Saturday, 23 February 2013
Saturday, 10 November 2012
How do you control your character in World of Warcraft (or any other similar MMO for that matter)? There are two main ways: with keybinds and mouse turning, and with clicking and keyboard turning.
The latter is not efficient. It’s easier to start playing with, and people can become quite proficient with it, but it has two major drawbacks:
Attention – every time you need to click an ability, you’re diverting attention away from what’s going on around you and focusing on your UI.
Speed – it takes time to move your mouse and aim it correctly at a button, and turning with the keyboard also takes a lot longer than with the mouse.
Many ‘clickers’ know this, but after up to eight years doing things the same way, it can of course be very hard and uncomfortable to change.
By using keybinds and mouse turning, you can avoid both of these major issues. With the right UI setup, you can even hide your main actionbars completely and track cooldowns via other means. You can also react to things much more quickly and calmly, and you can cast your spells in the correct with barely any thought; it becomes an automatic response, something you can do with your eyes closed.
It’ll be hard at first, and your performace will be terrible while you get used to it, but the benefits are worth it.
The first suggestion I have regarding specific bindings is to try to limit the keys to those which are easily reachable, i.e.
Tab. Those, combined with
Alt, should give you more than enough to control all important abilities.
Ideally, to practice you’d start a new character and start from the beginning with keybinds, but obviously that’s not always practical. Instead, I’d suggest clearing your bars of all your main abilities, and building things up gradually. Start with your main ‘filler’ ability, and bind it to something like
1. Practice pressing it and moving around, switching targets, and most importantly, not looking at your keyboard or actionbars. This is important. The whole point of using keybinds is so you can keep your attention on important things like where mobs are, whether you’re standing in fire, etc.
Finally, since you’ll be using the mouse to turn, re-bind A and D to strafe left and right. It’s a quicker way to move out of bad stuff, and you can also cast spells at mobs whilst strafing away from them, if you turn in a very slight circle.
Training dummies are invaluable when learning keybinds. I used them all the time, even though I only play with keybindings, because the practice is so valuable. It’s useful to use Recount to measure your performance on them, although obviously the numbers you generate are only meaningful to you personally, as a way of measuring your progress.
I mentioned ‘the right UI setup’ earlier – this is another factor that’ll help you stay on top of what’s happening. Addons like Fortexorcist, PowerAuras, NeedToKnow and TellMeWhen are really good for letting you keep track of important things like cooldowns, DoTs and so forth in an easily monitored way.
The general idea is to put the most important things near the middle, then less important things further out. As an example, if you’re a shadow priest you’ll want to keep track of Vampiric Touch and Shadow Word: Pain, and the cooldown on Mind Blast, so you’d put those near the middle. Something like Shadow Fiend, on the other hand, has quite a long cooldown so you could relegate it to a lower level of attention.
As I said, I know it’ll feel horrible and slow and uncomfortable, especially at first, if you’ve never played this way before. I truly do believe, though, that it’s a better way to play, and the only way to reach optimal performance.
Friday, 5 October 2012
I bought Mists of Pandaria. Pre-ordered, in fact, and yet since it was released, I’ve played WoW exactly no times. Moreover, I stopped playing WoW a couple of weeks before MoP came out, and it’s all because of Guild Wars 2.
It seems I’m missing out on quite a fun time in Pandaria, too, since by all accounts this expansion is so far really good; Zoe is certainly enjoying it. Thing is, I’d been looking forward to GW2 for a long time, and conversely, getting less and less enjoyment out of the tail end of Cataclysm, to the extent that I only really logged in to level my mage a bit, and occasionally and begrudgingly help guildenfolk get their Iron-Bound/Rusted Proto-Drake from Ulduar.
Guild Wars, though. I like it a lot. It’s very pretty, but in a more realistic way than WoW, although this does mean places that look somewhat less diverse than Azeroth – one grassy hill looks much like any other. Still, natural-looking pretty is still pretty, and there’s enough variation in both scenery and architecture to keep it interesting.
I find combat much more interesting and exciting in GW2, with lots more movement and reactive use of abilities. You really have to pay attention to the mobs you’re fighting, and what they’re doing; there are no enemy castbars or DBM-style timers or anything like that, so you need to respond appropriately based on their actions. One particularly memorable example is a boss in Ascalon Catacombs explorer mode (which is a bit like WoW’s heroic mode). He has an ability where he raises his sword to charge up a spell that pulls everyone in line of sight to his feet, then he does a lethal whirling attack that will almost certainly kill you. Generally you have two ways of avoiding this: use your dodge skill right at the critical moment before he pulls you in, or get out of LoS. As a mesmer I had a third option: my Feedback ability, which reflects ranged attacks back on the caster. Turns out the boss’s AoE pull counted, so I pop that on him just before he does it, and he knocks himself over instead :D
Combat in dungeons also differs from WoW in that there’s no specific ‘tank’ or ‘healer’ role – mobs will attack whoever they feel like, and everyone has a decent self-heal and other survival-oriented abilities they need to make use of. Certainly you can orient your traits (sort of like WoW’s talent points) and skill points (also sort of like WoW’s talent points) towards survival or crowd-control, or towards group-focused abilities like buffing and healing, but everyone is expected to do damage. If someone gets downed*, anyone can revive them; if a mob’s attacking you, don’t expect a tank to taunt it off you.
These differences mean fights feel a lot more frantic and desperate, and playing well is much more about utility and awareness compared to playing WoW’s more narrowly-focused specialisations. It means that even on my level 52 mesmer, I could still be useful when grouping with three level 80 characters, although clearly GW2’s level scaling† meant they were much less overpowered than otherwise.
* ‘downed’ means you’ve lost all your normal health and are sitting on the floor with a ‘reserve’ health bar that slowly drains. You have a few basic abilities, including a weak channelled self-heal, and if you’re lucky you can fill your reserve health bar and rally, i.e. get back up and join the fight again. Other players can help to revive you, too.
† your level is scaled to be appropriate for the zone you’re in, so in the starting areas you’ll be down to level 3 or so, and in dungeons you’ll be at the minimum level required for them, e.g. 40 in Ascalon Catacombs. However, you still keep all your weapons, armour and abilities, albeit also scaled down, so you will likely still be more powerful than someone at-level.
Another significant difference in GW2, that I noticed most when watching Zoe quest in Pandaria, is that there is no mob tagging. Instead, if you make a significant contribution to the damage on a mob (the wiki says between 5 and 10 percent), you get loot from it, and credit for killing it if an event or quest asks for that. Likewise, there is no competition among players for gatherables (ore, herbs and trees), since collecting from one does not deprive others from it. All of this, plus the way you can partake in quests just by being in the right area, mean there is a very strong feeling of cooperation, with everything designed to encourage it naturally.
Of course, since everyone is on the same side, there’s no Horde-vs-Alliance–style world PvP – you’re never in danger of accidentally attacking someone who’s flagged, and getting trounced by them as a result. Player vs player in GW2 is an entirely separate thing, so it can’t interfere with the cooperation aspect.
So, those are my impressions after playing Guild Wars 2 for a couple of weeks, from the perspective of someone who has played World of Warcraft since just before Wrath of the Lich King was released. I still haven’t hit 80 on my highest character, and even when I do, I want to level a few others just to see how they play. Maybe by the time I’ve done that, an expansion will be nearing. We shall see.
In the meantime, if you want to drop by I'm on Blacktide (EU) server and my display name is Caer.1605, and I’ll probably be on either my mesmer, Yalaera, or my guardian, Aerlocke.
Monday, 1 October 2012
I’ve not used my K10D in quite a long time, as I couldn’t trust it to focus accurately. I’d tried adjusting it using the debug menu tricks, but couldn’t ever get it to work satisfactorily, and to even adjust it meant faffing around with downgrading firmware temporarily.
Recently though, for reasons I can’t recall, I decided to see if I could improve it, and found some useful information about how to enable the debug menu (to adjust AF) even with firmware 1.3 on the camera. After much faffing, and the eventual discovery that the magic text file you put on the memory card needs to have
LF line endings (i.e. need to be in Windows format, not Unix or Mac), I got it working, and now my camera focuses properly most of the time with the F 50mm f/1.4 lens shown in the picture. It still struggles with backlit things, but I think that’s more an issue with the lens – it flares pretty badly when there’s light shining into it, so the AF sensors probably have a hard time seeing what to focus on.
So anyway, turns out, the K10D can still produce some nice images! In good light it’s quick to focus and with the 50 the pictures are plenty sharp (I’ve yet to try it again with my 35 and 50–135). In low light it’s not so good – noise at ISO 1000 is about the level of my X100 at 3200, and there’s a noticeably weaker response in the blue channel compared to the X100. Still, if I stick with good light, the camera can produce some very nice images, especially with the 50–135 lens.
All of this means I now feel like I have more options, photographically: although the X100 will remain my primary camera, I can now also trust the K10D when I want to use a longer lens. I don’t anticipate needing to do this a lot, at least not in the near future, but perhaps something will come up. Either way, it feels good to shoot again with a camera I’ve grown so familiar with over the years.
Thursday, 12 July 2012
The Godmother recently posted about Blizzard’s announcement of the Guild Mentoring Program, wherein select guilds on each server will take in and ‘train’ new WoW players, the idea being, I guess, to improve the overall standard of players.
She also posted a list of ten questions that applicants to her guild are asked, and while I originally was going to answer them in a comment on her blog, it turns out I have quite a lot to say in some answers, so I’m posting them here instead.
What’s your favourite joke?
An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman walk into a bar. The barman says, “Is this some kind of joke?”
What’s the best 5 man instance currently in game?
First instinct is to say Vortex Pinnacle, just because it’s so pretty, but I’m also partial to the ‘subterranean city’ aesthetic of Blackrock Depths and Grim Batol. I think I’d like BRD more if it was a normal zone, rather than a dungeon that you always feel pressured to complete quickly.
What has been the best show on TV over the last 25 years and why?
Everyone says The Wire. I’ve only seen the first few episodes so I don’t know. Really enjoyed Warehouse 13 and Game of Thrones, but they’re both fairly recent. Going back 25 years… well, that’s tricky cos 25 years ago I was only 6 ;)
As for why: WH13 because it’s just really good lighthearted entertainment. Also Joanne Kelly. GoT firstly because it’s so well made, and second because it’s unusual to see a fantasy series be so popular, and may help get people to take the genre more seriously.
If you had a choice what would it be: cake or pie?
Pie. I love pie, and pie can be sweet or savoury. So versatile!
Should Blizzard put more crowd control back into dungeons?
Yes. No. Maybe. I’m in two minds about this. On the one hand it’s a way to make dungeons harder, but on the other hand, I don’t think it’s a very good way to do that. It doesn’t require skill to perform, and it disrupts the flow of a group. Some players may be fine with that, taking each pack of mobs one by one, working out the best way to tackle them. Others, though, might prefer the high-speed thrills of doing a dungeon as fast as possible, and when these two opposing ideologies meet, QQ ensues.
I think dungeons should be harder, generally, and I like where Blizzard is going with the Challenge Modes – if they incorporate crowd-control, then it’ll be OK because players will need skill to pull it off quickly.
Have you left Trade/General chat channels at any point, and if so why?
Only until I got a monitor big enough that I could have guild chat separate from everything else. On a busy server it got annoying having trade/general break up conversations in guild.
Also a couple of times when idiots started up with the ‘anal’ spam :-/
Who would you choose as the next James Bond?
I can only think of Michael Fassbender at the moment, and for no good reason.
What’s the best change Blizzard has made to the game in the last twelve months?
Probably Raid Finder. I know it almost always has a few morons, but letting more people access raid content is a good thing, and it gives ‘non-raiders’ something else to do at endgame. I’m quite excited to see what Blizzard do with it in Mists.
Who was better: Blur or Oasis, or some random third band you may now name.
Oasis. They had more good tunes.
If you had to ask me one question, what would it be?
When is Mists coming out?
Monday, 25 June 2012
On Friday I ordered a Fuji X100, having desired one for a long time and only then possessing the means to buy one. I am terribly impatient so I chose next-day delivery, thus it arrived around midday. Hurrah!
Low Light Quality
Zoe had worked 70 hours that week so she was still in bed when the camera arrived.
That there is ISO 3200 pushed 1 stop in Aperture. You can see the noise if you look closely.
The same day the camera arrived, we went for a visit to Zoe’s parents. Her nieces were there too, giving me plenty of opportunities to practice with my new camera since they are very photogenic. Moreover they’re quite young so they don’t sit still for long, and the house isn’t super bright so it was be a good chance to see how well the X100 copes in less than ideal conditions.
In short: it performed well. Most of the shots I attempted were successful, and of the misses, most could be put down to unfamiliarity with the camera.
Here’s Zoe showing Gabby and Izzy her iPad:
To give you an idea of the light level, this is another ISO 3200 shot (though not pushed this time) at f/2.8 and 1/90 shutter. Still fairly dark.
Forgive me if I am repeating something you may already know, but this kind of noise performance is quite new to me. My last big-sensor’d camera was a Pentax K10D, and it only goes up to ISO 1600, whereupon it’s a mess, if it can even focus at all in low light.
So X100 image quality is wonderful. You probably knew that already.
Before I got the camera I ready more or less everything I could find written about it. One thing that a number of people commented on was the lack of stiffness in the dials, the issue being how they might get moved accidentally. I don’t understand this. To me they feel just right: easy to move with just a thumb, but not loose that they’ll turn if you look at them funny. Goldilocks.
There has also been much wailing over the OK button, and on this I agree entirely: it is bad. Here is the problem:
My thumb is not pressing the button in this picture, merely resting on it. Bear in mind also that the whole ring around the button is itself clickable in four directions. I guess you could get used to it, but I plan to make my life easier by glueing half a small bead or similar to it.
The ridged ring in the picture above is part of the four-way pad control too but can also be rotated to navigate through menus and such. It is really cheap-feeling, with barely discernible detents and a generally very loose feel. I guess maybe it’d be useful for quickly spinning though the ISO menu but I’ve had the camera on Auto-ISO all the time, so I dunno; mostly I just try to avoid turning it when I’m clicking up and down in the menus, which isn’t so difficult.
Some have complained about the AF mode switch: Fuji rather foolishly put AF-S mode in the middle of the three positions and the design of the switch makes it rather fiddly to set it to the middle. This hasn’t much bothered me (yet?) because I’ve not felt the need to use anything other than single-focus mode except when I tried manual and found it pretty much as useless as everyone else.
Oh the shutter button. The half-press is light, and the full-press has a really nice click to it. The complete lack of lag after focussing feels great: click and the picture you just took appears immediately. Very satisfying. I think this might be a large part of why so many people find the act of taking pictures with the X100 so pleasurable.
I mentioned earlier I use Auto-ISO (heresy! burn the heathen!) which means the default function of the Fn button (bring up ISO menu) isn’t much use, so I changed it to toggle depth-of-field preview. I like this, especially since you can turn the aperture dial and see the results in real-time without any annoying changes in brightness.
As of firmware 1.2 the function of RAW button can also be changed to something less pointless than toggling raw/JPEG recording. I’ve set it to toggle the neutral-density filter; this comes in handy more often than you might expect, particularly given the X100’s minimum ISO of 200. Here’s a photo at f/2 on a bright sunny day:
Only 1/400 shutter speed, instead of the unreachable 1/3200 it would otherwise have needed.
The aperture, shutter and exposure compensation dials are very handy. Being mechanical controls, you can set them without even turning the camera on, and you can tell at a glance what they’re set to. A few people have bemoaned the lack of half- or third-stop detents on the aperture and shutter dials but honestly I don’t see this as a problem, at least not for me and the way I shoot.
The shutter dial mostly sits in the A position, making the camera aperture-priority. As such, whole-stop aperture adjustments are perfectly fine, since I don’t imagine ever needing finer depth-of-field control than this provides – the difference between f/2.8 and f/4 is already fairly subtle, never mind f/2.8 and f/3.5 (one stop versus half a stop, in case you’re not familiar).
If you really do need that finer adjustment, incidentally, the rear jog-dial thing has you covered, though obviously it’s not as efficient as just using the main controls.
No article about the X100 is complete without mention of its groundbreaking hybrid electronic/optical viewfinder. I shan’t repeat what others have written, but there are a couple of things I’ll mention that I’ve not read about.
First is the EVF’s refresh rate. It’s mostly low, and I say ‘mostly’ because after you lock focus it suddenly goes lovely and fast like the rear LCD. I don’t know why it can’t be fast all the time, maybe it’s to save battery power. Maybe it says in the manual, I haven’t looked (nor needed to).
The second thing is a little more complex: the use of the EVF itself, in contrast to the OVF. In the days before digital, all viewfinders were optical of one design or another. There was no way to see what the film saw without actually developing that film, which was obviously very much not a real-time process. Hence the invention of light meters, both external and internal, to assist the photographer in setting the right aperture and shutter combination. All photography involved an element of guesswork, in other words.
Enter digital. Now we can see what the sensor is seeing, in real-time. We can see before we take the photo whether it’s too bright or too dark. This make the craft side of photography considerably easier than before, which I think is amazing. For the beginner and expert alike, the relief from worrying and guessing means more mental capacity to focus on what’s really important: the picture itself.
I am a convert, I think. I’ve not really had the camera long enough to make up my mind, but for now I’m leaning toward preferring the EVF. This surprised me, since I enjoy using the optical finder on my little Ricoh GRD3, and I’ve been using SLRs for years without live view. I think Kirk Tuck might be responsible.
Perhaps it’s just lack of practice. The OVF is certainly nice, and on a sunny day the difference in brightness between it and the electronic finder is considerable. And yet, despite the live histogram in the optical finder (!) there’s still quite the element of guesswork when it comes to avoiding small blown highlights. Who knows, maybe once I’m more familiar with the camera’s metering and imaging habits I’ll be able to trust it more and use the wonderful bright OVF worry-free.
More pictures on my flickr photostream
Monday, 11 June 2012
with apologies to Vidyala for the title
I said earlier on twitter that I’d be bloggering about my experiences levelling a priest mostly via the dungeon finder. Here is the first post in what might become a series if I remember to keep writing them.
Yaera is the priest, blood elf on silvermoon-eu server. She is level 28, so you won’t see any tales of deadmines, stockades and whatnot. The dungeon finder says I’m eligible for two dungeons: gnomeregan and scarlet monastery graveyard. I have heirloom cloak but that’s not enough really to make much of a difference, so I’ll be doing those two dungeons for a while. Perhaps three runs so actually not that long really.
Not a lot to say about experience thus far. It’s been mostly good groups which is not what I was expecting. Maybe I’ve purged the bad memories. Had one gnomeregan where we wiped several times at the same place on the first boss (the slime thing) but everyone was cool with it and laughed it off, no swearing.
I’ve transmogged my heirloom staff so it looks like a plain wooden stick. I don’t like to advertise my heirlooms because it just encourages tanks to take too many risks and my mana can’t hold up to that yet. Also the loom staff looks kinda silly and everyone has one and I guess I’m a hipster
So here I go I’m going to click the Find Group button and see what comes.