm fairly (but not totally) certain that he no longer plays, but it's been a strange experience reading through the way he interacted with the game that's so different from the way I have and do.
On the most fundamental level, he takes the world just much more seriously than I ever have. I mean - I like the WoW lore. I read through summaries and stuff, I really enjoyed the lore aspects of Ulduar, I like reading about Illidan fighting with Arthas and then having fought Illidan and Arthas myself, all that stuff. But Prof. Bainbridge reads significance into the quest text of level 8 NPCs. His book contains in-character essays about the Blood Elf civilization as a whole based on the initial quests on Sunstrider Isle and a little ways into the Ghostlands. His DK (with the pretty cool name of Annihila) never made it past 57 because he refused to kill the same-race former friend when told to. So on and so forth.
It's also a strange book because, although it professes to be about social science within WoW, it's more about the potential for social science in the game. What I mean by this is that he spends a lot of time talking about the roles played, the interactions that occur, the social depth, the ways in which it reflects and doesn't reflect our world, and so on. He spends very little time actually drawing any concusions from all this potential. He's essentially saying "check out all this cool stuff! You could totally do science here!" Which is, I think, true, and some people have already done some work in the field (albeit mostly economists rather than sociologists).
The other part that makes it so strange to read through this book is that he does a lot of the roleplaying with himself. He imagines there to be a psychic link between all of his characters, through which they form relationships. He assigns all of them personalities, which vary in their similarity to and dissimilarity from his own personality. Various of his characters become friends with each other, argue amongst one another, and even form what he considers to be a family unit. Since he has two accounts, he's able to have pairs of his characters in proximity to each other and then take screenshots or invent tales about their adventures together. All of which was impressive in its inventiveness, but often it was like nothing so much as reading fairly dry, academic fanfiction. Surely a strange discovery to be made in a hardcover book in the science section of the bookstore shelves.
That said, I've definitely read most of it and will quite possibly finish it today, and I've certainly been enjoying it. It's just a very peculiar volume.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Months Behind

My little 10-person guild first started working on the Lich King in the late summer, right in the worst part of the summer slump. We were increasingly having to pug 1-3 spots, and then the Ruby Sanctum patch came down and broke everyone's addons, and the raid pretty much disintegrated. We've re-assembled since the 4.0 patch hit, and we're once again working on the Lich King.
It's a pretty tough fight, I must say, even with the 4.0 changes and the buff at a full 30%. We were at the point before where we were getting a pretty consistently clean phase 1, but we've had to pretty much entirely reconstruct that. Our previous OT had almost every drudge ghoul ever cemented to her face the second they spawned, which meant managing the horrors was a snap. Ah well, these things take practice and work. I think we can get him down before Cataclysm hits. I know that killing 10-person normal difficulty Lich King this late isn't a huge deal, but you know what? We first stepped into ICC as a guild wearing a bunch of stuff from heroics and item level 232 stuff, which was what you could farm from heroics at the time, and we've raided all of two nights a week. So I think we've done pretty well for ourselves.