Thursday, May 28, 2009

More Insight on the Missing Rush

I've been doing lots of mental exploration lately about WoW and Raiding, and most specifically the missing rush of adrenaline that comes with progression kills.

The last BIG BIG Rush was Sarth+3, many many months ago.

Before that was a BIG Rush with Malygos.

And before that was a Rush when KT died in Naxx.

And then Ulduar was released. Fresh new content to push through. Should be pretty exciting, yes?

Well, it is exciting, but as I've shared in some other posts, it feels like its missing something. Many of the progression kills, even ones that required numerous wipes to master, just sort of happen and then you go loot the boss without so much as an elevated pulse.

There has been some good ones.

Our first Flame Leviathan kill, shortly after the servers came up on patch-day. I'd call that one pretty thrilling, in large part due to beating out the lag before all the majority of the server started raiding and crashing the instances rather than the epic feel of the event.

Mimiron was definitely a satisfying kill. Even the second kill evoked some dancing and fist-pumping celebration.

But what about all the others?

My most notable example: XT took us a few nights of learning attempts. Our progression kill was before they nerfed/relaxed his enrage timer, plus we weren't using the "bring him to one side, thus eliminating two of the four streams of incoming adds" strategy yet, so it was very challenging to master all the environmental factors plus keeping up with is enrage timer. No rush though, just loot like it was a farm raid.

And all the other progression kills? Similar. Wipe, learn, kill, put on Chef's Hat, take screen shot, loot, move on to next trash, notice you're still wearing the Chef's Hat, switch to DPS helm, prep for next boss. No rush.

So what is it?

I'm happy with our rate of progress on default-difficulty boss kills.

We're currently working on Yogg-Saron, having a pretty good handle on Phase 1 and had many good learning attempts on Phase 2.

We'll be onto Phase 3 and its insane DPS requirements soon enough, completing the full-clear of default difficulty.

Then it comes time for Hard Modes.

Which I think is the kicker. The thorn in the side of the adrenaline rush.

Yes, we killed the bosses. But did we really kill them?

Sure, our raiders are wearing the loot that only comes from a dead boss, so surely we killed them.

But it feels empty. I personally could care less about the loot. It is a necessary evil required for progress, but I'm here to bask in the glow of mastering the execution of complex encounters. I can mentally view each piece of gear our raid upgrades as one baby step towards being able to handle hard modes, but that only keeps the motivation for just so long.

Its tough to enjoy it if you know that when you come back for Hard Mode the fight that you just thought was a challenge will feel like a walk in the park.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

I'm happy with how Blizzard designed the dungeon. Algalon, the real final boss is only available after killing all the Hard Modes of the other bosses.

Its unclear to me whether that is during the same raid ID, or if you just need to have the achievements of each of the other hard modes to activate him.

Doesn't matter.

What matters is that they've provided ample motivation for guilds to keep pushing Hard Modes until they're mastered.

Sure we killed Sarth+3D. Several times. But we definitely never got that on farm status, and after a few kills, most people lost motivation to keep wiping for "just a vanity mount".

So we gave up before I'd say we mastered the encounter.

I hope that the alure of Algalon keeps the guild driving to complete the Hard Modes and then continue to improve until they're on farm status.

We may never achieve that goal.

It may be too hard for the caliber raiders we have including myself, it may be too hard for the caliber leaders we have, it may be too hard for the number of hours we raid per week, it may require decisions of raid composition and bench warming that are too hard for our team to make.

But being on the path towards excellence, dying trying to make it happen, never giving up (until the next dungeon in the rat race is released), means way more to me than farming some loot off of default difficulty knowing something greater is out there.

For The Alliance Quickies

Yesterday I dinged the For The Alliance achievement for killing all the Horde leaders.

So I share some quickies with you....

/trade LFM for the alliance - Logged in and saw the usual routine in /trade, some coconut is putting together a raid on Horde leaders. But I had a few hours to kill and my only real "goal" was to do some Jousting dailies and check the AH. Only one guildie on at the time and he was actually signed up to do it already, so I figured "what the hey".

Fountain Coins - Small aside. When you're in a raid group and cannot do any questing, fishing for coins is a not tooo unreasonable use of your time.

Staging Area - Meet up in Astranaar. Brings back old memories. When originally leveling, I had Amava hearthed to Astranaar for so much longer than would make actual sense. I was questing all over Azeroth, but would always hearth back to Astranaar and actually physically click on one of the beds upstairs to lay down before logging. Ah, the memories. Noob.

Yelling, Saying, and Emoting - One sure way (or rather, three sure ways) to ruin the element of surprise is to /y, /s, and /e (or any of the built-in emotes that don't require use of /e). Although the opposite faction might not be able to translate your words (kek), they will see the fact that you are nearby. Loose lips sink ships.

Don't Aggro The Guards - We assembled just outside the side gate to Orgrimmar with the instruction of "dont aggro the guards". I was fearing that this is when the PuG attempt would all start to unravel, before it even began. All it takes is one coconut to pull a guard and then hell breaks loose and we become a disorganized mob and fail. Kudos to the team for showing enough discipline to hold still and wait for instruction to commence the attack.

No Fuss - Not a whole lot to say, somewhat uneventful however lots of adrenaline. Most of the uncertainty was whether the PuG would collapse and we'd waste our time. Getting lost here and there added to the excitement.

The Route - Assemble outside Org. Kill Thrall. Port to Theramore and run to Thunderbluff. Brief moment of panic as half the raid got split up by taking wrong elevators. Kill Cow leader. Portal to Shatt and then portal to Isle of Quel Danas. Fly to Zul'Aman. Kill Blood Elf. Portal to Ironforge. Fly to Chillwind. Get lost trying to find sewer entrance. Get lost inside Undercity. Kill Undead boss. Hearth to Dalaran and check email.

Escorting a Friend - My friend was actually dualboxing the raid, playing his healer and /following his rogue. Traveler's Tundra Mammoth, FTW. Made transport of his toons so much easier.

War Bear - And I now have a Bear mount that I'll probably ride for a few days and then return to my Cobalt War Talbuk which remains my favorite mount. Something about the tall narrow shape and the hoof sound fx I like the best.

Better late than never - Some would say I was 6 months late dinging the achievement, and to them I would say "suck it".

The Number Nine - Nine honor kills. Yes. Nine (9). Only nine hk's in the process of killing all four Horde bosses. Talk about an organized resistance.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Leveling a pet and some RP

Its nice that we have a larger stable than during TBC for all our hunter pets. Even nicer to now have Call Stabled Pet capability to switch pets when you switch dual specs, if you so like.

I've been running Marksman for about 2 weeks now. I'm very much liking the rotation/priority. My only beef with it is that every so often, I'll end up with Chimera, Arcane, and Aimed all reaching the end of their cooldown at the same time. Means that, for instance, Aimed shot will sit for 2 GCD's during which it is ready to be fired but is lower priority and so sits. No big, but I like complaining.

Lots of forums and EJ's and Pikes say that a Wolf and the Furious Howl attack power buff is king among MM pets.

So I figure I'll leave Memphis the Raptor as my Survival pet, and go ahead and find me a wolf.

Finally, I get to raid with a dog!

And its time for some Role Play.

I can't just get any dog. No, for me, I need to go on a mission to rescue a pup from evil and give him a nice home and teach him things like "sit", "stay", and "sick balls". The kind of pup who lusts to tear the faces off of bosses during the day, and curl up on the couch with me and watch some American Idol at night.

So I set off to Mulgore. Seems those cows from Thunderbluff have been mistreating their animals and Amava is going to try to set things right.

Found the lowest level (5) Coyote puppy I could and offered him some cookies.

He was reluctant at first, but I eventually earned his trust.

And wouldnt you know it, badda bing badda boom, he's level 75. Man, these kids sure do grow up quick.

Now its time for a name.

Wanting to stick with the Native American vibe in Mulgore/Tauren lore, I went to look up various tribal translations of the name Coyote.

As it would turn out, none of them felt right when translated to Night Elf lingo.

However, a common theme in Native American legend and myths is the portrayal of the Coyote as the Trickster (aside: often depicted with disproportionately large junk, so big in fact that our little trickster sometimes wears a backpack to carry his mule. pure win) who is a master of deception, usually using his guile to get into somebody's pants (again, pure win).

And after spending a few hours to level him up to 80 grinding rhinos and elementals in Storm Peaks, the name stuck.

So lets all welcome Trickster the Coyote to the Stable. Tonight's his first raid, so we'll see how things go.

A New Idol

Do you mean your moody druid finally swapped out her last greenie, some silly mangle-enhancing quest reward loot that sits in the Idol slot?

Nope, I mean American Idol. All my friends in the guild make fun of me for taking wednesdays off of WoW to watch Idol, so as punishment, you all get to read about the finale here.

Here you go, some Idol Finale quickies:

1) When Fergie performs solo, I can't help but look for an Adam's Apple. No question she's hot, but it wouldn't surprise me for a second to discover twig and berries tucked around back.

2) WTF was with that Steve Martin banjo song? Me and the uber gf were debating about this one. She thinks its a serious song, I think its a parody about putting out on the first date hidden behind a fascade of seriousness. Either way, it was horrible. If you're going to bring Steve Martin, you better whip out some old school King Tut or something. Born in Arizona, moved to Babylon-a...

3) Norman Gentle, FTW. Outstanding delivery of the fake "what a surprise, I'm not prepared....HIT IT" routine. I'd totally go see him on an off-the-strip Vegas show or something. Then again, his schtick would probably get old after 15 minutes, but w/e, I loved him last night.

4) The uber gf called Keith Urban and Kris Allen's performance the Devil's Duet, because I mean really, staring into some dude's eyes while you're both singing about wanting to kiss a girl? All aboard the crazytrain, next stop, Broke Back Mt. I'm just sayin'.

5) From day one of the season, I was calling for Adam Lambert to bring some AC/DC. He's just able to do that kind of screaming/singing sort of thing. So when they whipped out KISS, pretty damn close. I'm generally not a big fan, but I must be a huge sucker for theatrics, because this performance was awesome for me. Even when I was scared Gene Simmons was going to break his hip while trying to smash his guitar, it was pure win.

6) Regarding #1 above, I'd still do'er.

7) Does anybody out there understand the appeal of Rod Stewart? Just how drunk WAS he during the show?

8) Cindi Lauper and Allison Iraheta duet was cool. They're both pretty wacky chicks, which only makes it more enticing. Hey, Cindi! Your knees are about 3 feet apart and the camera is staring straight up Grand Central.

9) Seacrest making fun of bikini girl's new fake rack was pretty close to the hilight of the evening for me. At first I was thinking "something looks different, but I'm not sure what?", and then he calls her out on it, and I was on the floor laughing. Kara's awkwardness after she almost flashed beav was icing on the cake and totally redeemed everything I hated about her all season.

10) I just don't understand Carlos Santana. No doubt he's got mad skillz, but the boat left and I wasn't on the boat. Maybe I'm just not a guitar guy, although I loved Slash's guest week. In Santana's defense, he did look totally badass on his little pedestle with white jacket and hat.

11) Sht, I cant remember the song right now but some white guy came out wearing a hat and a sport coat and a peace t-shirt and no shoes. His vibe and energy was so f'ing cool, it's probably the closest I've ever come to wanting to fill out a three way between me and the uber gf with a dude. And I usually hate goatees.

12) Lionel. Love his fiesta song even after like 25 years, he rules. But I couldn't help but feel bad for the guy. I mean, really. Your daughter is Nicole Ritchie, dude.

13) When the Peas came out to save Fergie from her lack luster solo, she suddenly stopped looking like a pre-op trannie. BEP are awesome, and the performance was outstanding. They should have put it later in the show, IMO, because Steve Martin totally killed the buzz this created. I want those zebra striped dancers to come with me to business meetings when I have to deliver bad news, just to lighten up the mood.

There you go. 13 quickies of the flat-out best Idol show I've ever seen. Good times, even if the wrong guy won.


14) What's the first thing probably ran through Mrs. Allen's mind...."well, its been nice knowing ya." How long you think that marriage will last through the stresses and temptations of the rock star life?

Sht, Simon said it himself early in the competition "you may have brought out the wife a little early". Granted, he meant that Kris should have kept the wifey hidden for a little while to let the girlie voters fall for him, but if you notice, they never mentioned the wife again from that moment on. They just said "Kris's Family" when they panned the camera past his posse.

Oh, and one more...

15) Proof positive that America's racism < America's homophobia. We're enlightened enough to be able to see past skin color when electing our President, but put a little nail polish on a dude who won't openly announce, confirm, nor deny his sexual preferences, and buh-bye.

Not to take anything away from Kris, because he had some amazing performances during the competition, but Randy Travis's open homophobia was disturbing.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

F'ing Boo-Ya

I knew something was wrong, and I couldn't have come out of blog-hiding at a more perfect time.

WoW Insider - High Level Ranged Weapons Getting Buffed

The article even features a pic of the butt-ass-ugly Kologarn gun that I carry around. Auryia, you stupid cat lady, gimme a new bow, soon. I'm so sick of using guns.

WoW Insider, quoting Ghostcrawler, says that (A) Hunter dps is low because Blizz f'ed up the whole ammo change they were planning but failed to implement so the wep damage is being buffed to compensate, and even mutha'f'ing better, (B) they also recognize that Hunters are still a little low beyond that and plan to change it over the next few weeks.

On one hand, this plays even further into my QQ about how volatile the state of the Hunter is, as we'll be changing more and more.

But on the other hand, maybe they're giving the class a little potential.

To quote a wise man (me. from just a day or two ago)...

"I don't want to be imba or easysauce, but I do want to be competitive and have a reasonable number of attacks that interact with one another in a logical way."

The Ghostcrawler quote might as well have read (note: hypothetical fake quote)...

"We became concerned at the drawn out period of silence amongst the Hunter blog community, for instance, Amava became all emo and didn't post for weeks. Well, his/her return to blogging inspired us to stop making Hunters suck dck for every point of damage they deal and you'll see them be a bit more competitive pretty damn soon. Stroking his/her ego is what we strive for here at Blizzard.

Knowing his/her hatred for guns in-game, we're also adding a unique piece of code that increases the drop rate of the Cat Lady Bow considerably if a player starting with A and ending with iva is in the raid.

We humbly apologize if this buff feels like yet another change in a long line of annoying changes, and we dearly hope this doesn't bring evoke another completely justified, pouty, emo fit from our beloved blogger who makes the game as awesome as it is."

Yeah, that's what he should have said :-)


This is My Big Fat Thank You Post.

Its actually rather thin to warrant the "big fat" title, but does My Little Thin Thank You Post really sound good? No. It does not.

Several of you wrote to me via blog comments, emails, in-game whispers on-server, and even a level 55 death knight rolled as a means to whisper me from off server (perhaps rolled for other reasons as well, but with my awful DPS lately, I'll stroke the ego however I can :-P )

To summarize those tidbits with a twist of my own slang and dialect, the common thread was: Where Fck You Been, Boi? Gitcho ass back in the writin' seat and gimme some mo'!

TOTALLY UNRELATED BUT HAPPENED RIGHT NOW AND I'M GOING ALL STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS ON YOUR ASS: I just won a f'ing donut! Tim Hortons (think Dunkin Donuts if you don't live in or near Canada) does an annual contest with their coffee cups. The contest is pretty much over, but the timmy-hoho's at work is still in stock with the contest cups in XL size. I just won a f'ing donut. I'm the King of the World! brb, donut....k, back.

My Big Fat Thank You Post is for you guys.

The past month or weeks or whatever gap its been has shown me that I write for myself, to explore my thoughts, to help make sense of the mental jumble that's pretty much with me day-to-day, to sing the praises of things I'm happy about, to vent my beefs and beat dead horses into the ground, to chuckle about frivolous things that I find amusing...

FYI, Lets talk amusement real quick. I wear my chef's hat for every boss progression kill screen shot, and sometimes forget to take it off for the next trash pull. Its my favorite part of the game, and if somebody stands in front of me, I get disproportionately angry. Down in front. Are my ears ok? Do these T8.5 legs make my ass look fat?

But I publish for all of you. It makes me feel good to know that people, however many or few, enjoy reading my walls of text, my far-from-scientific theorycrafting, my strategies and techniques that are anything but optimal, my revelations of things that've been spelled out much earlier and in much better detail elsewhere.

So here's a Thank You. The Big Fat variety.

And now to scan through the massive pile of unpublished posts to see if there's a tidbit or two worthy of the light of day.....

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Publisher's Block

Anybody who's been reading here for a while knows that the author is a bit of a strange bird.

Knowing that, you might not find it quite as weird that I've been suffering from publisher's block.

Its like writer's block, except you have lots of inspiration and write lots of material, but when you hover your mouse over the "publish" button, there's a demon who takes control and navigates the web browser away from blogspot and over to some barely legal smut sites. Weird.

I've actually written-but-not-published several posts like this one, trying to explore what's been going on in my head and why that demon has been winning the battles lately, as compared to the previous years (holy s, its been years?) during which, by willpower alone, I was able to delay the demon's inevitable websites of choice until after I published my bloggy blog.

Lets hope this post has a more impressive, or at least public, destiny than those that're sitting in the electronic Island of Lost Posts.

Start with the Positive

There's been lots of fun going on in my WoW game. Here's a few snippets for your enjoyment:

1) Raiding Progress - Last week, we got our first Mimiron kill. Its a fun fight with a lot of variety and the level of challenge is higher than WotLK has generally given us. Also, we started adding in some of the easier hardmodes this week, bringing down Flame Leviathan with one tower up. I like progress, I like hardmodes. Big win!

2) Healing BG's - ZOMG, I love it. My moody druid is pretty much in full Hateful/Deadly Gladiator now. Premade groups of 2-6 friends from the guild, and we just stomp around. A small pocket of players working very tightly coordinated and sticking to sound strategy makes such a massive difference to the outcome of battles. Very fun to see BG from a different perspective than my long-time hunter.

3) Low-Stress World Event - Argent Tournament. When I compare it in my mind to Isle of Quel'danas, it's a world of difference. When IoQD landed, I felt major internal pressure to exalt with the SSO and keep pushing those dailies every day. I have no idea why. Now with the AT, I'm actually enjoying it (well, except for that awful nasty awful jousting quest in southwest Ice Crown, which I refuse to do after that first awful time). I do a couple dailies every now and again when its fun. When its not fun, I don't do it.

4) Explorer's League - This one is purely frivolous. One daily quest for the faction. 250 rep max per day. I'm revered right now and my projections put Exalted somewhere in late July early August, depending on how often I forget to log onto the hunter for a day. No rewards that I know of, and I think that's actually what's motivating me. Pure amusement factor.

Some not-so-positives

1) The State of the Hunter - I'm actually growing to despise the Hunter lately. It feels like our rotation and the coefficients, tooltips, and internal cooldowns of our abilities change every week.

The current setup just feels like too many attacks/abilities to manage, and the cooldowns and durations overlap in a hugely counter-intuitive fashion. And to top it off, our DPS output is no where near what it used to be, even for outstanding hunters like the one I have the privilege of raiding along side.

Feels like punishment for the years of 1:1 macro spam and a brief period of unhealthy OP'ness at the beginning of WotLK.

I don't want to be imba or easysauce, but I do want to be competitive and have a reasonable number of attacks that interact with one another in a logical way.

2) Gathering - I've always loved gathering herbs and minerals. I find the activity relaxing and the gold income satisfying. Since I don't play the Hunter too much outside of raids, I don't gather very much. Even when I do, the markets for gatherables are collapsing on my server with stacks of herbs, even the fancy ones like lich and thorn, are selling for like 12g or less per stack.

But progression raiding costs about 1-1.5k gold per week, depending upon how many new gear items I get (driving enchant and gem costs up).

So I've been earning gold by buying these low cost mats, crafting across a diverse spread of professions, and selling high cost products.

Very profitable, with my best week earning roughly 885 gold/hour. However, I find the 2-4 hours I spend on that weekly to be massively tedious and draining. But, ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

3) Za Za Zoo - Kary (sp?) Bradshaw blathered on and on in an exhaustingly annoying way about how a relationship should have that "za za zoo", which I think meant chemistry or buzzing energy or something.

Well, the progression kills in Ulduar really have been lacking that Za Za Zoo. We work at a boss. We kill the boss. And nothing. Nada. No cheers on vent. Barely a few gratz's in text chat. Quietly loot and move on.

Mimiron kill last week was different (edit: repeat mimiron kill last night was f'ing awesome, major adrenaline rush). There was a sweet sweet outburst of jubiliation on vent. We all got that long lost rush that was last seen for Sarth+3D, which was back in like january or something.

I'm not sure what it is that is lacking. Challenge? Certainly mimiron gave us the biggest challenge and the most number of wipe attempts before the kill. So maybe its that. But still, to have the pulse of the raid flatlined after a hard won pre-nerf first kill of XT and his brutal enrage timer? Or Thorim and his inexorable Arena and Assault team splits. Something is not quite right with the vibe in the raid.

4) Fail Events are Fail - Noblegarden and Children's Week. Fail and Failer. Sure, bunnies are cute, and I love cute. But orphans are ugly, smelly, are constantly hungry attention whores and pretty much just screw everything up.

Noblegarden reeked of timesink, moreso than any of the generally time-sinky seasonal events. I mean really, just sit there camping eggs for a few hours hating everything and everyone. And lets not even speak of what Children's Week did to battlegrounds.

Combine that with the overlapping proximity of the two events and you have a massive failure, IMO.


So What's the Deal?

Sht. I don't want this to become more of a wall of text, but who knows, maybe that's what I need.

I think the bottom line is that the time sink aspect of WoW is bothering me more and more.

I thoroughly enjoy the invigorating parts of the game. Mimiron kill reminded me of how exhilarating progression raiding can be. Healing BG's is absolutely fun for me (at least when f'ing rogues aren't chain stunning me, but w/e). Relaxing heroics or a naxx alt run with the uber gf is outstanding.

But to reach any of these positive things, we need to do endless stuff we don't enjoy.

I want a faster flying mount. Means I have to suffer through awful seasonal events.

To perform in raids and BG's I need shiny equipment. Means I need to grind gold for enchants, gems, and repairs.

When gold earning is a natural part of my playstyle and server economy, life is grand.

When my Hunter's shot rotation makes sense and delivers quality results, life is grand.

When progression kills come with cheers and overflowing energy, life is grand.

Perhaps it is that fleeting "grand" aspect that's preventing me from publishing these forsaken posts?