Archive for May, 2010

h1

Five songs to go WoW!

31.05.2010

I originally wanted to post a bit about Blizzard intentionally breaking the AVR mod in their next patch, but I’m still tinkering with ENB while also being a bit short of time to play. I’ll probably make my configurations available here once I’m happy with them, in case anybody is interested. The screenshots from yesterday are already outdated – I love tinkering with configuration files too much.

So instead, I turn once again to the shared topic of BlogAzeroth.

This week, it is “Tell us your favourites”.

I admit, I am one of those people who almost immediately turn of any in-game music because I find it almost always is distracting and getting on my nerves with the eventual repetitiveness. Most of the time, I play completely without music, just the sound effects. However, on the occasions that I do want to hear some background music, I turn to iTunes and my own collection. I even have a few playlists specifically to go with some games – I guess that sort of defeats the point of not having the repetitions of the original in-game music, doesn’t it?

Anyway, to finally get to the list – my top five songs to listen to while playing World of Warcraft include:

  1. Lordi – Bite It Like A Bulldog
  2. Rammstein – Los
  3. Manowar – Warriors Of The World
  4. Doro And Warlock – All We Are
  5. Doro And Warlock – Hellbound

Actually, that would be pretty much my dungeon soloing list. In contrast, I would choose the following list for travel or overland questing and farming:

  1. Blue Öyster Cult – Astronomy
  2. Lordi – Kalmageddon
  3. The Inkspots – Maybe / Set The World On Fire
  4. Counting Crows – Round Here
  5. The Scorpions – Coast To Coast

The Inkspot songs are the famous intros to Fallout 1 and 3, respectively. Both of which I would rate among my top five RPGs of all time, together with Ultima Underworld 2 and of course Fallout 2. But that list is pretty boring, because it’s only the fifth place that is open for debate – so I’ll save that discussion for another day.

h1

HDR has come to town

29.05.2010
Thelsamar in HDR

I spend last night tweaking my ENB settings for GTR:Evo. And that lead me to search the WoW forums on Blizzards stance towards the ENBseries. For those that don’t know, ENB is an enhancement of the default DX9 library, bringing HDR effects to older games. And behold, Blizzard has said on numerous occasions that this modification is legal since it does not interact with the game in any way.

So I set out to adjust my ENB for Warcraft. It does drain FPS a little, but not so much that it becomes an issue. The Stormwind marketplace excluded, but that has always dropped my FPS drastically.

The Stoutlager Inn

I’m not quite finished, but here are two unmodified screenshots of how WoW looks now.

The adaptation between night and day is something else. ENB can be configured to drain the colours out of night-shots, simulating the view when our eyes adjust to the darkness. I didn’t get a screenshot of Ironforge, but believe me, the great forge is now truly impressive! The same goes for all spell effects, with the added bloom and enhanced contrasts for bright colours.

h1

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.

h1

Azeroth panoramic

22.05.2010

Current progress is a bit slow, mostly I’ve been trying to tweak my mage rotation a bit – Recount has actually found it’s way back into my installation for that. WoWWebstats is another tool that is a huge help, but doesn’t offer the realtime feedback Recount has.

But, since I imagine there are more interesting things out there than a level 30 mage rotation, I bring you a few panoramas that I’ve been working on. They’re a bit of an experiment, but I’m quite satisfied with them, so I’ll see if I can get as many panoramas of the pre-Cataclysm world as possible.

Be sure to click the thumbnails for the high-resolution versions!

Loch Modan - Thelsamar

Duskwood - Darkshire

h1

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.

h1

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.

h1

A screen and a song

11.05.2010

In accordance with the prophesy Anea’s latest idea for a blogstorm:

(Click to enlarge)

...

No, no no no, no no no no no no no no,
Joan Crawford has risen from the grave.

Catholic schoolgirls have thrown away their mascara,
They chain themselves to the axles of big Mack trucks,
The sky is filled with herds of shimmering angels,
The fat lady lives! Gentlemen, start your trucks!

No, no no no, no no no no no no no no,
Joan Crawford has risen from the grave.

...

Lyrics: “Joan Crawford” by Blue Öyster Cult