Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Paradigm shift

(Note: This is an entirely non-gaming related post. Sorry about that, but just to warn you)

So four weeks ago, I flew some 1600 km north of where I was previously living. I'm now roughly an hour south of Brisbane, Australia, in a town called Nimbin. Many of you will have heard of it perhaps; the town refers to itself as "the sister city of Woodstock," and is more or less the psychedelic/hippie/"alternative," capital of the country. Some of you may also remember the animated movie, "Fern Gully," from several years ago. That film was set in what is now the Nightcap Rainforest National Park near Mount Warning, an volcano which actually exists not far from my present locationl.

I've been here for two weeks now; and the two weeks previous to that were spent in a Permaculture Design Course, taught by Geoff Lawton, a man who a couple of you may have heard of. That was also an amazing experience; permaculture is a revolutionary system of agriculture and environmental management, but there is much there that was reminiscent of Survival for me.

Moving that distance was a large extension of my previous comfort zone, especially considering that I'm still not exactly rolling in money. I finally got tired, however, of only playing characters like Mirsh vicariously within computer games. It became time to take some real risks.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Three days in Eberron

I'm still playing DDO, and enjoying it. Although I've read in reviews that it isn't so much true later on, at the moment at least, this game is a solo player's dream. Every quest takes place in its' own instance, and as mentioned, the difficulty is fully adjustable; Casual, Normal, Hard, Elite.

I tend to go in on Normal to get the feel for a place, and then kick it up to Hard for a second run through. Depending on how I did on Hard, I'll then go for Elite. The rewards scale with the difficulty, as well; on Casual, XP/rep gains are 50% of Normal, while on Elite, XP gains are 8-10% more.

It isn't all completely rosy, however. DDO's interface isn't quite as slick as WoW's. I have to have my bow and melee weapons assigned as different weapon sets, and use two hotkeys to manually switch between each. There can also be a noticeable delay when switching during combat, so if I'm going to initially kite or shoot a target, I have to time switching to make sure I've got my axe out when a mob reaches me.

The other major bugbear is the targeting, which tends to ping pong back and forth between targets, depending on what my mouse is hovering over. From memory there's an option to turn auto targetting off, though, and I also already have sticky targetting assigned to the F key, so I think I will be able to sort that out. That's just the usual sort of initial teething problem when starting any new game, really.

I only have two combat skills at the moment; Trip and Sunder. My spells apparently come much later. Trip is very useful, because it makes my character perform a foot sweep which knocks a mob's legs out from under them, and sends them to the ground. This makes them much more vulnerable, so I'm usually able to kill them in one hit after that. Sunder is like Sunder Armour for Warriors in WoW; it reduces a mob's armor class for a bit, so I can kill it more easily.

The Ranger Tempest is meant to be a dual wielding class as well, but I think I already mentioned that being a Half-Orc means I get initial two handed proficiency early on. This is a real lifesaver, because while I'm levelling up, before I get the full bonus from Two Weapon Fighting, I've still got a hit penalty to the offhand, similar to what I actually had when dual wielding as a Survival Hunter in WoW.

As far as shooting is concerned, my Strength is sufficiently high that I do almost as much damage with my bow as with my axe; but because my Dexterity is lower, my hit chance is only around 10-20%, currently.

More than anything else, I'm actually enjoying the feel of being low level again. It makes things challenging, and means that I really have to focus on what I'm doing, in order to survive; especially if I keep the difficulty on Hard or above. Kiting is a lot more tricky than in WoW, particularly given that I don't have auto attack, and have to click to fire as I freelook with the mouse; but I'll get it eventually.

It's a funny paradox, you know. DDO has all these funny little interface quirks that WoW had smoothed out at release on the one hand; but now, DDO also actually has enough real challenge that it can keep me interested in playing on the other. DDO is not homogenised in any sense of the word. I suspect that even if WoW does somehow manage to recover from its' current slump, that fact will mean that Turbine will continue to receive my money.

Monday, May 23, 2011

As one door closes...

...Another opens.

I've uninstalled WoW from my hard drive, and cancelled my subscription. In its' place, I've installed Dungeons and Dragons Online. I've been playing it for the last three hours or so as I type, and already I'm able to tell that with this game, although I loved Survival, I'm going to be able to get at least a good part of the playstyle that I'd always wanted from Surv.

My class in DDO is a Half-Orc Tempest Ranger. Rangers in DDO are a true melee/ranged hybrid. At the time of rolling, I had 17 base strength, straight out of the gate, and was also given a large two handed axe with a fire enchant during the starting quest, as well.

I'm now running through the early quests two shotting literally everything, and even though ranged combat is supposed to be the weakest element of DDO, I think I've figured out a way to get around that. Half-Orcs have very high base strength, and although Dexterity (the equivalent of Agility in WoW, roughly) is usually the stat needed for ranged damage, Tempests get a skill later on which allows us to use Strength as our ranged stat.

I do a little (though not much, truthfully, because I got a very nice repeating crossbow as a quest reward) more damage melee than I do at range, but I can shoot when I need to, for getting casters or other mobs that I don't want to get so close to, that they can damage me. So I have a lot of versatility. Rangers can even wear shields, although I am not going to do that, because as a Tempest, once I get the skills for it, I will be dual-wielding. Tempests apparently have two hand specialisation that is even better than what Fighters (the Warrior equivalent in DDO) get, but they're still quite a bit stronger than we are, as well. Still, I'm doing just fine as my own tank right now.

Rangers aren't a pet class in DDO, but I'm that much stronger melee, that I really don't need a pet; although it is possible later on to get spells which let me summon one for ten minutes or so.

DDO is a completely PvE oriented game; there's no PvP at all, at least that I know of. The instances can also be run either solo, with a human group, or with NPC hirelings, and the difficulty level is fully adjustable. Payment options are equally flexible; you can either pay a monthly subscription, (which I'm doing) or pay for Turbine Points at the DDO store, which seem to allow content to be unlocked on a per-transaction basis, although the initial content is free to play.

I've subscribed for an initial three months, as I said, and I much prefer subscribing than gated microtransactions, because a subscription means I immediately get access to everything up front, that someone doing the initial free-to-play would have to spend a lot more money for, on individual points. At $30 for three months, it's 30% cheaper than World of Warcraft, as well.

DDO's graphics might seem a little limited to some, but I like them. It uses the classic 70s style of fantasy art, as also seen in Age of Conan. They not long ago added support for DirectX 11 though, and I had to actually put the settings down to DirectX 10, because my video card started running at 85C.

If you've been upset about the direction WoW has gone in since Cataclysm, though, DDO is at least worth a try, I think. I'm very happy with it, and while it comes across as non-mainstream and a little old school, that is exactly what I was looking for. It might be your cup of tea; it might not.

Friday, April 22, 2011

(Almost) Zero focus farming

I'm currently slowly making my way through what I assume is the tail end of the Hyjal quests; one of my current ones is The Sanctum of the Prophets. During Hyjal I've started using an adaptation of my old, TBC/WoTLK farming rotation.

First, I use the current addons:-

Kharthus Hunter Timers
Range Display

I also use the following pull macro with Serpent Sting; although you'll want to swap this out with regular Serpent for instancing. This fires Serpent, but prevents a follow up autoshot, so I don't produce any additional threat. If you don't have any other mobs in the immediate vicinity, after firing, your target will go off, but immediately be reselected.

#show Serpent Sting
/cast [harm, exists] Serpent Sting

1. Measuring with Range Display, get to 35 feet of your target.

2. Drop an Immolation Trap.

3. Fire Serpent Sting.

4. Backpedal, and while doing so, send the pet when the mob hits the trap. You may get melee hit once, depending on your lag; but that is no big deal.

5. Fire Cobra Shot and Explosive Shot. I like getting the two off without an auto in between if I can, for old time's sake; I never quite got the 1:1.5 out of my system. <3

6. If you are impatient, fire Kill Shot when it lights up.

I finish with 95 focus, and 3-5 seconds left on the cooldown of Immolation Trap.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Better late than never

Although it might be four years late, I have finally obtained an Onyx Netherwing Drake. This marks the completion of the first of the two major tasks I have set myself, before I can leave World of Warcraft. The second is to obtain the Conqueror PvP title.

There has really been nothing else in my life, whether online or off, that having begun, I have completed to the point of real satisfaction. Even if there is nothing else after this, I am going to complete these objectives, and in so doing, according to my own terms, complete this character.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Upcoming Class Changes

A friend sent me this. Enjoy. ;)


Monday, March 28, 2011

A new guild

So yesterday, after discovering them on the forum, I transfered to the Misha PvE realm, and joined a guild called Pay It Forward.

As the name might suggest, they're probably the single most positive group I've ever encountered in this game. The guild has over 400 people, with very active crafters, and a full to bursting guild bank, which I've already started contributing to as well.

I've already done a Normal Throne of the Tides run, and although I didn't have a meter running, they assured me that I was doing fine. It was chaotic, but we had a lot of fun, and a couple of nice blues dropped for me as well; after which everyone, including me, was repeatedly and profusely thanked for coming.

In other words, I feel like I've finally come home. I have no idea how much content I'm going to end up doing in Cata, but I'm not really focusing on that right now. I'm trying to focus on sharing whatever little I do experience, with an enormously positive, generous, and hospitable group of people.

I think the other important thing is that because they have the attitude that I can play however I like, I can focus on being competitive purely with *myself*, rather than having to think that I'm doing it purely for acceptance from others. So yes, Recount is being installed, and yes, I'm actually looking up the EJ approved spec and rotation for Survival; but I'm doing those things for *me,* not the guild, because the guild have already said that they are not worried about such things.

For me, that has always been the paradox. If I am told to do my own thing, I will still try and improve to the extent that I can, purely for my own sake; but the moment it feels as though anything is being done purely to satisfy other people, it will not happen.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Nether Portals and You: A Minecraft tutorial

My brother tells me that to some extent, Minecraft has become a tradition for a lot of WoW players during Tuesday night maintenance. I had been going to post an ArkInventory tutorial here tonight, but since WoW is down, I thought I'd go with this instead; it's an article repost that I wrote on the Minecraft forums late last year, on how to get Nether portals working. This seems to be something which a lot of people find difficult, so hopefully this information will help someone.

The thread also contains a link to a YouTube video, added just tonight, from a user who was able to use not only my post, but also the research of a user named Addicted, to get his portals working.

Enjoy. :)


I'm aware that there are possibly a few people who are still having difficulty with getting their Nether portals working. This was originally sent in a private message to someone who PMed me in response to an earlier offer I made last month, to help fix people's portals; but I figured that there are probably a number of other people who could still benefit from it as well, so I decided to also post it here.

One area where I'm a fairly incurable science fiction geek, is physics relating to teleportation or other unconventional means of transportation. That's meant Stargate, and it's also meant Sliders as well. So for me, the Nether portal has been the single most exciting addition that Notch has made to the game; I love these things. For a while, however, they frustrated the hell out of me. I had to satiate my hunger for the ability to do this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8HWyAODVsQ4) within Minecraft, however, and so eventually I sat down and over a period of 12 solid hours of experimentation and tearing my hair out, assisted by this thread (viewtopic.php?f=35&t=93046) from Addicted, and the awesome contributions of uecasm and Mr. B, this is what I eventually figured out.

The portals (and Minecraft's geography in general) work via a Cartesian coordinate system. There are numbers on three axes; x, y, and z. Y represents elevation; the other two are length and width. The Nether and the surface world each use their own numerical grid; however both start from zero.

The Nether has a space compression co-efficient of 8, relative to the surface world, on both the x and z axes. What this means in English is that for every horizontal block of distance you walk in the Nether, by doing so you will have traveled the equivalent of 8 blocks in the surface world.

Another way to express this, would be to imagine a horizontal 10 centimeter line, drawn on a piece of paper, with a 2 centimeter line below it. The 10 centimeter line represents the surface world, and the 2 centimeter line represents the Nether. Because the 2 cm line is so much shorter, it can't contain references for literally all of the 10 cm, but by linking with the part of the 2 cm line that in scale represents the 6 cm point on the 10 cm line, you can get bounced back to that point on the 10 cm line, without having to move the whole 6 cm.

As an example, the Nether portal in my gateroom has coordinates of 9, 48, 308. What that means is that the portal is 48 blocks in height, distant from the 0 block, (the last layer of bedrock) 9 blocks distant from the 0 block in length or width, and 308 blocks from zero on the other axis. I usually have to try and remind myself what each one is every time, aside from elevation, as I don't always remember.

So if I have built a portal at that location in the surface world, if I want to find out the exact location that a corresponding portal should be built in the Nether, I divide both the first and third numbers by 8. I do not divide the second number, because elevation is the same in the Nether as the surface world; 132 blocks, from the last layer of bedrock, to the top of the sky.

So once I've divided those two numbers by 8, I go into the Nether. Now, if there is no other gate in the Nether at that time, there is a form of artificial intelligence in the game, which will try to automatically place the gate in the correct position for me. However, 45% of the terrain in the Nether is unsuitable for gates; it is either in midair, or in lava, or buried in hellstone. So if there is lava or hellstone in the way, or if there is no surface for the gate to be built on, the game will look for a close possible location instead, and build a gate there.

Initially, you will have no way of knowing this. So you will go back through the gate into the surface world, expecting to land back in your surface world gate room. However, the reason why you don't, is because the Nether portal (portal B) was at the wrong linking location for portal A, (the gateroom portal) and so portal B is *now* trying to guess the ideal location of *its'* matching portal in the *surface world.*

It is this guessing which the game does, that is the source of the problem. In order to solve it, you must place your portals manually, and destroy gates which are automatically placed by the game, which do not match the correct coordinates.

So taking the 3 numbers divided from our example, would give us 1, 48, 38. If instead you were at coordinates 1, 48, 38 in the Nether, and wanted to build a gate there, and know the right location for its' surface world partner, you would multiply both 1 and 38 by 8, to give you the coords 8, 48, 308 again.

We then use something like the SignTags mod, or the MinecraftGPS mod, which will allow us to view the coordinate location of the map that we are standing on, and doing that, we walk to coordinate location 1, 48, 38 in the Nether. When we get there, we will place the second obsidian block of the 4 block wide base of our gate, at those exact coordinates, with the first, third, and fourth blocks placed next to it.

Most of the time when we get there, we will find something in the way, which prevented the game from automatically placing our gate in the right location. This can be either lava, a hellstone mountain, or empty space, as mentioned. You will then have to build a scaffolding and a walkway up to the exact location of those coordinates, in order to place your gate. This can sometimes be very labour intensive if your gates are in midair, and for that reason I use Fly mod to allow me to build whatever staircases and walkways I need to, for connecting gates in the Nether, rather than having to initially build dangerous scaffolding and risk falling repeatedly into lava, etc, before my walkway is built. Fly mod also lets me fly up to the ceiling of the Nether and bucket a lava flow, rather than having to redirect it closer to the base.

You also must make a note of which way the surface world gate is facing, and make sure you build your gate to face in the same direction (whether North-South, or East-West) as well. If you enter a gate in the surface world, and come out staring at one side of the frame in the Nether, then even if the second obsidian block was correctly placed at the right coordinates, you will still need to rebuild the rest of the gate in order to face the right way.

This may seem obsessive, but if you place your gates manually, with this degree of precision, you will find that they work flawlessly, every time, and you will even be able to do such things as having multiple gates in the same chunk. I have three gates within the same 16 block Nether chunk (corresponding with 128 blocks in the surface world) and they all work perfectly.

I had exactly the same problem that most people have, for a month after the Halloween update, in terms of the same Nether portals all linking to the same one in the surface world. It is because of the distance difference. A Nether chunk is 16 blocks in the Nether, but that corresponds to 128 blocks in the surface world. The guessing AI is good enough that if you get two of the coordinates right, it can still work around the third one being wrong; but it can't guess for all three, and if all three of your gates are in the same Nether chunk, and at the wrong coordinates, it will get confused, and simply default to linking with the first surface world gate that was made.

There is one other trick that you can use, although I would not recommend trying to use this until you have got all of your gates working, using the exact elevation coordinates.

The trick is this; because the gates require coordinates on all three axes, then as long as you get two of the numbers exactly right, the guessing which the game does for the elevation axis (the second number) will usually still allow it to work. So, for example, you can build a gate at level 5 (the first level of bedrock) in the surface world, and as long as the coordinates for width and length were perfect in the Nether, you could place it directly next to a Nether gate which took you back to sea level in the surface world, without having to dig down to level 5 to place the gate in the Nether.

I am confident that if people are able to understand this, and get your portals working, that even though they can be initially much more labour intensive, you will find them a vastly superior form of transportation to minecarts. Minecarts work by increasing the speed of movement over the same surface area. Nether portals, on the other hand, literally reduce the amount of surface area needing to be crossed, by 80%. As mentioned, although a minecart will get you from bedrock to sealevel faster than walking, a Nether portal will get you there almost instantly, because the elevation difference does not need to be travelled at all.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

"That *annoying* Hunter."

So after making a few posts on the forum this evening, in response, someone replied to me with this:-

"wow, you were that annoying hunter with a blog on hunter forums in BC. What happened I dont think I have seen you post once since wrath?"

I realise that this, meagre as it may be, sums up my place in this game's history. BRK had a gun named after him; but apparently I still live in infamy on the forum as "that annoying Hunter."

I'm not offended by it at all, however; quite the contrary, in fact. I often used to write that I felt there was a thematic association between Survival and John McClaine. Given that, I think probably the highest form of flattery that I could be given, is to be known as a proverbial fly in the ointment. ;)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

XP for old quests?

I'm not at 85 yet. I went through Vashj'r, and to be honest considered the experience very much a mixed bag. Some of it was really gratifying and enjoyable; but to be honest, some of it was so tedious that I found it difficult to remain motivated to keep playing at all.

As mentioned before, I've never been much of a raider, and that is not likely to change with Cataclysm. The two overall objectives I still have in this game, which I've had since BC, are to get a nether drake, and to finish getting the Conqueror PvP title. Another, more minor goal, is to completely finish all of the quests in Nagrand in particular, which was probably my favourite zone in the game. Once I've got those, I'll probably quit.

Anyway, to the point of this post; once I finished Vashj'r, I went back to Shadowmoon Valley to keep doing the Netherwing Ledge rep quests. I became very surprised, however, when I discovered that at level 82, I'm apparently now getting the full amount of XP from said quests, as well as getting 200+ XP per node when mining.

My initial thought was that this was fantastic, because it means that I can get to 85, while still doing purely what I wanted to do anywayz; which I'm assuming was Blizzard's intention. Then, however, I stopped and thought about it a bit more.

One of the things that I've been worried about since probably WoTLK, is that WoW seems to have become a game where the only thing that 90%+ of the playerbase care about doing, is getting to the level cap. For some reason, the prevailing opinion seems to be that the endgame contains the only content worth doing; and that means that for people like me, who actually tend to prefer doing pre-cap stuff, (mainly because I've noticed how much people's attitudes change, for the worse, at the cap) it's much more difficult to find people willing to do pre-cap instances etc, or if they are willing to do them, to see them as anything other than something to be got through as quickly as possible, on their way to the cap.

This may, of course, have the opposite effect, because now that getting Loremaster would apparently assist people in getting to the cap as well, I might actually see more people in the levelling zones. I will mention that I actually did see one other person doing the Skyshatter flying quests at the same time I was; and that gave me cause for optimism. I guess we'll see.

Monday, March 7, 2011

"You have to focus, Trinity."

So over the past 24 hours, I've been considering my opinion on the shift to Focus, from mana.

I offer the following disclaimer; I'm not even doing Heroics any more. My sole two objectives in WoW at this point, are getting a Netherdrake, and the Conqueror PvP title. The 80-85 quests have been sufficiently boring up to this point that it has even been difficult to motivate myself to get to level 85, but I will probably need to if I want sufficient Resilience gear to finish rep farming for Conqueror.

I'm also completely solitary. I made the mistake of transferring back to Jubei'Thos in order to play with my brothers, but they have since moved to Saurfang themselves, ironically; and the community on Jubei seems to be largely non-existent at this point. I tried getting into a guild earlier on, when doing Vashj'ir quests, but got the usual "go go go!" type doing them with me, which I really do not want at all.

My other two activities in WoW will consist of old quests (Nagrand primarily at the moment, for interest's sake) and possibly gold farming for a tundra mammoth, as well. I considered WoTLK's quests to have been the best released so far, and so will probably also finish any of those that I've left also; although due to how much I enjoyed them, most of them were done during WoTLK.

Considering what I use it for, then, most people will probably say that the difference between mana and focus is not all that great. There is a noticeable difference, however. Given that I only used to put Viper on while travelling, (or if I was in really low level areas, where it made no difference) mana meant that I had to drink anywhere between every 10-20 mobs, depending on how much I was trapping.

Now, it really depends on how I play. If I'm not feeling in a hurry, and am happy with simply using Serpent, alternating between Immolation and Snake Trap, and auto shot, I can literally keep going forever. If I use Explosive Shot, however, I will often get down to 50% focus between kills, and so may have to use Steady a few times to get it back up.

Without knowing for certain, I'm idly guessing that will throw a bit of a spanner in the works for those who are doing Heroics or raids, simply because during long fights, there would likely be periods where you'd be stuck doing nothing but Steady (at least for a few shots) with precious little else to do until you caught back up; although given you'd only need 3 Steadies or so, it probably wouldn't be that bad.

The thing I loved about mana in particular during TBC, was the fact that in a 5 man or raid, if I had pots or runes, I could get it back when I really needed it; although I'm guessing that is what Ghostcrawler primarily wanted to prevent us from being able to do, as well.

The really positive side where focus is concerned for me, however, is that with it, traps are completely free; the cooldown itself is my only constraint with using Immolation now. I've removed the Glyph of Immolation Trap which buffed its' damage, as well; at my current level, Immolation has actually become a bit too bursty with the glyph on, and if I'm critting, I can have difficulty keeping threat on the pet.

If I was still doing 5 mans, then, something tells me I'd probably be feeling nostalgic for mana; but for what I do, the occasional per-mob delay is not a big problem, particularly considering that I'm often waiting on Immolation's CD anywayz, if I don't alternate with Snake Trap.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A slow re-awakening


An unknown voice violated my unconsciousness. I moved away from it, mentally; I didn't want to wake up, yet. Oblivion was warm, safe; peaceful.


The voice called again. I had no idea whose it was, but somehow I realised it would not leave me alone.

I opened my eyes. There were what felt like tree branches stuck in my back. I didn't know where I was; I couldn't remember how I'd got here, or even why I'd ended up unconscious in the first place. I didn't know how long I'd been out, but something told me it was a long time. The land was barren; a few dead trees, but not much else.

I struggled up into a standing position. I'd been lying in the open; my tent wasn't far away. My first thought was to whistle for the boar. It took a few minutes, but he came running. He was thinner than I'd almost ever seen him, and mangy; but he was alive, and thrilled to see me. For the moment, that was enough.

I got to my feet, somehow packed up the tent, found a nearby track, and began to stumble along it. I'd need supplies; fortunately I still had a bit of gold, somehow. I didn't know how it hadn't been stolen.

I wasn't sure how long I walked for; I was still in something of a daze, but eventually I came to what looked like an inn, of Orcish architecture. I was glad; I needed something familiar, and was in no shape to fight.

I went inside, to find an old Orcish woman tending bar, and occasionally fussing around the fire. Nobody else seemed to be around, but for that I was glad.

"Ancestors, you look like the walking dead!" she said to me. "Where did you stumble in from?"

"I woke up at a camp site up the road," I pointed vaguely outside in the direction I had come.

The woman's eyes narrowed briefly, but then she shrugged, and gave a gutteral laugh.

"I'm guessing you'll want some boar meat," she suggested.

I nodded wearily, and reaching into my old pouch, brought out a couple of gold coins. "And some hot cider."

She laughed again at that. "Yes, you look like you could use it!"

A few minutes later, I took a couple of halting mouthfuls of the cider. The spices were welcome; the heat felt like it was literally bringing life back into my body. As I ate, I asked the old woman for recent news.

"There's all kinds of chaos going on," she answered. "Most are still trying to find our feet and get things back together, after the Cataclysm."

"The what?" I asked.

She narrowed her eyes again, for a longer moment this time.

"Where have you been, that you don't know about that?"

I shook my head. "I wish I knew. But what can you tell me about it?"

She sighed, and began to talk. My eyes widened at some of the details, and as I listened, I realised that things had apparently become very interesting.