Tuesday, February 24, 2009

PTR 3.1 Mages

This isn't a Neft Bat as much as an anti-climatic bat.

So sure... lots of things can change by the time they actually release patch 3.1 on the Live Realms, I understand that. And from everything I've read, it certainly sounds like they're a long way off. Lots of testing will happen on the PTR, and it doesn't even sound like they're done with Uldar, so plenty of time.

But I'm having a hard time with a couple of changes so far. Or rather, the lack thereof. In case you haven't followed: I play a mage. Sure, I have a few alts, but my time /played on my mage far outweighs probably all other toons combined. And I imagine it will continue to be that way.

First off: most people will be very excited about the dual spec thing. As a mage, I could really care less. Sure, it sounded neat. I figured I could have a pvp spec for those rare times when I actually go pvp, but it really wasn't a necessity. I actually figured it would be more beneficial for my wife's priest when we need her to heal something. But for 1000g? Seems a bit much. I know, I know... it's optional, but still. Per Armory, I've respec'ed twice. I'd have to respec 23 more times before it would have been cheaper to simply pay for the dual specs. I know some people will be happy about it, and they'll be able to change more without having to worry about the money, but still... hunters, warlocks, rogues, mages... Is it really that big of a deal for them?

Next, glancing at the changes for all the classes... it's essentially a 14-page document. (See MMO-Champion) Most classes got over 2 and a half pages (paladins got like 4). Mages and Warriors combined got 1. Furthermore, out of our 6 items listed, 3 of them are expected changes increasing talent and Mage Armor mana regen which is to be expected, 1 gives us another useless polymorph, 1 pretty much turns us into Shadow Priests, and Burnout gets nerfed to only be fire spells now (previously all spells). Warriors really aren't all that much better (go click on the link, this isn't a warrior blog).

Now this can really be taken a couple of different ways. One way is that Mages and Warriors have been working as intended, and they really didn't need to tweak things they way they are for other classes. Another is that they simply didn't have time for the Warriors and Mages... at least not yet. And another.... ah, what do I really care about the reasons? They didn't really promise anything for us to begin with, and at least the Warriors now have dual spec.

Frost Mages are more raid viable because they can keep up Replenishment. That's it?!? That's all you got? The new Glyph of Ice Lance gives 4 times the damage against frozen targets (any boss that you know of that isn't immune to being frozen?)

And wasn't there supposed to be something about Spirit being more attractive to Mages?

Well, at least we have a new raid instance to romp around in. On the positive side... the Burnout "nerf" really wasn't that bad at all.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Purples Aren't Always Upgrades

This past weekend, I started a 10-man Naxx run with my wife and other guildies as well. We downed Loatheb and the Sulfur Stave dropped. I still have the rep-based Flameheart Spell Scalpel. Blue vs. Purple. The staff must be an upgrade, right? Of course it is. I was trying move the raid along quickly, so I rolled a Need, won it, and then moved on.

But then... I looked at the full package. On my off-hand, I'm holding the Ward of the Violet Citadel. So, in wielding the Sulfur Stave, I'd lose 13 hit rating, 6 spell power, and 50 Crit. Sure, I'd gain 13 Stamina, 23 Intellect, and 89 Spirit (lolSpirit4Mages), but it's not really an upgrade. Yeah... bad mage.

Luckily, nobody else wanted it in the raid.

Except for the fact that my wife (currently running shadow on her priest) was wielding the Screw-Sprung Fixer-Upper and the Lantern of Enchanted Flame, and had also hit Need. That means she would have gained 26 Stamina, 41 Intellect, 89 Spirit (dual use as a healing priest), 59 Hit Rating, 90 Spell Power, and would have lost 21 Crit and 10 mp5. Yeah... huge upgrade. It's a good thing she really doesn't care about loot, or else I'd probably still be sleeping on the couch.

You'd think I'd understand this by now, but... Morale of the story: Just because something is purple doesn't mean it's better than your blue.

On another note, I finally got the Mark of the War Prisoner to drop from H-VH. Yeah, hit raiting!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Another Player in the House to Run Heroics

I sat down with my wife last night to play some Wow with her. She was still about 4 bubbles away from hitting 80. We did a couple of dailies. (I forget how good those are for xp considering how easy they generally are (or become after the 50th time you've done them).) She was still about 2 bubbles away when we were about to head over to Shalatzar Basin.

The guild raid had been going on without me, but they were a couple short for Thadius, and even one body increases total raid damage by about 5%... and that's if I just stood on the correct side. (10% increase due to Polarity Shift, but only effecting 1/2 the raid, so... 5%.) And then we just had Sapp and Kel to kill, so I didn't really want to bow out.

So, somewhere in the middle of one of those three fights, my wife dinged 80. And there was much rejoicing. I think she's still pretty dang nervous about raiding. She's nervous about taking somebody else's spot that would really care about this sort of thing. She's nervous about messing up. But I think she's learned a heck of a lot more than she realizes, and she'll be a pretty great asset to our raids. Now... if we can just get her some gear.

p.s. I won the Valorous Frostfire Circlet so I now have an epic helm and 4/4 to get my set bonus. /cheer

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Not-So-Solo Player

I've pretty much leveled with my wife through her entire Wow career. She leveled with my hunter until around mid-30’s and she no longer felt needed because I could heal, tank, and dps. So, we moved on to me leveling my shaman with her priest through level 70 and the instances we did together. She did most of Howling Ford by herself once Wotlk came out, but then the rest of the quests have been done with my mage.

She’s probably about 79.75 currently. I’ve finished all of the quests in every Northrend zone except for Icecrown (about 50%) and Sholazar Basin (completed 11 quests). I completed Dragonblight without her, and I suggested she go back and do those quests while I was raiding, but she just doesn’t enjoy playing by herself.

So, at this point, she’d either have to catch up with me and do some 80 quests in Icecrown (which due to phasing, I’d probably not be able to help her with most of the quests), have me help her with Dragonblight quests (reduced xp due to non-80 quests), or catch up with the 11 quests in Sholazar Basin (again, reduced xp). She wasn’t really excited about any of those options.

She’ll be out for a few hours tonight, so I figured I could start on the Icecrown quests and maybe even get her to 80 in the process. Of course, I wouldn’t do it; that would be against the EULA. I’d have one of the kids do it. :D

I was a little surprised at her response to my plan: “No way! Anadori’s my toon. You don’t get to play her. It’s like I did all the hard work, and now you want to take credit to get her to 80. Nuh-uh.”

When I explained the conundrum we’re now in, she agreed to do some solo’ing and hit level 80 while I raided. Honestly, I thought she’d be happy to hit 80 and be able to get in to instances (heroics) easier. Boy, how wrong was I?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Missing Head Pieces

So, in case you haven't taken the time to map out all of your upgrades, here's a small clue for you: Unless you're an engineer or a plate wearer (see all items here), there is no way you're getting a level 80, epic helm unless you go raiding.

Wait. Wut???!!!???

That's right. For the majority of classes there are exactly zero epic helms that can be made, absolutely zero that can be found in heroics, and then only a handful in the first raid area of Naxx 10-man.

Seriously Blizzard? If you don't want helms to drop from heroics, fine. I can respect that decision. But allowing 2 professions to create them and not allowing 2 others? Finish Tailoring and Leatherworking please so we can craft our helms already.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

OP PVE Racial

I've discovered that Humans are vastly over powered for PVE. At least they are as you're ramping up. It all really boils down to one, tiny racial: Diplomacy.

I never realized how powerful this racial truly was until recently. Leiandra, my human mage, has been the only toon that I have really done the rep grind with. My alts are just kind of there; never really a force to be reckoned with or anything. So, I've never experienced wanting reputation with a toon without this major buff.

10%. It may not sound like a lot, but trust me, it is. It may not sound like a lot when you gain 10 reputation killing a mob, but your human counterparts get 11. But when you get a million reputation points for completeing a quest, that 10% translates into 100 thousand.

I noticed it was such a big deal when I did the Sons of Hodir questline with my wife (a Night Elf Priest). After the initial questline, I was instantly rocketed to Friendly, where she was still Neutral. Not wanting to go too far ahead of her, I've only been doing the quests that she can, but that means that there's 2 or more quests that I'm not doing. Furthermore, because I continue to get 10% more each time, I keep pulling away from her.

Now, this certainly isn't a game breaker once you've gotten all your factions to Exhalted, but on the voyage there, it's a huge time saver. 10% means that humans have to do less dailies, less "unncessary" dungeon crawls (was way more applicable in The Burning Crusade), less grinding. If it takes 100 days to get exhalted through daily quests, for a human, it will only take 91 days. That's 9 days you can forget, or do something else. That's 9 days you can work on another reputation or... actually do something outside of wow.

I know, I know... I can see the light bulbs going on now. I can hear the masses starting to rumble the chants of "Nerf the Humans to the ground!" But that's just the way life is. It's not always fair. Next time... just role a human.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Epic Mounts for Friends

I've been questing with my wife for much of her journey through Azeroth, Outlands, and Azeroth. I was the one to push for ground epic mounts as soon as we hit 60 so that we could go fast. (It was one of my alts that leveled with her through 70, but from 70-80 it has been my main, Leiandra.) Now that she hit 77, the difference in waiting with her slow mount and my fast mount was just unbearable. Now, I'm not one to have a lot of money. I'd much rather focus on other things besides saving my in-game money. So, 5,000g is still kind of a lot of money to me.

But it was slowing down our progress, and I found I had to wait a lot. So, I gave her the money for the fast mount. Heck, I still have other 70's that don't even have epic flying. But, I think it was the right decision. So, the question here is twofold: (1) How many toons do you have with epic flying skill? (2) Have you ever bought epic flying skill for somebody else?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

In Game Voice Chat - Revisited

Yesterday, I briefly mentioned that I had used the in game chat feature of Wow this past weekend. And I also got a comment asking why my mic is so quiet (which I can only assume is from one of my friends I was hanging out with). The simple answer to that question is: I don't know. I have my settings turned up to 100% both via the system settings and the Wow settings, so there's really no reason people shouldn't be able to hear me. But I thought I'd go in to more detail as to why the in game system is so poor.

First an analogy. In 1877, when the phonograph was first invented, it was the first time you actually record sound. Sure, it sounded like crap, but it was a technological breakthrough. It was simply amazing! People were astounded that you could hear pre-recorded voices. Shortly thereafter, phonograph cylinders started flooding the market. Recordings could be played about 12 times before the wax would wear out and you could then clean off the worn out recording to record something new. Eventually the wax was hardened so that recordings could be listened to over 100 times. Technology moved forward until the world eventually got the LP record album (oooh..), then the cassette tape (oooh... small size and convenience), and then finally the CD (digital, baby!). For you audiophiles out there, I'm not going to argue the differences (which I'm obviously recognizing) between analog and digital formats. Simply from the technological standpoint, CD's were about a billion times better than the phonographs that Thomas Edison was using. But at each step of the way, people were amazed that this new technology existed and were wow'ed at it's existence, and it was better.

Back to Wow... While the chronological order doesn't exactly fit, I'm going to say that the Wow in-game chat feature is pretty much like records. People were happy when it was finally implemented, but the sound is like that old record player you had as a kid. See all the customization you can do with the 2 buttons? One for speed and one for volume. And I'm sure that one speaker produces some fine quality, grade-F sound. And you can't really record them yourself. Wow chat is basic. It sounds like tin cans. Not much you can do about customizing it. Can't change the codecs for better sound quality. It's pretty much a WYSIWYG solution. There are some things you have to do to set it up, but overall, just a basic solution. It's not for hanging out since only the people in the party/raid can hear everyone. Certainly not for a guild.

Next we have Team Speak. Like cassettes, you've now got some options. You can now copy the tapes pretty easily. You can carry them around pretty easily. You can play them in a car... while it's moving. Sure, fast forward and rewind can take a bit more time, but for that small, protective package that you can record on, it's worth it. Just as there are some downsides with tapes, so is there with Team Speak. You have to set up a server. Whether you set up your own server or buy a service is up to you. All of your users must install a client. But the codecs that are available make it sound like you're actually talking to real people. And, you can tab out to web sites to look things up while you're talking.

And finally, we have Ventrillo. CD's don't lose sound quality. You can play them as many times as you want, and since it's digital, nothing will be lost. With a computer, you can record mixes just like tapes. You can skip to any song you want, like an LP, and you don't even have to turn over sides. And now it's even super easy to rip them on to a computer so you can have a bunch of CD's all queued up and ready to go.

Ventrillo pretty much requires you to purchase a service from one of the many vent server opperators. (You can run your own server for a maximum of like 6 users.) Even better sound quality than TS. Way more options, which also can mean that there's more things you have to set up. It also means that you can configure individual users. Does your tank have their microphone literally in their mouth? Or is your healer's mic on the other side of the room? Make adjustments to their individual volume level. You can also hear your own sound playback to make sure it's not too loud/soft/annoying.

So, yes... Vent costs a bit more, but only to the person/group that's actually paying for it. For everyone else, it's free. You just have to take some time to set it up, and then you get to hear what your guild/raid/party members actually sound like.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Oculus

With all the questing I've been doing in attempts to help my wife level and not bore her to death with the same instance over and over again, I haven't spent a lot of time going in to instances. Over the weekend, I finally got the achievement for completing Halls of Stone, Halls of Lightning, and The Oculus. To have visited all 5-man instances, I simply need to do an Utgarde Pinnacle run, so shouldn't be hard at all.

Granted, I only did them on normal mode, and not heroic, but I really didn't find any of those instances to be as annoying as all the feedback I've heard. In fact, out of all the instances I've done, I think Oculus is now on my top 3 list.

First off, the setup: I went in to Oculus with my wife and 3 RL best friends. We used the in-game chat since a couple people didn't think they had Vent, and didn't seem to want to take the time to download it. The in-game chat, while not a focus of this article fails on so many levels, the highest of which is that you can't keep talking while checking strategies on your local out of game web site. And finally, none of us had ever been in there before. So we were all forging new areas together. (Although I had read through the fights once, so it kinda gave me a head-up advantage and was designated as the person to figure out strategies.)

At any rate, here's what I like about The Oculus. There's a general complaint that most of the "cool" encounters are reserved for raids only. Heck, I can really think of anything that requires the coordination of something like Al'ar in Tempest Keep. Then again... kinda hard to be doing 7 things in a 5-man instance, but that's kinda besides the point.

The bosses in The Oculus however, have a semi-epic feel to them. And you have to freakin' ride a dragon around most of the instance. How cool is that? You even have to kill the last boss using a dragon!

I will admit that it was a bit of a challenge on a few of the bosses (mainly the 2nd one, but we wiped on the 3rd one once as well), but it was mainly because we'd never seen the encounters before. I'm confident we could run through it with no wipes with that group if we tried it again. And yes, I understand and am fully aware that there are additional challenges and abilities on Heroic mode. But I imagine, once geared, it's simply understanding those concepts, adjusting the strategy accordingly, and then once learned, simply running through it.

So... if you haven't been, take some time to head in to The Oculus. It might save you a small bit of time to read up before or take somebody that's already been, but all in all... it's was just fun. Taking down a boss on a dragon! How cool is that?!?