Archive for June, 2010

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Gnome at heart

29.06.2010

The world cup craze is getting slightly more sane – there are now only two games per day instead of three. And unlike other nations (England *cough* France), Germany is still in the running.

So what does a casual gamer do during a thirty minute break between two matches of football? Fire up World of Warcraft of course! But thirty minutes is quite a short time, even if you only want to grind a few mobs and maybe do a quest or two. Thank god the auction house is available on the iPhone, or thirty minutes would be gone without getting any actual playing done!

The question still remains, however. And I found a perfect answer – for me at least. Macro design and PowerAuras.

Now, I have a history with macroing in games. Back in my Counterstrike days, way, WAY before it went commercial or Steam, a long time before anybody at Valve thought of including favourites or predefined sets of equipment, I built a whole inventory / shop system, complete with intelligent decision what side you were playing, memorising your selections and able to preset your next buy during play and then just committing it with a single button. And all that with nothing more available than the ‘keypress’ command (for selecting menu entries), the ‘alias’ and ‘bindkey’.0

So when I found out that WoW includes a nice macro language, I was ecstatic. And I’m not even talking about the ability to run LUA scripts directly from within the game, something that I as a software developer find particularly interesting. No, the very basic macro commands, with their simple conditionals and modifiers and no logic at all. In my opinion, how much you can achieve with these simple tools is nothing short of amazing.

Everybody has written the odd castsequence for their mage. But how about a macro for their warrior to execute either Overpower or Revenge, depending on your stance? Still a simple line of ‘code’1, but it merges two of your skill buttons into a single one. Of course you can also page your action bar, but if you’re like me, then even the best paging has its limits when there are simple so many things to put on bars.

PowerAuras are another thing. I like them. They’re shiny. They remind me of things I need to do. They’re casual, although not trivial to set up correctly. I use a mix of global auras and ‘personalised’ auras for each character – very effective so far – basically, the goal is to not have an aura on screen. If there’s an aura, there’s something I should do about it. Either an ability goes unused, a buff un-buffed or maybe I should consider my options of retreat and regroup.

You can even chain several auras together to check for multiple conditions – something that I use on my warrior to show the correct auras only when I’m in a stance that could use them.

However, where it really gets amazing is the combination of PowerAuras and macros. Specifically, the ‘ability usable’ part of PowerAuras. What counts here is, according to the documentation, the name of the ability on the action bar. Or the macro. That means that you can set up a few auras to check for combat status and stance. Then your macro has one or two conditionals that ‘branch’2 for two different abilities. And your final aura checks for the aura chain and your macro.

Congratulations, that’s a hell of a lot of logic you were able to create for displaying the correct symbol on your screen and then doing something about it by reflexively pressing a button – no matter what stance you are in. And you can delete the unneeded abilities themselves from your action bars.

Yes, I am a software developer, so I find these things almost, if not more, fun than actually playing the game. But maybe I’m just a Gnome at heart – tinkering with things, in the case of auras often on the fly while in combat to see if they behave correctly, and watching things blow up in my face when they don’t.3

0) Actual names of the commands may have been slightly different, this was 11 years ago.
1) Macro writing is not writing code. Not is writing HTML, but that is an issue for another day or blog.
2) That’s not really a branch, but it is an abbreviated if statement, or case statement.
3) There’s actually a pretty funny story how I nearly TK’d a teammate during a critical league match because I set my controls to the wrong ‘mode’ in the initial buy phase. But that is definitely a story for another blog.

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World Cup Azeroth – Play by Play

23.06.2010

The current topic at Blogazeroth, suggested by yours truly, is World Cup Azeroth. The real world Cup has seen mighty nations like France fail completely, while even Spain lost to the powerhouse Switzerland. But how would the cup play out in Azeroth?

Due to the length of the article, you’ll have to find out after this quick break! Read the rest of this entry ?

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Cataclysm is not Entropy!

19.06.2010

Wowhead has recently published a comprehensive list of updates about the upcoming Cataclysm. Besides the usual class specifics, one article caught my attention: A lot of the changes previewed have been cancelled, while new additions are being developed instead.

I won’t comment the whole article, but there are a few highlights that seem important for solo players and casuals alike.

Path of the Titans

Blizzard has scrapped the entire Path of the Titans progression system.

Well. That was something to start the article with, wasn’t it? It was heralded as the next big thing in player progression. Apparently, however, it turned out to be too similar to the current Glyph system. I still think that some parts of it could end up in a future expansion – there is a huge void where spiritual aspects are waiting patiently for there time.

As for the Path of the Titans – if it really would have been too complicated, or if dumbed down too similar to the Glyph system, then I understand the scrapping. The question remains, will a revamp of the Glyphs be enough to keep players happy? I’d say yes, but read on, the next point could change your mind.

Glyphs

they’ve added a new tier of glyphs: Medium Glyphs.

More variety, more choice, more outlets for creativity and personal style. I like it.

the glyph UI now lists all the possible glyphs for your class.

A nice change in the UI, although I think that even this is inferior to having a database ready at Wowhead, wowwiki et al.

There was also talk about making glyphs permanent rather than consumable-so that as soon as you used a glyph for the first time, it was added to your “list”, and thereafter you could rearrange your glyphs later on as you chose.

Now, this we have to talk about. Yes, it is very convenient. Yes it suits a casual player like me, actually. But good heavens, would it wreck the economy. Once you buy all Glyphs, you never need to buy more. I predict, in my humblest opinion, that Blizzard will think long an hard about this change and quite possibly not go through with it.

Guilds

the whole guild currency idea has been scrapped

Why am I talking about guilds anyway? Because I’m a guild. That means I hope I can get some benefits from this guild system extension, enabling me to solo more content.

As it is, guild currency? Not a huge fan. Scrapping thereof? Yay. We have enough different currencies, tokens and turn-ins as it is, Cataclysm will add more, be sure of it. It is quite confusing what you can buy with which currency, especially if you’re casual and / or solo and those tokens are hard enough to get in the first place. Keeping the system clean and simple is always the better solution.

The whole guild talents idea has been scrapped as well

This is of course only the half truth. There are now guild achievements. I think it’s a fair change, even if I’m less likely to qualify for the achievement requirements. Again, this keeps the system simple and in line with personal achievements. The whole overhead of having to distribute the talent points, respec and what-not wasn’t worth it, according to Blizzard, and based on the information I have, I have to agree.

New Zones

Stormwind

A second trade district-mailbox, auction house, bank, etc.-has been added to the Dwarven District.

Nice. Stormwind is big enough to house two trade centres, and the market place was awfully crowded.

They’ve added some new areas in the back-some lake area, as well as a city cemetery. Some quests have been added here to help flesh them out.

Well, they’re gone and flattened the park district, so getting another scenic view instead is nice. Plus quests centred in and around the city are a welcomed change.

Other Juicy Tidbits

The Shimmering Flats is mostly submerged, but the majority of the gameplay still takes place above water.

Hope you can swim.

When you gain a level, an announcement appears in the centre of the screen letting you know what new abilities you have access to, and advising you to see your trainer. Skills you’re levelled for but haven’t trained yet will be marked as such in your spellbook.

This is an enormous time-safer for those who don’t have the wiki open all the time. How often have you seen the message about reaching an even level, dropped everything you were doing because you thought “with those new skills I’ll blaze through my current quest!” only to find out that a talent you never used anyway now lasts twice as long? Now you know when to hurry back to your trainer and when to wait until you reach yet another even level.

Archaeology will let you find two types of items – Common Artifacts, which are kind of a collection game where you’re trying to find all of the artifacts for a particular race, and Rare Items which will produce actual usable items. Most Rare Items will be cosmetic only, but a few will have actual effects.

Cool. Archaeology suddenly got some meaning!

Wrath of the Lich King had about 1000 new quests. Cataclysm has over 3000.

Wow. Seriously. If they are as detailed as the Wrath quests I hear about, wow again.

All in all, I’m happy with this update from Blizzard. Cataclysm is turning out to be about change, not entropy as some feared.

Now on with the Worldcup!

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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.