Archive for December, 2011

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?