28.2.11

Images of Azeroth #3

Pines in Tol Barad during the rain.


The Sand Dunes of Uldum


The Red Dragonflight


The Zeppelin

Click on the images for a larger view.

25.2.11

Let's Be Careful Out There: Account Security - Guest Post by Aoife

While I am neck deep in diapers, baby powder, hyper-aggressive mutant cold germs and a zombie-like wife suffering from sleep deprivation, I have called out to the Blogosphere for help in the form of Guest Posts.  Aoife was kind enough to take pity on this tired ol' dwarf, and responded with a post about account security.

LET'S BE CAREFUL OUT THERE

Hi folks! Aoife of Mok'Nathal here, filling in for Fannon while he tends to Dwarfling Battle Poop (his words, not mine). As way of introduction, Aoife (Gaelic, pronounced 'Eee-fah'), my main, is a lvl 85 Hunter (BM/MM) and the first toon I created back in late 2006. I'm guild leader of the Divine Alliance of Mok’Nathal (we'll celebrate our 4th anniversary on 9th March this year). I have 9 other toons on Mok, 5 of whom are lvl 85, and numerous toons on other realms. No, I don't have a life.

The directive I received from Fannon was to write about any WoW-related topic that I wished. Well, there are oodles of WoW-related topics near and dear to my heart and I couldn't decide on which one. So I sent a message to my guildies requesting ideas for topics. I started to write from the perspective of my lvl 85 healer, Ca├Âimhe (also Gaelic, pronounced ‘Kee-vah’), but things conspired against her ranting about DPS refusing to heal themselves in instances and raids even though they are capable. Plus there were other blog posts that week that shared her views and she just didn't feel the need to be heard. So that post was shelved (deleted) and what took its place was my personal ranting about account and internet security and safety, plus some useful (I hope) tips to keep your account safe.

I'm a webmaster for our guild website and forums, and several non-WoW-related websites and forums as well. I do battle daily with hack attacks and attempts to break into our sites and forums mostly for no other reason than to spew garbage and wreak havoc. About a week ago Sunday, our guild forums came under attack by hackbots that were out to crack the passwords of members. This caused a huge headache and many moments of terror and panic but the attempts were thwarted at the beginning by our tight security which has been made even tighter since the initial attacks. Account security and safety for forum members is utmost in my mind at all times. I can appreciate fully the concerns and efforts Blizzard has on these topics as well.

As a guild leader, I’ve had to deal with guildies who've had their accounts hacked, oftentimes being the one who discovers that hack and opening the first ticket to nail the thief. More than once I’ve even had the opportunity to 'chat' with the thieves who try unsuccessfully to convince me they were the owner of the account. One of them even said to me, "Excuse me, I'm busy – my account has been hacked." <sigh>

In our guild, we talk daily in guild chat and on vent about account security. I post information on our forums under our 'Account Security' board and send out information to our email list. And yet friends and guildies still get hacked. And this past week, one of our own officers received a whisper ingame from a hacker pretending to be from Blizzard. The officer's account was hacked the next morning, and our guild bank was stripped of gold and items. I discovered the hack about 2 hours after it had happened and opened a ticket and notified the officer immediately. We got the items back within a few hours of my reporting the hack to Blizz – they were right on top of it and got the account secured and items returned in record time! As I said, I've had to deal with Blizz folks several times concerning guildies' hacked accounts and I just cannot praise those Blizz folks enough for their efforts.

Anyway, enough of my rambling. Let's go over some ways to prevent these hacks from occurring. I will say that attempts will occur. There is no way to stop the attempts. Not with people being paid to do the attempts and being paid to create ways to do the attempts. Not gonna stop the attempts. Nope. Not gonna happen. So, what can we do? There a number of steps we can take that, when combined, will set up an nearly impenetrable defense. And I will state this over and over:

GET AN AUTHENTICATOR! Going without an authenticator on your account is like leaving your car running with the doors wide open and a 'Please Steal Me' sign on the dash. With an authenticator, combined with all the other measures below, you're protecting your credit card and bank account information as well.

A lot of the following information comes from Blizzard’s updated Account Security and You (Yes, You) - World of Warcraft (http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/2299938).


· Create an email address and password that are ONLY for your Battle.net account and be sure to use that email address and password ONLY for that account. If you get a phishing email to some other email address, you'll know it’s a hack attempt.

· Never give out your account information. Sharing account information with ANYONE is an easy way to lose control of your account and have your account compromised. Allowing someone else to access your account can definitely put it at risk because you can't control how that person will make use of your account information, or how secure their own system might be.

· Be mindful of phishing scams. Phishing scams are designed to trick you into giving out your account information, and they'll usually come in the form of emails or in-game messages that appear to be sent by Blizzard employees. Sometimes these messages encourage you to visit a malicious website, which might contain a web form, or even software that can steal your login information. In other cases, you may be asked to reply with your account name and password. NOTE: Some of these emails can look surprisingly legitimate, and even the links will lead to websites/pages that look authentic. DO NOT BE FOOLED! Suspect every email and whisper! (puts on tinfoil hat) Blizzard will NOT whisper you ingame about potential account violations and threats of closing your account. AND Blizzard will NOT ask for your password in any correspondence.

· Don't use gold selling or power-leveling services. Supporting these types of illicit services is not only against the Terms of Use, but it promotes botting, spamming, and other forms of exploitation -- as well as account theft. And that gold you're buying is commonly stolen from compromised accounts and turned around to be sold back to other players.

· Get an Authenticator. The Battle.net Authenticator and Mobile Authenticator are easy ways to add an additional level of security to your account. They work by providing a secure authentication code on command that's unique to your Battle.net account. After an Authenticator is associated with your Battle.net account, the authentication code will be necessary for each client and Account Management login, increasing your protection against account compromising attacks.

· Install antivirus and anti-spyware software. There are a number of programs that can help you identify and remove any viruses, Trojans, and/or keyloggers that may sneak onto your computer. KEEP THIS SOFTWARE UPDATED!

· Keep your operating system up-to-date. If you're using Windows, you can check for the most current updates at any time by visiting the Microsoft Windows Update page, or by clicking Windows Update in the Start menu. If you're a Mac user, you can check for software updates at Apple.com; Apple security updates are also available there.

· Keep your browser and browser plug-ins up-to-date. Browser updates can include new security definitions and more comprehensive phishing filters.


22.2.11

Paladin Basics: Judgements and Targeting

[PLEASE NOTE: This article has not been updated to reflect the 4.3 changes to Judgement and Seal of Insight. I will be updating it soon! ]




Welcome to Holy Paladin University with Professor Fannon.  This recurring series of articles is going to focus on the How-To's and How-Not-To's of healing Paladin-style, from the basics to the advanced.  In this introductory article I'm talkin' Judgments and how to hit the right internet dragon every time.


As a Holy Paladin one of the things you are going to be doing frequently is Judging.  Judgement is an offensive spell that is extremely important to a healing Paladin as it gives us a lot of benefits over the incredibly meager damage that it does, and you should be casting whenever it is available as much as you possibly can.  Reaching for the Judgement button is completely instinctual for me now.  It's to the point where I need to ensure that on my other characters I put something in that keybind that needs to be cast a lot, because it's an entirely automatic reflex.

A Holy Paladin using Seal of Insight casting Judgement on a target provides a lot of different benefits:

  • Causes a small amount of damage to the target
  • Automatically returns 15% of base mana (For me it's about 3400 at the moment)
  • Counts as a melee attack, sometimes returning 4% base mana via Seal of Insight
  • Gives Judgements of the Pure, providing a 9% Haste buff for 1 minute

At a minimum, a Holy Paladin should be casting this spell once per minute, simply for the extra haste from Judgements of the Pure.  However, in the Cataclysm healing environment, the mana return mechanisms are far more important and makes casting Judgement as often as possible critical.  Frequent Judging will help you have enough mana to heal longer fights and be more effective.


HITTING THE RIGHT TARGET

But in an era of Crowd Control, how do you make sure that you're hitting the right target?  How do you ensure that you're not going to get that nasty internet dragon munching on your face?

The trick to healing and Judging seamlessly is target selection, or rather, the lack thereof.  Normally, a healer is going to be rapidly targeting friendly players while casting heals.  If you then press Judgement (or any other attack) without first selecting a hostile target, the game will automatically target whichever mob is closest to you.  There is nothing worse that hitting the Judgement button and having the game select the wrong target, breaking Crowd Control or causing you to get aggro.  It's vitally important to make sure that you're Judging the right target.  Luckily, there is a very simple way to do this that doesn't require any add-ons or effort.

Focus

The default Focus Frame.  Hi Mack.
The easiest way to solve this problem is to use the Focus feature of the default user interface.  Focus allows you to 'tag' a mob or party member that you want to keep an eye on.  In the default UI, focusing on a target will give you another, movable unit frame with your Focus Target in it.  You can use this to keep an eye on your Focus Target's health, use it to quickly switch targets and many other things, but the real power of this feature comes from how it can be used in macros.

For Judgement, this is the macro that I use:

#showtooltip
/cast [exists,harm][@focustarget,exists,help][] Judgement


This macro will cast Judgement on your Focus Target's target if you have a focus, and on your current target if you don't.  This allows you to use it in groups or soloing without changing anything.

For both raiding and dungeons, the best thing to focus on is the Tank.  By always targeting the Tank's target while grouped, it is almost guaranteed that you will always be Judging the target that the Tank has the best threat on, and you will almost never break a Crowd Controlled mob early.  The best habit to get into is at the beginning of any dungeon or raid to set your Focus Target on the Tank and be content that each Judgement that you cast will hit the proper target.

This system can be used for all of your offensive spells by altering the macro for each spell.


To set a Focus Target, select what you want to focus and type /focus or right click on the unit frame and select Set Focus.  For more information on Focus and some of it's uses, check out Wowpedia's article: http://www.wowpedia.org/Focus_target

I have found that using Focus in this way is the simplest method of making sure that your Judgements hit the appropriate target.  What method, if any, do you use to make sure that you're not Judging the wrong target?  Do you use add-ons?  Or is it something that you haven't worried about?



19.2.11

This Week in Raiding: How Long is Your Raid

This Week in Raiding is a (hopefully) weekly feature discussing the raiding encounters that my guild tackled this week, the lessons learned from them, as well as any news or thoughts on raiding in general.  This week the lovely and talented Ophelie from Bossy Pally and the Giant Spoon offers a guest post on Raid Lengths, proving that it is possible to be so full of awesomesauce that it could be bottled and sold in very upscale boutiques.


Hi everyone, Ophelie here from Bossy Pally. I'm helping entertain you keep things moving here while Fannon is spending time with his new family.

Since Fannon writes quite a bit about raiding, I thought I'd keep with the theme and write about raid lengths. That's right, lets forget about the size discussions for awhile. It's all about length today. (I'm fully aware of all the possible dirty jokes I could make here, but I'll be a good guest and spare you all my juvenile sense of humour.) 



HOW MUCH DOES LENGTH MATTER?

When shopping for a raiding guild, the raid schedule is most likely one of the first things you try to dig up on a guild website. (Why so many guilds bury their raid schedules under pages of uselessness, I'll never understand.) You check which days of the week they raid, how often they raid, if they raid at times where you'll be occupied with your real life dailies... But how much importance do you attribute to how long they raid?

Me, I'm really picky about raid lengths. Too short and the raid will be over by the time we get warmed up, too long and I'll inadvertently wander off, like a bored child in a shopping mall.

From my guild shopping experience, I'd estimate that most teams raid for 3 to 4 hours. Yet you'll occasionally come across some guilds that raid for less than 2 hours, and others with 8 or more hour long raids.


Making the most of your time

Do you have trouble starting on time? Do people randomly go afk? Do you frequently have players leaving before the raid ends?

If you notice a lot of time wasting, chances are your raids are too long. Your teammates are taking their precious raid minutes for granted. Or maybe your teammates just have the attention span of a newborn goldfish. Either way, too long, too long, too long. Cut, cut, cut.

Not the players, the raid. If you can't start on time, consider pushing back raid start-time by 30 minute. If a lot of people are leaving before finish time, think about chopping 30 minutes from the end of the raid. If people are wandering off outside of breaks, cut whichever side of the raid you prefer. You goal is to make sure that your team is able to sustain interest in what they're doing, newborn goldfish or not newborn goldfish. They need to be able to appreciate the time they spend getting smacked around by virtual monsters.

Obviously, be reasonable here, if you only have 1 or 2 players who are unreliable, and they're consistently unreliable, maybe the raids are too long for them but changing everyone's schedule is silly. If you really like those people and you're of the accommodating type, guilds who do those scary marathon days often swap players in and out after a few hours. If you have a few goldfish raiders, there's nothing stopping you from setting up a similar arrangement for your goldfish to relay each other (breaks make for great hello/goodbye time).


Time Perception: It's Like One of those Visual Illusion Thingies

Pretty much every team I've raided with had 3 hour raids. Most of the time, that's way longer than my attention span (I confess to being a goldfish) and this happens:

Me: ....
Me: ....
Me: Sorry was alt tabbed out.

But sometimes this happens:

Me: WHAT DO YOU MEAN LAST PULL?

What makes time fly during a raid?
  • Limited dead time (in other words, fast recovery from wipes, no waiting around)
  • Being encouraged to participate in strategy adjustment discussions
  • Novelty (this includes new approaches to an old fight)
  • A feeling of learning something
  • A feeling of teamwork or, at very least, camaraderie (according to my very unscientific and highly biased personal experience, the perceived length of raids is inversely proportional to the number of times the /flirt emote is used)

The Time Spent Raiding Sweet Spot

My paladin grew up on a PvE, fairly casual server during BC and early Wrath. There was one guild that aimed to be "hardcore". They had 6 hour raids several times a week (note: I don't know for sure if this was true or not, but for the sake of the moral of the story, we're going to pretend it was true). Rumour had it that they did all the "hardcore" things: forcing standby players to stand outside the instance during raids , raid kicking anyone who screwed up, imposing unreasonable farming quotas.

"Wow", I used to think. "They're so hardcore."

Then, one day, I transferred to a more progressive server. I quickly realized that the "hardcore" guild was only hardcore in attitude. Their boss kills were nothing out of the ordinary. Despite raiding about 20 hours a week and treating their players badly, they were hardly progressive.

At the other end of the spectrum is Imperative, one of those super intimidating top world guilds. Even though they only raid for 3.5 hours at a time, they cause heroic bosses to seize up and topple over dead wherever they go.

It's like that "Studying for Exams Curve", where the more you study, the better grade you get, up to a certain point, where studying more stops having much of an effect. Everyone plateaus out at some point, and the key to being efficient means finding that sweet spot.




Time, the Elusive Resource

Whether you're raid scheduling or you're shopping for a raid team, keep the sweet spot in mind. The team's sweet spot and your own. Time is a rare, special thing, and you want to make the most of it.




16.2.11

The Dwarfling Arrives


After a long and epic battle, the Dwarfling finally arrived yesterday.  Thirty hours of induced labour, forcepts and just about every other medical intervention short of a Caesarean Section and there she was.  And it was completely mind-blowing.

I really didn't understand how instant the love and attachment would be.  It's actually very cool.

This is Teagan.  She's absolutely adorable.


14.2.11

Coping with Limited Play-Time and Lofty Goals

If you have been following me on Twitter, you may know that my wife and I are expecting our first little Dwarven Battle Baby pretty much any minute. I have taken to calling her the Dwarfling, and she represents an upcoming shift in my personal priorities. Apparently my new priorities in life are going to revolve around poop for a long while, and an 'Epic Wipe' is going to have an entirely different meaning than it does now.

A newborn Dwarfling is a wonderful thing that is, aside from poop, full of endless possibilities and uncertainties. The one thing that is absolutely certain is that my WoW playing time is going to be far more constrained than it is now, assuming Mrs. Fannon lets me anywhere near the computer in the first place.

However, even given the limitations on my free time, I still have very lofty goals when it comes to WoW. I still want to continue raiding with my guild and stay on track for getting all the current raid content down before the first major patch. I still haven't abandoned my priestly namesake who needs to be leveled and geared yet. Not to mention the Druid and Shaman that are withering from lack of attention (I can hear them now; the level 18 Shaman is saying in her weirdly sexy dwarfish brogue, "C'mon, lemme heal somethin'", and the level 6 Druid is saying, "Please get me out of these clown clothes already").

And I want to continue writing for and growing this blog, since I have enjoyed writing about WoW as much as I enjoy playing it.

So then, you may ask, what is my strategy to do both? I have been giving this some thought over the past few weeks, and since a lot of people have jobs and children and spouses and all sorts of different things that restrict their playing time, I thought it might be helpful to share my thoughts with everyone.


PRIORITIES FIRST, PLEASE

Firstly, it's important to set priorities. I realize that WoW is just a game, and as such, necessarily needs to take a backseat to what's happening in the real world. If the Dwarfling is crying, poopy or having any of the issues that babies are prone to, my raid team is just going to have to wait until she's taken care of. The bosses aren't going anywhere, and will be there when I'm done.


GETTING THE BOSS ON BOARD

I should mention at this point that despite my best efforts, my Wife does not play WoW. I've tried, believe me, but she just doesn't have any interest in the game.

If you have a spouse, it's important to get them on your side. WoW has a reputation as a nortorious relationship killer, and while that certainly can be true, it's no worse than any other time or money consuming interest that you don't share with your spouse. If I spent all my time out at a bowling alley instead of playing WoW, that could present just as much of a problem. It's important to talk to your spouse and let them know how much you enjoy WoW and what it does for you (relaxation, stress-relief, escape, etc). If they know that it is important to you, it is far more likely that they will give you the time that you need.

My wife and I have discussed my WoW time at great length and various volume levels during the years that I have been playing. I still don't think she quite understands how or why I enjoy the game so much, or how much of a stress release it can be (the stress of an entire nights worth of wipes, notwithstanding). But, after all this discussions and arguments, and I think we have reached a point of mutual understanding: She knows that she has precedence, but allows me my stress relief as well. Well, at least until the dishes need to be done or something.

Communication is key. If you don't talk to your family about this game and why it's important, it will always be an irritant if they feel that it's getting in the way of their time with you. Share it, talk about it, even if they don't play try to involve them in it to some degree. I tell my wife about all my raids, and even through her utter disinterest she listens. She doesn't care, and thinks that killing Internet Dragons is silly, but the fact that I want her to be a part of it means something to her. It's just like telling her how work went, except with shiny purples at the end.


SCHEDULING FOR DUMMIES

I have found the best way to ease the tensions between my wife and my WoW is to set aside specific times of the week for play time. The rest of the time is spent with her, either relaxing and enjoying each other's company, or doing household tasks that seem endless. The arrival of the Dwarfling means that there are a lot more things to do, so scheduling play time becomes even more important.

As of right now, I have two raid nights a week scheduled and essentially an hour of play time per night. It's never set in stone, of course, since Life Comes First, but it's at a point where I have regular play times set aside and the stress and arguments have been drastically reduced. I get the feeling that there will be some renegotiation when the dirty diapers start piling up, but if she knows that my game time on Sundays and Mondays always ends at 9 o'clock, then she can plan things around that. It's all about being respectful to your family and their needs, as well as taking care of your own.


MAKING THE MOST OF THE TIME YOU'VE GOT

How many game sessions have you spent sitting in Stormwind or Dalaran or wherever, just standing in front of the bank, not really sure what to do? I know it happens to me all the time. Sometimes I'm not sure whether I want to hit a heroic, farm some ore, play an alt or whatever, and I just end up idling in the city and commenting in guild chat at how idiotic trade chat is.

As anyone with limited availability will attest, this is an atrocious waste of your precious game time.

When you have a limited time budget, it's ideal to have a plan on what you want to do before you sit down and log in. By setting a goal or at least an activity you will be able to waste less time doing nothing. Frankly, I'm horrible at this, but it's something that I need to get better at. And quickly, too.

My plan is to focus on one thing per evening. I don't really have time every day to do all my dailies, run my daily heroic, farm the ore I need for Jewelcrafting and at the same time level three alts. To be time efficient, I am going to focus on one of these tasks each play session, with the highest priority going to the daily heroic in order to stockpile the valor points I need to gear up. When I only have an hour or so, or at a time when I could be pulled away at any moment, I'll focus on the other things.

The nice thing about leveling alts through questing is that you can stop and log out at any moment without inconveniencing anyone else like you would in a raid or heroic. This makes alts ideal for people with limited play time. If your goal is like mine and you want to be progression raiding however you need to be careful of this, as alts are a notorious time-sink and can take your focus away from your raiding characters. But it's a great way to sneak some play time in when you only have a few minutes to play.


QUEST REWARDS

World of Warcraft is a hobby. As something I enjoy it becomes a bit of an escape from the trials and grinds of the real world. As such, it's a great incentive to use to movtivate yourself to get unpleasant things done so you can have more time having fun in Azeroth. It's also a bargaining chip that you can use to negotiate play time with your significant other, if needed.

When I sit down to spend some time on my computer playing, the last thing that I want to do is to have to stop in the middle of something and go and take out the trash, or pick up the dog crap in the backyard, mow the grass or whatever. The interruptions make getting anything done, both in Azeroth and the real world much harder and much more frustrating. There is nothing worse that telling your raid leader that you need to go and empty the dishwasher and nobody is really going to mind 15 minutes of their flask time ticking away for no reason, will they? Raid leaders know a lot of very colourful four-letter words, and they save them for moments like that.

So, using WoW as a reward for getting your jobs done is a great way to maximize the chances of uninterrupted game time. Baby is asleep, diapers are thrown away and wife is all happy? Great, time for a little WoW. Had a particularly stressful day at work and need some PVP pwnage to make you feel better? Mow the lawn first and then go kill those rogues and warlocks.

I find there is nothing worse than having a task of some kind that needs to be done looming over my head when I sit down to play. It's far better to get things done before playing, and not after. This is also something I need to get better at.


CAN THIS ACTUALLY WORK?

I think so. I think it's possible to still have enough play time to do what I want to do in WoW and still be a great father and husband to my family. They key is to set realistic expectations for yourself, and to be mindful of your family and their needs and most importantly, place them first. If it's your job or other activities that are restricting your time, rewarding yourself for getting everything else done is an excellent way to ensure that you have some uninterrupted and guilt-free play time.

Remember, WoW is a recreational activity. It's really no different than a bowling league, or a chess club or anything else. If you want to play, then set aside some regular, scheduled time and do so.


13.2.11

Light of Fizzle Update: Stealth Nerf Stealthily Unnerfed.

As I'm sure most of my readers have already discovered from far more reliable sources (Kurn, Ophelie), it seems that Blizzard has decided to unnerf (de-nerf? Antinerf?) Light of Dawn just as sneakily as they nerfed it before.

As others have I have confirmed that Light of Dawn is, in fact, still transferring through Beacon of Light.  It seems that this change has been reverted.  This doesn't really make a lot of sense, especially considering how quickly things were turned around.

I have a theory, however.

It's one of two things:

It's possible that Blizzard heard the outcry from the community and reversed the change.  This would mean that the WoW developers are listening to their players and as much as they are trying to balance the classes, they are willing to reverse a change that the player base can make a legitimate argument against.  In this case, the idea that this change might cause Paladins to lose a lot of their versatility may have been persuasive enough to cause Blizzard to change it back.  Or, perhaps they are just sick of all the wailing and gnashing of teeth; we paladins are a boisterous, vocal lot, after all, and are willing to rise up in armed revolt over the least little nerf.

Either way, the idea that Blizzard listens to the concerns of their player base and is responsive to their feedback is so optimistic that it almost borders on silly.  There is no way that we have things that good, is there?

The other option is that Blizzard has taken the idea of beta testing to a whole other level.  All developers will beta test new features or changes to the game before they are released to ensure that they work before they make the change.  This way they can prevent mistakes and improve quality.

I think that Blizzard, on the other hand,  is pioneering something different:  Blizzard has started beta testing patch notes.  Yes, in order to ensure that they produce the best patch notes possible, they are releasing potential changes to the notes before they release the actual notes.  By releasing a beta patch note they can see how it looks, play with the fonts and colours to ensure that their notes are the absolute best in the industry.

It's a brave new world.

12.2.11

Light of Fizzle - Stealth Nerf in 4.0.6a

UPDATE:  It appears that this change has been reverted.  Check out my latest post for more.


Oh, those sneaky Blizzard folks are at it again.

They snuck in a small patch last night, 4.0.6a, with a few more untested and surprise changes to the classes.  This was quite unexpected, considering that they had close to a month to test this patch on the PTR.

But the change of interest to the Holy Paladins is a big one:
Beacon of Light no longer triggers from Light of Dawn.
This is very interesting, actually.  This is now the second time that they have stealthily nerfed Light of Dawn for being too good.  I talked about the first round of nerfs in my Tower of Fizzle post, in which I suggested that instead of removing Holy Light's synergy with Tower of Radiance, preventing Light of Dawn from transferring through the Beacon of Light was a better way to go.

I'm gratified that Blizzard seems to be listening to me, but, err, I didn't mean for you to do both!

As of right now, Light of Dawn is a very small heal.  It's tiny, in fact.  So much so that the only compelling reason to cast is was the fact that it transferred 50% of it's heals to the Beacon target.  It turns out that one-half of five or six little heals adds up to one big heal on the Beacon, which apparently is unbalanced.

What makes this truly intriguing is that in response the the outcry after the first round of nerfs,  Nethaera posted on the official forums (I think it was Nethaera on this thread, but I'll have to check later.  Sadly, the official forums are blocked at work. Look for an update later today) saying that it is specifically intended that Light of Dawn transfer through the Beacon.

This means that, with this most recent change, Blizzard has reversed a fundamental design philosophy of Paladin healing, more than likely due to it being too mana efficient.  This change is one more nail in the coffin of the whole Holy Power experiment, which in my opinion is a complete and utter failure.  I'm not sure how Blizzard expected giving Paladins free heals not to lead to mana efficiency.  Isn't that the whole point of a free heal in the first place?  It seems to me that the Holy Power concept has caused more grief and problems for the Holy spec than it has solved, and with this change Paladin healing simply has no synergy whatsoever.  It is now just a random collection of spells that you can cast, and you should keep a Post-It note on your screen with a list of what does and does not transfer to the Beacon or generate Holy Power.

Not that Holy Power is all that useful anymore.

You know what?  I think I'm okay with this change.  A zen-like feeling of calm and peace is washing away the nerdrage that I was feeling last night when I heard of this change.  I've entered a chakra-like state of bliss and serenity.  It's okay, honestly.  Blizzard has spoken from on high and said, "You know that whole 'Paladin raid-healing' thing we were playing around with?  Yeah, just forget about it".

Holy Paladins are single target healers again.  It's official.

We're all back in our old comfort zone.  You'll hear a lot of raid leaders again saying:
"Holy Paladin in the raid?  Just stick him on the tanks.  They're not as good as they used to be, but they are good tank healers. 
And it's not like they can do anything else anyway."



10.2.11

This Week in Raiding: Green Bay Wipes Us

This Week in Raiding is a (hopefully) weekly feature discussing the raiding encounters that my guild tackled this week, the lessons learned from them, as well as any news or thoughts on raiding in general. This week I complain about things. Enjoy!


This week in raiding... was cancelled. Apparently last Sunday there was an important broadcast of some sort coming from the telly that had a lot of our raiders transfixed. I'm not exactly sure of the nature of this broadcast, but from what I have gathered so far, I think it was a new episode of World's Funniest TV Commercials, since that seems to be all anybody was talking about afterwards. However, there was a lot of buzz on Twitter about a rather grandiose soup bowl of some sort, so that might bear some investigation as well.

Seriously, though, our Sunday night raid did not go off as planned due to some, err, unannounced absences due to the Superbowl. Oh well, I did my heroic and a couple of dailies and spent some time with my wife. It worked out well, really.

Monday night our regular raiders returned, acting all innocent and, "Waddaya mean yesterday was raid night?" It proved to be an interesting night.

Our biggest nemesis (aside from the elevator, which has wiped us more times than Arthas) was lag. The connection was terrible on Monday night, which likely had something to do with the 4.0.6 patch being downloaded. I noticed multiple occasions where my screen would freeze for a couple of seconds and then race to catch up with me. It's very interesting trying to heal when you're watching a photograph instead of a movie.

In the end we did manage to get our three Blackwing Descent bosses down in the one night. Magmaw actually took us a great deal more time that I would have expected. The lag was causing massive problems mounting him and getting the chains attached properly, resulting in numerous wipes on a boss that I thought we had cased. In one rather unique wipe, I accidentally clicked on Magmaw during the chaining phase and ended up on his back. I was surprised, to say the least, and tried my best to get him chained down, but the tank ended up becoming worm munchies and we called the attempt.

Tuesday morning I had quite a few people hit my blog after searching for "Problems Mounting Magmaw" on Google, so I don't think we were the only ones having this issue. I suspect that this is a temporary issue, so I wouldn't worry about it too much.

On we went to Omnotron, who was one-shot. I know, I was surprised too.

Maloriak gave us a bit of trouble, but we ended up getting him down on our last attempt of the night. What is the magic of saying, "This is the last attempt of the night"? Is it just me, or does it seem like as soon as that phrase is uttered your odds of downing the boss get better? It's like searching for hours for your car keys and giving up, grabbing a beer from the fridge, going back to the couch and sitting on them.

Afterwards, I pugged a last minute Baradin Hold run with Oath, our main tank. Pit Lord Lootbag dropped my Holy tier gloves, which represented the first raid loot for my holy spec that I've seen in the month that I've been raiding. It was very exciting. Or rather, it would have been if I didn't already have the World Keepers Gauntlets from Earthen Ring already. You know, Argaloth, I could have used those pants that you have on you somewhere. Those would have been very helpful, thankyouverymuch. I'll save the tier gloves, of course, until I have another piece of tier gear. If Omnotron Maloriak drops the Flash Freeze Gauntlets next week I think I'll cry.

How was your raiding weekend? Did the Superbowl or the lag cause you any issues?

8.2.11

Level One Conversations in the Blogosphere

I did a post a couple of weeks ago, An Intimate Conversation with My Level One Self, which turned out to be quite a hit.  It has become one of my most viewed posts and has inspired a few other bloggers to jump on the idea (which, again, was in itself inspired by WoW Insider's Breakfast Topic a long time ago), and there have been some really interesting posts as a result.

It's an incredibly gratifying feeling to have inspired someone else to write something (even if I, in turn, was inspired by someone else's writing), and it truly has been a thrill reading each one as I find them.

Here are links to the ones that I know about.  I will keep this updated as I find more of them.




  • Gneisha at Unleashed Rage, a fellow Sargeras-er was a little late to the party but still very welcome: Dear Level 1 Gneisha.


If you have done a similar post or know of one that I haven't included, let me know in the comments and I'll add it here.

5.2.11

On Archaeology and the Trials of Surveying

This post is a response to a Blog Azeroth Shared Topic suggested by Ringo Flinthammer, "Digging Archaeology".  We'll overlook the pun just this once, Ringo. 

Back when I was in first-year University, I took an Archaeology class.  It was an introduction to the subject, painting it in very broad strokes, but I managed to learn a couple of things between naps:

1) Archaeology is very pain-staking and methodical.  It is a science where the context of where you find something is every bit as important as what you find.

2) Fedoras are not required and bull whips are actively discouraged.  This point was stressed on the first day.

3) There are rarely Nazis involved.

4) Archaeology is not nearly as exciting as you want to believe it to be.

5) Running around willy-nilly digging random holes and taking the stuff you find to the nearest shady, back-alley antiquities dealer to sell for lots of money is a good way to get yourself arrested.  This is particularly true in some countries like Greece or Egypt which are rather sensitive about these sorts of things.  And it invariably ends in a dark room, sitting at a table with a single bare light bulb above it and getting some rather severe looks from gentlemen who think that their priceless cultural artifacts do, in fact, belong in their country and would like nothing better than to arrange for you a first-hand experience of what it would be like to be stuck in a tomb for four thousand years.

Sorry, where was I?

Oh, yes, Archaeology!  The new secondary profession in World of Warcraft where you run around willy-nilly and ... dig random... uhh.... and ... err... priceless cultural artifacts... umm... sold to any vendor who happens to be standing near you... err... Oh dear.

I was very excited about the idea of Archaeology when Blizzard announced that it was going to be added with the Cataclysm expansion.  I am a bit of a lorehound, and I loved the idea of a secondary profession that added to the story of the game in an interactive way.

I have been playing with Archaeology very casually since it was released.  Very casually indeed, actually, since before this Shared Topic popped up my main character's Archaeology skill was a mere 6.  I decided that it was a good idea to actually play around with the profession a little before writing a post on it, so rather than running a heroic or doing Tol Barad dailies, I popped up my in-game map, and headed to the nearest dig site.



I'll say up front that I'm not really a fan of the main mechanic of Archaeology, Survey.  Running around following a big arrow that Blizzard dressed up as a surveying instrument isn't really my idea of fun.  It's somewhat diverting for the first little bit, but gets old very quickly.  The concept that there is no competition and that each person's digsite is their own is fabulous, however, and well implemented.

The problem is that it's not fun.  There are benefits to the profession, like a wonderful epic trinket, vanity pet and a mount, but getting them is an exercise in tedium.  It's much like fishing, really, and there aren't many people who find fishing a fascinating and engaging thing to level up, either.  I am spending rare and valuable leisure time playing this game and I want to be entertained while I'm doing it.  If I wanted to be bored doing a repetitive task I could do the household chores I've been desperately trying to avoid and make my wife happy, while at the same time saving fifteen bucks a month.

As well, the profession also disappoints in an area that was supposed to be it's core strength:  Lore.  The idea behind the profession is that each artifact that you complete tells you a little tidbit of the overall story of Azeroth.  The Archaeology interface has a huge area for the detailed lore that is supposed to make this profession irresistible to Warcraft lore nerds and completionists.  Except that it doesn't.  As Windsoar pointed out, the information that is given on most of the items is nothing more than a blurb.  Not really much more than what you would expect to get from a fortune cookie, if the Smithsonian Institute delivered Chinese food.

Where is the story?  Where is the lore?  Where is the context?   Some of the flavour text is interesting or funny, but there is so much more they could have done.  Why not tell a story of past Dwarven or Troll cultures through these artifacts?  Why not add some mystery, or an interlocking story that is told through the discovery of these different objects?  Blizzard has always had story-telling as their most important competitive advantage, and I feel that they have missed an extraordinary opportunity to offer a unique and engaging way to interact with the overall world history.  At least for now.  The nice thing about this profession is that Blizzard can add more to it any time they choose to tell whatever story they want.  Here's hoping that they decide to tell a tale that's more important than a bed-time story in the future.

The other issue I have with the Archaeology profession is that it really isn't archaeology.  Let me explain. Actual, real-world archaeologists attempt to discover information about past societies by studying the physical remains that they leave behind.  A digsite is excavated layer by layer, carefully extricating each artifact and then placing it within the proper context so that conclusions can be drawn from what you find and where it was found.

OK, fine, but this is a game, right?  Yes, I'd agree with that.  But this thought struck me as I was staring at this digsite:



"Ummm, aren't these Trolls still using the stuff that I'm finding?"

The study of a living culture and the artifacts that they are using is, in fact, Anthropology.  But more importantly, when you then take those artifacts of a living culture to a museum or, say, a shady back-alley antiquities dealer, that process then becomes what is known in the scientific community as stealing.  I find it very odd to wander into a Troll village and start digging up and taking their historical artifacts.  It would be like someone coming into your house, lifting up the stack of newspapers that you carelessly left on the coffee table, yelling "Eureka" as they pick up the TV remote that you forgot was under there, and then selling it at the nearest pawn shop as a historical treasure.



So Blizzard has implemented a new profession that more accurately should have been called Thievery with Shovels.  But that's OK, really, since the entire game is based on getting stuff from other people who are currently using said stuff.  At least with Archaeology we don't have to bring nine friends and kill anybody to get it.

Philosophical and semantic arguments aside and getting back to the World of Warcraft for a minute, Archaeology is an interesting profession, and I'm intrigued to see what Blizzard does with it in the future.  The implementation is solid, the potential for advancing lore through the flavour text is there, and while the actual game play is very grindy and repetitive at least there are some rewards at the end that are worth getting.  In contrast, the only thing you get by leveling fishing is more fish.


3.2.11

This Week in Raiding: Progression Road Kill

This Week in Raiding is a (hopefully) weekly feature discussing the raiding encounters that my guild tackled this week, the lessons learned from them, as well as any news or thoughts on raiding in general.


PROGRESSION ROAD KILL

In the past several weeks, Shadowgarde has been doing very well when it comes to progression, especially given some of the restrictions that are inherent to a casual raiding guild.  Even with a lack of healers and a raid composition that is never the same twice, we have managed to down bosses consistently and haven't regressed on any of the encounters that we have downed previously.

This week was our first look at three new encounters that completely kicked our ass.  And I don't mean 20% wipes or Oh-My-God-We-Almost-Had-Him-If-Only-That-Guy-Hadn't-Had-His-Head-Up-His-Ass type of wipes.  No, we're talking the 20-Seconds-Into-The-Fight-Holy-Fuck-What-Just-Happened wipe.


GOOD NEWS FIRST

There was some good news this week.  Our Sunday/Monday raid group went into BWD and took down the three bosses that we've killed so far with little trouble.  Magmaw was one-shot perfectly, Omnitron was taken down quickly with only a couple of wipes, and Maloriak was defeated for the second time after about an hour or so of working on it.  After a couple of attempts on Halfus we wrapped up our first raid night with very high spirits, as it was significant progress given that we hadn't managed to get all three bosses down in one night previously.


HALFUS

The trouble started with Halfus and the lovely drake combination that was up last week:  Nether, Storm and Slate.  Everything that I have read on this fight says that this is the worst possible threesome, and it's a hellish way to get your first look at this encounter.  What with the stacking healing debuff, the increased attack speed and Shadow Nova knocking everyone back and interrupting everything, most of our attempts didn't get very far before people started dying.  We tried it twice this past week, with two different raid groups and didn't really get very far.  At least people have now seen the fight and have an idea what to expect.  I'm hoping that with this little bit of experience and a slightly easier drake combination that we'll make some headway this week.  

I am honestly a little astonished that this boss is considered an "entry level" raid boss on par with Magmaw.  He hits freaking hard.


CHIMAERON

Walking in to this encounter on Monday evening was a bit of a shock, honestly.  I figured that we'd keep working on Halfus, so I was quite unprepared for this fight.  And as a healer, this fight is a complete and utter shock the first time you try it.  

If you haven't seen this fight before, it has a really interesting and unique mechanic.  The raid gets an buff that prevents them from being one-shot as long as they are about 10,000 health.  This is very good, since the boss will periodically hit the raid for 280,000 damage.  As long as everyone is above this level the raid is fine and it's the healer's job to get them back to 10k but no further, which puts a unique twist on healing.  Small, fast heals and mana efficiency seem to be whats needed here, and any heal that goes out while someone is over 10k health is utterly wasted.  It really made me take a long, hard look at my healing spell choices.

At the same time the Tanks are going to be taking a huge amount of damage and need to be topped off.  They have the same buff preventing them from being one shot as long as they're over 10k health, but often they will be struck with a double attack that can kill them if their health is too low.

And of course the buff will periodically disappear and everyone needs to rock their biggest AOE heals to keep up with the damage.  This fight seems to be designed to really test the healers mana management skills.

Our attempts on this boss ended badly.  We had two Holy Paladins and a Holy Priest, which didn't seem to be a very good combination for this fight.  My heals seemed to be coming in too slow to help keep the raid up, and the tanks seemed to need everything we could throw at them to keep alive.  By the end we had one Paladin on the tanks, the Priest on the raid and I was bouncing in between them, which seemed to work better.  It looks that we need a lot of work on this fight yet.


BE VEWY VEWY QUIET, WE'RE WIPING ON ATRAMEDES

After about an hour of solid futility with Chimaeron, we decided to take a look at Atramedes.  The trash packs of Dark Iron Dwarf Spirits in his room caused us a great deal of trouble, particularly the group on the left.  Chain Lightning is nasty, and make a mental note that these guys don't reset and have no leash.  During one rather unique wipe we ended up accidentally kiting them back up the elevator to the entrance where they immediately attacked anyone who zoned into the instance.  I was laughing my ass off, even as I did my second corpse run of the pull.

At this point in the night, we had pretty much chaulked this night up to a learning experience anyway, so our attempts on Atramedes only lasted for about half an hour.  We did get a good sense of the fight mechanics, and it looks like he will be the next boss that we tackle.

I love the mechanics that this fight brings to the table.  The sound bar and the gongs are very cool.  And the visual effects of his special abilities are unique and beautiful.  I am looking forward to working on this fight; it looks like a lot of fun.


THE LESSON:  PREPARATION IS KEY

This raid week really showed me the benefits of preparation.  We were prepared and ready to tackle Magmaw, Omnitron and Maloriak and we got them down quickly and efficiently.  We struggled on the bosses that we weren't prepared for, even though the Raid Leaders knew the strategy and communicated it to the raid.  Obvious as it may seem, reading up on the bosses beforehand and watching videos on the fight makes a world of difference.  As well, during progression, Raid Leaders need to communicate which bosses will be tackled next so that the raid can have an adequate chance to prepare themselves.  Surprises in a raid setting will lead to wipes, repair bills and drama.  Do everything you can to minimize them. 


UPDATE 4.Feb.2011

Last night our Tuesday/Thursday raid group went into Bastion of Twilight to continue working on Halfus.  Due to the lack of healers that I've talked about before it took them a long time to get the raid together, and had a couple of alts subbing in the healing spots.  I listened in on Ventrilo and our healer channel and it seemed like they were making some good progress.  With about an hour left in the raid, I was asked to sub in for one of the healer alts.  It caused a little drama with my wife, but I agreed.

The fight went so much better than last week.  I was assigned the tanks and we started making some real progress towards the fight, but were still wiping pretty consistently before the drakes were down.  On our very last attempt, however, we had a really good one going; the tanks were up, my mana was good (I had tunnel vision bad enough that I have NO idea how the other healers were managing) and the drakes went down.  It's amazing how much easier this fight gets once the drakes start falling.

With literally one second left until the enrage timer, Halfus fell.  It felt good.