Thursday, August 28, 2008

Nostromo, Part IV: Paladin Bindings

After a couple days' break, we're back to the Nostromo series, this time with how Cawti does it. For now, I use two different action bars with her depending on the situation - 1 for soloing/tanking and another one for healing. While I don't have any way of switching between those 2 bars using the Nostromo, I only really switch between them when starting or finishing an instance (if I'm healing it, which there's a good chance I'm not) so doing it with the keyboard is fine.

Healer Mode

For the healing bar, there isn't too much to say. My healing is mostly done using Holy Light: Rank 4, with Rank 3 and Flash of Light also making an appearance (although they are kind of useless - they just don't heal enough at this point to justify using them). So that almost fills up the center row of the Nostromo, which still leaves quite a lot open. So for now, I threw in some helpful stuff like Blessing of Protection, Purify and Divine Protection. I specifically don't have Lay on Hands there, after using it once by mistake and going OOM in the middle of a fight. And that's it - there just isn't anything else worth putting there. Well, maybe Turn Undead, although it's very situational and I dislike using fear in instances. I also gave a brief try to using the Nostromo for targeting the different party members, but that turned out to be way too confusing so I gave it up.

Solo/Tank Mode

Here we have more skills to play with, and it shows. The mappings here are a bit of a mess, although I did try to keep some order to it. The little finger was supposed to be for healing, so it has (from top to bottom) Flash of Light, Holy Light and Purify. The ring finger, originally was supposed to be for bubbling but I don't have room for Blessing of Protection anymore, so now it has Hammer of Justice, Divine Protection and Exorcism. Next finger doesn't really have any theme - it has Righteous Defense, Judgement, and my racial Mana Tap. Finally, the index finger has Seal of the Crusader, Seal of Righteousness and Consecration. As for my other skills, if they're not here, they're either in ClassButtons or my other action bars, and I click 'em with my mouse.

And that's it for Paladins and Nostromos for now. Expect the rest of my Nostromo mappings and some thoughts about playing a Paladin in the near future...

Posts in this series:

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Who Knew PUGs Could Be Fun?

So Cawti's been having a lot of fun in Ghostlands, but at some point all good things come to an end. In this case, it was at level 20, after finishing all the quests there, and starting on the level 20 Paladin quest chain for my Blood-Tempered Ranseur. I'd gotten the insignia without any problem on my own, and was then faced with getting 3 different items from 3 different instances: RFC, SFK and BFD.

So, into LFG-land I go, starting with RFC before I level up and get too high for it. There 2 druids, 1 rogue and 1 warlock on LFG, and in 5 minutes I had a full group for the instance. The druids took it upon themselves to tank and heal, so I was basically in charge of killing things and helping out if anything goes wrong (which it didn't). One full instance clear later, our tank had to leave but the rest of us wanted more, so the next stop was SFK. I tanked, the druid healed, and all in all we had a blast.

Such a blast, that it was a shame to stop there. At this point, going to BFD for the Corrupted Kor Gem would have been great, but we ended up doing WC instead. But we were just having so much fun that I wasn't gonna let 1 quest item get in the way. There were also some nice gear drops along the way, but that's secondary...

By the time we finished up with that it was really late so we added each other as friends and called it a night. So that was a great evening - Cawti's 23, missing just 1 more item for her quest, and most importantly made new friends. You see? PUGs can be fun sometimes.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Happy Birthday, Cawti

Short post today, since I'm going on a business trip to Korea. Sorry 'bout that.

This weekend I was wondering how the Nostromo would work with a Paladin, and I guess it's pretty obvious what happened next - Say hello to Cawti, the Blood Elf Paladin. So far I got her up to 19 going down the Protection tree, which is kinda fun. First time I've taken a Paladin down this road so I've got some reading ahead of me, but I'm enjoying it so far. Another thing I realized is that I like leveling in the Ghostlands so much more than all the other starting zones. I'm not sure why, maybe it's the Tranquilien rep, but the quest chains and rewards are really well-designed there.

I've also power-leveled her Blacksmithing to 150 (can't get past that until 20, but that shouldn't take long) - there still isn't too much there worth my time, but I should start finding interesting stuff there soon enough.

And, of course, this means I'll also have a Paladin post for my Nostromo series. Yay, me.

Nostromo, Part III: Mage Bindings

When last we left off, I'd shown how I mapped the Nostromo's keys in a way that I don't need to change it from one alt to another and, more importantly, it's a mapping I'm comfortable with. Today, we'll start with a "simple" example of how it works in-game using my Mage, Enara*.

Where Do I Start?

You've just installed the Nostromo, played around with its editor for a bit and now you're launching WoW. Now, much like when starting your character, you'll have to decide which skills will actually be on your action bar and where. In general, I try to make the skills on my bar be my most often used combat skills - while it's very convenient to have Arcane Intellect in there for easy rebuffing, fact is the action bar is just too small so you'll probably be better off rebuffing using the mouse**.

Next decision you're going to have to make is where to put each of the 12 skills you've just chosen. My advice - put your "basic" skill in the middle row, under your index finger (mapped to '4' in case you're following my setup), with alternates for it in the top and bottom row. Then work your way from there. Also, try to have some logic behind the setup, as (especially when you're just getting started) you will get confused a lot until you get familiar with your bindings.

Enough With The Babble - Where Are The Bindings?

I'm sure by now you're all itching to see how this actually works for Enara, so here it is:

The bindings was designed so that the top row is for Frost spells, the middle row for Fire, and the bottom for Arcane. The index finger is used for "missile" attacks (Pyroblast/Fireball macro, Frostbolt and Arcane Missiles), followed by AoEs (Flamestrike, Blizzard and Arcane Explosion), CC (Frost Nova, Polymorph, and Scorch since I had a free space), and finally some instant-casts (Fire Blast, Counterspell and Blink). Of course, it didn't turn out exactly as planned (with Scorch not being a CC and Counterspell sitting in the Frost spell row), but all in all it's relatively easy to remember and intuitive to use. But, hey, don't take my word for it - I encourage you to experiment and try your own settings. Find what you like and let me know how it goes!

Posts in this series:

* I am not saying playing a Mage is easy or simple. However, a Mage only has 1 main action bar which is what we're looking at here. A rogue has 2 (1 main, 1 for Stealth) and a Warrior has 3 (one for each stance), so in comparison a mage is "simple".

** Note that I'm only talking about the "main" action bar here. I heartily recommend you turn on at least one other action bar and use that space for the rest of your skills.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Nostromo, Part II: Keymaps

Hello, and welcome to the second part of my Nostromo series. This time we'll cover the way I set up my key maps, and some of the changes I plan to make to them to better fit classes that have "stances" (Warrior stances, Druid forms and Paladin auras). So, let's get started.

Common Bindings

First, some things that I try to keep constant across all mappings:
  • DPad is mapped to the directional keys, with the left and right keys mapped to strafe. It's a bit of a hassle to use the mouse exclusively for rotating the camera, but them's the breaks*.
  • The little round key next to it is mapped to auto-run, which is one of my favorite keys in the game.
  • The flat key under the DPad is left with the default mapping for jumping. I don't jump that often, but when I have to it's very convenient to have a key for it.
  • The scroll wheel is used to toggle between the different keymaps.
  • The key directly above the scroll wheel is mapped to Ctrl+Shift+2, which is bound in WoW to my bottom right action bar. There I put either Shoot (for wanding with relevant classes) or Attack (to be able to turn it off easily).
These bindings are common to all 3 keymaps, although other than the scroll wheel the reason they're the same is mostly because I can't find any use that makes sense for the other keys, so I just leave them the same as my default keymap.

Default Keymap - "Blue"

For my "default" keymap, I chose to map the 3 rows of 4 buttons to to my action bar. It looks like the idea was to map some of these to WASD (in fact, there are little arrows drawn on the actual buttons), but I really didn't see any use in that, since I already have the DPad which wouldn't be very useful for other things. That gives me access to my entire action bar, without having to move my hand - just move the relevant finger up/down 1 key, and press. Of course, that can get pretty confusing, so I recommend placing your skills on the action bar in some order that "makes sense" for you (we'll see some examples for this in the next posts, covering the actual in-game bindings for my different classes).

The last key in the default keymap is the rightmost key on the top row. That one is for targeting. While currently I have 2 keymaps which are exactly similar except for mapping this key to "Tab" in one and "Assist" in the other, I am changing that to use a macro that Assists if relevant (I'm grouped and have a friendly target) and tab-target otherwise. That should free up a whole keymap which I have other plans for.

Second Keymap - "Green"

For my second keymap, I bound macros that press the action bar buttons with the "Alt" key. This is designed for macros that use "[modifier:alt]" clauses in them, since there's no good way of hitting the Alt on the keyboard. The "targeting" key here is currently mapped to "Tab", but isn't actually used.

Future Changes

As I already mentioned, I'm unhappy about having to use the mouse to switch stances. However, once I make that targeting macro, that'll free up an entire keymap for me to use, which is more than enough for switching between them. The problem, however, is that toggling between the keymaps means I have to switch back to the previous one. While I can switch "momentarily" to one keymap (by pressing the scroll wheel), it doesn't look like the up and down scroll motions will work very well (they're more instantaneous - you can't keep them pressed). I thought about making the macros in the other keymaps automatically switch back to the default keymap, but can't find any way of doing that (guess there is one thing that macros can't do).

The last "solution" I have at the moment, is mapping 1 or 2 keys to modifiers (alt and/or shift). Problem with that is that if it's not mapped to one of the thumb keys it will be hard to find a key for it that doesn't involve giving up action bar buttons, and which I can still use with all the action bar keys**. Now that I think about it, I might be able to pull that off - map the "jump" key to alt, freeing up the entire second keymap, use the center scroller as a momentary shift to the "stance-switching" keymap, and use the scroll up/down for jumping. That takes care of everything, doesn't it? Well, good to see this blog is good for something. *grin*

Join me next time as I pick out an alt in random and dissect how his/her/its*** action bars are bound and why.

Posts in this series:

* No, I'm not one of those keyboard turners, it's just convenient when you're running long distances and don't have your other hand on the mouse.

** If I'm using my index finger for pressing the modifier key, I can't use it with any of the other keys that are usually pressed with the index finger. Not nice...

*** It's a sad sad day when an expression of the form aa/bb/cc makes one think of regular expressions. I wonder if there's any cure for that that doesn't involve a lobotomy.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Nostromo, Part I: Introduction

Alright, so following up on my idea from yesterday, I'm going to start a series of posts about the Nostromo (or Belkin SpeedPad n52), and today we're starting with an introduction: what it is, what it does, how it does it, and what you shouldn't do with it. This post is mostly for those of you who have heard lots of people talking about it, but still don't know what it is.

Let's Talk Hardware

So, this is what it looks like, here on the left (image courtesy of Google Images - mine is actually a different color). As you can see it has a keypad with 14-keys on it and a scroll wheel (that black thing where a 15th key would have been) where you can conveniently reach them with your fingers, and for the thumb we have a D-pad, a small round key above it, and a big "flat" key underneath. It also has 3 color LEDs just under the "flat" key, whose purpose will be explained later on.

When playing, you rest your palm on the big black surface (which can be adjusted between 2 states, depending on the size of your hand) and gives you easy access to all the Nostromo's keys. And, as you can see, it's intended to be used with the left hand. If you're one of those "freaks" who use the moust with their left hand, the Nostromo may not be right for you.

That's it. Nothing too complicated, not too many buttons (at least compared to a regular keyboard), and if that was what it's all about it wouldn't be worth wasting our time with...

The Software - Where All The Magic Happens

The real power of the Nostromo, is not just having keys where they're easily accessible, but rather that those keys can be mapped to do just about anything (for a given definition of anything). That's where the software comes in, letting you configure and tweak the Nostromo to your heart's content.

In the center of the screen you'll see a wireframe drawing of the Nostromo, surrounded by all the different keys and their mapping. For ease, whenever you mouse over one of the key mappings, the relevant key position in the wireframe lights up, and vice-versa.

And, if you look near the top there are 3 "colored" tabs, labelled "Map 1" through "Map 3". This gives you the ability to have 3 different sets of keymappings for every Nostromo configuration. That's where the 3 LEDs on the Nostromo come in - they show you which keymap you're currently using.

Clicking one of the button mappings opens up a menu letting you choose what to map the button to. The mappings you can select fall into several categories, each with its own uses:
  • Single key - Most of the buttons on the left part in the image above are mapped to single key presses on the keyboard. Basically, this is just like going into the interface menu in WoW and changing the key bindings.
  • Macro - Macros come in a lot of variations and can do just about anything with a single key press. They can press buttons, wait for delays, run several times or even indefinitely once started, you name it. However, when playing WoW using most of those features can get you banned. So as far as we're concerned, macros are just key combinations - you want to press Shift+5? That's the way to do it. Of course, being such complicated things, macros have their own editor where you can (relatively easily) manage them.
  • Keymap - These bindings give you the ability to switch between the different colored keymaps. You can cycle between them, switch to a specific one, or switch to one "momentarily" (only as long as the key is pressed).
  • Mouse Button - Pretty self-explanatory, isn't it?
  • Direct Input - Uhmm, yeah. I'm not sure I understand what those are, so I don't use them. If any of you know, feel free to put up a comment.
  • Clipboard/Windows/Media - Other features for switching windows, copy+pasting, starting and stopping playback, etc. Not very useful for WoW, but might be helpful for other stuff. Well, OK, maybe, if you have a spare keymap, using it to control the music playing in the background would be handy. Since I usually stick with WoW's music or no music at all that's irrelevant for me.
And that's it... You have a lot of keys, which are arranged in a pretty convenient way and you get to choose what each of them does (and they can do alot). That's what the Nostromo is all about.

Botting FTW

So, this thing is pretty impressive. I mean, if you consider macros with delays and stuff, you can set it up to Hunter's Mark, send in your pet, and fire off an Arcane Shot whenever it's off cooldown, with just 1 keypress. Who needs to be around the computer for a fight? Pressing one key per fight should be more than enough, no?

Well, NO. As we all know, Blizzard doesn't like botting (and for that matter, neither do most players who don't bot), and bans anyone they catch in the act. Using something like the Nostromo is fairly easy to catch, as when you're using programmatic delays they are always exactly the same delay, making it pretty obvious it's not a real person doing the pressing. In fact, this was one of my biggest worries before getting the Nostromo - won't the software running in the background be detected by the WoW launcher and get me banned?

The good news is that, no, it won't get you banned. As long as you follow the "spirit" of Blizzard's macro law - one physical key press for one in-game action. So as long as you only bind keys to a single keypress, or several buttons simultaneously (the macro recorder has the option to ignore delays in key presses, thus creating macros that are fine to use with WoW), you should be fine.

That's it for the introduction. In the next posts of this series I will tell you how I bind my keys, and then how they're mapped in-game for the different classes I play. If I remember, I'll even update this post with links to the next ones. *grin*

Posts in this series:

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Second-class Customer

There was a shared topic suggestion on the Blog Azeroth forums, suggesting we should post something regarding Blizzard's new "Recruit-A-Friend" so I'll be taking a shot at it, and rant a bit on how I feel about it.

As some people have seemed to figure out by now, this is really suited better for multi-boxers than for bringing in new players. With that, and the fact that I should be getting a new PC today (still have to put it together, so I don't know when I'll actually get to play on it), I figured I'd give it a shot. Even if I don't end up dual-boxing to level, having 2 accounts can be pretty convenient (for example, I can start a guild and invite my own alts into it).

Obiously, the next step is clicking the "Recruit-A-Friend" link and registering. Ha! I wish it were that easy. I log in, to receive an error message saying "not all accounts are eligible to recruit a friend", and includes an address for an FAQ (you would think Blizzard would figure out how to use hyperlinks on their website, but maybe not). One of the questions in the FAQ mentions that only people living in certain countries can recruit friends, and Israel is not one of those countries.

While, at first, I was just a little disappointed with that, the more I think about it the angrier it makes me. Why should I get treated differently from other customers? It would be a different matter if Blizzard had said "we don't want Israeli customers" to begin with, but that's hardly true. WoW (European English version) is officially distributed and sold in Israel. Blizzard accepts Israel as the country of residence, and accepts Israeli credit-cards. At no point do they say "you live in Israel, so you may get worse service than people in other countries" (hmm, I should probably go over the EULA and see if it mentions anything about that). And it's not like there's any real reason for this ridiculous limitation - I mean, it's easier not to check where the user is from, and this only cuts off part of their income (however minute). So that just leaves discrimination. What's next? Make dungeons unaccessible based on your country of residence? A lower level cap?

Just in case you're wondering, I tried to change my country in the personal information on the site - except that that's one of the few things you can't change. Also, Japan is not eligible either, so even if I could change it, I would have to lie (for a good cause, but still) which would be bannable.

So where does that leave me? Angry and disappointed with a game developer that I've been a huge fan of for almost 15 years. I have sent an inquiry to customer support, but they haven't answered yet and even when they do I don't expect them to be able to (or willing to) do anything about this. I was actually considering canceling my account, until I realized I just paid for 6 months at the end of July... I don't know, maybe I should cancel the subscription anyway - there's a much better chance of them taking note of my comments on why I left than a random ticket to customer support, and I can always renew it. Blah, That's all I have to say...

On a different note, I've had a comment in the past by Hulan asking about the Nostromo. I've also noticed that out of the 6 search engine referrals to my site so far, 2 were regarding Nostromo mappings (specifically, for rogues). So I'm thinking maybe I should make a series of posts, starting from basic Nostsromo introduction, on to my key mappings and finish with the specific action bar settings I use for different classes. What do you think? Would that be interesting to anyone?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Why Is This Library Full of Crazy People Instead of Books!?

I was out with Mokla, hunting local wildlife for Nessingwary out in Stranglethorn Vale, when I got an invitation to go do some reading in the Scarlet Monastery. The group got set up fairly quickly with me, another warrior (tanking), a paladin healer, and a hunter and shaman for more DPS. At first it went OK (as in, we didn't die), but there were way too many runners, adds, mobs heading for the hunter and the healer, and just general mayhem. I did my best to Hamstring and pick up the slack when mobs headed for our not-so-squishy healer, and we got the first boss with practically no problems.

After that, though, it all went downhill. It started with some deaths, and deteriorated into 2 wipes as we were going through the corridor and big room leading up to the final boss. At the second wipe, we tried running out, only to find respawns blocking our way from the courtyard. The other warrior got disconnected (convenient timing, there), so we figured we'd start over with me tanking. It went fairly well, with me barking orders at the shaman and hunter to stay back, wait for me to pull, and all those little things that would keep us from wiping again. We had no problems clearing our way to the courtyard, but then our healer disappeared... When she got the tag, we sort of gave up and went our ways.

All in all, it was a decent evening - I got new pants and cloak, and I had a chance to try out tanking with the Nostromo for the first time. Once I'd actually went through the hassle of rearranging my Defensive Stance action bar it felt pretty good, but at least part of that is that I didn't have to change stances. As I mentioned yesterday, I still haven't figured out a good way to switch stances with the Nostromo, so I guess I'll have to do my homework...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Honey, I'm hooome

It's been a while, but I'm finally back. I won't waste your time with stories of my vacation - let's just say there were atomic bombs, ghosts playing with fireworks, free ice-cream and eating live squids, and leave it at that. I even found some time to log in and run around Azeroth with Mokla yesterday, and with the time I had for random thoughts we have quite a bit to cover today so let's get started.


So I've had the Nostromo for a while, and it really is very nice. I've been using it with a mage, a rogue and a warrior, and for the most part I'm using mappings very similar to the ones I talked about here. I'm now using one "color" map for all the action bar hotkeys with a modifier, so I can easily use a modifier in macros (like my Polymorph or Pyroblast/Fireball macros), but the rest is unchanged. However, I really dislike having to switch stances using the mouse, and not really sure what to do about it. I'll keep thinking about it, and you'll be the first to know if I come up with something. Or, if you have any idea, feel free to let me know...

Breaking The Habit

I had recently been giving some though to whether or not I was getting addicted to WoW, and that maybe I should stop. On the one hand, during these past 2 weeks I really didn't feel bad about not being able to play, so I really could stop if I wanted to. So I'm not addicted, yay! On the other hand, if I can stop so easily, then why don't I? I mean, WoW isn't free, and I know my girlfriend doesn't like it when I play too long (the definition of "too long" is entirely arbitrary and depends on her mood, of course), so quitting won't hurt. But I do enjoy the game, and why stop doing something I enjoy? So I've sort of decided that I'll keep on playing, but only as long as I don't start changing plans to fit my WoW time. Good thing I spend most of my time soloing, so I don't owe anyone any explanations on why I didn't make that raid. *grins*


While I was playing last night, WoW suddenly decided to freeze. I was alt+tabbing in and out chatting with people, as is my habit, when suddenly switching into WoW just didn't work. Closed it, started it again and couldn't get to the actual game - I logged in just fine, but after choosing a character and getting through the loading screen something strange would happen and I couldn't play. So I tried the repair tool (which takes ages to run, BTW) and it had an option to "Reset World of Warcraft third party custom interfaces". Choosing that deleted all my addons, alhough it did leave their settings intact. How odd. Good thing I had done the UI post recently, so I could just check it to see which addons to download... Oh, and just in case you're curious - no, the repair tool didn't work. What happened was probably a problem with the display drivers stopping to work properly, which was solved by a simple reboot. Why couldn't I think of that before deleting all my addons? *sigh*

New PC

I need to get a new PC for work and, luckily, it has to be a fairly strong piece of hardware (well, lots of pieces, but OK). All I have to do is get a good graphics card on it and I'll be able to enjoy WoW with all the eye-candy I could ever hope for and at decent frame-rates. Yay, me!
Also, since I am getting another PC, and Blizzard have the Recruit-a-friend thing going, I figured it might be cool to dual-box. That, however, doesn't look like it's going to happen since, for some reason, accounts from Israel don't seem to qualify for this. So, other than having less people join and give Blizzard more money, what exactly is the point of this?

Monday, August 4, 2008

I'm Not Dead!

As mentioned before, changes in life and work, along with a probably business trip to China this week and a vacation throughout next week, mean there probably won't be too many posts until the middle of the month.

If I don't get to post till I get back from my vacation, y'all have a nice Obon...

Friday, August 1, 2008

Who Said Posts Need Titles?

Just a quick update about Enara, my dungeon-crawler, today. I logged in, expecting to waste hours looking for a RFC group (not that there's much experience/loot for her there, just to be thorough), but was instead invited to do SFK after about 5 minutes' wait. 10 minutes after that, we had a full solid party (Priest healer, Pally tank, me, a Shammy and a Warlock DPSing). We promptly got the summonning, buffing and "vending machine duties" out of the way, and made our way in. Smooth run all the way, no one died, no one ninja'd anything, no one was an ass. Unforunately, having 3 clothies meant I didn't get much loot (the Feline Mantle went to the Priest and the Robes of Arugal went to the Warlock. Good for you, guys. *cheer*). I did get my Ghostly Mantle from the quest, though, so it wasn't a complete bust gear-wise.

Good thing my HS was set in Orgrimmar, making me run to out of the instance and to the Sepulcher to hand in quests - I forgot to get The Book of Ur for the quest from Undercity on our way in. So, bottom line, all 3 quests were done, I had got new shoulders and dinged 22. One problem I have noticed, though, was that in SFK where the battles are a little "messier" than my previous RFC runs, I was really missing my "assist" button on the Nostromo. For now, I mapped it where "Tab" used to be, but I can't keep changing between them, and I want my "Tab" too. So now I have some homework figuring out where to put it.

Oh, and another nice thing. With Flame Throwing 2/2, I didn't have to move one bit when Arugal teleported all around the room. That was nice, seeing everyone start to scramble around to get to him while blasting him with Fireballs.

After that, I went to hand in my quests, and quickly found an RFC group. That run was even more boring, burning through the instance in about 30 minutes. After doing all the turn-ins, I finally got Friendly with Orgrimmar and Thunder Bluff (it was really strange hanging around Orgrimmar and seeing it teeming with "yellow" NPCs), and then called it a night.

Next up on the plate for her is WC, BFD, and probably a couple more SFK runs (there's some really nice cloth armor there, if I could actually get it). We'll see...

On a completely unrelated note, I seem to have problems "ending" my posts. Any suggestions?