Friday, February 26, 2010

Awesome PUGs

Working together, can achieve awesome things.

After acquiring the Shadowforge Key then getting lost I decided to research BRD before my next attempt, and discovered there's a short cut you can take that omits about 75% of the Instance. You just need to go for a swim, in lava. If you don't unlock the Shadowforge Lock the gate on the Dark Iron Highway stays open and you can go straight through to Lord Incendius and the Black Anvil, which is where you leap off and start swimming. This is also the short & fast way to complete Attunement to the Core, which I did at the same time. I'm not sure it's required any more, but either way I still have it :)

Going this way brought me out in the Dark Iron Dwarf-infested room between Doom'rel and Magmus, and as Magmus is the last Boss before Emperor Thaurissan's room you can see how much of the Instance it cuts out. After finding the torch bearing Dark Iron Dwarves, defeating Magmus, and clearing the Mobs in the Emperor's room I decided that while I didn't have the quest I would still leave Moira alive. I don't know why, because not killing her first just prolonged the fight as she healed and buffed the Emperor, but he still went down and with his death I got both the BRD Achievement AND the Classic Dungeonmaster Achievement.

And a Gratz from Paaco who'd logged on without my noticing.

He was now 66 and with my Classic Dungeons now out of the way I joined him in Nagrand where we tackled the Ring of Blood quests. We were able to get to the final Boss before getting our faces melted, so we called for help. A 67 Hunter responded, along with a 65 Pally who offered to Tank. No offense, I told him, but I think I better do it ;)

Even with 4 of us Mogor was still not a push over, in fact he ended up killing not just the 65 Pally but myself as well. The Pally wisely didn't release, and he said he got the Quest Complete message, but after running back to his body and Rezzing the Quest now showed as Failed. So we did it again. This time we all survived.

I'd told my son that after I'd completed BRD he could play but with him now on his computer and Paaco wanting to run an Instance I decided the boy could wait a little while longer, and that's how we found ourselves in the Auchenai Crypts. The Run went smoothly enough except for one Wipe when someone got Feared into two packs and we suddenly had a whole lot more Mobs than we were prepared for. Then after returning to the Instance one of the DPS had Rez sickness. I don't know how they had it, they just did, and then they dropped group. But one DPS is quick & easy to replace and we were back up & running in no time. Paaco was a shade on the low side for Auchenai Crypts, so this, combined with completing the two quests I had for the Instance which I'd shared with him meant that by the time the Run was over he was just a couple of bars from dinging 67.

With that I handed my PC over to my boy, bid Paaco adieu, and went off to make dinner. I let the boy keep playing after dinner but kicked him off at 8pm (time for him to get ready for bed anyway :P) Paaco and I again joined forces but after talking once more to Behsten, regaining my XP bar, and turning in several quests I was now 70 and so our choice of Instances in the DF Tool were rather limited.

We wound up in Shadow Labs with a 68 Druid Healer and two other Death Knights (Paaco is also a DK). Now I lurve me a Druid Healer, so I was happy to see her, and I was even more pleased when after the initial exchange of pleasantries (Hi, hi, hi, hi, hi) the Druid announced, "Great. Shadow Labs. Probably my least favorite of all the Instances in this game."

Was that a complete sentence? Oh...my...god! Someone in a Random PUG actually typed a complete sentence!

I quickly responded with, "I'm actually glad to hear that because that seems to indicate you know this Instance quite well, whereas I do not."

"I supposed that's one way of looking at it," she replied, and with that, we were off. Paaco knows what he's doing, and the other two DKs also seemed to know what they were doing. I'm really getting the hang of being a Tankadin and the Druid knew what she was doing, and was quite chatty to boot, and not just with instructions on what to do, tricky encounters, etc.

It was a very good group considering it was a Random PUG. Quite possibly the best I've been in to date. I've had some good experiences so far but this one was literally the very antithesis of the PUG from Hell. I won't say we didn't encounter problems because we did, every Run has them, even if it's just a random stealthed Mob that jumps the Healer. But we prevailed and when it was all done and we'd all earned the SLabs Achievement, nobody was in a hurry to drop group and everyone had only positive things to say about our time together.

"Anyone up for another Run?" asked someone, and everyone was. Nobody wanted to leave, and why would they? We were working well together, we were enjoying ourselves, and those kinds of PUGs are hard to come by.

It was quickly agreed that we'd Take 5 for bio, drink, smoke, etc, and when everyone returned we jumped back into the queue. Not that we were actually queued, it was more the Druid selected an assortment of Instances and let the DF Tool pick one at Random. And it chose Shadow Labs again :P

Somehow the Druid canceled the selection (not sure how) but we were given another choice, this time Botanica.

"I love Botanica!" squealed the Druid (go figure ;), and that clinched it.

By the time the Run was over I'd decided I liked it, too. But I also enjoyed Shadow Labs because the Boss fights in both Instances were more than just your standard Tank & Spank, they had variety. They threw a few curveballs to keep things interesting.

And did Warp Splinter, Bot's final Boss, really make things interesting?

Did he what! For a Tank his fight is business as usual, but for our three DKs they were running all over the place trying to bring down the Treants the Boss kept Summoning before they could get in to Heal him. Unfortunately quite a few made it in, and just as it seemed we were wearing the big guy down...pop! He'd get Healed, for as much as 25-40K at a time, every 45-60 seconds. That's a tough barrier to overcome for a group a little on the low side. And we didn't. We wiped.

That was when we discovered a neat trick with the DF Tool when you're in a group and have been assigned an Instance. You can click the Eye on your Minimap and an option comes up "Teleport to Instance" and it takes you straight back in. I don't know if it works if you're dead or not, but as you actually get GY Rez'd sans Rez Sickness) after dying inside Tempest Keep it definitely worked in our favor. That was a good thing for Paaco because at 67 the slack bastard (that's an Aussie term of endearment ;) still does not yet have his Flying Mount :P

Back inside we rebuffed, discussed strategies, and decided that when the Treants spawned all three DKs needed to lay off the Boss DPS and go hunting. That worked for a while (and this was a loooong fight) but with Warp Splinter at around 30K the Druid went OOM, and yet somehow I stayed alive. At about 20K I was crossing my fingers (not literally. Hard to Tank like that.) until some Treants got through and delivered a 25K Heal. On top of an earlier 40K Heal this can be rather demoralizing. And yet we still stayed in the game and I still stayed alive.

Slowly we wore the big guy down while Treants spawned, and got picked off. With Warp Splinter at about 20K again one of the DKs rushed in and started laying into him and his health started dropping faster. Keep in mind this is a 72 Elite Boss and my DPS were 67 & 68. Being 4-5 levels lower means a lot of their swings were missing. Down to 10K. The end was in sight. Stay on those Treants, I whispered, not daring to even type. Like the Druid I'd been OOM myself for a while now and was relying on my Blessing of Sanctuary to top it back up enough for a Holy Shield or a Hammer of the Righteousness.

Tank OOM. Healer OOM. Three Deathknight DPS 5 levels lower than the Boss, being diverted from DPS to stop him from getting Heals.

It may not sounds like it, but this was actually a really fun fight.

I'm not saying it was relaxing and a walk in the park, far from it. This was the balls to the wall fight where you have a chance at winning, not necessarily a good chance, but it's there and you know it's possible but you need to go all out to make it happen. Is it really a game if you have to work for your rewards? Is it really fun? Hell yeah, it is!

I've killed the four Hunter Demons. I remember each fight, or more specifically, I remember each successful attempt. I remember some of the Raid Boss encounters in which I've taken part. Not all of them, they weren't all memorable. But standing there victorious with the toppled Ancient lying in front of us? Knowing it only happened because 5 people were able to work together to overcome not an impossible task but a difficult one. This is a good memory, and this is why we play. For moments like this. The rewards are nothing but bits & bytes. All we defeated was a computer program. But the memories are real. The feelings are real, and the elation and rush from 'winning' is real. Even if we did nothing more than 'beat' a computer program, it still felt good.

"Anyone up for another Run?" someone asked.

If the group consensus was 'Yes' I was prepared to call in sick (and I actually am fighting off a cold, and my Boss knows it) but the replies came back. Got work in 6 hours, 4 hours, etc., and with that we all parted ways, knowing if we ever do Run together again it will be pure luck, for while the DF Tool allows Cross-server grouping, the ability to add Cross-server Friends to your List is not yet in the game.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

WoW,...now available offline

A spin-off discussion from Tobold's Blog re: Ubisoft's DRM which allegedly prevents you from playing Assassin's Creed 2 if you don't have an active internet connection.

What if you could play WoW offline, then when you went back online the server brought your server character into par with your locally stored character?

Now obviously there would be limitations to what you could do offline. Clearly you couldn't Raid while you were offline, or do BGs, or even Solo an Instance, and the Farming of Mats, etc, would also be off limits. Basically your character would be restricted to in-City activities only, again with a few exceptions such as no buying items from the Auction House.

But why couldn't you access your Bank? Or use any Mats you happen to have on-hand to craft some items, or level your First Aid or cooking skill? Maybe you could even do a spot of Fishing. Those are all activities that would be hard pressed to be considered game breaking if you could perform them while off-line, such as...Tuesday mornings, during maintenance.

Your Boss has given you the day off but it's Tuesday! The cunning bastard knows it's Patch Day, and he's still not happy he caught his daughter hitting on you at the office Christmas Party (and thank God that's all he caught her doing. Nudge nudge, wink wink. Saaaaay no more!) and normally you would be forced to spend your day doing something else, except now you can play offline. (And no, you can't. I'm just making this shit up.)

Now you can level Fishing like you'd always planned to, with no annoying /Trade chatter in the background to distract you.

And when the server comes back online your game detects this and there's a brief period of downtime (or however long it takes to download the patch, and upload & synch your offline and online characters) and now you're playing the online game.

Could it work? Would it work? Would it still be prone to people cheating?

We know people will cheat any chance they get, and having your character stored on your local PC instead of on a server in Irvine (or where ever they are) would only make things easier. Which is why the server side program would need to verify any changes between your offline character and online character, and any changes that seem unlikely or impossible would be erased. Epics do not come in Titanium Lockboxes, you know. And for that very reason, just like accessing the Auction House, the offline opening of Lockboxes or any other containers would also be verboten.

So, could WoW be played offline in a very limited capacity? And would Blizzard, or any MMO developer for that matter, be willing to implement some form of offline play in their game, for when their servers are down, or you just can't get online?

I've played WoW...

it was called DDO.

Is it just me, or does the Dungeon Finder Tool make WoW very much a DDO-like experience? Forget flying 5 zones, catching a boat, flying another 5 zones, then riding halfway across the 6th zone to the Instance. (You kids these days! You don't know how easy you have it! Now git orfa mah lawn!)

Now you just sign up for a Random Instance (or one of your choosing), and kick back in town while the group is formed. And when you get a group, forget flying! Shazam! Just like that, you're teleported straight to the Instance.

Ok, so in DDO you have to walk to the Instance, but they're often located within seconds (maybe a minute or two) of the town gate, if not within the town itself.

Now I'm not begrudging WoW's DF Tool, if anything I probably really have run more PUGs in the past couple of months than I did in 3 years of playing. But while you lament the disappearing social side of WoW, were PUGs where you really got that? Isn't/wasn't your Guild the social part of the game, while PUGs were just a necessary evil?

It used to be that you got Instance-related quests and you'd try to scrape together a group from among your Guildmates, try to get a PUG together, or eventually drop the damn thing when you realized you were never going to get a Maraudon group together, while the Quest Reward that looked so great 5 levels ago would just be vendor trash now.

Now you grab all the Instance quests you can get, sign up, and within minutes (in my case, being a Tank) you're up and running.

I don't know why the 80 Hunter was bitching in /Trade the other night. So what if it takes you 30 minutes to get into a Random group? That's what you get for rolling pure DPS. And who says you have to sit there in Dalaran on your arse for 30 minutes doing nothing anyway? Get out and do some Dailies while you're waiting and before you know it your queue will have popped.

But if you're sitting in town twiddling your thumbs, instead of getting out and playing the game you paid to play, you've got nobody to blame but yourself if you're bored. He was your typical teenager. You know the one. It's a glorious summer day and what's he doing? Siting on the couch, staring at the TV, complaining: "I'm bored. There's nothing on. There's nothing to do."

Then get outside and play! But stay orfa mah lawn!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Steve's Healer blew past, dinged 80, and left me eating dust at 69. (Don't go there. Do NOT go there!)

Paaco, my old Guildie who rolled a Death Knight, started a new job this week and hasn't been playing as much, so like Steve did to me I flew past him and when he logged on he was still 60 but I was now (then) 65. Now he's 65 and I'm 69, but I've been taking it slow these past few days giving him a chance to catch up.

A couple of times over the weekend we had all five Guildies logged in and when my sister said we should do an Instance I suggested Shattered Halls (which I needed for the two Honor Hold quests) but she really wanted to do a Heroic and felt I was too low for that (I was still 68 at the time). I didn't care to do SH on Heroic either but saw no reason why we couldn't blow through a regular Shattered Halls, but that wasn't going to happen either. Instead my sis told me to hurry up and level to 70. Instead I hit 69 then decided as Paaco and I would probably see each other in-game more than I would my sister & her hubby, I would delay my progress to let Paaco catch up. I'm not in a hurry to hit 70, or even 80, it's going to happen so why not enjoy the journey along the way?

Dire Maul was an Instance I'd only ventured into a couple of times over the past years, so I decided to make my way to Feralas and get reacquainted with it. I will say that while Atlas is not perfect it's still a great tool for finding your way around unfamiliar Instances.

I acquired the Crescent Key from the Imp Pusillin and slowly worked my way through DM East, then North. DM West had to wait another day as despite being 10 levels higher than the DM Ogres they still hit pretty freaking hard so both DM East & North had consumed a lot of my play time. When I got into DM West the next night it took almost as long again as both East and North, but eventually I killed both the required Bosses and got my Dire Maul Achievement.

Scholomance was next on the agenda and after running through the WPL cemetery and buffing the druid farming there I was glad I didn't invite him on my Scholo Run because I made the same mistake I recalled making a long time ago: I didn't have Scholo's Skeleton Key. As I was walking away an 80 Blood Elf came running up but either he didn't have the key or he wasn't opening the door with me standing there, so I still couldn't get in. One visit to WoWWiki and I was off on my quest to add yet another almost useless key to my key ring. Fortunately gold is easy to come by, and I'm a Miner, so the 2 Thorium Bars and 15g fee to forge the Skeleton key in Un'goro Crater's volcano were a mere drop in the ocean.

Like DM, Scholo also took some time to clear although I probably could have skipped many of the Mobs that I chose to kill. A catch to killing Scholo's final boss and earning the Achievement is the Boss will not spawn unless you kill all 6 of the mini Bosses, but they were nothing compared to the might of the Indestructible Tankadin and they were soon all defeated. Darkmaster Gandling was not a tough fight, and his Shadow Portal spell were more annoyances than anything else, so while it took some time the result was still inevitable. With Scholo out of the way that left just three Instances on the checklist: BRD, LBRS, & Stratholme.

During this time I'd also done several Terrokar Forest quests, as well as upgrading my gear via some Northrend quests, so I was now dangerously close to hitting 70. I hadn't seen Paaco on for a couple of days and I didn't want him to log on and see me at 70, but I also wanted to Tank Shattered Halls (I had two quests for there) and so I felt a visit to Stormwind Keep's Behsten was in order. Money changed hands, he did a little 'something'...and my XP bar disappeared.

And with that I signed up and jumped into Shattered Halls. It wasn't necessarily a fast run but it was problem free, except for the DK dropping out after the first Boss, and the Huntard pulling about 500dps as I found out later when I reviewed Recount. FWIW I did around 850 as a Pally Tank while #1 & #2, a Frost Mage and a Boomkin, pulled around 1450 and 1200 respectively. For my troubles I wound up with a pair of green boots that were actually upgrades to the Blue pair I was wearing from Ramparts, along with a pair of new pants I can't equip until I hit 70 (which won't happen until I visit Behsten again).

LBRS was next on the Menu, and with it being an Instance I had done many times (enough to get the UBRS Key) it didn't take long for me to work my way through it. In fact except for a few Pulls I skipped much of the Instance and Bosses. When I saw the door to UBRS was opened I didn't even bother keeping the Gems for the UBRS key (which isn't really a real key, so it's not like I need it for my collection). Of all the old 60 Instances I think LBRS was probably the easiest by far.

Stratholme, on the other hand, was a lesson in humility, for it contained my one weakness. Casters. In large numbers. Casters in large numbers who never use Melee, or only when silenced, and usually that's not for very long. And so I died. Here I was thinking I'd run through the place, tear it apart, maybe even do the 45-minute Baron Run, and instead I got my face melted. Several times. Just lovely. I did get the Key to the City, as well as the Mailbox keys, and eventually I made it to the Baron. I was a little concerned because with his large Mana bar I was expecting a very tough fight, but the Baron uses Melee a lot and that just tickles my Tankadin. I was a little puzzled when he finally went down and I didn't get the Stratholme Achivement, so I opened the Tab and checked and...Stratholme has another Boss, and I need to kill both to get the Achievement.

Strath was not challenging. It was time-consuming, and it was fatal if I didn't take it carefully, but as long as I went slowly and carefully there were very few problems. And it was a good learning experience of what my Tankadin can, but more importantly cannot, handle. I'd found my Kryptonite, so to speak.

With Strath finally down that left BRD. I'd tried to Solo BRD on my 70 Rogue and failed but in spite of the humbling Strath experience I was confident my Pally could handle BRD. First on the agenda was getting the key, and that meant dying so I could get the Quest (tricky bastards, Blizzard), which I did by dropping off the top chain in Blackrock Mountain and splatting into the lava below. Coincidentally this puts you right next to the tunnel entrance to BRD, so after spirit running back and getting the quest I was able to Rez in a very convenient spot and be on my way. And I was right about my Paladin. Being both 69, and a Plate-wearing AoE machine, I quickly retrieved Ironfel then replaced the mystical Hammer and received the Shadowforge Key in return. Yet one more key added to the keyring. I don't know how we coped years ago when we had to carry all these keys around in our pack, or leave them in the Bank.

But with the key to BRD finally in my pocket it was getting late, and so the Emperor, the BRD Achievement, and the Classic Dungeonmaster Achievement have to wait for another day.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

How to turn Ramen into Nomen

As in Nom-nom-NOMen (no, not "No-Men" :P) and thanks to TJ for coming up with that awesome name.

Take some grilled chicken. Or fried chicken, either works. (or raw chicken, but you'll need to grill/fry it first. Just get some cooked chicken somehow) You'll need about 1 breast's worth, or the meat from two drums, or the meat from two wings plus some other bits from some other part of the chicken (just as long as they're edible). Chop chicken up into bite-sized pieces. No, smaller; your mouth's not that big. Actually it is, but just chop the pieces smaller anyway!

Add cooked chicken (and if it's not cooked, cook it first. Didn't I already say that?) to your 2-cups of water (or however much your Ramen packet recommends. I'm calling it Ramen at the moment because it's not NOMen, not yet) and bring to a boil. If you want you can use chicken broth instead of water but water is cheaper and that's usually why you're buying/eating Ramen.

While water & chicken mixture are coming to a boil take some kielbasa, or your favorite sausage-flavored mystery meat product, and chop into bite-sized pieces. Didn't I say smaller? I like to quarter my kielbasa, then cut each length into 1/4" to 1/2" segments, but that's just me. Fry/brown pieces in a frying pan and when done (whenever you think they're done. I like my kielbasa almost blackened for that extra smoky flavor), place on paper towel and set aside to drain.

When water has come to a boil add Ramen (I told you. It's still only Ramen at this point. It's not NOMen yet!) and one egg, uncooked (unless you can't stand egg, or are allergic, in which case don't add it). Now keep an eye on it because unlike ordinary Ramen, NOMen has a tendency to boil over if you're not watching it.

If kielbasa (or similar sausage-flavored treat) has drained to your liking (and are you really that picky? You bought Ramen for Pete's sake!) add to NOMen, along with contents of flavoring packet, and...one slice of cheese. Feel free to omit most of these ingredients if you want, just realize it's not real NOMen if it's only noodles & flavored water.

Boil NOMen for 3 minutes, stirring and watching to make sure it doesn't boil over (and it will if you're not watching it), then carefully pour into a large bowl big enough to hold it all (or eat it straight from the saucepan if that's how you roll. Your house, your rules.)

And that is how you make NOMen. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Why do you hate Gnomer?

If you ran it in Vanilla, was it the level disparity between the start and end? Because (IIRC) originally it was close to a 10-level difference between the first Mobs and Thermaplugg (or maybe I'm just misremembering).

Was it that you couldn't do the Punchcard quest w/o getting that very first White Punch Card? (And why didn't Blizzard have Castpipe just give the player a White Punch Card when they accepted the Quest?) Was it that you often missed a Punchograph machine, and would get to Punchograph D and find yourself short a Red Punch Card?

Was it the confusing layout of the Instance? That you could get turned around (or just plain lost) without even realizing it?

Was it the large number of Mobs per Pull, which required a party to really work well together? Was it the Alarm Bots which wandered into your Party mid-fight, raised the alarm, and pulled two more Packs?

When you think about it, Gnomeregan actually has a lot more in common with the 50-60+ Instances, than it does with Blackfathom Deeps and Razorfen Kraul (also high 20s/low 30s Instances).

And is that actually the real problem? Was Gnomeregan originally meant to be on par with Scholo, Strath, and the Blackrock Instances?

Blizzard would never admit it, but given the complexity of the Instance, the large Pulls, and that completing all of the Gnomer Quest often required multiple attempts, it's actually possible Gnomeregan was originally designed with level 60 Players in mind (at least until some Blizzard Big Wig said, "Horde have RFK, and SM right outside the Undercity. We need something for Alliance.")

I actually enjoy going to Gnomeregan, and not just for the Achievement at the end. It's a very colorful, very well designed (if somewhat confusing) Instance into which someone put a lot of thought and attention. I would even argue that Gnomer has more character than Scarlet Monastry, which isn't saying much because there's not a whole lot to SM. Well there probably is, if you were paying attention, but all you see are walls and doors as you rush through. RFK has it's little piggy huts and the Crone's House on Stilts. RFD has a rocking out Skeleton Boss. Dead Mines comes with the awesomeness of Pirates, complete with Pirate Ship, while BFD has Naga, Cultists, and a battle with a 3-headed Hydra. And Gnomer? Gnomer has Planes being worked on by teams of Gnomes. It has Robots and Mechs. It has Radiated Gnomes. It has Radiated Gnomes in Mechs! The final Boss is a Gnome in a giant Mech!

Come on! Tell me this is NOT an awesomely cool Boss that someone clearly put a lot of time into creating.

Some of the best 29 Twink gear can be found in Gnomer, but can you get any Guildies willing to run you through? Many players harbor so much animosity for Gnomer that they'll refuse to set foot inside, not even on a capped Toon who could tear the place apart. Why is that? Why is there so much hatred for what is one of vanilla WoW's coolest Instances?

Why do you hate Gnomeregan?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Tanking vs DPS

I tanked Ramparts a couple more times without seeing a single upgrade or the Hellreaver Polearm. I also had a go at Tanking Blood Furnace and the first time was not quite a PUG from Hell, but it did include a pushy Healer who berated me for drinking. "If you're standing still you're wasting my fucking time!" he said. Yep, he actually said that, and so I Pulled. Massive pulls, pulls when I was OOM, I just kept running and pulling all the way to the The Maker's Room where I rushed in and pretty much Aggroed the entire room. And we wiped on the bombs that those Mobs dropped. Now the Healer wasn't so happy with the constant Pulling and wanted to take it slow. There's just no pleasing some people.

This weekend I've been running PUGs not quite non-stop but I kid you not, I've almost run more PUGs these past few days than I did during my previous 3 years playing. I've run PUGs so much I was actually starting to get a little tired of Tanking.

That was when the BIL logged on so I asked if he wanted to run me through Ramparts once or twice to see if we could get Hellreaver, and it finally dropped. I think that was close to the 10th time I'd been in there. He also ran me through Blood Furnace again to see if we could get anything and I'm not sure I did, at least nothing memorable.

With Hellreaver in my hands I switched back to Ret, then to level my Polearm skill (& relearn how to be a Retadin) I ran Stockades a couple of times. It was quite fun tearing through Stockades and I was pulling around 650DPS by the time I got my Polearm skill up, so I queued up for a Ramparts Run as DPS. It took several minutes to get in, not a terribly long time but definitely a little longer than queuing up as a Tank.

And now that I had Hellreaver I started to see it everywhere. It didn't drop again, but after running a couple more Ramparts and two more Blood Furnaces I was now seeing it in other players' hands, too.

The PUG Moment of the weekend was after the second Pull in Ramparts when the Tank said "sorry gtg dinner time", then stood around for a minute or two chatting before DCing. He didn't leave the party, he just DCd.

One of the DPS dropped out, then the other, leaving me, the Healer, and the DC'd Tank.

As the Healer berated the Tank for being an ass and not quitting the game properly I donned my Tank gear and began switching to my Prot Spec. "I guess I'll Tank," I said.

I right-clicked the DC'd Tanks profile and Orion be praised I was able to initiate a Vote Kick! Naturally the Healer agreed to Kick so with 2 of 3 Votes against him our DC'd Tank was gone. The Healer then re-queued us, and if you're wondering how long it takes a Healer and a Tank to get three DPS, it is not long, not at all. I think I'd barely agreed to Tank when we had our new group.

We breezed through Ramparts (as well we should, I know the damn place like the back of my hand now) then the Healer asked if we wanted to requeue for another run. I think one of the DPS stuck around, I agreed to Tank again, and with our group already having both Tank and Healer we literally went from Ramparts to our...random Dungeon? The Healer signed us up for a Random Dungeon? Oh boy.

We landed in Slave Pens, which I was sort of familiar with but hadn't been in for over 2 years, so I made sure to let our group know that, and said any tips/advice would be appreciated.

Just pull and we'll kill them, was the reply, and so we did, and in spite of the random Fears used by the Naga guards it was a smooth, wipe-free Run. I didn't get any Loot that I could use, other than a Priest/Holy Pally mace, and while it seems good for Mana Regen it's otherwise inferior to my Rampart's Shadowrend Longblade.

And after those numerous Ramparts and Blood Furnace Runs I finally hit Honored with Honor Hold, but I'm now 65 and still doing Hellfire Peninsula quests. I'll probably end up missing half the Outland zones (if not more) and going straight into Northrend, but as I've already leveling multiple characters into their 60s, as well as two 70s, I won't be missing anything. In fact I'd actually be missing out by NOT hitting Northrend as soon as possible.

And if you're wondering how I got in so much WoW this Valentine's Day weekend, it's not been the only thing I've done. I was off Friday and took the family to Universal Studios. We were there pretty much all day until the early hours of the evening, then Saturday we visited Leroy's in Monrovia for a too fattening but oh so good breakfast. Prices are easily comparable to Denny's but taste-wise they're beyond compare. Leroy's does amazing tater tots, which are simply heaven, and which I get with a veggie omelet so I can kid myself I'm eating somewhat healthy. It's not so healthy when I polish off the boy's pancakes because he couldn't finish them ;)

After breakfast we dropped the kids with the in-laws and the wife and I headed to a nearby outdoor mall where she hit Nordstrom Rack while I popped into Best Buy and almost bought a Dyson vacuum cleaner. Not for the wife! For me! Duh! She does the laundry, I do the vacuuming. That baby would be mine! Yeah, how many guys do you know that get excited over vacuum cleaners? Sure, there's Kryten, but he doesn't count ;)

And so what if I get excited over a vacuum cleaner? It's not like there's anything wrong with that. It's not like I'm taking double Polaroids and showing them to my mates ;)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Walk. Run! No! Don't Run!

Walking to the bus stop I come up to an intersection where a guy not quite paying attention steps into the crosswalk and starts crossing as the pedestrian timer counts down from 2 to 1 to 0, and the red hand stops flashing and stays solid.

Not-quite-paying-attention guy is suddenly paying more attention and he starts to run, not walk, the rest of the way across.

Paying-even-less-attention Guy is several steps behind NQPA Guy (which is who he is probably paying attention to rather than watching the lights) so when PELA Guy steps into the intersection the light is not only well & truly Red for him, it's now Green for the cross traffic.

PELA Guy takes one step forward as he starts to pay a little more attention, but he's not paying enough attention to not take a second hesitating step. He is paying enough attention that not only does he not take a third step, but he now takes a step backwards toward the safety of curb he's just left...which is why the bicycle courier zipping behind him almost takes him out.

As the cars start to pass in front of PELA Guy he takes a second step backwards, catches his heel on the curb, and is forced to take a third, very quick step back to avoid falling on his arse.

After a recent breakfast trip to a Denny's in Manassas, VA, President Obama has realized he originally gave We, The People a little too much credit, and after witnessing NQPA & PELA Guys' street-crossing tactics I'm not only inclined to agree with the President's revised assessment, but I wonder how he could have been so optimistic in the first place.


Obama Drastically Scales Back Goals For America After Visiting Denny's

And yes, I'm fully aware that ONN is not a real network. I'm not like NQPA Guy and PELA Guy ;)

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Indestructible Tankadin

In the Blue corner, from Coldridge Valley in Dun Murogh. Standing 4'5" tall and weighing in at 625 pounds (including his armor, shield, and sword), he's the Dwarf from the north! The Indestructible Tankadin! Put your hands together for Ambassadooooooor Bellllllmagaaaaarrr!

And fighting out of the Red corner, all the way from the Zangarmarsh Lagoon in the notorious, exotic, and oh so dangerous Outland. Standing 6'5" tall and weighing in at 550 pounds. He's mean. He's green. He's the Leader of the Darkcrest Naga! Give it up for Rajaaaaaah Haghazeeeeeddd!


I decided I wanted the Petrified Lichen Guard (a reasonably easy to obtain Sporeggar Rep-Reward Shield) so this evening I made my way into Zangarmarsh, a trip made a darn sight easier by getting my Gryphon at 60.

But on the way I stopped at the Cenarion Expedition's Zangarmarsh base and checked out their quests. Only two of the CE quests had items as a reward, so I picked up both of them (both Boss kill quests) because the rewards were clearly upgrades over my current items. My log showed they were not only both Orange to me (at 60) but they were also Group quests. But that's really only a recommendation, right?

The closest Boss was Rajah Haghazed and I flew overhead to check him out. He was currently spawned as a 63 Elite with 22,000 health. Quite a lot when compared to my Prot Pally in his new Ramparts gear, who self-buffed has approx. 6500. Apparently Haghazed also spawns as a 62 so it was just my luck to get the upgraded version. He had several Naga wandering around him, including two 63 guards (regulars, not even Rares) posted at the foot of his pagoda, but I was confident that if I could get him on his own I could take him down, especially as he's a Melee Mob, not a Caster.

First on the card was a Naga Witch, who I literally dropped in on. After she went down I took out a wandering water elemental, then pulled a nearby Taskmaster. That left Haghazed's two guards and when they saw me they abandoned their posts and came runnng over. They were tough but not a huge problem, and their defeat left the Rajah alone but not necessarily helpless. HoR/Avenger's Shield pulled him to my location and as he rushed me I hit him with a Judgement of Light and threw up Holy Shield, and then began a looooong, drawn out slug-fest where I did little more than Auto-attack while keeping JoL up on him, and HS up on me.

Haghazed starts the fight with a sword & shield which he drops at 50% in favor of a polearm, this decreases his armor but ramps up his damage. For the first half of the fight I took very little damage, and what I did take was mitigated by my Blessing of Sanctuary and healed by my Judgement & Seal of Light. It was only when Haghazed switched to his Polearm and started to hit a little harder that my Health began to slowly drop. Slowly though, so I wasn't terribly concerned.

This was not a fight between welterweights, who dodge and duck and weave and slip and slide around the ring. This was a fight between two heavyweights who stand toe-to-toe, slugging it out and trading blows until only one of them is left standing.

With around 2,000 health left I bubble-Healed back to full then resumed the attack on the much weakened Rajah, who now had much less Health than I did.

And that was when the Frostbolt hit me from behind.

The fight had been going on for so long that the Naga Witch I'd killed earlier had respawned and joined the fray. It was time to step things up. I hit Haghazed with another Judgement followed by a Hammer of Wrath and an Exorcism. 1-2-3! KO! The Naga Boss was down for the count. I turned to the Naga Witch and began pounding on her and she promptly froze me in place then ran screaming to a nearby Taskmaster.

This was clearly no longer a Marquis of Fantailer match between gentlemen; this was now WWE at its finest (assuming the word 'fine' can be used to accurately describe the WWE).

The Taskmaster enlisted the help of a Drudge but I knew from past experience that the little guy would scarper given half the chance (meaning as soon as the Taskmaster went down). I quickly finished off the Witch then gave the Taskmaster a thorough thrashing and just like that it was all over and the fat lady started singing. I'd just defeated an Elite Boss 3 levels above me, along with 2 of his lackeys, single-handed, but then they don't call me the Indestructible Tankadin for nothing. Actually nobody does call me that :P

For an encore I moved on to the second Naga Boss, the Witch Rajis Fyashe. That was a little more humbling. In other words she avenged the Rajah and handed my arse to me on a silver platter, finely chopped, with a little sprig of parsley on the side. I'm indestructible, not unmeltable ;)

I got a new set of Pauldrons from defeating the Rajah but I never made it to Sporeggar to start working towards my Shield because Steve logged on. I chatted with him for a bit, explaining last night's Run and my apparent silence, and he said it was all good and the situation was more amusing than anything else. Phew!

Monday, February 08, 2010

Still a Noob

After all these years.

After the previous night's Ramparts Runs all it took was two of the current Festival Dailies to ding 60, which got me a Gratz in Guild Chat. That surprised me because normally my sister & her husband aren't on at that time, but then I saw it came from Steve, the fourth member of our Guild and an old college friend whom the BIL and I had worked for a couple of years at his father's factory. (He also wound up dating an old GF of mine. Small world.)

We chatted briefly and I mentioned that I'd Tanked Ramparts the night before but didn't get the Polearm I was after (which would see me re-learning how to be a Retadin if I picked it up), and Steve offered to run me through a couple of times on his Druid, which I accepted.

I made my way back to Honor Hold and learned Flight (at 60! 60! That's 10 levels below 70! You kids these days don't know how good you've got it!) while Steve logged onto his 80 Druid and met me there. I'd entered the Instance when I realized Steve might not remember exactly which Portal was the right one, so I popped back outside just in time to greet him as he confirmed what I'd suspected.

Back into Ramparts we went and with me still being in Tank Mode I managed to pull Aggro a couple of times, so I almost died once or twice. Now I could have just stayed back, played it safe, and Looted the bodies, but I wanted to seem somewhat helpful so I tried to DPS when I could and catch the Runners. Steve apologized for almost letting me die and occasionally remembered to throw me a Heal, and I apologized saying I was still in Tank mode and hitting the wrong buttons (like 1 for my HoR & Avenger's Shield macro, instead of F1 for Consecrate :P).

We downed the first Boss and he dropped the 1H Sword I was keen to get, then we killed the second two Bosses who both dropped Caster gear. Out of the Instance we went, Reset, and back in again. This time a pair of Mail Leggings dropped from the first Boss, and when I examined them I realized that with their 3 sockets they would actually make a decent upgrade over my Plate pants from Maraudon.

The second Boss dropped a pair of socketed Mail gauntlets which, like my new Mail leggings, were also an upgrade over my current Plate pair. As Steve moaned about the crappy drops I said it wasn't too bad, that I'd got a new sword and two new Armor pieces, even if they were Mail.

The third Boss/es (Dragon & Rider) went down and once again my Polearm failed to appear. What's really annoying is the damn Polearm is lying there in plain sight, on the ground in Vazruden's cold dead hand. But can you pick it up? Of course not. If this were Titan Quest then yes! Yes, you can! But in WoW? Uh uh.

Outside the Instance I asked Steve if he had time for one more Run, but he apologized about the crappy drops then logged off.

And in the stillness after the storm of two rapid Ramparts Runs I became aware that Steve had been talking in Party Chat during both Runs...while I had been talking in Guild Chat.

With a growing sense of dread I opened the Guild Tab and looked through the list of names. Steve's Druid was not among them. His 40s Priest was in the Guild, and a second Alt, but that was it.

Inside the Instance most of our chatter had been situational so we'd often both discussed the same things (like my almost dying) at the same time, but the conversations we'd been having had actually been one-sided.

Since logging onto his Druid Steve hadn't seen a single word I'd typed.

It was getting late but I waited around for 20 minutes (while hitting the AH and Gemming my new Pants and Gloves), but there was no sign of Steve, neither on his Priest nor his Druid.

He'd just run me through Ramparts, twice, and from his point of view I'd not said a single word during either Run. I felt like a complete Noob. Here was an old friend helping me out with two free Ramparts Runs, and even though I did get upgrades out of it, Steve didn't realize that. From his PoV I'd just run along behind him, grabbed the free Loot, and hadn't replied to a thing he had said. I felt like a Noob, but also an ass.

I typed up an in-game email and sent it to both Steve's Druid and Priest, explaining the situation and apologizing to him for my complete and utter Noobness. Then I logged off and sent BIL an email explaining the same, and asking him to apologize to Steve on my behalf.

We used to have a running gag in my old Guild where it was acknowledged that I was the King Noob, and occasionally I'd get to pass the crown onto someone else who committed an act of Noobness, but I'd always end up "getting it back", sometimes just seconds later.

I've been playing WoW for 4-5 years now, but these two Ramparts Runs proved that I am still the King of Noobs.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Into the Outland

I finally got my Pally to 59 and decided to have a go at Tanking Ramparts.

Having not Tanked anything since Sunken Temple I spent 100g on several AH items, including a new Shield (I'm astounded that there's no decent Shields in the level 60 5-man Instances). Yeah, I could have run the first dozen or so Outland quests and upgraded for free, but for some crazy reason I want to run Ramparts first for the Rep & Gear, then do the Hellfire Pen quests. I actually got a couple of Drops from my HP Runs, but I can't use them until I hit 60.

My AH gear meant that self-buffed I had a shade over 5K HP, which wasn't a lot when my fellow party members all had around the same. Despite my low health the first Run went rather smoothly, although the DK and Warrior both wanted to pull & Tank (even though they'd signed on as DPS) while the Shaman kept scattering the Mobs just as I was getting them bunched up together. I only discovered it was the Shaman when the same thing happened on my second HP Run, and I asked what was going on.

My second run. Let's talk about that one. When the Shaman left to buy some water & other Shaman goodies, the Priest decided to make the best of the down-time by berating the Warlock who was wielding what was clearly a Druid staff. It looked like a paw/claw on a stick, and it was being wielded by a Gnome 'Lock (which meant the humor value was way up there, and I can appreciate that.) Being a Druid staff meant it also had a huge amount of Stamina on it, and I seem to recall Warlocks like Stamina, so no problem there. The Warlock defended themselves with "I've got nothing better", then went on the offensive asking why the Priest had (IIRC) a Resilience enchant on his Devout Bracers. The Priest said it was on there when he bought it, which got him a derisive laugh from the 'Lock. "I'd never buy that," he said. That pretty much set the tone for the next few encounters, so I was prepared for another PUG from Hell.

As we got close to Gargolmar the Priest was standing in a precarious place, just a little too close to the Watchkeeper's path, but being busy trying to hold Aggro I wasn't able to say/type anything. Of course the 'Lock did and told the Priest to watch out where he was standing.

"You play your toon and I'll play mine!" said the Priest, before complaining that we were moving too slow and should have been "done by now".

The warning signs were all there and yet it was still a shock to me when, just as I pulled Gargolmar and he began beating on me...the Priest dropped Group.

But without missing a beat, almost as if he knew it was coming, the Shaman switched from DPS to Heals, the fight continued, and we 4-manned Gargolmar.

What does he drop? Only the Pauldrons of Arcane Rage. Oddly enough the Warlock didn't Need them (perhaps he already had them) so after winning the Greed Roll they wound up in my Pack.

The Shaman put us back into the queue, volunteered to Heal, and within seconds we'd filled our third DPS slot and were back in business. The Run went a little slower than some might like, but it was also problem free, and I'd much rather a slightly slower, Wipe-free Run, than a faster Run where we over-Pull and Wipe once or twice.

If only the rest of my Party would accept this...

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Why we do what we do

I read someone's Blog last week (and if they read this, please comment so I can link it) which discussed, primarily, achievements in gaming. The crux of the argument (if I understood it correctly) was whether or not you enjoyed certain activities within a game which netted you an in-game reward, and whether or not you'd continue performing those activities if you could just press a button and get the reward.

If you would continue to perform those activities after receiving your reward then it's obvious that you enjoy them, so continue playing away. But if you would stop performing these activities upon receiving the reward, and if the reward is little more than a pointless piece of fluff that does not serve to better your character, then why bother with it in the first place?

Nowadays in WoW if you're keen enough to visit practically every square inch of every zone in every land, you can get yourself an Explorer title. I'm sure there's something to be said for a low level player acquiring such a title, especially as setting foot in many zones would result in their almost immediate death, that is assuming they could even access some of the higher level zones. But why would you bother mapping all of the zones in the first place? Especially when you're speed leveling to Cap where SOP is hit the Zone's "Quest Hub", grab all available quests, then rush around and complete everything as fast as you can. And so what if you don't go to that south-eastern corner and the map remains blank at that point. If you needed to uncover it then a quest would have sent you there, but none did so you don't need to go there, right? Besides, you can come back later, at 80, with a fast Epic Mount, and fill the Map in then.

But a long, long time ago, a young Hunter (most likely in his high 20s to low 30s) ventured north from the Wetlands into the Arathi Highlands. After participating in a Raid on Hammerfall he moved beyond Arathi to Southshore, but he didn't stop there. He continued to venture forth up into the Alterac Mountains, on to the Plaguelands (yes, he was a Newb), and into Tirisfal Glades. With absolutely no reward to show for his effort, with no Title awaiting him, and no way of proving to anyone what he'd done (outside of screenshots and a blog, and screenies can be faked anyway), the Hunter was determined to uncover the entire map for every Zone he found, even if he died in the attempt. And he did. Repeatedly, and often. Mobs killed him. NPCs killed him. Other players killed him when, in his noobness, he fought back against city guards and Flagged himself.

Yet he stubbornly persisted in his quest (did we mention he was a Dwarf? Yeah, kind of goes without saying, right?) and eventually he did reveal every section of every Zone's Map, including those zones in which he had no right being, not at his level, and certainly not without a Mount. (He also found some Zones that didn't exist yet, which was both cool and eerie, traveling across smooth landscapes with nothing but terrain texture as far as the eye could see.)

He didn't go exploring for a Vanity Pet or a Title, and when he was done he had no way of proving what he'd done to anyone, nor did he need to or want to. It was enough that he knew he'd done it, because in the end he'd done it for nobody but himself, and for no reason other than "it was there".

A long time ago I played The Sims, and I was enjoying it up to a certain point, being when your Sim needs to have 10 Friends in order to receive their next promotion.. Yes, their Friends could just be Friends with the spouse/partner, but there needed to be at least 10. Because I'd continued playing the Newbie family (the couple you play in the Tutorial) there just weren't that many people in my neighborhood. I needed a new family. One with a lot of members. So I created a "family" with the maximum number of people, built them a box to call their own, moved them in, then called my Newbie couple over to visit. Before too long it was late (in the game) and not everyone was friends with my Newbies, but that was okay, there's always tomorrow.

Tomorrow arrived, and my Sim picked up the phone and called her new friends...and most of them blew her off. Even the ones she was actually friends with were reluctant to come visit.

"Well I did just paint the living room, and I was going to sit here and watch the paint dry, but I guess your place could be more exciting."

Geez! Don't break a leg rushing over here!

Hitting the "10-Friend Wall" meant no promotion, and no promotion meant no more money, which meant no newer, cooler, better stuff for my Sims.

So I found a cheat code to give me all the money I needed to build the biggest, best, baddest house on the block, filled with the coolest stuff. And I did. Then I looked at my huge house filled with crap that I hadn't "earned", and which my Sims hadn't earned, and I quit. I shut the game down.

A day or two later I booted the game back up, played for a minute or two, then shut it down again.

My Sims had all the money they needed. They owned the best of everything. There was...no reason to play the game.

Up until that moment I had enjoyed playing The Sims. Then I pressed that button and gave myself the Reward and that was it. The game was no longer fun for me. I know other people would have continued to play and found a new reason and way to have fun, but I didn't.

In one game there was no reward or recognition for what I was doing. Self-gratification was the only reward, and there was no way to short cut to the end. I did what I did for me, and I enjoyed doing it, and now I find myself doing it again, and still enjoying it.

In the other game there was a reward waiting at the end. And when I found a way to give myself that reward...I stopped playing. The game was fun right up until the moment I cheated. And the sad thing is I cheated nobody but myself out of the fun I was having. A more cynical person might say I wasn't really having fun, and that I just needed the cheat code to realize that. Maybe they'd be right.