Bravetank

Life in Azeroth

A Late Starter

So I’m enrolled on a Coursera Unity course and I’m loving it. I’ve completed a Solar Simulation project to my family’s amazement (perhaps they humour me) & I’m part way through a Rollerball project. I’m getting my head around the X,Y, Z axis (is there a plural for “axis”? – yes, looked it up, it is “axes” –  I may have just grown a brain cell). I’m learning  the difference between Materials & Textures (not the same thing apparently – you put a Texture onto a Material but something could be a Material with no Texture  – I think – although it’s now reading like something the Riddler would send to Batman). I’ve also learnt about Game Objects, Assets and Prefabs. It’s a great course – the instructor is easy to understand and each stage of the project is broken down into nice bite size chunks. I feel like I’m learning new and interesting things. So why then am I  feeling so guilty about the whole thing?

The answer lies in the reason for doing the course. You see I’d like to make my own game. I’ve wanted to do so for awhile but aside from making a couple of little games in Scratch (as part of another course) and dabbling a bit in RPG Maker  I’ve not really got very far. And I’m no programmer – I’ve completed two beginner Coursera courses on Python but that’s it. One poor version of Pong does not a programmer make.

So I’ve thought about games development a lot but have always stopped myself either before starting out on anything or part way through whatever I’ve enrolled on (or checked out from the library).  And the reason for all this is that I feel very foolish about wanting to do this (even worse now I’m putting it out here on the blog – but where else but my Bravetank blog for a post about me being foolish?).

I try to be my own cheerleader of course. I tell myself  – you’re never too old, you should always pursue your passions, you’ll never get anywhere unless you take that first step. I’ve said all these things. I’ve even done a Rah Rah at the end. But still the fears and doubts come :-

 

I’m in my early 40s so probably too old

The world is awash with games – who needs mine?

People already complain about all the dross on Steam made from Unity  – why add to it?

To make something really good would require more knowledge, skill & ability than I could ever hope to develop – particularly at my age with brain cells dying off every second (although I did just grow one a moment ago).

I should be doing something more useful instead.

When do I intend doing all this – particularly come January when my work/life “busyness” is going to increase hundredfold?

 

So I have all these thoughts whirling around in my head making me feel silly for starting this Unity course. At my time of life I shouldn’t be feeling all pleased with myself for applying a Texture to a Material (or was it the other way round?) and oohing and aahing about my rotating planets. I’m being silly, deluding myself & wasting precious time. Maybe.  And in any case it’s going to take me ages to learn enough Unity & programming skills to create any type of game, let alone the one I want to create.

But I read something the other day about setting ourselves a 10 year plan. The idea is we shouldn’t be put off starting learning something new because it’s so hard and/or would take ages to reach anything approacher a mastery of the subject. We should tell ourselves that if we practice something new every day in about 10 years time we’ll have a lot of it figured out. I think I can commit to a 10 year plan – while accepting that we plan and God guffaws till his sides split, and all that. A ten year plan would take me to my early 50s. If I could create something that I want to create by my early 50s surely that’s worth doing or at least attempting? Sometimes I think I hit my peak too long ago – 11 years to be precise when I completed my PhD and published a book that was well received.  I left academia not long after. I didn’t want the academic life – too much travelling, too many conferences, too much home sickness. But I sometimes regret that decision. I’m proud of the book – it’s very occasionally cited in other academic texts on the subject and that gives me hope it will be around long after I’m gone. But I feel frustrated too. I feel that there’s still more in me. But I don’t really know what that “more” is. For awhile I thought it was writing – I self published some books on Amazon a few years ago but I pulled them all down not long after. I lost my nerve.

So will games creation be the same? Something I will try, get so far with and then chicken out from?  It’s not that I lose the interest. It’s that the fear becomes overwhelming. Fear of  screwing up in a conference, fear of travel and homesickness, fear of bad reviews, fear of ridicule. All I know right now is I keep thinking about creating a game and then I admonish myself for these thoughts. I tell myself that games creation was a road I should have travelled in my 20s.  It’s all so confusing. Roads travelled and not travelled, and the constant fear I’m now at a dead end.

So anyway I’ve enrolled on this Unity course because I have an idea for a game and I have to start somewhere. But I’ve had ideas like this before and I’ve talked myself out of them before. I’m hoping for once I can just shut up for a moment and let myself enjoy what I’m doing. And maybe that way I’ll find my way onto  a road I often wish I’d taken a long time ago.

 

The Butcher says…

Everyone and his pup seems to have a view on raiding in WoW but what about the bosses themselves? They have to put up with group after group coming at them hurling all manner of spells and abilities and of course have to adjust their strategy based on the difficulty setting of the raid (I’m including LFR within this generic raid term here – I know – crazy old me). What do they think about it all? Is it working for them or is it back to the drawing board for Blizzard? I sat down with the Highmaul Butcher (as opposed to my High Street butcher – he hasn’t got a bloody clue about WoW raiding but can fillet a steak without an addon) and asked him for his thoughts on the subject.

Me: Ok I’ll cut straight to the chase – LFR, Normal, Heroic or Mythic?

Mythic every time my friend, every time. Normal and Heroic have their moments I’ll grant you that. But really if it’s not Mythic it’s not real raiding –  it’s just different degrees of derping. Or do I mean twerking? Which is the one where you wiggle like this? (Shows me – my eyes bleed.)

Me: I think that’s twerking … sort of. Can you stop now please.

Yes yes you’re right. Got to think of the old hips. Anyway I don’t mean to be disrespectful to the non-Mythic guys and gals – yes I said gals – I’m all politically correct now – Blizzard made me go on a course after I messaged Ms. Iron Reaver inviting her to pound a certain part of my … well anyway I was asked to go on a course. But in terms of the non-mythic raiders – while I do throw some tricky stuff at them, you know Cleave, Gushing Wounds that sort of thing (and when I’m really showboating I get into a sort of Frenzy that puts the fear of god in them),  the bottom line is it’s all watered down from Mythic. In Mythic I pull out all the stops. I even have the Night-Twisted Cadavers along for a bit of added spice. And what they can do with their Paleobombs – well even I get nervous when I see them approaching. For the other raids I do what the Powers That Be tell me. And that is,  “Put on a show Butch but don’t go crazy now. Some of these raiders are sensitive folk and we don’t want to lose them. At least not until Overwatch is out of Beta.” (Pauses) Umm no I mean … they didn’t say that …not at all … oh dear I’ve said to much. This is all off the record right?

Me: If by off the record you mean published on a blog read by few then yes totally. So what’s your strategy for LFR?

Alcohol. Lots of it. Me and the trash play a drinking game. One shot every time someone stands in bad stuff and dies – easy obviously. Two shots every time a DPSer accuses everyone else in the raid of being AFK.  We down the bottle when the raid descends into Lord of the Flies type madness and everyone eats a healer.  That’s the best bit. To be honest I’m paralytic in most LFRs.

Me: Do you think it’s all too easy?

Look you know the score. Its a bit of lighthearted fun. Honestly I don’t give a toss as long as they’re paying their subs and I collect my paycheck. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. It’s all about the money when you come down to it. They pay it and I take it. I’m not going to complain. But if I want a real challenge I go Mythic. No question.

Me: So not Normal or Heroic?

Well to be fair those groups try – they really do. Me and the boys call them The Tryers and we mean no disrespect by it. Earnest, sincere – I’ll give you that. Real nice people for the most part. Sometimes I join them on Mumble or Teamspeak  – they don’t know I’m there of course – and I listen to what they’re saying and god bless them, they’re really planning things out. Someone is told to do X and Y, someone else Z – and yes I know my alphabet – just the last three letters though- they’re the only ones you need. Anyway I just laugh because I know that nine times out of ten they are all going to get stage fright on the first attempt and start hurling god knows what in my direction. But they get there in the end. And then we all pose for a lovely screenshot. I have to play dead of course so you don’t ever see me smile but inside I’m beaming – I’m that proud of the little group.

Me: And mythic?

Hard core bad asses everyone of them. The fights really take it out of me to be honest but it’s great challenge and when I beat them the endorphin rush is second to none. We really work for it though – I don’t think that’s always appreciated. And I’m bummed that us Bosses are not getting the Moose in the next patch. I kinda thought that’s what Blizzard had in mind when the Moose was datamined – a little thank you to us Bosses. But no it’s another perk for the high end raiders. I can’t even buy it in the shop. And the thing is – well my first cuddly was a moose so I really wanted this mount  and (sob) and (more sobs) – oh let’s change the subject – I get upset just thinking about it.

Me: Ok so what about the future?

Well I’m looking to retire – I’ve made no secret of this. I’m getting too old for this raiding lark. And the writings on the wall- look I wrote it over there – “eSports is the future”. I wish I could get into Heroes I really do, but that wannabe from Diablo got my gig.  So I’ve got my eye on Hearthstone now. I’ve written god knows how many letters to the Powers That Be suggesting I become an 8 mana rare  – think Molten Giants but way cooler. In fact maybe your readers can help me out here? I know for a fact Blizzard base all their development decisions on the number of tweets they receive on a subject. So go on – let’s get  #ButcherForHearthstone trending. Do it for me. Please.

LFR – the Couch to 5K approach

Recently there’s been a lot of discussion about LFR and raiding (particularly since patch 6.2.3 was announced). The point is often made that LFR is not real raiding, it’s too easy with no mechanics worth talking about, people are in there just to get loot that they don’t really deserve (since it’s all too easy) and people in there don’t try at all/don’t need to try (in fact the little sausages are probably tabbed out watching Netflix). It’s also said that because it’s so watered down & easy it does not either (a)prepare anyone for proper raiding nor (b)encourage people to try out proper raiding. Therefore Blizzard have failed in all their intentions. Shame on you Blizzard.

I want to challenge some of these points. I admit that what I’m saying here is from my own personal perspective and my arguments will not apply to everyone. However, I suspect they will apply to more people than just me and I think it’s a perspective worth exploring.

First: the “too watered down/no real mechanics” argument:-

For me this doesn’t feel true. There are sufficient mechanics in LFR for my abilities.

For example -in Highmaul Kargath has a Chain Hurl ability that will move one tank, one healer & three DPS to the stands. If you don’t know about it & you are the one picked it’s going to be disconcerting to say the least (I’ve not experienced it yet but that kind of thing always throws me – literally in this case) and you need to know what to do (basically just kill things and survive!).  There is also his Berserker Rush ability which can do huge amount of damage if not tanked correctly (according to Wowhead in LFR Kargath should be tanked in, or near, an active Flame Pillar).

Similarly in Blast Furnace  Phase 1 there are Heat Regulators to destroy. While (according to Wowhead) in LFR only 5 bombs are needed to destroy each one you still need to know what to do with the button should it appear on your screen.

And finally Iron Reaver. The guide on Wowhead for the Normal level encounter provides paragraph after paragraph of information on dealing with mechanics that include Barrage (the advice is not to try and out range but instead run to the sides), Pounding (during which you should use raid cooldowns & move in close to the boss to avoid Immolation patches that are being pushed away) & Blitz (which you should avoid by watching Iron Reavers’s feet). In the LFR section it says, “There are no mechanical differences in the Looking For Raid difficulty of this fight. Players should still focus on survivability”. Helpful! So unless things have changed since Wowhead was last updated this means there are mechanics in the LFR version of Iron Reaver- indeed the same mechanics as in Normal, but without any of the proper raid team benefits of good communications and strategy (& I say this sadly as I died in the LFR Iron Reaver encounter- clearly mishandled Barrage, Pounding & Blitz and never noticed her feet).

I accept that Iron Reaver is not typical & that in most cases the mechanics in LFR are more like the first two examples –  nowhere near the level of the normal raiding. But nevertheless there are mechanics. There is stuff to avoid, disperse and use cooldowns on. It is not stand in one place & hurl your spells.  And these mechanics can feel more difficult to deal with because they are being dealt with by a group of random strangers.  Of course your LFR group could be filled with overgeared raiders who can pretty much blitz through everything. But these pros are not in every LFR & arguably while they might speed up each phase of a fight, you are still likely to experience most of the mechanics in each phase & and these – for me anyway – mean I must give the encounter my total attention. Even concentrating so hard I ground my teeth to dust I died in the Iron Reaver encounter and I’ve felt totally frazzled in the others. This may say more about my ability than LFR but I can’t be on my own here (surely –  please say there are others like me!). One reason LFR exists is so that people like me (with less ability than others) have a chance to experience some raid content at a level I/they can deal with. I would say LFR gives me that.

As a side note: this doesn’t mean other people are not coasting on the back of the more experienced/better geared raiders who are running LFR. This probably explains all the raging and arguing. The pros get angry with all the poor abilities/presumed lack of effort on show. They have done this at a harder level – why can’t the rest of us get it? Are we all AFK (no we are not – but some might be). But in any case none of this is specifically an LFR problem – it’s a people problem. People could choose not to coast & people could choose not to get angry. Everyone could choose to  give 100% effort and help/guide where they can. That people don’t is a sad indictment of people. But not necessarily a sad indictment of LFR.

2. Onto the gear argument – people run it just for gear & don’t put any effort in and don’t deserve the gear.  I’ve run Highmaul a number of times in one week just to get more experience with the encounters and to practice healing.  I know I might be atypical here (again) but surely I’m not the only one doing this. I want the practice. And while I know I’m healing LFR & not a Normal Raid, for me there are still numerous challenges – raid boxes to look at and understand, an addon to get used to, mouseovers to practice etc.  So LFR offers more benefits than mere loot  – LFR gives me a place to practice abilities I can’t practice when I quest alone. And while I know there are always 5 mans I don’t feel confident enough for them yet – one mess up on my part could cause a wipe & I’m not ready for that.

3. The final argument – LFR does not prepare anyone for raiding nor does it encourage anyone to raid.  Again for me having completed a few LFRs as a healer I am now curious enough to read up on the normal raid equivalents to find out how the mechanics differ. So eg I read about what you need to do if you are on the Chain Hurl team in the Kargath encounter and I consider what it might be like to be a healer on a Normal Raid dealing with this. If it was a team of like minded folk (i.e. nice, supportive & friendly) and there was time to plan out the approach, agree the strategy & also agree that heads can stay firmly on necks if there is  a wipe, would I be interested in trying? I find myself thinking yes maybe I would like to try this out.  I am interested. I might do it. So Blizzard perhaps chalk me up as a partial success (only partial mind – I still have to be brave enough to do it). Again LFR is (for me) working as intended.

Indeed the only bit of LFR that definitely isn’t working for me is the Tourist Mode idea – ie LFR as a way to let casuals see the end of the story. In LFR  I am normally concentrating so hard at what I’m doing that I do not take in any of the story & barely notice any part of my surroundings. And when there’s a cut scene I escape out of it so that I’m not left behind. I really do think that story completion should happen elsewhere. I take in far more of the story when I’m questing alone.

But back to LFR. Is it real raiding ? Umm no – not if you only class raiding as what you get in a Normal Plus raid.  But who cares? Is this not semantics? Would everyone feel better if it wasn’t called Looking for Raid but was instead something else – Looking for Fun perhaps (although that could be embarrassingly misconstrued!)? Perhaps Looking for Practice which would at least convey the idea that this could be approached as a form of training – not training for being in a raid team per se (since you’re not going to get the raid team communication/strategy side in LFR), but more a type of Proving Grounds for using skills/abilities within a larger group setting (I mean all those people on the screen – takes some getting used to) and  for dealing with mechanics that give a flavour or the type of thing you will get in a raid. LFR could be seen as a way to start flexing muscles that do not get flexed on solo quests or on 5 mans. Perhaps LFR is the raiding equivalent of a Couch to 5K running programme, with Normal Plus raids being the 10K, Half Marathon & Marathon equivalent. It could be said that LFR, like a good Couch to 5K running programme gets you out there doing something different and flexing muscles that haven’t been flexed before (or in years). But like training for a marathon, normal raiding is a whole different ballgame that demands a different level of commitment, dedication and focus.

In summary: I would argue that with the right frame of mind & intention LFR can be an experience that makes someone at least curious enough about proper raiding to think about what it would mean to join a proper raid team. I know this because it has happened to me. Would I be thinking about all this had I not tried LFR? No. And that for me is why LFR is worth doing and worth keeping. It’s got me off the couch.

 

 

It’s not me it’s you (okay it might be me)

I’ve been playing Kolento’s Dragon Priest deck recently with everything bar Voljin (which I don’t have – I’ve replaced with Sylvanas) and it had been working out quite well up until now. But while I managed to go from rank 17 to 13 with this deck, yesterday morning was a total disaster darling (yes I’m channelling Craig Revel Horwood now – it’s that bad).

Game 1

I started against a Mage (never a favourite – too many unexpected fiery things coming right at my face). I had Power Word Shield, Azure Drake and Twilight Whelp in my starting hand. I kept all three so that I could play a buffed Twilight Whelp on turn 1 and give it some extra heath on turn 2. Yes – naive little me. It was only as I gently placed my baby whelp on the board that I remembered Frost Bolt (it’s not just the fiery stuff you have to be afraid of). The Mage had it hand (of course he did) & coined it out. Bye bye little whelp – I miss you dearly.

I had no turn 2 move & drew Velen’s Choice. Great.

The Mage had the perfect hand. He/She played Sorcerer’s Apprentice (spell costs reduced by 1) & a cheap as chips Mirror Image. I had a Holy Nova in hand. I’d show these Mirror Images what they were up against on turn 5 – yes turn 5!! – a lifetime away.  Biding my time (frustratingly) I played a Dark Cultist that was promptly dispatched by a cost reduced Flame Cannon. Cheapskate Mage then cast another reduced price spell (Arcane Intellect) & drew 2 cards. I drew Cabal Shadow Priest which (a)can’t do anything until turn 6 (b)can’t do anything much unless your opponent has an under 3 attack minion. Terrific. I could only sit there & heal myself – always the mark of the defeated on turn 4. By now the Mage had a Mana Wyrm down, a Knife Juggler & had played Unstable Portal (making the 1:3 Mana Wyrm a 2:3).  I Holy Nova’d on turn 5 (finally) but of course could not kill the Wyrm. This turned out to be a real shame (for me) as the Mage then brought out an unexpected Windspeaker (damn you Unstable Portal) & both windfuried the Mana Wyrm and cast some spell so they now had a 3/1 Mana Wyrm who could hit me for 6. I was too stunned to do much on my turn 6 apart from play Azure Drake & Power Word: Shield while giving my Cabal Shadow Priest a rather disappointed look.

I then glanced away from my computer for barely a second & when I looked back there seemed to be another Windspeaker on the board (what? how?)  and two Mirror Images. My health was down to 7. I still can’t figure out what happened. Since I didn’t have a dragon worth talking about (apart from the Welsh dragon that is forever in my heart) I could not usefully play my Blackwing Corruptor so I instead played something rubbish – I forget what – and on the next turn the Mage windfuried me to death. Thank you sir.

My rank – down from 13 to 14 just like that.

Game 2

Undeterred (but down at mouth) I went  in again. Paladin this time – and a Secrets Pally at that who coined a secret on turn 1. I had Shadow Word Pain, Azure Drake & Velen’s Choice in hand (not my choice – in a fit of pique I had thrown the initial offering back into the pot). I had nothing to play on turn 1 or turn 2. He played Muster for Battle on turn 3.  I refused to Shadow Word Pain a paltry 1:1 and instead healed myself  (take that Pally chops). He played Warhorse Trainer, turning all his 1:1s into 2:1s – awesome. Meekly I Shadow Word Pained one of them but of course he had the Avenge secret up anyway and the 3/2 buff kicked in. In return I kicked myself. By now shockingly I was 18 health (when did that happen?). I played Azure Drake (nothing else in hand but in playing this card I then lost the dragon that could have helped the Wyrmrest Agent I drew from Azure Drake – oh the irony  – Alanis quick add this to your song). More shockingly I was now 8 health and he had 8 on the board & a 1 damage weapon. Yikes. I healed myself to 10, he hit me silly for 9 and then played a cheeky Loatheb (I was too beaten to even think of playing a spell). I eventually got the right combo to play a 4 health taunt but that was all rather pointless and he despatched it & me quickly. Game over.

Game 3

Last one of the morning – a Hunter. He opened with Webspinner. I had Wyrmrest Agent but no dragon. I played it anyway just to do something. He played a secret (ah another secret deck) & I killed the Webspinner. The secret didn’t trigger so I assumed  (wrongly as it turns out) that he had Explosive Trap. He played a stealthy Jungle Panther. I hit face with my dragon & discovered his secret was Bear Trap leaving me facing a 3/3 taunted bear. I dealt with it via a quick Shadow Word Pain. The bear howled but was quickly replaced by a tricky Piloted Shredder. I put Velen’s Choice on the Wyrmrest Agent & killed the Piloted Shredder to reveal a Mad Bomber. He then played a Ram Wrangler  – a new card to me but before I had time to ooh and aah the wrangler has summoned another beast and oh no a bloody Tundra Rhino which enabled his minions to clear mine & several points of my health. I used Blackwing Corruptor for three damage on the Ram Wrangler (an Azure Drake in hand). My cunning plan was to Holy Nova his 2 health minions once I got the mana. He Kill Commanded my Blackwing Corruptor and then his minions hit me for 6 & his Eaglehorn Bow for another 3 and in a blink of an eye I had only 12 health. I finally got a chance to use my Holy Nova which raised me back to 14 but it was all too late in the day. He whispered a secret, I played Wyrmrest Agent and Azure Drake (in that order thankfully – I have done it the wrong way round before now thereby losing my chance at a taunt. Doh). He mercilessly used his hero power on my face bringing me down to 10.  I shrank one of his minions (thank you Shrinkmeister dude) to ensure that it didn’t kill my minion when I killed it (clever huh), but when I then went face I triggered explosive trap (ah there you are my old friend) & there was total and utter carnage (again with the Craig Revel Horwood) on my side of the board. I played Dark Cultist but he had his bow,  his hero power, a Quick Shot & a silence. Say no more.  Goodnight & thank you.

Conclusion

No more Dragon priest. I can’t win anything at this level with this deck. It’s the deck’s fault though. And a bit of bad RNG too. And maybe the phases of the moon.

Update

This morning in a fit of “if you can’t beat them join them” I pulled together a Secrets Paladin deck and amazingly won – 2 matches out of 5 that is. And 2 of my losses were to … you guessed it – a Dragon Priest deck. Aaargh. I have to admit it – I think it might be me after all.

Virtual Blizzcon – here I come (maybe)

Getting very excited about Blizzcon & strongly considering buying a Virtual Ticket. Even my toes are tingling (although that might be because the boiler is due a service). Now I know some people have decried (hysterically rent their garb more like) the lack of WoW stuff at Blizzcon but to me (a)it seems pretty much the same as normal – although I’ve not got any graphs to prove this (slacker yes) (b)it is Blizzcon so has to cover all Blizzard games not just WoW and  (c)umm  can’t think of a third one – I’ll distract you by singing until we get to the next paragraph.

Lalalalalalalaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Ok. Hope you enjoyed that. Anyhoo I am a big Hearthstone fan (& total pro within the hardcore level 17 circuit) so for me the mix of WoW & Hearthstone stuff is perfect. I’m unlikely to spend much time watching the other game segments. I’ve never done a lot  in Starcraft & Diablo, am only mildly interested in Overwatch & while I have enjoyed Heroes whenever I’ve played it, I haven’t played it much. So for me its going to be the WoW & Hearthstone items that draw me in – with the real toe tingling excitement reserved for the Hearthstone championship (I loved it when little Fruitbat won last year  – I’m such a fan)

I am particularly looking forward to the following:-

  1. The opening ceremony – I will be all snuggled up on the sofa bed watching this  (I bring it out for special occasions – I believe the Queen does the same). I wonder if any big announcement will be made? I know most people think there will be nothing big for WoW but I, the lone voice in the Azeroth wilderness, continue to hold out the hope that they will announce WoW is going F2P. Now I know there are no doubt (a)zillions of reasons why this will never happen (b)why this would a bad bad thing (c)why this could mean the END OF THE WORLD (OF WARCRAFT) AS WE KNOW IT but (a)I don’t like spending money every month (b)I don’t like spending money every month (c)I DON’T LIKE SPENDING MONEY EVERY MONTH. But I love the game & feel sad without it (boohoo poor me and my first world problems). And let’s not talk about WoW tokens – they don’t work for me. I have never been able to make much gold – I think I must lazily vendor all the good stuff or something. I basically make enough gold to get by but not enough to buy a token. Heyho. F2P please – you can do it just for me if you want.
  2. The Legion overview – excited to know more about this & finding out likely timescales (assuming these are realistic & not just made up on the night to get the crowd cheering).
  3. The Hearthstone “What’s Next?”  item – oooh interesting, although I’m not sure I can handle much more new stuff in Hearthstone right now. I’m still getting my head around TGT. And I don’t even know what I would want in the way of new stuff – I’m very happy with the game exactly as it is. What I definitely don’t want is anything in the way of in-game chat. There’s already too much BM with just the limited emotes available. I do not want those asshats to be allowed to string a sentence together (assuming they can). I like my Hearthstone like I like my men – silent and defeated (a joke dear husband, a joke)
  4. Hearthstone World Championship & Exhibition match –  needs no words – just excitement & popcorn (even though it will be crazy o’clock in the morning when I’m watching this I’m sure I’ll be awake enough to stuff some popcorn in my mouth – or a pizza).

Somewhat less excited about:-

  1. All the contests – not for me. Crowdsourced entertainment. The sort of thing you have to be there & drunk on atmosphere (or something else) to enjoy.
  2. The cinematic segments – if these are basically “Look at how we made this – don’t we do a good cut scene?” then they are not for me. I expect Blizzard to be able to do a good cutscene and I’m not their mother. I’m not giving them a pat on the back and extra pocket money for a well designed orc, even if they managed to colour inside the lines.
  3. Epic Cosplay & You – this sounds like a “Look at how this person made a super duper Naga outfit. You can do it too with three cardboard boxes, four hundred rolls of toilet paper and one partially sedated goldfish.” Not for me. I have better things to do with cardboard boxes and toilet paper (although admittedly have yet to find a way for the goldfish to earn its keep).
  4. Anything introduced with the words “Deep Dive” –  business jargon that has no place in a games convention. Plus totally insensitive to the goldfish.

One last thought:-

Just noticed it says Opening Ceremony on Main Stage, but Simulcast Ceremony in Halls A, B, C & Arena. Ooh Simulcast. This must be a new Sims-like game. How come nobody else has noticed this. Blizzard Watch – I demand an article speculating on what it means post haste. It’s going to be Blizzard does the Sims I just know it. Now that’s something I would be interested in. I’m definitely going to buy a Virtual Ticket for that. Money well spent.

 

Showing the love – updated blogroll

I temporarily removed my blogroll when I restarted blogging a few weeks ago as it was about a year out of date and some very fine bloggers had stopped blogging. However, since an equal number of very fine bloggers have started blogging or have recently come to my blogging attention (& incidentally I’ve now overused the word “blogging” so much it’s lost all meaning) I wanted to update the blogroll and reinstall it to its rightful place in the widget column over there ——->

Here’s a quick overview (although I assume most of you are familiar with most, if not all, of these fine blogs):-

The Ancient Gaming Noobhttps://tagn.wordpress.com/ – in depth posts that cover a number of different games including recently an Eve Online post that reminded me of just how much that game blew my mind.

Hardcore Casualhttp://syncaine.com/ – a blog I read to find out about games I’d otherwise never know anything about (so thank you for getting me out of the virtual house)

Bio Breakhttps://biobreak.wordpress.com/ – this blog made me want to play Wildstar (although I’m still resisting) but also covers lots of other games (look at the category menu – don’t I feel inadequate now?!)

Tobold’s Bloghttp://tobolds.blogspot.co.uk/ – lots to read here – the sort of blog that always distracts me from what I should be doing.

Healing the Masses – http://www.healingthemasses.net/ – in depth posts that give me some insight into current issues in the wider MMO world. This makes me feel all knowledgeable & stuff (wasted of course on real life friends and relatives  – they ignore me now).

Gamer by Designhttp://talarian.blogspot.co.uk/ – interesting blog by someone who has also developed his own game. Another blogger (there are a few on this list)  that makes me feel slightly ashamed of my own rather stream of consciousness approach to writing. These bloggers do research, analytics & graphs. I feel like I’ve over achieved if I check something on Wowhead.

In An Agehttp://inanage.com/ – writing about Hearthstone and so a definite winner for me (I really should write more Hearthstone posts – I’m sure everyone’s dying to read about my adventures at level 17  – Blizzcon here I don’t come). It was from In An Age that I today found out about the Warsong Commander card nerf (bye bye Patron Warrior – I never knew how to play you).

The Grumpy Druidshttp://thebigbearbutt.com/ – rediscovering this now I’m into my druid. There’s also a podcast – how’s that for value?

Atherne’s Adventureshttp://athernesadventures.blogspot.co.uk/ –  recently discovered. Covers a few different MMOs from a perspective I like.

Some people will never leave my blogroll.  These include Tome of the Ancient (https://tomeoftheancient.wordpress.com/), The Redridge Chronicles

(https://redridgechronicles.wordpress.com/)  and Sheep the Diamond (https://sheepthediamond.wordpress.com/ The same goes for Alt:ernative Chat (dilemma of the day – should I or shouldn’t I include the colon?) – http://www.alternative-blog.net/   – my hat is well and truly off for the sheer volume & quality of her writing there and at Gamers Decrypted too (http://gamersdecrypted.com/).

The latter four bloggers were all in my blogroll from the start. I also continue to owe nearly all my visitors to Blessing of Kings (http://blessingofkings.blogspot.co.uk/)  – so thank you Blessing of Kings :)

Other blogs I like include gamingsfwordpress.com (GamingSF), marathalbt.wordpress.com (Rambling thoughts about WoW), moonshinemansion.wordpress.com (Moonshine Mansion – covers Wildstar) and taintedsouls.wordpress.com (Cathedral of Tainted Souls – who has also left some really great comments on this blog).

I have kept the link to The Bossy Pally & the Wooden Spoon (https://bossypally.wordpress.com/) – I think it was the first WoW blog I ever read (back when I was playing Terema the Pally  – now 85 and stranded in Pandaria on a PvP server) and it was definitely the blog that made me want to start my own. Plus it still has the best name & header that I’ve ever seen.

So there you have it. My favourite blogs. I know I’ve probably forgotten someone – please forgive me if it’s you. And if I’m not reading you but should please leave a comment & I’ll drop by for a visit & a cuppa.

 

Whack A Mole Healing

I decided to try doing some healing on my Druid now that I’m too scared to play Balance. Sometime ago I managed to get Proving Ground Silver in my Restoration spec & so I know I could go off & try to Florence Nightingale it up in a Heroics, but  I’m no fool – there’s no way I’m up to that. I need a safe and supportive atmosphere to practice my healing. Therefore I decided to venture into LFR….

Actually it was fine. You couldn’t say it was safe or supportive – no one actually spoke. But no speaking means no criticism or abuse,  no “Frip is the useless one” (yes last week still stings) and I didn’t feel quite as exposed as I’d feel in a 5 man (i.e. it would not be an immediate & catastrophic wipe if I fell off a cliff at the exact moment the tank pulled – this has happened to me in the past).

It did start off a bit shaky though. When I first entered I could only see a few people. There was this big Npc stood right in front of me begging me to click him of course, but I was too scared to approach him or click anything in case I did something wrong. But something didn’t seem right. The chat box said a mage had conjured refreshments but I couldn’t see anything (& I always like joining in with the refreshments). So eventually I plucked up the courage to approach the Npc & of course I was meant to do this all along because he is the guy that sends you to the arena where as it turns out everyone had already gathered to have a picnic.  Classic start!

But from then on it was fine. I was using the default UI raid frames in the middle/bottom of my screen – tanks separated out on the left, then the healer column, and then 4 dps columns. It all seemed straightforward. I life bloomed & rejuvenated like a master (or a deranged gardener – you choose). I suspect I overused Wild Growth, didn’t dispel as quickly as I should have & was overly keen on using Tranquility just to see a  sea of green numbers filling up my screen. Anyway I was so happy with the way the first wing had gone that I immediately queued for the next bit & by the end of yesterday I’d done it all. I think I must have missed the Brackenspore bit though. I didn’t see any friendly mushrooms throughout the run and the dungeon guide had said to heal them up to get some buff or another. I was a bit on edge in case I forgot to do this (my immediate reaction whe I see a mushroom is never to heal it I must say). But anyway I didn’t see any.

But actually seeing things in LFR is a bit of a problem for me. During the raid I’m so busy focusing on the all the green bars that I’m not really aware of anything else going on. When DBM tells me that some enemy spell is on such & such a person I first panic, then struggle in vain to find said person amongst all the names. I’ve now made the boxes a bit bigger & ticked the box to show dispellable buffs but not sure it will help. By the time I’ve found the person in need the crisis has passed and they’re either dead or best friends with another healer and I’m off the Christmas card list. Similarly as I’m so raid box focused I don’t actually know where anyone is standing. Therefore if I need to go  to someone I don’t know where they are. And if the tanks go out of range I end up just running crazily towards the boss in the hope that will help me get the tanks back in range. It usually works (although some LFR bosses now have a restraining order out on me) but I know this won’t always be the case. I’m sure there’s a way of configuring the default UI raid frames to give me more help here, or maybe I need to use Grid (just downloaded it from Curse as it happens) to make things clearer? I need something to help me understand better what’s going on & who needs what. Until I do that I’m basically standing where I hope it’s safe, staring unblinkingly at everyone’s green bars & banging out heals as quickly as possible. It’s like an intense whack a mole session – fun yes but very very bad for the eyes.

 

Rotation Madness

After the debacle of my last dungeon run I decided to revisit Icy Veins to try & get to grips with my Balance Druid. While I know the last run was particularly bad because of the individuals involved I am still uncomfortable with my reliance on Bitten’s Druid Spellflash to play my Druid. I want to better understand the rotation.

So fortified with a strong coffee & a sugary pop tart I earlier sat down to study the Icy Veins guide – specifically the rotation page that can be found here:-

http://www.icy-veins.com/wow/balance-druid-pve-dps-rotation-cooldowns-abilities

It all started well enough. The intro reads:-

This guide has been reviewed and approved by Gapezilla, one of the best Balance Druids in the world, who raids in Encore, and whose stream you can watch on Twitch, and by Cyous, a high-end Balance Druid theorycrafter and retired raider, who raided in Promethean. You can follow him on Twitter.”

Well these guys must know what they’re doing. I’m clearly in safe paws here.

The guide begins:

Apply and maintain Moonfire and Sunfire on the target.

You should try to apply and refresh both DoTs when you are [at] their respective Peaks (Lunar Peak for Moonfire and Solar Peak for Sunfire), but this is not essential.

This end bit immediately troubles me. When job applications say something is desirable but not essential you know they’re using it to sort the wheat from the chaff. I don’t want to make the wrong call here. But on the whole it seems ok. I mean I know what a DoT is (and that group on Monday called me useless. Bah. Piffle.) Ok add me to the wheat pile sir.

Since Sunfire lasts considerably less than Moonfire and since it is only available when you are in a Solar Eclipse, you will have to refresh it before leaving Solar Eclipse (or right after entering it) in order to maintain full uptime on it.

Whoa there! You told me to apply & maintain both but are now telling me Sunfire isn’t available until I am in Solar Eclipse. This implies Moonfire is always available. But later on you say you can only apply each DoT when you are in its respective eclipse. So why are you singling out Sunfire here and giving me pause for thought (or is it Paws for though – heh heh)?

I digress. It goes onto say:-

Cast  Starsurge

You should cast Starsurge often enough to make sure that its charges are always rolling.

Rolling? Is this a technical term? I’m assuming it means always building up new charges rather than letting Starsurge sit back all maxed up with unspent charges? If so please say that. What’s with all this faddy “rolling” talk. I was born in the 70s. The only roll I know is Rock’n’Roll and even that was old school in my day.

Casting Starsurge in Lunar Eclipse will grant Lunar Empowerment, and casting it in Solar Eclipse will grant  Solar Empowerment (both buffs last 30 seconds).

30 seconds. Awesome. Note to self: must not waste it by dancing, however tempted.

You should always use up the charges provided by these buffs before re-casting Starsurge, so as not to waste any charges.”

Sorry I was dancing. What charges would that be then? Not Starsurge charges as you’ve said not to use Starsurge. Do you mean Lunar/Solar Peak charges? Is that even a thing? 

Later on it says:

…you will have to make sure to use up all the charges of the current buff before re-casting Starsurge in the same eclipse. For example, if you have 2 stacks of Solar Empowerment, you should not cast Starsurge again in Solar Eclipse, because the stacks will be overwritten. We cannot stress enough how vital it is never to overwrite an Empowerment buff.

Oh god I’m shaking. I never realised how dangerous this is. I might OVERWRITE AN EMPOWERMENT BUFF. Do you know what that means? No? Thank God. Not just me then. But it’s serious stuff. It’s in bold & everything.

You should cast Starsurge as you are approaching a Lunar or Solar Peak so that you can cast the buffed spells at (or close to) the Peak.

More bold. My nerves can’t take this. Even “Peak” is capitalised. Perhaps they’re over egging it though – like when they tell you not to use a mobile phone in intensive care (a bit of texting by the bedside never did anyone any harm my grandmother used to say – in fact she said it while she was in intensive care as it happens, but then her machine went all funny and they took away my phone).

IcyVeins continues:-

Thanks to Shooting Stars, you will sometimes get a free charge of Starsurge

Awww thanks Shooting Stars. You shouldn’t have. Really you shouldn’t have. Take it back. I don’t know what to do with the ones I already have.

Cast Wrath while you are in a Solar Eclipse

Cast Starfire while you are in a Lunar Eclipse.

Simple dimple. Even I can do this bit. On a good day. Perhaps I’ll just ignore the earlier stuff & spam these ones. Just kidding. I know I have to apply DoTs when available, use Starsurge to keep it rolling, don’t use Starsurge when Lunar & Solar empowerment buffs give me some other charge (I trust some icon will flash at this point), but do use it just before/after entering eclipse to get said buffs. And of course don’t stand in fire, try to be a bit social by typing in chat, grow 8 more hands and another pair of eyes. Easy peasy.

But then just as I’m getting confident Icy Veins blows it all by saying:

This is the basic rotation cycle. There are certain subtleties with regards to eclipses that you will need to understand. This is a very important aspect, which we discuss in our detailed rotation section.

Oh god. I need more cofffee. That was the simple stuff?

I look at their advice for the opening rotation:

The ideal opening rotation at the start of the fight is as follows:

Cast Incarnation: Chosen of Elune 3 seconds before the pull.

Note to self: tell PUG tank I need to be alerted 3 seconds before every boss pull. That’ll go down well.

Prepot and cast Starsurge 1.5 seconds before the pull.

Prepot? I’m assuming this is tech talk for swig a potion. I’ll stick to my coffee thanks. And 1.5 seconds – crikey that’s precise. Even heart surgeons allow for some flex in their timings (or Granny’s did – another reason for the intensive care machine mishap perhaps – so can I have my phone back now please? I have a funeral to arrange.)

Back to Ivy Veins:-

In case you are closer to the boss than maximum range when you begin the fight, use Starsurge 1 second before the pull, instead.

Whaa? Firstly comma overload. Secondly I never stand anywhere other than max range. Often in fact I’m out of range checking Recount & wondering why my DpS is so low. Thirdly – 1 second? Where did my 0.5 go? I’m just going to ignore this bit. This is balance rotation at a quantum level.

I skim further down.

Astral Communion spell … accelerates your Balance Energy cycle by 300% for 4 seconds. This ability is channeled, and it makes it easy to quickly get into a desired Eclipse, if for some reason you want to do this.

That last bit is vague isn’t it? Why would I want to pick one over the other? Until I’m advised differently my decision will be based on where I am in my monthly cycle (fits with the overall theme I think).

In order to keep up Sunfire, you need [to] refresh it shortly before leaving Solar Eclipse, or … sometimes you will need to refresh it immediately on re-entering Solar Eclipse to prevent it from dropping off. This is acceptable.

Thank god. I thought I’d made a major faux pas the last time I did that (like the time I ate my soup with a fish knife)

There no longer is any real restriction about when it is too soon to refresh a DoT.

Good stuff. Those restrictions were onerous. I’ll just spam away. I think I’m getting the hang of this balance stuff.

If you are using Euphoria as your Tier 7 talent, then there is a slight change in how your DoTs should be refreshed. Namely, Moonfire only needs to be refreshed every other  Lunar Peak, and  Sunfire only needs to be refreshed every  Solar Peak (instead of casting it twice per cycle).

What? No! Just shut up, shut up, shut up.  That’s it. It’s over. I’m out. I’ll never get the hang of this and I’m never looking at the sun or moon again. Cat form here I come. Clawing, ripping & shredding. I can do that (you should see me eat chicken). Just nobody mention combo points. I really don’t want to know.

Slow, confused and fumbly

Yesterday my husband had to report three players for their behaviour in a timewalking dungeon. It’s the usual story. It was our 4th of the 5 timewalking dungeons we needed to do for the quest. The other three had been fine & we’d enjoyed seeing the older dungeons. In this one (Shattered Halls) the third Dps started by saying,”Let’s do a speed run yes?” Two trash mobs into the run and the same Dps was demanding “More Dps please”. I’ve never understood this. My husband & I were doing everything we could –  full rotations. It’s not like we were only using say half our spells and abilities for the fun of it. Anyway we carried on & the first two bosses were fine. The tank and dps talked non stop to each other during the run – about gear tiers and the hey day of vanilla etc. Husband & I kept silent – we were trying to focus on what we doing & in all honesty I probably didn’t want to draw any attention to ourselves. We are not high ilevel – I am 640, husband is 635. I know it’s scaled for Timewalking dungeons but possibly the rogue was wearing older sets from BC time & had set bonuses? I didn’t inspect him but he & tank were talking a lot about gear sets. Certainly he was doing a lot more damage than us. Maybe he was just better (perish the thought!)

Anyway during the third boss fight about three quarters through I pulled aggro & the boss started attacking me. The dps & tank started saying how useless I was. By this time my husband was typing a response to defend me. I begged him not to. I hate conflict. I just wanted us to get through the run. I somehow survived the boss’s onslaught (healing myself ) but by then they were calling out to me,  “Are you there, are you there?” I wouldn’t respond – I did not want to get drawn into a slanging match (plus I would be no good at it – I cannot fight & type). They then moved onto husband & accused him of being a bot. Again I wouldn’t let him respond (though now I wish I had). They kept on goading him & then booted him. At this point I did speak up – I said he was my husband (ie a real person) & I was going to report them. They laughed & called it a bot marriage & then said we should have spoken up. I said why should we when you have insulted us, we can’t all be as uber as you, we are just trying to gear up. At this point they booted me.

Husband immediately took down their names & submitted a ticket to Blizzard. I first tried to talk him out of it but he was insistent, saying this sort of behaviour is unacceptable. Blizzard have responded to the ticket to say they agree (that this sort of behaviour is unacceptable, not that I’m useless and husband’s a bot) & they are looking into it further. I assume from that they will check the logs? I don’t know what will happen next & suppose I never will.

I get that our Dps wasn’t good enough for this group but we were doing our best. We just wanted to run five dungeons, possibly get some gear and complete the quest. We did not speak because they were insulting us and we did not want to make it worse. I’ve seen these things degenerate into slanging matches in the past & it’s not nice. I know some people will say only do dungeons with friends/guildmates. But that’s not always an option & why should this be the case anyway? There should be a bare minimum of civility in all dungeons regardless of people’s skill and ability. Some runs will have people of different ability. Some runs will be slow. Some will have wipes. It happens. Why can’t we all just be patient with each other? Why has everything got to be a race? And in any case all this unnecessary drama usually slows the run down (the tank died shortly after booting husband and just before booting me). Surely it’s much quicker if we all just get on with it. And if someone really can’t tolerate the varying ability in LFG then perhaps they should group up with their friends/guildmates and do the run their way. Take their uberness out of the LFG gene pool for which they are clearly too good.

Or maybe there’s another way … Blizzard please please can there be an LFG box for poor dpsers like me & husband who just want some fun. This box would say “Tick here if you are slow/confused/low geared and and a tad fumbly but want to do a dungeon.” I would tick this box. There would be another box for other people to tick (kindly souls) that would say, “I am happy to be grouped up with someone slow, confused, low geared and fumbly.”  Then all us “fumbly box” tickers could play together in a slow, confused & fumbly way. Everyone in the group would know exactly what they had signed up for so there would be no judgement or rebuke, just patience, tolerance & fun. Please Blizzard – we need this box. I suspect there are many people in Azeroth who do not have a friend/guild network to draw on & end up missing out on the dungeon side of WoW because of experiences like the one I had yesterday. But if we could easily find each in the world by ticking a box then we might never feel harassed or bullied again (and added bonus for all the super duper awesome dpsers out there – they would never have to see us again).

I’m still shook up by what happened. What little confidence I was slowly rebuilding is gone again. I went to bed upset last night & that’s not what I want from this game. Just when I thought things were different I realise that nothing is different. Plus ca change and all that. I’m sad today.

 

 

Mage Fever

I try not to regret too much in WoW – I already regret too much in real life. I try to stick to the onwards and upwards philosophy. Yes I wasted all that time trying to level a Paladin tank through PuG groups but it was character building. However, I’m increasingly struggling with my decision to turn my mage Seashell into a Horde.

Seashell was my main back in MoP and I loved playing her. I even did a couple of proper raids in Cataclysm (although by MoP time I was only comfortable – if you can call it that – doing LFR). But then news of WoS came & I decided I wanted a Horde character for the expansion. After much soul searching I decided to change factions – Seashell the Human became Seashell the Undead. I admit toon vanity meant I was a little uncomfortable with her new look (the hunch, the spine, the chain smoker voice ) but I figured I’d get used to it. I had my Horde. With the WoD level 90 boost I got my Night Elf Druid to level 90. There – two level 90s to play with.

But the problem was I never went back to Seashell the Horde. I levelled the druid to 100, did some garrison stuff, started the Khadgar ring questline and then pretty much stopped playing. I never went in with Seashell – she still hasn’t even visited Draenor.

And now I miss her. But I miss the human Seashell not the Undead stranger I currently have in my character menu. I miss how things were with us. “You’ve changed Seashell”, I say, when I look at her. “Damn right,” she croaks back, “And never forget who’s fault this is. You pushed the button.” Yes, our relationship is rather fractured to say the least. To try to appease her I logged in as Seashell during the pet battle bonus event (plus her teleport helps me lug the pets around more easily). But I spent ages studying my portals with a bemused look on my face. Where was Darnassus? Finally I remembered I was Horde (Bravetank the Clueless – new in game title). When I did remember I teleported to Orgirimmar but feared attack at every turn, Orgrimmar is not my home. Stormwind is. Seashell the Undead might as well be dead – I just can’t play her,

So I want Seashell back – the human Seashell. But £22.00 for a faction change. I changed her once, now I want to change her back. She also moved realms once (I started her on a PvP realm – not a good idea given my “bunny in the headlights” approach to PvP). I have already paid for this game and all its expansions and  of course I pay a monthly fee too. How much more am I going to throw at this game?

But hold on – just had a thought. I could realm change her (I would also like a high level character on Argent Dawn where some friends are) and faction change her at the same time. That’s £17.00 for a realm change and £22.00 for a faction change. Bargain. Not. Of course I could just level another Alliance Mage on AD but all of a sudden I really really want Seashell to be building up her Garrison NOW! Typical of today’s generation (although I’m from an older one) I want immediate gratification. I think I even want to start raiding. I don’t know where all this is coming from. I do have a virus that I can’t shake off so it could be the fever talking. But I am so tempted. First world problems I know. But they tell me I only have one life (or at least some people tell me that, others say I’m a reincarnated frog working out bad fly related karma)). Decisions, decisions. Wonder what the doctor would prescribe for mage fever? Probably a time out and some paracetemol before I press the button.

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