DPS the targets in this order that is always changing, or we all die

| Tuesday, July 15, 2014
I'd decided to give healing a try again. It was never my strength. I might even dare to say that I am awful at it. And yet, I cannot help but blame how healing is done.

Let us imagine if DPS had a two dozen targets. Each one would need to be attacked within a particular time, hit a certain amount, or else the raid could wipe. These targets would change unpredictably and frequently. There are too many to simply assign a DPS to each one. They have to each, somehow, know which one to damage, and make these decisions within fractions of a second. Meanwhile the healers keep healing their targets, because their healers are too damn stupid to not make their jobs harder.

Wouldn't that be terribly unfun?

With a coordinated group, perhaps it would be doable. With a small group, only five or ten, it would be doable. But when your DPS are dropped into a chaotic mob of uh, chaos, it gets to be more difficult. The mobs move, so you lock them in place, but of course if you lock their positions, then you can't really see what's going on in the fight and it becomes that much harder to predict what little you could before.

My own experience has always been rocky. I'd done it about since I started playing, here and there. I love filling in for a lost healer or a tough spot. As a primary job, I am just not good at it. I never have been. I tended to get mad at it, and yet often got stuck doing it. Something about it just doesn't work with my brain. Maybe it's just a lack of practice. It is not unlikely that a lack of gear causes some problems as well; I only just created an incomplete Timeless set, without a weapon, no trinkets or rings, and so on. I'm sure it adds up to a blue set, but when the tanks pull like they're expecting a healer in purples, I don't see myself as overgeared.

On the plus side, I had a lot of fun trying to figure out macros to make it work. Somehow I had managed to fit all my prot and ret abilities into an action bar and a half. I roll to another bar if I need AoE and some are macroed to fit in extra spells. Holy has not quite managed to fit comfortably. On the plus side, I may find use for my mouseover macros elsewhere; though ironically, they don't work as well when the spells are bound to mouse buttons. For some reason mouseover doesn't work on party portraits when the macros are bound to my mouse.

And of course, above all, it is something new to learn. I like having those things.

The other day I went healing with some friends. One was used to healing, so we made him DPS. The other tanked as usual. I learned that the second-to-last boss in Niuzao Temple does not summon adds if you're alone, and his damage isn't actually that high, so as the last one standing I was able to slowly, very very slowly, kill him for about 10% before my friends told me to stop wasting the time of the PUG people. I granted their request to no longer grace the group with my greatness and switched to ret for the last boss. Somehow having far superior gear in a role that I am more experience with led to a better outcome.

I'll heal some more. Some. 

At least Engineering is supposed to do that, but Blacksmithing is terrifying

| Sunday, July 13, 2014
Copper. Tin. Iron. So far, so good. These are all fairly safe things. What about mithril. Is it dangerous to smelt and work with it in an open setting in the middle of a major city? Or worse, an unventilated room?

Then there's thorium. That's a nuclear fuel. Can you imagine if people were commonly melting down uranium, purifying it, and then making armor with that? What happens to the slag? Do we purify it to get the more or less radioactive isotopes? What about the radium that is generated by decaying thorium? Powdered thorium can spontaneously burn in air at near-normal temperatures, though that's true of many metals. It should have no problem exploding in a forge.

Just to the next expansion and we're working with fel iron. Fel iron? As in, iron that has been corrupted by demonic energy? It's not as if we forge it into something that isn't demonic, making either fel iron bars or felsteel. That is followed by adamantium, which is likely mostly safe, and given the willingness of vendors to purchase it, seems to have some ability to be recycled. Due to its name and rarity, I'd guess that khorium is terribly radioactive or in some way unstable. Why we would then mix that with demon-tainted iron is anyone's guess.

Cobalt. Well cobalt doesn't sound so scary, right? It really isn't, except for cobalt-rich ores tending to produce arsenic when smelted. It is named from kobold (which means goblin). And for some reason, despite being commonly found as a by-product of copper production in real life, it is instead found in pure form and is never seen during copper production. Perhaps it isn't actually cobalt and we've been working with some terrifying other mineral. Or it comes from meteor impacts. But how often do we see meteors? How much more often do we see infernals crash down?

Saronite is the blood of an Old God.

Elementium and Obsidium don't sound like anything all that scary, though it is a little odd that we only discover the latter after Deathwing triggers the Cataclysm. The original elementium was also an extraordinarily rare and expensive alloy created from a variety of materials recovered from hostile elementals. The new version is much easier to find and smelt, but is entirely incompatible, suggesting that, despite having the same name, it is something different. What are we working with? Pyrite is a sulfur-iron compound, which seems dangerous to be smelting, and who knows how we're turning that into something other than poor-quality iron bars.

Ghost iron.

Kyparite, as best as I can tell, is fossilized amber. That's where you get transgender dinosaurs, a stirring soundtrack, and certain death.

Engineering is supposed to be horribly dangerous and irresponsible. But blacksmithing? No one said that it would be hammering radiation, demons, ghosts, and congealed madness into armor.

Cobalt: This one weird ore that can make you lose your mind in just a few minutes

| Thursday, July 10, 2014
Why it was okay that fel iron and cobalt were annoying to find

Once upon a time when leveling took a while, it was not unreasonable to need a lot of a crafting material to level the profession. You'd be out in the world so much that you were bound to get what you needed. Ores such as cobalt were widely-dispersed and tricky to gather without flying mounts. Yet you got them.

Upon hitting the cap, you likely needed the other ores more. So there were more of them. Saronite could come out the wazoo. Adamantium could also come out the wazoo. Meanwhile, fel iron would remain persistent even in higher level zones because it was still needed for high level items.

These are all fine and dandy when you're in a leveling-capping situation. These days, it becomes a problem. You may level out of the cobalt zones before you've naturally farmed enough. Then you're in the saronite-flooded zones for plenty long, a situation made especially noticeable thanks to the level 80 start on Cata, rather than the 58-60 or 68-70 that could fudge the starts and ends of continents a bit. So you have saronite out the wazoo, but there aren't capped crafters setting ten dozen stacks of saronite ore on fire to make a single "Boots of the Pretty Good That Can Get you Started on Raiding".

There are two ways to fix this. One way is to slow down leveling. The other is to replace some saronite with cobalt. My money is on the Third Way: ignore the problem.

Shared Health

| Monday, July 7, 2014
What if groups shared a health pool?

Incoming damage is calculated, and able to be seen, individually (no hiding that you were in the fire). It then feeds into a larger, combined health pool. Overall damage taken in unchanged. If the entire raid takes damage, then the proportional spike is as big as ever. If a particular player takes damage, just as much healing is needed. But, the spikes that hit individual players are proportionally smaller relative to the health pool, giving more time to deal with such things. More importantly, this cuts the number of health bars to deal with by 80%. Now the 25-man raid has as many health bars as a five-man instance.

I'd heal that.

Coming tomorrow, the post you've all been waiting for: Cobalt ore.

That guy who leaves the party and comes back and then pretends he never actually left...

| Saturday, July 5, 2014
It just leaves us thinking that he spent the past two hours in the bathroom.

Apparently at some point I stopped writing posts. I cannot imagine that it was because I had nothing to complain about. Here, a list:

  • Requiring specific BGs for the legendary cloak
  • PvP pet battles
  • My inability to ignore cross-server
  • Healing
  • Not having three specs
  • PvP having a gear grind
  • Not being Horde (I admit it, I think male trolls and female blood elves look awesome)
  • Cobalt nodes
  • The next expansion (nothing in particular; I just get angry at change)
  • My usual bank alt name being unavailable on Blackhand
  • Healers who heal DPS who pull
  • DPS being allowed to talk
  • Groups that don't kill Ahune during the first submerge
  • The valor cap during the Have Lots of Valor in-game event
  • The lack of target dummies for healing

Where does one start? By putting that in another post, of course!

In the meantime, some positive things. I'll try not to make this a habit.

Despite three months to do so, I have not yet been fired. Madison has a lot of farmers markets. I met some cool people. I'm moving to a larger apartment. There is a bag of popcorn just out of reach, so that if I really want it, I can get it, but I won't waste it on a stupid whim (sorry, I might have just slipped into another complaint about badly-implemented 'accessibility'). And I'm still playing WoW, alongside a few other games.

Even if not great, Hearthstone is still really good

| Tuesday, May 20, 2014
I've been having a lot of fun in Hearthstone. I saw the potential for more fun and decided to pay actual money to buy a lot of packs. This increased the fun.

With a flood of cards I was able to fill in a lot of decks, and create a lot of possibilities for new ones. These are no mere Lots of Powerful Cards decks. They have themes, ideas, goals. The cards are meant to work together. While certainly some of the increased fun comes from having a generally more powerful set of cards to draw from, at least as much comes from the greater complexity as I can call on a wider variety of mechanics and find new ways for them to fit together.

At the simple end this just means a rogue Combo mechanic: play one card and the next is more powerful. This creates some same-turn order of operations to consider. Throw in something like a Gadgetzan Auctioner and Violet Teacher and it turns into a spellcasting deck. Alternatively, I could have tried for a weapon-based deck, filled with daggers, poisons, and some minions and affect or are affected by weapons. The latter isn't as much fun for me; it's too direct.

Somewhere in the middle is my warrior deck based on enrage mechanics. It has a lot of minions with enrage and a lot of abilities that cause minor amounts of damage. This makes attacking a delicate matter for both me and my enemy. The minions don't have a great deal of health, so the line between enraged and dead is very thin. Frankly, this deck doesn't work particularly well; I need to get more charge effects in so minions don't just get knocked out after they enter. But it can be a bit of fun.

At the extreme other end is my priest. By itself it isn't particularly powerful. I don't have any cards in it that will win a game. Instead, it's based entirely on stealing my opponent's power. I copy their cards, I mind-control their minions, I clone them, and then I kill them. This gives it an element of unpredictability as I could steal great cards, or terrible ones. As for cloning, I don't know what my opponent might play, let alone when, so I have to guess based on what is on the board and what strategy they might be using. It also means that I have to play two heroes at once: my priest and whoever I stole from.

I love my priest deck. It's an absolute blast, at least for me. I suspect my opponents hate it, because so much of it consists of stealing anything good they have and turning it against them. But that just makes it their own fault. I don't even have Velen, let alone two, so it's not my fault if I cast a Holy Nova for 8 damage and healing.

Vash'jir was the best zone in Cataclysm

| Friday, May 16, 2014
It's like they say, "Second time's the charm." They were too impatient for the third. Anyway, I ran Vash'jir on my warlock. It was pretty awesome.

The first time around I just entirely missed the story. I read the quests, but I never put them together into a complete story. I missed the forest for the greens.

Speaking of greens, it's pretty. I didn't realize just how much better it looks than Hyjal. Of course by the story they're telling, Hyjal is supposed to be a dark, burnt-out, smoke-filled wasteland. It's not a failure to deliver, I just didn't like what they were delivering. In general, my favorite zones are green, orange, or white. Grizzly Hills: green and awesome. Durotar, Silithus, and Barrens: orange and nostalgia-filled. Alterac Valley, Storm Peaks, Winterspring: white and filled with awesome, nostalgia, and excellent music. On the other hand, Icecrown is white, but also very dark, so maybe it's more like grey, and I really only like it because fighting with the Ebon Blade is just plain fun.

Vash'jir is colorful, but not garish. It isn't filled with humming purple crystals. On the other hand, if you pop up to the surface, it's just flat. The island over which we're fighting is a small atoll, of no use except as a naval base to attack Stormwind. It's obviously just a battle for the sake of a war. The water is flat, perfectly flat, without any features at all. Maybe that's lazy design, but it's also perfect for indicating that you are in the middle of nowhere, stranded.

That's the story: war and folly leaving us stranded. I'd somehow managed to miss that this isn't a zone of triumphant victory. It's us sailing off to glorious battle and getting our asses handed to us by a much worse enemy. It's an entire zone of us fleeing for our lives, trying to accomplish a little bit while we can. We're not rescuing lost marines out of kindness, but out of absolute necessity: we have no reserves, no backup, and no army. We cobble together a decent fight here and there, only to retreat when we find that our enemy is orders of magnitude more powerful than we expected. At the end of the zone we lose.

In Hyjal, despite the gloominess of it all, we won, driving out Ragnaros, rejuvenating large parts of the land, waking the ancients, and killing a whole lot of Twilight cultists along the way. It's essentially an unending march toward victory. Vash'jir is a beautiful zone of crushing defeat. Yet, it's not entirely a lost cause. We accomplish a lot while we're there, dealing major blows to the Naga and Old Gods; it's just not enough.

I like a little desperation in a story. I like the feeling that our victory is not pre-ordained, but is something that we will struggle for, and not get the first time around. While Hyjal consisted of us waking up the ancients so they could do the heavy lifting for us, Vash'jir was us doing the hard work, and everyone got creative with everything from improvised explosives to finding air to breathe.

My title might be hyperbole, since I think Twilight Highlands was great, particularly on a PvP server, but Vash'jir is definitely competitive, and makes the other zones look simplistic, ugly, and boring in comparison.

The Cruelty of the Server Transfer

| Friday, May 9, 2014
Transferring characters feels weird. It's like moving, but when you can go back anytime, and you're the people left behind too.

I imagine that, if they could thin, those characters would be rather angry. In the time leading up to the transfer they may have dramatic shifts in their routines. The bank alt is in a rush to move inventory. The farmers stop. The character who is moving shifts into a bag-emptying mode, trying to maximize space for all the things that they'll be ferrying.

The characters may have once been part of an integrated economy. Resources would flow between them. The main always got the profits, or was reserved the right to anything it wanted, but there remained some back and forth. An alt might raise a trade skill, get gold for flying, or some few scraps of gear. It wasn't much, but it was something slipping out of the tight fists of the main character.

Soon before the move, one character after another is forced to mail off most or all of their gold. Items that cannot be sold on the auction house may be liquidated at a vendor.

The flow of resources moves in one direction from then on. It is a black hole.

Once it has moved, the main becomes a white hole. A bank alt is created and resources pour out to it. Other alts may be born, also receiving a large flow of resources. Where once there was nothing, from the main grows a new economy.

Yet, do not mistake this for growth. There is left behind a cast of characters. They once picked, mined, skinned, disenchanted, and looted just as well, if not better, than these new alts. They aren't destroyed, not exactly, but where they once had a purpose, to support the main and to grow around it, they are now disconnected, adrift, and without purpose.

As the cycle repeats itself with the main seeker further, greener pastures, more alts are born and left to rot. Eventually some may be deleted to make room for new ones. Most will be insignificant losses, generic names of generic characters who were never interesting enough to play. For them it is a mercy, created with the intention, but not devotion, to be played. The names recycle, the character spaces open up, and the account goes on.

The server list remains littered with broken character stables: bank alts, particular farming professions, a profession alt who could have been somebody, could have been a crafter. They might, at times, reignite when an alt looks interesting, like a stray gas cloud falling into a dwarf star. For the briefest of moments it may ignite, yet will likely grow dim again.

But once or twice, that cloud was enough to light a spark, to draw in more, and to make a blazing sun big enough to form its own solar system of characters. And then, it too collapses into a black hole as it prepares to leave. And this is a science fiction black hole in which a black hole of the same mass as the star it came from has a greater gravitational pull, rather than less after blasting out a whole lot of matter.
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