May 19 2011

Teach a Dwarf to fish…


I decided some weeks ago to level Belmann’s fishing skill. This is a sort of sack-cloth and ashes action, as to despite protestations from Blizzard since the original pre-Vanilla beta days, they’ve never found a way to make fishing very interesting, other than achievements. And the result of the various achievements is a lot of fish and time, and not much else. Still, I set out to level by chasing achievements, and decided initially to pursue the Oceanographer and Liminologist ones. These involve catching one of each of about 120 specific species in salt and fresh water respectively, and I finally knocked off the last three fish for Oceanographer last night.

Ironically, the last fish (a Redgill) was not in what I would have thought of as salt water, but was listed at Wowhead as one of the best spots – the lake in the middle of Moonglade. There is something relaxing about standing in the middle of knowhere, listening to the ambient sound of frogs and wind, and the in-game music, while the green text of guild chat flickers in the corner of your vision. And some of the fish are fetching surprisingly good prices on the auction house – I have probably raised about 300G that way. Which is about half of what I would have gotten by dancing semi-naked on a mailbox for the same amount of time.

Anyway, between the penultimate and the ultimate fish, the guild’s awesome bear tank Nyngo logged in and called out for a random something or other. After about 20 minutes he’d put together a group for a random heroic – which turned out to be Shadowfang Keep – and off we went. With some glitches. There were three of us from the guild – myself, Nyngo, and a cat druid I’d not really met before. We started out with two shamans that Nyngo knew, but one was having computer problems, and dc/d before the first mobs, came back as a shadow priest, and dc/d after the first mobs. About two thirds of the way through the other shaman had some real-life issues and had to log out as well, and we picked up a pretty good warrior who was entirely silent throughout the run, and a worgen mage.

As an aside, I think that’s the first worgen mage I’ve seen. I’ve seen lots of rogues and a vast number of warriors, and little else.

Anyway, off we went.

Now, SFK was the first Cataclysm heroic I did with Belmann, some months back, and I did it that time accidentally, not realizing I’d queued for heroics rather than normals. On that occasion I was lucky to have a very well geared group, and we got through it fine. This time we had a pretty well geared group, but more importantly we had players who knew how to play their characters effectively. Nyngo has always been a damned fine tank, and I spent a good deal of time throughout Wrath watching his furry bear butt bounce around as he flattened everything up to and almost including Arthas. But in this instance, we also had DPS that were sensitive not just to the mechanics of each fight, but sensitive to the needs and strengths of the other toons they were running with.

I’ve got mixed feelings about SFK. I only ran the vanilla version a few times, and found it an interesting design, but much of it felt somehow claustrophobic. The physical design is almost unchanged, even though the content is radically different now, and the hemmed in claustrophobic feeling remains. I don’t know how it is for other healers, but SFK has the physical features that make it a fraught experience for me – lots of stairs and twisty narrow corridors make for horrid line-of-sight issues, meaning I was often standing very close to the tank, and the low ceilings make for weird and obscured camera angles.

The vanilla version had a strange and melancholy flavour, possibly enhanced by it being so isolated and difficult to get to, and I suspect few Alliance players ever ran it. There was a great deal if lore bound up in and around it though, and the revised version uses that lore to make a compelling story and experience – you sweep into the Keep as the pointy end of a liberation force, cleansing it evil, etc etc. So apart from the slightly disconcerting aspect of clearing a boss room of evil worgens only to have it fill up with good worgens with roughly the same character model…

The other thing I don’t like about the design is that the first boss, whatever his name is, is considerably tougher than the rest. Maybe they put him in as a gear check, but as a healer it’s a rotten fight: as a holy priest, it takes a *lot* of mana to get everyone back up after he does that horrid choking effect, and if there is insufficient DPS to get him down before my mana pool is exhausted, it’s a wipe. It feels like a cop-out on the part of the designers in that winning the fight is not a matter of finessing and dealing with the fight mechanic, but simply a matter of having crossed the numerical threshold.

My strategy can be summed up as “flail desperately”. I use the chakra to turn on Holy Word: Sanctuary, and throw a lightwell down in front of myself and the ranged DPS. I keep throwing down the Sanctuary on the tank and melee whenever it cools down, and throw out my shadow beast halfway through the whole mess. When everything goes right, my mana is *almost* exhausted by the end. When it doesn’t, everyone dies. The annoying thing is that with a competent tank the rest of the fights are trivial to heal.

On the other hand, last night I had a pretty good gear check. After we’d gone through the first two or three bosses, and were on the battlements area slugging gargoyles… I realised I still had my fishing rod equipped. Amazing how much easier it became after I switched back to the staff with all its buffs.

Dec 10 2010

So close!


So I got home from work today to find an enticing box had been delivered… cracked open the plain cardboard outer box, tore through the wrapping, and there was my shiny Collector’s Edition Cataclysm. I fed the cat, had dinner, washed the dishes, opened the box. Began the install… installing…. installing… installing…. for about 40 minutes. Then the download started. 6.7 Gb to download? eh? I thought it would be on the disk. I expect at this point that it will take at least 4 or 6 hours. So close, and yet so far!

I haven’t logged in since Cata was released. Call it superstition, but I wanted to wait until I had the product installed, and was happy to wait until the first few days of release-day frenzy had passed. So on the weekend before it dropped, I dinked around with a bit of this and a bit of that. I rolled a fresh gnome to have a look at the new starting content, and had a blast – the music and ambience are great fun, and there’s a nice feel to the whole thing. Highly recommended. And I took Belmann off to have a look at some of the sights, and to run a last WoTLK heroic dungeon just for old time’s sake. And I was a Very Naughty Healer.

Even right to the end there were egregious twits. I guess we are forever stuck with them. This one was a mage. We zoned into Utgarde Pinnacle, with a mix of seriously over-geared players and two reasonably-geared alts. Somebody was after the Incredible Hulk achievement, so we tackled that. Easy enough, but the mage kept complaining about how he was doing all the work, and carrying the group, and constantly topping the DPS meters. We got through the achievement trivially, and continued powering on. And he kept on, and on, and on complaining about how he was doing all the work. So when we got to the last boss and he once again pulled aggro off the (very patient and long suffering, not to mention competent) tank… I let him do all the work of healing himself too. I wish blizzard would put in a mechanic whereby dead players in pugs couldn’t keep talking. The other three players appreciated it though.

There was a fitting and shiny end to the run though – one of the last trash mobs dropped the Super Simian Sphere, so I spent the last 15 minutes of wrath as a big white gorilla inside a glowing purple bubble, rampaging around Dalaran for the amusement of all.

Oct 3 2010

More spam


In fact, lots of spam. Picture spam from me to follow, but I’m also wondering why the sudden influx of spam to the site? Have I been linked to and disseminated, and thus become visible to the evil bots? Fortunately it all seems to have been caught and identified without any false positives. Small blessings.

Anyway, again with the array of picture spam for my amusement and hopefully yours.Belmann's new hat

To start with, the bad hat I mentioned that Belmann currently has for his shadow spec. The recent forays into ICC have been fruitful not only in seeing some new content, but also picking up some nice loot – I hope I can find links to them and remember the names, because I logged him out in his tuxedo, and so cannot look them up via the armory. To begin with, he’s now got 4 out of 5 pieces of his Tier 10 gear, which is the first time I’ve ever gotten a character this close to a full tier set. With 60-odd days left before Cataclysm I’m hopeful to get the last piece in time to see it all devalued by green world drops in the first week of the new release. The new hat is the Cowl of Malefic Repose from the Blood Queen, and is delightfully silly. I particularly like the fact that when he’s in shadow form, the teeth on the front shine quite brightly white, leaving him look like an evil Cheshire cat.

If I remember rightly the dagger he picked up was the heroic version of Heartpierce off Lady Deathwhisper, who gets my vote as Boss Most In Need of Being Told To Just Shut Up And Get On With It. That woman talks endlessly. Anyway, it finally leaves Belmann looking like he should – evil and slightly annoyed.

Speaking of bad hats, though, I loved the look of Macmorris on a chopper in a quick guild run of the weekly into Ulduar. He looks right on it in a way that Belmann never did – maybe it’s the great thatch of bright orange beard. All I know is that when, or if, I get around to getting a ‘hog mount, I think Macmorris deserves it.

The last bit of spam though… the Pink Gnome Affair.

Last Saturday some bored and lonely souls in the Guild decided that the best way to spend the evening was by rolling level 1 gnomes with pink hair, dressing them in bright pink tabards, and descending en masse on Ironforge, Stormwind and Dalaran (with the aid of some higher level toons) to create bewilderment and havoc. We started in Ironforge and gathered on the Auction House steps to dance, then began a game of mobbing anyone who reacted negatively and jumping up and down. This quickly evolved into us asking “are you my mommy / daddy?” and such like – creating a meta-game for ourselves where we won if the victimised player played along… or as happened in a few cases logged off in disgust. My hat is off in particular to the player who logged off and logged in his bank alt, a gnome dressed in a pimp outfit. It was a very disturbing sight. Also kudos to the player who dropped a train set for us to play with.

When we got bored with Ironforge we took the tram and did much the same in Stormwind, first stopping in the big empty hall in the back quarter of the Dwarf sector (and I do wonder what is in store for that in Cataclysm) to play with foam swords and beat up a pinata. After Stormwind we ported, four at a time, to Dalaran and bought out the foam swords again – there would have easily been 40 or 50 other players joined in before I had to log off and leave them to it. All in all a great success.

Full size versions of these are available:

Sep 18 2010

Further Picture Spam


Two posts in one day? What ever is the world coming to?

Some quick notes about some raiding fun that’s been going on.

Belmann still is not seeing much of ICC – with the fall-off of interest prior to Cataclysm, combined with the general lack of time that I had to play for most of the year, Belmann keeps getting runs that go through the first few bosses in ICC then stop, and don’t get picked up again. I’ve done the lower spire, the gunship battle, Saurfang, Festergut, and Rotface quite a few times. I’ve seen Putricide about six times, and never been with a party that took him down. I’ve seen Valithria Dreamwalker and Blood-Queen Lana’thel… but no more than seen them. And I really, really wish I could see more. There’s an innate problem with the end-content raids, I’ve found over the years: if you are not in the first wave doing this stuff, you cannot gear up sufficiently quickly to get in on the end of that first wave, and generally by the time you are geared, nobody is interested in running the instances.

Oh, well, mustn’t be negative. Have some pictures.

A few weeks ago we went into Naxxramas to do one of the weekly quests. We were waiting on a few people to get ready, I still had the Noble Garden toy for turning people into rabbits… by the time we finished there were about 20 rabbits hopping around. I was particularly taken by Feggas our über shadow priest showing up as a sinister black bunny in the midst of all the fluffy white ones. I guess I’m easily amused.

Speaking of Saurfang, how many people hang around to watch the cut-scene (for lack of a better word) when Saurfang goes down? Varian and Jaina Proudmoore show up, and talk for a bit. Then Varok Saurfang, Dranosh’s dad flies in to reclaim his body. There’s a great speech, and some nice by-play with Varian and Jaina. By the way, don’t you think that (a) Jaina always seems a bit emotional? Needs chocolate? (b) Jaina would look better with a belly-button ring, and maybe a tramp stamp?

Do yourself a favour the next time you go through here, and wait for this little play to play out. We tend to think of the Orcs as being rude and brutish, but they have a very deep lore, and many of their sites and monuments have a rugged and majestic melancholy. Have you ever tracked down the monument to Grog Hellscream tucked away at the bottom of Ashenvale? You should, while it’s still there.

“Here lies Grommash Hellscream, Chieftain of the Warsong Clan.
In many ways, the curse of our people began and ended with Grom. His name meant “Giant’s Heart” in our ancient tongue. He earned that name a hundred fold as he stood alone before the demon Mannoroth — and won our freedom with his blood.
Lok’Tar Ogar, Big Brother. May the Warsong never fade.
— Thrall, Warchief of the Horde”

And just to show that we’ve got no bad feelings toward the Horde, Thes organised a large chunk of Selected to kill all their faction leaders last night, going back to kill Thrall a second time because it was so much fun the first time. I took MacMorris along for the run, in order to pick up the black bear mount for him, and also just to have fun hitting things hard with a sword. There was a great deal of chaos, fun, and not much resistance from the Horde players until we went back the second time to kill Thrall. I think they were getting a bit sick of us… We posed on the steps of the Dalaraan bank with our new bears, then went on a very slow walk around Dal, pausing only to moon the Horde camp, and wave our ePeens all over the screen