Monday, April 28, 2008

Count your blessings

Every now and then I am reminded to count my blessings in terms of the calibre of people I raid with. This weekend was one of those opportunities.

We had our weekly 25 man raid and took down all bosses in Tempest Keep except Kael. Due to spending longer than we would like taking down Alar we skipped out on attempts on Kael and decided to move the raid to Hellfire and take down Mags instead. It's interesting how sometimes whether it be 'one of those nights' or just a slightly different group, things that were easy or hard previously change up. In our previous visit to TK we had downed Alar on the 2nd attempt on our second visit to TK itself. This week we just couldn't seem to get it together, I'm not sure why, we only got Alar down after about 6 failed attempts. Mags though was a breezy one-shot which had us exclaiming over Vent that something surely was wrong. It was a nice morale booster for the raid to down Mags so easily, which was the reason we headed there instead of spending time on Kael - that and with an hour left of the raid we wouldn't have got much learning in.

Raiding is truly all about team management comparable to a sports team or team of people within your company. Keeping morale up, playing to strengths and ensuring a fun environment are things that any leadership group should be concerned with regardless of the context.

I've read other peoples comments on it and know that I speak for myself that when you spend a lot of time with a group of people working to achieve shared but challenging goals you can start to feel a bit jaded, personalities start to grate on you and having to repeat the same things over and over wears thin. My personal bug bear is the amount of talking that happens over Vent and the tendency of some people to, in my opinion at least, talk just for the sake of hearing their own voice. I believe that voice chat is a really integral part of successful raiding but it is also one of the more tiring aspects and after a few solid hours raiding (our scheduled raid bracket is 5 hours) I often find myself taking my headset off so that I don't have to listen to people talk.

So I'm basically having a bit of a moan about our regular raid group, but all said and done they are a fantastic group of mature and skilled players. I was reminded of this and to count my blessings the day following our raid when we for some strange reason decided to put together a pick up group for Gruuls. It's kind of amusing that an instance that not all that long ago was really challenging is now one that we feel confident throwing together a pug for.

As anyone knows a pick up group is a minefield of potential asshats and noobery. Sometimes combined in one heady mix. While we didn't get any specific asshats we did get a strong dosing of huntard courtesy of the LFG tool. I was the lucky person who got to coordinate the 5 hunters for MD assignments. While I'm naming no names I'd like to present my top tips for what not to do when you are a level 70 hunter looking to get into end game raiding.

  1. Ignore instructions
    Setting up MD assignments for the High king Maulgar can be kind of challenging if there is a chance that the tank assignments may change - which is more than possible with a pick up group. Therefore having to tell a hunter 3 separate times what their assignment is just adds to the annoyance. We have a specific raid chat channel for all the hunters. They should be in it and they should be paying attention. Ask once, I'll forgive it, chat can move fast. Ask twice I'll start to think there are pebbles rolling around in your head instead of a brain. Ask three times and I'll be sure of it.

  2. Bring your level 65 pet to the raid.
    This is so obviously a no-no. You want to bring your best A game to a raid, especially if you are a BM hunter when your pet is doing around 1/3 of your damage. A level 65 pet no matter how cute and potentially awesome (once he/she levels up) is going to do diddly-squat in a 70+ instance.

  3. Forget to stock up on arrows/pet food
    Come on people! Seriously! This is like the first dot point in the 'Raiding Prep 101 for Hunters' hand book. Even before flasks, pots, stat food and bandages. If you are a pick up hunter in my raid and you have to ask me for ammo or food to borrow that's an instant mark against you. I'll be more forgiving in a 5 man that was thrown together kind of scenario where you may have been rushed but there is just NO excuse when 25 man raiding.

  4. Neglect to repair, die three times within 10 minutes and ask for a repair bot.
    ZOMG. Where to start? A: Repair before you accept a summons (see reference to Raiding Prep 101 above). B: Don't expect people to use expensive items to help you because you were unprepared. You will just have to zone in and then out and go to the nearest town that you can repair at. Don't expect the raid to wait for you either. Remember kids: your lack of preparation can potentially hold up 24 other people - and that's not cool.

  5. Equip items with +strength
    If you are levelling your first hunter, sure ok I'll forgive it. I made such huntardy mistakes too. But if you are a level 70 looking to raid you need to learn about your class and what stats to stack to do your best. Maybe the item has +agility too. So what, there are definitely better pieces out there. In my opinion you don't ever use an item that takes up one of the stat bonus slots with a stat that you don't get any benefit from whatsoever.

  6. Neglect to socket gems into your items
    Ok they might only be blues and you're holding out for the phat purples. I don't care. Get yourself some cheap green gems and get them cut. improving your performance now will help you get those phat purples.
There you go, Jez's tips on what to not do if you want to be taken seriously as a raiding hunter. There's more too, maybe I'll write an actual Raiding Prep 101 for hunters one of these days. Still there are plenty of other great blogs that have done similiar, BRK being one of the obvious examples.

Journey of a UI part two: getting your raid on

Here is part two of my 'journey of a UI' series. Part one showed examples of how the default UI changes over time as you level and start participating in more complex activities such as instances. In this post I'm going to look at the UI when default components are no longer being used.

I didn't really start serious raiding until after TBC came out as I've mentioned before. I was running with a regular pick up group for ZG, MC and AQ20 prior and had some interface mods in play at the time. That said I'm going to skip past that period (mainly because I don't have any screen shots >.>) to discuss my interface as it stood a few weeks ago. In essence it was pretty similar back then anyway - I just changed the mods I used in some cases due to lack of support or a new and better (imo) alternative being introduced.

Compared to the screenshots of my previous post the UI has changed a lot, and has become a lot more cluttered. I like to have a lot of information available at a glance rather than having to hit a key to display a panel with the information or even mouse over an object on screen.

When I decided to change my UI I wanted to retain the amount of information I am able to access but with a much cleaner layout. I also wanted to decrease the memory footprint of my mods if possible too.

So here are the before and after shots:


The area of the UI that has changed the most is the bottom of the screen. I wanted to streamline the look of my UI and keep all the frames and etc grouped together. This serves two purposes. My eye has less distance to travel across the screen for certain pieces of information and I've created a clear separation between the 'Heads up display' and the area of the screen where the game action is taking place.

Many people also like to move their toon frame and focus/target frame to sit at the top of the bottom panel. This means your eye needs to do even less work to keep track of important information like your health/mana and that of your target. I may well make this change in the future. As it is I have purposely only changed the location of key items bit by bit to allow myself time to get used to new locations and therefore 'eye patterns' of these elements.

The distance that your eye has to move over the screen to pick up information and the time it takes is something considered key by PVPers in particular. Anything that will give you an edge as regards reaction times in PVP shouldn't be overlooked. Megan from Out of Mana has written a great post on the role of UI layout in PVP.

This same thinking can also be applied to website design which is something I'm involved in as part of my RL job. When working on a site redesign it's important that you don't change the layout of key features so much that regular users become confused about where they are located. The site should look different but still be familiar enough to navigate easily. The other related and important consideration is that like items should be grouped together logically and in a clear hierarchy. The faster and more easily a user can locate and use elements of your site the more enjoyable their experience and the higher their satisfaction.

One of the most powerful aspects of Warcraft is the ability to customise the UI to suit your individuality - whether it be playstyle or sense of style. Interestingly although there are myriads of disaster custom UIs out there where people have gone crazy with colour, custom artwork, unit frames and informational elements resulting in a complete mess, those people seeking to achieve the most 'usable' layout often seem to arrive at similiar results.

An important consideration in UI layout is playstyle. Do you click or use hotkeys? Some users of hotkeys have them so well memorised that their UI is extremely minimal with very few items on the screen. It's also possible to set up action bar bindings to change which action bar appears depending on what action is taking place in game - such as PVP combat, PVE combat or out of combat. I haven't set this up myself. Clickers seem to tend towards having larger action bar buttons (more click space of course) and how they arrange these buttons will be influenced by the role they play. For instance a healer who is a clicker may have their action buttons arranged right next to the party or raid unit frames so that their mouse has the smallest distance to travel.

I'd love to be able to gather lots of examples of people's UIs and information about their play style and role to further explore this topic. For now I think this post has become long enough, and so in the next post I'll discuss the mods I use. Since I use so many that discussion may well get split into a couple of posts too.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bartle-ised.. What kind of gamer am I?

I've always found Bartle's theories on MUD gamer types interesting so when I saw Anna's post I had to jump over to Guild Cafe to do the quiz too.

So turns out I'm a EKAS

EKAS players might be descibed as living by slogan: see the world, meet interesting people...and kill them. Immersion within the world is important to these players, because they love finding new things to explore--but they also enjoy the thrill of the hunt and finding other players within the world to fight.

I think it's pretty accurate. I enjoy exploring new zones and instances a lot and I also really enjoy the thrill of PVP.

Guild Cafe is quite a nifty place - like the Facebook for gamers hehe. I'm signed up over there as Jezrael so look me up to friend if you like.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Adding a Tag Cloud to your Blogger Template

This UI post series intermission brought to you by my inability to stop tinkering with my new blog template. I think I'm almost finished. Maybe.


The newest improvement is replacing what was becoming a lengthy tag list with a cloud. It's really quite straight forward if you are comfortable messing with the html template for your blog. You just need to follow the excellent instructions provided at phydeaux3. Note this code is for new Blogger xml templates only.

If like me you want your tag colours to be consistent with the colour scheme of the rest of your template you might find this hexadecimal to RGB colour conversion tool handy since the values for the cloud are RGB whilst the rest of the template uses hexadecimal.

You can also change the min and max font size as well as a bunch of other stuff depending on how confident you are with CSS. Hope this post is of help to someone out there.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Journey of a UI part one: in the beginning

I do a lot of reading of various WoW related stuff around the interwebs and see a lot of screenshots of different user interfaces (UIs). This has inspired me to both rework my current UI and write a series of posts discussing the evolution of my UI over the time that I have played Warcraft. Perhaps my experience is one shared by others.

I'm not a highly technical person and prior to playing WoW my greatest exposure to user generated content for a game was with the Sims series of games where I downloaded a LOT of user created objects to use.

When I first started playing WoW I was less concerned with how I could adapt and customise my UI as I was with learning how to play the game itself.

Unfortunately I don't have any examples of my UI back when I first started playing, however I do have some screenshots of Emelin's UI. Before Emelin was Emelin he was Broichan. The druid that Jez grew and learned with as we both explored Azeroth together.
So here it is, the default UI in all it's glory. You may remember it from when you first started playing. Not much going on yet, no need for extra action bars or any extra information. I still remember this moment. Broi and I had just ventured into the Wetlands and we stopped to rest on a hill top at Whelgar's Excavation and take in the view. We were as yet unaware of the delights ahead of us - the lush vale of Stranglethorn, the wilderness of Feralas. Of course I shouldn't forget the desolation of the Western Plaguelands and the buzzing humming irritating expanses of Sithilus.

Fast forward and here is Broichan at 60. The princess boss in UBRS successfully downed and a UI that is becoming more cluttered.At this point one mod has been introduced - CT Mod. Remember when CT was the bees knees? The mod that you had to have? More action bars are in play, but of course with the standard UI you only get to choose to have more, not where you want to place them. At this point play has become more complex but our raiding career has not yet begun and we haven't started to need information exposed that we don't yet know can be. Ah yes those days of innocence before I, at least, became a mod junkie. In my next post I'll explore the post TBC environment and focus specifically on my UI and the changes I've made.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ring in the changes

Unless you're reading this post through a feed reader you'll have noticed some changes to my little home in the WoWosphere.

When I first started blogging I went with one of the default templates, but over time I've grown to quite dislike it. So, time to change it up. I've gone with another standard (Minima) but manipulated it to increase the page width. Seriously is anyone still using monitors with a max screen resolution of 800x600? I'm pretty sure that's the exception rather than the rule these days.

Check out the awesome new header image thanks to one of my work mates. Cheers! I owe you beer mate! I just love it but am also planning to change the image out every so often too once I get my hands on the .psd file. Will give me a good opportunity to learn some more Photoshop-fu.

I quite like the clean feel of this particular template and I seem to have copied over my various template additions ok (like the wowhead item script) but if you notice anything askew please let me know!

I've become quite obsessed with layout and interface design in the last few days (well extended that concern beyond my RL job is probably a more accurate observation) as I've also recently overhauled my UI. I'm planning a series of posts coming soon that illustrates the journey of my UI over the course of my time playing Warcraft. I'll also be discussing the mods I use and the how and why. Hopefully will be an interesting read.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The DB raid keeps on trucking

The Drunken Badgers raid has been on a heady trip in the last month. We're progressing rapidly through both Serpentshrine Cavern and Tempest Keep with our raid today seeing us down Alar and achieve 3/4 in TK. We also had time for several attempts on Kael and got in some good practice learning the fight. I don't think any of use are kidding ourselves that we will down Kael without a lot of messy splatty death.

It really is such an interesting fight with so many components. I commented to Emelin during the raid that it feels like the kind of fight that is very much about knowing when not to do something as well as when to do something. As much as I enjoy a 'balls to the wall' DPS kind of fight where you just stand there and unleash I really really enjoy the kind of fights which require.... well I guess the word is finesse. Today we were successful in completing the first phase and downing the four advisors and then moving on to the weapons. We were able to get as far as having only two weapons still up when the advisors respawned but everytime we got this far we then proceeded to get smoooshed all over the place. Obviously we need to work on the transition at this point.

The main jobs for me in this fight so far are to misdirect the high lady caster biatch onto Emelin our FR tanking lock and tank the Netherstrand Longbow facing it away from the raid. It was so frantic today that I didn't really get to stop and enjoy the fact that I got to first kill, and then loot and use, an awesome legendary weapon. As a matter of fact the hunters also pick up the dagger and sword too. Three legendary weapons at once? OP!

It was kind of a weird feeling see 'big boy' Kael after handing him his butt in heroic Magisters Terrace, especially since some of the mechanics of the fight are similar, the honors definitely went to him today though.

I also got a new shiny purple today which is always nice in the form of the Star-Strider Boots. Now to decide how to gem them, the enchant will be +12 agility naturally.

I got to thinking during the raid today that it's so awesome to be progressing steadily each week. So far since our foray into T5 content we have downed at least one new boss each week if not two. And this has generally been the case for all the raiding I've done with the Drunken Badgers starting with Karazhan. We've had our hiccups and stalls for sure, but they never lasted long. I really feel lucky to not be part of a raid spending weeks and weeks bashing their heads against the same boss. That's not to say that this isn't in our future though! And even if it is, I'm a believer that it's all part of the raiding game.

Still it is nicer to progress.


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Levelling fishing WAS worth it

When I was a young hunter first setting off on my adventures in Azeroth I picked up the tradeskill fishing. It seemed reasonable to me that as a hunter I would need some way to feed my faithful companion. Azrael was my first loyal kitty who I tamed in the wilds of Darkshore. I fondly remember many the time I spent fishing with Azrael looking on interestedly beside me as I caught her supper. Sadly Azrael was eventually released back into the wild due to the lack of space of the parsimonious stable masters I encountered.

I eventually decided that the opportunity cost of fishing didn't compare favourably to the cost of picking up some hunks of meat from a friendly (for a dwarf!) meat vendor in Ironforge and my fishing skill waned.

Until that is, I realised the value of being able to cook up fish into tasty stat-boosting meals for myself and my friends. So now I find myself with 375 fishing and cooking and have made some contacts in Shattrath and at the local lake who are happy to pay me for my ability to snare rare fish and concoct unusual meals.

One reward I recently received was the fish finding ability which makes fishing even easier than before. I'd done a little reading up in the past on fishing tips and tricks from master angler El over at El's Extreme Anglin and the other night feeling at a little bit of a loose end I headed over to refresh my memory. Apart from hooking Lurker in SSC what else would fishing do for me? Ah yes, there was the opportunity to snag myself a rare non-combat pet if I had the patience.

If one has the ability to reach the high altitude lakes of Terrokar and can find schools of Highland Mixed Fish one might just be lucky enough to snag Mr Pinchy. Was I feeling lucky punk? Well yes, I was and also not really up for anything more than some relaxing fishing with perhaps a few ales.

I grabbed my special hooks and jumping on my birdie flew out to Blackwind Lake near Skettis to try my luck. With fish finding activated I was quickly able to identify the schools and fished away happily. After clearing out all of the schools at Blackwind I hopped over to Lake Ere'Noru which is a great spot just above Allerian Stronghold with no pesky mobs to interrupt you. I located 3 schools there and on the the third I fished not one but TWO Mr Pinchys. Wooohooo!

My first attempt at catching him and I was doubly successful. I'd also snagged 25 furious crawdad which was going to make our MT very happy when I mailed him some tasty Spicy Crawdad.

So I trundled back to Shattrath gleefully exclaiming my luck over guild chat. Once I'd completed my cooking and both mailed off some tasty food plus deposited some in the guild bank 'fridge' I figured it was time to try my luck with Mr Pinchy. I was a little nervous as my wish could be good... or bad.


Fingers crossed I clickety-clicked and BAM Magical Crawdad pet! Huzzah! My luck couldn't get any better! I know there are people out there who have spent weeks trying to score a Mr Pinchy pet and I got one on my first shot! Needless to say I have my magical crawdad companion by my side constantly right now. Having such luck has fired me up to try and get some of the other rarer non-combat pets and I've found the handy Warcraft Small Pets site to inform me. I've already got a fair selection of the vendor purchasable ones I must admit.

I remember seeing someone with the panda pet when I first started playing and would love one but I think that's pretty firmly out of the question.

/sad panda

Still the Azure Whelpling one of the crocolisk pets from the daily fishing quest and Mojo the frog from ZA look pretty appealing to me. Nothing like adding a few more game goals to the list.


Game freezing when porting to or from Isle of Quel'Danas?

If you're a heavy mod user like me you may have experienced issues with porting to or from the Isle of Quel'Danas. I could fly straight with no problems but any time I tried to port bang game lock up that I could only get out of by ending task on WoW.

It seems the issue is caused by a library used by certain mods - Astrolabe. So if you too are having this issue check out which mods are using the Astrolabe library and get an updated version. Gatherer is one example and the developers of the mod have released a new version which resolves this bug.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Tidewalker is Disgusting!

The Drunken Badger's raid made our second ever foray into Serpentshrine Cavern this weekend with pleasing results. We swiftly gave Hydross and Lurker what for in glorious one-shots and made our way over to Leo to give him a pummelling.

Emelin has worked hard in the last 2 weeks to gear himself with enough fire resist to take on Leo in demon form and thanks to the help of the guild he got there. Leo is a tricky fight in terms of both threat management and people being quick enough to kill their inner demons. I'm happy to report that after a few failures we downed him on the 5th shot.

So it was time for Tidewalker. Any giant that shoots bubbles out of his butt AND smells them obviously needs to be taught a lesson. And teach him a lesson we did on our third attempt.

No hunter loot for yours truly but a great deal of satisfaction to see the raid progressing so nicely, woohoo 4/6 in SSC baybeeeee!!

Next week it's back to Tempest Keep and I look forward to us downing Alar after getting her as far as phase 2 on our last attempt.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

When all the world was young

A friend of mine from my former piratical days has just recently started playing Warcraft. She's subscribed and is up to level 13 on her human mage. Talking with her is reminding me of what it was like when I first started playing. There was so much to learn and so much to see!

I will have to make sure that I don't either overwhelm her with information or try and force her to play a particular way. I told her that Frost was the best spec for levelling and she responded that she had put her points in Arcane. Rather than scream Nooooooooooooo at her down the interweb tubes and demand she change to Frost I smiled and said that if she's having fun with it then she should stay with it.

It's easy to forget the innocence of that first period of playing. Maybe some people go into the game researching and min-maxxing from the get go. I'm glad I enjoyed a time of just running around with my icy weapon enchant and my gear with +strength clueless of my noobery but I enjoying my explorations in Azeroth immensely.

I could really make the comparison to being a kid and all full of fun and curiosity and then end game when you grow up and get a mortgage for your flying mount and work for an employer called 'end game progression' that involves raiding and farming all the live long day (and/or night).

Sometimes it's good to stop and smell the roses I think.