Archive for the ‘A Matter Of Style’ Category

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A weekend recap – the Good the Bad the Funny

07.06.2010

The TLDR

Politeness pays, Horde sucks and all that with 100% more armoury links.

The Good

My warlock completed her Felhunter quest. That in itself is a good bit of news, but I met a fellow warlock on the same quest. We teamed up – this was the last stage, the channeling rod search in the Orc camp – and I have to say, the sheer chaos and destruction that two destro-locks can wreak upon a group of Elites that had my biting the edge of my desk two days earlier is… impressive. I can’t wait to see more of it!

I met him again at the summoning circle, where he helpfully (if unnecessarily) supported me in killing the summoned Felhunter.

The question now is, why did I team up with him but not with several other characters I meet in the zones? Because – he asked first. Was I doing the same quest and would I mind grouping for the last rod he needed? For one, replying to his whisper put him on the ‘trusted’ list of AutoDecline and two, even if I prefer soloing, I’m much too polite to decline such a request.

The Bad

A couple of Horde players decided to camp Sentinel Hill in Westfall. This was annoying. They especially waited right by the Griffon Master, and managed to kill him before I could start the travel. Now, that is exactly a case why I don’t play on PvP servers. They were a full group of level 80 players in a starter zone, no chance of defending or retaliating. And the prospect of such jerks (I’m much too polite to express my exact sentiments) being able to gank me without fear, though or reason is simply too mindbogglingly stupid. Yes, the world of Azeroth is at war between Horde and Alliance. But that is dealt with in the Battlegrounds, there is simply no mechanic that offers any reason for just go and kill some low-level character that doesn’t even net any honour for the killer.

Not that I would mind trying a few Battlegrounds, that actually seems like fun and reminds me of my old days in FPS leagues. But it boils down to the debate around non-/consensual PvP, something that such prominent bloggers as Tobold have explained much more in detail and much more eloquently than I could.

The Funny

Well, depending on how you look at it anyway. I decided to link my roster page to the armoury profiles. For giggles, you even have my permission to look them up! Laugh, cry, facepalm or headdesk at your leisure – maybe even drop a hint. Just keep in mind that any improvement or upgrade should ideally be obtainable using nothing but a casual playstyle, soloing and in extreme cases the auction house. I think I’m doing fairly well so far, even if it’s all a bit improvised.

Postscriptum

I tweaked my UI again. Buttonfacade has a few nice non-square skins. Personally, I’d recommend Renaître, which offers square, rounded corners and completely round action buttons.

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A fresh look

03.06.2010

Time for spring cleaning. And with that, SpartanUI finally had to go. It felt too clunky, too heavy – I’m a big fan of a transparent UI that only fades to opaque when needed. So I ditched Spartan, and Bartender as well. Instead, I’m now using Dominos, which offers nearly all features of Bartender (can’t figure out auto-paging yet), but has a graphical interface for arranging the bars and manipulating the looks.

The rest of the UI got rearranged a bit as well, to go with the new, cleaner, more spacious look of Dominos. For the minimap I chose Chinchilla, way better than SexyMap in my opinion. No unneccessary fluff and bling, instead a few good options and features.

A cleaner UI

Overall, I’m pretty happy with the current look, but there are still a few things  bothering me. The standard chatframe, for example. Even with Chatter and Fontifier, the look of it annoys me. I want to fade it out completely, or have it pop up like the WIM windows. But WIM can’t hook the system channels, only player chat.

Still, a huge improvement over my last version – you can still compare it on my addon page, which I’ll update on the weekend – lots of changes there.

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Redheaded stepchild

26.05.2010

Well, not really redheaded – more the blueish-black of the Nightelves, really. But the feeling is the same. I just don’t like my druid. In fact, I don’t get my druid, at all.

I spent the last two weeks leveling my mage, which is always fun. But I grew a bit bored, so I decided to switch again. Hunter? No, already ‘max’ level. Same with paladin and warrior. Rogue? Just played her before the mage. Shaman would be nice, but she’s also quite close to my current level goal. I could’ve picked my warlock – close enough to the mage that a few recent tricks I picked up would be helpful, while still different enough with her summons to provide a change of pace.

In the end, my druid started sulking and complaining that he was still on the ‘min’ level and also a good trade-off between casting and something a bit different, namely tanking and melee DPS.

What I should have done was to tell him to stuff it and play my shaman.

What I did was to give in, and start to level my druid.

I don’t get druids. The class, the gameplay, the style.

At level ~25, the casting is monotonous. Wrath, Moonfire, Tangling Roots, Wrath, always hoping that I don’t pull a second mob in, because frankly, I don’t see any AoE spells yet. With my mage, when instead of a single mob suddenly the whole camp of four or five mobs came charging at me, I grinned maniacally and switched over to my ‘to hell with mana conservation’ rotation. More often than not, I had five corpses on my hands seconds later, none of which was me.

So I switched over to melee, either as cat or as bear. The combat options are a bit underwhelming. Catform has one CP generating ability and one finisher. Bearform has a bit more, but nothing spectacular. Alright, so Prowl as a cat is nice, but that’s it. Warrior, paladin, rogue… they all have that, but with a much broader skill set and flair. As a rogue, I have the choice between two or three opening moves when stealthed, never mind the myriad of options once I start to gain CPs. And again, the warrior can easily fight a small group singlehandedly, whereas the bear can’t. I mean, Swipe. That’s it, really?

Perhaps that was the wrong comparison, so I played for a bit, then compared the experience to my other hybrid, the shaman.

Okay, shapechanging? Check, at least a ‘travel form’. Casting? A bit more varied with several debuffs and different offensive spells and a casting interrupt. Melee? Put some totems down, then observe the carnage. Different enemies? No problem, use different totems. Groups of enemies? Pull them, pull them all and let my totems sort them out. Healing? Water totem, stone statue (alright, so that’s more a profession thing, but nevertheless) and healing spells to boot.

Seriously: I. Don’t. Get. Druids.

The whole class has, for me, no point. No reason. I don’t know what the correct style should be at my level, as opposed to every other class that I can figure out. That also means that the druid is the character I have the hardest time adjusting to when switching alts.

I may have no definite main character. But I sure know who is the least favourite amongst the bunch.

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How to be a proper newbie-helper

19.05.2010

This week’s shared topic over at BlogAzeroth is “Helping New Players“. I think that is phrased the wrong way around. The topic, in my opinion, should rather be, “How To Be A Player You’d Like To Help”. A while back, I wrote a small piece on some fresh experiences with “helpful” players, so I’ll take this spot to highlight what the ideal help-seeking player would look like and behave in my mind.

Be polite.

Blizzard actually says in their introductory pages somewhere that it is considered ‘good manners’ to buff players you encounter. So, if someone buffs you, the very least you could do is hit your “/thanks” macro. This way, the buffer is encouraged to continue in this way. In a similar vein, if a whisper for help goes on for a while, a quick “thanks, see you around” isn’t too much to expect.

Return in kind.

Most of the time, you won’t be able to directly repay the effort (because they are higher level than you), but there are myriads of lower level players out there. Buff them. The chains keeps on going this way.

Do your homework.

Now, if you can’t find the Golden Lion Inn for some quest, asking “where is it?” is fine. “Goldshire” is the answer. You can even ask “where is that, then?” or “how do I get there?”. But if you continue asking “where in Goldshire”, you’re starting to make yourself look plain lazy. Or worst case, trolling. We all like to give general directions. Or, in some cases, give a few tips if you are not sure of the gameplay – turning on quest markers on the map, for example. But if we see that you don’t make the slightest effort to learn something from that, well… don’t expect any helpful answers.

Type properly.

Seriously. Okay, the first quick, “wait pls” is acceptable, you need to catch the askee (Yes, that’s word. Well, now it is…) before he mounts up and disappears. But after that, when it is clear the other person is indeed waiting and willing to help, type properly. In fact, if you find yourself asking for help more often, make a macro out of “Hi, could you please help me with a question?”. Works wonders.

Ask precisely.

If you’re going for a swim near Bloodmyst Isle, don’t ask “how do I get to the bottom of the sea lol?”. Ask “Can someone tell me a way to reach the bottom without drowning?”. Or better “Can someone buff me or sell me an Elixir of Water Breathing so I can reach the bottom?”. People might not bother answering if they get the impression they have to start from zero. If you can show that you know the principle and just lack the specifics, you’ll get a quick answer and maybe the item you need for free.

Interestingly, I find that these points hold true for the other direction as well. Be polite when you answer – a “lol” after each sentence feels like you’re ridiculing a newbie for not knowing what they can’t know. Especially since “lol” seems to trigger an Emote with your character laughing. Don’t expect them to immediately reward you for helping – they’re a newbie, not a quest NPC! Ask them before helping out actively in a fight. Passive help (Heal, Buff) is always okay, but jumping in and killing mobs usually just annoys. Type properly. Seriously. Answer precisely and concisely. “Near Stormwind” isn’t helpful. “South of Stormwind, centre of Elwynn Forest”, now that I can use.

Now, what if you want to help, but honestly don’t know?

Let’s have a pop quiz.

  1. “IDK lol”
  2. “sorry, don’t know”
  3. “lol wowhead noob”
  4. “Sorry, I don’t know, try wowhead.com perhaps they know.”

Well?

  1. No comment.
  2. Acceptable, if curt.
  3. Violates about every single guideline so far. Wowhead is kind of useful, granted, but for the average newbie probably complete gibberish.
  4. Ideal answer. You indicate that you want to help but can’t, and you show him the way where he can find help himself. Not only now, but in the future as well.

So. Hopefully, by now, you noticed that I place about equal responsibility on the player needing help as on the one giving it. Both parties follow the same rough guidelines – or honestly, plain manners and common sense.

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Key skills

15.05.2010

A colleague, who also plays WoW, asked me a while ago how I manage to adjust constantly from one character to the next, seeing as I have no definite ‘main’ character. In particular, how I manage to keep my hotkeys straight.

I’m just about to switch again, so this is the chance to share my thoughts on that matter.

Switching characters

Yes, I have a lot of alts. But I don’t switch between them constantly. I play them a few days, maybe a week at a time, or until they hit the level I set myself before switching again. That means I do have some time to adjust to a specific character.

Hardware setup

More specifically, my mouse. A Logitech MX Performance, which allows me to map ALT, CTRL and SHIFT (as well as ESC) to mouse buttons. So instead of twisting my fingers on the left hand, trying to hit CTRL-SHIFT-F11, I just press F11, while having my right thumb on the two mouse buttons. A lifesaver, really.

Actionbars

Bartender. More action bars, automatic paging, for example when stealthed, or when shapeshifted. I currently have 4 ‘normal bars’ – set up as bars running straight from 1-´, plus modifiers, and 4 ‘action squares’, which are grouped F1-F4, F5-F8… for each row. You can see this setup on the screenshot to the right.

Skill selection

Soloing WoW has an advantage here. I can safely ignore all skills that are only useful in groups. Resurrection? Not making the list. One less skill to memorise and place on a bar.

Skills

Or rather, ordering of skills on the bars. I use the same system for every character. Again, you can see part of it on the screenshot, although I have made some changes since then. Generally, the right-most actionsquare is for trivial stuff – hearthstone, fishing, etc. the next is for macros – I’m currently thinking of moving macros into the right-most square as well so I have one more free keyset.

The two actionbars on the right are my health and preparation bars. Potions go to the top bar, always in the same sorting (least to most effective), drink and food to the lower. Scrolls, flasks, elixirs go into those two as well – they aren’t time critical, I just like to have them ready on the main interface so I don’t forget about them.

The left-most action squares are special abilities and panic keys. Healing, Stoneform, Lifeblood… anything I can hit more or less blindly and know it’ll help me survive. Again, the fact that I have the modifier keys on my mouse help immensely, on my rogue F1 is Evasion, SHIFT-F1 is Stoneform. Whether I hit the thumb-button on my mouse in time doesn’t really matter, I usually want to blow both cooldowns anyway. On my shaman, totems go here, sorted vertically by element, so I can simply hit the row F1-F4 in sequence and know that the most helpful totem of each element will be up.F5-F8 would be the next, and when I get to F9-F12 I know those are speciality totems that I normally have to place in preparation.

The left actionbars are a bit more tricky. The top bar auto-pages through bartender. Those are my most used skills, what I call ‘active’ skills. Heroic Strike. Sinister Strike. Arcane Shot. Sorted by frequency of use, usually. Interrupts go here as well.

The lower bar is for DoTs, CC or AoE effects. Basically anything that I use fairly often, but which need a little bit of thinking before applying the effect. Again, sorted by importance and utility. A few skills are far off to the right, for example the meelee skills of my hunter. I don’t really need them, but if I do, they are right there.

The pet bar is a separate bar, thanks to bartender, and doesn’t factor into this. Although again, it’s sorted by frequency and importance.

Summary

And that’s it. Really. Maybe if you are struggling to adjust between main and alts, look at your bars, look at the skills. Categorise the skills. Active, situational, panic button, preparation. Set up your bars exactly the same for all characters. Sure, the skills themselves will differ, but if you know that you can hit ALT-(1 to 4) any time and there will most likely be a healing potion of varying quality there, it’s one less thing to think about. And thinking about which key you hit is what gets you killed.

I’m under the impression that I’m doing fairly well for a casual, switching between characters on a more or less weekly basis. Then again, even when I’m complaining that I didn’t get any WoW-time any given day – that usually means I only had two or three hours.

Caveat: Mapping ALT-1 to ALT-´is fine. Mapping ALT-F1 to ALT-F12 usually leads to some hilarity when you reach ALT-F4. True story.

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Make teamwork, not groups!

19.03.2010

My auto-decline protects me from the most annoying specimen of fellow players, who happily pop up invite dialogues while I’m busy fighting for my life. Fortunately, there is another specimen of player that doesn’t get blocked. Teamwork players.

Point in case. I was doing the Murkdeep quest on my Druid. I already have it on my Hunter and on my Warlock, so the quest itself is more or less routine. As I approach the Murloc camp, I notice another Nightelf Hunter fighting off mobs. Fine by me, the mobs are equal or higher level, less mobs means less danger and more space for moving about when Murkdeep shows up. He doesn’t.

So I sit back on a nearby log and watch the scene. The Hunter comes over – recovering Mana – and asks which quest I’m doing. Turns out we’re both set for Murkdeep. Now, normally, there are two options on what could happen: It could become a race to see who gets the kill first, or I hear the inevitable chime of my auto-decline  shooting down a group invite. Surprisingly enough, neither happens. The hunter dismisses his pet and sits down as well.

Now, I have done the quest multiple times, and my only defence at this point is that it was quite late after a long day at the office. I decide to pass the time by killing some of the respawning Murlocs at the camp. The Hunter watches and occasionally provides a sting or pulls aggro off me when one of my surgical pulls goes wrong. And watches as I realise that Murkdeep in fact spawns when the camp is cleared. Unfortunately, that moment of facepalming clarity comes at the exact moment when I’m standing on the shore between the Murloc camp and Murkdeep’s spawn point in the ocean, Mana almost zero, health down to a third. Thank you, Murphy, thank you.

When I returned to my physical existence, I expected the camp to be cleaned out, Murkdeep slain and the Hunter off to get his quest reward. Instead, I find he still waits nearby, no pet, and asks me if I want another go since I did most of the work already.

On the grounds that I fumbled my own attempt I tell him to go ahead and keep him healed.

And that is the difference between mindless “o look, theirs some1 doin my quest, group plz!!1″ and people who know how to work together without artificial crutches provided by the interface. It proves you can solo your stuff, find the occasional fellow adventurer who respects your privacy and still help each other out.

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The definition of fail

09.03.2010

While the first chunk of 3.3.3 is downloading, I get time to read some more blogs. One word that I find mentioned fairly often, in blogs or on the official forum, is “fail“.

But what exactly is fail? Or, more precisely, what do I mean, when I call something “fail”?

Fail is, simply put, not achieving your goals. So the basic premise is that without knowing another person’s goals, it is hard to declare someone “fail” on pure observation. It has always to be in context. The most prominent goal is survival. We can all agree on that – if you’re dead, you’re hard pressed to do anything in-game. But being dead doesn’t mean you “failed”, because there’s bad luck, honest mistakes, or just plain learning experience. So we have to look further than that. Fun seems a good point. But what determines fun? For me it’s definitely something else than for a high-end progression raider. Am I fail? Is he? Either could be, depending on the point of view.

Group play is a bit easier to judge. The goal of the group is to clear the boss, preferably with as few wipes as possible, and for all members to have fun. That last part is important. I know that I, personally, enjoy a relaxed style, quite possibly suboptimal equipment because it fits the character and what I want to achieve. But if I were to join a raid, things would probably change, because the goal is suddenly bigger than just me. So yes, that tank in full ICC-whatever gear that can’t keep aggro, fail. The newly-dinged 80 that hasn’t had a chance to gear up yet? Not fail, as long as he’s doing the best he can.

Solo play, however, I find it hard to call anybody honestly “fail”. Only in interaction with others, because, again, suddenly it’s not only them, but they affect others as well:

That level 80 in front of the auction house, advising some newbie to install Gearscore because they “need it for raiding”? A wonderful fail, unless you want to be part of the Gearscore crowd. Personally, I’d even call it a success, because I now have two more people to avoid.

The priest I met, dying to some mobs because he asked me in chat about grouping instead of fighting when I had already started to taunt mobs off him? Fatal mistake, but not really fail.

The people who just pop up the join group dialogue in the middle of combat? Fail. And annoying.

Thank god for Autodecline. As a side note, you might think that they get the hint after two or three declines – I have set it up to only accept invites from people I have whispered to. But I have had as much as a dozen invites in succession, thankfully only flying by in the chat window. Fail.

The level 80 Death Knight at Northshire abbey, “helping’ newbies by killing any mob they have targeted and trying to impress them? Fail on so many levels… but that is a post for another day.

Larísa has a wonderful story today about her fresh experiences on an RP server. She is enjoying things that she would have never done on her normal server. This, for me, is the essence of what I am trying to say. Change the context, and suddenly your definition of success and failure change, while the goal “have fun” stays exactly the same.

If you find your fun-factor in World of Warcraft declining, why not try something completely different? Stop being hardcore. Roll on an RP server for a week or two. Take your time to do wacky things that you wouldn’t normally do. Laugh as Gearscore junkies call you fail and know, that, from your perspective, you’re a huge success – having fun.

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The relative nature of ‘casual’

04.03.2010

How casual is casual?

I consider myself a casual player. As in, I play when I feel like it – which admittedly is quite often. I’m not particularly competitive – although I once was. I don’t like theorycrafting, min-maxing or grinding. I like exploring at a leisurely pace, doing quests for their story and goofing around with talent builds instead of sticking to carefully calculated ones. I’m not interested the slightest in PvP, Battlegrounds or raiding.

The hardcore player would look at that and say “well obviously, he’s playing only casually’.

The casual player, however, would take a look at my average 280 minutes playtime per day (weekends currently peak at close to 600 minutes a day) and say “he’s nuts, a hardcore gamer, clearly”.

Great.

If you ask me, and you did by clicking on this blog (thanks by the way!), I’d define myself as a hardcore gamer who enjoys casual gameplay. Years ago, I was a true hardcore gamer, albeit in a different game. Competitive, in leagues and tourneys. Yes it was fun, but I decided a long time ago that those years were enough.

I think that quite a few ‘casuals’ are like me, former ‘hardcore’ players that just decided that right now, in this game, they just want to relax and have fun. It is the reason why I find any flamefest between those two factions so mindboggingly unnecessary, as I know both sides from personal experience. The current controversy about the ICC buff is a prime example.

It doesn’t take away the accomplishments of those who already cleared Arthas. It makes it possible for others, who paid as much for the gametime as progression players, to eventually see that content. And even then, only those who are organised enough. It’s not about making ICC an automatic win for everybody. It just makes it accessible for those who enjoy the game at a different pace. And that can’t possibly be a bad thing. They are Blizzards customers, the majority, in fact.

Does the buff make ICC easier? Yes. Definitely. Would I feel treated unfairly if I was progression? Probably. But then, I’d get cataclysm and new progression content to keep me happy.

Progression guilds and casual guilds are playing the same game. They just differ in pace and attitude. But both are valid approaches and both should be allowed to enjoy the entire content of World of Warcraft.

This game is big enough for all of us.

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