Friday, May 30, 2008

Raiding casually is NOT a myth

Lately I seem to keep reading in various blogs/forums people deploring the fact that there don't seem to be any raiding guilds that don't expect at least 3 nights raid attendance a week. It's starting to irritate me. I'm here to tell you that raiding successfully without a ridiculous schedule is possible.

I can only assume that the people bemoaning this fact are also the people who want to be downing Kil'jaeden now but only raid once a week. Wake up and smell the Dark Dwarven Lager people you can't have your cake and eat it too.

Our raid is currently 5/6 in SSC and 3/4 in TK with a Kael/Vashj downing getting ever closer. We raid once a week on Friday server for 5 hours. Yep. Once a week. We are also serious about our raiding. In a way because we only do have the one weekly raid this makes us want to really take advantage of our time. Therefore we do our homework, we discuss strategies and we come to the raid ready with the flasks, pots and etc that we'll need.

I'm not including the various Kara & ZA runs nor the random spontaneous Gruuls/Mags runs since we have this content on farm (maybe not so much with ZA) and are generally gearing alts mostly whereas our 25 man is our progression raiding.

So you might be thinking that our progression must be really slow. Well let's compare to a well known guild in blogging circles - the erstwhile Aetherial Circle. We entered SSC and TK after AC who raid I believe 2 or 3 nights a week and are currently on a par with them re progression. The only difference is - they have downed Vashj *cheers for AC* and Rage Winterchill in Mt Hyjal. The Badger raid could definitely go lay some smack down in MtH but we want to down Vashj and Kael first - because that's how we roll baby.

Anyway the point I am trying to make is not that my raid is uber but rather that it IS possible to raid casually. I had a brief email conversation with BRK about the definition of casual raiding and according to how he defined it our raiding can't even be considered casual since casual raiding guilds spend 2-3 hours on 2-3 nights a week raiding. So we are... I don't know... relaxed raiders? Hehe.

According to WoWjutsu we are ranked 56 out of 171 guilds on our realm and 5,314 world wide. That's pretty damn good for a group that raid once a week.

The message here: if there are that many people who all have the same issue surely they could find guilds that suit their playstyles. Or am I just incredibly lucky?

Clearing Sunwell Plateau before Wrath of the Lich King is highly unlikely for us, but I'm confident we'll be well into MtH and Black Temple before then. The amount of content I get to see given the amount of time I spend raiding seems like a pretty good deal to me.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Changing the default display size for post images for Blogger

Since tweaking my blog template to change the width I noticed that uploading images to display via the Blogger image tool no longer displayed them matching the width of my blog when uploaded as 'large'. This really bugged me as when I use the larger size image within a post I want the image to sit across the entire width of the post.

It took some google-fu but I did find the answer and thought it worthwhile sharing here so that there is one more place on the interwebs to find an answer. One option is to use an image hosting service for your images and link to them yourself, bypassing the controls used in the Blogger image upload tool. I didn't really want to have to do down this road so this solution suits me.

I'll use the example of my blog to explain how to get images to display at the full width of your post. When I tweaked my blog I changed the #main-wrapper width to 555 px (pixels) and including the .main padding-left of 20 px this gives me an effective post width of 535 px. Therefore when I prep images for use in my posts I crop them to 535 px wide in photoshop before uploading them (the height I crop to depends on the image).

When you use the Blogger tool to insert an image into your post if you look at the html view you get a messy bunch of code. You will notice that within this mess of html there are 2 references to your image:


The first piece of html provides a link to the original image and the second piece is what tells the image to display in your post. You can see above that the only differences in these strings are that the second piece of html telling the image to display in your posts has S200 and the first one has S1600. I'm not 100% sure but I believe this to be the size setting in pixels for the width of your image. The example I've used above is for the image in this post. I selected the 'small' setting in the image tool and so the size setting for the image source html is 200, therefore the width of this image displayed in the post (edit: I checked using Firebug once I published and this is indeed the case). The S1600 used in the link html is as far as I know the maxiumum size in pixels for an image uploaded to Picasa.

So, to enable your image to display at full width you just need to change the size value for the image source html to 1600 as well. However it's important to note that if the image you uploaded is wider than the width of your #main-wrapper this could cause problems with your layout. Hence the reason I crop or resize my images in Photoshop first. I have read that you can change the value to the width you want but this hasn't worked for me where setting it to S1600 has.

Hope this info is of use to someone :)

Ps. The image from this post is a screenshot of the layout display from Firebug, a great Firefox add on that can help identify a lot of things to do with your template.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

To macro or not to macro: redux

BRK has recently made a post on his testing of two different shot rotation macros based on his gear. In what is quite a change considering his vehemence not all that long ago BRK is looking more and more like he will move to using a shot rotation macro. Some of his readers are professing their disappointment in this change in BRK's attitude, for myself I think that you do what you want to do and it's not up to anyone else to judge. If using a shot rotation will result in more Kill Commands getting used and higher DPS for BRK then he should go for it. Fo'shizzle.

This post raised the spectre of shot rotations macros again for me. Some time ago I posted about how I don't use a rotation macro at all and prefer to manually fire my Kill Commands and get into the zen rhythm of shot rotation. Well that hasn't changed, but if there's a chance that using a macro could improve my DPS then I should try it since moar DPS is going to contribute to my raids ability to succeed.

I'm using the BoJ Crossbow of Relentless Strikes which has a 2.80 speed. This is only slightly different than Tuskbreaker at 2.90 and I have read that a 3:2 macro is best for slower weapons and specifically the bow I'm using. However according to some of the commenters on BRK's post 3:2 is the only way to roll since the changes to autoshot.

Reading a thread in the BRK forums has been elucidating... great googly moogly as Ratters would say.. there's a lot of mathimafications going on. Too much for this boingy eared elf. I always feel like I'm wading through molasses trying to understand all the hardcore theory craft stuff. A fellow called Manito has put together a couple of macros that you put on separate buttons with one macro triggering the other so designed to help get around the KC 'lock up' issue which is sometimes experienced by players and is a 'known issue'.

Apparently this macro also 'flexes' to a 1:1 rotation depending on various factors (such as lag, item procs etc) during use. I believe this relates to no longer using the /castsequence command.

I've also gathered from my reading that an attack speed of between 2.00 and 2.10 is considered optimal for the 3:2 rotation. There was a lot of talk about haste but since my weapon is slightly faster than the optimal I don't think this is an issue. I don't have any haste items at the moment, just the passive haste from things like my quiver and my attack speed is 2.03 so within the 'comfort zone'

There are two issues which concern me as regards using this new 'the' macro: latency and mana consumption. Actually make that three, I should include FPS as well.

Since the last time I tried using a rotation macro several things have changed:

  1. The whole evolution from /castsequence

  2. I am now using a utility that allows me to connect to WoW through a specific proxy via my ISP (all checked out and kosher with Blizz) which has seen me drop from an average of 6ooms too a more comfortable if less than perfect 260ish

  3. Also one of the changes in 2.4 got rid of the need apparently to use /stopcasting in macros since your client will now let you fire off a new action without waiting for the 'action executed' notification for the previous action from the server. I think that's how it works now anyway...

  4. The changes to mana regen post patch 2.4 and my subsequent speccing out of ImpAotH and into 5/5 efficiency

  5. While my ping is improved ever since 2.4 my FPS has gone to sh1te. I even upgraded my rather old graphics card to try and improve matters - and while I'm fine most places - even seeing great numbers like 70+ fps in 'questing' mode my FPS during boss encounters in 25 mans is craptacular - sometimes as bad as 3-4 fps. I've turned down spell detail to the minimum and etc and am not really sure what else to do. This is probably a topic for another post anyway.

As can be seen there are some good things and some not so good things. I think ultimately I'm going to need to head over to Dr. Boom and try out the macro for myself. I happen to have Tuskbreaker sitting in my bank all scoped out and ready to rock so I might as well grab some ammo and do testing with both the gun and my currently equipped crossbow.

It will be interesting to see if I notice any difference from manually timing my shots. The other thing of course is that a raid is drastically different from being able to stand still and pewpew in a controlled situation so even if the results are an improvement when using the macro against Dr. Boom I'll still be reserving judgement until I see how I fare in a 25 man.

I also think it's important to take into account that your overall damage and DPS isn't just about your shot rotation. I review the wowwebstats from each of our weekly raids, and whilst I don't do any serious number crunching (not math literate remember) I do look at my performance compared to the other hunters in the raid. One thing I have noticed is that as long as my presence and DPS time is on par with the others we tend to have comparable damage, which tells me that I'm doing ok without a macro. Still it's worth checking out. I'll be sure to post my findings.

Once I get Seph to 70 though - currently 69 wooot!

Warcraft in your world

We had a new developer start at work yesterday, as a project manager I was very happy to have a new coder starting as we have a metric sh1t load of work on, however what really made my day? I hadn't had a real conversation with the new person yet beyond 'hello' until we both found ourselves in the kitchen. Her first words to me? "We downed Lady Vashj this weekend."


Yes that's right. I'm now working with another girl who plays Warcraft! That is all win right there and I look forward to her joining the rest of us in our regular kitchen WoW rantings. She's also officially the most progressed out of those of us at work who play having downed Vashj and the first three bosses in Mt. Hyjal with her raid. You can be sure I'll be quizzing her on how her raid handles those d@mn striders *grin*.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sephiroh goes adventuring in Nagrand

We interrupt the great Night Elf debate of 2008 to bring you this update from Sephiroh. Our druidic correspondent is currently located in Nagrand and having a whale (bear? cat?) of a time...

Nagrand is I think my favourite zone in Outlands, it's a lovely verdant area with wide horizons, and for Sephiroh, full of lots of lovely skinnable creatures that the Nesingwary outfit pay her good coin to kill. You might think that a druid killing lots of animals isn't very well druidic but Sephiroh is all about the fragile balance of the ecosystem and if that means a little culling of the local fauna here and there then she's up for the challenge.

Sephiroh's varied adventures in Nagrand also included, amongst bouncing around in the sky trying to gather eggs for a little goblin bloke, the opportunity to practice the art of diplomacy.
Lump, Dumpy or Billy?Given the response received it's clear that her skills need work. Ah well, ogres are smelly anyway. At least she didn't try and convince them to kill any demons for her but perhaps the local representative of O.S.P.C.O. should be involved in the next diplomatic foray.

Whilst prowling around the perimeter of another ogre encampment (Nagrand is seriously over run with these lunkheads) Sephiroh happily bumped into a couple of friendly guild mates who convinced her that she should undertake the Ring of Blood challenges for "fun and profit" and "you need to get your staff". Having heard rumours of this Ring of Blood permeating the grass lands of Nagrand Sephiroh was willing to give it a try. As tank you say? Fine, let me shake out the bear suit, it's feeling a little unweildy after running around as rawrkitty all the time.

Sephiroh proceeded to growl and swipe and mangle and so forth as well as getting angry about certain people not allowing her to get aggro, yes you're level 70 and I'm level 67 and there's a little disparity there. Oh you died, whoops, guess you're squishier even if you're older. The final challenge against some Mor..person proved quite tricky with only four of us. We were a 70 lock, 70 resto druid, 68 ret pally and bear tank Seph. We got there in the end with the pally doing heals as well. Result: a glowing sense of achievement and a nice new staff.
Clearly the staff was a popular, if perhaps in some cases... odd, choice. Waving goodbye to her friends Sephiroh excused herself with important business to undertake and zoomed off, her cheetah form soon just a spotted speck in the distance.

Sephiroh was on a mission, well actually several missions but they all had one goal in mind: the attainment of flight form. It took some time and quite a few ogre kills (I did mention there is an absolute plague of ogres in Nagrand right?) but eventually Sephiroh was able to return to the Moonglade and her friendly (actually he's a little taciturn but Seph was in a great mood and didn't really notice) trainer to acquire amongst other new skills, the ability to shapeshift into a lovely black... crow? raven? No more land-locked running for this young druid! To the skies! Squeeeeee!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Night Elf culture: just tree hugging hippies?

I happen to work with a couple of avid role players of the old school table top variety. One of them also plays a lot of Warcraft and the other has dabbled in WoW but is mainly a Neverwinter Nights player. Unsuprisingly a lot of our non work related conversations revolve around roleplaying and Warcraft. It's not unusual for our other workmates to come across us in the kitchen deep in a conversation laced with acronyms and terms which they find completely unintelligible.

I've been using these two guys as an excellent sounding board for some of my ideas about Jez's character description and back story and recently we got into a discussion about how Night Elf culture is presented in Warcraft and the presentation of elves generally in fantasy fiction.

I consider myself pretty widely read in the fantasy fiction arena - it is, and has been, my genre of choice for many many years now (how unsuprising that I should play a game like Warcraft). However I'm not very widely read as regards the lore of Warcraft itself. Most of what I know has been gleaned from the quest dialogue in game. Yes that's right I am one of the people who reads all of the quest text. Of course! It's one of the aspects of the game that I find very appealing.

**a little intermission music**

I started writing this post before work this morning and found some time today to do a little research and also continue the discussion, this time specifically about night elves.

The opinion presented by my esteemed work colleagues is that elves generally in fantasy fiction are presented as namby pamby tree hugging hippies. I bristled immediately as I admit that, yes, I am a fan of the elven races. You can keep your short smelly dwarves thank you very much. In the interests of disclosure I should mention that of my two friends, one plays a warlock and the other favours rogues. Yup. We can probably dismiss their argument right now *grin*.

When I think of elves in the fantasy world a specific representation come to mind: the elves of Tolkien's world. In my opinion (and the opinion of many others) this representation is one of the foundations for elves in modern fantasy fiction.

In Tolkien the elves are not particularly aligned with nature and are certainly not namby pamby. They follow various crafts and their culture includes both warriors and healers. They built great civilisations and while capable of acts of great valor they were by no means perfect.

Enter Warcraft's representation of elves which I would argue draws strongly on Tolkien influences. If we consider the lore of Warcraft itself - the night elves were initially the creators of a powerful civilisation centred around the Well of Eternity. They were powerful magic users and their delving into the mysteries of the Well was what alerted the Burning Legion to its' existence.

As fall out from the arrival of the Burning Legion and the destruction of Archimonde the elves split into three distinct groups with the kaldorei or night elves eschewing arcane magics in favour of more nature based magics. They saw their role as the protection of the land and their people from further corruption by the Burning Legion.

This might perhaps sound like the night elves are namby pamby but let's think about the methods they use. Tyrande actually broke Illidan free from his prison to attain his aid in defeating the legion. The Silverwing Sentinels are in constant skirmish with the Horde over their deforestation. Some Farstriders are known to kill strangers who breach too far into the woods of Ashenvale. Hardly namby pamby.

The quests that you undertake as a night elf character in the game may well at surface level appear to be about 'saving X from the corruption of Y" but looking a little further below the surface reveals a culture that will use just about any means necessary to protect their world.

An exception to the emphasis on Tolkien influence is the role of the druid in night elf culture. My friends see druids particularly as the embodiment of namby pamby tree-hugginess and whilst I have no problems with hugging a treekin any day of the week I do also take umbrage to this opinion.

The night elf druids in Warcraft are, in my opinion (again, I'm just full of opionions) influenced by the druids of Celtic mythology. Following the druidic path is not easy. It requires great mental strength and fortitude. I mean let's face it, nature does not always wear a pleasing aspect. It's not all flowers and bumble-bees. Nature can also be incredibly powerful and destructive - think of the voraciousness of a forest fire or the implacable force of an earthquake. If one is going to train to have power over nature it's going to require a lot of self discipline. An example of this willpower is the agreement of the druids led by Malfurion to spend centuries in hibernation within their barrows as their spirits wandered the Emerald dream.

I rest my case.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Cat durid is for fite!

Young Sephiroh my feral druid has been zooming her way towards 70 recently. I picked her up and dusted her off after a lengthy sojourn in Hellfire Peninsula at 61 and have fallen in love with playing the druid class all over again.

Don't tell anyone I said this *shifty eyes* but I'm finding playing her more challenging than my hunter Jez. Not playing within the class mechanics - huntering and shot rotations and trapping and pet management are plenty challenging thanks, but rather gearing and itemisation. As a hunter I'm used to a core set of statistics and what not that you focus on. This could also be because I've played my hunter a long time and done a lot of reading and so I'm very familiar with all these things whereas with druids I'm not. Then again I've been reading talk of 3:2 shot rotations by BM hunters using the new badge crossbow (which I have) Crossbow of Relentless Strikes  and confess that I'm not entirely sure how that all breaks down.

With my dear Seph however I'm constantly making gear choices across what I see as four possible roles: bear tank, cat DPS, boomkin and restoration. While I'm currently feral specced when choosing quest rewards and the like if I don't see an item that is an upgrade for my feral tank or DPS sets I also look at the healing options. I'm quite probably going to roll resto when I hit 70 so I'm gathering gear with that in mind and starting to broaden my druidic reading beyond all things feral. Two blogs I'm now going to add to my reading list are Resto4Life and 4 Haelz. There are literally dozens of great druid blogs out there so I'm sure my reading list will continue to grow. Which is a little problematic as I have a hard time keeping up with it at the moment.

So gearing up for different roles means I'm needing to learn about all of them. I admit I'm unlikely to roll boomkin since I already have a ranged DPS character, but 3 roles is still plenty. Luckily I have a knowledgeable bunch of guildies plus Emelin is also Broichan the druid of awesomeness when he isn't being an evil (and ugly human) lock so I get to ask him a lot of questions.

I'm looking forward to taking Seph to Kara with our regular weeknight group as soon as she dings and retiring Jez who I'm really quite frankly sick of taking to Kara. I feel like I could run that place blindfolded on her as it has all become so rote. With Seph and especially doing heals it will be a whole new ball game and an opportunity to learn new things about raid dynamics, boss strategies and the like.

While my blog posting has been sporadic *apologetic look* I have definitely been thinking about a lot of posts I want to write:

* Night Elf culture: Treehugging hippies?
* The 3rd in my UI series looking at the mods I use
* Jezrael's backstory and character description

I'm definitely intend to get there... I just need to get Seph to 70 first!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

No WoW for you!

I got home after a long day at work looking forward to getting a couple of hours of play in before maintenance shut down tonight. I've recently dusted off Sephiroh and am really enjoying the fun and utility of playing my druid. She's 67% of the way through 62 and with the help of Jaime's Levelling Guide I'm really cruising through the quests.

So I'm sure you can appreciate my dismay to be confronted with extended maintenance for the second week in a row. Being an Australian player really bites when it comes to maintenance since it happens Tuesday nights and when it's extended maintenance that means everything goes down at 7:30pm.


On the plus side I have no choice but to spend some time doing other activities such as reading, blogging or catching up on my feeds. It's even possible some TV watching might be included in the mix.


I've also recently been seriously considering writing up an RP description and backstory for Jez. It's something that's been bubbling around in the back of my mind pretty much since I started playing but I've never had the motivation to get started. Having recently been introduced to That Damn RPer via the lovely Anna and reading up on some great posts on character creation I'm thinking that the time might have come.

Many moons ago I participated in an online RP community within the Wheel of Time world and I very much enjoyed exercising my creative and writing skills through thread based RP. I don't know if I would get into any RP in game in WoW but I know I'll enjoy writing about Jez. I was a little concerned about the amount of lore knowledge required (which means time spent researching) but Nauloera had some good words of encouragement for me saying that a well thought out character is more important than a detailed knowledge of the lore.

Roleplay is definitely something that has always interested me but with which I've had very little experience outside of the thread based kind. I confess I'm a little bit afraid of looking like an idiot, or perhaps more precisely, coming off as someone who is inexperienced. But nothing chanced nothing gained right?