Sunday, February 28, 2010

Exorcism, when to use it?

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The paladin skill Exorcism has undergone some changes during the past few years. Originally it was only castable on undead and demon targets, and had a 1,5 sec cast time. This meant it had a very limited use and so very few paladins actually used it in their regular dps/tank rotations. It was one of them "what is this really good for anyway" kind of skills. Little more than half a year ago, Blizzard decided to change this however and made the skill significantly better. They made it so you could cast it on any kind of mob, but it would automatically crit when used on a demon or undead target. Also, they removed the cast time, and made it instant.

Suddenly, every paladin had a new, really good skill to use. In fact it was so good, Blizzard soon decided it shouldn't be usable against other players (i.e pvp), but only against mobs. The usage of Exorcism was soon rooted into the heart of every paladin. It became a standard spell in every retri- and prot-paladins rotation. But then Blizzard changed it again, and this time back to the worse.

Not all the way back to uselessness thank god, for example it is still usable on any kind of mob, and will crit if the target is undead or demon. However, they did reimplement the cast time of 1,5 seconds. They also changed the retri-paladin talent "Art of War", that originally would reduce the cast time of Flash of Light to instant when critting with a melee attack, to also reduce the cast time of Exorcism to instant. This meant retri-paladins could still get the instant Exorcism, but not Prot- or Holy-paladins.

For Holy this wasn't a problem, they hadn't used it much anyway since well, they're supposed to heal, not dps.

For Prot paladins on the other hand this arised an issue, which many of them don't even realize is there. If a prot paladin wants to use Exorcism they will have to cast it over 1,5 seconds. For pulling mobs, this is still a decent spell. Especially in lower levels before you have spells like Avenger's Shield. The problem is when a prot paladin uses it in close combat, in melee, like if there hadn't been any change to it and it was still instant. Why is this is this a problem?

Because you can't block, parry or dodge when casting. So if you as a tank are currently being hit on by 5 mobs, and start casting something, like say a heal or Exorcism, it will greatly increase the dmg you're taking. A googling on the matter will quickly turn up plenty of posts that say you can't dodge, parry or block while casting, but none that say you can. Another problem is that this is only an issue for protection paladins, since they are currently the only tank class able to cast anything while tanking. Oh well, and bear druids. But since they shape sift out fo bear form when casting a spell, it's a little more obvious what a bad idea that is. This means this problem isn't something often discussed among tanks, and the vast majority of people don't even know it exists at all.

Not only that, people go ape shit crazy when I mention it to them. "Could you please not cast while tanking, you take way more dmg that way" usually gets the response "no you're wrong" or "shut the fuck up". Such lovely people out there. If they've never heard about it, it's not true, right?
They don't even stop a second to think about it, or say "ok, I haven't heard about that before but I will check it out to see if it is true". Don't people want to learn more about the game? I'm not saying you should believe everything one says to you, but if there is even a remote chance that this is true, why not make sure you know about it? Maybe it doesn't matter much in the heroics of today, but it definitely will matter if you ever expect to raid. Cast something while tanking a boss and you might actually die.

I didn't know about this either, until someone told me and I tried it out for myself. You can't know something before you do. And just to make things prefectly clear - Do not cast something while tanking please!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

How to! Warrior Tank - Level 50-59

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Welcome to one of the more interesting and also horrible level brackets! At least I think so. The reason is quite simple, it's horrible because at these levels you'll get to do the old end-game vanilla instances, mostly BRD and LBRS, but also Dire Maul, Scholomance and Stratholme if you're unlucky. I say unlucky because I really dislike these instances. Well that's not completely true, I like the instances themselves, I dislike the fact that they take way over an hour to complete fully. Most of these instances take about an hour even if you do them the fast way and skip bosses. They have difficult mobs and pulls, and even more difficult layout. Finding your way around in the proper order (because things has to be killed in a proper order to take as little time as possible) is doomed to fail.

The extra difficulty and time needed to complete these instances often leads to annoyed puggers. Annoyed puggers lash out at each other when things go wrong. My favorite example was one BRD run I did where the healers constantly said "pull more pull more". I kindly (I hope) told him that even though it might be easy for him to heal, pulling more mobs won't be easy for me to tank, so I preferred to do it my way and if he wanted it some other way he could reroll a tank class. I also stressed that if I pulled more and something were to go wrong, I would surely get the blame. But he kept on whining and then I did a bigger pull. And we wiped. And guess who got the blame? Yours truly. You have to be ready to face people who will tell you things like "you're the worst tank I've ever met", not because you're actually the worst tank they've ever met (that's usually quite hard to beat), but because you don't do exactly what they want you to do. Don't let it get to you, you will meet these people all the time :P Luckily enough, you'll hopefully meet people who tell you you're "the best tank they've ever met" even more often.

And the bracket is interesting because you'll get to go into Outlands at level 58, and that will vastly change your gear. I love it as much each time, because over the course of some quests, it feels like you're suddenly twice as good than you were when you first came to Outlands. The first outlands-quests are usually that rewarding. Also leveling in Outlands goes way faster than in Azeroth, because the quests are better planned. There is very little long-travelling and you get the flying mount at level 60 which makes travelling alot faster.

If you're a herbalist this level bracket will be your time to earn the big money. I sold stacks of Sungrass for 90g each on my server and had made well over 1000g by level 60. By the way, remember to skill your professions while your leveling! I thought I was, but still had to spend 4 hours after dinging 58 in Azeroth to skill herbalism, cooking and alchemy before I could get to Outlands! The problem is, in Outlands you have to be max skilled to be able to learn new skills. They changed that for Wotlk fortunately. So you need exactly skill level 300, and nothing else.

I dinged 60 at 3 days and 20 hours.

Glyphs
At level 50 you get another minor glyph slot. Since thunder clap is still one of my awesomest tank skills (and solo play skills) the choice was quite easy - Glyph of Thunder Clap which increases the range of Thunder Clap by 2 yards. Doesn't sound like much, but it is in fact something like a 30% increase of it's range.

Talents
Congratulations on Devastate! The questing and killing (and tanking!) will be much much easier now. The problem with prot killing before Devastate is that you don't have any fast, on use skill. Every skill is either on next swing (Heroic Strike), which is dependant on your weapon for its speed, or it has a cooldown (thunder clap, revenge, concussion blow, shield slam). When running after a mob to kill it, to prevent it from pulling more mobs, this can be quite frustrating. But no more! Devastate is that one use skill you've been longing for, and you'll be using it alot. Wherever you had sunder before, you should place Devastate now. Unless sunder was in a bad place, because Devastate probably deserves one of the very best spots in your action bars.

And congratulations on Warbringer! Now you can finally use charge in defensive stance and in combat. This will do so much for your tanking you probably don't even understand it yet. Charging when tanking can't be overused. It is a really good way to get a head start on the mobs, before the dps starts wrecking havoc. It's also a good way to get to a caster who's decided to stand a bit off and shoot on your healer instead of you.

This means the first two talents are pretty easy to place. Devastate and Warbringer first. I chose Devastate before Warbringer because having that on use dmg skill is actually more helpful than being able to charge mobs. But they're only one level apart in any case, so you can take them in any order you like. After that I recommend Critical Block, Sword and Board and Damage Shields, pretty much in any order you like. I took them in the order mentioned, but you'll end up with them all in the end anyway.

That means;
Level 50 into Devastate
Level 51 into Warbringer
Level 52-54 into Critical Block
Level 55-57 into Sword and Board
Level 58-59 into Damage Shields

Skills
I've already mentioned the awesomeness of Devastate and Warbringer (i.e Charge). There are no other new skills in this level bracket, but considering how great these two are, we're happy anyway!

Instances
Oh the horror. I've already told you what I feel for the instances in this level bracket, and it aint pretty. I actually only did two or three runs to BRD before I decided to level as fast as possible and get to the more fun instances of Outlands. I was lucky and found some people who wanted to boost me (they asked me in fact!) and therefore got some gear from UBRS and Scholomance. There is a really great shield from the last boss in UBRS (Draconian Deflector, which can be seen on me in the top most picture), but the shield you get from one of the first quests in Outlands is nearly as good and takes 10 min instead of 60 min (120 if you're not being boosted) to get. None of the end game vanilla instances are necessary to do for gear. The only reason to do them is to have experienced them, and this I actually encourage.

Although I don't like BRD, LRBS and UBRS much, I do like Scholomance, Stratholme and Dire Maul more. They have a nice feeling to them. Maybe you'd like to do them at this level to get the right feel for them, but I recommend doing them at level 80 instead. Doing them at this level could easily end up taking the same time as a raid, I'm talking several hours here!

Since I don't recommend you doing the instances at all (except perhaps the first bosses in BRD if you have someone to guide you through it), I won't mention much about them. They're long, they're difficult, and the gear will be replaced when you get to Outlands, that's all you have to know.

Places to quest
This is a new feature to this guide, but especially for the levels before Outlands it could be difficult to know where to go to get those last levels. I usually do Hinterlands until level 50ish, then I turn to Felwood. Combine Felwood with some quests in Wester Plaguelands and Winterspring, and you should be 58 by no time. Only once (when leveling a char) did I have to turn to Silithus (avoid it if you can, probably the most boring place in Azeroth).

That's it for this time, and next time you see me I'll be a happy warrior out in Northrend!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Welcome new hunter!

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Yes, the day after my druid dinged 80 I managed to ding my hunter 80. They've been really close in level all the way so it was really just a mere chance by choice of random instance that the druid got first (since some instances are longer and thus give more exp).

Leveling the hunter through pure instancing (70-80 like the druid) was way harder than with the druid. Not only the fact that I had to wait 20 minutes plus in queue for a group instead of 30 sec, being dps of a group is usually tougher than being the tank. Because if you're the tank or healer, you'll at least have some sort of control. But if you're dps and the tank and healer don't know their rear from their faces, things are going to take a while, and there isn't much you can do about it. I've managed to collect awesome amounts of eternal fires and waters and herbs and frost lotuses while waiting in queue though, just flying around scholazar sucking up steam clouds (by being an engineer) and herbing like there was no tomorrow.

I leveled as BM, and it worked really well. My bear pet Bjärven had to double as substitute tank at times, which actually was one of the reasons I had a bear at all. The BM spec is a really easy spec to play and I recommend it for instancing (and solo play of course) up to 80. Having a pet that's able to help out with some emergency tanking at times has really proven useful for me.

Now at 80 I've specced Survival and gotten me a black wolf, named Luke after my late cat. The survival spec is some of the tougher spec I've tried with a dozen different skills and some that enhance other that has to be used first and so on. As a BM you basically just spam steady shot, arcane shot and Aimed shot if you've specced that. I never used Serpent Sting and things like that. As a Survival hunter you've got serpent sting, black arrow, explosive shot, aimed shot and steady shot to keep track off. I really should get a cooldown and dot tracking addon for this... I had one but it broke.

So far I like the hunter dpsing, it's complex but rewarding (unlike enhancement shaman which is complex but unrewarding and retri paladin which isn't complex at all and therefore boring). Unfortunetaly, getting groups still takes ages on level 80, so she'll probably gear up way slower than my druid. Ah well!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Welcome new druid!

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I managed to ding my little (well not so little anymore!) druid to 80 today and have already begun the gearing-through-heroics-o-rama. Since her gear is really (really really) bad at the moment, even the simplest heroics prove some challenge. I play as resto since it's easiest to perform well as a healer in heroics when having less than good gear.

My initial feeling of the druid healing class is that they have the healing arsenal of a priest (at least quite close to it) but without the mana issues. Actually spamming heals without regard to my mana pool has never been so easy. The whole idea of laying out hots everwhere with the possibility to "boost" them into a big heal, via swiftmend, is something I enjoy. It gives a little more to do than the FoL/Holy Light spam of paladin and LHW/Riptide spam of a shaman. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy all healing classes, but for different reasons. Versatility isn't why I enjoy paladins ;)

The level 80 exclusive spell, nourish, is quite awesome. I had glyphed my Healing Touch to act like a Nourish-wannabe, but it turned out to be nothing like it. It's more like a Nourish-teaser. The real Nourish is a fairly big heal, even with very little spellpower (I have approximately 1400 on my druid when writing this), since it crits often. It is as good as Lesser Healing Wave or Flash of Light, but you got a bunch of hots to back it up. (Flash Heal is less mana efficient, and gains less from spellpower than Nourish. It also has no talents to boost it's critability, which actually would be quite welcome).

I feel that even though I am limited by the lack of gear, I still have plenty of tools to keep people alive and the potential buried here is enormous. I fully understand that some resto druids in end game think they can solo heal some raid content. Hots are a very powerful tool for multitask healing, if you're good at coordinating what heals need to go where. Unlike most other healers, a druid doesn't have to choose between two targets, but can actually heal both (or all five/ten) at once. So far I haven't found any drawbacks of druids. They have really good healing spells, and turn out to be great healers even with awful gear.

I am really interested to see where this could go and to eventually try it out in a raid setting!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Are new players too impatient?

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With the risk of sounding like an old fart, I often get the impression that "young people" (i.e new players of WoW) are less patient than old players. Let's see if I can explain what I mean.

I'm an end-game player and have been so for quite some time. Since Burning Crusade I've been part of a guild that more or less has had the goal to make some progress into raiding. That means that my gear is pretty good, since I raid alot, usually a couple of times a week. But it didn't start out that way, naturally my gear also "sucked" at some point, and will suck again with each new content patch, that is the way the game goes. Behind the gear I have right now lies endless hours of raiding plus all the time spent preparing to raid. And not only that.

When a new expansion came out I had to do alot of heroics to gear up for raiding just like anybody else. Well actually not like anybody else, and here's where we get to my point. When I started gearing up for raiding, there hadn't already been alot of raids out and people were around my gear level. I couldn't expect guildies to give me an easy boost through Naxx because their gear was as lousy as mine. I had to do endless heroics (without the LFG-tool mind you!) and did the old wipe-a-roo in raids plenty of times to get my gear, I couldn't expect easy kills anywhere.

Couple of weeks later and Naxx is cleared, or Ulduar, or ToC, the same thing goes for any raid where some part of the guild, usually the ones who spend the most time raiding, eventually get to the end of it. A new player comes along with everything that comes to it - no experience and no gear. He could hit the heroic-train like everyone else, but he doesn't have to. He could actually get into Naxx/Ulduar/ToC (even ICC) and down bosses, because the rest of the raid can carry his weight at this point. And this happens, I didn't mind that at all. I've been on the sugar cane end of that trade myself.

So now to the issue, because the raid can carry his weight (as long as the good geared outnumber the badly geared) the new player actually -expects- the raid to carry his weight. He get all grumpy and doesn't understand when he's benched for a raid. He seriously asks "how come I didn't get to join?". And when you tell him to go get better gear he answers "how can I if I don't get to raid?". He sees the advice to go do some heroics as an insult or punishment of some sort. He doesn't realize we've all had to do it before him.

There is a similarity to the older-younger sibling issue that often arises. Me as an older sibling often noticed that even though my younger brother had reached the same age I had when I had the obligation to do some chore, he didn't have to because he was still regarded as "too young". When we were home alone I cooked food for him even when he had turned the age I was when I first started out cooking food for him! Maybe my parents were lazy, asking me who already knew how to do it was simpler than having to teach my brother all over again, and he of course was happy that he didn't have any responsibilites. Ok, enough bitterness.

The thing is you can see this in WoW too. People who come in afterwards just see how easy things seem to be and want a slice of the cake. They don't realize the persons they're asking to give up their raid spot maybe has done that particular raid 50 times to get to that point, and probably doesn't want to give it up to someone who hasn't even begun doing heroics.

I talked to the brother of a friend yesterday and he said he was bored and wanted to raid. He complained that he never got to see any fun raids, and yet he has probably done way more raiding (weekly, VoA etc) than I had when I was his "age", that is been 80 for as long (or short) as he has. And I understand him of course, when I did heroics there wasn't alot of raiding going around. Nowadays you see more "LFM raid X" in trade channel than you see actual trade. Having to keep on haggling with old heroics must at that point seem quite frustrating, it seems like everyone is doing the fun parts of WoW and you're stuck with the boring parts.

But this is not true. Remember, new players of WoW, that coming in afterwards is nearly always better than being there first. The only enjoyment of being there first is to be able to say "I was there first". But that always comes with the price of trial and error, something you don't have to do. They do constant changes with emblems and instances that make newly dinged gear up to near equal ilevels with people who've raided every week since Wotlk first came. Even though it might feel like you're left out, you're actually in the action faster than anyone before you. How many newly dinged 80's have had to do 50 runs to Naxx, 50 runs to Ulduar and 50 runs to ToC to get into ICC? With some crazy-ass dedication you can get ICC-geared within a week of heroics.

So have some patience, the cake will wait for you.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What's your favorite place on Earth... eh Azeroth?

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Most of us (who play WoW) have a favorite place we like to visit now and then, maybe just to remember what it felt like when running around there for the first time, the music, the people, the quests, the mobs. Just to re-experience whatever made us love it so much the first time.

I actually have two favorite areas in WoW, one on the alliance side and one on the horde side. It is Tirisfal Glades and Duskwood. And although they both being really dark and gloomy with the feeling of imminent danger always present might say something about my personality, I actually think there's a simpler reason for me loving it so much (other than me being dark, gloomy and dangerous, which of course also is true). Tirisfal Glades was the very first area I experienced myself in WoW. I had seen some of the game before when I watched my brother play, but my very first char was an undead priest (not the one I am playing now though). And Duskwood is the area that resembles Tirisfal the most on the alliance side.

The reasons for this were simple; first of all my brother had told me that everyone wanted healers. So I thought that if I chose to play a healer people wouldn't recognize the fact that I knew nothing of the game as quickly. Maybe I could mask my noobiness by playing a loved class? This actually turned out be quite true, but not until way later. It is a fact that you will have more patience with the flaws of a tank or healer, simply because they're not as easily replaced as a dps.
Secondly, I had heard some of the different mobs and races of WoW and what I dreaded most was having to play against undead creatures, since I really hated (and still do) zombies. It's a kind of love-hate though, because I really love zombie movies. But when I'm out late and walking somewhere where it's dark, I don't fear being robbed or raped, I fear being chased by a zombie. Never said I was rational :P But I had the perfect counter measure for this, by playing an undead creature myself, I thought I would fear the undead mobs less. That actually worked very well.

I instantly fell in love with Tirisfal Glades, despite all the undeadness and horror that actually surrounds it. This being my first experience with WoW I probably attribute alot of happy feelings of discovery and joy and whatnot to this particular place, and this contributes of course greatly to the comfy feeling I get whenever I think about or revisit Tirisfal.

The starting area is one of the best in my opinion. You meet these grumpy undead guys who tell you they need help with killing some spiders, scarlet crusade people (a nuisance of all of Tirisfal) and collect items that are scattered around, much like anywhere else in the world really. The story of Tirisfal is one of the plague having killed of most of the original population. These were then risen again as undead slaves known as the Scourge for the Lich King. Sylvanas, the queen of the forsaken, who freed herself from the grasp of the Lich King now helps whoever is strong enough to free themselves and join her forces as one of the Forsaken (rather than the Scourge).

You start out in a crypt of Deathknell which is a little village which was abandoned when the plague struck. Undead former citizens ramble around in the remains of the village and are among the very first mobs you will encounter. Like mentioned alot of the fights will be against the Scarlet Crusade, who are there to wipe out all and any undead.

"My scouts have reported that a detachment of the Scarlet Crusade is setting up a camp southeast of here. The Scarlet Crusade is a despicable organization that hunts us, and they will not rest until every undead--Lich King's Scourge or no--is destroyed. We must strike first! Be careful, their unholy zeal makes them dangerous adversaries. "

When running past Deathknell you'll get to some farm areas. One is overrun by Scarlet farmers who try to recultivate the land amongst all the undead people (kinda crazy when you think about it) and further north are the Agamand Mills. Formerly run by Agamand family, but now completely overrun (as the rest of Tirisfal) by undead people. The old Agamand family, Gregor, Nissa, Devlin and Thurman also roam the area and some quests include killing them and collecting their family heirlooms for one of their servants who blames them for dying in the plague.

"The Agamand family was the most prosperous family in Tirisfal Glades. I used to work their mills...before the Plague. When the Scourge first came, the Agamands fortified their home and convinced those in their employ to remain and help them defend. We were fools, but at least we were loyal fools. The Agamands, in their pride, doomed us to undeath. And now they are minions of the Scourge! Serve the Forsaken by defeating the Agamands who fell to the Plague. Serve me by bringing me their remains."

The central area of Tirisfal is Brill, a small town of Forsaken who keep busy by fighting off Scourge and Scarlet Crusade people. All these Scarlet Crusade come, among other places, from the close lying Scarlet Cathedral, which lies in the northern most part of Tirisfal. All the undead and dead have also attracted Gnoll Graverobbers who dig the corpses up to bring the into the ranks of the Scourge armies.

"The Mass Graves, southwest of Garren's Haunt to the north, were made t
o accommodate the...impressive...number of deaths Tirisfal suffered when the Plague first came. The bodies in these graves have so far been spared an undeath, but the Scourge now send Rot Hide Gnolls to gather the corpses and use them to bolster their armies. This cannot be allowed! Your task is twofold: slay the Rot Hides at the Mass Grave and Garren's Haunt, and gather from them the Embalming Ichor that gives them life."

The northern shores are inhabited by some of the most dangerous creatures in all of Tirisfal, the murlocs. They don't seem to have been affected by the plague at this particular area although they are at many other places.

All this together makes a lovely starting area with just the right feeling and introduction to the undead world of the Forsaken. You really get to understand that as an undead you might be part of the horde, but you also have alot of own agendas. Fighting the undead and the scarlets are re- occurring themes throughout the entire game, so you definitely get the feel that even the very first quest is actually an important one (unlike the first quests for humans and night elfs and some others which are to collect some meat and kill some kobolds/gnells and stuff like that... lame).

Courtesy to Wowhead.com for quotes.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Dolphins are people (fish-people)

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If you've ever read "A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" you'll know that at least Douglas Adams thought dolphins were some pretty smart animals. Actually smarter than humans, since they knew what was coming to earth and ditched that doomed place before it was too late.

Now it seems Douglas Adams wasn't too far off (he probably was about the mice however). In an article over at sciencemag.org, it seems some scientists (and philosophers) are even starting to discuss whether or not we shouldn't be treating dolphins more like people. Many of us have heard that dolphins possess a really large brain compared to their body size, and have a brain-to-body-weight-ratio bigger even than human-like apes actually (but still smaller than humans)(... or maybe not smaller than some pugs I've had). Even more important is that they have a complex neocortex, the part of the brain linked to more "advanced" brain functions such as self-awareness, problem solving and other things we usually think of as traits of human intelligence.

The scientists argue that if the definition for "person" would be something like "being alive (duh), awareness of environment, display of personality and emotions, exhibition of self-controlled behavior and the possibility to treat other beings ethically", dolphins actually fit in the frame. This would in turn rise the need for us humans to treat dolphins more ethically. Such things as captivity for our amusement must then definitely be put under careful consideration (not to mention the mass slaughters of dolphins at some places of the earth, something I don't think should be done to anything though).

A finger must be raised in the air here however. We don't really know how the display of intelligent behavior is linked to actual intelligent thinking in any other animal than ourselves (and barely even then). Of course I'm not suggesting we should treat animals bad just because they're not intelligent (I'm not sure what the article is suggesting though...). But just because an animal is acting like people, doesn't mean it will react to the world around it like people, and might therefore have whole nother needs than people. Needs we might need to identify from their point of view instead of ours, if that's even possible.

In any case, I always find it really interesting to read about these kind of things because it makes you think about what intelligence is overall. With humans it seems our "amount" of intelligence has worked well (so far) for the species as a whole to survive, but less good actually for the individual to survive. With species like dolphins and apes, it seems to work better for individuals than for the specie. Less smart animals don't have the intellectual (?) capability to destroy their own surroundings and mass slaughter their neighbors. Then again, that could be a trait of humans that simply has nothing to do with their intelligence (not meaning that I think humans are inherently evil though :P).

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Flaws with the LFG-System, changes?

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I've done some posts about the issues with the LFG-system, which you can see here (part 1) and here (part 2), and now it seems Blizzard have noticed this too and will make some proper changes. These will be instituted with patch 3.3.3 along with a whole bunch over other "overhaul" changes to professions, class mechanics and whatnot. So a little patch to smoothen things up.

Info about the changes can be found over at wow.com. Their post states that one of the changes will be to remove the timer on the "vote to kick" function, one of the best changes to the lfg-system if you ask me. Apparently this change is only on the PTR (Player Test Realm) as of yet and the blue posts don't actually say anything about this so we will see if they'll implement it in the end at all. Eventhough this could mean people get kicked for bad reasons, it is still worth the times where people now have to play with bad players, idiot players, afk players or disconnected players.

Some other changes that are worth noting is the increase of the deserter debuff from 15 to 30 minutes. Twice the penalty for ditching a group in other words, and I welcome this too. The other day I had 6 (!) different tanks when doing an instance, simply because they kept on leaving after a few mobs. We didn't wipe... no one was rude... I don't know why. But they did. On the other hand I joined an instance yesterday with my dk and the healer instantly started being a douche bag. Apparently they had wiped just before I joined and he was in a cranky mood. But why he had to take it out on me, with a long tirade about tanks sucking so much because they're never crit immune (I am btw), yada yada, I don't know. I didn't feel much like tanking him though, so I left before the first pack of mobs.

Another interesting change is that they'll actually be -more- generous about the level requirements to join instances. Now if this will affect lowbies too, you'll know from reading my other posts in this matter, that I already think they are too generous. I've ended up in instances 6 levels above my own when leveling my warrior. This doesn't have to be an issue if only one group member is too low leveled, but when the entire group is, it'll make the instance nearly unfinishable, since the dps simply can't kill the mobs.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sciencemag

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Since I had some studies to do today I'll only do a short little post about another site I found that provides science news. I often refer to interesting posts over at ScienceDaily.com, but I recently found a site called Sciencemag.org which is run by the American Assoctiation for the Advancement of Science or AAAS. It updates with new science articles nearly as often as ScienceDaily.com, but also offers a podcast where they talk more about some of the science news and interview some of the scientists behind the articles, to have them explain more about it. The niveau isn't too advanced and adapted for most people to comprehend, even if you don't happen to have a degree in rocket science. Really interesting and I recommend checking it out over at Sciencemag.org!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Holyness - Addons to streamline your healing (part 2)

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Like I mentioned in part 1 addons are mainly there to help you speed things up. And like I mentioned here, addons won't do anything that isn't already doable in the game, they won't actually add anything. They will however present information and allow you to use your skills in a way more suited to your likings. In part 1 I talked about overview and information. Here I'd like to talk about the second part of healing, and maybe the more important one actually - the ability to react within a split seconds notion.

Having information fed to you in an optimal way (according to you), is of course a huge part of this. The question is then, how will you then use this information as fast as possible? There are some things that will slow down your reactions, some of these you'll simply need experience to "get rid" off. Such things are to choose which heal best suits the situation (unfortunately, an addon that suggests heals at all times doesn't work as well as those addons that suggest skills for dps'ers), and who needs it the most. These decisions you need to be able to make for yourself, if you want to be the best healer everz.

Once you've made that decision however, there are some addons that can help you carry them through in the best (i.e fastest) way possible. Some years ago there was an addon named Healbot. It could actually both choose target and proper healspell for you, which means you basically just had to hit one button to properly heal an entire raid. That addon was probably more efficient than many healers out there. Blizzard thought this was making things a little too easy and changed the way addons can interact with things in the game. Addons like Healbot don't exist anymore, to my knowledge, or at least they don't work in the game anymore.

One of the features of Healbot, not having to target a specific person to be able to heal them, is still doable in the game, and still as awesome for quick reactions. One addon that does this is Clique.

It is difficult to describe what Clique does without having people say "well isn't that what I'm doing already?". The answer to this of course is "no". There are two standard ways to heal a target. A your either pick your target and then what heal to cast on it or B you pick what heal to cast and then your target. What Clique does is letting you choose both heal and target at the same time, which might not sound like much, but will really make a huge difference once you get used to it. Clique offers a really easy-to-understand-and-use setup for you to adjust which bindings to use and then you're ready for some awesome healing action!

I myself have some different bindings depending on spec and so. My favorite is binding my mainheal (renew or shield depending on being holy or disc) only to mouse right-click button. This means I don't even have to use the keyboard to cast this skill on someone and can use all the fingers on my left hand to run around avoiding things instead, while casting these particular spells.

The best thing to do is try some different settings and see what fits best for ones playstyle. I for one keep spells I don't cast as often on shift, and the ones I use more often on alt, since I press shift with my little finger and that tends to hurt alot after some hours of raiding ^^ Little things like this you will notice and be able to optimize after some playing so try it out!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Top 5 tanking skills

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Except for Dk's, all tank classes have their set of skills to use at 80 (dks who can tank in three different specs have some variations to their skill base), some are alike and some differ somewhat. Some of these differences make some of the skill superior to others in terms of usefulness.

Having tanked as every tanking class available (although only as frost dk so far), I thought I'd list my top 5 favorite tanking skills. For dk's I've only looked at their base set of skills, the ones any spec have at their disposal.

5 - Swipe - Druid
Although not so awesome at lower levels, this becomes the instance killer at level 80 (with some decent gear). Swipe makes druid the only tank class who can constantly threat while on the run, making it possible to actually never stop (except perhaps for boss fights) in a heroic instance. Being what heroics have become, something to burn through as fast as possible, swipe is definitely the best tool for the job. The other tanks come in close having skills like Blood Boil, Hammer of Righteousness and Thunder Clap, but they just don't cut it quite like Swipe. For making Rocket Bear Runs possible, Swipe gets into position number 5 in my list.

4 - Hand of Reckoning/Faerie Fire Feral - Paladin/Druid
They're not exactly the same, but the most important part about them are. They do ranged damage. And they only have 6 second cd. Being able to pull something with an instant ranged damage, or just keep threating on something standing a bit away, is something I really miss when on my warrior tank (dk's can use Icy Touch, but since it uses a rune which could be on cd it's not as good). For making ranged threat during combat possible, HoR and FFF get into position number 4 in my list.

3 - Challenging Shout/Roar - Warrior/Druid
Beside some difference in names, these skills do exactly the same thing, pointing out the similiarities between warriors and druid. It's something as awesome as an aoe taunt. Although paladins and dk's rarely need such a skill because they have really cheaty aoe-threat skills instead, even they get into situations sometimes when you just think "if only I had an aoe taunt right about now". Because when you need it it comes like an angel from above. Funny sidenote though, Shout costs 2 rage (talented) while Roar costs 15 rage. Since you need to use the skill when nothing is hitting you, you probably won't have 15 rage to use it as a druid, which is something I mentioned here. Blizzard are funny that way... For being the savior of the day (mostly for warriors), Challenging Shout/Roar gets into position number 3 on my list.

2 - Death Grip - Death Knight
Many people would probably have this as the number one skill on this kind of list. Not only is it extremely handy, it is fun to use too! So much fun in fact that non tank dks use it all the time! And never on a caster mob! And even if the mob is already in melee range! Ahem...
When used properly this is definitely one of the best tanking tools in the game. It does exactly what every tanks wants any skill to do, position the mob exactly in front of you, ready for you to wreck havoc in their face. If you're lucky, you can actually pull a whole group with Death Grip. Like the mob packs on the second boss in ToC. Nice huh! It does get a small minus for being available to every dk out there who hasn't got a rat shit clue about how to use it though. For being one of the most fun tanking skills, while also being extremely useful, Death Grip gets into position number 2 on my list.

1 - Avenger's Shield - Paladin
Yes, here we have it. The skill I like the most while tanking. You might be abashed that I've picked this as number one over Death Grip (or some other skill) or you might agree with me. But any tankskill is used for the purpose to get as much threat on as many mobs as possible. Death Grip is awesome sure, but it only gives threat on one single mob. Avenger's Shield on the other hand, gives threat -and- silences three mobs. It is the pulling tanks dream, not having to worry about the rest of the group when pulling the first mob. A group of mobs rarely constitues of more than four, and being able to threat on a majority of those with an instant, silencing, ranged, cheap (considering tankadins never run out of mana) skill is almost too good to be true. Some of you might think D&D is as good, but it doesn't silence and it definitely isn't cheap. The only thing that differs D&D from Thunder Clap, Swipe or Consecration is that it's ranged.
For being everything in one skill I put Avenger's Shield as my top one favorite tanking skill!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

To AddOn or not to AddOn

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I sometimes write or mention something about which addons to use in different situations in WoW. It is true that most WoW-related sites on the internet covers the use of AddOns to some extent. Yet there are quite varying opinions as to the usefulness, or rather necessity, of using AddOns. Few say you don't need any addons at all to play endgame (you could level decently by only using a standard ui), but opinions differ as to what extent addons are needed, and for what purposes. Debates flame up constantly with one side saying "you don't need that addon to play better" and the other says "oh yes you do". And then there are the addons that simply make life a little more comfy, without making you a better player in the progress. The last category, which could be bag-addons, sell/buy/auction-addons, map-addons and the like, usually only make out of combat parts of WoW a little easier, and as such aren't necessary to improve your playstyle. No one can say you should have had Auctioneer to down that boss.

So what I am interested here is what combat-addons are needed, and why? Or why not?

Like I've mentioned before, combat addons are used for one thing, to tell you stuff you need to know about in an easy way. It's about providing you with as much information as possible. Some addons are also used to aid you with converting that information into a quick reaction. This is something I will talk more about when writing about good addons for healing.
This means combat addons do two things; provide information and provide a way for fast reaction. For example you can have an addon that shows you who has a certain debuff and another addon that helps you dispel that debuff fast (or one addon to do both of those of course).

If we start by looking at the information bit we can see that every addon get their information from WoW itself. Blizzard doesn't hide necessary information, like who gets a debuff, who is hurt, how far away is someone and such. Technically, all this information is already in the game, and you don't need an addon to see it. You might however need an addon to see it in the way you want to.

The problem with the Blizzard ui (in my opinion) is that it's extremely rigid. You can't move anything to suit your playstyle. It takes way more space than it has to. Also it is designed to work for any class in any spec, and therefore doesn't work especially well for any. It can provide general information, such as how much damage you do to a certain target but that's basically it. Now correct me if I'm wrong, for I haven't used regular Blizzard ui for many months... or years perhaps. They do add new features all the time, features who usually are the most used addons. Like an addon to show you where to go to do your quests and aid with the switching of gears.

If you want information about when to use a certain skill presented in an effective way you'll probably have to use an addon (effective is quite subjective though). Want to know if your trinket is ready to use again? Want to know if your 3 min cd is ready to use again? Want to know how long time it is left before the boss does his certain doom attack? Want to tell people you've used a certain spell? All of the above can be seen or done in WoW, but not in a practical way. You could macro all your spells to announce when you use them (or at least the spells you want to announce). Or you could get an addon that does all this for you. Saves some time, and is usually alot easier to turn on/off or do changes to.

And these are the key words here - "saves time". Out of combat this doesn't matter much of course, what you do while standing around is up to you. But when things get hot and heavy, you want to know stuff as fast and clear as possible. You don't want to have to dig around in drop down menus and whatnot to know what you should do next.

All the addons I have, I've gotten because I thought I could do something better. I got myself a new ui because I didn't like that I had to move my field of vision to the corners of the screen to see certain information (like how much rage I've got on my warrior). I prefer my information as close to where I usually look as possible. When tanking I want to look at the mobs. Everything that forces me to look away from the mobs annoys me. I don't want to have to scan through the combat log to know what happened to who when fighting. But the information is there (just not where I want it), and if you're happy with the way it's presented in the Blizzard ui, I don't think you need an extra addon for it.

So next, the addons that help you with a fast reaction. This goes hand in hand with the information addons of course. Like I said, the Blizzard ui will tell you who has a certain debuff (since you can see their debuff icon). This means however that you have to scan through every persons debuff and then successfully identify the one you need to remove. If you can do this really fast, you don't need an addon for it. And by really fast I mean within a gcd fast. If you can't do this within a gcd, or without keeping your attention from everything else you have to do, you need an addon to help you.

Some addons help you cast spells faster, like Clique. It allows you to cast a spell on someone with having to target them first, which greatly increases your reaction time. I think however that this could be accomplished with some nifty mouse-over macros, so you don't need clique to do this in the game either.

So what am I really saying here? Something quite obvious. Addons don't actually add anything to the game, that would be illegal. They take something from the game, and present it in another way than Blizzard does. Except for the estetic part, there is nothing an addon does that you can't already do in the regular Blizzard ui. This means that if you're satisfied with the estetic part - you don't need addons. Big note however - I don't know of anyone who hasn't gained (i.e become better player) from using at least some addons. The way the information is presented in WoW just isn't efficient enough for 99,5% of the WoW population.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

How to optimize trade chat?

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There is definitely something wrong with trade chat. It isn't used the way it's supposed to. Or rather, it is over used the way it's supposed to.

I have most of my chars on a relatively small server and so trade chat is generally a not so crowded place, and you can mostly get your message through without too much trouble. Having played some on a really big server however, I quickly realize the flaws of the trade chat, and the ways it's being used.

Don't get me wrong, I don't belong to the clique of purifists who think trade chat is solely for trade, or the bunch of rp'ers who think you need to accompany each desire to trade with the story of your life. I do think trade could be used for other things than trade, even completely out of the blue things. -Even- the dirge (and other meme) things occasionally. After all, WoW is a game made up of it's community and will always be about what the community desires. I do not desire to prohibit this.

The problem isn't so much what people say in trade, but how they do it. On bigger servers I noticed, people spam. Really spam. If they want something, they don't post it once or twice or five times within a minute, but maybe 30 times, without exaggerating too much. Often with way too many exlamation marks and caps like there was no tomorrow. Why is this a problem? Because if everyone does this, no one will ever get their message through.

I've got a friend who told me he used to sit and wait until the perfect opportunity opened up in the trade, a short respite from all the spamminess. If you posted exactly then you could be lucky enough to be noticed by some people. That is unless alot of other people had the exact same thought and posted at that same moment.

I asked for a mage to portal me to dalaran, and a half second later my request was gone. Rolled away by people who were looking for raids, looking for people to raids, looking for crafters, offering crafts and everything else people use trade for. If they have to spam to be noticed they will, and then they have to spam to be noticed. See the evil cycle of doom here?

I've of course thought up what has to be the perfect solution to this however. Just give posting in trade a cooldown. Say you can only post once every 30 seconds or 1 minute. This would also greatly limit all the trollers out there, those who seem to play WoW mainly as if it was their personal msn or something.

Monday, February 15, 2010

How to! Warrior Tank - Level 40-49

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Ah here we are again, it's been a while since my last post (and my other posts in the matter can be found either by clicking the tags or here, here and here). Leveling simply takes a while without boa-gear, but I dinged 50 at approximately 2 days and 20 hours played. It's a little slower than usual, but when leveling otherwise I have the option to be boosted when needed (which includes getting help with tough quests), the money to buy awesome gear (and/or boa), and most importantly, I usually don't care about professions since they use up alot if time. But with this little warrior I'm going hard core style. Playing her on a whole nother server I have no help to get from highbies, no money for awesome gear (and no boa), and alot of time spent skilling profs (fishing definitely takes the most time). But it is fun all the way! Just so you know why you've had to wait a while for this post ;)

No gold for awesome gear is a small lie actually, as I managed to collect 600g by level 50 (I am some levels over 50 when writing this post). But buying flying mount and such will cost alot, so I'll have to collect alot more than that. Where did I get my money from? Well alchemy isn't really the income on low levels, but herba works well. Even better is to simply put everything you find (that isn't gray) on the AH. It is quite marvelous what people actually need, and stuff like cloth, meat and greens will always sell, if they're not put up at ridiculous prices. Oh and speaking of grays, pick everything up that you can fit into your bags! With an addon like AutoProfit, that automatically sells every gray item in your bag, this will become one of your greatest incomes! The addon works well even though it hasn't been updated for years. It's too simple to crash I suppose...

So congratulations on level 40! Time for plate! And epic mount! I had some plate gear waiting on me when I dinged, and the jump in armor from mail to plate is actually quite a large one. I gained some 700 armor when dinging level 40, by switching out no more than 4-5 pieces. The epic mount + skill isn't too expensive, and unless you have been actively trying to waste money you should have the 50g it costs (that is not counting the rep discount).

At level 30 you get a quest called Cyclonian from your warrior trainer, which is a quest chain to collect some items and ultimately kill a level 40 elite to get some two-handed weapons, which actually are really good. But being two-handed, they're nothing for a little prot warrior to use (and there is no equivalent quest chain to get tank items), so you might as well skip this quest chain. It isn't worth the hazzle, unless you want to do something special while leveling. Getting the charms is probably the hardest part as there isn't enough mobs to continously grind them, and the drop rate is annoyingly low. This means you will have to return to the mobs location at numerous times to get all the charms.

Some general pointers towards being a good tank could be in place here, since the instances will demand more and more from your party and it is therefore good to be on a good foot with everyone.

As a rage using class you don't need mana breaks, but you will most likely be partying with people who do. Remember their mana pools, not only the healer ones! Considering they are the ones dpsing down your mobs, you need to treat their mana pools well. Give proper mana breaks, or at least ask if they're wanted.

If you're doing an instance for the first time, and intend to do it again sometime, take some time to note how the mobs work. What skills do they have? Something to watch out for? Where are they positioned? Do they chain? Do the run? Any pulls that are tricky? Chaining means that when pulling one mob near another you will also aggro the second one. A thumb rule is "the smarter the mob, the more likely they'll chain". Humanoid mobs nearly always chain for instance. Beast don't always though. Learn how this works in every particular instance to make the run as smooth as possible.

Glyphs
No new glyph sockets for this bracket unfortunately :/ We'll have to wait till level 50.

Talents
The prot warriors level 40 talent is Vigilance, which is a decent skill. It doesn't do anything when solo playing, and honestly it doesn't do much in instances either until level 80. I know many warriors leave ut out even at max level, but I do think it is worth 1 tp at least at end game. But question is if it's worth it at level 40? I'd say go for Focused Rage first, you'll definitely have more use with some cheaper skills than Vigilance at this time. After Focused Rage I recommend Imp. Defensive Stance. Beside the reduced spell dmg, which is best at end game (and pvp), the extra 10% dmg is great for solo play and threat. After taking two tp into Imp. Def. Stance you're able to grab one of the best talents in the tree. Well, at least you'll think so after going nerdrage over all the misses and parries you see. Vitality! 6 straight off expertise is gold worth! The extra 6% strength and stamina are of course sweet too.

Don't take Safeguard. First of all you don't even have Intervene yet, but even when you do that talent won't be good enough to spend points in. You simply don't use Intervene that often. Put two tp as you like on either Vigilance or Gag Order. I still don't think Toughness is worth talenting in since your armor won't be very high. Procentual numbers always become better with your gear, so we can still wait with that one a little further. So let's see...

Level 40-42 into Focused Rage
Level 43-44 into Imp. Defensive Stance
Level 45-47 into Vitality
Level 48-49 into Vigilance/Gag Order

Skills
At level 40 you get one of the best prot warrior skills you'll ever get. Shield Slam. It deals great dmg, great threat and removes a buff from your target. Keep this in an honored place on your action bar, easily accessable. It has a cd, but with some talents later on you will use it even more often. The only drawback of it is that it is expensive. 17 rage with the proper talents is alot. Considering the dmg and threat it does however it is well worth it, and only outmatched by Revenge.

Instances
A freaky thing about the lfg-system is that it seems to be pretty generous on the level requirements for one to join an instance. I got to join Maraudon - Orange Crystals at level 41, all the mobs being level 46-47. Try tanking that! It was a challenge I tell you, and not really for the right reasons. Not being able to hold aggro because I miss everything makes tanking less fun. Luckily enough, your skills still greatly outthreat the dps's, so it's usually enough to hit with one thunder clap to keep the mobs on you. The only problem I've had so far is with Paladins. Damn paladins -_-

Zul'Farrak (43-47)
Zul'Farrak feels like a fresh breeze after every other dark and gloomy instance (like RFK, SM GY, Uldaman etc..). It is an outdoor instance, one of the few! It means you can mount in it, and use skills like Ghost Wolf, had you been a shaman. Only trouble with ZF, which you should be used to after SM, is that nearly every mob is humanoid and therefore a runner that will get company if not killed fast enough. At some points in ZF this can lead to massive over pulls, so be careful. The "stair event" is quite fun actually and should be experience by everyone at least once. There are also some nice loot and quests, so definitely something worth doing.

Maraudon (43-49)
Maraudon is a huge instance, divided (thrivided?) into three parts - Orange, Purple and Pristine Waters. Purple is the lowest level of approximately 42-45, Orange middle of approximately 45-48, and Pristine Water the highest of approximately 47-50. Because of this, Maraudon is about the only instance for this level bracket (Sunken Temple is doable at 48+) so be ready to see alot of Maraudon.

Maraudon feels like a maze, but is actually not that difficult (unless you're sent in 5 levels below...). You mostly just have to run straight ahead to get to the right place and the mobs aren't that horrible either. Purple and Orange side don't hold much interesting tank loot, but Landslide and Princess in Pristine Waters drop some nice stuff.

There are some bosses after Princess which the rest of the party might ask for to be killed. The "Croc" is just below when jumping down the waterfalls, so it doesn't take more than an extra 5 mins. The "Gobbo" however is an extra 15 min run, at least, and doesn't even drop anything extraordinary (he does drops a shield, but with caster stats. If you're stuck with a really bad shield it might be worth killing him, although I suggest going for the shield in SM Cathedral instead). Unless you really feel like it, skip him.

Sunken Temple
One of the most difficult instances to do the right way, better hope you know it like the back of the hand or that at least someone in your group does!
One usually divides the instance into Basement and the rest. Some people have quests for the Basement, and there is a summonable boss. I'm usually way to lazy to do the Basement part as you need to activate stone statues in a certain order to summon the boss, which takes sooo much time. When you enter the instance there are four different directions to go. The best way is second from your left. Then simply follow the stairs all the way up, try to find the little rooms where the different troll minibosses are, that you need to kill to lower a shield that protects one of the bosses. Any further tries to explain how to run around will probably just confuse you further, just remember to kill all the dragon packs before engaging Shade of Eranikus, as they are summoned into the fight otherwise. You don't want that. The boss Avatar of Hakkar is only summonable if you're on a certain quest.

I like Sunken Temple actually, it has a cozy feel to it. Unfortunately it doesn't have much tankloot at all. The summonable boss in the Basement, and some of the troll mini bosses can drop random loot that can have nice tank stats on them, so keep your eyes open for that at least.

That's it for this time folks, let's see how long it'll take me to get to 60 now. I've got Devastate and Warbringer to speed things up, but are stuck with some of the worst instances in the game. See ya then!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentines Day!

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Some say days like Valentines Day is only a capitalistic trick to get us to buy stuff. I say any reason to get (and maybe give some too) gifts and eat tasty food is a good one!
Happy Valentines Day!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Quantum Computers

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Some time ago I asked Love how computers really work. What make them go? What make them do what I want them to (and quite often, what I don't want them to). He gave me a decent explanation (well, his explanation was probably awesome, but my comprehension of it was decent), of which some was about the binary system. As I understood it, it basically means the "language" of the computer uses on and off switches, which in long series of codes mean different things. It is handy because the simplest way to use and understand the information from a switch is by either have it turned on or turned off. Either it gives a current or it doesn't. Quite the black and white world a computer lives in.

I didn't think this sounded practical though, or rather, wouldn't it be even more useful if a switch didn't just give either on or off response, but maybe also alot of inbetweens? Imagine a person who only answers everything with yes and no and then suddenly adds the option "perhaps" or "a little" or "alot". It would add alot of possibilities to their communication. I thought this would work for a computer too. Wouldn't it be able to store more information with the same set of switches if the switches could use inbetween variables?

After finding an article about Quantum Computers over at good old Sciencedaily.com, it seems scientists have had the same thought and have been looking into how to use atoms, or rather electrons, as bits or "qubits" as they call it. A bit is a computer information unit, and what they've done is trying to use electrons to work as these information units.

The problem with electrons is they don't behave as we want them to. Alot of other things in the world will try to make the electron behave in another way than we can control. The whole thing about using them as information units is to make their behavior predictable and therefore controllable. But since electrons are very small, controlling one usually means controlling a whole big bunch of electrons, which apparently isn't what the scientists want.

But now they've come a step closer to making a single electron behave over at the Princeton University. They do this by trapping them into "microscopic corrals" which puts the electron in a quantum state. In this quantum state, not only does the electron act in a way "ordered" to it, without disturbing other electrons, most importantly it can behave in a "not entirely off" and "not entirely on" kind of way. It can actually be inbetween.

Having a single information bit giving the same information as 100 do today would make the computer as we know it even smaller, maybe faster (don't know how this quantum stuff works really, so I'm not promising anything). I hope we get to see this in computers soon!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Priest tier 10 set bonuses, good or bad? Follow up

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So I've given the new set bonus a go in some raid fights since last time and here is my conclusion.

I don't like it.
I don't like it at all.

Like I mentioned before, Flash Heal is mostly used when being disc and not even then does it compare to the 2set t9 bonus. Eventhough Prayer of Mending is even better when being holy (thus making the 2set t9 -even- more superior to 2set t10 when being holy), it is still one of the disc healers main heals. I use it every cd and it always turns out to be about 20-30% of my total healing.

My flash heal could come up to this too when being disc (rarely when holy though) and yet Blessed Healing, the hot-proc from the tier, doesn't comprise of more than approximately 2% of my total healing. 20% of 25% Prayer of Mending is still twice the healing. Even more when I'm holy where Prayer of Mending easily can go over 30% of my total healing.

One could discuss variables such as overhealing (i.e if the extra heals from PoM were mainly overheal they would be unecessary although it looks good in the meters), but I think 20% extra from a PoM and 11% (33% from 33%) extra from a Flash Heal has about the same chance to be an overheal, so that isn't the issue.

This makes me conclude that 2set t10 is only better than 2set t9 for those fights where you honestly think you'll use Flash Heal way (and I mean waaaaay) more than Prayer of Mending. I can't currently think of such a fight in ICC, but Patchwerk in Naxxramas would've been such a fight. Maybe Gunship and Saurfang. Unfortunately (?) most fights in ICC are about alot of aoe dmg, and that is where Prayer of Mending really shines. Being able to greatly buff one of the priests awesomestest (estest) heals is just too good. Eventhough downgrading gloves makes me lose some 20+ spellpower, 10+ mp5 and other goodie stats, I still do it sometimes because I think that extra healing is worth it.

I haven't been able to try out the 4set yet, simply because I don't have it. Looking at it though it, just as 2set t10, looks to be better for disc than holy. It either gives you another Penance or Circle of Healing, and a disc generally uses Penance way more often than a holy would use CoH. And like I said before, it is more likely a disc priest casts that Flash Heal at all, that may reset the cooldown. The whole idea of being able to use Penance more often gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling though, so I hope it won't disappoint me like 2set has.

Yet again they want to fool me into using Flash Heal more than it is good for, but at least it is addable to the effect of 2set.

I still think it has some value to a holy priest though, because when things go tough and you need to pump out heavy aoe heals, this could probably come in handy. The difference being it will be useful for a disc priest in any situation, but for holy mostly for extreme situations. But since most raid encounters quickly turn out to be extreme, it can turn out to be useful to a holy too, like I said.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ideas for new raid encounters

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Blizzard always try to keep us players entertained. It is by doing this they make sure we keep playing the game and keep paying them to provide us with the game. I realize there must be a fine line between making something new and entertaining without making it so new that no one grasps the concept, slightly like with what's happened with the drake riding in Oculus.

With every new raid we're presented to a bunch of new boss encounters that hold both new and old elements. But I sometimes wonder if Blizzard don't hold back a little too much with the new ideas. Would it really be so horrible to try something wacky? Ok, they tried it in the Eye and no one liked it. But I didn't dislike the Eye because of the drake riding, but because you had to redo the entire thing if you failed on the drake riding. I don't mind tough/tricky/weird encounters, but failure musn't be too much punished if the encounter goes a little outside of the box.

I think most bosses in ICC do a fairly good mix of old and new, the Gunship brings an old way of fighting to a new setting and otherwise the fights comprise of the good old "don't stand in the bad stuff" in different ways. A slightly different take on things is the fight with Valithria, in which you're in fact supposed to heal the "boss" up, instead of damaging them down. As far as I know this is a first in WoW, although I know there are other boss encounters where the boss is on your side (but still has to be killed for various reasons). With Valithria you need the healers to heal her as well as the rest of the raid, which is a slight step into a new direction. But couldn't this be taken even further? Let's go a little crazy with ideas.

Reversed roles
Sure, if you play a certain class I, and Blizzard, suppose that is what you want to do in the game. Therefore having a fight where say the dps become healers somehow and vice versa for the other roles might not be an awesome idea (although I think for a single encounter this could be intriguing). Besides, Blizzard have already done something like this with the introduction of the drakes in Oculus (who can either tank, heal or dps) and other vehicles with allows a player to switch roles for a while.

But what if you made an encounter where every role got to do what they usually do, but it had the reversed effect? Healers heals did damage and dps damage would heal. And the tanks... hmm. Well I haven't figured out what to do with the tanks yet. Maybe they could, by not having aggro from anything, provide the rest of the raid with some buff. Or something.

I spoke to Love about this and he came up with an idea about an encounter being about the whole raid dying and being resurrected by "some evil force". This force tries to take control over you by slowly increasing your hp to max, and when you reach 100% hp you will be mind controlled. The dps job is then to keep everyones hp down, while the healers heal the constant flow of enemies in order to have them controlled by the good side (that's you) so they help you instead. Of course you wouldn't want to have people lose all their hp because then they would simply die (maybe to be resurrected again and giving the raid some debuff), so you need to make just enough dmg to keep them "sane" or whatyawannacallit, until the healers have converted enough evil guys to kill the "evil force".

This would make the dpsers and healers switch roles without having them do different things. Not such a shabby idea, eh? I (we) might come up with more eventually, and let's hope some Blizzard dev reads this and feels inspired ;)

In any case I'd really liked it if Blizzard dared to go a little more nuts with their raid encounters, and don't think of the drake riding idea as an implication that "new ideas" are wasted on us players. If you have a great idea but implement it in the wrong way, no one will recognize it's greatness. Give us another chance!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Holyness - Addons to streamline your healing

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No matter what an addon does (not counting the ploy ones) it is there to help you do something faster. Be it using skills, organize your items or simply getting an overview, they all want to streamline the way you go about doing things in WoW. This goes for the healing addons as well. Some healing addons do this so well in fact, they're nearly necessary to perform sufficiently enough for many raid encounters. I'm not saying playing without addons is impossible... but to most people it probably is. The human mind is only so fast and so perceptive and could definitely need some help to perform at its best in a game like WoW.

So what addons are useful for a healer? Although I write this mainly from a priests perspective, most addons work for any healing class, the only difference might be what skills they track and the like. I'll mention my favorite, healing specific addons which are great whether you heal instances or raids. Although it is more common that you need really fast reactions in a raid setting, these addons will simplify any type of healing and hopefully make it more fun!

Let's start with the overview ones. What is it a healer needs to see? Well mainly who might need some healing of course. The Blizzard standard ui does this in an ok way, which definitely works for 5 man instances all the way up to 80. But when you start doing raids, 10 mans and 25 mans, you get a hell of alot of people to keep track off. And even in instances it will come in handy to get a quick overview of who needs the most attention at any given moment. The more people around you, the more important this gets.

So what could an addon do that the Blizzard ui doesn't?

First of all it could show you who needs to be healed at all. This is especially useful when you've got 25 possible targets to tend for, but like mentioned could come in handy in any healing situations. Some addons will highlight anyone who has taken a set amount of dmg (chosen by you) and if the person is within range of you at all (so you don't try to heal something you can't reach anyway). This will allow you to focus on the ones that need a heal -now- and the ones that need a heal in a moment.

A great complement to seeing who needs a heal, is seeing exactly how much dmg someone has taken, to help you estimate how big a heal you have to throw at someone. 20% of 20.000 dmg differs greatly from 20% of 50.000 dmg. And you don't want to start doing math subtractions when someone is dying - "so 4573/34876 means...?". To me, using deficits has proven quite useful, this way I can see that person X is at -6391 hp and can decide what to do based on that information. Knowing someones max hp is less important, imo, since what you need to know is how much dmg is someone taking, and how much more dmg can they take before they die unless I heal them. If someone with 10.000 is taking 100 dmg each second he can continue doing so for quite a while before I have to heal him. If someone with 50.000 dmg is taking 10.000 dmg each second I will probably need to pay alot of healing attention to him.

I need to know how much hps my target needs to win over the dps they're taking.

Another great feature of addons is if they can show you who needs to be dispelled. Blizzard ui shows debuffs, but not in a particularly clear way, and this is again even more obvious when having to concentrate on more than 5 targets. You don't want to scan through the complete debuff list of 25 people to decide who needs a dispel/cleanse, you want to be able to make that decision within a gcd.

An addon could also help you keep better track of people who commonly need your attention, mostly the tanks. It can separate them from the others so you'll always have an easy view over what's happening to them (this is however not a feature I use myself, since I think I can give better attention to tanks when they're where everyone else are in my ui.)

There are two addons I've tried that do these things in a satisfactory way, and they both have some benefits/drawbacks compared to eachother. I used the addon X-perl for a very long time, and there are still features about it I like more than Grid, the addon I currently use. They vary somewhat in how they display the abovementioned features, but I finally chose Grid because it displays debuffs/buffs in a more visible way than X-perl. Benefits of X-perl however is that you can get nearly as much usefulness out of it but with way less hassle of configuration. Grid needs -alot- of configuration before it does what you want it to, and X-perl wasn't as difficult to get started with. I'd recommend X-perl over Grid if you're not a dedicated raider actually, or if you don't feel like a leet addon user.

I could show you some screenshots on how they look, but my ui is so messy (but that's the way I like it!) I think you get a better idea by going directly to their download pages. And since I like wowinterface more than curse, that is where I will direct you!

--> Grid (this needs alot of extra "add on" addons to get all the features though, the basic addon is pretty stripped down).
--> X-perl (Comes pretty complete, and might therefore hold features you're not interested in. These are always just to turn off of course, but it might make the addon bigger than Grid, depending on how much extras you get to Grid. Not that size matters though ;) )

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Oculus - does it really suck that much?

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What generally makes an instance less fun to do than another instance is the amount of time it takes compared to how fun it is to do. A very short instance that is incredibly boring is more ok than an incredibly long instance that is mediocre. The pain is at least over fast. I think the same goes for work actually, where you'd rather have something horrible for a short amount of time than something tedious over a very long period of time. Maybe people differ there, but overall I think that's what people prefer.

Most instances in WoW that people dislike follow this formula. I personally dislike Culling of Stratholme, Oculus, Halls of Stone and Violet Hold (although Violet Hold has become slightly better after the buff). And the common reason is that they take time. They take time for different reasons though (none of which are because they are difficult however), and some of these reasons make the instance even less fun than them just being slow. I'll explain.

Culling of Stratholme is slow, but that's also all that is wrong with it (in my opinion). It has this extremely long, and meaningless once you've seen it, intro. I think it takes at least 10 minutes of just waiting for the instance to start. Fun? No, definitely not. But once you're passed that the rest of the instance is pretty ok. The whole idea of travelling back in time to experience key points of the WoW-history is also a good one which I encourage, but it could be done in a little better way. Halls of Stone has the exact same problem, with an event that feels like more about waiting around than actually having to do something.

So what's the matter with Oculus? First of all, there is no waiting around in Oculus. There is no event you have to wait on playing through before you can start playing yourself, like in CoS. In fact, Oculus doesn't have to take long at all. With the right group you can do it in 15 minutes. So there is something else the matter with Oculus.

The problem with Oculus is that it forces a game mechanic on you that isn't well thought through, or worked through, at all. Most of Oculus is about riding around on flying mounts. Mounts the great majority of the level 80's ride around on every day sure, but that is only to travel from point A to point B. Having to use the same type of mounts to actually battle something requires alot more coordination than just occassionally move from a mountain in your flight path. There are some issues with the mounts in other words, mainly the fact that it's difficult to estimate distance to different object when in the air. Also the drakes (which is what you fly in Oculus) apparently don't always stand still when I think they do as I get the error message "you can't do that while moving" way more often than I think I should. So the first problem about Oculus is that the very thing that's supposed to make it special, doesn't work well enough. That's a minor problem though, compared to issue number two.

There are other drakes in the instance, beside the ones your riding. The one your riding are friendly drakes of course, and the other ones are not so friendly. While you're mounted you use the health pool of your drake mount instead of your own. That's more than 100.000 hp instead of around 20.000 (if you're a clothie like me). The evil drakes of the instance will attack you if you come to close, and remember what I said earlier about estimating distance? Not so easy. You'll probably get too close to a couple of drakes without noticing it. Now this doesn't do much as long as you're mounted on your drake. The evil drakes hit you for about 7k dmg, and that's not much taken from 100.000+ health.

The problem is you can dismount from your drake, then notice you aggroed an evil drake, and once in combat with it, you can't remount your drake again. This means you have to battle something that is up in the air (no hitting it in other words, can only use spells/ranged against them) and shooting you for 7k dmg every other second. That is alot of dmg on something that has 20.000 hp. Better pray you have a caster/ranged in the group who can kill the drake fast enough!

Now... I've done this instance many times, and banged my head against all the achievements even (and succeeded). I think I am pretty sure how to move around without drawing the attention of too many evil drakes. Problem is, most people aren't. And that is understandable. Flying around on a drake avoiding bad guys doesn't come natural at all and needs practicing, since it doesn't really occur anywhere else in the game (except The Eye). But Oculus isn't very forgiving to people who have to practice their flying skills, and that is the very problem.

I don't know how many times I've flown from one place to another, crusing through evil drakes, making sure I didn't aggro any (you can tell simply by seeing if you're in combat or not before dismounting), and then dismount. Suddenly person X in my party dismounts next to me, training 3 evil drakes along with him. He gets blasted, I heal him and suddenly I've got all the attention. Yay. This is the most common, if not the only reason, I've died in Oculus. But Oculus is also the only instance I ever die in. For reasons I can't do anything about. And that's what annoys me the most.

Sure, I can wait until everyone has dismounted just to make perfectly sure no one pulled any evil drakes along with them. But when the tank engages mobs and goes down low on hp I either have to chose in letting him die right there, or dismount, heal him and hope no evil drakes show up.

This very thing happened to me today. The tank engages second boss, quickly goes down low on hp (he had a not so good gear) and I had to dismount to heal him. Three seconds later two evil drakes show up and start nuking me in the face. We had some ranged who tried to help but that is simply just too much dps for a poor healer to heal, especially when having aggro myself. Wipe, and people leave the group... (I left too and requeued for a random and got Oculus again (!). That run went smooth however and I even got the mount drop in the end! Yay!).

It always annoys me when one persons lack of skill can bring a whole group down. In raids this is of course one of the great obstacles, trying to collect enough skilled people to overcome something. And in a raid setting that is ok, since I can choose who to play with. In a random dungeon however, where everyone is just that - randomly picked, such a game mechanic is just too unforgiving to make it fun. And that is why Oculus sucks so much.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Beyond the Tree

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Every sunday over at WoW.com they link to web comics which are about WoW to some part (many are about other game related stuff too). I usually read most of them, but today I found a comic I hadn't seen before, called Beyond the Tree.

I'm not sure what the artists called, but I think it's Nhani. The comic is made in a graphical style which I usually don't like, using in- game graphics of WoW rather than drawing. But it's used really well in this comic and the artist has done an awesome job with providing with a nice artwork. He (just assuming it's a guy here since some commenters refer to him as "dude") uses a 3D-modeler, making even the scrubby looking graphics of WoW (let's face it, they're old...) look good.

The comic is about two night elfs, Hani and "Tiny", also called Rei. Rei is actually tiny, for a reason I haven't found out yet (haven't read the whole series myself yet), and mostly sits on Hanis shoulder for their adventures, commenting on everything that happens with a sarcastic style.

What I like most of the comic, besides the cool artwork, is that it puts places in WoW, which most WoW-players have visited hundreds of times, in a new and fresh light. If you're interested in some WoW-lore but not in fully reading the quest-text of every quest you come upon, this is definitely the comic for you.

For their first adventure Hani and Rei travel into Blackfathom Deeps, a lowbie-instance in WoW that I've been to countless times. But I never understood what it was all about until I read this comic about it. And it really made the whole instance seem a little more interesting. I'd wish he (the artist) explains every lore aspect of WoW to me in this great, entertaining and easily understandable way! Even makes WoW a little more fun.

You probably need to play WoW to fully enjoy (and understand) the series, but if you have any interest in artwork or the like I recommend checking it out.

You can find it here --> Beyond the Tree

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Authenticator and you

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Me and Love ordered some WoW-account authenticators mid-january and some days ago they finally arrived. I've never been particularly afraid of my account being hacked, I don't surf porn sites (really I don't) or other dubious places of the internets and I regularly change my password which is quite complex (which wouldn't matter to a keylogger though). With the recent increase in hacking of accounts I know you can get scammed even by doing things you've always done though. Maybe an addon over at your favorite addon site has a keylogger? Not impossible. Love insisted on us getting them and I thought why not, they're not expensive and there is only things to gain from using them.

So how does it work?
You get a little paper with your Authenticator, which is quite small (both the paper and the authenticator), which tells you where to go to connect your Authenticator to your account. You can bind several accounts to one authenticator, but not several authenticators to one account. The address on the paper didn't work at all for me though. First I got an error page because I hadn't typed the last "/" in the internet... I mean wtf, who needs the last "/"? But ok, maybe the security around Blizzard pages is so high you simply have to be very very exact when typing the addresses.

When finally getting the page working the asked me to log into my Account Management Page and add my authenticator to my account. But when logging on I got the message that no WoW-account was bound to that login. I got a little worried here since I know fake login screens is one way to snatch your account information. But I had got the address from Blizzard themselves, right? And I had definitely not typed it wrong.

I went over to wow-europe.com instead and logged onto my account as usual. Got into Battle Net and then everything worked like it should.

Using the authenticator itself works really nice. You log onto your WoW-account as usual, with your battlenet username and password and will then be asked to fill in your authenticator code. The code is received simply by clicking the only button there is on the little authenticator and then a 6 digit code will appear which you type in. The code will only be visible for about 10 seconds, so you better memorize it fairly fast. It will also only be valid for about 5 minutes (not sure exactly for how long) which is the reason no authenticator-account has yet been hacked. The password doesn't last long enough for the hacker to get in!

Theoretically it's still possible though. If you're under a targeted attack, where the keylogger sees what you type in real time so to speak, he'll have 5 minutes (or what it is) to log into your account and change your password. He'd also first probably have to remove the authenticator from your account. Tight on time, but doable. No hackers have the amount of time to spend looking at people in real time however, so this happening is very slim.

It's easy to use, cheap and greatly increases the security of your account (and most importantly of course, you get a little Core Hound Pup in game companion pet!), so I recommend getting you an authenticator for your account!