Saturday, 4 December 2010

Bytes To Bytes, Bits To Bits

I haven't played World Of Warcraft since the end of August, and I'm not sure what I want to do with my account. It's paid up until the end of March 2011, so it's not like there's any urgency, but it's been on my mind somewhat lately. I've considered logging in to give away all the stuff I can, including the gold, and I've considered just cancelling the account without doing this. I've considered playing again, too, as I still read some WoW blogs and the talk of the Shattering is quite interesting. And yet, the longer I go having not played, the less find myself caring about the game; at the moment, the only things that interest me are seeing the new Azeroth from a levelling perspective, and continuing my Worldview series (oh how optimistic I was that I would cover any significant amount of the world before it got Shattered!). Honestly, the main thing preventing me making a decision on the matter is the thought of having to download the various patches released since I last played.

I have almost no interest in raiding, least of all in Icecrown Citadel. I don't care about loot – this close to Cataclysm it's all pointless anyway. The only slight interest I have is seeing how my level 80 characters (and my 77 warrior) perform with the new talent trees. I also wouldn't mind going to Ulduar again, not to defeat bosses, but to do a Worldview post (or series) there, as it really is a fantastic place.

In some respects one of the things I miss most about WoW is gone forever: the exploration and discovery. Sure, the world is changed, and sure, there are and will be new zones and dungeons to see, but the game is no longer really new and strange and exciting to me. It's like Morrowind in that respect, a game I spent countless hours playing just because it was so big and there was so much to see – misty, rain-soaked swamps, ash-blighted mountains, a strange giant mushroom town, ethereal and dangerous Daedric ruins, and best of all the creepy steampunk Dwarf ruins, with their mysterious rumbles and clangs. However, because I have experienced all of that, it is of course no longer new, so the adventure of playing though the game again is but a shadow of what it was; very little is new but what I have since forgotten, and the dated, awkward mechanics of the game-play become foremost in my attention, particularly in the long beginning when your character is weak and lacking in the array of skills you acquire by the end of the game – once you've become used to leaping over mountains and covering the length of Vvardenfell in less than a minute, going back to being weak, earth-bound and slow is quite demoralising.

In contrast to games like Morrowind, World Of Warcraft does an excellent job of making you feel at least somewhat powerful right from the start – at no point are you in danger of being killed by a lone mudcrab, and when you try to hit something, you mostly do actually hit it, rather than flail uselessly around it (assuming it's roughly your level or lower). Of course, the memories of past glories are there, and many level 80 characters have seen things a newbie wouldn't believe: setting ghouls on fire off the shoulders of dragons, watching Moonfire glittering in the dark near the Wrathgate, many of these moments preserved in time by the umbrella of Achievements. But World Of Warcraft does a much better job of drawing you in so you see past the limitations of the gameplay mechanics, and moreover, there is just more: more terrain to explore, more variety of things to kill, more weapons to wield, more people to talk to, whether real or NPC. There mere fact that it offers twelve different ways to start the game, depending on the race you choose, and ten different ways to play through the game, depending on the class you choose, is another way Blizzard improves upon the much more initially linear approach Morrowind et al take.

I feel I'm very much an Explorer type – I love seeing what's over the next hill or through the next door. Seeing new things is largely what keeps me interested in a game, and when I've seen all there is to be seen, I start to lose interest. To some extent, I'm reluctant to cancel my WoW account now, with Cataclysm so close, because there really will be, for a time, lots of new things to explore. On the other hand, there are many, many other games that can offer a more completely new experience – Dragon Age, Guild Wars 2 and LoTRO are just three that come to mind right away, and that's just in the (MMO)RPG genre.

Beyond games, there's also my programming: right now I'm still pretty much a noob in the world of web-based software development, and it's still new and exciting. More importantly, it's more directly useful to my life, as it's something I feel I could really build a career out of, as opposed to the mostly stuck-in-a-rut jobs I've had up til now. And the best part is, software development will always offer new things to discover and learn about; innovation is integral to the enterprise. Programming is important to me, and I don't want to let a 'mere game' get in the way of making something of my life.

Perhaps once I'm more settled in a software development career I'll come back to WoW, if it's even still around by then. Or, perhaps I'll ride the wave of the Next Big Thing in MMOs, exploring along with everyone else.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Forum Emoticons

Any respectable forum needs emoticons, and FORJ shall be no different! I've based these on the 'Like' icon in Google Reader, because the style is a nice match with FORJ's default theme.

:) :( :D :'( :p ;) :$ :O :O

There's still a few more I need to do – 'angry' and 'rolls eyes', for example – but after that they're more or less done, until I think of some others I'm missing.

The forum also allows linking directly to posts, so here is the link to the emoticon forum post.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

FORJing ahead

The forum is coming along rather nicely now – I recently added the functionality to store each registered user's count of how many posts they've read in each thread, and soon I'll be able to implement thread list filtering based on this or other criteria (such as 'interest').

It's actually getting close to the point where I'd feel comfortable with saying the forum is ready for limited general use, so long as the users aren't expecting something as full-featured as vBulletin or Beehive. Still, the foundations are there, and the basic structure is more or less done, I just need to add furniture and stuff now. And maybe wallpaper.

Also, what it really needs more than anything is for a lot of people to test it out, poke it and see if it falls over. As much as I test it myself, there's bound to be some things I miss. If you sign up, you don't have to use a real (or even valid, I think) e-mail address – it's effectively just a username, and there's no mechanism in place to send anything to it. I'm not even sure yet how to do that if I wanted to.


While the forum is taking up most of my coding time, I've also started working on another project, ostensibly for work but with the aim of making it generally available if it turns out to be useful beyond the circumstances in which it'll initially be used. In a nutshell, it's a non-realtime messaging application that's a sort of hybrid of e-mail and IM, for the purpose of basic information requests. The main selling point, and the reason you'd use it in preference to e-mail, is that it will make tracking and reporting on such requests much simpler, and easier to collaborate on.

So, not much to say about it yet, as I'm still working out the basics of how it's all going to work, and even what it's actually going to do, but once I have something worth showing, I'll talk about it here.


If you're of a coding bent, these two projects are on my GitHub profile.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Ostensibly Here

ALERT: this post is about programming and stuff, so if you're not interested, best skip it! That said, I'd love it if you had a look at the new forum I'm working on and had a play. If it breaks, please let me know :D


Gosh it's been a while, hasn't it? There's a good reason for that, however, and it does sort of involve WoW. Or rather, it involves a distinct lack of WoW: I haven't played since I broke my Windows 7 install by messing up the installation process of Ubuntu, about two months ago (I told it to put the bootloader on my external drive. Don't ask). Anyway, in lieu of WoW-playing, I have been doing something to break out of the rut of career mediocrity I've been in for years: I have been learning how to make web-based programs. That is, how to write in Javascript, Python and Ruby, how to run servers, and all (well, some) about the stuff that holds it all together.

Said the client to the server

Javascript, as it happens, is a really nice language. Apparently it gets a lot of stick for being a toy, but I feel it's more like a surprisingly versatile yet lightweight tool. The best part is, pretty much every desktop and laptop computer comes with the tools necessary to begin with Javascript: a text editor and a web browser. Of course, the real power comes when you can communicate with and store data on a server, as then you can split an application into two parts: the server-side which does all the data-retrieval, and the client-side which does all the presentation and interaction.

A common framework for developing the server-side web applications is MVCModel, View, Controller. This is all well and good for presenting mostly static pages that the user doesn't interact with much, but when you involve Javascript on the client side more than for a few nice effects, you can start offloading a lot more of the page rendering to the client. Rather than sending fully-formed HTML from the server, you can just send the relevant data (in JSON format, ideally) and have the client set up the HTML on the fly. Until fairly recently this wasn't a practical way to do things, as browser incompatibilities and slow Javascript performance meant the DOM manipulation required just wasn't practical. However, efforts by Google, Mozilla and Opera to vastly improve their Javascript engines, combined with the emergence of Javascript frameworks like jQuery and Prototype, has resulted in a new style of developing large, complex web applications.

Enter Andy, stage left

It was into this environment that I entered more or less in ignorance. Ten years ago I'd done some programming for a while in Delphi, writing some handy little utilities like a font browser (sadly no longer available since the host it was on closed down). However, writing Windows desktop software is really quite different to writing for the web. For one thing, the applications tend to be more monolithic and closed – all compiled up into one neat .exe file. Web apps on the other hand are invariably run directly from source code, albeit often minified, and can easily pull their various parts from different servers around the web; they feel looser and more open to write.

On Javascript

Speaking of 'loose and open', that's generally how I see Javascript. It's a very easygoing language, due in large part to its loose typing. It's that and the fact that functions are first-class object that really make Javascript so nice to use. You almost never have to declare the type of a variable, and a function definition (which itself can be a variable) has a list of parameters that doesn't specify their type:

var add = function(a, b) {
    return a + b;

The thing about that function is that its parameters don't even have to be numbers:

var foobar = add("foo", "bar"), // foobar = "foobar"
    forty_two = add(40, 2);     // forty_two = 42

Or how about:

var arbitrary = function(a, b, func) {
    a *= 2;
    b *= 1.5;
    return func(a, b);

var number1 = 64,
    number2 = 99,
    number3 = arbitrary(number1, number2, add);


There's just so much I could write here, about objects, closures, AJAX, jQuery and so on, but it'd get kinda boring I reckon, so I'll move one.

The future's bright

But it's Ruby-coloured, at least for me. It took a lot of prompting and hinting and suggesting, but my brother finally persuaded me to dive into all this stuff, and after a nice chat with his boss I've begun to focus my attention on Rails, pretty much just because it apparently has better (i.e. more) job prospects than the language and framework I initially chose, Python and Pylons.

Job prospects is what I need, as I'm currently working fixing computers, which, while not boring, is hardly challenging. One of the things I love about programming is solving problems, and there is an endless supply of those. There's always something new to learn, to try and understand, and maybe even eventually to teach others about.

I feel with programming I can do something more directly useful to people than just being a cog in a black box machine that takes in broken computers and spits out working ones. That's a large part of the motivation for writing my forum – I want to do something that people will use and appreciate. The idea was born of dissatisfaction with the way most existing forum software works: too many page loads, cumbersome to navigate and slow to use. Another part of the motivation, of course, is so that I have something to show to prospective employers, as it's not like I have x years of commercial programming experience. From what I've heard and read, though, I stand a good chance of getting hired based on what I know and can do, rather than how long I've been doing it.

So, here's to hoping for an improvement in my general state of affairs! Who knows, maybe one day I'll even come back and have a pop at ol' Deathwing.

Friday, 27 August 2010


I tried, but doing Python/database/Apache things in Windows just isn't nice. All the guides for doing it are like afterthoughts to the Linux guides. Consequently, I am downloading Ubuntu. uTorrent says it'll be done in 6 minutes, but that's assuming the speed holds, which it hasn't for the previous 72.3%.

I have a Grand Scheme to make some simple blogging software as a way to learn Python, Pylons, SQL et al, possibly even moving this very blog to it. We shall see. In any event, it means I'll probably be playing WoW less as I'm lazy and rebooting back into Windows just to play will seem like an insurmountable obstacle. This is a good thing, honestly, as I need to aim higher than my current "career".

Anyway, must go, takeaway Chinese food should be ready for collection now!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Class Body

Chas' recent post at Righteous Orbs got me thinking about a few things (unsurprisingly—it's a thought-provoking post). The thing I want to write about here is about body shapes in games, and how they relate to the character's role in the game. I'm going to use World of Warcraft for my examples in this post as it's the game I'm most faimilar with.

In most role-playing games, the character you play uses the same basic model regardless of what class it is, and as Chas noted, they're invariably well-build musclemen if male, or "sexy" if female. Naturally there are exceptions: I don't think female orcs, trolls or tauren (or even dorfs) in WoW are supposed to be "sexy", and apparently Blizzard's artists consulted real actual women when designing the Horde females. Imagine that! Maybe it explains why the Horde women are able to stand upright, rather than walking around dragging their fists on the floor.

To use a rather extreme example of body-to-role mismatch, let's look at the male draenei:

Comparison of male draenei mage and warrior characters.

Clearly one is a HULK SMASH melee fighter and the other is a sissy robe-wearing flinger of girly magic.

My first character in WoW was a rogue. Rogues are supposed to be sneaky-stealthy types who stab people in the back and then vanish if things get too confrontational. They do not take hits to the face very well at all. And yet, because my rogue was male and human, he was build like Conan the Barbarian, which really grates rather.

My second character was a priest, and this time I made it female. It took a lot of fiddling to come up with one that didn't look like an empty-headed bimbo.

Caera the human female priest.

I fully intended her to be a shadow priest, hence the serious face. Alas, her voice doesn't match her appearance in the slightest: she sounds like a bimbo in the same way that my rogue sounds like an 80s action movie character.

Coming from the other end of the spectrum we have the female characters in melee fighter or tank roles. Female blood elves are notoriously thin, and even kitted out in plate armour they look frail, so much so that they looks out of place up front getting smacked in the face by a boss. It's rather silly to imagine them being able to hit as hard, and take hits as hard, as someone three times larger and heavier than they are.

A male orc and a female blood elf, both of whom can tank.

His forearms are thicker than her waist.

Make It Fit

So what could be done about this? I think it's quite simple, at least conceptually: make it so your character's body shape reflects the role it performs. Tanks and plate-wearing melee fighters would be stocky and strong-looking, regardless of whether they were male or female. Rogues and hunters would be lithe and agile, relying on stealth, subtlety and accuracy of attacks rather than brute force. And finally, spellcasters would be thin and physically weak-looking, reflecting their inability to do any meaningful physical damage. Hybrid classes like shaman, druids and paladins could simply have their body shape determined by their primary talent tree (although this may introduce oddness should a player re-spec, unless the body shape adjusted over a few days or something).

I imagine this might annoy some players (anything will annoy someone), so it could easily be made an option - some people might not like the idea of a tough-looking female character, or a thin and weak-looking male. Still, it would be nice to have the option to control a character that actually looks like they would be performing their role.


A reply to Chas' post brought up another point related to my post: animations. As things are now, if you make a priest melee something with a mace, they'll do it in exactly the same way as a warrior, paladin or shaman. The jumping animation, the running animation, it's the same across all the classes for a particular race/gender set.

This, however, is not something I can get too worked up about, as it starts to wander into development constraints territory. Animation is expensive and time-consuming, and creating a different animation for every class, race and sex combination could well be prohibitively so given the relatively minor difference it would make. That's not to say I think it's a bad idea; in fact I'd love Blizzard to do something like that—it's not like they're short of money—but I just don't feel they'd see it as worth the effort, which is a shame. It's small details like that which can really help immersion, even if they're not immediately obvious.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Post Is Late

Good day! Well it is for me, as good as work days can be, which on balance is actually around average. 50% good. So, WoW then, eh? I've not stopped playing in the long time since my last post, but I've also not really had a lot I've felt like writing about. Drama happened with the guild (again), resulting in me pretty much losing interest in raiding altogether. I think I've been on one raid in the past 2 months, and that only because Zoe begged me to come and tank Patchwerk for the weekly. Tanking Patchwerk in a mostly 251-geared Blood-spec DK tank is kinda dull. Zoe did did 360 DPS on her Disc priest. I think she was the only healer, too.

And speaking of tanking! I might have mentioned in these hallow'd posts my orc warrior. He's called Sibher and he's a tank. He's also now level 77, and has been Prot spec from day one. Well, from level 10 at least, as much as a level 10 character can be said to have any spec at all with just one talent point. So warrior tanking. There's a lot more to it than DK tanking, that's for sure. Many more buttons to press, or at least that's how it feels. Definitely more dynamic, and zooming about like a bit spiky pinball of doom is great fun. I just seriously with you got Heroic Throw sooner, and not damn level 80.

I actually levelled all the way to 75 as Prot spec, and to be honest I think this is the best way to do it - you are really really hard to kill, and with DPS gear on you still do a pretty high amount of damage. Soloing elites of your own level or maybe 1 higher is often possible. Rounding up a bunch of 9 mobs and killing them all at once is routine stuff - they don't hit very hard individually, so while Shield Block is up you're more or less invincible. Unless there's more than one spellcaster in the mix, then you're stuffed. Hate spellcasters.

At level 75 I got him a Fury spec, then bought him another Bloodied Arcanite Reaper, and... well, did crap DPS to be honest. I don't really know what I'm doing wrong but other classes (hunters, warlocks and boomkins in particular) seem to do vastly more damage than me in dungeons. At 77 with full heirloom gear I can manage about 1300 DPS on a training dummy, but in instances it barely gets above 1000. I discovered that having enough Hit rating is essential, as not only do missed melee swings lower your DPS, they also generate no rage, with has an even bigger impact on your damage output.

And maybe I'm doing it wrong or something but Fury DPS is kinda... simplistic. All I seem to do is hit Whirlwind and Bloodthirst on cooldown, and Slam when it procs. Maybe Execute on a boss but they're usually dead by the time I notice their health is below 20%. Four buttons, then, none of which are spammable. I dunno, it just seems weird not to be constantly using GCDs for something. Maybe I should put Sunder Armor on my bars.

And Another Thing

I didn't play WoW at all last night. Instead, I worked on my new Project: learning how to program for the web. Specifically, Python. I didn't actually get much done, having managed to install Apache and Python, then Pylons, and I still need to get some kind of SQL going (Bob recommends PostgreSQL instead of MySQL so I'll give that a pop).

The purpose for all this is two-fold. Firstly, I need to wean myself off WoW. I am too easily tempted by distraction for it to be good for me, and I would be better off spending my time doing something with real-world benefits. Which leads into the second point: I want eventually to make this a career. I enjoy programming, having done a lot of Delphi, HTML, CSS, and lately at work some VBA (yuck), and I've dabbled a bit in Javascript. I believe web programming is going to be very important in the coming decades, so I want to make sure I'm prepared. Programming jobs are usually well-paid, so hopefully with Zoe becoming a teacher we'll have a comfortable life together :-)

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Healers Are Overrated

Recount from Keristraza in heroic Nexus:

The druid was actually a tree until we downed Anomalous. After that, he apparently decided he'd be more useful as DPS, and… well, nobody died, so I guess he was right.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

It Biggles The Mind

Whilst browsing MMO-Champion's Bluetracker RSS feed in Google Reader, I came across this excellent post. This is awesome! I have a bunch of critter bites on one of my characters, and now I can't wait for Noob'Rekhan (or any of the first-in-wing Naxx bosses) to be the weekly just so I can tame Mr. Bigglesworth :D

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Wherein I answer questions

As seen on Kiss My Alas, I hereby present answers to questions:

1. Raider, farmer, PvPer, or altoholic?
Mostly raider, with a bit of altoholic thrown in when I get the time, which alas is quite rare these days.

2. Favorite raid or dungeon?
For raid, definitely Ulduar. I just love the style, the architecture and the lore. For dungeon it's gotta be Dire Maul, it's beautiful (and ogres are cool). I still want to do a Worldview on Dire Maul

3. Number one choice for a new playable race?
Before the Cataclysm announcement I would have said goblin, but now, umm... ethereals are pretty cool? A vrykul would be quite fun maybe, although they're a little tall.

4. Class you suck at the most?
At the moment, rogue. My first ever character, I levelled him to 55 then abandoned him to make a priest. Then a shaman. Then a DK. I recently went back to the rogue, kitted him out in full heirlooms, and got him to 58 and Hellfire Peninsula. And now he gets killed by hellboars one level higher than him.

5. Original UI or modded UI?
Modded, totally. The default UI is painful to heal with, I feel like I'm blind. For tanking it's not as bad, although all my UI layouts have my character and its target's health bars in the middle just below my character. When they're up in the corner they're too far out of the way, especially on a large-ish (21") widescreen monitor. Plus the default DK rune display is crap - especially when tanking, you need to be looking near the middle of the screen, not at some tiny round icons way off in the corner.

6. Profession you’ve never levelled past 200?
Engineering for one. My level 22 paladin is an engineer but my god it takes so much bag space. Alchemy and blacksmithing are another two, and I think that's it. All the secondary professions I've levelled to max, on various characters.

7. Favourite flying mount?
I'm quite fond of the red drake you can get from the Wyrmrest quartermaster - it's the first epic mount I bought, and I got another one for my DK even though he has the bronze one from Culling of Stratholme. I would quite like an ironbound proto-drake, though I doubt I'm ever likely to get one.

8. Nozdormu — friend or foe, you figure?
He seems like an okay kinda chap.

9. Useless item you have in your bank that you’ll never get rid of?
Got a whole pile of Tier 7 gear in my priest's bank, along with a Super Simian Sphere that dropped in a Naxx25 run ages ago. My DK also has the huge sword that drops off Hakkar in Zul'Gurub. I'm also bad at getting rid of old quest items - my various banks have stuff

10. Most expensive thing you’ve ever bought?
Epic flying, sadly.

11. Favorite starting area?
Definitely Mulgore, it's lovely and I love the tauren lore. The DK starting zone is alo really well-done, too. I also get a bit nostalgic whenever I find myself in Elwynn Forest as that was my first experience with the game, sneaking about on my rogue being a total noob. I didn't even know what "DPS" meant until I got to level 40 or so.

12. Inane goal you worked hardest to achieve?
Probably The Explorer, just cos Caera The Explorer kinda rolls off the tongue (though she's usually Ambassador Caera these days).

13. Darion Mograine VS Tirion Fordring, gloves off — winner is?
Darion. Tirion hits like a girl.

14. Game music or your own playlist?
I usually have the music off completely, and the ambient sound turned up. Sometimes I'll put the music on if I'm in the right mood, but not very often.

15. Particular option or setting that you always toggle on a new alt/server?
I always have to arrange my UI it's inevitably not set up properly for a new character. Luckily I have a few standard Pitbull profiles I use for most things.

16. Highest amount of levels gained in one play session?
I really couldn't say, though it was possibly my orc warrior in heirloom gear, who I think I got to level 14 in one go.

17. Thing you’d most like to experience or see in-game?
Algalon! I reeeaalllly want the Starcaller title :D

18. Worst PuG moment?
Ohhh where to start. The one that stands out is when I was a relativlely new 80 DK tank, still not completely comfortable in the role despite having levelled in that role/spec. It was in Forge Of Souls and I was being quite cautious, marking targets etc., only to have them mostly ignored by the impatient DPS who kept pressuring me to hurry up, and often pulled "for" me. This is despite me being 2nd on total damage for the instance, and the rogue still wearing heirloom gear. In the end they pissed me off so much with their elitist wanker attitude I pulled the last boss and dropped group, leaving them to it.

19. Best dungeon/raid moment?
Either finally getting Sindragosa down, or likewise Putricide. I think the Putricide victory felt better partly because for the last 20 seconds of the Sindy fight I was stuck inside an ice tomb and couldn't see what was going on - all I could see was her health bar gradually approaching 0 and everyone on Vent getting excited :D

20. Worst quest ever that you totally hate doing?
There's a quest in Tanaris that has you collecting Roc feathers or something. You only need 3 but they have such a low drop rate, and there aren't that many Rocs around.

21. First thing you do when you hit 80?
Visit the class trainer, then buy some gear if I have enough emblems.

22. Character (of yours) you would RP as if you had to?
Possibly my orc warrior, or maybe my priest. My priest is burdened with an idiotic voice :(

23. Keyboard, mouse, or both for using abilities?
Keyboard for anything important, mouse for stuff like drinking Noggenfoggers.

24. Thottbot or WoWhead?
Whichever comes up first on Google.

25. Acronym you’ve seen in chat but don’t understand?
I kept forgetting what "idd" meant for a long time. It's finally stuck now, indeed.

26. Plot point you’d like to see resolved someday?
Pass. I'm not familiar enough with the lore to be able to answer this.

27. Biggest thing you’re looking forward to in Cataclysm?
The world events leading up to it, hunters not using mana any more (and having infinite ammo), elemental shamans getting a proper AoE, the new zones, new instances being a challenge rather than an AoE grindfest… loads of stuff. Also really looking forward to 10- and 25-player raids dropping the same loot.

28. Guild event you’d like to see?
Full and regular 25-man raids.

29. Level range you hate being in?
Most likely 10-20, because you don't get the quick levelling as in 1-10, and you have to run further afield on foot more, and, at least as a priest, you're woefully underpowered. As a hunter it's not so bad. The Outlands level range wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for the overwhelming number of bad DKs you have to group with in randoms.

30. Favorite map to quest in?
Possibly Feralas, because it's so pretty, likewise for Grizzly Hills. I also like Searing Gorge for some reason - I think it's because it's quite atmospheric, and not too large.

Friday, 25 June 2010

There he goes again

Yes I changed it again. Although the pretty mountain scene one was nice, it was a bit... heavy. I don't like web pages to be heavy. This design is much more lightweight (and kinder to slower computers like the one I have to use at work).

Monday, 21 June 2010

Heroic Difficulty

It wasn't always like this. There was a time when heroics were actually hard. I'm not talking so much about how they got nerfed for speed reasons (gogogogo no time to sit around waiting for Ionar to disperse three times, we get the idea, once is enough), but rather about a time when did them in mostly blue gear (kinda like how Gevlon and co raid ICC now), when the ilevel 200 epic at the end was a highly priced bit of loot. One of our tanks ran Utgarde Pinnacle twenty-six times before the Red Sword of Courage finally dropped for him, and this was long before LFD meant tanks could get a group at the drop of a hat. Back then, that sword was the best pre-raid tanking sword in the game, and even the ones from Naxxramas weren't a huge improvement, at least in 10-player.

I sometimes read about how the design of the Northrend instances is conducive to them becoming an AoE grindfest, and to be honest I'm not really convinced. The harder heroics were not like that in the beginning; tanks simply could not survive the constant high level of damage from a pack of mobs while they were all burned down at once - they had to be taken out one by one in order to reduce the incoming damage to a manageable level, much like in Halls Of Reflection now. People might even have used crowd control(!) to help out. Imagine that!

No, the problem I think is gear level inflation. When the highest level of gear was 213, all was fine, and nobody really over-geared heroics unless they were part of a 25man raiding guild that had Naxx on farm. Then came Ulduar, where 10 reasonably motivated people could get together and kill bosses and get 219 level stuff, or even 226/232 if they fancied a real challenge. Then came Trial of The Crusader, upping the gear level to 232 for 10man (245 for 10man heroic), along with the 5-man Trial of The Champion instance which dropped 219 gear on heroic mode. Aaaand again when Icecrown Citadel was opened: higher item level (251/264) and new 5-man instances dropping loot of the same level as that of the previous raid tier. Add to that the availability of a full Tier 9 Set of 232 armour just from the emblems that drop from the bosses designed for 200 blues, and you can see where the problem is.

Blizzard have got themselves into a bit of a bind here, with their desire to make the latest tier of raiding accessible to everyone. That's all very well, a noble goal, but the side effect has been to make the previous tiers more or less obsolete. The only reason people raid Ulduar, Naxx or Obsidian Sanctum these days is for the achievements, and their associated titles and mounts (or, rarely, just because it's fun, but let's not get into such esoteric concepts here).

So, what's an MMO maker to do? Well, one solution would be to reduce the disparity between the first tier of raid gear and the projected last tier. It really shouldn't be possible in 4th tier gear to output over eight times the DPS you can in first tier. I think the merging of 10- and 25-man loot tables in Cataclysm will go some way towards this, as there no longer needs to be the leapfrog where 10-man gear needs to be better than the prievious tier's 25-man stuff. Reducing loot inflation may also mean fewer loot whores, who only raid for teh shinies. If the next tier's gear isn't vastly better than the current stuff, there'll be less incentive to raid just for loot's sake. Instead, people might raid for (shock horror) the fun and challenge of facing new content. Furthermore, there'll be less of a reason for Blizzard to introduce "wellfare gear" available from emblems: since the differences in gear level won't be so important, it won't be so necessary to have the latest and greatest just to stand a chance in the new raid (although as Gevlon's proved already, that isn't even the case now).

I have no experience with the transition between two expansions, so I'm unsure what to expect when Cataclysm hits.I remain hopeful, however, as despite the problems WoW has now, it's still a damn good fun game and if Blizzard can make it better, I'll be there, trying to bring Deathwing down with 9 or 24 other folks.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Uphill Both Ways, In The Snow

A couple of recent posts (well, one is a link from a recent post), by Larísa and Klepsacovic, reminded me of a couple of times I've had similar experiences of having to fight carefully through an instance and actually use quite a bit of teamwork and communication in order to proceed. They've also got me thinking about another thing but I'll get to that later.

In both of their posts, Larísa and Klepsacovic talk about how they've suddenly been left in the middle of a low level instance missing one or two players, and how they carried on regardless, and most importantly, enjoyed it.

I Like It Hard

I arrived at Klep's lowbie instance post via another of his where he advocates reducing the number of people in a regular dungeon to four. It's an interesting idea, especially since in my experiences levelling my hunter, warrior and rogue the low level instances have mostly been facerolls assuming everyone in the party is at least somewhat competent. Throw in heirlooms and you end up with almost comically overpowered characters.

Take, for example, one of my own sub-five experiences. I'm levelling an orc prot warrior, and a short while back, level 28 or so, I put myself in the queue for a random instance and we get Razorfen Kraul. Almost immediately one of the DPS, a hunter, appears to disconnect. The healer, a shaman, seems to be a bit slow on the uptake too, so I pull a bit more carefully. After a while I notice he's not actually healing at all, because he's also disconnected. That leaves a rogue, a (presumably frost spec) mage, and me. Not sure about the rogue but I am almost fully heirloomed (missing the bow to go in my ranged slot).

We to see how far we can get until they come back, except five minutes later neither have returned. We then votekick them both and wait for replacements, and in the meantime continue further, because hey, it's actually not going so badly. And so we continue, for about half an hour, managing to kill (I think) two more bosses, with none of us dying. Sure, I had to stop quite a lot to bandage and eat, but with my heirloom gear and their DPS things were dying too fast to do any life-threatening damage. The rogue was sapping, the mage was sheeping, increasing the odds in our favour whenever possible. It was, as Klep and Larísa discovered, a lot of fun. For me, it's how five-man instances should be played: crowd control, careful pulls, and actually having to worry about wiping. It's fun, in my opinion, whereas the speed-pull AoE-everything method in today's five-mans (the ICC ones excluded) is really quite boring for most of the party (it's still an interesting challenge when I'm tanking).

The fun didn't last forever, or even until the end of the instance, for we did eventually get a replacement healer and DPS, and from there on things went downhill. The new DPS was a rogue, and since he was similarly heirloom'd up, apparently decided he was capable of tanking stuff, and rather than let me pull, did so "for" me. I considered asking him to maybe let the tank do the pulling, and thought about asking the healer to maybe not heal him, but in the end I decided to go with the flow and just pull quicker, not giving the rogue a chance to get aggro. This is not easy as a rage-starved level 28 prot warrior, incidentally. Luckily we were near the end so the gogogogo didn't last too long.

Back In My Day

I really don't want to come across here as a nostalgic know-it-all pining for the golden days of vanilla WoW and how it was all so much better back then. Hell, I only started playing a week before Lich King came out, so I don't even know what it was like back in the day. I have, however, experienced challenging five-man content: when Naxx and OS were the only level 80, places like Old Kingdown or Utgarde Pinnacle were a real challenge. Patchwerk was a tough boss, reqiuring a level of DPS that now seems like a joke (you needed six damage folks each doing a massive 1,500 DPS to beat his enrage timer). These days you can almost treat Naxx like a very big five-man, certain bosses notwithstanding (Four Horsemen, for instance, or Razuvious).

What can Blizzard do to avoid people facerolling level 85 content? They've already said they don't like the current round-em-up-and-AoE mentality, and plan to introduce more crowd control in Cataclysm. I really really hope this comes true. As Reversion said:

It might be a nightmare at first. Forcing people to use CC (as they have said will happen more) means fights are going to be harder and more complicated. Tanks will have to do more than just AOE spam. Also healers are going to have to get better at triage instead of just ‘topping people off’. All this means instances runs may well be a rude awakening for many. Personally I am hoping for it. I am hoping it will blow away the current level of stagnation in randoms and get people think more and do more. I only hope that overgeared morons will not be able to steamroll their way to 85. I want to see them slam hard into the wall and learn to play again.
The other problem I see is the degree of gear inflation present in Wrath Of The Lich King. As I said above, Patchwerk was considered a serious DPS check in the early days of the expansion, and yet you now have classes capable of almost ten times that level of damage output. Tanks in the Naxx days would be lucky to reach 30k health with raid buffs, yet now they prance around with 55k unbuffed. Moreover, avoidance has become so high that Blizzard had to reduce dodge by 20% across the board in Icecrown Citadel or face some serious balancing issues with boss damage.

So is the solution simply harder instances and smaller increments between gear/raid tiers? I doubt it's that simple, but I for one would like to see such things. I would like challenging content that isn't only based around raids (or PvP but that's a whole other ballgame). Perhaps too with the proposed changes to the emblem system, people won't just run heroic instances for the Cata equivalent of frost emblems, but instead do them because they're a fun challenge.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010


Yeh so the green design was kinda dull, and Blogger seduced me with its fancy new template designer, and I saw the "picture window" design with the rain and thought "that kinda looks like Storm Peaks, vaguely".


No indeed, for I along with fellow guildie Scootz have been experimenting with video, ostensibly for the recording of boss kills. Here is an example:

You may notice a distinct lack of sound in this video. I did upload it with Dry Kill Logic's Rot in the background, and had it timed wonderfully so that the song ends (suddenly, as it does) just as the boss dies. Alas, Warner Music Group being the bunch of 19th century copyright holdout fails they are, have decided that OMG THIEF YOU MUST PAY FOR USING OUR MUSIC FROM NINE YEARS AGO IN YOUR MINOR VIDEO THAT PROBABLY ONLY FIFTY PEOPLE WILL WATCH. Bet you that's what their automatic ban-machine was thinking. Maybe I should turn it black-and-white and add a jaunty piano soundtrack to go with the speeded-up visuals.

Also note that it's in glorious high definition. Well, sort of. I recorded it with WeGame, and WeGame's definition of HD is "640 pixels high", as opposed to the usual "720 pixels high". Still, it's better than 320 pixels high which just reduces on-screen text to meaningless dots.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

This amused me

I added a widget to my blog. It's under the heading This amused me, and is a small box of links to things that amused me when I saw them in Google Reader. Usually the links come from the various I Can Has Cheezburger-related sites.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Chain Pulling

There's a post at Kill Ten Rats that mocks the somewhat absurd nature of pulling groups of enemies in an MMO. Basically, no matter how you pull, any other enemies outside a set distance, whether they be in the same room or not, will completely ignore you, even if you pull with a honking great big flashy exploding fireball of doom.

But one of the comments (the first one, by NBarnes) puts forth an interesting idea: what if, upon pulling the first group, the entire instance was alerted to your party's presence, and began to make its way toward you?

If done right, this could make an instance really exciting, as you'd be racing against the tide, desperately trying to reach an objective before becoming overwhelmed. If there were multiple paths through an instance, you could perhaps employ some tricks to divert enemies away from you, although you'd then have them racing to catch up behind you, adding to the pressure.

This sort of mechanic is already in the game to some degree in instances like Violet Hold, or the Thorim fight in Ulduar: waves of enemies come at you and you have to fend them off. The problem here is that the location is more or less static: you basically stand in the same room and take what's thrown at you. Culling Of Stratholme and Pit Of Saron, on the other hand, have a "gauntlet" section, where enemies keep on coming at you until you get all the way through it. It's still a relatively small area of the zone, but the important difference is you have to make your way from point A to point B whilst fighting off enemies (or in the PoS case, rounding them up then fighting them all at once).

Boss fights in such a place could differ from the norm in that you'd be quite pushed for time - perhaps the party would enter the boss's room and the doors would lock for a time, keeping the approaching enemies at bay. You'd then have a clearly defined (thus controllable, from an encounter mechanics point of view) area in which to do battle. Defeating the boss could then throw up some kind of permanent obstacle to the enemies, and you'd have to leave via a newly uncovered (and also enemy-free, for now) route.

As with the boss encounters, there could be sections where you're allowed a brief reprieve, restore mana, top people off, then away you go again, into the fray!

It's obviously impossible to say how well this kind of dungeon would work in practice, and how hard it would be to balance. I also think it should be reserved for the higher levels, since by then tanks would have more experience (barring those who levelled as DPS then respecced once they reached the level cap) and would be better able to cope with the constant pressure to move forward, better able to round up enemies whilst on the move.

Really, there are many possibilities for this kind of encounter, and whether it's fun or not really depends on how well it's balanced, or the timing of enemies. Perhaps they wouldn't come in "waves" as such, but instead more randomly, with different mixtures: at one point you might encounter a large, tough monster on its own, other times weaker but more numerous ones grouped together.

The element of randomness would, I think, add to the experience, as otherwise you'd get into a situation where people could simply learn the sequence and dance their way through it, eventually narrowing it down to one optimum path. I've read in various places that at least some people would prefer more dynamic encounters (unless they're PvP-like, where the rules are completely different), and I believe this sort of idea could work well and allevieate some of the grind if it offered enough variety.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Worldview: Felwood

Felwood, the green unpleasant land bordering Darkshore, is a sickly, diseased place. The wildlife is rabid, with large gashes and weeping sores covering the bodies of the wolves and bears, and many of the trees have been altered to feature twisted "faces", complete with dripping green ooze for saliva. Even the elven lanterns that light the road are corrupt. For certain, questing in Felwood is an uncomfortable experience, with most of the objectives based on cleansing the demonic taint. It's no surprise that the questgivers here are members of the Cenarion Circle.

Unlike Feralas, the green of Felwood is far from lush – rather it is the green of poison and decay and worse. In spite of all this, however, there are a few plants still remaining free of the illness which has soaked into the land, and the owls of the region likewise seem untouched.

Approaching Felwood from Ashenvale in the south; the air is not so bad here.

Two furbolg clans in the area, the Deadwood and the Felpaw, have been corrupted and are hostile to players, and to the Timbermaw tribe in the north.

The thick forest canpopy rarely offers an unobstructed view of the sun, placing almost the entire region into a murky gloom.

Ancient elven ruins mark the entrance to the demonic enclave of Jaedenar in the west of Felwood, where the Shadow Council go about their business.

A large portion of Jaedenar is underground, accessible through this building.

A change from the rotten green outside, the demons' lair is a mixture of red and blue.

Warlocks of many races inhabit the caverns along with the demons.

The red tinge permeates the air surrounding demonic dwellings.

Dead and dead: elven ruins and rotting trees.

The lake in at the bottom of Bloodvenom Falls, which then flows into Bloodvenom River.

Bloodvenom River overflowing the cliffs that separate Felwood and Darkshore. From here the river flows down numerous waterfalls and eventually becomes Wildbend River.

Shatter Scar Vale. The burnt patches were caused by infernals and fire elementals landing here during the invasion of the Burning Legion

A diseased bear, its wounds seeping openly, heads towards the road in northern Felwood.

The northern parts of the zone aren't quite so heavily canopied, although the thick, tainted air still occludes much of the light.

Occasionally, though, the sun does manage to reach the forest floor, resulting in a few patches of light here and there.

In Irontree Woods, in the north of the zone, these three Ancients – Hastat, Stoma and Vartrus – have been permanently petrified.

Corrupt treants also wander Irontree Woods.

More open areas near Irontree Woods.

A furbolg of the Felpaw tribe stands watching his camp in northern Felwood.

Looking along the road heading south back into Felwood.

Along the eastern edge of Felwood, the massive cliffs of Mount Hyjal soar, protecting the World Tree Nordrassil.

As you can see, Felwood is by no means a pretty place, but nonetheless I feel is quite interesting, particularly in the effect is has on players questing there.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

My Dongle-ong

Dongle. It sounds rude. It even, if you squint and have a dirty mind, look rude. A bit. Or at least looks like it could have rude applications.

But anyway, dongles: the means by which one connects to the internet free of the shackles of landline oppression. And more importantly, in the case of my girlfriend and I, free of the £125 charge required of British Telecom to connect our flat's landline. Since we're only going to be living here for six months, we deemed it an extravagance in the face of no-strings-attached mobile broadband, although if it turns out that said net connection is not workable, we may give in and pay up. Still, a quick 10-man poke-Noth-with-sticks last night gave me hope that dongle-net will at least be workable: pings in the region of 300—500ms, but no lag spikes, no disconnects, no freezing. No Ventrilo either, since I didn't want to push my luck. Guild raiding without Vent is weird.

It seems we are quite fortunate in that we live in an area of strong 3G mojo – the Three "3Connect" program informs me my connection is 5-out-of-5-bars HSDPA, which I gather is the best available.

One of the downsides of dongling is although it's only £15 a month, there is a rather tight-fisted 5GB monthly data limit. I am informed by a guildie that WoW will account for 1.8 of those gigabytes, so that's a relief. The other downside is that the dongle only is only beholden to my computer. In order to get her ladyship's computer connected, either I'll have to perform some connection-sharing theurgy, or she'll have to get her own dongle, and pay her own £15 a month. To be honest, I doubt a single connection would be able to cope with the force of two data streams surging through it, so it's looking likely we'll be going with Plan B. On balance it still works out cheaper than getting the landline connected, even accounting for the lower monthly cost of such an earthbound link.

And hey, it's only ("only") six months. We'll be back on a real net connection just in time for Cataclysm.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Photography and Screenshots

As I mentioned in my first Worldview post, one of my hobbies is photography. I've been doing it for around 8 years now (it seems weird saying that, as it doesn't feel anywhere near that long. Makes me feel old) and I've used assorted different types of camera from basic point-and-shoots with no manual controls, up to DSLR+lens combos that cost more than my car (which is to say, about £1100. I have an old car).

However, despite the differences in technique when using these various cameras, certain important things remain constant: you are looking out fully immersed in the environment, with all your senses in use, feeling the world around you. The process of capturing a two-dimensional image in such a situation generally involves looking at a small rectangle onto which is projected said image, then waiting for the right moment at which to trip the shutter, freezing and storing that small slice of time.

Photography also has some common physical constraints across the board, though they vary in extent depending on the camera and lens (and film) used. Contrast can be a problem, especially on sunny days or in dark rooms with few light sources. Low light levels generally mean slower shutter speeds, which can mean blur due to camera shake or subject movement.

One of the biggest constraints is also the one that for many people inspires the photography in the first place: you have to actually be there in the right place at the right time (and looking in the right direction). Depending on the person, photography falls somewhere on spectrum that ranges from "snapshot of where I was" to "work of art" (and a picture can be both at once, but let's not complicate matters). In other words, for many people the photography is secondary to the experience of going somewhere, a record to remind them of the time. For some, the photography is the whole point of going to a place; the journey there is a relatively minor thing. And, of course, there are all the shades in between.

The point is, to take a photo you have to go to a place, and once there you experience it with all your senses. Naturally, people emphasise various sensory aspects differently - my brother, for example, is more likely to remember the sounds of things than what they look like. He is also a far better musician than I'll ever be.

And so we come to Screenshots, and given the above, I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this. Azeroth and Outland are virtual worlds (no, really), meaning the physical limitations of photography don't apply to them. In fact, to get the effects of long shutter speeds, contrast exceeding the limitations of the capture medium, or artefacts like film grain, these things have to be deliberately simulated. Limitations in camera focal length are arbitrarily fixed. Heck, even the mathematically perfect rectilinear projection used in pretty much every 3D game ever is a simulation of how things look in photographs.

Then of course, in WoW, you generally experience the world visually through a rectangle 17-24 inches diagonal, and aurally through either small desktop speakers, or through headphones. You cannot feel, smell or taste Azeroth. You are not there. Furthermore, the real world is really rather large, meaning long travel times, meaning time, effort and, often, money, is required to get around. As a result, you have a strong emotional investment in the place you are going to.

By contrast, Azeroth is tiny. Travel from one end of the world to the other takes half an hour at most, and is mostly a passive experience (sitting on a mythical flying creature while you go and make a cup of tea). When you do have to manually direct your avatar in the world, you don't get tired or out of breath, your legs and back and shoulders do not ache, and you can summon a mount out of thin air and move far faster than anyone on foot, or, if you're in Outland or Northrend, fly without the hassle and limitations of an aeroplane or other unwieldy real-life flying machine.

The upshot of this is much less emotional attachment to places in the game. You spent no effort to get there, so getting and being there means less. You don't feel the world anywhere near as fully, so it's less memorable. The latter point is compounded with the re-use of assets in the game, so once you've seen the caves in Elwynn Forest, you've more or less seen the caves in the rest of the Eastern Kingdoms, and they all kind of blur together into one meta-cave. Even within a zone, most of the landscape features will have few variations, so you end up seeing the same four trees everywhere you go in Azshara. The real world, on the other hand, is of course infintely variable – every place is totally different to every other place.

Lest I seem overly critical of the world Blizzard have created, I should make it clear that this weaker emotional attachment to places is can arguably be a positive thing for creating interesting screenshots. If you climbed Everest and took some pictures from the summit, those pictures would mean a lot to you regardless of whether they were "good" or not: you put an enormous amount of time and effort into getting there, and the simple act of standing on the summit of the world's highest mountain is quite achievement enough. In your euphoria and exhaustion your state of mind would be much less conducive to making good pictures, as you'd have so many other things to think about (even the simple act of breathing would require some concentration). As a result, you might well come home with what to anyone else look like rather generic pictures of some mountains. It's a common mistake of beginning photographers to assume that a picture that was hard to get, such as one taken from the summit of Everest, is one that people will want to see. On the whole, people don't care, and rightly so – all they can respond to is what's in front of them.

Since in WoW getting to places is so comparatively easy, you're much more free to concentrate on what things look like. Moreover, you are basically looking through a camera's-eye view of the world the entire time, so there's no disconnect between what you eyes see and what the virtual camera sees. There are far fewer distractions, too – although the world only fills a quite small portion of your overall field of view, everything outside the bounds of your monitor screen is fairly static, so your brain pretty much ignores it. With headphones on, music off and ambient sounds turned up, you can indeed become quite immersed in the world, just in a different way to how you are immersed in the real world. With the UI turned off ( [Alt] + [Z], if you didn't know), the world is almost pure visual stimulus, so your response to it is likewise going to be highly visual; you enter a peculiar state of mind where you are focussed near-exclusively on the appearance of that rectangle in front of you. So long as you are comfortable with movement and camera control in game, you barely need to think about such things, and it's only when the game forces you to concentrate on them, like when you get stuck on a low fence, that you ever think about them.

I don't know whether this state of mind comes as freely to others as it does to me. Perhaps my years of photography have trained me to enter it more easily. It's actually quite similar when I do street photography: senses other than sight are pushed to the back, and I see the world much more as shapes, compositions and contrasts. When I'm wandering around a zone in "screenshot mode", I try to dampen any thoughts about quests and lore and such, and instead just see.

When it comes to pruning, again, it is easier to separate the good images from the merely ok ones, as there aren't really any feelings attached to any of them regarding the effort involved to get them, since they were all easy to get (usually – there are exceptions, like if I was to do a Worldview on Ulduar or Icecrown Citadel or other high-level instance. I couldn't very well run about merrily taking snaps until the place was cleared first, which would of course require a lot of time and effort).

That's not to say it doesn't take a long time, incidentally – when you've spent two hours waltzing around Azshara pressing the screenshot key whenever you see something even a little interesting (occasionally multiple times with slightly different framing), you end up with 150 images to sort through and try to reduce down to 25 at most. Then they need to be arranged into as cohesive an order as possible so that they look more like a collection and less like a disjointed array of vaguely similar-looking pictures. Still, this point applies just the same to photography as it does to screenshots, particularly with photoshoots.

In the end, photography and making-screenshots-in-WoW (fairly rolls of the tongue, doesn't it?) are quite different activities. You still need the same sense of aesthetics for both, as for any visual medium, but the actual processes each have their own challenges and benefits.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Addon: NeedToKnow

Need To Know is a nice small and uncomplicated addon that lets you have up to 4 groups of 5 bars wherever you want on screen, to show spell cooldowns, DoTs/HoTs, buffs/debuffs and totems.

My central UI setup for my DK in frost tank spec. Click to see a slightly larger version.

The bars NTK shows always appear in the same place when active, and disappear otherwise. Taking the above screenshot as an example, once Anti-Magic Shell comes off cooldown (thus causing the bar to disappear), the Unbreakable Armor and Icebound Fortitude bars would not move downwards to fill the empty space. This helps to maintain a consistent mental map of where things are.

Bars are coloured manually - the default is medium grey. Each bar can optionally show an icon for its related spell, buff etc.

The Frost Fever and Blood Plague bars are tracking their respective DoTs on my current target. When set to Buff or Debuff mode, the bars can be set to track either the player, your target, your pet, and so on.

Another handy feature that I only read about as I was writing this post is that you can set bars to track multiple buffs/debuffs: it shows the remaining time for the shortest, then when that expires moves to the next one. Another possible use for this, although I've not tried it, is loading a bar with all important vehicle abilities you're going to encounter, so for example in Oculus you can have a single bar for tracking Leeching Poison stacks (green drake), Shock Charge (amber drake) or Evasion Charge (red drake). You could even further load this bar with other stuff like pyrite stacks for the Flame Leviathan encounter in Ulduar.

That's more or less it really: it's a lightweight addon that does one particular thing, and does it well.

Here's a brief explanation of things in the screenshot that aren't related to NTK:

  • the health bars (and target buffs/debuff icons) are by Pitbull 3.0
  • the RS, GCD and Mind Freeze "indicators" are really just 3 buttons on a small Bartender4 bar that isn't clickable
    • the "GCD indicator" is actually just a button for a stamina scroll
    • I have Rune Strike macro'd to all my main attacks, so most of the time I don't need to manually activate it. However, if all runes are on cooldown and I only have 20 RP, the Rune Strike indicator lets me know when the ability is ready so I can use it manually
    • the Mind Freeze indicator serves as both a range check, a cooldown monitor and an availability check, all in one handy icon
  • the runes display and runic power bar are by Magic Runes
  • the numbers in the top-right are MikScrollingBattleText. I should really make the crit display a bit smaller

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Worldview: Feralas

The lush green forest of Feralas lies in stark contrast to the adjacent dry, baking zone of Thousand Needles. It is a lush forest home to a wide variety of wildlife, including harpies, hippogryphs, gorillas and bears. It is also the location of Dire Maul, one of the great level 60 5-man instances.

The border between Feralas and Thousand Needles.

The characteristic tall rock spires that give Thousand Needles its name also continue some way into Feralas.

The small lake below the Tauren village of Camp Mojache.

The Lariss Pavillion, north-east of Camp Mojache.

In the distance, a village of the Grimtotem tribe of Taurens, who are not part of the Horde.

A waterfall cascading down the mountains that separate Feralas and the Tauren starting area of Mulgore.

The entrance to Dire Maul, guarded by ogres.

Looking west along the outer wall of Dire Maul.

Moving further west, we approach the cliffs overlooking the sea.

On the path leading to northern Feralas, a bridge over another waterfall.

There are more ruins in northern Feralas, many of them occupied by harpies. Northern Feralas is more open than the rest of the zone, and not so gloomy.

The blazing sun makes quite a difference compared to the darkness one emerges from when travelling north.

Ruins around Oneiros.

Some more ruins. There are many patrols of level 62 elite dragonkin in this area…

…and in the centre of Dream Bough sits (occasionally) Taerar, guarding one of the entrances to the Emerald Dream.

Looking north up the lake surrounding Dream Bough.

The Ruins of Ravenwind. These also are infested with harpies - their nests are the rough ball shapes hanging from trees and parts of the ruins.

Heading south again, looking down on the dock where one may catch the boat to Feathermoon Stronghold, a Night Elf town on Sardor Isle.

Looking back up at the cliffs from the coast.

Heading west towards the dock at Feathermoon Stronghold.

Looking south at Sardor Isle, with the Isle Of Dread in the background.

Looking north towards Sardor Isle from some ruins on the Isle Of Dread. These ruins are occupied by a tribe of Naga, whilst the central valley of the island is full of wandering level 60-62 elite chimaera.

The ruins on the south coast of Sardore Isle.

Heading back into southeastern Feralas.

The Ruins of Isildien in the High Wilderness area, populated by ogres.

And that's Feralas! As you can see, it's very green and lush (except for the southern part of Sardor Isle, which is more grey and sickly), and one of the first zones I discovered that really made me stop questing and just look at it. In fact, the zone has affected me so much the colour scheme of my blog is inspired by it (and the header image is a crop of the Lariss Pavillion image).

I briefly skirted around Dire Maul in this post, and I do plan to do a full session(?) on it soon – there really are a lot of interesting things to see in the instance!