Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Lost Arts of Dungeoning

... a Doofus Award
It's the third week of the Cataclysm.

Heroics are cropping up for most of us, the need to run dungeons becoming more and more important as it's the only source for upgrade drops and reputation for the factions that have upgrades.

But, as you might be experiencing, this is not often very smooth.  I'm trying pretty hard not to get rage-y about it sometimes in game, and I'm still mostly running with friends or guild members. But it's still bothering me when some folks don't quite know what's going on.

So, instead of raging (I reserve the right to do that later, if I feel like it), allow me instead to provide an educational opportunity to present and explain some of the more subtle things going on in a dungeon.  I'm sure that there are players who only grew up playing in weak excuses for Northrend dungeons and have never been confronted with having to do some of this stuff.  I'm sure there are some others who forgot. I'm sure that there are no crappy players who just don't care and still think dungeoning is a chance to show off their dps meters.

Dungeon Marks - Those funny colored marks that sometimes appear over mobs heads... those are "dungeon marks."  At this time, anybody can place marks on mobs' heads in a dungeon using the UI, but generally the tank is doing it.  They are there to indicate an order in which the mobs should be killed, or else to indicate which mobs need to be CC'd (more on that below).  Mostly, tanks will clarify at the beginning of a dungeon run which marks mean which, but there are a few standards. The "skull" mark almost always means "Kill this mob now."  The "X" mark almost always means "Kill this mob after you kill Skull."  The others marks usually indicate which target to use for which CC. "Moon" is often for mage sheeping, Nipple (some people say it's a circle, but we know better) for hunter trap, etc. Again, the tank will generally clarify which is which and that mark will not change for the rest of the dungeon run.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Wrath of the Lich King: Final Review

Whatever hell Arthas has gone to... I hope it is a warm one.

The new expansion is off and running now, all praise be unto the makers. But I wanted to look at the Lich King, one last time to recap what I hope we all learned during the last two years. Point by point, but in no particular order:

Wrath of the Lich King- WIN!
All in all, I was quite entertained throughout this expansion. Arthas and his gaggle of supporters and adversaries were certainly entertaining, and the Lich King was surely the biggest reason I was ever attracted to Warcraft in the first place. Great story!

Dual-Speccing- BIG WIN!
As far as I'm concerned, the all time best mechanic they ever added to the game was this ability to have two ways to play your character. The benefits this will provide for leveling or grinding tanks and healers; the flexibility it provided to raid teams; the new dimensions it adds to the images of our characters; the dimensions it added for PvE and PvP specialization was just outrageously enormous.

Cataclysmic Observation

Fly like an eagle... into the fuuuuture...

I know I'm getting pretty lazy about updating my blog. It's only because I probably spend too much time playing the game right now. A number of the bigger issues that have come along recently are mostly glitchy glitches that are being (slowly) taken care of. But slowly and surely, some new articles are under development. I promise. But for now...

1. Why is there suddenly so much Outland fauna in Azeroth?
This question struck me in Deepholm. On the Crimson Expanse, one Rock Lord or another was giving me crap about how "your world is polluting ours" and pointed to the wandering fungal giants as proof of it. But, wait a second...fungal giants don't come from Azeroth; they are from Outland. Of course, I had also just done battle with a bunch of rockflayers, last seen in Hellfire Peninsula. The Twilight Hammer have themselves a nether drake in Blackrock Caverns, and then, meeting some enslaved Gronn in Grim Batol today sealed it: there's an invasion going on here. The movements of the Twilight Hammer are difficult to trace, but Deathwing has been to Outland. Did he bring back some pets?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Guest Post: Further Reflection on Game Changes

An Adventuring Tunnel: Relish your time in the Maelstrom because you can only come here as a part of a quest, and presently, there is absolutely no way to come back once that quest is done.
[Merinna's Note:  Somaric has been further evolving his comments from last week, regarding the style of questing gameplay that seems to dominate this new expansion.]

I realized that my previous posting was a little incomplete.  The message that I was trying to get across was that the original World of Warcraft was, more of a sandbox environment, in which one could openly explore and find different quests to do from different places. Now, it seems that the Cataclysm addition has taken WoW into an adventuring tunnel. There is only one place to start, and basically one place to finish. And if you lose something along the way, it holds up any progress that you might make. 
What has prompted this examination of the old WoW versus the new WoW is the fact that poor Somaric got disconnected in Vashj’ir.  He lost the quest giver and couldn’t continue with any quests.  A search of almost the entire Vashj’ir area revealed not one unscripted quest.  Nothing.  What is this Night Elf hero to do? 

What Your Worgen Doesn't Know about the Worgen Storyline

And you thought worgen were kind of scary before they wore armor and carried big sharp things.

Spoilers Alert: this article discusses the Horde questing experience from roughly levels 10-20 in the Silverpine Forest. It is heavy on developments of the worgen storyline that are not discoverable by Alliance players. If you expect to play through the Horde quests in this zone, you might have more fun not reading this and discovering it for yourself. Similarly, you would be better off finishing the worgen starting experience before checking this out as well.

Our new worgen brethren will reach Greymane Harbor and be whisked away to Teldrassil by the Night Elves along with Genn Greymane and virtually every other NPC they have met to that point. Their experience in the new zone of Gilneas is complete. Future patches may (hopefully) bring something new, but no Alliance characters have any business in Gilneas after this point in the current content.

The worgen story goes on, however.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Guest Post: First Impressions

Somaric: "Does this helmet make my ears look big?"

[Merinna's Note: Today, I'm happy to bring a guest post from longtime WoW friend, Somaric. He and I both play on the Oceanic realms, so our times represent Australian standard times instead of Blizzards American PST. Please enjoy!]

As a long-time questing sidekick of Merinna, Somaric thought it might be interesting for a first impression posting about the new release, Cataclysm

I seem to be levelling very fast.  I made level 81, yesterday, in about 4 ½ hours.  Most of this was done in Mt Hyjal.   

The realm I play on was locked up on the 7th, so I didn’t get to do anything except gain my Azeroth riding skill. Consequently, I got up early the next day.  

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

And They're Off!


I dunno what to say. Cataclysm is here and everybody I know is much to busy hitting the slopes of Mt. Hyjal to do anything like raid or whatever. Which is just as well.

First thoughts going into the real thing from Beta.

I've got a gut feeling that the dungeons got nerfed at the last moment. It was way incomplete at the time, but Throne of Tides was much harder to heal in beta than it was last night. And I was 82 at the time I did it in beta. It was my first go into Blackrock Caverns today, and I dps'd (woo-hoo! Fun!), but apart from some malarky with boss mechanics, it was not overwhelming. Our tank even made some bad pulls, yanking in some trash on the second boss and that didn't stop anybody. I am feeling a tad disappointed, but reserve judgment for now.

Where the hell do Cocoa Beans come from? If you follow that link back, you'll see that Wowhead has no idea. Allakhazam doesn't know either. Nor does Crafter's Tome. Wowpedia? No. Wowwiki? No. Google only brings back forum posts demanding the same question, that has no answer. It's the biggest mystery in WoW today. To hell with DW and his machinations, I just want some beans so I can make some Starfire Espresso for that sweet, sweet, mana-rich taste. If anybody knows, post a comment please!

For my unofficial WoW Soundtrack of the Cataclysm, I've adopted Zoe Keating's song "Escape Artist" as the theme song. This song just stirs ideas of epic things afoot, journeys to be made and hits of tragedies to come.  Keating is using her "one cello" technique. That whole video is being played live with no back track or anything. That computer next to her takes samples of her playing and then loops them, and then she uses foot pedals to switch between loops while building on top of them as she continues playing.  Awesome.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Double Secret Reverse Psychology


This comic is the most current posting which was pretty good. But then I  read through their back collection and just about died laughing at just about every one of them. Great writing, and some really good artwork too. It's a must read!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Gimme dat Cataclysmic Gear!

It's not for endgame, but they now have hunters' rifles that look more like goblin RPGs!

How is your gear? All oiled up and polished and ready to go? I know it mine is. I wanted to talk a bit about what the gear will be like climbing to 85 based on my observations in Beta.

Levels 80-82: the Vash'jir or Mt. Hyjal zones will be equalizers. If you have gear from 25-man ICC (and perhaps from heroic 10-man ICC) then you probably won't upgrade too much of your gear. If your gear is hovering around ilevel 251 or lower, then you'll be switching up fast. By the time people are finishing either of these first two zones, they should all be looking a lot alike in terms of gear power, if not fashions. The average gear score you'll have after these zones will probably be around ilevel 289, not a big jump from ICC gear.

One of the general things you find with quest greens is that none will ever be as well-rounded as what you're already wearing. Spiffy Tier 10 gear has a bit of everything your class and spec needs to get ahead in the world. And if not, then it has two or three gem slots to close the gap.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

When is Racialism Racist?

racism |ˈrāˌsizəm|  - noun
  • the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, esp. so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.
  • prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on such a belief
racialism |ˈrā sh əˌlizəm| - noun
  • another term for racism.

I was reading a piece of commentary about J.R.R Tolkien this past weekend that dropped something on me that I hadn't really thought of before. Tolkein might be regarded as "racialist" in the way that he attributes specific characteristics to the different races that populate his Middle-Earth.  "Dwarves really like material goods. Hobbits are fat and kind of lazy." Even the different lines of men have their good qualities and bad qualities based largely on "bloodline," which makes it seem like something of a eugenics observation.

Before we proceed any further, let me state that Tolkein was no racist. He vocally opposed anti-Semitism, Adolf Hitler (who he called a "ruddy little ignoramus") and the Nazi Party. He once commented on racial segregation in South Africa, saying "The treatment of colour nearly always horrifies anyone going out from Britain." Scholars have noted that any latent racism of his early writings became fairly consciously repudiated in his later work.

Racism is one of those huge topics that I can't begin to address in a thousand words or so, so I won't try except to note that "Racism is bad." Beat that for succinct.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Raiders' Guide to Leveling in Cataclysm

The future is just over that horizon. No, the other one... to the right.

Here is some advice about the progression to level 85 that I think will be good for raiders to keep in mind for the way we play.

1. Run Dungeons
Raiders do this anyway, but the dungeon paradigm has changed so much from what it was in Wrath of the Lich King, and we have had no real opportunity to test ourselves in five-man content for some time. Learn all these fights on normal for when we come back on heroic. Besides, you want the drops. You can also accrue Justice Points for lvl 85 gear. The 4000 JP cap in place now will let you buy about a piece and a half of gear, so I seriously hope it will be removed or raised when leveling starts.

2. Hit your cooking/fishing/JC dailies from the start.
You'll need special currencies to advance your skills here, so try to get started collecting that stuff as soon as possible. All three of these quest givers lurk out on the canals in Stormwind. Admittedly, I don't think you'll get raid buff goodies out of fishing, however, I'm not sure I have found a recipe for anything other than fish. And you'll get skill points for completing that daily, at least.

We Don't Want Zombies on the Lawn

You know you want to say it. Do it! Do it!!  Brrrraaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnss

In the fun trivia section of Patch 4.0.3a, all comers ought to head out to the Hillsbradt Foothills, about halfway north, towards Dalaran Crater, to the small farmstead of a goblin named Braxie the Botanist.

Braxie is friendly to all comers, even though the Alliance has been totally run out of the zone, and he asks for your help protecting his home from hordes of zombies, ghouls, and other assorted undead. These undead seem to be originating from a nearby Foresaken encampment where the local apothecary officials have gone even a bit more freakish than usual.

When you take Braxie's quests, you shift into a new phase with a sort of top down view locked in and you use seeds Braxie has given you to plant a variety of growing things that attack oncoming zombies. And...


Is this starting to sound familiar?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What's the Recipe for a Cataclysm, anyway?

Warning: Herein lie major spoilers, based largely on my experience in beta, but including elements of Christine Golden's The Shattering, and a handful of developer notes, Blizzcon comments, and other gleaned facts.

The world has changed, and there are a lot of questions about this but most important are "Why? And How?"  (You know you are asking these. Don't pretend otherwise!)

All signs point to Deathwing but it's not really that simple. He is at the root of all this for sure, but the damage to our world comes from four separate (though related) problems.

Please follow the jump if you wish to pursue this question with me.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bad Habits Begone!!

The time is short! The Cataclysm is coming! It is now time to get ready for real challenge again! But before we do that, there are a lot of bad habits we have gotten from Northrend that need to be put away.

1. Never, ever ever pull aggro off the tank.
Today, a mage could burst open his AoE four seconds before the tank pulls and it just doesn't matter. The mobs would die in the next few seconds, armor has far outpaced a mob's ability to really hurt the wearer, and the healer had almost all the time in the world to prevent that sort of death.  No more. When you go to the Throne of Tides in Vash'jir, and pull aggro, you are dead the moment that mob turns away from the tank. The mob is going to pound you to within an inch of your life, and even if the healer can pause from protecting the tank, he isn't going to get his heal on you before the mob hits you a second, fatal time.

2. Stop jumping around.
Positioning mobs is going to be more important, especially when CC is involved. A lot of tanks have become somewhat glib about how they simply charge into a fight and you see them bouncing up and down because we all know that the only thing more fun than playing WoW, is playing WoW when you are constantly hitting your jump button. As a corollary to this, melee dps will do better numbers if they are not bouncing as well, and should never, ever do that PvP movement thing where you continually circle your mob, pretending that you can get it dizzy or something.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Where's the Mana at?

Three Faces of Merinna: Hardcore, Hardcorer, Hardcorest

Well, gentle readers, we are but three weeks away from The Cataclysm. And I have been confused about mana. Like, "Why am I not running out of it?"

Individual heals still seem slower and somewhat weaker, but those "mana problems" I've been writing about did not materialize in 4.0.1. I played like I will on day one of Cataclysm and was healing more conservatively than was necessary and, ahem, not getting the job done.

But really, I've been reading Elitist Jerks and other blogs about these problems and I'm not the only one who has come to see our Healing Surge as too expensive to use on anything less than an emergency. Nevertheless, one can spam it for all it's worth in heroic ICC fights today and still come up smelling like roses. Telluric Currents is fooling people into thinking it's useful because it actually returns mana. Why? How is this happening?

It's the Little Things... (part 4)

Surf's up for Orlanna and Thrall in the Maelstrom

Beware The Maelstrom
Actually, don't beware. It's actually one of the all time coolest scenes I have ever seen in this game to date. Thing is, you can only go there once.  Teleportation to this spot where you can meet Thrall and his new squeeze is only available via a quest giver. Once you finish that quest, you cannot get another port back. Nor is there any other transportation method to reach it. So, my advice is, when you stop by on the way to Deepholme, take some snapshots and spend a few minutes looking around.

Friday, November 12, 2010

World of Warcraft: How to Win at Guilds

Machinima break!  I just sat here for about 10 minutes thinking about how I should introduce this, and then it dawned on me that it's probably really not necessary. Wowcrendor is always fun. And the "Go!Go!Go!Go!" guy returns.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Flame On!! Maging it Up, Post-Patch 4.0

One day soon, my mage will kill this guy. In the meantime, we
just take pictures while sitting in his lap. Take that, Arthas!!

My main alt, Eridar has been busy the past few weeks. Her little 10-man Raid that Could has been working on the Lich King fight. We've had the same lockout for about three weeks and it's all getting better and better. I think we might kill him before Dec. 7.

But in the midst of all this is trying to hit hard as a mage and not pull aggro. Easy, right?

Hmm, it depends.

I specced up in fire, right off, because I have been and remain fairly excited about that talent tree. Living Bomb, mana-free Scorching on the run, Impact and Cauterize... What's not to like about those?

The fire tree is pretty heavy on DoTs. The super-new version of Combustion is the mark of that. But what I hadn't entirely picked up is how AoE-rampant the fire specc is.

The first week put of the gate, I start pounding Arthas with fireballs and the lucky pyroblast too. I renew Living Bomb, get an impact procc, and...

... half the ghouls and a Shambling Horror come over, knock me on my head, and I fall down. Ouch. The OT said he fumbled the taunt when that happened, so we tried it all a few more times, but basically, it had the same effect: a lot of adds, angry at me.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The History of the World Part 1

"What a Wonderful World..."
Back in the days when the rivers and seas of Azeroth ran vanilla, all was not well.

There were blustery fire elementals fighting with black dragons over real estate. There were no-good, two-bit trolls trying to bring their death god out to play. The formerly greatest of kingdoms, Lordaeron, lay in shambles, being fought over by rival gangs of undead. And deep in the south, some gnarly old evil tried taking on the world with his ... insects.

Many of the old heroes of the world, Malfurion Stormrage or King Varian Wrynn for example, were "indisposed." Jaina Proudmoore and Thrall were busy nation-building. King Magni Bronzebeard of the dwarves was throwing a conniption fit over how his daughter ran off with some guy, and Sylvanas of the Forsaken was playing with her chemistry set.

Most of the "big" dangers of Azeroth were relatively local in scale. I don't recall that Tyrande Whisperwind ever made any big concern over whatever they were up to in Blackwing Lair. Similarly, you could have probably quizzed Magni Bronzebeard about the A'quir and he would have given you a blank look.

Perhaps as a result of this lack of focus, the evils were put down but not really destroyed. The fact that we have Netharion, Ragnaros, Cho'gall and others returning after the Cataclysm only proves this. "Vanilla WoW was just a setback!!"

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Lessons for the Elemental Invasion that We Should Have Learned from the Undead Invasion

Panic on the streets of Stormwind, Panic on the streets of Ironforge.
And I wonder to myself, will anything be sane again?
The Elements of Azeroth are getting frisky! Doomsday cults are running through the cities! Dogs and cats lying together! Mass hysteria! This can only mean one thing: It's time for the world event! Woo Woo!

I can't think about all this starting up without thinking about the last time it happened: two years ago, when the Lich King pulled his "Plague-the-Grain-and-Turn-Everybody-to-Zombies" routine. And for a few days it was utterly super-fun madness with two scoops of awesome on top.

But, the event wasn't entirely smooth and a lot of this was due to player reaction to the events, a few small glitches with the implementation, and some clashes between how players were "playing" with the event.

I know I learned a few thing from that, and I'm pretty sure Blizzard did too. So, following are some lessons learned from the Zombie Invasion that will probably help us weather the Elemental Invasion.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Taurajo Affair

If you ask me, Tauarajo doesn't look that different from what it did before it was sacked.
WARNING: Mild spoilers and serious Horde-bashing within

The Southern Barrens has turned into one of the most war-torn places in Azeroth. Unlike in Ashenvale, where the Horde is running rampant over Night Elf forces for the most part, The Alliance in the Barrens is fighting back.

(Ostensibly, this zone is an Alliance offensive. So I guess you could say the Horde is fighting back. But you get the point)

There is one key event in the Southern Barrens that supposedly shows the moral murkiness of war, that the Alliance is not purely "good" nor that the Horde is all "bad." The story is different, depending on which side of the conflict you are listening to, since we don't get to view the event itself.

But now I have played through both sides of this conflict, and I find the moral positions of the Alliance and the Horde much more solid than I was originally led to believe.

The event of course, is the sacking of the Taurajo.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Evolution of a Scene

Tyrande and Greymane having a powwow at the Howling Oak in Darnassus

I had an interesting sight into little details of the game in development today.

Last night, I had been playing around in the Beta and I had taken my character to Darnassus and the new "Worgen Tree" the druids made for the Gilnean people. Genn Greymane is there now (I'll have to go doublecheck if he is also still visiting Varian Wrynn as he was before).

I was just about to log out when Tyrande Whisperwind walked up. Tyrande doesn't get out very much, so I thought this might be interesting.  What followed was one of those little color scenes Blizzard puts in certain places.

Monday, October 25, 2010

It's the Little Things... (part 3)

In beta, there are now Griffon riding guards flying over Stormwind. I'm sure this is related to the widespread concerns about Horde in our airspace. Unfortunately, these guards didn't do anything when a troll druid flew by.  Maybe it's a work in progress still. They have made a lot more invites to beta, so every time I go in recently, there is some loser with nothing better to do than try to menace people from the air in Stormwind. I am so going to lose it if that is happening on Dec. 7.

A very irritating bug has made it into live servers with patch 4.0.1.  NPC names cannot be completely turned off. There is a setting for this in your interface panel, but quest-related NPCs still have neon red names floating over their heads. This especially bugs me because the only names I usually turn on are Horde Player names so that I can see them turn red and become a danger to me if that's what they are going to do. Now, I go a-questing and I'm surrounded by red names that leave me highly at unease. One might get used to this. But the control is there, Blizzard just needs to fix it.

State of the Game: October 26

Scheiße! It's a mess, isn't it?!

I finally got my Internet connection restored last Saturday night.  It's a bad week for me, work-wise right now. I don't have as much time to play as I would like, so my exploration is a bit limited. But a lot of what is going on is expected, and a lot of it isn't.

I don't need to recount a list of problems with the game right now. There are many, of course. There are still tons of broken add-ons too. And there are a lot of characters I'm not sure how to play right now.

A couple of things though sorta surprise me:

What I Wanted to Know from the Lore Panel

Alex Afrasiabi and Chris Metzen try to not answer too many questions at the lore panel
Watching the lore panel this weekend, I sensed that there is a fine line Blizzard walks every time they do one of those things. There are relatively few questions one could ask that Metzen and Afrisabi would be willing to answer.

Spoiler Questions - Most of the unknown story is stuff we will see in the near future and they are not going to give that away.

Questions about favorite characters, like "Are you going to bring Illidan back?" The devs look at each other, cause they know the answer in Warcraft is that anybody could come back, but that one is not really under consideration.

Completely random questions that nobody ever thought about, like, "What clan does Saurfang belong to?" I think it's an interesting question, but as Metzen put it in that case: "Blackrock. As of ten seconds ago, it's Blackrock."

So, let's imagine that I up and flew my butt down to Anaheim and forced all the others out of the way so that I could ask the Lore Questions. This is what I would have asked:

"I'm a Libra. I like long walks on the beach, drinking gin, and nerfing paladins."

They do have a really good sign for Blizzcon, at least

Greg Street, aka Ghostcrawler had all the best lines from Blizzcon this past weekend. Another good one was, "How about that alchemy mount? I'm sure everybody wants to mount their friends."

Not the best line, but the most important perhaps:

"We're in an unusual position in that it's about a month before shipping and you guys know just about everything we know about the game."

Which is a neat summation of why Blizzcon this weekend was a bit...less exciting than the others I have watched.

Really, there is no news left. I have a theory that they were saving the cinematic for the opening ceremonies, but then a leak was detected and Blizz pulled the trigger on Monday rather than let it get away from them.

But yeah, it was a pretty low-information convention, I think. I have yet to go back and check out the Diablo and Starcraft panels, but I don't think they got anything new either.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Doh! Modem on Fire!

Well, it didn't burn, but it may as well have.

Tuesday night, I was downloading the 4.0.1 patch, and actually writing another blog piece when all of my Internet-related applications started coughing and sputtering and dropping their connections.  The modem died.

Unfortunately, as I may have noted before (I honestly can't remember), I am a foreigner living in an East Asian country, so engaging Internet providers in matters of customer service is about twice as hard as it should be. Either I have to fight with foreign vocabulary that I'm not sure about, or I have to persuade somebody I know to talk on the phone with me.

And, of course, the company has totally mastered the art of bureaucratic screwing with you. I mustered my resources to make another follow up call Friday evening, and was basically told, "OK, great! Now, you need to call this different number. And oh, by the way, this number is only available Monday through Friday from 9 to 5. Haha, you are so screwed."

Yeah, it's like that. It's probably a good thing that I have never learned to curse in the local language.

So, I am just crushed that, presently, I have not been able to try patch 4.0.1. Nor do I have any ETA for when my home internet service will be restored.  I hear the patch is scaring the crap out of everybody in general, with bugs and all. But, with no home service, I can't even really read about it. Only so long I can stare at my iPhone using the mini-Safari.

Sigh, so. I'm hoping that this will get fixed sooner than later, but I'm trying to temper any sense of optimism since the ISP seems bent of crushing every sliver of it.  At this point, I hope that I have my gear replaced in time to catch the Blizzcon feed next weekend.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

'Everything that can possibly go wrong will go wrong'

It's Murphy's Law: the ultimate expression of the perversity of nature and human endeavor. First used by shipping agents in 1877, and finally named from one of a few possible Murphys in the United States Air Force, It has hundreds of corollaries from "It only rains on my day off," to "The milk's expiration date will always be the day before you check it."

Needless to say, Murphy's Law extends to raiding in World of Warcraft as well! I consider these truths to be self-evident:
  • Whatever loot drops from a boss will be exactly perfect for the alt you didn't bring to the raid.
  • That loot will always get sharded.
  • Whenever you /roll a 100 for a piece of loot, the item will be uncontested.
  • Furthermore, you will never /roll 100 on a piece of loot that is a fantastic upgrade for you.
  • You will always be targeted by the boss with a CC effect or a debuff requiring your action to manage just as soon as you pop your trinkets and major cool downs.

A Word about The Blog


I just wanted to take a brief moment and say how things are going here:

I have slowed down writing just a little bit in the past two weeks for a couple of reasons. One: I'm just a wee little bit close to game burnout and trying to just relax a bit until Cataclysm comes out. And Two: I keep having small problems with my posts.

Recently, a lot of stupid formatting things happen. Like, all my new paragraphs disappear. Or, adding captions to a picture throws everything off into chaos.

But, as a result, I have a number of mostly-written pieces that are not published because the formatting has gotten so hopelessy scrambled.  Also, blogging just becomes less fun in general when you sit down to do it and then get bogged down in technical details. But, I'll keep plugging at that stuff and one of these days, I'll either figure it out or apply myself to finding better workarounds.

The other thing on my mind today is readers: I get to see the readership and, I mean, it's not huge, but it's not non-existent either. Which makes me very happy. I wasn't planning on becoming the Hawt Blawg of WoW or anything (yet. When that becomes my main goal, I'll rename this site "The Hawt Blawg of WoW" so you'll know)

But I just wanted to urge folks to write comments if they like. I would LOVE to engage in discussion here with folks who enjoy playing WoW.  Few things would make me happier.

The other aspect to me calling for comments is that some of my in-game friends read the blog, and then they want to debate me about stuff in-game. And like, y'know, if I'm in-game, I'm probably busy playing the game. It's always a hoot when somebody whispers up to say "Hey! Cool article!" but I can't talk about release dates or debate Telluric Currents at the same time I'm working on the Lich King.

So. That's all I wanted to say. Take care and see ya next time.

Shaman Heals: T-minus Two Months and Counting

Well, we are getting really close now. A date has been announced and even more jarringly, Patch 4.0 is probably just around the corner ("around the corner" = "next week") How is Shaman Healing coming along?

Healing feels sluggish. Heals are smaller than on live, and they have overall longer cast times. Characters also have much larger health pools than they did before, so it's fairly common to drop around a 15k heal on someone and it barely seems to make their health bar move. The fact that most of my recent experience has been in ICC with a 30% buff probably makes all this feel worse than it really is.

Focused Insight
Sigh. There's no avoiding this talent. A 30% buff to a heal is just too large to ignore. But I don't think it is going to be featured in standard rotation. The logistics of it are just too unwieldy. Shamans also have no lack of spells we can cast that have buff effects on the next spell. Unleashed Elements buffs 20%. Tidal Waves leaves behind haste buffs. Riptide creates all sorts of bonus goodness when used next to a chain heal. So, keeping all these short-CD, augmentation effects in constant play is probably going to be an overwhelming juggling experience.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Hey! Look who I ran into in Orgrimmar!

Gravy has become a bartender in Orgrimmar's Valley of Honor, which is altogether fairly reasonable.

I did leave a beta note for the developers:

"This vendor should be out where the Alliance can meet him too, and one of the items he sells should be tacos. I'm sure everybody wants to /s It is Taco Time!"

Thursday, October 7, 2010

4.0.1 To-Do List: You Are Not Prepared!

Unless something mighty funky happens, one week from now, WoW Patch 4.0.1 will be upon us. This includes all the changes to just about everything in the World of Warcraft that doesn't include new content.

Here is a short list of some of the things changing:
  • New launcher
  • New gem stats
  • New glyphs
  • New stats
  • New abilities
  • New 31-point talent trees
  • New gear
  • Reforging
Pretty much everything you know about your character now is changing.
But, there's a week left. Time enough to get prepared. To that end, here is my to-do list:

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Jesus Christ was a Shaman!

The biggest thing we have in common: We both have the power to blow yo' mind!
Please don't get offended at me for the comparison. There is no disrespect intended towards anyone or anyone's beliefs. I just get a smile on my face when I think about stuff like this. What would George Bush be if he were in WoW? A ret paladin if you ask me (and probably a Belf, too). Barack Obama? A warrior tank. How about Julia Roberts? I think she'd roll a Night Elf Hunter--a little exotic, but still just a hunter. 

But what about the big man, JC himself? 

A shaman. Totally. Just like me and William Shatner.

Let's do the list!

  • Cure Disease?               Check
  • Drive out evil spirits?   Check
  • Walk on water?             Check*
  • A spiritual leader of the people?         Check
  • Cause people to rise from the dead?   Check
  • Cause oneself to rise from the dead?  You know it, baby!

*Levitate is not the same thing, so priests can go levitate off a cliff if they want to raise that point. Death knights, don't even get started that Path of Frost makes you Christ-like.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Release Date Shuffle!

There's been all sortsa speculation about when Cataclysm is coming out. Here is just a quick rundown of the sources and what I think of their liklihood for the moment. and Other Retailers
Amazon widely reported that they would be distributing pre-orders of Cataclysm around November 23. A few days later, I and another 14 million people received an e-mail saying that it would be early January.

I know all these people who go to Gamestop and say that the release date is printed there, or who know somebody who know somebody at EB Software that says "blahblahblah"  but experience shows that there is no way the retailers ever know this stuff with any accuracy before the WoW community. There are too many people in WoW following this one detail extremely closely, whereas EB and Gamestop are probably more concerned about the next Splinter Cell sequel, among 1,000 other titles they are handling.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Visiting the Throne of Tides

I broke down and took Merinna to her first dungeon finally. My curiosity about the challenge level of new healing mechanics got the better of me and i just had to go see for myself. It was educational experience. I'll write healing specific observations in another post, since I have a lot to note about that

The biggest impression I got from The Throne of Tides was how utterly tiny it is. Minuscule. Itty-bitty. There's a hallway with an elevator at the end that leads to ... another hallway. You meet the first boss at the end of that second hallway and additional bosses appear as you make your way back to the entrance. The hallway peeks out into a larger watery world, but the place still feels a bit claustrophobic. Truthfully, it seemed a little like the elevator is only there to provide the impression that the environmental artists had something to do.

The State of Our Cities

Now, if only they could get rid of this smog  ...
Blizzard pulled a fast one on us this week by removing the city portal hubs from Shattrath and Dalaran. No longer shall we be setting our hearthstones to these neutral cities for the benefit of centralized teleportation abilities.

I'm honestly not looking forward to a three stage travel itinerary to reach most places in Kalimdor, but I kinda appreciate the logic of sending people back to the old world for real right now. Blizzard has said they want the cities to feel lived in and populated, but to do that, they needed to take out the neutral city hubs. I can understand that.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Mer is riding the shark, not jumping it! Riding it!

So, You Think You Can Dance? (part 2)

Back in this post over here, I tried to suggest that raiding is a lot like dancing. Please feel free to go check it out if you didn't have the opportunity before!  I'm very proud of that one.

But in order to get this piece rolling, I need sum that one up a little: You have got to mind the choreography of the raid to be able to accomplish anything, and thinking about it as a dance helps me a lot.

I want to take that analogy a little deeper though.  In addition to keeping up with the choreography, you need to be on top of you own rhythm.

Friday, September 24, 2010


I can't decide which is funnier, that the Stormpike dwarves would use this as "camouflage"
as they close in on Tarren Mill, or that the denizens of the Mill hadn't noticed.


Actually, I'll write more posts as soon as
I stop having fun riding my new sea horsey
all over Vashj'ir.

I couldn't take it anymore and sent Merinna into new territory and have brought her to level 82. There has been so much forum discussion about how much the healing mechanics are changing that I had to go see for myself. So, expect some up-coming posts about the new content after all.

My first impressions of the undersea realm of Vashj'ir: The zone is pretty honking huge. And it is layered and very vertical. This makes it a little tricky to find things since what you are looking for might be on the sea bottom, or it might be sitting on one of the four ledges that jut out over your head. So a little patience is required.  You do get some help in navigating, however: Merinna's sea horse there is a full blown new mount (that only works in Vashj'ir) but you can jump on him and move about at epic-flying like speeds. And you get that sea horse in the first 10 quests or so.

You also have the fairly well documented "Sea Legs" spell which allows you to skip across the sea floor at a semi-normal speed.

The first few areas that you go through don't look terribly exciting really. There is sea bottom, and a fair number of shipwrecks. But as you go deeper into the realm, much more incredible things rise up out of the murk to surprise you. So, the whole place is well worth exploring!

The Horde and its Politics (part 2)

Naralie went on a brief quest on behalf of Tarren Mill that piqued my curiosity:

She was sent to Alterac Valley (the entrance anyway) for a meeting with Drek'thar about bringing the Frostwolf clan to the defense of Tarren Mill. The conversation that followed was very interesting.

Drek'thar refused to come defend the Forsaken, saying that for all the terible things he has done, he faces remorse and recrimination, but that the Forsaken feel nothing and that the atrocities they bring to the world are far worse than anything the old Horde could have done.

This is an orc who had done horrible things under the leadership of Gul'dan, was ostracized be the old Horde but became significant again, having reconnected with the elemental spirits as a shaman, and as one of the first mentors of Thrall.

Today, he does not speak for the ruling elite of the Horde. I bet that he and Garrosh would come to blows over issues of honor pretty darn quickly. But refusing to aid the Forsaken like this is a pretty severe rebuke of the Horde's status quo.

It's kind of exciting. Every clue I find about how the Horde is doing points to massive unrest if not a flat out civil war between the races of the Horde. I'm dying to see where this is all going to lead.

As a side note: It's been a little while since I was last in Alterac Valley, but I don't remember Drek'thar being blind or riding a wheelchair. In fact, I think he was pretty healthy and tried to murder me with a large stick.  Is this story progressing too?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Is Flintlocke in the Game?!?

Merinna was at Stormwind Harbor, looking for a way to return to Vashj-ir and not finding much of anything, when something caught my eye:

A plane. It is one of these typical "plane" models that we have seen flying all over Northrend for a while now: Mostly yellow with orange highlights. But these things have only been on rails to date. You get in one at Valguard and it takes you to an Explorer's league outpost. Or, you fly around in one for various reasons in Icecrown.  But here was one flying into Stormwind. And, um, flying badly.

I tried to click on it to see what it was, but it would fall and then climb again. Really, it was behaving like somebody experiencing lag on a mount. But I finally got my cursor on it and targetted and then I checked my raid panels to see what it was:

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Snapshots from Betaland

Naralie had an encounter with the Kirin Tor recently.  There were many of the sorts of mobs there that you might expect: warders who carry shield and sword, watchers who are offensive casters. And witchaloks. Witchaloks?  What is a witchalok? There is clearly meant to be a reference to "warlock" with a name like that. And these mobs are all female.  I wasn't really paying attention at first to whatever I was ganking and then the witchalok started talking:

"Tremble in fear as I call forth the mighty Doomskull!" she said. And sure enough, a large yappy skull with pink particle highlights appeared and started circling around. Not attacking anything, much less me, just circling around. "Behold the sheer size of it! Are you not afraid, mortal? Have you ever witnessed doom of this magnitude?"

A Quick Visit with the Warlocky Ones

My warlock looks nothing like this.
This image is here to distract you so
she can still sneak up behind you and
steal your soul.

I made a little time to slip my warlock character over to the beta this past week to get a feel for what is going on there.

No More Soulshards? Meh.
This is the big new mechanic of the warlock this expansion. No longer must one carry around tons of little pink glass shards in one's bag, soulshards now just kind of disappear into your ui. There is a cute indicator showing if you have 1-3 of them available.  Whoopee! I have more inventory room now!

My lack of enthusiasm comes from the fact that I don't see a lot of regular use for them. Soulshards now have no other purpose than to be consumed by the Soulburn spell, which augments certain other spells in the warlock's arsenal. And the effects are all pretty strictly utilitarian.  They have made two different methods to regain your three soulshards fairly easily. I just lack imagination, I guess, to see how I'm going to need three soulshards with any regularity.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mark Your Calendars

You know you want this too
Yesterday, Boubouille, the writer/instigator/sage of went on record saying he is expecting a Nov. 2 release for Cataclysm. There are very few in the greater WoW community who I would listen to as for these sorts of predictions, but Boubouille is one of them.

Boubouille described his estimate primarily from what sounds like his inside sources, and backed that up by saying that the pre-Cataclysm event that started last week, (Operation Gnomeregan, and whatever they call that thing the Trolls are up to) had started according to the schedule he had heard. He also indicated that further pre-Cataclysm events should occur in 2-4 weeks.

But, and I stress this as muh as Boubouille does: Anything can yet happen. Blizzard is good at delaying product, so that may yet happen. However, even if it's not right on Nov. 2, I think that general neighborhood is pretty likely right now. BlizzCon is happening on Oct. 23, I suspect that a release date will be well established by that time. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Archaeology Is Here

Your friend and partner in archaeology: a surveyor's scope
The new profession Archaeology made its debut in the most recent beta build as well.  I started to write a thorough how-to of this new profession and then thought better of it. Other sources will do that better than I can. When I bump into a good link I'll throw that up as well. So, instead I cut to my first impressions.

  • Fun!
  • But only fun. There is nothing here that is going to make or break the game for you.
  • This is totally a profession to work on when you are waiting around for people to show up to a raid, or when you're just chatting with folks online and don't want to get too wrapped up in anything really serious.
  • One thing I especially kind of enjoy because it takes a fair amount of stress out of things: Archaeology nodes are not shared. No one can ninja your node. There might be a despicable blood elf paladin digging in the same spot as you, but he's going to find what he is looking for and you will find yours. They are totally different.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The New Deal for Flying

You know you want these.

The latest beta build has a number of changes to the flying system:
  • Old Weather Flying - (Really named Azerothian Navigation) So, it is going to cost you to use your flying mount in the Old World after all. It's 250 gold (200 with exalted SW reputation). That really is pretty well chump change, so no big worries. You can pick this up at level 60 however, but I think I read that if you don't have a Burning Crusade expansion, then you are not eligible for this.

New Beta Build, New Shaman Changes

A new Beta build with many many talent changes has come out. Of course I skipped past everything to see the shaman's restoration tree: (please pardon my attempt to make "blue text" like what the developers always post with. I started trying to work it out with a stylesheet and then didn't really get close and just gave up. You can sill read it just fine).

Tidal Waves no longer affects Lesser Healing Wave. Now affects Healing Surge.
Improved Water Shield no longer affects Lesser Healing Wave. Now affects Healing Surge.

Okay, but what is Healing Surge? Meh, it's just LHW with a new name. I'm not sure why they bothered. All this means is that I have to change a few macros..

Telluric Currents is now a Tier 5 talent, down from Tier 6.
Improved Cleanse Spirit now a Tier 4 talent, down from Tier 5.
Nature's Blessing is now a Tier 3 talent, down from Tier 5.
Nature's Guardian is now a Tier 2 talent, down from Tier 4.

Moving all this stuff down the tree is making a leaner, meaner healing tree, I think. The reviled Telluric Currents is still nicely marginalized with other talents you can take in its new tier. So is Nature's Guardian. But a lot of the talent choices feel easier than they did before.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Lions and Tigers and ... Bears? Oh, my!

The Cenarion Circle is going to have to relax its dress code.
Worgen druid bears look freaking weird. With the yellow eyes, wild hair and teeth going in all directions, it seems to me that they were trying to capture wild fury of the bear, but ended up with a sense of sheer, roiling insanity. This isn't a wild bear, this is a psychopathic bear. He's ready to tank a monster, or a bunny, or his healer or even a wall perhaps. Whatever catches his eye first.

And then I bumped into a Ziggy Stardust bear... er, I mean, a troll druid bear.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Erm? Is That All?

Just a quick note about live realms for now:

Gosh, I just can't quite find the words to describe the letdown I feel about the whole "Operation Gnomeragon" event.

This particular event has been hyped for a long long time now. I guess I was expecting a series of daily quests, defeating leper gnomes on the surface, preparing the war machine. Maybe a chance to drive those spider tanks! That would have been cool. And... don't you get the sense that maybe they were originally planning it that way? We get to test the spider tanks, shoot at some targets, and then ... nothing.  That quest planting radiation detectors from the flying machine just smells like a repeatable quest.

Alright, so... well, we are still going to retake the city in a fight to the finish with Mechengineer Thermaplugg! YAAAH GO! Woot, kill the tanks! Waste the troggs! Oh no it's a bomb! I was having a great laugh about the dialogue going up to that point. High Tinker Mekkatorque beating on the bomb with a hammer, and then we get teleported back to IF and ... "#$%&$%&#!!111one" That's all? Phhhht.

I'm trying not to mention this, but it's going to just come out anyway: The whole assault on the city glitched out twice for me trying to get it done too. I can tell that this is a widespread problem on the event from what other players were saying.

It seems to me that Blizzard has alluded to the fact that this is not the only "pre-cataclysm" event we can expect, so maybe there is some fun coming yet. But seriously, Blizz... ya dropped the ball on this one.

So, You Think You Can Dance?

C'mon, Daddy-o! It's the Jets Raiding the Sharks!

How to Raid is such a loaded topic and I don't mean to bring it up as a way of yelling at nubs or chastising the people who make a PuG Eye of Eternity impossible to accomplish. So often, though when you get to a new fight with a group you don't usually run with, a large part of the raid is going, "This is easy! Why can't you people do what you are told?"

There is often some ego in statements like that, but sometimes I think the problem is experienced raiders being unable to communicate what it is they do to players with less experience or skill.

I do not want to hold myself out as a skillful, experienced raider telling everyone how it is done. I just want to offer a new way to look at a raid fight that might help.

Raiding is like a large movie musical dance production.

Raiding requires a sense of rhythm: doing certain actions at a certain point in time often in tandem with the other dancers/raiders in your group. In a fight against a WoW boss, or in a stage production of West Side Story, unless everybody sticks to the same basic choreography, the whole thing is going to end up with some broken bodies lying on the floor. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Enter the Mage!

Don't mess with the 'Dar!
Eridar has come to the Beta.

Merinna has almost always been my main, but if I had a "main alt" (and I have many alts), it would be Eridar the draenei mage.

I'm still sticking to my guns about not letting myself discover too much about the new content between 80 and 85, but I want to learn more about the talent and ability changes for more of the classes I like to play. And besides, I can copy several chars to the beta server, so why not!

There has also been a problem in that all of my low-level beta chars, like Naralie and Winklestein, have disappeared into "crash" zones. Which is to say that I log onto them, they stand there for a few seconds, and then the entire client crashes.

So Eridar is here. My first impressions of the high level mage?


New Glyphs

The gylph artwork might benefit from a lil more variety too.
In the most recent beta build, the new glyph system came online.

Most of the details about this are pretty well documented and haven't varied much from what was advertised.

  • There are three levels of glyphs: major, minor, and prime
  • If you go down to the AH and buy a glyph, you read it once and then you know it for all time. You will never need to buy another.
  • The Glyph UI system lists every glyph you could possibly use, but lights up the glyphs you have learned. So, it is possible to be very specific about what you can use and what you need to complete your glyph collection.
  • You can change any of your glyphs at any time, in any place, so long as you are not in combat.

Some of the details are becoming more apparent, however, as we look at the system:
  • Minor glyphs are just what they always were, fun, cosmetic, mosly inconsequential.
  • Major glyphs seem to be existing for talent abilities (not trained abilities) and a variety of utility abilities. All of these are along the lines of reducing cooldowns, making a range a bit further, things like that.
  • The Prime glyphs are where the dps is at (or bigger heals, or whatever). All of these glyphs are crit increases, an extra percent of damage, or a longer DoT effect.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

I Heart Yumfries

Time for another Machinima break. I could (and almost did) put the entire Yumfries catalogue on here because the "Nub Tales" series is so much fun. But, you guys can either follow the link here back to the rest of the Nub Tales collection or I'll save some to post for later. And you know part of what makes Yumfries as much fun as this? He's a shaman, baby!

Friday, September 3, 2010

It's the Little Things... (part 2)

Ooh! It's a red launcher!
Blizzard has unveiled a new system for delivering patches and updates. The launcher now tracks what kind of data is being updated into your WoW client and Blizz categorizes it as essential, secondary, and "less-important."  The trick is that once the "essential" files are downloaded and in place, you can turn the game on again and the secondary and "less important" files will fill in as time ticks by.  Inside the game, there is a new indicator near the mini-map that shows file traffic coming in.

It's the round red thing at the bottom.
General reports are that if you do start the game while the patch is still incoming, you can expect a wide range of um... experiences.  WoW might be playable, or you might be sorta stuck in a place like Dalaran that hasn't loaded in yet and so you're just going to lurk there in the sky until the scenery comes back. 

  • I have realized that despite everything, Sylvanas cannot really be an evil mastermind. A real evil mastermind, when giving her lickspittle an assignment that goes horribly wrong, is supposed to torture said lickspittle horribly and then say "You have ONE MORE CHANCE to redeem yourself!"  In reality (as much as WoW is reality) Sylvanas just blames herself and then gives the lickspittle a pair of magical britches.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What about the Big Raid?

Actually, I really won't miss Sartharion 3D on 25 man

I just can't see how very many 25-man raiding guilds are going to survive after the Cataclysm. Everything I read fails to give 25-man guilds any real incentive to keep running 25-man raids.
  • The loot tables are the same in 10 man and 25 man.
  • The lockouts for 10 and 25 man instances will be the same. So there's no more way to run both.
  • 25 man raids are awfully painful to organize. I would not lay blame on one single guild leader who decided it wasn't worth his trouble to keep doing it.

How is Blizzard Trying to Help Our Guilds?

I had never stopped to think about guild structures being messed up before, at least, not in any way that developers could do about it. But there are so many incoming changes for guilds right now, that I thought I needed to give it another look and see why these changes were really implemented.

I think, on the outset, people just see More Stuff To Do. And it is, of course. The main way to prolong the life of a game like this is give the players More Stuff To Do. But why this More Stuff To Do?

Think about the problems that guild leaders have: players trying to exploit the guild for materials, easy carries through dungeons, a place to stick your alt where they can tag along when the player feels like it, but doesn't really contribute.  Ragequitting. People on the gripe about loot rules.

I don't think there is much that Blizzard can do to overcome a lot of the gross human nature that causes some of this. But they have added one important aspect that should help:

Guild reputation

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Developers Gone Wild!

This is just a tidbit, but check out this tooltip:

Glyph of the Monkey

At some point in the future, this dynamic link will get dynamically fixed. So for historical accuracy, at the time this was posted it said "Your Polymorph: Sheep spell polymorphs the target into a bear cub instead."

It gives me the idea that there's a bunch of developers sitting around a table somewhere calling out ideas that some peon is taking notes and they all get confused sometime.

To be honest, I have fought monkeys and I have fought bear cubs in world. I'm not sure that these are docile enough for polymorph.

Regardless, between my mage's Polymorph sheep, turtle, pig and cat, (penguin needs a glyph. Whatever) Need something to rotate around that bestiary a bit more frequently

Say hi to Naralie!

Hi, everybody!
Over in Betaland, there has been some shaking up going on.

A new build was released last week and it apparently became clear that something was wrong, because the presence of any goblin character in the realm caused the entire server to  crash.

As a result, all goblin characters have been "disabled."  There are some calling this The Great Goblin Wipe of Last Thursday, but since I can read and understand English, I know that "disabled" is not the same as "deleted." I'm taking a wait-and-see approach to this before I write Winklestien's obituary.

In the meantime, I decided to go visit the Eastern Kingdom a bit with Naralie the undead rogue here. I can say that Tirisfal Glades is not particularly special. There is a combination of some old quests with a few new ones, but it is sort of ambling. Silverpine Forest on the other hand... has gotten a complete and utter remake. The Banshee Queen Sylvanas is on the warpath against Gilneas and she is making face time with her loyal subjects.