Thursday, July 31, 2008

Goals and Altitis

If you look at all the different WoW blogs, there seems to be a sort of consensus that when you play the game you should have "goals" - sort of have an idea of where you're going and what you're aiming for. But, just because it's the consensus doesn't make it true - so I'm here to tell you that it's OK to just wader the world aimlessly without setting any goals (and also why it's OK).

So first we have to look at what drives us to become altaholics in the first place. Often it's a desire to see the game from other perspectives (different classes, different factions, etc.) that starts it - I know it was for me. But that can't be all, otherwise I would have had 1 of every class and been done with it, instead of 4-5 as I do. I think the real reason is just impulsiveness (is that even a word? It sounds odd) - you log in, can't quite decide who you want to be today, and you suddenly get this idea that it would be awesome to have an Undead Shadow Priest. So you roll one. And that's it... Really easy, huh? And quite tempting.

And when that's the case, goals have no place in your game. What's the point in setting goals for alts that might not get played again for months just because you get distracted by some other shiny thing? I mean, the idea of goals is planning ahead and thinking long-term and that just doesn't sit right with impulsiveness (hmm, maybe it should be 'impulsivity'? No, that sounds even worse... *sigh*). Then again, the fact that you make a concious decision that "now I'm starting a new alt", means there's something there to interest you and therefor you'll have your fun, with or without long-term goals.

The Other Side of the Coin

But what if that's not really the reason why we (I) do this? What if the reason I'm constantly creating alts is that I just don't see myself making it to 70, grinding out the gear I need and making the time commitment to raid Kara? I mean, I don't know... It's obviously an idea that's somewhere in my mind, and I'm not sure how to "take it out of the equation" and see what happens (whether I'll still be creating alts left and right, or finally be able to get to 70. Or 80, whatever).

And if that's the case, then the altitis is just an escape. It's an easy way out of the bigger commitment. I would like to raid some day because I want to see all that new content, but the requirements "scare" me - I don't have time to grind dailies, heroics, PvP and 10 different faction reps just so I could have decent enough gear for a guild to be willing to take me along with them, and I probably couldn't commit to the time needed for raiding anyway. I could quit the game altogether, but that would be admitting that I'm never going to raid - that I just couldn't hack it, and that's hard to reconcile. The other way is to keep finding small things you don't like about your current character, forcing you to roll a new one. "When I get to 70 I'll definitely raid, I just want it to be with a character I really like". I mean, Lathiria made it all the way to 65, clawing and biting her way through Azeroth and Outlands, only for me to decide that I'm bored with palying a kitty and that I want to give chickens a shot. And then, of course, I didn't have good enough gear (had a few "healing set" items laying around in the bank, but definitely not enough) to play it properly and make it fun, so she got abandoned.

So what do I do next? I could set myself a goal to finally get to 70/80/whatever-the-level-cap-is-by-then. I could even make myself not create any more alts until I get there. But do I want to? Wouldn't that just ruin part of the game for me? Not to mention having to find a new name for this blog... *grin* I guess it's much like in real life - often you find yourself in situations that are "alright", so why take the chance and change anything? You might end up in a much better situation, but you could also end up worse than you started. What do you think (all 2 of you reading this)?

Bah, how did this post get so heavy? It was supposed to be a short piece on why it's OK not to have goals, not a psycho-analysis of twisted-ol'-me. You have my apologies for that...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Slim Pickings

Don't have too much to talk about. Again. This post-a-day schedule is tough. Then again, if I don't stick with it, I probably won't stick with the blog, so...

Anyway, if you remember, I was going to start an "experiment" where I only do instances with Enara. Why? Well, why not? But, seriously, it's a combination of several things:
  1. I want to take a break from the "usual" quests that I already know by heart. Since I don't have any high level Hordies, I haven't seen any of the higher level dungeon quests on that side, and even the lower level ones I don't know that well.
  2. I'd like to see if I get much better gear that way.
  3. I wonder if there's "enough" there to make it possible to level that way. Of course, if you just grind an instance, you still get XP for kills, but I hate grinding - the plan is to only run an instance until I'm done with all its quests.
I'm not sure it'll stick, though. For one, finding groups is a bit of a problem for me (time difference and all that). Second, I'm pretty sure it'll hurt my Herbalism and Alchemy (and, as a result, my wallet). But I can at least try...

So, first things first, last night I ran Enara around getting all the quests for RFC, WC and SFK. On the way, I managed to find a new quest I hadn't known before, specific to Herbalists. Yay me. Yeah, I know it's not related to any instance, but still - I'm not going to turn down fun when I encounter it.

After some running around the Barrens, killing raptors and exploring some oases on my way, I finally ended up in Thunder Bluff to get finish getting all my quests. Next up, finding a group. Of course, I'm level 21 and the instance is officially for levels 13-20, so no LFG tool for me. *sigh* Well, I joined the LFG channel and started looking... Not too many people anxious to go in, but I finally found a level 22 Hunter wanting to get a sword from Taragaman (I can only assume it was the Cursed Felblade he was after). So in we went, and at some point added a Blood Elf Rogue to our ranks ("only" level 18, but decked out in AH blues) as well.

It went pretty well until we reached Taragaman. He didn't drop the sword, and what a surprise - the Hunter* just had to go because something came up. The rogue only had the quests from Thunder Bluff, so we finished those and called it a night. Hopefully, I'll get at least RFC done with tonight, and maybe get started on WC.

So the run, however short it was, at least gave me chance to think about how I performed in a role I'm not entirely used to in instances, and with the Nostromo thrown in just to mix things up. Things I've noticed:
  • My Pyroblast/Fireball macro, while pretty good had some problems with resetting the cast sequence. I threw a "reset=combat" into the mix, so we'll see if it fixes it (or kills it completely). There is also the fact that since I wasn't the one doing the pulling I wouldn't be "in combat" and threw around somt Pyroblasts where they were entirely unnecessary. Luckily, using the Nostromo for running a macro with a modifier seemed to work pretty well**, allowing me to override the Pyroblast (when I remembered to, that is).
  • My sheep macro is broken. It didn't clear the focus when it was dead, causing some fumbling around to set it manually when the old corpses still hadn't despawned. I also though the modifier to force it to clear focus didn't work, only to realize that I hadn't actually mapped that button to press the modifier on the Nostromo. Both (the macro and the Nostromo mappings) have been fixed, and I'll check whether they actually work tonight.
  • Fireball crits are really problematic when you have a Rogue tank that can't hold aggro that well. And that leads us to the next point.
  • I completely forgot about Mana Shield when I pulled aggro. Might have prevented the 1 or 2 deaths in there.
So that's it. Nothing too impressive, but then nothing bad either. We'll see how this experiment comes along in the weeks to come.

That RL Thing

There are going to be some changes in my personal life and work, in the near future, which will probably effect my posting in some way. Just to let you know, so you don't freak out if a weekday comes along and I don't post anything...

* I'm still debating whether he was a huntard or just cocky - he ran with AotC the whole time and would often run in to melee mobs. He was also wearing a Bloody Apron - although I agree the +sta on it is pretty good, wearing cloth instead of leather means you take more damage, so it's probably not the best trade-off in the world. I could be wrong, though. And, of course, there's the possibility that it was just better than what he had before (if he had a level 10 white chest with less armor than the apron, then it's understandable).

** I promise another post on the Nostromo once I've had a chance to try it out on at least another character. As I said, I have to figure out a way to work "stance" switching into it as well. Current plan is to play around with Mokla this weekend and have the post up early next week.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The UI Post

I'm sorry, but I don't have anything "intelligent" to say today (I know, I still need to do "Why do I WoW" post - I'm working on it but it's not ready yet), so I'll take the easy way out and post my UI and addons. Please remember this UI is not for raiding, and while it's usable in BGs, I don't think it's particularly good for it. It's mostly designed for solo leveling, and to be fairly consistent between different characters (I don't want to start hunting around for my HS every time I log into a new alt).

So, without further ado, here is Enara's UI. I'll try to walk through it in some sort of order, so no one gets lost along the way.

So first, we can see FuBar on top. One bar is enough for me, and I found having the bottom bar annoying when trying to click stuff on the action bar (I'd move the mouse down too far, and click FuBar instead of whatever it was I was going to cast).

On it we have LocationFu (so I don't get lost) and MonkeyQuestHelper (works with QuestHelper and MonkeyQuest, which is nice) on the left side. On the right side, we have RestFu (keeps track of all my alts' rested XP), MoneyFu (keeps track of gold on all alts in that realm), and finally Baggins.

Under FuBar, you can see my combat log - I don't use that part of the screen for anything else, and I don't usually have to click there, so it's ideal. The chat log is still in the bottom left, in its default location.

Next, around the mini-map I have icons for WOWecon (that I talked about a little here), ACE preferences, ItemRack and Gatherer*. Just beneath it is QuestHelper - while it's very useful, it might be too useful and I'm still a little undecided on whether or not to use it**.

For my inventory, I use Baggins, and it's excellent. I had to disable all my addons temporarily a little while ago, and the default bag management was just horrible.

Finally, the 2 teleport spells on the left (and, if you can see, Arcane Intellect behind Baggins) are brought to you courtesy of ClassButtons. While it isn't perfect, and often misses a lot of spells I would have liked to see for some classes, is still very useful. Who knows, maybe I'll finally get around to adding the spells I want to it some day...

I also use Auctioneer for the AH, Cartographer and TomTom*** for my map addons, AckisRecipeList for trade skills, Linkerator for linking in chats, and Omen when I go instancing (or soloing with a pet).

Finally, the default Blizzard UI works for me, with the spells I use in combat on the main action bar, the more situational (and less used) spells in the bottom left (and bottom right, if there are too many of them) bar, and the food/drinks/HS/potions/trade skills on the right action bar.

Other than that, I have some class-specific addons - Hunter's Helper (for all your pet management needs) and Smarty Cat Mana Bar (to keep track of mana while shape-shifted on Druids).

And, of course, this post wouldn't be complete without mentioning WowMatrix, which allows me to easily keep all these addons updated and making patch days relatively pain-free.


Stupid, stupid, stupid... Forgot one of the most important addons for us altaholics - SendSelf. A fairly simple addon, all it does is add the names of your alts to the auto-complete list when sending in-game mail. No more sending mail to random similar-named people and no need to add them all to the friends list. Must-have for anyone with more than 2 active chars on the same realm.

* I've heard Cartographer can do everything Gatherer can, and I tried, but it didn't really co-operate. If anyone has any suggestions on getting it to work, I'd be more than happy to use one less addon.

** Without QuestHelper, you actually have to read quests to know where you need to go. With it, I often find myself just running towards the arrow to get the quest done.

*** I generally find the arrow/pointer thingy too annoying. The minimap indicators, however, are pure gold.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Nostromo First Impressions

I've been seeing the Nostromo mentioned in a lot of places, usually with good "reviews", so I decided to get one and see what it was all about. I went down to my neighborhood electronics shop (a mere 10-floors of anything you could ever think of), and after getting a little lost I finally had my hands on one of them.

The Setup

Of course, I first spent half the night configuring the thing instead of actually using it, but that's part of the fun, isn't it? For now, I started with a fairly simple configuration to try out with Enara:
  • D-pad remains mostly untouched, except for changing the right/left mappings to 'E'/'Q' for strafing. I still haven't quite decided if I prefer it as strafe or turn, so for now I have one map for each...
  • "Jump" button stayed the jump button.
  • The small round thumb button was mapped to 'R' (my auto-run binding).
  • Scroll wheel switches between the different mappings (red/green/blue) - I already have a scroll wheel on my mouse, I don't need another one to do exactly the same thing.
  • The button directly above the scroll wheel was mapped to Ctrl+Shift+'2', which I bound in WoW to my (hidden) bottom right action bar where I put Shoot.
  • The button above that is mapped to Tab - yes, I use tab-targetting most of the time, sue me.
  • Finally, that left me with 12 buttons - conveniently the same as the number of buttons on the action bar. The middle row is mapped to the '1'-'4' keys, since that's where my fingers usually are. Top row gets '5'-'8' and bottom row '9'-'='. Then I moved stuff around the action bar to find something that suits me. In Enara's case, I finally settled on a scheme that I hope I can remember: Top row for Frost spells, Middle for Fire, Bottom for Arcane. Then, index finger for "main damage spell", big finger for AoE, ring finger for CC and little finger for "utility".
  • For Fire spells that gives us (from index finger to little finger) Pyroblast/Fireball macro, followed by Flamestrike, an empty button*, and finally Fire Blast.
  • For Frost spells we have Frostbolt, Blizzard, Frost Nova and an empty spot (will probably put Cone of Cold there when I get it).
  • For Arcane it's Arcane Missiles, Arcane Explosion (will probably be replaced by a macro that casts Rank 1 when not in combat soonish), Polymorph and Blink.
The Good

After a whole night of playing around with it and trying to get used to it, I liked it quite a bit. Of course, I still get my buttons confused occasionally, but that's to be expected - I assume I'll get over that with time. Other than that, not too many good things to say about it. That's not a complaint, mind you - it does what it's supposed to and it does it well.

The Bad

Maybe it's just my physical environment, but the way my hand rests on the Nostromo, using the D-pad and "Jump" button is a little awkward. My thumb's "natural" position is around the NW D-pad, so I have to change my hand position to get to the East, South or Jump buttons. For the directional buttons it's not such a big problem - when I want to move right I push the D-pad from the left, causing it to "press" the right button, and same trick for when I need to back-up. Jumping is still a bit of a problem, though. Good thing I don't jump that much. :)

Another thing that bothers me (though this is very likely just a lack of familiarity with exactly what I can do and how) is that I can't figure out a way to use modifiers in macros. For example, my Pyro/Fireball macro is set-up to override the Pyroblast when a modifier key is pressed (Alt, as the case may be), but I don't have a spare button for the modifier key and it pretty much defeats the purpose if I have to press it on my keyboard. I'm gonna try to work something out with the "momentary" map changes - we'll see how that works.

The Ugly

First, I need somewhere to put the Nostromo when I'm not using it. My "environment" is set-up kind of weird, with me sitting on the floor next to my laptop and the mouse and the Nostromo are on either side of that (or on a low table I have near my left hand where I can put the Nostromo). But once I leave home and take my laptop with me, that leaves the Nostromo on the floor in the middle of the room, which I really don't like.

Second, and probably another thing that stems from only getting it yesterday, it seemed to me that in order to get a button combination (Ctrl+Shift+'2', for example) I have to make a macro for it. That macro sends both the button presses and releases when you press the Nostromo button, instead of the "usual" way that single buttons work.

What The Future Holds

As a geek, you give me something that can be messed around with and configured, I'll most probably be my settings for a long time...

First order of business is taking care of the macro modifier problem. I'll probably end up with a key map that casts all the action bar items with a modifier, and map something to temporarily switch to that map. I'm not sure yet if that temporary means as long as the button is pressed or that it switches maps for one button press. The first option would seem to make more sense, except that I plan on putting that functionality on the scroll wheel where it wouldn't really work. I guess I'll just have to check and see what it does...

I'm also considering remapping all the buttons to a different action bar that I don't use - the Left side bar, for example. That would have the advantage of not making me move stuff around on my main action bar, which is good in case I want to use the keyboard. However, that'll be a real problem for my Warriors/Druids/Rogues, where the main action bar changes according to "stance" but the other bars don't. I could change the Nostromo's mappings to fit the current locations of spells on my action bar, but then I'd have to remap them for every alt separately and I really don't want to do that.

And speaking of Warriors/Druids/Rogues (and, to a lesser extent, Paladin auras and Hunter aspects), where do I map buttons to switch "stances"? On the action bar? That'll work, but will be a terrible waste. A related problem, though not exactly the same is Hunter/Warlock pets. My current thinking is to use the 3rd mapping for all these commands, with another "temporary" mapping switch.

Whatever I decide, I'm sure I'll get a lot of fun out of simply customizing my settings for this thing, so it's all good. :)

Bottom Line

I guess it's pretty obvious I rather liked the Nostromo. Like anything in life, however, it costs money. While I have no problem shelling out money for whatever catches my eye at the moment**, I've heard that some people actually have to think before spending money. While the Nostromo definitely seems to be a welcome addition to my WoW experience, I don't know if I'd have bought it back in the days when I was a poor student in University...

* OK, so that's a lie. For now, I use that button as a plain Fireball for cases where I don't want to Pyroblast, but that's temporary. In the future, I'll probably put Scorch in there.

** I once bought an HDTV "on a whim" while walking through an electronics store and seeing a TV I liked. I wasn't planning on getting a TV. In fact, I wasn't planning on buying anything - I was only there with a friend of mine who wanted to buy some USB/PS-2 adapters...

Friday, July 25, 2008

A Quick Update

As I'm sure you're all having trouble sleeping not knowing what happened with Mokla, here's a quick update.

Last we heard of our "hero", she was in Orgrimmar looking for some people to help her kill Roogug in Razorfen Kraul. You see, he had a Vial of Phlogiston I needed in order to get my Brutal Armor, and he just wouldn't hand it over.

I finally find a group with a Priest ("Oh, no, I'm shadow, I can't heal" and "I need to kill things for Spirit Tap"), a Shaman and 2 Mages. The priest turned out to be a bad healer and a ninja (needing on Mail boots which would have been an upgrade for me) so we kicked him, but we weren't going to give up that easily. We kept going, just the 4 of us, with the Shaman taking over healing and it went... Well, OK. Not great, by any means. We killed us a couple of bosses, and then died on a trash fight. For some reason, despite having 2 mages in the group and 2 targets to sheep, only 1 sheep popped up and even that wasn't renewed when it wore off. I mean, seriously, if I can keep up with tanking 3 mobs, the least you can do is sheep 1. After dying the Shaman announced that he has to leave for work, effectively breaking up the party.

There didn't seem to be many others who were interested in a run, so I resorted to the trade channel to ask for a boost (I really hate doing that, but sometimes you just don't have a choice). A very nice 54 Rogue was willing to help me, on the condition that I don't pay him, which was fine by me. We went in, got a little lost, found some nice shoulders for me to wear, killed Roogug, and after asking again if he was sure he doesn't want the money, we both went our separate ways.

From there, I went to hand in the quest, and get the three quests for the other armor pieces. I went to talk to the 3 quest-givers (in Thuder Bluff, Sen'jin Village and Undercity) and called it a night. That was 2 nights ago? Something like that.

Then yesterday I took care of all 3 quests (the Wetlands are a bit out of the way for us hordies), and after handing them in I had a nice helmet (the Gauntlets and Leggings went to the bank). Then I went out to the Thousand Needles, took care of most of the errands I could find there, and called it a night in Orgrimmar.

This weekend I'll probably pick Enara back up and finish up with the Ghostlands, and then... I still haven't decided. I'm thinking of maybe only doing instances with her (and class quests, of course), as an experiment to see what sort of gear she has compared to the alts I'm leveling solo. I'm just afraid it'll be too painful. *grin* Well, I guess we'll see...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Accents, Seasons, and Random RP Annoyances

Short post today*, 'cause things are busy at work. I'll back to my usual rambling tomorrow. Maybe.

Yesterday's post got me reminiscing about RP, and I remembered some of the things that bugged me about RPing in WoW back in the day.


We've all seen dwarves around in the real world, haven't we? So it's common knowledge they all have a Scottish accent... OK, you got me, I never met a real dwarf. But the game does reinforce this stigma, liberally sprinkling the dwarf areas with "Loch"s and "Dun"s, so unless something in your back-story explains why you're different, you're going to have to contend with a lot of "Why don't you have an accent?" attitude. But, you know, that's fine actually - it adds to the immersion by making the world feel more "real", so that's not what bother me about accents.

"So what bothers you about accents?", I hear you shouting. Well, WoW has the oft-ignored feature of letting you change the language your character speaks. Between us, how many times have you actually used it, instead of rambling on in Common/Orcish? Not too often, I'll bet. But in my old guild we used it quite a bit - it was an all-Dwarf guild, and the members were encouraged to use Dwarven whenever possible, and here's what annoys me (finally...) - Why would a Dwarf have a noticeable accent while speaking his/her native language? It's all nice and well when you speak Common, but Dwarven?

Now, the general consensus seems to be that Common and Dwarven should sound differently, and that when dwarves talk, it'll sound like Scottish - so the accent should stay. I don't quite agree with that. I mean, Common (or Orcish, if you're horde) is not English - we use English because, well, we have to agree on some language in order to communicate (and, being WoW an MMO, communication is quite important), what turns it into Common is the [Common] tag at the beginning of the line. Accents are a good way of stressing the fact that Common is not (usually) a dwarf's native language, and therefore when they speak it it sounds "different", but there's no such problem in Dwarven.

Let's compare it to what happens out in the real world**. Japanese people, having grown up and lived in Japan their whole lives, speak pretty good Japanese. When I listen to someone speaking Japanese, I don't think to myself "He's speaking with a Japanese accent". If it even occurs to me, I might think it just sounds natural. But when that same person speaks English you will, more often than not, notice the heavy Japanese accent. At the same time, when I speak Japanese it doesn't sound natural, so I'm the one with the accent.

Hopefully, you get the picture by now, since I'm running out of things to say about it. *grin* Just, you know, think about it. Or don't... I'm not going to make you.

Warrior of the 50th season.

Most of the RP-guides and guidelines consider levels "a bad thing" - You don't actually "level up" in real-life, so the concept is treated is OOC most of the time. But sometimes, you just have to relate to it somehow, so people came up with the "brilliant" idea of using seasons. What? What does that even mean? It obviously doesn't mean actual seasons/time, since last I checked time was something that happened at the same speed for everyone. The concept of "seasons" just fails miserably at relating to experience.

So what do we do? We need to talk about experience, but "seasons" doesn't quite cut it. Well, again, let's look at real-life. In most cases, your "experience" is not something that can be quantified, and as a result very subjective. What level is your drawing skill? There's no answer to that. You can say you're good at it, or bad at it, and you could be wrong***. But not everything is like that... Martial arts, for example, have "belts" and what are belts if not a different name for levels? If all goes according to plan, I'll be taking the Level 3 Japanese Language Proficiency Test this year. Yes, you read that correctly, it says "Level" (granted, in this case the lower the level the better, so you'll usually want to level down instead of up, but still...).

There's no reason something like that shouldn't be good enough for WoW - you already have to go to the trainer every 2 levels to learn new skills. May as well take it a little further and pretend he gave you a new belt. Or "kyu". Or even level. I mean, the name doesn't really matter here. They are all, at the end of the day, used for the same purpose - measure someone's experience/capabilities at something.

Do I have any delusion that it'll change some day? No, not really. But then, since I mostly play solo (time differences suck) I hardly get to do any RP anyway, so it's not such a big deal.

* At least, it was supposed to be a short post. It turns out it doesn't take much to get me rambling for hours about inconsequential stuff...

** Japan is a little surreal, but let's say it's part of the real world for the sake of this discussion.

*** "Wrong", adj.: Holding an opinion that is different from mine.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Origins, Part II

Welcome back, class. I hope everyone did their homework, and reviewed the previous lesson. Today we're going to cover my happenings exploring the new world that is WoW, up until... Hmm, I guess we'll just have to see how long this gets. We'll also see if we can't explain my Altitis while we're at it.

(Old) New World
So, a couple of months after uninstalling WoW, and its box getting lost in the mess that was my desk, summer vacation started and I was looking for something to do in all that free time (well, there was work, but a guy needs to have fun too, doesn't he?). And what better way to waste time, than going hunting for stuff on my desk? That'll burn at least a week... *grin* So after all the "chores" are taken care of (installation, updates, reactivating my account) I decide to delete all my old characters and make a fresh start, and I think to myself "let's give PvP a shot". So I take my pick from the handful of available RP-PvP realms, and introduce Lorna the Paladin to the world. Lorna has a lot of fun running around between Westfall and Redridge, as well as healing in the Deadmines, and even joins a very nice RP guild. She makes it all the way to level 30, before getting abandoned at the Darkshire inn, mostly because I didn't like the ganking. The obvious solution was moving to an RP-PvE realm, and so I did...


Into the realm selection screen I ventured and, after selecting English RP-PvE, was promptly assigned to my new home - Moonglade. I travelled around on 3 or 4 characters there, occasionally deleting one character and replacing it with another, mostly minding my own business. That all changed with Dorni. One day, while he was running around Loch Modan helping the locals with the Trogg and Gnoll infestations, he was approached by a little gnome messenger who was handing out leaflets and application forms to King Magni's elite defenders - The Mithril Guard. I can honestly say that my best times in WoW were had roleplaying with the Guard, and it seemed like I was over my Altitis too - except for some alts that were rolled to play specific roles in RP stories, Dorni made it all the way to 60 as a Protection specced Warrior. If only it could stay that way...

Real-life getting in the way again

Things were going very well, for me and for the Guard. I'd just turned 60, was second-in-command in the guild, and we'd even made a trip or 2 into Zul'Gurub (with the help of other guilds we had good relationships with). Until that one fateful day when my boss called me into his office and said "we want you to go to Japan for a while. It shouldn't take more than 3 weeks, a month at the max". That was almost 2 years ago, and I'm still waiting for the 3 weeks to end... I tried to keep on playing, but the time difference made it almost impossible to attend most guild events or even just sit down for a drink at Bruuk's. By the time I went back home for a visit 3 months later, the guild had changed too much that it just didn't feel "right"*. After that, I'd just let my subscription lapse, and hung up my WoW indefinitely.

Damn you, Penny Arcade

That might have been the end of my story. Heck, I wouldn't even be telling it if it were. But the powers that be conspired to get me back in the game - PA ran two strips about getting back into WoW followed by a small mention about the leveling changes in 2.3, and that was enough to get me hooked again. It's a good thing (or is it?) Blizzard finally let people download the game clients, so I was able to get the game and start playing WoW for the 3rd time... However, I didn't really feel like dealing with all the "history" I had on Moonglade (and the fact that I already had 9 characters there that I didn't want to delete), I rolled on a new server. That's when my Altitis really kicked into hyperdrive - due to the time difference I was mostly playing solo and me starting to get into reading many of the great WoW blogs/forums, every time I'd read (or think) about something that seemed cool I just rerolled. "You mean there's an easier way to level a priest than going Holy? Sign me up!" "Are Warlocks really that easy to play? I don't know, let's find out!" "Do I want to tank, heal, or be sneaky? Why choose? Roll a Druid!"

That there is a very slippery slope... Once you start down that road, it's very hard to turn back. I mean, at least for me, picking up a long forgotten character isn't all that "natural" - it's a lot easier to roll a new one of the same class, and with the 2.3 changes getting a new alt to the same level the old one was is pretty easy. So here I am - changed from someone who didn't even like the game and deleted his first character, to having over 30 alts of various classes/races/factions/professions sitting in wait all around Azeroth.

That concludes our brief foray into pre-historic times, but by now I've almost forgotten why I started it in the first place - to make a post about "Why I WoW". Now I wonder if I'll actually get around to writing it. *grin*

* Not that the changes were "bad", or that the guild wasn't doing well. It's just that some of the friends from before had left, new people joined the guild whom I've never met, and the general "feeling" wasn't the same.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Origins, Part I

There was a shared topic on the Blog Azeroth forums recently about "Why we WoW". It seemed like a nice idea for a post, but after starting to write it I realized it doesn't work for me without some history about my life in WoW, as well as some of the happenings outside of it.

Getting Started

Now I have to decide where to start... Having almost 30 years behind me, most of which were spent gaming, there's a lot of history there. But let's stick to what's relevant (well, more or less) - I used to play D&D with friends in high-school (yes, the kind where you actually had to meet people face to face), while playing pretty much any game I could get my hands on including lots of RPGs. While the pen-and-paper gaming ended after graduation, PC RPGs have continued to take up big chunks of time out of my life. Pretty much all of it, however, was playing "solo" - with the exception of the excellent Starcraft, I didn't play any multiplayer games at all. I guess it was just a matter of time, though.

Playing on the Internet? And it works?

Like any person even slightly in touch with the world of gaming, hearing about WoW was inevitable, but like most MMOs back then there was a catch - monthly subscription. I mean, are you kidding me? Not only do I have to buy the game, I have to keep paying for it every month? And what's the big deal about playing online anyway? And then you hear all the horror stories about people lagging, when they live 2 blocks down from the servers and think "what's going to happen to me, living all the way across Europe from where the game servers usually are". So I just waited, and let the WoW tide wash over me... But then, along came Guild Wars, and it didn't have a monthly fee, so there was no reason not to give it a shot. And I loved it. I was lucky enough to run into some nice people who had just made a guild, and spent hours each day running around killing things with them. Lots of good times were had there, but other than PvPing, the PvE content there was pretty limited. I was already talking to most of my guildies on MSN throughout most of the day, so what was the game bringing to the table? Not that much. So on I went looking for the next game that could hold my attention.

WOW? More like "meh"

So I bit the bullet, and got a copy of WoW. I figured, you get a "free" month when you buy it, so worst case I could just stop after that. So I rolled my first nelf huntard (and boy, was I a huntard - after doing the pet taming quest I decided I really don't like pets, and just kept on going without one), and it was nice most of the time but there were tons of lag, and too many things that were different from Guild Wars - so different that they were out of my "comfort zone". So after that 1 month (even though I don't like the game, I'll be damned if I'm going to throw away whatever time I have left) I went back to Guild Wars, but the magic was gone. Most of my guildies were also shopping for other games to play (as long as they weren't WoW), and the guild sort of fell apart. We tried a little D&D Online, but it was just horrible, and some other games, but it just didn't work. That's when I actually seriously started playing WoW.

*sigh* This was supposed to be a post about my early days of WoW - didn't quite work, did it? This is getting too long for 1 post, so my options are either to start from scratch, or just pick it back up from here tomorrow. You all have my sincerest apologies for that... But at least, the groundwork for my "WoW age" is all set, so it should be smooth sailing from now on.

After reading Cynra's comment, I figured it might be helpful to include a couple of words about Guild Wars, or at least the main differences between it and WoW. So, the big differences (for me, at least) were:
  1. There's no casting from the spell book, and you only get 8 spells in your "action bar". This, along with specializations ("talent trees") and dual-classing allows for quite a bit of "tweaking" to your character. The actual fighting, however, is a lot simpler than it is in WoW.
  2. Except for cities, everything in GW is instanced (I think that may have changed by now, but that's the way it was back in the days). That makes a lot of difference in how you interact with other people - you can't just run into someone out in the middle of nowhere, and team up (or have a bit of RP).
  3. All your characters belong to the same guild (and the "guild screen" shows you the main's name).
The 2nd and 3rd points, at least in my opinion, make GW a lot less hospitable to RP than WoW is, while giving more importance to "bonding" with your guild/friends. Whether that's good or bad, I don't know - I guess it's very personal, and even depends on the current mood.

Monday, July 21, 2008

No post today

It's a long weekend here, so instead of spending time with you all, we're going out on a trip.
Regular schedule to be resumed tomorrow, hopefully.

Friday, July 18, 2008

WoW hates me...

There I was, all excited about finally being a real berserker - logged in to Orgrimmar, headed straight to the flight master, and... Flew to the Crossroads. Only after being well on my way did the thought "But I could've flown to to Ratchett" come up. Oh, well, at least I didn't have to do it running. So I get to the island, hand in the preliminary quest, get the follow-up - and the game hangs.

Reboot, login, and the game hangs immediately. *sigh* Reboot again, disable all addons, abandon the quest (since it's timed, and the timer ran out by now), get it again, enter the ring and the quest is bugged... One of the guys is supposed to call out telling challengers to go in and fight you - he did the calling part alright, but no enemies spawned. Isn't that great? So, abandon again, get the quest again, and finally it seemed to work. A bit hard, but luckily there was a very nice bovine druid there that helped me (thanks a lot :) ).

Anyway, next up in the order of business - RFK. Of course, with my luck no one actually wants to go in there. I tried going in solo, but the first fight was too much to handle, and I bolted for the exit. At this point I was getting pretty pissed off with the game, and just went to Freewind Post and logged off for the night. Here's hoping I have beter luck over the weekend.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

You you thought it was going to be easy...

There I was, all ready and eager to go get Mokla her mount, so of course Darkmoon Faire had the honor of having its maintenance extended further. So I took Lilanis out for a spin, running around through Tanaris clearing some quests and leveling Ssgra and Tora. I got the feeling, for some reason, that Ssgra couldn't hold aggro as well as she used to. It could be due to the Growl changes, but I doubt it. Since my gear isn't that good, I don't see how I could have enough RAP to effect Growl... I'm going to assume it's all in my mind, and that everything is OK.

After a (not-so-) short Sushi break, I could finally log on to Mokla. I guess I didn't expect the patch so soon, and wanted to make sure she stays 29 in case I decide to take her to battlegrounds, so I found I was only 1.5 bubbles into 29. *sigh*

Well, conveniently enough, it seems like last time I parked her at the inn, was after exterminating most of the population of Hillsbrad, but there were still some survivors holed up in the City Hall. So off I go, making the long run from Tarren Hill to Hillsbrad one last time, and start killing anyone I can find, when I notice the town registry lying on the floor. Mokla isn't much of a reader, but it's sometimes nice to be able to know the names of the people you've just mutilated. But going over it, it seems like it contains a lot more names than I remember killing - I just couldn't let that stand. Luckily, there was still one old councilman alive to interrogate, that "agreed" to tell me there are a lot of workers hiding in the Azureload Mine. What a coincidence, I still needed to get some Powdered Azurite to make my Brutal Armor, so I managed to kill 2 birds at the same time.

But, of course, that wasn't the end of the story. Going through the mines, I also encountered some dwarves. Talk about unexpected... So back to Tarren Mill we go, and after some consulting with Darthalia, I decided "I started this, I may as well go through with it". I mean, I'm not a racist - I hate humans, dwarves and gnomes the same. *grin*

On a side note, I think this was the first time I actually did that part of the quest chain, and got the final reward, so it was nice to see how it all ends.

Anyway, that together with some other small quests was just enough to ding 30 in Undercity handing in the quest, and could happily go take care of important business in Orgrimmar. Kind of neat, that everything in this case was pretty close together. In 5 minutes I got my mount, learned how to Smelt Iron (to make the Iron Bars for my armor), trained new skills, got my class quest, and finally went and got a bed at the inn.

The plan is to take care of all those class quests today, and then get back to adventuring in style - with Breserker Stance and all the different Brutal Armor pieces. Of course, seeing as I need to go into RFK to get the hauberk, and that opens up the other pieces, that may not actually happen.

But, as always, the fun of making plans is in changing them...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Nothing to see here, folks

Nothing much of interest today... I have some posts "in the oven" but nothing ready for posting yet.

Last night was pretty uneventful, only getting Enara to 13 (well, almost 14). It's kinda slow, probably because I know don't know the Ghostlands as well as the other starting areas. Also, since 2.3 made it easier to level from 20 to 60, it created this weird situation where going from about 12 to 20 takes a lot of time. It's a good thing when it's your first character, as you're still learning the class and getting the occasional new spell, but for me it's a pain in the ass. Oh, well, at least the quests (and quest rewards) are better than the Barrens.

I do have a Mage question to all of you out there (all 2 of you...) - how do you deal with mobs that are immune to "frost effects"? There's a quest in the Ghostlands that has you kill Aquantion - a level 13 water elemental. He doesn't get slowed by Frostbolts, and can't be rooted by Frost Nova. And he hits hard. Took me 4 tries to get him, using potions, Dampen Magic, and luck - I ended the fight with 24hp. I really hate relying on luck, so it brings up the question of how to do it otherwise? Other than the obvious solution of waiting a couple of levels and coming for him...

In other news, 2.4.3 hits today (or already hit, if you're playing in the US), so I can get Mokla her mount. Hooray!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Gee, what a surprise - it's another alt

As I mentioned yesterday, I decided to wait with leveling Mokla until the patch hits. So what else is there to do? You got it, start a new alt.

So let's welcome Enara to the fold. Enara is an Undead Mage, currently staying at the Fairbreeze Village inn at level 12, and for now I'm taking her down the fire tree. My other mages, although abandoned around their late 20s - early 30s, are all chilly and this time I think I just want to blow things up. Worst case, I can always respec...

I do however have 1 compaint (as if we didn't see that coming). Everyone says mages have an easy life with an endless supply of food and water. Bullshit! Mages, as we all know, drink like camels. Food isn't that important, since you shouldn't get hure that much (and usually a quick bandage fixes you right up), but water... Mages need water, and lots of it. So let's look a little closer at our free water.

Conjure Water - Rank 1 is obtained at level 4, creating Conjured Water that refill 151 mana. At level 4 I had almost 250 mana, and at 6 slightly over 300. Is this some kind of joke? It's not enough I have to sit down to drink so often, I also have to drink 2 drinks just to fill up my mana? That's ridiculous. The only "real" option here (for those of us who don't like watching their alt sit around drinking fake water), is to buy some Ice Cold Milk at level 5 and laugh at all the other mages who have 3 times your downtime. If you're waiting for Conjured Fresh Water, which are the equivalent you'll be waiting all the way to level 10, where you can get by with it, but does anyone really think it'll be enough when you're 19? I doubt it. So it's back to the vendor at 15, for some yummy Melon Juice. And it'll be like that throughout the leveling process. New conjure water ranks are learned at 20, 30, 40, etc. while vendor drinks are available at 15, 25, 35, etc., always 5 levels ahead* - and when you're talking about mages (or priests or warlocks) with huge mana pools they can't actually wait so long.

The one exception to this rule is that as far as I know, there is no easily obtainable water for level 55 - you can only get Star's Lament from BGs or Hyjal Nectar from drops. Then again, Conjure Water - Rank 7 is only available at level 60, when you can already get Filtered Draenic Water. And in fact, since you can then get Purified Draenic Water at 65, it pretty much makes conjured water entirely useless once you hit 60.

So I'm starting a protest. Until Blizzard fixes the cojured water situation, I am not training any more ranks of Conjure Water on any of my mages (too bad I can't untrain the ones I already have). That'll show 'em.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


I got a rare drop. Yay?

There I was, running Mokla through the Hillsbrad Foothills, no cares in the world, exterminating the local wildlife to find the ingredients for the Elixir of Suffering, when all of a sudden I find this in a bear's stomach: Razor's Edge. Now, I know, I should be happy... I mean, not only did I get a random world drop, but it's one that actually benefits me. Except that now starts the internal debates:
"It's a cool axe, and better than what I'm already using."
"Yeah, but I'll outgrow it a couple of levels, and then it'll just go to a vendor. I can easily make 20g for it on the AH."
"20g? Come on, that's nothing. Sell some more leather and ore, and you'll make 20g in no time."
"But I'm already 5 levels past the minimum for using it, maybe I should just save it in the bank for some other alt."
"That's so laaaaame. You're making us all look bad."

Of course, as we already know, indecision is my forte, so it's sitting in the bank alt's bank waiting for me to figure out what to do with it. That, in turn, means I won't actually decide anything until it's too late (i.e.: Mokla will be too high for it, and will probably have enough gold that I won't have to auction it), which brings us to the final point in the discussion above - that's so laaaame.

Mercy kills

I sometimes get the PvP bug, and start an alt on a PvP server (Lilanis being a fine example), but I don't actually like jumping people when they're unprepared. Strange, I know. So why do I do it? Well, for the thrill of being jumped and having to get out of it (and, of course, revenge...). But attacking someone who didn't do anything to me? Not really my thing.

And then I log on one day, and the game tells me getting killed by another player doesn't damage your equipment. Yes, I already knew that, but it got me thinking. If, while running around, I see someone from the opposing faction and they're about to die - killing them myself would actually be better for them (and, obviously, I don't mind the extra honor). But I doubt they'll look at it that way. They'll run back to their corpse, res, and kill me (or at least try to) the first chance they get. Oh, well, other people's repair bills don't matter that much to me that I'd go out of my way to "help" them - they'll just have to deal with it.

Mounts at 30!

By now we've all heard the next patch will change the level requirements for mounts to 30. Great, isn't it? I mean, all this running around on foot is getting annoying, unless you're a hunter/druid/shaman. But by now, Mokla's 29. Levelling her past 30 without a mount, when I know it's just around the corner (not to mention that it'll be cheaper) just seems stupid. Then again, I don't think I'm "done" with her, and I'd hate to leave her in Tarren Mill for all eternity. For now, the plan is to go kill some miners for the Powdered Azurite, then PvP while waiting for the patch to arrive. But we all know what plans are for, don't we? We'll just have to wait and see what actually happens.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I just don't get some people

So there I was, running through the barrens, when looking over my quest list I realized I had pretty much all the Wailing Caverns quests (except for the 2 you can get from the "skull"), and figured I might as well give it a shot - gear drops and quest rewards in the Barrens are nothing to write home about, so I figured it would be a nice boost (no, not that kind of boost - I'm poor, remember?). Especially if I can finish the "main" quest and get my hands (or at least one hand) on Wingblade.

So into LFG-land I go, and after a couple of false starts (groups that disbanded without making it to the meeting stone) finally got a seemingly nice group. We had a mage, a rogue, another warrior (who was higher level and had very nice gear) wanting to tank and a paladin to tend our wounds.

So I happily go in, brandishing my 2 axes when I notice our mighty warrior is tanking with a 2-handed sword in Battle Stance. Hey, if it works... Except it doesn't - pally and mage keep stealing aggro. Luckily, our tin can of healing could take care of himself, and keep us all alive.

We take down Cobrahn without much trouble, and go looking for Anacondra. Just as we find her, our Rogue goes AFK for a couple of minutes, but our fearless warrior is getting itchy. So in he goes, charging the boss dragging us all into the fight alongside him. Anacondra dies, with the Rogue AFK. Our warrior suddenly grows a conscience, and decides not to loot until the Rogue comes back. Now, I don't know WWBRKD, but I'm not about to let her despawn taking my gem with her. So we vote, and decide to loot. So of course she drops the Serpent's Shoulders, that only the Rogue could use. Pally gets upset that we screwed the rogue and hearths away, leaving us with no healer. But that's not enough for such determined adventurers as us, oh no...

We do some looking and find us a priest willing to heal. Great! We reset the instance, so the priest doesn't miss anything and go in once again. 1 or 2 fights into the instance and it's getting more and more obvious that our big cow just can't get the job done and protect our pajamas-wearing friends. So what does one do? Not wanting to cause too much drama, I quietly equip my shield, and take over tanking myself. A little harder than it used to be back in Dorni's days, but still I think I did a fairly decent job (we managed to keep a pretty good pace, and no clothies were harmed during filming). So, we kill Cobrahn again, and this time wait with Anacondra in favor of the other bosses.

Fast-forward to the mighty Lord Pythas. Standing there, so full of himslef, with a druid and a tree elemantal guarding him. Warrior suggests sapping the druid and polymorphing the elemental - nope, can't do that. OK, so sap the elemental and sheep the druid - no, not gonna happen either. So we settle for just sapping the druid. Rogue saps, and our mage sheeps Pythas (who didn't resist, yippee!). I dutifully head for elemental, when our cow figures it's OK for him to go ahead and charge the boss (bye bye little harmless sheep). He then goes on to Thunder Clap - completely useless against casters since it only slows down attacks, but it does have the added benefit of breaking sap. Of course, that wasn't a big enough mess, so the instance threw in a patrol to speed things along. So big cow is fighting 2 druids, I'm tanking a tree and a druid, and the mage and rogue are doing their thing, when the warrior has the nerve to ask "Why don't you heal me?" (no, he didn't use proper spelling and grammar, I apologize for the inaccuracy) after getting us into this whole mess. Still, it wasn't that bad... We only had 1 casualty (guess who? of course, me), and after the res went on our merry way. So what do you think, smooth sailing from here on? Of course not...

We go on a little further, and the rogue has to go. No biggie, we should be able to 4-man it, so we keep going. Then we get into a fight, fairly ordinary, no near-deaths, no runners, no patrols, nothing. Except that for whatever reason, the priest decides to shield me. I wasn't about to die or anything, so I'm not sure why I deserved such special treatment. I politely ask "Please don't shield me, I can't get enough rage that way", and then the world exploded. OK, so it didn't, but we got into an argument about whether he should or shouldn't shield me, ending in him leaving the group and HSing out (kind if a waste, isn't it? I mean, if you leave the group you'll get kicked to your home anyway, so why waste the HS?). And it wasn't that big of an argument. No name calling, no one was being rude, it was a fairly intelligent argument (well, not including the stupid remarks from the cow about why I didn't let him tank seeing that he has a better weapon)... But he just up and left. Would someone mind telling WTF? I mean, OK, it's not the nicest thing to do, telling someone how to play their class, but what has the world (of warcraft) come to, if you can't even make one small suggestion without breaking up the party?

Needless to say, it didn't go very far from there... We got through a few more fights, and after dying we decided to call it at that. So I finished up whatever quests I could outside the instance (Trouble at the Docks, Serpentbloom, and Deviate Hides) and went my own way. A shame, though. The 2 quests that would have given me useful rewards remain 3/4 done... I still need the final gem and to kill me some Deviate Dreadfangs. Missed the "waking up Naralex" thing too... :S

Oh, well, there'll always be other chances.

Don't Panic!

You know those moments, don't you? You see those 2 goblins standing there, thinking they're far enough from each other that you could pull them separately but they end up both coming at you... And as if that isn't enough, another one comes patrolling and decides to join your little party. Now is the time to start cutting your losses and figure out how you're getting out of this (unless you're a hunter... Then you can shrug and kill 'em all. You might need to bandage afterwards, though).

For most classes, it's pretty easy*:
  • Druid - If you have time, Barkskin and Rejuvenation, then pop a Regrowth. Finally go bear and start running.
  • Hunter - Use pet as bait, put down some Freezing Traps, and get the hell away.
  • Mage - It's a mage. Running away is their specialty...
  • Paladin - Hooray for bubble boy.
  • Priest - Not as good as a Paladin's, but still a bubble. And if the shit really hits the fan, you can fear, too.
  • Shaman - Earthbind Totem, and get the hell out of there.
  • Warlock - Kinda like hunters. Throw the pet to the wolves, if you really have to you can also Sacrifice.
But what about us warriors? If you go full Fury, you could get Piercing Howl at 20, but it's not enough it you get dazed (and you'll get Intimidating Shout at 22 anyway, which would be much better). Switching to Defensive Stance will reduce the damage you take, but you'll lose all your rage (unless you have Tactical Mastery). Thunder Clap and Demoralizing Shout can help reduce the damage you take, if you have the rage for them, but it's not likely to make much of a difference (not to mention that you won't have the rage since you switched to defensive). Bottom line, run and hope you don't die before the mobs de-aggro.

For same-level mobs, I find that I can just about manage 2 mobs at the same time (but that usually requires using CDs and pots). Anything over that, usually means a corpse run. In the meantime, all these pots and repair bills are getting quite expensive, so it's all kind of annoying. On the other hand, Mokla just hit 22 last night, so I'm hoping fearing the hell out of everyone would be enough to keep my ass in one piece.

As far as Rogues go, I think they're in about as much of a bind as Warriors in these levels, but it's been a while since I played a new rogue, so I don't want to talk too much about that.

* You'll notice I didn't mention skills like Feign Death and Vanish. I'm talking about lower levels here - up to 20 or so.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Numbers... Sneaky bastards, they are

Everything in WoW, at some point or another, boils down to numbers. Well, OK, except RP, but that's not really playing WoW*. And usually they don't lie. As complicated as some of the formulas in WoW are (What's the difference between Defense and Defense Rating, again?), they're usually "right".

And then you get to the Auction House. Whether you're going in there to get better gear, get trade skill items, selling off whatever you come across, or just playing the buy-low-sell-high game, it's all about numbers - namely, income and expenses. But, much like economics in the virtual world we pretend to play while we're sitting down for a beer at the inn in Camp Taurajo, if you go into it with your eyes closed you'll end up broke. So what do you do? Simple, get Auctioneer. But now what?

Well, first, you now have another chore in the game - scanning the AH. Auctioneer is a great tool, but without sufficient data it's worthless. Its guess is no better than yours. Unfortunately, until Blizzard decide to give us web access to the Auction House (yeah, like that'll happen) or Auctioneer goes in a completely different direction from what it is right now.

More importantly, you now have a lot more numbers to deal with. Averages, means, standard deviations... Feels like I have to retake my undergraduate probability class. But even after I managed to dig up all these long repressed memories, it's still far from being simple because the number (the same ones your math professor told you are the essence of truth) are lying straight to your face. It's not their fault - they're doing the best they can with what precious little information they have and sometimes people even deceive them on purpose, but you're still the one stuck paying the bill.

What Auctioneer does (or rather tries to do) is find the market value for commodities. As almost everyone knows, market value is determined by supply and demand, so Auctioneer has to estimate those first. Unfortunately, it doesn't have a crystal ball, so it has to go by the information it has readily available at the AH. So let's do that ourselves... Start by looking for Wool Cloth - OK, we have 20 auctions, with varying bid/buy-out prices. Is it really any help? Well, it might help estimate supply (even that isn't accurate, since you can't see the auctions that were bought-out), but demand? Who knows? Without knowing how much wool cloth is actually sold every day, you just can't tell. So already, Auctioneer is basing it's estimate on half of the information it actually needs, but wait, it gets worse...

Once you think about it, the data Auctioneer gets from the AH is skewed. Let's say I have 2 Assassin's Blades, I put one of them up with a 10g buy-out and one with a 500g buy-out. And let's assume, for a moment that I'm the only one dumb enough to waste so much time grinding SFK for it so no one else is selling them. What do you think Auctioneer will see as the average price for most people? 255g? Nope. In fact, it'll show that average to exactly one person. As soon as he sees that (rather, as soon as his BottomScanner see it), he'll press the buyout button. Everyone else looking for it in the next 48 hours? 500g average buyout price - Kinda steep even for a twink item, don't you think?**

Is there any solution to this? Well, these come to mind:
  1. Eliminate buy-outs. Not gonna happen. Neither is keeping the auction visible in the AH after it's been bought-out.
  2. Use WoWecon instead. It has its problems, though. First, in order to actually sync with the server, it requires an external updater, which could theoretically hide a keylogger***. Second, it doesn't give as much information as Auctioneer (it could have more information in the "premium" version, I don't know). Third, and the biggest problem IMO, is that it just doesn't have enough data, at least for the servers I play on.
  3. Make Auctioneer upload the BeanCounter data to some centralized server, and sync with it. Could happen, but I'm not too optimistic about it. Even if it does, there're no guarantees it wouldn't have the same problems as WoWecon does (although Auctioneer already has a fairly large user base, so it might be easier).
None of those are very practical, definitely not in the short-term, though. For now, what works best for me is using both Auctioneer and WoWecon, and excercising common sense. *sigh* Sort of defeats the purpose, doesn't it? Ahh, well...

* I love RP, in and out of WoW, and my most memorable and enjoyable WoW memories involve RPing. But I don't consider it actually playing the game. It's doing something else, using WoW as the medium. Hmm.. There's an idea for a post.

** According to WoWhead, at the time of writing the average buyout price for an Assassin's Blade is 250g, so that's what I based this example on. On your server 500g might be a reasonable price, I don't know. Also, this is obviously a very contrived example - it's intended to make a point. That point is true whatever you look at, since auctions that are not bought out are on the market longer, and are therefor more likely to be "up" when you decide to scan the AH.

*** Granted, it's not very likely, but you never know. I went over the code once to see if it was OK, and even built it myself to make sure it actually runs that code, and not something else. But it updates itself automatically... There's no practical way of checking that.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Of all the stupid reasons...

It wasn't that long ago, I said I'd roll me a new hordie. And I meant it. I did. So why didn't I?

This is going to sound really stupid. Hell, it even sounds stupid to me... Auctioneer.

Wait, what? What on earth could that have to do with rolling a new alt? Well, as it is, my "morning routine" already involves scanning 3 auction houses, all of them on "alliance servers". There's a limit to how much time I'm willing to waste while Auctioneer does its thing, and adding yet another server to the list of servers that need to be scanned... That's just too much.

But come on, is that really a good enough reason? Well, I guess not, since last night brought about the birth of a my new Orc warrior, Mokla. I know, I said it would be a mage. So sue me...

I've been doing some reading lately about fury warriors, and figured it might be interesting to see what it's like leveling one (Dorni, bless his heart, was full protection from the day he was born all the way up to 60. Talk about torment). So I created her, started playing and left her logged out at level 18 in Camp Taurajo. Not bad for one evening of play (Having this many alts at least has 1 advantage - you know all the starting zones like the back of your hand). Still haven't gotten to the fun part, but it's only 2 levels away. I have noticed that she dies a lot. Not sure if it's because I suck, or if that's just how warriors are, or maybe they just need a constant supply of health potions (I ran out fairly early in the evening and kept forgetting to buy more... *sigh*). I guess time will tell...

In the meantime, happy birthday Mokla, and good luck finding Mankirk's wife.

* I realize DW/Fury may not be the best/fastest choice for leveling, and that there are a lot of proponents for going 2H/Arms (or even 2H/Fury). However, there's no argument that it's, at the very least, decent for leveling (unlike Protection *cough cough*). In the end it came down to what, in my eyes, fits the character. Mokla is a bloodthirsty berserker, with an axe in each hand eager to kick someone's ass.

The right outfit for the occasion

So, here's a question to all y'all playing hybrid classes: how do you manage all the different armor sets? (Good thing it's a rhetorical question, seeing as I don't have any readers...)

So first, a couple of "assumptions":
  • We're only talking about leveling. While I haven't actually made it to 70, once you do you have to start specifically hunting for good gear for whatever it is you're doing. While you're leveling, it's kind of rare to grind for an item, since you're likely to outgrow in a week.
  • Leveling consists mainly of soloing and instancing. While I often do BGs to have some fnu, if you're not a twink getting gear specific for PvPing is pretty much a waste.
  • Specifically, I'm talking about the 30-60 level range. Earlier than that, gear and spec don't play such a big role. After that, it's still a problem, but I think it starts to show for other classes as well, with all them newfangled specialized stats (+shadow dmg vs. +spell dmg and healing vs. +healing, for example).
I mean, let's first consider the "pure" classes. They have it easy:
  • A warrior basically needs to stack +sta and +str, whether he's tanking or soloing. Only difference is weapons/shield.
  • A priest needs +int and +spi (and +sta never hurts) whether he's healing or melting faces. Or shining pretty lights at mobs, hoping they'll get blinded to death, I don't know.
  • A rogue needs... What does he need, actually? I'm guessing +agi, +str, and some +sta. Doesn't really matter if you're stabbing things all by your lonesome or with 4 other people.
Now let's look at feral druids (because it's easiest to level, and pretty common). Ferals will stack mostly +str and +agi for soloing. Going into instances, they'll be asked to tank 90% of the time ("you're feral, that's a tanking spec, you tank" being the general resoning), but in order to do that properly you'll need stamina too. Dodging a lot due to the high agility is nice, but if one or two crits from a boss kill you you're not much of a tank. So you need a tanking set. You want to give healing a try? I salute you for the initiative, but now you need an entirely different set, and I'm not even getting into the whole there's-no-decent-caster-leather-gear-before-outlands discussion (Good luck fighting over that dress with the warlock/mage/spriest. Just because you healed them doesn't mean they'll give up the loot for you).
Shamen would have a similar problem, I assume. I can't imagine much use for all that +str when they're healing.
Pallys, well... I guess for tanking they shouldn't have much problem, gear-wise (in the sense that they can probably tank with their soloing gear). But again, if you want to heal instances, you'll have to start looking for dresses.

I suppose the "obvious" solution is to hit the AH, but when you're running on a budget (either because you're just starting out on a new server or, like me, have to spread your gold between a lot of lower level alts) you can't really afford that. And forget about using what you come across. I mean, even when you just need 1 set you'll rarely have good gear for your level. I can't imagine maintaining 2 sets would be feasible.

But is there a solution to this? Not really... That's just the price you have to pay for being able to do "everything", especially since the game depends on gear so much. If it bothers you, reroll another class...

Friday, July 4, 2008

Where's my gear?

Another semi-rant. Again, about Lilanis. Doesn't really feel like a blog about alts, does it? Oh, well. I guess I just have to get it out of my system.

So Lilanis is at a very interesting place in her life, being in her early 40s. I like hitting 40, it usually allows access to some interesting talents (assuming you've been focusing on 1 specific tree), new skills and, of course the mount. At least until Blizz make the mounts level 30. It gets even more interesting when you're a warrior, pally, shaman or... You guessed it - hunter. Good bye icky-smelling leather. Hello cold hard metal. Now, obviously, having access to more armor is good thing. But it also means I now have to replace everything I'm wearing, and with the number of alts I have I can't actually afford buying armor off the AH. So I make do with the occasional lucky drop or, more importantly, quest rewards. And this is where I start ranting...

One expects quest rewards to be useful. In all the time I've been playing the game, I have not once seen a Cloth item with +str on it as a quest rewars. Why? Because it's useless. It's vendor trash by definition. But when you hit 40 you run into a strange situation: rewards are obviously geared towards characters who are in their 40+ (as evidenced by the abundance of plate armor you can get), except that I've not yet received 1 decent piece of hunter mail armor. Practically everything I get has +str on it, and even the few items that do have +agi simply aren't as good as the leather items I can get. Just as an example, I was really happy to get my Golden Helm, only to replace it 5 minutes later with the Skirmisher's Cover*. I mean, seriously, at this level there are 2 classes that should be using mail - hunters and shaman. Considering that alliance didn't actually have shaman when these quests were designed, I would have expected a lot more hunter oriented gear.

I hereby issue an ultimatum to Blizzard - fix my loot, or else... Uhmm... Or else I reroll again. Yeah, that'll show 'em. *sigh*

* That was actually a pretty tough call. I like the stat bonuses on the cover a lot better, but the armor bonus is, obviously, much smaller. But even being on a PvP server, most of my fighting is solo with my pet tanking so the stats ended up deciding it for me.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Huntard or just misunderstood?

I've been playing Lilanis (my Draenai hunter) quite a bit lately - I rolled her 2 weeks ago and already she's 44. I guess that could be considered slow for someone who has a lot of time to play, but the sad truth is I do have a job, and other things that need doing other than WoW.

During her travels, there have been the usual comments one might expect from the kind of people who "know it all" and need to reaffirm their superiority over others. Unfortunately, their arguments tend to be along the lines of "l2p noob" rather than constructive criticism (well, who wants that? If I actually take their advice and improve they wouldn't be able to feel superior anymore).

So what is one to do? Usually, set forth into the vast expanses of the Internet and read what other (possibly) better players have to suggest. Which I do quite often - there's no better way of passing time at work than reading WoW blogs (good thing I have no readers, would be embarassing if my boss saw this), and it did teach me a lot about how to play the game.
The problem, however, doesn't stop there. In fact, a big part of the problem is caused by all this flood of information for 2.5 reasons:
  1. There are "trends" where certain things are considered popular, or the "right" way to do things. Of course, being popular, you can usually find the same opinions in many places.
  2. Most people don't really do the whole "critical reading" thing. If it's on a blog, it's probably true. If it's popular (hence on a lot of blogs) then it must be true, and must be the only way to do things.
  3. I'm not most people.
So, yeah, I have learned a lot about the game, but I'm not about to turn into a "bot" like most hunters advertise for leveling/soloing (i.e.: get a boar, send it charging in with Growl and Auto/Arcane shoot the mob(s) to death in AotH). In fact, I rarely use Growl and Arcane Shot. Does that make me a huntard? I suppose, if it was done out of ignorance one could call it that, but it's not. There's actual reasoning motivating it (don't know if it's actually sound reasoning, but it's reasoning nonetheless):
  • Lilanis lives in a RP-PVP realm. Getting caught with your pants (uhmm, I mean health/mana) down and ganked is not fun. Yes, I want to kill things quickly, but if I have to sacrifice some of the time it takes me to kill a mob to be able to react to someone jumping me in the middle of a fight, that's a trade I'm willing to make.
  • So, we want to preserve mana. That means no Arcane Shotting mobs.
  • Next comes choosing aspects. Personally, I mush prefer Monkey for PvPing - the added survivability and damage (yes, damage. Mongoose Bite FTW) in melee is more important to me than ranged damage. If I get in range, I'm OK with kiting a little longer until the other guy is dead.
  • Right now my DPS is pretty gimped, right? Right, but... Lower DPS has its advantages too. I also don't produce as much threat, so my pet has a much easier time tanking for me. So let's try switching off Growl. Well, lookit that - now Tora has enough focus to Bite and Claw to his heart's content. That leads to a nice boost for both DPS and threat - obviously it's not as much threat as Growl, but it's enough to keep aggro.
So let's see, what do we have here? Less DPS than your usual hunter, but I have no downtime at all and I'm ready in case an Undead Mage 2 levels higher than me jumps me while I'm fighting a mob 3 levels higher (don't worry, the incident ended with no injuries. Unless, of course, you count the mage who attacked me and the mob I was fighting, but they aren't important, are they?). Most importantly, it works for me and doesn't affect anyone else (again, dead undead mages not withstanding) since it only relates to solo play. Slightly less important, but still important, it is thought out and is the result of experimenting with different styles.

Hmm, I wonder if there was actually a point to this. Probably not, so let's make one. *drumroll* As long long as you keep learning, keep experimenting and have fun with it you'll do fine. You won't be a huntard, and all those who call you one can safely go screw themselves.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Another day, another alt

So my 15 minutes of fame seem to have arrived, in the form of a post by Mania. That finally convinced me to start a blog of my own - let's just hope I can keep it up better than I do my alts. As the name of the blog suggests, I am another proud member of Altaholics Anonymous (it's OK - no one actually reads this blog, so I'm still anonymous), currently brandishing 27 different characters (not counting old deleted ones and bank alts) according to the WoW forums - although I think I have a couple more that are just too shy to make an appearance there. And none of them are 70. How lame is that? My40+ toons at the moment are:
  • Lathiria - 65 NE Druid, recently switched from Feral to Balance. Still working on getting proper gear for the new spec so I can actually do some serious damage.
  • Dorni - My pre-BC 60 Dwarf Protection Warrior. Used to be my main, until I stopped playing a little after BC was released. I just didn't feel like getting back to him when I started playing again after 2.3 hit.
  • Cait - 42 Human Warlock. Stuck somewhere down in Stranglethorn, waiting for me to brush off the dust and do something useful with her.
  • Lilanis - 41 Draenai Hunter, and recent owner of an undead midget spider.
Looking over at that list, it just occured to me that they're all alliance... Guess I should pick up one of my 30ish horde toons and move up in the world. It would be nice to see some new quests instead of going through the same ones with another alliance character, for a change. I guess now the only question would be which one? Maybe Lindira - my 30 Forsaken (pun intended) Mage. Then again, doing the 30-40 range now with the upcoming patch changing mounts to level 30 is a little silly. I guess this calls for the tried and true method of starting another toon - hopefully the patch will be applied by the time she reaches 30.

Now, I'm sure you're all wondering what this blog will be about (other than "look, it's a new alt" posts). Well, so am I. I guess we'll have to just wait and see.