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Archive for October, 2010

Changing things up

It has been a busy weekend. Actually we have been fairly busy in-game since we server transferred. The new guild is working out nicely.
Attitude + competence = win.
We got in several raids and did a bit of heroic grinding (for heirlooms) with guildies and are starting to get to know them. Some runs were so-so and some, where there were a lot of pugged in people were downright fail. But the attitude of the Crits folks was good. Also things were well run with calm and clear direction. And that makes almost anything great.
Changing things up.
So right off the bat we were in a alt ICC run and it was clear they had an abundance of tanks. I have considered my bear Reversion as my main for a long time but I quickly adapted to bringing my hunter as my ‘main’. This meant Approximate needed some work. I had some empty sockets and my rotation was sloppy. Her DPS output was respectable but had room improvement. So right away I started swapping gems and tweaking things where I could. Then came this weekend. A 25 man gearing up run netted me Distant Lands and a ring and a rifle. Then a 10 man progression run netted me a new head and boots and an upgrade to my rep ring. I went from around 5.4k gs when we moved to over 5.9. This blew her right past both of my bears and makes Approx my most geared character.
Interfacing in new ways
So Saturday morning Analogue bumped her mouse off the desk. It died. The Logitech LX8 Mice were doing a good job for us but that was the second time one croaked when it took a fairly mild shock. We had space mice but none had the buttons she needed for her healing setup so off to Best Buy we went.
When we got there some new keyboards and two new mice found their way into our basket. I will do a post on just that stuff. The new keyboards are great and deserve a post to really talk about them. But in the process of setting up the new buttons they offer I moved a lot of Approximates utility abilities around. Now I have easier access to stuff. I used Deterrence for the first time in ICC last night thanks to the new setup. It is so critical for you to be able to get to what you need when you need it.
Macros seal the deal.
To take Approximates DPS to the next level I needed more. I needed to tighten up my rotation and use my cooldowns better. I was looking at how to use my engineering rocket launchers (glove enchant) and I hacked up a nice little macro to put them on my Explosive Shot and to suppress the error when they are not on cooldown. This got me thinking and I also macroed a trinket and Kill Command to my steady shot. Those both had fairly shoot cooldowns but I was not using them enough. Getting the most out of your dps requires you to get those things off more often. Optimally I would be timing them with various procs but I am not there yet.
Anyway, the sum total of all that was that last night in a progression group of well geared people I was able to hold the #3 over all damage spot the whole time. Well except those couple trash fights went I forgot to get out of ‘Viper’… But overall it was good. And because the new keyboard gave me better access to my rocket boots (Nitro Boosts) and other goodies I was able to (mostly) stay out of the fire. All in all I was very happy with my performance. It feels like I took my hunter and just shook the dust off and tightened the bolts down. Just in time to relearn how to play her, I know :P
But at least tonight, when we get a shot at Arthas, I feel like my dps is in the best form it has ever been in.
There is still more to do. I have more tweaking with my hots keys to do. I also need to finally dig up something like power auras. Keeping my dots up more consistently would be a good DPS increase. It might even be time to respec to MM. I will look into that after the patch drops. Oh and there is another glyph I need to swap from my old ‘heroics running’ load out. One thing at a time and ever upward. The self improvement never stops. :P In game anyway.

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 In this whole ‘situational awareness’ series I have focused on maneuvering your character. That is because the art of being situational aware starts with being about to see and interact with your environment. If you are constantly distracted with turning and moving then you will not have the mental bandwidth to also observe and assess your surroundings. The smoother and faster you can move and look the easier it will be to assess things. If you become disoriented or confused situational awareness goes right out the window. So let’s get to something a lot of people seem to have trouble with.

Maneuvering and navigating in three dimensions

This really messes up a lot of people. To be perfectly honest I have to use my imagination to figure out why. This is something I do instinctively. I think a lot of that comes from my IRL experience with flying and also a lot of gaming experience with flight simulators. So why does all that help? And why do other people have problems? Because there are concepts in 3D navigation and maneuvering that are not in a land based game. More accurately they ARE in the land based game but they are so simplified that you don’t notice them. The big one is…

Point of aim

Now some of you are thinking “that is not it. I have no problem with that concept.” Maybe that is true but this is the big difference in WOW with flying versus walking. On the ground you are only concerned with direction of your travel. You have several ways of seeing your direction of travel on the ground.

You can look at your character and compare it to the land around you on the screen.

You can mentally draw a line straight up the screen from your character and see where that points.

You can just vaguely estimate what is way in front of you.

You can look at the arrow on your mini map

You can also look at the arrow on your big map.

Those are all ways you can see where you are pointed…. But the BIG crutch comes from having the environment around you. What I mean is that you CONSTANTLY get little feedback from everything around you and that lets you continuously update your characters heading as you travel. Do you ever point your character in a direction, press the auto run, and then walk away from the keyboard? When you come back are you exactly where you expected to be? Do you take short cuts across country or do you always follow the road?

If you are mostly using your immediate surroundings to navigate and orient your character then you probably tend to follow the road exactly and you most likely rarely just aim across country and then go hit the head or grab a drink.

What I am trying to get you to think about is that list of methods above. Which of those do you use? It is something we do so instinctively that we might not know. Once we start flying some of those thing are taken away from us. If we were heavily using one of those the flying will cause a sense of disorientation. If we were relying heavily on one of the ones that did NOT go away then flying will be no different than anything else. That statement is a simplification but I hope it gets the point across.

So what is the list of nav aids for flying? How do we orient ourselves up there?

Well the map and mini map still work…. Except they are only in one axis. They help us navigate in a plane (geometric plane, not aeroplane) but they are no help for getting us oriented in the other axis.

What else? We can’t draw a line from our character to the top of the screen. It does not work right. We can’t compare constantly to the objects around us because they are far away and don’t give high fidelity feedback. What I mean is they don’t move fast enough and far enough to give us an instant awareness of where we are pointed. You have to look at them more closely and then check again and even then you are off track.

So what does work? Aim point. In flying your point of aim is king (just be glad we don’t have wind to deal with). BUT! Once you leave the ground your point of aim changes! I expect this really messes a lot of folks up that are new to flying.

Normally in this 3rd person view point game you have a camera that is behind and above you. It is NOT on your line of travel. It is above your line of travel and looking down at it. By line of travel I mean what it says. I mean the line you travel along on the ground.

In this picture the eye is your camera and the figure is your character. We are looking at it from the side. The person is running straight to the right and the camera is behind them and looking down at an angle. If you pan your camera all the way down to the ground you would be looking straight along that ‘line of travel’. The character would actually block you from seeing where you are going. Where you will eventually end up is straight ahead, through your character and off to the horizon.

This is how the camera works when flying! It goes from following you from above and behind to following you just straight behind. Except that it does not automatically move. Your character does the moving. The instant you take off on your dragon mount your character pitches forward ‘nose down’ and is aiming, not at the horizon, but into the ground a few yards in front of you. The first thing you do when taking off on your flying mount is to drop your camera down to your line of travel.

That is step one. The next step to travelling in the air is to stop key turning! Seriously! You can’t key turn while flying and expect to have any sort of awareness of where you are headed. When it comes to flying your right mouse button is everything. The only keys you need while flying are W and your right mouse button…. Well the space bar and X come in handy but I will get to that.

So here you are, flying. You hold down the right mouse button and hold down W and you are off. It is incredibly simple. You simply put your character on top of where you want to go. What I mean is that your direction of travel is though the mounted figure on your screen. If you are aimed at where you want to go that location will be in the dead center of your screen and covered up by your figure. Fortunately your figure is small enough that you can still tell where you are going. If your figure is NOT small enough then zoom out more. If you can’t zoom out enough go into the interface settings and crank up your max camera follow distance.

Navigating Oculus.

If you are one of those that is constantly getting lost in Oculus I recommend trying to ‘break it down’. Think of the place as a building with 4 floors. Each floor is made up of all the floaty platforms that are roughly on the same level as each other. Each floor has things you need to clear and a boss at the end.

The first floor is the ring you start off on It includes the ‘C’ shaped ring and the platform where you get your dragon.

 Once you get your mount you immediately go to the ‘second floor’. This ‘floor’ is made up of a ‘C’ shaped ring in the center and 3 platforms equally spaced around it. Two of those platforms have packs to kill and one has the boss. As soon as you spot which the boss is on your know exactly where to find the two with packs. You clear all the stuff on that floor and then do the boss.

As soon as you are done with him it is time to go straight up to floor three. Make it easier on yourself; just hold down spare bar until you get there. This floor has three ‘arc shaped’ platforms and a central ring. The ring is slightly lower than the platforms. The ring also has a second ring that is right below it but we don’t care about that one so don’t let it confuse you; just ignore it. If you go STRAIGHT up from the last boss you will be right next to the platform you need to start one. From there you just go clockwise around to the other two and then from the last one you go straight into the center ring to find the boss.

Now you are on to the fourth and final floor. To get there just fly out a decent ways from the boss you just killed and then hold down spacebar until you reach the top. This ‘floor’ is made of three tiny platforms and one BIG wide ring. The dragon flies in circles over the big ring. Most groups meet up at one of the small platforms so find the, meet up, and finish the place off.

This is a classic example of breaking something big and confusing into bites-size bits that are all understandable and all together form a simple pattern. You can avoid the confusion of the ‘3D-ness’ of the place by breaking it down into mental bite sizes that are all in 2D.

Navigating exercises.

Practicing navigation is easy but should be done anytime you have the chance. It is very simple. Start traveling somewhere. Aim where you are trying to go by comparing the horizon, mini map, and main map to your direction of travel. Do all that aiming stuff right up front. Then don’t touch the controls. Just watch and see how well your aiming worked. Allow yourself just one ‘mid course correction’ when you are about half way to your destination. How far off are you when you get there? Try doing it with no correction and challenge yourself to get it right every time.

If you don’t have an excuse to fly around, go to Icecrown and grind various daily quests. There are tons of them there and at max level they are good money. Just pick a few that you know you can do fast and easily and then run them. As you move between thempractice this exercise.

Maneuvering exercises.

Exercise 1: Buzz the tower.

This is for if you are not use to the concept of ‘flying’ your character by continuously holding down the right mouse button. Fly low. Buzz things. Try to get close to them without landing or hitting them. Once you fly past it make a wide turn and sing back for another pass.

Exercise 2: Aerial Slaloms.

Go find a forest. Western Dragonblight works. Fly low between the trees. Weave in and out between them. Now do it while trying to fly generally in the same direction. I mean try to keep going east while still weaving in and out. Even go around trees you don’t really NEED to dodge. Go out of your way to go around trees. But still try to work your way in a general direction. If the ‘weaving’ is too tough don’t worry about the ‘general direction’ thing. Just weave until you run out of trees and then turn around and go again. Feel free to use AQE and D to maneuver sideways a little. In fact be sure to mess with those some.

Exercise 3: Static Bombing Runs.

There are a number of quests and repeatable missions in the game involving dropping bombs on people, demons, fish, pirates, siege weapons, etc. These are great flying and situational awareness practice.  Why? Because they require you to maneuver your camera independent of your direction for travel and track targets with it as you perform a basic attack. That is great. For an advanced version that is still a static run (by static I mean you don’t control the path; it just follows a fixed path) you can do the dailies in Icecrown. The one where you drop off paratroopers is pretty unforgiving; so that is a good challenge. The bomber base up on the spire is also a good one for advanced practice. Those have bombing and air-to-air action so they require more situational awareness.

Exercise 4: dynamic bombing runs.

These are ones where you are maneuvering your mount, avoiding counter attack, AND bombing something. The two I can think of off the top of my head are both Skyguard daily quests. One is in Terokar to bomb eggs and the other is in Blade’s Edge and is bombing piles of ammo at the demon base. Both of those are far simpler than Northrend mounted combat but still require the situational awareness skills. You have to maneuver your mount, dodge in various directions and keep an eye on your health while still finding the targets and hitting them.

Exercise 5: All-Out Flying Combat.

In dragonblight there is a nice dragon flying daily. Also high above Coldarra there is a daily quest involving flying dragons that is pretty challenging. Both of them do not require a group so it is a low pressure way to practice your skills.

Cataclysm will have even more flying than ever so get your practice in when and where you can.

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Old school

Tap here to begin writing. <—- see this?

New version of WordPress iPhone app == FAIL.

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The Best Gold Sinks

Or, how to show your friends you have way too much WOW money!

This list could be really long, or really short. It’s entirely subjective. Someone else’s list might be entirely different. I might overlook something entirely.

First I want to mention a whole category of items: mounts. You can spend a lot of gold on mounts. Some of them offer special features most mounts don’t – like vendors (The Reins of the Traveler’s Tundra Mammoth, at a mere 20,000 gold), or a passenger’s seat (See that last link, or the Mechano-hog which will cost at least 15,000 gold to build). Some give you an achievement when you buy them. Some are just cool. For a while, the drake that the Wyrmrest Accord will sell you (for a mere 2000 gold) was one of the easiest to acquire dragons in Northrend. These days it seems like everyone’s riding dragons so it’s not so special any more.

 

But leaving your ride aside, there’s some substantial bling you can drop a lot of gold on. Take the Band of the Kirin Tor. For 8,500 gold you can buy a purple ring that will transport you to Dalaran once every thirty minutes. It does award an achievement, as well, and if you pay more gold you can upgrade it to a slightly shinier ring. The transport is useful, I guess, but for that price you can just buy your own mage and get a portal to anywhere.

The infamous Haris Pilton sells her wares in Shattrath. Everyone knows about her Portable Hole and perhaps 3,000 gold for a 24 slot bag and an achievement is a good price. Maybe not. But she also sells a Gold Eternium Band for the same 3k gold, a white ring that does absolutely nothing. Has anyone ever bought it? Hopefully not. That ring has the distinction of being tied for the most expensive non-epic item that a vendor sells anywhere in the game. The other item, Salvaged Iron Golem Parts is a component to the Mechano Hog and Mekgineer’s Chopper, so it’s not completely useless like the ring.

Mage trash: Two of our best gold sinks are mage specific. There’s the Tome of Polymorph: Black Cat and the Dalaran Brilliance. The base polymorph is a sheep, i can see you might want to spice things up. But with a Glyph that lets you make penguins, a quest that awards a pig polymorph, and the Noblegarden rabbit spell that required a few extra eggs, spending 2500 gold to make black cats is a bit… ostentatious, no? More or less so than buying Dalaran Brilliance, which is exactly the same as Arcane Brilliance, only with a snazzy icon and the different title, for 500g?

The last gold sink, the one I think really takes the cake, isn’t an item. Its cost is lower than most of the other items I’ve mentioned, but still, a thousand gold is not to be sneezed at – even less so in Burning Crusade when this was around. Once you’re Exalted with the Shattered Sun, they will offer you the chance to donate 1,000 gold to their war effort. Their reward? A title, “Of the Shattered Sun”.

 

Yeah, that seems like a good way to spend my gold. Or… I could go buy cold weather flying for more alts. Hmm. Let me think about this.

 

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Wait, I have a mage?

My mage, Invariant, was my first main. She’s been somewhat neglected in the last year, doing the holidays and grinding pets and other “fun” stuff but not getting much real playtime. I like healing too much, and raiding on two characters just wasn’t for me. So she’s mostly in TOC25 gear she bought on a GDKP (lucky run where all cloth dropped and nobody wanted it so I got it cheap)

We moved both our sets of 80s over to Winterhoof and into Crits and Giggles last weekend and since then I’ve raided three times – twice on my mage. Monday and Tuesday nights I took her to an ICC 10 man. The Monday night raid was awesome though we only downed  3 bosses – Reputation Grind wrote about that here. And last night we got 6 bosses down and some good tries on Putricide. It was late though and I had to quit. Morning comes too early these days…

Anyway it was neat. Arcane mage rotation is… nice and simple. I’ve macroed most of my cooldowns into one giant macro that I just pop every few minutes, otherwise it’s stack Arcane Blast to 4, wait for Arcane Missiles to proc, fire. Shoot a little on the run. Profit. My gear is weak but I was putting out a respectable amount of damage, which pleased me.

Being a healer has made me a better mage, no question. My situational awareness is way higher than it ever used to be. Get out of the fire? No problem. Stack for spores? No problem. Switch to bonespikes? Got it! I was really thrilled. It’s always nice when skills in one role translate into skills in another role.

And the fights – wow! You really see so much more of them when you’re not staring at healing frames. I’ve been running ICC for nearly a year now and there are things I’ve only just learned. Lady Deathwhisper’s adds, for instance, which ones a mage is supposed to hit. And how you can kill yourself if you shoot the wrong one (fully stacked Arcane Missiles spell reflected back = dead mage. Ow. True story). That the axe throwers on the ship get stronger if they’re not taken down. And just how pretty some of these fights are.

It’s not going to make me switch my preferred roles, but perhaps with the new tighter lockouts, Invariant will get more playtime. At the very least I feel like she’s got a new lease on life. Something beyond “pet collector” and “achievement monkey”.

So that said… where’s all the mage blogs at? Other than Frost is the New Black I just don’t know any….

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Everyone is a critic

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Grinding Rep

It seems appropriate that the weekend we joined Rep Grind’s guild I spend …. Grinding rep.

 That is right, we pulled the trigger, jumped over to Winterhoof and joined the Crits and Giggles guild. Thanks guys for answering our questions and generally being welcoming. It was a delicate balancing act of finding a guild that has enough competent AND ‘fun friendly peoples’…

That comes across a bit insulting I suppose. It implies that our last guild was either less fun or less friendly and that our new guild was less so in one of those areas and more so in the other. Well.. whatever.

Grinding Rep! that was it. So we jumped over a few days ago and got into a ICC 25 with them on Friday. The run was not anything to write home about but we thought it was well led, people had a good attitude and there was plenty of potential. It was fairly sloppy, some of which was my own sloppiness. But like I said, potential.

I guess I am raiding on my hunter now. Crits and Giggles seems to have plenty of tanks available. So many that there was some low grad angst over who was going to tank. Oh well, I guess Reversion will be a back up raider for a bit. Approximate’s gear needed some attention. Actually for myself the run went really well. As the only hunter I managed to snag a few things and bump my gear score 200 points. I still need to do some tweaking. I was not satisfied with my damage output. I will have to poke around some hunter blogs or EJ and tighten a few bolts on spec, rotation, and gear.

I am leaning toward leveling my hunter first in Cata. Between her engineering tricks and alchemy she is fun and easy to level. I will have to see how this new energy system works though.

Sometime a week or two back I decided to start working on the mount achievements on the hunter. I already had two engineering ones and all the capitol city reps from the argent tournament so I figured ‘how hard could it be’? heh. So this weekend I go serious about the mounts. I have been hitting the Direbrew boss every day (still no luck). I started grinding Netherdrake rep also.

Anyone that has not done that one should do it. It is a fun an interesting reputation grind. I always hated rep grinds. They are either trivial or stupid or simply way harder than the rewards. The vanilla ones, garbage. Most of the outlands ones, annoying. Most of the Wrath ones, trivial? Yeah they dumbed them down too much… the problem by the time you get the rep 99% of the rewards are pointless. What is up with that? Reputation grinding is one area I wee Blizzard flailing around and not getting ‘right’. I think the Netherdrakes are one they got ‘right’. The quest chain is interesting. You actually ‘progress’ at each stage of rep and open up new quests. The process does indeed feel like you are doing daring and dangerous things to get ‘in good’ with a group of people that originally had no reason to like you. I will not spoil it in case any of you have not done it.

For many of the other rep grinds out there the above things cannot be said. I am also. Trying to grind rep with the Skyguard and those dudes with the Talbuks in Nagrand. With the Skyguard you have a few quests that you have to do over and over. With the Nagrand city once you finish the quests there you are stuck grinding warbeads. Ug. On a related note, does anyone know of starting a Horde DK on a friend’s account and then killing it a lot near Hala will get me battle tokens? I mean really, 70 kills there? Seriously? Those outdoor PVP areas in the outlands were a huge flop. They seem to have tweaked up the Hala bombing missions work and now it is seriously broken. I tried some of that two and then got into some PVP with a few Hordies.

I have a long way to go on all those reps… then there is still the Oracles and the Cenarian expedition. I am almost to 50 mounts but I don’t know if I am going to stick with it all the way to 100. Hopefully Cata drops with plenty of easy to get mounts. In the mean time I only have two more tries at Brewfest L You can bet I am going to be beating on the headless horseman’s door a lot….

Oh hey, while I was writing this they announced Cata’s drop date. No time to proofread or edit, I have to check some news sites.

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