Jan 032011

I saw a lot of people glad to be done with 2010. The general feeling seems to have been that 2010 was a less-than-satisfactory year. For my part, I’m inclined to disagree: in March, I got a new job at an awesome company working with awesome people on an awesome project; in July, my groomsmen took me to Atlantic City; in August, I got married and then went on my very first cruise; in October, Cody and I went as a very convincing Rose and the 10th Doctor for Halloween; in November, my parents finally came down to Maryland for Thanksgiving; December featured one of our best New Year’s Eve parties ever.

So, y’know, go 2010. May 2011 be as good or better.

To that end as is custom this time of year, I have a list of goals that I’m planning to work toward this year. They’re not “resolutions” and they’re not carved in stone; either notion is folly. But they’re things I care about and want to get better at, which I think carries more weight.

  • Devote some time each evening to writing or playing guitar. The main thing here is taking care of my “daily chores” in WoW, and then setting it aside while I spend some time doing either of the above activities. Once I’ve put some good effort in toward either, I’ll allow myself to go back to playing more WoW. I love my WoW hobby, but I can’t continue neglecting my others!
  • Get better about watching my diet again. I’ve slipped a bit since the wedding, which is probably entirely unsurprising to anyone who’s gotten married. I haven’t backslid irrevocably or anything drastic, but it’s noticeable enough to me that I want to do something about it. So, I plan to. Having a Droid will, I hope, make keeping track of my food intake a little easier.
  • Finish unpacking the house. This includes getting some additional furniture (bookshelves) and also tidying up the pantry shelves so that we can actually start making use of the damn thing.
  • Build the vacuform machine I’m always talking about. I intend to for Halloween to be very interesting this year.

That seems like an ambitious-enough list to start with.

Welcome to December

 Posted by at 13:06  No Responses »
Dec 022010

November has come and gone, and with it so has another NaNo. This year, I didn’t “win.” In point of fact, I chose not to win after a pile-up of circumstances. I started the month without a clear idea of what I wanted to write. Then, I started writing about a half-formed idea that intrigued me. About 10,000 words in, I realized that the idea wasn’t sufficiently thought-out in its current form to sustain a novel, so I tabled it. Instead, I decided to try and write what amounted to fan fic in a genre wherein I would have no trouble at all going on for 50,000 or more words. I reached 10,000 words yet again, and then it was time to drive out of state for Thanksgiving. That’s when I forgot my laptop bag in the house. At that point, I decided that spending the holiday churning through 40,000 words that I would never actually try to publish wasn’t worth it and abandoned it.

I’m okay with that decision. The first NaNo novel I wrote is unpublishable (probably ever), but it proved to me that I could write that much of a single story in a short timeframe. I had the second NaNo novel’s concept in mind well before starting, and was excited about writing it. I’ve only just started the massive editing work required to make it something I feel is agent-worthy, but I continue to be excited about it. In other words, my second NaNo novel proved to me that I could write something I was proud of and thought worth publishing. That set a new bar for novel #3, and when it became clear that the things I was writing weren’t going to be at that level, it lost its worth. Besides, there’s always next year. There’s also every other month in the year.

So, there’s that.

In other news, the guild has been tackling ICC of late and we’ve been running smoothly until we hit Sindragosa, who we’ve been stuck on now for three weeks! However, we got very close the last time we attacked her1, so I’m confident that we’ll down her next time. Then it’s on to Arthas. We’re all hoping that we can take down both Sindragosa and Arthas this time2, because that’d mean we achieved the entire point of Wrath of the Lich King just before Cataclysm comes out this coming Tuesday.

NASA is set to announce something in a few hours that a lot of people are speculating is the discovery of bacteria here on Earth with DNA that differs from every other known lifeform on the planet. Namely, this bacteria has arsenic in its DNA rather than phosphorous. If this is true, it fundamentally changes our concept of DNA and means the possibilities for life are much broader than we’ve known until now. It also means that at least two distinct types of life evolved on this planet alone, which in turn dramatically increases the chances of it happening elsewhere. My favorite quote from the article is this:

To my mind, this is the one of the major differences between science and religion: scientists get wildly excited and happy when someone proves our basic dogma wrong.

To round out, I want to share this blog post. I haven’t mentioned it here before, but the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were completely successful. I don’t mean in the sense of toppling the WTC towers, which were also obviously successful; I mean in the sense of defeating us. On 9/11, we were attacked by terrorists. We had, essentially, two paths to take on that day: we come together and continue living life as Americans, or we cave to the fear of another attack and throw away our way of life. The recent, absurd “security measures” implemented by the TSA are just another nail in the coffin that prove we caved. We lost. They won.

  1. Only 2% health remaining! []
  2. That’s a tall order. As hard a fight as Sindragosa is, Arthas is even worse. []

Four Oh One

 Posted by at 18:29  No Responses »
Oct 132010

Yesterday, the pre-Cataclysm patch arrived, bringing with it sweeping changes to fundamental game mechanics in WoW. So far, I’ve been very impressed.

  • The UI improvements are outstanding. I’m particularly a fan of a small, but highly effective touch they’ve added to indicate abilities procing1 by putting a little halo around the button for that ability on your action bar. Small change, huge usability improvement.
  • The new UI windows—character screen, guild panel, talent panel, etc.—are very welcome improvements.
  • The new talent system is far more intuitive. It seems actively difficult to make a bad spec2 now.
  • The new glyphing system looks like it’ll be much more flexible, too, though I was too afraid to venture into what I’m sure is going to be an incredibly volatile glyph market just yet.
  • As a prot warrior, I noticed no trouble with keeping up a healthy quantity of Rage against even world trash mobs, which was a welcome change.

Most of the Add Ons I used either worked out of the box or had updates ready for this patch. I fixed one (Random Mount) on my own, a handful (ArkInventory, GearScore, Auctioneer) had fixes released today, and some will need to be replaced (Satrina Buff Frames).

One thing I’ve seen reports of, though have yet to directly experience, is that tanks are having a hard time holding aggro3 against the now massive quantities of DPS that damage dealers are dishing out now. I’ve also seen counters to these reports suggesting that the original reports just aren’t adapting to the talent changes, so we shall see.

  1. “Proc” (pronounced prok) is a term used to indicate that a certain ability with a chance of occurring has triggered. For example, Warriors have a talent called Sword and Board, which makes their next Shield Slam free. This effect has a chance to trigger when using the Revenge and Devastate abilities. When it triggers, it’s said to have proced (pronounced prokt). []
  2. Spec is short for Specialization, and refers to the various roles you can fill. Warriors, for example have Protection (prot), Arms, and Fury. Prot is what one uses for tanking. []
  3. Aggro is short for aggression, which refers to where an enemy’s attention is focused. The tank’s job is to hold aggro from all enemies so that the healer and damage dealers aren’t slaughtered. []
Oct 122010

It was going to be about traffic. Specifically, how traffic was delightful yesterday and today was back to the usual ridiculous crap. No doubt, this was due to Columbus Day and people taking (or having) the day off of work, thereby decongesting the roads.

Had a fairly excellent weekend. Saw Easy A on Friday, which was surprisingly good. Going into it, we were discussing how we missed John Hughes movies. Lo and behold, this one is of similar spirit and directly references John Hughes in dialog a number of times. Good on them. Emma Stone is gorgeous and Stanley Tucci is brilliant. I shall say no more. Saturday, we spent the evening with Talia and Jeff at Talia’s parents’ lakehouse playing drunken Scattergories. Sunday was another WoW day. With Steve’s timely assistance, Cody got her Glory of the Hero achievement, and I whittled my own list down to 5 achievements remaining.

The three of us and some pugs finished off my Glory of the Hero last night! In before the patch!

Today marks patch day, which in turn means that massive, massive changes are occurring to the way some fundamental mechanics in the game have functioned for several years and, in some cases, since the beginning. Cody and I are both very excited about these changes, as they seem aimed at making gameplay smoother and more intuitive. Of course, the downside is that we likely won’t be able to log on tonight, since the servers are experiencing extended downtime while the patch is deployed. Further, there is already a list of known issues to watch for.

We still have no idea what to do for Halloween.

Oct 082010

I had this whole plan for what to write about today that congealed as I drove to work. It vanished when I actually sat down to write it.

Yesterday marked Cody’s and my second month as a married couple. So far, so good! It seems a little silly to celebrate these milestones, given the four-closing-on-five years we’ve been together. The relationship is solid, we love each other just as much (if not more) now than we did when everything was exciting and new, we live together well, etc. It still feels like an achievement anyway. Marriage! It’s this big, important word that, for us, represented no functional change in our relationship toward one another that nevertheless bestowed a reaffirming, reinforcing strength that I didn’t even know could exist. I heartily approve.

I decided to bite the bullet and forgo worrying about writing a tailor-made web app for play-by-post Firefly-inspired Star Wars game I’ve been planning for a few months now. Instead, I went with MyBB and will adapt it as the need arises. I’ve used phpBB in the past, but it’s always felt a little clunkier than it ought to. MyBB is very smooth by comparison. This doesn’t obviate the need for a character creation web app, but it’s one less technical hurdle to starting the game than I had before. It’s been a long-standing desire of mine to play/run a Star Wars game that used an adapted version of the 7th Sea rule-set, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it pans out. Play-by-post is an odd fit for such a dynamic and fluid system, but one never knows until one actually tries.

November is bearing down on us, which poses two annoying problems. The first is that Cody and I are still at a loss about a concept for Halloween costumes this year. There isn’t enough time to do anything complex1 in the time we have—next year, for sure—but even within that constraint, it’s rough. The second problem is one of time management: NaNoWriMo is going to eat my time in November, which presents something of a blockage on both the aforementioned Star Wars game as well as the heavy WoW-playing fronts. Oh, to have just six more hours each day.

Hell, I’d settle for two.

  1. Like the various costumes I’d make with a vacuform table []

Zombies everywhere!

 Posted by at 11:38  No Responses »
Oct 042010

For as much as I enjoy playing WoW, I enjoy it on a whole different level when I’m playing with Cody. We spent the bulk of our time this weekend grinding out the rep outlined in the last post. We’re still working on both Netherwing and Cenarion Expedition, but the end is within sight on both of those. The only roadblock now1 is money, and that will come soon enough.

We had another smooth Sartharion run for the weekly last night. Having done the raid once before, my confidence in tackling it this time was substantially higher and I dove in fearlessly. Even when we prematurely pulled a pat2, I had no worries about picking them up and holding them while DPS burned them down. Even when we prematurely pulled one of the sub-bosses while fighting a pat, I wasn’t worried; just reacted. Definitely more comfortable in my role than I was a few weeks ago.

We also managed to convince some of our guildmates to stick around and do some achievement-oriented runs with us in both the Oculus and Culling of Stratholme. Cody and I finished our Ruby and Emerald Void achievements, having already obtained our Amber Void one. That leaves me to get Experienced Drake Rider, and then I can consider myself done with Oculus. Culling of Stratholme presented us with an opportunity to try and get Zombiefest…which we did! The strategy is a little weird, but in order to kill the requisite number of zombies, you need to kite3 the second boss into a building, allowing any killed zombies time to respawn. Once you kill that boss, they stop respawning in the front section. Once you down the boss, you proceed through the building until you’re out the other side. Now the fun begins. You go back to the first area and kite all of the zombies—around 85—all the way back through the town, through the building, and to the other side where there are more zombies. Then you AOE4 the crap out of them until they drop. 100 zombies in one minute.

Part of the urgency for doing these dungeon achievements is getting Glory of the Hero, which rewards the Red Proto-Drake. Scuttlebutt and rumor suggests that this reward, if not the achievement, will go away when the next patch drops. We were worried that the patch might drop tomorrow5, but it seems that the patch won’t hit until next week, giving us a little breathing room. It’d be very sad to miss out on such a cool-looking mount.

Speaking of patches, Cataclysm‘s release date has been set: December 7th, Azeroth changes.

  1. For me, anyway. Cody is an auction house maven and is absolutely rolling in it. []
  2. Short for “patrol,” which refers to some mobs that are wandering around on a preset path. []
  3. Kiting refers to pulling aggro on a target, and then leading it to another location []
  4. Area-of-effect; an attack that does damage in a radius rather than just to a single target []
  5. Blizzard always patches on Tuesday []

Mount Up

 Posted by at 16:44  No Responses »
Oct 012010

As it stands right now, Jakosta has 51 mounts. Cody and I are gunning for the Mountain o’ Mounts achievement, which itself rewards a mount for obtaining. The road from 51 to 100 is largely a matter of rep-grinding and spending “money” (be it gold, badges, honor points, or whatever else). Then there are the remaining few that have to be obtained through RNG1.

Why do this? With a few exceptions2, a variety of mounts doesn’t afford you any material benefit. They’re vanity rewards, offering little more than a wider selection of things to look at while you flit from place to place, and dubious bragging rights. The honest answer is…because accumulating stuff is fun, even if it’s virtual stuff.

Right now, I’m running dailies for the Argent Tournament, the Hyldnir, Netherwing, the Sha’tari Skyguard, and pursuing the Mag’har quest line. The latter three are in pursuit of reputation-dependent mounts; the mounts cost gold, but you can’t buy them without an Exalted reputation. The Tournament dailies reward Champion Seals, which are then used in purchasing mounts. The Hyldnir daily is RNG from the quest reward. After that, it’ll be on to the PvP-based mounts, which are fairly uniform in price and fairly quick to obtain. The most expensive mount cost 50,000 honor points. It’s a trivial matter to get over 35,000 honor points through a single Wintergrasp victory coupled with turning in the weekly Wintergrasp quests. The remaining 15,000 points can be gleaned from repeating Wintergrasp or doing other battlegrounds.

Continue reading »

  1. Random Number Generation, or chance. Think of it like a die roll. You have some percent chance to see something drop on any given occurrence of a particular event, such as a mob dying. The game “rolls” this chance when the mob dies. What you get from the mob in loot is the result. []
  2. There are a handful of very difficult to obtain mounts that are faster than the “normal” epic mounts. “Normal” epic flying mounts afford a 280% speed increase over the character’s base running speed on the ground. “Extreme” epic flying mounts afford a 310% speed increase. []

The Main Switch

 Posted by at 22:00  No Responses »
Sep 262010

Some time back, I made the decision that Jakosta would now be my “main,” rather than Deowyn. Before, I was focusing on nothing for Jakosta other than leveling, and then gearing her out to be a sufficient tank for our guild. Since then, I’ve grown to enjoy playing her much more than Deowyn. As a result, I’ve been branching out my pursuits with her into the realm of achievements. I’m not planning to do Loremaster with her, though. That’ll remain Deowyn’s claim to fame. The rest are fair game, though.

Dovetailing nicely with that, Cody has decided that she wants to get as many mounts as she can. We’ve been working together on raising our Cenarion Expedition (for the Cenarion War Hippogryph) and Sha’tari Skyguard (for the nether rays) reputations. She’s also started on the Netherwing quests (for the Netherwing drakes), which I’ll probably start on soon myself. She already has the Green Proto-Drake from the Oracles, which Jakosta is working on the other half of right now with the Frenzyheart. We’re also both running the Argent Tournament dailies as a matter of course, and there are plenty of mounts that go along with that. So, all-in-all, we’re pretty widespread on our various mount fronts.

Played around a little more with my Death Knight‘s UI, though it’s still pretty silly to be working on a UI when I have no idea what my end-game UI priorities for such a character will be. I can’t bring myself to use the default Blizzard UI anymore, though. It’s just too clunky compared to the sleeker setups you can get with addons. Plus, it’s fun.

Sep 222010

If there’s one thing I really dislike about WoW, it’s assembling a PUG for a raid. If there’s one more thing, it’s that PUG just not being up to tackling the raid at hand, leaving everyone feeling like they’ve wasted their time. This happened last night after Cody, Kt, Steve, and I did Wintergrasp, in anticipation of running VoA-25. It took a while to assemble the group, with the usual one-off people randomly dropping throughout the recruitment drive phase. Once we had our group together, we get rolling…only to have Toravon curb-stomp us. Turns out a lot of our ranged DPS folks didn’t know you’re supposed to attack the three swirling frost spheres that Toravon generates.

As a general rule, I never mind having new people along on a group endeavor like this. Everyone’s new at some point. What I do mind is people not thinking to ask, “Hey, is there anything special I should know about this?” Granted, WoW has built itself a culture where asking something like this often results in being the target of scorn and derision. That sucks in its own right. New people end up walking a fine line between either asking when they don’t know and getting mocked (or even excluded completely1) for never having done something before, and not asking and getting mocked and derided after the fact for performing badly. Still, one of these is guaranteed to cause the group to fail, and that’s the one that’s inexcusable to me.

Once the whole “kill the snowballs of death” thing had been explained, we tried again. This time, two of our healers died immediately, but we still managed to persist on for quite a while. We got Toravon to ~15% before all hell broke loose. My Taunt missed, which caused Frostbite to build up to 5 stacks on the main tank. I managed to get Toravon off him once Taunt came off cooldown, but it was too late, and he died. I wouldn’t last long against Toravon alone—the fight requires two tanks, after all—and predictably dropped not long after that.

Then the group disintegrated. A good hour and a half or so wasted.

When Cataclysm comes out, the raid lockouts for 10- and 25-man raids will be shared. Loot will be the same between both raid sizes, with 25 simply dropping more. This is probably one of the things I’m most looking forward to. If there were no benefit to doing a 25-man raid over a 10-man, I would never do one again. Managing that many people results in too many assholes concentrated in one group and inevitably leads to failure. I much prefer the 10-man groups, which are much easier to assemble and tend to run much more smoothly.

  1. This is particularly stupid in the realm of things like ICC, where you’re required to post the achievement for having killed a boss to even go on the raid. How do new people break in? The raid runners don’t care. I’ve read up on every single ICC fight and probably know some of those fights better than multi-run veterans, but I’ve yet to step foot inside ICC. []

Into Eternity’s Eye

 Posted by at 12:42  No Responses »
Sep 212010

Continuing my streak of successful raids, Cody, Kt, and I tackled Malygos last night for the weekly raid quest.  We had previously done a guild run on Malygos for the weekly quest, but I was playing Deowyn at the time.  Deowyn, unfortunately, also had the key required to begin the fight against Malygos.  After about an hour of unsuccessfully attempting to find a group, Cody urged me to just start one, so I did.  We were fortunate enough to find a boomkin with the key and away we went.

Phases 1 and 2 went very smoothly, owing in no small part to the fact that they’re pretty easy to explain once you’ve gone through them once.  I don’t think our DPS team ever let an orb get near Malygos, which made the fight considerably shorter than it was the last time we did it.

And then Phase 3 rolled around.

For the uninitiated, the Malygos fight works in three stages, each increasing in complexity.  The first is essentially a straight-up tank-and-spank.  Malygos is tanked more or less in the middle of a platform suspended in space while DPS unloads on him.  Occasionally, a magical orb will spawn and head slowly towards him.  If it reaches him, he gets a buff.  As such, DPS should direct all firepower on the orb as soon as they can.  It helps tremendously to have a Death Knight who can pull the orb to him, which we did.

In phase two, which kicks off as soon as Malygos drops below 50% health, the dragon takes to the skies and the group needs to stay sheltered within anti-magic bubbles he occasionally drops.  While there, they need to take out several adds that spawn in.  A small handful of these adds can be fought in melee, but it’s mostly a ranged fight.  Once those adds are all dead, phase three begins with the platform shattering.

Fortunately, a bunch of drakes are there to catch you as you fall, and it is on their backs that you need to finish the fight.  Problem One: get within 30 yards of Malygos, and you get vaporized in short order.  Problem Two: if Malygos focuses on you and you don’t deploy Flame Shield, which requires “energy” that you may not have enough of at the moment you get hit, and you get vaporized in short order.  Problem Three: If the healers don’t stack their HOTs to the full 5 stacks and then blast out their AOE heal on a regular basis, you get vaporized in short order.  Seeing a trend?

We lost half of our raid in short order.  I switched from trying to attack Malygos to healing, since it looked like our healers had both died.  This managed to sustani the other four drakes enough to beat Malygos down.  And then I got caught in Malygos’s gaze without enough energy for Flame Shield. Fortunately, he was close enough to dead at that point that my own death wasn’t an impedance to finishing him off.

I continue to dislike that fight.