Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year Picture Post

The yeah ends today, and I've been pretty much silent all week due to SWTOR binging and having the week off of work. I took the week off from writing, read a couple books, and gamed. It was a much needed vacation.

As a consolation gift, I wanted to do a end of the year picture post today. I had a handful of screenshots saved up that I thought worth sharing... so here we go.

We'll start with the Skyrim shots. I finished the game right before Star Wars dropped, and took a couple pictures to commemorate where I decided my ending would be. I hit level 50, finished all of the various guilds, skipped the revolution (I didn't feel pulled to join either side, and you don't need to finish it for the main quest), and, at the end, crafted myself some dragon gear out of all the bones I'd collected. Here's a look at the final set (with my wife, Aela the Huntress, beside me in the heavy stuff):

I won't spoil the story, but here's a picture I took after finishing the main quest line. Anyone else think they were going to visit the Fortress of Solitude (not the city)? I expected Consuela to answer: "No, Mr. Superman no here. No. No."

On to Star Wars. I tried to pass along a picture of Coruscant earlier in the week, but it got moved or something. So I fixed that with a different picture. No fireworks in it, but still pretty cool.

My Jedi Shadow is sitting at level 31 in cantina right now, celebrating his own new year. Side note - how would you calculate age in the Star Wars Universe? Would it be your home planet, or is there some sort of galactic standard? Talk about jet lag... "Well, when we left it was next year, but we got in this year. I need a nap."

Besides unlocking the Legacy system (which does nothing but grant you a last name right now for all of your toons), I've recently been hanging around Tatooine. Notice the classic dual suns.

I looked around for a T16, but I'm pretty sure it hasn't been invented yet. Womp rats, however, are most definitely there. And, yep, they don't look much bigger than 2 meters across.

That's all I've got for now! Have a wonderful New Year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

#SWTOR - Quick Tips

Well, the servers are supposed to be down for another... /checks clock, /does mental time conversation (why the hell do they list CST, GMT, and CET. Seems an odd smattering. I'm used to simply subtracting from PST, being on Eastern, but fortunately I live in Indiana (/sarcasm) where we have both the Eastern and Central timezones and all you have to do is drive NORTH to convert between them (up I65, which is really NW, but it's the principle of it). Yes, time zones get me somewhat worked up... wanna fight about it? /makes lightsaber noise.

ANNNYWAY, I think I have about a half hour before the servers are scheduled to come back up. Also, I've cleared out my reader, so you get a quickie article. Here's a collection of things I've learned on my way to level 25 that may be helpful:
  • Found a pretty solid Shadow guide. I believe the link is a reproduction from the official forums, but I was blocked from the forums when I found it. If you know where it's from, feel free to post the link in comments so I can give proper credit. I wouldn't treat this as gospel (game is still pretty new), but it gives you a good idea of what you probably should be doing.
  • There is already a "torhead" site and, yes, it has a talent calculator. Also information on your companions if you want to know.
  • There is a button on the top of your minimap whenever you're in a flashpoint that allows you to teleport out. The first flashpoint we did (Hammer Station, I believe) had a convenient exit, but the next one (Athiss, I think) we ran halfway back before finding the button.
  • The Legacy System kicks in after you complete Chapter 1 of your class storyline, which tends to be in the low level 30's. Just sayin'.
  • There was a Freeze Mob in Times Square on launch day. I live in Indiana, we just had a freeze on launch day. Fortunately, the wonders of YouTube have captured it for us. Pretty epic.
  • Hmm... 15 minutes left, what else do I have?
  • Space Battles seem to be a good way to make money. Especially if you run them during commercials of a show you're watching. I do them during football games. Perfect.
  • I swapped crafting skills from Synthweaving to Artificing (I've done tailoring in other games and wanted something different). Apart from the money needed to raise it back up (see aforementioned practice of copious commercial space battles), it was pretty easy to get back to where I was. You can queue up to five crafted things by just spamming the craft button, so I made things in batches of five for a bit.
  • Still not up. Did I calculate wrong? Let's see...
  • Nope, not just me. I guess I'll go read another chapter of Brandon Sanderson's Alloy of Law... oh darn.
  • I'll leave with this tidbit. Apparently, SWTOR has already reached 1 million subs. Now, that is the initial surge, so let's not get too excited. More importantly, in my mind, is the fact that we've collectively killed 2 billion NPCs. Luckily they respawn like, well, NPCs.
Reading time. I'll be keeping my eye on the server status page...

Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Holidays

I know it's late for one, but it's early for the other, and I don't know how much I'm going to be around this week. So, from my family to yours: have a wonderful holiday week and thanks for reading! See you in the new year (if not sooner).

Coruscant at night
(Edit: Switched the image because apparently the intended one got removed from the site I was linking to.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

#SWTOR - Jedi Shadow Stats

We're going to be Star Wars heavy for a bit. I think that's understandable, but I apologize to the WoW folk around these parts. There's just, well, everything to learn about SWTOR and pretty much nothing new to learn in WoW as an Affliction 'lock. It happens.

There was a helpful comment from Targeter yesterday, and it reminded me of a great primer I read over at The Stoppable Force. Stop does a great job of explaining all the stats, so if you're not a Jedi Shadow, feel free to head over there and extract your own gearing plan.

For Shadow's it's pretty simple early on. I anticipate it getting a bit harder at advanced levels, but at least for levels 1-20, you only need to pay attention to two stats on gear: Willpower and Endurance.

Willpower is your offensive stat. It'll make you hit harder in all facets. Endurance is your defensive stat. It will help you live longer and regen health faster. For the most part, you're just looking for the gear with both of those stats on it (it's pretty standard). For mods you're looking for Resolve mods and Force-wielder hilts (for example). For the most part, this should get you through, but if you come across a trade off directly between Willpower and Endurace, just make a judgement call on how you feel. So far I've given Willpower the edge, but I don't feel super-squishy. If you're dying a lot, think about favoring Endurance.  (Not that items also have an armor rating on them, but this is really a secondary concern. It can also help in a trade-off situation, but I don't think it should be a primary consideration.)

It gets a little trickier when you start trying to gear your companion, Qyzen Fess. Even though he's a melee fighter, he apparently falls under the "trooper" paradigm. I assume this is because, though he fights like a Jedi Knight, he's not a force-wielder. As such, his primary offensive stat is Aim with Endurance still being the primary defensive stat. He can wear heavy armor, so armor rating is a little more useful for him, but still more of a secondary concern. Keep him in heavy armor with his primary stats and you should be in good shape.

I did make Qyzen some Jedi Knight gear through my Synthweaving and had him wearing it for a bit, at least until I found something with his primary stat on it. I figured gear is better than no-gear, even if it had Strength instead of Aim. The Endurance still worked, but otherwise you're not going to be able to craft very much for him, which is a shame.

Now, if I could only get my ship. A'ryatha (Fuu) and I are sitting at level 18... we have to be super-close to getting our ships. From what I've heard, most people are getting them before 20. I'm assuming it happens through the class quest and we just haven't gotten there yet. Maybe tonight...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

#SWTOR - Vent Push to Talk Service Message

Push to talk not working for you? It wasn't for me, initially. This is just a quickie service announcement, not a full-fledged double post. The fix is simple and I wouldn't want you to feel as annoyed as I was. The trick is that you have to launch your vent client in Administrator mode. In Windows 7, this simply means right clicking and choosing "Run as Administrator." Or lowering the default defender settings so that everything is effectively run in admin mode. If your PTT key isn't registering in game (worked alt-tabbed out just fine), consider giving this quick-fix a try. Worked for me, and may save you a half hour of frustration.

#SWTOR - Shadowed Beginnings

It's official. SWTOR launched today! I'm sure this is not really a surprise to anyone, as with early entry and what-have-you, the games been "out" for a week now, and people have been talking about it for much longer. I've been slowly ramping up my own writing about the game here at KeS. I realize this is a WoW blog, but I simply don't want to start a new blog for each game I play. I like having one area to maintain and update. It keeps me here and writing, which I think y'all appreciate, even if it is about other games. Still, in the spirit of being clear, I will tag my Star Wars posts appropriately so that you know what you're getting into at a glance.

I also wanted to lay down a few disclaimers for all and sundry. First, I'm a huge Star Wars fan. Way more than Warcraft or really any other IP. When I was a young teen, I read all the novels. I'm familiar with the Solo twins, though when I went away from the books (there are so many!) for other genres, Jacen hadn't turned Sith yet. My favorite series, incidentally, was the X-Wing novels by Michael Stackpole (I follow his blog as a fledgling author now, too. He seems like a great guy and offers wonderful advice). Warcraft books are, really, a relatively new thing when compared to the plethora of Star Wars literature out there.

Point being, I'm hugely biased in favor of this game. I want to admit that up front. I'm already sucked in and loving it. I have no problem with people who say it's not for them, though. I can understand that, too. Similarly, if you're debating on jumping on your own starship and heading for the galaxy far, far away, don't make your decision based solely on what I say here. I'm definitely going to paint the game in a favorable light. (i.e. - If you buy and think it sucks, don't blame me. I'm biased. I admit it! I'm a fanboy!).

Now that we've gotten that aside, I wanted to pass along some of my initial observations, having played the game to level 16 now. I'm still a newb, still a baby, and plenty of folks are beyond me. Still, writing is what I do, and I'm going to try to put out some helpful information about my chosen classes as I go.

The first class I'm going to play to cap is the Jedi Shadow, Balance spec. I'd done a small amount of research on classes, and I picked balance shadow based on several criteria:
  1. I want a lightsaber. Preferably two. A double-bladed is sweet too. This was as simple as it was nerdy. I know, everyone wants to be a Jedi, right? But I refuse to be sorry for this boyish desire. Shadows work with double-bladed sabers, so this one was easily fulfilled.
  2. I don't want to be completely melee. Perhaps the playstyle that suits me the best in any RPG is "battlemage." That is, I like to have a healthy mixture of ranged and melee. WoW didn't really offer that kind of playstyle. The closest they got (IMO) is with frost DKs that came later. I was already a Warlock at that point, but I do have my DK for PvP. Balanced shadow is supposed to fulfill this, and so far it has.
  3. DoTs are nice. I like DoTs. Especially ones that return some health. I'm still a baby, but balance shadow looks to have this covered as well (from looking into the tree).
  4. The ability to stealth and sprint is totally an unanticipated bonus, but I love it.
  5. Sweet robes. I've never been a big armor guy. In Skyrim, I went whole hog into Light Armor. In SWTOR, I want sweet, mysterious robes. Balance shadow... check
That's all I can think of right now. I'm extremely happy with my class choice so far. It even almost has a Warlocky attitude to it. I know, I know, Jedi are good, but Jedi Shadows are like the Alliance Warlocks of the Jedi Order. They're not blatantly evil, but they may flirt with it. As you might expect, I will not be straight Light Side. I'm playing for more of a "gray" Jedi. We'll see how it works out.

If you've started a Shadow, you'll be looking for light armor with +Endurance and +Willpower on it. Those are our primary stats early on. Armor is nice, but you're going to be squishy anyway. Get good at using your stun and knockback to keep things away.

Generally, I like to stealth into a group, stab one in the back for a good chunk of damage, and then do the knock back ability. After that, I'll throw my DoT on one, stun another, and spray hurl chunks of ground as I'm running toward one for a lightsabery death. I try not to be in a melee duel, instead attempting to use finesse to get some hacks in while keeping baddies at arms length. So far it has worked well for me.

For crafting, I picked up Synthweaving with the Archaelogy and Underground Trading gathering skills. They synergize well with each other and the class, and I've created several upgrades for myself already. After slight research, I think this combination is the best, as you'll want to focus on armor instead of weapons (since you rely a lot on force abilities).

I'm still a newb, so I may be doing things wrong. If you're a fellow Shadow, feel free to let me know what's working for you. I plan to eventually work up a guide like I have for my Warlock stuff. Until then, may the Force guide you!

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Dealership Service Quest Chain

Since it's Monday and I spent a good chunk of the weekend helping my mother move (gah my back hurts)... here's something that is only vaguely MMO related but will hopefully make your smile.

So I took my car into the dealer last week to repair an oil leak. It was all covered under warranty, so not a huge deal, but a bit of a hassle all the same. No part was more troublesome than the checkout. Let me recount that proceeding for you.

First, I spoke to the man at the service reception desk, the same bloke that had accepted my vehicle into the ranks of to-be-repaired. He explained that I would need to go inside to the cashier's counter. Very quickly, this is the layout of the dealership. Reception area just inside the entryway. To the right, a doorway to the service area. Through that door, you take a U-turn through another adjacent door to get to the cashier's counter. Also, at the top of that "U" is a small building-inside-of-the-building-office-looking-thingy that will come into play in just a bit. The point here, is that all of these areas are damn near in arm's reach of each other... yet separated by big glass windows. You know, so you can see exactly how far you've gone.

At the cashier's counter, I talked a friendly woman, who informed me that Dennis (and only Dennis) had to print me off a different sheet before we could complete any steps of the transaction. Dennis was apparently the receptionist that accepted my car (different from the guy I just spoke to out there; Dennis was on lunch break). I proceeded back to the original reception person and gave him my best "wtf dude, why didn't you tell me I needed Dennis" look, while being as polite as possible in my retelling of the cashier's quest line. He skipped reading the quest text and went straight to paging Dennis.

At that moment, someone who was definitely not Dennis entered the reception area. This Not Dennis took my papers and promised me that he would take care of it. No sooner had that man's heels clicked out of the reception room than Dennis himself entered, almost running into the man. Dennis gave me his best "wtf do you want, I was trying to eat" look. I explained hastily that Not Dennis had supposedly taken care of it. Dennis seemed satisfied, though mildly annoyed, and directed me back to the cashier's counter.

Shortly, the cashier materialized with papers in hand, printed by the mysterious he-who-is-Not-Dennis-but-has-Dennis-like-powers and had me sign something. Check out complete, I figured she'd pass along my keys, but what she really passed on was a token to redeem my keys at a different vendor. If you recall that building within a building, then you might expect that is where I now needed to go. You would be right. It was the service office.

The service office was lightly staffed with four men for the two desks therein. They all looked at me as if I were some sort of Russian Unicorn, and simply stared until I stated my case. I think it went something like: "Um, lady gave me this thingy and told me to get my keys?" With a grunt and a nod, one of the me snatched the token, matched number to number, and handed over the keys. I had almost turned to leave when I thought to ask: "So where is the car?"

"Just go out the door, it's somewhere in the lot out there. First few rows."

As fate would have it, it was in the third row. It took me much pressing of the lock button (for bat-esque echo-location) to find it.

When I was safely aboard my chariot, I reflected. This was, quite frankly, the Worst Quest Ever. The objective was completed within one quest hub, yes, but with much travel between nodes. The token was redeemed, but I still had to go find my reward. There was no gold. No Valor Points. I did not get any rep with any faction. Were I a developer at the offending dealership, I would quite seriously look into revamping that quest chain. Maybe add a cutscene or two, throw some montage music over the top, and save us all the trouble of watching it play out in real time.

Just sayin'...

Friday, December 16, 2011

They Have Apostrophes

Fulguralis's eyes fluttered open. White walls reflected white floors mirroring a white ceiling. Light seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere. The warlock squinted and sat up.

Well, he was already sitting. This must be a dream. He last remembered laying down, closing his eyes... and then this. It didn't feel like a dream, though. It felt real. Then again, dreams often did.

A shuffle behind him set his back rigid. Someone else was in the room. He spun in a whirl of robes, pulling out his sword.

For a moment, he just stood there. His blade went from a fiery red, to dusky purple, back to red again. All at once, Fulguralis noted the absence of sound. Apart from the rustle of clothing and his own breathing, it was silent.

"I mean you no harm." The voice was calm, soothing even, and Fulguralis felt something brush his mind.

He turned slowly. There, to his right, just out of sword's reach, was another robed man. Except this man's robes were somehow different than what Fulguralis was used to.  It wasn't that they were all that special - drab brown on brown - they just seemed to be fashioned out of a different kind of cloth. As a tailor, Fulguralis expected to recognize it, so it bothered him when he didn't.

"Who are you?" he asked.

"I am Ful'guralis, Jedi Consular of the Galactic Republic," the strange man announced.

The warlock narrowed his eyes. "Are you an orc?"

The man seemed puzzled by the question. "What is this... orc?"

"You have green skin." Fulguralis was studying the man's mouth. His teeth seemed decidedly... un-orcish. And there were patterns of squares tattooed under his eyes.

The man smiled. "I am Mirialan. Does my alien visage unnerve you?"

"You're not as ugly as an orc." Fulguralis shrugged.

"What is your name?" the Jedi asked.

"Fulguralis," the warlock replied.  Remembering the man's titles, he added, "Warlock of the Alliance and, um, Dominator of Demons."

"Then we share a name, how strange."

"Not really. People have the same name all the time."

"Do you spell yours with an apostrophe?"

"Who uses those in a name?"

There didn't seem to be an answer for that.  Instead, the Jedi's eyes went to the drawn sword.

"Interesting vibroblade. Did you craft it yourself?"

"My sword? No. Found it on a dead guy, then enchanted it."


The warlock shook his head. Was this guy dense? "Yes. See the colors? Represents additional power. Enchanted."

"Sort of like a focusing crystal, then."

"Whatever you say, bud."

A subtle swish of the robe revealed metal glinting at the Jedi's waist.  It was a cylindrical device, unlike anything the warlock had seen before. What's more, it didn't appear sharpened anywhere.

"Is that your wand?" Fulguralis asked. There were some crazy wands out in Azeroth.

Ful'guralis pulled out the cylinder. "This?" When the warlock nodded, he explained. "A wand? No. It is my lightsaber."

"Light Saber," the warlock repeated. "So you're paladin, then?"

"A what?"

"A soldier of the Light."

"Well, I try to serve the light side of the Force, yes."

"The Force?"

"The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together."

"So, like, the Sunwell?"

The two men stared at each other across the featureless room.  Though they spoke the same tongue, they were not communicating very easily. It was starting to seem like they came from two very different (yet somehow similar) worlds. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Your Saga Begins

This is why I'm a huge nerd, and totally biased toward Star Wars. All it took is those three words atop an email, and my heart started being faster. I feel that I must point out that I'm not usually all that excited about other games. Even WoW. I mean, we did the midnight release thing and it's loads of fun, but there wasn't a big visceral response.

Maybe that's a bit disingenuous. I did get excited about Cataclysm. And Skyrim. And I'm still excited about AC:Revelations (though I'm waiting until after Christmas to buy it with gift cards and have actual time to play it). It's just that... I'm a sucker for Star Wars. The only reason I didn't play SWG was because I didn't learn about MMOs until it was already completely screwed and everyone said not to play it. Even then, I probably would have liked it just because it had lightsabers. (Even so, I'll refrain from simply gushing on here. That sort of writing can get quite dull.)

The point is that I saw the email and thought: "Oh hell yes my saga begins." Immediately followed by: "Crap, I'm at work."

So yeah, I'll be here... working. An inauspicious start to my saga if you ask me. Yet, patient the Force must be. Or something. We'll roll tonight (on Jekk'Jekk Tar), probably around 5:31PM (takes me a half hour to get home). And then... it's on Sith.

(If you're curious, it seems like nearly every wave or pre-orders has been invited now... or should have been.  The first few days were pretty much stuck in July with the initial spike. Then, it apparently expanded quickly, because we didn't redeem until October (I was preoccupied) and a buddy that just got his in the last wave only redeemed a few weeks ago.  So it looks like they planned it so that everyone gets at LEAST 5 days instead of at most like I'd expected with the initial announcement.  I'm assuming this is why they bumped it up two days.  They probably calculated that they could get everyone in if they started x days before, and went with that. Heck, that was probably the plan all along.  Probably could have been communicated a bit better, but they may have been hedging a bit in case things went wrong. From what I hear, though, it's all smooth.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Two For Tuesday

I'm a classic rock station now. Deep radio DJ voice: double shot of Van Halen, comin' up. Then, we're going deep into the vaults for some AC/DC... Okay, not really. Just have two quick points of discussion for today.

First, SWTOR guild server announcements came out yesterday, so a whole bunch of us now know where we're going. If you're looking for me, look no further than the Jekk'Jekk Tar server. I'm following some RL friends there. Likely, I'll just go a Fulguralis for my first toon, so feel free to look me up and say hi.  Also, if you're in the neighborhood and looking for a close-knit, casual group of players (that are still playing other games so won't time will always be an issue), feel free to hang around with us in a more permanent fashion (i.e. find me and run with us a few times... maybe join our little guild).

I also plan to roll a toon on Hidden Beks if they let me as well. It's an EU server, and my old guild Generations is planning to play there. Most of them are EU folks, so we didn't roll mains there since the time change is likely an issue, but I did want to mention them.  If you're an EU gamer looking for a good, casual home... the great people at Gens still hold a special place in my heart, and they've been around forever.

Second, our raid group was short three last night (two of our future lawyers were facing finals), so we ended up checking out the LFR. It was everything everyone said it would be.  We actually queued into a 2/4 group, already in progress, so we only go to experience the last two bosses.  Or I think it said 2/8, but you only do 4 in LFR, right?  It was sort of confusing, but we downed two bosses and then the popup said we'd finished what we set out to do and the group dissolved, so we figured we were done.  The two fights were interesting, puggable, and fun.  I know people say "easy," but I wouldn't go that far.  Not that I find them challenging, just that I think they're tuned right for the situation you run them in.  The challenge is in coordination and leadership, not mechanics.

Also, as was pointed out by K-bear yesterday in comments, for someone coming from 10-mans, it's easy to forget how little the individual (especially DPS) matters in 25-man.  You're not really down and out until half the raid is dead.  There will be fail, but you should still be able to get the bosses down.  It was a lot of fun for the seven of us, together in vent, going in blind.  Plus we got some solid upgrades out of it.  Also, having a 7-raider core likely helped the group... we provided most of the top DPS, plus since we had our own healers, they kept us alive (not necessarily at the expense of others, but probably just a bit... so sue us. XD).

Fun times.  Now, back to your regularly scheduled Tuesday programming.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Quick Monday Update

This is, effectively, the last work week of the year for me. I still have to come in next week for a couple days, but everyone will be gone so it'll be pretty dull. The flipside is that everyone wants everything done this week, before they leave. Makes sense, right?

Being a peon, all I can say is: "Yesh, mi'lord." and "Right away, mi'lord." And if you click on me, several versions of "Wut is it?" until maybe I get pissed and let loose with a special line before going back to the same "Yesh" routine.  Oh, you want me to take lumber to the lumber mill? THEN BUILD IT CLOSER YOU IDIOT.

But I can't say that, I just have to do what the powers-that-be tell me to do.  Also means that this week is going to be a bit busy, so if all of my posts seem sporadic and rushed... well, it's because I'm lugging sacks of gold to and from the ke- oh, now it's a castle.

Gaming-wise, I plan to be busy, too.  Likely, my early-invite to SWTOR will come to be later this week.  It's all very secretive and mysterious, and despite my abundance of medichlorians, always in motion the future is.  Difficult to see my start time must be.

As such, I'm trying to "finish" Skyrim.  I'm sitting at level 44.  The plan is to get to 50 and then finish the MQ.  I've finished all of the guilds, though there are plenty of quests left.  I've not even touched the rebellion (and plan to make peace and save it for a rainy day after the main quest is complete).  There are plenty of daedric artifacts that I've not acquired, and I'm only thane in two holds (Whiterun and Riften).  Thus, I can't really say I'm "finishing" the game.  More like I'm throwing in the towel.  Seriously, Skyrim will suck your life away if you let it.  Almost as bad as an MMO.

I probably would have wrapped up my plans in Skyrim this weekend if it hadn't been for WoW.  For all my complaints about the glossed-over story in the new heroics, they sure are nice to run randomly.  Perfect balance of time-spent and reward-gained, perhaps a little slanted toward the reward end right now (what with all the useful drops).  Ran a few this weekend and, what do you know, it was fun again.  I may get back into the habit, at least until I exhaust the points vendors.

Sadly, I've not been able to try the LFR just yet.  No Dragon Soul raids for me, either.  We're still planning to finish up Rags, and I've just not had nights where I can sit down and raid (apart from the one I've set aside per week).  I suppose that's why I'm happier with the heroics.  I've spent a whole lot of this expansion feeling like I'm a failure at gearing up because, in general, I only get about an hour each night.  Before these new heroics, you couldn't do a lot of useful (for raiding) things in an hour.  Squeezing in a Trollroic was iffy for a while.  I quickly exhausted the usefulness of the out-of-the-Cata-box heroics.  It's nice to have a "quick fix" solution again.

That's all for now.  We'll see how coherent I am later this week.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Austin Was Pretty Hairy

Fulguralis plants the head of his mallet into the ground and leans up against it, panting. The exceedingly odd man next to him hands him a red ticket. Fulguralis nods and exchanges it for the long wooden hammer.

"Well done," the man says. "Would you like to go again?"

Fulguralis shakes his head. "No, no. I've had enough for today."

"You'll be back tomorrow, though?" the man asks with a wink.

Fulguralis grins. "Of course."

As he turns, the Faire attendant is already hollering at other passerby, having moved on from the warlock. Darkmoon island has been quite busy since the re-opening of the fair. Fulguralis has to admit, the fair-folk had done a great job with the place.

"Stomping good time, was it not?"

Fulguralis turns to the Gilnean addressing him. "Yes. It was, wasn't it?"

The man had been whacking the stuffed moles alongside him in the both just now. Fulguralis did not recognize him at first. The warlock finds that a certain... haze settles over his brain while he's playing this particular game. He doesn't see the other gamers around him, but merely focuses on where that next felling mole will pop up. Then... WHACK. It really was a lot of fun. A great way to blow off some steam too, even if it was a bit closer than the warlock usually fought. Maybe there's something to this melee business?

Fulguralis lets his gaze roam over the friendly stranger.  The man appears to be wearing, of all things, a leisure suit of crushed blue velvet with a frilly white undershirt poking out through the chest.  Brown hair arranged just-so, thick black glasses, and terrible, terrible teeth complete the ensemble. 

Ever since those damn Ethereals showed up, fashion's been... strange to say the least, Fulguralis reflects.  Especially among the Gilneans.

"I've been rather thrilled with the Faire. Certainly has taken my mind off the war," the Gilean admits.

Fulguralis simply nods.  He supposes that is one good reason to go to the Faire: to escape the realities of the struggle against Deathwing.  Wasn't really why he was there, but a valid reason nonetheless.

"I'll admit it," the Gilnean continues. "There are really only two things that scare me, and one is Dragon War."

Fulguralis takes the bait. "What's the other?"

"Excuse me?"

"What's the other thing that scares you?"

The man leans in close. "Carnies. Circus folk. Nomads, you know. Smell like cabbage. Small hands."  He flexes his fingers before leaning back with a shudder.

Fulguralis looks around at the Faire and all of the scurrying attendants.  He raises an eyebrow.

"So, why are you here?" the Gilnean asks.

Fulguralis shrugs. "The tickets?"

The strange man cocks his head at the warlock.  Unwilling to be rude, he changes the subject.  "Ah look. A cannon. And they'll shoot you from it.  Just my sort of thing.  After all, Danger is my middle name."  Just then, a rather scantily clad, plate-wearing woman walks by.  "Hello, hello," the man says, attaching to her like a Gnomish magnet.

Fulguralis rolls his eyes as the man leaves.  All sorts of folk at the Faire.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

#SWTOR - Last Beta Thoughts

I think I mentioned that I got into the SWTOR beta again this past weekend. It was the last one, and a much smaller sampling, so I was compelled at the very least to drop in. I didn't have a whole lot of time, but I did get to spend a few quality hours and go from level 10 to 12. 

When I created my beta toon, I didn't put a whole lot of thought into it.  I've spent gobs of time with character creators before, and SWTOR's isn't revolutionary.  I simply picked the green dude because the Muppet movie was coming out and I wanted to repeat "it's not easy being green" in my head several times.  I found it quite hilarious in my own little world.

Color me surprised, then, when I felt a pang of loss when I considered that the character was being deleted.  I had grown quite fond of the horribly green Luke Skywalker clone (seriously, I did the hair, too).  Furthermore, I felt a bit sad that my sexy smuggler was getting wiped as well, and I'd only played her to level 2.  What the hey-diddle-diddle?  I'm no stranger to character attachment, but so soon?

Spinks touched on it along with some beta notes here:
"My overall impression is that the story emphasis has a much bigger effect on how involved players get with their characters than I first thought."
Exactly!  The voices.  The attitudes.  I just got a little taste and I was sad to see them go.  On the flip side, had I rolled a completely annoying character, I might have been ready to nuke him/her into oblivion.  I assume the lightsaber cuts both ways.

I also found some fair criticism from Gordon at We Fly Spitfires here.  Just trying to be fair and balanced and all that.  The game isn't perfect, and potential players should be aware of what they may or may not be buying into.

Finally, I wanted to give Targeter a proper shout out, since I know how he feels.  It can be hard to face a game launch when you have high expectations, even when you've endeavored to keep them low.  He's struggling with letting his secret (public) love fly.  It's sort of like throwing a really juicy steak to a pack of rabid wolves after you've only had one bite.  You know they're out there, and they're going to tear it to pieces.  Plus, filet is really wasted on the lupine palate, isn't it?  Hopefully there's enough meat to go around and the flavor holds up.

That about rounds up my last beta thoughts. Now comes the hard part: being patient for release.  I even have a single vacation day that I saved all year so I could binge properly on the first day.  (Not that anyone here would scoff at such a practice, but seriously it's the only "me" day I've taken this year.  And we should all get at least one "me" day, shouldn't we?)  Until then, remember that impatience leads to frustration, frustration to fear, fear to anger, anger to the Dark Side.  Isn't that how it goes?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Faire? The Faire!

All black and brown and covered with hair. Nope, that's not how it goes. (Sorry, little Song of Fire and Ice joke there. Anyone else enjoy the Bear and the Maiden Fair, or is it just me?). Anyway, about the Faire.

Yes, I finally got around to checking it out. A day late, to be sure. And while I complained on Friday about the new heroics (albeit in character), I have no complaints about the Faire. I'm actually suitably impressed. It is not a giant hub, but it is fun. The games are interesting, and it all seems well done. I haven't noticed any glaring issues yet, and even the small things seem to have been thought of.

It almost seems to me to be a Tale of Two Design Teams. There are a plethora of little things that annoy me about the the implementation of the new heroics. They just don't have that same level of Blizz-polish. There are small bugs here and there, and the storytelling is not as fluid as I might like to see. On a larger scale, they're fine. The fights are interesting when working, the venues pretty when you have a moment to take it in, and the cameos by lore characters are fun when you actually get a chance to digest that they're there. However, the demon lord is in the details, they say, and there are some details in the heroics that are even now being hotfixed.

The Faire, though? Seems flawless so far. Is it odd that that surprised me?

In a world of Skyrim and SWTOR, it really is the details that will make or break my playtime decisions. The minor details won't make me completely quit a game, but at the end of the day, I simply want the most fun for my time spent. My time is precious, and there are tons of things competing for it right now. The Faire may well win a temporary spot where the heroics have failed. It's not simply about rewards... it's how I feel when earning those rewards, and the heroics feel to rushed for me. It's more stress, not less.
"Oh come they said,
Oh come to the fair!
The fair? said he,
But I'm a bear!
All black and brown,
And covered in hair!"
I'll leave you with a tip: Did you know there's a trade goods vendor just outside of the return portal (in Elwynn Forest at least)? Yep, Fuu didn't. She went all the way back to Stormwind to get her trade goods. The closer vendor really makes the dailies pretty trivial. Just sayin'.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Let The Dragons Have Him

Fulguralis stomped from one end of the room to the other. Reaching the far side, he retraced his path. Once he was back where he started, he muttered a few things, and then began the pattern anew. His wife watched from the safety of the bed.

"Your pacing is wearing me out, hun," Fuubaar said.  "What's wrong?"

"What's wrong?" Fulguralis repeated. "What's wrong?" His voice was getting progressively higher. "I'll tell you what's wrong."

But he didn't.  He degenerated to mumbling and stomping.  Fuubaar could make out the occasional "Dragon Soul."  Generally, it was surrounded by profanity.

Fuubaar sighed and watched patiently.  Give him a moment, and he'd burn himself out.  Warlocks were fiery like that.

"Does this have anything to do with traveling through time?" Fuubaar asked.

Fulguralis turned toward her, eyes ablaze.  "Yes, time travel. Exactly! That's a huge part of the problem. They just send us all over time like some sort of chrono-butler. Recording this, and stopping that. And 'oh no, not this possible apocalypse.' And pay-no-attention-to-this-stream-because-it's-simply-parallel-and-doesn't-reflect-your-reality-at-all. But it does. It does."

"Who are 'they,' sweetheart?"

"The dragons, of course. The felling dragons. They have all the answers. And they're so powerful. But not that powerful. Only powerful enough to show up when all the grunt work is done. Oh, and to go crazy and muck everything up in the first place. But ask them to actually do something and all you get is some cryptic answers about time flows and old gods and all this patronizing crap about-"

"I thought you liked Alexstrasza?"

Fulguralis threw up his hands. "To look at, sure. And she's always been nice. But what has she really done?"

"She did take on Deathwing several times, I believe. And her drakes have bailed you out of several sticky situations."

Fulguralis waved that away. "The red dragonflight isn't who I'm talking about. It's all the rest of them."

"Are you mad about Deathwing again, dear?"

"Don't even get me started. I mean, who is this guy? He just flies in, all pissed off at being held captive for a billion years or whatever, destroying stuff. Why was he there in the first place? Oh yeah, because he got corrupted by power! Why? What's his motivation to throw it all away for some power? That's all these dragons want: power. I consort with demons for power daily, and you don't see me losing my head. Why can't these all-mighty dragons handle it? What the fel good are they if all they ever do is give into their baser urges and get used as pawns and such? Weren't they created to protect this world? If so, that dude messed up big time. Talk about a bunch of flawed engineering... look at the dragons."

"Honey, dragons are people, too," Fuubaar said. "Okay, not really people. Sort of elves, but not really. But what I'm trying to say is that they have wants and desires as well. They're just as vulnerable as we are. And don't forget we created the Lich King."

Fulguralis threw a finger. "But that's exactly my point. I get Arthas. He was trying to protect his people, and lost his way. It makes sense. It was a dumb choice, but at least it makes sense. What's Deathwing's excuse? Who was he looking out for? What were his motivations? I mean they want us to go after this guy, but what do we really know about him?"

Fuubaar shrugged. "So what are you saying?"

"It's a dragon problem. That's what I'm saying. The dragons created this mess, not us. Why don't they clean it up? Why do they have to use us?"

"I don't know what to tell you, hun."

"Don't tell me. Tell that Light of yours." He pointed at the ceiling. "It's his... hers... their... its... doing." He walked over and sat on the bed, holding his head in his hands. "All this old god stuff. These aspects. This time travel. These damned dragons. I can't wrap my head around it. And no one really wants to sit down and take the time to explain it. It's all go go go, and I just want know why. That's all. Is that so much to ask?"

Fuubaar patted him on the leg. "It'll be okay. Why don't you put on your gear so we can go try to find some answers?"

Fulguralis nodded for a moment, and then stood up in an explosion of blankets and limbs. "And that's another thing. Do you know how expensive it is to maintain all this gear? It's cloth. Cloth! And I'm paying out the-"

Fuubaar nodded along with the rant. Looks like it was going to be another one of those weeks...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Two for Thursday

You get another post today. This one is just a quick shout out, though. Promise. Generally, I try to space stuff out, but there's just a lot going on.  So many games!

I wanted to point to the latest SWTOR beta patch notes over at The Stoppable Force.  Stop's a great blogger and I'm glad to see he'll be writing about Star Wars.  He was one of my favorite WoW bloggers back in the day before he went on hiatus.  Anyway, he published the notes in their entirety, so all you midi-chlorians out there might want to go check 'em out.  I know I did.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

4.3 Guide Updates and a Planetary Album

I finally got my game to load last night. Yeah, I was having that problem where WoW would freeze up on the loading screen. Turns out that FuBar was the culprit. Thanks BBB. I got rid of FuBar and picked up LDB-based Chocolate Bar. It has equivalents of all the plugins I was using, so I got all those set up. And that was pretty much my night.  Boring, I know. 

I did go through my guides.  It had been a while, so I thought it was time.  It's interesting that in previous expansions I basically had to update those with each major patch.  In Cataclysm, classes have remained pretty consistent.  At least, the classes I play, and especially Affliction Warlocks. We've have some buffs/nerfs along the way, but nothing that's really shaken up the playstyle.

There was one update I made that I wanted to highlight.  Over time, my starting rotation has smoothed out a bit different than originally advertised.  I'm pretty happy with where it stands now.  Here's the excerpt:
Above 25% Health, Single Target
Shadowbolt > Haunt > Curse of the Elements > Unstable Affliction > Corruption > (Bane) > Shadowbolt. Spam SB until a refresh of each disease is needed (monitor them individually with a DoT timer. Fortex or Xperl is great for this). Life tap sparingly. You don't have to worry about clipping for anything but BoA, so ideal refresh time is to start casing somewhere in the last two seconds to make sure you don't get any drop off. (4.3 Update - I shuffled things up a little here. I tend to throw my cast time spells in after the first Shadowbolt to account for travel time. Usually by the time UA hits, my S&F is up, which is the goal. Otherwise, the idea hasn't really changed.)
The basic highlight is that I front-loaded cast time spells (despite my earlier aversion to this).  There haven't been a lot of fights where you're moving at the beginning.  Generally, Blizz has allowed us at least time to get set up before throwing "don't stand in this" mechanics out there. 

In SWTOR news (yep, I'm going to start sharing some of that too), MMO Gamer Chick has a great Planetary Album up, revealing photos of each planet.  From a game-design perspective, I have to believe that the SW universe will provide so much more flexibility for designers than any sort of fantasy MMO.  The simple reason?  Want to add a new zone? Open a planet.  Each planet can basically be an island, allowing what I would think would be extremely easy expansion.  I'm excited not only for the launch, but also to see how the game grows and matures.  I think there's a lot of potential there.

Anyway, that's all for today.  I plan to do the new five mans tonight (finally), maybe get some PvP in, we'll see.  I want to check out the new Darkmoon Faire, too.  Oh, and there's still Skryim.  So little time...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

4.3 Goes Live... Without Any Class Changes For Me

So yeah, 4.3 is going up today.  I thought I had another week.  We didn't get Rags down last night, and I wanted another shot.  Oh well, nothing to stop us from going back.  There aren't a whole lot of Warlock changes, so I'll do a quick aside on Rags.

Is there anything more worthless than an Affliction 'Lock on those adds during the phase change?  That is all.

Hopefully the 4.3 10% buff to Soul Fire will make it instantly get one of those guys to 50% (doubt it).  Then, I may have a chance of killing one on my own.  As it is now, I'm paired up with a bursty melee so he can get it to 50% and then grab another.  I'm the closer.  Kyra Sedgwick is not pleased.

Okay, okay.  Enough whining.  Here are the patchy notes:

  • Shadow Bolt has a new spell effect.
  • Soul Fire now scales with 72.6% of spell power, up from 62.5%.
  • The Voidwalker ability Suffering now works like the hunter pet talent Taunt.
  • Talent Specializations
    • Demonology
      • Master Demonologist now grants a base bonus of 20%18.4% and 2.5%2.3% per mastery, up from 16% and 2% per mastery.
      • Impending Doom is now also activated by Soul Fire.
    • Destruction
      • Fire and Brimstone now increases the damage of Incinerate and Chaos Bolt on Immolated targets by 5/10/15%, up from 2/4/6%.
      • Burning Embers now deals damage equal to 25/50% of Soul Fire and Imp's Firebolt, up from 15/30%.
      • Burning Embers damage cap has been raised.
      • Shadowburn now deals Shadowflame damage, instead of Shadow damage.
      • Improved Soul Fire now lasts 20 sec, up from 15sec.
  • Bug Fixes
    • Fixed a bug that caused Doomguard and Infernal to benefit dramatically more than intended from Demonology Mastery.
Notice anything?  Or rather, a lack of something.  Where are the Affliction notes?  What, there are none?

I suppose that's okay.  I don't have any major complaints right now.  (Except, of course, for the uselessness on Rag's adds described above.  Mechanics like that just suck and I'm not sure I would want them to fix us for it... it might ruin our identity).  Apart from the soul fire buff, and a shiny new shadowbolt visual, we're not really getting anything here.  There's not much to say. 

How about my DK, any better? Let's look:

Death Knights
  • Death Strike now heals the death knight whether or not the attack misses, or is dodged/parried. As a result of this change, Death Strike no longer refunds its rune cost if it fails to hit the target, as the death knight will still receive the healing effect.
  • Blood Presence now provides an armor bonus of 55%, up from 30%.
  • Death Knight pets now properly inherit their master's crit and spell penetration stats.
  • Talent Specializations
    • Blood
      • Blade Barrier has been redesigned. It now passively reduces damage taken.
      • Bone Shield now has 6 charges, up from 4.
      • Veteran of the Third War now reduces the cooldown of Outbreak by 30 seconds.
    • Unholy
      • The gargoyle called by Summon Gargoyle should exclusively use its ranged attack regardless of range to the target.
      • Unholy Might now increases Strength by 25%, up from 20%.
Nope, nothing that's going to really affect my PvP Frost play there  Frost is missing as well.

So boring patch is boring.  At least from a class-I-play standpoint.  I'm looking forward to dorking around with the raid finder, the new five mans, transmogging, void storage, the new faire and those sorts of changes that we knew were coming.  I'll have write more on them when I see how they've actually been implemented though.  Which brings an interesting conflict to light: Skryim or 4.3?  Hmm....

Monday, November 28, 2011

#SWTOR - Beta Impressions

I did finally get into the beta this weekend. Saturday to be exact. And I ended up spending most of the day messing around.  After a somewhat rocky start, I had a whole lot of fun.  It even rendered me deaf to the siren's call of Skyrim for a day, so that's saying something.

First, the bad.  I could gush all day about the good stuff, but betas are for testing and I feel like I should be focused on what the problems were.  Not that any of the developers will actually read this, but more in the interest of just jotting it down for fair reporting.

They're going to have to improve their communication and response time.  I had a hard time figuring out how and when, exactly, I was supposed to login.  Prior to the actual beta test, I kept getting errors making me reset my password over and over.  Then their servers were down, but it didn't say that up front.  I wasn't sure if it was just on my end or what was going on.  Eventually, they posted a statement letting everyone know that they were having some trouble handling the demand, and that we could give it a break for a bit.  It was a little late, in my opinion, but they did seem to get it straightened out.  Still, this has me worried.  If they can't handle the load for a (albeit large) simple beta test, then how is launch day going to go? 

Communication was a bit shoddy as well.  I got an email at what seemed like the last minute letting me know what time I could actually log on.  Maybe it's just me, but I felt like there was a lot of disorganization behind the scenes.  One might expect a certain amount of this for a test, so I'm hoping they learned and get it all ironed out for the launch.  Being perfect is not the key.  Technical difficulties are going to happen.  It's important that you communicate what's going on to the players, though.  Swiftly, and with an expected return time if you can.  Even if it's just "check back for more info in an hour," we want to know.  At the very least, we don't want to keep hitting enter at the login screen and changing our password when it's a server load issue.

Once I got in, though, it was all good.  I rolled every Republic toon, and one Sith warrior.  I wanted to see as much of the starting areas as possible.  The problem was, I kept getting pulled into the story.  I wanted to keep playing each toon, which is not exactly helpful in a beta-test mindset.  It says great things about the game though. 

Weirdest thing for me: there is NO QUEST TEXT.  None.  It's all told via dialog.  I thought maybe it would be disorienting and/or annoying, but I found it immersing and hugely entertaining.  It slows down things quite a bit (especially if you weren't a quest text reader), but you don't notice until after the hours have ticked by.  For a game that borrows very obviously from the other success out there (namely WoW), this method of quest giving struck me as a huge improvement.

It seemed to me that, by removing the player a bit more from the game, they actually added to the immersion.  That may sound backward, but bear with me here.  In WoW, I'm interacting with the world through a thinly veiled avatar.  It "speaks" with my voices, acts like me, etc... it IS me just in different clothing.  I could roleplay other characters, sure, but the roleplay is inevitably based on my own imagination and suspension of disbelief.

In SWTOR, it's more like you're directing and actor.  I'm saying: "Okay, now preform this scene, and act like you really care about the NPC."  Or, conversely: "Let's do that scene again (reroll), except now you're an evil bastard (Sith)."  You choose the dialog motivation, but the character acts it out and adds flavor.  Rather than making me feel removed, it made me more engaged and I found myself really digging my characters and their stories.  It was like a movie coming to life before me, due to my minute ministrations.  I was hooked.  Here was, truly, game-assisted roleplay.

There are plenty of MMO artifacts you could point to that degrade immersion, but I feel like Bioware has done a great job at minimizing them.  I think a major complaint folks are going to have is that SWTOR is "on rails."  And I'd agree.  It's no Skyrim.  Or EVE, for that matter.  It is certainly not a sandbox-type game.  If that's what you like, perhaps you should look elsewhere. What it IS, is Knights of the Old Republic, the MMO.  (I wouldn't be surprised if that's how this project was originally pitched).  I loved that game, and I think I'll love this one.  It takes the best of story telling, and adds multi-player elements.

There are so many things to like.  From the alignment options, to the crew, to the giant world and breathtaking scenery, to, yes, the lightsabers.  There are also things that are grating.  The non-customizable UI, the sometimes arduous size of cities, and, obviously, the early technical issues.

My hope is that a lot of this gets smoothed out.  The tech stuff definitely needs to be addressed before launch and beyond, and the other stuff could be helped by patches along the way.  This is what a beta is for: learning.  And I hope they learned quite a bit.

As far as excitement for the game?  Yep, that's definitely in full swing.  I can't wait.  I love what I've seen, and feel like this is a game definitely geared toward me.  I understand that it may not be for everyone (especially if "rails" bother you), but, man, is it right up my alley.  My biggest current concern?  How am I ever going to balance SWTOR and WoW.  I don't plan on ditching one for the other, and I doubt they'll politely schedule all patches and releases around each other.  Could be an interesting year for gaming coming up.  May the Force be with us all.  We're gonna need it.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Pilgrim's Booty

The remnants of the turkey had been hauled away and sharded. The table cleaned up. The candles burned low. Fulguralis sat next to his wife.  At the head of the table was Captain Melvin Brightrune, his father-in-law.  His mother-in-law was just returning from the kitchen, a room she'd completely taken over during their brief holiday stay.  Further down the long table (pulled out especially for the holiday, the one time of year it saw use) sat his sister and her date, cousin Abigora, and of course, some minions.

"Say what you're thankful for, Melvin," Minerva Brightrune shouted at her husband.

"You've got a tankful of what?" the Captain asked, cupping one decaying ear.

"Say thanks!" she hollered back.

Valentis mumbled, "Not sure what we've got to be thankful for.  Whole bloody world is coming apart at the seams, and Deathwing is still on the loose."

A fleshy knock sounded from under the table.

"Ow," Valentis said, glaring at Dece.

"You can be thankful you have me," Dece growled back.

"Right," he responded, then whispered, "Bloody fel."  He rubbed vigorously at his leg.

"Well, I'm just thankful that we could get everyone together, under one roof, more or less alive," Fuubaar said warmly.

"Blargh," Dusty grunted.

"What did he say?" Abigora asked.

"Less," Dece answered.  "He's just sore because he has to leave in a couple minutes."

"What are you thankful for, daddy?" Fuubaar asked. 

"Oh, thanks!  Of course," her father said, throwing up his arms.  "Why didn't you remind me, Minerva?"

The undead mage frowned at her husband.  She began to wave a hand in his direction, but apparently thought better of it and conjured a biscuit to munch on.  She smiled and nibbled at a corner, pretending that she wasn't secretly plotting some sort of revenge.

Fulguralis saw through the disguise though.  Can't trust mages.

The Captain stood.  "Well, as we all know, we are here today to celebrate Pilgrim's Booty."

"Bounty," Minerva corrected.

The Captain continued without pause, "This is the time when we commemorate the glorious victory of the combined might of the Alliance and Horde over the evil invading Turkish Empire.  The Turkeys."

Abigora giggled.  Minerva rolled her eyes.

"Since that day," the Captain explained, "it has been custom both to slay and - since they've been permanently reduced to mere fowl by the mages of old - eat the descendants of those people.  Also, we take this time to give thanks.  I'm not sure how that follows, but there you have.  So.  Where shall we begin?"  He looked around the table and focused on his son-in-law.  "How about you, son?  This is your house after all."

All eyes turned toward Fulguralis.  The warlock took in the cozy holiday scene.  A warmly decorated table, cleared down except for a few delicious-looking desserts.  A cornucopia of traditional harvest gourds spilled out as the centerpiece, something his wife and mother-in-law had worked on for hours to get just so.  The curtains had even been changed from mage blue, to a dusky orange color.

Fulguralis's stomach was full.  His palate sated.  His soul in its proper shard.  He wasn't hot or sweaty - a welcome change from recent forays into the firelands - and tonight he would finally get to sleep in his own bed.  His back was thanking him already.

But what was he thankful for? 

The warlock stood and lifted his mug.  "I'm thankful for..." he started.  He stared at the mug in his hand, unsure of how to proceed.  Then, it came to him.  "Ale."  He raised the mug a bit higher.  "For making the holidays tolerable," he announced.  "Cheers!"

There was a sort of shocked silence around the table.  Then, one by one, the other celebrants are shrugged and nodded, picking up their own cups.  Finally, the reluctant approval swept all the way back to the head of the table, and the Captain lifted his own sizable mug.

"To ale!" he echoed.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Second Half Team

Did they sneak in a Firelands nerf that I missed?  Seriously, I don't mean to belittle our raid group, but we waltzed in last night, standing at 4/7 and left 6/7.  We, what, three shot (?) Baleroc.  (I just had to sit in "brain freeze" pose for five minutes to come up with his name.  That's how much of an impression he made on me.  To be fair, it's totally a healer fight, and pretty much a tank and spank for me except for the whole crystal shard dance).

Domo was a bit more of a challenge, but we got him down with 15 minutes to spare in our two hour raid night.  Enough for a quick Jenkins attempt on Rag.  Considering how much we struggled on the early bosses, this was a cake walk.  I'm hesitant to feel happy about, because I'm sure someone is going to say... oh yeah, they hotfixed a nerf last week, or something.

Really, it was business as usual for us.  We aren't gearing any faster than we have been.  We've stuck to our two-hours per week schedule with very little deviation.  If anything, many of us are spending less time in game what with chasing non-internet dragons (Skyrim) in our free time.

So what's up with these two fights?  Are they just easier to learn?  Did we just have a... shhh... "on" night (don't jinx it)?

Okay, I'll ask.  How did you guys find the first three bosses (Shan, Beth, Rhy) of FL in comparison to the last three (Alys, Bale, Domo)?

I could fight Alys every day of the week (I'm the Starfoxer).  Despite the relative ease with downing Domo, I thought it had interesting mechanics.  I liked the idea of letting us dictate phase changes.  Bale was a nice respite from all the running around and dealing with crap of the other fights.

On the flip side, we two shot Shannox and then were stuck on him for like a month.  There were some minor strategy things we had to work out, but it was rough.  Rhyolith wasn't so bad, but it can still be tricky.  Beth causes us to shudder.  Still.  Just when you have her- unlucky spiderling spawn!  Yaaay.

What did you think?  First half of FL = annoying?  Second half = fun?  It's okay.  4.3 is almost here.  We don't have to tell 4.2 if you dish.  It can be our little secret.

Monday, November 21, 2011

I'd Like To Thank The Coven

Today is going to be quick, as often happens on Mondays. I apologize for going afk on Friday (again, really), but I was pretty sick. Like puked in the car sick. While driving. It was an awesome life experience. You see, I was so close to home, and I really just wanted to puke in my own toilet. I'm pretty sure I blew through a few stop signs (no one was near, I could see), but it didn't matter. Blargh, down my frontal regions. Rationally thinking about later, I should have just pulled over and used the drainage ditch... but I was so close to home. Anyway, Friday ceased to exist for me as I finally found a bucket and my bed.  This Friday isn't looking good either (what with holiday travel), so I'll just pre-apologize for shoddy posting.  I know.  I'm a horrible blogger.  It's just a data point. 

(I may be sufficiently bored at my parents and crank something out.  Who knows?  I'll have the laptop and stranger things have happened.  I can only take so much family before I want to crawl back in my cave and tap, tap, tap away.  What can I say?  I'm an introvert.)

In the interest of getting out in-front of my holiday introversion, I'm going to share some love today.  Elkagorasa wrote a nice article giving thanks last week.  I believe Blog Azeroth is doing some sort of Thanksgiving posting bonanza as well.  Chalk it up to being a bad blogger that I just don't get as involved as I used to, but I do still try to pay attention.  At the very least I like to know what's going on, even if I don't always take part.

So thanks to Elk for the kind words.  Elk's written some great, warlocky things, so any traffic I've pushed his way is much deserved.  I'm also a big fan of Nibs as well.  Like a good warlock, she finds ways to machinate from the darkness even whilst afk.  Thanks are due to her from my end as well, as I still get traffic from there.  The other links Elk throws out are great folks too.  I'm not going to re-link them all because I'm lazy and a horrible blogger (see data point above).  We love warlock bloggers here are Killing 'em Slowly, and Elk is what we call a keeper. You know, someone who's soul you'd like to steal and shard up just to have around. Yep, that's cute and cuddly for us.

I will, however, give a special mention to Cynwise.  He's kept me inspired because I think we've both backed off a bit in this last year, yet he still puts out a lot of quality content (making me want to do the same).  Specifically, his article today on DoTs is great.  The short story is that, in case you were wondering, player bonuses are calculated into DoTs on cast or refresh.  Target debuffs are calculated each tick.  The refresh part was new to Cata, but otherwise it's how I've understood them to function for a while (and how I've subsequently developed my gameplay).  If you want more, Cyn's article breaks it down.

It's been a rather quiet year for 'locks, to be quite honest.  Our gameplay has remained relatively stable.  There's not been a whole lot to whine about.  I still enjoy the heck out of my warlock.

I also am enjoying the heck out of some Skyrim.  I even put AC: Revelations on hold.  I can't handle that much gaming at one time.  I'll probably pick it up over the holiday here, though, if only to provide a nice little change-up.  Move from the office chair to the couch... rinse, repeat.  You know how it goes.

Anyway, I'll leave it with a final thanks to you, the reader.  You guys have hung around here for a while now, and I'm grateful for it.  I've had great commentary over the years, and you've really been a patient lot as I have wandered a bit from the strict focus of the blog.  I don't plan to go anywhere.  I like it here.  I may talk about other things, but only because I think y'all are interested in them as well.  Thanks for putting on a face even when you weren't. 

Okay, so this wasn't that quick, but it's hardly a heavy-hitter.  I'll try to post a few more times this week, but in case life gets in the way again, have a good holiday weekend.  Enjoy your Coven, if you have one.  Shard a turkey or two.  And thanks for lurking.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Oh What A Difference A UI Makes

Here's a non-Skyrim related post idea that I had tagged to write about a week ago. I'll try to do it justice now, though we never got around to taking screenshots. It actually ties into Skyrim though, as you'll see in a bit.

(Yes, I'm being a bit facetious here. Normally, you see, I'd feel I have to mention this is a "non-WoW" post. But since all the WoW blogs have recently become Skyrim blogs (amirite?), I'm poking fun.)

As the title indicates, I'd like to wax philosophical about UI's for a bit.  The idea came to me as Fuu and I were doing our 2v2 arenas last week. In the weeks leading up to the Skyrim launch, there was a distinct lack of gaming things to do.  The calm before the storm, if you will.  Fuu took it upon herself to go in and revamp her UI for PvP.

In our raids, she's a tank, and that UI has been customized for her for a very long time.  She'd just started getting serious with me in PvP about three months ago or so.  Before we made a guild push to try and gear for rBGs, I was pretty much the only PvP'er of the guild.  I think one of our mages regularly ran BG's too, but otherwise the rest of our crew only dabbled.  I'd never gotten into high end PvP, but I'd generally gotten all the gear I could without stepping foot in arenas.

The point is just that I've had a PvP UI for ages now.  I use mostly the same addons, but things are arranged in a completely different manner.  I'm a bit of a macro guy (though I've not written a new one in ages), so most of my custom work is done there.  In PvP, seconds can be the difference between life and death.  You need to have the appropriate skills at fingers reach.  I'm talking snares, silences, oh-shit buttons, as well as attacks.

Generally, in PvE, you know what to expect going into a fight.  So while I may shuffle a few buttons around, make a special macro for one fight, etc, I don't usually have to have everything available all the time.  In PvP, it's a completely different approach.  Reaction spells need to be pressed, not clicked (unless you're the fasted clicker in the west).  Attack spells need to be chained with certain CC.  You learn and adapt over time, and a customizable UI is crucial to this.

So Fuu gutted her UI and set up a PvP-centric one.  When we PvP'ed that night, it was like I'd picked up a different partner.  All of a sudden, she was a healing machine, easily able to frustrate opposing players while slinging bubbles like a madwoman.  What a difference a UI makes!  That isn't to say we went undefeated, or there weren't the frustrating moments where we were pwned by our betters.   We still ran up against unbeatable combinations (I have a whole post in mind for how two druids are OP), but it felt like we were now beating the teams we should beat.  There weren't as many frustrating losses where she said "man, I should have done x."  We left it all out there in the arena.  We played our best.

I made the quip about Skyrim because it shows the other side of this.  I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've died already because of fumbling around with their crappy UI.   Yes, that is my one Skyrim complaint so far: the crappy UI.  I'm playing on the PC, and it's just awful.  I could go into detail, but that's already been done.  Check this out.  I think that about sums it up.  I hope Bethesda takes note and maybe hotfixes some of this, because otherwise, the game is amazing.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday Update

Here comes another collection of random, semi-connected thoughts... and then a bit on Skyrim.  It may get a bit other-gamey around here for a while, as I'm heavily into Skyrim right now (level 17), eagerly anticipating AC:Revelations, and have gotten into the SWTOR beta (though I can't talk about it right away).  Thus, WoW time is limited.  Still, we plan to raid once a week, and rBG once a week, and when 4.3 comes out, we'll be playing.  So, though I may get a bit diverse around here, I'm not planning to quit WoW.  I'll just keep my eye for things I think are important, and otherwise leave the minutia to others (and hopefully give entertaining glimpses into other worlds that you may or may not be experiencing as well).

So let's hit on each of those topics in reverse order:
  • 4.3 - They've confirmed the current PvP season ends on the 29th of November.  Generally, this is done about a week before the patch drops.  So we're looking at a December 6th release here.  I don't have a whole lot of goals before the patch drops.  Outside of raiding, that is.  There's nothing I have left on my to-do list.  For raiding, this means we have exactly a month to try and finish Firelands.  I doubt it'll happen, but we are 4/7, so it could.  At worst, we're probably looking at polishing off the last few bosses after the patch and getting another late start.  We've been behind the "curve" for this entire expansion, so this doesn't surprise me.  It's just been really slow to get the gear I need.  I lodge my complaints with the loot table committee.  I've never gotten a chance to update my shoulders... but I get chest drops out the wazoo.  Which is just great since the chest is, you know, purchasable.  I can't get cataclysmically epic on my raid toon, solely due to shoulders.  There are a couple other finicky slots like that, but it's just frustrating to get 1% upgrade drops when you have huge needs elsewhere.
  • The SWTOR beta is being opened up to anyone who signed up as a beta tester before Nov 11.  That includes me.  They won't let you talk about it a whole lot, other than that you're in it, and I've not gotten my invite yet.  They say "more information to follow," but that everyone is getting an invite in the near future.  They want to stress test their servers, which I think is a smart move.  Get as many people in as you can and see what happens.  We'll see how it goes and what I can actually talk about.
  • AC:Revelations drops this week.  I'm excited.  Not sure how I'm going to balance it with Skyrim.  That's all here.
  • Skyrim, Skyrim, Skyrim.  That's pretty much how my weekend went.  The game is awesome.  I can't say enough about what a good job they did.  I'll wax on about it more outside of this list...
So, I'll admit to being a bit of a fanboy, so I may be glossing over the downsides.  Also, I'm looking at it more in comparison to previous iterations in the series.  Like the scope of the Elder Scrolls games has always been huge, and that's something people may complain about: it can be hard to figure out where you fit in the world.  That's sort of what you expect going into an ES game though, right?  And in that regard, I think they've done some great things to improve typical ES gameplay. 

The fast travel is great, the interactive map is awesome.  The quest tracking is much improved.  I feel like I can pick up where I've left off without having to have a million post-it notes (like I did for Oblivion and Morrowind).  It'd be nice if they let you make notes, and the descriptions can be sort of sparse, but it's much improved, I think.

I love the clairvoyance spell.  Until I got the lay of the land, it was a must have.  Now that I've gotten some things discovered, fast travel is where it's at.

I've always loved the "use it to level" system.  You start off with certain predispositions, but really you can make your character into any "class" you want.  I'm currently playing sort of a ranger, battlemage hybrid.  I do a lot of sneaking and shooting with my bow, but if things get hairy I'll pull out a sword and a spell and mix it up.  Also, two handed fireballs are fun.  The physics ending makes you feel pretty power even early on, and I love the new killing animations.  A great touch, there.

Also, when any storyline revolves around slaying dragons, you know it's going to be win.  I joked with another WoW friend that I needed to get back to slaying non-Internet dragons.  It's a pretty neat twist on old tropes, I think, what with the voices, and absorbing powers, and "it's in your blood."  The werewolf side quest is pretty cool, too.  I won't spoil anything, but I'm thoroughly enjoying it, though it's not as blatantly OP as you might think.

The world is breathtaking, too.  Sometimes I just stop and marvel.  It isn't the best graphics ever, even on the "ultra" setting, but they're pretty solid.  It retains the ES feel without going to far to "realism," I think.  And it's run smooth for me so far.

That's all I'll say for now.  I'm excited to get back to it tonight, but I'll have to squeeze it in before our raid.  I get to Starfox again in WoW tonight... which is fun too.  Do a barrel roll!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Slaying Internet Dragons

Fulguralis fluffed his robes and turned to stare at the huge, ferocious dragon. Blood dripped from its razor sharp teeth, pooling on the ground.  It roared in the warlock's face, sending his long blond hair streaming back.  Flecks of spittle slapped him.

"And now," Fulguralis announced, "you, dragon of epic size and strength, shall meet your-

Oh, sorry guys, Skyrim is done downloading.  Bbl.  Maybe in like 600 hours or so.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Random Hump Day Shenanigans

Several quick items today.  First of all, posting may be sparse for the rest of the week (and has been already) due to a confluence of day job busy-nesses and night job finishing-ings.  Or something.  My "real job" has me in training for three days this week, which makes it hard to squeeze in any writing.  Then, I'm writing the very end of my next novel, which requires my attention outside of work moreso than just your average chapter.  Good news is, both should ease up after this week... just in time for the holidays!


In other news, Fuu and I are definitely picking up Skyrim this Thursday.  Followed by AC: Revelations next Tuesday.  Don't be surprised if I write a bit about them.  WoW's sort of in the whole breath-holding-between-patches thing right now anyway.

I have one fun non-WoW related story to tell before I leave you today, but first I wanted to mention something kind of cool.  You can now subscribe to this blog through Amazon and have it directly delivered to your Kindle device!  That's pretty neat, right?  Amazon apparently opened the service up for all and sundry, and we decided to take advantage.  Now, you should know that THEY set the price.  We have no control of it.  $0.99/mo is the basement (we can't offer it free), and I think we see only like 30% of that.  So it's not going to make us rich even if all of you subscribe.  It's better than a kick in the teeth, though, if you'd like to support what we do here.  On the other hand, you can keep getting everything here and through my RSS feed completely for free.  That's completely cool too (and probably what I would do, were I you).  I just wanted to let you guys know that it's offered. 

(A side note is that we'd still like to publish a collection of my IC stuff as a free ebook, we just need to get some time to do it.  I plan to have a bit of time when I finish the current novel I'm working on and ship it off to the editors).

Now, story time.  I'll make it quick.  Promise.

The aforementioned day job happens to be at a global corporation.  Like all seven continents global.  Ok, maybe more like four, but still... a myriad of languages can be heard at any given staff meeting.

I walked in this morning, and a note was taped to the employee entrance.  Apparently, we were being instructed by someone important (important enough to have written the not ordering us to do things in hastily scrawled sharpie, anyway) NOT to answer "the email."  I gave a snort and continued on my way, not really knowing what it was referring too.  I am, after all, not nearly important enough to be included in "the" email. 

Fatal last thoughts, am I right?  I log into my workstation to be immediately confronted with no fewer than 68 unread emails.  (Side note: I keep a pretty clean inbox.  When I left for a full week, I think my record was like 20... maybe).  "Holy fel," I says to myself.  "What gives?"

The email, conveniently titled "IT Learning Newsletter" is repeated on every one of my unread messages.  Being a good engineering detective, I went back to the first to see how this chain of doom started.  As anyone involved with corporate emails may know, there exist a construct known as "contact groups."  HR types use these extensively to create lists of folks to send appropriate emails to.  Generally, it works well, as a boss might say "make sure the group gets this," and Sheila (or whomever) clicks on the "our group" list and off goes the memo.

Sure you occasionally run into what might be called the "Peter Gibbons" syndrome, whereby one receives a memo in octuplet due to having eight bosses.  Eight, Peter?  Yes, Eight, Bob.  And let me tell you about TPS reports...

Anyway, there apparently is also a group for "Everyone."  Several everyones, in fact.  Everyone in each continent and location.  For whatever reason, some mental midget decided to include EVERYONE EVERYWHERE on an email.  I'm assuming it was an accident by an overtired, overworked user.  But let's go with idiot, because it makes for more provocative reporting.

This idiot hits the send button, and it goes out to everyone.  Now, even in a good company, you could probably say that 1 in every 10 employees are technologically impaired.  This is simply fact.  1 in 10 people still think email is magic.  They understand that someone, somewhere is sending them something.   They've also been inundated with things called "mailing lists" and "spam."  Obviously, all one must do to rectify this is ask the machine to nicely "to take me off the distribution list."  Or, more succinctly: "PLEASE STOP THE SPAM FOR ALL THAT IS SACRED TO YOUR GODS."  One or the other.

Problem is, they can't really figure out where the email originated from.  There is no convenient link at the bottom that says "to remove from list, click here."  This is not the thing you accidentally signed up for when you installed that piece of free software and didn't read any of the checked boxes and "oh, my, where this Yahoo search bar come from?"  No, this isn't you granddaddy's spam.  This is accidental corporate memo spam.

So you take the only rational recourse.   You "reply to all" with your polite request.  Can you see what happened here?  That's right, now everyone gets a second email in this huge change that says "please stop sending me this stuff."  Since 1 in 10 people are also secretly sheep, they say "Oh, that's how it's done," and copy-cat their way to freedom.  What we have here, is a failure to communicate.  That, and an avalanche of corporate spam.

For perhaps the first 4 hours of my day, I received around two emails every ten minutes, in probably one of six different languages (including Chinese characters which I have no hope at all of deciphering) pleading for an end to the spam.  What 1 in 10 people fail to realize, obviously, is that in responding, they're simply scratching and spreading the rash of stupidity.

Then, of course, the server crashes, and I'm sure bursts into flame somewhere in IT-land, and for the rest of the day our network shows all the speed of a dying whale, marooned on the beach.  I think I breached triple digits by the time someone had figured out how to shut down the chain, but I could have more... my inbox was full to capacity  (helped along by the people attaching screenshots of their own full inboxes as if we didn't believe that they, too, were getting the emails).

So what did we learn in this "IT Learning Newsletter?"  10% can screw it up for the 90% of people that are sitting there laughing/crying/screaming behind the screen, not replying, but hoping to God/Allah (or the Nether if you prefer) that someone sitting next to the sheep, sheers it.  Or at least instructs it in the finer points of email etiquette.

That is all.  Yaaay Hump Day.

Friday, November 4, 2011


Fulguralis swooped in, slinging shadow about with reckless abandon.  The ant-like mobs below shivered and scurried away as each bolt landed.  Fire seemed to be everywhere, and from above it seemed like his tiny companions were frolicking through a forest of flame.

"I'm flying." Fulguralis yelled. "Wheeeee!"

He came down for another pass, relishing in the feeling of corruption as it streaked away from his fingertips.  Dark contrails streamed behind him, dipping as the warlock dipped, and curving as the warlock curved.  Some of the monsters below toppled over, much to the delight of his brave, ground based friends, he was sure, and Fulguralis flipped over to drink in the sky.  It was red, as was everything else here in the elemental plane of fire, but beautiful nonetheless.

"I can show you the fiiiire," he crooned.  "Shining, shimmering, splendor."

It was so quiet up in the air.  The comforting sound of wind rushing by his ears was punctuated by the occasional pop of a baddie below.  It all seemed so... small.

A large cloud cast its shadow over him.

"Hey..." Fulguralis started to complain.

Rational thought caught up to him.  He was in the Firelands.  There wasn't a sun to be shaded.  There weren't an clouds either, unless you counted the congealed sulfur that stretched like a dome over the plane.

The shadow, then, wasn't a shadow, but a huge creature.  Fulguralis blinked twice before he realized what he was seeing.  Its wings blended in with the fiery sky, but it charred, skeletal body marked it for what it was.  It turned a beady, avian eye on the floating warlock.

"Ah, there you are Alys.  I'd wondered where you'd flown off to," he said casually.

An ear-splitting screech was the reply.

"Well, if you're going to be that way about it...."  He flicked a spell off in her direction.  It appeared to tickle. 

The great fire hawk puked fire down upon his companions.

"Well that wasn't very nice."  Fulguralis pointed himself like an arrow and shot off toward the bird.

She began to circle away from him, raining flame on the ground.

The warlock gritted his teeth.  "Not. So. Fast."

He pulled out of a sharp turn, settling in on the bird's six.  She began launching counter-measures immediately.  Fulguralis didn't want to conjecture where the exploding balls of sulfur were coming from.  He just avoided them.

And then he saw it.  A ring.  A band of fire, burning brightly in the wake of Alysrazor.  It gleamed and shimmered, calling to the flying warlock.  What would Starfox do?  The strange thought skittered across his brain.  Where did that come from?

With a burst of speed, he flew through the ring. It spun around him, small sparkles bursting the middle as the magic infused him.  Faster, faster, it urged.

He lost himself in the battle, casts streaming from him with ever increasing haste.  He was the angel of death, taken to the fiery skies in pursuit of an ill-tempered hawk that had long overstayed her welcome here in the Casa Del Diablo.

When she finally fell, smoldering hunks scattering on the ground, Fulguralis remained aglow with the magical energy.  He zipped over cheers below, and someone yelled: "Do a barrel roll."  So he did.  Arms stretched out to his sides, robes flapping, the Firelands spun around him.

And it was epic.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Quickie post today. In case you don't stalk him like I do, Gnomeaggedon popped in with a Movember reminder post.  (The stalking, of course, is simply natural for a warlock to do to a mage... to harass and corrupt.  For sure.)  The short story of Movember is that we like to use mustaches in the month of November to raise awareness about men's health.

I'll be doing something, not sure what yet.  Last year we missed out on an opportunity to hang out at a bar and don mustaches (paste on for the girls) and drink good beer.  There was some sort of donation involved, but they had me at beer and mustaches (had I not been indisposed).  I'm hoping they do it again this year so we can attend.

Gnomer has talked about depression in the past, and it is an illness that hits home around here.  I write about our own adventures monthly on my personal blog.  Feel free to stop by there if the topic interests you. 

Otherwise, I'll be keeping my eyes out for any cool events.