Monday, April 23, 2012

Weekend Update

I'm feeling a Weekend Update style post today. Unusual for me, I know, but I've got some more random thoughts. My gaming time has been limited as I work hard to get some new fiction releases out over at my author site, but I've been squeezing it in. Makes for a wonderful break after editing a couple chapters.

First off, Beta update. There is none. I didn't Beta at all over the weekend, despite auspicious plans to the contrary. I mean, I wanted to hang with Poneria, but just couldn't bring myself to log in. This is why generally in the past I've not signed up for betas. It's hard for me to get motivated to spend time on something that's going to be reset and then I'm going to have to do it all over again. It was great to log in, respec, spend some time on a dummy. Also wonderful to check out the new character creation options for pandas, but after that... I don't think I really want to level or do anything of substance. Part of the joy of a fresh expansion is experiencing that new content for the first time. Do I want to ruin that?

So I'm not sure if I'll get back into the beta. I may want to muck around with the Demo rotation a bit, just to see what I think. I may just try to travel to one of the new areas just to see how to get there (but not start questing). I could always transfer over my DK and give PvP a shot, too.

One good take-away, sort of on the heels of what I posted about the Affliction rotation last week: the new rotation apparently made an impression on me. I logged in Friday night to raid in non-beta WoW and felt a bit sad that I didn't have the new setup. I was back to clunky old Catalocky. I didn't spend all that much time with the new rotation, but already it felt smoother than what we've been stuck with for the last year or so. That's a good sign of things to come, I think. Stokes my excitement, which is a good thing. I would love to feel reinvigorated on my 'lock in MoP.

In other, sorta-beta, news: I have not beta'ed Diablo III. Was that sign-up automatic with the year pass, too? If not, then I didn't sign up. Still, one of my buddies at work got into the beta. He played it with his main squeeze, co-op style, last weekend. Had a lot of good things to report. Since Fuu has somewhat fallen off the MMO horse, a solid co-op may be just what the doctor ordered. As such, I'm really looking forward to the game (even though it wasn't a deciding factor for choosing the year pass... sort of like "why not?"). Unexpected good surprises are, um, unexpectedly good?

That meme probable needs to die, doesn't it?

Finally, I'll touch on TOR. My activity there mostly amounts to PvP'ing. I snagged Battlemaster this weekend, which is something of an achievement, though I fear it doesn't mean as much now. Still, I continue to enjoy the PvP side of TOR. Something of a surprise to me, post 1.2 patch, is a renewed interest in alts. With the addition of the Legacy system, I find myself more inclined to progress the other classes to level 30 in order to add them to my family tree and get the perks. In particular, I love the idea that my buff gets enhanced by each different classed level 30 toon. It's provided an unanticipated bout of altitis, something I don't normally suffer from.

We'll see how long it lasts once DIII drops. I could see that eating up a lot of time if my wife is amenable. The couple that plays together, stays together, right? Or, I could adopt a more Lannister-esque approach: The things I do for love.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Beta Warlockery Thoughts

Real thoughts this time. I actually got the beta to download and run! O, frabjous day, callooh callay! Which is what I exclaimed right after my mouse went snicker-snack through the character creation screen. I created a Panderen Monk first, of course. Spawned in to about a million other pandas. And that's not even exaggerating (much). One wonders how anybody was left on the live servers...

I only hung around the starting area for about five minutes. It was fun. Jumping was cool. Animations were smooth. I just didn't want to level with the throng. Might save it for a month after release or something.

Instead, I immediately logged out and worked on transferring my warlock over. It was simple, and I was able to log into him within ten minutes, easily. I noticed one problem right off-the-bat. While I was snicker-snacking above, I used my name for my panda. Thus, the real Fulguralis was flagged for a name change. I found this hilarious, so I changed it to Fulgularious.

Poneria, here's where you want to pay attention. I rolled both toons on Lost Isles. I searched for you, even stalked twitter a bit, but I don't think you were beta'ing. However, I am on that server now, should all and sundry wish to find me. I would have hollered more last night into the void, but it was swiftly approaching bed time. I didn't want to coerce anyone on, only to peace out when they showed up.

Anyhoo, I imagine I'll be on randomly in the next several weeks or so. Probably mostly this weekend. We'll see. I don't have any majestic plans, just wanted to poke around a bit. If I get to say "hi" to folks in addition, well that's just bonus.

Apart from just getting everything running, I did spend some time speccing my 'lock and playing with spells. I even got in some quality time with a dummy, though I was surrounded by those same million people that were in the panda zone. I swear they were following me around. Adoring, probably.

The good news is that I think the changes make the Affliction rotation more elegant. That is, there seemed to be less clunk than the current iteration. I like most of the changes, though I hardly delved deep. An AoE drain life is pretty awesome. Malefic Grasp feels burstier since damage starts right away. From a flavor perspective, I suppose I like it more than Shadow Bolt. Spells seemed to mesh together well, and I felt like I had fewer buttons to press (which is a good thing... fewer chunks as Cynwise might say).

I still think there were areas that could be polished. For instance, I choose Doom to replace Corruption (just to see) and I don't think Soul Swap flung it around appropriately. That is, I think it dropped off one of the targets, which Corruption never did... so that would seem like a flaw if it's meant to be used in place of Corr.

I had to check out the different pets. I'm not sure how I feel about Observer vs. Felpup. I like that each demon seems to have a signature ability that you're suppose to activate. Makes them seem more integrated.

I have no idea what they're trying to do with soul shards. It seemed like haunt cost a shard (though I didn't see that in the tooltip). In addition, nightfall gains shards back (since we have no more s-bolt). I seemed to be regaining shards far faster than I could use them. Probably should have used more Soulfires or something. I don't know. Again, see aforementioned delving depth. The skinny here is that I hope they aren't done with the system. I think it needs more options or something. Just doesn't feel quite finished.

All in all, though, it was a pretty positive little test session. I'm not going to hang my hat on any one thing in particular, since I assume it's all in a state of flux. The good news is that the underlying ideas seem sound. Affliction hasn't take a right turn off into the Arcane Mage weeds or anything.

I was all right with the pandas too. The one I made had orange-ish patches around his eyes. I kept calling him ULTIMATE WARRIOR PANDA. It made me cackle. Now, if they only add feathered 80's hair options...

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Random Thought Thursday

This is not a recurring feature or anything, just doing a brain dump today. Every so often in blogging, I've found that my brain needs emptied. All those topics that didn't get written don't always ride blissfully off into the nether. Instead, they like to kick around and whine that they didn't get their day in the sun (despite having been found wanting). When enough of the buggers get peeved, they march down my neurons and do their own "occupy" imitation on one of my lobes. So I have to periodically call in the cranial guard to kick them out. Let the dumping commence....

First SWTOR:
  • The Rakghoul plague looks like a fart. Or, perhaps more accurately, Pig-Pen. Makes me want to bathe.
  • The lightsabers with black cores appear somehow larger.
  • I wish people always exploded when killed. Makes me feel powerful. Dirty, but powerful.
  • The glowing eyes and green cloud aren't very stealthy.
  • Why, in the technologically advanced culture of TOR, do the news anchors wear headsets? Are they Bluetooth? Do Imperials get Redtooth variants?
  • Has anyone ever tried to make a Hutt line of clothing? A Hutt in trooper armor would be impressive. Slimy, too.
  • New gameshow: Jedi Counselor -OR- Hobo? With your host, Jacobim Mugatu.
And WoW:
  • Oh yeah, I have DI. Derp.
  • This getting upgrades stuff is bankrupting me. So. Much. Reforging. At least gems are cheaper... well, not the purple ones. Light no, not the purple ones.
  • Now that Cynwise has exposed the innards of everything warlockerly, what is seen cannot be unseen. I used to enjoy this complication, right?
  • The coolest I feel as a Warlock? When I use my portal right. HA, ALREADY HERE, BITCHES.
  • Tentacle face is not a good look for me. Back to burning skull.
That's all for today's dump.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

#SWTOR - Yes, They Did.

One of the biggest 1.2 timesinks for me from this last weekend was the time-honored tradition of UI finagling. With all the Legacy changes, PvP changes, and now the Rakghoul World Event... I think the UI changes got a bit glossed over. At least in coverage I've read, they did.

I wanted to make sure we all remembered that changes were made. Yeah, pretty much everything is customizable now. A personal favorite of mine is the check-box that lets you move any pop up window around. So. Nice.

I probably spent a good hour just moving stuff around. I had to fiddle with the drop down to get the nice colored boxes to show me what I wanted. My basic strategy was to make everything smaller (on my screen it was just all too huge), and then consolidate along the edges to maximize center viewing space. It turned out pretty nice (I didn't take a screenie, sorry).

The real perk came when I flipped over to my Trooper. I was almost disheartened when the old UI greeted me. Despair from the thought of having to redo all the work I'd done to get my Shadow just-so was threatening to overwhelm me, when a thought raced across my mind.

"No, they couldn't have."

"They should if they haven't."

"They DID!"

Yeah, my saved UI from my main toon was available on my alt. I simply selected it, hit "load," and everything snapped right to where it should be.

I know it seems like such a simple thing, but that made my night. I got right back to playing. I love it when things are simple.

Monday, April 16, 2012

MoP Beta Thoughts

If you're looking for real thoughts, you probably want to go someplace else. Yes, I got a beta. No, I haven't tried anything out. Why? Probably because I can't get the felling thing to run.

Here's a quick recap of what I did. Got the email. Manually went to my account (because you know you can't trust email links, no matter how official they look). Clicked on the appropriate areas to let me download the client. Download started, and I left for work.

When I came home, my computer was stuck on a pre-boot screen. It informed me that Windows could not start because the installation device (my solid state drive) could not be found. I had a mini-flail fest inside of my soul, where I swiftly imagined the worst for my big rig. Fortunately, I just had to do a hard reset, forcing a power off (not the reset button mind you, that just stuck me in a not-working loop), and restarting everything.

After I got to my familiar desktop, my eyes quickly strayed to the shiny, new MoP beta icon. Of its own accord, the mouse traversed the background pixels and clicked on pandas. Pandas have that effect on mice. A notice telling me that "setup files were being updated" popped, and I began to get excited. Surely, my beta adventure was launching.

But it got stuck. I stopped about 75% of the way through, green bar unmoving. I stared, made a sandwich, took a bathroom break, cleaned the kitchen, pet the giant rabbit, took another bathroom break (I was excited, mind you), settled in and out of the chair several times... nothing. No movement. So I did what every rational being would do: I clicked the "x" and went and played SWTOR.

(Okay, maybe only those with a lightsaber fetish would make the same choice.)

(That should get me some interesting search hits.)

Last night, I attempted to uninstall the beta. My plan is to start fresh this evening and give it another (fully attended) try. The uninstall went okay, though it threw some errors about files it couldn't find. Probably the same ones that were preventing me from a pandariffic experience. We'll see.

It's a beta, so I can't be too upset. Still, one does not wish to play tech support to log onto a game and play more tech support (in the form of a beta tester, no matter how fun said tech support may be). I wonder, is this the sort of bug I should report? Or is it likely something so specific to my setup that Blizz wouldn't pay attention? Where does one report bugs when not able to launch even the MoP client?

At the very least, I wanted to relay my experiences in the spirit of full disclosure. Hopefully, if anyone else is experiencing the same frustration, we can band together and start a pandaless support group. If nothing else, this further explains the lack of beta thoughts from this blogger.

Friday, April 13, 2012

#SWTOR - Patch Thoughts and A Small Rant

This is not about the MoP beta invite I just received in my mail. The title may have given as much away. Still, I wanted to note that beta thoughts are probably inc next week, as I'm downloading the beta at home right now. Actually, it's probably done, but I'm stuck at work.

Instead, because when it rains it pours, I wanted to talk about the other game that had big recent news. TOR's 1.2 patch was just released, and it's really the first major content patch we've seen. A whole bunch of functionality was added and, quite frankly, if you've made it this far into the article, you're probably aware of many of the changes. There's legacy, new PvP stuff, new PvE stuff, new guild stuff... something for everyone really. And, of course, the controversial free game time.

Here's where the "small rant" is going to come in. I had to force my fingers past "controversial free game time," because honestly, is this what we've come to? I hate to use the "trophies for everyone" analogy (it's so over-played), but why does it seem like every time someone gets something, the Internet weeps blood for all the folks that did not get something. Life is unfair. Deal with it. Sometimes people get things that you do not. It happens. Every. Day.

Let me clarify, I'm totally cool and respectful of well-formed opinions. For the folks that are complaining but then offering constructive advice like "what if, instead of basing 30 days free on having a level 50, they base it on accumulated time played. Say, for everyone over a month in-game time." Or something like that. I've seen some constructive shit. That's good times. That's solid discussion. You're not just being a whiner. You're applying brain.

For the folks that insist on perpetrating the logical fallacy of "if someone calls someone loyal, that means everyone else is disloyal," I reserve my most warlocky Glare of Ire. Raised eyebrow at no extra soulcharge (like surcharge... get it?). But seriously, the Internet needs to get over this particular fantasy. In fact, people in general do. (Politicos use it all the flippin' time.) Someone saying something positive about one thing does not inherently mean everything else is negative. There's this whole middle ground where SHIT IS NEUTRAL. Yes, you can have neutral feelings about things.

For instance, I can say: Yeah, Stop at Stoppable Force is an awesome writer (and I wish he wrote more)... and that doesn't mean I think Psynister sucks (and should write less). (In fact, I think Psy took a rather mature approach to his criticism of Bdubs, but that's beside the point.) (Can you do a parenthetical bumped up against another parenthetical?) Asides aside, the point here is that it is completely possible to feel positive toward one group of people without feeling the exact opposite toward another group of people. Calling someone loyal is not calling everyone else disloyal, no matter how much we may wish to perceive the slight. Yeah, it sucks not to get free game time. It's probably even unfair. That's life. If it pisses you off enough, vote with your dollar and leave.

Was that a small rant? Maybe medium-sized, I don't know. The more positive (less-ranty) point I'd like all and sundry to take home is that we should take care in our negative criticisms. We don't want to let jealousy of nice things to color us so green that we advocate no one getting nice things ever just so we don't have to feel jealous. I guess I'm saying that I'd rather buff everyone to "haves" than nerf everyone to "have nots," but you probably have to draw a line in the sand somewhere. The Internet would do well to keep that frame of mind in the headlights while they're speeding full-on to a nerd rage.

/steps down from soap box

Other than that, I found the patch to be pretty awesome. I had the usual amount of information overload when I logged in. Stared blankly at the screen before spending far too much time tweaking my UI. My respec was relatively fast, as I didn't detect any glaring chances for the Balance Shadow (if I missed something huge, feel free to slam me with your nerd rage racer). I even got to play the new Warzone. I was berated as being AFK when I stood there for the first ten seconds, drooling on myself because: "hey, this is new, and there's a cut scene." But otherwise it was pleasant. Went 3 for 3 on the Rep side, always a good night.

I'm going to have to re-figure my gearing strategy, as currency and such has changed slightly. It looks like it's been simplified a bit, as you just have to have the Battlemaster gear before snagging the War Hero gear (they each require the previous piece as currency). Monday, hopefully we'll be able to get our little group together and check out some of the PvE stuff.

So apart from my "get off my lawn" irritability, patch day and post-patch day have been pretty fun for me. Just wish I had more time. How about you?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Those Are Some Huge... Pixels?

I don't have a screenshot, so this didn't happen. I apologize. But on the off chance I didn't just imagine it, I wanted to make a public service announcement about a little bug I came across.

First off, this has nothing to do with the Beta. Also, I'm not sure it's a bug, exactly. It may have just been a problem with my system. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Here's what happened. I logged into WoW on Friday with the intent to raid. Yes, raid! I'm back to raiding. I found a "second" crew that's going to be doing DS stuff on Friday nights. I've decided to tag along. It's pretty loose and with some good people I know.

Anyway, I log in and I see, well, giant pixels. Where the water used to be pretty, it now has big, ugly boxes on its surface. My framerate suffered whenever there was water in my screen, and it looks awful. I was flying around Stormwind, stuttering, artifacts popping up all over.

I tried tweaking things. I reset my AMD Radeon 6800 Series GPU to factory settings via the Catalyst SW Suite. It was one of the first things Google told me to do. I also fiddled with the in-game settings. I had to crank things down from "Ultra" to "Fair." A huge downgrade.

Raiding only made things worse, but I could hardly hold everyone up for a few annoying artifacts. Besides, I can still perform pretty well in low FPS situations. Affliction Warlockery is all automatic to me. All I need is a DoT timer. Besides, we were just doing LFR (we were short last night as details are still being worked out for a couple raiders).

After we'd downed Deathwing (yeah, that's as much of a side note as I make it sound. Had a good group, and I didn't disgrace myself despite pretty much a two month hiatus), I went back to consulting Google. Apparently, what I had was not a common issue. Still, I'm guessing there may be others out there experiencing the texture error.

What ended up working for me was closing WoW and launching it in DirectX11 mode. I believe I'd been using the default Dx9, which maybe didn't play so well with my GPU. I don't know why now, this patch, instead of patches previous, but maybe they altered the deal. I pray that they do not alter it further, because launching in Dx11 worked. All was well in Azeroth upon my return. I cranked everything back up to "ultra" and went to redeem my loot drops. (Two upgrades! Sometimes it pays to be behind everyone else. Mind you, I did not just get carried, there were plenty of DPS below me). 

So if you happen to log in one day to find some crazy huge pixels, try appending the Dx11 string to the desktop shortcut. You can do this by simply pasting the following immediately after the path in the "target" box: -d3d11. Put a space between them. Do not include the period from the sentence.

I think the DirectX11 mode is still "experimental" or something, but it works well for me. Got me back on the "ultra" path. Anyone else have this problem?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

#SWTOR - Flashpoint Confusion

Okay, I know the rest of you have been running flashpoints since day one, but our guild just finally got our act together and organized something. We've been pretty casual along the way, just because most of us have a lot going on outside of gaming, but we knew we wanted to play together. Waiting has its perks, too. A lot of the bugs should be fixed by the time we get around to things.

All that being said, we found ourselves pretty clueless last night. The SWTOR heroic modes seem a bit confusing. How do you turn on HM's? Which flashpoints actually have an HM? Do you have to run something first before being able to turn on the HM?

All of these answers are pretty readily available with a bit of Google searching. I think we sort of know what we're doing now, but it was a pain to have to go searching. Why couldn't this information be easily accessible in the game? We have a codex. Is it in there and we just couldn't find it?

And where is the HM switch? We randomly chose to do Red Reaper. Does that one have a HM? Some of us had never run it, so we did normal mode first. After that... ???

What I think is supposed to happen is that after you've unlocked the HM, the option appears under the right click menu of your portrait allowing you to switch on HM. Why can't it just be there all the time, but grayed out. Then, on mouse-over it could tell you: 1. No HM available or 2. HM locked until you do it on normal mode. Put the info right there. I don't remember all the things I've done/not done.

Am I just missing the easy button, or could the UI really use some help in this area? What do those of you who are, by now, familiar with HM's think?

The FP itself was fine. Fun, reasonably quick. There were a few tricky mechanic fights at the end. It was good to see it on NM first.

Tonight or next week we'll probably head out to Ilum for the level 50 NM FPs. Finding the entrance to some of these is a bit confusing, too. Which ones are on the fleet? Which aren't? I guess I wish there were a simple list on the codex with locations and modes available. Sort of like what they have for Ops (the lockout list). Why not?

In the absence of a dungeon finder, I'd at least like a clear list. Is that too much to ask?

(Edit: Got this great link in comments. Pretty much exactly what I needed. Awesome graphic! Thanks to Mythbusting for the link.)