Saturday, 19 July 2008

Its' Baseless Speculation Time!

So, you might have noticed a little bit of hubub in the last day or so when Blizzard lifted the NDA, kicked off the open beta of WotLK, and information started pouring out.

Happily, we've finally gotten a look at what new talents and abilities Hunters will have come WotLK.  Since it seems to be the "hip" thing to be doing right now, here's my take on some of the changes:

Being Talented

Master's Call [NYI]
Rank 1/1
7% of base mana 40 yd range
Instant cast 1 min cooldown
Your pet attempts to remove all stun and movement impairing effects on the target, and cause them to be immune to all effects for 4 sec.

This apparently is replacing Animal Handler.  For the life of me, I cannot see how Blizzard is going to rationalise this.  I mean, it's cool and all, but how exactly does an animal make someone immune to movement impairing effects?

Believe it or not, Tiddles is actually not at all qualified to perform amputations...

Perhaps it's best not to ask...

Cobra Strikes
Rank 3/3
You have a 60% chance when you critically hit with Arcane Shot, Steady Shot or Kill Shot to cause your pet's next 3 special attacks to critically hit.

I find this interesting since it basically increases your pet's ability to keep Frenzy up (heck; maybe we could drop another point from it!)  But by itself, it's not that incredible.  That's why I want to pair it with:

Rank 2/2
When your pet scores a critical hit with a special ability, you instantly regenerate 2% mana.

Let's do a little light theorycrafting.  Currently, I have ~20% crit, and an attack speed of 1.74 seconds.  Averaging that out, that means I'm hitting a target ~1.15 times a second with a 1:1 rotation.  Taking a 20% crit rate, that's 0.23 crits per second.  Which is 0.14 Cobra Strike procs per second.  Now, let's assume that Cobra Strikes doesn't proc again until our pet has gotten his three specials off.  We'll also assume we have a focus dump, and that we can supply him with enough focus to keep using it.

Combined with 2/2 Invigoration, three crits per Cobra Strikes proc, 0.14 procs per second and a base of 6200 mana, that's:

~0.14 procs per second × 3 crits per proc × (2% of 6200 mana) per crit = ~51 mana per second

That's about 256 MP5.  You'd need to be able to supply your pet with 17 focus per second; according to Cheeky's spreadsheet, I'm currently at 24 focus per second.  What's interesting is that also according to Cheeky's, I use 69 mana per second during my 1:1 rotation, which is about 347 MP5.   Let's switch on Viper, which gives me (in the average case) 87 MP5.  That means if I got just 4 MP5 from other sources, I'd never actually run out of mana...

Beast Mastery [NYI]
Rank 1/1
You master the art of Beast Training, teaching you the ability to tame Exotic pets and increasing your total amount of Pet Skill Points by 5.

This, right here, is huge.  Let's deal with the second half first.

... increasing your total amount of Pet Skill Points by 5.

For those that aren't aware, loyalty and the Training Point system is being thrown out for a simpler talent-like system.  Starting at level 20, pets will get one Skill Point every four levels to spend in their talent tree (each pet family has access to one of the three pet talent trees that will be available.)  That makes for a total of 16 points at level 80 (not 15 as most people seem to think; they're forgetting the point you get at level 80.)

This means that BM hunters will have access to 21 points.  But there obviously has to be somewhere to spend those points.  Additionally, I don't think Blizzard will have the talent trees set up in such a way that allows BM hunters to completely max their pet out, so we can probably assume that pet talent trees will have at least 26, maybe 31 points you can potentially spend in them.  The only question now is whether this will allow BM hunters to "back-fill" their pets' talents, or go deeper into the tree into some 21-point über talents.

The other half is also really interesting.  As you should be aware, there are various beasts that are simply not tameable by hunters.  For example, there is no tameable basilisk or mana wyrm in the game, despite these being beasts.

Some have speculated that this will allow hunters to tame any mob categorised as a "beast," but I don't think that's likely.  For example, Marsh Walkers are beasts.  Now, having one of those as a pet would be so far off the "awesome scale" that we'd have to get a rocket scientist in to figure out where the needle went, but I really doubt Blizzard would allow it.

Also, notice how "Exotic" is capitalised; that makes it a proper noun which suggests that instead of the current "Tameable/Not Tameable" status of beasts, it'll become "Tameable/Not Tameable/Exotic."

None the less, whether or not this is as awesome as it sounds depends entirely on what pets Blizzard makes Exotic.  Remember that in the new system, every pet will have access to a particular talent tree and a family-unique ability.  Some ideas that spring to mind:

  • Basilisks: tanking tree, Hypnotic Gaze ability.  Depending on how long the gaze ability works, you could even make Basilisks utility pets, and have them as a form of temporary, emergency CC.

  • Hyppogryphs: dps tree, Wing Flap ability, or maybe Swoop.  And tanks think wind serpents are bad!  These could actually be pretty horrible (for the opposing team) in PvP; you could use them to knock players away from yourself if they get too close (or to throw defenders off the cliff at the Lumber Mill or the bridge in AV...)  Or if they had swoop, it'd give BM hunters a semi-frequent spell interrupt.

  • Mana Wyrms: utility tree, Mana Burn ability.  Yes, a mana-drain pet.  Just imagine the QQing that would result from caster arena teams...

There actually aren't that many pet families that aren't already tameable and aren't obviously ridiculous.  But who knows; maybe there'll be some utterly awesome pets in Northrend that only BM hunters can tame!

(Of course, it could also be pointless where all the Exotic pets are inferior to regular pets in every respect, but let's not be too negative!)

Careful Aim
Rank 3/3
Increases your ranged attack power by an amount equal to 100% of your total Intellect.

That's pretty interesting; being in the second tier of Marksmanship, it'll allow hunters to stack a bit more Intellect.  The problem is that in terms of stats, Intellect "costs" twice as much as Attack Power.  For example, for any gem that gives you +8 Intellect, you could have gotten a gem of the same quality with +16 Attack Power.  Still, even if you don't stack more Intellect, it's an extra few hundred AP.

Improved Tracking [NYI]
Rank 5/5
Increases all damage done to targets that are being tracked 5%.

This is exactly eight kinds of awesome.  That's how many things we can track.  It basically boils down to a flat 5% increase in all damage on everything except things that are invisible (which we can't really shoot anyway,) and unclassified things like bugs.

Even better, it's a first tier talent in Survival.  I'm seriously considering dropping Aimed Shot and Rapid Killing to get this puppy...

There are more talents than the above, but they're the ones that interest me as a BM-centric hunter.  If you want to play around with them, MMO Champion have a hunter talent calculator.

L33t Pet Skillz

As I said before, pets are now moving on to a talent-like system.  In addition to the three talent trees (DPS, tanking and "utility,") there is also going to be one family-specific ability for each family.  Thanks to Wowhead's WotLK subsite, I've managed to put together a list of all known family-specific pet abilities:

  • Bad Attitude - there's no apparent limit to the number of times this can happen, so I suspect this is going to work as reactive damage.  Combined with Crocolisk's +10% bonus to armor, could Blizz be intending them to be the AoE tanking pet?

  • Dust Cloud - This looks to be a pretty powerful debuff, exclusive to Tallstriders.  Averaged out, it works out to be a 12% reduction in chance to hit.

  • Gore - Now exclusive to Boars.  Sorry, Ravagers...

  • Nether Shock - Can you say "tactical deprivation of heals in arena?"  Sure, I knew you could.  At least now Nether Rays are useful!

  • Pin - Well, it's got a crab for an icon, so I assume this is what crabs are getting.  It's interesting; a combined root and dot that also roots the pet.  This could make for an interesting tanking ability for saving squishies and stopping runners.

  • Ravage - Being able to stun with your Ravager would be great for saving squishies or just legging it.  Sadly, this also means that Ravagers lose Gore.  But then, I've never been fond of the Spiky Nightmare Clowns, so I'm not terribly fussed.

  • Savage Rend - One of my mum's hunters has a pet raptor.  Named "Wally."  I just can't stop laughing at the thought of something being torn apart by a vicious raptor named Wally.

  • Serenity Dust - Something to note about this one.  It says "moth" in the tooltip.  We can't tame moths.  Well, I guess come WotLK we will be able to tame them (although whether they'll be "Exotic" or not remains to be seen.)  Aside from that, it's a pretty amazing buff; +10% AP and a 2415 HoT once every 2 minutes.  I'm not sure where this will place moths in terms of being a tanking/grinding/raiding pet though.

  • Snatch - First of all, I can see this really annoying rogues.  This is a good thing.  This is for owls, so this should make Tux (and Pike) happy.  Owls get this in exchange for losing Screech; though you can sort of think of this as a single-target version of screech...

  • Sonic Blast - Basically Ravage, except it does slightly less damage, it does nature damage instead of (presumably) physical damage, and it's icon is a bat as opposed to a gaping, blood-soaked maw.  Since there aren't any hedgehogs in WoW, I suppose this must be for bats.

  • Spore Cloud - Only does 6 DPS, but I suspect the 700 armor reduction is more the point.  It's also fairly obvious that this is for Spore Bats; this will make them pretty damned effective against casters.

  • Swipe - Aside from being another ability starting with "s," this is the family ability for Bears.  They're like baby durids!

  • Tendon Rip - Pretty simple snare; likely to be popular in PvP since the pet could potentially keep it up 30% of the time.  Pity it's only available on Hyenas...

  • Web - How I shot web?  Spider is shot web!

If I haven't mentioned a pet family, it's because it's ability is already in-game.  It looks like we're going to have way more choices for viable pets come WotLK.  It's also worth mentioning that every pet has either Dash or Dive, as well as one of Bite, Claw or Smack.

That said, Wowhead has a number of other pet abilities in their WotLK database that aren't family-exclusive:

  • Bullheaded - After having Tiddles get netted by those bloody Sunfury Archers, I say: bring it on!

  • Call of the Wild - Sadly, nothing to do with making the target run around trying to find a bathroom...

  • Carrion Feeder - Man, and I thought Cannibalise was nasty...  I mean, the health is one thing, but regenerating happiness?!  Just imagine this in PvP, though...

  • Charge - Strangely, what used to be the defining ability of boars is now available to Cats, Hyenas, Raptors, Tallstriders and Wolves... but not boars.  Poor piggies are being hit with the nerf bat pretty hard lately...

  • Dying Bite - This is the last thing you need to be worried about if you've killed my pet.

  • Heart of the Phoenix - One thing BRK has advocated before is putting points into Improved Revive Pet for high-end raiding, since losing your pet early in the fight translates to a 30% drop in DPS.  This may make that unnecessary.

  • Intervene - I'm sorry; I just can't take this ability seriously when it's using a picture of a turtle.

  • Last Stand - Remember when BRK had that big thing about not needing tanks come WotLK?  Yeah, I'm beginning to think he might have been right.  All hail the Panzer Turtle!

  • Lick Your Wounds - This + Mend Pet + Moth = Invincipet!  (Yes, I realise it's channelled; I just wanted to say "Invincipet.")

  • Rabid - The only way this could be cooler was if it actually turned your pet into a Rabbid.

  • Roar of Fortitude - A nice little buff for the melee peeps.

  • Roar of Recovery - ... Are we even going to need mana pots come WotLK?

  • Swoop - this one's for carrion birds and "undefined."  More un-announced pet families, methinks.

  • Taunt - Wow; snap aggro for pets.  Very nice.

  • Wolverine Bite - What's odd is that it only has one rank, and it's available at level 30.

We're Gonna Have To Find More Action Slots...

You may have noticed, while reading about the Hunter talents, that two abilities are mentioned several times:

  • Bear Trap - So a combination of Freezing Trap and Immolation Trap.  Plus, it's got an awesome name: Bear Trap.  As Forthus suggested, disarming a Bear Trap should trigger every Bear Traps in a 40 yard radius.

  • Kill Shot - For comparison, under normal circumstances, this does less damage (both over time and per mana) than Arcane Shot, on the same cooldown.  Against wounded targets, it does way more damage and becomes incredibly mana-efficient.  Awesome.

So that's about it for mechanical changes to our class thus far.  That said, there might still be a few surprises down the line for us considering that Hunters were one of the last classes to be worked on.  Only time will tell, but right now things are looking pretty good.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Fur Is Not Chainmail

Update: a few minutes after publishing this, I found a pretty nasty mistake in the spreadsheet's workings.  Basically, I was taking the difference between the base armor/resistance mitigation and the full mitigation in the wrong place, throwing the results way off.  I've re-written my conclusions appropriately.  This is why one shouldn't be theorycrafting at 6AM, even when suffering from extreme insomnia.

There's a serious problem with pet talent calculators.  Something I'd half-expected Wowhead to get right, but apparently not.

The problem is that while they go to all that trouble to give you a pretty talent window with shiny icons, and making sure you don't spend more points than you have...

...none of them tell you what the talents do.

Oh sure, they'll tell you that Rank 10 of Great Stamina gives your pet an additional 40 stamina.

Great.  Fantastic.


It's a bit like going into a quaint little bakery in a small town, and asking of the proprietor the contents of his pies.  He then launches into an in-depth exposition on the low-level chemical composition of the pies, what particular local supplier he purchased the meat from, etc.

And then you say, "that's all well and good, but what do they taste like?"

The baker replies: "I have no idea."

This is not, on the whole, desperately helpful.

This looks like a job for theorycrafting!  After a number of hours of fiddling randomly with a spreadsheet, as well as referring to Petopia [1], I came up with the Pet Calculator.  This should work in pretty much everything except Microsoft Office; if you're using that, you might want to try the OpenDocument Format plugin.  If there's demand, I'll try to rig up something for the Excel users, but without a copy of Excel, there's only so much I can do.

Before I go further, I just want to point out that the working in this spreadsheet could be, and the first time I published this was, wrong.  That said, I've now double-checked it a few more times, gone over my reasoning again, and can't see anything obviously wrong with it.  If you do find something wrong or just suspicious, please let me know.

Usage is pretty simple: on the first sheet, you plug in the various bits of information it demands of you like so:

These are the details for Tiddles and myself.  You just need to edit the non-bold cells to match you and your pet's stats.  Once you've told the spreadsheet all this, it will update the output section with the results.

The first two, "Pet Health" and "Pet Armor" should be pretty close to what's reported in-game.  I've seen a few points difference here and there, but it's possible that it's just rounding differences.

"Effective Health" is talking about how much actual damage your pet can take, after taking armor and magical resistances into account, before going to the big stable in the sky.

"Absorption contribution" tells you how much of that effective health each of the Greater Stamina, Natural Armor and Resistance pet talents are responsible for.  For stamina, this is just done by applying all the various modifiers to the stamina granted by Great Stamina and then converting it into health.

Armor and magical resistance is a little trickier: these are computed by working out the effective health (including base armor, armor and resistance from the hunter, etc.) followed by the effective health assuming we didn't have any points in Natural Armor of one of the resistance talents.  We subtract the latter from the former, and this gives us the extra absorption spending those points give us.  It's important to do it like this because the benefit provided by armor and resistances aren't linear; computing them by themselves would give an inflated result.

Finally, "Absorption per point" just takes the absorption contribution and divides through by the number of training points you spent on that talent.  In this case, we can see that magical resistances are incredibly point-efficient compared to stamina and armor, by a full order of magnitude in the case of the former.

This lets you play around with theoretical set-ups; for example, investing 150 TP into Greater Stamina will give you just over half the absorption that those same points in Natural Armor would have given you.  But of course, that's only in the case of physical damage.

Magical Resistance is also interesting.  Rank 5 of any magical resistance will give you almost four times the absorption of stamina, at just under half the point cost.

That said, the resistance talents seem to give the biggest bang for the buck.  Taking a Sporebat as an example, max ranks of Stamina and Armor only provide 5% and 8% of the final absorption respectively.  That said, with rank 11 of Great Stamina, max rank Magical Resistance provides a whopping 30% of the final absorption.

Now, generalisations are always bad, and you should take your own circumstances into account, but it seems that in general:

  • Natural Armor is better mitigation for the points than Great Stamina is, assuming you're only interested in physical damage.  That said, since the amount of absorption armor gives is relative to the amount of health you have, Great Stamina actually increases the effectiveness of Natural Armor.  Might be interesting to set up a graph of the two...

  • That said, choosing to put points in one or the other exclusively, Stamina and Armor end up being about the same effective health for physical damage, but with Stamina also boosting your effective health against magical damage.

  • Irrespective of that, Magical Resistance blows them both out of the water and into orbit.

So there you go.  Plug your pet and yourself in and see what happens.  If you're looking to max out your pet's health, and just want numbers to plug into the pet training window without having to read all of that pesky text; assuming a baseline pet (like a Sporebat) with max-rank Bite or Claw, Rank 2 Avoidance and Rank 1 Cobra Reflexes plus 15 TP spent on a family-specific talent (leaving 266 TP to play with):

  • Rank 11 Great Stamina and Rank 5 Natural Armor seems to give the best physical absorption.

  • Rank 9 Great Stamina and Rank 5 Magical Resistance seems to give the best magical absorption.

If you want a bit of both, you'll just have to decide for yourself.

Again, if you spot anything wrong with this post or the spreadsheet, let me know.

  1. Some have claimed that Wowhead's introduction of pet comparison tables, pet talent calculators, etc. have made Petopia obsolete.  This is complete rubbish; where, pray tell is Wowhead's detailed tables of base pet statistics, or their pages on the formulae underpinning hunter pet health and armor?

    Don't get me wrong: the new Wowhead stuff is very cool.  They've got the best pet talent calculator I've seen, and the tables are much easier to use than static ones on Petopia.  But Petopia is still t3h awesome.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

My You Eye

Originally, I was going to do this post using an awesome interactive SVG that you could zoom in on, and you could mouse-over any UI element to see a tooltip of what it was, why it was there, and a link to download it.

Except that, despite being a seven year old standard, IE still doesn't support it.  Instead they'd rather support their proprietary WPF format, which is almost the same thing.  I hate Microsoft so very much at times.

For the love of all that's good and fuzzy, please stop using IE.  You're making the web developers cry.

Anyway, enough politics.  Here's my UI in all its needlessly complicated glory; note that if you see a little   WowAce icon, it means that addon can be updated with the WowAce Updater (which, rather depressingly, requires Internet Explorer to install unless you want to be tricksy, but... no, not going off on a tangent!)  On to the UI!

Here's a relatively low-resolution shot of my UI, for reference.

Or you can view a 960 x 600 version (192 kB) or 1920 x 1200 version (967 kB).

  1. This is my Outfitter bar.  It lists various outfits that I can switch between by clicking on the appropriate icon.  Shown on the bar at the moment are two primary sets: "Birthday suit" and Normal.  The remaining icons are for "accessory sets" which simply change certain slots and don't define a complete set.  These are my fishing, grinding, max-dps, fire festival, parachute and raiding sets.

  2. This is the quest tracker provided by QuestsFu, which is part of   FuBar 3.0.  I hate this quest.  So very much.  It takes hours upon hours to complete, and you get a stupid rejuvenation potion for your trouble.  Why do I even bother with that thing?

  3. This is a neat addon called   Nudge.  Basically, if I'm out of range it's red, if I'm in range it's blue and if I'm in melee range it's green.  I've made it exceedingly wide so that I can always catch the colour in my peripheral vision.

  4. These are my item cooldowns, provided by   Cooldown Timers 2.  These bars aren't in this spot any more; they're over by #5; I just haven't taken a new screenshot since then.

  5. This is   Elkano's BuffBars.  What's cool about this is that, although you can't see it here, you can filter different buffs/debuffs into different groups.  Each group can then either be free-floating, or anchored to another group.  Above the list of buffs is a (presently) empty Paladin block that shows up all the various Paladin auras, blessings and seals.

    Let this be a lesson in always making sure you make changes in the right profile, or your hunter will end up with a Paladin-centric buff display.  Oh well.

  6. Again, this is Cooldown Timers 2, this time showing my ability cooldowns.  Of course, the main point of this is to show how long until your traps are ready (which you can't see here since I didn't drop one.)

  7. This message is generated by   TopScore Fu.  The addon keeps track of your highest damage (and/or healing) records with individual abilities and overall, with and without crits.  But it also does something way cooler: it can be configured to take a screenshot when you get a new record.

    Why is this so awesome?  Because you'll end up with a massive collection of screenshots documenting your character's progress in the game.  It's awesome to be able to go back years and reminisce.

  8. Here be   Quartz.  The main bar is the cast bar (with the red area denoting what my current latency to the server is,) the red "blip" above that is my GCD timer, and the white bar above that is my autoshot timer.

    And before anyone mentions it, yes the cast bar was pasted in from another screenshot, since you'd be surprised how hard it is to get all of this crap on-screen at once...

  9. This is Kharthus' Hunter Timers [1].  This shows the duration of things.  The real draw card for this is that it shows you how long you have left on your traps before they disappear, and how long until a trap's effect wears off.

  10. My primary unit frames are taken care of with   PitBull.  The middle two are fairly obvious: myself and my target.  To the left is my pet and my pet's target, above that is my focus and my focus' target and to the right is my target's target and target's target's target.  Above and to the right, which isn't visible in this shot, is the unit under my mouse cursor, and their target.

    What is this excessive of which you speak?

  11. My party and raid frames are done with   Grid.  I used to have larger frames until I realised that I didn't really need them.  In this particular case, I've got Grid along with Grid Mana Bars.  The little red dot in the upper-left corner of K's frame denotes that he has aggro.  Since he has a rage bar, this is a good thing.

  12. The experience bar (or in this case, reputation bar) is courtesy of Trinity XP (part of Trinity Bars 2.)

  13. The bottom area of the screen is carved out and given a little sprucing up thanks to Sunn Art.  Specifically, I'm using the Tribal texture (which is part of the base Sunn Art package, although there are a number of additional art packs.)  I love this texture because of the gilded golden border at the top which is just right for fitting my XP/reputation bar into it.

  14. As far as I'm aware, all of the various chat modifications I have are done by   Chatter.  Except for blacking out the names: that's done in an image editor.  :P

  15. Mah pet bar, thanks to Trinity Bars 2.

  16. Mah main action bar, again thanks to Trinity Bars 2.  This is more complex than it first appears.  If you look carefully at the letters on the buttons, you'll see they read:

    1, 2, 3, 4, R, F, V, C, X, Z, -, =

    Now, imagine you've got your fingers resting on the normal WASD movement keys.  Ignoring the last two, look at where those keys are: they're the keys that wrap around the movement keys.  This means I can hit any action on that bar (except for food and drink) without moving my left hand.

    But there's more: there's a second, separate set of actions bound to those keys plus the Ctrl modifier.  If you count the pet bar (which is bound to Ctrl+Shift+[1..Z]) I can hit any one of 30 actions without moving my hand at all.

    What's more, most of those actions are themselves macros that have different behaviours.  For example, 2 is a macro that fires Serpent Sting normally, or Scorpid Sting if I hold down Alt.  F doubles as both regular Arcane Shot and my pull-shot.  I think the only one that isn't a macro of some kind is Multishot, and that's only because I've never needed Tranquilizing Shot, nor do I have any macro slots left...

    And people wonder how I run circles around them while smacking them with instant shots and stings while micromanaging my pet...

  17. This here be   FuBar 3.0.  The modules (all of which are, as far as I know, available on the WowAce Updater) you can see, from left to right, are:

    • MoneyDetailFu — tracks where my money is coming from and where it's going.
    • MoneyFu — tracks how much money I have on each and all of my toons.
    • Omen — surely you know what this is, right?
    • Grid — just another way to access Grid's configuration.
    • Cooldown Timers 2 — one of the few ways to access CDT's configuration.
    • Visual Themes — ditto.
    • Skinner — as above.
    • ToFu — actually redundant with Quartz, shows how long left on a flight.  A.k.a. the "can I make a coffee in time" timer.
    • LocationFu — GPS for WoW.
    • DurabilityFu — now you have no excuse to turn up with damaged gear.  Well, except for the "I'm a dipstick" one.
    • AmmoFu — can haz boolets?
    • SpeedFu — surprisingly, this actually has a legitimate use: working out if your flying mount is level or not!
    • GarbageFu — firstly, it shows a list of all vendor trash in my bags when moused over, as well as their individual and total value.  But that's not the best part: if I Shift+Click on the icon, it will drop the contents of the least valuable inventory slot.  This way, you can minimise your losses when you run out of bag space.
    • SunnArt — see #13.
    • FishingBuddyFu — honestly don't use this much, since typing /fb is faster, and the rest of Fishing Buddy is mostly automatic.
    • DPS — don't really use this either since I have #26...
    • TopScoreFu — see #7.
    • QuestFu — see #2.
    • BagFu — tells me how many slots I have left before I have to drop my partial stack of Malfunctioning Basilisk Livers.  The horror!
    • RestFu — shows rested XP on my army of alts.
    • ExperienceFu — good for estimating how long until I level on an alt.  Also used for figuring out how long the elves around the mana-forge have been studiously not dropping those bloody plans.  Stingy bastards...
    • Elkano's BuffBars — configuration for #5.
    • ClearFont2 — basically does a bunch of font substitution jiggery-pokery to make text in-game nicer to read.
    • ClockFu — lets me know how long ago I was supposed to have gone to bed.  Bad Its!
  18. A miscellaneous bank of buttons controlled by Trinity Bars 2.  Mostly contains food, random quest items, macros, etc.  The lower nine buttons are bound the numeric pad.

  19. Mah minimap.  It was repositioned and resized using simpleMinimap.

  20. The mini menu bar, again from Trinity Bars 2.

  21. What a surprise: more Trinity Bars 2!  This set of three columns map to my Logitech G15's G keys.  The original, blue-backlit one, not the "I'm going to have to kill someone for this" crappy orange version.  Specifically, each column is a different mode's worth of G keys.  The actual binding itself and stylish red border showing the active mode are done using Its' G15 Binder.

    Modes 1 and 2 contains various things that doesn't actually get used all that often and mode 2 is the one I'm generally in.  Specifically, since G13-G18 can be reached with my pinky finger without having to move my left hand too much, it tends to contain the most oft-used things.  Most notable are my "God Mode" macro on G13, bandages on G16, my Zapthrottle Mote Extractor on G17 and my I Has Macro Lol macro on G18.

  22. It's another Trinity Bars 2 button!  This is my "panic" button; it's bound to numpad 0, which is nice and big, and very easy to hit with my right thumb.

  23. This is in two parts.  The upper row of buttons are my "quick" buttons.  Various things that I need quick access to, but don't want to hit by mistake.  From left to right, they are my mount macro, my pet control macro (combining Mend Pet, Call Pet and Revive Pet,) my gadget macro, my über trap macro and my powerup macro.

    The bottom row is basically the "stance" bar from Trinity Bars 2 that depends on my class.  For my hunter it's aspects, for a paladin it's auras and for a druid it's forms.  It's not actually bound to anything for Its, but for non-pet classes, this bar takes over the Ctrl+Shift+[1..Z] bindings.

  24. Amazingly, these two buttons aren't from Trinity Bars 2!  In fact, it's TrinketMenu.  If I mouse over the buttons, I can switch out trinkets with the left and right mouse buttons.  The buttons are also bound to Shift+5 and Ctrl+5, which activates the trinket in that slot.

  25. Well, that didn't last long: it's back to Trinity!  The left one is a pop-up bar; mouse over the hammer, and a vertical bar of professions shows up.  Saves a hell of a lot of space, that's for sure.  Other uses include Paladin seals, or Shammy totems.  The bag button, unsurprisingly, opens my bags.

  26. Here's   Recount.  Look at those numbers.  Beautiful, aren't they?

  27.   Omen.  If you don't have this, and you ever group with other people, you should hang your head in shame.

And now for the other things you can't see.

  •   ArkInventory: this thing is a God-send.  Here's a screenie so you know what I'm yammering on about:

    Basically, it pools all your storage into a single bag.  You then create a bunch of groups.  To each group you assign one or more categories or rules.  AI (ArkInventory, not Artificial Intelligence) will then sort your items into those groups for you.

    Take that screenshot for example.  I can find anything in my bags very quickly because things are always grouped together logically.

    That said, AI is not for the faint of heart.  It's incredibly time consuming to configure, and has a bad habit of not only getting confused about where a particular item is supposed to go (sometimes requiring you to either hand-edit or nuke your configuration to fix it.)  It's also one of the AddOns that can reportedly cause the "block too big" memory errors that will bring WoW to a screaming (followed by flaming and violently exploding) halt.  Usually six seconds after you start a boss fight in an instance.

    I've found that using /reloadui after each boss mitigates that.

    So yes, it's finicky, and makes WoW somewhat unstable, but that just gives you an idea of how unbelievably useful it is.

  • Beast Training: basically an improved beast training window that looks less like a trainer's list of skills and more like a talent window.

  • Bookworm: records any book (or plaque) that you read, and where you read it.  You can then go back and read them later on.  Gotta read 'em all!

  •   Cartographer: replaces the standard WoW map.  Among other things, it allows you to scale it, move it, show unexplored areas, add notes, make it transparent, and more.  When combined with   Cartographer_Data,   Cartographer_Herbalism and   Cartographer_Mining, it'll give you map locations for pretty much every herb and mineral node in the game.  Just like Gatherer, except without the annoying "having to find everything" step.

    However, also combine this with   Routes, and you can build up optimised mining/herbing routes for farming runs.

  • Clique: I'm still adjusting to using this, but I use it on my healery-type characters.  It lets me, for example, Shift+Click on someone to cast a full heal, Ctrl+Click to cast a HoT, or Ctrl+Right Click to dispell.  Pretty damn nifty.  That said, I do think I prefer mouse-over healing more (ie: set up your healing spells to cast at your mouse over target) since it allows me to not only heal people via unit frames, but I can also just point at them in the game world to heal them.

  • DoubleWide: because the normal cramped quest log is not fun.

  • EquipCompare: when you mouse over something that's equippable, it shows the tooltip for what you currently have equipped next to it.

  • ExpressMail: shift-click on a mail to loot an attached item.  Damn I love this thing.  Tekkub rules.

  •   GemHelper: used on Por; lets you filter your gem list based on colour, stats, quality, etc.

  •   GemList: one of those interactive "whisper me to search for gems" dealies.  That said, it doesn't look like it's maintained any more, so you might want to try   CraftList2.

  •   I Has Macro Lol: basically, this addon rewrites a particular macro slot depending on where you are.  This is hugely useful for daily quests.  By dragging the IHML macro to an action button (M2G18 in my case,) I can push that to take readings in the Spirit Fields, drop bombs in Skettis, phase shift in BEM, or plant the banner on IoQD.

  • Its' Happy Snaps: this basically takes a screenshot every 10% of a level, or when you ding a new level.  I wrote it so that I'd have a more complete history of my alts levelling up.  It's not published anywhere, but let me know if you're interested and I'll toss it up somewhere.

  • LightHeaded: basically, it's Wowhead's quest database, but accessible in-game.  Useful when you're on one of those quests with really vague and obtuse instructions.  Or, you know, ones where the directions are just outright wrong.

  •   MobHealth: because knowledge is power.  Or something.

  • OPie: this is a new addition to my UI.  Basically, I have it set up like so: I push a key combination, and a ring of actions shows up around my cursor.  I flick my mouse towards the action I want, let go of the key binding, and OPie executes that action.  As an example, I used to use the numpad for switching aspects which was a bad idea because it requires me to remove my hand from the mouse to do it.  Now, I have them arranged in a ring bound to Ctrl+E, so I don't need to move my hands.  I'm still getting used to it, but it's very promising at this point.

  •   PallyPower: obviously not visible in the screenshot for obvious reasons, this lets you track and manage Pally blessings.  Por would have gone mad if not for this.

  • Pawn: see my post on Pawn for more info.

  • PetEmote: because pets is peoples too.  Note that you'll probably want to re-write most of the emotes, since they're apparently translated into English and as a result, most of them sound... wrong.

  •   RatingBuster: summarises the difference between the item you're looking at and what you've got equipped.

  •   Skinner: no, not the principal.  It's what gives windows in WoW that nifty black gradient look.

  • TourGuide: I have four 70s, two per faction.  I've done, basically, every soloable quest in the game.  Repeatedly.  Levelling up is honestly nothing more than a chore for me because I've done it all before.  TourGuide is fantastic because it boils levelling up down to a list of "go here, do this" instructions that you can follow while more or less unconscious.  'Tis brillig.

  •   VisualHeal: a little bar that shows incoming heals on you and whoever you're casting a heal on; also shows what their estimated health will be when the heal completes.

  •   VisualThemes: makes stuff in WoW go whoosh.  Is pretty.

Well, that's most of them.  Yes, I said "most" as in "there are more."  But that should cover all the ones that are actually useful to other people.

  1. I realise that it's actually called "Kharthus's Hunter Timers," but I refuse to type such blatantly awful grammar.  Oh damnit!

Thursday, 10 July 2008

It's a Pity Enchants Don't Stack

Admittedly, it would be a tad overpowered.  I mean, that crappy pair of white bracers I have would make excellent T7 tanking gear with all the bonus stamina it'd have...

So in 24 hours, Porphyrria went from 65 enchanting to 250.  She'd been soloing lowbie instances for a while, and DE-ing the drops, so she had tons of dusts and essences to play with.  That said, about half of the skillups came from buying stuff off the AH.  Farming for enchanting mats becomes progressively less feasible the higher you get.  Not simply because the instances get harder, but because the drops get fewer and far between in longer and more complex instances.

I tried running ZF for some mats the other day, and spent 70% of my time chasing after casters.  In ZF, they have this nasty habit of running away at low health, but not coming back.  They just stay wandering around at extreme range, occasionally casting at you.  I once spent 20 minutes searching for one mob that had glitched up to a high bit of static geometry.  Since it wouldn't come back like most mobs do when they flee, even if it couldn't see me, it took another 5 minutes to kill it.  I couldn't really move on until I did because the damn thing was keeping me stuck in combat.

In the end, it was easier to simply buy the mats off the AH, or buy appropriately-levelled green gear off the AH and DE that.

As it stands, I need to get Por another 50 points in Enchanting before she can DE the massive stockpile of ilvl 115+ greens I have.  That's a problem because those 50 points require 400 Dream Dust (oh, and 10 Greater Nether Essence.)

This is either going to take an awful lot of dungeon runs, or a colossal number of monies.

That said, one good thing has come out of all this.  If you've ever tried to powerlevel enchanting, you know how much of a pain it is.

Move to left side of screen, click "Enchant," move to right side of screen, click item, move to top centre of screen, click "Yes."  Repeat until suicidal.

See, enchanters can't just queue up a dozen enchants, click "Make" and then go off and craft a cup of coffee or a sandwich.  We have to do them one at a bloody time, repeatedly telling the game that, yes, we really do want to enchant that.  YA RLY!

But I've found a way around it.

Macro the first: "Craft-It™"

/click CraftCreateButton

Macro the second: "Yes, Damnit™"

/click StaticPopup1Button1

Here's how you use them: put them both on buttons next to each other.  Open up the enchanting window, pick an enchant.  Now, enchant an item in your inventory.  I'm not 100% on this one, so make sure you're enchanting an item that's already enchanted; if it's not, enchant it once then do it again.  Click "Yes" when the dialog asks you.

Now, if you want to repeat the enchant on the same item, press the first macro followed immediately by the second.  No need to pause or anything; drum your fingers across if you like.  The game will dutifully repeat the enchantment you have selected on the last item you enchanted, and dismiss the confirmation dialog without ever actually showing it.

Now, you could probably combine those two macros together by pasting the contents of the second macro after the contents of the first macro.  The only reason I've used two macros up there is because that's what I tested with, and didn't think of combining them until two paragraphs ago.

When you've got to do 20 Greater Defense to Cloak enchants in a row, those macros are a God-send.

P.S.  This is my first attempt at using an SVG image.  There's a fallback for people using antiquated software created back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and Ansett was still in the air (I'm looking at you, Internet Explorer!) Let me know if there are any issues.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Of Badgers, Gear and Catch 22s

Badger of Justice
Binds when picked up
Requires Level 70

I has sum.

OK, not really.  But it's the funniest typo I've had thus far!

With the exception of one gear slot, I've now got the best gear I've been able to track down without having set foot in a heroic or raid, and without PvPing.  Apart from my Beast Lord Handguards which dropped a few hours ago, everything has been enchanted and gemmed as best I can afford.

Aside from killing Ikiss another half a billion times to get that bloody ring to drop, the next step in gear progression is going to have to be Kara or Heroics.

According to this Warcrafter profile, once I slap some gems and an enchant onto me gloves, I'll have  1434 RAP, 142 Hit Rating and 22.12% chance to crit.

This is a little depressing given that I've seen people saying that in order to start Kara, you need ~1600 RAP, 142 Hit Rating and 25% crit.

This plays into my next bit of news: I've done my first ever Heroic instance run.  I was somewhat surprised that I got into the group as easily as I did.  You see, every other time I've ever tried to get into an Heroic group, I've been turned away because I wasn't covered from head to toe in epics.  I once asked someone what they considered "sufficient" gear, and the reply I got was "T5/6."

This one didn't even ask what my gear was like; the leader only seemed to want to know whether I had the key and if I could trap.  Lucky for me, that's a "yes" on both counts.

When I got there, I noticed that everyone else in the group was in full epics.  Not PvP epics, either: proper Kara/ZA [1] epics.  All I had in the way of consumables were some Warp Burgers and Kibler's Bits [2].

I expected to come dead last after the healer on the damage meters.

Funny thing happened, though.

I came second, and not by a huge margin.  In case you're wondering, K is a mage, M is the pally tank, L is the pally healer, and E is the rogue.  No, I have no idea why E is where she is.  E had purples from Kara, ZA and even Gruul's.

But what really made me happy was that I was able to keep pace with an epiced-out mage with my (relatively speaking) crummy dungeon and quest blues.  I had to play to my limit: I blew my trinkets as often as I could, misdirecting on to the tank so I could open up sooner and harder... but I still did it.

The mage actually complimented me after the run on my performance, which was nice.

But really, the thing that this has hammered home for me is how unreasonable many groups seem to be these days.  I've been told that to do heroics, I need to be able to output over 700 dps.  In that run, I think I was sitting pretty much dead on 600 most of the time, and yet no one complained that I was being a burden, and the damage meters certainly don't suggest that.

But if they expect people to have full epics to do heroics... how does one get these epics in the first place?  And don't say '"PvP;" resilience is wasted item budget in PvE, never mind the fact that S2 wasn't available for honour back when BC first came out.

And as I walked off to plonk my four shiny new Badgers of Justice into the bank, it reminded me of the SM:Lib run I did with a friend a few months ago.  She was at the low-end of the level spectrum, I was almost at the top.  We went in there duo and cleared the whole instance.  I've had people insist to me that you cannot duo SM:Lib with just a warlock and a paladin.  But we did.  And it was great fun, because we had to actually work hard to reach the end and down Doan.  We even had to use strategy.

It feels like people just don't want to try any more.  They don't want to risk having to make an effort in anything.  In order to begin attempting content, you apparently have to already out-gear it.

And it makes me a sad panda.

[1]  Someone is bound to eventually take offence at that remark, so allow me to qualify thusly: PvP doesn't count because I don't like PvP.  PvP and I have this little arrangement: it stays safely corralled in BGs and PvP realms, and in turn I refrain from whining endlessly about people who seem to believe AFKing through a few hundred BGs makes them a good player.

[2]  It goes without saying I also had bandages as well as health and mana pots.  But really, you don't think that little of me, do you?

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Whizzo Quality Assortment

Granted, this post doesn't have anything to do with chocolate, and the term "quality" isn't really applicable... but at least the "assortment" part is accurate!  Aspect of the Capricious: now with 33% accuracy!

Warning: long, rambling, disjointed post ahead.  Hmm... I should probably just put that at the top of the blog...

So, Diablo III's in the works.  I probably wouldn't even have started playing WoW if I hadn't looked at it and thought "hey, this is kinda like Diablo II."

For me, Diablo was always a better multiplayer game than WoW has ever, or will ever be for one simple reason: people.  Y'see, WoW is filled with people ranging from the petty and stupid to outright immoral and evil.  Finding someone who is intelligent and nice is like shootin' at some food and up from the ground gettin' bubblin' crude: cause for making a long-running TV series.

But Diablo was different because you could play it on a local network.  So all of the multiplayer Diablo games I played were with my family.  My mum, my brother and myself would all fire up D2 and go around smashing stuff up; it was fantastic.  I'm really, really looking forward to doing that again.

Well, it took them three months to change the labels and ship them over, but Australia finally has Super Smash Bros. Brawl.  I just want to make clear that the only reason I preordered it was that I was planning on getting it at some point, and they were giving away a free Classic Controller with preorders.

Honestly, I can't see what all the fuss is about.  Having played almost to the end, it's a very... underwhelming game.  I think the problem, in part, is that the game, the developers and the fans take it all far too seriously.  If you think I'm joking, you should see the intro sequence.  The music alone is more at home in something like Ben Hur than a cartoony fighting game.

Then there's the controls: it has way too many.  Every character has something like thirteen different attacks.  Not with combos like Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter: just using the face buttons and sticks.  It doesn't help that while special attacks using the right stick allow you to change direction when attacking, normal attacks don't.  So half the time, I end up attacking in the wrong direction.

It doesn't help that the game's difficulty curve is implemented not by making the game more challenging, but by simply making it more unfair.  There's a miniboss that repeatedly crops up that you cannot attack without being hit yourself.  It has five times your reach, and no one seems to be able to move fast enough to hit and run.  There are sections of the game where I gave up on tactics and just ran up and mashed buttons until I either ran out of lives, or the thing died.

There's a "guard" defense, but that basically disappears after you take a single hit.  Only one character (Marth) can parry, but half the time I can't get it to go off properly.

But the worst part of all is that despite all the noise made about Sonic being in Brawl... you don't get access to him until during the cutscene before the final boss.  "Sonic joins the Brawl... really !@#$ing late."

So I'm getting ready to transfer Its to a new server.  I'm pretty nervous about it; mostly because I've made a few friends on Hyjal that I'd really prefer not to leave behind.  That said, it's not every day you're told "come over; we'll get you geared up and raiding."  Well, OK, I don't hear that every day.  It's especially good to hear when you've been wanting to get into raiding for a while, but never seem to be able to find the right guild.

I'm leaving Porphyrria and my other characters behind, so I'm presently trying to grind up some money to leave behind; I want to get Por her epic flyer, and have 2k gold that I can split between her and Its.

I dropped Mining on Por and picked up Enchanting on the idea that this would let me disenchant all those daily quest greens that I just cannot sell.  Plus, Its is a miner, so having two seemed redundant.

Of course, since Its is leaving, he's taking with him both Por's source of gems and ore, and her source of daily quest greens.

Hmm.  I might not have thought this through properly...  I've now got enough raw enchanting mats farmed from low-level instances to get Por up the first leg of enchanting (she only needs ~225 to DE Burning Crusade greens,) but I'm wondering if I should drop it and re-level mining.

The problem with Its' new fire festival digs is that, well... he looks ridiculous in them, frankly.  So I kinda sorta went and got them for Por as well.

No brazier or pet, sadly.  It seems a bit stupid that she now has 150 blossoms and nothing to spend them on.  Hopefully the next time Blizzard revamps the holiday, they'll add a few more mid-range rewards.

On the subject, I need to see if I can find an Ahune group for Its today to give him one more shot at Ahune and his pet scorchling.

I was really excited when I found out about the Blizzard Authenticator.  I was considerably less enthusiastic when I discovered that Blizzard won't ship them outside the US or Europe.  Which means that Aussies, Kiwis and Kanucks are screwed.  I suspect that Ben Croshaw may have been right.

I can only hope that one day I'll get to make a game that everyone is really, really anxious to play... and then deliberately make it unavailable in the US for six months.  You know, because I'm  vindictive.

The UI post is probably going to be delayed somewhat.  I discovered that I could rig up a really nifty picture of my UI with interactive rollovers using SVG.  Except that Inkscape keeps crashing.  Which is slowing progress just slightly.  And then there's the whole "Internet Explorer doesn't support SVG" issue.  That said, it seems that only 30% of my readers are using IE, whilst the rest of you are using real web browsers that actually support a seven year old standard.

Can you tell I hate IE with the fury of a billion angry weasels?

I usually try to post on Wednesdays and "the weekend" where "the weekend" qualifies as any point between 00:00 on Saturday to 04:00 on Monday.  I missed yesterday because I was kind of not entirely sane.  See, where I live it sometimes gets windy.  Very windy.  "Why is someone knocking on the door at 3am... oh wait, that's just the windows shaking" windy.  Stupid meteorology kept me up all night.  It kept coming in bursts every 2 or so minutes... so every time I'd be falling asleep, someone would shake the house violently.

It calmed down later in the day, and I decided to get some rest... about five minutes before it started again.

I was not exactly in the right frame of mind for writing coherently.

I need a new pair of headphones.  The trouble is that they sell them in those "so hard to open you need a bansaw" plastic cocoons, so you can't try them on.  My old pair was fairly serviceable, except that after wearing them for a while, they made my ears feel like they were bleeding.  I'd really rather not repeat the experience, but I can't try any of them on, so I have no idea how they'll feel.

I'd preferably like a pair with big cushiony ear bits that surround my ears instead of resting on them, with a mic, that's USB.  I'm still looking...

I've had an idea for a post on trapping.  I've read a lot of posts about trapping technique, but none on "how to do CC in Shadow Labyrinth with three hunters."

Let me tell you: it's harder than it looks.