Monday, August 30, 2010

Blizzard Short Story Contest

One of the activities that was taking up the majority of my ‘free’ time lately was the Blizzard Short Story contest. The basic idea was to write a short story set in either the Starcraft, Diablo, or Warcraft universe. You send the story into Blizzard and the winners get some pretty cool swag. Here’s the webpage to the contest if you want to see the details for yourself.
For the past 6 weeks or so, I’ve been feverishly working on a story to enter. On August 22, 2010, a day before the actual due date, I entered my short story.
Short is a relative word in this case. The rules stated that the story could be between 2,500 and 7,500 words. My story came in at 7,496. The biggest worry I have is that their version of Word will have a slightly different word count engine than mine, and I’ll come in over. But I can’t really do anything about that, so there is little point in worrying about it.
I need to give a big shout out to Rhoelyn of Beneath Two Skies, and Steve Hall of Kestrel’s Aerie. Rhoelyn took what was a very rough first draft and suggested some refinements that really helped me create a better story. Steve and Rhoelyn both helped with grammar and punctuation issues. I know that my entry was improved by orders of magnitude by their input.
I don’t have any delusions that I’ll win anything from the contest, but I already feel like it was a success.
I entered which was an achievement in and of itself. Think about it this way. Some number of people saw the announcement. Some percentage of those people decided they wanted to enter. Some percentage of the people who decided they wanted to enter actually sat down and started writing a story. Some percentage of people who started writing a story, finished it before the deadline. Some percentage of those who finished before the deadline actually entered. At each stage of the process people dropped out. I was tempted at points to drop out, but I didn’t, and that to me was the first accomplishment.
I’m a fantastic starter, but a lousy finisher. I can’t tell you how many projects I have begun with great enthusiasm, but I can tell you that I can count the ones I have finished on one hand. So finishing, and entering a copy edited, polished story was a big deal to me.
I also know, beyond a shadow of doubt, that I entered the best story I am capable of writing. I didn’t leave anything on the field, to borrow a football expression. I know there are people who write much better than I do. I can’t compare myself to them. It would be like comparing myself to Adrian Peterson and feeling like I could never go out with the guys to play Flag Football. But I wrote the story to the best of my ability. I took the criticism I received, and worked on the areas of the story that needed work. At the end, I had a story I was proud to call my own. I could have kept editing it for weeks, but in the end, I had to let it go. I have no regrets knowing it honestly was the best story I was capable of entering.
Finally, I made a very important discovery in the process. The nights I was working on my story evaporated. The hours passed with hardly my notice, a sure sign I was truly enjoying what I was doing. I know this is a hobby and a passion I want to continue to pursue. I’m going to continue to work on my skill as a writer, and continue to learn all that I can about being a better writer.
With something as subjective as fiction writing, the judging is out of my control. I may not win, but I have already succeeded.
The story is technically the property of Blizzard Entertainment now, but I have a private copy that I can share with you, if you would like to read it. Please send me an email or a Direct Message to my twitter @TedtheThird.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Hardest Button To Push

I’m sitting here tonight because I can’t log in to World of Warcraft. This is disappointing but nothing I’m all that upset about. I watched the first half of an NFL Preseason game on FOX and I’ll play a little Knights of the Old Republic after I post this.

But those details, as exciting as they are, are not the reason for my post. According to Blizzard, my account renews at tomorrow, 08/20/2010, and I’m having a tough time deciding if I should bother renewing.

Heroics are mind numbingly boring, and I overgear them on 3 of my 4 80s. I’d overgear them on my druid if I started playing him for more than a week.

We are done with PVE content. I've killed Lich King on my main, and our group has taken so many hits we can’t even attempt hard modes anymore. I've gotten 2 alts almost as geared as my main. Summer

I've tried PVP but its been tough. Horde on Nightfall for whatever reason have been losing a ton. It is not uncommon for it to take half a dozen games to get the daily done. I was on a 5s team for a while that was fun, but it feel apart when our Boomkin quit. Recently I started doing 2s with a Warrior (Holy Paladin/Arms Warrior), but I stunk up the joint pretty good. I’m sure I’d get better eventually, but starting this late in the season, we are at a severe gear disadvantage.

I need to put some serious time into preparing for 2 fantasy football drafts over the next two weekends, so I won’t be logging on much. By then it’ll be early September, and Civ will be only a couple of weeks away, and I’m going to want to play that a good bit. My WoW playtime has become pretty much a single player experience, so why not spend that time with a single player game.

This isn’t anyone’s fault. Boston is as good a guild leader as I have ever had the pleasure to be guilded with. But he can’t turn 7 people into 10, and he certainly can’t make people want to wipe on Hard Modes.

I did give some thought to looking for a guild that was still doing hard modes, but I promised myself I would stick with Devolve through thick and thin. I guild hopped in Burning Crusade, and I won’t do that again.

I have zero desire to level an alt. I’ve been through the Alliance and Horde stories too many times.

Of course, it’s not permanent, and I’m not deleting my toons or anything. I’ll come back for the Gnome/Troll event, and for Cataclsym. But right now, I don’t see much point in continuing to pay a monthly subscription while i wait for the next expansion.

So what to do on my last night in WoW for a while. Once the log in bug was fixed, I decided to spend the night with Honorshammer, as if there would be any other choice. I threw on a bunch of my Level 70 Raiding gear, and rocked my Hand of A’dal title. Since I didn’t have any bracers I used my old Zandalar Freethinkers. My Gearscore was 1698. I debated queuing for a Heroic just for the laugh of the groups reaction, but I decided against it.

If it didn’t cost money, I would have turned Honors back into a Dwarf and logged him out in the Chapel of Light in Stormwind. Since they don’t seem to take kindly to Blood Elves, I chose Light’s Hope chapel instead.

And now for the obligatory screenshot. WoWScrnShot_081910_233937

I’ve got a couple more posts planned for the blog so this won’t be the end of Honors Code, and I plan to maintain the Leveling Guide at least until Cataclysm obsoletes it.

Put your faith in the Light, and all is possible. - Tirion Fordring

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Fixing Rage Scaling

Rage scaling continues to be a thorn in the Developers side as they work on Cataclysm beta. Their plan for Rage Normalization is not meeting the design goals. Here is Lead Developer, Greg Street, aka Ghostcrawler summarizing the issue.
Currently on beta, rage generation feels about right at level 80, but the income drops down more and more with higher levels. Now we have no doubt once warriors get epic gear with tons of haste and crit that they will have plenty of rage again, but that's the problem that rage normalization was really intended to fix. Source
Rage is a strange resource mechanic. You start the fight with 0, and get rage from dealing or taking damage. For a DPS Warrior, you whack the Boss with a couple of auto attacks to generate some rage and then start using your specials like Bloodthrist, and Mortal Strike. (These two are given as examples, Warriors have many more special attacks.) The harder you hit, the more rage you receive until you are overflowing with rage. At this point, you need to Rage dump. Warriors use attacks like Heroic Strike to burn rage. Heroic Strike turns an auto attack into a special with extra. Special do not give you rage, so you burn off some of your excess by reducing your income. In high end gear, Warriors are perpetually burning rage leading to the spamming of Heroic Strike game play. This ability to spam Heroic Strike has, along with other issue like a Hit bug, caused Warrior damage to be very high in the late end game.
The developers plan to fix this was to, once again, normalize rage gain. This was supposed to even out the amount of rage Warriors had to work with over a wide range of gear levels. As you can see from the above quote from Ghostcrawler, it’s quite ‘working as intended.’
If you will allow me, and really your only other choice is to stop reading, I’m going to put on my armchair developer hat and elucidate a design for how I would solve the problem presented. I’m new to thinking and writing about Warriors, so I’m fairly sure this isn’t a new idea, but I haven’t seen it written about before.
My solution has several different parts. Let me caveat this with saying that any numbers I reference would need to be tested and tweaked, but the basic design concept is there regardless of the specific numbers chosen. Don’t get hung up on the specific numbers. Damage naturally scales during an expansion cycle. It pretty much has to. So too will Warriors rage income. With my system, that problem is eliminated.
The first change is to create a resting state for rage. The idea is that when out of combat, Warriors rage would settle at some small number like 10 or 15. While in combat, they can spend all the way down to zero, but their out of combat ‘rest’ state is around 10 or 15 rage. It could be argued that Bloodrage effectively accomplishes this and I’m not sure I’d argue.
The next step is to change Heroic Strike. Heroic Strike would become a toggle. When toggled on, the Warrior would do light hitting attacks. These attacks would generate a fixed amount of rage. Then the Warrior would spend that rage with hard hitting special attacks (Bloodthrist, Mortal Strike, etc.) Warriors rage income would no longer be dependant on how much damage they do so it would work well for both DPS and Tank Warriors. Now it becomes the Warriors job to budget that income well while dealing with procs, and fight mechanics.
Another boon to the Developers is now Warriors would be easier to balance. Rage income ceases to a variable that changes dramatically during an expansion. Instead, the Developers would know the rage income of a Level 80 in quest greens, or a level 80 in ICC 25 Heroic gear would be the same. It’s simply becomes a matter of balancing Warrior damage against that rage income. That damage will scale with primary and secondary stats on gear just like every other class.
The Warrior ‘rotation’ become a balancing act between hard hitting specials that eat rage, and soft hitting Heroic Strike that generate rage. Rage income is a fairly well defined variable the Developers can balance against.
Since my experience with Warrior PVP is non existent, I do not feel comfortable speculating how well my system would work for PVP.
I realize the Developers don’t read my blog and this idea would never see the light of day, but I wanted to share it with guys.
So what do you think? Would this system for Rage work well for Warriors and solve the sticky problem the Developers have been wresting with in the Beta?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

History with Holy

The idea of healing again got me thinking about my sorted past with the Holy tree.
It started out in what is now known as Vanilla. I dinged level 60 about 2 months before the original Naxxrammus came out. I was trying to catch on with a guild raiding Molten Core, Zul’Gurub, and Ahn’qiraj20. Back then, if you wanted to raid as a Paladin, you had one choice, and only one choice, and that choice was Holy. I had no issue with it at the time. Holy at that point was two things. Spamming Flash of Light, and spamming Decursive.
Decursive was a wonderful little addon at the time. You hit the button and it figured out who to cleanse and cleansed them for you. And for certain fights, it was the only button I needed to push. Magmadar, Garr, and Lucifron can all die in the firey pit from whence they came. Over and over and over again. Debuffs go up, Debuffs get cleansed. It wasn’t exactly the most exciting game play in the world. But I went through most of Ahn’Qiraq, ZG, and MC. I got really tired of being in the rear with the clothies. I wanted put my plate to good use. When the changes to the Prot tree were previewed at Blizzcon that year, I knew what I wanted to do.
Burning Crusade was an interesting time to be a Paladin tank. We had to prove ourselves to the WoW community. We had to prove we were good tanks. There was constant pressure on Paladin Tanks to ‘go Holy’. And generally once you went Holy, you didn’t come back. Every Paladin Tank fought the pressure, and not all of them made it.
I had the good fortune of being in Heroes Inc. They were open to trying out the Paladin Tank thing and I was determined to show it could be done. But only one thing impresses Raiders, and that’s progression. If you weren’t tanking progression 25 man content, it didn’t matter. Anyone could tank a ‘farm’ raid. I eventually moved to Mal Katai and started doing 25 mans. This is part of the reason I went so spastic about losing out on our first Aldori Legacy Defender. To see a Paladin with that Shield at that point in Burning Crusade would have been a rare sight indeed, and would have said something about our ability to the entire server.
When progession stalled in Mal Katai, I jumped ship to Dominion where I would see the Holy tree again. I healed for Vashj, Archimonde, and Illidari Council. And pretty much every time it was under protest. I had joined Dominion as the 3rd tank, and their Mount Hyjal Trash Man. Mount Hyjal’s trash was full of AoE pulls and Paladins AoE threat at the time was far away better than other Tanks. We made Mount Hyjal Trash much easier on the guild. I healed for Vashj because Vashj only needed two tanks and despite my best efforts to extol the virtues of using a Paladin tank for the encounter, the guild went with their two established Warrior tanks.
I really don’t know what I was thinking. I was blinded by trying to prove that Paladins were good tanks. I was convinced that every time I wasn’t picked to tank that it was a slight on Paladins and our ability to tank. I missed the seniority issue almost completely. It seems strange looking back on it now. Of course, I could have had all the tanking opportunities I wanted if I had just stayed put in Mal Katai, but then I wouldn’t have cleared Black Temple or Mount Hyjal. I would never have killed Illidan (although MK did get to him after the Great Nerf of 3.0, they never killed him). I would never have gotten Hand of A’dal. More than anything else, I wanted to kill Illdian. Dominion held the keys to that content. If I had to heal a couple of fights to get my Tanking shot at Illidan, then I would do what I had to do.
I got tired of being a 3rd string tank. I got tired of waiting for every other tank to get their gear before I had a shot at any. I wasn’t going to go through another expansion in that situation. The two tanks ahead of me weren’t going anywhere so as Wrath approached, I left Dominion. The 10/25 man split meant that I could do just 10 mans and still see all the content. I knew MK and Heroes could put together solid 10 man teams.
Eventually I’d make my way back to Heroes, then we’d morph into devolve with Boston at the helm. I’m now established as the Main Tank in our 10 man guild. More importantly, Wrath brought true tanking equality. Paladins are the equal of any tank class out there. The war is over and we won. We’re accepted as full fledged progression raid tanks. We’ve been called OP and FotM. There were many times during Burning Crusade we, as a Paladin tanking community, would have never thought that would happen.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Incidental Farming

I don’t know if you know Markco of Just My Two Copper. He’s a ‘gold blogger’. He tells people how to make lots and lots of WoW gold. I thought it was most strange when Markco asked me to write for the Carnival for I am epically bad at making gold. When I expressed this, Markco suggested I write about how I DO make gold.
It seems like my blogging time keeps getting pushed further and further down the priority list, so I didn’t write the article in time for the Carnival. I’m going to publish it here instead.
I don’t consider myself lazy, nor unintelligent, but making gold in WoW is not something I thrive at.
I’ve tried buying low and selling high. I trusted my addons, and spent a bunch of gold on items to ‘flip’. That left me with a whole mess of worthless materials that I eventually sold at a loss.
I’ve tried using my professions. My Paladin in a JC/Miner. Most of the I look at the Auction House on Altar of Storms, the uncut gems are selling for about the same as the cut gems. My alts are Miner/Skinner, Miner/Enchanter, and Skinner/Leatherworker. I like having a gathering profession so I can pick up mats while I’m leveling. Honors was double production at the beginning of Wrath and it about sucked my coffers dry trying to level up both Jewelcrafting and Engineering. The alts professions haven’t worked much better. Leatherworking Leg Armors and Enchanting Scrolls sell for about the cost of materials. At the time the ‘Saronite Shuffle’ was a major money maker, my Enchanter was still Alliance while my Jewelcrafter was Horde. I’ve found that people I read about who make gazillions via professions are nearly always Inscription, and work the Glyph market like a real business. No thank you.
I guess that’s part of my problem with making gold. When I’m buying mats on this alt to send to that alt to send to this other alt to finally send back to the first alt to sell, it feels like I’m playing a Spreadsheet. That starts to feel like work, and I want WoW to get me AWAY from the stresses of my workday, not bring them back.
So how do I make gold? I do what I call incidental farming. While I'm waiting for a queue to pop (Daily Battleground, Daily Heroic Dungeon, Arenas), I fly around Icecrown and Shalozar and mine Saronite and Titanium when I find it. When the queue pops, I jump into my game or dungeon. In this way, I get to farm, but it doesn't 'feel' like farming. I'm not farming just to farm. I'm farming as a way of passing the time while I wait for what I really want to do.
I also do my incidental farming is when I'm waiting for our raid to form up. I'm in a raid group, so I can't do much else so I fly around and mine. Wintergrasp presents another opportunity. I head over with about 10 minutes left to go and do some mining, or even fishing. I got yelled at one time for fishing during Wintergrasp (it had JUST started), so I don't do that much anymore, plus Honors is the only one with max fishing.
Lately, I'm been making gold incidental farming while working on my Explorer title. I decided to get Explorer as a way to see Azeroth one last time before the Cataclysm. As I ride around, I'll grab the minerals I run across. This has worked out really well, especially when I get gems from the Thorium veins.
Once I have some materials from my incidental farming, I send them to my bank alt. He runs to the Auction House, opens up the Appraiser tab in Auctioneer and hits refresh. Then I hit post at whatever the refresh price was.
After he posts the materials, I'll have him do a vendor search. I'm risk adverse after the debacle with buy low/sell high, but Vendor Search in Auctioneer finds stuff on the Auction House that is listed for less than a vendor would pay you for it. In truth I started doing this mainly to make sure that nothing I just posted is on the list, but Auctioneer has a nice warning before you post. If I see anything with a 'buy' price below vendor, I'll buy it and vendor it. Usually it's Icy Scales, and uncut 'blue level' gems.
This incidental farming gives me enough gold to make my repair bills and buy the gems and enchants I need for any upgrades I get. I make gold very slowly, only a couple of hundred gold each day I play, sometimes less. But it adds up over time.
Once I get Explorer out of the way, I’m going to start working on doing the Argent Tournament dailies on my Warrior. That should increase my income a good bit. My goal is buy epic flying on my Warrior, and possibly get him a motorcycle before Cataclysm. I’d also like to go into Cataclysm with a nice war chest of gold. My original idea was 100k, but I know I won’t have anywhere near that. If I have 20k, having bought those two items, I think I’ll be doing well.
With having mining on all 3 possible mains (Warrior/Paladin/Hunter) I will be able to make some good gold during the initial leveling rush. I remember Cobalt Ore going for a 100g per stack in the early days of Wrath. My goblin (Shaman or Mage, leaning Mage so I can make a Dwarf Shaman) will be an alchemist so I’ll finally have a flower picker.