Tuesday 31 August 2010

And Shaman Makes Three

Actually Shaman makes five Level 80s, but only three active ones.

Balindah finally made it to her 80th season tonight after a rough time in Storm Peaks with her decrepit windrider, who does not appreciate the cold at all.

Now she just has to work out hit caps and expertise caps and so on. I'm loving http://bighitbox.com for all the nice information!

...I think I need a holiday.

Saturday 28 August 2010

Exploring Burning Steppes

Time for another collection of exploration snaps. This time I've decided to showcase the Level 50 - 58 zone of Burning Steppes.

Warning:  This is an image-heavy post.  Sorry phone users!

My first memory of Burning Steppes was flying over it from Stormwind to Ironforge and seeing all the dragons and such down there with ?? next to their names. It looked like a scary place, and it wasn't until much later that I did any of the quests there, much less explore it at all.

A Brief History
Burning Steppes lies between the continents of Azeroth and Khaz Modan, in the Eastern Kingdoms. It was once part of Redridge Mountains and part of the main highway between Stormwind and Khaz Modan, and on to Lordaeron.

The Dark Iron clan of dwarves, led by their Emperor Dagran Thaurissan, were exiled from Ironforge after unsuccessfully trying to seize control of the city. They founded the city of Thaurissan in the north of the Redridge Mountains, and from there launched assaults on Ironforge and Grim Batol.

During one of these assaults, Thaurissan attempted to summon elemental forces deep underneath Redridge Mountains to aid them.  instead, he got more than he bargained for when the Lord of all Fire Elementals, Ragnaros the Firelord, was released from his banishment and in his return, devastated the city of Thaurissan and the region, creating the enormous volcano of Blackrock Mountain.

Thaurissan was killed and his clan enslaved by the elemental lord. The Dark Irons rebuilt a city within the mountain - Blackrock Spire.

The mountain now splits the region into Searing Gorge to the north, and Burning Steppes to the south. The highway is still used by travelers, but most prefer to take the Deeprun Tram to travel between Stormwind and Ironforge.

The Present
The city of Thaurissan now lies in ruins, populated only by huge Golems and some Dark Iron agents.

Nearby, the Horde outpost of Flame Crest houses a flight master and a vendor, as well as several treasure-seeking Goblins.

The Alliance camp within the destroyed village of Morgan's Vigil is slightly larger, containing more quest givers and vendors.

Little is known about the etymology of the name "Pillar of Ash" but the area in the central area of the map contains a number of Blackrock Orc structures including a tall tower. Interestingly, the tower bears a Horde standard, but the orcs within are hostile to all.

In the area there is also a large statue of a human hero brandishing a sword and shield. There is no inscription on the statue but it is believed to have been erected to mark the spot where Anduin Lothar was killed in battle. Why the Blackrock Orcs allowed a statue of a great war leader of the Humans to remain here in such good condition is anyone's guess.

The eastern side of the zone is dominated by Dreadmaul Rock, an Ogre stronghold which contains an extensive cave system. The Firegut Ogres are allies of the Blackrock Orcs.

Wyrmkin and other Black Dragonflight Drakes roam the zone but mainly around the area of Draco'dar, in the west, and in the east around the Slither Rock area. These dragons are affiliated with Nefarian and his experiments within Blackwing Lair. The Rare-Elite Elemental Volchan sometimes patrols the area around Slither Rock.

The Altar of Storms is in the northwestern corner of the zone. Surrounded by a lake of lava, Blackrock Warlocks perform some sort of ritual here. There's another Altar of Storms in the Blasted Lands.

Overlooking the Altar, Mor'zul Bloodbringer and the goblin Gorzeeki Wildeyes are performing some sort of experiment. They're a creepy pair - Aefa got out of there pretty quickly.

Blackrock Stronghold is in the northern part of the zone, close to the mountain. The Blackrock Orcs have long been separate to the rest of the Horde in Kalimdor. Most of them were killed during the Third War, but some remain here, battling with the Dark Irons for territory.

Now to the Mountain itself. Blackrock Mountain is actually a zone in itself, containing no less than three level 60+ raids and two 5-man dungeons. Ragnaros and his Dark Irons and Fire Elementals control Blackrock Depths (5-man) and the Molten Core (40-man raid).  Nefarian and the Blackrock clan control the Blackrock Spire - Lower Spire (5-man) and Upper Spire (10-man raid), and also Blackwing Lair (40-man raid).

I haven't included snaps of these dungeons as that would be an entire other post!

The Future
*SPOILER ALERT* Cataclysm will see two new instances added to the menagerie at Blackrock Mountain - Blackrock Caverns (level 80-81 5-man) and Blackwing Descent (level 85 10/25-man raid). Burning Steppes will be changing during the Cataclysm, but I'll leave that to my colleagues who like to discuss such things.

I hope you've enjoyed this look at one of the more lore-rich zones.

The lore discussed in this post came from wowwiki.com.

Thursday 26 August 2010

Goodbye to the Frozen North

It's been a long campaign. Almost two years of battling through the snows or shivering on the tundra.

I don't know about you, but my crew are quite looking forward to spending some time in the southern continents for a while.

All this talk of earthquakes and Twilight nasties is just rumour, isn't it?

Wednesday 25 August 2010

Poetry for DinoTam

Just a quicky tonight on my way past before some attempts on Mr Lich King (wish us luck!).

Alas held a competition recently for some poetry about everyone's (except her's) favourite pet, DinoTam.

The winners have been revealed, and congratulations to them!

You can read the winning entries here, and also the remainder of the entries (including mine), here.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Monday 23 August 2010

Random, Schmandom

I hate Halls of Stone.

I wrote a guestie for Tarinae a little while ago looking at her Heroic Dungeon stats, to see how random the random dungeon finder really is. After getting Halls of Stone as my random AGAIN today, I decided to take a look at my own stats.

We found out after that guest post that apparently there was a bug a while ago where Prophet Tharon'ja kills were recorded  as three kills instead of one, so for argument's sake I've divided my DTK count by three.

For Leesah:

Twenty-seven times.  Not all bosses were killed every time. Some of them were quick, others were painfully slow. Some quiet groups, some bitching children (take today's for example, grrr). Some decent tanks, some decent dps, one starting out terrible but gradually improving healer.

Leesah dinged 80 on Valentine's Day. That was, in fact, almost exactly 27 weeks ago. I've completed Halls of Stone once a week of every week that Leesah has been level 80. For some of those weeks I was away on holidays, or didn't have time to do many dungeons. Not to mention the 7 times I have done it on Aefa, or the times I did it on my EU characters!

Now I understand why I scream every time I see that loading screen.

Do your stats stack up to randomness?  Is there one dungeon that you hate hate hate?

Saturday 21 August 2010

Shaman Healing - an Update

My Shaman healing apprenticeship has been progressing slowly as I heal a few dungeons when I can.

I had a bit of a break from healing for a few days after a particularly nasty Nexus run where I failed several times on Keristrasza and ended up dropping group with my tail between my legs. I just kept running out of mana, the dps wouldn't move to drop the debuff, and it was generally not much fun.

I decided to wait until I picked up a few more quest pieces with either mp5 or an upgrade in Intellect for the juicy manas. Once I did that, I got through a couple of Old Kingdom and Azjol Nerub runs without too much trouble, so I've got my confidence back again.

At the moment my healing seems to go like this:
  • Keep Poo Shield Earth Shield on the tank at all times.  I have Grid set up to show me how many charges remain with a dot that changes colour.  
  • Chuck a bucket of water Riptide on anyone who takes moderate amounts of damage.
  • Try not to spam heal with Lesser Healing Wave - I think this is what was running me out of mana before. Wait a bit longer until Healing Wave is worth it, if there's enough time to cast it.
  • Use Jesus Beams Chain Heal sparingly - and not at all if less than three people are going to be healed by it. 

I'm still trying to work out the sequencing a bit - spells that are improved by others. This list is partly for my own reference!
  • A Chain Heal cast on a target with Riptide on them will be increased in effectiveness by 25%.
  • I have Tidal Force macro'd to Lesser Healing Wave along with my trinkets. Tidal Force increases the crit chance of Healing Wave, Lesser Healing Wave and Chain Heal.
  • Tidal Waves procs from Riptide or Chain Heal. It lowers the cast time of Healing Wave by 30% and increases the crit chance of Lesser Healing Wave, for the next two casts of either of those spells. It also increases the amount of healing done for both.
It's all still a bit of a juggling act, but I'm getting it under control gradually. I'm sure learning to Druid heal wasn't this complex!

As before, please feel free to comment with any advice you have, or let me know if I got something wrong or left anything out.

Thursday 19 August 2010

Don't Panic - The Internet Dragon is Dead

Last night the Disciples of Sneer took down Sindragosa for the first time. The nastiest Internet Dragon has been slain.

Yes, this is 10-man Normal. Yes, I know doing this with the 30% buff is not terribly difficult these days, but we are very proud.  Especially proud, considering that we got her down after only about six or seven hours of working on her, and while our main tank is away overseas, while our GM had connection issues and some of the rest of our main raid team are also away. And because we've pulled together and learned this fight, I know that although Arthas is going to be hard work and a steep learning curve, as long as we can keep our determination, we're going to get him.

After we'd finished whooping and cheering into vent, and disenchanted the loot (damn you, loot gods!), we headed off to find Mister Fatboy himself - except, we weren't quite sure which way to go. Then we got back into the central spire and saw all the ghosts moving upwards... Creepy!

Our illustrious GM posted this on the guild forums today (with apologies to Winston Churchill):
I have, myself, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once again able to defeat the Lich King, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for weeks, if necessary alone.

At any rate, that is what we are going to try to do. That is the resolve of the Disciples of Sneer - every toon of them. That is the will of Guild and the nation.

The Australian and New Zealand nerds, linked together in their cause and in their need, will fight to the death their native soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength.

Even though many guilds have faltered, we shall not flag or fail.

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in ICC,
we shall fight on the seas and oceans,
we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall kill the Lich King, whatever the cost may be,
we shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;
we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, Cata is released, then our Guild would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to kill the mighty Lich King."
Wish us luck...

Monday 16 August 2010

I healed on my Shaman... and I liked it

After a couple of days of nice relaxing holiday, yesterday it was time to make up for some Wow time. My Shaman, Balindah, is now level 72 and the queue times as dps seem to have skyrocketed, so I decided to buy her a second spec and try out healing.

I had been picking up a few bits and pieces of off-spec spellpower gear through the early Northrend quests and it turned out I almost have a complete set of spellpower kit, even if some of it is leather or cloth.  As you can see in the picture, she looks like a bit of a clown in it, but there's time.

I had a quick crash course in Shaman healing from my husband, who played a Resto Shaman in a previous incarnation, and dived into Utgarde Keep. No-one died which was nice, but my goodness, isn't mana a problem! I remember having mana problems early on with my druid, but I don't think it was this bad.  Thankfully the tank noticed when I needed mana so I was able to stop and drink, but the next dungeon I tried healing was Azjol Nerub and I ended up using Mana Tide totem every time it was available.

Perhaps I've become used to the one-second GCD and Nourish casts on my Druid but the Shaman just seemed a lot... slower. Chain Heal, which is the only AOE heal Shamans have, takes forever to cast at 2.5 seconds, especially when there's party damage.

I am enjoying trying out healing on a different class, but are there any Resto Shaman out there who might offer some advice on how to be more mana efficient?

The rest of the day was made less stressful by playing with some baby murlocs. Squee!

Thursday 12 August 2010


Click the image for a 1600 by 900px wallpaper image.

Sholazar Basin.

I'm away for a few days, in a place very like this.  Imagine this rainforest, but with a beach not far behind you. Jealous? ;)

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Wednesday 11 August 2010

Visual Evolution of Games

And now, for something a bit different. I'd like to tell a few little tales about computer games - specifically Fantasy-RPG games, how they have changed over the years that I have been playing them, and how they may evolve into the future.

When I was little, my Dad sometimes used to bring a terminal home from work so that he could "dial in" to work and... do whatever it was that he did at work (I was only about 10, I had no idea what coding was at that stage). This was late 80s, early 90s, and the terminal consisted of a largish CRT green-text screen, and a keyboard. Sometimes he'd let my brother and I type on it while it was disconnected.  We didn't know it wasn't connected though, and we used to try to work out what to type to make it do stuff. Sadly all it did was come up with errors, but we still enjoyed it for some reason.

One time when Dad brought it home, he said that the guys at work had been playing a game on it, called "Dungeon". He showed me how it worked - you typed in n, s, e or w and you would move in that direction, then there would be a description of the place you ended up. It was basically Dungeons & Dragons on a computer, and I loved it. Later Dad showed me all the maps that his workmates had made of the dungeon. I didn't get to play it much since Dad only had the terminal at home sometimes, but I remember it quite well.

Much later, when I was late-high-school-uni age, a friend introduced me to Discworld MUD. I'd been a fan of Terry Pratchett's series for ages, and the MUD was a chance to explore that world, albeit in a text-based environment. We played Discworld MUD for many years (including too much time during uni), and I later became a "Creator" and did a bit of coding that I don't think ever actually made it into the game, but I made a lot of friends there (including my husband!) and had a lot of fun. The MUD's still running, by the way, and looks like it still has a healthy playerbase, which is nice to know.

Previously I had also played a bit of the Discworld game that came out in 1995. That was the real chance to explore the Discworld, but I found myself thinking as I later played the MUD, how awesome it would be if we could play with other people in that graphical world rather than having to rely on text all the time. I wasn't aware at the time, but the first MMORPG, Ultima Online, was soon to be released.

I must admit that WoW is my first and only MMO.  I never played Ultima or Everquest, and originally had an aversion to paying monthly subscriptions when there were so many other games that I could play for free.  Once I did, however... I was hooked. It was like a cross between the social aspect of the MUD, and the beautiful graphical worlds in games such as Oblivion that I had played previously, plus the cuteness that I had loved about Warcraft II.

Of course we all know how beautiful MMOs are in general - I can't really comment on others since I haven't played them but I believe the artwork in each is amazing.

The Future: Part 1
Go and watch the video in this post on Geeks Are Sexy (and then come back!). It's a short film made entirely using software such as AfterEffects and Premiere. The result is incredible - as I watched it I couldn't believe that I wasn't looking at real places and objects.

CGI is used so much these days on TV and in movies that often we are unaware that what we are watching isn't real. Animation has improved so much since it was first used. Scenery has always been beautiful but early attempts at virtual characters were quiet jerky or robotic and didn't look real. As time has gone on we started seeing characters like Gollum in Lord of the Rings, and the characters in Avatar which, while obviously fantasy-based characters, looked and moved realistically.

The games coming out now are beautiful and cut scenes are becoming much more realistic, but the MMO genre has lagged behind other types of games a bit. Two games coming out soon that I'm looking forward to seeing in action are TERA, and Star Wars: The Old Republic. SWTOR will be a familiar universe to many but still promises to be a visual feast, and TERA is set in a new fantastic world and if the screenshots are anything to go by, will be spectacular.

Of course, Cataclysm will bring a fresh and updated look to the World of Warcraft. With new-look water and altered landscapes, the developers have really had an almost blank canvas to work with.  I'm sure our friends in the Beta could tell us about how things are looking, but I'm really looking forward to seeing the new (old) world with a new twist.

The Future:  Part 2
Otherland - Tad Williams
If you haven't read this series of four books I recommend them. It's set in a world where people have full immersion in virtual worlds - not just games, but worlds of every type. Think Azeroth, but while your body rests in some kind of facility, in your mind you're actually there, walking around and interacting with the world in an avatar. I suppose it's a bit like the Matrix in that you're plugging your brain into the network.

In the Otherland series, a selection of people around the world are trapped inside the virtual world, unable to "log off", then things start to go wrong with their worlds in horrible ways.  I couldn't put them down - go read :)

Could something like that ever be a reality? Perhaps - it's nice to imagine what it might be like. One of the problems faced in virtual worlds now that things can be made to look so realistic is that, in the real world, things are imperfect. To make things look imperfect is one thing, but making an object or virtual entity behave in an imperfect way seems a lot more complicated.

Think about how, in Wow, your character performs the same one or two animations each time you jump. But what if you were injured and couldn't jump so high or you were on uneven ground?  What if you stumbled and fell over, or you jumped into something and it affected the way you landed? While the result might be much more realistic, the mechanics that went into something being able to behave in many different ways is currently way beyond the time and budget of most software companies, but as processing power increases and people and software get more creative, who knows what could be possible?

Isn't it great to dream about what things could be like though?  To actually visit a real city like Dalaran?  To actually fly on a dragon? To eat wolf kebobs? To experience death from standing in a fire (hopefully with the pain turned down)? To cuddle a baby murloc?

Imagination is our only limit :)

Monday 9 August 2010

What Pushes Your Buttons?

I recently increased my ignore list by one.

The Scene:  Zone into a random on my Mage - it's Old Kingdom. Okay fine, not my favourite place but usually doesn't take long. The group is all well-geared so things should be smooth.

The bear tank takes off and carries the first mobs right up the stairs to the next group without saying a word. The rest of us dash after, barely done with buffing. I manage to accidentally pick up a group of spiders on the way up the stairs. I kite them up to where the tank is so that he can grab them with a swipe.  I die.

The priest resses me and apologises. I say, "No, my fault, picked up a couple of extras off to the side there."

The bear says, "Yeah I saw. Didn't bother taunting".

I am a little speechless at this, so I don't say anything and we continue on. Sparkle Prince goes down and then one of the other dps manages to pull an extra pack at the bottom of the tunnel thing. Bear says after two dps are dead and I'm nearly so, "Who pulled that time?" After saying something about how it was most likely the dead people, he says something to the effect of, "I just love watching nubs die, lol".

Now, call me touchy but at what point does becoming a tank license you to also become a knob? By deciding to teach "nubs" a lesson by letting them die, you are in fact putting the pressure on the healer, not the dps. I wouldn't really care less if I died after accidentally pulling, since I probably deserved it, but when the healer apologises to me for letting me die, when it was actually the tank's choice that caused it, that's just asshattery at work.

Is there a line that people cross that makes you ignore them? I know I'm picking on a tank here, but there are plenty of dps who do it for me as well.  Healers... not so many. But perhaps that's because I am doing the healing some of the time.

Sorry for the ranty post today, I don't normally do these, but this guy pushed my ignore buttons :)

Image at the top is from http://media.photobucket.com/image/asshat/rkzombie/asshat.jpg

Friday 6 August 2010

Setting up a Healing UI

There was a bit of talk around a few weeks back about using addons for healing, and whether they are necesary. I believe Codi began, then Tam and Chas were involved, and also Miss Medicina (I'm sure there were more as well).

Now, I don't really want to join the debate as to whether using addons makes you a bad or lazy healer. I use addons to make the stressful job of healing, easier. Would I still heal if all the addons were broken tomorrow?  Probably - I enjoy healing, and people learn fast, we adapt to new situations. Until that day though, I remain an addon fan.

When I healed on my first Druid, far away and long ago before dual specs were invented, I used Healbot.  It suited my purposes, but I never really got on with it - it was too big, in the wrong place, and there were things I wanted it to do that I couldn't work out how to.

When I started playing Leesah, I decided to try Grid + Clique. I had already used Clique before and knew how versatile it was, and armed with a couple of good guides (there are plenty out there now!) setting Grid up wasn't too much of a hassle and I found it suited my purposes almost out of the box anyway!

Setting Up
The picture at the top of the post is my current healing UI. Yes, it's in Halls of Stone, because I get that place Every. Single. Day.  Random my foot.

The main thing I was aiming for when setting up this UI was to have the most important information visible and as close to the centre of the screen as possible.

The important information includes:
  • Unit frames (Grid + Pitbull for self and target)
  • Cooldown information (power auras)
  • Decursive
  • Cast bar (Quartz)
Any other information was moved to the edges of the screen where it wouldn't get in the way.

The Addons
The main healing-related addons visible in the image include the following:
  • Grid - In 25 mans this does expand down over the map, but I mostly raid 10-man so it works fine for me.

  • Clique - Sets click-bindings to spells that will cast when you mouse-over a unit frame.

  • Pitbull4 - Self, Target and ToT always visible. Party frames are only visible in 5-mans, not in a raid. I should really turn them off in 5-mans, I don't really have any good reason why they're there!

  • Quartz cast bar

  • Power Auras Classic - You can read all about my power aura settings on my page about Power Auras for Healing.

  • GCD - the green circle appears when I cast and helps me to see when the Global CoolDown is up. This can also be used in place of a cast bar.

  • Decursive - The little squares to the left of the screen light up when a party member has a removable debuff. I could set the Abolish Poison and Remove Curse up in Grid/Clique, but I prefer them separate.

  • Mik's Scrolling Combat Text is only really on because I use it for Balance spec. I should turn the heals off to be honest, I never look at the numbers... /makes note to self.

  • Bartender4 for buttons.

If you have any questions about setup or any of these addons, please either comment or email me! You are most welcome to leave feedback as well.


Wednesday 4 August 2010

Throne of the Elements

Click the image for a 1600 by 900px wallpaper image.

Throne of the Elements, Nagrand, late afternoon.

By the way, I'm still around. I've been dealing with a nasty illness for a couple of weeks and I'm still not quite there, so please bear with me while I sort that out, and find where I lost my writing muse down the back of the sofa. <3

Want to see more pretty pictures? Visit R&R's Gallery Page.