Opening the Mines

AggroChat #33 – Crafting, Puzzles and Raven

Last night we had a special guest on AggroChat that may turn into a more permanent addition, but for not we are playing that by ear.  Raven is a friend that I initially met through Twitter but we all have become close to through our time spent in Final Fantasy XIV.  She has been awesome with offering to fill in with her characters whenever we happen to need them for our guilds semi-regular shenanigans.  With Rae’s recent absence from the show I had been kicking around the idea of bringing on another person, and thankfully Raven showed some interest in doing it.  Hopefully she had as much fun as the rest of us did, and she brought some interesting takes on the topics we discussed.

Last night was a massive meandering show where we talked about some of our favorite puzzle games at length even dredging things up like Tetris Attack.  We talked about the Road Not Taken, which is quite possibly the most depressing puzzle rpg ever.  We talk Super Smash brothers, and do a horrible job at trying to guess Ashgar’s favorite character.  We talk about Kodra’s experience playing Dragon Age Origins and how he is ultimately playing a completely different game than I ever managed to play.  We fall into a giant Final Fantasy XIV crafting discussion, since Raven is the pocket expert on the topic.  Finally I discuss my frustrations with Molten Core 40 man LFR from this past Tuesday and how it really does make players not ever want to do 40 man again.

As I am writing this post I am still editing away on the episode or more so the audio is rendering.  We ran really long, but at this point I am not quite sure how long.  We might have ultimately recorded our very first two hour long episode…  this may or may not be a good thing.  I think everything flowed extremely naturally with our newest guest host, so hopefully that can be a thing that happens more often.  Even if not I am extremely grateful for Raven filling in and offering her views on the completely unprepared list of topics.  Our complete and total lack of organization would throw some people off, but she took to it like a champ.

Opening the Mines

Wow-64 2014-11-29 19-24-38-79 My initial goal upon reaching level 100 was to be able to get geared for the impending opening of the first raid, that happens this Tuesday.  As such for the better part of a week I have been well over the 630 required cap to get into raiding.  Additionally I have been helping out various players that needed another dps or tank for doing their own heroic gearing.  Now however I am taking a bit of a step back and working on some of my alts.  Right now my goal is to get each of them to the level where they get their Tier 2 Town Hall and with it a mine and a profession hub.  Since I have an army of level 90 characters, this is going to take awhile but it should allow other tradeskill materials to start flowing in naturally on all of my characters.  As such I worked up Exeter my blacksmith and miner first with the hopes of eventually using him to fuel some of my gear on my warrior.  That said by the time I get around to making that gear I might already have epics in those slots.  In any case I now have his T2 Town Hall and T2 Mine so he is finally self sufficient in the creation of truesteel ingots.

Next I am opting to work on my leatherworker/skinner Worgen Druid Belgarou.  I noticed that most of the smithing patterns also require leather, so as such I need someone that can bring it back in large quantities.  Last night while recording the podcast I worked on getting the druid through the opening sequence at the dark portal, and now I am working through the various early areas of Shadowmoon Valley.  Unfortunately this character does not have an heirloom weapon, and the lower attack damage is noticeable.  My hope is that I can limp by with enough gear gained through the various treasure hunts in the zone.  I am also having to relearn how to play a feral druid… which feels a bit strange these days.  It feels like I only really have one attack button, and a bunch of optional attacks.  That said I should probably research that class further, because my survival seems to be lacking at times.

Exciting Guests All Around

Now comes the time to be extremely vague.  This morning I am recording the next episode of Bel Folks Stuff, and for those who have not been listening to them.. it is where I grab a personality in our community and talk to them about the various things that are important to them.  Previously I have had Gypsy Syl and Rowan Blaze on… and this guest is going to be just as awesome.  The thing is I am honestly a bit nervous about it.  Syl and Rowan I have gamed with or at the very least hung out on voice chat with… so were both super familiar to me.  This guest is someone I have the utmost of admiration for… but have never actually cross paths with in any games.  I am sure it will end up being fine, as when I close the office door and go into serious recording mode…  I seem to never have a shortage of anything to talk about.  That said I think you guys will be absolutely pumped over who I have for a guest this time.

Similarly my hope is to turn this episode around much more quickly than the previous ones.  I sat on the recording with Rowan for a good month, and as such it ended up kinda bizarre as we talked about a few issues… that were resolved or at least changed during Blizzcon.  Right now I am tentatively planning on having this third episode of Bel Folks Stuff out if at all possible by this coming Friday.  That should give me time to edit and fiddle and get things ready for the public, but hopefully still keep it from sounding outdated like the one with Rowan did.  I don’t have that huge of an installed listener base yet, but this is mostly something I am doing for my own sake and enjoyment rather than for any sort of internet fame.  Then again all of the things I do are mostly for my own entertainment.

The Month is Over

This morning I am thankful that the month is done.  This was hands down one of the hardest challenges I have done on my blog.  There were so many mornings that I was completely finished with the post and starting at the above logo not sure what to write about under it.  The first few days were rather easy, but after that I kept struggling to find something else to say… that also somehow related back to my post.  I think I mostly succeeded but there are times when it really is difficult to count your blessings.  I think I wrote some really solid blurbs during the month, some of which that maybe even surprised me a bit.  That said I am more than happy to close the book on this little chapter and move on to the next thing whatever it might be.  Thanks for riding along with me on this journey.

Craigslist Saga

Thanksgiving Revisited

For years we have had a second tradition surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday.  My wife’s father and step mother are snow birds, and for those not familiar with the  term, it means they travel south for the winter.  Namely they have been living full time out of their RV for over the last decade, and when it starts to get cold they pull up and roll out.  As tradition this has been a few weeks after Thanksgiving, so we started having a combined Thanksgiving and Christmas celebration with them on the Saturday immediately following Thanksgiving.  Once upon a time this was a massive potluck dinner, and then some years in the past we have had BBQ and smoked bologna, essentially something different than the traditional holiday faire.

However a few years ago we decided as a group that what we were actually eating was not terribly important, but instead the fact that we were getting together.  My wife’s dad and step mom are getting up there in age, and even if we brought all of the food… there was still a considerable amount of set up time on getting the rest of everything ready.  As such we have just started meeting at the local Pizza Hut, that has a big banquet room that we can get for such occasions.  This allows us each to order our own meal… and I tend to have boneless wings and fries myself, but still hang out and chat and do all of the actually important parts of a Thanksgiving meal.  As such I am trying to knock out a blog post this morning so we can get ready and get on the road before too much longer.

Craigslist Saga

powercolor_r9290XIf you have read my blog often at all you will know that I have a proclivity for trying to purchase things from the local Craigslist whenever possible.  I absolutely detest being the person who takes the initial depreciation hit on an item.  So if I can find a reasonably priced and not too heavily worn item from Craigslist… I will happily do so every time.  Some examples are that I got my Chromebook that I have used the hell out of from Craigslist for $100, and I quite literally use it every single day at work for note taking.  I also got a PS Vita for $100 and a PS4 for $250 both of which have performed admirably.  To be truthful the desktop I am writing this on right now, also came from Craigslist and I have been exceptionally happy with it overall.  The only downfall is that the GeForce 750ti I have in it is underperforming on a handful of newer games like Dragon Age: Inquisition.

As such I had been passively watching video card prices over the last few weeks, in anticipation for a potential drop in prices during the Black Friday / Cyber Monday madness.  At the same time I never actually expected to find something off Craigslist but last Wednesday there was a post for exactly the card I had been looking at.  After buying nothing but GeForce cards for the last several years, I was interested in trying an AMD Radeon because at least on paper it seems like you can get far more bang for your buck.  I had been looking at the r9 290 because it seemed like a good price point for the performance.  However on  Craigslist I found listed a r9 290X 4 Gig card, something that is normally around $400 for $150.  At first I was hesitant since that seemed like too little money for that kind of card.

After talking with the guy for a bit, he simply upgraded out of it and is now running a pair of GeForce Titan Black cards… which are like $1000 a piece.  Basically the guy has way more money for these sort of shenanigans than I could ever dream of.  Yesterday afternoon I met the guy to pick up the card.  I am sure he thought I was insane as I “smelled” the card but really there is only so much you can do to determine if a card is healthy.  When a card has overheated past a certain point the PCB smells strange, and the fan itself seemed to move freely without seizing, and none of the chips on the bottom side looked damaged in any way.  So I parted with my $150 thinking it was a gamble, but one that might pay off extremely well.

I get home and everything seems to be going swimmingly, the card fits perfectly, and I have just the right connectors for it and plenty of clearance for the fan itself.  I had checked online and saw lots of people talking about how hot the powercolor r9 290X was running, but was not entirely prepared for the reality.  Under relatively light strain playing World of Warcraft it was sitting in the 90c range and finally tripped the heat sensors and rebooted.  There is some strangeness with the fan controller, as it seemed to not be performing well enough by default.  After some reading however it seems like I have too small of a power supply to really support the card.  The literature from Powercolor says that it requires a minimum of a 750w PSU, and I just have a 600w so that could be causing some of the low fan performance issues.  In any case there are some things I can do to try and get better air flowing to the card, but in the meantime until I test these theories I am back to the tried and true 750ti.  I don’t think it is a complete bust, because the card seemed to be performing really well…  it just ran insanely hot.  A lot of folks online have stated that you really need an aftermarket cooler for this card, but not really sure I want to resort to that yet.

No Luck with Nefarian

Wow-64 2014-11-28 23-29-03-06 Last night I continued my trip through the previous expansions raids with a trip into Blackwing Descent and Bastion of Twilight .  These were the raids that I was actively raiding when I left WoW for the first time.  We had cleared up to Cho’Gall in Bastion and were working on Maloriak in Descent when I decided to quit the game.  As such my knowledge of the instances is rather incomplete.  I was able to limp my way through most of it soloing the encounters after figuring out the trick to Chimeraeon.  When it came to the final battle with Onyxia and Nefarian, I hit an impassible wall.  When Nefarian floods the room with lava, I seem to take entirely too much damage to survive through a combination of his shadowflares and the lava.  I’ve duoed this fight with a healer before and it went well enough because we could each take a platform, and then the healer could keep me alive as I swam to the third platform.  However doing all of this by myself just did not seem feasible.

Bastion of Twilight on the other hand was a complete and total Roflstomp, and I managed to pick up a BOE transmoggy bit for my priest or warlock.  Additionally I managed to pick up a fairly wicked looking axe… Shalug’doom the Axe of Unmaking.  This causes other issues however because I am quickly running out of bank space to keep all these awesome transmoggy bits.  I feel like we desperately need the Diablo 3 system for transmogs, where if you get an item you learn its appearance and then can apply that appearance to any other item without having to hold onto that item forever.  It has been long rumored that they were working on it for World of Warcraft, but at this point I need it like yesterday.  Another interesting thing of note… it seems like all of the sets of gear you could previously buy with Justice and Valor points…  have been converted to gold.  So you can just walk straight into Icecrown Citadel for example and buy an entire set of Tier 10.  You can go to Stormwind/Orgrimmar and buy MOST of a full set of the first two tiers of Cataclysm gear as well.

This Blog

This morning I thought I would take a moment to talk about this blog, and why I am thankful that it exists.  I’ve always been a fairly verbose person, and I used to use the various gaming forums as my outlet for this desire to write about the things I care about.  I was a regular on the Argent Dawn forums in World of Warcraft, and previously was active on various EQ and DAoC forums as well.  I had always attempted to adopt the personality of a “white hat” the folks trying to build consensus and put a positive spin on things rather than attack other players.  In 2009 I was introduced to the World of Warcraft blog community, and thanks to the support of Blog Azeroth…  I created a blog of my own.  Originally Tales of the Aggronaut was intended to be nothing but a Warrior tanking blog, but that didn’t last terribly long before I was talking about my raid and my guild, and my frustration with the game.

I went through some pretty massive lapses in posting, and each time that happened it was because I was too frustrated with something going on to actually put it into words.  I didn’t think folks wanted to hear about me, and my hopes and fears…  so I simply stopped writing for periods of time.  In April of 2013 I embarked on a “Grand Experiment” as I have called it.  My goal was to blog every single day, regardless if I actually “had a post in me”.  It has been through this that my blog has really helped me.  By necessity, Tales of the Aggronaut stopped being about “things” and started being about me as a person and as a gamer.  It is also through this that writing every single day about my thoughts regarding the world has been extremely therapeutic.  I’ve tried really hard to keep a mostly positive outlook on everything that is going on, and the constant reinforcement each morning has helped me the person behind the screen to remain far more positive about the world as a whole.  For that and for my readers I am thankful.

Icecrown Revisited

The Force Awakens

While I was getting up and around this morning apparently this was released.  For months and months there have been all manner of fake trailers floating around the internet, but finally today they release a real teaser trailer.  I am guessing this is perfectly timed for the thanksgiving/black friday movie theater rush… as all these people realize they are tired of seeing each other and being in the same house.  I have had mixed emotions with the prospect of more movies.  For starters I really did not like the “prequels” that much.  They were cool in the aspect that we got to see a lot of nifty things that were previously only written about, and even more things were flat out invented for the screen.  But the movie stories themselves were just not that good, and the whole “jesus christ jedistar” sub plot seemed silly.  Disney however is well known for protecting the hell out of their licenses and their future marketability… so when they bought out lucasfilm I started to worry a little less.

Then they announced the director was going to be J.J. Abrams, and I started to get a little more hopeful.  For those unaware he is the man behind Lost, Fringe and the Star Trek reboots.  The later of which is what is causing issues for the Star Wars purists.  Granted I have never been a massive fan of Star Trek, it was always one of those things I watched because there simply was not enough science fiction programming on television during my formative years to be picky.  Essentially I’ve never felt the Star Trek setting was believable, in that we could never actually join under one banner as a planet, and more importantly could not actually go out into the stars and be a mediator.  We are entirely too divisive as a species for that ever to really work.  Star Wars on the other hand was this beautifully chaotic universe where everything is pretty much in a constant state of “effed up”.  This was believable to me as a kid, and it featured the Jedi… which is pretty much the pinnacle of my knight in shining armor complex.

The thing is I feel like the Star Wars universe could use a bit of a reboot after the horribleness that was the prequels.  That said I don’t think that Disney is going to allow JJ to completely blow away a couple of decades worth of source material…  that is highly profitable for the notalgia peddlers.  What I think we will see is more of a reimagining of some of the constructs.  You can see this in the form of the trailer.  The X-Wing series fighters feel leaner and more aerodynamic, the Storm Trooper armor feels smoother, and the Dark Jedi lightsaber feels more brutal in the form of some crazy claymore looking thing.  I am looking forward to seeing more details leak out about this film, but I am frustrated that we will have wade through over a year of hype before actually getting to see it.

Icecrown Revisited

Wow-64 2014-11-27 23-51-03-82 Last night after a series of heroics I decided to continue my path of clearing old raids for fun.  At first I picked up where I left off last night and did the Mount Hyjal raid in the Caverns of Time.  This was easy before, but has gotten progressively easier considering I now have a spammable throw attack as a warrior that stacks deep wounds on the target.  Generally speaking the first hit takes them down in health with the deep wounds dot eventually finishing them off.  Since I also know where the mobs spawn, the first 16 waves went extremely quickly because I could simply stand on the spawn and thunderclap each new wave as it came into the world.  The horde base however is still frustrating with constantly having to run back into the base to take down flyers.  That said the entire raid maybe took 30 minutes to actually complete.

From there I used my engineer hacks and teleported straight to Icecrown with my original intent being to run Icecrown Citadel.  That said I had forgotten that the engineer port takes you directly above the Crusaders Coliseum, so for shits and giggles I decided to run that place on heroic difficulty.  Overall it was still rather easy with the only annoyances being the PVP battle, and having to take mobs in reverse the normal order… aka burn everything but the tree druid… and then the tree druid.  Anubarak was still a bit of a challenge because he deals a lot of damage still while siphoning your health.  Thankfully I was able to shield wall up, and reduce the incoming damage enough to take him down.

Storming the Castle

From there I moved onto Icecrown proper, but since the Belghast character had not actually cleared normal 25 man Icecrown… I had to set down the raid difficulty.  Hopefully next week I will make an attempt on heroic and see if it goes as smoothly.  The two points I was most concerned with were the Airship battle, and Dreamwalker.  Airship turned out not to be a big deal at all, as the scaling in damage meant I could take down the airship before I actually needed to jump across.  In fact the mage spawned like normal… and I jetpacked across… only to be standing on the wrong boat as it went down.  Fortunately I guess at some point they implemented a teleport that takes you back to your boat, so I was able to get back there without taking a death.

Dreamwalker on the other hand was a completely different problem.  For those not familiar with the raid, this is a goofy fight that works backwards from almost every other encounter.  This is the moment the healers shine, because they essentially are your “DPS”.  Dreamwalker is a dragon that starts at 50% health and during the course of the battle you have to heal her up to full.  The problem being… I am not a healer, nor do I really have any heals at all.  I feel like this is the sort of thing a paladin tank could handle without much issue.  I made a valiant attempt at using bandages to heal up the dragon… and in truth there is a point during the add rotation where you can get an entire bandage applied.  Had I brought enough bandages I could have probably solo’d this one without much issue.

However there is a way to glitch out the fight, that I am not sure if it is intentional or not.  The fight involves the spawning of these portals to the emerald dream.  From there your healing is greatly increased but the fight will reset if there is no one in the “real world” with the encounter.  So I learned that if I take a portal, it will glitch the fight, reset it and open both the door at the front of the room, and the door to Sindragosa.  So essentially I was able to simply skip the other problem fight for soloing, which allowed me to unlock access to the Lich King.  I have a feeling that none of these encounters will be quite so easy on heroic mode, but for the Lich King proper I was pretty much able to ignore all of the fight mechanics and burn him directly while standing in the crap that used to oneshot players.  My passive healing abilities as prot warrior seemed to counteract any damage I was actually taking.  The concerns about not being able to solo old raids for fun after the stat squish…  seems to have been unfounded.

The Internet

I am in the age group that folks refer to as the “internet pioneers” the generation for which the internet became an ever increasing reality.    I was in High School when things started changing, and during our college years we latched onto each new piece of technology with both hands.  The problem is that everything has become so common place that we stop to appreciate just how magical this grand interconnectedness really is.  It is because of the internet that I am here talking to you every day, and because of it that I get to hang out with people from around the world in a nightly basis.  It is because of the internet that I met my wife, and we ultimately married, and because of it that I have my job as a web developer.  On a day like today, when the stores are absolutely insane… it is because of the internet that I can stay within the warm comfort of my own home and shop the exact same deals online, and likely have them on my doorstep tomorrow if I really wanted to.

The real reason I am thankful for the internet is it allows someone like me who has issues dealing with people on a regular basis…  to live a very rich and relatively normal life.  Dealing with folks in person wears me out in ways that I will never be able to full explain.  Up close and personal interaction just drains me… and while I loved every minute of Thanksgiving yesterday… I was more than ready to go home and not see anyone for awhile.  The internet however acts as a bridge allowing me to be still social but in a way that is far more comfortable to me personally.  For all of this and more… I am thankful we have an internet, and it is populated with just as many awesome people as it is horrible ones.  I’ve made it my mission to try and gather up as many of the awesome ones as I can.

Happy Thanksgiving

Behind the Times

Wow-64 2014-11-26 17-35-51-85 There are times I am just extremely far behind the curve.  For weeks I had been seeing pictures of my friends characters with a little orange bird on their heads named Pepe.  I thought this was absolutely adorable since one of the things I have enjoyed so much is the way that certain pets in Final Fantasy XIV will come rest on your shoulder.  Turns out that this is a bit of a hack and not really pet interaction.  For those not already indoctrinated in the ways of Pepe…  he is a bird that will appear in one of the trees of your garrison.  Apparently he can appear in either the phase 1, 2 or 3 version.  I’ve started typing “/tar pepe” to find him and mark him with a symbol so that I can find him either.

In any case if you mouse over him you will see a gear icon meaning that he can somehow be activated.  If you click on him, he will ride around on top of your head for an hour as you go off adventuring in the world.  While adorable… it actually gets a little old since he is super talkative tweeting up a storm while you run around.  It doesn’t seem like he actually interacts with what you are doing… like I thought it would be awesome if he chirped a certain way each time we killed a baddie or something.  In any case it is a nifty easter egg found in your garrison, and one that I find myself using quite a bit.  There is something fun about being this armored badass, with a fat bird on top of your head.

Happy Thanksgiving

Pikachuparade1123 While the origins of the American thanksgiving tradition are somewhat suspect…  it has always been a favorite holiday of mine for its sheer simplicity.  It is a day where we are supposed to reflect upon the things we are thankful for, while sharing that time with our family.  There is just something so pure about sharing a meal with someone, and it has become my favored way of meeting with someone.  Over the years however Thanksgiving has turned into a sort of “Christmas Launch Party”, and this year my wife said one article was even referring to Thanksgiving as “Grey Thursday”.  Black Friday has become this temple of holiday shopping excess and a three ring circus has sprung up around it constantly pushing further and further into thanksgiving in an effort to somehow earn our dollars.  This year it seems like most stores will be open Thanksgiving night to start the Black Friday festivities.  We had to go grocery shopping for our meal prep and Target looked like this claustrophobic bunker, with new priced to sell product stacked up in giant piles all over the store.

I guess I get it, because if I were a store I would be doing whatever it took to get your money before you can spend it elsewhere.  As Americans we have become addicted to sales and clearance, which makes sense because our buying power has stagnated over the last decade.  The part about Black Friday that frustrates me is that it is essentially a scam, played upon us by the retail industry.  The items they sell for Black Friday are generally speaking not the same caliber as the items that they sell every day.  So while they might be selling a 40 inch television for only $150… it is sure to have some gimping feature like the fact that it can only display images in 720i or lacks an HDMI port.  The stores are giving you those cheap prices by selling you cheaply manufactured products.  The part that frustrates me the most is that it seems like the majority of things are not actually going to people who will actually use them.  Saturday morning I will be able to load our local craigslist and see half of the products offered as door busters being sold there as folks try and make a quick buck by flipping them.

All the while for me at least Thanksgiving is still a day about reflection and a day about sharing a meal with the folks who are close with, or the folks you wish you were closer with.  This is going to be a rough thanksgiving for me, because this will be the first one without having a grandparent to visit.  This past year my last grandparent passed away, and she was the glue that held together my mothers side of the family.  Without here there, all of the thanksgiving traditions were in danger of completely dissipating.  Thankfully my Cousin has stepped in and between her and us we are pulling together a grand thanksgiving feast.  My wife has been making this and that all morning, and I am convinced we are going to have way too much food.  We are taking care of the deserts and appetizers and are by ourselves bringing like a dozen dishes.  In any case this is a year I am really looking forward to, because I am hoping we can forge out a new tradition of family and food out of the ashes of the old one.

Classic Content

Wow-64 2014-11-26 21-03-23-52 Last night was extremely enjoyable.  I started the night with Wulf and Damai doing our daily group garrison assault quest out in the blackrock pits.  This was a bit insane because without a healer…  we kept trying to pull as though we had one and getting into trouble.  After that we made a trip into the Everbloom to knock out a few of the Garrison side quests.  This went significantly faster than the previous times we had been in there, in part because we ended up skipping quite a bit of trash.  After that and turning in all of the side quests, we randomed a dungeon and got the Iron Docks.  I had not actually done this one before on heroic, but overall it went pretty smoothly.  There were a few dicey places where I was trying to play while responding to texts from my wife about outfit finds…  but in any case we muddled through without issue.  It was around this point that I decided to step out of the group.  The actual raid off tank has not been getting in on many of the runs, and as a result could use the gear far worse than me.  I figured for the good of the raid, it was best to pull him in.

Wow-64 2014-11-26 21-47-20-98 In the meantime I ran off to Black Temple in the hopes of getting Illidans shield for transmoggy goodness.  I was pleasantly surprised to see just how easy it is now to solo everything.  At level 90 there were a few places, especially the reliquary of souls that caused issues.  However I was able to straight wreck the damage reflection face without issue.  In truth most of the trash was so far below me that it didn’t actually aggro.  I could walk almost freely between bosses, so the entire thing went extremely quickly.  On the way back out however I killed most everything because I decided the reputation gain was worth while.  After that I popped over to Tempest Keep in an attempt to get the mount, and between it and a Serpentshrine Caverns run that followed collected an entire set of Tier 5 warrior gear.  That was one of the tiers that I never actually had, because for the most part our raid blew up before getting through Lady Vashj.  It isn’t exactly my favorite set of gear, but ANY transmoggy bits that are unique are worth having.  I had a great night running old content, because I have so many memories of running the places legitimately that it just feels awesome to be able to wreck them.

A Loving Family

Today seems like it should be the culmination of my month of thankfulness, considering this is actually thanksgiving day.  I was completely uncertain what I would write about until yesterday I saw a tweet from a friend on twitter.  “My dad told me he will never love me as his daughter. I’m so heart broken right now.”  I have always taken for granted that a loving family is just a default thing that everyone has, but I guess in truth that is not always the case.  While I feel like that father is right up there with the worst human beings to every exist on the planet…  I am thankful that I have a very loving family that is always ready to embrace me when I need it.  I have an extremely complicated relationship with my family.  I’ve never felt like any of them actually “got me” as a person, but at the same time I have never once doubted their love for me.  Thanksgiving is one of those magical days where you can instantly become close to all the people you have not seen since the last Thanksgiving.  That is the way it is supposed to work, and it pains me that not everyone has that sort of relationship with their kin.

My thanksgiving wish for you all is that you find the family that makes you feel warm and safe and wanted.  Family is one of those amorphous things, that doesn’t directly mean blood relations.  If you have a horrible genetic family, then I challenge you to branch out and go find the real family you have always been wanting it.  My wife’s family for example this way of adopting complete strangers into their intimate family gatherings.  Everyone is always welcome at any of the massive family shindigs, and there will always be more than enough food to feed anyone that arrives.  If your biological family doesn’t love you the way a family should, then go off and make your own family out of your friends.  Everyone needs a happy core to build their life around, and while I am not as close to my family as I could be…  I have never questioned that they would be there for me if I needed it.  For that, I am extremely blessed and extremely thankful.

Looking For Molten Core

Rose Colored Lenses

moltencore_oldschoolclears I have talked about this before, but many of my beliefs about World of Warcraft are in truth a product of the fact that I started raiding during the period that everyone refers to as “Vanilla”.  The above screenshot is of our raid group the Late Night Raiders taking down Golemagg.  In fact if I am placing this picture correctly, this is moments before I won the Giantstalker chest piece.  There is so much nostalgia wrapped up in Molten Core for me, so much so that I pretty regularly returned there over the years to solo it just for that shot of nostalgia straight in the veins.  While it used to take three hours of my Sunday night, to clear this place in full… it was worth every moment of it.

You would think that with all of this experience rooted in 40 man raiding and nostalgia about it…  you would think I looked forward to a return to it.  You would in fact be completely wrong.  In many ways 40 man raiding was like a family trip, and you either bonded during it or learned to hate one another.  There are folks that I raided with that I talk to on a daily basis and have become part of my extended family.  There are additionally folks that I raided with that I would prefer never knowing they still existed, let along ever wanting to see them again.  40 man raids were this strange construct where 25 people who were paying attention, carried the 15 that were not to victory.  It was a place of great victory, but also a place of great resentment, and I am more than happy to see that era of raiding dead and buried.

Looking For Molten Core

ragnaroshammer I have long held the belief that the people who have been clamoring over the years for a return to 40 man raiding, never actually raided in a 40 man environment.  Either that or they did it once or twice with a really successful group that had everything “on farm” but never experienced the crushing defeat of having forty people doing something really stupid.  I am struggling to find the exact tweet, but someone summed it up like this.  Folks begged for 40 man raiding, and Blizzard did not want to return to it.  As a result they gave us a 40 man raid, and made it LFR so we too would remember just how horrible it was.  Last night as a guild we queued with roughly 25 members, hoping that if we brought all of the tanks, most of the DPS and a handful of heals… we would be able to turn what is normally sheer chaos into something functional.  For the most part it worked, and in roughly two hours time we cleared all of the core.  We had a few issues, like players pulling for us…  which was pretty awesome because we had more than enough people to rapidfire kick them from the raid group.

The disturbing thing about the experience however was how much it felt EXACTLY like the actual thing.  The experience of 25 people that know what they are doing, dragging along a bunch of people who are actively working against the strategy of the raid…  that happened every single week.  The problem with 40 man raiding was that almost no one had a stable of enough people to make sure it happened without fail every single week.  As a result you had this grey area of folks that knew someone in the raid and could be pulled in when we were short.  The truth is we were always short something, and always breaking in someone new that had never seen the content.  LFR is pretty much the perfect representation of that shit storm of chaos, and to continue what the tweet said…  whoever thought of making Molten Core an LFR needs a raise…  and then a swift punch in the crotch.  Thankfully my hope is that this will dispel the myth that 40 man raiding was somehow more epic and meaningful, because the way it feels in LFR is exactly how it felt actually living it.

Lava Puppy Mount

Wow-64 2014-11-25 22-13-53-11

All of the above said, it was still a fairly enjoyable night and it was fun showing people who had never actually run Molten Core “for real” the ropes.  It was shocking just how fast the various things came back.  Also it was shocking just how well they replicated the feel of the original.  There is some trash that happens immediately following Garr and before Geddon that has been lovingly referred to as “pain packs”.  Thing is… they are still just as painful.  The moment I pulled one, folks were simply not ready for the amount of torture that was about to be dished out, and both me and the other tanks simply evaporated wiping the raid.  We had to adjust our strategy a bit, but it was a reminded of just how deadly that place was.    There were things I remembered exactly how to handle, and then there were fights that I did not remember at all… like Shazzrah.  Apparently as Rylacus said that was a fight where the melee didn’t actually engage the boss, so that is likely why I don’t remember much about it.

There were so many “greatest hits” of dumb things done in the core last night.  Some jackass warlock tricked half a dozen people into peering through the crack behind Golemagg to try and see Ragnaros.  Someone fell off the bridge and aggro’d Golemagg as we were clearing the trash.  It was shocking just how stealthy a big damned core hound can be, because they almost always add to packs at exactly the wrong time.  Fortunately however the other super common thing of getting knocked off the bridge near Lucifron by a Lava Surger didn’t actually happen.  Neither did the ever so fun experience of having a lava spawn constantly duplicate to the point of overwhelming the raid.  As such I am thinking that more than likely some of the really heinous effects were toned down for LFR.  For example there were no longer 8 flame walker priests with Sulfuron Harbinger, but we still did the “Drag one out and kill it” method.  For the most part all of the bosses went extremely smoothly, but it was the trash that took the longest amount of time… and caused the most deaths.

Death of 40 Man Raiding

This morning I am supremely thankful that I have now finished the Molten Core LFR, and that I have a very awesome Core Hound mount to show for it.  I am also at the same time extremely happy that 40 man raiding is a thing of the past.  I realize that Wildstar attempted to revive this concept, but I really feel that this was a massive mistake.  That is just too many people to have to be responsible for as a raid leader, and too large of a pool of players to constantly have to keep refilling.  While I will still solo Molten Core for fun, when I get the twinge of nostalgia… I have no desire to ever return to the way it actually felt.  Same goes for any of the other 40 man content we did.  I am thankful that I got to experience them when they were legitimately rough experiences, but I am also thankful that the era is long past.  My hope is that 40 man LFR will let the folks who have always pined for this era to realize that it was not actually a magical time..  instead it was something we slogged through because it was all we knew.  While we may have “raided uphill both ways in the snow”…  I most definitely know we are  better off not having to do it.

Angriest Red Ball Revisited

Bridge Refresher Course

ffxiv 2014-11-24 21-04-25-83 With all my recent posts about World of Warcraft, you would think that I had switched allegiance entirely, but this is not the truth by any means.  Right now it is new and shiny and  I am attempting to claw my way to a reasonable foothold of raid preparedness.  That said I am still very much playing Final Fantasy XIV, and for the last few weeks we have been pulling together “raid” content on Monday nights.  We really want to see the new Ultros fight, but unfortunately Thalen still had yet to do Battle at Big Bridge, so last night we started the evening off knocking that out of the way.  It made a rather nice high point to start the evening on since that fight is so amazing.  The majority of us are Final Fantasy V fans, so seeing the fight is like watching the bridge fight play out in that game.

The strange thing is that as many times as we had run it, I had never actually tanked it.  Not that there is actually anything to tanking the fight.  For the tank at least it is as tank and spank as they really come in Final Fantasy XIV.  The only challenge was the various adds between the two phases of the boss, and even then it is was only because we have some extremely overgeared dps for the fight that just melted them.  While I attempted to hold aggro it was pretty much futile.  In any case it knocked that out of the way so that hopefully this week the folks that needed it can catch up on the Hildebrand storyline and get ready for Ultros.  I would really rather do that fight for the first time as a guild, so we can have the experience of figuring out the content on the fly.

Angriest Red Ball Revisited

ffxiv 2014-11-24 21-48-02-32 Turn Five of Binding Coil of Bahamut has been looming over our group for some time.  I have to admit there has been a sense of fear about it, because in truth it has been content than killed many a static raid team on our server.  It is the notorious gatekeeper to turn 2, and there are many folks that have cleared one through four never to actually manage to get in a turn five kill.  The fight itself just has this insane array of mechanics that are almost impossible to memorize before going into the fight.  Since it had been months for us clearing the first four turns we opted to start with those as a fresher course.  Overall it went nice and smooth and we burned through the first few coil instances getting the folks who had not been there realm exploration achievements.  I managed to get the Heavy Allagan chestpiece to go with my other two pieces of Allagan gear.

ffxiv 2014-11-24 22-44-02-14 When we downed turn four after a few baubles here and there we decided to use that momentum and push us forward into a couple of attempts at Twintainia the boss of turn five.  There is a lot of stuff to focus on during this fight.  However we did manage to get to roughly the halfway point in the fight after a couple of attempts.  I mark this as pretty damned good progress, and a pretty good night overall for us to down Big Bridge, four turns of coil and make that much progress on five.  I feel like as a whole we have way more confidence in regards to our success chances at turn five.  It is no longer this looming and scary target that we have not actually experienced.  Folks talk about it with so much frustration and reverence, but I feel like we can totally down  this.  Now after seeing the fight I also feel like I have a far better point of reference for doing my own research in the coming week.

Up Too Late

Wow-64 2014-11-25 00-14-27-80 After our evening of raiding in Final Fantasy XIV, I popped out and got into World of Warcraft in an attempt to find a group to run Auchindoun with.  Much like there was a legendary cloak chain in Pandaria, there is a legendary ring one in Warlords.  The first phase is actually relatively simple and only actually requires that you run Skyreach and loot and item off the final boss.  This nets the player a really nice ilevel 640 ring for there troubles, which is a much needed gear level boost for getting into content.  The next steps require you to clear four heroic dungeons, gather up a silly amount of apexis crystals and then complete a solo event of sorts.  Last night I was up to the final step in this sequence which requires a trip into Auchindoun to loot an item off the final boss.  However there was another player that required one more “core” the step before Auchindoun, so I agreed to run that heroic first before we ran the one I actually needed so that both of us knocked out the final step at the same time.

The end result was that I ran two heroics back to back and did not actually make it to bed until almost 1 am.  The other result however is that other than 100 apexis crystals and a solo event, I am really super close to the next step in the ring quest chain.  As a result in theory I should be able to knock out the 680 ring before we step foot into Molten Core as a guild tonight.  I am really looking at venturing forth into Molten Core, it has been years since I last experienced the raid “for real”.  I remember there was a time where a “good clear” took about three hours of my life.  I am hoping we can manage to do it in a far shorter time.  That said I have prepared myself for the potential of it taking that long if not longer.  I know we are going to try and go into it with as many tanks and healers as we can so that we can potentially control the pace of the run.  If everyone other than a handful of dps are with us on voice chat… hopefully things will go more smoothly.  In any case hopefully at the end of the night I will have a spiffy mount.

Furry Children

I’ve always had a soft spot for animals.  In this age of global strife and suffering, I’ve become rather accustomed to it… but the moment that Sarah MacLachlan animal charity video plays on  the television… and it is like a sucker punch to the gut.  There has never been a time when we have not had several furry children, and each of them is unique and special.  This morning I am thankful for all of them that have shared our life.  Presently we have four cats, which I think officially qualifies us for “crazy cat lady” status.  Our eldest came home with me years ago on a Thanksgiving day, so this time of year is all the more important to me.  She is getting up there in age and has many issues but I am so thankful for each year we have with her.  In addition to our cats we also have two amazing ferrets, that are both as sweet as can be and are always clamoring for our attention.  They both know exactly what it takes to get daddy to play with them, and they are the source of many delays while getting ready in the morning.  Animals enrich our lives in ways that I cannot fully account for, and this morning and every morning I am thankful to have them.

Things Did For Loot

AggroChat #32 – Azeroth, Mordor and Beyond

Normally Sunday mornings I talk about the happenings from the night before when we record our weekly episode of AggroChat.  However yesterday it just didn’t really fit the theme of the post, so I opted to push off advertising it on my blog until this morning.  We recorded for roughly two hours, but thankfully after I edited it was condensed to only an hour and twenty minutes… which is far more reasonable.  It is always strange when we go into a show with what we feel like is not a lot to talk about… and then a show happens and it ends up being a length one.  I feel like some of those are the most natural because the conversation just went where it needed to go without our direction.

We talked about a dizzying range of games from Shadows of Mordor and Tam and Kodras views on the game.  They both still say it is very much a “bel game” and at this point I am planning on picking it up hopefully when it goes on sale during the Steam Christmas Sale.  It does look really interesting, and I like the seeming focus on mechanics rather than story.  We once again delve into a discussion about 4X games namely Beyond Civilization, Civilization 5 and Endless Legend.  Similarly there is a length discussion about our feelings surrounding Dragon Age Inquisition and Kodra has finally made some progress in Dragon Age Origins.  Finally I talk at length about my experiences returning to World of Warcraft as I gush about finally having a strong female in World of Warcraft that is not also moments away from being turned into a raid boss.  Seriously if you have not followed the Yrel character you should check her out.

Things Did For Loot

WoWScrnShot_112214_172004 My focus this weekend entirely was getting geared up enough to be able to do Molten Core on Tuesday night with the guild.  Since this is a 40 man looking for group experience… and various members of them  guild have said it took upwards of three hours to complete…  we are wanting to try and pull in as many people as possible Tuesday night so we can hopefully carry the random players to a rapid victory.  The only problem is that in order to join in the fun, you have to have 615 ilevel.  Unless you had some extreme luck with item upgrades in Nagrand, it is not exactly easy to hit that kind of level without a lot of dungeoning.  Arria and several others kept telling me that I needed to PVP in order to get my ilevel up high enough to run Molten Core, but at first I rejected this notion entirely.  However after a period of time without a guild group online that I thought we could make dungeoning work… I resorted to queuing for battlegrounds.

Over the course of the weekend I ran enough battlegrounds to be able to purchase a neckpiece and bracers at roughly 1250 honor each.  I have to say… I actually enjoyed myself, and it shocks me just as much to be able to say those words.  Remember I have gone on length diatribes about how faction based combat destroys a sense of community.  The thing is…  battlegrounds are not open world pvp and I did not enjoy Ashran the open world pvp zone at all.  The strange thing is that I have quite literally not PVP’d in World of Warcraft since Burning Crusade other than once or twice here needed for some holiday achievement.  Once upon a time I was part of an Arena team if you can believe that, with the sole purpose of gearing my paladin in some healing gear.  It is strange how cyclical things are… in Burning Crusade PVP gear was extremely useful for PVE purposes… and now in Warlords the exact same thing has happened.  I guess I don’t mind PVP so much when I know there is a loot piñata at the end of my efforts.

Heroic-palooza

Wow-64 2014-11-23 13-11-44-29 Between the two pieces of PVP gear I was able to bump my ilevel up high enough to be able to  do Molten Core.  However yesterday I spent most of the day running Heroics with the guild.  The strange thing is that I tagged along as dps.  It feels so strange that sword and board gladiator is actually viable dps, and for most of the runs I was competitive with the person sitting in first place on the meters.  The awesome thing about this is that the gear needed to tank and needed to Gladiator dps are essentially the game.  Bonus Armor it turns out is just as much of a DPS boost for Gladiator as it is survival for Defensive.  All of this makes me wonder if we will see a resurgence of viable specs to allow tanks to tank as Arms or Fury like they used to back in Vanilla WoW.  In any case I ran Bloodmaul Slag Mines, Grimrail Depot, Auchindoun, The Everbloom and Skyreach and between them I managed to get several upgrades.

I feel like I need to take a moment to praise Blizzard for the changes to the way that personal loot works.  I made a comment the other day on twitter when they removed personal loot as the default for pugs, that going back to need before green only really helped the trolls.  It turns out that they just felt they needed to tweak personal loot a bit before returning it to the dungeons, which ultimately they hotfixed back in within a days time.  The new version is extremely awesome, because no matter how bad your luck is early in the dungeon… the final boss will always drop an item for your spec.  Mostly what makes the system great is there are no more instances of unusable loot.  Granted what you get may not actually be an upgrade, but we did several runs with nothing but plate wearers… and no leather rotted in the dungeon.

Finally a Worthy Helm

Wow-64 2014-11-24 06-17-17-22 Over the course of the weekend I went from 609 ilevel to a respectable 623 and I feel that I am fully ready for Molten Core tomorrow.  I am not sure if I will be called on to tank or to dps, but in either scenario I feel comfortable thanks to the fact that Gladiator dps is esentially just tanking without the taunts.  One of the things that I have tried to be religious about is doing my crafting and resource workorders in my Garrison.  The primary one is the Gearspring Parts needed for engineering, or in truth every single tradeskill that makes things seems to have a limited resource that can be sped up significantly through the use of your Garrison.  This expansion has returned to having an exceptionally useful helm gained through engineering, and this time it is upgradeable three steps to make it competitive with raid gear.

This morning I managed to collect the last of the 100 Gearspring Parts needed to craft it, and finally I have a helmet that is worth of displaying helm.  Traditionally I run around sans helmet, because in truth World of Warcraft has pretty much nothing but ugly helms.  These goggles however are fantastic, and I am proud to let my engineer flag fly high.  Unfortunately I am going to have to figure out a way to get savage blood, which I am afraid that I do not have a source of it in that I did not build the barn.  Since it is a tradeable resource my hope is that I will be able to obtain it through an alt.  Honestly my biggest hope is that eventually they add it to the primal spirit vendor at a significant loss, so that I can use my stockpile of those.  In any case I feel like I am fully ready for the rigors of raiding, but still have plenty of upgrades that I can get from heroics.

My Routine

There are mornings I have an idea immediately and others that I struggle to find purpose in my writing.  There is something about being under pressure to write a post each morning that makes it work for me.  I’ve long found that on the weekends I dawdle considerably more and struggle to get a post out.  Whereas in the morning as I am drinking my morning coffee if I just start writing a post materializes before I really know fully what I am going to write about.  As such for this mornings thankfulness post, I am thankful for my routine.  I am thankful that I embarked upon this journey over a year ago, and thankful that I realized that the morning would actually be a viable time for me to write.  Writing a post feels like I am starting the day having already accomplished something, which in turn I feel makes the day as a whole a better one.  May each of you also find the routine that works for you.

Happy 10th Anniversary

My WoW Story

lodin_warcraft Ten years ago today I started playing World of Warcraft.  In truth that is a bit of a misnomer since I technically started as of ten years ago 11 pm last night.  When World of Warcraft launched there was so much excitement surrounding it.  This was not my first MMO by any means and I had already played significant amounts of time of both Everquest (roughly 3 years), Dark Age of Camelot (roughly 2 years), Horizon (6 months) and City of Heroes (6 months).  Between those four games I had already amassed a large group of friends that all intended to play Warcraft at the launch.  That is the hard thing to explain these days, but World of Warcraft was this one game that every single player that played it… wanted to play more of.  I remember getting into one of the stress test betas, and that one weekend of playing the game completely destroyed my enjoyment of City of Heroes.  Just a few hours of play showed me that these games I already loved could be so much more.

When it came time for the game to launch, the GameStop in town was having a launch party.  I originally intended to get in line with the rest of the folks and wait it out.  This was in the days before I actually preordered games.  To some extent I liked the thrill of the chase, of having  to go out and forage for whatever new game release was the new hotness.  So World of Warcraft was no different, and I had intended on just picking up a copy like always.  When I go there that night…  the line wrapped around from Gamestop and all the way down the shopping center to Panera Bread and around the corner…  so half a shopping center for the sleepy little hamlet I lived in.  I was showing up moments before the  game was set to go on sale…  so I would have been waiting behind hundreds of other players waiting for the game.

Wal-Mart to the Rescue

stalwartfolks On a wild hunch I decided to pop into the Wal-mart just down the shopping center instead.  Sure enough when I got back to electronics I saw a pristine display full of copies of World of Warcraft.  I noticed that a handful of players were doing exactly the same thing as me.  So there I had my game in hand ready to head out, and by the time I got to the parking lot I noticed that not even a quarter of the line had been served at GameStop yet.  I found out later that they sold out, and did not have enough copies to serve the demand.  That in itself become a running theme, as you quite literally could not find copies of the game anywhere after those first days.  I remember spending my lunch hours going out to stores that I had not checked to see if I could scrounge up a copy for this or  that guild member who had yet been able to get in.  It was probably a good three months before copies actually became obtainable, and unfortunately a good month before the game was really playable.

I remember spending the next day with my friend and co-worker Vernie leveling a night elf character that I had no intent of ever playing.  We sold every item that dropped all of the purpose of getting that single gold needed to buy a guild charter.  At that time it seemed like an insurmountable amount of money.  By mid-day on the first day we managed to get the money and got all of our friends to create level 1 Gnomes or Dwarves and collected signatures in Coldridge Valley.  By noon House Stalwart was born on Argent Dawn and at launch we had around fifty people that we knew from a combination of the other games we had played in it.  Shortly thereafter we got a charter started on Silverhand and the Burning Scar was born there as well.  Our original plan was to Alliance on Argent Dawn and Horde on Silverhand… the two role-playing servers that were available at launch.  Over time and the inability to get logged into the game… folks self sorted into playing the faction they liked the most, and the vast majority of us ended up in House Stalwart and the Alliance faction.

The Hunter Phase

ailahlodinshiana My intent was to play a tanky paladin, because I had so much fun playing one with my friend in beta.  I would debuff the target against holy damage, and then he would come in and smite the hell out of them.  It made an amazing synergy and was absolutely fun to level together.  The problem being when I installed the game and created Exeter for the first time…  that was the moment I realized they played a last minute bait and switch.  While I was not on voice chat at the time… this predates those days…  I quite literally said a verbal “What the eff” when I wandered around Coldridge Valley I could not figure out what the hell the seal system was doing.  This was strike one against the class.  Strike two was that not long after the launch of the game I had a pretty traumatic death in the family that ended up with me being completely gone for a long period of time.  When I got back everyone had shot ahead of me in level, and quite frankly the paladin just could not solo easily at that point in the game.

As a result I ended up rolling a Dwarven Hunter, Lodin because they could solo phenomenally well and it would allow me to catch up to my friends.  I am just not by nature a hunter, and there is a whole series of time I attempted to play a melee hunter through the use of the survival tree.  Yes I was one of those guys, but it worked well enough to level my way to 60.  Which for reference took me about six months to get there finally.  During Cataclysm I leveled a Worgen Druid from 1 to 85 in less than seven days of actual time, so a lot has changed in both the game and proclivity for grinding up alts.  One of my friends who started in House Stalwart went on to found one of the most prosperous non-guild raids on the server… the Late Night Raiders.  He happened to be in need of a hunter to replace one, and I happened to be interested in raiding having done some of it in Everquest.  As I started getting geared, I felt obligated to play Lodin as my main and keep it in tip top shape for the sake of the raid.  The problem is I never really felt like a hunter, in spite of just how amazing the LNR hunter crew was.  Many of those folks I still talk to on a weekly basis, and even the ones I don’t… it is always a happy occasion when I see them.

Birth of Belghast

belghast_diremaul The problem is that the hunter just didn’t fit my personality, and I had intended on playing a tank when I started World of Warcraft.  Originally the intent was to play Exeter my paladin as defensive, but there were just too many problems at that time with the whole “Seal of Rage” debacle as a way of holding aggro.  A good friend of mine had expressed interest in leveling a priests, and I had wanted to level a warrior… so we decided to go for it and Belghast was born.  The character Belghast originally came form when we were playing Dark Age of Camelot.  He was my Celt Champion and I played the role of dps and occasional off tank.  It felt fitting to recycle the character name, and since Human warriors had both mace and sword specialization I made the choice for aggro generation reasons.  Leveling as a team was awesome, I learned to trust my healer because it allowed me to focus entirely on making things mad at me.  I looked up to the LNR tanks at the time, especially my friends Rakrul and Giulietta and I feel like I learned tanking from the best.

It was not long before I was tanking regularly the LNR “fun” raids like Zul Gurub and AQ20.  When The Burning Crusade expansion launched, I took it as my opportunity to switch to the role I felt more natural playing.  The gear reset was a point of frustration with many in our raid, but for me it was a golden opportunity to switch focus to Belghast and not be years behind the curve.  Switch focus I did, and I got a reputation for being willing to tank for almost anyone that I knew.  I spent my evenings helping folks get the bits and baubles they needed to gear up, and eventually lead a Karazhan run.  While LNR was a casualty of the expansion, I moved into a tanking role with No Such Raid another non-guild based raid on our server.  When it eventually died as well I helped to found the Duranub Raiding Company that stuck around through both Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, ultimately dying off when the changes coming with Cataclysm shifted the focus away from non-guild raiding.

A Fitting End

WoWScrnShot_112314_010544 So there is something fitting that I am back playing World of Warcraft again, and playing Belghast once again.  When I first set foot on Draenor, it was this grand opportunity to finally be a “real tank”, and as I set foot on Draenor again I am feeling overcome with nostalgia.  While I doubt I will be a raid main tank again, I have been enjoying relearning how to tank in World of Warcraft.  There was a time at which I knew all the tricks to keep mobs from doing stupid things, and much of that knowledge has faded away.  However as I enter the phase of tanking Heroics I am looking forward to relearning it all.  There is something sublime about returning to the warrior after tossing him aside with the release of Cataclysm.  Cata was the expansion that killed World of Warcraft for me, and since then I have played for a few months at a time before fading away again.  Maybe playing the character that my name comes from…  will ultimately be a source of revival.

World of Warcraft

For those who might ultimately find this post through means other than my regular readers… during the month of November I have been posting something I am thankful for each day.  Today I have to say that I am very  thankful that World of Warcraft exists, because through it I have met so many awesome people.  If I think about it, there are so many people that I love having in my life that I never would have met were it not for this game.  So many of those people I talk to on a daily basis, and if not daily… weekly or monthly.  My life had been enriched by hundreds upon hundreds of people that I have encountered through this game.  While I have had a complicated relationship with it… going through periods of love and periods of hatred… it is much like a family member now, and I am thankful that it has existed and continues to thrive in its own way.

If you really think about it, this blog would not exist were it not for World of Warcraft.  It originally started as a Warrior Tanking blog devoted to my thoughts about tanking and raiding and over the years has morphed into a blog a bout “me”.  Similarly all of the people that I podcast with weekly, I would never have known were it not for World of Warcraft.  Kodra and Tam were both members of the Late Night Raiders, Ashgar I met as a friend of theirs… ultimately through World of Warcraft, and Rae while she is now a co-worker of mine… I originally met her through raiding.  These are all folks that are extremely important in my life and every single one of them ties a lineage back to this one game.  To take a step further, I likely would have never joined twitter, or google plus, or any of the other social connections I have now… were it not for this game and the blog that I created about it.  I feel like this one game has acted as a fulcrum to enable so many awesome people to meet other awesome people, and if nothing else you have to give your utmost respect to that.  Thank you Blizzard for creating World of Warcraft.

Garrison Resource Drought

The Search for Food

This morning I really did not want to leave the bed.  I was surrounded by warm and fuzzy cats, but as it got later both my wife and myself started to get hungry.  My wife and I are both relatively intelligent individuals, and friends have postulated that we must have really interesting conversations.  That is not entirely the case…  here is a snippet from this morning

Wife:    I’m Hungry
Me:      Me too…  I will go get breakfast.
Me:      I am leaving right now *staying there snuggled into covers*
Wife:   Are you there yet?
Me:      No… its a really long trip, will take awhile
Wife:    It will probably go quicker if you leave the house.
Me:      That is just a theory, there is no scientific evidence of that
Wife:   If we look at the evidence from the last fifteen years, leaving the house points to getting food.
Me:      Maybe the food just shows up on its own?
Me:      Lets test that theory.
Wife:    I’m Hungry

I did in fact have to leave the house to make food show up, but there is still no direct cause and effect evidence… other than the whole I gave someone money and they gave me food in return.  How the food actually arrives at our house is a mystery because I don’t actually remember leaving the store or arriving home.  I do however remember observing the feeding ritual of the cat gods upon arriving at home.  Maybe the cat gods are somehow connected to the acquisition of our food…

Garrison Resource Drought

Wow-64 2014-11-21 22-03-42-712 I may have made some poor choices as to the sustainability of my Garrison, as I have reached a point where I am struggling to get the resources needed to keep developing it.  I finally managed to upgrade to the rank 3 Town Hall yesterday, giving me access to another small, medium and large plot.  Unfortunately I lack the resources to actually fill them.  Right now my Garrison has a t3 Town Hall, t2 Mines, t2 Engineer, t2 Enchanter, t2 Dwarven Bunker, t2 Inn, t1 Garden, t1 Storehouse, t1 Trading Post, and t1 Fishing Shack.  I lack the pets to actually be able to get the Pet Menagerie but at some point I want to actually level some battle pets so I can get that.  I have failed miserably at playing WoWKemon.  It just feels so damned tedious to level your pets past a point.  The one thing that would make everything better is if they would implement XP Sharing like they have in the actual Pokémon these days.

The problem I am running into however is that I am flat struggling to get the resources needed to keep developing my stuff.  I have yet to plunk down a second large building, because I simply lack the resources to do so.  Unfortunately as well… I have basically hit the point I am at by farming down the Garrison Resource caches in the various zones.  Sure there are a few still out there  but I have pretty well gathered all of the low hanging fruit.  The Trading post should help out considerably but right now it keeps requesting herbs… and the only ones I can actually feed it are the ones coming from my Garrison.  My hope is that soon it will want a mining resource, because I seem to have plenty of those.  So I guess my question is… other than Follower missions and the slow and steady tick of resources… is there another in world renewable resource for Garrisons?

Dungeons for Gear

Wow-64 2014-11-21 20-39-07-968 Last night in an attempt to get my last few points of gear needed to hit ilevel 615, and in an attempt to get Rylacus so he could actually do heroics…  We ran several dungeons as a guild.  I believe we ran three but at this point I have lost count.  I know for certain we did the newest incarnation of Upper Blackrock Spire and we did one called the Shadowmoon Burial Grounds.  I was actually pleasantly surprised at just how challenging the level 100 normal dungeons have turned out to be.  Most of the mechanics are arguably pretty cheap, in that they stack dots on the players or drop damned near instant kill piles of stuff on the ground.  All things considered however they were actually really fun.  They are not nearly as good as the dungeon designs in Final Fantasy XIV, but I feel they are considerably better than  the Pandaria dungeons at least.  The reliance on crowd control reminds me more of the order of business during Wrath and Cataclysm, which is a good thing… just not something I am really used to.

It is my nature when I play a warrior to want to charge ahead into the next pack.  Unfortunately I need to give my rogue time to sap things, and I need to get back into the habit of marking crowd control targets.  The other thing I am struggling with is how loosey goosey mob movement is in World of Warcraft.  In FFXIV mob placement is relatively predictable thing.  The mobs move where I want them to… back in WoW I found it absolutely frustrating everytime Zul’jin would iceskate around me.  I am going to have to relearn the tricks I have apparently forgotten for making mobs stop doing stupid shit.  Moving him around felt like having a wobbly shopping cart tied to my waist that I was dragging around with me.  All of this said I look forward to relearning the finer points of fighting with the system and getting it to do what I want it to do.

Drinking Water

This morning I woke up with a horrible cramp in my shin.  At first I attempted to walk it out, but it didn’t seem like it was just going away.  I have always struggled to some extent with dehydration, and muscle cramps are one of those early signs.  So as such I got up and went to the kitchen, grabbed a huge 32 oz glass filled it at the tap and drank it all in one setting.  Within a few moments the cramp seemed to be lessening so I went back to bed.  At which point it struck me, just how lucky I am that I have really good tap water.  In fact I greatly prefer our tap water to bottled water in almost every single case.  Tulsa actually has award winningly good water, and as such we are pretty blessed.  It never really hits me just how rare this is, until I go somewhere else and without thinking try and take a big drink of tap water.

So while it might sound odd to be thankful for it…  I am extremely thankful I can turn on the tap and get something that actually tastes good.  Speaking of which… I think I am going to go fix myself a large glass right now.

Gearing for Heroics

Stutter Gone

DragonAgeInquisition 2014-11-20 19-07-40-672 So as you know over the last several days I have been struggling with Dragon Age Inquisition.  When I initially booted up the game the stuttering was so jarring that it would sound like a record skipping and freeze movement for a fraction of a section… just enough to bring you out of the  game entirely mentally.  Nvidia released and updated driver and this helped the stutter but it was still there, and still just as frustrating to try and play the game with.  Since then I have tried what felt like every possible combination of settings, none of which removing the problem.  That is except for one apparently.  Last night I finally landed on the solution to the problem and the stutter is gone.  For some reason my machine prefers to run games in windowed borderless, this has always been the answer to a performance boost.  I thought I had tried this initially but apparently not… because the moment I shifted things into windowed borderless the hitching went completely away.

DragonAgeInquisition 2014-11-20 19-00-34-952 Now I feel like I can finally play the game in peace and actually experience it.  Unfortunately last night I just was not in the mood for this sort of game and moved on to working on gearing my warrior in World of Warcraft.  That said with the stutter gone the game is a much more enjoyable experience.  There are times the game is absolutely beautiful to behold… I still feel like I need to spend some time tweaking the settings because I had fiddled with almost everything trying to get the game to function…  and now I have a few strange choices picked here and there.  The interface feels a bit cludgy for melee, so it is going to be one of the things that I have to get used to as I play the game.  So far I am not a huge fan of my companions, and even Varrack a character I really enjoyed in Dragon Age 2 is getting on my nerves.  I think maybe I just need to put this game aside and let the frustration from the back and forth with settings fade before I attempt to play it again.

Gearing for Heroics

Wow-64 2014-11-21 06-29-01-629 Last night I had two goals… one of which fell by the wayside.  I figured there was no real point in attempting the silver proving again until I actually had the gear level to matter.  So as a result I crawled through the wowhead item listings and made an effort to complete every single quest in Nagrand that had even the slimmest chance of dropping something that would improve my ilevel.  Additionally I poured the rare spawn and treasure drops to find anything that might give me a little boost.  I also spent some time pouring over the auction house, which was as I would expect completely insanely overpriced for what was actually available.  After hours of painstakingly trying to incrementally improve my gear score I was sitting at 609.  One stinking point away from heroics.

Wow-64 2014-11-20 23-17-57-827My friend Damai asked me to do a weapon enchant for him, we ended up partied as he started pulling together a group to try and help Rylacus get some gear.  A bit later I found myself tanking Skyreach since that had the lowest ilevel requirements, and the only one we were able to queue with Ry.  It turns out there are two quartermasters in the Ashran Town Hall, each of which sell 615 trinkets, and both of which bumped me up just enough to get over the 610 heroic gear requirement.  Running Skyreach however also allowed me to start my Legendary ring quest chain, rewarding me a 640 ilevel tanky ring that was almost twice as good as my previous best item.  Now it is just down to me getting through my silver proving, so that I can be ready to tank heroics for the guild.  I don’t have a lot of fear because I made it through seven of eight rounds last time, and it was really only because I got tunnel vision and stopped paying attention to my own health that I actually failed the first time.  I have gotten quite a bit more gear since that point… so hopefully tonight I can knock that out first thing.

WoW Anniversary

Wow-64 2014-11-21 06-38-34-619 This morning the WoW Anniversary content officially began, but if I am remembering correctly… the actual launch date was November 23rd.  I remember being frustrated that it was right before the Thanksgiving Holiday… which would mean I would be tied up with family and such.  A decade ago I had so many houses to visit on thanksgiving that it lent itself to being a a crazy all day occasion.  We would start early in the morning and travel throughout the day, and then repeating the process to a lesser extent on Saturday.  Its funny how things change in a decade, because now we only have a single house to go to, as everything is happening around the noon meal.  When I logged in this morning I had a Molten Corgi pet waiting on me in my mailbox.  I find it odd how Corgis have become such a video gaming mascot.  The game Rift has at least half a dozen different Corgi pets in game for example.

The primary reason why I have been pushing to gear up so quickly… is that this coming Tuesday we are planning to run the Molten Core LFR as a guild, or as close to “as a guild” as we can realistically get for a 40 man.  The LFR itself will have an ilevel requirement of 615 and completing the event will reward you a helm appropriate for your main spec so for plate it would be something resembling this one.  Completing the event also earns you a Core Hound mount, which looks really cool.  Then there are a few items that have a chance of dropping like a doodad that embues any weapon with the Flames of Ragnaros effect… at least cosmetically.  I guess with this expansion they have made it so you can transmog over enchantment effects, which is cool because some enchants look way better than others.  Basically I want to be  able to participate in all of the Reindeer games… and Damai was gracious enough to move it to Tuesday after telling him that Monday was the FFXIV raid night.

Gladiator’s Resolve

This is absolutely the hardest part of any blog post this month, is to come up with something new that I have not already talked about on the preceding 20 days.  As we near the end of the month I am pretty much going to be grasping at straws here, but I feel committed to carry out the experiment.  Since this morning I am talking about World of Warcraft, I want to say how happy I am to have the Gladiator’s Resolve talent.  Essentially for those who do not know what it does… it replaces battle stance for protection warriors, giving them a brand new gladiator stance.  When in that stance you lose the innate  survival and threat generation benefits of defensive stance… but gain a 20% damage increase.  Essentially this makes you sword and board dps, and from what I have seen in my own tests I deal a TON of damage.

This is essentially what I have wanted the entire time I have played MMOs… to be able to effectively dps while using a sword and shield.  I like the iconic look of the sword and board warrior, and while two handers are cool… they never really fit my personal style.  I used to get frustrated that games would always make shields being entirely about defense… when in real life shields have always been extremely effective weapons.  Now that I have this option…  I actually want to try pvp in Ashran.  In the past warrior pvp for me at least felt impotent, because I couldn’t be the badass heavily armored tank that I was in the dungeons.  This one talent I think changes that.  I am still extremely sturdy, and still have access to all of my protection trickery…  but this time around I can simply deal some damage with my shield as well as my sword.  So this morning I am thankful for someone finally giving me this talent, it makes me extremely happy.