When I started in Warlords of Draenor, the first toon I leveled was my mage Romy, who has professions of Tailoring and Enchanting.

Right off I noticed that Blizzard seemed to have done the bare minimum with those professions. Let’s have a look at Tailoring. It’s true that you can make some nice gear that can remain viable in endgame content via upgrades, but the problem is that’s pretty much all you can make.

It used to be that you’d start off with being able to make some items that were decent upgrades, provided your toon wasn’t already decked out in gear from heroic raids. Then there’d be a few more items you could make along the way, and finally several pieces equivalent to entry-level endgame raid drops. Most of that would be bind on pickup gear you could only make for yourself. To make sellable bind on equip gear, you needed patterns which were fairly rare raid drops. Along the way you’d also have a chance to make some decent PvP gear.

With WoD, Blizzard has basically said “screw all that, just make a basic set of decent gear they can use right away at level 91.”

Gathering Professions

If you’re a miner or herbalist, by the time you reach level 100, you may as well drop them for something else. The mine and garden you get with your garrison will keep you adequately supplied for anything you might want to make, since there is a bottleneck imposed by how often you can transform crafting materials.

I’m not entirely sure how skinners are impacted by the garrison. Leatherworkers can get materials via the barn or their profession shack. I am leveling my skinner/leatherworker now so I guess I’ll find out soon.

March 21st, 2015 by admin

I stopped playing World Of Warcraft not long after the Mists of Pandaria expansion pack came out.  It wasn’t because I was tired of the game, or because I didn’t like the expansion.  Quite the opposite, actually. I rather liked what I’d seen of MoP so far.  No, it was simply because my living arrangements changed and I no longer had a place to keep my desktop computer setup all the time, nor a regular internet connection.  Playing on my laptop was something I’d done from time to time, and it works fairly well, actually, but that was with a regular wired connection or good WiFi.  All I was going to have now was a mobile connection from my phone.

Last October, a month or so before the new Warlord of Draenor expansion came out, I happened to discover a pre-paid game card for WoW in the bottom of a rarely-used pocket of my laptop bag.  I’d bought it before my situation changed, and it had sat unused in the year and a half since I’d stopped playing.  As it turned out, I was just about to be housesitting for a week, so I brought over my desktop computer and activated my game card and started playing WoW again.

Mobile Broadband

After my housesitting gig was over, I really didn’t want to quit again. I had occasional access to WiFi, a couple of days each week, but what about the rest of the time? I decided to try an experiment and see if a tethered connection from my iPhone would work. I was worried it wouldn’t be fast enough, and I was also worried that playing WoW would use up too much of my not-unlimited data plan.

Well, it turned out my worries on both counts were needless;  The connection was more than fast enough.  In fact, it was actually on par with the cable-based internet I’d had before.  Latency was down around 50-60ms most of the time.  As for how much data it used, I played 4 or 5 hours, and the phone told me I had used 300mb of data.  That’s non-trivial, but also a lot less than I’d been expecting.  

My data plan gives me 15gb a month at full 4G/LTE speed, so I do still have to pay attention to what I am doing, but playing WoW off the tethered connection 3 or 4 days a week has worked just fine.

The New Expansion

When I’d quit playing after the MoP expansion came out, my paladin Alfred was like a sliver of a bubble away from level 87.  In fact, when I started playing again I leveled him up to 87 pretty much immediately after logging in.  The new expansion pack with its new level 100 cap was about 2-1/2 weeks away, so I was in catch-up mode.  Fortunately, Blizzard had lowered the amount of XP required for each level, so it didn’t take me long to get both Alfred up to level 90. The downside, of course, is that I effectively skipped most of the Mists of Pandaria expansion pack.  Some people may like to jump right to max-level and start doing end-game stuff like raiding, but I’ve always enjoyed questing and leveling up as well.

After Alfred was at 90, I switched over to my level 85 mage Romy and started leveling her.  After she hit 90, there was still some time left before the expansion went live, so I spent it exploring Pandaria to see what I missed.  I liked what I saw, so I decided that when I leveled up my other toons, I’d make an effort to do more exploring and try to hit each of the zones as my character hit the right level, rather than simply doing the whole “this quest leads to that one which leads to that one” thing which had me hitting 90 not long after I’d gotten my toon into the second zone.

Guild Drama

While I was on hiatus, my guild Overcome sort of went sideways.  It didn’t go away, but when I came back there were only a handful of people getting online.

I don’t know exactly when this happened, but I think the seeds were in place before I stopped playing.  As often happens, once most of the guild had gotten fairly well geared, some of them lost interest.  Some of us were still working on heroic Dragon Soul raids, but a lot of people stopped playing so much.  The new expansion was on the horizon, and we all thought that things would pick up again after that.  However, it didn’t happen that way.  When MoP came out, a lot of people came back, but not everybody. And a lot of people who did come back didn’t return to their previous level of attendance.  And in the meantime, some people had left the guild for greener pastures.  A few had switched servers and even factions, ending up on the Horde side.

I’ve seen guilds implode and explode before, but this didn’t really seem to follow the familiar pattern.  So far as I was aware, there wasn’t any drama over loot, or raid slots, or any of the other usual sort of thing.  There were a few issues between certain individuals, but it never seemed too divisive overall.

Right now, I’m often the only person in the guild online when I play.  In the late afternoons or early evenings, there might be up to 3 or 4 others playing, but rarely more than that.  My play schedule has been somewhat erratic, so I’ve not been too worried about raiding so far, but with so few people in the guild online it hasn’t really been an issue anyway.  But if things don’t change, sooner or later I may have to decide if another guild would be a better option.

Leveling Up The Toons

As of now, I’ve got Alfred and Romy both at level 100, and both are fairly decently geared in a combination of crafted gear, gear purchased with PvP Conquest Points, and gear purchased via Apexis Crystals. Alfred is at iLevel 650 and Romy is at 648 or so.

I have yet to do any heroic dungeons or raiding.  Part of the reason for that is because I really don’t like PUGs.  What I don’t like varies depending on which toon I’m playing.  On Alfred or another tank, I like the instant queue pop, but I hate dealing with players on DPS toons who just want to zerg everything and then blame the tank and/or healer when it goes sideways.

On my healer toon, like Chimessina, it annoys me when the DPS starts taking tons of damage because they don’t know that they shouldn’t stand in fire, or because they’re attacking mobs the tank hasn’t even touched yet.  It annoys me when the tank chain pulls when I’m out of mana, or when they run up around corners and I lose line of sight.

On my DPS toons, the main problem is simply the long queue times.  If the tank’s not that good, for example if they cannot hold multiple mobs at once, I can adapt.  I’m more concerned with the run being successful than I am maxing out the DPS meter.  If the healer’s not that good, that’s more annoying, but as long as they seem to be making a reasonable effort I’m OK with it.

Anyway, at some point I know I’ll have to either switch guilds or submit myself to doing PUGs or LFR.

I’ve got two other toons that have gotten into the MoP content.  My priest, Chimessina, is at level 92, and warrior Sunny just got to 91 today.  I’ve decided I’m going to bring up the hunter, Starchaser, and druid, Jenifaire, up to at least 90-91 before I worry about getting any of these secondary toons to 100.  I don’t think I’ll worry about the sub-85 toons for now, but I want a full pantheon of toons with garrisons going ASAP.

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January 29th, 2012 by admin
Posted in Blizzard

One of the smartest things that Blizzard did with the design of World of Warcraft is to make the user interface customizable through the creation of add-on modules that can supplement or even completely replace the built-in UI.

The WoW user interface is pretty decent overall, but there are a lot of places where obvious shortcuts have been overlooked, and a lot of rough edges and sharp corners.  Many of these things would be relatively easy to fix, but because they’ve spent so much time and effort in making the UI customizable, when it comes to fixing or improving these things, Blizzard is usually content to let someone make an add-on that addresses the issue.

It’s awesome that this possibility even exists in the first place, but unfortunately, not all WoW users are comfortable using add-ons.  Some believe that using add-ons is cheating in some way, despite Blizzard’s seal of approval. Many users are simply not confident enough in their own technical skills when it comes to something like installing or updating an add-on.

For many users, system performance is an issue when using add-ons. As programming tasks go, creating a basic add-on isn’t all that difficult, but that means there are a lot of add-ons written by people with questionable programming talent.  Combine that with the fact that WoW add-ons use the LUA scripting language, which is not really commonplace elsewhere in the computing world, and the result is that there are a lot add-ons which are inefficient and often just plain badly written.  As a result, for players with computers that aren’t quite state-of-the-art, a poorly written add-on can use up too much memory and suck down too much processor power.

With all this in mind, I’d like to present an open-letter to Blizzard requesting that they finally get around to including some of the more basic and obvious improvements to the UI, so that they no longer require add-ons.

Multi-Monitor Support

This isn’t really specifically a UI issue but the reason I’m asking for it has to do with better UI organization.  Awhile back, Blizzard added the option to select which monitor would be used for the game on a multi-monitor system, but it doesn’t use both monitors at the same time.

I want to be able to have the basic game display on the primary monitor, but move things like the chat window, raid frames, and possibly a few other things over to the secondary monitor.  This would leave the main display much less cluttered than it is now.

Map Coordinates

Many of the very first add-ons were devoted to the display of map coordinates, showing the player’s position on the world map, or showing the coordinates for the position where the mouse cursor was located.  However, seven years and more after launch, there is still no built-in option for displaying map coordinates.

There are three obvious places where map coordinates should be shown.  First is on the mini-map.  Second is on the world map.  The user’s current position should be shown and the position where the mouse cursor is currently hovering should be shown.

Chat Window Options

Please let us select the font used for the chat window!  And let us choose a wider option of font sizes!  I would really like to use something like a 6 or 7 point Arial or Verdana so that I could minimize the chat window and still get a reasonable amount of text in there, but it just won’t let me unless I use an add-on.

Moveable Action Bars

Yet another really basic, commonplace thing for add-ons to do.

Moveable Windows

For some reason, most of the basic windows and dialog boxes that the game uses cannot be moved unless there’s an add-on in place to do it.  Makes no sense.



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November 3rd, 2011 by admin
Posted in Hardware, Reviews

View this product on AMAZONLately I’ve been trying to figure out ways to improve my gaming experience. In particular, I’ve been wanting to optimize my user interface setup. To that end, I’ve been looking at a variety of gaming-specific input devices. I’ve long been a user of the Logitech G15 keyboard, and I highly recommend it. However, while its macro capabilities are certainly useful, they aren’t always applicable to the problem at hand.

One device which has intrigued me for awhile is the WoW: Cataclysm MMO Gaming Mouse, by Steelseries. I’ve usually been skeptical about the utility of “gaming” mice, because of the additional complexity that comes along with all of those buttons. However, I’d heard good things about this particular model from other players in WoW, so I thought I’d give it a try.

My first impression of this device is that it’s BIG. The wireless Microsoft mouse I’ve been using the last few years is not at all small, but the Steelseries mouse takes it up a notch or two. It’s just about as big as I would feel comfortable with, so I’m thinking that people with smaller hands may find it to be too big. It’s also a bit heavier than most mice. Not really enough so as to be a problem, but it’s certainly noticeable.

I’ve been using mostly wireless mice for the last few years, so I found myself wishing that this one was wireless. The braided cord is on the stiff side and it’s occasionally getting snagged on something as I move it around.

I imagine the main reason it’s not wireless is because Steelseries was worried that some ultra hardcore gamers would think it introduced a millisecond of latency in response times. Personally I think you would be hardpressed to prove that such latency even exists, let alone that it could affect your gaming, but there are those people that think it matters, and in large part they are the primary market for a product like this.

One cool but purely cosmetic feature is that the mouse has a set of colored LEDs built-in, which can be set to just about any color you want. The lights pulse back and forth between dim and bright. You can use the configuration software to set the color and the frequency of the pulsing.

Buttons, Buttons, And, Oh Yes, More Buttons

One thing I didn’t like about many of the other gaming mice I’ve tried in the past is that they have a big block of tiny buttons which are all the same size and shape. I’ve always thought that would make it hard to distinguish buttons by touch alone. Or else they have buttons placed seemingly at random, with some placed where they could only reasonably be accessed by your palm rather than via your digits.

By contrast, the buttons here come in a variety of different sizes and shapes, and and they are positioned so that it’s very easy to locate the specific one you want. I found that it didn’t take me long before I was easily able to find whichever button I wanted at any given time.

There are a total of 14 buttons on this monster of a mouse. You got the basic three that most mice have, your basic left and right buttons on top, plus one in the scroll wheel. There’s one extra button by itself on the right side, down on the side near the bottom. (On the far side out of sight in the picture shown here.)

There are five “extra’ buttons on top, with two on each side of the basic left and right buttons, and one in the center behind the scroll wheel. Another five extra buttons are found on the left side where they can be easily reached with your thumb if you’re right handed.

And by the way, if you’re using this mouse you’re almost certainly right-handed. I can’t see how you could comfortably reach the five-button cluster on the left side using a digit other than your thumb. Maybe if you don’t mind limiting yourself to the other buttons, it would be OK but for the most part, sorry lefties, but once again you’re left out. (Pun not intended.)

The Software

The software for this mouse features WoW-themed artwork and has all of the expected options for assigning keystrokes and macros to each button. Despite the emphasis on World Of Warcraft, the mouse can be used with any game or desktop application.

As it turns out, the software isn’t really needed for WoW, because this particular gaming mouse is recognized directly by the game. If you go to the MOUSE section of the game’s interface options, you’ll find a checkbox for “Detect World of Warcraft Gaming Mouse”. Select it, then exit and relaunch the game. Now you can go into the Key Bindings window and directly assign the various buttons to whatever game commands you want. And since the game can track a separate set of key bindings for each character, it makes it that much easier to customize the mouse button setup for each one.

So How Does It Work?

I decided to get used to using all the extra buttons one toon at a time, starting with my hunter, Starchaser. My focus has been on optimizing combat, so functions like bringing up the world map or guild roster aren’t something I need mapped to a dedicated mouse button. So far I’ve not used all of the buttons, because I thought it would be easier to get used to using them a few at a time. Currently I’ve got something like this:

Button 4 – Pet Attack
Button 5 – Multi-Shot
Button 7 – Serpent Sting
Button 10 – Steady Shot
Button 11 – Aimed Shot
Button 12 – Chimera Shot

This setup gets me though most solo fights without having to use the keyboard at all. I’ll admit I’m still getting used to it, and still working on finding the comfortable split between using the mouse buttons and using the keyboard. But I’ve got a long list of different setups I want to try. My next step will probably be to figure out a couple of buttons for setting traps and abilities which are used mainly in boss fights.

There is a minor glitch I’ve seen but the blame doesn’t belong to the mouse. It’s actually the game’s fault. If you have the mouse pointer over an icon in one of your action bars when you click one of the extra buttons, it’s treated like a regular mouse click. This is a bit annoying because you’ll find yourself occasionally clicking and not gettting the desired result until you realize that the mouse pointer needs to be moved.

In Conclusion

If you’re looking for more precise control, want quicker access to game commands, and don’t think you’d get lost trying to figure out all the extra buttons, this mouse may be the device you’re looking for. However, if you have small hands, I’d recommend that you try it out first, or at least make sure you buy from some place with a decent return policy.

Disclosure: I purchased this device at Fry’s Electronics. No materials were provided by the manufacturer.

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October 27th, 2011 by admin

Here’s what I’ve learned about fighting Ragnaros in the Firelands. This is for a non-heroic, 10-man raid.

After you kill Majordomo Staghelm, a passageway opens up behind his original position. This leads to a long corridor filled with Ragnaros at the opposite end. There are a few large mobs along the corridor that have to be taken care of, but once you get to Ragnaros himself, you’re done with trash. The northern side of the room has a large circular lava pool with Ragnaros sitting at the southern edge.

The raid needs two tanks, and probably three healers. It might be possible to get by with two healers if they’re both very awesome, but I’m not sure such awesomeness exists quite yet.

You’ll want to put up Shaman totems or other buffs for fire resistance, since most of the damage in this fight is fire-based. However, it’s not like the original version of the Ragnaros fight in Molten Core where you have to wear a certain amount of special fire-resistance gear.

Read the rest of this entry »

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October 27th, 2011 by admin

I’ve been spending a little time on the Public Test Realm (PTR) checking out the new changes for patch 4.3.  I’ve copied over versions of both my mage Romy and my paladin Alfred so that I could check out DPS, tanking, and healing situations.

One of the latest bits of news is that there are a variety of new epic gems and a bunch of new Jewelcrafting recipes to go along with them. The raw epic gems are Queen’s Garnet, Lightstone, Deepholm Iolite, Lava Coral, Shadow Spinel, and Elven Periot.  There are several recipes for each gem.  As with the current setup, the pure-colored gems (Red, Yellow, Blue) provide a big boost to a single stat.  The Stamina gem is +75, while everything else is +50, up from the +60 stamina and +40 everything else that we get from our current gems.  The mixed-color gems (Orange, Green, Purple) continue to provide a boost to two different stats, giving +25 boost to two stats (+37 for stamina), up from +20 (+30 for stamina) with the current gems.

Each of the new recipes costs 5 jewelcrafting tokens, up from the 3 tokens required for most of the non-meta gem cuts we have now.  There’s also a new Tome of Burning Jewels, which teaches a random epic gem recipe, and which only costs 4 tokens instead of 5.  It’s a cheaper way to get all of the recipes, as long as you don’t mind which recipe you get at any given time.

All in all, there are 51 new recipes, plus the Tome of Burning Jewels.  Assuming you go with the Tome of Burning Jewels, it will take you 204 days doing the jewelcrafting daily quest to earn enough tokens to get them all.  If you buy specific recipes instead of the tome, it will take you 255 days to learn everything.

I don’t know why these new recipes required new jewelcrafting vendors, but apparently they do, so we’ve got a new one for each faction. For the Alliance, Farrah Facet is found in Stormwind City, right next to her identical twin Isabel Jones, who still has all the older recipies. For the Horde, the new vendor Taryssa Lazuria can be found in Orgrimmar, in the jewelcrafting hut.

An Aside About Advancement In Jewelcrafting

Of course, if you’re a Jewelcrafter, this grind is nothing new.  It takes 271 tokens to get all of the first batch of Cataclysm recipes.  Meaning that if you did the daily quest every day since Cataclysm came out, then it took you until early last month to get them all.  More likely, you’ve missed days here and there, and you’re STILL working on it.

This grind also affects how quickly you can skill up in Jewelecrafting.  Once you hit skill level 450, your ability to advance further is tied directly to how quickly you can get the next higher recipe.  And at an average of one new recipe every 3 days, it will end up taking you a few weeks, at the fastest.  Compare this with every other crafting profession, where you can go from zero to maximum in just a few hours if you’re willing to spend the money on materials. No other profession has such a bottleneck for something as basic as getting the recipes.  The high-end recipes for blacksmithing, tailoring, enchanting, etc., merely require spending regular crafting materials which you can acquire fairly quickly if you’re willing to put in the effort.  But no other profession has players doing daily quests just to get patterns.

Maybe it was an experiment.  We all know people who have decided to switch professions at some point, and who throw money at materials like crazy to get the new skill maxxed out as quickly as possible.  Maybe Blizzard feels this is a bad thing?


July 22nd, 2011 by admin
Posted in Uncategorized

This past week or so has been pretty exciting for Alfred, my paladin. It’s essentially been his coming of age as a tank.

First was a Firelands run to kill trash mobs for Avengers of Hyjal reputation.  I was doing daily quests on Alfred when the guild leader starts organizing the night’s raid.  He’s asking if there are any tanks available, because they only had 1 tank for the raid so far.  I whispered him and said that I wasn’t sure if Alfred was geared up enough for that yet, but if he couldn’t find anybody else I was willing to give it a try.

I think Alfred’s item level at the time, in his tank set, was maybe about 340 or so.  Not quite so epic as one would like for a raid like this, but a moment later the guild leader whispered me back and said “OK let’s try it”.

The run went quite well, and in fact Alfred got some gear upgrades from drops and also from hitting “friendly” status and being able to buy stuff from the faction vendors.  A few days later we did it again, and once more things went pretty well.

Alfred Goes A’ Raidin’

About a week ago, a night or two after the previous Firelands run, Alfred was invited to another raid.  At first I thought it was going to be another Firelands trash mob run, but then it turned out we were going to Blackwing Descent.  Also in the raid was one of the guild’s über paladin tanks, so I figured I was there just as backup.  So imagine my surprise when I’m told that I’m gonna be the main tank for the Magmaw fight!

It took us two tries to get Magmaw down, which is better than most of the times I’d done that fight with Romy.  We did the next four bosses in one fight each, with Alfred as main tank each time.  We saved Nefarion for another night because it was getting late and some of the East Coast people had to go.

We went back the next evening for Nefarion and although we didn’t get him down, we came awfully close.  We’re pretty confident that the next trip into BWD will do it.

Last night was Bastion of Twilight, and Alfred was once again asked to tank.  I’d done this instance once before on Alfred, as a healer, but this raid was farther into the run than I’d been before, even on Romy.  First up was the Twilight Ascendant Council.  We one-shot them.  Next stop, the final boss in the run, Cho’Gall.

We had a good long explanation of the fight before we started, and at first I was a little concerned about remembering all the details.  However, it turned out that tanking it was somewhat easier than it sounded at first.  Cho’Gall took us a few tries, but about 90 minutes after the raid started, he was dead.  They were dead… er… whatever.

I didn’t know this in advance, but apparently this was the guild’s first Cho’Gall kill.  It’s probably just as well I didn’t know that until afterwards… no need for extra pressure.

The Transition To Tank

When I changed one of Alfred’s talent specs from retribution to protection awhile back, the main reason was that I figured he would have a better chance at getting into runs. I still considered his main specification to be healing, but this way I’d be able to go on runs when another healer was already in the group.

The results were not what I expected. I knew the game was currently somewhat understaffed with regards to tanks, despite the fact that it’s a viable option for more classes than ever before. But I didn’t fully understand how bad the problem really was until I realized that over the course of the first few weeks after changing talents, I’d taken Alfred into a group as tank at least a dozen times, but only healed once.

After awhile I decided maybe I should just go with the flow and cultivate Alfred’s tanking side and concentrate more on building up his set of tanking gear.  I’m enjoying it so far, but I’m wondering if this move might not ultimately leave Sunny, my L85 warrior who is also a tank, out in the cold.  Yah, yah, yah, I could play Sunny as a DPS toon, but melee DPS has simply never appealed to me that much.

Tanking Is A Hard Knock Life

Why is there such a shortage of tanks? I have some ideas about that.

First of all, tanking is not easy.  The tank is generally expected to also be the leader of the run, in most respects.  They’re expected to know all of the fight mechanics and the proper tactics.  They’re expected to know which mobs to mark, which mobs need to be (and CAN be) crowd-controlled, and so forth.

Healers have an important job that isn’t always easy to execute, but in principle it’s pretty straightforward.  Heal and/or cleanse the tank and other players as needed.  Maybe fear or shackle something.  Don’t stand in the swirly, fiery, gooey crap on the floor.

DPS toons are also generally pretty straightforward.  Damage the mobs.  Don’t stand in the swirly, fiery, gooey crap on the floor.  Maybe once in awhile you polymorph, trap, or banish something.  Try not to pull aggro from the tank.  And frankly, we all know that most DPS toons don’t pay much attention to that last one.

Tanks are the most complicated job all.  They have to pull the mobs, making sure they don’t accidentally get other mobs patrolling nearby.  They have to aggro the mobs, maybe as many as 5 or 6 at a time, sometimes even more, depending on the fight and the options you have for crowd control.  They have to keep an eye out for the silly DPS players who are shooting at the wrong target at the wrong time, so they can pull back the mobs that go after them.  They have to avoid the same crap on the floor everybody else does.  Sometimes they have to position the mob in a certain place, even when it doesn’t always want to move.

Another issue is that tanking is very gear dependant, and with Paladins, Warriors, and Death Knights all competing for plate armor, it can take awhile to get yourself properly equipped. Until then, your lower health and defensive stats make you into a bigger drain on your healer’s mana, which in turn impacts their ability to keep up the rest of the group as well.

Another problem with tanks and gear is the fact that many players are either unaware of what gear they should be looking for, or they simply don’t care if an item makes more sense for a different player. Often a DPS toon will roll on a tank item just because it’s a higher item level than whatever they already have. And there’s plenty of gear which works equally well for a tank or for a DPS toon where it’s reasonable for either to roll.

Tanks also frequently have to worry about player aggro as well as mobs.  In Alfred’s first runs as an L85 tank, when grouped with people I didn’t know, I found that they tended to be incredibly unforgiving about any mistakes or shortcomings.  This can be very discouraging to a newbie tank just starting out.

Even worse, many of these players will essentially blame the tank for failing to compenstate for THEIR mistakes. I can’t tell you how many times I have marked targets with a Skull or an “X” to indicate the kill order, and then have the DPS ignore the marks and attack whatever mob they want.   When I’d remind them they should be attacking the skull first, I’d hear some variation of “STFU and tank the mobs” more often than I’d hear, “Oh yeah, sorry about that.”

Case In Point: General Umbriss in Grim Batol

Tanks almost always get the blame when things go bad because people don’t know the fight, or when they fail to execute their part correctly. My favorite variation on that idea is the General Umbriss fight in Grim Batol, on heroic mode. This is not an extremely complicated fight, really. The main thing the tank really has to do is move Umbriss to the front of the area, off to one side, in order to give the group room to deal with his Blitz attack and with the adds.

When Umbriss targets someone for his Blitz attack, that person and anybody standing next to them have to move about 10-15 yards out of the way or they’ll take some major damage.  The other thing is that Umbriss will periodically summon a group of non-elite Troggs from the back of the room.  These need to be burned down by ranged DPS as soon as they appear, especially the purple-tinged one(s), or they’ll kill everybody in the group fairly quickly, starting with the healer.

Simple fight, really, but I’ve seen group after group where people didn’t move for the Blitz attack and where the DPS ignored the Troggs until the healer was dead and they were under attack themselves.  And at the end of it, after the group wipes… who gets the blame?  That’s right, it’s the tank’s fault.

Crowd Control?  We don’t need no stinkin’ crowd control!

And then there’s those people who think they know better than the tank about when crowd control is needed. I could never understand this, because if a newbie tank suggests it might be a good idea to have only three mobs pounding on him at once instead of five, it seems like people ought to listen. Yet, on several occasions I’ve had people insist that crowd control was unnecessary even AFTER the group has wiped on trash mobs.  Or even worse, your hunter does throw down an ice trap, or your mage polymorphs, or whatever, and there’s some other DPS toon that simply doesn’t care, or notice, and breaks the crowd control three seconds into the fight.

Job Training

Another thing to consider is that the tank really has no option other than on the job training.   Soloing mobs on a tank is much easier than tanking in a group because you’re generally not worried about what other players might be doing, and if you lose aggro on a mob it’s usually a GOOD thing in that context.

DPS toons don’t do things much differently in a group situation than when they’re soloing.  In fact in most respects they have it easier than when soloing, because they generally don’t have to worry about being attacked.

Healers can practice their spell rotations on any friendly toons.  The main thing being in a group does is add some randomness and pressure to succeed.

In Conclusion

I haven’t given up on Alfred as a healer.  One advantage of the various tanking activities is the opportunity to pick up pieces of healing gear that isn’t needed by anybody else in the run.  Alfred’s healing set is coming along nicely, even if not as fast as his tanking set or DPS set.  And it helps that the various Firelands vendors usually have items for all three of Alfred’s gear sets.

Well, that’s all for now… gotta go do my daily quests before it’s time for tonight’s raid!  Nefarion WILL die!

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May 26th, 2011 by admin
Posted in Guides, Quests

Recently, Pixidragon, a fellow guild member, commented in guild chat about the problem she was having completing a particular quest chain.  I wasn’t working on anything in particular at the moment, so I offered my assistance.  However, she told me that it was a special mini-game quest that you had to solo, in the quest chain to get the Brazie’s Sunflower Seeds quest reward, which gives you the Sunflower companion.

I’d seen players with the Sunflower pet, but hadn’t really worried about getting one for myself as yet.  However, once my fellow guildie described what she was doing, I was intrigued.

The quest series is set at a small farm in the western part of Hillsbrad, in the Eastern Kingdoms.  The quest can be done by players of any level, but since there are no Alliance-side towns in this zone any more, it may be difficult to reach with a lower-level toon who is still unmounted.

If you’ve ever played the popular Plants -Vs- Zombies, from Pop-Cap Games, you have a pretty good idea what’s going on here.  Once you accept the first quest, you’re popped into mini-game mode where you have to protect a farmer’s field from zombies.

The first quest is fairly easy with just a few zombies.  It’s basically just an introduction of what’s to come.  When you turn it in, you’ll be offered the second quest where there are more zombies and more defensive units.  There are a total of five stages.  Step 3 may take you a few times to get through, but it’s step 4 where the crap really hits the fan.

My first time doing the quest series on Romy, my mage, step 3 took me a few tries, but step 4 took me well over an hour and probably at least 10 attempts.

During those attempts, there was a point at which I became aware of what strategy was required, but where it still took me a bit of practice to successfully implement it.  But once I was sure that I was on the right path, I started taking screen shots so that I could show Pixidragon how I did it.

When I did the quest a second time on my paladin, Alfred, I whizzed straight through to step 4, and that took me 4-5 tries again.  Better than the previous attempt but still room for improvement.

After finishing the quest series on Alfred, I discovered that Pixidragon was still having problems getting past step 4.  She had seen the screen capture I’d posted, and it helped a bit, but she was still having trouble.  I told her that I’d do it again on another toon and this time I’d do a video capture.

So, I switched over to my warrior, Sunny, and headed to Hillsbrad. Thanks to the practice I’d gotten on Romy and Alfred, she aced each step on the first try!

Brazie’s Sunflower Seeds Step 4

Brazie’s Sunflower Seeds Step 5

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May 19th, 2011 by admin
Posted in Uncategorized

It’s been several months since I hit level 85 on my main character, mage Romy, but until the last few weeks I really hadn’t worked on other characters that much since Cataclysm had been released.  But a few days ago, I finally hit level 85 on my paladin, Alfred.

Decision Time

Back in the vanilla days when we only had one talent specification per toon, Alfred was always retribution-spec while leveling up, and holy-spec the rest of the time.  Since we’ve been allowed to have dual talent specifications, I’ve had one set up for retribution and one for holy.

However, now that he’s gotten to 85, I am considering changing from retribution to protection.  Alfred’s primary role at level 85 is being a healer, but I’m sure there will be times when I’ll want to run something and someone else will already have the healer’s role covered.  I don’t have any great interest in trying to make Alfred into a DPS toon, so I’m thinking maybe tank is the way to go with the secondary spec.  That would give me a lot of options, and it will be interesting to tank on a paladin again.  I’ve done it before, but it was a long time ago…

Paladins in the Early Days

Back in the very early days before any expansion packs had been released, paladins as a class were generally something of a hybrid role.  They had great buffs, so they were very desired in raids, but they didn’t ideally fit any of the other roles.

Paladins weren’t usually the best healers, compared to Priests or Druids.  They would generally do OK in a regular dungeon instance, but in raids paladins would not be main tank healers, for the most part.  They might be assigned to an off-tank or as backup, but mainly they’d be keeping an eye out on the rests of the group.

Unless they were insanely geared, Paladins didn’t have great DPS, so they would normally get a DPS slot in a raid only if the group was otherwise good on DPS or if it was understood that they’d be healing people occasionally as well.

As tanks, Paladins were sort of unfinished back in those days.  It seemed clear that tanking had been somewhere in the original plan for paladins, but many of the basic tools that a tank requires were simply missing.  There wasn’t even a Taunt equivalent in the earliest days!  This meant that paladins were suitable for tanking only in very specific situations.  In a raid, a pally might off-tank a mob until another mob was killed.  This would usually build up enough aggro that when the rest of the group attacked the pally’s target, it would still stay focused on the pally.  And if it didn’t, then it was likely the main tank could take over since the first mob was now dead.

In 5-man instances, pally tanking was generally not a good idea unless the DPS players were fairly disciplined about target selection and careful to give the paladin time to establish aggro.

Alfred was my second toon to hit level 60.  My warrior, Sunny, would ultimately be the tank in the family, but until she hit level 60, Alfred was pressed into tanking every now and then.  It was always an interesting run, but given the shortcomings it was clear that this wasn’t going to be an everyday thing.  By the time later patches would give Paladins better tools for tanking, Sunny had hit level 60 and was the go-to toon for tanking.

Alfred’s First Level 85 Instance Run

I hadn’t really played him much during the Wrath Of The Lich King days, so Alfred was still just level 71 when Cataclysm was released.  I hadn’t done any instance runs or raiding with him since level 70 and Karazhan or Gruul’s Lair.

When I did start playing on Alfred again, I tried to get in at least a couple of instances per level as a healer.  However, I generally avoided the Random Dungeon Finder tool.  I either queued for specific dungeons that I needed for quests, or went on runs with at least a couple of guildies.  I had been a fairly decent healer in the past, and after a couple of runs to get back in the groove, I seemed to be doing OK.

I didn’t immediately jump into an instance run upon hitting level 85, but a day or two later, I decided to queue up.  I first asked if anybody in guild chat was interested in doing a run, but everybody was busy with something else so I switched over to my healing gear and talent spec and queued up solo.

I wasn’t really worried too much about that first run in most respects.  Alfred’s gear was fairly decent for a brand new level 85 toon, with an average item level of 326, just a few points off the minimum requirement for doing heroic dungeons.  It was better than Romy’s gear had been right after hitting 85.

However, things did not go as I hoped they would.  The instance we got was Halls Of Origination, which is not one of the easier ones out there.  I’d hoped for something easier my first time out, but didn’t want to queue for specific dungeons.

The very first group of mobs, I noticed two things.  First, the tank was taking bigger chunks of damage than seemed reasonable.  Then all three of the DPS toons started taking damage too, and it got harder to keep everybody up.  Nobody died, but by the end of the fight I was down to under 20% on mana.

I sat down to drink, but I’d only gotten back to about 60% when the tank and the rest of the group ran up and attacked another group.  This fight went a little better at first, mainly in that the DPS didn’t take quite as much damage, but at the end I was coming up empty on mana and one of the DPS started taking damage again and died.

At this point, I noticed that the tank was at the top of the damage meters, so I took a look and discovered he was wearing DPS gear instead of tanking gear.  The DPS toons weren’t doing anything great damage-wise, but it was more than sufficient for a normal difficulty dungeon, so there was no reason at all for the tank to think he needed to compensate.  And this was right at the very beginning of the instance anyway!

No doubt his gear choice was contributing to the tank taking bigger chunks of damage than he should, but the bigger problem was that the DPS was taking too much damage.  Even the ranged guys were getting knocked down below 50% in just a few seconds sometimes.  Sure, a lot of fights have a bit of incidental damage you simply can’t avoid.  But I wasn’t taking any great amount of damage and I was right there next to everybody else, so that doesn’t explain it.  I said something in party chat to the effect of “DPS is taking unnecessary damage… watch your targets” and one guy said something about the tank needing to hold the mobs better.

The next group of mobs went a little better, but I was still drinking to recover mana and was only at about 50% when the tank rushed up and attacked the first boss, Temple Guardian Anhuur.  I had to run up just to get in range to heal.  Despite this, the fight started out relatively OK and we got through the first time the boss did the Shield Of Light thing OK, except that the DPS weren’t really taking out the Pit Viper adds and for the first time I had to worry about keeping myself alive as well as everybody else.

At that point, I was coming up empty on mana, so I took a Runic Mana Potion, even though it doesn’t give me enough mana back for even one healing spell.  That raises a question: Why did Blizzard decide not to add new high-level mana and health potions in Cataclysm?

Anyway, as a result of my mana situation, two of the DPS died at this point.  This actually made it a bit better for me, because I was able to get ahead of the mana situation.  However, the second time that the boss did the Shield Of Light thing, the remaining DPS totally ignored the Pit Viper adds and I got swarmed and died myself.  Fortunately, the boss was close to dead and the tank and remaining DPS finished him off.

I was really not a happy camper by the end of the fight.  The big problem is, if you’re not paying enough attention to know your healer’s not ready when you start the fight, then you’re just going to blame them when things go wrong.

I’m not giving up… but I think Alfred’s next few dungeon runs will be be with guildies if that’s at all possible.

May 9th, 2011 by admin
Posted in Uncategorized

Activision held their annual earnings conference call today, and one of the more significant tidbits of news was that the World Of Warcraft subscription base was down about 600k, from 12 million just before the Cataclysm expansion was released down to about 11.4 million this past March.

Now, the subscription base tends to fluctuate in general, and this is a drop of about only about 2%, so it’s not really a huge problem for Blizzard/Activision. On the other hand, it’s also not to be ignored.

Blizzard’s president, Michael Morhaime, had this to say: “As our players have become more experienced playing World of Warcraft over many years, they have become much better and much faster at consuming content. And so I think with Cataclysm they were able to consume the content faster than with previous expansions, but that is why we are working on developing more content. We need to be faster at delivering content to players. And so that’s one of the reasons that we’re looking to decrease the amount of time in-between expansions.

Why Have Some People Left the Game?

Blizzard didn’t really address the idea that competing games might be a factor in the loss of subscribers.  While new MMO games like Aion or The Rift may not have caught on like wildfire, they still have a respectible following and it’s not unreasonable to think that a certain small percentage of WoW players may have decided to give something new a try.

It’s also possible that some people have gotten rid of secondary or tertiary accounts. I don’t use my own secondary account any more.

If new content is really the problem, then the return of Zul’Gurub & Zul’Amun in the 4.1 patch will probably bump up the numbers a bit. However, while it’s undoubtedly a factor, I’m not completely convinced that new content is really the only issue.

First of all, if new content were the primary factor, we should have seen an increase in the subscription base once Cataclysm was released, followed by a decline back to where things were before.   Blizzard hasn’t released numbers for January or February, but that doesn’t seem to have happened.

Aside from people finishing the available content, there are a variety of other factors in the 4.0 version of the game that could have also affected the subscription base.

WTB: Portal To Stormwind City

In some ways, with the Cataclysm expansion, the game took a step backwards towards being tedious. I refer specifically to the removal of the transportation portals in Shattrath and Dalaran. The motivation seems to have been to nudge players back towards using Stormwind City or Orgrimmar as their central hubs.  It’s true that those cities have portals to the various zones in the Cataclysm expansion, but anybody playing in other zones has gotten screwed by the change.  It’s added long travel times back into the equation for anybody playing in Outland or Northrend.

Since a big feature of the Cataclysm expansion was the introduction of the Worgen and Goblin races, many players were leveling up toons from scratch.  Blizzard added a variety of things to speed up that process, including lowering the cost and level requirements for mounts.  This really does help the 1-60 leveling, but once you hit level 60 it was essentially not that different than it used to be, except now there was no longer any quick way to get from Shattrath or Dalaran back to Stormwind or Orgrimmar.

It’s been great for mages, who are once again making money selling portals, but not so great for everybody else.

Long travel times contribute to player burnout, which in turn contributes to a drop in the subscription base.

Guilds Aren’t What They Used To Be

The new guild advancement features have been something of a mixed bag. It’s harder to get a new guild off the ground now than it used to be, since a new level 1 guild will have a much harder time recruiting than a level 25 guild which has all the various guild rewards. It’s also more painful for players to leave a guild now, since they will lose their guild reputation in the process. It seems to me that this has to have SOME impact on player burnout, although it’s hard to quantify.

WTB: Tank or Healer

It’s historically always been the case that it can be hard getting a tank or healer for a run, but in Cataclysm it’s just gotten worse.  Solo-queuing up for a dungeon as a DPS toon typically means a wait time of at least a half hour, even during hours when there’s a lot of people online.  Tanks and healers, on the other hand, rarely have to wait more than a few minutes even during late night hours.

I really do think the random dungeon finder is a good thing overall, but it really also emphasizes the problem here.  Blizzard is certainly aware of the problem, and the new reward system in the 4.1 patch shows that they’re trying to address it, but I think they’re treating the symptoms instead of the underlying cause.

In my opinion, the core of the problem is that for most people, playing a tank or a healer just isn’t as fun as playing a DPS toon. You just don’t get the same sense of accomplishment from healing the tank as you do from scoring a 60k Arcane Blast hit on a raid boss.  I don’t know what sort of changes would make healing or tanking more fun, but I think that’s where Blizzard should really be concentrating its creative effort.

Out With The Old?  Oh, Hell No!

One of the biggest problems in the game has always been that many players are effectively left out of experiencing the high-end raid content.  I’ve done a fair amount of raiding, but there’s a lot of content that I never saw.  I think it’s a huge mistake on Blizzard’s part not to make a bigger attempt to integrate the game’s historic content into the present.  However, there’s evidence to suggest that they’re working on improving this.

The Cataclysm expansion featured a new heroic, high-level version of the Deadmines instance, and a new heroic version of the Shadowfang Keep instance, which are steps in the right direction.  And patch 4.1 features new level 85 heroic 5-man versions of the old Zul’Amun and Zul’Gurub raid instances.

I say, this is a big step in the right direction… keep going!

Seriously, we should be seeing new 5-man heroic Blackwing Lair, Black Temple, Serpentshrine Caverns, etc., or maybe new 10-man raid versions, scaled for level 85.  And while the other retro dungeons were re-tuned for their new debut, I’m not convinced that’s absolutely necessary for all of the old content.  Certainly, there are particular fights in some of those old raids that would need to be updated to work with a smaller party, but I think much of the old content would be fine if you simply scaled up everything to the appropriate level.

This would be good for players who’ve never seen that old content… my first run on the new Zul’Gurub included a player who’d never done the original version.  And it would be good for Blizzard, because it would allow them to get a lot of new content out the door with much less effort than creating a new raid/instance from scratch.

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