Saturday, September 24, 2011

Entering the Patch Cycle Holding Pattern

Well, I have to say that the nerfs this past week kind of put a few loads of grapeshot through my sails. We even extended our lockout the week before to take a last shot at a pre-nerf kill (however much some may giggle at having to try for a pre-nerf non-heroic kill), but some things happened in the real world that cut our raid time from our usual six hours per week down to probably a little under three. I suppose it wasn't meant to be. Especially with Civilization 5 going on sale for twelve bucks on Steam, I just kind of dropped out of WoW for a bit. I feel a little bad about this - I've clearly neglected the blog, and I've also neglected the guild that I've put so much time into. On the other hand, I think everyone needs a bit of a break from time to time, so perhaps this is just my time for one.

As these things go, it's a pretty decent time. It's not like I need VP for anything, and especially with the nerfs to the content, raid time needn't really be about maximizing our limited window of time to try to Kill New Bosses. We can just kind of come in and casually clear stuff up. We of course killed Rag this week, so maybe next week we can try out some of the also-nerfed heroic modes and step into T13 with some 391 gear. Sure, why not? It'll be nice having some 384 weapons and a bunch of people with some 391 stuff when we step into the Dragon Soul.

Actually looking at some of the information coming out about the new raid is what's done some good to renew my flagged enthusiasm. It does actually look quite exciting and neat and good - it seems to have that hard to capture sense of grandeur that tiers 7, 9, 11, and 12 have lacked. I mean sure they're neat or whatever, but with Firelands for example the main attraction for me was "new challenges". With Ulduar, the attraction was storming Ulduar. Even the vehicle-based opening, for all its flaws, did a great job of making the raid feel like it was kind of a big deal. You know, I don't necessarily want another Flame Lev style encounter, but I always had fun with it, and especially with the opening push through all the dwarves and what have you.

Sorry, I'm wandering off, as I tend to. The point here is that although I was a little bit gut-punched by the nerfs, the expansion's terminal raid seems like it could be good enough to kind of rescue things for me. We'll see.

I responded to the hunter version of the class survey thread posted in the official forum. I sort of feel like anything I might have to say would inevitably be lost in the tsunami of craziness a thread like that will inevitably turn into, but Blizzard is a big company that makes buckets of money. It could very well be that they have a rigorous system for extracting usable information from the wreckage left after the wave ebbs.

The two questions in the survey I found the most interesting were essentially "what is fun about your class?" and "what is not fun about your class?"

This may or may not be surprising to anyone, but I actually had to pause for quite a while to answer those. The fundamental reason I first chose the class is, as I have said before, that I like bows. I want to use a bow to shoot arrows into the mans. So as long as I'm doing that, I'm in a pretty decent spot. Some people (dwarves) like guns, and it has not been a very good expansion for them in terms of having that, so I'm a little worried that the T13 ranged weapon of choice is going to be a gun, but hey! Now we have transmogrification, so that's fine.

It's much harder to articulate a game-mechanical thing that I like or dislike. I guess I don't really like the way Marks plays at the moment - it sort of feels like I'm trying to build something out of a mix of Duplos and Legos. Focus regen, the Chimera Shot cooldown, and the Improved Steady Shot buff duration just don't line up in nice ways if you're not using glyphed Arcane Shot and the 13% haste point. So that doesn't feel great.

I do like using disengage. I like the sparkle from Post Haste, I like being able to pick times when I want to be somewhere Right Now, and I like being able to negate or re-purpose a boss's knockback effects. That's all fun. It's also sort of a strange thing to highlight, since it has nothing to do with shooting arrows into mans or having a pet or anything.

All that said, I haven't really seen any signs that they're planning much in the way of hunter changes for 4.3. There might be a couple minor tweaks, but I'm pretty sure the class is going to remain as-is for the remainder of this expansion.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The MOST IMPORTANT raid consumable

All raiders are responsible for their consumables. Even if you're in a guild like mine (or just in my guild!), where we supply 100% of your consumables, it's your responsibility to ask for them. Scandalously, however, if you were to poll the world's WoW raiding population and asked them what the single most important raiding consumable is, you'd be lucky to get a single correct answer. It's time to address that failing.

The most important raid consumable is your coffee.

Frankly, I am almost beyond disappointed that this even needed to be said. This is really basic stuff, guys. I don't think it's that big of a deal if you have trouble with haste rating, or even if you're doing things like gemming pure crit rating to get a socket bonus (although really, don't do that). But I mean, not getting your coffee right? Inexcusable. So, since a guide on the subject is clearly sorely needed, I've taken it upon myself to write one.

The good news here is that this particular guide is spec-independent. And class-independent. And game-independent. It is also independent of gaming. Just remember that even though it can be used outside of raid time, it is absolutely necessary during raid time.

When I was in the fencing club in college - don't worry, this relates back to the post, I promise - our coach was a really neat guy. Let's call him Mike. Mike had worked in a fair number of occupations, but they tended towards the sales side of things. This made sense, as Mike was this really friendly, chatty, and personable guy. One of the sorts of things he'd sold had been audiovisual electronics. Stereos, TVs, that sort of stuff. He always said that one of the things that drove him up the damn walls was when some over-monied idiot would come in with a budget of five thousand dollars for a home stereo system and spend forty-three hundred on the receiver, two hundred on scam cables, and five hundred on speakers. This bothered him so much because the most important part of your stereo system is the part that makes the sound. If you're getting a fancy home theater setup, spend the majority of your money on the speakers and the TV, ok?

This happens a lot in coffee. Like, almost always. Someone will decide they like coffee and want to enjoy it in the privacy of their home. Wonderful! Me too. So they'll spend $500 on a drip coffee maker with its own built-in water filtration, digital water temperature setting, a carafe rated for atmospheric re-entry, wifi connectivity, and cool blue LEDs. Into this contraption they will dump hazelnut-flavored coffee they got from the grocery store pre-ground. Or maybe, and this is in some ways worse, they'll actually get pretty decent bean and then grind it with a seven-dollar blade grinder.

No. No! Bad. Bad. Do not do.

On the left is nothing too special. That's a very basic conical burr grinder from Capresso. You can get it for around seventy to a hundred dollars, and it'll give you a pretty darn even grind. Sure, a thousand-dollar commercial unit from Ditting would be better, but this little grinder is totally sufficient for your typical raider. The coffee is, as you can see, from Dogwood Coffee Roasters. They're local to me and they print the roast date on the bag, so you can make sure you're not getting stale coffee.

Actually, I should back up a bit here. When you taste coffee, it should not be bitter. It should be rich and flavorful and complex and mouth-filling and warm and fortifying but it should not be bitter. It would take a while to go into all the whys and wherefores of this, so I'll try to reduce it to a couple simple statements. The first is that most of the wonderful flavors in coffee come from very volatile compounds. "Volatile" means they react strongly with just about anything, including air, which is why an air-tight storage container is important. Even with that, however, if your bean was roasted a long time ago, the flavor will have sublimated right out of it.

Secondly, bitter coffee is burned, over-extracted coffee. If the hot water has sat in the grounds too long, chemical reactions happen that produce some truly unpleasant flavors. Further, the definition of "too long" changes with how finely you grind the coffee. The finer the grind, the less time it takes to over-extract and convert a brilliant light roast into bitter muck. This is why it's so important to grind at home and have an even grind from a burr grinder. Blade grinders leave your bean ground into a gradient of particles, from too large shading all the way down to too small, regardless of how you're brewing. Good bean and a good grinder: these are the most important elements of good coffee.

This is my preferred method of brewing: french press. You may have noticed that that's a Frieling stainless-steel presspot, and you may think it's a little too expensive. You may point out that it retails for around ninety dollars, the price for three perfectly serviceable Bodum presspots. And you'd be absolutely correct! I know this because I bought and broke three such glass presspots before I decided to get this one. So if you can use the glass ones without shattering them every other month, then by all means: go glass. If you're an irredeemable clutz like me, though, you'll save money in the end by getting a nice stainless one.

If I were really hardcore, I'd have a scale so I always brewed with exactly the same ratio of bean to water. But we're casual raiders here at Piercing Shots, so we use the "2 tablespoons of unground bean per eight ounces of water" rule, and it's worked pretty well so far. Here's how it goes:

  1. Bring water to a boil
  2. Coarsely grind appropriate quantity of beans
  3. Place grounds in presspot
  4. Pour just a few ounces of water on them and wait for the bubbling and fizzing to subside*
  5. Fill to top, like so:

Set a timer for four minutes. When it beeps, dongs, or buzzes, come back and scoop the "cake" of grounds off the top with a large spoon, then press it. Finally, pour yourself a mug of brain-nutriment before resuming your assault upon the Firelord's throne (or whatever):

*This is called the "bloom". You only really need to worry about it with bean that was roasted 2-5 days ago. It has something to do with carbon dioxide, I guess? If you skip this step with really freshly roasted bean, you'll end up with the bloom taking up too much room with froth, not having enough water, and thus over-extracting.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Woe! Subscriber loss! Calamity!

To be honest, I am a little tired of people making blog and forum posts about the game's loss of roughly 800,000 subscribers. I think this discussion has been largely quite silly for a whole bunch of reasons.

Probably the most prominent thing I scorn it for is that I don't see the point. Right now, the game is fun for me. I like the people I'm playing with. I like the raid content. I've started doing some arenas with my priestess, and I like that a lot, not least because I'm playing with my boyfriend and several of our guildies. There have, of course, been times in the past when the game wasn't fun for me. I took breaks during those times, varying numbers of months when I didn't play. Why can't other people do the same without all kinds of discussion about it?

If the game is fun for you, keep playing - what do you care that some other people stopped? If the game isn't for you, there are books to read, stories to write, recipes to cook, sweaters to knit, tabletop RPGs to play, skydiving licenses to earn, whatever! There's a lot of stuff to do out there, and people to do it with, even other MMOs! Keep in touch with your friends however you see best and go do other things, there's nothing wrong with it. You don't need to agonize or fret or analyze the recent patches or whatever. Just accept that it's not the game for you at the moment and move on.

All of that said, I guess I can understand the desire to talk about it, especially if you do still like it and still play. Part of why it's a compelling hobby is because there is such a large population of fellow hobbyists. If the place was a ghost town it wouldn't be very fun, right? But even then, we have no empirical data to talk about. Blizzard hasn't exactly released the statistics from all those cancellations. And even if they had, there are problems with them: every time my boyfriend cancels his sub for one reason or another, checks the "other reason" box and writes in "buff paladins". Keep in mind that he currently mains a shadowpriest for PvE and a frost DK for PvP (although he has spent a lot of time playing paladins, mostly holy). So even if we had empirical data, we'd have to be suspicious of it.

But of course we don't have that data. So what people are doing is saying "this perceived aspect of it bothers me, and that must be why all those people quit." Reasons that I've seen include, but are not limited to:
  1. Release/troll heroics too hard.
  2. Release/troll heroics too easy.
  3. Gear too easy to get.
  4. Gear too hard to get.
  5. Not enough to do unless you raid or do rated PvP.
  6. Too much to do outside of raiding and rated PvP (i.e.: overwhelming).
  7. New style of questing too linear.
  8. Get to level cap too quickly.
  9. Get to level cap too slowly.
  10. Should have been more like BC.
  11. Should have been more like Wrath.
  12. Should have been more like Classic.
  13. RDF for any of a number of reasons.
The funny/strange part is that no one seems to think "huh, all of these folks are providing mutually contradictory reasons for the loss, and they all seem to be based on their particular experiences. Maybe this isn't really relevant."

Instead, they argue amongst each other for their particular pet reason.


Friday, September 2, 2011

I guess I'm sticking with the CS glyph

Looked through the logs from tonight (6/7, yaaay!). It's sort of one of those times where what I'm doing feels really strange. It feels like I'm constantly pushing that CS cooldown back by over a second. It feels like I'm struggling for focus at the worst times. It feels like I'm doing it all wrong. But it sims better than anything else, and the astonishing part is that the time between my chimera shots is actually shockingly close to the timing simulated by I've also maxed out on VP-purchasable gear for Pradzha and lucked out on almost every drop I want from the early farm bosses. The only thing I'm still missing is the boots from Baleroc, which he hasn't dropped yet. Well, and I need to replace my trinkets, but the trinkets I need drop from Staghelm and Rag. Impressively enough, Fandral dropped a Hungerer tonight (first kill trinket, yess) but it went to our rogue. I'm happy he got the item, but I can't help but worry that he'll never drop it again.

This rep trinket is really awful and I need to get rid of it.

Other than that, we've got a couple DPS that are hovering just under that 20k mark, and I'd like to help them move into the 20-21 neighborhood. I think if we can do that, we'll really make continuing progression a lot easier. It'd be even better if we could bring everyone up into the consistent 22k range, although any more than that and I think we'll need the 384 weapons from Rag himself. There are a LOT of guilds on our server that have been stuck at 6/7 for a long time, and I'm worried that could happen to us, with our 2-day raid week. We'll have to have very crisp, fast farm nights on Wednesdays so we can come in totally fresh on Thursdays and get in solid time on Rag.

Phase 1 seems not-that-bad. The sons of flame also actually seem pretty easy to deal with. I think melee on either side will be able to nuke the closest guy easily, and ranged can get the mid and far-away guys slowed, while the melee clean up behind them.

Pretty much the only thing that worries me is the living meteors. I foresee a lot of us blowing ourselves up with these things, and it's going to be a real pain to get to the point where phases one and two go very smoothly and we wipe in stupid ways on meteors.

We can get it though. I'm going to estimate we've got a month to get Rag, and I think we can do that. We might not farm all the gear that the raid wants off of him before T13 hits, but we may even be able to do that if it's late October or even early November.

Sometimes it's pretty tense being a little casual guild! But you know what? I think they did a good job with the normals this tier. There's a fair complaint along the lines of "finishing an instance doesn't feel like it's finished any more," but to be honest? I'm going to feel like it's pretty well finished once we've got Rag down.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


WoW crashed last night when I alt-tabbed to check who the Rhyolith drops would go to (answer: "the auction house" and "the druid's crucible to get melted") and I forgot to turn combat logs back on. I had really been mostly looking forward to the Baleroc logs to see how the new glyph setup did there, because that encounter basically removes all the confounding factors. Sadly, we do Baleroc after Rhyolith and that meant I didn't have logs of it.

I've done what I can with looking at Shannox logs, and actually, initial results look good. There seems to be a lot more variance in individual chimera shots and when they happen, and of course I'm not getting the full second out of the glyph. But I'm pretty frequently getting half a second or a little more out of it, which means it's not unreasonable to think that I could be getting an extra Chimera Shot squeezed into an encounter.

I suppose things are inconclusive so far, but I didn't seem to eat a huge DPS loss (and in fact went up a couple thousand DPS over previous Shannox kills), so I suppose I'm keeping the glyph and hardcasting Aimed Shot for now.