Tuesday, November 24, 2009

[UPDATED!!!] You Sunk My Battlegroup!

For those of you who don't know, I share computer time with my significant other. Unfortunately, I have also made the critical mistake of introducing her to WoW. What does this mean? This means that my level 80 Night Elf hunter of a girlfriend now alternates nights with me. Fortunately, my mental stamina is much superior to hers, evident in the fact that she is usually ready to go to bed by 10 PM. (Sorry, honey, but it's true.)

As expected, the little lady bonked out around 10:15 and I stopped the DVR and proceeded to log in to my bank alt to scan some auctions. Lo and behold, my server was greyed out. And not just my own, but several others as well. I soon learned that two entire Battlegroups had kicked the bucket. Apparently a complete power failure was responsible for taking out nearly 25 realms, which stayed that way until 8 AM EST.

After several unsuccessful attempts to log on after about 15 minutes, I began looking for other things to occupy my time. So, I headed over to Feathermoon (US-RP) and rolled a level 1 human warlock. I was not alone in my refugee status, and Northshire Abbey was filled with dozens of Level 1 alts as if WoW had just hit day 1. It was a very strange sight to see so many active players running around a single starting area. It was certainly strange competing for level 1 mobs and actually having to wait for Garrick Padfoot to spawn.

What was even better was that convesations between the sudden influx of players and the vets of that server. The locals were ticked, and for good reason, as dozens of level 1 alts ("Icritmypants" was one of the more memorable ones, I recall) began turning Northshire into Trade + Barrens chat squared.

Anyways, it looks like we'll be back up and running when I log in tonight. For those of you who play on Feathermoon, I apologize. :)

EDIT: Looks like my Battlegroup is still down!

EDIT x2: After much deliberation the entire battlegroup is back up and running. Hooray!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

RPG Memories

Ah, the RPG.

I've meandered off into the realms of sports (yes, actual physical sports... scary, I know), board and card games, various other genres of video games, but for some reason, I've always come back to some form of role-playing game. I've always been drawn to the idea of jumping into the role of some fictional character and embarking on an epic adventure. And since it's the shared topic over on Blog Azeroth, I figured I'd share my own experience with you all.

My affair with RPGs is one that reaches back over two decades. In that time,  One my earliest fascinations was with those endless series of "Choose your own adventure" books. With any number of different themes, the reader was cast as the central character in a novelization of what was, essentially, a role-playing game. The choices you made affected the outcome of the book, in turn (pun intended) altering the very plot of the story by skimming to another page. (Do you want to know more about my RPG nostalgia? If yes, turn to page 34. If no, what the hell are you reading this for?)

When I became a bit older, this fascination grew a bit more sophisticated. I began to read the Lone Wolf series of "choose-your-own-adventure" books, but this time a round, they came with a sophisticated twist: statistics, combat and items! It had expanded on the classic style of book that I had grown to love and several borrowed D&D elements. I collected several copies within the series (scrolling through the covers sure took me back) and can clearly remember sitting with my pencil and flipping through the pages, anxiously apprehensive to find out if my choices had led to my doom. Of course, you had to make sure not to sneak a peek at the other pages while turning to the designated page, because that was 'cheating.'

Eventually, the charm of these books wore off. For one, it was too tempting to skip some of the pages (some of which contained artwork) and often ended up spoiling the plot for me. In addition, the tedious realities that come with this type of role-playing game became apparent. There was a combat system, which required you to perform manual calculations in pencil, because doing so in ink was a lesson in futility. This meant lots of scribbling and jotting and erasing. You also used a crude sort of RNG by closing your eyes and slamming the eraser end of your pencil onto a grid of random numbers, which became quite easy to cheat at with a little practice. With all of the various items you had to keep track of, along with writing them down, then erasing, then writing them down again... by the ninth or tenth book, this became rather tiresome. I began to pass these by in the book store and reach for them out of curiosity and familiarity, only to place them back on the shelves. Sad, really. (You can read the entire series for free, online, here.)

Even after these books, I still longed for the classic adventure of swords and sorcery, and even remember spending hours in the public library poring over the various D&D books the kept in their shelves. I never had the courage to find someone as dorky as I was to actually play the game, so instead I would sit there and stare at the spells and monster descriptions and imagine what sorts of adventures I would go on, or what class I would play, or how I would make a dungeon. My fascination with role-playing games continued.

Along came King's Quest. I remember playing this game in 16 colors. Count them: 16. When I first popped this 5.25" floppy into my hard drive, and listened to the crude machinery of the disk drive read the binary code, and finally display the rich hues on my screen, I was in Tandy EX heaven.

After that, there was Space Quest, and Hero's Quest, and, ahem, Leisure Suit Larry. (Do you guys happen to remember having to get past the guy watching TV in the basement to sneak up the stairs to... oh, never mind.)

Now, technically these were not RPGs in the classic D&D sense. They are now categorized in the "Adventure" category, but all told a story in which you interacted with the environment, made decisions, and used problem solving skills and abilities in order to progress the plot, but you still played a role. Hero's Quest was more RPG-ish of the series, in which you could choose to play one of three classes (Fighter, Magic User, and Thief.) Nevertheless, I consider these games to be RPGs, or at the very least credit them with sparking more of my interest in RPG-type games.

Enter my teenage years: the advent of the NES, SNES, Genesis, Nintendo 64, the 386 processor, and Playstation. I have played at least one RPG on each system, including the Final Fantasy, Ultima and Might and Magic series. Eventually I went off to college, got a job and continued gaming through my twenties. I dabbled in shooters and Madden and Star Wars Pod Racing, but I always found myself pausing to check out the back of the latest RPG.

Somewhere in the last 5 or 6 years, I yearned for the nostalgia of my floppy disk days (actually, I remember playing games off a cassette tape hooked up to an Apple IIe, but I digress.) I began to dabble in the world of MUDs, but found them too stale. I soon discovered the MUSH, which was much more customizable and had more of the RPG elements I was looking for, such as emotes, etc. (Not so much "You hit the rat for 12 damage!") When I dug deeper, there seemed to be a MUSH themed for pretty much everything. I stayed with what I knew at the time, which was primarily Star Wars based. And so it was that I dove headfirst into these telnet based phenomena for about a year or so before interest in the genre faded. However, the yearning for more text-based adventures was not over.

In one of my many subsequent searches for obscure freeware, I came across this wonderful gem: Dwarf Fortress. In it, you can play in a single player RPG campaign or a very complex dwarf fortress building simulation. And the best part is, it's in ASCII. You read it. ASCII. And I loved it. I played it night and day, managing my little dwarfs and digging into the mountains, carving out an existence for the little imaginary @'s on my screen. I highly recommend it for those of you who like both old school ASCII graphics (there are downloadable graphics sets to make the game a bit easier on the eyes, but it's still an ASCII game at the core) and simulation games like SimCity and the like. It's been in active development for quite some time, but still has yet to get out of alpha stages. (Best part, however, is that it's free and completely playable for an alpha.)

And finally, about two and a half years ago, I felt the itch again. Everywhere I turned, everyone was ranting and raving about the World of Warcraft. I had played the RTS games a couple times previous, so I was familiar with the basic premise; orcs vs. humans, sure, easy enough, right? So, I picked myself up the free trial and never looked back. My intital concerns were that I wouldn't be able to play the game on my computer at the time, but the graphics card and our meager CPU put forth a decent effort and I managed to squeeze out 20 fps on average. I went out and bought vanilla WoW and Burning Crusade, signed up for my monthly subscription, and never looked back.

And so it was that I went from a scrawny little kid huddled between stacks of books (and flipping to page 34) to raiding Naxxramas, Ulduar and perhaps challenging the Lich King himself to a /duel. It's been a long journey, a quest of its own, if you will. In case you were wondering, it's taken me nearly three days to write this post. Strolling down memory lane and trying to narrow down which games influenced me the most has not been an easy task. I mean, there have to be at least two or three dozen games in the console category alone that I was forced to omit for brevity. To be honest, though, I had a lot of fun writing this one. I hope you had as much fun reading.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Circle of DPS

This little questionnaire is brought to you by none other than Death Goddess. It was inspired by the similarly titled "Circle of Tanking" and "Circle of Healing" blog chains, and continues in the tradition by polling us DPSers about, well, DPSing. So, without further ado, the questions (and answers):

What is the name, class, and spec of your primary DPS?

Thargnik, Enhancement Shaman (Armory)

What is your primary DPSing environment? (i.e. raids, PvP, 5 mans)

10 man Raids and 5 mans, although I dabble in 25-man raids when I can get the chance. Raiding at all is mostly a luxury due to real life time restraints.

What is your favorite DPS spell/ability for your class and why?

Frost Shock Stormstrike, most likely, although my spirit wolves are a very close second. Instant dual melee weapon strikes which can potentially proc Maelstrom Weapon in addition to the mana replenish are hands down the best melee ability an enhancement shaman has in his or her arsenal.

What DPS spell do you use least for your class and why?

Searing Totem. I'm not even sure it has any purpose past level 30, and it's seemingly random targeting (up to 20 yards) can be more troublesome than beneficial. (And as far as non-DPS spells, what in the hell is anyone ever going to do with Sentry Totem?!)

What do you feel is the biggest strength of your DPS class and why?

I feel that shaman have the best versatility as far as a support class goes. Maelstrom Weapon instant cast emergency heals, tremor totem drops, poison and disease cleansing, and general totem buffs make our class and spec a welcome addition to any group or guild.

What do you feel is the biggest weakness of your DPS class and why?

We're still a bit more squishy than I'd like for melee. Perhaps rogues have it as bad as we do since they wear leather, but I'm not quite sure about that.

In a 25 man raiding environment, what do you feel, in general, is the best DPS assignment for you?

Any boss that doesn't give out a lot of AoE damage, or that has some sort of mechanic that preys on the fact that I have to be up close and personal. I'm not talking dragon tail-swipes or something quite so generic, but something more like Patchwerk's Hateful Strike. It's fine if the healers are keeping the tanks topped off, but not so much when I'm the one with getting one-shot.

What DPS class do you enjoy DPSing with most and why?

Mage. Nothing says DPS like a face-melting mage. I'm not quite sure why I like them, I just do.

What DPS class do you enjoy DPSing with least and why?

Paladins, mostly because I am jealous of their survivability.

(I also hear that they are laughably easy to play, but I can't speak from experience. Just sayin'.=D)

What is your worst habit as a DPS?

Not getting out of the way for Whirlwind, not dropping Tremor Totem on trash/bosses that cast fear or sleep, and forgetting to drop Cleansing totem when poison or disease is present.

What is your biggest pet peeve in a group environment while DPSing?

Waiting around, goofing around, and people fighting over gear. Immaturity is probably the biggest of them all.

Do you feel that your class/spec is well balanced with other DPS?

Somewhat, although Rogues will always outdo us in terms of pure melee DPS. I feel we can hang well with DKs, Pallies and Warriors, though each brings their own strengths to the table.

What tools do you use to evaluate your own performance as a DPS?

Recount, EnhSim (Enhancement Shaman simulator), BeImba.com, and general in-game feedback, to name a few. There are probably a dozen websites and blogs I could list as well that I regularly peruse that also provide vital information, feedback or commentary regarding techniques or theorycrafting.

What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your class?

That we make excellent healers. I love signing up for a group as DPS and then they are short a healer and turn to me, expecting me to be geared for my offspec and ready to go. Unfortunately, my offspec is just that... my OFF spec. My gear is considerably less favorable and I don't even think I've bought a single gem or enchant for it.

What do you feel is the most difficult thing for new DPSers of your class to learn?

Which totems to drop and when. There's tons of useless totems out there, a couple that you may need in rare circumstances, your utility totems for more specific circumstances, and then those that should be dropped 98% of the time. The same thing goes for weapon imbues and shocks.

What DPS class do you feel you understand least?

Death Knights, by far. Although I am learning more. I suppose I have been turned off by the concept of them since Wrath hit... I knew everyone was going to roll one, and I was very much anti-DK from the get go. My bias has subsided, but I still haven't leveled one past the starting area.

What add-ons or macros do you use, if any, to aid you in DPS?

Recount, Omen3, Deadly Boss Mods, Elkano's Buff Bars, Bartender and AG Unit Frames. I also have a Windfury/Flametongue macro in addition to a focustarget macro to target what the tank (focus) is targeting.

Attack Power over other stats or balanced stat allocation, and why?

Pure AP is useless without hit and expertise, so you have to be capped to begin considering other stats, but there are cases to be made for favoring haste, armor penetration, or even crit at a certain point. I generally use EnhSim to tell me what I should be gemming or gearing for. However, AP is a pretty straightforward stat: the more attack power you have, the more damage each hit deals.

Pass this questionnaire on and fill out the answers, and be sure to stop by Death Goddess's website to let her know the results.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Reduced Cooldowns for your Elementals

It was recently announced on the PTR that the cooldown on your Elementals has been reduced from 20 minutes to 10:
  • Earth Elemental Totem: The cooldown for this totem has been reduced from 20 minutes to 10 minutes. Cannot be used in Arenas.
  • Fire Elemental Totem: The cooldown for this totem has been reduced from 20 minutes to 10 minutes. Cannot be used in Arenas.
This should definately provide a boost for PvE leveling, but it remains to be seen if they will come in handy in a raid or PvP environment. Reducing cooldowns seems to be part of a growing trend lately. What do you think?