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Archive for October, 2008

Dear Blizzard:

I am thrilled beyond thrilled with the vast majority of things you added in patch 3.0.2.  However, I think you missed the mark on a few things.  I realize you can’t release everything at once so please forgive me if any of the things on my “Christmas list” are already slated for release.

1.  Player/Guild Housing

C’mon guys.  We’ve been after you for this for years.  You really demonstrated in the last patch with the achievement system that you do care about non-raiders.  The Carebears demand more love.  We desire instanced housing we can decorate and hang out in and throw toga parties in.  Why are you so resistant to it?

2.  The Woodworking Profession

If you’re going to add #1, you have to add #2 as well.  Woodworking (and it’s accompanying gathering skill) would not only allow you to make furniture for player housing, but also allow players to craft bows, crossbows, staves, and other items that currently are not player-made.  I’m not really sure how you’re going to implement this, but c’mon!  I mean… you’re Blizzard for crying out loud!  You put a man on the moon!  You’re geniuses!  You’re the guys who think this shit up!  I’m sure you got a team of men sitting around somewhere right now just thinking shit up and somebody backing them up!  Whoops, sorry.  Armageddon is playing in the next room.  But you get the idea.

3.  Character Selection Screen Rework

The one “unit” of the interface that has barely changed since I started playing is the character selection screen.  Besides a graphic touch-up there are a couple of things I think you could add here.  New mail icons (even if I have to click a button and wait for it to scan all my toons) would be The Bomb.  It would also be great if we could re-arrange the order of toons on the screen.  Manually moving them would be great, but I’d settle for a “by level” sort.

4.  Keybinding Import/Export

This simple little feature could earn you so much love from the segment of the player base that play in Internet cafes, that you might even get unsolicited chocolates shipped to Blizzard HQ.  It’s also good for anyone who has ever had to do a re-install.  Take the key binding screen and add three buttons.  Import, Export, and Reset.  I have thoroughly roughed-up the default key bindings and it would be glorious if I could save my personalized layout on a USB key and then with two mouse clicks load them into whatever installation I was playing on.  There would be minor PC/Mac issues here, but I have faith in you to overcome them.

5.  Rapid Transit

I know I’ve talked about this one before.  Mounts are great for short runs and I’m sure they’ll never fall out of popularity, but we need a solution for long hauls.  Parts of Kalimdor are still a real pain to get to if you’re Alliance, and I’m sure the same thing applies to Horde although I haven’t really taken any time to think about it.  If the dwarves can build a tram, why the heck can’t we build something like that on a larger scale?  Even if I had to pay a toll, I would!

6.  Camera Detach

I know I’m being a little selfish with this one.  I realize about 2% of the player base would be interested in such a thing, but… it’s my blog and I’ll rant if I wanna.  Getting really awesome screenshots occasionally means that I have to shoot from some perspective other than my character or I have to take someone else along with me.  In other words, I don’t always want my toon in the center of the picture.  I envison a system where I could press a button and then have free-movement of the camera (within limits of course).  Pressing the button again would return to normal play mode.

7.  Add More Icons

One thing I noticed with the addition of the new skills in the last patch is that some skills have the same icon.  Like Cleanse and Ancestral Spirit to cite one example.  That’s confusing as hell.  Even if I put them on opposite sides of the screen there are still “panic moments” (especially as a healer) when your brain doesn’t work and you go looking for the icon and… well… you get the picture.

8.  More Title Achievements

Love ’em, love ’em, love ’em.  Can’t say enough nice things about achievements or titles, but I want MORE! I want more titles (besides Jenkins) that don’t require a month of my time to obtain.

9.  Give Us The &*(#@! Latency Bar Back

Yes, I know where you moved the information to, but it’s the bar that I want.  When I throw a heal and it doesn’t respond immediately I want to see the latency information without having to reach for my mouse and mouseover a miniscule little piece of screen real estate in the info bar.  What was the purpose of removing it?  Are you trying to hide something?  Like the fact that your internet connectivity stinks?

10.  Don’t EVER Repeat That Zombie Fiasco EVER Again

I still have difficulty believing that the whole zombie thing came from your dev team.  I didn’t like it.  It wasn’t enjoyable, and I have no doubt that it cost you more than one account.  It wasn’t good for the player base, especially those that wanted to level low level characters.  Any idea you get in the future that involves incapacitating quest givers is a BAD idea.  Please don’t ever do it again.  You can’t expect players to embrace a Code of Conduct you’re not willing to embrace yourselves.

Oh, and one more I forgot…

11.  Put The Heroic Daily In The Message Of The Day

God knows I’d never be one to encourage lazyness.  But I’m really sick of all the lazy people who insist on asking in public chat channels what the daily heroic is.  Please put it in the sign-on message.  I will love you forever.  Thanks!

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There’s a new boss in Kara, and he hits like a Brinks truck (see photo).  Other sites will tell you in detail how to down Tenris in as complicated a manner as possible.  I will tell you the easy way.  It may not be the fast way, but it’s the easy way.

How To Get There

In a perfect world you’re going to go find him when you’ve already cleared Kara.  That was the situation my group found ourselves in today.  The instance was clear (except for Netherspite who we downed later) and we didn’t have any additional trash or bosses to clear.

Go to the spot where you beat Attumen the Hunter to the ground like a loot pinata.  Turn left and you should be staring at the oh-so-familiar repair guy.  Walk towards him and look left.  You should see the semi-broken stairway going upstairs.  Go to the top of it.

The place where you end up is, for all intents and purposes, a big circular room that overlooks the stables.  As you reach the top of the stairs, continue walking in the same direction — through the first archway — and you should come to a section where there are three doorways on the outer perimeter.  The first one is closed, and the second and third one are open.  Our man is behind the first door.  I don’t advise opening the door alone.  What happens to you will not be pretty.

What You Need To Know

There are essentially two things Tenris does.

  1. He links with random players in your group.  You’ll know he’s linked with someone when you see a red arch between him and the player.  When this happens, ALL DPS NEEDS TO STOP on him because any damage you direct to him at this point will be reflected back to the connected player.
  2. He has these little red balls that follow him around that explode and do about 5,000 to 10,000 damage.  You can’t dps them.  Don’t even try.  They just need to be avoided.

What You Need To Do

The trick… is to flush everything your raid leader has ever taught you about proper raid etiquette down the toilet.  You know how you always get your wrists slapped when you walk in front of the tank?  Forget that, because that’s how you’re going to kill this jerk.  Make sure “the ring” is clear all the way around.  (You can do this before you open the door.)

Buff up, get your game on, and push your favourite meat shield in front of the door with a bouquet of flowers in his (or her) hand, and tell him to ring the bell.  (In other words, click the door to open it.)  In mere seconds our man Tenris will come out and the fun will begin.

Now have your casters, dps, healers, and everybody else LEAD the tank in a slow rotation around the ring.  The funky little red balls spawn BEHIND Tenris, so as long as the squishies are out front, there’s nothing to worry about.  By the time you finish your first lap, the balls that had been there will be long gone.  Just kite him around the ring slowly.  That’s ALL THERE IS TO IT.  With adequate healing and adequate dps, it shouldn’t take more than a lap or a lap and a half to get him down as long as you remember to STOP DPS when he links.

Enjoy your bat pet and remember:  Tenris is only going to be around for about ten days before he’s gone again.  This is part of the Plague event and when the event is over, Tenris will be gone too.

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Some of us have been scratching our head wondering what the heck those one-slot bags were for that were dropping in the Treat Bags we were getting from the innkeepers.  I had a few theories.  It turns out they were all wrong.

I have received reports (albeit unconfirmed) that you can combine sixteen of them together to make the (much more useful) 16-slot Pumpkin Bag.

You heard it here first.

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I have to admit to you, I haven’t been a very popular person in Westfall lately.  While all the little pvp wannabees have been bringing the contagion en masse from Booty Bay to Westfall, I’ve left Nenianae parked there — my level 70 resto shaman.

I have had more profanities launched at me in the last 48 hours than I have experienced in the last year.  Why?  Because I won’t allow a zombie epidemic in Westfall. But the kiddies don’t get it.  They don’t understand.  I’ve even had a few try to reason with me.  “Plz let people enjoy this event”, they beg.  But folks… it’s PvP.  And if Blizzard didn’t want me to kill them, they wouldn’t have made them auto-flag for PvP as soon as they turn into zombies.  And if Blizzard didn’t want me to cleanse people (and NPC’s) of the infection, they wouldn’t have given me a way to do it.

Let’s look further at what happens when the zombies overrun Westfall.  NPC’s are running around trying to infect more zombies.  So what does that accomplish?  It accomplishes a state in the zone where players who are uninterested in the whole zombie nonsense can’t level and can’t questAny other week of the year, this would be called “griefing” and be a GM ticketable offense.

So clearly there’s a problem here.  Blizzard created an event, and clearly Blizzard did not directly intend to cause disruption in the game.  So what’s the solution?  GO GRIEF THE OPPOSING FACTION! It’s a short ride from Booty Bay to Ratchet and then an even shorter ride to Crossroads.  Go infect somebody who will truly appreciate it… like a Tauren.  (Or vice versa if you’re a Horde.)

I’d really like to point the finger at Blizzard and say this is the stupidest idea they’ve ever had.  But I don’t think it’s Blizzard’s stupid idea.  It’s the way (some of) the players have interpreted it.

Don’t get all bent out of shape when the 70’s come for you.  We’re just trying to keep things friendly in the zone.

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One of the most lauded changes in the last major patch (yes, before 3.0.2) was the addition of in-game voice chat.  Lots of guilds felt that they were going to be able to give up their Ventrilo (or “Vent”) servers and use the in-game voice functionality exclusively.  Others feared (incorrectly) that there were going to be “voice channels” for every chat channel in the game and that anarchy was going to ensue.  Neither of these thoughts proved to be correct.  The in-game voice chat — I think it’s safe to say — failed to meet just about every expectation.

Don’t get me wrong.  I appreciate Blizzard for re-defining the lowest common denominator.  Ventrilo servers can be an expense some guilds don’t want to pay.  We arguably pay enough just to play the game without shelling out additional dollars for voice functionality and guild websites and everything else that is being marketed in our faces.  The WoW in-game voice system works fine but that’s all it does.  The sound of it rather reminds me of a second-grade science project when we connected two tin cans with a long piece of string and talked back and forth from one end of the hallway to another.  The voice quality is awful and for people who are accustomed to a half-decent Ventrilo server, they generally find it unacceptable.  But it does work.  Most of the time.

Fortunately there are alternatives to the in-game voice chat.  Some of them will cost you money, some of them won’t, and they vary in functionality.

(more…)

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Much Ado About “Lag”

As Bloodhoof lies on the floor convulsing and I wait for somebody to reboot it, let me take a moment to put on my network administrator hat and remind-slash-educate my gentle readers on a variety of conditions that a large number of World of Warcraft players refer to generically as “lag”.

The most vocal people in trade chat are always the ones who exclaim “ZOMG!  LAG!  Blizzard owes me free play time, because the lag is so crappy!”  But the truth is that the onus of blame only lies on Blizzard half the time – or less.

There are four factors that contribute to the “speed” of your gameplay.  Only one of them is Blizzard’s fault explicitly.

  1. The Speed Of Your Computer – First of all, does your computer meet the system requirements to run the game.  But that’s only one part of it.  Although the system requirements are not the “do all and end all” if your system doesn’t have the capacity to run the game, it’s not going to communicate effectively with the server.  If the computer is using every last breath it has to draw the graphics on the screen, it’s going to affect the rate of speed with which it communicates with the internet.  Also if you have a billion other processes running that are sharing processor cycles with World of Warcraft, this also affects the rate at which the computer can communicate over the internet.  Neither of these scenarios is Blizzard’s fault.
  2. The Speed Of Your Connection – Get ready, I’m gonna go there.  Close your freakin’ peer-to-peer and file sharing applications. Especially with Windows (and yes, I’ve lived on both sides of the tracks) BitTorrent clients can saturate a connection really fast.  If the computer is utilizing every morsel of bandwidth available to it for downloading “whatever” from the internet, this will hamper your computer’s ability to communicate effectively with the server.  While you’re at it, why don’t you make sure your operating system is up-to-date and make sure you have no zombies/worms with a decent anti-virus/spyware program.  Zombies will use your computer’s connection for their own purpose, typically to send spam for someone else.  They are equally notorious for bringing a broadband connection to it’s knees in short order.  The maintenance and operation of your computer is not Blizzard’s responsibility and poor performance from an over-taxed connection is not their fault. I should note however that it’s not always your fault either.  A former GM of mine had endless problems connecting to the game when it rained out.  After months of calls to his internet service provider, it was finally determined that the power adapter (aka wall wart) for his cable modem was defective.  Sometimes the internet provider is at fault.  Your challenge will be to get them to admit it if that is actually the case.
  3. The Speed Of Blizzard’s Connection – Here is a rough spot.  Blizzard has an internet service provider just like you do.  And while they pay a lot of money to ensure they have excellent connectivity between their data centers and their customers, the internet is the internet and sometimes bad things happen to good routers.  Things break on the internet.  If you suspect a connectivity issue (due to #2 or #3) try hitting different web sites with a web browser.  Pick ones you “know” are hosted on the east and west coasts or use an online broadband testing service to measure your connectivity to their east and west coast data centers.  If #2 or #3 is the issue, your “latency” (mouseover the computer on the bottom of your screen) will be affected.  (If #1 or #4 is the issue, your latency will likely be fine.)  Talk to your internet provider.  Yes they’re idiots.  Yes they will put you on hold for half an hour.  But if you’re the 300th person to call in the last hour with the same issue, they will eventually pull their head out of their butt and investigate the problem further.
  4. The Speed Of Blizzard’s Computer (Server) –  Congratulations, you got to the only cause of game performance problems that is actually Blizzard’s fault, and likely the one that is affecting us the most this week.  When the server bogs down because of code problems (or user load) that is Blizzard’s fault.  Talk to a GM or contact support.  Be nice to them. As cold as this sounds, you really are just a number in the grand scheme of things, and they don’t care.  They don’t have to.  If you stop paying your subscription fee they’ll find someone else to take your place.  There’s no reason to be an ass to a GM or a tech support person.  They deal with angry people all day.  Try being nice to them.  You might find you get better service.

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Ok, so I found the answer to the question I was dieing to know the answer to, and I found it out in a very interesting way.

I logged in today and went browsing through Gweedo’s inventory (mostly for the sake of finding non-combat pets I could deport to the pet tab) and lo and behold I found a junkbox sitting in his inventory that I hadn’t opened.  I was immediately intrigued.  It was clearly lifted off a mob before the patch came out.  Would it contain pre-3.0.2 loot, or would it be different?

It was different.

And the answer is:  The junkboxes contain random level-appropriate pre-made poisons now.  It makes sense.  I don’t know why I didn’t think of it.  I’m not sure I like it, but then again I haven’t really taken Gweedo into combat since the patch.  I may got farming for Consortium rep in Netherstorm later this week and I’ll report back.

My general opinion of the patch (with three level 70’s) is that I hate it.  I think it is the worst large scale patch deployment I’ve ever seen in a game of this genre.  (And I’ve played about eight of them at length.)  It’s one thing to screw with one class.  It’s another thing to screw up every class in the game, screw up mechanics, and change class roles all in one atomic bomb style “whoop! there it is!” style drop.  They knew they were going to get hammered yesterday and today and they weren’t ready.  Yes Illidan, they were not prepared.  How’s that for deja vu?  I’m sure I’m going to have a Blizzard fanboy (or fangirl) or two tell me what I complete farking idiot I am for making light of such an immense operation, but they also have an immense income that can mobilize immense resources.  Darnassus (and the rest of Kalimdor) was immensely missing for about half the day on my server.  What about yours?  My morning today was spent respec’ing my resto shaman four times.  Everytime I’d finish and start testing things the world server would go splat, I’d wait until it rebooted, log in again, and all my points would be gone.  Nice engineering boys.  Great way to inspire confidence in your ability to manage the expansion if you can’t even handle the preparatory patch.

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