Monday, 31 May 2010

Progress Post for May

Time to catch up with what's been going on. Things have been so busy around here that I need to catch up with things myself!  Every now and then you just need to take stock and reprioritise, amiright?


Leesah
Leesah is my main raider, and although her original main spec was healer, my guild seems to be blessed with too many of them, so I've been going to ICC-10 raids as Moonkin. The only times I've been able to heal are random heroics and the odd 25-man ICC pug I've been to. 

 For this reason, and also due to some amazing loot-luck, Leesah's Moonkin gear is now substatially better than her Tree gear. This makes me slightly sad - I enjoy Moonkin, but deeps is what I have Aefa for, y'know? Leesah's a healer, and she misses healing. We just seem to have a lot of people with heal spec only. I'm not really whining to anyone I guess - at least I am getting to go to raids and I'm still enjoying them no matter what role I have.

Our raid progress is slowly... progressing. Because of our mixed timezones and busy members, we only get to raid for about 4-5 hours a week, and that's not a lot of time for progression.  We've recently got Blood Princes down for a second time and had a good few goes on Dreamwalker, but unless we get most of the core team in we rarely see past Saurfang on the first night. I know this frustrates a few of the other members as well but it's tough pre-xpac times and we have to take what we can get. 

Our officers have actually just announced a progression break for a couple of weeks so we can take a few non-core toons in to gear up a bit, to fill roles that we miss from week to week (tanks, mainly).

Aefa

Aefa is sitting at that difficult teenage level between getting all the Triumph gear she needs and being just under five thousand gearscore so no-one will take her to ICC pugs.  I've been trying to get into HoR and PoS to get those elusive drops, but no luck so far. I also tried to find a TotC run this weekend but no-one seemed to be doing any, and I don't know the place well enough to organise one myself. 

Aefa did manage to go to a VoA25 last week and ended up with the Sanctified legs (before Leesah had any Sanctified pieces, /facepalm), so that was a nice addition. The guild raiding progression break means that I might be able to take her along to guild runs though, so that will be a nice frost badge haul even if no gear drops.

Aefa's recently taken up studies into Arcane magic, although she doesn't like it as much as the Frost school - she may switch back again soon. The big numbers frighten her and she seems to die a lot more than before.  All the study means that she hasn't done much exploring lately, as much as she'd like to be out in the fresh air. In her spare time she has been helping the Netherwing dragons out a bit, which is why she's in Shadowmoon Valley in this shot.


Balindah
Balindah is just about to ding 50.  For me, as soon as a character hits Outlands I suddenly play them a lot more and they are more likely to reach level 80, so I'm pushing on with Balindah and hoping she can last the distance with her spikey heirloom shoulders. 

Hopefully soon she'll stop getting Sunken Temple as a random as well! I am enjoying trying out the melee side of things - it's been a while since I've played a melee character. I'm always shocked by just how little you can tell of what's going on when you have a face full of mobs, and targetting seems to be really tricky, but there's some things to work on!

She's finished up the quests in Ferelas and has since traveled to the Hinterlands, one of my favourites.
Angelya
I've retrenched Angelya from her banker duties and put her to work in Tirisfal. Armed to the teeth with priestly heirlooms, she'll hopefully blaze a trail of shadowy destruction across Azeroth.  

Either that or she'll just continue slacking in Undercity.











Aixa
Allow me to introduce my new banker, Aixa. She lives in Orgrimmar and is on hiatus from her career as a rogue, while she makes the team a few pennies.


If you're wondering about her outfit, she's wearing the Formal White Shirt, Haliscan Pantaloons, Soft Wool Vest (from troll/orc starting area quests) and Simple Linen Boots. I need to get a new belt for her actually. Any suggestions? :)

Gladiys
I also recently created a Death Knigget, because I rather enjoy hitting things with a big sword from time to time. It's excellent stress relief, I find.

Gladiys has barely made it to Hellfire Peninsula, where if I'm not careful she'll get more screen time than Balindah. Perhaps I will get a tank to level 80 one of these days after all...


Sadly I've been neglecting my SAN toons. No excuses, I just haven't remembered they're there, so I haven't played them. One of these days I'll get to them... Perhaps when the event for Gnomeregan starts.




So here's a question for you, readers. 
Have you become more of an altaholic now that End Times are upon us? I know I certainly have!

Friday, 28 May 2010

How to Tell If You're an Asshat

A "community" is a group of beings that share the same living space. As part of the community of Azeroth, we share our world with others. The community is further segmented into guilds and friendship groups, but we all have to interact with them at some point.

You know who I'm talking about, right?  They come in all shapes and sizes, races and classes - the Asshats of Azeroth.

A few bloggers have already commented in response to Wolfshead's article that slams Blizzard for creating a soulless world focused on soloing, that has led to the demise of community in WoW.  I have to say I agree with some of the points he makes. Blizzard has, accidentally or otherwise, removed a lot of the things that forced us to be social while playing WoW.

Gordon of We Fly Spitfires also wrote an article about this topic, and he says that it is not totally Blizzard's fault. From the article:

... at the end of the day though I believe that we, the players, are ultimately at fault for this lack of community spirit and not Blizzard. Their the gods who have provided us with an amazing virtual world to inhabit and we’re the spoilt children who have tarnished it with anarchy. We’re lost our senses of camaraderie and community and instead reserve our good behavior for our cliques, our guilds, and chosen to completely ignore our social responsibilities outside them.

It's true that the players make the community, and some of those players choose to behave in a way that makes interacting with the general community unattractive.

I like to think that the Asshats are the vocal minority.  But the numbers of them are growing every day.

Here are a few tips to help you recognise if you're becoming an Asshat:
  • You become a known name on /2. People say hello to you when you make your first /2 chat of the day.

  • Upon zoning into an instance, you don't say hello but instead ask immediately for kings. You open a trade window with the mage and stand there until they give you strudel (mmm, strudel).

  • If you're not buffed right away, you add "ffs" to your demands.

  • If you're the tank, you aim to finish the run as quickly as possible. The healer doesn't need mana!  She's a tree, ffs.

  • In random pugs, you complain about the fail <class> (especially if they've just dinged and are in greens/blues). 

  • You whine long and hard about the other <class> getting the loot, either in party/raid chat, or in whispers to your mate who's an officer.

  • You organise a run of the raid weekly, [Noth the Plaguebringer must die], asking for 5k GS and the [Fall of Naxxramas] ach, pst.

  • At the end of the run you drop group immediately.  Why bother saying thanks, you're never going to see those noobs again anyway.


and lastly,

  • while questing, if you see some sucker clearing mobs up to a named mob, you rush in to tag it first, ignoring any group invitations from the noob. Bonus points if you laugh as you ride away.


If you've noticed any of these traits in your guildies or worse, in yourself, make sure to get help right away!  Only together can we stamp out the plague of Asshattery sweeping across Azeroth!

Please comment and add any traits you've noticed...

* Image at the top is from http://www.40kradio.com/archives/594

Monday, 24 May 2010

Eleventh Hour: Thousand Needles

This is a story inspired by Liala's Eleventh Hour challenge. My task was that my character has been brought to Thousand Needles by important documents which turn out to be false (with or without the knowledge of my character). Since Balindah has been questing in Ferelas recently I thought I might as well centre the story around her.

The story isn't so much about exploring as it is about a couple of the quests in the zone, but I tried to give a feeling of how the zone might feel to be in.

So, here you go.
~o~


The heat was stifling. Balindah wiped the sweat from her face as the midday sun beat down and filled the Thousand Needles with hot, dry air like a rocky furnace. Even riding in the shade of the rock pillars didn't help, as the heat radiated from every surface and a hot wind blew up from the south, whistling around the canyon.

Balindah murmured to her Kodo, who was suffering with the long journey. "It's alright, girl, soon we'll be in the forests." The road continued between the tall pillars.

Off to one side of the road Balindah noticed something. She pulled up her Kodo and squinted into the bright sunlight. There was definately something lying there, under the shadow of one of the tall rock spires. She dismounted and went over for a closer look. It was the body of a centaur - one of the Galak tribe who lived near this area of the Thousand Needles. 


Another corpse, she thought. The cries of birds of prey had been following her for a little while - Balindah realised she should have guessed.  She had seen a few corpses of different species on the road from Tanaris, lying around in the sun, victims of the hyena packs or casualties of the skirmishes between Centaur and the Tauren tribes who lived here.  It was a hard land, and hard fought over, and the corpses lent the place a certain smell in the hot climate that made travelers hasten their way to cooler and safer places.

She was just about to continue on her way north when she noticed the unfortunate centaur clutched a piece of paper. Balindah eased the letter out from under the lifeless hand.  It was a letter, sealed with a wax circle stamped with a small skull symbol. She looked around furtively, then curiosity got the better of her and she broke the seal and unfolded the letter. 

The note looked like it had been scrawled in a great hurry.


Balindah sighed and took a quick swig of Moonberry Juice before mounting up again.  As desperate as she was to be away from the heat of the valley, she decided she had better go and warn this Kanati Greycloud to expect trouble.

Some distance up the dusty road, she approached Whitereach Post, a small hut dwarfed under the massive rock pillars.  Several Tauren men stood around the camp, but it was a goblin who saw her coming and called out a greeting.

"Hey, how you doin'?!" he called, as she approached. "I'm Wizlo Bearingshiner. I'm just passing through myself, but with all the delays I'm starting to wonder whether I'm going to make it to my clients in time! So what is it that you're doing in these parts?"

"Um, hi. I'm actually looking for Kanati Greycloud?" Balindah dismounted and held her Kodo steady as she looked questioningly at the others standing around the campsite.

"I am he." A large Tauren stepped forward, looking curiously at Balindah.  She pulled the letter out of her pack and handed it over, saying, "I found this on a centaur not far up the road." She gestured with a toss of her head.

Kanati Greycloud scanned the note and nodded. "Those damned centaurs! Why can't they just leave us be?" He looked angrily at the area around the outside of the camp, then glanced at the axes hanging from the young Tauren's belt. "Thank you for your warning, Ms...?" he trailed off.

"Balindah Stormcaller." She smiled grimly. "You're welcome.  The centaur never delivered his note but I'm guessing the attack may still come."

"It's likely," Kanati Greycloud nodded, scowling. "I'll send word to Freewind Post to ask for some extra protection, but for now could I ask you, Miss Stormcaller, to fight with me against these vile assassins?"

Balindah groaned inwardly. She had really been looking forward to reaching the cooler forest, but these hunters were most likely impressed by the Lightning flickering around her, marking her a Shaman. She rubbed the flank of her Kodo gently - the poor thing was thirsty after their trek up from the Shimmering Flats earlier in the day. She said, "I will stay until the morning."

As the afternoon passed and the sun dropped behind the edge of the canyon, the air cooled a little and a warm breeze blew through the valley.  Balindah sat in camp near the cook fire and chatted with the Tauren hunters as the shadows lengthened and the late sun cast a golden glow over the tops of the mesas.
One of the hunters, Motega Firemane, was troubled about the assassination note. He said to Balindah as he passed her a plate of Hot Wolf Ribs, "This is unusual for the Galak.  They will defend their territory but an offensive attack isn't their style."

She looked at him, surprised. "You think someone else may be behind this?"

Motega Firemane chewed thoughtfully. "I wonder, " he said, "if the note you found was planted there. We have had many clashes with the Grimtotem Tribe lately, but would they really stoop so low as to send the centaurs against us?"

Kanati Greycloud threw a rib bone into the basic campfire in disgust. "Those Grimtotem are capable of anything, but do you think any of them could write well enough to produce that note?"

Motega Firemane laughed loudly and thumped Kanati Greycloud on the shoulder. "By the Earthmother, you're right!" 

The goblin, who had joined them for a bite to eat, suddenly put down his plate and motioned to the others "Quiet, quiet!  I heard something." Wizlo's pack Kodo grunted nervously behind them.

They had all turned around to peer into the shadows when, with a whoosh and a thud, a single arrow landed in the dust just next to Wizlo's plate. 

The group jumped up with a shout and raised their weapons. Balindah had placed her totems around the camp earlier just in case - now she uttered a few words and refreshed their power.  Her lightning shield arced and popped as she recast it.

Three centaurs leapt from the shadows behind one of the rock spires and charged towards them, screaming battlecries. Balindah leapt into battle, swinging her axes at the centaurs, muttering spells to summon the power of the earth and storms to shock them. She could tell the others weren't as experienced in close battle, but they managed to hold the attackers off while she finished each centaur off. Balindah felt the rush and fury of the wind as she rained down blows on the last centaur, finally planting her axe in the centaur's back and severing his spine as he tried to stab Kanati Greycloud.  The lifeless body dropped to the dust and the victors stood, panting in the twilight.

Belindah allowed her summoned elemental power to flow back out of her and into the soil, as she took a deep breath and exhaled again.

"Nice work," said Kanati Greycloud, eyeing Balindah's axe, still buried in the centaur's back.

Wizlo Bearingshiner sidled out of the spot behind the hut where he had been hiding.  "That was great!" he enthused. "They all came at us and then down they went, bang, boom!!"  He made chopping axe motions with his hands.

The others rolled their eyes at each other and headed back to the fireside to treat their minor wounds. Balindah smiled at Wizlo as she cleaned her axes with an old rag she pulled from her pack.  "I saw your masterful evasion efforts there, well done!" She winked at the goblin, who blushed and stammered something about protecting their rear.

They passed a watchful night without further attack and in the early morning, Balindah bade farewell and good luck to the hunters. They thanked her for her help and Wizlo urged her to keep it real, and she set off to the northwest to get to Ferelas before the heat of the day set in. 


Friday, 21 May 2010

A Night in the Highlands


Click the image for a 1600 by 900px wallpaper image.

Arathi Highlands, a short distance from Hammerfall.

I apologise for lack of posts of substance this week - have been very busy. Hope you have a great weekend :)

Want to see more pretty pictures? Visit R&R's Gallery Page.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

What's in a GearScore?


I had a revelation one night last week.

I had installed GearScoreLite when Leesah first dinged 80. I wasn't in a guild at the time and I wanted to know my GS to see how close I was to being able to get into pug raids. 

The GearScoreLite addon puts the target's GearScore in their tooltip and your own in your character window, that's all.  It doesn't have any of the features that the full GearScore addon has, but all I wanted to know was what my GS was so the Lite version worked just fine for me.

Once I joined a guild it didn't matter so much, but I kept it out of voyeurish curiosity more than anything, to see what other people's gear was like without having to target and inspect them. I'd also kept it to see how Aefa's gear was coming along.

Last Wednesday in ICC, I managed to pick up Boots of the Frozen Seed.  I was so happy becuase it was a major upgrade from the Boots of the Cracking Flame/Boots of Wintry Endurance I was wearing before.  Since I was in Moonkin spec at the time, I realised I'd have to swap my nice cloak out for Kurisu's Indecision to stay hit-capped. With a sigh I said to myself, "Aw, that will make my gearscore lower again."

Then, I realised what I had just said, and gave myself a stern talking to. 

"Now wait one cotton-picking minute there missy!  That is not what you installed the GearScore addon for. You do not need to worry about that sort of thing anymore, only what is the best gear for your task!"

I realised that I had been looking at others and judging them on their GearScore, and that is really not why I wanted it at all.  I had to remind myself of how angry I get when I see people on trade asking for a GS of 5k to do the weekly raid, and about the time when Aefa had been rejected from a VoA 25 for having a GS of 3000.

So I turned GearScoreLite off.

I've kept it on for Aefa for the time being, so I can keep telling pug leaders her score, but I need to train myself not to use it to judge people over their actual skill.

I don't want to open up a full-on GearScore debate here but I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the use of GearScore as a raid building tool, or as a check on your own progress.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

On Frost Mages

I love playing my mage. She's just so much fun to play, blinking around with Welly in tow. 

It's nice to play a pure dps class after a hybrid. It releases me from the pressure of thinking I should be doing the healing, because I can't actually heal anyone except myself with my poncy little flower shower.

I play her as Frost, because that's the way I leveled up.  I used Krizzlybear's guide to learn to play it, and I love it when all the procs go off and the big crits roll in.

Today Krizzlybear wrote about his frustration at a certain article on wow.com listing an ICC DPS analysis, showing Frost Mages at the very bottom of the DPS heap. 

I think he really hit it with this statement:
I cannot simply post my own numbers and use them as evidence supporting the viability of Frost Mages in raids.  Hell, I’m not even bothering to try and beat a dead horse subject such as this.  All I can do is perform, and pray that the raid leader does not kick me because I’m falling behind other players.
I know that Aefa could be putting out more deeps as Arcane.  But I really don't care that much.  All I can hope is that people accept me in groups, and that they are satisfied with my performance.

Aefa's my alt - a character that I don't intend to raid seriously with, therefore I play her for FUN.  Now I know that, having never played in an Arcane spec, I can't say that Frost is more fun than Arcane.  I have been intending to respec to try out Arcane at some point but I've never got around to it.  I just enjoy myself with my elemental and my frostbolts, and no-one's ever said anything about it, until this weekend.

On the weekend, I saw someone advertising for Onyxia 25 in trade. Having recently picked up a few more badge items Aefa is now at a more respectable 4700-ish gearscore (yeah I know, but I need to know what it is so I can get into pugs), so I thought, might as well ask and see if they'd take me.  I got an invite so I was happy.

I zoned in and we buffed up. I summoned Welly and whipped up some strudels (it's amazing what you can do with one of those little camp stoves, you know).

Before the first trash, the other Mage in the raid whispered me.

ArcaneMage: you're dpsing as frost?
Me: Yeah, is that ok?
AM: Why?
Me: Because I like it?
AM: low dps, lol
Me: *shrug* It's enough.

And do you know, it was enough. Ony went down first try, Aefa was 5 or 6 on the chart (despite me forgetting to use Mirror Image until the very end, raaaar), and the group dispersed, happy.

You want to know the best part? Mr ArcaneMage died on the first wave of whelps. I know these things happen, but it didn't stop me sitting there pointing at the chart going "ha haaaaa ha ha haaa!".  I didn't say anything though, and neither did ArcaneMage :)

I guess the moral of the story is that sometimes we get really worked up over spec stuff.  I know it's been going around and around for ages and a lot has been said on all sides and it's not going to stop anytime soon, but the fact is, that if bosses are still dying, let people play the game they love in the way they love it. The best players will still shine through and take the top accolades, and the rest of us will still enjoy playing the game.

I don't like the way they portrayed Moonkin as also low in the charts, but that's a tale for another day...

Monday, 17 May 2010

Guilt with Dragons


I feel guilty.

I was saving up my coppers so that Leesah could learn her swift birdy form... and then I went and spent the money on Aefa instead. 

Why would I go and spend five thousand gold on my alt instead of my main?

Well the thing is, I love Leesah's birdy form.  I have a Bronze Drake sitting in her bank that she will learn eventually, but will never use, because bird form is so awesome. The swift bird form is even more awesome, or will be when she eventually gets it.

I had been considering spending the money on Aefa for a little while, since she also had a Bronze Drake sitting in her bank, but felt kind of like I was cheating on Leesah even considering it. 

The final decision-making straw fell one day when she went along to Oculus...


and ended up with a blue one.

I went and dropped that 5kG like a Wag who's got wind of a Sale at Jimmy Choo.

Since she how has the skill do to it, just last night Aefa pulled some mats together and sewed up one of these babies, with Frozen Orbs hanging off the corners and all!


Don't you think with that little pillow at the end, they should totally change the /sleep animation to roll your carpet out before you lie down?

So although my poor druid is still flip-flapping her way around slowly, Aefa the (im)Patient already has herself a flock of flyers to choose from, and has started a secret mission to help the poor maltreated Netherwing Drakes out at Shadowmoon Valley...


Have you ever felt guilty about buying something or working on a special achievement for your alt?

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Reader Roundup - May 15


It's been quite an eventful couple of weeks around the place, what with the start of the Cataclysm Alpha, the subsequent leaking of information and the start of the PTR for 3.3.5. Is it just me or have we not had 3.3.4 yet? Anyway don't forget to log into battle.net and opt in for the Beta if you're so inclined.

Just a note:  I will not be posting any information about the Alpha or the Beta when it begins.  I am trying to stay away from the new zone stuff until as late as possible.  I'll still be keeping up with the proposed class changes, but I'll try to make sure I mark any potential spoilers clearly if I decide to post about them. 

Right, now on to the link love.
  • Firstly a moonkin link.  Graylo has written an article about why Nature's Reach is an important part of our Balance spec and the benefits it brings in current raids.
  • Just what is BRK up to?  Bellwether mentioned it first, but between the original bigredkitty.net site change and his stories on his personal blog, it seems that BRK of legend has been invited to the Cataclysm Alpha. Could he be making a return to WoW?
  • In other news, Zelmaru and Arcane Tinker Tank have revealed the new dungeons and battlegrounds we will find in Cataclysm (no spoilers, honest).  I dunno about you, but I'm looking forward to hitting up a heroic STFU after a raid is over...
  • The gals at Hots & Dots have listed all the 52 raid bosses of Wrath in their perceived order of difficulty.  Gotta kill them all!
  • Mary Varn of NPC Comic started off a bit of a discussion about whether its harder to be a girl gamer or a guy gamer with this week's comic.  Check it out and give your opinion on the poll.
  • Gazimoff of Mana Obscura and his mate Stu have put together their first episode of a new podcast, Obscurecast, in which they chat about WoW stuff.  Check it out, it's a great listen, although a few Cataclysm spoilers may lurk within.
  • Alas is up to Chapter 10 of WoW & P & P in all it's awesomeness.  If you missed a chapter or two you can find all of them under the Pride & Prejudice tag.
  • Kae's brilliant Lich King comic is now complete! Check it out if you need help with LK-10 or not!
  • And finally, Wulfy from Barrens Chat has written about an epic journey, of how he ran, naked, through Stormwind to the Keep, and punched the King in the face.  Completely.  Awesome.
Have a great weekend everyone :)

Thursday, 13 May 2010

BA Shared Topic: Exploring Azshara

The Blog Azeroth Shared Topic for this week, suggested by Jaedia, invites us to get out there in the world and explore a zone or two.  There are quite a few other calls out there from bloggers to document the world before it changes, and I've chosen Azshara to start with.

Azshara was once a part of the great Night Elven city of Zin-Azshari, but it was destroyed during the Sundering. All that remains is half-submerged ruins guarded by Naga, and a beautiful autumnal land edged by dramatic cliffs.

The vegetation consists of a tall open forest and grasslands in reds and golds, with wildflowers and grasses on the ground.

Along the border with Ashenvale Forest runs the Southfury River. At the northern end of this stretch is a mighty waterfall that cascades down two levels before the river calms as it flows south.

In the centre of the map is the ruins of Eldarath - an extensive area extending down to the ocean and containing ruined buildings patrolled by Naga.


The building in the middle is the Temple of Zin-Malor, guarded by Naga and Warlord Krellian, a level 55 non-elite.

The Bay of Storms contains a large, partially sunken temple called Hetaera's Clutch. The entrance is underwater but beward of the clutch of hydras making their home here.

On the northern side of the Bay is a large temple called the Temple of Arkkoran - home to the god Arkkoran. The waters around the temple are patrolled by giants called Son of Arkkoran. Aefa didn't want to go inside (she dislikes murlocs), but I hear the god himself is friendly. His sons and the murlocs and makura who guard the temple will attack on sight!

In the northwest of the zone, in the side of a mountain, stands Timbermaw Hold, guarded by Keeper Rageroar and two Den Watchers. If the gates were ever opened, they would meet up with other Timbermaw Hold entrances in Winterspring, Felwood and Moonglade.

The Tower of Eldara stands at the northeastern tip of the zone.  It looks as though it was once a lighthouse or warning beacon - all is now dark and silent in the Tower now.

The Horde Encampment is called Valormok and is located near the mountains in the western side of the zone, but east of the river. The camp is small and unprotected by guards, but one can get a repair or food and drink here, as well as a windrider in or out.

The Alliance camp, Talrendis Point, is also unguarded but contains the necessities as well as a flight master.

The southeastern corner of the zone is an area of high cliffs, broken apart by chasms. The Naga who live in this area have built bridges to get from cliff to cliff. At the end of the easternmost cliff is the ruined Ravencrest Monument. It was once a tall statue in the ancient city, but now all that remains standing is the legs.  The head and other ruined parts lie on the ground nearby.

Here's something you might not know about Azshara - it almost contained a battleground. Azshara Crater was planned back before the release of BC, and was designed to be similar in style to Alterac Valley. The entrances would have been either side of the Forlorn Ridge.  It was never implemented in any PTR though, and Eye of the Storm was released instead.

Azshara is truly a very beautiful zone and it will be interesting to see what the Cataclysm will bring for it.  At present, Azshara is aimed at players of level 48-55 and people rarely go there, preferring the more condensed quest chains in the Hinterlands, Un'Goro Crater or the Plaguelands. Blizzard have said they plan to make the zone a low-level area and an integral part of Goblin leveling including a new city. I just hope they keep the feel of the place.

Lore is from wowwiki.com - if anyone can suggest any other lore sites to me I'd appreciate it, but wowwiki is fairly comprehensive.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Down by the Creek


Click the image for a 1600 by 900px wallpaper image.

Crystalsong Forest.

Want to see more pretty pictures? Visit R&R's Gallery Page.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

A Little Song

Anea over at Oh Look, An Alt started this game - and here's mine!




Enjoy :)

Monday, 10 May 2010

Configuring Rating Buster


Have you ever been in a raid where some loot dropped and you needed to make a quick decision whether it was an upgrade or not? Sometimes it can be difficult to make a snap judgement and you often don't have time to look up a gear list.

Rating Buster has been around for a long time now, but it's still the popular choice to help with gear decisions.  I find it really handy if I don't have time (or can't be arsed) to open and check a gear list. It adds a list of stats to the bottom of the item's tooltip, and compares them with what you currently have equipped.

When first installed, the addon tries to guess what stats you need based on your class. For pure magic or pure melee classes, this is straightforward and no setting-tweaks are required.  For Druids and the other magic-melee hybrid classes however, you will first be met with a huge list of stats in your tooltip as it tries to compare not only spell stats but physical ones as well.

For example, I have a staff, the Engraved Gargoyle Femur in my bags. If I press Shift while mousing over it I can see what I currently have equipped as well as the item tooltip.  Rating Buster will still be visible if I don't hold Shift, but you can set it to only show when you are comparing items like this (click to biggify).


You can see in the stats that it has included Feral Attack Power, as well as physical hit, crit and haste. This is way too much information - I'm a Moonkin/Tree, I don't need to know about physical stuff (treepunches notwithstanding).  All I need to do to remove that information is go into the settings with "/ratingbuster win" (anything with win in the command has to be good, right?) and remove those values from the "Stat - Physical" list in the "Stat Summary" menu.


While I was at it I removed all the tanking stats like Defense, Parry, and so on.

The new stat list is much easier to read and evaluate.


From this stat summary I can see that the Lockjaw+Shriveled Heart combination has a lot more spell power than the staff, but the staff has hit on it which I may need.  In this case, unless I desperately needed the hit, I don't think it would be worth giving up 185 spell power for. Not sure why I still have it in my bags now, to be honest... *disenchants*

One thing to be careful of is to be mindful of comparing items for offspec. Both Resto and Balance have talents that affect our haste, spell power and crit, but Rating Buster only compares based on the spec you are currently in.

If you have a dps or tank offspec, you can create a second profile and set Rating Buster to switch profiles when you switch specs.
You can also set Rating Buster to ignore enchants and gems, or to always use a certain type of gem in comparing ungemmed items. I prefer to leave the gems ignored, as the gem choice often depends on the socket colour. This does mean I have to mentally add in the gem effects but at least I get a choice as to what gem to consider.

Rating Buster really shows its worth when there are two items that are quite close, and you need to see what the differences are. In the image below, these two items aren't that close in stats, but I'll use to demonstrate anyway.  The Scourgelord's Baton (soooo lucky to have picked that one up in a pug!) is better in every way than the Shriveled Heart, but I won't use it for Resto as well as Balance spec because I can't afford to lose the haste on the Heart. If however, I can make up the haste somewhere else on my gear, I'll use it for healing even with the hit on it.


So there you have it.  Rating Buster doesn't completely take the place of a ranked gear list, but it can help you see the differences between items and make quick decisions.

Are there any other addons that you use to help you choose gear?

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Public Service Announcement: WTF

My computer was new in December last year, and came with Windows 7.  While it is very fast to start up and most things seem great with it compared with say, my computer at work, it seems kind of unstable. Every few times I start it up, it will start Windows and be okay, then a few minutes I'll be faced with a Blue Screen of Death and a few choice swear words. Usually, once I start WoW up it's fine and I can play for hours with no problems, so it doesn't worry me that much usually.

Until last night.  I finished playing on Thursday night and logged out for the night, but as I was exiting the game, I got a BSOD. I thought nothing of it and just shut the box down, but when I started WoW up on Friday evening, I logged in my Druid and realised something was very, very wrong.  I had lost all of my addon settings.  All. Of. Them.

My macros were gone.  My power auras. My painfully configured pitbull, grid and clique setups.

It took me two and a half hours to put it back together, then I limped through a heroic to make sure everythng was okay.  I thanked whichever deity you like that I had put my macros and power aura setups into blog posts, because I was easily able to import and recreate them again.

I logged onto Aefa to see if her settings were kaput as well - I hadn't exported her power auras and wasn't looking forward to having to set them up again, but it seems that since I was logging off Leesah at the time, it was only her addon variables that were corrupted. Aefa's specific macros and power auras were fine and intact, and it was only the shared settings like pitbull and bartender that were broken.

The moral of the story - Back Up Your WTF Folder! 

This is the folder that contains all the addon settings for each of your characters. If something goes wrong while you're exiting the game, these files could be corrupted and you'll have to go through the annoyance of setting up your UI again.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Childrens Week: Squee Overwhelming

Childrens Week is on until Sunday. It's one of my favourite holidays in the game.

I missed it last year while traveling but I had done the orphan quests the previous year before the time of meta-achievements, and this year I was really looking forward to seeing the cute little orphans again and getting the completely adorable pets.

Then I found out that they had added a PvP component to the meta-achievement. Okay, I thought, I'm pretty bad at PvP but I managed to do the PvP parts of the other holidays so far without too much pain. Then I looked at the list of tasks that you had to do in the different BGs, with an orphan by your side.  You might as well paint a big arrow over your head with "KILL ME PLS" written on it.

At the start of the week I had been willing to try to give it a go, especially after reading Cynwise's post about it, but between work, keeping two kittens from destroying my house, raids and other random RL happenings, I am as busy as a bee who's Queen has just given birth to three hives worth of lil baby bees, and the bee-keeper keeps nicking all the honey no matter how much you buzz around his face.  My spare play time after raids has been used for relaxing, a few randoms, even a bit of exploring. I haven't felt for one moment like getting my crappy ghetto PvP gear on and going into a battleground.


Last night, Leesah went around and showed three cute little orphaned children of the Horde a fun time.  She didn't set a Bad Example for any of them (but did share an icecream) or make them do any Chores, and ended up with a Curious Oracle Hatchling, Egbert, and Mr. Wiggles. The whole thing was a complete squee-fest, and if I get any time tonight I might just get Aefa to entertain some orphans as well.

I love festivals, I really do, but I guess my Long, Strange Trip will just take a little longer.

Did you finish the School of Hard Knocks or did it knock you for six?

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Two Gnomes, One Birthday


(Apologies to Bill Withers - here's the original)

I see the blizzard ice-drops fall
And the beauty of it all
Is when the frostfire bolt flies through
To make those rainbows in my mind
When I mirror image sometimes
I pretend that one of them is you

{Refrain}
Just the two of us
We can make it if we try
Just the two of us, just the two of us
Just the two of us
Slowfalling, bringing death from the sky
Just the two of us, you and I

We find a group, healer's a tree
We blow through PoS so quickly
And it don't make no trinkets drop
Good things might come to those who wait
But not to two mages whose fate
Is to run PoS forever more.

{Refrain}

I hear the blizzard ice-drops fall
On the trash in Frostwing Hall
I am sure we'll make it through
My friend, when the purples come
And the warlock's being dumb
I'll roll need and pass to you

{Refrain}
...Building portals to Dalaran...

Just the two of us
Just the two of us
We can make it, just the two of us

Just the two of us
Just the two of us
We can make it, just the two of us
Just the two of us
We can make it, just the two of us

I'd like to wish both Gnomeaggedon and Krizzlybear very happy birthdays.  You guys brighten up my days, thank you! <3

Tutorial: Tips for Taking Screenshots


Screenshots are one of a blogger's most useful and versatile tools. They can also hold personal memories and records of important events like boss kills, or parties in the beer garden...

There is a lot of screenshot-journaling going on at the moment due to the imminent Cataclysm, an Explorer Task coming up for the BA Shared Topic in a few weeks and also Beru's Make a Memory project, so I'd like to share with you some principles of photography that I find handy when taking screenshots.  People have been making images of the world around them for a long long time, and there are plenty of resources around to help you create the most visually pleasing or striking images.

Luckily, taking screenshots in a game takes care of a lot of the technical side of photography for us - we don't need to worry about whether the camera is straight (I have trouble with this IRL!), our exposure, aperture, focus, or different types of lenses.  We are only concerned with the size and shape of our screen, and our zoom controls. Post-processing of images can help if your shots come out a little too dark or too light, but most of what makes a WoW screenie great is the composition.

The Basics
How do I...
  • take a screenshot?

    • On a Windows machine - Press Print Screen. On most keyboards it's located at the top right, next to Scroll Lock and Pause/Break.
    • On a Mac - press F13. You can also use the Default Mac combination of Apple + Shift + 3. , although Vrykerion says this can have sync issues so you might get a delay with the capture
    • You can bind this to another key in your in-game Keybindings.


  • make my UI disappear?

    • Press Alt+Z. You can press Alt+Z again or Esc to get it back.


  • make my toon's name/names of other players/pets disappear?

    • The settings for names are located in the Interface-> Names menu
    • Or, use the addon Fubar_NameToggleFu
    • You could also use the addon Perfect Screenshot (kindy suggested by Rades) to turn off names and UI and take a screenshot, all bound to one key. Sounds perfect for quick shots!


  • take a screenie without my toon in it?

    • simply zoom right in until you are "inside" your character's head.  This can mean that you are closer to the ground that you would like - it's a lot easier in Northrend and Outlands where you can just take off to get a little higher.


  • find my image files after taking a screenshot?

    • They are saved into your ..\World of Warcraft\Screenshots folder.


The Rule of Thirds, or, the Golden Mean
One of the guiding principles used by photographers is the rule of thirds.  Divide the scene you are going to capture into three parts horizontally, and three parts vertically. Generally speaking, photos are supposed to be more interesting with the subject in one of the four intersection points, rather than in the centre of the shot. 

Rule of Thirds - Image from photoinf.com

In fact, it appears that the Rule of Thirds is just cheating slightly. The actual reason we are drawn to such images isn't because of thirds - according to some, it's the Golden Mean that makes things more interesting.  This is the naturally occurring spiral shape based on the Fibonacci series, also called the Golden Ratio or the Divine Proportion - which can be approximated by the Rule of Thirds.  For more examples of this principle in photography, check out jakegarn.com, and photoinf.com. For just plain number-geekiness, check out here or here.

The Golden Mean - Image from http://manolofood.com/ratio/

Here's an example.  In this shot I put the subject, the Tauren lady walking away, in the right side of the image.  The eye is drawn to the heart above her head (well, mine is anyway).

In the case of landscapes or linear subjects, you could put the horizon at the top third or the bottom third, rather than across the centre. I can't wait to see what these coastal scenes will look like in Cataclysm!


Of course rules are there to be broken and you may end up with some amazing results, but it's something to keep in mind when you're lining up your next shot.

Framing the shot
No, this isn't about hanging your screenie on the wall.  Framing your shot can make it more visually striking and put into context where you are taking the screenie from. For example, you could frame your shot with an overhanging branch, the trunk of a tree, a doorway or window (although this can be difficult in WoW due to the auto-zooming camera positioning).

You could also place a small object in the foreground as a focal point - flowers, shrubs, a mailbox, a gnome...

This waterfall in Azshara looked really big up close but it's a bit hard to tell where it is.


From a little further back, I used the foreground and trees to frame the waterfall.  It looks more like Azshara now. You may prefer the first shot - it's difficult for me to say which I like better. Perhaps it's because I didn't have any gnomes handy.



Character shots
The WoW camera angles limit our choices for taking portrait shots of our own characters, and there are only so many poses toons can make, but there are a few things we can control. 
  • Lighting is a major factor - many zones do not have a lot of ambient light, especially at night (well, duh). Inside buildings is usually your best bet for casting light on your character, and for neutral backgrounds.
  • Try to zoom in as much as you can while still getting the composition you are after - if you need to crop or resize later it means you have the best resolution to play with.
The shot on the left was taken at night outside, so it's a little dark.The shot on the right was inside Undercity, and is still a bit dark, but there is light cast on Leesah's face.


You can always use some post-process cropping trickery to edit shots of your own characters too.



Now you're getting tricky
Plenty of principles of visual arts such as painting and photography also apply to creating images in-game.  Things like the use of symmetry, contrasting colours, odd angles and converging lines lead your eyes into an image and make it more interesting. As always, practice and experimentation is key!

Roads make great converging lines.



Take Many Shots!
Many professional photographers will spend hours waiting for the perfect shot, taking thousands of photos just to capture the perfect one. Obviously we don't want to sit in game setting up a screenshot for hours - in fact sometimes you only have seconds to jump on your screenshot button before the moment passes. If, however, you have a few moments to set up a shot, make sure you take several. Chances are, when you go back to look at the images later something will be not quite perfect with the image - if you take a load your chances of capturing the perfect shot are increased.  This is especially important when including characters of any type in a shot - cities, pets or boss kill shots - character movements tend to be random and unpredictable so take many for best possible results. It took a lot of zooming around and at least 20 screenies to get this kill shot from Eye of Eternity.



In Conclusion
The best advice I can give about taking screenshots is to take as many as you can.  Practice makes perfect!  Make sure to take a look at them later and remember what works for you and what doesn't. You can use all the techniques in the world, but if it doesn't look good to you, then change something until it does.

Also remember that any visual art - paintings, photos, films or screenshots - is very subjective and what looks awesome to you might be discarded on the cutting room floor by the next person. Work out what works for you, and run with it.

Please leave a comment and add your top tips for taking screenshots!  Where did you take your favourite/most beautiful one, and why do you think it works?

A selection of sites where there are always awesome screenshots:

Some Free Photography Resources: