Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The PUG from Hell that wasn't

Tonight I ran Shadowfang Keep on my Hunter in an attempt to get the mats for the Hunter Quest Crossbow. After waiting a while we finally got a group together, and the Healer turned out to be surprisingly chatty. I don't mind that. Likewise if folks want to do a silent Run, that's okay, too. Get in, get the job done, get the fuck out. As long as everyone knows their role, if folks want to chat, or not, I'm good either way.

Except this particular Healer mentioned she was not only new to WoW but it was her first Instance. Just like that our Group was missing a Tank. We had a Cat Druid who switched to Bear so we went in and took down the Trash. Then the Healer asked why was the Druid a Bear.

"Because if he wasn't a Bear we'd all be dead." I replied.

The queue hadn't found us a Tank so we moved on and the Bear rushed the first Boss. We actually succeeded in bringing him down and despite being new to Healing I thought our newbie Healer did just fine. Just after the Boss died we got a replacement Tank, who was puzzled as to why our DPS Druid was in Bear form. I made the mistake of complimenting our Healer on how good she was doing for a first time Healer, and just like that our replacement Tank went AWOL. Oops.

We moved into the courtyard, cleared it, then wiped in the kitchen. As we ran back in the Healer DC'd, a Kick Vote prompt came up, and now we were three DPS LF Tank & Healer. I declined to choose a role, deciding I'd rather wait for a brand new group. And I imitated our first two Tanks by dropping out.

Rather than sit on my arse in Stormwind I got out and ran a few quests and it didn't take long before I was in a new group. This time we had a female Dwarf who, like our Healer, confessed that she was new to Tanking. At least she had close to 1,000 HP and she appeared to know what to do to hold Aggro so the Run was fairly uneventful, right up until the final Boss, Lord Godfrey. Caster extraordinaire, definitely not someone to be taken lightly.

Attempt #1 = my bad. Open with Serpent Sting to get my Pet attacking, followed by Aimed Shot. Steady Shot + Steady Shot for Improved Steady Shot. Arcane Shot. Arcane Shot and...why is the Boss targeting me? Oh yeah. MQoSRDPS is not a good thing when paired with a new Tank who has not established major Threat.

Attempt #2 = Noob Tank mistake. Note to future Tanks: do not begin a Boss encounter while your Healer is still running back from a Wipe.

Attempt #3 = Warlock Mistake. Note to Warlocks: do not bring a Voidwalker to a Boss fight.

The Party explained to the Warlock that Voidwalker is for Tanking and he's asked to summon Imp or "The Demon Lady with the Whip". Warlock doesn't respond. Warlock summons Voidwalker. I ask Warlock to summon Imp. Warlock still doesn't respond. Healer says he thinks Warlock is a Bot. I Vote to Kick Warlock for being a Bot. LOLs ensue in Party Chat and the Vote passes. Warlock is replaced with a Shadow Priest seriously decked out in Heirloom Gear. Cool. DPS should not be a problem. This time Lord Godfrey is going down.

The Tank states that this is going to be the final attempt because she needs to get to bed. The SPriest is informed that we've been getting our butt kicked by the final Boss so if he can help with Heals (if that's possible) to please do so. And with that the Tank runs up the stairs to the Boss's platform and begins the encounter. I wait. The Tank runs down the stairs to get under Boss's platform.

Note to future Tanks doing SFK: just jump off the platform, do not take the stairs back down.

The Boss makes it halfway down the stairs before stopping to cast. That's good enough for me and I begin my rotation. The Boss actually summons little guys. Being Ranged DPS I'm suddenly cognizant of just how many little guys he can summon. Wow! There's a lot of them! I start picking them off then resume DPSing the Boss...who summons more little guys. Again I target them and they die pretty quickly this time. Someone else must be killing them too.

And then the Tank dies. And I draw Aggro. Of course I do. The Boss runs toward me and when he's halfway up the stairs to my position I jump off. It's Kite time. If you read my Kwazimoto vs the Demon story then you know this is my game. I hit the stairs on the other side and head up to the Boss's platform. The Boss takes the long way back down the first set of stairs and I'm hammering him with everything I've got as he crosses back over. I'm hoping my fellow DPSers are doing the same. They must be because his health is definitely dropping. Somewhen during all of this he summoned more little guys, and they may be little but there's a lot of them and they sure are scary when you know they're gunning for you.

The Boss crosses the floor, flanked by his little army, and heads back up his stairs toward me. Just before he gets to me I leap off his platform, hit the floor, and head back over to the first set of the stairs. Once again the Boss takes the long way back down while I'm running away and jump shotting like a mad Hunter about to die.

This is a first for me. Normally I'm holding my breath and silently cheering on my party members as I watch this kind of thing from the floor where I died due to some Noob mistake (or a careless or slow-on-the-button Healer) but this time I'm in the middle of it and I don't. Die, that is. The Boss does, though. It was crazy fun.

Yes, we might have wiped a few times but it wasn't as frustrating as you might think. It may not be End Game Raiding where you play Simon Says while trying to beat the Boss's Enrage Timer but it was still a lot of fun. In the end I got the mats I needed for my new Crossbow and my Tooltip DPS went up by about 5 points while my actual DPS got a 10-point boost. And when it's all said and done, isn't that what Raiding is all about? Tiny little Stat increases? So what if it's Level 20 Raiding :D

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Raiding in WoW at Level 20

Is there any real, major difference to "Raiding" at 20 vs the End Game?

You're still running Instances over, and over, and over again looking for that elusive drop that is barely an upgrade to what you already have. You still get Rogues rolling on Tank/Warrior Gear, like Silverlaine's Family Seal, a ring with +5 Strength and +3 Stamina. You still get Hunters rolling on everything, such as SFK's Haunting Blade, a 2H sword with +8 Strength...okay, and +6 to Hit. And you still get Know-It-Alls telling you to Learn2Play.

I decided to roll a Warrior because there's the option to Tank PUGs if one is feeling particularly masochistic or just desires shorter queues. But good Tanking gear is hard to come by in the game world, so you need to run as DPS then decide whether or not it's acceptable to Need Roll on a Shield if the Tank just Greed Rolls. Logic would dictate that if the Tank doesn't "Need" it, then it should be okay for you, as a wannabe Tank, to Need Roll. But there's the stigma of being seen as a Ninja if you do so, despite the fact that you've passed on every other thing that dropped so far. Plus most people think that if you want to Need Roll Tank gear you should queue up as a Tank while conveniently ignoring the fact that it's kind of hard for a Warrior to Tank without a Shield.

Now some items like the SFK Ring are no brainers. It's clearly a ring for anyone who can benefit from Strength & Stamina, whether that be a Paladin, Druid, or Warrior. Yes, like most classes a Rogue can also benefit from the +3Stamina (not sure how Strength affects a Rogue's AP though), but a Rogue who Need Rolls on a +Stamina Ring before the Tank rolls, or who Need Rolls after the Tank Need Rolls is just being a douche. (IMNSHO)

Likewise a Hunter Need Rolling on a 2H Sword with +8 Str just because it also has +6 To Hit is...okay, that's sort of understandable. Although I confess that when I saw the Hunter had Need Rolled I decided to hit Need myself, even though it probably wasn't an upgrade. And I won it, too, so take that, stupid Hunter! Almost 7 years on and Hunters still think everything is a Hunter Weapon :P So what if it turned out I was right and it wasn't really an upgrade. How was I to know how it would affect my DPS until I had it in my greedy little paws? Besides, it's a pretty cool looking sword :D

Speaking of DPS, I'm a tad miffed that there are no mid-level Target Dummies, at least none that I can find. There are lvl 1 Dummies in the Lowbie area but a level 20 demolishes them with a couple of whacks. This means aside from the Character Sheet, the only way I can verify my DPS is by actually running the same Instance twice, once with each weapon, and comparing my Recount stats after the two Runs. This also means if I want to compare Arms DPS and Fury DPS I have to put up with scrubs in PUGs telling me "2H Fury Warrior = Fail LOL".

That's why I got Recount, to verify what I suspected. That the combined +3% To Hit, +5% to ALL physical damage, and the +40% Autoattack Damage buff from the Fury Tree, more than offset the +15% 2H Dmg from the Arms Tree. Even with the two Blue 1H Maces from Shadowfang Keep it was clear that for a level 20 DPS Warrior the Cold Iron Pick is king. Which also sucks. Because it looks like a Mining Pick. That's great if you're a Dwarf, but for aesthetics (& humor value) I prefer Gnome and Tauren Warriors. So now I have a 10' tall Tauren Warrior running around clobbering things with a Mining Pick while Know-it-all Mages are telling me to Lrn2Play because I'm spec'd Fury and wielding a 2H Weapon. Never mind that it's arguably the best level 20 melee weapon in the game and that Fury at 20 pwns the crap out of Arms.

That's why I really got Recount. So I could throw that back in their face.

Hey, Mr. Know-it-all Mage, see the Damage Meter? You just got pwned by a Nub Warrior with the wrong spec wielding a fucking Mining Pick!!! How does that feel?

With nothing but Quest Rewards and Dungeon Drops I'm pulling 100dps, which doesn't sound like much but at lvl 20 I'm second only to Heirloom-equipped characters, and even then I'm giving them a run for their money.

Hey, Mr. Know-it-all Heirloom-wearing Mage, see the Damage Meter? Yeah, that's right. PWNED!!!

Yeah, "Raiding" at 20 really isn't that different from End Game. You still have to put up with people like me. Happy Hunting ;)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Further early morning adventures in downtown L.A.

This morning on my walk to the office I was greeted by four inhabitants of downtown L.A., and not one of them asked me for spare change.

I'm a little reluctant to refer to them as homeless because there's a good chance they're not; most of them probably have a home somewhere, even if it's little more than a room in a $150/week hotel. Yes, they exist, and no, you probably don't want to stay there on your next vacation, as cheap as it may seem.

Around 4th & Los Angeles I encountered a lady and a gentleman having a chat across the width of Los Angeles St. The lady was on my side of Los Angeles and walking toward me while the gentleman was crossing Los Angeles from the other side. As I approached they seemed to conclude their chat, and the lady turned, saw me, and wished me a good morning, and I returned her greeting. Unexpectedly, she did not ask me for spare change.

The gentleman had finished crossing to our side of Los Angeles, and having witnessed the brief exchange between the lady and I, while I was still about 30-feet away called out to me.

"Yo! What's up?"

"Hey! How you doin'?" I called back, then added. "Cold one this morning." (Which it was.)

He said something in return which I didn't catch but I knew meant that he hadn't quite heard or understood what I'd said. As I got closer he repeated, "Whazzat?"

"She's a cold one this morning," I said.

"Ooh yeah," he agreed.

And on I walked, again without being asked for change.

As I approached 5th St. I saw it was a hive of activity, much like last week. For some reason everyone seems to be out early on Friday morning. Maybe it's the excitement of the approaching weekend, I don't know, but at 5:30am on a Friday morning the place-to-be in downtown L.A. appears to be 5th St. and Los Angeles.

As I crossed 5th St. a large, middle-aged black woman standing on the opposite corner snarled loudly at a passerby, "What are you looking at?" Then she turned, saw me, and greeted me with a cheerful, "Morning, baby. How you doing?"

"I'm doing well, thank you," I replied. "How are you this morning?"

"I am going to make it," she said. She had such a positive outlook that I knew whatever curveballs life threw at her she would take it all in stride.

"That is really good to hear," I responded, with as much sincerity as I could muster.

Just a little further down was a young, quite stylishly dressed black man who, if the lady I'd just spoken to was a lady of the night, and I'm not saying she was, may - or may not - have been her agent. Or he may have been a gentleman of the night himself. He was quite well dressed. He had clearly overheard my conversation with the large black lady and he caught my eye and grinned at me as I approached, and then he smiled and wished me a good morning.

The incongruity of a white boy like me in that neighborhood at that time of the morning probably contributes to the warm reception I received. That I'm not just a white boy but a white boy from a small country town in rural Australia walking through downtown Los Angeles at 5:30 in the morning only serves to further enhance the absurdity of the situation.

This is not to say downtown Los Angeles is erroneously portrayed in the media and is actually a delightful place for an early morning stroll. I'm an Aussie country boy in Los Angeles. I am who I am. YMMV.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sorry? Why are you sorry?

As part of my weight loss plan I've been walking from Union Station to the office and back each day, a distance of approximately 2 miles each way. I can walk at a decent pace so this takes me about half an hour each way. Given the route I take I'm also passing through a slightly seedier part of downtown L.A. so my morning commute frequently takes me past quite a few homeless folks, most of them are asleep but sometimes one or two are awake and getting ready to face another day in paradise.

I'm used to being asked for spare change and aren't bothered by the homeless folks, although the LOUD jumpy ones are definitely worth keeping an eye on as they're the ones who sometimes like to hit passersby.

This morning I'm pretty sure I passed a couple of drug dealers, and while I might look like a cop and sometimes be mistaken for one I think these guys were streetwise enough to realize I wasn't the real deal. Which is why one of them didn't hesitate to take something that may or may not have been drugs and/or cash out of a broken newspaper vending machine as I approached. Likewise I was savvy enough to not even look at them as I passed by but continued marching along at my pavement-eating pace. Fast, but not running. Not scared, but not acting like a bravado either.

Further down the road I saw two guys standing in a doorway, engaged in conversation. As I drew closer one of them began walking off while the body language of the second indicated he intended to talk to me. Physically he looked like your typical street dweller, but he appeared more mentally alert than the average brain-addled homeless guy. This is the kind of thing you need to be aware of if you plan to walk the streets of Los Angeles, especially at 5:30 in the morning.

I was prepared to defend myself in case he turned out to be the loud, jumpy type, or wanted more than just spare change. I was also ready to turn the guy down if he did ask me for change. What I wasn't expecting was for him to produce a block of chocolate and offer it as trade for a cigarette.

Realizing that although he had not asked for change that he was still actually begging, sort of, my mouth spat out "Sorry, man" before my brain could provide it with a more appropriate response.

And on I walked as my brain tried to process the absurdity of being offered a block of chocolate by a homeless guy in exchange for a cigarette at 5:30 in the morning on the streets of downtown Los Angeles.

Then from behind me I heard him say, "Sorry? Why are you sorry?"

Are you serious? Do I need to spell it out for you?

Apparently my mouth thought it did, and I called back to him, "I don't have any cigarettes...*pause*...sorry."

That really doesn't make that much more sense, said my brain. Why are you sorry that you don't have any cigarettes? That's not a bad thing. Even if you did, you don't want that guy's chocolate anyway.

Wisely, this time, my mouth stayed silent.

The mysteries of the Interwebs

Apparently over the past few days our IT Department switched us over to a new Proxy server because the old one was having problems, and IT are too short-staffed to troubleshoot it so they just set us up with a new Proxy server.

Except the new Proxy server is also having problems, from running slow to not working at all, and because our office uses Google's GMail, when the proxy server is down we cannot access our email. This has been causing headaches for my office's System Techs because administering the Proxy server is IT's responsibility, and they're in another office, in another building, a dozen blocks away. So when the Proxy goes down and we can't access our email, Systems can't actually do anything to get us back up. And who do we run to when our computer don't work? Systems of course, because they're right here.

Certain websites are also blocked by the new Proxy server, websites which were not blocked before. Now it makes sense to block certain websites, except they're not the sites you might think. Or maybe they are, but I'm not checking those sites.

For example, I can still get on Facebook, and...yep, MySpace is still good, too.

I can access my Yahoo email but the click-thru links in my MyPoints emails do not work because MyPoints.com has been blocked.

I can also access my blog here at Blogspot (as long as the Proxy server is up), and yet...I cannot access Tobold's Blog, which is also on Blogspot. It shows up in Google when I search for it, but any attempts to access it are denied. Very strange.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I don't believe in going on a diet

Because going on a diet implies that at some point in the future you will go off the diet, and if you go on a diet and lose weight and then go off the diet, and if nothing else has changed in your life, then the weight you lost while on your diet will most likely return. With friends.

In order to lose weight and keep it off you need to effect a lifestyle change.

Instead of going on a diet you need to change your eating habits. Instead of eating three pork tacos for lunch, you'll eat two. Or perhaps you'll eat two chicken tacos, or two fish tacos.

Instead of riding the bus to the office, given the time you'll get off several blocks early and walk the rest of the way, and in the afternoon going home you'll do the same.

And if you want to keep that weight off those are not things you'll do only until you've lost X pounds, after which you'll resume eating 3 pork tacos for lunch while riding the bus all the way to the office. If you want to keep that weight off you need to continue doing the things that helped you lose the weight in the first place. In other words, you cannot go on then go off your diet.

That said, for the past few months I have been on a diet. I make no pretenses about this. I am on a diet. I have been denying myself certain food products in order to lose weight, and once a certain date has been reached, being October 5, I will absolutely and unequivocally go off my diet. After October 5th I will have a donut from the box that occasionally appears in the office. One donut. I will sometimes order the ribs instead of the fish or salad when we eat out. And I will have those deep fried jalapenos, the crispy fried noodles, and the pork burrito, thank you very much. But not all the time.

Because once October 5th arrives my Office's weight loss competition will be over, and hopefully I will have lost a large enough percentage of my starting weight to be declared the biggest loser. That's my primary goal. To lose enough weight to win the Office weight-loss competition.

Currently I'm the front runner, as per our weigh-in last week and now there's just 3 weeks to go. I weigh approx. 175 lbs, having lost 12.2% of my starting weight of 200 lbs, I'm wearing size 32" pants (which fit well, and are not snug at all), while my body fat is approx. 15% (it used to be around 22-23%). I'm in great shape for a 42-year old guy. Knee pain & arthritis aside I'm even in better shape than when I graduated from High School. So I can honestly say that once this is all over, even if I'm not the biggest loser, I am a winner.

However, just because I'm going to go off my diet on October 5th doesn't mean I'll balloon up to my former weight of 200-210 lbs. Yes, I'll have the burgers and ribs and beer and jalapeno poppers, and all the other foods I love but which I've been denying myself these past few months. But I'll eat them in moderation. I said earlier that winning the Office weight loss competition was my primary goal. My secondary goal is to maintain (to a moderate degree) my healthier lifestyle and to continue working out. But rather than continue with the cardio I've been doing to lose all that weight, I'll be lifting weights to regain the muscle mass I know I've lost.

In 3 months I've lost 25 lbs and dropped my body fat from 23% to 15%. I'm not going back on another diet; I'm going to make changes to my eating and workout habits in order to capitalize on what I've accomplished these past few months.

I don't plan to bulk up and look like Captain America, but I still want to look good.

Correction: I'm already looking good, I want to look great.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Dead Island

I read a couple of reviews of Dead Island and it sounds interesting. I like the thought of playing it in the First Person. That definitely puts you more into the game versus playing it in the Third Person and guiding a character around. The use of Stamina, a depletable, slowly regenerating resource used for pretty much every action in the game from punching a zombie to swinging a bat to running for your life is a great way to generate suspense. Sure you can fight, but not indefinitely. Yes you can run, but you can't run forever. You need to seek refuge. You need to rest and recover your strength. Because you are only human.

I even like the character being able to gather resources and use them at various Work Benches scattered around the island to improve, enhance, and upgrade their weapons. What I don't like, is that the resource you use to upgrade your weapons is money.

Seriously? You're on a zombie-infested island with just a handful of survivors and you're "buying" weapon upgrades? Come on! There's no merchants, there's no commerce. How can you possibly spend money to upgrade your weapons? I know, I know. It's a game about zombies. It's not meant to be realistic.

I respectfully disagree with you. I say of course it's supposed to be realistic. We're supposed to become emotionally invested in this game, particularly in this specific game given the level of emotion invoked by the Trailer.

The Devs expect us to believe in this world, but for us to believe in it it needs to be realistic. Okay, somewhat realistic, given it's a world/island overrun by zombies. But even in a fantasy world where the dead can rise, walk, run, and try to eat your brains, you still could not use money to upgrade weapons unless you were paying someone to upgrade them for you. But there's nobody else involved in the upgrading process, so you cannot be paying anyone, thus money as a resource to upgrade your weapons is?

Highly illogical, Capt'n.

Thank you, Mr. Spock.

Had you been finding & accruing not Money, but Spare Parts, or Bits & Pieces, and at a Work Bench you used X number of Bits & Pieces to upgrade your weapon from Level N to Level N+1 I would have totally accepted that. It's a quite plausible, valid premise, even though nothing has changed but the name of the resource. You were using Money, now you're using Bits. That simple name change changes everything.

A wise man once (allegedly) said, "What's in a name?"

Another wise man responded (although perhaps not immediately, nor to the first man), "Names have power."