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Why I Came Back

During my time away from WoW I did lots of things. I even tried other games. I did some console gaming, but I really am just not a console gamer. I also tried DC Universe Online after it went free to play. I liked the game, but I think what I liked about it the most had nothing to do with the game. I’m just a sucker for super heroes.

As an aside, if you want to experience how talent trees can go wrong, and why I’m looking forward to the MoP talent trees, check out DC Universe Online. I created a acrobatic, dual pistol, sorcerer, which left me with 4 different talent trees. One for movement (mine was acrobatic, but there’s flying and a speed runner [think Flash]), one for weaponry, one for sorcery, and one for iconic powers. Each of these had multiple tiers. Trying to figure out how to prioritize what points to put where is an absolute nightmare.

That leads me into what I like most about WoW: the meta-game. Because WoW is so mature and so widely played, there are so many things to do outside of the game that’s still game related. First there’s the community. This blog is one small example of the community at large. I subscribe and read a ton of WoW blogs every day, and each voice is unique and brings a new perspective to the game. Then there’s the database sites like wowhead, or tool sites like WoW Reforge, or WoW Heroes. There’s even applications you can run like SimulationCraft to help you understand things in the game. Addons are a huge part of the enjoyment of the game for me. Crafting a space that I find useful and usable to do what I do and how I do it is so much fun.

All of these things are so hard for competing platforms to go up against. The issues are two-fold here: one being so much is reliant on a large and active user base (Blizzard didn’t create any of the things I talked about), the second being creating an open platform to allow your user base to create these things.

DC Universe Online launched without the ability for Addons. They did this because it’s easier to develop the game if they don’t have to worry about that aspect of it. I think if games want to compete with World of Warcraft in this third party space they have to develop with an open platform first in there minds. There’s a saying among programmers: Eat your own dog food. Basically what it means is that if you’re building something make sure you are the one to use it. That way if it sucks you are motivated to improve it naturally. You can build a product to use the same open platform that you can then expose to other people to consume. Yes, it is harder, and takes more time, but developing products worth shipping are worth the effort.

Maybe game companies don’t care about competing with WoW in this space. Maybe they think that it’s just not that important to their customers at large. I don’t know if they’re right, they have really smart people working for them advising them, so maybe they are. All I know is that great game concepts can draw me to come try out a game, but the experience as a whole is why I end up coming back here.

What I’m Up To

Since I resubscribed, I’ve been wondering what I should do for fun. I did finally get my gear somewhat straightened out. I really need to highly recommend WoW Reforge. It’s a simply great tool, and really makes the process a lot easier. One thing this has allowed me to experiment with is avoiding wasted haste. I am still experimenting with this, and I expect to write a post about it later, but I am trying to reforge away from Haste that doesn’t grant me an extra tick on anything useful and getting that into a more useful stat.

I wanted to get some gear quickly, so I could get into the new heroic dungeons. I found the guide from Greedy Goblin helpful in this regard. I did end up buying the bracers as he recommended, and partaking in some PvP to upgrade one ring. This was enough to get me into the new heroics and I found a helpful group of friends, so I went. That gave me enough to replace my last green (a iLvl 318 wand) with a much nicer one and bring my average iLvl up to 359. Not quite raid ready, but I’m getting there.

I found I could hold my own with the DPS, at least on bosses. Affliction DPS is always tricky in trash, and I am really out of practice. From AoE ineptitude to multi-dotting aggravation, there’s a lot of room for improvement there.

I definitely want to write Warlock specific hints and tips for the new dungeons once I get some more experience in them, but I’m not sure I’m going to have time to get to this.

The other thing I’m finding is that gearing up is expensive! I’m attempting to avoid the AH as much as I possibly can now. I think I’m going to run more battlegrounds for honor so I can keep a steady stream of enchanting mats coming my way. That’s the biggest gold suck. Especially since I need to convert some of my gear from mid-tier enchants to the better ones.

Streamlining Archaeology

Well I re-subscribed a few days ago. I’m officially sucked back in. The game has changed a lot since I was last in both me mechanically and socially. People I knew on my server obviously have move on and found things to occupy them. I find myself basically guild less at the end of an expansion. What to do?

I imagine at some point I’ll start the dungeon crawl again, but I don’t want to just jump back into it. I feel so far behind and my DPS is so lacking I don’t want to open myself up to the random dungeon elitists.

After setting up my UI to be somewhat usable and getting bored of just flying around Stormwind I decided to waste time in the ultimate time waster: Archaeology! After five hours of it yesterday, and going from 130 to 275 I think I have it down to a science.

This setup helped me go from 275 to 525 at roughly 75 skill points an hour. Also, I never once used a keystone to accelerate my solving. If you do this as you level it will probably go faster. I opted to keep them since I had time, and maybe I’d use them on something I actually wanted later on.

For this experiment you need the following add-ons: Gathermate2 (with the database imported), TomTom, Archy, and Archaeology Helper

The bulk of what we need Archy for is to integrate nicely with TomTom and that’s the first feature we’re going to turn on. Go into your Interface settings, find the Archy add-on.

Now whenever you aren’t at a dig site, Archy will calculate the closest one and add it as a waypoint to TomTom. TomTom shows that green arrow above your head and you can get on your way right away.  If you’re at a dig site, and you still see the arrow, that’s because TomTom has to guide you to a specific point, which is more or less in the middle of the dig zone. Once you start digging anywhere, Archy tells TomTom you’re already there and the arrow should disappear. After you loot your third dig and the dig site goes away, Archy automatically recalculates and tells TomTom and you can start all over again.

Archy is also responsible for the two windows you see on the left side of my screen. I’ve changed their appearance somewhat, so your windows might appear different. One windows lists your active dig sites for the continent you are on, and the other lists the artifacts you are currently working on. I found the window listing the artifacts you are working on to be buggy, and didn’t really find the dig site list window helpful at all, at least for pure leveling purposes.

Next up we need to get Archaeology Helper working for us. This is the big work horse of your leveling experience. It can be tricky, but once you get the hang of it, wow does it make it so much easier.

Archaeology Helper (ARH) does its job by putting a HUD (heads-up-display) in the middle of your screen, with a little arrow representing your character. This HUD is powered by your mini-map, and the two are inextricably linked. I found that ARH looks best with the mini-map fully zoomed out. To make it even more useful go into your ARH settings and enable the GatherMate2 dig sites to be shown on the HUD.

After this is done, you’ll see a little toolbar with red, yellow, and green dots, a arrow facing left, and a shovel. The shovel may be behind a red circle with a line through it. If that’s the case, right clicking on it should bring up the HUD and take that red circle away. When you are at a dig site, clicking on the shoving gets your character digging. You always want to try to dig when your characters arrow on the HUD is on top of a hollow yellow circle (these represent known dig sites in the GatherMate2 database). Your digs won’t always be right on one, but this was true for me probably 90% of the time.

With this in mind, let’s head over to a dig site. Once you are in a dig site, pick a hollow yellow circle and start digging. It doesn’t matter which one.

What you need to do is, after the surveyor tool pops up, position yourself behind it as if you are looking through the eye-piece, then once in position, click the colored button the corresponds to the color blinking on the surveyor tool.

This puts a big colored area on your HUD. If it’s green the area is relatively small, but red areas can be very large.

You can see, I’m not directly behind it. I actually got a little bit closer, but because it disappears so fast I didn’t want to waste time. You don’t have to worry about being perfect, there’s plenty of room for error in this.

Once this area is up, go to the first hollow yellow dot inside that area and start digging. As you get more colored swaths showing on your HUD, you always want to be digging in the area where these swaths overlap each other.

Even if you get two red surveys, both indicating a large possible area, if they only overlap on your HUD in a small area, you’ve narrowed down your search space to just that tiny overlapping piece.

Once you discover an artifact and loot it, ARH automatically clears your HUD for you and makes all the swaths disappear. If you ever mistakenly click on a colored button without meaning too, the left-facing arrow works like an undo and removes that swath. If you want to hide any particular color at any time, you can right click on it and it will be hidden from your HUD.

For leveling I stayed on one continent and just always went to the next closest dig site. If you are working on one piece and want to ignore artifacts that are for different races, you can set that up using Archy. Have fun and remember to dig safe!

I Hate Keyboards

I use the “alt” key a ton for shortcuts. It’s the main modifier key for all my oPie circles as well as all the buttons on my second action bar.
This presents two problems

  • If I hold down alt as I’m getting ready to cast something, then need to switch targets, I hit tab, and that pulls me out of the game (alt+tab shortcut for those not keeping up)
  • It’s right next to the blasted windows key that comes on every keyboard now.

Compound this by the fact that I play on a pretty sub-par machine. So I’ve reduced the resolution down to a bare minimum, and when I minimize the game my screen needs to redraw fully at the new resolution. Plus I have less memory than I should so the context switch means I’m pulling stuff out of the page file and putting stuff in which takes forever!

After this happened to me three times last night (twice in the same battleground) I decided to find a solution.

I’m going to be trying out this tonight. It’s calledSharpKeys

If you use it or have tried it how did you like it?

Warlocks Have Ruined Me

I have to get something off my chest. See in all the time I’ve played this game I really have only played a warlock. I have an 85 Druid (I’m exceptionally bad with) and the obligatory fail DK but that was really it.

I started the Druid at a time when my guild was stagnating and it came in clutch midway through ICC at times and I did really enjoy it even if I never could get the hang of tanking with it.

My DK is awful. I’ve tanked once instance with him. I feel like a six year old in a forklift. It feels so powerful but I just randomly mash buttons without much success and all the adults laugh at me.

I’m currently playing on a trial account. In this trial account I’ve started a paladin, a hunter, and another warlock. On all of these I’ve not had as much luck as I did with my warlock.

Part of it is a ranged thing. I hated the lack of an ability to pull a target at range for lowbie paladins. I wasn’t used to melee so I constantly put myself in a bad position and pull more than one or two.

Another part of it is a coming home feeling I’m sure. Just casting Shadow Bolt is enough for me to get all giddy. I don’t care to learn the mechanics of a hunter. It just seems like it isn’t worth the effort.

So until I restart my subscription I think I’m going to play my warlock until he’s twenty. Then who knows?!

Missing Out

I’ve never experienced a burn-out before. I always assumed it occurred much like it sounded, a slow burn. I expected to see myself logging in less and less until finally I just gave out. That wasn’t how it went at all. It was a roman candle burn-out. I guess that’s to be expected when I’m burning the candle at both ends.

My home life was a huge unrest to say the least. For those who don’t know. I’m married and raising two children. One is special needs, and the other just has special needs (no official diagnosis or anything). Two and four for those interested. That, coupled with a raiding schedule, guild manager duties, and blogging duties, it was just way too much. I know that now. I knew it before I officially walked away. I suspected it at the beginning.

What’s happened since I’ve left? I kept up with the community for a little while (longer than I expected) but work got exciting and I stopped reading the blogs. I’ve only talked with old guild mates a couple of times. The guild is now completely barren. That was to be expected, and probably should have happened even if I had stayed on. We were struggling to say the least. Obviously I haven’t posted anything to this blog, and I don’t know if anyone still has me in their readers. In other news, I hear there’s an expansion coming.

Which brings me to my next point. I poked my head back into the WoW community the other day only to find out the BlizzCon happened, and the new expansion was announced. Immediately I’m reading through blog posts, blue posts, speculation, and I’m as excited as a kid on Christmas morning! I haven’t played this game since May and I had my mind made up I would buy the expansion…with the full intention of NOT playing it, because after all I don’t play anymore. That’s a touch of crazy and maybe I’m just a fan boy, but like it or not this is who I am.

I’m not saying I’m coming back for sure, but I realized something this past week. I miss this game. I miss this community. The very same community I griped about non-stop for being full of assholes and jerks at the top end. I miss playing a game a company like Blizzard creates. As a software developer they continue amaze me professionally and it’s one of the things I love the most about this game (future post topic for sure).

Maybe I’ll become an alt maniac. Maybe I’ll just invest in professions and play the auction house like I’ve always wanted. Maybe I’ll try my hand at PvP, which I’ve always been terrible at.

Has anyone gone through this? Have any advice for me? Should I go back to my same server or should I just move on? How do I get started down this path in today’s WoW? Also, what have I missed?!?!

I’m back from Arizona. For those of you who don’t know, I live in Massachusetts. I couldn’t understand why the pilot kept insisting we were about to land in Boston when clearly we hadn’t broken through the clouds yet. Then when we landed I realized it was just the cloudy, gray, and cold here. For perspective it was about 75 degrees in Arizona when I flew out……at 11:30 at night.
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It’s About Economics

So I’m going to be that guy who posts about the Blizzard Premium services. Mostly because I forgot to upload my screenshots over the past few days so my UI post is out the window.

For the record I don’t like the addition of these services as premium features. I do however think people get it all wrong about this stuff when they complain about it. This decision by Blizzard has nothing to do with gameplay experience and everything to do with economics, and that’s where I think they have it wrong the most.
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Lowered Expectations

I really try not to gripe too much about Blizzard because I don’t want to turn into an angry blogger, and I really do love the game. I do however think it’s fair game to criticize Blizzard over not doing what they said they would do. Almost all of the overall design goals for this expansion I immediately agreed with, but then again I feel like a good amount of them missed the mark when the expansion hit.

The Good
Heroics and end game content in general is harder. They stated that as a goal from the outset and they delivered on it. You can’t deny that overall progression this tier is remarkably slower then the first tier of Lich King. Being difficult for the sake of being difficult isn’t a fun thing in my opinion, but largely they haven’t fallen into this.

The Bad
The talent reboot. When they first announced it I was skeptical. Not because I didn’t think it was a good idea, I just thought it wasn’t the real reason they were doing it. Adding another 10 talent points with every expansion with another 2 levels per talent tree was feeling bloated. It doesn’t scale well at all for future expansions. By this expansion or next, I wouldn’t be able to tell you half of the things I was specced into and most of them were different variations on the same thing.

They didn’t say this was their reason though. They said they wanted to do it because they wanted to give people more choice in their talent specs. Give people the option of having a bunch of variations on any “optimal” spec to run with so they can pick up purely “fun” or “interesting” talents.

They never delivered on that. The builds today maybe have a couple of points you can move around for things, but you’re almost always sacrificing a little bit of damage, throughput, or survivability to get it.

Again, I don’t have a problem with the talent reset because overall I think it’s good for the game. I just think it would have been better if they said it was because they want the game to continue for another 10 years and having talent trees with a million talents in them just doesn’t work.

The Ugly
What is going on with healing and damage?! The big word when the expansion was looming was “triage.” Ghostcrawler talked about how they were normalizing stamina so everyone had large health pools, and this was going to allow players to take damage and survive it for a bit of time so the healers weren’t frantically healing everyone up right away. The way they described it wipes would happen more often because healers ran out of mana rather then tanks or DPS get 1 or 2 shot. If a healer ran out of mana then your DPS had to make sure they were utilizing all their survivability techniques and avoiding avoidable damage to help that healer out.

This is so far from the truth I feel like I’m living in the Twilight Zone. Triage healing does not work in a world where unavoidable damage ticks for 40k per second (see:Daakara).

The reason they wanted to make these changes was because having people get one or two shot and then causing a wipe wasn’t fun, and it was also a stressful job for the healers because one wrong button push means it’s all over. This wasn’t so bad in Wrath because most healers pushed only two or three buttons anyway. Now with mana costs they’re making healers use all of their heals, but didn’t expand the time window to heal people up.

Fix it?
I don’t really know how to fix it, but I am going to do my best because I don’t like raising problems without bringing solutions.

First I think that the problem is with understanding the healer’s mindset. Healer’s don’t like to see bars any color but green, and want them full up. That after all is their “job” and what they love to do in the game.

If you’re going to stick with a triage healing mindset then we need to agree on triage care and balance encounters around it. In my mind triage care means that you as a healer have a limited amount of resources, and the time you spend healing one person is at the expense of healing another person. The goal being that you give each person the least amount of care necessary to make sure they continue to survive.

All of this is a fancy way of saying that raid wide damage, and avoidable damage, in an encounter should be balanced around the use of HoTs. Unavoidable raid wide damage should be balanced so that players can survive it if they are hit with a HoT during or just after. Avoidable damage should be balanced with an understanding that a varying amount of players are going to get hit by it depending on the type of damage it is. In other words a no-cast, ticks-every-second fire wall is going to hit a couple players, but a two second cast time means that most of the time no one should be hit by it.

As a damage dealer, our main concern is making sure we output enough damage. Most people (myself included) copy spell priorities down from reputable sources, and just use those. Same thing goes for specs. A long time ago in wow these priorities used to be termed “rotations” and the term is still largely used today even though the collective feeling is that “priority” is a closer estimation to what the list actually is. What is it prioritizing? Well damage of course, and let’s talk about how.
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