Friday, 27 February 2009


So... tagged by Suicidal Zebra and here is the 6th screenshot of a messy retro-pics folder.

I did some editing at some point and the folders are all over the place so... anyways... Lets tag I Like Bubbles, not sure if she was tagged up to now :p. She has a new blog also!

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Its been a hard day's night...

...and I've been crawling uptomyneckin work (concatenated to fit with the Beatles tune...)

Nonetheless I had some time to download the PTR, had been proactive in copying Lance to Brill PvP and have been patient with the frequent crashes. Not sure how is the PTR for you guys in the US, but back here in EU the crashes are as frequent as hell.

But I had some time to look around the dual-specs thingy, the switching, the gear manager and flew over the Argent Tournament `hotspot'. The spec-switching, bar & glyph switching seem well handled, simple and quite solid. Apparently there is an option for using a talent template prior to saving the talent tree and that can be activated in the general options.

I was positively impressed with the Argent Tournament area. Secluded, right up to the end/edge of the worlds. Reminded me of Mos Eisley for some reason...go figure... Still, the `Argent' term seems confusing. Is this held from the Argent Crusade? What is it, the Olympics of Wow? Will dig a bit over things during the weekend as we have a 3-day weekend here (next Monday is Pure Monday) and I will stick my head out of the work-swamp. I am interested on what `lore' justification Blizzard will come up with for such a competitive festivity...

On another note, various data-mined rewards appeared in mmo-champion. One thing caught my eye, mentioned in the past hen WotLK was introduced. The Stormwind Tabard. Now Lance can wear his homeland's colours around.

Nothing much to add, work has been hectic and I got to go back. Will be back tonight for that screenshot meme, as per Sucidal Zebra's command :)

Wednesday, 18 February 2009


So here it is, what many WoW players waited for patiently for months. The next bit of content, the awaited challenge, the new place to be, the new loot-bank, tier8, new achievements, new enemies and a whole lot of things we play for...


For countless millennia, Ulduar has remained undisturbed by mortals, far away from their concerns and their struggles. But since its recent discovery, many have wondered what the structure's original purpose may have been. Some thought it a city, built to herald the glory of its makers; some thought it a vault containing innumerable treasures, perhaps even relics of the mighty Titans themselves. They were wrong. Beyond its gates lies no city, no treasure vault, no final answer to the Titan's mysteries. All that awaits those who dare set foot in Ulduar is a horror even the Titans could not, would not destroy, an evil they merely... contained. Beneath ancient Ulduar, the Old God of death lies, whispering.... Tread carefully, or his prison will become your tomb.

First, lets take a look on some bits of information from the Blues (not the Brothers...):

As the next step in tiered raid progression in Wrath of the Lich King, Ulduar is set to blow players away with gorgeous setpieces, sprawling battlefields, and innovative boss encounters. Ulduar's design aims to provide a fun, unique, and innovative raid experience, but it also includes additional challenges - and rewards - for seasoned raiders. In this sneak-peek at World of Warcraft's newest raid dungeon, we'll take a look at some of the new content that makes Ulduar rise above the crop of amazing dungeons already available in World of Warcraft.

More pictures in: 1,2,3,4 from mmo-champion

From the pictures posted in mmo-champion the place sure looks nice, on par with the titan architecture, possibly (hopefully? ;-p) reminiscent of Uldaman in some places. About the detail on innovation, achievements etc, more further on...

Many players have already gotten their Wrath of the Lich King raiding feet wet in Naxxramas and the Sartharion raid, but Ulduar is the first example of the expansion's much larger, truly epic scope of raiding, as will be evident from the second you set foot in the instance. The most obvious difference between Ulduar and its predecessors is that the dungeon actually comprises two separate raid areas. The first section is an epic battle against a vast army standing between you and the entrance of the dungeon proper; in the second area, you will dive into the heart of the dungeon itself and finally discover the secrets of Ulduar.

So, here is an implied reasoning on why raiding content was fairly easy in 3.xx. To get more people's feet wet. Now - the devs claim - comes the hard/epic/interesting part. Possibly one of the reasons we set foot in Northrend. One of the reasons Brann is here. Maybe one of the reasons Arthas is here too...

An interesting twist (depending on scale) is the battle prior to the instance. Kinda gives some depth to the meaning of raiding a place of secrets. You would think someone would try to protect those secrets, right? So, here it is. The defenders of the instance, the front line. We will have to pass from those guys first.

Ulduar's new master has rallied his own massive Iron Army to guard the entrance to Ulduar and to prevent any unwanted guests - including you, especially you - from reaching the inner sanctum. Thankfully, you'll be able to face the Iron Army on even footing: although the main Horde and Alliance forces are focused on the forces beyond the Wrathgate and on each other, some who are better able to appreciate the true magnitude of Ulduar's threat have managed to scrap together a small fleet of siege vehicles to aid you in the assault.

Yes, especially you. You are the one they are afraid off, you are the one that affected the history to some extent up to now and you will be the one to make more changes. You. Arthas thought the same...

So, siege a place before we enter. Aided from some enlightened Alliance/Horde who think there is something worth fighting here. It looks like Blizzard is adding depth and purpose to why we need to go there.

You and your friends will have to use these vehicles wisely to break through Ulduar's defenses. A mix of motorcycles, demolishers, and siege engines will be at your disposal, each granting unique abilities to the pilot and the passenger. Motorcycle drivers, for example, can create pools of liquid tar that snare opponents and can be set on fire by area effect attacks, while demolisher passengers can load themselves into the vehicle's catapult so that the pilot can launch them into the distance. If used judiciously, these and other abilities will help decimate the Iron Army and any other threats lying in wait between you and Ulduar.

So, here comes the first innovation. Vehicles. One of Blizzard's 'aces' in Wotlk. We need to see how this will be implemented but on paper it looks fun. I know people already whine about it but I personally find vehicles a fun aspect.

One such threat is the Flame Leviathan. After you've plowed through the innumerable ranks of the Iron Army, you will be confronted by an enormous tank. Mimiron built the Flame Leviathan as part of the V0-L7R-0N weapons platform, which means that it packs quite a punch. Normal spells and abilities won't be enough to take down this juggernaut, so you will have to rely on your siege vehicles to outmaneuver and defeat the boss. After wearing the massive war machine down, you will have to launch players onto the tank's back to destroy its defense turrets and sabotage the Leviathan before you can move on. Of course, if you'd like an additional challenge beyond this naturally frantic (but extremely fun) fight, you can try your hand at one of the Flame Leviathan's different Hard Modes (see sidebar).

Robo Wars! Ok, if this is what I imagine it will be like WWII (Check here and you will get where I am getting at.)

Of course, the vehicle gauntlet, the Iron Army, and the battle against the Flame Leviathan are only the start of World of Warcraft's most ambitious raid to date. Patch 3.1 will hit the Public Test Realms very soon, so you will be able to see for yourself what other challenges await beyond the gates of ancient Ulduar.

Ulduar brilliantly illustrates the new design challenges and innovations that come with the bigger scope of the expansion's raids. In order to make raid content more accessible, it has to offer a lot of variety, but it also needs to include a very granular means for players to adjust a raid's difficulty. This concept was first realized in the Burning Crusade with the introduction of Heroic mode, and Wrath of the Lich King is developing the idea even further with new Hard Modes.

So, they got something in mind, for sure, and we are going to see it further on, starting with Ulduar and presumably eventually Icecrown Citadel

Boss fights that have a Hard Mode are affected by certain variables which players can control and which change the encounter's difficulty. For example, spread throughout Ulduar's vehicle section are four defense towers you can destroy. The more towers you leave intact, the harder the encounter with the Flame Leviathan will be, but the loot will also be better.

Ok, hard, easy mode, drakes, achievements etc.

Ulduar isn't the first dungeon to include Hard Mode, but it certainly makes the most use of it. Out of 14 bosses, 11 will have a Hard Mode that offers additional challenges and rewards. Ulduar will appeal to a wide range of play styles, but the dungeon also has great longevity and a high replay value.

Ok, take a note on the last sentence. Great LONGEVITY, high REPLAY value. Lets see how true this is, cause if it is then we are up for a wild ride! Also, I think its the first time these features are mentioned by devs; kind of a response to those claiming the current content is short, easy and boring.

And a further post with some more details:

Ok, we're getting close to the point where we will need testing of Ulduar boss encounters on PTR, so let's talk about Ulduar testing!

We're going to be performing testing differently than in the past. We're looking for much more targeted feedback, and we don't want to just have the zone freely open and allow extended, unsupervised testing to take place. So, when the PTR servers come up with 3.1.0, by default Ulduar will be turned completely off. We'll instead enable Ulduar and specific bosses during times where the encounter team can observe testing.

Shortly after 3.1.0 PTR is up and running, I'll post a schedule that will indicate when we will open specific bosses to testing. We'll have testing opportunities for both EU and NA region PTRs in their respective prime time playing hours. There might also be a boss or two we do leave up for extended testing, and some bosses will only be tested in either the EU or NA. Some encounters won't be up on the PTR at all! There's 14 boss encounters in Ulduar, there will be lots to test. The schedule will be quite flexible, check in the Dungeons & Raids forum and on the PTR forum for updates.

The first set of boss encounters to get testing will include:

  • Freya
  • Thorim
  • Hodir
  • The Iron Council
Both 10 player and 25 player versions of the encounters will be open to testing, and we expect players to have nearly full Naxxramas gear. While Jillian McWeaksauce might make appearances on the PTR to provide testing consumables, please try to bring your own.

I hope to see raid groups of many different skill levels on the 3.1.0 PTR servers when they become available!

The first boss has you enter 1 of 3 different vehicles (Chopper, Demolisher, and Siege Engine) to fight your way through an immense Iron army to the Flame Leviathan and defeat him. After that, there's very little use of vehicles by players. We'll have the fight up on the PTR at a later date, but this fight isn't in the first wave of boss encounters to be tested.

Actually, the effectiveness of the vehicles in the Flame Leviathan fight changes depending on the quality of the gear. So someone in full Naxxramas epics (or Ulduar epics!) will have an easier time than someone in greens.

So, BLizzard is attempting a more controlled testing procedure, supervising even more than they did with Sunwell. The result will be presumably better monitoring, debugging and tweaking, but less tactics posted afterward. World firsts from exausting the PTR content will be a tad harder (I doubt if certain guilds wont get them anyway).

The aforementioned bosses are also characters we have encountered up to now so I expect their respective stories to develop. I also sense the possibility of new factions cropping up, aside from the Sunreavers and the Silver Convenant. Also, the vehicle quality changes with our gear. Quite clever I must admit...

One thing is for sure, this is an exiting time. Now lets see how bad that paladin tier8 looks like...

P.S. All the information above was obtained from mmo-champion

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Quick 'n Dirty - II

The last few days have been spent running around the major cities, fragrance all over the place, seeking candiebags and rose petals. Unfortunately, meeting the ever elusive candie bag was as difficult as Baron's mount in the good old days. Blizzard claimed they hotfixed the drop rate but I saw no difference. In fact I had two bugs the very first day of the even but saw none in the next days. Ironicaly, the candy missing is the Be Mine! for the Be Mine! achievement...
Oh well, next year...

Still, I had some time to gather up gear for my Holy-PvP and Retry-PvE sets. I had some badges lying about, bought the odd resilience gear just to give it a try and compare it to my tier7.5 and went around pissing horde off with my shields :-p. I must say Holy palas remain powerful as ever, just as the class-population reports from top arena teams depict. Oh, and Death Knights are

I think its time to do some 10-mans to get some nifty epic items and then wait patiently for patch 3.1.

Not much to report otherwise, our Sarth3D tries are still going, hindered a bit from the lack of healers. But we will get those lizards eventually.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Dual Specs - Part II

Continuing my post on Dual specs I think its time to look on a few negative aspects of dual-specing. The most important ones I could think of (with a little help from Ruhtra) are:

  • Loot rules related
  • Skill related

Loot rules

I expect this to cause a fair amount of friction. My view is that all raiders will seek to equip both specs with the best gear they can get their hands on - i.e. possibly seek to get gear for both specs the same way. If you are a Holy paladin and want retry gear, your guild is raiding everywhere you will not look to gear your second spec from heroics but the very same raids you get your Holy gear. However, that will mean you compete with classes that want that very gear for their primary spec.

I think guilds must enforce a primarily and a secondary spec and distribute loot around it. As we often bid for off-spec items in Escape but main specs (even with the lowest amount bided) get it. It’s essential to preserve the raid balance and role distribution - as this is ultimately the only way for anyone to keep gearing up - while allowing secondary specs to get loot without clashing with primary specs. It sounds simple and most guilds probably do it, but I expect that people will become greedy and issues will crop up (not in my guild necessarily, I am talking in general).

Skill related

Ruhtra makes a valid point into one of his comments. Playing two specs might have an effect on performance. Are you as good in your 2nd spec as you are with your 1st? Are you playing too much in your 2nd spec that you have become sloppy on your 1st? These are valid questions that might cause some issued to players - especially those with a knack of experimentation but limited playtime.

I think players must be responsible and maintain their best-performing spec as primary. This is for their benefit and their raiding group's benefit. In their own time they can explore the pleasure and the perils of that secondary spec, but not at the expense of their reputation (with the community, not the Argent Crusade :-p).

Overall, if people are not greedy and not too reckless Dual specs will bring a new dimension in the game. If people are frank of what they can accomplish with each spec, things will be much better for them and their groups. Being able to see the game from a different perspective (seamlessly and with out hassle, as you can respec anyway nowadays) will allow those with some brain to deepen their involvement in the game, have fun with that other spec and add some flexibility in group compositions.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Dual Specs and Bartle's gamers

So, dual specs will be with us soon. Assuming there will not be any bugs with the interface, the switching and all that... there are few things worth considering.

The first thing is the mechanics. How will the switching take place?

It has been mentioned in the past:

Swapping specs (going from A to B) will truly be free in towns and possibly during the prep phase of PvP. In an instance it may cost a nominal fee (think reagent level). We want you to be able to do it when you want to do it, but we also don't want to slow things down if everyone is constantly flipping spec from fight to fight. But if it's free in town, then obviously it can't be more of a burden out of town than just hearthing and being summoned back is or nobody will use the remote option. (Ghostcrawler on Dual-Spec)

Interestingly, there is no mention of such a thing in these `preliminary' info. To be honest, I appreciate that there needs to be some policing of the changes, but from my completely lazy point of view I'd rather there was not. Still, certain assumptions like not being able to switch in an arena game, or in combat, go without saying. It remains to be seen what the devs will think about it. Besides, the mechanics might as well change along the way. What is mentioned, and could not have been otherwise, is that the glyphs and bars will change accordingly. Very convenient indeed, almost like having two separate chars (but with the same Achievements :P )

Second is the effect they will have in the game:

For starters, it is a massive addition in my opinion in the game. Almost groundbreaking. The reasoning is simple. For that, we must first look on gamers types. I have been fortunate enough to be in the same University as the controversial Richard Bartle, the 'father of MUDs' as we used to call him. He probably does not know my existence as I was under the supervision of another researcher there, who nonetheless always spoke highly of him. During my stay there I encountered his Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology (rough info here) which essentially classifies gamers in three categories:

  • Achiever
  • Explorer
  • Socialiser
  • Killer

These categories exist within each gamer by some percentage, as you can see in the aforementioned link. I'd like to think myself as a 50% Achiever , 25% Explorer, 20% Killer and 5% Socialiser (no, I did not take the test, its a rough estimate :-p). An AEKS for short. With all respect to R. Bartle, I am going to use his classification in a crude way.

Dual specs will appeal essentially to Achievers and Killers. Possibly under certain circumstances to Socialisers. But mainly the first two categories will see DSpecs as more appealing. Achievers will be able to use the dual specs towards... achievements. For example Holy Paladins might be able to go Prot, tank the odd instance and have higher chances of completing dungeon achievements. Others might do the same in raids or pvp. Arena teams can become more flexible. All in the name of going further, higher etc. On the other hand some achievers might think of gearing up a second spec almost to the bone is an achievement itself. With DSpecs switching between the specs and being in groups becomes easier. I would place in this group even pure DPSers, which may see less benefit in DSpecs, like say healers or tanks. Having the option of getting two tweaked specs (whether PvP-PvP, PvE-PvE or the more common PvE-PvP) is a step towards increasing the means for achieving more.

Killers will be benefited even more (killers can be healers, this is not a dps tag, more like a 'I crunch number and I pwn' tag, although the closest paradigm to Bartle's definition is the PvPer). The option of raiding like Holy and smacking things, like Retry in my free time, is hugely appealing for me. One of my paladin guildies wanted to tank for ages but due to our Holy heritage from the MC days, never put his mind to it. Now he has the chance. We all get to see another aspect of tha game, for which we were `cut-off' to a certain extent. We can explore the ‘art’ of that other elusive spec that we only tried the odd-weekend or in the PtRs and Betas.

Overall, I think Dual Specs will add a subtle variety in the game - the art of tweaking your toon, collecting the gear or mix and matching with your friends in groups. Its quite funny, but yesterday I was looking for groups to complete my Elders of the Dungeons achievement. One of my guild mates was in there with an alt, asking for people to join. But he was looking for a DPSer. Where is that secondary retry spec when you need it...


P.S. The next post will be about the negative aspects of Dual Specs. Or to be precise, the issues that might arise once they are ingame.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Patch 3.1 Info

Some (?) of the changes planned for 3.1 have been made public yesterday. These are:

  • Blessing of Kings – this spell is now a base ability trainable by all paladins.
  • Exorcism – this spell now causes damage to all types of enemy targets. However, it always critical strikes undead or demon targets. This change should make sure paladin damage doesn't drop when going from Naxxramas to later tiers of content.
  • Shield of the Templar now causes your Avenger's Shield and Shield of the Righteousness to silence targets for 3 sec. The old damage bonus of this talent has been folded into Holy Shield, Avenger's Shield, and Shield of the Righteousness.
  • Ardent Defender, Improved Hammer of Justice, One-Handed Weapon Specialization and more have had their ranks reduced.
  • Guarded by the Light – no longer reduces the mana cost of shield spells, but now has a 50/100% chance to refresh Divine Plea duration.
  • Judgements of the Just – now also reduces the cooldown of Hammer of Justice by 10/20 seconds and increases the duration of the Seal of Justice stun effect by 0.5/1 second.

A few hours before the devs mentioned changes in the mana replenishment aspect of the game:

As we have suggested, we have become concerned that mana regeneration is currently too powerful, especially for healers. We want players to have to keep an eye on mana. We don’t want you to go out of mana every fight, but running out of mana should be a very real risk for sloppy playing or attempting content that you aren’t yet ready for. When mana regeneration is trivial then certain parts of the game break down – classes that offer Replenishment are devalued, stats that offer mana regeneration are devalued, and spells that are efficient are neglected in preference to spells with high throughput.

Here are a list of changes you are likely to see in 3.1. They will be available to try out on the PTR. Mana regeneration is somewhat technical, so please bear with us.

  • Since paladins rely less on Spirit as a mana-regeneration stat, we have to address them in other ways. We don’t want to change Illumination or Replenishment. However, we are going to increase the healing penalty on Divine Plea from 20% to 50%. Divine Plea was originally intended to help Protection and Retribution paladins stay full on mana. It should be a decision for Holy paladins, not something that is automatically used every cooldown.
  • In addition, we are also changing the way Spiritual Attunement works. In situations with a large amount of outgoing raid damage, as well as in PvP, this passive ability was responsible for more mana regeneration than we would like. We want to keep the necessary benefit it grants to tanking Protection paladins, while making it less powerful for Holy paladins in PvP or raid encounters with a lot of group damage.
  • We balance around the assumption that even 10-player groups have someone offering Replenishment. To make this even easier on players we are likely to offer this ability to additional classes, as well as make sure that existing sources of Replenishment are more equitable.
  • These changes are ultimately being done to bring the different healing classes more in line with each other as well as to give the encounter team more leeway when designing encounters, who can balance with these new mana regeneration numbers in mind. In a world with infinite healer mana, the only way to challenge healers is with increasingly insane amount of raid damage, so that global cooldowns become the limiting factor since mana fails to be. An example is the Eredar Twins in late Sunwell. We weren’t necessarily happy with that model, and this change hopefully allows us to move towards giving healing a more deliberate and thoughtful pace rather than frenetic spam. (Source)

I will focus on the changes regarding the Holy specs as its the one I know best. First of all the nerf on Divine Plea seems kind of justified, bearing in mind the current content, as things have been to simple some times. A Paladin decked in more or less the top gear rarely has issues with mana and Divine Plea has become almost a spamable ability. The -20% reduction is practicaly unoticable and people who are aware of cooldowns maximize their replenishment by spaming Divine Plea in the most demanding fights. Nonetheless, I noticed from personal experience that I rarely do this anymore. The attempt - and if numbers stay as such - is to make DP a more "thought-through" ability. Whether 50% is too much remains to be seen. Probably something in the order of 35%-40% would be better but we need to test it through in the PTRs

The good changes though are equaly if not more important. Kings becomes baseline, simplifying somewhat the spec choices. In my guild I am the only paladin going for 20 points in retry with Improved might and wisdom. The rest have specced around BoK. Now things will be simpler, although exact choices will be though through once the exact talent trees are available (which might change from the current ones, depending on the 11pt talent in prot).

The other change is Exorcism. This is a good addition in a Holy paladin's arsenal. The fact that it always crits on Undead and Demon targets is a subtle bonus as lots of mobs are of that sort, adding some oomph in solo game. However the non-ud/deamon aspect of it is much more important, speeding things a bit in the solo game. What remains to be seen is if the talent up in holy, affecting exorcism, will be tweaked. It may be worth considering in the grand scheme of things as far as soloing is concerned. The fact that it is an extra offensive ability in PvP might cause some friction (you know the wow community how works :p) which might lead in more detailed changes (mana cost, output etc).

All in all the changes seem interesting and would make healing possibly a bit more chalenging in terms of timing (not the crude thing it often is nowadays) whereas soloing as Holy will be a tad more interesting. As with all changes that crop up when patches are due, I am patient on how they will end up, as we often seen them change until we are able to use them in-game.

P.S. Check Rohan's post on the changes and in particular those concerning protection.

Monday, 2 February 2009

'Prompting' down the memory lane

I am currently working on a telecom company and recently I started working on a new platform for telephony charging. One fine day we got a new Solaris box and we asked from our It department to do the mandatory patching; put the box in the company network etc. Once the system was ready I got an email with the IP and all the info I needed to log in through SSH.

So, I log in and I freeze. I stand in awe... the network name of the machine...


I knew the guy that set it up, I knew that he was a more-or-less casual wow gamer. But seeing that name brought some fine memories. When raiding with other 39 players was truly an epic adventure. When the world seemed vast, the stories behind events long and the warmth of adventuring fulfilling.

I am not sure what follows as far as the lore and the depth of the story in Warcraft are concerned. You see, the good old Wow was more or less the next bit after Warcraft 3. But without messing up much of the story. Players were, more or less, in the same point, quests involved 'lesser' characters and the `ghost' of some personalities was there to remind us of the 'drama' and the 'suffering'. I am not sure how many of us, that knew the lore beforehand, expected to face Arthas, or even Illidan, Kael and Vashj. It kind of felt romantic thinking of those characters. You knew they existed but they were off-limits.

TBC changed all that in a somewhat blunt way. We faced certain lore characters but without knowing what they have done. Or at least it was not presented as much as I would want. How many for example knew who Vashj was. In any case, people thought there was not much reasoning in killing those figures (apart from the loot that is :-p).

Blizzard acknowledged that and tried to make lore more accessible. And they did it in a clever way, I must admit. Throughout questing people get to see the fall of Arthas, through the Culling, betraying his soldiers, obtaining Frostmourne etc. Although I have my doubts on how many people absorbed the information due to frantic levelling, it was there for us to see. Possibly go back to WC3 and have a look too. Other important figures just appeared and their doings hopefully will be presented to - like Rhonin, Krasus etc.

Yet, seeing Arthas up close and personal leaves me with a bitter taste. Not because I do not appreciate the visual, or the way it appears through questing etc. But because some of those `untouchable' heroes were just that. Out of our reach. Legendary because we could not see them...

Still, the story evolves. We are now about to step in to a new part of it, exploring the Giants legacy. At the same time we are about to close (?) the chapter of the fallen prince. And within all that dive into a new era of conflict among the Alliance and the Horde.

Yes, seeing that name on my Solaris prompt made me laugh. Then it made me sad for all the battles and the stories I lived through with Lance. But now, its time to wright the new chapters. And for sad punters like me, who adore the story of Warcraft, its something to look forward to...

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