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.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

This Warlock's Bit On Specs

The hot topic seems to be speculation on the future of warlock talents.  WoW Insider has a Blood Pact article.  Our dear old warlocky friend Saresa has reappeared from the nether to weigh in on the issue.  And Flora-Grimm threw a nice piece up as well.  They're all worth a read for those 'locks out that that like to keep up with the Gul'dans.

I, on the other hand, am content to wait and see.  I've always held off on pre-patch, pre-expansion speculation simply because you never know what's going to actually make it live.  I figure that right now they only have the general concepts in mind, so it's worth it to look at those. 

I find myself more on Flora's side than Sar's.  In general, I believe the great Theorycrafters That Be will always distill things down to a handful of "cookie cutter" specs.  The choices we had before were only choices if you didn't desire to play optimally.  Or, at worst, simply confusing to most players.  In general, I've liked the trend Cataclysm started with simpler trees and clearer choices.  The proposal that's out there now seems the next logical step.

However, I have my bouts of nostalgia too.  I used to feel important back in the day.  A mediator seemed necessary to comb through EJ articles and distill the advice into digestible chunks for the casual player.  I really think blogs added value in understanding for most people (it's certainly why I started reading blogs, and what I hoped to provide).  These days, I just don't find it as needed.  A lot of that is because I think speccing is simply easier to understand.  You don't need gobs of math and a fine toothed comb.  It used to be hard to hold an entire spec in your head and really get the feel of it.  It was a challenge.  And that challenge is being whittled down.  Perhaps that's a bad thing, perhaps not.  I suppose that's up to the individual player.

Still, I think there's one major flaw that Saresa would point out in Flora's post, and that's the knee-jerk assessment of the potential of green fire.  I mean, c'mon!  It's green fire! Of course it's better than plain old normal mage fire.  Geeze.