Thursday, April 30, 2009

Assault on Utgarde Keep

A keep that inspires both awe and terror to anyone within miles. It can be seen from every corner of Howling Fjord and it is home to the elite of the vrykul, lead by King Ymiron and his blackguards. Today however, terror was delivered to the vrykul as our five brave heroes entered and laid waste to the over-confident defenders.

None of the three leaders would live up to their legends and in the end, even under the wrath of his master, even Ingvar the Plunderer fell to our swords & spells. Running instances does not get better than this. Crew of friends and fine people, plowing enemies and having a joy. Congratulations to all on a job well done for the benefit of the free people of Northrend and we will see you again, on assault to the pinnacles, where the king himself now await, enraged by the defeat of his trusted lieutenants.

Ulduar Nerfed

I just got onto the blogsphere about this subject and it is raising mixed feelings in me. Nothing beats live testing by millions of players around the clock and it is inevidable that many things needed to be tweaked. However, the reason I was personally very excited over Ulduar was because it represented a step up from Naxxramas, as far as difficulty curve was. It was exciting for the very reason that it was suppose to be difficult.

This is my main grudge here. Seems Blizzard is nerfing Ulduar too much now and it is just becoming another Naxxramas, a farm instance for any uninitiated raiding guild, when it is suppose to represent finess and skill for those who clear it.

Please do not get me wrong, I applaude to the idea that raiding has become more accessible to people who have jobs, children, and life outside the game and who do not claim to represent the highest elite of gamers. This is a good thing because raiding is a natural part of a character's evolutionary process and everyone should be priviledged to experience it.

However, there should still be a line I think, from where on out the game actually gets harder, even for raiders. The difference in 10-man and 25-man versions makes sense. There is a really tangible shift when you move from one to the other, with many Naxx encounters becoming really hard on 25-man versions.

In Ulduar, I would expect the 10-man encounters be on the par with 25-man Naxx and the 25-man encounters to go beyond the hardest of what Naxx 25 has to offer. But now it seems this simple logic is becoming escewed and no one anymore knows what the difficulty curve is. The fact that most bosses also have what's called a Hard Mode only adds unnecessary complexity to it. We already had a mechanism for that in place pre-3.1.

This was the achievement system. To get an achievement to run heroic encounters in a more difficult manner or finishing a wing of Naxxramas with less than nine people already provided what we needed for gifted players to set themselves apart. Sounds to me that Blizzard is just trying too hard. All we really needed was another Naxx size raid instance, which Ulduar delivers beautifully, with an increased level of difficulty and better gear drops.

Let us hope Blizzard doesn't break by fixing what just doesn't need fixing.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Achn of the Holy Light

The time has come, yet again, to begin leveling a lower level. Nothing sounds less pleasing however, to once more be in the shoes of a weakling, before even my first mount and scratching together gear from quests and the few instances that you get a group for. I am in a slightly better position though, since I am leveling a holy priest; pretty much guaranteeing me a spot in any group.

But still, the numbness of reaching my level 80 on Durithim is still fresh in my memory, so I will opt a different method to rising up the ladders; instances. When running solo, quests are the single best way to level with reletive speed, but if you have a dedicated group, running instances is not only quicker but also more interesting. At least for me, since I have already seen most what the game has to offer between the level 1-80.

I am bring my girlfriend along to the Blade Edge for this purpose. As she takes the responsibility of tanking, I will begin to practice on healing, and for the other roles we are getting three dps terrors from Retribution itself. So it is us five low levels versus the world.

The poor world doesn't stand a chance.

The evening today has passed nicely in modifying my UI again. This time for the purpose of my healer, which calls for some additional pieces of software. Most important of these, of course, is Healbot. Aye, some can argue that it is not necessary for effective play but I found it very useful when last I played on my priest; the ability to point click all my healing spells and saving keyboard bindings for other tasks is extremely precious.

I also installed FuBar for more additional functionality and made modifications to my action buttons, since I have less of them on my priest than death knight. For scrutiny and pleasure of the eye, here is the latest screenshot.

Monday, April 27, 2009

So the Mighty Have Fallen

In the immediate spirit of Ahn'Qiraj, my first stab at the mighty Sartharion dragon with a 25-man crew has yelded success. The dragon and his minions were defeated with relative ease. Our group simply plowed through the three drakes and Sartharion prooved very little challenge in the end. Healers were at the top of it and dps rained death within the dragon's den.

Was outrolled on all relevent loot, but nevertheless, was a memorable fight. Is there anything that the sons of Alliance cannot defeat?

Of course not!

Temple of Ahn'Qiraj

I have been holding back on posting this, hoping to get some screenshots, but sadly it has been a day and it will be desperately old news if I keep waiting, so sorry guys, no screenshots this time. Lesson learned however; take your damned screenshots ;)

I went into this raid with mixed feelings. Not too long ago, we downed Ragnaros without too much difficulties and I felt confident about myself and my fellow guild members. However, I had read up on this instance before and new it would not be as easy. It maybe puts things into perspective if you remember that, back in the days of the old school game, pre-BC this raid was considered to be a raider's pinnacle.

Only when the original Naxxramas was published, did it take a second place. When it became available, the last boss, old god C'Thun was considered impossible to down with the current level of gear. The first kill was registered only after a series of hot fixes and I can easily understand why.

We numbered around ~20 in the raid, average level was 80, though maybe a fourth hovered between 70 and 80. Most bosses were not a big challenge. There were naturally some fatalities and even a wipe or two along the line. However, in our defense, the wipes were primarily a matter of accidental pulls, when we weren't ready yet.

The dungeon itself is beautiful and full of atmosphere, playing well to the alien mood that permeates everything in the menacing silithus corridors and caverns. The bosses are all slimes, insects or aberrations beyond description and, in my opion, very well executed. On complexity scale, the instance easily rivals with Naxxramas and even modern Ulduar.

Our raid hit a hard deadend at the Twin Emperors; third boss before C'Thun. We simply lacked the classes and numbers to take the down and the hour grew late, we called it for the night. However, strategies and battle plans are being draw as we speak and our determination is resolute; the ancient god will be put to death eventually and now we have a week to prepare for the challenges ahead.

For me, raids are all about the challenge of defeating any encounter that it holds and the satisfaction, when you have successfully executed a strategy and the boss goes down, is intoxicating. The challenge of the twins is fascinating to me because it is less about our gear level (like most encounters are in modern raids) and more about the exact balance of classes and raid size.

Can't wait to go back... ;-)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Rhin's User Interface

It has taken a couple of days of testing but I am finally getting it the way I like it. I have long watched some good looking UIs on discussion boards, wowinterface, etc. and even tried a few downloadable ones out. But they never quite sat well with me. They may have had bugs, obsolete addons, or just had glitches in the outlook.

One I used extensively was SpartanUI and it met most of my needs. However, as time passed the small misgivings in the UI began to stand out and it was time to change. The big, persisting issue with SpartanUI was its slow development process. Bugs and updates to WoW weren't getting upgraded quick enough.

Thus I dumped it and for a month, went back to using WoW's base UI. The only issue with that really is that it begins to clutter very quickly. Action bars take loads of space, everything tends to be huge, and there is very little configurable options. One of the real holes is the key binding, which has to be the most unintuitive in the history of software.

I wanted a change and now after 3.1.1 patch, I began to download pieces for my new UI. To be honest, I did not have any particular master plan. I knew about how I wished to lay it out and just went for it.

So, here is the result.


It is all very straightforward. I used Bartender for the action bars and key bindings. I tried several unit frames but none really sat well and finally I settled for Perl. It is clean, easy to configure, and has a lot of options to use. Sadly I could not find a buff frame mod for Perl so chose Satrina's BuffFrame. Last but not least, Sexymap for a cool outlook for my map.

There are still some issues I need to work out. The unitframes still take a lot of space and I am hoping Grid will help me out on that. Also it is missing the reputation and experience bars, as well as Fubar or Titanpanel to finish it all up.

The whole idea is to keep it as minimal as possible. I am a tank, usually a busy one so I like to see as much as possible around me. Beyond that, it just needs to look pleasing and provide the entertainment. For anyone who is interested in this kind of tweaking, I highly recommend it. It is fun and it will improve your UI without the shadow of a doubt.

That's it for now. I will keep you guys updated on the progress.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Equipment for the Job

I am something of a nightowl so I’m going to touch on some thoughts I’ve had tonight; concerning pvp gear when applied to pve environment. I have only been on Blade’s Edge server now for maybe a week but upon my very arrival I noticed the huge trend that people would carry pvp gear into instances. And I am not talking normal lvl 70-80 dungeons, but heroics. The first heroic I ran was Halls of Lightning and in that case I had two dps guys (the other was probably a girl though) proudly present that they had over 2k dps.

I remember exchanging looks with my fellow shaman there because we had just finished scanning their gear and it was just full of pvp stuff. The truth was revealed to be a lot less awesome than the two claim and I, as a tank, actually dealt more dps than either of them and that is always a bad sign.

True, we ran the length of the instance, without huge difficulties but it did had that feeling dragging along, like when you’re carrying something heavy. I have since found this trend seems to span lots of guilds and I am truly puzzled by it.

Is there a publically acknowledged WoW guru giving everyone this advice or something? If there is, guys, you need to stop taking his advice now!

Here is the rub children; when the good designers at Blizzard sit down to come up with new gear they have a certain quota of stats to share, depending on the level of the item. Pvp gear is set apart from normal pve gear by the presence of a stat called Resilience. It is very important for pvp environment but completely useless when you are running instances, or worse, raids, and whenever there is resilience on a piece of equipment it replaces a stat that is on the contrary useful for a pve player.

I am sure it is a very sexy idea and I know I had similar thoughts when I first considered my death knight’s offspec. After all, running battlegrounds is not that hard and considering the grind and level of difficulty in gaining good enough gear from heroics, it is not a surprise that easily acquired pvp gear has its appeal. But what comes easy also goes easy.

Also, not only are you hurting your own performance but that of your team. Some heroics are quite difficult and demanding. They are fairly simple if tactics are dealt properly and people are good enough geared, but 1-2 dps wearing poor pvp gear will make it all the more harder and will only add to their frustration when the group wipes and denies everyone the chance for emblems, leaving you only with a big repair bill.

When talking about this to the average person, the common reply is that they are wearing the pvp gear until they get better. Some argue that it is very difficult to gain access to good enough gear. Aye, it seems like it at first but in truth, it is not. Here are two good advices I give to my guild members almost everyday:

1) Craftables

There are a surprising number of very good items that you can craft with the help of a proper craft profession. You can find people able to craft these items from all over the place; your guild, trade channel, or might even be one yourself. Look up saronite and titansteel in and I am certain there is something for everyone.

2) Reputation

I currently have six factions listed in my game, which I consider to be valuable for reputation. Each is easily found and each has a quartermaster. Again, check the list of items they sell (easily from and you find that they sell a large variety of superb items. They are good because most require revered or exalted to get, but some can be had with just an honored status.

Most of the reputation items take tenacity to acquire. Start by completing every quest for that faction and then finish by completing daily quests, and if you are up for it, wear their tabard while doing level 80 dungeons or heroics.

That’s it for the night. Now I am going to hit the sack. Hope this was useful to you guys and remember, gearing up might feel tedious and frustrating, but it is also part of the fun.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Durithim of Ironforge

Seems blogging is kicking in within our guild, here at Retribution of Blade's Edge (EU), as another of our members has just started out his WoW blog. Naturally, since I don't want to be a second best, I'll follow on his footsteps and post a picture of my main character. For fair competition however, you can find Milas's blog my list as well.

I have to say I am pleased with this dwarf's progress; being my first max level character with relatively good Naxxramas level gear. Now just have to wait and help rest of my new guildies to gear up and we can all get to enjoy the perks of raiding.

But without further introductions, meet Durithim of Ironforge on his favorite place, overlooking the most fabled city in the world; Dalaran from high above Hero's Welcome.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Beginning

Finally it is here; my WoW blog. It’s one of those eternity projects that I have been thinking about for a long time but just haven’t been able to put into a proper outlet, to make it work properly. But now, I think, I got it down and I will begin to put down some of the many thoughts that keep crossing my mind.

So what can you expect from this blog?

Well, keep this in mind; I am by no means, a hardcore player. I enjoy playing and I enjoy making progress but I do not take it so seriously to make myself flip over a series of wipes or failed stabs at raid bosses. Rather I will put my frustration in words here in my blog, stirring over what went wrong and finding ways to fix them. That is, what I think separates the most of WoW players; one half is just more concerned with badgering and verbally abusing less geared and skilled players, while others (like me here) try find ways to encourage them and work with them. Here in this blog I will discuss those experiences and hopefully, it’ll all be good entertainment for the passerby. Because trust me, with the right attitude, even the worst raid night can be most entertaining.

All and all keep in my that this blog is inspired by my passion for this game. It is truly a remarkable piece of software engineering and creative effort. My blog will be about Warcraft and it is targeted for my fellow players. Everyone is, of course, welcome to read and enjoy it but players will get the most out of it. Or alternatively, people who are interested try it or have just started to play.

With that I will leave to prepare my first article and we shall see what I can cook up. Thank you for reading and I hope you will enjoy my future posts.